Monday, July 20, 2015
Augsburg ((Sketches out of Augsburg: Parts: I, II & III) (1970)
To the Countryside of Augsburg
(Part I of III)
The Potato Field
We left the city limits, and no sooner had we left, Chris pulled the car over to the side of the street, looking at some potato fields, said:
“Chick, well, shall we go visit the people?” She then, without waiting for my response opened the car door and started walking towards the fields where one could see high reaching wooden skeleton like towers.
“By the way,” I said, “…who are the people?”
I was following behind her as she got out of the car and darted toward the semi-wet, and somewhat dusty and lumpy rows in the fields of dirt, and then she said, hesitantly: “I like it here…the sky is so blue” she was comforted for some reason, then looking at the bodies all about, their backs bent over she commented “those are potato pickers…” it all looked so strange to me: why were we here in the first place? I asked myself. Whatever the reason it was old fashion agricultural.
Again, all the same, Chris looked solaced by being here, on a whim it give me the impression she had a simpler, and more commonplace side to her, like I had.
We stood in the middle of the field for a long while, silent, even the sky seemed mute. There was something about this woman that I found very interesting, especially in this compassionate moment. Ever since she had told me she was a German-Jew, and the tragedy of her family in WWII, and the closeness she had with her grandmother, who helped raise her, I had taken an interest in her a little more in that she become more open to me, if not vulnerable I was discovering we perhaps had bonded together somewhat, were growing as they say, instead of going through life, growing through life together, wherever; in lack of a better phrase, we found something common between us, yet I couldn’t name it, and I was not sure why I felt this way in the first place, especially in this odd place of places, she had selected to show me, but I knew or at least felt, she had been through more hardships in life than I had, being three years my senior likewise, born the last year before the ending of the Second World War and her father taken as a prisoner, a Jewish intellectual, a university professor, and never seen of thereafter—; taken one day right out of his library, whereupon, her and her mother and her grandmother escaping to London, avoiding the Nazi regime, that is to say, missing being captured by a thread, and perhaps avoiding a trip to Poland. Yet I suspect it was spring too, you know, timing can play a big part in any reminiscing, evoking old events in one’s life they now cherish; I say that with impulsiveness, for I remember being on a having a second date, and wondering where would it lead?
“What are the wooden towers for?” I asked.
They were like observation towers in the middle of the potato fields, sparsely spaced from one end to the other. Older women were picking or planting, or doing both—not sure, only that potatoes were all around us so it looked as if it was picking time or weed pulling at the same time, or all three at the same time, so it appeared; —the closer I got the more than I had notice before at any rate. So, Chris explained the towers, “…they are for the boss to see what is going on in his fields, let’s climb up one,” she suggested.
I continued to walk through the landscape behind Chris, we came to one of those wooden structure, a field tower, about twenty-five feet high, with a wooden enclosure on its four sides to the top of it, a skimpy looking ladder from the ground to the boxed-like observation post; a peaceful silence still circled the aurora around us, the air filled cool and fresh moisture, a countryside look. Chris put her hands on the ladder pulling herself up from one step to the other; the brisk air reproduce a warm-chill inside of me, I held my jacket a little closer to my body, I was a little lost for the moment—like I was drifting at sea: my stomach and intestines stimulated somewhat, it would have been embarrassing had I tried to describe to her what I was feeling, but it was enticing. She had a skirt on.
Standing at the bottom of the ladder, as she was now in the center, several more steps to the top, I started to climb slowly upward, in doing so much was revealed, one couldn’t help but see viewing her long lean legs, her sway, and the motion of her slim hips climbing those last few steps, stretching one step the other, I quickly looked the other way, as Chris just happened to turn her face at a ninety degree angle, looking down at me with a smile (she knew I was viewing her outlines, plus);
‘Ye!’ I said ‘can’t help peeking,’ I think I was really trying not to, but hick, why lie, I was doing what you think I was doing most likely! I could never figure out women, was she doing this to entice me or what? I mean she could have suggested I go up first, be the leader in this escapade.
Somehow, I was not even ashamed (for that long moment, as the old saying goes: I had no blood in my face, nor pride—just curious lust), nor did I feel guilty for getting caught—actually I felt good about getting caught: it made it more daring, or it made me look more daring, not sure, but after a moments discovery, I was a hero to myself for enduring that moment of misbehavior, and I kind of wanted to just grab her and…well, I’ll leave it at that.
She could either have laughed or as she did, smile; I think she chose the more amusing one, if not more reserved; her approach in life was always that way. Women are like cats, sly and secretive, so I was learning. Men are more like bulldogs, so predictable, so I was learning, also. I was to a certain degree shy, not a sinful shyness, but a chivalry kind of shyness; it’s not what a knight would do. I suppose the modern term might be gentlemen, but that seems a little out of place for me, especially back then, I was more barbaric or Neanderthal. I remember John Weber, a fellow once in junior high, we had a fight, no one won, and how I dating this blond beauty, and for some reason or another I got barbaric and told her to get on home, and don’t both me, I was that way. John said, “You shouldn’t have shooed her away, you could have gotten what you wanted,” and I looked at him and figured: how does he know what I want? Sex isn’t hard to get, nor do you have to be tough to get it, or pushy, I never was, but want I wanted was no pretense, I was who I was, and you either respected that or you didn’t, I didn’t play the man game: I’ll become whomever you want, to get whatever I want, and then once I get it, return back to the asshole I was. So you got the real thing right away, and that was perhaps my moods too, and if I could hold back my temper all the better, if not, well, it was best to let it go, and I’d be better after a wild moment. I never stayed mad very long.
“Come on up,” she commented.
“How about the boss?” I reflected.
“I know the owners, don’t worry!”
As I started to climb to the top, I noticed this was just one tower of several in the field; I hadn’t realized the field was so big before. Perhaps someday I’d realize what this was all about capturing this very moment, I didn’t mind being a duck, and just going along with it, after all, there might be some reason for all this, and whatever it was, it was imprinted in my mind to have a good-fun day, maybe I’ll remember it thirty years down the road and find out the reason I told myself.
This land, culture, her, it all was another side of the world for me, and she was taking me away from the military madness at the base, that we soldiers called Reese Caserne, which was great. I mean it was 1970, WWII had been over for twenty-five years, but not the Cold War, that wasn’t over. If anything, Russia and the United States were at odds with the rest of the world, so it looked and the world was the prize.
Chris leaned against the wooden beams, and gazed about as if she was in heaven. Something caught her eye, “We should go before it’s too late to get into the cemetery, and it’s not far from here. Matter-of-fact, it’s just up the street some across the field.”
If anything, I had found someone as restless as myself; and so maybe this was what it was all about, the long ride into the countryside, away from the metropolitan city I was stationed in, Augsburg, to visit her grandmother, buried in the cemetery, where she wished to be buried when she died, beside her.
“Sure, let’s go,” I agreed.
This time she went down first, I think she was letting me know the show was over, ‘Damn,’ I said quietly, she looked up at me, just a glance: now she had gotten to the last step (smiling); now we both knew for sure what was up.
We both stood alongside the car, she had a 1970- Ford Maverick, Chris turned an enquiring glance at me again, blushed a little, after that said,
“That was fun!” adding “you have something on your mind?”
“Never mind,” I said (hesitantly), the said, “well that’s true, I want to kiss you.”
“Yes…a...kssssssssssssssssssssss…” said Chris staring at me now.
She caught her breath, her hand crept up to her mouth, she touched it, and with her eyes wide open she looked deeply into mine: I gave a sigh.
“One feels like that,” she questioned me.
“Like what?” I asked.
“Like… let’s go to the cemetery.”
I think she meant, nostalgic.
Chris stopped in front of the cemetery, by a half opened gate, an old gate with a Star of David on top of its archway. Trees were bountiful in the graveyard, moss-topped stone graves were everywhere: old, aging, and chipped vaults, sepulchers everywhere, and high grass that hadn’t been cut for ages—: in places the undergrowth higher than the headstones, and we made our way through the dense of the mud and the leaves and tossed about branches, to the spot she was seeking. Chris opened her dress pocket pulled out a book, and kissed it, standing in front of a gravestone, her grandmother’s name deeply etched in it, then placed the item on the stone. There was no discomfort in her face, but as we stood there, she seemed to be in a silent prayer—a world away from this world, as if aching to be with her; I was catching a deep breath, I started to walk away, and in the next moment, she did also. It was as if her grandmother was talking to her, had been talking to her—or someone, as if she had something personal to tell her…
From Chris came: “I have a blood disease called Leukemia. The doctors give me five years to live. I am thinking about going to the Minnesota Rochester Clinic, “knowing I was from Minnesota.
“To be quite honest, I didn’t know we had a clinic in Rochester.”
“Oh yes, it is world famous, and maybe it can help me.”
“That would be great…maybe we would end up seeing each other in my home state.” She smiled at me.
It had been on one hand a comfort to know there was more to this visit; she was looking at the face of death…imposing on it.
“Surely they can do something for you,” not quite knowing the severity of her illness, and having only heard the word Leukemia on television and far from aware of its diabolical acquaintance to a person’s blood, and now becoming a little more vested in her health.
“Dear, it is called blood cancer, it spreads, and in reality there is nothing one can do about it, there is no cure but demise.”
I reached deep down into the back of my mind, I could not quite understand malignancy, and how it worked, I was but in my early twenties at the time; I tried to dodge this sensitive issue: I diverted myself from a quarter of the conversation… by looking out the window, and remaining inaudible, if not disengaged, but remaining a good listener, and that is perhaps what she needed.
“It sort of confuses me, you look so healthy,” I commented, after a long hush.
“Better still let’s leave this alone I just needed you to know where I am at,” replied Chris.
Preoccupied still as I looked out the window into the fields and houses nearby, I did not see Chris check my expressions out, she was going on to another area of thought, was my best guess, and so I continued with my window observations, as if in a state of disassociation.
“Well”, she finally said, “it was a good and bad day, all in one. And so, let’s make the rest of it the best of it while we can.”
I coughed to clear my esophagus, but I think it was really for clearing my head. I turned away from the window, towards her so she could easily look and focus on me, should she care to. She smiled, it was what she wanted, what she was looking for: that is, the opportunity to tell somebody neutral whatever was on her mind, like free-association, she wanted to tell and not edit herself for once, she wanted to be loved I suppose, if only for a short while; I continued to look out the front window now (she could see only my profile), quietly, and listened quietly to the sounds of the tires on the road, and I just remained present for her I guess; I was someone to help her absorb her own air, the sounds of the wind shifting by the car’s window, that is all she wanted for this moment from me I believe, that was life to her the simple things, air and wind, and breath, and smells of the countryside, the smells of mud and winter’s evaporation, this moment of life was real for her, if not precious; and the smile, she needed to smile, so I leaned back in the car seat and smiled also. Smiling always does seem to make the world more endurable.
Note: The story is taken from Chapter VII, of the book, “A Romance in Augsburg,” written 2001, and reedited, October 1, 2014, as a short story, by its author; non-fiction, that took place in 1970. No: 1024. It has two parts, you are reading only part one, reedited 7-2015
((1970, Augsburg, Germany) (The Sun, the Potato Fields, the Inn))
Part II out of III
It was early forenoon, somewhat warming up from a chill ascending that had been left over from the night before, within the Bavarian valley—my bones lightly shivered. The sun had melted most of the light patches of snow on the ground, a few molehill remaining, —as we drove alongside the potato fields. It was spring in the valley but the sun was extremely tepid. Chris Steward drove slowly alongside the roadside, women were planting in the potato fields, and their backs were bent over like hunchbacks, then rising carrying whatever I presume was leftover from the winter thaw, in their aprons.
As we rode alongside the cemetery, a little way further from the potato fields, a burial had just started. Chris (a German-Jewish young lady I had been dating), said, “My grandmother is buried here, I want to see her, I will also be buried here someday, right beside her in this cemetery (she had leukemia).”
We got out of the car and walked through those thick Jewish-German cast-iron gates. I said, “Grüss Gott,” to a few folks walking by as we approached the gravestone to Chris’ grandmother.
I’m not sure if it’s customary or not, but people never speak to you in graveyards, so it seems, it’s as if all of a sudden they stopped being sociable, or on the other hand perchance I was not sensitive enough. I understand if they’re in prayer, but they didn’t look it, just passersby—anyhow, what did I know, I was a young lad, and it was all observation to me.
We stopped by her grandmother’s gravestone, and she spoke something in German, I watched two custodians digging a hole, leaving the dirt on one side of the hole, as to be used to fill it back up later on.
They had Bavarian hats on, and high leather boots, and I stared at the grave to be, and then at Chris. And then the two men stopped shoveling dirt, and they straightened up their backs some, took a drink out of a quart bottle of beer that had rested alongside their shovels. Yes shovels, this was 1970, the shovel was still in use.
“What a day to die and be buried on…” I thought in a whisper to my mind, but I guess every day is somebody’s short day.
“I want to be buried right here, right with my grandmother, she spent a lot of time raising me,” said Chris, with a near flat tone to her voice—as if unwelcoming the day, as if the day was soon to come.
(I, knowing her father was killed by the Nazis, he was a professor at a university, and her mother and grandmother, along with her, had escaped to London until the finality of the war, WWII, in the early part of 1945, her being only a year and a half old at the time—)
It was getting late in the morning, and I was getting hungry. We hadn’t stayed too long at the potato fields, nor at the cemetery—but just getting there and going back and forth to the car consumed up the morning, yet perhaps too long in the valley. I was glad the day wasn’t over, I wanted to do other things, and it was a lovely time to do them in.
We drove out of the valley, past many an old style Bavarian Inn and guesthouse, and just houses in particular. And I guess it was good to be down in the clearing, in the so called dell or basin of the valley. One could feel the last of the winter winds, with the basting of the sun, and the leftover snow, tainted by the sun, in consequence, the end of a season, is like a death so it reminded me of, especially after visiting the cemetery.
We saw a guesthouse, the innkeeper sat in his chair outside basting in the sun cozy like at table on the sidewalk, and beside him his wife stood enjoying the fresh cool air. And we stopped the car, walked up to the inn, and I said “Grüss Gott” and they returned the greeting, and we sat in the guesthouse and had lunch, we had had our share of the morning sun and it was nice to be greeted—
No: 510 ((11-1-2009) (written on the day of life)) Dedicated to Chris Steward. • Note: This story, “Bavarian Sun” was taken out of the author’s book “A Romance in Augsburg” written in 2000-2001, Chapter Five, “The Potato Fields, and rewritten as a short story. Reedited, 5-2014. /Reedited 7-2015
(Part III of III)
The Lady from Augsburg
(Part II; 1970, to: ‘To the Countryside of Augsburg’)
Ms. Chris steward had quick judgment, an unerring taste for it, and was possessed of need of steel control, never letting go, seldom if ever anyhow. I’d find out in due time she never left her table of thought without first planning. She had only a need to look at the calendar, and prescribe a treatment for the modification in her schedule, to transform her day into something indescribably different—and in this case of today, for me, quite dumfounded; for today quite the opposite. —but in all-in-all, strangely, she had that Jewish sheer genius, and that German fortitude, and I doubt at the time that in the future anything would change my judgment of her. She is stately in her attitude, clear of mind, generous, sensible, sensitive, and has a large amount of vitality for her condition: her maturity was beyond mine. Sometimes she seemed all of forty, at twenty-six, and at other times in her romantic moods, or ways: nearly sixteen, especially when she was aroused. In a word, she was highly normal, serious, and healthy looking, but not really all that healthy, thinning with that illness of blood cancer, but surely a natural woman of her species in every other way. And yes, feminine, with not nearly even one hair out of place. Always well groomed. Furthermore, she wore mostly dresses, there was a lure to that, an asset to her adequate neck, slim legs, and waist, and I was twenty-two. Slim, trim she was the model type, nearly as tall as myself, with the mellowest-voice, one of all, in the German-Jewish race. She had done long glances at me, and appeared to enjoy my firm-shouldered body.
One thing I had noticed, and I must not forget, she was selective of her man-interests (in me, along with a certain German fellow—if you please, a very rich German, a sugar-daddy).
At rare moments she talked about him, that other fellow, when I met him one afternoon, she gazed at him with a so-so altitude of anxiety in her eyes, and left with me. With him her face a transported white, with me eyelids fluttering, all the way down to her lips moving silently. He must had been in his mid-thirties. He seemed habitual disciplined to want to have met me, I thought at the time, when we left the guesthouse that is in Augsburg, Germany, my first duty station in the Army, in 1970, where I had met him this afternoon after work, it being around 4:00 P.M., he was well-groomed, suite and all, a Mercedes sitting in the parking lot, that I knew was his, because Chris once in a while drove it, —the color to her face, and voice slowly turned to my face. It was as if time and space had stood still as if having reached the speed of light. And she just had returned to earth.
For the reader, I am now experiencing my whole nine-month relationship with this German-Jew, Chris Steward, all put into a nutshell; not to include the first two dates, which has been expressed in an early book “A Romance in Augsburg,” Incidentally, for this narrative, I do realize I am speaking in the present as well as past at the same time, that being: the first and the third person to be exact, and even at times in a reporting description, forgive me for breaking the old worn-out literary rules, it seems to fit, and it doesn’t bother me any, you undo it, no problem.
Had I profiled myself back then, back in 1970, I would say I had a primitive nature to me, perhaps innocent or naïve being a Midwestern boy, and that Chris` sugar-daddy, perhaps was married, and still I feel safe in predicting I was the weaker link in her life’s chain. Especially in this love circle of hers. Even though I may have called him: ‘the poor devil’ mentally she was being fulfilled from both sides, as if having a coin with two heads on it; although, he would make out at the end as I would get orders to relocate to participate in the Vietnam War in Asia, and thereafter, get a Dear John letter from Chris. But I felt it was forthcoming, so it was no big deal when it did come.
Yet, she nor I carried any resentment for one another, in this strange relationship. And thinking about it now, I must have looked in my Military Security Uniform, rather dashing, far from the hooligan from Donkeyland, in St. Paul, Minnesota. And still I must add, I with an outrageously swollen temper in those days, held it back some, as not to ruin the relationship. But our meeting was handled in a peaceful way, at his request to Chris, and her request to me. That is to say, he didn’t deny her, dating me, but wanted to scan me for some reason, I suppose to see what she saw in me?
Even today, some forty-four-years later, I find myself a tinge snarling at that man, more than expected, although he was handsome, polite to me, both of us about the same weight, and height, and myself being well trained in the art of Karate, held no fear of him. He asked me questions, my replies were given in monosyllables, and my face set in superlative sourness; not so much for me allowing the love circle, but because I seemed to have been pressured into meet him, or better yet, persuaded into meeting him. I really didn’t want to, I knew I had to hold my temper back if I did, a man thing I think! And I didn’t want to show that side of me unless necessary. In other words, I didn’t want to regret, what I might do. It wasn’t jealously or even envy, I don’t know what it is, men often don’t know, perhaps it was that he was stepping on my foot, kind of, if you know what I mean, and I can’t explain it any differently.
She had told me before I met him “Don’t be a grouch.”
To me this was a phenomenon, a tinge on the lunatic side of life, I mean to say: when you do something stupid like this or go along with it, no one can figure out who’s the fool? Me or him! I mean to say it wasn’t her, we both looked the fool. It took me a few hours thereafter our meeting, before I could regain my composure, became my old self, still trying to figure out the reasoning behind this. I suppose I take pride in which hurts me most is not knowing the full purpose, what was gained, other than curiosity? And I wasn’t the curious one.
I guess I looked to him, as Chris would remark: a handsome enough young soldered, well built, but a little standoffish.
Now being an old man of sixty-seven, I think back and figure he figured: ‘I wonder what attracts her to him?’ I was young, and perhaps he felt he was an: old sea-relic! Thus, perhaps he was suffering from a concussion of pride. Who’s to say? And again perchance it is exactly what she said it was, at least for her, having cancer that she wanted to live to the fullest, and I was part of her jam-packed life.
Note: A short story, by its author; non-fiction, that took place in 1970. No: 1025 / Note: The story is taken from Chapter VII, out of the book, “A Romance in Augsburg,” written 2001, and reedited, October 1, 2014 as a short story, by its author. No: 1024. It has two to three parts to it depending, all independent short sketches. You are reading only one part of the three reedited 7-2015 The Second part is called “To the Countryside of Augsburg” No: 1024, third part “Bavaria’s Sun”, written 2009, reedited 7-2015. No: 510