Viennese Coffee House Notes

by Janus Zeitstein:

Waitress: Please, madam!
Madame: Is it summer now, at last?
Waitress: Yes, they announced nice weather for tomorrow, if you please, but I haven’t heard myself, madam, someone told me this morning.
Madame: Thank you.

The heat is glowing and shimmering over the ring road, a woolly seed suspended in midair, from what kind of tree, linden, maple? The iron rustle of the tram glides hollow and metal, becomes stronger and stronger up to the level of the ear, then it fades into the sultry and disappears amongst the noise of a howling moped. Cars are starting, firing engines, chugging and hoisting under the mist of the sun’s glow, put over this soundscape like a silencer. Will probably stay like this for a few weeks.

A Romanian country woman, her scarfed head pulled between the shoulders, pushes herself through the field of view with a heavy step and raised voice, her unruly child in tow who defies defiantly. A step further, the municipal health department, where the beauties of the night pearl in through the mighty gate, a few shadows later they will be stamped and franked, unsure on their high heels in daylight when they stumble back into the cutting light.

Where once business people crossed their steps with artisans, glaziers and locksmiths, where a butcher was resting in front of his shop, clasping his hands over his pain belly and breathing under the blazing sky as if he were pregnant. Almdudler, snacks, delicatessen specialties, draft beer, coffee and ice cream sold the butcher at that time. In the shop window next to it, a Magnum Moët & Chandon stood in the confectioner’s display in front of a two-story turntable with marzipan kittens and chocolate mice. The shops have disappeared, given way to hotels.

The eye continues to peer, bores into the pale gray firmament between the battlements of a brick barrack. Oh, how beautiful is Viennetta, a Lippizaner hovers through the air, Mozart in the saddle, above him a cloud of sound full of digitized violins, Laser projections, holograms, almost realities that you could see from your coffee house chair in the café on the street. In addition Bruckner and the tinny stapling of an old, light blue VW bus, which could also be an amphibious vehicle. But the propellers are missing. And the Danube is a long way away.

Under a supposedly thick skin, the Viennese often seem unapproachable, racial and full of themselves behind courtly grace, like small-scale would-be haute-bourgoisie who hang melancholy and wistfully on the lips of brainless ventriloquists. Cynical and bossy, hidden under the curlicues of the Ringstrasse, if it were possible, imperialist tendencies in title-steeped, to their office clambering mystery-mongers who read the culture from the coffee sud. They admire buffoons and machinists, crooks and sneak traders. All of them anal-fixated fanatics of cleanliness, who avoid farts and are drunk and blinded by the past, indulging in their sausage fetishism. Innuenders and actors, opera divas, everyone can be found there.

However, if you put your foot on the side of the road or sit next to a flower bed in the park and you are caught by a security organ, you are likely to face imprisonment, probably to do with border security, and even more likely you will be admitted to one of the city’s countless mental institutions, which are said to be full of such walkers and treaders and sitters. Fortunately, there are large places of worship in which one can save oneself.

Waitress: Please, madam, would you like to pay?
Madame: Well finally!
Waitress: Please!
Madame: Next time a little more attention.
Waitress: Gladly, madam, gladly.

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