Friday, May 20, 2005

In Which the Austin Connection Surfaces

Rich and I, during our wanderings around Budapest, kept passing a little place that we were both intrigued by. In an old building, it had a nice ornate sign outside embellished with grapes and vines, so it was obviously wine focused, but when you looked into the interior it looked like nothing so much as a total 1950's dive bar/lounge. Tattered linoleum, an old counter covered in flaking formica, home made art on the walls, a back room filled with benches, locals splayed about inside emitting a miasma of smoke so thick you could chew it. Old style leftover decor from the time when Hungary was still under the control of Russia and the communists. A time warp.

In other words, our kind of place.

So, one night after a nice (cheap!) meal at a local restaurant, we ventured inside. I was a bit trepidatious, as I figured a place like that, so obviously for the locals, would be a bit unwelcoming for us tourists. It's called a Borozo, or wine bar, of the old style. Not one of them new fangled schmantzy expensive ones. Wine in Hungary is the drink of the common man, beer being an aspirational drink brought in by foreigners at different times in the past. Your nice average locals go to the Borozo, where decent Hungarian wines can be had for about 50 cents a glass, ladelled out from a bucket by the guy behind the counter. It's not a wine snobs' wine bar, in fact it's the absolute opposite, but the wine is good, cheap and plentiful. And the atmosphere? Well, it's like stepping back in time.

Rich got the red wine. I wanted a Tokaji, which is the justifiably famous white wine grown in Hungary. The man, who spoke tolerably good English, asked if I wanted sweet or dry. I asked for medium. I learned quickly in our days there that sweet Tokaji is a dessert wine kind of sweet, and I wanted something in the middle.

The man paused a second, shrugged and said, "Ok". Then he ladeled out half a glass of dry, half a glass of sweet, mixed the two and said, "Here is medium". I just giggled and said thanks. I loved his prosaic handling of my request.

We paid the man his dollar for the wines and sat on a nearby bench, I with my compromise wine and Rich with his musky, rich red. The glasses were tumblers, held about 6 ounces, and were filled to the brim. You get alot of wine for your money in these places.

There were two rooms in the place, a back room filled with people, and the front, where the bar was, not so full. The back room was where the action was, but there was no seats for us to join the fray, so we say up front, where the people in there sat, drank, and focussed on the TV on the wall.

There was a movie with Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan playing. I was impressed at their fluent Hungarian. Really good. Who knew they were such good linguists?

Suddenly, there on the screen, was the Texas Capitol building. And there was Congress Street! And holy crap, is that a scene in the Continental Club? By God, it was! We were watching D.O.A., a Meg Ryan Dennis Quaid flick filmed in Austin in 1987-1988. I remember it because people would point out to me the house in Hyde Park where they filmed it, and all the gossip flying about town when Meg and Dennis got together during the filming of the movie. I was in college then, and living not far from the filming locations.

Rich and I started laughing and freaking out, at how strange it was to be watching a movie filmed in our hometown, while sitting in this completely foreign (to us) place. So strange to see such familiar landmarks right there on screen, with Dennis Quaid cursing in Hungarian and Meg's oddly high pitched voice sighing her lines in soft sibilances. And then thinking about where our lives were in 1988, and us having no clue that we might be watching that movie, the subject of so much Austin gossip, in 2005 in Budapest Hungary. Strange how life works out at times, isn't it?

We told the bartender that the movie was filmed in our hometown, but I think he was less than impressed. He just shrugged, and spooned out Rich another cheap wine.

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