Day Two: July 19, 2006
Landed late in Munich. From overhead, the approach looked like every jigsaw puzzle of Bavaria I’ve ever seen. We already had a huge layover so we only have 2 hours to sit around and wait. Oddly enough, I have this strange urge to speak English with an accent. We got off the plane an in the tradition of strangers choosing me to speak to, some guy pointed to his watch and ask for the time. Actually, he demanded to know the time. So I say 11:35. But it came out as “elefen tearty feyef.” That’s authentic!
So we head right for the Executive Lounge. And in true German style, it’s immaculately clean and deadly quiet. Kind of like the 20th floor at Grey. The quiet part, anyway. The food choices include pickles, Bavarian pretzels and Lowenbrau on tap. Okay I get it. I’m in Germany. I don’t need all the stereotypes. Where’s the oompah band?
I’ve traveled abroad before but this is the first time I really feel lost. I can figure out stuff in Spanish or French but I can’t even fake my way through German. The icons on the sign are easy enough to get, like the running stick figure with the lines behind it and a door. That’s the sign for emergency exit. It looks like the place to go if you’re on fire. Same thing, I guess. It’s good to travel with Liz and Robert. I haven’t known Topher very long but he hasn’t known us either so it balances out. We joked about barging into the lounge and acting like ugly Americans. Grey in das haus!!!
And the airport is very clean. Everything is white and silver. Chrome, actually. Very sterile. And here I am: a Jew in Munich (that’s the title of a musical I’ll be working on). There are showers in the lounge. I think I’ll pass. Even going through security in New York was odd. A guy in a uniform checking my papers and selecting which line I should go to. I’m already predisposed to be uncomfortable, I guess.
I wander the airport, looking for a place to buy a disposable camera. I can’t believe I traveled this far and didn’t bring a camera. And I can’t find one, unless I want to buy a real one. I did find a jewelry store called Schmuck. Ha! German is funny after all! Bracelets by Schmuck. A lovely Schmuck necklace. Help! Someone’s stolen the Schmuck Diamond! Ah, I kill me.
Back in the lounge, Robert is reading from a travel guide Liz bought. It’s kind of an alarmist guide. Lots of sections telling people what NOT to do. Some of them are pretty amusing. Apparently, Bucharest is a city of stray dogs, meat, and fake police. Poor Liz. She has to watch out for poking and prodding from the men. It’s a very tactile country. Basically, we have to stay indoors after sundown. So much for the “Paris of Eastern Europe.” Maybe it’s Paris, Texas. Well if nothing else, we’ll have stories to tell. If we come back alive. I think the book is a bit overprotective but I think Robert is wondering what we’ve gotten ourselves into. And Liz won’t be eating until August.
Time to board. Augustus Gloop takes Liz’s boarding pass and reminds her that “froehlich” means “happiness.” But he doesn’t just say it. He sings it in the same way a woman (or some men) would sing, “shopping!!!!!” Then he takes my pass and I barely get a “have a nice flight.” To him, I must look like Woody Allen in that scene from “Annie Hall” where Grammy Hall sees Alvy Singer as an Orthodox Jew.
Robert is still looking at Liz’s travel guide, trying to find some interesting restaurants. He shows me a passage about a religion where the men castrate themselves after 2 years of marriage. Why? Because they want to! (Thank you, Henny Youngman.) I wonder if their church has a gift shop. Wait, why was this in the restaurant section?
I always feel compelled to pay attention to the in flight announcements. I mean someone’s talking to me so I should pay attention. Sometimes they’re not just talking. They’re doing pantomime as well! It seems rude to read a magazine or write a Bucharest Blog or something.
The guy across the aisle from me has spread his legs wide enough to let 3 or 4 people sit in there. He’s on the aisle. His right leg in under the middle seat and his left leg is way out in the aisle. Liz is sitting next to him but she’s asleep. It’s better that way.
Okay, the flight attendant is offering magazines but they’re all in German. The attractive woman to my left asked for something in English and got Time. I gotta say, she’s doesn’t look smart enough for Time. I offered her my Entertainment Weekly. Weird, she doesn’t sound like she speaks English. Must be the white, skintight outfit she’s wearing. I’ll bet her name is Candy. Or Candi. Or Hortense. I saw her later on at baggage claim and she was wearing a large cross. She wasn’t wearing the cross on the plane. Hmmm…..
Speaking of stretching out, the guy in row 4 has stretched his left leg to the point where is halfway into row 3. And row 4 is coach class! Coach class? How about no class? Hmm, Coach Class. I’ll use that name for my screenplay about a guy who teaches inner city kids basketball and good manners.
What is it about business class that makes me feel like I have to behave differently? I mean I’m still wearing pants and everything. But lunch came with a brownie. And it was in a fancy dish. So I use a fork to eat it. But then I say hey! It’s a brownie! Hands! So I dig into the dish to fish it out. And there’s some orange glaze underneath. So much for class. Hey, who ruins chocolate with a fruit glaze? Sometimes fancy goes too far.
The old guy in row 2 looks like the nice old man from Dirty Dancing who was caught stealing wallets at the Sheldrake Hotel. I’d better check to see if my wallet is still here.
I keep feeling the need to apologize for not speaking German. My knowledge is limited to “99 Luftballons” and I don’t remember any of that. So when a flight attendant asks if I want another drink or something, I just smile and mouth something like “no thanks.” But I mouth it because it’s not German and I know she can’t really hear me over the engines. I’ve put a lot of thought into this. Oh yeah, she speaks perfect English so the act is for nothing. I must remember to explore this compulsion.
The longest part of the trip was waiting for Topher to pick up the phones. It wasn’t his fault. He and Robert rented phones and the process took forever. But it all paid off when we were picked up by Larissa. Drop dead gorgeous. Not literally. I mean, no one dropped dead that I know of. We were packed into a van and our luggage followed in a different car. Odd. Even odder was the guy who followed us to the parking lot and then asked for a tip. He did push Robert’s luggage cart. So Robert tipped him. He asked me as well so I gave him a buck. It turns out he wasn’t with us. Just some opportunistic guy looking for some money.
Bucharest is a dump. Well, that’s a bit harsh but the area from the airport to the Arc de Triomphe replica is pretty bad. The rest isn’t so great either but it’s not as bad. It’s hard to make out what it is. The old architecture is here but it’s surrounded by the remnants of Communism. There’s no real charm here. I thought I read somewhere that Bucharest is the Paris of Eastern Europe. Maybe it was Budapest. But the hotel is beautiful so it’s nice to have the refuge. There are casinos all over the place as well. I may never see Skollar again.
Dinnertime. It doesn’t help that the menu is in Romanian. There are some things we can figure out. For everything else, we need the waiter to translate. Do we trust him? Enough to let him bring out an assortment of dishes of some unknown name. As long as Liz gets vegetarian, she’s fine. I asked for some kind of local beer. They either don’t have one or the waiter was ashamed to mention it. So he recommended something…Adel…something. He said it was a “different beer” and it was “made from Whiskey Malt.” And on the neck of the bottle it actually says, “a different beer.” The label reads, “made with Whiskey Malt.” And I thought the guy was just a great salesman. Whatever. It was pretty awesome. French beer. Who knew?