Preview Issue 01.01.06

Backyard | by Andrea Avery

Hidden Pulleys on Balcony Four | by Aaron Belz

The Bars of Our Fathers | by Thom Fletcher

Deep in the heart of Chesterfield: A city rat considers the suburbs | by Chris King

Coffeehouse | by Michaela McGinn

This Way Chuck Berry | by Thomas R. Raber

Sonnet: PSA | by Tony Robinson

Stardust in a Phrygian Key | by Stefene Russell

Sophomores | by Julia Smillie

The Ghosts of Winifred Moore | by Mike Steinberg

Four Days Behind the Iron Curtain, or, I'm With the Band | by Mary Kaye Tonnies

Late Night Radio | by Brett Underwood



Four Days Behind the Iron Curtain, or, I’m With the Band | by Mary Kaye Tonnies

A friend, who knew the adventure I was about to have, gave me a little journal to keep. He had titled the first page, “Four Days Behind the Iron Curtain, Or, I’m With The Band.”

Attilla (the Hun) traveled with us. He’s the one who booked all these gigs; it was his crazy schedule we were on. His favorite English word was sharp. He would hold his fingers straight up and bang himself in the forehead and command “SHARP” whenever we had to go. I knew we had to be on the sharp bus five sharp minutes ago; I just wanted to sit in the late fall sun and experience the amazing municipal square of Debrecen, Hungary.

It’s not really a square; rather, a triangle about three blocks long, paved with concrete tiles in radiating patterns of circles and squares. A commuter train runs lengthwise down one side with a scheduled stop in the center. There are trim squares of grass with small trees, golden fountains, sidewalk cafes, street vendors, and hundreds of people not rushing by. Every one of the bright Victorian storefronts that tightly surround the area looks to be in the best possible condition; the care, only a very proud and determined community could provide. On one side was our hotel. I saw all the activity from the window and I pleaded, “Just give me five minutes.”

Our hotel was a stately mansion, large and old and sooo Middle European. Except one end, it didn’t fit, a mismatched prosthetic. That end of the building had been destroyed by American bombs during WWII. I wondered if it was rebuilt so differently on purpose, like a reminding monument. I had gotten eerie feelings when I used the stairs in that newer part.

Sitting in the square, I could close my eyes with clear, black and white, visions of columns of Nazi boots clicking by; then, I could open my eyes to the bright, animated colors of a clean, exciting, surviving, progressive city.

I sat on the bench next to Marty. He was quiet, possibly contemplating the most important gig thus far of his life-- The Rich McDonough Band, blues ambassadors from St. Louis, Missouri, headlining a night at Hungary’s biggest jazz festival --or was he just enjoying the sunshine? Or, did he feel like me, had he too just stepped back in time, and only had five sharp minutes to be there?

Students walked by with backpacks, art projects, guitars and cigarettes. Everybody smokes here. Everybody smokes here and not one bit of trash on the ground. I looked down a side street and thought, “I bet that’s a grocery store.” I wanted to go in and buy something, but what would I buy? I didn’t go. None of these people would understand me if I tried to speak with them. I recalled the night before, backstage, when I just wanted some water – a communication fiasco.

I stared at the building that used to be the Russian headquarters during the occupation. I thought about the guy who came to the show, who did know some English; wanting to talk to me because his natural father, whom he had never met, was an American. He was asking me what America was like?

Funny, there I was sitting on a park bench behind the broken iron curtain, without a McDonalds in sight, five minutes behind on a sharp, sharp schedule, with no communication skills, and for a few moments, I felt freer than I had ever before in my life.


Mary Kaye Tonnies writes in a secluded bohemian cottage where little sunlight filters through the trees, but is often visited by many joyful woodland creatures and protected by a loyal bridge troll. She is producer and host of When the Levee Breaks, Tuesday mornings at 6 a.m. on KDHX, St. Louis Community Radio.