Tomorrow marks the beginning of a journey towards Colorado from Germany. Because the German and I are headed to the same location but with different itineraries, we will play a game. Scoring is as follows:
• Travel Time, beginning the moment you close the door of the apartment: T will get this one hands down because he’s leaving the apartment at 2 am to drive to Frankfurt. Points double after 24 hours; he’s on the books for 26 hours already.
• Number of Stops: So far, Tobias has one up on me with a HAM-FRA-YZZ-DEN-MTJ-LOL-WTF, vs. my HAM-EWR-DEN-MTJ.
• Bonus Points for Airport Codes I Had to Look Up – Tobias wins with YZZ. (It’s Toronto. Can’t you just see the Canadians saying, ‘Oh, no, go right ahead, you look like you’re in a rush,’ while Atlanta jostles ahead of them in the Airport Code Line to get ATL? And as the crush dies down Canada turns to Mrs. Canada and says, ‘You were right to bring your knitting. This took longer than I thought. Well, nothing wrong with a nice double zed. I wonder if New Zealand got on all right?’) p.s. Queensland is ZQN. Harden the fuck up, New Zealand.
• Travelling Through Newark –It’s a total cop-out to travel through Canada when you could be spending 5 hours in Jersey. I get extra points on this if my luggage is stolen, if I have to check more than 3 bathroom stalls before finding one with a working toilet, and if someone curses at me. Bonus points if the person cursing is younger than 13.
• One point is added for every time anyone says ‘Code Orange’ in a worried voice; one point is detracted for every time someone kindly asks if the weather in Europe was an inconvenience.
So, we’ll report back! Hopefully from Colorado!
Epilogue: Newark, I have underestimated you: during our time together, you fed me cheese and crackers and wine, you upgraded my next two legs, you provided a lightning-fast internet connection, and then you let me take a shower. Now, when my teeth are at their cleanest after a good floss and an extra session with the Sonicare, I think of you…
Thank you for the recommendation of Fool’s Garden, the little local bar/theatre/club that features live jazz every Sunday and a delicious serve-yourself schmalzbrod with good dark bread and delicious crispy onions in the schmalz.
Also on offer: hard-boiled eggs with a big old red lipstick kiss on each and every one. I’m typically not too fussy about hygeine; these made me realize that when other people’s mouths have been on my food, I like the evidence to be a little more subtle.
Your presence is requested in Hamburg to accompany me to Fool’s Garden on a Thursday evening in the not-too-distant future. Why, you ask? So many reasons: because when you google-translate the page, it says ‘Jazz in the Garden, Fools!’ [punctuation and Mr. T-style inflection added], but mainly because every second Thursday is open mike nite… for magicians!!!!! That’s right: Magic Open Stage. This could be better than Christmas.
If you haven’t seen the excellent short film ‘Instead of Abracadabra’, it’s charming and hilarious. It’s located (in three parts) here. Chimay!
We have different schedules, me and the German. He has overnight business trips during the week, and I am gone for weeks at a time, so one or the other of us is often home alone. This leaves us a wealth of opportunity to discover a food surprise and wait days or weeks to find out what the procurer’s interntions were in bringing it home. It also tends to make us highly suspicious of the age of the milk in the fridge.
Here is a smattering of items that I probably should have left instructions for:
A lump of what, if defrosted, would turn out to be beet soup,
10 pounds of surprisingly spicy frozen roasted green chiles,
Any number of cactus salsas, mesquite jellies, and habanero/peach chutneys that run the gamut from delicious to completely inedible,
A beautifully red and juicy-looking unripe persimmon.
Tobias, in his turn, has left the following:
an ungodly number of chocolate pudding packets, unsweetened and marketed to adults rather than children,
a huge can of peas that expired in the year 2000,
several kinds of… fragrant… hard cheeses, including one that I would have mistaken for wood if it wasn’t wrapped in cheese paper, and one that is quite clearly a joke thought up by the trick food department of the company that makes real-smelling fake dog poop,
tiny bottles of dark sauce in the shape of Koi fish that I haven’t had the guts to try yet.
We never get around to asking about or explaining these things, though, because we’re too busy having the following conversation:
B – Is this the same 1/2 bottle of terrible white wine that was in the fridge last time I was here?
T – Don’t throw it away, we can use it.
B – But we’re not going to drink it, right?
T – Yes, but don’t waste it. We can cook with it.
B – But you wouldn’t want to eat anything that tasted like that, would you?
T – No, but don’t waste it.
B – …(what do you say to that?! Nothing, Ms. Wastey Wastes A Lot. That’s what.)
snow means hard cheeses
the dark bread is harder still
in my shrunk larder
This week’s questions include but are not limited to the following:
• Showermilch – lemony fresh and containing the words for ‘shower’ and ‘milk’, why does this burn my skin? And what’s up with the pictures of sparkling sinks and tubs on the back?
• Why did my flat-mate put an attractively packaged cleaning chemical right next to the shampoo and body wash?
• Why can’t I speak and read German? I’m never going to get a referral to the dermatologist to treat these chemical burns if I only know the words for meat, salad, and meatsalad.
• Why is the wine in Germany so inexpensive? We just went to a wine sale and tasting, and tried 15 bottles of delicious wines from Languedoc that were each priced at $10-12. I don’t understand how wine producers (or importers) break even at that rate, what with the growing and the tending and the picking and the pressing and the fermenting and the bottling and the likelihood that something could go wrong and make the wine unsellable.
• What is the word for tasting the same grape from the same winemakers, but bottles from different years? Is it a vertical tasting?
• Why do I want to know that last one? It’s so that I can change the subject quickly the next time (at an intimate wine tasting hosted by two importers for whom the tasting and importing was their passion, and who had personally selected and brought back only wines that they liked and were proud of,) I describe a wine as smelling and tasting like a wet goat. Keep it classy, Bets!
• Why am I surprised that so many Germans don’t have any idea what I’m talking about when I say ‘Happy Hannukah’? Why am I then unable to stop myself from saying things like, ‘A latke sure sounds good. Is there somewhere around here that has them this time of year?’ or ‘Have you seen my menorah? I thought I left it right here next to your yarmulke.’ Or ‘What’s the word for a male Shiksa?’ As if I don’t already have enough issues with language- and culture-based misunderstandings, I have to make little you’re-not-doing-enough-in-the-way-of-reparation jokes that are designed to provoke confusion.
• Did you know that a full-sized, 12-ounce can of tomato juice has only 60 calories? Wow, right?
• Why did the person sitting behind me at the airport just say, “those robots are really exciting”? And why aren’t my eavesdropping skills more effective?
• Have you ever seen anyone carrying an iPad without also carrying a laptop? Seems to defeat the purpose a bit, no?
• Why did I bring only Lucinda Williams to listen to on a 10-hour flight? Ye Gods, it’s a good thing you can’t bring sharp objects on planes these days: I won’t be able to do much damage sawing at my wrists with a cheap plastic knife. For those of you who aren’t familiar, a representative sample of her lyrics: “If we lived in a world without tears, how would bruises find a face to lie upon? How would scars find skin to etch themselves into? How would broken find the bones?” and “Scorpions crawl across my screen, make their home beneath my skin, underneath my dress, they stick their tongues, bite through flesh down to the bone, and I have been so fucking alone… since those three days. Did you only want me for those three days? Did you only need me for those three days?” or, the somewhat more up-tempo, “Don’t make me sit all alone and cry. It’s over, I know, but I can’t let go. He won’t take me back when I come around. Says he’s sorry then he puts me out. I got a big chain around my neck, and I’m broken down like a train wreck.”
Oh, Lucinda, feel better soon, OK? I’ll bring over a casserole later but I’ll just leave it on the mat if you don’t feel up to answering the door…
I am having a mid-afternoon snack of milky spiced tea, camembert on sunflower seed bread, some pear and a few walnuts in their shell. What’s that? Is it snowing? Yes, in fact, it IS snowing, which is why the tea is scalding hot, the camambert was left on the counter to warm for most of the day, and why I (inadvisedly) tried to toast the whole walnuts on the glass rangetop before shelling them.
The walnuts that weren’t smoky little bombs of charred bitterness were astoundingly good. I thought that I liked pecans better, but I was wrong. I hate being wrong about subjective things – it’s MY decision, isn’t it? How could I get it wrong?! It’s not like the time that I pretended I knew where infinity ended, or that chaos was pronounced with a ch-sound (as in ‘chump’, or ‘chortle’, or ‘chanukkah’.)
I think of myself as decisive except when I’m trying to make a left-hand turn into oncoming traffic (as my brother says, ‘Indecision kills; God hates a coward.’) I thought I preferred camambert to brie, that morels were my favorite mushroom, that pinot grigio and riesling were always better than chardonnay. Now I’m not so sure, which also makes me rethink the skinny grey jeans I wear all the time, the preference for clean white walls, and my fondness for Susan Sarandon: the movie Stepmom was atrocious and frankly the white wall thing may just be laziness.
Oh, I just remembered the thing that made me start doubting my decision-making abilities! Last weekend we went to the isle of Sylt, which was awesome (and awesomely cold…) I went to the art shop earlier in the day because I wanted to get some supplies for sketching on the 3-hour train ride there. When I opened my tote on the train ride, what had I ended up with? Two blocks of watercolor paper, two brushes, and a 34-count set of vibrant pastels. The resultant bright blue, powdery mess was like the pink stuff in the Cat in the Hat, only without the rhyming and without the tidy ending.
Also, I don’t know how familiar you are with North Germany in late November, but ain’t nothing bright nor blue about it.
Looks like I’m going to have to start from the top: do I still like ice cream? What about a scoop of ice cream with a shot of espresso over the top? I liked it last time I had it, but I’d better make sure. After that, let’s see if I still like pate…