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


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

  • Hightown Crow
  • Three-Legged Cross
  • Bagshot

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

  • Bear left right
  • Turn left left

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


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

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

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



Two headlines in the online newsletter, Expatica, today:

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

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


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

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


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


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

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


Nostalgic in Nederland – April 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2013 - April - NHS Bulldogs Throw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

FEBRUARY 6, 2013

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


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


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


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


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


William the Wonder Cat - 26 (Cornivore)


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

Chocolate Covered Corn Worms


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

sugarhigh <>

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

Bezirk [1] in Berlin© – 41 – UPDATE:  February 4, 2013


You may recall in issue #41 that seems to think I’m the kind of a person who would buy an inflatable unicorn hat for a cat.  William had a horrible nightmare when he got wind of this possibility.

 William the Wonder Cat - 25 (Unicorn Hat)


NOTE:  As always, make sure to look at the cartoon in full-screen mode so you can fully appreciate Evie’s artwork!

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

Bezirk [1] in Berlin© – 41: January 20, 2013


In addition to engaging in a competition to see who can toss their Christmas tree the farthest, Germans have some other pretty amazing sports:

  • Nude bowling in Bavaria

Over to Bavaria and a nude bowling alley run by an Englishman, where we are treated to full frontal (and rear) nude bowlers of both sexes. The owner claims it is much better to be active than sun bathing in a fenced in nudist colony.  Across the Salzach river from Berghausen Castle in Bavaria, and just inside Austria, is the Landhotel Moorhof in Franking [], where as part of the ‘wellness’programme, Paul strips off when he visits the hot tub room. There are wooden beer barrels made into hot tubs. Either singles or couples relax in hot tubs of bubbling beer extract, yeast and hops.  The attendant gives you a cold stein of bier.  You chat with your neighbours and refresh your stein with a beer tap above your tub.  After getting out and drying each other with large white towels, the attendant leads everyone up to the bedroom and a giant bed of straw where you can relax, sleep, or romp in the bed with the other guests.

  • Chessboxing

Who is the “Smartest Toughest Guy” in Berlin?

The Chess Boxing Club Berlin asks showdown: who is the smartest and the toughest guy in Berlin?  The 4th Berlin Chessboxing Championships on 28th July 2012 in the newly opened “Platoon” – instead of Halle in Berlin Mitte.  It is the most unusual, surprising sporting event of the year. … a main battle where the smartest, toughest guys of the “Chess Boxing Club Berlin” prove their intelligence in the ring and their repartee on the chessboard.


 OK.  I log onto Amazon.  And you know how Amazon makes recommendations based on what you buy yourself and on what other people who buy what you buy have bought?  Well, here’s the recommendation Amazon made for me – Inflatable Unicorn Hat for Cats.  I’m fascinated that anyone (other than Dr. Seuss ) has the temerity to spend the time, energy, and money to develop and market a product based on a fusion of the concepts of “hat” and “cat.”

Even I couldn’t make THIS up!!


 Germans flat out LOVE their pigs!  The even have a museum to pigs:

 Stuttgart’s Schweine Museum it seems is the largest pig museum in the world, with more than 37,000 sculptures, prints, paintings and documents from all around the globe covering all manner of pig facts.

They do everything imaginable with pork, the Divine Swine.  Cut it 8 million different ways, for example.  Often when I look in the meat case, I can’t even recognize what part of the pig I’m seeing.  They make all sorts of sausages and lunch meats.  They even eat pigs’ feet.  They cook it 8 different ways from Sunday.  They make marzipan into pigs.  (I once found 3 marzipan pigs arranged in positions that are illegal in at least 43 States.  Yes – pornographic pigs!)  And yet, in this Land of the Pork Lovers, nowhere can I find a ham!  I had pretty much assumed that I would not be able to find the ham we traditionally have had for New Year’s Day for decades – a Honey-Baked ham – but I thought surely I could find a plain ol’ ham.  Nope! Not gonna happen!


  • The letters on the keyboard are NOT in alphabetical order.
  • When you replace worn-out letters on your keyboard, it is VERY important to put the new letters on the right keys (even if you touch-type).


 I predict that, for the entire year of 2013, I’m going to be abysmally confused.  How do I know this?  Because of my calendar.  I bought exactly the same calendar I bought last year (except, of course, presumably, the dates on the calendar are for 2013).  My 2012 calendar had the week beginning on Sunday (which is something that all right-thinking folks do).  My 2013 calendar has the week beginning on MONDAY!  Who in their right mind would do THAT??!!  AARRGGHH!!


 From time to time, a message appears at the top of my g-mail that offers recycling info, such as “Did you know that it takes 30% less water to make paper from re-cycled paper?”  Today’s recycling hint is:

 You can make a lovely hat out of previously used aluminum foil.

I think I’ll disregard this hint – I have quite enough trouble with folks doubting my sanity as it is.  I’m surprised they didn’t add to this that such hats can also keep aliens from reading your thoughts!  And I’d really like to see what some folks might come up with in the way of aluminum foil hats!


 I recently bought something on [the German site], from one of those external sellers.  I was asked to rate the service from this vendor.  Here were my choices (in English):












 Often these automated translators come up with not-quite-right translations, so these options may be the result of a machine’s understanding of the language.  Also, on THIS side of the pond, British English is the standard, so that can sometimes make things even more bizarre from the American perspective.  However, it would be pretty cool if the poorest rating a vendor can get is ‘miserable.’


 Well, it seems that I have a fellow traveler, except it’s a man, and he’s English…


An English Man in Berlin (


 Jaton’:  I bought some candles today, but they’re too big for the brass candlesticks.

Harvey:  Well, we can put them in the dogs.

Jaton’:   Yeah, we can do that.

 Imagine what might come to mind if you heard this and you didn’t realize that we have a pair of terra cotta Mexican Chihuahua candle holders.  As if the concept of a pair of terra cotta Mexican Chihuahua candle holders isn’t sufficiently bizarre on its own….


 When I had to work for a living, I always enjoyed the time I spent at the spa.  I didn’t go nearly so often as I would have liked, but that was more a time problem than a money problem.  Now, of course, I have all the time in the world, but, given that I’m not sure when I’m gonna die, I’m a bit reluctant to spend money on such frivolities.  However, William has come to my rescue—as I lie on the sofa, watching TV, despite the many demands on his time, William will devote a significant amount of time to exfoliating my feet.  And, if Electra is feeling particularly generous, she will hop up on the sofa and devote her time to grooming my hair.  Sometimes I get both treatments simultaneously!  And all I have to do in return for this service is to provide them room, board, and medical care for their entire lives!


 …that stimulates a cat to come use the litter box?  Is it because he’s so fastidious that he’s been holding it all this time, just waiting for a ‘fresh bowl’?  Or does he somehow fear, or abhor, the absence of the most pungent evidence of his presence on this earth and is therefore compelled to replace it immediately?   Or is it more insidious, and part of his larger plan to thwart his loyal servants’ every effort ?


 Fastidious in felines is something that every cat person hopes for.  Alas, there are cases when it can backfire and who better to make that point than William, the Wonder Cat?  William (who will soon be 2 [or 25 in human years]) considers the toilet habits of Ms. Electra (who will soon be 13 [or 69 in human years]) totally unsatisfactory.  There is, alas, some basis for his assessment.  For example, sometimes Electra fails to cover her excrement, as most right-thinking cats would do.  Not someone who simply looks the other way when he finds something not to his liking, William often cleans up after Electra.  First, sometimes when she goes to the litter box, he scurries to the litter box and stares at her as she goes about her business.  No doubt, he wants to compensate for her lat of attention to detail as soon as possible, before the fragrance of her excrement wafts throughout the entire flat.  As you can imagine, having someone stare at you while you’re doing your business is not something that is remotely desirable.  Consequently, there is much hissing and snarling during this time, and it’s not unreasonable to assume that this is one reason Electra hurriedly exits the box without covering up her leavings to William’s satisfaction.  In any case, William often goes into the box and spends no small amount of energy digging and covering and God-only-know-what-all else in there.  He often over-compensates, piling huge mounds of litter at the front of the box.  As you know, every action has an equal and opposite reaction (or so they tell me).  In this case, it’s apparently true, because whenever Electra returns to the litter box and finds the litter piled far too high at the front of the box, she just hangs her butt a bit outside the box and empties what has got to be a disproportionately large bladder for such a small cat on the rug under the litter box.  We have tried clarifying for her that the concept is “Thinking outside the box” rather than “Pissing outside the box”—but inasmuch as Ms. Electra is not one much given to “thinking”, her understanding of this concept has to be manifested in something that has meaning for her, and apparently “pissing” fits the bill.


 Some cats can be trained to use the toilet instead of the litter box.  Imagine how much money we could save in kitty litter if we could train both William and Electra to do this!  And, it might have a side benefit of preventing Ms. Electra from pissing outside the box (as the provocation of unacceptably-arranged kitty litter would be removed).  However, any cost-benefit analysis would have to take into account William’s propensity for turning perfectly useful toilet paper into confetti.

 William the Wonder Cat - 24 - Staking his claim



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

Bezirk [1] in Berlin© – 40:  January 14, 2013


 There is a shop in Berlin that sells only one item – the ‘One Piece’ – a piece of clothing that covers your entire body.  It’s more or less like feety-pajamas, except without the feet but with a hood.  You can get these things in various weights, and the heavy-weight version is especially handy when it’s really, really cold.  The unfortunate thing is that, if you’re trying to stay warm, the utility of this garment is limited to males, because the only way females can access the toilet is to essentially remove the whole thing.  And if it’s cold enough to wear this thing in the first place, the LAST thing you want to do in the middle of the night is to completely disrobe.  Here’s what it looks like normally.

 2012-12-26-Harvey - 01

And, if you’re feeling a bit chilly, you can put on the hood.

2012-12-26-Harvey - 02


AND, if you’re really, REALLY cold, you can completely cover your head.

2012-12-26-Harvey - 03


AND, just in case you are unable to successfully deduce on your own that there are certain hazards with zipping the hood completely up, there’s a warning for you.



There’s no other way to describe January 5, 2013, for me.  Here’s the drill:

3:00 am – Wake up because husband is kicking the immortal crap out of me.  He’s had a bad dream and is merely trying to protect himself from the evil-doers who are out to get him.

6:00 am – Half-bald, bat-eared, rat-tailed cat projectile vomits all over the sofa.  This is not the merely disgusting “I-ate-too-much-so-I’m-barfing-up-the excess” kind that simply smells like cat food, but the “This-crap-has-been-in-my-belly-since-6pm-last-night-and-includes-nasty-gastric –juices-and-is-half-digested” kind that’s beyond disgusting.  And, of course, I wake up a bit later with a slightly queasy stomach,

9:30 am – The vet’s open between 10 and 12 on Saturdays, so I put Ms. Electra in her carrier, hop on my bike, and ride through the slightly rainy, 45 F weather to the vet.

10:45 am – Finally my turn to see the vet (as this is Saturday, after the holidays, there were several folks waiting to see her).  Ms. Electra is on her worst behavior.  The vet has to give her an anti-throw-up shot and then gives her sub-cutaneous saline solution so she’s not dehydrated.  And, of course, as this is a Saturday, the vet’s assistant isn’t there so I have to help the vet with a cat who is really not on board with having needles stuck in her.  The sub-cutaneous infusion means that you have to hold the cat still, while there’s a needle under her skin and saline solution flows just under her skin, to be absorbed by her body.  This isn’t short, like a shot, but rather takes about 5 minutes of keeping the cat calm and still (which is approximately 4 minutes and 59 seconds more than she’s willing to tolerate).

11:00 am – While doing the infusion, and holding a very scared, angry cat (who apparently has a very fully bladder) close to my body, said cat treats me to the ‘Golden Rain’ experience.  Although some folks may find this erotic, I’m pretty sure that the typical scenario does not include a cat, nor does involve a telephone in one’s pocket.  Oh, yes – a brand new (Christmas present), expensive, latest-and-greatest phone, now filled with cat piss.  Plus, of course, the roughly $100 bill for the vet (a very nice lady who actually took my phone apart and tried to dry out the cat piss – no extra charge for that).

11:45 am – After riding home with cat-piss-soaked pants, in 45 degree, slightly rainy weather, arrive home to husband who has been dealing with the cat vomit clean-up for a couple of hours and is less than enthusiastic about my request that he take the phone directly to the phone store, in case something is salvageable.

12:00 noon – Pissed-on wife takes a shower.

1:00 – pm – Take a break for breakfast, which neither of us has had yet.

1:45 pm – Said slightly pissed off husband heads out to phone store while previously pissed-on wife heads to the grocery store (because nothing is open on Sundays, so MUST get what we need on Saturday or do without until Monday).  [My father-in-law always said it was better to be pissed off than to be pissed on, so, at least according to him, the husband fared better in this than the wife.]

3:30 pm – Slightly more calm husband returns from phone store, with instructions on how to get a replacement phone.  This involves finding a security number for the warranty (and the wife-who’s-had-about-all-she-can-take is unable to remember where she put it).  Eventually the number is found and gentle husband calls the folks (and, of course, all this happens in German, with which we are both still struggling) to find out that:  (1)  They have to receive the phone before they will send a replacement; (2) In addition to the 99 Euros which I paid for the warranty, they have to receive a payment of 75 Euros for handling, before they will ship the replacement.  And, of course, by the time we figure out all the stuff we have to do to ship it back, the Post Office is closed and we can’t put it in the mail until Monday, further adding to the delay of getting a working phone.

On the bright side, I have every confidence that we have given the customer service reps at the T-mobile store on the KuDam a serious leg up on the competition for the Weirdest Customer Story.  No doubt the story about the cat pissing on the Samsung Galaxy III will be shared far and wide across the customer service community.  [And now you know why those of us who have worked in the customer service field call it “Customer Circus” among ourselves.]


As you no doubt know, Germans are rather fond of their sausage/wurst and there are all sorts of wurst.  As you may know, the German word for ‘German’ is ‘Deutsch’.  You may even know that the German word for ‘thick’ is ‘dick.’   Today I saw a glass jar of wursts.  Each wurst was about 6 inches long and a bit over an inch in diameter, so they were thick sausages, and they were German.  The label on the jar said “Deutsch Dicke” (and some words in German form the plural by adding ‘e’).  Really.


 Admittedly, I am easily amused, although I like to think of myself as simply more receptive to the truly funny things the world has to offer.  And I’m pretty sure most folks wouldn’t be able to look in the index of a cookbook and find anything to laugh about.  I have one cookbook that I bought when I graduated from college in 1967.  I figured I might be wanting to eat something besides scrambled eggs and sandwiches after I got out on my own.  It’s “Cooking for American Homemakers:  An Edition of Encyclopedic Cookbook” – how’s that for a mouthful?  One thing I came across in the index was “Opossum” – and you can roast it, or, for a special treat, you can fix stuffing for it.  This cookbook also has several recipes for preparing tripe (which, in case you didn’t know, is the stomach tissue of a ruminant, such as an ox or cow)—you can fix fried pickled tripe, boiled trip, tripe patties, baked tripe with bacon, or tripe fritters.  It actually has a black-and-white photo of battered and fried tripe, with this caption:  “Cut up the tripe, dip in batter, and brown in a skillet is you want something really good and unusual.”   Well, I’m pretty much there with the “unusual”, but maybe not so much with the “really good.”  Well, OK –  this cookbook was first published in 1950, so maybe it’s not that far removed from the frontier.  In fact, there are some interesting pointers for the American Homemaker, where you can go to:

  • Father Carves the Fowl to get directions on carving turkey, rib roast, or any other major cut of meat
  • Starting the Pressure Cooker to get instructions on using your pressure cooker and make some delicious dishes such as Liver Dumpling Soup
  • The Woman’s Club Bake Sale to get recipes for cakes that will impress all those other American Homemakers

Really, the fun never ends!  Even my 1972 edition of “The Joy of Cooking” (first published in 1931) offers directions of cleaning and cooking various game dishes, to include rabbit, squirrel, opossum, bear, raccoon, woodchuck, beaver, peccary, wild boar, venison, moose, and elk.  My favorite part about this section is the drawing showing you how to skin a squirrel.  Notice the shoes – wonder if those are special, squirrel-skinning shoes?  And by the way, you should try to get grey squirrels, rather than red ones; apparently, the red ones are a bit gamey!

skinning a squirrel

Next time your Internet connection is down for several days, your TV is in the shop, your kids and grandkids are out of town, you’re an ocean away from 99% of your friends, and every store in town is closed for the holidays, maybe you, too, can try amusing yourself by looking – really looking – at your cookbooks.

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

Bezirk [1] in Berlin© – 39:  December 26, 2012


They recently refurbished a U-bahn stop near us.  And, true to form the paint on the walls wasn’t even dry yet before the graffiti gremlins messed it up.  Admittedly, some of the graffiti is attractive and clever (or at least one of the two), but this particular graffiti was neither.  We discovered this about 3 pm as we were headed out to Maria and Josef’s for Christmas dinner (one of the very few – but certainly appropriately named – restaurants in Berlin open on Christmas day).  But, amazingly, when we came home from dinner a few hours later, someone had covered up the graffiti – with the new paint!  It HAD to be a miracle, because very few folks here work on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the day after Christmas, and somehow, I just can’t imagine the guys who paint the walls at the U-bahn stops being considered “essential personnel.”  Whatever!  We know it won’t last, but at least somebody is trying!!


I did something today that probably at least half of the folks in the US have never even heard of, much less done – I defrosted the freezer in my fridge.  Yep!  Scraping ice, putting bowls of boiling water in the freezer to loosen up more ice, and repeat until the ice is all gone (or, until you get bored, whichever comes first).  Frost-free refrigerators and freezers aren’t common here (except for really, really rich folks).  The initial expense isn’t so much the problem; rather it’s the amount of electricity to achieve that frost-free objective.  Of course, the good news is that, given the cost of electricity and the size of the living space most folks have, the fridge is small, with a commensurately small freezer.  The freezer in my fridge is about half  the size of a piece of carry-on luggage, so it’s not quite as big a job as it was back in the early 70s, when we were grad students and had a second-hand fridge that could have been as old as we were.


In the US, there is a form of bread that we call “English Muffins.”  In Germany, this substance is called “Toast Brötchen” (which translates literally as “toast rolls”).  Gee! I wonder what folks in the UK call these things?


I try to listen to German radio, in a futile effort to become more familiar with the language.  Twice an hour, there’s a weather report.  Invariably, I hear a reference to “Austin.”  Well, it turns out that the German word for “East” is “Osten” – and is pronounced pretty much like “Austin.”


If you’re old enough to remember the TV show Allie McBeal, then surely you remember the character who always flushed the toilet BEFORE he used it, because, in his words, he preferred a “fresh bowl.”  Well, William seems to have this preference as well, because all we need to do to get him to come use the litter box is to clean it.  Once he hears the sound of a pooper-scooper going through litter, he makes it his business to come running towards the litter box.  In fact, sometimes he’ll come even if he doesn’t do anything except re-arrange the litter.  This is another situation in which I know what he’s doing, but truly wonder what HE thinks he’s doing!


Ever lost a glove?  Aside from trying to find someone who wears the same size glove and has only one hand (and the right – or left, depending on the case—one at that), there’s not a lot of future for the single glove.  But now in Berlin, there’s hope!  With one of the highest divorce rates of any pairing, gloves are now the subject of a citywide matchmaking service, courtesy of the kind-hearted upcycling designers of Stadtfund. The collective fixes, cleans, and pairs up lonely, single gloves—ditched on the freezing streets of Berlin by their fed-up partners—with another discarded, slightly mismatched, yet somehow perfectly imperfect soul mate glove partner, then sells the new set online. Owners of lonely solo mittens can also use the Stadtfund‘s dating service, which will suggest potential partners from amongst their collection of singles. []


Today I saw one dog apparently in charge of another.  One of the dogs was on a leash; the other had the first dog’s leash in his mouth.  They appeared to be about the same age, size, and breed, so it’s hard to determine the criteria by which one was selected to be in charge of the other.  Or maybe they just take turns.


OK, so Germans love their dogs.  That’s fine.  Lots of people do.  Some dogs are even lovable.  And dogs live in apartments with people.  That’s also OK; we have our cats.  And animals need to piss and crap, and sometimes have accidents.  All this is understandable.  What is NOT understandable is how someone, in our apartment building, could let their dog crap on our front door mat and LEAVE IT THERE!  We’re used to looking out for dog crap on the sidewalk (even though it’s annoying that some folks don’t pick up after their dogs).  But we have been under the assumption that, once we’re in the lobby of the apartment building, we’re home free.  Well, apparently not!  And what’s the last thing you do before you walk into the apartment?  Yep – wipe your feet on the doormat outside your door.  And your next step, of course, is into your apartment.   JERKS just left it there!!


As long as I’m relating the less desirable qualities of dogs, I may as well share another cartoon drawn by Anna Johnson, talented granddaughter of the blog’s resident cartoonist, Evie Fullingim.

William the Wonder Cat - 23 - Food Chain

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

Bezirk [1] in Berlin© – 38:  December 13, 2012 


I’m not really nosy, but I am a tad curious.  I spend more than a few minutes at my laptop, which is in front of my living room window.  So I can’t help but see the comings and goings of my neighbors across the street. For example, I’ve started to see someone walking a new baby back and forth, so I’m pretty sure somebody has an addition to their family.  One flight up, from time to time, I see a red light.  This is fairly new, and I can’t help but wonder what it is.  Has a Lady of the Evening set up shop?  Or is it a spy, who turns on the light when he needs to deliver some information.  Or, maybe, it’s something far more mundane, such as a Christmas decoration of some sort.


It sometimes gets cold here, so wearing more than one layer of clothing helps make things a tad more bearable.  But you need to pay attention and plan ahead for certain things when you have on lots of layers of clothing, particularly when you need to pee.  First, while it’s never a good idea to wait until the last minute just to see how long you can last, when you have on multiple layers of clothing, you need to allow extra time to accommodate that.  And, second, you need to really pay attention and make sure you have pulled down ALL the layers before you seek blessed relief! (Another advantage men have over women – they can actually SEE what’s going on down there!  Women just have to guess!)


I subscribed to a coupon service – Groupon – via e-mail.  Even if I never use a single coupon, the entertainment value is tremendous.  For example, a while back, there was a coupon to get a pedicure, in which your feet would be exfoliated by tiny fish, who would nibble the dead skin off your feet.  Today, there was a coupon to take a Christmas tour of Berlin.  OK, so not so strange, right?  But is this tour by bus?  Nope!  Is it perhaps by horse?  Nope!  It’s riding in a carriage pulled by llamas.  It’s hard to pass THAT up!  Think of the conversational value.  For instance, when I go to my 50th high school reunion next year, I can casually ask folks what they did for Christmas.  When it comes by turn to say what we did, I can say that we toured Berlin by llama.  Or maybe I don’t even have to ask folks what they did for Christmas and I can just work it into the conversation, as in, “Well, your story about your cruise to the Bahamas reminds me of our Christmas tour around Berlin in a llama-drawn carriage.”  Or, preface a story with something like, “When we were touring Berlin in a llama-drawn carriage, we went past the Hotel Adlon, where Michael Jackson held his infant son out the window.”


Every evening while we’re watching TV, we have a little snack.  Whenever I can manage it, when snack time comes, William and Electra will be snuggled up with me on the sofa, giving me a reason to make Harvey fix the tea and snack.  One can’t possibly disturb kitties when they’re comfortable!  After all, they work so hard to get comfortable.  (Unless, of course, it’s time to watch TV and William is curled up on the irresistible maroon chenille blanket, in which case I have to pick him up and bring him onto to sofa with me.)  Well, last night Harvey used the left-over waffles and blue berries, with a little yogurt, for our snack.  Lovely!  So this morning when I was fixing breakfast, I discovered 7 blueberries in the fridge.  Seven!!  Who in their right mind would leave 7 blueberries?  And why?  I suppose one reason is that, since there was an uneven number, it confused him.  [Clearly, we’ve been watching far too much ‘Monk’ recently!]  OK.  There are at least two things he could have done with those 7 blueberries:  (1) give each of us 3 and just pop the odd one into his mouth; or (2) just eat all 7 himself.  In either case, if he had done that, I would never have known.  But leaving 7 lonely, pitiful little blueberries alone in the fridge overnight?  Really?


This morning at breakfast, Harvey made a suggestion—he proposed that we should fast one day a week.  To fully appreciate the timing of this suggestion, I must remind you that he had just finished his breakfast so his belly was full at the moment.  My response was this:  How about YOU fasting 2 days a week, and I’ll just keep on having regular meals.  Initially, that didn’t make any sense to him (as if the whole fasting business made any sense at all!).  However, after thinking about this a moment,  he re-assessed the wisdom of sharing a very small flat with a woman whose blood sugar levels are precipitously low and how that may substantially diminish the likelihood of his surviving a 24-hour fast.


No doubt many folks take gingko pills to help improve (or retain) their memory.  And I don’t know whether it works or not, but I’m not talking about taking gingko pills being dangerous.  The gingko works in a far more insidious way to kill.  Here’s how it works.  Our street is lined with gingko trees, and they are quite lovely, especially in the fall when they turn yellow.  Alas, there are two kinds of gingko trees – male ones and female ones.  Unfortunately, the idiot who decided which tree to plant happened to choose the female trees, which yield lots of beautiful yellow fruit (from which, no doubt, the memory-saving formula is made).  What makes this unfortunate is that this fruit has a stench that is absolutely unbearable.  The fruit falls onto the sidewalk; folks walk on it; and the squashed fruit emits an even stronger smell than the whole fruit.  Imagine vomited dog doo-doo.  Then imagine something 10 times as repulsive.  That’s the smell from gingko fruit!  Despite the fact that the sidewalk sweepers come on a regular basis to our street, the tree bears its fruit almost faster than they can sweep it up.  So, to avoid walking through it, and pulling my shopping cart through it, I decided to walk in the street.  Our street is only 1 block long, but cars do use it from time to time, and it so happened that one of them almost got me today.  So, gingko can kill you!!


Several weeks ago, we went off Daylight Savings Time.  It’s a tad easier in the fall, because you get to sleep an hour later.  Nonetheless, there are certain creatures who don’t seem to respect the time change, specifically our Devon Rex, Ms. Electra, who not only tries to get us up early to feed her at what had been her regular breakfast hour, but also tries to herd us to bed an hour early.  She’s not content to go to bed alone – she wants us to go with her, so she can slip under the covers and steal heat from us.


What I want to know is what he THINKS he’s doing.  William is staring at his water bowl.  He’s not drinking the water, nor is he playing with it—he’s just watching it with an intensity that might be warranted if it were the case that it might at any second reveal, say, the winning number for next week’s lotto and if he so much as blinks, he might miss it.

William the Wonder cat - 22 - Water Bowl


 Cats and Christmas trees are rarely a good combination.  Nonetheless, we have grandchildren, and I want them to appreciate all the special ornaments we have.  For example, when our son was born, my Dad and Step-Mom bought him a mobile.  I have since taken the little animals off the mobile and turned them into Christmas ornaments.  Most of our ornaments have stories behind them and there’s no way to pass on those stories if the ornaments stay in a box in the basement.  William is ‘helping’ us by alerting us to those ornaments that are vulnerable to being pulled off the Christmas tree.  Given that he has no language to simply point out these ornaments, he has to demonstrate these vulnerabilities by exploiting them.  Sigh!  Well, after all, he is still a kitten (despite weighing 16 pounds).  He’ll be 2 years old in February, which is the equivalent to 25 in human years –the time in a young man’s live when he carouses and drinks and generally raises hell.  After cats reach 2 years, each subsequent year equals about 4 human years, so maybe in about 2 more Christmases, the tree will have a fighting chance.  Electra, on the other hand, who is 12 years old (65 in human years), poses no threat whatsoever.  First of all, during the cooler months, she’s quite content to stay under the covers — sometimes she’s even willing to forego a treat if it means she has to leave her warm little nest.  Even so, she’s never been a particularly curious cat—I  think that she was hiding behind the door when they passed out ‘curiosity’ – so even as a kitten,  she never posed a threat to our Christmas trees.


William, Electra, Harvey and I wish you the very best of pleasant holidays and a marvelous New Year!

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

Bezirk [1] in Berlin© – 37:  December 10, 2012


I have a beloved uncle who’s originally from Boston but has lived in Miami now for decades (actually, at 95, he’s now been in Miami most of his life).  Anyway, he has a taste for clam chowder and he used to be able to get it at his local grocery store.  When he noticed that they were always out of it, he asked the store manager about it.  Know what the guy told him?  “We kept running out of it, so we stopped carrying it.”  Really?  A product is flying off the shelves and you have a choice between:  (a) ordering more (and making more money); or (b) discontinuing it so you don’t have to re-stock the shelves so often.  Wonder why American businesses are failing?  Apparently, the manager’s objectivewas to simply keep the shelves full rather than sell products.  What would happen if I applied that strategy to my pantry (well, I don’t actually HAVE a pantry – I just have lots of various nooks and crannies where I put stuff )?  Whenever I see some product I haven’t tried before, I buy it because I’m curious.  Often I like it; sometimes I don’t.  I recently bought some jam that looked good, but it looks a lot better than it tastes.   BUT, it IS lasting longer than the jams that we like, so I should keep buying it because it lasts longer?


Every now and then, I get some random text message on my phone, similar to this one:  Today I will see you and make wild sex with you.  Call me back right away at my private line.  Probably not gonna happen!


I saw something today that is a wonderful idea.  I don’t know whether this is a unique instance or whether it is standard equipment on cars in Germany.  One of my neighbors had opened the trunk to his car to get something out and on the inside of the lid to the trunk was one of those triangular, light-reflective warning signs.  So, if his car breaks down, all he has to do is open the trunk lid and other drivers – even in the dark – can see the warning sign.  Seems to me that it would be a good idea to put this on every car at the factory.  How much could it possibly cost?  Sure, folks can buy these signs and put them in their cars themselves (and I heartily suggest that you do) but most won’t and it would benefit everyone.  It’s a trivial cost that car manufacturers could simply pass on to the buyers.  Umm, excuse me while I go write all the car manufacturers and my Congressman.  (And then, I’m going to start buying stock in the company that makes those little signs.)


There’s already a project here in Germany to investigate using sewage as an energy source; I can’t remember what the official name of it is, but I call it “Poo Power.”  This has led me to come up with another idea.  It’s pretty obvious that, at least on road trips, gasoline turns into urine.  How do I know this?  Well, whenever you start out, your bladder is empty and your gas tank is full.  Then, as you go along, your bladder starts to get full and your gas tank starts to get empty.  Every time you make a pit stop to rectify these two problems, this process recurs.  So, if gasoline converts to urine, why couldn’t you reverse the process?  And, of course, I would call it “Piss Power.”


From time to time we see some puzzling things.  Of course, part of that is just getting older and more easily puzzled, and part of that is living in a foreign country.  Yesterday I saw a guy wearing a cap with a curious motto – No Goats, No Glory.  I’m pretty sure there’s an interesting story behind that and would love to know what it was.  I also wish I knew where he got it, because I have a friend who raises goats and would really love to get one for him, so he could be as puzzled as I am.


OK, so you might not be a phone geek, but the NANP is the marvelous scheme the US telcos use for phone numbers.  It gives you your area codes and your phone number.  It’s why all numbers in the US are 10 digits (with the area code) or 7 digits without the area code.  If somebody gives you their phone number and you write it down and discover that you have a number of digits other than 10 of 7, you KNOW you don’t have the number down correctly.  Sure do wish the Germans would latch onto that concept!  I don’t know what the range of correct number of digits is, but our home phone is 8 digits and we frequently get calls for some doctor.  After more than 2 years, we’ve cracked the code – his number is 9 digits and has two 4s where we only have one.  It’s not a big problem for us, since it happens only a few times a week (and, since it’s a business, the calls only come during business hours).  What CAN be amusing, however, is when someone argues with us about whether they’ve misdialed or not, because, presumably, if they had dialed correctly, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation, would we?  Still, I’ll take that over all the telemarketing calls from businesses, charities, and, especially this year, political campaigns we’d have to endure in the US right now!!


I don’t merely sneeze – I have explosive sneezing episodes of impressive duration.  In fact, the other day I was in mid-sneeze-a-thon just before I entered the grocery store and a biker passing by said, “Gesundheit” to me.  My sneezing bouts are so extraordinary that the National Weather Service was considering naming each episode, much like they do hurricanes.  They had second thoughts, however, when they realized that – given the frequency of these episodes, they wouldn’t even make it through January before they’d have to re-start the list of names – the sneezing episode known as ‘Zeke’ would probably come as early as the third week in January.


You know how there’s all the extra junk on your screen when you’re on the Internet?  Stuff you never asked for but is pushed at you whenever you logon to certain sites?  Well, I logged onto the site I usually check for weather today.  I wasn’t especially surprised that an ad for the Red Cross popped up, asking me to donate money to cover the costs of Hurricane Sandy.  I wouldn’t have been surprised, either, for this ad to be accompanied by photos or videos of some of the hurricane damage.  What DID surprise me was that there was a link labeled “See friends at risk in severe weather.”  Well, no, I’m not particularly interested in seeing my friends while they’re in mortal danger, thank you!


You can always rely upon kids to lighten things up.  Once again, the blog’s resident artist, Evie Fullingim, offers the work of her granddaughter, Anna Johnson, to accomplish that objective.  Anna’s interpretation of William’s destructive tendencies is that he’s just trying to express his “inner clown”.  (We, of course, know that he doesn’t need any motivation to do these things – all that has to happen is for something to occur to him.  His mind is very simple, really.  After all, his brain is only about the size of a walnut.)

 William the Wonder Cat - 21 - Clown

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

Bezirk [1] in Berlin© – 36:  December 9, 2012


It snowed today.  As I was walking down the sidewalk, a 20-something young girl was walking towards me.  I saw what I thought was a pile of snow on her head – not the kind that may have accumulated as she was walking down the street, but an actual pile, more or less like a half a snowball on top of her head.  I thought to myself, “Surely this is a bow or a pom-pom on a hat.”  But, no.  It wasn’t – it was a pile of snow.  And I doubt that she was unaware that it was there. (If so, she may have tilted her head a bit and some of it would have spilled.)  So, yeah – I saw what I thought I saw.  But, after all, this IS Kreuzberg!!


Apparently our German bank is offering something to be excited about!  Unisex rates for financial planning!  Wonder what it IS?  [Sometimes the automated translation leaves something to be desired.  For example, the word for ATM is ‘Geldautomat’ and sometimes the automated translator yields something like ‘Money car mat’ – Geld = Money; Auto = Car; and, well, Mat just has to manage for itself, without the ‘help’ of the translator!]  [Later:  Determined that these ‘unisex’ rates are for life insurance, which actually seems to benefit MEN!  Because women live longer than men (and therefore would be paying premiums longer than men), it would seem that women should have LOWER rates, wouldn’t it?  So, in this case, making ‘women equal to men’ is actually a disadvantage for women.  Why am I not surprised?]


 If the word ‘incredulity’ in Webster’s were accompanied by a photograph, it would have to be of the look on Ms. Electra’s face recently.  We typically give the cats snacks throughout the day, but William, the Wonder Cat, has been showing signs of getting a bit chunky, so we thought we’d try reducing the size of their portions.  The first time I tried it, I swear, Electra stared at her bowl for 5 solid seconds (time it – it’s actually a loooong time!), then looked up at me, then back at the bowl, then back at me for 5 seconds, and only then did she deign to eat the meager portion I had set before her.  She was, indeed, totally incredulous!

 And here we have Electra, in all her incredulity (and her perpetually dirty ears, because, not only does she just have waxy ears, but her brother refuses to groom her, despite her fervent efforts to groom him)!

Electra incredulous


 We went to a Christmas Market at Potsdamer Platz, which also has a huge shopping arcade.  Wisely, the shops are open late, as are the public restrooms in the arcade – lots of folks drinking lots of beer and Glühwein.  And there was even a special restroom attendant to direct traffic.  She, of course, was facing the incoming traffic and pointing to the appropriate restroom.  That would have been sufficient.  But she also decided to enhance her services by saying ‘Rechts’ (right) or ‘Links’ (left).  And, naturally enough, she was saying ‘Rechts’ or ‘Links’ based on HER right and left, rather than the right and left of the incoming traffic.  So, when I SEE her pointing to MY left but SAYING ‘right’, I stand there for a moment, a bit perplexed.  I’m sure she’s wondering why all these folks seem to have a problem with her simple, explicit directions!


 My soon-to-be-5-year-old granddaughter has managed to memorize the dialogue between the Queen and her mirror in Snow White.  Having demonstrated this achievement, she wanted to act it out, where, she (of course!) would be Snow White and I would play all the other parts.  When it came time for the Prince to kiss her, I gave her a big pretend kiss (as she shuns real kisses from anyone other than her mother).  Then she demanded a SECOND kiss!  I’m afraid to even begin to imagine what this portends for her future relationships.

 Speaking of granddaughters, the blog’s resident artist, Evie Fullingim, has yet another cartoon offering from her granddaughter, Maddie Johnson.  In all fairness to William, however, this is one thing that he doesn’t do that much.  [I’m almost afraid to say that, as he might start doing it before I even finish typing this!]  He actually USES the scratching mat we got for him – his one concession to otherwise fervently executing his mission to destroy our flat and everything in it.

William the Wonder Cat - 20 - Shredding Chair

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