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Warsaw Journal #3

The Chopin Museum in Warsaw.

3,952 words

September 24, 2018

Very cold, blustery morning. This is what you picture Warsaw to look like: grey skies, brisk wind, and Polish people bundled in their fur coats, scarves, and Russian hats. Might be time to bust out my Marmot puffer jacket. Thank God I stuffed that into the little side panel on my suitcase as an afterthought in August. I’m gonna need it.

Walking around now thinking about Ewelina, the woman I met at the Soho Factory. That was her name, with the “w” pronounced as a “v.” This explains another Tinder girl I’ve been messaging, whose body type is “a little extra,” is 32, and who looks like Frida Kahlo. Her name is Ewa, which in my mind I was saying as “E-wah,” but in actuality, it is “Eva.” Eva keeps claiming she’s sick and so can’t meet up. Not doing too well with any of these Tinder matches. The Texan-American was saying he thought it was the Catholicism, or just the “Polish way.” “These girls aren’t all DTF like Americans,” he opined.

September 25, 2018

I was sitting next to this super-cute girl at a café last night. “What are you working on?” I asked her. She had some trouble explaining it. “Marketing thing for project for my boss?” Then she asked me what I was doing, and for the first time on this trip, I was able to explain my current project clearly while avoiding politics. I said something like, “Countries like Poland and Hungary, which were held down so long by Communism, are having a chance to blossom now. I am here to write about how it affects the people. How the city feels. My impressions.”

This girl was really cute, very young-looking – 26, it turned out. We had a nice, long chat and I walked her partway home. As with many of the Polish girls I’ve met, they seem to like talking to foreign men, but quickly run out of things to say. So they just tell you places to go. “There’s a nice market on Dzweiczcswki Street” – which is fine, but you really want to hear about them and their lives, but they don’t really know how to talk about that, even when you steer them away from the tourist talk.

But I’m not complaining. It was fun talking to her. We friended each other on Facebook. I said something about having lunch. Maybe I’ll check in with her. She was wearing a pearl bracelet, which I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before. She works in marketing, she said. She’s one of the new, prosperous Polish millennials. Now that I think of it, she did say some interesting stuff about the generations and Communism. She had one story about how her grandmother was worried when she visited the town of a college friend. “But what will you eat?” asked the grandmother . . .

I’m also making arrangements for my flight back to New York and setting up meetings there. Do I really want to move forward on this? I don’t know. One look at my Facebook page (liberals losing their minds over Kavanaugh nomination), and one thinks it might be wisest to do and say nothing for the time being. And maybe don’t proceed with things that might get you doxed, or to get death threats, or arrested when the war starts.

It’s funny because Twitter, Google, Facebook, and so on can’t ban actual books. I guess Amazon can. Feeling paranoid in general. I keep thinking that at some point people will start hand-writing letters again and dropping them in public mailboxes because it will be the only safe way to communicate. That used to be the only way to communicate. I maintained years-long correspondences with different people, back in the day. You’d be travelling and you’d stay somewhere for a couple of weeks just so you could get mail. Then you’d set aside a whole evening to write back – like, get a bottle of wine, settle in, and write a ten-page letter to someone. Maybe a girl poet you’re secretly in love with, or a guy from college you need to discuss the latest Echo and the Bunnymen single with.

General strategy for returning to the USA

One thing I read somewhere was the idea of “not participating in the lie.” This I understood to mean, don’t get in arguments with people, don’t defend yourself, don’t engage with Leftists at all. On a media intake level: no Hollywood movies, limited TV, as little mainstream media as possible. Don’t support anything on the Left with your money. Not that this will have any tangible effect, but it makes you feel better personally. Just stay apart and keep an eye out for like-minded people. Separate yourself from the toxicity, basically, and then slowly build up your own world.

This goes along with the secession idea you hear a lot about these days – that America will begin breaking into parts. Most people on the Right seem to be for this. The problem is, if some sort of new territory is established, all the oppressed minorities will want in, because who’s going to take care of them, when the competent people are gone?

This approach to limiting your exposure to the Left on a daily basis sounded extreme when I first heard people talking about it, but as time goes by you see the wisdom of it. Last summer, when I got home, I assumed I would date in my normal social circles, because who else was there? These circles included female writers, artists, musicians, and so on, most of whom are off-the-chart Leftists. So then I volunteered for a Republican political campaign, thinking I’d meet some conservative people, which I did, but they were all 70 years old. The only conservative women I met were happily married, had three kids, and lived in the suburbs. Single women, divorced women, and single moms are almost always Democrats – which makes perfect sense. For women, political orientation seems to mirror relationship status, almost without exception, at least where I live.

***

The thing about the Alt Right is so many of their ideas are so speculative. You try to imagine a society where women concentrate on kids and family and get out of the workplace, and stop trying to be men, thus solving the rape problem, the harassment problem, the sexism problem, the equal pay problem. That is a really interesting idea, but we’re so far away from it we can’t even imagine what it would actually look like. You can’t go back to the 1950s, though of course a lot of people want to.

That’s why women are so hysterical, because what the fuck is going to happen? Nobody knows. We could end up in The Handmaid’s Tale. Women instinctively know that what we’re doing now is a dead end. Everybody’s miserable – most especially all the single, childless “career” women. But they also don’t want to go back to the old ways, which they assume will be demeaning and awful, never mind the fact that their great-grandmothers didn’t think it was so bad. But their great-grandmothers are dead and can’t tell them that, while The New York Times is very much alive and whispering in their ear, telling them that to submit to men, in any way, would be an unforgivable moral failing.

September 26, 2018

Super-fun night with my Texan-American friend. We cruised over to the hipster coffee shop STOR, where we talked about the current scene and the bigger world in general, like we always do. I notice he’s loosening up in the way he talks about political stuff. An interesting phenomenon is that people are afraid to say the word “Alt Right” or express anything that might be related to it. Then they meet me and I openly say things like, “I’m mostly Alt Right,” or “the Alt Righters think . . .” And after you talk like this for a while in their presence, and you don’t turn into stone, or get carried away in a van, they figure they can talk more openly.

After tea at STOR, we went to Praga, the artsy part of the city. We cruised around and I showed him this little strip I had found, Zabrowski Street. We passed one bar that he thought looked promising, as there were several groups of women sitting by themselves without men. This is why I don’t have a girlfriend. I looked in that same bar and thought it looked boring. I completely missed the women sitting by themselves. Anyway, we went in.

We got drinks – Cokes – and entered the main room. The Texan-American somehow chatted up this woman, who was sitting at a table by herself. We ended up sitting with her. She turned out to be an actress – kind of odd-looking, but she was wearing a very cool vintage pantsuit, which I had totally missed when we walked in. The Texan-American gets her talking and she turns out to be smart and sexy, and great fun. So we sit there for an hour, and it actually gets weird for a moment as me and the Texan-American start to think, “Should one of us try to go home with her?” When she stepped out for a smoke, we actually discussed it, both of us deferring to the other. “You take her.” “No, I think she likes you better.” “No, but you go ahead, I have the girl in Minsk.” “No, but she really seems like more your type . . .” Haha, a conversation like that is when you know you’ve got a real friend!

Neither of us went home with her, which was probably the best outcome for all involved. It was still super-fun, and super-flirty, and when we finally left, she made a gesture of twisting her fists in her eyes to indicate crying because she was so sad to see us go.

Walking back to the metro, the Texan-American and I discussed the situation at length. His attitude toward women and sex is so much more advanced, practical, and uninfected by feminism than mine is. As I told him, I am exactly the age that suffered the worst of the feminist indoctrination, and therefore my default feeling when approaching women is that I’m bothering them, or offending them, or I shouldn’t speak to them, that I need to be more respectful, and so on. There might also be self-esteem issues on my part as well. And a bit of cowardice, lol.

Anyway, because the Texan-American is such a sound, ethical, and grounded person, hearing him talk about getting with women and hearing his very healthy attitudes toward it helps me a lot. He sees nothing wrong with engaging, pursuing, and such. That’s what humans are supposed to do. Also, unlike me, he seems genuinely determined to have kids and be faithful to whichever women he ends up with.

Incidentally, the way he got us sitting at the table with the cute actress in the first place was that he saw her standing up to go smoke a cigarette outside and said to her, “Are you leaving?” He explained this was a low-key way to “open” a girl and start an innocuous conversation. She said she wasn’t leaving, that she was just going out for a smoke, and the genius Texan-American nods that he understands and sits down at her table anyway. I didn’t really understand what was going on, since I was behind him, in this noisy bar, and couldn’t hear. So when he sat down, I sat down. And then, realizing we were sitting at someone else’s table, I pointed to an empty table across from us, like, “Shouldn’t we sit over there?” The Texan-American shook his head no. That’s because he’s smart and I’m stupid. We stayed where we were. She came back from her smoke. The Texan-American asked her if it was okay that we sit with her, and she said sure. Then we proceeded to have the most fun evening of my whole trip.

Best of all, hours later, when I was back at my hostel, he texted me to say the actress just texted him and wants to hang out with us the next night. She’ll bring a friend. Am I down? I write back: “Uh . . . yes!”

September 27, 2018

Tomorrow I fly back to New York. This morning I woke up in the midst of a low-level panic attack: nervous, shaky, with feelings of dread . . . Then swarm-thoughts of American hysteria, feminists on the rampage, accusations, attacks, arrests. Kavanaugh gets his life destroyed. America descends into civil war.

But I get up, walk through the cold hallway to piss, return to my room, and get back under the warm blankets. Jesus. Calmer now, I consider what New York is going to be like . . . I mean, it will be fine. Nobody’s going to bother me. But how could the world have changed so much that I don’t even want to be there at all . . .

Then more random, paranoid thoughts: stash money in a bank in Mexico somehow. But Mexico is Leftist now. They could seize all foreign assets at any time. Stash money under my mattress at my parent’s house? The economy might totally fall apart. Buy a house really quick, so I have something tangible. Spread money around so that I might keep some of it when the revolution starts. Or is there even any point? When things go bad, there will be no escape. We’ll all be instantly traceable through cell phones, credit cards, ATM machines.

***

Yesterday went to the Chopin museum, because I happened to be walking by it and I have no idea who Chopin is. And also, I have done so little tourist stuff, it’s kind of embarrassing.

So I went in. Chopin grew up around Warsaw, was a great musical talent, moved to Paris, hung out with sophisticated artiste types, and then died at 39. Left a lot of important music. The museum itself has all the modern bullshit museums have now. They don’t put up an intelligently-written placard so you can skim through the information for what you want; you have to sit there and watch a video that lumbers along at its own leisurely pace. Like you really have twenty minutes to spare, at each stop, for some “expert” to explain something on the video screen?

There were rooms for kids, too, where children can play and goof around and touch video screens which cause cartoon frogs to jump out of Chopin’s piano. Push another button and the head of Beethoven pops up on a spring. I watched one child lose interest in this almost instantly. But mom is there egging her on, teaching her to respect “culture.”

Was Chopin gay? This was one question that came to mind, as I continued around the museum. I couldn’t tell. He was very sensitive you could see that. And he hung out with other people who were, shall we say, “highly cultured.” I started to ask one of the women who worked there about it, but realized the question might be offensive, so I asked her if Chopin was married. She said no, but he was very close with ——- (an unintelligible female name). I wasn’t sure what that meant, so I nodded and moved along. Probably, he was gay. And then I sat in a little listening chair and listened to his music, and then I thought he definitely was. And also, he moved to Paris, away from Warsaw . . . so there’s that. But who knows. Whatever. I don’t care what he was. It just seems that by this point, one of the museum’s video talking heads could just say so, if he was. Right? The current year? But Chopin is a great hero to the Poles, and nobody wants to say the wrong thing. And so the question remains unanswered.

The rest of the Chopin story is a perfect cliché of the artist’s life. He was sensitive, brilliant, childlike, and petulant. Once he was famous, everyone adored him. But fame and adulation took their toll. And like Elton John centuries later, he got burned out. And then his most brilliant student, a child prodigy (and maybe his lover?), died of tuberculosis while still a teenager. And then Chopin himself died young as well.

Note to aspiring creatives: Don’t be a child prodigy. It never works out. Peak in your thirties. Those tend to be the healthiest and most productive careers.

***

I then spent the rest of the afternoon at the Warsaw University library café working, which was nice. A very odd selection of people comes into that place. Today we got 1. slutty prostitute chick; 2. super-clean and dignified foursome of high-level academics; 3. a cute 20-year-old student, biting her lip, hard at work; 4. weird guy who’s just here for the WiFi and sits scrolling on his phone for two hours.

Sitting there, I got a message from the Texan-American that our party with the actress and her friend had fallen through. I felt disappointed, but in another way I was glad. I am flying back to the US tomorrow, and frankly, I’d rather just worry about that.

When I left the café, I didn’t have a plan, so when a local bus pulled up in front, I got on and rode to wherever it was going, eventually ending up in a bustling upscale area I had not known about. There was some interesting stuff there, but it was raining and cold, and I couldn’t figure out how to get back to my neighborhood. I ended up walking a long way, through a lively commercial district. This was Warsaw’s actual center, I realized, not the touristy “centrum,” and since it was five o’clock, people were getting off work. The trams were packed. The sidewalks were full of fast-moving workers heading home. As I walked, I had an interesting sensation: Didn’t I picture this exact scenario when I was a child? The grey skies, the bustling city folk, the rain, the clattering trams, the electrical lines criss-crossing over my head . . . England, Europe . . . London, Warsaw . . . I thought back to one moment when I was about 6 years old. I lived in the suburbs of a boring West coast city, but one day I “saw” in my mind a dense, dramatic foreign city, and in that moment I thought, “This is where I will live someday.” And here it was.

Hungry and wet, I finally found a metro stop and rode the M2 to a mall across town where I knew there was a supermarket. But once there, my weird, slightly surreal day continued. I couldn’t find anything to eat in this huge supermarket! I finally bought a soggy salmon sandwich for two dollars, in the little deli area. Then I sat there, in the empty seating area, sullenly chewing my sandwich like a homeless person, wet and ragged and not understanding anything or anyone around me . . .

***

Meanwhile, in the midst of the Kavanaugh chaos, Trump went to the UN, spoke well, and conducted himself admirably in the face of the braying mob, not one member of which could have stood where Trump is standing and maintained his poise like Trump does.

An iconic picture emerged of Trump sitting by himself in a single chair to the side of the podium as they introduced him. The Left shows the chair photo and describes a juvenile delinquent waiting to be punished by his betters. The Right shows the chair photo and remarks on Trump’s humility and calm in the face of the ruthless enemies determined to destroy the America he represents.

Now I’m off to have a coffee with my buddy, the Texan-American, who perhaps will make me feel better in some way . . .

September 28, 2018

So I’m in the Frederic Chopin Airport, leaving Warsaw. Feeling sad. I love my Pole bros and the lovely women and the terrible signage and the low greyness of the sky.

Had a fun afternoon yesterday with the Texan-American at Warsaw’s coolest coffee shop, STOR. The most interesting people. The most elaborately crafted coffee (they give you a sample of it to make sure it meets your high standards). The most expensive organic veggie sandwiches. The Texan-American and I squeezed into one of their tiny tables, a young Polish couple pressed in beside us. After sitting there for twenty minutes, the Polish girl starts to cry. Are they breaking up? What’s happening? I try to ignore them. I watch out the window instead. A fashion shoot is in progress on the bench outside. A guy with a giant, fancy camera and a beautiful woman, modeling a hat, it looks like.

We sat there for two hours. My friend is going back to Minsk to pursue a Minsk girl he likes. She’s 22. He’s 37. He showed me a picture – she’s stunning. He wants to impregnate her and have lots of kids and live on a farm with her, and grow their own food and walk around barefoot in the dirt with his babies in his arms. He could do it, too – this big, tall, brainy, enlightened, yogi, iconoclast Texan-American. So we still produce such people in America, but of course he refuses to live there.

Then, this morning, I rode the metro to the bus by myself, then the bus to the airport. I looked out the window at the outlying suburbs, which are calm and pleasant and give you hope for the future.

And then I went through check-in at Aeroflot (I’m flying through Moscow because it’s super-cheap). There are Russian dudes in the line with me. Holy shit, they are big. Imagine the Second World War, these giant goliaths fighting the giant goliaths of Poland!

Chad-like, beefy guy in front of me. Those wide-set faces. I think I can see the difference between the Euro-Poles and the slightly more Easternized Russians, but maybe not. The guy in front of me is talking on his phone. He wears terrible shoes, a suit coat, and cheesy Euro-jeans that cost either four or four hundred dollars. And then, after admiring his imposing massiveness for ten minutes, this swaggering brute of a man stops the guy checking his luggage so he can unfold a special cloth cover for his suitcase, which he then delicately pulls over it, and arranges it just so. Lol.

My friends in Austria told me to beware of the Russians. They are lawless criminals. Anything can happen. But when I deal with the checkout guy, I’m like, “Hello, my brother.” The Russians are our friends now. It is a new age – Russia, with her downscaled economy. But they’re still loaded with nukes, so that even as they give ground geopolitically they can still wipe you off the face of the Earth.

And does each individual Russian carry this power and danger within him, wherever he goes? Are all of us, in our small way, just miniature versions of our countries? (I could tell which line was Aeroflot’s before I saw the sign.) And if we are little versions of our countries, what does that mean for Americans? I think of my fellow citizens: guileless and overfed, with our gentle American faces – our rudderless women flailing against shadows, our rage-filled minorities, and our marshmallow-white majority, hiding in their living rooms with their big flat screen TVs.

Even the best of us – the last stoic cowboys, the last clear-headed, incorruptible men – they’re ordering chai lattes, taking serotonin inhibitors, and doing their morning meditations in the cabs of their eighteen-wheelers. What hilarious weirdos we’ve become. Goofy, absurd, and terminally feminized. And now we’re on the verge of going down, hanging by a thread, on the verge of losing everything. They say we “won” the last century, but who will win the next?

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4 Comments

  1. Archronius Maximus
    Posted November 8, 2019 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Ugh. The last essay from Europe. Hope there’s more to come. I’m guted and elated by the constant crushing blows and hilarious hot takes of Anton’s prose. It’s disheartening to know that men such as Anton, with all their wit and wisdom are debating stepping out from behind the firewall to deliver the much needed smack downs on our erratically spinning orbit in the West. If I had a 10th of his acuity (and of course, single) I would be out there on the world stage, fearlessly delivering death knells to unctuous leftists and staring down feminist termagants. Stand tall, Anton!

  2. Pepe
    Posted October 28, 2019 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    The Trump parts makes it sound like you are some soldier in exile. Good observation about “miniature versions of our countries”.

  3. Lesley
    Posted October 26, 2019 at 12:54 am | Permalink

    What a delightful essay!
    I wish there some pics, though. Buildings, streets, people.
    But still, great fun to read.

    • Richard
      Posted October 26, 2019 at 4:41 am | Permalink

      I agree that your essays would be enhanced by including some additional pictures. I’ve also enjoyed them and can relate to your travel experiences. The picture of the hostel in your original essay was an excellent choice as it visualized your environment and provoked an outsider’s imagination to the many possible storylines that were unfolding within that establishment.

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