Recovering

I am still feeling like crap.  Having gotten a call at 11PM last night that kept me working until after midnight has not contributed positively to me getting over whatever I have.  I drag my tired rear out of bed and start my day.  All day, I keep thinking I’m going to have to take a break and lay down, but I have back-to-back calls and things to get done.  The day goes by until at about 6:45PM, I decide I can no longer think clearly and I really do need to stop.

I haven’t showered since Sunday morning.  I am puzzled as to why this is–for some reason, I grew up believing you’re not supposed to shower when you’re sick.  Maybe because having wet hair makes you feel cold?  But not showering only makes me feel sicker.  I decide I am going to the gym in the morning unless I’m dying when I wake up.  As such, I absolutely must shower tonight.

Pat asks what I want to do about dinner.  I look out the windows and realize it’s Wednesday night and I haven’t left the apartment since we returned from our weekend in the smokies on Sunday afternoon.  I briefly consider going out to dinner.  But, realizing that we have too many things yet to get done tonight and I want to go to bed early, I decide it makes more sense for Pat to pick up carry out while I convert myself back into a human being.

That’s exactly how I feel in the shower.  As difficult as it was for me to coax myself out of the 6 layers of clothes I’m wearing in an attempt to stay warm, I don’t want to leave the shower once I’m in it.  The hot water strikes my feet, making me realize how cold they really are.  They feel like giant ice cubes melting in a vat of scalding hot water.  My stiff neck and shoulders likewise feel like they’re melting under the heat of the water.  I stick my dirty hair under the water and I feel like the water just runs off.  My hair has grown waterproof after 3 days of wearing a ski cap and not bothering to so much as run a comb through my hair.

I use way too much shampoo, wanting a nice, thick lather to break through the grime.  Having converted my helmet back into hair, I feel like my transformation into a human life form is complete.  But I decide I should rinse some more anyway–I really cannot bring myself to step out from under the hot water.

Did I mention that we haven’t turned the heat on yet?  I don’t know why; it’s just a thing.  We want to make it to December before we turn the heat on.  Up until yesterday, there was only one other day we were tempted to turn the heat on.  But yesterday, the temperature inside dropped to 61.  And then, to 58 overnight.  Today, things warmed up considerably.  The apartment is back up to 65 thanks to the passive solar effect of the windows facing South.  But still, it’s enough of a chill that I really don’t want to get out from under that hot water.

Eventually, I talk myself into turning off the water and wrapping up in a towel before stepping out of the tub.  The bathroom is, thankfully, full of steam, helping to preserve the warmth from the shower.  Pat returns as I am pulling on about my 5th layer of clean clothes.  I am grateful for the numerous layers of warm clothes I have accumulated for winter activities–after all, I am about to brave the temperature of the apartment outside the bathroom.

Pat’s hunting and gathering expedition has turned up Taco Mamacitos.  Unfortunately, it’s gotten cold between the walk from the restaurant and waiting for me to get dressed.  Plus, my taste buds are not fully functional yet.  I eat it all anyway, realizing that I haven’t had anything to eat yet today besides a cup of soup and some crackers.

We flop on the couch with our cold food and turn on the TV.  I eat and worry about whether I’ll sleep tonight.  My cold is turning into a cough and I didn’t ask Pat to get me anything for a cough when he went to the store for me earlier today.

I find myself wondering about the human immune system.  Why is it, for example, that I get sick more than Pat?  He rarely catches anything.  He’s even more resistant to stuff like parasites.  I was violently ill at seemingly random intervals over 3 years until I finally figured out I was getting parasites from eating sushi.  Pat was eating at least 3x the amount of the same sushi I was eating, yet he never got sick.

Given that Pat and I live in the same place, eat mostly the same foods (I generally eat healthier than Pat, if anything), and are exposed to the same germs, it has to be genetic, right?  Or could it be that he drinks more beer?  Is beer the secret ingredient to a healthy immune system?  Perhaps I should try matching his diet exactly to see if it makes any difference.

Whatever the cause, I am annoyed that I am sick.  I feel like it’s personal weakness somehow that I have succumbed to a virus.  I ask myself what I have done wrong that has led to this illness.  I go down the list of possible errors on my part:  what have I been eating; how have I been sleeping; how careful have I been about washing my hands?  I find that I’m at fault on eating and sleeping, but hand washing has become almost an obsession.  Then, I wonder if I’m washing my hands too much.  Is that possible?  Am I denying my immune system its required exercise?

I take a deep breath and stop my root-cause analysis.  I am sick and I need care, not blame.  Why is it easier to sit around chastising yourself than to just figure out what you need and provide it?  I think about the Nonviolent Communication book I am reading and realize that’s the basic premise.  I’m too tired to think about it any more than that, though.  I try to take another deep breath, but I start coughing.  I decide I need to just watch TV mindlessly and I settle myself more comfortably into the couch.

Date Night

We are going on a date.  I can never decide if Date Night is a modern marriage concept or just a modern twist on what used to be called “Take the Wife Out to Dinner.”  The fact that we, a couple who has no children, eats out more often than we eat at home, and spends most of our waking hours (and all of our sleeping ones) in close proximity need a date night seems like a modern twist indeed.  But, if there’s one thing we have learned, two people can be sitting right next to each other and not actually be together at all.

We have decided that we will go to an early movie and have dinner afterwards because I have the problem that I have trained myself to go to sleep when I watch TV and this has now carried over to movies.  Unfortunately, when I get out my Fandango app and check out what’s playing, the movie we both want to see–George Clooney’s latest, The Ides of March–has early shows too early for us to make.  But, the next showing is at 8:30PM, so we decide we have time to make dinner at home and then walk over to the theater.  I’m hoping the brisk walk on a cool night will help wake me up after eating, too.

We cook dinner together.  This happens every once in a while.  Pat gets tired of doing all the cooking and I occasionally take pity on him and help out.  Although, I think we’ve been averaging less than 2 dinners a week at home lately; I’m not sure how much of a break Pat needs.  But, it’s date night, so we cook together.  And it’s nice, although we sometimes struggle to stay out of each other’s way.  Funny thing about a kitchen–even though our current kitchen has about 2x the space of the kitchen in the house we rented between selling our house and moving here, we still both end up needing to get to the same corner all the time.  But, we are in a playful mood and have fun with bumping into each other and turning it into an act of affection rather than one of annoyance.  It never ceases to amaze me how the exact same action can have so many different intentions and interpretations.

Once we are well fed, we now have too much time before the theater to go straight there, but too little time to hang out here and start anything else.  So, we decide to walk over early and get our tickets and then grab a beer at a local pub if there’s enough time.  We head out and take the shortest route now that we have a plan to get a beer before the movie.  We stop in and buy our tickets and then walk back a block to Big River Grille, where I met Clyde the previous weekend when I went out to dinner by myself there.  Clyde is not there tonight, so I cannot introduce him to Pat, but the same bar tender is there and he recognizes me, making me feel like a local.  We each order a pint and sit and drink it while we talk.

It’s a little hard to talk in the bar.  It’s noisy and crowded with people waiting for tables as well as those who have given up on getting a table and are eating at the bar.  Plus, one of the challenges of spending a lot of time with someone is that there often isn’t much left to discuss on date night.  Pat has been back in town for 4 days.  We’ve caught up and experienced most things together ever since.  He knows I worked late every night this week and that I’m stressed about work–my office is in the living room.  It’s hard for him to miss how long I work.  And he can tell when I’m stressed by the way I’m breathing (or not).  I’ve already shared my frustrations with him.

As a result, we now sit in the bar with not much new to say.  Pat’s already told me about his week, too.  We alight on beer as a good topic given that Big River Grille is a brewery as well as a restaurant and bar and we are drinking some of their brews.  I wish I could say that they’re a local, family owned business, but they’re actually a small brand in a larger restaurant company that owns about 5 or 6 different chains.   We generally try to avoid chains, but every once in a while, it’s just convenient.  I am drinking their Oktoberfest brew, which is good, although a little subtler than my usual fare.  Pat is trying their pilsner, which he does not believe is actually pilsner.  He drinks it anyway and even enjoys it once he stops expecting it to taste like a pilsner.  Before we know it, we need to return to the theater and I have yet to finish my beer.  I don’t enjoy chugging beer and I have nearly half my pint left.  I decide to take a couple more swigs and then leave the rest.  It makes me sad to leave behind an unfinished beer.

When we get to the theater, we realize that we could have stayed so I could finish my beer at a reasonable pace–there are 25 minutes of ads and previews before the movie starts.  I try to remember the last time I saw a movie in a theater where there weren’t any ads except maybe for the theater’s snack counter.  When the movie finally starts, I’m already getting sleepy.  I make it through the first 30 minutes and then the rest of the time it’s a painful effort to keep my eyes open and my chin keeps hitting my chest.  When the movie is over, I’ve lost the entire thread and have no idea what happened.  Pat fills in a few blanks for me, but says it wasn’t just me, the movie was pretty slow.  I feel bad for falling asleep on George, although it’s not the first time.

As we cross back over the river, the wind has picked up and I am wide awake now.  We hold hands and I walk close to Pat, shielding myself from the wind and trying to share some body heat.  I have the funny sensation of a split screen of our date night.  There is the experience that it is:  uneventful, predictable, reliable, and relaxing.  Then there is the experience that I somehow feel it’s supposed to be:  exciting, wild, fun, and energizing.  Oddly, so many times in life I’ve been out with people doing things that were supposedly exciting, wild, fun, and energizing but I still felt bored.  I suddenly have a strong sensation that it doesn’t matter what we do, it all comes down to the story that we make from it.  This thought threatens to depress me.  I turn my attention back to Pat and concentrate on being with him and letting that be the story for tonight.

Oktoberfest

As we walk from the train stop to Oktoberfest, more and more people wearing lederhosen and drindl crowd the streets.  We pass a collection of port-a-potties and decide to stop.  At this point, I am envisioning a large collection of big white tents (like the kind people use for wedding receptions in the US) in a field with thousands of drunk people staggering around drunk.  Having not given a thought to restroom logistics, the fact that the Germans want to stop at a port-a-potty on the way there now makes me worry that there will be no restrooms at the fest itself.  This worry is reinforced when we pass a man urinating in the bushes just 20 yards from the port-a-potties.

When we arrive at the entrance to Oktoberfest, I am surprised to discover that it is much like arriving at the Ohio State Fair.  The grounds are smaller, the rides are bigger and more sophisticated, rivaling the rides at permanent amusement parks, and the crowd is far more dense (in terms of number of people per square foot of space; I have no evidence to compare IQ levels).  Another interesting difference is that the people look like the same people we’ve seen all over Germany rather than the bizarre part of the US population, usually kept hidden from view, that mysteriously gathers at the Ohio State Fair.  And of course, the fact that at least half of the attendees are wearing traditional lederhosen and drindl just to be wearing it and not because they are participating in some act makes the crowd seem more interesting as well.

When we get inside the entry, first we discover there is no fee to get in.  Second, we find there are plenty of places to spend money to make up for the free admittance.  Each brewery has their team of draft horses standing around waiting for me to pet them.  I’m not sure who called ahead to arrange this, but I appreciate it.  It’s been a lot of years since I spent time with horses; having the opportunity to scratch some giant heads makes my day.  As we walk away from the horses, we see a group of young men coming out of one of the beer tents.  Two of them are supporting a third who has clearly not paced himself well.  As we pass them, we understand the value of wearing lederhosen with suspenders.  This guy is wearing only lose jeans and they have slid down over his rear end, leaving him leaning against his friends with his bare butt hanging in the wind.  We all look and laugh, tipping off the guys friends that he needs a little help.  They pull up his jeans and make a joke in German.  Everyone laughs and we go on our way.  As I look around, I realize that no one else in the vicinity is staggering and I am surprised.

We slip inside a beer “tent” and are surprised it’s not a tent at all but a permanent building with massive beams supporting the roof and a wood floor.  We’re surprised and ask our friends about the buildings being permanent.  They tell us that no, the site of the fest is a park and that the “tents” go up about a week before the fest starts and are gone again within a week after.  We look at the structure again and are amazed at what it must take to erect this building in a week,–when we go to the restroom and discover a huge room of flush toilets, we are even more amazed.

The original plan for Oktoberfest was that we would have a reservation for three hours at one of the tents.  We would be served all we could eat and drink for those three hours and then we would have to give up the table.  However, Dieter and Giesala had friends tell them that a reservation wasn’t really needed and that we could show up at any time, so we did not have a reservation.  This worked well from the perspective that it allowed us to switch days on when we were going with the rain and cold weather, but not so well in that even on a Tuesday afternoon, the tents were packed and finding unreserved tables with open seats was not easy.  At the first beer tent, we were able to sit at a reserved table where the reservation didn’t start for several more hours.  We ordered a round of beers and sat sipping away.  I practiced my new beer holding technique–my wrist was already tired from the beer earlier in the day at the Haufbrauhaus.  We sit and watch people.  There are an overwhelming number of people to watch.

I watch the drindls and lederhosen, fascinated that while the basic look is always the same, they come in wide varieties.  Most interesting to me is the shoe choices of women wearing drindls.  I don’t know what the traditional show would be, but each woman seems to have made up her own mind without consulting tradition or fashion on what footwear choice works for her.  I see one woman in rubber Hunter boots with her drindl.  Another with 4 1/2 inch spike heels–the heels are literally spikes, made from metal.  There is everything in between, although ballet flats seem to be the most popular.

After finishing our beers (once again, I am unable to finish mine and I share with Pat), we start strolling through the park again.  We stop at some shooting galleries where Giesala and Jim try out the shooting skills.  The guns don’t shoot straight and it takes a while to adjust.  Once Jim gets the hang of it, he makes every shot, having been a sharp shooter in the military.  After spending something like 10 Euro on shooting, he wins a prize and allows Giesala to pick from the choices.  She selects a small teddy bear, which she decides should go to me and fastens him to the zipper of my rain jacket.  He bounces along as we continue our walk down the strip.

Eventually, we find ourselves in the Haufbrauhaus tent.  Here, the unreserved tables are jammed with people and the reserved tables are blocked off so they can’t be used even when no one with a reservation is there.  We wander around not sure of what to do.  Eventually, we find a table out in the beer garden.  It’s jammed up against the tables on either side so that when we sit down, we are literally using the people behind us as back rests.  No one whose been sitting there a while seems to notice.  The people already at the table we join are laughing and talking with the people at the next table over.  It seems like everyone knows each other with people switching tables frequently to visit with other people, but I think this is just the atmosphere of the fest.  We are surrounded by people from different parts of the country.  A guy with an odd long-haired wig on sits behind me.  He has a cart with what looks like karaoke machine in it sitting next to him.  Jim offers the guy 10 euro to sing.  The guy turns out to be a local personality there with a guy with a camera and they decide this will be a good bit.  They have Jim hand the guy 10 euro on camera and the guy sings.  Supposedly it will be on TV in Munich.  I find myself wondering what they are saying and hope that it’s not too embarrassing for Jim.

Before I can worry too much about the TV bit, a large group of Scottish guys in kilts arrives.  They greet the guy with the wig and walk around to join his table.  One of them immediately attaches himself to Pat’s mother and can’t seem to stop hugging her and telling her he loves her.  We end up in a conversation with him.  It’s a sort of odd transition, but we end up talking about Scotland and Pat’s own experience with wearing a kilt for a wedding.  This, of course, leads to discussion about what one wears under a kilt.  We learn that the Scots are traditionalists and the offer to prove it; Renate stops the one closest to her when his kilt is at about mid-thigh.  Back on the subject of Scotland, he tells us that we can have it–it rains too much for him.

It’s getting late in the day and Dieter wants to return to our country hotel in Wald.  We are trying to drink up so we can leave.  Pat and I are splitting a beer this time instead of me pretending I’m going to drink one myself.  I try to polish off the last bit of my half, but even half is a strain.  Pat takes an few extra sips for me and then works on helping Jim finish his beer.  I do some math and realize that I’ve had 1 1/4 beers since the first half beer at the Haufbrauhaus in Munich. But it’s 1.25 liters of beer, which is approximately 40 0z of beer or 3 1/2 US beers.  That’s a lot of beer!

We return to the train station at sunset.  We skipped the port-a-potty on the way, having all used the restroom at the tent.  But, it was a long walk from the Haufbrauhaus to the train station.  Pat needs a restroom now.  There are 7 minutes until our next train; Pat decided to risk it.  I will omit some of the more sordid details of the events of the rest of the evening, but Pat did not find a restroom, but did cause us to miss our train.  Having to wait 20 minutes for the next one with all of us having consumed much beer, that 20 minute wait led to much discomfort across the board.  Then there was the 30 minute train ride to to the park-and-ride and the discovery that the restroom there was closed.  Let me just conclude that we were pleased that the parking lot was surrounded by dense woods and there were very few people around by the time we arrived there.

When we returned to the hotel, we sit and allow Dieter to drink.  He had the least beer of all, having cut himself off early in the evening since he was driving.  The hotel is no longer serving dinner, but now we are hungry.  They fix us a spread of meats and cheeses that we enjoy with homemade bread.  Tired and full, we all retire as soon as the food is gone.

Intro to Munich

Tuesday morning, we wake up to find that it’s still cold and cloudy, but the rain has stopped. We cross our fingers that the sky will clear and the sun will come out–today is our day to go to Oktoberfest.

After our usual breakfast at the hotel, our little group drives off to find a park-and-ride. From there, we will take the S-bahn into Munich. Getting to the park-and-ride goes smoothly. We find a spot in the crowded gravel parking lot (although bike parking is completely full, the car lot has a few places left). We find a place to buy tickets, everyone uses the restroom and then we head up to catch the next train, which we miss by about 30 seconds. So, we get to hang out on the platform for an extra 18 minutes waiting for the next one to arrive.

As we wait, more and more people gather on the platform. About half of them are wearing traditional bavarian clothes: lederhosen for men and dirndls for women. It’s interesting how this traditional garb looks like a costume on some people and like heritage on others. I suppose it depends on how traditional the garb is–some of the dirndls seem to have taken a “naughty beer girl” adult halloween costume twist. By contrast, the men struggle to look sexy in their lederhosen. There is just something about the way suede hangs that makes it nearly impossible.

A loud and laughing group of young people get on the train at our first stop. It’s interesting to watch people’s faces and try to decide what’s going on. A middle-aged couple standing among the youngsters are laughing with them and enjoying the ride. Similarly aged people sitting around the group look disapproving and, in some cases, annoyed. I am unable to draw any conclusion except that several of the boys are pretty determined to get closer to several of the girls in the group. But I suppose even someone who wasn’t there could have guessed that would be true!

We get off at the Karlplatz stop in Munich. We will “tour” Munich for a couple hours before going to the fest. There is a tremendous crowd at Karlplatz. I’m surprised–I figured everyone would be at Oktoberfest. We walk to the Rathaus to see the famous clock there that has a bunch of figures that move at noon. It’s now quarter ’til. Dieter has timed this perfectly to make sure we get to see this clock. We position ourselves in the courtyard for photos, although I did not bring my long lens for this. As we stand there listening, we discover we’re surrounded by Americans. Americans and other tourists–we don’t hear anyone speaking German. Tourists (perhaps from Spain) ask an American next to us to take a photo of them. He takes his time lining up a perfect shot of the group with the courthouse clock in the background and just as he snaps the shutter, a German walks right in front of his camera. My husband laughs and comments to the man–it’s a cultural difference we’ve noticed frequently at various tourist stops. A crowd of foreigners will divide around someone taking a photo, but a German will invariably walk right through the shot.

Eventually, noon begins to strike. Chimes start, music starts, and the ancient players in the clock come to life. My favorite part is the jousting on horseback. The jousters come out once and safely pass each other by, but on the second round, one of the jousters is struck and falls forward over his horse. After the top level of figures finishes their enactment, a lower level of dancing men goes into action. The way that the figures appear to hang on to the clockworks and the angle of their bodies make them look alive as they spin. We watch fascinated, trying to figure out exactly what it is that makes them look so realistic.

Once the clock finishes. we are ready for the next item on the agenda. This is to go to the original Haufbrauhaus in Munich. The Haufbrauhaus in Pittsburg has become a favorite place for my in-laws when they’re home, so going to the original version here is a must. It seems a bit odd to go there during Oktoberfest instead of going to their tent at the fest, but I am told that we will do both. I am surprised by the crowd there when we arrive–it’s a weekday after peak tourist season, and it’s competing with Oktoberfest, yet we have a hard time finding a table. Eventually, one frees up that is close to the action. We sit down and order beers. We’ve decided to have lunch here as well, so we check out the menus and pick out which form of sausage we will enjoy today.

The beers come and they are served in 1L mugs. Pat has to show me how to slide my hand under the handle with my thumb over it so I can lift the mug one-handed without injuring my wrist. This reminds me of a story a former colleague once told me. When he was a teenager, he worked in a grocery store. One day, he was restocking beer when a customer came in and picked up 2 40-oz beers. My colleague had seen this man buy 2 40’s every day for several weeks. Trying to be helpful, he pointed out the 12 pack of the same beer telling the man how much money he could save by going that route. The man replied, “No, that’s OK. My doctor told me I can only have 2 beers a day.” I will make sure I adhere to the same logic today. 🙂

When our food comes, a woman sitting behind me at the next table leans over and says, “Excuse me, do you speak English?” Everyone within earshot says, “Yes!” She asks what the pork knuckle is that Dieter has ordered–it’s a massive thing that looks like it should be held by a caveman and gnawed at vigorously. We explain what it is and show her which item it is on the German menu. I notice when her food comes she didn’t order it.

A girl selling enormous pretzels walks around the room for the second time since we arrived. This time Pat stops her and hands me a pretzel bigger than my head. I split it amongst 4 of us. It’s surprisingly good. The thick part is especially good–nice and fluffy on the inside like every good pretzel should be. Eating is periodically interrupted by a group toast led by the oompah band at the front of the hall. Everyone waves their beer back and forth and sings along until the final Prost. It’s like a piano bar in the US.

At the end of my meal, I still have 1/4 of my beer left and I cannot drink anymore. I hand off to Pat who polishes it off for me while the rest of the group finishes eating. When everyone is done, we track down our server, pay the bill, and head out. We have seen enough of Munich; it is time for Oktoberfest. But first, we must find a bank and exchange some money.

We find a bank on the way back to the train station. Pat goes in by himself while the rest of us stand outside waiting. The bank entrance has a life-sized statue of a lion outside the door. Two girls walk up and take turns posing with the lion while the other snaps photos. One hugs his neck, the other leans against him. I’m surprised neither gets up on his back like they’re taking a ride. Maybe it’s considered rude to ride a statue?

Pat returns and we head for the train. The closer we get, the more lederhosen and drindls we see. We are getting psyched for Oktoberfest even though we feel inappropriately dressed. We cannot wait to find out what it’s like, none of us having ever gone before.