A neighbor told me there's always a band and a ruckus at Old Heidelberg during October. Not so in the early part of last night, a rainy Tuesday with a half dozen people huddled around the square bar.
Waitresses in dirndls and nurse shoes stood in a doorway whispering in German. Dancing With the Stars
animated the far wall, with Miriam the Iranian bartender shimmying to songs as she glided across the bar to fill a patron's glass from the tap.
The tone shift arrived when the couple next to me got their pork shank ($16.95) for two, bone-in, wrapped in prosciutto, served with a knife sticking out like a murdered heart.
At each of their place
settings, a trio of empty glasses aligned. "What's that you're drinking?" I asked, curious about the dark beer closer to me. In fact, I was ogling their hunk of meat on a platter, fat glistening, juices still hot.
Gerhardt the German catamaran sailor who was here in town on a roundabout route to Cuba, looked like a scruffier, Continential version of Hemingway. His round mate, Pat, wore a severe gray bob and a slinky, black, shirred sundress, back exposed. Turns out, she was so short when she stood that she had to raise her arms to reach the bar, her chin just inches from the edge.
"It's my favorite beer," said Pat, her voice a smoker's rasp. "It's molasses to me. And if it gets warm, it still tastes good." As she passed the glass over for me to try, Gerhardt ordered a second Kostritzer, a smoky Czech stout, he said. It was in fact a German black lager from Bitberger.
Our chat volley was interrupted by a trio of guys who burst through the door, one amped for a morning flight to Munich's Oktoberfest. It would be his fourth year in a row. They tumbled to our corner of the bar, filling in empty seats around us, each ordering boots of Radeberger, a five-and-a-half-beer-sized glass, on which the slogan read, "Life's too short to drink bad beer."
"There's two inches of head on this thing," said the ex-tennis player turned lawyer. He'd never been to Germany to know that Germans serve beers with a layer of foam. His friend, a 30-something, good-looking man with longish ringlets like a boy's, shifted the full glass off the bar, lowering it to take a sip, the toe of the boot pointed toward his lap.
"You know how to drink it!" said Gerhardt, pointing to his glass positioning. Ringlets learned the hard way, he said, his first year in Munich, when, in front of his new German lady friends, he ended up dousing himself in the face with half a boot of beer. "You have to turn the boot halfway through," he said. "Something about the pressure in the glass that needs to be released so you can finish it without giving yourself a beer bath."
Two blond women in sundresses filed in to meet them, eyelashes spidery with mascara, v-necklines plunging below their tans. The Venezuelan of the two sashayed among English, Spanish, and a little German. As her lawyer friend settled on Spanish, she wrapped her shoulders in a sparkly shawl.
I finished a trio of wurst ($8.95): thin brat-, white-, and knockwurst, served with a scoop of potato salad and a side of kraut on a dinner plate discarded from some British restaurant. As Gerhardt ordered me another beer and a shot of schnapps, I dropped my card on the bar and pawned them off to the women, passing the baton.
"Sweetheart," said Miriam. "You're going before the party gets rolling?" I heard my cue to leave. The timing was perfect.
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