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small violet square I've been thinking about Leipzig - it's a large city in Saxony, (one of the Länder of East Germany). The theme music for this entry is the song of the same name from the early 1980's by Thomas Dolby:
        "Thirty-nine and you need some leeway
 Soon you're eyeing the overseas page
 The trains are running late
 As you close the garden gate
 Stepping through your steel front door frame
 'Dinner's in the microwave, Sweetie'
 Leipzig is calling you Henry
 Leipzig is calling you James..."
I really like the song, but my interpretation of the words is: it's a hymn to quiet English desperation, which actually has nothing to do with the city in Germany - that's just a conveniently close but still exotic (and to my mind, peculiar) destination for fantasy-travel dreaming. But I've been there, for an evening and a morning in November 1994. This was the one night I spent in the former Eastern/Soviet zone during the circular Swiss-Dutch-mostly Deutschland tour I made then. Earlier that day I'd spent several hours in Dresden; both cities were bleak and almost entirely lacking in the amenities I enjoy and have grown accustomed to in the West - no stores, not even vending machines attached tp the outside of buildings at street-level- and in Leipzig, at night, very creepy - hardly any streetlights. (This was also the case in former East Berlin, but not near to the degree I observed in Leipzig.)

small green square My usual modus of walking around until stumbling across a viable hotel was not working out, so I returned to the Bahnhof area and threw myself upon the mercy of a chunky Frau at the Tourist Bureau, who fixed me up at the modern Hotel Deutschland, for over a $100! (Way more than I usually pay.) But this was where the Party apparatchiks stayed, across the central square (the Augustusplatz) from the Universität and the Opera House, and it did have some nice charms - like a wonderful Frühstück buffet in the morning, and cable TV! (The cheap hotels I migrate towards while Euro-traveling never have an in-room television; which doesn't bother me - I have my small radio for distraction if necessary.) Two things I recall from watching - one was German porno, whose speed I found amusing - definitely the male's fantasy, every scenario depicted was enacted more rapidly than in American films of this genre, including the disrobing, foreplay, and actual sex-acts. Second was a report on extreme weather on the East Coast of the USA - views of storm damage at the North Carolina Outer Banks! This was rather alarming, as they showed beach houses collapsing under the waves' onslaught, and one foolish reporter/photographer actually being swept away by a sudden surge. I was on the verge of calling P & L to inquire about their safety; touching base later I learned they'd seen this same footage & reacted with amusement and scorn at this media type's foolhardy behavior, which got him into his predicament (he was rescued). And of course their house is a safe mile from the beach.

small blue square After I grew weary of the screen's offerings I went out for the evening walkabout. An interesting feature of this city (to me) is the big clock mounted high up on the façade of the Rathaus - its face was illuminated with a strong blue light source, which made it very difficult to read. Although the song mentions "the sound of taxi brakes", the screeches I recall from Leipzig were from the many trams sliding back & forth outside my hotel window. One observed frequent sparking from where their superstructure came in contact with the overhead cable (or actually, from when that contact was momentarily broken) - this was rare in the streetcar-intensive towns of the West, like Düsseldorf (due I guess to better-maintained rolling stock). A very European sighting, nonetheless - if you're close enough you can hear the "Pop!" noise the spark makes.

small purple square But the reason I'm thinking about Leipzig now is the current issue I've received of this free monthly "Deutschland" publication I get. A big article describes how renovation of the Bahnhof interior is complete - they turned it into a three-level mall! (Oh, the humanity.) Says it's the biggest Bahnhof building in Germany, very grand and historic looking, I thought. My impression was Hamburg's was of the same magnitude, and when there a week before I'd noticed and disliked this same "renovation" which had occurred there - when comparing with my memory of my previous visit a decade before, it seemed like the whole structure had been added onto, on one side, to accommodate this new multi-level shopping plaza. But at Leipzig they've hacked up this grand concourse, to insert the requisite levels subterraneously. They love it, of course - many jobs created, easier shopping (correcting somewhat the situation I was complaining about a few lines ago) and it gives their idle youth a place to hang out in - but it's just so appallingly American... (sigh). I'm glad I saw it before. We go to Europe to get away from the mall, to visit little intimate shops in winding, narrow streets. But like a lot of the charming, older world, it's being swept away.
        "Every place is just the same, isn't it?
 Leipzig is calling you Benny
 Leipzig is calling you James"

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small white square Yesterday evening I took my new specs back to the shop in the Stanford Shopping Center, and finally got what I wanted. My eyes are so bad I wear what people call "coke-bottle" glasses <1>, and I've found it very difficult to get the lens edges filed down to minimize this "look" - most places can't or won't bevel the edges near enough (their jargon term for this is "rolling"). But finally a real technician of an optician was there, and he did the grinding (to my satisfaction) on the spot - complete with polishing. Rose, meanwhile, flirted shamelessly in an attempt to make another sale - and it may just work, too - this place has real polaroid prescription sunglasses (Revo H2Os). Unfortunately the prescription of my new glasses is strange - I can't focus normally for reading unless I push them way down my nose - I suppose bifocals are required now, for your aging narrator.

Deutsch Glossary
Länder - divisions of Germany - sometimes, former kingdoms; like the states of the U.S.
Bahnhof - train station
Frühstück - breakfast
Rathaus - city hall

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<1>"Coke-bottle-bottom glasses" would be more accurate, I think. The expression may have become truncated over time, like "Happy as a clam at high tide" Back