Rudy returned for duty at Koblenz from Fleckertshöhe at the same time I arrived from my emotionally gut-wrenching, but thankfully short, stint in the real army.
Not only did we immediately resume our friendship, we became roommates and as close as brothers … AKA army buddies.
For us Germany was our time of discovery, adventure and fun. It was also a total time-out from responsibility … familial, educational and professional. Of course we had the army to deal with, but in Koblenz that wasn’t a big deal (providing the commies didn’t decide to roll west from Czechoslovakia, not that far to the east of us).
We were young, fit and testosterone fueled. We had plenty of money and lots of free time in which to spend it. Plus, we carried no burden of worry about the future … after all, that was at least a couple of years away and, in the meantime, our bodies belonged to the US Government!
We took that to mean that we had nothing better to do but than to enjoy life … which as everyone knows is so much more fun when you’re with a good friend, especially one who shares the same hobbies, interests and passions as you, and who also has the same opportunity and means with which to pursue them!
And pursue them we did! We chased women in the town’s trendiest nightclubs; we spent six or 7 evenings a week listening to live rock by some of Europe’s hottest bands; we stayed out till two or 3 every night, singing, eating bratwurst and b.s.ing while walking back to the kaserne in the wee, wee hours. Then we’d hit the sack for two or 3 hours and start all over again.
Of course we couldn’t maintain that regimen day in and day out, but a 14 hour long sleep once a month or so, plus a catnap at noon seemed to serve, aided by youth and the aforementioned testosterone.
So, as it turned out, Rudy and I were as compatible as Cheech and Chong, and we had the time of our lives!
Our favorite hangouts downtown, both within easy walking distance from our kaserne, were the Tanz Palast and The Black Bottom.
Both featured great rock bands (often the top selling bands on the continent, excluding the British pop scene of course). Both venues attracted young, sophisticated ladies. And both treated us like young royalty (wallets filled with highly disposable – no, instantly disposable – income I’m certain enhanced our status).
What a life! And my treatment at the legendary Black Bottom reached heights rarely dreamed of in my degenerate pursuit of youthful pleasure.
Francine co-owned the place with husband Dele. We always figured him to be Algerian, and a French army deserter, but it was difficult to say as his English was about entry level, or below.
Dele was about twenty years Francine’s senior, a vocalist and guitarist of renown, and the host of a national television variety show. Over a long, successful career he’d accumulated enough dough to build his own nightclub and live an extremely comfortable lifestyle.
Francine ran the The Bottom on a daily basis as Dele was constantly performing or at home watching their two pre-school boys … plus Danielle’s kid who was pre-school as well.
Danielle was Francine’s assistant and best friend. She was French, single and had somehow wound-up in Koblenz with Francine. They worked together, lived together and … well, I’m not sure what all they did together, but I really didn’t care.
Francine was beautiful and statuesque, and about mid-thirties or so. Danielle, darker, shorter, and a bit younger, sported a shapely figure and a French accent … the sexiest way of talking I’d ever heard!
They were avant-garde, fashionable and … well, who wouldn’t fall in love with them?And miracle of miracles, they “loved” me as well! I think it had something to do with my scribbling. The more I drank the more I’d scribble … poetry.
I’d scribble on napkins, or table cloths or on just about any scribbable surface. At times I’d scribble behind the bar trying to help with its tending (I got pretty good at dispensing booze, but my collecting money for it left much to be desired).
Francine looked after her business diligently. She was pretty much a no-nonsense proprietress, reserved and quite German. If you were lucky enough to cross into her familie circle however (as had Danielle), she’d do anything for you … and, as dumb luck would have it, she adopted me!
She officially dubbed me her “little brother,” an honorary title that conferred upon yours truly free reign in her underground dominion.
Francine and I had a unique rapport. We laughed at the same things, loved the same music and appreciated the same poetry … and as fate would have it, my scribbles!
At The Bottom all things seemed possible … and surprises were often the order of the day. Like the ballerinas from the Parisian ballet company that stopped by after a performance downtown looking simultaneously sexy and coquettish,.
They looked like they’d stepped out of Vogue Paris looking like Audrey Hepburn in tight fitting blue jeans, sweaters with sleeves-pushed-up and an arrogant Parisian attitude.
I braved a dance with one of them, after which the rest of them wouldn’t let me sit down for a couple hours … which was the last thing I wanted to do!
That was The Bottom! Heaven!
To say I had it made would be like saying birds fly. I knew I had it made, and I fully appreciated it! I could never explain it, saw the irony in it and figured I could do nothing other than to gratefully accept it. After all, I felt it only fitting that a GI far from home should find a moment or two of relief while guarding the entire free world from those menacing Stalinist monsters lurking just on the other side of the nearby Iron Curtain!
The Black Bottom itself was like a set straight out of a 1960’s Fred Astair movie. Constructed inside of a giantic underground storm water tunnel you’d enter it by walking down into a huge tunnel.
The bandstand stood on your left as you entered, featuring some of the hottest make-you-want-to-dance rock ‘n roll on the continent.
The dance floor lay in front of the bandstand, with a semi-circle of small, round tables at its end, and booths lining the walls. Beyond that lay the bar and semi-private booths along the wall leading to more intimate surroundings in the rear.
The Bottom did a lively business, and on weekends the place was jammed and jamming!
It was a happy time … but around Christmas my pal Rudy’s countenance started to take a nosedive After all, he was a man who gave his whole heart to the Christmas Spirit, which for him unfortunately lay across the vast Atlantic in a place called Beaver Valley, Pennsylvania.
But, the cure for Rudy’s malady came, believe it or not, from the out of the depths of the God forsaken Black Bottom!
Coming next! How I Won The Cold War, Part 13 … A “BLACK BOTTOM” CHRISTMAS
I HOPE YOU ENJOYED THIS POST. IF SO, WHY NOT CONSIDER SHARING IT WITH YOUR FRIENDS? IF YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS ANY NEW STORIES, SIMPLY CLICK THE “FOLLOW” BUTTON ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THIS PAGE