De' fliengde Vuogtlänn'r

Observations, rants, etc. from a guy who really gets around.


Go West, Young Man (Part II)

After returning from Germany, I spent three months in Baltimore, figuring out that I just couldn't stand to live there anymore. It was way too expensive, too dirty, and had turned into too much of a police state. I went back to Stewart's and got hired on the basis of my previous employment, but they started me at the same money as everyone else. This did not go over well with me. After a while, I got a full-time job as a night security guard in the mall, and switched to part-time at Stewart's. So, I would go into Stewart's at 5:30, work to 9:30, then take a half-hour dinner break before going on duty in the mall at 10:00. At 6:00 the next morning, I went home, inhaled some breakfast, then crashed until it was time to get up and go back to work.

Somewhere around Thanksgiving, the mall gave me the chance to work double shifts, and I jumped all over that. So, until after Christmas, it was up in time to get to the mall at 2:00pm, work until 6:00 the next morning, back home to bed, etc., etc., etc. I half-expected to meet myself coming back. It was boring as all get-out, but it was good money.

The Sunday just before Christmas, a guy I had known before I left for Germany showed up at Church. I hadn't seen him since before I left. He was divorced now and had been working on a shrimp trawler off the Carolinas, earning money to go to school. In '72, he had been a student at UMBC, but was now going to BYU. I asked how he planned to get there. "Don't know yet", he replied. "Wanna drive?", I asked. "Sure." So, I gave two weeks' notice at work and on the 3rd of January, we packed everything in my little Renault 10 and headed for Utah. (Warning: NEVER buy a French car. The French know about as much about building cars as I know about brain surgery.)

We figured that if we switched off driving and sleeping, we could reach Utah sometime Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately.... as John Lennon said, life is what happens when you're making other plans. We were barely into Ohio when the first problem hit. The driver's side windshield wiper fell off, just as we were coming out of a tunnel. Not a good sign.

In Newton, Iowa, things finally came to a head. We were just pulling off the Interstate when the headlights began to fail. We managed to make it into a gas station, but the engine died. We went inside and talked to the attendant, who told us there was a guy in town who worked on foreign cars and might be able to help us. He let us keep the car on his lot overnight, and we headed out to check into a motel across the street.

On the way out the door, I noticed a 3x5 card by the door, right at my eye level. On it was the name, address, and phone number of the local Branch President. I turned around right there and went over to the phone and called him. He knew the mechanic in question and offered to put us up for the night and help us get the car over to the mechanic the next morning.

Early next morning (Sunday), we called the mechanic and he said to bring the car over, which we did after breakfast. The whole problem with the stupid car was a short in the starter wiring. He pulled the offending part, but told us we'd have to push-start it in order to get it going. So, anytime we had to stop for the rest of the trip, we had to get a push to get going again.

Somewhere around midnight Sunday, we ran out of gas in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I had to walk about a mile with my gas can to get gas, then get a push to get going again so we could fill up the tank at the station. We got on the road again, but I had to pull off somewhere around Green River to rest. Neither one of us could drive anymore. I dozed off with the engine running and the heater on to keep us warm, and woke up just as the engine died. Again, we had to push it to get it started, and we were on our way.

As we drove down into Utah, Hayden asked if I wanted to go down I-15, or take the "scenic route" down US 89 into Provo. Well, I figured I'd have plenty of time to see I-15, so I opted for the scenic route down Emigration Canyon, planning to take a picture of the "This Is The Place" monument. Unfortunately..... just as we turned onto US89, it started snowing and got worse the farther we drove. By the time, we reached Provo, we had a pretty good blizzard on our hands. The next day, I found out that they had been talking about the possibility of a drought until the snow hit.

I stayed in Provo for a few days with a guy I knew, then went up to Salt Lake City and stayed there with the family of another friend. Then I found out about an apartment opening in Provo and stayed for a couple of days with the neighbors, who I also knew, until the apartment was available. That was in the 700 block north of 4th East, just off the BYU campus.

Winter is not a great time to be moving. I still had a lot of trouble with that stupid car, but eventually got it fixed by a local mechanic. Money was tight, and I had trouble keeping up the payments and the finance company eventually had it repossessed. I didn't mind that quite as much as the way they went about doing it. A man and a woman came around one afternoon (to verify my address) and gave some cock-and-bull story about she knew my cousin in Arizona (I had no relatives west of the Mississippi). Two nights later, the car got towed off, with some of my stuff still in it. If they had simply said "We're here to repossess your car", I'd've simply said "Here are the keys. Just let me get my stuff out of it and it's all yours". But no.....

That left me with no transportation for the rest of my time in Utah. Occasionally, I borrowed a bicycle from a neighbor, but that was it. (Oddly enough, when she went home for the summer, she left her bike unchained. She said anyone was free to use it, but she'd really like to have it there when she returned in September. I used it several times, and I'm sure others did. It was still there when she got back. I believe I even bought her a lock for it, but I don't remember that very clearly.)

Early 1975 was a tough time. The country was still mired in the recession caused by OPEC raising oil prices astronomically. Finding work in a college town is bad enough in the best of times, but this was much worse. I finally got a part-time job as a janitor at Deseret Industries, and that kept the wolves from the door. Somewhere along the way, I had talked to an Air Force recruiter and had even taken the qualifying tests. My scores were so good that he just kept after me. Finally, he wore down my resistance and on 2 May, I signed up under the Delayed Enlistment Program. It wasn't until I arrived at Basic Training that I found out he had been a bit less than totally honest with me.

Back then, the Air Force had a career field called "Management Analysis" which sounded really interesting to me. Unfortunately, the recruiter told me I couldn't get into it, as there were no openings (this turned out to be untrue). He said all he could get me in as was Security Police; the AF was really hurting for cops those days. Well, even today. Some things never change.

At least I got to spend the summer in Provo. It's a great place to spend a summer. There was always something going on at BYU, even though dating was a real challenge. There's a saying that 20% of the people do 80% of the dating, and I'm fully prepared to believe that.

One afternoon, I walked over to the laundry room to do my laundry and there was another young lady there named Carrie. We chatted a bit and I started to get the impression she was flirting with me (although, with some women, it's hard to tell). Just then, a friend of mine named Paul walked in and saw what was going on. After Carrie left, Paul started ribbing me a bit and wound up asking me if I was going to ask her out. "Probably not", I said. He seemed more than a little surprised, and wanted to know why I didn't particularly want to go out with "a fox like her" (sic). "Because her looks don't mean anything to me", I said. Paul walked out of there practically talking to himself.

Now, don't get me wrong. Over time, I actually got to know Carrie a little bit. She's actually a nice person. But not necessarily my cup of tea. And I certainly had no interest in going out with her based on nothing more than her looks.

Weeks later, I met Margaret. Didn't want to have anything to do with her, either. She, too, was drop-dead gorgeous. But what did I care?

One morning, on the way to the laundry room (it's a wonder I didn't avoid that place altogether), I passed thru the pool area, where Margaret and her roommate were sitting. Kathleen said something like "How are you?", and I said something really nice and friendly like "What's it to ya?". On my way back from the laundry room, the two of them ambushed me. I got it from both sides. I think they called me everything in the book but a white man. I was unfriendly, anti-social, and more. By the time the dust settled, we had an understanding.

One evening, I had gotten really fed up with my lack of social life, and decided to do something about it. I sat down and made a list of everyone I thought might by any stretch of the imagination go out with me. I think I had about 15 names -- ranked in order of probability. Margaret never even made the cut. I started at the top of the list and called each one in turn. By the time I got to the bottom of the list, I hadn't gotten a single "yes". A couple weren't home; I got a few "little white lies". But not a single "yes".

Then I thought about Margaret. But I thought to myself "No way. She'd never go out with me." Then a little voice said "She won't go out with you if you don't ask. She's not going to call you up and ask you out." So I figured "what do I have to lose?", and I called her. Of course, it wouldn't be much of a story if she didn't say yes. And we had a great time. By this time, I already knew a bit about her, so there wasn't that awkwardness usually experienced on a first date.

As you might guess, word gets around the grapevine pretty fast about who goes out with whom. Less than two days later, I ran into Paul and he said something about "What's this I hear about you going out with Margaret?" I admitted it was true, and he said "I thought looks didn't mean anything to you?"

"That's right", I replied.

"So how come you went out with her?" he wanted to know.

"Because her looks don't mean anything to me", I replied.

Weeks later, I was visiting with her in her apartment. For some reason, I wound up telling her this story. And I didn't mind that she had a good laugh at my expense. When I got finished, she said "You're right, I wouldn't have asked you out. I'd never ask a guy out." I couldn't help but laugh. I said "I'd hardly think you'd have to!" For a moment, she got a really serious look on her face and I sensed something that troubled me. I asked what it was.

She said "You don't know the half of it." Then she went on to tell me how guys would just walk up to her on the street and ask her out. There was a certain look of sadness on her face that touched me deeply. I really knew how that made her feel. For once in my left, I felt unmitigated compassion for another human being. After a moment (referring to the above story of how I had come to ask her out), I said "Well, at least you know there's one guy who doesn't do that." She laughed quietly and said "Yeah, I appreciate that." Right there, I knew I had a friend for life.

After I went into Basic Training, I lost track of Margaret, but I've never forgotten her example or her friendship. I hope life has been kind to her.

Over the years, I've been back to Provo numerous times. I've often wondered how things might have worked out for me had I not joined the Air Force.


Go West, Young Man (Part I)

Before heading off to Germany, it was necessary to attend a five-day orientation in Salt Lake City, followed by eight weeks of language training under the auspices of Brigham Young University in Provo.

The curriculum at BYU is modeled after Goethe Institut, which involves total immersion in the new language. Ergo, after the third day, we were not allowed to speak English, except for emergencies. It gets really quiet there after the third day. Eight weeks is not much time for learning a foreign language, but we did a pretty fair job. One of my colleagues had had four years of German in high school. After the third week, which was the first phase of our instruction, he closed his book and said "You've surpassed everything I ever learned in four years of high school German." Little did we know....

In early December, we boarded a plane and made the trip across the pond. It was a long, exhausting flight and the first thing we could think of after landing was sleep. And food. That first 24 hours are a bit of a blur, but it's a credit to German photographers that the best photograph ever take of me up to that point in my life was taken after that exhausting trip and before I had gotten either food or sleep. We did get a nap while the office staff took our passports over to the American Consulate to do whatever paperwork they had to do. That afternoon, they came and got us, took us to an early dinner, then back to the office, where we had some orientation. The next morning, they gave us our assignments and put most of us on trains to various cities. My first assignment was right there in M�ünchen, so all I had to do was wait for someone to pick me up.

I only stayed in München for two weeks, then left for Coburg. That was even worse. It was cold, I got sick, it was a tiny little town, and almost all the people speak this horrible dialect called Bayerisch. After living mostly in Bayern for two years, I could still barely understand it. That only lasted for about five weeks, and I wound up in München again. This wasn't quite as bad as the first time, as I was working with the office staff and living in their rather nice apartment.

After three weeks, I got shipped off to Stuttgart, which was a great change of pace for me. Big, but not too big. The people were friendlier, and I was picking up a lot more of the language. Schwäbisch is probably the second hardest of the German dialects, but I seemed to pick it up. I worked with a great guy from Rupert, Idaho, and we still keep in touch after all these years.

Stuttgart lasted for three months, and Spring was just breaking as I left for Nürnberg. The train ride over was rather nice, and one of my colleagues was on the train as well. We had a few hours to get acquainted during the ride. Nürnberg was a bit of a mixed bag. The first guy I worked with was from Vernal, Utah -- a town so small, the ZIP code starts with a decimal point. He was clueless. After about two months, he got transferred away and was replaced by a guy from Logan, Utah. He was equally clueless. On the other hand, a lot of the people I worked with were pretty nice, and the locals treated us well. I actually learned to enjoy it there, and made some friends. It was hard to leave.

After four months in Nürnberg, I got shipped off to Ingolstadt an der Donau, another tiny little town. We actually lived a little ways out of town, and it was mid-September by the time I got there, so it was already starting to get quite chilly. On the plus side, the guy I was assigned to work with was from San Jose, so he at least had a clue or two. Very refreshing. By this time, I was skilled enough in the language that I was having no problems.

For some time, I had been considering how I might locate the rest of my father's family. I knew he had lived in Falkenstein im Vogtland, which at that time (1973) was part of the DDR. But I had no idea of what had happened to the rest of the family. Finally, one day I simply wrote a short letter to the family, introducing myself. I mentioned that the only other relative's name I knew was my Dad's brother Hellmuth. I mailed the letter to the last known address in Falkenstein and waited. And hoped.

Sometime later, we came home one Monday afternoon and the hausfrau told me I had some mail. It was a letter and a postcard. The letter was from my cousin, Annerose Christine (Jahn) Kratzer. The had moved from the old house in Oelsnitzerstraße to an apartment above a factory in Dorfstädterstraße. Since the letter had come from western Germany and not the US, the post office forwarded it to her. More on her in a minute.

The postcard was from my Uncle Hellmuth. He had escaped thru Berlin just two weeks before The Wall went up in August, 1961. The plan was to send for the rest of the family, but the border was sealed before he could do it. Left behind were his wife Gertrud, their daughter Christine, and her family -- husband Erwin and daughter Kathrin. Because they were trapped behind the Iron Curtain, keeping in touch with them would prove to be problematic over the years. But for the rest of my stay, I was able to keep in touch with Uncle Hellmuth quite easily.

The postcard intrigued me, as Uncle H. was living in Derching über Augsburg, which was not very far away. On Saturday, he drove up to visit. We came home for lunch, and our hausfrau met us at the door saying "You have a visitor". The visit was short, but left me in awe. Uncle Hellmuth was just the kind of person I had imagined him to be. He was still employed, despite ill health and the loss of a leg in the war.

Shortly before Christmas, I was transferred up to Landsberg am Lech, a hilly little mountain town with no public transportation to speak of. The way we got around was walking. Fortunately, the small size of the town made this rather easy. We also worked over in Kaufbeuren, which led to a couple of the funnier things that happened to us. One afternoon, somewhat exhausted from all the back-and-forth travel, we walked into the train station. I walked up to the counter and requested "two one-way tickets to Kaufbeuren". The guy just stood there, staring at me. I'm thinking to myself "What's wrong with this guy? I asked for two one-way tickets to....." Oopsie! I had gotten so turned around by all the travel that I forgot I was in Kaufbeuren and wanted to go back to Landsberg.

The trip between the two towns always involved a change of trains in Kaufering. It was usually a short stop, so we never had long to wait. Now, the trains in Germany are easy to track, as they have a large placard on the side that shows where they came from and where they're going. Traveling from Landsberg to Kaufbeuren, one changes to the southbound train from München. The return trip necessitates changing to the northbound train to München.

One evening, we were were in Kaufbeuren, waiting for the train to take us to Kaufering. We walked out to the track, and there sat the train with "München" written on the side. We got in and settled into our seats for a brief nap during the ride down to Kaufering. We heard the conductor's whistle and the slam of the doors closing and the train lurched..... southward. It only took a moment for the horror of our mistake to hit me, but by then it was too late. The train was already underway and there was no escape. Fortunately, I knew that this train stopped in Kempten, where two of our colleagues lived.

When the conductor came thru, I explained our situation and paid for a one-way ticket to Kempten. I would have to buy another one-way ticket back to Kaufbeuren the next day, but the ticket I already had for Landsberg would still be valid. You can probably imagine the looks on our colleagues' faces when they opened their door to find us on their doorstep ("Hi, guys...!"). Needless to say, they had a good laugh at our expense.

After three months in Landsberg, I wound up in München for the third time. There must be something to the old saying "The third time's a charm", because this time, I found myself actually enjoying the place. I arrived in late February or early March, and stayed through late June. In the good weather, München is actually a nice place. We got around on the public transportation, plus a lot of walking. I was working in Schwabing, the same as the first time I had been there, but in a slightly different part. If memory serves me correctly, the first time I was there, I was more in Sendlinger Tor, but since it was only two weeks, I can't be sure.

Our apartment was near the university and not far from Englischer Garten, which is a popular picnic site. We had a lot of interesting adventures in München, not the least of which was talking with a French family who spoke very little German and no English. At one point in our conversation, the woman asked us if either of us spoke French. Knowing from prior conversations that I had taken three years of French in high school (of which I remember nothing), my companion says to her "He does", pointing at me. I'm thinking to myself "I do?" when this woman asks me the longest question I've ever been asked in my life. Something told me to answer in the affirmative, so I did. She seemed satisfied with my answer, and I felt right about it. Hopefully, in the next life, I'll find out what in the world it was that she asked me.

Oddly enough, as much as I enjoyed my four months in München, I don't really remember many particulars of it. By late June, I was out in Burghausen an der Salzach, on the Austrian border. At first, I was working with a Hollander from Groningen. He had a very wry and subtle sense of humor and was a very humble soul. I really hated to see him get transferred away. His replacement was a German from Bottrop, near Essen. We had worked in the same area in München, but had never actually worked together.

In Burghausen, all travel was by bicycle, and I was getting pretty good at it. I had re-geared my rear sprocket so that I could actually accelerate going downhill. Going uphill was a bit of a challenge, but I had no real problems. We had some real adventures there in Burghausen. The weather was really strange. One afternoon, we were headed over to Burgkirchen, about six miles away. All of a sudden, a thunderstorm blew up. We had been watching a balloonist trying to land, when he was suddenly blown down and into a farmhouse. We pulled off the road to help, but by the time we got to the farmhouse, other people had arrived and had things well in hand. He had actually hit a tree first, then the edge of the farmhouse. Jangled nerves appeared to be the only injury.

Making our way back out to the blacktop, we noticed we were about to really get hit with the storm. As fast as we could, we peddled back toward Burghausen, but it was too late. An elderly woman lived on the edge of town, and her place was always a safe haven. Even she couldn't suppress a laugh at us "orphans of the storm". When the storm abated, we made our way home and changed into dry clothes. I do remember that I was wearing my dark brown pin-striped suit -- my "rain suit". I doubt I ever wore that suit without getting rained on.

On another occasion, we were scheduled to travel up to Traunstein to meet with our colleagues there. My companion kept telling me how "easy" it would be to ride our bikes up there, but something kept nagging at me. Finally, on the evening we were supposed to go, I put my foot down and said we'd go on the train. The next morning dawned bright and clear, with only a few wisps of cloud in the sky. We boarded the train for the ride up to Traunstein. It couldn't have been more than an hour later when the clouds rolled in. The skies opened up and I saw more rain than I had seen in years. We learned later that it was the worst storm to hit that area in 20 years or so. Hail tore down barns, destroyed crops, and even killed cattle. As our train rounded a small hill, the hill came loose and slid down toward the little train. A tree even slid down toward us! Some of the mud hit the tracks, causing the last car of the short train to de-rail.

Everyone got out and looked the situation over. Finally, the engineers decided to move everything into the forward cars, uncouple the last car and leave it there. It was the only time in two years that I ever saw a train late. We got to Traunstein over an hour and a half late and walked over to our colleagues' apartment. They had been at the train station to meet us, and when the train didn't arrive, the figured we weren't coming and went home. The next morning, as we were preparing to return to Burghausen, my companion said "I'll never doubt your judgement again". I just smiled. But I never forgot the lesson -- always trust your instincts.

With one week left to go, I got transferred back to München. At first, I thought it was a joke and called the office. No joke; they figured I could do some good while I was there. Little did they know. We lived with a very nice family, but I learned years later that they were thinking of kicking us out, because some of the guys who had lived there had been less than ideal. About the second day I was there, I posted a list of "rules of the roost". After that, things improved dramatically. It was very gratifying to learn of this years later. They were a really nice family to live with.

On my last evening, they had us up for dinner, and Uncle Hellmuth joined us. The next day, he picked me up from the office and took me to the airport. Sadly, although we corresponded off and on for the next 12 years, it was the last time I saw him alive.

Our itinerary included a 24-hour stop in London, which was just barely enough time to see a bit of the city before boarding a plane for New York, where we went our separate ways. Somewhere, I have a photograph of us in the airport. I'll have to dig it out sometime, scan it in, and post it on my Web site.



Furthering My Education

After high school, I enrolled in the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland to pursue a career in broadcasting. (I've often wondered how things might have turned out had Other Events not intervened. But that's a whole different story.) Nevertheless, I got a great education, and it's done me a world of good over the years.

By way of background, I often say that I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for a little old lady from Ohio, driving on an expired license. The year was 1965 and my stepfather drove a cab for Sun Cab Company of Baltimore. He had pulled into a gas station just up the street when said L.O.L. rear-ended him. He pitched forward and his head hit the steering wheel, resulting in a mild concussion. While he was laid up, he checked out the Help Wanted ads and found some good prospects. Before long, he had applied for -- and got hired into -- a job as resident manager of Mount Olivet Cemetery on Baltimore's southwest side, between Irvington and Yale Heights.

The curious thing about the move across town was that I was at Broad Creek Scout Camp when it happened. When I got back, I had to go to the old house and hope someone picked me up (they did). The also meant going to a better school in a better neighborhood. It also meant that I could actually plan on finishing all four years of high school, instead of dropping out and going to work to help support the family.

How I got accepted into Cardinal Gibbons High School is beyond me. I never figured myself as being smart enough for that. (Eight years of dealing with nuns can do that to you.) It was at Gibbons that I met John Jeppi, who became a mentor for me. Just before my senior year, he left to set up BIM.

Once I finally graduated from Gibbons, John helped me get a job at Stewart's Department store out in Westview Mall, working in the Men's Department. It was there that I met Tim Miller and John Burton, with whom I became fast friends. Very early on, we discovered that time was a (gasp!) Mormon(!). It took him a few months, but he got John going out to church with him and John eventually joined. They both went to work on me, and after looking very intensely into the Church, I joined as well. That's a very private part of my life, but it bears brief mention here, if for no other reason than to explain subsequent events. It is not my intention to do any preaching on this blog, suffice it to say that I am still a member in reasonably good standing of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (q.v.).

After graduating from BIM, I got hired at a little radio station in Martinsburg, WV (gateway to absolutely nothing). Since I worked the evening shift, it was hardly an ideal situation for me. There I was -- 19 years old, single, and stuck in a town where there was literally nothing to do. It was The Ultimate Hick Town. (The definition of "hick town" being a town where there's no place to go where you shouldn't.)

Mercifully, the job only lasted about four months, and I wound up moving back to Baltimore. A guy at church stopped me and said "If you need a job, let me know." I said "Al, I need a job." He got me hired on at Hecht's department store near Edmondson High School, working in the Sporting Good's Department. This turned out to be worse than Stewart's. At least at Stewart's, we all pretty much got along. A year later, I received a call to serve the Church as a missionary in the southern part of Germany. That's when the real "fun" begins.



Cats and Blogs

Mauki the Wonder Cat tells his story...

I was only three weeks old when they took me away from Momma and brought me to that place. It was small and cramped, and the only real company I had was a little Calico. She wasn't any happier about the situation than I was, but we would often curl up together for our naps. That made up a little bit for our rather depressing surroundings.

One day, the nice brown-haired lady came in and there was a man with her. He was so big, I couldn't even see his head from inside the cage. The nice lady opened the door and they took the Calico out. Well, at least someone was getting out of here. I was so depressed, I just sat in the back, feeling sorry for myself. Then I heard the man asking what about that grey one and the next thing I knew, these big hands were lifting me very gently out of the cage.

He smelled different from the lady. Not bad, just different. He was very gentle for such a big guy, and spoke very soothingly. Something about him made me hope he might take me with him. The lady asked him if I was the one he wanted, but he said it was up to me. Well, that was all I needed! I managed to get a good claw-hold on his shirt and climbed all the way up to his shoulder so I could talk right in his ear. He laughed a bit, and the two of them were talking about something I couldn't understand. I really didn't want to go back in that cage, so I managed to climb all the way up on top of his head. They laughed some more, and then those strong, gentle hands lifted me off his head and he held me close to his chest and he said everything would be OK.

We went out to the front desk and I got to explore the counter top while they did something called "paperwork". I found out later that this is something humans do a lot of and it really cuts into play time. While the doctor checked me over, the lady asked him what he would name me. He hesitated for just a moment and then said he wanted to name me Mauki, after a cat he had known in someplace called Germany. Oh well, I guess he couldn't pronounce my real name that Momma gave me.

After we finished the paperwork (I had to help them by walking all over the form), I found myself in a cardboard box about the same size as the cage I had been in. Not only that, but we were moving! I didn't like that very much, and kept trying to tell him so. He seemed to understand and kept telling me it would be OK, but it was still pretty scary.

When we finally stopped, those big hands lifted me out of the box and he held me close to his chest while he walked into another building. There was a great big recliner in the corner of the main room and we sat there for a while. He stroked my head very softly and told me he'd be my Daddy and take good care of me. Something about him reassured me. He really seemed to understand what cats are all about. I rubbed my face against his cheek and gave him a little kiss on the chin. He liked that, so I curled up in his lap for a short nap.

After my nap, we went exploring. Boy, there sure was a lot of neat stuff to explore! This place was huge! I really wore myself out trying to examine everything. Then Daddy put me in the bathroom and closed the door. That didn't seem like a very nice way to treat me, but after a while he came back and had some stuff to show me. There was a bowl that was bigger than I had in my cage at the other place. And a funny-looking ball made of wire with a bell inside. And a big bag of crunchy food like the nice lady had given me every day. Best of all, there was this thing Daddy called "Mousie" and it had something in it that smelled really neat and made me all woozy. Daddy always laughed when he saw me rolling around on the floor with Mousie.

Life settled into a nice routine. Every morning, Daddy would get up and check on me. He let me sleep in his chair, but not in his bed. He kept saying something about not wanting to roll over on me in his sleep. Silly Daddy! Doesn't he know we cats are smart enough to get out of the way? Where do these humans get their ideas? Fortunately, he'd let me curl up on his lap while he watched the morning news and ate his breakfast. Then he'd get ready to go to work and would always pick me up and cuddle me a bit before he left. That helped ease the anxiety.

Some mornings, Daddy didn't get up as usual and I'd have to go in and wake him up. It usually didn't take much more than getting up on the headboard of his bed and playing with his hair. He'd laugh and ask me what I was doing, then he'd pick me up and set me down by his chest so I could curl up there and take a nap with him. Those were my favorite mornings.

Daddy's roommate worked nights and slept most of the morning, so I didn't really have much to do except explore the place and play with stuff I found. And take naps. When the sun was low in the sky, Daddy would come home. It took a while to train him, but I finally managed to teach him that the very first thing he was supposed to do when he came home was to sit in his chair and let me crawl up on his lap and purr at him. I'm not sure if he realized that that did him as much good as it did me.

Humans aren't all that easy to train, you know. It takes diligence and patience. Fortunately, Daddy seemed either smarter than the average human, or just experienced with cats. I managed to teach him most of my language and after a while, I could get him to give me fresh water or clean out my box or play with me or just pick me up and cuddle me -- all without too much difficulty. Sometimes, he had a hard time understanding whether I wanted to play or cuddle, but he always managed to figure it out. I discovered that Daddy speaks another language, too. Probably whatever he spoke in that place called Germany where he knew that other cat named Mauki. It wasn't hard for me to understand, me being a cat and all.

Sometimes, Daddy would come home later than usual and I would have to scold him. He'd be a little extra nice to me and give me one of those treats out of that little can. He never forgot the rest of the routine, though. Unless I was asleep back on his bed or in his chair, I would come out and sit in the middle of the big room and wait until he put all his stuff down. Then he'd take a soda out of the refrigerator and put it on the table next to the TV remote. Then he'd let me get up in his lap and we'd talk about our day. Some days, he'd seem really stressed out and I'd just curl up on his lap and purr until I fell asleep. When the evening news was over, we'd get down on the floor and play.

One day, another man came by and he and Daddy talked for a long time about cats and dogs. The other man had a dog. I know, because I could smell it on him. He seemed to think that dogs were smarter than cats, but Daddy asked him when was the last time he had seen eight cats pulling a sled through the snow. Daddy and the man laughed, but we all knew Daddy was right.

Life was really adventurous with Daddy. Once in a while, he'd take me around the corner to the post office and put me on the package scale to see how much I weighed. Then he'd tell me I hadn't grown a nickel's worth and he'd carry me back home, holding me close to his chest so I wouldn't be afraid of all the traffic. Once, he took me across the street to the church, where they were having a picnic. There were too many people there, though, and I really did get rather scared. Daddy kept telling the kids not to crowd me, but they didn't listen very well. Later, Daddy said he wished that kids were as well-behaved as I was.

One day, something terrible happened. I knew things hadn't been going well for Daddy, and he seemed really stressed out. His roommate had gotten married and moved out, so it was just the two of us. Another friend of his came by and they talked about what Daddy was going to do. Daddy said something about a placed called "Denver" and I had a really bad feeling about it. It wasn't long after that that Daddy took me to the doctor and got some medicine for me. He and his friend took everything out of the apartment and put it all in a big truck. The next morning, Daddy gave me the medicine and I got all sleepy. When I woke up, we were in another place. I guess it must have been that "Denver" place. I didn't like it much, because it was smaller than home.

We didn't stay there long. Daddy told me one day that things hadn't worked out and that we were going home. But he said he didn't know what was going to happen to us or what he'd do with me. Once again, everything got loaded on a truck and I had to take some more medicine. When we got back home, it was a different place. Daddy took me to stay with some friends of his who spoke both of his languages. They were nice people and I liked them, but they already had another cat and we didn't get along all that well.

One day, their grandson came by and he seemed as nice as Daddy. He let me play with him and curl up on his lap. When Daddy came by to visit, there was talk of a new home. It was all very confusing, but I wound up going to someplace called "Tucson" with this nice man. It was a long trip, but he let me curl up on his lap for most of it and I didn't mind the travel.

The new place was OK, but I really missed Daddy. This new guy was nice to me, too, and gave me a good home. We had a lot of fun together, but he didn't like to let me go outside. Daddy had told him I was the smartest cat in the world and wouldn't be any trouble. When I did go outside, sometimes I'd be gone for a long time and when I got back, my new human wasn't very pleased. One day, he said that if I ever did that again, he was going to take me to the doctor and have me "fixed" -- which sounded pretty scary. So I left.

It's been a long time now and I really miss Daddy and all the fun we had. He used to tell me that there's a place called "heaven" where all cats go and that if he was good, maybe he'd get to go there, too. I hope he's being good so we can go to this heaven place together. Meanwhile, I hope he can find another cat to take care of him.



From sea....

There were lots of little side trips when I was a kid. I remember going down to Washington when I was still in elementary school, but the only thing I remember of that trip was visiting the FBI building and watching some guy fire off a .45 caliber Thompson sub-machine gun. Afterwards, he gave each of us a spent casing. I seriously doubt that I still have it, but it wouldn't surprise me all that much if I do.

Being situated on Chesapeake Bay, trips to the beach were the norm. As well as trips to Fort McHenry. During high school, we went every year to Ocean City, MD. We'd leave really early in the morning and get back after dark. Sunburned, of course.

But the best trips to the beach were after I graduated from high school. Two friends and I rented a room in Ocean City for a couple of days and drove down there and bummed around, celebrating. It was pretty tame, really, since none of us drank. Well, not until I got home. It was late and I hadn't eaten much, and my brother thought it would be funny to get me drunk. Not so funny when I tossed my cookies, though.

In August of that year, my best friend and his family went to Brigantine, NJ (just north of Atlantic City). I like his family, and it was cool to spend a week with them. What really makes me feel stupid is that I never got to know his kid sister. I guess I just wasn't smart enough to appreciate her. Looking back, she was pretty cool.

Somewhere along the way, Joe suggested we drive over to Philly, where he had grown up. I said "OK, just clear it with your old man." The day came, and we got into my Dad's '63 Rambler American and headed off to Philly. After a really enjoyable day there, we were driving back and all of a sudden, Joe says "We didn't go to Philly today". I'm like "Huh? What was that where we just were?" Then the light went on. Uh-oh.... I asked him if he had told his old man where we were going. Yup. Asked him what his old man had said. He had said "I'd rather you didn't." Now, I Joe Sr's language, "I'd rather you didn't" means "Don't you dare, or I'll break your legs".

We got back and Joe make up some cock-and-bull story about where we had gone. I feigned exhaustion and went to bed. OK, maybe I didn't have to do much feigning.

A few days later, we were all talking and in the middle of conversation (the subject of which escapes me), Joe's mother looks at me and says "Have you ever been to Philly?". Caught me completely off-guard. I just stood there with this blank look on my face and said "Uh....... no!" Afterward, Joe and I went for a walk down on the beach and as soon as we were out of earshot of the house, Joe says "They know". I just kind of winced. AFAIK, he never got in any serious trouble over it. At least, I never heard any more about it.

At the end of the stay, the rest of them went back to Baltimore, but I drove over to the bustling metropolis of East Stroudsburg, PA to visit a girl I had met on the beach. Yeah, you probably know all about E. Stroudsburg, since it's so world famous for ... uh, nothing. Nice trip, though. Slept in the Rambler and drove back to Baltimore with my back all kinked up.

The early years

I've heard a lot of comedians make jokes about this sort of thing, but when I was 13, my family moved across town while I was at Scout camp. I got a ride back to the old house and just had to hope someone would pick me up (they did). I didn't even have the new address! Sheesh.

That was a nice trip, though. Broad Creek Scout Camp in in the NE part of Maryland, near the PA border. Back then, it was a really quiet place. I've heard since that it's still there. Maybe someday I'll get back there to take a look at it. Maybe take some pictures.

I was going to start a whole new post on this next one, but why? When I was a sophomore in HS, we had a field trip up to Montreal for Expo '67. (I should scan in some of those pics and post 'em on my Web site.) That was a real blast. Not just getting out of town and out of state, but out of the country! The only real problem was that half the stuff you see in Quebec is in French, which even back then was pretty much a dead language. Of course, we got our jollies making fun of the Canadian "Monopoly money", but when you think about it, different-colored money actually makes sense.

We went up there in two big tour buses, and I remember that one of our tour guides was a Marine named Max. (He was no longer on active duty, but once a Marine, always a Marine. Semper Fi.) We totally trashed the interior of that bus. It looked like a rolling garbage dump. Of course, we also had to clean it out. And when I say "we", I mean the rest of the guys. I was raised better than that.

The trip was way too short, but a lot of fun. The coolest thing was the monorail, which you could ride for free. The weirdest thing was seeing people eat french fries w/ vinegar. Ugh! After all these years, I still haven't tried that one, although I have tried potato chips flavored w/ vinegar.

We probably slept most of the way back to Baltimore, 'cause I don't remember any of it.


The house on Homestead Street in Baltimore. Posted by Hello

Österreicher hat Kanada entdeckt!

Salzburg(bs) -- Professor Johann Klein, von der hiesigen Universität, veröffentlichte heute seine Behauptung, daß Kanada von einem seiner Vorfahren entdeckt wurde.

Als unwiderlegbaren Beweis bietet er eine Eintragung in dem Schiffstagebuch der "Loreley", welches er im Heimathafen Kitzbühel entdeckte.

Diese Eintragung meldet, daß vor vielen hundert Jahren auf einer Fahrt in die weite Welt, Seemann Johann Klein bei Sichtung einer unbekannten, öden Küste vom Mastkorb dem Kapitän zurief: "s'sish doch kaana da!".

Es ist selbstverständlich, daß der Name des Landes und folglich die Entdeckung, von Seemann Klein stammt.

The what who?

Yeah, pretty strange title for a blog, huh?

Well, if you're at all familiar with good literature, surely you know about "The Flying Dutchman" ("Der fliegende Holländer), the ship that was doomed to roam the world's seas, never to find a home. That seems to describe my life of at least the last 10 years, but I'm not from Holland. My family is from that area (Gau) of Germany known as the Vogtland, which makes me a Vogtländer (or in good vogtl. dialect "Vuogtlänn'r"). OK, I guess you had to be there...

Anyway, my German/Sächsisch/Vogtländer roots tend to show quite a lot. I'm probably more German than a lot of people who live there. I subscribe to the old ways. I believe in respecting others -- at least until they show themselves to be unrespectable. I don't speak "Denglisch", which is that horrid admixture of German and English spoken by the hoity-toity, pseudo-intellectual, one-world types. And I don't use first names with people I do business with.

As soon as I figure out how to put a link to my e-mail address, I'll do it. For now, though, you can either leave a comment or e-mail me at I've got bunches of recipes I can post here, along with a few good jokes (German and English). I doubt I'll have time -- or inclination -- to update this every day. So what? It's not like you're paying for it or anything. :-)

BTW, I thought the green-and-white motif was pretty good. Those being the colors of Freistaat Sachsen.

Als erstes.....

Greetings to all, especially my fellow Linksters.

If you're not bilinual, half of this will probably be lost on you. Well, life's tough like that. But let's hope the other half is worth your while.

Perhaps it would be appropriate in this blog to comment on some of the Linkster goings-on. No names will be changed; everyone knows who the guilty parties are anyway. :) Any Linksters who want to link blogs can send me an e-mail thru LinkUp (at least, until such time as I can figure out a way to link from here to my GMail account).

Now I have to get to work trying to personalize this place a bit. More later.