Thursday, May 13, 2010

The German-American Heritage Museum

In one of the more unlikely juxtapositions you will come across, there at the edge of Washington, DC's Chinatown (right across the street, in fact, from our favorite dumpling and noodle joint) is the German-American Heritage Museum. New to the DC scene this year, the German-American Heritage Museum was something that this group of Neidenbach's just had to go check out.

The big surprise of the visit? There was a prominent display featuring none other than my hometown of Rahway, New Jersey. It seems that back in the middle of the twentieth century, a bunch of local German guys were hanging out in Nick Gruenwald's Delicatessen and came up with idea of forming a German club. The Deutscher Club of Rahway soon held its first meeting in Greven's Hotel. (Hey Mom, do you have any idea exactly where these places were located? Maybe we can go on a little excursion into Rahway's history this weekend...) To this day, the Deutscher Club, which now meets in nearby Clark Township, counts at least one Neidenbach as a member. (Hi Uncle Tony!)

So how well do you know your German-Americans? Here's a quick quiz...Which of the following people were German-Americans?

A. Fred Astaire
B. Babe Ruth
C. Herbert Hoover


PS: The answer is D (all of the above). You can also add Elvis Presley to the list...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Going Home Again

There's a telling line toward the end of the movie Lbs., where Lee Dawkins says something like the following to Neil Perota...

Remember. Just because you have changed, that doesn't mean that everyone else has changed.

A quick rewind is in order. What exactly is Lbs.? Lbs. is an engaging independent movie we had the chance to check out this weekend down at E Street Cinema in DC. The short of it is that a twenty-something-year-old son in a typical Brooklyn Italian family finds himself at a crossroads in his young life. Extremely overweight, Neil Perota realizes that his eating addiction is impossible to kick, surrounded as he is by his mother's delicious home cooking and the availability of pizza, pasta, soda, and junk food on seemingly every neighborhood corner. So off to rural upstate New York Neil heads, for an extended stint of living in a trailer (courtesy of local real estate agent Lee Dawkins) with the temptations and comfort foods of the city left far behind.

In the end, Neil succeeds in his quest and remakes his body over the course of several seasons of walking, biking, and splitting wood. But the weight loss, it turns out, is the easy accomplishment. Returning home, Neil is greeted by a father who is indifferent and a mother who is downright hostile to his extended absence, regardless of the results that were achieved. Neil finally gets a date with the local girl he pined over for years, only to find himself walking out of the restaurant before the evening really gets going. Reentry into his old life, which had gone on as normal while he remade not just his body but his mind as well, turned out to be the really tricky part.

Yes, it was a movie on one level about weight loss. But, as aspiring global citizens, the themes of reentry, indifference, hostility, and letdown were certainly emotions that resonated on a personal level. Looking ahead to next month (!), what will it be like when we return to, say, the alleyways of Saoziying? Will the magic still be there? Will we still feel such a deep connection?


PS: After the screening, we had the chance to meet and chat with Carmine Famigietti (Neil Perota) and director Matthew Bonifacio. Great job, guys! All of you in DC, you have until this Thursday to get over to E Street Cinema and see Lbs. for yourself.