I was in Europe, the physical place not the place in the life of the mind, once. Brussels. I went to present he project I was working on in IBM Research to a symposium at the rthur Watson Laboratory (La Hulpe) for IBM sales representatives to see emergent technologies. The only reason I got to go is that my manager, Dr. Don Nix, had an aversion to flying in airplanes -- he always took trains, and presume IBM wasn't into paying for him to go to Europe by boat, if there were any passenger ships still operating the North Atlantic route in 1986. I think he enjoyed sitting on his two couch potatoes on the train doing nothing constructive, maybe readingThe New York Post for a couple days, maybe imaginig he was still in the womb.
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My trip was spoiled only by an asshole whod decided to wate one of us presenters' evenings presenting our projets to each other, which had nothing to do with th esymposium which was strictly for the European sales persons. I fumed sittin there putting up with this which had zero to do with why we were there, when I could havebeen enjoying Chimay beer in the laboratory's pub after having given a very good performance for the symposium attedees that day. And of course, as usual in my less-than-llfe, Iwon no points for not being a good team player. Son of a bitch!
I had made it clear to IBM that I could not cope with travel logistics. They did the right thing. I flew Sabena (I did not want ofly an Smerican carrier), arriving in Brusselz Savantem airport which a far as I was and remain concrned, wa a labyrinth, just before dawn. I wa met by a Mercedex-Benz car -- but not like any Mercedes I had ever seen here in The Staes: It did't even had carpet on the floor.. But it did the job: It got me rom the labrinth to my Hotel in the city, in an area under development, the World Trade Center (WTC), the President Hotel. very finde hotel, albeit without air conditioning (but who needs air-conditoning in Europe?, set amid empty ground yet to be developed. It wa slightly drizzling. As soon a I got to the hotel I put on my running clothes and took a long run around the coblestone streets of the area, being careful to not get lost. the wa a church which, fro a distance, reminded me of he Hiroshima a-bomb memorial building. I love cobblestone streets albeit they are not the easiest to walk on but at age 40 I wa many year from the sickness which put an end to my youth in 2020. The city wa like nothing I had ever seen: all th old houses perhaps from medieval ties and they looked like th epeople in whthem wer probably medieval too with dark shaded window facing onto the street which I imagined symbolized religiously dark minds inside. So I had my run in he romantic drizzle.
Of coure I had not slept on the plane Sleep now?No! To work: I was there to do a job, and so I got a taxi and immediately went to th lab to set up my compute eauipment for my presenttion. The road to La Hulpe was enchaning; on the right side was a large forest of as if manicured, uniform and uniformly spaced trees, trees like in a Magritte paintng. How mch better than "over here"! On the left the houses looked 7/8th's scale. Again, better than in Americca where everythin if big not good.
So I arrived at the lab and spent the day struggling with an electrivc current conversion problem from U.S. 60 cycle to local 50 cycle and low voltage. We finally got it fixed but had I not arrived a day realy or spent the day being a jerk off tourist, I would not hav ebeen preparde to do my job on Monday morning 9or maybe iwoauld hav had to "burn th midnnite oil" like normally normal people often apparently have to do). Up and at 'em next day.
My presentations went well. Iknew my material and presented it in a way which appealed to my audience. So I could have fun outside class. I brought in my running clothes and changed in the lecture room (obfiously after everybody had left), and ran out the lab, onto the road and a couple miles to the only chateau I would ever see in my life except fo Dr. Nix's house which he did not deserve to live in. Chateau Solvay. Somebody reprimanded me htt it was not a real chateau, that it had been build in the 19th century. I'm not that stupid; I could not hav ecared less. It looked like a chateau, like Lsat year at Maienbad, so it was good enough for my purposes.....
In the lab cafeteria you could have -- ready for this one? wine with lunch! Helped prep for the afternoon's presentations. Work day ended and then to the pub in the lab basement, and hwat did I find there? Ch=himay beer. It wa so good that for years after I returned to "this place" I simply could not olerate drdinking any of the beer here until, as Sanch Pnanza said, "these is no memory which time does not efface". It wa so good I even got up the gumption back at the hotel to go into a small convenience food store wher I did not speak the language and buy a 6 pack for my room. (When I got back home, the Chimay here wa not the same, withe the beer was not as good or the context spoinled it, who knows.)
The week went close to perfect except for the asshole specified supra, and my OCD fears which distrcted me some. I even wandered into part of the lab that was under construction and wrote on one of the still exposed poured concrete structureal members something like "Kilroy was here", which I presume remains to this day hidden inside a wall.
At week's end I had Saturday free before returning whence I had come. Of course I double checked my return flight reservation, not exactly easy considering thw languge problem. I wanderd around Brussels including the main museum where I probably saw Breughel paintings I did not appreciate at the time, and also walking past literally, a "red light district' with red lights.I managed an authentic dinner despite the language problem, with a rich Belgian cuisine sauce (great for cholesterol, maybe).
Sunday morning was panic time since I had to make my flight. The car that wa supposed to take me to the airport did not arrive on time so i panicked and got another one which did get me to the Zavantem mishmash in good time and I even found my check in counter, so all was well that ended well except for that toxic introject inflicted o me per supra ( kept worrying ho my bad attitude toward that wste of my evvening migh get reporte bck to my supriors -- tht person should never have been born or hab gone back swiftly whence he came). I got a good grade on my presentations. Pudgy Dr. Nix was still sitting on his two couch potatoes with hie 7-11 Big Gulp in hand, per the status quo ante.
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I found Brussels beautiful. Especially the light in the wesern sky around 11PM at night, which really was like in a Magrite painting (per supa). The sky was luminous and crystalline, above a row of houses across the WTC undeveloped space in front of the hotel, which were fully [in the]dark. Lux in tenebris (but not the blinding sun of "a day at the beach" style less-than-living). (As you might guess, my reader, all this has changed since 1987: The street in front of the hotel and the rctangular open space in front of it and the row of houses on the other side of the open space are now all gone, all replaced by a park in front of fthe hotel and stores beyond them. What was then the rear of the hotel has become the front....)
The spirit of it all seems captured in a picture of a 1970s BMW automobile that may have been somewhere else in Europe (surely not anywhere in America; granting there are exceptions, I do not nor ever did like America).