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My first real memory may very well be the opening scene from Star Wars: A New Hope, in which, after the floating text tells us the world is at war, Darth Vader and his stormtroopers seize Princess Leia’s ship. While rebel soldiers line the hallways, stormtroopers blast open the air-locked door and begin firing lasers. A moment later, Vader comes through with his black mask and heavy breath, cape sweeping the ground behind him, and sometime after that we see lightsabers and landspeeders, X-wing and Tie-fighters, the Millennium Falcon and the Death Star, and I’ll say now “ignite” is too weak a word to apply to what that movie did to my imagination.

Suddenly we were all looking at the stars, wondering what went on above our heads. Or we were arguing if lightsabers were real, if we could learn to use the force to move things with our minds or convince our mothers to take us swimming if she said no the first time. I still wonder, occasionally, when I’ve left a light on after climbing into bed, if I couldn’t just turn it off with the wave of a hand. More… “Watching the Skies”

Paul Crenshaw’s essay collection This One Will Hurt You is forthcoming from The Ohio State University Press in spring 2019. Other work has appeared in Best American Essays, Best American Nonrequired Reading, The Pushcart Prize, anthologies by Houghton Mifflin and W.W. Norton, Oxford American, Ecotone, Brevity, North American Review, and Glimmer Train, among others. @PaulCrenstorm

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Everybody was excited about Eastern Europe after the Wall came down and during the transitions of the early 90s. Prague became the new spot for young American literary types and artists looking to recreate the ex-pat feel of the first half of the 20th century in Western Europe. And then, quickly and almost imperceptibly, the attention shifted, the fascination dried up.

Budapest is once again in its own corner of the world, not entirely sure to what history it belongs or to what future it will re-attach itself. This is the second stage in the story of the great transformations that brought the 20th century to a close and that ended the tragic and then tragic-comic story of communism in Europe. The first chapter was euphoria mixed with a slight tinge of trepidation — the Soviet empire was no more. The second chapter is more like a hangover, a vague… More…