Thursday, October 2, 2008

Munich 5.6.1998: Jügendstil Curtains and Pleasant Gays

As the previous entry indicates, yesterday in Munich. A long and rather tiring day, with none of that feeling of being in an exotic new place. The sun very hot, especially in the afternoon.

As my remarks opening this travelogue suggest, I feel I’m only skimming the surface these days, and all I write is fluff, the precious reaching for the tone one feels a sophisticated traveler should have. And yet I’m far from being sophisticated, far from being a good traveler.

What am I, beneath the surface? And what’s the place I’m in? Impressions: there’s the pain of feeling outside, and outside in more than a cultural way. On the train ride into town, a mother sat across from us with her daughter, sleepy-eyed (their eyes were shaped that way) and hostile. At one point, the daughter leaned over to whisper to the mother, obviously about us. What else could she have been saying except that we’re a couple?

And in the English Garden, we passed a man and woman, middle-aged, who had just been frolicking in the grass. He was thin, exaggeratedly macho with a little working-class cap on his head. After we had passed, I’m sure I heard him say, “Die angenehme Schwulen.” His wife questioned him, and he repeated, “Die Schwulen waren angenehme.”

Is it inside me, or outside? Am I simply imagining a hostility that’s not there, or does something about Steve and me—a new level of self-acceptance—now elicit the hostility?

How does one travel in a strange land? It doesn’t escape my notice that this is the question I Ching set me, a life question, as we moved to Little Rock.

Impressions: the monumental architecture of Königplatz. Again, that self-conscious appropriation of Greek grandeur, Roman glory. Commentaries on German culture speak of the insecurity of Germans. So much monumental architecture in Munich seems excessive, over the top, grandiloquent in the worst sense. Is that because Germans need to mask insecurity? Or do all Western nations need that classical reference? In the American South, after all, Jefferson built a virtual shrine to Greek culture, and Greek revival architecture dots the landscape from Richmond to Tyler, Texas.

Impressions: of the Englischer Garten, little to say, except that it’ there, and hot on a hot afternoon, when walking through, along the Eisbach, is more enduring than enjoying it was refreshing to stop for beer at the lakeside beer garden, but disappointing to find the other patrons so . . . homelike. I know better than to expect dirndls, lederhosen, and ooompahpah peasants—would be offended at the falseness. But I find it’s off-putting to keep running into so many Americanized young Germans. Again, I feel very outside (and sad, forlorn, not in touch with myself, whatever that latter commodity is).

After the museum, there was, of course, Schwabing, which I found mildly attractive. The Elizabeth market was a nice green oasis in the hot city. We bought Spanish peaches and broad beans there. Also found some linen Jügendstil curtains in a second-hand shop, for which I think Steve paid perhaps a bit too much (150 DM).

Afternoon and evening occupied in cooking the dinner we promised to cook to celebrate Maria’s birthday, and to meet her friends Connie and Elizabeth, who were nice. Everyone seemed to enjoy the meal, though the party went on longer than I would have liked, with too much wine, champagne, and schnapps.

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