no matter what wanderlust comes upon me

IMG_3494
Ella at Vogelsang above Bayrischzell

The sun has made an appearance after a long winter, and it’s time to go outside.

If you know anything about my dogs Ella and Louis, you know that means we’ll be going up up up. They love to hike in the Alps, and I don’t blame them.

In the last few days, I’ve heard multiple people remark on how fortunate we are to live when and where we do. Although I know not all of you are situated in the Bavarian capital, I can assure you that part of the point of this blog is to give you a glimpse of what it’s like here.

Having recounted it many times, I almost feel it’s unnecessary. However, some of my readers are new, and others haven’t been here for a long while, so here goes:

I lived here as a small child and as far back as I can remember, I desperately wanted to return. There are plenty of other beautiful places here in Germany, but no matter what wanderlust comes upon me, it’s back home in Munich that I find myself.

'A Hund ist er scho...'
‘A Hund ist er scho…’

out of a funk…onto a journey

Where are we going, anyway?
Where are we going, anyway?

There’s only one way to ease back into this ol’ Dachshund Blog, and it’s not to ease in at all. My intention is to slog in full speed. As quickly as one can slog, I suppose. Where have I been? What have I been doing? Well, the specifics are rather unexciting for the most part, but there were a few moments in the last several months that have made it really difficult to blog. Difficult to do much more than the bare minimum, actually.

One incredibly traumatic thing happened, however, and I just couldn’t talk about it. Not here, not on social media…not anywhere for a while. There are people I’m relatively close to who didn’t hear about my moment of inexplicable horror until much later. I suppose it’s not fair for me to mention such a thing and then not to be any more specific, but that’s the way it has to be.

Almost immediately thereafter I had a moment where I questioned nearly everything. It’s not quite gone, actually. That moment seems to have spread out into a long surreal moment. I’ve lived in Germany for more than a decade and have really enjoyed it, but in an instant I couldn’t be here anymore.

What’s difficult for me is that being here is part of my identity. This focus of this blog has partially been about being an outsider in a very curious place. A place that’s equal parts charming, preposterous and inexplicable. How can one attempt to explain such a thing, you ask? Those are the best things to try to get at, actually. The ones that might at first seem insurmountable.

So, what happens next? First of all, I’m going to use this space to say goodbye to Germany. There’s no telling what’s in store for me, so it’s entirely possible that I end up back here someday. Perhaps I only come back here periodically. We shall certainly see.

I speak the language, am fascinated by the culture, and am genuinely curious about how they got to this point and where they’re going. My German experiment is by no means completed. However, things do change, and my intention is to take you along for the ride.

There aren’t any definite plans as of yet, by the way. What’s that line about a journey of an incredibly long distance starting with a single step? This is my first one of those. Right now I’m wondering if there are still any of you who’d like to come along.

 

do what you love

Playing the guitar surrounding by sixties design wallpaper in Lisel's front room
Playing the guitar surrounding by sixties design wallpaper in Lisel’s front room

This is one of my photos from London, and I’ve been considering different ways to continue blogging about those two trips.

See, for those who haven’t been following at home, I went to London to see Robert Godden and hang out with my friends Nigel (this blog’s London correspondent) and @elaine4queeen this autumn, and then a short time later my mother was going to be in the UK, so I went back again.

I could’ve simply flown to Manchester, where she was going to arrive, but the flights were prohibitively expensive, so I flew back to London, had some meetings with people in the tea business, and spent some more time with the above-mentioned friends. Additionally, I met @vsopfables at Heathrow on my way out of town, and she and I agreed we’d have to spend a bit longer together next time. It was simply too short a visit.

So, why have I included this photo? What’s my morsel of wisdom I’d like to pass onto you today?

It’s quite simple actually.

Most people look at this, or other blogs, or twitter or social media in general as one big swirl of narcissism. Although I believe there’s a great deal of that going on in the places I’ve listed, I’d be willing to argue that it’s not all we’re about.

My message in this blogpost is really one of the bigger truths that I’ve happened upon. One of those things I’ve figured out during my brief time on this earth. It’s so simple and so obvious that the more cynical of you will likely say, ‘Was that really necessary? Did you have to make such a production of this? You’re simply proving that you’re the narcissist we’ve always taken you for.

Well, I’ve got two things to say to that. One is: some people like my photos and whimsical posts and some prefer when I wax philosophic. Some like both, but not many. Quite a few of you have expressed delight when I lay off on the text and stay with the images that make you laugh. Others could do without the filler, and respond positively to my more serious attempts.

The blogposts that take a few days of pondering and writing and rewriting…those seem to make some sort of difference. At least if I’m to believe the comments I get here and the conversations I have with people after I’ve written them. No matter how lacadasical I sometimes might appear, I take this blogging thing quite seriously.

Why?

Years ago someone said to me, ‘If you’re a writer, you need to be writing. You can’t wait for that gig to come to you…you need to keep your writing skills honed and you can use your blog to do so.

I’d toyed with several blogs, none of which I’ll bother mentioning by name, but they had no direction. They were self-indulgent to the extreme. They had no interest to anyone but me.

Then I tried my hand at teablogging, which I still do inadvertently, but I found myself talking about anything but tea. It was great fun to weave tea into these other topics, but at some point it became essential that I find another outlet for my thoughts.

Enter the Dachshund Blog, which you’re now reading, and all the whimsy that’s fit to print. It was designated as the Dachshund Blog by our good friend Lisa Galaviz  over at The Best Self-Help T-Shirt Catalogue Ever in the early days of this endeavour back in the Year of Our Lord 2011, and it took me FOREVAH to stop posting photos of Dachshunds and stories about Dachshunds. I did it eventually, but it was really difficult.

After that, I moved on to real topics that needed to be discussed. Things like poop in postboxes in you’ve got stool and less serious topics like circumcision in Germany, which I covered in getting a baby’s consent is no easy matter.

Back to the photo above. What’s my nugget of thoughtfulness?

Do what you love.

That thing – that when you do it – time stands still. Or appears to.

For me it’s writing. Or playing music.

Or planning the overthrow of a certain Eastern European government that’s been rather anti-democratic lately, but I’ve probably already said too much about that.

If you know what that is for you, do it more often. With vim and vigour.

If you don’t know what that is yet, then find out. You’ll be glad you did. I promise.

so blue I’ve got the greens (searching for a flat in Munich)

'A Hund ist er scho...'
I’m sure this guy’s got a place to lay his head…somewhere in Munich those dogs have little Dachshund beds…

 

'A Hund ist er scho...'
‘A Hund ist er scho…’

Not sure where I first heard that line, but I think it was a singer one night in San Antonio at Jim Cullum’s place down on the Riverwalk. I’ve always loved the imagery.

Most of you think the the Blues are bad, but you ain’t seen the Greens

To be candid, I’m mostly cheerful in my day-to-day life and not much gets me down. Really. Part of me wants to say that I’ve been too busy to blog, but if I’m really forthright…I don’t want to complain.

My thoughts over the last few months have been entirely related to real estate, and after a while it gets rather dull to talk to such a person. A person such as myself in this situation. Anyone who’s looked for a flat in this town has sympathy to spare when they hear what I’m up to. It’s simply not easy. Not at all.

Ostensibly, there are not enough places to live, and  companies are relocating their people to Munich all the time. As if no-one’s told them that there’s no available flats in the Bavarian capital. Please, tell your people to tell the domestic and international firms sending their employees to Munich to cease and desist. Don’t just cease. Please desist, as well.

Here’s the thing, though. People not only move to this town every damned day, but they find places to live. It’s true.

There are more places than you might think. There are landlords and property managers begging for good tenants. There are investment properties sitting empty, because  the right person to live there simply hasn’t been found. That gives me pause, ya know?

So, rather than avoiding my blog because I simply don’t want to moan and complain all the time, I’ve decided to talk about my search for a flat in detail. I’ll leave the best and worst of it here on my Miscellaneous Blog (what was formerly called a

). What’ll likely happen is that I’ll find something temporary, that allows Ella and Louis to live with me once again (they’ve been at the Hundepension for nearly three weeks), and that’ll buy me time to find the ideal place.

One with a garden. Or one looking out on the mountains. Or simply one that doesn’t eat most of my savings. We’ll see. Wish me luck.

A year? It’s been a whole year?

Blowing out them candles…

Has it been an entire year? Quite a lot has happened this year since I started this blog.

I’d taken a few stabs at blogging (unsuccessfully) and still have a teablog that gets a bit of attention. I should do more over there, but my friends who’re tea fanatics seem to be patiently awaiting my return to regularly updated teablog posts. We’ll see. I’ll get to that as soon as the world slows down.

To what do I attribute the (meagre) success of this here Dachshund Blog?

The tight-knit and hilarious small blogging community of which I’m a part. These folks are awesomesauce. Amy Durant, who’s really called lucysfootball over there on her site has probably been the biggest inspiration and the kindest support. She’s said so many nice things publicly and been a tremendous friend behind the scenes – I can’t begin to return the favour. If you’re lucky enough to be Amy’s friend, you know what I’m talking about. She’s tenacious about showing her people how much she cares.

Thanks Amy.

Oh, and if I thought it’d do any good to tell you to write shorter blogposts, I’d do so. Sometimes I’m halfway through one of your rambling soliloquies, and I have to go make a sandwich to make it to the end of your text. I shouldn’t be complaining. Think about it: at least I got a sandwich.

Probably my favourite blog of all time is The Best Self-Help T-Shirt Catalog Ever!, which is written by the sardonic Lisa Galaviz who’s a bit hepped up on Cheetos and Bathtub Gin. More power to her. She’s one of the best things on twitter if you’re attention span is too short to read an entire blogpost. Here – check out Lisa Galaviz over there.

Then there’s Andreas Heinakroon. He’s a proud dad and an above-average scientist and a swell guy. Over the last year, Andreas and I have communicated more on twitter than most people do who live near one another in the same neighbourhood. Recently, I had some unfortunate news, and his compassion and concern for my well-being were evident in his 140-character messages. Great guy.

His blog is inventively called http://heinakroon.com/, which is convenient, because that’s the guy who writes the thing. Go read it NOW. He’s a much better writer than he lets on.

I could go on and on, but I won’t.

That’s a list of three very funny writers, who just happen to be blogging for the ridiculous hell of it. You think I’m funny/informative/a bit mad, right?

I can’t hold a candle to these yahoos. They’ll be yahooing all the way to the funny farm.

At least the funny farm will be enjoyable and there’ll always be enough to read.

Happy Blogiversary to ME!!!

Here’s to another great year.

Shadows and light revisited

Poppet’s shadow and mine alongside hers…

I wrote a blogpost with this title back in early summer, but didn’t even mention the Joni Mitchell song I was referencing. That was an unfortunate omission, because it’s a song worth knowing. Here are the lyrics:

‘Every picture has its shadows
And it has some source of light
Blindness, blindness and sight
The perils of benefactors
The blessings of parasites
Blindness, blindness and sight
Threatened by all things
Devil of cruelty
Drawn to all things
Devil of delight
Mythical devil of the ever-present laws
Governing blindness, blindness and sight

Suntans in reservation dining rooms
Pale miners in their lantern rays
Night, night and day
Hostage smile on presidents
Freedom scribbled in the subway
It’s like night, night and day
Threatened by all things
God of cruelty
Drawn to all things
God of delight
Mythical god of the everlasting laws
Governing day, day and night

Critics of all expression
Judges in black and white
Saying it’s wrong, saying it’s right
Compelled by prescribed standards
Or some ideals we fight
For wrong, wrong and right
Threatened by all things
Man of cruelty-mark of Cain
Drawn to all things
Man of delight-born again, born again
Man of the laws, the ever-broken laws
Governing wrong, wrong and right
Governing wrong, wrong and right
Wrong and right’

Isn’t that nice? Please go to your local record store, order the album ‘Shadows and Light‘ and listen to the title track. It’s really worth it for the harmonies alone.

I’d like to be able to give more here on the ol’ Dachshund Blog, but the last few weeks have been hairy and it doesn’t look as if the stress will be letting up anytime soon. Although I don’t share many private things here on my blog, I will say that the next few months might be a time of rather massive change in my life.

For one thing, I’m moving out of the neighbourhood I’ve lived in the entire time I’ve been in Germany. Munich-Neuhausen has been so very good to me. It really is my favourite Stadtteil (district), and there are plenty of shops and people I’m going to miss.

However, I’m trying to remind myself that nothing lasts forever. Maybe sometime in the future I’ll move back to Neuhausen. Am trying to tell myself such things to make the parting less painful.

If you’d like to know more about it, and can read a bit of German, here’s what muenchen.de has to say about my old ‘hood:

Stadtteilbild: Neuhausen

Dig a Pony, eh?

Will keep you informed of where I land. It’ll certainly be an adventure. It always is with the likes of me.

One street in Neuhausen covered in snow…

 

the spirits are saying slow down

Día de los Muertos

Do you believe in ghosts? Yes, me neither. None of that. Weird things happen, and I’m sure that even if I can’t explain them, there must be some explanation.

This blog has deteriorated into a bit of memorial of loved ones who’ve passed on occasion. I don’t set out to make it such. There was joking early on that this would be a Dachshund Blog, because I just kept talking about them. There was goodbye Sebastian about my mother’s Dachshund Sebastian who’d died. Then I wrote about the dog I had before the sister and brother Vizslas, who I mention often, when I wrote my rays of sunshine.

Yet I don’t want you to be led to believe I only care about dogs. It might be the truth, but I’d rather at least give the impression that people matter to me, as well.

Recently, I said goodbye to my maternal grandmother. We scattered her ashes in the river near where she’d lived and then I promptly wrote about her here in always fifty-five. There was some delayed grieving because it took a while to arrange a date where everyone in the family could be there, but we did it. And being where I’d spent so much time with her somehow made me feel closer to her.

One of the finest people I’ve known virtually died earlier this year (I wrote about her in smoke and mirrors), and it still gets me. In quiet moments, I can still feel her presence. But remember, I don’t believe in the spirits staying with us. None of that. You die and your gone. Basta.

Have never been much interested in the spirit world. When a psychic was on television, I normally found something else. I’d hear that there are some people who are more attuned to the spirit world, and I’d quickly say to myself, ‘Well, I’m not one of those people.’ Then I’d move on.

I suppose, for the most part, that’s still my position. Except I’ve had a few moments during this trip when I wasn’t so sure. Let me explain.

Most of the people, in my life, who’ve died recently have been older. But one friend died who was my age. Actually, he was a bit younger. I’m not going to go into the details much, because I know he and his family were rather private. But driving by the places I once lived and spent time with him, I’ve been replaying the memories.

It’s been the hardest and most important part of this trip. Somehow his passing didn’t touch me when it was so far away. Sure, it was sad. And inconceivable. However, with my daily life in Germany swirling round me, his passing was somehow ‘over there’. Not going to touch me.

But fast forward to several days ago. I found myself on the side of the road after an auto accident, and couldn’t believe what had happened and how quickly. Suddenly, I felt like my friend was there with me. Surely that can be explained by my thinking so much of him over the previous days. It was clearly my subconscious creating the feeling of his presence.

Right?

Yes, that’s it. Of course.

If you read this blog even sporadically, you know that I like to come up with things that make one ponder. To attempt to see things in a bit different manner, when at all possible. I’m as sceptical of the spirit world as I was before.

Nevertheless, I’ve slowed down in his honour if he is watching. Just in case.

you can’t always expect goats

lahikmajoe with goats

Have been toiling away at a serious blogpost, but it’s not ready to be thrown up on the old Dachshund Blog. Not yet anyway. So, I wanted something new to be here, and I decided on an old photo of me with some goats.

Who doesn’t like goats?

This was one of my more ridiculous facial hair styles, if you’d even call it that, and the goats seemed to be well aware of how preposterous that non-beard beard choice was.

This photo was taken at a Cheese Festival in Bad Tölz several years ago, and I was lucky enough to be there on business. Later this week, I’ll be at another food-related event and I think I might just subject you to some of my impressions of it. Doubt there’ll be goats, though.

No matter how good the event might be, you can’t always expect goats.

a Dachshund wrestling the devil on his newly built bridge

the devil's bridge

Have been in the car quite a lot in the last few days. I’ve lived in places where you really need a car and then I’ve lived in places where public transportation makes having a car unnecessary, and I much prefer the latter. But I’m no Luddite. As I stumble through life, I’m in awe at what marvels have been accomplished by earlier people. Many people would list recent technological advances as mind-blowing, but I often haven’t even gotten round to appreciating them because I’m still pondering the things that were built long ago. Such as the devil’s bridge that’s pictured above.

The legend is that there was a peasant tired of walking all the way down to the valley on one side and then back up the other. He made a deal with the devil where the bridge would be finished overnight if the peasant agrees that the devil gets the soul of the first living thing that crosses the bridge. The peasant tosses and turns in the night worried that someone’s going to lose his soul on account of his selfish pact.

Early the next morning, the devil’s standing on the opposite side of the bridge as the peasant arrives and it dawns on him that he’s going to be the first one to cross and lose his soul. In the last possible moment, he picks up a stick and throws it as far as he can toward the devil. The peasant’s dog fetches the stick and the devil is furious that he’s lost the soul he was expecting to collect.

You know the obvious question, right? What about the dog’s soul? The legend has it that the devil storms off in a furious state, but why wouldn’t he be as happy with that dog’s soul as the peasant’s? In his position, I think I’d have more use for the dog’s soul. Really.

Anyway, I know it’s a fable…not sure what its telling was supposed to teach to its listeners, but there it is. Maybe the point was that you could beat the devil if you thought of a solution quickly. Or if you treated your dog as if he was dispensable, you’d be able to get ahead in life.

You all know this is an incredibly dog-friendly blog, so we’re not going to mindlessly swallow this nonsense. This blog has even been called a Dachshund Blog, which I’m beginning to think wouldn’t be such a bad thing. How would a Dachshund handle this scenario? He’d definitely go running after the stick. No question. Devil be damned, as it were.

And you can say a lot about a Dachshund, but you could never accuse him of lacking soul. My suspicion is that whatever the devil does with the souls he’s won in such trickery, he’d be a bit overwhelmed by the over-sized Dachshund soul that he unexpectedly got his hands on.

I’ve often said that I can’t work tumblr properly. If I were good at tumblr, I’d go locate a cartoon of the devil wrestling a Dachshund.  Can any of you locate one of those?

goodbye Sebastian

snout of a Dachshund

Before you start thinking that this has become a Dachshund Blog, I assure you that it’s unintentional that I’m writing about weiner dogs twice in one week. I can’t guarantee that I won’t find another topic Dachshund-related, but I can’t imagine that actually happening. To be clear – if a dog of this breed pulls a family from a burning building and saves them all from asphyxiation,  then I’ll likely feel obligated to make some sort of mention of it. You’ve been warned.

It’s customary to look back at those who’ve died at the close of a year. The papers at year’s end are loaded with articles about ‘who we’ve lost in (insert this year here)’. We’ve lost quite  a few notable, as well as notorious, people in the public sphere this year. Yet I only want to talk about one particular dog.

You’d think I’d have the decency to do more than mention my grandmother MildredMid‘ in passing. A lifelong smoker taken down at the spritely age of 91. There’s plenty of material there to fill at least a month’s worth of blogging. And that would barely begin to do her justice. I might still get to that, but first things first.

As I mentioned before, we had weiner dogs in the family. When I was a child, we adopted many dogs. There was a near endless parade of the canine down and out. Through years and years of such experiments in dog adoption, my mother always insisted that one day she’d have her own Dachshund.

Rather than even bother with an empty nest when everyone moved out for college and beyond, my parents found a breeder and soon enough brought home a bouncing baby hound.

Unlike their previous adventures in parenting, Sebastian actually listened. And behaved. Well, mostly. Remarkably well for a Dachshund.

Before I wax poetic about what a gentleman the little guy was, I must tell you: he had his faults. Who doesn’t, right?

He took protecting the property seriously and considered it a personal affront when the gardeners came with their unbearably loud machines and strange voices. And sometimes he smelled…how shall I put this? He was not a young dog.

I’m not necessarily someone who appreciates little dogs, but you have to take even little dogs on a case by case basis, and Sebastian had enough personality to make up for what he lacked in size. More than enough. Sometimes he had enough personality for at least one more dog.

Enough about faults. He had plenty of attributes to more than overshadow his few drawbacks. ‘What was the one singular characteristic that made him who he was?’  you ask. This weiner dog liked to eat. What? You say, ‘Many dogs enjoy a good meal?‘ Yes, you’re right. But this dog truly lived for mealtime. He was not apologetic about this. Not remotely. It was a very earnest obsession with him. His food was neither chewed nor even swallowed. He literally inhaled it.

He knew exactly what time of day it was based upon the exact hour of his meals. After someone had already fed him, he made a game of looking at others in the vicinity with his big, brown, sorrowful eyes…as if saying, ‘No-one’s fed me yet. And it’s five minutes past when I have to be fed. Five minutes. I know I can’t tell time,’ he’d insist, ‘But I know it’s been an eternity lasting exactly whatever five minutes means.’ 

He was the definition of passionate. It was a sort of wonder to behold. Am I overdoing it a bit? I’m really not.

Many dogs could be described this way. What else does a dog have to look forward to? I knew a guy in Colorado who wrote a song from the perspective of his dog. Dan Sheridan was his name and the song’s refrain went:

‘I love you Dan/because it’s dog food again…’

Most dogs love mealtime. Not so remarkable you say? Yes, ok.

But Sebastian had something else about him. It might not have been unique, but I’d never heard of it.

See, my dad was a diabetic. As a matter of fact, he was a Type 1 diabetic, which means he had it as a child…grew up giving himself injections of insulin. He was more than a bit proficient at managing his blood sugar and figuring out when he needed more insulin. Or sometimes when he needed less.

When his blood sugar was too high, it was not a good thing but not immediately life-threatening. Long-term, high blood sugar is not a good thing, but the urgent situation is really low blood sugar. If a diabetic has too low blood sugar, it can be really bad. I’m not going to get more specific, but really bad means what it sounds like.

Why on earth am I giving you a lesson in diabetes? Because our little (but did I mention enormous personality?) Sebastian could somehow tell when my dad’s blood sugar fell below a certain level, would crawl up to my dad’s forehead, and lick him till he startlingly awakened. It’s not an exaggeration to say that he saved my dad’s life on numerous occasions.

When my dad was in the hospital, it was not seeing Sebastian that was hardest on him. There’s a reason why therapy dogs mean so much to people who’re holed up in a ward that they can’t leave. If you’re someone who appreciates dogs. I suppose if you didn’t, you might have already given up reading this.

I could go on about this unbelievable little ball of energy. Fifteen years he gave it his all. I’m sure my mom would’ve been happy if she could have another fifteen more with him.

Come into the kitchen, scoop out a reasonable portion of his kibble, pour it into his bowl and pull your hand away quickly while you watch him inhale.

little (plenty big personality) Sebastian