After a long night — there were drunks making noise outside of the hotel all night long — I woke up for good just before 8:00 a.m. I decided to check next door to see if our comrades had made it back. I found the door locked. My greatest fear had been realized — they didn’t make it back. They would have had to lock the door from the inside with the key and I knew they likely couldn’t have done that! I stood in the hallway trying to figure out what to do next. There I was with dirty, smelly clothes, bad breath, and no key for the other room nor the car. I tried to put together, in German, what to tell our German guesthouse owner. I knew they probably had a second key, but, it would be hard to explain what I wanted and guessed he would probably be mad and make us pay for a new key.
On my way to find the owner, I made one last attempt at the door and knocked in desperation. Again hearing nothing, I proceeded to knock louder, almost banging on the door. Lo and behold I heard a noise of some movement in the room. Before long I heard someone clawing at the door handle to open the door. It wouldn’t open because it was locked. Next thing I heard was someone muttering about where the damn key was. After a few minutes, the door was opened and our problems were solved. The occupants, though, were having problems of their own. The room smelled awful. Apparently someone had tried to get a glass of water when they got home (about 4 a.m.) and had dropped a glass in the sink. Later, someone else barfed in the sink. It wouldn’t drain because of all the broken glass mixed with vomit. It was gross! They could barely stand up — and the hangovers hadn’t even begun to hit.
We got out of the hotel by 10:00 a.m. I had clean clothes and brushed teeth! We hurried downstairs and made it out to the parade route. There was a lot of activity going on. All the stands that had been closed the night before were now beginning to stir. Now the people were really dressed up. There were very few people without some sort of costume. We still had our fasching hats so we fit in pretty well. It was quite a festive atmosphere. Lots to eat and great people watching. The costumes were outrageous! A lot of people had wagons and carts set up and decorated to fit the theme of their costumes. Almost everyone had either a case of beer or a keg in their cart. Some people were just pushing shopping carts with beer and champagne. Others had baby carriages (with the babies in them) which had beer kegs attached to the back.
We strolled up and down the street watching everyone. Since it was still morning, we decided to try gluhwein instead of beer. After a few sips, one of our crew, Tom, gradually appeared to get much better. In fact, he felt so good that he broke down and got a bratwurst. We kept strolling down the street for a while. Suddenly we saw Tom go completely pale. He started looking for a place to lose his cookies! Unfortunately, there was no place to be found, so he decided to fight the urge to puke. We continued down the street for a while when he suddenly let loose — right in the middle of the street! No one seemed to notice. We just kept walking and ignored him, but that didn’t stop us from laughing hysterically. It truly served him right!
As the day wore on, the heavier drinkers from the night before became more and more miserable. The rest of us did as well. It was a cold and rainy day. Before long we were soaked to the skin and freezing. After some crepes and waffle-things, we decided to head back to Wiesbaden. We figured that we might just catch part of the Wiesbaden celebration if we hurried back.
The trip home was pretty bad. Tom slept in the back while I drove again. About 45 minutes out from Düsseldorf, the rain turned into snow. The road got really slippery. Before long there was about 2 inches of snow on the ground and a driving, blizzard-like snow. That slowed traffic down considerably. Pretty soon, though, we were out of the mountainous area and the snow was back to a rain. As we got closer to Wiesbaden we actually ran into some sunshine.
Wiesbaden looked pretty dead. We walked around a bit and found out that the parade was still going on. It had started at about 1 p.m. We watched the rest of the parade and caught some of the goodies that were tossed from the floats. In all, it was pretty uneventful and we walked back toward the car. As we passed one particular bar, there was a woman on the sidewalk hailing people asking them to stop for gluhwein. Of course we obliged. It was free! Apparently they had lots of extra gluhwein and decided to give it away instead of letting it go to waste.
After a couple of glasses of gluhwein, we headed back to the Army post. Though it was kind of depressing returning there, I was pretty happy. I was dog tired and slept until about 7 a.m. on Monday. I was beat from the Düsseldorf ordeal!
In Wiesbaden on Sunday, we had learned about the even bigger celebration in Mainz on Monday. We had predetermined that we had to get to Mainz by about 9 a.m. The parade started at exactly 11:11 a.m. We heard that it got pretty crowded by about 10:00. Everyone was up and ready to go on time. In addition to the hats, we painted our faces with markers and lipstick. We added Mike Flaherty and several others to our group and met in Mainz. In Tom’s car, we were lucky enough to get a parking spot in a lot along the river. From there we headed into town. We weren’t sure where the parade route was, but we were sure we could find it.
We decided to start at the bahnhof. There was already a pretty big crowd growing there. Everyone was in a festive mood — a lot like we had seen in Düsseldorf. We each had a brat and either beer or gluhwein (yes, at 9:30 in the morning!). It was pretty funny to see all the people arriving by train. Many of them were already loaded with liquor. We got a fasching hat for Mike. It wasn’t a Düsseldorf hat (actually it looked like a farmer’s hat), but, at least he sort of fit in with us. Before long we decided that we had better find a place to watch the parade. We hadn’t gone far when someone wanted to stop for another beer, then another.
We found a pretty good spot along the street just about the time the parade started. It was great! There were oodles of marching bands and lots of floats. The floats were pretty creative. There were none of the cheap and hokey floats that you see at home. These were paper mache’ sculptures, fully painted. There were political figures, animals, and some that were pretty funny — one with a dog peeing on some guy’s head! I think the guy was probably the mayor or something. Other floats were like big sleighs full of people dressed as royalty. All of the floats had people on them tossing out trinkets. There was some of the typical hard candy, but a lot of the stuff was much better. There were ice cream bars, Frisbees, all kinds of little plastic and rubber balls, piggy banks, candy, chocolate bars (big ones), comic books, etc. There was a family next to us who literally filled two shopping bags with stuff. I filled my pockets and even stashed some stuff in my hat. One of the most unique things I caught was a plastic bag of mashed potatoes!
The parade lasted over four hours! We stayed at our spot for nearly the entire time. We only left to pick up another beer or to relieve the effects of the last beer in a nearby alley. Pretty soon the parade finally ended. There was a car at the end indicating that the parade was over. We decided to follow behind the parade in order to beat the crowd back to the middle of the city. As parades do, the parade traffic stopped a few times. We kept walking down the street. The next thing we knew, we were part of the parade! We were walking along with the “big-headed people.” They were the people dressed up with the huge paper mache’ heads. That was a hoot!
We continued along in the parade with the big-headed people. I think they were starting to get sick of us. One of the Captains had too much beer and kept running into one of the big-heads, almost knocking him over. The people with these big masks could only see out a little hole in the costume. Anyway, we kept on going. We lost Mike along the way, never to be seen again that day. He stopped to find a bathroom. We expected that he would follow the parade route to find us, but he never did.
The parade continued zigzagging through town for at least a mile. We had apparently been right near the beginning of the route. It was pretty fun to be in the parade as we passed the mobs of people in the center of town and as we passed the mayor and dignitaries in the reviewing stand. We joined in by waving and yelling “Hellau” to the crowd. Finally, near the end of the parade route, we were grabbed from behind by someone else from the unit. There was a group of people that had been watching the parade and saw us going by. We stopped to chat with them for a bit. By this time the sun had gone down and it was starting to get a little cold and I was ready to go. I spied our friend, The Reaper on a nearby street.
We all couldn’t stop laughing when we saw The Reaper. He was leaning on a car with a goofy hat on. It had about a dozen spikes pointing out. Each spike had a bell on the end. The reap was already three sheets to the wind. He was talking to some people, but hey weren’t talking to him! As soon as he recognized us, he staggered off to buy us all a beer.
We stood there for nearly an hour with the reap. I remember standing on a wall around a fountain that was drained for the winter. In the fountain were bottles and lots of broken glass. It was just a matter of time . . . pretty soon The Reaper fell backward and ended up on his head in the fountain. He got up and was alright, but I decided that it was time to go. It was dark by this time. Kay Bee and I decided that we had better take the reap home before he killed himself. Now we had to find the others who had driven with us. We tried for some time to find any of them, but could only find Tim Reed. Tim was relatively sober and offered to stay and get the others home. Kay and I left with The Reaper.
It was a good ways to the car. That was quite a trip with the Reap. If we stopped, he would fall down. As long as we were moving, he could stagger along. By the time we got to the river, the Reap needed to go to the bathroom. He decided to stop on the bank of the river behind a candy stand. It was actually a wall along the river rather than a bank. We waited for a little while out front. Kay decided that I had better check on the Reap since that was a “guy thing.” I peeked around the corner of the stand and saw the Reap laying on his back with his feet in the river. He had fallen down while taking care of business. He fell half into the river while peeing all over himself. I dragged him out of the river and we proceeded to the car.
Boy, was I glad to get home. It was only about 8:30, but I was worn out from another long day of Fasching. I remember around 11:30 I heard loud voices coming down the street outside. I figured that it was the rest of our crew. They made it back! About 15 minutes later there was a loud knock on the door. It was Tom and Tim. They staggered into my room with fresh beers in their hands. They sat down and told me tales about all the fun I missed!
Epilogue: Friday, February 23, 1996. Tom was sicker than a dog on Tuesday. He didn’t touch another sip of alcohol all week! Tim was at work by 7:00 a.m. on Tuesday. Like Tom, he stayed away from beer for the rest week. The Reap survived, thanks in part to my heroic efforts pulling him out of the river. Kay Bee, Mike S., Mike H., Glen, Tammy, Slack, Ricks, The Reaper, and the many others who lived through that Fasching weekend likely have similar stories to tell. This was, though, the beginning of the end for the Captains’ Club as I will describe in my next blog.