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  Leaving Switzerland
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Phil's 1998 India Travelogue

Monday, October 12

...Anyway, Anne and I arrive in Frankfurt and I got stopped by customs to inspect my carry-on back pack. The customs agent started rattling off German to me and I went "wha?". I did study German in high school and can speak and understand simple German sentences, but full conversations leave me dumbfounded. There's a real helpless feeling not knowing the language of the country you are in, which reminds me of that Docker's commercial where the American guy is having a cafe outside of the Eiffel tower. He eyes a beautiful french woman (in reality an American model), and she walks over and says, "buon pantalon". He feverishly searches through his dictionary for what she said. Just then the stereotypical rude french waiter comes along and smacks him on the head with his cleaning towel, and gruffly says, "Ey, she said nice pents." I feel a lot like that guy, especially when it comes to food items, which basically comes in two types, pork and beef. Rahm, brat, wurst, it's all getting clear to me eventually. But I have carried on a couple of small conversations in German, and I feel so proud of that little accomplishment. But if I start a conversation in German, people then assume that I am proficient and start talking in conversational speed. However, my mind has to translate word by word, since it's been 26 years since I studied German, and that is way too slow to process a normal conversation. But surprisingly it is coming back to me, it's a fun challenge. For the most part, Anne and I walk around town here in Lucerne saying,"where can we buy a clue?" It's is really a helpless feeling.

Anyway, back to the customs agent, who looks through my backpack and we start talking to him. He's sort of apologizing for hassling me, and he asks us if we're carrying any illegal cigarettes. So Anne picks up and says, "oh no, we're from California, no one does cigarettes there." And the customs agent fires back, "California, eh, that's the place with all the dope!". Ah yes, California's most famous export, besides Hollywood and computer stuff. We both burst out laughing and he let us go.

Speaking of cigarettes, I've been to Europe several times and it is truly remarkable the difference in cigarette use between America and Europe, and especially California. I'm told Asia is the same way. Walking into the Frankfurt terminal, we were besieged by a white cloud of eye-burning, putrid odors from cigarettes, reminding us that Dorothy, this isn't Kansas.

So we picked up a car, being bumped up to an Audi station wagon for the price of a compact. Rental cars are very cheap in Germany now, for some reason, don't know why, but I ain't complaining. So by some miracle, we made in onto the correct highway to Switzerland, the famous Autobahn, which actually is a generic term for highway in Germany, most big highways apparently are Autobahns. And it is true about no speed limits.

For the first hour I was intimidated from going in the fast lane -even though I would be averaging 140 km/hr, about 84 mph, I could see these maniacs out of my rear-view mirror approaching me and then passing me like I was standing still. (Note: George Carlin says anyone who drives faster than you is a maniac, and anyone who drives slower than you is a jerk). So after a couple of hours, Anne falls asleep, and I get a rush of testosterone. So the next Mercedes Benz yahoo that passes by me, I pull my Audi station wagon behind him in the fast lane, and I peg that bad boy to the floor. 150, 160, 170, 180, 190 kph. Doing the math, that's 115 mph. But hey, it's a rental car!

And I know that driving 115 mph after not sleeping for a night on unfamiliar roads that are wet from last night's rain is really fucking stupid and adolescent, but how many times will I be on the Autobahn with an unconscious wife who won't tell me that I'm scaring her and slow down godammit? This is my big chance to show how truly a reckless adolescent I can be at times. At 115, things go by really, really fast and it actually can make one alert very quickly. I notice how my zone of safety kept going up after getting familiar with each 10 kph jump in speed. You can drive very fast, and the mind can be very still but focused, like it has gone over some edge of fear into a stillness. At 0 or 115 the mind is the same, and it may be easier to see the nature of mind at 115. But kids, don't try this at home. But in any case, I've graduated, I'm proud to say I am one of those Autobahn maniacs who may pass you like a speeding bullet. Fahrtvergnugen. Yeehah.

Tuesday, Oct. 13

Spent most of the day walking around downtown Lucerne It was a perfectly clear day and the town is lovely. The Swiss really know how to do finishing touches with flowers.

One thing of note was the Picasso museum in Lucerne. To see some original Picasso painting was thrilling -I'm no art expert, but his genius really stands out in his work, especially considering the time period in which he painted. There were also hundreds of photos depicting the life of Picasso and his lady Jacqueline, which really gave one an insight into how he worked and lived. Makes us want to see the movie about him that starred Anthony Hopkins.

Wednesday, Oct 14.

I've finally adjusted to the Swiss time zone, and the use of Melatonin is key. It can cut through jet lag like a hot knife through butter, and can speed up the process of bodily adjusting to a new time zone. If you ever have to travel long distances, I highly recommend it. I'm also trying 5-HTP (5 hydroxy tryptohan), which also elevates melatonin levels in the body, with equally good results. Not working helps also.


Switzerland, con't.

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