The sky seems to have moved in closer, and the day slams shut so much earlier. Knowing that sundown is creeping towards us makes me want to pack as much into those depleting moments of sunlight.
The leaves that are left are somehow racing to the ground now – they pile up and make their annual bed. I kick them relentlessly and swear to myself that I’ve never enjoyed autumn as much as I have this time around. If I allowed myself, I’d just hold my photo-taking devices out in front of me the entire time I was out there. As if it were my first digital camera. Or even more preposterous: as if I’d never before seen the these changes of seasons.
On these days, I’m like one of my dogs when it comes to going outside. I imagine the keys rattle and remember I promised myself a walk. I accompany me down the stairs and out into the crisp air and say repeatedly, ‘No need to take a photo of every single thing. You’ve captured that exact shot again and again and again.‘
Most of the time I can keep walking and stay focused on the moment. Most of the time.
In German this season is called Herbst, which is a fine word. It rhymes with ‘flair‘ or ‘stare‘, which seems entirely fitting from my vantage point. So often I hear people whinging about the passing of warmer weather. Remembering how rainy fall days can be, they simultaneously dread the long cold days of winter.
While I can intellectually comprehend what they’re talking about, I feel increasingly foreign in their company. I see the words form on their lips, but my thoughts are meandering outside into the already decaying foliage. My tail is wagging as I bound through the undergrowth.
I’ve been laid up this week, which is why I’ve included the photo of Louis prepared to administer first aid. It’s been quite an interesting time to observe current events, and because of a lot of time on my hands, I’ve read my fill of op-ed pieces about the refugee crisis here in Europe.
There are plenty of well thought out arguments about how the refugees should be more evenly distributed among all the European countries, and because I attempt to read sources from all across the political spectrum, I’ve also considered the argument that these refugees shouldn’t be coming here at all.
As an outsider who’s chosen on his own volition to come here, I’ve given a lot of thought to what it means to be a German and a European, even. The demographic reality is that this is an aging population, and if handled correctly these refugees could foreseeably contribute to a society that is projected to one day be dramatically lacking in manpower. I’ve heard for years that the low birthrate here in Germany is sure to cause headaches for future generations.
The political situation on the ground isn’t easy, though. I’ve read multiple accounts of how expensive it is to house each refugee, which is bound to irritate the proverbial man on the street. Watching the trains filled with refugees being welcomed so warmly here, you could already predict the people muttering under their breath that there isn’t room for everyone. There has to be a limit, right?
The new compound noun you can read in the media the last several weeks is ‘Willkommenskultur‘, which simply describes the welcoming culture that has been on display hereabouts. Even that can’t last, though.
However, both sides of the debate about whether or not these people should be welcomed here are missing an important part of the story. We’ve known that this crisis was coming for a long time now. There have been boats full of people crashing into Lampedusa for years. Conventional wisdom says that nothing happens on an issue like this until push comes to shove. Well, now we’re being shoved.
My understanding is that when refugees arrive on your shore or at your border, you’ve actually got to take them in. There are clearly logistical considerations and I’m incredibly relieved that it’s not my responsibility to manage such an intake of people. Yet these are people fleeing war torn countries. Are there people rushing in for better economic conditions than in their home countries? Could there be people arriving here with nefarious intentions? Of course. It’d be ridiculous to pretend that those aren’t obvious eventualities. They need to be dealt with.
I appreciate living in a country where such things are dealt with. I assume we’re going to keep doing this until we like it.
For a long time, Elaine said that she would only be paid in Guineas. Because someone insisted that Guineas are not legal tender, she’s now accepting Guinea Pigs instead.
So, while we were chatting about it, I remembered that I had a book about Guinea Pigs in German. However, they don’t use that word – they’ve got their own German word for these animals.
They’re called Meerschweinchen, which directly translated ‘Meer‘ means ‘sea‘ and ‘Schweinchen‘ means ‘little pig‘. Weirdly enough, when Germans talk about these little furry mammals, they’re referring to them as ‘little sea pigs‘.
If you want to reimburse Elaine for any work she does for you, you’ll need to pay her in that currency.
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:
When I was still relatively new in Bavaria, well Munich to be precise, my U-Bahn line was extended and they were offering free beer. Well, there was also a party in celebration of the new underground station, but the only part I heard when someone told me about it was ‘free beer’. That was all I needed to know. I was already there.
So today, roughly a decade later, I was back at the same U-Bahn stop, and I thought back fondly of that day when I was new and my German was shaky and the people at the Fest were exceedingly friendly.
The station at Georg-Brauchle-Ring is attractive complete with photos and maps interspersed with colorful tiles…this place always makes me smile. It’s not bad, is it?
Have you ever wanted to just yell at someone, but you couldn’t? Anti-social as it might be, sometimes the only thing that will satisfy that desire is to let loose. To open your pie-hole and just unload a torrent of abuse. If there were only a place that would let you get that aggression out.
Oh, wait. There is. There’s a hotline that offers this very service. You can call it and scream to your heart’s content. You can say all the words that you’ve never had the nerve to say aloud. You can say pretty much anything you want.
There’s one catch, though. It’s in German. Not that I think it matters. If you really wanted to spend the money to make the call, I think you’re free to use whatever tongue you so please. So, what is this brilliant website? Where can you go to scream bloody murder. Here it is:
Schimpf los has been specially created for someone of your ilk. The hot-headed sort who needs to blow off some steam, but doesn’t want to lose your job. Or offend your partner.
Or maybe you’ve already yelled at everyone in your daily life, and you just need someone new. A new target for your ire. My thoughts immediately went to: ‘What sort of person would sign up to work for such a hotline? It’s enough to work at a mind-numbing, soul-crushing company, but do you really want to add being verbally assaulted to your list of daily concerns? Really? Do you?‘
I suppose if you knew it wasn’t personal, and that the person doesn’t know you…well, I suppose that might make the whole situation tolerable. I guess so.
However, one of the nice things about my life is that I have plenty of people I can holler at for free. Well, nearly for free. If you yell at a person in public in Germany, you can receive an Strafanzeige, which is an official police citation. You’re charged for having committed a Beleidigung, which is an insult. If you insult someone and there are witnesses, you’re going to pay a fine.
Or if you’re honest when the police come and ask you whether you said the thing you’ve been accused of, and it’s part of your civic responsibility to be as honest as you can, you’re obligated to be as truthful as you can. Do all Germans tell the truth at all times? I’m not even going to dignify that with a response.
But if you want to be safe…to scream and holler and hurl insults at a stranger on the other end of the telephone line? Well Schimpf los, my friend. There’s no time like the present.
There was an intriguing article in the local paper last weekend, and I’m only just now getting round to talking about it. Sometimes I need a few days to decide if it’s even worth bothering you with.
Not every idea is a gem. Aren’t there things you’ve done that, in retrospect, you probably would’ve reconsidered?
Well, I have an entire rucksack of those, but my suspicion is that you didn’t come here for my reject rucksack. That’ll have to wait for a slow day. These are anything but slow days. Quite the opposite, in fact.
For example, a week from Thursday the first print edition of The Munich Times is coming out. That means no matter how calm and collected I might appear here, I’m running ragged in my daily life. I have the same clients I normally do, and Ella and Louis, my sister and brother pair of Vizslas, need their daily trudgein the park. In addition to that, there’s the organising and cajoling I’m doing.
With whom am I doing all of that? With my colleagues at the paper.
That’s right: We’re starting a newspaper. In print. While everyone else is going digital, we’re betting that there’re still people that want to hold newsprint in their grubby little hands. I’ve heard all the arguments that we’re mad, and I’ve even strongly considered some of them. However, my heart is in this. Fully.
You want a taste of the sort of writing we offer? Well, here you go:
For the rest of you, the thrust of the article is that the citizens of Munich aren’t necessarily interested in progress for the mere sake of it. We’re a city that almost says, ‘We don’t need all of those newfangled things.‘ Not mindlessly, we don’t. Not at all costs. No thank you.
Can you see where this is going?
What a perfect fit. A newspaper for a city that appreciates the traditional.
I’ve heard a statistic that a quarter of the Bavarian capital is foreign. That can’t be possible, can it? Not so traditional in that respect.
Yet in a way that plays to The Munich Times strengths even more so. It might not be the reader’s first language, but it’s very possible that English is more easily understood than German. That’s certainly a part of who we’re aiming for.
We shall know soon enough. No need to fear: I’m taking you with me on this one. Something only a Bon Vivant would do. As is my wont.