Fond du Lac Follies jetted to Budapest, Hungary, to recite poetry. I went over there as part of the U.S. Embassy’s Official Speakers Program.
I flew to Budapest with a short stop in Paris. I barely had enough time to get lost in the [Charles] de Gaulle airport. It was a short two-hour hop to my destination — Budapest. I was met at the airport by Dimitri Tarakhovsky of the U.S. Embassy who took a taxi to take me to the plush hotel that overlooked the Danube River. I knew it started in Germany and ran downhill to Buda and Pest.
The next morning I met with Gabor Gyukics who had earlier contacted the Embassy to see if they would bring me over. He wanted them to help celebrate the publishing of his book called “Nagy Kis-Madár,” the book about Jim Northrup and his poetry. Monika Vali and Attila Nemeth provided translation, transportation and photography.
I learned that poets are venerated in Hungary. There are children, streets, schools and bridges named after their poets.
An Embassy vehicle with diplomatic plates arrived to take me to a high school, then a couple hours later to a museum and then a university class, and in between, I was interviewed by radio stations, newspaper reporters and magazine writers. The crown jewel of the week was a posh reception after a recitation of poetry at a palace/museum by the U.S. Embassy.
The Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. Andre Goodfriend of the Embassy, used a five-page speech to introduce me to 120 Hungarians who came to hear my poetry. After his fine introduction I wanted to meet that Jim Northrup guy.
Gabor projected photos taken in Sawyer about sugar bush, birch bark basket making, and “manoominkewin.” I recited poems about Shinnob stuff, then he flashed photos about being a Marine in the 'Nam where I recited poetry until done. Started with “End Of The Beginning” and ended with “Shrinking Away.”
I had to use the toilet when I was done so one of my handlers led me through the crowd, down the wide stone stairway and around the corner, to the toilet, he then stood by the door as if I needed guarding.
I went back upstairs to rub elbows with the Hungarians who were acting Continental, sipping wine, talking and laughing. I was interviewed by Hungarian radio, BBC and others. I was enthralled by the crowd.
I was taken back to the five-star hotel where Gabor and I talked about the day of work. We constantly reviewed how each presentation went. When I woke up I opened the curtains and across the Danube was a hill that contained castles. The morning sun lit up the stone buildings.
The next couple of days were like that: schools, universities and museums. On Thursday I went to a place 2.5 hours down the road to a town where I did the same routine except they had a humble museum dedicated to American Indians. There is a tribe of Hungarian Indians, they give themselves names like Reposing Buffalo and they play dress up Indians. Just for fun I wore my moosehide moccasins with the beadwork in the tongues. The people would look at them then quickly look away.
After one round of appearances, I almost seized up from a low blood sugar count. I knew the symptoms so yelled out “pastries, stat!” and Monika dodged rush hour traffic to get to a bakery. She returned with sweet rolls and coffee and I was OK after consuming same.
I saw the insides of many palaces because a lot of my events were held in such places. I wanted to ride on a boat down the Danube but there was just no time.
The State Department got their money’s worth out of me. I counted over a thousand people who came to my recitations plus I don’t know how many more I reached through the media and their numerous interviews.
I toured the Marine House where Embassy Marines live. I toured the grounds which had a grand view of the Danube. We went to the Embassy to meet the Marines there. I met the Marines and told them I served with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines in 1965-66. Those young Marines looked like they could handle any situation that came up. I saluted the American flag outside the Embassy.
It was spring in Hungary so I will see and feel two springs this year.