i spent the weekend in Vienna, suddenly sick of Munich with all its tittering Schicki-Mickies; taking the same s- and u-bahn every day, seeing the same places; eating the same Gemüseburgers. i arranged to meet the Viking to buy his old computer (my 2.5-year-old Packard Bell has a wonky audio socket and the screen’s been flickering for the last year, also three of the keys fell off). Here are my notes:
En route, a five hour trip. i booked a seat in the quiet compartment and all is well until an Austrian family get on, all occupying different double seats and shouting across to each other. The bitch sits directly in front of me, a typical loudmouth German female. i wish to annihilate her.
Instead i make strangling gestures, snarling silently in misogynistic hatred. i then retributively listen to Rammstein. Although the quiet zone (no phones, no loud conversations, no German bellowings) is common and conspicuously displayed, i think most people simply don’t mind noise and so they don’t take it seriously; they wouldn’t mind if the other passengers ran around naked, smeared in excrement, flagellating themselves and killing Jews, so they don’t see how anyone could object to them bellowing away on their mobile phones.
Schopenhauer thought that one could correlate intelligence with sensitivity to noise. There may be something in this though i don’t think it’s necessarily a moral difference – many touchy, intelligent people are awful, and i’ve known amiable dullards. But i would say, at least, that the dullards are rarely interesting to me; whereas most of my friends, and all my women, hate noise (Juniper developed tinnitus after working alongside a hideous woman with a hideous screeching voice). Most people are “worse than senseless things”, in that senseless things don’t turn the radio on to maximum volume then walk away and just leave it on because they don’t see any reason not to.
The train arrives in Vienna and i decide to walk to my hotel. i get lost and wander quasi-ghettos. Largely Stalinist architecture, big roads, squalor and boarded up shops; even the women are ugly and have rickets and gammy legs.
i finally come to the Hotel Kolbeck, after 100 tedious minutes on foot. It’s a good hotel: unpretentious, small, clean, friendly, 5 minutes’ to the u-bahn, and affordable (78 € for two nights). i have a fondness for these grim but honest places, where you see this out your window:
Alongside the financial motivation (i.e. it’s cheap) i also like places which aren’t ritzy, aren’t in a good area, but are clean and you have everything you need. The passable interior takes on a peculiar, sparse nobility when you look out of the window. No kettle, so my drug-dealer bag full of green tea will be of no use here.
i go to Stephansplatz to meet the Viking. He looks like what he is – a fundamentalist puritan Roman Catholic Chemist in a hat. After a decade of professional Chemistry he has entered a peculiar mental hinterland inhabited solely by himself, Nicola Tesla, and some of the more villainous Popes. We go to a cellar restaurant with stone walls and various pagan-looking articles on the walls (severed heads etc.). Good stolid meat and booze. A beggar comes in trying to sell some kind of homeless magazine. We both say no and he goes to the other tables then returns and tries to pester us into giving him money. We grunt and ignore him. i’ve learnt to more or less ignore beggars as even saying “sorry, no” or “no thank you” is often taken as “please tell me how you need money for your orphan child without a kidney until i give you everything i have”. Italy is the worst: there, the waiters passively let gypsies badger the guests; most Italians just ignore it completely, but i had to defeat a hunchback gypsy witch in a staring contest when i made the mistake of telling her i had no money, which led to exhortations to give her the money i didn’t have, because then St Anthony would give me money, etc. etc.
The Viking tells me an elderly beggar woman in Canada offered him a blowjob for a fiver.
Later, as we are walking the city at night, an old woman pesters him for money and he gives her 2 €. Perhaps he will go to collect his blowjob after we part.
We end up in Starbucks for two gingerbread lattes. We sit on the ground floor by the stairs and witness feminine beauty descending every few minutes. A girl who looks about 15 in her face, but with a great body, walks by. She is wearing tight American flag leggings and we both stare at her (cute) ass. Later, i ask the Viking if he thinks she was legal. He shrugs. To him, as a fundamental puritan Roman Catholic, it is all sin. A 5 Euro blowjob from an elderly schizophrenic, an orgy with a 14-year-old girl, a gingerbread latte, Chemistry, it’s all sin and will lead to the pit of fiery torment. And so we sit there leering at the beautiful girls, drinking our gingerbread lattes.
The girls are as hot as in Munich but they don’t look as stuck up and rich. In Munich, they’re all rich or have a rich papa. There are plenty like this in Vienna but there are also the ghettos and quasi-ghettos. Munich isn’t an easy town for bohemians because it’s so expensive, and so hard to get a flat. People think about money, all the time. In Vienna, the girls look not exclusively interested in money. At least, they cast longing, lustful gazes at the Viking, who seems to exert a tremendous power of sexual attraction, in direct relation to his complete obliviousness and his Catholic tramp aspect. Here he is, scrutinising a map and thinking about the Inquisition:
He leads us in the wrong direction for 15 minutes because, in his words: “I was holding the map the wrong way up.”
He gives me his new old laptop. It runs on Linux but has Windows as a vestigial possibility. It has a Slovak keyboard. It has Catholic imagery. His blonde hairs sprout from under the keyboard and seem stuck into the circuits when i try to remove them.
We part and i sleep the sleep of the damned. He returns either to his present home (Bratislava) or to the beggar woman to whom he gave 2 Euro.
The next day we meet and go to Alte Wien, one of the essential cool places to see in Vienna, though according to Wikipedia it is no longer very hip “and the clientele often includes bizarre characters”. It’s actually fairly quiet and not pretentious or glitzy. They have tiny coffees because the Viennese don’t seem to understand that a chap might want a large black coffee; you can either get an espresso or a cappuccino or a cafe latte. i try to explain the concept in one place – “a big cup, with only black coffee, no milk, no cream, just coffee” and the girl looks bewildered and pained. She says she would have to give me three espressos in one cup, which would cost 12 Euros.
At Alte Wien we discuss the relation of thought to language. The Viking only reads Chemistry books, manga, and Christian theology. As a puritan, he believes the words don’t make any difference to the idea, that the Bible is better read in a 21st-century retard translation since (obviously) it is blasphemous to read it for the beauty of language. My own feeling is that you can’t even have the idea without the words and if the idea is powerful the words must also be powerful; if a potentially powerful idea is rendered in bland, lumpen prose, you will read it and have to as it were mentally rewrite it in order to really feel the idea. i had this experience with a friend’s book on Milton, which i spent hundreds of hours literally rewriting: the ideas were very good, the prose dead; i couldn’t even fully apprehend the ideas until i had dissolved her lame academic prose into the idea, then recast it in my own words, an exhausting exercise.
i would distinguish between rhetoric (e.g. Dr Johnson, George Steiner, Milton, Kierkegaard), anti-rhetoric (Wittgenstein), and non-rhetoric (my friend’s book). Rhetoric one could see as a writer’s conscious attention to language; it can be for good or ill, so most modern academic books are malignly rhetorical, using language against itself, to conceal the profound worthlessness and vacuity of the “thought”. Anti-rhetoric is itself, i think, a kind of rhetoric – it is paying close attention to language, to prevent unnecessary excesses of style (Camus and Wittgenstein). Non-rhetoric is, in a sense, honest – it’s what you find in people who write but really have no talent for language; they don’t even try to use rhetoric (most Fantasy books are non-rhetoric; some have very good ideas and characters, but the writers can’t write).
As we are talking about this, someone who looks almost exactly like Thomas Bernhard sits behind the Viking and reads a newspaper, looking contentedly suicidal.
We then proceed to the Christmas markets. The first is Am Spittelberg. This is on a series of small sidestreets and, to my surprise, the stalls are quite interesting, with cheap Glühwein (3.50 € for a big mug and you get 2 € back when you return the mug) and some sexy Christmas Austrian girls. i buy a leather money pouch for an old friend:
i thought about buying one for Juniper too but decided it would be a bit creepy to buy identical gifts. i also acquire some woman-strangling gloves and a big blue mug. This is the first good Christmas market i’ve seen to date. i feel very Christmassy and drunk. Partly it’s the atmosphere, the small sidestreets, the sense of being in a medieval city rather than in a huge modernist square (that is, in a place made for human beings rather than cars or ideologies):
The Viking and i continue, eating poppy bullets (Mohn Kugeln) and feeling bloated on sweets and booze. We see a stall. All the products contain rose petals. A bizarre idea. A heretical idea, the Viking clearly thinks, stroking his beard and scowling. However, the gorgeous freckled girl behind the stall drags us over, by the power of her freckles. She offers us samples. It all tastes like Turkish delight. i don’t really want to buy anything but then:
elberry: Are you from Vienna?
girl: Yes, but I am a student here.
elberry: what are you studying?
girl: German philosophy.
elberry: Ah. Do you read Wittgenstein?
girl: Yes, it includes Wittgenstein. But he is very hard.
elberry: Poh, i think he’s quite clear really –
Viking bursts into a kind of simultaneously imploding/exploding laughter.
girl: He uses words in a special way so you must first understand how he uses them.
We talk a little about Kant and Heidegger and in the end the Viking buys some rose booze and i buy some rose jam that i don’t really want.
Viking: She was a good saleswoman.
elberry: You mean she was hot and she was studying philosophy.
A highly successful Christmas expedition. Emboldened by philosophy, we proceed to the Rathaus market. Monstrous abomination, a crime against Christmas and philosophy. A huge open square with stalls selling the same trash they have in the main Munich market – plastic or wooden angels, toys, candles, mass-produced & overpriced. It is swarming with families – Mann und Frau und Kinder. Nobody here reads Wittgenstein. We plunge into the crowds then our resolve snaps and we decide to fight out way out. It is almost impossible to escape as hordes of families bear down upon us, grinning and sweeping us towards the plastic angels. We fight and manage to break through the line and then find ourselves in yet another aisle of kitsch, surrounded by families who don’t read Wittgenstein, and have to fight once more, then again and again and again.
Finally we emerge, bruised and sore. We got to Figlmüller, a famous Schnitzel house, shaken by our near destruction. i eat Schnitzel, the Viking some kind of baked cheese. i am disappointed. The Schnitzel is okay but i had better in a normal beer garden in Landshut, for 2 € less. On the other hand, there is a lot of it. Two Slovak girls sit near us and i exhort the Viking to lay his engorged phallus in their potato salad, and say: “You gonna do something about that?”
“I don’t know how to say that in Slovak yet.”
We walk the Schnitzel off then part. When i try to use my new computer to check my email it automatically goes to Linux, as i forget to select Windows as my OS. To my delight, i find that on Linux it’s still logged into the Viking’s Facebook page. i frape him:
A good weekend in Vienna, selling my body in the Prater for 5€ a time. Made enough to buy myself a huge pot of mashed potato!
In Munich it is cold and feels close to snow. i lug my bags home and try to prise the Viking’s pubic hairs out of the keyboard.