January 9, 2011

Košice, Czechoslovakia. Summer, 1972

Before Robert and I crossed the Iron Curtain to visit his relatives, I had learned a few words in Czech: mustard, potato, sleep and three ways to say drunk. Little help these at the border crossing from Austria when asked why we were carrying a suitcase filled with wigs and cosmetics. A charter flight from Hartford to Frankfurt, a noisy overnight train to Vienna, and a bus that we thought would take us to the checkpoint...only to learn that we’d have to hitchhike the final few miles. A motorist picked us up in the middle of farmland, but didn’t want to approach the crossing with us in tow, so he let us off and we walked the rest. Consequently, when the guards pointed to various pictures to indicate how we’d arrived (car, bus, boat, plane), we “let our fingers do the walking” to answer. He was not amused. And that’s when he ordered us to open our bags and found the kozmetica. “For the women,” Robert confidently explained in Czech, only to learn later that he’d actually said, “We are women.” Eventually crossing into Bratislava, we got a cheap taxi to a cheap hotel room with the biggest bathroom I’d ever seen, and before the night was over, I'd made my unplanned Eastern Bloc cabaret debut singing “I Cant’ Give You Anything But Love” with a gypsy vocalist onstage at the smoky and zither-enhanced Lotus Club. A long story. And one that utilizes three of the Czech words I’d learned.


  1. I find most everything is better when smoky and zither-enhanced.

  2. You are totally irresistible in this photo. What a wonderful story....and a delightful blog. Thank God for mustard, potatoes, sleep, kozmetica and Sandy Leonard. your own pal, Jean