Afternoon of the Lepus
Rousseau in Tuebingen
The giant ground sloth has exactly the head of one of those silhouettes that might be a raven going one way or a rabbit going the other. His head is black and round, his mouth can only be described as a beak, and his eye glints with a pure-white reflection like an eye in a cartoon. Before him, a jaguar with 28 neatly spaced peg teeth rests them on a panicked duckbill dinosaur-like caribou, who has the same teeth (Rousseau twists its jaw 90 degrees to make sure you can see). Overhead crows and owls savor long ribbons of bloody flesh, which have been torn in strips from the unhappy prey animal which no one will ever identify. The sloth reaches for a large brown fruit -- possibly the brazil nut, which, as I learned today in the botanical garden, grows in clumps of 30 in a sort of fibrous basket with a lid like a jack-o-lantern. He doesn't appear to be afraid of the jaguar.
Rousseau-themed points of interest speckle the city, from the Geographical Center of Baden-Wuerttemberg (a limestone cone in the woods) to Neckar Island to the botanical garden where I heard really loud frogs for the first time since Girl Scout camp. The frogs said what textbooks of ethology claim they're supposed to say. The boys said "Boy!" and the girls said "Girl!" and they approached each other warily, eyeing the competition, their eardrums tuned to hear these two calls and nothing else. As you might imagine, they were soon bored and fell silent. Two who had a small pond to themselves seemed to be enjoying life, romping and frolicking with jubilant splashes, in contrast to the eight or nine in the big pond who were forced to concentrate on their strategic maneuvers.
Elsewhere the rhododendrons, including the ones I would call azaleas, were in bloom. I gulped with joy to see them. I had thought I would never see any, living in this God-forsaken place, but I saw dozens, in most of the necessary colors. I also saw the red-eared turtle family (papa, mama, and baby turtle). They fled from me to swim with their noses up and their bodies at odd angles into the willow shade.
Mekons, Mercury Lounge, April 20
The Supreme Being bought tickets way in advance, which is good because the club is awful small. Langford, my former dream-date, was walking outside before the show with Sally Timms, who has aged better. Tempus fugit. Ou sont les neiges d'antan? But the show rocked hard. I stood close enough to get kicked in the face. It didn't happen because after the first near-miss, I backed up.
Unlike the New Yorkers, I danced. A year ago, I would not have dreamed of dancing, but Germans dance at any opportunity and I have picked up their habits to an astounding degree. Humans are very adaptable.
Mekons fans will assume correctly that if I say "small" and "rocked," it was a definite good time. They played "Flitcraft," "Millionaire," "Curse," "Memphis, Egypt," and other fun classics. The joint was jumping, etc. "Lust corrodes my body/I've lost count of my lovers," I sang along. Tom Greenhalgh, who loomed close to me, is very thin. "You're still sexy!" a woman called out from the back. He couldn't hear. "You're still sexy!" she called again. He didn't seem able to think of a riposte. Sally said one clever thing after another all night long. Jon tried to dance as energetically as the roadie, whose name (I think) might be Mitch, but he fell over backwards.
The roadie sang one number while expertly miming self-abuse. It reminded me of when I played with F.E.R.R.E.T. in Bloomington and Jeff Davidson sang "Sex Bomb." Shortly before that show, someone had showed me how to play "Sex Bomb," a Germs song I had never heard, on the E string. Not long ago I played it again for someone. "That's not 'Sex Bomb,'" he said, frowning. "Not even close."
The Lost Film Festival
Scott Biben, who is always up to something (he's the only Philly anarchist who has a reputation in Tel Aviv), hosted the Lost Film Festival at Pi Lam in mid-April. The films were not lost classics, but rather brand-new student films.
Admission was $6, but I talked them down to $3 by pointing out that there was no way I would be sitting through a film called 'Acne,' and I was right. 'Acne' was gruesomely god-awful (teenagers' heads turn to pimples), and I stole away in silence.
Luckily I returned in time to see the brilliant satire 'Beef.' I suppose you would say it was distinguished by its fast pace and snappy editing, but only because that's what's usually so conspicuously lacking in student films that it makes you want to cry. At least, when I get really bored, I always cry. 'Beef' was made using guerrilla video techniques. The auteur, his brother, and a friend dressed up more or less as The Hamburglar, Grimace and Ronald McDonald and shot in and around fast-food restaurants -- the America of Soviet propaganda films, as David Sedaris calls Greyhound Bus Lines in 'Naked.' Two mobs, headed by Dave Thomas and the Burger King, are plunged into war after the King kidnaps Wendy and confines her to a dressing room at Hooters. I enjoyed the warm interplay between the Hamburglar and his beautiful P.R. whore (works for the Chihuahua). But it occurs to me that the last thing this film needs is publicity, so I'll stop now.
The Roof or, Sweetness
Chris Dennstaedt, a.k.a. Ennui Malaise, deftly lifted the tar-papered trapdoor and revealed a tiny square of glaring blue sky toward which we climbed, chablis in hand, to enjoy a sunny afternoon bzw. (my favorite German conjunction -- it means "by way of relation" and parallels my favorite English conjunction, "yet," as in "stupid, yet not too bright") tie one on. Chris was unfamiliar with chablis. I swear by it: Mostly screw-top, plus it always tastes just fine. The most cynical person who ever lived, he favors Wild Irish Rose. I think only America breeds devoted connoisseurs of the third-rate. Out in the provinces everyone is still trying hard, but an American can kick back with Little Debbies and PBR and still feel like a privileged, sophisticated god, which he is. Thanks to Chris, I have seen the XFL. Thank you, Chris.
He had wanted a washtub he saw by the tracks in Yeadon. After stowing the washtub under a bush, we ventured the few yards from the train tracks to downtown, where we allowed a donut shop to disappoint us sorely (fried pies are deliciously third rate, but a flat, greasy apple turnover concocted from phyllo dough or however the hell you spell it is just plain bad) before entering the unpretentious liquor store, where I turned him on to chablis. Now, cradling our chablis-mugs, we looked out across the choppy sea of black and silver roofs to a pair of mysterious skyscrapers located, somewhat daringly, in western Powellton. What are they? we both wanted to know, but neither of us had a clue.
We got drunk and felt extremely, ludicrously happy. The April sun shone straight down (it was noon) and we traded jokes and ideas on themes ranging from the intimate to the criminal. If I could remember them, I wouldn't write them down. Then I jumped up and ran off to the Comet (the coffee shop of Stinking Lizaveta) (in my translation she's called Reeking Lizaveta) (it's an art-metal band). There (not on this day but on another) I met a man who told me he had a friend who was so careful about money that he would stir his coffee for hours on end. The stirring kept his sugar in solution, so he could use less. I haven't tried it. I like the sweet sludge at the bottom.
Aesthetician of Zionism Vindicated (Goldfish III)
All danger of frost being past, I returned to the fishpond. A dank miasma rose from the rotting soil of the road. In the orchard, clumps of dandelions towered over the still tentative grass. The faraway hills were dusted with white apple and pear trees like melting snow. At one end of the pond, which is about 3'x2', huddled the fish. When the A. of Z. claimed there were two, I hadn't quite believed him. I poked at them with a long stick recently cut from a rosebush, and they vanished. Swimming downward several inches into the water which must not have been as clear as it looked, they were lost from view, and I regretted my decision to bother them.
I walked at midnight on Neckar Island with Andrea. We walked past bench after bench in search of one where the trash can might not be so full. Eventually we found a bench and sat down. All around us Tuebingen lay subdivided into spotlit cones of grey and black. The city loomed above us, a mosaic of warm orange lights in windows, while at our feet the river, black and viscous, supported dim, tiny candles that drifted past on the prows of long canoes. Huge sycamore trees stood motionless and silent. There was no wind, plus they weren't dropping sticky fruits on our heads like the trees in Tel Aviv. "It's ghostly," said Andrea.
"With ghosts of what?" I asked. "Look, some ghosts." I pointed at two brown paper sacks that lay far off on a lawn.
"Those are Easter Bunnies," she said. "They're sleeping."
I expected a sack to move and contradict her, but there was no wind.
Feng Shui in the Barn
I don't know what to say about this book, beyond that it exists. I've also seen books about cooking with Coca Cola and losing weight with beer, so I think the German publishing industry uses focus groups to select among marketing ideas generated randomly by machines. When I was a kid there was a saying (which I'm sure originated with some well-known author, but I don't know who) that the automatic bestseller would be a book about Abraham Lincoln's doctor's dog. Everybody knows that's how they design TV shows and movies now, and I suppose diet and Feng Shui books are a form of TV for people who can't get organized to record the programs they want. In the future, they won't have to because TV will be provided by modules in a vast, icy supercomputer deep in a salt mine under Detroit. A powerful laser beam will carry viewer requests aloft to the program distribution satellite, which will be brighter than the moon for no good reason. Entertainment will be limited only by the factorial of all possible characters, stories, and settings. By that point everything will have already been done, too, so you'll be able to get whatever you want as a documentary, sort of like 'Feng Shui in the Barn.' Has anyone ever applied Feng Shui to a barn? Will anyone, ever? Is the question even relevant if FSB is an escapist work devoted to fantasies of protecting the secret vulnerabilities of the large, dull, powerful animals that surround us?
Journey to Jerusalem
"Reise nach Jerusalem" is the German term for the American game "Musical Chairs" (X+1 children race to sit in X seats). The zero-sum game, which only one fast, aggressive child can win, demonstrates the important concept of attrition. After elaborate early indoctrinations in fairness and sharing, young children might lack the intellectual equipment to fathom e.g. the Children's Crusade or life after age nine. The game teaches them the operative principle of adult life, sometimes called quantum theory (Jerusalem, as everyone knows, is in two mutually exclusive states at once): If it's worth having, there's only one of it.