Grave Thoughts Indeed

To take a stroll through the Alter Südfriedhof cemetery in Munich is to revisit its history. Pestilence and death, war, aristocratic scandals – even the Oktoberfest are all written into the epitaphs of people who shaped the city. It feels like the who’s who of Bavaria are all buried in this one spot (though by no means all of them are). In this four-part series – yes, four – I will reveal some of the most intriguing stories behind the stones. The history of the cemetery, as you will see, reflects the history of both the city and society at large.

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Stand down, parler, this word is too good to debauch

Language is constantly in flux. Words come, words go, and sometimes their meaning changes altogether. Long gone are the days when I associated the word “gay with being happy, dancing around the room and singing one of my favorite songs from the musical Camelot. When you leave your home country as I did, you must also pay close attention to language changes that happen in your absence, causing you to call a club by its 1980s name: disco. Then the advent of the internet brought about the expression “brick and mortar” to denote a physical store rather than an online merchant.

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From Munich to Philadelphia with love

14 December 2020

One of my best friends in the U.S. has a son in Philadelphia. After it became clear that Philly voters were going to tip Pennsylvania for Biden, his son texted him these two words: “You’re welcome.”

His father knew precisely what his son was referring to, a reflection of how intensely Americans experienced this election, one like no other in living memory. Many Americans like me may live abroad, but we experienced it just as vividly from afar.

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Italiano – no problemo for meo

An Italian class had a big surprise in store

30 October 2020

Being a freelancer also means being free to schedule my time. No longer must I squeeze in dentist appointments around meetings, whooshing swiftly past the boss’s office hoping he won’t see me. Now I get to take time off not just for tooth maintenance, but to do frivolous things – like take an Italian class.

This is easy to do in Germany, the land of organizational prowess. They have something here with the unpronounceable name of Volkshochschule, which despite

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Spectators turned spectacle

Corona’s surprising effect on an evening at the theater

21 October 2020

My favorite small theater has reopened after months of lockdown and we are attending a two-woman show called Primacomedy. I return here with mixed feelings. Would it be full? How will they deal with the social distancing inside the theater?

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Mail-in ballots are sometimes the only way to vote

They should be foolproof

9 October 2020

A recent story on National Public Radio drove home to me the scope of the problem of mail-in ballots. A woman described how she accidentally mailed hers without putting it into the second envelope that went inside the first one. Too late, she realized her error.

Her ballot probably wasn’t counted.

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The Oktoberfest was canceled due to COVID-19

But Munich refuses to take it lying down

1 October 2020

“Rahoo-doray-rahoo-doray, welcome Christmas, Christmastime!”

So sing the Whos in Dr. Seuss’ iconic The Grinch who stole Christmas, in which the evil-hearted Grinch steals all their presents, food and decorations. But the Whos refuse to let their holiday be ruined, forming a circle around the community Christmas tree to sing carols, regardless of the lack of trappings.

Munich is reacting similarly to the cancellation of its two-week long festival that, its name notwithstanding, always kicks off mid-September. In normal years, six million tourists descend upon the city to join the fun, but locals from Munich and

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The Race for Space is Over (but not the way you think)

It took social distancing to finally put me at ease

29 May 2020

Embarking on my first trip to the grocery store after the corona outbreak, I am pumped up with anxiety. It’s the same grocery store where I have shopped for years, but entering it is suddenly daunting.

Will it look the same? What kinds of precautions are they taking to protect people from the pandemic? I picture cashiers in full hazmat suits, outfitted with face masks and helmets with clear plastic face shields and latex gloves. They’re probably taking customers’ temperatures, too, like they did in China.

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Berlin, lost and sometimes found

One last pre-corona trip to the capital

1 April 2020

Berlin is so packed with history, it’s more a matter of what to leave out than what to include when you’re visiting. The Prussian empire, with Frederick the Great as its leading man; the Nazis, whose leading man needs no mention; or the Cold War that split Berlin in two? Over four days, we discovered several interesting tidbits about each of these epochs.

Berlin, lost and sometimes found – read by author Brenda Arnold
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The Unwilling Stage Assistant

I made my baby giggle, and now she’s doing stand-up and making everyone laugh – with stories about me

The Unwilling Stage Assistant read by author Brenda Arnold

21 February 2020

I remember becoming aware of my sense of humor. I was about eight years old and had just come home from school. Using my whole body, I was telling my Mom a story and imitating a rooster in a cartoon who was thinking hard about something.   

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