Sunday, June 29, 2008

Hamburg, 14.6.90: Reeperbahn Forays and Sweet Williams

*Hamburg, 14.6.90

It's 3 A.M., I unable to sleep—very bad night. I was awakened about 1:30 by two men singing loudly and eerily in German, in bass voices—perhaps opera . . . . This following a day in which I finally had slept soundly for the first time, only to have Steve come knocking at my door at 5:45, telling me it was 7:45 and time to arise. He had misread the clock. I was unable to return to sleep and got up none too happy to be catapulted suddenly from deep sleep to full waking.

Consequently, a most wretched day, and I have only fragmented impressions:

A man passing as we looked at a butcher shop-lunch place sign and saying, “Sauerkraut? Yes, in Bavaria.”

+ + + + +

A sausage place, Heisse Ecke, on a corner of the Reeperbahnstrasse, at which Steve and I had an Abendbrot of bread, Krakow sausages, and pommes frites. An oom-pah-pah song came on the juke box, loud, and a portly man sang loudly and maudlinly as a little old woman behind the counter chimed in off-key only every three lines or so. She had a perpetual cigarette and wore white socks and white sandals. A man came in with cowboy hat, boots and spurs, and she held animated conversation with him.

+ + + + +

A street off Reeperbahnstrasse with mostly gay kino shops and a Gaylords club: für Herren. Steve and I walked in the street and it was practically deserted. At the end of it a woman, blond, frowsy, hung out a window with voluminous balloons of breasts exposed. We returned and entered the gay kino. It was dark and unwholesome, full of men who continually walked from one dark doorway marked Toiletten to another surmounted by a red neon light. Most of them were horrendously tall. It was my first, and I think shall be my last, visit to such an establishment: dark, dirty, dangerous-feeling.

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A downtown restaurant Steve, Kathleen, and Abner and I happened on after much searching, at which we had what I suppose is a typical German Mittagessen of sausage or pork chops or chopped pork (I chose the latter) with potatoes, kohlrabi, rotkohl. The waiter looked Bavarian, short and stocky and dark but blue-eyed, and was insultingly solicitous and openly so when Steve tipped him. I hated it all—he kept circulating around the serving counter and talking about us with the restaurant owner and looking and smirking. Some patrons participated. Did we step into a Deutschland über alles remember-the-war club?

+ + + + +

Flower shops full of sweet Williams and multi-colored rosebuds for sale.

*I am more than a little embarrassed by this 1990 German travelogue. It was my first trip to Germany. Since then, I have gone back quite a few times, staying on several occasions for a month or so with German-speaking families. My German is vastly improved, though still halting. In light of my more recent travels, I realize how naive my first impressions were in 1990. Still, there they are. I recorded them. And I still own them, no matter how much I'd qualify them if I were recording them today.

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