After being cooped up Obertshausen for nearly a week with nothing but German being spoken in my presence (except for Janelle who couldn’t say anything but ga ga or goo goo and Maria who spoke to me in English only when we were alone) I had to get out of the house. There is only so much you can take with their gigantic breakfasts with every imaginable cold cut, eggs, bacon, toast, coffee, orange juice, grapefruit juice and stuff that I wouldn’t give to a starving animal. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but I missed good old Raisin Bran or just plan eggs, hash browns and toast with a cup of strong coffee. Then there were all the questions. Where are you three going to live? Are you going to move to Germany or go back to America? Who do you think is going to win the World Cup? Even though I didn’t give a hoot about American Football, I missed seeing the games on TV. I couldn’t wait for baseball season and I wanted to watch a Dodger or Yankee game. Soon the Pebble Beach Pro/Am was going to be televised and I knew it wasn’t going to be shown on German TV. I guess you could say I was truly homesick.
One night in early February when everyone went to bed, I waited for an hour to make sure the house was still and then I sneaked out. I crept out to the street and got into Kai’s Merkur, the Orange Crush, put it in neutral and coasted down the road until I was out of earshot then started the beast up and drove back to Sachsenhausen. The weather was close to snowing but the flurries had not materialized yet. I felt that as long as I didn’t stay out too long I could get back without anyone knowing I was gone. It was risky, but my boredom took over and ruled my decision.
Forty-five minutes later, I parked the car a few blocks from the main part of the American sector in Sachsenhausen and this time I made sure I knew exactly where it was using landmarks and whatnot. I went back to the English Pub where Maria and I were on New Year’s Eve and ordered a beer at the bar. The same band was playing American Pie again and I felt a strange sense of déjà vu. At the bar, two loudmouth Germans were in a heated discussion about something and they were so voluminous in speech it was beginning to give me an awful headache. I left the bar and walked until I found another place suitable for the subdued mood I was in. I happened into a local German bar that I knew was a little off the beaten track and wasn’t a tourist trap. They specialized in a certain drink that was called Geneva—a lot like Ouzo with as much, if not more, punch. I was beginning to get a little drunk so I went back to beer and tried to pace myself. There was a pool table in the back and I took out a D-Mark and put it on the table indicating I was up for a game. I was hot that night and won about ten D-Marks from some of the regulars. I don’t think they were too thrilled about losing to an American, especially a Jewish one. I don’t know if they perceived me to be Jewish, but I felt like that scene in Annie Hall where Woody Allen is having dinner with Grammy Hall and it cuts to a shot with him wearing payot, or peyos, and a yarmulke or a shtreimel (a black Hassidic hat). I was fortunate that they let me off the hook with a few nasty looks. There was no way I was going to get into any kind of an altercation on foreign soil. At around two a.m. I thought I had better get back and when I opened the front door the icy wind almost blew me back into the bar. It wasn’t just snowing it was a freaking blizzard. I bundled myself up and rushed back to the Orange Crush but it had taken me three times as long to get back as it would have under normal conditions. When I saw the car it was buried under a fresh blanket of snow that seemed like it was two feet thick—it was completely snowed in. I wiped off the snow the best I could with the sleeve of my leather coat then put the key in the door and turned it but it wouldn’t open. I pulled and yanked on it and wished that I had some kind of defrost spray or WD-40, but I don’t think that it was even invented yet. One last pull and the door handle broke off in my hand. I knew I was fucked, but after (pardon the expression) jimmying it with the key, the door finally opened. How was I going to explain the broken handle to Kai?
There was no way on earth I was going to make it back to Obertshausen in that blizzard, but it didn’t stop me from trying. I had to get back before the Bornemann’s woke up and they usually got up around six a.m. As I crawled down the frozen street the car was careening and swerving in the drifts. Then I saw the blue lights in the rear view mirror. I was being pulled over by the Frankfurt police. I thought I was completely fucked and would be going to jail since I was sure I was over the legal limit of alcohol consumption. They had me get out of the car and fortunately they spoke English, In fact there English was superb. I explained my situation, how I had borrowed my girlfriend’s brother’s car and wasn’t too familiar with the directions back to their village. I must say, and here is I give kudos to the German police. They not only didn’t arrest me, they offered to drive me back to Obertshausen which was more than thirty miles away and said they would tag the car so it wouldn’t get towed. I took them up on the offer. Who wouldn’t? I got back to the house at around 3:30 in the morning and sneaked back in without waking anyone up since I had found the spare key under the doormat. Why anyone keeps a spare key under the doormat and still feels safe I’ll never know. The only problem was I had to retrieve the car in the morning or whenever the weather cleared up. I knew I was going to have to fess up to my crime, which I did the next morning. I was surprised how well they took it and two days later I drove back to Sachsenhausen with Kai in his father’s car and I followed him back home.
I knew I had to get back to America soon. I loved Maria, or at least I thought I did, but I missed my dog, Bridget Bardog. I know it seems stupid to choose a dog over a beautiful young woman but that’s the way I truly felt. I had known Bridget a lot longer and we had been through so much together; moving from place to place. I thought about the first time I saw her out of my window on Radford—the day she got on the bus at the corner and then was kicked off by the bus driver. Then moving to Highland Avenue and when I left for New York how BJ had half starved her by selling her dog food for cigarette money. Then I thought about moving back to Oakhurst and her having the three puppies and I being the midwife (is that what you would call it?) which, after complaints from the neighbor, led to my mom and dad getting thrown out of that apartment, the one they had lived in for more than fifteen years, and moving in to a much nicer place in Studio City. After that, we moved to Venice, then back to Hollywood and now I had left her with my folks and it had been more than two months since I had seen her. Yes, It was true, I told Maria, I love you honey, but I miss my dog and I said when I got back to the U.S. the first thing I was going to do was apply for what is known as a fiancé petition which would take about three or four months to be approved.
I arrived back in Los Angeles in February of 1985 and when my dad picked me up I hugged him and he helped me with my bags and placed them in the trunk of the Mercedes. The first thing I did when I got in the car was to I turn on the radio and wouldn’t you know, Chuck Berry’s “Back In the U.S.A came on. I sang along with it at the top of my lungs much to my father’s chagrin. Oh well, oh well, I feel so good today. We touched ground on an international runway. Jet propelled back home, from over the seas to the U. S. A. I ran into the house on Canton Drive and there she was. She whimpered and circled around then jumped up and licked my face and I hugged her for a long time. She looked a little heavier than I had remembered but no worse for wear. I was back and we were together again. Can I get an Amen? AMEN!!