Health

Wiesbaden on business, followed by pleasure…

I have been needing a new contact lens prescription for ages. Now that I’ve reached 50 years of age, my eyes don’t work the way they used to. I need reading glasses, but I don’t wear them because I didn’t know what kind I needed. Besides, if I don’t wear my lenses, I can read just fine. But when I have them in, I have a very hard time reading small print. Likewise, Bill was in need of a new lens prescription, as it had been five years since our last exams. I’ve been taking advantage of the fact that one can buy contact lenses in Germany without an official or yearly updated prescription. If you know what you need, you can simply order from Amazon. So that’s what I’ve done… but it’s not been without its drawbacks, as I’ve gradually been self prescribing stronger lenses for myself.

The last time we saw an eyecare professional, Bill and I visited the Stuttgart health center on Patch Barracks, then filled our prescriptions at an optical shop in Nagold, a cute town near where we used to live in BW. Wiesbaden doesn’t have such a facility, and even if it did, using it would be on a space available basis for peons like us. So Bill decided to “bite the bullet”, and he made us appointments at Apollo Optik, an optometrist in downtown Wiesbaden. I should mention that Apollo is one of many eyecare outfits downtown. We passed two others on the way there today.

Bill made our appointments online, and we both got confirmations and reminders by email. Bill was in a hurry to get to the shop, but he needn’t have worried about being on time. Apollo wasn’t like the typical eye doctor’s office we’re used to, where there are places to sit. 😉 We arrived and waited for the painfully shy gentleman helping the people ahead of us to check in. He didn’t speak much English, and didn’t seem all that comfortable with German, either. He did not appear to be a local. My appointment was first, so I sat at a machine that did an automated exam that took about two minutes. But he neglected to tell me to remove my contacts first, so we had to do it again, once I’d taken them out. I was glad I brought my glasses and a fresh pair of lenses!

After a short delay, the technician came in and did my exam. He spoke English reasonably well, and was actually very thorough, as I explained that I need to upgrade from my regular astigmatism dailies to multifocal lenses. My prescription had changed a bit regardless, so it was good that we went in. He ordered new lenses for me to try, and when they come in, we’ll go pick them up and I’ll try them out. If they don’t work, he’ll order different ones. 😉 We are going away next week for a few days; then Bill has a business trip. We’re also dealing with Arran, who is newly diagnosed with lymphoma. But hopefully, we can get in and pick up the new lenses so I can at least see better.

Speaking of Arran… he’s a little slower than usual, especially in the morning, but he’s hanging in there. Yesterday, Noyzi got a dental, and Arran had more blood samples taken so that we might know what kind of lymphoma he’s got, and whether or not it will be worth it to treat him with chemotherapy. But again, he’s about 13 or 14 years old, so we’ll probably just make him comfortable until the sad day comes when we have to say goodbye.

Now, back to our day in Wiesbaden, which is a happier topic. Bill got his exam done. He just wanted new lenses for his glasses, as his frames from Nagold are made of titanium and he likes them. They were also expensive. The whole appointment took about 90 minutes, and when we were done, we both really had to pee and wanted some food. Our plan had been to eat at the City Fest, or the Fall Fest, both of which are going on right now. Unfortunately, for some reason, the toilets weren’t open, even though the fest was in full swing! So we decided to visit the Andechser Ratskeller, where we’d eaten once before, back in 2019. I’ve been wanting German food anyway, so it was perfect.

I had a Doppelbock beer, while Bill had a “special Hell” (hell is a German style of beer, not the fiery place down below). To eat, I had Schweinebraten with Rotkohl and a potato Knodel. Bill had a Wiener Schnitzel with fries. It was hearty fare served by a hardworking waiter, who was delighted when Bill tipped him American style. Our bill was 42,50 euros, and Bill gave him 50 and told him to keep the change. I could see the guy got a nice lift from that, since he was really busting his ass! I’m sure that might help him pay his energy bill this year. 😉 Or maybe pay for a few liters of gas… Ordinarily, we don’t tip like Americans when we’re in Germany, since people who work in restaurants actually get paid here. But I know firsthand how tough that job is, and we can afford to be generous sometimes.

After we ate, we made our way back toward the parking garage, stopping to explore the fall fest. I remember going to it in 2019, before COVID was a thing. It was great to see everything back in full swing again. People were having a lot of fun, and I saw some art I wanted to buy. Maybe we’ll go back tomorrow and get something, making sure to be armed with more cash. I heard several excellent musicians in the city fest, including an awesome brass band who were playing “Sweet Child O’ Mine” (yes, by Guns n’ Roses). I wanted to listen to them, since I love brass bands… but my bladder was screaming for relief. So maybe we’ll catch them another time. They were great! We also heard a British duo performing a lovely version of “Old Man” by Neil Young, and a beautiful classical guitar player, enchanting people on a soundstage.

We did need to get home, though… the boys needed to eat and pee, and they were happy to see us.

Here are some photos from today’s excursion!

I hadn’t wanted to go out today, but I’m glad I did. I was reminded of how lucky we are to live in Germany, especially at this time of year. Autumn is magical in Germany. It’s almost as amazing as Christmas is.

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More Breckenheimer Wine Fest photos…

We almost didn’t make it to the second day of the wine fest in Breckenheim, mainly because of the weather. Yesterday, it rained a fair bit, which we really needed. But it did sort of put a damper on our enthusiasm to join in with the festivities. Bill and I decided to go to the fest anyway, because I wanted to see if anyone was there. Sure enough, plenty of folks had shown up for wine, live music, and street food.

We were originally only going to have one glass of wine at the stand we missed on Friday night, but we ran into some people we knew, and I was enjoying watching people dance, sing, and drink. Lots of kids were there, too, having a good time. I got some photos and videos of the fest. Although there’s no rain on the forecast, I don’t think we will attend today, because frankly, my body is still recovering. We have a bad habit of not eating when we attend these fests, thinking we’ll eat at home. And then when we get back, we don’t feel like cooking. 😉

As you can see, I was sporting the drowned rat look, because we didn’t bother to bring umbrellas.

Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay…
I videoed this for my friend, Andrew, who is a fellow Sting fan.
Crazy Little Thing Called Love.
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A little Sunday fest in Hofheim…

Our beautiful weather continued on Sunday, so Bill and I decided to take the Mini out again. We had several appealing options for places to go. The cute town of Ingelheim am Rhein was hosting the Hamburger Fischmarkt, which is an annual tour the Hamburg Fischmarkt does most years. It was canceled in 2020 and 2021, but it’s back again. Ingelheim was going to have it for the weekend, so I thought maybe we could go to that. But then I remembered going to that market in Stuttgart and recalling that it gets pretty crowded. Since I’m still getting over a cold, I’d rather not be around a bunch of people.

Then we thought maybe we’d go to Wiesbaden and find a restaurant for lunch. But as we were driving out of Breckenheim, I remembered that Hofheim was having a flea market. We decided to go there instead. I can’t tell you too much about the fest itself, since we got there a little late. They had live music, a fire engine display, food, and lots of performers on stilts walking around Hofheim. It was also a shopping Sunday, so a number of stores were open– a rare thing on Sundays in Germany. We enjoyed what we heard of the band, which was finishing up as we arrived. I managed to get a minute of footage, posted below.

After we walked around a bit and ran into a balloon animal making children’s performer with an organ grinder, we decided to have lunch at Cafe Tass, a place we’d never tried before. The food was pretty good, if the service was a little casual. Bill tried speaking German as he was telling the server which dressing he wanted for his salad. The server immediately switched to English! Sigh… such is life. That’s why I kind of gave up on trying to learn German.

We didn’t stay too long, because it was hot and sunny, and we’re very white people… Hofheim doesn’t have the lovely grove of oak tries Eltville has by the river. But it was nice to get out for awhile, and while we were eating lunch, the band came over and had rumpsteaks. A guy came over to them and asked in German where they were playing next. They said Bayern (Bavaria). They were a pretty decent band, singing songs in German and Italian.

I also observed a lot of people smoking and vaping, including a couple of young ladies sitting near us. They shared a vegetarian Flammkuechen (Alsatian pizza). I don’t mind vaping as much as cigarette smoke, which came from the people sitting behind Bill. But, other than the air pollution, it was a nice lunch. I had gyros, which came with t’zatziki, rice, and pommes. Bill had a summer shrimp salad with yogurt dressing. I couldn’t finish my lunch, so we brought half of it home with us. I’m glad “doggie bags” are more of a thing in Germany now. Lunch was less than 40 euros.

I actually got choked up with how happy people were during the fest, enjoying the music, dancing, and just being good to each other. What a sharp contrast to the image I get of the United States, as people continue to fight over basic human rights for women. I felt very grateful to be part of the celebration yesterday… and I have so much love for Germany, which is feeling more and more like home, even if it really isn’t. I’m grateful I get to live here.

Below is a cute children’s performer singing, playing his organ grinder, and entertaining everyone!

Below are some photos from yesterday’s outing. It was a beautiful day!

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Turning 50 in Antwerp… part five

As I mentioned in part four, we were about to go back to the hotel and hit the sack when I noticed a bright blue neon sign lit up. It was nine o’clock, and that meant the Antwerp Piano Bar was opening. Although Bill and I were decidedly casual in our dress, and we probably should have changed, we decided to stop in for a drink or three and listen to live music. I have to admit, at first I got the sense that maybe the proprietor wasn’t too pleased about our less than dressy appearance, but the bartender gamely invited us to sit at one of the plush booths. Then the proprietor, a distinguished looking gentleman with a beard, started playing piano– very well, I might add. He reminded me a little of the late Albert Hague (aka Mr. Shorofsky on the 80s TV show, Fame).

I love piano bars, so I was pretty excited that we found this place, not that it was hard. This bar, which I think used to be open more nights per week, is located very close to the Grote Markt. The bar stays open until at least 4:00am on the nights that it’s open. A sign on the door indicated that they are not open on Sundays, Mondays, or Tuesdays. Maybe this is a new feature, due to the pandemic.

We started with a round of cocktails, but switched to beer when it became apparent that the seasoned gentleman tending the bar didn’t understand our English too well. I’m not sure if it’s because of us or him. But anyway, I had a margarita and Bill had a martini. After a short while, another piano player showed up, along with a woman singer. They were both very good, and we had a lot of fun listening to them play, in spite of my shabby appearance.

At one point, a man got up to sing– he appeared to be a friend of the proprietor. I noticed there were a lot of people coming in who appeared to be regulars, rather than tourists like us. There was also a rather rowdy group of young guys who sat in the cigar bar and smoked stogies. I felt better when I noticed that they were dressed like me.

Below are a few photos and videos from our Saturday night stop. I should add that we almost never go out on Saturday nights anymore, so this was a treat. We got back to the hotel at about 11:30, which was definitely past our bedtimes.

I really took more videos than anything else… and as you can see, it was kind of dark in there…

If we ever go back, I’ll be sure to look prettier…

As we were leaving, I stopped to get another short video of the wild party still going on in the market! It was quite a lively scene!

When we got back to the hotel, we asked the receptionist what was going on in the square. He had no idea!

The featured photo is a picture of the fancy art book in the hall at the hotel. Someone turned the page to Lady Gaga, who was being photographed at Tony Bennett’s house.

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An evening with wonderful Keb’ Mo’… our first concert since 2019!

In 2003, when Bill and I were first married, I bought Lyle Lovett’s then newly released CD, Smile: Songs From the Movies. In those days, we didn’t have much money at all, so it was kind of a big deal when I bought things, even when they were as seemingly insignificant as CDs. On the other hand, I’m a frustrated musician myself, so CDs have never really been insignificant to me.

I got pretty hooked on that CD. I was a pretty new Lyle Lovett fan back then, but it wasn’t long before I became a real admirer of his music. On that CD, there was a collaboration Lovett did with noted blues singer, Keb’ Mo’. They had covered “‘Till It Shines”, a song Bob Seger wrote in the 1970s. I actually owned Bob Seger’s album, Stranger in Town, on cassette tape. I’ve since replaced it at least twice. I instantly recognized the song, and I loved what they did with it. I think that was the first experience I had with Keb’ Mo’.

Never saw the film this was used in, but I love this pairing of musicians.

Some time passed, and I encountered Keb’ Mo’ a few more times. One time, I bought a compilation put together by Martha Stewart, of all people. Yes, that Martha Stewart– the one who went to prison for insider trading! She marketed a CD for new parents called Sleepytime, and it included a collection of soothing songs that were meant to inspire babies to fall asleep, yet didn’t annoy their parents. Keb’ Mo’ contributed a lovely song called “Infinite Eyes” to that CD, which was released in 2004. I see Martha’s Sleepytime CD is no longer available, even on Amazon. That’s a shame, because it’s a really nice CD. I still have it, although it’s in storage now. I hope the extreme heat in Texas hasn’t ruined it. I do have it downloaded to my computer. Additionally, you can find it uploaded on YouTube.

Then came the day when I became a confirmed Keb’ Mo’ fan. Bill and I were having a weekend lunch at Austin Grill, in Springfield, Virginia. They were playing some really great music in there, and I was enjoying my burrito and pink lemonade to some righteous blues. Suddenly, there was Keb’ Mo’s unmistakable voice, covering Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”. After we finished lunch, Bill and I went directly to a Border’s store and I bought three of his CDs. None of them had his cover of “Folsom Prison Blues”, but the spell was cast. I was soon hooked, and started buying his music regularly. Years later, I found and downloaded his version of “Folsom Prison Blues”, but by the time I found it, I had discovered so many other great songs by him!

It’s hard to believe that about twenty years have passed since the first time I heard Keb’ Mo’s voice. It’s ever harder to believe that last night was the first time I ever saw him play live. Especially since Keb’ Mo’ seems to love Europe and has played over here several times in the almost eight years we’ve lived here. I don’t know how much longer we’ll be in Germany, but I am sure last night won’t be the only time we see Keb’ Mo’ in concert. He was so wonderful last night at the Frankfurter Hof! Thanks to the pandemic, the show, which was originally planned for November 16, 2020 (our 18th wedding anniversary), had been rescheduled three times. It was well worth the wait!

Last night’s concert was the first one Bill and I had been to since July 2019, when we saw Mark Knopfler in Leipzig. I remember Knopfler’s show was memorable for a lot of reasons. The most memorable thing about that show, though, besides the fact that it was the last one after a string of concerts Bill and I attended, was that we were staying in the same hotel where Knopfler and his band were. And all of them came to the hotel bar, so I got to gawk at them from afar.

Something similar actually happened last night. Bill and I were eating dinner outdoors at a place called L’Angolo, an Italian restaurant near the Frankfurter Hof, in Mainz. Bill had ordered a half bottle of wine, and just as our waiter was dropping it off, I looked up and there was Keb’ Mo’, walking down the street, completely unbothered and unfazed by anyone! I didn’t have the chance to take a photo then, but I got plenty of them last night, along with some video. I don’t usually like to take video at concerts, but he was pretty open to it, and everyone was doing it. So I got a few minutes from last night’s intimate show, which included opening act, Anthony D’Amato, who was equally great. I had not heard of Anthony D’Amato before last night, but he was very entertaining. His style reminded me of Springsteen’s or maybe Bob Dylan. He’s also been compared to Josh Ritter, but I’m not familiar with Josh Ritter (yet), so I can’t say for sure.

One of Anthony D’Amato’s songs. I don’t think he did this one last night.

I was pleasantly surprised by last night’s show. I had been a bit worried about it, given the COVID-19 situation. Germany only did away with mask requirements in most places just a few weeks ago. I didn’t look forward to having to sit in an auditorium wearing a mask for hours. Fortunately, people in Europe are pretty good about letting people make their own choices, as long as there aren’t official rules. There were some folks who wore masks at the show, but the vast majority of people didn’t. And I didn’t see anyone giving anyone a problem, either way.

The Frankfurter Hof is a small venue that seats a maximum of 480 people, and offers standing areas on the sides. I would guess there were no more than 600 people at last night’s show. We were in seats one and two in row four, which offered a great view of the stage, even without using the zoom function on my camera. I would not hesitate to attend another concert at the Frankfurter Hof, especially since it’s so close to where we live. My only caveat for the uninitiated is that it’s not so easy to find the entrance to the venue, which is between two restaurants/bars.

As usual, the audience was well-behaved and appreciative, which made for a nice atmosphere. People were singing along and clapping, and for the most part, being very considerate of each other. I haven’t been to a whole lot of US based concerts, but I have noticed that I much prefer the shows in Germany to the ones I’ve attended back home. People are expected to act like adults. Those who don’t will be called out. At the same time, if you want to enjoy your adult beverages, you can do that without harassment or price gouging. It’s refreshing to be treated with dignity and respect, without worry that some idiot will ruin the mood for everyone. Last night was also memorable, because we ran into one of Bill’s colleagues. Before she started working for the US government, she used to do sound and lighting for concerts. She even did them for Joan Jett, at some point before she switched careers. 😉

Below are some photos from our evening, and last night’s delightful show. I’m so glad we were finally able to go! I hope Keb’ Mo’ will be back soon. If he follows his usual modus operandi, I expect it won’t be long before we have another chance to enjoy his music live. And if you like blues and haven’t seen him play yet, you’re missing out. We only paid about 45 euros per ticket to catch that show. It was one of the better concerts we’ve attended! Overall, it was a fantastic evening; he played all of the songs I was hoping to hear, plus some I really need to listen to again! If I don’t wind up with COVID-19, that is a bonus!