Or Dinner For One And The German Sylvester
Part 3 of a 3-part exposé on Germans
New Year's Eve, Sylvester, in Berlin is very colorful and loud, as the German capital happens to have the largest number of fireworks and firecrackers fanatics of any city that I'd seen. That's what they say, anyhow. I wasn't in Berlin for the actual "moment", the big countdown. I was standing by a fire with a group of German hippies; friends of Nicole, one of the three nymphs. We were out in nature, Middle of Nowhere, Deutschland, sort of East of Berlin. These Berliners had had enough of the cackling, flashing madness ubiquitous to Berlin's streets on Sylvester. In fact, I had just figured out that the official name for New Year's Eve was Sylvester. In another North German city, Kiel, where I'd just come from, some movie theatre near my inamorata's apartment was screening the Rocky Horror Picture Show for Sylvester. I scratched my head in puzzlement, wondering why this "Sylvester" was getting so much attention. His name was on posters for parties happening all over town, and all for the same day.
"Who is Sylvester?" I'd asked Freyja, my inamorata, as we walked along the beach in Kiel.
"That's New Year's Eve." Oh.
So out in the Middle-of-Nowhere, Deutschland, standing by the fire, I was in shambles, a real mess of a man. The shell of the guy I used to want to be! Face it, I told myself, she clearly doesn't have any feelings for you, get on with it already you sad, sad dude. You should have listened to your attorney and not come here.
I watched the fire, watched the year burn away. What a year! So many things almost happened! Nicole's hippy friends, a tight-nit group that had been a clique for years, were keeping away from me whether for my or their own mental health. Well, the girls anyway. They didn't want to feel sorry for this newcomer, this stranger. They had enough of their own problems, and their friends had problems, etc etc. All in all, however, they were quite welcoming, and tried to get my mind off of things, but my keeping away had them keep away in turn. Being with Germans on Sylvester was a very eye-opening experience. The Germans drank, chatted, danced, ate, blew up some fireworks, lit fires, and constructed impromptu saunas. I felt right at home among them.
"Hey Don, let's go to the sauna," one of Nicole's roommates, with her own problems, had asked me.
"I don't know. I don't have a bathrobe."
"We can go naked... or whatever."
Well, The Don was definitely not in form, as that young lady hippy went off to the sauna without him, me, or whatever. Man was I wreck. After the big "moment", when everyone is supposed to have some kind of dry orgasm at the changing year, the hippies were lighting up fireworks and making things sparkle and fizzle and crackle. I was feeling left out, but I didn't want to say anything. Another of Nicole's hippy friends handed me a Cat's Eye. Everyone had them, these crazy sparkling candles. Mine didn't light. I couldn't light it. It just sort of turned black when I tried to light it. There were no more. All the hippies were sparkling, but I wasn't. I was holding a black stick.
Everyone then went inside the cottage to catch Dinner For One on T.V. Dinner For One is a short comedy sketch from the sixties based on an English play (I could have my facts wrong, the thing lasts about ten minutes). The short film has been a part of German New Year's tradition since it first aired. Basically, it's about a rich old lady, Miss Sophie, who's the last survivor of her aristocratic circle of friends. But being old and alone, of course, she enjoys a moment of nostalgia for her birthdays. So her butler, James, has to act out the roles of all her dead friends. His task also includes drinking in their place, and there are four of them. Very quickly, James begins getting drunk, and starts doing really funny things. The running gag of the film is his tripping over a tiger-skin rug. The Germans really love this thing, and laugh every few seconds.
"Look, Don. Notice that the more drunk he gets, the less he trips over the rug! Hahahaha!"
And one recurring exchange between James and Miss Sophie leads to the big punch line of the film:
"Same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?"
"Same procedure as EVERY year, James," she replies as he helps her up the stairs to her bedroom.
Smiling, drunkenly, he adds "Then I shall do my VERY best!"
To end off the traditional things that Germans did for New Year's, we all melted lead. The molten lead solidifying in a bowl of water is supposed to foretell how the coming year is going to turn out for you. The girl who had asked me to join her in the sauna helped me figure out what my little lead sculpture was supposed to be.
"This looks like a wolf. And he's sitting at the base of a street lamp. The wolf is a strong, passionate, yet sensitive animal. But he is happy, and is looking up to the light."
"But look at that, he has a hole where his heart is supposed to be!"
"That's not a hole. See, it's a door to his heart. His heart is open."
I was in bad shape, I was in bad shape.
I have to end things here, as I’m out of space. It was quite a daunting task to try to explain why it is that I seem to be so fond of German people in three short editorials. Every time I sat down and tried to write general statements about them, I found myself looking to slices of memory of my experiences, which had me giggling. Excited, I transferred the slices to the written word, hoping that maybe the reader could see what I’ve seen. I was only able to put down a few slices. Maybe I should end this off with some kind of lasting, memorable words that capture the entire German culture, but I’m not that pretentious. I had and am having a life-altering experience, which I may have had in just about any other country, but I found it here, among these people, and I’m glad about that.
“What do you call this part of the car’s body, right above the rear-tires?” asked my German buddy, Fox.
“I have no idea. What do you call that in German?”
”We call it Kotflügel, but I don’t think you can translate that directly.”
”What does it mean if you translate it?”
“Well, it means ‘shit-wings’.” We had to laugh.
-- Don Kapitän, PhD in Matters of Love
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