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.






Somebody Obviously Never Saw Heathers

Like literally literally every other sentient being currently on Earth (and undoubtedly everyone who is up on the space station, too), I’ve spent the whole day today repeatedly greeting the wall with my forehead.  I knew he wasn’t the word’s brightest light bulb and that at times he seemed to be grasping at a reality that was different than mine, but even if I was absolutely not at all a fan, I had assumed there was at least one brain cell motoring around in there, and not always just on idle.  But, nope.  With this whole business of suggesting in his breathiest most presidential voice that experts were going to look into shining bright light inside people and injecting them with disinfectant (because that sounds so much more technical than bleach?), it finally really became utterly crystal clear.  He’s not just a mean, cruel, narcissistic bully who is uninformed, intellectually lazy, has no attention span, and would be a nihilist to boot except that he believes 150% in himself.  He really is stupid.  Like honest to god thick as a post dumb.

I mean, this is way beyond 25th Amendment time.  Never mind that he has the launch codes or that he’s in the midst of trying to start a war with Iran or even that the guy who is supposed to be coordinating the national response to a global pandemic just seriously told the nation to go drink bleach because that could kill the virus in like a minute!   No,  it just seems like now how can anyone, be it a governor or a congressperson or any world leader who is actually trying to reach agreements and get stuff done, ever bother talking to this idiot again, when he so clearly too stupid to realize he has no grasp at all on reality.  Plus, the man has clearly never seen Heathers.  Anyone who has seen Heathers knows exactly what happens when you ingest household cleaning products.



Perhaps I Have Finally Arrived

Yesterday, an accomplished but occasionally melancholic friend of Spouse’s had a birthday (the same guy who’d never boiled spaghetti (or any other kind of) noodles before).  I decided to bake him a cake and Spouse bought him a bottle of wine, even though at the moment he’s not drinking any alcohol, not even beer, which Germans often don’t count as drinking alcohol.  Spouse’s friend’s family used to run a locally famous cake and pastry bakery/cafe, so the pressure is always a bit high (even though the man needed instructions for boiling pasta).  So far, I’ve earned praise for brownies (they’ve never had proper ones here, so it’s easy to wow them with a run of the mill brownie), a plain chocolate loaf with glazed icing, and some other simple cake I made last summer but have long forgotten about.  He always says it like he knows a thing or two about cakes (he does seem to eat them non-stop, despite the fact that he is in the tippest top shape, mentally and physically, of any 79 year old  you have ever met) and like, as a woman, I have nothing else to live for but praise for my baking.

(So, yes, he’s a great guy, but he makes me want to chew nails sometimes, because he’s my nemesis without knowing it or meaning to be so.)

Anyway, this cake was a catastrophe that only became apparent at his house, when I attempted to release it from the springform pan.  Which is exactly what I deserved for making a cake from a recipe my MIL gave me more than ten years ago and I maybe made once before (also about ten years ago).  MIL’s recipes are always missing half of the information… such as several of the ingredients, the quantities you are supposed to use, and while they contain helpful tips like bake in an oven, the time and temperature is generally missing.  Generally, I manage to fill in the blanks correctly, but this time I botched it.

But, having braved catching the coronavirus to wish him a happy birthday (and, unlike his friend from town who arrived as we left, we did not phone the police first to ask if it was allowed (it was)), we sat in his backyard and shoveled into the mess.  The birthday boy did bot seem to mind that the cake base under the cherries and baked vanilla pudding was not solid (the missing information, in addition to the amount of butter, flour, and sugar to use, was that the base should have been baked separately first at some temperature for some length of time before putting the pudding mixed with whipped egg whites on top and baking the ensemble for 1 hour at 212F) (which I should have known, but the recipe for the base was so odd and it was wafer thin to begin with, I didn’t think it could withstand double baking without turning to stone).  I guess he was just being a good sport because he thought my womanhood might collapse into hysterics under the trauma of having baked a bad cake.

As we were sitting there spooning the cake in our pie holes, trying to ignore the general smell of the liquid cow and pig shit they’re spraying onto the fields right now (the field backing onto his backyard was so thick with it, it was glistening), the farmer came by with a whole new tanker full and started spraying.  Which is not the usual protocol.  By us, the spray by night and generally use an array of tubes that spray the muck directly down onto the ground.  This was more like a firehose of liquid shit.  We had to rapidly decamp for points inside, the smell was so overwhelming.  (I had to wash all my clothes, too, including my jacket, because they soaked up the smell and would not let it go.)

Turns out the farmer was doing it on purpose because he hates the people who live the the row of houses along the edge of the field.  He’d wanted to turn it into a parking lot (it’s 100 meters from the beach) and they’d blocked that.  So now he farms as antisocially as possible.  Including over-applying liquid pig shit on warm sunny days when people are sitting in their backyards trying to celebrate their 79th birthdays in the middle of a pandemic.

A few hour later, as I was coming home from a walk I took because I felt super ill after eating the cake (I’m allergic to wheat and have some serious problems with milk (a casein intolerance???), I stood aside to let a tractor pass me.  And this farmer, who is far from anti-social, gave me a big smile and wave and I realized it was our neighbor, Ute, the one who raises cows.  And I thought, maybe I have arrived here finally, really.  Not only have local farmers sprayed pig shit at me, there’s one who sees me and smiles and waves.





Just in Case You Need Your Gob Smacked

This video. Wow.

I mean, unless you’re a judge or a theologian, who really cares whether or not there is free will.  But the idea that every moment in time exists simultaneously,  how cool is that?  I’ve never been a fan of the time travel trope, because if the Earth is turning while orbiting around the Sun, which is orbiting around the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, which is undoubtedly doing a bit of moving around the universe as well, surely that must totally complicate popping back to “yesterday” or 1812 or whatever.  You can’t just aim for a past time, but you must also aim for a past place and you’d better be insanely good at calculating it in several different polar coordinate systems simultaneously.  I don’t know about you, but my math isn’t anywhere near being able to even ask a computer to do that for me, although I suppose there would eventually be an app  for that.

But where was I?  Oh, yes, I’ve never been a fan of the time travel trope, but if relativity is right (it’s explained very nicely in the video; you really should watch it), and all time exists simultaneously, wouldn’t it be great if you could learn how to look through it and see any time or place you wanted to, or make some connection?

You could go to a seer, but instead of having them merely look into your future, they could help you look into your past.  Then you could visit it, sort of, as if it were a place you could travel to when you were homesick for old clothing styles or people you hadn’t seen for a while because they died or just changed too much as they got older.





It’s Always a Day Away

If a German wanted to stick something where the Sun don’t shine, all s/he would have to do is mail it here.  I swear every day this winter has been grey and often also rainy.  Spouse, who obsessively checks the weather forecast instead of sticking his nose outside, has been telling me every single day that tomorrow the sun and warmth will finally arrive.  Finally, two days ago, I broke and snapped, “Yeah, tomorrow, it’s always a day away,” which immediately shot me down a wormhole straight back to the late 1970s.

Annie.  As in, the musical.  It must have been the Frozen of its day.  For reasons unknown to me, someone (a grandmother? an aunt? probably my aunt) bought 7 or 8 year old me the LP of the Broadway show, which had its debut in 1977.  And I was hooked.  I must have tortured my parents, playing it over and over again on the living room stereo, singing along, belting out Tomorrow and It’s a Hard Knock Life in particular at the very top of my squeaky little lungs.

I had totally forgotten about that until that moment two days ago.  Yet I’d loved the songs so much, my parents, who could have used a Daddy Warbucks themselves, managed to scrounge up the funds for at least two tickets in the second to last row of the orchestra seating, off to the side, of what the internet tells must have been the Shubert Theater (although I’d swear up and down it was the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, but don’t ask me why, it’s not like if you showed me pictures of them, I’d be able to tell them apart).  All I remember of the show, aside from the stage being rather far away and one mental image of the moment I pushed the seat down and sat, with my jacket tucked under my arm, is being distinctly unimpressed when it was explained to me that the girl playing Annie was not the one on the record (i.e., she was not the right one), because she was now too old (which may or may not have been the case as it wasn’t exactly a million years later that the original run at this point).

So, it’s almost pandemic lock down survival music… the sun will come out, tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be sun… except that in the chorus, Annie really does sing, Tomorrow!  Tomorrow!  It’s always a day away….  Which is sort of exactly how life feels right now even though the governments of Europe are making public their “exit strategy” musings and plans for how to keep outbreaks under control while resuscitating the economy before the globe plunges into an Annie-style Great Depression.


But at least in real life, tomorrow finally came.  Today it was sunny!  And warm!!!  And in another week, if we’re lucky, the trees will have leaves again.


Yeah, that’s Me, 35-40 Years Behind the Times

Yesterday, when Spouse was occupied, the dog was asleep, and the cat and a half (Big Kitty plus Grey, the stray who has adopted a spot in our yard right next to the food bowl) were outside, the latter trying desperately to be friends with the former, both of them sitting in the sun, facing into the wind, like very own little flock of seagulls, I decided to listen to some music.  And not just any music, but exactly the right sort of music for this day and age of a world fairly barricaded inside its houses and apartments, hospitals and morgues overwhelmed with patients, and not so much as a single sheet of toilet paper to be found on grocery store shelves. Yes, that means I put on Kate Bush, in particular, the Kate Bush that is The Ninth Wave, which is the second half of her brilliant Hounds of Love album.

There are some great songs on there.  Like this one


And this one


Down through the years, I have slowly learned that The Ninth Wave, whose name stems from the idea that every ninth wave in the ocean is a crazy big one, is a series of songs about someone literally lost at sea, all alone and hoping not to die, who is visited by fear and nightmares, hope, love, and, finally, rescue helicopters. But it has never been clear to me whether or not this person lives or dies at the end.  The final song, which wraps things up, seems to me like it could go either way, yet it also ends so abruptly that, listening to it for decades in my kitchen or on my personal stereo (I was always too cheap/broke to buy a real Walkman) on a tape I’d made from the record I’d bought, I’d always assumed that, so close to the end of the cassette, the bulk of the song had been cut off, that that was the life, popped like a soap bubble into the sweet morning light.

But, thanks to the internet, now I know the truth, from the mouth of the auteur herself.



But the song from a million years ago that I keep coming back to is one I’d been shockingly unaware of until its performer died a few days ago from Covid-19.  In fact, I’d been brutally ignorant of her existence until I read the tributes that poured in, at least to certain corners of the internet.  How had I missed Cristina?  Mind… blown, and… this song came out in 1980?!  No wonder it died a death and she gave up her pop-star career.  We simply wouldn’t have been ready for it or her back then.


It’s even more mind-blowing when you compare it to the original

Pot-Bellied Pigs and Other Omnivores

Lately, my mother has been sending me lots of short little emails, which, times being what they are, is probably what everyone’s mom is doing these days.  Cut off from playing Scrabble with her friends, going to movies with her friends, eating in restaurants with her friends, and walking along the beach with all the dog-walkers and exercisers, she has been taking a daily walk in her neighborhood, more or less along the same route, more or less at the same time each day.  It is the sort of neighborhood that, if you do this, even under ordinary circumstances, you also end up to running into the same people also out for their daily constitutional.  My mother has discovered that in these most unordinary circumstances, this includes a family of five- mom, dad, babe-in-arms, small dog, and mid-sized dog sized pot-bellied pig.  Apparently it is white with pink and black spots (which I think means it is not a true pot-bellied pig).  Many questions spring immediately to mind (how big is that thing going to get?!), not the least of which is: aren’t there ordinances against the keeping of pigs within city limits?

Anyway, I guess you can feed them just about anything.

Speaking of which, oh. my. god.  Dogs really do eat just about everything.  I did not grasp this before becoming the proud owner of a fast moving working terrier mix.  Have I mentioned this already?  If you’re not careful when you open the fridge, a little snout will stick itself in and pluck a carrot off of the shelf.  But our little Ru-Ru doesn’t like carrots even a tenth as much as he loves ice-cold, crisp slices of kohlrabi.  Apples are the bomb, too.  And eggs, potatoes, rice, stir-fried zucchini, sausages (duh.), lettuce, cornbread, bread bread, the wet mix of pulverized breadcrumbs and minerals I give to the chickens every afternoon (because otherwise I just can’t get them to take their vitamins*) {*sensu super latissimo}, all walks of cardboard, all important pieces of paper** {**and here I used to think that ‘the dog age my homework’ was a joke}, used tissues from the bathroom garbage pail, hand towels, bath towels, anything small and plastic enough to require surgery if it lodges itself into any gastrointestinal nook or cranny, clean socks, dirty socks, my underwear (and my underwear only) out of the dirty clothes basket, cat food in all of its forms (wet, dry, chucked up, pooped out), horse apples, cow pies, deer pellets, chicken shit, mummified rats, and, as of 24 hours ago, single-use rubber gloves chucked out someone’s car window as they drove down a country lane not far from our house (assholes).

Schlucked down whole, even, before the horrified eyes of Spouse.  When they got home from their walk, we called the vet, expecting to hear a Thank god you caught it so quickly!  Come right in and for a mere couple of hundred euros, we can put him under general anasthesia and endoscope that thing right out of him.  But she just laughed and said, it happens (read the internet; generally it’s not single gloves but boxes of them).  Feed him sauerkraut.  That’ll help it slide out.

The sauerkraut was another big hit.

Anyway, thanks to the 12 hour average gut transit time of your typical small dog, it all came out, ahem, in the end this morning before breakfast.  Although apparently Spouse had to provide the final tug.  (It is at times like these when little Ru-Ru is not our dog but his dog.)

The only other news from here that’s fit to print is that German tv is full of montages of celebrities of various flavors (actors, moderators, sports stars, musicians) thanking the overworked and underpaid hospital workers and exhorting people to stay at home.  The new one I saw last night actually included a guy in a bright shiny new t-shirt that said FUCK THE VIRUS.  Because only in Germany could you show that on prime time tv during a public service announcement.