A Change of Air


Freddie Minto was finally asleep, his collar unbuttoned, his tie untied, his hands folded across his stomach, which rose and fell to the accompaniment of gentle, satisfied snores. He had started with martinis at ten o'clock in the morning, while the plane was still climbing over the beaches of Long Island, wandering around the cabin in his pink Brooks Brothers shirt and English sport jacket, teasing the pretty stewardesses as they wrapped themselves into their pale-blue serving smocks. By the time Nantucket slid away beneath us in the shining sea, Freddie had turned the first-class compartment into a cocktail party: gin, whiskey, champagne, caviar and pate hors d'oeuvres, cigarette smoke and conversation. The only other passengers up front were a cheerful suntanned middle-aged couple from Palm Beach, on their way to visit their married daughter in Scotland; a Life photographer with sad eyes and an impenetrable Hungarian accent; and two young Wall Street bankers in blue suits and white shirts, headed for London to work on a deal and envying us our holiday spirit. With so little to do, the stewardesses relaxed, flirted with Freddie, gave both of us too much to drink, and tentatively agreed to meet us for lunch the next day, at a place called Bentley's in Swallow Street. Then they served lunch themselves, or maybe it was supposed to be dinner. When they took the trays away, Freddie stood up, belched, made his way to the toilet, returned, folded his jacket into the shelf above us, sat down with a sigh, and clapped me on the knee. "Looks like we're on the way, hotshot."

"Looks like we are."

"You glad to be here?"

"Yes," I said, and it was true. "I'm damn glad to be here, Freddie."

"Good boy," said Freddie. 'We're going to have a ball." He pressed the button, reclining his seat back as far as it would go, loosened his belt, sighed again and closed his eyes.

I've never been able to sleep in the daytime. I looked out of the window for a while, watching the silver jet pods swaying gently above the rippled black Atlantic. The cabin was quiet now; most of the passengers were sleeping and the girls had closed down their little galley. I slid my dispatch case out from under my seat, opened it on my lap, and began to shuffle through the world I had so abruptly left behind.

First of all, the merger agreement between Boatwright and Warfield, as amended. Of course the Warfields had realized very soon how important they were to us: not only would the deal put a nice big block of Boatwright stock into friendly hands, but since they were in the same business as one of Boris Fleischer's own companies, the ownership of Warfield would make Boatwright an indigestible morsel for Fleischer. Although I had thought this up, I was not as optimistic about it as many others. I suspected that in the end Fleischer could make a deal with the Antitrust Division, perhaps promise to get rid of Warfield in some fashion, perhaps simply liquidate, but there was no doubt that in the meantime he would have a lot of trouble and that the deal would buy us time. When all of this dawned upon the Warfields, they wanted forty dollars in Boatwright stock for each share of their own stock. Fortunately for us they had already signed the agreement at twenty dollars.

I think that Ellsworth Boyle finally let me go to Europe in the midst of all this because he liked the way I handled the Warfields and their lawyers. I was as nasty as possible. I told them, at the end of one exhausting afternoon in our conference room, that whatever one might say about Boris Fleischer and his tactics, I had not heard of him welshing on a signed agreement. They did not like that. They pursed their lips and left, silently indicating that sticks and stones might break their bones and so forth, but next morning David Despard, still aching for his finder's fee, called up to suggest that they might come down to thirty dollars. In the end we settled on $27.50 and amended the agreement.

"You can leave as soon as we've closed," said Ellsworth Boyle. That wasn't good enough. "You don"t need me for the closing. Tommy Sharp and Ben Butler can draw the papers and Pat Forrester can make any decisions that have to be made. He's much better than I am at this sort of thing, anyway. You told me to go to Nantucket, didn't you? What difference does it make whether I'm in Nantucket or in Austria?"

Boyle shook his head. "A month in Austria with Freddie Minto! That's the last thing you need, in my opinion. What does Caroline say?"

"What is there for me to say?" wrote Caroline from Siasconset, Mass., on pale-blue letter paper. "You're going to do what you want anyway. But if you care, here is what I think: I think you do need a rest and a vacation, even though we are beset by all these troubles and even though it is with Freddie Minto. I don't know exactly what you are expected to do about the accumulated Boatwright problems, so that should not keep you chained to Philadelphia all summer, but I do somewhat blanch at the thought of Freddie. At times I have wondered if he is not perhaps deeper on the inside than on the outside, but it is the outside that seems to have such a strong influence on you: the carouser, the drinker, the storyteller, the girl chaser, dilated nostrils and wet lips, eyes narrowing to inspect the next glass of Chassagne-Montrachet and the next plate of coquilles St. Jacques and the next pair of bazooms -this almost pathological concentration on physical pleasure to the exclusion of everything else- this part of Freddie frightens me, not because I care a damn about Freddie but because I love you. And the thought of the two of you, unencumbered by wives, descending upon London and Salzburg . . . Freddie's playground and your playground! But what am I to do? Am I to object? Am I to say No, you can't go back to Salzburg, I won't let you take this opportunity to fly back to your boyhood, to that castle you've never gotten out of your system, you've got to come up here to Nantucket and sit on my family's lawn and play with your children? Is that what I'm to say? And watch you moping about it for the rest of the summer (if not for the rest of your life)?? No thanks, Graham. Go on back to Salzburg with Freddie and have a wonderful time, but please, darling, do remember one thing you always say: You Can't Go Home Again. Things are never the same again, and perhaps they never were the way we have them deep-frozen in our memories. All our love to you. C. P.S. Please don't be irritated about this check. I know there isn't much money in the firm this time of year and you can pay me back in the fall. Bon Voyage."

Beneath Caroline's letter was the stuff from Salzburg. Fancy letterhead with an engraving of Schloss Fyrmian. The American Academy in Europe. "Dear Mr. Anders, We are delighted to hear that you will be able to attend the session on American Legal Institutions which begins . . ." They enclosed a list of students, judges, law professors, law students and lawyers from every country in western Europe - and an outline of the courses to be taught by Professor Porter Lamason of the Harvard Law School, Assistant Attorney General (formerly Professor) Clinton W. Bergstrasser, Jr., of the Department of Justice, the Honorable Emmanuel Z. Steinberg of the Supreme Court of Delaware, and Professor Frederick McK. Minto, Jr., of the Law School of the University of Pennsylvania. I looked through the outline, which dealt with things I was supposed to have learned in law school, and wondered again what my job was supposed to be. This outline didn't tell me, and Freddie had only mumbled something about being "a catalyst."

I closed the soft leather top of the dispatch case and snapped the locks. One of the stewardesses, the Swedish one, came along the aisle with a tray in her hands. She glanced over at Freddie and then crouched down beside my seat.

"Your friend, he sleeps so happily."

"Oh, he's happy, all right."

The girl pursed her lips, deciding whether to say something. She had violet eyes.

"My friend -Brigitte, the German girl? She thinks he is a very funny fellow."

"Oh, he is, he is! A very funny fellow."

"She thinks he will really come to the place tomorrow, the restaurant."

"And you don't?"

She shook her head, smiling. "Not alone."

"Not alone? Oh, you think I'm not going to show up?"

"I think you are amused by your friend, and you think--" She paused again, searching for the way to say it. "you think ... I think, you think we are just teasing him, we will not come."

I said, "Oh." It seemed to be the only appropriate comment.

"But" -she looked me in the eyes this time- "I want to say to you, if you will be there, we will be there too."

"Okay, fine, we'll be there. It's a date."

"Okay." She stood up quickly. "You want some more brandy?"

"Sure, why not?"

She brought another glass of Cognac and then disappeared, while I unfolded the New York Times. The Bay of Pigs, the Bay of Pigs. Everybody was still breast-beating and screaming and blaming everybody else. Everybody was mad at the CIA. Senator Fulbright had been against the operation from the start. Boswell Hyde said he had been against the operation from the start. The President had inherited the plan from the previous administration. The CIA was to be investigated by General Maxwell Taylor. The CIA was to be limited to information gathering. The CIA might not get its new building in Langley, Virginia; there was talk of giving it to the Bureau of the Census instead. General de Gaulle was causing trouble in NATO, refusing to integrate French units. The British were further reducing their Army of the Rhine. West German armored forces were participating in maneuvers on the Salisbury Plain. The Russians were being driven to distraction by the troubles of East Germany. East Germany was very sick, hernorrhaging people: four thousand people per week were pouring into West Germany, most of them by taking the subway into the western sectors of Berlin.

Berlin, Berlin . . . still the bone in their throat, the hole in their pocket, suppose I had gone up with the Twenty-seventh that winter, would my life have been any different? And Armistead Devereaux: "The balloon may be going up." That was the Airlift. When was that? When did Peter die? Forty-eight. Long ago. Still hurts. And still Berlin. What am I supposed to do about these things? Turning the pages, feeling the Cognac now, Freddie snoring beside me. Turning the pages. There are guys whose job it is; 'taint mine. Advertisements for summer suits. Brooks Brothers. Abercrombie & Fitch. Chipp. Movie reviews. Women's Page. Princess Radziwill at Home. In lounging pajamas. Craig Claiborne. Oysters Rockefeller. Book Review. Business and Finance. Market up four points. Goody. J. P. Morgan said it will continue to fluctuate. Whoops, what's this down here? Boatwright Acquisition Scored. Merger with Warfield Motors Termed "Mere Ploy." "A spokesman for International Pipe Corporation yesterday characterized as a 'mere lawyer's ploy' the recently announced acquisition of Warfield Motors Co. by the embattled Boatwright Corporation, venerable Philadelphia locomotive producer. If completed, the acquisition could seriously interfere with international Tube's lengthy efforts to assume control of Boatwright, because International Tube, through other subsidiaries, already represents a substantial portion" . . . et cetera et cetera . . . "enormous expenditure in Boatwright stock to buy a company with negligible earnings is further evidence of the fact that Boatwright is now being operated by its lawyers, not for the benefit of its stockholders but merely to retain control for an inefficient and discredited management."

Well. Somebody seems to be angry about something. Uncool though. Doesn't sound like Fleischer. Oh, it isn't. The spokesman indicated that International Tube's response to the move would await the return of its Chairman, Boris W. Fleischer, who is abroad. Well, clip that out for the file.

I put the paper together and tipped my chair all the way back. My stewardess was coming back with the Cognac again.

"Fuck you, ya fucking Kraut!" shouted Freddie into the rearview mirror as still another big Mercedes rode up against our tailpipe, headlights and yellow fog lights blinking wildly, long blasts from his hom.

"Freddie, you're in the passing lane! A VW won't go as fast as a Mercedes. Why don't you let him by?"

"Fuck him! In '45 we'da blown him off the Autobahn, the son of a bitch!" He stuck out his lower lip and pressed the accelerator against the floormat. The little red Volkswagen roared and trembled up over 120 kilometers but the Mercedes slid by us on the right, horn blowing, the driver furiously tapping his forehead with his index finger.

"It's not '45, Freddie. Come on, why don't you take a nap and let me drive?"

He shook his head. "We'll change at the border, and you can take us into town." But he glanced into the mirror again and swung into the right lane.

Looking past Freddie's sullen face, I saw that we were coming down into the flat meadows along the Chiemsee. Beyond the reeds the lake stretched toward the horizon, deep blue in the blazing sunshine, dappled with hundreds of white sails.

The Autobahn from Munich to Salzburg was a road I had seen in my dreams for a long time, and now I wanted to look around -at the dark pine forests, the hayfields on side hills, the whitewashed villages, each with its church spire, the tumbling rivers milky green with glacial silt, and the mountains -first hazy blue along the horizon, then growing bigger and bigger until they towered against the sky. I wanted to enjoy all this, but instead I had to contend with Freddie's crazy driving, which was partly the hangover and partly the result of his irritation at finding the Germans so prosperous.

It had been different in London. Caroline was right: London is Freddie's playground, his paradise, his seventh heaven. We stayed at the Connaught Hotel in Carlos Place and ate expensive breakfasts in the sunlit dining room, among blooming flowers and morning-coated waiters who approached with a cry of "Sir!" if one looked at them; we spent hours at Freddie's tailor in Old Burlington Street, I being introduced and exhaustively measured, Freddie being fitted into a suit still consisting of pinned-together panels that had been cut according to the paper tracings in the tailor's files; we visited Freddie's club in Pall Mall and introduced ourselves to three startled but very polite Englishmen; we had a two-hour lunch with the stewardesses at Bentley's; we took the stewardesses for a boatride from Westminster Pier to the Tower of London and back again; we took the stewardesses shopping in Old Bond Street, New Bond Street, Regent Street and Piccadilly; we took the stewardesses to see Beyond the Fringe at the Fortune Theatre off Drury Lane; we took the stewardesses to dinner at Wheeler's in Soho; we took the stewardesses dancing at Murray's; we took the stewardesses to their hotel in Sloane Square, and then we marched all the way back from Chelsea to Carlos Place through the cool pink Mayfair dawn without ever breaking step, while Freddie whistled "Bonnie Dundee" through his teeth, over and over again. The next day Freddie remained in bed, drinking tea and reading the newspapers until it was time to go back to Old Burlington Street for another fitting. After that we inspected a Centurion tank at the Imperial War Museum and the Elgin Marbles at the British Museum, had a drink at Freddie's club and went to see The Merchant of Venice at the Old Vic. The girls had returned to New York, so we spent the rest of the evening drinking, and next morning we flew on to Munich, hungover and grouchy.

A long line of cars waited at the border control point. I took the wheel while Freddie walked ahead to exchange our money at the Wechselstube. The crowd at the border -license plates from every city in Germany and the nationality markers - GB, CH, B, NL, DK, F and all the others- reminded me that we were coming at the height of the Festival season. When I reached the sentries, they barely glanced at the green American passport cover and waved me past the red-white-red flags into Austria. Freddie climbed back in and slammed the door. "The home stretch, James."

Now it was my foot that pressed the accelerator to the floor. We followed the Autobahn through the woods and down the hill to the flatlands, and when we came out into the open, the first thing I saw was the Festung Hohensalzburg far in the distance, silhouetted against the shadowy curtain of the high mountains. We passed signs for the airport and for Schloss Klessheim. I looked for the Gebirgsjägerkasernen, but there were too many buildings everywhere.

"Hey, that was the exit for Salzburg you just passed."

I shook my head. "That was Salzburg-West. We're going to Salzburg-Mitte."

"We can stop someplace and get a map," said Freddie.

"We won't need a map," I said.

We were not due out at Schloss Fyrmian until after lunch, so we drove into the center of town, crossed the Salzach on the Lehener Bridge and came right down the Schwarzstrasse, past the Mirabell Gardens, past the Villa Redl, past the Mozarteum and the Landestheater, then made a U-turn in front of the footbridge, the Makartsteg, and parked under the trees of the Elizabeth Kai, where people sat on benches atop the levee and looked down into the river.

"You win," said Freddie, climbing out of the car. "We won't need a map."

We walked back to the terrace restaurant of the Österreichischer Hof. It was jammed with people in summer clothes, eating and drinking and photographing each other and chattering in a dozen languages. Every table seemed to be filled, but the harassed headwaiter came dashing up with his menus and his bulging wallet "Good morning, chentlemen, a table for only two?" and then we were sitting right beside the railing, staring through the leaves at the foaming green water and the inner city on the other side.

"You feel all right, Graham?"


"Want a drink?"


"Will they have Scotch here?"


The streets were so crowded that the shining new cars and the people could hardly pass through them; the buildings gleamed with fresh plaster and paint; flags flew from the tops of the hotels and from the terrace of Winkler's, a garish nightclub restaurant perched atop the right end of the Mönchsberg cliffs; the store windows offered food and wine and jewelry and wristwatches, shoes and purses and leather trousers, dirndls and raincoats and umbrellas, cameras, typewriters, phonograph records, books, antiques, cutlery, silverware, pottery, and souvenir junk of every description; horns honked, policemen whistled, traffic lights blinked . . . but it was the same town. Behind the old houses fronting on the river rose the massive magenta dome of the Kollegienkirche, the spires of the Franziskanerkirche and St. Peter's, and the twin towers of the Cathedral, backed up now by their own dome, rebuilt, as good as new, its copper sheath already turquoised by the weather; and behind the city and its churches rose the cliffs of the Mönchsberg and the battlements of the Festung Hohensalzburg.

The Scotch brought me back.

"What do you recommend here?" asked Freddie, carefully examining the menu through his bifocals.

"I've never eaten here, it was an officers' billet, but I'd try the Forelle Blau, with boiled potatoes and salad. They keep the trout swimming in a tank."

We ordered that, and a big carafe of open white Wachauer, and then I sipped the rest of my whiskey and stared across the river again.

"She here?" asked Freddie, observing me over the rim of his glass.


"The one you're thinking about?"

I shook my head.

"Where is she?"

"Bonn, presumably."

"Why Bonn?"

"Her husband is something in the German government."

"Have you been keeping up with her all this time?"

"Oh no, but I've seen his name in the papers sometimes. Defense Ministry or Foreign Ministry, something of that sort."

The trout arrived, poached blue, and the pitcher of cool wine. Making a long incision in his fish, Freddie peeled back the skin and then extracted the head and bones with a single careful movement of his fork - all the while delivering a lecture on the differences between French and Austrian methods of poaching trout. Around us the tourists ate and drank and talked with their mouths full, the young waitresses rushed back and forth with their heavy trays, a bustle and clatter of dishes and the smell of food. Freddie poured the melted butter over the chalk-white trout fillets.

It was a very good lunch.

As the girls removed the plates with our fish bones and began to put down the coffee cups, Freddie finished the last drop of Wachauer and glanced across at me.

"You don't want to wait for coffee, do you?" I shook my head.

Freddie turned around. "Herr Ober!"

Ivy covered the high stone walls, and the marble angels still played their violins atop the gateposts. We drove between them into the park, passing under the heavy foliage of oaks and beeches. We put the Volkswagen into a little grass parking lot which already contained a dozen cars, mostly Renaults and Fiats and more VWs from Germany and France and all the Scandinavian countries and Yugoslavia, a big Lancia from Rome and a battered little Vespa scooter from Turin. The walls of the Schloss were pale lemon yellow, the windowsills and shutters were white. We walked toward the porte cochere over freshly raked gravel, between rows of carefully clipped boxwood hedges. It was cool under the portico, and very quiet. Freddie grasped the bellpull, and we heard the ring inside. The door opened. An old man with white moustaches, in shirt sleeves and a green apron.

"Grüss Gott, Herr Aschauer," I said.

previous chapter, next chapter



1961 - A Point of View
[1] The annual meeting of the stockholders of the Boatwright Corporation
[2] What are you going to do about Boatwright and what are you going to do about yourself?
[3] Have we learned anything this evening, Doctor?
[4] Producing results?
[5] Alexander's Feast
[6] How'd you like to go over to Salzburg for a month with me?

1947 - An Island
[7] You're not going to Berlin. You're staying here.
[8] All right, we're the Military Government.
[9] The Americans are teaching us to be democratic instead of fascistic.
[10] Well, this is Fasching.
[11] Letters after Ash Wednesday
[12] Say Boris is at Schloss Fyrmian.
[13] THE AMERICAN ACADEMY IN EUROPE - Prospectus for the First Session
[14] Learn to think of people as individuals.
[15] Parlez-moi d'amour, redites-moi des choses tendres.
[16] Not one thing left to show that you've ever been on earth? - "Sources of Soviet Conduct"
[17] A Countess, a Prussian Officer and a Ländler
[18] Now this part of your life is over and I'm sending you home.
[19] A father who's too busy to watch his son die. - The Spring of 1961
[20] I cannot sell Schloss Fyrmian to the Academy.

1961 - A Change of Air
>[21] The first thing I saw was the Festung Hohensalzburg far in the distance, silhouetted against the shadowy curtain of the high mountains.
[22] Next day at the Academy we got to work - Graham, you know what Fleischer did?
[23] Im weißen Rößl am Wolfgangsee
[24] Brockaw writing a thesis on Austrian baroque architecture? - Boatwright Corporation and Boris Fleischer, plaintiffs
[25] You know there a Mr. Devereaux? Mr. Armistead Devereaux?
[26] I think always of Peter Devereaux.
[27] It sounds like an act of desperation, and it won't hold up in court.
[28] In those Oklahoma Hills WHERE AH WAS BOW-AHHHN!
[29] ... that we should meet again like this . . . I think perhaps there is a reason.
[30] "Is there here an American by name of Brockaw?"
[31] This is Boris Fleischer!
[32] "Does Hans work for Gehlen?" Paola shook her head. "More the other way around."
[33] Won't you please come home? Everybody needs you, I most of all.
[34] With this Waffenstillstand you have time now.
[35] You're going to regret this for the rest of your life!
[36] We Europeans would not do it. None of us. - People think you need medical attention.
[37] Will they trust you?
[38] Some things about the U.S.A. are perhaps rather important, and to us impressive.
[39] You're going to need a good lawyer.

version: March 2, 2004
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Arthur R.G. Solmssen, Joachim Gruber