Friday, December 23, 2016

Seeing Nils and Tobi in Munich

Barber shaving man in Munich
Shot taken by Paul Cook
Nils takes me to a traditional, Bavarian restaurant, where I order a warm soup, served in a fancy Bavarian soup bowl, Nils orders Kaiserschmarrn, Bavarian fried dough with apple sauce. Nils and I catch up. It's been two and a half years, since I've seen Nils. Like Volker, I see where his life was, where it is, and perhaps, where it is going.

Nils now has a girlfriend, who he loves very much. He tells me they're thinking of moving in together. I like how cheery he is to tell me about this new girlfriend.

When the waitress comes, I pay for meal. She's big and stroppy. She has attitude, but I like it.

I ask her in German, "Do you accept credit card?"

She says, "I accept anything where you can take money from it."

Nils and I laugh. The girls at the table beside us laugh.

I give her my credit card. The waitress says the price and adds in English, "No tip. No included." I think it's the only English she knows and understands, the word: Tip.

"No problem," I say.

I ask Nils for his change. I give her my change too. I say, "Here, it's cash. Are you happy now that we gave you cash?"

She says, "Of course. Money is always good."

"Of course it is," I respond back in German.

We start laughing again. The girls laugh too.

Although for some, all roads lead to Rome, for me, all roads lead to Munich, the classy and rich and beautiful Bavarian capital. I've been to Munich more times than any other European city. It seems like every time I go to Europe, I cross through Munich.

Munich seemed to be busier than last time I was there. I also noticed that more people are speaking English, because of the influx of immigrants. I wonder if English will become the universal language one day.

So, I didn't do the touristy things this time around. I went to one museum, where I saw the modern artists and Picassos. Most of my days were spent sleeping in and planning the rest of my holidays. Nils and I caught up often and ate out and drank spiced wine together at the Christmas Markets. And in Munich, there are so many of them.

Nils is a thoughtful and caring person. And I think if he had the right trainer, he could've been an olympic runner. I remember, four years ago, Nils and Nicole and I, ran in the forest on a winter's day, when it was snowing. The snow landed on our hot heads and steam rose. We ran through the mud and sleet all the way up to Goettingen's castle, up on the hill. And Nils was so strong and fast and his friends said, he's like a beast. He did it so easily, and I never forgot it.

Nils let me stay in his room, which is close to central Munich. He stayed the nights at his girlfriend's. It was nice, sleeping in his king size bed. It was nice sleeping in. And when I opened the 'fridge, there was a Bavarian beer in there with a post note sticking on it that said, "For Paul". That made me smile. Never seen that before. Very thoughtful. I have to remember that one.

(One time, my mother on her walk, found a stash of beer, the good kind too. When I came home, she said, "Paul, I have something special for you." Then she opened the bag and showed me all this high quality beer she found. We could never figure out who would dump such good stuff. I thought that was cute when my mother found beer for me. I thought it was thoughtful Nils did that for me too.)

Nils got me drink. I got him food. Interestingly enough, I ate one of the best pizzas in Munich. I would never think pizza would be so good in Germany. But they baked it in a wood fire oven, and they shaved large pieces of black truffle onto it. It smelled so good. It tasted so good. Nils and I loved the pizza.

One night, Nils, his girlfriend, and I, also ate out at a Croatian restaurant. It was full, full of American too. They served whopping portions of meat and food. We ordered two dishes for the three of us. We still had leftovers. It was slabs of pork and beef and rice cooked in tomatoes and salt. It was a hearty meal for a winter's night.

Speaking about winter, it was in Munich, that I could feel a part of me dying. The nights were long. The days were short. It was cold and gloomy and dark. Although in my mind, I knew that the spring was coming, when you're in winter, you wonder if the spring will ever come.

Coming from Los Angeles, I don't feel the affects of the changing in the season as much. I could certainly feel it in Europe now.

* * * *

I felt sad when Tobi said that he was too busy to see me in the deep south of Bavaria. But I told Tobi, I was coming to Munich, even if he couldn't see me.

It so happened that while I was in Munich, Tobi was there too. He picked me up from Nils' flat.

We only had a few hours. Tobi was so busy.

He took me to a bakery. We both had pretzels with butter and coffee. (Pretzels, if you didn't know, originate in Bavaria.)

We talk and catch up. Because our time is so short, I could feel it running out on us. I haven't seen Tobi in awhile, and I've known him for close to 9 years now.

I could hear the words of T. S. Eliot running through my head:

There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

And Eliot is right, there is a time, a time for Tobi and I to meet face to face and a time to ask questions that drop on our plate and a time for him and me. And he is right, that time will be squeezed into a few hours, before the eating of our pretzels and drinking of our coffee. I feel like it's not fair, though, that the time between us is so short.

But I must not ask what is it. We have made our visit.

And in our conversation, though not with these exact words I tell Tobi:

"I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be . . . At times, indeed, almost ridiculous / - Almost, at times, the Fool.

And Tobi tells me, in not-so-many-words "I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. I do think they'll sing to me."

I tell him, remember, one day, "human voices wake us, and we drown."

He says in his own words, "We'll have to wait and see."

"Let's see," I says too.

He drops me back off at the flat. I give him a hug.

I tell him to tell his parents and sister that I said Hi to them.

I'm happy to see Tobi. I just can't believe that that was all the time we had. Maybe, there will be another time, another time to see each other and share the shards and fragments of our lives with each other. But for now, that was all the time that was given to me.

I could feel my trip was coming to an end. I thought of home and family and the problems I must confront when I get back. I could feel myself pulling away. I could feel I was distancing myself from the Old World and the unreal and fantasy world I was in and soon had to leave. 

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