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Munich & what came before

Updated: Jul 3, 2023


The first full day of Munich, I'm writing now in short sentences just so I can get something down before all the weeks pass and months and this next part of my journey fades away. I was already going on to Doug yesterday about why I should be blogging way more often, because blogging is the meditative there where you experience your day again, where you remember details like the way the big fat slug moved its antenna today at the park, where two men walked shoulder to shoulder under a shared umbrella, and the way our AirBnB host reminded me of every stoner I've ever met but that's not to bash him or dismiss him, rather to say he seems like a perfectly interesting and eclectic human Doug and I would love to take to dinner, someone who has a big-ass photo of a woman in a tiny skirt with a disco ball between her thighs, a man with books and knick knacks and bottles of wine, big lamps and cute little yellow tape with notes and drawings to help the AirBnB guests find their way around. A man with California hair who DJs for a living whose girlfriend is a SURGEON. Someone who greets his guests by almost bowing his head and reaching out both hands, who says it's a shame there are old men on the streets who worked for forty or fifty years now collecting pfand-bottles for cash. He gave us some suggestions for our drive south and west starting Monday, and we said thank you a lot and he seemed like a man who lives in gratitude, who always has good times. Someone who doesn't care if there's trash and dishes left over for him to take care of for us, who left us each a bottle of beer and said Enjoy.


He told us he's part of the old school of AirBnB, where he actually lives in this apartment full time but rents it out when he's going away for a few days or weeks, and so it's actually "lived in" and comfortable and has things in the fridge, like two kiwis I stole and some crackers and an apple and milk. I grabbed the bedroom in the back and Doug's sleeping in the main living room area where I am now, typing away; outside we can hear the people probably drinking at the cafe down the street. Maybe it's what we should be doing, too, drinking away, but I haven't felt much like drinking because drinking never makes me feel the best, and I want to be healthy for hiking, even though the forecast says all rain.

 

Wednesday I took the train from Berlin to Munich; I spent what felt like all of Tuesday unpacking and repacking, I got to Oma's by 10 am and by noon we went to the Italian place down the road, but it was POURING RAIN and Oma and I cracked up at the blustering wind tunnel between the shops, but it was miserable and drenched my sandals and feet, and it turned out the Italian place was closed, so we went to Chinese instead, and I was so so happy to be somewhere dry and warm, and as I GOBBLED UP my fried sweet and sour chicken with rice, the sun came out; I rushed out of the restaurant to catch a bus and then still somehow made it an hour early to my brow appointment, so I ordered a chai tea at a cafe at the corner and sipped it way too fast, but truly there is something wholesome and comforting about coffee shops in the rain. The brow appointment went well--first time getting my brows waxed and not threaded, and now I think I prefer the wax; and I returned to Oma's by 6 pm, where I unpacked and repacked again, cursing and hmphing and sighing at all my luggage, and Oma brought me a dinner snack plate with bread and cheese and the weirdest meat slices I'd ever seen, like bologna made of chicken pieces and gelled fat, and it felt like one of the most comforting moments in a while--it reminded me of being there when I was younger, and Oma always setting the table.

I said bye to her around 8 pm, and then drug my big heavy suitcase up the several flights of stairs for my last night in the apartment in Dallgow; while I took out the trash the next morning, I had the living room window open, and when I opened the door there was such a draft/durchzug that it slammed the window shut; when I came back in I swore the weatherstripping between the glass panels had been pulled up and maybe even a hinge offset, but I didn't know if those were pre-existing; I swallowed hard and wrestled for an hour whether or not to say something to the AIrBnB host but finally did, and she wrote back no problem, thanks for letting me know, and then sent me a message after I'd left saying thanks for leaving the apartment so clean, so all was well. But I had intended to blog that morning before I left but I couldn't because I was so restless. Austin texted at 3 am his time saying he was trying to get on Europe time, so then we chatted for a couple of hours, and I don't even want to be like "which was wonderful" because I don't even feel like I need to explain that, because it's wonderful every time.


I did get off the phone with only about 20 minutes to get to the train, I think, because whatever happened, I ended up walking on the ramp to the train just as it was leaving, which meant I had to wait an entire hour for the next train to come, but that was okay, because the journey to get to the train station was only going to take about 25 minutes, and my train to Munich was scheduled for 13:30. Well, I waited the hour on a bench in the sun, I don't even quite know what I was doing to make time pass so quickly but suddenly it was 12:38 and the train was supposed to come but it did not show until a very long 15 or 20 minutes later. I arrived at the Hbf with about 15 to 20 minutes to spare, which honestly in the grand scheme of things really isn't early enough. My first-class train ticket led me to Car 14--the last car of the whole train--and my seat reservation gave me a window seat but the window was actually offset in both the front and back so that I was really next to a panel, but it was okay because I didn't end up doing that much looking out--I'd been inspired on the bench to doodle, and I spent the entire six hours doodling a travel mouse on a bench, only occasionally texting, eating two complimentary heart-shaped biscuit cookies and smiling when the man across the aisle tried sooo hard to open a package of food he'd bought in the food car, until everyone around him started to sort of smirk and watch in sympathetic suspense of whether he would open the package or not, and finally the woman in front of me offered him a pair of scissors and a few people laughed.


 

The trip to the airport hotel was rather unremarkable and quite annoying, considering I lost the heel to my boot and had to take my suitcase brick down an entire flight of stairs and back up another to get on the bus to take me to the hotel, which ended up being a perfectly suitable hotel, although quite hot without A/C. I was starving that night and went across the street to get an 8 pm dinner, and as I was waiting on my delicious ham/cheese/mayo sandwich I realized I was missing a work meeting, so I dialed in on my phone and it really felt incredible just being able to be in Munich, sitting alone at the bar, listening to the meeting while I waited on what turned out to be an amazing sandwich that reminded me very much of Duke's herbed mayo tavern ham.


I set my alarm early the next morning since Doug's flight was scheduled to come in at 7 am, and he showed up around 8, and it was so crazy being like wow, we talked about this last year and now you're here. We almost immediately went on a long walk in the hot sun and caught up about things, we chatted about traveling and relationships and kids and making plans, and then we sat at a table outside the restaurant I'd gone to on Wednesday and we ordered two sandwiches: the first one was the same one I'd ordered the day before, and the second was Hawaii Toast, which apparently is a German thing I've never had, but it's open-faced toast with pineapple and cheese and ham. It was served with a delicious side salad that I gobbled up. And then we walked again, another mile or so around town. I was exhausted when we got back; Doug napped for a couple hours but I wasn't in the right mind to work or write so I took my self BACK outside and walked again, to the grocery store where I bought a cold drink and a Kinderschokolade for Doug to try.

Thursday night we split a delicious tender pork meal in a gravy with potato dumplings and I ate a side salad, too, and then Doug ordered these apple rings, which were delectable little fried apple cinnamon bites with whipped cream and vanilla ice cream. We stayed there until it got chilly and then walked in the cool night back.


On Friday we left our airport hotel around 10 am which turned out to be too early, because we arrived down the road from the AirBnB at 11 am, and I figured out why my right arm is sore, because it's been pushing my suitcase the past couple of days. We stopped into a Greek cafe to get breakfast, but the lady said they were already out of almost everything, but she was very nice and offered us free samples and Doug bought a spinach cheese pie thing, and I ate a piece of that and drank chamomile tea with honey, and Doug and I chatted as the rain started to fall outside. We managed to stay there for almost the whole time until the AirBnB was ready, and I was thinking how incredibly cozy it felt with the Greek music and the lady bringing a fresh cheese pie out of the oven, and her explaining to the only other customers who came in how everything in Greece is healthier.

After getting settled in the Airbnb yesterday, we took a long walk around Munich; we were headed in the direction of the old Munich house museum, but first got snagged by advertisements for the Munich Typisch Museum, which was mostly boring except for two exhibits: the first one portraying racist, anti-semetic imagery with the hashtags #museumsarenotneutral and #decolonizemuseums, and the second an indulgent exhibit of puppets and dolls: dollhouses and doll movies and artistic imagery, and the whole thing was so whimsical and fantastical and I loved it all.



It was already after 4 pm when we got out of that museum, and then we walked in the rain to an Italian restaurant and split a veggie pizza with salami. It was one of those pizzas I don't really like, with the thin soft crust and toppings that slide right off, and the broccoli was a little firm for my liking and I really wanted to just roll it all up burrito style and eat it that way to really sink my teeth in, but instead I used a knife and fork and attempted small folded bites.


After the pizza we walked in the direction of the museum but ended up in a massive green park instead, where Doug and I traded off his camera and a brown French bulldog wiggled quickly over to me and jumped on my leg. It was a drizzly gray still, but people were around, walking their dogs and doing kartwheels and strolling in bigger groups with beers in their hands. Groups of teenagers had gathered under the bridge and on top of the hill, and they were smoking and sharing bottles of beer and wine, and I was telling Doug how incredibly happier I am to be an adult and not that age anymore, when everything felt like peer pressure and anxiety-inducing at the core. It was raining a lot and the pavement was crawling with camouflaged slugs. We got home a little after 8 pm and I took a shower and then sat at the table, where I started to blog and I brought us a dinner snack of random things in the hosts's fridge plus some of our own, and Doug worked on his photos as I looked out at the room at all the things that make up our AirBnB's host's life: a vintage, wooden Settlers of Catan he'd snagged from a curb; stacks of Zeit magazines in white cubicles; a rectangle radio he wired, McGuivre style (his words), during the pandemic; a smooth white chair with a sign that says "do not use"; a carasse of water, an alu-foil robot head with whisks as antenna; a scribbled picture of a purple troll man with headphones made, I assume, by his girlfriend's kid. A painted portrait of a brown-skinned woman with a thick pearl necklace and her right nipple exposed; a Depeche Mode record; a wooden box with an imprinted Dom Perignon; plants that are dying on the balcony; a small lemon tree that appears to be thriving. Bottles of rosé, riesling and red. Five pillows on the antique couch: two grey, one royal purple, one red and one yellow. He told us his girlfriend thinks his house is too messy to host guests, but I love when spaces give you so much to look at that observing them takes actual time -- like opening up pages of iSpy and hunting for all the marbles and coins.


 

Other things

The Thursday before I left, I got dinner with Leonie and Nick at the Italian restaurant right next door my apartment. The ambience was perfect with all the lush red roses and threat of severe weather, which loomed as we scooped into our lasagna and pasta dishes. We talked about Opa and traveling their plans for eventually moving, and how much they miss each other when they're apart. Nick kept looking at the radar as I tried to explain Tennessee. He smiled big between bites of a giant calzone when I said there's a lot of BBQ. Leonie couldn't believe we don't have quark.


She is always so sweet and we already made plans for seeing each other in September when I'm back with my sister and Daniel and Austin.


I showed them my apartment after food and then they left to beat the storm, which didn't come until a couple of hours later, but it did come: there was thunder and lightning and strong wind and so much rain, but no hail and no danger, since I was cozy inside. That night, I dreamt of tornadoes.

 

Saturday I went back to the Italian place with Oma; I dropped off a bag already that morning at her apartment and then we rode the S Bahn together to Dallgow, although we had to wait twenty minutes at the station and for some reason it felt extra long. Oma and I only ordered ice cream and strawberries at the restaurant, and so the waiter man took away the bread, but packed it up for me later for the lasagna I ordered to-go. I think Oma relaxed a bit sitting there-- she said it was a very nice restaurant, except for the cigarette butt sitting beside her. After the dessert, which in my mind wasn't big enough, Oma actually walked the several flights of stairs to my apartment, which was incredible because it's not something she often does. She marveled at the apartment and said it really had everything I need, and then she talked to a house fly. She says many things I want to write down, like how funny it would be if people could just ride their luggage (I forgot they actually make little rideable suitcase for tots), and how she always wonders what little animals are thinking. When we were standing on the bridge over the little river right near my place -- somewhere I visited once a day, or tried to-- she looked out at the water and pointed at a leaf and said, that looks like a canoe with two people inside. Her imagination is vivid; she sees other worlds everywhere; I wonder if it's because of the recap of her life that she'd written by hand like twenty five years ago, about being bombed out of her home and then seeing people bleeding and dead on the street.


 

I had started and never finished a blog post last week, and this is how it went, it was emo and that's why I named the post blah:


Looking out at the river, at the ducks, Oma says things like:

"I’m only asking, when you’re standing here and looking out, do you ever wish you had a man with you?"

"I always wonder what the animals are thinking, what's on their minds?"

Looking out my window on the second floor, she asks a fly, "Where are you going, little one? Oh, look, it's eating the leaves. It's a bit stupid."

***

When Oma leaves my apartment, I put my shoes back on. I walk through the neighborhood at dusk. I follow the sun. I hear German kids playing in the yard and German adults talking at the patio tables. There are hedge fences and neatly manicured lawns. Everything feels rich here; I feel empty. It's my last weekend in Berlin and I'm trying to figure out why I feel blah, why I feel like crying but can't. I decide it's because I want to read good poetry but I feel too overwhelmed to even try: that instead I want it given to me, something perfect I can swallow and slowly digest, something that will make me want to write again.

***

At the graveyard the Monday after Opa's death, Oma and I sit on a bench in the shade. She talks to a ladybug on my leg. "Where are you going? Shopping? How old are you?" she asks, and counts its spots. "What is your name?" When it flies away she looks out at the headstones and clarifies that Opa won't have one, just grass that will be mowed--that once we're gone (the only people who know where he's buried), he'll disappear under the Earth in his urn and no one will know he was alive. I don't think she realizes how tragic that sounds.

***

My back is still aching but really not bad. I'm too afraid to go to the gym, or dance. I still stand up using my squat muscles. I want to do abs. I was getting abs. Stronger ones.

***

On Saturday Oma and I ate gelato at the Italian restaurant next door where Leonie and Nick and I ate on Thursday. I thought the gelato with Oma was too small--only one scoop of vanilla ice cream and the rest fresh-cut strawberries. I wanted to overeat. When I told the man we were just getting dessert, he said "well you don't need this" and took away the basket of bread I'd already stolen a slice from. I contemplated for a long while whether the man was mean or thinking he was doing us a favor; maybe the first, since he left us a dish of olives.

 

I wrote a (probably incorrect) haiku after Opa's death:


The sun slants into My window Sunday morning A contradiction


And then I wrote another:

What is the sound of

the body dying? Gurgling:

bones sink as birds sing

Can I manipulate the sentences like this, to fit meter and form? Maybe I shouldn't call them haikus.

 

I spent two weeks in Dallgow-Doberitz after Iceland; I did a lot of work and packing and seeing Oma and I fell in love with a little river down the road--it had lilypads and turtles and herons and schools of silver fish. I stood on the bridge for a long while the day I had to present to my team, and the day before, too: breathing in what smelled and felt like the best parts of Tennessee, that kind of mid-afternoon summer feeling, right before it storms. Doug asked me a question I've asked myself so many times since being here--do I miss Tennessee? I don't miss home but I do miss that, the late night summers and the green and the thicket of frogs and crickets and the way they remind me of jars of lightning bugs and mom calling us in.

 

Doug's camera:



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