It was snowing, and he was in the Old Town.....and my heart nearly broke.
Old Vienna in a snowstorm with the GF is like winning the lottery. St. Stefan's. The Augustiner Keller. The Hofberg. The Spanischer Reitschuel. Demel's......
And then the PTSD started:
One autumn a million years ago, I and all my friends had a group nervous breakdown. My wife-to-be ran off with a hotel assistant manager. I fell in love with a girl I met in a bar on the Upper East Side. My partner accidentally burned down an IRA bar on the same Upper East Side while moonlighting from the Society restaurant from which I had just been fired for tossing a stockbroker into a dumpster for having possibly offended Claire Booth Luce on Mother's Day.
Where was Thomas Pynchon when we really needed him?
Well.....it was time to leave town....and old Tom was in my pocket.
Tom went to Cornell, like me. Tom was an engineer, like me. And Tom was like his slightly older engineering predecessor at Cornell who also did some writing....Kurt Vonnegut.
I decided to spend my winter re-reading Tom's "Gravity's Rainbow" as well as "Sometimes A Great Notion" by that Stanford guy, Ken Kesey.....to determine which of them was really the Ultimate American Novel. Yankees vs. Red Sox.
Really. This seemed like a good plan. Proof positive that the restaurant business can make you crazy.
I took along the new GF....Gay Sanchez.
This is how innocent the times were. A woman named Gabrielle could still be called Gay without snickering.
Turns out Gabrielle Sanchez is now a highly sought after NYC jewelry designer....and don't call her Gay.
We went to Switzerland.....where I was the Human Zamboni at the Hotel du Parc in Villars. We moved on to Kitzbuhel, Austria after I boiled the Swiss waiter prick guy's head in the espresso machine....and it was actually Kirchberg, if anyone is keeping score.
Kirchberg was the working class town just over the mountain from Kitzbuhel where all the workers lived. Oddly enough, it was mostly Australian, not Austrian. In these times, Australia was so awful that all their young people left in droves. I don't know if you know anything about Australians, but Kirchberg was like the Wild West....bar fights, insane drinking, crazy macho sporting feats, insane drinking, lots of contact with the Polizei.
There I met a guy from Kansas named Gary Ellsworth Krause. Gary was a lawyer, just freshly dumped by a girl from Hutchison. Dear Gay soon left me for the charms of an assistant hotel manager....what the fuck?.....What is it about assistant hotel managers? Gary and I became roommates in an attic in Kirchberg.
I had no money. I was living on the checks I got from the Ithaca Probation department from the kid who had stolen my motorcycle. We also had a scam where we would act real American and cash Swiss Franc traveler checks for dollars.....five to one....and never go back to that town. (The Swiss Franc symbol on American Express Traveler's checks looks a lot like a dollar sign. It would not occur to the teller that the ignorant American rube cashing in the check would even know about Swiss francs).
Gary had contacts....and funds. He was a lawyer, and the son of a doctor in Kansas. He covered me when the probation checks failed.
It was late in the season...and the snow was retreating rapidly. The only place to ski in real snow was out of the area. Austria is not like America. In Austria, the landlords of the ski area are dumbfuck farmers who agree to knock down the fences in their pastures each fall in exchange for more money than the cows could ever bring in from the coop town ski area.
There is no ski patrol. If you ski outside the area....outside the pastures.....you are completely on your own. There is no financing, and therefore no interest in maintaining or policing the woods where there are no cows and therefore no money...ever.
Anyway, Gary and I actually liked to ski on actual snow...so we skiied off the area.
I still have the video in my mind of the moment when my friend Gary skiied down a little hill through some trees, checked on a cornice and said......"Oooops!"
The cornice gave way, and Gary fell 300 feet down a cliff. He landed in the top of a young pine, which bent to the ground and broke most of his fall. He was knocked cold, and broke his arm.
Idiot that I was, I jumped off the cornice and followed him down. I cut him down with my trusty Buck knife, covered him with my coat and went for help. The chair lift was near-by. The snow was still deep enough off-area that I was able to climb up and wait for a chair, jump and grab the bottom of a chair where people rested their skiis in those days. I hung on, dangling for the rest of the ride up the mountain. This is no small thing...hanging from the bottom of a chairlift by your arms in heavy 1970 boots and skiis up a 3km vertical mountain.
When I got to the top of the lift, and rode around the turn into the lift-house I was greeted by The Green Heroes...the Austrian version of the Ski Patrol. They were unimpressed and uninterested in my friend's predicament. Skiing off-area. Why? Fuck you.
I gave them all my money....all the money I had in the world....and they agreed to make a phone call. Eventually one of them took a radio and followed me down the mountain to find Gary. When we got there he was hypo-thermic and barely conscious. The folks from down mountain arrived and got him into a sled. Just as they were loading him they demanded financial responsibility, and the EMT actually slapped Gary to bring him around.
"What is your name?"
"That is not a name!"
"OK....Tomas Pynchon......we will send you a bill........"
To be continued....