Saturday, July 1, 2017
On a local train between Wiesbaden and Darmstadt, I sat next to a guy in the bicycle car who was in his late 40s. He asked where I was riding. I told him I had visited my former commander who was now at Wiesbaden Air Base where I was stationed in the 70s.
Dieter brightened and said, "I miss the American Army." He grew up in Darmstadt and was in school during the 70s. He said Americans came to all the festivals and brought their Boom Boxes. Black soldiers, he said, were at all of the festivals. He made a gesture indicating he remembered boom boxes a yard long or more. They played soul in the 70s. In the 80s when he was a teenager he heard the beginning of Hip Hop and Rap from the Americans.
Now, he said, all the Americans are gone from Darmstadt. He was on the way to a big festival which he said was less festive since the Americans left. I told him about letting German kids about his age play on my tank in the woods near Fulda. That story is here. He said he sat in several America vehicles, but never a tank.
In the 70s, I had the general impression that Germans from cities far from the border saw us as drunks they had to put up with, but closer to the border, they liked us a lot more. It was nice to meet a guy who truly enjoyed having American soldiers in his young life.
Riding to Auschwitz dfrom Katowice, Poland, I stopped for a drink at a gas station and met Jakub. He knew I was an American. He told me how he would love to go to America and work.
Like so many people, he sees a guy my age riding a bike he started talking about fitness. He lives at home with his mom and brother. He said his mom who is in her late 40s is always talking about getting in shape, but she drives one kilometer to work. "In case she needs her car. Which she never does."
He also told me that his girlfriend applied to get a visa to work in America and lost several thousand dollars in a scam telling people from Eastern Europe they could get visas to work in America.
He also loves cars. That is not always true of people working in gas stations. He has a little 3 Series BMW hatchback. I was telling him about the Toyota Auris I was driving in the Balkans. He likes hybrids a lot.
He visited America once. Only New York City. He would like to see more of America. I told him I live 200 miles from NYC in a place where some people still drive horses and buggies. He had never heard of the Amish. Then I told him they talk on cell phones while they drive horses. He was going to tell his friends about that. I wrote down Lancaster so he could show them on a map where the horses and buggies are.