JTBL #16: A Pitstop in Budapest – Looking at the Same City Through Different Eyes

IMG_20150909_044021    I can’t believe I’m back in budapest. I mean.. of course I can believe it, and I wasn’t gonna make this into a sort of cliché “what goes around comes around”-type of post, because that’s not what it is.

What Goes Around Comes Around-Post

Being a pragmatic logical minded nerdy type, I wanted to visit the city again and see if my perception had changed. Sure enough, it all smelled the same, and things were still where I left them nine months ago. I even had a sense of nostalgia, sitting in that rickety carriage of the Blue Line with the morning dew in my face.

Something was altogether different, though. I couldn’t quite place it.

It’s good to be back on the road, that’s for sure. Gets the idea juices running flowing even. If you ever find yourself stuck when writing something, walk around the block. If you find yourself stuck in life, walk around the world.

Due to horrible logistics on my part, I arrived at 4 am in the fucking morning. (I gotta stop doing that, seriously!) The driver was kind enough to take me to Ferihegy (Ferenc Liszt nowadays, I hear), where I could sit around until morning, and waste some hours doing nothing. As expected, no sleep was to be found and I eventually ran into the situation where I needed to recharge my phone.

So I sat down at one of the only sockets in the area and plugged in. for entertainment, I stared at the nearby analogue clock to see how many percentage points the battery would gain per minute. Then I had the weirdest deja vu. I had been sitting in the exact same spot just nine months before, doing the exact same thing.

The same spot. The same clock. Same phone, even. But different world.

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So I’m on my way to Barcelona, with a more clear aim in mind. I’m determined to make this work, and my reason for existing is clear. Unlike nine months ago, when I was scared. A tiny (if large) Finnish boy arriving in a big city in an entirely foreign culture. Did the clock signify something different back then? Nah, it’s still just a clock and I was still killing time waiting to get to bed. But I wasn’t coming from a small town in Finland scared of everything new.

I’m coming from the world.

It’s been a strange nine months for sure. Not that the world had gotten smaller, but the people have turned from foreign strangers to just other persons on the road. I wasn’t apologizing for my existence anymore. My own reality had changed, and along with it my perception of the outside world.

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Escape From Zagreb

My escape from Zagreb didn’t exactly go smoothly. My airbnb from the previous week was sketchy at best, mostly due to bad planning. No wifi and a shoddy apartment. I didn’t want to repeat my planning mistake, so I looked into travel arrangements three days before departure.

Hey three days is well planned in my book!

I checked train schedules at the station. Apparently trains to Budapest went twice a week, on Tuesday and Saturday. That was rather strange to me, but since the lady said so, I didn’t have a reason to doubt. Besides, I preferred a bus. Strangely, they only had ONE bus working that connection.

Zagreb isn’t THAT small, and you’d think people make the trip to Budapest all the time. This all seemed highly unusual. I decided to wait for a Blablacar-connection to open up on my day of travel, since public transportation was giving me a huge middle finger at this point.

But Blablacar stayed silent. So one day before my departure, I went to buy a bus ticket.

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The bus was full.

No trains, bus was full, and no Blablacar connections. This was worrying. Was I stuck in Zagreb?

There was one car leaving on the previous evening with one seat left. Not ideal, but I took it. So my airbnb host went ballistic for changes in itinerary. And I mean ballistic. The way a five-year old goes ballistic when something is displeasing. Sigh. Some people and their tiny comfort zones.

Of course I apologized for my sudden change of plans, but she would have none of it and spewed her personal issues at me like an abusive wife. I don’t take well to bullshit, so I gave her a colourful rendition of how customers are supposed to be treated, and how her personal issues are not my issues. Well, getting thrown out of an airbnb-apartment is a first.

Later I learned that there’s two trains daily. What the fuck.

Eventually I made it to Budapest though. Having had mostly zero sleep that night, it was wonderful to finally get to my apartment. This time my host was this lovely little lady – pretty much a polar opposite to the previous one. I finally had some time to catch my breath and gather my thoughts. We even had a fun chat and she told me stories of her tourist-guide days from the seventies.

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Nine months before, you might recall a certain nightclub incident between two attractive girls and myself. Turns out, that the next day, on my way to the casino, I accidentally ran into the girls on the metro. I mean, you gotta understand that Budapest isn’t exactly a tiny city. That was.. an incredible coincidence.

I wanted to see this one particular lovely lady, but she was mostly busy and had no time for even a cuppa tea. Shame, that. I always felt we had a bit of a connection and I wanted to find out more about that. But these things happen, timing doesn’t always work out.

It seems that fate had a different idea of timing, though.

I was heading downtown with the metro. Just random stuff, I wanted to see the refugee crisis at Keleti Palayaudvar. But as I was hopping off the train, I met a familiar face. It was the same woman.

“We gotta stop meeting like this.”
“Haha! So cool to see you!”

So I had my 15 minutes with this lovely lady.

Be seeing you on the Blue Line next time I’m in town, Agi!

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Saturday Night Poker Bad Beat

So I turned 31 that night. I had this grand plan of hitting a nightclub hard and turning it into a massive birthday party. It would’ve been glorious, but for some reason my motivation in this admittedly brilliant idea waned quickly, and I decided to rather go out and play some poker in the good old Universum Poker Club. After all, games would be good on a Saturday night.

The last metro had gone already, so my only choices were the rather skanky blue line-bus or a taxi. Being the stingy type, I picked up some cash and sat in the bus. I’d take the metro back. Perfect plan. What could go wrong?

The bus turned out to be the wrong one, as I quickly realized, following the path from my trusty Spidersense Maps (c). But it was the correct general direction, and a bit of walking wouldn’t hurt if the end goal would be me sitting at a poker table. After 40 minutes of sitting in a doddling creaky bus avoiding drunken Hungarians, I finally found what seemed to be the nearest bus stop to the casino.

Nearest being 2 km away.

Sigh.

Time for a skipping walk then! After all, I’d be playing poker in no time. This would all be worth it. Hiking through the dark eerily empty Budapestian suburbs would ALL be worth it. Don’t look at those guys, they’re probably not dealing anything shady in that alleyway. That odd looking figure? It’s totally probably not Slenderman. Just keep a good pace.

Ahh Duna Plaza, finally. Just cross the road and you’re there. Wait.. how do I get in the casino when the mall is closed? Oh, must be through the parking hall. Just to the second floor and.. why is it so quiet?

Why is the casino hallway so dark?

Wait. IS IT FUCKING CLOSED??

So yeah. After personally finding out that the poker room is NOT open on a Saturday night, I took a cab back downtown and went to have a glass of wine and regroup. Real wine, mind. Not that spritzer shit. It was 2.30 in the morning. A vodka shot later I decided that this was enough adventure and made myself homeward.

Who the hell came up with the idea of closing a poker room on a Saturday night, seriously..

I happened to pass by the Szimpla Bar, this cool ruin pub that everyone keeps raving about. I figured I’d never been in there and I probably wasn’t going to return to Budapest any time soon. So I headed in!

The bar was quite cool, and would probably be a great place to hang around more often. I wandered through the grey mass of bar patrons and was ready to leave when, like a brilliantly shining light, this gorgeous brunette on the other side of the room grabbed my attention.

I felt my feet taking assertive steps that way. Here we go again..

She turned out to be a dancer from Miami. An incredibly smart and insightful dancer as well. I felt she had this relaxed grounded vibe. We had a cool conversation about pursuing our own dreams and living with our passions. What an enchanting girl.

Not single though. (WAAAAAGGHHH)

Nah, not really. I was leaving the next day, and I wouldn’t have wanted a one night stand with this person anyway. We exchanged facebooks, which I never do, and shot the shit for another 45 minutes before the first bus left. It remains to be seen if our paths ever cross again.

Awesome birthday. Awesome time in Budapest. Next stop: Barcelona.

-Jay

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JTBL #15: Routinely Breaking Convention as a Polyamorous Pornless Writer

It’s when your perspective changes from could be to would be. Suddenly you’re not chasing a dream. You’re living it.

In the drudge of my security guard times, I used to daydream of driving sports cars, meeting beautiful women, or even having a chance to put some creative talent out there. It was a never-ending pattern of waking up to that horrible alarm sound, kicking myself all the way to work, not getting paid enough, listening to complaints about every various meaningless thing, and then doing it all over again.

It’s a reality shared by many. Enjoyed by few, but accepted by most. After all, escaping it only happens in American movies or when you win the lottery.

Or does it?
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Finding a creative voice

After a month of grueling work trying to please a bunch of editors and actually focus my thoughts on paper, I got my first article done. This won’t mean much to someone who isn’t a writer, but after 10 years of writing mostly unscrutinized freeform gibberish, it’s rather mindblowing how much only a month’s worth of learning can improve your text. I find I’m constantly reinventing JTBL to reflect not only my jumbled disarray of thought, but also my improved writing skill.

But after tons of heeing and hawing, it’s done and published! Check out some mind quieting exercises at Goodlife ZEN!

Completely delving into the writing process was demanding, and not just mentally. I spent hundreds of hours huddled up against my computer, neglecting exercise and healthy eating habits.

And approaching women.

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Porn – the universal sterilizer

Huddled up in my writing cave, I crept into my small hole of comfort, online chats, and PORN. I found myself not only subperforming sexually, but also becoming foul-mouthed and angry. I was slipping back into that frustrated bitter boy that I was some years ago. No worries, I thought. A few days of approaching girls on the street will take care of this.

So I went and took a walk in Zagreb, renowned for its ridiculously high amount of gorgeous women per capita, and felt … … nothing. No need to open my mouth. No need to go and explore. No playfulness. This was worrying, if even scary.

Time for some heavy detox. I figured the first to go should be porn, since it’s like the spearhead of the online lifestyle, and the main reason to avoid speaking with real people. Just two days without porn, and the effects were profoundly noticeable. I felt more energized, more alive, more vital. This was fascinating from a psychological standpoint, and more research revealed something I had suspected:

Teach your brain to only get aroused by porn, available at the click of a mouse, and suddenly you won’t recognize real people as sexual interests anymore. Scary huh? That’s not all. See, porn becomes boring after a while, since it’s .. rather repetitive, and our brains regard it to be highly more rewarding than the natural stimuli. In other words, it’s like eating chocolate so good that you forget the taste of real food. Enter Rule #34. The evergrowing desensitization leads to more hardcore porn and larger quantities of it.

I’ll let this guy explain why porn is bad for you, because he puts it so much more eloquently than I ever could.

A week of strictly no porn, and I’ve gone back to my habit of chatting up woman-creatures on the street. Life seems more colourful somehow, and sex is so much better. =)

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I took a deep breath, grabbed my grocery bag and made a decisive action towards her. This girl was something of the legends – a brunette with a godly shape and face to match. Even in Zagreb it’s rare to find such a woman. I absolutely had to find out about her.
She was talking on her phone. I decided I wouldn’t let it faze me and bravely said hello. With a slight caution, she held the phone aside and said hello, unsure if I was a lunatic.
-I thought you were gorgeous and wanted to say hi. What’s your name?
She hung up the phone and smiled.
We chatted for a few minutes and I asked about her dreams and passions, like I usually do, but what followed was something I would’ve never expected in a million years.
“Dreams?” she giggled and continued, “You realize I’m still in high school?”
“Yeah sure you are.” I laughed, trying to get a handle on the situation. Strange joke if ever?
“Nono, I’m 15 years old. I know I look 17, but I’m 15.”
I stared at her blankly. She wasn’t kidding. Look 17? Geez woman you look at least 25!
“Well, I gotta go now. Nice talking to you!”
She scurried off to where ever, and left me standing holding my groceries and gaping jaw.

Seriously. I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried.

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Facing loss without jealousy

In the grand scheme of things, I’m rather new to the concept of polyamory. Feeling-wise anyway. I’ve grown familiar with the idea of not particularly caring that the women in my life have other partners. All I care about is that they’re having fun, and their encounters, sexual or otherwise, are those of safety and respect. Sounds idealistic maybe, but it’s my reality. Jealousy after all, is nothing but the fear of loss. If someone’s having sex, it’s completely the opposite of my loss!

Hurt my loved ones though, and there’ll be hell to pay.

It remains to be seen how it works in real life. Just recently I’ve ran into my first question mark in this philosophy. My time in Zagreb has an expiry date, and future travel plans are uncertain at best. It’s becoming painfully obvious that I won’t be seeing a particular someone in a while. All I can do is shrug it off with the knowledge that there’ll be more awesome people to meet elsewhere.

But it’s no secret that I’ll miss her curious world. I hope our paths cross again soon.

I spent last weekend at the countryside visiting friends. Save for the foul catholic odor in the atmosphere, the country air was a fresh change from Zagreb’s rather stagnant atmosphere. I wasn’t there to preach my liberal extremeties, but rather sit around and have a glass of wine with friends. (With perhaps a tiny bit of advice here and there on how to get unstuck and live one’s own life.) Circling around lifestyles and offspring, it wasn’t long until polyamory made its appearance in our various conversations. I kinda knew the topic was a no fly-zone in dark ages-ville, but since my situation was very topical in that sense, I thought it’d be fruitful.

I’ve long been a proponent of taking care of my own shit before taking on the responsibility of a child. That’s to say, I don’t want a kid if I can’t provide them with a good home. If I can’t, I’d rather be childless. Regarding kids and polyamory, it’s a bit of a questionmark. In my ideal world, all it needs is a great woman and a safe home for the kid. She should be fine with other great men in her life as well, who would be fine with the kid. That’s enough variables to cause a headache.

Traditional ideas of marriage fly out the window long before, of course. Not that I really care – marriage is bullshit. But since we live in a society, that official side would have to be handled in some sort of civil way. So yeah, a bit of a questionmark. Not today’s problem, thankfully!

I got about half way through explaining this idea, and the reply was a patronizing, almost defensive “Oh when you find the right woman, you’ll settle down and start making babies.” Coming straight from that place of ‘we as a couple are collectively relationship experts and qualified advisors for polyamorous lifestyles’.

Ready for retaliation, I raised my forefinger of supreme knowledge, drew a deep breath of ranting magnitude and …

… paused.

I looked at the young couple and their baby rolling on the floor in their lovely little home. I’ve learned not to push my own dogma uninvited, and this was the correct time to shut the hell up. They needed to find their own happiness. If that involves my coaching, I think they’ll let me know.

In any case, fuck settling down. I’m heading to Barcelona for a job internship!

Now, how’s that for waking up to your dreams? Next stop, sports car.

-Jay

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Quickie: Firing Common Sense At the Impervious Armour of Religion

disclaimer: This is an anti-theist rant. So if you’re not into that shit, better tune out. Normal JTBL will resume in a few days.

The square was full of people gathered in small groups. Well dressed people. Something was off.

Wait.

Name-tags.

Pamphlets.

Shit. Jehovahs.

You know that bit in the film, where the survivors have to act like zombies to get through a horde without being gruesomely eaten? I wasn’t so much worried about being eaten, but I had something religious groups saw as prime pickings – critical reasoning faculties. So I made a beeline outta there, mumbling something about Jesus and the Earth being flat as I went, to not raise suspicion.

Philosophies with some good ideas.. and some fucking weird ones

At best, religion gives you hope and a sense of community. At worst it’s a way to outsource responsibility and justify atrocities.

It hurts education, advocates anti-intellectualism and makes otherwise rational and well-meaning people act like crazy lunatics. There’s a reason our human brains tend to rationalize reality in a way that leads to supernatural shit, but that’s just what it is: our brains making sense of the world. It’s rather awesome if you think about it, but most would rather just lull themselves into the delusion of some fairytale, details of which vary according to birthplace and parents’ religion.

Churches as well: an archaic institution to keep people united in a tribal community-kinda way and give unlawful authority figures a reason to collect a huge paycheck. Oh, and systematically hide the fact that they’re abusing little boys. You can spin doctor it all you want, but these are just facts, and can happen with any organization given unlimited power without reasonable basis. Not the pedofilia so much – that’s just a result of a completely twisted, sexually repressed culture. A topic for another day.

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A polite asshole

It’s generally frowned upon to question personal beliefs, because people get offended. It’s actually become such a taboo subject, that people would rather reinforce false beliefs than risk insulting someone. We’ve all heard of someone who knows someone who personally witnessed the return of the savior in their dreams, naked, holding a Playstation 2 and singing the Kumbayah.

To be fair, who knows? They might have, they might not have. But the reason these stories have any validity is because no one ever told this person that they were probably imagining things, and they should stop telling their stupid story as fact.

Well guess what. I don’t give a shit about politeness for etiquette or social validation. I won’t hesitate to make my opinions vocal if I smell bullshit. That probably makes me an asshole, but there you go. We live in the 21st century, and it’s time to move past tribal belief systems. They cause nothing but grief, hold us back as a species, and lead to some fucked up society structures.

Having said that, I do try to focus my ridicule on issues and institutions, rather than resort to ad hominems. See? Polite asshole.

But it doesn’t always work out that way.

I’m rather offended by your remarks

It wasn’t like I’d targeted him. Not really. My snide remarks were always meant to ridicule the human condition. But, like any true religious person, he had completely assumed the necessary victim mentality and cherry picked the things to get offended by.

The resulting butthurtdom was twofold – apparently churches and religion have caused much more good than I give them credit for, and the real way to practice religion is much more intelligent than what I describe. Not only that, I was to suffer a full dose of passive aggressiveness and guilt-tripping for creating this rift between us.

Well, I said, cracking open a can of whoop-ass.

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Look. Any of the good credited to religion or churches in the past (or present) could be achieved without all the supernatural mumbojumbo. But if you’re gonna use that as an argument, it’s pretty much akin to saying that AIDS is generally a good thing. I mean, sure it leads to a shutdown of your immune system and life threatening complications, but at least you had sex.

Justifying the existence of churches as a tax-funded organization with the small amount of good they could have possibly taken part in, while completely disregarding all the horror, inhumanity, and detriment to society they’ve played a key role in, is disgustingly hypocritical. We don’t like Hitler, even though he was a vegetarian, now do we?

Regarding the intelligence-part… so apparently there’s an intelligent way to be spiritual or religious? And it’s fundamentally different from the way the silly folk are doing it, I guess? Sure, let’s talk about that.

My interpretation of religion is better than your interpretation

Let’s start by agreeing that you and I, we live in the same reality, yeah? I mean, that’s pretty much a prerequisite for actually having this conversation. There are certain phenomena that go along with our reality. Things like gravity and cheesecakes.

Do things live in our reality that we aren’t aware of? More than likely. Is one of those things a bearded deity who wrote the bible and occasionally drops over to do some miracles in Alabama? Almost certainly not. Nearly every strange phenomenon recorded or investigated has had a plausible natural explanation, and as science progresses we’ll be able to find explanations for the rest. The God of the gaps-argument keeps getting weaker and weaker as time progresses. Remember when the Earth used to be flat?

Now the question of the ages: does the abovementioned bearded deity live outside our reality? Who knows.

Who cares?

Maybe something outside of our reality created our reality. It has absolutely no bearing in our life, so why forcedly invoke belief in something that might exist somewhere? Feel free to believe in what you wish if it gives you warm feelings, if you want to believe it or because Jesus told you to believe in it. That’s completely your prerogative. Keep it to yourself and I won’t care.

Understand though, that believing in something without basis or reason is irrational. There’s no way around that. If you want to be pious about it or get offended for someone calling you out on your irrationality, that’s also your prerogative.

I think it’s bloody stupid and unproductive, but it’s your prerogative.

But no true Scotsman, you cry out! Not YOUR religious beliefs, they’re not irrational! You believe in things intelligently. Not like those other people who believe things irrationally, no not you!

Then you get together with a whole bunch of similarly thinking people, who share and validate your beliefs. Suddenly your ridiculously nonsensical belief has social validation. It’s even frowned upon to question it. You go through incredible mental gymnastics to make your belief fit the surrounding reality. Well, guess what – getting together with a bunch of people who believe in Santa Claus doesn’t make Santa Claus any more real. It just means you hang around with a bunch of delusional people.

I could go on for days debunking all the arguments religious people have made since the 15th century, but rational explanations won’t change a true believer’s mind. Why?

Because their belief is personal and irrational.

Does that make them an idiot? No. Does that make them thoroughly irrational? No.

Some of the most intelligent people in the world are religious. Kinda sad, but it just goes to show how beliefs are completely separate from the logical mind. You can not choose to believe or not to believe. No, beliefs are trained and ingrained. You have a right to believe what you wish. And so do I.

But offense?

Taking offense is completely voluntary. So if you’re gonna believe some ridiculous crap, then at least have the common decency to not get offended when someone doesn’t share your beliefs.

 

ffs.

-Jay