- Calcutta - Auschwitz
hopped off the train at Ostrava, a dismal and ugly border town.
I spent the rest of the night listening to wretched drunks puke
and yell in the passenger waiting room. I made repeated dashes
into the filthy toilets. I stared at a faded picture of Havel
resting on a flea-bitten wall. The Velvet Revolution seemed
like a distant fantasy to me now. I had watched it unfold on
CNN in San Diego, four years earlier, as my father disintegrated
in San Diego, after I had lost all my money. Summer was only
fourteen at the time. I wondered if she had even bothered to
watch all this exhilarating craziness on the tube. My mind was
on dull overload. "Proseem!" shouted the old lady
at the counter. The food was awful. "Diki," I muttered.
I hated Ostrava. The train for Katowice lumbered in late in
the afternoon. The minute we crossed the Polish border, the
energy changed dramatically. Poland was another Universe. The
sleepy garbanzo-bean looking Czechs were now replaced by creatures
bursting with life and energy. The Poles knew what life was
about. The Poles projected real confidence and strength. Their
square jagged faces were meaty faces of survivors. Mother Poland
herself was a maelstrom survivor.
autumn colors filtered into my train compartment from the outside.
I could see farmers harvesting their crops. A tough, but friendly
Polish businessman gave me directions on how to transfer to
Krakow. "We may be heading for trouble," my beefy
friend sighed. "The last Russian troops will be out of
Germany by late next summer, then the next war will start."
These were my first memories of Poland.
In Krakow, it took what seemed like hours to make a connection
with Jerzy, my Polish contact, on the creaking Polish telephone
lines. The loud din of the train mobs made it hard to hear him,
but Jerzy eventually showed up in a dinky matchbox car. We loaded
up all my tedious cargo and took off to his apartment. It was
the beginning of a new adventure.
had not really been expecting me. He was building a little retreat
center for himself. Jerzy was muscular and compact in his appearance.
I liked the vibes of his place immediately. Jerzy was a serious
practitioner. He translated spiritual books into Polish and
made his living in Norway. Polish money was worthless and inflation
made it more worthless day by day. I had found a cozy new refuge
for a few days. I went to bed with thoughts of Summer on my
mind. I felt very close to her. A strange joker energy filled
the air. Jerzy's protectors had accepted my offerings; and I
was buzzing with wild and sweaty thoughts. Poland was gonna
be all right. Krakow was bustling and beautiful. It beat out
Berlin and Prague in my book; and I walked around enjoying the
friendly crowds and vibrant air. I could feel an ancient resonance
here. Krakow had like Prague, its own Hrad, its own Stare Mesto,
and of course its own Josefov. The Poles also seemed to be far
ahead of their Czech and former East German neighbors in the
dirty race for entrepreneurial savviness. New little businesses
were mushrooming up in all kinds of strange little corners and
the Poles instinctively knew that SERVICE was important. The
Red Stress was fading, even with the new old Commies back in
power. The large football-sized town square of Krakow was where
all the action was. The Rynek hummed with life at all hours
of the day and no cars disturbed the holy scene. Old churches
and fountains made an excellent backdrop for guitar-toting poets
and barefoot Polish girls. The old Alma Mater of Copernicus
was close by. I rushed to pay homage to the man who put the
sun at the center of our solar system. It was brilliant insights
like these that transformed our weird and narrow human horizons.
The Polish astronomer's statue was hidden in a corner somewhere,
somewhat lost in all the jazzy hubbub. I found it and stared
at it for quite awhile.
Back at Jerzy's a tarot spread confirmed that my long-term relationship
with Summer was OK and secure, but that the short-run, whatever
that could possibly be, was filled with obstacles. I sighed
and accepted this sad and exciting state of affairs. I was on
the road now and going progressively eastward. Summer was now
my little wish-fulfilling gem and like all good-luck tokens
had to be kept very close to one's heart. Jerzy asked me whose
side I was on in the brat war. I told him I supported the kid
in Tibet. So did he. We were both relieved about this.
the Krakow sangah had abandoned the Grand Wizard and Jerzy was
at the head of the line. Jerzy was also itching to start his retreat
and dumped me on the other camp's doorstep. I wasn't bullish about
this new development. The new place I found myself in was dirty
and overcrowded. The air also felt somewhat confusing. Jerzy was
extremely embarrassed and quickly vanished into the night. My
new hosts found me a place on the floor of "The Guest-room"
and I quickly surrendered to the guides somewhere inside my dreams.
Poland was full of surprises. The Jewish quarter in Krakow had
an air of a lost world. Like Prague it was haunted by ghosts,
but they were sweeter and warmer. I could feel my grandmother
here. The grave of the great Zaddik, Rabbi Rhemu called out to
me. An old Polish Jew begging for dollars skillfully guided me
to the great saint's "final" resting place. I placed
rocks on it for Summer and myself, for my family and for all sentient
beings under stress. I knew my offerings were instantly accepted.
Jewish bodhisattvahs had love for all Goys. I felt great light
and protection. The black demons had failed to destroy IT. Poland
had survived, despite the hideous black stress, and was now the
spiritual center of Europe. I was amazed at the friendliness of
the Poles. I found a helping hand wherever I went. The karma was
took a bus outside the city to a Camaldolese monastery. The autumn
gave the day a terrific sound and light show: wind and leaves
danced furiously in front of a rainbow just for me. I was in a
strange kind of heaven here. I visited the crypts. I got into
an argument with a monk in Spanish. "You empty the pail to
receive God," Brother Benito exclaimed. "No! You empty
the pail and then throw it away." I countered. This tennis
match lasted an hour and I was rewarded with a dinner of red cabbage
mixed with potatoes and a ride back into town.
was wet with rain, but nothing seemed to matter. I WAS HOME! I
was feeling Summer's heart and the world's. I had rejected a material
paradise and sent blessings, even to the brown and red demons
that had tormented this magical and friendly land. Krakow was
suffused with an unnatural glow that was like gold. The karmic
bouncing was no longer unpleasant. I was on a graceful and billowy
trip as if over a blue sea, and there were no doubts in my mind
at the moment. It was time to go to Auschwitz. I boarded a bus
and gazed at the onion domes and horse carts on the road. Birch
trees and autumn colored leaves flashed by my window. If this
was the road to hell it was well camouflaged. I got off with a
drunk twenty-something a mile from "The Museum" as the
locals called it. My companion was a young and confused mongrel
like myself: half of this, and half of that. German and Portuguese
in this case; and sadly rejected by both cultures. I told Marush
to leave his beer bottle outside the gate. He meekly complied.
- 02 - 03
contents of this site © Finberg Books 2000-2004 by Michael Arthur