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Sunday, October 1st 2006

10:39 AM

BITBURG ~ My Llife As I Remember It.

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Bitburg ~ My Life As I Remember it continues...

 

I woke up in Germany. I was in an airport terminal with my head bobbing in and out of consciousness. A young man took sport watching me as my head rolled about my shoulders as I fought to stay awake. I remember waking and seeing this young blonde haired man smiling then me falling back asleep and then suddenly waking again to his eye brows raised and I struggled to stay conscious, only to pass out and then wake to him laughing; as I smiled back and then sneered in a grimace; for I couldn’t stay awake as my head fell to my chest listening to the echo of him chuckling. He was my first German to encounter “vas is los kinder?" and then asking if I were sleepy with a chuckle. It was the end of summer in 1968 and I was almost seven years old.

Next thing I knew I was on a Train from Frankfort headed for Spangdahlem. An Army officer and his son sat across from us in our coach compartment of the train we were on. I was sitting with my Father as he and the officer in full uniform spoke. I listened in for awhile as I looked out the window catching my first glimpse of the European countryside whiz by. Then the young boy asked if I had been to Germany before, and I said no this is the first time. Then the boy took off in lengthy detail about his first visit and the various differences between the cultures of Germany and the States. The only thing I can remember him saying however is that the police cars went neener neener neener while back in the states they went Woo Woo Woo Reeeeraaah and when I laughed he picked up on that and continued until our parents were laughing as well. Then they got off the train and we continued on.

Later we continued by cab driving through city and countryside. I had no idea where we were just somewhere headed for Bitburg. Finally we pulled up to the Eifler Hoff Hotel. It was a grand old structure of cream and tan with strange green awnings over the windows. Bellmen greeted us with a cart and we loaded up the suitcases and headed inside. It was opulent as we stepped through the turnstile, crisp reds and greens with shiny brass rails and mirrors. Huge paintings adorned the walls neatly framed as my eyes were filled with new sights and smells. This would be our new home for a couple of weeks. When it came time to go we whined that we wanted to stay. Everyone was so kind to us and we had come to know all the staff by name. They had spoiled us with their German Hearts of kindness and hospitality. We had become accustomed to rooms with 12 foot ceilings, fancy carpet and huge fluffy beds. Waiters and Maids that tended to our every need and treated us like beloved pets and all came to wave goodbye with tears and hanky’s as we drove off to our  new home in Stahl when we finally were forced to part.

From the Eifler Hoff we grew very accustom to Downtown Bitburg. All the various shops filled with wonderful things to purchase and fantastic smells of all sorts of things to eat. It was like living in Santa’s village dream land. We would rush off down the sidewalks greeting the German people Gueten Morgan…Gueten Morgan bowing and nodding our heads and they would break huge smiles in return…Morgan or Tah.

Of course my favorite store was the TOY STORE that was just jammed with slot cars racing around in their display and flying planes dangling from the ceiling in every corner. It was so exciting to just step through those doors that you had to constantly rub your eyes to make sure you weren’t still dreaming. The place was brimming with compartments and bins filled with a sort of toy that I had never seen. Hand and Marionette puppets character faces carved out of wood and plastic. A blending of the old world and the new on shelves that went to the ceiling. Little cowboys and Indians dressed with vests and spats and spur’s; everything intricate and made with precision. My first exposure to LEGOS brightly colored piecing together famous land marks of grand European architecture in expertise skilled in detail in an assortment of scale and size. Everything there opened my mind and dropped my jaw in awe and question of how and I want and I wish for this and that and what can this be. This store was not your typical place and you could not enter as a normal human boy through the door, no to enter this place one had to grab hold of your belt and jump the threshold and upon leaving, you staggered out drunk.

From the downtown shops of fancy pastries and artsy meats and sausage and tourist souvenirs; we’d wander to the park and playground on a daily basis. Yet another place of wonder with super kid structures of Gigantic slides and massive swing sets and finely built sand boxes with carved edges of sporty craftsmanship. As you came closer to the park one could hear the rise of laughter and squeal of children hustling and bustling taking turns and waving to their mums and dads. The air was crisp, clean and the fabric of life held the word perfection just below the happy sun that glowed down upon us all. The people were dressed neatly in traditional lederhosen dungarees, green sportsman caps with fly-fish lures sewn and wove with golden cord. Or Bavarian dresses frilly with feminine lace and embroidered flowers braided cord and shiny buttons. If not dressed in great traditional garb then you’d find many of the older folk smartly dressed in their Sunday best. It was obvious that when going to the park at that time in that era it was an occasion to look impeccable. Perhaps it was Sunday; but how could one tell, church bells were ringing all the time. Can’t speak German; no problem everyone speaks English and French fluently. My first encounter with German children was of shock and disbelief for most German’s are multi-lingo and experts in communication. It was hard for me to learn German when there was no need to. It was quite entertaining listening to accents and then have them turn and speak all throaty from their mouths to each other in their native tongue  I later would feel inferior to their superior schools and education ethics. Literally I felt as if I were retarded in their presence and although quite gracious in their giving and compassionate ways; my young German peers would also treat me as such.

But in time all things began to blend and we assimilated into the new land that I still dearly love.

The Germans are masters of cleanliness. Everyone pitches in and keeps it spic and span at least eight feet of each individuals own perimeter. Shelves lined with fabric and other secret sorts of cleaning tricks permeated society. Every morning the side walks are swept and washed by each individual. The windows sparkled in every Payne. And the work is done with pride and love so every brick contains a positive vibe not a single begrudged feeling is put into anything and it shined and shown in every face.

But in time all things change; when we arrived we were heroes and friends in their eyes. However by the time we left we were frowned at; often noses were thumbed and the word swine was hung in our direction. I can’t blame them for their opinions we were there hanging out and we brought in the final phase of the sixties hippy culture of disrespect and the notion of tearing down the establishment. The living free movement went against the grain of the elder generation of Germans and moved quickly into the younger. We were sloppy and often half witted in our attitude and rampant humor of mocking the Germans with slapstick displays of Hitler or spitting out Jewish religious phrases to the bite and sting of the past.  We thought it was cool to trace swastikas or peace symbols in frosty windows, we actually didn’t know the difference. We just repeated things we saw in books or television and well the devil did the rest.

 

Back at the Eifler Hoff when we first arrived I easily became accustom to my favorite dishes at the hotel. It was a beautiful thing, and always such a treat to eat fancy dishes always made by superior chefs and cooks that always procured the ingredients from the finest stocks across Europe. I was little Lord Fauntleroy and was greeted by all like family. We sat at the finely built solid wooden dining table each morning and each night and enjoyed the finest cuisine I had ever come to know in my early existence. To this day I attempt to eat similar dishes and cook things in similar ways but nothing can compare to those first times where experts used all the wisdom of the lands ancient sages into preparing the finest for that very moment.

We had two young teen waiters that would come to greet us for Breakfast or Dinner; sometimes both would appear eager and gracious to be near. When my Family first met them we asked for their names. The blonde said Claus and the redhead said Rudolph. We repeated it back and Claus said no it’s Clous and we said Claus.

“No no…Clou ous.” And we’d say “ CLAU AUS” And then he said. “Like SANTA CLOUS.” And we’d agree “Yes Yes…Santa Clause.”

And he’d just smile and make a funny grimace rolling his eyes and say. “ NO NO Santa Clous, like Santa Clous and Rudolph the Red nose reign Deer and point to his partner Rudolph who turned beat red as we all broke into laughter. We became close friends with Rudolph and he would often stop by our home in Stahl to say hello and we’d invite him in for dinner or tea. He would often be on his bike and we watched him grow from a skinny teen into a muscular man. He was very cool and personable and we’d often laugh at our cultural differences. Once he was doing tricks on his bike standing on the seat, then no hand turns and hoping from one side to the other in an acrobatic leap, until one moment when the tire slid in some cow shiest and he wiped out doing about 10 mph. He landed on his cheek and forehead peeling back a good layer of skin and some major road rash on his arm and elbow and his knee torn open wide. We helped him hobble into the house where my mother and some of the other German ladies and young girls helped him disrobe and spraying him down in the tub. At the time I was too young to really understand the commotion and why all the girls were coming and going but I guess Rudolph’s red nose had also blossomed into him becoming a strapping young man.

 

Back at the Hotel I loved brochen with freshly whipped butter and clean sparkling honey or thick strawberry preserves. At Dinner I’d often order ox tail soup, a young boy’s curiosity... I was always hoping that one day I’d actually get to see that damn tail set to the edge as a garnish, but in any case to this day I’ve never been able to duplicate that recipe. It was a strange joy for me to eat, as if I were turning into a man by braving to consume the ox’s tail as my sisters would scrunch their noses at me in disdain, for my foolish audacity in choice. I was afraid to take my first sip as well from the fancy sliver spoon all flashy in swirling engrave. But it was just delicious and beefy and I couldn’t get enough of it.                               

There was one big culture difference that took place at the Eifler Hoff; and that was community showers. No personal private showers or tubs in the toilet, there was one of those strange lady bodais with the faucet spickette twirling about. I remember examining it and thinking, oh how special and… WHY CAN’T I USE IT!

Anyhow the showers were down the hall. So every other night it was us all marching down the hall with our towels and toiletry’s men one way - women the other. Well it was difficult to see my Dad buck necked for the first time and even worse seeing some of the others. In fact it was just wrong for me to have to endure such measures at my age and height. But I did so with out laughing and kept an honest attempt to keep my eyes squinted as if I had a constant soap sting to wash out over and over. And then upon leaving the men’s area the women would often come out from there area flashing parts of themselves in exhibition and then turn with the complete gasping look of disgust as if I had it hard for them peaking out my robe. It never failed; I was always in the wrong place at the wrong time to catch the most divine things that little boys were not supposed to see. I must say; in my life I sure have come to see that most women sure like to expose themselves and place the men at blame for whatever reaction, or if they don’t handle the situation properly. If you are handsome and buff then I think you’re supposed to act like you are shy and then later seduce them. If you are ugly and flabby you are to cover your eyes, genuflect and later slash your wrists for ever having come into their presence. If you are a young boy I think you’re supposed to turn and run as if you just came into the presence of a panther and thank god that you were not eaten alive.

However every case is subject to change in various degrees depending on the monthly cycle that may or may not be taking place. So a keen sense of smell is needed for a man to efficiently navigate the shark invested minds of those who are of and are interested in them that are of the feminine feline persuasion.  One strange thing about German women was that most wouldn’t shave their pits or legs, unless they vacationed in France. So one could tell if a female had been out of the country by how course their arm pit or leg hair was and well to frankly admit it; panty hose just didn’t have the same appeal with matted leg hair smoothed beneath the nylon.

 

My first year was difficult being the only male out of three children. So I was somewhat isolated in my thoughts and actions entertaining myself with my comic books and phonograph. All of our possessions were destroyed on the ship that caught fire as they made their way across the Atlantic. What little we had left over from the fire was totally watered logged by fire hoses or salvaged from the ocean and had that distinct musty smell of mildew and mold. Most of my toys and clothing were lost at sea. For several months I wore a jacket that stunk like hell until my mother finally purchased a new one for the new school year. So needless to say I became somewhat of an introvert feeling self conscious about it all as I slowly grew accustomed to my new surroundings.

Our furniture was a Hodgepodge of strange things lent or borrowed. A plastic couch of lime green with tiny dimples pressed into the material giving it some sort of cheap motel feel as your skin would stick to it and peel off as you stood to leave. All my toys missing in action some of which would somehow find their way back months later in crushed boxes and my Dad and I gave a ceremonial burial to the missing GI Joes that never returned granting them mysterious and imaginary medals for their unknown heroic deeds of bravery upon their secret mission of no return. Miraculously one box returned totally intact without a scratch and we all peered inside it to find our family’s Holy Bible pristine and untouched with its golden leaflet edges and pictures of the Pope and Vatican. That which I still possess to this day after receiving it as my only real inheritance of worth after my mother’s death. Sad to say it hasn’t weathered very well since Germany. We lived on the outskirts of a village called Stahl which was on the outskirts of Bitburg. The main town square stretch of Stahl was traversed by an ancient cobble stone road. So everyday we’d drive across the bumpy road that echoed the sound of tires pattering and your cheeks would vibrate from the fast and consecutive pops and bounce. If you held a vocal tone or hum one could achieve an effortless vibrato sound while your eyes would grow accustom to the flitter within the sockets of one’s shaky brain dislodging in a float of short insanity. Then it suddenly turned back into asphalt just past the GastHous where the bridge and waterwheel turned for the mill. It was a picturesque village, quaint in beauty and mystique right out of child’s faery tale novel.  The river was shallow and deep and fast and slow. It was dark water shaded by large trees with huge trunks massive at their base. Musk rats would slither in and out between branches fallen making dens of mulch from twigs and muddy leaves. The river twined and was hard to follow with some banks steep and eroding of rock and shale, thick trees and mossy lichen growing thick and dangerous to follow. A lot of hopping and jumping and crawling underneath and over obstacles, prevented one from ever truly knowing it.  I never knew exactly from where it came or where it ended. I had my internal boundaries set and had no need or interest other than to be content with the stretch that flowed through Stahl.  

There were rolling hills, meadows and forest that surrounded the village. Orchards and farm land. There’s Lots of Cattle and sheep, dogs and cats, chickens and ducks. Snakes and insects, birds and yes gnomes and other invisible things of good and evil. History, legends and lore filled every nook and cranny. There was a Chimney sweep and Farmers lots of children, a doctor, tavern owner, a cemetery, Fancy new houses and old mysterious ones like ours. 

 

 I love Germany and have several adventures to share of what it was like living off the Air Force Base smack in the midst of their culture.

 

I've always had a thought to return for a visit to rekindle my daze of youth and find my Fathers grave, which seems like an extra mission excuse, ha ha Someday maybe never... 

 

I'll try and return with various photos, but that will take some digging.

 

Thanks for stopping by and helping me to endure my ShockTreatment. It really does mean so much to have you hold my hand in between the voltz!

 

Michael aka ZeeArcTune

Copyright © 2006

 

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3 Friends and Lovers.

Posted by Wendy:

Michael, i think i just hopped into that toy store alongside you!:) You've just given me exactly what i needed right now, a little bit of magic!...
Big, big hugs & kisses
xXx
Saturday, October 7th 2006 @ 11:19 AM

Posted by Michael Flynn:

Thank you so much for taking the hop into the toy store with me Wendy. It is a very magical moment through the journey and having you there and now really puts the spark in it.


~x M x~
XxX
Saturday, October 7th 2006 @ 11:42 AM

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