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)

Featured

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?

Oversharing about overspending & belt tightening & why Andrea’s question has me writing this to begin with

I’ve been accused of oversharing, but then I always remember my friend who shared a photo of her naughty bits on twitter to make a point. Why do I mention that? Well, I suppose I do say things online that others wouldn’t.

And when I do so, it sometimes makes the people I love cringe. That moment I’m sure they read what I’ve posted and they think to themselves: Why does he have to talk about that? Is nothing sacred? Don’t we have a private sphere anymore?

I heard a podcast earlier this year in which there were parents discussing how much they shared of their children’s lives online. What kind of photos were acceptable and essentially where each parent’s parameters lay, which made me glad I didn’t have to concern myself with such things.

I’ve got enough trouble worrying about my own online presence without having to try figuring out someone else’s. Teaching a young person how to navigate the web? Gives me night sweats just thinking about it. Uggh…

So, here goes.

Andrea (aGirlfromMontrose), who’s a friend from high school you’re going to hear me talking about more, because I love her blog, asked me a question.

I promised her an answer in blog form, so here goes.

Oh, another thing before I forget: I’ve resolved to use this site more as a tool for a few things.

Recently, WordPress asked me if I wanted to keep up with the blogging lark. Well, actually they were more crafty, which I respect. They said: Your site’s being renewed. You needn’t do anything. We’ve got it taken care of.

But being the overthinking sod that I am, I considered just pulling the plug on the whole damned thing. Starting from scratch with something more conventional.

Lahikmajoe is a terrible name for a brand. It regularly baffles people when they first see it. How’s it even pronounced? Where does it come from? Why should I read something or follow links to such a site?

So there’s that…

Let me go back to the story with Andrea, though. It’s a narrative that’s easily followed.

She saw me jet off to Kraków and take the train to Venice a few weeks later. Then I was in Spain on the Camino showing my mother my favourite spots in northern Spain, as well as exploring Madrid for the first time.

There was Easter in a big Ferienhaus (a group of us rented a whole house) up in the Austrian Alps and photos of Asians taking photos of each other (& of my dogs #EllaandLouis) while we spent a day in Hallstadt.

There was essentially some sort of trip every few weeks, and when we finally ended up on holiday in Italy this summer, Andrea had had enough.

In comments on some post, she demanded: What do you do exactly? How can you afford all this travel? I want that life. What do I need to do to get to motor round like that and see all that stuff?

Well, here comes the oversharing:

I can’t. There’s been too much outflow and not enough income. I’ve overspent on travel this year, and now it’s time to do some belt tightening and get back to fiscal basics.

The funny thing is, though, I’ve got it under control, because while my freelance work often dries up in summer, it turns out autumn is regularly quite busy.

There’ll be a period around Christmas until Epiphany, when I can’t work anyway, so I’m already planning a trip stateside. I’ve not been to Vermont since college, when a couple of Deadheads and I drove from Albany to Burlington on a whim, but there might be Yuletide in the Northeast Kingdom (a place whose name I’ve always thought was rather magical). Then if things go as planned New Year’s in New Orleans and time with my people in coastal Texas.

That bastard Hurricane Harvey, who devastated the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana last week, has made me uncharacteristically homesick, which is a feeling I nearly never experience, so pardon me if this blog becomes a bit Texas-flavoured in the coming weeks.

I promised Andrea a blogpost explaining what I do, so here it is. I overshare. I tell people online what online marketers insist you shouldn’t. I tell my readers too much and it’s both cathartic and a little daft.

Because I’ve thrown in for another year on WordPress, I’m going to get my money’s worth. I’m going to use my blog the way I used to do my teablog:

People who drink tea used to read my blog about the brown liqueur, the leafy goodness. The drink that fuels my adventures since I gave up on John Barleycorn years ago. Yet the astounding thing was how many people who didn’t even drink tea told me they loved my blog.

Just the writing. Whether they even drank it or not. Some regular readers even insisted they couldn’t stand the stuff (I never trusted those people — just seems suspect to me). For now on, there’s going to be regular content hereabouts, but this time with an editorial calendar and a better eye on my audience. Most importantly there’s also going to be a goal.

I want this place to be where people come for something whimsical. A bit of the ridiculous in an otherwise serious and grown up life. Again, that’s why even non tea drinkers read my earlier site. It was certainly about tea, but barely.

Some days it was about what was pissing me off, but most of the time it was my inspiration. Whatever caught my fancy. Whatever bliss I was tapping into, as Joseph Campbell was talking about.

The thing that made me want to leap out of bed in the morning? The thing that made me want to do it again and again? I want more of that in my life. I’m assuming you do too.

On a side note, I quit watching or reading the news while in Spain. American news, in particular, just had me anxious. I realised that the more attention I gave Trump and the whole “he said she said” nonsense of the two party system over there, the more irritable I was getting.

Walking along the trail on the Camino de Santiago in the Rioja region of Spain, I reminded myself:

None of that really matters in my day to day life. I take voting seriously, and I’ll do my civic duty when it’s time to do so.

But watch another debate like we seemed to all be doing in 2016? Life’s too short for that shit. There’s too much living going on around, as I hear Lyle Lovett’s voice singing in my memory.

Be good to one another, will you? I’m trying.

First Susanne became obsessed and then I decided to offer a new blogging course

Ken at Axioma

You have your people. I’m sure you look around your circle of friends and say to yourself, ‘I love what they’re doing…wish I could help them out more.‘ Well, as much as you love your people, and I’m sure you do, my people just keep creating new things and I want to do what I can to let everybody know about them.

One of my people – one of the better ones, I might add – is Susanne, and she’s recently become obsessed with blogging and social media. I looked on with both amusement and pride last year, as her first blogposts started showing up on my newsfeed.

Here’s her most recent post, and I’m sure you’ll see why I find her writing so endearing: Desperado (by Susanne Plassman) Leave it to her to take a topic like suicide and make it inspiring.

I reached out to her and said, ‘Hey, I know something about the whole blogging lark, so drop me a line if you need any guidance.

Almost immediately, she responded with, ‘Yes, let’s talk! Am besten Gestern*!‘ That’s how she is, by the way. A theatre chick with all the positive associations in tow.

Susanne and I are conspiring to do some projects together and I’m sure I’ll be talking about them here and on social media, but in the meantime…her predicaments while getting started in blogging made me think, ‘There must be so many other locals who need some tips and pointers on this whole social media thing.

Right?

So, I talked to the language school Axioma, which is centrally located in the Maxvorstadt district of Munich, and we’ve decided to offer a course in social media. Here’s a link to the Social Media / Blogging von Anfang an course. Click on it, and see how much of your high school or college German you can remember.

*rough translation of ‘am besten Gestern‘: I need this yesterday!

 

 

 

 

My beautiful heathen

 

drinking tea with My Beautiful Heathen

 

Nearly as long as I’ve been blogging, I’ve been trying to avoid talking too much about twitter. For one thing, it’s incredibly boring if you’re not already there. So many people with whom I interact in my daily life ridicule the medium, and I gave up long ago any hope of changing their minds.

I did have a blog before twitter and like many blogs, it simply died on the vine. I had some decent content there about living abroad and whatnot. Curiosities and my personal take on anything that struck my fancy – the blog was read by very few people and I suppose that’s the nature of many people’s first forays into blogging.

Then there were a few years where I primarily blogged about tea. When people hear that, they often give me an incredulous look and ask if that’s even a thing. Indeed, it is. There’s quite an active community of tea bloggers the world over, and because of the above-mentioned writing, I know a good number of them, albeit virtually.

Tea people didn’t read my tea blog for information on tea. As a matter of fact, my writing very rarely provided any useful information on the subject. I was specifically writing to the non tea drinkers to attempt to lure them over to the leaf. And my unorthodox approach to tea blogging didn’t hurt me in that community either. There were plenty of informative blogs about how long to steep your tea; I was offering something entirely different.

Because of the stereotype of little old ladies drinking their afternoon tea, there was a rather whimsical moment in which a fellow tea blogger struck upon the idea to aggregate the musings primarily of us more masculine tea lovers. Without consulting us, he created a page called the Beasts of Brewdom. It still exists if you insist on going and looking for it. You might even find some of my long lost posts over there.

Oh, look. I found a link: Beasts of Brewdom

Recently, I was asked to contribute something and here I’ve finally gotten round to it. It was a writing challenge, which I didn’t entirely understand, but my challenge came in the form of a tweet. Here it is if you’d like to see the original:

The offending tweet

If you couldn’t bother to click through, it said, ‘…ohh Beasts! I challenge @lahikmajoe to write with ‘My Beautiful Heathen‘.

Well, if you know anything about heathens, you know they shouldn’t consume too much caffeine. My tea cabinet is almost devoid of any herb tea, but this is one of the only exceptions.

Hamburger Schietwetter Tee…for an ugly rainy day. A perfect opportunity to stay indoors with just such a cuppa.

There. Challenge accepted and fulfilled. For those of you who might be confused by this blogpost, I’ll be returning to the regularly scheduled Miscellaneous Blog in the next several days.

lack of resolutions

reminds me of Hamburg, not Munich

There were plenty of things I could’ve blogged about over the holidays, but I took a bit of a hiatus. The last few months have been stressful to say the least, and although there have been times I’ve blogged through similar turmoil, I decided at some point just to lay low. To say less rather than more.

The sad truth is that there have been plenty of things to talk about, and the nature of blogging is that something I might’ve written could’ve actually been useful…to someone. Please don’t laugh..it’s possible.

Instead some insight I had or some experience that I slowed down enough to notice was stored in my memory or even recorded privately, and that nugget of potential wisdom won’t ever see the light of day. Well, not from me anyway.

Yet that’s gotten me thinking about the nature of what I’m doing here and all these ridiculous social media sites I circumnavigate. Are the experiences I had over Christmas and New Year’s somehow lessened because I neglected to mention them here? If I just ignored my computer/mobile phone for a few days, did my circle of friends on the internet worry about my absence?

Not so far they haven’t. There’s enough noise over at twitter that if you don’t see my avatar for a few days as you scroll through your tweets, your life isn’t negatively affected. That’s why I’m always amused when people threaten to leave a social media site. As if we really think our presence there is so important.

Sure I’ve got something unique to offer. Perhaps I’m looking at a story or a situation in a different light – some perspective that hadn’t been considered earlier.

What’s more likely though is that my perspective is simply the most juvenile. The way I look at things is quite candidly often the way a 13 year-old boy might. The most selfish, thoughtless, arrogant approach. That’s at least the first response I have to what life throws at me.

I’m not going to make any ridiculous resolutions that I’ll only blog the serious things. My suspicion is that you’d rather get the whimsical here anyway. That’s my thing – my Raison d’être. 

There. You didn’t think you’d get through a whole post without me throwing in a foreign term that could’ve just as easily have been written in clear English, did you? You know me too well.

now that’s old

Image
Rembrandt's Philosopher Reading

Was reading Andreas Heinakroon‘s blog earlier today about immortality (what I got out of it? the idea of living forever isn’t all it’s cracked up to be), and I got to thinking about something I find curious (before I forget, here it is: Immortality is overrated)

The thing I’ve been thinking about? It’s not a big thing. Blogging sometimes lends itself to pondering the minutiae. But as soon as I say that, I recognise it’s not such a small thing either. Primarily because it has to do with perspective. Enough build up. Let’s jump right in, why don’t we.

When you’re fifteen, you think twenty-five is really old, and thirty-five is inconceivable. I’d even risk saying that when you’re fifteen, anyone above forty is ancient. There might be exceptions to this, but you know what I mean.

So, ten years later? You’re twenty-five now. That’s not so old. Twenty-five is ok. Definitely not old. But thirty-five. Damn…that’s old. And it goes on, doesn’t it? Thirty-five seems old until you’re actually zeroing in on it. Once you’re there? Not so bad.

Throw all of this out the window if you’re unwell. If you’ve got some horrible illness or a loved-one is sick, that clearly impacts your perspective. But assuming you’re relatively healthy, isn’t it curious how subjective we are about age?

When I was a child, my grandmother was fifty-five. Not only was that the number I carried around as my yardstick for ancient, but for many, many years she was still fifty-five in my mind. It’s not as if I was delusional. Or not overly so. But if you asked me how old my Nana was, my immediate thought was fifty-five. Strange, eh?

Have often thought to myself that I’m a very old man stuck in a relatively young man’s body. I love  sitting in a café, reading the paper, drinking good tea (sometimes coffee), complaining about the state of the world swirling round me.

I don’t look forward to my body’s degeneration. Who would? That’d be madness. But to feel a bit less of the pressure that I have to accomplish things. The whole ‘youth is wasted on the young’ deal.

Over the years, I’ve spent significant time with older people. One thing I like about these ancient, from my perspective, folk is that they care less and less about what anyone else thinks. This is over-simplified. Clearly. But it’s logical that if you’ve seen enough of life’s experiences, you’ll become more and more accepting of your personality and your character.

The old man lurking inside of me likes the sound of all that. Immensely.