Friday, June 29, 2007

re: brain, exploding of

Look, it's not you, it's me. I've been such a fool. But now I'm back. And tonight, I'm yours.

I've...I've been busy. A lot has happened. One of my favorite students left me because his girlfriend left him. He asked me to call him and I haven't. After a month and a half at my other job, I've been promoted, so I've been responsible as hell lately. On our third day in a new office space, nine of our clients, from young to very old, got stuck in an elevator on their way up to see us. I dialed the fire department and then handed the phone over to someone who speaks better German.

My new hectic life has stressed me out, and I've had fights with my wife because of it and I feel bad and I don't know what to do because the stress will probably continue.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has come to Vienna for a visit and left again. I'm sure the Orange Party nationalists were very excited about this.

One day, I saw a twenty-something Turkish kid wearing a t-shirt that read Miami Cocaine Connection. I wanted to smack him. Then I decided to smack whatever idiot(s) manufactured that shirt.

On another day, I met a Jewish man on a bus, who is on his way to the USA. He told me he'd left his homeland in the middle East because the government there accused him of being a spy for Israel.

"Was there a trial?" I asked him.

"Yes! There was a trial!" he said with big eyes and a smile. "There was a trial with whipping. I was whipped and then I went to prison."

Tonight I'm going to the movies by myself for the second night in a row.

Have I become a more solitary person? I don't know. It seems to be a great effort for me to make a date with another human to go out and, you know, talk. I get busy on MOnday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and then Thursday night comes and I'm at the movies alone again.

Last night, I bought a plate full of curry at a Thai food stand in the park (it was delicious.) The young Thai woman behind the counter let me taste the sauce first, then she said, in German, "Is it too spicy for you?"

I put the spoon in my mouth, waited, and then said, "Nichts." Nothing.

Oh, well, for some people here, it's too much, she said.

"Ich bin aus Texas," I said.

The woman immediately switched to English. But I wouldn't speak English back to her, only German. I'm not sure why.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Herr Mann

Even before I realized today was the Austrian Father's Day, I'd been thinking about my pops again. Yesterday I decided that I'm more like him than I'd care to admit, and less like him than I'd like to be. I mean, I inherited more of his faults than his strengths. At least, that's how it seemed yesterday.

I remind me of him when I lose my temper with Adinah, or when I pick her up and haul her back to her room for a time-out without losing my temper. He had no patience for whining, even though, if the light was right, he could feel pretty sorry for himself. And I'm the same way, only moreso.

I come from fine teacher stock--mom a speech therapist in the public schools, dad a social work professor at the University of Texas--and now that I'm teaching myself, and also doing a bit of social work, I'm experiencing another one of those creepy moments where I realize that no matter how close I feel to my mom, I'm really my father's son. I don't know why that strikes me as creepy, but it does, and it has for years. Guess I'm still a little pissed off at the guy.

I mean, I'm not driven by it (and yes, I double checked this with my wife for a second opinion.) I'm not like those rock singers, and there's a lot of them, who make a career out of being angry at their daddies (or mommies.) But my issues with him and what he did....come up.

Is it only your father that you can be proud of and disappointed in at the same time?

He was a good dad and a good man, I think, but he was just a man, and he made mistakes. That and everything else in this post might be a cliche, but it took me a long time to be able to think it, let alone write it down.

He died just after I met my daughter, and the timing was striking. You'd think that now that I'm a dad, I would understand my own better, but I'm not so sure.

Somehow, though, it is easy for me to imagine that Adinah will think of me as a regular man, with flaws. I just don't know if that's a good or a bad thing...

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

the 2o Dollar Question

"You're always advertising Texas," said the olive-skinned woman. "You say you love America. So why are you in Vienna?"

It's a good question, asked with a smile.

Suddenly it's the opening scene of Detour (1946), and I'm Tom Neal, the innocent man, wrongly accused. A low-angle spotlight splashes on my face, the background dims and....ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in space.

Why am I in Vienna? Who's asking? Sometimes I'm talking to people who have never been over there and don't want to go. Sometimes I'm talking to Americans who wish they could leave the US. Sometimes I'm talking to Americans here who wish, desperately, that they could go back. Sometimes I'm talking to people that are moving there with all the dreams and aspirations that adults can conjure.

My answer--my story--varies. The truth comes out in greater and lesser degrees. The truth is I got sick of only seeing some of my friends twice a year, because we were all so busy. Actually, I was so angry and disgusted with what the Bush Administration has done to the country I do in fact love. The Gods Honest truth is that it was time for a change. Frankly, the "quality of life" (a funny phrase, if you think about it for a second) is higher in Europe. No, wait...we did it for our daughter: everyone knows education and healthcare is better over here. And so forth.

I guess I always try to be honest about the place itself. The US of A, that is. But it's like talking to a kid--you tell them some well-chosen fragment of the truth. For people who are going to America to live happily ever after, or those who go with no illusions, or for those somewhere in the middle, that is, for people who dream, despite themselves, of a better life in the USA, I try to convey the brutality and hilarity and awful poetry of the land. Sometimes I even think they understand me.

Usually the lights come up, I get that grin, and I tell them the real truth. "Why am I in Vienna? Well...I fell in love with an Austrian."

Friday, June 1, 2007

Monster Music

I once interviewed Brian Johnson, the singer for AC/DC, and he told me, "I'm fifty years old, and I still really, really love music. I think there's something wrong with me."

I can relate. I still get teenage-boy obsessed with new music whenever I discover it. Lately it's Godzilla movie soundtrack music. It's so goofy. And there's so much of it. Shag-a-delic sixties dance themes that sound like a Japanese makeover of the Batman tv show theme. Completely looney orchestral passages announcing the big lizard's appearance at frame left. Lanquid fifties-style exotica and whimsical marching melodies. Frantic Ventures impersonations with saccharine vocals.

I think there's something wrong with me.