Verlängerter, a long coffee, with Milena at the cafe at the Red House Center for Culture and Debate. Talk of authors, New York, Archipelago, artists, spoke of a painter now using urine instead of paint. Noon at the Sofia City Art Gallery with Maria. Sitting in the City Garden behind the hotel drinking tonic water on ice. I relish talking about New York. We talk about contemporary art in Bulgaria amongst other things. We are in sympathy.
From an artist and professor, I learn more about the time after the wall fell and the inflation that followed the freedom. Not only the experience of living on a few dollars a month, but the absence of food. the shop shelves empty, the lines, going home empty handed when the supplies ran out, going out earlier the next day. the very real fear of starvation. I understand better, what I already felt: the pressure to finish everything on my plate, the disapproval at the waste of food.
Dinner with Desi, hearts in butter, tripe soup drizzled with some sort of liquid garlic infusion, communist paraphernalia everywhere. The restaurant, Paketa, claims to have the menu of Balkan Tourist (the state tourist company during socialism) but in the menu is a mix. They do have Kievski Kotlet (Chiken Kiev) and Mliako s oriz (rice pudding) but a large space on the menu is given over to Rakia. Three women at the next table: I watch as an older woman holds a glass of water up to a middle aged woman`s lips and she drinks and drinks. Previously and subsequently this drinking woman`s hands had seemed more than able to lift the glass of Rakia to her lips, so I wonder at this. At the next table the little girl with her extended family cries more and more frequently as the evening wears on. She has dark circles under her eyes, and looks the twin of the four year old girl I met yesterday, so alike they seem. And at Plovdiv, in old photos I find her again, the identical little girl in 1940, in 1950, in 1960 only the clothes are different.
Gas masks on the wall, a bust of Lenin by the soap dispenser, old computers, posters, cosmonauts: Rukavishnikov/ Ivanov circa 81. My friend Houben remembers when they were touring the country after the flight. “Naturally, I went meeting them and got shocked : they were my size …and I was 11 years old.”