Good German /Bet On Crazy

The Tri-State TV meteorologists had an easy job during the Spring of 2008. Rain drenched New York day after day throughout April and May. Mushrooms sprouted from the sidewalks and moss covered the trees, as long trough of fronts anchored over the East Coast. The rainfall broke records for each month. Many people blamed the ceaseless wet on global warming. I suspected the wrath of the Christian god seeking a replay of Noah.

Either way summer seemed a myth, until the deluge broke for clear skies several days before the Memorial Day Weekend.

The regional weathermen guaranteed a pleasant stretch of five days and New Yorkers reacted to this over-optimistic prediction by leaving work mid-week to fully enjoy the opening holiday of the season. Millions of city-dwellers abandoned their primary residences in a mass exodus of planes, trains, cars, and buses to every point of the compass and by Thursday the population of Manhattan had shrunk by double-digits.

I was spending the holiday in the city. My wallet was empty and my family was on the other side of the world in Thailand. 26 hours door to door. On Tuesday I was flying south to West Palm Beach to take care of a beachfront mansion and a 3 year-old Airedale named Pom-Pom. Dog-sitting didn’t pay much, but it would bridge the three months until Richie Boy opened the jewelry store in the basement of the Plaza.

A friend of mine wanted a pair of diamond studs, so I left AP’s brownstone in Fort Greene and took the B train from Atlantic Terminal to 47th Street. The subway cars were empty, almost as if New York had been hit by a neutron bomb. Many of the shops in the Diamond District were closed, but my old boss wasn’t the type to take a day off, when he could work.

I entered the diamond exchange in the middle of the block and greeted Manny, “No place to go.”

“Same as you.” Manny believed that hard work was the cure for everything.

“Where’s Richie Boy?” His son and my friend was nowhere in sight.

“He left for Montauk yesterday to beat the traffic.” The eighty-year old from Brownsville had a pile of bills and invoices on his desk. His computer was a Texas Instruments adding machine and a pencil. His finger jabbed at numbers like a woodpecker.

“You going anywhere.” His girlfriend was in Fort Lauderdale. She was a crazy schitzah. Manny liked his girls mad.

“No, I’m staying in the city. That way I beat the traffic.”

“Good plan.”

I said hello to several other people in the exchange. Most of them were staying put. Steve looked out the front window at the sky.

“Doesn’t look like rain.” The diamond broker was a consummate pessimist. “But I don’t believe the weatherman. They only tell people the weather is going to be good to fill the hotels and restaurants.”

“Maybe so.” I had checked the online national radar report. The East Coast was scheduled for clear skies from Virginia Beach to Eastport, Maine.

“You seen any good movies?” Steve flicked through the Arts Section of the New York Times. The bald bachelor liked going to movies. He had already seen TOY STORY 3 and CITY ISLAND. Neither had earned any stars.

“No, I’m not really a movie goer anymore.” I hadn’t been in a movie theater since my friend Willem had premiered a vampire film in Alice Tully Hall. The blood-suckers smoked cigarettes. The director thought that their death wish was a parable. In truth it was an ad for nicotine. “Hollywood can’t make any movies.”

“They’re only interested in selling popcorn to pimply boys.” Steve had good skin for a man in his 40s.

“Nothing wrong with that.” Manny’s broker commented from his desk. He hadn’t seen a movie since GLADIATOR. “They make movies like that to make you feel young. Feel like a 15 year-old boy.”

“Not me. I feel creepy in the theaters.” The floors were sticky with discarded candy wrappers and spilled soda. Plus everyone talked during the movies. I couldn’t blame them. Nothing on the silver screen could hold their attention for more than 10 minutes. “Too many people I don’t know.”

“I’m waiting for INCEPTION.” Steve’s cousin was performing in that apocalyptic film. She was part-French. Blonde too. Most of the men in the exchange had a weakness for schitzahs. It was a religious thing.

“The only good film I saw this summer was GOOD. It was about a good Nazi.” My coffee arrived from the little shop in our building. I tipped the Mexican $1. We were the only two goys in the exchange.

“A good Nazi. There’s no such thing.” Manny my boss offered from the safe. This was his mid-morning break from shuffling bills. “Every German was a Nazi in World War II and now all their kids are Nazis.”

“What kind of car do you drive?” I poured a packet of sugar into my coffee. I had lived in Hamburg for six months. I studied German in high school and university. My grades were mostly Ds and one F.

“A Mercedes.”

“I thought so.” My high school teacher was from Bavaria. He chain-smoked in class. My grades in German cost my scholarship. I didn’t blame him. He sent me Christmas cards even after I graduated from Xaverian.

“What’s that have to do with anything?”

“Just that you hate Germans and drive a German car.” I hadn’t met many good Germans in Hamburg, then again I was working at a nightclub owned by a pimp.

“I shouldn’t drive a good car, because there are no good Germans.” Manny was adamant about this verdict, however an older woman Nancy across the aisle rose from her chair.


Nancy had lived through the Nazis. She came from Vienna. Her accent was Mittel-Europa. Those dreadful childhood years had not stolen her elegance. The recent death of her husband had saddened her, however she was still good fun and never was offended by my offers to spirit her away for a long weekend in Paris.

Welsh rarebit at La Flore. the at The Plaza Athenee, and a glass of wine on Ile St. Louis.

She wagged her finger at Manny.

“You don’t know Germans like I know Germans.”

“No one’s arguing that.” Manny was well aware that Nancy had survived the camps. She never said which one.

“If anyone can say that there are no good Germans, I can.” His wrist bore a tattooed number. “Truth is I never met any. Not in the war years, but my cousin he was gay. His boyfriend was an SS officer. He loved my cousin so much that he hid him in his house. My cousin was happy with this arrangement, because while no one knew exactly what happened in the camps, we all knew it was nothing good. A year goes by and the SS officer asks my cousin what is wrong. He tells his lover that he is worried about his parents, who are hiding in a small town. The SS Officer asks, if my cousin wants to see them. My cousin is too scared, so the German goes instead. When he comes back, he says that my cousin’s parents have been re-settled. They survived the war, because the SS officer arranged their transfer out of the death camps. My parents were not so lucky, so there were some good Germans. Just not enough of them. Was that movie any good?”

“GOOD?” Her question was posed to me. I thought about it. “No, not really, but it’s better than anything else at the cinema.”

“Would you take me to see something nice?” Nancy smiled going back to her desk. “I haven’t been to the movies in years. Not since my husband passed away.”

“It would be my pleasure.” I took a pair of diamonds from Steve. They were in my price range. He lent me the Arts section. I read the movie ads.

If anyone could revitalize my movie experience it would be Nancy. Women her age don’t eat pop corn. Only chocolate.

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