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About mein Geburstag

The above might not even be spelled right, but I just learned it yesterday and can’t be bothered to look it up. The library makes you lock up all belongings you could possibly shove a book into – backpacks, jackets, seedy-looking paper sacks – before entry, and that’s where my Deutsch book (code name: dork book) is. Either way, it means “birthday” in German.

Yeah, that’s right, ass clown! Look at the date on the post and try not to smack your forehead. It was yesterday! Thanks to the wonderful folks who sent me birthday messages or called me or bought presents – all are appreciated in the squishiest parts of my heart.

It was my first birthday in a foreign country, and I didn’t know quite how to feel about that fact. On the one hand, it could be an exciting opportunity to branch out and experience foreign birthday customs; on the other hand, I had no desire to do that, and in the meantime the lion’s share of my friends were 5,000 miles away. Everything worked itself out nicely, though. I like to keep things real when celebrating the anniversary of my stepping onto this mortal coil, so festivities usually include only two or three other people – conveniently, about how many friends I have in Vienna, including the one I came with.

On the whole, I had a more successful birthday than I usually do, and certainly more so than I had any right to expect. Some of the South Koreans in my German course drew a birthday card for me and then giggled uncontrollably and hid their faces after passing it to me – turns out that “passive Asian” stereotype is grounded in truth afterall. Then Kelly and I bought an amazing frozen cake from the Hofer and took it home to her apartment. Her landlady is a Polish immigrant named Boguswava, and she’s tremendously friendly, unlike some people’s. She had a slice of cake with us along with Kelly’s flatmate, and even brought out a bottle of wine and toasted me. The four of us had a long German conversation about the Zodiac and Catholicism, which I could follow pretty easily but had a hard time contributing to. Doubters repent: I can speak enough German to discuss the Schism. Epistemology is next.

To continue keeping it real, we next headed to the park where we napped, played guitar, and I read most of Siddhartha – not in the original German, I wanted to enjoy it. Kelly got hit in the face with a soccer ball from around forty paces. It was exactly what I wanted – the lounging and reading and sunshine, not Kelly’s unfortunate injury. Siddhartha is, by the way, an amazing narrative about disillusionment and satisfaction in life, written at once so simply and so beautifully that it’s difficult to describe. I don’t know if I’ve ever read anything else like it. I need to a few days to continue contemplating it.

We had dinner at a random restaurant in the 8th District with Jenn and Anthony, two of the dorm kids who have been more receptive to our groping attempts at friendship. Kelly and I split a Hausplatte, which had three distinct kinds of meat and was delicious. One of them was Wiener Schnitzel, which everyone’s made a big deal of – but after trying it, I don’t understand why. It’s kind of like good old CFS – chicken-fried steak for the non-McCarty crowd – and quite tasty, but nothing to write home about. Unless you count this. Damn it.

Vienna is famous for its cafes, and there are three in the city which have been around for hundreds of years. All Vienna’s famous artists and intellectuals would, according to folk legend, gather in them and critique each other’s work long into the night. I hadn’t visited one yet because I assumed it would be exorbitant, but we checked one out after dinner, by Stephansplatz, and were impressed with everything: the decor, the service, the coffee itself, and the price. Apparently housing in Vienna used to be much worse than today, and people used the cafes as their living rooms, ordering one drink and then staying all day. This behavior seems strange to me, but exists to this day: the number-one rule is to linger. The help actually get upset and think something is terribly wrong if you drink your coffee and leave quickly. The strangest thing was an old, old woman who worked there – I’m pretty sure that she founded the cafe herself in the 1700’s – who bustled about making sure everyone was satisfied. When several large groups entered the cafe at once, she actually moved people from table to table, combining small groups into booths, in order to make room. A bunch of pensioners got shoved into a booth with a couple young lovers, some girls were thrust upon a group of middle-aged business men, but the newcomers were seated successfully. It was hilarious.

After the cafe, we ate the remainder of the cake at the Studentenheim and watched part of Resident Evil, activities which didn’t conflict nearly as much as you might think. I arrived home with the intention of sleeping, but found two wonderful surprises waiting for me which subsequently kept me up for another hour or so: a letter from Erin and Good News for People who Love Bad News, Modest Mouse’s new album. The former was very sweet, and the latter is rocking my ever-loving socks off at this very moment. Thanks Erin and padres, respectively. By the by, if you don’t already own the aforementioned album, you’re in serious danger of losing all my respect, if you had any to begin with. Seriously, buy it.

Tomorrow is the last day of classes for this term, after which we have a five-day weekend before the next starts. I’ll be touring Slovakia, I think, or somewhere in the area, and so will be out of contact for some days. Good luck with midterms for the UW crowd, and good luck with… other things to people who know who they are… or do they?

Posted in Musings.


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