My 48 Hours at the Heart of Polish Rock
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because Jagger was busy. And boring.
By Abraham Mahshie
“Are you looking for Tymon? He’s inside waiting for you.”
She wore pajamas and sunglasses. The afternoon was fading, and we were standing in the middle of the street in a quiet suburb of Gdansk, Poland, in front of a three-story red brick home surrounded by a black iron fence. A blue tricycle was turned over in the drive.
I introduced myself and my cousin. The woman laughed. “Oh, I thought you two were gay,” and she went cheerily off to get beer while Polish rocker Tymon Tymański emerged on the porch, his arms braced on the iron railing. He shouted something to his wife, then to us.
“Come on up! Great to see you!” I climbed the steps and went for a handshake. Tymon went for a bro hug. Before I knew it, he ushered us past an explosion of toys on the living room floor, inviting us to squeeze around a tiny kitchen table so he could make kotlet schabowy, traditional Polish pork chops. Talking the whole time. Not just talking but rapid-fire, stream-of-consciousness stuff on Buddhism, Polish history, politics, masturbation and rock ’n’ roll.
Oil spilled along the stove top, hitting another flame and igniting. Tymon kept talking.
“They used to interview me all the time,” he said. In fact, pretty famously, Playboy magazine interviewed him, and he planted a big one on Vladimir Putin at a time many would have considered politically sensitive on account of Polish support for the pro-democratic Orange Revolution. “War is evil,” he had said, blaming it on “gray-haired impotents who can’t get it up anymore, and that is the exact situation of Putin. He’s got everything — power, women, yachts and palaces — but he looked down and realized he can’t get it up anymore.” Ouch.
And now that Poland has swung nationalist, “There were more liberal papers before. The media is afraid now. The only liberal paper left is Gazeta Wyborcza. But when I die, I want to be cremated. In Poland, you’re not allowed to keep the ashes, but I told my son how to steal my ashes so he could bring them home and spread them in the Baltic Sea.”
It wasn’t rambling. It was analytical. “Do you want some chips, man? Do you want some chips?” Sure.
You see, his dad had just died but “his spirit is still in the basement.” We could meditate later next to his Buddhist shrine, if we wanted. He had wanted his dad to die in his home, but instead he had spent his final month in hospice care. He died while Tymon was down in Łódz for a gig.
Natalia, Tymon’s fourth wife, a former reggae DJ and current parental blogger who goes by Marysia, came back with tallboy lemon-infused beers. Tymon dumped a pound of sliced potatoes into a boiling pot of oil and suddenly the kitchen was on fire. Oil spilled onto the stove top, hitting another flame and igniting. Tymon kept talking, without pause, so I asked my cousin, an EMT from upstate New York, what to do. Hours earlier, he had told me most house fires start from cooking. “Just don’t put water on it,” he said. We didn’t.
After a lunch of lightly charred pork chops, Tymon put on a black leather jacket. Outside, he pulled toys, papers and shopping bags from the front seat of his SUV and balanced them on his children’s car seats in the back. I climbed in and we headed downtown for beers.
A cold wind began to whip up from the Motława River at the outdoor café where we drank half-liters of Tyskie. Tymon refused to zip up his Harley Davidson jacket. He didn’t like the way it looked. He stood up to show us Qigong: “It’s how you avoid conflict.” Kick. Slice. Turn. Bow.
He was slightly out of breath, sweat beaded on his forehead. He sat down and showed us the forbidden karate moves: elbow to the neck, fingers to the eyes, fist to the crotch.
Then sex: “I had a rebound girl between the second and third wife who was a stunt woman. I would ask her to do a split on my face. She loved it.” And from sex to Polish history to music and back to Polish history, politics, freedom, drugs, media, society. He used to write columns. He also cohosted a TV show for three years and did radio for seven.
Back at Tymon’s house, in his converted garage studio, built with the last of the money from the radio show, he pointed to a framed gold record of ’80s Yugoslav rock leaning against the wall. His shiny black upright bass was behind a Beatles drum set, next to a Blüthner piano. The album cover from his jazz album Miłość (“Love”) hung on the wall. He didn’t have the latest technology, but he was proud: It was the same REDD 38 recording console used by the Beatles and Lenny Kravitz. He would be hosting young bands, helping them work out their kinks melodically. He was going to quit his current band, maybe reincarnate with a new jazz quartet or a quintet. And this fall, he and his son Lucas will appear on Poland’s TVN for the second edition of a program called Asia Express in a prime example of truth being stranger than fiction.
“Tymon the rocker, the Buddhist, the philosopher, the jazzman,” he said, smiling broadly. We stood drinking tea brewed with copious amounts of honey. “I always wanted to bury my father as a Buddhist.”
Abraham Mahshie is a Madrid-based writer who has covered everything from ex-guerrillas in Latin America to bullfighting in Spain. He also blogs about his culinary, cultural and nature-inspired road trips aboard his father’s 1982 VW Camper Van.
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