Dash Away Fall

The leaves have mostly fallen from the trees. The hangers-on are starting to look a little forlorn–like desperate girls still at the bar for last call, vibrating with an embarrassing hope that it is hard to look at. In deference to their humility, have spent the last week focusing on the ground and at the drifts of golden splendor there, but the weekday drudgery of joggers and commuters has taken a toll there, too and I find myself with nothing fun to look at. . . . so I think that I’ll go away.

This morning, I grabbed a flight south. If I can’t keep the sun in my pocket, I’ll chase it for a while, I think. I’ve packed a bathing suit, two shirts, and a pair of running shoes. My sad little carry-on was more than half empty, so I threw in a hat and a cotton dress then a bag of food. I’m hoping that where I’m ending up doesn’t have a customs department that would take away a lady’s Honeycrisp Apples.


I’m writing to you from the first leg of my flight–a commuter jet full of business travelers in crisp striped shirts and navy suit jackets with garish brass buttons. My giddy demeanor is as dead a giveaway as my PEZ t-shirt and camo tennies that I am up to no good and even less business, that’s for sure. If you’ve travelled with me, you know that I positively quiver with joy. It is right at the surface every second threatening to overflow on the floor. It is interesting to see the change in the serious travellers’ demeanors when I let it shine on them. It’s like they are embarking on an adventure with me. I almost convinced the elderly gentleman next to me on the plane that an island was a much better priority than a business meeting in Philadelphia–I never promised to be a good influence.

The sun is shining through the into the plane and beckoning me like a window tapping Peter Pan. . . . “Come on, Pam! Let’s fly away on an adventure.” Like the proverbial Pa in his cap, I can always be counted on for tearing open the shutters and throwing up the sash. . . dash away. . . dash away. . .fall. 🙂

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Exhibit A, Your Honor

Sometimes I’m not sure it’s going to work out after all. I mean, we have been together 20 years, but sometimes my beloved says stuff that makes me wonder. Take this afternoon, for instance, I was casually mentioning to my husband that when I go to the store lately, I fear for the lives of all poor innocent Reese’s Peanut butter cups.


The thought started developing last week when I accidentally forgot to fast forward through a commercial for Halloween candy. I covet Reese’s.  A lot. I think that the last time I imbibed was at Christmas last year. I’m due. And I informed my spouse of my Reese’s entitlement sharing that I have abstained since last Reese’s Tree Season. He raised an eyebrow. Seriously, though, we all understand that the MOST acceptable format for Reese’s is the tree habitus, right? That way, you can consume the Reese’s loveliness one tree tier at a time. Three perfect bites of  peanut butter and chocolategasm.


The second most acceptable shape is, of course, the classic cup. The primary benefit of cup consumption is the crunchy crinoline petticoat of milk chocolate happiness–the cocoa zig zags that you scrape off of the top of the cup with your teeth prior to the only appropriate Two Bite Method of mastication.  Crinoline scraping plus the TBM?  Three steps.


The third and last acceptable conformation is the Reese’s heart–available only during the otherwise tortuous month of February. Two lobes and a point–three steps. Three bites. Reese’s per-fec-tion (Three syllables. Coincidence? I think NOT)! The entire conversation was going well, I think, (if you’re a newlywed and you wonder what you’ll be talking to your spouse about in twenty years, now you know) until my husband (tenuous term at this second) went ahead and said, “Well, what other shapes are there? Eggs? What’s wrong with eggs?”

“WHAT’S WRONG WITH EGGS?! Aaaaaw hell, don’t even get me started, mister.”

Aside–yes, I’m dead serious and, yes, everyone wants a ‘me,’ poor Kevin. When cloning hits its stride, there’ll be Pams on every corner.

“They all taste the same to me” he said.


Oh, he got me started, alright. First, an egg takes FOUR BITES to dispose of properly. Four. Bites. Unacceptable. Furthermore, while lingering in the misery of too many bites, your fingers sink into the oddly shaped amoebic blob. There is no decent place to grab an egg, forcing a strange cramping pincer finger ridiculousness that leaves the thumb and pointer finger coated in wasted chocolate. This flagrant resource wasting leads to inevitable multi-finger sucking. Gross. Finally, the egg shape starts, becomes and remains turdlike in appearance for the entirety of its life cycle. This is NOT passable. Not peachy OR keen. Not hunky OR dory. Are you catching my drift? I know, right?! And I’m MARRIED to a man who doesn’t get it. How could I be expected to continue under these conditions?

Therefore, your honor, I submit Exhibit A:  Irreconcilable Reese’s Differences.

Post Script- while serving up dinner tonight, I needed to combine scalding ingredients from three hot pans onto plates in a specific order and it was tenuous. He jumped in when I experienced a utensil failure and when I started quoting Clint Eastwood, “Improvise. Adapt. . .” He jumped right in with, “Overcome.” So all is forgiven. I’ll keep him now.

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Autumn. . . and Galoshes


Every good person deserves a New England autumn. Even a bad person could quite possibly be redeemed by one. I think this at least once every day right now. I used to live in a place where the Indian Summers clung to the aging year like golden spun honey–slowly adding layers of beigy gold shine until one morning a brown frosty coating had settled in to stay through the winter. This northern autumn takes no such time. One day, you’re sweltering, melting, and swatting flies too lazy and hot to move out of the way and the next morning, you wake early to scamper down the hall and retrieve an extra blanket for your bed. The velvet humid air turns sharp over night and the streets that were just yesterday covered in lazily blowing circles of cut green grass are suddenly filled with a cacophony of fall color that seems shameful to trod upon.

At first, when people asked me how I liked living back east, I just kept saying, “It’s so GREEN. It’s just so GREEN.” And people took it however they wanted. I couldn’t even find words. Really. It’s not the piney clean evergreen of Tahoe or Denver. It’s not the sagey muted green of the southwest or the neon green of Las Vegas. People from the west don’t have the vocabulary to understand the density of New England green. It’s a deep brilliant emerald that is unapologetically unceasing. To those of us who aren’t desensitized it’s simply too much. Too rich. Too many bites of chocolate cake on a full stomach. Too green. But when the green gives up and the colors come, when the landscape fades to a clean smelling scene straight out of a painting with tufts of fire lining the streets and burning through the street gutters, it’s soooo good–such a clean fitting death to all of that rude inundating greenness.

People who sleep in miss the whole point of a New England autumn. Sure, you get to catch the yellow dappled afternoons and raucous bonfires, but you’re missing the most important part–sitting in the kitchen window hugging a mug of coffee watching the leaves flit down heavy with dew, the late season panic of bushy tailed squirrels cramming acorns in their cheeks and playing in the leaf drifts like giggling children, and watching the early fog lift to show a brilliant new landscape each morning with spots and stripes and gashes of color strewn through the helpless green expanse. Nature is truly the finest artist and New England’s autumn is her most breathtaking canvas.

If you’ve seen photos, you know half of the story. It’s the difference between seeing a picture of the Sistine Chapel and standing beneath it. It’s the difference between listening to a love song on the radio and actually being in love. What I mean to say, I guess, is, “Do come! Please, do come and play with me.” Bring galoshes. Something about wading through crisp fallen leaves screams for galoshes and fresh cider spiked with whiskey.  I’ll keep some mulling on the stove for you, just in case.

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Ginger Tunes


There’s a note in my phone titled “Ginger Bands.” When a song comes through the car speakers (it probably says something about how old I am that I really wanted to say ‘comes on the radio’ even though I haven’t listened to the ‘radio’ in probably five years), The Ginger – dry, sarcastic, pretty much pee your pants funny even on an off day – usually offers a one to five word commentary. I wait until he’s not looking and jot them into this document at stoplights. What follows is a collection of song titles/band names and The Ginger’s two cents which are always almost whispered in complete deadpan. Quiet, angsty deadpan. Like he doesn’t need anyone else to hear, he’s just amusing himself.

Hell on Heels/Pistol Annies – Hell on Earth. Piss in my ears.

The Weight/The Band – Most creative band name. Ever.

Gravedigger/Dave Matthews Band – Way to share the fame, bro. Douche.

All that She Wants/Ace of Base – Meh. C – minus of base.

We Are Young/Fun. – Can be a noun or an adjective. Neither of those constitute a complete sentence.

All the Things She Said/Tatu – I can’t believe they spent their Spelling Bee prize money producing this crap.

Beat on the Brat/The Ramones – Does Child Protective Services know about this?

Brand New Lover/Dead or Alive – Mostly Dead.

Days Go By/Dirty Vegas – Dirty and Vegas. Those two words mean the same thing.

The Devil Went Down to Georgia/The Charlie Daniels Band – Well, this makes Dave Matthews seem even lamer. He copied his lame band name idea from someone else.

Boom/P.O.D – P.O.S.

Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough/Michael Jackson – Oh, I got enough before you even started, thanks.

Blind/Korn – If you like corn so much, why don’t you learn to SPELL IT?

Dreaming/Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark – Pretentious much?

Friday I’m in Love/The Cure – The illness.

Blue Suede Shoes/Carl Perkins – Wait. What? Better than Elvis.

I Wish/Skee-lo – I wish this song was over.

I’m on Fire/AWOLNATION – No need to shout. Angst. We get it.

Pure Energy/Information Society – You wanna know what I’m thinking? I’m thinking you ask a lot of questions for a band called “Information Society.”

Is that All There Is/Peggy Lee – This chick needs Prozac.

Let’s Talk About Cars/Butthole Surfers – Butthole sniffers.

Mmmm Mmmm/Crash Test Dummies – I think the airbag hit his voice box.
Bawitdaba/Kid Rock – These aren’t even words. Dumb.

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Chicken Polo?

Yesterday, passing by a beautiful farm with a sign out front that read, “Polo Lessons”

The Giant–Chicken lessons? What is this? The Colonel Sanders Culinary Institute? How can they remember 11 original proprietary spices if they can’t figure out how to spell “pollo?”

The Ginger–Not ‘Pollo.’ POLO. You know, as in, “I’ve finally attained my highest level of training in Marco. It is now time for me to learn to Polo.

I die a little bit inside every time I think about them moving away for college.

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In Memorandum

Fat Man, just hanging out with friends.

Fat Man, just hanging out with friends.

Toby “Fat Man” Eikleberry died Wednesday, August 19, 2015 after finally succumbing to forces of nature when when a long held crack in his butt separated from his tang and fell dramatically into a grill basket full of asparagus. He fought the crack courageously for more than five years and, in his final moments, was surrounded by loving family. He was almost 20 years old.

He leaves behind his dear friend and confidant of 20 years, Pam; his begrudging companion, Kevin; his chums Big and Little A and many beloved friends. He was predeceased by Tate “Little Boy” Eikleberry – his companion of 15 years.

Fat Man arrived early Christmas morning in 1995 in an excited rush of wrapping paper and late night alcoholic cider induced glee. He was the first Christmas present that Kevin ever gave to Pam and it was love at first sight.

In his early years, Fat Man tirelessly worked alongside his companion through the trials and tribulations of a first kitchen. Often misused, he never complained, happy just to be enveloped in the warm cocoon of comfort food. As the years went by, though, he grew stronger and the love between him and his family glowed as brightly as the patina of his handle.

After cutting his teeth on the elementary hacking of a new cook, he progressed to skilled dicing and precision deboning. He grew faster with time, quickly becoming the go-to guy when time was short and hunger threatened his loved ones. Fat Boy could always be trusted–his spine a courageous tenderizer, his bolster an efficient crusher, his tang a warm reminder of his quality and the strength he could bring to any task.

Fat Man had a passion for garlic. He was known to sometimes pass a quiet afternoon lovingly and methodically separating the skins from the cloves of head after fragrant head without ever getting bored. He loved the sight of a towering pyramid of papery garlic skins. He was also great fun–always willing to play the fool and act as a karaoke microphone when loud kitchen singing was called for.

He will be greatly missed, his loss a gaping hole in the knife block of our hearts.

The memorial will take place this evening in his family home where his body will be laid to rest in a bed of garlic. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you add two extra cloves to whatever you cook tonight and smile in memorandum of Fat Man.

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The Cutest Mistake

I found some adorable mini eggplants at the farmer’s market. Really, they’re the size of a thumb. Okay, maybe the size of a thumb if you’ve hit it really hard with a hammer. But ADORABLE, really. Firm and sweet smelling, striated pale purple and cream, lovely. And cheap. I couldn’t resist them – despite the irritating voice in the back of my head who kept whispering in my ear about some weird previous aversion I’ve always had to eggplant. That hatred? That was the OLD Pam. The Pam who had never experienced these darling new Baby Barney Dreamsicle Eggplants (no, the farmer wasn’t all that excited about the name I gave them either–all of you people lack imagination).


I rinsed, sliced and skewered them. They were even cuter in a row. I guess that most things are–baby ducklings, paper dolls, soldiers–wait…. Then I basted them with olive oil and fig balsamic vinegar, sprinkled them with cracked pepper and threw them on the grill.


When they were carmelized and crisped to perfection, I topped them with finely chopped mint that I cut from my garden (by garden, I mean one very heroic little minty bush in a plastic pot who provides for all of my mojito needs despite my criminal neglect, praise mint) and placed them on the table between the asparagus and the steaks.


Sometimes, the best way to get The Giant to eat something new is to placidly pretend that the item in question has always been a table staple. If he specifically asks about the food, I quickly tout the cooking method or toppings like the bat shit crazy mother from Better Off Dead (‘It has fig balsamic. You LIKE fig balsamic’) instead of saying, “eggplant,” I may have hedged and changed the subject to how many episodes of Daredevil we could squeeze in before bedtime.


It worked. The Giant ate one. He did! And The Ginger ate FIVE. Then I ate one. Guess what? I still hate eggplant. It’s disgusting. Even when it’s adorable. Leftovers were NOT retained for further use. All evidence of Barney Dreamsicle buffoonery has been eradicated from my kitchen and we will now all agree to forget that this ever happened. Thanks.

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I love the “everything” part of an everything bagel. I love it so much that, when I’m done smooshing the bagel part into my mouth and notice the “everything” that’s been left behind on the plate, I suck the remaining cream cheese off of my greedy little fingers and use them to scrape up the “everything” until I’ve eaten every last seed/garlic/droplet of heaven. I’m pretty sure that there’s a metaphor in there. But I’ll have moved on to the rest of the “everything” in the world that I can’t get enough of by the time the carb coma has worn off enough to metaphor today.

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The Dishwasher is Evil

My children have been on vacation for a week and today marks the third–THIRD time that I have had to unload the dishwasher. With my OWN HANDS! I have also been forced to WASH the dishes and get up from the couch to fill my own coffee. I sincerely can’t take it anymore. The Giant and The Ginger have been unloading the dishwasher since they were 5 and 6 and I had forgotten what a miserable cow of a chore it is. Luckily my husband remembered how to take out the trash because I would have drawn a very stinky Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout garbagey line in the sand there.


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There’s no chance that I stayed up all night last night reading a trashy novel and eating an entire party size bar of chocolate in bed. Okay, there’s a slight chance. There’s also a slim chance that when I stumbled to the bathroom this morning in a late night, drunk on chocolate, shriveled pea brain from bad fiction hangover and closed the medicine cabinet door I jumped at the sight of myself and almost choked on my toothbrush. I was covered in dark brown spots. I did a quick mental checklist of diseases that I could have contracted while I slept and of insects that could have invaded my bed. Then I realized that the spots were melted crumbs of chocolate. There’s no chance that I ate one to confirm. Shit, okay, there’s a pretty good chance. #KevinsWINNING

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Shameless Confessions of a Tactless Yogi

I do yoga. There. I said it out loud. See, the thing is, I wouldn’t go to yoga if I could help it. If I could find another way to eliminate the chronic pain in my neck and shoulders, help my lower back stay put and keep my IT band from acting like a napless three year old leaving a candy shop empty handed, I would do that instead. But since I haven’t and I can’t seem to find a long lost relative who wants to die and leave me enough dough to keep a deep tissue masseuse on staff, I am afraid that I have to be one of those girls who, gulp, does yoga. While I love what yoga does for my body, I have to confess that I am an “Ohm Free Zone.” I know that the practice is all about love and acceptance and focusing in and all of that bullshit, but I. AM. NOT. So here goes. . . .


Confession — Since we’re friends, I think that I can safely share this terrible yoga simile that occurred to me during my last Savasana. I feel like a great power yoga class is just like taking a great big crap. Before, I feel anxious, nervous, pressured maybe? I race around to get ready, making sure that I have all of the requisite supplies. The actual process is grueling, smelly, harrowing work, in the end though, I feel lighter, relaxed, relieved–ready to take on the day.

Confession—I am totally judging everyone’s outfit while I am supposed to be meditating.
• Excuse me, Miss? Your tramp stamp clashes with the screen printed words on the ass of your sweats.
• Ma’am? Bras are recommended. Really. Get one.
• Sir. I can’t warrior two while watching the sweat roll off your back and divide your back hair tufts into islands in the Great Mole-Back Plains. Shirts. Have some.
• Oh Honey! That is a fungus. Paint those toenails or you will never get bun man to third base.


Confession—While watching a particularly gifted (and, ridiculously pretty and nice and NOT as sweaty as me) bitch in my class effortlessly transition from a bound extended side angle pose to a Bird of Paradise without a grimace, I had the following thoughts in succession while stumbling around on my mat with one leg wrapped awkwardly in my crotch and the other in a crude imitation of the chicken wing my older brother used to extort my Halloween Candy:
A. Hmmph. No boobs. I knew it. She couldn’t do that if she had boobs.
B. Boobs are much better than balance.
C. Laser eyes, Pam. Use your Laser Eyes. You can knock her over with your thoughts. . . .
D. I wonder where she bought those pants?

Confession—I never “forget” to take my watch off. I bring my watch in and set it on the floor in front of me so that I can keep a running time schedule of how long it takes before I can see ass crack sweat on the pants of hippie jackasses who think that it is appropriate to wear cotton pants to yoga. Yeah, bun wearing patchouli hempsters, I can see your ball sweat. And it’s gross. You’re gross.

Question—why do old men act like yoga=tantric sex?! Honestly. You’re in a class of forty other people (women and normal guys) and you are MOANING. Out loud. Get your shit together you crazy old fart. Yeah, we get it. It feels good. Channel your noises ANYWHERE else, please. You are harshing my zen.

Confession—One of the teachers at the studio gives a holiday class that is so difficult, you could forgive yourself for any number of whole pies or bottles of wine you consume for the rest of the day. It’s divine. I spend exactly as much energy enjoying the class and the burn as I do watching. . . and waiting. . . for the first newbie to leave. Now, I do this for two reasons. The first, of course, is that I like to think, “You see? You had no business crowding your lame ass into this packed studio wearing an outfit that coordinates with your yoga mat. Holiday classes are for die hards, punk!” The second reason is, of course, that when a quitter leaves, they open the door and a sip of cool air wafts over and I think, with relief, “Oh, thank shit. I might not die.”

Confession—One day when all of the water bottles in my house were—1. In my son’s room (I don’t know either, that’s what the sanitary cycle on the dishwasher is for), 2. Rolling around on the floor of my car (don’t judge me) or 3. Dirty, I considered filling an empty wine bottle from the counter with water for a hot yoga class. Further Confession—I was actually only deterred when I realized that driving home from yoga while guzzling from a wine bottle that I was keeping in the car cup holder might be frowned upon by law enforcement and I am no longer young enough or cute enough to talk my way out of a ticket.


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Teenagers and War

How do you teach children about war? In all cases a herculean task, I think that American parents have it both harder and easier than so many other cultures. Easier, because whichever path we choose, it’s voluntary for us to teach and it’s optional for children to learn. Parents who raise children in countries where war is an everyday reality don’t have this option. Their children wake every morning in the middle of something incomprehensible and it is the parent’s duty to explain, to help, to make it tenable. Harder because American kids are influenced by so many sources both outside and inside of the home–thousands of television channels that play 24 hours a day, mobile devices, teachers, friends, and family–it’s hard for youths to separate the informational wheat from the chaff especially when its coming at them at the speed of a superhighway–heck, it’s hard for most adults! It would be insurmountable for parents to try to control all of the information that their children receive. And should we want to?

We are a military family. Not because of a generations’ old tradition, but because my husband chose to serve–both as a law enforcement officer and as a member of the Armed Forces. This means that the food that my children eat and the shelter and freedoms that they enjoy are the direct fruits of a serviceman’s labors. This is a concept that they can understand. If you are a follower, you have read about my struggles the past year as my children are growing into their political leanings and starting to have opinions about the turmoil in the world around them. If you are new, try here, here or here.

We’ve come to the conclusion that we don’t get to pick how our kids feel about war, but we can give them the best information in a way that they can maybe understand enough about the humanity of war to form intelligent opinions rather than emotional ones driven by politics or ratings. And we can show them the real nature of TRUTH–that it is like a diamond–brilliant, complicated and multi-faceted. You can shine a light on one side of the truth and see a completely different reflection if the light is shined just a millimeter to the left or to the right. And, to shine a light on all the facets, all the time is blinding and hard to look at. But in a beautiful way.

We were together on the beaches of Normandy, seeing first hand how scary and suicidal the mission was, how brave isn’t a big enough word. The landscape of the cliffs in contrast with the still standing bunkers is awe inspiring. You can read the numbers on a website or see the dead in a Hollywood movie, but when you stand among the gravestones and read the ages of the soldiers, you can’t un-know the fear and pain that they felt. It changes you.

We walked the battlegrounds of Gettysburg together and stood on the battle lines of the Confederacy and the Union–feet apart. We could almost smell the stench of death, gunpowder, blood and human waste that filled the muddy landscape and changed the soil composition to the point where it still grows vegetation different from the rest of the countryside. Two brothers. Their father. We looked into each others’ eyes and we knew–that civil war takes on a life of it’s own. Simplifying it, as we had all their lives, as a war against slavery was somehow not enough. It made us obsessed with the facts. The politics. The motivations of the parties involved.

We’ve walked the Freedom Trail together and studied the politics that caused the Revolutionary War. We’ve discussed over lobster tails in Boston whether our current political climate is what our forefathers had in mind. We stood in Constitution Hall to let it seep in. To let the power and gumption of those men fortify us against modern government’s finger pointing and name calling and to encourage our children to find THEIR way to independence– away from party lines, away from spoonfed news, and away from porkbarrel political legacies.

We walked the Berlin Wall and talked about what happened. How did we let Russia build a wall to forcefully create a barrier behind which freedom was taken overnight? How did we watch it happen and sit idly by? Even I, having read about it and watched it on the news as a child, didn’t understand what a barrier it was to basic human freedom. Not just the wall, but the guard towers and the bombs, shootings and guerrilla tactics taken against the citizens of East Berlin while we watched from three feet away for nearly thirty years. The wall showed us how much a little compromise in the wrong hands could cost the world. And it showed the power of human desire for freedom.

We’ve walked the hills where the Battle of the Bulge played out. Having grown up in an America where Nazis were the automatic “bad guy” in every book, movie or TV show, it never occurred to us to analyze the motivations of the German citizens in relation to the rise of the Nazi Party’s power. The museum tells about the Second World War from the perspective of a German Soldier, two Belgian citizens–one who joined the resistance and one who didn’t, and an American Airborne Ranger. Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t change our minds about the “bad guy” part, but those ordinary people had always been a pebble in our shoe. How could humans sit in their houses knowing that their neighbors were being exterminated and not do anything? How could they join? Why couldn’t they resist? Now we know. Seeing the voting statistics in the years leading up to Nazi power on maps that bore a striking resemblance to the way we show presidential election results? Seeing the division between party lines while political middle ground dissolved leaving only two extremes shouting blame at the wind until the hatred was so divisive that the Nazi Party took control? Weighty. The tragedy of the death and destruction to a place so picturesque and unprovoking led us to talk together about what could have been done to prevent the Second World War and how life might be different.

We have stood together at the site of the former twin towers in downtown New York City. The most poignant and palpably heart wrenching memorial we’ve ever seen, each site a black abyss of screaming sound and roaring silence. A reminder of how, in times of tragedy, we have the potential to act together, to grieve together and to come together as a nation. A reminder of our love for each other and our common belief in one thing across party lines–the American Way of Life.

Wanting my children to understand the world in this way is the difference between wanting to have a child and holding your child for the first time. Wanting something and knowing, abstractly, that it will require work and commitment is one thing, but actually placing it on your chest is another kind of responsibility altogether. Before these trips, I fielded questions like, “can I buy an app today?” and “Do you think they’ll ever make another Austin Powers movie?” Now, I’m just as apt to talk about whether Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine bears a striking resemblance to Germany’s “absorption” of Austria and whether the signing of the Iran Nuclear Deal is similar to Greece’s humiliating crawfishing themselves into the economic deal they had to sign with Europe. I have to NOT flinch when my children have a political opinion that is different from mine and ASK them how their journey pointed them there. It makes me long for the easy days of potty training or teaching them table manners–when I’m tired or uneducated about something, I yearn for the days when everything that I had to teach them was black and white, not left or right.

So, how do we teach our children about war? We make them walk the paths of the fallen and learn the choices that leaders had to make. We force them to think about whether they they would make the same decisions or have the courage and conviction to walk the same path. And then we eat. And laugh. And play poker.

And they STILL wonder about Austin Powers.

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The Holding Pattern and Review (Day 14–Last Day)

I am in a holding pattern today. We are waiting in Germany for there to be space available on a plane that is bound for the states and re-arranging suitcases bulging with souvenirs and dirty clothes (if I bought you something, I’m sorry about the way it smells–especially if it came back in The Ginger’s case).

Given the chance, travel almost always exceeds my expectations. The green of the European landscapes, the wild and dry of Route 66, the bustle of a Time Square, the peace of Alaskan trails. No matter how spectacular of a picture is painted in books that I read or in my imagination (which is a pretty big shoe to fill), the real world always manages to hit it out of the park with breathtaking amazingness.

Since I’m not traveling today, there won’t be any new interesting anecdotes or touristy hilarity. Instead, you get to have a recap of random travel thoughts from this trip that are in my notes but never made it into my daily blogs.

Amsterdam Stories–

The taxi drivers in Amsterdam all drive brand new BMWs and Mercedes Benz sedans. They wear suits and ties. Not Men’s Warehouse suits, either, tailored Armani Suits and gorgeous silk ties. My taxi ride made me feel like a movie star with a body guard. Wuderbar!!!


The Giant, as soon as he finished his breakfast– My teeth are brushed, I’ve had breakfast and wearing a raincoat. I’m ready to take on Amsterdam.

Kevin and Me–<church giggles> Good thing he’s prepared! Especially for the Red Light District.

The Giant– What!? Is brushing your teeth some kind of euphemism?

Kevin–No, but raincoat is.

The Giant–<Face in hands> Ugh! You guys!

Berlin Stories–

Over dinner–Kevin and I were a few drinks in. The Giant and The Ginger have NO excuse.

Me–What is WITH all the Burger Kings in this country!? I’ve never SEEN so many Burger Kings.

The Giant–Well, they used to be the Burger Kaiser, but after the First Franchise war, they were forced to change the name to Burger King.

The Ginger–When they signed the Treaty of French Fries.

The Giant–Of course, 70% of the former Burger Kaisers were destroyed during the Second Franchise War, but the rebuilding efforts have been ongoing.

Yeah, they slay themselves, too.

Yeah, they slay themselves, too.

Dusseldorf Stories–

Over a very nice milchkaffe–

The Giant (talking to The Ginger)–Dude! When was the last time you shaved!? Listen, We’re NOT that kind of family. Clean it up.

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I Had Fun Storming the Castle (Day 13)

I was GOING to see a castle. That’s all there was to it. Now, I’m sure that there are better castles, bigger castles, castles with more to see, but none of them were on the path back to Ramstein, so this is the one that we picked. Not too shabby, if I must say so myself. Not. Too. Shabby.

Um....Hello Lover!!!!

Um….Hello Lover!!!!

We woke under the watchful eyes of Freddie Mercury and had an amazing breakfast with a group of teachers from all over Belgium on their annual “Guy’s Holiday” and a wonderful couple we had met the night before who sing country music like it’s their day job. Do you know what Belgians put on their toast? CHOCOLATE SPRINKLES!!! Not just a couple of chocolate sprinkles to decorate the toast–a thick, deep coating of chocolate sprinkles in butter. Yep. Sprinkles are for winners. And Belgians.

After packing the car, we set forth across the Belgian countryside. . . .

Right?!  And this was with my old phone.  Too much damn pretty!

Right?! And this was with my old phone. Too much damn pretty!

Through Luxembourg. . . .

I can't.  I just can't.

I can’t. I just can’t.


Even the cows here are pretty. Blond, lovely, a little snobby….

And to my castle.


View from the kitchen window.


Just a lady. In her castle. I even crossed my ankles! Le sigh.

I have to say, having seen the ruins of this castle, there’s a chance that I am revisiting all of my childhood dreams of “princessdom” with a new eye and I’ve decided that, no. I’ll keep the life that I have. I’m happy in my house with flush toilets and running water. Yeah, the views are great, but I’ll just make myself happy with a photo and a memory.




OK Guys. This isn’t funny anymore…. Guys?!


This FACE! The Ginger in a rare smile.. Yes, that’s Gizmo in a dunk tank on his shirt. #bestparenting

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Nazis and Freddie Mercury (Day 12)

Today we went to the sight of the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. I was so thankful to the people of Belgium for the museum here. The museum told about the second World War from the perspective of a German Soldier, two Belgian citizens–one who joined the resistance and one who didn’t, and an American Airborne Ranger. Having grown up in an America where Nazis were the automatic “bad guy” in every book, movie or TV show, it never occurred to me to analyze the motivations of the German citizens in relation to the rise of the Nazi Party’s power. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t change my mind about the “bad guy” part and I’m pretty sure that the party was a magnetic force for some of the craziest maniacs of that generation, but the ordinary people were always a pebble in my shoe. How could people sit in their houses knowing that their neighbors were being exterminated and not do anything? How could they join? Why couldn’t they resist? Now I know. To see the voting statistics in the years leading up to Nazi power on maps that bore a striking resemblance to the way in which we show presidential election results? Weighty.

What is it about this jacket that makes me skairt?

What is it about this jacket that makes me skairt?

The memorial to American Soldiers erected by the people of Belgium after the Battle of the Bulge is one of my favorite memorials. The ten tablets on the inside of the pillars that hold the star shaped roof tell the story of the battle and express the heartfelt thanks of the Belgian people. It is nestled into the Belgian countryside and, from the top, you can see the battlegrounds and the topography that the soldiers were fighting in addition to each other. The tragedy of the death and destruction to a place so picturesque and unprovoking led us to talk together about what could have been done to prevent the Second World War and how life might be different.


View from the top.

View from the top.

When evening fell and we parked in front of an ancient building nestled in a picturesque village near the Chouffe Brewery (note to self–come back for that). We rang the bell, and a few minutes later, one of the other guests arrived with a beer in his hand to let us in. Kevin hit his head on the door frame tipping into the dark entry (I tend to think this is a good omen–his jury is still out). Passing the stairs and the small kitchen from which the most tantalizing aromas were pouring, we made a hard right turn into a rustic low beam ceilinged tavern and were ushered to the corner where a self serve bar stood with a tablet of paper and ball point pen for tallying drinks honor system style. Noting the presence of the stage in the corner of the tavern with raised eyebrows, we armed oursevelves with ice cold local brew and headed outside to the rear of the house where we heard the sound of laughter. We found a party. Twenty tipsy Belgians sitting around tables with their dogs zigzagging under the table legs, sipping beer and chainsmoking cigarettes from the largest packs of cigarettes we’ve ever seen.


Now, I understand French. My accent sucks, so I don’t speak French unless forced, but I comprehend words when they are thrown at me. I can answer questions. I can order food. But what these people were speaking was not French. It didn’t seem to be the German that we had heard for the first half of our trip or the Dutch that was being spoken in Amsterdam, either. Here I was, finally thinking that I coud get my bearings in a country, only to be face to face with a troupe of reveling Flemish People?! Flems? Hmmm. I’ll have to look that up. Either way, they pushed chairs around, motioned with their arms and changed immediatley into very nice English (much better English than my Flemmish, that’s for sure). We chatted through a few beers and found out about each other, in the true nature of a crowded B&B until we were called to dinner.

I’ll Yelp the food, honestly, I will. I vacillated about it for a few minutes because, well, because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to tell the world about this place and come back to find it packed because, honestly, I have GOT TO TELL YOU WHAT HAPPENED NEXT!!! Dinner was amazing–had to leave the dining room to prevent succumbing to the fate of Toulouse geese amazing. They still followed us out to the patio with dessert. We were laughing around a large round patio table with the other guests with views of the ancient pastures and the fuzzy orange sun setting over the gentle green hills, drinking amazing Belgian beer from the brewery less than two miles away, petting the dogs, chasing giggling children and THEN. . . . the music started.

The owners of this B&B love music. More than that, they love karaoke. But not in some drunk-ass, off-tune, caricature of music sort of way. They have PIPES and TASTE. From the first note of the first song, I knew that I was in for a show. It became obvious that this little ground floor tavern was the official hang out for all of the talent in the countryside. They sang, they harmonized, they had choreographed dance moves. One of the singers sang an a cappella Janis Joplin that made the hairs on my arms stand up. The music was so magical and the company so grand (until you have heard Flemish grandmothers clucking at each other and at generations of out of line family, you haven’t heard anything great) that I stayed, despite having not slept the night before, until the music died at midnight.

Smiling so hard my cheeks ached, full, a little buzzed and exhausted, I made my way up to my room. Let me clarify something for you, people. . . I was staying in the FREDDIE MERCURY ROOM!!! Sandwiched between the David Bowie Room and the Liza Minelli Room (where my children stayed–“who’s Liza Minelli, mom?”) was an opportunity for me to sleep under the lycra bound gaze of Freddie Mercury. So I did.


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Brussels with Poo Face (Day 11)

This blog should be about Belgium, and it is, mostly, but it’s also about compromise. My kids wanted to come to Brussels. We’ve already been to Brussels. Not that I didn’t love it the first time, I did. It’s just that the list of things in this world that we haven’t seen is so much longer than the list of things that we have and I want to spend my free time moving items from list A to list B. My kids are at the age where list B is their comfort zone. Crap, they’ve ALWAYS been the age where list B is their comfort zone. “Let’s spend some time in Europe this summer!” is soundly met with eye rolling and “Can’t we juuuust stay hoooome?!” almost unanimously. We’ve been dragging them kicking and screaming pretty much the whole trip and WE’RE tired so, in an effort towards compromise, we worked Brussels–one of their favorite cities in the world–into this trip as kind of a “brain rest.”

This is the symbol for the city of Brussels.  And the smell.

This is the symbol for the city of Brussels. And the smell.

Our hotel is a rubber ball bounce (I can’t use stone’s throw, because that’s too far and I’m trying out new units of measurement considering it is obvious that I cannot convert to metric) from the famous square pictured below. It is as fanciful in person as the photos, in fact, there’s a chance that the photos don’t do it justice. Having been here before made picking a hotel easier because we knew where all the cool stuff was.

No words.

No words.

The last time we were in Brussels, we accidentally arrived on a holiday–Ommegang Festival– a citywide renaissance festival. We had dumbly stumbled into the city and had no sooner sat down with our cold beers, chocolate smothered waffles and cokes to play poker in the square and people watch when the streets were shut down, filled with stands selling everything from renaissance weapons and costumes to wands and fun street food. Brussels is a city so steeped in romantic history that the city areas still fly the original colors showing the families or trade that they are associated with. Each area of town dresses in costume, dresses their horses and marches to the main square behind amazing and fanciful parade floats boasting marionettes representing their sector to have a good old fashioned party. All night. For days.

This time, we were sure to miss the festival, traveling as we were, at the end of July instead of the beginning. So picture our surprise when we woke the morning after our arrival to find that it was Belgium National Day. Imagine that the Fourth of July, New Years Eve in Times Square, and Mardi Gras (with those three, a threesome is possible, don’t be a judger) had a gayer drunker baby of a holiday with much better quality beer, lots of gourmet chocolate and no public restrooms after a public service announcement by the Surgeon General that smoking is actually GOOD for you and makes sex better. There. You’ve seen National Day in Brussels. On a normal day (Tuesday), the bars are open from six at night until six IN THE MORNING. Now, imagine that you like to sleep at night and you rented a room IN THE CENTER because you KNEW the city well enough to pick the best, most centrally located room. . . and even the Belgian children are out till the wee hours with their faces painted in the national colors and screaming at the tops of their lungs. I mean, it doesn’t even get dark until past eleven and fireworks are mandatory, yes? Sooooo. . . funny. We spent the day doing laundry and sitting in cafes drinking and playing cards. The people watching was beyond fantastic.

This happened.

This happened.

The friend who had recommended our favorite restaurant in Amsterdam is actually Belgian and we were heartbroken when her restaurant recommendation here was on holiday. For a month. As Americans, we forget that other countries understand the importance of a real holiday and that businesses will frequently close down for a month in the summer in order to take one. In this case, it was one of the biggest and most illustrious restaurants in the city of Brussels, closed for an entire month in the middle of tourist season. Crazy lovely. So we wandered the streets gawking at the food on strangers’ tables and reading menus in French until we found a place that appealed to all of us. Of course, we found a pastry shop to tide us over until that happened. Freaking French pastry. I’m going to have to give up carbs for a month when I get back.


Pots of mussels cooked in cream sauce with celery, onions and herbs, cold champagne, lamb chops, stoemph, crusty fresh bread and ice cold beer–the world’s best table. Let the meal settle over hilarious hands of Five Card Draw? Perfection. Later, we walked the streets and laughed at the carryings on then found a perfect table outside a cafe to play Texas Hold ‘Em and enjoy the view.


Best conversation of the day? When The Giant tried to psychoanalyze everyone’s poker style and describe them. “Dad” he said, “is an habitual folder, he never bluffs, he never bets a bad hand. Of course,” he grinned “now that I’ve said that, he’s going to bluff the next three hands. Mom never folds. She’ll play anything so you never know when she’s bluffing.” At this point, The Ginger pipes in, throwing his cards on the table, “Well, I’ll never GET a good hand so we’ll never know what kind of player I am and YOU (pointing to The Giant with his Coke glass) are a chronic folder. You never play a hand–folding before the betting even starts.”

“You mean that he has Chronic Foldulence?” I asked, giggling.

“It’s when the Foldulence is audible and everyone around you can HEAR the folding that it’s really disturbing.” laughed Kevin.

The Giant smiled, blushed, tilted his head shyly and quietly said, “Hey, it’s a medical condition. Don’t Laugh.”

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Now I Speak Dutch (Day 10)

My last day in Amsterdam started with an epic run. I wouldn’t say that the running itself was epic, so to speak, but the view? We crossed the street from our hotel to join the houseboats joyfully bobbing on the silent IJhaven Canal (did I mention that sometimes I wake up my husband and drag him running with me? bwaaaa ha ha) To our right? An eye catching pair of graceful white arches framing a bridge dotted with morning commuters on their bicycles. To our left? A modern, architecturally stunning pedestrian bridge crossing the canal with an almost lazy, low span. We turned right and jogged the canal dodging early morning smokers out walking their dogs then crossed the double arches bridge to the other side of the water. Passing through a series of sculptures that serve as foot bridges, we ran down to the pedestrian bridge, up and over to get back to our hotel in a giant, two mile loop of unsurpassed morning tranquility. Ahhhhhh.


Each little bridge over the canal inlets (4) was a unique piece of working art.


THIS is a run. When I get to run somewhere like this and I’m tired or my legs hurt, I think back to treadmill miles or miles run through stucco tacky in NV and I smile refreshed.


Good morning! Who wants to move to Amsterdam with me?

This vacation, we have let the boys sleep later than usual but the day before, the line to the Anne Frank House was more than six hours long. I had a running internal dialogue with myself on this subject. First, it was the weekend. People vacation on weekends, right? Also, it was late in the afternoon so unprepared people had obviously been stacking up for hours ruining my day. So, if I came back on Monday morning, bright and early, I would surely get to see the Anne Frank House. Second, I REEEEEEEEALLY wanted to see the Anne Frank House and I find that, if I keep a good attitude and have a little patience, I can usually get what I want. Third, did I mention that I really wanted to go?  And I’m a brat if I don’t get what I want.  Really miserable. So, I woke my kids up when I left for my run and told them that they needed to shit, shower, shave AND be packed and ready to leave by the time I came back from my run. When I got back with coffee, THEY WERE!! It was an Amsterdam miracle.

Post run coffee for four!

Post run coffee for four!

Despite our early start, when we arrived at the Anne Frank House, the line was six to ten people wide and it stretched from the door to the corner where there was a sign that said, “30 minutes from this point.” We turned the corner to jump into the rear of the line only to find that it stretched, ten people wide at its narrowest point, another city block. There was no way that we could wait, honestly, at this juncture, I could tell that it would be about three hours and that was all the time that we had before we had to get on the road, but I dejectedly walked the block to the end–just to see for myself. And it kept going. Another block, then another corner, then another 150 yards. Dream. Crushed.  My children, who have more than an inappropriately morbid collection of terrible Anne Frank factoids in their brains that can’t find a pair of socks that they are standing on, tried to lift my spirits by disparaging Anne.  Didn’t work.  The Giant even tried to hug me (Giant hugs are typically very healing in that “so awkward you can’t help but laugh” kind of way).  Didn’t keep me from throwing a ridiculous temper tantrum that landed all over Kevin (yet again, the reason why men aren’t lining up to steal me from him???).

Regrouping required some seriously delicious sandwiches on baguettes just as they were pulled out of the oven then filled with pesto, gorgeous prosciutto and fresh cheese. Appropriately sated, we went, instead, to the Gasson Diamond Cutting Factory to watch diamonds being cut and to learn about the different cuts and kinds of diamonds then to the Van Gough Museum.

Wow. I love Van Gough. I love that he knew from the start that he wanted to put art on its ear and he just started painting. When he discovered that other painters found him lacking, he didn’t have attitude about it, he went to Paris to learn to paint well THEN turned his nose up at the whole institution. I love that he wanted to create a haven for the most interesting painters on the planet and work together to make great art. I love how much he adored his brother and that he wrote to him almost every day. And, I love his work. This museum houses more Van Gough works than any other single place and it was lovely. Arranged historically from the beginning of his career to his last painting, the museum tells the story of his life, through his paint.

Us, in a big arty square full of museums.  We had to pick one.  It was torture.  I need a month.

Us, in a big arty square full of museums. We had to pick one. It was torture. I need a month.

After lunch, we got in the car for another change of scenery. I would like to speak for a moment about the hilarity of listening to the bitch on the GPS say words like, “IJburglaan, Knooppunt, Utrecht and Maastricht” is the best revenge for all of the “lost” she has given me in the states. Laughing at HER expense? Priceless. Leaving the Netherlands was bittersweet. I feel kind of like Dutch is a language comprised mainly of sounds that other languages reserve for disgust. Think about a food you really hate. I mean something that the very sight of is repulsive to the point of flop sweat. Now think about putting it in your mouth. Euggh. Now put that noise into every word you say. THERE! You speak Dutch. Now, imagine that everyone around you is just making those sounds with various intonation and that they mean real words that you can’t undeerstand? There. You know what it’s like to be in Amsterdam. 🙂 Just kidding, they speak English (to your face).

Random Amsterdam picture about how cool they are.  I kid about the language, but I really did dig this place.

Random Amsterdam picture about how cool they are. I kid about the language, but I really did dig this place.

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Taking my Teenagers to the Red Light District (Day 9)

Wow. I’m in Amsterdam. After a long day of driving, we were a little punchy by the time that we arrived at the hotel last night. After some pretty deep searching, we chose to stay at the Lloyd Hotel which is a mixed star residence outside of the canal rings of the city. It started it’s life as a glamorous hotel where Dutch and European emigrants could stay while their health check up and background check cleared before leaving the country. Later, it served as a prison for Nazi sympathizers during the times when Amsterdam was trying to keep the Reich at bay, then turned into a reform school for wayward boys before being remodeled into an art space hotel. There are rooms that range from one star (in the basement, share bathrooms) to 5 star (top floor, views, luxurious fixtures and settings and, in my case, a swing in the middle of the room) and the guests all intermingle–the schmaltzy and the schmutzy alike.

Home. . .

Home. . .

Wheeee!  And thats a huge tub next to me.

Wheeee! And thats a huge tub next to me.

We walked to dinner towards a residential area that came highly recommended by the front desk and stumbled into a steak house located in what used to be a large brigk pumphouse. The sign at the hostess stand said, in large flowery lettering, “I’ll be right back, darling!” So we waited. Moments later, a six foot five inch tall drink of Fernet Branca sashayed in working seven inch heels like they were flip flops. He was STUNNING. Chiseled cheekbones, a Kentucky Derby worthy black hat dipped low over one eye, silky black panties and a floor length black lace drape. I started for a second–mostly because I was wondering if he would give me makeup tips, then he smiled and crooned, “Heeeeelllloooo! Four for dinner?” Well kids, welcome to Amsterdam!! We proceeded to eat an amazing meal on the patio under a thin Netherland sun. Wine, steaks, a salad of smoked lamb, barley, dates and pomegranates, and poker. Always lots of poker. Everything on the table (including the beef) was locally sourced and succulent.

First thing in the morning (noon), we found a little tapas place on the canal adjacent to our hotel where we sucked down cafe lattes and omelettes to prepare for the exploration of this already wonderful city then hopped a tram to the Central Station.

The day was filled with wonder. The architecture in this city can’t be compared to anything that I’ve ever seen. It’s so utterly DUTCH. Most of the buildings were build over water or silt so, in the older sections of the city, the red shuttered lovelies are leaning in towards each other as if in a tete a tete that started more than seven hundred years ago and is still as lively as the day it began. Anne Frank lived here, as did Rembrandt and Van Gough. There are windmills, Heineken Beer, diamond cutting factories, and, of course, the red light district. We spent most of the day just wandering the streets and boating the canals wondering how old the buildings were, how much it would cost to just close up shop stateside and move into a houseboat in Amsterdam for the rest of our lives. The Ginger bought a new sketch book from the Art Market. The Giant carefully critiqued the Torture Museum against the Torture Museum that he had seen in San Gimignano in Tuscany . . We had a wonderful time.


A friend had recommended a dinner restaurant called Seasons in the heart of the city. We had early reservations which turned out perfect. We drank, laughed and bet our way through three courses and coffee while engaging in the best possible street show. Our patio dining preference might lend itself to some hilarious wobbly minuscule table antics, but we are never bored. Again, everything was farm to table and bursting with flavor. The service was impeccable and the wine was perfect. I was comfortably beering my way through Europe until I read somewhere that Germany’s wines are so amazing that the locals tend to consume all of the good ones prior to export so I have been branching out a little.


After dinner, it was still dusk so we decided it would be an ideal time to walk the boys through the Red Light District. Dusk is when the district transforms so there would be some hair curling, but it wouldn’t be an all out irresponsible parenting moment. It’s not the girls in the windows, the condom shops spaced evenly between Donor Kabob shops and sex toy shops or the crazy antics of the stoned revelers that will forever stick in our memory of the Red Light District. It will be the time that Kevin had one too many beers for his bladder and had to use the STREET URINAL. In Public! And my kids wouldn’t let me photograph it for you. Sorry.

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Fun Germany Facts (Day 8)

Day eight was a little bit of a travel day again. Having made the decision to throw Berlin in the mix, we knew that there would be a couple of big driving days, but we weren’t sure if we would get another opportunity to live that history together with our boys, so we took it on. The evening before, I had stumbled into a gourmet market on the sixth floor of the KaDeVe (a HUGE luxury department store in the center of Berlin) and, in addition to chocolates, I picked up a few quiche, some cheese, fresh baguettes, and fruit. When we woke, we ate quiche and hit the road.

Since we spent this day driving through Germany, I thought that I would take a minute to compile some of the great things that I learned while traveling there for the first time and put them here for you.

Germany Fun Facts, by Pam

1. The German word for “exit” is “ausfahrt.” Really. Ausfahrt. On every freeway exit. For the entire length of the Autobahn. And I’m ten. So I giggled every time!!!



2. Smartphones stay in pockets. If you see someone in a pub in Germany with their face in a Smartphone, they are a foreigner. Texting on the street? Tourist. Listening to music loudly through headphones? Douche–wait, that’s everywhere.

3. The toilets are amazing. I’ve already shown you the self washing toilets in the truck stops. I could stop there, but then I checked into my hotel in Berlin and the toilet was made by Villeroy & Boch. I couldn’t even afford to buy a place setting of V&B China. This is the company that makes exclusive wedding sets, for goodness sake and in Germany, it’s my tooshy throne!

This has nothing to do with toilets, except that Currywurst is EVERYWHERE and it sounds like I would have to make a mad dash for one. . . . Mad.

This has nothing to do with toilets, except that Currywurst is EVERYWHERE and it sounds like I would have to make a mad dash for one. . . . Mad.

4. Every city has a “Home Brew.” If your’e in a city, you drink what they brew there. Sure, you can go to a tourist bar and there will be a bigger selection, but in every local spot, the local brew is ice cold and the only thing on tap.


5. Stop lights turn from green to yellow to red then from red to yellow to green. Genius.

6. Nobody crosses against the light. Nobody. The lights are fast, so you are rarely waiting, but the dirty looks and chastising start the second that you set foot in the street against the light.

7. In the center of Berlin, a man rode by on a bicycle. He was wearing latex pants, ski boots with silver buckles, a shaggy fur vest, a wig and a full face of make up. It was 95 degrees and humid. Nobody blinked. Truly, be whomever the hell you are. Nobody cares.

8. Can we revisit ausfahrt? I’m still laughing.

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Berlin….and Kicking Butt at Pac Man (day 7)

Our last day in Berlin dawned spectacularly hot and humid. I mean, sweat dripping off of your chin, mascara melting, crotch pot cooking HOT. After consuming the required Kaffee and pastry, we explored the city on foot and by bus trying our best to move quickly enough that the soles of our shoes wouldn’t melt to the sidewalk.

At the Berlin Wall.....I'm meeeelllllting!

At the Berlin Wall…..I’m meeeelllllting!

The thing about Berlin is this–it SHOULD have stunning churches and quaint city areas that date back to the 1300’s because that’s when the city was officially founded. It should have ridiculous roccoco buildings and romantic renaissance churches. It should have spectacular museums that are a tribute to the lengths that people will go to attain freedom and monuments that are a daily reminder of what happens when people blindly follow a bad government or how disastrous the results can be if well meaning governments give just an inch to a power seeking regime. And it does, a little bit.

Pieces of the wall covered in........GUM!!!

Pieces of the wall covered in……..GUM!!!

More than 70% of the city of Berlin was destroyed during the second World War and it took almost a decade to just clear the rubble. On the West side of the wall, the rebuilding efforts are awkward–they rebuilt all of the buildings exactly as they were before but with new materials so it has kind of a Disney feel to it. Yeah, Snow White’s castle is cool, but it’s not a real castle, you know? On the East side of the wall, it was of utmost importance that everything be “Soviet Blocky.” This is the name that I am going to give all of the boring square cinder buildings that line the streets. Boring, grey and, well, boxy.  One thing the city planners got more than right, though, is the art.  There’s art everywhere.  On the streets, in the buildings, in the subway stations.  Even when it’s not trying, okay, especially when it’s not trying, it’s a very cool city.

Subway station

Subway station

We took in some Berlin Wall. Among the most interesting things we saw were the monuments to the escape attempts and monuments that showed how families divided communicated through the wall. I was amazed to learn that the decision to create a physical barrier in the city was carried out in one day. Families who lived in homes on the border were evicted and the windows and doorways of the buildings were boarded or bricked closed. The wall was the primary physical barrier, but buildings were raized to create an empty space where additional physical barriers like mines, wires, beds of nails and attack dogs made passage nearly impossible. The guard towers were manned with snipers and more than 130 people lost their lives and thousands were imprisoned for their escape attempts.


Our last stop in Berlin (besides the fantastic local eatery that we camped in each night washing down schnitzel with local brew) was the Computerspielemuseum. This museum dedicated to the history and development of video games was a crowd pleaser. We played Pac Man with a giant joystick, Kevin beat the Giant at the Pain Game, taught his children the joys of Asteroid (Space Invaders is still better) and we all reveled in how far things have come.


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