beefjerky, Germany, petpeeve

To my somewhat racist neighbor

Dear older German woman,

It's okay, don't worry. It's all good.

It’s okay. You don’t have to worry. When you came up to me that other night as I was walking down the street, you seemed very nervous and agitated. You talked at me for a while about something urgent, but all I could make out was ‘black man’, ‘fear’ and ‘I live down the road’. I figured it was no use trying to explain to you in my limited German that black people are just like other people. They have hair, and feet and noses too.

Maybe I should have stopped and introduced you to the person, but I was a little taken aback by the urgency in your voice. I thought that you were in some sort of legitimate danger. Instead of trying to help you understand, I decided to help you home.

Okay, though, I can understand. It was a bit dark out and I have to admit, I was carrying some fancy camera equipment and when I saw those two Turkish guys catching up to me rather quickly on the street I did a double take as well. But really, you don’t have to worry.

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beefjerky, duh, Germany, petpeeve

Thinking

I just thought of something really good to write. I had a great conversation with a friend and realized all of these colorful anecdotes pop up that I’d been meaning to share. Then I forgot them by the time I got off the phone.

Here’s what comes up on Google here in Germany when you type in the word ‘dumbass’.

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beefjerky, duh

Awkward Youth Stories: #1

a search for the word 'awkward youth' yields this photo

A long time ago in a faraway land called Wisconsin, a small boy was working with other children on a float for a parade. The float consisted of a hay wagon with a bunch of things nailed to it. Said small boy does not remember the theme of this particular float, except that it had something to do with 4-H (I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, my health to better living for my club, my community, my country and my world).

Being yet quite young, this small boy was not wise to the ways of the world. And as he hammered, the small boy held high up on the hammer and gently plinked along hoping not to crush his fingers.

At this point in our story, a large man in bib overalls with a smoke-damaged raspy voice sidled up beside him.

“Your father teach you to hammer that way?” he inquired. Then he and his friend proceeded to laugh.

The small boy wasn’t sure exactly what had been intended by the comment, but now 25 years later, the small boy realizes that this large man was what is commonly referred to as a jerk.

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beefjerky, drinking, Germany, Holy crap

Living in Danger

Verboten! Only laser-eyed, black-handers allowed here.

Here’s to more than two ‘monats’ in Germany. Blending in hasn’t been much of a problem, which is kind of a problem. I look German, I have a German last name, so maybe I should speak German. But I do not.

When I first arrived, I felt like the baby who drinks drain cleaner. Not because baby likes drain cleaner, but because baby thought drain cleaner was tasty apple juice.

Most of my vocabulary up until this point has concerned survival. In my second week here, I learned an important lesson about uncontrolled intersections. While in the US, the straight line at a ‘t’ intersection has the right of way, here the person to the right always gets first dibs. As I cruised through an intersection on my way to work, I was rudely interrupted by a truck laying on its horn and a fender within inches.

A woman on the street shouted, ‘Vorsicht,’ which I mistakenly assumed was a curse word, but really just meant “be careful.”

Just a friendly reminder... that you have to get the hell out of our country!

A few weeks ago I received a letter from the post office that said ‘Mahnung’ on top. I put it aside with the collection of papers that piles up and eventually gets taken to the office where kindly co-workers help me translate.

When I brought this letter in, Vicky, my cultural broker, voiced concern.

“Oh my, this is no good.”

Apparently I was a month and a half behind on paying a bill to customs. Since I am a visiting worker, that bill immediately jumped to the head of the pay line. Later we discovered two overdue electric bills in the same pile of papers.

Since arriving, words like ‘achtung,’ ‘warnung’ and ‘verboten,’ though familiar in the past, have taken on greater urgency. Without the benefit of language, I feel like I’m bumbling through life. A pinball being bounced to extremes by a blind, dumb, deaf kid.

It all seems similar to being a small child again – without that whole need to put everything in your mouth. Though I can’t read the packaging, I really don’t think I will ever mistake canned meats for something tasty.

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beefjerky, hell, petpeeve, Uncategorized

Wal-Mart, Banana Republic, Dillard’s… ‘S’all the Same

So this has been bugging me for a bit and in order to form a more perfect union with my perpetual idol, Andy Rooney, I find it necessary to speak my mind.

There’s a Web site out there called ‘People of Wal-mart’ or something or other like that (I’m not going to link to it as I don’t want to push any  more traffic over there than necessary – don’t worry my faithful single reader, you’ll find it).

I’m often first in line to make fun of people when it’ll make me feel better about  myself or provoke a decent guffaw, but for some reason this site just seems mean-spirited.

picture of a guy from this lame site. The site's lame, not the guy.

The plot line involves photos of people found roaming the aisles of Wal-mart. It could be someone like the man in this image to the right, or a Latino with a mullet and MC Hammer pants, or a morbidly obese woman, or you when you’re wearing sweats with a baggy red thong peeking over the top… it could be anyone. And then they paste a snarky little comment alongside and call it a day.

I guess what galls me is that there’s no way for the people in the photo to take part. It’s like shooting someone in the back. And that is the primary shot composition.

I’d love to see a shot of the person taking the picture alongside the person in their photo. The entire site seems to belittle the good folks who shop at Wal-mart, yet the person making the photo is also shopping in Wal-mart.

I think this site could be really interesting if the people taking the pictures would talk to the people they shoot. Find out from whence their inimitable style sprouts or get them to take part willingly and proudly. It could become a sociological study chronicling how humankind has evolved from the good old hunter-gatherer-type to somewhat awkwardly-dressed, aisle-combers.

And you could spread it to other stores. Since we’re picking on Wal-mart, why not go shoot the folks at Banana Republic or some other store selling expensive clothes that were likely produced in the same factory as Wal-mart’s.

That is all. Thank you and good day.

(Disclosure: I used to be a huge fan of the site http://www.fugly.com which used to post crazy photos of people.)

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beefjerky, New Mexico, Uncategorized

Tune-Up Cafe and Other Notes

Hey you, are you at the Tune-Up Cafe right now? Of course not, you aren’t in Santa Fe, but maybe you should come down and I will show you a delicious place to get some food. If you don’t like food, then we won’t go there. 

The Tune-up is in the same building where Dave’s Not Here was. That doesn’t make any sense to you, because once again you are not here, but when you are here, you will understand. There’s a Salvadoran guy and his wife who own the Tune-Up Cafe. If you ever hear about a Salvadoran person running a cafe, you should stop there. The reason for this is that the likelihood of pupusas  being available goes through the roof if the restaurant is owned by a Salvadoran person.

This is the ‘reflexive pupusa property’ as applied to restaurants and eateries owned by people from El Salvador. Pupusas are delicious. You may not understand because maybe you aren’t from Central America, but they are.

The pupusa is similar to a tortilla if you puffed it up a bit and stuffed it with deliciousness and topped it with cole slaw and salsa. Back in Guatemala, this was the ultimate street food. The kind they always told us not to eat, but when you are stumbling back to the cheapest hotel at the end of the night on the wrong side of the tracks down by the market and a legion of women are fanning coals on small grills, you will not resist. The pupusa is a mostly Salvadoran creation, but many Guatemalans will claim them as they are wont to do.

The stuffing can vary, but traditionally includes one or more of the following: cheese, refried black beans, chicharrón, random pork meat, hair or chile. An indicator of a fine pupuseria is if they include loroco on the list of items to be added. Loroco = deliciousEven after eating it for a long time, I’m still not sure what loroco is or if it is good for you, but this is what it looks like.

But back to the Tune-Up Cafe. They have pupusas on their menu and if you were wise you would go there and get them.  

The restaurant is a little fancier than the street food vendors, so they do their pupusas a little differently. The slaw on top is a made of a bright purple cabbage that jumps off of the plate. And the pupusas (you get two with each order) are stuffed with flank steak, corn and some other things to elevate the pupusa to something a little beyond its humble origins. There is also a vegetarian option and I cannot remember what was in it. Since I jumped on a scale and realized I’m down ten pounds from my normal fighting weight, I decided to go for the all steak option, which was a good idea. 

My favorite thing to wash my pupusas down with is horchata. But it was no longer available, which is slightly unfortunate. Seems they couldn’t sell enough horchata and would have to pitch it at night, so I had a lemonade instead.

When you visit Santa Fe, remember this and stop by Tune-Up. You may be sorry because your cat died, but a pupusa will cheer you right up.

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