rolling with the haters, and begging for feedback or questions

on the road to Renée and Ken Fowler’s ranch outside of Llano, Texas right after the memorial for my mother Martha Frances with my wife Miriam and the #progeny off camera (mit Absicht)

While not getting too specific about who it was who irritated me the other day, while I was doing this roku account on twitter, I’d like talk about criticism and how I’ve chosen to use social media. To be clear, I’m neither a good American nor a well-integrated German visitor. Other expats or immigrants or whatever you want to call those of us who’ve moved to Germany and chosen to make a life here, seem to have accepted things about living here that still make me bristle.

Oh, and I see that one who offers unwarranted criticism, that’s offered as helpful or thoughtful, but is more likely a backwards and passive aggressive attempt at a Besserwisser (know-it-all) feeling better about one’s own situation and/or life, should perhaps look into therapy or grow a thicker skin before logging on.

They’re what the kids, or at least the Millennials, would call ‘haters‘, and I pay them as little mind as I can manage. It’s a good way to deal with criticism online. You’ll certainly face some, or a lot of it, the longer that you work or play in the digital realm.

The most important thing to know about me on this subject of using social media is that I think of myself as two Americans mixed up in one complicated ex-pat. My family moved from West Texas after my birth to Munich, which curiously makes Bavaria my second, or adopted, home.

Then we unfortunately went back to Texas, and this time in the southeast part of the state along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico to the then fifth largest city in the United States. The City of Houston was still a cow town upon our arrival, and the annual Livestock Show and Rodeo was just one reminder that this place wasn’t like Munich or Zürich or even London, which were places I’d seen with my young, impressionable eyes.

My relationship with Germany wasn’t complicated then, as I was a mere child and all of my frustrations with mid 70s metropolitan Houston were easily written off by my thoughts that, ‘One day I can leave this humid, depressing place and go back to Germany‘, which was a sort of Garden of Eden. That was how I saw Munich or Bavaria in the early 70s, and that option of ‘going back home’ was always, or at least often, part of my fantasy.

What wasn’t to love, by the way? It was a colourful and beautiful city, my parents were casual drug users and drank a lot of beer. As a result, it was easier to live in the liberal, relatively open-minded capital of Bavaria than it had been to live in the dry (alcohol-free), desert-like metropolis of Lubbock. On the high prairie in the part of Texas that you think of if you’ve watched John Wayne movies, or that Rock Hudson/Elizabeth Taylor/James Dean film Giant, my family felt more free outside of the ‘Land of the Free’, which is still my perspective of when I think of West Texas.

I’ve got a complicated relationship with both the word ‘freedom’, as well as the whole concept of ‘The American Dream‘, but this isn’t therapy. I’ll just share this generally, and depending on what feedback I get from this post, I could imagine writing more about those things at some point in the future. If you want to read more about my perspective on either of these things, the proverbial ball’s in your court. You’ve got to get off of your arse and say so in the comments.

To wrap up my point here, though.

My writing always has my clients in mind. While I do it in quite an Anglo-American manner, it’s purposeful that I’ve chosen not to blog or use social media the ‘German Way‘. Again, I’ll go deeper into how different cultures use online platforms and the intercultural differences at a later date.

Interested? You know what to do.

Make a comment below, rather than on LinkedIn or Twitter. I’ve started the conversation and you, my readers, have more influence than you realise.

Say something.

What about this post or any other interests you?

More importantly what have I written that you want to know more about?

Show me you’re here and reading my scribblings, would you? I see the metrics, so I know you’re lurking.

Do me a favour and help me build an audience by saying what you’d like to see more of.

Please.

Pretty please.

Manly in Landshut

Outside the Männer Laden early morning in Landshut

Every Tuesday, I’ve got a teaching gig in one of my favourite places in Bavaria, hell all of Germany.

Whether it’s their infamous Landshuter Hochzeit (wedding) or the Burg Trausnitz (Trausnitz castle), this place is content gold.

Expect many more posts from this beautiful small city about an hour or so northwest of my home in Munich.

You can’t wait, can you?

Let me know in the comments below what you’d like to know about this super cool place. Or if you’ve already been to Landshut and already know if its charm, tell us that instead. Please.

Get your English back to where it was…easy peasy!

Uncle B.K. and Brother Michael blowing out the latter’s 2nd birthday candle

If you’re a grandparent and one of your children has married outside of your culture, whatever that might mean, you’ve got some work cut out for you. Your daughter or son might not realise, or likely doesn’t care, that you’ve been gifted more than just grandchildren.

No, now you’ve got an intercultural dilemma in the making.

How are you going to be a decent grandparent to these kids who might not have any clue where you come from and how it was when you were their age? Luckily, you’ve already figured your life out, right? So you can impart a little wisdom.

Like my Nana did. She’s featured in the photo above and she was a piece of work, my maternal grandmother. An enigma when I was small, Nana was always chainsmoking and funnier for us, she swore like a sailor. She made zero attempts to suffer fools gladly.

It simply wasn’t her way.

Not even us grandkids.

Especially not us.

Born in the 1920s, Frances was part of what’s referred to in the United States as the ‘Greatest Generation‘, which nearly always makes me smile nostalgically. She’s here in the photo, with my mom and my brother and I there, as well. She’d married a Methodist minister, my grandfather who we called ‘Dan Dan’, during the war, and they started having children in 1946. Right at the start of the first wave of the Baby Boom.

Since they were the greatest, they couldn’t understand why their kids couldn’t more appreciate all they’d left for them. This might be a bit of an exaggeration, but my grandparents generation felt like they’d saved the world from fascism only to be handed a society now run by dirty hippies and drug addicts.

How does this relate to you learning enough English so you can communicate with your own little carpet munchers? Maybe you already understand and even speak English when you travel, and you’d just like to practise a bit.

Well, that’s what I do. I help some of my clients get acclimated to their new culture, even if they’re still living comfortably at home. You don’t necessarily have to learn how to navigate a new culture. If this is you we’re talking about, my solution is easy. I’ll be writing more about my ideas here on my blog in the coming months.

You needn’t become perfect in English, okay? Just good enough to talk to your own progeny. Your grandkids will give you a lot of latitude.

Promise.

Reach out to me via email (lahikmajoe@gmail.com) or make a comment on this blogpost if you’ve got any questions or want me to focus on some aspect of these issues.

We’ll get your English back to where it used to be. Easy peasy!

Doing what I want, for a change…

Old Braunfels, my old band, on the streets of Munich

That headline was supposed to grab you, and I hope it worked. Having a small child, a relatively new marriage, grad school, clients and an active private life on top of all of that is utterly exhausting sometimes.

All the time, if I’m prepared to be open and candid. Which opens a whole can of worms when I deal with Germans and social media.

They don’t typically like it.

Sure, you can point to Susanne Plassmann or others who have taken to it like a duck to water, but most Germans I know? Privacy is much preferred to self promotion, and they are typically sceptical of such ego-driven tomfoolery.

What does that say about me and Susanne that we like it so much? I’m just not going to go there, but I’ll simply say that she and I are more alike than you’d think. We met when I was observing a Flirting auf Deutsch class, or at least I think that’s what it was.

It was a Mother’s Day about 7 or 8 years ago, and as a result, none of her students showed up. It’s not that my German’s perfect, so I could’ve just as easily had a private lesson. Instead we did something much more fascinating.

We talked about the birds and the bees and how German and English native speakers approach and date each other.

As I’ve often said, Susanne is my favourite actor in Munich. Does it help that I know her? Sure. We’ve got history, but that doesn’t change that I can be objective, despite my subjectivity (the friendship).

Back to what I want to do, though. Because my time is much more limited these days, there are literally weeks where I don’t even tough my guitar ’til the weekend. It’s inconceivable to me that my life has come to this, but there you have it.

I’ve resolved to focus most on the things which bring me the most rewards, and I don’t mean only financial ones. While I love my work, and my school work especially, it’s not the only thing. Even when it seems like it.

A little bit of music during the week is my new goal. Check back with me in a few weeks or months and see how I’m doing. As always, comments below are welcomed.

How do you balance the different responsibilities you’ve got in life with the things that bring you the most joy? That’s not a rhetorical question. I really want to know.

(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.