Wednesday, April 28, 2004

An Average Day

Henry wakes me up by putting his wet nose on my face. It’s not nearly as bad as it sounds! I stumble in to the toy kitchen and make coffee. Chris was in Zurich, Switzerland and found a Starbucks and brought me back some Sumatra! Walk Henry a bit and come back in, pour us both coffee, get back into bed and watch British news with Chris. Chris showers and leaves and I usually roll over for another hour! If I can’t be with my coffee gang, I’d rather sleep. I miss everyone so much at this time of day.

Finally get up, check the e-mails, write a bunch of notes to the folks at home, usually send a love note to Chris and make lunch plans. Clean up a bit, make the bed, listen to WXPN on the net and head out for lunch if I am meeting someone or to the park with Henry and a book if I am on my own. I’ll hang out with Jenny some days, but not all the time. I’ll meet Lise and the gals from the European Patent Office some days. Yesterday, a friend Gail called. She is visiting her husband who is on a six month job here for Lockheed. We went to lunch at a real Bavarian place which was ribstickingly good and then walked a bit of it off before heading for a beer garden. We sat in the mid afternoon sun for a few hours and really had a nice, intimate chat. Something about the beautiful weather and the beers made us have a session of True Confessions, but it was cathartic for both of us.

Most days I come home before four, check the e-mail, plot dinner and get start on my prep work. Chris comes home about seven and we have a glass of wine and catch up on each other. It’s a nice time of day. Then I cook and we sit down together with another glass of wine and talk some more. There’s hardly ever a lull in the conversation. Chris is easy to talk to, smart and funny. Our values and political leanings are eerily similar; when we first started our romance I quizzed him on all the stuff I feel passionate about and he passed with flying colors! He might even be a bit more to the left than I am. Anyway, we communicate very well, and hold nothing back. It is wonderful to be able to share so freely without worrying about the other person making a judgment. Chris has a real sense of fairness which I absolutely love. It took me years, but I finally succeeded in finding someone who is perfect for me in every way.

We watch some television then, soccer if it is on. If there is one chink in his armor, it’s his obsessive love of sport, in particular soccer! But I think I can deal – I have been watching it along with him. Let me tell you, these European soccer players are real athletes. I cannot get over the amount of energy required to run up and down the pitch (the field to you those of you who are not indoctrinated!). One more thing; they have great lithe bodies. It’s not really a chore watching them.

Then we turn in, read in bed, and chat more. Among other things. It’s a sweet little life.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

What I Miss Right Now

1. My family
2. Joanna, Peggy, Tom & John and John & Stephen
3. My other friends
4. My coffee group
5. My job and my boss and the boys in the office
6. My paintings and stuff
7. CVS
8. The damn Hadrosaurus
9. The Haddonfield Library
10. The Sunday New York Times

What I Don’t Miss

1. Driving and my car
2. Having a relationship through e-mail, text messages and phone calls
3. Acme

Subject to revision….

Examples of Jugendstil, the German branch of the Art Nouveau movement, are found allover my neighborhood, and Munich. All one has to do is look up and there are amazing decorations on many buildings. There’s a beautiful building in Ainmiller Strasse, where people like Rainier Maria Rilke, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinskuy lived, with large friezes of Adam and Eve done in this style and they literally take your breath away with their beauty. I love this style and always have. Guimard’s amazing Metropolitan subway stops in Paris. William Morris’ designs of all sorts, the work of Charles Rennie Macintosh and everything in Liberty of London have always attracted me. If you look closely, these people and design houses influenced so many people in America including Louis Comfort Tiffany, Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan. Seeing these original pieces in their unvarnished condition is an astonishing experience for me, an unabashed Art Nouveau/Arts and Crafts lover. I know it’s somewhat out of style to like this stuff as much as I do, but really one cannot help but fall in love with such beautiful pieces of art.

If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.
- William Morris

Monday, April 19, 2004

A Good Time at the Augustiner Brewery

Saturday afternoon, we took Henry to the Fruhlingsfest (Springfest) in the Theresienwiese, which is the home of Munich’s famous Oktoberfest. I went to the massive flea market with Chris’ friends Brian, Trina and Nicola while Chris and Henry went to the beer tent with Gavin and Andy. I cannot resist a flea market and this one was as junky as any I have ever been to, gave Berlin Farmer’s Market a good run for its money in the seediness department. But I was in my glory, after all this was European junk. Strolled up and down the aisles just looking at all the crap. Chris’ gang all have great senses of humor and are always up for a laugh. The stall that elicited the most response from us was selling braids of human hair. It was odd, to put it lightly.

After the hair I decided I needed a drink and joined the gang in the tent where we had a seat dead in front of the band. It was too loud and half the gang decided they wanted to go home, however Chris, Henry, Brian, Trina and I headed over to the Augustiner Brauerei, an amazing place where beer has been brewing since 1328. The building is loaded to the gills with atmosphere and charm. There are long tables and benches and more often than not you end up sitting with an absolute stranger. I think I have finally found the answer; beer lubricates these people socially. We sat down and the gruff waitress took our orders, but very sweetly set down a bowl of water for Henry. We drank the Helles, an astoundingly good beer, brewed according to the strict standards of the German Purity Law of 1516 which states that the only ingredients in German beer may be water, hops, malt and yeast. They are onto something here as this stuff is incredible. Brian kept stressing how we would not have hangovers because of the purity of the beer. Brian was, I’m sorry to report, dead wrong. The person next to me was eating this rather medieval looking piece of meat, with a huge bone and skin attached to it. Those of you who know me well know that I will nearly always go for the oddball item on the menu. This looked fascinating, like something a serving wench would give you just before you contracted the plague from a tick brought into the tavern by a sailor. I must’ve looked really interested because Trina exclaimed how much she loved schweinehaxe, which is roasted knuckle of pig. Of course I had to order it right there and then and it lived up to my expectations. It was falling off the bone delicious, served in a beer sauce. As promised the skin was still attached. Gasps went around the table when I fed the crackling to Henry. “But that’s the best part!” everyone exclaimed.

Something which aroused my curiosity was the group of school kids who could have been no older than 14. They were knocking back huge glasses of beer together with their chaperones! I felt like a puritan as I watched them.

As night began to fall, more people came into the brewery and as more pints of helles were consumed, many people started singing football songs and pounding on the tables. Brian told me that these folks were fans of TSV 1860, the football team of the people, the more traditional team. Brian ribbed Chris because he supports Bayern Munchen, the yuppie team, the rich team which can afford all the best players. It was a lot of fun even though I didn’t know what the hell they were singing about.

We stayed much too long, talking and laughing for hours. Brian and Trina are both Irish and really warm and open, a great antidote to the icy Bavarians I’d been faced with all week. Sometime during our stay, the chef came out and gave Henry some bones. He also refilled his water bowl. The place was jumping and they were catering to my dog! It was absolutely sweet as can be.

After way too many beers, we decided that we would meet the rest of the crew at another pub. We piled onto a tram with a bunch of other beery people and went to the next pub, but were so tired that we went home after one drink.

Sunday was spent laughing at Saturday night’s exploits. My first crazy night here and it was a good one.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

April 16, 2004

A glorious spring weekend here in Munich. Yesterday after lunch, walking through the Viktualienmarkt, the huge outdoor food market in the city center, Jenny started humming “Springtime for Hitler and Germany” from “The Producers”. I have been trying so hard not to mention WWII, Nazis, Hitler, anti-Semitism, etc., that I was knocked over by my very proper friend doing the thing I’d been warned against so many times, namely making fun of the dodgy past of this, my new home. But it made me giggle, that and the half carafe of red wine we’d split at lunch.

Later Friday afternoon, the sun still shining, I headed down to the beer garden in the Englischer Garten, which is very much akin to New York’s Central Park. Big difference however; in Central Park the sunbathers don’t take off their clothes at the first sign of any sun that might give their bodies a tan. These people worship the sun in the most frightening way; their clothes get taken off in the middle of a grassy field and they just lie down and soak up the rays. It’s absolutely bizarre to me that they won’t smile at you ever but they will take down their pants and reveal whether or not they have been circumcised (Note to self: Must stop looking!).

The Garten is lovely though, filled with people, kids, dogs, and riders on horseback, fields, hills, trees, and three beer gardens. The beer garden we went to on Friday is called the Chinese Tower, on account of a huge wooden pagoda type tower upon which an oompah pah band plays to the merry crowd of about 8,000 assorted drunks. But it’s a lovely tree filled place with a playground for children. People are hoisting liter glasses of beer called “ein masses” and are generally in good form. It’s an interesting mix of tourists, students, kids, Bavarians in traditional dress (these folks really will use any excuse to don a pair of lederhosen), and yuppies all decked out in the latest. I’m smack in the middle of a table of expatriates, Brits and Americans today. Henry sniffs the ground for any sort of leftover that may have fallen on the ground. We spent several hours there sorting out the world. As night falls, the lights in the linden trees begin to twinkle creating an almost magical atmosphere, perhaps more the result of several of those huge beers than anything else.

It’s Saturday morning and Chris is off at his golf lesson. In order to play at a course here in Germany one must have certification, something like a license. I like our democratic way of doing things – any idiot with a club and enough money can easily play at a municipal golf course. Everything here is regulated to the point of it being very off putting. To me it smacks of elitism. They just love order, whereas at home in Jersey we all seem to thrive on chaos, me included. Rule breaking reigns at home whereas here jaywalking and obeying the traffic signals are major preoccupations for these most orderly people. If you breach the law and decide to live dangerously by crossing at a light where there are no cars, they yell at you. Their reason is fur die kinder, for the children, to set an example, something I won’t even bother addressing here!

Thank goodness for Henry though. He seems to be breaking through the glaciers with his effusive friendliness. He’s such a trouper, wagging his tail constantly, sniffing up a storm. It’s a whole new continents of smells for him and he is reveling in it. He goes happily along with me all day long. Yesterday he was sleeping on the U-Bahn which is the subway. Not too phased by anything when we are together, but completed unnerved when alone. I am waiting for a bout of homesickness which is bound to come, in probably the most awful way. Yesterday I was walking amidst all the flowering trees and bushes and thinking that this probably will be the happiest season of my life, Springtime in the most literal way possible. Here I am, with the person I have waited for my entire life, forging a new life, learning different things, practicing tolerance for a culture to which I cannot warm, but eager for the adventure. I miss my home, but I guess I’m realizing that you have to make a home within yourself, a safe place.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

April 13, 2004

Easter wasn’t so bad without the family. It’s just another day to me as I am really not religious in any sense.

Saturday was sort of fun, joining the fray in Karstadt (local department store) shopping for Easter candy. I spent a long time looking at every different sort of candy and it actually was really fun. Bought a crazy amount of it and came home and made a nice little basket for us.

We have been spending a lot of time quietly alone which is very satisfying. We can both be in the same room; each of our heads buried in a book, and be very happy. There are no pressures, no worries at all with us. I hope that we are always so easy with each other, so simpatico. I have never felt like this with anyone, so accepted, so loved and secure. There’s nothing I can’t say to Chris, no mood that will scare him away. He doesn’t run from my darker side, yet he doesn’t indulge it either. He accepts it. Yesterday I was quiet and moody and depressed, wanting just to talk on the phone all day to Joanna and gossip, wanting to be in my old life. He was sweet and kind, touched my hand a lot, made me feel safe. This is the best biggest love I have ever had and I still have no clue what I have done to deserve it.

I wasn’t really loving him that much early Sunday morning when he came stumbling in from the pub, with the pub smell on him, and amorous intentions to boot! Why does booze make us so horny? He said he was sorry a bunch of times on Sunday when he finally came to life, but I wasn’t mad at him. By Sunday noon it was actually pretty funny as were the apologies from him. Apologies for something he couldn’t really remember…

We went to Lise and Richard’s place for Easter. Richard was visiting his family in Birmingham, England so Lise was putting on the meal herself and making it look easy. Lise is so easy to be around, warm, loving, open and oh so pretty. If you didn’t love her so much, you might have to hate her. And she has a great collection of books to boot so between her and Chris, I won’t have to buy too many. She and I have very similar tastes, handy as hell for me.

Easter was another wine soaked day into night with the usual suspects. Me, Chris, Jen and Paul, Barry, Joanna and Joao. Lise’s table is much like mine in Haddonfield, always full of food and wine, laughter and discussion.

Devouring books. Just polished off two by Augusten Burroughs – Running With Scissors, and Dry. Blasted through them. They were engrossing, shitty harrowing childhood followed by descent into alcoholism and written with a very wicked humor. For a long time at home I was having trouble concentrating and could not get through anything more than Vanity Fair magazine. So it’s great to be reading again.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

April 10, 2004

Good Friday was so quiet here. Everyone has fled the city for other places, namely warmer climes or local ski resorts. One of my favorite times of year in Haddonfield was summer when everyone took off for their second homes. The streets were deserted and I felt like I owned the place. Sigh, if only.

We took a ride into the country. The further we drove the closer into focus the Alps became. I am so used to flat living that any sight of mountains gets me overly excited. Chris was meeting a friend for golf and I took Henry for a long walk along a quiet road, looking at the flowering trees, running across people on horses. The fresh air and sun feel good on my face. I walked into a tiny little town with a church called St. Martin which had a stone slab plaque with an iron cross atop it and the dates 1939-1945. It was a list of the war dead from the tiny village and there must have been forty names on it. Most of them had died in Russia or Poland. It made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. It was such a juxtaposition with the jaunty maypole in traditional Bavarian blue and white not fifty feet from the eerie memorial. You can read a bit about maypoles here . It’s impossible to forget what happened here not that long ago. As I stood staring at that monument I tried to think about those dead soldiers as people, sons, brothers, husbands, lovers, anything but Nazis. Many of them went into that brutally cold Russian winter under the spell of a madman and never returned. Did they laugh? Did they love? They must have. They probably all enjoyed their beer and the girls with their breasts spilling out of their dirndls. How did it go so wrong?

We looked for a place to lunch, but alas nothing in the countryside was open due to Good Friday. I am used to pagan Americans who have no reverence for anything, something I actually like in a strange way. Sunday? Who cares? Let’s go run up our credit cards with unnecessary shopping!

We found a beer garden open near us and had a drink and a bite. Henry sat sweetly by my feet while a wild Jack Russell terrier terrorized him.

We talked for a long time last night when we went to bed. I can hardly believe how easy it is to be with Chris, to let it all go and not feel judged. I thought about the person who came before him, how he shunned intimacy in all forms and how I almost felt guilty for craving it. How happy I am that I was able to break the pattern and find someone worthy of me.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

April 8, 2004

Snowing today as it has been in Jersey I hear. It’s strange not to be there, but I am connected. I go online and listen to local radio and read the Philadelphia Inquirer just to keep tabs. At 3 p.m., the e-mails start rolling in from my friends just arriving at their desks at 9 a.m. Yesterday I gave some cooking advice to a friend and was kibitzing with my brother-in-law on instant messenger.

I think one of the reasons my relationship with Chris blossomed so well is that we were connected via the internet and text messaging. I think I could have sustained a relationship by snail mail but he freely admits that he is much too lazy for something like that.

I do miss the election ins and outs, all the behind the scenes machinations. This is such a big election and starting out so mean and so tenacious so early that I kind of feel bad not to be back in the thick of it. It’s not the same reading about it in the papers or hearing about it on the BBC.

Today is going to be a lazy one. I am going to loll about in pajamas awhile and read which is the ultimate for me. Chris has a work dinner tonight so Jen and Paul are coming by and we are going to find a dog friendly place nearby to grab some dinner.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

April 6, 2004

Another ground breaking day with Henry. First, I took him on the bus where he dozed, bless his sweet soul. We met Jenny and walked over to Cafe Voila which is quite a lovely place near her flat. I was nervous about Henry's first time in a real restaurant but he was great, at my feet, not troublesome at all. Jenny and I had a light conversation which was punctuated every ten minutes or so by her saying how great it was to speak English in the middle of the day. I am so glad and relieved that she is here smoothing the way. It's nt easy. There's not a whole lot of warmth here. Henry is attracting much attention though and generaly people are sweet to him and then smile at me, but only because I am attached to him!

Everything here is a new adventure even buying groceries and drugstore items. For some silly reason, I love foreign drug stores. I could just browse the aisles all day looking at mundane stuff like toothpaste and toilet paper.

My mood has been good which scares me a little bit. I have my period and normally I am a bundle of anxiety and sorrow at this time, but I have been strangely even. I worry a bit about how Chris is really going to feel about my mood fluctuations, but he seems to understand me and is very supportive. His even temperedness really grounds me.

Monday, April 05, 2004

April 5, 2004

First day on our own. I’m used to being alone at home so it doesn’t throw me at all. I think it’s healthy to have time to yourself even if you are in a relationship and I daresay that Chris agrees me, after many years alone as well. Although Chris has always had roommates, just not roommates that he was sleeping with! Me, I enjoy being with a crowd, but I revel in being alone, puttering, read a book, surfing the net, knitting. I have always been great at amusing myself.

I found my favorite Philly radio station on the net. It’s like being back at my desk listening – only the morning show which I love so much won’t start till two.

I made contact with the sister of a friend who is living here and amazingly she is about a minutes walk away from us. How bizarre is that?

Yesterday we took Henry to the pub for his first visit and he was a huge hit. Did a few tricks for the gang which they all loved. One of the guys, Gav, wants to borrow him so he can meet women. Dogs and babies are always the entrée to meeting people I have found.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

April 3, 2004

Less sprightly than yesterday - due and owing to the fact that we stupidly left the dog on his own for six hours last night while we went out and got thoroughly trashed with a bunch of friends. Apparently, Henry barked the entire time as we were advised by an anonymous note on our door left by a neighbor. It was utterly stupid to do that knowing how anxiety ridden he seemed to be and now we are in the soup with some unknown person in this building. I am afraid to go into the hall for fear of being accosted by some angry German. We discussed it and we think we just need to stick close to him for a week or two until he calms down a bit. I think all the upheaval of moving, of going to my family’s house for a week and then flying here really took a toll on poor Henry’s psyche. Though he is enjoying the massive walks we have been taking through our neighborhood, Schwabing.

Our first night out was great – spent at a brasserie near the central market getting hammered with our friends and celebrating my arrival. Any night that begins with a Kir Royale and ends with tequila is bound to be fun, but…. Everyone really in top spirits especially Richard who kept ordering new bottles of wine to be brought. Final tally – nine bottles. Sobered up completely upon arrival at home and first sight of note on door.

Rest of day chilled out with book called Hitler’s Niece (fictional version of his affair with his niece Geli Raubal who committed suicide. Reading it because much of it is set in Munich). Jen and Paul stopped by to see the apartment and we chatted a bit. Paul says he too was obsessed with Hitler and the Nazis when he first moved to Munich. Glad to hear that I am not the only one.

Quiet night at home with pizza, wine and British quiz shows. I keep saying that once you cross the threshold of our apartment you are in England. Satellite telly brings the BBC and Sky TV, soccer matches, East Enders and the like. There are also tons of food shows. When did the British learn to cook?
April 2, 2004

One day in and the adrenalin is pumping. I am adjusting well, so far, but my dog Henry isn’t, which is giving me a major case of anxiety…. I suppose I underestimated the effect that the plane ride would have on him. I am a lousy flyer, constantly thinking that plane is going to crash, or now, after the September 11th mayhem, thinking that terrorists are in my midst. I quell my fears with alcohol and pills. I gave the dog some sedatives from the vet yet he still seemed tightly wound.

Arriving in Munich, I picked up Henry right after I picked up my bags. He seemed thrilled to see me and not too bad off. We then had to go through customs which I was expecting somehow to be like a bad movie where Henry and I end up in some room being questioned by some brown shirt. All of our papers were in order, yet I was nervous because I took a year’s worth of drugs (birth control and prozac, both necessary for my sanity) and not the two months supply allowed by the Germans. The nervousness was quickly allayed by the blue eyed good looking customs agent who was flirting and telling me how cute Henry was. He seemed more interested in how the long flight had been for the dog than in any documentation I had. He took the briefest of looks at it, bent down, patted Henry and sent me on my way! We went out to meet Chris and then picked up Jen who was flying in from Philly as well but on BA.

After dropping Jen and marveling at the amazing spring weather, we got to the apartment which is lovely, facing south which is good for both the sun and the satellite dish I hear. We spent the afternoon sorting my stuff and Chris’ stuff as well and just chatting and catching up after a long period away from each other. Chris is sweet and sensible and the perfect counterpart to my often irrational and often overblown personality. Being with him has a most calming effect on me. I just cannot get wound up when he is around. It is pretty amazing!