Doing the Time Warp Again: Part 1

Jo reggelt, or good morning as it is said in Hungarian. I hope you all slept well, we do so love it when you come over, entertaining is just so much fun, don’t you think. Do remember, Russel, you and Sheila are always welcome to stop by if you are in town. Would you care for a cup of bean tea? We have a pot on at the moment. I don’t feel fully human without a little bit of pick me up. Well, I have no idea where this intro is going. It seems to be highly pointless and not terribly entertaining. Nuts to me for deciding to leave it in anyway. Let me begin again.

Welcome back to the back in time, where I talk about events that have long past into the softening glow of memory. Right now I am wishing everyone a happy near end of to March everybody, spring is in the air and so are the birds. Their songs carry across the gentle breezes. There is a bloom budding across the hitherto barren trees casting the world in verdant tones. At least that is how it is in Hungary at the moment. Whenever I contemplate the annual revival of nature that is this summer prelude, I am filled with an appreciation of its beauty. In that spirit, there is naught that reminds me more of the renewal of life that is this sunlight embrace of spring like October.

As I continue to make note of, at this point in my blog I have begun to work through the backlog of information and shortened the gap between long ago and this moment. Brought down from seven months to six, as usual I am highly impressed with myself. At the going rate, this will mean that sometime around summer solstice will I likely be getting to my Christmas. Anyway, time threatens to march on without me and re-inflate the chronological deficit that I find myself in. This way to the futurepast fellow chronographers!

Throughout much of the month of October there really wasn’t much in the way of big notable events. It was just a slow progression of previously established themes. Work as a teacher continued to present its own brand of trials and tribulations; tribulations which I made slow concerted efforts to overcome. I had already accrued a small band of interesting persons I will hitherto regard as friends, and I was on occasion strengthening ties with these companionable cohorts with the liberal application of alcohol. However, for all intents, during the slowly growing chill of October life began to recede into a comforting customs. As a person who traversed the globe in search of the novel it may seem a little odd to say, but by this I imply no negativity. I do greatly appreciate those times of simple sanity and routine. In the solemn seconds you see the simple serenity. It is those days that make up the major share of a human life. It is the minor joys in those easily forgotten days that give life its worth, the meeting of needs, pleasant and unassuming companionship. These are the moments that truly make up the vocabulary and grammar of man’s life. The spaces between the grandiose exclamations and the poignant questions, less important than the inexorable declarations it is the intervening letters between capital and cessation which tells the tale of life. Without which there are but dots on a page.

For the purpose of this blog though, I don’t see fit to regale the audience with thirty separate stories of me catching the morning bus to work. Maybe for a different time I will delve into the minutia of existence, but for now I think there is one thread running through the month of October that I feel would make a fascinating topic for exposition. That topic is Halloween. On this subject may I begin by presenting this disclaimer, I and my girlfriend both absolutely cherish the Halloween season. With her penchant for the dramatic and my obsession with fiction of the variety of creepiness it shouldn’t come as a great surprise that we find ways to extend the day of All Hallows into a month long event. Usually we celebrate the season by visiting all attractions haunted and by putting near obsessive levels of effort into costuming. A damper on our festivities was something that we did not account for in the grand land of Hungary. There was this natural assumption I possessed born from a life of absorbing grand melodramatic horrors of literature and film. Hungary is a country directly bordering on the territory of Transylvania, the mountainous land which captures the imaginations of anyone who has ever heard the name Bram Stoker. The issue with this assumption was that Halloween isn’t really an affair of note in Hungary. It is a small holiday with minor celebrations not dissimilar in nature to Labor Day. In fact it seemed that only those of English speaking nature possessed an interest in the festival of fright. So, with matters taken firmly in hand we had a mountain of work if we wished to manufacture the spirit for ourselves.

Back in the United States our Halloween truly began with the planning of costumes, something we usually started in late September. We would ask each other what costumes would be interesting or particularly fun to do. Once a consensus was reached about a costume idea, the next step would be to surf the net in an attempt to work out the costumes feasibility. During the first few weeks of October, you could witness the inevitable flocking of the majestic Halloween seasonal stores. In any town of sufficient size you could find a good 52,000 of which to peruse through. When the goods in these stores inevitably proved too expensive we would then go to Goodwill and hardware stores to begin the actual process of cobbling together a second hand monstrosity of a costume.

Living in Budapest offers difficulties in this plan. First and foremost, a point which I have already touched on is that Halloween isn’t exactly the reason for the season in these parts. My girlfriend and I don’t have many traditions that we stick to on a yearly basis and we were unwilling to let this one pass without expending the effort. We resolved to bring this little bit of home with us. Secondly is the fact that shipping and handling is an expensive process when directed towards Central Europe as opposed to the Western United States. It soon became apparent that what we wanted would take greater effort.A brief exploratory probe of the internet informed us that the number of costume shops which lacked the adjective of “adult” was quite limited. There was one promising prospect that stood out due to its description and location. Identified as the place to go to get what we needed and conveniently located downtown we made the plan to scout the store one day after work.

On the day of the exploratory expedition we were wary upon reaching the supposed location of this store. Unlike in the states where there is a Halloween billboard every square mile and the storefronts are decorated two story tall images of ghost, Budapest does not exactly feel the need to be so obvious. Following the address on the map led us off the main street down a back alley. As we journeyed down these lesser walked avenues the bustling sounds of the metropolis died down in our ears. In the middle of this secluded alley was situated a massive baroque iron gate. It was imposing to say the least. Through the spaces between sturdy bars could be seen another internal pathway which in turn had three separate formidable gateways that led to even more alleys. It was a sight that led us to stand by in contemplation of whether we should test our resolve by venturing into so mysterious a locale. The number on the building was correct, but we didn’t see any other markings that could reassure us that we were not about to enter a portal into a labyrinthine Sub-Europe where everything is backwards and all questions are spoken in riddles.

Hailing from a land of grand open spaces, this claustrophobic atmosphere made its impression in my mind as a might unsettling. I feel as though we would have given up on the whole venture at that point if a pair of women did not brush by us to blaze a trail through the hidden paths. They had the air of people in the mood to purchase costumes and refreshingly they didn’t have the look of murderers. A creak of the hinges squealed out as the door began to swing back closed. Our decision was made for us. With native guides in view we sallied forth. Once in the inner courtyard the leftmost path was chosen and another iron doorway passed through, this time into an interior space. Following blindly those before us with ever waning confidence we gained ingress. The iron portal gave way to a long hallway with what looked to be seldom utilized doorways to the left and a railing barring off a great descent into the earth. The dimly lit hallway led to a single staircase which descended. The soot of many years obstructed the few windows not pasted over with papers. Cavelike and sinister we descended. Faded posters with fantastic garbs were the first signs we had wandered in the correct direction. All was the stairway at every floor were fewer closed and locked doors to the sides. Meandering downward into the strange new land I was sure we would be inevitable trapped in and forced to cobble shoes for its wizard mayor. One flight down, the faded postings engulfed every wall. Second flight down, masks of varying designs hung off the walls in random display. Third flight down, and sinister apparitions reached low from the rafters. Fourth flight down we reached the farthest extent of our cavernous excursion. No doubts now, this was the location we were determined to find. It was a square floor with only two directions to proceed. Ascend the stairwell or test your fate at the singular doorway overgrown with webs, the visages of the damned, and draped fabrics. A desk with a monitor and a mouse rested opposite.

As we absorbed our surroundings the two women in front of us had approached the technology and then printed off a number before being swiftly ushered through the door. Mimicry to this point had been our means of reaching this place so we continued to follow suit. On the screen was a rather large selection of moderately to greatly expensive costumes. We printed off a number to await our admission.  As we browsed the catalogue of goods the door disgorged several of its inhabitants and we were granted entry to this land of mystery. I had never seen such a densely populated display of various attires. Garb of differing nation and age were visible over every inch of the small room.

As we presented our ticket for admission to the sight some information that we did not know about subterranean back alley costume dealerships was made known to us. The most surprising of these discoveries being that subterranean back alley costume dealerships exist. More prescient to our position as potential clients at this merchant was that the employees expected all of its entrants to have a costume picked out by the time of entry. With minimal fitting and fuss you are expected to make a purchase and depart. One last little morsel of knowledge that soon came to our attention was that the employees get very angry and will kick you out if your mind is not sufficiently made up by the time you gain admission into their little hidden society of costuming. Deciding we didn’t wish to pay exorbitant quantities of cash to people who shooed us away with vehemence, we departed post haste from the surreal existence we had lived some few short minutes.  It was then that we chose to get crafty and produce our own disguises.

In the process of writing this story I had actually planned on incorporating the prior event as a minor part of my coverage of Halloween. What I have discovered is that I more to say about the tales of Halloween than I originally anticipated. I hope you enjoy hearing about said time of year because I have a lot more material to get through. Join me next week as I explore how my school decided to undertake their celebrations of a mostly American holiday. Until the next installment, I say good day, good night, and good reading.



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