And Gutenberg Lived Here: A Unique First Of January In A Series Of Unique First Of Januaries.

I’m a little late writing this blog on the first of firsts


Well, let’s just leave it to “My GPS Navigator Ate It”

until I have time to tell you all the gory details.

For the moment, though,

the first in our household was truly a first.

As in…

We have spent Sylvester,

as the Germans call New years eve,

and I will too for a moment, since it is shorter,

so anyway,

on my first Sylvester in Germany,

I went to visit his parents,

and ended up, for the two days before

and two days after,

avoiding tongue ragout,

innards goulash,

a giant carp,

not dead when I was sent to bring him home-

in a waterproof shopping bag.

I was so new here at the time, I honestly was taken by surprise

when the thing started first wiggling,

then massively thrashing.

Thank heavens the people at the shop had had mercy on the newcomer,

and told me not to open it before I got home

no matter what happened.

(It took three of us to empty it into a huge old galvanized bath tub in the garden.

After which I took a walk through the town,

ate a pack of peppermints whole

to get rid of the stench,

and wandered back just in time to declare myself vegetarian.

The mother-in-law was not amused,

but hey, c’est la vie,

my dharma is clean

should I ever meet a carp family

somewhere while bathing in the north sea or whatever.

(I wonder if carp prefer their human lunch served “muellerin”

with onions and butter.)

Anyway, that was one.

The next year we were at my parents,

and ended up with fish poisoning

from an otherwise reputable

(and relatively expensive)

restaurant in the San Francisco Bay area.

I wonder if it’s because no one in my family is born in the sign of the fish?

Third year a charm,

we ended up snowed in,

actually snow and ice rain,

at the top of a hill,

in a student apartment

with twenty-three others,

no taxis crazy enough to make the trip,

and the only food available cocktail weenies

and heat-endangered noodle salad.

We sang Joan Baez-

Gutenberger are very fond of Joan Baez,

and Blue Oyster Cult,

(probably because church membership is so staid and correct here,

that anything with the word “cult” is considered excitingly “naughty.”

And so the years progressed-

from a year when the women

were supposed to show their naval through a hole in a cardboard fence

and, feminist even then,

made the men do it instead,

the year someone grilled a piglet over the remains

of the parquet floor he had just put in-

I ate cheese, and hoped sincerely there was no sealant in the wood.

We all survived,

even the Sylvester night midnight walk through the woods-

during which we ended up being chased by a wild boar,


protecting her babies,

and the following year,

when a friend of ours,

a very creative artist,

had more than a little too much to drink,

decided he needed a walk to sober up,

saw something glittering on the ground,

and got his head and shoulders stuck in a badger hole.

Thank heavens the non or not much drinking crew had gone along

for just such an emergency.

And since we had to grab him by both legs and pull,

women on one leg,

men on the other,

even today the words “make a wish”

uttered anywhere near part of our clique

brings peals of laughter.

And now, this year,

Harold and I,

after heading back from singing with friends,

a visit to the theatre to see Oscar Wilde’s Ideal Husband,

and watch the famous formal fireworks

of the spa town of Wiesbaden,

decided to head back to Gutenberg City,

for a quiet, reflective,

if more than a little chilly,

walk on the Rhine.

Which was where,

several hours later,

after reflecting on the past, present, and future,

we were just wondering if we could get a cup of coffee


on New Years’ Day,

when we suddenly heard the sound of music-

No, not Julie Andrews.

More like the sound of  the Mardi Gras music

the regiments play

when their “corporation” members march in the huge Rose Monday Parade.

(the day before Mardi Gras)

So we followed the sound,

and discovered one more New Years’ first-

the formal assembly of the companies-

a sort of cotillion of the guards, in “the redcoats are coming” uniforms

(the red coats were actually hired Hessian troops)

the supply troops,

in 18th century mob hat, apron and rolling-pin,

with huge standards with two hard rolls, a bottle of wine, and a ring of baloney,

the only food most locals eat as long as the “campaign” is on

(until ash Wednesday)

and the musicians,

to present their “new” marching song.

Some of the units actually use a chorus from an opera by Adolph Adam

the great  musician who wrote the well-known Christmas song “O Holy Night.”

And so there we were-

thinking about our student

and young adult days,

and how nothing could be wilder

and more creative,

when we were suddenly hit by the absurdity of a cotillion,

with introduction of the new baby cadets,

in their little uniforms, diapers, and prams,

and the new pom-pom girls,

also in military uniform,

if more than a little bit short,

and the formal salute to the heads of the committees,

the formal swearing to uphold the laws of Bacchus and the Carnival tradition,

and the handing out of wine, rolls, and baloney,

before heading into the massive cathedral,

for the blessing that no one will get killed or injured during the season.


Who needs to be chased by a wild boar each New Years’ Day?

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