2003 Notebook: Weak XXIV
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11 June 2003
No. 2,590 (cartoon)
I don’t think I can stand this any more.

I think you will.

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12 June 2003
Nothing Better with Which to Alter Art
Recently, I’ve been drinking apfelwein by the liter for two reasons.

1. It’s ridiculously hot in Frankfurt.

2. My local dealer sells apfelwein in frosty, efficacious, one-liter bottles.

I find that I’m very productive when I’m quaffing apfelwein. There’s a reason for this, and it’s printed on every bottle: “nach bester alter Art.” Although I know very few German words, it’s obvious that this means something like, “there’s nothing better with which to alter Art.”

13 June 2003
Seeing Juliana Again
I was walking along the Main when I saw a incredible cat flying from tombstone to tombstone before it made a spectacular leap to the top of a back, marble crypt. She assumed the pose of a sphinx and stared down at me. It took me a while to recognize that the cat was Juliana, a woman I hadn’t seen in well over a decade.

I suppose I should have asked her how she became a cat, but I didn’t. It was delightful to see Juliana again; I always wondered what happened to her.

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14 June 2003
The War is Over
The cement columns on an air vent outside the Frankfurt train station are cast at an angle that reminds me of a swastika. I wonder if that’s intentional or if I’m imagining things? Having been raised on television shows about World War II, it’s hard to hear German being spoken without thinking of Nazis. Nevertheless, Germany seems decidedly less fascistic than the United States these days.

The Second World War now seems to be losing its resonance as an experience; it’s fading into history like all the other wars before it. The border between Germany and France is almost invisible; I didn’t even notice it when I drove across it a couple of times in the last few days. Now, all Europeans have more or less the same ambition: accumulating more euros.

Last night I visited a friend in Germany, someone I’ve known for a decade. Over beers, he mentioned something in passing that I hadn’t heard before: his late father was in the Luftwaffe during the war. I replied that my father was a cook in the U.S. Navy. The fact that our fathers fought—or at least cooked—on opposing sides didn’t make either of us the least bit uncomfortable. After all, we were born long after the war was over, and that was a very long time ago.

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15 June 2003
Crystal Nacht Bar
After visiting the magnificent Jewish Museum in Berlin, I headed to the monstrous Estrel Hotel for reasons unmentionable. There, in the basement, I found the Crystal Nachtbar, which translates to “Crystal Night Bar.”

It’s one thing to let old wars slide into history, and quite another thing to name a bar after the pogrom violence on 9-10 November, 1938. I wonder if the people who came up with the name were anti-Semitic idiots or merely ignorant morons? I was tempted to start smashing windows, glasses, and bottles, but I wasn’t sure how the German legal system deals with such political statements these days.

I didn’t go in the Crystal Nachtbar (in the Estrel Hotel, Sonnenallee 225, Berlin 12057), so I don’t know if they provide customers with crowbars or if patrons are expected to provide their own.

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16 June 2003
I’ve banished a few words from my vocabulary, words such as nuke and tits (and every other euphemism for breasts and most other body parts). And when it comes to art, I have never, ever used the absurd word, “postmodern.” The work I’m making at the moment is modern, so postmodern work can’t possibly exist. I’ve been saying that for years, but do the academics listen? They do not.

And so it was that I was delighted when Hans showed me an envelope labeled “Postmodern.” Of course! Although “postmodern” is an oxymoron when it comes to discussing art or culture, it makes perfect Teutonic sense when used to describe contemporary German mail delivery.

17 June 2003
Sex, Bitte
Gunther and I were in an elevator when an attractive woman stepped in, looked me in the eye, smiled, and said, “Sex, bitte.”

I was speechless; nothing like that had ever happened to me. Although I knew the answer would be a variation on “no, but thanks for asking,” I couldn’t think of the right words. I was working on a response that included the possibility of espresso when the woman spoke again.

“Sechster stock, du penner!” she commanded, with no trace of a smile.

“Let me translate that for you,” Gunther said cheerfully. “She asked you to push the button for the sixth floor, and called you a loser.”

I was relieved that life had returned to normal.

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©2003 David Glenn Rinehart