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14 July 1999: Oh là là, Bastille Day is here, and it's time to observe ancient traditions by playing with the venerable RichCam! After synchronizing watches with Anikó at the US Naval Observatory, I parked just to the left of a green awning in Pasadena, and rolled out an enormous blue/white/red French flag on the back of my car. Despite arriving 12 minutes early, I had lucked into a 15-minute parking spot, so what could go wrong? I was outside on a beautiful day, happily whistling La Marseillaise during my wait.

At the appointed moment, I tried to act cool in my aviator shades, leaning jauntily against le tricouleur. The first image capture (52K) was blocked by a bus. No matter - it was prearranged that I would stay in position for a few minutes, anyway. The second picture (52K), of course, featured a bigger bus. Hm. By now, you've probably guessed that the third photo (50K) picked up only my dust, speeding away to avoid the meter maid who lurked nearby. [Many thanks to Kevinito at NASA, Doctor Tom, Madame Porc-épic, and the Namibia Twelve, for aiding and abetting.]

Here's an interactive map of the awning area (with directions below), if you're ever stuck in L.A. with nothing to do, contemplating your own silly photo attempt. Should you manage to publish an interesting scene, please feel free to link the URL in our guestbook.

Where are you starting? [Address or cross street, such as 7734 Easy St or easy st and baltic av]:
Street:   City:   State:  

After posting the account above, it was discovered that a malfunctioning seggfej browser in Budapest did snag this 33K image (jpg-bmp-jpg) of a boy and his drapeau. Zut alors, is my face red.

Finally, some folks have asked for additional pictures, so here are a few snapshots of Anikó, all taken during the winter of 1999: 14K, 12K, 11K and 16K. Now get a load of Alan's hair (facial and otherwise), viewed over the course of many years: 1969-9K, 1973-12K, 1979-27K, 1991-25K and 1993-6K.

What a long, strange trip it's been. ;-)

3 September 1999: As mentioned in the book's Epilogue, Anikó and I have been anxiously awaiting our initial face-to-face encounter for the last several months. Well, she finally arrived in Los Angeles from Budapest on August 20th, and I'm happy to report that it was as if Heaven walked through my front door.

Her writing is a bit more fluid than her spoken English, so we both noticed a great improvement in our miming skills, during those first few days. I've also learned many colorful Hungarian words, and we like to laugh at the "creative" pronunciation we both give to each other's language.

To start things off, Edd, a page buddy from the ol' NBC/New York daze, arranged for some wonderful V.I.P. seats right next to his announcer's chair at the Tonight Show, and my friend Sean gave us a tour through several CBS daytime program sets, so by the time Anikó met a bunch of my fellow scribes at the Wednesday night playwright's workshop, she'd already managed to soak up a ton of showbiz jargon. We also admired the Cabazon dinosaurs, on our way to a weekend in the desert. It was exciting to make friends with a few scorpions, bunnies, and kangaroo rats in the midst of all those jumpin' cholla and ocotillo cacti, and Anikó was surprised to discover that roadrunners and coyotes actually *do* exist outside the cartoons. <g> Later, we ordered some of the finest date shakes that Indio has to offer and became disgustingly romantic, as we nuzzled noses while sipping our frosty concoctions through two adjacent straws.

This week has featured stops at the largest Buddhist temple in the western hemisphere, a drive-through doughnut shop in La Puente, and Simon Rodia's towers. We thoroughly enjoyed last night's performance at the Hollywood Bowl, and hope to relive the experience in a few months, by purchasing the CD recording which is scheduled for an upcoming release.

However, I've saved the best news for last: Anikó's planned two-week visit has been officially extended for several months (or more), and I'm still trying to wipe this stupid grin off my face!

14 February 2000: The approaching feast of Lupercalia will bring another exciting development, but we'll try to maintain some suspense until the end of this update...

During the past few months, "our personalities have slowly become smoothed to each other," as Anikó wrote in a Hungarian interview, and we've been working steadily to arrange our future, while taking advantage of several wonderful opportunities to play. In October, for example, a makeup-artist friend invited us to visit the set of Fox TV's now-defunct Action. Buddy Hackett turned out to be surprisingly debonair (he flirted at length with Anikó in fluent Hungarian), Illeana Douglas shared her hilarious, if somewhat foggy, memories of getting hammered in Budapest on the local apricot-flavored poison (Barack Pálinka), and Jay Mohr was, well... Jay Mohr. ;-)

Anikó's photosThis fall was also a time for reunions, and we've found many former high school and college classmates, thanks to Planet Alumni (if your school's not already registered, you can simply add it - Anikó's alma mater in Budapest was easy to locate, as you'll see by clicking that logo graphic). The site is highly interactive: I just set up a runner's group at an old high school, and it'll be fun to track down all those long-lost teammates!

Anikó's birthday rolled around at the beginning of November, and this one turned out to be a five-day celebration, starting off with visits to the Arboretum, a Microbrewery Festival, and Santa Anita Park. The next evening, we helicoptered through L.A.'s tall buildings, and out past the Hollywood sign, to indelibly mark the actual date of her birth, but the best photos resulted from our two-night stay in San Luis Obispo, at the Apple Farm Inn:

Anikó: 5K to 57K We went beachcombing on Morro Bay one afternoon, and later watched the sun sink behind their extinct volcano, while scarfing down a batch of tasty steamers.

<= 57K [Click to enlarge.] 65K =>
Alan: 6K to 65K

The next day, we sampled many wares in a Solvang beer garden, partly to dull the surreal edge of looking at those impossibly-picturesque scenes which popped up in every corner of this touristy Danish town. <g>

For a VERY short time in December, we helped to decorate Glendale's Rose Parade float (an uncharacteristically-cheerful basset hound)... but the charm of cutting up dried flowers by the zillions quickly wore thin, so I suspect this story will eventually be entitled: "Escape From The Rose Palace." ;-)

Anikó (San Gabriel) + Alan (Markham): 3K to 122K<= [Click thumbnail for 122K version.] We've continued my long tradition of semimonthly hikes on Mt. Lowe, but it's been pretty quiet up in the San Gabriels (if you don't count the rattlesnake who loudly objected when Anikó nearly stepped on him!), and I was a little puzzled that we never ran into Jeff, a mountain biker I first met on those trails a few years ago. However, he finally showed up at the end of January, eager to experiment with his wife's Christmas gift - a new digital camera. We were happy to oblige, and he was kind enough to post our photo on his site a few days later.

Now for the exciting Valentine news: SHE SAID *YES*!!! Yup, today I finally worked up enough courage to ask for Anikó's hand, up at Angeles Crest (104K). She'll make a short trip back to Budapest (showing off the ring, no doubt), and I plan to join her for a week in the spring, mainly so this prospective groom can take a ribbing from his future in-laws, for having mastered only three words in Hungarian ("burp," "fart," and "goulash," if you must know). <g> No firm date has been set for the wedding, although it will probably take place a month or so after we (121K) return to Glendale.

6 June 2000: Today is the Dalai Lama's birthday [LATER: although The Old Farmer's Almanac lists this date, it's actually in July!], and we've just added a new reason for celebration... but there'll be more on that below.

During Anikó's stay in Budapest, we designed our wedding rings via the Internet, which was a tougher project than one might suppose. I searched long and hard for Hungarian motifs, even though she kept telling me that such jewelry doesn't exist. Being the pushy American I am, this fact was completely irrelevant, of course. <g> I figured, "What the heck, if we want something that ain't on the shelves, let's make it from scratch." Right about then, we came across an interesting notation about one 15th-century monarch: "Matthias I, King of Hungary, called himself Corvinus and had coins minted which displayed a bird holding his ring. When a raven carried off the ring that Matthias had just removed from his finger, the king chased the bird down and slew him, retrieving the ring. In commemoration of this event, Matthias took the raven as a symbol for his signet." After Anikó confirmed that the design was well-known in Hungary, this ring-pilfering raven was carved into our wedding bands!

King Alan + Queen Anikó, Visegrád: 10K to 89KMy one-week visit to Budapest in April was very satisfying, to say the least. I had hoped to impress either the adult children (24 & 25) or the parents (76 & 80), but somehow BOTH groups were charmed by my feeble attempts to use a bit of Hungarian. Even the tiny piss-filled terrier became affectionate... but then, I bought her off with the latest advances in American doggie-treat technology. <g> There were also several family sightseeing trips, which often degenerated into bouts of giggling (89K=>) and/or hiccups, so as far as I can tell, a good time was had by all.

At this point, you can probably guess what happened today: uh-huh, we got hitched (39K)! Our ceremony took place at the former Avalon home of America's preeminent writer on western lore, Zane Grey. Originally built in 1926, Grey's pueblo (117K) was designed to serve as a haven for his prolific literary efforts, and features extraordinary views of the ocean, as well as the surrounding hills of Catalina. Twenty-odd miles offshore, this island really lives up to its reputation as a romantic getaway.

Green Card24 July 2001: Happily Ever After. Who knew? I've always doubted that fairy tales could come true... and yet here we are, in the midst of one! Sure, Anikó and I have faced our share of challenges (like "La Migra," detailed below), but we've stopped sweating the small stuff. However, newly-wedded bliss might quickly seem saccharine to outsiders, so let's just say that life is good. Yeah, it sounds like a lackluster statement, but if we carried on too much about our real feelings, you'd start needing dental work. ;-)

OK, so the Immigration & Naturalization Service provided today's hurdle: my lovely feleség has a command of the English language which is improving at an incredible pace (she's completed a large chunk of her "Hungary? Let's Eat!" cookbook, to the delight of this volunteer taste-tester), but our INS officer spoke with a thick, nearly-indecipherable Chicago accent. Yikes. Plus, poor Anikó was saddled with still another unfortunate handicap - an unbelievably stupid husband. When questioned separately, he couldn't even remember that he had nibbled on Szekelykaposta for dinner last night! Sure, we laughed about it afterwards, but when a governmental agency is judging the validity of one's marriage, and wields the power to deport one's beloved across the great water, nine time zones away, one's brain can fry to a crisp in seconds.

Luckily, that elusive Green Card (which is not really green, by the way) has now been approved.

In spite of me.


24 January 2002:


The Budapest oncologists just sent my wife's father home with a large bottle of pain pills, to wait for the end. We've offered to move up our planned visit, but János is convinced he'll still be around in April.

I'm hoping against hope that he can keep his promise.

29 January 2002:

In Loving Memory: János Bartos (9 August 1919 - 29 January 2002)

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