Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hobo Jungle

I pass the turn off for Fort Getty almost everyday here on Conanicut Island. The village is on the main chunk of the island and my place is at the tip of Beavertail, an almost separate island, connected by a little neck of land at Mackerel Cove. On the right, just after you pass the beach at Mackerel Cove, is the turn off for Fort Getty. Although I've been passing it for over thirty years, I've never had the urge to drive out and see it. My research on Alfred Andersch changed that.

It turns out Andersch wasn't just at a POW camp; he was in a very secret and very specialized "re-education" camp set up by the Americans to develop a core of pro-democracy, anti-nazi leaders to run Germany after WWII. POWs were screened very carefully before being accepted into the program and Andersch was a great candidate. The Nazis had put him in a concentration camp as a communist for several months before the war began, and he surrendered himself to the Americans while he was serving in the Wehrmacht in Italy. Although the American military government in Germany ultimately tired of him after the war, there seems no doubt about his anti-Nazi credentials.

It's been fun doing some research on the guy and learning more about U.S. policy and Rhode Island history along the way. My desire to ride out to Fort Getty and see the place has been growing, but we've been so busy with guests the past week, I just couldn't find the time to follow through. Finally there's been a break in the visitors and we're in the final five days before we leave for Germany, so Diane and I took some time to ride out and see Fort Getty. It was a pretty big disappointment. There is an American flag there, but it's ringed with dumpsters. There's nothing I could find to mark the site of the POW camp or acknowledge what I consider to be a pretty fascinating chapter in our history. There is a rather large RV campground there and a beautiful view of Dutch Harbor. But I had to be satisfied with an archival photo I found at the Jamestown Philomenian Library for any record of the camp during the war.

Saturday we leave for Germany, where presumably it might be easier to find information about Andersch and his contemporaries. I'll miss Jamestown, but the swallows are gathering on the telephone wires and I can see that summer is ending here whether we leave or not. And I'm looking forward to getting back into the studio.

Monday, August 18, 2008


When I'm back East, I inevitably wind up spending time looking at old photographs. Through a random twist of fate, most of my family's memorabilia wound up in storage at my place in Jamestown. So each year when I visit, I get lost for an hour or so, sorting through the boxes, and thinking that I really should try to organize the stuff. It's an activity that also leads me to spend time thinking about my place in the big picture and the factors that led to my particular Weltanschauung. For example, although I've lived in Utah in relative contentment for twenty years, I can't really say I feel at home there: there's no ocean. I need to live in a place where restaurants put malt vinegar on the table, not fry sauce.

Yesterday I came across my father's clam chowder recipe in the accumulated junk out in the back house. My father, William Wells Terry, was a member of the class of 1930 at Yale University and at a reunion during the 1970s, he ran into Howard Johnson Jr. It isn't clear to me if Mr. Johnson was a member of my dad's class, or maybe a year or two ahead or behind him, but somehow my father got Howard talking and came home with his recipe for Boston Clam Chowder. This isn't the recipe they used for the canned stuff sold through the restaurants, but rather Howard's personal recipe.

During the 70's and 80's my father would make a batch of chowder for family events. These cooking episodes always took place between midnight and dawn and involved every pan in our kitchen. My mother would wake up later to a couple of hours of steady clean up. But the chowder was good. I've transcribed the recipe below, leaving out a lot of my father's marginalia. It's particularly good with Royal Lunch Milk Crackers

Boston Clam Chowder

1 doz. quahogs, opened raw, (black stomachs removed)
1/4 lb. (2 big or 3 small) onions
1/2 lb. potatoes
1/4 lb. butter
1/2 cup flour
1 quart milk
1 chicken broth cube

Drain clams and juice with a coarse strainer over large pan.
After draining, put clam liquid through fine strainer and reserve.
Peel onions, chop into small pieces.
Put onions & clams together through meat grinder.
Using a double boiler, cook ground clams and onions until tender. Moderate heat; do not burn.
To dilute fairly thick ground onions & clams, dissolve chicken broth cube in one cup boiling water and add to onions & clams. If still too thick, add a little clam juice.
Cook this mixture slowly for about an hour or more. When onions are soft, the mixture is done.
Peel potatoes - slice and dice into 1/2" cubes and start cooking in separate pan. Cook until potatoes are soft.
Pour 1 quart of milk into the large chowder pot which will hold the final chowder Put on very slow heat and try to get cold milk hot very gradually (be sure not to scald milk.
In a small pan, melt 1/4 lb. butter. Mix 1/2 cup flour into butter as it starts to bubble. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
Add butter + flour sauce and stir well into milk.
Put clams + onions into pot with hot milk and mixed sauce.
Stir well - add a little reserve clam juice.
Put only potatoes (reserving potato water) into chowder pot and stir in well.
Add reserve clam juice and reserve potato water, cook on very low heat until white round spots appear on surface.
Now you have Boston Clam Chowder! Taste it after white spots appear - Cool before refrigerating. - It will be a bit thicker and better second day.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Conanicut Island

You wouldn't imagine an island in Narragansett Bay would have much to do with Germany, but, in fact, Alred Andersch, well known author of the German Nachkriegszeit was imprisoned here as a POW during World War II. He is the author of Der Vater eines Moerders, but also wrote the very first book I ever read in German: Sansibar oder der letzte Grund. I believe being a POW in Jamestown was a pretty good way to spend the war. The POWs worked the local farms and then, as now, Jamestown was a beautiful island with fabulous views and a mild winter.

I took a bike ride around the island yesterday and shot some great pictures of the rain squall over Newport from the southern tip of Conanicut (the geographical name for Jamestown.) I was gloating about those poor devils over on Aquidneck Island, but less than three minutes after taking the picture above, I was in a torrential downpour myself. I guess Schadenfreude is bad karma.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

100,000 Thing Challenge

I first heard about Dave Bruno's 100 Thing Challenge, through an article in the Süddeutschezeitung. I've been thinking about it a lot during the past three weeks as we pack up the house and fill the garage. We've got way too much stuff. Now that the house is mostly empty, it looks great. And I've always been outraged by the rampant consumerism that characterizes America. But I've come to the conclusion that the challenge is an overreaction and counterproductive. I've looked at the list and thought about it as I've chosen the things I'll be taking with me to Germany. It may work for a person who has few interests in life, but when I start to think about the tools I'll need, "100 Things" just doesn't cut it. I've got 100 brushes I'm bringing alone. I notice that there is an entry for bicycle on the list, but how about, helmet, gloves, pump, patch kit, lubricant, screwdriver? These seem to me like absolute minimal accessories for a responsible cyclist.

I hope I don't sound like I'm anti-Dave. I applaud the spirit of the challenge and wish him the best of luck. If he's responsible for even one cyclist throwing away a pair of those silly black lycra pants, I'll be delighted. But having gotten my house packed up and reducing my personal belongings to what I can carry on one of the increasingly stingy flights to Europe, I'm ready to say it out loud: 100 things really isn't enough.

We sealed the deal on a Wohnung this morning. Rike found us a fabulous place in Rüttenscheid. We've got three weeks still in Rhode Island before we arrive in Essen, but we're looking forward to exploring our new neighborhood when we arrive.

Monday, August 4, 2008

I've been reading articles like this one, Barak, we love you, in the German press for a couple of months now. It would seem that if Germany had some delegates to the Electoral College, it could easily put Barak Obama over the top. I've never had occasion to follow an American presidential election this closely in the foreign press before, but this seems like an unprecedented phenomenon to me. Here's a related item from the NY Times: Agog Over Obama

Friday, August 1, 2008


The search for an apartment is almost over. Rudolf & Cornelia looked at a nice place for us in Holsterhausen: great public transport, cafes and bakers in the neighborhood. I've got the Mietvertrag in my hand and we're almost ready to sign, but we're stalling until we get a report on a second possibility in Rüttenscheid. This one is larger and on the top floor of a three story building very near the Florastr. U Bahn stop. It's being offered privately, so there is no agent involved, and no agent commission. This is the biggest plus point. The rental agents, or Makler, take an outrageous commission on rental transactions and as near as I can figure, they do almost nothing to earn the money. Like a union electrician at the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, the Makler doesn't do much, but they can sure put some serious roadblocks in your way if you don't give them their pound of flesh. Nothing would make me happier than to do an end run around them, but we'll have to wait until Monday to see what we hear about the second possibility. One way or another, we should have a decision by Tuesday of next week, just three days before leaving Logan.