Thursday, 6 March 2014

A Funny Thing Happened on my First Trip to Berlin

It all started in the lunch line of the Metropolitan Museum of Art  in New York. As an ex-Catholic I like to tease priests (really to punish Detroit Sacred Heart Seminary rector Monsignor Henry Donnelly who threw me out of the seminary the very day he found my pal Jim Van Slambrouck and me smoking Chesterfields in the Gothic Tower after midnight. The learned will know that that brand of cigarettes sponsored the great Glenn Miller's Orchestra on the radio for a half hour of the greatest dance music of the 1940's, weekdays. I answered,"We wanna see how Glenn gets such a kick out of his cigs." "You're out of here, Hazard, as of midnight," he gloomed. 

Easter vacation started then. Jim survived to be a priest in Monroe, Michigan, a sloburb of Detroit. So at that day at the Met I told the priest standing ahead of me in lunch line."Give me an easy confession, Father, and I'll buy you lunch." A woman ahead of him snorted as she got the joke. Later we ran into each other, savouring art for dessert. She introduced herself as Mrs. Helen Milner, wife of our commanding general in Berlin, and pleaded for me to visit them the "next time (as in "first time"!") I was in the Big B. Pacifist that I was, I giggled "no thanks" mentally. 

But fate made me run into her there again so the General's chauffeur picked me up at the Tiergarten station. (I quickly opened my locker to gather pieces of simulated luggage--I travel sleek: But the butler knew better as he shuffled me into a bedroom bigger than my own home in Philly! On "Pacelli" Alle. That shy German Pope in the 20's knew how to give his name a Big Boost!

My dinner companion was no less than Cologne's famously politically conservative Archbishop Joachim Meisner. (There couldn't have been a worse visitor match than we two.) He had just returned from Lithuania, where he confirmed so many Vilniusans (not to be mistaken for Villans!) that his thumb was numb. Assessing his previous table chatter, I was of the opinion that he was always dumb in other places. (Try his theological brain, for example.) Anyway the evening ended peacefully, if dully.) 

I read today in the German newspapers that Pope Francis I had just let him resign--at 87! That made him 46 that dull night in 1970. What a pity that dull Kraut Benedict XVI didn't have the balls to quit himself long ago! Alas, Popes are sometimes inscrotable. The more I was reminded of his apolitical strong stances, the more I admired him retroactively. In the same diurnal wave I read that Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelke was vowing that the R.C. Church should no longer control the bedroom.

Too late for me, Card, but better sooner than later! (FAZ 2 March, 2014) p.7) My father was a calvary officer for Black Jack Pershing,and sadly he got gassed in France. His "hospitals" were the whore houses of France. He married my virgin RC mother in 1919 shortly after returning from France. My brother was born 9 months and one day after the wedding in Pinconning, Michian. I arrived seven years later. 

Three years later he fled to Las Vegas with his secretary to become an iconic real estate agent. He left me $159,000 guilt money; his Bigamate tossed in the pot a further $100,000, allowing me to quit teaching in universities when my mother died at 86 in 1987. (Gulp, last Saturday I turned 87! As we "sellabrate" the centennial of the start of the First World War, let us not forget that more than buildings and lives were destroyed: dreams and aspirations too. 

So let's say a prayer for Harry and Ruth, whether together or alone in hell, and smile sweetly back to May Fitzpatrick Hazard from wherever she be in Heaven. I told an old pal last month that if Pope Frank I continues his Holy Roll! I'll be searching for that priest I promised lunch at the Met 44 years ago. Damn, that general confession would earn him a whole restaurant!

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