Oktober 2001

Sorry I haven't written much this month. My heart just hasn't been in writing these emails lately... here's just one big one of everything in Oktober:

Buster is up on the couch with me as I write this. He likes sleeping here when I'm on the computer or watching TV. It's been this way since September 11. I gave Wiley an awesome back rub earlier -- he was oh so happy. He's not doing well. Although he loved having guests this month as much as I did. He likes sleeping on the couch too lately.

Early this month, someone sent me the Dog Haikus again. I sent them to a friend in Austin who used to work in D.C.; she sent them to a friend of hers who used to work at the Pentagon, and she in turn sent them to her former co-workers. She said it's the first thing that's made them laugh since September. I wish I could take credit for writing those haikus.

The NBA cancelled all the pre-season games in Europe. I was going to get tickets to the Minnesota Timberwolves in Köln (Cologne)! That should show you how desperate I am for basketball, that I was happy about seeing the NBA.

Got this from a friend that works in government, regarding the popular Flash game that's circulating:

Share the love -- that's my motto.

Had two visitors in Oktober -- Rebecca, from back home in Henderson (though she now lives in Washington, D.C.), and Paul, from back home in Austin. It was so wonderful to have friends from the states here. It's like taking a vacation myself! It also helps because I've been feeling rather homesick lately.

On the Sunday she was here, Rebecca and I went with friends to Ahrweiler. It's a medieval village south of here known for its white wine -- which I don't particularly like, but this being Germany, there was plenty of great beer around! Ahrweiler is surrounded by mountains covered in precariously-placed vineyards, as well as an ancient city wall. Like most everything in this part of Germany, it's lovely. Rebecca also got her fill of meat-heavy German food during the trip -- so happy to help her out in that regard.

Later that month, for Paul's first night, we sat at the restaurant down the street and gossiped endlessly about our favorite Texas state agencies. It was like a trip home. The next day, we blabbled on and on, did a live web cast at work (and I refused to take off my top, despite Paul's calls for such to increase online viewers), went to Bonn, had lunch, and I'm embarrassed to say, I was absolutely beat -- I think I was coming down with something. So, we came home and watched "Young Frankenstein." When I hook up my iBook and it's DVD player to the TV, it will only play in black and white. Hence, the movie choice.

Sunday, we went to Köln. We spent most of the time in and around the Cathedral, which is one of the largest in the world. Massive. I've never gotten a really good look inside for a substantial amount of time, so it was nice to really get a long, close look. We decided to go up the tower, which was the tallest structure in Europe until the Eiffel Tower came along. 509 steps of a narrow stone spiral staircase. We made all sorts of awful jokes which no one else found funny, like yelling "Sanctuary!" in our best Charles Laughton imitations, or doing the "OOOh Weee Ooooh" song from "The Wizard of Oz." Two days later, my calves hurt soooo bad...

Also this month, I tried to organize a Mujeres Abend (Spanish for "women" with German for "evening"). Only three people showed up besides myself -- Brona, from Ireland; Kathleen, from Germany; and our very special guest, a Chilean volunteer that works in Guatemala. She's featured in the Benetton campaign -- just look for a beautiful indigineous women from South America on a billboard or advertisement near you. Sweet as can be. Barely speaks English. Me in my broken Spanish. We were hilarious. At our all-female night of heavy drinking, I told Brona all about Ireland, and she was glad that I loved it. Brona said that I am about the 12th American she's talked to who wants Tony Blair to be the U.S. president (oh, the passion...). Although, I'm mad at Tony right now, because I think it's time for the bombings to stop, and the food air drops are a joke. Jennifer in Louisville had this comment when I told her so:

My co-worker Joseph called me early one Saturday morning this month to say: (imagine a very thick west African accent), "Oh, Jayne, I am watching BBC, and they have shown a man from your country, and he said that when he watches your president, he prays to God he does not say something stupid! How could someone in your country say that about your own President?" And I said, "Um, Joseph, have you ever heard my President talk?"

I read a biography of Gram Parsons, Hickory Wind, which is poorly written as well as extremely depressing: here was Gram Parsons, a guy who had it ALL: money (trust fund baby), looks (yowza), personality, intelligence, talent and connections. And he totally threw it all away, totally pissed it away. It proved a much more frustrating to read than what I was expecting. Maybe it's because, a couple of months ago, I re-read Loretta Lynn's autobiography. Here's a woman who also had a tremendous among of raw talent, but none of the advantages Gram had. She was poor, she was ignorant and she had to overcome incredible obstacles to sing professionally. She did have two things he didn't have -- a loving, stable family growing up, and a tremendous amount of horse sense. Also, the book was much better written. Look, I know all biographies can't be as good as Last Train to Memphis, but they can certainly be better than this!

I went on an all-day motorcycle ride this month with Stefan, whom I met in Ireland. He borrowed an extra helmet from his friend's wife, and it fit me just fine. He brought an extra jacket, which did not fit just fine, but I looked really cute in it (ha). Off we went on the two lane roads of the Eifel, described by Lonely Planet Germany as "a rural area of gentle hills, tranquil villages and volcanic lakes..." And, as I say so often: it was lovely. Well, it was once I got over my extreme fear of riding on a motorcycle. Our first stop was Laacher Maar -- it's where a volcano collapsed on itself a few million years ago, and now there's a huge almost-perfectly-round lake there. There's a Romanesque monastery on one the shore, and it's all surrounded by trees and rolling hills and farmland. We saw soooooooo many other bikers out. I had no idea motorcycles were so big in Germany. We passed through so many picture-perfect German villages, and in one was this great biker hangout. Germans do biker hangouts differently than in the U.S. -- this one primarily served coffee (espresso, cappaccino), cheese cake and chocolate cake. We sat outside with everyone else, all these people in leather, men wearing leather, with lots of facial hair, all eating their cheesecakes and trying not to get too much cappaccino foam in their mustaches...

Then we went to Nürburgring. This is a historic 21 KM (13.2 miles) Formula 1 car racing track that was completed in 1927. No, we didn't go on it. You can pay to be taken in a BMW around the North Ring by a pro driver and hit speeds up to 320 KM (almost 200 miles an hour). Hell no. I don't think so. Instead, we just drove by it and he pointed it out to me. We went to nearby castle ruins above the town. It was a castle once owned by the family Ahr -- lots of stuff here (a river, a valley, various towns) are named for this family here. There was a tower and we decided to go up -- it had steps, not a ladder, and wasn't that high, so I was game. But the strangest thing -- we get to the top, and go outside to see the view, and the air, ALL of the air, is totally thick with these gnats. It was disgusting! No one could figure out why they were out there, at such a high altitude, and just around the top of the tower. It was so gross.

We ended the trip riding through the Ahr Valley. It's amazing, with vineyards everywhere, clinging on to carved, terraced slopes -- impossible to walk (the keepers take motorized chair lifts up and down to check the crops). We moved over to the Moselle River Valley (still with these amazing vineyards everywhere) and went to Cochem, which has this massive castle on a hill -- Burg Eltz -- in the middle of the town. According to my handy Lonely Planet Germany (which Stefan started referring to because it really is quite detailed), Victor Hugo called it "tall, terrific, strange and dark." Totally. We approached the town from high above it, looking down onto the castle. It was breathtaking. Burg Eltz has been owned by the same family for almost 1000 years, and has never been destroyed, even by the "frenzied French" (as Lonely Planet calls them) who periodically raided and occupied the area. We stopped in the town, walked around a few winding streets (pedestrian only) and had some "Eis" (ice cream).

Pity I don't much like white wine, because this is all the place for it.

Teletubbies in French! I feel my brain cells melting! Change the channel!

I met a friend by the Beethoven statue in Bonn recently, and there was a very large peace rally there that day against the bombings in Afghanistan. The vast majority of the crowd were Muslim Arabs. But what was interesting was seeing many, many other Muslim Arabs ignoring it and shopping as usual. And I wondered -- are there similar images out of camera range when you see such protests on CNN? And then this German folk singer got up and started singing some awful German folk peace song and I ran away. That night, as I took the train back from Bonn, I ran into the night security guard for my company, on his way to work. He's Turkish, doesn't speak a lot of English, but he was really giving me a talking to about suspicious packages and what I should do if I open one (close my window, close my door, call security, step away from the package, don't bring my hands to my face...). I was just sitting there looking at him as he spoke in broken sentences and thinking, my god, what has happened to the world....

A friend turned me on to a great web site: Transparent Language. You can sign up for a "word of the day" in English, Spanish, French, German... it's way cool and it's free!!! Another great free language web site: the the BBC offers free online multimedia tutorials!

More later . . .

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