(Not losing my mind)Drive train gone getting on the A95

A view from the Road…not sure if this is Italy or Germany, though

Here’s a day in the life of Yours Truly (aka @lahikmajoe):

Was driving toward Krailling, which is a little village just outside of Munich not far from Lake Starnberg, with my car full of musical instruments for a rehearsal and my computer for a meeting with a client, when my car stopped driving.

Not even kidding.

The motor was still running, but it just wouldn’t drive. And here I was on the A95. Damn!

What do I do now?‘ I heard myself asking.

Who was I talking to?

The universe?

Myself?

The gods of traffic and or broken down cars?

There must be a patron saint of such a thing, but I must’ve missed that day in Sunday School.

Resolved to get this blog (my miscellaneous blog) back off the ground a few weeks ago, because I’ve got clients who don’t understand, yet, the benefit of creating fresh content. That means I’ve got to actually practise what I’m preaching.

Here’s some current content, which only serves one purpose. For every ten posts, it’s good to mostly focus on your readers or followers or whatever you want to call them. However, it’s also important to show your personal side.

People want to do business, or even just interact, with other people they like. It’s that simple.

What happened to me and the car on the side of the Autobahn? Had it towed not once but twice thanks to the bureaucracy of the German automobile association, what’s called ADAC.

Was I frustrated? Yes, that’d be an understatement. Did it work out in the end? Yes, that too.

Here’s my message:

When you’re building an online community, you decide how much of yourself you want to share. It’s completely in your hands. Can people comment on your material? Yes, but you can alter your settings, like I have, to only allow the comments to be published that you think are appropriate.

It’s a tool, this blog. You’ve got to spend time with a tool before you can really understand how it works. If you’re my client, I’ll help you understand your options. That’s what I do.

Getting canned & walking away

a photo I took six years back while walking the Camino

Here’s an update to let all of you know what’s been going on here, but because I’ve been gone so long…many of you will only read this after the fact. Way after the fact, if my readership numbers don’t lie.

What have I been doing, you ask? Well, that’s a funny question. Or answer, to be more specific.

I’ve been walking away. Saying no. Turning down work.

Because I’ve got too much to do?

Yes and no.

I started grad school since we last spoke. My kid turned three. Yes, three.

And oh…I lost another job.

You heard that right. I had a job for six months, and when I should’ve been transitioning from my probationary period to my contract, I found out how one gets canned in Germany. Sacked, fired, asked to leave…we’ve got plenty of ways to describe such a thing in English.

It was enlightening, I assure you.

Was I at fault? Yes, definitely. Well, sort of.

Were they at fault? When it happened I thought so. However, with distance I see their perspective better. Much clearer.

I wasn’t the right sort of employee for them, which was hell on my ego. But I could deal with it. Eventually.

Okay, maybe not. It’s been a rough ride, to say the least. So, what’d I do? My wife asked me that, and I answered, ‘Nothing. I’m not going to do anything.‘ Literally. I was so angry about how the job ended, that the thought of working for someone else again just made me angrier.

It was then I decided to walk. I’d been on the Camino de Santiago in Spain a few times for a week or two the first time and then only a few days with my mother the second. I’d always heard you should do your pilgrimage from home.

Well, home is Munich which means I got a new pack and started walking towards Santiago. For a month. With stops and starts, because after the first few weeks, I needed to be home for my daughter’s birthday.

Why am I telling you all of this anyway?

My personal blog has always been a tool for me. When my mother was still alive, I liked it that she could read about my experiences living here in this city that she had loved living in, and it still tickles me that she’d leave personal notes in the comments that a more technologically adept person would put in a text message or what have you.

In the coming months, I’ve resolved to post here more regularly and try to build my readership again, like what I had when I was blogging about tea. If you like what you’re reading, please comment here on the blog.

If you want me to write about something in particular, let me know. I’m happy to oblige, within reason.

Please help me grow this thing by interacting with me. I assure you it’ll be quite a ride. It always is, isn’t it?

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.

Dreaming of the Camino de Santiago and how I got into pilgrims or pilgrimages

Good morning Zirndorf

We’ve been all over for the holidays, but we’re finally headed home to Munich today.

Any of you remember my writings/photos from the Camino de Santiago several years back? It was a pivotal moment or set of moments in my life & I’ve not even walked the whole Camino.

As I said then, finishing the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain isn’t the point. Not at all. It’s a lifelong journey.

My mother gave me a copy of Pilgrim’s Progress when I was young, and since then I’ve been obsessed with pilgrims & pilgrimages. Then I studied English literature in college & of course we spent an inordinate amount of time on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. As one does.

So, then I married a woman from Franken, or Franconia if you prefer, and it just so happens there’s a lot of Jakobsweg related stuff, which is what the Germans call the Camino, in this region of northern Bavaria.

We went to Weihenzell earlier today. It’s one of the many Wallfahrtskirchen, which is a word I’ve got no idea how to translate. I was up late & didn’t get enough sleep. Maybe I’ll edit this later. Maybe not.

I’m in full holiday mode can barely string two coherent thoughts together. Here’s a photo of the church. Of course it wasn’t open.

Oh well.

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.

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Do as I say, not as I do

Miriam & I have had a week — the good, the bad, & even a little ugly in a few choice moments.

The progeny, on the other hand, has done swimmingly. She’s already walking, albeit full toddle most of the time, and her talking makes sense, but only to other babies.

This time of year is really amazing, if you pay attention, because some people are ready for the holidays while others? Not so much.

Look around you while others are rushing round to & fro. Watch how people behave when they’re stressed.

If I’m candid, I’m exactly the same. I was furious at the Mahag guy (that’s our local VW dealer) today, & Miriam was there to try putting Humpty Dumpty back together again after he fell from the wall.

I went full tantrum, because they reminded us repeatedly of ‘our appointment’ via text. When I arrived, they suddenly acted as if they knew nothing of us & our new Autoschlüssel (key change). Oh well.

I tried rolling with the punches, so I just did some work while sitting next to a burbling brook of a baby playing next to me.

There was another 1/2 hour before it appeared anyone was interested in helping, but when they did? It was excellent service. Really.

Good job, Mahag. Thanks.

I got home, made lunch for all of us, as Miriam was in the office all morning & we NEEDED sustenance. After that, I announced that the new key didn’t even work.

I’d figured out on my way home that although the key itself was right, the remote control function that opens & closes/locks the car was non functioning. Huh…ok.

Turns out that I had a typical expat-related misunderstanding, where I told the guy I knew our spare key didn’t work, & he said to me that there was something wrong with the electrical system – that the new key wouldn’t work.

My German is good when I’m not stressed out. It’s also good when I’m not talking to Bavarians. Sometimes I think northern Germany would be easier speaking/comprehending-wise.

So here we are. We had an appointment for after Epiphany, but they heard me cursing & spitting in the background, so apparently we’ll be dealt with first thing Monday morning.

Ok, I was a jerk. To the Mahag guy & to my wife. I was nice to the baby, but if that’s the low bar I set? Being nice to babies.

Even Jeff Goldblum’s nice to babies, & he’s the worst person I know. Sara knows what he did.

Be nicer to people while they’re Xmas shopping – whether alongside you or if you’re a Spätshopper (late shopper) & you still need just a few more gifts.

Do as I say, not as I do.

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.

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

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-09-39-07

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.

August all to ourselves

  
Many European cities are empty for the entire month of August. Well, not empty exactly, because there are still plenty of tourists. Yet the locals are gone. None of this is new, by the way. 

Parisians are notorious for abandoning the City of Light and make a mass exodus to the Côte d’Azur and points far beyond. Italian city dwellers aren’t any different I’ve been told. 

And here in Munich? There are plenty of people still here through the first few weeks of August, but it seems like they’re either filling in for those that’re long gone or they’re busily preparing for their own escape. An already emptier than normal city is about to get emptierer. 

That means if you steer clear of the places where tourists flock, you can enjoy some of the most beautiful things our city has to offer. Without others elbowing you out of the way, you can get a seat at your local café. That cool place that does brunch on the weekends? On a Sunday morning, which would be packed to the rafters at any other time of year, your cool brunch is remarkably attainable. 

You want to go to a public swimming pool and actually find a spot on the grass? You won’t be alone there on a sunny day – there are some left over locals, after all. You’re not completely alone; this isn’t exactly a ghost town. However, you will have room to breathe. Not that it’s difficult to breathe here in this beautiful city nestled near the foot of the Alps

If you’re in Munich this August and you think you simply have to get out, then I guess you should do what you must. If you can calm that urge though, there’s quite a lot worth sticking around here for. If you stay here with me, we’ll practically have August all to ourselves

try to encapsulate the Camino in a few short moments of chit chat

a pilgrim daydreaming of the comfort of his armchair
 Not sure where I heard it, but it’s been said that you have a short window of opportunity in which people want to hear about your holidays. 

After ‘How was your break? You were in Spain weren’t you?‘, there’s a few moments where you can share generally, before the conversation moves on to what’s been going on in your absence. Or the news of the day or whatever you might normally talk about. 

Of course close friends might be different, and if you had some earth-shattering news to tell, people might perk up and give you a bit more leeway. However, when I think about what I was doing last week, and I try to encapsulate that in a few short moments of chit chat, I find myself sputtering out banalities. 

It was great,’ I reply. ‘Yes, Spain. Northern Spain – flew into Bilbao and then walked along the Camino de Santiago for a week. 

‘No, I didn’t do the whole thing. That’d take six weeks or so, and I just didn’t have that kind of time.’

Then back to daily life. That’s just how it is. To be expected, even. Life moves on. 

The thing is: I do have this blog and this is as good a place as any to leave my impressions from my limited time on the Camino. It wasn’t easy blogging while actually there, so I took photos and wrote down impressions as I was going. Fully intending to keep talking about it long after I returned. 

The photo above is a pilgrim imagining the comfort of home, which made me smile as I saw it while lugging my pack. That night as I was icing my swollen foot and uploading that photo, I was already quite aware that I was going to miss the simplicity of the Camino upon returning to the day to day. 

I walked around my adopted hometown today, as Munich came to life with the bustle of locals and tourists alike. Someone in Spain told me about his having walked the Jakobsweg, which is what the Germans call this pilgrimage – it’s German for the Way of St. James  – from somewhere in the former Yugoslavia. That’s purportedly the ancient way, from what he said. 

There’s a route that goes through the Bavarian Alps, as well. I’m already imagining taking a week sometime and following the way markers toward the French border. Maybe I’ll even take my dogs and see how manageable it is to find a place to stay along the way where they’d also be welcome. 

In the meantime, I’m looking at photos that remind me of some of my better moments following The Way and I’m doing my best to bring the best of that Spirit to my daily life here back at home. 

Here’s one of the only photos I have of me while I was out there: