Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Ghost of Fraulein Schweiger

Ok, it's time for another comedy piece.  This one is brought to you by the 1965 classic, The Sound of Music with Julie Andrews and a little steakhouse in my hometown called "Schwamkrug's".

Well, let's start with The Sound of Music.  As we know, my mom is German, as in born and raised there, so as you can imagine, my childhood home was a mix of German goods along with a healthy dose of Texan from my Dad.  Ok, besides all of the good German food and culture in our house, you have to know that growing up, my father was an encyclopedia of everything western.  My father can name every single horse ridden by the Spaghetti Western cowboys of the 40's and 50's.  Ask him the name of Tom Mix's horse and what does he answer without skipping a beat?  Tony.  Who's horse was named Scout?  Tonto on The Lone Ranger.  You get the picture...if there is ever a Jeopardy category called "Famous Horses" my father could sweep it hands down.  But with all of the country western goodness of my Dad, my mom always but always had us sit down every year when the networks would play The Sound of Music.

Now, what you don't know is that my mom is a dead ringer for Julie Andrews, as in she could easily be Julie Andrew's stunt double without a problem.  To boot, and even though my mom hides it like crazy, she's also got the voice to match.  So, as you can guess, she sang along with the musical when she thought we weren't listening.

Ok, I think everyone but everyone has seen The Sound of Music at one time or another in their lives.  Well, I dug around on YouTube like mad for the clip, but unfortunately, the singing competition at the end of the movie isn't anywhere to be found so I can show you, so you'll just have to take my word for it.  In the awards scene at the end of the film, the third place winner, a woman by the name of Fraulein Schweiger, goes out to accept her award and bows not once, not twice, but 16 times.  Oy veh.  It's a total bowfest with Fraulein Schweiger and it's very funny, all 16 bows.

Here's where we add in Schwamkrug's Steakhouse (or "Schwammies" as my parents liked to call it).  Schwammies, back in the day, always had great food and usually very good service.  Well, you know what's coming, you do!  Admit it...you know what I'm about to tell you.  Well, son of a gun, wouldn't you know it, but Schwammies had their own version of Fraulein Schweiger.  I couldn't tell you the real name of that server for all the tea in China some 30 years later, but I will tell you without hesitation that we've called her "Fraulein Schweiger" since the first day she served our table.  And you guessed it, she bowed just the same.

Well, some 30 years ago, we had gone up to Schwammies for some special occasion, I can't remember for the life of me what it was, but we got seated at Schwammies and sure enough coming around the corner to take our orders was who?  Fraulein Schweiger.

I remember the meal quite vividly.  Steaks cooked to perfection, enormous baked potatoes, good corn on the cob, salads done just so with really good dressing, you know, the normal works for a steakhouse.  Like me, my mom's palate when it comes to some things, is just as picky as mine.  My mother and I are the only two people in the room that when our family of over 50 people get together for a reunion, we're the only ones that don't drink iced tea.  "Foul concoction" is all I can say about iced tea.  Everyone I know loves the darn stuff, I can't stand it and neither can my mom.  Overwhelmingly you can say that if my mother and I agree universally on ANYTHING it is our revulsion towards tea.  Hot, iced, chai, you name it, if it's tea, we don't drink it.

So, back to Schwammies and  Fraulein Schweiger.  In all of the time we went to Schwammies, my mother was really at odds with her because well, Fraulein Schweiger always seemed to screw up some part of our meal every time we went in there.  The incident I am about to relay to you goes down in the all-time great Mom moments.

My mother is a coffee drinker.  She loves it.  Mocha ice cream, flavored coffees, Bailey's and Coffee, you name it...she loves to go up to the Lodge at Mount Charleston to get one of their good Mt. Charleston Coffee's every winter.   So, way back when, as Fraulein Schweiger came around to check if any of us wanted dessert after our meal, Mom ordered her standard cup of coffee.

I don't know about you, but when I order something with a very specific flavor, my taste buds are really looking forward to that specific taste.  When you're ready like that and what you put into your mouth tastes nowhere NEAR what you were expecting, it goes south really (and I mean REALLY) fast.

Well, sure enough Fraulein Schweiger came back with a cup and saucer full of hot liquid and placed it in front of my mother.  The dark liquid inside of the cup sure did look like coffee to me, but um, well, as my Mom took a sip of the liquid in the cup, her face immediately contorted.  Her mouth pulled together in a very pursed and unhappy sort of scowl.  With her mouth still full of the contents of the cup, her hand became a pointing device with her four fingers pressed into her thumb, reminding me very much of a very early version of Kermit the Frog.  Well, that hand of hers started to point, in a very stabbing like motion at the cup, pointing twice.  Then that hand went back up to her mouth, pointing twice.  Then that same hand went over the cup making a giant imaginary "X" above the cup.  Dad, Nan and I looked at Mom like she had seriously lost it.

When Mom saw that Dad, Nan and I couldn't figure out what the coffee cup induced charade was all about, she placed the cup back up to her lips and deposited the liquid contents of her mouth back into the cup that it came from.  With a very contorted face that looked like she had just tasted the world's most foul concoction, and mouth still pursed in disgust, she said, "That's not coffee, that's TEA!"   Dad, Nan and I burst into laughter because we had never seen my mother handle something like that before, and with her arm waving like that and the face she made, it was damn near hysterical.  My mother, who I am sure was ready to rip that "ditzy broad" in half,  in a very calm voice, traumatized tastebuds and all, called for our friendly Fraulein and had the tea whisked away and replaced by coffee, with Fraulein Schweiger bowing and apologizing the whole way to the kitchen and back to the table again.  My mother, on the coffee's arrival, was very tentative with the cup, she took a strong inhale of the fragrance of the coffee to confirm that it was indeed coffee and took a sip.  As she swallowed the coffee, her face relaxed and her tastebuds calmed themselves.

After 30 years, we're still talking about that damned cup of tea that Fraulein Schweiger brought to my mother and how funny the whole scenario was.

Well, you have to know what's coming.  I was at dinner with Ace tonight when the waitress came by and asked me what I wanted to drink.  As is the norm, I ordered a Coke with lemon.  (It's good, try it.  I learned about it in Europe in 1985.  They mix a little bit of orange soda with their Coca-Cola and it's called a "Spezi".  Sometimes they do it with lemonade, so ever since 1985, I've always had my Coke with a lemon slice in it.)  Well, apparently the Ghost of Fraulein Schweiger was sitting on the shoulder of that waitress because guess what, as my very dark cup was placed on the table and at seeing the two lemon slices that had been squeezed into the glass, I took a sip.  My face contorted, one of my hands went up to my mouth while the other pushed the glass away.  By sheer guessing what on earth do you think was in that glass?  ICED TEA!

Ace looked at me as I grimaced and told him what was in my cup.  He was very sweet to offer me his beer to kill the taste of the foul liquid that had invaded my mouth.  I turned it away at first, but as he flagged down the waitress and informed her of the mistake, my hand shot out and grabbed the longneck beer in front of Ace and downed half of it.  A few minutes later, my Coke with Lemon arrived and like my mother, some 30 years ago, I was very tentative as I took a sip.  As the taste of Coca-Cola and Lemon washed over my palate, I relayed the story of Mom vs. Fraulein Schweiger.  He looked at me like I was nuts and I did agree with him that I guess it was just one of those things you had to be there to see.

After telling Ace about all that, I looked at the clock, it was 9 p.m.  I usually don't call my parents very late as they usually go to bed early, but in this case, it was one for the ages that I had to tell them about immediately.  So, after texting Nan to see if Mom and Dad were still up, I just said to heck with it and called my mother.

Lucky for me, Mom and Dad hadn't gone to sleep yet, and as I said hello to my mother, she hollered at Dad to get on the line because I was on the phone.  It only took a few words...

"Mom, you'll never believe what just happened.  I was just visited by The Ghost of Fraulein Schweiger.  She brought me iced tea."

You should have heard them laughing.

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