Club of the Polish losers


I’ve seen this place before, but it’s not been open when I happened by. At some point I want to go in and see if they’re being hipster ironic or if this place is what they say they are.

And what’s a Polish loser like anyway? How might he be different from any other run of the mill loser?

If you ask nicely, I might go do a bit of sleuthing and find out.

Don’t call me right now

‘Can you just go without your phone for a few minutes?’

He asked me this and I thought, ‘Yes, of course. It’s the weekend. No-one’s trying to reach me right now. I’ve got plenty to be doing, anyway…’

That was several hours ago. I wish I could say this was easy. To be truthful, this is the culmination of a story that began a few years ago. It’s useless to tell the story without going back and explaining my bizarre relationships with smart phones.

Not that this is going to be pretty.

It all starts with the ridiculous envy that’s built into the eyePhone. I’m a convert to nearly everything iOS, but simply can’t get over the sticker shock of buying one of those damned devices. I can almost hear some of you saying, ‘Just bite the bullet and get one of them already. Mine is so amazing. I can’t imagine my life without it anymore.’

Well, that’s part of the problem – that ubiquitous need for this one product. I find myself resisting to lengths I’d rather not admit.

It was somehow easier and quite practical when I originally went an alternative direction. There’s this behemoth of a formerly-nationalised telephone company here in Germany, and I wanted nothing to do with them. At that time, the only way to legally use an eyePhone was to use this company.

Someone explained the intricacies of jail breaking a phone so I could bypass this legality and use the phone, which I wasn’t even willing to purchase to begin with, with my mobile phone provider. It was somehow the lesser of two evils to simply buy another phone.

Which I did.

However, I’ve hated the choice from day one. I’ve cursed my device. I’ve written murder ballads with this ridiculous little piece of machinery in the role of the vanquished lover.

The company who made this thing, once a proud and innovative market leader, is now a sinking ship. There’s no point in harking back to the glory days. I loathed this phone from the first time I set eyes on it.

Finally the thing has given up the ghost. It’s not dead, but it’s on its last legs. It’s provided some sort of easer vice despite my constant ridicule.

I’m trying out new phones – still in the hunt for something that is not an eyePhone. I don’t need the nicest thing on the market, and I’m at a distinct disadvantage, because I’m simply not technically inclined.

It’s why I’m so glad I’ve got a phone guy. Someone who’s helping me decipher the Byzantine realities of mobile technology. It’s not getting any easier, incidentally.

You might say I shouldn’t have such a personal reaction to my phone. Like one of those people who names his car. Or actually thinks the television works better when you talk to it.

You’re probably right. Oh and one more thing. Don’t call me right now.

Bar hopping in a sportive season


(Where we watched the Engaland v Uruguay debacle)

First watched the World Cup in 1990, and because I’d lived in Bavaria as a boy, I pulled for the Schwarz Rot Gold of the newly reunited Western and Eastern Germany. They won, and I somehow expected they’d do it again in 1994.

It was hosted in the America that year, and because I was loitering round the Aspen Music Festival and had plenty of acquaintances from the countries playing, we watched a lot of the World Cup matches. Felt sorry for the Italians in the penalty shootout, and since the Brazilians won it that time around, I was pulling for France in the 1998 Final.

By 2002, I lived in the Fatherland, and my adopted homeland made a surprisingly strong showing. I was connected to the national side while watching Oliver Kahn hang his head in shame, even though they’d have never made it that far without him.

The Germans named the World Cup on their own soil a Sommermärchen (summer fairytale) and the mood within the friendly confines of the German heartland is still remarked upon to this day. The weather was somehow perfect, and the Germans took a break from whinging for a brief moment in time.

Four years ago was the Final in which the Dutch apparently decided they could never beat Spain by FairPlay…my curious story about that match was that we were stuck on a train from Vienna for the first half, and my mother and I watched the end of the game in a café in the main train station when we finally returned to Munich.

And now here we are again. I had family visiting as this World Cup got underway, and now even though I’m incredibly busy reviewing movies at the FilmFest München, I still stumble out of the cinema looking for the nearest television screen that’s showing the footie.

It’s what I do.

Tonight there was an event with a bunch of film industry people. I was asked if I’d like to come. Without missing a beat, my first question was, ‘Will they be showing the game?’

They were.

It was the best part of the party. By far.

Adopted home and oodles of food


Above is a photo looking over the rooftops of Munich, which is a place I’ve been think quite a lot about lately. We lived here when I was a small child, and then I moved back here more than a decade ago.

Listening to my mother’s stories as we revisit our old stomping grounds, I’m reminded of how different this place looks as a tourist. Rarely, if ever, do I find myself asking the questions that seem to come up while escorting my brother and his daughters around the city.

I love having visitors, though. When people I know come through Munich, I gladly meet them in a beer garden or give them advice about the best Bavarian place I know.

We’re in the middle of a particularly exciting summer here – what with the World Cup in full swing and assorted family and friends visiting. People are swarming in and out of Munich; whirlwind tours and day trips in and around the city.

I suppose one of the things I find myself coming back to again and again is how I see the Germans and the particularly curious manner in which they go about their business. Over the years, I’ve seen some really humorous blogs from outsiders writing about their experiences living here.

Anytime you approach such a thing, you risk making rash generalisations and grossly inaccurate assessments about the culture that’s being observed. My only hope is that the more I talk about this stuff here, it continues to be clear how much I like the natives. Rest assured, I wouldn’t be living here if I didn’t enjoy some of the unsettling idiosyncrasies of the folk I encounter, as well as my own.

Looking up at the Ludwigskirche



This is Ludwigskirche, which is also called the Universitätskirche, here in Munich. Apparently, the English name is Catholic Parish and University Church St. Louis - that’s a mouthful, isn’t it?

Have recently been inspired by Stefan Salinas‘ book Catholic Churches Big and Small, and I realised I could easily take photos of dozens of churches that are in stumbling distance of where I live.

So, periodically I’ll be sharing some of these. This is certainly a good start.



train in and out of York


on the platform

When I’m at a loss for what to post here, I sometimes go through old photos. Assuming I didn’t get distracted while remembering what was going on when each photo was taken, I sometimes happen upon one that I think would look good here on the blog.

Because I take so many photos when I travel, I often have a backlog of shots that I’ve wanted to put up here. Some need a bit of explanation, while others really speak for themselves. This one falls mostly in the latter category.

It’s the train station in York, and I love old train stations. Adore them, actually. The bend in the track leading to who knows where – and the brightness in the distance.

I could go on, but I’ll do so another time. I’ll let the photo speak for itself.

throwing one’s proverbial hat in the ring


up a little street back in Palermo

There’s a pressing need for me to get additional freelance work as a writer/editor, so I thought I’d start here. It’s my personal blog, after all.

Reading a metric tonne of material right now. Unlike in the second half of 2013, I plan on actually devoting some of my very finite free time to writing. One of those things that continues to fulfil me.

More on this in the near future. You’ve been warned.

again and again and again


Here’s a story. It’s one of those stories that has the advantage of being true.

See, there were these kids who grew up and got married and had families and moved away and then moved back to where they started. Some marriages didn’t work out and some did. Some years they saw less of each other – some more. Heartfelt conversations somehow occurred in the midst of the bustle of life.

That might be the most astonishing thing up until the most recent thing – that despite the kids and the jobs and the holidays and the drama and the heartbreak and the monotony and all of it, despite that list of stuff that doesn’t even begin to get to the heart of the matter, despite all of that that there was still time to bear one’s soul in those stolen moments.

Sitting by the pool. Waiting for the waitress to bring the check. Giving a ride to the mechanic’s when the car’s finally ready. In those slivers of time, great conversations somehow happened. Not always, but more often than you might think.

But back to the most recent thing. This is the story that gets the attention. See the photo up above? Those are the recently excavated kidneys of one of my friends. Normally kidneys are about 12 centimetres long. His had grown to be 42 centimetres and had to be removed. You can’t live very long without kidneys – they’re one of those essential organs. A donor was needed, but who do you ask for such a thing?

I don’t know the details of that part. How the offer of one’s kidney was actually verbalised. But what one of my other friends did was suggest that the guy in need of a healthy kidney just take one of his. That easy. Well, I doubt it was that easy, but as easy as a thing like that could be…it was agreed upon.

Here’s the thing: of course it’s generous. I’m sure the friend who just had those wildebeest-sized monstrosities taken out of his body is deeply grateful that he has such a friend…such a circle of friends, actually. But I’m not at all surprised that the kidney donor would do such a thing. He’s a wonderful guy – don’t get me wrong – it’s just so big a gesture. It’s your own kidney, man. Are you sure you want to take this friendship thing to such extremes?

All of it goes full circle back to the original astonishing thing. The friendship made of big and little moments. Moments you sometimes don’t even realise are so precious until after the fact.

I’m reminded of something written about my dad after he died. One of his friends was grieving and he wrote, ‘One of the hard truths of life is that it takes 25 years to build a 25-year friendship.’

That’s what’s at work here with the friend who needs a kidney and the kidney donor. It’s a 30-year friendship. 30 years and counting. That’s why I can understand the kidney donor. We’re all standing around marveling at the guy who’s forking over his vital organ, but I for one am sitting here thinking, ‘Well, of course he’d do something like that.’

Some days I feel sorry for myself and some days I wonder why I’ve ever doubted that everything would work out for the best. There are some days when I can’t quite believe how I’ve made it this far. Then, there are moments interspersed within those days where I remember my oldest friends. I hold some of them personally responsible for me having made it this far.

Having friends like this makes me want to make it this far again and again and again.

Look what I found



Look what I found

Ella and Louis are back on board, and it looks like we may have even found a place to live…in Munich, no less.

Don’t want to say too much till it’s finalised, but it’s near the English Garden and exactly where we wanted to live. The dogs are happy pretty much anywhere, but this looks like where we’re really supposed to be.

Lots more about the next chapter in this adventure in the New Year. Stay tuned.