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Tell me another story about baseball…oh, the humanity

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Everytime I go to a conference, storytelling is a forum people are attracted to. It’s a human condition. Our brains shut off if you feed me too much theory, but if you tell me a story? I’m all ears.

Both in our private lives & in business, storytelling is a powerful tool. We know this.

Teaching about baseball in a Cultural Studies class

When I had one of my first Cultural Studies courses, which focused on presenting Anglo-American culture to German students, I decided to try to give them a taste of my America by talking about my love for the Chicago Cubs.

Few Europeans can get into this weird antiquated game that such a small segment of society understands, or even wants to. How to present it to them, when they have little or no context?

My approach was to tell them about my relationship with my nana, who instilled her values in me while we were watching our nightly Cubs game.

The students, who neither cared about the rules or the history of this curious game, could find a connection with the relationship with my grandmother.

We all have grandparents, no matter how good or bad our relationship with them is. In many cases, our parents’ parents are the easier, more gentle family member compared to our own mothers or fathers.

Not always, but I think you get my point.

These students of mine were kids, or young adults, and they knew next to nothing about the rules of baseball, even after my brilliant presentation.

It was certainly to be expected. I’d not even bothered getting into the weeds of explaining something like a sacrifice fly or a suicide squeeze. It wasn’t as useful as talking about a relationship.

My nana was isolated out on her ranch, but she still had her Cubbies. They’d entertain her nearly nightly through the summer & early autumn. When they lose their last game, there’s always next year.

These are even baseball sayings that make me nostalgic for those times with my family, but particularly with my nana. Sometimes you lose, but how do you deal with it?

You get up off the grass, with stains on your uniform, shake off the dirt, and tell yourself there’s always tomorrow.

Like life.

When we were at my nana’s memorial, my niece Amelia and I watched a game in the hotel room. It wasn’t lost on me the parallels.

Now, when I’m here in Germany, I call my brother Michael and ask what his family’s up to. He tells me the family’s watching a playoff game.

My nana’s love of baseball has been passed on to my brother’s kids. It’s cultural. No matter how many people I hear tell me baseball is so slow and boring, I know better.

That’s how storytelling works, though. You needn’t know the particulars like the rules to get the point of the story.

My family carries on its traditions by how we spend our time together. Anyone can relate to that.

Right?

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getting the band together again

in sunnier times

Jarrod’s not playing, so it might be weird to keep calling it Old Braunfels. Who knows, though. It’s a good name for a band in Munich, whose members predominantly come from Texas.

Playing the guitar surrounding by sixties design wallpaper in Lisel’s front room

However, we’ve got something else going on and Vancouver Michael will most likely have a considerable impact. Nina Kuhlig, who you might remember from the Blue February show two years ago will sing some originals, as well as one or two classics.

Have you ever noticed that the best songs tend to be sad and full of human suffering? We’ve noticed it, as well. We LURVE those songs.

The evening will be chock full of melancholic love songs. We’d love to have a place for lonely Valentine’s to congregate and revel in their plight.

We might even be able to entice Carlos Köhler, who was with us a few years back, to bring his bass up on stage and play with us. He’s one of the best local bass players I know, so it’d be a treat. We’ll see.

You want to see it, leave a comment below with your email and we’ll put you on the mailing list. Check it out!

we’re getting the band together again
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if you don’t like it or think I should grieve otherwise, you could perhaps go read something else

‘The subtle mental shifts we experience over time and how they lead us down our paths’

Heidi Jones

There’s my writing prompt. It’s from my friend Heidi, who I saw recently at my thirtieth high school reunion.

That was a trip, by the way. Like a psychedelic one, I mean. The good kind of trip. Glad I don’t do that anymore, though. It was hell on my psyche.

Mine is about fighting. My mental shift is about anger and how I deal with it.

You likely don’t know this about me, but if you know anything about astrology, I’ve got a curious and kind of unsettling chart. What do I mean?

I’m mostly fire. A burning surging seething wildfire, even. That’s only part of it, though. My moon is in Cancer, like the old Joni Mitchell song talks about.

Heidi, remind me to tell you about Trina in that same song, ok?

Anywhoooo…moon in Cancer, which is water, of course. However, my sun and my ascendent are both fiery and passionate. A person with my chart is troublesome.

Truly.

But I don’t put any truck in astrology. Just a bunch of hooey, right?

Right.

Heidi asked a difficult question, because I’m still in the process of transitioning. From a bitter bastard of a scoundrel to a hopefully less angry individual, but that’s still unresolved.

I’m not a nice person most of the time. I’ve mentioned it here before, but I can present a polished version of Lahikmajoe online or in my public life, but in private?

Ask Miriam. Really, ask her. She’ll be direct about it. She doesn’t need to cover up my rough edges.

Sometimes she even appreciates them.

Yet how was I before? I just walked away from conflict when possible.

Let me tell you a story about me when I was new in Germany, yeah?

Here I was in a foreign land, in which I’d lived as a small child and always wanted to return to, not able to communicate so well in the German language. I had my dog and my beer, and I was ok.

Truly.

People in the park were mostly cool, but sometimes there’d be what I call an ‘angry German‘. They’re still out there, in case you think this is a twenty-year-old phenomena that no longer exists.

Even today, I run into really angry locals who’re furious about something or other. Sometimes I stepped in their way or tried to park in the parking spot they thought they’d seen first. You get the idea.

Not all of them are like that, in case you’ve gotten your proverbial knickers in a twist.

#NotAllGermans

Back to my story though, eh?

There I was in the park, new in the county as I said, and some German starts hollering at me for reasons I can’t even begin to comprehend. He says some nonsense about an ‘Anzeige‘, and I know from the context that that’s bad. A Strafanzeige is a fine you get for breaking the law. It’s not important for the story.

So? I walk away.

Simple, right?

You can’t give me your Anzeige if I’m not here for it.

The person never called the police. It was a threat that I knew he or she was in no way going to follow through on.

Ever.

That’s how I used to deal with my anger, Heidi.

I disengaged.

My first marriage? I walked away. Left a lot of money on the table, because I got the only thing I wanted from that marriage.

Ella and her brother

The dogs.

They were my treasure and now they’re gone.

I’ve got new, wonderful treasure, but it just ain’t the same.

Oh well.

You know I adore my wife and our astounding little progeny. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a grateful happy man.

But I miss their floppy ears. I miss how Louis got up in the night and rearranged himself while everyone else was trying to sleep, and how Ella watched over us in the park and made sure her brother kept up.

He wasn’t the smartest dog, if I’ve not said that in a while.

My dogsitter Gitti lost her Joanna a few years back and she moaned about it on Feckbook for ages. I’m sure some friends wished she’d just get over it.

This is my grief. This is how I’m processing it.

If you don’t like it or think I should grieve otherwise, you could perhaps go read something else.

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Put your devices away…machines aren’t people

we’ve come to steal your attention

There’s a line in a newer Cat Stevens’ song where he makes some weird reference to putting machines behind us. Since Advent, Miriam and I have tried to do a digital detox.

Eventually, we’ll get to where we don’t even look at our little machines (phones, tablets, and computers) on Sundays, but at this point that’s too much.

Instead we do a social media detox, where we don’t post anything for a whole day. I’m sure my loyal readers miss me those endless hours when I’m not available (sarcasm intended), but as Miriam says, ‘Schade.’ (too bad)

Whatever photo I’ve taken of my sandwich is going to have to wait to be posted until Monday, or simply not at all. How are you supposed to know what we had for lunch today?

Well, you could just call and ask me.

That’s why we haven’t yet given up everything on Sundays, but that is eventually the end goal. Nowadays, we still use our devices to call and stay in touch. In the near future, we won’t even do that. We’ll just be gone.

It’ll be fine. You’ll be fine & so will we.

This social media lark is just that. It’s not serious. No matter what you’ve been told. Nothing going on online is more important than the people sitting in front of you.

Today, my family takes precedence. Period.

Everyday, actually.

It’s just that today it’s more pronounced.

More obvious.

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Do as I say, not as I do

Miriam & I have had a week — the good, the bad, & even a little ugly in a few choice moments.

The progeny, on the other hand, has done swimmingly. She’s already walking, albeit full toddle most of the time, and her talking makes sense, but only to other babies.

This time of year is really amazing, if you pay attention, because some people are ready for the holidays while others? Not so much.

Look around you while others are rushing round to & fro. Watch how people behave when they’re stressed.

If I’m candid, I’m exactly the same. I was furious at the Mahag guy (that’s our local VW dealer) today, & Miriam was there to try putting Humpty Dumpty back together again after he fell from the wall.

I went full tantrum, because they reminded us repeatedly of ‘our appointment’ via text. When I arrived, they suddenly acted as if they knew nothing of us & our new Autoschlüssel (key change). Oh well.

I tried rolling with the punches, so I just did some work while sitting next to a burbling brook of a baby playing next to me.

There was another 1/2 hour before it appeared anyone was interested in helping, but when they did? It was excellent service. Really.

Good job, Mahag. Thanks.

I got home, made lunch for all of us, as Miriam was in the office all morning & we NEEDED sustenance. After that, I announced that the new key didn’t even work.

I’d figured out on my way home that although the key itself was right, the remote control function that opens & closes/locks the car was non functioning. Huh…ok.

Turns out that I had a typical expat-related misunderstanding, where I told the guy I knew our spare key didn’t work, & he said to me that there was something wrong with the electrical system – that the new key wouldn’t work.

My German is good when I’m not stressed out. It’s also good when I’m not talking to Bavarians. Sometimes I think northern Germany would be easier speaking/comprehending-wise.

So here we are. We had an appointment for after Epiphany, but they heard me cursing & spitting in the background, so apparently we’ll be dealt with first thing Monday morning.

Ok, I was a jerk. To the Mahag guy & to my wife. I was nice to the baby, but if that’s the low bar I set? Being nice to babies.

Even Jeff Goldblum’s nice to babies, & he’s the worst person I know. Sara knows what he did.

Be nicer to people while they’re Xmas shopping – whether alongside you or if you’re a Spätshopper (late shopper) & you still need just a few more gifts.

Do as I say, not as I do.

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digital detox (for social media) and grieving for those damned dogs

Here’s how it feels now…they’re always there in my thoughts but somehow deeply, truly gone

We decided last weekend that we’d do a Digital Detox starting this next Sunday, and neither of us really thought it through. Late last night (or two nights ago, at this point), Miriam turned to me and said, ‘You remember what we agreed to last weekend?’ In a split second, it all came rushing back to me.

I’m a personality that knows two speeds. Either really slow, if not stationary, or full speed ahead. Pedal to the proverbial metal. It’s not easy, but it’s much worse for whoever I’m partnered with. Even work colleagues have noticed how all or nothing I tend to be.

Either you’re on my team and can practically do no wrong, or I’ve judged you by some ridiculous standard and cannot bear the sight of you. It sounds like I’m bragging but I assure you I’m not.

So this weekly day off allows us to reconnect to source, as it were. I’m hoping it makes me more tolerable to work with. She went to her meditation Runde & the baby and I putzed around the new flat.

I’m doing the Plassman’s Polka Lounge this Tuesday, so I needed to sort out my playlist. At this point, I’ll be playing:

  • Merry Christmas from the Family by Robert Earl Keen
  • You Can’t Always get What you Want (in honour of getting crap xmas gifts)
  • Be nicer to DJT (an original I just wrote)
  • and either All of Me or My Romance

I’ve also just signed up for Freilich Open Arts, which looks promising. If you want to hear us play, just go to the site and book us. Old Braunfels has been quiet lately. It’s time for us to awaken from our slumber.

Digital Detox was good, even if it didn’t include everything we’d thought. As freelancers, neither of us can just take every Sunday off. Oh well.

We’re not complaining, though. This is an amazing existence and every single day, we try to remind each other of how lucky we have it.

We get to live here?

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FC Bayern loses again and we had another pretty good weekend

This photo is from last weekend, & the scarf reads something like, ‘I’ve got 2 teams I support: FC Nuremberg & my second team is whoever’s playing Bayern.‘ They’re the Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan of the Bundesliga (top flight German football league). For Germany, FC Bayern Munich is like Manchester United, Real Madrid & Juventus all rolled into one.

When they lose, I’m a bit happier. And this week? They’re playing my favourite English side. No-one in all of Europe would be surprised if the mighty Bayern wins. Nobody. Except me. I’ll be surprised if Spurs lose. I’m all in for Tottenham. All in.

The sign that the baby’s gazing at states, ‘We had to give the children away. The cats were allergic.‘ Somehow our kid didn’t find that funny either.

Here’s a photo of the baby’s mama & me having fun back in The America. Just actin’ a fool as my old bus driver woulda said. As I got off the bus, she’d say, ‘I’m scared a you Kenneth Macbeth. I’m scared a you.’

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relaunching this blogging lark with a whimper in the night

Watching baseball in the middle of the night with a newborn in one arm and scattered thoughts running through my brain, I’m reaching for a decent explanation of why my digital scrawling is worthy of your (or even my) attention.

For the last several years I haven’t bothered sharing my life’s minutiae, as I did when social media was a shiny novelty. Periodically, I’d amble over to twitter or google+, before the latter was finally given up for dead, and like old times I’d try to mix just the right quip with an uploaded photo of my lunch. Or some attempt at a clever observation that easily washed by in the stream of my followers’ feeds.

Even ridiculous terms such as Twitter followers and the idea of my once having been mayor of Rotkreutzplatz on 4square, makes it abundantly clear to me that accusations of this all being pretentious nonsense was closer to home than I liked to face.

What changed? The easy answer is the above mentioned infant. Major life changes normally coincide with an assessment of one’s behavior, and a baby can easily be considered both a logistical as well as philosophical shift.

Somebody recently told me you don’t truly know German culture until you watch your kid go through the Teutonic educational system. As with most thing related to raising children, my first reaction is that some people take this whole parenting ordeal gravely seriously. It’s understandable, and perhaps this will finally be that life alteration which makes me grow up and approach at least one area of my existence with some maturity.

Hopefully not too much, though.

My second reaction, you ask? After I’ve let the observation settle and considered it came from someone who’s been here in Germany as long as I have, has teenage children and clearly speaks from experience.

Do I really want to know this culture better? Wouldn’t I rather continue to go off half cocked? Isn’t it easier to knowingly shake my head and mutter, ‘Damned Krauts,’ when I run into something that perplexes me?

Yes, probably.

Oh by the way, the baby’s been fed and has drifted back off to sleep. My second favorite baseball team is up a few runs in the fourth inning in Boston, and I’d like to get back to watching this game.

Relaunching this blogging lark with a whimper in the night. Anyone out there listening?

Back in the groove

Nick and I making faces when he was in Munich the last few months

One of the reasons I recommend an editorial calendar to my clients is to avoid exactly what’s happened to me the last few months.

I’ve been snowed under with work and family responsibilities, as well as starting a Master’s programme in the UK, so there just hasn’t been time for blogging or my normal activities on LinkedIn and other platforms.

Not making excuses, it’s just sometimes life gets in the way of what was intended. There’s a quote attributed to John Lennon that I’m sure someone else had already said that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

Oh well.

So, how would an editorial calendar solve this dilemma? It’s simple really, but all good ideas need better follow through, and I’ve resolved to practise what I preach, at least on this topic.

As I often recommend, let’s figure out how often you want to post, whether once or twice a week or even several times a month, decide what’s reasonable for you time-wise.

Here’s the part that sounds great in theory. Many don’t have the discipline to actually do it, though. Once it’s clear who you’re writing for (know your audience), map out the next three months of content and sit down and write all of it.

Normally not in one sitting, of course. But do it. I’ll be setting aside time daily, or several times a week, in the coming weeks to write down all the ideas I’ve been jotting down while I’ve been too busy to actually write.

My schedule opens up next week, and I’ve got about six weeks before we head back down to Italy for our annual time in the village where my wife lived when we met.

I don’t think I need that long to get this ship back in the water, but if it takes that long? So be it.

It’s a nice idea that I could keep writing while we’re down there, and I’ve got a book project my friend Nick and I are working on, so I’m sure I’ll be plenty busy with that and other things.

Yet they’re all analog and perfect for somebody like me who doesn’t necessarily have consistent Wi-Fi for those weeks.

If I’ve mapped out the next several months content, written pieces that are specifically for my clients or people with similar problems, considered other things that might help them or even the sorts of clients I might want in the future, and it’s all in the proverbial can…

Waiting for me to simply click ‘publish’.

Then I can get in the car with my family in six weeks or so, enjoy our time together, leave my devices in my bag or back at the place we’re renting, and have time to work on new things.

Sound too good to be true? Nice idea, but when would I find the time for such a thing?

Well, that’s what I could help you with if any of this sounds useful. As I often say, I could show you how to do it, or I can get to know you a bit and do it for you.

It’s one of my things and I love doing it.

Now back to my work and you’ll see me talking more about this here and on social media in the coming weeks. Reach out here in the comments, find Ken Macbeth Knowles on LinkedIn, or just find me on twitter.

Twitter’s still a thing? Apparently so.

I’m @lahikmajoe over there, if you’d like to connect and read my more banal and off topic thoughts.

Otherwise, keep reading. I’m here for you if there’s anything I can help you with.

rolling with the haters, and begging for feedback or questions

on the road to Renée and Ken Fowler’s ranch outside of Llano, Texas right after the memorial for my mother Martha Frances with my wife Miriam and the #progeny off camera (mit Absicht)

While not getting too specific about who it was who irritated me the other day, while I was doing this roku account on twitter, I’d like talk about criticism and how I’ve chosen to use social media. To be clear, I’m neither a good American nor a well-integrated German visitor. Other expats or immigrants or whatever you want to call those of us who’ve moved to Germany and chosen to make a life here, seem to have accepted things about living here that still make me bristle.

Oh, and I see that one who offers unwarranted criticism, that’s offered as helpful or thoughtful, but is more likely a backwards and passive aggressive attempt at a Besserwisser (know-it-all) feeling better about one’s own situation and/or life, should perhaps look into therapy or grow a thicker skin before logging on.

They’re what the kids, or at least the Millennials, would call ‘haters‘, and I pay them as little mind as I can manage. It’s a good way to deal with criticism online. You’ll certainly face some, or a lot of it, the longer that you work or play in the digital realm.

The most important thing to know about me on this subject of using social media is that I think of myself as two Americans mixed up in one complicated ex-pat. My family moved from West Texas after my birth to Munich, which curiously makes Bavaria my second, or adopted, home.

Then we unfortunately went back to Texas, and this time in the southeast part of the state along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico to the then fifth largest city in the United States. The City of Houston was still a cow town upon our arrival, and the annual Livestock Show and Rodeo was just one reminder that this place wasn’t like Munich or Zürich or even London, which were places I’d seen with my young, impressionable eyes.

My relationship with Germany wasn’t complicated then, as I was a mere child and all of my frustrations with mid 70s metropolitan Houston were easily written off by my thoughts that, ‘One day I can leave this humid, depressing place and go back to Germany‘, which was a sort of Garden of Eden. That was how I saw Munich or Bavaria in the early 70s, and that option of ‘going back home’ was always, or at least often, part of my fantasy.

What wasn’t to love, by the way? It was a colourful and beautiful city, my parents were casual drug users and drank a lot of beer. As a result, it was easier to live in the liberal, relatively open-minded capital of Bavaria than it had been to live in the dry (alcohol-free), desert-like metropolis of Lubbock. On the high prairie in the part of Texas that you think of if you’ve watched John Wayne movies, or that Rock Hudson/Elizabeth Taylor/James Dean film Giant, my family felt more free outside of the ‘Land of the Free’, which is still my perspective of when I think of West Texas.

I’ve got a complicated relationship with both the word ‘freedom’, as well as the whole concept of ‘The American Dream‘, but this isn’t therapy. I’ll just share this generally, and depending on what feedback I get from this post, I could imagine writing more about those things at some point in the future. If you want to read more about my perspective on either of these things, the proverbial ball’s in your court. You’ve got to get off of your arse and say so in the comments.

To wrap up my point here, though.

My writing always has my clients in mind. While I do it in quite an Anglo-American manner, it’s purposeful that I’ve chosen not to blog or use social media the ‘German Way‘. Again, I’ll go deeper into how different cultures use online platforms and the intercultural differences at a later date.

Interested? You know what to do.

Make a comment below, rather than on LinkedIn or Twitter. I’ve started the conversation and you, my readers, have more influence than you realise.

Say something.

What about this post or any other interests you?

More importantly what have I written that you want to know more about?

Show me you’re here and reading my scribblings, would you? I see the metrics, so I know you’re lurking.

Do me a favour and help me build an audience by saying what you’d like to see more of.

Please.

Pretty please.

Twitter? I hardly know *anyone* there

In Nice several years back for the coolest Sylvestre sunset eVAH!!!

This next week, I’m tweeting for a local account, which I did for a week nearly a decade back and it was HORRIBLE.

Learned sooooooooo much about biting off more than I could chew, by being unable to adequately manage the account, while my personal life was in complete free fall.

Next week, though?

Gonna rock it, yo!

Manly in Landshut

Outside the Männer Laden early morning in Landshut

Every Tuesday, I’ve got a teaching gig in one of my favourite places in Bavaria, hell all of Germany.

Whether it’s their infamous Landshuter Hochzeit (wedding) or the Burg Trausnitz (Trausnitz castle), this place is content gold.

Expect many more posts from this beautiful small city about an hour or so northwest of my home in Munich.

You can’t wait, can you?

Let me know in the comments below what you’d like to know about this super cool place. Or if you’ve already been to Landshut and already know if its charm, tell us that instead. Please.

George told me to shut up, and…for a change? I listened

Robert Godden and myself hamming it up in London a few years back

Above you’ll see me with one of my favourite people on the planet. Robert is nuts, but it’s a good nuts. George is almost as nuts as Robert and I are, but not quite. We’ve set a high bar, to be fair.

Who’s George, you ask?

Let me provide a bit of context I’ve got this friend George, who’s a gardener. He wasn’t always in such a position of autonomy and authority. He used to be a marketing specialist. Bilingual, even. Yet he was miserable and wanted to go outside and be with the birds. And think about worms.

Like a child, right? That’s one of the many things I like about George. He’s not playing by society’s rulebook. Were he to ask his family, a successful line of people if there ever was one, about his recent downshift from marketing to gardening, I doubt he’d get approving responses.

Damn them, is what I say.

But I’m a bit like the Hindu god Shiva…I like to tear things down before building them up again. Although, if I’m honest? I’m probably more like Ganesh than Shiva. I think I’m a badass, when really I’m a bit round in the middle and want to enjoy my comfort.

What might this have to do with my clients or how I get my message across? Simply put, I’m good at writing what I know. I’ve spent my career doing just that. My clients are typically quite German. Even the Italians and French people I deal with have been living here in this Teutonic reality long enough that they might as well be German.

My solutions might be okay, but my delivery is often so unorthodox that they need to try me out before they can see the method to my madness. Were I to be less chaotic, I’d lose less clients right off the bat. It’s anti-intuitive, but I’ve learned to stay the course and worry less about losing clients who don’t ‘get me’.

What’s my biggest, most successful, piece of advice? When it comes to clients? It’s so simple it almost hurts to write it:

Listen better. Ask good questions, but only after a lot of active listening. Making sure you truly understand what their whole deal is. Not what you assume their deal is. Let them tell you.

In future posts, I’ll talk more about this. Follow me for more tips on how to alienate clients. The ones who stick around might be worth the trouble. Or I might be.

I can never tell which one.

Who wants to ride another Ferris Wheel around and around and around? Wouldn’t you rather get off at some point?

briller de tous ses feux and now

O fortuna!!!

My high school French has served me well. It hasn’t hurt that I’ve known some amazing French people, and of course I mean women.

Oof.

Tell me again why I shouldn’t shine as brightly as I can manage? Stories of Keith Moon or Icarus be damned, I’m flying as close to the sun as I desire, thank you.

These post lockdown, pandemic days are curious. In the weirdest & most apocalyptic connotation of the word.

My generation didn’t go under desks as the little children’s protection against nuclear annihilation. That was our parents’ story, but now?

We were now somehow safe. Somehow.

Until these days, I suppose. Shiva is at work in our lives; nevertheless, our leaders tell us all is safe in their hands.

Liars and thieves the lot of them. We’re in that apocalyptic flick where the main characters have just discovered the president or première minister is of no practical use anymore.

The ones driving our earthly spaceship? They’d rather crash the whole damned thing than admit there’s no-one behind the curtain.

No deux ex machina.

That’d be too easy. Too much of a whitewashed American fairy tale.

We’re living in a Matrix of our own creation, and it’s seemingly a complete and utter failure. There’re no gods, or God even, that seems interested enough to swoop in from somewhere backstage to wrap everything up before the advertisements.

My solution? Help out Shiva and burn it all down in a post structural pyre. World leaders have forgotten the cautionary tale that is our troubled Icarus.

Let’s fly as close to the sun as we can and hope beyond hope that we don’t set the whole ship in flames. Luckily nobody’s listening to the likes of me.

Briller de tous ses feux!

New Year’s on the Côte d’Azur shortly before we met 2018 for the first time

Get your English back to where it was…easy peasy!

Uncle B.K. and Brother Michael blowing out the latter’s 2nd birthday candle

If you’re a grandparent and one of your children has married outside of your culture, whatever that might mean, you’ve got some work cut out for you. Your daughter or son might not realise, or likely doesn’t care, that you’ve been gifted more than just grandchildren.

No, now you’ve got an intercultural dilemma in the making.

How are you going to be a decent grandparent to these kids who might not have any clue where you come from and how it was when you were their age? Luckily, you’ve already figured your life out, right? So you can impart a little wisdom.

Like my Nana did. She’s featured in the photo above and she was a piece of work, my maternal grandmother. An enigma when I was small, Nana was always chainsmoking and funnier for us, she swore like a sailor. She made zero attempts to suffer fools gladly.

It simply wasn’t her way.

Not even us grandkids.

Especially not us.

Born in the 1920s, Frances was part of what’s referred to in the United States as the ‘Greatest Generation‘, which nearly always makes me smile nostalgically. She’s here in the photo, with my mom and my brother and I there, as well. She’d married a Methodist minister, my grandfather who we called ‘Dan Dan’, during the war, and they started having children in 1946. Right at the start of the first wave of the Baby Boom.

Since they were the greatest, they couldn’t understand why their kids couldn’t more appreciate all they’d left for them. This might be a bit of an exaggeration, but my grandparents generation felt like they’d saved the world from fascism only to be handed a society now run by dirty hippies and drug addicts.

How does this relate to you learning enough English so you can communicate with your own little carpet munchers? Maybe you already understand and even speak English when you travel, and you’d just like to practise a bit.

Well, that’s what I do. I help some of my clients get acclimated to their new culture, even if they’re still living comfortably at home. You don’t necessarily have to learn how to navigate a new culture. If this is you we’re talking about, my solution is easy. I’ll be writing more about my ideas here on my blog in the coming months.

You needn’t become perfect in English, okay? Just good enough to talk to your own progeny. Your grandkids will give you a lot of latitude.

Promise.

Reach out to me via email (lahikmajoe@gmail.com) or make a comment on this blogpost if you’ve got any questions or want me to focus on some aspect of these issues.

We’ll get your English back to where it used to be. Easy peasy!

Ostern in Germany with a little family

Opa couldn’t make it, so it was just the four of us for a five-day weekend – Easter, or Ostern as the Germans call it. You heard that right. Five whole days with my family, and? No-one has any scars, we didn’t have to go to the emergency room. We’re well fed and generally happy, but here’s just one thing: my dad used to say he couldn’t wait for Monday morning when he could go back to the office and relax. Do I feel that these days. Onward and upward, yeah? Onward and upward.

in the valley of ass-whoopin’ (Wuppertal) on the way home after an Odyssean journey

Alas, the top tourist attraction of picturesque and weirdly alluring Wuppertal (© Owner Stadt Wuppertal)

One of the more whimsical items on my bucket list has been sorted.

First, look at this: https://schwebebahn.de/en. Cool, huh?

Left home early on a Friday morning, like Bilbo Baggins in a weird way. Made my way through Upper Franconia (Oberfranken, for the locals), where I visited the university in Bayreuth, and then kept on hauling ass towards Berlin.

Why on earth was I in such a hurry? Well, there were a plethora of reasons, but chief among them was my desire to see my friend Petra the Weddingerin, who lives in the Berlin district of Wedding. She will admit it’s not the prettiest, or even the safest place in the capital, but she and I both agree that it’s the true heart of a sprawling city.

Although I could devote an entire post to my time in Berlin, which I won’t, it was only a few long days later that my dog Amos and I were headed towards my favourite city in Germany – Hamburg!

Met my friend Nico, who I’d until then only known online, and saw one of my oldest Hamburgerin friends Christine, who’s going through a tough time. We ate amazing liquorice, and I inhaled a Fischfrikadelle and Bismarkbrötchen on the Reeperbahn. Soon after our Imperial March through the district of St. Pauli and a quick walk with Amos along the Alster, I found myself in bed earlier than the locals. Seems they’re just starting their shifts in the seedier side of Hamburg right as I’ve lost all will to stay awake.

It was an Odyssean journey, I assure you. It was full of Sturm und Drang, like they talked about in music school. There was snow in Stade (Lower Saxony) and even a lesbian wedding party in Oldenburg (also Lower Saxony)

Yet, here’s where the story gets good. You’ll never in a jillion years guess where I lay my head last night, because:

a. you don’t know about Wuppertal

and b. you don’t care.

It’s ok. I won’t hold your ignorance against you.

Here…let’s let Uncle Wikipedia set you straight:

‘The city straddles the densely populated banks of the River Wupper, a tributary of the Rhine called Wipper in its upper course. Wuppertal is located between the Ruhr (Essen) to the north, Düsseldorf to the west, and Cologne to the southwest, and over time has grown together with SolingenRemscheid and Hagen. The stretching of the city in a long band along the narrow Wupper Valley leads to a spatial impression of Wuppertal being larger than it actually is. The city is known for its steep slopes, its woods and parks, and for being the greenest city in Germany, with two-thirds green space of the total municipal area. From any part of the city, it is only a ten-minute walk to one of the public parks or woodland paths’.

the greatest source no teacher ever wants to actually see cited – Wikipedia

If you’re a loyal reader of this blog, first I must apologise. The Germans with whom I live and work insist that there has to be a “red thread” running through a text. Or a lesson. Or a life, even. I’ll talk in a later post about what the heck they mean, but that’s excellent blogging technique, Wolfgang.

You whet their appetite with a travel post and then you teach ’em about German linguistics and philosophy when they weren’t expecting it. You do it with purpose. You make sure you’re smiling.

And most importantly, in my case, the kookier and more ridiculous the better. A Hero’s Journey if I’ve ever seen one.

Wuppertal is for Lovers (© Owner Stadt Wuppertal)