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.

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. 

The Ranch

Image

The way the Germans see The United States in general and the Americans in particular is a much more nuanced story than I could ever fit in one measly blogpost. And to be upfront about it, I’m normally drawn to the more critical and even confrontational views. It’s too easy (and naive) to believe everybody loves the Red White and Blue.

Nevertheless, when I’m minding my own business and going about my typical day, I’m often a bit taken aback when I encounter people who have very positive impressions of my homeland. In my own strange and tortured way, I like where I came from and love some of my countrymen/women very deeply. Having said all that, I don’t advertise it.

Some Germans find out I have family in Texas, and suddenly they have a volley of questions that come barrelling out of their mouths. Did you grow up with horses? Uh, no. My grandmother had a farm, but it was truly agribusinessDid you wear a cowboy hat to school? I most certainly did not. What’s a real rodeo like? I assure you, a real rodeo is nearly as alien to me as it is to you.

Imagine my surprise when one of my clients asked me about the song I Like Beer. It won’t surprise you to know that I had no idea what she was talking about. None. Where on earth had she even located such a song of questionable quality/taste? Well, she was only too happy to inform me about the The Ranch. It’s a terrestrial radio station in the States, but you can also listen to it live-streamed anywhere in the world.

A few other titles that may or may not surprise you:

‘She’s Cold as the Beer She’s Drinking’

‘Barmaid, Pour Me a Vacation’

What do I think about this? I’m conflicted. It’s a little weird. Some Germans, as well as many Bavarians, have a rather idealised picture of life in Texas. I don’t want to dissuade them from thinking people are living a life of freedom-loving badass-ness. There are certainly plenty of people in Texas who believe that’s what they’re doing.

And I don’t want to give the impression that the perspective the Germans have isn’t nuanced. When it comes to geopolitical issues, postwar Germans are actually quite adept at such nuance. They see the American brand and know that some of it is bluster. Some of it is nostalgia. Many older Germans remember soldiers handing out chocolate bars as they liberated the war-ravaged cities. Those old-timers would likely say that that’s definitely something to be nostalgic about.

But what do I think about The Ranch providing the people of my adopted country with a slice of Americana? Still not too sure about this one. Luckily, I know some of the people who read this blog will have some clever answers for my dilemma.

I’ll leave you with the lyrics to Kevin Fowler‘s ‘I Like Beer‘:

She was alone at a table for two
I said, Now's the time to make my move
So I got me a beer and I bought her  ... on the beach

She saw that umbrella stuck in the glass
That chunk of pineapple made her laugh
She took the beer from my hand and said thank you, man
I didn't take her for the longneck kind
She said boy have you lost your mind?

Chorus
Hell yeah, I like beer
It gets me grinnin' from ear to ear
Not just every now and then
I'm talking 365 days a year
I can do it around the clock
I don't like it just a little, I like it a lot
Even hot hell yeah, I like beer

Ooh, I love it

Yeah, it's good for your heart, it's good for your mind
It's good for gettin through a lonely all night
Everybody knows you shouldn't drink too much
So why does it always seem like it's enough

Chorus
Hell yeah, I like beer
It gets me grinnin from ear to ear
Not just every now and then
I'm talking 365 days a year
I can do it around the clock
I don't like it just a little, ooh, I like it a lot
Even hot hell yeah, I like beer

Everybody now, come one!

Chorus

Yes I do
Hell yeah I like beer

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