Saturday, July 3, 2010

Your Billionaire And Mine

When I raise my head from my thoughts Alex is standing on the sidewalk looking at me. Last seen, Budapest. Like in Paris, he says. This is the second time that after years we meet by chance on the street of a city in another country.
- How are things? You just disappeared from the hotel, we were worried about you. What happened to you?
- I got married to a Hungarian woman.
- How was it? Where did you meet?
- Met at the Odeon cafe in Budapest. It was a long nightmare that had a lot to it. She got me here, told me she was in love with another man when she was sure of getting her permanent residency. She started flying all over the country meeting men who bought her tickets on internet travel sites.
- What's she do, her occupation? How's her English?
- She studied English at the University in Hungary. When we met she was teaching English part time, and had signed a contract with a music company, which promised to make her a star. She used to always throw me out when she didn't think she wanted to pursue her American Dream and instead was going to have fame and fortune in Hungary. I went to L.A. alone. When the music contract came to nothing, she joined me here. I got her enrolled at Santa Monica college. She lived with me long enough for the immigration papers to be processed.
- What about you? You expected it all. Just along for the ride?
- I did the best I could with her.
- And what did you live on? I found in the hotel a print of an essay you wrote, "Eve". It was a f#ck*n' masterpiece. Everything was in it. What happened with it?
- Nothing. I have been living on credit cards. Money's just about gone now. Spent it all on renting rooms. Last night I moved to sleep on the couch of the man who finally broke up my marriage. I ran into him on the street a week ago just like we've run into each other. And you?
- Still working for the Hungarian software billionaire. I was at his guest house in Seattle for a couple weeks. He's marrying a Swedish woman half his age. Needs an heir to leave all his money to. I was teaching him the language so he could speak with his wife's family. He wanted to send me back on his plane to Budapest, but I refused to go. He told me I couldn't stay at his house indefinitely. Before Seattle I was living with a Russian prostitute I knew from the Marriot hotel. I had an open tab from the billionaire. I bought you a hamburger there once I think. She wanted me to live at her house to help her and her teen-aged son with English so she could get herself an American husband and move to the U.S. Now I am staying at the house of a friend from my anthropology student days at UCLA in the 60's. I'm getting together a stake so I can go off to Japan. I'm editing a book the billionaire's famous physicist father wrote.
- And he's paying you a reasonable amount for the work? Not just expenses?
- $4000 a month.
- As a regular employee? You'll have insurance?
- No, he won't do it. I emailed him that I have a half paralyzed arm, punctured ear drum, missing teeth.
- What did he answer?
-He didn't answer.
Alex is in his late 70's. We met, and as privileged guests shared a room off and on for years, at the Hotel Citidella in Budapest. He traveled all over the world to film festivals as a reviewer for an Internet film festival site, the flights paid for by the billionaire. He instructed his patron in languages, and performed other miscellaneous services for him, including approaching actresses with the question would you like to have dinner with one of the richest men in the world?
- I have got a Hungarian billionaire in my life too, at least in my wife's life.
- You're really legally married?
- Yes.
- Where?
- A Budapest district marriage office. Want to see pictures? Maybe my billionaire knows your billionaire.
- Mine is a snob, hangs around Austrian aristocrats, von this or thats.
- Mine writes on his Internet page that he loves celebrities. It's the same bunch. He is supposed to have made his money in financial speculation. I just wrote him a message, one husband to another.
- What did you say? How come your wife didn't get any money from him if they were really married? Why didn't you get any money from your wife if she did?
- She told me she did her best to convince herself she was in love with him, but couldn't manage it. He wanted something given to him in exchange for every dollar spent on her or gift he gave her. Shortly after we got married he offered her a thousand dollars a day to go visit him at his "Chateau" in the South of France for five days. She went against my protests. The beginning of the end of the marriage.
- Five Thousand Dollars. Where's the money?
- Hidden in some bank account somewhere, with her other money.
- Why didn't you didn't get a cut?
- I wasn't in that business.
- You were cheated.
- I was married, even if my wife wasn't.