Bezirk [1] in Berlin© – 17:  OCTOBER 25, 2011

CORRECTION:  I found out from a couple of my readers that my assumption that ‘B-52’ referred to the planes used in the Berlin Airlift wasn’t correct.  As it turns out, they had not even been designed at that time.  Rather the primary plane used was the C-54, supplemented by the C-47, the C-82, the Short Sunderland, and the Avro York.

 Now I have to figure out some other logic for why this place is named ‘B52 Tattoos’!  Maybe a rock group? Or a bra size?

ODDS AND ENDS

  •  Rio Grande apples—Imagine this Texas girl looking down at the apple she bought at the Kaiser grocery store in Berlin and seeing a big ol’ sticker on it that said ‘Rio Grande’
  • Woman with exercise ball—You know those huge exercise balls, about 2 or 3 feet across?  Well, imagine taking it with you to the grocery store, where the aisles can truly only accommodate ONE shopping cart (IF you’re lucky and there’s no one trying to restock the shelves from a huge pallet of groceries blocking the aisle).  No, it wasn’t me!  I was the one trying to negotiate the narrow aisle, the huge pallet of groceries, and the lady with the huge exercise ball!  I guess that’s the down side of not using a car; if she had a car, she could have left it in the car.  I suppose I should be more gracious—after all, I just had to dodge her for a few minutes, while she had to select her groceries and carry them home while lugging a huge exercise ball the entire time.
  • Bart Simpson hoodie—Cool idea for a hoodie!  It has a Bart Simpson body and lets the wearer supply the face.  I’ll let your imagination come up with all the potential ‘Bart’ heads there might be in a city with like Berlin.

 WHY YOU SHOULD ALWAYS LISTEN WHEN A CHILD SPEAKS

Yesterday, on our way to the immigration office, we were waiting for a train when a little boy about 6 started speaking to us and pointing at us.  Fortunately, we listened to him—it turns out that Harvey had dropped his bank card and the kid was pointing that out to him. This is just another in a series of events that demonstrate that my husband is a favored child of the Universe.  Take the time he dropped his wallet in downtown Washington, DC.  Remember how trench coats used to have slits in them so you could reach your pants pockets?  Well, you really should confirm that you were successful in sliding your wallet into your pocket rather than into thin air.  Literally a few minutes after we got home, the phone rang.  It was the woman who had found the wallet.  I’ll never forget her name—Mary Christian.  Then there’s the time he put his wallet on the bar at some coffee shop in Houston, and walked out without it.  Somebody found it and went to the trouble of mailing it to him.  Don’t want to forget the time he went sledding with our son.  They went to a huge field near George Mason University.  The snow was at least 3 feet deep.  Most folks would have put the wallet in the glove compartment and locked it up.  Nope!  He had it in his back pocket – while he’s sledding.  He never even experienced a single second of angst over this because, before he and our son even got home, the phone rang.  Somebody had already found it!  What are the odds it would be found under those conditions?  Another time he was at work.  He had his brief case opened on top of his desk and his wallet was in it, along with a plane ticket.  He walked out of his office and while he was gone, someone came into his office and stole his briefcase and the plane ticket, but took the wallet out and left it on top of his desk.  Another time we went to a concert and as we were headed out after the concert, this man came running after us – he had Harvey’s wallet, which had fallen out of his pocket during the concert.  And, a few days ago, when we got off the train someone came to the train door, hollering ‘Schlussel’ and holding up some keys.  I should have taken the chance and assumed that they were Harvey’s, but I just didn’t think that fast.  It turns out they were indeed his – and the Universe did its very best to help but I wasn’t sharp enough to listen.  Harvey had taken his wallet out to give a Euro to a musician on the train.  Although his wallet made it back into his pocket, his keys apparently didn’t.  And because my brain and feet didn’t operate quickly enough, we’ve spent the last 3 weeks trying to replace his keys.  The key to the front door of the building is still a problem.   The blank is apparently ‘controlled’.  Most locksmiths won’t duplicate those keys and you have to get a new one from the landlord.  [They’ll make the keys to your flat; just not the keys to the building.]  We may have found a locksmith who’s willing to do this for us (the landlord will charge us about $40 for a new key); but he’s ordered the blank and it’s been over 3 weeks and it’s still not in.

WINTER IS COMING

 I am definitely NOT looking forward to winter!  Of the things I like the least are the wretchedly short days – the sun doesn’t come up until 8:30 and is down by 4:30.  I realize that civilized folks only have to work 8 hours a day, but somehow I expect a lot more of Mr. Sun.  And, of course, it’s gonna get cold.  In a desperate attempt to find the silver lining, I’m looking forward to not having the windows open because there will be less dust on the furniture.

BUT, MOM, I’M NOT EVEN TOUCHING HER!!

I had a sibling-deprived childhood, and didn’t really get an older sister until I was in my sixties (but that’s another story).  I also had an only child, so even as a Mom, I’ve still not encountered the exquisite kinds of torment that siblings reserve for one another.  Consequently, everything I’ve learned about the complex relationships between siblings has come from stories my friends have told me.  One friend told me something that has got to illustrate the pure essence of sibling interactions.  When her family went on car trips, she and her brother, of course, rode in the back seat, with the parents in the front.  Approximately 18.5 feet after rolling out of the driveway, boredom would overtake them and hostilities would ensue, and shrill whines of “Mooooooom!  He’s bothering me!” would issue forth.  The natural parental response would be, “Don’t touch her!”  (with the Mom – despite all previous evidence to the contrary – deluding herself into believing that this would end all the ruckus).  Her brother’s next move would be to trace an outline of her body while holding his finger about an inch away from her.  This, naturally, would evoke more whines, to which her brother would respond, “I’m not touching her.”  Every time I think of this, it makes me laugh (and, of course, think of my friend who gave me this wonderful story).  William, our now 11.25 pound, 8-month-old ‘kitten’, has his own interpretation of this tactic, sitting in front of our substantially more mature and cranky 11-year-old Electra, and extending his paw within an inch of her face, which provokes substantial growling and sometimes escalates to hissing and spitting, and, upon occasion, snarling and slapping.  All the while, of course, William has this look of his face that says, “Whaaat?  I never even touched her!”

TOO BIG FOR HIS BRITCHES

Of course, as anyone who has shared a life with a cat, they do not wear clothes – even on Halloween – so outgrowing them is never a problem.  William has outgrown something more important than clothes – his litter box!  Yes, at 8 months, 2 weeks, when he sits in the litter box (which has a cover on it to keep litter from being sprayed throughout the entire flat), his entire body no longer fits.  His entire head is OUTSIDE the cover.  Well, as long as the other end is contained within the litter box, I suppose it’s OK.

OMG!  THERE REALLY IS SOMETHING WORSE THAN HEAD LICE!!

If you have ever had kids (or been one), or had a job where you’re around little kids a lot,  you know the horror of head lice and all the things you have to do to get rid of them, to include washing everything you possess.  Well, friends and neighbors, there’s something that’s actually even MORE trouble!  That would be microbial fungus, which was first noticed, of course, on William, the Wonder Cat.  Here’s the drill:

  •  Give both cats an oral med for 8 weeks.  (BUT, just to make things more complex, you give it to them for 1 week; then a 1-week break; then give it to them for another week; and so on.  Plus, since the cats are different sizes, they have different doses.  Do you have a clue how that messes with your memory? )
  • Give both cats a topical med for 12 weeks, treating their ears, paws, and tails.  (BUT, again, not every day – just twice a week) AND it’s concentrated so you have to dilute it to a 2% solution yourself.
  • During the first 4 weeks of treatment, take both cats to the vet once a week for a shot.  Here’s what ‘taking the cats’ to the vet involves:
  1. Take the shopping  bag off the shopping cart
  2. Put each cat in a cat carrier (no minor accomplishment of itself)
  3. Put William’s carrier on the shopping  cart frame
  4. Put Electra’s carrier on top of William’s carrier
  5. Use the bungee cords to affix said carriers to the shopping cart frame (which is a rather elaborate process to make sure that both carriers are individually secured to the frame)
  6. Haul the entire mess 6 blocks to the vet (William alone weighs more than 11 pounds; Electra weighs about 7 pounds; plus, of course, the weight of the cat carriers)
  7. Undo the bungee cords from said carriers
  8. Take cats out of carriers
  9. After the vet is finished giving them their shots, repeat steps 2 through 8 (except, of course, step 6 involves hauling them in the opposite direction)
  • At the 4th week, get a hair/skin sample to re-test (again, no minor feat, especially with William, which will likely require giving him a general anesthetic).
  • Pray that the sample is negative.
  • After another 4 weeks, take another sample (which involves bringing both cats to the vet once again).
  • After 2 successive samples come back negative, you can stop the treatment (so if Sample 1 is negative but Sample 2 is positive, you’re back at Square One).  NOTE:  It takes the lab between 2 and 4 weeks to process the sample, so while you’re waiting for the results, you still have to medicate the cats.  Heaven forbid if either of the samples comes back positive.
  • Here’s my favorite:  Apply Clorox to everything the cats have come into contact with.  There is NOTHING that the cats have NOT come into contact with, OK?  Upholstered furniture; carpets; our bed; our clothes; every surface in the entire flat.  And, of course, many of these things would be ruined by Clorox.

One final thing – we may have to go to our doctor because it could affect us and, presumably, the treatment for us may be as complex as the treatment for them (although it will be far easier for us to take ourselves to the doctor than to haul the cats to the vet).I’m on the verge of tears just thinking about it!  I hope that we’re done with this before our new grandbaby gets here in 6 months!!

WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE A WILL (AND KEEP IT UPDATED), OR THE SORDID SAGA OF HOW I INHERITED PART OF A GAS WELL

I own part of a gas well and they started drilling last July.  As it turns out, the entertainment value of how I came to have this gas well far exceeds the actual proceeds of the gas well itself.  The folks who are operating the well tell me that this is one of their most productive wells.  Want to guess how much my share of the proceeds is, after 14 months?  $28.42  Don’t rightly know what I’m going to do with my vast fortune, but I figure I’ll use the experience as an object lesson.

Here’s how I came to have this thing – I inherited it from my momma’s third husband’s first wife’s uncle.  OK, so one day some guy decides to buy the mineral rights to a piece of land in Tyler, Texas.  [Don’t know if it’s this uncle or not – he may well have inherited his piece from someone else on up the line.]  Buying mineral rights is highly speculative and it can be several decades (if ever) before drilling ever starts.  In the years between the original purchase and the drilling, it’s possible that folks die and pass on the mineral rights to their heirs.  This means that – assuming the owner has more than one heir – each successive generation has a smaller and smaller piece of the pie.  Well, going back to this uncle—he had at least a piece of this well and one of his heirs was his niece.  She got married and had 5 kids.  In her will she divided her share equally among her husband and the 5 kids.  As it turned out, this husband started cheating on her.  One of her first steps should have been to change her will, and just split her share among their 5 kids, don’t you think?  Well, instead of shooting him (which is likely legal in Texas), she decided she couldn’t live without him and took her own life.  Since she didn’t update her will, this 1/6th piece then went to her lying, cheating, no-good husband.  The woman he was cheating on was my momma, a woman who never met a husband she didn’t want to steal.  So they get married, and about 13 nanoseconds after the ink dried on the marriage certificate, my momma made sure that he updated his will, leaving his share of the gas well to her.  Well, it wasn’t long before the wedded bliss that he had anticipated turned to something else and this marriage ended.  But, did he update his will (maybe leaving his share to be divided among his 5 kids)?  Nope!  So he dies, and my momma inherits his share of the well.  Did my momma have a will, even though she was a paralegal and did wills for other people (and made sure that all her husbands had wills)?  Nope!  Then she dies, just about the time they decide it’s time to drill this well and, somehow, the management company tracked me down – literally 2 weeks before we moved to Berlin.

So, the moral to this story is this:  If you don’t want your stuff to be inherited by somebody you neither know nor are related to (such as your husband’s second wife’s daughter), make a will and keep it up-to-date!   I suppose I could take the high road and give my piece back to the other 5 heirs, but since they’d only get an extra $5 a year, the legal cost and trouble doesn’t seem worth it.  And somehow I’m disinclined to go to so much trouble for them when their own parents couldn’t be bothered to do so.

IF THE MEAT IS MINCED, WHY ISN’T IT CALLED MINCED MEAT?

Language is not a particularly rational thing (and George Carlin — God rest his soul — was a master at demonstrating just how irrational it is).  For instance, ‘mince’ means to chop something up rather finely.  So, if you do this to meat, then you would expect to be able to describe it as ‘minced meat.’  And, apparently, at least to the Brits, this makes sense.  However, to an American, the only time ‘mince’ and ‘meat’ come together is in the term ‘mincemeat’ – that wonderful pie we have at Thanksgiving and New Year’s!  So, you can imagine our surprise when our waitress (trying, as is often the case, to speak English to those of us who speak German so badly) said that one of the kinds of wraps available that day was ‘mince meat.’

This brings up another habit of speech that I am struggling with.  Folks from the USA refer to themselves as ‘Americans’ and refer to the country from whence they come as ‘America.’  The Germans find this arrogant because there are a lot more other folks who could call themselves ‘Americans’ – folks from countries such as Canada and Mexico, which are also part of North America, and folks from all the countries that form Central and South America.  But, in all fairness, I must make the argument that the USA should really claim the words ‘America’ and ‘American’ by default.  This is because all those other folks can easily use the names of their countries, as in ‘I am from Mexico; I am a Mexican.’  What can folks from the USA call themselves?  USAians?  Besides, folks from other countries on the continent don’t really call themselves ‘Americans’ nor do they ever say that they’re from ‘America’.  The word isn’t used by anyone else except the USAians, so can’t folks be generous enough to let us just have it?  [And here, Word Grammar Check wants me to say ‘let us just has it’.]

REALLY??

It is now time to re-apply for our visa so we can stay in Germany.  Of course, one question that is always asked on any official form is ‘What is your sex?’  Typically you’re offered two options:  male or female.  But the visa application offered a third choice.  Germany is a pretty open-minded place with respect to sexual orientation, so having more than two options didn’t surprise me.  I was thinking perhaps that the third option would be ‘other’ (to include something normal such as homosexual, transvestite, or transsexual).  Silly me!!  Wanna guess what that third option is?  UNKNOWN!!  Really!  Now, I realize that some children are born with an indeterminate sex, but wouldn’t you think that if you’re old enough to apply for a visa in a foreign country, you would have decided what sex suited you best?  I was sooo tempted to check that box!  But, although Germans are incredibly whimsical beings when it comes to art and humor, that whimsey absolutely does NOT extend to ‘official business’ and I wasn’t willing to risk it.

HOW ACCOMMODATING CAN YOU BE?

Harvey and I went to the Auslanderbehorde about a week ago to re-apply for our visa.  In some ways, Germans can be quite accommodating of foreigners.  This is the only place in Germany I opened the door to a bathroom stall to see just a hole in the floor, with foot pads on either side of it.  Glad I took the trouble to check out the other stalls to find what I recognize as a toilet!

JUST ANOTHER DAY ON THE STREETS OF BERLIN

I saw a car with Wyoming license plates!!  May not see odd to you, but think about it a second.  The total population of the state in 2010 was only 563,626 (placing it 50th of 50 states in the US).  So, from a statistical perspective, a license plate from Wyoming (based on population) is the least likely of all US license plates (assuming that the vehicle-to-human ratio in Wyoming is roughly the same as in all other states).  Therefore, seeing one in the US (outside of Wyoming or the neighboring states) is a pretty rare event any way.  Imagine the odds of such a plate appearing in Berlin!

OTHER REASONS TO LIKE BERLIN

http://www.germany.info/Vertretung/usa/en/__pr/GIC/2011/10/12__Bread__PR.html

  • German Consul to Alabama?  Apparently there is….

http://www.germany.info/Vertretung/usa/en/__pr/GKs/ATLA/2011/09/27__HK__PR.html

NONETHELESS…..

 I must admit, I still miss my clothes dryer (soft towels and unwrinkled perma-press clothes) and my frost-free refrigerator with ice (both cubed and crushed) and ice water through the door.  Sigh!


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

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