Research once again demands that I take to the road to observe certain people like the animals they are. This time the migratory subjects of my very serious study are roving the Teutonic nations, drinking in a van by day and rocking out by night, if previous research serves. And so I find myself in the aisles of vast chain bookstores, contemplating rows of German phrasebooks. Which one to get? So hard to decide. Luckily they claim to be pocket-sized, and it’s quite simple to test this hypothesis and nick the lot. (Wait, that’s not German.) In one fell swoop, I strike a blow to bookstore corporatism and take a small step toward global understanding.

I’ve often wondered what I sound like bumbling along in the languages I kind of know. I kind of know French and I kind of know Spanish, but my verbs are all strangely conjugated and as time goes by, my grasp of all those weird past tenses grows weaker. What is left is my verbose and manic personality, trapped in an eternal present. I have a feeling I sound like this:

“So, yes, we are looking for the restaurant? And we are not finding it, you see? Because maybe it is to the left or maybe to the right, we are looking left, right, but we don’t knows. We knows the restaurant is there. I go to it once long time before. So do you know restaurants very well personally? Do you know about this restaurant? I am remembering in my head but, maybe no. Maybe the restaurant is not in my head, or in this streetway, or this village. I don’t know but I think maybe yes.”

After three years of trying off and on to learn Spanish, the French I kind of used to know is ossifying, and the whole thing is melting into a Romantic confusion. But then it isn’t only language that bends toward romantic confusion, but all things, sooner or later.

German would be a completely fresh start. I’ve heard everyone in Germany speaks English, so I probably won’t have to learn it at all. But just in case, I’ve compiled a list of phrases I think will be particularly useful given the variety of situations I find myself in when traveling. So far I can say banhof (train station), and Achtung, kommt hier der Jude! (Look out, here comes the Jew!). But these other phrases might prove more useful and less culturally insensitive.

I would like a glass (bottle) of red wine, please.

I would like a glass (bottle) of water, please.

I would like an espresso/cup of coffee, please.

Where is the bathroom?

I’m with the band.

Where is the band?

How long have I been unconscious in that corner over there?

I’m married, please don’t touch me.

Fuck off.

I like your hat.

Is there tobacco in this?

It’s just an iPod! In an ammunition box!

I don’t speak German and I have no idea what you’re saying to me.

Do you speak English? French? Spanish? Yiddish?

Please do not allow the actions of George Bush or 98% of the people in America to reflect on me in any way. I hate the motherfucker and recognize the United States government as the instrument of global oppression it is. Soon, the mass uprising! But tonight, we drink!

What sort of wurst is that?

What sort of vegan stew is that?

Is this where millions of my distant relatives were tortured and killed or is this where hundreds of thousands of your civilian countrymen were carpet-bombed?

Read any good Nietzsche (Rilke) lately?

Does this beer have a lot of carbs in it?


Watch out!

Do you have a small receptacle in which I might discreetly vomit?

I’m sure it’s just a flesh wound. May I have a small cloth to staunch the bleeding?

Please show me where I can get some coffee, my head is exploding.

I didn’t know that was in there and I swear it’s not mine.

You guys got any mozzarella panini in this joint?

I have worn this delicate, poorly made garment in the mosh pit and now it is badly torn. Do you have sewing materials I might borrow so I do not expose my naked body to your esteemed nation?

I don’t care what you say, I am not climbing that enormous mountain. I’ve got nothing to prove to anyone, least of all you. All right, make me three ham-and-cheese sandwiches, get the rope and the machete and I’ll meet you at dawn.

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