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No. 14, Dec. 8, 1967, p.11

AN AMERICANO IN DOITCHLAND

I have been meaning to write you about my visit here but prior to this morning I have been too glum, I am only today finally adjusting to my new situation and beginning to make the most of it, I have learned the secret of enjoying myself in a foreign country, I am learning how to be an Americano in Doitchland. First off, I have discovered that this can be a most fascinating experience only if you IGNORE all the things you have ever heard about how one should conduct himself in a foreign country, ignorance is the key! Now that I know that, I make the most of it, it is a whole new way of communicating, for instance: Always speak your native tongue in a foreign country and expect everyone to know what you're saying, some of my most exhilarating conversations have been me saying in English "I'm sorry but I don't understand a word of German", and my partner in conversation probably saying the same thing in German, it can go on for hours. Last night a strange woman standing next to me ranted and raved for hours, she simply would not let me go, the only word I could make out was "drugstore" and I told her everything I know about drugstores and even inquired if she wanted to buy some drugs, the hall was very crowded and it was some time before I realized she was asking me to get off of her toe. When I go into a store I immediately step up to the proprietor and ask for what I want, (sometimes I say it in pig latin and often I just inquire about the weather), and after a short period of mild confusion she usually summons her husband who also cannot speak a word of English and we proceed to leaf through my "SEE IT, SAY IT" pocketbook until we come upon something of interest to us both and then I attempt to purchase it but the best part is when it comes time to hand over the money and I gleefully hold my little fists forward stuffed with all the german bills and coins I happen to have on me at the time and completely place myself at the mercy of the shopkeepers integrity, this is a most intimate experience and has proved so rewarding that I have here and now vowed to remain in absolute ignorance of the whole German way of life, I've even stopped saying Gesunheit. I wander around this strange land in absolute solitude, it is like being reborn. All the things that foreigners shouldn't do in an alien country are an absolute MUST if you don't want to miss the fun. The first few days were really difficult and I awoke every morning homesick and forlorn, that was until I decided to return to my innate innocence and just generally make a mess of things. The TV show yesterday was a joy beyond comprehension, I was being interviewed as the World Saviour from America and they even equipped me with an interpreter and I was supposed to tell them about my philosophy and all the Press was there throwing out questions, all very serious and proper, and I just kept shrugging my shoulders and saying, "I'm sorry, but I don't understand a word of German" to the dismay of my audience and most especially my interpreter as she was speaking pure English all the time. That has become my slogan here in this strange land, fascinating, really, it beats anything I've ever said before. And my little "SEE IT, SAY IT IN GERMAN" pocketbook has become a real bible, people are so ready to help the stupid Americano out of all kinds of ridiculous situations. The most embarrassing experience yet was when we arrived on the plane from Frankfurt, we had been travelling for 20 hours and I hadn't slept a wink, changed planes 3 times plus innumerable busses and taxis and when we finally landed here in Munich I just wanted to lay down someplace, anyplace, and Great God here comes the press charging forward shouting unintelligible questions half in German half in English and flashbulbs going off in my face, we hadn't even expected a reception committee let alone the entire German Press. One reporter wanted to know about the contest we had won (WHAT contest, I never heard 'a no contest), something about "Write in 100 words or less why I want to go to Germany and win a free trip to Munich with all expenses paid" but the real payoff was when the Publicity Campaign Manager came rushing forward with his happy little crew of stenographers, photographers, and prospective clients waving his arms in the air and demanding to know "WHERE ARE THE FLOWERS?" and since we were too tired to respond he frantically motioned to a band of sullen looking gestapo who then rushed over with arms full of huge, grotesque paper mache roses and daisies and began filling our arms and hands and sticking them in our mouths and hair and behind our ears and the flashbulbs started popping and the manager was shouting SMILE, SMILE and making strange grimaces with his mouth and I dropped all my flowers and tried to stand behind somebody but to no avail and when he finally saw that it was a lost cause trying to make the three bedraggled Americanos look like radiant glowing flower children from America he just sank back in defeat and meanwhile reporters are asking us what we do and expressions like "which one of you is Hippie number one" and "what do you think of Germany" and us saying we just want to find someplace to sleep and somewhere in all the confusion the publicity manager regained his confidence and came bursting forward with renewed enthusiasm inviting us all out to a BEERSCHLAHENSENHAUTZER to have a drink before we get down to business and that was my cue to finally wipe out the whole mess and I leaned into him the way I do when I'm about to deliver one of my immortal messages to Humanity, looked him dead in the eye and in a slow, deliberate controlled voice said, "don't you know that American Hippies don't drink alcohol, they use drugs, do you know where we can get any dope hey?" and My God the house came down all around us and they hurriedly ushered us off in a black Rolls-Royce to a quiet little hotel with a trail of crumpled paper mache roses in our wake, it was really all very sad but it kind of set a mood for future negotiations, from then on they treated us with a little more respect, you got to put these fucking krauts in their place y'know, or they'll treat ya like cattle, and ever since that time our foreign relations have been on a slow upgrade until finally we have begun to really make some friends here and in fact Lew even scored some hash but it's all great sport and I look forward to seeing you all again in a few days .....

Love, Mel
Mel Lyman