You had a raincoat? and other obvious questions

our fair city on the banks of the River Isar

Good morning 2020 (written early New Year’s Day morning). What a wild ride it’s already been, and I’m still in my pyjamas.

My mother, who’s nickname when she was young was ‘Fafa’ so that’s what I call her here, and I have talked briefly, which because of the time difference between here and the States means it’s still yesterday there.

My sister-in-law and I also had a meaningful, end of the year conversation a little while ago in which we talked about her husband/my brother and what he was like as a child. That was something.

We also talked about me, which is unfortunately still one of my favourite subjects, and she had some insight about all of that, which I appreciated. All of that, you ask? All of what, exactly?

Well, this is the first time in almost twenty years that I haven’t had a dog to walk on New Year’s morning. You likely know of Ella and Louis, but before them there was a girldog named Lyle. She came with my first wife and me from the States, when wee moved here to Munich in 2001.

She was my only real responsibility as I was getting my bearings in this curious new land. German culture was weirdly unfathomable, which made no sense because I’d lived here as a small child. I’d learned to play German music and even sang in the godforsaken language before I understood what I was singing about. Nevertheless, I felt odd and like an outsider.

That first year, I drank too much Augustiner and Austrian Veltiner, I smoked my Gauloises, and I walked my dog. It was all pretty straightforward. Below is a photo of my friend Elaine’s dog, Poppet, and me in Tottenham. Well, it’s our shadows. When I’m without a dog, I greet every single one I see. Right now, I’m meeting a lot of dogs.

Poppet’s and my shadows…

Here’s the story I want to tell today, and I assure you that there’s a moral. I’ll be explicit, rather than make you guess what my motive is.

It’s about gratitude and perspective.

A woman told a few friends and me a disheartening story about her horrible childhood and how she always felt like an outsider. She could’ve been telling my story, but that’s beside the point. ‘It’s not always about you, Ken.’ Yes, I get it.

She told us about standing in the rain in her raincoat and looking up at the sky and somehow, in her childlike wonder, asking what on earth the reason for everything was. Asking God or the universe or whatever was out there why she was even here. Why did she even exist? What was even the point?

Aphrodite and the setting sun

After my friend told her story, we were all really quiet. It was so depressing that we were simply mute. Until one quiet voice meekly asked, ‘You had a raincoat?

The raincoat obviously wasn’t the point of the story, but clearly the woman who was almost afraid to ask her question must’ve had an even worse childhood. For her, the mere shelter from the rain was absolute and utter luxury.

I try to remember that everyone I encounter could be dealing with trauma that he or she doesn’t even want to think about. It’s a trick I use to be more compassionate. Sometimes it works.

Sometimes I forget. My New Year’s resolution this year is not to forget.

I should be more compassionate. Especially to those who’re in my inner circle. They very well might get my best, but they simultaneously get the worst of me, as well.

I resolve to give them more of my best. A lot more.

Featured

if you don’t like it or think I should grieve otherwise, you could perhaps go read something else

‘The subtle mental shifts we experience over time and how they lead us down our paths’

Heidi Jones

There’s my writing prompt. It’s from my friend Heidi, who I saw recently at my thirtieth high school reunion.

That was a trip, by the way. Like a psychedelic one, I mean. The good kind of trip. Glad I don’t do that anymore, though. It was hell on my psyche.

Mine is about fighting. My mental shift is about anger and how I deal with it.

You likely don’t know this about me, but if you know anything about astrology, I’ve got a curious and kind of unsettling chart. What do I mean?

I’m mostly fire. A burning surging seething wildfire, even. That’s only part of it, though. My moon is in Cancer, like the old Joni Mitchell song talks about.

Heidi, remind me to tell you about Trina in that same song, ok?

Anywhoooo…moon in Cancer, which is water, of course. However, my sun and my ascendent are both fiery and passionate. A person with my chart is troublesome.

Truly.

But I don’t put any truck in astrology. Just a bunch of hooey, right?

Right.

Heidi asked a difficult question, because I’m still in the process of transitioning. From a bitter bastard of a scoundrel to a hopefully less angry individual, but that’s still unresolved.

I’m not a nice person most of the time. I’ve mentioned it here before, but I can present a polished version of Lahikmajoe online or in my public life, but in private?

Ask Miriam. Really, ask her. She’ll be direct about it. She doesn’t need to cover up my rough edges.

Sometimes she even appreciates them.

Yet how was I before? I just walked away from conflict when possible.

Let me tell you a story about me when I was new in Germany, yeah?

Here I was in a foreign land, in which I’d lived as a small child and always wanted to return to, not able to communicate so well in the German language. I had my dog and my beer, and I was ok.

Truly.

People in the park were mostly cool, but sometimes there’d be what I call an ‘angry German‘. They’re still out there, in case you think this is a twenty-year-old phenomena that no longer exists.

Even today, I run into really angry locals who’re furious about something or other. Sometimes I stepped in their way or tried to park in the parking spot they thought they’d seen first. You get the idea.

Not all of them are like that, in case you’ve gotten your proverbial knickers in a twist.

#NotAllGermans

Back to my story though, eh?

There I was in the park, new in the county as I said, and some German starts hollering at me for reasons I can’t even begin to comprehend. He says some nonsense about an ‘Anzeige‘, and I know from the context that that’s bad. A Strafanzeige is a fine you get for breaking the law. It’s not important for the story.

So? I walk away.

Simple, right?

You can’t give me your Anzeige if I’m not here for it.

The person never called the police. It was a threat that I knew he or she was in no way going to follow through on.

Ever.

That’s how I used to deal with my anger, Heidi.

I disengaged.

My first marriage? I walked away. Left a lot of money on the table, because I got the only thing I wanted from that marriage.

Ella and her brother

The dogs.

They were my treasure and now they’re gone.

I’ve got new, wonderful treasure, but it just ain’t the same.

Oh well.

You know I adore my wife and our astounding little progeny. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a grateful happy man.

But I miss their floppy ears. I miss how Louis got up in the night and rearranged himself while everyone else was trying to sleep, and how Ella watched over us in the park and made sure her brother kept up.

He wasn’t the smartest dog, if I’ve not said that in a while.

My dogsitter Gitti lost her Joanna a few years back and she moaned about it on Feckbook for ages. I’m sure some friends wished she’d just get over it.

This is my grief. This is how I’m processing it.

If you don’t like it or think I should grieve otherwise, you could perhaps go read something else.

how can you mend a broken heart? with a Vizsla puppy, of course

der kleena Theo – a dogsitting miracle

Now, you’d probably immediately jump to the conclusion that the term miracle, in this case, is a bit over the top. You’d be wrong.

If you know anything at all about me, you know that I’ve spent a lot of the last nearly fifteen years posting photos and stories about my sister and brother Vizslas #EllaandLouis.

They were a central component of my life even before my divorce in 2013, and in the intervening years they somehow took care of me more than the other way round.

Of course, I fed and housed them. Certainly they needed the same love and attention that any and all dogs need.

Yet this breed – an Hungarian pointer extraordinaire – has simply stolen my heart. All of them.

Any VIZSLA has the same gentle, loving disposition as all of the other ones. They’re so sensitive that you can’t train them anything like other dogs.

A harsh word is taken deeply personally by a Vizsla, and as a result you can only use positive reinforcement to get what you want. They’re quite bluntly a breeze to train, as they’re desperate to please their people/person.

Long story short, Theo’s (the gorgeous Vizsla puppy in the photo above) parents need help periodically, as she (the dogmom) isn’t allowed to take dogs into her office. Hence my offer to pitch in when they need a dogsitter.

To be candid, I’d take care of Theo without any remuneration — however, Miriam’s reminded me on more than one occasion that we’re in no position financially to volunteer such time.

If anyone else in Munich needs a dogsitter, give me a call. I can imagine a dogsitting job as a side hustle — why not?

Theo’s quite simply saved my day and this adorable boydog is already on the road to winning my heart.

It’s a broken heart, so it could use some mending.

Oversharing & who’s reading anyway? Go back to your family in the other room…

Miriam, der Günter, the progeny & myself

Having been informed I overshare, I’ve decided to observe myself & perhaps modify my behaviour. The time between the years, as I’ve heard this post Christmas until Epiphany period referred to, is ideal for assessing such a situation.

How one lives one’s life is rarely easy to modify, but before you even get there, an honest appraisal of the situation is necessary. Although it’d be easy to chalk it up to cultural differences or what have you, how much one shares and what one shares about in social media might be a private choice, but the result can turn into quite the public spectacle.

We’ve had a lot of loss this year. If you’ve not been following our serial, I’ll give you a quick rundown. Miriam’s mom passed in July & while it’s been devastating to lose her so quickly & unexpectedly, at the same time it’s been inspiring to see her husband/Miriam’s father manage the memorial and his life without her.

This geezer was married to her just over 50 years & had to learn everything in the household from scratch. Watching him washing his clothes & keeping plants alive & even maintaining the cleanliness of his bathroom is a marvel. Not an exaggeration – this guy’s inspired me.

Then a few months back, I lost my dog. If I’m really blunt, Ella wasn’t the easiest with Miriam. Especially in comparison to her brother Louis, who completely adored my new wife and all of her ways.

The way Miriam loved & respected Ella, even in the face of this dog’s reticence, says everything about my wife’s character. It’s of course a grieving process, so I’ll likely be oversharing here about missing Ella. It’s kind of the point.

Which comes to the hardest one. Miriam & I got some bad news just before Christmas. It’s private & I’ve resolved not to go into detail, but let’s just say it was tough & on top of all the other difficulties this year, it felt like another hammer blow at the end of a Mahler symphony. The analogy is quite fitting, but I’m not going to say anymore.

If you see Miriam in real life or communicate with her online, please be gentle. I’m one to talk, to be candid. I should take my own damned advice.

As I regularly say here, hold your loved ones close & try to savour the time you have together. You never know what’s coming next, but mortality is always lurking in the shadows.

Merry Christmas all of you wonderful people. If you’re still reading, I’m touched that people want to know what I’ve got to say.

If you’re not reading? Well, you’re ok too. Who am I to judge?

Feuerzangenbowle and those silly dogs

What in God’s name is this one? I’ve lived in Germany this time around for nearly two decades, and there are still times I feel like I’ve just arrived. Regularly, I have an expat problem that’d be solved by me being a bit more tolerant.

That’s preposterous, isn’t it? I’m a guest in this country, and yet I still want them, the natives, to fulfil to my expectations. I expect them to change in order to make me a bit more comfy. Really?

Now why am I calling Germans ‘natives’? It’s easy really. Normally you might think of my host country as a group of hard working and dour people. That’s the stereotype at least. One exception, of course, is Karnival, which is like Mardi Gras in New Orleans or even Carnival in Rio.

They’re wild, and I’m not exaggerating. Around the Christmas season, they also get a little freaky when they have holiday parties and celebrate like they’ve got no care in the world. A few weeks out of the office and heaps of time with the family – it’s a recipe for heavy drinking.

Speaking of heavy drinking, have you heard of fire tongs punch? Here’s a description:

Feuerzangenbowle (German: [ˈfɔʏɐtsaŋənˌboːlə]) is a traditional German alcoholic drink for which a rum-soaked sugarloaf is set on fire and drips into mulled wine. It is often part of a Christmas or New Year’s Eve tradition. The name translates literally as fire tongs punch. The popularity of the drink was boosted in Germany by the 1944 comedy film Die Feuerzangenbowle.

It is a traditional drink of some German fraternities, who also call it Krambambuli, as the red color is reminiscent of a cherry liqueur of that name which was manufactured by the distillery Der Lachs zu Danzig in Gdańsk, Poland.

Wikipedia

That drink will get one incredibly drunk, I assure you. I know from personal experience, but that was a long time ago. I’ve not anything to drink in quite a few years, but I still vividly remember what drinking this stuff was like.

Apropos of the Feuerzangenbowle, I’ve been invited to Weilheim to see a performance of the original stage play, and I’m going. Even have an extra ticket I’m trying to give away. If you live near Munich (or Weilheim, even better) and want to go, call me. I’m not online on Sundays, so you’ll have to use that old-fashioned telephone.

The last thing I want to mention is that although I’m not posting about it as much as I’m feeling it, the turmoil of losing Ella has been a bit breathtaking, but not in the positive sense. I’ve found myself in the weirdest moments tearing up at the thought of her and her brother frolicking in the wild yonder there.

Yes, I was lucky to have them for such a long time. They cared for me in a dark time, and more importantly they gave me a daily opportunity to take care of someone else. Bear with me here, ok?

Despite me being a new parent, I’ve got plenty of opinions on parenthood. If you listened to me talk, you’d think, ‘Why’s this guy mansplaining raising children to me?‘ Having said all that, my takeaway is that as a father (or mother) must often put his needs on the back burner. It’s how it is – for me, it’s the feature I most need. To think less of Lahikmajoe, I mean.

Thirteen years old…Still fit as fiddles…are we Italian now?

Here’s an announcement:

We’re thirteen now! On the thirteenth of January.

Who wants to party?

Anyone in Liguria (Italy), should come over. Now!

Bring your Party Stimmung, as they say back in the old country.

When we think of all the nonsense our Ken has put us through. Sunrise jogging through Vienna years ago, hiking the Alps & swimming in the Baltic Sea. We are the happiest dogs on the planet.

And now @kunsmine has made us a proper family. Our golden years keep getting more golden. Stay tuned for the fourteenth year of our continued bliss.

Comments below how you’re celebrating #EllaandLouis and our birthday.

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.