World War Window

11 July 2019

Marion’s desk is behind me, so I notice immediately whenever she moves. Just a moment ago, she got up and is now walking over to the window. My hearing sharpens and the hairs on the back of my neck start to prickle. I steel myself as my pulse quickens slightly and sweat breaks out on my palms.

Is she going to do it again?

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The Curious Case of the X in the Sock Drawer

24 June 2019

I am no stranger to the German sense of order and cleanliness – how could I be after living here for 30 years? After such a long time, I now take it almost for granted: the clean streets, the men who regularly sweep the sidewalk and others who walk around train stations poking a pointy stick into the garbage people have left behind (not sure what the poking will achieve, but it must have something to do with putting the trash into a superior state of orderliness). Still others can be seen washing street signs with long brushes on poles.

And yet, there are still surprises in wait.

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Of Planes to Spain Exploring New Terrain

13 May 2019

Here is a new benchmark for defining what it means to be old: when your daughter visits a country with an airport named after the leader who was in power when you lived there.

It just happened to me. My daughter Lisa recently left for a three-month stint in Spain to learn Spanish. This thrilled me, not simply because going abroad to learn a language is such an enriching experience, but because she went to Spain, where I also lived for a year. When ironing out the itinerary with her, I was jolted to discover that the name of the Madrid airport is called Adolfo Suárez, who was prime minister while I was there in 1979-80. It drove home the fact that this had been nearly 40 years ago.

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The Blossom Butcher of Bavaria

18 April 2019

One of the joys of strolling through Alpine villages in Bavaria in the summer is admiring the balcony flowers. Red, pink and white geraniums spill out from every window, lending color to the traditional   white and brown half-timbered houses that line the streets.

It’s enchanting! This beat the big yards with barking dogs and driveways from where I grew up – by a long shot.

“I can grow those balcony flowers, too,” was my first thought after moving here. “I’m from the suburbs; we had a garden. I know all about spring planting, weeding and fertilizing.” Tomatoes need to get a head start in little boxes inside the house before you plant the seedlings outside as soon as the last frost is past. Picking green beans in the rain will cause them to rust. I even had insider knowledge: The smell of a ring of chives encircling the garden would keep rabbits out.

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The Ghost Hand

15 March 2019

To get to the train station, I walk down our residential neighborhood street which is lined with old growth trees and low-lying bushes. It’s the kind of place where you see kids riding up and down the street on their bikes and mothers pushing their children in strollers. There’s a school and daycare center on the street, so early in the morning parents can be seen walking hand in hand with their kids to school. Other kids zoom past you on their scooters, somehow managing to maintain their balance despite the fact that the schoolbags on their backs are the same size that an army recruit would take with him to basic training. Later in the day the same kids and parents stream back out of the schoolgrounds.

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Footprints from World War II

15 February 2019

Like any American of my generation, I grew up on WWII movies. America loves to glorify its role in saving Europe from the Nazis (even though the Soviet Union paid a far higher price), so TV shows and movies in the 1960s and 1970s were laden with war scenes offering the opportunity for some American hero to save the day.

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Rammed in the Tram

10 January 2019

How is it that Munich is the richest city in Germany but seems to have the worst public transportation system?

OK, neither of these facts is backed up by fact. But Munich does have the reputation of being pretty much “the” place to live and on visits to Berlin and other major metropolises I have never experienced as many hassles as I have in Munich.

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