Being trained to love Germany

Mrs. Dubbatrubba and I recently ditched the kids¹ and took a week-long trip to Germany. Our whirlwind tour took us to Frankfurt (home of the frankfurter… but not Dr. Frank-N-Furter), Rüdesheim (a lovely little town — and I’m not just saying that because it has an umlaut in its name) along the Rhine River, Berlin, Nuremberg (home of famous trials!), Munich (home of Oktoberfest… too bad it’s in September), and Rothenburg ob der Tauber (a walled medieval village that was the inspiration for the village in Pinocchio!).

We had fun at every stop along the way, but for me, there was just as much joy in getting there, because we rode trains. After our typical air travel experiences getting to Germany (i.e. being herded like cattle, stripped of our shoes and belts, scanned, patted down, waiting in endless boarding queues and being crammed into seats that would be cozy for Billy Barty), it was thoroughly refreshing to roll into a train station ten minutes before departure and stroll right onto a train where the “second class” seats were more spacious and comfortable than most plane seats, with free wi-fi and a place to charge your phone. Our 344-mile trip from Frankfurt to Berlin took four hours. Sure, you could get there a bit quicker by plane (one-hour flight + one-hour check-in + random delays) but our entire trip was stress-free.

I was able to buy a seven-day “twin pass” (two travelers) for under $400, and it was money well spent. Germany’s Deutsche Bahn national train system is well known for its efficiency. Traveling by train is also a great way to see a bit more of the country, and I was impressed by what I saw. Beautiful little villages and tree-lined hills… and plenty of solar panel arrays and wind turbines! Germany’s Energiewende program has helped them get 35% of their energy needs from renewable sources. Why the frack can’t the US do the same?

Other random observations:

The food is a total sausage fest. Not many choices for two vegetarians…

…so we just ate pastries instead!

German has a lot of words that are funny to someone with the mind of a 12-year-old boy (i.e. me):

    

You gotta love a country with beer in their vending machines.

They also have a miniature street grid for kids to practice riding bikes on the roads. Genius!

I’m cuckoo for Germany

Even if the last syllable of my last name is on toilet paper packages.

Auf wiedersehen!

¹ They were with Grandma – don’t call Children’s Protective Services on us.

We’re more connected than ever. We’re less connected than ever.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…

Thanks to our smart phones, our tablets, our laptops… heck, even our “smart refrigerators”… we’re more connected than ever. We can get the information we need (or a bunch of time-sucking listicles and memes) easier than ever before. But there’s a tradeoff: what we’re losing is our ability to connect with other people, face-to-face (sorry, FaceTime doesn’t count).

… it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…

Exhibit A: Tourists. “Back in my day” when you were in a strange city or country, you’d have to stop and ask a local. “Excuse me, can you tell me how to get to the museum?” Mundane, sure, but also a chance to connect… “Where are you visiting from?… Oh, I have an uncle who lives in Albuquerque!”

Now, we use Google Maps to help us navigate (even though Google Maps doesn’t know the shortcuts). We use Yelp to figure out where to eat. Heck, even hailing a cab required a bit more conversation than Uber or Lyft… “Where to, Mack?”

Seems like we’re forgetting how to strike up a conversation with any stranger who isn’t named Siri or Alexa.

…we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…

But don’t worry, there is a cure for this social malady. It’s lederhosen. Yes, that unique German combo of cargo shorts and overalls. Allow me to explain. A couple of days ago, I went on a Pub Run with a bunch of co-workers. We ran (or walked) from one pub to another, from downtown Cincinnati across the Roebling Bridge to Northern Kentucky and back again, and had a beverage at each stop (or some of the stops, depending on when you had to pick your kid up from soccer practice). The pub run organizers, John and Jay, decided to give this run an Oktoberfest theme. So they dressed up in lederhosen (and in Jay’s case, a mullet wig – don’t ask).

At our 4th stop, a couple came up to us and — wait for it — struck up a conversation! They had spotted us at one of our previous stops, then saw us again half an hour later, so they just had to know what was going on… especially because there were lederhosen involved. Les and Amy were co-workers, in town from Tucson for a conference, and looking for a good place to eat. We were happy to meet them; they were happy to meet us. We were more than happy to explain the lederhosen (the mullet remains inexplicable). We were thrilled to be able to share our local knowledge and offer several restaurant options.

The entire encounter took less than five minutes, but I guarantee you that Les and Amy left feeling much better about the friendly folks in Cincinnati. And they probably had a better meal than Siri could serve up.

Next time you’re on the road, put down the smart phone. Act dumb. Talk to a person. Especially if they’re wearing lederhosen.

 

Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!

I attended a taping of the Jerry Springer Show yesterday. Don’t worry, it wasn’t that bottom-feeding TV show of his… there were no midgets married to horses, no clown strippers, no trailer park homewreckers (at least as far as I could tell – it’s not something that you ask in polite conversation).

This was the Jerry Springer Podcast.

If you’re not from Cincinnati (and old like I am) you may not know that Jerry was once a city councilman for our fair burgh… albeit a councilman who got caught in a scandal because he wrote a personal check to a call girl. His political career survived that incident and he later became mayor of Cincinnati, then a local TV news anchor. And his syndicated TV show wasn’t always the hot mess that it is now.

In 1990, his TV station’s owner (which also produced Donahue and Sally Jesse Raphael) recruited him to host a new daytime talk show. “There was no expectation that it would last at all,” Springer recalls. “My first contract was six weeks.” At the beginning, The Jerry Springer Show emulated Donahue and tackled serious subjects. But the success of Ricki Lake in 1993 convinced Springer and his producers to target a younger audience and go full tabloid. “Young people are much more open in their lifestyles, so every once in a while the show would go crazy,” Springer says. By the late 1990s, Universal had bought the show—and dictated that Springer up the crazy. (Source: https://www.tvinsider.com/47933/jerry-springer-picks-10-of-his-best-of-the-worse-episodes/)

But Jerry’s podcast is something completely different. My friend Jene Galvin is Jerry’s sidekick, and they tackle political topics, along with some amusing banter among Jerry, Jene and co-host Megan Hils, plus a live performance from a roots/Americana band. (Last night’s musical guest was Wild Carrot.)

Jerry’s a lifelong liberal, so the show doesn’t just lean left, it’s a full 90-degrees left of center. But the man’s no dummy – he earned his law degree from Northwestern, spent more than a decade in local politics and won mutiple local Emmys for his TV commentaries. So he has an interesting take on the current political shenanigans (which often make the antics on his TV show look tame in comparison).

The podcast is certainly worth a listen. And if you’re in the area, I highly recommend that you attend the show, which takes place every other Tuesday at a neat little place called Folk School Coffee Parlor in the quaint Kentucky town of Ludlow, along the Ohio River. There’s also a local brewery/taproom next door called Bircus Brewing… but go after the show, not before… we don’t want any fights breaking out (save that for the TV show).

 

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Matt Damon…

This clip is about as Bahston as it gets…

“How do we have this?”

“We need to negotiate heah…”

“We got connections…”

The banner went missing for 48 hours but is now back with the Red Sox. And apparently there were no negotiations. But in tribute to the city where the banner was “found”, here are the Pernice Brothers with an underappreciated gem of a song called Somerville.

 

No blog post on Labor Day

My ghostwriter is a union employee.

Happy Labor Day! And for my European friends, Happy Labour Day!

 

Rumpelstiltskin is my (horoscope) name

My name’s dubbatrubba, and I’m a Capricorn, just like all the cool kids (Baby Jesus, Donna Summer, John Denver). Check out this recent horoscope:

Oh yeah, that’s me, baby! “Spinning small-talk fodder into golden threads that draw people together.” They know me so well! Actually, they don’t know me at all. I’m better at turning small-talk fodder into long-winded, pointless, egocentric stories.

But I’ll take the horoscope at face value it I can use it to my advantage. If you’d like to rent me (a modern day Rumpelstiltskin… or “Rump” for short) for your next gathering to liven things up a bit, just contact my agent, Artie Fufkin. (Warning, clip NSFW.)

Don’t waste your time with all those other Zodiac zeroes; go for the Zodiac hero. After all, it’s written in the stars: with ME on the guest list, your party is sure to be swingin’…

 

 

 

Thrift store score!

Sunday is “Senior Discount Day” at the St. Vincent DePaul thrift store near our house. My daughter always wants to go thrifting for vintage clothes (what’s “vintage” to her is “practically new” to me), so she drags her 50+ year-old pops along in order to save 25%. (It’s nice to be needed!)

However, I was the one who scored big time on a recent Sunday, at the record bin. Normally the St. VdP selection is heavy on the Ray Coniff singers and Andy Williams Christmas albums, and little else.

  

But check out this haul:

Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, Carole King’s Tapestry, greatest hits albums from Simon & Garfunkel, Elton John, Linda Ronstadt and Chicago. The Stranger from Billy Joel. Jackson Browne’s Running on Empty. Aja from Steely Dan. Brothers in Arms from Dire Straits, the self-titled debut from Men at Work and Joe Jackson’s debut album Look Sharp. Plus a Southside Johnny album, a “South’s Greatest Hits” album from Capricorn Records (Allman Bros, Marshall Tucker Band, Outlaws, Dr. John, et al.), a live album from the Jackson 5, a disco single of Lakeside’s “Fantastic Voyage” and an album from Cincinnati jazz great Cal Collins. It’s the soundtrack to my formative music years, a cross section of the top-selling artists of the 70s and 80s (with a few chestnuts thrown in)…. all for the princely sum of $9.37.

I work from home on Tuesdays and have been trying to use the Pomodoro Technique to be more productive:

  1. Choose a task to be accomplished.
  2. Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)
  3. Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
  4. Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
  5. Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break.

The beauty of listening to these albums is that each side is roughly 25 minutes long, so they line up perfectly with a Pomodoro work unit, and my short break allows me to flip the album over for Side 2. That means these precious vinyl platters are both a time machine and a timer… win-win.

I doubt I’ll ever stumble across another mother lode like those albums at a thrift shop again, but I won’t need to for a while.

A rude awakening. Repeat daily.

Well, my summer vacation was fun while it lasted… but today was back-to-school Day #1 in our house, so my leisurely mornings came to a screeching halt around 5:28 a.m. E.D.T.

Three teenagers (and one or two adults) trying to get ready every weekday and catch a bus.

Compounded by the fact that we have only one functioning shower at the moment. Packing lunches (my wife does most of that), signing permission slips, finding lost sneakers… every morning is an adventure.

This too shall pass. Our oldest will be heading to the dorms in a week, with the others soon to follow. Five years from now, I’ll be wistful about our early morning reveille.

But right now I’m just a wee bit tired. One down, 179 to go…

 

And now, in honor of my morning alarm, a new song from The Alarm

Carping about the diem… and other random thoughts

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.

— Wu Men

Great poem, wonderful sentiment. But it mentions nothing at all about 110% humidity. Therefore, I reserve my right to carp about the diem rather than carpe diem.

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My friend Robin had a birthday not too long ago. She’s an Elvis fanatic, so I sent her this text:

Here was her reply:

Yes, that’s Robin’s face superimposed on the woman.

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On a recent trip to an antiques mall, I found a cheesy 70s rock album by a band called Starz. Check out the great hairstyles on the back cover of their 1976 debut:

If you look more closely, it seems some smart aleck has “tagged” the dude at the top right:

“I’m Wm. Shakespeare’s Reincarnation”

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Here’s hoping your Monday isn’t crappy… but if it is, play to win!

 

In a festive mood

Cincinnati loves its festivals. Every weekend during the summer, a Catholic church in the area has a fundraising festival. They all follow the same script: raffles galore, a silent auction, games of chance (lollipop pull and fish pond for the younger set, poker and blackjack for the adults), food and beverages (including alcohol). Some of the larger parishes will also throw in some carnival rides and local bands as the evening entertainment.

With the proliferation of casinos, bingo isn’t the fundraising juggernaut it used to be, but the summer festivals still draw a decent crowd.

I made it to two festivals in Cincinnati this weekend, but they were quite different in style. On Friday night my wife and I went to a church festival to see Cereal Killers, a local band featuring two friends of ours. They were stellar as always (see this blog post for more about them), which is especially noteworthy when you consider the fact that they really only play gigs a handful of times each year. But they do practice quite a bit. The lead guitarist Matt and his wife Amy are neighbors of ours, and in Amy’s eyes, “band practice” is just a convenient cover story for a guy’s night out every week. (If that’s the case, I may have to join Cereal Killers as their lead cowbell player.)

Saturday morning, I got up bright and early and rolled down to the Ohio River to participate in Paddlefest. Don’t worry, it’s not nearly as dirty as it sounds… it’s just 2000+ folks in canoes and kayaks (and on paddleboards) taking a leisurely paddle down the mighty Ohio.

I’ve posted about Paddlefest before, so I won’t wax rhapsodic here. But suffice it to say it’s always a great time.

The only festival in Cincinnati that I didn’t attend this weekend was Goettafest. Yes, we have an entire weekend festival dedicated to a pork-and-oatmeal food that was popular with Cincinnati’s horde of German immigrants back in the late 1800s, and remains a Cincinnati staple to this day.

They even have a vending machine where you can purchase rolls of goetta.

Nein, danke.