Somehow empty without her 

 
Joking about the statue having her own action figure on social media, I got plenty of questions about exactly where she was.
At the entrance to the western side of the Ludwigsbrücke that goes over the Isar River in Munich there are several pylons, each of which has its own statue. There are two pylons on the other side of the street, and this one’s twin was destroyed in 1944. 
Early Saturday morning before the city had awakened, I was walking in the silence. Upon looking up, I saw her poised with her legs crossed. Wondering to myself what her story was, I did the most cursory of internet searches and found this:

Elmar Dietz sculpted the Allegory of Art, which was completed in 1979. 

Really? I was a bit surprised she hadn’t been sitting pretty facing away from the river for much longer. This spot must have seemed somehow empty without her. 

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.

not a Berliner

There in the distance? That's the JFK bridge in Hamburg.
There in the distance? That’s the JFK Bridge in Hamburg.

Lately, there’s been plenty for me write about, and I just haven’t been doing it. The last several posts were photos that I certainly liked, but there wasn’t much text. The whole point of this blog is to show off my writing, so these filler posts without much content go against what I originally set out to do. There might be times when a curious photo and a few lines of texts is all I’ve got time or energy for, but I’d prefer that to be the exception rather than the rule.

My favourite week in Munich tends to be when we have our Filmfest, which starts this weekend, so I already had something up my sleeve in which I’d planned to ramp up this blog again. Then I was out and about with Ella and Louis, the sister and brother Hungarian Vizslas that have featured prominently in this blog, and found myself walking across the John F. Kennedy Bridge.

Why not at least  a mention of what happened today, 26 June, exactly 50 years ago? If you’re like I am, you check out ‘this day in history’-type entries in the paper or online, so you already know that this is the day in 1963 that Kennedy gave his famous ‘Ich bin ein Berliner‘ speech in front of the Rathaus Schöneberg in West Berlin

Whatever you think of his politics, and I’m most certainly not going to get into that here, it was the height of the Cold War, and a significant gesture of solidarity to the citizens living in the divided once and future capital of Postwar Germany.

The Berlin Wall went up, and the Americans response was to send planes in filled with supplies, so that the city could continue to survive while surrounded by  Soviet-supported East Germany. Not an easy time here in my adopted home country, and at that moment in history it was incredibly unclear what was going to happen next.

The gratitude that West Germany felt for Kennedy’s show of support – both symbolic, as well as practical – was what led to major German cities naming things like bridges after him. The one here in Munich is the northern part of the Middle Ring Road that goes over the River Isar. It’s not particularly beautiful, and I doubt many locals under a certain age even realise that the bridge even has a name. 

The Kennedy Bridge in Hamburg (pictured above) is what divides the Binnenalster and Außenalster, which are the beautiful lakes right in the heart of the Hansestadt that is Hamburg. Whether you’re on the S-Bahn or ICE Train between the Main Train Station and the Dammtor, in which case you’re riding along the JFK Bridge, or walking along the Alster, there’s a memorial to Kennedy staring back at you. 

Fifty years. Not such a terribly long time, I suppose. Wonder if they’d still name any of this stuff after him today. 

walking into history

This was an exciting day for me. My friend Nick was in Berlin when The Wall came down, and I’ve always been envious of that experience. I’ve been near historical events, but I’m not sure I want to be anywhere near the tanks or the stress that seem to be involved in real historical moments.

However, today was the twenty-second anniversary of that event. The Reunification of Germany. One of the most momentous things that’s happened in our lifetime. I don’t care how old you are.

Each year, the celebration for the event goes to a different capital of a German federal state and this year? Horst Seehofer, the Minister President of Bavaria, is the head of the Bundesrat, which is one house of the federal government, and his state’s capital is my adopted hometown.

Munich – that’s right.

So, I got up early. Walked my dogs to the event and spent nearly the whole day there. With a few healthy breaks, I might add. Here’s my walk toward the festivities with a bit about said festivities.

Elvira Straße round the corner from where I live

Then I turned the corner into Nymphenburger Straße, which is the old King’s Road that the royals took to their summer castle. What might that castle be called? Nymphenburger Schloß, of course.

 

 

 

 

 

colours in the trees and the Bianchi shop up the street

Ella and Louis love every day equally, but I like to kid myself that they were sensitive to my excitement.

‘Can you smell that?’ Ella asks her brother. ‘It’s the whiff of Reunification.’

Something I didn’t see nearly as often here as I do today – the German flag. Thanks to football and some sort of national healing, the co-perpetrators of the Second World War can finally say they’re proud of their country without being accused of being Fascists.

The Black, Red and Gold of the flag of the Federal Republic of Germany

Please don’t ask me what this building was originally used for, but now it’s part of the Technische Üniversität.

reminds me of Hamburg, not Munich

Love ivy on a wall, and while these green and then later red leaves aren’t actually ivy, they crawl up the wall in the same way. It’s one of my favourite sights in autumn.

nice, eh?

Now, we’ve finally arrived at the party. Here’s the Theatinerkirche on the Odeonsplatz:

beautiful day, eh?

Every party in Bavaria demands at least one Dachshund. This one had two.

‘A Hund ist er scho…’

There’s so much more to tell you about this day, but it’s late. It’ll have to wait for another day.

Next year’s festivities? Up the road in Stuttgart.

3 October 2013? Wanna go?

 

 

Shadow of a Doubt

An offer on twitter of a free ticket to see a Hitchcock film that I was sure I’d already seen. Little did I know – it was one of the middle period Hitchcock movies, and I was in for a treat. I had not only not seen it, but it has one of my all-time favourite actors in it.

Cotten. This guy’s a dream.

Apparently, he was in three world class directors best-known masterpieces. This one was dear Alfred‘s, The Third Man was Carol Reed‘s, and Citizen Kane was Orson Welles’. Not too shabby, eh?

Actually, lemme let Wikipedia explain what this film is:

 is a 1943 American / directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and starring Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten. Written by Thornton WilderSally Benson, and Alma Reville, the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Story for Gordon McDonell. In 1991, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.’

What an evening.

The day had started with a visit to The Idler Academy of Philosophy, Husbandry and Merriment and then a trip with one of my closest friends and his 9 year-old to The British Museum, which we sailed through in record time. Not that I’m proud of that. The whole point was to spend time with them. What we did was irrelevant. The British Museum was as nice a place as any for us to go, and she’d never been.

To imagine seeing all of those things through her eyes, I walked through the exhibits covering the ancient world. Saw the Rosetta Stone and the dude from Easter Island. What must it be like to be nine and wander through those rooms.

My goal?

To try seeing all this – this life I’m knee-deep in – from a nine year-old’s perspective. Certainly can’t hurt.

MünchnerKindl

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Saw this at one of the universities in Munich last week, I thought it was too funny not to capture.

Munich or the German München means something like ‘of the monks‘ and the symbol of the city is actually a small child dressed as a monk. It’s the MünchnerKindl and when I see him after being out of the city for a few weeks, he always makes me smile.

Here’s a photo of the MünchnerKindl on the side of a bridge here in town.

Enjoy:

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enough abandonment

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One of the first people I met when I moved to Germany was Dermot. Fantastic person and even better artist. He’s Irish of course. Have you ever met a Dermot who wasn’t?

He is also a woodworker who specialises in lamps. The one above is rather beautiful, isn’t it?

After the last few serious blogposts, I wanted to share a bit of beauty. Life is fleeting. There’s no reason to ignore the preciousness of the littlest things.

If you love someone, don’t hesitate to say it. If you feel alone, reach out. Someone is there for you.

The story of my Dad and me has gotten me thinking about the fragility of our bonds and how essential it is to appreciate what one has while it’s still around.

See, he wasn’t my natural father. Although he was my Dad, I didn’t call him that until I went off to college. Until then he was my mom’s boyfriend and then later her third husband.

The first husband was Ken, Sr, who was my natural father. He died in an auto accident when she was pregnant with me, and unfortunately she remarried quickly thereafter. She was lonely. Husband number two took advantage of her vulnerability, and then when the responsibility of raising me and the son of his who’d arrived in the meantime got to be too much, he Made a New Plan, Stan and Dropped off the Key, Lee.

It’s ok. He was a schmuck. Good riddance and all that.

Then, it was the three of us for a number of years. At some point, my Mom had one of her infamous annual Christmas parties and one of her guests, the son of one of her older friends, fell asleep with her under the Yuletide tree.

Not a bad love story, is it? He never left. Felt so at home, the man moved in almost immediately.

There was only one little problem, and his name was Ken. I wasn’t the most receptive to a new dude in the house. My track record with men was that they stuck around for a bit and then fucked off when the going got rough. It was obvious to me that this was going to happen again. It was only a matter of time.

Well, I might be a decent judge of character in other circumstances, but about this guy I was wrong. He not only stuck around, but he socked away enough Sweet Moolah from Uncle Rico that my Mom really needn’t worry about money from here on out. Not too shabby, eh? I think so.

Bill Auvenshine died six years ago, but sometimes it feels like it was yesterday. He was the gentlest, sweetest man I’ve ever had the honour of having known. When I went to Ohio for school, I saw some of the father figures my college friends had endured, and I realised how lucky I’d had it.

At that point, I stopped the charade that I’d been carrying out all those years. Until then, I’d refer to my parents as ‘My Mom and her husband Bill‘. However, from then on I easily switched over to ‘My Mom and Dad‘.

He told me something when I turned eighteen that I’ll never forget. It showed two undeniable things: he had a dark sense of humour and was a ponderer.

A thinker, if you will.

Ken,’ he said, ‘You should enjoy being eighteen, because this is the smartest you’ll ever be. For the rest of your life, you’ll slowly realise how little you really know.

I know you can’t force someone to do something they really don’t want to do. You can plead and beg, but if they’re dead set on not doing what they don’t want to do, you’re generally out of luck.

My Mom wanted me to have a father. It was important to her, and she thought this guy would make a good one. As a child, I thought she forced the issue. I felt like accepting the new guy would be some sort of disloyalty to Ken, Sr.

And most importantly, I was sure this new character was there for a while but would eventually tire of us and be on his way.

Once when we were in the car and talking about something unrelated, I made a little snide comment that he’d only stuck around for my Mom’s love but that we (her two sons) were clearly a hassle and a burden, even.

He turned to me with a very serious look on his face, and said, ‘No, Ken. I loved your Mom very much, but I stuck around for you. There had been enough abandonment in your young lives. You needed a Dad and I wanted to be it.

Remember what I said at the beginning of all this? About the fragility of bonds between us humans? Well, in that moment he won me over. Not once after that did I ever question his motives. He was my Dad, and that was that.

forgiving the unforgivable

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soldiers responsible for the flags at the memorial for the murdered athletes and coaches of the Israeli Olympic Team

One never knows what people will like. My last blogpost was one I’d saved, because although I thought it was morbid and dark, I thought it’d spur some conversation. Not in the least.

Amy over at Lucy’s Football commented on it, but she’d comment on me cutting and pasting swaths of the phone book. She’s on my team. Getting her into the conversation is sort of a given.

Why did I even go as negative as I did in Five things to harass the Dying? Well, believe it or not, there was method to my madness. I knew I’d be going to the ceremony commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the attacks at the 1972 Munich Olympics that day.

When I was having my first cup of tea that morning, I really pondered what it must’ve been like to be a family member of one of the slain Israeli athletes. Could I really forgive what was done in the name of making a political statement? If the people who perpetrated the crime never apologised or even saw that what they’d done was wrong, then how could forgiveness even be a topic under discussion?

I suppose the forgiveness is part of what’s slowly happening between the Jewish people and the German State. Think about it for a second, will you?

Your people were murdered in the millions in a methodical manner during a war that somehow engulfed most of the planet. Then nearly thirty years later the international community watches as your citizens are brutally murdered in the same country in which those wartime atrocities had taken place. How would you feel?

I know it’s very popular to criticise Israel, especially on the left, and I won’t begin to defend the way the present day Palestinians are being treated. It’s a travesty. Full stop. However, when I look at the way the Israeli citizens are treated in very symbolic ways, I can’t help but feel that there is some sort of prevailing anti-semitism on the world stage.

When the two athletes were killed at 31 Connolly Straße in the Olympic Village in Munich in the early morning hours of 5 September 1972, the world watched as those in control of the Olympics decided that the show must go on. Really? Two athletes had died at the hands of terrorists.

Because of enough of an outcry the Games were halted on that day while the police tried to figure out the best way to handle the situation. It was only much later that night that the remaining members of the team (both athletes and coaches), as well as one West German police officer, were killed by the terrorists.

Well,‘ you ask,’Certainly, they stopped the Games then, didn’t they?

You know where this is going, right? After what was deemed a suitable period of honorable waiting, the Olympics went on. The prevailing wisdom was that stopping the event would be letting the terrorists win. Twelve people had been murdered at the Olympics, and the Israeli government should somehow be grateful that there was a memorial service for those who were killed. I don’t think that’s how they saw it. Am pretty certain they saw it very differently.

I’m prepared for preposterous comments here as a result of this topic. Please be warned that I’ll delete any ridiculousness. If you can’t be civil, go somewhere else. I’ve got little, if any,time for nonsense. Really, I don’t.

Here’s what I wrote about in The Munich Eye after attending the memorial: Flags at half staff for the victims of the 1972 attacks. Notice how respectfully I tried to deal with it without getting overly political. Of course, I’m aware I could be emotional on the topic. I decided my blog was where I’d make my editorial comments.

The Rejection Collection

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melancholic patriotism at Munich’s Amerikahaus

Went to a show of support for Munich’s Amerikahaus, which was a last minute attempt to save this organisation that’s been at this location for more than fifty-five years. Perhaps it’ll continue in some form, but the American-Bavarian cultural centre will never be the same. It’s a sad moment in the history of the city.

But one of the nicest aspects of this place’s existence (did I mention it probably won’t exist much longer? I did, didn’t I?) is that you’re never quite sure what you’ll find there. Today was a perfect example of this. As I was leaving the event, I saw some posters for an exhibit.

Turns out the show was upstairs and I was there during opening hours. I had time before the football was to start. Why not take a look? Am so glad I did, and I think you will be similarly pleased.

What was it called? ‘The Rejection Collection: The Best Cartoons the New Yorker Never Published‘. I am here to tell you, this was much better than you might expect. They were not kept from publication due to lack of hilarity. There was some pronounced hilarity. Some of it was dark and a tad depraved. Am I going to shield you from that part? No. No, I am not.

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I don’t know how to tell you this, but I’ve found someone new

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Those perverts from National Geographic are filming us again

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A whorehouse? Tomorrow? I wanted for us to go to the Guggenheim

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I came as soon as I heard

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Zen litter box

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(Wonder why they didn’t see fit to publish this one)

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I’m looking for the necktie that says, “I don’t wear underpants.“‘

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(I’m crying with laughter at this one. It’s sick and twisted and dark. And I love it.)

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Grandpa, what’s going on here? Didn’t they have colour film at Auschwitz?’

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Hand over the sandwich, or I’ll shit on your parents

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(Some of these cartoonists have some potential aggression when it comes to cats)

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Perhaps my biggest influence was Pollock

I’ve known quite a few percussionists. Some of whom played in an orchestra. I assure you several of them can sympathise with the fellow holding a pistol to his head. Enjoy:

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