Friday, January 4, 2013

Germany: There and Back Again

Editor's note: After I posted this, I couldn't believe I had left out the most obvious similarity between me and hobbits. See * for the corrected paragraph.

Dear Husband’s concert schedule allowed us to have New Year’s Eve 2012 to ourselves, and because I was flying out of Chicago to Berlin already on January 1, we decided to spend the day/night in the Windy City. Amazingly we had no weather problems and arrived in time to catch Charlie Brown and the Great Exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry with some friends. We also visited the trains (see below). The friends bailed on us to go to a NYE party, so we drove forty minutes across town to check into our hotel. I know the point of a city (relative to a rural area) is to concentrate services and amenities, but I don’t think I could live in Chicago. Maybe there are cohesive neighborhoods amid the sprawl, but I’ll probably just cross it off my “potential residencies” list and look for something smaller. DH is relieved! Who knew when we moved from the East Coast to a Midwest college town that we would like it so much?

Suddenly without plans for the evening, I used the slooow hotel internet to find a steakhouse 15 minutes away that would “squeeze [us] in” if we arrived by 6:15, which we did. (They weren’t busy when we arrived, but they were when we left an hour later.) Steak for him, seafood pasta for me—and a Strawberry Blonde that tasted a little less like cough syrup when I squeezed the garnish lemon into it. We justified the pricey meal with the thought of eating our leftovers for lunch the next day, thereby sparing us the cost of lunch at O’Hare.

Chicago! Trains! Nighttime! (Those are airplanes hanging from the ceiling.)
On our way back to the hotel, I noticed a small movie theater offering The Hobbit. On a whim, we parked the car and walked in to check the next showing—7:25pm! To our chagrin, this theater actually begins the feature film at the time stated on the marquee, but we seem to only have missed 15 minutes of back story on Smaug, which we both knew from reading the books and seeing the animated film. It’s been 15 years since I read The Hobbit, so I had a harder time noticing what Peter Jackson changed, but DH had re-read it just a couple years ago and shifted uncomfortably in his seat more and more toward the end of the movie. In the car afterward he listed off the minor and major details that had been altered, some for the sake of creating a more cohesive film, and others that in his opinion altered the tenor of the story. (Ask him if you want to know the specifics; I don't want to spoil it here.)

Me and the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree
I’m feeling a bit like a hobbit.* For one, I am accustomed to eating every two-three hours, including second breakfast almost every day. For two, it would be easiest for me to stay at home, where everything is comfortable and familiar, put my head down, and write. However, I can enjoy an adventure, and this one should even be good for me. In just four and a half weeks, I’m hoping to do necessary follow-up research for two chapters I have already drafted and one I will write this spring that needs better sources. I even left my pocket handkerchief dictionary at home! I didn’t realize it until I was at the airport. Although I frequently read with an internet dictionary open just in case, and I have one on my computer for archives without internet, when I was here on my big research grant I liked having my little yellow Langenscheidt to look words up on the tram or what-not. My German has gotten better, so maybe it is more of a security blanket than a necessity. (By the way, Linus from Peanuts is responsible for introducing the term “security blanket” into our vernacular!)

Despite a lazy morning and having chosen a hotel near the airport, we ended up rushing there, making several wrong turns, and nearly getting me there too late to check my bags. Nevertheless, I had time to eat my leftovers for lunch before waiting in the plane, still at the gate, for an hour for mechanical repairs before we finally took off. The flight was long enough to get uncomfortable but too short to get much sleep. I zombied my way through a day at the archive and am posting this from the apartment of a departmental colleague. I’m staying with friends in three of the four cities I’m visiting on this trip, so like the intrepid band of 14 in J.R.R. Tolkein’s book, I will enjoy a lot of luck on my journey and don’t have to be entirely self-sufficient.

With blessings for the new year,
Frau Doktor Doctor and Dr. Dear Husband

Blurry holiday greetings from us to you!

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