Bezirk [1] in Berlin© – 23:  January 31, 2012



I’ve been thinking some more about the poor Hackle girl (see #22).  It’s pretty much an image that’s hard to get out of your mind.  I begun to wonder if the photographer tricked her.  Maybe he took a picture of her smelling a rose and puckering up to kiss a baby and then, given the miracles of modern technology, did a cut-and-paste for the Hackle ad.  In a way, I hope that’s what happened – I like to think that no one is so hard up for work that they would intentionally pose for these pictures, which are propagated so widely.


 I had a face when I woke up this morning.  In fact, I’ve had a face as long as I can remember, and, if the sonograms of my grandson are any indication, I most likely had a face several months before I was born.  But, alas, this evening I have no face.  Totally gone (ganz weg)!  I lost it when I road across a bump on the bike path on my way home this evening, when my frozen face fell off and broke into 5,923 ½ pieces on the bike path.  I’ve discovered that being exposed to 15 degree weather, with a 13 mph head wind, renders uncovered flesh brittle and fragile.  Tomorrow it will be 8 degrees F!  What’s up with that?  After the temp goes down to freezing, what’s the point of getting any colder?  I think it’s just Mother Nature showing off!!

 I hope that when I wake up in the morning, my face shall have returned for another go.  If so, I’ll try to remember to use my balaclava next time!  And I have no excuse for not using it – it’s attached to my jacket, so it’s always with me – much like my face used to be.

My poor son!  I only rode for 4 kilometers, twice today, but he’s typically out in this weather 8 – 10 hours a day, on his bike, delivering documents and small devices to businesses that apparently are unable to operate without them and feel they can’t rely on the postal service.  Last year, he managed to miss 3 weeks of the worst weather by taking a bike trip up (or down) the California coast with his father.  This year, he’s managed to miss a couple of weeks by painting the flat that he and his family will move into by the end of February.  He’s been working like a dog, but at least it’s inside and warm.  Wonder what drastic measures he’ll take next year to get a brief respite from the cold.


So, does this menu get your digestive juices flowing?

  • Entrée:  Noodles with radishes, salami, potato, and bananas
  • Side dish:  Tomatoes and carrots
  • Beverage:  Tea made of red cabbage and pineapple
  • Dessert:  Pan-fried cake and lollipops

Can’t say our 4-year-old granddaughter isn’t adventurous in the kitchen!  Fortunately, the ingredients were all play food, available from her own private grocery store and assembled with loving hands!


Do you remember Bezirk #10, where I talked about the Bier Bike?  Well, I had a chance to see it today again.  I’m feeling particularly generous today so I’ll give you the URL again so you won’t have to search it out:

 To fully appreciate the importance of this bier bike sighting, you must know that this is January, in Berlin, with freezing temps and light, wet snow.  Nonetheless, a group of hardy young men (mostly) were peddling the bier bike down Bergmanstrasse.  Although it makes sense that these guys would do this on a Saturday, the idea of going down Bergmanstrasse with such a traffic-impeding vehicle on a day when the street is actually crowded with shoppers was undoubtedly not welcomed by folks in cars.  The rest of us, however, thought it was pretty amusing.


I never cease to be amazed at the things that stimulate the curiosity of my beloved.  [By the way, I initially tried to use another verb with respect to ‘curiosity’ but couldn’t figure out whether it’s spelled ‘peek’ or ‘peak’ or ‘pique’ or some other way, so I fell back to a more certain, but infinitely less satisfying, expression.]  For example, have you ever wondered why it was a wooden horse that the Trojans built, as opposed to, say a wooden armadillo or hippopotamus?  Nope, neither have I.  But apparently this question is keeping him up nights, so he’s spending a lot of time researching it.  I’ll let you know what he finds.


I am continually amazed how self-sufficient kids are in Germany.  A few days ago, I was at the grocery store.  There was a kid who could not have been older than 10, and he was doing some substantial shopping – kitty litter, cat food, vegetables, etc.  In fact, the cat food he needed was on a shelf that was too high for him to reach, so he asked me to hand it to him.  I later watched him go through the grocery line, pay for the grocers, and pack a sizeable shopping cart to pull back home.  You just don’t see that in the States.  I suppose part of it is that you don’t have grocery stores on every other block so walking to the store isn’t really an option, and kids that age don’t drive yet.  My husband can recall having been sent to the grocery store from time to time to pick up an onion or something like that, but he certainly never made a full-out shopping expedition.  The other thing we frequently see are small kids – maybe 8 years old – traveling on the U-bahn alone.  Today we saw one youngster about that age, traveling with what we imagine was his younger sister.  A few stops before he got off, he took out his phone and called his Dad to tell him where he was.  I expect that this is a routine they have, just so his folks can keep tabs on him.  And although I don’t keep up with the daily news here, I certainly haven’t heard of any kidnappings, disappearances, etc. – it seems like kids are generally safer here than in the US, where they are kept on a much shorter leash.  Kinda makes you wonder about how effective it is to be over-protective, or what it may say about the differences between our two countries that maybe children are safer in Germany than in the US.


My husband and I met when we were 16; we married at 22.  We’ve been friends for 51 years and spouses for 44 years.  I can’t speak for everybody who’s been in a relationship for that long, but I can speak for us (and I rather suspect it applies to lots of folks in our boat), but here are the reasons that come to mind:

  1. Because you’re both going deaf, before you say something, you ask yourself, “Is this really worth repeating 2, or 3, or 4 times?”
  2. There’s precious little that remains to be said that hasn’t already been said, many times.
  3. You share a brain, so there’s no need for words.

I can give you a perfectly good example of the last explanation, which happened this morning at breakfast.  Every now and then we might have eggs, or waffles, or French toast for breakfast.  However, at least 90% of the time we have either oatmeal or fresh fruit with yogurt.  I happen to like butter on my oatmeal; my husband doesn’t.  Because I like it to melt, I put the butter in the bowl and then put the oatmeal on top of it.  My husband likes milk on his oatmeal.  There have been times when whichever one of us puts the oatmeal on the table gets confused and puts the unbuttered oatmeal at my place and the buttered oatmeal at his place.  This morning we had fresh fruit with yogurt.  As he picked up the bowls to put them on the table, he asked me, “Which bowl has the butter?”  This occurred[i] approximately ½ of a nanosecond before I was going to say, “The bowl in your left hand has the butter in it.”  This is what passes for witty repartee in our household.


After 50 years, my husband and I have pretty much run out of things to argue about.  We’ve either resolved the differences, agreed to disagree, or the topics of dispute have reached their expiration date (e.g., what time to put our son to bed – he pretty much figures that out for himself now).  Nonetheless, there is this human urge to argue about something – after all, isn’t the whole purpose of marriage to make sure that you don’t have to argue with total strangers?  So we have to make up things to argue about, one of which has to do with whether the cats love him or me more.  Naturally, when we’re watching TV and I’m lying on the sofa and both cats climb onto my rather ample lap, leaving him totally cat-less on the floor, I can assert that it’s pretty clear that I’m the one they love the most.  Yesterday, he was taking a nap and both the cats climbed up on him to give him support and counsel in this endeavor (as they are, indeed, renowned as subject matter experts when it comes to napping).  However, after he got up, the cats stayed on the bed.  Then, later, when I assumed my ‘cat-attracting position’ on the sofa, their presence on my lap was conspicuous in its absence.  They were still in the bed!  We noticed that the one constant in all these cases – when they’re on my lap, when they’re on his lap, or when they’re on the bed alone – seems to be a particular blanket.  It’s a lovely Afghan throw that my cousin recently made for me and, despite having previously exhibited a definite preference for a maroon chenille throw, the cats have switched their alliances to the Afghan.  As it turns out, the cats prefer whoever is lying beneath the Afghan!  Whether it’s me or Harvey or Charlie Manson – or even nobody – is pretty much irrelevant to them.  So, this conflict having been resolved, we find ourselves on the search for a new topic to argue about.  Suggestions are welcome!


I had a surprise greeting on my birthday last month.  I got an SMS message wishing me Happy Birthday.  It was from the ‘entire team at Deutsche Telecom.’  WOW!  Just for ME??  And I wonder if I had to pay for that message?  Since my service is prepaid, I never see a bill so I have no way of knowing.  I also wonder how much[ii] those messages I get from hot chicks wanting to meet me (an oldamericanlady) are costing me.


William is particularly fond of water.  I don’t know how he’d feel about a bath, but every time there’s water running, he heads for it immediately.  Normally, it’s not a problem because it’s[iii] water coming from a faucet, and faucets are generally pretty sturdy.  However, we discovered a new danger, so now the Brita filter pitcher cannot be left unattended until the water drips completely through the filter.  Otherwise, William will try to play with it and knock it over.  It’s a good thing that there isn’t a gun in our flat; otherwise we would be down to a single cat tonight!

And, thanks to William’s fondness for flowers, the bouquet that my grandkids gave me for my birthday must be displayed in the bathroom – the only place in the flat where we can close a door and keep him out.  But, given the vicissitudes of old age, I get to the bathroom rather frequently…..


 William the Wonder Cat has some relationship with gravity that seems to elude the rest of us.  He can adjust the effect of earth’s gravitational pull on his body.  He exercises this power when he is some place where we don’t want him to be at the moment.  For instance, if he’s napping across my legs and I have to get up to attend to an urgent matter – most often to go to the bathroom – his normal weight of 14.4 pounds doubles, making the process of retrieving my legs from underneath his body a far greater challenge than would otherwise be the case.  I think this is similar to a capability shared by both dogs and cats – the ability for an animal weighing a mere 10-15 pounds and having a body length of about 12-18 inches to somehow occupy every square inch of a king-sized bed, leaving absolutely no room for the human who suffers from the delusion that the bed is for him, rather than his pet.


A few years ago, we bought a tempurpedic mattress.  To demonstrate how the mattress conformed to your body, the sales man put his keys on the mattress and told me to lie down on top of them.  Indeed, the mattress enveloped the keys as well as my body and I couldn’t even feel them.  William has the same quality, as he can drape himself across my bony feet (one of the few parts of my body that can be described as ‘bony’) and somehow make himself comfortable.


This morning as William was sitting on top of the china cabinet, I noticed him looking longingly at the chandelier hanging over the dining table.  From that position, the chandelier is about 3 feet (horizontally) and 3 feet (vertically) away.  So, according to Pythagoras, he’s only a little over 4.2 ft. away from it, a trivial distance indeed (barely 2 body lengths for him).   And, once he gets an idea in his head, it’s only a matter of time before he acts on it.  And there’s nothing I can do about it – no way to prevent access to the top of the china cabinet and no way to prevent him from jumping from there to the chandelier.  Resistance is futile.  For a moment, I considered attaching weights to his limbs and around his belly, thinking that might slow him down.  But then I remembered – athletes in training use that method to make them stronger, not weaker.  If there’s anything we DON’T need, it’s for him to become stronger!  The only good news is that at least he won’t be able to jump at the same speed as he can when he thunders through the flat, so maybe the combination of weight and speed won’t be sufficient to pull the chandelier  out of the ceiling.


When I first started riding my bike, I was terrified of riding it in the street.  As I’ve become a tad more comfortable with it, the street is looking increasingly attractive, especially when there’s no bike path (or, sometimes, even when there is).  When veteran bikers extol the virtues of riding in the street, they normally mention how you can avoid pedestrians, folks coming out of doorways, children, dogs, etc.  These reasons are undoubtedly valid.  However, I have a few more advantages to offer.  For one thing, bikes are quiet, so as I pedal along at my customarily glacial speed, I don’t know another biker is trying to pass me until he’s right upon me, which typically startles me.  For this reason, bikers who pass me without ringing their bells are placing themselves at great risk.  [Note:  Unfortunately, it’s considered rude and pushy to use your bell.]  Trust me — the ‘startle’ response does absolutely nothing to improve my biking capabilities.  Cars, on the other hand, make sufficient noise for me to recognize that they are approaching (rather than having them suddenly and inexplicably materialize right beside me, which is what it’s like with a bike).  Another advantage is the distinct absence of doggy doo – folks are typically disinclined to humor their dogs by letting them take a dump in the middle of a busy street.  That’s definitely not the case for sidewalks or bike paths along sidewalks.  And a third point is that, if I were to be hit by a car, no doubt my demise would be mercifully swift, while being hit by a bike is more likely to render me in pain for some time to come.



A couple more examples of Berlin Whimsey..



And notice that ‘Hot Dog Man’ does not mean ‘the man who sells hot dogs.’





Gotta love the expressions on the faces of these cats!


As a final note today, if you can read the footnotes, you can see how abysmally unreliable Word Grammar Check is.  I believe that the labzoids in Redmond should be required to take an oath similar to the one that doctors take – First do no harm!  Better to give NO advice at all than to give WRONG advice!

Further note:  The editor on my blog suggested changing ‘unbuttered’ to ‘unuttered’ — making it read ‘My husband likes unuttered oatmeal.’

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

[i] Word Grammar Check flagged “This occurred” with the note “Verb confusion.”  WHAT???

[ii] And here, Word wants me to say “how many those messages … cost me.”

[iii] And here, Word Grammar Check wants me to use ‘its’ (the possessive form of ‘it’) rather that ‘it’s’ (the contraction meaning “it is” – which is precisely what I meant here).  In my experience, Word ALWAYS gets the difference between its and it’s wrong.