[Printer-Friendly Version]Fanzine of Herbivorous Youth
Animal Review for December 19-20
[18 December][9 December][4-5 December]
The other whole fish lay stiff and crispy as new potato chips, but the carp looked dead, dead, dead. I stood pointing at it, as I later stood pointing at a duck's mutilated torso, drawing the attention of no one (my companion, for whom I'll have to think of a nickname, was busy ordering filet of Rotbarsch, whatever that is) as if to say, "As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again."
The carp (you'd have to see it to believe it) was mostly yellow, the same golden yellow color Frank Perdue imputes to healthy dead chickens as though they were still chicks or yolks or had conveniently toasted themselves in preparation for slaughter or had hepatitis. Through the semitransparent yellow, purple showed like a bruise, and a welter of green seemed to ooze from deep within the fish, whose glassy surface expressed large scales at random. Around the fins, mouth, and eyes were traces of blood. Are they like catfish?" I asked myself. "That is, do they bleed gushing bright red when you skin them alive?" I said nothing to my companion, since I had no idea what the German word for catfish might be, assuming there is one.
Unlike the trout and salmon, the carp looked heavy and flexible. The trout had obviously lived their lives at attention, swimming in bursts propelled by stiff backs and quick fins, and the salmon seemed swift and graceful even on ice. The carp seemed to have been severely beaten -- not caught in nets, but found by the highway where they been struck by passing trucks while changing tires. How can a sea creature end up looking so abused? I always thought the fish in the paintings of Ensor were a bit disgusting, so white and pink and blue and drained of life, but now I realize nothing truly dead is as disturbing as the carp, which appeared to have lived until recently and died violently, and then to have been taken over quickly from within by festering boils of flesh-eating staph. Their exteriors were uneven -- you got the feeling someone had been scraping around inside them with a curette. Also, why did each fish have only five or six scales? Had they been ineptly scaled, or had the other scales merely fallen off at some point? Did they have the slippery ball-bearing bones of eels, or had every bone been broken?
It occurs to me that Argentina used to throw its desaparecidos from airplanes into the ocean, but that is way, way too heavy a theme for AR, so I'll stick to the catfish: I lived and worked for years with a man who had a habit of catching them all night and frying them for breakfast. Cleaning a bony fish is like dismantling a plastic model and doesn't affect your appetite one way or another, but during catfish preparation it's best to stay in the house. I only looked outside once (I had been warned). They were delicious.
I should have pretended to want a carp, and asked the woman at the counter to weigh one. They were fat and a foot long and looked so liquid you could snap them like whips or squeeze their middles and their eyes would bulge, like pastry chefs' sacks of whipped cream mixed with lead. I estimate five pounds per carp. I am told (a friend just called on the phone and I said I'm writing about carp) that carp are a traditional Christmas food, especially this year, despite their regular consumption of "animal flour" (the vector of BSE). The trout and salmon, balanced lightly on their hillocks of ice like still living birds, looked right through death with blank, knowing eyes, but the dead, dead, dead carp, who enveloped and draped their surroundings in death, conveyed a message of pain and torture more appropriate to Good Friday than to the festivities of Advent, in my opinion.
More cheerful Christmas foods include: gingerbread, anise cookies, mulled wine, chocolate santas, marzipan pigs.
The companion for whom I'll have to think of a nickname lent me a book called 'The Classical Sow' devoted to pornographic excerpts from well-known authors. I was forced to conclude that some of them were fake, and that many people, including the editors of pornographic anthologies, develop odd notions of the erotic. The most explicit, and also best-written, piece was by Kenzaburo Oe, so at least now I've read something by Kenzaburo Oe. I had this idea maybe I should pay more attention to sex (in my creative work, I mean, not in real life -- that would be a lot to ask) after hearing the story of Claudia Gehrke, who sought to make a living publishing philosophy and ended up putting out alternative softcore. She even sponsors "Erotic Nights" at the Sudhaus, where her photographers show slides and her writers do readings while her lonely audience, having paid $15 to get in, shifts its weight and clears its throat. I only looked at one book from her Konkursbuch Verlag, and thought little more than "These models need makeup bad," but the message implied by her career -- "Sex Sells," as everyone here keeps telling me, in English -- stuck with me. Are my webslave and I merely too vain to embarrass ourselves, our families, and everyone we know while growing rich enough to give them fabulous presents and win their undying love by writing bestselling freak books? But who ever said we have to publish them under our own names?
When I was a child, my father told me the story of Penelope Ash, author of 'Naked Came the Stranger.' (As I recall, we were in or near Goolrick's Drugstore in Fredericksburg.) Armed with only this splendid title, which came to him in a vision, an enterprising journalist outlined a plot, persuaded a few friends to take on several chapters each, and hired a lovely young woman to play Penelope. Her fate (Nell is usually short for Penelope), to waste her youth laying claim to the obscene fantasies of men she hardly knows, is one we all can relate to. While my mother encouraged me to read romantic escapist novels, my father held before me the shining example of Penelope Ash and assigned me the short stories "The Tesseract House" and "A Subway Called Moebius." His message was clear: Sex Sells, and life is a deceptive, brief, and bewildering accident of topology. Her message, that one should never marry a doctor or a musician, has been proven equally accurate, but more narrow in its application. Yet between the two cornerstones of my upbringing -- topological sophistication, and a sexual mandate that excludes only a small minority of professionals -- I feel there is room, and indeed a great potential, for a career in pornography and an attendant life of ease and wealth, so now maybe I'll send this off to the webslave and see how he reacts. I already have some ideas for who we can get to play our Penelope (obviously, I mean the formerly 19-year-old bisexual poetess what's-her-name).
The Pears of Uzbekistan
I remember when I first heard of the pears of Uzbekistan: I was standing in the kitchen at Memco/Platinum/CA (we were bought twice), looking forlornly into a bowl of fruit. My boss, who stood beside me (actually we had a matrix reporting structure, so he wasn't officially my boss), reached into the bowl and plucked out a tiny, green pear as round and hard as a baseball. (He wasn't my boss, merely the man I was paid to please, and I did it gladly, but why exactly? I never understood what attracted me to him.) "Pathetic," I remarked, or something along those lines.
"This is no pear," he replied with the hard, sardonic air he often wore in the face of adversity, into whose face he looked approximately 24 hours a day. "A pear is five times this size, yellow, moist, soft, and juicy. Until you have eaten a pear from Uzbekistan, you have not eaten a pear."
I cataloged the fact with pleasure. I like hearing about a parallel universe where the best fruit comes from Central Asia and the best champagne from the Crimea. Plus, I always enjoyed his reminiscences. His stories cured me of any lingering willingness to think self-styled communists I meet are somehow cute. Now my first impulse is to suggest they think hard about finding another label for themselves. "Ronald Reagan was right," I thought after listening to him for a while. "Evil Empire." My favorite story could be summarized more or less like this: "You know poets? I had a poet friend in high school. Beautiful kid, very sensitive. Didn't go over too well with the recruiting authorities. They sent him to a pretty tough army unit. Eventually they smashed him one too many times into the sidewalk -- they had this ritual where they hold your arms and legs and bang your head and body into the cement -- and he would have died, except that some nurse fell in love with him and decided to keep him alive ...."
He wasn't the only believer in the pears of Uzbekistan. Other post-Soviet coworkers verified that Uzbekistan, where Tamerlane built Samarkand, i.e. a fully exotic and non-European place, is the home of every authentic, wild and perfect fruit, beyond the dreams of domestication, and that communism sucks out loud. It's hard for an American to visualize basic nutrition in the Garden of Eden. What grows wild that we can eat raw, besides truffles, blueberries, and peyote? In general, we picture societies without agriculture as drinking eggs and blood while eating grubs, pith and acorns. But I found the transplendent pears et al. instantly credible, since I had already come to know the wildflowers of the Middle East -- tulips, cyclamen, daffodils, iris four feet tall, etc. There is, the Middle East had taught me, such a thing as a free lunch.
Avner told me his mother and father introduced him to the Uzbek pear myth, but he always suspected that when you're crossing Central Asia on foot in wartime any pear looks good. Also, he had already been provided with several legendary Russian delicacies which proved to be all hype.
But then we saw them, both of us for the first time, right here in Tuebingen. Across the street from the philosophy department, down in a garden by the river, an old tree was covered, in October, with huge, yellow, irregular pears, six inches across. I had never seen anything like them and neither had Avner, but we both recognized them immediately. I snuck through a gate to feel if they were as soft as my boss had claimed. They were hard as rocks. I should have gone back in November to feel them again, but I forgot.
Actually it's not true; it didn't happen to me. It happened to the Flightless Ibis, about two months ago, after he reread the subject novel. In the end the exterminator only cost him $125 (he got the landlord to pay half). Somehow I don't quite expect him to write about it, no matter how I beg.
Phil liked animals a lot. "I like ['Do Androids ...'] for one thing," he wrote in his 1968 "Self Portrait." "It deals with a society in which animals are adored and rare, and a man who owns a real sheep is Somebody... and feels for that sheep a vast bond of love and empathy. Willis, my tomcat, strides silently over the pages of that book, being important as he is, with his long golden twitching tail. Make them understand, he says to me, that animals are really that important right now ...." Phil took a lot of real speed, not the Sudafed and frozen ghat concentrate relied upon by the Ibis. The Ibis has a cat now too. He would write about it, except that he is waiting until it tells him what to say.
Vincent (a favorite poet of my mother's, so we're on a first-name basis) appears in every anthology of American poetry. First comes the introductory paragraph about how she was popular once upon a time when jazz-age adolescent girls took her as their standard-bearer in matters of free love, and then come the too-hot-to-handle sex poems as follows: "We were very tired, we were very merry/We rode back and forth all night on the ferry," and "My candle burns at both ends/It will not last the night." So I was always a little mystified as to how exactly she gained her reputation. Eventually I decided that she must have acquired it in the usual way, and that it had nothing to do with her work.
Mom wasn't much help either. Vincent was represented in her poetry collection by a slim volume containing the long poem with which she won a prize and first came to the attention of the literary establishment, "Renascence." (Usually it's the other way around -- first you enjoy the attention of the literary establishment from birth because you are its son, and then you win the prize -- but whatever.) "Renascence" has a refrain something like, "A cloud, two mountains, and the sea/These were the things which bounded me ...." The speaker at first feels constrained by these distant features of the landscape, but later concludes that such limits are illusory or irrelevant, I can't remember which. Like the ferry and candle doggerel, "Renascence" doesn't quite give you the feeling that the poet is laying all her cards on the table, so it was with real relief that, having purchased her collected sonnets on an impulse, I opened them and read:
I too beneath your moon, almighty Sex,
Go forth at nightfall, crying like a cat ...
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head 'til morning ....
Here she is seducing some boy:
... All my pretty follies flung aside
That won you to me, and beneath your gaze,
Naked of reticence and shorn of pride,
Spread like a chart my little wicked ways ....
And here she is afterwards:
I shall forget you presently, my dear,
So make the most of this, your little day,
Your little month, your little half a year,
Ere I forget, or die, or move away,
And we are done forever; by and by
I shall forget you, as I said, but now,
If you entreat me with your loveliest lie
I will protest you with my favorite vow ....
And so on. There's nothing sexually explicit -- the poems are merely frank, shameless, and 14 lines in iambic pentameter, which must be why they are considered an embarrassment to 20th century American culture. Also, she mentions reproduction only once, in a late sonnet about dinosaurs.
Yesterday was a slow, annoying day, and held for me a credible promise of a long, irritating evening. I felt I had nothing to look forward to. Suddenly, at 8:15 p.m., it occurred to me that such a bored, peevish mood adapted me perfectly for attendance at the evening's featured concert: Adaro, "Medieval Crossover" and/or "Ancient Dance and Rock." The promotional postcard showed moody Goths in leather and eyeliner lounging in a cloister. The Sudhaus program said they sing in Hebrew and Arabic, among other things. I envisioned a gang of dour poseurs amplifying liturgical plainsong until it sounded like the Melvins, and set out on foot, determined to get in free at any price.
Punctually at 9:00 I reached the back of the line, and my expectations rose significantly. Before me stood a young man in a richly embroidered linen bathrobe, slit up the back (for riding, I hope) and open in front to the waist, exposing his chest. "It's the SCA!" I thought with ever-increasing Christmas cheer. Inside milled a throng of medieval boys and girls with crowns, swords, and hems that dragged the ground. Getting in free turned out to be no big challenge, as my friend Michael Fideler was working the door. I held out my arm and he stamped it fluorescent green, saying, "Perhaps you and I should have a pleasant little chat sometime."
"Heh?" I replied (an especially dumb-sounding German interjection). He explained that my improv series, premiering next Thursday, had received a mention in the Swabian Daily Leaf in which readers were encouraged to engage me in conversation -- why, I can't imagine. Everyone tells me it is my sacred duty to butter up the pop music critic of the Leaf, and I have obediently tried really hard to force the poor fucker to talk to me, so probably in the end he decided I was lonely. It might have something to do with the regrettable (I'm sure the guy who did it doesn't regret it, but he should) editing of my contribution to the Sudhaus program. My poetic evocation of improvised music, which closed with the dispensable locution "sort of like casual sex, but more hygienic" and gave the URL and my phone number but not my name, was cut to just a few words, attributed to me as though I had been interviewed, and adjusted to "'just like casual sex' (Nell). For more information, call Nell." To his credit, he did publish the photo of Zohar Bat playing the Parker with an E-Bow while Banana Boy looks on. (They are stuffed animals, though I suppose one could characterize Banana Boy as a doll.) ("Bat" means female -- it's a bunny who's the female Zohar, not a bat.)
I headed straight for the bar and plunked down $2.50 for 0.25l of white wine. Then Adaro took the stage. The hot babe (the big posters, not the little postcards, feature the hot babe) had a pale mauve cape/vest thing right down to her boots. She sometimes picked it up and swung it around like Stevie Nicks. Her bustier was metallic lime green with cutouts in a neo-celtic design that gave evidence of her having really nice breasts. I forget her pants. The singer, who also played pennywhistle, recorder, bagpipe and the double-reed thing played by Catalans and the master musicians of Joujouka, wore a leather vest with burgundy velvet trim and a matching velvet half-skirt like the thing Marlene Dietrich wears in 'The Blue Angel.' The drummer had a full and fluffy flakate vest. The others looked like scruffy medieval bikers with elf shoes. The effect was somewhere between Prince and the Revolution in 1982 and GWAR.
The hot babe played something called "Drehleier." With her right hand, she turned a crank, and with her left, she pressed on keys. The crank turns a wooden wheel somewhere inside and it bows the strings. The "revolving lyre" didn't have a huge range, but it stayed in tune, had a suitably piercing tone for rock purposes, and didn't obscure anyone's view -- now I realize why I don't remember her pants: the Drehleier was strapped to her hips. It's a big thing, on a wide strap. It appeared to have lots of strings, though I never heard more than two at a time.
Soon I had laid out another $2.50, and then I really began to enjoy myself. Half a liter of wine after a lunch of "Christmas Star" (a six-pointed cake) is enough to put me over the top into what you might call La La Land, and I danced and cheered, delighted by the singer's witty musings. If he sang in Hebrew or Arabic I couldn't tell, but I did catch some Spanish. The pages, squires, princesses, ladies-in-waiting and Franciscan monks bobbed, weaved, and hugged each other to the light, catchy rhythms which reminded me sometimes of Fairport Convention and sometimes of the Doobie Brothers. After two substantial sets he bid the audience goodnight, and then they played for another half an hour, as though compelled by the public's fanaticism and greed to give encore after encore like Bruce Springsteen.
As the concert concluded I found myself making out with an acquaintance, and rather publicly, i.e., under a light in front of the bar, which is a very fine thing to do when you're slumming at the Wetlands, but perhaps inadvisable in a puny microenvironment like the Sudhaus. It was surely an interesting spectacle to many onlookers, for various reasons. Coming to my senses, I disengaged myself and departed smiling, laughing and swinging my umbrella down the Steinlach towards Tuebingen, pausing at every rapids to listen to the rushing water and look up at the nearly full moon that glowed blue and gold through a veil of cirrus.
In summary, I would give Adaro a grade of A (isn't it Christgau who gives grades?) (and Sonic Youth who recorded "I Killed Christgau With My Big Fucking Dick"?), not A+, because the hot babe should learn to flash her pants. It was definitely the best SCA band I ever saw. It was fun.
Late this summer I drove with a friend to Spain. Both ways, we took the pass called "Col du Portalet" to get over the Pyrenees. The road is very beautiful without being frightening. At the top, instead of a sharp ridge, there's an enormous grassy valley, and on our way to Spain, we stopped to see why so many other cars were parked there.
That Sunday, it turned out, was a sheep dog festival. From every direction, large groups of men drove sheep towards sheds and pens while small, fuzzy terriers circled among their legs, yipping. The dogs didn't seem to be doing anything to help matters, but they did look very cute, and it was clear that they are popular pets, as the field was filled with families walking them on leashes. I didn't see anything remotely resembling the "Great Pyrenees" breed (big white Saint Bernards), just lots of sweet little doggies who apparently are really good at keeping shepherds company while not demanding too much to eat.
The landscape there is very lovely, but overgrazed, or at least I regard any landscape where I have to stare at the ground constantly to keep from stepping in shit, and where the tallest plants in August reach a majestic height of 1cm, as overgrazed. In winter you can ski up there, especially if you regard driving as a variant of skiing (on our way back, in early September, they had put in the "snow sticks" -- orange-and-white striped slalom gates to let you find the road when everything is white). Since my somewhat traumatic experience on Monarch Pass two years ago, you could not pay me enough to go driving around in mountains in the winter. (I drove into a flurry and ended up nose down in a snowbank on a blind curve on a sheet of ice. Kind strangers saved me. Call me Ishmael, etc.)
As we left, a solitary man approached down a steep incline, leading 40 or 50 sheep who were kept in tightly-packed formation by the same tiny, yipping dogs, so I was forced to admit that maybe they really are sheep dogs after all.
Back on November 11 when I reassumed my rightful place as arbiter of fashion, I wrote a short paragraph titled "Record Reviews." Then I realized that my reputation would never survive public exposure of my taste. I squelched the sad little paragraph, and resolved to say not one more word about music.
But what does music really have to do with Bob Ostertag and Phil Minton (Sudhaus, last night)? Bob had a spiffy Mac stuffed with samples, and Phil's low grunts were a bit like my ex-father-in-law's snoring, so that I was transported back through history to greater New York. The snatches of conversation, coughing, screeching, and general confusion recreated for me a distant time when the A train to JFK was under renovation and you had to transfer to a shuttle bus for about half of Queens. Then, suddenly, stillness and the barking of seals: Coney Island (different train). That was the first piece. The second piece sampled "Born Free" and so reminded me a little more of the tape collages people used to do back when the idea of packing an entire song into a single hard drive seemed far-fetched. I liked the encore. It started with a melody from 'West Side Story,' so that Phil stood there looking bemused and wondering what to do. When he finally found a hole, he came on extra strong and the effect was very nice and organic.
For the first time, their style of music seemed to me to have something directly to do with living in big cities. In Tuebingen, one is exposed to a powerful new sense impression about once a month, assuming one works hard at it.
Afterwards, Bob seemed eager to talk to me (I had admired his setup and obligingly shouted "Free Bird!" before the encore), but I proceeded to the Sudhaus Christmas party, where I stayed about ten minutes. It was a bit loud and I couldn't understand a word anyone was saying. I regretted not staying to talk to my compatriots Bob and Phil, who spoke only in the transparent meta-language of thought itself. (English, I mean.) Bob looked like the young G. Gordon Liddy, if Liddy worked out and had a cheerful smile. (I think Liddy only smiles when he's holding his hand in fires, to show he doesn't mind the pain.) I considered hitting on him, but then I thought that would really be a way to get on the Tuebingen noise establishment's shit list -- run off with him before they have a chance to get him drunk and make him promise to get them all invited to New York. And of course we have nothing in common but the crystalline accessibility of the one true language, although for exiles like us, that's plenty. I had a similar effect on Elliott Sharp, who, I am quite sure, would never deign to speak to such as me on his own turf; but in Tuebingen, you should have seen the eager light in his eyes when I approached and began to say anything that came into my head, it didn't matter, in fluent sentences instantly comprehensible to both of us. In person he didn't seem nearly as weird as he does when hiding a guitar pick in his mouth for half an hour. A friend of mine (German, Swabian, some Spanish) stood there watching in frustration as we exchanged the clouds of allusive glory that spread like parachutes behind the dragsters of naked fact, halting and silencing us with their vast and glorious tension whenever, for example, one American tells another he's from Cleveland. I was too busy being possessed and transfigured to realize she thinks Elliott is hot, hot, hot and was just waiting for a chance to jump on him. They both missed out, and it's all my fault.
It's a while ago now, so a bit of a struggle to remember the smaller ones -- I think there were dodos (or at least there were large, cooing, flightless doves, or maybe they were quail), and supposedly there are scorpions, which are smaller than you'd think. On our walks in Wadi Tsin, the only animals we expected to see were vultures riding the updrafts, so it was a bit of a shock (to me) the day we encountered a herd of camels. It appeared to be a family group, including babies, adolescents, moms, and one great big camel who I guessed was entrusted with protecting the others by any means necessary. A great big camel is really big. It leaves a moose in the shade. Of course it doesn't have enormous, pointy antlers on its head, but that doesn't mean I'd want it biting my arm. Zohar of course was 100% intrepid. I.e., he just stood there, looking at them. I scanned the bush for outriders, took a step back every time a camel took a step forward, and eventually insisted we leave.
Probably half an hour later, as it was getting dark, we saw a few domestic animals, grazing in a canyon -- what were they? A donkey, a white pony -- but then my memories turn unreliable, providing me with a clear image of a Hereford. In the U.S., that's all I would have seen from the beginning.
The Kornblume is Tuebingen's historic earth-peace-dyke grocery store, and it was there that I saw the vegetarian Nurembergers which I bought gleefully, rushed home, fried patiently until they were crispy all over, and ate with potatoes and rosemary. I felt happy.
Nuremberg, known the world over as Hitler's Reichsstadt and the site of the war-crimes trials, has the most delightful sausages ever. They are small and two of them on a roll doesn't cost very much at all. You don't even have to stand outside in the cold to eat them: there are lovely sausage restaurants, like old-fashioned wooden ski chalets. Plus, they have good beer.
Nuremberg wasn't a very Nazi town. Actually, it was pretty left-leaning, which made it especially attractive for demonstrations by right-wing assholes. Strangely, although street names have been changed from e.g. "Hitler Square" to "Square of the Victims of Fascism," none of the monumental architecture has been torn down. The set of 'Triumph of the Will' is still standing. You can stand where Hitler stood and look down over the grandstands at the Formula One track. Fifteen years ago Speer's masterpiece was a forlorn place, crumbling and overgrown with weeds, and I thought, "How tasteful to let the goddamned thing fall down! Well done!" But apparently the city planners were just waiting for funding to return the Aufmarschgelaende to its rightful standing as Nuremberg's agora, or something. The tribunal houses a small museum. There I learned, from Julius Streicher, a number of things I had already read in 'Haaretz' -- for example, that religious Jews are plotting to enslave us. It doesn't worry me. Offhand, of all the sectors in society that might succeed in enslaving us, I'd call religious Jews a long shot.
I went walking in Puddleby on the Marsh. Puddleby is a dynamic, exciting city on the move and possesses Germany's most beautiful skyline, according to its promotional pamphlet, "Puddleby: Truly Hot!" Puddleby has a nice beer garden, which you should visit next summer before they build the bypass road. Puddleby sits down in the valley and the beer garden is up on the bluff; the bypass road will be a long, high bridge that starts from the beer garden's parking lot. "How," you may ask, "can a city that sits tucked down into a narrow river valley boast of a beautiful skyline?" I suppose the correct answer is, "Shop Puddleby and you'll see!" but actually it does look very nice, especially at night around Christmas. Puddleby specializes in machine tools, but the pamphlet's desperate tone reminds me of those signs you see driving into West Virginia: "Open for Business," as though whatever you want to do, they have a narrow valley you can hide it in. Upstream from Puddleby is an "animal body value-adding plant," where they test for BSE with spoons. If it didn't exist, you could swim in the river.
West of town, towards Rexingen, a beautiful path winds above the valley through lovely woods. I could walk there every weekend for years and never be bored. Puddleby, with its tiny medieval center, broad roads and bridges, and industrial zone packed into a narrow space and seen always in relief against the North valley wall's vague smears of green, looks just like a model railroad. Several times a day a streamlined red-and-white express train pauses in Puddleby on its way to Milan. Logging trains roar through town quite often, and there is a constant traffic of faded diesel trolleys running back and forth from Puddleby to Tuebingen and stopping at mossy, decaying stations that seem to have once offered transfers to lines that no longer exist.
A bit East of town, towards Tuebingen on the valley floor, one comes upon the picturesque domain of the Small Animal Husbandry Club. There, peacocks, parakeets, duck, chicken, turkey, rabbit (animals are always singular when you eat them, like sand or water) and other animals live together in perfect peace by the railroad tracks. As I approached, a club member was looking critically at a clematis vine which had twined its way up a chain link fence to a height of five feet. The vine was a bit limp, but the huge, complicated blue flowers were very impressive. Probably she was resolving to rip it out. I insisted that it was beautiful, thinking, "How come Germans never plant dark red clematis? Dark red is way better." The vine had all the advantages of an incumbent, and would probably still be there if it weren't already December.