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Max Weber Haus in Heidelberg, Germany

Where it all went down.

Once upon a time, I made the mistake of putting myself on a mailing list.

Not the kind where you type your email address into the computer at the register at DSW and the girl assures you, “ALL we send are coupons, I promise,” or the kind where you get a Hulu Plus account (finally, after “thinking about it” for like a year) and then you get emails that say unnecessary things like “John, Catch the Latest Fall TV This Week.” Not that kind.

I mean the kind where you write your email next to your name on a piece of paper on a clipboard, or taped to a table, or getting passed around the room. Kids, never do this. Ever.
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I often think I should have kept that copy of Pnin I took from a bar in Heidelberg. I’m not sure whether I stole it or whether it was more of a “take a penny, leave a penny” kind of situation. One night after several Hefeweizen, upon spotting it among an odd assortment of books in the back of the bar, I was seized with want. The small, uneven line of paperbacks was an anomaly beside the darts board and beneath the flatscreen TV, playing whatever soccer (ahem, football) match was demanding the continent’s full attention.

ImageThis sort of half-assed lending library was in the back of a sort of half-assed bar called The Brass Monkey, named for a nearby statue and Heidelberg landmark. The bar had been the site of one or two orientation events for international students, and had proclaimed itself “the” international student bar in town, probably mostly for its weekly Tuesday International Student Stammtisch.

Whether “the” or merely “a” bar, it had also been included on one of those cursory, touristy “Things To Do” lists, printed on loud yellow or green or magenta paper that welcome wagons are always handing out. (Also on the list was the thoroughly inexplicable i-Punkt, a club whose name seemed to mean literally nothing, and whose nightly playlist frequently included, inexplicably, Stevie Wonder’s 1981 single, “Happy Birthday.”)
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