All the leaves are brown.
And the sky is gray-
Went for a walk on the island yesterday.
We have several of them here in the Rhine.
For some of them, there are bridges,
for one there is an absolutely magical little ferry called the Tamara,
for another, a LONG circular staircase you have to carry your bike down,
which starts in the middle of the main bridge
between Hessen and the Rheinland Palatinate.
One or two other islands are private farms-
rights dating back to about 1400.
But the majority, including the biggest,
the Rhine Knee peninsula,
where Charlemagne one camped,
are public access.
Always with a walking path,
or a dog path,
or even a small car park and barbecue pits.
Almost every square inch here in Gutenberg land is used.
I have even heard, quite often, from the locals,
that Americans’ houses are far too large,
for the few people in the family.
(they have normally only seen pictures in magazines or on the tv of the rich and famous)
And it’s because the German building plan,
and city zoning,
are totally different than ours…
Even today, the houses are built vertically, not horizontally.
A street frontage of a few feet is the norm.
And attached on both sides to other houses.
It has its advantages.
Warmer in winter,
less road repair,
better access to public transport,
And a ridiculously low property tax per year.
Plus a small tax to put in a common (one) street light.
At night, the second,
or in some cases, third,
floor living room windows light the street.
And the windows are bigger now, since they invented double-glazing.
A vast improvement over the days when everyone here had tiny windows to fop the tax man,
because each window was a luxury- with a high tax according to size.
In the old part of the city, along the main street, behind the cathedral,
the houses are small,
with small windows,
but four stories,
and grow together at the top.
In a few places, you would have no trouble going from one maid’s room to another
across the street without leaving the house.
Many houses still have the hook and pully system,
left over from the days when the servants pulled the shopping up into the livingroom,
if they weren’t strong enough to carry it.
Monday is the day Gutenberg land does brewing.
You can always tell, since the entire town smells of carrots.
And the day that the farmers and butchers slaughter.
You can tell by the signs in the butchers’ saying “fresh liver, wurst soup Tuesday.
Wurst soup is the water they cook the hotdogs and luncheon meat in here.
It contains all the leftover bits.
A bit like coarsely ground hotdog filling floating in it.
And is so highly prized it is served at the first fall meeting of a lot of choirs over here.
And the conductor gets the second prized bowl of it.
Right after the pastor.
Unless the church organist comes,
and the organist isn’t the choir conductor.
At which point, the conductor becomes third.
(Followed by the school teacher, who in the old days WAS the organist)
For which the conductor is expected to conduct choirs at funerals,
and walk behind the pastor as they take the coffin to the the cemetary.
As I learned when I was shoved,
with a sotto voce stage-whispered,
stay right behind the pastor,
at the first funeral of a “choir brother” I conducted.
In a scene, not to be disrespectful, right out of Verdi.
(All the choir brothers in colored jackets with a patch on the pocket with lyre and motto,
As the anglers, of which he also was a member, stood spalier in anglers’ hats,
raised fishing rods and wading boots. And I’m not kidding on this one.)
It took some doing at first, but over the years I have learned ways to keep out of the line of fire.
On wurst night, for example, I usually arrange an appointment I simply (really) can’t get out of,
since it just doesn’t do,
in some choirs,
to be a vegetarian.
(I’m telling you this since I don’t have a “wurst choir” or glee club at the moment)
Although I did hear a funny story from one of the members of one I conducted once,
about how one of the traditional choirs,
which met on Friday,
and thus also met on Good Friday,
ordered the traditional schnitzel at the weekly after-party,
and was admonished by the pastor.
At which point the president of the club rose,
“this pig ate fish this week”
Why didn’t I study to be an English teacher, like my dad wanted?
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