Laszlo Jakab Orsos, Cultural Curator, and His Sunday Routine
You know that tender melancholy that seeps unbidden into the last hours of the weekend? Yes, you do. Laszlo Jakab Orsos, director of the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, was trying to put his finger on it the other day. “There is this unspoken sense that behind the walls everyone is preparing for the ordeal of the next week,” he said, from his apartment in Brooklyn Heights. “You feel that anxiety somehow. Best-case scenario is when you’re home with a nice red wine, listening to music, and then a friend calls and you talk about life.” The festival comes to New York May 4 through 10, and Mr. Orsos, who is either 50 or 51 (“that’s a larger philosophical question,” he said), will be responsible for herding more than 100 writers and artists from around the world. After which a little swoony melancholy and red wine might not seem so bad.
EARLY START: Being a good Cancer, or being just myself, I’m a historically early riser. I wake up early, no matter what, even if I came home late from a party. I wake up around 7. If I wake up at 8, it feels like early afternoon to me.
FOLLOWING THE SUN: I consider myself an organic creature. I’m like a plant. If it’s sunny outside, I can’t stay inside. One of my most beloved routines if the weather is good is to wake up, grab my fantastic old bike and just bike somewhere nearby and grab coffee before the craze starts.
WATER WORKS: I used to be a professional swimmer. But it was a long time ago. A couple years ago I had this crazy idea to go back to the pool. It was my dream to go back to my teenage regimen, three and a half or four hours a day. Of course it couldn’t happen. But I was really curious how far I can go. I have to sadly report that this is 35, 45 minutes at the most a day.
AVOIDING THE BRUNCH SCENE: I love meeting my friends if they are around. But not proper brunch. I hate standing in lines at popular places, but I can actually do a good lunch here at home. That’s one of the options. I just hate to spend time waiting and getting into noisy popular brunchy places.
USEFUL THOUGHTS, USELESS STUFF: Then trying to wrap your mind around the upcoming week — that starts quite early on Sunday. What’s going to happen? What do I want to achieve? But while I’m doing that I can do other stuff, too. I love flea markets. That’s my other obsession. So I go to the Flea on Saturday in Fort Greene or Sunday in Williamsburg. Like everything else in the city, it has morphed into an entertainment extravaganza more than a good old authentic flea. But I really love the vendors and just hanging out and eventually buying. I’m a big spender, so I love buying stuff. I have more useless stuff.
DRIFTING: I try to teach all my loved ones to be able to do nothing. In a competitive city like New York, it’s one of the most important skills to develop — to be able to do nothing and don’t feel guilty. So one of my happiest times is to bike to Red Hook behind Ikea to this beautiful park and just sit there and of course grab a book. But just reading a page, eating an apple, just hang out. Just drift. That’s really important. And the more you let yourself sink into nothingness, into the void, the more you can bring back.
HUNGARIAN HOST: A big, important chunk of my life is back home in Hungary, and Sunday afternoons find me on Skype very often, talking to my friends and family. All these relationships are very alive. From spring on, friends are coming from Europe, so I’m a host. It’s already started. As soon as the weather turns better around late March or April, you start getting emails: “Hey, we’re in town, can we meet?” I kind of like it.
OUT FOR THE EVENING: I love to go to Harlem to meet one of my best friends in the city. We either grab a nice late afternoon drink at the Red Rooster and some food, or I just hang out at her place and chat. Or I stay home and meet some people later for supper. Or go to movies — I don’t have a TV, and I don’t like to see movies on the computer.
LOVE AND OTHER SORROWS: It all finishes in bed, and you just think about love and other sorrows. That’s the best way to fall asleep. My usual bedtime is around 1 a.m. Music is always on. It’s either the Marianne Faithfull-Laurie Anderson type of music or classical music.