Monday, February 27, 2006

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Ahh, the blog. No editors, no one to complain about Strunk and White and their Elephants of Style. Nothing looks good on an elephant anyway. Okay, maybe those spangled head-dress thingies, but you won't see one modelling Chanel or D&G anytime soon.

This is my place to lay open problems I see, things that bug me, funny stories, insanities mild and major.

I do not intend to pull any punches, in fact I intend to land quite a few.
I intend to exercise the rights delineated above to the fullest and widest of their extent.
If I am going to pay the price for being an American, I am damn sure going to enjoy the privileges, as long as the Patriot act has not entirely gelded this Bill of Rights concept we had in the beginning.

I understand that our Pres has instituted "Free Speech Zones" at his various functions.

The other George, the late Mr Orwell, was more right than we ever cared to believe. And we are just lying down like farm animals waiting for the steel bar to shoot through our brains so that we can be cut apart and used up.

Who cares about all this stupid civil rights stuff, if your Starbucks stock is doing well?
Um, those of us who cannot afford to buy it?

I honestly don't feel like I have any opportunity to be heard in my government, and as I am over here in Germany, serving my country to the best of my (civilian) ability, I am too removed, both physically and financially, from any influence over the happenings back home. I have to register by mail for Every Single Election.

I intend to have fun, to enjoy writing, and to do some research to support my points, which I will share with you if you have the time and patience.
This post is about some of the minor and annoying difficulties we deal with (face is a stupid way to say that, hell, I face the mirror every day, dealing with it is another matter!) living overseas under the kind protection of the DOD, the SOFA agreement, and the German government itself.

Granted, they pay for our housing and utilities while we are over here, and this is no small thing. We also get to live in one of the safest, cleanest and most hospitable of countries, Germany.

Except that over the weekend some piggy neighbor left a bag of trash in our bushes. That was kind of a freak incident, although Germans are getting progressively more careless. But that's another blog entry.

The impression over here is that Americans are a lot of slobbering Rush Limbaugh fans who actually BELIEVE that Dub was born in Texas and that he was actually elected by popular vote.

Europeans are surprised when I can actually mouth a few words of German (I can actually hold small conversations after 3.5 years here, though I never studied German, only Latin and some Spanish). I got a typical German backhanded compliment last weekend when one of my German colleagues said I spoke pretty good German, for an American.

People make assumptions, all over the world.
I'm here to bust 'em up. It's in my nature. I've been told I'm a rather offbeat Texan, but in my understanding of the truth of the culture, we're not cut out for the herd, rather the dry gullies and scrub, the wild places. The herd animals just get rounded up, branded, and end up as Tony Llama boots and dog food. No thanks.

I think Penn Jillette is the perfect antidote to Rush. He's bigger, louder, crazier, and for my money I think he's way sexier. My hubby has me hooked on Penn's radio show, which he downloads as a podcast.

AFN broadcasts Rush every night at 6 until 7, after which they segue to the infamous "Dr Laura" which we refer to as "the freak show". I can't even listen to Rush, the man is a pack of lies disguised as "infotainment". There should be some kind of disclaimer attached to the show, that objects in the broadcast may be much smaller than they appear. On Fridays we get "52%" a show about political women's issues. Thursday morning we get the Motley Fool, which is super for the young military audience just learning about money, and for aging Xers like me, wondering what retirement is going to look like (Social Security? nope, don't count on it, kiddies).
We get treated to two hours of the most excruciatingly boring sports talk show in the world with a guy who has a voice only an elephant seal could love, every day at 10 am. They do broadcast NPR's Talk of the Nation and Justice Talking, along with Car Talk on Wednesday and Sunday, followed on Sunday by Prairie Home Companion.
Most of the time we listen to Internet radio, my hometown radio station, or the NPR feed, or various podcasts.

When it gets unbearable and we aren't IV'd to our laptops, we listen to German or Czech radio, always kind of surreal. We never know what the Czechs are going to play, from folk songs to thrash metal.

We shop in German stores (I'll publish a price comparison between the commissary and local stores later) we see German doctors, we eat at German restaurants and enjoy German public trans (the Bahn is wonderfu! Amtrak could learn how to actually be useful, from them!), we try very hard to observe German traditions and social rules. We don't mow on Sunday or leave trash around (they do that for us, evidently).

The American side of our equation is actually a bit more limiting than the German one.

Did you know that an American servicewomen (in military service or a spouse of an American servicemember) cannot obtain an abortion at military medical clinics? Wow, if this isn't a separation of church and state problem, I just can't put my finger on one. Don't get me started on the chaplaincy..

Did you know that I, as a Texas resident living overseas, have to register to vote by mail EVERY SINGLE TIME I want to vote in any election?

Did you know that will not ship electronics or certain other items to an APO? They have been extremely unresponsive and stubborn about changing this. I will not be doing business with them until they figure this out. They in cahoots with AAFES, or what?

In other retail woes, order to replace my Ipod, I have had to deal with Apple in a very annoying triangle: Apple only ships by UPS, so the box to ship the Ipod goes to him, he ships it to me, I ship the sick Pod to Apple, and they ship it back to my dad, who has to ship it to me. Bleah! What is wrong with these people? Shipping to an APO is exactly the same as shipping things in country, it just has to make it to NY or CA and the Army takes it by freight from there. It doesn't cost an extra cent to anybody. My dad, who worked for the US post office for some 30 years, told me that UPS uses the US post for much of their business anyway. So much for privatization.

Link of the day: Texans for Public Justice

It's a sunny day in Germany, which is a rare enough thing. They call it "wetter" for a reason: If you go outside, you can only get wetter. Today the sun is sparkling on the leftover snow, and families are out happily crunching around on winter's grunchy leftovers.

Most Americans assume that because I am living in Germany, and because I am sort of Scandinavian looking (in an American Irish sort of way) that I AM German. They're half right, but off by a couple five generations on my mother's side. My ancestors didn't feel like they could change things enough to survive where they were, so they went somewhere where it was possible. Sometimes I feel the same way, looking across the Atlantic to the rapidly narrowing field of view coming back this way.

Let's get it straight: I'm Texan. I'm Texan three generations on my father's side, and at least three on my mothers. Liasons with natives and alligators (father's side is East Texan) aside, like most Americans, I'm a mixture of three or four generations of rejects, escapees, adventurers and optimists from Western Europe.

The rule in Texas is this: If you didn't come outta yer mama in Texas, you ain't a Texan. That's that. This leads to my next point, and one you are welcome to research if you like: The 43rd president of the US is no Texan. Sure, he's got the accent down, but I bet he can do New England just as well. He moved to Midland when he was three, and he never actually spent any time there.
It was just a tax shelter for them, as Texas has no state tax. One good thing, as long as the Bushes have property in Texas, there will be no state tax. Um, yay, I guess.

Here are some interesting links on the Bushes:

The dude can't even run a business. No wonder the deficit is swelling up like a dead dog on the side of the road in July...

They certainly do have their own "family values":

Every time I hear a European say, when I introduce myself as being from Texas, "Oh, like Bush" I wince. The fact that the guy even lies about where he's from is excruciating.

Part of my goal here is to further publicize the damage being done by the current administration. In part, I'm trying to follow the brazen (Brazosian?) example of one of my heroines, Juanita- gotta head down to Fort Bend to get my hair done sometime:

I am also going to talk about life with the military as a civilian, life as a "Texpatriate" my career in bodywork and massage therapy (I have a massage practice on a military post, and am in training in Munich as a Rolfer), my adventures in Germany as a "strange person in a strange land".

This is just a sample of what you'll get here at the Tex-Pat diaries. Same price every day, bargain basement rambles, rants, ravings and revelations. Step right up and give it a try!