Just because it’s possible, in the course of human endeavor, to walk into a hermetically sealed pod, sit in an uncomfortable seat for 14 hours, and walk off to find yourself in an entirely different…
George R.R. built an alternate universe. But if even he was sitting at a desk, staring out into the trees and peaked roof lines of Germany, there’s not a chance in the world he would be able to conjure a world as alien as this.
…It shouldn’t be possible, that kind of trip. It’s too jarring. It should be regulated by the FDA, not the FAA.
Thankfully there are hallmarks of utter logistical frustration, to help you account for the time spent. Hallmarks like taking a full four hours to check in, followed by a Home-Alone sprint through the airport to straggle up to the gate eight minutes before take off — only to be separated for random screening.
Like not knowing if the cats made it on board until well over Iceland.
Like almost abandoning them in a corner of bag claim at SFO due to some wildly faulty information.
Like forgetting the car seat on the other side of customs.
Like the cats getting diverted to cargo arrivals.
Like waiting an hour for your rental car during your 30th hour of wakefulness.
And then walking out to find it’s 90 degrees at midnight, and the freeways have 10 lanes at their most rustic.
It looks like Mars here. The view beyond the glow of any number of brightly-lit, chain-store, neon labeling, shows some kind of scrubby hillside that looks like a scab, or maybe a scouring pad left to rust on the side of a utility sink.
But we’ve been to Target twice in 36 hours, and had to use the GPS to figure out how to get from one parking lot, to the one adjacent, so…
I guess we’re officially here.
Seasided, Hobnobbed, and popped ‘round to the shops.
Verbs are different in this kind of English.
Rumor has it, to get to the States again, they make you go the original route.
Project #1 when I get to the west coast, is looking up a Pro-Bicycle Infrastructure coalition to join. Not a “share the road” collective, but “make BIKE roads.” I suppose it’s easy to romanticize a place when you’re set to leave it, but if you have any love for biking, this statement is not a function of rose-colored cycling glasses: Germany is the best place to ride.
I did a 20-mile farewell appreciation tour on Sunday, most of it on paths separate from the road. I wound through villages and past farms, spinning up the early autumn fog with my spokes. I stopped for a break in a town up the way, and watched people leaving church, scattering to their destinations on foot.
Though the autobahn is totally a thing, this life you can live without a car — is my idea of sacred.
It’s important to have a cultural guide book, to help one assimilate to one’s new surroundings. Luckily, I found the master tome at a yard sale in 1989, and memorized it.
Yes, technically it will be a bit further east than the geography covered here, but I think there’s a “Galleria” of sorts, so it must be similar.
I can’t remember why I found this book so fascinating at the time. It was a weird sort of anthropological curiosity — a trend in recent history, yet completely foreign, both in language and the ever-compelling genre of “teenager” (especially when you’re a few years out from that milestone yourself.) I read it over and over.
So are there still “Aqua Velva Geeks” in SoCal?
Somewhere between “almost everything” and “pickles,” there’s a list of very specific things to love, in which “5” is a figure of speech.
I was sad about leaving Italy, but not as atomically devastated as am I facing this departure. Maybe it’s because the sum of all of these little things to love, feels like home.
- Chimchimney. Waking up and looking out of the bedroom window to a collection of roof points and twirling plumes is a pretty good way to judge how cold it is. There’s a six-smudge morning for you.
- Tri…Not to Freeze. And yet, there are hardy folks in my triathlon club who will be the last people in the outdoor pool for the season — even when that means pool swimming in a wetsuit. The real warmth was in the way they included me, helped me understand the coaches, and cheered me on when I was racing alone in France. It was a big leap to join up, but they made it more than worth it.
- Serious Play. There are enough really good parks and playgrounds, that I can take Frankie to a different one every day of the week with no transportation needed but the bike trailer. This one is my favorite. There’s a water pump and a stream and a tree-house slide and a shade canopy over the sand pit. It’s the Taj MaPlayground. But it’s the friends we’ve shared shovels with and traded swing rides with that are going to be the hardest to leave.
- Füd. Somewhere along the way, missing all of the stuff from the States I couldn’t get here flipped to trying to figure out how I’m going to get all of the treats we NEED, back to California. America does pickles ALL WRONG. They’re too much, too seasoned, too neon — and nothing like their cucumber origin story. THESE. And these.
- There’s a “There” There. In a stunning twist of irony, it’s kind of like when Cher’s dad says, “Everywhere in the Valley takes 30 minutes.” Everywhere you could want to see in Europe is a plane ride of two hours or less. We did well, we made a point to use that to its advantage, but the list I have left… Basically ensures that we have to come back.
- Turn, turn, turn. There are seasons. Very definite seasons. And even with the seemingly interminable darkness of winter that stretches from 4:15 pm to 8:30 am at its worst, it makes the corresponding wildflowers, window boxes, and turning leaves of the other parts of the year, seem like a reward.
- Weather or Not… you like the weather, it’s big. Big rain, big wind, big clouds and big sky. You can see it coming, just like living in a life-size weather map.
- Very Important People. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so grateful to a group of people in my life, as I do the beautiful women who run the daycare at the Fitness First in Kaiserslautern. They have been so wonderful and caring and GOOD for Frankie — and me. She’s been seeing the same half-dozen women three times a week since she was four months old. She’s learned independence and German and bravery and the idea of telling them goodbye breaks my heart.
- The Green. I’ve only ever known green or concrete — I don’t even know how to live in a place that’s neither. How do you make someplace not look like the ghost town from the Brady Vacation to the Grand Canyon without it? Judging from the real estate listings, you can’t.
- This. The church tower I promised we needed to live near. I will miss this forever.
Few things put perspective on what you need and what you don’t, than the prospect of putting it all on a boat for four months. It’s a significant enough amount of time, that it feels like you’ll never see it again.
"Oh hey, cookie jar that looks like a cupcake that I keep my race gels in. Surely you’ll still matter in 2015. I guess."
But the reverse is true too, and the panic sets in. And lists of disbelief as to how to manage three lives without beds. Towels. Plates. A pot or pan or knife to cook anything. That’s assuming we even find a kitchen and corresponding house. And very worst of all, is the stuff you can’t pack. The spot by the fridge where she took her first steps? That won’t fit on the boat.
It seems strange that the 22nd iteration of a task, it would be the hardest. I’ve waited for stuff across an ocean before. I’ve moved with just suitcases before. I’ve moved to another country 38 weeks pregnant. But this time there’s a third added to this party, and her comfort is the part that worries me the most.
Upheaval is part of moving, obviously. There’s a guaranteed period of paper plates until the box of dishes is found — but when the box is en route for an entire season…? It’s a privileged worry, undoubtedly. But even the Oregon Trail people had their stuff with them when they got to the Pacific.
Where do I sign up for that moving service? I suppose it would count as camping, but no more so that the prospect of sitting in an empty house with a kid who requires very complicated oven-and-cookie-sheet food preparation.
Plus, I sort of fancy a bit of a walk at this point.
It’s Decorative Gourd Season.
And so time for the annual reading of the text. I lolled again. When it’s only once a year, the joy and novelty lives on and on like your favorite Christmas ornament. Or favorite Swiss Alps guy built out of squash. (Substitute this creation for “perfect replica of the Mayflower” as is geographically appropriate.)
It takes a whole afternoon and a fleet of Decorative Gourd delivery men to arrange these giant gourdicopias, because Gartenshau doesn’t mess around with fall flora.
Back for its somewhat annual appearance, it’s GOOP for Normals!
That’s the whole recipe. Two years here, and I just caught sight of this on an end cap (on clearance, where all culinary recklessness commences.) I’ve dabbled already in the special salt for french fries, the special salt that’s green and goes on avocados that go on toast (look out, the NOOP/GOOP Venn intersects on this dish alone), but this? This is hot like Ginger tea, and salty enough to make you muse about Ginger Salt Potato Chips, and say Garlic Salt, who?
Toss peeled and cut up carrots in olive oil, maple syrup, Ginger Salt, and some pepper, roast on 400 until you remember you were cooking something. Eat them all.
Search “capsule wardrobe” on Pinterest, use it to justify ordering a mix-and-match collection for your kid from an adorable site you unfortunately stumbled upon, realize said capsule is too big once it finally arrives, and hang it up like art to admire until she grows.
Create a pop-up art event.
Open paint pots. Find brush. Poke artist into glass exhibition cube (shower) and watch her disappear behind the painterly strokes in an Autumn motif. Hose the whole situation down afterward, and explain how sometimes creations exist only in the moment.
Or rather, have spent a whole month watching the mailbox and building it up, to decide you need the precise right time and reason to crack it open.
Hopeful you’ll have it.