Thursday, 28 August 2008

Zombie Driving

I have a fairly long commute to work, relatively--that is. I've queued up with the day-trippers before at the Bahnhof in the next larger town making the diurnal run to Frankfurt or so, but I don't imagine that many of my neighborhoods wouldn't find such a daily drive off-putting. On the way there in the mornings, I usually have enough to keep me occupied, ticking off a mental list of what I need to accomplish at work and worrying a bit about my endemic tardiness, so it might be expected that I wouldn't recall every spectacular and mundane detail of the trip. On the way home, however, I usually experience rather grave omissions in my route. Quite suddenly, I'll find myself pulling into my usual parking spot, with absolutely no recollection of the half-dozen villages I passed along the way. It's a bit worrisome, and some days I have taken to counting the seconds it takes to cross the main thoroughfare of a village or ticking off certain landmarks--that overpass with the merge lane that makes me uncomfortable, that bit of graffiti, that photovoltaic plant that's blinding upon approach on sunny days, the teepee in the field by the gothic monestary, and so on. Despite all these mneumonics, I still wind up transported to my doorstep. I seriously doubt that I discover a wormhole along this stretch of county road, or that something traumatic (though this is what scares me, the thought that I was a rude, zombie driver or caused an accident that I can't remember) happens in Unterrupertshausenburgbergbachtaldorf that causes me to daily suppress that memory. Maybe I have developed a mechanism to cope with a long commute.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Coffee Maker--why always must it be sooner or later?

Each toting one defunct famously pad-based and portion-controlled coffee-maker, H and I must have looked rather odd proceding to the village recycling center. In fact, we're generally only seen there doing such odd-looking tasks, twice-twinned. Both these coffee-makers had given up the ghost, so to say, and though I tend to horde such things in hopes of sponetous resurrection, I had since gotten a non-portion-controlled coffee machine (which was, by the way, identical to the one H had at his home) and felt it was acceptible to retire them to the bin. There was, after all, a little old man who fished around in the broken electronics and transferred the whole lot to his barn to tinker with. I said good-bye to the pair as we dumped them in, because, like the little old man, I was a firm believer in the transmigration of the souls of machines. Perhaps they'd be reborn as blenders. I paused a second after that thought, and said to H, maybe my coffee-makers, both bought and went defunct in quick succession though no neglect or misuse I swore, had had a crisis of identity. Maybe they themselves were former toasters or plough-shares had had glimmering memories of former lives while brewing my coffee.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Shooting Blanks

Throughout the summer, one finds these Aztec-patterned red and black bugs swarning over trees and bushes in great orgies. After hearing the suggestion that these bugs were not indiginous or invasive but rather introduced as a biological weapon during the Second World War--a story that I never heard a second time, I became convinced that I had seen the same bug-orgies in Oklahoma.
In an effort to disrupt domestic German food production, these insects were air-dropped over the fields. The story seems even more plausible given that I have only found such large accumulations on and around US Army bases, which were mostly created from occupied German army installations. The story never concluded that this bit of biological terror was very effective.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

He won't get far on hot air and fantasy.

I thought I should make mention of my miraculous automobile. For several weeks, I was having an intensifying condition while, wherein my motor would bog out if I accelerated too quickly, really anything above 3000 revolutions per minute would kill the engine. The car would then slowly coast to a halt as the oil indicator and cruise-control lamps came on and the power-steering go out. It was probably a more pressing problem than I could be bothered with this past month, but I kept putting off taking it to a shop and managed to limp dangerously along the Autobahn to and from work, convinced I could ride the slip-stream of the slow truck right ahead of me and save gas--possibly a tendency to coast to save on gas started this problem in the first place, but I formulated quite a few theories in the meantime. Besides, the car generally restarted right away and I could creep back on to the Autobahn on a conservative 60 kilometers per hour and I was going away on holiday in fancy rental car. H could have beat me for being this irresponsible, especially after a couple trips in the passenger seat, on the fenders on service vehicles and trash trucks, watching me concentrate to keep the gears from shifting higher. Cruising at 60 km/h is not stately, even for a big, old sedan. Though I formed my own theories about what expensive things could be wrong with my car, while on a vacation from driving it, I figured most problems resolve themselves. They tend to do that, and I was already convinced my car ran on holy-ghost power.

Driving back to work the first time, I could feel the same studder and stall and drove carefully. The motor did eventually bog out again but this time, even after a few minutes' rest, the car would only creep a few meters along the shoulder before giving out again. The tow truck driver was witness to this obviously major problem and pronounced it to be either an electrical or fuel problem. Those were pedestrian explanations, I thought to myself, having had time to theorize my own complex reasons. Looking back, I am glad the driver spoke to the mechanics once we arrived in tandem at the garage, since apparently I have a very vivid imagination. Or my car has Munchausen Syndrome by proxy. After a full battery of inspections with computers and a team of mechanics, followed by a vicious test drive with one of them where I gave it full gas and pushed the car pst 200 km/h, there was no shutting down and they could nothing wrong with the car. Perhaps my car just needed to mount a tow truck, and the mechanics weren't exactly dismissive but sent me on my way.

It reminds me of my old Mercedes, which had a busted odometer that was stuck just above 300 000 miles driven. During a Vermont winter, I discovered when it was bitterly cold, just above absolute zero, apparently the odometer could register sub-atomic vibrations and began again to function. I told people of this, but disbelieving, no one was ever tempted to come out in the cold to witness the miracle.

Friday, 15 August 2008

It's Brittany bitch

H and I are back from our latest adventures: we stole two weeks away from work to go marauding through Normandy and Bretagne (Brittany) in a rented convertible, racking up some 3610 kilometers. It was a simply beautiful time and we saw some of the grandest works of nature and of man, as well as some poignant battlefields and memorials. Here is a small sampling of pictures below, mostly to H's credit.

Our indirect route took us from Kitzingen, in middle Bavaria, to Landstuhl, near the Eifel region and location of the largest US military hospital overseas, to Reims via the Autobahn on the periphery of Paris to Vernon in the Mesnil region; DAY TWO we traveled from Vernon along the Seine River valley to Les Andelys, the ruins of a fortress built by Richard the Lionhearted, through Duclair and Rouen, then Jumigeres, Motteville and Yerville, camping at Saint Aubin sur Meer; DAY THREE leaving the camp site, we drove along the Alabaster Coast to Fecamp and Etretat and Le Havre, and next we went through Honfleur, Houlgate, and Sallenelles before stopping in Caen; DAY FOUR from Caen, we proceded to Arromanches, then over Gold and Juno beaches to camp at Vierville sur Meer at Omaha Beach, exploring the villages of the Calvados region, Grandcamp Maisy and the Pointe-du-Hoc and the Operation Overlord memorial; DAY FIVE decamping, we explored Coutances, the Cerisy Forest and Saint Lo, we stayed in Granville, and crossed the flats to see Mont Saint Michel from across the bay at Genets and the medieval town of Avranches; DAY SIX after Mont Saint Michel, we followed the Cancale Coast, leaving Normandy and entering Bretagne, and visited the corsair (pirates, yar!) town of Saint Malo, and on the Cape of Frehel we saw Fort La Latte, Hillion, Yffiac and Saint Brieuc and Etables sur Meer before coming to camp at Paimpol (the small village of Ploubazlanec) on the Armour Coast; DAY SEVEN was devoted to the Island of Brehat, the beach, and the quiet towns of Bretagne; DAY EIGHT was spent on the pink granite coast surrounding Perros Guirec, which seemed like the ends of the earth and this was the denoument when we turned to head back to Germany, traveling through Lannion to Rennes, the region's capital city; DAY NINE from Rennes, we toured the Forest of Paimpoint and Fougieres before hitting the Autobahn in earnest, heading home.