I awoke inside my pillbox with a lovely view of the sea shining through my machine gunner's porthole — 31 years previous, not so lovely. From such a viewpoint, 19 year old Heinrich Severloh, later known as the Beast of Omaha, knocked off a thousand invading Yanks on one misty morn. Today, die Deutschkins bombard invading Yanks with strudel. Much sweeter killing them slowly with diabetes.


I left my bunker and browsed westward along the cliffs high above the beach. Soon I came upon a cemetery with hundreds of white crosses and a few Jewish stars looking out to sea. Other folks were browsing about also. I asked one fellow if any of his relatives were buried here.

Yes, my father is buried nearby, he said.
Which beach did he come in on? I asked rather indelicately.
None, he replied. He was a machine gunner in one of the casemates up here on the cliffside.
Oh, I mumbled, and kept browsing.
After all, what would an ignorant hayseed from Nashville know?

One of the major results of this humongous 20th century conflict was that most Germans now speak perfect English. That should be no surprise as both English and German evolved from old Anglo-Saxon. But I had better double-check that with Wikipedia.


Hitler Bobble-Head

From the coastline, I made my way inland to Bayeux about 4 miles south. Bought a kitschy postcard at the Musée Baron Gérard to send back to a special grad student who was destined to remain with me for the remainder of my days for better or worse, or should that read for butter or wurst. The flip side of this postcard was equally kitschy, and does not deserve your perusal, but if you can't help yourself, go right ahead. Hitler attempted to rejuvenate kitsch as a major art movement by exiling modernism and imprisoning its practitioners. But after D-Day, kitsch and Hitler were doomed to non-political expressions your granny and your gay brother now display on their what-nots. According to Walter Benjamin — that art critic the Nazis chased into Spain and suicide — kitsch offers instantaneous emotional gratification without intellectual effort, without the requirement of distance, without sublimation. Translation: What's cute today is kitsch tomorrow.

A block or two from the Musée Baron Gérard the Bayeux Tapestry is on display. Once it was displayed annually in the local cathedral, but now it has its own museum, named appropriately enough, Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux. In 1066, this was the closest thing to a 3D iMax with no special glasses required. What was required was a keen talent with needle and thread plus the energy and patience to complete the 230 foot spectacle. I like the various browns that organize the composition. These colors soothe us and make violence comfortable and contemplative. I am reminded of the earthy colors on the cave walls at Lascaux. Notice also the similarity of the figures with those in the caves — primitive and dynamic. This many brown shades, however, may not have been intentional, but rather the outcome of nine centuries of dirt and grime hanging around in old Norman architectures. How do you clean such a thing, anyway?

What this tapestry says to me, and my fellow aesthetes, is how marvelously beautiful war can be as long as you don't fight in one. Above are a few scenes from the 57 panels still intact. Someone cut off the final scene showing the coronation of King William. Although, after almost 1000 years, if you can wait awhile, there will soon be another William crowned King of England. Ironically, the once and future King Williams are as much German as they are French and English. Why? Underneath it all, they are all really ViKings. LOL!

Norman slides

After my fill of war memorials, I once again returned to Paris, 170 miles east, and took one last look around. Yep, Paris was still there and would likely remain there after I was gone — really really gone. Towards evening, I rode the Metro to the end of the line in some direction — perhaps north to Pontoise — hoping to find a pleasant wooded area to bunk in for the evening. Instead, the tracks ended in an industrial suburb heavily stocked with mountains of construction stuff. I looked for, and may have found, a large cylindrical pipe Not quite as romantic as the sewer system in Les Miserables, but way more practical. for my evening snooze. Certainly beat drowning on a beach.