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.

time to join the @elaine4queen Admiration Society

The Once and Future Queen

You all know @elaine4queen, right? If you don’t, you should. She’s like the very best thing bout the Tottenham Riviera. She and her dog Poppet are the best hosts in the entire history of hosting.

There was even a statue of a goat in our journey. And, as you well know, you can’t always expect goats.

Elaine and the statue of a goat

What’s so great about Elaine, you ask? Well, she can draw and she can take the train into the city and she can throw Poppet’s ball when we’re playing in the park. I’m making her sound like she’s an imbecile, but she’s not developmentally challenged, at all. In fact, she seems to be above-average in intelligence and she happens to know lots of things. Things that it seems you’d have to read books to learn. Books with really big words.

practising her communication skills

Here’s where Elaine asked a passerby for directions. We were clearly well informed, because the lovely young lady on the right got us safely to our destination. And somehow Elaine was able to refrain from making any offensive jokes of a racial nature. Not our Elaine.

Then we were in Elaine’s friend Lisel’s house, and I was playing the guitar…the photo’s crappe, but that’s just how it is. It’s the only photo we have that proves I was even here in town that day. Here I am playing the guitar in a swirl of coulours:

guitaring while surrounded by 60s design wallpaper in Lisel’s front room

And finally? Here’s documentation that Elaine, Poppet and I were at some point all in the same place.

At the bikeshop/café where Poppet and I played boisterously while Elaine had an appointment

So, there you have it. Out on the Tottenham Riviera and in Hackney we smell different. And differently, as well. More bon vivantery soon enough.

‘Make good choices’

travelling with Out of True as it was intended

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So, one day in the mail, this little green book arrived. Poetry?

Who reads poetry these days?

Oh, I know. Guy Clark does. He says this in one of my favourite of his songs:

Here’s a book of poems I got
From a girl I used to know
I guess I read it front to back
Fifty times or so
It’s all about the good life
And stayin’ at ease with the world
It’s funny how I love that book
And I never loved that girl

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Then I went to London, where I met @elaine4queen and this is a photo of her upon first seeing my copy of Out of True. As good as it is, it’s even better with a cuppa.

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Then there was sleeping and such…upon awakening, it turned out Poppet ‘ad been readin’ a bit of poetry on her own while I wasn’t looking. How twee is that, innit?

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Here’s where our Elaine finally takes a gander at the ol’ book itself. She’s awestruck. ‘That’s some top shelf poetry there, I tell you what!’ I hear her exclaim.

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Then later I was in another café in London and I met this lovely couple from Edinburgh. Although I had my copy of Out of True with me, we didn’t talk about it. There’s no real reason for me to include this photo…I just liked them.

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Here’s a photo of the book and my copy of Myrtle Takes Tea in the same café that I was with the Scottish couple.

And finally, a photo of the book on a pile of money with a baritone ukulele. Because it’s my damned blog and I can do whatever I want here.

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Before I forget: the poet is Amy Durant. She’s a friend. A good poet, but an exceptional friend. You can read her daily musings at Lucy’s Football (lucysfootball.com), and although her posts are long and rambling and often have only a very thin connection to reality, she’s that sort of writer you should keep an eye on.

She’s going somewhere – that Amy Durant. Those crazy eyes? ALL. THE. CAPS. She’s going somewhere, for reals. Luckily, she’s promised to take us with her.