I wrote a poem recently in which I again mentioned Hungarian food, and it occurred to me that my inherited culinary identity is largely Hungarian, courtesy of my mother who was half hungarian on her mother’s side, my grandmother having claimed that Hungarian men “ran around” and having thus chosen to mary a Pole. My father’s family came from an area that was Russian at the time but had been passed around between Russia, Poland, and Germany but this had little impact, as I remember it, on my love affair with Hungarian food.
I don’t know what it’s like now, but when I was living there, there were quite a number of good local Hungarian restaurants on Third Avenue in the 70’s (in Manhattan). I have never found a really good Hungarian restaurant in Boston and I still miss the stuffed cabbage made with Sauerkraut, a dish for which I do not have the recipe.
Another of my favorite stories concerned a piece of land under what would become Lincoln Center. Every time we drove by, my father would point, saying, “if it hadn’t been for the taxes, we would have owned that piece of land right there.” His frustration was evident, even many years later: he had won the land as part of a settlement in a law suit, but being overseas at the time, he was unable to pay the taxes. He sent his law partner, Ruth Lewinson, to pay them, but she didn’t find out until too late and the city had already forclosed.
I never minded that Dad had lost the piece of land but I did really enjoy hearing the story.
After Pearl Harbor, my father went and enlisted in the Army. This was after he married my mother but before I was born. He enlisted as a private, even though, as I understand it, he could have enlisted as a Lieutenant.
When I told my son C — the one who enlisted in the Army Reserves after his Junior year in high school and who is now at college on a ROTC scolarship — he nodded: “He wanted to make it on his own merit.”
In any case, my father made it to Master Sargent before the army discovered he had been an attorney in civilian life and sent him to Reserve Officer’s Training School (on the University of Michigan campus, where I would later be an undergraduate.) He was then sent overseas as Judge Advocate General, attached to a command that built the airfields.
One day, returning from leave, he hitched a ride back to the base in a plane. As Dad told the story, they landed safely and as soon as they set foot on the airfield, the pilot fainted dead away.
When he came to, my father asked him why he had fainted.
“Well,” the pilot replied, “for the last 15 minutes we were running on empty!”
I have been keeping copies of my poems in my Yahoo briefcase in the absense of my very own laptop so that they can be accessible from either my computer at home in Millis or the one down on the cape. Lately, this is proving to be a less than ideal solution as the pages have been inaccessible more often than not.
This is, needless to say, very frustrating, and I have been thinking about an alternative, one of which is to buy myself my very own laptop for my birthday. Then, of course, I’ll have to worry about backing up my stuff onto CDs.
I will, for the moment, spare y’all the story of my long involvement with various computer data disasters, but suffice it to say that in many respects my paranoia is well-justified by my personal experience.