Saturday, June 21, 2008

Anyone hoping to reach my by my posted email on this blog is SOL. Due to spammer infestation of Blogger, I will be shifting fire to my own web site. 

My address was stolen and spoofed by a spammer, and I had to delete it. Part of the posting lag here. I also have had trouble with password entry-- they want to send the confirmation to your email, and I've had to delete mine due to the ridiculous porosity of their system. 
I'm quite sure it happened from here, as, if you just use the Next Blog button, all you will find is porn spam sites. Blogger does crap-all to regulate this. 

Therefore, this is the last post you will read on this site. Leave a comment, and I will personally send you the new address. 

I'll check back about weekly. 
Complain to Blogger, if you were vaguely entertained by this site. 
Loudly, often, and articulately. 

I am a web designer with appropriate software, and I don't need Blogger's help, nor am I amused by being stuck in their format.  

Thank you, 


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Feeling like a pack mule after too much trail dust and too few meals.
At the same time, I'm so overfed from San Antonio and Austin, that no real hunger pangs have visited me, today or yesterday. In fact, only mild self-medication has touched my psyche since the plane loped off the San Antone runway.

First of all, prices on the Riverwalk are egregious. Six dollars for a beer is a goin' to hell offense. Eight dollars for a margarita not involving fresh lime juice and premium tequila, is worse than egregious. It's a kick ya in the balls offense.

The Riverwalk is a scourge on Texas hospitality. The water is stolen from Central Texas and other locations, as San Antonio has long sucked their section of the aquifer dry with their Tourism Slut approach to survival. Sea World, Hemifair Park and other attractions, are fueled by water bought from Alcoa, dewatering idiot lignite mines, to provide the dirtiest, most polluting power possible for inefficient, hungry Texas water and energy markets.
I can provide links to back that up, if need be. Let me know if you want to see them.

We found some good jazz and nice people. We found stupidly expensive prices for average food and drink.
Boudro's was good, the best margarita on the RW and fair decent food. If I'm going to get ripped off, I prefer to eat well.

At the Sandbar on Pecan and St Marys across from the bus station, we ate well, drank well, dropped more than I normally care to drop even on car repairs, and didn't feel ripped off. If you love seafood so fresh you wanna slap it, and waitstaff and chefs that think for themselves and pleasantly surprise you with witty wine selections and probably the most original sashimi ever, go for it.

If you want to just get that same old mediocrity at Riverwalk prices, stay down there. Jazz fans can hang out at Cullum's and bitch about crummy margaritas and expensive beer.

The Menger is still a jewel. I made a remark about the place being "naff" where a manager could hear, and am direly afraid the dude will take action on that. Ain't broke, don't fix it.

Okay. All of SA is naff, that is, cheesy with Cheesy on. More Texan than Davy Crockett. You get it.
Now, the Menger was there before naff was naff. Therefore, it's naff-ness is innate... therefore non-pretentious, therefore cool. Like most good jokes, mystique is exploded in the tellling.

Meanwhile, ,stay in the Menger, adore the Sunday buffet and eat mango ice cream and mascarpone strawberry shortcakes for a bloody song, lounge where Oscare Wilde did, tip the hell out of the barkeep, amuse the staff and have a great time. Oh, and don't miss the lighted view of the horses, carriages, and that lil old mission/war shrine named after some fluffy big trees. Ala- something...

As long as America's screwing up in so many directions.. let's remember the ass-kicking we got at the Alamo.

Let's hope we can come back as well from it, or make a hell of a profit from our whining.

Boycott the Riverwalk on Mondays by taking the Purple Line VIA bus out to Market Square and have a three-dollar bucket of beer and MUCH better service at Mi Tierra.Many crafts, gifts and goodies available, cheaper than RW!

Food is perfect and also half price. Worth the walk or bus ride.
Give the Riverwalk the finger, go to Mi Tierra.

Thank you,
your friendly native Texan activist for decent prices and NOT RIPPING OFF TOURISTS AND BUSINESSPEOPLE!!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Soldiers and budoka. 

There's a tie between the two which is undeniable, but is not, nor should it be, close. 

The world of a soldier is much more full of absolutes, than that of the martial artist. A martial artist can, in too many disciplines, fall into deep self-deception. Too many buy into the high-wire world of Hong Kong cinema, and mistake it for reality. A soldier in self-deception is at Abu Ghraib, or simply a casualty. Frankly, soldiers tend to have more than their share of bad luck, in badly planned circumstances...

The best words penned about martial arts study came from Guy Forsyth, one of the more interesting people I have ever crossed hands with (along with his buddy Eric Schimmel, yeah I remember you- stop Googling yourself, you'll go blind!) "turning myth, into muscle memory".

The martial artists who sign up for UFC are not exposed to IEDs, sniper fire and suicide bombers. 

It's an absurd assumption to think that modern martial arts training, in all its McDojo strip mall glory, prepares most people to do more than get some exercise and do parlor tricks. If I want to break concrete, I'll use a sledgehammer. If I need to stop a person, I'll use CS & cayenne, gunpowder, or, hey, look, concrete! Anybody have a 50cal they're not using? that takes care of both. Concrete, people, government buildings.. It's all good! 

Very rarely, in modern martial arts, is there any kind of pure focus.

It's hard to talk about what I mean. I don't mean fighting, I don't mean combat. Not friendly UFC poundings and backslappings.  I mean a pure focus on the art. Not who does the art. Not on win and lose. Not on the details.. though, especially in Japanese kata, the passion does live in the details.. it's a kind of "method budo" where you physically and spiritually "swallow whole" what your instructor has given you. 

And you embody it. 

The military folks have to embody that spirit from day one. They don't get to go home from the dojo, either. People make it, or they don't. There's a lot of pressure, these days, to keep the folks they can get, in the military, but it's nothing like a dojo relying on contracts to pay the bills. There are some points for "good citizenship" but the values are based on a kind of reality most of us never have to deal with. The context is so different.. military service is voluntary, if you can afford college. For many, it's a way out, a way up. Otherwise they are stuck in Puerto Rico or American barrios, in the American Southeast, in that vast gulf between too poor to care, and too rich for the government to bother helping you go to college or vocational school. 
It's the difference between "good dojo in the area" and "have a career and a future". It's the difference between health insurance and retirement, or welfare, waiting tables and stocking groceries. Not that there aren't plenty of budoka in dumbass dead end jobs.. hey, it's the American way!

If it meant that there would be some kind of universal chance at a college education, I would be in favor of military, or "Peace Corps" type service for everyone. 

If you're thinking about training in a martial art, it means you have the time and resources to do so.
If you are lucky enough to be able to train, then just train and be grateful. 

I try very hard to be.

Monday, April 28, 2008

In every profession, there are unpleasant and annoying tests and hurdles. 

Today, I surmounted three of them. 

Two have to do with old college transcripts. 
The University of Texas is unkind to the average undergraduate. This undergraduate had taken on 14 hours of schoolwork in the fall of 1986. I only passed 11 of them, with a high grade of C in psychology. I was a top quartile student, most of high school.  After proving myself as a motivated biology student with a deep interest, I studied for and took the Biology AP exam. I scored a 3 out of 5 on this exam. This was not enough for me to skip the basic Bio class. It was the classic "freshman weeder" graded on a tight curve by a grad student with no interest in actually teaching.  The Russian instructor, one Rapaport (subsequently confirmed to me as a jerk by a friend of mine, colleague of his) offered me a D to leave the class. Whatever the reason, I actually liked Russian.. and made an attempt to follow up.. but life was overcome by events, namely my parents' divorce. 

Years of shame about this damned UT transcript. Later misadventures in research for the dishonest and badly managed (at the time) SMI organizational behavior company resulted in financial bars to my obtaining this transcript (I paid for access and copies for the late, dear Professor Blake with my UT ID, and was never reimbursed by the company. After they laid me off suddenly, no chance of reimbursement.) Now, in a more comfortable financial position, I took cg's advice and paid off the bars, and got my freakin' transcript. 

Now that I'm looking at it, I passed 11 hours out of 14, despite not being able to live in the house I grew up in for most of the winter. Despite my life falling completely apart. 

Now, instead of the shame, I'm kind of proud of that stupid orange transcript. I still hate UT and their monolithic, voluntary ignorance about customer service (they don't accept Visa for online payment of fees and transcripts, only Discover and Mastercard- wonder what kind of a kickback THAT took??). I would still advise against anyone going there, for any reason. Go to St Ed's, or Concordia. Don't feed the behemoth. UT just junks up traffic with useless, profitable for them only, not for the community, tax-creating, resource-devouring sports.  

It took being in a comfortable, supported, safe place for me to deal with this chunk of shame. 
It's gone. "I walked through my fear, and when I looked behind me, I saw nothing."

The third obstacle surmounted: cg guided us through nasty Balto traffic to the hidden test location (when the address doesn't match the street signs, and there are no other signs to guide you, it's hidden!) I passed the test, came home through pelting rain and malfunctioning windshield wipers on our borrowed Chevy trucklet.. paused for Thai lunch with my sweetie and some shopping.. and called Austin Community College to find out about my hours AGAIN. I had never gotten a human in all my attempts to call. 

Finally, I got a Person, and found out that I had 50 hours. 

11 hours, plus 50, is 61. I'm over the bar to become a Certified, as opposed to Registered, Massage/Bodyworking Whatever. (more on that snaff later).

One phone call and one login later, two transcripts are on the way to a conscientious but misinformed and misguided (in terms of SI) board of examiners, and I am on my way to a more productive career. 

Finally, 20 freakin' years later, something out of all that PITA. 

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Monday, April 21, 2008

Comments on web forums about our neighborhood being "Mayberryesque" are dead on. 
1 neighbor is a WWII vet. Other is an old shambling Bubba with an incomprehensible accent. They're both sweet as they can be, and in true Southern tradition, I have not yet been introduced to their wives except over the fence. 

Is Maryland North or South? 
It's "Old America" to be sure.. which means that Old Texas rules may well apply. I can deal. 

Does American friendliness, make up for American carelessness? 
Not sure how that equation works out. 
Got my old college transcript last week. UT Austin is a huge waste of time, if you aren't hooked into the political machine. I paid about 70 bucks to clear my old bars and get my crappy old 1.0 GPA transcript. Family problems don't help with college.

I would have been better off, if I had been

It follows you.. for my Maryland certification, I have to turn in lots of paper and lots of MONEY. It cost me about 150 bucks just to apply and take the jurisprudence exam. I qualified for "registered" which means I can't work in a medical office.. I've been referred to by rheumatologists, and worked in a German osteopathic praxis. I need 60 college credits, from a "degree granting institution" to be "certified" which mean I can work in medical offices. 

Some tough-guy cop once said "Juris my Prudence".. I can memorize a biscuit recipe, and it's about as damn relevant. 

Maybe they'll EXPEL me too.. 

Expel me.. Please!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Got this in my AKO mail today:

"To Our Soldiers and Families

Today, President Bush announced his decision to return to twelve-month deployments in the CENTCOM theater for active Army units. The President’s decision reflects the improved security situation in Iraq – one made possible by your unwavering commitment and willingness to sacrifice – as well as the recognition of the impact of extended deployments on Army Families and our readiness. Today’s policy change will help reduce that strain as we continue to grow the Army and restore balance.

The Army will reduce “Boots On the Ground” time to no more than twelve months for all active component Soldiers deploying to the CENTCOM area of operations after 1 August 2008. Soldiers deploying prior to 1 August will complete their scheduled deployments.

The return to twelve-month deployments does not change the Army’s dwell time policy. This policy is intended to give units time to properly reset and allow Soldiers, Families, and friends to reconnect.

You have chosen a most noble profession. With your Families standing with you in support, you have borne the increased stress and burden of this war for our Army and our Nation. A grateful Army and Nation thank you.


Kenneth O. Preston George W. Casey, Jr. Pete Geren
Sergeant Major of the Army General, United States Army Secretary of the Army

What do the folks on ground say?
" I am tempted to just quit this war and go home. (Soldier hubby) and I are still waiting to see the next duty assignment. That can't get here fast enough for me. i would really like to plan for a home and education. "

That's from a friend still over in Germany, on their second deployment.

News flash-- turning a noun into a Proper Noun isn't enough, it never was, and it never will be.

Try turning a soldier's reward up to a statesman's -- lifetime health care and stipend to start.
No matter how long or short they've served.
Look up the bennies for your representatives, senators and politicians.
Compare them with what the folks who have to go in when policy fails.
Words ain't enough.
Better math, might be a start.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Status Quo: the existing state of affairs; specifically : the last actual and uncontested state of affairs that preceded a controversy and that is to be preserved by preliminary injunction

Part of my culture shock has always been here. Like many ex-pats, part of attraction to the Other has to do with a profound sense of misplacement in the place of origin.

No, I don't do things like other people. I have owned a home, in fact I helped build it. I insisted that the now-ex take it to the architecture prof neighbor (duh! why waste THAT resource!) and had deep input on the design. I built the gable ends, laid the slate floor, helped pound in the tongue and groove floor, and plastered all the walls. Texturing is FUN. I really enjoyed painting and then dry brushing to bring it out. I've owned five cars. I've had a dog, and two cats. I'm divorced from one cat, as it were, and the other is my stepkitty. I went through a rather amicable divorce, which seems unusual.

This is all so boring and prosaic! Wait! what have I done differently?

I taught myself about money, and have not bought into the Debt Culture.

I do not enjoy children. I did not like children when I was a child. I make occasional exceptions, but they are rare. My husband does not like them either. It's much like the problem with dogs. Dogs are okay, if their owners make them that way. It is the laxity or even over-restriction of the environment, creating awful screaming children, maniacally, monotonously barking dogs, and miserable, confused grownups.

I can't eat like other folks do. Allergies mean that I have to avoid sugar, white wheat flour, and most refined products.

I don't care for fashion. It doesn't care to fit me, or please me, so I have simply ignored it for years. If it's not jeans-based, or something that would look good on Grace Kelly, I'm not interested. I get what I want, that makes me look good.

No Manolo Blahniks. I do like Levis, but there's a brand which has wormed its way into our national iconography.
I fell for a Blackberry, but T-Online is so lax about spam, that 90% of the messages I got on it were, yes, spam. The thing drove me nuts. I'm tempted by an Apple I-phone to go with my MacBook, but didn't buy the membership because I already have this blog, and my own website. Maybe after I buy stock in Apple..

I don't work for anyone, thanks to cg's gummint job, I can take my time and be choosy about how I work. Hopefully we can "leapfrog" one another from retirement to retirement, or endeavour to endeavour.

I had a British kindergarten teacher. American spell check is not the colour for me.

Normally, we don't watch television, but we seem to accidentally still have cable, so what the hell.. meanwhile, I am re-cultivating the special glee I take, in screwing up the status quo.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Los Vascos
Sauvignon Blanc
Casablanca Valley, Chile.

They are doing some amazing things there in Chile. This grapefruit-essenced varietal is one of them.
It's clean and beautiful, with this amazing tartness dancing on your tongue.
By the way, I hate grapefruit passionately. Something about my mom being on diets, grapefruit spoons, and too much Fresca.

Wine in this key, however, works!
I first ran across it in Austin at a tasting. I brought a bottle to my mom's folks in Marble Falls.

In other news, why can't I find plastic ice trays any more?
Are we the only people in town with no ice-maker?
In correspondence with our young friend Z (the extemporaneously elegant guest blogger) it occurs to me, that he travelled more, between age 7 and age.. is he 30 yet? I don't think so! than I have, in my entire life.

My travels began after age 30, so I have a strong sense of "home".
Austin, Texas is the unchanging North of my soul compass.

Never mind, that it's further South than most of the world has ever been. Yes, most of Russia and China are north of that parallel.
Yes, that is most of the world.

Not US.

That's where we screw up. We think that, because our media conglomerates are so pervasive, that we are somehow, "the mostest with the mostest".

We "US'ns" are the "fewest with the mostest".

Still astonished at two-times per week trash pickup (we need two-times per week recycling pickup!) and the cavernous depths of our wheeled trash can. I can miss a day and not have that much to deal with.

After no luck at any store nearby in finding a decent compost bin, we tripped over one in a pile of junk to be picked up by the city. We picked it up, dragged it home, and I put it together.
Nothing is better for the soul and the garden, than taking what you didn't eat, and turning it into something you will eat.
This bin had a plastic base, which I left out.
The base keeps out the worms and other microorganisms. Without these, you don't get compost! So I just propped them on the side to help insulate the magical, mysterious process of creating earth.

When you come from a place that is mostly rocks and sand, not humus, as I have.. there is a real joy in participating in creating nutritious, black earth to grow your own food in.

This is why I love to garden. This is how I find "home".
I "go to earth".
We all do, in the end.
Might as well make it part of life.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

I know why Americans get so fat.
Well, besides the fact that most trade in their legs for a driver's license, on coming of age.

The food doesn't taste like anything!! more food will not get you more flavor, but our brains don't know that.

Having endured the freakin' SEVEN DOLLAR deck-of-cards size library-paste flavored goat's milk feta from the Giant Eagle, I followed a tip from a fellow suffering cheese section shopper, and headed (via the friendly, safe and speedy bus system) downtown to the Euro Market near Shab Row. I found a half kilo of Bulgarian feta for ten bucks. This plain box of brine contained what we were looking for.

Tangy, lively cheese to grace a Mediterranean shepherd's salad with!
In Greek, it's xoriatiki, in German (via our Aramaic Turk grocer) Hirtensalat. Fresh cukes, super quality tomatoes, tangy feta topped with spicy oregano, basil, fresh mint and parsley. We used the last of some Greek olive oil (carefully smuggled gift) and bits of the herb plants I rescued from the grocery. Finely minced red onion sets the tang off with a sulphury hit.

In Lefkada, Greece, our yearly September pilgrimage to visit my colleague and dear friend Anastasia at her husband's hotel involved deep and thorough perusal of the local cuisine.

We ended up more often than not at Lefteris, a crony of the family.
It was the olive oil.
Okay, it was the olive oil, and David the hysterical Bulgarian waiter. He had been a military surgeon, before things got crazy there. He got shot in the leg and somehow escaped to Greece.

Anyway, the olive oil came from my friend's husband's family olive trees.. over 500 years old, harvested every late fall and processed by the family. I could have bathed in this stuff.. in fact, making the xoriatiki, I would often rub the drips on my hands and face, if they were feeling dry.
In Greece, every trace of a sunburn or chafe could be salved with the fresh, powerful oil.
However, it was a solution that always made me hungry.

But not for something, that tastes like nothing.
Salt and fat is necessary, but no substitute for genuine flavor.
Why do you think bacon cheeseburgers are so popular?

Solutions to the American "obesity problem" would include ditching individual transportation, corn syrup beverages (when there is so much good tea and city water is so high quality!) drive-ins (Europe has "standing cafes" and check out Asian street food!) and FLAVOR! bring back the local, the backyard, the ethnic.

Only the seeds of a strawberry, should go "crunch". Don't give me a red, unripe berry. Yuk.

We can do better.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Feeling sorry for myself gets old fast.
We needed to get the stink out of our fur.
So we did!
The bus from the nearby grocery runs downtown every hour. We hopped on, and found a First Weekend celebration going on. They do it every month, with art shows and stores open later.
Downtown Frederick is quirky, artsy, and friendly.
We even found a huge, decent cappuccino!
After perusing, meandering and poking our way through the afternoon, we stopped at an Ethiopian restaurant for dinner. The Ethiopian waiter had grown up in Frankfurt, and we got to chat in German for the second time today! The first time was with a young lady in a cute little Western girlie boutique who had spent two years in Hamburg.
I've had such a discomfort with speaking German.
I'm a little puzzled at how much my brain misses the exercise of using it. I never grew to love German itself, but loved speaking with Germans and other Europeans. We hopped on the bus again at the Marc station and were home in less than 10 minutes.
It was a delightful, mild, relaxing day.
Looking forward to more of those.

Friday, April 04, 2008

People keep saying "welcome home".
I wasn't sure, but now my answer is the same as cg's.

I WAS home.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A foodie post, from an email to a foodie friend:

As usual, staying away from the intellectual cruelty of chains is best.

There's a little dive around the corner, Callahan's.
There's the Bonefish Grill.

One's owned by a human.
One's owned by a conglomerate.

Guess which one's better.. yeah. The little guy.

Truly amazing food, genuine service, great wine and beer.
Cheaper, too!

The irony is.. bonefish aren't edible.
That was my first clue.

A storm is blowing in after a balmy day. I'm wearing capris and have been alternately repairing, adjusting and pedaling the landlady's bike around.

American wine is too sweet, too coarse and too expensive.
We did discover the King Reserve Oregon Pinot Gris, as good as some of the best German creations I have tasted.

I had to try the 47-pound Rooster Chardonnay, and found it to be a very good Yellowtail copy, if a bit less harsh.
The goofy label was fun, and it's not bad stuff.

I prefer the Italian and Spanish un-oaked Chards. The bright hay and sunshine flavors of these tart, pure Chard grapes really light me up. I spent plenty of time splitting oak in Texas for firewood, bleeding and bruising for it. I don't need that any more.
I don't mind a little oak, but I don't want to get hit in the head with a cord of it.

Took some pics of our funny little rental love cottage today. Will post a bit in a minute.

America is becoming ugly.
Like a beautiful girl who takes herself for granted, and quits trying.. the jowls and hips have ballooned, teeth are missing, and let's not talk about that complexion.

Here she was in all of her natural beauty.. somehow in the process of giving birth to thousands of big box stores, producing more cars than sidewalks and bicycle lanes, and popping out millions of fast food booths, she's lost it.

Madame Liberty is not aging well.
An abundance of crap food, minivans, and the detachment of feet and legs upon receiving a driver's license and health care behind every other modern Western country, has led to an explosion of hideous unhealthiness.

I think of my beautiful Danish friend who lives in Greece. Bearing and raising four healthy kids, starting her own business and helping her hubby with their hotel has not taken anything from her effortless beauty.

Not everyone can be so amazing, but not everyone needs to turn into Jabba the Hutt after age 35.

We've totally lost track of individual freedoms in favor of becoming media victims, marketing slaves.

No thanks.
I will remain rebellious, resistant, and remonstrative.
No uglification for me.
I'll just become more high-maintenance.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Well.. it's a bit odd.
I feel like I've been transported over space and time.. from medieval customs, languages and fortresses, to the dismissive bustle of disposable America. The refuse bin is easily four times the size of ours in Germany. I've called the city for a recycle box, but I'm not sure what to do with our cardboard and paper. The crosscut shredder I got today will make mulch of our confidentials. Mailing and merchandise boxes remain to be organized.
I hope to keep much of what I learned of order, from the Germans.

It's hard to think of the US as more than a vacation destination. It's strange, to realize that we are here, now.
We can walk down to a huge grocery, pet, office, drug store mall thingy and waste money on whatever we think it is we want.

We also found the best seafood restaurant ever, less than ten minutes walk away. Callahans is one of those dive-looking places with a genteel interior, great service and truly amazing food. They get the beer and wine, too.

The fried oysters were the best I've ever had. Fried oysters should be like fried ice cream: Crunchy and savory on the outside, creamy and delicious on the inside.

Cg had the broiled platter, which was huge and varied. I finally got to taste a proper crab cake. Wow. Crab is sweet. I'd stop short of icing it, but put one of these sagey, chunky beauties on the plate in front of me, with a birthday candle in, and I'm happy.

Put that together with a more than decent McWilliams Aussie Reisling, and you've got a lordly meal. We tipped the heck out of our sweet, personable waitress, and waddled back down our street to collapse, well fed, into our borrowed bed.

So, we ain't in Europe any more, but we ain't in foodie hell either.
On the contrary, Frederick holds promise.

Organic free range lamb is cheap here. Dinner was lamb shoulder with garlic, fresh rosemary and thyme over mushroom, saffron and wild rice, with romanesque. I let the lamb sit with the spices and a spritz of fresh lemon juice, then seared it in fine olive oil with chopped onions. It rested between plates while we deglazed the onion pan and mixed in some mushroom juice.

The thyme and rosemary are sorted into a dry batch and fresh batch. The fresh has extra water in its little plastic envelope in the crisper, and the dry batch is resting on a radiator.

I've ended up relying on radiators for everything from drying wild mushrooms to drying herbs and dish towels!

Our little crackerbox is heated with them.. crammed and cozy, it will be a wonderful opportunity to get rid of everything we can't live without.

Meanwhile, Chuck wants to go back to Greece in the fall.. I can't help but think it's a wonderful idea.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

This is an excerpt from a message to a colleague of cg's:

Just wanted to say thanks again for rescuing us from Dulles.
I have a little joke.. Dull, Duller, Dulles..

You sent a note about the lending closet earlier-- they won't be open when we get in, nor, I suspect, on Saturday.
Perhaps we have gotten used to everything being closed most of the time you want to go there..

When you "move house" as the Brits say, over such a time and distance, there is a certain comfort in having things you know, around you.
I'd like to say, after these few years on the Continent, that I had become free of these touchstones.
On the contrary.

Certain touchstones, like a French press, good pots and pans, and my own socks in some findable location, trump most other things.

You don't know how much you reach for them, until you can't.

Yes, it was hard the other way, too.

We've gotten the best, rarest and most hugs these past couple weeks. Nothing salves the heart like a good hug.

Knowing we'll be back, helps a lot too.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Another post from the lovely and talented Z, apropos to our time of being wandering folk:

"I went to the Kuwait airport last night. it was my first real foray to civilian (non-deployment) life in 5 1/2 months.
It was most definitely an eye opening experience. Apparently, men's shoe fashions are leaning towards pointy toes again. It will give me no small joy departing in my very rounded birkenstock clogs, flouting convention. But what was truly fascinating was the airport people.

For quite some time I have seen no children, and I was surrounded by them. Loud ones, quiet ones, old ones, young ones, ones running around, and those clinging quietly to dresses, fingers in their mouths, soft taking in the world, eyes wide. Probably like mine. Well, most of them were not as blue as mine, but you get the point.
Every now and then, by chance, we would meet, eyes communicating without hindrance of language, or barrier of age, or culture, or convention. Most of their eyes were saying "Wow, look at all these people! look at that guy with the big belly and dishdasha and the beard! Gee, I wish this lady wasn't dragging me like this, I want to stop and look at all these fascinating folks."

My silent reply was usually along the lines of, " Yeah, that guy is interesting, did you see the suitcases that one lady had? Wow!! I am sorry, little man, but you will be dragged around one way or another for the rest of your days. Be like the willow, and bend."

When I was not talking with children, or salivating from the smell of the hommous I bought to eat later, I was all consumed with the people. I guess the way I am wired makes me fascinated with them. Arabic women, fully veiled and with all black hijabs, with the hidden flutter of colorful dresses appearing near their ankles passed me. So did those of more moderate upbringing, some with philipina nurses in tow. Apparently huge purses are en vogue again as well. Smart looking business men with smart looking suitcases with smart looking wheels walk smartly to waiting airport drivers, who look inured to the whole proceeding.

But the parade proceeds, pausing patiently as per the prestidigitation of the powered portals, permitting passage.

The men of Arabia are many, and varied. Some have cuff links, some have unpressed dingy dishdashas. Red and white, black and white, or just white keffiayah's sit upon the bearded and non bearded alike. With suitcases and bags and boxes, coming slowly, or fast, sandaled or slippered, the men of Arabia come. Some of the younger ones are in suits and shirts, with wives in colored headdresses. The wives seem to be worn as another accessory by some.

Of course, the deployed come as well. Sporting duffle bags and Px backpacks, they come. Military and civilian, they come. Tan boots and neck wallets, they come. They find their representives, holding up their little signs, and they go. Some of them I think I recognize. None of them are ecstatic to be back, but neither forlorn. A resigned sense of duty, or obligation.

I am leaving for R and R tomorrow night. I will bring no neck wallet, no PX backpack, no duffle bag, and definitely no flippin tan boots. I will not see anyone in camouflage for 13 days, I hope. No one walking around armed, I really hope.

No DFAC food, hear no chinooks, no c-130's. Not to have my nights interrupted by the gunfire at the gate,
or the medevac chopper.

For thirteen days I get to be just a guy. And I will make it a point to communicate with children, and eat real food, and love, and be loved, and take a bath, and sleep late, and practice not working on computers, even my own.
(although, who are we kidding...when people ask me what I do, I think I am going to tell them unpublished author or amateur chef. If I tell them I work on computers for a living...oh boy...)

And then on the fourteenth day, I will join that sinuous procession, and be one of those wandering folk again.:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Got this recipe from the lovely and talented Carissa:

It's best with roasted garlic, so if you want that, start early with some fat chunks of garlic drizzled with good olive oil and wrapped in foil, set in a warm, not hot, oven. About 125 Centigrade and an hour or so is what you need. I would use AT LEAST four of the biggest "toes" I could find. Use the oil, after roasting, to help thin the paste.

Get a couple cans of Garbanzo Beans/chickpeas/Kichererbsen .
(I just like saying Garbanzo Beans!) You can use dried, but it's a pain to rehydrate them. I am trying a Pyrex cookpot in the micro with quartered giant garlic, heat for 30 mins on 75% and just leave it for a while. Let you know how that goes.

I think I would use at least 3/4 cup of pan-toasted sesame seeds. I toast them in a big cast iron pan. Then I grind them in a little coffee-grinder type thing. You can just buy tahini paste if that's too much trouble.

Get the juice of two lemons, a tiny scrape of pepper (mix of red, white, green & black is best) and some comino (cumin or coriander seed) and a drizzle of olive oil (extra virgin is best, of course). I can't live without my plastic lemon juicer. I think I'll need another for our upcoming move to Maryland, not sure I can do without for any amount of time.

In hindsight from my experience, and Carissa's advice, I would only briefly shake the moisture from the beans before piling them in either a super powerful blender or food processor, or a cheap blender I didn't like very much.

Get all these things processed together, mixing and poking as you like to achieve a thick paste. Add more lemon juice or oil to achieve desired texture.
Carissa's secret ingredient is peanut butter, a tablespoonful or two. I love the Maranatha Chunky Organic from the commissary- sugar free, and it'll make you want to kick Peter Pan in the head and out the window. Meanwhile, you will probably eventually short or burn out your cheap blender. Carry on with a potato masher, unless you have a high dollar blender or food processor nearby.

I would use coarse sea or kosher salt, and be brave with the cumin. Taste and spin, until you're happy.
Decorate with paprika, a drizzle of good oil, and parsley, mint, or/and fresh cilantro/coriander. I think we may use toasted sesame oil in the future as a drizzle.

Everything's a little crazy right now with the move, but when we get settled and I get my Maryland garden going, I'm going to see what a hit of fresh thyme does for this recipe. I may be able to grow rosemary in MD, as well as basil.. both have been a miserable failure in Bavaria, along with tomatoes. There's just not enough sun!

Moving from a parallel north of Toronto, to slightly coastal Maryland, should do wonders for my garden wishes. 

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Exhausted from cleaning and strategizing the move, we stumbled into a party dear friends put together for us. 
We were fed, hugged and, well, pampered with pictures and stories.

It's a really different experience leaving.. arriving.. shaping emptiness, as opposed to trying to pre-fill a hole you know, is coming into your life. 

I was thinking about what people talked about bringing back from Europe.. cuckoo clocks, expensive cars, crystal, glassware.. It all sounds ridiculous to me. I like these things, but in the end they are just more to dust, fuss over, insure and move. Okay, I hate cuckoo clocks. 

We had an expensive car. Turns out they are expensive to repair, too!

Cg indulged me on the crystal. We have a few pieces, from a cut vase, to my black iridescent necklace, to some royal blue bottles and glasses, which will keep us ornamented for many years. We picked up a little nice glassware, not a lot. Mostly fun beer Krugs and mugs. An odd assortment of painted eggs.. 

What am I *really* bringing back from Europe?
A language I never expected to learn. I'm not great at German, not at all. But I am slightly conversant. 

Experiences. Climbing the hillsides of the great fortresses and wandering their walls. 
The Ionian Ocean. Prague, Cesky Krumlov. Munich. Berlin. Athens (another damned old church..)  Freiburg and the Alsace. Wandering the Pagan Wall in the Vosges, howling on All Hallows with French kids and mischief-makers.

 Ireland! the 10pm sunsets of the Arran Isles, and knowing my way around places I have never been before. 

I learned that if I can be close to the earth, and become intimate with the ways of the seasons in a place, I can be home. I am always home in Mama Natura's lap, and this is where I have to go, to find my way around. 
Wandering the flanks of the great old fortresses and forests, my hands tracing Achillea vulgaris and nobilis, the healer's and travellers' herbs.. wild thyme in the Vosges, wildly fragrant marjoram by Kallmunz on the Vils and Donau.

Only a few of these places did we visit, for the place alone. 
Most of them we visited, because of the people who invited us. 

It's the friendships we made here, that we keep. Not the things that need dusting, insuring and fussing. A friendship is like a plant, just tend to it when it needs. Dried out and thirsty is no good, nor is drowned. 

You know the friends you have made, by whom you see when you go away. Who you hear from. 
Who did you help? Who helped you? Who made you laugh, who supported you?

Who do you know, when you meet again, you will just pick right back up?

It's hard to elucidate, for the one-pagers (those who never leave their home) what the rest of the book is like. It's a heartache, a headache, sure. But travel, especially leaping off the way you have to, to actually live somewhere foreign, opens your mind and heart so much.. 

I can't say it makes it easier. Nothing could. 

Thursday, March 13, 2008

We're buying furniture for a house we've never seen, in a city we know not much about. We've read a lot, we have faith. We know what WE need. 

Not a sofa from Ikea, that's for sure! We didn't find anything we liked, despite having picked something out from the catalogue. I think a futon may serve us better. I remember my dad's apartment having the Best Sofa Ever to Sleep on Sideways. On the other hand, we found the Best Kitchen Table Ever with Drawers. I'm not even sure they sell that one in the states. I'm also psyched about the "coffee table" also known as "where we will usually eat dinner while watching whatever we downloaded on itunes". It has a glass top and little boxes to put my immense rock/shell/skull/feather/whatthehellisthat collection in. It's an eccentric,  Durrell-esque naturalist collection.

This Ikea binge would not have been possible, if I had not been stashing Euros in an a German account for a couple years. Buy low, sell high, baby. We also get almost a %20 tax rebate, here in Germany. We took advantage of that!

Chuck got a new wok, we have new skillets, and a completely metal meat pounder for when he gets desperate for a schnitzel and I have to make him one. We may have to host "German night/Deutschabend" once a week-- Cg says European night once a month.  After the cleaning lady has visited. :-)

We just have to get there. It's what I said, on the other side of the Atlantic. We just have to get there. 

Wherever "there" is. 
It's nice to "know" and have an idea, but it's another thing to Be There

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

One of the side effects of shock is numbness.. it allows sensitive humans to deal with immense amounts of input rationally. We're both in that place. 

Primarily, we take care of each other. We don't have a problem with roofs or food or even wine, at this point.  

Our curtains are washed and packed.. our windows naked, some of our things in the mail. It feels like our life is in the mail, at this point. 

I personally wonder, how much of the best of our European lifestyle we can translate to our new American life. 

I wonder how much it will offset cg's angst over leaving his beloved Germany/Europa. 
I'm not sure if it matters how much I create a French potagerie house, find a place where we can walk and bike where we want, and not participate in the self-destructive commuter lifestyle. 

I do all these things for myself, because this is how I want to live. 
What I have to do, to take care of him in what is a terrible transition from the only place he has felt at home, to a place he is inclined to reject on principle, I'm not sure. 

I'll do my best. I always do. 
I also always feel like a little puppy-dog, tugging, nipping and barking along the best path I can find. 


Friday, March 07, 2008

Cg just bought us "Country Cooking of France" by Anne Willan, which is just droolingly wonderful. This is our housewarming prezzie for our new home, I guess. 

Cleaning a house is one way to say goodbye to it. I'm not sure where all the fuzz and dead bugs come from. If we could figure that out, the secrets of the universe would be ours, no doubt. 

The weeks ahead of packing, ridding and organizing, cleaning and strategizing, may be quiet out here, but they will be internally busy.. mourning, anticipating, dealing, adapting.. and being glad of inflatabeds and French presses.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The more I read about our destination, the more I talk to people, the more I get excited about getting there. 
Besides the fact that it's a central point and frequent TDY destination for many of our nearest and dearest, and the fact that the icy Atlantic pond and uncertainties and cruelties of transatlantic travel no longer constitute the challenges of spending time with us..  we're sure we'll see more of our extended budo family. 
We'll probably have to set up a room for at least one of them!
That's more than okay, it's our pleasure, our privilege, and our happiness.

For us, it's a denouement.
Imagine eating in Puerto Rico, Tuscany or Singapore for some years.. then coming back to the Midwest... suddenly, it's like your tongue has died. 

We're going to be mourning, no doubt. 

Going from sitting in an Italian-run coffee shop in a heated tent on the Victuallenmarkt in Munich, to downtown Frederick, MD in some dismissive tourist joint.. unless we can speak some good Italian words to the staff.. if they are Italian.. then we can speak Spanish, that's a favorite (we really do love Spanish, much more logical to the Latinate mind than Deutsch, or, for that matter, English!) just, please, give us good coffee. Not burnt crap Starbucks. 

Give me unoaked Italian Chardonnay.. don't make me chew on an oak log to enjoy my wine. I've split plenty of oak, and while I'm too broken to think of ever doing it again, I still love the aroma of fresh split wood.. I just don't like having to chew through a cord to sip my wine. 

How many Chard lovers have set a "wood grenade" in Texas bur oak, and set to its destruction? I don't know, but I still have dents on my skull and splinters in my skin. Like the remnants of iron mesquite thorns in my feet, which always point South to Texas, when I ask them where home is. 
Then, I ask them how they got there, and the conversation gets uncomfortable from there. 

You know what?
I got the chance to go home.. and I had to choose between caring for the man I love, and that. 
I chose caring for the man I love, and in return, he brought me what may be the opportunity I have been working for, all this time. 

It's a time and place, to go looking for my time and place. 
I feel I've paid my dues, done my homework and paperwork (more of that to come, to work in MD!) and now, maybe now, it can pay off. So far, it's all been pioneering, hacking down brush and blazing the path. 
More to come, for sure, and if I should wonder how the path can be thornier, I'm sure it will become so...

So I refuse to wonder, and simply, quietly, sharpen my machete. 

My time with cg has been one of immense lightning strikes, serendipity and extreme kindness from people I barely feel I know. He inspires that in people, with his immense heart and commitment. 
To what, to why, I couldn't tell you. You have to cross hands with him, to look him in the eye (one artificial lens may glint at you, now, one pupil will never be so small as the natural one) but this man has something, IS something. 

I'm in a weird situation. I am both wife and deshi. 
As wife, I may kill him. 
As deshi, I would kill for him. 
I find both and either a bit confusing. 

Meanwhile, we have, together, a destination. 
And we plan to enjoy it. 

My machete is sharp, my shovel is ready, my mind is open and curious. 
Yeah, and I have a folder ready for paperwork.. Ready to make it work.
Ready for our destination. 

Saturday, March 01, 2008

What is the sound of no hands clapping?

I have a colleague I have only met online, who was in Germany for a while, and loves festbier. 

Drinking one for you now, N! wish I could bring you one, but I don't know how to get one to TX without it exploding and spoiling. Maybe we'll have a chance, to have one fresh, over here, sometime. Hasen-Brau aus Augsburg is an early spring favorite, for its spicy, sprightly flavor as well as the elegant long-legged bunny ornamenting the label. 

It's not like we've been moving every two years, as is expected of military families. I didn't sign up for that. I'll put up with some disruption, for opportunity, and we've certainly made the best of it. 

What everyone expects, is that we WANT to go back to the US. CG certainly doesn't. I've never seen him so happy and healthy, as over here. Except this last year, when his poor body began to fall apart. 

I've tried to write about the things I hate about Germany, and there's a good handful... but there are more significant things to hate about the US. Crime. Lack of public education (college) and health (highest infant mortality in the Western world, shortest life expectancy for poor elders, diseased vagrants) myopic politics.. I could go on, but it's just bloody dispiriting. 

Not looking forward to being maniacal about locking, hiding, guarding. Not looking forward to kids sporting the "poopy pants" look whether they are dumbass gangster dumbasses, or just wanting to be dumbasses. Not much diff.. probably just payoffs and access to weapons. Here's to carrying a fake wallet with a scanned 20 visible. Or a can of pepper spray and a chunk of rebar. Or both. Can't carry a gun in Maryland. Gee, what about that crime in Baltimore?

When the kids have no hope of entering university, they turn to other dreams. If all they see in the media is gangsta this and pimp that, what do they have to do?

It wasn't around so much, when I was at that age, and I was a terrible misfit geek in a very white-bread magnet school. So I don't really have a grip on these issues, and I know that.

If Obama wins, will these kids start wearing ties and go to Yale?
Not unless the infrastructure changes.

Not unless we give them a way, and we make being smart cool again.

I'm not into pandering, and I'm not even sure Obama's black! He's half white! what does that mean? The man's not even an Oreo. More like Eskimo pie.

On the other hand, ol' McCain is having to stroke like crazy, just to stay above water.
Hmm. Probably not a good analogy, for a dude his age.

Miz Hillary? honey, being married to the prez, does not a candidate make. I've been married to a PA wonk for a while, and you couldn't pay my ass enough to do that job. I'm SURE not qualified for it by marriage.

Besides, I can make more at mine, which I am actually Good At.

No, I don't like any of them. Nor do I like Ron Paul, an old Libertarian Texan. I could deal with Kucinich, but he can't seem to get it together.

Guess I'm stuck with the choice of no choices, again.

What is the sound of no hands clapping?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

It's been sitting there for us the whole time. 

It's a Mountain of When. 

Amel Larrieux.
It's not hard to say goodbye to limbo.

Our love for Europe, for Germany, has always been tempered by our temporariness. 

 Not tied to its tax or social system, interlopers in culture, invaders in a small, rural, vulnerable area desperately in need of any kind of economic stimulus.. 

Germany was in the grip of a cultural dictatorship, an oppressive regime which overtly and deeply, subtly, thoroughly, financially suppressed any opposition.  They remain somewhat worshipful of the free capitalism and culturalism culture who played such a part in their liberation.. and they are deeply dismayed by our descent into circumstances so like theirs... Will Obama be our Hitler? Or Hillary? I'd like to know her "maiden name" so I know her family.
I kept mine as my middle name, so that my legacy of gypsies, exterminators, undertakers and horse thieves is never forgotten. I also kept it, because the Irish threw hard in me. I can find my way around Ireland, in a way that freaks both myself and my cg out. 

"It's over here" *swerve*
"but the map says.."
"nope, it's over here!" 
Um.. there it is. 
How did I know?
I don't know. 

I wish I was closer to Ireland, in my blood, so we could go back there. The economy is booming, the land needs tenants. 

We'll go to Maryland instead. Cg's got a great job offer, it's a nice place, and my career has lots of room to grow. 
Does my soul ache for the relentless heat and caliche soils of Texas, instead? 
Not like it aches for Ireland. Well, yes, sort of. Seasons, possibility, earth, family.. it's hell in a handbasket. 

It's hard to articulate the wants, the conflicts and the ends of desire I am feeling. I do know that I am NOT looking back to a country so "right wing" even the left wing is forced to fly in circles:

It's not hard to say goodbye to limbo. 
It IS hard, to say goodbye to dear and hard-won friends and ways of life.. and yet.. each one of the people we have come to love, here, knows they could show up at our door, or we could show up at theirs, and all would begin again, in the very place it started. 

Evolution continues. 
It's not something to believed in. 
It's a fact. 

Participate, or join the dodos. 
They were delicious!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sometimes a change of pace is just that. 
We just turned the world off, and went to Munich. We've been there so many times, but this time, with more than 
a touch of bittersweet, we binged. 
Sitting in a little hole-in-the-wall Thai place, Augustiner in hand, awaiting fabulous food, and chatting with a German who had been to Thailand and was raving about the food in this place,  I suddenly realized something. 
"We're Foodies!"
"Yeah" said cg, with more than a hint of "DUH!".
Well, I've always said that I'd never be skinny, but I'd always be happy, since meeting my peripatetic gourmand hubby, but I never figured it was this bad. I mean, just look at that foamy gorgeous beer! Look at the density of the 
foam on that cappucino, the 
black chocolate on the honey almond cake, the hot mellow tower of the macchiato. O. M. G. The coffee is so pungent, muscular and lively, you feel more alive, just sipping it. The chocolate is the same. 
And, BTW, if you've never had Augustiner in Munich, you've never been in Munich. 
The business itself is honest and ethical, and they don't even advertise. 
They don't need to. Their Edelstoff is my favorite beer in the world, kind of a mix between an Maerzen and a Pils, and they make it all year round. If you need to fall fast into poetic reflection, this is your drink. 

Even my Irish brother Mr Lawlor might make it a favorite, once we've poured a few down him. 
Ah, how do I love Munich. Let me count the ways. She is big enough, and full of enough madness, to forgive you, your own madnesses. 
As a woman of many madnesses, I love Munich for her own. 
CG loves mead, and we sipped some together, in the deep hard dry cold of Munich vormittag. It works for me, to be, at my core, a 
European Rolfer. I'd like to follow Dr Schleip's scientific example, 

and live the deeply examined career.. for the good of everyone we touch. I'd like to follow Dr Schwind's deeply felt virtuoso bodywork performance, so studied in osteopathic knowledge, deeply grounded technical talent and technique. So many have guided me, and I hope I can remember everything! 

I'll go where I go, and do what I do. 

My heart will always yearn for diverse colleagues, this great open field of possibilities, deep enjoyment of life in all its flavours, and this brave approach to the world. 

I wish to take it all with me, as I have taken in the cells and minutiae of food, drink, breath, skin and being. 

If you, my dear European colleagues, are in the US and need sanctuary (or just decent beer), seek us out. 
We will always have room for you, regardless how stupid our continent has become. The best we can do, always. I can only hope, in the coming days of America hopefully righting six years of  rectocranial inversion, that we will continue to be welcome in Europe.

Just happy to to have been here! and I know we'll be back. 
Otherwise, we'd miss the food!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Yes, David, it was your idea. Wish it had worked out that way. 
But here we are. Different "we" different continent, different direction entirely! 
It suits me far better, though. I find myself fluid, even in stress. 
Wouldn't say no to a week or two on Malta, though! 

When CG had to have the retina repaired, there was no way I could leave and strike out for Texas. Retina reattached, new lens in place of the old cloudy cataract, CG is well on the way to healing, but he still can't see to drive. 
Bavarian winters being what they are (excruciatingly cold and wet) our scant 5 miles into post needs to be driven, and he can't do it. 

So, I can't leave. 
It's better this way. 
I go in and teach class, and he fixes wonderful dinners. 
I feel a bit sheepish.. I teach your class AND you fix me dinner? how the hell did I ever rate THAT?

He kisses me, and he's happy, and he's a wonderful, wonderful cook. 

We're a fabulous team. 
I'm thinking its' better, not to break it up. For any time, for any reason. 
Besides the fact he's coming up with dinners no Asian fusion restaurant could match!

If the dream is shared, let us share the time together, as well. 
We don't do as well, apart... time will part us, soon enough. 

Let us have our time, our life, our fun and enjoyment.
As much as we can devour. 

That's my Valentine, for my cg.