Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Salzburg, 10.7.03: Oberskrems and Die Wärme

Sitting at Leopoldskron while Steve introduces himself to the seminar organizers. I’m on a bench under beautiful old trees—beeches?—that have a lattice of some very old vines going up their trunks. That is, the vines themselves are the lattice. It’s as if they were artfully arranged to form a lattice design. I can’t see any leaves to identify the vines, but they’re enormous, at least a foot across where they spring from the ground.

At my feet, between two granite pillars and down granite steps, is a lake, serene and green with myriads of green trees reflected in it. A soul-making place to sit.

And then interrupted. Steve brought me inside, we did email, and are now on the bench outside the nuns’ church, under the venerable sycamore I so much admired yesterday. I have my back in a corner of the stone wall, very old and irregular, and am facing the arch leading to the church. A cool wind is coming down from the mountains. It couldn’t be a more beautiful summer day, cooler and less humid than yesterday when we arrived.

In the distance behind me on both sides are the Alps, and the gold spire of a church is immediately below—Erhardskirche, I believe. I’m enjoying the beautiful place, the climate, the respite from work and worry (the latter meant relatively).

We’ve just had a lunch we bought at a Feinkost shop in the street on which our hotel (Struber Garni) is located, Nonnthalerhauptstrasse. We’ve had smoked farmer’s sausage, gherkins, farmer’s bread, tomatoes, apples, a smelly Alpenzeller cheese, beer, and orange juice—accompanied by a tube of Oberskrems I picked up thinking I was getting mustard. The shop lady must have thought what bizarre people these Americans (or English, as the hotel manager thought we were) are: Oberskrems with farmer’s sausage.

Oberskrems is one of the great discoveries of this trip. We’ve had it twice, both times, I think, with smoked trout. It’s delicious, a mix of whipped cream, horseradish, a bit of vinegar, and a touch of sugar.

Two Franciscans, youngish, have just walked past in full habit. One, somewhat bald and with reddish brown hair and nice brown eyes, has just waved and spoken to the nuns’ workman, who has scythed the wildflowers bordering their lane, Nonnberggasse. He then looks at me with a half smile and perhaps to see if I have noticed his cheery greeting of the workman, who is working in the full sun with no shirt. I freeze. Why is it I can’t return a smile under such circumstances? The other, younger, looks very austere.

I gather many German Catholics believe none of their priests is gay or engages in gay activities. MJR was very dismissive when Steve suggested such a possibility for her uncle, a priest. Why? I wonder. Is it true? Is homosexuality impossible for German people to imagine? What is deep in their tribal culture that makes that human possibility impossible to imagine?

Dream last night: men descend to earth in an auto, ingratiate themselves. Once accepted, they transmute into alligators. They announce that they are the lords of creation as identified in Genesis. Humans have had it wrong. We’re their herd, to manage and consume as we’ve done with “lower” animals.

Somehow, a group of us have foreseen this and have hidden in an old school. One discovers the headmaster has killed and stashed the bodies of pupils all in a kind of crawlspace in the school. He hides among the bodies.

The alligators are extraordinarily good at sniffing out the hidden humans. They suspect someone’s in the bodies, but for some reason, can’t sniff him out. They’re determined to find him. They leave no one. The head alligator has to keep all the others fed, or they turn on each other, thrashing about and gnashing their teeth in a menacing way.

The alligators find a church full of people who seem to think hiding in a church will offer them sanctuary. They find this hilarious. It elicits their cruelty. They pick out people to torment, biting off bits at a time and laughing uproariously. They’re angry when a man they’ve been torturing this way dies of shock.

Then it becomes apparent one group of people has been left totally alone. We realize they’re chosen to breed continuing stock, and have been chosen because of their humanity. But a significant proportion of this group are gay men. The alligators admit they’ve made this mistake before: the gays appeal because of their gifts and humanity, but aren’t good breeding stock.

Why this dream? I decided this morning lots of factors interplay: that statue of the debased Jew, who’s both alligator-like in his prone position and the sacrificial victim; a scene I saw on German t.v. a few nights ago of native Americans torturing a man by lifting him with ropes affixed to stakes thrust horizontally through his chest; perhaps even a tree we passed yesterday, which I may have seen and which has a trimmed section very like an alligator’s face.

Another factor may have been hearing two early adolescents talking last evening as we walked to the restaurant about die Wärme. The inhumanity of humans to humans….

And now as we write, a remarkable occurrence. Some people have sat down on the bench, Americans. Steve helps them with directions. The woman sounds Irish. I ask if she is. She says American, but her father was Irish. I ask from where. She says Offaly.

She asks about my Irish roots. I say Mullinavat. She’s astonished. Her uncle was schoolmaster there. She has relatives there. She gives me her name and address and says she intends to ask her family about my Ryans.

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