Another Brilliant Tribute to 2020

Here's to 2020!

Out of stock already, sadly (https://www.laborsofloveneedlepoint.shop/shop/c/p/Heres-to-2020-x50194553.htm), but you could always find your inner avid needlepointer and rustle one up for yourself.

Which is all to say, I think we can all agree that 2020 has long since surpassed 2016 in total fabulousness.

That year, in December, a friend of mine sent me a link to a great way to lick the wounds of the year: get some colored felt, some glue, and some shiny embroidery thread and turn the awful events into Xmas ornaments.

https://www.startribune.com/dear-2016-i-made-you-this-ornament-it-s-a-dumpster-fire/402757886/

OK, we haven’t lost as many beloved rock stars this year, but I think you could go with a tree covered in nothing but felt ornaments of face masks, hand sanitizer, rolls of toilet paper, and spiky viruses. If you want to dip your toe into icky political waters, there’s no shortage of possibilities there either, starting with a certain orange-faced man and his minions and not even vaguely ending with a kneeling policeman, and it’s still just the beginning of September (as I write this). Who knows what the next few months will bring. Given that we need to get through the next two months leading up to the first Tuesday in November, the next few most certainly bring things we’ll all need to get over.

Speaking of processing grief, trauma, and disappointment, the coup de grace, where safe, sane, and legal to do so, would be to take the tree, ornaments at all, and burn it in the backyard on New Year’s Eve. Barring that, I suppose you could sacrifice the ornaments in the fireplace or a campfire. Then, lighter, we’ll all be in better shape to face 2021.

Oh, yes, this most definitely sounds like a plan. Not to hit you with Xmas stuff eight weeks before Halloween, but I, for one, will have to hit the craft store later this week. Because I’m not the sort of person who has sheets of colored felt just lying around and, on top of that, I’m a slowpoke who will definitely need the next three months to make a sufficient set of ornaments for purging the pain of the year from my psyche.

The Best Thing About Being a Nerd Is the T-shirts

We definitely all need one of these.

https://www.getdigital.de/2020-Would-not-recommend.html in case you’re wondering.

Sometimes German Doesn’t Have a Word for That

I don’t know when the idea first entered the public consciousness of the English speaking world that the German language, partly through its ability to mash words together to make bigger words, has a word for everything that it would take a phrase or even an entire sentence to convey in English. Maybe it was in the late 80’s/early 90’s with VW’s Fahrvergnügen (pleasure of driving) add campaign, or maybe it dates back centuries. And everybody loves the concept of Schadenfreude (joy of the misfortune of others) and is probably still sick of people talking about the Zeitgeist (spirit of the times), since that was a totally zeitgeisty thing to do for a while.

People love examples like Wirklichkeitsverweigerung (denial of truth/reality), and Kastenstandhaltung (the raising of animals (i.e. pigs) in (inhumanely small) crates) instead of in Kuschelstroh (literally: cuddly straw, but obviously it means in more comfortable conditions).

But sometimes German doesn’t have a word for that. And, okay, maybe this isn’t a fair example, since it’s a French word we’ve absorbed into English, accent mark and all, but today I was wondering what the German word for crudités is. That’s raw vegetable sticks served with dip, in case you’re wondering, and that’s more or less how the first German-English dictionary I queried translated it into German: rohe Gemüsestäbchen mit Dip. The second German-English website did suggest just saying crudités would also work, but when I hit Spouse with that word last week, when I was preparing a plate of carrot sticks, he was just like, Was?

Speaking of Spouse, I was Skyping with my friend Don yesterday and he was relaying all his oldest memories, which, except for the time he hit his head on the back of the piano in his kindergarten (hah!) classroom and covered his whole shirt in blood consist of feeling incredibly loved by his parents. My oldest memories span a gamut from my first swimming lesson (at 9 or 10 months), to the first time we saw the house I ended up growing up in (at less than 2 years), to the day my brother was born (3 years), and my dad, really embarrassed, contributing to my potty training by trying to show me how to measure out the toilet paper by wrapping it around my hand (not really sure when that was), but are united by me generally simultaneously thinking that everyone around me was an idiot.

When I asked Spouse what his oldest memory was, he didn’t even let me finish the sentence before he blurted out, “Sunburned penis!”

“Oh you poor thing,” I told him. “That would be unforgettable, and not in a nice way.” But it wasn’t his.

It turns out his first memory, from when he was 2 or 3 or so, was of being on vacation with his parents in East Germany (because they lived in East Germany), who had been lucky enough to get one of their company’s few allotted spots at a certain remote, seaside facility coveted despite its lack of electricity and running water. East Germany being East Germany, beaches were “textile free” affairs and apparently the image of a man sunburned all over strolling by, lobster red member bouncing, seared itself into the psyche of one certain young, impressionable child. Perhaps it was even the first moment in his life where he realized that life could come with an unasked for side order of consequences.

Sadly, I did not think to ask him if German has a word for either of those two ideas (sunburned penis and life’s occasional unfortunate but also slightly humorous consequences). Unfortunately, he’s out working at getting his business off the ground right now. So let me get back to you on that.

To the Ploerdmobile!

Today is a good day, warm, but not too warm, and while I was using the freedom granted to me by Spouse taking the dog for a long walk this morning to attack the unstoppable masses of dandelions that in the cracks between paving bricks in our driveway, I heard the most wonderful sound: that of someone who wasn’t me scooping alpaca poop out of their stall and pens. Yes! Barring any further accidents befalling my neighbor, I am no longer on the hook for taking over alpaca care and feeding (and poop scooping) during the half of each week her husband is away for work.

And if that wasn’t cause enough for celebration, I also, thankfully not literally, stumbled across one of the Freds who lives in our front garden. (Don’t ask me why any escargot snail that lives in my garden (or anywhere else I see one (and by this I mean more hanging out on the side of a tree than swilling in garlic butter on a plate) is named Fred. It just is.)

Fred was chowing slowly down on some dandelion that was growing in the lawn instead of the driveway.

That’s my index finger for scale. I don’t know why anyone eats Freds. Because, A- you could eat a rubber tire instead, which are just as chewy and just as palatable under enough garlic butter, and B- a lucky Fred (i.e., one not resident in France, or Poland, which is where the ones come from that the French eat now, because they’ve eaten through all of their own) can reach the ripe old age of 35. Needless to say, I’m terrified of accidentally stepping on one of my Freds. I’d hate to be the one to do in a snail that had been chugging happily along since 1995. Anyway, no one here is eating them, at least, because they’re rare enough as to be protected (however, no one has told that to the hedgehogs, although none of the our resident hedgehogs, nor our resident grass snake, have managed to find either of our two Freds in the year or so they’ve been living in our garden).

Yesterday was also a great day, although it started out with enough rain to making the scooping of alpaca poop, which I was several days totally over at that point anyway, even ickier and heavier than normal. There were not one, but two green woodpeckers boring holes in the back lawn all day yesterday and when I took the dog for a walk in the afternoon, the sun came out and the day was just warm enough to be pleasant given the insanity of humidity and the wind was exactly just right. The rolls of hay were out standing in the mowed, golden fields and you just had to think that sometimes it is actually quite pretty here.

Then, when Spouse came back from registering the van he bought as a company car for his fledgling enterprise, I had a peek at the license plate. Because of where we live, all license plates have to start with PLö, which you can write in English as PLOE, and is pronounced sort of like the love child of ploo and pluh. After that, you get to pick 2 letters, and because of the name of the company, he chose RD. (After that you get 2-3 numbers of your choice, depending on what’s available.)

So i was like, PLö RD! It’s the Ploerdmobile!!!!

So now every time I get to ride in it, I’m going to say, in my most serious Adam West voice, To the Ploerdmobile.

It is the little things that bring joy into one’s life.

In other news, this morning, I noticed that my two headed sunflower has become a three-headed sunflower, so I guess it’s now more Cerberus than Zaphod Beeblebrox or totally bonkers ending of A Canticle for Leibowitz. I have no idea what has gotten into that plant. And I can only wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Zaphod Beeblebrox Sunflower Plus What the Dog Dragged In

I was out watering the garden today and realized we’ve got a bit of Zaphod Beeblebrox action going on in the sunflower department.

8 17 2020a

So, yeah, that is a two-headed sunflower, not two different sunflower plants.  That sprouted from a sunflower seed that either escaped the chickens’ notice in their feed and ended up in compost that ended up in the raised  bed, or a sunflower seed that passed through a chicken and then ended up in the compost that ended up in the raised bed.  In any case, you have to wonder exactly what kind of chemicals it got hit by to end up producing two heads.

 

Meanwhile, nothing any of the cats ever dragged in quite prepared me for the stuff we have to pry out of the growling, clenched jaw of the dog, who will generally eat anything, provided it’s absolutely and utterly disgusting.

Exhibit A: The dead, decapitated, mummified head of a rat

8 17 2020b

 

I don’t know if this was a new find or a treat he had buried previously to savor another day (that day being today).

8 17 2020d

 

But, holy cow, check out these teeth!

8 17 2020e

Remind me to never get bitten by a rat.

I Think I Might Be a Bad Person

A few days ago, it was my FIL’s 71st birthday.  Since there isn’t currently much of an outbreak where the ILs live and the one where we live, while growing, is also still at the point where you need really bad luck to run into someone who is infectious, I was forced to accompany Spouse down for the weekend.  My ILs are nice people, but we have approximately three things in common: we’ll all (most likely) human, we all breathe oxygen, and we all know Spouse.  It’s now Sunday morning and, having hit my limit, I’m hiding upstairs until it’s finally time to leave.

Sitting up here, I’m just listening to MIL pound around the house in her bare feet, opening and closing cupboard doors, cleaning this, rearranging that.  She is German and while not all German houses are spotless, the general standard is pretty high and this one scores well.  It’s not the most spotless spotless German house I’ve ever been in, but in that one other house, the level of spotlessness was beyond deranged (meanwhile, MIL, who was also there, took it as a sign of personal failure that that house was so much more spotless than hers).  As it is, my MIL works from 6am until about 9pm keeping everything clean.  She’s the sort of person who cleans the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher and then wipes dry the dishwasher after every use and she cleans–and mops!–the bathroom at least three times a day.

Sitting here listening to all that going on, it’s… kind of sad.  She’s not having fun.  It wouldn’t do any good to point that out, thought.  She’s stubborn and would refuse to see that she could cut back by half and the house would only slide into a state that is 90% as spotless as it is now (and that would still be 150% more spotless than most other homes, even here in Germany).

I often wonder what kind of person MIL would have turned out to be and what she would have done with her life if she’d had sympathy and support from her parents when she was a kid.  She’d maybe have confidence in herself and there wouldn’t be quite so many people she’s stopped speaking to out of outrage over some perceived slight.

Anyway, while I was sitting up here in the doorway of her tiny little computer/sewing machine room that is across the hall from the upstairs bedroom, listening to my MIL stomp around the house and thinking how sad it all was, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye.  I glanced up and staring at me with its big, shiny round eyes was a cute, little brown mouse, paused there at the door jam to the bedroom, hiding behind the ancient case holding the accordion FIL may or may not still remember how to play.  Given it’s trajectory, the mouse must live in the little under-the-sloping-roof cupboard that has been opened exactly twice in the last 20 years (both of which were last August, when, searching for the enlarger Spouse said he  owned, we found that all of Spouse’s film developing chemicals back from when he was in high school had boiled over out of their containers and evaporated and left a mess of glinting crystals all over the floor).

Now, I am a very open person and what I’d love to do most is run downstairs saying I saw a mouse!!!!  But, of course, that would end in more than tears for the mouse, because, of course, most people, when faced with a mouse in their house, would put out traps.  So, although this maybe makes me a bad person, I’m just going to be silently and secretly amused that there is a little mouse and its family living in my MIL’s otherwise spotless house.

But, wow, I have no idea how our little terrier, who has now spent two nights with us in the bedroom and loves nothing more than to chase small, cute, furry things and play with them until they’re dead, has failed to notice the mouse/mice.  That’s surprisingly clueless of him.

Super Overqualified Pooper Scooper

Today has been one of those days where I make fabulous use of my PhD and more than two decades of experience as a highly trained scientist, six of them as a full professor.

It started at 7 am, when the dog I had not wanted Spouse to get because I knew exactly how this would end up going begged me for a walk because Spouse can’t get his nose off the grindstone far enough to take the dog out for more than 1-2 walks a week (which is fewer than the number of times Spouse is managing to spin the wheels of his racing bike, but never mind).  So that was the first hour of highly skilled labor I delivered today.

Then, after breakfast, I spent two and a half hours taking care of the neighbors’ alpacas. They’re very apologetic about the situation, but, still, is a situation, and there is no one else around here willing to bail their butts out without being paid for it.  In short, the husband works 3+ days a week in Berlin and the wife, who normally takes care of the alpacas when the husband is away, is the sort of person who will, for instance, manage to be the only person in Germany who has ever managed to catch Dengue fever here in Germany (presumably, because she was living near the harbor in Hamburg at the time, from a mosquito fresh out of a shipping container fresh out of the tropics).  In other words, when the pair went to the beach two days ago, guess which one of them promptly stepped in a hole dug by a little kid and ripped some ligaments (or maybe it was a tendon?) in her ankle.

The high-tech, super skilled labor I performed over there entailed changing the water in all seven of the water buckets (a slow process involving a lot of schlepping in watering cans), cleaning out the lady alpacas’ stall, collecting the poop from two of the three pens, and giving all three groups of alpacas their alfalfa, hay, vitamins, and minerals so there will be poop for me to collect tomorrow.

Then I waited for Spouse to get home from whatever roof he was on this morning, or whatever it was he was up to in the solar power and heat pump business, so I could cook him lunch (whee, fun), since Germans like a hot lunch and then eat open faced sandwiches for dinner.  But Spouse neither showed up for lunch nor called to say that he wasn’t coming.  So I ate my own lunch and then cleaned up the kitchen since there was apparently a commercial insurance broker coming later to make his or her best offer.

Then I made the chickens their lunch (wet breadcrumbs mixed with pulverized anise-flavored oystershells, which is the only way I can get them to ingest enough calcium to keep making eggshells), changed their water, and collected their eggs, and then just decided, fuck it, we’re going full peasant today and spent the afternoon weeding the garden, turning over the compost piles, and digging out two unwanted and awkwardly situation yucca plants that never get enough sun to flower.  Now I have a big bucket full of yucca root and it seems a shame just to chuck it into the trailer to get hauled off to the waste recycling center to get turned into compost along with the ton of stuff we need to trim off the hundreds of tons of trees that are closing in on the garden.   Surely, I could peel the and boil them or roast them or something.  They are edible, right?

Now I need to get much backside back out of my chair (I came in to eat some dinner) and spend an hour or so watering the garden because it’s so insanely dry and warm with a warm, dry wind here right now, I’m even having to water the weeds and all the trees in our yard are choking up and dropping their leaves, even the trees that have weathered the previous 50-70 years with no problem.  The elderberry tress are all a lost cause, the birch has already had half of its leaves shrivel up and drop off (and I’ve been watering it every day for a month already now), the yew’s needles are turning yellow, one of our apple trees’ leaves have turned such a shocking yellow, Spouse is worried the tree is dying, and even our regal, old beech’s leaves are starting to burn.

But, first, wow.  The farmers around here can be real jerks.  Never mind the one I call Kuhmann (not that I’ve met him and not that he’s the one who keeps 600 cows in a shed close enough to the local church to bath the churchyard cemetery in an unholy stench) who, in his official capacity as assistant mayor of our assemblage of settlements, has been posting racist conspiracy theories to the local WhatsApp group, our beef farmer at the end of our street!

To make a short story, long, G, our across the street neighbor who made the mistake of deciding to spend Feb-May in Brazil this year, instead of Nov-Feb, and thus got stuck there, finally made it home and has been out of quarantine now for about a week.  Even though he’s retired, he has been working almost as around the clock as the un-retired farmers around here, literally making hay while the sun shines (well, the others are also harvesting the wheat fields from 6:30 in the morning until about 11:00 at night) and now I know why.

When I was taking care of the alpacas this morning, U, the beef farmer up the street, came over to put the most seriously injured alpaca in a choke hold (not really a choke hold) while I irrigated its wound, sprayed it with blue spray (which sort of functions as a mixture of antiseptic and bandage), and then gave it two doses of antibiotic because one of its deep slash wounds had gotten infested with maggots who didn’t settle for just eating dead flesh and bacteria, but were burblingly burrowing into fresh flesh, creating a much bigger, rounder wound than had been there before.  Afterwards, U, who was on her way to the doctor’s herself because, as she informed up, livestock antibiotics aren’t suitable for humans, and she also had an infected leg wound, took a moment to catch us up on the local gossip, which is that some fellow bought the farm (not figuratively) next to her husband’s.  This person, despite having not been formally trained as a farmer (which, around here, is something like a 3-4 year process that runs through a vocational school), intends to, as she rather uncharitably put it, “play farmer”.  So the guy asked the local farmers here for help (I presume he offered to compensate them) showing him the ropes.  But apparently, only G, fresh out of quarantine, has offered his services, a fact U was delivering as a condemnation of G.

Okay, I will give you that G is a very special character.  Even I am normally slightly appalled by him (although I have also been shocked by the extent to which certain other of our neighbors make fun of him in a very mean girls kind of way).  He’s a guy in his late 60’s who, despite having the best wife you could imagine having (friendly, kind, hardworking, loyal, and so cheerful she whistles while she works, just like Snow White), still goes out to the disco every weekend to ogle the young twenty-somethings (his own daughter is 47 or 48 and is such a diehard metal fan, she goes on 2-3 heavy metal cruises every year).  He also hates to go to parties where there aren’t any women under 35 and has been known to drive drunk and to hide his car in the bushes and run across the fields to avoid the police barricades set up specifically to catch him.  He’s loud, he’s a hoarder with at least two barns and a potato cellar stacked floor to ceiling wall to wall, and his 50+ year old diesel tractors can’t be anywhere near current with their once-every-two-years emissions and safety certification, not with the fumes that waft over and invade our house when he idles them in his yard.

But he plays cards with his MIL because she is in her 90s and bored a bit shitless because she’s nowhere near as motile as she used to be and not much of anything (besides gossip and alpaca slashing) goes on out here in the sticks.  And if you have a problem with him, you can go to him and talk to him and come to a mutual understanding.  And then every once in a while he’ll go and do something that’s more decent than what anyone else here does, simply because he doesn’t give a shit what all the other farmers think about it and he doesn’t abide by any rules or conventions he doesn’t agree with and he actually has generally given it some thought.

I actually hope that the rumor that he’s selling his house and the barns and all the fields that he owns and decamping the family into town is not true.  He makes for a funky neighbor, but not in a bad way, and it will be weird not to hear his wife whistling while she rakes leaves or hangs out the laundry.

The Testicles Cannot Shrink Fast Enough

I am apparently famous.  Around here at least.

This morning, as I was out for a run, I was set upon by a terrier smaller and finer than our Rudolph, but clearly just as insanely energetic.  I stopped and let the growling little beast sidle up and sniff my legs, even though there was some pretty damned aggressive growling going on.  I wasn’t too worried about it… our Rudolph can also sound like a maniac, but he never means anything by it except that he wants to really fight you for the rope, stick, Frisbee, or oversized broccoli plant you’ve just pulled out of the ground to eat for lunch (which, mind you, doesn’t mean he wants to have the object in question, just that he wants to play tug of war with you over it).

The mortified owner of the growling terrier then arrived, very apologetically, and asked if her dog had bitten me… because, while the little dog didn’t usually, sometimes…  But the little terrier had just sniffed and then started jumping up on me just like Rudy does when he’s happy to see you (which is always, no matter who you are).

Relieved, the woman took to chatting at me at about 500 kilometers per hour, taking roughly 90 seconds to go from asking did her dog bite me to realizing, oh, I must be the “English woman” who lives in so-and-so’s old house and, oh, wait, didn’t I have a terrier, too, one that I’d gotten from this farm over there and, oh my goodness, was our terrier just as hyperactive, running around all over the place, curious about everything as hers and, ugh, it was just awful, their terrier sleeps every night in their daughter’s bed under the covers (which, hah, I could only laugh at because we lost that battle long ago, too).

Hah.  Living out in the countryside.  Eventually everyone within a 5 mile radius is gossiping about you, even if you don’t live in the same village and you’ve never previously seen each other, not even from afar.

Although, we do actually know a couple of people out here in the six or seven villages surrounding us now.  We even ran into one in the grocery store parking lot this afternoon.  Joern, the police officer from two villages over who is friends with the alpaca people and also helped the alpaca people out when the alpacas were sheared 6-ish weeks ago (the day the first slash wounds came to light).  Joern was driving out as we were driving in and he stopped and rolled down the window and yelled, “Geil!” at the logo of Spouse’s company now proudly stuck as a large magnet on the car door (these days you can get anything printed in waterproof, UV-resistent ink on big flat, flexible rubber magnets).  This made Spouse very proud.  (Even though, ahem, it was yours truly who designed and drew the logo.)

But mostly this just reminded me that I only recently learned that this German word literally means Horny! and I’m not brave enough to think about at all the times I may have totally inappropriately deployed it thinking that both its connotation and its denotation were Awesome!  Even worse, I have also learned that none of the young kids say, “Geil!” these days.  It’s as outmoded as groovy, announcing to the world that you are a dinosaur, although at least of the Gen X as opposed to the Baby Boomer variety.

But, ugh, speaking of horny, oh my goodness.  Has our Rudolph viciously hit puberty.  I can’t sit on the sofa and watch tv without being sexually harassed by the dog.  He also spent the whole day today sitting at my feet while I worked at my desk, giving me that 50-yard stare that means if I am unfortunate enough to get a glance of his undercarriage, I am treated to the view of full extent of his wet, pink, pulsating, helmeted hot dog.

6 14 2020s

{A little aside here… no, “hot dog” did not originate as a reference to a particular bit of anatomy on a hot dog.  It’s probably more that wieners probably did used to have a bit of surreptitious dog meat slipped into them and so came to be known as a bit of “hot dog.”  More interestingly, apparently the origin of the word dog is one of the “greatest mysteries of English etymology,” the proto-Indo-European terms being something closer to hound.  But I’d be willing to bet, dog just grew out of someone’s name for their hound and the term stuck and spread.  I’m always calling the escargot snails that wander around the garden here and can reach 35 years in age Fred.  Every last one of them (it’s not like I can tell them apart).  And when I talk about them to people, I always talk about the Freds.  So maybe I am planting the seeds of a later etymological mystery myself.}

Anyway, a few weeks ago, after Rudolph attempted sexual congress with my elbow one time too many, I put my foot down, and insisted Spouse deal with the hot dog problem.  My elbow is no longer flattered to be the sexiest elbow in the world. It simply wants to be left alone when trying to watch tv.

Surprisingly to me, quite a lot of Spouse’s personal manhood is invested in Rudolph’s testicles.  The grumbles I had to endure during the weeks it took Spouse to gird his loins and call the vet!  But he finally managed it.  But instead of being given an appointment for an operation, he and Rudy went in for a “castration consultation.”  Because, apparently, Germans don’t neuter their dogs as a matter of course.  Even spaying is not considered a moral imperative.  Instead, you need to have a damned good reason to mutilate the dog that way.  So vets encourage you to take male dogs you’re thinking of neutering on a testosterone-free test drive.  Thus did our Rudy come home from his castration consultation, as they say, intact but implanted with a six month supply of a blocker of testosterone production that will take six long elbow-assaulting weeks to begin to take effect.  Then we’ll see if his sex drive goes down without him turning into a vision of the older Elvis.

But all that’s happened so far is that Rudolph is experiencing a surge in testosterone production to which I can only say, sigh, because a sex-crazed dog is an unbearable dog.  The hot dog was out all day long, accompanied by much shaking, whimpering, and whining.  I’d feel sorry for the poor fellow if I hadn’t had to listen to that the entire day long while I was trying to write.

Also, Rudolph’s overly testosteroned state is starting to have expensive side effects.  Today he self-soothed during the one hour he was unsupervised because we were in the grocery store parking lot listening to Joern say, “Geil!” by chewing through one leash and Spouse’s eyeglasses, which Spouse had unwisely left within a terrier’s reach from the ground.  Their replacements are totally coming out of Rudolph’s allowance.  He’d better go get himself a paper route or something, although at least he didn’t swallow the lenses, just popped them out of their frame, which he then went on to demolish.

8 3 2020a

Alpaca Slasher

Spouse was just over at the neighbors to borrow a cup of sugar,  metaphorically speaking.  He needed to borrow the use of a paper guillotine (and I ask you, why does anyone call that something so boring as a paper cutter, even when it is something so boring as a paper cutter?).  But he got interrupted by the arrival of a set of state police detectives.  Because, yes, there is intrigue afoot.  In between the long, boring intervals when Spouse looks out the window multiple times a day, grumbling, was für ein Schietwetter, because, in a development not so far outside the ordinary for Northern Germany, we haven’t had a summer so much as a seemingly endless extension of April, it’s like an especially outlandish episode of The Archers out here in these boondocks.

We think it all started shortly before the alpacas were sheared in early June.  Hmmmm, said the shearer, which is more words than this fellow normally uses during the six hours he’s here each year, looks like someone has cut your alpacas.  And, yes, once their coats had been trimmed, it was clear that someone or something had.  Several of the six or seven younger male alpacas held in the field across the street to keep them from being, ahem, abused by the older male alpacas who are kept next to the house, had half-healed deep slashes on their flanks.

The jaw drops under the onslaught of questions.  Who would do this to a bunch of cute little alpacas????  The police who came by a month later, called once it happened a second time, said a sexual predator in training (more or less).  Apparently, a lot of them begin with violence (and then sexual violence) towards animals and around here that mainly means barnyard animals.  The police said that at the moment there are no known active “animal slashers” (yes, there is a German word for that) in the county, although there are a few at large in the state.  Usually, these guys (generally, it’s guys) target horses.

But how does someone with a sharp blade manage to sneak up on an alpaca?  Not to blame the victims here, but do they sleep that heavily?  But of course I should have known better because, living next door to about 30 of them, I’ve seen it with my own eyes.  Alpacas are stupidly curious.  Stand in their enclosure quietly for a minute or two and they’ll come up to you.  Who are you?  What are you?  Do you have food?

Third question: wait, what?  There’s a sexual predator in training roaming around the street I live on out in the middle of nowhere after dark?!  Jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesus, I don’t like that.  I’ve spent my whole life roaming freely, even at night, without fear of assault.  I don’t want to have to feel nervous about going for a walk after dark or along an empty track that runs between cornfields, and I don’t want to have to start getting nervous about being home alone with nothing but some chickens, an elderly cat, and an exuberantly friendly terrier to defend me.  They’d better nail this guy, and fast!

After the second attack on the alpacas, our neighbors began carefully photographing the wounds before applying the antibacterial silver spray and the antiseptic blue spray and giving the alpacas an oral antibiotic that the deep wounds called for.  Then they wrapped the top of as much of the fence as they could with barbed wire without having to go out and spend several hundred euros on more barbed wire.  They also wanted to set up cameras to see how the alpaca slasher was arriving (by bike? on foot? in a car?) and from which direction but the police officers told them they couldn’t do that.  After the whole Nazi debacle (Papers, please!), Germans take their privacy laws very seriously. So you can’t legally record people’s comings and goings on a public road.  Although I suppose our neighbors could set up a camera to monitor the field, and if it just happened to catch a critical slice of the road…?

Then the alpacas were slashed again about a week ago, which means the attacks are increasing in frequency and this time it wasn’t just flanks and legs but also necks, which is both unsurprising (alpacas have a lot of neck) and unnerving (neck slashes being potentially fatal).  Then the reason the detectives were called in today was because when our neighbor went out to feed the alpacas this morning, she found what was either a pile of slug slime or a sperm deposit.

Just crazy.  I really hope that turned out to be slug slime (which there is no shortage of around here), but I suspect it won’t, because slug slime looks very clearly and unmistakably like slug slime.

 

Every Now and then German Radio Doesn’t Suck

Yesterday I learned that the average German resident listens to the radio four hours a day (which means there is perhaps one poor sod out there having to listen to eight hours a day to make up for me).  I think I picked up this fact when I walked into the room where spouse was doing his daily radio listening duty (NB- the person making up for me, just might be spouse) and the moderator was reporting about how the pandemic has been affecting German radio listenership. (The gist of it, if I understood correctly, unlike the cratering of NPR’s listener numbers with the cratering of the number of people commuting to work, German radio is seeing a surge that is, alas, not turning into rising income from advertising, because the demand for ads is plummeting because nobody’s everybody’s at home trying not to catch the coronavirus.)  My immediate response to this factoid was to wonder then why all the radio stations here suck.  If there is so much enthusiasm for radio, surely at least one station could manage to play something besides drivel meant to clutter up the quiet that would encourage you to pay attention to your own life?  OK, German radio stations at least seem to have finally outgrown having Phil Collins on heavy rotation (as in, since about a year not, like, you know, 30), but they still need to work on moving beyond Queen, the Scorpions’ Wind of Change, AC/DC, and the two worst Billy Idol songs ever (Flesh for Fantasy and Sweet Sixteen).

When spouse and I were discussing this later  in the car on the grocery store because we argue a lot about how shitty German radio is, mainly because he has to have the radio and/or tv on constantly but then mentally totally tunes it out, leaving me to writhe in what is for me the inescapable agony of mediocre music and/or distracting noise, the universe reacted.  On came Ich und mein Pony by The Toten Crackhuren im Kofferraum (which translates to Me and My Pony by The Dead Crackwhores in the Trunk and don’t ask me why they use the English the instead of a German die).  The song is so horrible it’s fabulous, sort of like the Barbie Song but less annoying.  It’s about a girl riding her pony named Johnny into the sunset while her extensions waft in the wind. The song somehow manages to rhyme pony with Johnny instead of going for something more workable, like Tony.  Johnny, by the way, like it when she whips him on the butt.