"Thank God for film archivist Dennis Nyback. If not for his encyclopedic knowledge of rare films and his tenacity for acquiring them, we would never have the privilege to view some astounding works of cinema." Kim Morgan


Dennis Nyback takes his films around the world. Find out how to book a show, what programs are available, how to arrange for custom programming, and just about anything you would like to know about Dennis Nyback.

The Naked Dance

April 15  Manchester, England

The alarm chirped at 4:05 and I got up. I puttered around and got my packed bags to the front door and knocked on John’s door at 4:20. I knocked again. Then he answered. We were in the car and on the way to Piccadilly Station by 4:35. The dark streets were mostly deserted. The only other cars I saw were taxis. It reminded me of driving in Belltown during the downtown Seattle blackout  of 1988. At the station  John sort of half heatedly offered to park and come in with me. I told him that if he went right home he could fall back to sleep easily and not get up until the man who came to collect the rental car rang the buzzer. That sealed the deal. He dropped me off. I took the escalator up to enter the station. The big lobby was completely modern. I walked slowly through it to the back door. There were a couple dozen people inside. At the back  the exit was at ground level.

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I went back to the other end of the station and bought a cafe au lait and pecan banana loaf.  The little  individual loaf shaped bread was maybe four inches long. Cute. I went out to the platforms. There I saw what was left of the old station.

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My train was waiting. I had an assigned seat. I found it but there was already a young woman in one of the two seats. To give her space I took an empty a row back that had no reservations listed. We left promptly on time at 5:05. I enjoyed the coffee and bread. At Milton Keynes a hoard of people boarded the train.

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At Euston Station in London everyone got off the train. I waited for most on the car to go ahead of me since my bag was in the front on the bottom rack and would slow down everyone when I got it out. I then followed the crowd until I was in the main station and saw a sign for the underground. At the turnstiles I stopped to look at the posted  map. I didn’t find Heathrow at first but did on the second more detailed map. I would have to take the light blue  Victoria – Brixton line, and change at Green Park. There I would get the dark blue line that terminated at Heathrow. It was 7:45. My flight was at 10:25. I bought a tube  ticket at a machine and it was off to the races. It wasn’t that I was in a hurry, it was that everyone else was. I was thrust into the  British daily makeshift alternative to  running with the bulls in Pamplona. Guys in suits and ties and with brief cases were racing ahead of gals in business clothes  wearing sensible shoes. I either had to keep up or get trampled over. I made it to the platform just as my train left. No problem, the LED board said another Brixton train would be there in a minute.

On that train it was only three stops to Green Park. There I had a choice. Mine was either the Victoria or Piccadilly route. A black man in a sharp suit asked me if I knew the way to Heathrow. A passing woman said “Piccadilly.” We both headed in that direction. That train soon arrived. I unloaded all my gear near a door and relaxed. I then heard an announcement that the train would stop at three Heathrow terminals. I decided I had got that far on dumb luck and perspicacity and it was time to ask a stranger for help. Standing next to me was a sandy haired guy of my age who looked sort of like Michael York. He had a suitcase and a traveling bag. I asked him if knew about the various terminals at Heathrow. He said he did and asked what airline I was on. I told him Air Canada. He said Terminal three. I asked where he was going. He said Washington (D.C.) from Terminal five. I told him I was glad for his sake the government hadn’t shut down. He said he was too, as he was having a meeting with the government as soon as he got there. He then took a seat at the end of the row near his bags. I found a similar seat across the doors space from him. I looked at the route map and saw it was around fifteen stops before we got to Heathrow. That was sort of like taking the A train to JFK. We’d made four stops when there was an announcement. It said that due to a switching problem our train would terminate in six stops at Northfields.  That was three stops away and would leave me seven stops from catching my flight.

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There was some mumbo jumbo about buses. I wasn’t sure if those would be directed buses for us or if were being thrown on the mercy of the municipal bus system. The helpful stranger came over and said “I’m going to get off at the next station and get a cab. Would you like to join me? Where this train terminates it is going to be a zoo.” I said sure I’d be happy to split the cab and fare. He said the fare wasn’t necessary as he was going in any case. The train was now at ground level and it looked like we were in the country, although it was really just the suburbs. I asked him what time his flight time was and he said 10:55. We got off at the next station.

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At the door of the station there was a manned booth for taxis. The man inside said there would be no taxis for at least 45 minutes. It was 8:20. We left the station looking for a cruising black cab. We were on a busy street that for several minutes refused to allow us flight. The man said he would call his wife for help. He got a phone number from her. He called a service and arranged for a cab that would be there in 45 minutes. He told them his name was Martin Elliott. Still no cruisers came by. He called his wife again and wrote down another number. He called that one and was told a cab would be there in five minutes. Waiting there I found out he was a pediatric cardiac surgeon and was going to Washington to see about funding for a stem cell procedure that would be a great boon for fixing heart defects in kids.

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Our cab soon arrived. As we were loading our stuff in the back a young guy approached and said “Are you going to Heathrow?” Dr.  Elliott said “Get in.” The three of us were soon on our way. Before long we were stopped in traffic. The cabbie said he could try an alternate route or stick with what we had and when we got to the motor way it would be only another ten minutes from there. We stuck with the sure thing. The young guy’s name was Ed Regan. He did light designs included holograms for stage shows. He was on his way to Italy to light an opera. His flight was at 9:30. He didn’t even know what the opera was. He would get there, if all went well, and find out then. He was 25 years old and said after college in art he had learned his craft in the “school of life.” He said his best gig was bringing Frank Sinatra back from the dead. For a Simon Cowell birthday performance he had created a holographic version of Frank. Simon sang a duet with the resurrected Frank on Pennies From Heaven.  That Arthur Johnston/Johnny Burke song had been introduced by Bing Crosby in 1936 in the movie Pennies From Heaven.

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At Heathrow we first dropped Ed at terminal four. He gave Dr. Elliott twenty pounds. So did I. We then went to terminal three for me. It took ages to get there. Dr. Elliott said Heathrow was the second busiest airport in the world. I  finally walked into the station at 9:25. I looked at a reader board and saw my flight was on time and the the counters were at place  “D”. What a nice system. At many airports I would have had to choose a direction and walk past counters looking for Air Canada. If the the wrong direction was chosen the chore would take twice as long. At Heathrow letter D was all Air Canada. I didn’t even try to use a computer kiosk. I went into the assisted lane. In it were a whole bunch of old ladies with luggage. Before long a steerer appeared and pulled out all the Vancouver people. That was just me and the old ladies. They were under the control of somewhat younger woman who wore a shirt that said “I Survived a Group Tour of Scotland.” I was slightly concerned about what would happen at the counter. I was supposed to have boarded a flight in Copenhagen where I would have shipped a bag through and been issued a boarding pass for this flight. I hadn’t printed out a boarding pass because Tampere had bought the ticket and I didn’t have the password to alter it. Intellectually I knew there should be no problem. For practical purposes this was a completely different flight.

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I gave the agent my passport and put my bag on the scale. She then handed me boarding passes.  I would change in Vancouver for Portland.  She sent me off with directions to go upstairs and then right and then right again.  Following those instructions got me to  security. The process didn’t take long  because I had shipped through the bag with the films. The films being something they never see, are always pulled out, and personally examined. I didn’t even have to take of my shoes.  I then looked for a sign and saw that I had to walk through duty free just to get to my gate. I only got lost twice before I got there. The signage was lousy, as if they wanted you to to keep wandering in duty free until you had to buy something in in order to ask the clerk for directions. At the gate I got in a long line. It moved forward which  only took us, after producing both boarding passes and passports.  Since I wasn’t actually boarding the plane  I went back in line to see about getting an aisle seat.   I was sent to another desk inside where “The lady at the end of the counter will help you.” That she did.

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From a machine I bought Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Chew Chew ice cream. The machine was neat. After the coins drop a vacuum on an accordion hose drops down and enters one of the holes. It then sucks onto a small tub of ice cream, lifts it up and then drops it into the exit ramp. It was kind of like the old penny arcade devices where you’d try to grab a prize with an Erector Set looking steam shovel.  I had just started eating the ice cream, oh it tasted good, when my area was called to board. I finished the ice cream in my aisle seat. I relaxed. When John Wojowksi and I had first made the deal for me to come to England, show the films, take a before daylight train and rendezvous with my flight from Copenhagen, I was sure it would work. Only now was I absolutely certain.

Dinner was served before the drinks cart came by. I got the ginger chicken instead of pasta. It really didn’t taste like ginger, in fact the green beans just tasted weird, but I ate it all up and was glad. The drinks cart came by and got red wine to go with it. It was La Petite Forge Cabernet Merlot. Not bad. Time now to relax. The movie selection included classics. I decided to watch Shall We Dance with Astaire and Rogers and try to remember where it was that I saw it first that was before I started buying films that got me to where, for better or worse, I was now.

I realized I had probably only seen Shall We Dance once, more than likely at the University Theater at 55 and University Way in Seattle, or possibly at a series at the Seattle Art Museum. That was because it is one of the weaker Astaire & Rogers films in spite of the several great Gershwin songs in it. The plot is not handled well. Fred pretending to be a Russian doesn’t work for me. There are really too many songs and some of them are clumsily led into and sort of wasted. I watched some of a better film, Out of the Past with Robert Mitchum. I got out the computer and wrote up part of this report. I couldn’t plug it in because the plane used an American plug and that one was in bag that shipped through. I saved some battery to send emails from Vancouver.

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The second time the drinks wagon came around I got another glass of wine. I then watched parts of maybe 15 movies. One was was “Me and You and Everyone We Know” which my wife Anne and I saw when it came out in 2005. It was set in Portland, Oregon, but filmed in Van Nuys. Maybe “set “ is wrong. It just mentioned Portland street names and had other references to Portland. It was written by Miranda July while she lived in Portland. Van Nuys doesn’t look anything like Portland. I then tried to sleep. I woke up when a hot sandwich, or “wrap” was handed out. It resembled one of those cheap burritos you can get in a 7/11 store. It had something resembling chicken it. I had a beer with it. It was a Molson Canadian. Not bad. I then went back to sleep and didn’t wake up until we were about to land.

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The plane landed an hour after it had taken off in London. That was because we had crossed eight time zones. Going through passport control and customs was efficient and took little time. Since I was only staying in Canada for four hours they didn’t need to grill me. My bag had been shipped all the way through to Portland. I liked that. When returning form Europe to Portland via New York you have to collect your shipped bag and then re-check it for your next flight. That’s sort of like the old days before the Euro Zone when you’d have to walk across borders to change trains.

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There was another wrinkle. I had to go through a second passport control. You technically enter the United States in the airport and have your passport checked by the USA. You also need to fill out one of the blue customs forms that you normally fill out on the plane and then hand in after getting your checked bag. The first thing I’d done when entering the airport was to buy a New York Times, which had $2.00 as the printed price but cost $3.94. I wondered if it would have been cheaper in faux America. I also had to go through security control again. There was no line at all. I was offered the full body shows you naked scan or an up close and personal touch and feely pat down. I took the scan. I’ve never minded getting my picture took.  As I walked into round  glass enclosure, sort of cross between a phone booth and one of those very modern public toilets, the old Tony Jackson song that Jelly Roll Morton made famous, The Naked Dance went through my head.

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I found a Starbucks and got a medium cup of coffee and a date bar. The coffee was in a paper cup. Since I had four hours I took my time and when I was done with my coffee I went back for a refill. My cup was filled up and I was asked for the new  cup price. I then told them I didn’t need the coffee, which was true, and since I had asked for a refill, which would have been free with my card, and not a new cup, I told them to skip it. They then gave it to me for free, which I am not being churlish to say, was what it should been from the first. I used the last of my battery to email my wife Anne to tell here I would be arriving in Portland at 5:25.

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I walked to the gate and found my flight was still too far away to be listed on the board. I felt so gritty I went to the mens room and as discreetly a possible, which was of course impossible, washed my hair and some of my body. I then read The Old Curiosity House until boarding time. The plane was another Turbo Prop like the ones I flew on with Baltic Air.

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I might have finished TOC on the one hour flight but I got into a conversation with the woman seated next to me. She was going to Portland to visit her parents. We talked about the options of flying, driving or taking the train. The train option has been improved. For many years there was no train service all the way to Vancouver. Instead you would take a bus from Bellingam for the rest of the trip. Now the Amtrak Cascades does reach Vancouver, but still is much slower than European trains. The Amtrak trains could go faster but the track would not support the higher speed. I also believe Amtrak trains have to yield right of way to freight trains. Man, I love taking trains in Europe. In 2008 I just missed a train from Lyon to Limoges due to being put on a bus to get there. No problem, they routed me up to Paris and down to Limoges on the TGV and I made it in town. That would be sort of like being routed from Seattle to Missoula to get to Tacoma.

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At the airport I got my American power cord out of the checked bag and found an email from Anne asking if I’d like to be picked up. I called Anne and told her I would take the Max and meet her at Trader Joes in the Hollywood District. There was also an email from my old friend Doug Stewart asking me to call him when I arrived. He said he would be in Portland that day. We had been in the projectionist union in Seattle. He had been responsible for introducing me to Scopitones. I called him. He said he was at the airport. He took me to my wife. Then the three of us had dinner at Toms and then I went home with Anne. Oh, I was glad to be back.

 

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A Day When No One Was Hurt

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April 14

My last day in Manchester would be busy. I had a noon show scheduled at Bolton University in the nearby town of Bolton. I had an 8:00 show at the Lass O’Gowrie Pub. For the Bolton show John rented a car. We were to leave at 10:00am. I got up at 7:45 and spent an hour and a half at Starbucks but being generally bummed about Fiona and her fractured breastbone I didn’t write anything. I just read the news on line. When I got back to the house at 9:30 there was a small Ford van parked in front of the house that writing all over it announcing it was an affordable rental car. Inside the house John was signing documents with the rental car company man who had delivered the car. I took a shower and put on a necktie.

We left shortly after 10:00. First we had to go to the post office where John sent out some packages. Our next stop would be the Green Room to collect the projector. Oops, we had to go back home for John to pick up an email that had instructions for us once we got to Bolton. We then went to the Green Room. It was well past 10:30 when we were finally on the way out of town. John gave me several sheets of papers with maps to the campus.

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Getting to the city of Bolton was easy. We just followed signs. Once there finding the University was harder. The city streets didn’t seem to have much signage. After driving around a while John called Jason, the tech guy at the college. He gave directions to John that still didn’t help. John called back and put me on the line. I found we were darned close. We were to park near a big metal thing that I had noticed and described to Jason. He told me it was an old Steam Hammer. It took us three trips around the block before we finally found the entry to lot. We passed it previously because it had a gate. Jason said if we told the attendant what were doing we would be let in. Sure enough, that worked. We finally parked at 20 till 12:00. I went to look at the Steam Hammer. It was a very cool thing that looked like a king size, maybe 25 feet tall, Gutenberg press. The plaque said with a 1917 Nasmyth and Wilson steam hammer that was the last still making wrought iron in the old puddling process when it it was retired in 1975.

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We walked into what I would have called a Student Union building. It had a cafeteria in it among other things. John found Jason and they went to the van with a cart to get the stuff. We then took an elevator up a couple of flights and went into a theatrical room. It had a screen at the front and dozens of spot lights and stuff hanging from light bars across the ceiling. 70 seats were set up. I found a rolling table to put the projector on. John got patched into the house audio system with Jason’s help. We were ready to roll at noon. That is one of the great things about 16mm, its ability to be portable and fast to set up. The waiting crowd came in and filled up most of the seats. A woman with black curly hair with a sort of Susan Sontag flash of gray at the crown introduced herself to me. She looked like my old friend from Seattle Donna McAlister. Her name was Chaz. She had arranged all the students who showed up.

Originally they had wanted half of Subversive Animation and Half of Effect of Dada. I said that if we started on time we could fit in half of subversive and all of Dada. Chaz gave me a short introduction and we got rolling. We also fit it into the 2 hour slot. Most of the crowd stayed for the extra time and also the Q and A. It was a good group that asked good questions, but none that broke any new ground.

While I broke down the equipment John got directions from Jason on how we could get back to the freeway. Those directions worked.  They took us by church that had what looked like dozens of spiked spires and then to the freeway that got us back to Manchester by 3:00.

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John drove to the Imperial War Museum.

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He had previously mentioned I should see it. It was tricky to get to. It was a big shiny metal building, easy to see from a mile away, but on a spit of a body of water. We finally had to ask a woman stopped at a light with two kids in car seats in the back. She gave us very good directions that she repeated just to make sure we got them right. That got us to the place. There the parking attendant waived the four pound fee for parking in the close lot when John said we were only staying for half an hour. Inside we found the museum itself was free. The only charge was for watching stuff in the movie theater.

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It was a nice enough museum. It had a lot of stuff mostly covering war in the 20th Century. I was hoping there’d be stuff on the crusades. We spent about an hour there. We then drove to the Lass O’Gowrie and set up the projector for the show that evening. We used the JVC lens that Mark Bodner had loaned us to make the picture bigger. John taped it to the base lens. We then drove home. John said the little Ford truck with its diesel engine got great mileage. At home we only stayed for a little over an hour. John had the idea we could eat at a curry joint before going to the pub. That didn’t figure in my anathema to hot, as in spicy hot, food. Instead we went to Lass O’Gowrie where I had a steak and ale pie with chips. Oooh, it was tasty. It was a not an individual pie, like a chicken pot pie, but a slice of a big pie. It really tasted good and didn’t need the extra gravy.

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The small room almost filled up for the show. Marian Hewitt came from the North West Film Archive. She said that Mark Bodner couldn’t make it. The projector worked fine and films ran smoothly. It was the Effect of Dada show.  As usual the crowd loved W.C. Fields, The Marx Brothers, Bing Crosby, Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald, Dick Powell, Ruby and especially Busby Berkeley, all featured in the show.   Everyone had a good time and no one was injured. It was a good last show for the month and almost two weeks of showing films in Finland, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and England.

John would turn in the rental car after dropping me at Piccadilly Station at 4:45 in the morning. We drove to the house. I set the alarm, read some Old Curiosity Shop, and went to bed.

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My Mistake Where Someone Else Suffers

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April 13

I spent most the morning at Starbucks writing up the report for April 12. Back at the house John left around two in a taxi taking the projector to the Green Room. In the evening it would be my Lindy Hop show at 6:30 followed by Kino Shorts at 8:30. After John left I stayed and wrote some more until I left at 5:00.

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I found John at the Green Room still working on the set up. I talked to the guy setting up chairs in the auditorium about dancing. He was a guy I knew from my shows at the Green Room in the 90’s. He had traveled with dance groups before that, including a group that did an act based on the Nicholas Brothers jaw dropping staircase splits performance from the movie Stormy Weather which would end my show. I told him about my luck in taking classes both from Ruthanna Boris in ballet and Tommy Rall in tap dancing and men’s ballet techniques. I didn’t start dancing until I was in college but any male lug could get into the ballet classes. The woman all had to audition. Even so, all my classes with Ruthana had roughly ten women for every man. It got me into better shape than when I was a wrestler in high school. My favorite class from Tommy Rall was ballet partnering. There were only ten in that class. The best women dancers were in it, and since partnering had to be one to one with men, I was in it too. Most of the dancing was done by the women and all of the lifting was done by the men. It was fun and I was good at it. At the same time I was learning to Lindy Hop.

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A nice crowd came to the show. I was to be introduced by Fiona Ledgard. She was a member of Kino who had a radio show. She was a young woman of slender build and a pleasing appearance. She had promoted the Lindy Hop program on her show. We were on a limited time schedule. John had asked me to shorten the program but I told him if we ran a tight ship we could fit in my short intro, the whole set of films, and a short Q and A afterwards. Everything ran fine and on schedule up to the Q and A. That would be Fiona asking me questions followed by questions from the audience. There was a request I do a, demonstration. I did that by myself, showing the basic six beat step of the Lindy that is counted: one two three four rock step. The one and two are taps with the left foot. The three and four are taps with the right foot. The rock step is a step back with the left leg and when it comes down it is back on count one. It does take a little getting used to, doing a six beat dance to four four music. In the Disco era the Hustle made it easier, but by doing so took out the ability to improvise, by making it one two rock step. The Hustle was a boring dance  and easy to do.

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Then there was a question about doing aerials which in the thirties were called air steps. In my film show many different aerials were done. Those are the flashy steps where the women are lifted and thrown around. To be an aerial someone’s feet have to leave the floor. The clip I showed them from the movie Hellzapoppin had the most of them.

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I told the audience that most aerials were not hard to learn per se but that only very good dancers could do them and keep time with the music and not interrupt the dancing. Lesser dancers would come to stop, do the aerial, and start dancing again, when it was over. Lindy dancing is fun just staying on the ground. Aerials are what people remember from watching it. Someone asked if I could show or teach a simple aerial. That is when I should have said, Gee, I think our time is up here. Instead I offered to teach the first aerial done, which is called an over the back. It was done by Frankie Manning in the Hellzapoppin clip.

The floor was good  for dancing. It had a sort of rubber surface with give in it. Fiona would be the person I would teach. I guess that was because she was handy and no one from the audience stepped forward to volunteer. She was wearing sturdy looking shoes.  I should have known better.

The over the back looks flashy but isn’t complicated. It also uses interlocked elbows instead of hands which makes it safer.  There is no twisting or other mis-direction stuff to complicate it. The way it works is the dancers stand back to back and link arms. The man then bends over which lifts the woman as she kicks up. Her momentum than carries her over the mans back, doing a sort of assisted back flip, and she lands on her feet facing him.

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I linked arms with Fiona. I then bent as she kicked. Since my head was down I couldn’t see what went wrong. She didn’t land square on her feet and eventually landed on her shoulder. I helped her get up and asked if she was all right. I was worried that she’d hit her head. She said she thought she was all right. I told her I was sorry. Since I was the dancer and she wasn’t I I felt both bad and responsible that she’d hit the floor. That was the end of the Q and A.

Then things were changed over for the Kino Shorts show. A full house showed up for that. I took the opportunity to go get dinner. I saw the last short, about a legendary Manchester punk bank the Dust Junkys and their lead singer Nicky. There was a Q and A after with Nicky, the film’s director, and an guy interviewing them. There were a lot of questions.

When that was over a guy came over to me who was very mad. He was Fiona’s boyfriend. He said her chest hurt and they were going to take her to the hospital for an xray. He told me I was to blame.  I told him the I knew that, and  I hoped she was OK and that I was sorry. If he would have decked me I would have  figured I had it coming. I really felt awful. I just hadn’t thought there could be any downside in an aerial like that. It was something I had done many times before without a problem. I guess all those times were with experienced dancers and also when I was younger. I really should have known better. The Green Room got Fiona a cab and off they went.

The next day I found out she had a fractured breast plate. It is now healing. I hope it heals completely and there are no lasting effects. I know that I will never do another aerial with any dancer ever again.

 

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British Food

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April 12  Manchester, England

I like a morning routine. Here, it is to take the walk, including through two parks, to the Starbucks on Oxford Road and drink coffee and read the New York Times and write. This morning I also had a mission. That was to go to the North West Film Archive and see if I could borrow a projector speaker and a short lens for the show on Thursday at the Lass O’Gowrie pub. Things started just fine when I found I could add five pounds to my Starbucks card and use it.   I wondered what the exchange rate would be. That would allow me use of the wifi.  I was shocked to see that when using the card here I got a fifty cent break on the price of a cup of coffee. They also don’t even bother to charge for refills. Probably because only because an American would ask for one and very few of them come in. I was due at the NWFA at 9:30 which didn’t allow much delving into the news. I did get a report posted on my blog. That got me just a couple of days behind.

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A young couple with a blond two year old boy lingered over coffee. Every few minutes the little boy would dash off and one or the other parent would say “Reese!” and he would return. I was surprised he didn’t show more resistance. Eventually they finished their coffees and prepared to leave. They strapped him into a stroller and only then did he scream. He yelled all the way out of the store.

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On my way to NWFA the sun was shining but the wind was knocking most of the warmth away. I had a hand drawn map provided by Marian Hewitt. That took me right to it on Chorlton Street just off Whitworth. Inside the front door was a complete 35mm projector. I asked for Marian and she called to me from another room. She came out and introduced me to Mark Bodner. He was a cheerful looking man with a round head containing no hair at all. I was then introduced to a woman named Jeanette. She was there to be given a tour of the place. I was told to tag along. Mark then took us on a fascinating trip. He started by giving us each four inch long examples of 8mm, Super 8mm, 9.5mm, 16mm and 35mm film, all stapled together. He explained they were all the formats they archived. He also said they try to limit the archive to film from the region.

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The first stop was to a hallway that had been made into a work station where two people were seated examining 16mm films on flat bed systems with no viewers. The films had to be hand inspected and repaired if needed before viewing. In a nearby room were two complete Steenbeck flatbed editors. Mark said he had modified the Steenbecks to become telecine transfer machines. Near to them were a whole bunch of video decks and monitors. Mark had come to work twenty three years earlier and everything I was looking at  had been assembled by him. He then showed us examples of different types of films on different monitors they had transferred including black and white16mm from the early 30s, black and white 9.5 from the forties and Kodachrome 16mm from the sixties. He showed us both standard DVD and High Definition of the same film split down the middle on one screen for a side by side comparison. He said there was some film that couldn’t be transferred to High Definition because it would “be too ruthless and expose every flaw.”

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So far Jeanette hadn’t asked a single question. I asked her what her interest was. She said she had just been hired by the local government and had been assigned to see what various publicly funded entities were doing. We then went up a flight to the film storage rooms. The coldest room was for color film. It also had a specific humidity that was different from the black and white room. The warmest room, still cold, was a staging room for bringing films out of the colder rooms in a gentle and graduated manner, to avoid having them suffer from “thermal shock.” He said to take a film from the coldest storage to room temperature was a three week process. All films were stored horizontally. We discussed the basic hardiness of film as opposed to survival rate of DVD and other ways to store the data from them. Stored film can be good for at least a hundred years. A DVD has an average life span of twenty. He posed the question “How can an archive commit itself to hard drive storage when there is such high failure rate?” That is a good question.

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After the tour we went to Marian’s office where the four of us sat down to coffee, tea, cookies and Kit Kat Bars. After that Mark took me on the search for a lens and speaker. The speaker was no problem. He took one off of a donated projector. The lens was problematical. He couldn’t find a single inch and a half lens or any Filmovara lens attachments. He did loan me a zoom lens, that I thought was identical to the one John already had, and an odd lens he said would create big image but would have to be taped to the base lens. He said they’d paid several hundred bucks for that lens and never found an application for it.

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I left with my booty and walked to the house. I found John in the kitchen at table working on paperwork. I left the stuff there and left again to take a better look at the city. The sun was still shining and the cold wind was still blowing. I took a leisurely stroll of a couple of hours that me took past things I remembered and things I don’t think I had ever seen. That was no surprise, as most of what I remembered from my three previous trips to Manchester, all three during the month of October, were of darkness and rain. In daylight it didn’t look bad. At Whitworth Street I walked the opposite direction from NWFA and followed the elevated train track. It is not an erector set sort of elevated track such as in Chicago.

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It is supported by massive stone arches. Inside the arches are businesses. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have one of those businesses with trains rattling right overhead night and day.

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I walked as far East as Whitworth would take me. I found a huge structure I assumed was a train station that was the municipal car park. There I turned South. I found a huge round building made of white stone that was the main library. It was closed for repairs with a chain link fence all around it. I eventually came to the upscale shopping area. I went into a Marks and Spenser grocery store looking for peanuts in the shell. I settled for shelled peanuts in a bag.

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I walked through crummier shopping areas and eventually came back to upper Whitworth Street. I passed that and turned toward John’s house on a less traveled side street. It was home to pubs and Chinese restaurants. I passed the Lass O’Gowrie and noticed the poster I had made was not among those in the window. I came to Oxford Road and cut through the first park. Walking in front of me were three teenagers. Two of them were holding hands. Both were dressed in extremely colorful outfits. The boy had a multicolored jacket and striped pants that made his legs look long and skinny. His hair stuck up several inches in the air adding height. The effect was added to by very tall platform shoes. They looked like five inch tall black bricks under his feet. The girl wore the same shoes with not as much hair but also tight pants and a jacket that was covered with little tufts of hair. The girl walking with them had no platform shoes and appeared half a foot shorter at least. They walked at good clip with people they approached obviously taking notice.

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It was past six when I reached the the house. It didn’t appear that John had moved in the time I was gone. He was in the same pose at the kitchen table with papers all around him. He told me he had meat pies in the oven that would be ready in an hour. He gave me directions to a big grocery store. The route was via a pedestrian overpass crossing the freeway. It was then along a big wild parkland. The ASDA grocery was part of a group of other large stores. It surprised me. It was like an American suburban shopping center in the middle of big wasteland of open ground. I bought Newcastle Brown Ale.

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When I was first in college in Seattle a British restaurant called the Unicorn had opened around the corner from where I lived. A British man named Angus ran it.  I had dinner there within a week of it opening. It offered pasties peas and chips, steak and kidney pie, shepherds pie, and other traditional British food. I ate there regularly for several years. It also introduced me to British beer. That was before the craft beer movement when all beer in America was mass produced lager with no character. You could find Angus’ pasties in area grocery stores.  When I first came to England in the 90’s I looked for that same food and found it hard to find.

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Dinner was traditional British pub food. Along with the meat pies was boiled potatoes and carrots. There was also gravy. All perfect with Newcastle Brown Ale. Yumm! After dinner I got another report posted on my blog. I was then caught up to date. So concluded an open day with no film gig. The next day would be the Green Room show. After that a day show at Bolton University and the evening show at Lass O’ Gowrie. The next morning, flying home.

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Pictures Will Talk!

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April 11  Manchester, England

The show today was to start at noon. We would be picked up at 10:30. I got up at 7:30 and walked to a Starbucks I had noticed that was closer than the one at St. Peter’s Square I had found the day before. This one was on Oxford Road just past the big BBC building. My plan was to post a report on my blog. The only rub was that in British Starbucks there was no free WiFi except for people who had Starbucks cards. My card, not being of use in Germany, Switzerland, Finland, or Denmark, was back in my suitcase and I didn’t have a key to get back into the house and certainly wasn’t going to knock on the door and wake up John who apparently was a night owl. I also didn’t recall my user name or pin code. Just how many of those for different purposes does one have? Luckily one of the Starbucks employees volunteered the use his id and pin number and I was in business.

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I managed to get report posted and that was about it before I had to leave at 10:00. I found John in the living room eating a bowl of cereal. Our ride showed up on time. It was provided by a guy named Paul who said he had met me at Kino Festival 2001. I took his word for that. Our first stop was at the Green Room Cinema where John picked up his projector. Than we drove to Manchester Municipal University, which was right around the corner from John’s house. The reason for the ride was that the projector was in a huge metal case that probably doubled its weight. It was an American projector so in addition there was a yellow step down transformer with a handle on top, which was needed to make the British electricity compatible, that weighed at least twenty pounds itself

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At MMU we parked on the street. I took one handle of the metal box and Paul took the other and we got the behemoth into the building. We took it into a room that had tiered seating in a half circle and a large screen at the front. It was the modern equivalent of the anatomy and dissection theaters that were in British medical schools a hundred years ago. You can see a good example of that in 1931 version of Frankenstein. The reason we had an hour to set up was that we were going to patch the 16mm sound into the room’s audio system and were not sure how compatible they would be. It turned out they were not compatible at all. Luckily the show time was actually 12:30 and it was only shortly after that when they finally got the projector to speak.

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The show was going to be me, John, and a woman named Marian Hewitt. It was a sort of mini-symposium on film archives and animation. John had a collection of 16mm films himself. Marian was the director of the North West Film Archive. I would lead off with the subversive animation show. About 20 students were in attendance. I gave the same talk I had given in Preston. The films ran fine. There were a few questions afterwards. We then had a break. Outside the room there was coffee, tea and Walker’s Shortbread cookies. One of the students told me that the cartoon The Sunshine Makers was on line with a hip hop sound track added. That was interesting news to me.

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Marian was next. She explained that their archive was for films from the region and there wasn’t much animation in the collection. She had brought three items on DVD. First was a neat six minute silent infomercial for Telegraph Soap from 1921. It was a mix of animation and live action and also had scratching on the film effects. The plot was about a man sent over telegraph wires to a washer woman’s station where he used the soap he’d brought along to make her life easier. He also knocked her around a bit for no apparent reason. The scratching on the film was used to produce the look of lightning bolts coming from his finger tips to aid in the washing. Her next was a film from 1947 using a jazz soundtrack to promote a local trade union and the local cotton industry. It was also very interesting. The final one was early work by the local animator Paul Berry who had worked with Tim Burton and also made the Oscar nominated 1991 film The Sandman . One of the Berry items was a trippy film he made when was a teenager using the Red Riding Hood story.

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John showed two examples of Hungarian animation. One used line drawing and the other was puppet animation. The puppet animation was a very well done story about a puppet that went to a school for clowns. It had no dialogue which meant it could be shown in any country without the expense of subtitles or dubbing. It also had great color. A really cool film.

We drove straight to the house instead of taking the projector back to the Green Room. We would need it for the Wednesday show there, but John wanted to work on it first. Paul, who was member of the Kino Film group, came in and we talked for an hour or so. Paul then gave John a ride to the post office so he could mail out a bunch of heavy packages. I stayed at home and wrote up a second blog report. If I could get it posted I would be just a day behind. If I could post two more reports the next day I would be caught up.

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There was a meeting of the Kino Film group at 7:00. It was held at the nearby Odder Bar. I went along. The Odder Bar has free wifi. While John met with three members of the group I had a pint and got the report posted. On the walk back to the house we stopped to look in the windows of the Grosvenor Picture Palace which is right on Oxford Road. It is an ancient looking movie theater that looks nothing like anything ever produced in America. The outside was all done in green and off white titles. The building was landmarked. Through the window I could see a wrap-around balcony and the original ceiling. Very ornate and Victorian looking. Instead of a movie screen there was a huge video screen with a soccer game on it. John said it was not the sort of place you would ever go into as you wouldn’t be welcomed there. It was a student bar with really cheap drinks. I asked if they’d beat you up if you went in. He said no, nothing like that, although they might throw up on you. We then went home where John made falafel plates for dinner.

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Preston Train Station Lancashire

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April 10 Manchester, England

It was 7:30 when I woke up but I decided to go back to sleep. When I got up my clock said 10:00am. I went downstairs and didn’t find my host John  Wojowski. I figured he was still sleeping. I got dressed and left the house. I hoped to find an adapter so I could use my computer. When I came to Europe this year I had plugs for Switzerland and Germany. It didn’t occur to me that England would have one completely different. I also realized I should change some more money. Since it was Sunday my intention was to take the train to the airport and change money there. I walked by the store that John had said should have an adapter and would open at 10:00. It was closed. I saw a clock and found it just past nine. I had forgotten that England and Europe were in different time zones.

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I am not sure how I did it, I must have been concentrating on something else, but I walked past the Oxford Road station and under the train tracks without noticing them. I kept walking, expecting to reach the station and finally came to a Starbucks. That was a sign. John told me he only drinks tea, and there was no coffee in the house. I did have the weekend Trib with me. I got coffee and found things in the paper I had not read. The most interesting article was about the play “Jerusalem” and the actor Mark Rylance. Mr. Rylance, who I had never heard of, was considered by many to be the greatest stage actor currently working. I also saw a notice for the art exhibition “Geographer”–The Golden Age of Dutch and Flemish Paintings. It would include 95 paintings starting with Vermeer’s “The Geographer” and show works by his predecessors and contemporaries, Rubens, Bruegel, Rembrandt and Hals. I wondered how I could get to Japan to see it.

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I made it back to the house without getting lost. I found John in the kitchen with a whole bunch of adapters One was the correct type. It would accept the German plug and would then go into a British socket. The only problem was it didn’t work. It had a fuse in it that was bad. Since most adapters are not fused John used tin foil to jump it. It worked fine after that. My assignment was then to create a poster for the Thursday show at Lass O’Gowrie. John said he was not a graphics artist. I told him I wasn’t either, but would do the job. My idea was to use a shot of the woman just about to get her eyeball sliced in Un Chine Andalou and a still from the I Only Have Eyes Number from Dames. Then just the title of the show and the location and other details. John wanted more writing. I told him it was a poster, not a press release, so we did it my way. I hope it helps bring in a crowd.

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At two in the afternoon we walked to the train station and took the train to Preston. The train was the Manchester to Edinburgh express. It was packed, mostly with woman who probably had come to Manchester to shop. John and I stood the whole way during the hour long ride. The Preston station was the oldest train station I have ever been in. It seemed easily Victorian and possibly even earlier. It really was cool and worth a trip to see.

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We walked to the Preston Uclan campus, that being University of Lancashire. I saw a sign to Blackburn.  I said to John, isn’t Blackburn Lancashire mentioned in a Beattles song?  I then recalled the lyric:  Four thousand holes in Blackburn Lancashire.  It is in the song A Day in the Life.  I was in hallowed ground for a member of my generation, in a sort of trivial way.

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For some reason John couldn’t get directions on his I-phone so we had to ask directions. The show would be in the Media Building, one of the most modern buildings on the campus. There I found that my show was part of the LIFE Film Festival. That made it three film festival appearances on this trip. We were early so after checking in and getting badges we went into the cafe to wait. The first guy we met was Steve who would be providing the 16mm projector we would use. He was a tall young man with a mop of brown hair and small Van Dyke beard. The festival director Tony then came in. He was a compact but wide young man with black curly hair. He said we could have anything we wanted from the cafe. I had a sausage sandwich and a cafe au lait out of machine. The sandwich was very simple, sliced grilled sausages on a white bun with no mayo or anything else. Very tasty.

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We were taken to a media room upstairs to see the projector. It was an EIKI RT-O, a nice projector. John sat down and put his feet up. I told him he had accidentally struck the famous pose of Henry Fonda in the movie My Darling Clementine. We found that picture on line on his I-Phone. I then took a picture of him to match it. The only thing missing was a cowboy hat. In the Henry Fonda shot there are approaching men on horses in the background. In the background of our shot was the 16mm projector. Since I did have a hat, not quite a Stetson, we got a picture of me in the pose too.

My show was in a room labeled Sound Stage. It had a big green screen in the back for shooting. The projector was set up in the back of the room. It had a fixed lens but with the long throw the size of the image was big enough. It also had a jammed open floating roller,  which when closed  keeps the sound stable. I was able to jam it closed after loading the film with an OK result. A crowd of around thirty, most of them college students, showed up to watch.

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After my opening remarks, which were lengthy due to them being college students, I went out in the hall to write. Next to the Sound Stage room was a dance room. I found a chair there. I took it to the closest electrical outlet in the hall to the Sound Stage room.  I could hear my cartoons playing through the door.  I was happily writing away when I noticed the sound abruptly stop during the cartoon The Clean Pastures (1937). Inside I found the lights up and the technician looking at the projector. The mechanism had stopped and when the film stopped, with the frame in the gate, the frame had melted from the middle outward. It looked cool on the screen. I told the students not to be concerned. It was in itself a thing of beauty, a once fairly common thing to see, that now was almost lost and would never be seen watching a DVD. I added that film runs at 24 frames per second and the melted frame would be left in and never noticed in future screening. The technician thought the film had jammed. I showed them the drive belt had broken. The belt looks like something commonly used in vacuum cleaners. While they went looking for something to use as a spare I took questions from the audience. Since we had plenty of time I could talk about just about anything. I told them about the invention of sound films beginning with W.K.L Dixon, the Kuchar Brothers, and the conversation at UCLA in the fall with the head of the Library of Congress where the death of 16mm had been discussed.

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John Wojowski saved the day. He took the belt out of the front arm, only used when re-winding, and used it for the drive belt. We were again in business. At the reel break I did not take questions. Instead I acted as projectionist and got the second reel on the screen. I then went back out in the hall to write. At the end of the show I took several questions from the audience. They were a good group. John and I then walked to Wobser’s house.

Peter Wobser and I had worked together as part of the three man jury, the third juror was Kevin Burke, for the 2001 KinoFilm Festival. I had also stayed in his flat during that festival. It was a very nice place that took up the entire top floor of a small apartment building. He had since moved to Preston.

Walking up a winding road to where it teed we saw Wobser out on the sidewalk on the other side waiting for us. We joined him. We then crossed a large vacant lot, deep enough for a house and wide enough for several, now a mess of weeds and remnants of broken foundations and stuff.  It was now Wobser’s de facto backyard. His girl friend Krystal and a couple of guys were sitting on lawn chairs enjoying the fine day. We joined them. One guy was Kyle, who’s parents lived in Portland, Oregon. He had a cast on one leg that I forget to ask about. Instead we talked about the financial situation in Oregon and what a mess it was and how horribly it affected all the school kids except for those in the most affluent areas. The other guy was named Mark. He didn’t have much to say. They were all drinking vodka drinks that looked like Tom Collins. I had a Fosters Lager beer. Kristal had a whole bunch of blond hair and was from Ireland. She was a film maker. Wobser was also a film maker. He was from Germany and had first been trained as a sound editor who worked in dubbing foreign films into German. He was also trained as a cinematographer. He lectures on film making at Preston University. He soon disappeared into his house.  It and its brethren had been built in 1843.  Each one had a square projection sticking out of the second floor in the back.  That was where the bathrooms had been added when indoor plumbing became the norm.

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The reason Wobser disappeared was that he was making dinner. He felt bad he hadn’t come to the film show and was giving us dinner as atonement. It was curry vegetables and also tandoor chicken. It was all very good although the curry was hotter than I like.  That didn’t stop me from eating it all and enjoying it immensely. The four of us  chatted until ten fifteen when Wobser rushed us through the dark streets to the station for the train trip home.

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Manchester England

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April 9   Freiburg Germany

I got up at 8:30 and went down to breakfast.  The Deutscher Kaiser Hotel  is laid out in a funny sort of way. The front door enters into the restaurant. To get to the hotel rooms you pass through a hall to the back of the house. That hall is also used by the waiters who get plates of food from the kitchen through a stainless steel pass-through that is about ten feet long. The whole main floor of the building, except for the kitchen, is dining rooms.  I walked past the pass-through which had a big plate of cold cuts on it. All of the dining rooms were empty. I found a young man and asked about breakfast. He directed me to the back dining room and said he’d bring coffee. I took a seat. When the coffee came, just one cup, no pot, I was asked for my room number. I then waited for food to appear. In most places there would have been a nearby table, or tables, with all kind of stuff to eat on them. After a while it dawned on my that the plate of cold cuts in the pass through was the whole magilla. When I walked there I found much more. I guess breakfast in the Deusceher Kaiser doesn’t start too early. I took a couple of rolls and a couple of croissants and some prosciutto and cheese and butter. The prosciutto and cheese and butter was for the rolls. The croissants were fine by themselves. It all was tasty, although more coffee would have been nice. I would have asked for more but since I wasn’t sure when trains went to Frankfurt I thought I should get rolling.

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Taking a dead reckoning course I came to the old wall of the city that has a big clock in a tower as part of it. The wall also houses a MacDonalds, under the clock, which has always bothered me. Nearby, tastefully in a building suited for it, was a Starbucks. I went in and had a medium cup of coffee in a china cup and got on line. Straight ahead jazz was playing with the first song being Twisted by Wardell Gray. Considering that I had been completely out of contact for twentyfour hours I thought there would be queries as to my whereabouts. Nope. I guess there are more important things in the world now to be concerned with. I did check my plane reservation and got the booking code. It was due to depart at Five. That flight, and the four gigs I would have in England, had been arranged by my old friend John Wojowski, who I had first met in 1997 when he had me as a guest at his KinoFilm Festival. Looking in my Eurail schedule I saw trains leaving just before the top of each hour with Frankfurt being a couple of hours away. There was an email from a guy, who contacted me through my website, wanting to know the showtime for Effect of Dada at a place called Lass O’Gowrie, which I didn’t recognize but thought it must be an alternate name for one of the gigs I did know about. I told him the information on the Now Showing page of my website was correct. I should have read the morning email from John in Manchester. It said he had arranged one more show in Lass O’Gowrie.

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I posted a report on my blog and left at 10:30 with the expectation of making the 10:57 train. I continued in what I thought was the way to station. It was nice and warm, which was a bother since I was wearing my overcoat. I suppose a reasonable man would have chucked it in a garbage can or handed it to a homeless person. I came to a very busy road that I thought should have the station across it. Nope. I asked a young kid. He pointed me the right way. I was at the right busy road, at least a half mile away from where I should have been. I did make it to the station in time to buy a Trib and board the train. It was again the train from Basel to Berlin. It arrived already holding a bunch of passengers. I sat down in a compartment that already had a resident. The guy had strewn much of his gear about, I suppose to give the impression of other residing passengers who where away in the toilet or dining car, so people wouldn’t enter and he’d have the room to himself.  Dickens would call that sort of behavior scrowdging.  It is the sort of thing that no matter how misanthropic I may feel I would not allow myself to stoop to.  I looked for a 1 hour reisplan but didn’t find one. I walked through two cars looking for one, usually found on empty seats and or tables, but didn’t find one. I assumed there none on this train, which is occasionally the case and returned to my seat.

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The other guy had newspapers all over the middle table, so I didn’t get my computer out. I read the Trib. After Karlsruhe I went looking for the conductor. I asked if the train was stopping at the airport. He said no, that I would have to change at Mannheim, which was the next stop. That was the sort of info a 1hr Reisplans would give. At Mannheim I left the compartment never having spoken to the other guy.

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I got an empty compartment on the next train but soon another guy came into it. He turned out to be an interesting guy. He worked for a steel company that made specialty parts. He was British, but lived in LA, and had just come back from their mill in Offenburg. He was also a musician who played jazz piano. We talked about various travels and how different it was from the the 90’s. I mentioned how back then you traveled with paper airline tickets which you worried about losing or destroying. I once showed up in SF for a New York flight on Frontier Airlines and when I found I had lost my ticket I to had to buy another one on the spot instead of them just looking up my purchase and issuing me a boarding pass. He told me that now you can use your Blackberry to check in at a kiosk by just pressing it against the reader. I imagine a lot of people must know that except for me. I told him about the Turbo Prop plane from Riga to Tampere that had rattled a screw out my eyeglasses. I didn’t notice until put them on and one lens fell out. I never did find the screw. He said had an eye glass repair kit. He had been carrying it on his travels for several years and never used it and that I was welcome to it.Before putting in the new screw I had to take out the sewing thread I used for a temporary repair. He said it had never occurred to him to travel with a sewing kit. I told him I had never thought to travel with an eyeglass repair kit.

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Frankfurt is a very trippy airport. It is space agey modern. It has lots of open duct work and escalators encased in plexiglass that run through open air, just supported on the ends. The top floors have vaulted glass ceilings. It looks like it was based on the film Brazil. It is easy to find the Lufthansa counters there. In fact you can’t miss them. I found a woman controlling the entrance to the check in counters and asked about checking in. She directed me to the self service kiosks. I realize it is a small sample, but I have never been able to use one of those consoles to check in when the ticket has been bought by a third party, in this case by my friend John in Manchester. The console told me my passport was not recognized. After that I did get to speak to a human being who also had some trouble, but finally found my reservation. He made me ship through the heavy bag, which was at no cost. When I marveled at that he said “Lufthansa is not Ryanair.” It is also not American Airlines or United or lots of others.

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I was in the security line when I rememberd I had a quarter bottle of red wine with a cork in it in my backpack. The cork had been put in it in Kiel a couple of weeks earlier and I had packed it with everything else when I left for Freiburg. Relizing that sort of liquid won’t get through security I went back out and found a place to drink the wine, I had brought a cup along with it, and eat another croissant, that I had put in my pocket before leaving the hotel. That was relaxing. That also prepared me for security, which was a real cattle call. Only a third of the stations were open and I’m sure a hundred people were in front me in the snaking line. I got out the Old Curiosty Shop to read as I inched along the serpantine path.

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Security did have a nice wrinkle. The trays appear vertically on a roller line which runs along the passenger side of the x-ray machine. The trays come right back once they’ve gone through the machine. In other places they are usually collected at the other end and then put on carts to be ferried back and when demand exceeds supply things slow down. We were also not required to remove our shoes, at least not to walk through the scanner. They would need to be removed if one was chosen for a personal pat down. At least have got the personal touch, gender specific in stalls to the side, but I was not selected. After that it was passport control. I guess that is because England is not part of the Eurozone. The officer couldn’t find my entry stamp until I told him my entry had been in Copenhagen.

At the gate I presented my boarding pass. I was told I was way early. I replied that I didn’t know what time it was. He thought that was amusing. He said I should come back in an hour and a half. I asked about wireless and was directed to a gate not far away. There I found it was for-pay wireless. I wonder when that will change? The area was a lounge with chairs that could tilt back almost horizontal for resting. The only electricity was near tall tables with round bars to sit on instead of chairs. I guess they think the resting thing should not be carried too far. It occurred to me that I didn’t need to write on the uncomfortable rolling seat since there was no wifi so I went back to the gate. It then occurred to me at Starbucks I had not written down John’s phone number in Manchester. Once there I was to take the train to the central station and then call him.

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I stopped at a pay internet terminal and put in a two euro coin. Then I could not get any action. I saw a guy use an identical machine a few feet away. I moved to his machine once he was done and put in half a euro. I could not get that machine to work either. I then saw a guy approach the first machine. I asked him how it worked. He had no trouble getting it going. That was because it was a mouseless computer but where the mouseless pad in my computer was it had un-marked space bars that I had thought were right and left mouse keys. The actual mouse keys were off to the side. Feeling like a dope I got on line and got John’s number. After that I used up all the time trying to compose a short message that was stymied by there being no capital shift key for the right hand. Or maybe there was one that I couldn’t recognize.

While I was writing a whole bunch of passenger queued up at the counter. I knew I had an aisle seat and saw no reason to join them. A while later I heard a guy say to some others that the flight was delayed 25 minutes. A while later there was an announcement that we could now get on the bus and be taken to the plane. I waited till the line had dissipated and shut down my computer and joined the last of the stragglers. Once on the bus I was glad I had waited. For some reason we didn’t move for at least fifteen minutes. It got warmer and warmer on the bus. Luckily I had finally gotten the bright idea to cram my overcoat into the backpack. Finally we got moving and were driven to the plane, which was a big jet for a tarmac boarding. It was a British Midlands flight operated by Lufthansa. We boarded from front and back. Since I would be in the 10th row I joined the longer line at the front. I found a large man seated in my seat. He thought he was in row eleven. I sat down next to a blond woman who was talking the man in the window seat. She was telling him and now was the time to buy property in England.

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I was surprised when we were all given a sandwich. The flight was only going to take an hour and a half. I was even more surprised that they were not charging for wine. When asked what I would like I told them I would like a beer. I was given one of those half cans of Stella Artois. The sandwich was sliced egg on white bread, not something I have ever been given on a American plane. The captain explained, the first spoke to us, when we were by then over England “I am sorry I didn’t speak to you while we were on the ground but we were busy negotiating our departure.” I wonder just what goes on when they are late and have to hot rod it a little to nose into the take off line?

After landing I collected my bag and then went through passport control. For some reason the English ask more questions than most other countries. I just said I was visiting a friend and would leave in five days. I then passed through the nothing to declare line and headed for the train, stopping only to change some Euros into Pounds.

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I exited the train at Oxford Road station. I called John Wojowski from a pay phone. He said he would be along in five minutes. That was all he said. 60 cents only gives you about a minute to talk on an English pay phone. To have an actual conversation you need to keep throwing in coins.

It was Saturday night. The last time I had been in Manchester on a Saturday night I had seen more public drunkedness than any other place I had ever been. Although it was still daylight I saw a young man in the station fall over drunk in front of me. John soon appeared, looking just about the same I as I remembered him except his once red hair was now mostly gray. Before going to his house we walked to the Lass O’Gowrie pub and looked at their upstairs room as a possible site for the Effect of Dada show. John had already made the deal but wanted me to OK it. The room was 18 feet from screen to back wall and could seat about thirty. The short throw meant the picture on the screen wouldn’t be very big. All things considered it was fine, so we cemented the deal. The morning after would have taking the 5:00am train to London where I could catch my flight back home to Portland.

 

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On the walk to his house John pointed out landmarks so I would be able to find it again. We walked by the BBC building.  I had stayed there once before, but that had been in 1997. It wasn’t far from the station. John fixed some pasta with a salad for dinner. I thought I was retiring early, but found it was almost midnight.

 

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Meeting People on Trains

April 8  Kiel, Germany

I had left the alarm set at 5:30 as it was easier to do that then change the needed to be repaired  thing. It went off on time and I got up. My destination that day would be Freiburg im Breisgau where I would show both Subversive Animation and Effect of Dada. It would be my last gig in Europe this trip. The luxury of only packing what was needed for a leg of the trip was over. Instead of attending to that first I made coffee and sent some emails and made a facebook post. I had offered Anne a trip to Enterprise for her birthday.  The New York Times on line was still on yesterday’s paper. It was ten in the evening the night before on the West Coast. I read some news I’d missed. Anne posted a video of Joy singing, with gusto, in the FMC choir. Not exactly melodic, but with great enthusiasm.

I drank several cups of coffee and had toast with Brie cheese. I then packed and left, leaving the guest key in the lock. It was a pleasant morning with no rain. I bought a Trib at the station and got on the train. Seated across the aisle and in back of me was a blond woman. She talked on the phone for most of the trip. She had a sort of sing song voice. I saw how the rise of the cell phone had made the “quiet zone” cars appear. I dozed off but was awakened by her phone ringing. It was an 80’s pop tune with a sort of reggae beat which I think was called I’m Dancing.

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Getting off the Kiel train I headed for the escalator. So did a hundred or so others. Trying to make my footprint smaller I pulled the heavy bag up a step where it teetered precariously. I looked up for no good reason and then felt the bag slipping. I then felt myself slipping. Ack, I was falling backward! Having the two shoulder bags with forty pounds between them didn’t help. I grabbed the banister. It pulled my hand up, but left my weight behind. Against the drag of the bags I got my other hand on it and things settled down. It had been darned close for a moment of my becoming like a tumbling rock crashing down through all the people below.  I ignored the quizzical looks and went to my platform.

I had a half hour wait. I walked around looking at food. I considered getting a pain au chocolate at CroBag. They didn’t have any. All of the pastries looked German. At the fourth Le CroBag I finally found it, but by then had decided I didn’t really want one. A fifteen minutes till train time I went to the platform expecting to find it there. That train starts in Hamburg. It wasn’t there and didn’t come until right at the 10:24 departure time. I went to the very last car and found an empty compartment with no reservations. Sweet. I had barely settled into my seat when we rolled away. A tall woman with short blond hair came in with free newspapers and seemed to feel bad that none were in English for me. After she left the train stopped for no apparent reason and stayed that way at least ten minutes. It is a good thing I took the early train today as that did not  not bode well for arriving on time. I decided I’d go to the diner car for a snack after my ticket was checked. That was quite a while later. The diner car was four cars away but I liked the walk. I did see empty compartments with no reservations closer to the food. I got a cafe au lait with croissant.

At Kassel-Wilhelmshone Prof Sandor Vajna came into the compartment. I found that he taught  motion studies in at the University in Magdeburg. He was a tall bald man, sort of like Mr. Clean.

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He talked about a whole bunch of things before I got a word in edgewise.  That included the Gillbreath family that was headed by a man who revolutionized kitchen design based on motion studies and became famous in the book Cheaper By the Dozen, the TV show the Golden Girls, The SF earthquake, and things I am sure I have forgotten. Eventually he asked  me to send him details of the Industrial Design show I had done at YBCA.

Just before his stop he  brought up the topic of why English was selected as the official language of America. I told him there was no official language in America, although some politicians currently wanted to make one and they they were mainly motivated by constituents anger at having to press a button for English when calling a bureaucracy.  I added English was the de facto national language, but there was no legislation or law making it so.  He said it was the German general Friedrich Wilhelm August Von Steuben  who had won the Revolutionary War, with George Washington being more of a figurehead than an actual fighting soldier.  He said the decision for the national language was put to a vote between English and German and that they tied, but uncharacteristically the German deferred.  He asked me to research it.

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At Frankfort a young guy came into the compartment who said he was going to Freiburg. He looked like Jack Bauer’s friend Tony in the show  24. He was wearing blue jeans and a button up shirt. His hair was cut so short it was just this side of shaved. An older guy also came in. He looked like Art Carney. He was wearing a dark suit with a red striped tie. Both guys took newspapers when the attendant came by with them.

At Mannheim Art Carney left and a large guy who looked like he could be a circus performer came in. He wore blue jeans and a black tee shirt. He had salt and pepper gray hair and gray mustache. He, as others I’ve noticed on this trip, was wearing a really big wrist watch.

Both the first guy and I got off at Frieburg. The circus performer looking guy said goodbye in Italian. He looked like a guy you could get along with.  I checked my notes. I was to go first to the Deutsches Kaiser Hotel on Gunterstal Strasse.

I walked across the busy street and continued straight ahead. In the past I had gone south a bit and then followed the street car route. I figured this route should take me there eventually. I found a hotel information kiosk that did not have the Deutscher Kaiser Hotel listed, nor Gunterstal Str as one of the streets. That took a while to discern by carefully examining the map. From that I assumed the hotel was not on that map, which was limited in area. I was on the street that the running water in the stone lined ditch. I figured I could stop in the Schwartzkoff Hotel and ask for directions.  Every time before they had gotten me a room in the Schwarzwaelder Hof Hotel. I somehow walked right past the Schwarzwaelder Hof Hotel  and kept walking until I knew I was past the grid of the hotel locater map.  I then asked a woman with a bike for help. She knew where Gunterstal Str was but her limited English was good for the direction but not good for just how far.  I walked that way.  After asking my way twice more I found the hotel. It was a warm sunny day and I was really glad to come to a place where I could shed my overcoat.

The hotel was big old wooden building.  To get to the rooms I had walk through the service hall for the kitchen.  In my room I found something I had never seen before.  The shower was just inside the door.  All self contained in itself.  The toilet and sink were in room too small for a bath.  This room had obviously lived a long time with its bath down the hall.

I walked to theater only having to ask directions once.  Here you might ask, why don’t I get a Blackberry or some such item I could consult instead of asking strangers on the street?  Well, what would be the fun of that?  At the theater, which is in what used to be a small railroad station,  I found that I was too early.  The box office wasn’t open yet and my show would not be until 9:30 that night, four hours away.  I walked back to the hotel to get The Old Curiosity Shop. Back at the ex-railroad station I found a place to sit and read. After a while the ticket girl came over. She had the document I needed to sign in order to get paid. A little while later she came by and said I would have to go get dinner by myself and the place across the street would be best.

All of the outdoor seats were taken. I went inside and found an empty table. The place was packed, both inside and out. I ordered the day’s special which was Forelle blau with potatoes and apples. All the waitress could tell me about it was that it was fish. I was surprised to find it was a whole trout, from nose to tail fin. It reminded me of camping out and cooking fresh caught trout over campfires when I was little.

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Robert from the cinema came in around 8:30 and sat down. He also ordered the Forelle special. We were just as we were finishing Telemach came in. He was the other director, along with Robert, of the cinema. We then all went over to the theater. The early show, Revolution Road, was just getting out. Among them was the man who had been in charge of the cinema when I had first showed films there in the in 1998 and 1999. Both shows were listed as one double feature starting at 9:30. The first show was Effect of Dada and drew a nice crowd of forty or so. A somewhat smaller crowd stayed for Subversive Animation. I did ask the audience if anyone was there who had been disappointed when it was not shown the the year before. No one owned up to that. Afterwards Robert told me the one woman who had complained had not appeared.

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I walked back to the hotel. It was close to one in the morning. I found the front door locked. I used the second key but it would only turn in the lock and not open the door. I tried it several times. I looked through the window and saw an employee in the dining room. I knocked on the door and waited. I then knocked on the door and waited longer. I then really pounded on the door, sort of like Daffy Duck, when demonstrating the correct form of door knocking to Porky Pig, in the cartoon You Ought to Be in Pictures. That got results. Two young people came to the door and after opening it glared at me. I showed them my key and told them it didn’t work. They both said that key was for the back door. I told them that now I knew and would make a note of it. I then went to my room and had a very nice night’s rest.

Politically Active

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April 7 Kiel Germany

Stayed at home until two in the afternoon and then only went to the Post Office, via Sophie Mall, to send post cards.  Then back at the house to write and etc.

Dinner was lentil soup with Arab seasoning plus fake meat that chewed like the real thing, prepared by Martina.   Karsten and I then drove over to the other side of the river for his weekly, or maybe monthly, political meeting. His friend Mathias was waiting for us. He was a younger guy who’s English was only so so. He smoked hand rolled cigarettes that included filters.This was another German place apparently ignoring the no smoking indoors law. Karsten had a beer that came in glass with the name of the cafe on it, Bambule. I had a Hefewrizen Dunkel. Mathias had the daily special of lasangne (with salad, five euros) and a different dark beer. I liked the glass mine came in. It was a fluted glass with the stem undulating to fit the hand.

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Karsten made a point of keeping most of the conversation in English except when he had to translate trickier stuff between us. A forth guy was supposed to be there, coming by train from Lubeck, and after we were working on our second beers Karsten said he didn’t think he was going to show up. The conversation was mostly about arranging demonstrations and other events around issues of housing, wages and employment. Mathias liked the story about the Portland demonstration that involved trying to projectile vomit red, white, and blue on George H.W. Bush. He showed me a political magazine he had called Wildcat (for Wildcat Strikes). It had a slick cover and was very up to date with news from Wisconsin and also Nuclear power issues. The best picture was from a demonstration in Rome where marchers carried white shields that had the names of a famous book and author on each one. Moby Dick, Tropic of Cancer, and Plato’s Republic were among them. Mathias thought it funny that Wildcat had been the name of a car in America in the 60’s. He liked my impersonation of the ad that ended with a growl.   Now that I think about it, the growl was from a Cougar commercial.  Well, that’s theater.

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The guy from Lubeck arrived. He was closer to my age than Mathias. He had short gray hair and lively eyes. He ordered coffee. He then asked “Where are the girls?” Apparently Karsten’s political group included women who weren’t there that night. Claudia came into the cafe. That was coincidental. She came to play cards. It looked like the room had once been a cardroom. Above each table hung a pool table lamp on a long cord. Except for the one above Claudias’s table each lamp had been raised by having the cord shortened by being tied in a knot.. Over our table a coaster had been put in the knot to enlarge it.

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I let the guys talk in German for a while and examined the menu. On the Kinderkarte pizzas were named by Sesame Street characters. The pizza with ham was an Ernie. The one with salami was a Bert. The one with mushrooms was a Kermit. Miss Piggy had corn and bananas. Karsten said Sesame Street had been shown on German state television from the beginning, in English. But it was eventually canceled because the show featured black characters whereas as German society did not. That brought up the topic of the BBQ stand that opened in the LIDL / SKY parking lot. It had signs saying Texas BBQ. On one corner of the tent was a large US flag and on the other a Confederate flag. I figured they didn’t realize that was a racist emblem. Karsten was not as generous and thought it was just awful. I told him about the small town of Lostine in the Wallowa valley where there is Confederate flag that can’t be missed as you drive into town. It is on a garage at the end of curve where your headlights hit it if it is dark. The Wallowa Valley has a history of racism that goes back to the Nez Perce war in 1879 and there is dissimulation about what the flag being placed there means.

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The Lubeck came home with us where Karsten gave him some posters. The posters were on the shelf that runs the length of the Arab room above the front door. Karsten had to get out an ancient looking wood ladder spattered with many colors of paint to get them. He then took the guy to the train station for the train back to Lubeck.

Emily Dickinson Meets Captain Blood

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Kiel, Germany

On Tuesday I did something very remarkable, at least for me, as opposed to Emily Dickinson, or I imagine many people: I never left the house from waking up to going to bed.

On Wednesday I was turning that one day event  into a trend when at two in the afternoon I realized I must strike out into the world or start writing poetry.  Without top coat, but with a hat, I strode confidently to the train station and took the train to Lübeck.  It was  gray day, but not cold.

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I didn’t know that Lübeck was different from most European towns in that the train station was not near the center of town.  That is because Lübeck is a place of great antiquity and the old center of the city, sort of like Brugge in Belgium, was recognized as place to preserve before such a defilement could happen. My initial destination was the 15th Century Holstentor Gate. I walked from the station to a bus loading area where I found a posted map.  I then followed the buses over a bridge toward the old city.  There I saw the gate.  It was the sort of thing Walt Disney tried to recreate in Disneyland.

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On the other side of the gate was a mix of the very old and the nearly new.  I walked up a business street that strangely reminded me of Ashland, Oregon.  Near the top I could see a McDonalds.  I looked to my left and saw something much older.  I went through a narrow passage and then under the eave along a building easily five hundred years old.  Ahead of me was a large brick church.

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I went inside, contributing 2 euro, as asked.   I was told the cathedral  had been bombed in 1942 with most  of the roof and towers demolished.  There was also a firestorm.  To commemorate that terrible time in a corner under one of the now rebuilt towers they left where they lay  large bells that had fallen from their heights and smashed on the floor  .  It really impresses me how bomb destroyed buildings in Europe were so carefully rebuilt after the war.  This one was a twenty year process.   The original organ, which Bach and Handel had both played, was also destroyed.  It has been replaced with one that has  pipes thirty feet tall.  Those pipes were high above the church floor at the  rear wall of the central nave.  It really is a huge place with three long vaulted roofed naves and short transepts on each side.  Behind the Apse are statues.  Most are missing limbs or fingers.  The general feeling of the place was stoic somberness.  I hope to return some day and hear the organ play.

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It was raining, sort of a heavy mist, when I left the church.  The old city of Lübeck is surrounded by water with the streets going up hill toward the middle.  Those main streets have the most modernity among them.  I walked along a diagonal street with many houses built in the crow step gable design.

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One of the more notable was the Seaman’s Guild building that houses  the Schiffer Gesellschaft restaurant and claims to be the oldest pub in the world.  It is a meeting place for sailors from around the world.  I wondered if my dad, long time member of the Sailors Union of the Pacific, had ever dropped in?  I considered having a beer or something inside for posterity’s sake but decided to keep walking.  It didn’t look like the heavy drizzle was going to stop.

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Further along that street was another huge brick building from the middle ages.  It was the Customs House building.  Due to the rain I decided to head  back toward the bridge to the train station.  I didn’t want to take exactly the same route so I went a few blocks in the opposite direction on a narrow cobblestone street past houses hundreds of years old.  I came to a business street and turned along it.  There I came to the most interesting group of buildings  of my visit.  It was the Hospital of the Holy Spirit which was established in 1260.

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Being pretty damp, from there I took a different diagonal road to the station.  I crossed the Bridge of Statues. The statues were of Greek Gods.  Mercury was properly shown sans outfit with the poor guy’s nether regions naked to the north wind.

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Further reading about Lübeck would not be a waste of time.  It has a very interesting history and was once a very rich city. In1375  Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV named Lübeck one of the five “Glories of the Empire.”   The other four were Venice, Rome, Pisa and Florence.  A whole bunch of famous writers have lived there.

Walking through the drizzle I was looking forward to buying a beer in the station store for the ride home.  Darn the luck, my train was warmed up and ready to roll when I arrived, so I got on board and sat back and relaxed.  Choo Choo Ch’Boogie!

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