Need a better class of friends

the progeny and I dressed ridiculously
the progeny and I dressed ridiculously

This is sort of a weird situation, because I’d committed myself to start blogging again daily, and missed yesterday. Like running, or even exercise, if I don’t do it regularly, i.e. every single day, then I quickly get out of the habit.

On the one hand, I know no one’s waiting with baited breath for my Missives from Old Europe on a daily basis. Nevertheless, when I write regularly here, it’s easier for me to be creating other content for both paid work and even the extracurricular stuff I write (I realise that’s not the correct use of that word, but it’s like I still refer to weekday evenings as ‘school nights’, I’m sure you know what I mean.

What would I write about if I had no agenda, and I was just splashing my unedited thoughts onto the screen? Well, you’re about to find out. That’s exactly what this post is.

Not researched and just barely cogent, this is my theme for today.

Personal responsibility.

Years ago I read or heard that people with an internal versus external locus of responsibility have happier lives. Blaming your parents or the government or aliens or whatever for your lot in life seems like a recipe for disappointment.

As an important aside, I’ve never been an African-American, so this most definitely isn’t a commentary on the protests or even the looting in the last weeks stateside. Whether you believe it or not, there is systematic racism in the western world, and in the U.S. in particular, and this is most certainly not a ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ screed.

I’m writing about myself and the way I present myself online and particularly how I choose to use social media. Years ago, my friend Nick was still on Feckbook, which he summarily deleted at some other point of maximum online outrage, and his posts were not only well written, but the comments on his posts were generally of a higher quality than those of the average bear.

Attributing it to Nick being a person of above-average intelligence and the company he kept, and I assume still keeps, I realised that if I want my little corner of the Internet (my personal pages on Feckbook and the like) to be a place for respectful and honest dialogue, then I’d have to get a better class of friends.

Just kidding, people. It’s an old joke my friend Patsy told about helping homeless people. She’d go out of her way to help out the disadvantaged, and her kindness would regularly be met with mistreatment. People stealing her stuff or not acting right. She’d joke that she just needed to go out and find a higher class of homeless people.

Hahahahaha…punching down has never been funnier these days, huh?

My friends are just fine, by the way. Some are politically or even socially conservative, and that’s truly okay. I’d rather discuss things online with people I disagree with anyway, so I welcome the disagreements and even struggle with being kind to people I feel are disingenuous or even cruel. I do my best to ignore trolls, but even they make it through my filters sometimes.

My genuine belief is that these huge tech companies benefit from us hating each other, so I just refuse to take part. My rather religious mother would’ve prayed for these yahoos, but I tend to just ignore them. Not pay them any mind, as it were.

That’s where I am today. I need to get to bed early, so I can be up before my small daughter. Early morning’s the only time I get to myself these days, so I’m always in a race to get to sleep even before she does.

Go in peace, and all that…

What I’ve done since the last time I blogged (last week just before #DigitalFreeSunday) – a long strange trip it’s been

It’s been another hell of a week, but I knew it was coming. So I planned accordingly.

Quite a few things fall by the wayside when my life gets too busy, but the first thing’s blogging.

I’m still writing, of course. Both professionally and privately. I’m working on a project right now that’s a dating book. Not kidding either.

My friend wrote a book, that I helped him on, and it did so well, he’s writing another. It’s a trip, actually. A long strange one.

To be candid, I should be over there working on his stuff right now. Instead I’m here – telling you about my crap week.

After my emo tirade last weekend, in which I created a title with predictive text. now I’m just purposely making weird hashtags in order to maximise the SEO and all that.

See, I purchased a book about becoming an awesome blogger, which I am not.

Most certainly.

Not.

It said to use a lot of #hashtags that my reader could find me.

Tell me, dear reader. Did you find me via #hashtags? Or do we know each other in real life.

The book also said comments are important. I don’t know why comments are so valuable. Is this a dialogue? No, it is not.

I’m a benevolent dictator here at the miscellaneous blog, but I’m not too benevolent.

The right amount of benevolence is what I preach here.

However, the book informs me that comments mean people are engaged with the blog.

Please don’t become too engaged with the blog, though. Please.

Leave your little comments and be on your way. You’re testing my benevolence, by the way.

This online marketing lark has been just that. A long trip going apparently nowhere.

Signifying nothing. A long strange trip, after all.

(This post is dedicated to Phil Leah)

Hahahahaha … you know how to make a nice shot and you can get a better place for it

Help me find Paco

That title is completely computer generated. Just typed ‘Hahahahaha’ in & then used predictive text to create it.

Someone told me recently that nobody read content anymore. It was a graphic designer or website builder, so it’s clear they’ve got another agenda than I do.

Why even write.

A blog? Really?

It’s 2020 — who writes blogs anymore? Who even reads anymore?

Really.

Why is there a photo of the Dom in #Wuerzburg?

No reason.

To point out the futility of all of this.

Do we really need more content?

Really?

I doubt it.

A lot of Sturm & Drang, and none of it makes much difference. Prove me wrong.

Continue reading “Hahahahaha … you know how to make a nice shot and you can get a better place for it”
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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.

Let’s do it again and again

A photo of Miriam and me showed up in feckbook’s algorithm today. Exactly two years ago today we were back in Liguria, where the progeny was most likely conceived, and we were madly in love.

The memories keep coming — it’s not all smiles & joy, but I suppose that’s the nature of social media. We tend to try putting our best foot forward, or at least I do.

If I air my dirty laundry here, I’m certain to put out far more positive, uplifting stuff to balance out the sadness. This last 2 years has been a roller coaster like no other I’ve experienced.

Regularly, I think back to that scene in the movie Parenthood, where Mary Steenbergen & Steve Martin’s characters are in their kids’ school auditorium and their youngest has gone ‘off script’ & is tearing the scenery down in the process of ruining the school play.

The mom & dad are shown as if they’re on a roller coaster — it’s an astonishingly good metaphor for marriage & life, now that I think about it.

She’s laughing & enjoying the ride, while he’s having what looks like an anxiety attack. He’s terrified of what others think and that his kid needs more therapy and isn’t getting better anyway…he’s essentially sitting in a puddle of his own worries & self consciousness.

This life is no dress rehearsal, I’ve often heard it said. You get one shot, and as much as I’d like to believe in reincarnation, the skeptic in me wins that argument I periodically have with myself.

Miriam recently mentioned that you people out there get the best version of me, but she has to deal with raging asshole. It’s true. My words, not hers by the way.

In a perfect world, I could act nearly as well in my daily life as I pretend to here online. My goal is to show as much of my authentic self as I can manage, while still respecting my family’s and my own privacy.

When I get off this roller coaster one day, I want to be screaming, ‘Let’s do it again! Again, again…let’s do it again!’ Which is my very logical argument why we so desperately want to believe in reincarnation.

To be continued…

The progeny & the local team (Greuther Fürth) where Oma & Opa lived last year at this time

Well, we didn’t make it to Mahag by Monday morning, as it’d been planned. I suppose Miriam called them, but at this point in such a ridiculous story? I just don’t know.

Long story short, you’re begging of me? Other than that we didn’t make it to our appointment? You mean: what happened up until that point? And why on God’s green earth would you make such a plan & then not actually show up?

No idea how to answer any of that. Short story but just a bit of backstory? Ok, I can manage that.

Oma (Miriam’s mama) passed on this year, and quite honestly, we weren’t sure how Opa (der Günter) would deal with such an elemental change in his life.

To be fair, he’s managed the whole thing mostly magnificently. For fifty years, he was married to die Margarete, so he’s never had to wash his own clothes or manage normal, mundane household tasks. He’s always had a wife to do all of that.

However, now that she’s been gone several months, der Günter has managed his newfound bachelor life that of an old pro.

Why didn’t we make it to our appointment with Mahag in Trudering? Because we needed to go get Opa, so he wouldn’t be alone for his first Xmas without his lovely bride.

Thats why.

To be continued…

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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.

Summertime…

…and the living is easy…

This photo isn't from the summertime, but I'm sitting here imagining living closer to old friends like Marin in the photo or so many other friends from high school. Or in this case as far back as middle school. Marin and I met while riding the bus to Lanier Middle School, and that's where I met Casey, too. She's made a life for herself & her family in Lubbock, Texas. That's far from everything, by the way.

Why do I dislike summer? Sometimes aggressively, even. What's my problem?

The usual stuff. It's too hot. I'm busy with both work and private life. It's manageable.

Wonder if I could ever withstand a Texas summer again. Hope I never have to find out.

a lapsed Quaker walking…I’m relatively sure you’ll get what I’m trying to say at some point


Ok, I told you about the dog I met the first day and how I was missing my dogs, so there’s that. The whole dog thing. I’ve even started Dog Spotting pretty obsessively, which is something I always did, yet now I’m taking photos and adding whimsical captions and/or stories. We’ll see what comes of that. 

I deliberated for some time about whether I wanted to go into more detail about walking the Camino de Santiago, and once I’ve gotten over the whole ‘imposter syndrome‘ thing, I think I’ve got some ideas about how I can present it. 

Here’s what I’ve decided: assuming you’ve come here to hear my take on things and you know I’ve been walking on and off across northern Spain the last few years, you just have to expect that at some point I’m going to rattle on about the pilgrimage. 

Now first of all, I can imagine some of you saying, ‘I don’t give a damn about some ridiculous pilgrimage. It’s the 21st century and anyone worth his or her salt, at this point, is either atheist or at the bare minimum agnostic, so why stumble along some ancient path with a bunch of other dogooders?’

For one thing, I’ll get to my affiliation and perspective on all of that in a moment, but I’ll quickly point out that what’s now called The French Way (Camino Francés) is actually a pre Christian pilgrimage, or whatever those heathens called such a thing before they had the word ‘pilgrimage‘. 

It’s something I read at the airport last year, while waiting for my flight home. Starting somewhere in modern day Italy, or perhaps in what we used to call Yugoslavia, there was a path cut across northern Italy, the south of France, the Pyrenees (including St. Jean Pied de Port and Roncesvalles in the foothills), Pamplona and ultimately Santiago

Who cares? Why are you even still reading at this point?

My reasoning is that because you’ve never been on the Camino and likely wouldn’t make such a journey, this is the ultimate travel writing opportunity. I’ll try giving you a feel for walking this thing, while fully aware that you might never entertain the idea of doing so yourself. You’ll go about your daily life and every once in a while, if I’ve done my job right, you sigh and think to yourself, ‘All that’s well and good for that kind of person…’ or perhaps even, ‘Maybe someday…’

If I can give you an impression of taking the pilgrimage without even leaving your armchair, then I’ve done something worthwhile. Let me be your Bilbo Baggins, and taking that analogy to its logical conclusion, go ahead and ask yourself, ‘Who’s his Smog?

Or better yet: 

What Ring is he holding onto and might he eventually hurl into the smoldering abyss?’

Good questions and I’ll get to them in due time. As for my above mentioned affiliation, I’m not walking the Camino for religious reasons. Not per se, anyway. That’s not to say I’m an unbeliever. Far from it. 

Not a Roman Catholic, though. Although I’m in awe of the Church and the beauty that it’s either inspired or sponsored, there’s no part of me that wants to walk to Rome or Canterbury or any such preposterous locale. If that’s your thing, more power to you. Just not for me. 

We humans need labels, so I’ll just put this out there, and you can categorise me as you see fit. I’m a kind of a lapsed Quaker…walking The Way trying to get a better understanding of why we keep doing all of this. 

One of my favourite bumper stickers I saw in Austin years back was:

Don’t believe everything you think.’

I like to think I’ve taken that one to heart. Oh, and if you’re a pilgrim or once we’re and are reading this thinking, ‘What an imposter!‘, just keep walking. I’m relatively sure you’ll get what I’m trying to say at some point. 

Tindergarden is the Ode to a Nightingale – choose your own Word of the Year

tender is the night in the Upper Palatinate

Word of the year: How about Tindergarden?

Or if that doesn’t grab your fancy, what about Hopfen-Smoothie? That’s a euphemism for beer, as Hopfen is the German word for one of beer’s essential ingredients. 

No? I’ve got at least one more. Here’s Posttruth for you. 

We’re already deep into the holiday season, and soon enough we’ll be subjected to Word of the Year nonsense before we stumble into the new year. 

I’m still chuckling at Tindergarden, which is a comical play on the word Kindergarden. Your garden of acquaintances you met on the dating platform tinder? There’s a word for that now. 

Lucky us. 

Tender is the Night

And when I think of that soft & gentle dating app, I’m immediately making jokes playing on the word ‘tender‘. Jackson Browne singing in my ear, and I’m a preteen again. Completely unaware of tenderness. The very thought was lost on me. 

Then my thoughts meander to the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel of the same name. Should reread that damned thing at some point. But then I remember that the title Fitzgerald used was actually ganked from a Keats poem. 

And who wouldn’t agree that we could all use just a bit more decent poetry in our lives. Here’s Ode to a Nightingale:
Ode to a Nightingale

By John Keats

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains 

         My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk, 

Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains 

         One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk: 

‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot, 

         But being too happy in thine happiness,— 

                That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees 

                        In some melodious plot 

         Of beechen green, and shadows numberless, 

                Singest of summer in full-throated ease. 
O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been 

         Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth, 

Tasting of Flora and the country green, 

         Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth! 

O for a beaker full of the warm South, 

         Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene, 

                With beaded bubbles winking at the brim, 

                        And purple-stained mouth; 

         That I might drink, and leave the world unseen, 

                And with thee fade away into the forest dim: 
Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget 

         What thou among the leaves hast never known, 

The weariness, the fever, and the fret 

         Here, where men sit and hear each other groan; 

Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs, 

         Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies; 

                Where but to think is to be full of sorrow 

                        And leaden-eyed despairs,

         Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes, 

                Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow. 
Away! away! for I will fly to thee, 

         Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards, 

But on the viewless wings of Poesy, 

         Though the dull brain perplexes and retards: 

Already with thee! tender is the night, 

         And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne, 

                Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays; 

                        But here there is no light, 

         Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown 

                Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways. 
I cannot see what flowers are at my feet, 

         Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs, 

But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet 

         Wherewith the seasonable month endows 

The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild; 

         White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine; 

                Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves; 

                        And mid-May’s eldest child, 

         The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine, 

                The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves. 
Darkling I listen; and, for many a time 

         I have been half in love with easeful Death, 

Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme, 

         To take into the air my quiet breath; 

                Now more than ever seems it rich to die, 

         To cease upon the midnight with no pain, 

                While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad 

                        In such an ecstasy! 

         Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain— 

                   To thy high requiem become a sod. 
Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird! 

         No hungry generations tread thee down; 

The voice I hear this passing night was heard 

         In ancient days by emperor and clown: 

Perhaps the self-same song that found a path 

         Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home, 

                She stood in tears amid the alien corn; 

                        The same that oft-times hath 

         Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam 

                Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn. 
Forlorn! the very word is like a bell 

         To toll me back from thee to my sole self! 

Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well 

         As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.

Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades 

         Past the near meadows, over the still stream, 

                Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep 

                        In the next valley-glades: 

         Was it a vision, or a waking dream? 

                Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?