Yesterday was one of those days you hope for all summer-
pale blue sky,
just a hint of a breeze.
(Did I mention it was wet, wet, wet here all summer?
Or roasting hot and full of things that buzz and sting and make noise all night?
No, not the neighbors.)
So anyway, this meant,
after taking my significant other half to the U-
for a “most serious tri-lateral math conference,”
populated by top Russian, Ukrainian,
and of course German,
(conference language: bad English)
all out to enjoy the balmy weather-
apparently it rained in their countries too-
ie at the moment of our arrival drinking coffee on every bench,
low wall, grassed area, and shady corner of the U-
Which only worked,
with our 37,000 head student body count,
because none of the students had arrived yet-
the German semester starting in October-
after the “potato vacation”-
we get off here in Gutenberg Land U-
and the schools, churches, etc
so the students can earn their room and board bringing in the potato and wine harvests.
A thing a non-German just really can’t picture,
but if you consider how big a part of German life the potato is:
the average German eats his weight in potatoes per year-
and pays studious attention to the hundreds of potato categories,
all dividing, basically, into:
the floury kind, for dumplings, and dishes where the spuds have to stick together,
the mostly solid-cooking kind, for boiled or fried potatoes, hash browns, etc
and the solid-cooking type, for salads.
And are Germans ever picky about their potatoes:
size, color, consistency, biologically grown, imported or not.
And when it comes to wine:
don’t even think about it.
There are so many kinds,
and so many competitions,
there is actually even a university professorship for wine thingys.
Which has a super fancy name I can never remember,
and contains studies in landscapes,
and the make up of the ground it grows in,
and the history of wine growing and drinking,
and the trends and marketing patterns.
And does excursions to the wine areas each semester.
Wine-ology or whatever, is even more popular than geography,
which does all of the above,
but doesn’t elect a wine queen
and huge court of ladies in waiting,
who wear crowns,
and hand around hand-blown twisted foot glasses,
about the size of a football,
and filled to the brim with the local hooch.
(Carry two of those for a while,
and you quickly have the muscles to compete in a Mrs Universe body building contest.
And have to compete in a knowledge face-off
the required depth and technical basis of which knowledge
would make most presidential candidates look dumb.
(and all that that “other state capital” across the river has is new Beaujolais-
nya nya nya, Wiesbaden)
Sorry, you have to do that occasionally here,
or you lose your permit to live in Gutenberg Land.
having dumped “the mathster” among his own kind
“I am Harold topology, of the clan the topology”
I headed “downtown”
meaning the center of our tiny about ten thousand size village,
a winding labyrinth of one-car-wide streetlets,
circling and circling
since almost everything is one way only
and, since the city has decided to put in a “light” train system
that probably will,
as soon as it gets going,
vibrate down all the historically preserved stone-work and wood-beamed houses
from ancient Roman times,
including aqueducts they had to build the train system tightly through the middle of-
(don’t put your head out the window at the wrong moment)
So there I was,
and doing what I,
as one of that strange breed called writers always do-
the road-working types all sitting on the high seats of their cranes and steam-rollers,
drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes,
and apparently not much else,
a young man in a white shirt, tie, plaid short shorts, and flip-flops
(I sincerely hope he works at a high standing desk, like those of a bank teller)
a group of young mothers in long black face-covering headscarves,
and taking their youngest to school,
the grandmothers with their “potato mercedes”-
a kind of standing on end suitcase on the kind of trolley
stores use to move cases of water or drinks.
(the groceries go inside to pull home)
the pastor, flapping black robe over his arm.
(since it’s not Friday yet, the day of weddings here,
he must be on his way to a funeral-
you never know-
we have a lot of elders here,
and this summer we lost a couple of younger citizens to traffic accidents,
(the highways are notorious here)
and one to terrorists in a hotel in Turkey.
just as I saw one of the most unusual sights I had seen while people-watching over here-
and that takes some doing,
since I once followed a motorcycle for several miles,
unable to get around him,
since he had mounted a settee on the sidecar,
which stuck out quite a bit,
on which sat,
or rather lay,
a large dog,
in world war I flying goggles and leather helmet,
tethered by seatbelt to the sofa.
But, as I said,
there was the most fascinating sight,
but before I could get closer,
a parking spot opened in front of the bank.
Sometimes moolah and peaches are also important.
C’est la vie
here in Gutenberg Land.
More next time.
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