We took the 14 toward Backnang, past the place I bought a used hatchback one time with Eberhard, Sulzbach an der Merr. And I could still remember the turnoff where Dawn and I took the car for a test drive and the CD player worked great. That was the most important feature in a used car to me, as we’d be on the road for three months in the UK. We just about lived in that car with all our shit jammed in the back. Broke down outside of Bath, learned that the English call their car hood a bonnet.
Eberhard took mom and me to the naturfreundehaus in Lemberg, a guest house and restaurant set in the country, a stopping place for hikers and cyclists to get a meal and drink. It’s run by volunteers and they were unusually busy though, so Eberhard and I went inside to do the dishes; Eberhard showing me where to put things when they were clean, illustrating the most efficient method for washing: one of us hosing the dirty plates, the other loading the machine. Handling dirty utensils and clean, watching the other volunteers in the kitchen fix salads with their hands…I got to thinking about personal hygiene and Corona, but tried not to.
The alkoholfrei löwenbräu came in Hefeweizen glasses, and tasted just as good as the alcoholic kind. It came from nearby Schwabische Hall, hall meaning salt in English, where they’d been taking it out of the ground for 2,500 years.
I could remember what it felt like being in France when I first started coming to Europe, amazed by the historical scale of things. The sense I could be rooted in something permanent and lasting, like coming home. And I got the feeling people here worried less about things but maybe that was just living in the country, they were more down to earth. Here in Germany they had knowledge of pain on a deeper level, one we didn’t in America, but were likely to experience soon if we weren’t careful.
I took a handful of mom’s CDs for the drive and picked one out for our return trip to Besigheim. Steely Dan seemed too much, Nick Drake too solemn, so we split the difference with Van Morrison. When we got home mom got a message from Cadillac, he was up the road at Berne’s and would we stop by? I took the phone and called him, said this is Linda’s son, hoping he’d remember me. Cadillac is the American boogie-woogie musician we’d befriended several years ago when he and his band played the local wine festival. He’s still living in Germany since 2015.
When we got to the restaurant I told Cadillac the fedora makes you look a bit Indiana Jones, Temple of Doom era, and he laughed. Sometimes it feels like a Temple of Doom around here, he said.
As we waited for lunch and made small talk I told him how much his music meant to me, the time we first saw him in 2015. They played four nights in a row at the wine festival, four hours each night. I wrote about it on my blog and he remembered that, even quoted a line. And I wondered, did he have that same verbal memory recall thing like Charlotte and me? It’s handy for remembering certain things but makes it hard to forget, too.
Cadillac had shaved off the mustache portion of his beard and replaced it with a drawn-in version the way some ancient Egyptians once painted their eyes, thick, with a curly flourish on each end—something I wouldn’t have thought to do myself but it worked for him. And he’d tied his beard with a string to give it a ponytail look too. He used a small plastic water bottle to spritz himself in the heat, but I pretended not to notice that.
He spoke English now with an accent since he’d grown used to speaking it with Germans and adjusting his inflection, reordering the sequence of words in sentences to match the local logic. He sounded more Eastern European than American now as a result. You really could change your identity through language by disguising your native tongue, and reinvent yourself. And maybe that’s why for invading countries it was one of the first things they took away, the language.
Cadillac’s landlord had thrown him out with hardly any notice because the guy wanted to build more rental units on top of the house. But in a stroke of instant karma, his plans were halted when they discovered the remains of an ancient Schloss buried right beneath Cadillac’s rental, from the year 800. 800! So it would take some time to pick through all that before the landlord could build his new rentals, and we had a good laugh about that. The Indiana Jones theme was now complete.
We said goodbye and I told him we still have a box of his CDs and concert posters in my mom’s house but there’s no rush to get them. And then I keifed a couple of those CDs to play back home in the States.
The cornstalks are the color of sand now and thin as parchment paper, the sweet smell of sun-soaked earth, most of them shorn down. I retraced my walk past the orchards eyeing the ground for an apple no worm had found, only me. I guess we might as well get drunk before the winter comes, or because the summer’s past, or because fall is the time to harvest and to fill ourselves full. And I’m full myself from all this living, almost ready to be done.