Friday, July 25, 2003

Discovering my dissertation research part X

July 23, 2003: Nothing much but the work

I did not plan to do anything interesting this day. I would only go the archives and work. I did even less than what I planned.

In order to have files to read right when I arrive, I must order them the day before. I did so on Tuesday, asking for two new files and to hold the one that I was looking at when I finished my work for the day. When I arrived in the morning, only the file that I was previously reading was there. I could not even remember what else I ordered. I filled out slips for new orders. When I finished with the file in front of me, it was noon. Nothing else had come up for me. Nothing came for me until 1.30. During the mean time I wrote the previous blog entry (a good use for the space and electricity provided by the state government.) I looked at a few books. I order the catalog books for another archive that I would visit (the state keeps these so that people can know where to find things outside of this particular archive.) The reading room staff was a bit confused by my request. They seemed unable to find what I asked for. Finally, someone volunteered that he knew what I was talking about. He left the room, and came back with the four books for which I was looking. I starting reading though them, noting files that I would want to read.

The man came back after twenty minutes. He wanted to know if he had, in fact, brought the correct books to me. I responded, that these were probably what I wanted. As I expressed uncertainty, he asked me to speak to him in another room where conversation would not disturb the other researchers. He said that we could speak in English at this point. He asked me what my topic was; I explained it. He said, that he remembered my initial e-mails to the archive. (I also knew who he was at this point.) He said that my topic would be difficult to research at this archive, especially in the period before 1919. (This is something that I had already discovered, and I was concentrating my efforts on the post-1919 period.) He went on to say that he doubted that regionalism existed in the area before 1919. At this point I got the “lecture” that all German scholars seem to give: you don’t have anything to go on. This could mean anything from “prove yourself” to “you haven’t a clue, do you.” I believe that he was doing more of the former. However, we were of differing opinions about what constituted regionalism, and he preferred to see it in particularism and provincialism. Rather than argue with him, I tried to steer him into a different direction by trying to talk about the sources that I would like to find. This seemed to work: he recommended that I look at several other archives, most of which I plan to visit anyway. I also tried to direct his attention to other historians who have done work at this archive in similar areas. I hoped that this would jog his memory.

I finished up my work and left. I had nothing planned for the evening; I wanted to get to the apartment to rest.

July 24, 2003

I woke up late, but still managed to get to the Dusseldorf by 10. After I was there for 20 minutes, the historian with whom I was speaking the previous day came to see me. He could not find the name of the previous researcher who had been there, and no reference to his book (I found this puzzling, and perhaps disturbing, that this researcher would not have submitted a copy of his writings.) However, he put into my hands a notes that contained his notes on Horion, a man who was committed to self-government in the Rhine Province, as well as photocopies of letters and articles by Horion. The historian explained that he intended to do a small piece about Horion, but that it came to nothing. The notebook was mostly useful for the file references (his writing was difficult to read, only giving me clues as to what things said.) The letters themselves were very important–I had my camera with me, and I could photograph the letters because they were not part of the archive’s collection.

I thought about exploring Dusseldorf in the afternoon. However, the weather threatened to spoil my plans. The sky had clouded up since the morning; it was drizzling steadily. I could not find the places I wanted to visit. I decided to go back to Cologne. The train was packed; I had to stand the whole trip. I got back by 5.30, enough time to watch Star Trek and eat some dinner. I was determined to go out, but was uncertain where. I was very meticulous while cooking; I was meticulous cleaning up after myself. I dried the pans with a towel so that I could put them right away. I placed by dish in a drying rack above the sink. I had no choice: the landlady had left so many dirt dishes out that there was nowhere to put anything. I looked around. No crumbs on the floor, no excess water.

I left the apartment at 8.30. I planned to go to a jazz club near the river, purportedly the first jazz club to have been founded in Germany and which is still dedicated to classic jazz (read hot jazz, with only a little swing.) I stopped at the internet café quickly to check my messages. It took longer than expected to deal with all the business that had come through. It was too late to go out to a club, especially if I might have to walk all the way back to the apartment.

I decided to go to Tilmann’s Café-Bar in Nippes. Thomas Tilmann rented an apartment to Karen and I the first time that we were in Cologne. When I planned this trip, I had difficulty getting in contact with Herr Tilmann. I only knew the address of his website, not his e-mail or telephone number. A search for the address of the bar came up with a dental agency. I feared that the bar had closed (I put 2 and 2 together and got 5.) Last week, when I went out to do my laundry, I found that his bar was still there, although it was not open until 4. I planned to go Friday afternoon when I expected there to be less craziness. I supposed that “now would be as good a time as any,” and I headed north to Nippes.

Nippes, at the beginning of the twentieth century, was a small village that had been swallowed up by the city. Now it is its own community. It had nothing of interest for tourists in the sense of great museums and monuments. What it has is relaxed hip-ness: lots of small cafes and restaurants that are out of the way from the insanity of the old city, but which possess an energy that is not overly self-conscious.

Tilmann’s bar was busy. There were people sitting in all the tables along the sidewalk. The inside appeared to be full. At first I did not recognize Herr Tilmann–he had longer hair when I first met him, and he always looked exhausted (from staying up late partying.) I could only guess that the man behind the counter was, in fact, Herr Tilmann. He looked younger and very fit (he has been working out.) He received me very warmly, even more than I would have expected. He has a child (three years old, named Leena, if I am not mistaken.) Being aware of the problems facing a business like his, he has actually expanded his work: he does catering on a nearly daily basis, and he will move into an adjacent space so that he can turn the café into a full restaurant. The apartment that housed Karen and I is gone: he combined it with his own to accommodate his family. He kicked out some of the rowdier patrons as he became more responsible, and he appears to be happier with the new clientele (who are probably 10-15 years younger than before.) One of the older patrons, no one whom I knew, tried to talk to me, but he was a little too tipsy for me to hear him properly. Herr Tilmann and I talked for a while.

I returned to the apartment by 11.15. I brought back a little food–I was peckish from the koelsch. I decided to put away the dishes that I had left to dry. The plate had split. It was in two pieces, the break coming along a straight line, and it was perfectly smooth. The rest of the kitchen had been cleaned up since I left. I was very suspicious. There was nothing I could have done to have caused this. There must have been some imperfection in the plate, and it broke either because something heavy was placed on top of it or a door was slammed very hard. I brought the plate to the landlady to show her. She said, that she told me not to put breakable things in the drying rack (where else could I have put the plate?) This is hardly a compelling reason to put the blame on me. I think she knew the plate had split beforehand, or at least she realized that her own actions must have led to the split.

I retired to my room, shut the door, and ate my food.
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