A Lonely Father’s Day

Dom-Pedro-Platz Forty-year-old Sepp looked at his watch, took a last sip of his coffee, and grabbed his cap. As he was leaving the bakery all he could think about was how excited he was for his last shift before his two-week holiday was to begin. One more shift and then tomorrow he would commence with two weeks of revelry and drunken debauchery at Oktoberfest. He and some of his old school friends reserved a table for the duration, as they did every year, and Sepp went often. Though it had become commercialized in many ways, Sepp still enjoyed the Oktoberfest celebrations. He’d been hung over or had dragged ass too often in his younger days at work during the festival, so he’d just as soon forget trying to balance work and fun. To avoid any issues he now took the two weeks off for the party.

He met his crew at the job site. They were all finishing their last cigarettes before beginning the day. It was overcast and wet, with periods of rain and darker gray. The men were going to lay some new fiber optic cables for SWM (Stadtwerke München-Munich Utilities) near Dom-Pedro Platz, a very scenic and upscale area in the Nymphenburg Quarter on the west side of Munich.

The work commenced at 7am sharp. It was uneventful. Brotzeit (literally bread time, but it was more like a coffee break) was from exactly 9 to 9:15. The conversation invariably led to the idiosyncrasies of the Bavarians, Sepp being a near-perfect rendition of men in Bavaria, and the other three from northern Germany. It was all in good fun.

At 11:30 the guys decided to take their lunch break and Sepp volunteered to stay with the equipment so the other three workers could duck into an Italian restaurant and grab some pizzas. He had packed a couple of Leberkäse (Bavarian meatloaf) sandwiches which would go down nicely with the two bottles of Helles (Lager) he had. This was his typical lunch.

He finished his sandwiches and one of the beers when he spied an attractive, well-dressed young man sitting on a bench at Dom-Pedro Platz drinking a beer. Sepp, in true Bavarian fashion, preferred to drink beer with another person rather than alone. He grabbed his other beer, locked up the truck and made his way on over to the young man. The sky had quit spitting drizzle for a spell.Autumn Sadness

Sepp approached the young man. He noticed that the young man was wearing a lambskin leather jacket, expensive Italian shoes, and a bouquet of flowers lay next to him on the bench. The young man seemed unaware of his surroundings and was staring at the ground lost in thought.

“Mind if I sit here?” asked Sepp.

The young man looked up vacantly with bloodshot eyes. He looked at Sepp and then at Sepp’s beer. Though there was no reply, Sepp felt from the man’s body language that sitting down wouldn’t cause any friction, and in fact, the man might’ve even wanted Sepp to join him. Sepp sat down and opened his beer with a plank from the bench.

“The weather’s going to be really shitty this weekend,” said Sepp, trying to open the conversation with the most superficial, safe opening he could muster.

“I hadn’t noticed,” came the curt, quiet reply.

“You from around here?” asked Sepp.

“No, but I’ve lived here a few years. You?”

“Originally I’m from Mühldorf. You know it?”

“I’ve heard of it. Never been.”

An older blue-haired woman walked by with her Schnauzer, reaffirming that dogs begin to take on the characteristics of their owners if given ample opportunity. She and her dog looked at the two men. The dog took the lead in seemingly passing judgment on the liquid aspect of the two men’s lunches.

A few seconds later a woman came by pushing a stroller with a cooing baby inside.

“You have any kids?” asked the young man.

“Me? Not that I know of,” said Sepp. “I usually change girlfriends every few years. Whenever a girl mentions anything about starting a family I know it’s a good time to start looking for another girl. You?”

The young man paused for a moment and then spoke.

“A few days ago a woman called me. She knew my name and told me her name was Sabina. She asked if I remembered her – I said I did, though I didn’t. She said we’d hooked up after meeting at Club 089 in late December last year. Said she was carrying my child, she was sure it was mine. She told me that she didn’t want anything from me except to be with her when the baby came. Her brother and mother were going to come from Switzerland to be with her but had had a pretty serious accident on the way to Munich, so they’d be unable to be with her. I told her I would do it. The baby was overdue so the doctors were going to induce labor this morning at around nine. I tried to get into the hospital right over there, but since I didn’t know her last name they couldn’t let me in. The receptionist told me that there were four different Sabinas at the hospital today, and I couldn’t just walk around peeking in different rooms looking for the one with my child.”

“Wow. Can’t you call her?” asked Sepp.

“No. In all of the excitement I forgot to charge my phone and the battery is completely dead. Now I have a child that I know of, but may never know.”

Sepp was alone, like the young man The young man got up and left, his shoulder heaving as he walked away. Sepp was alone now too, left to rue his choice of sitting down next to the young man.

Only a few minutes earlier a baby had been born to a strong, solitary woman named Sabina. Hurt, she’d sworn that she’d never answer any phone calls from the young man, ever. She kept her promise…

Kept Secrets

A typical August Exter house in Pasing

A typical August Exter house in Pasing

Cody enjoyed walking down August-Exter Street in Pasing, on which whose eponym had built some of the loveliest century-old residences in west Munich. Many of the houses he designed are famous for having a round tower in one corner of a four-sided structure. Cody’s customers who he was meeting in a few minutes had told him all about the man and his specific style, and it was information like that which made Cody glad he was an English teacher in Munich.

He rang the bell at exactly the appointed hour. Within seconds he was buzzed through and was met by the smiling faces of Edeltraud and Franz. They were always smiling when he met them for their two hour English lesson.  They were not typical Bavarians. Their son, who was a pilot for Lufthansa, had married a woman from Jamaica who bore them two grandchildren with cappuccino-colored skin.

“How do you guys always seem to be in such a great mood, in such great spirits?” asked Cody.

“We sleep in separate bedrooms,” replied Franz. He had a very quick wit for his seventy plus years. “It’s the secret to a long and happy marriage.”

Edeltraud smiled and rolled her eyes. She was about ten years younger in appearance and shared his playfulness. She offered Cody coffee, tea, and juice as usual.

After a few minutes of pleasantries, Cody explained the difference between the present perfect and the past simple tenses. He also told them that that was where the better English teachers made their money because it was a difficult concept for Germans to get. “Ich habe gemacht in German does not translate to I have made. It translates to I made.”

They were both retired, yet they treated these English lessons as if they were studying for a university entrance exam, sort of.

“Edeltraud, you’ve travelled all over Europe and you told me last month that you really enjoy visiting palaces and such. See how I used the past simple with last month. What’s the nicest palace you’ve ever visited?” asked Cody. And then whispering, “in your life up to now?”

“That’s easy, Charlottenburg, near Berlin. Here, let me show you.”

Edeltraud then got up and walked to the largest book shelf in the living room and pulled out her picture album of Charlottenburg. Though she pulled books and albums often, neither Cody nor Franz tired of it. She was a former history teacher after all. Edeltraud then explained in much detail the palace and its former residents, the Hohenzollern. Cody did not correct now, and rarely did in such situations, as he felt he had become the student and his pupils were the purveyors. She ended with a lovely few minutes on Fredrick the Great.

“Fredrick’s homosexuality was an open secret,” said Edeltraud. “Charlottenburg is the nicest palace I ever was in.”

“The nicest palace I’ve ever been in,” corrected Cody.

“His homosexuality is a fact,” said Franz, “that the Nazis forgot.”

Cody felt his chest tighten. In the ten to twelve odd lessons he had had with Edeltraud and Franz, he had yet to broach the subject of Nazism with them. This was about to change.

Like many Americans, Cody was fascinated by the whole Nazi period. The best-selling biographies from year to year were not about Jefferson or Lincoln or Washington or Kennedy. They were about Hitler. The top walking tour at Radius Tours in Munich was invariably the Third Reich Tour. How such a cultured and educated populace had been hoodwinked and bamboozled remains one of the most researched ‘case studies’ of the 21st century.

“Franz, are you sometimes frustrated that many people in the world only think of Hitler and Nazis when they hear  the word Germany?” asked Cody.

“What can we do?” Franz asked rhetorically. “It’s the biggest thing in Europe of the last one hundred years.”

“I once read that Albert Speer not only designed his buildings for the moment, but he planned on how they would look in ruin a thousand years later,” said Cody.

“Yes, that’s right. And he had rally big plans for Munich. Did you see them yet?” asked Franz.

“Have you seen them yet, Franz. And no, I haven’t,” replied Cody.

Edeltraud then stood up and walked over to a different shelf. It was smaller than the shelf with the photo albums. She blew off a bit of dust from the top of the book after she had pulled it out. She opened the book to a page that looked a lot like Google’s ‘Earth’ view, only it was in black and white.

“This is a look at how Speer wanted Munich to look like. He wanted to move the central train station two and a half kilometers due west to Laim. The area between Laim and our present central station was to be a wide street with neo-Classical buildings on both sides. It was to be a sort of, what’s the word, Umzug, place,” said Franz.

“Parade ground,” said Cody.

“That’s it,” said Franz. “But they never got to it. I (sic) show you something.”

Franz got up and left the room. Edeltraud and Cody continued to look at the book. They could hear Franz in the other room searching for something. After a few minutes he returned. He was also carrying something wrapped in an old towel or rag.

“Here it is.” Franz unfurled it. “It was given to me by my father’s sister. I don’t even know what I should do with it.” The object was also a book, but the title was difficult to discern. He opened it to the title page. Cody read the words and audibly gasped.  Mein Kampf.  Below those words it said Kopie Nummer #324.

Mein Kampf

Cody felt a wave and a rush pulsate through his body. He hoped that neither of his hosts noticed his excitement. His mind raced. All of his desire to come to Munich, the early home of the great man, the place where it all started, the birthplace of the Reich,… ‘That’s the reason why I came here,’ thought Cody to himself. ‘And now I am looking at one of the earliest copies of the Hitler’s words. Somebody who knew him personally, or Hitler himself, probably handled this book,’ thought Cody. His whole reason for being and leaving Mississippi to come to this cold wet damp place was realized in that moment. Oh how he wanted that book! If only his Aryan Front brothers and sisters could see him now!

“I didn’t know you had that,” said a surprised Edeltraud.

“We all have our secrets,” said Franz.

“Yes we do,” said Cody, as his cheeks flushed red. He felt the twin swastikas tattooed on the inside of his cheeks burn.

“Yes we do.”