1ST VIII 2015
Dawn and I lay in bed with our arms threaded through each other’s until I lost track which were mine and which were hers, but I could tell she was awake despite the time, so we got up to watch the sun rise and the last of the bats, our first morning on a nine-month tour of Europe.
I got concerned last night it wouldn’t feel the same as it does on a vacation where everything has that charmed quality to it — but then Eberhard asked if I’d go hiking with him in the Austrian alps for a few days, and we met some German friends of my mom’s at the restaurant up the road and got to talking politics on no sleep and lots of drinks, and stuffed ourselves with cold cuts and soft pretzels, and it all feels better than I imagined already.
The autobahn was closed in one direction because a petrol truck ran into another petrol truck and blew up, leaving petrol all over the road — and the other autobahn was overloaded Eberhard said, so it took about three hours for a two-hour drive, and we all dozed to the sound of German radio while Eberhard drank Pepsi and played with the settings on the AC, which doesn’t work and just blows hot air.
Dawn was worried there’d be a mix-up at the airport because Eberhard wasn’t there at the Meeting Point but I insisted he’d find us; he’s an ex-cop and no one’s more concerned about preserving or restoring order than he is, like a dog with a ball-addiction he’d find us.
Here only a day, and we’re already talking about World War II with some Germans and taking care in how we talk about it, though I broke a glass toasting and everyone on the street stopped to look, and my friend Bruce at Starbucks who took over my project said Don’t be the ugly American when he wished me goodbye, and that’s the best advice.
There is the word Wirtschaft and the word Gemeinschaft, and that’s the problem with Europe, Siggi’s friend says: a unified economy with the EU, but no unified community.
Siggi can help show us around the public baths, where both genders go nude which I’m not quite ready for, despite getting through an awkward Thanksgiving with some friends in Puyallup, where we all stripped down and hopped in their hot tub, their kids shy of puberty by just a few years and me coming in last, all of them looking.
Mom uses fly paper which the cat gets caught in when she rubs it, damn awful fun to watch — and the other cat, her sister, has gone missing which isn’t the end of the world because I like this one better. Ruby killed because she enjoyed killing in that cowardly, sociopathic way — the one I got into a fight with over a baby bunny she was mauling, and had to take it off her and put it in the compost.
Mom’s brand of coffee is aggressively bad, unacceptable by Pacific Northwest standards, and we may have to drive to Stuttgart to a Starbucks to stock up. It’s bad, but like cigarettes I can’t stop drinking it once I start despite how bad the taste, I need the rush.
I climbed the Himmelsleiter to the top of the vineyards and the valley for a long loop through the forest, remembering our sabbatical here in 2009, not knowing how it will end this time but assured it’s like some odd, intricate weave in the fabric of our lives and I’m just going to live it.
The kids were up with us at dawn too, not used to the sound of the church bells that toll every 15 minutes since the beginning of time. And who needs a watch or alarm or smartphone with that?
The grape clusters are the size and color of green peas fattening, with the Winzerfest planned 18. – 21. September; it happens every two years and with our luck, we hit it. Also the Cannstatter Volksfest, the second largest beer festival in the world, just a half hour train ride and much easier to get into the tents than the Munich version — the beer’s a few tenths of a percentage point higher, too.
Eberhard leaves a magazine of Montafon behind, that’s got an illustrated centerfold of the Austrian peaks and valleys, with symbols and a legend showing all the guesthouses where you can stay, the cable cars and lakes. I guess they have people there with Schnapps they offer you at certain checkpoints, just because.
When we check in at the airport in SeaTac I’m worried at least one of our four pieces of luggage will exceed the weight limit but the scale is busted and the Lufthansa guy says it doesn’t matter how much it weighs: Today must be your lucky day, Mr. Pearse.