Some of the girls in the beer tent wear their hair braided Princess Leia style and some of them look like nymphs on a Led Zeppelin album cover crawling on rocks, or a Maxfield Parrish print lazing by the pool checking their phones, smoking.
I look down at my German sweater and realize it’s got dried mustard on it from a late night sausage at the festival and that makes it authentic: on the menu they have traditional Swabian dishes with German lard on bread, radishes, meat: and I learn the meaning of the word Wiener schnitzel, it’s from Wien (German for Vienna); it’s veal cutlets pounded thin and breaded in egg batter, deep-fried and served with a lemon twist — and Eberhard explains they can only call it that if it comes from the calf, otherwise it’s just schnitzel, and even the kids’ sized portions are the size of a deflated basketball they’re so big, but each time they get it, the plates go back to the kitchen clean.
On Sundays we only play classical music, and I hear Benny coming down the steps early, probably to play guitar. He’s young enough he still has that feeling in the morning when he wakes he has to get up because he just wants to live he says, and I remember that feeling too, but it’s been a while.
I ask him to write down the phrase he taught me last summer, Morgenstund hat Gold im Mund (‘the morning hour has gold in its mouth’), and I teach him the meaning of the English phrase to cut the cheese.
He says it’s like the sun kissed him when it came up — and I make a play on words with the German word for pillow, Kissen.
Benny tells the story of how his dad Christoph met his mom, because she’s American, and it was part of an exchange program for Americans and Germans who were into Bach: his mom would play the piano in the university and Christoph would come listen, and bring her flowers.
And mom gets out the photo album, one dedicated to our first house in West Seattle — and it was spring then too when they came, we all looked so much younger, with pictures of me doing Yoga poses inverted, the cats we had, our crazy neighbors who came from a small town on the Olympic Peninsula, who grew up in the same town as Kurt Cobain, and carried that same look of chaos about them.
When John got sick, not long after they moved to Germany, they had to put in a lift so he could get from one floor to the other from his wheelchair. It’s a fold-out seat with a lever that runs up and down each flight of the steps, but we don’t use it for anything.
They also had to put in a raised floor to true-up the height between his office and the rest of the second floor, and because it’s about six inches of empty space below the floor boards it squeaks like a stage in a bad theater set whenever anyone walks across it, and you can hear anytime someone gets up in the middle of the night for the bathroom.
Dawn and I do a number on the hotel mini-bar in Vienna, get last minute tickets for a classical music performance in an old church, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (Die Vier Jahrezeiten) with an opera singer who fills every crack in the church with the sound he can access from inside him and it fills all of us, moves us — and when the applause breaks apart and fades it makes the same sound as when the waves crash on the Pacific coast back home, how they slap the rocks and bounce off the cliffs and go back out to sea — like the church bells here in quarter hour increments, how we pass between, sometimes reminded by the sounds of when and where we are.
Now the grass is growing long on either side of a trail I take on a ridge that overlooks the edge of the Black Forest to the south, and it’s two seasons we’ve interrupted coming here in the middle of the summer last year and leaving now in the middle of spring — and the trail doesn’t look the same anymore — like me, it’s still green, changed, and unchanged too.
We play classical music on Sundays because of a radio program back home where they broadcast live the sound of medieval chants, the liturgical offices, the last of a daily cycle of fixed-hour prayer, which Dawn’s mom has tried to explain to me but I still don’t understand — and we like to end the week that way because it’s relaxing, it feels cleansing, and though we can’t make out the words or know what it means since most of it is in Latin, it’s how I’d like to end every week, my life or a good book, on a peaceful note.