Lost in Germany

We found an auditorium where a heavy metal band was playing. Thick smoke floated above our heads. Red laser beams flashed in the air. People danced with their eyes closed, waving their arms in slow motion, grasping at imaginary objects with their fingers. I watched them with nervous curiosity.

After the show was over, I stumbled into the street with Greg and Jesse. It was time to return to the youth hostel. We walked down a staircase in the sidewalk, into the concrete labyrinth where the subway trains lived. We boarded a train and rode through the tunnel a few minutes. Then we stepped off and climbed another set of stairs.

When we reached the top of the stairs and looked around, we didn’t recognize the signs and buildings around us. We had gotten off at the wrong stop. We didn’t know where we were. It was almost eleven o’clock. And we couldn’t call our teacher on our cell phones because we didn’t have cell phones. It was 1998.

So we rambled through the streets, asking strangers for directions to the youth hostel where we were staying. Most of them were friendly and polite, but they had never heard of the Jump In Youth Hostel. We even found a black taxi cab parked indiscreetly on the sidewalk, a common practice in Germany. The driver sat behind the wheel, sipping coffee and listening to the radio. We eagerly asked him to take us to the Jump In Youth Hostel, but he shook his head and started pointing, giving us directions in German. None of us understood German well enough to know what he was saying. We mumbled “danke” and walked away, disappointed and discouraged.

We walked through the subway and found a group of policemen playing cards in a small, dirty room with pictures of naked women plastered on the walls. We explained our predicament to them. They also gave us helpful directions in German.

***

You’ve been reading an excerpt from How to Make an Artist Miserable. The Kindle version is free May 19-23. The paperback version is $5 plus shipping and handling as always.

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Copyright 2015, 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.

Yard sale treasures

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Here are some more pictures I’ve drawn in my new Moleskine sketchbook. The top one is Matt Smith, the star of Doctor Who. I told my friend Jill I wasn’t going to post it, but I changed my mind. The other picture is my blogger friend Sophie Bowns. I put a lot more time and energy into the Sophie picture. The Matt Smith picture was just a spasm of silliness.

This afternoon, as I was walking out of the bank, I noticed there was a yard sale going on at my church — which is a stone’s throw away from the bank. (If you really want to get technical, it wasn’t a yard sale. It was actually a parking lot sale. But never mind that.) I shuffled over to the church parking lot, where my pastor and his wife had arranged clothes, coffee mugs, DVDs, and several other knickknacks on tables under a canopy. The first thing I saw was a purple coffee mug, situated at the very front of the pile, with the words “Ich liebe dich” printed on it. (That means “I love you” in German.) There was also a picture of a German cartoon character called Diddle Mouse on the mug. I thought this was amazing because I bought a Diddle Mouse doll when I was in Germany fifteen years ago. (For my little sister, not for myself. I want to clarify that.) I was just wondering the other day if Diddle Mouse was still around. And there he was, on a table in the church parking lot, a LONG way from home. So I snatched up the coffee mug.

I also bought a movie called Murder on Flight 502, starring Farrah Fawcett and Sonny Bono. It looked exactly like the kind of thing nobody in their right mind would ever want to watch, so I’m sure I’ll love it. Judging by the picture on the front of the DVD case, it looks very melodramatic … and very 70s. I might write a review of it later.

Martha Berry’s backyard

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In 1998, I almost became a foreign exchange student. I use the word “almost” because real exchange students generally spend an entire year in a foreign country, attending school and speaking the language of the locals. But when I traveled to Germany fifteen years ago with some other students from Model High School, my experience was somewhat different. The trip only lasted three weeks. And I wasn’t officially a “student,” you see. I just sat around in various classrooms, doodling on pieces of paper and wondering what the people around me were saying. (I can speak German, but I’m not exactly fluent.)

For two weeks, I lived with a wonderful family in Heidelberg. (Or was it Weinheim? I can’t remember now.) The family spoke excellent English and took very good care of me. When I wasn’t using up the oxygen at school, they took me to museums, carnivals, restaurants, and castles. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Since then, we’ve kept in touch.

Wolfgang and Regine, my “German parents,” came to Georgia last week to visit my parents and me. It was their first stop in a long, meandering vacation all over Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. (Their sons, Jochen and Matthias, stayed behind in Germany. They’ve visited before, though. Jochen came here in October, actually. I introduced him to Steak n Shake and all its glorious American cholesterol.)

I’m not a morning person, but I got up early this past Saturday so I could spend the whole day with my German friends. I drove to my parents’ house, half-asleep and barely functioning, and drank coffee with Wolfgang, Regine, and my parents. Then all five of us squeezed into my dad’s car.

If you’re entertaining visitors from another country, you don’t want to bore them to death with Wal-Mart or a neighborhood yard sale. You want to show them a landmark you’re proud of, something grand and noteworthy. So we went to Martha Berry’s house and took a guided tour. It was an incredible place, especially the library, and the gardens outside were mind-bogglingly beautiful. I felt like I had stepped into a Pinterest photo. And the tour guide was witty and charming.

Afterward, we rambled all over the Berry College campus, admiring the elegant stone buildings and almost running over the teenage girls who had flocked there to be photographed in their prom dresses.

From there, we went to my apartment in the backwoods of Chattooga County, so Wolfgang and Regine could see where I live now. Then we headed back to Rome and ate at the Homestead Restaurant (one of the best restaurants on earth) just as a thunderstorm rolled in. After we left the Homestead and went back home, the five of us sat in my parents’ living room for a long time, laughing and telling stories, while the lightning flashed outside and the electricity threatened to sputter out. Around midnight, Wolfgang and Regine told us goodbye and went back to their hotel. I was thrilled to spend the day with them, but I was sad to watch them drive away in the rain.

The next morning, they caught a plane to Florida. They’re in Miami now, I believe.

I apologize if I’ve bored you senseless with all these tedious little details. I’m mainly doing it for my own benefit, so I can remember everything later. I want to preserve this past Saturday, to hold onto it forever, the same way you might press a four-leaf clover between the pages of a book so that you can pull it out and look at it again later.

(I wish I could say I took these photos, but I didn’t. My mother did.)

My novel, Under the Electric Sun, is available on Kindle. It’s a dystopian science fiction story about a boy, a cybernetic raccoon, and a large insect from another planet. You can click here to download it.

Plane

Early this morning, I dreamed I was sitting on a plane, waiting for it to take off. I was about to go to Germany. There was a stewardess and a few other passengers hanging around inside the plane with me, making small talk and pacing around. The atmosphere was extremely casual. Ridiculous, actually. I hadn’t even bought a ticket yet, but they were still letting me sit there.

Then I pulled out my wallet and counted my money. I didn’t have as much as I had thought, but I did notice a couple of twenty dollar bills, wadded up and crammed in one end of the wallet.

I asked the stewardess how much it cost to ride the plane. I don’t remember what she told me, but the amount she asked for was more than I had. So I got up and shuffled off the plane, feeling embarrassed and bummed out.

In the next scene, I was walking quietly through Kroger with my mother, watching her place items in her buggy. I still felt disappointed.

I need to mention that I went on a school trip to Germany in 1998 and spent three weeks there. I stayed with a family there for two of those weeks. They’re wonderful people. I still keep in touch with them. In my dream, I was excited about visiting them again and seeing all the castles, cathedrals, villages, trains, and ice cream shops.

I’m not sure what the dream meant. But I thought I would write about it here so I can remember it later.

Also, I’m sorry for the sloppiness of these blogs. I used to write for a newspaper, and I was pretty good at writing in a hurry. But that was a long time ago. I still write on a regular basis, but I mostly do fiction now. I believe in the importance of a strong work ethic, but I’m not used to popping out little nuggets like this every day. I generally write something … and then I dilligently re-write it … and re-write it … and re-write it. So I feel embarrassed about the quality of these posts. I’m afraid I’ve been churning out crap for the last three days.