Archives for posts with tag: German

 

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

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

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

Strange hankerin’s

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

Being half-deaf has its advantages

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

The only logical answer…..

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

Inarticulate in two languages….

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

No smokers…

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

Surely you jest….

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

Living well…

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

Tree lovers

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

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

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

What’s in a name….

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

2016-01-30-Burgerspital

A conundrum…

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

YUM!!

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

 

 

 

NEXT TIME I WON’T BE NEARLY AS NICE….

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

THE PIGEON WHISPERER….

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

AND SO IT BEGINS….

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

HOW CAN YOU TELL THAT A 16-POUND SIAMESE CAT THINKS IT’S TIME FOR DINNER?

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

MAYBE ACTUALLY UNGRATEFUL

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

AMERICAN TREATS

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

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

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

DENGLISH

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

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

NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE

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

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

 LOOKING AT THINGS FROM DIFFERENT ENDS OF THE TELESCOPE

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

 SO, DO I HAVE ANY REGRETS?

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

IT MAKES SENSE, BUT STILL….

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

CLUTTER, CLUTTER EVERYWHERE!

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

IS IT EVER OK TO JUST SLAP A TOTAL STRANGER?

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

THE INFLUENCE OF DACHSHUNDS

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

AMAZING!

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

EXPERIMENT

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

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR

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

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

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

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

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

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

 IT’S TRUE!

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

IT’S MONDAY!

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

I ONLY THOUGHT I WAS HAVING A BAD DAY

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

DEFINING “WORN OUT”

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

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER

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

WHAT ARE THE ODDS?

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

CHRISTMAS TRADITION

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

RAINING IN THE KITCHEN

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

THE MALICE OF FELINES

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

LITTER WARS

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

ASPARAGUS AND WINE

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

2013-08-25 - Asparagus wine


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

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

 IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME

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

SOMETHING WORSE THAN LEAVING YOUR GROCERIES ON THE BUS….

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

HOW MANY FOLKS WILL YOU PUT ON THE PLANET?

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

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

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

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

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

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

SHADES OF THINGS TO COME?

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

AND MORE PORTENTS…

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

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

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

http://vimeo.com/34824981

ELECTIONS

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

BAGELS IN BERLIN

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

AN 18-MONTH OLD’S APPROACH TO PROBLEM SOLVING

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

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

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

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

 Vampire Rhinocerous Pegasus

 


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

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

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU WONDER…

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

 WISH I’D HAD MY CAMERA

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

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

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

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

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

How cool is that?

HOW HOT IS IT?

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

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

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

 BE STILL MY HEART!

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

 YOU DON’T MISS YOUR WATER UNTIL…

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

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

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

DON’T THINK SO…

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

PRETENTIOUS OR ESSENTIAL?

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

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

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

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

When an indispensable kitchen tool is a magnifying glass….

SIGNS

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

WHEN YOU’RE RUMMAGING AROUND IN THE FRIDGE…

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

 


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

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

BONKERS IN BRITAIN

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

  • Hightown Crow
  • Three-Legged Cross
  • Bagshot

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

  • Bear left right
  • Turn left left

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

A LITTLE SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY

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

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

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

 Sugarhigh newsletter@info.sugarhigh.de

 MAYBE THEY’RE RELATED?

Two headlines in the online newsletter, Expatica, today:

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

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

LINGUISTIC LIMBO

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

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

JUST WONDERING….

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

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THAT OLD AMERICAN LADY IN BERLIN?

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


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

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

YUM!

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

FEBRUARY 6, 2013

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

A PECULIAR QUIRK OF GRAVITY

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

THE PERFECT NAME

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

WHEN TO BUY NEW SOCKS

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

CORNIVORE

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

 

William the Wonder Cat - 26 (Cornivore)

FURTHER THOUGHTS ON CORN

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

Chocolate Covered Corn Worms

PIG TAIL CROQUETTES?  REALLY??

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

sugarhigh <newsletter@info.sugarhigh.de>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EVEN FELINES NEED VARIETY

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


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

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

WHAT GERMANS DO FOR FUN

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

http://www.bdbk.net/Ronsblog/db_view.asp?ID=1741

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 [www.moorhof.com], 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

http://cbcberlin.de/berlin-chessboxing-championships/

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.

WHAT DOES THIS SAY ABOUT WHAT KIND OF A PERSON I AM?

 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.”

  http://www.accoutrements.com/shop/products/Inflatable-Unicorn-Horn-for-Cats.html

Even I couldn’t make THIS up!!

 A MYSTERY OF PORCINE PROPORTIONS

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

 http://www.travelsignposts.com/Germany/sightseeing/schweine-pig-museum-stuttgart

 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!

 NOTES TO SELF

  •  
  • 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).

 PROGNOSTICATION FOR 2013

 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!!

 BE CAREFUL!!

 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!

 GOTTA LOVE IT!

 I recently bought something on Amazon.de [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):

 

5

Excellent

4

Right

3

Adequate

2

Weak

1

Miserable

 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.’

 CO-HORT

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

 

An English Man in Berlin (http://englishmaninberlin.wordpress.com)

 SURE DO HOPE THE FOLKS AT THE NEXT TABLE WEREN’T LISTENING

 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….

 SPA-HEAVEN!

 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!

 WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE SOUND OF A POOPER-SCOOPER BEING DRAGGED THROUGH LITTER…

 …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 FELINES

 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.

 IF ONLY THIS WOULD COME TO PASS

 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

 HARVEY’S ONE-PIECE

 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.

 2012-12-25-Warning


SOME DAYS JUST SUCK!

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.]

DID NOT MAKE THIS UP!

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.

FUN WITH COOKBOOKS

 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.’