Thursday, March 19, 2015

But Memories of People Stay the Same

I was someone else, somewhere else a very long time ago. 

It's okay, so, too were you and if we ran into one another then we wouldn't know it or remember it now. It's a fine line between past tense and past lives. There's a lot of what I was that I don't recall and I'm very happy I don't because I was not a good person or a very nice one. I'm still not (and will in the time remaining probably never be) but I'm not that quite that quick to celebrate that anymore which is progress, right? 

Today I offer some musings I've offered before on this very day, think of it as 'tradition,' because I still feel about the people involved the way I have always felt about them.

I'm looking at (too much) fallen snow out my window (thank goodness for darkness should be my new motto, though darkness is what seems to be enveloping my country, so maybe not) but on the other side of our great nation (your mileage may vary-Armageddon is closer than it appears in your mirror, depending on your political perspective) at some point today, I've never understood it to be tied to a clock so much as a calendar, as is always the case. the swallows return to Capistrano as they do, today, the Feast of St. Joseph. 

But I want to head in a different direction, east over the ocean to Europe and to Germany. 

Thousands of GI broadcasters for decades worked with two fixtures of the American Forces Network (AFN) Europe, from its days in 'The Castle" at Hoescht (a suburb of Frankfurt am Main) to its long-time residence next door to Hessicher Rundfunk (Hessen State radio (and TV)), a block removed from Miquel-Adickesallee in Frankfurt am Main.


Gisela B and Bob M, who shared March 19 as their birthday, travelled two very different paths to that place on Bertramstrasse. Gisela a native of Frankfurt had survived World War II and the desperate days that followed it choosing to work in the schallplatten arkiv (record library) of the amerikanisher soldaten sendung because the Amis, in addition to a weekly pay packet, offered a hot meal at noon as part of the employment package. She never spoke very much about the time after Stunde Null but what she didn't say spoke volumes.

Bob had arrived as part of the bezatzung after the end of the hostilities as a musician. He wore a black beret and I am smiling as I type this because I can still see him in my mind's eye with it at a jaunty angle. He also wore a long, light brown overcoat and a plaid scarf. He was perpetually pre-occupied and there was a gleam in his eye that signaled this incredible appetite for knowledge and an insatiable curiosity about everything in the world around him, and I mean everything.

At one point he had worked for a US advertising agency, in Germany and had horror stories about trying to market American brands of cold cereal to Germans for breakfast and how he watched orange juice get poured over corn flakes until he was so put-off he stopped eating breakfast himself.  He explained to me on a very snowy day when the world seemed to be quiet the meaning for those in the advertising game of  "Go West" (see #11) and how he chuckled every time he saw an ad using it for a German cigarette.       

I worked with Gisela and for Bob for much of my time at AFN and could/should/would have learned even more about Germany, broadcasting and life in general if I had listened more closely to their words and deeds. So tuned was I to WII-FM I often missed the learning that came from their teachable moments. I was in such a hurry that I missed, or nearly did, the whole point to the journey fixating on the destination instead of the view.

They were there when I, and so many others, got to AFN and both of them said 'farewell' to me while remaining on the staff after my time for coming and going had come and gone. I never thanked them for their kindness and their generosity. There was no hurry-we all had time in the world and our paths would surely cross again. Man proposes but God disposes; our paths didn't cross.

I left Germany and they left AFN and then this world, in that order, many years ago. I cling to my memories of them, most especially Bob who had no family aside from his wife Erica and their dog, Sandy, with a tenacity that tries but fails to assuage my fear that I am the last person on earth who knew of them and should I somehow forget them, they will be gone forever. 

At some point, I'll dig out and play, Music Box Dancer by Frank Mills, whom I interviewed and who, at Bob's suggestion, I introduced to Gisela because he knew how much she enjoyed that song and whose smile, upon meeting Mills, lit up what felt like the entire building a very long time ago. 
Der glücklichste von Geburtstagen, ihr zwei!
-bill kenny   

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