Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A secret in the open

Sometimes, living in Germany, I experience some surreal moments. Here’s one. 

The other night I was sitting in a bar with two friends. I’m not going to reveal their real names, but let’s call them Hannah and Marie. Just so you know, I’m very close with Marie and, in confidence a year or so ago she told me that Hannah’s grandfather was, to use her words, “a very bad Nazi.”

Now, Hannah is very ashamed of this fact and would prefer that the fewer people who know it, the better. However, Marie couldn’t help but tell me, as she knows I am a WWII-history buff. Still, being the good friend she is, Marie told Hannah that she had told me. Now, Hannah and I have seen each other many times since Marie spilled the beans. But Hannah and I never openly discussed her infamous relative even though she knew I knew of his existence.

Well, we never discussed this relative of Hannah’s until the other night at the bar. What happened was, after having downed a few beers, the subject of Nazis somehow came up, and in the interest of just putting it all out there – and owing to the fact that I was a little buzzed – I decided to tell Hannah that I indeed did know who her Nazi relative was, that Marie had indeed told me.

However, I just wanted one slight clarification. “But this guy was your great-grandfather, right?” I said to Hannah, who was sitting across the table from me. I asked Hannah this question because Marie had always told me that Hannah’s grandfather was the culprit. But after having learned about this man, I had done a little googling and had discovered that Hannah’s grandfather would have been too young to fit the bill.

“‘Great-grandfather’ is ‘Urgro├čvater' in German, right?" Hannah asked Marie, who’s English is better. 

“Right,” Marie said. 

“Then, yes," Hannah said, turning to me. "You're right."

There was a tiny pause. Trying to smooth things over and perhaps make the moment not as weighty, Marie turned to Hannah and said, “You shouldn’t feel that bad, though. I mean, my grandfather was actually in the Hitler Youth.”

“Yeah, but come on. The Hitler Youth,” Hannah replied, and in doing so gave me a look.  

Now, I gotta say, in this moment, this look that Hannah gave to me said everything. Essentially, with this look, Hannah was totally pooh-poohing Marie’s comment about her grandfather having been in the Hitler Youth because being in the Hitler Youth just meant that you were a tiny dot in the Nazi universe. 

Hannah’s great-grandfather, however, was something much larger. He was actually an SS commander and had been in charge of crushing a major anti-Nazi uprising, a task that resulted in the deaths of thousands of people. 

After Hannah made her “But come on, the Hitler Youth” comment, we all kind of dropped the subject. But, really, I can't emphasize enough how much had been revealed in that 
quick look Hannah had given me. It was like she was trying to convey this: The Hitler Youth? That’s nice and all, but if you actually looked up exactly what my great-grandfather was responsible for, well, maybe you’d be singing to a different tune.

And then we all ordered another drink at this nice trendy bar in Hamburg.

I’m telling you, some very trippy experiences you have here in Germany sometimes.

Friday, January 20, 2017

I Just Emailed to Say...

One thing that my mom and I have in common is that we both like words. She was an English teacher and has a master's in American Literature and just really appreciates the well crafted poem, story, sentence. So sometimes, I write to her, telling her things that I like and asking her opinion on them and then we discuss it. Sometimes, I hear things, songs, maybe an article, that she likes and then point her in the direction of it. Anyway, below is an email I wrote to her recently, telling her about a song I've rediscovered and a section of it that I thought she would particularly like. I thought the email was interesting enough to post. I hope you do too.

Hi Ma,

I just wanted to write to you because I heard something the other day that I thought you would like too.
Because I've been very much into song writing lately, I've been very conscious of how songs are structured/their lyrics.
Anyway, did you ever realize how nice the song "I Just Called to Say I Love You" is?
What's interesting is that for the entire verses, he's saying reasons why he is NOT calling. For example: "No New Years Day to Celebrate ...  No first of spring ... No flowers bloom," etc. I thought that was a nice paradoxical twist.
But I'm actually brining this song to your attention because I thought you'd particularly like the second verse, which starts, "No summer's high."
I'll reproduce the rest of the verse here, but I suggest you listen to the song first, then look at the lyrics. 
Let me know what you think!
No summer's high 
No warm July
No harvest moon to light one tender August night
No autumn breeze
No falling leaves
Not even time for birds to fly to southern skies