Sep 27, 2015

Chase in pig country

A decade ago, I traveled through Europe between my sophomore and junior year in college with an old high school friend, Chase. Since, we have been in touch on again and off again. One day, Chase messages me that he is considering moving to Amsterdam for work and had I been there. I was, in fact, sitting in a canal house in the Jordaan, vacationing there with Tay and Saori. I told him truthfully that it was a hipsters paradise, and that totally, he should go. So he did. He has considerable travel experience and lived in Shanghai before, so the expat thing was not so intimidating.  His girlfriend, Whitney, also decided to come as well, although she had never before been out of the country.

Anyway, they popped over for the weekend to say hello and to visit Stuttgart's Oktoberfest. Their door to door time was under three hours. After we welcomed them to our place with guac and chips, we took them to Zum Paulner for dinner and more drinks. Saori took me there my first night in town.

Afterwards, we went to another bar, Akermann's, near our flat, and had another drink before heading back to the apartment where Saori had prepared towels, sheets, and bound everything with paper twine and welcome tags.

Saturday morning I woke up with a crushing hangover headache but felt well enough to whip up a batch of banana pancakes for the group before the really bad nausea hit.

I had three (3) drinks the night before. A half liter beer with chips and salsa, a half liter at the restaurant with dinner, and a half liter at the bar, all of these spaced out over about three to four hours.

I was sick for about six hours, where I was so ill I could only hold down water. This is not the first time that this has happened either. Nobody else was remotely ill which makes me think that I might be developing a gastric sensitivity to beer. Or alcohol. I should test this with tequila.

Anyway, I was so miserable, I couldn't of course be a great host or guide, so Saori told our guests how to get to the adorable village of Tübingen for the day while shouted a feeble farewell from the bedroom.

After some enjoyable hours playing `can I hold this down?´ and `bathroom biology´ my system finally righted itself with copious quantities of coconut water. It was a surprisingly fast recovery once begun, so I was able to meet Chase and Whitney at Wasen in the late afternoon. Saori joked her amazement that I could be in the searching  in the AM for a suitable pot for the bedside, and in the PM, a suitable hat for a drinking festival.

It would have been unthinkable that I would ever touch beer again four hours prior, but at Oktoberfest, I downed no less than five liters of beer and passed out facedown on beer-soaked asphalt. Actually, I had a scant half liter total, guessing I was probably pushing it with that. It was still a good time. We walked through what must have been the least terrifying haunted houses ever, rode a few rides, played some carnival games (I insisted on the bb rifle and I am a crack shot at blank range), and fought our way into one of the big tents.

Many Germans older and younger, reserve tables months in advance in large to medium groups and so get advance tickets so walk in at set times. The rabble who lack either forward-thinking friends or this level of preparation for drinking festivals, are punished by forming a mob at the front behind barricades while bouncers/hosts handpick groups frantically waving their hands showign the number people in thier party. We opted for the American style three fingers istead of the German thumb-plus-two in the hopes that it would make us stand out as Interesting People Who Would Bring Diversity to the tent. Which is important in a heavy drinking environment where the main concern is not inadvertantly uninating all over your own lederhosen.

We fought hard for this. Actually, I thought Whitney was going to get in a fistfight with a bitch who cut us in the scrum to the front. But, haleluja, we were finally picked out from the crowd and led inside ... to stand at a large wooden high top at the back of the tent. We could order beers, but no food, evidently. So we nursed our beers, stamped our feet and swung our half liter glasses with the live band playing Prosit, Prosit every ten minutes, and marveled at the massive wooden trays covered with a dozen steaming plates each containing a half chicken and a loaf of bread, or a mamoth pretzel on a mountain of potato salad. No food for you!

We abandoned our designated floor place and wandered through, deeper into into the tent where the people with reservations had places, complete with bench dancing, beer stein swinging, and ducking to avoid the giant wood boards flying by with food.

I actually really enjoy these festivals. They are totally kitschy, and most of the people who go are 20something guys in identical cheap lederhosen and shirts. But its undeniably fun. I was excited to step on the train and see a car full of people wearing traditional Bavarian and Schwabish costumes, especially the older people and the families who obviously spent some serious cash on their clothing. The festival itself is basically a state fair of beer, except all the beer is the same, but it is a tradition. There is not even the pretense of say, thanksgiving or Christmas, to remember a particular event (although it was started as a commemorative event originally). Even if an inherantly meaningless and vapid one, traditional events strenghten the bonds between people and places. It's a memory shared by the people of the city involving a particular place in the city. It is a part of the city identity, like the architecture or urban organization.

For Thursday please hand in your summaries from Scheer's Form Code and Spectacle by Bruce Mau.

Anyway, we walked over to the Schweinmuseum for dinner since they have a nice restaurant downstairs. Saori joined us and most of us ate dishes from the seasonal mushrooms which turned out to be wonderful while Chase worked his way through a massive schweinhaxle (deep fried joint of pork) with beer sauce.

After dinner, we enjoyed a last round of drinks at my new favorite bar in town, unlikely enough, a cellar pool hall and whisky bar. Old overstuffed leather couches, blackout red lighting, and a bar specializing in whisky and gin cocktails or bottled belgain and french beers. Where I also stuck to soft drinks.

Sunday morning, I made what we call Lumen Breakfast, which is basically an open faced fried egg sandwich with toasted local bread, bergkase cheese, and cured meat, although I swapped in fried bacon today and topped with some chives.

Afterwards, we walked through a short nature trail to see and feed the wild (tame?) boars in the nearby woods. Then it was time to put Chase and Whitney back on the train to the airport. It was a good visit, and now we need to also find a weekend to pop up to Amsterdam and visit them too.

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