Friday, June 30, 2006

Big Game Day at 17:00!

I will be heading out soon to a beer garden to watch Germany play against Argentina in the quarter-finals of the World Cup. Today's game is very important because whichever team loses is out. I am so nervous. I am rooting for you Germany, let's do it!!! Everyone keep their fingers crossed that Germany will win.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The USA and the Culture of Fear!!

I just read on that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a warning to travelers to the World Cup, especially those to the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia due to a measles outbreak. What a bunch of bulls***! The article goes on to say that the cases "sprung up" in NRW since January 1st. I live here in Germany in North Rhine-Westphalia and I have not ONCE heard of any measles cases. Did you ever hear a warning from the US officials BEFORE the US team was out of the competition? I am not trying to say they only issued the warning because the US team is out, but clearly the timing is suspect. Especially considering the quarter-finals are being played tomorrow. Why did I just read this warning from the CDC the day before the final-quarters?

This "news" being reported by Yahoo is just another reminder of the Culture of Fear the USA is living in. All of the news is so sensationalized by the media just to boost sales. This sensationalization has another added benefit for the US government, so that the people stay fearful as much as possible. Any time you inject fear into a culture they will look to the government to "save" them. That is why some of the idiots in middle America actually voted for Bush and his cronies. (Don't get me started because I believe the elections of 2000 and 2004 were stolen.)

While I was on vacation in Florida last week, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Everywhere you go in America there is a television set. We ate at this one particular restaurant in Key West that had NINE televisions, NINE! It was so ridiculous. Even at the airport there is television made available. CNN or FOX is blasting headlines: TERROR! TERROR! Americans are reminded and bombarded with "news" to remain on alert and be VERY AFRAID... It is so sickening.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Imagine at Notre Dame

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A Mark Twain Quote

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.

Mark Twain

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Some Pics from Our Trip to Key West

I couldn't sleep due to jetlag so I wanted share a few impressions of our trip to Key West:

This was Harry S. Truman's vacation home in Key West:

Here is a photo from the drag show at Aqua Nightclub:

Here was one of the better drag queens posing with me at the show:

There are wild roosters and chickens all over the island of Key West:

This is one of the sub-tropical trees seen on the island:

Back from Florida

We took off from Duesseldorf bound for Florida on LTU with great expectations and trepidation. I was visiting my father and his side of my family for the first time in about fifteen years.

What causes one to discontinue communication with one’s family for that long? What is so bad that requires one to isolate one’s self? I don’t know and I imagine it varies from person to person. Every individual has a unique set of life experience and what causes one to isolate oneself from their family ranges from mundane to serious. I can say that I probably chose to isolate myself from my family under the guise of “coming-out.” I assumed my family would take issue with having a gay son, grandson, cousin, etc. Meanwhile it was I that had or made an issue out of my homosexuality. However, in the end it didn’t matter. It felt like old times again—it felt like home.

I am writing this posting while flying back from Florida to Duesseldorf on air-sickness bags. Then I will type this rough draft into Word and upload it into Blogger when I arrive home.

Now on to the lighter side of our trip. After the family reunion, my partner Matt and his sister, Annette, drove south to the Florida Keys as you know from my last posting. After zipping through the Everglades with a few stops for lunch and to see some alligators and after driving through the western edge of Miami we arrived in Key Largo. We had no reservation that Sunday evening so we drove down US 1 until we spotted a nice-looking hotel. The hotel ended up being the Largo Bay Marriott Resort. The rate was $150 for the night, but that was a walk-up rate so I am sure it is better if you book in advance on their website.

The next morning we continued our road trip from Key Largo on our way south to Key West. I had read online that the best beaches in the Keys were located at Bahia Honda State Park. That led us to take a pit stop in the park and to relax in the water. I have so say the beach was nice, but the old highway that is unused and just built next to the newest one is an eyesore. Why don’t they tear it down? It is just there rusting away in the salt water and rain. Is there more to it than I know? Has it helped create a great coral reef? We continued our journey have about an hour and a half of swimming.

We arrived in Key West on Monday afternoon and when we tried to check-in at La Te Da our room wasn’t quite ready yet so we stored our luggage and headed to their outdoor bar. We enjoyed some cold beers under the ceiling fans while our room was being readied. After about 30 minutes we informed that our room was ready. We meandered our way by the pool, through the lounge chairs, up the staircase and then reached the wooden staircase leading to the second level of the property. We climbed the steep stairs and reached a set of French doors leading into our room, room# 29. As we entered we were pleasantly surprised about how large our room was. The décor and furnishings were again like that of a high-end Caribbean Resort. The wooden floors were charming and it a nice condition. We even had a whirlpool bath tub that would fit two comfortably. The downside of the room was the bathroom. It looked as if it had not been renovated since the late 80’s. The worst part of all was the air-conditioner. It barely cooled the room and with the high humidity we could barely sleep at night. There was a card prominently placed in the room that warned not to turn the unity down below 72 degrees F. It ominously warned that if you did the unit would completely malfunction and it would take hours to repair. We found out on the last night that this warning card is simply to frighten you so as to save the hotel on cooling costs because we decided to turn it down to 68 because we reasoned that it was our last night any way, let’s try it. It did not shut down as warned and it was actually much cooler and we ended up with a good evening’s sleep. I just wish we had done this earlier. So, if you’re staying at La Te Da, just turn down you’re a/c unit as low as you want and be comfortable at night. I have to say the staff was always nice and friendly. The food and drinks were average, but good. The property needs to upgrade the bathrooms and the air-conditioning. Until that is done we would never stay there again. For $250 a night you think you would feel comfortably cool at night while on the sub-tropical island of Key West.

While in Key West we went to a drag show at Aqua. The three entertainers were great. I highly recommend their drag show. What is a trip to Key West without a drag show?

Overall it was a great trip. If you haven’t been to Key West I highly recommend it. Just try to go between September and February when it is cooler and less humid. Then there will be a lot of other visitors, but I say, the more the merrier! It’s great to be home, too.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Drive from Port Charlotte to Key Largo

Today we left my family in Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda, Florida. It was so nice to see them all again. I had not seen them in over 12 years. (long story and not appropriate now)

We did not have a particular destination or schedule to fulfill, however, we knew we wanted to get as close as we could to Key West before the 7-mile Bridge. We navigated our way through sub-tropical thunderstorms. The three of us observed turkey vultures, squashed armadillos, flocks of dragon flies and other various wildlife living in the humid, South Florida hinterlands. As the sun was setting and the road narrowed, we decided to stop in Key Largo. We are now at the Key Largo Bay Resort by Marriott. The hotel furnishings have the appearance of a Carribean all-inclusive resort and I can only highly recommend this as a stop-over along the way to Key West. It is the best place on Key Largo. We enjoyed a delicious meal at Sundowners which is a great seafood restaurant right on the water. The sunset was covered by stacks of thunderclouds, but we did manage to observe some pink illuminations in a large section of the twilight sky.

I enjoyed an excellent tuna steak. The flaky fish was garnished by wasabi and freshly-cut ginger as well as a ramican of soy sauce. I sucked down two ice-cold margaritas and licked the salt off the rim before the humidity could melt it away. We then headed over to the Carribean Club for some drinks and music. On our walk back to our hotel it poured down raining. I am talking a tropical storm. Needless to say I ran the few blocks back and jumped into the shower.

I post more later....

Here are a few impressions along the way:

An alligator in the water...

A down-home cafe--the kind you see in the movies--where we stopped for a bite to eat:

Interesting sign seen at Oasis Visitors' Center:

Matt & Annette feeling like their in an American movie (as Germans never having been in the Everlgades):

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Half-Time: USA 1 vs. 1 Italy

I am back in my hotel room before going out to dinner and a comedy club with my family...The score is 1 to 1 and it is half-time. I am hoping the US can win, but I know it is not likely......

We Are In Florida Now

We made it to Florida after a 10 hour flight from Duesseldorf to Miami. We flew on LTU and it was the best transcontinental flight I have ever been on. The flight attendants were nice and they smiled often. The aircraft we boarded was an Airbus 330. It looked brand new. It was so clean and modern. We paid extra in order to get an exit-row seat because Matt is so tall. (195cm/6'5")

They served our specially-requested vegetarian meals. They were tasty and not overcooked. We saw the movie, American Dreamz, which was ok, but not what I would have chosen. The flight had a fairly light load and it we had plenty of room.

I highly recommend flying LTU if/when you can, however, they are a Duesseldorf-based German airline so I do not expect many of you to fly LTU...

Now for the important part. I visited with my family today and it was nice. It was strange after so many years to see them all again. I visited my grandmother, two aunts, father and step-mother and my step-sister and her family. (husband and three kids) It was great.

Like I said in a previous post, if you are holding a grudge with someone in your family, forget about it. Do what is right, swallow your pride and renew your contact......

More later....

UPDATE: These two photos are my favorite of this trip so far.

Even in South Florida they are sick of Bush, check this out (George Bush wanted for shark bait):

This is Greenland seen from 39,000 feet. Notice the ice swirl in the ocean:

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Flying to Florida

Tomorrow morning we are flying non-stop from Duesseldorf to Miami, Florida on LTU. We are going to visit my father and step-mother on the west coast of Florida. I have not seen my father and his side of the family in over a decade so this will be an interesting trip. This time around I will have my partner, Matt, with me. I am not sure exactly why I did not keep in touch with my father, but you know how family can be.

Regular readers will recall that back in late March my partner's mother passed away unexpectedly while on vacation in Spain. That tragic event deeply affected me and of course, my partner. An unexpected death of a loved one gets your wheels turning. You think about what did I say last? What should I have said? Did I tell this relative, friend, partner, daughter, mother, father or son how much I love them? These words you are reading are just words until that dreadful day happens to you. So my advise to you all: Make amends. Stop ignoring your loved ones due to some power trip or proud moment. In the end it is all not worth it. What matters is you stay in contact with your family and friends. Release that grudge you're holding....Let by-gones be by-gones.....Period. End of story.

After our mini-family reunion, we are then heading to Key West for some relaxtion. When I originally contacted my father and tried to chose a good time for us all to have a mini-reunion, I did not realize this Sunday is Father's Day in America. Sometimes in life you end up with strange coincidences that are hard to explain. All I know is this is the right thing to do.

On a more fun note: Today my partner, Matt, and I met up with Ginnie of the great blog, In Soul. She was so nice and we had a good time. Unfortunately, we were only able to spend a few hours with her in Old Town because we had to do some laundry and finish packing for our trip tomorrow. We ate lunch in my favorite cafe, Balthasar. I felt bad that I had to leave her to explore Old Town Duesseldorf herself, but I knew she was going to have a great time taking more photos.

I will try to post from Florida so stay tuned....Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

What a Great Game! Deutschland!!!!

That was the best game I have ever watched! Deutschland won!!!!!

Dog Days of Summer

We are definitely in the dog days of summer, as we say in America. It is so hot here in Duesseldorf, at least in my NON-air-conditioned apartment. Most apartments in Germany are not air-conditioned like in America so when it is warm outside, it is warm in your living space. I have gone to bed and woken up each day sweating. It is not fun sweating yourself to sleep or waking up sweating....I was complaining about the cold back in the winter and now I wish we had it again. My partner says I am one of those people deeply affected by the weather. I have to admit, I guess I am. One doesn't like to think of themself as a whiner or complainer, but when you fall asleep sweating and wake up sweating---it is time for some sort of adjustment. I guess I will be going to by a fan soon.

Do you find yourself less peppy or happy in the gray, long days of winter? If you're like me--you do. There is even a term for this, a Season Affective Disorder. After reading that website, it seems a bit extreme. I just like the warm weather---when I am cool inside.

On to a more fun note: Germany is going to BEAT Poland tonight at 21:00 CET! I really want Germany to beat Poland...

Update: We did have a thunderstorm and it how cooled down drastically. I think I will sleep much better tonight.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Learn German Online

I learned of a new language course online. So far based on the limited time I have reviewed the site it looks really good. Check it out and brush up on your German! It is always useful to know another language.

A Fun Night Out

Sunday night M and I went out for dinner and drinks with some fellow expats living here in Duesseldorf. They recently moved here from America (KY) and they are a gay couple as well. We went out for dinner to my favorite Duesseldorf restaurant, Zapata, and we had a great time. Afterwards, we all went to Old Town for a few drinks. All in all it was a fun time and we hope to meet up again soon. I felt like I have known them for a long time...

Here we are on the streetcar leaving Zapata's and heading to Old Town:

This is the nice lady that took our group photo on the streetcar:

Monday, June 12, 2006

USA vs. Czech Republic

The score is USA 0:3 Czech Republic. I guess the match went as expected, however, I had some hope that the US might surprise us and at least make one goal. Oh well, I am living in Germany now so I am rooting for them. :)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Why Are the English So Obnoxious!??

After reading some other expat blogs today, I was reminded of my stroll through Altstadt (Old Town) yesterday. Who were the loudest and drunk the earliest? Who were the most annoying? Who were yelling out their car windows and being the most obnoxious? Why, the English of course...

I use to think the Americans were the most obnoxious, but I am happy to report something that many of you already knew---that the English are the winners in "The Most Obnoxious" category. Why? I do not uderstand it. They just do not know how to act. It is pretty sad. How embarrassing for the good people from England....many of them very close friends of mine.

This story really makes me mad: horrible/furchtbar

Friday, June 09, 2006

World Cup Kickoff in 1 1/2 hours!

Ok, ok...I have caught the World Cup Fever, too! We have plenty of beer and will be turning on the TV any moment to watch the opening of the World Cup in Munich. If you live in Germany it is hard NOT to have caught this Fever. Stay is Germany vs. Costa Rica and then later on this evening is the second game,, Poland vs. Ecauador.

GO GERMANY! Go Deutschland!

ps. Seed is performing right now on stage in Munich! Geil!

UPDATE: Germany beat Costa Rica 4-2!!!! Germany will be party central tonight.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Today in Cologne

Today I was in Cologne and it is hard to miss signs of World Cup Fever. Here are some photos of the ceiling as you enter the Cologne Hauptbahnhof (main train station.) Again, you are seeing football (soccer) scenes even on the ceiling...

Here is the dba aircraft we flew on when we returned from Nice to Duesseldorf painted in recognition of the World Cup:

This last photo was taken at the outdoor cafe just at the entrance of the Cologne Hauptbahnhof. It seems some bees have taken up residence on one of the chairs:

Sunset on 6/6/06

This was the sunset on the evening of 6/6/06 as seen from my livingroom window:

I don't think it was too sinister, do you?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Schloss Dyck

Today we visited Schloss Dyck. The castle is only about a fifteen minute drive from our apartment in Duesseldorf to this beautiful place. It was built in 1094 and it is surrounded by gardens from the 17th Century. If you are in Duesseldorf and have time I recommend visiting this location. We even bought some freshly-harvested apples, strawberries and potatoes!!

Here are a few impressions...
Here is a photo of the tree-lined road leading to the castle:

The castle, surrounding moat and the swan:

Here are the horse stables next to the castle with the beautiful roses:

Finally, here are the surrounding grounds:

If you want to see more photos, just click on my Flickr badge on the right-hand side of the blog.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sunday in Koblenz

Today M and I traveled from Duesseldorf to Koblenz. It is only about an hour and a half by car and I have never been so we decided to go. It is an old German town located where the Rhine and Mosel Rivers meet. In 55 B.C. Roman troops commanded by Julius Caesar reached the Rhine and built a bridge between Koblenz and Andernach. Click on the link at the end of this posting for eloquently written information about this great town in Germany.

For photos taken by me today in Koblenz, click on my Flickr badge in the right-hand sidebar...

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Public Urination in Germany

I am not sure if other expats noticed this after they first arrived in Germany, but I find it peculiar how many times I witness someone urinating in public. I am not talking about a homeless person or someone who is obviously mentally ill. I am talking about reasonable people. I see it frequently and I am surprised by this behavior. You rarely ever see this in America unless it was a homeless person and this person was most likely mentally ill. Additionally, in America you can be fined or arrested for public urination.

Yesterday I was looking out my bedroom window and I witnessed about 6 guys get off the underground and they all proceeded to a row of bushes to urinate in the broad daylight. It was around 15:00 I believe. They all lined up in a row to relieve themselves and I only grabbed my camera after 4 out of 6 of them had left the bushes. You can see in the second photo one of them buttoning his pants.

Do you find this odd or I am being too Puritanical American-like? I look forward to some comments on this subject, especially from expats.

Here are two out of six or so that I saw in a line urinating into the bushes and notice how one of them is buttoning his pants:

Now they are all done:

Friday, June 02, 2006

Vacation Memories

Now that we are back and I have had time to reflect on our France vacation I wanted to share some tidbits. When traveling to France be sure someone in your party has a working knowledge of French. It seems to me that if you do not speak French they will purposely make it hard on you. (Sorry Kim & Thomas, that is my objective observation) Case in point: We were at the Musee Rodin and we stopped for a drink at the museum's outdoor cafe on our way into the museum. We had just waited in a long line in the heat behind some American high school class so it was time for a cold beer. The person in line in front of me ordered a beer. I was thinking to myself, score! All I have to do when she looks at me is point at his beer. She is staring at me now so it is obviously my turn to order. I say the obligatory "Bonjour," smile and point to his beer. She says something in French that I do not understand (which is most everything in French) and I simply point to the beer again and say in English, "I want a beer." She says something again in French and I just stare at her. I am thinking to myself, "Why is she making this difficult for me? Why doesn't she just go over there and pour me a damn beer before I hop over the counter and pour it myself." Finally, she realized that I am not going away and I am not going to speak French. She turns around and pours me a beer. Why did she have to be that way? I know, I know--when in Rome do as the Romans do as the saying goes...but it is obvious that I do not know French and never had a French lesson in my life. Luckily, M speaks French very well so most of the trip the language barrier did not rear its ugly head.

One other example. We are at this restaurant in Nice, La Mama, which by the way serves the best Moules & Frites (mussels and fries) in the world. They were so fresh and delicious. You could still taste the seawater. I now know what mussels are really suppose to taste like. I have been spoiled and I am afraid I will never like mussels again unless they are from La Mama. If you are ever in Nice and want to know where to eat, I highly recommend La Mama at 1, Rue de la Tour in Old Town around the corner from Place Garibaldi. Any way, back to the point. The waitress acted as if she did not speak English. M ordered for us in his beautiful, flawless French: deux Moules Frites and a liter of red wine. Later in the evening my paper napkin had somehow ended up in the flame of the candle on the table and caught on fire. I was in such shock I just picked it up which helped the napkin to burn better. I then threw it on the table again. This time the waitress came by and said in pefect English to throw it on the floor. Later on she would come by and say something like, "You are hot tonight!" Interesting how she now speaks English.

Don't get me wrong. I am not complaining. I am just telling you like it was. You can take it as you would like. It is their country after all and if they speak French, then fine. I am just glad that in Germany everyone speaks English and they will go out of their way to do so. I feel much more welcome in Germany. (Luckily because I now live here.)

More reflective posts coming up as I digest them....

Our train from Paris to Nice

You can see our neighbors sitting next to us were playing cards.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

What is that bright light coming from the sky?

Ever since we returned from vacation it has been cold and rainy. However, late today, now at 20:00 there is weird, bright light illuminating the white, fluffy clouds. I can even see some blue sky here in Duesseldorf. What is that bright light?

Finally we have some sunshine just before sundown. I have my bike in storage and still have not felt it was the right time to reassemble it. If you remember, it was disassembled when we moved from San Francisco to Duesseldorf in late December. I am optimistic we will be able to reassemble it. I will keep you updated.