Sunday, November 16, 2008

Accumulation

When one travels, one buys things. Souvenirs, local crafts, presents for people back home. This is inevitable and, usually, I can keep it under control, choosing small and packable objects. (The same cannot, however, be said for other people I've traveled with. On one long ago trip to Europe with my mother, I admonished her to buy small gifts: gloves or lace in Italy, watches in Switzerland. She bought a chess set, a tweed jacket for my father, a cuckoo clock, and four large dolls dressed in "native costumes." Guess who got to lug all this stuff in and out of airports?) Living abroad, however, is different. I inhabit this apartment for months, and I've bought things for it, which I now am encumbered with: A warm, large striped blanket because the European duvets, with white washable covers instead of top sheets, always look to me like heavy shrouds; A throw pillow for the sofa, comfortable for watching BBC; At least ten novels; Kitchen equipment. I can now ship this stuff home, leave it here, or try to cram it into my suitcases, already full of stuff (some of which turned out to be not needed). On balance, it's a good thing I'm not here longer, or I'd end up buying furniture. The living room really does need another chair...

Gifts are another problem. One friend wants marzipan, which shouldn’t be too hard. But another wants the Black Forest – the entire thing (“I want to hike in it.”) Another wants a “furry Russian hat,” which I can’t seem to find. And a lot just say, “Bring me something German” – which is no help.

I may just bring everybody schnapps.

5 comments:

Mike Flynn said...

Dibs on the Schwartzwald.

bluesman miike Lindner said...

Mike, are you the same "Flynn" I see on Jerry Pournelle's board now and again?

Re German forests--In my barely-remembered youth, I spent time as a camper and counselor in Vermont. And I've spent some months at my family's farm in Bavaria. The forests were the same deal--walk into the shade, and insects overwhelm you. Both places, I've fallen to the ground, roaring and flailing.

There really is a lot to be said for cities...

Mike Flynn said...

I've been on Jerry's board, yes.

+ + +
When my cousin visited the Black Forest a few years ago, her reaction was: "I went to church will all these people!" That is, they looked just like the people at our home parish, which was of course a German parish, a substantial number of whom came from the same Gemeinden: Oberhausen and Niederhausen and various nearby parts, like Herbholzheim.

In fact, the landscape was much like Pennsylvania, so one can see why so many settled there. (I live on what was once called German Hill.)

Of course, Nancy is in Saxony, and all men know that Saxons are strange creatures, very unlike Schwartzalders.

bluesman miike Lindner said...

Thought so, Mike! And I seem to recall Dr. Pournelle speaking highly of your scholarship.

A funny, true story: I was last in Bavaria in 1982. Listened with grave attention in our family's house as Onkel Hans assured me the iron-souled Prussians to the north, and our own people, fun-loving, beer-drinking Bavarians, had nothing in common save the language. Just then, his son Hannes strode in, full uniform. A Bundeswehr Captain in an armored division. Everybody swarmed him. "Hallo, Mike! Haf you perhaps a beer for me?" Onkel Hans was tearing. "Mein sohn, Michael! Protecting us from the Communists!" And I'd be lying if I didn't confide I gave Hannes my hardest hug and say, "I am so proud of you, cousin!"

bluesman miike Lindner said...

Nancy, when is your teaching gig over? When will you be coming back to the Good Old USA? Ah cain't say Ah'm comfy with the thought of you alone 'midst millions of ferriners who don't know how to say, "Extra cheese and pepperoni on that slice, please."