Last scene in Hamburg and other errands

NOBODY could come up with the last words of ``Gone With the Wind,'' so the millions in giveaway prize money went begging. I, knowing the words, had to sit in front of the TV and lament and endure my enduring poverty. Speaking of money, I see that Sears, Roebuck plans to convert some holdings to finance inventory expansion, and along with The Tower, the transaction comes to a few billions, more or less. Is this the same Sears, Roebuck that just used up four months selling me six typewriter ribbons? There must be two of them and I'm using the wrong one.

My last ribbon had flaked off into tatters and the editor was squint-eyed, and something had to be done. The woman at the catalog counter assured me it would be but three days, and she was right. The ribbons I found in my handy mailbox were the wrong kind. Then the four months passed and the hefty beauties of the autumnal foliage wrought their joy and Mr. Sears and Mr. Roebuck were conferring with their real estate agent.

The woman at the counter would cringe when I shouted and turn to explain to customers that she didn't know me, and the editor had to send out for a bigger light bulb. Later, when I got the same letter three times telling me to reorder in 30 days, I reordered in 30 days and my problem has been resolved.

The last words of ``Gone With the Wind'' are ``Tomorrow is another day,'' or something like that, but I never heard them in English. I now take you to Munich in the fall of 1953, when I had a spare afternoon and went to the kino to see ``Gone With the Wind.''

This was my first visit to the Federal Republic of Germany, and to Munich, and I had been to the art gallery and the English Garden and had seen the ding-dongs marching at the city hall on the hour, and even negotiated a haircut. The posters for ``Gone With the Wind'' enticed me, and somebody told me the story appealed to a German audience that related to war scenes. Munich, in 1953, had barely begun to clean up its bomb rubble.

The deep-South aspects of the film had been translated into German, and the posters well-enough showed that, but I wasn't ready to hear Hattie McDaniel handling hearty Bavarian ichs, nochs, and Durchgangs. Clark Gable surprised me some, too, and the teutonic Dixieland adjustments of Leslie Howard were delicious. I had not seen ``Gone With the Wind,'' so I saw it in Munich.

The audience was rapt, and not a flicker flicked or gefluggled during the showing. Then the lights came on, and I concluded that my most incomplete German deprived me - the story didn't seem to come off. And it hadn't. I didn't know that ``Gone With the Wind'' was made in two parts, to be shown with an intermission.

I stepped onto Maximilianstrasse, caught the Strassenbahn for Swabin, and after giving the word and grip to the concierge reached my room in the pension to retire in wonderment as to how the Civil War came out, anyhow. I left Munich the next morning by rail, bound for Regensburg, and didn't get back to that magnificent city until 13 years later. I did not, however, have to wait all that time for the second half of ``Gone With the Wind.''

When I got to Hamburg in my travels, a month after Munich, ``Gone With the Wind'' was again up in posters along the Alster, and with the help of the desk clerk at the Hotel Continental I made a guess about the intermission and went to see the second half.

Hattie was still struggling with her ichs and nochs, but the story resolved itself and I came away well pleased with the outcome. Unless you have heard the differences in ichs and nochs betwixt Hamburg and Munich, Saxony and Bavaria, you'll never appreciate what a noble job Hattie McDaniel did!

So I saw ``Gone With the Wind,'' and otherwise I'd not have known what the last words are. I never read the book, as I've never read anything I can't read with one hand. Another literary triumph of that visit to Germany had to do with Dick Tracy. Back home I'd glance at Dick Tracy in the morning newspaper to see how Gravel Gertie was doing, but all at once I was in Germany, where not even the Revolverblatt had begun using strip cartoons.

For four months I didn't see Dick Tracy. When I got home, there was Dick Tracy and I found I hadn't missed a thing. Gravel Gertie was right where I left her. In four months the story hadn't moved an inch. Thus creeps on this petty pace from day to day, and there's always tomorrow.

I did reorder those typewriter ribbons after the stated time, and besides paying for them when they finally came, I clocked up 68 miles in the family vehicle to and fro the catalog order office - or as Hattie put it, hin und zur"uck. Fortunately, we had other errands on the same trips.

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