We found the Germans to be rather trusting and accommodating people for the most part. They shared their beer, offered us their couches to sleep on, and (as previously mentioned) flowed us ridiculously large bags of swag weed. They also didn’t seem to question our intentions or credentials too much when we tried to do things that young men of our age and caliber would never be permitted to do stateside. Like, say, rent a Mercedes Benz to drive to Oktoberfest in Munich.
To my knowledge, one must be twenty-five to rent an automobile in the states; the oldest amongst us was Yorick, who clocked in at an ancient twenty-one years old. But this was Deutschland, where they let kids drink at sixteen for Christ’s sake. In spite of some language barriers and concerns as to the validity of Yorick’s California driver’s license, we were able to secure a rental car for the next week that would get us to Munich, which is about 364 miles* from Berlin.
The Benz was a stick shift, which meant that Yorick would be doing all of the driving, as neither Franky nor myself could operate a manual transmission. Yorick swore that was the only car they would let us have, but I was convinced that he picked it on purpose so that he could do all of the driving. Indeed, Yorick was rather fond of speeding, and was certainly excited about the prospects of entirely ignoring all of the speed “suggestions” on the Autobahn.
And that is precisely what he did, mate. He kept das pedal to das metal the entire time, weaving in and out of traffic that he decided was moving at too sluggish a pace. I never quite figured out just how quickly we were going, as 1) the speedometer was only in kilometers and I, an American accustomed to miles and woefully incapable of metric conversions, only knew that the needle was stuck mostly to the far right and 2) I was too preoccupied with throwing up prayers and trying not to have a heart attack from sheer terror.
“JESUS CHRIST YORICK YOU ALMOST HIT THAT FUCKING TRUCK OH CHRIST WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE.”
“Calm down. There was at least a foot to spare.”
“OH GOOD LORD GOD SLOW DOWN FRANKY DO YOU SEE THIS OH MY MOTHER MARY WE’RE ALL GOING TO END UP IN SOME GERMAN RED ASPHALT VIDEO FRANKY HELP TALK SOME SENSE INTO HIM.”
But Franky didn’t seem to notice a thing in the backseat, staring out the window like an overjoyed pet on a day trip through the countryside. Perhaps he had dipped into the swag weed while we weren’t looking, but his inattentiveness to the life or death situation at hand seriously alarmed me. I may have been all about the “Live Fast Die Young” mentality, but that wasn’t the context I wanted it to go down in, dig? And certainly not that young, either.
The worst part about the entire trip was that our fine German automobile came equipped with a broken CD player, which meant that we had to resort to radio. Now, I’m sure that there are some fine German radio programs, but we didn’t understand the language and all the music stations seemed to play really weird techno and industrial music exclusively. It occurred to me at the time that it was the perfect soundtrack for the inevitable fiery car crash we were working ourselves toward. I could see the headline clear as day, mate:
THREE AMERICANS DEAD IN AUTOBAHN ACCIDENT; AUTHORITIES UNCLEAR AS TO WHAT ROLE RAMMSTEIN PLAYED**
I can imagine worse ways to go, Dionysus, but not many. It’s a peculiar thing really: I never particularly feared death, as long as it was on my own terms. If I could dictate and direct the exact means, the exact time, and the exact circumstances of my bucket-kicking, then that didn’t seem so bad at all. As long as it was fitting, as long as it was poetic. But a run-of-the-mill car crash? That was boring, and therefore terrifying. I’d rather be dead than bored but I’d never be caught dead dying in a boring fashion, dig? Forgive me, I’ve beaten that theme to death, haven’t I? Oh don’t look so deadly serious, Dionysus—I’m merely killing time.
I’m so sorry, dear reader.
Anyways, we eventually arrived safe and sound in Munich. The flat we were to stay at was on the very top floor of a tenement building, which was accessible by a long, winding wooden stairwell that looked straight out of a gothic novel. Dimly lit, creaky, tight turns—it seemed the perfect setting for a climactic swordfight or a sadistic sex party, but there would be none of that for me, unfortunately. Just a mildly aggravated fear of heights and ameliorated nausea, which had already been aroused by Yorick’s driving.
Our hosts were to be a middle-aged couple who were friends of my aunt’s. I had them pegged as quiet academic types, a little eccentric perhaps, but most likely rather square. Those Germans are full of surprises though, Dionysus, and I was severely underprepared for what was awaiting me in that flat.
You ever go to a door expecting a bespectacled intellectual type in a sweater vest and come up with a hairy, tan, stark naked German man instead, Dionysus? No? Because that’s exactly what went down here, love. We, a trio of bedraggled and beleaguered American travellers, were greeted by one very nude and very inviting Deutscher.
“Hallo! Come in, my friends! Come in!”
Either there were some very large and very stiff*** cultural differences that I hadn’t been hipped to yet, or this was going to be the worst Oktoberfest ever. I mean, how does one respond to such an invitation, Dionysus? What are the German laws regarding consent? Should a safe word be established on the spot, and if so, should it be in English or German? Mein Kopf**** was reeling, mate.
Franky and Yorick were as dumbstruck as I was, although I can’t say for sure whether they were going through prurient German bear porn scenarios in their heads too. The situation was so surreal, so bizarre that we couldn’t help but follow the man into his flat. It has been my experience that occurrences that seem like they can’t be happening will cause you do to things that you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) normally do—like freely enter the living quarters of naked German men.
He led us to a nicely furnished living room and bade us to take a seat. We did. He sat opposite us on a couch and opened a newspaper, which covered the upper portion of his chest and nothing below.
“So, how was your trip?” he asked, flipping the paper as he eyed us over the top.
What the hell is he reading? S&M classifieds? I thought to myself, eyeing the half open window near me. If I took a header now, I would die gracefully, untouched by naughty German bits.
“Um, it was good. The Autobahn sure is, uh, sure is something.” Franky stammered, trying not to look south of the sports section our host was now reading.
JESUS FUCKING CHRIST CAN’T YOU LOWER THAT GOD DAMN PAPER A FEW INCHES, PAL? I suddenly realized how cold it was. I shuddered and looked down. Well, not that cold apparently.
“Good. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I hope the drive wasn’t too long or hard?”
And that was my cue, Dionysus.
“No it was fine, really. We’re awfully tired though, so if you could show us where we’re sleeping that would be great.”
It was a gamble, to be sure, but I was running out of options. He folded his paper, set it down, and stood up, fully erect***** and smiling ear to ear.
“Of course! How rude of me. Follow me.”
He led us down a hallway. I tried my best not to look down, telling myself over and over again that there was nothing shameful about the nude male form and that he was probably just really open and proud of his physique and definitely, most definitely not one of those German sex perverts that you hear about. He stopped and opened a door, gesturing with his right hand.
“Here is your room. And here is the key to the flat. Come and go as you wish.” He held out a key, which I gingerly took with my thumb and forefinger, as if I were extricating a wayward hair from a meal.
“Uh, thank you. Danke. Good night.”
We promptly shut the door before barricading it from the inside with our luggage.
How about that German hospitality, Dionysus?
</3 Sir Rateval Hurtlinge
P.S. I have never been able to look at a German newspaper the same way since.
P.P.S. The only artistic license I claim is faulty memory concerning events that I was typically drunk during. If you asked Yorick or Franky, they might give you a different version of what happened. However, they ain’t writers and I am, so I suppose you’ll have to take my word for it.
*Roughly three hours on the Autobahn if Yorick is driving.
**Translated from the German.
***Poor choice of words.
*****Note to self: Use better words.