by J J Cohen
Late this afternoon I depart for the gleaming modernism that is Dulles International Airport, thence to Munich, thence to Berlin (in case you somehow missed my obsessive posting on the topic, I'm giving a talk at the conference "Queer Again? Power, Politics and Ethics." Roderick Ferguson, Judith Halberstam, José Muñoz and Susan Stryker are my fellow keynoters, and I am really looking forward to hearing what they have to say).
A long night ahead of me, and I can envision already how it will unfold: a darkened cabin, my fellow passengers retreating from the long journey by withdrawal into headphones and the flicker of films six months out of date. I'll be scribbling at the printout of my conference keynote, hoping that somewhere in the turbulence that every plane encounters over the deep Atlantic some last minute inspiration will descend. It's not likely, of course: mostly I'll be tinkering with words on that dark plane, not ideas. If I'm lucky I will experience an hour of sleep before we descend. I know this because it is starting to become a small routine: that's how I spent my flight towards York in March, towards Leeds last summer...
I'm anxious about my nonexistent German speaking skills, my feeling like an outsider at the conference itself, my never having been to Germany before (and not for lack of invitations; maybe I will post on this eventually). As I prepare to depart, Katherine is of course coming down with a cold. Alex has lots of homework and a busy week. Wendy has a big meeting to run downtown, and so the kids will be staying with friends for two nights while I'm away. I'm also endorsing six ACLS applications, have at least four job letters to write for friends and graduate students, an essay due at month's end on the Jews of York, a symposium presentation to compose for Barcelona at the end of October, essays to read for the New Critical Modes issue of postmedieval I'm co-editing with Cary Howie (and an abecedarium to write for that as well). AND I have a trip soon to Buffalo to give a paper, and from there fly right to St Louis for the NCS program board meeting. Then an essay on Chaucer's Franklin's Tale due in November and another (on stones as organisms) in December.
Having written all that out, I've changed my mind about that eight hours of encapsulated solitude that will wing me to Germany. I'm OK with it. Maybe I'll just have a drink and forget that this thing called obligation exists. Yes, I may even don some headphones and watch a film six months out of date.
Hey--looking forward to meeting you; we can hang around the hotel and conference not speaking german . . .
There is not much German you need to know. Just remember this very important phrase:
Ich möchte gern ein Bier/Wein/Schnapps bitte.
Then, with your drink in front of you, all will be well.
Berlin is amazing! So jealous! And you needn't worry. The ex-West Germans you will meet have been speaking English for decades, and do so beautifully. The ex-East Germans are catching up still, but they are functional. And that's just the old people! The kids will be fluent in English and several other languages you remember a linguistics professor mentioning once.
captcha: mediscop. That's you, I guess.
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