Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man

How I feel about selfie sticks

How I feel about selfie sticks

Mom and I split a tab of chocolate I brought back from Prague and walk the dog down to the fields, the dog like the rest of us gone fat and walking funny, fat from eating bad things and snacking at odd hours, looks nervous, makes eye gestures like she can see the whole of me, grasps the cold in my heart I can’t hide.

They bulk stack buckets of de-icing salt in the grocery store and cases of Glühwein with handwritten signs in German — the mulled wine that’s ubiquitous, it’s even in our stores back home, always sounds like a good idea but never is, the rot-gut wine loaded up with sugar and god knows what else they put in there, it never ends well if you start the night that way. Still, it’s impossible to avoid if you visit a Christmas market in Germany, and some things are better to regret doing than not.

Mom and I this summer at the store, loading the car trunk with bottles of Rosé and Sekt, six packs of beer, 12 packs of beer, filling up the basket and bagging everything ourselves as it comes down the conveyor belt, shoving a few in the freezer when we get home, sorting the empties later in the week and dropping them in the mouths of the metal recycling bins on the street one at a time, green, white, brown: carving out the whole of the moon to make space for a new one.

Walking beneath Vitkov Hill in Prague through the pedestrian tunnel to the Křižíkova station on the yellow line toward Zličíň, the escalators seem twice the speed of the ones in the States, you get on and they kind of yank you forward and down, then back up through a wormhole to new monuments and sights and everywhere, tourists with selfie sticks, prompting me to say violent things and invade their scenes without pausing to duck or waiting for them to finish, like the tide they come in and out — they can just edit me out later.

Pedestrian tunnel under Vitkov Hill

Pedestrian tunnel under Vitkov Hill

Sitting outside the Malostranská beerhouse by a patio heater wrapped in a blanket sipping beer — Dawn, with a salmon tartare and white bread toast, the staff speaks English and smiles, asks, are we satisfied? And the men at their tables wearing scarves with well-coiffed beards look like they’re posing for a magazine, talking about the more refined destinations they’ve seen in Europe, which makes me feel just right for the moment, refined, completely unaware, lost in my own pages.

On the menu, there’s a collage of illustrations inspired by early 20th century ads for Italian liqueurs and aperitifs, a smiling pig slicing itself into sausage rounds — and I order the slow-pulled pork brisket marinated in red wine and herbs, served with barley vegetable risotto in a strong veal sauce and then back it with a Becherovka, a digestive aid of herbal bitters served in a chilled shot glass.

And though we planned to unplug for the weekend from our devices I still have an iPod on me, a cracked iPad and iPhone that’s wiped and now serves as a clock, a German cell phone with a €10 SIM card because we’re afraid we’ll get stranded somewhere and need assistance or on-demand entertainment, and later pull down movies from the Cloud that are still there from our last sabbatical in 2009.

Back home in Germany, it feels like home — mom makes an apple cake, has potpourri going on the stove, pulls out a kilo of Mozzarella she got from the Italians and makes a Caprese salad, and I get a bottle of Bourbon to thank Eberhard for his help with our new car, then some small gifts the kids can give their German teachers for letting them attend their class, and the German equivalent of Dramamine for Charlotte, who gets car sick and who knows what, on a 15-hour ferry ride across the North Sea in late October — and they’re calling for ice in the morning early next week, and we’re buying winter tires for our drive up north.

Mike let me know Echo & the Bunnymen are playing Liverpool mid-December, and we’re just on the other side of the water in Dublin then, but the crossing by boat is seven hours, and I’ll have to pass, and wait for them to come back to Seattle. It would take the same time from the UK for me to fly back home.

Categories: travel

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19 replies


    Liked by 1 person

  2. i love the picture with the selfie caption. it seems that the dog is a wise sage and sees and knows all.


  3. If you’re like me, you can’t get enough images of animals gleefully killing themselves to make human food. Like your pig, they’re fulfilling their natural destiny, I suppose. Yum!


    • It’s odd to me, gets back to that kind of discomfort I seem to have as an American who doesn’t want to admit where his meat comes from, is uncomfortable drawing cartoons like that.


  4. I read a headline for a new biography of Lou Reed that declared he was “a monster.” Least surprising headline I’ll likely read today.


    • I’m there. The word monster sounds relative. I mean, what do you expect? Can you imagine John Cale, like living with him or having to hang out with him?


  5. The selfie stick backlash has begun, thankfully. They’re banned in most museums and, if I’m not mistaken, Disneyworld as well. Thank god.

    What does a “digestive aid” do, exactly? What’s the chemistry?

    Did you say Germany feels like home? Whoa.


    • That’s good to hear it’s not just me, with the sticks. I’m glad to hear they’re getting banned. I wonder what the reasoning is behind banning them? My wife keeps reminding me to sort of just accept and let it go, that this will be just one of those embarrassing low points in history. What’s so repulsive to me is how they hold the sticks, almost like a stiff leash for a poodle that’s not there, but has been turned into a tiny robot. That vanity thing you and I talked about some time ago. And I’m playing with that in this post, or trying to, and making fun of myself writing about myself, aware only of myself. It’s fun to think about.
      Calling it a digestive aid is a bad excuse for having a night cap.


  6. There’s no more refined feeling than when you come back to the place you’re temporarily living and it feels like home. I feel pressure now to put together a much better comment than this, and I know I could pull it off if I just had an incentive. Say, a little financial one. Ha ha! jk, brah! Ah but seriously, I’m reminded of the time I was dining with a buddy and our wives, conversing about the snooty type of film we referred to as the “black turtlenecker.” We were at a table, casually throwing the phrase black turtlenecker about to describe this or that art film. Was it one? Was it not? We’d been drinking and we’re perhaps a bit too loud. And oh how we laughed. We smiled, enjoying our humor, and sipped our beverages. And then we turned as one and saw the two young lads in black turtlenecks at the table behind us. We turned again, and the silverware clacked around us. “Shall we go?” said my buddy. “Yes, lets,” I agreed.


    • The silverware clacked, that’s good. Hey, no pressure on the comment thing. I’m pleased when people leave their scent, no matter what — I say that but it’s not altogether true, like most things I say and you say. It’s a good scene, you and your wives and the black turtlenecks.
      I’m in the dark with the heater and the coffee maker going and some good droney electronica by Markus Guenther, “Angelpunkt” and “Döppelgaenger,” goes with the now slow light coming on in the mornings. And narrowly missed snow here yesterday by a couple hours to our north, too bad!


      • Snow?! I’m glad I’m not there, then. It’s still in the 90s here, which is hot for this time of year. Too hot, if you ask me. But better than snow. Actually it’s not the snow that bothers me. It’s the gloomy clouds and bitter cold for months on end that do me in. And I associate snow with that. Otherwise I have no problem with snow. I was in the mountains of Colorado once (here I go again, I didn’t plan this I promise) wearing shorts and a long sleeve shirt on a sunny day, and there was snow on the ground. That’s my kind of snow. Bring that on, I’m for it.


      • That being around snow in short sleeves is good, nothing like it. Very bright, too. Very high, Colorado. Good hotels, with stories of families who went sideways there in the winter, caring for an old lodge.


  7. Has Sir Gallahad thought of discount airlines. Probably cheaper. Mr McCulloch’s travel plans look a lot less ambitious than yours.


    • Hmmm – no, Sir Gallahad had not. Duh…good idea, thank you. Yes, I don’t blame Echo for staying close to home. That touring must get old, especially as you get older. Was lucky to see them a couple times in Seattle and should just leave it at that, but I’m greedy about wanting to relive those times and see them while they’re still playing.


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