Sunday, October 30, 2005

Heute ist Mantelsonntag! Coat Sunday, for those English speakers frequenting dotde. Of course, D and I didn't know this until we were scared away from a local breakfast buffet. After wandering around Mainz to find something to eat, we settled down at a cafe near the Mainzer Dom (English here) only to discover quite a festival going on. And by "quite a festival," I mean hundreds of people drinking fresh wine and local beer after
10:00 mass. Thus began our adventure with Coat Sunday,
which included the overconsumption of Nutella (D) along with a few nibbles at some healthy chestnuts, roasted on the spot (J!). And of course, D felt it necessary to participate with a new purchase (picture, right). For those of you close to D, you may remarking aloud, "White!?! D, do you know what'll happen with white!" But let's remember the importance of this purchase by a Californian with little past use for a warm accommodations. So despite the threat of spills, we decided to go for it. Especially since she'll be back at Davis in a year, and who needs a coat there anyway? Nevermind a dirty one, at that.

So let's look at this as a moment less as a potential for disaster, but rather as one which may result in great personal growth. Afterall, it does look so wonderful, right?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

J! and I have been looking forward for months now to the Frankfurt International Book Fair. Frankfurt is just a short train trip away and the Book Fair is, I believe, the largest in the world. You can imagine how exciting this is for a poet and a literature grad student. So, we get to a lonely looking conference center Sunday afternoon, only to discover that we’ve actually come a week early. Probably the worst part is that we’d been telling everyone we know about our impending trip to the book fair, so now for the rest of the week we’ve had to admit that we have difficulty reading the small print.

Well, since we couldn’t go to the book festival, we decided to visit the Museum for Modern Art. I don’t know much about their permanent collection, but the current exhibition is great. The curators bought a ton of objects off of ebay and put them in the museum, complete with the original descriptions posted by the vendors. The exhibit ranges from old postcards and photos to a lock of Napoleon’s hair. My personal favorites were the “Vintage Shakespeare Glass Minnow Trap: Patent Pending,” a small vial of “NIAGRA FALLS WATER! WEDDING ANNIVERSARY GIFT SOUVENIR. WATER GUARANTEED TO HAVE FLOWED OVER NIAGARA FALLS!” and a pair of “mysterious batteries.” Also, the building itself is really beautiful. It was designed by an architect named Hans Hollein, who I think must have been a fan of M. C. Esher.

The description for the “mysterious batteries”:

I acquired these batteries while on a trip in Japan 6 years ago. I had originally bought them for my camera, which I used during the entire trip. About six months after returning home, not thinking of it at the time, I finally realized that I had never replaced the batteries in the camera, which was still in frequent use. I took them out of the camera, & put them in my Walkman. I couldn’t believe they were still working. Over the next 5 years these batteries have become a mystery to me, my friends and family. I have used them in the TV remote, flashlight, mp3 player and many other things. To everyone’s amazement, they are still at full charge. I have 4 of these batteries, but I can only part with 2. I can’t guarantee that they will last forever, but they have seemed to amaze my family and I over the years. I hope they can give you what they’ve given us.

They're so mysterious!

The enormous poster that finally clued us in.
Notice the date, “writ large.”

A few of the many staircases in the museum.

Downtown Frankfurt.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

J! here, hoping to inform you of the *real* *new* *strange* and *bizarre* customs and cultures we encounter in our travel ventures through and around the world. And even though we're mostly settled here in D-Land, this first installment will take us all the way back to the high plains of Northern Conneticut and the *real* *new* *strange* and *bizarre* greeting habits of the local inhabitants. Many thanks to my father, whose frequent trips into this territory as "Knowledge Trader" led to our exposure to the "Bap 'N Tap."

You may already be familiar with certain aspects of the "Bap N' Tap," a lightening quick conglomeration of techniques often exhibited in both adolescent sports and thumb wars. As a two step process, let's follow the illustrations:

Step One, the "Bap:"

Simple enough, right? Experienced practitioners of this salutation will tell you all about how this first stage of the "Bap 'N Tap" is a teaser for the more complex and visually engaging motion of the "Tap." This congratulatory contact often goes by the names of "Jam Hand," "Pound City," and "Rock Talk." In these simpler forms of expressions, there are disadvantages abound. Oftentimes, one attempts to make fist contact only to realize that the accomplice is approaching with a "High Five," resulting in an awkward flesh connection of palm and knuckle (closely resembling how Paper defeats Rock). In those cultures that primarily practice the "Bap 'N Tap," there are no such worries--as the multifaceted form of expression is the predictable mainstay of the region.

Step Two, the "Tap:"

And now you must realize the amount of finesse necessary for such an expression. Of course, this medium does not lend itself to show the full motion--the "'N" that springs between the "Bap" and the "Tap." But a close observer may notice how the fist must rotate several degrees, and the thumb must extend quickly and accurately enough to collide with the adjacent thumb. Mind you, this is not a slow motion, but a lightening fast gesture indicative of the emotion that this intensity and precision is mean to represent. When first exposed, outsiders may gasp at the breathtaking combination, as children gasp at their first exposure to fireworks. The "Bap" an explosion that lights up the skyline, the "Tap" all the glitter, before disappearing, flickering toward ground.

Dotde signing off on another installment of *new* *real* *strange* and *bizarre* customs and cultures from around the world.

Friday, October 14, 2005

We passed by this store today. Imagine--a whole store just for table tennis enthusiasts. If anyone needs some new grip tape or a ping pong jersey, just let me know.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Below are some pics of the apartment here in Mainz. The apartment is actually part of an enormous house that was converted into several apartments. It’s a nice area—lots of trees and parks—and running in between the streets, along the “backside” of the houses are little bike/walking paths. Plus, we even have a local pub! J! and I stopped in last week and had a few beers. There weren’t that many people in it, especially given that it was a Saturday night. As far as we can tell, it consisted mostly of the bartender, an old man and his equally old date, and a group of 40-something men who were amusing themselves with a game that seemed to entail hitting a tree stump with a hammer and then shouting loudly. We’re not too clear on the rules or how you win, though. At one point, a guy got a little out of control with the hammer and the bartender had to go calm him down. Is it just me or does it seem like a bad idea to regularly mix hammers and beer?

J!, glutting himself on our new internet connection.

the dining room/study

Can you find the refrigerator?

The neighbors we spy on from the balcony.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

How do you say, "Can I get a visa" auf Deutsch?

So, we arrived safe and sound in Mainz after a considerable amount of Drammamine and some difficulties with the customs officials in Iceland. J! and I were actually very excited about our stopover in Iceland. Neither of us have ever been and in fact, on the way back, we’ll be spending a few days there. For this flight, however, we were only supposed to be in the airport for about an hour before our connecting flight to Frankfurt took off. As it turns out, you have to have a visa if you are planning to stay in Germany for more than three months. Both the university here in Mainz and Berlitz told J! and I that the visa wouldn’t be a problem—we’d simply have it all arranged when we arrived here. Ha! Germany was completely fine with this but the guards in Iceland were very worried. Very nice, but a little concerned. We had to sit in a hallway for about forty minutes while the guards called immigration services and a lawyer to make sure that they could send us along. Luckily it all worked out and now we have some lovely Icelandic stamps in our passports. One thing I will say—Iceland has a beautiful language and the guards spoke perfect English. The main guard helping us out told us he visited Los Angeles one time but he didn’t like it at all—it was too crowded.

Mainz is a great town—lots of nice, old historic buildings but not so historic that they make the city unlivable for everyone else. My apartment is actually in a suburb of Mainz, called Mombach, that is about a ten minute bus ride from the Hauptbahnhof (train station) in the center of town. So far we haven’t toured too much, most of our time being taken up by paperwork kinds of things (like visas), but the historic district is really lovely. We already found the natural foods store, which as far as I can tell simply seems to be more expensive than other food stores, and there’s a terrible Chinese restaurant about two blocks away from the Hauptbahnhof. We’ve also discovered that it is almost impossible to locate men’s slippers, unless you care to buy the kind that are made for really old men who never wear anything but slippers, even when they go out to walk their old man dogs.