Sunday, August 30, 2015


 Traditional Hungarian czardas
the typical music I was raised with
(I love it)

When I was a child I had mixed feelings about my Hungarian heritage and there were times when I hated it. It seemed to be the direct responsibility for the chaos and turmoil in my life.

My father represented the unbridled, coarse, vulgar, volatile Magyar blood - - the explosive temper, the wife-beater, the child-beater, the unrelenting monster whom I feared more than any words could convey. He wasn't alone. I knew many Hungarian men like that and I associated my loathing, terror, and hate with the Hungarian race for many years.

I vividly remember the dreaded nights when my father would drag out the collection of old Hungarian records that had belonged to his father.  He'd play all of them, while guzzling beer, and he'd blast the music louder and louder as the night progressed. My Mom and I cowered like mice, hardly daring to breathe for fear of sparking his temper.

I somehow made the fatal mistake of  provoking my father's wrath. He ripped the record off the phonograph and smashed it against the wall. Those ancient 78s shattered like glass. He chased me around the house with intent to kill. I dove into my bedroom and slammed the door. He put his fist completely through the door, leaving a gaping hole. Then he kicked the door in and pummeled me until my mother - screaming hysterically - somehow managed to save me. I was eleven at the time. This was nothing unusual. It was our normal way of life. Always.

I secretly cursed him and despised all Hungarians. I hated their blaring music, their vulgar language, their very existence.

Ironically, my mother's Hungarian family was refined, soft-spoken, gentle in temperament.
There was a distinct difference between upper and lower class Hunkys. 

 My maternal grandmother's sister Maria (Mary)
in traditional Hungarian dress
(I've posted this photo before, but it's one of my favorites) 

In all fairness, I must say that both of my Hungarian grandmothers were very kind, docile, and loving.  My Dad's violence seemed to be inherited from his father.

In later years, after I had the opportunity of knowing many fascinating and wonderful Hungarian people, my attitude completely changed. I grew to love my heritage and became proud of it.

 A glimpse of my former self
in a Hungarian frame

I eventually realized that my curious psyche was a combination of both my parents. I inherited the sophisticated, intellectual, refined, introverted nature of my mother and the raw, wild, erotic, unpredictable temperament of my father. 

I harbor the traits of a true Magyar:
fervently passionate, extreme sensitivity, unpredictable moodiness, deep melancholia,  morbid sentimentality.

Both of my parents loved music and both sides of the family were musical.
A zene a lelek egy cigany.
Music is the soul of a gypsy.

Why am I writing this?
No particular reason. I suppose I'm in one of my strange Magyar moods. 

A hodgepodge of photos:

Some of my father's Budapest relatives in a Hungarian ensemble. Violin, zimbalom, clarinet (?)

My Dad's father
my paternal grandfather Jakob (James)
(yes, he had a temper) 

My grandfather James in later years
with his violin

 During the start of my magical Bohemian years
probably age twenty
(no logical reason for me to use this photo, but what the hell.....)

My mother Marie
in one of her Hungarian peasant dresses

I asked my Mom 
"Did you know that Buda and Pest were originally two different cities?"

She said
"Yes. Your father's relatives came from the pest side."

I loved her humor. 



  1. I have always loved that music although it is very much "in your face" so thanks for the clip, it makes me keen to hear more. I would really like to hear them "live" - I wonder where you find them playing.

    1. Hungarian music is definitely "in your face". The only thing I know about the ensemble is that they're from Budapest and they were performing in Russia when this was recorded.

  2. Jon, just to let you know that I'm not ignoring your recent posts. It's just that like this one they tend to be so 'meaty' that they require more attention than that of some others, and I keep putting off posting comments until by which time the subject has gone 'cold'. But this one above is another to which I'll have to return.

    However, I'm commenting here just to tell you that a few days ago I finished reading 'Helter Skelter' (Maybe by now you've forgotten we talked about it. No, of course you recall it.) At 660-odd pages it was a really substantial read - very detailed, very forensic (necessarily!) - but apart from those details it didn't tell me that much I wasn't already aware of, usually only vaguely. Interesting enough, but I shan't be in a hurry to pick it up again. I'm rather keener to listen again to the Beatles' 'White Album' which I haven't listened to for well over 20 years now, maybe around 30..

    1. I'm delighted to know that you're reading my posts but please don't feel obligated to comment (even though I value your input). I think a lot of people don't comment on my posts because they are too long - - and often people don't know what to say. I leave them speechless.....

      I always enjoy reading your intelligent movie reviews but I seldom comment because I have nothing of value to add - - and I haven't seen most of the films.

      The last time I read "Helter Skelter" I was in my early twenties. I thought it was interesting at the time - - but I'm certain that the information is "dated" now. Perhaps it shouldn't have been written so soon after the murders happened. Wow, I haven't listened to the "White Album" in over 20 years, either.

  3. That violinist is phenomenal! I'm glad to hear you learned to love your rich heritage, Jon. Aside from traditional recipes handed down from generation to generation, I don't recall my parents placing much emphasis on their German and Norwegian backgrounds.
    The picture frame in your second photo is really lovely.

    1. I love German food. Norway has always fascinated me but I know very little about the country or culture. I was immersed in everything Hungarian from an early age, so........I'm stuck with it.

  4. Glad that you embraced your heritage; there is a lot to be proud of. From the photos you posted, nobody is lacking in the good looks department.

    A few things you neglected to mention: Hungarian Goulash, paprika, dumplings and last but not least - Zsa Zsa Gabor.

    1. HA!!! I was planning on writing about my favorite Hungarian foods and other related things but didn't want to cram it into this post. Perhaps next time.....

      I met the Gabor sisters. Eva was nice. Zsa Zsa is a .....fruitcake......

  5. Whenever I see a photo of your aunt (Tucumcari?) Mary, I always note what a striking woman she is --her face is so full of character.

    1. My maternal grandmother Anna was one of twelve siblings. Mary was definitely the most colorful one of them all.

  6. It's good that you learned to separate your feelings about your father with your Hungarian heritage, in general. I LOVE your mother's comment about him being from the Pest side. Priceless!

    My father liked to play music loudly in the middle of the night, too. Only he'd drag me out of bed and make me sing with him. Or to simply harmonize a cappella. (He really did have a beautiful tenor voice.) It's a wonder I still like to sing...

  7. It's amazing that my mom always maintained a sense of humor - despite all that she had been through.

    We both have extremely traumatic childhood memories, but it's rather nice (I know that isn't the right word) that your father wanted to sing with you. I HOPE a few of those singing memories were pleasant.


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