Our first dog was a Great Dane. He was mostly black with a white patch on his chest. When we brought him home his ears were heavily taped to train them to stand up. We gave him a formal name of Black Russian and called him Russian. He was a good dog, albeit with some bad habits, the worst of which was his head-shaking. He did this quite often and when he did, his slobber would fly everywhere. Originally Mary wanted a Saint Bernard, a breed which has the slobbering problem even worse, so, in a strange way, I felt lucky.
We were unsuccessful teaching Russian the meaning of the term “come here”. Not only did he not come when called, he thought it was a game we were trying to play with him. When he got loose we’d run after him. None of us could catch up to his long legs, so he would put some distance between us, then stop and sit and wait for us to almost catch up. Then he would run away again. After a while I would send one or all the kids to chase him. Of course when he got loose at night it was impossible to even see him.
As most dogs, he didn’t like being left alone. To retaliate he used to chew on the furniture, at HIS EYE-LEVEL, which, in most cases, was the top of a piece of furniture.
His “place” was on a rug in front of the front door which we never used. He was in clear distress whenever Mary was cleaning that area and took up the rug to shake it outside. He kept circling the now empty space and was obviously unhappy. He didn’t settle down until that rug was back in its place and then he flopped down on it, happily looking around. Years alter we were in Budapest visiting my parents when they decided to renovate one of the rooms by painting the walls and ceiling and replacing the parquet flooring. All the furniture, including my father’s favorite chair, had to be moved to another room. My father was not happy until his chair was back in its place. I told him the Russian story and got a good laugh out of him.
One day we moved from one section of Levittown into another, about three miles away. Russian got away and, no matter where we looked, we couldn’t find him. Then the realtor we used for the move called, asking us if we had a dog. Turns out Russian went back to the old house and when the woman opened the back door to let their cat out, Russian nudged his way in (I am sure he didn’t have to try very hard) and laid down in front of the front door. The poor woman and her cat were petrified until we came to get Russian.
We used to chain Russian to a huge weeping willow tree in the backyard to let him do his business. That’s where he was this one day when we were all preparing to drive to the JFK airport to pick up my parents. We were all ready and I was watching out the window when I saw him notice something. His ears perked up and he started running in that direction. He never slowed down as the chain snapped and he disappeared out of sight. Needless to say, we were late picking up my parents. Luckily the Martonfalvays were also there and kept them entertained.
My mother took him for a walk one day and naturally he saw something and wanted to chase it. In the process he managed to drag my mother into some bushes. I think he realized what he did because he waited very patiently until my mother gathered herself and stood up before continuing to try to tear her arm from the socket.
I think he was twelve when we had to take him to the vet because he was in obvious pain. He never came home. He was a good dog.
My mother told me some stories about Buksi (pronounced Book-she), a dog she had when she was young, many times while I was growing up, so when we found a woman who was a breeder of vizslas, a particular Hungarian hunting dog, we bought a puppy from her. We thought it appropriate to call it Buksi after the “original”.
Chris came with us to pick him up and he was delighted when the little bundle slept in his lap for most of the way home. When Buksi was a puppy Chris taught him to whine, a trait he took to his grave. It was sure annoying and of course Chris was not living with us by then.
The "original" Buksi with my maternal grandfather and his son Pista.
He enjoyed being ouside but had to be tied up. He could run full speed with his nose an inch above the ground.
Here he is with his best buddy Pooh, Don and Catherine's favorite.
We had our Buksi for many years. He was Mary’s dog because wherever she went he was right next to her. The first time Mary was taking a bath and left the door open a crack, Buksi nudged it open with his nose and promptly jumped into the tub with her. He loved water, although he wasn’t a good swimmer. He was tied up in the back-yard for hours on end but didn’t derive any enjoyment from it. He liked to run around and had the knack of being able to run at full speed with his nose inches from the ground.
He quite often ran away and would grace the Danberry’s driveway with a pile of excrement. It wasn’t until we moved to New York State that he finally found himself at home. We could leave him untied and he would stay around the house, for all but a few occasions. Once he was caught by the dog-catcher and once he disappeared for a week or so, during which we had no idea where he was. When he came back, he didn’t look or act hungry, so we think somebody took him in. He was a good looking, affectionate, gentle dog and I still miss him from time to time. His hair was very short, so he would get cold very quickly in the wintertime. His hair was also the softest of any dog I’ve felt. When he died Mary and I both cried as we buried him in the backyard.
Watkins Glen, New York was and is my car racing Mecca. John Ferguson introduced me to it and car racing many years ago. In the late sixties, early seventies racing’s most elite drivers gathered from around the world to compete in the prestigious Formula One races at the Glen.
Watkins Glen is a small village, whose population swelled during this time. A quarter of a million people used to converge at this scenic Upstate New York location to watch the races, drink alcohol, raise hell and have a weekend-long party held always during the first weekend in October.
Racing at Watkins Glen dates back to the 30s, when cars were racing through the local roads and streets of the village. A deadly accident killing some spectators altered the race course forever. The facility now sits atop a mountain overlooking the scenic Seneca Lake. When I first started going to the races the track length was much longer than it is now (over 5 miles, memory serves), so the activities could not be observed from one place. Driving to the track meant climbing a pretty good incline. Looking back a gorgeous view of the lake was afforded, then the track came into view. Almost simultaneously you were treated to the smell of burning castor oil used for racing. I will never forget this smell. It signified that you have arrived! Although racing was always over four days (Thursday through Sunday) we could never get the time to get there until late Friday or Saturday morning, by which time the race cars were already circling the track, qualifying or practicing.
Part of the reason for going was to watch the many exotic cars belonging to the spectators. Ferraris and Lamborghinis could always be observed either driving around the village or parked behind restrictive fences of private club’s parking lots. Back then you could get really close to the race cars also.
The garages were infield and there was a road leading from the garages to the track. Most of the time the race cars were driven by mechanics but once in a while you could catch a glimpse of someone famous in the cockpit. I saw Dan Gurney, Stirling Moss and Jack Brabham this way. They were literally inches from me. There were goose bumps galore! Once I was standing on this road when a 427 Cobra idled by me, literally shaking the ground. The guy was looking very nonchalantly and I was sooooo envious!
During the evening you could go inside the garages and watch the mechanics work on these works of art. Once in a while one would be started up and the throttle blipped lightly, then harder, sending shivers up my back.
We attended a Can Am race one year. For those who don’t know, these monsters sported huge wings and had big-block V8 engines of unlimited size and horsepower and they literally shook the ground and the inside of your chest whenever they sped by. It was always an awesome experience. I was prepared with two cameras but I brought no film for either, saying that I will get film at the track. When we got there nobody had film and I had no time to go down to the village to find some. Shortly after the start there was a bad accident just past our vision to the left. All we could see was the smoke. The race was red-flagged and all the drivers parked their cars and got out and talked with some of the spectators and her I was with TWO cameras and no film. This taught me an important lesson and I never left without film again.
These races attracted all kinds of people, some nice, some not. I local told me about a couple he saw walking on the streets of Watkins Glen, who could’ve been members of a bad motorcycle gang. He was wearing a glass vial around his neck with his girlfriend’s finger in it, which she cut off, to presumably prove her love for him.
To save money we always camped at the races. In the beginning we didn’t have camping equipment, so we tried to sleep in the car. I say “tried” because the partying went on until the wee hours of the morning. I never enjoyed these nights.
One year there was a bunch of guys driving around the infield in the back of a pickup truck. There was a large hand-drawn sign “SHOW US YOUR TITS” dangling from a frame in the bed. Much shouting and drinking could be observed while they were looking for their “victim”, a well endowed young woman. Once they found one they made their request and quite often were obliged, amid more rowdiness and drinking.
At the farther reaches of the track there was a muddy spot. Some inebriated spectators took delight in riding through this spot with their motorcycles. To not get their clothes dirty (what???), they stripped down to their underwear (remember, it was October) and had a great time, much to the delight of those other inebriated bystanders. More and more people joined in as the years went by, as the muddy hole kept growing in size. Someone nicknamed it “The Bog” and the next year there were t-shirts with the picture of The Bog with an arm reaching out from the mud, with the words underneath “The Bog Wants You”.
Soon riding a motorcycle through wasn’t enough, so they started with cars. When one got stuck, they lit a match to it and let it burn. The last year of the bog’s life a Greyhound bus was driven into the mud hole with people’s luggage still on it and, when it got stuck, they burned it, too. I guess the authorities drew a line and The Bog died. It wasn’t too long after that the Formula One races were stopped and they have not returned since. Corning bought the track and poured a lot of money into it, raised the ticket prices and the whole ambience changed. It was fun while it lasted, unless you came in on a Greyhound bus.
I took my father with us to the races once. He loved to take pictures and I was pretty sure he hadn’t seen anything like this before. John Ferguson was with us and we all slept in his tent. When we got up the next morning I sensed that my father wasn’t happy about something, so I asked him. He said it was that he couldn’t shave. For decades previous to that day he shaved every day but that day he couldn’t. He also wore a tie every day, unless it was extremely humid or when he was watching a car race.
We walked up to the fence to get as close to the cars as possible. We pointed our cameras and waited for the cars to come by. They were very close to us at this part of the track and they were going very fast. The technique to photograph a fast moving object is called panning. Framing the car in the viewfinder you move with the car as you squeeze the button. The effect of doing this keeps the car in focus, while blurring the background, giving the sensation of movement. He just wasn’t fast enough at this part of his life. He kept trying to do it but he kept missing it, growing frustrated. Now that I am his age, I fully understand his dilemma and wish I could tell him.
Another time we were watching the race when a wall of fog rolled onto the track. It was so thick that I couldn’t see the track and the race was red-flagged. Never before, nor since have I seen this phenomenon.
John Ferguson bought a Formula V opened-wheel race car powered by a Volkswagen engine. He asked me to “pit” for him at his debut in Watkins Glen. We had much trouble with the car and I certainly didn’t have much fun trying to push-start it.
Years later after building the Pinto I got a chance to observe my Porsche mechanic racing at Watkins Glen. He had a Formula B race car which really wasn’t running all that great but I got to sit in it and here is the picture to prove it. It felt great, by the way!
I have many hundreds of slides of race cars from Watkins Glen. The memories of the sights and sounds and smells surrounding each and every picture are private and cannot be transcended to others. It resembles the experience of hearing and seeing Luciano Pavarotti in person: It must be experienced first-hand.
Fast-forward to 1998 when I was driving Audi #2, a hibiscus-red A4 with a 1.8 liter turbocharged engine. I joined the Audi Quattro Club and participated in a driving class at the Watkins Glen racetrack. I had an aftermarket ECU installed before the event to increase the power by 30%. I was excited to be driving on the track so many greats of racing have raced on over the years. I always envisioned myself as a racecar driver in my dreams but I am glad I kept my day-job, as the saying goes. Lying in bed with eyes closed I re-lived driving on the track many times after that weekend, listening to the tires sing and the wind rushing by the open window.
The next chapter is:
I Return to Hungary in 1972