I can tell you one thing about Singapore – ain’t nothing “poor” about it! Just this year it replaced Tokyo as the most expensive city on the planet.

My husband has been to that part of the world [a trip to Viet Nam, all expenses paid by the US Army, and a little side trip to Hong Kong for R&R], but I never thought I’d get anywhere near there. As it turned out, however, one of my cousins is working in Singapore for a couple of years so we figured we’d better take the opportunity to visit the place while he’s there and we could spare the cost of a hotel. Besides, a ticket from Berlin to Singapore costs less that a ticket from Berlin to the US. And you really get a lot of flying for your money—you only get to fly for about 8 hours if you’re going to the US, whereas you get to fly for about 12 hours if you’re going to Singapore. That makes it, even cheaper if you figure the cost of the trip by the miles/flying hours. Which is not to say that a 12-hour flight is 50% more enjoyable than an 8-hour flight (especially when you’re pushing 70 as hard as we are). Even more importantly, you can never get enough time with your cuzzies, so whimsical senior citizens that we are, we decided to go for it.

The airport alone is worth the trip! If you have to spend several hours in transit at an airport, this is where you want to be. It’s clearly designed to accommodate travelers. The luggage carts are free (no having to find the right change/currency); they even have free strollers, so parents can check their own strollers with their luggage and just use the airport strollers and ditch them at the gate. There are places for families that have diaper changing counters (so you don’t have to change a diaper on a chair or on the floor), nursing rooms, and play areas with cartoon channels on TV for the kids. There’s also a kids’ playground where you can run the little buggers ragged so maybe they’ll sleep for a moment or two on the plane. [And if the kids sleep on the plane, the other passengers will be eternally grateful.] I don’t know if you’ve ever traveled with small children, but every single thing you can do to make the parents’ lives easier is a wonderful thing.

Do you have a long layover? Do you think the passengers on your next flight would really appreciate it if you took a shower? Yep! You can do that. There’s also a transit hotel—the kind of hotel room you can rent by the hour and can actually register under your own name, instead of as “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”, and you can catch some quality ZZZs between flights. There’s a gym and a pool (which you can use free if you’re using the transit hotel).

You don’t have to lug your carry-on luggage (or your coat) all over Hell’s half acre until you board the plane; you can check it while you wander about the airport and retrieve it just before your flight. There are different kinds of lounge areas. Some have actual lounges where you can lie down and snooze (and withOUT TVs); other lounge areas have seats and TVs. Feeling a bit sick? Well, there’s a clinic to take care of you. Do you have a sharp object you forgot to put in your checked luggage? Well, there are kiosks where you can pop that puppy into a mailer and mail it to yourself.

Do you want to get some walking in before you settle down into a 12-hour flight? Well, you don’t have to just walk around being bored. You can walk around and see the sights inside the airport—the Kinetic Rain Sculpture; the Lilly Pad Garden; the Cactus Garden; the Enchanted Garden; the Orchid Garden; the Sunflower Garden; the Butterfly Garden; the Koi Pond; and the Perankan Exhibition on Porcelain of Asia. Had enough walking? Well, go to the Entertainment Deck, where you’ll find a casino and a movie theater. Do you need to do some work? Well, there’s a full service post office, a business center, and free Wi-Fi, Internet access, and mobile charging points. This, of course, is in addition to all the shopping, restaurants, massage chairs, and opportunities to get a manicure, pedicure, or a real massage that you may find at other airports.

And you go through security right at gate—so you don’t have to stand in line with ALL the passengers going through the airport; the only folks ahead of you in the line are the folks that are on your flight.

In short, you could just have the Changi Airport in Singapore as your destination and have a great time, even if you didn’t have cousins in town!

My cousin arranged for the company driver, Ricky, to pick us up at the airport. Good thing, too, because (as with any place the Brits had anything to do with) those folks drive on the wrong side of the road. Combine that with a place as busy as Singapore and a couple of old folks who haven’t been behind the wheel of a car but once in 4 years, and things could get really ugly really fast! Well, Ricky is used to picking up important business folks up at the airport so he has a spiel on Singapore that would rival that of any tour guide you can imagine. He told us so much about Singapore on the drive from (and, later, to) the airport, that I decided to call him “Ricky-pedia.”

Singapore is tiny—about 20 kilometers by 40 kilometers—and it has 5 million people. They use every square inch of space. (And, despite the fact that some folks say land is a good investment because they aren’t making any more, well, in Singapore, they ARE making more land. Bit by bit, they’re reclaiming land in the middle of the ocean. That, of course, doesn’t change the part about land being a good investment, especially here where it’s so scarce.) With so many people and so little land, the best way to build is up, and up, and up…. And if a bit of land isn’t part of a road or part of a skyscraper, it’s landscaped. Every single inch of it! You don’t even have to look at ugly utility cabinets along the roadways, because the roadside is landscaped and the utility cabinets are painted with murals that blend in with the landscaping. In some parts of town, they don’t even want to see cell towers so they put up artificial palm trees (which blend in with the real ones) that conceal the antennae.

Folks here really, really hate “ugly”, so there’s no graffiti or trash anywhere. In fact, they’ll fine you if you spit on the sidewalk. And it’s illegal to even bring chewing gum into the country. They started out by fining folks who throw trash on the street, but there are so many rich folks for whom a fine is no big deal that now, after multiple offenses, they’ll snatch you up, put a shirt on you that says “I am a litter bug”, and make your sorry behind spend several hours cleaning up the streets.

And they don’t even want you to act ugly. Throw the “F” bomb around, and you’ll pay a fine. Shoot someone the bird, and you’ll pay a fine. I wish I had bought the T-shirt that captures this aspect of Singapore. It had the 3 monkeys (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil) except they said:

See no litter
Hear no fireworks
Speak no vulgarities

SINGAPORE!

As we were driving toward my cousin’s apartment building, we saw Lamborginis, Ferraris, Bentleys, and Rolls Royces. Although I paid as much for my last car as I paid for my first house, my Volvo S80 would look like a jalopy here. I’d say these folks here have money to burn (but they probably wouldn’t burn it themselves—they’re so rich that they’d hire someone to do it for them, and they’d have to find a clean way to burn it).

And they are so efficient! If you have a car, you have a device that’s affixed to the inside of your windshield. You put a cash card in it and it works pretty much like the devices we had for the toll road in Virginia—you can just drive past the toll booth and it will charge your account for the toll. Except this device works for almost everything—access to your gated community; access to the parking garage in your apartment building; payment for parking everywhere. You can manually add money to the card almost anywhere, or, if you have a bank account in Singapore, you can automatically upload more money when you’re getting low. (Of course, the bad news is that if your card doesn’t have enough money on it to get out of the parking garage at the shopping center, the folks in line behind you may be tempted to risk getting a fine for shooting you the bird.)

And yet, as modern and high-tech as Singapore is, it still retains some old-world touches, which are especially apparent at some of the food markets, where you can buy live frogs and eels, for example. I don’t know what they do when you buy a live eel, but I saw what they do when you buy a live frog. First, they grab the frog around the middle and whack its head on the counter top. Next, they slice off the head with a knife, and cut off the feet with a pair of scissors. Then, they take the scissors and cut down from his neck to his butt and back up the other side to his neck again, and just peel his skin off like they’re taking off his jacket. And, not 100 yards away, you can buy some specialty ice cream in flavors like “Black Forest Red – Taylor Swift Limited Edition.” Of course, I don’t know what Taylor Swift has in common with Germany’s Black Forest; I’d think something like “Grandma’s Peach Cobbler” might be a better match with Taylor Swift (but what do I know?)

And, yes, we did go to the Long Bar at Raffles (which my cousin, having sent his daughter and his dollars to the University of Texas, thought was the Longhorn Bar) and had the original Singapore Sling. It cost 27 Sing dollars, which is $21 US! Told you the place was expensive!!!

Bezirk [1] in Berlin© – 48:  February 14, 2014

 LOOKING AT THINGS FROM DIFFERENT ENDS OF THE TELESCOPE

Language is so much more than just words, and learning another language is so much more than just substituting a word in one language for a word in the other (which, of course, is why when you use Google to translate something, you often get nonsense).  For example, the word “celery” in German is “Sellerie” – but, alas, if you ask for “Sellerie” in the grocery store, what you’re going to get is not something long and light green, but something round and whitish.  That’s because, when you say “celery” in the US, it invariably means “celery stalks” but when you say “Sellerie” in Germany, it invariably means “celery root.”  If you want “celery stalks” in Germany, you must specify that you want celery stalks “Selleriestängel” – just like in the US, if you want celery root, you must specify that you want “celery root.”

 SO, DO I HAVE ANY REGRETS?

 From time to time, folks ask me if I have any regrets about leaving the US to move to Berlin.  Do I miss my lovely house that was about 4 times as big as our flat in Berlin?  Well, sometimes – mainly when I’m trying to unlock the front door to our apartment house with one hand while juggling a bike with its basket full of groceries during a freezing rain (as opposed to sitting in my warm, dry car, pushing a button for the garage door to go up, and driving into my dry – and relatively warmer – garage).  And often, when I have to settle for the odd phone call, more frequently, e-mails and Facebook posts to communicate with my friends, rather than sharing a great dinner and a fun movie with them.  However, there are precious moments here that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world!  For example, having my fussy, sick, younger grandson (20 months) fall asleep in my arms while I sing to him the song I made up for my son and sang to him every bedtime for many, many years, and have my son tell me how that warms his heart.

IT MAKES SENSE, BUT STILL….

  • Kids’ groceries:  You know those little play groceries for kids’ play kitchens – tiny replicas of what’s in Mom’s kitchen?  Well, this is Germany, right?  And Germans eat sauerkraut, right?  So it’s only to be expected that you could find tiny replicas of canned sauerkraut, but still….
  • Restricted access to Legoland:  In Berlin, Legoland is an indoor thing.  It makes sense because this way it can be open 12 months a year (and, of course, the only way you can exit the Legoland is through the store, and the company wouldn’t want to forego the opportunity that presents itself when parents [and grandparents] have to drag their kids – who already are probably on a sugar-exacerbated Lego “high” – through the treasures of the Legoland store).  We have annual family tickets and definitely get our money’s worth – if you go twice a year, you save 10 Euros on the entrance fee and if you go more than that, the entrance is effectively free.  That doesn’t mean that you won’t drop a wad of money on expensive – yet marginally edible – food or make it through the store without buying something.  It just takes a little of the pain out of those other expenses if the entrance is free.  So, in an effort to squeeze just one more trip out of our tickets before they expired, we took the grandkids to Legoland last week.  Harvey was in a German class in the early afternoon, so the plan was for me to pick up the kids, take them to McDonald’s for lunch, and then on to Legoland.  When Harvey got out of class, he would meet me there.  Great plan, right?  Well, umm, apparently not.  It turns out that they won’t let an adult into the Berlin Legoland without a kid.  Surely you’re familiar with the concept of not allowing kids in certain places without an adult, but this business of not allowing an adult in without a kid was an unanticipated twist.  OK.  It makes sense – what better place for a pervert to snatch a kid than in the total bedlam that is Legoland – it’s hard enough to keep an eye on one kid, and most folks bring more than one.  If you who know the particular brand of Hell that is Chuck E. Cheese, you know exactly what I mean.  [Although I must admit – at least Legoland is a better class of Hell for adults.]  Fortunately, both of us have cell phones, and miraculously  I was actually able to hear my phone ring (since I’m half-deaf and the decibel level of an indoor Legoland approaches – if not exceeds – that of, say, your average a rocket launch).  We were also lucky that the Arctic temperatures had abated for the day, so the kids didn’t turn into popsicles when I dragged them outdoors without their coats (and through the store, of course) and back to the entrance so I could meet Harvey and give him the required kid so he could enter the store.  We did, however, mightily confuse the young lady taking the tickets, given that I had my receipt for having entered with the kids only an hour earlier.  I’m just glad that Legoland doesn’t have some other obscure policy about not being admitted twice on the same day – then we would have been totally screwed!  And, I’m glad that the gorgeous outdoor Legoland in San Diego doesn’t have the “no kids, no entry” policy, because Harvey and I were there years ago and we would have hated to have missed seeing it.

CLUTTER, CLUTTER EVERYWHERE!

Our house in the US was about 3,300 square feet; our flat in Berlin is less than 1,000 square feet.  We got rid of a boatload of stuff before we moved.  Then, while we were unpacking, we got rid of at least 10 more boxes full of stuff.  And periodically I try to go through the flat and see if there’s something else we can get rid of because, for one thing, we can always use a bit more room and, eventually, we’re gonna die and whatever I get rid of now, our son won’t have to deal with them.  [Having dealt with the possessions of the Queen of all Hoarders, I really, really want to spare my son that experience!]   One rule of thumb is, if it’s not useful or beautiful, you should get rid of it.  But sometimes a thing is neither, but you still can’t bring yourself to part with it.  One such thing I can’t yet part with is a jacket that hasn’t fit me in well over a decade, so it’s clearly NOT useful.  And I don’t think it could be described as beautiful, either.  It’s a black silk bomber jacket, with an MCI logo on the back.  It could – eventually – become a collector’s item, as MCI has gone the way of most telcos.  So that’s one reason to keep it (maybe).  But the other reason is much closer to my heart than any potential monetary value it could ever have.  I won this jacket.  In a lip-sync contest!  Yep!  Our organization in MCI decided to have a summer picnic and the person in charge of the entertainment came up with the idea of having a lip-sync contest.  I definitely had no interest in this, and the rest of the folks in my small department had even less interest.  However, you gotta go along to get along in the world, and I came up with an idea that let my folks meet management’s expectations with minimal impact on their dignity.  We were lucky enough to be the absolute last on the schedule, which made the impact even greater.  We had had the pleasure of watching all the other folks struggle through long, complicated renditions of songs like “I Heard It On The Grapevine” while we just sat, smugly biding our time.  We only practiced the day of the picnic, and went through our song maybe 3 times before we had it down.  When our turn finally came, the looks on the faces in the audience were priceless after they heard the first few bars of our song and realized that we were going to lip sync “Tequila!” [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tG6P2rBU-ho]  Yep!  We were perfect and we won the contest!  We decided that if we had to do this next year, we were going to do “Wipeout!” [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5D07c0dJuQ] – because it only had half the words of “Tequila!”  So, nope – I think my closet is going to have to make room for this jacket for a little while longer.

IS IT EVER OK TO JUST SLAP A TOTAL STRANGER?

I just do NOT get it!  I’ve never noticed this anywhere but Berlin, so I don’t know whether it’s the case throughout Germany or not.  But folks will come to a dead stop in the middle of an entrance – to light a cigarette, put on or take off gloves, or just stare into space.  They will also stop at the very top (or bottom) of an escalator, while folks behind them are bearing down on them.  Since it happens so often, surely this has happened to the folks who do this, too.  And wouldn’t you think that, if you’ve been the victim of this insanely inconsiderate practice, you would put 2 and 2 together and try not to do it yourself?  Well, the answer to both aspects of this rhetorical question is, apparently, a resounding NO!!  I swear, it makes me want to slap someone!  And I don’t care if they’re 5 or 85!  I just want to slap them ALL!!

THE INFLUENCE OF DACHSHUNDS

Given their name, it’s not surprising that many dogs in Germany would be dachshunds.  So you should expect that the short-legged, long-bodied look would appear in mixed breeds.  And, indeed, lots of dogs here seem to have that look (e.g., a dachshund-pit bull combination).  But sometimes it’s lots more amusing than others – like when you come upon a short-legged, long-bodied white poodle, with the standard poodle cut.  As one of my cousins would say, “That just ain’t right!”

AMAZING!

Harvey was out and about in the part of Berlin near the Frei Universität.  Many of the students there are Americans, as it is in the part of town that used to be in the American sector.  He encountered a young American kid – maybe 17 or 18 – who had apparently arrived in Berlin only recently and the kid asked him for directions to the Universität.  Harvey gave him the directions and then the kid said, “Wow!  You speak English really well!!”  Go figure!!  Clearly the kid hasn’t been here long enough to hear English spoken all around town.

EXPERIMENT

My blog machine has an editing feature where it identifies misspelled words, grammatical errors, and trite phrases (all certainly helpful).  Curiously enough, it also identifies homophones.  For example, if I’ve typed “weighs” it asks you if you really meant “ways.”  I’m pondering accepting these changes some time, just to see what happens.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR

I don’t remember whether it’s like this in the US (nor even whether it’s like this throughout Germany), but dishes on most menus here in Berlin are numbered.  There are so many Auslanders (furriners) here in Berlin that it undoubtedly saves millions of man-hours a year in giving and taking orders (and the inconvenience of serving the wrong dish).  But even this can’t preclude miscommunication between diner and server.  For example, last night I stopped at the Asian kiosk near our flat.  I’ve been intending to try it out (especially having seen our neighbors eating the food), and after a good, but long, day with the grandkids and with my better half being in the US for a long visit, last night seemed like a good time to do just that.  Well, I THOUGHT I had ordered #4 on the menu.  The lady at the kiosk thought I had ordered 4 dishes.  Since it was so cheap (under $5 per dish), and it was clearly my mistake, I just paid for all 4 dishes and took them home.  Fortunately the food is good, but I’m sure glad I didn’t try to order #7 on the menu!

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

As maddening as the German language is, there are some things that are endearing about it.  For example, the German word for “shoe” is “Schuh” and the word for “glove” is “Handschuh” – makes sense, right?  Well, some of the names for animals are equally appropriate:

  • A sloth is a “Faultier” (i.e., lazy animal)
  • A skunk is a “Stinktier” (and surely you can figure THIS out on your own!)

[1] ‘Bezirk’ is German for ‘neighborhood.’

Bezirk [1] in Berlin© – 47:  January 9, 2014

 IT’S TRUE!

 Remember when your parents would haul you to visit some elderly relative and you would wonder just exactly what that retired person did with their time?  Well, now I know, being one myself.  I just tend to the routine things – making the bed, fixing breakfast, washing the dishes, getting dressed, and before you know it, the day is practically gone!  We may not do much (if anything), but it definitely takes all day to do it!

IT’S MONDAY!

Germany (and, so far as I can tell, all of Europe) has some really fabulous breads.  One German bread that we particularly like is Dunkel-essener.  It’s extremely dense – pretty sure one loaf weighs at least 10 times what a loaf of Wonder bread weighs.  So, Harvey happened to be out and about and near a bio (organic) food store and decided to pick up a loaf of this wonderful (as opposed to “Wonder”) bread.  The lady looked at him in amazement when he asked her for it, and replied, “Heute ist Montag!”  (i.e., “Today is Monday!”)  Apparently you can only buy Dunkel-essener bread on certain days of the week, and one of them is definitely NOT Monday!  And presumably every German knows this and realizes how utterly preposterous it is to even consider buying it on Monday.

I ONLY THOUGHT I WAS HAVING A BAD DAY

I was at the grocery store check-out line and couldn’t find my cash card.  Fortunately, I had enough cash with me to cover the groceries so it wasn’t a major problem, but I wasn’t looking forward to the inconvenience (admittedly, minor) of having to go to the bank on Monday and request a new card.  But then when I left the store, I saw that someone else was having a far worse day than I was – I saw someone’s false teeth on the sidewalk (or, at least, the uppers) and the plate was broken in two, so clearly not having my cash card paled in comparison.  My day got even better when I got home and emptied my wallet to discover that I had simply put the card in a different place from where I normally do.

DEFINING “WORN OUT”

There was a time when I would consider an article of clothing “worn out” if it were the least little bit faded or frayed, but that is no longer the case.  Since I retired, I don’t have to worry about being “presentable” at work, where showing up in shabby clothes isn’t a “career enhancing” strategy.  Of course, retirement is also typically accompanied by a reduced income, so one tends to be a tad more circumspect about spending money in general, whether on clothes or anything else.  Consequently, “faded” and “frayed” are no longer sufficient criteria for throwing out clothes. Then there’s the age factor (which inevitably comes into play, whether you’re fortunate enough to be retired or not).  It used to be economical in the long run to pay a bit more for something if it would last a long time.  Now, not so much.  Now it’s all a game of trying to come out even, where you only need something to last until you die (which, of course, is a total crap shoot).  I remember when my Dad was about 60 and it was time to replace the roof on his house.  You have options of buying a 20-year roof or a 30-year roof.  He figured he wasn’t going to make it to 90 (so he didn’t need a 30-year roof) and that a 20-year roof would suit him just fine.  As it turned out, he only needed a 12-year roof (but that wasn’t an option).  However, he didn’t count on his wife making it to almost 90.  Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about big-ticket items such as major house repairs or cars, since we own neither, and the consequences of our miscalculations are much less drastic.  The most expensive thing we have to worry about is a washer. And as for our clothes, we have lots of leeway.  For one thing, given the character of our neighborhood, “shabby chic” is actually in style.  But aside from that factor, as long as a shirt doesn’t fall off my body and continues to provide an acceptable level of warmth, I don’t consider it “worn out” yet.  And, of course, pajamas get a lot longer life because, after all, if I’m in a situation where somebody is going to see me in my PJs, it’s probably a pretty close friend, who’s not going to judge me.  And I’m long past worrying about what some Emergency Room tech is going to think about my underwear if I’m involved in an accident.

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER

I have spent nearly 7 decades on the planet and only recently discovered the utility of “sheers” – you know, the nearly-invisible drapes?  I never could figure out why folks would have 2 sets of drapes on their windows – one that appeared normal and one that seemed to be invisible.  If drapes were intended to offer privacy, or to block out the sun, what possible reason could there be to have drapes that you could see through and that didn’t block out the sun?  Aha!  Now I know.  In the winter here, you can have a choice of having the drapes open during the day (and thereby getting the benefit of the scarce daylight you’re granted while losing heat through the windows) OR keeping the drapes shut (and thereby saving heat while missing out on the daylight).  So, here come the sheers!  At night, they provide an extra layer of fabric to keep the cold at bay and, during the day, you can still have a little bit of protection from the cold while also getting some precious sunlight.  Never too old to learn something, I suppose, regardless of how trivial it might be.

WHAT ARE THE ODDS?

The bus stop I use most frequently has a nice little shelter – a roof and 3 sides.  Anyone want to guess which of the four basic directions the wind was coming from this cold morning?  Yep!

CHRISTMAS TRADITION

What’s Christmas in Germany without going to a Christmas Market and having a bit of Gluhwein?  We decided to hit one of the markets on the Ku’damm – a major shopping area –  and had the luck to time it just right so that we could see what’s apparently another Christmas tradition – at least in Berlin.  Several of the motorcycle Santas were accompanied on their ‘hogs’ by their ‘old ladies’ (also in costume, but not as Mrs. Santa, but rather as angels).  Not a sight you see every day!

RAINING IN THE KITCHEN

Nope!  Didn’t leave the kitchen window open.  Nope!  The roof doesn’t leak (or, at least, if it does, we’d be about the last to know about it because there are 4 more floors above us.  In fact, it wasn’t raining at all OUTside.  Nope!  The upstairs neighbor’s plumbing wasn’t leaking into our flat.  I was, however, cooking and now that the weather is cold, heat from the stove will cause condensation on the tile back-splash and on the bottoms of the cupboards above the burners on the stove, unless I turn on the ventilation fan.  Never had that happen in any of my kitchens in the US (16, to be exact, and that’s only the ones after I left home)!  Never even heard tell of anyone having that happen.  Got my very own little rain forest!

THE MALICE OF FELINES

Can you still call it “malice” if it’s unintentional?  Maybe not.  Nonetheless, the effect is the same.  William, the Wonder Cat, took a little walk across my keyboard and the next time I tried to logon, I couldn’t – my password wasn’t recognized.  After several moments of frustration and many epithets, I discovered that my NumLk key was on.  He had apparently managed to step on the Fn key and the NumLk key simultaneously!  Electra once managed to hit a series of keys that turned my screen sideways; it took Harvey and me the better part of an hour to figure out how to undo THAT!

LITTER WARS

Our Dowager Queen Feline, Ms. Electra, exited the litter box, having tended to her business.  Apparently, William, the Wonder Cat, was not satisfied with Electra’s attempts to tidy up the litter box and tucked the front half of his rather large body into the box and re-arranged the litter more to his liking.  Unfortunately, when he does this, he often leaves a pile of litter at the front end of the box, which Ms. Electra finds so offensive that she expresses her displeasure by hanging her butt out of the box and peeing on the floor when she next uses the litter box.  No amount of counseling with either of them has been effective is changing this behavior.

ASPARAGUS AND WINE

Germans love their asparagus, especially the white asparagus.  Even if the weather gives you no hint of Spring, you can tell that Spring has arrived because all the restaurant menus suddenly feature lots and lots of asparagus dishes and little stands selling nothing but asparagus pop up everywhere.  And, as do most right-thinking folks, Germans love their wine.  Well, I saw something in the grocery store last week that apparently combines these two culinary delights – a bottle of wine that presumably has asparagus as a component.  Yep!  Not making this up!  See for yourself!

2013-08-25 - Asparagus wine


[1] ‘Bezirk’ is German for ‘neighborhood.’

Bezirk [1] in Berlin© – 46: October 12, 2013

 IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME

When we moved to Berlin from the US, I had to replace all my small electrical appliances, to include my make-up mirror.  Instead of a switch, the one I bought has a touch mechanism and you can touch it anywhere to turn the light on or off or to adjust it.  At the time, I thought it was pretty cool.  As it turns out, there are a couple of problems with it.  The first problem has to do with the cats, who, of course, walk all over everywhere, so if you leave the light plugged in, they might turn it on in passing.  And electricity is Germany is virtually twice as expensive as it is in the US.  [The monthly electric bill for our 1000 square foot, single level, 4-room, unairconditioned flat in Berlin is as high as the one for our 3300 square foot, 4-story, 9-room, air-conditioned house in the US.)  That problem’s easy to solve – just unplug the mirror when I’m finished. The second problem has to do with how I use the mirror, and this problem has no solution at all.  I must bump into this thing at least 20 times while I’m making my face!  And, because it has 3 settings – low, medium, and high – accidentally bumping into it means that I can’t just touch it once to turn it back on.  I have to touch it 3 times to get it back to “high.”  And, of course, I have to remember how many times I’ve touched it because if I touch it 4 times, it turns it off again and I’m right back where I started.  I have every confidence that over the past 3 years, I’ve tapped on that mirror enough times that, if it were Morse code, I could have tapped out Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

SOMETHING WORSE THAN LEAVING YOUR GROCERIES ON THE BUS….

Back in the US, when I had a car, I once did my week’s grocery shopping, pushed the cart into the pick-up place, went to my car, and blissfully drove home without loading my groceries.  Fortunately, once I got home I DID remember that I had been to the grocery store and was surprised when I opened my trunk and there were no groceries.  Also, it was nice that the grocery store was a mere 5 minutes away from home, so nothing spoiled.  The other day, I saw an apparently abandoned cloth sack full of groceries on the bus (to include a gorgeous pineapple.  And I felt great pangs of sympathy for whoever left it there, because the statistical probability of being reunited with your groceries under such circumstances approaches zero.  I haven’t done that yet (probably because I walk 2 block to the grocery store and don’t have to get on the bus), but what I have done is at least as bad as that, which is thinking that you’ve completely emptied your backpack of all the groceries, only to find out a day or two later that you’ve left something perishable (and smelly) in it.  But at least if food is spoiled, I can console myself that it’s not been a complete waste – we have a trash bin for organic waste, which is taken to a central place where, first, they capture methane gas from the waste (to generate electricity) as it decomposes and then provide what’s left to the farmers.  But I’m pretty sure the total yield from this doesn’t amount to the price I paid for, say, a pound of salmon….

HOW MANY FOLKS WILL YOU PUT ON THE PLANET?

Ever wonder what impact your life might make on the world?  Well, I did a timeline of my beloved grandmother, Veda Catherine Burns Terrell.  Along with my grandfather, James Norvell Terrell, (and a bit of help from other subsequent family members), my grandparents put a total of 87 folks on the planet – so far (and this changes on practically a monthly basis).

  • 10 children
  • 9 grandchildren
  • 21 great- grandchildren
  • 29 great-great-grandchildren
  • 19 great-great-great-grandchildren

 This doesn’t count the 19 other kids who were adopted or came into the family as step-children because, although they’re definitely family, my grandparents had no part in creating them.

Compare that side of my family to my father’s side of the family, where my grandparents, Adelia Dugan Holder and Thomas Samuel Holder, were only responsible for putting 7 folks on the planet.

  • 2 children
  • 1 grandchild
  • 1 great-grandchild
  • 3 great-great-grandchildren
  • 0 great-great-great-grandchildren (as the oldest great-great-grandchild is only 7 years old now)

Obviously, the motto of one side of my family was “Breed early and often” while the other side’s motto was “Leave it to others.”

SHADES OF THINGS TO COME?

Today I was playing with my 15-month-old grandson.  He had found his older sister’s play kitchen and was armed with a small bowl and spoon.  He decided that it was time to feed Grandma, which he thought was great fun.  I can only wonder if he’s going to have as much fun doing it when Grandma is no longer able to feed herself and he has to do this for real.

AND MORE PORTENTS…

Despite being small (at least by American standards and in comparison to our previous home),   I can see how the floor plan may not portend well for the future.  True, it only has 4 rooms (compared to our home in the US, which had 9), but it has an ungodly number of doors – 11.  The small foyer (about 5 ft. by 10 ft) alone has 4 doors:  one to our bedroom, one to the living room, one to the outside, and one to the dining room.  Our bedroom has 2 doors – the aforementioned one to the foyer and another to the living room.  Our living room has 3 doors – the aforementioned ones to the foyer and our bedroom, plus one more to the dining room.  The dining room has 3 doors – the aforementioned ones to the foyer and the living room, plus one more to the back hall.  The back hall has 4 doors – the aforementioned one to the dining room, plus one each for the guest bathroom, the guest bedroom, the master bathroom, and the back stairwell.  Thankfully, the guest bathroom, guest bedroom, and master bathroom only have ONE door each!  Even now we sometimes lose track of one another because if we’re both in motion, it’s possible for us to always be one turn out of the sight of each other.  I thought maybe we’d have to wear bells around our necks to help us locate one another, but our diminishing hearing abilities might preclude the effectiveness of that solution.  So, I can see it now – Harvey picks up the phone and calls our son (catching him on his bike somewhere between deliveries and pick-ups) and says, “Son, I can’t seem to find your mother.  Might you know where she is?”

 APPARENTLY, I DIDN’T GET THE MEMO (OR E-MAIL, SMS, TEXT, TWEET, OR WHATEVER THE LATEST FORM OF COMMUNICATION HAPPENS TO BE)

Our nearest grocery store is a block and a half from our front door.  As I was returning home with my groceries today, I encountered 2 ladies wearing mis-matched shoes.  [It’s entirely possible that there were others that I simply didn’t notice.]  One had on a pair of mis-matched Crocs; the other had on one walking shoe and one sandal.  Clearly, it was “Mis-matched Shoe Day in Kreutzberg.”  You may think it’s ridiculous to reach the conclusion that there’s such a day, but then there’s the “No-Pants U-bahn Day” – which, if you’ll note from the rest of the clothes folks have on, does NOT take place in the summer:

http://vimeo.com/34824981

ELECTIONS

It’s time for national elections.  Would you believe that election day is on Sunday?  I wonder how that affects the turnout – are folks more likely to vote on their day off?  Certainly, holding elections on Saturday would have a negative effect, given that most stores are closed on Sundays so Saturday is when most folks do their heavy shopping.  Another thing about German elections – one man/woman, TWO votes.  Unlike the US system where it’s an all-or-none thing (and if you vote for a 3rd party, you’re essentially throwing away your vote), the Germans have many parties and have found a way to make sure they’re all represented.  Your first vote is for a particular candidate to represent your region.  That’s a simple, winner-take-all proposition.  Your second vote isn’t for a particular candidate, but rather for a party (and it needn’t be for the same party as the one that your regional candidate represents).  After those at-large votes are counted, each party receiving at least 5% of the vote gets a proportionate share of candidates in the parliament.  [Each party decides which particular candidates will represent the party.]  For instance, in the US, if 33% of votes go to a Democratic candidate, and 33% go to a Libertarian candidate, and 34% go to a Republican candidate, then 66% of the voters are left blowing in the wind, while the Republican candidate (representing 34% of the electorate ) gets it all.  Hardly seems fair, does it?  In Germany, if 15% of the votes go the Green Party, 20% to the Orange Party, 15% to the Pirate Party (yeah – isn’t THAT cool?!!), and 50% to the SPD, then (in addition to the regional representatives), Parliament will consist of1 5% Green Party reps, 20% Orange Party reps,1 5% Pirate Party reps, and 50% SPD Party reps.  That’s more like it!

BAGELS IN BERLIN

You would think that you could find bagels in Berlin.  But think about this a moment – about 80 years ago, Germans initiated a program to get rid of the folks who tend to make bagels, and the country apparently still hasn’t recovered from that.  But today I found some bagels.  You’ll never guess where!  In the “American” food section, along with the hot dog buns (which, actually accommodate frankfurters, a good typically associated with Germans) and the hamburger buns (once again, “Hamburg” having German origins).  Go figure!  The “American” food section has maybe 20 items and, although it includes wonderful things like barbecue sauce, the shelf space is often wasted on total crap such as Pop-tarts.  I can assure you that this is NOT something I miss!  I would much rather have something like grits or good ol’ Cream of Wheat!

AN 18-MONTH OLD’S APPROACH TO PROBLEM SOLVING

Our youngest grandson has a toy that is known to millions of parents.  It’s a bunch of blocks in different shapes (cube, cylinders, triangles, and stars) and colors.  They come in a bucket that has a lid with holes in the shape of these different blocks.  The object is to help the kid learn how to find the right hole for each shape of block.  Well, after trying this for a few minutes with virtually no success, he just cuts right to the chase and takes that useless lid off!  It’s so much easier to get the bocks into the bucket without the lid!  What are these crazy people thinking by putting the lid on the bucket?

He also found a way to help the family with the toilet paper problem.  It seems it takes Mom, Dad, big brother Noe, big sister Milla, and sometimes Grandma and Grandpa, a number of days to put a roll of toilet paper into the toilet.  Well, Levi identified the problem right away – they only put a few pieces of paper in at a time.  So, he just cut to the chase and put a whole roll of toilet paper in the toilet.  Reminds me of one of the characters on “Burned” who, in the intro, says, “That’s how we do it, people!” after having blown something up.

AS IF I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT

I now have to worry about toilet ghosts!  Milla has informed me that there are such things and that you should hold on tight to the toilet seat because if you don’t, they’ll come up out of the toilet and bump you so hard that you’ll hit your head on the ceiling (and when you live in a place with 14 ft. ceilings, that can be quite a jolt)!  I told her that it must be horrible for them because they always get covered with pee and poop.  But she said, “No, they like that!”  At least everybody is at risk of being attacked by toilet ghosts (women, however, disproportionately to men), which is better than the threat from the pegasus rhinoceros vampire, which will drink only Grandma blood!

 Vampire Rhinocerous Pegasus

 


[1] ‘Bezirk’ is German for ‘neighborhood.’

DeLighted in Leipzig  (September 21, 2013)

Even retired folks need a ‘get-away’ from time to time, and we really needed some time away from the cats – their incessant demands to be fed; their continuous fidgeting in the bed; waking up pinned to the bed by 25 pounds of cats.  So, we decided to take a couple of days and go to Leipzig, about a 1-hour train ride from Berlin.  It was truly lovely.

HEAVEN!

One of the real treats was the hotel – Steigenberger Hotels and Resorts!  Here’s a list of all the items they supplied:

  • Magnifying make-up mirror in the bathroom
  • Absolutely luscious shower!  Lots of water and lots of room in the shower!  I could have stayed in the shower the WHOLE time we were there!
  • Q-tips, cotton pads, a nail file (in addition to the standard soap, shampoo, and hand lotion)
  • Washcloths (which are rare in Europe)
  • Free slippers
  • Even an umbrella for you to use
  • Turndown service with a piece of chocolate on your pillow (EVERY night!  Not just on the first night, like the Moevenpick Hotel did in Zurich!)
  • And, the most amazing thing – a FREE 1-liter bottle of water in the room!

 Alas, they still had those piteous European pillows – huge, but really, there’s no “there” there in these things!  European pillows are to real pillows as cotton candy is to real candy.

HOW TO TELL WHEN YOU’VE BEEN MARRIED TOO LONG

We’ve been married almost 46 years.  For a few decades, both of us worked in telecom.  To us, the “T” in “T-shirt” stands for “telco.”  So we have had any number of T-shirts for any number of different telecoms.  We also have lots of other T-shirts, since, these days, ‘dressing up’ means putting on a nice T-shirt.  So, we each packed our clothes to go on a 2-night trip.  The odds of EITHER of us selecting our Nortel T-shirt would have been pretty small.  The odds that EACH of us, independently, would select our Nortel T-shirt would be even smaller.  So imagine the odds that we would both – independently, of course – select the Nortel T-shirt for the same day, realizing this only in the elevator as we left our room!  Yep!  We’re a pair of half-wits, apparently having only one brain between the two of us.

SPEAKING OF T-SHIRTS

You often see T-shirts here with words and/or images on them that are familiar for Americans, but you have to wonder what meaning they have for Germans.  For example, in Leipzig we saw a T-shirt commemorating the movie “Easy Rider” – which came out 44 years ago.  It’s hard to imagine a German teenager knowing about that.  And another T-shirt was even more esoteric – I’m not sure even an American teenager would understand this reference:  “As I Lay Dying” – a book by William Faulkner.  You also see lots of T-shirts for various American colleges (most of which are relatively obscure).

WHERE GOETHE LIVED

Not bad!

 2013-07-15 - Leipzig - 06 (Goethe Haus)

 LEIPZIG ZOO

This has to be the best zoo on the planet!  The animals are arranged according to continent, with the habitat as close to their natural habitat as can be managed in Germany.  And it’s more like walking in the woods, where you can stay out of the hot sun as you walk through the zoo, with plenty of benches where you can stop for a rest.  The less exotic animals are interesting as well, specifically the sparrows.  For one thing, once you sit down on a bench, they flock to you because they’re definitely expecting to be fed.  However, if you don’t accommodate them quickly, they won’t waste their time on you.  One little fellow apparently got closer to a cat than he wanted to because he seemed to have no tail feathers.

THINK I’LL PASS….

Beware of foreign attempts at American food – one of the snack shops in the zoo offered a “BBQ Sandwich Burger”—and since they couldn’t manage to use the right phrasing, I’m pretty sure the interpretation of the term “BBQ” wouldn’t be quite right, either.  And elsewhere we saw a café that offered “Chili con carne – Texan Recipe.”  Nope.  Not gonna risk that, either!

WELL, DUH!

I love apes (who don’t have tails) and monkeys (who do have tails) and one of the attractions at the zoo was the bonobo chimpanzees.  These beasts are known for their promiscuity and their universal solution to anything that causes them stress is not aggression, like most animals.  Nope, their universal solution is sex.  Got a headache?  Well, just have sex with whoever is handy.  Hungry?  Well, let’s just have sex.  Too hot?  Just have sex.  Too cold?  Just have sex.  So you can imagine my surprise when I saw the sign announcing that the zoo’s baby bonobo was born in April, and, although they named the mother, they stated that the baby’s father was unknown.  Gee!  Do you think?  This guy may – or may not – be the daddy….

2013-07-16 - Leipzig Zoo - 11 (Bonobos)

THE LATE, GREAT HEIDI

In addition to the Leipzig Zoo being famous for its design, there was something else that helped it gain world-wide fame, and that was being the home to the lovely Heidi, the cross-eyed opossum.  Alas, Heidi’s life was far too short, and we didn’t get to see her in life.  But, of course, the zoo’s gift shop was full of all sorts of stuffed toys in her image.  We even found a candy shop where you could buy marzipan versions of Heidi.

See full size image

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heidi_(opossum)

 THOMASKIRCHE

Folks in this city are used to tourists.  Want to take a photo of their famous church, where Bach made music?  Well, they’ll tell you where to stand to get the best shot:

2013-07-17 - Leipzig - 07 (Where to stand to take a photo of Thomaskirche)

So here’s the photo of the church taken from that spot…

2013-07-17 - Leipzig - 06 (Thomaskirche)

And the organ Bach played

  

2013-07-17 - Leipzig - 04 (Organ in Thomaskirche - where Bach played)

 

 AND ELSEWHERE IN LEIPZIG, KEEPING THAT WHIMSEY THING GOING….

 A bench outside a skateboard store…

 

2013-07-16 - Leipzig - 04 (Skateboard Bench)

 

 And, in case you want to go through this garage door without opening the whole thing, here’s a door inside a door.

2013-07-16 - Leipzig - 03 - Door in a door

As you may remember me noting, folks in Berlin consider themselves virtually naked without a scarf.  You’ll see them wearing scarves in 90 degree weather, with short-shorts and a halter top.  Apparently, the folks in Leipzig take it ever further – they don’t want their sign poles to be seen without scarves, either.

2013-07-16 - Leipzig - 02 (Pole with knitted coverI)

 RE-THINKING ONE’S GENEROSITY

As just about everywhere in Germany, Leipzig has its fair share of street musicians.  As we were walking through the shopping district, we came upon a young girl who was singing a cappella, and we gave her a Euro.  Shortly afterwards, we stopped for some ice cream, and thought about that young girl.  She really was a very poor singer, and we wondered if we shouldn’t go back and retrieve our Euro – after all, it was cruel to encourage her singing, since she clearly had no talent at all.

 

Bezirk [1] in Berlin© – 45:  July 28, 2013

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU WONDER…

Under the “Everything Old is New Again” front, we’ve been watching the new “Hawaii 5-0” and it occurred to us that maybe we should look up the original version, too.  We have definitely been enjoying the old one—especially a recent episode that involved a GI on R&R in Honolulu, which reminded us of our trip there while Harvey was in Vietnam in 1968.  But sometimes you see things on old TV shows that just make you scratch your head.  One of the episodes had Ricardo Montalban, a Latin guy with a pronounced Spanish accent, who, with the help of a little make-up, played a Japanese mobster.  What was particularly odd was that even the old “Hawaii 5-0” used a lot of Asian actors to play Asian roles (go figure!), to include two of the four key roles in the show.  So why was it so hard to find an Asian actor to play the role of a Japanese mobster?  Did Ricardo just have a hankering to be in Hawaii 5-0?  Is Fantasy Island just a hop, skip, and a jump from Honolulu?  I kept expecting Hervé Villechaize to pop up and say, “Da plane!  Da plane!” [But maybe, if we keep watching, Hervé will show up!  In fact, the shows did have a bit of an overlap, with Hawaii 5-0 running from 1968 – 1980 and Fantasy Island running from 1977 – 1984.]

 WISH I’D HAD MY CAMERA

Today I saw a guy jogging.  Nothing particularly unusual about that, of course, except that this is, after all, Kreuzberg and you rarely see what you expect to see.  This guy must have been at least 6’6” and skinny (as you’d expect a jogger to be).  He was dressed totally in black, which made his long, white beard even more dramatic as it parted in the middle and flowed over his shoulders in the breeze.

 SO, WHO WON THE “TAKE OLDAMERICANLADYINBERLIN AND HER HUSBAND OUT TO DINNER” CONTEST?

 Bet you didn’t even know there was such a contest, did you?  Well, guess what?  Neither did I.  But nonetheless, there was indeed a winner – Ann from San Diego.  It turns out that Ann had been planning a trip to Germany and ended up coming through Berlin.  While she was planning her trip, she came across my blog and contacted me for some info on Berlin.  We traded e‑mails for awhile and when she got here, she ended up taking me and my husband out for dinner at a great Italian restaurant in the neighborhood.  What a cool way to meet!!  I think I’ll continue the contest, although it doesn’t work like other contests:

First, the winners are self-determined (all you have to do is tell me when you’re coming to Berlin);

  • Second, there’s no cut-off date for entries (except, of course, this offer expires when I do); and
  • Third, the number of winners is wide open (sort of – not to exceed 365 a year)!

How cool is that?

HOW HOT IS IT?

 It’s 96 – too hot for earrings!!  In all fairness, I have 3 holes in each ear, so I wear a total of 6 earrings at a time.  It adds up, you know!

 WELL, IT DOES MAKE SENSE, AFTER YOU THINK ABOUT IT AWHILE…

 You know how when people lose things, they put up signs on lamp posts, telephone poles, fences, etc.?  Well, here in Berlin they also tape them to the sidewalk.  That didn’t make any sense to me, given that the wear and tear is a bit rougher on such signs than when they’re up on telephone poles, but there is a certain logic to it.  For one thing, in Germany, they say you can tell when someone is from Berlin, because they’re always looking down to avoid stepping in dog crap.  But there’s a second reason – the person who may have found what you lost probably found it because he or she is the kind of person who looks down at the sidewalk when walking, so you definitely want to target the side-walk lookers, don’t you?

 BE STILL MY HEART!

 My 7-year-old, German-as-a-first-language grandson did something fabulous today!  He corrected my English!  AND he was right!  I told him to tie his shoes and he told me that I should have told him to tie his shoe, because only one shoe had loose shoe laces.  But, as I type this, I realize he didn’t catch me on a bigger mistake, which was that I should have referred to his shoe laces, rather than his shoe.  Still, I’m pretty proud that he’s paying attention to things like this!!

 YOU DON’T MISS YOUR WATER UNTIL…

 …a pipe breaks and you’re told you’ll be without water for at least 4 days.  So, we are indeed grateful for the following things (none of which existed when I was a child):

  •  Ready supply of bottled water
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Butt wipes

Further, we’re grateful that we have no small children (particularly none in diapers) and that we don’t somehow have to make ourselves presentable to go to work every day.  And, since we live in a building that’s more than 200 years old and originally had lead water pipes, we are glad to see that at least some of those pipes are being replaced (hopefully, with pipes made from materials that are substantially less harmful than lead—and I did see some new copper pipes lying around).  And, of course, since our heat depends on hot water, we’re glad this didn’t happen in the winter, where we’d be not only dirty and thirsty, but also cold!  Plus, we have an excuse for eating out!  Admittedly, this “bright side” of things was much brighter on Day One of going without water; we’re now on Day Three, and the “looking on the bright side” thing is not necessarily doing the trick for our annoyance about the situation any more.  [But, as it turns out, the water came on during Day Three instead of Day Four – so, for THAT we’re definitely grateful.]

DON’T THINK SO…

Ordinarily when I see something odd in the grocery store, I’ll buy it.  For example, the ever-popular Corn Worms (which, as it turns out, are only marginally less disgusting that the image that pops into your head when you see these words together).  But I declined to buy something called “Original Bavarian BBQ Sauce” (or, actually, the German equivalent of those terms).  Why?  Because it’s really dicey when Germans try to interpret an American dish.  Besides, being from Texas, this would be messing with something really sacred and I’m pretty sure I’d regret it.

PRETENTIOUS OR ESSENTIAL?

Some years ago, we decided to be pretentious and buy a pair of silver napkin rings, with our names engraved on them.  For decades, they sat in the buffet, gathering tarnish.  I thought I had lost them in the move, but, as it turns out, I’d packed them with the Christmas ornaments, which had gone unused for our first 2 Christmases here.  When they turned up, we decided that we really must use them.  It’s a bit preposterous using them with cheap paper napkins, but this isn’t the first preposterous thing we’ve ever done and it’s highly unlikely to be the last.  But, pretentious or preposterous, these napkin rings are becoming essential.  Why?  Because they have our names on them.  Just the other morning, I put mine in front of Harvey’s plate.  Fortunately, this didn’t confuse him—he knew right away that he wasn’t Jaton’.  So, as long as ONE of us knows who he or she is, we’re in pretty good shape.

USE IT UP, MAKE IT LAST, FIX IT UP, OR DO WITHOUT

If you see a clown walking around our neighborhood, it might well be the oldamericanladyinberlin.  It’s a long story.  Here’s a bit of background.  I hate to run out of things, so when I get low on things, I add them to the shopping list.  And the threshold for “low” is variable, of course.  If you have 8 ounces of salt, you’re not running low; if you have only 8 ounces of milk, you are definitely running low.  With makeup, it’s really hard to gauge what “low” is.  For instance, if you have a teaspoon of blusher, you’re not low.  Well, I’ve got substantially less than that, so I bought some more.  But the old blusher is lasting for freakin’ ever!  And I want to use the NEW blusher!  I could throw it away – really, the amount that’s left is about the size of 4 grains of rice.  But my parents were raised during the Depression, so I can’t waste anything.  [Well, actually, my Dad was the one who was really impressed by the Depression; his parents had built up a nice plumbing business and they lost everything.  Nobody on the maternal side of my family even noticed the depression.  That’s because they were share-croppers.  Before the Depression hit, they were dirt-poor; they started out with nothing, and after the Depression, they still had all of it left.  It was all the same to them.]  So, I can’t throw this away, but I CAN use it up, and the more I use, the faster I’ll use it up.  So, if you see someone who looks like a clown in Kreuzberg, it’s probably me.  [But, I forgot – Kreuzberg is the neighborhood where looking like a clown is not something that’s gonna draw anybody’s attention….  In fact, when we see a guy in a suit, we ask him if he’s lost.]

ANOTHER WAY TO TELL YOU’RE IN AN OLD PERSON’S HOUSE

When an indispensable kitchen tool is a magnifying glass….

SIGNS

  • Someone is filming a movie in Berlin, so there are help-wanted signs all over advertising for folks to fill the various jobs associated with making a movie.  This isn’t particularly unusual.  What is a tad unusual is the film’s title – The Nature of Oklahoma.  I wouldn’t think that Berlin would be the locale for such a movie.  But then I checked out the “movie” and it’s even more bizarre than I had first imagined.  http://englishmaninberlin.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/guest-post-training-day-with-the-nature-theatre-of-oklahoma-by-pat-oday/
  • Berlin is also a very musical city.  In addition to German musicians of all sorts, lots of American artists also perform here.  And there are also lots of bands with interesting names.  The sign for one of these bands caught my eye – The Swingin’ Utters.  And I kind wish I hadn’t seen that sign; that’s an image I can’t get out of my head!!

WHEN YOU’RE RUMMAGING AROUND IN THE FRIDGE…

pay attention and be careful not to mistake the jar of vanilla yogurt for the jar of Miracle Whip.  Otherwise, you’ll have quite a surprise when you bite down into your sandwich of salami, cheese, pickle, and mustard.

 


[1] ‘Bezirk’ is German for ‘neighborhood.’

Bezirk [1] in Berlin© – 44:  July 13, 2013

HOW PROVINCIAL CAN YOU GET?

I spent the last 37 of my working years in the Washington, DC, area, and for the last 20 years, I worked for contractors to the Federal government.  The standard conversation-starter when you met someone in the DC area was inevitably either “Where do you work?”  or “What do you do?”  The statistical probability was pretty high that the other person either worked for the Federal government or worked for a Government contractor.  Consequently, it was very easy to immediately find some common ground—maybe the other person would mention the name of another contractor (and you may have once worked for that company, or knew someone else who worked there) or a Federal agency (and you may have once done work for that agency)—and you could go to the next step, “Oh, I used to work there!  Do you know So-and-So?” and start rattling off names.  In the “What do you do?” category, there was a fairly small range of occupations, when you came right down to it, and, again it was fairly easy to find some common ground (especially if you’re married and your spouse’s employer and occupation offer another boatload of opportunities to find that common ground).

The other method that sometimes works for me is just telling folks my name, because most folks haven’t heard of my first name – Jaton’—and I can always start out by telling them where it came from.  But this tried and true method of starting a conversation wasn’t going to work when I went to my high school class’s 50th reunion.  Given that I went to high school in a small town in Southeast Texas (a population then of about 12,000), there were only 180 folks in the class and they already knew my name.  So I went with “What do you do?” since I hadn’t seen most of these folks in 50 years.  It turns out that this method failed me as well.  One of my classmates, it turns out, hangs draperies.  At that point, I just blathered something – can’t even remember what – because my piteous repertoire of conversation-making tools failed me.  None of the follow-up questions applied, and my brain just froze.  So, that’s how flippin’ provincial I can be!  My classmate who hangs draperies for a living gets to have a hand in doing something that is both useful and beautiful.  (Well, I’m sure he’s had to hang some draperies that he thought were pretty hideous, but, in any case, they were still useful, and probably they were beautiful to the person buying them.)  On the other hand, I spent the better part of 20 years writing what would turn out to be “shelf-ware” – documents that folks were required to have on hand and that gave guidance that folks were supposed to follow (but, in practice, almost never did).  And, on more than one occasion, work that I had spent years developing was simply tossed out when management changed.  (It would have been lots easier – and saved the US taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars – if, instead of reinventing the wheel, the new guy in charge would have simply gone around pissing on stuff to establish his dominance of his new territory, but apparently that is frowned upon in polite society.)  So, in essence, my work turned out not to be very useful at all.  And definitely NOBODY would consider the 3-ring binders that I went to great pains to fill with words as “beautiful” (nor would anyone have even noticed the absence of all this paper if it had never been generated).  On the other hand, if there were suddenly no drapes in the world, THAT would most certainly be noticed!

This reminded me of an experience I had when we had just moved to Washington, DC.  We had recently seen all three of Preston Jones’s Texas Trilogy plays.  We were at a party and were chatting with a psychiatrist from New York City and the plays came up.  He said he had seen one of them, but that he found the characters unrealistic.  We, on the other hand, having grown up in Texas and sharing DNA with folks who were just like the characters in the play, felt that they were absolutely realistic.  But this guy, who hadn’t ventured very far from NYC, wasn’t any less provincial than folks back in Texas who had never gotten more than 100 miles from where they grew up.  That was an eye-opener for me – no matter how supposedly sophisticated the place you live may be, you can be just as provincial as anybody else.  And, no surprise, the plays got mixed reviews in NYC!   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Texas_Trilogy

YOU KNOW YOU’RE IN SOUTHEAST TEXAS

 …when the local news includes stories like two guys getting into a fight, and one of them stabbed the other with a power tool.  One time when I was there, a guy had gone down to Judice’s Market and stolen some boudain (a kind of Cajun sausage), and even that made the news.  Must have been a slow news day….  But I’m pretty sure that if I had shared this with that NYC psychiatrist, he would have thought I was making it up.

 HOUSTON TRAFFIC

One of my Facebook friends mentioned how horrid traffic can be in the Washington, DC, area.  Just to see how DC ranks with the rest of the US, I checked out the statistics and, unbelievably, of the top 10 cities, DC is not at the top of the list!  In fact, it just barely made the list—it’s #9!  Another thing that astounded me was that Houston didn’t even make the top 10 at all!!  This alone makes me doubt the validity of this particular list.  I was just in Houston, and the traffic was wretched!  But, on second thought, the thing that scared me the most was that folks were going well over 70 mph, with less than a car length between them.  I guess if you’re going 70 mph, that’s not really a traffic jam after all.  In fact, if all the drivers in Houston actually followed what all of us were taught in driver’s ed—which is to leave one car length between you and the car ahead of you for each 10 mph of speed—drivers in Houston wouldn’t even be able to get out of their driveways, because there’s just not enough road to allow that!

1. Los Angeles
2. Honolulu
3. San Francisco
4. Austin
5. New York
6. Bridgeport, Conn.
7. San Jose
8. Seattle
9. Washington, D.C.
10. Boston

Read more: http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/05/07/top-10-u-s-cities-with-the-worst-traffic/#ixzz2UOx3YI3m

 HOW BIG IS THE FRANKFURT AIRPORT?

I’ve been through this airport lots of times since 2002, and have always been overwhelmed with its size, so I thought I’d check out the statistics to see whether it’s just that I’m a country bumpkin and haven’t seen that many airports, or whether the sucker really is huge.  Well, I may be a country bumpkin, but, in fact, this thing is gargantuan!  The airport covers 136 acres.  It’s the 3rd busiest in Europe (after Heathrow and De Gaulle) and the 11th busiest worldwide.  In 2012, more than 57.5 MILLION passengers went through this airport, with 488,242 airplane movements (i.e., take-offs and landings – presumably at a 1:1 ratio).  It serves more international destinations than any other airport on the planet – 224 destinations within 113 countries.  You can truly come in at one gate and walk a mile before reaching your next gate.  So, when you arrive at Gate C-24 and see that your connecting flight leaves from Gate Z‑58, you’re really, really glad that you have 2 hours to get there, and are relieved to get there 30 minutes before boarding time (and this with the help of those moving sidewalks and walking just as fast as your 68-year-old legs can carry you).

 


[1] ‘Bezirk’ is German for ‘neighborhood.’

Bezirk [1] in Berlin© – 43:  JUNE 5, 2013

BONKERS IN BRITAIN

We recently took a short trip to England/Great Britain/United Kingdom.  [You may think these terms are synonymous, but, if you have the time and patience, you can check this out and see that these terms actually have discrete meanings.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=]   In any case, it seems like these blokes have a penchant for coming up with the oddest names for places:

  • Hightown Crow
  • Three-Legged Cross
  • Bagshot

Then, of course, there’s the ambiguity that seems rampant in the place.  For example, there is a road named “The Avenue.”  Really?  Is this named after some guy whose last name was “The”—or is there only ONE avenue in the town, so there’s no need to bother with figuring out a name for it?  [It reminds me of a road in Reston, Virginia, though—Temporary Road.  Was this road initially intended to just be temporary, but folks used it so much that they decided to pave it and, to avoid confusion, just kept on using the term “Temporary Road” because that’s what folks were used to calling it?]  And the directions on the GPS system were particularly unfathomable:

  • Bear left right
  • Turn left left

It’s bad enough that everybody is driving on the wrong side of the road and that you have to negotiate those damnable “roundabouts”—at speed—while listening to someone tell to “Bear left right.” This confusion is compounded when you see cars where it appears that the dog is driving, until you remember that the driver’s seat is not on the left here.

A LITTLE SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY

The German market (or Markt) is ever-popular.  There are the weekly markets, where you can buy all sorts of produce, art work, hand crafts, prepared food, specialty foods, and anything you can imagine.  And, of course, there are the Christmas markets.  But here’s a unique twist of things – there’ was an expat market, where English-speaking expats here shared their wares.  So, nothing like crossing the Atlantic to attend a good ol’ American craft fair!  [Although, of course, “English-speaking” does include Brits, Canadians, and Australians as well as Americans, so it still wouldn’t be anything like you’d see in the US.]

Raise your hand if you’ve ever rolled your eyes at an expat.  With more Wahlberliner arriving daily, this city’s relationship with its expat community can turn sour in less time than it takes someone to say “Ugh-I-really-need-to-learn-German.” But language barriers, rising rents, and odd senses of entitlement aren’t the full story. From James Joyce and Gertrude Stein in 1920s Paris to Berlin’s prototype expat geniuses Christopher Isherwood and David Bowie, many a city can thank expats for helping elevate its creative scene. Maybe, then, it’s time to make peace with that English-speaking bartender—and see what creative endeavours they’re pursuing on the side.

In response to recent cuts in state support (the kiss of death for many independent venues), Kreuzberg’s English Theatre Berlin has wasted no time revamping its programme to prove that Berlin’s English-speaking artist community still has it going on. Starting tomorrow, the two-week-long Expat Expo series will be showcasing daily, multidisciplinary performances by Berlin-based expats, including short films, singer-songwriter roundups, and five-minute theatre acts, as well as a variety of workshops and an Expat Markt next weekend featuring a wealth of goods and services by your hardworking expat neighbours. 

 Sugarhigh newsletter@info.sugarhigh.de

 MAYBE THEY’RE RELATED?

Two headlines in the online newsletter, Expatica, today:

  • Germany revises population down by 1.5 million
  • German retail sales disappoint in April

Well, maybe sales are gonna disappoint if you misplace 1.5 million folks….

LINGUISTIC LIMBO

For those folks caught between English and German (aka, Deutsch), there is a “language” known as “Denglish”—a mix of the two languages, which, of course, ends up being neither.  [Pretty much like “Spanglish” in the Southwestern US, where you’ll hear a mixture of English and Spanish in a single sentence, or English words put in a Spanish form.  A typical example of Spanglish is “el trucko” – there’s a perfectly good Spanish word for “truck” and it certainly is NOT “trucko.”]  However, I continually find myself in situations where I know neither the English nor the German word for something.  In such cases, my conversation comes to an abrupt halt and I then try to describe the thing I’m trying to recall.  [Of course, that’s probably a function of old age, too, where you’re constantly searching for a word.  But now I have TWO cupboards for words and it’s a damned shame when BOTH of them are empty!]  Well, the other day, I had yet another type of linguistic fiasco!  I didn’t know the German word, of course.  And I wasn’t actually at a loss for the English word, but the word that came out of my mouth was neither English nor German.  I was trying to think of the word (as it now turns out) “toothpick.”  What came out of my mouth was “toothstick.”  Sometimes I’ll try to use German “logic” to derive a German word – which in this case might have been “thing-that-you-clean-between-your-teeth-with” (which might make me come up with something like “Dingwomitmanzwischenzahnersaubermachen” which, fortunately, is NOT a German word).  Or sometimes I’ll rely on the Latin root for a word (which might be “konservativ” for “conservative”).  But often that doesn’t work, for example, “irritieren” doesn’t mean “irritate” but rather means “confuse.”  Or thinking that, since an English work might sound German, it’s the same in both languages.  Sometimes that works, but that’s a total crap shoot because, while “skunk” is “Skunk”, the German word “Gift” means “poison” (so you never want to tell a German that you have a “Gift” for him).

But this “toothstick” thing was NONE of those attempts to come up with a German word.  I actually THOUGHT I was speaking ENGLISH!!  I tried to argue to myself that I was doing some convoluted translation, but found that the German word for “toothpick” is a totally literal translation – Der Zahnstocher (Zahn = tooth; stochen = pick).  But perhaps the “toothstick” thing IS a German phenomenon after all.  Sigh!

JUST WONDERING….

It’s pretty obvious that birds shit, having had a car that was often a target and having been a target myself.  But I got to wondering the other day, do birds pee, too? We know they drink water.  You know how you can be walking along and feel a little something wet drop on you?  Is that just a single raindrop that may somehow have gotten lost from its tribe, or is it bird pee?

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THAT OLD AMERICAN LADY IN BERLIN?

Well, folks, if my blog suddenly and inexplicably goes permanently dark, it may be because the oldamericanladyinberlin is now the oldamericanladyinagermanjail.  Here’s why.  One day I had picked my grandson up from school and was taking him home.  Having no car, this round-trip is a non-trivial pursuit.  It involves: walking several blocks; taking 3 buses and 4 S-bahn trains; and a time commitment of about 3 hours.  One leg of the trip involves carrying this enormous backpack that weighs half what the grandson weighs.  For some reason, his school doesn’t provide lockers for the younger kids (he’s in 1st grade) and they carry ALL their school stuff – books as well as all their school supplies – back and forth EVERY day!  By the time I pick him up at his school, I’ve been en route for about 1 hour.  Then I carry his humongous book bag several blocks and then board an S-bahn train.  After that, we walk about a block to a bus.  This stop happens to be the end of the line, where the bus waits until it’s time to start a new route.  It is the driver of this particular bus who may well provoke me into committing the act that will land me in a German jail. One day, we got to the bus, the bus was there, and the door was open.  Silly me!  I thought that meant I could get on the bus, which I was quite ready to do, having lugged the backpack much farther than is comfortable.  [Truth be told, just picking the sucker up is far more than my old body is ready to do!]  So, I get on the bus with the grandson and the backpack, not noticing that the driver is on a phone call.  [Come on – with at least 45% of people on the street with a phone up to their ear—and another 45% apparently just babbling to themselves but in fact using a headset—do you ever really NOTICE that someone is on the phone anymore?]  He became irate and demanded that I get off the bus—a tired old lady with a small child on one hand and a heavy backpack in the other.   Of course, we did as we were told.  But that wasn’t enough; the bus driver had to get even with me for disturbing his break.  When we got to our stop, the door opened, my grandson got off, with me close on his heels.  But the driver tried to close the door just in front of me, before I could get off!  Fortunately, my quick-thinking grandson (who’s been riding buses his entire life) put out his hand and held the door open for me so I could get off.  Do you have the most remote idea what I would have done to that bus driver if he had let my grandson off ALONE at a stop on a very busy street?  I won’t even begin to describe the thoughts that went through my head because I don’t want to give you nightmares.


[1] ‘Bezirk’ is German for ‘neighborhood.’

Nostalgic in Nederland – April 2013

YOU KNOW YOU’RE OLD when you get an invitation to your high school class’s 50th reunion.  Yep!  That would be 50 – as in half a century!  If you’ve been deluding yourself that you’re just middle-aged, this is where you have to finally face up to the fact that you’ve definitely, completely, and irrevocably made it to OLD age.  I mean, really – do you honestly think you’re going to live to be 136?

And, of course, having gone to the trouble to cross the pond, I felt obliged to make the most of it and make a grand tour through Texas and Louisiana, visiting a boatload of friends and family. ( I still can’t put those last 3 words together without thinking about MCI, which used to have a “Friends and Family” dialing plan, where you got a discount on calls made to other folks who used MCI as their long distance carrier.)   I managed to:

  • Spend a couple of nights visiting friends in Houston
  • Attend reunion events for a long weekend
  • Visit a cousin in Jefferson County
  • Visit cousins and friends in Kemah, TX
  • Visit family and friends in San Antonio, to include having a special week-end on the Riverwalk with cousins who came from Dallas and Virginia
  • Drive to Alexandria, LA, to see more of my cousins
  • Go to Baton Rouge to see another friend
  • Go back to Houston to visit even more cousins, to include spending the weekend at one cousin’s lake house.

So here are the basic statistics:  I spent 3 weeks, drove 2000 miles (without inflicting damage on persons or property), went to 2 states, 9 cities/municipalities, and saw 27 family members and 42 friends (33 of whom were at the reunion).

Here’s an unsolicited ad for the Ford Fusion.  I had not driven a care for almost 3 years, so you can imagine the fear and trepidation with which I approached the prospect of taking this trip alone (as my husband typically does all the driving when we travel).  Except for a few tense moments in Houston, I managed OK.  Even for the longest trip of all – from San Antonio to Alexandria, LA (437 miles) – I was very comfortable in this car.  The seat in my Volvo S80, which had more seat adjustments than I can recount, wasn’t this comfortable.

If you want to know what going to your high school class’s 50th reunion is like, just watch “Cold Case.”  It’s a detective story about a squad that just investigates cold cases.  During the course of the investigation, all the principals in the case – victims, witnesses, and perpetrators – morph back into what they looked like at the time of the crime.  So when you first see someone you haven’t seen if 50 years, it’s “Well, is this someone I should know or is it a spouse?”  Then you start recognizing people’s features and gradually they morph back into their younger selves.  Then you start trying to pull the names out of your brain.

Our class only had about 180 folks to start out with; we know that at least 31 are dead.  There may be others, but we’ve lost touch with some folks and, oddly enough, the high school reunion coordinator is typically NOT the one who gets notified first when someone dies.  Only 34 classmates came.  But it was very nice and comfortable.  We’re all long past trying to impress each other like we may have been at the 10th or 20th reunions and, for the most part, are just glad to be alive, enjoying life, visiting with everyone else, and re-hashing pleasant memories.   [Granted, I never felt like I fit in during high school and, for reasons unrelated to school, I have far more unpleasant memories of my life during those years than pleasant ones— but I had some good friends and had some pleasant times, so it was nice re-living those.]

The folks who put the reunion together did a wonderful job.  There are so many things to deal with – and so much that can go wrong – that it’s a miracle when it all comes together (not unlike planning a wedding).   I even won the prize for having traveled the farthest —a throw honoring our mascot, the Nederland Bulldogs.  One amusing thing about being from Nederland is that, whenever I try to speak German in Berlin, folks often ask me if I’m a Nederlanderin (i.e., a woman from the Netherlands).  Well, I guess I am!

2013 - April - NHS Bulldogs Throw

 I realized once again how fortunate I am, given some of the things my classmates have experienced – career-ending car wrecks, cancer and other life-threatening diseases, divorces, deaths of spouses, and the bitterest of all, loss of a child (something we ourselves just narrowly escaped, but, fortunately ‘almost’ only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades).  And yet folks just keep on keepin’ on, which is the bravest thing of all. The only way the reunion could have been better is if all of us had been alive and more of us had come.  I’m glad I went.

Finding my Daddy.  The funniest damned thing happened when I was in town for the reunion! On my way out of town, I stopped by the cemetery to pay respects to my Dad and step-mom. When I was driving into the cemetery, I passed the office, which had a sign saying that you could buy flowers there.  I figured I may as well do that.  Alas, you can only use fake flowers in this cemetery and the flowers they had available were both crappy and expensive.  Expensive would have been OK, but I couldn’t deal with the crappy part.  The lady told me that I could get them lots cheaper if I went down the street to the grocery store or Wal-Mart.  So I did.  When I came back, I wrote my Dad’s name on a slip of paper and gave it to her because I wasn’t 100% which mausoleum he was in.  She went to look him up and came back and said, “I’m sorry, but he’s not here.”  I replied, “I’m pretty sure he didn’t stop being dead and, if he had, I have every confidence that I’d be one of the first ones he’d let know about it.”  She offered to look again, but I told her that I was going to have lunch with my cousin and I knew she would know where he was.

Then I left to meet cousin Judy Kaye in the parking lot at Walgreen’s.  I drove into the parking lot and saw Judy Kaye and her huge white RV, and then drove around to park my car.  I got out of the car, with a fistful of fake yellow roses in my left hand, and went to the first large, white vehicle I saw, opened the passenger door, and said, “Where’s Daddy buried?”  Well, I kinda wished I had noticed that the person in the driver’s seat had a beard and was wearing a gimme cap before I opened my mouth.  Obviously he wasn’t cousin Judy Kaye.  I can only begin to imagine what he’s telling folks about this experience.  Maybe, “You won’t believe the line this ol’ broad used to try to pick me up down at the Walgreen’s!”  or perhaps, “I don’t think the security down at the funny farm is as good as it used to be.”

[By the way, if you don't know what a gimme cap is, it's a baseball cap with some company's logo -- most likely John Deere -- because they used to give those things away. Folks would say, "Gimme one a them caps."  Now, of course, you must PAY for the privilege of advertising stuff.]

Well, I don’t want to leave you hanging here about whether my Daddy just upped and left the cemetery on his own.  After I got into the RIGHT car, my cousin confirmed that I HAD been at the right cemetery.  After lunch, we went back to the cemetery.  It turns out that they had changed how they filed records on folks.  For some reason, they decided to file the records on folks buried in the ground in one place and the folks buried in the mausoleum in a different place.  The cemetery lady had looked only in the records for folks buried in the ground.  Daddy was in the mausoleum — he had been a plumber and had spent far too many hours working in the muck in Southeast Texas and so was determined that his butt was going to be DRY for all eternity.  In fact, he’s in the absolute TOP row in the mausoleum.  Alas, when I finally got there, I discovered that there was no vase affixed to his marker.  Since that would take time I didn’t have, and it’s unlikely that I’ll ever be back again, it seemed like a waste to go to the expense and trouble of installing one.  [Besides, spending money like that would have irritated my Daddy beyond all measure.]  So, since  cousin Judy Kaye’s parents were buried in that same cemetery (in the ground, with a vase), we put the flowers on their graves.

Gotta leave my husband more often.  I had a great time, but was certainly glad to get back home and sleep in my own bed, with my husband snoring beside me, and back to our son and his family.  I certainly expected to be glad to get back home, but there were some things I hadn’t expected – while I was gone, Harvey did a lot of things around the house to make some much-needed improvements.  After all, when I’m home, he spends so much time waiting on me hand and foot that he has little time for anything else.  I should leave him more often so he can catch up on stuff!

Bezirk [1] in Berlin© – 42: February 11, 2013

YUM!

Like fish and chips? Well, try this – instead of the normal white fish (such as cod), how about fresh salmon?  And instead of Idaho potatoes, how about sweet potatoes?  If you’d like to try these, go to the Luise-Dahlem biergarten then:   http://www.luise-dahlem.de/

FEBRUARY 6, 2013

Today is William, the Wonder Cat’s 2nd birthday.  To celebrate, I plan to feed him every time he begs for food.  I fear that by the end of the day I shall have developed repetitive motion injury in the arm I use to feed him with.

A PECULIAR QUIRK OF GRAVITY

I understand gravity, at least in a general sense.  I don’t understand the underlying physics, but I do understand that if I have something in my hand and I let go of it, there’s a pretty high statistical probability that it will end up on the floor (or at least it will fall down, rather than up or sideways).  But there appear to be some qualities of gravity that apply to me in an atypical manner, at least when I’m eating.  Under these circumstances, sometimes food substances – particularly those that have the potential to create stains – seem to be drawn towards my body (rather than towards the floor), particularly when I’m wearing something nice.  I go through stain removers (which, in some cases work less well than others) at roughly the same rate that I go through laundry detergent.  So, I encourage you to invest in a company that makes stain removers (and, upon my death, promptly divest yourself of these investments, as the stock price will most surely plummet).

THE PERFECT NAME

You know those trash bins that you see around renovation sites?  Well, there’s one company that provides them around Berlin.  The name of the company is “Sisyphus.”   Pretty much nails it, don’t you think?  Whenever you empty a trash bin, that just encourages folks to fill it right up again, doesn’t it?

WHEN TO BUY NEW SOCKS

When you can tell what color polish you have on your toenails without taking off your socks, it’s probably time to buy new socks.

CORNIVORE

Yep – it’s not a typo.  I dropped a kernel of corn on the floor in the kitchen, and William the Wonder Cat was all over it like white on rice, which makes him, of course, a cornivore, doesn’t it?

 

William the Wonder Cat - 26 (Cornivore)

FURTHER THOUGHTS ON CORN

You may recall a while back when I mentioned the name of a popular snack – Maiswürmer (which translates literally as “Corn Worms”)?  Well, they’ve “enhanced” this product – now you can get chocolate-covered corn worms (as well as caramel-covered corn worms).  Bet you can’t wait to try these!!

Chocolate Covered Corn Worms

PIG TAIL CROQUETTES?  REALLY??

You heard it here first, unless, of course, you also subscribe to this newsletter:

sugarhigh <newsletter@info.sugarhigh.de>

Meat is having a moment. As far as food trends go, offal is one of the most unlikely stars there ever was. And yet ever since the wild, unlikely success of British chef Fergus Henderson’s groundbreaking cookbook “The Whole Beast,” first published in 2004, the most deep-down, weird, and visceral inner bits of cow, pig, and sheep have shot up in culinary status and so-called “nose to tail” cuisine has taken the foodie world by storm. After all, as Henderson says, “If you’re going to kill the animal it seems only polite to use the whole thing.”

Gain a new appreciation for the culinary potential of the whole hog with this Sunday’s “Schlachtfest” dinner at Mitte’s Pauly Saal restaurant. Chef, trained butcher, and pork aficionado Wolfgang Müller will be taking over the kitchen to prepare a lavish pig-themed dinner from his celebrated cookbook “Schwein,” planning a six-course menu that moves from a Blutwurstpizza amuse-bouche to horseradish-spiked tongue pralines, quiveringly tender pork belly, Bratwurst with a twist, and pig tail croquettes. Rest assured that the dessert course takes only inspiration—and not actual ingredients—from the pig.

Well, that last bit is a comforting thought, isn’t it?!! 

SO, HOW MUCH DO YOU PAY FOR YOUR CAT’S TOYS?

How does $3,500 sound?  For a single toy.  Plastic (mostly).  Well, apparently that’s what we pay for our cat toys.  William the Wonder Cat was caught with Harvey’s digital hearing aid yesterday.  Hard to guess who was in more trouble – William for playing with it or Harvey for leaving it somewhere that William could get to.

SOMETIMES YOU JUST HAVE TO DO STUFF YOUR OWN DAMNED SELF!

It is sooo exasperating, seeing something that desperately needs to be done, yet no one will step up to the plate and do it!  That must have been what was running through William’s mind the other day.  He finally realized that, not only was I not going to open a drawer in the kitchen and toss all my kitchen towels onto the floor, but it was likely that I didn’t have the slightest notion that this needed to be done.  So, selfless feline that he is, he took it upon himself to do it for me!  This, despite the fact that he has no thumbs and therefore the job was much more difficult for him than it would have been for me.  Nonetheless, he was sufficiently resourceful and determined to take care of this chore completely on his own.  I wonder if, having demonstrated what needs to be done, he will now expect me to get the message and take care of it the next time it needs doing (whenever that might be).   LATER:  Apparently this is something that requires being done at least once a day.  Or, alternatively, it went without doing for so long that, in order to make up for this, it has to be done on a daily basis for awhile to catch up.

WHO SAYS YOU CAN’T TEACH AN OLD CAT NEW TRICKS!

Ms. Electra is almost 13 years old, or 69 in people years.  She has always been quite precise in her dining requirements; specifically, she demands her breakfast at 6 a.m. and her dinner at 6 pm.  Intermittent feedings are, of course, permitted.  Nonetheless, even if one of those impromptu feedings occurs at 5:59 (a.m. or p.m.), this does not alter her 6:00 expectations.  She has several techniques for reminding us what time it is.  If one of us is sitting at the computer, we can expect one (if not both) of these things to occur:  (1) She will climb up on a lap and fidget and fuss until we get her message; (2) she will climb onto the top of the printer, above which is hanging one of our masks – this one of South Pacific origin, trimmed in something that approaches hair – and proceed to make every effort to snatch it bald.  But one of her most favorite tactics is to make herself barf – even on an empty tummy, she can hack up an amazing amount of slime.  She prefers to barf on the carpets (because she just hates that splash-back when she barfs on hard surfaces).  Sometimes she deigns to barf on the hardwood floor, which, under other circumstances, we would prefer.  However, the hardwood floors in our 150+ year-old flat are composed of planks about a foot wide but with ¼-inch spaces separating them.  This, of course, means that we have the opportunity to try to coax cat barf from between the boards if she targets the floors.  Well, this is all to lay the groundwork for new behavior.  She has taken her barfing repertoire to a new level, as it were.  This morning I discovered barf on top of the china closet (the top of which is about 4 feet high), and subsequently discovered even more on the floor in front of the china closet.  So, between William knocking everything off the top and Electra selecting it as a barfing platform, it would be unwise for us to continue it as a surface on which to display our various treasures (or rather, those that William hasn’t already destroyed).  Sigh….

EVEN FELINES NEED VARIETY

You would think that creatures who spend at least 80% of their lives napping (reserving the remaining 20% for eating, grooming, visiting the litter box, and, of course, finding the perfect position for napping) would not need a lot of variety in their lives.  But you’d be wrong about that.  Apparently they DO need variety.  Evidence to this was presented to us this morning.  Electra normally naps on the green blanket on the left end of the sofa, while William prefers the burgundy blanket on the right end of the sofa.  Imagine our surprise to find that they had traded places!  Since they’re unconscious during this time, I’m at a loss to understand how this could possibly matter to either of them.  But, apparently, it does.


[1] ‘Bezirk’ is German for ‘neighborhood.’

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