Leland Sklar… and a low two tumor!

Advertisements

Yesterday, I wrote about our dog, Arran, who just had surgery to have a mast cell tumor removed. Last night, the vet called and emailed to tell us that the tumor she removed was “low grade” and she got excellent margins. This is very good news. I mean, the first mast cell tumor Arran had was rated a 1.5, which is very low grade… almost benign, actually. This one was a 2. A two is not as good as 1.5, but pathologists can be pretty subjective about their opinions, anyway. Another pathologist might have rated it differently. The point is, it doesn’t look like it was a particularly aggressive tumor and there’s a good chance the surgery was curative. I wrote more about this on my main blog.

I was impressed that the vet called and emailed, especially on a Friday evening. She said she would call today, too, since we missed the call last night. When we lived in Stuttgart, I remember getting the news at the appointment, rather than by phone. I was actually a little concerned when Bill said he got a call and an email. I thought maybe there was something urgently wrong. But, it turns out she probably just wanted to put our minds at ease for the weekend. I mean, mast cell tumors are shitty and they’re not good news as a general rule. But having now dealt with several types of canine cancers, I can say that I would take dealing with a mast cell tumor over, say, prostate cancer or the horrible spinal tumor our sweet MacGregor had in 2012. That was heartbreaking.

Last night, I also finally got something I’ve been waiting ages for… a book by the great bass guitar player, Leland Sklar. I am a big fan of his work, since he’s played bass for many of my favorite artists since the 1970s. Ever since the pandemic started, Lee has been posting videos on YouTube. He’s also started a “hangout”, which I would join if I weren’t so many timezones away. In the fall, he decided to publish a book called Everybody Loves Me. It’s basically a thick coffee table book full of photos of people flipping him the bird. Seriously, there’s very little writing in this book. It’s all famous and non famous people giving Sklar the finger. He’s got a broad range of people mugging for the camera, too. Off the top of my head, besides many people whose names I don’t know but give good face, he’s got photos of Phil Collins, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Lyle Lovett, Jackson Browne, and David Crosby, among many others.

So what does this have to do with traveling? Well, it’s not so much about travel as it is life in Germany and getting stuff through the APO system, which is what we US government affiliated people get for US mail. Lelad Sklar mailed my book sometime in late November, I think. It just got to me yesterday. The mail has been slow lately under normal circumstances. When someone mails something through the APO system, particularly when they don’t pay for premium shipping, it can take many weeks. I’m not complaining, mind you. I was glad to get the book yesterday. It was worth the wait. I got a big kick out of it. Incidentally, I ordered Bill an Ancestry.com DNA kit for Christmas back in early November, I think. It just got here about two weeks ago.

The weather continues to suck, although I did read that at least reports of COVID-19 cases have gone down a little bit. I just got up and noticed that it’s snowing again, but I don’t think it’s cold enough for anything to stick. The ground is positively saturated, and every time Noyzi goes outside, he runs around like a maniac and gets mud caked in his paws, which he then tracks into the house. I need to vacuum, but I may just wait, because vacuuming when it’s so muddy outside is utterly futile. But Noyzi sheds all over the place, so I’m constantly sweeping. I’m thinking it’s time to buy a new vacuum cleaner that is a lot lighter and more portable, because I probably ought to vacuum every day. I know ex landlady thinks I’m a filthy slob, but I’m really not. I just love my dogs and they’re a step above toddlers when it comes to messes, especially when the weather is bad.

Again, not complaining… having Noyzi is well worth the trouble of sweeping and vacuuming more. He’s a ball of love who has made enduring the pandemic a lot easier. I love watching him evolve. He’s turning into a real character now. I think the ghost of Zane visits through him, as he plays keep away in the yard with a distinctly mischievous grin on his face. I also love to feed him snacks. He has such a big mouth that it reminds me of mailing a letter. He’s so adorable the way he sneaks up behind me quietly, like a shadow, and quietly requests a bite of whatever it is I’m eating. When we first got him, he wouldn’t eat anything but kibble, which makes training a bit more difficult. No food rewards. And he was too afraid to play with toys. Now, he loves his toys.

Anyway… now, all we have to do is wait for Arran to heal some more so he can ditch the cone.

Here are a few photos from Leland Sklar’s book. When I ordered, I got a funny little animation that flipped me off as it thanked me. I thought to get a screenshot of it, which is today’s featured photo. This book was $65 unsigned, $85 signed. I got it signed because Leland Sklar is so entertaining and kind that I figured he deserved the extra cash.

My own little Gitarzan…

Advertisements

Yesterday, the weather was kind of iffy, as it has been today. In retrospect, maybe it would have been a good idea to go out yesterday. Maybe there would be fewer people out and about, and we could pump some euros into the local economy. But we decided to stay in, and I spent a rather angsty day reading more and more about the state of U.S. politics and the stupid face mask controversy. I got into a couple of pointless arguments, too.

I also played guitar. I brought my new blue one downstairs and turned on some music. Before I knew it, I had picked it up and was strumming along to Tom Petty’s live version of “I Won’t Back Down”. It has a pretty easy chord progression– E-D-G, E-D-C… easy enough for a rank beginner to follow along with somewhat, although I’m still too slow at changing chords. It was kind of fun trying to figure out the songs I can sort of play, although I still have a long way to go. I even tried “Every Breath You Take” by The Police and was almost successful at it.

Bill picked up his guitar too, although he’s only been playing for a week. Maybe there will come a day when we can jam together.

The title of today’s post comes from a song by Ray Stevens. I have always thought Ray Stevens’ talent was a bit underrated. He’s a wonderful singer and pianist, but he’s best known for singing comedic novelty songs, with the exception of his 1970 hit, “Everything is Beautiful”. Even though some people might think of it as a “schmaltzy” song, I’ve always thought of “Everything is Beautiful” as an anthem of tolerance and kindness. I find it oddly comforting to listen to it today.

A silly song… but I relate. I doubt my guitar playing will make me a celebrity, though.
This song always makes me smile, even though it’s kind of corny.

Since we aren’t traveling or exploring as much this year, music has become a lot more important to me. I’ve been making more videos, all of which include photos or videos from our travels. In a way, it’s made me miss traveling more, although making music brings me joy. I don’t have a lot of people listening, but it’s still a pleasure to make it and explore new and creative ways to express myself. Making music is mostly uncontroversial, and it doesn’t beg philosophical discussions or arguments. I’ve about had my fill of those lately, too.

I doubt we’ll go out today… the sky is full of rain clouds and the wind is up. I welcome the rain, since our rain barrel in the backyard is pretty parched and has dried out so much at the top that it’s warped a bit. Maybe with more rain, the wood will swell and seal up the cracks in the wood. The garden is liking the rain, too. Our cucumbers have blossoms, which I know means that the fruits will be on the vine soon. I’m starting to sound like a Handmaid… and with the constant hammering about face masks, maybe I’ll soon look like one.

Anyway… this weekend has so far not been as exciting or fun as last weekend was. We really enjoyed ourselves, but we also recognize that it’s best not to jump back into the way we were in previous years. Not until the coronavirus scourge has been vanquished a bit more. Hopefully, that won’t take the rest of my life.

Here’s a video I made this week. I shared it on my original blog, but since this post is about music, I’ll share here, too. I’m much better at singing than playing guitar. But with time, practice, and luck, maybe I can even things up a bit.

And just to keep things topical, this video includes footage from our visit to Ireland in 2016. Boy, do I wish we could be there now…

Weird June weather…

Advertisements

I thought maybe we’d go out yesterday. The weather has been nice lately, and it’s been awhile since I last had a proper outing. But then the sky opened up with rain, so we decided to stay in…

It’s sad when a Saturday is messed up by rain, but we do actually need the rain to fall. It’s been pretty dry lately. Our rain barrel was so depleted that I put in a few buckets of water from our tap. We use the rain barrel water for the plants Bill is trying to nurture into bearing fruits and vegetables, since there isn’t a spigot in the back yard (but there is one in the garage).

Bill went to the store yesterday to pick up a few things. He says the plexiglass barriers remain, but the cashiers aren’t wearing masks anymore, nor is there anyone “standing guard” to enforce wearing them among shoppers. We also got our tickets to FINALLY see Keb’ Mo’, who is scheduled to visit Germany again in November. He’s doing a show on our anniversary. I’ve been wanting to see him for ages. Hopefully, this will go on as planned and we’ll have our chance. We’ll see. At least Mainz is close to home for now.

Our landlord says he’s going to send in his work crew to check out a piece of siding that came off during a windstorm last year. He asked Bill about our plans, especially since Trump is making noises about reducing the number of troops in Germany. As far as we know, we will be here for at least another year and probably longer. On the other hand, one never knows about these things. Personally, I think Trump is full of hot air, especially right now. Our landlord also worries that we’ll leave Germany for Poland, since Trump has been building up our relations there and there had been talk of a “Fort Trump” (God help us). When we visited Poland a few months ago for Bill’s work, the landlord wondered if it was to house hunt (it wasn’t).

Honestly, I don’t know if a move to Poland would ever happen. I guess I wouldn’t be opposed to moving to Poland if it ever came down to it. Poland has been steadily improving since our first visit in 2008, and I have heard that Americans are moving there to work. But we did reassure the landlord that we like Germany very much and don’t want to move unless we have to. We didn’t want to leave Stuttgart, either, but that turned out to be a the best thing that could have happened, if only because it got us out of an abusive living situation. Our current landlord is a much better fit for us, treats us with respect, and leaves us in peace.

I’ve been reading a lot about the new rules regarding flying. To be honest, as much as I hated flying before COVID-19, I think I’ll hate it even more now. I am not on the mask wearing bandwagon. I know a lot of people think they are helpful, and wearing them is the considerate thing to do, but to be very honest, I think their effectiveness is limited, especially since many people don’t even wash their hands when they use the bathroom. I do know how masks are supposed to work, in theory. In fact, one of my degrees is in public health, so I probably know more about this subject than a lot of people do. I just think the masks are mostly more about comforting the masses than actually preventing infections. When it comes down to it, social distancing and hand washing are a lot more important, and we’re hearing much less about that because they are impossible to monitor or enforce. Simple, loose fitting masks do not stop viruses from spreading, especially when people are constantly touching and fidgeting with them, although they might slow the viruses down a bit if they are worn properly and laundered or replaced regularly.

Masks are inconvenient and uncomfortable, and the idea of being forced to wear one for hours on a plane is very unappealing to me, especially given that air travel is already unpleasant and expensive. Being glared at, judged, and harassed by strangers over the wearing of masks is also unappealing, especially given how expensive it is to fly. I will wear a mask if I have to for essential travel (say, if my mom dies while we’re in Germany or we have to move), but I will not be happy about it, even if it makes other people *feel* safer, *judge* me less, and *think* I’m more polite.

And so, this blog is probably going to be less interesting to most people for the foreseeable future. That makes me sad, since we really had a great time a couple of years ago, visiting places near Stuttgart. I enjoyed writing and taking pictures, too. Maybe I’ll get back to writing about local spots again, but I doubt we’re going to be taking as many great trips, although Bill definitely wants to. I probably won’t be updating this blog as often, either, since no one wants to read about our life at home. It was fun while it lasted.

So sad.

Speaking of things that are going away. It was announced the other day that our neighborhood restaurant, the Alt Breckenheimer Stübchen, has been forced to close. Bill and I only ate there once, in January 2019, because it was always packed and reservations were essential. Now, thanks to the coronavirus, it looks like yet another great local haunt is being forced to close its doors. This virus has really screwed things up for a lot of people. I also read that the wine stand is going to be dismantled at the end of June. That is especially tragic, since we really enjoyed attending last year, and getting to know our neighbors.

But people are trying to keep up their spirits. Kids in Hofheim and apparently other communities, according to my German friend near Stuttgart, are making painted rock snakes. Here’s a screenshot from our local group about that.

Anyway… I try to keep perspective. I’ve noticed that the kids at the local school seem happy and are still playing. Some wear masks and some don’t. I’m grateful that people where I live are sensible and reasonable about mask wearing, and don’t freak out if people leave their residence without one, since it is entirely possible to stay more than six feet away from others in our neighborhood. I also realize that this is certainly not the first or last time humans have been confronted by pandemics. They always eventually pass or become controllable. This particular pandemic has only been a thing for a few months, so people are still very scared. Some are downright panicky. That’s understandable, given the horror stories about people who have come down with COVID-19. However, I think most of us will eventually be exposed to it and most of us won’t die. Some will die, and some will be left debilitated. And hopefully, there will be some semblance of normal life and travel again at some point in the future.

We’ll see what happens. This blog has been slowly dying anyway, since we left Stuttgart and I quit promoting it and left most of the Facebook groups (which was really a smart thing to do, but that’s a rant for another day).

Germany sizzles!

Advertisements

It’s so hot. Yesterday, it was officially the hottest day ever recorded in Germany. Temperatures swelled to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (42 degrees Celsius). Thank God we bought air conditioners in 2015 and 2017, because I bet they’re sold out at the local hardware stores. The vast majority of German homes lack air conditioning because up until recently, it never got that hot here. Unfortunately, that is now changing.

I remember as recently as 2009, it wasn’t that hot in Germany. In fact, I remember ten years ago, it snowed much more often than it does now. We got maybe two or three weeks of warm weather, then we were back in jackets. That’s not so, nowadays. The past few summers have become increasingly brutal. Climate change is a real thing, and it’s scary.

Fortunately, our current house has rolladens on all of the windows. Our upstairs doesn’t actually have windows, except in the bathroom. What we have are glass plated doors that open to large balconies on either side of the house. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to use my air conditioners in this house, but it turns out they’re even easier to use here. There’s no need to use a hot air stopper, because all I have to do is drop the rolladen just to the point at which I can stick the hose outside. Yes, hot air still gets in, but it’s mostly blocked by the rolladen. There’s no need to use adhesive or anything else to hold the hose outside and I don’t have to roast in my own sweat. An added bonus is that I also don’t have full scale sunlight hitting me in the face anymore at my desk, so that I have to drape a towel over the window for the morning hours in the summer. I had to do that in the previous house.

I don’t think it will be much longer before people in Germany start air conditioning their houses. Last fall, we even looked at a house in Wiesbaden that was having it installed. I was tempted to take that house, but there were a few things that prevented us from pulling the trigger. The biggest issues were that I wasn’t sure our bed would fit and I would have had to go outside to access the laundry room. But, I won’t lie… air conditioning for these increasingly brutal summer weeks was a huge draw. I have done my time sweltering in the heat. I don’t want to do it anymore if I don’t have to.

Although the past few months have been an adjustment for us, I definitely like Wiesbaden. It has a different vibe than Stuttgart does, and people seem to be more friendly and peaceful. There’s much less of a social media presence here, so I don’t get caught up in ridiculous online dramas. There’s a smaller military presence here, too, and most everyone seems to be with the Army rather than all branches. The garrison commander is supportive of everyone, including contractors, so that’s a big plus. When we move out of this house, we will have support from the housing office, which we were denied in Stuttgart. I definitely enjoyed our time in Stuttgart and I have many pleasant memories from all six years, but I’m glad we moved… for many reasons.

Hopefully, this heat wave will be finished soon. I’m beginning to feel like we’re back in Texas, although in Texas, we had air conditioning (that cost us a fortune). Supposedly, the temperatures will be pleasant in Scotland when we’re there. Now that I think about it… August seems a strange time to go whisky tasting. Ah well, I’m sure we’ll have fun, anyway.

By the way… today marks my 1200th post on this blog!

Psycho weather!

Advertisements

I wasn’t going to blog again today, but I have to comment on the weird weather we’ve experienced in the last 35 minutes or so.  Actually, the weather has been weird all day.  We’ve had rain, sleet, wind, snow, and sun in less than 12 hours.  Things got very strange just as dusk began…

The sun was out, then dark clouds overtook it.

Bye bye, sun…

Then we got freezing rain…

 

I took a film…  

And snow…

It was coming down like gangbusters… with lots of wind.

Then, as suddenly as it started, it stopped.

There was the moon…

And it looks like it might be a clear night after all…

This happened in the course of about 35 minutes.  Psycho weather, I tell you.  I thought Virginia’s weather was odd.  Germany’s is definitely in the running for weird weather patterns.

BWI, Charleston, Dover, or Lackland?

Advertisements

I’m a little freaked out about the cold weather in the east.  And I have never been out west, really… unless you could the trip to Washington State we took in 2005.  It would be fun to go to California and it would be fun to go to Hawaii.  I could probably pack lighter, too.  

On the other hand, I like Europe better than the United States.  Later today, I’m hoping we’ll have more of an idea of where we should go to start our adventure.  Hopefully plane tickets won’t be too outrageously expensive if we end up not flying out of Lackland.

A friend of mine suggests we try to get to Dover Air Force Base, since we’d end up on a C17.  Those planes are pretty bare bones, but they are a lot more comfortable than regular planes are.  Instead of being stuffed in a row of seats, you get to sit along the side and once the plane is in the air, you can lie on the floor if you want to.  Better yet, those planes are usually staffed by hot young airmen.

These are photos from our last hop in May 2012.  The last photo was taken in Gander, Newfoundland, Canada, where we stopped to refuel.

It was pretty frigid there, even though it was late May.  My parents lived in Newfoundland in the early 60s.  One of my sisters was born there.  My mom used to tell me stories of people driving their cars across frozen bodies of water.

As luck would have it, I bought a knife from Williams-Sonoma in early December and it’s just now being sent to me.  It will get here after we’re gone.  With any luck, no one will steal it.