Generosity toward the future

My boy dog Louis enjoying the moment

‘Real generosity toward the future consists in giving all to what is present.

(Albert Camus)

Perhaps it’s a side effect of aging, but I find myself complaining about weather more than I did when I was younger. When I was quite young, my grandmother was obsessed with watching the evening news, and the part that seemed to always perk her up was the weather forecast. For some reason the nightly ordeal baffled me. ‘Why not just look out the window in the morning & plan accordingly?‘ my childhood self would quietly ponder. 

And now? I’ve joined my grandmother in the legion of people who can ignore most of the rest of a newscast if need be, but the minute we hear the weather mentioned, we salivate like Pavlov’s proverbial dog. It’s really quite nice here because the German Tagesschau, which is the national evening news that comes on punctually at 8 o’clock, is rather regimented in its timing. You can almost set your clock by when the weather forecast is coming. Right near the end, you hear the newscaster say, ‘Und jetzt die Wettervorhersage…‘ (And now the weather forecast), and if you’re one of us, a sense of curious security washes over you. 

Why is that? What is it about me (and perhaps you, as well) that gets such pleasure in knowing what weather patterns are headed this way in the next 24 to 72 hours? Even when the forecast is wrong, and my grandmother used to delight in discovering that last night’s forecast wasn’t accurate, there’s still some sort of reassurance to know what is coming over the horizon. 

Is there still some of that obstinate 9-year-old in me who wishes we could just take the weather as it comes? If you look out the window in the morning & see dark clouds, then bring along an umbrella. If the weather turns in the middle of the day, what’s the worst that happens? You get a little wet. So be it. 

I’ve noticed that I’ve banged on about the weather quite a lot on this blog over the last several months. It’s a bit harder in the dead of winter to read that above-mentioned Camus quote and not want to throttle the old Frenchman. If he were still around, that is. 

Yet now it’s springtime. It should be somewhat easier to live in the moment. To watch the flowers blooming and hear the birds chirping and think, ‘This is what it’s all about, right?

A small, steady voice in the back of my head doesn’t miss a beat and answers, ‘Yes, but it’s not exactly summer, is it? That’s when it gets really good. That’s something to look forward to.

Take that, Uncle Albert. 

Hiding behind the curtain

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A topic that I find myself thinking about when considering what to write about here has to do with the ‘Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain‘ line that I’ve had on this blog since I started it. See, I’ve talked with plenty of people about online privacy and blogging and how much of yourself you choose to show in general.

Since this isn’t an academic exercise and I needn’t support my ideas with credited sources, it means that most of what I write here is anecdotal. I tell stories without bothering to look up where I originally read or heard the kernel of knowledge that began me thinking about whatever topic I fancy.

Facebook seems to be a constant privacy concern for some Germans, partially because it seems like every other month there’s an article in the media here about how someone’s personal business has been displayed for everyone to see because of the big bad social media giant. I dealt with this a bit when I wrote Why do people take the wrong things about Facebook so seriously?

My position on all of this privacy stuff, though, is that you can determine how much of yourself you show online. If there’s something embarrassing out there about me, I tend to want to be the one to talk about it.

That’s probably why I share so little of my personal life here or on other forms of social media. I reshare ridiculous things and see most of social media as a place to curate the best things I find on the web. If I’m creating content with my name on it, I tend to be cautious. Probably too much so.

So, that’s where my thoughts are this Easter season. I see this blog as a kind of calling card for my personal writing and my hope is that my personality comes out in the writing even if I’m a bit reserved. The criticism I often hear is that I could show more of myself here and on social media in general.

If I were to do so, it seems like I’d have to come out from behind the curtain. Might even have to take that line down off the front of the blog. Hiding behind the curtain has had its advantages, so don’t expect too much right off. Many things still belong in one’s private sphere.

As with so many things, it’s simply a matter of balance.

Shining in the light of the setting sun

 

When you’ve got nothing interesting to say, talk about the weather. Right?

Well, I’ve got plenty of interesting things to talk about….still the coming springtime is on my mind. This wasn’t the hardest winter, but I’ve been ready to usher it out the door for most of February. I’m not normally like that, which tells me that my impatience has gotten the best of me.

So, the photo above was taken while a friend & I walked across Munich in the last of the day’s light. It was such a gorgeous, clear day that we began in a beer garden & just found ourselves soaking in the long-awaited sunlight. We both had other things we needed to be doing, but we continued to say to ourselves, ‘Just a few more moments.’

Here’s my favourite church in town – it’s the St. Lukas, and I’ve pondered for years why I like it so much. I can stand and gaze at it for stretches of time. Jostling myself, I’m not entirely sure how long I was lost in my reverie.

Think I did some research about it years ago for an article I was writing, and I could throw around facts about St. Lukas which I’d thought would help me rationalise my obsession with it. To no avail. I’ve forgotten the details and yet I still love the beauty you can see in the photo shining in the light of the setting sun.

 

Then there’s the  Müller’sche Volksbad, which is my local sauna. At some point, I’ll write an entire blogpost about this place. It deserves plenty of attention, I assure you. 

Once again, we could’ve taken public transport farther into the city, but my walking companion and I decided to keep hoofing it. Savouring the last glimpses of what had been such a gorgeous day, we snaked our way through some of the oldest streets in Munich‘s city centre. The evening was upon us and without the sunset, we no longer had what had seemed just s short while before such a perfect excuse to procrastinate. 

I’ll leave you with a photo of the Frauenkirche. It’s a symbol of our city and the part of the skyline that makes any photo distinctively Munich. What a perfect way to wrap up this tour. If you happen to be in my adopted hometown sometime, drop a line. I can normally be persuaded to take exactly such a walk. 

Fine words butter no parsnips



Well, I was just kidding when I assured Robert Godden that I’d used ‘Fine words butter no parsnips’ in a long ago blogpost. Purportedly, he’s just spent an hour looking through the archives of my various blogs for the nonexistent time I used that phrase…now I almost feel bad, but not really. 

Maybe he-of-gullible-tendencies Mr. Godden actually happened upon some decent writing for a change. Chuckle chuckle…actually, he knows he’s one of my favourite tea bloggers. Hell, I’ll go out on a limb & say he’s just an all around superior blogger with or without the tea. 

Back to the point:

What on earth does that butter & parsnips nonsense up above even mean? Well, my impatience got the best of me & I simply stumbled over to Wikipedia, where I was told the meaning of ‘Fine words butter no parsnips‘.

Here it is:

Nothing is achieved by empty words or flattery.

Nothing? Really? 

What about that nice thing I said about Old Man Godden several lines back? You don’t think I achieved anything there? If nothing else I might get some tea sent to me. If you knew how good his tea blends are, you wouldn’t scoff. 

So, the jury is still out. Did my flattery of that demented madman of a teablogger and general wackadoo of a human being do me a lick of good in replenishing my barren tea cabinet? 

Watch this space: the suspense is killing me. 

Reading the paper on a Sunday

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Have felt a bit out of sorts lately, and then the weekend comes around and I don’t get nearly enough done on my writing projects. I’m juggling this and that, and seemingly without warning Sunday evening sneaks up on me.

What on earth have I been doing since Friday night when the vast expanse of the weekend was laid out before me?

Well, a lot of living got done between then and now, but I find myself asking what I’d most like to do with the few hours left. Why not read the newspaper?

‘What madness is this?’ you ask. Well, this used to be part of any decent leisurely Sunday.

Actually, only a few generations ago people read the evening paper regularly upon returning from a long day’s work. I’m old, but I’m not that old. Evening papers had gone the way of the dinosaurs by the time I became an obsessive media consumer.

Wait, you know what I’d forgotten while writing the above? My adopted hometown of Munich happens to still have one of those paper that comes out as the sun goes down. It’s got an incredibly inventive name, even. It’s the Abendzeitung, which conveniently means ‘evening newspaper‘.

I’ve heard people rag on it as long as I’ve lived here, but the Arts and Culture section isn’t bad and I actually learned a lot of German while reading it in my early days here in the Bavarian capital.

The photo up above is actually of the much more serious paper up the road in Frankfurt, which I won’t mention by name. The local papers don’t have a Sunday edition, so I end up slogging through this one when I get a hankering for old fashioned print.

‘You do know that you can get all of your news digitally, right?’

Yep, it’s just not the same. Back to my paper…enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Oh, apropos of the above: here’s a link to a funny Pearls Before Swine comic.

It might even make everyone involved strive just a bit harder

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It’s tangential, but here’s a photo from St. Pauli, which makes me think of their years in Hamburg

 

Scrolling through Feckbook earlier this evening, I saw various people allude obliquely a murder that happened thirty-four years ago tonight. No-one bothered mentioning who’d been killed on the eighth of December in 1980. There was no need.

I wasn’t going to bother writing about it, because what more can be said about the all of it? Plenty of quiet thoughts about a world without him, and here we go through this once more every year.

So I was already off to bed, having already resolved not to say anything, and then I saw my friend Jeff Ely had posted this:

‘Vin Scelsa passed the news to the world on WNEW 34 years ago tonight, and then played “Jungleland”. I was on my houseboat in Cos Cob and immediately got in the car and drove to The Dakota.

“Outside the street’s on fire in a real death waltz
Between what’s flesh and what’s fantasy
And the poets down here don’t write nothing at all
They just stand back and let it all be
And in the quick of a knife, they reach for their moment
And try to make an honest stand
But they wind up wounded, not even dead
Tonight in Jungleland”‘

Well at that point, I had to fire the laptop back up and scrawl out a quick couple of thoughts here. The Bruce Springsteen quote is rather poignant in light of what happened that night, which was the disc jockey’s intention. If you don’t know that tune or haven’t heard it in a while, here’s an above-average performance of Jungleland:

Well, as long as I’m passing on Jeff’s memory of that night, I should interject where I was/what I was doing. Oh, did I mention being green with envy that he was able to hop in his car with the end of a bottle of bourbon and make his way to Central Park West  in something like an hour and a half? Well, there’s that.

Although I remember being upset the night that we heard the news, it was the next day in school that it really began to sink in. I was standing in the schoolyard a bit disgruntled that my fellow classmates didn’t seem remotely phased by what had happened the previous evening in Manhattan.

At the risk of sounding like the closing soliloquy of a Wonder Years episode, it really was one of the first times I remember being confronted with mortality. I’d certainly lost at least one grandparent and likely a few family pets had already met their untimely deaths for whatever reason. Yet, here was someone I didn’t personally know who was not only gone, but his absence shook me and alerted me deeply to how precious this whole damned thing truly is.

I know it sounds so cliche, but I’m going to write it anyway:

Hold your people close. Tell them how much they mean to you. Do it.

Be clear about it. It doesn’t hurt you, and it might even make everyone involved strive just a bit harder.

We are all God’s children. Don’t forget that shit.

photo by Johnny Nguyen/Special to The Oregonian

photo by Johnny Nguyen/Special to The Oregonian

Wasn’t going to blog about this topic, but this photo swayed me. Not going to get into what happened this week in Ferguson, Missouri and the maelstrom of Internet drama that followed. Enough has been said, and although I’m certain there’s much more that needs to be said, I’m not sure I’m the one to say it. Even if I were, I think I need more time to digest my thoughts. Although I can be rather transparent with my thoughts here, I’m careful with certain topics. This is definitely one of those.

However, there’s only goodness in the photo I’ve included above. Want to know the whole backstory story about the image? Well follow this link: Police officer and young demonstrator share hug during Ferguson rally in Portland. I’m careful about including sources, so check out the original. The photographer is Johnny Nguyen, and he’s @chambervisuals on instagram.

There’s not much more I need to add. The photo says most of what I’d like to express. We’ve got more in common than we sometimes remember. Hug your people a bit more tightly, will you?

Carolyn Wonderland said somewhere recently, ‘We are all God’s children. Don’t forget that shit.

That.