It feels like American culture has been explained on a phone with a bad connection. As if the Transatlantic Cable is getting a bit shabby, subtly changing words and letters, making ideas put in at one end come out differently on the other. Like a game of, well, telephone.
I love pork. When I found out we’d be moving to Munich, the first thing that popped into my head was the scene from the musical inside the musical The Producers, “Springtime for Hitler,” where a scantily-clad dancer saunters down the stage wearing a 6-foot bratwurst on her head. Heaven. But even someone who eats ham religiously has their faith in the snouted saint tested here. Bavarians go hog wild for pig.
I realized this morning that against my will, against my reason, and even against my character, I’m ethnocentric. Despite my efforts, despite being a Europhile as long as I can remember, and contrary to my self-image, I keep feeling like things aren’t right here, and that I’d all be better off if they just did it like they do back home. I never know what to expect. Is this actually familiar to me, or does it just look familiar and it’s going to be a royal pain when I find out it isn’t? This is my life. It’s the nagging fear that accompanies each interaction, each step outside the door. So, I keep looking, unconsciously, but desperately, for little corners of my former life to crawl into, little eddies on the Isar where the flotsam of America has been trapped, where I can circle awhile before rejoining the channel.
The playgrounds here in Munich have huge forts, gigantic spider-web rope nets, tunnels through hills, and at one near my apartment, the most amazing merry-go-round. It takes ten children working in concert to operate it properly. It is small, about six feet, in diameter. Four children jump into the middle to turn it by pushing on spokes leading from the central pillar to the outside platform. The six riders stand on the outside platform and reach up to hold onto a bar above their heads for stability. Because of the small diameter relative to the force four children can exert when excited by chocolate and beautiful spring weather, the thing spins fast. Very fast. The children scream excitedly as it speeds up, and then, laughing maniacally, the bolder children kick their legs out and hold on with only their hands to the top ring. Their legs fly out and they are spinning horizontally, staring at the ground or the sky, according to their preference, feeling the pure joy available only to children who have no knowledge of health insurance premiums, or personal injury laywers.
Germans love babies. They really do. Every single one of them. Whenever I take Ella on the train, around a park, to the mall, to the museum, to the bakery, anywhere, everyone loves her. They smile, they make faces, they cluck. They actually cluck. Not like a chicken, but a snap of the tongue from the roof of your mouth to the bottom, with your lips in an “O” shape. It’s the sound you make to simulate a clock, except it’s not a “tock”–it’s a “lock”, with a hard pop on the “L”.
The journey from loving, adoring father to crazed, frazzled lunatic, it turns out, is about as long as the ride from Universität station in downtown München to Olympiazentrum, where we live. We rode the U-bahn home today, after a long day out with Ella. Laura and I were exhausted, and Ella was fussy. [...]
I got up early today, thinking I’d get ahead a bit. I was up and out of the house at 6:50 A.M. The bakery down the street was dark yet, which was weird because their sign said they opened 7:00. An employee had just unlocked the doors, and someone else, perhaps the manager, came up [...]