Wednesday, February 23, 2005


22 February 2005


Ed took me to the airport in Kuwait at 0530 as planned. It was a clear shot to the airport and the airport was empty too. British Air got me right on. I think that we had only 40 people on the entire 777 to London. The flight was smooth sailing (unlike a certain C130 flight that I may have recently imagined) and I actually slept some. Covered about half of the book I brought specifically for vacation. Maybe I *should* have brought the Jimmy Buffett book after all. You can’t believe how nice it is to read for fun again. After 7 years of school, I still can’t believe I have time to read for fun.

My latest book is another NY Times Best Seller, The Time Traveler’s Wife. Actually it is an almost perfect read for traveling. Kind of like a Dr. Who love story without all the weird characters. What is so funny is that in the bookstore in London Heathrow, a girl was looking at books and I steered her to this book. I think that she was surprised that anyone would suggest it out of the blue, but if you’re enjoying a good book, you want to share it.

This is why I can’t hold onto books in my personal library. The only books that should be on your bookshelves at home are the ones that you don’t want to recommend and lend out. If a book really grabs you, you should be sharing it. Good books should be shared, savored and handled like a good bottle of wine or a bottle of Moet White Star. Don’t save them for that “special occasion.” Every day is a special occasion because you’ve woken up to enjoy another day. I hope that she enjoys it as much as I am. Also at the airport bar, an older woman was at the bar to get a drink and she saw me reading this book. She looks at me and instantly strikes up a conversation asking me whether I liked it. She has also just started to read it. Gotta love the NY Times Best Seller List.

I guess what I like about this book is that it is nice and light, not too serious and enough plot to get you involved enough to laugh and in a couple of circumstances, cry. Must have got my soft heart from my Gramp Gallas. I can remember Gram having said some time ago that Gramp had a soft heart. She had said that he would even sometimes shed a tear at the movies. Hard for me even to fathom that that burly old 5’6” retired carpenter with the sun-baked skin, wide shoulders, huge forearms and perfect V-frame body, cleverly hid such a big heart. I still wish I had had the chance to get to know him better.

Anyway, so after my delay in London Heathrow, my connection to Frankfurt boarded around 1630. Then we ended up sitting on the runway for another two hours. Weather in both the UK and Germany has really messed up the air traffic. Now let’s add to that President Bush’s visit to Frankfurt and we have the making of a full-fledged “cluster-mess” on our hands. Ahh well, it’s the minor inconveniences in life that remind us that life is a process to be dealt with. What did Dennis DeYoung (Styx – Paradise Theater) sing? “Nothing ever goes as planned, it’s a hell of a notion, even Pharaohs turn to sand, like a drop in the ocean. You’re so together, you act so civilized. And every time that things go wrong, you’re still surprised.”

Suffice to say that I made it here. I had a nice conversation with a guy who lives in London and was traveling to Frankfurt to meet customers. He is heading back tomorrow and doesn’t seem to have any worries about getting back to London. Know what, I wouldn’t trade my life for his. He works a minimum of 12 hour days and commutes an hour each way to work in downtown London. He almost never sees his kids and his life revolves around his job. Maybe I have the soul of a contractor! If that is what I must do the rest of my life, shoot me now. I mean, I don’t have kids to see, but was fuer ein Leben is dat (what kind of a life is that)?

I got to my hotel NL Frankfurt (downtown FRA near the shopping district – good hotel, but bad move!) about 9pm. Called Hal my State Dept buddy as soon as I got in. I wanted to meet him tonight, but he is also busy and it’s late already. Working for the State Dept as a Foreign Service Officer, he has been busy planning for the President’s visit. So my timing is somewhat off. Besides, I just bought some great gifts for him and his family. You can’t visit and not bring anything. That’s just plain rude! I did learn proper etiquette while living in Europe and am properly embarrassed for myself when I can’t at least bring a nice bottle of wine when playing guest.

Anyway, I found some wonderful gifts at the Harrod’s Duty Free in London. Hal’s elder son was the only one giving me fits. I have no problems buying for girls, but boys in a certain age range can pose quite the problem. I finally found a great book of English historical nonsense about the kings and queens of Europe. It is just the thing for a boy his age. Okay, I’m practiced enough with three nephews that I know how to buy for them. It was just crunch time when I was looking for a gift. Maybe I’ve missed my calling as a professional shopper!

In my normal method of acquainting (or in this case, reacquainting) myself with Frankfurt after my last Elbe Strasse incident, I decided to take a walk after getting the suitcases up to the room. It was wonderful! Snow was falling as I was walking along the cobblestone streets of old Frankfurt and the shopping district. There can’t be anything quite as captivating as the quiet of snow falling. Even in the middle of a thriving metropolis and shopping district, snow falling at night has a quiet, calming, cleansing effect. Quite a different world from the last visit here. I think that I could stay here for a few days and probably enjoy it.

In fact, after speaking with Hal, I think I am going to jockey my sched and come back here in Saturday evening and only spend a day and a half in Netherlands. At this point, I haven’t even heard from Roland and Angelique, so I can’t even confirm that I’m going up there. Not that I don’t want to see them…that would be like going down to Phoenix and not visiting my Gram or the grave sites of my parent’s and Grandfather. This sched is just too tight this time around. Maybe I need to schedule a week after I get back to “real life” to go to Netherlands again. Just a thought.

Well, I’m just sitting here in the hotel bar sucking down Krystal Weiss Biers (ohne Hefe – clear and without yeast), listening to music and catching up on my journal while the bar patrons are watching futball on the Fernseh (soccer on the TV). I’ve got to admit that I really love hearing and speaking German again. Maybe it’s just being in Germany again. Maybe it’s just the way I let the whole experience envelope me and take me back home to Kalkar, Germany (and Kreis Kleve) circa 1984-1987. I don’t care what Kennedy said, I’m still not a jelly donut!

(Okay, for those youngsters who don’t know the story, John F. landed in Berlin in the 1960’s and gave the speech for which he will always will be remembered and loved. In his reassurance to the German people that America would never tolerate any Soviet blockade of Berlin, in his unity speech he declared, “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

Well, to an American learning German, this would make perfect sense. What is a person from Frankfurt? A Frankfurter. What is a person from Hamburg? A Hamburger. But….but a person from Berlin is not “A” Berliner. Proper German would be “Ich bin Berliner.” (technically, “I am Berliner.) However, with that little (to us) insignificant “ein” (pronounced “ei” pronounced like “eye” – long I and then “n” altogether) what JFK ended up declaring is that he was a jelly donut! So there is your history lesson kids.)

Those who forget the past are destined to repeat it.

Nie Wieder. (Never Again)
(at the sculpture which looks like barbed wire (which is really human bodies intertwined to resemble barbed wire) at Dachau Concentration Camp outside of Munich)
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