Kate Rushin Everybody's Old Country for Joe, at work, in a Hartford cafe Dear Joe, today, because of some unnamed spark that suddenly flares up between two familiar strangers, I learn that you are from a different Old Country than I'd imagined: Prussia, Austrio-Hungaria, all of the Before-The-Wars: You were Josef, who taught chemistry at the university. who came to America seeking New York City, journalism and jazz; whose eyes suddenly widen, alive, when intoning: Cotton Club, Blue Note, Harlem. I was born Belladonna. Can you imagine that my small-town-brown-girl dreams were anything like yours? I, too, had to go looking for America, in search of poetry and cafes, art and jazz, roamed Washington Square, loved The City. Today, I'll take my Renaissance any way I can get it. My make-believe, renovated Apollo will take me as far as anybody's. If we never make it back overseas, we should, at least, go to Vegas, gaze at the replica of the Taj Mahal, take a ride with a gondolier. Even Venice, I read in the Sunday New York Times, isn't quite Venice, anymore. Decedents of olive growers and sheep herders have lost the land to condominia and foreclosure. Garbage at The Parthenon? Now, we understand that armies of old men keeping shop, armies of women sweeping plazas, were not merely quaint. They were essential to our Grand Tour. That world has come to this. Dear Joe, who does not drive or social-network, the next time somebody is in town, one of those beautiful cats who lives and breathes the music--I swear, I'll let you know, and we'll go. We'll stay for a set or two; savor the sweet bite of Pilsner and Manhattan, ride waves of sound, cross borders . . . Joe, I'll drop by and leave word or a note, like people used to do in everybody's old country.