Minggu, 25 Desember 2011

Passing Through Koln

Back in December 1982 a Paris-bound train crossed the Rhine Bridge into Koln. The morning sky was shod with dark dawn sky. Lights rimmed the overflowing river. I sat on the left side of the DB passenger car. The 6-seat compartment was mine. Few people took the night train. It stopped at every station.

Two bags lay at my feet. They held everything that I didn't want to leave for good in Hamburg. That northern city lived on even less light than Koln. The nightclub at which I worked was in a slump. The pimps of the Reeperbahn had driven away our 'good' customers. The owner said that they spent money. He hadn't paid my commission for the last two months.

SS Tommy was the owner's muscle. Two days earlier the blonde bodybuilder presented a bill for 10,000 Deutschmarks about $6000. The itemized bill listed my intimacy with a bikini model in detail. I was thinking free love. Hamburg wasn't that kind of city. I gave SS Tommy the keys to my BMW 2002. I had crashed orange sets car a week ago in a forest north of the city. It wasn't going anywhere without a tow.

The train rode across the bridge and I watched the silhouette of the medieval cathedral loom out of the murk. Thousands of workers and hundreds of skilled artisans had spent over a hundred years erecting the massive monument to Christianity. It had survived the bombing raids of World War II relatively unscratched and served as a beacon to the faithful. I was not one of them, but I respected the beauty of it's grandeur.

The train stopped in the station. I pulled my hat over my face, fearing that SS Tommy had notified his Gestapo compatriots in Cologne about a fleeing American. The doors closed without a rush of Zuhalterei and the train pulled out of the station. Paris was eight hours away. I already had arrived to safety.

The color of the sky was gray.

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