Harvest of Gems

Prague - Calcutta - Auschwitz


I 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.
Beautiful 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.

Jerzy 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.

Half 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 good.
I 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.
Krakow 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.

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