Mr. Cowbird was the hyperactive kahuna of the culture scene in Badenweiler, a small spa in the Black Forest which used to be a nobility hangout in the 19th century. Its claims to glory and fame reside more in the past – it is the site of baths from Roman times, the ruins of which are still around, and the place where Anton Chekhov died in 1904.
Russian poet Vyacheslav Kupriyanov – probably better known in Germany than in his native country or anywhere else – had come to give a reading, which I attended to finally meet him in person. His and mine publisher had told me a lot about him.
The reading drew an immense crowd of about 18. Mr. Cowbird presented the poet with a lot of not so succinct words, making reference to this and that – including Kupriyanov’s more famous compatriot and old ties to Russia – and eventually allowed him to read.
Kupriyanov’s poems, particularly the funny ones and the ones he read in Russian, were received with lots of applause – much better than the prose. I seem to recall that he read an excerpt from his novel “The Wet Manuscript,” which left the audience in a state between puzzled and dazed.
Afterwards, Mr. Cowbird and his secretary led a small flock of die-hards to a Weinstube to celebrate the event with some of the excellent local wine and plenty of self-congratulation by Mr. Cowbird.
What do you do when exposed to the incessant onslaught of such an overwhelming ego? I mostly just sat there and blinked my eyes, as did everyone else.
I ordered red wine. Before the waitress could give it to me when she arrived with her tray, Mr. Cowbird, who had been impatiently awaiting the white wine he had ordered, grabbed the glass off the tray, took a good gulp and went on rambling.
Once, when he had asked Kupriyanov a question and actually let him answer it, Mr. Cowbird looked at his wine glass and said, “Did I order that? That’s pretty bad. I didn’t order that.”
“No, you didn’t. That was mine,” I said.
– L. Blumfeld (© 2008)
Written for Totally Optional Prompts.