Archives for posts with tag: William the Wonder Cat

 

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

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

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

Strange hankerin’s

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

Being half-deaf has its advantages

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

The only logical answer…..

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

Inarticulate in two languages….

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

No smokers…

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

Surely you jest….

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

Living well…

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

Tree lovers

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

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

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

What’s in a name….

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

2016-01-30-Burgerspital

A conundrum…

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

YUM!!

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

 

 

 

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NEXT TIME I WON’T BE NEARLY AS NICE….

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

THE PIGEON WHISPERER….

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

AND SO IT BEGINS….

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

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

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

MAYBE ACTUALLY UNGRATEFUL

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

AMERICAN TREATS

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

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

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

DENGLISH

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

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

NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE

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

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

 IT’S TRUE!

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

IT’S MONDAY!

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

I ONLY THOUGHT I WAS HAVING A BAD DAY

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

DEFINING “WORN OUT”

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

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER

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

WHAT ARE THE ODDS?

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

CHRISTMAS TRADITION

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

RAINING IN THE KITCHEN

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

THE MALICE OF FELINES

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

LITTER WARS

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

ASPARAGUS AND WINE

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

2013-08-25 - Asparagus wine


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

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

YUM!

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

FEBRUARY 6, 2013

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

A PECULIAR QUIRK OF GRAVITY

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

THE PERFECT NAME

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

WHEN TO BUY NEW SOCKS

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

CORNIVORE

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

 

William the Wonder Cat - 26 (Cornivore)

FURTHER THOUGHTS ON CORN

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

Chocolate Covered Corn Worms

PIG TAIL CROQUETTES?  REALLY??

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

sugarhigh <newsletter@info.sugarhigh.de>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EVEN FELINES NEED VARIETY

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


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

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

WHAT GERMANS DO FOR FUN

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

  • Nude bowling in Bavaria

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

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

  • Chessboxing

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

Who is the “Smartest Toughest Guy” in Berlin?

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

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

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

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

Even I couldn’t make THIS up!!

 A MYSTERY OF PORCINE PROPORTIONS

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

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

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

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

 NOTES TO SELF

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

 PROGNOSTICATION FOR 2013

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

 BE CAREFUL!!

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

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

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

 GOTTA LOVE IT!

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

 

5

Excellent

4

Right

3

Adequate

2

Weak

1

Miserable

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

 CO-HORT

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

 

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

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

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

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

Jaton’:   Yeah, we can do that.

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

 SPA-HEAVEN!

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

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

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

 FASTIDIOUS FELINES

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

 IF ONLY THIS WOULD COME TO PASS

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

 William the Wonder Cat - 24 - Staking his claim

 

 


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

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

A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!

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

ASK YOUR MOMMA (OR, FOR SOME OF YOU, YOUR GRANDMA)

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

ENGLISH MUFFINS

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

WHY ARE GERMANS SO INTERESTED IN TEXAS WEATHER?

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

A FRESH BOWL

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

TAKING RECYCLING TO A NEW LEVEL

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

DOGGIE BUDDIES

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

THIS TAKES THE CAKE!

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

SPEAKING OF DOGS…

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

William the Wonder Cat - 23 - Food Chain


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

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

NOT THAT I’M NOSY…

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

A WORD TO THE WISE

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

I REALLY DO LOVE COUPONS

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

7 BLUEBERRIES

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

FASTING

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

GINGKO KILLS

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

TIME CHANGE

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

I KNOW WHAT HE’S DOING….

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

William the Wonder cat - 22 - Water Bowl

 WILLIAM AND THE CHRISTMAS TREE

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

AND, SPEAKING OF THE HOLIDAYS….

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


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


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

STOCKING STRATEGY

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

UMMM….DON’T THINK SO!

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

BRILLIANT!!

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

A NEW SOURCE FOR FUEL?

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

GLORY GOATS?

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

I LOVE YOU, NORTH AMERICAN NUMBERING PLAN!!

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

GESHUNDHEIT!!

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

HOW PERVERSE CAN YOU GET?

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

TO END ON A POSITIVE NOTE…..

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

 William the Wonder Cat - 21 - Clown


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

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

I REALLY DID SEE WHAT I THOUGHT I SAW!

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

I CAN HARDLY WAIT!

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

INCREDULITY!

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

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

Electra incredulous

 HOW’S THAT AGAIN?

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

GRANDDAUGHTERS

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

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

William the Wonder Cat - 20 - Shredding Chair


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

Bezirk [1] in Berlin© – 35:  October 20, 2012

BUT WE CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE WEATHER!!

I see lots of interesting things as I sit in front of my living room window fiddling with my laptop.  Well, at least they’re interesting to me.  For instance, today I saw a white panel truck, with what appeared to be representations of snowflakes painted on it.  There was a single word painted on the side and the back – WINTER. (By the way, the word ‘winter’ is a true cognate – it really means the same thing in German as it does in English.)  So, now we know how winter is delivered.  All we need to do is to hijack that vehicle and lock it up somewhere so that winter won’t come!

I WANT ONE!!

I was coveting my neighbor’s bike – in particular, the paint job.  At first I thought it was a floral design – pinks, blues, greens – but then, upon closer inspection, it turns out to be a street map of Berlin!  How cool is THAT??!!

WHEN DID IT HAPPEN?

OK, so when, exactly, did my T-shirts stop being T-shirts and turn into bibs?  Well, actually, I CAN tell you exactly – October 13, 2012, about 6:30 pm Berlin time.  It was after I had weighed the options for dinner – (a) pull something together out of odds and ends in the fridge OR (b) go to our favorite neighborhood restaurant, which has recently begun featuring authentic American hamburgers (the kind your Daddy made on the grill when you were a kid), and decided on Option B.  I looked down at my T-shirt and noticed that I had a couple of spots on it.  My first thought was to change it.  Then I thought, “Well, I’m gonna eat and will probably spill something on it anyway, so why dirty two T-shirts?”  After all, one morning (after trying to cook breakfast for some guests while I was fully dressed, I ended up putting on 3 T-shirts before we got out the door.

WONDER WHAT THIS DREAM MEANS?

I dreamed I was watching a news story on TV.  Las Vegas was being overrun by hordes of Chihuahuas – all colors, some long-haired, some short-haired, and some with long hair in dreds that reached the ground (admittedly, for a Chihuahua, it wouldn’t have to be all that long to do that).  I ‘watched’ footage of the police trying to round up these Chihuahuas  and I woke myself up laughing.  It was hard to get back to sleep.

MULTI-TASKING

As I get older, I realize that every hour wasted is an increasingly larger percentage of the time I have left on this planet.  For a 14-year-old, an hour doesn’t represent very much in terms of how much time they have left, but for a 67-year-old, it’s starting to take a larger chunk out of the remaining time.  So, I try to save time when I can, and sometimes that’s only minutes or even seconds (because, of course, seconds add up to minutes, which add up to hours, which add up to days, etc.).  There have been a number of studies on multi-tasking in general, and when folks try to do multiple things simultaneously (such as read their e-mail while participating in a tele-conference), it’s not actually very effective because they function about as well on either of these tasks as someone who’s smoked a joint (without enjoying the fun aspects of that experience). This may well account for some of the peculiar and disastrous business decisions being made today.  Well, I thought my little 1-minute-saver was fairly harmless, as each of the two tasks I was simultaneously performing required very little brain power – swishing mouthwash around in my mouth and peeing.  However, it’s that unexpected sneezing fit that made me see the error of my ways.  It took me far longer to clean up the mess than it would have to simply do these tasks in a serial fashion.  Just a word to the wise….

NO WONDER!!

I confess, I’m less than diligent about working on my German.  But this news hasn’t given me any cause for hope – there are apparently 6 main dialects of German, each so unique that they warrant their own dictionary!

WHO’S REALLY IN CHARGE HERE?

They’re called ‘dumb animals.’  I ask you—what would you call a being who gets free room and board, free medical care, and gets doted on beyond all measure?  Would you call that being dumb?  Or would you call the being who works hard, pays taxes, and totally supports another being who makes no material contribution to the household dumb?  Somehow everything that we’ve paid for – and for which we’ve had some other use in mind – has been appropriated by the felines in the household.  [Note:  As always, be sure to enlarge the cartoon to get the full benefit of the artist’s work here.]

 

 


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