Yesterday was "Reformation Day" in the eastern part of Germany, which is evidently a holiday for religious dolts who wish to wrench the day from Halloween's righteous grasp (As a side note, it seems to me that the whole idea of establishing a religious holiday in a pathetic attempt to overshadow a more popular pagan festival that occurs on the same day can only be doomed to failure. What's next--are kooky churchgoers now going to invent empty ceremonies to celebrate the vernal and winter solstices just to steal some attention from more popular celebrations? Poppycock I say.) In any event, I decided use the free time the holiday afforded me to study the place where the celebration has its roots: Wittenberg, where one Martinus Luther posted 95 points of disagreement with the Catholic church on a cold, blustery Halloween at 10:23 AM (as judged back then by when the goats got hungry) in 1517. So, channeling the spirit of Luther, I put on my iconoclastic cap, grabbed my bag of protestations, and attempted to board a train bound for the W-B. I say "attempted" because I was stopped on the platform by a member of the Deutsche Bahn staff who gruffly informed me that I needed to be wearing more than a cap to board the train. Embarrassed that I had forgotten to put on my pious pants and anti-Semitic shirt (replete with Stain Defender weave), I hurried back home in order not to miss the train.
Upon reaching my final destination (no, not Hell--but close), the first thing that greeted me was a group of Native Americans dressed to the hilt in ceremonial costumes and peddling music CDs. I watched with amusement as the group badly lip-synced to what may or may not have been their own recordings. Only appropriate, I thought, to be selling one's soul on a day like today.
As I walked further down the street I passed by the usual assortment of candle, basket, and horse meat vendors. Along the way, I noticed a man standing by a board where one could post one's own "thesis" for a marginal fee. The theses, which ended up being odd statements more akin to New Year's resolutions than anything substantive, were also characterized by a blend of naïveté and ignorance that is uniquely German:
"Recycle More," proclaimed one.
"Respect each other," said another.
"Utterly ridiculous," I told a completely uninterested German man standing next to me.
It was then that I arrived at the Castle Church, where Luther posted the original 95 theses on the door. Once a group of religious zealots finished taking photos around the door in question, I was able to examine it more closely and discover that it is, in fact, made out of bronze. Now, unless Luther had some tape or sticky tack handy, I fail to see how how he could have attached his document to the door, much less "posted" it. Perhaps he fashioned a rudimentary adhesive from hog spit and dirt, but I remain skeptical; Lutherites (or whatever the heck they call themselves) have got some explaining to do.
My inspection of the church door was interrupted, however, when a group began singing next to me with the sort of trite lyrics and well-worn melodies that can only be American contemporary Christian music. Indignant at this unwelcome intrusion, I turned to a German man--different from before but equally disinterested--with the intention of asking him what on earth gospel music could possibly have to do with Reformation Day. Before I could utter the first word, however, I was struck in the face and knocked to the ground by a piece of masonry that fell from the church's highest tower. I remained dazed and recumbent for quite some time, as I was in no danger whatsoever of receiving aid from any of the Germans around me, who, judging by their theses, were presumably too busy recycling and respecting each other to give assistance. When I was finally able to revive myself some time later, I noticed that the brick which had struck my face was painted gold. Looking up, I saw that it must have come from the inscription on the tower, which read "Ein Feste Burg Ist Unser Gott." I later discerned that the brick in question formed the bottom portion of the letter"F."
A little peeved and still bleeding from the face, I decided to buy a beer and was quickly able to find a brew bearing the name of the monk himself. I'm not quite sure why I thought Martin would have better taste in beer than he did in women--that Katharina Von Bora was a tramp if there ever was one--but I nonetheless purchased the beer and greedily slucked it down.
Seeing as it was nearly 3:30, the day was already fast becoming night. Filled with Luther beer, I began restlessly wandering the main square and soon noticed the bright lights of TV cameras. Like a moth to the flame, I drew close to the lights, camera, and action of a live broadcast of a show called WDR Extra about to get underway on a small, elevated platform. As I watched the female anchor prepare to interview someone live, a strange urge came over me: perhaps it was the beer, my throbbing head, or the fact that I had lugged around my bag of protestations all day without using one, but I knew my voice was no longer going to be silenced by whomever it was being silenced. As soon as I saw a red light flash on one of the cameras, I scrambled up the platform, leapt over the rail, and grabbed the microphone with moral fury from the hand of the astonished anchor .
"Free the Lisbon Seven!" I yelled to the viewership of WDR Extra, "Free the Lisbon Seven and free the world!"
I did not know then, nor do I know now, who the "Lisbon Seven" are--it was immaterial to my message.
I was, of course, quickly wrestled to the ground. I avoided arrest by cunningly feigning retardation, not a difficult feat considering I was half-drunk and my head wound had been worsened in the recent tumult. I was told in simple but not uncertain terms by the police that I needed to leave.
I began ambling back the train station, but stopped at the edge of town to grab a brief respite in a small park. One of the trees had a plaque in front of it, and upon reading it I discovered that I was standing at the site where Luther burned the papal bull and that the oak tree had been planted the next day in commemoration. Overcome with the great moment of the place, I stood in awe for a good five to ten seconds--unfortunately my reverie was interrupted by the fact that my Luther libation had worked its way through my system. Needing relief and without recourse, I unzipped my pants and emptied the contents of my bladder onto the commemorative tree. It was somewhat poetic, really--Luther beer returned for the nourishment of Luther tree--kind of a circle-of-life, Gaia type of thing.
It was nearly midnight by the time I got back to Rostock, and had it not been for a solitary jack-o'-lantern shining in someone's window on my walk home I might have forgotten the true meaning of the day. Seeing that glowing pumpkin immediately cured all of the day's ills, and in the last fleeting moments of the night I searched around for the weakest child I could find and stole her candy.