More Budapest, Day 5 — Museum and Heroes Square

Museum of Fine Arts, showing a tiny bit of the breadth of plaza, which I keep talking about, that is Heroes Square

Continuing from yesterday, I ramble on about our rambles around the Museum of Fine Arts some more (and I edited the previous post to include some links that hadnʼt been there before) and our return into rain to look at Vőrös tere

In the end we spent almost four hours at the museum. I completely lost track of time (yes, I wore my watch, but I seldom think to look at that sucker), progressing forward in art history time from the lengthy medieval stuff I wrote about vaguely already through some Renaissance artists (Italian, German, British, Spanish [I remember an El Greco] — things started to get sorted by nationality, so the time sequence got a bit confused for me except by styles and subjects), Baroque, Nineteenth Century, and very little modern.

The Dutch galleries, listed by all guides as a highlight, was exactly that — more focused on big canvases of landscapes and still lives than the tiny interiors familiar from Vermeer or characterful faces of Rembrandt.

The Museum of Fine Arts has some very fine works, but what really drew My Belovedʼs attention was, obviously, the Impressionists — and there were quite  few interesting canvases to study  toward the end of our second- and third-floor wanderings. I even got to play my game of finding out how far away the painting leaped into real-life clarity and focus (amazingly far away, even in different rooms for several). I also enjoyed the earlier French artists — Delacroix, Corot and Courbet (all of whom found spacious discussion previously here on the blog). On this visit, although a few of the guards (mostly stout, middle-aged and older women) watched me getting my intrusive nose perhaps too close to some canvases, I didnʼt come near to actually touching anything.

the (admittedly uninteresting-to-foreigners) historical nobility (southern) half of the Heroes Square monument

Legendary and historical kings on Heroes Square

The mounted Magyars on the central spire, Heroes Square

Eventually, art-weariness began to make things seem less and less intriguing for this day (a false, subjective impression bred from too-muchness at any museum), and we found our way back to the steps we had come up several hours earlier. However, in the lobby (where we had paid our admission, now filled with various groups of people, plentiful schoolchildren) I noticed that a pair of large doors led off to the Greek and Roman antiquities, and we went in there (me a bit trepidatious that perhaps this wing required an extra fee — it didnʼt).

Now The Lovely One has had more than enough of Greek vases — red-figure, black-figure and polychrome — from our visits to the British Museum, where she may also have gotten more than she wanted of examining the Lindow Man, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but she does like the sculpture and enjoys mosaics (after our visit to Volubilis in Morocco back in 1984). And we ended up spending another hour-plus amidst (yes) vases (all three kinds, but a limited number) of many varieties (of use), among which I pointed out amphorae to her, and lots of Roman statues or assorted fragments thereof (also true of the vases).

Pleasantly, almost no other visitors bothered to take in these genuine antiquities, and the gentle quiet made these final rooms a real highlight of our visit… for both of us (even with vases examined, sometimes minutely, by one of us).

The heroic couple atop the central spire, Heroes Square

Unlike yesterday, my own shot of Mucsarnok, the Music Hall

But then we descended again to retrieve our belongings and depart, in order to check out the monument(s) of Heroes Square, erected like so much else in Budapest for the millennial celebrations of 1896 (which is also why so many things in the city are 896 feet and/or meters high). We toured around the two sets of historical “heroes,” the first, older group on our side (toward the Museum of Fine Arts) being legendary and historical kings and the other group comprising lesser-known Hungarian nobles. I was reading from Rick Steves and either Frommer or DK, trying to be more informed and informative than had been our experience on Saturday over on Castle Hill. It was, however, actually raining, and our studies began to feel uncomfortably wet, even after we drew out the umbrellas (difficult to hold one and read from a guidebook), so after perhaps only a half hour or so, we headed off the large plaza to find again the Vőrös tere Metro stop and descend into the bowels beneath the streets.

We were headed back under Andrassy út toward the river…

Again, more to come… someday…

©2012 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Happy Birthday, Beautiful!

Today is My Belovedʼs birthday. I noted the event a couple years ago with some verse. This year things are a little different, stranger. 

Birthday snow — still falling

The Lovely One is still at work, as she was last year and the year before, and… But her birthday dawned with a dark foreboding: suddenly yesterday afternoon, the weathermen began predicting a big winter storm to sweep through the region this afternoon and evening. We were predicted to receive eight, maybe ten inches of snow.

And just that quickly, our plans for her big day today began to crumble. Her parents and I were going to have lunch with her in Dubuque, and then this evening she and I were going out for dinner at what has become her favorite restaurant, in Bellevue. Fast-falling snow would cancel those plans.

Upon arising this morning the radio (and the local TV news, too, when I checked) had reduced the anticipated snowfall to a mere three to five inches, but it was still heading in, slated to begin, presumably, around noon — bad timing for our plans.

So she left this morning a little down at the mouth, intending to devise some way to go out for lunch on her own, determined that we would figure out something for supper instead of our planned outing. However, by 10:00 AM, nothing had developed, and her mom called to say that they were planning to go on up to Dubuque. Although Janet had delegated me with the job of deterring them, I failed, and the lunchtime gathering was still on. So I quickly dressed and headed myself up that way on good old Highway 61.

Disassembled birdbath and birdfeeders in the snow

Lunch went off wonderfully. The parents-in-law presented their daughter with two Grant Wood prints (she had been seeking some for our living room but only found $10,000 originals available online, even, or particularly, on eBay). I had sent her last-minute flowers to substitute in lieu (I had thought) my less-than-flower-bright, uncolorful presence over lunch. Our lovely and thoughtful waitress Lisa even brought out a (free) strawberry shortcake with a candle to conclude the meal. Lunch was great, and Janet enjoyed herself remarkably.

And both the Nortons and I got home (in rain) without weather incident.

Unfortunately, as my pictures for today reveal, the snow has arrived. Heading out to get our mail, I even scraped nearly an inch off the driveway already (and that was before 3:00 PM our local time). Janet will have to drive with care when she gets finished working for the day. And a drive to Bellevue* seems unwise right now…

I guess there was at least one more gasp in the winter season this year. And we should have expected it would arrive at perhaps the worst possible time.

Oh, well. Happy Birthday, My Precious.

* And there is a whole ʼnother tale about that restaurant (not going belly up as we had feared yesterday, when no one answered my phone calls to ensure we had a table tonight and when I discovered their website was gone, the domain name available for sale) but not being what it once was, having lost the outstanding chef who made the meals the awesome experiences they had been.

©2012 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Celebratory Beverage

In part to continue the little sequence of posts lately into a trilogy, but really because Janet made a batch of todayʼs topic as a gift for a friend (and had me make the label, that comprises todayʼs special image, for the recycled wine bottle into which she placed said beverage), I thought I would take another stab at another recipe. (It has been a long time.) Although I do prefer my own Snowy Evening (we have spread the name of my invention to at least a dozen people now), Janet has a real fondness for her concoction — Pumpkini Martinis.

Hereʼs her recipe for two (large) martini glasses:

  • 3 shots each of:
    • Pumpkin Smash™ Liqueur,
    • white chocolate Irish cream,
    • and vanilla vodka
  • 2 shots of nonalcoholic cream (such as Half-n-Half, vanilla- or pumpkin-flavored coffee liquid creamer)

Put in a shaker with ice. Shake to chill. Strain into chilled martini glasses. Sprinkle the top with nutmeg. Enjoy.

Itʼs pretty simple, but very pleasant. Makes a good drink at the end of an enjoyable evening. (The Lovely One and her sister enjoy them when they get together, often but not always).

Janetʼs gift

Today Janet made two or three glasses worth and poured them into a wine bottle from which she had removed the label, scrubbed (and nearly sanded the exterior to remove label glue), and then had me tape on my home-made label.

Pumpkin martinis are a little sweet for me to drink much (a good thing, as I don’t have that problem with Snowy Evenings). But theyʼre  pretty good. And I hope our friend Lisa enjoyes her celebratory bottle of the drink (with friends or not all at once).

In other news… my lovely (still unregistered) smartpen has gotten me* most of the way through day three of our Hungarian adventure, for anyone interested in what might be coming up here on Wakʼs Blog. Furthermore, while on the trip we took for New Years, I wrote plenty. So we wonʼt be idle in days to come.

Stay tuned. Stay healthy. Keep reading.

* I do like writing longhand, being an old curmudgeonly codger. And itʼs lovely to just hook up the pen and edit the few errors MyScript for Livescribe™ happens to make with my illegible handwriting, copy over into Scrivener for revision, export as HTML for copying into WordPress.

2012 could be a much more verbose year around here. Be prepared?

©2012 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Congratulations, Tim and Jess!

Today, about the time this item posts online, my nephew Tim marries his sweetheart Jessica. His/their aunts and uncles (-in-law) could not feel happier, and I personally am looking forward enthusiastically to the big ceremony, presided over (wrong terminology there) by Timʼs father, my brother Paul — who gets to do the service because Jessicaʼs local minister happens to be out of town this weekend, a circumstantial positive that could almost make one (well, this one) feel a slight tremor of temptation to believe.

Janet, taking a half day off work, and I traveled to the center of our state for the wedding yesterday, hoping to enjoy some family time together. If our plans came off, we had lunch with Margaret and Aunt Alaire and David (at least) before driving to the church. Maybe we can squeeze a word with the Happy Couple and the Proud Parents at some point, too (all, naturally, before turning our heads once again toward home). I think most (if not actually all) of us are intending to celebrate at the reception (or so I hope), where and when some conversation will surely be possible. And I bet we can meet members of the brideʼs-side family as well.

Tim and Jess will soon be off into the big adventures of wedded bliss, while the rest of the family must return, far too soon, to the mundane dreariness of daily work — with the consolation of each other to make the burdens of existence bearable and even rewarding.

(And in honor of the marital day, Iʼll even keep quiet on the issue of what real family values are in the face of Boob Vander Putz and his cerebrally-cleansed  squads of goosestepping goons.)

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Forgotten Inspiration

This one is for Janet, mostly because I wrote it about her once upon a time. And also because as of today, she has survived the big birthday party that I mentioned a while back…

The setting is our first apartment together, the one on maple Street that my father enjoyed so much (and which I donʼt think my mother ever visited).

forgotten inspiration

The house resounds with your noises
(and sometimes still your silences)
subtle often but also definite—
floorboards creaking with footsteps
doors opening and closing
upstairs down
stair steps too
running water, coffeemaker gurgles

Found in a notebook 1/10/99


©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.


I have had this sort-of-a-poem on ice (meaning a “Draft” here in WordPress world) for at least a year now. With nothing better to post for today, letʼs drag it from its frozen waiting room into the light of digital day. Thirty-six years on.

Weʼre in the hangover period after the Bardʼs Birthday (yesterday), so a bit of verse, however inept and/or bad, seems vaguely in order. The Lovely One and I are celebrating her parentsʼ anniversary (also yesterday) with them today, so maybe a touch of romance is in order as well.

Besides, itʼs been a very long time since I posted a poem.


What subtle secret magic have you worked on me,

dark like dementia, as savage as dreams,
to take all my wonder from being alone and free?

You’ve possessed my heart. I’m void except for screams
of loneliness that shred the armor of life’s routine:
hopes rust, scales that philosophy will never clean
from the baffles of my imprisoned spirit’s schemes.
You have worked the witchcraft which makes you me.

I have no complex incantation which will wean
me, anguished, from your tenderhooks to liberty.
Your spells are potent: you mystically demean
my solitude with this amoral sweet wizardry.

What mephistopholean magic have you worked on me,
now that you are free and I am we?

obviously an aftermath of “Busy Music”

23 September 1975

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

The Perfect Birthday Surprise

Periodically I’ve commented on the luscious spam that both I and WordPress have permitted to appear through commentary here on the blog, but the world of spam took on a whole new level of un-splendid astonishment with a mailing for Janet that arrived Wednesday, just in time for her birthday, and accidentally mixed in by me with all of her birthday cards.

She skipped her usual workout at the Y in Dubuque that day to come home early (well, early by our standards — meaning directly after work) so we could go out to eat in celebration of her natal day. Even though precipitation of the light and foggy kind filled the air, threatening to freeze at the point the temperature fell below 32°, we headed off northward through Andrew to Bellevue, where we ate at The Happy Bean/The Market, a really great restaurant* where we had eaten only one previous time back in the fall of 2010 when we were in Bellevue to witness friend Mary Nevans-Pederson’s exhibit of photographs at the art gallery associated with the restaurant and coffee shop. She and her husband Clayton really recommended this place, and they were right. (It’s so good that Janet had, once we had enjoyed a meal there, passed on the recommendation to her boss, who has frequented the place several times since — while we malingered at home.) Amusingly, both of us enjoyed risotto, mine a sausage-less shrimp dish (it was supposed to have Andouille sausage, but it happened they didn’t have any Wednesday night) and hers orange roughy on a very different rice accompaniment.

Our whole birthday experience at The Happy Bean was really great, even though Janet left her reading glasses on the table, and we still have yet to pick them up, although the waitress called us specially to let her know, the call arriving even before we reached home after our visit. The relevant moment (at least for today’s post) arrived when, having listened to the message from The Happy Bean, she sat down with me to open her birthday cards before we retired for the day. Mixed in, as I already indicated, was the amazingly bad piece of hardcopy spam we feature today. I have scanned the document so you can see what some scam artist thought was appropriate to send someone on her birthday.

Here is the mailing cover (that which you see when the mail arrives):

That which was not a birthday card for The Lovely One

Notice the official look, particularly the dove with olive branch that looks strangely governmental and which directs the eye to the “United States…” Yet this bit of garbage did decidedly not come from anything even remotely official (in fact, it took me close examination to discover the name of the sending corporation**, if that).

Once we opened the trifold card, we found this:

Jut what every woman wants to read on her birthday…

Itʼs not sorry enough that she (I believe) has one of those paltry little life insurance policies provided through work just for the costs of a funeral (costs which The Lovely One wishes to avoid entirely, by the way, preferring to donate her organs and remains however possible; just within the past few weeks she talked about the futility of graveyards for us twain, with no one bound by blood descent to visit such ancestral shrines — I agreed in advance, naturally). But what organization was offering her this brief chance to “qualify” to pay them money for this questionable service? I really had to search the flyer to find the tiny print…

The response card at the bottom of the “information” pictured above

Note the absence of information about the “sponsoring company” (would that be the appropriate term?) on this response card, above. When I mail back such cards for magazine subscriptions, the magazine in question is always clearly marked. So I checked the address side to verify to whom the card would be returned…

The address side of the response card

Nothing. We return to “Processing Center” at a P.O. Box in Phoenix. Really solid. Again, no identifying insurance company behind this scam. Finally, I checked the back of the two folds that contained the “information.” One fold was the front cover, the side addressed to The Lovely One. The other fold was this:

Look closely. You can finally find an insurance company name…

Find it? “The Lincoln Heritage Life Insurance Company.” Well-known outfit… But they actually exist. Here is their “funeral planning” link. However, if this bit of sleaze portrayed in todayʼs post is their modus operandi, I canʼt say much for that company. Not much except… stay away from those slimesack scambags.

Has anybody received equally amusing sucker-mail?

* (whose website, at least yet on the Big Birthday, as our wonderful waitress noted herself, was somewhat out of date)

** Considering my skeptical, if not openly antagonistic attitude toward Big Business/Multinational Corporations/Old Wealth trying to control our nation and politics with Big Money, is it any wonder that my erring fingers seem invariably to type “coprolation?” The scent of “coprolite” in that error is too good to resist.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.