Yesterday afternoon it started raining, then pouring, then dumping huge freezer blasts of cold along through the heavenly water main, which Dog had left on wide open. This meant I had to spend the day doing what I do best, which is nothing. In bed.
Novice travelers make busy itineraries so that by Day Four, which this was, they are exhausted, broke, and longing for a toilet that doesn’t have one of those disgusting shelves that forces you to inspect your day’s work as if you’re choosing a pastry.
Intermediate travelers stay in one or two places so they can get the feel of the town and not worry too much about finding the hotel after three bottles of wine and twelve shots. Staying in one place also minimizes the exhaustion of finding out where the coffee shop and pastries are.
Expert travelers stay in one place so that they can spend most of the day in bed, watching TV news about right-wing fascist racist Austrian gangs (didn’t they do that once before and have it not work out so hot?), reading books they’d never get through at home, and visiting the most hallowed tourist spot on earth, i.e. REM sleep.
Master travelers of course stay home.
I awoke to the pounding fury of more rain, which meant I wouldn’t have to cancel any plans, get any ticket refunds, or convert Centigrade to Fahrenheit. But first I had to cancel my non-plans to see the Lipizzaner Stalllions, which I did. They would likely still be there after the rain quit sometime next month.
My frentor Jeff Fields never gave me any bike racing advice except this: “Race smart and suffer.” He did, however, have a thorough nutrition plan that came from a night-time book his mom used to read him. It was callled “You Gotta Keep Eating If You Wanna Keep Going.” It was about a little boy who learned how he had to keep eating if he wanted to keep going.
Jeff believed that every successful day began with a solid breakfast, preferably paid for by someone else, and my only improvement on this lifelong eating plan was “Win the buffet.”
Ms. WM and I were already famous at Hôtel am Billigsten because we were undefeated at breakfast. This morning was no different though we were pitted against a tour bus of hungry Norwegians, all ravenous but sadly for them, mere amateurs at buffet combat.
The Buffet Grand Prix was a technical course because our Filipino hoteliers were very good about measuring the buffet offerings down to the last slice of cheese. So if you spent an extra ten minutes combing your underarm hair before coming down, you risked an empty coffee thermos and nothing but crumbs on the bread tray.
I came off the line hard and gapped the field before the first turn, snagging a prized clean plate. Accelerating through the rye bread rolls, I took four butter pat primes, two fried eggs, five slices of cheese, extra tomatos, extra cucumber slices, salami, a tiny jar of marmalade, and a full-to-the-brim cup of coffee. Ms. WM won the field sprint for freshly squeezed juice, and took down an entire bunch of Norwegian ladies who wanted to get the last rye roll, forcing them to get back up, dust themselves off, and settle for a croissant.
After winning breakfast I returned to the room and crawled back under the toasty covers. The bed mattress was essentially an oversized cigar box made rigid with eight or nine uncovered steel coils. It was a foot shorter than I was and it listed like the Titanic. But none of this meant a thing because the heating worked, it was freezing and wet outside, I was underneath three feet of Euro down comforter, the pillows were large and soft, and some other idiot was tromping in the typhoon over to watch the Lipizzaner Stallions instead of me.
Yesterday, before the heavens sprung a leak, I had spent the day at Cafe Hawelska, drinking coffee, enjoying being in the vicinity of all the world class attractions I didn’t plan to see, and pretentiously reading a German novel by Stefan Zweig, “Ungeduld des Herzens.” If you are going to be a pretentious novel reader in a pretentious coffee house, it pays to go local: Zweig, from Vienna, has a passage in the book where Herr Kekesfalva walks down the very street that intersects with my cafe. Can the Lipizzaners do that? And more importantly, can they do it for ten bucks?
Caught up as I was in the plot, and moved to tears by my own pretentiousness, I took an iPhone break and Googled Stefan Zweig and read that he is regarded as a lightweight in German letters, and that his writing is considered sentimental, sappy, and not good for much besides pretentious coffee house readers.
In other words, aces.
The book is magnificent, filled with empathy and beauty, and best of all it is a well told story. Having just come out of the combat zone of Gravity’s Rainbow, here was a book where, when you looked up a word the sentence actually made sense, unlike Pynchon’s “style” of simply writing down words unconnected to each other and trusting you to either give up or be too embarrassed to say that not only does the Emperor have no clothes, but he has small hands, too.
I read for a couple of hours, drifting in and out of pelting rain sounds and dream fragments of Herr Kekesfalva asking me directions to the Lipizzaner Stalllions. “Keine Ahnung,” I kept telling him. “Keine fucking Ahnung.”
About noon the rain had dialed back to “moderately furious” and I got ready to get on with the next part of my day, which was, of course, a cappucino mit Schlag.