october, 2001

Dienstag, 2. October, zweitausendeins, 17:00 (GMT +0200)

just took the placement test for german at the university of vienna, and we all placed into level four (fortgeschrittene 1, after the three levels of anfänger), which they tell us is good.

Fortgeschrittene 1:
Sprachgebrauch des Alltags- und Berufslebens unter Anwendung des gesamten Grundwortschatzes, ca. 2000 Wörter), Referate über Themen von allgemeinem Interesse, Sinnverständnis von Radionachrichten, Zeitungslektüre und Belletristik, Aufsätze mit Problemstellung, Syntax und Idiomatik zu stilistisch nuanciertem Sprachverständnis

that's cool by me, since it's i guess the equivalent of german 4 at swat, and i've really only had one semester. olivia and i spent the evening reviewing and taking email breaks, since we were studying at the cafe ... i took a phone break too and called anna, whom i'm going to see in about three days.

yeah, even though she's in spain, i'm going to see anna. munich has fallen through. (i'm trying to keep this through-falling -- which is an even awfuler concept when literally translated auf deutsch -- with munich to a minimum, but when the only emails i get are responses to linux questions or slug posts, the whole thing feels sometimes rather hopeless.) martin's being sent from city to city, doing security audits, and there's no way i can go up there, like i'd planned to since april. but anna's in barcelona, and through ökista i can afford to go over and see her, especially since she's going to be able to put me up while i'm there for most of the time. cheap food, she promises, and good; we might jet off to morocco or just take the bus to san sebastian, and do the student touristy thing there for a few days before i return on sunday the fourteenth. it's a tiny bit above my budget, and definitely more than i wanted to spend on fall break, but i really have no option not to spend money, if not munich. and plus, when am i ever going to get back to spain? especially when anna's there.

so i'm flying off to barcelona in three days, and will spend a lovely week and some there, basking in the early-october but yet-tropical weather. going to enjoy this.

i'm all the time on the move recently, it seems. we went to prague this past weekend, and did it much better than last time with pyo. we had a professor who's apparently written several books on the history and architecture and whatevernot in the city, and he lectured in german and english alternately, confusing onlookers to the group mightily, for several mornings. learned much more about the city than before, when we were traipsed through with a group of eighty or ninety kids, briefly shown memorials and told a few stories, and then gone back to the nasty nasty hotel and spent our crowns (gotta love the deflated economy, and what 37 crowns to the dollar will buy ya) at the hotel bar. this time we had a nicer hotel, actually in the city, and i didn't feel so tourist-obligation-y with the nine or ten or twelve kids in our group -- me and olivia from swat, another chunk from linfield. found a "dobrá cajovna" (hatschek on the 'c') first in cesky krumlow that we stopped in on the way up, and then another one right on the main wenceslas street in prague, which we visited twice more. the best tea i've ever had in my life. i bought a beautiful hexagonal teapot, and 100g of "malayan tiger" tea, a red brew with coconut overtones, served with a small bowl of thinly-sliced coconut. (back in vienna this afternoon i had a plain pfefferminztee with lunch, and olivia wondered aloud how i could take that, after the spectacular teas of this weekend.)

prague this weekend was really a series of restaurants, our teestube, cafes, and a microbrewery. this time we finally managed to find u fleku, the world-famous microbrewery that serves excellent dark beer, waiters coming around the beergarden courtyard with huge trays of half-liters of the stuff, placing them down in front of people who have already finished theirs, then following that with shots of something they called "czech medicine" when asked, which tasted like apple and cinnamon with goldschlager. the beer was some of the best i've had, but that's to be expected from czech beer. this merriment (and there was much) was all preceded by a visit to "jewel of india," a gourmet indian restaurant that would only ever be in my budget in czech crowns. excellent food, as usual there (i was there twice last summer, and am too lazy to link it now). forgot to get samosas but that's just a reason to go back, i suppose.

it's a little weird that olivia, i, and all the linfield kids except one are all in the same deutschstufe -- whatever, and we're not all in the same section, so we'll meet other people and it won't matter at all, but i think the placement test was really only deciding between levels 3 and 4 (anfänger 3 and forgeschrittene 1), and the levels within that group are very different. whatever; not my problem. i'm going to enjoy having a little more class per week. this all starts on oktober 16, right after we get back from spain. i'm going to see if there's a linguistics course being offered that i can sit in on too, but i think their semester already started a day ago or so. we're on the trimester schedule, officially.

really no urge to write anymore today. i'm going to go practice, because i haven't been able to all weekend, and because i won't be able to in spain, and because i want to. i'm going to read my email at the cafe later, and wait for email that likely won't come. rationalize. read a märchen? sleep, and go to class early, practice ... i dunno. bide my time. i should stop waiting, because i have a sinking suspicion, but i want so very much so very badly for it not to be true, and all it would take is a little communication. please.


Samstag, 6. October, zweitausendeins, 24:45 (GMT +0200)

first rule of the hitchhiker's guide: always carry a towel. oops. this morning, crashed at anna's host brother's apartment, i got up to shower with no one in the house (managed to sleep in till almost 10, having woken up initially at 8:30, which is already an hour later than i've slept in weeks -- i'm slowly being turned into a morning person, i swear!), and realized they'd left me no towel. well, between scarves and the marvelous dessicant powers of air, i managed to get dry, but damn.

i'm in spain, after a not very eventful 9 or 10 hours of traveling yesterday. or rather, they tell me, catalunya. the catalan is as prominent as the spanish here, if not more, but it's not half as opaque as i expected it to be. just kind of french and spanish mashed together, and therefore sounding very much like portuguese in some respects. it would be fun to try and pick some up, were i here for any longer. i did get a german tour book of barcelona in the vienna airport on my way out, to kill time and to read something a little lighter than "the unbearable lightness of being" or "gödelescherbach" ...

october 3, 2001:
just bought a beautiful edition (yes, i'm a sucker for aesthetically pleasing covers!) of die unerträgliche Leichtigkeit des Seins -- translated from the czech, and since i've already read it twice in english, i maybe will understand some. am i a glutton for punishment or what?!

(really -- what was i thinking, not to bring any english fiction? reading materials have i plenty: german fiction translated from the czech; english nonfiction weighing about ten pounds (gödelescherbach); german tourbook on barcelona. anna, as usual, knows me better than i do myself, so in our rambles today we stopped at a multilingual bookstore and purchased me a prayer for owen meany, which she was appalled i hadn't yet read. comforting to have a book in hand.)

actually understood most of the tourbook, which i was happy about, and i had much fun with the german-katalanisch glossary at the back. ginnie's taking catalan in the spring, and i am very jealous. she and anna tried to convince me tonight that i needed to stay an extra semester in europe like they were doing, and that i should come on their program, and just fake the spanish. i thought about it briefly, and then realized that i am trying to double-major here, and i really would like to graduate. heh. so, tempting as it might be, i'd probably come out of it not able to speak any language instead of ten, and not graduating. oh well.

one thing i'm jealous of here, though, is the night life culture. yeah, we haven't visited any clubs in vienna yet -- we were going to go to club roxy the other night but then olivia backed out, citing a flute lesson for which she wasn't quite prepared in the morning, and we left without any kind of idea of what the city does after we go to sleep. i joked on the phone to M a few weeks back that olivia was trying to turn me into a morning person; he just laughed and said to tell her "good luck." i woke up of my own accord at 8:30 this morning, and that was the latest i've slept in weeks. really, my dreams end and i wake up at around 7:15 a.m. every morning, and i'm in bed before midnight. we go to operas at night, but after standing through carmen or das rheingold or what have you, one really doesn't have the stamina to then go dancing. (right now anna and i are sitting in easy everything, which is bigger by a ton (though not as fast!) than bignet (which olivia and i used in austria), not out dancing or drinking because (a) i want to get out to metro stop vallcarca where i'm crashing before the trains stop going at 2 a.m., and (b) we were walking around the barri gòthic all day, and our legs are kaputt.) the university season is only just now starting, and so students should be returning to the city, but seeing barcelona in all its extroverted, spazierengehen, rambling, funky socialness, i'm just not convinced vienna has anything comparable. we will check out the club scene there, that's for damn sure ... here, even though anna, allison, and ginnie aren't exactly meeting any locals, who speak to each other in catalan and have their own social circles, they have a program full of girls with whom they enjoy chilling (and they all have cell phones! they spend the entire night text-messaging each other from across the street, and calling each other, and making it twice as expensive for anyone outside of the city to call them, but they're so cool ... i want one, but whom would i call in vienna?!), which in the spanish sense means eating dinner around ten, then maybe going to a bar or something, and then out to party. late. i might be converted back to regular nori sleeping schedule before i return to my adopted city ...

oh! and barcelona actually sells paper products, which is really really exciting, because i've been trying to buy a notebook or something in vienna, and they just don't exist. i bought myself a red roller-ball pen and a red, smallish, quadrille notebook today for about $3. normal prices but the purchase makes me very happy.

meantime, i'm thinking about this situation too much. i keep vacillating. ups and downs. deciding it's okay; not being able to deal. seufz. what can i do but wait, hope and see.

so, i can now reclassify myself as a galactic (or at least european) hitchhiker -- after she found me warm milk with nutmeg and vanilla liqour, i borrowed for the duration a towel from anna.

postscript: we saw le fabuleux destain d'améline poulain dubbed over into german the other night, while still in vienna, at the apollo kino, and it rocked. would love to see it in english (well, subtitled, like foreign movies usually are!) sometime to get some of the faster wordplays and plot developments, but still got most of it, and loved it. heather doyle and jenny lunstead and emily, go see it -- mr. chomsky does the world!


Mittwoch, 10. October, zweitausendeins, 29:27 (GMT +0200)

i can see in my periphery three silver streaks beneath my eye (crayola glitter marker) and it's five twenty-seven a.m. in barcelona ... sitting at an easyEverything, internet cafe, having begged five pesetas off a passerby to buy a tunafish sandwich (ingredientes; pan, atun, tomate, lechuga y salsa fina), while ginnie buys 200 ptas worth of time (at 182 ptas / dollar these days, 200 buys you 4 hours after midnight) and príncipe crema de chocolate cookies to sustain us here at the cafe until i can get back into anna's apartment for the morning while she goes to class. we've just been to moog, which my german tourbook i bought myself in the vienna flughafen says has immer das neuste von trance, and for which i received a coupon on las ramblas while rambling there the other day, for a 1.200 pesetas entry including drink. not the cheapest club i'll ever go to but it was damn fun: to begin the evening with dinner -- pasta from a bag, followed by leftover paella (from a jar), with a shared rum-and-coke-in-a-can; after which anna made us cafe con leche (cafe amb llet in catalan, of which i am understanding more by the day) to keep us through the evening, and into which she put not only espresso (the mokka spat at her) and milk (spanish milk isn't refrigerated until opening -- weird pasteurization which tastes equally weird unless mixed with things like espresso), and some of the bottle of tia maria of which we'd split the price in the grocery store, while listening to manu chao on spanish radio (i want the cds!); after which we found ginnie and their mutual friend anne at the bar karma (which actually wasn't called karma, but rei de copas), where they had previously befriended the bartender, who brought a liter and a half of sangria for las guapas, which meant two glasses each, punctuated by dissuading a drunk guy from discovering where we were from (anna's been telling people she's from canada, but really didn't want to answer this shithead, so he kept asking), followed by a shot each of "liquor de amor" (a.k.a. nasty pink shit) on the house; once in moog, anna's and my entrance coupons covered a vodka y limón for me (and one with gin for ginnie). and that was just the bebidas. moog is a hole-in-the-wall club, in a neighborhood that thankfully had police cars patrolling and keeping an eye on the only entertainment locale within blocks on this graffittied alley of the arc de theatre. the stamp they put on your arm to go out has four glyphlike symbols on it. they have a coat-check but it costs 200 ptas, and they won't let you re-check stuff. good music, trance, beat in straight four and sometimes an imposed hemiola, live djs (and wednesday the best night to go because it was in-house music, not guest djs). blacklight (the "jack daniels" logo on anne's recently-won shirt stood out against white teeth and corneas, and lint). strobe flashing against the wall of bourbon smirnoff four roses martini (m. and i drank that straight in ml; small sips -- his the only similar parties i've been to, and in whose company i've been to similar clubs (kunstpark ost)). music and beat dictate the moves of everyone around you, most of whom are too self-conscious to really dance, or to notice a blank space of floor, suddenly opened by shuffling feet, and move into it. up on the ledge. around the wooden floor. small amounts of some mixed drink spilled onto my open-toed sandal but that's the price i'd pay at paces or anywhere. danced till 4:15 a.m. when anna needed to go (class in the morning -- not early but needed sleep), the coat check lady refused to recheck my and ginnie's coats, and while anna and anne wandered home, ginnie and i wandered to a very closed sbarro in search of pizza (not to be had until 8 a.m.). five pesetas begged off another internet cafe patron brought my total pocket change up to 375, which bought me the aforementioned sandwich -- not as good as the aubergine grilled ones in kunstpark ost, but enough to stave off the hunger until i sleep.

amazing, in a way, that i'm still up and typing, let alone danced for so long. i've been trying to do all the touristy things in barcelona, plus function on their schedule -- which means breakfast whenever, lunch not before two, dinner not before nine, and then out at night. today allison and anna and i hit the mercat de les encants -- a flea market which anna described as a place where the people "dump out spanish playing cards everything on their bag on a big blanket, and then stomp on it." it wasn't quite that chaotic when we were there, but there were merchants yelling "barato barato barito," advertising their cheap prices -- and they were, as i got a purse (i'll take it to the opera in vienna; it's not completely going to fall apart, and it was $4), a dirt-cheap razor, a deck of spanish playing cards (different suits than the standard clubs - diamonds - hearts - spades), and two louis armstrong cds, all for cheap. saw gaudí's unfinished la sagrada familia afterwards, and then alter (after huge amounts of brie, french bread, and sautéed apple for lunch) park güell, with mosaics all over the walls and benches and lizards and ceilings. i bought a mug with a gaudí quote in catalan, which was identical to the one on the mugs in german, but a different quote than on the mugs with english, spanish, french, or portuguese. wondered why the fuck. the day before, ginnie and i went to figueres, the place where dalí was born, and saw his trippy museum there. opera playing in a car with scary mannequins inside, who get rained on now and then. realism to macroscopic pointillism to just trippy, confused dalí. excellent lunch outside afterwards: gazpacho, tortilla españa, a liter of sangria between us two, and crema catalana (northern spain's version of flan). put me out nicely for the train back. picasso museum on sunday, when it was free. all the famous works of these 20th-century guys seem to be elsewhere (madrid; florida), but the visits were still highly worth it.

meantime, i've been reading headlines in catalan on the metro stations. saw news of the initial bombings of afghanistan there; while i have no formal training in this language, it's italic and therefore not opaque enough to obscure the fact that my country is bombing another one. i can't get this through my head that this is real. it seems so far-removed here safe in the e.u. ...

these silver things are still on beneath my eye, and i'll see them flickering in the fluorescence of this cafe until madrugada seeps in through the orange-trimmed windows -- or until i peel them off ... we'll see who can hold out longer, me or the sun.


Dienstag, 16. October, zweitausendeins, 13:27 (GMT +0200)

i'm sitting here trying to write a paper, but how can i possibly write anything about a concert i heard twelve days ago, and right before i left for barcelona? i wanted resources (i.e., online ones) at my fingertips when i wrote it, so i waited till i was back, only to discover that the internet really doesn't do it. just not at all. i miss underhill! i want grove's at my hands; i want recordings of these two pieces (Brahms' String Quartet in a minor, op. 51 No. 2, and Bruno Walter's Piano Quintet) at my fingertips, i want normal music student resources! was ist hier los?! goddamn it. so the only thing i could really do would be write about programming, but olivia's already done that, and this is for an 8:30 class tomorrow, and i want to go to the opera (ernani) tonight, because i haven't been in two weeks or more, and i miss it! plus, i just took cute pictures at a photo booth in karlsplatz for my bignet student id card, which i paid money for a month of high-speed access, and then the lamination fucked it up so the (relatively expensive!) photo was ruined. i still have three more but the girl at the cafe informs me that they're just shitty quality photos, the ones from the photo booths, and that i'd have to give her a new one or just deal with the fucked up one. i have no way to get a new one, so i'm just dealing. but they were cute photos! and goddamn it, i want to go to munich this weekend! i'm going crazy. it's no one's fault; he's busy; but this is getting to a point where i just have to see him. and he hasn't written or called. of course i'm not mature enough to just say fuck the whole thing; this is a good thing just at the wrong time. still don't believe that and have too much faith. bad photo. can't write a paper. raaaaaaaaaar!


Mittwoch, 17. October, zweitausendeins, 15:29 (GMT +0200)

this semester is proving to be really frustrating. i didn't expect it to be academic in the sense that swarthmore is, and i didn't want that. that was half the reason i was taking a semester off -- and the other half was i wanted time to actually do music.

well, i'm doing it, insofar as i'm practicing daily, and taking lessons from elena denisova. she's fabulous, she really is. she's from moscow originally, and has lived in vienna for a number of years, where she's finally getting established. she's recorded some, some with her husband alexei somebody, who's a conductor and a great pianist. she's really a violinist, and while diedre has made me slightly wary of that type, rictor and she have shown me that no matter if they don't have the specifically viola mentality, i can still learn a hell of a lot from a great player, which she certainly is. i've got 14 lessons with her this semester covered and arranged by dePauw, the program i'm going through.

that's really the only good musical thing about this "music program," however. i suppose you can count the ridiculously cheap access to great opera, too, and the daily concerts, most of which have standing room. i don't get to all of them, but i certainly make an effort to get to a lot.

other than that, we have a music class once a week at the danube international school, with dr. daniel l., an american ex-pat (all my teachers are ex-pats this semester). it's really not a class. he gives us readings sometimes, and then tells us to go to concerts and write about things. what's the class about? it was supposed to be about the second viennese school, and his big thing is "using vienna as a classroom," which is all very noble and good and would be cool, if there were performances by schönberg, webern, berg, and all them daily. i actually haven't seen anything by a composer of the second viennese school since i've been here. the closest we've gotten is mahler (we've seen two of his symphonies -- the 7th and 8th -- at the musikverein), and one piano quintet by bruno walter a few weeks ago. but those are fin-de-siècle composers in heart and soul (at least, the walter, written in 1904, certainly was then -- and even if he branched out more later, he rejected atonality and serialism his whole life, so that's hardly subscribing to anything second-viennese-school-ish). so, the idea of "vienna as a classroom," at least for this subject matter, is quickly failing. we're also doing absolutely no analysis, or anything really musical. it's a very half-assed music history course at absolute best.

this morning after our half-hour class (usually it's an hour, even though it's supposed to be one and a half, but today he just said, well, you have your assignment, why don't i let you go back to bed. i was yawning, but i always do that during 8:30s! that doesn't mean i'm bored! this guy is funny -- olivia found one piece we listened to in class a couple weeks really beautiful, and she started crying when it was done. i think she really freaked dr. l. out -- he didn't quite know what to do, and trod on eggshells the rest of the class. kind of funny.) but this morning, as i was saying, as i was commenting that this was the biggest joke of a class i'd had in a long time, olivia pointed out that it's kind of seminar-style, and it is what we make of it. granted, i'm used to seminars having a topic, instead of this ridiculous thing, but in a way she's right. we have a "project" to work on for these next few weeks, or maybe it's the final; i'm not sure; but since we really haven't even touched serialism or the 12-tone system yet -- and as that is kind of the basis of the second viennese school (at least as i understand it!), i decided i'd just do my fucking project on that. serialism. 12-tone. so he gave me a couple books to read, and i'll read chunks of them, and actually teach myself something. that would be better than what i'm doing this semester.

this art history class is also not at all what i'm looking for. maybe olivia likes it, seeing as she's a major, but i'm really not into these waldmüller paintings, or even the random hieronymous bosch we saw yesterday in the academy of fine arts (tryptich of last judgement). maybe i shouldn't take intro art history as a humanities pdc, as i'd planned ... we have a midterm in that class in two weeks, so at least there's a little work.

and our german class at the university finally started -- yesterday. we were here for a month and a half before anything happened, really. i talked to martin yesterday evening, and was complaining about the state of the program, and he said, what you really should have done is just gone to a country or vienna or someplace and immersed yourself in the language. it would have been hard at first, but then it would have kicked ass. and damn it, i'm not immersed, and i'm not going to be. i am learning german, some, and this class will help, but it's only for two months.

also, i'm running low on cash. my mom just sent me a nagging email, informing me i shouldn't have gone to barcelona, and i wouldn't have had to ask her and dad for help on this coat i just bought (because i was cold in vienna! and not because i left my huge winter coat in munich -- that's not appropriate for this weather, either, and i've never had a coat that fit the season of cold-ish fall, before winter, so this was needed). well, yes, that did gouge a hole in my pocket, but i had to do it at the time. staying in vienna for a week by myself and crying -- i don't know why i'm such a mess recently -- was just not an option. so now i'm looking into babysitting, or trying to find an under-the-table job at a cafe possibly, or something ... i need a little Geld.

and it doesn't help that i don't know anyone here. olivia's great -- i'm so glad i have her here -- and i guess the kids from linfield are nice enough, but i have no circle of people around me like i do at swarthmore, no emotional network, and while i write letters to jeanne and alyssa and get emails from some people, it's nothing like the same. and i have no way to meet anyone here! martin says again, as he has, get out! go clubbing! --and what, i say, chat up a random austrian in my schlectes deutsch? --not "chat up," he says, but then he really doesn't tell me how i'm supposed to do this. he also asks, am i tied to olivia by a piece of string? do i have to do everything with her? --well, no, but doing things by myself gets really old and lonely after a time. i'm independent, perhaps, but this semester is teaching me i need some other people around me. i admire him for seeming to not. and plus! -- as safe a city as vienna may be, it's no swarthmore, and i'm not about to go walking around in an unknown part of town (and these clubs are all in unknown parts of town) by myself at 4:00 a.m.! you forget, dear; gender matters sometimes.

this is probably also half of martin's recent stress. yeah, his job is taking him all over the fucking country -- last week was frankfurt, cologne, and aachen; this week i can't go up because of not only fraternity speeches and drinking (all classified under "induction" or something, and i understand that it's important, but when they won't let women watch their mandatory fencing matches ... eh, whatever), but because sunday früh he's leaving for cologne, for a week. so, i'll get to see him november 2nd, in a little over two weeks. and he'll be in contact in the meantime. i don't understand why this is so weird right now, and why march, april, may, and august can't just continue on like they were, and this could be right again. i just feel so lonely in vienna ... i hope the semester doesn't continue to be this shitty. i have a feeling it might, though. opera might make up for a little of it -- i'm going to see die lustige witwe tonight. but i'm really feeling quite alone.


Freitag, 19. October, zweitausendeins, 22:36 (GMT +0200)

gabor's playing piano upstairs, something beautifully 19th-century and washy, chopin-esque but i can't tell from the strains that make it through the intermittent guest room (this one free for the moment; the hungarian maid eva is staying in the small Zimmer) and the children's room, where our wash of two weeks is hung out to dry on clothes racks (olivia laments the absence of dryers and say she can't wait until she gets back to her version of civilization; i can deal with the scratchy denim but i miss doing laundray). here in the internet cafe is daft punk. i like their mix -- upbeat and eclectic -- but it certaliny colors a mood. wish i had a laptop in my room, even if it weren't wired. oh well; wish i had a million dollars, too. the music sets a mood, definitely. last night we ate at "cafe kafka," this cafe right around the corner from us, across from the chinese buffet where we've had a couple meals of questionable authenticity but mediocre-plus quality. we'd just never noticed it before. turned out to be very cute, but played lounge-y, sinatra-esque music until the cd ran out, and then a full cd of early elvis. it had the viennese decor, with low upholstered benches all around the perimeter, small tables, and the ostensible atmosphere of café mozart or a wannabe sacher, but with a menu advertising mango lassies and indischer paneer-sag mit basmatiereis (which was quite good for being so out of context!), and the elvis just did not go. crooning. i flipped through a taschen-sized cooking magazine while olivia had a melange (viennese cappuccino) and tried to catch the waiter's eye to pay; i ripped out recipies for crema catalana (barcelona's version of flan) and paella, in german, with metric measurements. will have to try and decipher, and recreate what i had in small cafes a week ago in spain. and this morning at segafredo, the italian chain of coffee bars that's not only splattered all over vienna but apparently the continent, the music had a beat and was definitely of the european cafe variety -- electronicish but still managing to be a not-quite-mainstream pop at the same time. upbeat, and i was grateful for that -- it balanced out the unremarkable penne well.

segafredo's was stuffed this afternoon at quarter till one, when we had lunch there. (we've decided to eat out one meal per day, and the other to stock up at billa or spar on day per week on tomato soup from a bag, rice from a package, und so weiter -- that way we won't have to eat schlectes Essen all day every day. last night was kafka; today the italian coffee bar.) people at almost every table with a steady turnover -- but not too steady; the viennese like to linger over their coffee. but last night at a little before midnight, there were maybe three or four other patrons hanging out in the joint! you'd think, for a 1.6 million person town with an internationally recognized university of 120,000 students(!), vienna would have more of a youth culture than it does. barcelona kicks vienna's ass in this department. madison kicks vienna's ass in this department! uw-madison is one third the size of vienna's university, and the town itself has one-eighth as many people, but people go out at night. i'm working on discovering a night life, i really am. we tried clubbing last night -- looked online for venues and events, found two really near to us (subzero and donau ("danube")), located them (right behind the leopold musuem, which is right behind the kunsthistorisches museum -- damn are we centrally located!), and planned to go out. actually, we only located one. the donau club, at 10 karl-schweighofer-gasse, apparently did not exist. i was expecting a hole in the wall, but not for it not to be there. so after a melange for me at a deserted(!) segafredo's a little before midnight, we hit the club, or what was advertised as such -- subzero.

at least there was no cover. it wasn't really a club, more of a party, like you'd find at swat almost, except it was clear that this particular venue used to be a wine cellar (underground; low-vaulted; brick; hot), and you wouldn't find a live dj at swat. the fact that he was live was about all the dj had going for him, though. 120 bpm throbbed out a constant tempo for the entire hour we were there, with precious little melodic interest to hold mine. there were a couple people bouncing rave-style (i'm not sure if it has a name, this idiomatic hopping from foot to foot to the beat that you find with techno, but it seems to be a tripped-out version of the ninties' skanking) on the concrete floor, and a few more bopping hesitantly on the sides. far more were congregated on couches, painting themselves with day-glo body paint, nursing beers, and generally making it feel much more like a house party than a club. which it really wasn't. olivia and i danced for the entire time we were there, and i think people really didn't expect that of two small girls. if i stick out significantly, you know it's not much of a club.

olivia, not really having put together that we were going clubbing (or so we thought, at least) which meant that we were going out, had agreed to call her mother at 1:30 a.m. -- this proved not to be as much of a disaster as it might have been, providing us with an exucse to leave the uninspired dance floor as early as we did.

really, where is the nightlife? we're going to try flex tomorrow night, and perhaps the top of the first district up by the stadtpark and donaukanal is a better partying district. it's nearer the university; perhaps there are people our age there. yesterday i could have sworn half these people -- late teens and twentysomethings; mostly the latter -- crawled out of the fucking woodwork to come tentatively hop on the sides of the erstwhile wine cellar. whoever they are, they certainly don't hang around mariahilferstraße.

we'll see. perhaps we'll find junge Leute. but i can't help thinking that i keep waiting until something happens, telling myself that once the german class started, we would meet people and that would make it good; once i see martin; once we go clubbing; once i start auditing this linguistics class; once we do this or that ... and somehow it keeps just going on. no crying today. people-watching from the window of our flat while i was eating an apple, taking a break from stamitz. no contact but eh, i've got two weeks. and i'm not really even counting days. vienna is, um ... i was asked today how "europe was," and i don't know -- boring? or by definition cool, just to be here? stupid, because it's an academic mockery (at least what i'm doing)? or by defintion good, because it's a semester away from the academic overload that is swarthmore? i just don't know. i'm having fun where i can; i'm practicing viola; i'm definitely learning german. that can't be disputed. i feel like i'm in limbo on so many counts.


Dienstag, 23. October, zweitausendeins, 20:15 (GMT +0200)

october twenty-third. i've now been in vienna almost two months, 53 days to be exact, and maybe i'm finally beginning to make peace with this city. maybe. it could be that i've just had a couple of not awful days. saturday was pretty toll -- we were wandering around the naschmarkt looking for a quick lunch, when we spotted Ding Haw, a little grocery store that oliver had said his relatives owned. we went in and found a guy working there -- turned out it wasn't just his relatives, but his father, who was very surprised to randomly meet two swatties who were studying with his son in america. he insisted on taking us out for coffee and then lunch, where we had awesome sushi and had a good 2-hour or so conversation auf deutsch. he gave us his card; we're going to go back to the store anyhow to get food i didn't know you could buy in vienna. spice up our cheap lunches.

saturday night we went to roxy, which was a far fucking cry from subzero, the ugly wine cellar passing as a club that we'd checked out on thursday. it hadn't been on martin's list -- guess we're sticking to the clubs that are from here on out ... he's already done the research; why not profit from his (more experienced) opinion? roxy was much better. everyone was between 3 and 10 years older than us, i'd guess, but it was definitely a fun scene. cheap cover but the most expensive drinks i've ever seen. next time i stick to the much cheaper beer. (eve told me yesterday that she went to a bar in the states, and i realized that being twenty-one over there actually means something. it'll still take me aback that i can legally drink over there when i return, i think, even though i've been buying alcohol and well within the law since i got here. just haven't registered that i'm 21 in the states too, i guess ...)

sunday we caught madama butterfly at the staatsoper, which was awesome, but sad the entire way through. usually operas just have a tragic end or tragic bits, or are at least melodramatic, but this one was just kind of intense the whole time. fabulous production though. i'm getting spoiled by the opera scene here, but at the same time, when we saw kathleen battle sing last night, i realized from her amazing performance that while i've heard tons of excellent, staatsoper-class singers recently, i really haven't heard a polished performance from any one of them. maybe i have from Loge in der ring des niebelungen, or from the bass soloist in don carlo, but the vast majority have just not been as tight as battle was last night. she was amazing. she did a great program of schubert, ravel (i adore his setting of exotic french poetry -- where can i buy a cd of all ravel?), massenet, and spirituals -- and that was really only the first half of the program, because she did NINE ENCORES. i shit you not. the concert lasted until 10:30, and i had no idea how she just kept singing, doing amazing grace solo, recapping the coda of "der hird auf dem felser" with the clarinetist, "take my mother home" from the song cycle andré previn wrote for her, and so much more! she just kept going. quite the diva, and i've heard that she really is, having been kicked out of the met for attitude reasons. oh well; the viennese loved her -- nine encores!

tonight we're taking a break from concerts. my hips are starting to hurt from standing through so many concerts and operas. tomorrow's west side story at the volksoper, though, and it'll be cute to see u.s. puerto rican immigrants played by viennese. plus berenstein is great.

october twenty-third is also four days before my mom's birthday. she's in munich right now, chilling with her best friend perry, whom she hasn't see in literally thirty years. thursday she's trucking (well, training) down to salzburg to meet us for our weekend tour thereof, and then taking the train back with us to hang around vienna for a couple of days. we have sitzplätze for la traviata! ... hotel sacher, apfelstrudel at tirolehof, the kunsthistorisches museum ... it'll be schön.

so, i guess, good days make for a good semester? i dunno -- reading swatties' online journals makes me miss it; hearing martin talk about how busy he is -- i'm getting some intellectual employment from our german class (which i really like!), i guess -- language classes are always good for that, in that they highlight how much i love language and learning about it -- oh digression, sorry, this paragraph can't be saved -- i bought a program (for 38 öS! chintzy viennese, why don't you just distribute them like they do in the states! most people are paying upwards of $30 a ticket) at the musikverein last night for kathleen battle's performance, and following along with the bilingual text in french and german for the ravel pieces made me realize two things -- (a) why i used to hate german, and (b) why i now don't at all (and yes, good associations are always good for improving one's opinion of anything, but that's not what i mean now): the first because i never had any more experience with it than through heavy, word-for-word translation as i encountered it in lieder in choir and in voice lessons. yeah we were singing goethe and wilhelm müller (speaking of die winterreise, did i ever tell you that martin's family personally knows dietrich fischer-diskau??) and other great poets, but through such effort the poetry didn't come through at all. and what i had for comparison was damn good english poetry and the french i preferred because by nature of the tonfall of the language, it was so much schöner, and lent itself to more exotic subject matter. in ravel's shéhérazade settings, seeing the french (by arthur leclère, a.k.a. tristan klingsor) next to the german translations -- which were well done, but idiomatic german, which was so so far from the french! -- set it off so drastically that i remembered exactly why i used to love the french, and why german used to be below czech on my list. (speaking of czech, the nice czech boy tomás today gave me a cd of the dvorák violin concerto and suk fantasy for violin, saying that if i played viola i had to know these! and he was "sehr überrascht" that i knew kundera, and had read something by him.) i also realized in comparison why i now am really enjoying this language that i thought was so ugly just a few years ago -- the schubert texts were mostly in german (no translation provided, of course), and following them the poetry flows so much more naturally in its own language, and conforms to the natural barriers set up by it. i of course like it much more now since i can understand a lot more than i used to! --and so this german course is going very well, as i said, and that makes me happy and gives me some employment. and we've got a midterm in art history and a small project in music, and i'm practicing. as i keep saying, i dunno. i'm in a pretty stable and good mood, and have been for two days or so, and i hope it stays and gets better. yay optimism.


Dienstag, 30. October, zweitausendeins, 21:43 (GMT +0100)

haven't written in a week, i realize. haven't had the time. was in salzburg for thursday through saturday, where we met up with my mom, who was visiting perry in munich, and who then came back to vienna with me and stayed for two and a half days. put her on the train back to munich this morning, and now i have a little time.

i of course do not want this time now that i have it -- placido domingo is singing siegfried in die walküre tonight and i'm missing it. i didn't even notice it on the listing -- the little "domingo" is tucked in near the last in a long list of other principals -- until j.p. pointed it out last week. the opera of course started at five o'clock here (seventeen o'clock if you're austrian), because it's wagner and four hours long, and today would be the one day we actually have an obligation -- we had to take a midterm at our art history prof's house. it lasted until 4:30 or so, and then dr. prossinger insisted on feeding us a "halloween dinner" (kürbiscremesuppe, about which she's been raving since it's been in season -- and it was excellent) there was no way i was going to get even to the stehplatz line before the opera started, let alone in time to get an actual stehplatz. they're showing it again saturday night, again with domingo, but martin will likely be in town and from what i remember of his protestations in the spring when i would come back after my 9:55 music class (14, which was great -- i love theory at swat; i'm going to ask tom if i can maybe do more after i finish the track) full of wagner, and put my newly checked-out tristan und isolde on my stereo, and play the prelude to act three while he was still asleep, having crawled in at six in the morning after a full night of thesis-writing ... so i'm not so sure he'd want to stand in a stehplatz line all saturday to see four hours of wagner on his feet. and i really don't want to spend one whole day of the short time he'll have here waiting for an opera -- even if it is domingo! i want to see it, not only because i'll never see placido domingo again, but because if i could see die walküre, i could see 3/4ths of the ring this semester (minus siegfried)! rar; i'm mildly upset about this. no one's fault, but i had hoped i could get to it.

it is nice to have the time to think once again, though. mom, as i said, followed us back from salzburg, and i've been chilling with her for the past five days, doing the hardcore tourist thing. it's been damn fun -- and, importantly, taken my mind off the nagging pessimism that's been eating at me recently. and i mean really eating at me. i'm sure my entries for the past month are unhappy and whining -- don't exactly feel like reading them over to find out. but when i have stuff to do -- then fühle ich mich wirklich zu hause! salzburg was great for that, providing occupation. the first day we got in and found my mom, did a tour of the city with frau eva pürrer, who was our guide for the weekend -- sweet, and very knowledgeable -- but it was rather rainy, and damn cold. we saw a concert in the schloß mirabell that night but i did not enjoy it. it was a contest winner violinist, who looked like she enjoyed playing, but whose intonation wasn't anything like perfect. also the room was completely marble, and therefore really obnoxious acoustically. everything echoed all over the place and obscured the music. i went home in not a foul mood, but thinking that salzburg would just confirm my recent annoyance with vienna's preening of its imperial self, its complacency and lack of youth culture or a night scene, its reluctance to accept new ideas until shoved back in their faces (e.g. schönberg, and for that matter most great austrian composers -- they sure as hell didn't do a lot for mozart during his lifetime, and brahms came from hamburg (i've heard it said recently that an austrian is someone who thinks hitler was a german and brahms was an austrian)), and its general dwelling in the imperial and long-gone past.

the next day was much improved, however -- we went to hallstatt in the lake district, and saw wolfgangsee and the famous wood-carved flügelaltar there, one of three extant ones from that period, the other two being in kefirmarkt (which we saw on our way to prague a month ago) and krakow (have yet to see). even though it was still freezing, mom lent me her big scarf (which i'd actually bought for her in italy the summer before last), and the sun was out, which made all the difference. the lake glimmered, and the alps were really, really beautiful. a very nice morning and afternoon, even if we did have a shitty, shitty fried austrian lunch. "hall" is the celtic word for salt, just as "salz" is the german, and the area is famous for its salt mines, through one of which we took a tour, donning color-größe-coded clothing so we all looked like little dwarves, especially olivia, in the smallest red. after we got back to the st. peter's stiftskellar hotel, mom, olivia and i headed out again to st. peter's stiftskellar, which served us excellent food, allowed our (and mom's, which is surprisingly good for the one semester of grad-school reading knowledge she had years ago) german, and brought us a real salzburger nockerl, complete with raspberry (himbeeren --mm) sauce. also a glass of white wine, which they measured at 1/4L, enough to keep me happy.

also pretty the next day, when we did some more sightseeing (i was impressed that the other three managed to keep straight all the different churches we saw!), hit the carolina auguistium museum, and took the late train back to vienna, whereupon i put mom in her hotel (pension pertschy, where i stayed -- very nice, and with the computer in the piano keyboard) and dropped into bed. daylight savings time was nice to give us an hour that night, because we got up at what is now not quite the crack of dawn in order to hear (the view was not available, as they were directly above us, in the so-gennante "choir loft") the wiener sängerknaben, the vienna boys' choir, do mass in the hofburgkapelle. schön. since the weather wasn't particularly nice, since i needed to do some review for my art history midterm, and since all the museums were closed monday, we went first to the kunsthistorisches museum, then to the historisches museum der stadt wien, and finally to the belvedere (finally saw the klimt! i love those paintings). this all before we had dinner at griechenbeisel, at perry's excellent recommendation. mom's goulash was ausgezeichnet -- i hadn't realized that the "hungarian specialty" that eva (the hungarian maid, not frau pürrer) had cooked us the other night was goulash -- excellent stuff. i bought a little recipe book in salzburg of austrian cooking, most of which is meat, but which has things like sachertorte, salzburger nockerl, goulash, and now (since i asked her for the recipe when i had some at a cafe on the salzach) in eva's beautiful handschrift, the recipe for glühwein. the riesling from the nearby weinviertel and the seasonal chestnut mousse for dessert just about killed me -- i did in fact end up leaving my purse there, and having to go back half an hour later to a smiling waiter who presented it to me without me having to produce my prepared german sentences to explain that i was a lightweight and could i please see if i left my purse on the spot where the chestnut mousse won its waterloo over me?

monday frau bernthaler realized that mom was leaving the next day, and insisted on having coffee with her. very cute, and the type of thing our hungarian duchess excels at. mom was charmed, as i knew she would be. this had been preceded by a brief tour of karlskirche, naschmarkt falafel, shawirma, turkish delight, and baqlawa, and then by my german getting some exercise at the westbahnhof when some dude tried to charge mom ~$100 for a train ticket to munich. belligerence.net, orange is earning her wings.

that night got to sit down for la traviata, which was excellent, with a russian soprano (i should really start taking note of who's who at the staatsoper) singing violetta -- and it was a damn good thing we had sitzplätze, because my hip and ankle were starting to hurt after all the walking we'd done, and probably my twisting the ankle a little running for the train before my viola lesson that morning. no harm done; it was nothing a little sachertorte, rose-hip tea, and a good night's sleep couldn't fix.

mom left this morning, and olivia leaves for cardiff to visit her godmother for five days tomorrow. i'll have a couple chill days by myself (brahms' requiem at the musikverein tomorrow), and then i think martin's coming here, instead of me going to munich like we had planned. better this way, i think -- neutral ground, unlike madison or munich; also he says he'd feel compelled to work were he at home. very much looking forward to seeing the boy, whom i haven't in two months. until then, i can just unwind a little from all this hardcore tourism, begin to read the german stories my mom bought me (and more märchen!), really practice and maybe read through the milhaud viola sonata which elena's friend jack (who did his undergrad at uw-madison and is now living in vienna, he and his wife (who met in madison) best friends with my current viola teacher -- small world, eh?) just gave me as a random present, and sleep a little past dawn. have a safe trip home, mom. olivia, have fun in cardiff. martin, i'll see you soon.


all this ©nori heikkinen, October 2001

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