Archives for posts with tag: marriage

 Another difference….

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

 Well, we thought we had a solution….

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

It’s the little things….

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

Mystery solved!

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


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

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

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

I have never trusted…

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

How not to have a boring obituary

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

Note to self

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

Comforts of home

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


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

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

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

Here’s the new routine:

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

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


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







DeLighted in Leipzig  (September 21, 2013)

Even retired folks need a ‘get-away’ from time to time, and we really needed some time away from the cats – their incessant demands to be fed; their continuous fidgeting in the bed; waking up pinned to the bed by 25 pounds of cats.  So, we decided to take a couple of days and go to Leipzig, about a 1-hour train ride from Berlin.  It was truly lovely.


One of the real treats was the hotel – Steigenberger Hotels and Resorts!  Here’s a list of all the items they supplied:

  • Magnifying make-up mirror in the bathroom
  • Absolutely luscious shower!  Lots of water and lots of room in the shower!  I could have stayed in the shower the WHOLE time we were there!
  • Q-tips, cotton pads, a nail file (in addition to the standard soap, shampoo, and hand lotion)
  • Washcloths (which are rare in Europe)
  • Free slippers
  • Even an umbrella for you to use
  • Turndown service with a piece of chocolate on your pillow (EVERY night!  Not just on the first night, like the Moevenpick Hotel did in Zurich!)
  • And, the most amazing thing – a FREE 1-liter bottle of water in the room!

 Alas, they still had those piteous European pillows – huge, but really, there’s no “there” there in these things!  European pillows are to real pillows as cotton candy is to real candy.


We’ve been married almost 46 years.  For a few decades, both of us worked in telecom.  To us, the “T” in “T-shirt” stands for “telco.”  So we have had any number of T-shirts for any number of different telecoms.  We also have lots of other T-shirts, since, these days, ‘dressing up’ means putting on a nice T-shirt.  So, we each packed our clothes to go on a 2-night trip.  The odds of EITHER of us selecting our Nortel T-shirt would have been pretty small.  The odds that EACH of us, independently, would select our Nortel T-shirt would be even smaller.  So imagine the odds that we would both – independently, of course – select the Nortel T-shirt for the same day, realizing this only in the elevator as we left our room!  Yep!  We’re a pair of half-wits, apparently having only one brain between the two of us.


You often see T-shirts here with words and/or images on them that are familiar for Americans, but you have to wonder what meaning they have for Germans.  For example, in Leipzig we saw a T-shirt commemorating the movie “Easy Rider” – which came out 44 years ago.  It’s hard to imagine a German teenager knowing about that.  And another T-shirt was even more esoteric – I’m not sure even an American teenager would understand this reference:  “As I Lay Dying” – a book by William Faulkner.  You also see lots of T-shirts for various American colleges (most of which are relatively obscure).


Not bad!

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


This has to be the best zoo on the planet!  The animals are arranged according to continent, with the habitat as close to their natural habitat as can be managed in Germany.  And it’s more like walking in the woods, where you can stay out of the hot sun as you walk through the zoo, with plenty of benches where you can stop for a rest.  The less exotic animals are interesting as well, specifically the sparrows.  For one thing, once you sit down on a bench, they flock to you because they’re definitely expecting to be fed.  However, if you don’t accommodate them quickly, they won’t waste their time on you.  One little fellow apparently got closer to a cat than he wanted to because he seemed to have no tail feathers.


Beware of foreign attempts at American food – one of the snack shops in the zoo offered a “BBQ Sandwich Burger”—and since they couldn’t manage to use the right phrasing, I’m pretty sure the interpretation of the term “BBQ” wouldn’t be quite right, either.  And elsewhere we saw a café that offered “Chili con carne – Texan Recipe.”  Nope.  Not gonna risk that, either!


I love apes (who don’t have tails) and monkeys (who do have tails) and one of the attractions at the zoo was the bonobo chimpanzees.  These beasts are known for their promiscuity and their universal solution to anything that causes them stress is not aggression, like most animals.  Nope, their universal solution is sex.  Got a headache?  Well, just have sex with whoever is handy.  Hungry?  Well, let’s just have sex.  Too hot?  Just have sex.  Too cold?  Just have sex.  So you can imagine my surprise when I saw the sign announcing that the zoo’s baby bonobo was born in April, and, although they named the mother, they stated that the baby’s father was unknown.  Gee!  Do you think?  This guy may – or may not – be the daddy….

2013-07-16 - Leipzig Zoo - 11 (Bonobos)


In addition to the Leipzig Zoo being famous for its design, there was something else that helped it gain world-wide fame, and that was being the home to the lovely Heidi, the cross-eyed opossum.  Alas, Heidi’s life was far too short, and we didn’t get to see her in life.  But, of course, the zoo’s gift shop was full of all sorts of stuffed toys in her image.  We even found a candy shop where you could buy marzipan versions of Heidi.

See full size image


Folks in this city are used to tourists.  Want to take a photo of their famous church, where Bach made music?  Well, they’ll tell you where to stand to get the best shot:

2013-07-17 - Leipzig - 07 (Where to stand to take a photo of Thomaskirche)

So here’s the photo of the church taken from that spot…

2013-07-17 - Leipzig - 06 (Thomaskirche)

And the organ Bach played


2013-07-17 - Leipzig - 04 (Organ in Thomaskirche - where Bach played)



 A bench outside a skateboard store…


2013-07-16 - Leipzig - 04 (Skateboard Bench)


 And, in case you want to go through this garage door without opening the whole thing, here’s a door inside a door.

2013-07-16 - Leipzig - 03 - Door in a door

As you may remember me noting, folks in Berlin consider themselves virtually naked without a scarf.  You’ll see them wearing scarves in 90 degree weather, with short-shorts and a halter top.  Apparently, the folks in Leipzig take it ever further – they don’t want their sign poles to be seen without scarves, either.

2013-07-16 - Leipzig - 02 (Pole with knitted coverI)


As just about everywhere in Germany, Leipzig has its fair share of street musicians.  As we were walking through the shopping district, we came upon a young girl who was singing a cappella, and we gave her a Euro.  Shortly afterwards, we stopped for some ice cream, and thought about that young girl.  She really was a very poor singer, and we wondered if we shouldn’t go back and retrieve our Euro – after all, it was cruel to encourage her singing, since she clearly had no talent at all.


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


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

 2012-12-26-Harvey - 01

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

2012-12-26-Harvey - 02


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

2012-12-26-Harvey - 03


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

skinning a squirrel

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

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

Bezirk [1] in Berlin© – 29:  July 9, 2012


Sometimes my fondness for the excellent public transportation system here is placed in jeopardy by assholes and whackos.  For example, today we had to wait 30 minutes for a bus that normally comes every 10 minutes.  It was 80 degrees (F), we were tired, and the grandkids were full of energy.  Waiting along with us was a school group of about 15 elementary school kids returning from a field trip, as well as the normal contingent of folks who would – by that time – have been served by 3 different busses.  When the bus finally arrived, it was packed.  We took pity on the teachers and yielded to them and their 15 students.  This apparently was taken as a sign of weakness on our part by the other passengers, who crowded in front of us, so we just decided to take the next bus.  HA!  The joke’s on the assholes!  The next bus came literally in the next 2 minutes, and was virtually empty, so we weren’t packed in a bus like sardines, with 15 hyper-stimulated 8-year-olds and all those assholes who pushed in front of us!

When we changed from the bus to the train, we encountered a whacko.  Parts of the train have the seats along the sides of the train, rather than in rows.  The whacko had taken off his shoes and put them in the middle of the center of the train, so everybody had to walk over them.  If I had not had the kids (and if I were considerably more agile), when I got out, I would have grabbed his shoes and thrown them under the train!!  But, not pushing my luck with a whacko (and not wanting to set a bad example for the kids), I abstained.

Then, coming home on the train, we encountered another asshole!  Some of the seats along the sides of the train fold up (like in the movies) to accommodate bicycles and strollers and such.  There was a guy sitting on one seat and using the folded-up seat next to him for an arm rest.  Harvey practically had to pick up the sucker’s arm to pull down the seat so he could sit in it!  There are also the occasional assholes who sit in the middle of 2 seats, and I’m not talking about morbidly obese people who may need 2 seats – just people who, even during (or especially during) rush hour can’t be bothered to share the available seats as intended.

So, some days I long for my car.  But, thinking back, I’m pretty sure I have strong impressions of assholes and whackos on the streets of the Washington, DC, metropolitan area.  But at least they weren’t in striking distance, so I didn’t have to exercise so much self-control to keep myself from jack-slapping the crap out of them!


I never cease to be amazed at the certain obliviousness that afflicts Berliners.  Don’t know whether it’s the case throughout Germany, but Berliners definitely suffer from it.  Or, rather, they themselves don’t suffer one little bit from it – it’s the rest of us that are driven nuts by it!  It’s as if each German operates as though he or she is the only human on the planet.  Here are some examples:

  • Woman in front of me gets to the top of the escalator, steps off, and immediately stops to open her map and examine it.  Never mind that the escalator is rapidly delivering the rest of us to the exact spot where she’s planted herself and, unless she has some special power to override the law of physics about two objects not being able to occupy the same space at the same time, then this is just a collision waiting to happen.
  • A single person will be walking down the sidewalk headed my way; I’m holding a 4-year-old with one hand and a 6-year-old with the other hand and bicycles are zooming past me on one side.  Do you think this person has any intention of yielding?  Ever?  I just haven’t been able to figure out why folks aren’t bumping into each other all the time.
  • Guy at the grocery store has 5 huge plastic bags full of bottles to return.  A friend comes up and they start talking.  I’m waiting behind the guy and have only 3 bottles.  Apparently the guy with the bottles is unable to talk and put bottles into the machine at the same time, so he puts a bottle in, chats, and the machine times out on him.  So, he has to push the button to get his receipt for the bottles he’s already put in the device and start again with the rest.  I guess I should be glad that he was returning the huge bottles because if those bags had been full of small bottles, I’m not sure I’d be home yet!  I’m not a young woman!  Every 30 minutes of my life spent waiting for folks like this is an increasingly larger percentage of the time I have left on this planet!!


At any given time, you have a 50% chance of getting a tip from me (unless you’re a rapper).  If you want to reduce your chances to 0%, try this.  First, wait until I’ve come out of the grocery store, unlocked my bike, filled my basket with my groceries, and am trying to back my bike out of the bike rack without spilling my groceries and knocking over the dozens of bikes parked on either side of me, which is definitely a 2-handed job that requires my full attention.  Then, stand immediately behind my bike playing your accordion.  See how inclined I am to reach into my purse, pull out my wallet, and fish out a few coins for you.  I’m more likely to ‘accidentally’ roll my bike over your toes, and if at all possible, allow some hard part of my bike to come in violent contact with some soft, sensitive part of your body.

SO, WHAT DO BERLINERS THINK OF US?,,15621262,00.html

ANOTHER REASON TO SLAP SMOKERS (as if there weren’t already enough)

There are lots of smokers in Berlin.  [This is in spite of the strong warning on cigarette packages.  In the US, it’s something innocuous, e.g., “Smoking MAY be dangerous to your health.”  In Germany the warning is in HUGE bold letters and says basically, “Smoking is gonna kill you.”  None of this equivocal  “may” business, and none of this “dangerous to your health” business, either.  This just goes to show you how ineffective such warnings are.]  When we first started coming here in 2002, you couldn’t get away from them because anyone could smoke anytime just about anywhere.  Now things are better – you can’t smoke in the train stations, on the trains, or in many restaurants.  So where do people smoke the most?  Out on the street, of course, especially since most folks use public transportation and walk, rather than have cars (presumably with ashtrays).  In almost every block, there is at least one trash bin.  In fact, where they expect lots of folks to congregate (such as outside the city hall, where you go to pay traffic fines, register your address, etc.) there are three such trash bins within about 25 feet of the building.  The trash bins have special ashtrays, where you can put out your cigarette with no danger of starting a fire in the trash.  OK.  So, assuming smokers are smoking just as much, and that they aren’t smoking in “No Smoking” areas, it only stands to reason that they’ll be smoking more on the street.  And there are ash trays everywhere.  So, what do folks do with their cigarette butts?  Put them in the ash trays?  Of course not!  They just throw them on the sidewalk.  It’s unsightly, of course, but that’s not the worst of it.  Sidewalks in Berlin are made of paving stones, so the cigarette butts tend to roll into the grooves between the paving stones.  The big sidewalk sweeper machines don’t get them out, nor do the shopkeepers/Hausmeisters who may sweep the sidewalks in front of the shops and apartments.  However, there are some folks who are particularly diligent about sweeping the sidewalks in front of their establishments.  Wanna know what works really well to get the cigarette butts out of the grooves in the sidewalk?  You know those metal rakes for raking leaves?  Yeah!  THOSE!  Wanna guess how really great it sounds when someone is dragging the rake across the paving stones?  Especially at the crack of dawn when you’re picking your grandkids up to take them to day care?  And you thought you had run out of reasons to want to slap the crap out of smokers, didn’t you?!!


I find all kinds of interesting stuff when I’m looking up words in my English/German dictionary.  Today I found the German word for what we know as the Information Superhighway—it’s “die Datenautobahn”, of course!  This is despite the fact that one of the words for ‘information’ is ‘Information.’  And while we’re on the topic of my magical, mystical excursion into the land of the German language, I have noticed I am now inclined to combine two words into a single word, such as the other day I typed ‘keychain’ instead of ‘key chain.’  I used to have a pretty good grasp on whether something was two words, one word, or hyphenated.  Admittedly, I had help from the Government Printing Office Style Guide, which provided essential information on how the Federal government thought things should be.  In addition to some 52 rules for determining whether to combine, hyphenate, or separate completely various words, the manual also provided a very long list (something like 22 pages) of specific examples, 2 of which I’ve committed to memory—cow-eyed and squirrel-headed.   I’ve often pondered the circumstances under which someone writing a document for the Federal government might have a need to know whether these words were hyphenated, combined, or separated.  Alas, the online version of the GPO Style Manual doesn’t provide this list and I wonder whether it’s also been omitted from the most recent hard-copy version.  If that’s the case, it’s a terrible, terrible loss.


It’s not like I wasn’t warned not to get a haircut out of town.  Anybody who’s heard The Haircut Song by Ray Stevens knows that, because he straight-out tells you:  When you get a haircut, you better go back home.  Get a barber you have known since you were a little bitty boy sitting in a booster chair.  [The Haircut Song].  Well, that song doesn’t describe the half of it getting a haircut out of town when the ‘out of town’ is in another country and you don’t speak the language that well!

The shop I go to is more or less like the ‘Hair Cuttery’ or some similar shop, where you can get a haircut for 10 Euros (which is in the neighborhood of $15 US).  You can also get your hair colored for another 10 Euros.  The interesting thing is that they don’t style it – after they’ve cut your hair, you blow-dry and style it yourself.  This may be a tad odd, but it’s more like the real world because how many times have you had your hair cut and styled, but whenever you wash it the next time and try to style it, you can NEVER get it to look Anything like what the stylist did?  So at least this approach manages your expectations. Well, the kicker to the cheap price is that you don’t get to choose your stylist – you just take a number and get whoever is available when they call your number.  For the most part, I’ve been lucky because, communicating via hand signals, grunts, and “Ja” and “Nein” has worked pretty well with the stylist I usually get (and he also speaks some English).  However, I don’t always get to choose.  Well, your luck has to run out some time, right?  My last haircut ended up being a bit shorter than I intended.  But, the good news is, it lasted a real long time!  And here, where you see folks with one side of their head shaved, while maybe the other side is composed of multi-colored dreadlocks halfway to their knees, nobody’s going to point at you and say, ‘Wow!  Look at HER!’

And if you don’t know Ray Stevens, you ought to check him out on YouTube; here’s another favorite of mine:  The Mississippi Squirrel Revival  and there’s a whole bunch more.


I saw some graffiti today that posed an interesting question:  How long is now?  It was at the end of a building and was professionally done.  It included a photo and the type font was something like Times New Roman.  So, how long IS ‘now’?  But wait!  Even if you could answer that question, what would you be able to DO with that information?  So maybe it WAS pointless after all….


My ‘ride’ in the US was a Volvo S80.  It was nice— not a Rolls Royce, but as nice as somebody like me is likely to ever have.  Well, here in Berlin, I actually have two rides at my disposal—a Mercedes and another Volvo.  And EACH one comes with a driver, something I certainly never had before!  Both rides share certain advantages:  I never have to remember where I parked, nor do I have to put gas in it or do maintenance on it, buy insurance,  or pay car notes or taxes.  Pretty cool, right?  But there are some differences between the two.  I can have my Mercedes anytime, anywhere I want – just pick up the phone and it will be here in less than 5 minutes.      However, with the Volvo, I have to be at a designated place at a designated time to get a ride.  And, while my Mercedes will take me directly from where I am to where I want to be, the trip in the Volvo can be a little less than direct.  Another difference between the two is that I can have the Mercedes all to myself – or, if anyone rides with me, it’s always someone I know and, in most cases, someone I’m related to.  With the Volvo, on the other hand, I have to share the ride with dozens of total strangers….


Nope!  Not gonna see any naked necks here (or, at least if you do, you can be pretty sure it’s a foreign neck.  For some reason, Berliners (and maybe all Germans, for all I know) seem to have a phobia about leaving their necks uncovered.  OK, I can see that in the winter.  It’s cold and very few Germans can leave their homes and set foot in their offices without ever having been outside.  Just go out your kitchen door, into your garage, into your car and then drive to work, where you park in the building garage and take an elevator to your office.  But this is ALL the time – winter, summer, spring, or fall.  I have every confidence that if you went to a nude beach, you could pick out the Berliners by the ones running around naked as a jaybird, except, of course, for the scarf around their necks.  Some, if you’ve got some weird sexual craving for naked German necks, you’re gonna be pretty disappointed if you spent the time and trouble to come here to find some.

And, by way, the late, great Justin Wilson offered a way to differentiate ‘nude’ from ‘naked’ – ‘nude’ just means you don’t have any clothes on, whereas ‘naked’ means that you don’t have any clothes on AND you’re up to something!  [Works better, of course, if you say ‘nekkid’, though.}


There’s a secret to retirement for couples—it’s all about enjoying one another without annoying one another (or, more realistically, making sure that the ‘enjoying’ part is much more than the ‘annoying’ part).


Anybody remember this song by the Everly Brothers?

 Sometimes this song comes to mind when I’m watching William sleep and it’s pretty obvious that he’s dreaming.  So, what do kitty cats dream about?  Well, Anna Johnson, the other talented granddaughter of Evie Fullingim (creator of William the Wonder Cat) has an idea.

NOTE:  If you want to have nightmares, listen to the way Keith Richards abuses this song.  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!  CLICK ON THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK!!


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

Bezirk [1] in Berlin© – 28:  JULY 5, 2012


Obviously, I have more than a casual interest in unusual names, so the highly improbably juxtaposition of the first and last names of the German Foreign Minister makes me smile — Guido Westerwelle.


Yep!  There are ways to extract energy from excrement!

It’s entirely possible that, by just doing what they do naturally, the folks on Capitol Hill could make a substantial contribution to this effort.


You know those things you keep meaning to do, but somehow never get around to doing?  Like sorting through the billions of keys to God-only-knows-what?  Well, today I went to the key store and bought a bunch of key tags.  Then I came home and Harvey and I tried to figure out what was what.  In one case, there were 4 keys on a key chain.  Somehow, in taking ONE of those keys off, another one flat-out disappeared!  Really!  Harvey was removing one of the keys and when he got it off, there were only 2 keys remaining on the key chain!  We ought to figure out how we did that – with both of us watching – and take that show on the road.  But that was just the beginning of the fun.  Our continuing efforts to figure out what some of the keys unlocked closely resembled an unintentional shell game.  In the end, we have one key that disappeared into thin air and one key whose purpose in life remains a mystery.  It reminded me of the time we were on vacation and ended up with an ungodly amount of small change and decided to buy breakfast for three of us at MacDonald’s.   By the time we managed to count out the change, our food was cold and, oddly enough, all the folks in line behind us had faded away into another line, enjoyed their meals, and were in the parking lot, starting their engines….


Certain young, male felines fancy themselves artistes, and seem to have the artistic leanings of Christo, had he been a cat.  [You know, the guy who draped everything with plastic – valleys, the Reichstag, etc.  This URL shows some of those things.  Ignore the language you can’t read and just scroll down to the photos.

Well, apparently William the Wonder Cat’s interpretation of the Christo approach is to simply alter existing drapes by hooking his claws into them to create a variation on the texture of the material.   I fear that if he were to see the cartoon below, he might be inspired to take yet another approach.  This cartoon is the work of the talented young Maddie Johnson, the granddaughter of William the Wonder Cat’s equally talented creator, Evie Fullinghim.



Given all the wild-eyed revolutionaries and wannabes roaming around the streets of Berlin, it’s not unusual to see someone wearing a red (ALWAYS red!) T-shirt with the famous picture of Che Guevara on the front.  Today I saw one and, fortunately was in line at the grocery store long enough to figure out what was a tad ‘off’ about it.  Despite the beard and the beret, Che’s face was that of Donald Duck, and the caption was “La Libertad para los patos!” – Liberty for Ducks!!  Well, why not!  Ducks wanna be free, too, presumably!



When I pick the grandkids up after school, more often than not, I’ll get them a treat – ice cream, cake, or whatever they’re in a mood for.  Recently, they claimed they were hungry enough to eat two scoops of ice cream, but it turned out they weren’t.  So I told them that, in the future, I would only get them one scoop, but if they ate it all and still wanted another scoop, I’d get it for them.  Well, of course, they called my bluff the other day.  They each ate one ice cream cone and then said they could eat another (which, amazingly enough, they also finished).  As he was working on his second ice cream cone, my 6-year-old grandson shared the following realizations with me.  He noted that the ice cream guy was making a lot of money from us – 5 cones altogether (because, of course, Grandma had to have one but inexplicably had the self control not to have a second one).  Then he said that the man shouldn’t spend all this money right away because he wasn’t going to be selling ice cream in the winter and he needed to save some of his money to live on in the winter.  [Many ice cream shops are just open in the summer and a sure sign of spring is when they start opening again.]  He then said that, if he wanted to make ice cream in the winter, he could use the snow, but he’d have to be careful to make sure he didn’t use snow that a dog had peed on (although it was pretty easy to tell where a dog had peed, because the snow would be yellow).


Remember how I’ve mentioned the candies that are named after the body parts of cats?  Cat tongues (little pieces of chocolate shaped like tongues), cat paws (little pieces of licorice shaped like paws), and cat ears (little pieces of licorice shaped like cat ears)?  Well, I found something more bizarre!  Didn’t think that was possible, did you?  Well, there’s a snack called ‘Maiswūrmer’ – which, literally translated, is ‘Corm Worms.’  Yummy!  Imagine a corn-like substance that has roughly the same consistency as the head on a glass of beer, but desiccated, and roughly the size and shape of your thumb.  Some even come in a cheese flavor – or rather, that’s what the label says.  Personally, I can’t detect the flavor of any cheese that I’m familiar with.  But, hey!  They’re gluten-free!  And gotta love Mr. Corn Worm here, don’t you?


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

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



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


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

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

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


So, does this menu get your digestive juices flowing?

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

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


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

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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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



A couple more examples of Berlin Whimsey..



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





Gotta love the expressions on the faces of these cats!


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

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

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

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

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

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

Bezirk [1] in Berlin #11:  AUGUST 7, 2011



 In my last post, I forgot to point out a few things about the William the Wonder Cat illustration.  Did you see the spotlight with a huge ‘W’?  Well, that’s the way other cats notify William if they need help getting into mischief.  [OK, I’ll admit that it’s a pretty pitiful cat that needs such help, but, after all, isn’t that a Wonder Cat’s job—helping the weak?]  And another delightful touch–did you notice the wall paper?  It has both a kitty face and Wonder Cat’s distinctive sign–W.


 There’s a high-end specialty food for dogs.  It claims to be a ‘biologically species-specific raw dog food.’  (Presumably this means ‘raw food for dogs’ rather than ‘food made of raw dogs.’)  The German for this type of food is ‘biologisch-artgerechte Rohfleischfūtterung.’  Alas, the acronym for this term is ‘BARF.’  There are at least 4 varieties – Barfer’s Choice, Barfer’s Pure, Barfer’s Snack, and Barfer’s Daily.    Unfortunately, even if I were rich beyond all measure and had a dog whose life depended on this particular food, it would be really, really hard to make myself buy it.[2]  I mean, if you’re going to barf it, why buy it in the first place?


Here’s a sample of the funky street art here in Berlin.  Some I like better than others, though.


Sometimes you don’t even have to look for whimsey here – it just passes right by while you’re sitting at a café with your neighbor.  We saw a girl go by on a bike.  The bike had a basket on the back. There was a dog curled up in the basket.  But things like this are so common here, this doesn’t ring the Whimsey-o-meter.  What pushed it into the whimsical was the umbrella that was affixed to the basket, no doubt to protect the dog from the sun.  Of course, this raises a couple of questions:

  • Under what circumstances is it necessary to protect a dog from the sun (especially in 70 degree weather)?
  • Given the continual movement and frequent changes in direction that are characteristic of most bike rides, how is it possible to make sure that the umbrella is always in the right position to protect the dog from the sun (especially when the basket is behind the rider)?


Most of us already know that drinking water can taste different, depending on where you are and, perhaps, where you’re getting the water from.  (Remember how much better it always tasted slurped out of the kitchen faucet than it did out of a glass?)  As a child, I spent many summer weeks with my grandparents in Louisiana, delighted both to be with them and to be away from the insanity that pervades Southeast Texas.  But the one thing I didn’t like at all was the drinking water in central Louisiana.  It pretty much tasted like dirty dishwater to me.  Many of us also subscribe to the idea that bottled water tastes substantially different from tap water.  (This certainly makes sense, given that much bottled water simply comes from the tap, but just from somewhere else.)

What none of us have heretofore realized is that the sensitive palate of the feline can differentiate various tastes specific to certain areas in a single water bowl.  Yes, William, the Wonder Cat©, has conducted extensive analytical studies and determined that the water on the far side of the water bowl is far superior to that on the near side of the bowl.  In fact, it is so delicious that, instead of merely standing in front of his water bowl to drink, he is willing to take extraordinary steps to gain access to the far side of the bowl.  Such measures generally involve taking the precarious posture of positioning his back paws on the floor in front of the bowl while placing his front paws on each side of his water bowl, thereby extending his reach so he can enjoy the delicious nectar awaiting him on the far side of the water bowl.  (Notice that I did not say ‘on the floor beside the water bowl’ – he puts his paws on the actual sides of the water bowl itself.) Needless to say, this stance is not without its perils.  More often that I would wish, his paws slide into the water bowl (or tip the bowl over), with the result that there is more water outside the bowl than was inside it in the first place (something that only small children and other animals seem to achieve).[3]  This phenomenon should be explored further as a way of dealing with the pending shortage of water that may face our planet – give a small child 8 ounces of water and somehow he’ll get 2 ounces in his body and spill another 10 ounces, giving you a net gain of 4 ounces, or 50%.


 You know how it is when you reach a certain age (or are pregnant) or are just plain, flat tired.  During such times, when you need it the most, your memory simply abandons you.  Sometimes you can’t remember whether you did something you intended to do or not.  Sometimes you think you did it but you didn’t – you just concentrated so hard on trying to remember to do it that you only think you did it.  Well, yesterday I put something in the hall that I wanted remember to take to Steve’s that morning.  When I got ready to pack my backpack, it wasn’t there.  At first I thought that I hadn’t actually put it there, so I went to its original location, only to find that it wasn’t there, either.  Now I’m in the throes of total confusion.  Did I get distracted en route from where it was to where I wanted to put it, and put it down somewhere else?  Or was it really NOT originally where I thought it was in the first place?  Having a cat in general, or a kitten in particular, and most especially William himself, introduces yet another possibility – somebody with a furry face decided it was a toy.  Our flat has only 4 rooms and 1.5 bathrooms.  We keep both the bathroom doors closed at all times to keep William from turning the toilet paper into confetti.  We also keep the guest room closed because he has no need to be there and we have no interest in giving him the opportunity to get into mischief that we can’t even imagine.  This thing was roughly the size of a soup can, so that further limits the places he could have moved it (and should also increase its general visibility in the 3 rooms where he could have moved it).  But, nope!  I couldn’t find it before I left.  However, my observational abilities with respect to practical applications are severely limited.  Yep, I can pick out one weird sign, shop, etc., among a zillion normal things while riding in a car going 70 mph in a heartbeat, but finding something like my other shoe is beyond my capabilities.  Harvey is the family ‘Dora the Explorer’ so I just decided to wait until he came home and worked his magic.

Wanna guess where he found it?  We have some slide-out drawers under the bed (gotta take full advantage of every cubic millimeter of storage space!).  These drawers are actually just low wooden boxes with snap-on covers, which Master William considers to be four huge cat beds.  He has a particular fondness for the drawer under my side of the bed, and often naps there.  He sometimes brings his toys with him, apparently to enhance his dreams.  Yep – the bottle had caught his eye and he had appropriated it as a toy and had brought it to bed with him.

Cautionary Note to Young William:  It’s really not a good idea to hide stuff from (or otherwise cause trouble for) the person who controls the kibbles.


 I noticed something in the grocery store today.  The kitty litter can be found right next to the toilet paper.  How prosaically fitting!  I can’t help but wonder whether or not this placement was intentional.  I know it’s something that would certainly have occurred to me.  And as my mind ponders these mysteries of the Universe, such as whether or not the litter/toilet paper juxtaposition was intentional, other minds are occupied with pursuits such as pondering the square route of  minus one.


Actually, there are a number of secrets to staying married; here are but a few:

  • Never try to do your income taxes together; hire a CPA (cheaper than a divorce).
  • Never try to hang paintings/pictures together; always have a third person involved.  (We have a dear friend whom we call our ‘Aesthetic Advisor.’  He has an artist’s eye for such things.  At least equally important, having a 3rd person there statistically reduces the probability that one of you will do something to the other that may result in jail time.)
  • Never wall-paper anything together, particularly if it’s a small bathroom, in an old building (where there are NO right angles), and you’re using a pattern that only repeats itself every 17 inches so you waste a lot of paper and then someone has to go back to the store for more while they have wallpaper paste all over them.  On the other hand, ENGAGED couples should be REQUIRED to do this.  If they still want to get married, then they can – but think how many divorces could be prevented if every engaged couple submitted the strength of their relationship to such a rigorous test before tying the knot.  Of course, the wedding planners and divorce attorneys would probably fight this proposal tooth and nail!


After being married for close to 44 years (even if there was a 1-year hiatus while Harvey was in Viet Nam), you start to run out of things to argue about.  In some cases, the topic you argued about becomes moot – such as whose turn it is to get up with a crying baby.  In other cases, the topic is resolved by the argument and it miraculously stays resolved.  Then there are the topics that at least one of you has just lost interest in.  Rarely do new topics to argue about arise.

But there seems to be some need within us all to argue about something every once in a while.  Don’t you just hate it when you’re really in the mood to argue but there’s nothing left to argue about?  We’ve found a way to handle that.  Whenever we feel argument-deprived, we just make up things to argue about.  For example, we can take a situation (e.g., the fact that we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway, or that ‘fat chance’ and ‘slim chance’ mean the same thing[4]) and argue about how that came to be.  Or, we can argue about things for which there is no answer, such as how many grains of sand there are on the planet.  Then there are always hypothetical things, such as “If we were on a cruise and we both wanted the lobster, but there was only one left, what would we do?”  You’d be surprised how many lazy afternoons can be whiled away having these kinds of arguments.


He just went by again!  Albert Einstein apparently lives or works somewhere near our flat, because I often see him bicycling by as I sit at my laptop.  Well, maybe not Albert, actually – but I’m willing to bet that this guy has a fair share of Albert’s DNA!!


I saw something at the grocery store that claimed to be ‘Texas steak.’  Being as how I spent better than a quarter of my life there (in Texas, not in the grocery store), I figured I just had to find out what the German interpretation of ‘Texas steak’ is.  First, it was marinated in spices – not too bad, and probably stretching the German palate’s tolerance for ‘scharf’ foods.  [One good thing about German is that they have separate words for ‘hot’ as with pepper and ‘hot’ as from heat—the former is ‘scharf’ and the latter is ‘heiss’—so they don’t have to constantly explain the difference.]  True Texas steak is generally just the steak itself.  Any seasonings (other than maybe pepper and salt) are added at the table.  Second, the steak was maybe ¼ inch thick.  No Texan would even consider that cut of meat to be a ‘steak’ – even chicken-fried steaks (known elsewhere in the US as ‘breaded veal cutlets’ and more commonly known in Germany as ‘Wienerschnitzel’) are thicker than that.  It was acceptable and edible (although something Texans might more typically eat in a sandwich), but there was nothing about it that truly said ‘Texas’ or ‘steak.’  (Well, I’m pretty sure it DID come from a cow of some sort.)

I guess turnabout is fair play, though.  There was once (but only briefly) a restaurant in Beaumont, Texas, called ‘The Rathskeller.’  When it first opened, you could buy genuine Sauerbraten (a German roast that has been marinated in vinegar and other seasonings – to include ginger – and usually served with potato pancakes and that wonderful sautéed red cabbage with apples).  After the first few weeks, the ‘Sauerbraten’ degenerated into nothing more than a pot roast, which was tasty enough but it was also something you could get at home every other Sunday.  [On the alternating Sundays, of course, it was fried chicken.]  Apparently the palates of most folks in Southeast Texas didn’t appreciate the savory Sauerbraten (even though they’ll eat gumbo made from any carbon-based life form and go through a quart of jalapenos like they’re eating popcorn).  You’d think that German food would fare well in Texas because lots of Texans have a German heritage.  (But, alas, if you thought that, you’d wear Army boots and chase rabbits.)  When Germans couldn’t get into the US through Ellis Island, lots of them came in through Galveston.  Many settled in Central Texas, near San Antonio, naming their towns[5] things like Waelder, New Braunfels, Gruene, and so on.  There’s actually a dialect of German (called ‘Texas German’ – as oxymoronic as that sounds) that evolved in that part of Texas.  Unlike the dialect of Pennsylvania German, which is alive and well among the Amish, precious few folks still speak Texas German any more, though.

But, back to the Rathskeller.  Eventually, it met the same fate as anything else ‘new’ or ‘different’ that’s ever been introduced to the folks in Southeast Texas – it just faded away into the sunset.  I can’t imagine any more change-averse folks on the planet!  And, by natural selection, those of us who were interested in something more than the same-ol’ same ol’ got the hell out of Dodge (ala Janis Joplin, Towns Van Zandt, Edgar and Johnny Winter, Mark Chestnut, and Bubba Smith, to name just a few), while the change-averse folks just stayed there and continued to breed.  Another guy who escaped from Beaumont was Bob McDill.  Maybe his name doesn’t ring a bell for you, but if you’ve listened to country music radio for more than an hour, there’s a good chance you’ve heard a song that Bob had a hand in writing.  Folks like Alan Jackson, Waylon Jennings, Don Williams, Jerry Lee Lewis, Mickey Gilley, Bobby Bare, Anne Murray, Juice Newton, and even Perry Como, have recorded his songs.  Some that come to mind off the top of my head include:  ‘Amanda’ (sung by Willy Nelson, among others); ‘Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On’ (sung by Mel McDaniel and also by Sammy Kershaw); ‘Gone Country’ (sung by Alan Jackson); and my own personal all-time favorite – ‘Red Necks, White Socks, and Blue Ribbon Beer’ (sung by Johnny Russell and also by Mel McDaniels (   Harvey went to high school with Bob and I had the pleasure of knowing him back when he was going to Lamar University in Beaumont.  Yep, the boy got himself a degree in English literature and took it to Nashville to write country songs!  Don’t ya just love it!??!


Our dear Electra (also known as Momma’s Little Mutant) is supposed to have curly fur, all over her body.  Alas, she doesn’t.  Instead, she looks as though some misguided pet groomer has mistaken her for a poodle and given her the standard haircut.  She’s curly around her neck, shoulders, and legs.  The rest of her body is covered with an incredibly soft fuzz.  (In some way, this compensates for her sparse fur because, once you touch that peach fuzz, you are seduced into stroking her continually, almost as though you are in a daze, which also keeps her warm – well, not the daze but rather the stroking.)  Naturally, she suffers a bit more from the cold than she otherwise would.  It’s no surprise that she spends lots of time snuggled up with a chenille blanket.  Even without thumbs, she’s amazingly adept at arranging the blanket to suit her.  What puzzles me, however, is the part of her body she chooses to cover with the blanket – it’s her head.  She leaves her bare body parts outside the blanket.  Well, I must remember – her little brain is only the size of a walnut.

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

[2] Gotta just love Microslop Grammar checker – it wanted me to replace ‘hard to make myself buy it’ with ‘hard to make I buy it’—another ‘helpful hint’ from those labzoids in Redmond!!

[3] Gotta love Microslop Grammar Checker – it’s flagging this as a sentence fragment.  It’s got a subject (paws) and a verb (slide), so I wonder how this could be considered a fragment.

[4] Props to George Carlin, God rest his soul!

[5] And here, Microslop wants to make ‘towns’ possessive!