Ey Mann, wo ist mein Auto?
April 16, 2001

Kakao and Schokolade: two different German words for chocolate. Are you surprised that I already know them?

It's time for my Monday German lesson, otherwise known as the "X-Files" in German. It's pretty fun in German. All the voices work, especially Skinner's, but except for Scully's (as I said earlier, she sounds like a dominatrix). Germany is at least a season behind the states, so I've seen all these episodes at least once in english. Germans *love* this show.

I warned a friend back in Austin not to spoil the "X-Files" for me, especially about anything having to do with the return of David Duchovny (I have copies of March and April episodes on their way), and this was her response:

"OK, I won't tell anything except to say that you're gonna love him in drag -- he's come a long way since Twin Peaks. And the whole Dale Earnhart tribute thing is truly inspired. So's Mulder's past-life regression to Machu Pi... oops, I promised not to spill the beans for you. Sorry."

My friends kill me, they really do.

I cannot believe I have been here two months already. Part of me feels like I just got here. And part of me feels like I've been here so long and haven't even begun to do everything I should.

Walking the dogs three times a day is a lot fun, except when Buster goes careening off a cliff... but I've discussed this already. They really love getting to explore beyond just a small back yard in Austin every day. Wiley barks for the first 10 minutes we are out, which is incredibly annoying, and Buster pulls like crazy on the leash in an effort to get to the birds and other dogs, but other than that, I love it. If it weren't for fear of offleash dogs, I'd take them everywhere with me here, like everyone else does in Germany. I love seeing dogs in Woolworth's and bars and restaurants. Ofcourse, they are always well-behaved, unlike my brutes.

I have already had to take the boys to the vet twice. The first time was because Buster had (and still has) a big sore on the top of his foot. Ofcourse, I had to take Wiley too -- there's just no way one can go without the other. We walked down Rhein Allee and the dogs were SUPER, particularly since walking on leash in a city is completely new to them. They knew this was a walk to a destination, not a time to stop and smell every single thing we passed, plus, it was snowing, so they walked with great purpose and stayed on the sidewalk. The vet said Buster has a "hot spot" -- the inflamation probably came from a slightly infected cut. He gave him a shot and some kind words and sent us on our way. The second time was to get them a shot for "kennel cough", before they could stay at the Hunde Hotel while I went to London (turns out they already had the proper vaccination, according to the paperwork I brought from their U.S. vet). I really like the vet here: He talks to the dogs as well as to me. And he didn't charge me for the second visit, since they didn't need a shot (in the U.S., an office visit is an office visit and you pay, EVERY time).

I go to the grocery twice a week, and buy as much as I can carry on my bike (I'm getting really good at balancing everything). I have to remember to take plenty of cloth bags; otherwise, I'd have to buy bags at the store (these aren't free in Germany at most stores). But it forces me to buy only what I can carry, and as a result, a LOT less food goes to waste here at the flat (because I eat it long before it can go bad). It's another lifestyle thing I'd like to import back to the U.S.A.

Most stores close at 6 p.m. on weekdays. Stores stay open until noon or 2 on Saturdays. There's nothing open on Sundays except bars and restaurants. This means Saturdays are my days to run errands (including Woolworth's -- it's so weird to shop at a store here with an American name), and Sunday is cleaning day.

I walk and ride to and from Bad Godesberg alot, particularly on Saturdays -- that's how I discover new stores, figure out the roads, and just enjoy living here in general. I go to downtown Bonn every now and again, and always get lost at least once while there. I learned long ago, in moving to new cities and states in the U.S., that getting lost is a great opportunity to find other stuff. For instance, here in Deutschland, I got lost trying to find a particular phone booth, and ended up finding the post office. I got lost trying to find an electronics store and ended up finding a bike shop. And so on and so on. As long as I can find where I came from, and as long as I don't have somewhere to be in the next 15 minutes, I don't panic.

Everyone walks or rides bikes here. In the evenings and on weekends, all these people drive to my neighborhood to walk with their children and/or dogs in the parks. Even if it's really cold outside. I love that older people here are so mobile -- people in their 70s still ride bikes and walk everywhere.

There's definitely a big difference in the older and younger generations in Bad Godesberg and Plittersdorf: The older generations will not cross the street no matter what unless the light says they can. The younger people, however, will walk across if there's no cars coming (and no children around -- you gotta set a good example). The older people dress to the nines -- formal hats, gloves, and very nice coats (often fur), just to go shopping on Saturdays. The younger people look more American, although still well-dressed. There is sooooo much money here. Everyone's got the best clothes, and the best strollers for their babies.

A week ago Saturday night, I went out with a co-worker to the movies in Bad Godesberg: "Dr. T. and the Women," or whatever the hell it's called. It was okay until the end, and then it was so unbelievably stupid that I couldn't deal with it. But I was so glad to have gone -- I miss English movies in a major way. There was hardly anyone in the theater, so we gabbed through the whole movie -- oh, doesn't Richard look great, oh, why is she wearing that, blah, blah, blah. At Kinopolis, the theater, you buy reserved seats, which just totally cracks me up, because most people still just sit wherever they want. The usher made us put our bags in a locker for "security reasons." We were rolling. Did you know I carry a terrorist bag? Then we went out for pizza and an intense discussion about family political secrets -- in America, we worry about having Klansmen in our heritage, in Europe, they worry about Nazi sympathizers. No one wants a fascist in the attic...

Oh, time for part two of my German lesson, "Die Simpsons."

The following Sunday afternoon, I went with friends to Köln. I had no idea it was such a big city! I was quite intimidated by it, actually. No streets go in straight lines here at ALL. I don't know how people find their way around. It took us a while to find the movie theater, but we finally did. We saw "Traffic", which I thought just kicked ass all over the place. What an amazing movie! Then we went the cathedral in Köln. It is huge and ornate and intimidating, as a cathedral should be. I was a big confused by some of the stained glass pictures: 12 were of the zodiac. How pagan! There are ton of great stores around the cathedral plaza. We went to this ultra chíc tea and dessert house. The tea was so complicated, I spilled it everywhere.

I am so bummed about Joey Ramone... end of an era. Very sad.

April 28, 2001

I spent a recent Saturday with a co-worker shopping in Köln. It took a while before we found a store we both liked -- everything was just way too "cute" or sluttish. I hate shopping for clothes, as everything seems to be made for anorexic 14 year old girls with no hips.

German "service" gets derided a lot on the web and by co-workers, but from what I can tell, it's only because it's not "service with a smile." In just about any store I've ever been in, there's *always* been someone there willing to help me -- in fact, in contrast to America, there are plenty of ADULT sales clerks in every store, all ready to help. I'll take that over some bored uninterested teenager who disappears whenever you need help in a store any day of the week.

Köln is a great big International city, truly. It's fun, but I find it quite overwhelming. I feel totally lost there. I need to go by myself, though, at least a couple of times, to train for other European cities I hope to visit (as I may have to visit them alone, you know?). There are lots and lots of street musicians and performers, and tons and tons of people.

We ate mussels at this restaurant next to the cathedral, and then walked over (I'm fascinated by the cathedral). Outside was a large crowd gathered around some musicians -- there were about 10 young teenagers, playing a cello, violins, a guitar, a flute, a standup bass, a clarinet, a snare drum (and the guy was using a red suitcase as a bass drum), all surrounding this crazy looking old guy who looked exactly what you would picture if I said "Crazy music professor" He had thinning, curly gray hair flying all over his head, and was wearing glasses, really beat up brown leather pants, and a long beatup brown sweater. He was playing this beatup violin that had seen a LOT of playing time. They were wonderful. They were playing protest/anti war songs -- I didn't understand the words, but I understood the meaning. It was wonderful. Really special moment.

We went in the cathedral so I could show my comrade the "pagan windows" -- stained glass windows portraying all the signs of the zodiac, the elements (fire, water, earth, etc.), and some stuff we don't understand but we know it's not biblical based. Still working on figuring that out. 

Later that same day, I turned some friends onto "Pillow Talk." I never thought they'd want to watch it, but they did after I told them about it, and they *totally* dug it. Many sighs were expressed over Rock. They agreed with me that it's a lot like "Frasier" in its writing and pacing, and suggested that, if it gets remade, the guy that plays Niles on "Frasier" has to take the Tony Randell role. Ofcourse, that movie can't ever be remade -- Doris Day and Rock Hudson are just too perfect. I hate movies from the 1950s, but I just adore "Pillow Talk." Only problem experienced in the viewing was that this new audience of two Spainards and one Argentinian didn't get the homosexual references (some men really love their mothers, like to exchange recipes, etc.). I don't think it was a cultural thing -- I think it's just that we've come so far with regard to how we referr to things that those kind of very subtle comments go totally over most people's heads. I also had to explain what a "cow poke" and a "chuck wagon" are. But, otherwise, they totally "got" it.

The next day, I finally took my first long bike ride just for sight-seeing . There's nothing that makes you feel like you are in Europe more than a bike ride, except for sipping coffee in an outdoor cafe, or standing in a train station with no idea how to get where you want to go, but I digress... I road along the Rhein, but in the opposite direction of work. I headed South, to see how far I could go in a half hour. I ended up in Rolandseck, and turned around at the small ferry dock there, where I saw two swans. One was standing on the doc, guarding an egg -- but there was no nest. The swan's egg was just sitting there on the dock. I feared it would be crushed before the day was out. I also saw a fax machine in the water -- not sure how that happened. Along the way to Rolandseck, I passed the Rhein Hotel, the hotel where Hitler fooled Chamberlien, tiny summer cottages, the island of Nonnenwerth, a small RV park, various cafes and restaurants, lots of open country, and many, many walkers, skaters and fellow bikers. On the other side of the river, I passed Königswinter, which is watched over by a mountain with the ruins of Drachenfels, a Roman fortress on top. It wasn't that long of a ride, but it was my first time out -- I'm still working on this! I went a little more than 12 kilometers round trip -- only about 7.5 miles. I want to get strong enough to bike three hours a day, so that I can take one of those fabulous bike tours that Craig Doyle on BBC's "Holiday" talks about. I also want to really know the area I'm living as well as I can.

And now, for random thoughts:

I am hopeless. I was watching TV the other day, and a movie starts -- all I see is a guy on a rock and hear about four drum beats, and I know immediately that it's "High Noon." It was very interesting in German.

Soccer players are really cute. I mean, *really* cute. Some days, I would rather watch a soccer game between two teams I that I don't even know where they are from being called completely in German, than watch another minute of BBC World or CNN International, because I am SICK of seeing The Shrub's idiot fascist face. I'd rather watch cute soccer players run around on a field and get sweaty and have no idea who to root for than to hear about another environmental or human rights loss thanks to the Great Pretender.

In Germany, they take the Friday and Monday around Easter off. They also hang eggs from trees. Saw a few depictions of the Easter Bunny, but no Easter sales (they don't seem to do the it's-a-holiday-let's-have-a-sale thing here). Like America, they also show "Die Zehn Gebote" every Easter -- that would be "The Ten Commandments" in German. The most unintentionally campy movie ever made. It's so bad, it's outstanding -- even in German. Charleton Heston and Anne Baxtor have to be two of the worst actors ever. I do an awesome imitation of the Anne Baxtor character, by the way. And is there actually a Jewish person in this movie at all?

A couple of lovely scenes recently: one day, while riding home from work along the Rhein, there was a huge storm rolling in -- half the sky was sunny, and half was filled with dark clouds. And there, arching over a mountain on the other side of the river and coming over and right into the Rhein, was a rainbow. What an amazing sight. A few days later, while walking the dogs late at night, a heavy fog had rolled in on the mountains across the Rhein. Drachenfels, the Roman fortress ruins atop the mountain, are lit in orange light at night, and with the fog, it looked like a blazing fire. Amazing.

I'll end with this thought for the day:

God is love.
Love is blind.
Ray Charles is blind.
Therefore, Ray Charles is God.

More later . . .

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