Lost in Scramblation
Had a great ride today, despite a few factors that did not bode well.
As has been the pattern for the last week, i had no idea what we’d be doing that day. For a week I’ve been living without any wheat in my diet because Georges believes it’s poison. So I’ve been a bit hungry most of the time….this make me confused.
Plus, Angela, Georges’s girlfriend was leaving at dawn for Lubeck, when I’d expected she’d ride with us today. But no.
So much for my insurance policy. Even though she is stronger than I, I have found her hovering when I am close to collapse. Without her, it would be just me and the boys.
Then I learned that she had taken the car because the trams were on holiday reduced schedule. This shouldn’t have meant a thing. but it put a wrench in the gears…which meant significant grumbling from Georges.
Ride time approached, we headed out, and it was obvious that the things in the car were crucial to the ride. And the car was…elswhere. This meant going to the train station where the car was, and doing a rebuild of Geo’s bike on the sidewalk–changing the cassette on the rear wheel.
I amuse myself taking pix of the scary barbed wire like I have never seen before, gnarly squarish razor stuff surrounding the government building nearby. ´
Dirk, George’s closest in age and ability, looks on and occasionally holds the wheel while Sidewalk Surgery is performed. I perfect my track stand for the seventh day in a row.
Note to self: Car ownership not for those with a short attention span: if two people share them, it is like a purse…there is always the chance the other has taken it when you need it. And you forgot to mention that you needed the manicure kit. Or helmet. Or whatever.
As usual this means more time for me to stretch my sore legs and let the Complexities work themselves out.
Our ride was to be with several young strong guys, among them the hotfoot Kolya and his friend the Hasel. When we arrived spot on the appointed hour, no one else is there.
A flurry of phone calls reaffirm that nobody knows what is going on, or that Kolya has ADD since only a week ago, over lunch with four people he had agreed to ride on the following Thurs witih a certain Old Bat and Impossibly Strong Georges.
But we are strong; we ride anyway.
The trails are full of groups ranging from old couples to four and eight people with kids and dogs.
“What did you say the holiday was?” I ask George.
“Some Catholic holy day” he shrugs. “It means the stores are closed in Hessen”
It is an overcast but mellow day. And verily, every ambulatory Teutonic family is out enjoying a non shopping day. The hills are green and the birds are singing their heads off. At our first stop, Geo notices that his cassette is wobbly. A part is missing.
I have a strange breakfast in my stomach because the ritual Georges one (bananas, apples, quark and oil) needs to be purchased each day fresh. And today is (repeat after me) “a holy day”. Today I had sardines, eggs, oil and the dreaded bread. It was heavenly, moist thinly sliced rye with some Kochkase spread on it, their version of velveeta.
“Which holiday is the 22nd of May, anyway?° ´I repeat my earlier question… worded ever so slightly differently. In German (at least that is what I think I am speaking).
Please bear in mind that all the time the people around are speaking rapid fire German with no convenient subtitles….I am mostly clueless. Being clueless for an entire week can really do a number on a person. I can read German pretty well and can form my OWN mangled phrases and thoughts…but when these rocket fueled riders start a conversation I am left far, far behind, mulling over the first Interesting Verb I heard.
In short, I am used to being seen but somehow unheard.
After a bit, Dirk blurts an answer, happy as a quiz show contestant: “Happy Cadaver!”
“Frohnleichnam” he replied. “Froh: happy….Leiche: cadaver..°
I remember Leiche meant corpse rather than cadaver.
“So, it is like day of the Dead” I think to myself.
I steer away from the blatant sign that this is to be my last day on Earth. Just because I haven’t heard of it, doesn’t mean it is a significant sign from above .
Besides, the overhead cloudscape is showering down fine fans of light that usually promise a hopeful future in those tacky sci-fi movies.
Maybe it was the holiday, or maybe Germans are OK with sharing trails.
All the people we passed were cool.
I saw no scowls, and felt a sort of brazen gaiety in myself (as opposed to the regret knowing that just by riding by, I have Ruined Someone’s Illusion that it is just them and Mother Nature) . A freedom that I hadn’t breathed since I had ridden in Sweden two years prior. Where everyone in the woods just seems damned Happy To Be Outside. Some smiled as we whizzed by.
I decided to greet the next group, and I carefully assembled my phrase. Since Guten Tag is how everyone says hello around here, I unfurled a “Guten FROHNleichnam!” in the direction of five people, two children and their elders strolling along ahead of us.
I got the puzzled look I have become familiar with. My accent might not be up to snuff. Or the word order is all wrong.
“SHOENEN Frohnleichnam!” I repeat, emphasis changed.
A fixed look from everyone tells me I just said nonsense, which my companions confirmed as I asked them if this holiday was …er….celebrated like Valentine’s Day, or Christmas, or any other one where you say Happy whatever the hell to complete strangers.
Cyclists are by necessity bent over their bikes, but Dirk and Georges bent over even more as they hooed and hawed about “Happy Corpse Day” and the general effect it had on some unsuspecting family out on the second Thursday after Pentecost…(Pfingsten).