Dreiser , Dostoevsky & New Ideas


I have to say that I am very comfortable here in Bratislava. I’ve stumbled upon the English-speaking Slovaks ( among others ) , and I am really enjoying life here. There is a bit of the old and some of the new , with a cosmopolitan and yet somewhat provincial feel to life in this city. I met my host this morning and we engaged in a conversation that was far-reaching and very common , at times. I explained to him my hope to teach here in Slovakia. As my talk progressed , Vlad ( my host ) stated that perhaps there were other avenues for me to explore. Vlad is a former lawyer for 3M here in Slovakia and trained at John Marshall Law School in Chicago. Right off the bat , we found common ground and shared our stories.

I gave to him what I was familiar with , as far as Slovak history and he was impressed . He shared with me the differences between what he knew about life in the US and his life here in Slovensko. He spent a few years there as a consultant to 3M and did a tour of duty in their legal department. He served the same role here and after nearly 10 years , he decided to go in another direction. He was enthused to hear that I was hoping to retire here and we both chuckled over my limited grasp of Slovak. He did say that it wasn’t bad for someone who couldn’t form sentences. I would string a few words together and we would laugh until he figured out what I was trying to say. An hour passed quickly , and we put a bookmark on our conversation until lunch tomorrow. He texted me a short while later and said that he some good ideas for me and thought that my talents would be better served elsewhere ; I am intrigued , to say the least.

St. Elizabeth Church

I have been taking long walks around my neighborhood and came across the ” Blue Church ” of Svaty Alzbety. This church ( kostol ) is dedicated to St. Elizabeth who was born in Bratislava. She was the Empress of Austria , and the Queen of Hungary. I didn’t get a photo of her portrait which is just inside the door of the church. In the photo she is holding flowers and the plaque under her mentioned that she gave extensively to the poor. She died in 1898. This Art Nouveau masterpiece was dedicated in 1913. Sometimes , I sit across the street and watch the sun change the pastel blue of the church as it arcs overhead. This area that I’m staying in is , a bit like Lincoln Park , but with a heavy mix of architectural styles. There are young families in the parks and kids everywhere, skateboarding, shooting hoops, or just sitting at the corner cafes having kava and looking at their phones…sound familiar ?

Looking West ( Zapad ) down Ulica Grosslingova – my street

I will only be about a 1/2 mile North ( Sever ) at my next Airbnb ( I switch next Tuesday ) and Vlad says there will be a much different look to my surroundings. I must say that it is nice to be in one spot for a spell. My studio apartman has it all. Even a washing machine ! It is nice to be in all clean clothes , I was down to my last ; after washing clothes in sinks and showers , it’s nice to have a modicum of civility. It’s not a washing machine that I was familiar with and I waited to wash until this morning when Vlad came by . I made us a cup of kava ( what else ? ) and after we got the machine going we started talking about writing and art. I mentioned that I played the drums and his eyes lit up , ” there are dozens of bands looking for someone like you ” – he said. I downplayed it and we continued talking about music and books ( my default settings ) and he mentioned Dostoevsky and we were off and running about the impact that Raskolnikov had on our thinking and what the author was really trying to get to. I said that it was more about the ” punishment ” and not the ” crime “. Raskolnikov was such a tortured individual that he nearly succumbed to Porfiry’s antagonism to confess. We both agreed that Porfiry was content to let Raskolnikov tear himself up from the inside out.

We were all over the map , when Vlad dropped a bomb. ” I have to say , one of my favorite American authors is Dreiser ” Vlad smiled as he spoke. I jumped up and yelled , ” no way ! “. I looked at him and in mock-investigation asked if it was An American Tragedy. He smiled and we did the ” Bro handshake “. I told him that there is not one piece of writing I have ever read that was so perfectly written as that book. We talked about the reason Dreiser wrote An American Tragedy , and he was surprised that it really did happen. We talked about the themes that occurred in both books ; how Clyde Griffiths and Raskolnikov were very much alike. We talked about philosophy and morals and criss-crossed from the Old Magyars to the Tzarist Russians , the West and now the modern US. I can’t wait for lunch tomorrow , it is liable to be a real hoot.

As I’m walking through this marvelous city , through more run-down areas to those being rebuilt and renovated , I can’t help but wish my kids were here with me. I think they both would change some notions about the way we live in the US. I have not seen a lick of television since I left the US , and have only seen what our Fuhrer is doing via the Slovak Spectator , one of the major papers. It has been a great lift to be free of that aspect of my life. I know that I am not immune to what is going on , but I have discovered more by following less. My life has taken a turn in the way that I look at this world , and I have fully embraced new thinking and new ideas. I’m a bit bummed that my jam session didn’t happen , as I don’t know if I mentioned meeting a Sax player in the Old Town Wednesday night and he invited me to sit in on a jam tonight. He never called today and that’s okay. I have been reading a paper on the separation of the individual from the state in post-communist Eastern Europe ; truly enthralling work. The paper examines how market economies have to find their place here and the role of the individual is paramount to the future growth of not only our country , but the rest of Eastern Europe as well. Old world with new ideas…some for them and some for me.

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