German words and not talking opera

IMG_1395

She looks somehow optimistic, doesn’t she? What’s that she’s holding in her hand anyway?

You know, it can be a bit odd when you tell someone you like living in Germany. The person cocks his head, and either says it outright or visibly thinks, ‘But you could live in Spain or Italy…or anywhere. Why Germany?’

Then you admit that you actually enjoy speaking the German language…oh, and that you genuinely like the people.

The person you’re talking to cannot fathom that last bit. It is simply unfathomable.

Germans are boring. Everyone knows that (they’re not boring, but stereotypes are persistent). Actually, some Germans are painfully dull. However, I’ve met some Brits and dare I say even more Americans who’ve got the personality of drying paint. Every culture has its share of the socially inept. The comically uncurious.

Germans are humourless (aside from slapstick – many Germans adore Mr Bean, after all – the German sense of humour is  utterly language dependent…you’ve got to know the parlance to get the jokes). They’ve got a sense of humour. Do some individuals take themselves too seriously? Well, sure. Of course. I avoid those. I seek out the ones who see the lighter side of life here. The ones who can laugh at themselves.

And finally? Germans are orderly rule followers. Well, this one’s kind of true. It is true. There are exceptions, but on the whole there is a social order here. People do what they’re expected. They break rules and sometimes they lie, but for the most part rules are there to be adhered to.

Is that so horrible?

It’s rather good for someone of my ilk (a bit whimsical) to live in a society where things are reliable. If a German tells you he’s going to do something, generally that something gets done. It’s sort of refreshing.

What got me thinking about all of this? Well, I read this very funny page by Ed M Wood:

My Favorite German Words, My Barber and I

Go ahead. Click on the link above. It’s not going to hurt you.

There’s so much in here I can relate to. The words he chooses are some of my favourite. The way he winds the story of him and his barber through the list of words? Yes, I like that, as well.

My friend Amy has one of those calendars where you learn a little bit of German everyday, and she regularly regales me with the more ridiculous things that the damned thing is trying to teach her. If you think Ed M Wood‘s article is funny, you should hear Amy arguing with her German calendar.

Here’s the one from yesterday:

 

Quatsch keine Opern!
(Translation: Be brief!)
Literally? “Don’t talk operas!”
I like that a lot. Don’t talk operas for goodness sake. Not bad advice.

 

shameless self promotion

IMG_1985

This photo says enough that it really doesn’t need any text…nevertheless, this isn’t a photo blog. Find the appropriate words below.

Was about to say that I hadn’t talked about turtles in a while, but I went back and looked at my earlier posts on this blog and there’s nothing turtle-related. Not a damned thing.

Which is a bit strange, because I’m really into turtles.

And?

There’s a beautiful human female riding atop the turtle. Not in some inappropriate and potentially embarrassing way, either. As a matter of fact, I doubt you could misinterpret this lady and her motives. As beautiful as she might be, everything about her seems pure.

Wait, what are you blathering on about lahikmajoe? Is there any method to your madness?

Well, sort of. In a roundabout way.

See, I’ve been doing quite a bit of freelance writing and editing lately, as well as translating and proofreading. It’s been a bit of a boon, to be honest, but the sad reality is that I haven’t had much time for the whimsical that I typically find myself writing here.

The curious thing is that a good deal of the work I get is from people who first come here to look at samples of my style. Or they find old posts from the teablog if they’ve been able to circumnavigate their way around the patio furniture nonsense, that is.

If that last reference is lost on you, take a look at patio design ideas, and you’re guaranteed to be on the same page with me at least once in the last 10 minutes.

If more people are coming here to assess my writing, wouldn’t it be logical to make the writing more serious? More commercially viable?

I’m not against commerce. I’m not above shameless self promotion.

The thing is: if I’m already generating some sort of interest by simply writing about whatever the hell I want, and this is a personal and rather miscellaneous blog to begin with, shouldn’t I keep doing what got me here?

What I’ve noticed recently is that the more I write for other people, the more essential it is that I persevere in entertaining myself hereabouts. A pristine woman and the turtle beneath her is as good a place to continue as I could imagine.

If a handful of you enjoy it? Well, that’s lagniappe.

 

why would I want to dwell on any of that?

IMG_2229

Light coming in on steps in the Durham Cathedral

It’s been seven years since my dad died, and I wish I had better words to express how incomprehensible that still is. All those things you say when someone who was suffering has passed have slowly subsided. I remember him in the most inopportune moments, but there he is.

The things I dig deep within me to say about him are likely going to always fall short. When I slow down enough to notice things like that light pouring into the stairwell in the photo above, I’m reminded that he touched so many lives partly because he knew how to shut up and listen.

He truly was quiet. So few words emanated from him that there was a noticeable hush in the room when people realised he wanted to say something. When I was rather young, I remember he had the saddest smile sometimes. I suppose one of his successes was that the melancholy in his grin appeared to have evaporated.  Over the years, it was as if he just didn’t have the time or energy to be maudlin anymore.

There was a soulful singer he introduced me to who sang about the depravity of humanity. Beautiful songs, but really quite dark. Years later, I asked him why he never listened to that artist anymore.

I just realised one day that his songs were really depressing,‘ he said. ‘There’s enough sadness in the world – why would I want to dwell on any of that?

Yes, why indeed.

 

 

 

slowed to a crawl

IMG_0365_2

Getting out of the sunlight

Because of a new job and other obligations, there hasn’t been much time for blogging lately. Nevertheless, I was going through photos of Seville recently and  was reminded of the above moment when I escaped the burning sunlight. If you’re wondering whether this place was as peaceful as it looks, the answer is yes.

My friends who live in Seville, with whom I stayed  on that trip, were visiting Munich earlier in the summer, and it was such a pleasure to show off my adopted hometown.  There were a few evenings, after I’d been in the office all day and they had been traipsing around taking in the sights, where we sat and watched the dusk fade to nighttime.

There were no particularly profound things said. We reminisced about earlier times and momentarily solved some of the world’s more complicated problems. As much as I love the other seasons, this seems to be something particular to summer. That feeling of expansiveness after a good meal.

Some of us at the table had had what seemed to have been the perfect amount to drink, while others picked at the cheese plate that was served in lieu of dessert. Time may not have stood still, but it certainly slowed to a crawl.

Nothing like a meal with old friends, is there?

all we’ve got

IMG_0087

Courtyard at the Picasso museum in Málaga

‘ “The  past,” he said, resting three fingers across the mouth of his cup to keep Bea from pouring yet another refill, “is a gravity. It holds you to the earth, but it also keeps pulling you down, trying, like the earth itself, to reclaim you. And the future, always looking that direction, planning, anticipating – that’s a kind of freefall, your feet have left the ground, you’re just floating there, floating where there is no there.” ‘ from Salt River by James Sallis

Sometimes, you simply can’t help yourself. You’re reading along, minding your own business, and the author’s voice somehow comes off the page, out into the air and whooooosh…it opens something up inside you that wasn’t there before. That’s roughly what happened when I read the above passage.

One side of the spectrum drags you down – back to the ground. Or even lower, actually. In the other direction is a kind of emptiness. You’re still there, but the ground isn’t. You might not be falling yet, but the sense of anticipation might as well be dropping the bottom out from beneath you.

No clue if this speaks to any of you. It might not be nearly as profound in your ears as it was in mine.

The extremes that’re laid out in this description: the groundedness of what’s past and the groundlessness of what’s to come – yet another argument, quite compelling even, to stick with right now. This very moment. On some level, it’s all we’ve got.

fighting dragons

IMG_3078

dragon on a wall in Landsberg am Lech

Because I blogged relatively rarely over the holidays, I have a backlog of photos that I haven’t bothered putting here. There are a lot of dragons on walls and in paintings that I’ve been running into lately.

The one above was in Landsberg am Lech, which is a little village west-southwest of Munich. Because of the drudgery of getting everything set up in the new flat, I’m equating my daily struggle with fighting dragons.

It’s certainly dramatic. I get that.

Even though these tasks aren’t insurmountable, the sorting of them is momentarily daunting. I look at the competing websites that offer a DSL connection and they look indistinguishable to my eyes. I call the service number and they’re quite good at throwing numbers around…numbers that then swirl through my head, as I try to comprehend what exactly it is that I need.

But in the meantime, I’ve got only my phone connecting me to the web. Aside from a few moments in the café, I’m without internet. Last night, I read a book and actually went to sleep at a reasonable hour.

My hope is that even when I’m completely connected again, I’ll remember to turn all these devices off periodically. Just me and a cup of tea and my thoughts.

Dragons be damned.

lack of resolutions

reminds me of Hamburg, not Munich

There were plenty of things I could’ve blogged about over the holidays, but I took a bit of a hiatus. The last few months have been stressful to say the least, and although there have been times I’ve blogged through similar turmoil, I decided at some point just to lay low. To say less rather than more.

The sad truth is that there have been plenty of things to talk about, and the nature of blogging is that something I might’ve written could’ve actually been useful…to someone. Please don’t laugh..it’s possible.

Instead some insight I had or some experience that I slowed down enough to notice was stored in my memory or even recorded privately, and that nugget of potential wisdom won’t ever see the light of day. Well, not from me anyway.

Yet that’s gotten me thinking about the nature of what I’m doing here and all these ridiculous social media sites I circumnavigate. Are the experiences I had over Christmas and New Year’s somehow lessened because I neglected to mention them here? If I just ignored my computer/mobile phone for a few days, did my circle of friends on the internet worry about my absence?

Not so far they haven’t. There’s enough noise over at twitter that if you don’t see my avatar for a few days as you scroll through your tweets, your life isn’t negatively affected. That’s why I’m always amused when people threaten to leave a social media site. As if we really think our presence there is so important.

Sure I’ve got something unique to offer. Perhaps I’m looking at a story or a situation in a different light – some perspective that hadn’t been considered earlier.

What’s more likely though is that my perspective is simply the most juvenile. The way I look at things is quite candidly often the way a 13 year-old boy might. The most selfish, thoughtless, arrogant approach. That’s at least the first response I have to what life throws at me.

I’m not going to make any ridiculous resolutions that I’ll only blog the serious things. My suspicion is that you’d rather get the whimsical here anyway. That’s my thing – my Raison d’être. 

There. You didn’t think you’d get through a whole post without me throwing in a foreign term that could’ve just as easily have been written in clear English, did you? You know me too well.

break bread like you mean it

20121220-181830.jpg

This was taken when I was sitting across from my mom at the café across from the Durham Cathedral and the Durham Castle. I’ve been meaning to write more about the particulars of this trip. There was so much we saw and did. You’d be surprised how well Fafa gets around.

The card that says, ‘Its all my parents fault,’ often makes me laugh.

It’s meant to be ironical folks. I blame my parents for very little. I used to, but eventually realised it was a waste of time. At some point one has to simply grow up.

You know what I blame my parents for? How decent I turned out. What a stand up guy I am? That’s Martha Frances and Bill Auvenshine’s doing.

I learned from my dad that you can show up for life. Even when you don’t feel like it. He was the kind of person who was there when he said he was coming. Actually, he was regularly early. And if I was late? It was ok. He had a book to read.

Time was fluid with him. As long as he was punctual, that’s all that mattered.

From my mom? What’d I learn?

You really want to know?

I learned and still learn from her that it’s never too late. Never. Forgiveness is still possible. There’s still hope.

She was a widowed before my birth and a single mom with my brother Michael just a few years later.

She persevered.

Did she blame her parents? She did not.

They did the best they could. Really.

While you break bread with your family this holiday season, cut your folks some slack. They won’t always be around.

Try being grateful for a change. Would it really hurt to try a bit of gratitude?

I believe I can fly

20121124-062446.jpg

What is going on here?

Is she an urban pixie? Can she fly? If she can, I want to see.

Did she already know how (to fly) or do the shoes help? If you get a pair of the wingèd shoes, can you automatically fly? Or does it simply make it easier to fly?

I’ve got questions.

Who’s got the answers?

Come on people! Give us some answers.

canine sphinx

Don’t ask me what I’m thinking…I won’t tell you.

Recently took a day trip to Austria.

Whenever I travel without my dogs Ella and Louis, I stop and admire other dogs. It’s not something I can control.

Have always liked dogs. Because mine aren’t with me, I live vicariously through other dog owners. It’s a weakness.

This dog breed is Japanese.

Great dogs.

Very stubborn.

Unlike my dogs, not that interested in other people.

His owner he loves.

Anyone else? Not so much.

I wish he’d tell me what he thought. Or what he’s thinking.

Oh well.