Food for Thought-A Late Afternoon Phone Call from Hieronymous Bosch and His Wandering Chicken Minstrels

Chickens 6

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Food for Thought-Turning Left on Dunavska Street (The Seventh Letter)

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30 April 1957
Belgrade, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Between The Arrival of the Post and the Setting of the Sun in the West

Dear Beloved Friend and Colleague,

Your faith in my Latin is truly humbling. Thank you, dear friend. What time has passed since this morning! The creeping clouds crawled slowly across the horizon as I made the turn onto Dunavska*. The fortress* was shrouded in a curtain of mist, visible only as I rounded Vojovica Boulevard*. My day is never the same without the ability to behold the magnitude of this imposing sight. As you know, it is not the brick themselves but what the bricks behold that enthrall my attention. Without the ability to see what they see, I am blind.

From sight, I return to sound. The forests south of the Sava* are truly mysterious places. As in life, they challenge our ability to accurately see and hear the world around us. My fear, as we soon discovered, is the Picus Viridius* needs not tree nor sky in order to survive. How can this be? Above the ground which we trod, beneath the sky we observed, underneath the trees we examined, or among the people we sought aid each person asked us to describe the sound we had heard. None recognized the calls we mimicked; yet they still surrounded us in trees which were of no use. Was this not what it seemed?

As the sun sets, my day ends and these questions are tabled for now.

Yours truly,

V

Dunavska* A street in the eastern area of Old Belgrade
Vojovica Boulevard* A street along the northern edge of the Kalemegdan Fortress
Fortress* The Kalamegdan Fortress
Picus Viridus* The Common European Woodpecker
Sava* The main river running east and west through Serbia

Food for Thought-Does Wood Grow on Serbian Trees? (The Sixth Letter)

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29 April 1957
Belgrade, The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Between Receiving the Post and the First Shades of Dusk In the West

Dilectissime amicus*,

Grato animo accepi salutaiones tuas et vota tua!* I look forward to them each day. Do you think the English Earl* knows how much I enjoy his creation? While I know you are partial to the coffee prepared by the blind Turk would you grant me a moment with my English tea? The cup, called a saucer, opens to the world like an ever-blooming Easter flower. It is within this Lilly, that skilled artisans place a finely mixed ratio of water; water that has been allowed to bathe in the leaves of exotic Ceylon. Only then may it be sipped and enjoyed at the right time of day. Allow me to ask, can there be a wrong time of day?

As we sought the bird, in this place, on the day, I remember one question coming to mind. Does wood grow on trees? When the sun light fades on the south side of the Sava*, would the Picus Viridius* possess the ability to make sound at all? In the woodless forests of Umka*, would there be a sound, if there was no wood upon the trees for the bird to call home? These, I admit, are deeply distressing thoughts.
The rustling of your trouser legs may have indeed masked the much greater reality: woodless trees. The rules of physics and acoustics, written for a world where trees possess wood, offer little succor for our attempts to isolate the occasional chirp of an unseen bird.

It seems our questions only grow deeper. Faciendo veritatem quam iam scimus, in veritatem quam adhuc ignoramus progrediamur. Tunc procul dubio unum erimus: veritas enim una.*

Your friend,

M

Dilectissime amicus* Latin Dear Friend
Grato animo accepi salutaiones tuas et vota tua* Latin Thank you for your salutations and good wishes
English Earl*  Earl Grey
River Sava*  the River that runs south and west from Belgrade
Picus Viridus* Common European Woodpecker
Umka* A city southwest of Belgrade along the Sava River
Faciendo veritatem quam iam scimus, in veritatem quam adhuc ignoramus progrediamur. Tunc procul dubio unum erimus: veritas enim una.*

Latin  By doing the truth which we already know, let us make progress towards the truth which as yet we are ignorant of. Then without doubt, we shall be one, for truth is one.

Food for Thought-Excuse Me, Do You Have Any Montenegrin Jam? (The Fifth Letter)

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28 April 1957
Belgrade, The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Between the time of receiving the post and eating my evening meal

Dearest Neighbor and Friend,

The intoxicating glories of April left me inebriated as I wandered through the grounds of the Kalamegdan*. In the early hours, before dawn, light is in short supply. Black diffuses to grey, which fades to blue and daylight appears, as if from nowhere. Out of the decaying blackness, I found myself turning the very same corner I have walked hundreds of time towards the Rose Church*. A cloudless blue sky hanging listlessly above the ivy draped walls of the tiny chapel. Has the ivy ever been so green?

I hope my drunken amazement did not alter the course of breakfast. The jam provided by the Montenegrin woman and her strawberries could bring life to even the most Lazarus like of bread. Were I to buy week old, fungus covered bread in Tirana, had I her jam, I would eat the most foul Albanian bread. Do you share this view?

I have thought of much over the past night. The sounds of that day will not leave my mind. I was wearing brown corduroy pants. They made a sound when I walked. For many hours, I was convinced I was being followed by some invisible animal whose only tell-tale trace was like that of fabric rubbing together. It was only when I realized nothing on my apparel could accurately recreate the call of the Picus Viridius* that we must be within its world; for this place, with its road, sky, air, buildings, food, restaurant, horses, and people was not like our own. Did I not perceiving an invisible wall between ourselves and the world?

Until tomorrow, think on these things.

Your friend,

V

*Kalamegdan an ancient fortress in Belgrade, now a public park, overlooking the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers
*The Rose Church, a historic church on the grounds of the Kalamegdan
*Montenegro was known for outstanding strawberries
*Albanians bake bread, often for breakfast
*Picus Viridius the common European Woodpecker

Food for Thought-The Malformed Shrub of Novi Sad (The Third Letter)

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26 April 1957

Between Breakfast and Lunch
Belgrade, The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

Dearest Esteemed Mentor and Friend,

Epistolam tuam plenam (ut soles) caritate grato animo accepi.* As I accepted scalding coffee from a blind Turk at breakfast; I reflect upon your recollections of the malformed shrub. At first I could not think of anything but the shrub. Its deformities and horrors, unlike coffee, are measured in centimeters not milliliters. While the pain of the thorns is limited in duration, like the burning coffee, they linger long below the skin.

Do you remember the vindictive apple tree which once resided to the left of the train station in Subotica*? Much like the malformed shrub of Novi Sad*, the Station Tree of Subotica would seek draw weary travelers to gaze upon its ever ripening fruit. Without warning, the fruit would fall, sometimes striking children or goats upon the head. In the shadow of this evil tree, the trains to Budapest traveled north and cars to Belgrade ambled south. To my memory, there are no birds in Subotica in July.

Of this I am certain: In the beautifully sculpted garden, adjacent to the room where food was served, grew a strong shrub. Perhaps the bird was moving to the garden or lived in a nearby tree. I must know. I fear this bird was not what it seemed. For did we not walk past three trees, after turning left, by the cow, on our way to find something to eat? The man with ears, heard our questions, and asked, “Are you lost?” Wasn’t this by tree number three?”

Until tomorrow, we think upon these things.

Yours Truly,

V

Epistolam tuam plenam (ut soles) caritate grato animo accepi.* Latin-I was so glad to receive your letter, so full, as is your wont, of charity.
Subotica – the second largest city of Vojvodina, the largest province in northern Serbia
Novi Sad – the largest city in Vojvodina, the largest province of northern Serbia.

Food for Thought-The Search for A Bosnian Dentist (The Second Letter)

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26 April 1957
3:12 pm
Belgrade, Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

Dear Friend and Vaunted Colleague,

I received your letter in the morning post. The verdant glories of spring also fall fresh around my daily walks through the old city. Yesterday, as we passed the man with two legs and coffee, I realized the trees along Kralja Petra* were growing again toward the sky; each leaf reaching toward some unseen cloud. Upon further examination, I realized no clouds were present. In the meantime, you had turned left along Gospodar Jovanova*, determined to see the famous Bosnian dentist*. How was the cleaning?

Now, dear neighbor, to your query. Do I remember this day? How can I not? To me it seems as today. The buildings, of which you speak, were tall and grand; were they not? I remember each room possessed a window. Do you remember the morning, the sun shone, and we went into the building via a door? I also recall the horse. It was brown and turning right; for did you not face me? How can you not, with such fondness, recall the green grass? I remember, in places where grass did not grow, the black soil stared into our souls.

I remember that we rode in a car and turned right twice before stopping beside a malformed shrub. The shrub, while lacking the permanence of a true socialist road marker*, announced the entrance to the place we had arrived. Perhaps this bird, of which you speak, made its home in the malformed shrub?

Until tomorrow, I bid you farewell. Think upon these things.

Yours truly,
M


*Kralja Petra is a street in the old city of Belgrade
*Gospodar Jovanova is a street adjacent to Kralja Petra in the old city of Belgrade
*Bosnian dentistry was known for its precision, particularly in the late 1950’s

*road markers in the former Yugoslavia were known for their sturdiness