124 Seconds of Silence

 

“The eternal silence of these infinite spaces fills me with dread.” -Blaise Pascal

This topic seems to come up more than at times I care to admit. For the record, I’ll state once more: I am an introvert.

Introversion is the tendency towards solidarity. I use that word over loneliness or isolation because despite being an introvert, I appear very outgoing. I talk to people, I am regularly in front of large crowds, I can command a room, demand attention and move people with a Napoleonic-style charisma. The introvert part comes after the crowds leave. I am utterly exhausted by these grand displays of extroversion and much like a phoenix, I exhaust all of my energy into one grand display to crumble into indescribable ash of apathy, leaving behind the tattered remains of my clothes in a desperate attempt, like turtles to the ocean, discard my pants and return to my sofa or wherever I am staying for the event in question.

Despite my tendencies towards introversion are however not always typical in just that fact that I am not a tragic recluse. I am not Dickenson in her White Room. I am not Thoreau on his Pond. I struggle immensely with silence.

As people in a modern era of connectivity, my struggle isn’t unfounded or entirely new. Many of us now are used to white noise or noise in general whether it’s through music, podcasts, videos or audio books; we are bombarded with noise constantly. Even at night, when things are meant to be quiet, we have white noise apps, fans, noise generators; silence deafens and scares us.

I didn’t really become aware of this until in changing agencies, I changed habits. An ad-blocker had been installed into my web browser (yes, please comment on the irony of an ad agency girl using an ad blocker) and at first it didn’t cause much harm. It wasn’t until I went to start up a documentary (my preferred office white noise) that I realized something: I wasn’t getting the video ads due to the ad blocker so I was left with an excruciating amount of silence before, during and after each show. This left an awkward silence in between the noise I sought after to protect me from my mind’s own wandering.

What is important here is understanding that listening is passive. I am by no means ignoring work, it’s just simply easier to work with some form of noise be it music: a podcast or a TV show and I’m quick to pick something that I’ve either already heard or a subject I’m already familiar in so it doesn’t take up too much of my attention. Listening becomes a  truly secondary even tertiary task.The noise is just that: noise. The far more destructive force in most cases is the self-imposed silence that workplaces try to enforce. Most everyone I know listens to something while working.

If you happen to struggle with silence, worry not. I found the silence in the gaps of my videos to be nearly too much. I actually had to remove the ad blocker so I could return to the normal constant barrage of sound I’m so used to. Even in a lack of conversation, there is sound. Even in the absence of speech, there’s noise. Even in the absence of contact, there’s connection.

But for Today, I am Prussian

-Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”

I’ve never been coy about the part of me that is truly culturally a pluralist.  I in-spirit renounced my American heritage long before I took my first steps across the Atlantic and by the time I emerged onto Germanic soil, I was already at least in a cultural sense a French man, Japanese schoolgirl and English poet.

That was until, of course, I went to Bavaria. I experienced a land and culture so far unlike my own but with the same cultural feelings of strength, hard-work and enjoying what you have. I spent 5 weeks overseas, mostly in Germanic countries and I left with a love of German food and the slight and occasional German phrase.

Once I returned stateside, my desire for the German flavors I came to crave were mostly left to languish. I was from a part of Texas that was no more German than scotch and the even mention of “German food” conjured to them faint images of sauerkraut and bratwurst and men clad in lederhosen (which are an undeniable segment but not the only aspects of German cuisine.).

It wasn’t until I moved back to San Antonio and moreover the part of Texas that was at times intensely German that my love of German food was able to take form again but really only to the occasional trip to New Braunfels to have it in one or two special places once or twice a year. What I was missing was the cornerstone of what made German food so amazing: it’s accessibility. The food I was eating in Austria and in Germany were available anywhere, everywhere and at nearly any time of day. This is where I came to love the concept of a double starch often enjoying two different potato dishes alongside pasta and a slab of whatever-schnitzel (it was often chicken for me, but the cafeteria where most of my meals came from produced schnitzels I didn’t think were possible). The food was unpretentious and humble but delicious and satisfying.

The beauty of it was that it didn’t feel foreign.

So when I come to find out that I can fill my cravings for German food in a downtown, historical eatery I had to check it out. This led me to lunch at Schilo’s.

This place has apparently been around forever and is a place I walk by all the time, but I was always a little afraid to go in there, having been lied to time and time again with the promise of “authentic” German food. My cynicism led me to miss out on so many opportunities to visit this wonderful establishment.

Never have I been so wrong.

I sat down, and immediately enjoyed the prospect of seating myself. I ordered something simple, potato pancakes. Now, this is a dish I came to love overseas and finding it well-made here stateside has been an awful challenge if I can find them at all.

Now, when I see house-made root beer on a menu, regardless of whatever image-based soda detox I’m on, I’m ordering one. Or several. Schilo’s did not make me regret my choice to imbibe in the fizzy elixir.

My lunch arrived and the waitress asked me the very traditional question: “Would you like sour cream?” to which I said “yes.” far too emphatically and quickly. I waited patiently for the curdled milk product and continued to do something non-traditional. I smothered the potato love stack with Schilo’s house-made hot mustard (another German favorite and this one has an ingredient list that you can understand and maybe has 6 total ingredients. As mustard should.) the spice was wonderful. Then came applesauce, far more traditional for a meal like this which was absolutely spectacular. I wish it was socially acceptable to order “vats” of anything.

Each bite I felt like I was in Muchen again. Potato. Mustard. Sour cream. Applesauce! Potato. Mustard. Mustard. Potato. Sour cream. Potato. Potato. Applesauce.

It was fantastic. I ate with gusto. I ate with pleasure.

Schilo’s was a place that I had to stop myself from replying to questions in German.

Danke would be unknown there, as would Bitte. Prost would make no sense and Bier would be unheard of.  But in my heart, I was in Bavaria. I was Prussian. I was in a local biergarten enjoying lunch and doing German things in Germany or at least I was in my heart.

It’s been a few years since my global trek and I never thought I’d miss Germany and Austria more than Italy. I didn’t leave craving pasta, I craved potatoes.While I swooned over pasta frutti de mare, I desired schnapps and wienerschnitzel.

So for an afternoon I was Prussian until my need to return to work snapped me out of my pipe dream and I heartily thank Schilo’s for letting me for a day be back in Bayvern.

Danke.