Today’s bike trip was unique. I walked past a bunch of docked city bikes, nodded at them, and kept walking. This is virtual cycling without having to buy the app, the cave, and the wide-screen TV.
It rained hard for a while so I strolled to the supermarket and bought an electric kettle for $20 and a jar of instant coffee for $7. Then I came back to my dorm room and coked up on instant coffee crystals. In a city famous for its coffee, you may think it’s a sin to drink instant, which is good because I like it when people think I’m sinful.
The night before I’d had dinner with my son. “What are you doing after dinner?” he asked.
“I’m going down to Stephansplatz and I’m going to do a street recital of Chaucer.”
He rolled his eyes. “That’s illegal, dad.”
“Of course. Street performances require permits, and you have to apply a month in advance. And they assign the street location. You don’t just get to pick one.”
“That’s fucked up.”
“You’re fucked up.”
“I agree, but why?”
“Here you’ve come to Vienna to recite some dumb poem and get arrested. And then I have to go down to poetry jail and bail your ass out. Geez. Can you imagine what my friends will say when I tell them dad came to visit and was so cheap he tried to fund his trip with street poetry readings but instead wound up in the drunk tank? My in-laws already think you’re nuts, to put it mildly.”
“It’s weird that you have to be licensed to beg.”
“Is it? In a town that swells to triple its population with tourists in fall? Can you imagine what it would be like if every idiot with a trumpet or a violin was out blasting and sawing away at Mozart, hoping it would be his big break into the midget world of classical music that died three hundred years ago?”
“It would be pretty raucous.”
“Yeah. And that’s just the Mozart impersonators. What about the dancers, jugglers, dog-frisbee-trick-throwers, drummers, howlers, singers, and dog forbid, the lone Chaucer reciter mumbling Middle English like a grizzled lunatic?”
“It actually sounds kind of fun.”
My son has become very Viennese in the last few years, which means he is extremely serious about things, especially humor. “I suppose it might sound fun.” Then he paused. “If you didn’t have to live here.”
I went downtown that evening anyway, but didn’t risk getting tossed in poetry jail. All the tourists were shopping and looking at the baubles in the display windows, and in a flash it really did make sense.
You can’t have Mozart and Chaucer elbowing out the glitter of Rolex.
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