Link to Profile Semperoper, Dresden Sieg (auf dem Siegesäule), Berlin Brandenburg Tor, Berlin Skyline, Frankfurt am Main

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Stirred, but not Shaken

Men are simple creatures. No matter how smart we are, no matter how disciplined we are, no matter how principled we are, unless we are gay, we are rarely immune to the charms of the opposite sex. Some women and most pretty girls know this and use it to their great advantage. Others know it and suffer in silence as their men are distracted. Still others never get it and will ever bemoan the fact that they don't understand men.

I"m coming down with a cold or something. I have not been sick in more than two years. I chalk the end of this nice stretch of health up to the stress of having a new job and commuting what seems like half-way across Germany each day to get to it. Oddly enough, leaving my last job with no other in hand was a relatively stress free event ... it meant freedom, with ample time and money to do a lot of things I didn't have time to do when I was working, or to even do nothing if that is what I felt like doing. And I did a lot of all of that. Now I have to put in time again, and I am not adjusting to it as well as I would have liked.

But I attribute some of this bout with a cold to other contributing factors. The Russian invited me out for drinks the other evening, and since the Partnerin was working very late that evening and I was in transit to an empty home, it seemed like a reasonable way to fill the evening.

The Russian smokes quite a bit, but is generally conscientious about where she blows it. Despite that, I took in a lot more second hand smoke than I would on a given day, but that is life in a European bar in any event. Strike one. Cigarette smoke plays havoc with the immune system.

We ordered a couple of Absoluts straight up, which kind of threw the waiter for a loop ... surely there must be other people in Germany who drink vodka, but from the look of incredulity in his eye it seemed we were a rarity in this upscale bar in the financial district of Frankfurt. Why, you might ask, would we order straight Absolut? Duh ... She is Russian.

As for me, I would have ordered a Vodka Martini, but in Germany these fools actually put a sizable amount of Martini® (vermouth) in the glass rendering it undrinkable by American tastes. I have on several occasions told German bartenders to literally put a couple of drops of Martini into the glass and to fill the rest with vodka, but to no avail ... I still get a glass half-full -- or half-empty depending how you look at things -- with vermouth.

Now I will admit that it isn't a Martini without Martini®, but that doesn't mean you go half-and-half with the stuff. A real Martini is a nuanced blend of flavors which have been the subject of debate for years. Most American bartenders I knew when I was one myself back in school will tell you a Perfect (vodka) Martini is essentially pure vodka ... wrong!

My own recipe was simply to ice the glass and pour in a bit of vermouth while simultaneously putting ice and vodka in the shaker and then either stirring or shaking for roughly 10 seconds ... enough to chill the vodka without totally watering it down (some dilution is desirable). Then you pour out the vermouth/ice mixture and you have a nicely chilled glass with traces of vermouth to make it an official Martini, into which you strain the chilled and slightly diluted vodka from the shaker. As to what flavor of vermouth, that is your personal choice. French or dry vermouth if you want it dry, Italian or sweet vermouth -- Martini® so to say -- if you want it dell'arte italiana. Garnish with lemon or olives ... I go for lemon, but only because it fits my personality. But I digress.

We were both shocked at a couple of points. First, we were served Smirnoff. Despite advertising Absolut, they had none. The waiter asked if that was OK, and the Russian frowned at him. I made a joke that no self respecting Russian would drink Smirnoff, but there seemed to be a lot of truth in that statement. He put the glasses down and backed off nervously ... he must have thought we were both Russian since we were both drinking vodka and the small talk up to that point had been in Russian, and he probably feared for his life since I was wearing a nice suit, drinking vodka, speaking Russian, and sitting with a smoking hot Russian babe nearly one-half my age, and therefore must be Russian mafia. Used to be you could scare them simply by being an American.

The second annoying point for the Russian and myself was that the glasses came without garnish. It seems German bartenders have a tough time knowing when to garnish something. A wave and a snap of the fingers and lemon wedges appeared, but it should never have come to that. Third, the vodka was room temperature, and we both like it cold. Finally, mostly to my personal displeaure, the drinks came in rock glasses ... I would have thought for the prices they were advertising here that they could have a few nice "Traditional" long-stemmed Martini glasses, but these seem to be rarities in Germany. You would think with all of the old American movies that they show on TV here that this would have caught on as a trend, but I guess you have to take the expenditure to the next level of magnitude before they bring out the pricier glassware. But in any case, Strike Two, as alcohol also depresses the immune system.

So we choked those down ... I kid you not, do not serve Smirnoff to a Russian ... and talked on for about 30 minutes, at which time the waiter nervously approached and asked how it was. I snarled something to the effect of "Not so good," and asked for the check. He even more nervously said something to the effect of, "If it is not good, then you shouldn't pay for it." I missed that point, but it was not lost on the Russian, who, living on an Au Pair's wages, is much more careful with her money than I am with mine, and in this case was being careful with mine. Which is either a very nice gesture or the Russian looking out for her own long-term self-interest ... I don't know which crosses her mind, but I assume the best of her.

As I came back from the men's room, she had been checking out the others in the room and then told me, "You look like the others!"

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"You look like a banker!"

"Well, I used to be one. Still have the clothes to prove it. They come in handy for the new job." It was the second time in the evening she had displayed a bit of disconnect from my reality.

The first was her comment on my attache full of papers, which was something like "Why are you carrying all of that?"

"Because I am coming from work." I had come via Die Bahn that day, and had to drag my stuff around with me.

"You mean you have not been home?" she asked. She obviously hasn't had much experience with the workaday world as I've known it lately ... it must be nice to be able to go home before going out, but that hasn't been the case for me since Thursdays in New York many, many years ago. Aside from Thursdays, the evening out before you went out of the City for the weekend, going out usually meant directly from work.

She had had a tough day of Au Pair'ing, so she was dressed in Jeans and a cute Tee with a sequined "A" on it ... a little Hawthornesque, I thought, but I let it pass since it was a literary allusion certain to be lost on her. I had never seen her in Jeans before ... we had gotten together on a couple of other evenings, and it was usually a nice mini-skirt, although her sexiest occasion, oddly enough, was when she wore a suit that would have passed for the standard office attire of high-powered NY Attorneyette. Which was a funny observation, because one of her aspirations once she is settled here in the West is to go back to school and study law. I always had a thing for professional women, and I don't mean call-girls. But I digress again.

But she had really had a tough day of Au Pair'ing and it showed. I had had a tough day with the Bahn, which had been running roughly 45 minutes late. It seems the gods were trying to tell me something, but I did not heed their warning. Instead, I browsed the international press shop until I found a Russian version of Marie Claire. And this was the time to give it to her. You would have thought I had produced a blue box from Tiffany.

The Blonde Librarian had done a post some time ago, the gist of which there are two types of immigrants -- Career immigrants and Love immigrants. Well, there is a third type that we in the first two categories don't ordinarily think of ... economic immigrants. This is not quite the same as a career immigrant, since we typically have a good lifestyle in either home or host country. For economic immigrants, it is largely a one-way trip and at a very heavy cost. Those of us in the first two categories whine about how hard life as an expat can be, but I trust most of us can find the occasional magazine in our native language and then afford to buy it without having to give up this week's phone call to mom. But I digress again.

Neither of us had eaten up to that point, but given our disappointment with this place, we decided to migrate to another place. You can find a few places open at 11 pm on a Tuesday in Frankfurt. In our case, we wandered up to the Escherheimer Tor and had a light dinner sitting outside under those butane heaters that occasionally work OK when the wind isn't blowing. It was windy, however, and we were both cold. When a Siberian girl is cold, it must be cold. But we talked on for another hour and a half. Strike three ... my resistance is out.

As I said, men are simple creatures. Sit one down with a pretty girl on a cold evening, and he won't have enough sense to come out of the cold.


Anonymous Hamish said...

Nice post, and good call on the immigrant thing. Although, now you've put the idea in my head that I need to get married to a girl in another country so I can get the trifecta.

9:09 AM, October 20, 2006  

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