October 11, 2013

A Two-Hour Tour


Yesterday I headed, if a bit tensely, towards German Village for my annual afternoon there. Wasn't sure it would be worth it since I didn't much feel like fighting the traffic and figuring out where to park, no small task in a place blanketed with permit-only parking. Eventually I found a legal spot - or so I hoped - set off on bike southward.

Oh what a genteel and comely place is German Village on a sunny fall day! The beautiful old red brick, the winsome gardens, the European flavor. Even a whimsical statue (a life-sized lass bent over tending a garden). It was tourism on the cheap and it makes me wonder why I don't go there more than once a year. Hassle factor I'm sure, despite it being only five minutes from work. It's the sort of place one could spend a day there, and there was a tour bus in evidence - which only drives home the fact that we least often tour our own nests. I could imagine a day spent walking the tree-lined cobblestone streets, going to St. Mary's ever-open church, eating at one of the many fine German restaurants, and finding a joint to sip a beer. I had to laugh that even the laundromat for heaven's sake, was a sight to behold with tasteful art on the wall, tall ceilings and a European feel. Real cities have a way of making the mundane seem special, although admittedly the most mundane part of NYC, the subway, is perfectly uninspiring.

I rode past Schiller Park, past a young Germanic-looking gal with a child, and ended up eventually reaching a dead end at Bruck Street (only highway-like Parsons Avenue and High Street continue south). Serendipitously, I stumbled on “Guinness on Innis”, the new headquarters of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. The neighborhood looks iffy at best and there are a lot of vacant lots around. A big sign on the door announcing the place is alarmed, which seems a good plan in this neighborhood. How far the once proud club has fallen from those heady late '90s days when all the young and hip gathered at St. Patrick's social hall and drank in honor of the church's namesake! A more sober pastor put a stop to it, leider, even as club membership nosedived in favor of the Shamrock Club.

Felt more relaxed after the ride and even better when I entered Heaven on earth, St. Mary's Church. Spent a half-hour there praying belated morning lit of hours and then a needful rosary. Built in 1865, the church still retains charms that soothe, such as the large and beautiful script “Ave Maria - Gratia Plena” over the altar. Beautiful art and a wonderful message and the only other time I'd witnessed words in a church design that had such impact was in St. Peter's in Rome where the Latin for Peter's designation as the rock and foundation rings so memorably. On the ceiling here at St. Mary's there are all those “bitte fur uns”'s, aided by somewhat cryptic pictographs. I'd thought the “pray for us” would apply to different saints, but all the pictographs turned out to be symbols of Mary, such as Mystical Rose, Morningstar, Ark of the Covenant, House of Gold. There is something otherworldly about that place of worship; I think it's made even more special by the fact that I'm only there when it's quiet and I'm alone (more or less - there were ladies from the tour group making the rounds).  I picked up a flyer with information about the church even though I'm wondering if ignorance might've been better. I kind of liked the mystery of those strange pictograph paintings and wondering what a golden house had to do with praying for us. It made it more “other”.

"Bitte fur uns"

Craftsman restoring altar


After that golden half-hour I headed to the famous bookshop with “32 rooms of books”. The downside to that bookstore is that every room has it's only song playing over individual stereo speakers. I don't like music in a bookstore - it's distracting. One room had Irish drinking songs playing and I lingered in there even though I didn't like the books. Another room had unappealing music but I liked the books.

Didn't buy anything though I was tempted by a couple tasty morsels: the new biography of J.D. Salinger (there's nothing more charismatic than a recluse in an age that worships celebrity), and a book called “The Novel Cure” which rather ingeniously devotes a page or two to classic novels for any need.

1 comment:

Darwin said...

When we were looking for Columbus real estate, we took a brief tour of the charming German Village, but wondered how well our real family would fit into the prettily preserved and restored neighborhood. Still, the church is a jewel.