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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.

Stealing from little baby Jesus

This is only a baby elf, but he looks malleable enough — Jesus should be even better

So is he coming, or isn’t he? Kids around the world, well the Christian &/or western world I should say, are wondering if & hoping that St. Nick makes an appearance tonight. Even in northern Germany, the little ones are waiting for the Weihnachtsmann (Christmas man, literally).

He purportedly comes early enough on Xmas Eve that the kiddos in that neck of the woods can open all their gifts sometime this afternoon/evening. This is all hearsay, though. I’ve neither had children in northern Germany nor been a child there. Here in Bavaria, though, I know the drill. It’s not the Christmas man here, but instead the Christkind (Christ child) hauls all that loot to the little boys & girls. Please don’t ask me to judge this complete hogwash. I’m sorry, but I’ve got a hard enough time with the whole St. Nicolas scenario. Even if he manages Germany in the afternoon here, he can’t get to the rest of the Christian world in one night.

The little baby Jesus, on the other hand. Now that’s plausible. I’m with Ricky Bobby on this one. When I pray, I turn to the infant 👶 in swaddling clothes. I look at my baby in her childlike innocence & I think, ‘It’s gonna be a lot easier to get this one to give me cool stuff than it would’ve been with that grumpy old Santa geezer.’

Our baby is easily distracted, so I assume the deity in his smallest person form would be a piece of cake to bamboozle. This is a great idea. The more I think about it, I think this might be the best Christmas EVAH!

I’ll let you know how it goes with my Christkind heist.

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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?

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.

‘I got a hamster’ brought to you by Diamond Cookieoftruth

violet-in-violet

Hello Violet,’ he said. ‘It’s Uncle BK

Really? All the way from Germany?

All the way from Germany, yes. I saw you got a hamster. A hamster named Alexander, right? Let me tell you about the history of the domesticated hamster,‘ I started to mansplain to my second oldest niece.

Got it covered, Uncle BK. Check out one of my recent YouTube videos,‘ she chirped.

With no further ado, here is Violet in I got a hamster.

Go to Diamond Cookieoftruth.

Subscribe. Really, do it. These girls are hilarious.

Quick and Dirty German Lesson: the German word for hilarious is urkomisch.

Have I not convinced you to go check it out? For further enticement, here’s the blurb on their YouTube channel:

we are the diamond lords we know wichcraft and potions and wiserdrie i know how to stop headches and sore mucles i hope you enjoy the wiserdrie of my channel

Who doesn’t need a bit of ‘wisardrie‘ these days?

They’re my nieces, by the way. Be nice in the comments, y’all.

Curating for @I_amGermany and reminded why I used to enjoy twitter

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Quite a week here in Munich. The Oktoberfest is waiting impatiently at the gates like heathen hordes. The skeptical and easily spooked locals are sure terrible things are going to happen at this year’s Biggest Beer Festival in the World.

All the while, I’ve been curating the @I_amGermany account over on twitter. I don’t talk much about this platform here on my blog for quite a few reasons, but the biggest is this:

The people on twitter already get it. Those who aren’t there can be weird about it and often react to its being mentioned with bafflement. However, they have clearly seen twitter mentioned as a source in the media.

It’s the folk who’ve set up an account over there, taken twitter for a test drive and found it a big disappointment…with these people? It’s been best to avoid the topic entirely. I’d try to compare them to former smokers being the biggest anti-cigarette crusaders, but I’m not prepared to wade into that one.

If you’re one of my readers in the last category, you might want to come back for the next post. Not that I’m going to go on about twitter necessarily. Well, not more than I already have.

However, the week I’ve had over at @I_amGermany has been so enjoyable that I felt I had to make some mention of it. If you’re so inclined, go take a gander. Oh, you want a link? Go here: https://twitter.com/I_amGermany

Here’s what a guy in Berlin wrote after his experience doing it a few years back: http://www.uberlin.co.uk/tweeting-for-germany-what-i-learned/ He describes some things I can undoubtedly relate to.

Why did I used to enjoy twitter, though, and what has this week reminded me of? It’s more than just the immediacy of it, but that’s a great advantage. In this case, I’ve connected with seemingly limitless people here in Germany, or who are somehow interested in Germany, and I’m skeptical we’d ever have *met* otherwise.

I’ve rattled on elsewhere about the meaningfulness of meeting such people virtually, so I won’t go there again…not now at least. Might dig back into that soon.

In the meantime, there’s the little local beer festival I mentioned above. The heathen hordes I mentioned are ever closer. The smell of their breath enters my nostrils and I can sense it’s going to be an eventful few weeks.

Missives from this corner of Old Europe

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Light on the River Isar that runs through Munich

For quite some time, I’ve intended to change the tagline on this personal blog. I’m not certain how long it’s been, but it might’ve been from back when I started that if you clicked on my site, you’d see:

pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

It was an allusion to the Wizard of Oz, as well as a commentary on the way in which each of us creates our persona online. Essentially, I was saying: read my thoughts here, but please don’t expend any energy looking backstage.

I’ve chosen to live in a country that takes privacy very seriously. Because of Germany’s complicated history with the government surreptitiously observing its citizens, there is a genuine desire to ensure users ability to control how much of their private lives they display. It’s easy to be cynical about such a position, and my friends who work in cyber security would quickly insist that most of what we think of as online privacy is an illusion. However, I continue to respect the lengths to which they go to keep fighting the proverbial good fight. Europeans in general and Germans in particular are earnest about this. Quite commendable, if you were to ask me.

Yet the above tagline no longer works for me. It’s no longer the message I want to get across here. Not remotely. Instead, I’ve decided to take on an entirely new position. Frequently some event will happen hereabouts and I’ll receive queries along the lines of, ‘What in the world is going on over there?

My response is to write this blog as a meta answer to that exact question. The new tagline:

Missives from this corner of Old Europe

Implied in this is my eagerness to take on whatever questions you might have. If you read something here that you’d like to know more about, say something in the comments or drop me a line via email.

Hope you enjoy the new direction, and I’m already looking forward to some lively exchanges.

Sylvester spoil sport – get those damned fireworks away from me

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The best part of New Year’s Eve? The next morning

New Year’s Eve in Munich is awful. I like almost every aspect of living here, but there are a few things I simply cannot tolerate. What the locals call Sylvester is one of those things. I loath it. A lot. More than a lot, if that were possible. A whole lot.

It really comes down to one thing. It’s not the drunken morons; you get those everywhere. Well, everywhere I’ve ever lived. Even far up in the mountains in Colorado or Austria, they’ve got inebriated idiots. Not as many, but they tend to make up for their lower numbers with more noise.

But it’s really not the drunks. I enjoy a bit of good cheer. Truly, I do.

It’s personal fireworks. Call me a Spielverderber, I won’t take it personally. That’s a spoilsport for the non-German speakers. Or a party pooper. Or a stick-in-the-mud, even. You’re welcome to call me all of those names and more. Doesn’t bug me at all.

For me, fireworks displays are for professionals. There’s a reason why civilised places don’t allow the man on the street anywhere near fireworks. Each year, I imagine the hospitals filled with people who’ve blown off one of their extremities.

When I first moved here, I had no idea that New Year’s Eve was a night for such mayhem. I went out on the street at midnight, and there were people shooting rockets down the thoroughfare. At each other, at the cars and pretty much anywhere they could.

Aside from a few exceptions, like Karnival time or during the Oktoberfest, this place is a model of ‘Ordnung muss sein’ (order must prevail). There are other nights of the year when disorder is tolerated or even encouraged, and I’m totally ok with all of those.

Do I have friends and/or acquaintances who spend a small fortune on their own personal stash of rockets and whatnot? I do. Plenty of my circle of friends are chomping at the bit to light the damned things and run around like imbeciles. They’ll carry on like yahoos at a prison rodeo, and then they’ll go back to being model citizens the next day. As if Mr. Hyde had simply never existed.

Am I tolerant of these folk? Nope, not a bit. Not even a little.

I’ll be up early on New Year’s Day taking my dogs to the park and stepping over the refuse left over from the psychotic frivolity of the previous night. I’m pretty sure I’ll still have both of my hands.

It’ll be great.

 

I assume we’re going to keep doing this until we like it

 

Louis insists he’s here to be of assistance
 
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. 

Don’t look at the photo of his lifeless body on the beach unless you’re prepared to do something about it 

 

Münchners getting in the spirit of welcoming refugees
 
There’s a photo from Reuters that’s all over the web today. Has been for a few days already, and it’s disturbing. It’s not at all nice. It’s the opposite of nice, even. It’s a shot of a little boy who’s drowned & washed up on the beach. I’m not putting it here, but I am linking to an editorial on Deutsche Welle in which they discuss their editorial decision to publish the photo. This photo isn’t for the faint of heart, though. You’ve hopefully been adequately warned. 

Opinion: an image that touches us all

If you’ve already seen this photo & many others of children washed up on beaches, maybe you didn’t bother going there. 

I’ve included the joyful photo above of the locals bringing donations for the recent arrivals as a counterbalance to the abject sadness that the other image brings. When I know people are visiting Munich and they express interest in Dachau, I often recommend that they schedule something/anything joyful afterwards. Not to pretend that the concentration camp didn’t exist, but because it’s so thoroughly depressing to go there and see the documentation of what occurred, it’s important to be reminded of hope and resilience and that there’s even still goodness. 

Yet we’re not quite there yet when it comes to the immigration situation in Europe right now. The Hungarians are furious that Germany has opened itself up so overtly as a safe haven for refugees, and the situation is still so fluid that anything I might write here will quickly become old news. 

Nevertheless, I hear plenty of reasonable people questioning the practicality of Europe in general and Germany in particular taking in so many refugees. This is purportedly the biggest migration of people in Europe since the Second World War, and the ramifications of this mass migration are far from predictable. I’ve even heard that these newcomers could make up as much as 1% of the population of contemporary Germany. 

Quite a number of the residents of Munich have been unquestionably generous by taking donations of food and clothing and toys (and I heard even portable wifi, so the refugees could communicate with their far flung family members) to the main train station. Football fans in many stadiums last weekend held up signs that said, ‘Refugees Welcome.’ 

What happens when the novelty of taking in all these people wears off? There’ll unquestionably be a new disaster or outlandish political reaction that’ll distract us from the outrageous news we’re reading on a daily basis. 

Here’s the thing, though: this immigration crisis isn’t new. It’s been a long time building. The Syrian refugees might be overwhelming the system at the moment, but any reasonable observation over the last decade or more has made it clear that Europe’s lack of unity on this issue was a disaster in the making. 

That’s where the photo of the child on the beach comes in. You can be as cynical as you like about this topic – I’ve certainly pontificated on both sides of the argument that we as a society are responsible for those fleeing war torn countries. I welcome the argument, even. 
But look at that photo tell me that we shouldn’t finally be able to come up with something better than what we’ve been doing. For years, some European politicians have pretended that it wasn’t their problem. That little boy’s lifeless body makes it harder to stomach such a position.