Tuesday, February 23, 2010

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.

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23 Comments:

At 1:56 AM, Blogger Lorenzo said...

As somewhat of a former maoist myself (no trust fund yet), I really appreciate this post. Written like you've been around more than a few and know the mentality well (not to mention the scent of sage essence over donkey dung). I particularly liked the brief description of the changes in places like Bratislava, the "eager gawkiness", the marvelling over his having been born in LA more than on his having learned Russian, the peasant skirts and Oakland Raider sweatshirts ... all to end up like the Detroit Airport Ramada. Great stuff, Ladrón.

 
At 3:03 AM, Blogger SUN DANCE HILL said...

Enjoyed this wonderful piece of writing - loved all the facts and descriptions of changes; the tone of the story really set the stage.

 
At 4:06 AM, Blogger Brian Miller said...

very nicely done...i too had been around a few and you captured their feel well...

 
At 5:29 AM, Blogger Vicki Lane said...

Trust fund Maoist -- interesting concept! I love the contrast of then and now.

 
At 5:37 AM, Blogger willow said...

Interesting what memories certain scents conjure for us. I can imagine you never leaving the house without your travel votive!

(I was actually in Warsaw when the wall came down in November of '88. I'll never forget that excitement in the air.)

 
At 5:54 AM, Blogger Alan Burnett said...

I have been drifting for years trying to decide what I should become, Now I know - I want to be a Trust Fund Maoist.

 
At 6:23 AM, Blogger The Hausfrau said...

So many exotic scents and fascinating references, and I love the "anxious ineptitude" of the staff--perfect!

 
At 7:51 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Lorenzo - I've met some people who learned Russian and were surprised that when they spoke it to people from former Soviet ruled nations that the people weren't impressed.

Sun dance - I think it's all about the smells.

Brian - Good to know you've been around.

Vicki - Living in San Francisco I've met my share of trust fund Maoists.

Willow - Lucky that you were there. I saw a great East German movie a few years ago about a woman mourning the fall of the wall. It was sort of ironic, but she feared East Berlin going capitalist.

Alan - That's great! Can you fund me to go start a revolution somewhere?

Hausfrau - I've seen anxious ineptitude in too many place in my lifetime.

 
At 9:20 AM, Blogger Jessie said...

your descriptions are very vivid. so have you travelled to these areas, researched, or ????

nicely done.

smiles,

 
At 10:01 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Jessie - I've been to most of the places, not all, and I've met my share of trust fund Maoists through the years.

 
At 11:05 AM, Blogger steviewren said...

So sad to arrive at all life's parties too late.

 
At 11:31 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Stevie - Yes, all the champagne is gone, and crab cakes are stale.

 
At 2:01 PM, Blogger Bachelor said...

aaahhh... it still continues... just not so open or closed.. great story, great read. :) The Bach

 
At 2:01 PM, Blogger Bachelor said...

aaahhh... it still continues... just not so open or closed.. great story, great read. :) The Bach

 
At 3:50 PM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Bach - Yes, the case continues. Thanks for dropping in.

 
At 4:23 PM, Blogger John Hayes said...

The trsut fund Maoist (in addition to being a real phenomenon) is a wonderful fictional construct. You have a marvelous eye for detail & objects in these stories. Loved the waitresses in frilly peasant skirts & Raider sweatshirts.

 
At 4:45 PM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

John - I think I may start a punk band named the Trust Fund Maoists.

 
At 4:53 PM, Blogger Queenmothermamaw said...

Wow I am way out of my league here with you mysterious and well traveled writers. Gonna have to dig into my few exotic experiences to come up with something more spine tingling.
QMM

 
At 7:12 PM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Queenmothermawmaw - Maybe make it something really spine tingling like a murder at the hotel or a resident vampire.

 
At 3:52 AM, Blogger little hat said...

You had me in the first sentence Junk Thief. So good when reading isn't hard work. Even better when its full of cheek and subtly takes the piss (as we say in Australia).
I'll be back.

 
At 7:52 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Little Hat - Thanks for coming up from down under. We say "takes the piss" here in San Francisco too, but I'm not sure it means the same thing.

 
At 6:52 PM, Blogger chiccoreal said...

Ladron: How did you get the skinny on the polit-bureau mumbo-jumbo (and Cajun cooking) going on over there in Bratislava? You've got an "in" on the happening culture of Bratislava or do you read the World News section of the New York Times religiously? A most intriguing read. One does sense that there is a lot more happening in Bratislava than just the off-scent of donkey dung. This has the makings of a spy novel leading to the crux of the the matter - a book deal? More please! Excellent style!

 
At 7:19 PM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Chiccoreal - Maybe I will work on a spy novel for a future Magpie Tale.

 

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