"Black street.
No trade.

The citadel of Sighisoara, Romania is one of the few functioning walled cities in Europe. Cobbled streets and cement buildings surrounded by walls and eight towers made of fieldstone and brick. A gypsy woman waits around the corner from a covered staircase blathering out a mumbled, broken string of pleading gypsy words that sound like a state prayer. She's holding the hand of a three year old kid who is sucking and gnawing at the filter of a Marlboro cigarette butt.

"Starting a little early, aren't you kid?" I flip a 100 lei coin at the lady (equal to about 12 cents) to shut her up and walk on. What else can I do? Take this filthy woman home to clean her up and feed her and she'll rob me blind. There's nothing to explain. She don't understand and she don't care. Even if I try to spare the kid the nausea of eating the tobacco out of the cigarettes by yanking it out of his mouth he'd only start to cry. And crying keeps the tourists away and I've seen it a hundred times, some gypsy mother slappin' their kid til it quiets down. Besides, that kid has probably eaten more dirt than I've walked on.

If the kid lives to be five he'll be sent out with a sign taped to his chest every day to grab tourists' hands, kiss them and whine until a coin is thrown in frustration. If he lives to be twelve he'll have learned how to con some real money out of people with rolls of blank paper covered in 500 lei bill.

"Change money, mister?"

So I give 100 lei, enough for bread and water.

Keep 'em alive and keep 'em weak.

The Gypsies came from Northern India and arrived in Europe in the eleventh century. The have no homeland. The European countries try to give the gypsies a home in another European country. Hitler gave over 2,000,000 gypsies a home in an industrial incinerator with the Jews and intellectual elite from Germany. But before Hitler moved them in he tore the scalps off their corpses to make material for German soldier uniforms. 2,000,000 gypsies now live in Romania. Two million is equal to one tenth of the entire Romanian population.

Ten percent of Romanians are rotten gypsy thieves. Three thousand Romanian lei make up one U.S. dollar. If you give cash you can get 4,000 lei for a dollar. 150 lei will buy bread from a peasant woman with four teeth and three pair of hand-knit, wool socks. One lei is worth four one hundredths of a cent. The Romanians are only four one hundredths of a cent better than the gypsy thieves who have no money because they have no homeland. When you have very little money you are poor; when you have no money you steal someone else's.

Romania is a cemetery for Communism. The people live and work in the stale cement buildings with flickering fluorescent lights that mark the graves of a dead regime. The streets are lined with memorials to the Communist leaders and young revolutionaries who died in 1989 when Ceausescu was thrown out of power. The shelves of supermarkets (those stores that can support a medium sized room full of merchandise) hide their wares behind the counter, treasuring them like the spoils of war--gold fillings and eye glasses of bodies in the fields. Down the street a single lightbulb hangs from the rafters of a cinder block room with an entryway but no door. Three large wooden crates sit on the floor, two full of cabbage and one full of potatoes. Outside the sign reads "Produce Market."

Hundreds of mongrel dogs cower in the corners of vacant buildings and scour the cemetery streets for breadcrusts and bones left unnoticed by the beggars. Whining, mangy hounds horrible to look at but lacking the courage of rabies. I reach out with a crust of bread to one of the starving mutts and it runs off with its tail between its legs like I was trying to shove a grenade up its ass. Rabies earns an animal the power of fear if not respect. These dogs are only good for kicking as their limps and shyness prove. But what good can a dog of a man-only-4/100ths-of-a-cent-better-than-a-gypsy-thief be?

The streets stink of death. Not the sweet salty smell of victory on the battlefield. It is a stale, sickening smell of sewage, the odor of death in a ditch. It is the odor of piles of rotting clothing and newspapers on which lies a pile of newborn but dying kittens. Of the mangy dogs that will die from eating the rotten kittens, or from eating the piles of shit in the corners of the rotting buildings where it was left by a one armed wino rotting with syphilis.

Escape the stink of the streets in the maze of checkpoints and queues at the National Bank of Romania, where an armed guard records our passport numbers and leads us through secret passageways to a bank teller. From there it is all stamps and official documents and pointing to the next line to stand in.

"Please, sit. This will take a minute."

Until we stumble back out on the street with 100,000 lei that's hardly worth the paper it's printed on. We had to stand in three lines and show a receipt before we could get a package of three pair of cardboard communist underwear from the lady behind the counter of an eastern-bloc Du-Mezzo department store.

What was once pity has turned to hatred as I lie awake in a dingy hotel room at three a.m. listening to my stomach churn and watching my girlfriend throw up all over the semi-carpeted floor. One nice dinner in Bucharest was paid for with three days of intestinal horror. But as pity turns to hatred, so does hatred turn to revenge. In that stinking hotel where my insides turned against me, I declared a vile war of defacement and defecation on this the only part of Romania I was able to get back at. Kristine must have puked on the floor of our room eight times and the both of us shitting all over the toilets and clogging them up with the sheets we had cut up to replace the ever-absent toilet paper in Romanian Hotels. Between the gut wrenching cramps and gas pains I raced out to get liquids to fill Kristine with which only fueled more double-barreled attacks on tattered decor, vile fluids pouring out of both ends of her.

Next morning we shut the door to a room that reeked of stomach acid, sewer pipes and sickness. We gathered all the energy we had been granted in the hour and a half that we had slept and stumbled out of the hotel room fighting the pressure of back-pack straps against the tender flesh and tubes of nauseated under bellies.

It was worth every bit of misery that night to set the key on the counter the next morning and say "Thank-You" with a smile on my face. We left for the train station to leave the country and all its horrors behind, and left all our rage, hatred, pity and revenge in puddles all over the hotel, for some poor peasant woman to clean up as the poor are always stuck with the worst of a country's insults.

As we sat on the train waiting to disembark, the usual freak show parade that comes free with the train ticket wandered in and out of our car displaying all their birth defects, tumors and amputated and atrophied limbs. Waving fingers that looked like gnarled roots of aged trees, they mumble and mutter Romanian gibberish asking for a few worthless coins to be thrown in their way. But it was too late for kindness, I could only laugh knowing that at least no matter how bad it could get I was able to leave-- to go somewhere where this would all make for a funny story. I shut the door in the man's face.

"Fucking, no-good, gypsy thieves."

The above text was sent to me by the gilded frame just before Christmas in 1996. He'd taken a yellowed cutting of the parchment they use for grave rubbings, approximately nine feet long and six inches wide, and inscribed one side with this piece and the other with Songs of the Mutants. The scroll was sent in a cardboard cylinder and accompanying it were seven prints of various Polish paintings and sketches. It remains the most fantastic Christmas present I've ever received.

A week later the house hemos and I were renting burned to the ground. Hemos wasn't home and I made it out, choking, not a moment too soon. Our posters burned but the scroll, scorched and blackened over in parts, survived. It has remained pinned to the assorted walls I've rented since then. I only wish you could run your fingers across its aged texture and smell the faint odor of burn that remains forever after a housefire. The thick, black ink that Scott used to carve a path in the paper is a work of art all by itself. The actual text that I can share with you here is just a bonus.

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