Tonight's entry is being written from the grid-city of Mannheim, in a smoky, subterranean venue called Cyber's Place. I can't tell what kind of hardware I'm using, since the monitor is embedded in an elaborate, burnished metal casing studded with a high-tech, rococo ornamentation, part of the work-station decoration to make their terminals here look unusual. As for Mannheim, it's a planned city which was laid out a century or two ago, and its elliptical, central core (the "Quadrate") has blocks defined by numbers in one direction and letters in another, vaguely like Sacramento or Washington DC. What's really strange here is the blue "straße" signs one is accustomed to using, which are mounted up on the exterior walls all over Europe at intersections, just say (zum Beispiel) "S2" or "F7". Walking around tonight, I've been dazzled by the design of things available in shop windows - a common feeling for me in Europe, but especially pronounced here. I walked around inside one of those "Bauhaus" stores for the first time tonight - they're kind of like a German version of the American "Home Depot" chain, only not as large. These are subtitled "für Werkstatt Haus und Garten". In another store I inspected their display of Lava Lamps - the ones I see here apparently are from Britain, from a company which claims to be "The Original, Since 1963": Mathmos. (I thought they came from Chicago.)
The next day we went to breakfast in a local café, then walked through the woods to visit an older friend of hers from Baltimore. Afterwards we met another of her chums, Regie, who has a car - she drove us to Bern, the Swiss capital. Like Berlin, Bern is big on bears - we saw their own, who live in a couple of pits, where people throw them food. These are very big brown bears, who look kinda like pandas, only brown & tan instead of black & white (with very long claws).
Then we returned to the Swiss Miss' place, collecting some stuff from Regie's boyfriend's apartment on the way - we were to have an at-home pizza party, since Regie has this tabletop cooking unit. Under a clay dome, we each inserted little spatulas upon which we'd constructed our own personal pizzas. In addition to drinking wine (Regie'S boyfriend had joined us too) they were also smoking pot, Euro-style - this means rolling filtered joints of the good stuff mixed with tobacco, a custom the understanding of and experience with which means I believe Bill Clinton when he says he didn't inhale, at Oxford - that smoke is nasty!
The next morning I left, with lonely feelings afterwards which took a day to fade. She kept her distance - I think she's really engaged to the guy she calls her ex-boyfriend - although she implied that she'd go along with it if I was nuts enough to offer my own proposal. But right now we're just buddies, a situation that's fine with me - I like having this European friend.
I rode the trains on to the border city of Basel. (It's up in that corner of Switzerland adjacent to France and Germany.) There, earlier today, I had this trip's big art experience, a visit to their Kunstmuseum. Many Impressionist paintings, a few Surrealist and Van Gogh pictures, a whole exhibit of Léger, and a room full of Klee; even a famous Lichtenstein ("Hopeless"); plus a whole bunch of "old master" stuff which I bypassed. Basel is celebrating Autumn now, a long-time custom of theirs, apparently - every available square had a bunch of booths and carnival rides. The latter, which C calls "twirlies", seemed much more radical than their American counterparts; but frankly it has been a long time since I've made that midway scene. Both in Basel and Bern, speaking of smoke, while walking their streets I'd catch the occasional whiff of the non-tobacco kind.
canton - one of the "lands" of Switzerland
Kunst - art
straße - street
Werkstatt - workshop
zum Beispiel - for example
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