Saturday, February 26, 2011

the bolage story

Precious daughter sent me a link to a vampiric-looking guy who foreclosed on Wells Fargo. You may well have seen it. Her comment, however was that he reminded her of folks who used to stay at the house in the late '90s. Which reminded me of Bolage. But first, those vampiric folk who spent so much time in the house.

Actually, it was Vlad Tepes who'd come to stay. But I think I've already written about his visits. Ah, the good old days. But then the Hungarians started coming as well.

Gabor was the more outgoing one. The healer, the shape-shifter. Attila was the quiet introvert. The astrophysicist. He gave a marvelous paper for us at the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness at UC Berkeley that year. I think it was 1997. His paper outlined the parameters of sentience, and by those markers demonstrated how the sun met the requirements for sentience. It made quite a splash. Don't know if he ever published the paper. He didn't publish it in our AOC journal.

What I didn't know, until Jello came over, was that he was also a well known punk singer/musician and that his father was the head of the shamanic church in Hungary. Thus he was also a shamanic practitioner and used shamanic entrainment in his music, which was quite literally out of this world.

But this story isn't about Attila. Or Jello. Or Gabor, really. It's about Bolage.

Gabor and I arranged for my student S to go apprentice with him in Budapest — after he graduated. Although Gabor was anxious to get the help right away. Graduation was only a two months away, so when summer came, off S went promising to return every few months to be sure he didn't get caught by any weirdness. We weren't sure what the weirdness might be, but see — see how careful we were?

About a year or so after this arrangement (which seemed to work out quite well), S sent me a birthday present. He was always such a good boy, knowing exactly what I wanted. Knowing exactly what I needed.

He sent me Bolage.

A carpenter.

For my birthday.

My house was a wreck. Fixer-upper. A carpenter was such a wonderful gift!

Apparently the idea was that Bolage would live in our house with free room and board, and do carpentry around the house. He spoke only one word of English when he arrived.

"Why?" he would say.

Gargoyle cornices in the doorways?

"Why?" he would reply, but he'd put them up for me.

Crown molding?


He was the master of why. And with his limited English, I couldn't explain restoration to him. Restoration of a ruined Edwardian. Restoration of a house stripped of all its former yummy features.

Slowly, as he learned English, I discovered his motivation for coming to America. He was out to find himself a rich American woman, marry her and move to America. He also wanted to work on Porsches and race cars.

"Why?" I asked.

Eventually, he told me that he was already married and had two kids he left at home. He'd given his business partner the authority to give a subsistence amount to his wife and kids each month. He left his partner in charge of everything.

In San Francisco, he discovered Castro Street, gyms, and protein supplements. He spent a lot of time working out, and complaining about not finding the wife. Eventually, he asked me to find one for him — a nice Christian woman.

"I don't know any nice Christian women," I replied.

"Any woman is okay then," he said. "I make her a Christian."

Bolage began spending a lot of time in the basement. When the second month's phone bill came in I discovered he was on the phone to Hungary for hours at a time. And in those days, landlines, no cell phones. It was a bloody fortune.

My kids and I were impatiently waiting for Bolage to be on his way. He had stopped doing carpentry after about a week. He was still looking to make his fortune. He discovered that he really liked Castro Street, and the gyms. And he discovered too that he wasn't attracting that American wife. I had gotten him a job working on Porsches, but he managed to get fired after a week for demanding more pay than Mexicans because he was a European.

"Why?" his boss asked him. "They speak better English and do better work than you." Bolage didn't understand this at all.

There was something about America — especially San Francisco — that Bolage just didn't get. And when he finally figured out the Castro, he had a breakdown. His world was crumbling — aided by those phone calls from the basement apparently.

Back home, his wife had run off with his business partner and taken the kids with her.

"She's ruined!" he complained. "Dirty. Soiled!" He had learned a lot of English by then.

He cried a lot at that point. He felt terribly betrayed. How could she do this to him?

Suddenly Bolage had to get home, and fast. He bought up as many blue jeans and Goodwill clothes as he could to sell back home, and he flew off to salvage his old life. He confessed that he had failed in absolutely every aspiration he had had. And that he had discovered that America was filled with degenerates, Mexicans, Jews, and homosexuals — and no Christian women at all. His life was in ruins.

When the next phone bill came, it far outstripped my entire monthly salary. I borrowed some money to make sure our phone wouldn't be cut off. When S returned home again, he covered the entire enormous amount.

"How can you do that?" I asked, overwhelmed.

"When he got back, we put Bolage to work and garnered his wages," he said. "Until he earned enough to cover the bill."

I have no clue what happened to the buff little carpenter. But what I hope is that he went back to church.

"Why?" you ask?

I'm hoping that some good solid prayer and soul-searching made him rethink his world view, his bigotry and his sexuality. I'm hoping that he'll ask himself some really big whys?

I'm not sure any of this is my business at all — but it all played out in our little house, and I know, at least, what I learned from it.

My birthday's right around the corner.

Please, no carpenters.


  1. Ha ha ha! Well writ.
    Okay, what do you want this year?

  2. She doesn't have to be a carpenter.

  3. I do remember Bolage. I wrote a song during high school, and he suggested that I tweak one of the guitar riffs in a certain way. I did it. It wasn't itself a big change - only kind of a decorative filler - but the song ended up going in a different direction because of it.

  4. Wow, Michael — I vaguely remember that. So, there it is. Papa's lesson — that you never know the good a person will do in the world. And here it is, a piece of good that Bolage brought our way. Thanks for sharing that memory!