Archive for June, 2009

Oktoberfest – Part 1

June 29, 2009

To balance out a year that contains Fasching, another grueling fortnight of wild abandon is known as Oktoberfest.  This festival falls during the first sixteen days up to the first Sunday in October.  It is celebrated mostly in Munich, down in Bavaria, but the entire country of Germany has its local partying.  My parents, who turned out to be pretty big party goers (imagine that), teamed up with several other couples and chartered a bus to take them over there for Oktoberfest.  Everyone’s kids, those that were over the age of 16 that is, got to go along on the trip to Munich also.  This meant that Virginia and I would be able to take part in the celebration.  We were overjoyed.

The American school system made allowances for local customs and shut down the school during both Fasching and Oktoberfest.  This was mainly due to the lack of support personnel in the office and custodial positions – as well as some teachers themselves.  Once again, I saved, schemed, and worked my butt off to gather enough money to make the trip worthwhile.

The big day came and we all loaded up the buses (we had two of them) and headed East.  Virginia and I, along with several other teens, chose to sit near the rear of the bus and chatted most of the way.  With that many teens concentrated in one spot, we had to suffer the indignity of two chaperones sitting in our midst.  Therefore, nothing much happened except when Virginia and I found that by scooting down in the seat with just the top of our head showing, we could do a little petting on the side without anyone getting wise; nothing really spectacular but enough to make us come up for air every half hour or so.

My parents had bought my dad and I a pair of lederhosen each which are short, leather pants with wide suspenders.  They, along with a white, short-sleeved shirt, long woolen stockings and heavy-soled shoes complete what a well dressed Bavarian wears to Oktoberfest.  I wasn’t so sure I would actually wear the whole thing, but my dad intended to.  Virginia, on the other hand had gone out and bought a spectacular Dirndl to wear.  This is a dress with a very low-cut ruffled blouse contained within a very tight bodice.  It is complemented by a full skirt and covered by an apron.  The knot holding the apron is sometimes used to tell the marital status of the girl:  Left side equals single; right side equals married (or otherwise taken); and at the back means widowed.  Virginia planned to wear her knot on the right, thank you very much.

After a long trip we pulled up to the hotel and piled out.  Claiming our rooms took quite a while as the hotel was full to the brim with party goers.  Before we even made it to the elevators, several of us already had small beer mugs in our hands.  This made the chaperones pretty nervous, but after they had a beer or two they relaxed a bit.

I was staying in a room with three other guys on the fourth floor; Roger, Henry and Wayne.  Sadly, I learned that Virginia was with three other girls on the sixth floor; Paula, Molly and Cleo.  This was going to require some footwork I could see.  Investigation proved that there was a service elevator just for hotel staff down our hall and through a small door.  Since I spoke the best German, I was elected to feel out the various bellboys, maids and sundry helpers for information we could use.  It took about ten minutes all told but I secured the use of the staff elevator for our use also.  American cigarettes still spoke with authority in Germany.  Three packs a day allowed unlimited use of the elevator.

Virginia’s and my parents allowed us to eat together at a double table that evening but all four of them warned that we were not to have any alcohol.  We kept that promise by reverting to Apfelsaft.  Well, what the hell, it isn’t champagne but sure looked like it.  Our waitress was cool enough to make it look like light wine.  Heck, she wasn’t much older than we were.  I asked her when she would get off duty and drew a scowl from Virginia until she realized I was trying to fix up one of my roommates.

After dinner, the two of us just strolled down the street and watched the preparations for the festival kickoff tomorrow at noon.  We ended up all the way down the street to a huge grass area covered with carnival rides of all sorts.  This, we said to each other, is where we would start tomorrow.  As night fell, we walked back to the hotel hand in hand and filled with anticipation.

That evening, the four of us infiltrated the sixth floor and determined that out girls were being held in the second room away from service elevator. Given the arrangement of the rooms, that meant that there was a connecting door between the two rooms.  All we had to do was find out who was in the adjoining room.  While we were discussing a method to determine this, I heard a door shut and looked down the hall.  Virginia’s friend Paula walked up to us and stopped.  Here was our answer – we’d just ask her.

It turned out to be a disaster.  Molly’s parents had taken the room next to the girls.  We didn’t know if this was by design, or that it was just a roll of the dice.  We could see that we would have to be very sneaky – er, circumspect, in our plans.  The odds of getting any of the girls alone in either their, or our, room was going to be pretty slim indeed.

The next morning, I decided to get decked out in full Bavarian regalia.  I felt faintly foolish, but once I made it to the restaurant for breakfast I felt right at home.  Virtually everyone in the room had some form of traditional German Oktoberfest costume on.  All of us sat at a huge trestle table and dug in.  The four of us guys had more or less aligned with the girls.  I was with Virginia, of course, while Roger and Cleo, Paula and Henry, and Molly and Wayne paired up.  Everyone was anticipating a really great time today as we streamed out of the hotel and headed downtown to the huge park.

Virginia and I sampled a lot of the midway attractions by starting at one end and moving down the line to the far end.  There must have been a couple of hundred small booths with everything from ring tosses to water balloon busting.  Virginia got a bit upset when I stayed at one booth a bit longer than normal because there was a very attractive young lady in a swimsuit over a tank of water.  I must have blown about five or six Marks trying to dunk her by hitting that target with a ball.  I never managed it though.  The game must have been fixed.  Virginia finally dragged me away literally by the ear.  The potential dunkee just laughed.  I was mortified – for about ten seconds.

Another favorite, for both of us this time, was what was called a Centipede.  A train of little cars rode around a disk that tilted one way and another as you circled.  Periodically, a cloth cover would appear and enclose each car.  This was the best time because we would squeeze closer, hug and kiss until the top opened again.  We rode that one five times in a row.

I wanted to try the parachute drop, but Virginia talked me out of it.  Actually, she didn’t have to try very hard because it looked a bit dangerous to me.  You were attached to a harness, lifted up about a hundred meters (300 feet) and dropped to freefall down a cable.

Noontime came and went with the two of us chomping huge wursts covered in sauerkraut and mustard.  Every bite you took squirted juices all over the place.  They sure were good.  After lunch, neither one of us wanted too violent a ride so we opted for walking down to the municipal lake and renting a swan boat.  We pedaled out into the lake and just sat back and watched all the revelry on shore.

I was fairly surprised when Virginia leaned over on my shoulder and whispered into my ear that she wanted to go back to the hotel.  I asked her if she was feeling okay and she answered that she was fine, just frisky, and stuck her tongue into my ear.  I churned the water heading for shore.

Among the four of us boys, we had agreed that hanging the do not disturb sign on the door would indicate exactly what it meant.  We further agreed that the longest time we would have it out there was one hour, starting on the current hour.  When Virginia and I arrived, it was forty minutes past the hour and the sign was out (dammit) so we went down to the bar and had a glass of schnapps to pass the time.  When the hour chimed on the mantel clock, we headed back up to the room.  Paula and Henry passed us on their way to the elevator and the sign was gone.

I opened the door, ushered Virginia inside, and turned to hang the sign out.  Both of us knew that we didn’t have a whole hour so we tried to make the best of it.  After our initial frenzied unbuttoning, unsnapping and unzipping, we both slowed to a halt.  Virginia said that she wanted to have more time and felt rushed right now.  I reluctantly agreed even though she was partially undressed and lying across my lap and I was in a high state of excitement.  She helped me through the crisis by taking matters into her own hands and resolving the situation.  I expressed my gratitude appropriately and then helped her to dress again.  Apparently, it is almost impossible to tighten one of those bodices by yourself; there has to be somebody behind you to pull on the laces and tie them.  At least I was useful there.

Daytime gave way to night time and, after a dinner of schnitzel and potatoes we all trooped down the street to the huge Hofbrau Haus.  The Hofbrau Haus is THE place to be in Munich during Oktoberfest.  There must have been three or four hundred people in each hall with hundreds waiting to get in.  Once we finally gained entrance and sat at another trestle table we waited while buxom waitresses scuttled here and there loaded with either full liters of beer or taking empties back to be refilled.  Meanwhile, the din was terrific with competing oompah bands at either end of the hall belting out polka music.  Every third song was a drinking song and if you didn’t participate you were heckled into submission.  It didn’t matter if you knew the words (most didn’t) but how enthusiastic you were.  Thumping your beer mug on the table, stomping your feet, swaying right and left and screaming out the words while trying mightily to not slop beer on your neighbors was the task at hand and we all tried mightily to keep up.

Mugs of beer weren’t paid for when ordered.  The waitress would simply mark the saucer in front of you with a grease pencil for every mug you took.  The honor system was in full effect here – one simply did not cheat at Oktoberfest.  In due time, my dish had four marks on it – four full liters of approximately twelve percent beer – less that slopped while singing.  Woof, I was getting really hammered.  Virginia had stopped at three and just sipped at mine from time to time.  As the hour of midnight struck, everyone stood up and grabbed anyone close and started kissing them until the bands stopped about three minutes later.  This was the signal that the party was shutting down for the night so all of us headed back to the hotel – at various paces however due to the ‘slosh effect’.  On your way out, the grease pencil marks were tallied and the bill paid.

I just barely got Virginia back to her room before a great tiredness came over me.  I struggled over to our elevator and dropped two or three hundred floors to the stop with my room on it, entered the suite and began throwing off clothes on my way to bed.  I noticed just before going unconscious that there were lots of clothes on the floor and not all of them mine.  Several others were snoring heavily already.  Lights out!

Next morning – late – we arose, had a semblance of breakfast and tottered out into the heat (and brightness) of day.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I was severely hung over from last night.  Beer hangovers make your feet, fingers, and tongue very fat.  It is hard to create a coherent sentence when called on, but after taking a couple of shots at it you begin to make yourself understood.  Thankfully, my parents were already gone so I didn’t run into them.

Virginia was uncharacteristically quiet this morning also.  She held tightly to my arm as we walked slowly up and down the main street with our cameras.  We began to perk up after about an hour of walking.  She tried twice to apologize for what happened yesterday but I wouldn’t let her.  I told her that I should have been a lot more aware of the time limit and just stayed away from the room.  She reminded me that it was her that actually got us started on the whole operation.  Sometime later, as we were heading back to the hotel for lunch, she remarked quietly that Molly’s parents were going over to Chiemsee for the day and wouldn’t be back until nightfall.  It took almost five minutes for the penny to drop.

We got to the door of the hotel, made for the elevator and punched in the sixth floor.  We were walking down the hall when Virginia spotted her door and said that all was clear.  The girls had made up the same signal for room in use as we boys had.  Their system was better though because the sign was meant for two hours instead of one.  I noted that it was just coming up on noon which gave us until around two in the afternoon.  Things were definitely looking up.

Three lovemaking sessions later, which were interspersed with a gambol in the tub, we were just getting dressed when we heard voices in the room next door.  Had Molly’s parents come home?  Shamelessly we listened at the connecting door until we could make out what was going on.  Virginia was the first to recognize a voice as belonging to Molly.  I added that I thought the other was Wayne.  Periods of quiet were punctuated by giggles, rustlings, and an occasional yip or gasp.  Wayne and Molly were taking advantage of her parent’s absence.  As we were leaving, we could hear the bedposts tapping the wall amid cries of passion.

T.O.M.

Love is everything

June 25, 2009

The next two days in Paris passed all too quickly for Virginia and me.  Sometimes we were with the others, but we did a lot of solo wandering too.  We did visit the Louvre and Notre Dame.  I still have some of those pictures somewhere.  They could be found if I really wanted to find them, but I am afraid if I did they would ultimately make me sad.  We were so happy and so much in love as only sixteen and a half can make you.

The night after Art and Shirley had dinner, he and Benny went out with Carol and Shirley for dinner.  Virginia and I had our dinner in the room.  I had planned on a really great dinner, but all we felt like when the time came was a simple snack.  I think the both of us were a bit nervous.  Hell, I knew I was.  Making hasty love on a train was one thing, but doing it here in this grand hotel room was a far different thing.

We finished our delivered snack, put the tray and dishes outside the door and locked it.  I knew which side of the doorknob placard to show (ne déranger pas – do not disturb) and made sure it was showing.  I turned back to the room just as Virginia turned out all the lights but the one next to the bed.  She was just sitting nervously there on the edge and rose to meet me in front of it.  We held each other’s hands, leaned in, and kissed.  Without any conscious movement, we found we were as close as we could get.  Our arms went around each other and again we kissed; this time with our secret kiss.  We backed up slightly and slowly began to undress each other.  With each bit of clothing that fell to our feet, our excitement grew.  Breathing was becoming difficult for me, so I tried holding my breath.  This turned out to be a bad idea because I got light-headed so I began breathing again.

Virginia stopped me when after I had removed everything but her rose colored panties.  She went over to the closet, reached in, and came out with a transparent nightie made of nothing but cobwebs and clouds.  I wasn’t even sure what color it was as it shimmered in the air.  When she put it on over her shoulders and drew it closed it somehow had enhanced her sheer attractiveness by highlighting her entire body.  Then she reached back in and drew out a silk robe for me.  Never before had anyone ever given me something as sensual as this.  I put it around my shoulders and it seemed to just flow downward over me, but before she let me close it, she reached out and drew my shorts down and off.  I knelt down and removed her panties.

As we turned to the fluffy bed, I quietly slid open the drawer on the nightstand to make sure I had my supply of condoms at the ready – because I sure was.  She pulled the covers back, held out her hand for mine and said “come make love to me”.  I loved her more than life itself at that moment.

We made love several times that night.  I don’t remember how many times, but each time was far more satisfying than the last as we gained confidence and boldness.  Time had stopped for us and we took full advantage of its unmoving stillness.  We clung to each other so hard that our bones protested.  We paused in our lovemaking to sip water and then began again.  What we lacked in experience, we made up for it in sheer desire to please each other.  If there was a paradise on this planet I was in it with my Earth Angel.

Time may have been standing still for us, but it wasn’t for the others.  When Art called up from the lobby and told me that they would come on up in half an hour, Virginia and I reluctantly released each other and she went into the bathroom.  I concluded that from the front or behind, Virginia was really a beautiful woman.  I really hated to see her put clothes back on and slip out the door for her own room.  I hastily remade the bed – paying close attention to tight corners and a straight coverlet.  There would be no doubt in either Benny or Art’s mind how we had spent our evening but that wasn’t any business of theirs, just Virginia’s and my secret.

Since Benny and Carol had use of the room on the fourth, and last, night we would have in Paris, Virginia and I just walked and talked all evening.  Paris is called the City of Lights and it proved that to us everywhere we turned.  Great arches over the Seine were lit, the finger of the Eiffel Tower rose into the night, and every street was brightly lit with hundreds of multicolored lights strung from tree to tree.  It was a lover’s paradise here in the spring and we took full advantage of it.  Wherever we turned, there seemed to be people kissing or sitting arm in arm on the benches.  I had so much affection for Virginia that if I were just a few years older I would have asked her right then to marry me.  Even then, I ached to do so.  We both agreed we were much too young to be thinking of such things, but we couldn’t stop wondering what our life would be like if we were married; we had our first years already planned.

The next day we packed up and returned to the Gare du Nord for our return to Stadt.  We had to change trains at Trier and almost missed our train because of a delay in our arrival.  We were out of breath when we finally hopped aboard the local to Stadt.

When we arrived, and the eight of us split up, my dad walked me back to the car and asked me if I had a good time.  I could have said almost anything, but I think that what told him the most was that I dropped a single condom packet into his hand.  As I did, he actually hugged me and told me he was proud of me.  He can be a bit ambiguous at times so I didn’t quite know how to take that, but I assumed he meant that I had shown restraint.  I guess it also meant that I had demonstrated to him that I respected Virginia both before and after our wonderful trip to Paris.

Once I turned sixteen and a half, I took driving lessons downtown and, after two tries, received my International Drivers License.  I didn’t have a car, but my dad let me use his, but only on special occasions and never off the base at first.  For my first mobile date, I picked up Virginia and drove her over to the Teen Club for a dance.  We must have waited fifteen minutes or so until some of our friends were outside the door; then we drove up.  I parked the car, handed her out of the seat, and received the congratulations of our friends.

The relationship between Virginia and me took on a different demeanor after the Paris trip.  Gone was the awkwardness we suffered in the beginning. In its place came a more candid and fulfilling bond.  Secret glances, brief hand squeezes, slight smiles, and unconcealed love shown from her eyes and, I imagine, mine.  My entire attitude and outlook on life changed almost overnight.  I stopped playing my music loud, stopped harassing my siblings, and even took on a part-time job delivering the daily base newspaper.

Her mom was undoubtedly the first to pick this new attitude of ours up; probably after the first dinner I went to at her house after Paris.  I didn’t know how much Virginia had shared with her mom (or her large father), and I wouldn’t have thought to ask her, so it remained a mystery how much they knew for sure.  My dad certainly knew what had happened on the trip and almost certainly told my mom.  One evening she and my dad sat me down in the living room and, over a small glass of schnapps, we talked.  It was the first really private moment the three of us had ever had.  They asked me about Virginia and I told them that Virginia and I loved each other very much.  Enough to really want to get married, but we wouldn’t even ask for permission because we didn’t want to put anyone in the difficult position of telling us “no”.

Ever on the search for places to visit, Virginia and I wandered the streets of Stadt every chance we got.  I was adept at picking out new destinations such as mills, ruins, and, yes, rail yards; whereas, Virginia was a church person.  She loved churches of any description and would shoot pictures of every one we saw.  Sometimes we would stop at a little sidewalk café and have a coffee or glass of schnapps.  It was on one of our day trips that we found it.  The little inn was nestled right on the edge of a small wood.  She fell in love with it immediately.  One day we went inside and had a lunch in the small restaurant attached to the Gasthaus.  She dared me to ask for a room so I did.  The old guy at the desk told me they only had seven rooms and all were booked full, but next weekend three of them would be free.  I thanked him and went back to a disappointed Virginia.

Next Friday right after school I begged for the car and quickly went downtown (I could do so by now) to the inn. The old guy remembered me, and signed me up for a room.  While he did, he asked me if “ihre Frau” (my wife) would join me.  His face brightened when I told him that she wasn’t ‘meine Frau’ quite yet but only my ‘Verlobtes’ or fiancée (a small fib).  There was no doubt he loved a good romance as well as anyone.  He told me he’d have a special room for us that faced the rising sun every morning.

Saturday came and we made excuses to be out all night at a friend’s house to our respective parents.  We both hated to lie to them, but I think they really just needed something to buffer their feelings a bit.  Virginia told me when we met at the bus stop outside the base gate that her mom had said “be careful” instead of her usual “have fun” and then hugged her.  I don’t think we were fooling anyone.

Once downtown, we checked into the inn, had a very nice dinner, and, for the first time at that wonderful inn, climbed the stairway to heaven.

T.O.M.

An evening in Paris

June 20, 2009

We arrived in Paris about four in the afternoon and, after a really scary ride across town in a couple of taxis, we got to the hotel.  The six of us kids were on our best behavior now.  We certainly didn’t want to cause Arlo or Mama any trouble.  We retired to our rooms (the three of us guys in one and the three girls in another) to get ready for the evening.  Parisians don’t really start their night life until around seven or eight in the evening Arlo told us, so dinner would be at around six.

The three of us sat around the room and talked about the trip.  Benny asked me point-blank if I had anything to do with Virginia’s deep tan; meaning her flush.  I knew what he meant and replied that I did.  He gave me a thumbs-up and asked the same question of Art.  Art didn’t look as happy as I did so we had to interpret that as a negative.  I resolved then and there to ask Virginia if she could help.  Benny started to relate his experiences with Carol but I rose and went to the bathroom for a shower.  I decided that Benny was one of the shallow ones that didn’t respect Carol at all.  I would never violate the Code of Guy by squealing on him but I sure wouldn’t trust him with any of my secrets.

Eventually we all showered and put on our suits for an evening out.  We had reservations down in the hotel dining room for six-thirty.  Promptly at six twenty-five, we knocked at the door to the girl’s room and were told to come in.  While we guys had been bullshitting each other, they had been down in the beauty parlor getting their hair made up.  Virginia looked absolutely stunning in a bright yellow dress.  Her hair was piled up on her head and her neck was adorned with a single strand of pearls.  She looked about twenty-five years old.  I felt completely gawky in her presence.

We crossed over to our dates and I, for one, kissed Virginia’s hand over a deep bow.  I know, it’s corny, but being a teenager in love and in Paris all at the same time makes a guy just want to be corny.  I said in my best through the nose Maurice Chevalier voice (which was really terrible) that she was ‘ravi-shing, ho, ho’.  She thanked me with a short curtsey, linked her arm into mine and we headed for the door.  Art and Benny didn’t have a clue.  Love was all about being able to be silly with each other, not just being there.

As we left the room (Carol and Shirley weren’t quite ready yet) we rang for the elevator.  I was feeling on top of the world right now.  I was out on the town in Paris, of all places, with a beautiful girl and a pocket full of money.  As we descended to the lobby, I fielded a great kiss from Virginia and a reflected glance from the elevator operator.  He couldn’t have been more than a couple of years older than I.  His look told me everything – I was envied.  There was no doubt of that.  His wistful glance as we kissed told it all.  I was ready to fight off wild animals for her; at least Pepe Le Peu.

I recalled my promise to see if Virginia could help Shirley with Art so I asked her if something had happened between the two of them.  She told me that Shirley was in tears at first because Art had only wanted to start taking off her clothes in the compartment and he wouldn’t stop when Shirley asked him to.  What really made her sad was that Art had torn her new blouse – ripped three buttons right off and tore a seam – in his haste to undress her.  She fended him off by rushing into the bathroom and locking the door.  By the time she finished with her tale, I was ready to bust Art in the mouth for being such a jerk.  Virginia pleaded with me not to say anything though.  I reluctantly said I wouldn’t.

At dinner, our conversation revolved around our trip to the Eiffel Tower tomorrow.  I don’t remember too much about dinner except for two things, Virginia’s nylon-covered toe sliding up my leg, and my first restaurant order of Escargot (snails).  The first was delightful, and the second was tasty – or was it the other way around?  Luckily, the tablecloth was long enough to hide my erection until it subsided.  You think it’s tough to be middle-aged or beyond?  Try being a teenager with a very healthy libido that keeps popping erections when you can’t do anything about them.

The Eiffel Tower was a great experience.  During the ride up, the elevator starts almost sideways as it ascends up a leg of the tower and then slowly begins a more vertical climb.  Sort of like dinner last night – if you know what I mean.  The small restaurant at the top was closed, but there were several vendors with soft drinks and the like available.  When we walked out on the viewing platform, Virginia’s dress inflated fully and snapped into the air from a gust of wind.  It happened just like Marilyn Monroe’s dress in “The Seven Year Itch”.  As I was apparently the only one to see those wonderful legs and garter belt (remember those, girls?), it was no big deal, but she got a little embarrassed over it.  I found out the next day when Benny got into bigmouth mode that he’d seen it too.  I almost pasted him one for the comment as he made it sound unclean somehow.

Speaking of pasting someone, I broke my promise to Virginia by taking Art aside and asking what the hell he was thinking of by attacking Shirley like that.  He was thoroughly chagrined by his actions and vowed to make it up to her.  It seems he had gone down to the bar car with Arlo and Mama and had one beer with them.  German beer is of a much higher percentage of alcohol than American beer and it went directly to his head.  He apologized profusely to me for being such a jerk.  I told him he needed to ask Shirley’s forgiveness much more than mine.

Random thought:

French money is very strange.  It appears to get larger in physical size as the denominations grow.  Don’t get me wrong, they are a beautiful work of art and the American banknotes could take a lesson from the French, but it fits no wallet an American is likely to be carrying.  The only place you can keep it is in your front pocket.  If you try and cram it all into a wallet, you can’t get it back into your back pocket.  It also makes your sit funny on chairs.

With the advent of the Euro, all this is academic I guess.

On the afternoon of the Eiffel Tower trip, Art asked me if Benny and I could give him a little time with Shirley in our room this evening.  We both said we could probably find somewhere to go for a few hours or so.  Maybe we would take our girls out to dinner.  He thanked us profusely and drifted back to Shirley.  She was still miffed at him.  Miffed is a wonderful word because it conveys so much into one syllable.  She was still miffed at him (I like it, I like it), but agreed to have dinner in his room that night.

Benny asked Carol for the night out and I asked Virginia.  They readily agreed and we hunted for a restaurant close by the hotel.  None of us were adventurous enough with our limited French to attempt a taxi ride anywhere.  We found a nice little bistro two blocks away up a small street (alley, actually) that had a little British flag on the door glass.  We went in and made reservations for the four of us (possibly six as we planned on asking Arlo and Mama to join us).  It turned out that the owner was an expatriated British guy that came to Paris after the war (World War 2, remember, this is 1956), loved it, and stayed with his French wife.  He welcomed us several times and made sure we were booked for seven that night.  No problem adding two to our original four if we wanted to.

It was getting close to five now and we hurried back to the hotel to wash up and change.  Art was in the room, beaming from every pore.  Shirley had agreed to have dinner with him in the room tonight at seven-thirty.  Benny and I told him that we would be gone by then for dinner at “Le Drapeau du Royaume-Uni” or, The Union Jack.  We added that there was no doubt dinner would take us more than three hours – if, for no other reason than the French ate slowly and the waiters moved glacially.

By six-thirty the six of us (Arlo and Mama did join us) were strolling down to the restaurant arm in arm.  Virginia looked especially good as she and Carol had gone shopping and spent a really great amount of money on two dresses each.  Hers was a light brown dress with fluffy skirt and Carol’s was a sheath in green.  Carol gave up on her new high heels halfway there and walked the rest of the way in her bare feet.  The sheath was so tight that Benny had to kneel to take her shoes off.

The owner greeted us like long-lost friends and ushered us to a nice candle lit table set off to one side of a dim room.  Once seated, we were offered drinks.  I chose a glass of wine for both Virginia and I, while Benny wanted just water.  Carol had a lemon soda.  I don’t remember what Arlo and Mama had.  Some type of mixed drink I think.

In due course the dinner arrived in stages and we set to.  Conversation revolved around our experiences in Paris so far, and what we were going to do tomorrow.  Arlo had turned the next day over to us to find our own photo opportunities.  I wanted to see the Louvre and Virginia wanted to visit Notre Dame.  A quick glance at our Paris map showed that they were certainly within walking – or Metro – distance of each other.  Mama reminded the both of us that flash pictures inside the Louvre were not allowed.  Something neither of us knew.  It was sure to be posted all over the place, but possibly only in French.  It was going to be a grand tour.  Dinner ended around nine-thirty and the six of us, now stuffed to the gills, waddled back to the hotel.

When we got to our room Benny knocked softly until he got permission to enter.  Art was at a table reading a guidebook but walked over to me and said that I had saved his life.  He was again back in Shirley’s good graces.  No alcohol was involved, he told us, but just an application of apology and good manners.  I doubt if Benny noticed, but I saw that Art’s bed wasn’t made up to hotel standards at all.  It looked neat, but the pillows were dented and the coverlet was crooked.  I was as happy for them as I was after my first time.  I knew for a fact that it was Art’s first time too.  I silently shook his hand and smiled.

T.O.M.

Tragedy & Triumph

June 16, 2009

We had our fair share of tragedy too.  One of the girls I was originally introduced to at the Teen Club so long ago ended up pregnant.  She and her boyfriend pleaded with both parents to give their permission to get married.  Neither set budged an inch.  They tried to run away, but got caught at the train station.  Trying parental house arrest for her didn’t work and, one morning, her younger brother told us she was found lying on her bed, dead, with a suicide note in her hand.  Her boyfriend was inconsolable.  Every one of us tried to get him through his grief but it didn’t help.  Within two weeks, he had disappeared from school.  We think he made it away somewhere and began another life.  Both sets of parents were shipped to different duty stations within two weeks.  Virginia and I wept long and hard for the both of them.  It was wonderful to see almost every kid from the school turn up for her funeral.

There was nothing like the anticipation of a trip to Paris in the late spring.  Virginia and I were out of school for the summer and our wanderlust had struck with a vengeance.  We had taken several day or overnight trips before to some of the outlying cities for photographic shoots in the Photo Club.

These trips were usually closely monitored by hawk-eyed chaperones that brooked no ‘funny stuff’.  Sometimes, it seemed as if they came out of your backpack to nip a fleeting kiss or caress in the bud before “anything happened”.  We were young adults and wanted to be treated as such.  To this end, we presented, to the ‘school trip powers that be’, a sort of contract.  If they would assign teachers of our choosing as chaperones we would abide by the rules.  Surprisingly, they agreed and assigned two teachers we wanted to the club.

Mr. Espana was to keep the boys in line, while Frau Bruggerman watched the girls.  I have already described Mr. Espana’s accomplishments and Frau Bruggerman’s effectiveness with the girls was legendary.  He was courtly and she was definitely a lady.  They always kept up their manners and didn’t let us revert to some of our more bad habits.  They tolerated a bit of foolishness, but only if it encompassed the entire group.

Our parents were cool with this arrangement but it was a closely guarded secret between us kids that the both of the chaperones, being European, had an entirely different, and more practical, view of young love.  What our parents didn’t know certainly wouldn’t hurt them.  ‘Funny stuff’ for an American mother translated to ‘let nature take its course’ to a European.

Letting us out on our own for an afternoon of picture taking, or just sightseeing was not unheard of.  In fact, it some cases it was encouraged.  Mr. Espana knew Virginia and I maintained a healthy attraction for each other, and I think, in part, he was interested in seeing how it would develop.  There is no doubt that he would have stepped in should I, for instance, gotten knee-walking drunk, or attempted to rip the clothes off some young girl (or both at the same time), and manacle me.  Other than that, if we treated him and Frau Bruggerman with respect, they would reciprocate.

Virginia and I pestered our parents mercilessly for a week until they finally gave in and gave their permission for a four-night and five-day trip to Paris by our Photo Club.  By the time every parent had returned their permission slips, we found that only eight of us were going.  The eight included Mr. Espana and Frau Bruggerman.  That meant that six of us students – oddly enough, three boys and three girls – would be going.

For three weeks, I baby-sat, washed cars, ran errands, and schemed ways to accumulate money for the trip.  I wanted it to be the finest trip I ever took anywhere.  Virginia was saving her money also so she could buy some really nice clothes there.  My money, a tidy sum of almost seventy dollars, was earmarked for sightseeing and candlelit dinners.  I took a crash course in conversational French in which included simple phraseology such as “where is the bathroom”, “please”, “thank you”, and “how far is the Folies Bergère from here”.

Soon, the big day arrived and we boarded the train for Paris.  I must have developed my love for all things train by living my young life in Europe.  Train travel is huge over there.  Even in the last bit of the 50’s the US had begun to turn their back on their train system and was allowing it to decline.  Not so anywhere in Europe.  Germany, in particular, had an extensive network of trains that ran every day around Germany.  All one had to do was head for the local Hauptbahnhof (main station) and hop aboard.  We occupied four adjoining compartments for the trip; we three boys together, the three girls together, and one each for Mr. Espana and Frau Bruggerman.

Amid chattering and final goodbyes the train chugged out of the station.  Yes, chugged, it was steam driven – a type I still love today.  On trips such as this, and in private with just the club members, Mr. Espana allowed us to call him Arlo.  Frau Bruggerman was affectionately known as ‘Mama’ to all of us.  Within the first hour, Arlo and Mama told us that they were heading down to the bar car for a drink until dinnertime and to amuse ourselves as we wished.  He surreptitiously passed me the key to his compartment and added a wink.  Did this mean what I thought it did?

In a preface to the following paragraphs I would like to say that things get a bit spicy.  If you condemn before reading it, you’re a prude.  If you do after reading it, you could be called a hypocrite.  If you read all of it, shake your head and say to yourself “yeah, I’ve been there”, then you’re perfectly normal and had a life pretty much similar to mine; mostly full of frustrations but an occasional triumphant success.  The following is from the male point of view, so please allow for this.

The evening before I left on the trip my dad astonished me by presenting a pretty forceful argument for abstention by making a pretty crass statement, considering what had happened not very long ago: “you get your girlfriend pregnant and I’ll kill you”.  We got a bit embarrassed after that pronouncement but soon began to talk freely.  Was this was the same guy that tossed me off a roof when I was young and now was giving me advice on what to do in a sexual situation?  Instead of scoffing like I normally did and telling him that I already knew everything (which is a given, being a teenager), I thought about it and asked some good questions.  My first question was “what happens when the situation calls for something other than abstention?”  His advice was to fall back on the second line of defense, condoms.  They were called ‘rubbers’ back then and only in hushed tones between father and son as far as I knew.  Sexual mores in the 50’s were very tightly controlled and not to be talked about as loosely as today.  The very mention of a Sex Shop in any community would have parents marching with firebrands and pitchforks raised. Instead, he handed me a small box that contained a strip of ten condoms saying “this is what you use if you can’t abstain.  I managed to wait until your mom and I were married, but you and Virginia may not be able to.  Please use them if you and she are intimate.”

My next two questions, as you may have guessed, were: “how?” and “when?” He opened the box and showed me the diagram printed on the inside.  I was a quick student, I got very good grades, so following the pictures didn’t seem like a really hard task.  I was still struggling with the fact that he had actually given me permission to make love to Virginia, albeit in a backhanded manner.  We talked for about an hour about pretty much everything I had wanted to know about love, not sex, but love.  Like: “how do you know when it really is love and not lust?”  A good question he acknowledged; and then answered: “The only way you can be sure is to take account of your feelings before and after anything as intense as sex; and it WILL be intense.  If you still respect her and want to remain with her as long as she will have you afterwards then you may have found the right girl.  If you lose interest, or even turn from love to hate, then you are only a shallow person and were only looking to have sex, not love”.  A pretty declarative statement to live by and I was thoroughly impressed by it.  We ended our chat with a small toast of very good brandy.  He toasted me with “bon chance”.  Another phrase I now knew meant ‘good luck’.

As the countryside clacked past us rapidly, the other two guys drifted out of our compartment quietly.  Virginia came into my compartment just as the others were leaving.  She had changed into a pleated skirt and a paisley peasant blouse.  She looked very good to me.  I offered her a sip out of my water bottle and motioned her to have a seat beside me.  We sat for a while watching the scenery go by.  Conversation consisted of wondering what Paris would be like, how much fun we would have there, and whether or not Carol and Shirley would be all right with Benny and Art.  I told her that Carol and Shirley could take care of themselves just as well as she could.  I added that I would never take advantage of her or try and force myself on her in any way.  She said “I know that; you’re too nice a guy” and laid her head on my shoulder.

Eventually, or maybe inevitably, I put my arm around her and held her tight to me.  Our heads turned and we kissed.  She and I have kissed before, but this one was somehow different to me.  It had a deeper meaning inside it I thought.  She seemed to put much more effort into this particular kiss than some of the kissing we had done in the theatre and in her living room.  She tapped me twice on my front teeth with her tongue.  I found this highly sensuous and allowed it to enter.  We tapped the tip of our tongues together twice.  This went on to be a ritual between us because it could be done in complete privacy even in front of her parents or mine.  Before we finished that initial kiss I was already into my first analysis: do I respect her now?  The answer was a resounding ‘yes’.

We had played the ‘wishing game’ before, but this afternoon it took on a more poignant theme when she asked me “what are you wishing right now?”  My brain pushed in the clutch and let my mouth freewheel so I told her that I was wishing I could take her in my arms and make love to her.  Aghast at what I had just blurted out, I began to stammer an apology but she wouldn’t hear of it.  She put her fingers on my lips and made a shushing sound. “That is my wish also” she said very quietly.

The afternoon was moving towards evening, and dinner time was only a couple of hours away, so she rose silently, kicked off her flats and locked the compartment door.  Nothing short of a porter or nuclear device would get that door open now due to good German engineering.  As she came back towards me she reached for the hem of her blouse and pulled it over her head.  Her breasts were hidden behind the cloth of her bra.  By the time she sat back down, she had removed it and firmly replaced its cups with my hands.  We sat face to face on the seat and kissed again as I moved my hands up over her soft shoulders, down her back, and pulled her close to me.  As her breasts touched my chest, she gave a nervous giggle.  She leaned back, reached out to unbutton my shirt, and pulled it off my arms.  We were now both nude to the waist.  We again embraced, this time with just a little nervousness and nothing between us but skin.

By now I had an erection and it was tenting my slacks.  Almost as an accident, she lowered her arm and brushed the back of her hand against the fabric of my pants.  Once could have been an accident, but twice more – this time with the palm of her hand – was beyond accident.  I reacted by putting both hands behind her waist and unfastening the snaps of her skirt.  I suddenly heard my dad’s voice in my head saying “make sure of your intentions” so I stopped and asked her if she was absolutely sure about this.  All she said was “yes, I am sure.  I know that I love you and want to be with you in every way.  I not only love you, but I want you to bring your love to me.”

She stood and the dress fell away to the floor.  As I stood, she unfastened my belt and I unzipped my pants which quickly joined her dress on the floor.  I was faintly surprised that I wasn’t embarrassed that my erection was showing fully in my shorts.  I glanced down and saw my second pair of occupied panties.  My pulse rate escalated, and I swallowed hard several times.  We met in the middle of the compartment and held each other for a moment as the train rocked to and fro.  I reached out and flipped the light switch which left only a small blue night light in the corner.  Before my eyes adjusted to the darkness I heard the wispy sound of her panties sliding down her legs and her steps towards the bench seat.  I turned around to my pre-positioned stash of condoms, dropped my shorts, and donned one before joining her on the seat.  We were both novices at this lovemaking thing so it took several trials and errors to find the right position.  During these efforts nothing was said except some more nervous, muffled giggling – from both of us.  Heavy breathing filled the small room as we settled into position – me on top of her and the both of us clinging tightly to each other.

I am definitely not going to tell fibs here and say that the lovemaking lasted for hours; it didn’t.  I managed to penetrate fully while mentally reciting the times tables, doing three-digit multiplication, trying to count the number of rail joints we passed over, and all manner of delaying the inevitable, but, in the end, I lasted maybe 30 seconds.  When I told her what had happened she just held me tighter and whispered in my ear that we would have four wonderful nights in Paris to make it better.  I decided then and there that I would also respect her afterward.

We both agreed that we would turn on the light before putting on any clothes.  I stood, went into the bathroom and cleaned up a bit.  When I returned, she was standing unabashedly in the middle of the lighted compartment with her arms out.  “Do I please you?” she asked, spinning in a circle.  I told her that she pleased me very much and asked her the same thing.  “Yes, my love” was all she said.  I went to her and we just held each other closely for a moment.  We alternately dressed each other.  Before we left the compartment, I wiped a single tear from her cheek as I held her and told her she was beautiful.  It had been her first time too.

We were the last to reach the dining car and sat down rapidly.  Each of the girls, Carol and Shirley, held an unspoken conversation with Virginia that consisted mostly of raised eyebrows, small smiles, and downcast eyes.  Shirley looked more teed off than happy for some reason. Dinner followed and a short session in the bar car was held before we all headed back to our respective compartments to get some sleep.

T.O.M.

Trains, fads, and picture taking

June 13, 2009

I previously mentioned trains.  I love trains of any description.  Even if Virginia couldn’t go with me I would hop a bus to head for the Bahnhof (train yard) and just watch trains.  There was a great little sidewalk café that was across the street from the yard where trains were made up.  It was there that I developed a taste for ‘kaffe und schnapps’.  Kaffe is, of course, coffee; but schnapps is an eighty-proof fruit brandy and, if you don’t SIP it you’ll start to yodel during the first glass.

Stadt didn’t have a lot of train traffic, but it did host a growing beer industry.  Wagon after wagon loaded with beer would be hooked together and trundled off to be served to a happy crowd in a Bierstube somewhere.  Stadt Pils was the trade name of this medium light beer.  They also made a ‘dunkel bier’ (dark beer) that ran around eight percent (sixteen proof) but it had a very heady flavor that I didn’t like very much.

Once, when a crew just off duty walked over to the café I started a conversation with the fireman and the engineer of the yard engine.  The engine type was called a “saddle-tank”.  This meant that the water that was used to make steam was carried in a tank that surrounded the boiler.  Coal was shoveled in from a small cubby behind the driver’s footplate.

I pestered the poor guys for half an hour with questions about how much pressure it ran, was it double or triple expansion and other weird items.  Since my German didn’t have a lot of technical jargon yet, we resorted to drawing diagrams and sign language.  We must have looked a sight to the other patrons.  Several beers later we were fast friends.  A couple of weeks later, the Engineer spotted us at our table and tooted the whistle until I noticed he was motioning to us.  I started walking but he indicated that he wanted both Virginia and I to come over.  The both of us crossed the road and approached his engine.

On closer inspection I could see it seemed quite a bit more powerful than you would expect from its looks.  The fireman, whose name, I think, was Gerd, dropped to the ground and pulled a small bouquet of flowers from behind his back, bowed and presented them to Virginia.  She curtsied and kissed him on his cheek.  Gerd, who had whipped his hat off, nearly tore it to shreds as he blushed.  Hans, the driver, pulled the whistle cord a couple of times and dropped down from the cab also.  He handed me some paperwork. Mystified, I scanned it in short order.  It turned out that Hans had applied for permission for me to accompany him for one afternoon of shunting cars in the yard.  I didn’t know what to say as I pumped his hand except give him my deepest thanks.

He also explained that while he was parked Virginia could visit the cab too.  She was handed up to Gerd who swung her aboard and gave her the grand tour of every valve and gauge on the backhead (the end of the boiler facing the driver).  I knew she didn’t understand most of it, but she smiled and nodded at the correct times.  Gerd was beaming.

She dropped back down to the ground and I climbed aboard to sit on a small jump seat just in front of the coal bin.  Two toots on the whistle and off we went.

This was my very first experience actually inside a steam engine cab.  In a later life, I again rode in a steam engine cab pulling a dinner train over a twenty-mile stretch of track, but this was breathtaking for me.

Back and forth we moved in the yard.  Gerd showed me how to throw switches and lock them down, but I wasn’t allowed to actually do it by myself.  We butted goods wagons to tank cars, flats loaded with ties to a Kühlwagen (refrigerator car) and hauled them to the ready track.  Hans was making up a mixed goods train destined for Koblenz.

All too soon, my license to ride expired and we headed back to the short team track near the café.  I got off, saluted Hans and Gerd, and rejoined Virginia.  Steam engines are heady stuff.

Fads were popping up all the time.  At various times, you simply weren’t cool if you didn’t:

Wear a pink shirt with black ticking on all the seams (guys)

Wear shoes that weighed about three pounds each called ‘bombers’ (guys)

Wear your hair flat on top and the back in a ‘duck’s ass’ or DA (guys and some girls)

Carry your cigarettes wrapped up in the sleeve of your tee shirt (guys, except in school)

Keep anywhere from one to eight or nine ‘poodle’ skirts (with matching starched half-slips) in your closet (girls)

Make out in the back row of the theatre at least once (both – together, hopefully)

Watch Annette grow up as a Mouseketeer (guys)

Experiment with ‘French’ kissing (both)

Wear a huge man’s dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbow over blue jeans (girls)

Tried to emulate the speech patterns of “Kookie” (Edward Burns), a most famous car parker in the TV show “77 Sunset Strip” (guys mostly)

I could name a hundred or more fads that swept through our ranks at one time or another. You attempted to try each one that struck.  Limited funds would put a kink in fully realizing your goal though.  Sometimes the fad hit so fast and departed in the same manner that by the time you saved up enough money for, say, a pink shirt, you got teased if you finally showed up in it.  Life was tough among your peers.

I was an inveterate picture taker.  I saved my money and bought a really fine Agfa camera.  I could only afford black and white film though plus that was the only kind I could develop by myself at home.  I took pictures of absolutely everything I could.  I joined the photo club, and talked Virginia into it also, just so we could go on photo trips into the surrounding countryside.

I made a pest of myself at dances by shooting everyone I came across.  Somewhere in my house today is a box filled with those pictures, or, maybe just the negatives.  I haven’t found them yet, but maybe someday I will.  I was pretty good and I had lots of enthusiasm.  Some of my pictures even made it into the school yearbook.

Virginia wouldn’t let me take many pictures of her though.  She thought she didn’t look very good on camera.  I thought she was a wonderful subject but she prevailed.  I did manage to talk her into letting me take just one ‘art’ photo with her lying on the bed draped in a small towel.  And, before you ask, I was invited out of the room while she set up the shoot using a tripod.  I returned and marveled at how beautiful she was simply lying there.  I wanted to take more than one picture but she said no – and meant it.  She made me give her the roll of film until I was ready to develop it.  Then, she watched me while I did it and snipped her picture out of the negative roll.  I got to print one positive for me and one for her.  Then she cut the negative up into shreds.  She sure was pretty and that towel sure was small.

I got to know the town of Stadt pretty well as I wandered around the streets taking pictures.  Some were undoubtedly horrible shots but I didn’t really care; quantity was my game.  On any given walk I might shoot as many as three or four rolls of film.  I shot castles, ruins, rivers, churches, kids, dogs, cats, horses, and just about anything else that I came across.  I would spend hours in the darkroom developing the films, cutting out bad shots and printing the good ones.

Another one of our favorite places was the rocky outcropping high above the river on Wolf and Hilde’s farm.  We had another favorite place and that was the hayloft of their barn.  The barn itself was huge.  It had four levels which were arranged down a slight slope.  The hay wagons would dump their loads on the higher level and we would all pitch in and fork it down the chutes to the next lower level where it would be dropped to other levels for use by the horses, pigs and cows.  The second level itself, however, was the place to be.  One (or two) could burrow down into the hay and snuggle up nicely.

One evening after a particularly good dinner, Virginia and I wandered into the hayloft.  Both sliding doors were open and, just rising over the distant trees was an almost full moon.  We both agreed that it was a beautiful night and we shouldn’t waste it. I lay back against the hay and she snuggled against me, laying her head on my shoulder.  We talked idly for a bit until she put her lips on my earlobe and stuck her tongue in my ear.  She knew from experience that this was like pulling back the hammer on a pistol and curling a finger around the trigger.  I reacted by turning my head towards her and giving her a long kiss.  Once we broke it, both of us were breathing rather hard.  I rolled to face her, reached out with my arm, laid it around her shoulder and pulled her to face me.  I said something about not wanting to get carried away but she laid a finger on my lips to quiet me.  “Hush” was all she said as she slid closer to me.  Soon we were touching almost our full length.  I held her cheek with my hand and kissed her again; she responded by tapping her tongue against my teeth for entry.  I allowed it.

Before any conscious thought made it to my brain, I lowered my hand and rested it on her breast.  She made a purring sound in her throat as I got bolder and moved it around.  Since she was wearing a simple pullover shirt I was able to put my hand under the hem and move my arm around her back and unfasten her bra.  Once that was accomplished she rose up on an elbow and lifted her shirt all the way to her neck.  This action also caused her bra to slip off and reveal her breasts.  In the bright moonlight they looked wonderful to me.

She lay back and pulled my head down to them.  With her hand on the back of my head she urged me to kiss first one and then the other.  When I put my ear on her chest I could hear the rapid beating of her heart.  I felt rather than heard her say ‘I love you’.

Suddenly, we heard footsteps on the gravel of the yard and a hail from below.  Peter was asking us if they could come up.  Nobody in their family had missed the fact that Virginia and I were closer than ‘just friends’ and surely didn’t want to intrude without asking first even if it was their farm.  I told him to come on up after checking that Virginia had reassembled her wardrobe and I had tried in vain to find a comfortable position for my erection.

Peter came into the loft tugging along a very shy girl who was doing her best to hide behind him.  She had brown hair, was a head smaller than he, but had a full body and a very tiny waist.  She was beautiful and I told her so after Peter had introduced us.  Her name was Heidi (I kid you not) and was a member of the family on the next farm over.  Peter said that they were planning on getting married in two years.

After we assured Heidi we wouldn’t bite she became more relaxed and the four of us just sat and talked.  She was a student and a local equivalent of a high school senior.  She would graduate very soon.  We also found out that it was her farm that produced those wonderful apples Virginia and I liked so much.  She promised to bring some over the next time we visited.

It was getting late and we still had a twenty minute bike ride to get home so we reluctantly said our goodbyes.  It was full dark now so we had to use our bike lamps to travel the path home.  About halfway there Virginia stopped me and parked her bike against a tree.  She came towards me, threw her arm around my neck, pulled me close and said in my ear “I’m sorry; maybe next time”.  I bumped my hips into hers and “that’s okay Honey, we have all the time we need”.

T.O.M.

Stage play and a bike trip

June 8, 2009

A way back I promised more on scouting.  The American Boy Scouts organization on the base was a good thing.  It helped most of us towards understanding others around our immediate area and how to relate to the surrounding community.  We never really got to do much of anything off base like camping or other outdoor activities.  Most parents were wary of giving permission for their kids to leave the base.  Who knew, maybe there were bands of German perverts ready to pounce on American kids.

I still went to local meetings but when Mr. Espana introduced me and a few others to the group of local German Boy Scouts I began to miss meetings.  The group downtown was a very friendly lot.  They held dances, took day trips, did lots of bicycling and other healthy activities.

One evening we visited a local theatre for a stage play.  Since the American boys had all studied German under the expert tutelage of Mr. Espana we comfortably enjoyed the comedy.  Afterward, there was a reception for everyone so they could meet the actors.  It turned out that almost all of them were members of the scouting crowd.  We were greeted as close friends and we all toasted each other and got a little silly on Apfelsaft.  I had discovered that if you drink enough of the cider its slight alcoholic content will begin to affect you.  German labeling laws were quite a bit different than American ones I’m happy to say.

Our group of Americans was introduced to three very attractive females at the reception:  Anna, Model, and Kitzie.  I made the mistake of calling Model with the emphasis on the first syllable and she quietly corrected me by pronouncing it heavy on the second syllable as in mo-Del.  I apologized and she passed it off with a wave of her hand.  They were sort of assigned by the leader as our guides.  This is a very platonic assignment (which is the closest word) we were advised by Mr. Espana.  It meant simply that they were there to keep us clumsy Americans from making any socially unacceptable mistakes.  It was definitely NOT meant to make us look like bumpkins – but to allow us to be assimilated into the group easily.

I had already seen first hand how some of us kids behaved on road trips with a school group.  Most of us behaved nicely, but there were a lot that just didn’t care how they were being judged by the people they came into contact with.  Disgusting talk, loud, boorish attempts at forcing their will on others, displays of wealth, and just generally embarrassing behavior simply didn’t fit into my game plan.  I wanted to be friends, not the dominant male of the group.

This was only ten years after the end of the war and feelings towards (or against) we Americans ran high in either direction.  Lots of Germans still saw us as their conquerors, not friends.  I was determined to dispel that feeling as best as I could.  Kitzie sort of attached herself to me.  I was always on my best behavior around her and always acted with the utmost decorum.  I wanted to be able to introduce her to Virginia and not have them start a knife fighting rumble.

Just before our first bicycling trip, I bought a brand new bike.  It was a new kind (for me) called an English Racer and had three gears.  It also had brakes on the handlebars instead of stopping by back-pedaling.  This caused a few bumps and bruises until I learned to hit the back brake first before the front one.  I also dropped painfully more than once to the center bar by forgetting where the brakes were entirely and backpedaling.  The pedals don’t stop you that way – they just free wheel backwards.  If you aren’t expecting that, you slip down fast and make contact.  Ouch!

The trip was going to cover almost a hundred and twenty kilometers (around 75 miles).  We would visit three major villages and return back where we started.  Our route was down one bank of the Mosel River and back on the other side.  The starting point was Trier.

We initially started as one big gaggle, but eventually strung out into smaller groups.  I ended up with a group of about ten with me being the only American.  We laughed and chatted our way downriver.  My fellow travelers were eager to try out their school English on me.  They already knew I could speak German, so they taught me some of the local alterations for some words.  This, in later times, would come back to haunt me in a way that approaches the bizarre.  My speech, I was told, was called Moselle Franconian with bits of Luxemburgish thrown in.  I had never given thought that there might be variations across Germany until then.

I compared their language variations to the many variations in American speech patterns.  Several of them who spoke very decent English could hardly understand my depiction of a Deep South accent.  They were amazed when I told them that there were hundreds of variations in American speech.  None of them had ever considered just how large the US was.  When I compared our recent bus trip to Berlin, which took us just over seven hours, to driving across the whole US which could take up to six, perhaps seven days or so, they were stunned.  The rough distance between the two towns is around three hundred thirty miles.  Do that ten times and you could cross the US.

At night, we would end up at an inn, usually attached or next to a nice restaurant.  A lot of good German beer was passed around (I only allowed myself one liter thereof) which made things get merry in a big hurry.  I learned several good drinking songs in the process.  Kitzie, who had decided that she wanted to stay near me, was a willing companion in swinging our mugs and whooping it up with the other singers.  I am sure that if I asked her to join me in my room she would have done so, but I, at that time, was firmly attached to Virginia.  Kitzie seemed to understand.

I sure wish society would come up with some method of signaling to both males and females that a given boy or girl is already taken; something that would apply before a wedding ring.  Us teens had developed the concept of Going Steady.  This was usually consummated by the guy giving his girl a ring of some type which was usually hung around the neck.  If near parents, it would be quickly tucked into a bra.  Once again, the boy had nothing to show for his fidelity to one girl; other than stamping “Property of _________” on a guy’s head, that is.

Women have their engagement rings, but men have nothing like that other than a sense of honor – well, some of us do anyway.  Kitzie and I would have been great together I think but I had given my ring, and my heart, to Virginia.

As fall approached, more thought was given towards indoor activities.  School dances were more plentiful as well as other activities in the Teen Club.  Halloween gave us kids loads of reasons for small, local parties usually held in someone’s quarters.  I hosted a few at my house simply because our quarters consisted of two complete sets of quarters.  My dad, by now, had been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and rated larger quarters.  We had moved from our cramped housing on the second floor (no elevators) into ground-floor quarters that took over the whole center section of the building.  We had two of everything and six bedrooms with this arrangement.

The entire housing area consisted of fifty, four story buildings; each with three stairwells.  The apartments were arranged two to a floor with varying amounts of bedrooms.  The first stairwell held all the A and B apartments, the second C and D, with third hosting the E and F apartments.  Thus, to find any given person’s house all you had to know was what building, what stairwell, which side of the landing, and what floor.  A very simple plan: our house was in 49-CD-1.  This meant the center stairwell, both apartments on the ground floor.  You can imagine the consternation when someone would ring the bell on the C apartment, carry on their business and move to the D apartment and have the same person to come to the door.

In almost every case, Virginia and I would host the party jointly.  We had accumulated about eight or nine couples that formed the core of our social circle and enjoyed each others company.  One special night was reserved by us and three other couples for Thanksgiving.  During the summer my mom as well as our maid had been giving me cooking lessons.  I got rather good at it, but Virginia was a master at it.  We prepared a great deal of food for our very own super-formal dinner.

My parents agreed not to come any further than the divider door between apartments so we could have some privacy for our gala event.  My bedroom and my younger sister’s room were in the half we were to use so I prevailed on her to spend the evening at a friend’s house.

Virginia and I decorated the living room with all sorts of Thanksgiving items we had found downtown that closely matched those found everywhere in the U.S.  Lots of bundled grasses, leaves, and other harvest vegetables were arranged about the room.  We had so much fun preparing for the dinner that we almost fooled ourselves that we were a happily married couple.  It certainly was nice to fantasize about it anyway.  An arm around her waist, or a quick peck on the lips from her was all we allowed in the kitchen.

Two of the couples I will have more on later: Carol and Benny; Shirley and Art.  The last couple was Roger and Cleo.  Cleo was a soft-spoken girl that had taken up nursing as an aide over in the base hospital.  She had met Roger while he was sorting mail in the hospital mail room.  They had seen each other, of course, at school but each never knew the other worked at the hospital until they met one day in the lunchroom.  Romance soon followed as they became members of the Photo Club along with the rest of us.

Our dinner was fantastic.  We had everything from a soup course to a chocolate torte cake with raspberry sauce for desert.  It took us almost two hours for dinner and afterward we adjourned to the living room for coffee and dancing.  Lights dimmed low and went out except for a couple over the record player as we settled down and just talked as we sipped.

Shirley, Art, Benny, and Carol challenged the rest of us to a game of Charades – which we won handily (no “Brazil” this time).  Once that was over we just settled down into chairs and talked again.  All of us had come from a service background so we had loads of things to talk about.  Shirley’s dad had been stationed at Wheelus Air Base in Libya and we all listened as she described the incredible shopping and photo opportunities that abounded there.  This was Art’s father’s first posting outside the States so he regaled us with stories of his exploits in Los Angeles and Hollywood.  He even claimed to have run across Gary Cooper once.

The time to break up the party came sooner than we wanted, but we all head to be in school the next day so everyone helped clean up and, two by two, departed.  Virginia and I went back into the living room and sat on the sofa completely exhausted.  She dropped her head into my shoulder and whispered in my ear “come dance with me”.

I pulled us to our feet, rustled ‘our song’ from the pile of records and began slow dancing.  During the course of the song, our lips met and we simply stopped moving and held each other.  We ended the song with a double-tapped to our tongues and whispered our love for each other.

I helped her into her coat, donned mine, and we set out for her house across the housing area.  It had started snowing during our dinner party and was just beginning to stick to the ground.  Our tracks were the only ones in the snow as we walked hand in hand.  She was beautiful, the base was beautiful, and all was right with the world.  I swear there was music playing in the background.

T.O.M.