september, 2001

Sonntag, 2. September, zweitausendeins, 16:49 (GMT +0200)

typing on austrian keyboard, from pension pertschy, in the heart of vienna, austria. this keyboard is weird -- martin referred to it as a "german keyboard" earlier, but there are all kinds of different things. QWERTY is now QWERTZ, for some reason -- the 'y' and the 'z' are switched, and basic symbols such as the front slash, colon and semicolon, < and > symbols are all over the map. so much for standardization. i was going to just ignore all the idiosyncrasies of this keyboard, but since i'm doing this through putty logged into an american computer through a german version of windozeNT, i have to user the text commands in vi. i'd like to anyhow -- they make it much faster and a very cool program -- but having my shortcuts all suddenly reprogrammed is a bitch. "suddenlz."

left munich yesterday, after a night of clubbing in kunstpark ost. much fun -- the trance club was only the last stop on our travels through the park ... we started out with arcade driving games, a swimming pool (blue from the curacao and coconut) for me and a southern comfort for him ("on the rocks" means the same in both languages, i guess), and another aubergine sandwich for each. mm mm. and even though we didn't stay out half as late as m usually does, it was late enough that i didn't wake up at 8:00 as planned so i could catch the 11:30 to vienna. oh well, i needed the sleep, even if it did cost me a little morning fun.

ended up catching the 1:32 instead, five or so hours to vienna with one switch in salzburg. i try to pack light -- really i do! -- but somehow one can't, really, with a viola. so, by the time i navigated through the train switch in salzburg, the U-Bahn in vienna, and the five blocks to my pension from there, i was dead tired, and flopped on the bed. read some gödelescherbach, ate a few gummibärchen, and called munich to say hello and the trains didn't kill me. hmph. this morning, i really had no interest in doing anything whatsoever, but i dragged my ass out of bed before the breakfast ended (at 10), and then lay around trying to see what there was that i might possibly feel like doing in this city, by myself. i don't know how justin does all this solo travel, and enjoys it. today so far i haven't been a sobbing mess or anything, but i'm looking forward to tomorrow, when i pick olivia up from the airport. not that i need a companion for this study-abroad, per se, but until we move into our host families -- september 6th, they tell us! but they wanted us here by 6:00 on the 3rd for a "welcome dinner" or some such nonsense. so i anticipate that there will be more than just today of playing "viennese tourist" ... and that sucks by yourself. or maybe that's just me.

(the 'ä' is where the apostrophe should be; the 'ß' is where the dash usually is; the front slash is a control character on top of the seven, and in its place is the underscore! also, while i'm griping, i found a typo -- the unforgivable possessive "it's" in the foreign version of newsweek today! for shame!)

but anyhow, i dragged my ass out from under the really, really comfortable blanket this morning. (one thing i could totally get used to about central europe (i've only so far seen this in the czech republic, germany, and austria) are these huge, six-times-as-big-as-your-head pillows, and the even bigger pillows which function as sheet and cover all in one, with a bottom sheet but no top sheet. "duvet covers," mom told me they're called.) frühstück, and then i wandered around the city for a while. this pension is in the middle of everything, not far at all from where i'll be living with my host family in a few days. it's sunday, so everything was closed, but tourists and locals alike were out window shopping. my german still sucks -- and now i've gone from understanding minimally what's going on around me to understanding about nothing, because the viennese speak differently enough that it's confusing the hell out of me. but the more nervous and unsure about it i get, the more i realize it doesn't matter, at least for a tourist, in this town -- zum Beispiel, when it started to drizzle this afternoon i ducked into a sushi bar for lunch (i was hungry anyhow). as i sat at the bar reading my newsweek (gödelescherbach is just too big to carry around, and takes too much thought to be fluff reading over lunch) and had miso soup and veggie sushi (i'll immerse myself in austrian food when my host family makes me -- when i get hungry i don't of yet crave potatoes and meat), i heard a steady and equal babble of japanese, english, and german going on around me. everyone speaks english, and most of them speak it to me, but if i know how to say what i want to say in german and persist, they'll let me.

zzz heheheheh!! success, i have just proved that i have enough german to switch the language on the keyboard (tastatur) so now it's laid out americanwise. remind me to switch it back later ... :) but this makes me very happy. not even hard to do.

after my pleasant mittagessencrossculturalness, i meandered down to the operahouse and found that don carlo's on for tonight. hellzyeah. i was going to find some cheap dinner and then crash in the hotel again, perhaps figure out how to take the u- and schnellbahn to the airport so i actually can get olivia tomorrow morning, ha, but this clinched it. the chick at dePauw who's been communicating with us about what to expect in vienna ("don't bring adapters or American appliances. All the ones she [a girl who recently went on this program] and her roommates brought were fried. ... I really got into the European bathroom stuff. My favorite brands were: Fa- great shower gel!!!!, Labello chapstick is my absolute favorite!!" &c ...), has told us -- or maybe it was joanna curtis ... more likely her to have a head on her shoulders about something like this -- that you can get cheap (and i mean damn cheap, 30-50 ÖS, which is under $3 USD) standing-room tickets 1.5h before the show. so, in twenty minutes, off i will go, to purchase tickets for my first viennese opera! it will also be the first opera i won't understand at all, because it's in italian, and if they have supertitles (which i think they do, from the poster, but the website i found this info on cautions that "the snooty staatsoper doesn't do supertitles!") they'll be in german, which i understand even less of. perhaps i'll get something, between the two halves of the languages which make up english, hehe ... that is, if i get tickets, so i'm going to go mich beeilen, or i won't get any.

my love to all reading. write to me and say hello -- i'll be in this pension for at least the next four or so days, and that's where i'm currently writing from -- a cute computer terminal installed into an old, non-functional upright piano in the lobby. cute.

Montag, 3. September, zweitausendeins, 21:22 (GMT +0200)

as flaky as the organizers of this program are, they kept their promise and met us at eighteen hundred hours (nicht sehr punktlich) in the reception of the pension pertschy, and took us out to a nice dinner. italian, same as olivia and i'd had for lunch, but hell, i always like good pasta. due to my

  1. physical fatigue
  2. mental/emotional fatigue
  3. stupidity
  4. lack of planning
  5. whatever,

i didn't end up eating any dinner these past two nights i've been in the heart of western music here. however, i've sacrificed food for a little sleep and a lot of music, so i'm pretty happy with the outcome. i did make the opera last night, and damn was it worth a dinner of five gummibärchen. the webpage i had been consulting about the stehplatz (standing places) was a little out of date, or didn't give you the full story. it did say that tickets started being sold 1.5h before the show, so, confusing myself on european 24h time, i went down to the staatsoper at five, not at six, for a seven-thirty show. good thing i did, though, because the line slowly formed around the block.

the woman at the counter asked me (after an hour and some of waiting) if i wanted "ain" ticket -- i just started at her blankly for about a second before i realized this was the viennese "ein." oh my. martin's grandfather talked about them having ein ganz andere Tonfall, and that characterizes it really well. the tone of their language falls differently than the hochdeutsch (which is the exact same, as far as my relatively-untrained ear can tell, as the munich accent that i was exposed to for a week). my dictionary translates the word as meaning accent, cadence, lilt, or inflection -- i think it succinctly captures all of those. and so far, i much prefer the german tonfall to the viennese one! just you watch, i'll come back speaking like a native. m's threatened to beat the munich accent into me if i do. :)

after you actually buy the ticket (for $1.98 USD!), you stand in another line, waiting for the house to open. when it does, there is a stampede! it's crazy -- women in high heels and scarves and with extravagantly dyed hair running and screeching into the theater, trying to get the best places. once people have herded themselves into these corrals -- just like the rest of the house, really, with nice railings &c., but just without seats -- there's a flurry as they all whip out their scarves and tie them to the railings to reserve their places. i used my jacket, having no scarf, and then dashed back to the hotel -- it was now five to seven, and it was either go to the opera in my jeans, turkey-on-drugs shirt, and squeaky tennis shoes, or eat dinner. i opted for changing. dinner next time.

oh -- and this about me not understanding the opera, and the snooty staatsoper not having subtitles? bullshit. they had subtitles in the little bars in front of your seats (or stehplaz), like the opéra bastille did, with options in german or english. hehe.

i'd never heard "don carlo" before, or so i thought. extremely well-sung, and i love verdi anyhow. standing was a challenge -- especially without dinner, i began to feel faint and hot by the intermission, but the calories and liquid of a pepsi (would have much preferred coke, but they had none) revived me. and i'm so glad i didn't leave from fatigue, because right after intermission the orchestra opened with a lick i knew. just as i was trying to place it, the bass solo (the king) started singing: "ella giammai m'ammò." it's the best aria in the whole thing, beautifully crafted, and last night it was done extremely well. the soloist got about a minute and a half of applause afterwards. oh my. and best of all, i know this because pyo played it last summer. it was one of the three bass arias we'd prepared to sing with Milan Bürger, who then malingered, but which we performed anyways with eric owens at the going-away concert ... a nice segue into the semester, i think.

the pop music here is awful. the europeans may be two years ahead of the states fashion-wise, but they're at least five years behind when it comes to recycling bad pop.

found olivia at the airport this morning without hitch, and introduced her to the area (so much as i'm able) while slowly unwinding her from jetlag. we walked around a bit, picked up an opera schedule for the next two months, and climbed all 343 steps of the st. stephen cathedral. that might be why she's upstairs crashed right now; i've again taken over the piano computer (named KLAVIER on the network, cute) in the lobby. they moved me out of my single and into a (much nicer) double when she came in. we move in with our host family wednesday. found out much over dinner -- such as, we are the only two students on this whole program. hm. not sure what i think of that just yet. i mean, our classes (except for the german, which we have at the universität, and our lessons of course) will all be just us two. my viola teacher showed up briefly for dinner. she's very cute, and has mediocre english. she wants to do the lessons in english, though ... we'll see. i have one next monday at three. tomorrow we get the orientation in full swing ... this program should be fun. excited to move in with a family; hotels suck, no matter how cool they are.

Donnerstag, 6. September, zweitausendeins, 14:33 (GMT +0200)

figs for breakfast this morning. neither olivia nor i had eaten one before, and we weren't sure quite how to. we ended up cutting them in quarters, and gnawing the innards out, along with cornflakes and vollmilch, orange juice, and a roll with butter and marmalade. this all at eight o'clock in the morning ... and breakfast will be served every weekday at this hour, apparently.

we moved in with frau bernthaler yesterday, who is a sixty-odd hungarian duchess who's lived in vienna for the better part of her life and been through three husbands, with five children and thirteen grandchildren to show for it. she's very tidy, and rather eccentric -- a good word to describe her, and i'm not sure what else could. not crazy, not odd, just eccentric. she lives at mariahilferstraße 27, the biggest shopping street/district in all of vienna apparently, in a victorian-decorated flat with a cupboard from the time of maria theresa (which olivia tells me, the un-austrian-history-educated, is 17th century) and décor to match. we have three skeleton keys with which to deadbolt the door, should we go out and have to lock it. ancient elevator (though not as ancient as the one in the amerika-institut!) down to the ground floor from the third, which is actually five stories up.

last night we were on our own for dinner again -- apparently we get one meal a week (not including breakfast) with frau bernthaler, and after that we get öS 110 / day to forage. today we found a billa (chain of cheap grocery stores across vienna; actually german-owned) and bought spaghetti, sauce, parmesan, baguette, camembert, and wine for a few bucks. really nice. but yesterday we were hungry, just unpacked, unfamiliar with the area, and did i mention hungry? we went into a small pizzeria/bar thing, but couldn't understand enough of what was being said (something about "geschlossen" but was that "we're closed now" or "we're almost closed" or "we're not closed"? damn, we have to figure this language out soon!) to know if we could eat there or not. ended up at an internet café that sold us beer (me), water (olivia), and veggie bagels (die beiden), plus for 22 öS more we could get an hour of net access. i'm not sure i like them, though -- they have a stupid interface that goes over windoze, so i couldn't switch the keyboard format from german (which i despise, loathe, and otherwise can't deal with) to english (much preferred!). still, a nice evening.

the days surrounding these last couple evenings -- one geeking, the previous one seeing nabucco (a nice opera but too much just standing around and singing -- i preferred don carlo, where there was drama -- at least we had some fabulous apfelstrudel at tirolehof beforehand, and met a nice violinist from the baltimore opera pit at the show) -- the days have been rather dismal. we've been doing orientation-y things, which means someone takes us around the city via u-bahn or a little walking or whatever, showing us pretty teppich-makers or glassblowers or maltesian knights churches or comparing different revolutionary apartment complexes, or showing us where our teachers live so we can get to them for lessons. it's all nice, but we've been battling upstream (almost literally) in the pouring rain, fighting umbrellas all down the kärntnerstraße, the ring, mariahilferstraße, and in the subways. depending on how short or tall you are you have to raise yours to let shorter people with theirs pass through, or if you're tall enough you don't have to. it's a crazy pedestrian scene, and i'm damn cold. as soon as we get back to frau bernthaler's i'm going to put on sweatpants and some kind of warm shirt (i have no sweaters! i forgot my one good grey one, and i never had a sweatshirt to begin with. unhappy beans!) and perhaps write a letter, read, or practice. i think we'll catch un ballo in maschera tonight -- it'll be the third verdi i've seen in two days, but for a total of $7.07, i think it's worth it. :)

Montag, 10. September, zweitausendeins, 17:50 (GMT +0200)

i was just about to sit down and gripe for a while about why, for various small and stupid reasons, vienna and i haven't hit it right off, at least just yet. but on my way here (from my first viola lesson, via straßenbahn and then through the karlsplatz underground station) i bought a schokocroissaint, which i am now consuming, and which has greatly placated me. and greatly improved my opinion of this city.

it's not that i don't like vienna, per se. i had such high expectations for it immediately because of its reputation as one of the great european cities, &c., blah. if i were to have done the tourist thing here for a week (i've now been here 9 days), i'm sure i would have sent back glowing postcards about the number of operas i went to (three so far, all verdi), how pretty the old city is, how many churches there are ... but that only goes so far, and i can't do the tourist thing for a whole semester.

i mean, you have to take into account here that i've only been in vienna for nine days now, and in our host family for six, and classes are only very slowly starting. but at the same time. olivia and i are the only two people in our program. they're kind of flaky -- very well-intentioned, but flaky. it doesn't help that the director of the school of music and the director of foreign study at dePauw both retired during the summer, so the turnover means that they're not quite the, er, organizational powerhouse they might have once been. they only told us the dates of the field trips once we got here, even though olivia'd been asking them this whole summer, so they scheduled a salzburg field trip over the exact same time my mom had been planning to come. she still will, i think, just she'll come to salzburg with us. oh well.

there isn't much activity yet. the term at the universität won't start until mid-october, so there aren't that many students here. since olivia and i are the only two kids on this program, we aren't meeting many people. there are a couple other groups at the amerika-institut here, one from tennessee and the other from god knows where, but from the fleeting impressions i've made of them, they're not going to be my best friends for life. last night at the opera (un ballo in maschera -- very good but i got there about 15 minutes too late for a good stehplaz, and my view was obstructed) i met a girl from lawrence university (in appleton, wi), and we played the do-you-know game. she'd worked with randy swiggum, knew julie bannerman, &c., which was kind of cool. voice major. we chatted, and went out for eis (not as good as italy's gelato, but it damn sure rivals it!) afterwards. exchanged emails. again, not sure she'll be a friend for life. but what the hell. talking to martin the other night, he said, you need to just go out to clubs or cafés and meet people. just talk to them. but there aren't people here, really, because the students aren't here, and even if there were, my german isn't colloquial enough yet to just strike up a conversation. i don't do that well in english -- at least there i'd have a flying chance. here, not so much. i'll keep my eyes peeled, but i really am not sure about this whole peers thing. i don't drink coffee. rather, i try, but when i do i almost inevitably get pounding headaches for a long time afterwards, and i can only have so much hot chocolate in my life. i could go drink tea or whatever. it doesn't help that we're on a tight budget -- we get 110 öS a day, which at the current rate of exchange, is $7.19, and are expected to feed ourselves entirely (with the exception of frühstück) with that. my diet now consists of ramen ("asia nudel-snack," to be precise) and spaghetti, with a little bread and cheese (and schokocroissants and eis, to be sure!) thrown in. we're trying to get our fruits and veggies but it's damn hard. and this budget doesn't leave a lot of room for hanging out in coffee houses.

so, we're kind of lonely. vienna as a city is cool, fascinating, and all that. our art history prof took us on a small walking tour off kärntnerstraße, showing us maltesian churches just set into the façade between large gucci stores; pretty ivy-hung courtyards with madonnas peeking off balconies; and there are streets back by the old universität that have placards warning carriages that they're too narrow; monuments to the plague; old roman ruins beneath cafés; the faces of 18th- and 19th-century buildings are a cheerful yellow and pigeons roost on their ledges opposite our apartment ... it's all that but at the same time what is there to do here?! we go on walking tours and see the old streets. we sit in cafés so much as our budget will allow. we lose frau bernthaler's umbrellas and then buy her new ones (oops, olivia). we go to the occasional concert or opera. but only with each other, or by ourselves. we see frau bernthaler about two minutes per day. she's really more of a landlady than a host mother -- the insitut pays her room and board, and she rents out rooms like that. alyson jones is coming to visit next week, and she's going to stay in a room that frau bernthaler lets for 140 öS / night including breakfast, which is great for alyson, but the problem is we're just the same -- boarders. we're getting emails from our friends around the globe, abroad the same semester as us, telling us what lovely host families they have, how much they feed them and talk to them and take them out for entertainment, &c., and we're frankly jealous.

i also wish i had more contact with martin. as it is, it's a great situation -- i'm only about 200 miles away from him, $40 and 5 hours one way by train, so i can see him frequently. he has cheap calling so when things aren't crazy we can talk. we're even in the same time zone so we don't have to factor that in anymore. but i still have bad dreams, ranging all over the map, and i hate having bad dreams. he's not the least stressed of people, what with his entire family, two swatties (seanius and kuzman) chilling chez lui until tomorrow, and training sessions for his job starting soon. it's transition time for both of us. endless vacation sliding slowly into a semester, occupation or employment of sorts. and a schedule for both of us will be no end of good. neither of us functions well when it's just day after day of what-shall-we-do, was-machen-wir-jetzt, urlaub-ohne-ende. and i have a feeling that this will be really gradual -- for both -- this fall. seufz. my patience is developing, and when i have bad dreams i eat gummibärchen and read gödelescherbach and talk to olivia. i want schedule.

while i'm bitching about this city, another thing that i don't like here (but this is a very european phenomenon, from what i've noticed) is the huge oversexualization of women. not like this is anything new, or that i haven't been aware of before. but the fact that i'm noticing it now, actively, on every billboard or on every mannequin in store windows with pointy nipples -- do the mannequins in the states have pointy nipples?? -- says something about the degree to which it's present here. i really hate it, that and the fashion here, to which it seems every woman age 30 and under conforms. people speak english to me and olivia before we even open our mouths, because we're not dressed like them. it depends on the day, and if we're wearing tennis shoes or not. but even when i don't, i don't wear small black pants, tight little shirts, ... i don't even know how to describe it. it's just the latest off gucci, armani, la perla, mango, these trendy boutiques from which there is no deviation. pisses me off.

and it's rained for the past ten days, and is forcasted to rain for the next ten more. i'm cold. i'm coveting an orange sweater i saw in a shop along one of the tiny streets behind stephansdom, and i just might get it for myself as a birthday present.

on the other hand, i had my first viola lesson today, with elena denisova (pronounced élena denísova), whom we saw perform the mozart sinfonia concertante the other night at the schloß rosenburg about an hour outside of vienna. she's excellent, and reminds me very much of sarah ioannides, our old conductor at swarthmore. scales, arpeggios, stamitz, and campagnoli. i'm looking forward to lessons with her. that if nothing else should make this a cool semester. and, as olivia pointed out (and as is really implicit), a semester in vienna is not a wasted semester. it is what you make of it. our art history class starts tomorrow, and then our music theory one on friday. we have dinner with frau bernthaler and her canasta partners tonight at eight, which should give us an opportunity to speak german and chill with her. we'll meet people, if not soon, then when the term starts in october and students get back. again, seufz. i hate slow beginnings. i hate being patient.

Mittwoch, 12. September, zweitausendeins, 13:35 (GMT +0200)

i was in the kunsthistorischesmuseum in vienna, just finishing our first art history lesson with our prof, who's an ex-pat from boston, also a guide there. she stopped at the coat-check and another guide friend of hers communicates the news in rapid german. this around 4 p.m. our time, ten o'clock a.m. in new york city. it doesn't really strike me then, and it takes the rest of the day and into the morning to figure out what's happened. olivia sees a three-paragraph article at the times online. it was her birthday, and we'd planned to go to the ballet (romeo and juliet, prokofiev) that night, so we did. they had a moment of silence before it started, and directly afterwards a huge murmur went through the staatsoper as the public told their neighbors what had been going on with the world trade center, the pentagon, speculations as to who'd done it, &c. it drowned out the opening bars of the ballet. afterwards we checked the internet café to see updates of news, and it was there, but sparse. still before six p.m. on the east coast, and from what i gather, lots was still unknown. i called mom, who said, glad you're there, things are crazy, i have to go. olivia's dad wrote her cautionary email saying we should probably check in with the u.s. embassy in vienna to see what their instructions for americans abroad are. he also had called swat, verified that she could still enroll for the semester, and was suggesting she go live with her godmother in wales until it quieted down, and then fly back to the states and to swarthmore. we went to the embassy as per mr. gruber's suggestion first thing this morning, to find the way to the embassy on boltzgasse 16 blocked, and flowers and candles at the gate. the security wouldn't let us through (big surprise), and i should have expected that. they told us to call the consulate instead. when we got to the institut this morning, they said the embassy had issued a short one-liner instructing americans to keep a low profile. olivia's not going to go to wales, but we are going to keep a low profile, whatever that means. the news in the papers this morning is horrific. palestinian children celebrating on the streets, candies being passed out. bin laden had warned of this. martin said, i just don't get it how you can play with innocent peoples' lives like that. neither do i. i'm more shaken the more i read about it. but what can we do? vienna's functioning as usual, although they at the institut tell us to stay as far away as possible from the u.s. embassy (well, damn). people reading newspapers in all languages with the same gruesome pictures of rubble of the world trade center on them on the subway this morning; the dollar plummeting and world markets taking a dip; but yet there's no disturbance in the daily routine of the viennese. and you wouldn't expect there to be. but how are we supposed to behave now?

Donnerstag, 13. September, zweitausendeins, 15:38 (GMT +0200)

i wish i'd been at swat for this. it wouldn't have made any material difference, certainly -- the only place that would have made any difference if i'd been there would have been the city where it happened, or cities i guess -- but the reactions of various swatties and their profs has made me wish, as ross says, that i were in that community to just deal with all of this, mentally. i like what ben said (linked above) about tom [whitman] asking students to play music to comfort each other ... olivia and i are doing that in a way. we went to the ballet, romeo and juliet, the night it happened -- it was olivia's birthday, and we'd planned on it, so we went anyhow. what were we going to do -- go to the internet café, stay glued to or the nytimes online through the night while the afternoon developed in the states? they had a very appropriate moment of silence beforehand, prefaced in both german and english, and that was all anyone in vienna could do. when you log on to sccs it asks you to donate blood, and were i there i certainly would (although i'd certainly faint), but olivia tells me that the u.s. is already swamped with more blood than they can process right now. so all we can do is send emails and go to mahler eight at the musikverein tonight.

so, what can you do. continue. consider the fact that on monday night we had palatschinkensuppe, which is a broth with cut-up crêpe-like things in it with sautéed carrot. one old canasta partner of frau bernthaler's at the table kept saying that "die suppe war ausgezeichnet," and i commented on the soup to martin, and immediately made the connection -- it's pancake soup like he told me about in april! not quite ramen with pancake smushed up in it, like we ate it then, but here's the original. i need to get over to munich soon, if only briefly.

Dienstag, 18. September, zweitausendeins, 19:57 (GMT +0200)

alyson jones has been here, visiting us from siena, italy, where she's studying for the semester. she's '02, which means this is the fall of her senior year, but i guess she decided that she couldn't deal with eight straight semesters of swarthmore, either, and needed to get out. she told us of a friend of hers whose program fell through a week before she was going to go started frantically looking for anywhere to go but swarthmore -- nepal, japan, grenoble, anything but more swat. don't get me wrong, i love the place, and am more than looking forward to going back there in the spring, but no matter how excited i ever am for it in the fall or the spring, there comes a point where i just can't handle it. i'm gradually learning how to work past that, but a semester off is what i'd needed. i'm sure i'll say with even more fervor in january, when i'm back at swat, again slaving ... and loving it of course.

we took her around vienna, toured it so far as we know how. hit the musikverein (mahler 7), the opera (nabucco for a second time, and it was better than when we'd last been), hotel sacher (the so-called torte is indeed fabulous; we're going back for my birthday on thursday), tried to go to a castle in bratislava, slovakia ... it's only a fifteen-dollar round trip by train, and the castle there is supposed to be day-trip-worthy, so we figured what the hell. got on a train around 12:30, which then broke down and had to have its engine replaced or something while we sat on it. pouring rain the whole time. we got there finally forty minutes behind schedule, and decided a good thing to do first would be to find out when our train back left. we stood in line after line, trying to find someone who spoke either german or english (the only words i could decipher in slovakian being "tea," "coffee," and "beer" from my trip to prague last summer), and after the sixth or so line, realized that we only had an hour left in bratislava before we had to return (in order to be home for dinner with frau bernthaler and gabor that evening at seven). the bus to the castle would take us maybe twenty minutes each way, so, when i noticed (a) a sign that said PIVO - 25 sK and (b) that the slovakian crown was currently at around 47 to a dollar, we concurred that the best way to compensate ourselves for having spent $15 to get here and back was to enjoy a beer. i was damn buzzed after half a liter and that made my fucking day, which had not started out so well. crying half the night and then waking up at 5:45 a.m. because you're too upset / sad to sleep never bodes well ...

had i written this yesterday, i would have begun with the langston hughes "a dream deferred" in its entirety. it's still worth it here, but not at the top of the page right now.

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

the distance between vienna and munich, and the difference between swarthmore and the real world, may kill us, or this. it has already created expectations and weird situations that were just exacerbated by stress (on both ends, but came to a head on his). i keep having faith, and keep wanting to do anything i can to reëstablish normalcy ... scaling back, creating an interaction for circumstances outside of the haven of swarthmore, which is all we have left. taking each other's needs as they arise. i think i'm capable of this -- plus, i left my winter coat in münchen. it's not yet a dream deferred (and i'm glad, because i might still be a sobbing mess) but it's a dream scaled back, and taken one step at a time. and i'm a much calmer person for it. (knockonwoodcrossyourfingershopepraywishonastar.)

in the meantime -- because i still miss him, and will still be very happy to see him -- i have things to keep me busy, finally. i have my second viola lesson tomorrow; i have another german lesson tomorrow and i can always review that (olivia and i are practicing the language by watching american movies dubbed over into german on the little tv in our room, and have decided that we'll soon start speaking only german to each other outside of our room); we had another art history class this afternoon, this time on biedermeier paintings; we have our second music class tomorrow, for which we had to write a page on a performance of mahler seven that we saw saturday night ...

the chicago symphony played mahler seven, and only that symphony. usually i guess i expect a concert to encompass more than just one symphony, but mahler seven is about an hour and a half, with five movements, and at standing-room (which, at the musikverein, is even crazier and more cattle-corral-like than at the staatsoper), i didn't mind. it was great to hear the chicago symphony under barenboim -- i've only seen them a few times, even though i certainly live close enough to have seen them more! -- and while they were in vienna, with no immediate way of flying back. we talked to a percussionist from the orchestra while we were waiting in line before the show, and there are orchestra members who know people working in and around the world trade center. before the show, an emcee came out and expressed sincere thanks to the symphony for playing that night, and i got a new take on the meaning of the phrase "international language." the piece was flawlessly and beautifully executed, and it was very moving in the face of this international craziness. plus i love mahler.

it's my birthday thursday. i turn twenty-one. kind of pointless in a country where i've been the legal drinking age "ever since i could reach the counter," paraphrases martin, but i don't plan on getting smashed or anything. olivia and i are going to carmen at the volksoper (which means it'll be in german, but i've seen the opera before, i know the plot, i've played the suites multiple times, and i have the callas recording, so i don't anticipate a problem in comprehension there) and then hit hotel sacher for sachertorte. not as good as my mom's reine de saba, but still pretty fucking good. should be, for those prices! but it's my birthday. all reading this, i'll assume that you tried to send me a birthday card, but just couldn't, because the air space is closed, and mail isn't going through. so you can just email me. :-)

dinner time. the internet cafe where i currently am has free surfing tonight for some reason, which suits my purposes, but i don't exactly feel like buying dinner from them. so either i go search mariahilferstraße for a 30öS mozzerella sandwich, or i go make tomato soup from powder with olivia. perhaps the latter ...

a dream scaled back. i'm still breathing. and still looking forward to october fourth or so ...

Sonntag, 23. September, zweitausendeins, 13:00 (GMT +0200)

bratislava, slovakia
hlavná stanica
~9:45 a.m., gmt +0200
train information booth playing on radio: st-germain, tourist

he told me it was european music. says no one at swarthmore listens to it, that he introduced the campus to "his music." i'd never heard of de-phazz, st-germain, tangerine dream, but then again he introduced me to a lot of pink floyd, too, so how was i to know. now on the radio in bratislava, this dirty back-water town that wants so badly to be european like vienna, but remains stuck in the eastern block, is st-germain. takes me a minute to place it. in the internet cafe we usually go to i've heard daft punk; a gorillaz song (clint eastwood) is advertising cars on austrian television. really it's all over, and i have one person to thank for this exposure to a huge corner of the music scene i never would have otherwise heard of. he called it "a logical continuation of classical music," this trance, this melodic electronica, and certainly all i'm hearing is not this genre. but i "like music [and computers] at least as much as [he] do[es]" (olivia's mother apparently classified me as a "geek" the other day, based on the latter aspect, hehe), and i love this exposure.

also playing on the radio station here in bratislava, in a hole-in-the-wall cafe which is actually nice and decked out in smooth, quasi-futuristic décor, is mint royale's "don't falter." i encountered this first from another source of music, from whom i expect to learn a lot next semester when i live with him, rebecca, and joel-o, in the barn. it was on the mix tape that ross made alyssa for spring break last year, when i walked around with a pink duck umbrella and painted our toenails beautifully pink, when she wrote "smitten x 10^3" on her hand and "smitten x 10^6" on mine, when i was fully in love. it's a great song. we had music mostly from our boys then, my burnt copy of tangerine dream's "poland" along with ferry corsten "live at innercity," and she had this mix tape. it's all we listened to for a week. i painted my toenails pink, wore my dark pink flower dress with my hair down, and we rolled the windows down in the spring florida air -- it was around 72 by then, a beautiful change from the cold (yet budding!) spring at swat -- and would listen to this tape, all the way down to the beach house when we visited laurel, and back. it has this great line in it:

as long as we've got each other
it's gonna be officially summer.

it was officially summer for a while. i spent the morning today looking over the dunaj ("danube" in slovakian) from a museum in the castle which we visited, thinking about this strange eastern tristesse i know of mostly from their literature -- russian, and also from the only czech author i've ever read, the ineffable milan kundera.

the unbearable lightness of being. i brought it with me, but there's no way i'll be able to read it. my situation right now is so unbearably light. if this is how it has to be for some order to come out of this stressful chaos, then so be it. but it feels like a slow disintegration. right now he's been so busy, what with this virus that just hit -- was hearing about it on the viennese radio the other day on the tourbus to klosterneuburg (below) -- a family reunion, his job, and his family in general, &c., but just an email ... contact ... unbearable lightness. i just sat and cried in the exhibition of fin-de-siècle bohemian crystal in one corner of the hrad for a few minutes. i have dreams. ester wrote down a quote from me in may: "all i'm doing anymore is waiting for night." biding my time. now i have more to occupy me and i'm better rounded, but at night i dream. teresa had dreams. i'm not a child in a bulrush basket but in all other aspects i can't help but drawing parallels to the kundera.

so light.
so unbearable.
slovakian crystal in glass cases; rain outside the windowpanes; my mind diverted to kundera and then to martin, and just standing there crying for a minute. a small, slow death (in french a small death would be good, but i'm operating in the german now).

otherwise i've been damn good, really. i've finally "made peace" with the city, and am beginning to feel at home here. i have things to do, i have a small amount of routine, and i'm even establishing a to-do list, which is always a sign that i'm being halfway productive. thursday was my 21st birthday, and while that doesn't me a whole lot in this country, it still was a birthday, and a sign that i'll never again be denied alcohol. whoop-de-do. i had dreams that night of going into a grocery store in the states and trying to find alcohol, any alcohol, just so i could buy it. i got presents -- a cd from elena denisova, my viola teacher, of her and her husband (a pianist) playing heifitz miniatures; a beautiful märchenbuch auf deutsch from martin (which i'd been coveting, and which he inscribed nicely); opera funds from my dad ... olivia and i went shopping at the gasometer, i bought a cute jeansrock and she a cute denim dress. carmen that night at the volksoper, which rocked. carmen was great, and don josé was pretty damn good, too. sachertorte at a reserved table in the so-named hotel afterwards, and it felt like my birthday. i wore new purple tights and a new purple shirt, my orange birthday skirt olivia gave me last year, and my orange wrap. ridiculously lovely. i had a fabulous day.

friday we and the linfield kids (about 11 of them, studying here from linfield college out in washington, i think) went to klosterneuburg and then kreutzenstein on a day-trip. the first tour bus i've been on since i've been here, thankfully. klosterneuburg was an old town that actually used to be the capital of austria in the 12th century briefly, and has a castleishchurchish thing that we toured. kreutzenstein was this eclectic castle -- complete with a drawbridge, portcullis, and all the elements that one traditionally thinks of when one hears the word "castle." it was very eclectic, because it was assembled from parts of other, old castles, by this rich count who wanted to rebuild his family's fortress. but it was great. even saw a linden tree, and was able to musically quote schubert's setting of the müller "am brunnen, vor dem tore, da steht ein lindenbaum" when the professor mentioned it. took a picture of the three, all there. that evening we went to the weinviertel (of niederösterreich) and had a wine-tasting led by the mayor of the town, who's also a wine conniseur and maker, and a philosopher. then a lovely cozy meal at his place, with chardonnay and riesling and great food. after we'd had enough to drink, the vintner pulls out the old song "mein hut es hat drei ecke" and makes us sing it leaving out words, and puting cork-ash stains on each others' faces when someone messes up and says a word instead of a gesture. between wines we had brown bread with liptauer, the fabulous austrian combination of cheeses which is orangey-pink and great. i've been coveting that brown bread since i was introduced to it at martin's the week before i came here, and i think billa actually sells the liptauer. i can buy bread like that on the street ... i may take up the bavarian way of dinner soon. so good.

saturday morning we woke up damn early, and got on the road before even our internet café (8.00 to 2.00 daily) opened, to go pick grapes with more linfield kids and a couple who was hosting one of them, jeff and nadja. jeff's a big american with a doomsday philosophy about this conflict happening, and nadja's a beautiful twentysomething with short blond hair and a great tonfall (she was german, she admitted). we went to the 21st district of vienna -- still in the city, but framed by cornfields and vineyards, with little cobblestone roads of small houses and lots of wine cellars (more cellars than houses out there). it started out cold and rainy, but as we donned gloves and started shearing grapes off the vines into buckets, it warmed up beautifully. we were completely dirty and very hungry by noon, when they cooked us a great meal -- knödel with dear meat for the carnivores; justin and i ate them with homemade cranberry sauce; other people had more meaty things, and günther (the vintner) sliced us a plate of emmentaler, liptauer, and another good cheese, and more of that delicious brown bread. also we had most, which is the wine before it starts fermenting, but just past the juice stage. günther gave us each a bottle of white to thank us for our labors -- "mehr als we deserve," germinglished miriam. on the way back, walking to the bus stop, we found a row of little wine gardens advertising sturm -- this is the wine right after the most stage, when it's alcoholic, but not yet full-out wine. it's only available from september to october every year, and you can get it in white or red. it's very sweet, and tastes like a wine cooler, almost, but with sediment. it was sunny by now, and cats were coming up to us and basking at our feet. all eight of us squeezed into one picnic tableish thing, and a waitress brought us four red and four white small steins of sturm for about a buck-fifty each. lovely morning. that night (after i found a piece of brot with liptauer for dinner on the street -- that stuff may be addictive!) we went to "a knight's tale" at the german theater (apollo) near us (called ritter aus leidenschaft -- knight of passion -- auf deutsch), and followed that by some lovely ice cream and chilling.

as i mentioned, sunday's bratislava excursion was not perhaps as idyllic and fun as the rest of the weekend had been, but i enjoyed it well enough in retrospect. and when you've only got two days of class a week, as olivia and i currently do, you've gotta get out on the weekends! (in october we'll have three per week.)

Hey, don't falter
you know we ought to be together
Strange, I saw ya, I sorta knew it was for ever
Please, stay with me
and never miss a chance to kiss me
Hey, I love ya
when you're with me it's always summer

i vacillate. i'm better this morning, and i was yesterday night when i was playing scales and finally figured out what my teachers have been talking about for months about dropping my shoulder, and had a small revelation, and then read a long story from my märchenbuch, and felt like i was learning german. and this morning an email, and i can write with equanimity ... but now and then, i think of kundera or something, and i just stand there in an exhibit of slovakian crystal ...

all this ©nori heikkinen, September 2001

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