december, 2009

Fri, 25 Dec 2009 19:27:39 -0600

I feel old. (Older, at least.) Armando talked our way past the bouncers in suits at some sleek club in Las Vegas two weeks ago, gaining entry for me, Trisha, & Craig; as I handed my Bouchon leftovers to one of the doormen and checked my new Kate Spade coat -- even as Trisha & I applied silver glittery eyeliner to one another upstairs -- all the other women there (little gazelle girls, really), hovering like fruit flies above the bottle-service tables and their men, seemed to be so clearly either just 21 or in possession of a good fake (or pair, this being Vegas). Following on the sparkly heels the SREs' night out Thursday, we decided after one unexciting and presumably-overpriced drink that Champagne and Gigondas at dinner had been enough, and left feeling closer to 30 than I had an hour before.

Frau B.'s place, too, infantilizes as always. Olivia, for her first semester of her Austrian Fulbright, stayed in the same place she and I did eight years ago as students at the Amerika Institut: on an uncomfortable bed in an ancient apartment-cum-boarding-house. We were there to learn and absorb then; now there on vacation, I made Olivia tell Frau B. that no, I would not be getting up at 8 AM for cornflakes and vollmilch (let alone the fact that I now would have them with sojamilch); I would find my own frühstück if at all, and pay for it with the budget of a software engineer earning her own money, not that of a student subsisting on a handful of schillings per day. I don't think she really understood (though not due to any language barrier -- Olivia's German, unsurprisingly, has surpassed mine, and I turned to her for noun genders and vocabulary for most of last week).

How wonderfully unstressful, though, to be older than 21 this time in Vienna! Last time, it had been all language acquisition and living as close to on our own as we'd gotten, new foods and words for them, a city to navigate allein. Each successful interaction with a cashier in German had been a triumph; every time they reverted into English upon hearing our accents a failure. I'd strained with varying degrees of proficiency to retain and then use strange words and phrases ricocheting into my receptive ears. Standing room at the opera had been out of necessity (insofar as opera was necessary, which arguably in that town it always is). And I lost 15 pounds eating noodles from packets over the course of the semester. Last week, though, I learned I'd been pronouncing the name of my favorite wine wrong all this time -- Grüner Veltliner, on every Speisekarte by the glass, with a vee and as in "leaner" -- and eh, it didn't matter; I had another glass of it and was thankful for the correction. I stood through all 5 hours of Tristan und Isolde only by overriding protestations from my aching feet, by now used to swinging from my subscription seat in San Francisco (it was worth it). "To do" turned into "to eat": the wonderful orange paprika-and-cheese Liptauer; spiced holiday glühwein to warm the hands and belly from the many Christmas markets (these little huts selling ornaments and beeswax candles having been a reason for coming during a winter colder than it's so far been in Chicago); giant sugar cookies with jam for Olivia; roasted chestnuts from street sellers. I bought us cocktails and Sachertorte when I wanted to, put rum in my coffee and whipped cream on my apfelstrudel, and slept through breakfast every day.

Jetlag does appear to catch up with me more now, though. Here it is, Christmas Day, five days after I flew through Zurich for a brief catch-up with Martin while clearing passport control, and I'm still waking up in the middle of the night, as I did every night in Austria. By the time I go back home to San Francisco, I may have only just reset myself to Central time. In theory, it doesn't matter -- dramatically unlike the rest of this quarter, with its pager-carrying, fire-extinguishing, social-obliging, and travel-planning; my only responsibilities these three weeks (and let's not talk about how much into the red I had to tip my vacation balance to swing this) are eating, drinking (Prosecco with Olivia; bottles shared with Mom over dinner), gift wrapping and unwrapping (twice, the story of an as-yet-single child of divorced parents), and throwing my annual New Year's party -- but I'd like to sleep through the night, not stay up tossing and turning thinking about the bits of 2009 I didn't like (and also, annoyingly, those of 2001 I didn't like), not really catching up on my deficit.

But if troubled sleep and opera-sore feet are the tolls I pay for aging, I'll happily take what they buy: eating as much Sachertorte as I like; feeling I'm finally past the demographic of tottering teenage bimbos; taking pleasure in a language instead of desperately trying to memorize a dictionary. Frau B., you can keep your cornflakes -- let me eat cake.

all this Šnori heikkinen, December 2009

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