You had a raincoat? and other obvious questions

our fair city on the banks of the River Isar

Good morning 2020 (written early New Year’s Day morning). What a wild ride it’s already been, and I’m still in my pyjamas.

My mother, who’s nickname when she was young was ‘Fafa’ so that’s what I call her here, and I have talked briefly, which because of the time difference between here and the States means it’s still yesterday there.

My sister-in-law and I also had a meaningful, end of the year conversation a little while ago in which we talked about her husband/my brother and what he was like as a child. That was something.

We also talked about me, which is unfortunately still one of my favourite subjects, and she had some insight about all of that, which I appreciated. All of that, you ask? All of what, exactly?

Well, this is the first time in almost twenty years that I haven’t had a dog to walk on New Year’s morning. You likely know of Ella and Louis, but before them there was a girldog named Lyle. She came with my first wife and me from the States, when wee moved here to Munich in 2001.

She was my only real responsibility as I was getting my bearings in this curious new land. German culture was weirdly unfathomable, which made no sense because I’d lived here as a small child. I’d learned to play German music and even sang in the godforsaken language before I understood what I was singing about. Nevertheless, I felt odd and like an outsider.

That first year, I drank too much Augustiner and Austrian Veltiner, I smoked my Gauloises, and I walked my dog. It was all pretty straightforward. Below is a photo of my friend Elaine’s dog, Poppet, and me in Tottenham. Well, it’s our shadows. When I’m without a dog, I greet every single one I see. Right now, I’m meeting a lot of dogs.

Poppet’s and my shadows…

Here’s the story I want to tell today, and I assure you that there’s a moral. I’ll be explicit, rather than make you guess what my motive is.

It’s about gratitude and perspective.

A woman told a few friends and me a disheartening story about her horrible childhood and how she always felt like an outsider. She could’ve been telling my story, but that’s beside the point. ‘It’s not always about you, Ken.’ Yes, I get it.

She told us about standing in the rain in her raincoat and looking up at the sky and somehow, in her childlike wonder, asking what on earth the reason for everything was. Asking God or the universe or whatever was out there why she was even here. Why did she even exist? What was even the point?

Aphrodite and the setting sun

After my friend told her story, we were all really quiet. It was so depressing that we were simply mute. Until one quiet voice meekly asked, ‘You had a raincoat?

The raincoat obviously wasn’t the point of the story, but clearly the woman who was almost afraid to ask her question must’ve had an even worse childhood. For her, the mere shelter from the rain was absolute and utter luxury.

I try to remember that everyone I encounter could be dealing with trauma that he or she doesn’t even want to think about. It’s a trick I use to be more compassionate. Sometimes it works.

Sometimes I forget. My New Year’s resolution this year is not to forget.

I should be more compassionate. Especially to those who’re in my inner circle. They very well might get my best, but they simultaneously get the worst of me, as well.

I resolve to give them more of my best. A lot more.

how can you mend a broken heart? with a Vizsla puppy, of course

der kleena Theo – a dogsitting miracle

Now, you’d probably immediately jump to the conclusion that the term miracle, in this case, is a bit over the top. You’d be wrong.

If you know anything at all about me, you know that I’ve spent a lot of the last nearly fifteen years posting photos and stories about my sister and brother Vizslas #EllaandLouis.

They were a central component of my life even before my divorce in 2013, and in the intervening years they somehow took care of me more than the other way round.

Of course, I fed and housed them. Certainly they needed the same love and attention that any and all dogs need.

Yet this breed – an Hungarian pointer extraordinaire – has simply stolen my heart. All of them.

Any VIZSLA has the same gentle, loving disposition as all of the other ones. They’re so sensitive that you can’t train them anything like other dogs.

A harsh word is taken deeply personally by a Vizsla, and as a result you can only use positive reinforcement to get what you want. They’re quite bluntly a breeze to train, as they’re desperate to please their people/person.

Long story short, Theo’s (the gorgeous Vizsla puppy in the photo above) parents need help periodically, as she (the dogmom) isn’t allowed to take dogs into her office. Hence my offer to pitch in when they need a dogsitter.

To be candid, I’d take care of Theo without any remuneration — however, Miriam’s reminded me on more than one occasion that we’re in no position financially to volunteer such time.

If anyone else in Munich needs a dogsitter, give me a call. I can imagine a dogsitting job as a side hustle — why not?

Theo’s quite simply saved my day and this adorable boydog is already on the road to winning my heart.

It’s a broken heart, so it could use some mending.

Feuerzangenbowle and those silly dogs

What in God’s name is this one? I’ve lived in Germany this time around for nearly two decades, and there are still times I feel like I’ve just arrived. Regularly, I have an expat problem that’d be solved by me being a bit more tolerant.

That’s preposterous, isn’t it? I’m a guest in this country, and yet I still want them, the natives, to fulfil to my expectations. I expect them to change in order to make me a bit more comfy. Really?

Now why am I calling Germans ‘natives’? It’s easy really. Normally you might think of my host country as a group of hard working and dour people. That’s the stereotype at least. One exception, of course, is Karnival, which is like Mardi Gras in New Orleans or even Carnival in Rio.

They’re wild, and I’m not exaggerating. Around the Christmas season, they also get a little freaky when they have holiday parties and celebrate like they’ve got no care in the world. A few weeks out of the office and heaps of time with the family – it’s a recipe for heavy drinking.

Speaking of heavy drinking, have you heard of fire tongs punch? Here’s a description:

Feuerzangenbowle (German: [ˈfɔʏɐtsaŋənˌboːlə]) is a traditional German alcoholic drink for which a rum-soaked sugarloaf is set on fire and drips into mulled wine. It is often part of a Christmas or New Year’s Eve tradition. The name translates literally as fire tongs punch. The popularity of the drink was boosted in Germany by the 1944 comedy film Die Feuerzangenbowle.

It is a traditional drink of some German fraternities, who also call it Krambambuli, as the red color is reminiscent of a cherry liqueur of that name which was manufactured by the distillery Der Lachs zu Danzig in Gdańsk, Poland.

Wikipedia

That drink will get one incredibly drunk, I assure you. I know from personal experience, but that was a long time ago. I’ve not anything to drink in quite a few years, but I still vividly remember what drinking this stuff was like.

Apropos of the Feuerzangenbowle, I’ve been invited to Weilheim to see a performance of the original stage play, and I’m going. Even have an extra ticket I’m trying to give away. If you live near Munich (or Weilheim, even better) and want to go, call me. I’m not online on Sundays, so you’ll have to use that old-fashioned telephone.

The last thing I want to mention is that although I’m not posting about it as much as I’m feeling it, the turmoil of losing Ella has been a bit breathtaking, but not in the positive sense. I’ve found myself in the weirdest moments tearing up at the thought of her and her brother frolicking in the wild yonder there.

Yes, I was lucky to have them for such a long time. They cared for me in a dark time, and more importantly they gave me a daily opportunity to take care of someone else. Bear with me here, ok?

Despite me being a new parent, I’ve got plenty of opinions on parenthood. If you listened to me talk, you’d think, ‘Why’s this guy mansplaining raising children to me?‘ Having said all that, my takeaway is that as a father (or mother) must often put his needs on the back burner. It’s how it is – for me, it’s the feature I most need. To think less of Lahikmajoe, I mean.

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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?

Thirteen years old…Still fit as fiddles…are we Italian now?

Here’s an announcement:

We’re thirteen now! On the thirteenth of January.

Who wants to party?

Anyone in Liguria (Italy), should come over. Now!

Bring your Party Stimmung, as they say back in the old country.

When we think of all the nonsense our Ken has put us through. Sunrise jogging through Vienna years ago, hiking the Alps & swimming in the Baltic Sea. We are the happiest dogs on the planet.

And now @kunsmine has made us a proper family. Our golden years keep getting more golden. Stay tuned for the fourteenth year of our continued bliss.

Comments below how you’re celebrating #EllaandLouis and our birthday.

A dog’s life expectancy…please don’t remind me

‘Stop it with the photos,’ Ella insists

When I go on a trip, especially if it’s more than a few days, the worst part is taking the dogs to the Hundepension and saying goodbye. Don’t get me wrong: I know I’m about to go galavanting around somewhere bombarding my feed with photos of the sky in some far flung locale or food I’m eating that makes people think, ‘Hey we have food here, too. We don’t need another shot of today’s Tapas…

I don’t want to come across as complaining when I’m out here making such a big deal of what a good time I’m having. And to be really candid, a long screed about the frustrations of travel could be equally annoying. Again, it’d come across as ungrateful and somehow entitled. 

However, not being with Ella and Louis is a major drawback of being gone, and particularly now more than ever. Why’s that, you ask. Well, the clueless, bumbling Louis and his wise-beyond-her-years sister Ella are not getting any younger. 

Only yesterday, I wrote a quick caption on a photo that went like this: 

Had to say goodbye to #EllaandLouis. She understood the whole concept of farewell, while her brother? He found another ball & couldn’t be bothered with such sentimental nonsense.’

Then I got on a big jet plane and arrived in a city I didn’t know and juggled figuring out where to go with poor or nonexistent wifi along the way, and at some point I checked social media to discover…

Plenty of people read that text as some sort of final goodbye to one or both of the dogs. Immediately, I could see how that had been misconstrued, so I quickly assured the most worried/agitated of my dogs’ fans and thought to myself, ‘I should write about this comical little mixup, but at the same time now would be rather opportune to talk about a longer project I’ve been mulling over for ages.

Still life with mini basketball

A book about Ella and Louis’ adventures from their perspective. I’ve considered it for years. I’ve got enough amazing photos of them for at least one book. I considered a new site or a web series or whatever it is the kids are doing these days, but last year I worked on a book for somebody and the thought of my own couldn’t quite be shaken away. 

So, the question is: why now? What happened that makes it so urgent to finally get these ideas down on paper?

To explain that, I’ll have to tell you about the guy I used to know with the Great Dane. He loved that dog immensely, and while he was out walking someone would invariably walk up and say, ‘That’s a gorgeous Great Dane. What a shame they only live nine years or so.

It didn’t happen once or twice. It didn’t happen every once in a while. It was a daily occurrence. A constant reminder of his dog’s mortality. He wanted to pull his hair out and say, ‘I know my large breed dog has a shorter life expectancy than smaller dogs…please don’t remind me.

Which brings us back to my dogs. They’re so healthy and equally happy and I’m reminded nearly every day of how I need to savour every moment. That’s where writing about them comes in. 

Would you read something like that. Photos of these insanely photogenic hounds with anecdotes of their take on life. Does that sound like something people would want more of?