Volume 17, Number 51 | May 13 - 19, 2005

The Penny Post

Fame Romanian style

By Andrei Codrescu

Wanna know what famous is? New Orleans musician Goat told me that he saw a violent altercation between two men at Snake’n Jakes, one of whom threw the other one straight out the door unto the sidewalk. And what was the altercation about? The man who got thrown out of Snake’n Jakes did not admit to the fact that I, the writer of this article, am a great writer. That, in my opinion, is “famous,” and not just your garden-variety of “famous” like when I was in Romania and paparazzis dogged my every step because they treat writers like movie stars over there. Strange place. At some point, I was signing books with both hands for two willowy persons with deep eyes and speaking simultaneously into the microphones of two rival radio stations in a language that was meant to communicate on four levels of meaning different things to each one of them, a language that was neither English nor Romanian, but something new, an esperanto now only used on television by famous people. I was so famous over there, in fact, that the former president of Romania, the only man who claims to have broken the chokehold of the mafia over our unfortunate country, came to have his book signed. He also came to give me two very thick volumes of his own books, one of which, stamped “for internal use only,” was called “The Truth About Romania,” and may be the scariest book I ever leafed through. The truth about Romania was ugly and detailed, complete with names, places, figures and transcripts that I tried to forget as soon as I laid eyes on them, for fear of those bad guys coming to life right out of the book and killing me. Something that’s happened before to people involved with books because the downside of writers being treated like movie stars is that they are also treated as if what they say means something. Strange place, like I’ve said. But to get back to the business of fame, the former head of the state who came to see me, one famous man to another, is now in New Orleans and I’m about to show him the sights and sounds of our thrilling burg. Until the guy got thrown out of Snake’n Jakes for not copping to my greatness, I was pretty anonymous in my hometown. I could take the president of an important European country to Bourbon St. and introduce him to a couple of exotic dancers I know, without causing a stir. Now I’m not so sure. In any case, the president is coming here to give me my medal: during his reign he decorated me with something equivalent to a knighthood (Romania is a republic, so it’s not called a “knighthood”), an honor that carries with it, I understand, an exemption from taxes (Romanian, not U.S.) and a burial plot in the Belu cemetery in Bucharest where all the famous Romanians are buried. That’s not small potatoes, but the medal for this decoration disappeared after he quit being president in year 2000, and it never reached me. I mentioned this at the signing in Bucharest because no famous man is truly famous without a medal, and now the former president has tracked down the medal in the basement of some Romanian embassy in a third country, and is coming to bring it to me in New Orleans. If you see me on the street, walking with a tall, dignified man with a well-trimmed goatee, please don’t get into fights just because you read me. After he leaves, okay.


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