Archives for posts with tag: Nederland

Nostalgic in Nederland – April 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2013 - April - NHS Bulldogs Throw

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bezirk [1] in Berlin© – 31:  July 13, 2012


Well, you can always buy wine by the bottle, or when you’re in a restaurant, you can also buy it by the glass.  And when you’re in the grocery store, you can buy it in a box.  But now there’s a new way – you can buy wine by the glass in a box.  Yep!  You know how sometimes the airlines serve you fruit juice in a plastic container with a little peel-off lid?  Well, this wine by the glass in a box comes in its very own plastic wine glass, with a little peel-off lid.  And you can buy them four to a box in the grocery store.  Nope!  Not making this up!!  It’s apparently of either UK or American origin, too, as the box is printed in English.  I am curious about one thing, though.  It’s hard enough to remove those peel-off lids from those little fruit juice glasses without spilling the juice; I’m pretty sure that peeling the lids off a thin plastic, stemmed glass will be an even greater challenge.  See? I’m not making this up!


Having had 3 monthly fare cards stolen, I’m now in the business of having to buy fare cards for individual trips.  So, yesterday, when I reached into the tray to retrieve my fare cards (if you buy 4 at a time, you get a little price break), what did I find?  An origami swan!  I rather like the idea of somebody just making these things and putting them in odd places, imagining the smiles finding them will elicit!  Of course, it could just be BVG’s way of saying, “Sorry about that policy of not replacing fare cards when they’re stolen—even when you have a police report of the theft—but here’s this little origami swan.  We hope that makes things better.”


Saw a guy on his bike and it sure looked like he had a shower cap coming out of his butt, with it flapping in the breeze (well, it was the shower cap that was flapping in the breeze, not his butt).  Upon further reflection, it was most likely a cover for a bike seat.  It’s not terribly pleasant, nor very cool, to hop onto a wet bike seat.  Extravagant folks pay about 20 Euros (something between $25 and $30 US) for what looks like a shower cap but is actually a cover for a bike seat.  This guy apparently has his affixed to the seat of his bike so that when he pulls it off to get on his bike, it somehow stays attached to the bike.  Most of the rest of us just use plastic bags, given that they’re readily available, cost only about 25 cents, and the real ones are likely to get stolen.


Over the past couple of days, whenever I’ve tried to speak German, folks have asked me if I’m Dutch.  Alas, being compared to a Dutchman by a German is actually an insult.  However, at least they don’t immediately peg me as an American, which is certainly a step in the right direction.  I wonder if the miraculous improvement in my linguistic abilities has anything to do with my having been severely congested over these few days as the result of the near-lethal levels of pollen?  [Oh, and by the way, the German word for a person from Holland is ‘Nederlander’ – I wonder if having gone to high school in Nederland, Texas, makes me a ‘Nederlander.’]


Just as English often has two (or more) words for the same thing, so does German.  For example, in English, ‘skunk’ and ‘polecat’ mean the same thing.  German also has two words for this animal.  It’s not surprising that one of those words is ‘Skunk’ but I like the other word better because it’s so descriptive—‘Stinktier’ – which translates literally as ‘stink animal’.  How cool is that?  Certainly makes more sense than ‘polecat’, doesn’t it?


 Today I saw another one of those things that makes you go ‘Hmmm….’  It had apparently once been a Christmas tree, judging by its shape and size.  Through some odd set of events, its dry, dead corpse currently finds itself affixed to the top of a light pole, hanging upside down.  One can only begin to imagine the offense it committed to warrant this punishment.  Having invented the Christmas tree, perhaps Germans hold their trees to higher standards that the rest of us and maybe this one just didn’t quite cut it, and was set out to serve as a warning to the others.


Have you ever watched your pet, or your kid, do something [or happen upon evidence of them having done something] that makes you scratch your head and wonder WHY they’d do something like that?  Well, maybe there’s an explanation for all of William’s shenanigans, and perhaps Anna Johnson, Evie Fullingim’s  granddaughter, has figured it out.  Maybe he wants to win some sort of a prize and, in William Logic Land, doing these things will help him accomplish his objective.  It’s as good an explanation as any other!



 I cooked for the first 20 years of our marriage, and then I got tired of it and Harvey more or less took over.  Now it’s my turn again.  I actually love to cook; I just didn’t have the time/energy/interest after working all day.  Now, of course, we’re retired and even though we stay pretty busy (making me wonder how we ever managed to fit in working for all those years), we have much more flexibility in how we manage our time (except for certain bursts of exceptional activity).  Consequently, I’ve gotten interested in cooking again.  More often than not, we have some delightful meals.  The sad part about some of the dishes I cook, however, is that we’ll never be able to have those exact same dishes again because I’ve started to cook pretty much like my Grandmother did – take some of this, stir it in with some of that, add a bit of milk until it looks right, add some more of this until it tastes right, cook it a bit, and serve it with whatever else you have around the house or are in the mood to eat.  So we came up with an idea for an exclusive dining experience.  I could have folks fill out a form where they’re required to tell me:

  • Any food allergies they have
  • Foods they absolutely hate
  • Foods they absolutely love
  • Spices they hate
  • Spices they love

 Then I fix them a surprise dinner within those parameters.  For example, the other night I had these things available:  fish, eggplant, rice, avocados, coriander, olives, lettuce, tomatoes (fresh) and pizza tomatoes (canned – which are fantastic to always have on hand, since they’re chopped, cooked, and have some herbs in them), tortillas, various oils (olive, pumpkin seed), and various spices (in this case, coriander, cumino, turmeric, and chilli pepper).  So I made fish and eggplant burritos!  Even if I make them again, they won’t be the same because I didn’t keep track of the proportions of the ingredients.

 So, welcome to Chez West, where tonight I’ll be serving Jaton’ Surprise #4,913!



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


I thought about calling our short trip to Copenhagen something like ‘Crazy in Copenhagen’ but that just seemed a bit lame.  When it turned out that our first meal was at a Mexican restaurant, where I had (of course) a chimichanga, there was no other choice for the title of this bit.  We had walked up and down a longish street and, not being one who tolerates hunger very well, we decided that we’d try this place rather than continue to look for what we might expect to be a ‘typical’ Danish restaurant.  Plus, I’m always curious to see how other countries interpret the types of food that I consider more or less my own.  It turns out that the Danes (at least in this instance) came closer to getting the Mexican flavor than the Germans have (at least so far).  It was spicier than the German interpretation (and, did not contain peanuts – which for some reason Germans believe to be a key ingredient to Mexican food).  But, alas, it had no cilantro or cumin, which is the true differentiator for genuine Mexican food.  Although they did add a few bites of potato as a way of making amends for this omission.

 I was trying to figure out how Mexican food may have arrived on Danish shores when Harvey said he thought Diego Rivera had been here while he was in Europe, evading the Mexican draft (which was probably as much for the benefit of the Mexican army as it was for Diego himself).  Truly, I can’t imagine Rivera as a soldier; but then, I can’t imagine this chubby, frog-like person as a Lothario, which he apparently was.  I can confirm that Rivera (whose full name, just in case anyone asks, is Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez) was heavily influenced by a Danish painter Georg Jacobsen, whom he met in Paris.  Who knows?  Maybe Diego introduced him to the delights of Mexican food and he subsequently brought the cuisine to Denmark.  After all, the key differentiator for Italian food – pasta – was brought there from China by Marco Polo.


 Fifty years ago, Ruby and I were marching down the football field at C. O. Wilson Jr. High, wearing thick, scratchy, wool band uniforms, sweating in the October heat, and pretending to play ‘Under the Double Eagle’ on our clarinets during half-time.  Little did we dream that, 5 decades later, I would be making a trip from Berlin (where I had moved because my son married a German girl) to Copenhagen to see her daughter (who lived there because she had married a Danish boy).  We’re a long way from Nederland, Texas, (which, of course, was founded by a bunch of Dutch).  Which tangentially leads me to another thought – our son is now fluent in German, so much so that (after 11 years) he sometimes has difficulty recalling an English word for something.  Nonetheless, it’s still apparent to most native speakers that he’s not among them, even though he looks German rather than American (partly owing to his genes, but more likely because the way he dresses).  Native speakers can’t quite put their hands on how his German pronunciation is a little bit different, but, more often than not, they think he’s Dutch, which in German is Niederländer.  He can, in all honesty, respond to their query as to whether or not he’s a Niederländer by saying, ‘No, but my mother is.’


 The flight between Berlin and Copenhagen is short – perhaps 45 minutes – so even before airline meals started to go the way of the dinosaur, you wouldn’t expect to have a meal.  You may, however, expect coffee, tea, or a soft drink.  Well, such expectations were not to be met on this trip.  The announcement came on noting that passengers in first class would be served their choice of coffee, tea, or other drinks, while passengers in economy would be served water.  Not that I didn’t enjoy my ½ cup of cool water – but really, water???  What’s next?  Maybe an announcement that ‘Passengers in economy will be served complimentary air.’


 The Copenhagen Airport shares a feature with London Heathrow Airport – it’s not so much as an airport as a high-end shopping mall with access to airplanes.  In London, you can’t even go to the gate until about 30 minutes before the flight departs; this allows you to spend your time resisting the charms of over-priced stuff you couldn’t imagine ever needing.  In Copenhagen, about maybe 30 yards after you leave the gangway, you are immediately (and unavoidably) dumped into the middle of the shopping mall.  Contrast this with Dulles Airport, where departing passengers must go through security to get to the shopping area.  Although expensive, the Dulles ‘mall’ is not nearly like Copenhagen or Heathrow, where the shopping mall is dominated by brands such as Hermes and others so exclusive that common folk have never even heard of them.  And, when you leave the plane at Dulles, you have to go out of your way to hit the shops.  Of the European airports I’ve seen, you could actually go shopping at the airport even if you weren’t flying anywhere.  I have my doubts as to whether or not that’s a good idea from a security standpoint, though.  But, I don’t get paid to worry about that kind of thing anymore, so I won’t!  Copenhagen offers one feature that a lot of US travelers may appreciate having – a place to shower and to take a nap, which takes some of the misery out of long lay-overs.  Imagine how much more sanguine flyers might be when they’ve had a shower and a nap during their 8-hour layovers or unexpected delays.


 You can get to the train, and from there into the middle of Copenhagen, without so much as leaving the airport (another convenience sorely lacking when it comes to the airports in the Washington, DC, area).  After a 20-minute ride, we arrived at the train station, where we found a number of other luxuries we’ve not experienced in our travels in the US.  For example, if you missed the chance to shower at the airport, you get a second chance at the train station; even better, in the lady’s room, you can buy yourself a fresh pair of panties!  Alas, the selection is limited to thongs, which I regard as a torture device (although, in all fairness, I’ve not tried them – and never intend to), but they have all sorts of exciting designs and messages on them.


 Within 10 minutes of leaving the train station in Copenhagen, I saw three 7-ll’s, a MacDonald’s, a Burger King, and a Kentucky Fried Chicken.  It’s a shame to go to the trouble and expense to visit a foreign country and see a bunch of stuff you could have stayed home to see.


 Kansas City has lots of statues of whimsically-painted steers; Berlin has its bears.  But Copenhagen has its elephants.  OK.  Cows are indigenous to Kansas City; bears are the mascot of Berlin.  But elephants in Denmark?  It turns out that some Danish monarch just took a fancy to elephants.  So, when you’re a king and you take a fancy to something, others take you seriously (unlike me and my fascination with frogs and armadillos, where folks just laugh at me).  In fact, the highest medal you can get from the Danish government is something like the Order of the Elephant.  And, I don’t know whether or not this is in any way related to the Danish monarch’s fondness for elephants, but the Danish beer, Carlsberg, is also associated with elephants – the entrance to the brewery is a gate with a tower resting on four elephants.  So, we just enjoyed all the great Danish elephants!  And, of course, the Danish beer!


 I suppose there’s a story behind the Danish coins with the hole in the center.  Don’t know what it is, though – Wikipedia didn’t enlighten me about that.


 Copenhagen is extremely expensive.  For example, our hotel was very basic.  It was clean; we had our own bathroom; it offered a great European breakfast (e.g., lox, breads, fruits, cereals, boiled eggs, cold cuts and cheeses).  The carpets were stained, worn, and wrinkled.  I’m pretty sure they were clean, though.  It wasn’t quite as nice as an Econo-Lodge in the US (where the motto is “Spend the night, not a fortune”) and it was $300/night.  Imagine what you could get in the US for that (or even here in Berlin).  It was, however, only about 2 blocks from the train station and smack-dab in the middle of town.


 Tivoli is close – it’s across the street from the train station.  It’s charming and especially fun if:  (a) you like rides that scare you to death; or (b) have kids.  Some of the kids’ rides are just like the scary adult rides, but toned down a lot.  For example, there’s one ride where they put you in a seat and pull the seat up about 3 stories, and then let it drop (controlled, of course, so you don’t crash).  Well, they have a kids’ ride where the range of the drop is maybe 3 or 4 feel, so 10-year-olds just love it!  The park itself is rather small – maybe 5 city blocks – but has enough stuff to keep you busy for several hours, especially if you have kids.  We met the daughter and son-in-law of my aforementioned high school friend, Ruby, at Tivoli for dinner, and got to see their two daughters—one about 3 and the other about 10 months.


 And no matter how hard you try to escape Texas, it always finds you.  There was a cafe at the Blixen Museum, and, of course, they had tables outdoors.  In addition, they had a BBQ grill, which had a cover on it that said “South Fork Texas BBQ.”  Nope!  Not making this up!  I, of course, had to take a photo.  When a Danish guy noticed me taking it, I felt obliged to explain why I was standing there in the middle of a bird sanctuary taking a photo of a hunk of metal.  He recognized ‘South Fork’ and knew about ‘Dallas’ and its successor, ‘Dynasty’.  In fact, you can see quite a bit of American TV in Denmark.  Our room had a TV so we watched a few familiar shows, including ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘The Streets of San Francisco.’  Almost everyone here speaks English.  Since Denmark is so small and their language is a bit odd, they use English to deal with the rest of the world.

 And in the middle of the huge ‘Avenue of the Tourists’ I was reminded yet again of Texas.  (I doubt that this is the official name of this street, but I’ll bet if you speak with anyone who has ever been to Copenhagen and used this name for the street, they’d know precisely where it is!)  There were a bunch of folks from Dallas, doing some kind of folk-dance and singing, in an effort to bring attention to their religion.  Oddly enough, they didn’t have a sign.  Everyone was wearing T-shirts with the name of the religion on it, but, with all the dancing, I never got a clear view of the word.  Hmmm….wonder how effective this publicity effort was for them?  I managed to capture a few syllables, though, and through the magic of the Internet, deduced that they were publicizing the Neocatechumenal Way.


 We didn’t go see the Little Mermaid.  Harvey saw it when he was here years ago.  It’s actually quite far from the main part of town and not really near anything else of special interest.  After the trip to the museum, Harvey asked me, “Do you want to take a nap when we get back to the room?”  My response was, “Oh, hell, no! When we get back to the room, I’m just gonna run in place for a few hours until it’s time to go to dinner!”   Somehow, after taking a 1 hour train ride (and back) and walking a few kilometers to and around the Karen Blixen Museum, the idea of a nap had far more appeal than walking another couple of kilometers to see the Little Mermaid.

 Alas, there is something that, had I known about it at the time, I would have traded the nap for – a visit to the Museum of Modern Glass.  Have a look for yourself at what we missed.


 On the way to the Blixen Museum we saw some device that was apparently in the ‘cycle’ family.  It had a small wheel (not a lot bigger than a dinner plate) in the back, with 2 even smaller wheels (about the size of large donuts) in the front.  It also had a seat.  It had no handlebars, however, which may well explain why it apparently had been abandoned.

 By the way, if you don’t recognize the name ‘Karen Blixen’, she often wrote under the pen name of Isak Dinesen.  If you still don’t recognize that name, undoubtedly you have heard of the book/film ‘Out of Africa’ – she wrote that and ‘Babette’s Feast’ as well as lots of other books.


 Across the street from the Blixen Museum, there’s a marina, with the standard marina shops and at least 8 restaurants.  Given that Danes are fisheaters, and given that this was a marina, we nurtured some expectation that we would be able to find a seafood restaurant here.  We were soon disabused of that notion.  Sure, you might find a tuna steak or grilled salmon on the menu, but by far these were all steak houses (except for the Thai restaurant).

 Elsewhere you will, however, notice a rather high incidence of sushi restaurants (at least in Copenhagen).  I suppose that shouldn’t be a surprise, as the Danes know of at least 47.5 different ways to prepare raw herring.


 Another great place we saw was the Danish Design Museum.  (Lots of places here seem to have Danish modern furniture – go figure!)  Seeing some of the designs here reminded me of our trip to Chicago to see saw Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and a few other buildings he designed.  When I walked into his living room and saw things like built-in book cases, I thought, “Well, this isn’t so rare – I see this everywhere.’  Then it hit me – umm, his design has made such an impact that today it’s considered normal;  it wasn’t so ‘normal’ when he was creating it.  Felt the same way about the Design Museum.  In fact, they had the same high chair that we bought for Noe and Milla.  They’re very simple.  First they’re a high chair for babies.  As the kid gets older, you take off the ring that keeps them in the chair.  Then as they continue to get bigger, you put the board that is the seat in different slots, progressively lower, so that ultimately it’s just a regular chair that they can use at the table or a desk, even as an adult.


 Hmmm…..Everywhere you look, there are little Lego stores.  How many hours of parental peace and quiet do we owe to those wonderful Danes who came up with Legos?  How many instances of child abuse were avoided?


 Maybe the Danes’ careful use of both visual and physical space is inherent in living in a small country.  One clever thing we saw was a building that extended over a street.  There clearly was enough space for fire trucks and other essential vehicles to pass through, but the building extended above the street for at least 6 floors, making great use of otherwise wasted space. Undoubtedly you can go too far with this idea and turn your city into nothing but tunnels, but doing this every now and again is a great idea.


 Sometimes chic just doesn’t work all that well, at least for me.  Many eating places have black napkins.  Sure, they don’t show stains and also just look cool.  However, they’re not really a great idea, especially after you discover that your napkin has slipped off your lap and you’ve been wiping your greasy paws on your black slacks.  Grease stains on black pants – not so chic.


 If you saw this name on a building, mightn’t you think that it was either a dermatologist’s office or a spa of some sort?  Well, you’d be wrong in this case.  It’s a place that sells garments made of leather and fur, which is actually dead skin.  But I don’t suppose ‘Dead Skin Center’ (although clearly less ambiguous) would have much of an appeal for the average shopper, would it?


 Danes seem to have a particular affinity for licorice.  It’s as prevalent in shops there as salt-water taffy is in Ocean City, Md.  We came upon an unlikely pairing of licorice – with Habanero pepper!  This is all the more unusual because, at least in our limited experience, the European palate doesn’t much care for the burn of strong peppers.  (Perhaps this is yet another bit of evidence of Diego Rivera’s influence here.)


 Anyone can go to Copenhagen and see the Little Mermaid (or, rather, anyone except myself).  I, however, with my weird-dar, can find really remarkable things.  Such as seeing a car with this sign on the door—‘Dong Energy’.  Presumably this was the name of a company.

 I also saw some of the world’s most unusual mannequins in a store window.  Aren’t they typically supposed to be attractive (in a Ken and Barbie kind of way)—or otherwise represent beauty?  Well, not always, at least not with the quirky Danes.  I saw 3 male mannequins, one of whom had male-patterned baldness and a beer gut, which was almost bursting through his shirt and made it impossible for him to button his britches.  The other two were equally unattractive, particularly with respect to their coiffures and dental work.


 I have no idea what this is, but I absolutely must have one!  There are several sculptures of this beast surrounding the City Hall in Copenhagen.  It is generally reptilian in nature.  The head looks like a turtle, as do the four claws, and the skin looks like that of a turtle, but there is no shell.  It has a medium-sized tail, with a dorsal fin running the length of its body all the way to the end of its tail.  And, oh, yeah.  It has 6 breasts.


 Now that I’ve become the Grandma Moses of bikers, I’ve begun to notice things like bike lanes.  Denmark is wonderful in that regard!  Of course, I can only speak for the parts of Copenhagen that we saw, so I can’t assume that it’s like this everywhere.  The street, the bike lane, and the sidewalk are each on a different level.  First you have the sidewalk for pedestrians.  Then there’s a small curb and, at a slightly different level, you have the bike lane.  Then there’s another small curb and, at a slightly different level, you have the street.  How cool is THAT to be protected from cars by a curb?  And these bike lanes are nice and wide!

 But every trip must come to an end.  So we boarded our plane—eagerly anticipating our complementary water—and returned home to our awaiting felines.