I was sitting on a bidet in Budapest, thinking of Sam Tellig.
Sam had told me about the Gellert baths many years ago. It’s a massive building decorated in Art Nouveau style. The spa, originally built about 700 years ago, was built over thermal springs and has many pools at different temperatures including an outdoor wave pool and bubble bath.
Sam had come here a few years ago to wallow in the waters along with lots of other super-sized eastern Europeans. With his pasty complexion and his sallow appearance he must have fit right in. Although from an allegedly patrician background (he talks with a very pompous new England accent) he is mystically drawn to Eastern Europe. He speaks Russian. His wife Marina is Russian; his daughter Amy speaks many Slavic tongues. He also visited, along with groups of Stereophile readers, the Soviet Union in the old days. His humor is much darker than mine. Perhaps he’s a spy? But for which side?
For those who don’t know Sam Tellig, he was the most popular writer in Stereophile Magazine for many years. He wrote a column called “The Audio Cheapskate” [And later, “Sam’s Space” -Ed.] in which he often mused about characters in the Hi-Fi Field. He brought them to life in a way that I can only dream of doing. His columns were always funny and oft evoked a response from myself. Sam and I would banter (curse and denigrate each other) from month to month and many people thought of us as enemies. Quite the opposite was true. We were (still are) really good friends. I am sorry he has stopped writing, as I know he still has a lot to say. I was hoping he would write for this publication but so far he has demurred.
But I digress. Why was I in Budapest? I had first visited Mike Creek in London. He makes some of the best sounding amps and CD players in the world, then I travelled onward to the Czech Republic to see the turntable factory that makes most of my turntables. I love that factory in Litovel, eastern Moravia. The turntables are assembled by hand from mainly local parts. The Czech Republic is very pro manufacturing and resultantly it has a wealth of engineers and an industrial infrastructure to match. After that I stayed a couple of days with my friends Heinz Lichtenegger and his wife Jozefina. Heinz is the owner of Project turntables and they live in a refurbished farmhouse about 25 miles north of Vienna. Jozefina has incredible taste and has turned this farmhouse into something out of an Italian design magazine.
I was routed through Budapest from Vienna on my way home when thanks to hurricane Irene; my flight to JFK was cancelled. Resultantly, I was stuck there for 3 days. Quelle horreur!
I have too often visited Budapest and know it quite well so on one hand, I was familiar with most of the sights, but on the other hand I was soon running out of things to occupy myself. Thus, to while away the hours, I made a trip to the Geller baths.
Oh, and why was I on the bidet? I hear you ask. Well after the hot pool, the slightly cooler pool, the wave pool, the steam room and the massage from a Sumo-sized guy (big body, small gentle hands), then the neck-stretching pool (I kid you not) why not the bidet?
But this was no ordinary bidet. No gentle waters lapped at my tush. No soft spray massaged my private parts. This was an industrial strength, full force hurricane of a bidet. It consisted of a circular tubed metal seat with a ramjet below. One false move and it will bubble through your eyeballs. Now I really know the meaning of ‘squeaky clean’.