Naked Happy Hour Ain’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

There were two choices TV-wise: German porn and coverage of the unfolding Hurricane Katrina catastrophe.  Neither really suited my mood, which could be best described as jet-lag-meets-existential-angst.   But I had just ordered a room service pizza and was all alone in an industrial city in central Germany, so naturally I went with the German porn. You know, to soak in the culture and to avoid the horrifying scene of impoverished people perishing at the Super Dome.

It seemed rude to the “performers” to eat German pizza (if you are picturing a giant hard biscuit with some brownish gravy splashed over it, then you are picturing German pizza) while they were doing whatever it was they were doing, so I turned it off.  Even my constant woe-is-me monologue seemed preferable to the confusing sexual images involving nautilus machines.

With nothing but the sound of my teeth ripping through the “pizza,” I heard the ambient noises of the hotel and the unmistakable sounds of happy hour: clinking glasses and convivial laughter.  My room must be above the bar, I thought, believing this was a cosmic turn towards happiness and light, because even though I didn’t drink, I liked the sounds of other people enjoying themselves.

I drew back the curtains and saw the hotel pool illuminated from below.  The water shimmered under the dusky sky, and I felt happy to see myself recognize beauty, even as I ate alone a continent away from comfort and edible food.  My eyes focused on the people whose muffled conversations drew me to the window.  Like the pool, they were all illuminated from the soft lighting surrounded the bar area, which was strong enough for me to see that they had no clothes on.  Apparently, happy  hour at the SchwabenQuellen was sans clothing.  My unobstructed view of those naked German people sipping amber liquid in their birthday suits neither excited nor disgusted me.  It simply added to the strangeness of the day that marked the beginning of a new work assignment that was expected to last up to 6 months.

Having choked down my dinner, I waited for sleep to overtake me– to take this day and the terror I felt about the new chapter I was facing.  Through my terror,  I could see that my new assignment looked glamorous on paper.  Other associates at my firm coveted the opportunity to work on the Big Case over in Germany.  Initially, I thought it was the perfect cure for my recently broken-to-bits heart. International work– look at me ex-boyfriend world, I am A-OK. . .  better than EVER!

Except I wasn’t.  I sent my friends funny emails about the naked pool party and the scary German airport officials. Ha ha, I got stopped three times and they lost my luggage. Ain’t life funny?  But, I wasn’t really laughing and I couldn’t keep it up for 6 weeks, much less 6 months.  Maybe one day I would be ready for an assignment that would take me out of the country for weeks at a time and keep me jet lagged 100% of the time.


But not now.

“I can’t do this right now,” I told the partner.  I prepared myself to be fired on the spot.

Within 3 days I was reassigned to a case  in Des Moines, where the days were sometimes long and lonely, but at night I sank into the queen-sized bed at my Residence Inn and took comfort in Seinfeld or Friends.

And when I looked out the window at the paved parking lot and the wheat fields stretched to the horizon I thought I had never seen anything so beautiful.


57 thoughts on “Naked Happy Hour Ain’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

  1. And so what? They were naked. If you were offended – you were not forced to look, were you? That’ what I don’t understand about US-Americans – holding high the flag of personal freedom but shrinking back if a square inch of naked skin is in sight.

    • I wasn’t disgusted at all. I was numb and homesick. I was wishing I had a different reaction. My reaction– numbness– was a clue I wasn’t right in the head/heart. I should have been curious, excited, thrilled, in wonder… Something. Right? Not numb.

      • Small wonder with all the time lag, the long flight, and the haggle with airport officials. Wish you lots of better expiriences in Germany! And be sure to have a good nights sleep, before you look at us and our country again 🙂

      • I certainly didn’t mean to disparage Germany…it was more a disparagement of my state of mind. Though I concede that the narrative may lend itself to negative interpretations of Germany. My ancestors are from Germany (Texan-German), so I definitely have had corrective experiences that I will write about in the future. I am thinking specifically of a bike ride outside of Munich that still captures my heart.

    • I don’t think that was the point at all from her post! Nothing to do with nudity itself. Sounded like it was more about it being one more thing that made her feel that sense of other-ness or out-of-place, as she said below. Not an American anti-nudity issue at all.

  2. Sometimes that sense of home (or home-ish-ness) cannot be described in terms of how comforting it is. I’ve had those kinds of German moments when I felt utterly lost and homesick for something I couldn’t quiet put my finger on other than not feeling so OTHER. You captured that nicely.

    • ONce in Paris, I cried for hours because I was scared I couldn’t get home. It was utterly illogical and had nothing to do with the place, except it was “too far” from home. Any wonder I am a homebody?

  3. I know this is cliche, but sometimes there’s no place like home. Well, home at the time, because I know you’re from Texas. Depending on one’s mindset, home just feels safe, you know?

  4. So good! Des Moines ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, but it’s better than naked misery in a foreign country. You were brave to say “I can’t do it” and come home. I love your title and wonder why you didn’t tag this one ‘German porn’?! You know, just for fun. Great story!

  5. I think there is something deeper here. That you were able to recognize that the assignment was not right for you, and able to say “I can’t do this right now,” is a strength, not a weakness. Also, the idea of being in a foreign country with the partners in my law firm for six months makes me actually sick to my stomach.

    • Well, there was that too. Our “work space” was in a cow pasture and had no A/C, which was not tragic, but added to my distaste with the situation. I could go on, but I am sure all those partners are reading my blog! Ha!

  6. I got homesick just reading this post, imagining being in a difficult emotional place and then adding in being lonely, far away from home. I enjoy travel to other countries, but there are times when you just need to be in a more familiar place. But the naked happy hour makes for a great story, anyhow!

  7. Des Moines is a fine place to be. Really, it is.

    I’m at home (in Iowa, no less), but living in a foreign country emotionally right now and I hate it. I want a new assignment, but it seems to be out of my control right now.

    • I feel your pain, I really do. There’s more out of my control than in and I hate that. I mean, I loathe it. Hang in there…the puzzle pieces will find their way. And I honestly love Des Moines.

      • Right now my puzzle piece doesn’t want to be married to me and thinks that it’s a-ok fine to have an affair. It’s awesome!

      • Hold the phone there, buddy. Just because he lost his father (is that right? I hope I am remembering correctly), does NOT mean he can “act out” like that. I, of course, do not know the details, but I want you to know this: I hear you and it sounds hard and you have more talent in your pinkie than most people have in their whole corpus. please don’t doubt that. Anyone who hurts you has to answer to me and I’m in a little violent, breaky phase so there’s that. This is a super fucked up pep talk but I mean every word.

        On Tue, Feb 26, 2013 at 10:07 PM, Outlaw Mama

      • I just kissed your avatar.

        He’s nuts. Fucking midlife crisis.

        I will be fine — I’m mostly pissed that he’s doing this despite the fact that he knows how much it will hurt our babies. No one gets to hurt my babies and live to tell the tale.

        Thank you and so sorry for hijacking. Obviously I cannot post about this on my own blog. No need to throw fuel on the fire of me being a bad wife, especially if we end up in court. Gah!

  8. It’s better that you knew what you weren’t able to handle and voiced it. That in itself shows just how strong you are, even when you felt anything but. Loved this story and I ached for your broken heart.

  9. This isn’t something I can relate to directly (I’ve never traveled far from home), but I could feel your homesickness as I read. Well done and I definitely think you made the right decision. Life’s too short to force ourselves into things things that aren’t right for us!

  10. Love your writing. It always resonates with me. Even if I’ve never been an international business globetrotter (or a domestic one).

    • Thank you. I wanted to be a globetrotter and somene who embraced the thrills/challenges of travel, but it’s not in me. Or I haven’t found it yet! Maybe someday we both will.

      On Wed, Feb 27, 2013 at 10:36 AM, Outlaw Mama

  11. This post was so interesting for me to read, especially the very end, because I love to travel – but I’ve never been out of the country. I love going to “new” places and experiencing “new” cities and “new” food, but in the end, there are familiarities that allow me to enjoy it and still feel comfortably at home, such as the hotel I’m staying in. I can totally see how you would feel so lost and homesick!

  12. How strange. As much as I love to travel, I start yearning for home by the middle of the second week, and a scene like that would have definitely made me long for home. I loved your ending looking out over the wheat fields.

  13. I felt lonely just reading this. I know I wouldn’t have lasted six months. Glad you were assigned to another case and not fired. Your descriptions were so vivid. I felt the loneliness, I saw those German naked butts, I almost tasted the beer. Now the beer would have kept me around for a bit. 😉

  14. That pizza alone would be reason to try to end that trip!
    I used to get like that on 3 day trips to a different city, never mind another country. I need the familiar around me to function.

  15. I had no idea how in the world you were going to tie in a post title like THAT!!! I get the looks good on paper and you don’t want to be a drag about it but I’m glad you realized then was not the time for you to be 1/3 the way around the world.

    Reminds me of the first vacation my boyfriend (now husband) took to Jamaica (I won it at work) and it was to Hedonism II. We got there at night and the next morning when we through open the curtains, our room overlooked the nude beach. I refused to stand at that bar to get a drink ever. We resided full time at the “prude” beach!!!

  16. I did the six months but never had the “pleasure” of the SchwabenQuellen (except that I did go there for lunch on the first day for the club sandwich with fried egg and coleslaw on it). It must be said that it is a spa resort, which in that part of the world almost always means naked, co-ed spa. Once, my flight to Munich was late and I missed my return flight to Chicago. Lufthansa put me up for the night in a spa resort outside Munich. I went for a swim and then into the steam room. Two guys were drinking Heinekens and peeing in the drain — from a distance — like a contest. “Just like me and my friends back home!” I thought. So I turned around and went to the sauna instead. As I’m lying there relaxing (in my towel, mind you), in came a whole family — teenage son, younger daughter, Mom, Dad, grandpa — doing the naked sauna together. And I thought, “Just like me and my family!” Not. Fun times, though. I met a couple of Americans in the spa (you could tell by their towel-wearing). A surgeon from Wisconsin and a corporate trainer from London by way of Atlanta, both bumped from my same flight. We had a nice Bavarian dinner together.

  17. Pingback: Blog Tip Friday: Why a Bad Headline Can Kill Your Blog Post | Honest Mom

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