My friend Ivan stayed with us for a few days . He left a couple of days ago on his way to Albuquerque to visit with his mother-in-law . Ivan’s wife is in Melbourne , Australia working for some university for a couple more years . She just signed a new contract .
Ivan’s middle name is Frank . His parents named him Ivan Frank , his mother explained , so that if the Russians took over he’d be Ivan , but if the Brits or the Americans took over he’d be Frank . He was born soon after WWII . Always good to be prepared , I suppose . Oh , he’s from Denmark . Please don’t ever ask him if he’s finished . He’ll say , ” No , I’m Danish “.
I visited his mother a couple of times long ago . She lived in a little town in Denmark called Humleboek . There’s a wonderful art museum there named Louisiana . I don’t know how it got a name like Louisiana . Sounds rather American to me . There’s not much else in Humleboek as far as I could tell , except a small shop a the train depot that sells pastries. Ivan’s mother offered to buy me “a Danish” the first time I arrived on the train from Copenhagen . I chose one and it was good , bur she had a strange look on her face . When I asked her if there was something wrong she told me that the pastry that I was enjoying was ” not Danish “. Oh well ! What do I know !
I visited the Louisiana Museum once ,long ago , with Ivan’s former wife. She had re-married . Ivan’s mother said that she liked the new husband ; he’s a nice man , she said , ” but he’s not my Ivan ” . That’s what she said . There were some paintings on display by Edward Hopper . The ex-wife was surprised to find out that at the time I had never heard of Edward Hopper . ” He’s an American ,” she said . Ah , she wasn’t aware that she was only scratching the surface of my overall ignorance . I’m an American so I should know Edward Hopper . If only ! She was kind of puzzled , well very puzzled at the mystery of my cluelessness , but I guess she got over it .
Ivan was , among other things , a ship’s carpenter until the shipping industry decided to more or less fold up it’s tent . I think a lot of shipbuilding went over to Japan . I know that Ada’s home city in Poland was a shipbuilding powerhouse until about the same time . The huge shipyard is still there but now it is mostly quiet . There is some ship repair going on but no ship building , as far as I know . The entire waterfront was extensively bombed during World War II and it was beginning to rebuild and flourish when it shut down instead . That’s another story .
I met Ivan in the early 1970s in an English bar in Santa Monica called the King’s Head Inn . I think the place is still there . He was working in a travelling circus out of Martinex , California , setting up the circus tents and selling snacks . The circus had set up on the beach near the pier , as far as I can remember . Ivan has different memories ; says it was down in some beach city further south . I think I’m right and he thinks he’s right ; but he doesn’t care if he’s right or not . ” You can be right , ” he says with exquisite magnanimity . I don’t have to be right either ; I just suspect that in this particular case I am . Ah , it doesn’t matter if it was Santa Monica or someplace further south anyhow . Doesn’t change a thing .
What he says he liked about me right off was when he asked for directions to drive somewhere and I handed him a map . He saw that as a significant life’s lesson —- the old ‘teach a man to fish’ thing , kind of , I think . ” I knew you were teaching me that I’d have to make it on my own ” , he said . I think I was just handing him a map ; but , to each his own . When he mentioned this map incident to me decades later , I didn’t argue with him about it . I don’t always have to be right .
Ivan travels a lot nowadays . When I mentioned a few years ago that I had a house in Prescott , Arizona that I wanted to sell , he immediately volunteered to meet me there so he could inspect the place and give me his advice . He did ; we both drove separately and met there because he was moving somewhere east after that and I was headed back home . Maybe I need to give him another map , though . A day after he headed out toward Albuquerque this time he called me from Camp Verde , Arizona . That’s not on the way to Albuquerque . ” I took a detour ,” he told me. Why not !
One of these days he’ll fly off to Australia . I’d think about handing him a map but I don’t have any maps of Australia . Anyway , he long ago got the lesson about making it on his own . Ivan is his own person ; that’s for sure . And we’re not finished yet as friends .