I remember him well, a young man draped over a metal tube bench, looking up as the sunlight dappled through the lightly scurried leaves of the some flame-spreading maple. The green underbellies twisting oh so slightly as they glowed in the sunlight. He wore some kind of T-shirt shorts and black suede ankle-high walking boots with flat rubber soles and he propped his crew-cut head atop on the metal tube arm on one end of the bench, while twisting his body into the crook between benchseat and bench back. An uncomfortable pose, and it didn’t last long. Listening to a best of Credence Clearwater playing on the discman he’d brought with him from his hometown across the sea and through a thousand miles, over plains, across rivers, through forests and towns, over mountains and lakes, cities, and all. He was a young American in early summer in Heidelberg, resting on on a cobblestone plaza in the old part of the university.
The new part of the university is a ways out of the downtown, and as ugly as Bauhaus. But the old part is beautiful old buildings woven into a beautiful medieval town. This building in particular, which had to do maybe with law and/or philosophy, looks charmingly eternal. Red brick at the corners; over each of two front doors, a red-stone arch flanked by small red-stone columns half disappeared into the facade, which is the whitest white; and three stories of a dozen plus red-stone trimmed windows. And the roof a most remarkable undulating barn, covered in black scales, shot through with little portholes aimed straight ahead by what look like extremely sawed-off cannons, and topped off with a black rectangular clock tower, itself completed with a similar looking roof that quickly gives way to a patinated globe-topped staff.
This young man, muscled by youth and tanned by the sun, felt the rustle of the gentle breeze, felt the light fill the air and splash all objects. He saw the brightness of the leaves and the light blue of the cloudless sky. He’d purchased this CD, which now explained that it ain’t no fortunate son, underling the point with it’s folksy rocknrolling,at a flea market in Le Havre.
Have you ever been to Le Havre? It is the favorite destination for overwrought, overleisured young English-speakers exchanging a year away at the University of Heidelberg, and who now–late-May, two-thirds through the second semester of smoking, drinking, goofing off in German, freewriting, and taking a few courses–have, due to a confusing incident itself founded upon a great and still relatively un-self-perceived distance between their minds and their feelings, realized that they must kill their English-speaking self, which–they ramblingly reason–would best be accomplished with a trip to Le Havre in which they continue speaking to themselves nonstop, but for these five days only in their now passable German or their French, which they’ve studied now for one and a half semesters.
But have you ever been there? To Le Havre?