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THE SZENTENDRE TRAIN – part 1 of 30

I took the Szentendre train twice each week.  Early Monday mornings I stood at the station near my home and waited for the train to take me into Budapest, where I was an assistant professor of anatomy at Semmelweis University.  Friday evenings I caught a train back to Szentendre.  Between the two short train rides, my life was bland, grey, boring, and repetitive.  In Szentendre I did my grocery shopping in the open market and prepared my meals for the week in the city. I was able to rent a cheaper flat in the city if I didn’t need cooking facilities.  In Budapest I spent most of my time in my flat, and the rest of my time with my students.

Last autumn I began to wonder about my life.  I had been on vacation for the summer, and the return to the routine of city life and work was objectionable to me.  Weekends at home were no better.  Lonely days and nights, some so lonely I just sat around my house and cried for hours.  It took all my will to go to the train station in Szentendre that first Monday morning in September.  The usual scattering of people was there, waiting for the train to Budapest.  I kept my eyes down as always.  I was not in the mood for idle small talk.  My spirit was in turmoil.  I wanted to be left alone, to avoid social contact.  At the same time, I wanted love, affection, attention, and sex.

My husband… my former husband… was a dentist.  He had run off with his office assistant three years before.  I didn’t see it coming, and it put me into a deep depression.  I wasn’t interested in anything, and I simply buried myself in my work. It had not always been so, but I was thirty-nine years old, living alone and longing for love.  I would have settled for any old fool of a lover, just to be touched by a warm, tender hand again.  I was grey.  My hair, my complexion, and my spirit were all grey.  I was a colourless lump of average looking, depressed, slightly overweight middle-aged female meat, and I felt like shit.

Nothing Is Balanced

I live in a seedy little village in the midst of fertile farmland. The nearest shopping is about 20 minutes’ drive away, so I go up and down the secondary two-lane several times each week. Enjoying the quiet, scenic drive, I get to thinking. For instance; although there are vast, cultivated fields lining the highway, there are also massive stands of trees. Deciduous and coniferous trees, growing like weeds by the millions.

I remember being unhappy when I learned that a European country, locked in a horrible war, was suffering through a cold winter. The news said people were breaking up their furniture and their house interiors to burn for desperately needed heat and cooking. At the same time, I’m driving along thousands of kilometers of road, and forests sit idle on both sides, proliferating each spring.

It’s out of balance. One society has none, another society has an excessive abundance.

I know a woman of extraordinary beauty, from flowing hair to tiny feet. She’s also wealthy, thanks to a successful father and a successful ex-husband. Unfortunately she is without intelligence. She’s actually stupid. Somehow, it’s out of balance.

I know another woman, plain, poor complexion, rather square torso and stumpy legs. From a simple, working-class family, she works at a menial job, in a windowless space where she is seldom seen or heard from. She’s bright, intelligent, well read and reliable. She’s out of balance, within herself and compared with the stupid beauty.

Some places are flooded with water, other places can’t find water. Some people are starving in streets or in wilderness. Other people have food available on all sides. Some is free, most is inexpensive. There is no balance.

Any of us could go on at length about imbalance. In fact, there is no balance, ever.

The Victim Is Not The Sinner

David was grumbling aloud. David is an uptight guy. He needs any reason or no reason, but he’s always nervous. Apparently his mother was severely depressed, and it was a burden on David while he was growing up.

David had just given $20 to an old man at the door. The man claimed to be a rabbi without a congregation, and was hoping to create a synagogue. Now David was grumbling. He was thinking, what if the guy wasn’t a real rabbi? What if he just takes the $20 and buys a small bottle of gin and a cheap hooker.

I wanted to give David some relief, if I could. I pointed out that he’d done nothing wrong. In fact, he’d done an  act of gracious generosity, which is a good thing and it was the right thing to do. If the man is a liar, he has sinned. David, however, was honourable, and has not sinned. The victim is not the sinner.

If someone disappoints you, and does something against you, don’t blame yourself. You’ve done nothing wrong. You are the victim and your antagonist is the sinner.

Most People My Age Are Dead

I plagiarized Gloria Steinem for this title. She’s about 82 now, and still attractive. I am finding old age quite fascinating. I’m my own research subject. Throughout my life, I never contemplated or even thought of myself as becoming elderly. Now that I’m here, with eight decades to look back at, it can be fun.

One thing that’s interesting is learning of the deaths of people one has known over the decades. Some of the people who have passed evoke feelings of sadness; sometimes regret sometimes happiness, sometimes satisfaction or even relief. Living an active, varied life for a long time teaches one many lessons through many adventures and more importantly, misadventures.

I’m not concerned at all about my inevitable death. Still, it interests me to not how many people pass away while I live on. My first wife died the other day. She was three years younger than I am. I’ve also learned that two of the nicest girls I dated in high school died several years ago. Also an old friend who I hadn’t seen in years died in ’03, I just learned. He owed me money. I guess that’s why I hadn’t seen him in years.

I realized I could look through obituaries and see who I’ve outlived. There was a new president brought in at a large, international company for which I worked. The new president was uncomfortable that a major client was deeply dependent upon me, and trusted my judgement completely. I guess he feared I’d take the client to another agency, so he set out to oust me. One by one, my clients where bled away from me until I was let go. The group head that had to tell me, thanked me for how I’d elevated his career.

I searched obits for those guys and a few others, and learned that I’ve outlived all of them. I even found out that a false friend that had backstabbed me, died of a massive heart attack twelve years ago.

So on I go, gradually outliving friends and enemies along the way. It’s kind of cool.

Most People My Age Are Dead

I plagiarized Gloria Steinem for this title. She’s about 82 now, and still attractive. I am finding old age quite fascinating. I’m my own research subject. Throughout my life, I never contemplated or even thought of myself as becoming elderly. Now that I’m here, with eight decades to look back at, it can be fun.

One thing that’s interesting is learning of the deaths of people one has known over the decades. Some of the people who have passed evoke feelings of sadness; sometimes regret sometimes happiness, sometimes satisfaction or even relief. Living an active, varied life for a long time teaches one many lessons through many adventures and more importantly, misadventures.

I’m not concerned at all about my inevitable death. Still, it interests me to not how many people pass away while I live on. My first wife died the other day. She was three years younger than I am. I’ve also learned that two of the nicest girls I dated in high school died several years ago. Also an old friend who I hadn’t seen in years died in ’03, I just learned. He owed me money. I guess that’s why I hadn’t seen him in years.

I realized I could look through obituaries and see who I’ve outlived. There was a new president brought in at a large, international company for which I worked. The new president was uncomfortable that a major client was deeply dependent upon me, and trusted my judgement completely. I guess he feared I’d take the client to another agency, so he set out to oust me. One by one, my clients where bled away from me until I was let go. The group head that had to tell me, thanked me for how I’d elevated his career.

I searched obits for those guys and a few others, and learned that I’ve outlived all of them. I even found out that a false friend that had back-stabbed me, died of a massive heart attack twelve years ago.

We Are Not The Ultimate

We must consider the power of infinity and eternity. Given the endlessness of these two factors, the truth is that anything, any event, any moment, any product can happen, and it will. With limitless time and limitless distance, the evolution of the universe will continue far beyond our measly scope. We see ourselves at the top of the pecking order; we kill jungle cats and rhinoceroses, we build elegant towers into the clouds, we explore the moon and other celestial bodies. Yet, we are just one tiny rivulet in the relentless flow of time and distance.

We chase property, we covet jewellery, and we build mansions as if we are to be here forever. The fact is, our time on Earth has been but a blink, compared to the vast evolution that has taken place. Earth, air, and water has brought us to this level of intelligence and ingenuity. The mistake that many people make is the idea that we, here and now, are the pinnacle of development.

circleoflife

Most of us are familiar with the graphic that we see of human development from Neanderthal to homo sapiens. Few of us think about the continuation of the little line of people that evolve from apelike to a person standing tall and proud. Most of us clamour for prosperity plus. Multiple homes, multiple cars, and a life of luxury amid sumptuous surroundings is the goal. The fact is, we’re taking in and putting out more than we need to, and more than we should. If the world were to suddenly end, the billionaire and the homeless wretch would each be equal amounts of doo-doo.

I know people who possess great amounts of property, power, and wealth. I know people who choose to live simply, earn a good living and enjoy their time. Ninety percent of the time, the simple life encourages happiness. Most of the time, the acquisitive people are stressed and unhappy. We take our chances when we make our choices on how to live our individual lives.

Treasure Lake – Running With Gold

They heard the plane take off again from the lake.  They knew that the people who want their treasure back were going to be searching. They paddled hard for the refuge offered by a large Balsam Fir that was leaning far out over the river.

“Just our luck if it falls while we’re under it,” Solly said.

“Meanwhile, it’s hiding us from the plane, so don’t be such a negative putz!” Rob said.

They could hear the plane circling, looking for any sign of anything. They would assume that it would be a small vessel, otherwise it would have been unable to negotiate the narrow, shallow creeks. Twice, they buzzed by at low altitude, right over the two hidden canoes and four worried teenagers. Soon the sound of the plane faded into the distance and the canoeists pushed off again.

They came to a place of open water.  It was a small lake that they would have to cross to get to the next small tributary they would need to travel to get to their car. There was some discussion about what route to take.  The short way was to paddle straight across the lake to the mouth of the continued tributary. The safe way was to hug the shoreline where they could hide in foliage. There was virtually no wind, so they would be neither helped nor hindered in crossing the lake and getting on with their run, so they took the fast way instead of the safe way.

They were less than half way across the lake when the dreaded sound of the amphibian aircraft returned. A minute later it passed over them, and they knew they must have been seen. The plane circled to make a landing on the water where the young people were. At the same time, Rob commanded that they were to stroke like hell for the other side.  It was a race to get into foliage before the pontoons touched the surface.

The plane landed as close to the canoes as it could, then revved up the engine to plow along on the water toward them. Just before the canoes could disappear up a narrow, weed filled creek, they could hear gunshots over the roar of the plane’s engine. Only one bullet came near them, and made a small splash a few feet away from them just as they were able to disappear into overhanging bushes. They hoped the plane would be stopped at the shallow mouth of the creek.

The plane’s engine was shut off, and they could hear angry shouts. It sounded like the pontoons had run aground, and some guys had to get wet pushing the plane off the shore and turning toward open water. Meanwhile, a steady stroking of the four paddles carried them toward safety.  They heard the plane take off and fly away, and they were able to settle down and paddle.

While the boys handled the canoes from their stern seats, the girls got some food out of the packs and made peanut butter and jam sandwiches so they could each have something to eat without stopping. After a few hours, they heard another engine nearby.  It sounded similar to the plane engine, but different.

“It’s a damn air boat,” Rob Snitzer said.

“What the hell’s an air boat,” Caroline Rich said.

“It’s one of those tubs, you know, that zips through swamps with a big propeller on the back,” Solly Cohen said.

“Oh, god, no!” Phylis Snitzer said. “We’re in deep shit now.”