Mom and I split a tab of chocolate I brought back from Prague and walk the dog down to the fields, the dog like the rest of us gone fat and walking funny, fat from eating bad things and snacking at odd hours, looks nervous, makes eye gestures like she can see the whole of me, grasps the cold in my heart I can’t hide.
They bulk stack buckets of de-icing salt in the grocery store and cases of Glühwein with handwritten signs in German — the mulled wine that’s ubiquitous, it’s even in our stores back home, always sounds like a good idea but never is, the rot-gut wine loaded up with sugar and god knows what else they put in there, it never ends well if you start the night that way. Still, it’s impossible to avoid if you visit a Christmas market in Germany, and some things are better to regret doing than not.
Mom and I this summer at the store, loading the car trunk with bottles of Rosé and Sekt, six packs of beer, 12 packs of beer, filling up the basket and bagging everything ourselves as it comes down the conveyor belt, shoving a few in the freezer when we get home, sorting the empties later in the week and dropping them in the mouths of the metal recycling bins on the street one at a time, green, white, brown: carving out the whole of the moon to make space for a new one.
Walking beneath Vitkov Hill in Prague through the pedestrian tunnel to the Křižíkova station on the yellow line toward Zličíň, the escalators seem twice the speed of the ones in the States, you get on and they kind of yank you forward and down, then back up through a wormhole to new monuments and sights and everywhere, tourists with selfie sticks, prompting me to say violent things and invade their scenes without pausing to duck or waiting for them to finish, like the tide they come in and out — they can just edit me out later.
Sitting outside the Malostranská beerhouse by a patio heater wrapped in a blanket sipping beer — Dawn, with a salmon tartare and white bread toast, the staff speaks English and smiles, asks, are we satisfied? And the men at their tables wearing scarves with well-coiffed beards look like they’re posing for a magazine, talking about the more refined destinations they’ve seen in Europe, which makes me feel just right for the moment, refined, completely unaware, lost in my own pages.
On the menu, there’s a collage of illustrations inspired by early 20th century ads for Italian liqueurs and aperitifs, a smiling pig slicing itself into sausage rounds — and I order the slow-pulled pork brisket marinated in red wine and herbs, served with barley vegetable risotto in a strong veal sauce and then back it with a Becherovka, a digestive aid of herbal bitters served in a chilled shot glass.
And though we planned to unplug for the weekend from our devices I still have an iPod on me, a cracked iPad and iPhone that’s wiped and now serves as a clock, a German cell phone with a €10 SIM card because we’re afraid we’ll get stranded somewhere and need assistance or on-demand entertainment, and later pull down movies from the Cloud that are still there from our last sabbatical in 2009.
Back home in Germany, it feels like home — mom makes an apple cake, has potpourri going on the stove, pulls out a kilo of Mozzarella she got from the Italians and makes a Caprese salad, and I get a bottle of Bourbon to thank Eberhard for his help with our new car, then some small gifts the kids can give their German teachers for letting them attend their class, and the German equivalent of Dramamine for Charlotte, who gets car sick and who knows what, on a 15-hour ferry ride across the North Sea in late October — and they’re calling for ice in the morning early next week, and we’re buying winter tires for our drive up north.
Mike let me know Echo & the Bunnymen are playing Liverpool mid-December, and we’re just on the other side of the water in Dublin then, but the crossing by boat is seven hours, and I’ll have to pass, and wait for them to come back to Seattle. It would take the same time from the UK for me to fly back home.