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Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Today, I must draft the minutes of the Block Association meeting which took place last night. Since I didn't take notes, I must do it right away or I don't stand a prayer. Still, a small blog to follow up on yesterday's.

Last night, I happened to be riding the elevator, back from a garbage disposal detail in the basement, with one of my upstairs neighbors, who happened to be in a very manic mood.

"Let's stop in the Lobby," he sang out, "Do you mind? I'm expecting a friend, he may be arriving now."

"Well, sure," I answered, "But I've just been in the Lobby, there is absolutely nobody there."

Sure enough, the Lobby was deserted, not even a doorman in sight, all the doors were closed.

We rode on. "I thought he might arrive at this time!" he laughed.

"Just like that, because you happen to come out of the elevator?"

"Yes," he laughed, "I believe in that sort of thing."

"Synchronicity?"

"Yes..." he nodded.

I told him about the two potted plants outside 340. I told him how I felt they were there for me, because I had been the one who had seen them, noticed them. I asked him whether he thought it would be stealing to bring them home to my house. We laughed. We parted.

This morning, which was the deadline I had set for their rescue by me, I noticed that someone had set them into the soil during the night, and I don't have to think about it anymore. Of course, I still have to carry the karma of having for a short time entertained the thought of stealing...

I was talking about the American airman of 1944, yesterday. I think for the balance I should also talk about one of the German soldiers who was a part of the occupation forces at the same time.

A good number of those German soldiers came from a background of lack, deprivation and restriction. When they hit the lush farmlands of France, they were very often hungry, might maketh right, they helped themselves to any of the goodies they fancied, most of the time without paying for them. I remember seeing soldiers walking in the street, eating sticks of butter without bread, it was such a treat for them. Yuck!

The local yokels, which included me, had ration books entitling them to buy a limited supply of basic necessities every month. Unfortunately, when the populace showed up in the stores, the shelves were bare because the Germans had requisitioned everything.

During the German occupation, the official mayor of Bruz had designated a retired doctor, Doctor Joly, to be the person who would communicate officially with the German military Commandant. He was chosen because he was a man of tremendous courage, integrity and dignity, and because he was a worthy burgher, one worthy of respect even from the occupation forces.

After a few months of "no food" for the civilians, Doctor Joly went to see the Commandant, told him off roundly and announced he would not tolerate this behavior to continue: from now on, the Germans could help themselves to all the food they wanted, but only after sufficient supplies had been set aside to honor all the ration books of those entitled.

People had been deported for less, but Doctor Joly had a real presence, and the problem never arose again afterwards.

Doctor Joly, his wife, mother, children and servant were all killed during the Allied bombing in May 1944. Not a single member of his family survived.

Anyway, back to my German soldier.

From a small child's point of view, he was just a grown up to me, in a German soldier's uniform. I remember him as being super skinny, in all likelihood he was very young, maybe even he was one of those teenagers that were sent to cover the Western front when Hitler opened the second front against Russia. Whatever he was, whether he had a little sister back home or not, whether he had ever come across me along the local roads, with a sack and a knife, collecting weeds for food, he knew I was hungry, and periodically would hang around, lying in wait for me. He never approached me when anyone else was around, not even my little brother. He always would spring out from behind a tree, or some bush or stone wall, on isolated paths, he had obviously observed my habits, and he would open his tunic, pull out half a round loaf of bread, push it into my hands: "Schnell, schnell!' he would whisper, "Quick, quick!", and then something else in German, which I did not speak or understand, but then he would run away very fast and I translated his body language to convey the notion he was giving me the bread on the sly, in secret, and that I should take it home as quickly as I could and not tell anyone.

My mother was really pissed off about this. "I don't know why she likes this bread so much," she was outraged, "It's her favorite food! I wish she didn't like it so much..."

The bread was very dark, very dense, very sour. I remember the young German soldier with gratitude and yes, a warm feeling of love. I never found out his name, and he never asked me for mine.

I still love that dark, dense, sour rye bead... if you can get it.
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