Another difference….

 In the US, the defining national holiday is July 4th, where we celebrate breaking away from England.  Here, the defining national holiday is October 3, Einheit (or Re-Unification Day), to celebrate two pieces of the country coming back together again.  So, Happy Einheit!!

 Well, we thought we had a solution….

Until recently, we had two cats – the Dowager Princess, Ms. Electra, and His Hugeness, Master William.  Alas, we had to release Ms. Electra to those Great Catnip Fields in the Sky, owing to various indignities caused by advanced age.   [For more info on Ms. Electra, see her obituary in an earlier post.]  Over time, since we retired and are home all day, the frequency of feeding increased from a mere twice a day (sometimes augmented by a bedtime snack) to a ridiculous 6 times a day – breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, dinner, and bedtime snack (sometimes augmented by an extra snack, if Ms. Electra’s pleadings were sufficiently piteous).  It was also Ms. Electra’s habit to rush to the kitchen any time either one of us dared to cross that threshold, whereupon she would carry on as if it had been at least a fortnight since her last meal.  Her pleadings were most convincing and it was not unusual for her to get, say, a second second breakfast out of one of us, who was totally unaware that the other had fed her merely seconds earlier.  We came up with a solution to this problem by creating a feeding checklist and whenever either of us fed the cats, we would put a check by that meal.  During Ms. Electra’s tenure, Master William was never particularly insistent about his meals (although he exhibited great eagerness to consume them whenever offered).  Clearly, he felt no need to exert himself if Electra would do it for him.  Now that he can no longer ride on her coattails in this matter, he has become equally insistent of his meals – and equally sneaky by tricking one of us into repeating a meal that the other has already given him.  So, we continue to keep the checklist.  There is only one flaw in this solution, which is that, owing to our own advanced age, we sometimes forget to check off the meal we’ve just offered.  Sigh….

It’s the little things….

 In this day and age of globalization, and when so many things are ubiquitous (at least among the more technologically advanced nations), it’s surprising that some small, odd things are so radically different.  In the US, virtually every bathroom comes with a toilet paper holder, typically located conveniently near the toilet.  It doesn’t matter if the wall to which it’s affixed is drywall or tile.  If it’s drywall, the holder is screwed to the wall; if it’s tile, the holder is typically ceramic and incorporated into the tile wall.  That’s not the case in Berlin.  Most bathrooms have tile walls that are at least shoulder-high.  (And even if the walls weren’t tile, many of the walls are composed of God-only-knows what.  It’s not simply drywall, which, in fact, seems to be rare.  Often the walls are plaster.  And it’s not even that simple, because some parts of walls are different from other parts; just because you can drive a nail or screw into one part of the wall, you shouldn’t expect to be able to do the same thing on the entire wall – which makes it devilishly difficult to arrange your artwork as you like.)  OK.  So simply having tile walls shouldn’t make a difference — you’d expect that the toilet paper holders would simply be incorporated into the wall like they are in the US.  Well, uh, no!  And, understandably, leases typically forbid tenants from screwing things into tile walls.  Naturally, there are some stand-alone toilet paper holders, but there’s not always enough room for them and often they’re less that stable and it’s all just annoying.  We have looked high and low for a toilet paper holder that has a suction device to affix to a tile wall.  Clearly, the idea of affixing toilet paper holders to the wall is not something that has gained traction here.  And, of course, purposefully looking is often not the best strategy anyway.  So, yesterday, I went to the department store for one thing and, en route to the Kasse (the place where you pay —  the English word for which escapes me at the moment), I happened across a toilet paper holder with a suction device!  Oh, happy day!!

Mystery solved!

I am a creature of habit.  Most mornings, I get up and do a few basics, like brush my teeth, empty the dishwasher, make some tea, and scoop the litter box.  Then I sit down at my computer and check my e-mail and Facebook.  The next thing I know, it’s noon, and I wonder how on earth it got so late, and why, after doing the mandatory things like cooking breakfast, cleaning up, doing my stretches, and maybe the grocery shopping, followed by cooking dinner and cleaning up, I have no time left to do some of the other things I’d intended to do.  Well, today I solved the mystery.  Apparently, if you spend a minute here watching a video of a dog sucking on a pacifier, and a few minutes there taking some idiotic quiz that’s supposed to reveal where you really should be living, it all adds up and becomes a couple of hours a day. DUH!!


 I am old, which should come as no surprise to you, given the title of my blog.  So, I try to use my time well, as every bit of time wasted is an increasingly large percentage of the time I have left.  For instance, when you’re 20, and you waste a day, you have, say 60 X 365 days left.  But when you’re 70, and you waste a day, you only have 10 X 365 days left.  (Sorry – YOU do the math; I can’t spare the time.)  But, truth be told, I even tried to save time at 20.  It’s a trait I share with my Daddy – it’s the challenge of trying to see how much you can get out of whatever you have.  So, a minute here, a minute there – it all adds up.  I’m not a particularly big fan of multi-tasking, especially when it comes to things like checking your e-mail while in a meeting, because that means you’re not paying full attention and you could miss something important, which could mean that you waste time by messing up something you’re working on because you didn’t get all the information you need.  Or, you realize you’re missing information later and then you have to waste not only your own time, but also someone else’s when you ask them to give you information you should have gotten in the meeting.  However, I’m not totally averse to multi-tasking when it doesn’t have those consequences.  For example, I figured I could use the time I spend swishing my mouthwash around doing something else, like peeing.  [A minute here; a minute there – it all adds up, don’t you think?]  Well, that’s perfectly fine…until you have to sneeze.  And the minute you thought you saved becomes many wasted minutes cleaning up.  So now I use that mouthwash time to put on deodorant — works much better!

How you can tell when you’re getting REALLY old!

 I recently saw on Facebook that one of my younger cousins (a third cousin) was having a hip replacement, and it shocked me, because, of course, he’s just a “kid.”  But then I realized that this “kid” is retired from the military, so he’s not much of a kid, then, is he?  And THEN I realized that, not only am I older than HE is, I am also older than his MOTHER!  And only 12 years younger than his GRANDFATHER!  This age thing just keeps on getting worse and worse!

I have never trusted…

Anyone who eats only half a candy bar and saves it for later.  Who DOES that?  Doesn’t it reveal a serious inability to make a commitment?  And now I have even more reason to loathe such people – because sometimes that half a candy bar they put back into their pocket or purse falls out, onto a seat on the U-bahn, in 90-degree weather.  Fortunately, I saw it before I sat down, but don’t know whether everyone else will or not.  And there’s nothing I could do to clean it up, or even let maintenance folks know about it.  Sigh….

How not to have a boring obituary

 You’d think that getting dressed is a fairly risk-free endeavor, but if you thought that, you’d be wrong.  I almost put both legs into one leg of my shorts this morning.  I was alone at the time, so I wonder what my husband would have thought when he came back home if he had found me dead, with 2 legs in one shorts-leg, because I lost my balance and hit my head on the lavatory.  So you can see why I’m always delighted every day when I wake up to realize that I’ve NOT damned-near killed myself.

Note to self

 If you use an electric/sonic toothbrush, you should really wait to put in your hearing aides until AFTER you’ve brushed your teeth.

Comforts of home

You never realize how much you’ll miss something very mundane until you move to a place where you can’t have it.  We didn’t eat Cream of Wheat (or, as we came to call it “Creamy Wheat”) very often, but there are times when it just always hit the spot.  But we haven’t been able to find it here.  Some foods are simple enough and even have the same name in German, like bananas.  In other cases, you can just look in the dictionary and discover that, say, “bread” is “Brot.”  Other foods are simply obvious – you know a pineapple when you see it.  But Cream of Wheat doesn’t fall into any of those categories.  Imagine my delight and surprise when I came upon “Weizen Greisse” and it dawned on me that maybe this “wheat pudding” might be Cream of Wheat!  These “trial and error” things don’t always turn out like I had hoped, but this time it did!  There are still foods that remain beyond my grasp.  Maybe they have them here, but I’ve not yet figured out the name.  Another thing that makes the problem harder is that you can’t buy almost everything in a single store here.  Some things aren’t marketed the same way.   For instance, in the US, you can find prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, cosmetics, and groceries in one big store.  That’s not the case here, where there are 3 basic types of stores: (1) the Apoteke, where you buy prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines; (2) the Droggorie (which sells make-up, tissues, etc.); and (3) the grocery store, which sells things to eat, cleaning supplies, and paper products.  There’s some overlap, but not much.  Plus, they have lots of smaller stores rather than a few humongous stores, so one grocery store may sell something that another doesn’t, and figuring that out can be a lifetime endeavor.  But for now, I’ve got my Creamy Wheat!


For years, we’ve followed this ritual when watching TV in the evening:

  • Harvey sits in his chair.
  • I sprawl out on the sofa.
  • William, the Wonder Cat, spends the first hour snuggled down in Harvey’s lap.
  • Then, William gets up and comes and snuggles with me.

Alas, after 44 years of faithful service, our sofa has started to sag a bit, and after 73 years of wear-and-tear, my body has become increasingly uncooperative in terms of getting up off the sofa.  In fact, if I did a video for You Tube of me struggling to get up off the sofa, I’m pretty sure it would millions of hits.  Put a drunken turtle on its back and watch it try to roll over, and you’ll get a fair idea.  It’s a really good sofa and we love the design; we’ve not been able to find one even close.  So, Harvey tried to brace it a bit, and that helped, but not enough.  So we went out shopping to find a new sofa, and failed.  But we did find a pair of recliners that were sufficiently compact to fit in our living area.  So now, rather than, lying on the sofa, I lie on my recliner.

Here’s the new routine:

  • Harvey sits in his recliner (which is in the same place as his chair had been).
  • I sit in my recliner (which is in a completely different place than the sofa).
  • William snuggles down in Harvey’s lap for the first hour.
  • Then, he gets up, looks at me in my recliner, thinks, “Nope!” and then goes to the sofa, where he snuggles.

Because cats abhor change as much as Nature abhors a vacuum, William can’t bring himself to spend the 2nd hour anywhere else except the sofa.  Sigh….


Forgiveness is a wonderful thing!  When we first got married, I dreamed that I had caught Harvey with another woman.  I was mad at him for a week – for something he did in my dream.  After 50 years, I’ve now gotten much more forgiving.  Last night I dreamed that I had gone missing – I’d gotten lost and didn’t have my wallet or my phone with me, so I couldn’t take a taxi or call for help.  Harvey went to the police station to ask for help in finding me.  They showed him a price list of the various things that they could do to find me.  The things that he could afford weren’t very effective; the things that might be effective were far too expensive.  So, he couldn’t see the point in spending even a little bit of money for something that wouldn’t work anyway; and he couldn’t afford the things that might work, so he just went home and hoped for the best.  And, indeed, I ultimately made my way home.  But it only took me a few minutes to forgive him after I woke up.







I guess it was bound to happen, sooner or later…..

We’ve lived in Berlin for almost 6 years now. I guess it was only a matter of time before we became “German.” We eat the food; we buy the clothes; we live the life. Kinda like a married couple starting to look alike after they’ve been married awhile. We took a trip to Spain and Portugal. We went into a restaurant in Cascais, Portugal –a very “touristy” town – and the waiter automatically handed us a German menu. I wonder – was it that we were wearing socks with our sandals, or that we had on neck scarves? [Because, at least in Berlin, you’ll see folks wearing scarves around their necks all year long; it may be 85 degrees F, and they may have on short-shorts and no shirt, but they’ll have on a scarf.] Or maybe (at least for me) the genes on my Daddy’s side of the family were showing.

And, after we got back home to Berlin, I saw an article with a headline something like “Why Germany will never lead Europe” and I felt insulted. Alas, the one way I would most like to be German is to have a better command of the language. Sigh…..

Strange hankerin’s

Folks often ask us what we miss about our lives in the US, and, first and foremost, it’s the friends and family we left behind and, for the most part, have to interact with via e-mail or Facebook, given the time difference. We sometimes call, because our calling plan gives us unlimited calling to 29 other countries, but by the time folks on the other side of the Atlantic are waking up, we’re starting to wind down. Aside from the folks, there are some foods we miss. And today I got a strong hankerin’ for a pimento cheese sandwich. Sometimes you can put together familiar foods yourself because you can get the ingredients here – such as a hamburger. Ground meat, lettuce, tomato, mustard, mayo, cheese, bacon, and onions are certainly available here and it’s no problem to put a burger together. You can even find tortillas so you can cobble together a few Mexican dishes. But sometimes you can’t even find the ingredients, like cheddar cheese and pimentos for that pedestrian pimento cheese sandwich. Occasionally you can find cheddar cheese, but I’ve not been able to find pimentos. The sad thing is that some grocery stores have “American” sections, but tend to waste shelf space on things like Pop Tarts! PU-LEEZE!!!! And, boy, do I miss seafood!!! Having grown up on the Gulf Coast of southeast Texas, where crawfish grow in your front yard and you can catch your own crabs if you have the time and patience, we were sure spoiled. You can find some seafood here, but it’s incredibly pricey (e.g., just catfish costs about $12 a pound – CATFISH!! And shrimp – last time I dared to look – was about $25 a pound) and often inadequate. (What they call “shrimp” here, we would have called “bait.”) Sigh! But, still, getting to see our son and his family on a regular basis trumps all that.

Being half-deaf has its advantages

My inadequate hearing has given rise to any number of hysterically funny exchanges. So, in addition to not being troubled as much by other folks by things like street noise, I get a few belly laughs that I might not have otherwise had if my hearing were perfect. Like on our trip to Portugal with my cousins, we had a particularly amusing exchange. While living in Singapore, my cousin had adopted a dog from an animal shelter. When they returned to the US, they wanted to take the dog home with them. As it turns out, the airline wouldn’t let them take this particular type of dog on the airplane. Now this dog isn’t any bigger than a minute, and certainly wouldn’t be a threat to anyone on the plane. I heard my cousin say that it was because flying causes breeding problems for this particular type of dog – a Lhaso Apso. I, of course, wondered how flying on an airplane could affect a dog’s breeding capabilities, because I couldn’t imagine why anyone would try to breed their dogs while in flight. Surely dogs had no interest in joining the “Mile High Club.” Well, turns out that what he actually SAID was “breathing problems” (and, since this breed is very expensive, the airlines weren’t the least bit interested in being held liable for its health issues). That certainly cleared things up! By the way, an ingenious solution to the problem of getting the dog on the plane was to go back to the vet and get the dog’s records changed from Lhaso Apsoto “long-haired Chihuahua.” Imagine the intrigue of faking a dog’s passport!

The only logical answer…..

I was caring for our 3-year-old grandson recently. He’s a big fan of vehicles, of every sort and size. (He recently developed a strong attraction to the Lexus and now has his very own.) He had put one of his Lego people on a bus and was moving it along somewhere. I asked him where the Lego man was going and he gave me this incredulous look, as if he couldn’t believe that I didn’t already know where Lego man was going, and said, “Lego Land.” Well, of course! And I’m sure if he were acquainted with the concept of “Duh!” he would have said that, too!

Inarticulate in two languages….

I accept the fact that there are things here in Germany that I don’t have the German word for. But it increasingly comes to my attention that there are things that I don’t have the English word for, either. For example, today I had a physical therapy appointment. In the US, this would have taken place in a huge room, much like a sports club/gym with several folks working with their respective physical therapists. Here, there’s still a largish room (not huge – about as big as 2 average living rooms) but different areas are separated from one another by curtains, and each patient works with a therapist in their own individual area. Of course, this might imply greater privacy, except that you can hear everything everyone else is saying and, from time to time, someone in the adjoining area might actually bump into you through the curtain. The folks who work here call each area a “Kabine” – but wanted to know what the word would be in English. Well, I haven’t the vaguest idea! We wouldn’t really call it a “stall” because that implies something with walls (even if the walls don’t go all the way to the floor or to the ceiling). We might not call it a cubical because that also implies walls (limited though they may be). So, here I am, clearly inarticulate in German (which isn’t surprising) but now also inarticulate in English, which is a horrid realization for someone who spent decades earning a living by writing. Sigh….

No smokers…

Many places have “No Smoking” signs, but Portugal takes it a bit further. Apparently you don’t have to be actually smoking at the time to be denied access to places, such as elevators. Nope! You don’t have to be smoking at the moment; just the fact that you are a smoker means you can’t get on the elevator. The signs say, “No Smokers.”

Surely you jest….

During her last illness, the recently departed Dowager Ms. Electra, our 15-year-old, 8-pound, partially bald Devon Rex kitty, had developed a cough and had trouble keeping her food down, all of which occasioned a trip to the vet. He gave me some pills for each problem. But it appears to be the habit here to give animals human meds, which is cheaper than getting the pet variety. That may seem to be a good idea, except when you have to cut the pills into pieces to get the proper dosage. Cutting a tablet into 2 pieces (especially when it’s designed for that) isn’t a problem. However, to get it into an Electra-sized dosage, the vet told me to cut it into 8ths!!! Imagine trying to cut something the size of a baby aspirin into 8 pieces! So, of course, some of the pieces simply turn to powder and are unusable. At some point, it is NOT cheaper to use human meds because you have to throw so much away. Sigh….

Living well…

The lady in front of me in the check-out line at the grocery store was on the far side of 90 (or, at least, I hope so, because if she was indeed much younger, it would be sad). But she undoubtedly has a zest for life! The only things she was buying were chocolate and champagne. I hope she has someone to share them with, but even if she doesn’t, I’ve gotta give her props for enjoying life!

Tree lovers

I love trees as much – if not more than – the next person. But my love of trees can’t hold a candle to that of the Germans. Berlin is a city of about 3.5 million people, but it’s hard to imagine that it’s that populous because there are so many green spaces. For one thing, if you’re not in walking distance of a park, then it just means that you’re not ambulatory at all. An aerial view of Berlin will show an enormous proportion of green space. I supposed I could get actual statistics on this, but I’m lazy so I’ll just guess that at least half of it is green space of some sort. Most streets are lined with trees. A street may be solid apartment buildings, one connected to another, but it will still have trees on both sides of the street. And they take care of their trees. Certainly the trees lining the streets – in public areas – are even numbered, and periodically you’ll see some official “Tree Police” examining the trees and carefully making notes on their health (e.g., Wartenburgstrasse Tree #69 has dead limbs that need to be removed). When trees eventually die, they are replaced. All this is good stuff, but I am continually puzzled for their love of lining streets with fruit-bearing trees. In particular, our old street was lined with Gingko trees, which are, admittedly, lovely trees. The problem, however, is that their fruit smells like vomited-up dog crap. So the fruit falls on the sidewalk and you have no option except to walk on it, or pull your grocery cart through it, so you have to clean up before you enter your apartment building because you surely don’t want to bring that crap inside. Nonetheless, since most folks don’t have air conditioning, much of the time your windows will be open, allowing the stench of smushed Gingko fruits to invade your flat. Now in the case of these trees, there are both male trees (which don’t bear fruit) and female trees (which do). So, if they wanted to plant Gingko trees, why did they have to plant female trees? Thankfully, we have no Gingko trees in our new neighborhood! The horse chestnut is another tree that is a popular choice for planting along streets, so the sidewalks are often lined with chestnuts, but these aren’t the edible kind. Admittedly, the flowers are lovely in the spring and the chestnuts don’t stink. Further, they provide endless fun for kids, who like to collect them and throw them at each other.

Now here’s something Americans don’t see every day…

A young boy carrying a cricket bat. We picked up our grandkids at school today and one of the students had a cricket bat! And, no, I don’t think that cricket is a German thing. However, the kids’ school is a bi-lingual English-German school, where “English” means “British.” Interestingly enough, many of the folks here – German as well as non-German – look down their noses at American English. However, the “English” teachers at this school are not only British, but also Scottish, Irish, and Australian. Add our American English to the mix (and their own German accent) and it will be truly interesting to see how our grandkids speak English.

What’s in a name….

What would you say if I invited you to our place to share a nice bottle of Burgerspital? It’s pretty pricey, too. Not quite your cup of tea?


A conundrum…

My grandkids wanted me to bake them a Kitty Litter cake for their respective birthdays. It’s a cake made of chocolate cake, white cake, vanilla pudding, and crushed vanilla wafers, garnished with partly melted Tootsie Rolls to look like, well, there’s no delicate way to put this —- cat turds. Not having seen Tootsie Rolls here, I brought them back with me on a recent trip to the US. The rest of the ingredients are readily available here in Berlin. There’s one minor problem, though — the recipe calls for a cake mix for “German Chocolate Cake.” Just wonder what such a thing is called here in Germany, though, because, actually, pretty much ALL the chocolate cakes here are “German chocolate.” Not sure what I would even ask for to get what the recipe specifies, which is why I’ve settled for just any ol’ chocolate cake mix.


2015-12-05_Noe's kitty litter BD cake




Electra West
March 12, 2000 – December 30, 2015


On December 30, 2015, Ms. Electra West, of Berlin, Germany (formerly of Fairfax and Vienna, VA) slipped the mortal coils of earth after a prolonged illness. She joined her feline siblings in those Great Catnip Fields in the Sky, where she will be greeted by her predecessors – Nigel, Cecil, Lisa, Schwartz, Max, and Tsali. (Unless his 5 years in the Fields has softened his feelings for Electra, however, Tsali may not greet her with enthusiasm, since she was the bane of his existence for the last 10 years of his life.) She leaves to mourn her passing her feline sibling, William, who (as she most certainly will inform Tsali, was the bane of her own existence). She also leaves behind her family in Berlin: parents, Jaton’ and Harvey West; brother, Steve West; sister-in-law Steffi West; two nephews – Noe and Levi West; one niece, Milla West; and one gerbil, Flitz (official relationship as yet undetermined–perhaps great-nephew). Although there are far too many friends and relatives in the US to list, she would undoubtedly want to acknowledge her aunt, Shirley Birch, who spent many weeks with Electra while her parents went to Germany to prepare a place for her there.

Although genetically a Devon Rex (a breed with thick, curly hair), Ms. Electra apparently didn’t get the memo regarding the physical expectations of this breed. For most of her almost 16 years, she managed to achieve curly hair on her legs and around her neck, but failed to manage to grow fur on her mid-parts or tail. This led the casual observer to infer that perhaps, for unfathomable reasons, her humans had given her a poodle cut. The net result of this was that her bosom, which in most cats is modestly covered by fur, was displayed in all its glory, and even the most modest of observers couldn’t fail to notice her little pink nipples. When viewed from certain angles, she gave the appearance of having an udder that would be the envy of any bovine creature of similarly diminutive proportions. The hair on her tail was conspicuous in its absence, resembling nothing so much as a rat’s tail. Her ears could best be compared to those of a bat and, given her small size, would have been of serious concern had she been allowed outside in heavy winds. After moving to Berlin at the age of 10, she finally realized that she ought to have fur on her mid-parts, and periodically would pursue this endeavor. Alas, the presence of her fur tended to be cyclical in nature. Logic may have dictated that, if she were to be fully furred only intermittently, the furred periods would be in the winter. Never one to bow to the expectations of others, Ms. Electra managed to have a full coat in the summer and to lose fur on her mid-parts in the winter. That remained the cycle until this year, when she managed to coordinate her fur-growing with the cooler months. At least there is some satisfaction in the fact that she went to her eternal rest looking like a proper Devon Rex. And regardless of the quantity of her fur, the softness of her fur was unequaled.

Electra in her winter attire copy

Electra in her winter attire, without fur

Electra with Hair - June 2013- 02 copy

 Electra with her seasonal fur

Electra with fur - closeup copy

A close-up of Electra’s fur

One of her most cherished hobbies was eating. She typically rousted her parents from bed at 6 am for breakfast. This was followed by second breakfast at 9 am, lunch at noon, mid-afternoon snack at 3 pm, dinner at 6 pm, and bedtime snack at 11 pm. Unless, of course, her insistent yowling managed to persuade either of her parents to give her a little something between those 7 regularly scheduled meals. It was not uncommon for her to successfully convince one parent of her pending death by starvation moments after having been fed by the other parent.


Electra maintaining her vigil at the food bowls

In 2010, she won the silver medal in the Feline Olympics for her unparalleled skill as a world-class napper. As an accomplished multi-tasker, she could often be found in her maroon blankie throughout the day, resting up from a meal while simultaneously training for napping. It was a constant challenge for her to get the right combination of food and rest to give her the strength to yowl for additional food. She managed to achieve this objective, however, almost until the very end.

Electra's nose copyElectra napping

In 2012, Ms. Electra won the gold medal in the yowling event in the Feline Olympics. When not participating in a yowling competition, she kept in shape by practicing her skills on her parents, who were expected to determine whether a particular yowling episode was a demand to be fed immediately or whether it meant that one of them must stop doing whatever petty human thing they were doing at the time and lie down so she could snuggle up and steal some body heat. The latter was generally the case as bedtime approached, and she often lost patience with the humans when they persisted in spending time on Facebook when it was long past time to get in bed and provide her with the armpit she so desperately needed to snuggle into so she could get a good night’s sleep.

In addition to her many Olympic feats, Ms. Electra was also an accomplished actress, best know for her starring role in the move, Gremlins. This role required, of course, her magnificent ears to be concealed.

4-2009-11-19 08.08.09 copy

Electra in her role in “Gremlins”

At the time of her death, she was still working on her memoir, with a working title of “The Many Moods of Me.” Alas, she had committed it to memory, so we will never know how many moods of Electra she documented.

She leaves a gaping 7-pound hole in the hearts of many, and, in the case of her parents, in their bed as well.

She is interred at Tierbestattung im Rosengarten, Brandenburg, Germany.


For a moment, there was a chance that this obituary could have been much shorter:

As Jaton’ and Harvey West were taking their beloved Ms. Electra for her very last visit to the vet, distracted by their sorrow, they walked in front of a truck, at which time the three of them left this earth together, sparing the vet the time and trouble of dispatching Ms. Electra and sparing Jaton’ and Harvey their grief over her loss.

Fortunately, “almost” only counts in horse-shoes and hand grenades.


Unbelievable! (or as I prefer to say, UFB!) Today I went to the grocery store on my bike. Here’s what I have to do to get my groceries into the flat: (1) I have to put down the kickstand on my bike (and take care to ensure that my bike doesn’t topple over because of the weight of the groceries in the basket – usually by extending one leg towards the bike); (2) I have to then fumble for my key and unlock the door to the apartment building (or, as we say here in Berlin, “our house”); (3) I have to give the door ( a HUGE, heavy, wooden door) a good push and then grab my bike and pull it into the threshold BEFORE the door closes (and locks, in which case, I’ll have to go back to Step 1); (4) I then pull my bike into our entrance way and take the groceries out of the basket and set them on the floor; (5) Then I have to go through yet another HUGE, heavy, wooden door (fortunately it’s not locked) and pull my bike into the inner courtyard, where I lock it up; (6) I come back through that door and return to the entrance way, grab my groceries, and lug them up about 8 steps. (I may have to repeat this step, depending on how many groceries I have.) Today a courier showed up just as I finished Step 2 and was initiating Step 3. A COURTEOUS person would have held the door open for me. Nope! Instead THIS guy pushed around me to ring the doorbell to the flat where he was trying to deliver the package. I couldn’t move my bike without hurting him, so I had to remain in my tenuous juggling position with the door, the bike, and the groceries while he exchanged courtesies with the person delivering the package. And THEN HE pushed ahead of me – with his package – to go deliver his package. I tend to be especially nice to couriers, since I gave birth to one and I know the challenges of their job. (And you can bet that the courier I gave birth to would never do something like this!) But should this ever occur again, you can bet I’ll crash on into my house, even if the pedals of my bike scrape the shins of the courier! I’ve had lots of experience with Germans and their inability to form an orderly queue and know that you have to fight to keep your place in line. But you’d think that forming an orderly queue that involves only 2 people would be a fairly simple thing to do.


I was waiting for the S-Bahn the other morning – as were several other folks, including this one guy. He seemed quite normal, in a conventional sort of way: well-dressed and well groomed, no visible tattoos or piercings. (Of course, this is Kreuzberg and he was not conventionally dressed in the Kreuzberg sense, which would be pretty much the opposite of how this guy was dressed – and was the one thing that made him stand out from this particular crowd.) He was carrying a radio (the kind that couriers use – looks a bit like a walkie-talkie, with a short antenna, which he didn’t seem to be using) and pacing about. It’s certainly not unusual for folks to pace back and forth while waiting for a train, but this guy’s pacing path seemed totally erratic – until I noticed he was following a pigeon, and changed directions when the pigeon did. I was relieved to see that he did not follow the pigeon when he flew across the tracks, however. At that point, the guy started following a different pigeon. Maybe this guy was simply amusing himself and wanted to beguile the tedium of otherwise mundane pacing by following the pigeons. Or maybe he was studying the pigeons and the radio had something to do with it. Or, of course, maybe he was spying on the pigeons because they’re clearly engaged in a plot to take over Berlin and he was working for German security forces to help protect us all from this threat. Perhaps their pooping patterns are actually signals they send to communicate amongst themselves. Anything is possible!


I was trying to remember someone’s name the other day – and, after about a week, I STILL can’t remember her name. Normally I could think of someone else who would have known her and I could have dropped that someone else an e-mail, something along the lines of “Remember the pretty woman who worked at FCS on our unit – the one besides you and me who wasn’t a lunatic?” There, in fact, were two such someones I could have asked that question, but then I realized that both of them are now dead – Janet far too young (days before her 40th birthday) and Jeanette (whose death was at least age-appropriate behavior). Theoretically, there may be some others who might have been able to answer the question (but I would have to phrase it differently because, except for Janet, Jeanette, myself, and the someone whose name I can’t remember, they were really lunatics of one type or another). However, I’ve not kept in touch with any of the lunatics and, given that my last contact with them would have been in 1977 (when I was 32 and they were at least 10 years older), they may also be dead (or unable to remember pretty much anything). It’s entirely likely that, among that group, I’m the “last woman standing.” As far as my father’s side of the family goes, I’m not yet the oldest surviving member, but I am the second oldest one in the family. Since my cousin is only 5 years older than I am, I’m pretty sure I’ve got maybe another 15 – 20 years before I reach that status – provided, of course, that we die in order of age, which isn’t necessarily a ‘given.’ On my mother’s side of the family, I’m the 2rd oldest family member (although the other is, so I may achieve that status sooner). In any case, imagine being the oldest surviving member on BOTH sides of your family. And we’re losing our friends now at an alarming rate – we lost 3 so far this year, and one cousin. It’s getting to be like my Dad said – when you reach a certain age the rate at which you start losing friends and family is like popcorn popping: Pop……….Pop……..Pop……Pop….Pop..PopPopPopPop


Well, he starts moving the furniture around, of course! Normally, Electra is in charge of pestering us for dinner. William just leaves this up to her and lets her take the brunt of our disciplinary measures in response to Electra’s outrageous behavior during the hour preceding dinner time. She’ll stand near us and just fuss; she’ll jump up on Harvey’s lap and fidget around (apparently trying to get comfortable—which, of course, in her state of near-starvation, is virtually unachievable); and, when things get drastic, she jumps up on the printer and starts messing with one of the masks we have hanging on the wall (which lends itself particularly well to her purposes because it has some hair on it, which she can bite off and then throw up at our feet to emphasize her desperation). Now, however, William has become interested in the pre-dining demonstrations. There’s a bookcase next to my computer table and he gets between the bookcase and the wall and, using his gigantic head, starts pushing it away from the wall. You have to wonder what gave him this idea, or, at least I do – maybe you yourself have no interest in this at all.


William — the huge (16-pound) Siamese — and Electra —the petite (8-pound) sometimes-partially-bald Devon Rex— get fed the following meals: (1) breakfast (at 6 am); (2) second breakfast (at 9 am); (3) lunch (at noon): (4) mid-afternoon snack (at 3); (5) dinner (at 6 pm); and bedtime snack (sometime after 10 -pm). (Occasionally they get fed more often, if they convince one of us they’ve not been fed and the other one of us is not around.) So, just exactly HOW can they be perpetually hungry? I wonder if they formed a band, would they name themselves “The Grateful Fed”? Probably not, because they don’t seem particularly grateful at all! Ever!!


It occurred to me that some of you who have found my blog may also be Americans living in Berlin. If so, you may be missing some of your favorite foods, like real hamburgers and real Mexican food.

For real hamburgers, try Café Lentz – They are just like the burgers you had at home when you were a kid – lots of meat, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles (and bacon and cheese, if you want) and come with great fries and cole slaw. The service is good and the folks who work there are friendly.
AND if you tell them you live or work in the neighborhood, you’ll get a 10% discount (BUT you have to tell them this when you order – if you wait until the bill comes, it’s too late.)
AND if you “Like” them on Facebook, you can have a free espresso.

For real Mexican food, try Santa Maria – This is not Tex-Mex; not Taco Bell. It’s genuine Mexican Mexican. They can accommodate vegetarians and vegans, too. And, instead of responding with a blank stare when you ask for salsa, they ask you if you want red, green, or habenero. Given that most “Mexican” restaurants in Berlin don’t even have salsa, and don’t use cilantro or cumino (or even very much chilli powder), and put peanuts in their dishes, finding genuine, high-quality Mexican food in Berlin is a non-trivial pursuit. AND the prices are really low! The only negative is that it’s a very tiny place – a small bar (and the Margaritas are fantastic!) and about 10 tables (if that many), about 4 tables outside, when the weather permits. But there’s a way around that – just come before 6 pm and you most likely will be able to be seated immediately. Otherwise, it can be a challenge because in Berlin (as in much of Europe), when you take a table in a restaurant, you’re almost expected to be there for at least a couple of hours, if not for the entire evening. Most flats are small so most folks entertain at restaurants and the table is the equivalent of their living room. The good news is, however, that many of the diners are Americans, so they give up their tables more readily than most Europeans might. We’re really glad we found this place, because we were getting so desperate that we were planning to hang around the Mexican Embassy at closing home and follow people home and beg them to feed us. Alas, this option isn’t even available for finding Cajun food, since Louisiana hasn’t established an embassy in Berlin. Sigh!


I was listening to the radio this morning and there was a call-in program discussing computer security. This is one topic that is typically rife with Denglish (i.e., German [Deutsch] mixed with English). In a way, even if the only language you speak is English, you’re often speaking Denglish because the two languages share so many words. In many cases, they’re even spelled the same – bank, ball, hand – and even if they’re not spelled exactly the same, they sound the same – Maus, Haus. [But you must be careful, because words spelled the same may have radically different meanings. For example, “Gift” is German for “poison” – so if you tell a German you have a gift for them, you’re likely to get a response that puzzles you.] Here are a few of the words sprinkled among the German in the discussions about computer security: Internet, on-line, off-line (surprise!) firewall, aps, tablet, pipeline, and smart phone (even though the German word for the simple cell phone is “Handy” – because, of course, it is, isn’t it?) These words were pronounced in perfect English but there was one exception that stood out. You’d expect the brand-name for something to carry over from English to German. But, in amongst the purely German words in the conversation, and the perfectly-pronounced English words, I heard Mr. Gates’s product referred to as “Vindows.” (I have other words for it, however, none of which should be used in polite conversation.) And it’s not as if Germans can’t say the English “W” – they say it all the time when they hurt themselves and say “ow-wah.”

There are also some “close but no cigar” words. For instance, I bought some astringent for sensitive skin, but in German, the word for “sensitive” is “sensible.” So, apparently, my skin is sensible, and just does its job – which is to keep my insides in.


While biking through Berlin, I was almost killed by a crocodile. (It could have been an alligator – it happened so quickly that I couldn’t make the distinction – but in any event, “alligator” didn’t lend itself to alliteration, so I’ve decided it was a crocodile.) It was a lovely winter Sunday, and every Berliner was taking advantage of the sun’s rare appearance. I was merrily tooling along on my bike, in the bike lane, which was adjacent to the sidewalk. The family walking toward me was also staying on the sidewalk, which doesn’t always happen, so everything looked safe. Alas, you still have to watch pedestrians like hawks because never know when some pedestrian will suddenly thrust an arm across the bike way, either pointing to something or merely emphasizing the story he’s telling. The family was pushing a small child in a stroller and the child had a wooden crocodile on a string, which she was merrily swinging back and forth. Just as we passed, the crocodile came within an inch of thrusting itself into the spokes of my bike. If that had happened, I might have fallen into the street into the path of one of the cars carrying other folks who were out and about on this lovely Sunday. Wouldn’t that have been a pisser?!

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


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


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.”


 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.


  • 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.


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!” []  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!” [] – 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.


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!!


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!”


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.


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.


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!


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


 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!


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 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.


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.


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.


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!


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!


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!


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!


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.


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


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.


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….


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.”


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.


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?”


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:


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!


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


Not bad!

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


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.


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!


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)


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


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)



 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)


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


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.]


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.


 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?


 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!


 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?


 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!!


 …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.]


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.


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.


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.]


When an indispensable kitchen tool is a magnifying glass….


  • 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.
  • 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!!


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.’