My Brief Stint With Nazi Propaganda

December 15, 2008

The rain was ripping up concrete like blunt razors on soft skin, as I walked along; cold, wet and wearing brown leather shoes never made for any kind of muddy of excursion. I had been dropped off half a mile up the road by a handsome young man named Patrick, who thought he knew where I was heading. He had left me at a turnoff where I needed to go straight, so I jumped out the car, waited for a hole in the blistering traffic, crossed the road, continued down and headed for the next highway-bridge. Catching the cars as they came down the off-ramp was not only the best way to get a ride, but also the safest and only legal one on the highway. I held out my arm for the sake of chance, though it soon became tiresome, as there were hardly any gaps in the passing cars. The rain kept its pace, but I ignored it until I finally saw the bridge out in the distance, which sparked both hope and enthusiasm.

It was at this exact moment that I heard the sirens wailing. And then I saw him; riding on a white motorcycle with heavy features, leather boots and a helmet that gleamed like a beady pearl through the downpour. Despite the wild roar of traffic and the screeching wind, I had no trouble hearing the screaming that burst out of the man like little lightnings, slowly escalating as I resistantly approached him. His eyes were thunder and tornado, deep holes of fury and hell that almost struggled to pop out and feast on what had dared to compromise with law. I put down my guitar-case and patiently waited, knowing that his rage would soon wear off. Hopefully he would come to his senses. After a minute or two some of the damp had finally vaporized from his skull, and as he tried to recall what he was supposed to do in this kind of situation, my mind wandered off and I came to remember the first encounter I had with the law.

In the village where I was raised, there was an old german war bunker on top of a steep hill. There is not much to tell about the village, except everyone was somehow involved in the fishing industry, and for those of us housed near the harbor, there was a constant odor of salt, seaweed and fish. My family lived just beneath the bunker, in an old barrack that had been left by the germans in World War II and so the walls were frail and weak, as it was only put up to last for a few years; the insulation poor, if not non-existing. The five apartments that made up the long one-floor house were small, with high ceilings that had once provided space for eighty soldiers, three sergeants and one lieutenant. The soldiers had lived twenty per apartment in tall quadruple bunk beds with shared toilet, shower and kitchen; the officers lived in the eastern most apartment in separate, bigger rooms. It was in this officers-oasis that we now lived and I had one week prior to the incident, behind a board in one of our closets, discovered a wall-painting that had been made, presumably by one of the officers. It wasn’t exactly inspired or original work, as it merely showed the brown german war eagle, holding a ring with the black swastika in its talons. I had seen the swastika before, but had no idea of what it symbolized or represented, only that it was connected to war.

Sometime during the next week I found a canister of red spray paint in our shared garage, and soon felt both inspiration and idea for my first piece. And so, when choosing the motive and canvas for my debut as an artist, it was all so obvious. I climbed the hill, then the bunker and unleashed my creative force in two golden, precious minutes. And behold, there it was; red and drooling, with an obvious lack of craftsmanship, looking over the city from an old german war bunker. It proved to be the perfect canvas in all of it’s dark green, booming from the highest hill. I hadn’t gotten it all right though, as I had somehow done a mirrored version of the original, with the legs of the swastika now turning counter-clockwise, which compared to the original came out somewhat silly, and in hindsight could have been prevented by doing a simple sketch or mental note of the thing.

My mother faced me that evening wearing her mental X-Ray goggles (which all women are given when they become mothers) and asked if I knew anything about the paint on the bunker. Naturally, the interrogation went fast and smooth and I soon started into sobbing and apologizing. I had been through a period of experimentation with the limits of my given boundaries (including fireworks, sudden disappearance and general obedience), and this time it was decided to put and end to it. I was to turn myself in to the local sheriff first thing in the morning before school, and admit to the crime. I used every trick possible to soften her, cried sincerely and begged forgiveness; but it was useless. The hardness in her goodnight-kiss was like a postal stamp to my forehead, and it sparked a fear in me that none of my deeds would be forgotten as I slept.

There was a growing knot the size of my fist, eating away on the little courage left in me, as we entered the police station. The sheriff was sitting at his desk, and as we entered he gave me a short look from above his reading glasses, as if to signal that I had been noticed, but there was going to some nervous waiting before we could get down to business. After a torturous ten minutes he called me up to his desk, and trembling I stuttered what my mother had instructed me to say earlier, with a voice so frail it was barely heard. I remember his steps like little earthquakes as he rose from the brown stool and approached me from behind the office desk. With lowered eyebrows and grave importance he then gave me the lecture of my life in wrong and right, only lifting his right index finger once or twice for dramatic effect. A small-town sheriff didn’t have much to do in those days and the highlights of a week were therefore somewhat sparse. Therefore he had dressed up in his finest black of outfits including hat; pistol; baton; belt; boots and even dusted off his walkie-talkie for the occasion. I was appalled, shaken by his majestic figure, moving my head up and down in slow nods, while my mother kept a firm grip of my shoulders. We all soon came to the agreement that nothing of the like would ever happen again.

The poor man on the motorcycle was of course in no position to be aware of this; that I had already been lessoned; and as he unleashed his long line of mad didactic advisory, the fat mustache on his upper lip seemed to move almost like a unibrow of the mouth, moving with every shifting emotion and outburst. I was admittedly a bit hypnotized by the masculinity and power that it seemed to possess, and the officer soon gave up; he couldn’t figure out if I was either a young man of extreme stubbornness or silent stupidity, and it seemed to befuddle him.

Instead of sending me to the bridge that lay a hundred meters in front of us, I was commanded back to the previous one, five kilometers in backwards direction. Following the highway back was not an option, I was told, so I’d have to fight myself back through knee-high grass, bushes, thorns and cornfields (which would eventually make my appearance as the huddled, dirty and soaked hitchhiker complete). I suppose this was his measured punishment, and there was no point in arguing. He followed this with an assurance that he would come back and check that I was not walking against traffic, and if I did, he would make sure a car be sent to pick me up and take me to station so I could be held responsible for my outrageous behavior.

As he was turning on his engine, I said in my politest, most affected manner; “Thank you, Sir!”; and I just may have spotted a forming bead in his eye as he paused for a second, nodded back, and then drove off. As he checked out from the station later that evening, returned home and climbed into his bed next to his wife, and another night of sleep and denial, he must have thought to himself “Maybe I did get through to this one after all”.

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