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?
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.
there are still surprises in wait.
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.
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
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.
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.
Footprints from World War II
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
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?
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.