Thursday, December 27, 2007

2,000 Poles Walk into a Bar

Okay, kids, let's talk 'bout that Krakow, aka Cracow, which is wierd if you know that 'C's in Polish are pronounced like 'ts' in English. So this city has two vastly different names. Cracow is prefered by graffiti artists, which caused me to think for a sec that it was an alternate, Anglicized spelling used by the youth to distinguish them from the ugly old. Turns out it's just the spelling used by the soccer team o' the city. Ugh.Someday, mon kinder, I'll teach you why soccer sucks so bad, but that's beside the point just right now, so back to Krakow:Come in Nov 1, the Catholic's All Saints' Day, which, since almost all Poles is Catholic (ever since, oh, 1943 or so) is a national holiday. Cemetaries are replete all the way with candles, and fairly glow, and are stuffed long after dark (sunset: 4:13 pm) with people who've obviously never heard of Zombies or Halloween. They don't have Halloween here.Let me explain.All Saints' or, The Day o' the Dead is the Catholic interpolation on the Pagan end of the year, when cold made the world die, especially in Ireland, and all the ancient dead were allowed to walk the quick earth with impunity. When Christianity came to these vile bastards, it was infinitely easier to give new names to the the things they did than try to change them (see my long disertation on the Inquisition, coming soon) and so Druid New Year's became All Hallows' and its eve All Hallows' Eve.More to the point, it's not surprising that multiculti USA, Protestant, Buddhist, Muslim USA, don't really get universally into All Saints'.It's Halloween that's notable. The more easily secularized elements. No shock, but let's think for a sec, eh.
Children dress as immortal characters to intimidate the older generation into giving them free candy, an older generation to whom they are, for all intents and purposes, immortal. (I mean the old will be dead long before the young die, here) It's a celebration of youth and instant gratification in an atmosphere of immortality. For all the invocations of cemeteries around Halloween, they remain empty, the fearful amongst us afraid of them, because the entire air of the holiday is one in which death is a nonentity, and these houses of it seem apt at any time to break into resurrected evidence that these children, and all the ones before them, will in fact never die. Not really. Not forever.
This is a contrast with the nations where All Hallows itself is celebrated, where citizens flock to cemeteries, light candles, acknowledge the dead and acknowledge that they themselves will die. They seem to adore the older generation here, not the younger. It's a solemn day wherein our debts to those who came before are treasured, and our entrance into their realm is prepared. For all the ghoulishness of Halloween, it is the denial of death that abounds. It is the eternal present of mountains of free candy, taken with and eaten with impunity, a gift from a generation who will not live to see them die, a token of relative immortality they'll have to pass along some day, though only in theory. For now.
Some time walking around Krakow, too, I think of this conciet: "The Atheist's Bible" just a title. No grasp of how to present it as a fictive thing in a fictional thing. I think for a second of the Bible sans the name o' god, and amidst this train o' thought I imagine this verse: Thou shalt not take a name in vain, and this seems much more profound all of a sudden than simply saying "god" when you're not praying, which is what that actually means. That you might owe something to your father and his father and the tons of other dudes who wore your name before you, this is interesting to me, when a whole country or two flocks to light candles above the scentless corpses of thier ascendents. When American kids sleep off the sleepless giddy night of a sugar high that celebrates them as the newest, the unobliged. The wearers of the masks of immortality.
I say this maybe because Krakow sort of wierd in Poland, in that there are parts of it that ain't less than say 60 years old. Way south it dodged Nazis and Russkies both, and has an old castle that still stands, and a Jewish cemetary with no candles that takes up a few city blocks. It's an old, history riddled city, I mean, you can see a Da Vinci and some other stuff, there's an architecture museum here despite the fact that a real architecture museum would have to be like, a city. More interesting, I think, is the city, run down a bit and poor and full of tourists and polyglot beggars, beautiful old buildings, a refreshing dearth of post-Soviet gaudy blue-purple-orange colored apartment complexes.
It's nice for sure.
British assholes come here to bachelor party becuase pounds v zloties is like 5-1 and it's actually cheaper to come here and do anything than to spend a night out in Londontown. This sucks especially on national holidays when all the natives are inside contemplating death, surrending the streets to grown-men children. All trick, no treat. Trust me.
The shining fact at the end, though, really, is Krakow, heart, I think, of this most maligned of European countries, the one place where the future is brighter than the past (almost like Halloween), is ascendant, and like the zombies we all dread, that's pretty cool.


prairie mary said...

Whoof! This voice comes blowing in from an ENTIRELY new place! Kinda scary and no dogs or hawks, either one! Sorta living archeology with candles, maybe.

I'll be watching this one!

Prairie Mary

Anonymous said...

Someone please write something else so I don't have to look at this every time I check in on the site

Anonymous said...

Sounds like what I imagine "Down Mexico way" is like , but without the Texan Rednecks & their electric fences to keep the "Aliems" out - only difference is the "Commie " wall is down , and "Old Europe" is welcoming all and sundry into "New Europe"- So there are bound to be some "cultural clashes!".

Maybe the Poles like the British "Assholes" money , so will put up with some high spirits?"- Is it only Brirtish "assholes " who come - no US, German or Belgian ones?"

Phillip Grayson said...

I'd imagine the Poles do like the influx of money, probably like the influx of different cultures too, seem to like England in general a lot, since tons go there, but I don't know, I can't speak for Pollocks and didn't know I was seeming to. My apologies to them.
If I singled out Britishers it was only because I noticed them. I was the only American asshole I came across, and am so thoroughly one of those that if there were German or Belgian folks in the city I couldn't tell them from the natives. I realize that I generalized a lot in the thing I did, and I should have made it more explicit that by "America" I meant Phill, and that by "British assholes" I also mainly meant Phill. I primarily wanted to talk about zombies, and it's a testament to my nonfictional worthlessness that my incidental buildup was so ill executed. Man, I feel lower than the Queen of England's saggy boobs.
My bad.

Steve Bodio said...

Do NOT feel bad-- plenty of us (see Mary) liked it.

Also, you may have been too polite to comment on how many in your hometown area are ambivalent about those newcomers who try to import coastal ways to the high desert, who throw around money and condescend to the locals. Just this morning I had TWO newcomers-- one here eight years, one five, neither of whom has to work though neither is very old, tell me that nobody had told them how cold winter is here-- this at the end of a string of record mild winters! One is already putting up his quarter million dollar house for sale to go "someplace warm". (That a plateau 6500 feet above sea level with 10,000 foot peaks in sight might be cool apparently escaped him).

When I asked if they had ever consulted a local, I got blank looks...

Steve Bodio said...

Two more thoughts.

New Mexico Hispanics are not all that keen on illegal immigrants, whose culture is NOTHING like theirs, and is divided from theirs by hundreds of years of history. Do not as some newcomers do call them "Mexican".

And: I know a (Spanish!) New Mexico rancher who is planning to buy a farm in Poland in the Tatra foothills-- actually may have it by now.

Phillip Grayson said...

I don't think it's politeness, but I really honestly feel that I can't comment in any way on my hometown. I guess it's here with me, but all I can recall of it is a library, a clot of friends, a lot of basketball, and home. I left right about the time critical judgment kicked in, but if I transposed any anti-outsider viewpoint to Poland I didn't realize it or see it in the article. (Don't mean it ain't there)
I do have to claim responsibility for saying once that to the uninformed a dead eye ricocheting with the movement of maggots might seem more alive than one still, looking intently at something, and I did compare this to the magnificent number of houses going up on abandoned ranches back home as those seemed like growth while being a harbinger of death, and I guess thoughts like this pervade, but I really really don't see them in this little piece.
With this, I love Magdalena beyond all reason, and I'm always happy to say, when asked where I'm from, "New Mexico" and see the dissonance elicited, but I do think the 2nd anonymous comment was justified in pointing out that I took a lot of liberties assuming readers would find my tongue in my cheek and my self-deprecation in the humor, and understand that I'm writing as an idiot abroad. It was hastily written for sure, and any travelogue that's based on the living-dead is really apt to be poked at.
I've decided to leave the fact that New Mexico has blessedly few Texan rednecks by dint of definition alone, I thought the saggy boobs dis wuz enough.

Anonymous said...


It's just that there seems to me to be good and bad in most Nations - please don't generalise( or exclude), and certainly don't mock HMQ .
From recent press comment on the Ohio election caucasus( is that how you "folks" spell it , and how democratic is that process - doesn't money always talk?) It seems to me Most Anmericans would give their eye teeth for an historic "Real Queen ", with 55yrs cross party experince , acting in the Nation's interest , rather than a "down home" Texan president- or am I mistaken ?
PS - even at 80 yrs old ,Her Majesty is always kitted out with the finest , bespoke corsetry , which makes the most of her figure-your personal and ungracious comment about a woman with an impeccable tradition and a life dedicated to Public Service is unworthy of further discussion .

mdmnm said...

I took it as at least a partially tongue-in-cheek look at a different place from the point of view. Don't let a couple of anonymous trolls reign in your posting! If they really cared, they wouldn't post anonymously.

mdmnm said...

That should have been "rein in", of course. Don't know how that extra g slipped in.