08 May, 2014

(this memory} 106

This is the story behind last Monday's {this moment}.

It's June 2003 and we're in Passau, Germany at the Institute for the History of Psychology. I'm 21 years old, and the Institute's director, Horst Gundlach, has just offered to let me test my hand-eye coordination using this World War I-era flight simulator, intended to assess the aptitude of aspiring Luftstreitkr√§fte pilots. My dad took the picture. (I'm also wearing a ridiculous purple silk scrunchie, but that's okay, because apparently they're making a comeback.)

Spoiler: I don't have a future in WWI aerial combat reenactment, if that ever becomes a thing that people do.

The stop in Passau was something of a midway point on a three-week research trip that I took with my father. He was exploring topics in the history of psychology (chiefly following Descartes' skull around Europe) and I was killing time - so to speak, savoring life might be more accurate - before starting medical school. Earlier in the year, I had moved briefly to Copenhagen, where I spent most of my time drinking coffee, lingering in design stores and reading Kierkegaard, visited an old friend in Milan, and finally, broke, returned to the States, where I memorably froze in Immigration when asked what I did for a living and replied, "Nothing." (Since it was technically not illegal to be a recent university graduate on an extended European holiday, the irritated immigration agent was forced to let me go with a sigh. What happened to the days when they said "Welcome home!"? Now I get asked if I've ever committed a crime. Once the agent added, "Are you sure?")

Anyway, we had come from Paris via Florence and Leipzig, and were headed back to Copenhagen, then on to Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki and St. Petersburg, all of which my dad has written about in previous {this memory} posts. Although I was intrigued by the museum, Germany was something of a low point in the trip for me. I am horrifically allergic to Western Europe in the late spring...or at least to something that grows well in England, France and Germany (not as far south as Italy or as far north as Denmark or Scotland) during May and June. My eyes water and puff, and I wander around in an antihistamine-induced trance. (Diphenhydramine, sold as Benadryl in the U.S., was modified to create Prozac, the first selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor for depression, when people noticed that it had antidepressant and anxiolytic effects. I'll attest to that...a few doses of Benadryl make me blithely indifferent to pretty much everything. The sky could fall, and I'd just order another glass of wine.)

In addition to my miserable allergies, I don't speak a word of German...but after France and Italy, my dad was used to relying on me to read signs, ask for directions and order in restaurants. At one point, in one museum, he asked what the tour guide was saying and I replied, "I DON'T KNOW! I DON'T SPEAK GERMAN! I'm just smiling and nodding because that is the polite thing to do!!" And because of the Benadryl.