Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Stiff Upper Lip, Stout Fella, Keep Muddling Through"

Early tomorrow afternoon we will depart for the airport, and we will not return until late in the afternoon on August 19.

Yesterday’s visit to the Weisman Art Museum and the Walker Art Center were unremarkable. We did not spend a lot of time in either museum—we did little more than make a quick walk-through of each institution—and my sister was not particularly impressed with the art we viewed.

I have never especially cared for either museum, but Tuesday’s visit was only my second occasion to examine these collections. I have not made repeated and lengthy visits to these museums. A more intensive examination of their holdings must await the future.

Andrew and I took my sister to the museums by ourselves. Andrew’s mother and Andrew’s brother have been to the Weisman and the Walker so many times that they did not want to devote an entire day to seeing the collections for the umpteenth time. I can understand that.

The Weisman occupies a Frank Gehry structure. It looks like all Frank Gehry structures. I wonder what future generations will make of his monstrosities.

The Walker was voted the finest art museum in the United States last year by a nationwide panel of museum administrators. Such an assessment is ridiculous—the Walker is not even the finest art museum in Minneapolis, let alone the finest art museum in the U.S. The administrators at the Walker, however, are noted for their skill in currying favor with The New York Times.

In the two years I have lived in the Twin Cities, neither the Weisman nor the Walker has mounted an important temporary exhibition. This has been disappointing for me.

Andrew’s mother tells me not to take it personally—she says that the Walker used to mount superb exhibitions twenty and thirty years ago, but that the museum has lost its way over the last twenty years. It now devotes too much energy promoting its ancillary programs at the expense of fulfilling its core mission of collecting and displaying art. The Weisman mounts small, focused exhibitions, but none of these exhibitions has been remarkable since I moved to town. Perhaps things will improve by the time Andrew and I move back to Minneapolis.

Between museums, Andrew and I treated my sister to lunch downtown. We took her to a French Bistro because she had never visited a French Bistro before. We all three ordered French Onion Soup, but we ordered three different entrees: Salade Nicoise, Quiche Lorraine and Bouchee A La Reine. We passed the entrees around the table, each of us eating one-third of each entree. It was a good way for my sister to sample three different French foods. Each of us got a sampling of the seafood salad, the ham quiche and the chicken-in-pastry, and my sister enjoyed the lunch very much. It was a lot of fun.

This afternoon, Andrew’s parents, my sister, Andrew’s brother, and Andrew and I went downtown to attend today’s matinee performance of Nikolai Gogol’s “The Government Inspector” at the Guthrie Theater. This afternoon was the first time in her life that my sister had ever attended a professional theater performance of anything other than road-company productions of hit Broadway musicals, which she has seen in Oklahoma City and Dallas.

She was captivated—utterly captivated—by what she saw on the Guthrie stage.

The Guthrie staging of “The Government Inspector” was assigned to the theater with the thrust stage, which places the audience close to the actors onstage. My sister was amazed at what close proximity the actors were to members of the audience. She was also amazed at the quality of the stage design and the costume design, always extraordinary at the Guthrie. She could not take her eyes off the stage for the entire performance.

The proscenium theater at the Guthrie is currently presenting previews of a new musical, “Little House On The Prairie”, based upon Laura Ingalls Wilder. The studio theater at the Guthrie is currently presenting “Caviar On Credit”, an experimental “multi-discipline” work using young actors who have spent their summer months working in the Guthrie’s training program for young actors.

A month ago, Andrew’s mother had instructed me to ask my sister whether my sister wanted to see one or both of the other offerings at the Guthrie while she was in town. Andrew’s mother thought that perhaps my sister would want to attend a performance of the musical based upon the Wilder book or that perhaps my sister would want to observe young actors performing in an experimental work.

My sister elected to pass on the other two theatrical presentations. She thought that one play in Minneapolis would be sufficient for her, especially given the short duration of her stay here. She also knew that she would be attending six theater performances in Britain, so she would hardly be theater-deprived during her summer vacation.

I hope that Andrew and I have shown my sister a good time while she has been with us. A baseball game, a couple of museums and the Guthrie are the only attractions we have shown to her. Otherwise we have stayed home, eating, playing with the dog, and getting our things ready.

My sister seems to be happy and content with what we have shown her, and she has been very comfortable here. In any case, her brief stay in Minneapolis has been a mere staging ground for the main event of her summer, her first trip to Europe.

She is excited beyond belief. She has researched extensively every place and every site we will visit. She is eagerly looking forward to her first trans-Atlantic flight. She can’t wait for her first footstep on foreign soil. Everything about our trip seems to fascinate her.

I do not think she will be disappointed.

I have warned my sister that the food in Britain will not be good. I especially have warned her about the low quality of the fish, meat and vegetables she will encounter. My sister is not a big breakfast person, but I have passed on to her that breakfast is often the best meal of the day in Britain and that, as a general rule, it is a bad idea to skip breakfast when traveling in Britain. My sister says she will not care about the food as long as it is minimally adequate, which it will be. Further, she understands that this trip is not about epicurean delights.

She has enjoyed some epicurean delights the last couple of days. Yesterday and again today, she was treated to the full Andrew breakfast, and she is prepared to confirm to the world that Andrew is indeed the best breakfast cook on the planet. No one can match his scrambled eggs, no one can match any of his many ways of preparing breakfast potatoes, and no one can match his bacon (everyone else undercooks or overcooks it, and cooks it too quickly).

Late Monday afternoon, before we headed out to the Twins game, Andrew’s mother gave us tuna salad sandwiches (and her tuna salad is the best tuna salad in the world, made from broiled tuna steaks) and pepper salad for an early dinner. When we got home from the game, Andrew’s mother had a late supper of chicken-vegetable lasagna waiting for us, followed by homemade boysenberry ice cream for dessert.

Tuesday night, we had pot roast for dinner, served with mashed potatoes, lima beans, sweet corn, glazed carrots and a fresh pineapple-nut salad. For dessert we had homemade black raspberry cobbler and homemade ice cream.

Our early lunch today before heading to the Guthrie was pasta with crab and peas, served with an Alfredo sauce.

Tonight’s dinner was roast chicken and stuffing, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, beets, butternut squash and apple salad. For dessert we were served peaches and cream.

Tonight’s dinner HAD to be roast chicken, because it was our last night with the dog (who is accustomed to eating roast chicken on most Wednesday nights anyway).

The dog knows we are leaving soon. He knows what luggage signifies. He knows what packing signifies. He knows what a lot of household activity signifies.

I also think he understands that tomorrow is the day we will depart. We have told him this, and I think he understands this. We gave him a bath tonight so that he will be nice and clean when we drop him off tomorrow. I think he pretty much understands exactly what’s going on.

He has been a little restless the last few days, reluctant to leave the side of either Andrew or Andrew’s mother. He views Andrew as his primary pal, and he views Andrew’s mother as his primary protector (and he views himself as her primary protector). He goes to everyone for play and affection and comfort, but he always goes to Andrew and Andrew’s mother first, especially when he is in distress.

The dog is in some distress now, but Andrew’s father says that he will be perfectly fine, and that the dog and Mrs. Anderson will be perfectly happy entertaining each other for the next three weeks. Certainly Mrs. Anderson need not fear intruders while he is with her!

We selected our travel books tonight. Books will be much more important on this trip compared to our last trip, because there will be several evenings on this trip for which we have no sightseeing planned and no theater performances scheduled.

My sister has recently become fascinated by F. Scott Fitzgerald, having read “The Great Gatsby” in her senior year of high school and having read a collection of Fitzgerald’s short stories earlier this summer. She has selected Fitzgerald’s first two novels, “This Side Of Paradise” and “The Beautiful And The Damned” as her travel books.

Andrew’s mother has selected “The Making Of Victorian Values—Decency And Dissent In Britain: 1789-1837” by Ben Wilson.

Andrew’s father, Andrew’s brother, and Andrew and I have selected five books, books of no particular theme but books we can pass back and forth, as necessary, as our interest waxes and wanes. We chose “Nixon And Mao: The Week That Changed The World” by Margaret MacMillan; “A History Of The English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900” by Andrew Roberts, a continuation of Winston Churchill’s four-volume history; “Anzio: Italy And The Battle For Rome—1944” by Lloyd Clark; “1920: The Year Of The Six Presidents” by David Pietrusza, an examination of the American Presidential Election of 1920; and “The Battle For Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939” by Antony Beevor. None of these books should be challenging or intense, but all should carry some degree of interest for us, the fine line to which all travel books must adhere.

This is my last blog entry for at least three weeks.

We return on Tuesday, August 19, but Andrew and I head East on Friday, August 22. We will stop in New York and visit Andrew’s older brother and his family on that Saturday and Sunday, but on Monday, August 25, we will proceed up to Boston. I have first-year orientation on Thursday of that week, and Andrew and I want to be settled as much as possible into our place in Boston (which we have not even seen yet) before my classes start and before Andrew starts his new job.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

"Joshua Und Andrew Heraus!"

Andrew and I rose very, very early this morning in order to clean our small apartment from top to bottom and to wash all of our clothing and bedding.

Today is our final day in the apartment. In a short while, we will be turning the apartment over to Andrew’s brother and moving to Andrew’s parents’ house for the next five days.

Other than cleaning everything, our move does not involve much more than taking our clothes with us.

We are leaving behind our furniture, such as it is, as well as our computer, our sound system and even our books and discs. Even our cookware, dinnerware and tableware are remaining behind for Alex to use, as are our bath towels, dish towels, sheets and blankets.

The move will be very simple for Alex, too. All he need do is bring over his clothes and his television, and settle right in. Everything else he needs is already here for him, clean as a whistle, polished to show-room perfection.

In August, our move to Boston will be equally efficient. Alex’s cookware and dinnerware remain boxed up over at Andrew’s parents’ house, as are his towels and bedding and even his computer. When we return from Britain, Andrew and I will stamp new shipping labels on those unpacked boxes and ship them to Boston for our own use of the contents.

We planned all this back in May, before Andrew and I even headed out to Denver to help Alex prepare for his move home. We did so in order for all three of us to save hours and hours of aggravation involved in our moves. Effectively, only one moving project was involved for the three of us: Alex’s stuff gets shipped to Boston after a short stopover in Minneapolis.

I think this has been very efficient!

Over the course of the next few weeks, Alex will take a few of our books or discs over to his parents’ house every time he goes over for a visit, leave them behind, and bring a few of his own books and discs back with him.

I think this is very efficient as well.

Today Andrew and I hung the three Hans Rudi Erdt lithographs on our apartment walls. It is kind of ironic that we waited until our final day in the apartment to put anything on the walls.

However, we do not want to take the lithographs with us to Boston, and Alex likes them, and he will enjoy having them on the apartment walls.

The alternative was to store them at Andrew’s parents’ house, but we wanted them to be seen and enjoyed and not shoved into a closet. (I don’t think Andrew’s mother would want the lithographs to be hung in her house—she appreciates their artistry, but she is not, all in all, particularly keen on displaying lithographs of The Kaiser’s U-Boats.)

The most well-known of our lithographs is “U Boote Heraus!”, which in English means “The U-Boats Are Out!”

The most beautiful of the lithographs is “Bei Unseren Blaujacken”. Translated into English, its title is “With Our Boys In Blue”.

The most controversial of the lithographs is “Der Magische Gurtel”. A literal translation is “The Magic Girdle”, but a truer translation is “The Enchanted Circle”. It refers to and depicts the ring of U-Boats that circled and threatened Britain during the war.

Something tells me that Andrew’s mother would not want to hang “Der Magische Gurtel” in her living room or in her dining room or on one of her stairwells, where her guests might see it.

So “U Boote Heraus!” and its two companions shall remain here, in what will soon be Andrew’s and my old apartment, for Alex to enjoy.

“U Boote Heraus!”

And “Joshua Und Andrew Heraus!”, too.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Laptops, Lithographs, First Editions And Farewells

Last night was Andrew’s farewell dinner at his firm. The affair was held at a private club, and it was a splendid setting, a splendid dinner, and a splendid evening.

When Andrew and I arrived at the club last night, we discovered, to our surprise, that Andrew’s parents and brother had been invited, too. They had withheld from us the information that they had been invited.

The speeches were full of praise for Andrew and his work, and were very warmly and heartily delivered. Happily, Andrew will be welcomed back at his firm three years from now.

The firm’s gifts to Andrew were exceedingly generous: a First Edition of Sinclair Lewis’s “Main Street” (the novel in its first printing was titled “Main Street: The Story Of Carol Kennicott”) and three World War I lithographs, beautifully framed, by Hans Rudi Erdt, a German graphic artist from the early 20th Century.

“Main Street”, set in the fictional town of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota, is one of Andrew’s favorite novels, and he was deeply moved by the firm’s gift of a First Edition. Sinclair Lewis is one of two major novelists from Minnesota who emerged in the 1920’s (F. Scott Fitzgerald is the other).

Andrew has been fascinated for years by Erdt’s lithographs created to glorify the German Navy during the First World War, and now we own three of them. The lithographs were ordered from a dealer in Germany, but all three were framed here in the Twin Cities once they arrived in the U.S. Our three lithographs are U-Boat lithographs. They are amazingly beautiful.

We are very, very excited. Andrew was literally stunned when he was presented with the Erdt lithographs—he had made a single offhand remark to one of his colleagues about the work of Hans Rudi Erdt more than a year ago and he was dumbfounded that his colleague had remembered his interest in Erdt, an artist totally unknown in the U.S.

I think that one reason Andrew was given the lithographs was because everyone who knows us believes that it is long past time for us to put something on our apartment walls!

My farewell luncheon was today, at a restaurant near the office. Everyone from my firm who was not on travel or in court attended, which moved me very much. It was a very nice lunch, and the people at my firm could not have been kinder to Andrew and me. My farewell gifts were a laptop computer, ideal for me to take to my classes at law school, and a Legal Dictionary, another item essential for law school.

Today was a very sad day in many ways. Andrew and I are today leaving jobs we love, and leaving behind people we like, respect and admire.

Tomorrow evening Andrew and I have a party to attend. The party is in honor of our departure from the Twin Cities.

Sunday is Andrew’s father’s birthday, and we have a special birthday celebration planned for him. Sunday will also be the last Sunday Andrew and I will be in Minnesota, and we will mark the occasion by saying “Farewell” to so many church members we know and love.

Monday my sister arrives from Oklahoma, and on her first night here Andrew’s brother and Andrew and I are going to take her to see the Twins play the White Sox (not that any of us are true baseball fans).

On Thursday evening, we fly to London.

Three days after we return from London, Andrew and I head for Boston.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Saint-Petri-Kirche, another of Hamburg’s five Lutheran Hauptkirchen, is located in what is now the city’s main shopping area. The church is named after the Christian Apostle Peter, whom the Roman Catholic Church believes to have been the first pope. The church is situated on the highest point of land in the Altstadt. Saint-Petri-Kirche is the oldest parish church in Hamburg.

Saint-Petri-Kirche is also located in the midst of the original fortified settlement known as Hammaburg, Hamburg’s historic core edifice. It is believed that a church has occupied the site since the 9th century. It is known that a baptistery was on this site as early as the beginning of the 11th century.

First mentioned as a market church in documents from 1195, Saint-Petri-Kirche was rebuilt in the North German Brick Gothic style between 1310 and 1418. After The Great Fire Of 1842, the central part of the church structure was completely rebuilt according to the original Gothic model. Miraculously, World War II did not cause any significant damage to the church. Saint-Petri-Kirche is the only one of Hamburg’s five main churches that did not suffer significant, if not overwhelming, damage during the war. Consequently, the Saint-Petri-Kirche of today is more or less the same as it was in the early 15th century.

The steeple and the stepped roof are particularly notable architectural features of the church. The photo below, from 1920, provides an excellent view of the spire and roof.

The following photo of the side of the church also offers a glimpse of the unusual roof of Saint-Petri-Kirche.

The main entrance doors have a lovely lion’s head as a doorknocker, dating from 1342. It is Hamburg’s very oldest work of art.

The church’s mammoth interior is all white, of classic Gothic design, with three naves and high, arched ceilings.

The church is famed for its amazing number of valuable treasures and artworks. Among other priceless artworks, the church has its own Hugo Van Der Goes and Sassoferrato paintings. The Van Der Goes alone would be worth millions and millions and millions of dollars on the open market. The paintings, windows, and figurines date from various centuries. There are altars from 1500 to the present. The original multi-paneled winged altar of Saint-Petri-Kirche was created by Master Bertram from 1379 to 1383. It is one of the greatest works of art from the International Gothic period of painting, and perhaps the single greatest surviving example from Northern Europe. It may now be admired in Hamburg’s Kunsthalle, where it occupies an entire exhibition room and where it is one of the museum’s most valuable and cherished holdings.

The main pulpit is one of the most intricate pulpits in Northern Germany. A Gothic mural from approximately 1460 portrays Hamburg’s first bishop, Bishop Ansgar Of Bremen, with the words “Apostle Of The North”. A column in the choir area contains a statue by Bernt Notke, from 1480, showing Archbishop Ansgar and the Hamburg Marienkirche, which he founded. From the 17th century are two famous oil paintings by Gottfried Libalt, “Jacob’s Dream” and “Christ’s Birth”. A famous history painting, “Christmas 1813 in Saint Petri”, is on a column in the south aisle of the church. It shows Hamburg citizens hiding in the church from Napoleonic invaders, fearful for their lives because they could not feed the French soldiers. In the front of the church are Neo-Gothic representations of the evangelists. A modern bronze sculpture by Fritz Fleer shows Nazi opponent Dietrich Bonhoeffer dressed as a convict, with his hands bound.

The foundations of the church tower date from 1342. The original tower was replaced in 1516 with a new structure that towered above even the old Hamburg Cathedral. However, the second tower was torn down in 1807, decayed because Napoleon’s soldiers had used it as a horse stable. In 1878, the current church tower—132 meters high, with a copper spire—was completed.

In the first half of the 20th century, Saint-Petri-Kirche lost most of its members as nearby residential neighborhoods were torn down, replaced by banks and department stores as the city center evolved into a pure business and shopping district. The parish currently consists of only a few hundred members.

Saint-Petri-Kirche was the most interesting of the five Hamburg Hauptkirchen, probably because it had the finest collection of artworks. We spent more than two hours exploring the church interior alone.

The church docent on the day we visited was a very nice and very highly-educated man in his late fifties or early sixties. He spoke flawless English. Like the elderly woman docent at nearby Saint-Jacobi-Kirche, he couldn’t take his eyes off Andrew.

The docent took us around the entire church, pointing out anything and everything of note, and then he disappeared into a private room and soon returned with books containing ancient photographs of the church and the neighborhood.

He showed us the old photographs at length, and he talked to us about other interesting Hamburg churches, giving us a long, long list of other Hamburg churches which, he said, were well worth a visit. Alas, we only visited churches in the center of Hamburg, and did not have an opportunity to explore churches in outlying districts.

The docent also asked us whether we were interested in a scholarly art book about Northern German churches. We said that we were. He told us that the book was out of print, but that he would attempt to locate a copy for us at one of Hamburg’s antiquarian bookshops, and that we should drop by the church in a day or two to see if he had succeeded in locating a copy.

We DID return to the church two mornings later (Saint-Petri-Kirche was only a short distance from the Levantehaus, our hotel), and the docent told us that he HAD located a copy of the book, and he provided us with the name and address of the antiquarian bookshop, which he said was holding the book for us.

We walked to the antiquarian bookshop that very day and bought the book. The book is in German, of course, but it contains lengthy discussions about the history and architecture of almost all important churches in Northern Germany, and it is filled with truly stunning photographs. All five Hamburg Hauptkirchen were addressed in the book, naturally, as well as several other Hamburg churches, a few of which we visited. Most of the book, however, is devoted to churches outside Hamburg. The book will be an excellent source of information for us in preparation for our next trip to Northern Germany (whenever that will be).

While we were touring the church interior, Andrew and his mother were riveted by one particular artwork in the church, a large and complicated marble relief of Christ’s Resurrection by one Hermann Schubert, a sculptor about whom we have been able to find no information whatsoever other than the fact that he was born in 1831 and died in 1917 and that the most recent of his works to come up for auction was in 1999 in Munich. The mural was dated 1859. According to Andrew and his mother, the relief was worthy of Pierre Puget, the greatest sculptor of the French Baroque. Puget was THE master of the marble relief, and Andrew and his mother said that the Hermann Schubert relief was as fine as Puget’s very greatest completed relief, “The Meeting of Alexander The Great And Diogenes”, housed in the Louvre. Andrew asked the docent about the Hermann Schubert relief, and the docent said that he had no information about it at all and no information about Hermann Schubert.

We did not climb the church tower the day we made our visit to Saint-Petri-Kirche. However, a few days later, Andrew’s brother and Andrew and I returned to the church in the very late afternoon for the express purpose of climbing the tower. (It is 544 steps to the top—there was no elevator—and we did not want to make Andrew’s mother climb to the top of the tower the day we toured the church interior.) Although dusk was setting, the views from the tower were magnificent.

Happily for us, the stairs were spacious and well-maintained.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Saint-Jacobi-Kirche, dedicated to Saint James The Elder, is another of Hamburg’s five Lutheran Hauptkirchen (Main Churches). The lithograph above presents a view of the church exterior as it was in 1900.

The first mention of a church at this location can be traced to 1255, when Saint-Jacobi-Kirche was a small chapel located outside Hamburg’s city walls. After the city walls were extended in 1260, the church became part of Hamburg city territory.

Between 1350 and 1400, the old chapel was replaced by a large hall church of typical North German Brick Gothic design, with three naves. One hundred years later, a fourth nave was added. The attached sacristy was erected in 1438. The sacristy is Hamburg’s only surviving example of secular Gothic architecture.

The Gothic brick building has been constantly changed and enlarged over the years.

The interior of the church—a 1710 Baroque remodeling effort, never since altered—is itself unimposing, but its treasures and artworks are incomparable.

Saint-Jacobi-Kirche houses three magnificent medieval altars: The Holy Trinity Altar in the main choir (1518), The Saint-Petri Altar in the first south nave (1508) and The Saint-Lukas Altar in the second south nave (1500), which originally was installed in Hamburg’s Cathedral.

Medieval piety did not allow the retables to be opened during the week. Only on special Sundays, high festivals of the church and feasts of the saints were the wings of the altars opened and their panoply of panels displayed. Otherwise, the retables remained closed and only the outward paintings could be seen. On the outward panels of The Saint-Lukas Altar, a very special form of sponsorship may be traced: the donors of the altarpiece are prominently displayed among biblical saints. At the time, this was an accepted way of recognizing a donor’s generosity and piety and worthiness.

Saint-Jacobi-Kirche is also known for its ceiling and wall decorations. The Baroque ceiling murals, testaments to civic virtue, show the importance of maintaining both sacred and secular rectitude. The murals were painted, like the landscape paintings on the walls, by Johann Moritz Riesenberger. The many coats of arms on the walls designate the pastors, vicars and jurors who have served the parish since the 16th century.

The greatest treasure in the church, however, and the reason so many people make a pilgrimage to Saint-Jacobi-Kirche, is the Arp Schnittger organ in the West Gallery, one of the largest organs in the world and the most important organ in Northern Europe, famed since the day of its completion.

Built from 1689 to 1693, the organ has 4,000 pipes, 60 registers and 4 keyboards. This is the legendary organ that Johann Sebastian Bach specifically traveled to Hamburg—walking, for days—to see and to play in 1720. The organ has been carefully tended for more than 300 years, and was fully restored from 1989 to 1993 to mark its 300th anniversary.

We took the weekly guided tour of the organ and we stayed for the short organ recital that followed. The guided tour was supposed to be in German, but since we were the only persons who showed up for the tour that particular day, the guide quite naturally gave us the tour in English.

The organ recital that followed the tour, however, was attended by a couple of hundred persons, locals who worked nearby and who were attending the recital on their lunch hours.

In 1944, a bomb hit the church’s steeple and destroyed the dome. Luckily, most of the valuable interior was saved and from 1951 to 1953 Saint-Jacobi-Kirche was restored to its former glory. A new 125-meter spire was erected in 1963, but the new spire bears no relation to the original spire. The replacement spire looks cheap and out-of-place.

The photo below, from 1920, shows the beautiful church tower as it was prior to its destruction during the War.

The photo below shows the tower of today.

Hamburg churches employ pensioners as caretakers. They serve as guides for visitors as well as keep their eyes on the church treasures.

The day we visited Saint-Jacobi-Kirche, the caretaker was an elderly woman, approximately 70 to 75 years old, who spoke excellent English. She couldn’t take her eyes off Andrew, and she followed us around the church the entire time we were there.

She talked to us nonstop, but she didn’t talk to us about the church or its treasures. Instead, she wanted to know all about us—who we were, where we were from, what were our professions, why we were in Hamburg, how long we would be in Hamburg, what else we would be seeing in Hamburg—and she wanted to tell us all about herself.

She was very well-dressed and very well-coiffed, but she complained to us nonstop about how small her government pension was and how tiny her state-subsidized apartment was and how paltry were the sums the church was paying her for her hard work and how she did not have enough money to go to the opera as often as she would like.

Near the end of our visit, she told us that things were soon going to get far worse for her and for other Hamburgers: once the Eastern European countries were granted full membership in the European Union, Hamburg would be overrun by Jews.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Saint-Katharinen-Kirche is another of the five principal historic churches of Hamburg known as Hauptkirchen (“Main Churches”). The base of its spire, dating from the 13th Century, is the oldest building preserved in the city of Hamburg.

The church is situated on an island near what was formerly the southern boundary of the medieval city, opposite the historic harbor area on The River Elbe. This may be seen in the photograph below.

Much the same view is offered in this photograph from 1920.

Saint-Katharinen-Kirche traditionally served as the church of Hamburg’s seamen, as well as shipbuilders and brewers living in the district.

The earliest attestation to the existence of the church dates back to records from 1250. From 1350 to 1425, Saint Catherine’s was rebuilt as a Gothic Basilica. It is this building that may be seen today.

The main body, consisting of a triple nave, was constructed in the North German Brick Gothic style.

In 1657, a Baroque rooftop was added. A spectacular Baroque spire was added two years later, designed by Peter Marquardt, who also designed a spire for Saint-Nikolai-Kirche (the old Saint Nicholas's, destroyed in The Great Fire Of 1842). Saint Catherine’s Baroque spire, with its two magnificent rotunda arcade levels, reaches a height of 115 meters. This is the spire that adorns the church today, a copper-plated feature that is one of the greatest landmarks of the city. A Baroque west façade was added in 1737 in order to stabilize the church tower. The church’s exterior, aside from its spire, has been criticized, said to resemble a humble country church enlarged to gigantic dimensions. I think such criticism has some validity.

The interior of the church is home to two pieces of priceless ecclesiastical art: a 14th-Century Crucifix and a 14th-Century statue of the church’s patron. Otherwise, the church’s interior is a reconstruction of the medieval church, rebuilt in the 1950’s.

Any distinction in the church interior results from the contrast between its massive round pillars, which support the cross-shaped vault, and the airy height of its middle nave.

The church was severely damaged during World War II—only the outer walls and the base of the spire were left standing. The building was carefully restored to its previous form between 1950 and 1957.

When Hamburg’s free port was founded in 1881, residents of the area were required to vacate, resulting in a loss of 20,000 members of Saint-Katharinen-Kirche’s congregation. This loss forced the parish to look for new tasks. Since the church’s current members are scattered throughout all parts of Hamburg and environs, the church concentrates on offering church services and special events for the entire town. The church is the official church of Hamburg’s main university.

The photograph below, from 1930, is an ideal bird’s-eye view of the church and its surroundings.

We enjoyed visiting Saint-Katharinen-Kirche, but it was probably the least interesting of Hamburg’s five Hauptkirchen because the interior was so spare. We spent only thirty minutes in the church interior, and we did not even bother to climb the church tower.

Saint-Katharinen-Kirche is only three or four city blocks away from Saint-Nikolai-Kirche, and the views are very similar. We visited Saint Catherine’s immediately after visiting Saint Nicholas’s, where we HAD taken the elevator to the top of the tower. We decided not to go to the top of Saint Catherine’s tower, as there was no elevator at Saint Catherine’s, and we did not want to make Andrew’s mother climb the tower.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Saint-Nikolai-Kirche was formerly one of five Lutheran Hauptkirchen (“Main Churches”) in the city of Hamburg. Now in ruins, it serves as a memorial and as an important architectural sight of the city.

All five main churches of Hamburg were damaged or destroyed in World War II. In contrast to the other four, however, Saint-Nikolai-Kirche was never rebuilt—its ruins, instead, serve as a memorial against war, dedicated to “the victims of persecution in The Third Reich”. Only the spire, caked in black soot, and a few walls from the church remain. The church, a stark contrast to the rebuilt city of Hamburg, leaves an unforgettable impression.

With the founding of a settlement and a harbor on The River Alster in the 11th century, a chapel dedicated to Saint Nicholas, patron saint of sailors, was erected. This wooden building was the second church in Hamburg, after The Cathedral Of Hamburg.

In 1335, some years before the onslaught of The Black Death, construction of a new brick building began. The structure was a hall church in the typical North German Brick Gothic style. This building stood until the middle of the 19th century, even though it had been changed and expanded—and had to withstand destruction—several times. The original tower, erected in 1517, burned down in 1589. A new tower built to replace it collapsed in 1644. The last tower of the old Saint-Nikolai-Kirche, from the late 17th Century, was designed by noted architect Peter Marquardt. The Marquardt tower was 122 meters high, with its characteristic dome a landmark of the city and the jewel of its skyline.

The drawing below shows the old Saint-Nikolai-Kirche shortly before the church’s destruction in The Great Fire Of 1842, which destroyed the entire city of Hamburg.

The end of the old Saint Nicholas’s came in May 1842, the first significant victim of The Great Fire Of 1842. The destruction of Saint Nicholas’s is described by chroniclers as an especially haunting event that deeply jarred the citizens of Hamburg and brought before their eyes for the first time the magnitude of the fire disaster. The destruction of the old church, the first large public building to burn in The Great Fire Of 1842, was the first indication of how catastrophic the fire would become.

Shortly after the fire, it was decided to rebuild the church. The English architect George Gilbert Scott, designer of so many buildings we visited in London and an expert in the restoration of medieval churches and an advocate of the Neo-Gothic architectural style, designed an 86-meter-long nave, with a vault 28 meters high. The architecture was strongly influenced by French as well as English Gothic, but the pointed spire was typically German.

Construction started in 1846. In 1863, the new church was consecrated, although the 147-meter spire was completed only in 1874. At that time, Saint-Nikolai-Kirche was the tallest building in the world, a distinction it held only for two years, until the completion of The Cathedral Of Rouen in 1876.

Below is a drawing of the George Gilbert Scott church structure, made shortly after the building was completed.

Below is a photograph of Saint-Nikolai-Kirche from the 1920’s. This photograph displays the surrounding buildings, too, all of which were destroyed in 1943.

The photograph below, of the front of Saint-Nikolai-Kirche, is from the 1930’s.

Saint-Nikolai-Kirche suffered heavy damage in World War II. The clearly-visible spire of the church served as a control and aiming point for the pilots of the Allied Air Forces during air raids on Hamburg. On July 28, 1943, the church was heavily damaged by aerial bombs. The roof collapsed and the interior of the nave suffered heavy damage. The walls, however, although damaged, did not collapse. Neither did the spire.

After bombings, the basic structure of the Gothic construction had remained intact to a large extent and the condition of the building as a whole permitted a potential reconstruction to appear realistic. Nevertheless, Hamburg authorities decided to demolish the nave and to leave the spire untouched. As the area surrounding the church was no longer a residential area, a new Saint-Nikolai-Kirche was built in the Hamburg district of Harvestehude. In 1951, the nave was finally demolished and rubble from the church was partially used for reinforcement of The River Elbe embankment.

The loss of a valuable Gothic Revival architectural monument was regretted by many, but after the war Hamburg had other priorities—the city’s entire housing stock had to be replaced. Contrary to the Baroque Saint-Michaelis-Kirche and the German Gothic churches of Saint-Jacobi, Saint-Petri and Saint-Katharinen, the Neo-Gothic Saint-Nikolai-Kirche was not regarded as one of Hamburg’s most important landmarks. The spire and some remainders of the wall were preserved as a memorial against the war, but the remainder of the ruins was allowed to disintegrate.

This situation changed in 1987. The Rettet Die Nikolai-Kirche (“Save The Nikolai Church Foundation”), founded that year, is responsible for the restoration of the ruin. The foundation is supported in its work by The City Of Hamburg, the congregation of Saint-Nikolai-Kirche, and various corporate sponsors and private contributors. The organization takes care of the maintenance of the building fabric, the repair of known damaged sections, and administration of the church’s programs, such as the arrangement of events and displays at the church. Even some rubble from the destroyed nave was reclaimed from the embankment of The River Elbe in 2000.

When Hamburgers mention Saint-Nikolai-Kirche, it is generally this church that is meant, and not the new Hauptkirche of Saint Nicholas, located in the Harvesthude district.

Our visit to Saint-Nikolai-Kirche was an extensive one. We visited the church on a Thursday so that we could hear the 12:00 Noon Thursday Carillon recital.

At 12:30 p.m., we visited the exhibition center, constructed in the church crypt, which recounts a history of the church. The crypt displays remnants of statues salvaged from the post-bombing rubble and various memorabilia about the church’s history, including numerous photographs. The crypt also presents a two-hour film about Hamburg during The Third Reich, in German only, which was riveting. We had never seen much of the historic footage before, and we watched the film in its entirety.

After our visit to the crypt, we took the elevator to the top of the spire. The platform, 75-meters above street level, offers inspiring views of Hamburg.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Hamburg Theater

Hamburg is a city of theaters.

Befitting its status as the wealthiest city in the European Union, Hamburg is the theater capital of Germany (with some assistance from the fact that Hamburg is also the media capital of Germany—and suffers from lots of bad weather, which tends to foster indoor activity).

There are three enormous state-owned theaters in Hamburg, each employing literally hundreds of persons full-time.

One of the state-owned theaters, of course, is the Hamburg State Opera.

The other two state-owned theaters are professional theater companies, performing year-round, each offering a vast repertory of plays over the course of a year.

The Deutsches Schauspielhaus is the largest and most beautiful theater in Germany used for spoken drama, and it houses Germany’s most prominent resident theater company. Its repertory concentrates on the classics.

Designed in Neo-Baroque style by the Viennese partnership of Fellner and Helmer, the most famous theatrical architects of the day, the Schauspielhaus originally contained over 1800 seats. It opened its doors in 1900, and originally operated as a private theater with a subscription audience.

The theater was nationalized when the National Socialists came to power, and it has been a state-operated and state-subsidized theater ever since.

The theater escaped serious damage during World War II, but for three years after the war the building was requisitioned by British occupying forces and only returned to its original function in 1948. Within a decade, the theater had re-assumed its position as Germany’s finest theater company. All of the great European directors have worked in the theater, even the great Giorgio Strehler.

In 1984, the rococo red-plush-and-gold auditorium was scrupulously reconstructed pursuant to the original designs. In addition to the main auditorium, the building has two smaller stages. Busts of Goethe, Schiller, Lessing and Kleist are displayed in the public promenades, reminders of Germany’s great theatrical heritage.

The Thalia Theater is Hamburg’s other large-scale state-owned theater company for spoken drama. It is one of the oldest theater companies in Germany, and one of the finest. With a staff of 340, the company stages 40 plays in repertory each year, nine of which are new productions. Its repertory is more contemporary than the repertory of the Deutsches Schauspielhaus.

The theater was founded in 1843 and named after the muse Thalia. The present Neo-Classical building opened in 1912. Like the nearby Deutsches Schauspielhaus, the Thalia Theater was nationalized in the 1930’s.

In addition to its main stage, the Thalia Theater presents repertory performances in another, smaller theater in nearby Altona.

The Thalia Theater survived the 1943 Hamburg firestorm, but fell victim to bombs in 1945, just as the war drew to a conclusion. The theater was rebuilt in the late 1950’s and reopened in 1960.

Unbeknownst to the German authorities, the basement of the Thalia Theater served as headquarters for local resistance forces against Hitler.

The Thalia Theater is a grand old traditional theater, with excellent sightlines and sumptuous decoration. The main auditorium has 1000 seats.

We attended a performance at the Thalia Theater of “Die Katze Auf Dem Heissen Blechdach”, known in the English-speaking world as Tennessee Williams’ “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof”. We all enjoyed the performance very much, although I doubt that we would have wanted to see a play that was not already familiar to us.

There are several commercial theaters in Hamburg that offer long runs of popular musicals. Some of these commercial runs have lasted literally for years: when we were in Hamburg, “The Lion King”, “Mamma Mia” and some German musical I had never even heard of were in the middle of multi-year runs.

Hamburg has two English-language theaters, too, owing to the large contingent of British citizens who live and work in Hamburg. There are 100,000 British residents of Hamburg, a reflection of the longstanding mercantile ties between Hamburg and London going back five centuries.

One of the English-language theaters, the aptly-named English Theatre, is fully professional and offers performances year-round. We attended a performance at the English Theatre of Michael Frayn’s “Noises Off”. The performance was not very good.

Hamburg Laeiszhalle

While we were in Hamburg, we heard three orchestral concerts. All three concerts took place in Hamburg’s primary concert venue, the Laeiszhalle (also known as the Musikhalle).

The Laeiszhalle is the home of Hamburg’s primary orchestra, The NDR Orchestra Of Hamburg, which presents weekly subscription concerts in the hall. The Laeiszhalle also is the home of the city’s secondary orchestra, the Hamburg Symphony. Further, the hall regularly presents orchestral concerts by the orchestra of the Hamburg State Opera.

In addition to hosting the local ensembles, the Laeiszhalle presents an active schedule of visiting orchestras and artists. It is one of the world’s most famed venues for orchestral concerts and artist recitals.

In our three nights in the hall, we heard a subscription concert by The NDR Orchestra as well as guest concerts by the Oslo Philharmonic and the Paris-based Orchestre Des Champs Elysees.

The interior of the hall is beautiful, and the acoustics excellent. The public staircases and promenades are beautiful, too, vast and grand, but always serious and understated.

Hamburg’s Laeiszhalle was built with a donation bequeathed by shipping magnate Carl Heinrich Laeisz and his wife. Portraits of the couple are to be seen in relief on the main staircase.

The Laeiszhalle was erected between 1904 and 1908 to a design by architects Martin Haller and Wilhelm Emil Meerwein. It is a representative, even magnificent, example of the Hamburg Neo-Baroque style, reflecting the Baroque brick-built architecture of the city from the 17th century.

The opening of the hall was a grand occasion for the city of Hamburg, as for the first time in its history the city could boast of a world-class concert hall.

The main concert hall, with a large and powerful Beckerath organ, seats 2,000 concertgoers. The small concert hall seats 640 concertgoers. In the foyer of the dress circle are two marble busts honoring Hamburg native Johannes Brahms and Peter Illich Tchaikovsky.

The Laeiszhalle survived World War II undamaged. It was completely renovated in 1983.

The square in front of the concert hall was named Johannes-Brahms-Platz in 1997, to mark the centenary of Brahms’ death.

The hall itself celebrates its centenary this year.

In a few more years, the city of Hamburg will have a second major concert hall. A new concert hall is being built directly upon the city’s harbor front. When completed, it will become the home of the city’s second orchestra, the Hamburg Symphony, an orchestra the city of Hamburg is committed to transforming into a major ensemble.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Hamburg State Opera

The Hamburgische Staatsoper (Hamburg State Opera) is one of the leading opera companies in Germany, home to a large resident opera company and a large resident ballet company.

Opera in Hamburg dates back to 1678, when the “Opern-Theatrum” was inaugurated. The Opern-Theatrum was not a court theater, but the first public opera house in Germany, established by music-loving citizens of Hamburg. It remains the only German opera house of significance not founded as a court opera.

Until the 19th Century, Hamburg resisted the dominance of the Italian opera repertory—it concentrated on staging German works, and rapidly became the leading musical center of the German Baroque. In 1703, George Frideric Handel was engaged as a violinist and harpsichordist at the theater, and performances of his operas soon followed. In 1721, Georg Philipp Telemann, a central figure of the German Baroque, joined the Hamburg Opera, and became a leading figure in the theater.

A new, larger theater was constructed in 1826, on the site of the current building. It served for the next 117 years. Music directors in the old house included Hans Von Bulow, Gustav Mahler, Karl Bohm and Eugen Jochum. Otto Klemperer was on the conducting staff early in the 20th century.

World premieres at the house have included Handel’s “Nerone” in 1705, Busoni’s “Die Brautwahl” in 1912 and Korngold’s “Die Tote Stadt” in 1920.

The auditorium and front façade of the theater were completely destroyed by bombs in 1943. The theater’s fire curtain, made of iron, prevented the destruction of the backstage portion of the building. Work on rebuilding the Staatsoper began in 1952. The current Staatsoper reopened in 1955.

The exterior of the present building is functional. The theater is located in one of Hamburg’s business districts, and it is almost indistinguishable from surrounding office buildings. Indeed, one might pass the house without even realizing that it is an opera house, in large part because the building is not set back from the street.

The exterior of the building is somewhat more impressive at night, because the lights shining through the windows draw the eye into the building, at all levels.

The interior, however, is another matter. It contains one of the world’s great opera house auditoriums, simply designed, elegantly proportioned, brilliantly lighted, and suggestive of a great sense of occasion. It puts the Metropolitan Opera House, with its vulgarity and gaudiness, to shame.

We attended a performance of Puccini’s “La Boheme” in the house. It was a new production, but we were unaware of this fact prior to ordering our tickets online. The production was different, but not unduly bizarre.

We sat in one of the loges on the right side of the house (from the onstage vantage of the photo below, our loge was on the left). We had the loge to ourselves, and we loved it. The loges are arranged so that loge patrons may not observe patrons in other loges on the same side of the house. This trick is accomplished, in part, by very, very high seatbacks, which block the views of persons sitting in other loges. It creates an impression of great privacy and cosiness—and the seats are very comfortable, unlike the seats in so many European opera houses.

From our experience, the Hamburg State Opera had a very good audience. The audience was extremely well-behaved. The audience members were quiet and attentive, and held their applause until the end of each act. The audience did not applaud scenery, and the audience did not applaud individual arias. There was rhythmic clapping, European-style, at the conclusion of the opera (amidst the booing, inevitable in any European theater).

The public areas were spacious but spare. It was the public areas that most reflected the era of the building’s design, the 1950’s. The lower-level bar, with white, rounded, contoured fixtures and designs, was the worst offender, seemingly inspired by a Douglas Sirk film.

More Hamburg Spires

This postcard of Hamburg from the 1930’s shows the spires of the city from the vantage of the Binnenalster (the Inner Alster Lake).

From left to right, the spires are Saint Jacob’s, Saint Peter’s, Saint Catherine’s (in the distant background), the Rathaus and Saint Nicholas’s. The spire of Saint Michael’s would be to the right if the panorama were wider.

The city of Hamburg is bordered on one side by the two Alster Lakes and on the other side by The River Elbe. A complicated series of canals, passing through the very center of the city, connects the two bodies of water.

Hamburg is one of the most beautiful cities for walking in the world.

The Spires Of Hamburg

This postcard of Hamburg from the 1930’s shows five of the six principal spires of the city center, as well as the city’s largest and highest monument.

The monument in the lower right-hand corner is the Bismarck-Denkmal, a monument to Otto Von Bismarck, former Chancellor Of The German Reich and the force behind the unification of Germany. The statue of Bismarck is over fifty feet high. The base of the statue is of comparable height. It is both a brutal and a transfixing monument.

The Bismarck-Denkmal lies in the center of Alter Elbpark, the Old Elbe Park. The Old Elbe Park lies directly on The River Elbe, which flows one hundred yards to the right of the Bismarck-Denkmal.

During World War II, a giant air raid shelter was created at the base of the hill on which the monument rests. The shelter was constructed for area residents as well as for workers from the harbor. When we were in Hamburg, we located what we believed to have been two of the old entrances to the air raid shelter, now filled with concrete.

The large church in the forefront of the postcard is Saint-Michaelis-Kirche, Saint Michael’s Church. Saint Michael’s is Hamburg’s principal church as well as the city’s largest church. It was destroyed during the war, but rebuilt from the original plans. It is Hamburg’s most important Baroque building.

The three spires at the far left of the postcard are, respectively, the Rathaus, Saint-Petri-Kirche and Saint-Jacobi-Kirche. Saint Peter’s and Saint Jacob’s are both medieval North German churches. Saint Peter’s escaped damage during the war. The spire of Saint Jacob’s suffered a direct hit and collapsed, but the remainder of the structure was saved by the Hamburg fire squadrons. The spire was rebuilt after the war.

The spire on the right of the postcard, between Saint Michael’s and the Bismarck monument, is Saint-Katharinen-Kirche, another medieval North German church. Saint Catherine’s was destroyed during the war—only the walls and spire were left standing—but it was rebuilt at war’s end.

The sixth main spire of Hamburg cannot be seen in this postcard. The spire of Saint Michael’s conceals the spire of Saint-Nikolai-Kirche. Saint Nicholas’s Church was the newest of Hamburg’s five primary churches, designed by British architect George Gilbert Scott in the late 19th Century in the Neo-Gothic style so frequently encountered in London.

Saint Nicholas was destroyed during the war, and never rebuilt. Only its spire was left standing. The spire is still there, a memorial to the tens of thousands of Hamburg civilians who lost their lives during the conflagration.

Other than the spires that may be seen in the postcard, and other than the Bismarck monument, no other buildings in this postcard survived the war.


This is another old postcard from the city of Hamburg in the 1930’s.

Hamburg was virtually destroyed during the War. The 1943 firestorm alone wiped out such a huge portion of the city that an infuriated Hitler wanted summarily to execute 30,000 Allied prisoners of war in retaliation, a measure against which Hitler’s generals successfully pleaded (knowing that it would be their necks on the line at war’s end if Hitler’s wishes were carried out). The only way to experience the old city of Hamburg today is through old photographs and postcards that survived the war.

Monckebergstrasse, which connects the Rathaus with the Central Train Station, was and is the main and most fashionable shopping street of Hamburg. It was named after a former mayor of Hamburg.

The small Classical building with the portico at the bottom of the postcard was erected as a library. It now houses a Burger King franchise. I am not making this up.

The small statue and fountain in front of the library-turned-Burger King were erected to Honor Mayor Monckeberg.

All other buildings in the postcard, as far as the eye can see, were destroyed during the War. I have literally no idea how the small Classical building managed to survive.

Hamburg no longer has streetcars.

The second building on the right side of the street was the Levantehaus, erected as a Kontorhaus (a counting house). It was considered to be one of the finest buildings in Hamburg before the War.

It was rebuilt, in a much-simplified version, after the war. A few years ago, the Levantehaus was totally refurbished. The first two floors now house a two-level indoor shopping mall devoted to luxury goods.

Hamburg’s city ticket agency for classical music events is located there, and we were able to pick up all of our concert and opera tickets at one time in one place, freeing us of the need to traipse all over town buying tickets. No service charges were imposed for buying tickets at the city ticket agency, and ticket-holders were allotted free subway transportation to and from all concert and theater venues on performance evenings.

The upper floors of the Levantehaus now house a luxury hotel, also called the Levantehaus.

We stayed at the Levantehaus during our time in Hamburg. It was the finest hotel I have ever experienced, with a standard of luxury and service almost too ridiculous to contemplate. The hotel even had a swimming pool with a Romanesque ceiling, which we used every single day.


I am looking forward to going away for a couple of weeks before law school starts.

I have decided that I love to travel.

I have only traveled overseas four times.

My first trip out of the country was a whirlwind tour of Europe with my Dad. That trip occurred while I was in high school. I don’t remember much about that trip because we were rushing from highlight to highlight, trying to see as much of the continent as possible in a short time. That trip was tinged with sadness, because the purpose of the trip was to give my mother and father a break from each other. That was not a happy time.

My second trip out of the country was a month-long trip to Turkey. That trip occurred while I was in college. My two half-brothers and I each had received small legacies, and we used the money to travel to Turkey. My half-brothers initiated that trip, and I more or less tagged along. I have not seen my half-brothers since that trip ended, when we parted at JFK and went our separate ways.

My third trip out of the country was to Hamburg, Germany. That trip occurred in November 2006, when Andrew’s father had to travel to Hamburg on business and managed to turn his business trip into a two-week family vacation. Andrew and I went on that trip, as did Andrew’s mother and middle brother.

My fourth trip out of the country was to London. That trip occurred in September 2007, when Andrew and I, his parents and his middle brother spent sixteen days in the British capital.

Our upcoming trip to Southern England, consequently, will be my fifth trip out of the country.

It will be the first trip out of the country for my sister. It is my hope that she will have a marvelous time.

I did not start my blog until June 2007, so I have never written about our 2006 Hamburg trip.

That was the first trip Andrew and I made together. It was glorious.

I loved Hamburg. I thought Hamburg was the most beautiful city I had ever visited, more beautiful even than Istanbul.

I think it was the dark Baltic sky I fell in love with. It was the most beautiful sky and the most beautiful light I had ever seen.

I also loved the canals—Hamburg has more canals than Venice or Amsterdam—and I also loved the architecture. Hamburg is probably the most distinctive European city from an architectural perspective. In that regard, it is the Chicago of Europe.

Further, Hamburg is probably the only European city with good 20th-Century architecture. Hamburg has always been a city with a tradition of fine architecture, and that tradition has been maintained throughout the post-War period. There are probably more fine 20th-Century buildings in Hamburg than in the rest of Europe combined.

This is an historic postcard from Hamburg, and the buildings are obviously not 20th-Century.

The postcard is from the 1930’s, and it may be dated by the absence of the Ehrenmal, the World War I monument erected in 1932 on Rathausmarkt (City Hall Market) right next to the water. The absence of the Ehrenmal signifies that the postcard is from 1930 or 1931.

The building on the far left no longer stands. It was destroyed during The Second World War.

The Rathaus, Hamburg’s giant City Hall, seen through the arcades, is the symbol of Hamburg, a giant 1897 Neo-Renaissance edifice that miraculously survived the War unscathed.

The Rathaus has 647 rooms. We took an English-language tour of the interior of the Rathaus, but it was not a pleasant experience. The public information officials and the ticket takers were typical Germans, rigid and officious, and the guide rushed us through the building at such a lightning-quick pace that we were not able to enjoy the opulent interiors. Our guide gave the distinct impression that she was late for an appointment. (Andrew said that she was in training for the 400-yard dash. However, Andrew forgave her for her haste, as he particularly enjoyed her mustache, well worth the price of admission, or so he said.)

The building just to the right of the Rathaus, partly blocked by the arcades, is the Hamburg branch of the Reichsbank. The building still stands, and “Reichsbank” remains carved into its stone façade. The structure is currently occupied by an art institution, The Bucerius Kunst Forum, which mounts temporary exhibitions. We attended a dreadful exhibition there devoted to artworks through the ages depicting Cleopatra. Filled with third-, fourth- and fifth-rate works, it was the worst exhibition I have ever seen.

The Alsterarkaden (The Alster Arcades) were designed and constructed in the 1840’s. The architecture was borrowed from Venice. The arcades house fashionable shops.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


As I mentioned on Sunday, Andrew and I are gratified that Andrew’s older brother took care of our housing situation for Boston.

This relieved us of a lot of stress, as well as a trip to Boston to secure housing. We were happy to leave things in his hands.

Andrew’s older brother is a remarkable guy. He’s a good husband, a good father, a good brother and a good son. He’s very intelligent, very hard-working, very loyal, very thoughtful and very considerate. I think of him now as my own brother.

There is a streak of primogeniture in him, as he views himself as the rightful and natural leader of his two younger brothers (who are generally happy to fall in line with whatever he has in mind). This very occasionally leads to the odd conflict, but such conflicts are short-lived and seldom serious in nature.

He and I had a serious disagreement over Easter weekend 2006, the first weekend I spent in Andrew’s family home, and that disagreement ruined the entire weekend for the entire family. He and I had a strained relationship for the following two or three months, but our relationship was repaired exactly two years ago this week, when we all spent ten days together up at the lake. During those ten days, he and I somehow managed to bury the hatchet. He has never held that old disagreement against me, and we have been friends and family ever since.

I met Andrew’s older brother late on Friday night, February 17, 2006, when Andrew and I had gone to New York for Presidents’ Day Weekend. He was the first member of Andrew’s family I met.

Andrew and I spent that entire weekend in New York with his brother and his family, and our days in New York were the fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth days I knew Andrew. Early the following week I described that weekend in four email messages to a friend of mine. I post the texts of these email messages below, in sequence. They directly follow upon my previous five days with Andrew, described in old email messages I posted on March 28, 2008.

Andrew’s brother does not object to these old email messages. In fact, he thinks they are amusing (and often hilarious).

This very minute we are sitting out on the deck, up at the lake, with an hour or so to kill before dinnertime. Indeed, I am using Alec’s laptop, the only computer on hand for any of us this week.

Alec brought his laptop with him so that he may monitor the stock market as it continues its slide. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 1800 points-–it has dropped from 13,000 down to 11,200—in the four weeks since Obama effectively wrapped up the Democrat presidential nomination.

2008 has been the year of “The Obama Market”, declining with only slight pauses since January 3, the day of the Iowa Caucuses, which came early this year. The markets, always looking ahead six to twelve months, are projecting two things: Obama will be the next occupant of the White House; and Obama’s Hard Left tax and economic policies will pass a heavily-Democrat House and Senate early next year.

Capital will contract.

Hard times are ahead.

February 17, 2006: The Fifteenth Day I Knew Andrew

Silvio, my weekend was really special, and I hope yours was, too. I hope the second attempt to read "Fortinbras" was not postponed, again owing to weather, this time due to bitter cold.

Andrew came to get me Friday at 3:15--he was a little late, a result of getting all his stuff in the trunk, he said, as well as traffic--and I went out to meet him with my stuff. He asked me whether my roommates were at home, and I said no, they were not. He asked me "Then may we go into the house for a minute, so that I can kiss you?"

Well, I was hardly going to say "no" to that, was I? So we went into the house, and Andrew held me completely close to him and he kissed me for a long time, and then he said "Do you realize that yesterday was the first day we have not seen each other since we met? And do you realize that we met exactly two weeks ago this afternoon?"

I told him I was well aware of both facts--well aware.

Andrew looked into my eyes very deeply, for a long time, and then he said to me "I made a terrible mistake. I left you alone, and you haven't slept, have you? You haven't eaten, either, have you?"

I had done neither, but I told him I had survived, and he said "We have to get you something to eat. Right now. And then get you to bed. As soon as possible. We'll worry about getting the weekend started early tomorrow morning. I should have just taken you home with me Wednesday night after dinner at Judy's, and damned the reaction of others."

I told Andrew I was fine, and that I wanted to get the weekend started now.

"No, we have to get you something to eat. What do you want?" he asked.

"Really, nothing" I said.

"Well, if you don't know what you want, then instead of taking you to a restaurant I am going to take you home and fix you something--breakfast, lunch, dinner, whatever you want, anything, unlimited choice. Then we will decide if you want to go straight to bed or get the weekend started" he said.

"Won't your roommates be home?" I asked.

"Probably not until later, but does it matter?" Andrew asked. "They are used to you by now."

And Andrew took me home, Silvio, sat me down in his kitchen, and asked me what I wanted to eat. "Nothing too heavy" I said "Or I might go to sleep."

"That's exactly what you need--something substantial to make you sleep" Andrew said. "What if I fix you a breakfast? Does that sound at all appetizing to you?"

I said that would be fine because breakfast would have the advantage of being quick and easy to fix, so Andrew made me a wonderful full breakfast--grapefruit, cranberry juice, orange juice, milk, granola with fruit, scrambled eggs with cheese and flour and onions and tomatoes, bacon, fried potatoes with onion and green pepper and cheese, toast--and then he wanted to know if I wanted pancakes and sausage, too!

While I ate, he said "What I think we should do is this: you go to bed as soon as you are done eating, and sleep in my bed. I will sleep on the sofa tonight, and when you get up tomorrow morning we shall decide what we will do. That way you can begin the weekend well-rested."

"No" I said. "I don't like that idea, Andrew. And I don't want to sleep in your bed unless you are in it, too. I would prefer to wait and then sleep when we arrive wherever we are going."

"Well, that's OK, too, because you also can sleep in the car, or we can stop anywhere along the way if you get too tired" Andrew said. "Have you given any thought to what you want to do, Josh?" he asked me.

"I think you should make the decision" I said.

"I think YOU should" he responded. "I already told you that the weekend was your choice. Did you have any ideas of your own?"

I told Andrew that I had had no ideas that were better than his suggestions, so he asked me "Which appealed to you the most?"

I said that all four of them were equally appealing to me.

"Then what kind of weekend do you want?" he asked.

"I'm not sure what you mean" I said.

"Well, if you are looking for something that is really interesting and stimulating, with lots of different things to do and see, then I think Williamsburg/Norfolk is the best bet. If you want just to chill out, and hole up, then Westfields is the best bet because it has comprehensive sporting facilities, an excellent dining room, luxurious guest rooms, and a wide selection of in-room movies. If you want an artistic weekend, Baltimore might be a good bet because of the two museums and the Baltimore Symphony and Center Stage. If you want a weekend filled with household drudgery, then by all means pick New York."

I told Andrew I really wanted to go to New York. He told me that I was just saying that solely out of kindness to him because I knew he wanted to see his brother. I told Andrew I was not saying that solely out of kindness, and that I really WOULD like to go to New York most of all--both because I wanted to meet his brother and because I had not been to New York since I was a kid.

"I hope you realize that, if we go to New York, we may not be out and about all that much, at least for this weekend" Andrew said.

"I have no problem with that" I said.

"Well, we can go to New York, if you really want, but then we will have to go a second time sometime very soon, and on that second trip devote the entire weekend to sightseeing and having fun. I'm sort of afraid you may not have that much fun this weekend in New York, because I will have to help my brother and his wife. But at least you can nap there, and get lots of rest. That will be a good thing."

I told Andrew I wanted to experience all four types of weekends with him. "OK, we will, we'll do all four" he said. "I Promise. Between now and graduation. Promise. Scouts' honor."

"I'd really like that" I said.

And then Andrew cleaned up the breakfast dishes, and asked me if I was almost ready to go. I said I would be ready as soon as I used the bathroom. "Then we'll leave in twenty minutes" he said. "I'll load the car now. It will take me a while."

"I thought you had already loaded the car" I said.

Andrew said "Oh, when I go to New York, I always take lots of stuff, like food and household cleaning products. They are much cheaper here, and it's no fun lugging that stuff around the streets of New York, especially when you have a baby."

Silvio, when I came out of the bathroom, Andrew had already loaded the car and was busy making sandwiches (chicken, beef and salmon) and coffee and gathering carrots and celery and fruit juices and oranges and apples and grapes and nuts and raisins and bananas and trail mix and cookies together for the trip. "This is for you, in case you are still hungry, or get hungry again on the way" he said. "We won't have dinner until we get to New York City."

"You've got to be kidding" I said. "You don't think I'm going to eat all this, do you? And have dinner, too, afterwards?"

"I'll be there if you want it or need it" Andrew said. "You don't have to eat it if you don't want to."

Then he got some pillows and a blanket, Silvio, and he said "These are in case you want to sleep on the way. Traffic will probably be heavy all the way, and it may take a while to get there. You can sleep in the back seat if you get tired."

And just past 5:30, Silvio, we were off.

I was totally rejuvenated, not only by the food but also by Andrew's energy and his excitement and his extremely solicitous care and concern for my needs. He DOES look out for the welfare of others before he looks out for himself.

One of the first things Andrew did after getting in the car was to call his brother's wife and let her know that he WAS coming to NYC this weekend, and that he WAS bringing a friend, and that we were leaving right now and that he would call again when he was 10 minutes or so from their coop.

Silvio, Andrew talked to me the whole trip, and it was the best talk we ever had. We talked about everything, we talked about nothing, we talked about serious things, we talked about silly things. We talked about what we might be able to see and do in New York if we had time. We talked about Andrew's brother and his wife and their baby boy.

We talked about the future, too.

"I have given things a lot of thought" said Andrew "and I have been trying to come up with something that has a realistic prospect of working, and making everybody--by which I mean you, me, and our parents--happy. I don't want to be premature, but this is the only thing I think will work, and I want you to give some thought to it--not now, not this weekend, not this week, not this month, but between now and, say, May 1, or about a month before graduation.

"I think after graduation I return home to Minnesota and take the bar exam but postpone my start date at work until after Labor Day. That will give me two months of the summer totally free. You come home with me for the entire summer, but we live not at my parents' house but at their house on the lake. We can also go places during the summer, like to Oklahoma, if your parents want that.

"Then, after Labor Day, you go to Boston, I start work, and I fly to see you every weekend. We spend holidays together--and there are a LOT of school holidays, Josh, over the course of a full school term--whether in Boston, Minnesota or Oklahoma. Then, after your first year at law school is over, you decide whether you want me to move to Boston with you. If you do, you spend the following summer together with me back in Minnesota again, and I use that time to take the Massachusetts Bar Exam--it will be too soon for me to waive in--and find a job in Boston. I hope--and perhaps this is only a farfetched hope--that either my Dad or your Dad can help me find a job in Boston at that point.

"I want you to think about all of this over the next ten weeks, and if you decide it might work out, then we prepare a plan to tell our parents about all this between the end of final exams and graduation.

"Just think about it at this point. Examine it at leisure, compare it with other possibilities, and we can continue to explore other options between now and May 1. You may have far better ideas than I do. Does this sound feasible enough to you to warrant, at the very least, some serious consideration?"

I was totally floored, Silvio. Andrew's tentative plan was far better than anything I had envisioned. I asked him whether he had already talked to his father, and got the idea of the scheme from his Dad. "Oh, no, I have not said a word to my father" Andrew said. "It is far too early for that."

"Did one of your brothers recommend this?" I said. "No, I have not said 'boo' to my brothers about you" said Andrew.

"Well, I assure you I will think about it. It's better than anything I have been able to come up with" I said. "My only idea was to forget about law school and move with you back to Minnesota, which would provoke my parents no end and also end a life-long dream of mine" I said.

"I never considered, even for a second, your opting out of law school" said Andrew. "That cannot and will not happen. That item was never even on the table."

I said to Andrew "My worst fear is that I act up between now and May 1, and kill any possibility of carrying through any plan at all."

"We'll deal with whatever we have to deal with" said Andrew, and that's all he said about the matter.

Out of curiosity, Silvio, I asked Andrew how many times he had talked to Judy since she met me, and what she had had to say to him about me.

He answered "Well, let's see: I didn't talk to her on Sunday, as you already know, because I was with you all day Sunday. I talked to her briefly Monday night, when I was extremely depressed about what happened on Monday. I talked to her for an hour on Tuesday afternoon, between the time you left a message for her and the time she called you back. Of course, I talked to her Tuesday night when she called when you were over at her house, and you heard that conversation. I never talked to her on Wednesday, but of course we saw her that evening. I talked to her briefly last night, when I told her that I had asked you to spend time with me this weekend, and I told her what my suggestions were for the weekend."

"What did she say?" I asked.

"She said she thought my weekend ideas stunk. She thought Williamsburg sounded like a high-school field trip; Westfields sounded like a low-security prison; Baltimore sounded like--well, like Baltimore--and New York City would be wonderful if it were not to be spent at my brother's place. 'Boy, you know how to have a good time!' is what she said. I asked her to give me a better plan and she suggested Paris."

"What did she say to you for that hour on Tuesday?" I asked.

"Well, she wanted to know what was going on. Of course, from your message to her, she knew something was up. She already knew, briefly, about Monday, but she did not know, until we talked on Tuesday, that I had gone over to you very late Monday night and spent the night with you. During that Tuesday conversation, I told her that I was very depressed and I told her almost exactly the same thing I told you Tuesday while we talking at your place before I left."

"Does Judy like me?" I asked.

"Yes, very much. Can't you tell that?" Andrew asked.

"Well, I thought so, but I wasn't certain. I thought perhaps she was nice to me only because I was a friend of yours" I said.

"If Judy did not like you, I assure you that you would know that, and very, very clearly" Andrew said. "In that event, there would be no doubt where you stood in her book."

"Did Judy tell you whether she thought this would ever work out?" I asked.

"She would never say. She would find that to be out of place" said Andrew.

"Did she say anything about whether she thought I would be successful in improving my behavior?" I asked Andrew.

"No" said Andrew. "Once again, she would find that to be out of place. And, Joshua, you can't allow yourself to make too much of this. You do not have behavioral issues--not at all. I do not want you to use the word 'behavior'. I detest that word. Somehow I am not satisfying your emotional requirements, but I will figure out how to do that with a little more time, experience and thought. Trust me on this one, OK?"

"Well, what are your thoughts about that?" I asked.

"I will always try my very, very best, Josh. And I know you will always do your very, very best. I know both of us will try very, very hard. I know your instincts are only the very finest, and I hope my instincts can match yours.

"However, I want to say something to you, and I want you to promise me that you will not get mad. I want you to promise me."

"I promise" I said.

"And I will NOT stop the car and I will NOT let you get out and walk home, even if you insist. We are over 150 miles from Washington, and it's freezing outside. So promise, please."

"I promise" I said.

"I think you are talking to one of your gay friends about us, and I think you are getting bad advice. Do you want to know why I say that?" Andrew asked.

"Tell me" I said.

"As soon as you got in the car last Friday afternoon, you instantly asked me whether I had ever had sex and whether I had ever dated. No 'good afternoon and how are you doing' or anything like that--instead, straight to Final Jeopardy. That was very atypical of you. Both of us have always tended to ease into personal questions. And let me make sure you understand that I am not objecting to the questions you asked me, and I told you, quite specifically at the time, that you were entitled to ask those questions. In fact, I had already told you, indirectly, answers to both of those questions before.

"And then the same thing happened again on Monday.

"We spent last weekend in each other's company, and remained together until 8:30 a.m. Monday morning. Everything was bliss. At least that's what I thought.

"Then, six hours later, at 2:30 p.m., you got into the car and--without any 'good afternoon and how are you' or anything--you went straight to Final Jeopardy again and you announced that you would not be seeing me on Wednesday or Thursday, and you immediately insisted that I provide you with a reaction to your announcement. I felt like I was being subjected to an examination, but I was not sure what answer I was supposed to give. Was I supposed to express curiosity about what you would be doing, or I was I supposed to express disappointment that I would not be seeing you, or was I supposed to affect indifference about not seeing you, or was I supposed to express something else? I did not know what answer I was supposed to give, and I tried to give you a totally neutral answer, if you recall. I tried to hedge.

"Well, I flunked the test--that much was immediately clear to me--and I could not help but observe, once again, how atypical it was of you to start off with something like that. What had happened in the six hours between 8:30 and 2:30? Well, clearly, something had happened.

"My conclusion--and I may be totally wrong, and I readily admit that I may be totally wrong--is that you have been talking about us with one of your gay friends, and he has been telling you things to ask me and things to do to see what my reaction is. On Monday, especially, I felt like I had been dropped, unwillingly, into an episode of "Sex And The City."

"And if you are talking about us to your gay friends--and I have no problem whatsoever if you talk about us to your friends, gay or otherwise--my sense is that their advice may be good advice about gay dating in general, but I am not sure that their advice is good advice if someone is serious about someone else.

"And, like I say, it was only because you did this twice--once right before a weekend we spent together and once right after a weekend we spent together--and did it in such an atypical fashion for you, that I started to wonder if someone had put you up to this.

"So, to answer your question, am I confident that all emotional conflicts are over between us?

"NO! Not in the least! But let me explain! Please! We will ALWAYS have emotional conflicts, even if we are together for 70 years! Everyone does. My parents, after 33 years of marriage, have emotional conflicts and they love each other very much. But it is how we MANAGE those conflicts that will the tale--whether we can reach long-term resolutions with each other.

"So, if you are asking me whether we will ever have another emotional conflict, I can answer you, with 100% confidence, that we will have a lot of them.

"But if you are asking me whether I am afraid we will have lots more episodes like Monday, my guess is that we may have a few isolated ones, but not on a regular recurring basis--unless someone is giving you really bad advice and is prompting you to do certain things you would not otherwise do, and you listen to that advice and take it out on me.

"You know, I don't live life in the fast lane and I am not suited to life in the fast lane, but a lot of gay people live life in the fast lane and sometimes their perspectives may be better adapted to life in the fast lane, or their personal experiences are a reflection of life in the fast lane, and what they say may be more properly applicable to life in the fast lane."

After saying all this, Andrew paused for a long time. Then he said, very softly, "You're pretty quiet. Are you bored, asleep or just praying that I shut up?"

And, Silvio, I was stunned by what Andrew had just said. I was absolutely dumbfounded.

I myself paused for a long time, and I said to Andrew "Let's pick this up, right at this very point, on the way back home. Is that all right with you?"

"Yes, Joshua, that's fine. We can even drop the point, if you like. I was only trying to answer the question you posed, and I was trying to give you a very serious and thoughtful answer. We can drop this entirely. I am happy to drop it, completely, totally, permanently."

"No, I want to continue this, but not right now" I said. "I'm tired, mentally and physically, but I want to finish this. And I have something to tell you when we return to this point."

"No problem" Andrew said.

As we got closer and closer to NYC, I asked Andrew more questions about the brother we would be visiting.

I asked Andrew what his brother knew about me (absolutely nothing--he does not even know that your Dad is a friend and law-school classmate of our Dad), whether his brother knew Andrew was gay (yes), whether he knows that I am gay (no, but he will assume that you are, because you are the first guest I have ever taken to my brother's place and he knows that I would not invite a garden-variety friend to go there for the weekend), whether he will think we are friends or more than friends (he will assume, by the very fact that I invited you to accompany me, that we are more than friends, but he will also realize, instantly and accurately, that we are in the very early stages of getting to know one another and that we are not yet intimate), whether I am welcome in his home (yes, of course, or I would not be taking you there), whether he will be friendly to me (I assure you that he will be very friendly to you and will do everything possible to make you feel at home), whether he will like me (definitely), whether he will report back to your parents (I will ask him not to just yet, and explain why to him, and he will respect my wishes--otherwise, he would be on the phone to them and my other brother the minute we are out the door).

Silvio, I ate all of the food Andrew had packed for me during the trip--every bite of food was gone by the time we got to Newark! Andrew knew I was hungry and needed food, and he took care of me.

Not long after we got into Manhattan, Andrew called his brother and told him we were about 10 minutes away. He explained to me that his brother would meet us at the front entrance of his coop, and bring his garage card and drive Andrew's car into the parking garage of his building.

And that's exactly what happened. In front of the building, Andrew got out of the car, his brother slipped behind the wheel, and Andrew got into the back seat. Andrew introduced me to his brother, who said hello, and his brother drove into the parking garage.

After parking the car, Andrew's brother opened the trunk--which was absolutely loaded with food, Silvio! Andrew had done a monstrous amount of grocery shopping for them because, his brother said, the stores in New York were so small, so expensive and had a rotten selection. Apparently Andrew does this every time he goes to visit them. There were two coolers full of nothing but meat alone. Andrew said to me "Now, do you understand why I told you that it took me awhile to pack the trunk?" Seeing all this food, I now understood. It took the three of us three trips to take all this stuff upstairs!

Andrew's brother and his wife live on the 21st floor of their building. His brother is 31 and works for a hedge fund. His name is Alec, and he is the oldest of three brothers--another is 28, and Andrew, the youngest, is of course 25.

Alec's wife is British. Her name is Lizbeth and she is a psychiatrist. They have a baby boy who is just over four months old. Alec used to work in London, which is where he met Lizbeth.

Alec is a very handsome man--exceedingly handsome, one of the most handsome men I have ever seen--but he is nowhere near as handsome as Andrew, who is THE most handsome man I have ever seen. Alec also has the same dark blonde hair and the same beautiful blue eyes that Andrew has.

Alec is taller than Andrew--Alec is 6'3", Andrew 6'1"--and he is more solidly built than Andrew and he is very outgoing, very outgoing indeed. He and Andrew love each other very much, which was immediately apparent to me, but I also knew this in advance by the way Andrew talked about both of his brothers. Alec calls Andrew "Baby Brother" and he hugs him and kisses him and ruffles his hair and makes a fuss over him and treats Andrew with the greatest possible affection.

Lizbeth also loves Andrew, which was very obvious. She was extremely happy to see him and, like Alec, made a great fuss over him. She is very attractive, and she also has blonde hair and blue eyes. She has a captivating personality and has the typical British trait of making anyone feel at home instantly.

Both Alec and Lizbeth were exceedingly welcoming to me, and went out of their way to let me know how delighted they were to have me as a guest in their home.

It was after 11:15 once we had completed moving the hordes of food into the apartment, and Lizbeth asked us what we wanted to eat. She said, almost apologetically, that she and Alec had already eaten because they knew that we would not arrive until almost midnight, and that they had been too hungry to wait that long.

Alec said "I betcha these boys want steak!" and he asked us "Now what do you want to go along with your steaks?"

Before either one of us even could answer, Lizbeth said "Let me make you a salad, and Alec, you cut up potatoes for the French Fries, and I'll tell you when to put the steaks on."

Lizbeth continued "Now you guys get settled in. You will have to stay in our guest room because we moved Tim [the baby] into the day room. Joshua, Andrew can show you everything you need. If he can't help you, ask us. Your food will be ready in 15 minutes."

And Andrew took me into the guest room which, I learned, is where Andrew's parents stay when they come to visit.

When Andrew showed me into the guest room, he turned to me and said quietly "I'm not sure what to do. There is only a double bed in this room. The day room has two single beds, and I had assumed that we would stay in the day room, which is where I have always slept before. I assume that they mean for you to sleep here, and that I will be expected to sleep in the day room with the baby or on one of the sofas in the living room. So you plan on staying here, and I will just put my stuff down here for now and await their instructions."

I said to Andrew "If there's any way, I want you to sleep here, too--even if it means your coming in after everyone else has gone to bed."

"First, let's see what they have in mind" Andrew said.

And we washed up and went back to join Alec and Lizbeth in the kitchen.

They poured us wine, and they gave us some really good cheese and crackers, and they acted like perfect hosts. When it was time for us to eat--and, believe it or not, I was still hungry!--they sat down at the table and joined us, even though they only nibbled on cheese and crackers and drank wine while we ate.

They asked us about the trip up, and the traffic, and such, and then they asked all about me. They were not being nosy, or unduly inquisitive, but only expressing a genuine interest in who I was. I liked them both a lot, Silvio. I said to myself, "Oh, I think I will like being a part of this family!"

Andrew was very relaxed, totally at home with them, and he was very relaxed and utterly comfortable having me there, too. Andrew kept his leg against mine the entire time we were sitting around the table and eating, and I have grown to learn that this is a sign that he is very comfortable and very content. We had an enchanting dinner.

After we finished eating, Lizbeth cleared things away, and Alec took us in for a peek at the baby. He said we could not turn the light on, so we would really not get a good look at Tim until tomorrow. Of course, Andrew had already seen Tim at Christmas back home in Minnesota, but this was the first time he had visited Alec and Lizbeth since Christmas, and Andrew said that, even in the dark, he could tell that the baby was almost twice as big as he had been at Christmas.

Then Alec escorted us out of the baby's room into the living room and he stopped and looked at Andrew, and then he looked at me, and then he looked at Andrew again.

Do you know what Alec said, Silvio? Right there, in my presence, he said to Andrew "I think you are still a virgin, Baby Brother, am I correct?"

Silvio, Andrew did not say anything, but he also did not seem in the least embarrassed or offended.

"Oh, Joshua, excuse me. I should explain" Alec said. "At Christmas, Andrew told me and our other brother that he was gay, but that he had never had sex. Now, you guys are seeing each other, correct? But nothing has happened yet, if I'm not mistaken, correct? So what kind of assignments should I be handing out here?"

Silvio, neither Andrew nor I said anything. We just stood there looking at each other and at Alec.

"Joshua, excuse me again, before you think I'm a jerk, but I need to let you know that Alex [Andrew's middle brother] and Andrew and I discussed gay issues at great length during our holidays, and we became accustomed to talking about this quite openly. Alex and I were fascinated about the subject--morbidly so, according to Andrew. And all we were trying to do was look out for Baby Brother's interests!"

And Alec paused again, and neither of us said anything.

After several seconds, Alec said "OK, you guys want to sleep in the same bed, right? But you are still in the puppy love stage, right? And nothing is happening yet, right? But you don't want to sleep in the same bed our parents use, right?"

After another long pause, Alec said "Anyone want to help me out here?"

And Andrew and I said, at the same time, "That's right."

"Then this is what I think we should do" Alec said. "You guys sleep in the living room--we'll pull a sofa out and make it into a bed--and you will be together, but we can all be safe in the assurance that no one's virtue is being affected right here in our living room. And you guys have no need to worry that you are sleeping in a bed that is normally only used by our parents. That way all of us can avoid anything gruesome all the way around."

Neither of us said anything, Silvio, so after another long pause Alec said "Well, I guess I've got it totally wrong after all. Does someone want to correct me, or offer some other suggestions, or at least help me extract my foot from my mouth?"

Andrew stepped up to the plate and said "Alec, you've got it right. Your suggestion that we sleep in the living room is perfect."

"Swell" said Alec. "At last. I was starting to think that we were going to stand here discussing this until 3:00 a.m." And he grabbed Andrew and he hugged him and he tussled his hair and he kissed him and he rubbed him and then he put his arm around Andrew and then Alec put his other arm around me and he asked me "What do you think of Baby Brother here?"

"That's not a fair question" Andrew said. "Josh, you don't have to answer that."

I didn't know if I should say anything, Silvio, and Lizbeth, who apparently entered the living room at some point in time during these proceedings, said "Alec, leave these poor boys alone and help them get their bed ready. They're probably tired. They've had a long drive, and the last thing they need right now is your teasing. They need sleep." And she came across the room, and told Andrew and me to get ready for bed and said that she and Alec would have things taken care of in five minutes.

So we went into the bedroom and brushed our teeth and got into our "sleep gear" and, when we returned to the living room, the bed was already made for us--and we were ready to go to bed.

"We're turning in" said Andrew. "Have a good night" said Lizbeth and she kissed Andrew and then she turned and kissed me. "Sleep well, Baby Brother" said Alec, and again he hugged Andrew very hard and very long, and again he tussled Andrew's hair. And then Alec turned to me and he tussled my hair and said "You sleep well, too, Joshua."

They left the room, and as he was leaving Alec said "And no funny stuff during the night, you two."

And we went to bed and went to sleep.