The temperature has been very hot—nearly 100 degrees! At the end of the first week of August we drove to Paris for a long week—about eight or nine days—and did little but sit for two of those days because it was so hot and humid there as well. The trees looked burned; their leaves were like late autumn—but not from the change of seasons but from the lack of water. It’s not quite that bad here in Frankfurt, but there is still a shortage of water. Some of the suburbs have initiated watering restrictions—no lawn watering or car washing. Fortunately we’ve had a couple of days in the past week of lengthy, gentle rains. Our garden seemed to perk up overnight. The trees had looked so parched and shriveled. After the first rain they improved. But in the meantime when we got back from France, we did put a hose under each one and let it trickle for several hours. I was afraid that they might already be lost.
Oh, I now have another address—it’s almost the same as an American one. What that really means is that I can avoid German customs and send for catalogue orders. For example, when my glass marbles came (I had ordered some clear glass marbles to put in the bottom of a vase to hold up flowers like tulips and lilies), the German customs fee was two-thirds of the cost of the marbles! This came about because I told one of the colleges that wanted me to teach sophomore composition courses for them that the only way I would teach would be if they would get me "logistical support." That means that I now have access to all military facilities and shopping benefits. The meat and vegetables in the commissary are trash! I can’t imagine why people shop there for those items. One can do much better "on the economy"—especially for fruits and vegetables. But it is nice occasionally to get some "junk" food. I came home with a bag of crunchy Cheetos one day. We pigged out! We ate the whole bag as our supper!
About the new address—the Big Bend secretary is brilliant and responsible. So when she saw that I was eligible for an APO (Army Post Office) address, she said to use the BBCC address and she would call me the minute any mail for me comes in. That way I don’t have to check too often. Why do I seem to learn about all these things halfway through? I guess I shouldn’t complain.
And speaking of Paris—when we were in Paris we were startled at the costs and how much they seemed to have skyrocketed since we were last there. We thought Stockholm had high prices with five to six dollars for a beer, but at just about any sidewalk cafe in Paris a similar beer cost six dollars. We did find that the food prices, at least in restaurants, had not gone up to match the beer prices. We could still find outstanding dinners at "last year’s prices." And when we’re in Paris, one of the obvious reasons that we are there is for the food.
We were also fortunate to be staying in a friend’s apartment so we avoided both the expense of a hotel and the heat, during the heat wave, of having to stay in an un-air-conditioned hotel. The apartment wasn’t air-conditioned either, but it was not as beastly as it was outside. One side benefit of apartment living was that we often had nightly entertainment across and down the street. Prostitution is legal in France and some practitioners relaxed in the coolness (or at least lack of the hot sun) of the evening not far from our window. We observed them through our curtain and even videotaped an episode. Evidently one of the "ladies" did not like it at all (you have to envision stamping of feet here) that one of her colleagues was on that particular part of the street on that particular evening (even though we saw her there the night before). Watching the objector in action was some sight! This woman communicated far more with her hands than with her voice. She demonstrated massive and expansive arm gestures, considerable foot movements, and overall outrageous body language. Hearing only muttered, faint words and without a translation almost anyone could decipher this conversation. She just did not like that other woman being there. The "regular" seemed to take it all very calmly. But finally the police arrived to check their papers and to try possibly to calm the one down. Someone in a nearby apartment must have called to complain about the noise. After the police left, the one woman, the arm-waver, left. However, in about five or ten minutes she returned with two additional "female" friends and they all started this verbal attack on the "regular." Ultimately, she responded in kind. After all this, we tired of their antics and returned to our conversation. Later when we looked out the window, the interlopers were gone and the "regular" was getting into a car with one of her customers. Such local color!
On Tuesday Jack goes to Sweden for a week of meetings. This time the hotel he is staying in is a boat! It was Barbara Hutton’s yacht that her dad gave her for her eighteenth birthday. The yacht has served many roles in its lifetime, but since 1982 it’s been a hotel-restaurant in the middle of the lake in the center of Stockholm. We had dinner there a couple of times when I was there, and it is lovely. While he’s in Sweden, I’ll be teaching three nights next week to make up for the missed class on Labor Day. These American colleges and universities follow American holidays—and some German ones too!