Sunday, August 13, 2006

Hamburglar

Don't worry, cupcakes, we're coming to the end of my Deutschland photos. God knows I have more, but how many can you be expected to endure? Right. That's what I thought.

This photo almost looks like it could have been taken in Wickford, RI. But it was taken in Hamburg, Germany. Trust me. I checked and Deutsche Bahn does not go to Wickford. Schade, because due to some sloppy stamping on the part of a ticket collector, I have one day left of my rail pass. I think I took some of these nice photos of sail boats and boathouses around the Alster, where all the millionaires have their mansions.

Here is the Hamburg Rathaus. Rathaus of course is the Town Hall but it always looks funny to me because it looks like it should be translated literally as the Rat House. Sadly, that is not the case. But that would be awesome. Anyway, Hamburg has a particularly lovely Rathaus.

And here is the beautiful LeBrookski with her crocodile grin. LeBrookski is the mastermind behind this blog and she hosted me in Hamburg and tried to comply with my ridiculous request, "okay, I want to see everything in this city, I'm here for twenty hours, ready, set, go!" At this restaurant Brooks and I were sharing a table with a German couple which is pretty customary. I continued my custom of embarassing the shit out of Brooks. "Brooksy," I cooed. "Foto machen!" This got the couples' attention and I started chatting to them as I called to Brooks, "Eins, zwei, drei, Ameisescheisse!" You may recall that is my preferred way to get someone to smile when I am taking a photo and it translates as "ant shit!" The photo needed to be taken twice because Brooks was laughing so hard. That really had the German couple in stitches and you could tell that at this point in their marriage they were way more interested in the odd couple Brooks and I made than they were in each other. You could tell they wanted to chat with us all night, but Brooks and I had better things to do, like talk to each other in English because it had been so goddamn long since I'd seen a native English speaker, I thought I might weep when I saw her in the train station.

But perhaps the most treausured memory I have is Friday morning at 9:00am when Brooks kindly accompanied me to the Hauptbahnhof. We were riding the subway when she said to me in English, "So, it's too bad you weren't awake last night around 1:30 when the pimp stopped by." At this point, the German woman sitting across from us got up and changed her seat. What can we learn from this? That American music and movies have spread the word 'pimp' throughout the global culture so that even a middle age German woman can hear it and know what we're talking about? That English, even when spoken in our dulcet, groggy tones, can be grating to a non-native speaker to the point that they must get up and change seats? Or perhaps this woman was just not down with the Mulattos and the forthcoming revoltion or the Americans of which I was a shining example with my baseball cap, sneakers and giant backpack? Whatever, bitch, pimp just stopped by for a glass of wine. Ain't nobody turning tricks up in the house.

The Hamburg Harbor. Hamburgers lover their harbor. It's always "Der Hafen. Der Hafen." Hey Hamburgers, if you love your harbor so much, why don't you marry it?

So, it would have been pretty difficult to see much of Hamburg on my kamakaze schedule without hijacking more of LeBrookski's time, so I decided to get up early and take of of those open air bus tours before I left the city. Yes, sometimes you just need to suck it up and do it. I arranged for the tour in German. "Where are you from?" asked the promoter.

"New York City," I said.

"Good," he said. "This tour is in English. You can understand English?"

"German, English, whatever," I said but the tour guide looked nervous. I soon learned that the only other people on the tour were two families from Sweeden. As far as the guide was concerned, speaking English to nine Sweedes was one thing, but speaking English in front of an actual New Yorker was something else. He apologised in advance for his English. "I don't care," I said. "My German is not perfect. I understand."

It was a very nice tour because the weather was so nice, but soon I became an attraction on the tour. A 12 year old Sweedish girl told me she didn't like New York City because there was too much graffiti, but she pronounced it like Rafiki, the name of the monkey in The Lion King. It took me a while to figure out what she was talking out. When could she have gone to New York? A couple of years ago? God help her if she had visited during the city's graffiti heyday in the 70s and 80s. I thought about telling her what I thought about the Ikea furniture assembly instructions.

Our tour guide, whose name was Sultan and came from an Afghani family, would spend time between pointing out sights on the microphone chatting with me about New York. "I have cousins in New York. In Queens, Flushing. You know it?" He asked me about clubs and the price of air fare. He was a nice guy though. Very nice. But next time I'm going to tell them I'm from Manitoba.

4 comments:

Beta said...

I REALLY thought that shot was from Wickford. It looked so much like those pics I put up on that old geocities site of mine that you found much later and highjacked. I took a nice walk into Wickford on Friday since I was visiting the family. My destination was the knitting store that only opened AFTER I no longer lived in town. Anyway, great rendition of Hamburg :) Let's pick 2 fun cities over there and move there at the same time. I'm gettin antsy.

Cupcake said...

Beta, that is the best plan you've had in a while. I call Mainz/Frankfurt in six months. Think I can get it done? Okay, now you guys pick a city and time frame. It would make it easier if I knew I had native English speakers I could visit. You know I would miss my slang and profanity. And slurring my speech.

lebrookski said...

very glad to hear that you enjoyed your stop in hamburg. i forgot all about the woman who changed seats in the subway. the funny thing is that i hadn't even noticed...

anyway, unless you count me and my roommate, we don't always have pimps passing through our crib...and, for the record, he was quite polite and on the verge of catching a cold, which just made me wanna go like, "awwww you poor thing"

it was the kind of thing that makes life seem very surreal at times.

p.s. the pictures of the sailboats and such were taken by the elbe river, which isn't the alster, however, filthy stinking rich people live pretty much around both bodies of water.

Joshua said...

I have to say that your Germany coverage by far surpasses my Romania reporting.

It is the perfect balance of stories and pictures.

That was very nice of the tour guide to be nervous about his English in front of a bona-fide Yank.