I've been having a tough time getting my thoughts on Bucharest in order. A little unnerving. When that happens, I usually go for a walk.
My neighborhood in Brooklyn, like many in this city, has its contingent of beggars: the very polite woman with the large dog who waits by the subway entrance and always calls me 'sweetheart'; the bearded, tipsy guy with the odd hat (and wasn't he wearing a tam last time?) sometimes swaying drunk by noon; the stocky guy whose story has progressed over the years -- out of work, has to feed a daughter, just got work but doesn't have enough money, just got work and doesn't need money, medical problems, AIDS medications not working (he was quite alarmingly gaunt at this point) -- and now, weight back up, he just asks. Then there's Grant. I like Grant. Grant had his fifteen minutes of fame a few years back. There was even a Law and Order episode, sort of. Grant likes Aerosmith, and always asks me how I enjoyed whatever holiday has just passed. He's been in the neighborhood for years. The begging is recent.
Anyway. I'm walking past the only grocery in the neighborhood that stocks the beer of my people, and then only occasionally, dammit. That corner has a regular, a tall guy with a horsey face who knows the names of hundreds of pedestrians, makes small talk. By the evening rush, he has enough money for Chinese takeout, most nights.
So he spots me. I do stick out, even in Brooklyn. "Hey! How are you! Haven't seen you around in a while."
"Well, you know, been out of town..." Man, I feel awkward in these situations.
"Oh, where you been?"
"Romania?" He looks puzzled, but just for a second. "That's where they got that Cho-chess-koo guy, right?"
"Well, they did..."
"What's it like?"
So I told him.