MAGPIE TALES: The Dilemma of the Trust Fund Maoist
(Our latest contribution to the Magpie Tales project.)
Aaron hadn't been in the room more than a couple of minutes before he pulled out his travel votive and pulled out the candle marked "Mystic Midnight" from his favorite artisan candle bodega, Spirit Air, in Half Moon Bay. The scents of thyme, lavender, cayenne and saffron filled the musty room.
He blew out the match and put it on the box with the logo for the Hotel Forum Bratislava, an image that suggested hostel of far greater grandeur and and mystique than the reality of his humble lodging. Aaron recalled when he first came here in 1989, just a year into his diplomatic relations career, at once excited to be behind the Iron Curtain but even more devastated to know that it had fell. He had begun reading Marx, Engels, Brecht and Trotsky long before he was able to shave. When he finally arrived at the beginning of the Bush I administration, his romantic ideals of "crossing over on the other side" made him feel he had arrived at a party just breaking up, the idealistic wine long gone, only a few dried out appetizers left of a shoddy tray.
Yet, he was all the same charmed by the anxious ineptitude of the Hotel Forum in what would soon become "former Czechoslovakia", a symbol of the "opening up" of this nation many felt was the golden child kidnapped by the Evil Empire. Aaron loved the eager gawkiness of the staff, the pimpled young busboys with crooked, clip on bow ties and barmaids in frilly peasant skirts and Oakland Raiders sweatshirts. Aaron resented that they were all anxious to speak to him in their awkward English and marveled that he grew up in Los Angeles but all grimaced when he spoke to them in what he was sure was more than passable Russian.
Two decades later, it might as well be the Detroit Airport Ramada. The service was competent but generic. Lattes, Atlantic salmon and Cajun blacked catfish were all on the menu.
Aaron had arrived at so many parties too late -- Shanghai just as skyscrapers started shadowing the Bund, Hanoi just when French cuisine had returned to the Metropole, Angkor Wat when lines had started forming like Spring Break in Orlando.
And with each disappointment, Aaron retreated further from his dashed dreams, looking for more creature comforts to soften the blow of each disappointment. Sipping absinthe in Petionville seemed like such a small vice when he first tried it, just as that 90 minute bubble bath in Santiago did when he arrived two years after Pinochet had been ousted.
Had he become what he most dreaded, a trust fund Maoist or just a realist? Aaron knelt before the tiny travel shrine behind his votive, the room now filled with the familiar scents of home, remembering all the years before when he first put a dash of sage essence on the tip of his nose while riding a chicken bus to Tikal to overpower the stench of donkey dung. Today, he wondered if he could even recall that odor.
Labels: Magpie Tales