The Thane of Cawdor stole my log-in

Our kids threw a mild hissy fit about not being in the States for Halloween, complaining they’d gotten gypped, or in Germany — where the holiday’s just caught on — instead, we’ll be somewhere in Scotland, hopefully near a castle, after a 15 hour ferry ride out of Amsterdam and a layover in Newcastle, where they make the brown ale.

We’re booking our first room to let, a self-catered ‘Chauffeur’s apartment’ by Lochinch castle in a place called Stranraer, not far from the ferry we’ll catch to Belfast at the end of November, leaving Scotland for the north of Ireland.

But for Halloween it will be Inverness, what appears to be a good base camp to explore the Scottish Highlands in early November and the Orkney Islands, with relics such as the Standing Stones of Stenness — and not far from the Cawdor Castle, prompting a reread of Macbeth for Halloween, a relish of blood and the supernatural, a gorefest for James I who believed in witchcraft and reigned over Scotland, Ireland and England until his death in 1603 — 100 years after the house in which my mom was built, here in Germany.

But my kids just want candy, they don’t need history. We did the responsible thing, to check the weather charts for the UK in the winter months since everyone says it will be cold there, like this is news to us, cold, wet climates — and there’s nothing out of the norm, save the odd cyclone or hurricane, such as The Great Storm of 1987, caused by a severe depression, all irony aside.

And it’s a year now since I had a post featured on the WordPress Freshly Pressed dashboard, which took my number of followers from 500 to nearly 5,000, largely because my Scottish/Canadian friend Ross beat the WP editors down with Tweets insisting they read my posts — and despite the added traffic, I still interact with about 1% of the people who follow this blog, which is plenty satisfying still.

And for the first three years I didn’t have a single visitor on this blog, because I wasn’t using tags and wasn’t doing it for anyone else — but it’s sure a lot more fun now with people reading and commenting, so thank you.

We’re booking a flat outside of London for the end of January, that’s 20 minutes from Waterloo station, got great reviews on TripAdvisor, and runs about $160/night USD, which seems really good for the London metro area.

And the Chauffeur’s apartment west of Dumfries, Scotland — which has a view of a castle and access to its 75 private acre gardens, is roughly the same cost as our daily mortgage for our house in Sammamish, WA — hoping since it will be US Thanksgiving then, I might find a local fowl I can roast in its oven, the James Beard method of cooking the turkey on high heat and then removing it from the oven and flipping it clumsily with a wad of kitchen roll, always entertaining.

It’s hard to imagine ourselves in Scotland while we’re here in Germany and more so, returning to the States next spring, but like everyone else, we’re flipping over the calendar and starting school, soon making plans for Halloween, likely the only time in our lives we’ll spend it in Scotland.

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First day of school in Germany, take 2

Starting our year of homeschooling today was like a kick-off meeting for a big project: give them a little information, get them engaged, show them a plan, have them leave the room excited. Start and end on time.

And as will happen in kick-off meetings, there were things we didn’t plan for. Like, Charlotte fell down the steep, 15th century steps on her back (she’s OK). Ginger came into the room and looked like she was leaking something out of her side, forcing us to decide if dogs are allowed in the classroom.

Three out of four of us were sick, with the cleaning lady running the vacuum, but we got through it and both Charlotte and Lily were skipping their way up the street after, for a celebratory ice cream.

Town centre of Besigheim, up the street from mom's

Town centre of Besigheim, up the street from mom’s

The days go like this:

9 – 9:15 | Morning overview, school starts
9:15 – 10:15 | Math for Charlotte, Reading/Writing for Lily
10:15 – 10:35 | Recess
10:35 – 11 | Snack, read aloud time
11 – 11:30 | German
11:30 – 12 | Lunch
12 – 1 | Math for Lily, Reading/Writing for Charlotte
1 – 1:30 | Wrap-up

And then three days a week, we’ll go somewhere to tie in our learnings to a local destination. Fridays we’ll pretty much be out all day, after morning Math. Tuesdays and Thursdays, they’ll do either a Science or Art project in the afternoon, from 1 – 2:30.

I have the Reading/Writing focus with the kids. So I plan two different lessons for each of them, using some workbooks we bought in Seattle as a guide, and leveraging existing books Lily’s already reading or story ideas she’s drafting — focusing on spelling with Charlotte, reading Grimm fairy tales aloud, off her Kindle.

We’re using an online program my step-mom recommended called the Khan Academy to augment the workbooks, and since it’s fun and easy to monitor as a parent.

In the kick-off this morning, we drew up some posterboards that had our Class Contract (basically how we treat each other, ground rules) which we all signed by outlining our hands, a Goals sheet that lists what we want to accomplish, and a Curiosity Corner that serves as a place to capture questions about things we’re interested in, such as why the sun always seems to go down just as the moon is coming up.

Dawn’s made the point that we have the opportunity with them this year to inspire a real curiosity in learning, where they can help design what we learn and how they get to the information, which is a lot harder to get in public schools given the sheer volume and challenge of working with so many kids.

And I had to look up this morning the meaning of naked dreams — that dream I sometimes have where I look down and realise I’m not wearing anything, but I’m going to work or getting on a public bus. And the meanings are pretty obvious: you’re feeling inadequate, exposed, possibly called out for pretending to be somebody you aren’t. Haven’t had those dreams since I was working, which is funny it’s come back now, before the first day of school.

But with Lily and Charlotte both, they said it was the best Reading/Writing class they’d had. Lily read a passage on Claude Monet from her workbook, to work on her reading comprehension. We talked about annotating text, how to take notes or highlight key points as you’re reading so you can later explain what it meant in your own words.

I showed her some paintings by Monet on my laptop to augment the text, but she underlined just about everything in the exercise. So I pressed her for the key details, if she were describing Monet to someone who didn’t know anything about him. Is it important we know he’s from northwestern France, or just French?

In the writing class, we talked about what makes a good story good and why she likes to write — because when she sees things, she immediately thinks how she’ll describe them in words.

We agreed we’ll focus on character this week, and I asked her to write down and describe three characters from her favourite book, Harry Potter.

She completed Hermione and Ron, but said Harry was the hardest — there wasn’t enough room to describe him — and I asked why that’s so, and after she blurted out some ideas and seemed to get it, I told her to write down in her journal the fact that he’s conflicted, and that’s what makes him interesting, the conflict.

Dawn and I went back and forth about how much we put into this homeschooling thing, wavering between the feeling we’re either going to screw up their development if we don’t put enough into it, or we’re over-thinking it, and possibly missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime chance to travel as a family. Hopefully we’ve found a good balance. And teachers are gods, in case you didn’t already know.

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The importance of turning back

Drawing of my first typewriter, caption "Winter's Playground"

Drawing of my first typewriter, caption “Winter’s Playground”

In the first draft of my memoir, which I left behind in the States because it has a bad energy objects sometimes can, I began with a scene from 1993 that traces the start of my career to its source, a misunderstanding on a job application. I wrote at the top, “Look, he has experience!,” but the hiring manager mistook my handwriting for his assistant’s, assumed she’d already screened me, and called to ask if I could meet with him, then made another bad assumption I was gay, and asked when I could start.

It was a desirable place to work. He fanned through the applications to show me how many he had. I knew how to make espresso drinks, which was rare on the east coast in the early ’90s. I had a college education and was used to an easy life, felt like I could do anything, but feared what I wanted to do most which was write, because even though it came easy to me, it was hard — hard to read what I wrote because it required more than clever phrasing and metaphor, it was easier to put off for another day.

I started a Wednesday night open mic at the café though and acted as MC, performed my poems, belted them out. The owners assumed this would make me a good manager and one day Pete said “Bill, we want you for management,” and I said OK. Then they got acquired by another chain, a Starbucks knock-off trying to beat Starbucks to the tertiary markets of the midwest, southeast, east coast — and with the new ownership came a more corporate feel with dress codes and training manuals, but I went with it: they were laying bread crumbs and seemed to know the path. It led from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, a long drive across the state in a rental truck to an artist’s loft called The Sponge Factory.

But after visiting Europe for the first time and getting a feel for how big the world could be outside of Philadelphia we ended our lease and drove to Seattle — I’d left the Starbucks knock-off and joined the Starbucks enterprise, fallen head-first for the training videos with Howard Schultz, the pretty stamps and the stories about all the coffees, the pride that came with wearing the apron, the promise of being the best.

So we drove across the US with our two cats and jade plants and my manual typewriter that was pea-green and sounded like gunfire it was greased so well and I beat it like a percussive instrument until it got damaged by bag handlers in Spain and the characters drooped, and it was never right again.

And I worked at a Starbucks on Mercer Island at one of the first drive-thru stores and handled orders with a headset and accepted whatever trash they had in their car they thought I should throw out for them, and fished change out of their ashtrays and then didn’t tip too much.

Got tired of it and started working in the corporate office when a recruiter called and asked if anyone was interested in driving the shuttle van. I said I wasn’t, but what else do you have?

And a year later I was offered a better job in the office, something called a roll-out specialist which we joked was like specialising in rolling out of bed, or rolling out new things to the stores — but I turned it down because I feared it would distract me from what I really wanted to do, write, and so I moved to France because my mom and step-dad had a condo there and I spoke some French and couldn’t seem to get laid for the life of me in Seattle, so why not?

I wrote poorly that summer by the Mediterranean, alone, and couldn’t sleep in the bedroom because I had violent dreams there, and moved back to Seattle, back to Starbucks, and a studio apartment on Pill Hill, where I could walk to work.

I trace it back to my boss at the Starbucks knock-off, when things first appeared to be going right but probably weren’t. A simple device he used to recruit me into management, he said he needed a manager for the highest volume store in Oakland, Pittsburgh — the neighbourhood by Carnegie Mellon and the Pitt campus — but he was planning to place another guy there, and I guess it awoke a competitive side in me, my ego, because I said OK, but I could do the job too, if you wanted.

And he smiled and said, I was hoping you’d say that — and we had a deal. He saw something in me I didn’t see, but I was glad for it, it took all the fear out of it, knowing where I was going, feeling like I’d been picked.

And there is a rule in backcountry navigation I learned too late, that if you’ve gotten off-route and you’re not sure where you are the thing to do is stop and go back to where you knew the way. For however hard it is to retrace your steps, it’s better than going on and fooling yourself you know the way until you’re totally lost.

When I left my job in December, it was almost 20 years since I’d started with Starbucks and longer, with the indie coffee shops in Pittsburgh, the Starbucks knock-off in Philadelphia…and as I was discussing the details with my HR manager on when I’d leave and how, he nodded and said in a really human way that’s a long time to work somewhere, a really long time — and we just left it at that.

"Love What You Do"

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Cooking French in southern Germany

Competitive beer drinking season has started here in the south of Germany, or maybe never ended, and I celebrated today with a traditional Bavarian lederhosen purchase, made from real cow hide if we’re translating it right, and I look nothing like the model on the packaging, it’s stiff in the knees walking up the steps but looks good enough for how it’ll be used, in tents singing and spilling on myself.

And mom bought the same for the girls, traditional Bavarian dresses with pictures of the Mädchen eating pretzels or sweeping up in their aprons — and I got a case of Stuttgarter Höfbrau Volksfest biere with a picture of a girl on it slinging three Maß in each hand, serving it up a liter at a time with shots of Schnapps on the side, and why not? I’ll represent the States, specialising in west coast IPA.

They pound the shit out of the pork schnitzel and then bread and pan fry it, serve it with a lemon wedge and a sprig of parsley, and pile the other side of the plate with pommes frites — but you really can’t dress up French fries, especially when it comes with a plastic ketchup packet on the side, which they often forget and my American kids get pissed off because they have to ask for more and it cracks me up, but I get to practice my German with the server, because we always need it: more ice, more beer, more ketchup. Learn the word for more.

Mom’s got friends in the village with names like Panos (the Greek), Santo (the Italian), Andreas, the Apothek owner who’s got MS and uses Leki trekking poles instead of crutches, possibly the nicest man I’ve ever met, joins us for lunch and speaks not a bit of English, arguably no German, but another language they call Schwäbische, here — a southern German dialect that seems to ignore all the rules we were taught when we studied German, how Eberhard sneers and says our teacher was Polish and can’t be trusted to teach German, lots of eye-rolling and so on. How there’s no acknowledgement of the Die, Das, Der rules with nouns and gender but instead, it’s all Das, which is fine by me.

So I’m acclimating my body to the regional wine as we gear up for the Winzerfest here in the town in just three weeks — the wine that’s got a lot of heart to it but you need more than that to really make something that matters, I think.

And we’ve got tomatoes and eggplants and Mangold (German, for chard) that’s all sitting there in plastic milk crates in the laundry area drawing flies, going off, so I made a double recipe of Macaroni Beaucaire, one of the most pleasing-looking, satisfying dishes I know, recipe link here provided without permission from one of my favourite cooks, Jacques Pépin.

It’s a vegetarian dish, and I use large, tubular pasta. Make sure you brown the eggplant very well. Don’t confuse grating with shredding either, which is easy to do and important to know the difference, especially if you have helpers. Guten appétit!

Also, if you’re lonely and have ADD, here’s a good skit for a Friday night:

 

 

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What makes High Baroque high?

Hi,

Is a great way to start a corporate email to someone you’re pissed off at but don’t want to sound it.

We sat outside with a glass of Riesling in the afternoon watching the people go by at a café mom calls The Rat, which is short for Ratstüble and means something I’m not sure what.

I gave the dog another treatment of flea medication by squirting a tube between her shoulder blades.

After, we came home to nap and I streamed classical music on Calm Radio, a period called High Baroque, defined by a time and style that makes it such, like ‘post-punk.’

The corporate email that starts off

Hi,

Can be used in the body of a text that’s automated and sent by a recruiter to acknowledge from an in-box receipt of an application with an SLA like an out-of-office message that’s meant to sound personal but doesn’t, the way an email sent to many people all at once can sound, like if you’re leaving the company and want to use a machine gun approach to spray many at the same time from the same log-on with contact information and it’s been great knowing you all but now it’s time to go and it was a difficult decision and so forth, but please keep in touch.

The voice used for a corporate email is different than the voice used for an instant message, a text, a voicemail, or the small, clipped phrasing used between physical gestures and touching as during coitus.

Words have sounds and intentions and connotations and there is such a thing as innuendo in corporate-speak and especially with Human Resources professionals, when you get the feeling they mean something else but can’t quite say it directly for some reason, like they’ve been trained and get paid a lot to talk that way, or possibly just like the sound of their own voice and the more they say the smarter they’ll sound or maybe if they go on long enough you’ll get tired and they can say anything and you won’t notice, you just glaze over.

Your voice is your voice and some people just may not like it, no matter what you say.

One of the most important things in a partner is how they talk because when you get to the end, that’s the last impression you’ll likely have, what they breathe into your ear, and you may not have the strength or energy to flip over.

Studies have shown it’s not what people say but how they say it we respond to, especially true in politics, with salespeople, or in corporate meetings where someone is presenting something and probably nervous, or not nervous, and the latter inspires trust because they should be nervous but have found a way to conceal it, which is an art, a kind of magic, maybe inhuman — and that’s what we’re most interested in, not what they have to say. The same goes for how people look, because no one wants to sit in an artificial space all day with just small pictures of their kids on their phones or taped to their desks, so you might as well have something pleasant to look at while getting paid and trying to look interested, engaged.

Hi,

Is better than “Dear Mary” or an email that starts right off, like

That’s not what I meant and perhaps you should pick up the phone next time.

Instead, start the email with a greeting or salutation because it’s civil, and demonstrates the recipient’s feelings are important to you even if they’re not, and especially so if you feel that way, or don’t feel anything, it’s a small investment to suggest you do.

And ending an email with something like

Best,

Or Warm Regards

Can be good but stay away from Cheers,

as it’s got a drinking connotation for some and doesn’t belong in the workplace unless you’re toasting at a restaurant or in a bar, which never feels right with people with whom you work, and probably shouldn’t.

You’ll need to put yourself in a box and sell yourself if people are to understand what it is you mean or pay attention to you. Check the About page, for more.


This post dedicated to my friend Ross who writes ripping satire and has been gone the whole month, and let’s welcome him back before he turns 50 in about three months, but who’s counting?

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The Cryptogram post

Wolf prepares the Käse Spaetzle by himself in the kitchen while his partner Bernd smokes handrolled cigarettes out by the barn, even though we insist he smoke where Eberhard does, in the dining area. Mom worries about their relationship, how it must be hard for them to not really be themselves here in Germany, that it’s not accepted outright, and Wolf sounds pissier than normal when he complains about Bernd taking holiday by himself in the camper, going off alone to a campground somewhere north.

They picked up two Schranks from my mom they’ll resell in their antique shop, one John got in England and the other that was in the house when they bought it, the size of a tank, filled with CDs, DVDs, old pictures — and now, the openness in their absence, newfound space.

We get tangled in an argument about Lou Reed, Bowie, Iggy Pop — whether it was the 70s or 80s Bowie made those three records in Berlin, with Wolf insisting it was the 80s and me not letting it go, bordering on impolite, muscling him a bit with my supposed knowledge, not giving in to look it up online because that would be flat-out rude: and we press Wolf for details on how/why he spent three years in a Thai prison in his early 20s, and finally he says Heroin, and we just leave it at that.

Their Shar Pei Emma has a long, sad face that never changes, and Wolf follows it around with a paper towel to gather the slobber.

We take the dogs out after 1 AM and stumble through the grass trying to collect their waste and I give up and mumble about being tired and Wolf insists I should go look for it so the kids don’t step on it in the morning, by the Spielplatz — maybe getting back at me for the spat about Bowie earlier.

Dawn tells the story about her friend Andy, opening night for a Mamet play he was directing in college, when Dawn and Erica popped in a couple hours before the show just to say hi and he handed them a Makita, gestured to the set and told them they needed to hang a door, which neither of them ever did before, and it was one of those French style comedy plays where the actors are constantly coming in and out of the door, slamming it, and the door is a crucial part of the comedy but it wasn’t hung right, it wouldn’t close, so Dawn had to crouch there in the dark and close it each time the actors stepped through otherwise it would open back up, and she never got to see the play but it wasn’t one of his best anyway, they were walking out of it at intermission when she saw it in New York.

And she made the observation maybe she doesn’t need a cell phone after all, now that it’s been four weeks to the day we went off our plan — and maybe we concoct reasons to warrant objects we own, we find reasons to justify them — like a possible lockdown at the elementary school necessitates the ability to text with our kids, or some would argue the teachers should have guns, just in case — and an ex-girlfriend of mine Shana, who said she’d never have a gun in the house because it attracts a kind of energy that loops you around to needing a gun, invites violence — and maybe this is no different than anything else we have in our lives, that we prop up reasons to justify them, to feel better about ourselves, to recommend a major purchase to someone else so we don’t doubt our own decisions. How every decision is a compromise, and no one person can give you everything you need, which is a lot to think about, and good to remind ourselves.

 

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The problem with the Internet is it never turns off

I had to watch myself on Skype last night, which was hard. The beard’s gotten so long it gets in the way of my food, I get moustache hairs in my meat which feels barbaric — and unemployed now for so long, I waver between thinking it’s been the most relaxing two months of my life or possibly I’m going mad, or maybe both: surrounded by so much ambiguity in where we’re going for 90 days over the winter when we have to leave the goddamned Schengen states, how we’re going to deliver a credible homeschooling curriculum to our two kids who are like really smart and cool and how that has its own challenges: wondering if my wife is sizing me up now as a project manager, as we get our kids out the door to some 9-5 camp at the FitKomm up the street and then sit in the homeschool room reiterating the curriculum with subtle power plays that feel like my last job, detailing the plan, building consensus: after all this and a long walk I ask my mom and Dawn if they want to go up the street for a beer and neither of them answers, they just keep reading the newspaper, so I say I’ll just get one out of the fridge, the fucking Kühlschrank, and sit outside: Dawn says why are you so angry (and puts the word in italics), mom waiting by her side for an answer from me, and later offers in private It’s a mid-life crisis, that’s what it is, and it’s real — or why, as a writer for The New Yorker recently suggests, us Americans are just wired this way, we don’t know how to relax, we can’t, we have to keep working: deep down inside we don’t want the free time we think we do, don’t know what to do with it, we’re lost to ourselves and don’t know how to live and no one’s really talking about it.

The kids come home tired from the FitKomm camp but thankfully met a South African girl who’s only eight and speaks four languages fluently including German and English, here with her kid sister, her South African dad and Ukrainian mom, seeking asylum because mom’s country is at war: compared to us Americans considering residency as a WTF, indulgent mid-life ‘figuring it all out’ manoeuvre — like, we just came here because we could, so why not? Why not hire lawyers, animal behaviourists, start a blog, homeschool? Go into depression over it, parlay it into some cottage industry. Figure out how to capitalise on some self-induced trauma and then complain about the success it brings, how it changed us.

Can’t keep up with the weekly bio vegetable deliveries to the Gemüse cellar, feels like The New Yorker or some ass who blogs every day, it carries a weight of expectation when it lands at your doorstep, and we get stressed out when the Gemüse goes off and starts to rot even though it’s not our responsibility really, and you can’t compost here, so we bag the rotten vegetables and they leak into the bottom of the trash that only gets taken once every three weeks so you better not forget to take it up the street — mom writes it on the calendar in cursive — and the dog gets sick because someone gave her rain water out of the barrel that might have dead worms in it — and those bites all over mom and the kids, probably fleas: have to cover the beer, the coffee, the juice with a coaster or the bees could get in there and sink to the bottom if you’re drinking outside, you’d never see them until they’re down your throat, stinging — and with all this I’ve stopped reading, broken my daily drink limit, and committed myself to thinking blogging is real and legitimate, a meta-life as real as real life and leading me somewhere, important. If you believe a writer lives in two different worlds, can you live in either, and both? And once you’ve chosen one have you compromised the other?

Ginger nearly got her ass kicked by a swan today who was fluffing itself up and about to take her eyes out, and Charlotte — when she runs up the road to the FitKomm camp — looks like a turtle, her rucksack so big, like she’s just learning to use her legs, how to balance herself with so much weight on her back, all the extra layers and shoes and water bottles she’ll need — all of it’s out of proportion to her body, but she’ll grow into it just like the rest of us.

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The logic of the bells

Planning our 90 day tour of the UK

15th century doorframe, UK planning map

I turn like a rotisserie chicken every quarter hour in bed, with a window angled open toward the church up the street and the bells tolling every 15 minutes, and I wonder if they’re live bells or triggered by some mechanism, or by some deformed guy who lives by himself.

Charlotte brings me a piece of chia toast in the shower with local honey on it, and we continue our UK planning with a map hung off the Schrank: Eberhard gestures dismissively at the Orkney Islands, says Why you want to go up there what is it you think you’ll see? — and he’s not waiting for an answer, he seems to know already.

I crack my head on the 15th century framework, the doorway entering the main eating area next to where they kept the barn animals, hit it so hard I feel it in the base of my neck, the vertebrae vibrating, and have to sit. Was just moving some beers from the laundry area to the Küche, the kitchen refrigerator, the Kühlschrank.

Mom’s gay friend Wolfgang, who owns an antique shop with his partner and mom calls Wolfy, came by to size up a couple Schranks we’re trying to give away to see if he would take them, says with disgust how her house is too cluttered, struggles for the English to express this, says she should paint the exposed framework in the eating area to lighten it up but she never will, and mom looks at me and makes a point that if we sell the house some day never let anyone paint the exposed framework, period.

Wolfgang’s coming back tomorrow night to cook the local Maultaschen, which translates to mouthpocket, devised by monks as a way to hide meat on Fridays, like if the meat was folded inside the pasta it could be concealed from the eyes of God.

Climbed the Himmelsleiter back up to the top of the vineyards, the tufts of nettles coming in thicker between the stone steps, geckos flickering by, thought I might collapse by the ache in my head and wondered vaguely if I was concussed, if anyone would find me out here, how it feels to lose yourself or find yourself, about the same.

Mom’s nervous about me grilling and what the neighbours might think, if I’ll make them nervous about my abilities since everything’s on fire and smoking, and Eberhard mentions the neighbours might complain about the smoke, and they’re all sitting down watching me as they say this and I ask for the phrase for something really profane in German in response, something about licking or sucking me —

And we decide to start at the northernmost point of Scotland and work our way south in a zig-zag sawing motion, cutting the country in sections like something we’ll consume, points of interest with long names of rock formations they’re all superstitious about and afraid to touch or mess with, which I understand.

And I cracked my head on the 15th century entryway off the side of the house by the laundry area, this time on stone but a different part of my head, just above my eyebrows, the part that governs reason perhaps, and notice while I’m in bed turning, counting backwards in my calming exercises that now I count the German way, “four and ninety, three and ninety, two and ninety…,” some phrase about folding birds into a pie before baking them, a pocket full of rye. They sent for the king’s doctor who sewed it on again; he sewed it on so neatly the seam was never seen.

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The churchbells on Sunday

I get behind two lesbians in the Italian market, this medieval town in Germany — the market, no bigger than an elevator car, a telephone booth, and I say to the guy behind the counter you can leave the cheese out, I’m getting some too:
and we are all trying on new words like hats in a department store.
one of them says, Great and the other looks at her like, I didn’t know you could say that
and I gesture to the cheese behind the case and make a sawing motion with my hands and say, Grate.
And all of us laugh and say have a nice day, prego.
And on the way home I keep to the sides of the town like a rat who walks along the walls sideways,
by the time they find my footprints I’ve moved on to my next meal.
I wake to the sound of churchbells and no plans,
only poems about cheese, rats, lesbians,
how the number of tolls denotes the time,
why none of it matters,
the clock makes the same sawing motion sounds too
as it sands out the grains,
and as I lay in bed I can’t feel my body
I might be part of the sky
if I imagine it right.

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The skin beneath my chin has the feel of waterfowl

Mom woke to hardened blood in her bedding about the size of a tea cup saucer and couldn’t find the source, asked if the cat menstruates but she can’t, we had those organs taken out, and it wasn’t the dog or our daughters or Dawn, no entry wound on my mom — so we’ve deduced the cat brought something into bed and bloodlet it, removed the solids and just left stains.

Drove by myself for the first time today to the Häckselplätze to dump some yard waste clippings. Eberhard said ‘if you feel like doing something this week,’ and gestured to the shrubs outside the window which arguably could be trimmed — but then did it himself for some reason in the morning, mentioned I could remove the trimmings, which I put off all week, but now that it’s Freitag and he’s coming, I thought I should do it to minimise any weird energy in the house tonight.

Circled the nearby town of Bietigheim a few times looking for the pet store, managed to not get in an accident or arrested, but pissed off many German drivers for going too slow, caught one doing a hand-sawing motion in the air as he whizzed by me — found myself on a very small road probably intended just for tractors out in the middle of some farmlands with a large blue heron off to the side, joggers looking confused why I was there in my car, but found the windmill which I knew was near the Häckselplätze, and thought if I could get to the windmill my sense memory would lead me the rest of the way, and I was right.

Worked out our budget and it appears we can probably live here for half the expense of living in the States, outside of Seattle.

Started the girls on cooking with each of them taking a night, paired Charlotte’s ‘quick tomato sauce’ from The Best Recipe with a Côtes du Rhône and a Barbera, both coming in about 10 euros (5 € each), easily $20 bottles in USD.

Got the girls enrolled in some 9-5 camp, M-F next week at the local gym, which will give Dawn and me time to work out their lesson plans for the first week of school.

Received an email from an IT recruiter in London asking if I was interested in a new contract but there were so many typos in her email, I wonder if she was a robot — and still having subtle work-dreams from watching a USA Today story about my former employer earlier this week, plus a blog from my friend Rick that asks how people feel about working from home, and what that means nowadays.

And now that it’s been about seven months since I started applying for jobs back in Seattle I’m just starting to get rejection emails that explain why it was a hard decision based on all the skilled applicants and so forth. And neither Dawn nor I have a cell phone plan now. We don’t use our watches really. I suggested we get an alarm clock and set it by the sunrise, so we can get up later each day as the year wears on, roughly 7:45 AM, come December.

The WordPress engine — whatever Oz it is behind the curtains — thinks based on my European settings now that I need to spell minimize with an ‘s,’ and I’m honoured.

 

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