Monday, July 28, 2003

Discovering my Dissertation Research Part 11

July 25: Staying away

I was in bed for a long time. I felt no compulsion to wake up. Rene knocked on the door to tell me that he was leaving for the weekend to see his fiancé in Hamburg. I mumbled something to him and fell back to sleep.

I did get out of bed by 11. I had to do some laundry, especially if I were going to go away for the weekend. I had some trouble finding everything. The landlady has been taking things here and there, probably so she can make a full load of laundry, and then placing the things back in the room. I guard things that I don’t want ruined.

I went back up to Nippes to the same laundromat as last week. While my clothes were washing I found a natural foods store and bought some food. It was one and one-half hours of nothing interesting. The highpoint came with some woman asked if she could dry dark clothes with white clothes (lady, your are in your forties! Don’t you know by now?)

I dropped the clothes at the apartment and I was off again. I decided that I would spend the day around the Dom, photographing the social life that it attracts. The Dom was very busy. Many large groups were taking tours. The sun was very bright and perfectly positioned to bring in a lot of sun. I walked around, looking for details that I had not noticed on any of my previous several dozen visits. While less is usually more, there is an art to using grandeur effectively. The Dom is huge. It is cavernous. The other end of the cathedral can be said to be “off in the distance.” The light streaming from the high windows creates an eerie glow. The Dom is open, more so than any other Gothic cathedral that I have seen. It is possible to see very far away; there are not as many columns to distract one’s gaze.

Outside there were the usual gaggles of tourists, skateboarders, young people just sitting around, and performers. There was an excellent combo who played jazzed-up Russian melodies. The guy playing the “bass balalaika” was an excellent musician, fluidly switching between registers.

I wandered aimlessly. I could not come up with a good plan for something to do. I went to the shopping area, looked at things just for the hell of it. I found a bottle of wine from one of my favorite vintners, Alois Lageder, which I thought would be perfect for another warm evening. I explored the shops around WDR (Westdeutsche Rundfunk), which is one of the main media organizations in Germany.

I went back to the apartment to watch, well, Star Trek. The apartment was empty, and I could relax. I still had no plan. I thought that I might eat out, but I did not want to spend too much money if I were going away. I walked over one block to Saturn, the big music store. I would only listen to things. However, I found a really interesting band from Hamburg, and I bought it. (I am so weak.)

I went back to the apartment. That was the end of the day. Nothing more exciting than that.

July 26

I woke up early. I took a shower. I packed by bag. I was ready to go .....

back to sleep. I am sorry. I promised that I would take a trip, perhaps either to Liege or Maastricht. I decided on Maastricht. It sounded like an ideal place to take an overnight trip. But before I would have left, I checked the weather; it looked as if it would rain all day in Limbourg (the southern part of the Netherlands.) It would not rain until the afternoon in Cologne. It felt easier to get more sleep. I’ll try to go next weekend, if the weather will cooperate.

I started by going back to the Dom. I thought about going either to the renovated Museum Ludwig or the Romanische-Germanische Museum (Roman art from Germany.) Yet again, I wandered aimlessly. I walked south toward Heumarkt. I saw the old Rathaus (city hall), but I lacked the energy to climb up to see it. I started walking west into the more traditional part of town (lots of small, narrow streets, restaurants, beer gardens, views of the river, etc.) The answer appeared before my eyes: Suenner. I had run into one of the 26 breweries in the city; I did not remember having had any before. I walked up to the table, had two quick ones (mind you that they are small glasses), and felt ready to tackled some sites.

I decided to tour around the southern part of the old city. I started with the Rathaus. A large wedding party took up much of the space in front of the Rathaus. I kept my distance so that I would not disturb them. Near the Rathaus is the ancient Mikveh and remains of one of the original temples. Cologne, the first “real” city in Germany, also had the first Jewish population in Germany. The community was kicked out in the early fifteenth century, although this was a non-violent event (as opposed to other expulsions.) All that remains of this first community are the ruins. The Mikveh is difficult to see: the glass pyramid keeps it open to the public from the street, but the glare obscures the view. Right above it is the typical epitaph to almost every Jewish community in Europe that has disappeared: someone renamed the street “Jews’ Street.” (In Lisbon, there is “Jew Alley”; in Bamberg, “Jew Street”; and Strasbourg has the tram stop “Old Synagogue.”)

I walked around several of the adjacent blocks. There were several statues dedicated to Carnival/Fastnacht: song composers, general merriment. I also saw some of the older houses that survived the bombings (Cologne was damaged more than any other German city during WWII. That the Dom survived is considered a miracle.)

I started walking back toward the more touristy area (I think they all are.) And I came upon a brewery. Pfaffen. Never had that before. So I drank down two quick glasses. It was a very good. Koelsches are typically light, fizzy beers with a sharp, bitter foretaste but otherwise delivering a subtle sweetness. They are unpresuming, light, perhaps effete to the palate of some people. Pfaffen was slightly bolder than most koelsches.

There were several other breweries in the same area (to be correct, these were the locations for the old breweries; the mass production has been moved to outward areas of the city.) Two of them were right next to each other. Gaffel and Gilden are, along with Dom, Frueh, Reichsforf, and Sion, among the more widely distributed koelsches. I have had them both. In fact, I think that I had been to the Gaffel brewery before with Karen (she reminded me that we drank there a few times.) I pondered whether I would go to either. However, I decided I wanted something different. I walked up a little farther to find the Peters brewery. I had not noticed it before: the building itself is off slightly on a side street; the “patio” area is out in the square. This was another excellent koelsch.

How much farther would I go? Before my mother runs out of oxygen as she “holds her breath,” I stopped after Peters. It was already after 3 and I wanted to do other things. Actually, I had to get back to watch my Star Trek. I ate a few slices of pizza, nothing special. After two hours of watching TV, I was less motivated than I was two hours earlier. I may have done nothing more than make myself some dinner.

July 27: The day decorum went out the window

I planned to go to Dusseldorf. My pass for the rail will run out by the end of the month, and I wanted to see a few museums. I would not leave right away. The landlady asked if I could do some chores.

I had done these before: cleaning the bathroom and mopping the floor in the kitchen. I had done these several weeks earlier. At that time, the landlady asked if I would clean these areas; she said that she would show me what to do. I awoke early and cleaned a few things, anticipating her wishes, so that I could get a head start. When she awoke, she told me to do a few specific things. I thought that I had already done to much, that I had one things that were not necessary (more specifically, I had washed to floor in the bathroom.) I completed the tasks that she mention; she was pleased, somewhat effusive about my cleaning job and the time that I took to complete it.

I started early, however the landlady woke just as I was starting; she wanted to use both rooms before she had to leave. Ok, I watched some CNN (the British version.) I then started on the bathroom tiles. I skipped the tub and the “porcelain”: I wanted to use the same water to wash the floor before it became too disgusting. As I started the floor, the landlady came out and asked me if I was “fertig” with the bathroom. I was confused: the definition for the word was more complex than I could recall on the spot. I thought that she was asking whether I was ready (definition 1) to start in the bathroom, when she actually asked if I was finished (definition 2) in the bathroom. It did not take me too long to realize how I misinterpreted her, but in that short time the situation became explosive. She started going off on every little thing. You didn’t do this. This is still filthy. Why are you cleaning the kitchen before you have finished with the bathroom? (Probably because I want to pour out the dirty water and then clean the tub.) You used too much detergent in the water (1 tablespoon for a whole bucket?). It went on like this for twenty minutes. There was no stopping her. She started to toss things from the counter and sinks. I had no chance to say anything. I was scared. This was craziness. I felt insulted. It was obvious that she had a set routine that she expected me to know through osmosis, and that nothing more than her way would suffice. She mentioned at some point that Rene, the other border, pays her to clean the bathroom for him (he won’t have anything to do with the kitchen; he just wants peace and nothing more; he told me that the previous tenant had similar problems.) I was shaken. It took me longer to finish because I had a painful headache.

I got out of the apartment for a while. No Dusseldorf, I had to figure out what I would do. Does this woman really despise me? Does she enjoy making me feel bad? Is she abusive? Or is she trying to get money out of me? I called Karen and my mom. I called Uli to see if, in an emergency, I could have a place to stay. I looked up other housing options in the city. I wrote an e-mail to the real estate agency from whom I found the listing. I went back to the apartment. I wrote a note that said, “Stay away! I am afraid of you.” I left it in front of the door.

I heard her come home. My door was closed. After awhile, I heard a knock. I ignored it. I heard another. I said, “Come in.” She said, “I don’t understand this.” I had resolved to say nothing other than “stay away,” but I took the opportunity to speak my mind. Specifically, I talked about the filthy condition that the kitchen is always in because she never cleans up after herself. I told her that she blew a misunderstanding out of proportion. I told her that her expectations that I clean in the same manner as she were outrageous. I told her that I, because I have been so conscientious about my effect on the apartment, am the neatest and cleanest person, that my bedroom is always presentable to the public (which no one else can say–don’t tell Karen, she might want me to do be as orderly at home.) I told her that I found her outburst offensive. During my tirade I pulled the split plate out of the recycling to show her what a freak-break it was. I even said that someone else could very well have been responsible. To illustrate the unusual nature of what had happened, I rubbed the plate against my wrist to show her that it had no sharp edges. (Of course, it had one–the defect from which the split began. When I repeated the demonstration later, I scraped myself with that one sharp edge. It bled slightly. I had to hide my arm from her as I continued to speak. My demonstration was only partially effective.) I appear to have disarmed her. She apologized. She said that she has been under pressure because her employment is uncertain. I took this as a temporary detente. An hour later, she came in to praise my cleaning job.

I brought home a pizza. I did not feel like cooking. “A Fish called Wanda” was on in German. Kevin Klein did deserve his Oscar–he was perfect.

July 28: Zzzzzzzzzzzz

I was at the archives. Nothing special. I ordered some files. I find little of importance. One file was a box of cards–about 1500. I did not know what to do with it. The info on it was written in some shorthand that I could not comprehend. Besides, the whole file violated one of my research rules: if the text does not go beyond one full page (one side), it has nothing that is that important. It is a rule I developed when I realized that old administrative records are usually filled with formal addresses, and that a one page document probably has only one sentence of information.

I picked up my photocopies: 11 euros for 30 pages. The woman was very nice. She inquired into the pronunciation and origins of my first name.

I bought two CDs. On Friday I bought a CD from a band from Hamburg (yes, a Hamburger band) called Spillsbury (sort of retro-New Wave.) Today, I bought a CD from a guy from Cologne called PeterLicht (one word.) I also bought Fehlfarben, a post-punk band from the 1970s (something Uli recommended.)

I walked around Koenigsallie, the expensive part of Dusseldorf. Very expensive. But I found some sculptures by a regional artist that I might study.
Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?