Chilling in a French November

Stretching his legs in a brief moment of sun

Hercule Poirot is a famous product of Agatha Christie’s criminal mind.  His brilliant mustache and unshakable French accent combined with the less-notable ability to solve crimes have all kept this sleuth in high regard around the world.  I must admit, though: when Poirot’s accent was replaced by an actual Frenchman’s voice-over, I felt a little dirty.

These are the personal revelations one must cope with when the rain is falling on France’s countryside.

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The Zoo and the Parenting Game

It comes over you immediately after disembarking the subway–the pressure to maintain your cool as the Parenting Game begins.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to play.  It doesn’t even matter if you don’t know there is a game going on. 

But as the groups of families and friends rush faster and faster toward the exit, hoping to be first to pay 9 Euros to enter the zoo, you realize there is something odd here.  People stare you up and down, judging you with their eyes.  They look at your baby stroller and then look at their own…they must have spent 1 or 200 Euros more on their stroller and smirk with superiority.

Visiting the zoo is supposed to be a time to relax and observe animals in their natural (man-made) habitats…but our visit today turned more into a sad study into the human condition.

Our trip to the zoo was prompted by a few things, the most important and relevant being our young man’s newly-found interest in animals, and communicating with them.  See a bird, and want to say something? “Caw, caw” he’ll answer.  See a lion? “Rawr.”  And perhaps you see a dog, or any other animal? “Bow wow” is the default, universal language for all things animal.

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New Beginnings..again

Tomorrow I start a time as guest journalist at a new division of Bayerischer Rundfunk–this time with the Radiowelt (Radio World.)  My role in each editorial team is often the same: offer commentary, insight or humor to all things American.  Sometimes I get to put an American spin on something traditionally German.  But the longer I stay in Europe, one could–rightfully–pose the question: are you still qualified to give the American perspective, having not been in country for so long?


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Karneval’s Toll

Bad day
The official start to Karneval is 11:11, on the morning of 11Nov, but the drinking began much earlier than that.  Celebrants in costumes ranging from interesting (a giraffe) to ridiculous (smurfs, and fire hydrants) piled out of the subways and marched across the Roncalli Platz to find a brew–a morning elixir to make their dreams come true.

But this tangible inebriation came not without a price, and the Altmarkt (Old market) stood as a beer-soaked ruin.

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Underway, the Kölner Way

When many Americans talk about seeing Europe, the bulk of these people can be divided into two groups: the tour bus or backpacking crowds.  Some folks spend their hard-earned dough on a blitz-offensive of Europe like the kind seen in “National Lampoon’s European Vacation,” rushing city to city in an attempt to “experience” Europe in an insanely tight time frame.  Rome, Berlin, Paris, London, fly back home.  Others try to backpack through Europe, and spend a lot of time in hostels.  This is a fine option for younger folks, but not everyone.

But our troupe doesn’t fit into those categories.  We are European veterans, having taken our time to see the on- and off-the-beaten-trail sites.  And with a baby, and no car, the list of “Crazy things we have done in life” has just gotten longer.

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A Change in Perspective

Through buildings
There’s a certain comedy to attending language classes in a tourist zone.  First, there’re tourists everywhere.  And though I hate to generalize, tourists seem to all follow the same m.o.  They all seem to have expensive Canon Digital SLR or Nikon Coolpix cameras.  They all seem to push aggressively down the sidewalk heading somewhere…until they stop in the middle of the same sidewalk, and ask each other where they’re going.

Tourists also tend congregate in safe zones: monuments, cathedrals, shopping centers, etc.  But fortunately tourists tend not to ride the city bus to the end of the line, and that’s where our troupe found itself earlier this week.

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Ziggy Wisdom

The Sky

I remember an old Ziggy comic, in which round-headed Ziggy sits with his dog on a cliff’s edge admiring the sunset.  He remarks to his dog, “He does great work, doesn’t he?”  It’s a simple homage to a greater power, and the logic (or belief) behind it can be applied to most anything in life.  I remember and come back to that Ziggy wisdom occasionally because of its simplistic depth…an elementary understanding of something complicated, which to me makes perfect sense.

Now in Berlin, I am reenacting that Ziggy moment almost every night.  Our view of the horizon has brought unbelieveable sunsets into our life, which make for interesting Futter für die Seele. (Food for the Soul)

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