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Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Harburg Rathaus Train Station

Mama Brooks wasn't the type of mom that got up early in the morning to pack our lunches for school or make us an elaborate breakfast or have cookies baking for us when we got home. She was quite the early riser, but she just had too much on her plate to do those things. On cold winter days she would make a big pot of hot oatmeal, but that was about it. She didn't send us off to school empty handed or stomached, it's just that as soon as we were capable of doing so, we were responsible for making our own lunches and breakfast and (often on weeknights) dinner.

At the time, it didn't seem fair, since most of my friends' moms would pack them all sorts of cool lunch stuff like those little single-serving bags of chips or a pudding cup or that most-awesome of late-80s school lunch accessories...Lunchables. We couldn't afford these things and my mom didn't understand why a handful of potato chips in a plastic sandwich bag is not the same as a vacuum-sealed mini-bag of Doritos (4 hours later, the chips aren't as fresh) and how saltine crackers + Velveeta is not the same as a Lunchable. Our pleas for more awesome packed lunch ingredients fell on deaf ears.

What I know now is that children are very difficult people and though I didn't see it back then, it was a really clever move on my mom's part. At the peak child-rearing time, she had about five school-aged children under her care, each with their own sandwich-cutting preferences (diagonal, down the middle, four squares, whole, etc). Personally, I liked to apply sauces (like say mayonnaise or mustard) in the form of a happy face. In my mind, it made the sandwich more delicious to me. In hindsight, especially if I were my mom, I honestly would not have time for that shit, so I don't blame her. She always used to say that it's (meaning anything you eat) all going to come out the same way, so why does it matter how it looks going in?

Now that I think about it, based on my father's income and the number of his dependents, we probably could have qualified for reduced, if not free school lunches. But back in those days, the last thing would want to be seen doing (again, at least in my mind) is eating public school cafeteria food.

The smell of a public elementary school cafeteria is something ingrained in my memory. Where I went to school the cafeteria (where you ate lunch) was combined with the auditorium (the addition of a stage where school plays and assemblies were held) to form the all-encompassing "cafetorium". And the Ridgeview Elementary cafetorium pulled triple duty as a gymnasium where phyisical education (P.E.) classes were held -- a cafetoriumnasium, if you will. These P.E. classes were led by Mr. Nash, who reminded me of Lionel Ritchie:

It was also the site where I (in my extra-curricular activities) devleoped and (later) performed a jump rope routine to the song "Jump (for my love)" by the Pointer Sisters. God, the 80s were a fantastic time.

All that goodness aside, the cafetorium had a very distinctive smell. At any given time, whether or not food was being prepared, it reeked of a mixture of aging congealed cooking oils that the entire space reek of weeks old sloppy joes

If you've ever been subjugated to this then I think you know EXACTLY the smell that I'm talking about. I can't describe it any better than that.

These days I work in Harburg. It's a borough of Hamburg, south of the Elbe River. In internet terms, one might call it "teh suck". I have no desire to get to know this part of town better, I don't want to pass judgment on the people who live there, but aside from a very high percentage of döner offerings (including what I believe to be one of the best döner chains in Hamburg (Dubara -- on account of their delicious avocado sauce, wide choice of meat options and accomodation for non-meat eaters) I don't want to spend more time in HaRburg than I have to (or than I get paid for).

The particular station to which I travel in order to get to the office where I work is called HaRburg Rathaus. Seen in the picture above, you can see that it is a particularly fugly station. Orange, green, white, blue?? It's an epileptic seizure waiting to happen.

Oddly enough, it does remind me of the decor in my elementary school (circa 1985 - 1990). And sure enough, today, when I was exiting the train, a waft of air entered my nostrils -- that same mixture that took me back to the old days.

I don't know what combination of stale cooking products it was, but it smelled exactly like weeks old sloppy joe...or indian tacos...or OKCPS "special pizza"

At any rate, it tripped me the f**k out.


FROH STEE said...

The particular station to which I travel in order to get to the office where I work is called Hamburg Rathaus. -- haRburg! - Sorry - no real COMMENT

lebrookski said...

fixed...thank you baby, what would i do without your eagle eyes?