Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
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Irving housing

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Like my brownhouse:
   napping in Kiel
Sunday, July 21 2019

location: Eurowings jet somewhere over southwestern England

In Duesseldorf, German immigration was about as painless as such things get, and there was no customs. Apparently the Germans don't care what you're bringing into their country. In addition to a cannister of kratom and some oxycodones, my main concern was three hot "carrot peppers" I'd picked from our garden and packed into a silicone container in hopes of having their chemical heat in a part of the world that is unusually devoid of it. Some countries (particularly the United States of America) aren't happy when fresh plant materials are smuggled across their borders, but Germany really doesn't care.
The plane from Duesseldorf to Hamburg was a smallish prop plane, and it passed over a landscape that had been deeply affected by the humans living there. There were no visible forests (that is, tracts of land that had been allowed to revert back to the control of natural forces). Intead it was all divided up into triangular plots of agricultural land surrounding modest-sized cities comprising an endless archipelago. This was, after all, the third-largest economy, with 82 million people packed into area a little bigger than New Mexico. There was also a high density of power-generating windmills. 27% of Germany's electrical power is sustainably-generated.
Still in the Hamburg airport, we found our way to the welcome center, where a very helpful lady told us how to catch the train to our next destination, the city of Kiel. But, she added, we could also take the bus, and it would take about the same amount of time. The advantage to taking the bus was that it would pick us up from less than 100 feet away and she could sell us the tickets. That seemed like the best, logistically least-difficult option. While waiting for the next bus, we went to a nearby bread shop called Dallmeyers and ordered the best soft pretzel either of us had ever had. It was fresh and encrusted with pumpkin seeds. Either pretzels are just better in Germany, or there was something special about pretzels at the Dallmeyers in the Hamburg airport. Gretchen disappeared briefly into the grocery store next door and reappeared with a faux-cream-cheese spread containing bits of sauerkraut.
Hamburg is at the western base of the Jutland Peninsula, whereas the destination of Kiel lay on the east side, about half way to Denmark. The highway there was a four-laner that for much of its distance didn't appear to have posted speed limits (perhaps it was part of the Autobahn). Cars overtaking us in the left lane often passed us at relative speeds that would've seemed fast had we been standing still. Even good drivers take a risk at such speeds from things that nobody can predict, such as the sudden appearance of animals. For awhile I searched the highway and its shoulders for roadkill and didn't see any. This suggests one or more of three things: there aren't any wild animals in this region, the wild animals are savvier about roads than animals in North (and Central) America, or there are crews that clean up roadkill faster than it can accumulate.
Along the way, we made one modest detour to a dour city (Neumünster I think), where the architecture seemed to vaguely reference older periods in history while not actually being beautiful or looking particularly old. It wasn't even 10:00am yet, and a couple youngish men with a dog sat on the sidewalk in front of a store drinking beers they were making no effort to conceal. Evidently drinking in public is not a crime in Germany.
Kiel was a similar kind of ugly to what we'd see in Neumünster. Our destination was the Hotel Rabe, only a couple blocks from where the bus let us off. Officially we wouldn't able to check in until 2:00pm, and it was now something closer to 11:00am, but luck was on our side and our room was already available at that early hour, meaning we weren't going to have to sleep on some park bench while waiting for our room (as we had to do in Paris in January of 2002). Whenever one travels this many timezones eastward, the only thing one wants to do upon arrival is to crawl into bed. First, though, we showered away the travel grime. [REDACTED]
Hours later, despite what seemed to be a larger value for the constant G in northern Germany, we got out of bed and walked down to the bus station to meet Gretchen's parents, who were arriving after a flight that had taken them through London. For some reason they didn't immediately want to take a nap. Instead, Gretchen's father told us in fascinating detail how exactly the family had fled Uganda after Idi Amin ginned up anti-semitic and anti-immigrant sentiment (something he'd been reminded of by one of Donald Trump's recent fascist rallies). Weeks before fleeing, as Amin ratcheted up the rhetoric, an early indication that things were getting bad was that groundskeeper started parroting anti-semitic rhetoric he'd read in Amin-friendly media (the Fox News of that time and place). I forget what the triggering incident was, but when it came, Gretchen's father went to the Entebbe airport in the early hours of the morning (when he knew the military would be asleep) and caught the first available flight to anywhere outside of Uganda. It took them to Addis Abbbaba, Ethiopia, and from there they headed eastward to Indo China, then Japan. Weeks after returning home, a shipment (packed by the antisemitic groundskeeper) came via air freight containing certain items, some of which a self-important customs official wanted to inspect with extra care as a means of demonstrating his authority. When a suspicious-seeming box contained nothing more than an empty plastic laundry basket, well, that inspector was not at all pleased. Months later, a container arrived via sea freight, and it too had suspicious items on the manifest. A misspelling of "pestle" (as in mortar and pestle) led a second self-important customs official to believe that firearms might be inside. But no, the suspiciously-heavy box contained nothing more than a hollowed-out log. As for a box of liquor, it had been a one-stop instant liquor cabinet that Gretchen's father thought he should have for entertaining guests. But nobody had ever drunk any of it, and the bottles still had intact seals showing that American taxes had been paid on them. There was a single bottle of open wine, but it had been terrible, and Gretchen's father had no problem dumping it out in front of the now-enraged customs official.
For dinner, the four of us took a cab to a vegan junk food restaurant nearby called Blattgold. Our taxi driver was a Pakistani from Gujrat. He gave a little much-needed history about Kiel. Apparently it had been an important U-boat dock during World War II, and so had been heavily bombed. This accounted for the preponderance of drab, ahistorical architecture. At Blattgold, I had the tex-mex burger, which included a green paste similar to guacamole, though it wasn't especially good. Something about eating on a table that hadn't been cleaned made me enjoy the experience less than I normally would've, but this was just a function of how busy the café was.

Gretchen's father and Gretchen at dinner in Blattgold. Note the Stranger Things poster.

On the cab ride back to the hotel, I pointed out a phenomenon I'd seen several instances of on the streets of Hamburg: people walking their dogs while riding bicycles. Gretchen could only think of one example of this, and she thought I was doing what she thinks I do all the time: making generalizations from just one or two examples. I responded by saying I'd only ever overgeneralized this way maybe two times, and she was the one who was overgeneralizing.
Back in our hotel room, we tried to watch teevee, but all the channels seemed to feature American media that had been dubbed over with German. Gretchen's father had made the observation that the Germans like to "make everything German," to which I'd replied, "Like Europe." This was just one of a long series of opportunities Gretchen and I kept finding to make Nazi and Holocaust jokes. Kiel, for example, was "Kiel all the Jews." And there always seemed to be the word "Juden" in any German we overheard.
Eventually Gretchen found the BBC in English, and it came like an oasis in the desert of German-dubbed programming. We were both gassy and kept farting beneath our respective blankets (for some reason we had one bed but two separate down comforters). I joked that these were "Deutsche ovens" because, well, they were "Dutch ovens," in Germany. But "Deutsche ovens" can't help but also be a Holocaust reference. Gretchen wondered what kind of oven it would be to just fart into a room until the whole thing stank. I thought such an oven should maybe be named after a tribe of Native Americans, since they tended to spend more of their time outdoors than the Dutch, famous for their clever little ovens. We eventually settled on "Sioux oven," for the act of stinking up a room with farts, though it's a joke that works better on the page than spoken aloud.

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