A Letter To My Younger Self

31 12 2019

Dear me on Labor Day Weekend in 2008:

Even though the decade of the 2010s won’t technically start for another sixteen months, for all intents and purposes, your ‘Teens are starting now.

My most succinct piece of advice to you as you’re about to start this time period:

Grab onto something, and hold on tight and for dear life, and expect the unexpected.  Because things are about to get wild, way more wild than you’re used to or have ever known.  These times are going to try our soul.

And I don’t mean just for the big news and events and circumstances of the coming eleven and a third years — Those will be heavy enough, including something that will happen to St. Louis that we never thought was possible, because St. Louis just didn’t do that, unlike all those other cities.

I’m talking personally.

You’re going to have some really major ups and downs in every facet of your existence. Among your downs will be two major extended lengths of depression based on bad events and circumstances, wherein you’ll wonder if you’ll really have a future. The second will be much worse than the first, because the predicating event will come that close to killing you, literally.

But you’ll make it in both instances.  I’m here to write this letter to you, as evidence.

Along the way, time and experience will finally teach you something that people heretofore have been unable to get through your thick skull, that patience really is that much of a virtue, and that persistence and perseverance are the master switches of success.

You’re also going to have to leave behind some people you’ve known for quite some time and, as far as you know right now, have greatly benefited from, and you’ll have to do it for your own good. It’s going to hurt to do it at first, and as it so happens, you’re going to have to start within a matter of days from the time you’re reading this. But then you’ll eventually come to realize that, in the case of a few of these people, you should have never been as close to them as you currently are. You’ll learn those lessons and apply them well in the coming decade and change, and be all the better for it.  You’ll have a much better set of instincts on what kind of people to let close to you and which ones to keep at several arms’ lengths.

But in the final year of the coming decade, many of those open sores, and even a few older and incumbent ones you’re currently dealing with, and some that won’t even open up until after you read this, will come full circle and heal.

It won’t be all bad; you’ll have quite a few ups;  You can’t have serious downs without serious ups, after all.  Enjoy every moment of the ups, and realize that the major ups will daisy chain with each other to help make the next up even better.  Also realize that some of these ups should be enjoyed while you have them, because they are tenuous and will be gone forever with the next down.

Just hold on, and your life at the end of the decade is going to be something to behold; You’re finally going to make it in life, really, honestly, genuinely make it.  Doing what?  I won’t tell you now, because you won’t believe it.  I will drop a hint that it, and the aforementioned two major bouts of depression, are intertwined.  Which points to something else you’re finally going to learn and execute in the coming decade and change, that networking is just that important.

Might I add, the final month of the decade, the one I’m writing from, well, I don’t want to spoil it, because something that happens mid-month will be that good — Here’s a hint:  It’s something you back there in 2008 don’t think is ever meant to be for you.  In fact, your opinion in that stead is only going to grow more strident during most the coming eleven and one-third years, because nothing that happens to you in that department will dissuade you from your resignationism and cynicism.  But then, at the tail end of that time period, out of left field…

I won’t even tell you where I’m writing this from, because you’ll never believe we would ever live there.  On top of that, I’m not even going to tell you who is President of the United States on this day, because you would believe that even less than anything else, and if I told you, you’d think that older me is playing a four-dimensional practical joke on you.  Telling you that you own a BMW and have a Swiss bank account?  You’d probably sooner believe that you’ll hang the actual moon some time in the twenty-teens.

You’ll be ready for what is setting up to be the best decade of our life, the Roaring Twenties, or should I say, the REEEEEing Twenties.  (By mid-decade, you’ll get that joke.)  The decade that will probably mean that we’ll finally have everything we could have reasonably wanted and was practically attainable out of life.

Like I said, if you can just hold on tight and not let go.

Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, ONE…

Signed,

Me, December 31, 2019.

P.S.: Spend as much quality time as you can with our two uncles, and try to get along better with our father in his late life, because all three will be gone by the day I’m writing this.





Real Housewives of Cologne, Episode 4

19 12 2019

“WILLST DU MICH”

December 14, 2019, perhaps the red letter day of my life.

That long explanation I owe you?

I haven’t come down from Cloud Nine Million yet, and at this rate, I hope I never do. But I think I can pay it off.

Food and drink before you start reading below the asterisks, because it’s gonna be long.  For as long as I think this could be, you’d better make it a five course dinner and two bottles of wine.

***

I’ll write here about the things in the same chronological order that I did them on Saturday: Car, ring, proposal.

***

First, the car.

Maybe one day, I’ll be able to go public about what I’m really doing here in Germany. Though that probably won’t be able to be long after I’m no longer doing it and have moved on to other things.  It will also pretty much require a few other people who are critical in my gig to have long moved on to other things.  But for now, I will say that that which I am doing here politically boxed me in in terms of a brand choice.

It had to be either a Cologne-built Ford, or a German brand.

And when you get to the part about the final two “contestants,” you’ll find out that I had to make the ultimate political decision, based on very personal politics, and based on what I knew I would be doing later the same evening after I bought the car.

This decision was mostly a process of elimination, or in dating apps parlance, swiping left, until I was down to one.

First off, the only kind of body style I considered was four-door sedan (“Limousine” in German parlance), except for one of my final serious options, the Audi A5, which is sort of a sedan-hatchback hybrid with four doors, a “Sportback” they call it. I knew I’d be better off with a sedan or -ish, because there are going to be times that I’ll be rolling three or four deep on the job and behind the wheel. That meant no two-door, no coupes. Not to mention the fact that, as of this past Saturday evening, the odds of me having kids have suddenly shot way up to near 100% certainty. Car seats, sippy cups, doctor visits. All the more convenient with four doors instead of two.

No SUVs — For fuel economy reasons, big or medium sized SUVs just aren’t a thing here.  While small, small-medium SUVs and CUVs do have better fuel economy, and that segment is pretty hot here, I’ve never dug SUVs or CUVs of any size.

Gas engine, because the recent diesel scandals in this country have made me leery.

Also, my timing of being in the car market was impeccable, because I was in it in a general time of the fear of a recession, and more precisely, Audi announced 9500 job cuts at the end of last month, so the recession and manufacturing worries are acute around the car industry.

Now, for the swiping left.

I swiped left on all of Ford. Ford, the most popular American and non-German brand in Germany, is on hard times. That may sound strange, because Ford outsold BMW for 1H19 in this country, to slot in fourth place behind only Audi, Benz and VW. But that’s easy to reconcile: Fire sale meant good deals on Fords, especially the Focus, and many a Kraut snapped up many a Foci because of the great deals.  A second car, or to replace their existing similar-sized car.

But for me, none of Ford’s four-door cars are compelling, and I can afford better anyway.

Now, for the German brands.

I didn’t know Opel still existed. Car people know that Opel and GM had a lot of cross pollination for many years; For instance, the second generation of Saturn small sedans were nothing more than rebadged Opels. But Opel is still around, its HQ is in Rüsselsheim, close to Frankfurt. So close that Rüsselsheim itself does not have a German license plate code; Cars registered in Rüsselsheim get license plates that start with “F” for Frankfurt, which also means that Opel promotional photography shows its cars with German license plates that start with F. (Incidentally, this is why BMW photos show German license plates that start with “M” for Munich, Benz and Porsche “S” for Stuttgart, Audi “IN” for Ingolstadt, and VW “WOL” for Wolfsburg).  These days, Opel is a Peugeot (PSA Group) subsidiary, and if you’ve been paying close attention to automotive industry news, then you’ll know that just yesterday, the specific terms of a merger announced back on Halloween between the PSA Group and FCA (“Fiat-Chrysler”) were announced.  Which…should…make…for…a…really…strange…automotive…conglomerate…

However, all new Opels look like a cross between a clown car and a pregnant roller skate. Swipe left on all of Opel.

VW? Too bland and generic. And I can afford better. I suppose a good enough reason for me to swipe left on all of VW was that it’s so popular in Germany; I tend to go the opposite way of the crowd.  And I did that even before their Braunschweig shenanigans of a few weeks ago.

Porsche. Hmmm.

For grins and giggles, I test drove the top of the line Panamera. This model, mind you, officially starts at 97K € for the base trim and engine, and the one I test drove ran over 180 earlier this year, but could have been had for twenty off when I test drove it because of model year end closeouts.  (Remember, you don’t price haggle on cars in Germany, either dealer or customer.) Still, 97, 160 or 180 — All out of my league.   But I just wanted the experience, even if it was for a few minutes. It was my first time actually driving a six figure car. Yeah it was hell a lot of fun, (542/568, duh), and it’s got a lot going for it, (180, duh), but a car that costs so much should be more comfortable and have much better tech and quasi-autonomy options.  Though I’m told the tech stack has been bigly improved across the Porsche line for the 2020 MY;  The Panamera I test drove was a ’19.

Even if I could afford it, I don’t think I would, because the two problems with the Panamera are:  (1) It, like the Audi A5, is one of those weird mashup of a hatch and a sedan, and I don’t dig the look, and (2) It’s rather large, and I could see maneuverability being a headache in tight compact German and European urban environments, and, unlike the car I actually picked, the ’19 Panamera doesn’t have the tech to help you out in those situations.

But I actually got to drive a six figure Porsche, so six figure-y that it was on the verge of 200K. Only a degenerative brain disease, or my condition suddenly reversing and going back in the wrong direction, will ever deprive me of that very fun memory.

Then, we got down to serious territory. Audi, BMW, Mercedes.

Within my range of affordability and desirability, the final candidates were the A4, A5 and A6 from Audi, the 3 and the 5 from BMW, and the C and the E from Benz. I did serious test drives of all seven of them, from dealers, with she who is now the future Mrs. Blogmeister (God how I love saying that) in tow (remember, I still couldn’t drive on my own until this past Saturday), with one exception: He who is now my future father-in-law (God how I love saying that) owns a Benz E of the current generation, and I test drove his with him in tow.

Pick one out of a hat, and you’d have a really enjoyable car, features and tech galore and extremely similar to each other.

But I could only have one, so it came down to dime thin marginal factors and swiping left. I did give all seven of these automobiles fair hearing and then some. Due diligence? That seems to be a thing these days with me.

Swiped left on all three Audis, mainly for generic appearance. The A4 looks like several Nissans or Hyundais. The A5, the aforementioned “Sportback,” aside from having that hatch-sedan design I’m not fond of, looks a lot like the 2015 Chevy Impala I already own, which is garaged back in St. Louis. Or should I say, it better be garaged, safe and sound. The A6 looks like the 2005-07 Ford Five Hundred.  For the record, if I absolutely had to with the Audis, it would be the A6.

So now we’re down to BMW and Mercedes, and the Final Four.

The BMW 3 compares to the Benz C, and the BMW 5 compares to the Benz E.

On the BMW side, the 5 is supposedly a better and definitely a more expensive car than the 3. But my test driving of both showed me virtually no substantial advantages of the 5 over the 3 in any way, it’s hardly bigger in terms of interior room, and a few disadvantages to be perfectly honest, while it showed me the 5’s much higher price. Swipe left on the 5.

On the Benz side, the E is definitely a bigger and better car than the C and very much worth the extra expense. E > 5, while 3 > C. Swipe left on the C.

So we’re down to the BMW 3 versus the Benz E.

I think you know by now why I went with the BMW 3, because I already mentioned it:

My future father-in-law owns a Benz E.

I know he and I are a lot alike.  He may well wind up being the best father-in-law a guy could have, I’m not being glib.  But soon, I’ll be marrying his daughter, and while I know she knows her father and her future husband are a lot alike, I’m not trying actually to turn into him down to the atomic level. I know her well enough now to know that it would make her feel really weirded out and some sort of Oedipal way if I owned the same car that her father does.

Like I said, it came down to the ultimate political decision, on top of the political limitations I started out with.

Even if I didn’t have those very personal politics to contend with, I still think I would have gone with the 3 over the E.  One reason, and I’ll expound about it below, the “While In Rome” reason, (that city will come up again later in this post), is that the 3 is me living more below my means than the E would have been.  Another reason is that the 3 looks younger and more athletic than the E, all the while the 3 looks just about as professional as the E.  To make this analogy very personal, the E has that “look” of upper middle aged very senior corporate executive, whilst the 3 has the “look” of a middle aged professional who is still deluding himself that he has some youth left in him.

Specifically, what I now own is a 2019 330i, with the X-Drive (AWD) system, blue, (What other color for a BMW? Even if you don’t like blue as a color in general or a car color, you have to admit that blue suits BMWs very well — I also think my having a blue car will go over well at the salt mines), black leather interior, all the tech, all of its quasi-autonomy options, (yes, it’s an iPad on wheels, they all are these days), loaded to the gills otherwise.  Just about anything a car can do these days to help itself from getting into an accident or even a fender-bender, my new 3 can do.  I got the mid-range engine (255/295 in American measurements), and about that, the 255/295 is the base engine for the 3-Series sedan in the United States, but it’s the mid-level engine in Germany, because there’s a smaller engine option here, 181/221. However, since I’ll be driving in eco mode almost all the time, (remember, doctor visits, car seats, sippy cups, rolling four deep to networking events, roadtrips to Brussels, six-something a gallon), I’ll get virtually the same gas mileage (yeah I know, in metric, they use liters per 100 km) as I would overall with the smallest engine, but I’ve got enough horses under the hood to have a little bit of fun every now and again.  It came with the transmission that’s normally an auto but has a kiddie pool manual mode, though if I ever use the manual mode even once as long as I own this car, I’ll be surprised.  (I know that the 2019 MY 3-series sedan took a lot of heat from gearheads because it no longer has a true manual option, but neither does the 2020 Corvette, so you know true sticks are headed the way of the dodo bird.)  All for a mere 44K € of wallet-lightening (incl. VAT) — Because it’s the end of the model year, and the German economy is teetering on the brink of an official recession, this was the ideal time to buy a car, and I’m happy the stars aligned in just the right way at just the right time.

One overriding thing about this whole process: I am told that German cars destined for the German market have tighter more precise steering and handling than German cars destined for the American market, whether the ones sold in America are assembled in Germany or the United States. And from my limited memory of very limited experience of driving German cars in St. Louis, I think it’s true. Even though I’m not able to do a precise apples-to-apples comparison.

I’ve also noticed differences between the German and American automobile market supply chain.  When I was young, the balance of power between makers and dealers in the United States was squarely on the side of the makers.  But some time in the 1990s, the balance of power shifted to the dealers, and after several years in the business of lobbying Missouri state government and being tangentially interested in a lot of local business, I saw firsthand how big of a stick car dealers swing.  To put it in St. Louis parlance, the concept of Dave Sinclair selling new GM cars was a practical joke in 1990, but by the end of the decade, he owned an Oldsmobile dealership.

Here in Germany,  the power balance is still with the makers.

Another factor is that, because of space limitations, the physical campi of car dealerships can’t be that big.  Which means no dealers with “hundreds in stock, hundreds coming.”  To put it in CSIT terms, front-line German dealerships are thin clients for the central server of the makers, but thin clients that just so happen not to be owned by the makers.  And the inventory system is much more akin to a JIT system, and as it so happened, it was a car maker, Toyota, which developed JIT.  (I know JIT also has a CSIT analogue).  To the extent that there’s any inventory backage, it’s on the assembly line campi warehouses and parking lots.  My precise new car was assembled at BMW’s Dingolfing, Bavaria plant, not far northeast of Munich.  So the way it worked is that it wasn’t sitting on some massive lot of the dealer, a 2019 MY waiting to be fire-sold on outta there.  Instead, it was waiting back in Dingolfing for one of the thin client dealers somewhere in Germany or the EU Zone to sell it to someone, again, in a buyer’s market, because Dingolfing wanted to get it off their lot,  (they’ve already started assembling the 2020 MY), and when someone did, namely your Blogmeister, it was loaded up on a CCT back in Dingolfing that was headed in the general direction of Cologne.  Incidentally, I called the particular dealer back on the 4th, and made the agreement in principle with them, indicating my pre-approved financing, and the precise car got to the dealer on the 11th, and of course this past Saturday, the 14th, was the day I physically took delivery and signed the last of the paperwork.

I took a taxi to the Autohaus that morning to close the deal, instead of letting she who is now the future Mrs. drive me there, because I wanted it to be a surprise for her to see which one I chose when I picked her up early in the evening for what she thought would be just a mere low key celebration of my successful recovery.

When I drove my new car away from the dealer, it was the first time in 879 days that I drove an automobile by myself on public roads.  That was not lost on me, as I sat there for a few minutes on their (really small) parking lot behind the wheel, realizing that this was it, this was really the first moment of the rest of my life, and the final indicator of a satisfactorily successful recovery.  I’ve really made it back to the top of the mountain.  Falling down (literally) 879 days ago in suburban St. Louis, taking 879 days to climb back as high as fate would allow and getting to the summit of my new normal in the vicinity of Cologne.

One of you in the peanut gallery suggested a few months ago that I lease instead of buy.  I gave the L v B thing a lot of thought.  The reason I went with buy is because what I knew I would be doing later that evening.  If it was just going to be me, and nobody was in the picture, then the odds are that I’d be going back home to the United States after this gig is up, and leasing, even the not so good terms on the car I bought, would have made sense.  But after Saturday night and hearing that one word, the odds that I’ll ever go back to America for good have gone way down.  With that in mind, I suddenly had to think about L vs B this car in terms of quite a few years down the road.  Three things about the car I now own are factors which will push its depreciation curve up and give it less resale value:  (1) German, (2) Turbo engine, and (3) Really teched out.  German cars, because they’re mechanically complicated, (What else would you expect from a people whose language is such that you sometimes ADD letters to a word to make its meaning more simple?), meaning more long term reliability issues;  Turbo engines, because they have more parts, it means more long term reliability issues;  Extensive tech stacks, because of the Moore’s Law style (hardware and software end) rapid obsolescence cycles.  (I tend to guess that these cutsey auto-manual gearboxes will be the same way, and if I’m right, that would mean a fourth reason.)  Which means lease terms aren’t that much of a Euros and cents advantage over buying.  Then you combine the mileage restrictions, and I figure I’ll be doing much more driving than that out of necessity, which means I’d be hit with a per-kilometer overage penalty at the end of a lease.  Buying just made less nonsense than leasing.

It’s also why warranties on German cars aren’t as extensive as they are for others, either Germany or the United States.  I get 4/80, which is virtually the same as the 4/50 you get for BMWs in the United States, as 80k km and 50k miles are just about the same.  And no, I don’t anticipate having this car for long beyond four years.

I should say, this is a hell of a reward for all my patience and all that I’ve been through. That, and whoever thought that I’d ever own a BMW and have a Swiss bank account?

(This space is left open for you to insert your own Trabant jokes.  I’ll break the ice:  What’s the easiest way to double a Trabant’s horsepower?  Have your six-year old daughter get out and push it.)

***

But my biggest reward was yet to come that day.

***

First thing I did after driving away from the Autohaus in my brand new BMW, my brand new BMW, my brand new BMW, (God, how I love saying that), was to drive myself by myself to a jeweler and buy an engagement ring.  You know, that part about the first moments of the rest of my life.  As long as I was getting started with the rest of my life, I figured I might as well get someone to spend it with.

Nothing fancy or complicated about buying a ring. I’ll say here that, as you’re about to find out, I totally mentally checked into this big decision at the beginning of this month. But I deliberately waited on buying the ring until the day of the fact, because, if you buy a ring and let it sit around, you’re going to stare at it, start thinking about your decision, start questioning it, double-thinking it, stew in your fears and doubts, get nervous, get cold feet, call the whole thing off. Then you could lose the ring, or it could get stolen, or misplaced.

I wasn’t having any of that. I was buying it early afternoon, on her finger by mid-evening.

Not a diamond ring, in fact, not a diamond to be found in it.  No way in hell I’m bribing some parenthetical cartel with one-sixth of my current annual income just for the moral authority to do what people have been doing for millennia, which is, get married.  Even before I was JQ-aware, I had a business law prof way back when who, now that I know better, was herself JQ-aware, and who, on one of the final days of the semester, gave us a symposium on practical game in terms of a serious business and personal financial life we were capable of having as older adults, and one of the things she dog whistled was that the parentheticals of the diamond cartel colluded with the parentheticals of the movie cartel to do a one-two punch;  The latter cartel would cinematographically convince women that a man needs to spend two months’ of his salary to buy a rock from the former cartel in order for him to be worthy to marry her.

But it was by no means an inexpensive ring, though.  Solitaire white gold with an emerald birthstone indicative of her May birth month, I wasn’t expecting it to be.  White gold I thought went better with the green emerald, because yellow or rose gold with a green stone looked too much like puke.  How much did it set me back?  Well north of ouch, but a little bit south of boing.  I told you in more precise numerical terms what I paid for the car, but I’m not going to say for the ring, just because I think it would be sorta bad luck.

Worth every Europenny to see it on her finger.  Even decoupled from its purpose, we all think it looks really nice on her finger, and it sets off her Hazel eyes.

***

Now for the part you’re most interested in, and this will be really really really involved.  Might want to add on another course to the dinner and another bottle of wine.

***

When did I make this big decision?

A Freudian slip I made on my way out of Braunschweig, the morning of December 3, made me realize that I had already subconsciously done it.

I was talking to another American, as it so happened, and I said something that I wasn’t aware I said in the way I said it, but must have piqued his curiosity.

The convo from that point went like this:

HIM: “But I don’t see a band on your finger.”

ME: “Band?”

HIM: “You just said you were headed back to your wife, but you should have a wedding band on your finger if you’re married.”

ME: “Sorry, I meant girlfriend.”

HIM: “Well it sounds to me you’ve already made the decision to ask her to marry you.”

ME:  (Thinking to myself):  “Mein Gott.”

On the train back to Cologne, I replayed what had been the previous several days in my head, and I came to the conclusion that I subconsciously made the decision after what I wrote about in the previous episode of RHOC, the end of Due Diligence November meaning that we came clean about everything, that was the evening before (what was for me) Thanksgiving, and then on Thanksgiving Day itself.

Last Thanksgiving and then later Christmas were my first ones after moving to Germany. On both days, I Skyped the family gathering, which was at my younger uncle’s house, as many of our family holiday gatherings were for as long as I can remember. But as you know, my younger uncle passed away in early June, and, thanks to all that I’ve had to do and have done, I have not yet been able to grieve properly.

His passing was like taking the mortar out of a brick house, as it turned out. It was never obvious before, but he was accidentally and unwittingly the glue that held what I had come to known as the universe of my close relatives and quasi-relatives together.  With him gone now, the rest of us are drifting apart.  Some of us, figuratively, in my case, quite literally.  Like they say, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.  Meanwhile, my own mother’s condition is getting worse. So there was no family gathering on Thanksgiving, not in the way I had known, and there will not be one on Christmas. Yes, I Skyped my mother, and her assisted living facility had a Thanksgiving supper, and so it will also be the same on Christmas, even though my Christmas this year will be unconventional — I’ll get to that.  But it was hardly the same.

Late in the evening my time on Thanksgiving, I realized that over there, from whence I come, halfway across the world, my own family is dying off and disintegrating, while right where I am, there’s now absolutely nothing precluding me going all the way with K., and making her immediate family that I’ve been getting closer and closer to over these last few months actually my own.  Back home, falling apart.  Over here, on the rise. An old door is closing right as a new door is opening.

So I now think that I subconsciously crossed over the line late in the evening on Thanksgiving.

And it took that Freudian slip several days later to make my conscious realize it.

On the train trip back to Cologne, I consciously threw myself all in.

All I could think of as I was rolling into Kölner Hauptbahnhof was that I finally found The One, after all these years and all these heartaches, headaches and setbacks, and nearly being resigned to the fact that I never would, and on top of that almost having to live the rest of my life with the circumstance of permanent mechanical failure in that department.  And that it took me going halfway across the world to find her.

It’s also a day I never thought would come, not only for my overall general bad luck with women and relationships, but specifically because the time between mid-January and the start of May in 2018 was definitely the most depressing part of my recovery and probably the most depressing extended time period of my life.  It was after I both returned to functional coherence and got most of my short term memory back, but before I found out that (a) certain unknown benefactor(s) were sending my quasi-uncle and I on a massive epic month and a half long vacation to Germany and the Czech Republic.  The reason those days were so scary was because I feared I was permanently consigned to being mostly wheelchair-bound and being a useless eater for the rest of my life.  I was doing plenty of posting here during those months, as most of you know; however, all that was masking my anxiety and depression.

If it would have turned out to be that way, I would have adjusted, but I would have been perennially unhappy.  But as it turns out, once I learned of that gift at the beginning of May, life has been all uphill from there.

I should also add that this decision also carved in stone my final decision about the car;  When December 3 began, I had already narrowed it down to the final two, BMW 3 vs the Benz E.  Once I totally threw myself into popping the question, I also figured that I better not buy the same car her father owns.

***

Before I move on to anything else, I know some of you are going to ask, so I’ll answer it now just to get it out of the way:

Don’t ask about a registry, because there is not going to be one. Because there doesn’t need to be one. The future Mrs. Blogmeister and I are both people of very decent means, as you found out a few weeks ago.

Honestly, between the two of us, we already have just about all of the realistically necessary day-to-day knick-knacks for the domestic life, and what little we don’t have, we will be able to come by easily. Hell, we’re already starting out as a two-car household before it’s actually a household. (Two car households aren’t as common in Germany as they are in the United States, ceteris paribus.) And now that I mention it, technically, it will be a three-car household after we’re actually married, the third car being my Impala back in St. Louis. Yes, the future Mrs. Blogmeister is about to be the via-marriage co-owner of a kind of car not sold in Germany from a brand not sold in Germany from a major automobile corporation that doesn’t do business in Germany, and of an actual car she’ll probably never even see in the flesh much less drive. Though I’ll assure her that she won’t be missing much.

On top of that, we’re even-steven splitting all of the wedding expenses, just the two of us. That’s right, beyotches, we’re going into this thing with pretty much equal skin in the game, which will give both of us an incentive to make this marriage work come what may. We’re not some 19-year olds who aren’t even a year removed from tossing our Oxford caps up in the air running around with our hands out after suddenly deciding we want to play house.  We figure anything worth emotionally doing is worth financially backing.  That which we attain too cheaply we esteem too lightly.  So this is our burden, not yours, and not my future father-in-law’s.

This is why, rewinding things around two years, I am glad that (at least as far as I know), nobody started a crowdfunding page on GFM or some such for my medical expenses. Because it wasn’t needed. (Note: If there ever was a medical GFM in my stage name, it was a fraud. Just like if you see a wedding registry in my stage name floating around out there, flag it, because it will be a fraud.) You don’t go asking people to give you money like you actually need it when you don’t need it.

GFMs and wedding registries are for those that actually need them.

For similar reasons, I’ve never had and will never have a tip jar on this medium.

***

Now back to the timeline, and the final time-sensitive sections.

Even on the train between Braunschweig and Cologne, when I consciously went all in, it wasn’t hard for me to figure out how and when I was going to pop the question.  It was staring me right in the face.

Freiheitstag, eleven days after that, the 14th. After all, I’d come that far until December 3 with no setbacks, so I would probably make it another eleven days.  Luckily, the 14th was going to be a Saturday.  If it wasn’t, I would have waited until the following Saturday.

Felt like perfect timing.

And I already figured on the pretext: I would treat all five of them to a nice dinner that night, and then game plan for whatever after the dinner, the pretext being to celebrate the end of rehab and my successful recovery, on the very first day I could drive a car on my own.  I actually wanted she who is now my future sister-in-law to be there, in spite of everything, because I wanted her to see what I was about to do, and I wanted her to see her sister saying Ja.  All with the hope that this will make her give up.  I have my doubts, though, and what I really fear is that what she saw made her realize that I’m now part of the family, and thus will be in her life more often and more frequently, which in turn will give her more opportunities.  The close friend has just become a closer enemy.

(Side note: Now that I wrote that paragraph, I now suddenly realize that I never picked up the dinner check, even though it was my intent all along. I’m guessing I was so deliriously happy that she screamed Ja, that I forgot all about my promise, and my future father-in-law wound up paying.)

Luckily, all five of them were game to come to my “celebrating successful rehabilitation” dinner, none of them were out of town or previously, well, pardon the pun, engaged.  Of course, it would have been pointless to go to this dinner if K. could not have come.

You already know I purposely delayed buying the engagement ring until the early afternoon before, and why.

***

Just hours before, I worked out exactly how I was going to do the deed, and it worked out so perfectly and according to plan, that all I need to do is to describe the actual proceedings.

Around halfway through our time at dinner, I asked K. one of those incidental questions about German; Remember, she’s been my German tutor since I moved here;  That’s how we met.  I asked her, nonchalantly, how a man would ask a woman to marry him.

Of course, I already knew the answer:

Willst Du Mich Heiraten?

I’d been rehearsing it for a week and a half, to make sure I remembered it like it was native to me.

She answered my question as I knew she would.  I pretended to have learned something new.

Then I waited for what I think was about 90 seconds to two minutes. I copped peeks at all five of them, to see if any of them had any clue that something was up. From what I could see in all their eyes, none of them had any clue. Until the day after, when I quizzed all of them, and asked them to be honest, and the only one who thought there was more than met the eyes and ears at that moment was my future mother-in-law.  Of the five people that comprise my new family by way of impending marriage, it is my future mother-in-law who I’ve given the least thought or care to, because she doesn’t personally-politically affect me like the other four, so I’ll give her the due props here for being the only one of the five who thought something was up.  Mothers-in-law are typically politically difficult, but it looks like she will never be.  I also thought, and she confirmed, that it it was really special for her to see it all transpire in front of her eyes, because I tend to think that mothers who are wives in marriages that have lasted a long time feel some kind of really special way to see their own daughters being proposed to, just as they themselves were, so many years ago.

I’ll eventually ask to find out, but I get the feeling that the subject of marriage between my future sister-in-law and the soyboy-in-law was not carried out in the time honored traditional way, and I also get the hunch that neither one of my future parents-in-law were direct witnesses to the matter.  I’m guessing it was some new age touchy-feely mumbo jumbo, like coming to a mutual consensus.  But I don’t at all see him as the type to get down on one knee.  This is one reason I wanted to make sure I did this in front of the future parents-in-law, so at least they’ll be able to see at least one of their daughters being proposed to, presuming my hunch is correct.

Back to the timeline:  During those 90 seconds to two minutes, not only did none of them appear at the time to look suspicious, but none of them said anything.

Right when I thought the moment was right, before conversation could start again and move on to something else, I said her name, said it again, told her (in English) that today was the first day of the rest of my life, and that I wanted her to be a part of the rest of my life, and then took the ring case out of my pocket, opened the top, went down on one knee, said her name one more time, then:

Willst Du Mich Heiraten?

Because I was so focused on her and my brain was waiting for the one word I wanted to hear, I was a little oblivious to all but that word. But even then, I heard her screaming what seemed at the time to be very loudly, loud enough to assassinate eardrums, at least three times, and twice, she screamed the word I wanted to hear. Even though my brain blocked out her volume, in order to wait to hear the word.

Her screaming must have startled everyone else in the restaurant, because I could see out of the corner of my eyes everyone staring our way, and they all started clapping after what I suppose were the few moments it took them to realize what was going on.

On one level, I was taken aback at her joyful screaming.  On another level, it didn’t surprise me at all, because I already knew and experienced her penchant for occasional borderline neurotic high strung hyperemotionalism — It reminds me of someone I know.  And it definitely didn’t surprise the other four, as we discussed the next day, they’re even more familiar with that particular personality characteristic of the future Mrs. Blogmeister than I.

The first person I went to after the future Mrs. was my future father-in-law. Nice firm handshake, big bear hug, no words spoken.  He smiled, in spite of not being the smiling type.  I knew the message he was communicating to me: Welcome to the family.

My future mother-in-law, nice soft hug, and I let her get away with pinching me on the cheek. A soft handshake for the soyboy; I didn’t want to break his hand. And to my future sister-in-law, another nice soft hug, but also with me giving her the thousand yard riot act sort of stare, as if to tell her to cut it out, cause it’s over now. Even though I know better, that she’s now going to be our perpetual PITA.

My only regret is that none of my own blood relatives or quasi-relatives could see it. Though the quasi-uncle is going to be my best man; Good Lord willing and the crick don’t rise, he’ll fly here to do that duty.

***

Why are we doing it?

Easy. Everything we threw at our relationship to make it fail not only didn’t derail it, but it brought us closer together.  We behaved in ways toward each other during the relationship that would have ended either one of our previous serious relationships several times over.  Not to mention several circumstances beyond our immediate control that would have done the same.  It also wasn’t like I was in good shape when we first laid eyes on each other;  Like I’ve written here before, it was sorta “at first sight,” but at that moment, I was still mostly confined to the wheelchair, and was still mechanically unable, use your imagination, with even money odds that I would stay that way.  She could have easily written me off right then and there and gone right back on the market, but something made her wait around for and bet on me.

Plain words, this bird wasn’t supposed to have gotten off the ground, and when it took flight, it was supposed to have crashed several times over.  Yet, here we are.

By now, I think our relationship soon to be marriage would be the only thing other than cockroaches that would survive a direct nuclear strike.

We both have so much wreckage and so many false starts in our relationship pasts that we’re both well familiar with what failure looks like, and we can see that there’s not a hint of it with us.  So goes the old saying, that you’ve gotta learn how to lose before you can learn how to win.  Or, everything goes wrong until you reach a point when everything goes right and clicks perfectly into place.

Our marriage is probably going to be just like the relationship was, a lot of catch as catch can, a lot of unconventionality. But I know we can handle it.

Another factor is that we both agree that our previous serious relationships had something of a contrived and artificial quality, that one or both parties in them were pushing the matter, trying to make something out of nothing, or make something more out of something less, mainly with the tactic of artificial personality self-alterations, fronting and stunting, pump priming.  There was and is none of that with us;  It just happened, and organically, and naturally, with zero pretense or contrivance.  Neither one of us are trying to change the other, and neither one of us are trying to change ourselves for the sake of the other.

I’ve mentioned before in a previous installation of RHOC that I’ve picked up on some differences between dating culture in Germany and the United States.  One of those things is that German dating relationships allow for a much wider range of modes of engagement, seriousness and commitment and tenure than American ones, on the part of both parties.  To put it another way, the American dating market is you must do A, then you must do B, then you must do C, so on and so forth.  The relationship worked in spite of its intermittent nature because a German was one party of the relationship, and therefore she was perfectly happy with the kind of relationship that an American man or woman couldn’t tolerate for long.  Now all I hope is the relationship success translates to marriage success.

Not only that, I know there are a few of you reading this who know me, or knew me, who can cosign what you’re about to read. For the rest of you, I’m just a difficult personality, and really hard to love.  On the wrong day, I’m a real bastard on wheels.  Which is why my track record with the opposite sex before now has involved all that wreckage. The future Mrs. Blogmeister is also a difficult personality, (when you get past the really good front she puts on, in contrast, I barely bother with a front), and is really hard to love.  And, yes, she has her occasional bitch-on-wheels day.  Which is why her track record with the opposite sex before now has involved all that wreckage, not to mention the extra complication on her end that she feared having to settle for a wuss like the soyboy-in-law.

This is why I’ve never checked for sector chicks, because I care too much about the sector.  I knew that I would eventually piss the sector chick off, me being me and all that, and she would get so mad that she would quit the sector.  Even this many years after the fact, I still have to keep things under the vest, but some of you may remember that, quite a few years ago, a high profile young man in the sector who is the son of a really high profile very upper middle aged man who is a long time big wheel in the sector wound up dropping out, for apparently mysterious reasons.  All I’ll say is that it actually wasn’t a mystery, that the real reason he quit was because he thought he got the rotten end of a love triangle, all three individuals were sector, the other two got married to each other.  (Apropos that the high profile father of said young man was also himself once party to an intra-sector love triangle, the other man in it is also a long time big wheel.)  And the saga has a St. Louis angle, because one of the three individuals in that triangle is a native St. Louisan, and a personal angle, because said native St. Louisan’s late father was one of my prime mentors and (to use the current year jargon) influencers, for quite a few years.  Point being, I care too much about the sector ever to want to cause any such drama.  I would much rather my romantic life contribute to people being brought into the sector than chasing people out of it.

If you knew me, and if you knew her, then you’d obviously see that we were made for each other, but nobody else.  We’re difficult, but we’re the same difficult.  We love each other’s strengths which are very similar, and we love each other’s flaws because we can’t hate each other’s flaws, because, since they’re the same flaws, and if we hated those flaws, we would be throwing stones at each other from the insides of glass houses.

But you know what they say:  The best roses come with the sharpest thorns.

Quite frankly, we’re the only people on Earth who would or could put up with each other. But, one only needs one; In fact, modern civilization only lets you have one, so much so that it’s hard baked into criminal law, so one works out just fine.  It’s also why neither one of us will ever have to worry about the other cheating, for much the same reason why you don’t have to fence in a narcoleptic dog.  Think it through.

The odds that either one of us, much less both of us, would ever find someone else more or even just as compatible as ourselves, were so close to zero that I actually believe they are actually zero.

Some of you may be wondering if either one of us or both of us are pushing the issue out of age desperation, the Jagged Edge Doctrine.  Or you might be wondering if 884 days ago made me more desperate.  Or something I wrote here earlier, my own family back in St. Louis and surrounding areas is dying off and disintegrating made me desperate to latch on to a new one.  You might be thinking that some sort of Florence Nightingale Syndrome made her fall in love with me at first sight, as her first sight of me was in me in my wheelchair.  Emphatically, no, because both of us are way too cynical about the opposite sex for either one of us much less both of us simultaneously to rush into anything or settle for just any ole body.  I know that if I were not so cynical, I probably would have already been married and divorced multiple times, with not much marital happiness with any spouse, and I’m sure K. feels the same way about herself.  All I need to know about the consequences of not being cynical about the opposite sex?  My future sister-in-law.  Nuff said.

Long and short: She’s The One, and for her, I’m The One.

***

Aside from the fact that we actually love each other, getting married is going to have some fortunate fringe benefits for both of us:

(1) It gives me yet another anchor for legal status for residing in Germany (and by deduction, the entire EU), aside from the two I already have. It won’t be instantaneous, and it will take some affirmative bureaucratic work, but it will get done.

(2) It gives the future Mrs. a Green Card for the United States, again, not instantaneously, and it will take some affirmative bureaucratic work, that will get done.

(3) Then there are abstract benefits.

There are three distinguishing characteristics about German culture that have become somewhat less true here in the last decade of the economic boom, but are still noticeably true:

(3a) Married people are held in higher esteem in their professional lives for that reason alone. I’ve already told you that the future Mrs. has a pretty high ceiling in what she is doing for a living, and now, just the fact that she’s about to be married, and once she actually is married, will mean that it will be all the more likely that she makes it all the more close to that ceiling, and maybe sooner than she would have if she was not or never married.  It’s also why, once we’re official, she’s going to change her professional name to my surname.  In German, “Frau,” along with meaning “woman” in the generic, also when ended with a period, means either “Ms.” or Mrs.”  Right now, professionally, she’s Frau. (Her incumbent maiden surname), and when we become official, she will start calling herself Frau. (My surname).  It will be the fact that she will demand of her colleagues (and others) this change that will mean that they’ll know she’s now married, because, like I said, there’s no difference in Ms. and Mrs. in German.

These other two aren’t quite so relevant to us, yet, but they’re worth mentioning:

(3b) Germans have a moral aversion to financial indebtedness. Here’s a hint: “Schuld” translates to both debt and guilt.

The English language has a well known but more loose continuum between debt and guilt as concepts. Two different versions of those two lines of the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” and “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In High German, there is only one version, because you only need one version, which means both English versions: “Und vergib uns unsere Schuld, Wie auch wir vergeben unsern Schuldigern.”

Understanding that was the key to figuring out why far so many more Germans don’t “own” their houses, compared to Americans or others. It’s because they don’t want the guilt of having the kind of debt that a big mortgage means. Two conflicting figures on the percentage of Germans that rent their primary residence: 59% (Destasis) and 74% (FAZ), but either is way higher than America or Cuck Island.

(3c) As such, Germans hold you in higher personal and professional esteem if you live both well and at least a bit below your means. In other words, wasting and splurging is a nein-nein.  And don’t even mention borrowing against your future to fund a better present.  In America, you keep up with the Joneses because both you and the Joneses are in debt up to your ears;  In Germany, you keep up with the Schmidts by finding ways to squeeze nickels out of pennies and living better than the Schmidts while spending the same amount of money that the Schmidts are spending, an amount that’s less than your incomes.

The future Mrs. owns a VW Golf, when she could obviously afford quite a bit better. (That, and, since we’re anticipating additions, she is already talking about trading up to a more spacious car of some sort.) My future father-in-law, I already told you, owns a Benz E sedan, and he can afford quite a bit better. As an aside, the future Mrs. takes after her mother in terms of physical stature, while she takes after her father in terms of temperament, while my future sister-in-law is just the opposite. My future father-in-law is thin and ambitious, while my future mother-in-law is rather overweight, and back in the days when she worked, clocked in and out when she had to, did her forty, but wasn’t a ladder climber. (Now, my future father-in-law makes so much money that she doesn’t have to work, she can afford to be a housewife, and be a two-car household, among a lot of other things.) So you can see how that translates to their two daughters. Needless to say, my future sister-in-law is more like an American and less like a traditional German in her spending habits.

That’s one of the reasons I picked the BMW 3 over the Benz E, besides the ones I told you about above.  While in Rome…

(4) While my career track here won’t per se be enhanced by my merely being married in the way it will help the future Mrs., it will probably grease a few skids. However, there’s a chance that it could boomerang on me, and wind up hurting me at the salt mines. Let me put it metaphorically: You have a bunch of toys, but you never played with this one. One day, some other kid comes over, finds that toy, plays with it, and loves it. So your parents give him that toy.  Now you suddenly discovered you really liked that toy all along, and you’re going to pout and throw tantrums until the cows come home.  See where this is going? I have to be prepared for that consternation.

(5)  Because, as of Saturday, I’m no longer an official gimp, I would have needed to find a place of my own right around now.  But that’s no longer a problem, because I’m moving in with the future Mrs., I will consummate actually transferring what little stuff I have the week between Christmas and the New Year.  Such as it is, I’ve lived with her about half the time since the start of November, since leaving Wiesbaden and returning to Cologne for good.

It also means I won’t have to be dealing with a Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung.  Which means I won’t get to impress anyone by saying Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung as a non-native speaker.

(6)  I’m going to get a mulligan on the father thing.  As you know, my real father, who was only semi-interested and semi-involved when I was growing up, died in August 2018, during the six week interim between getting back from the vacation and returning here.

When I was born, the only one of my grandparents that was even living was my maternal grandfather, and he died in August 1979, I was not even two and a half.  But I got a mulligan on him;  My mother dated an engineer for awhile, and his father was like my maternal grandfather in so many ways;  As a few examples, both worked at A-B for many years, and both died in the month of August.  (You may have noticed that August seems to be really bad month for people close to me kicking the bucket.  My maternal grandmother, died August 1971.)  I know from rationality that these things are coincidences, and coincidences do exist, because the universe of things that happen are virtually infinite, so there is a lot of law-of-averages opportunity for coincidences to pop off.  Yet and still, I allow myself even to this day to be so blissfully deluded that I think some otherworldy force granted me a grandpa mulligan in my teenage years.  So complete was the mulligan experience that, when he passed in August 1994, I felt like I was actually grieving for my actual grandfather.

Now I’m getting a father mulligan.  Unlike the grandpa mulligan, though, my future father-in-law and my late father were/are really different people;  Very white collar and very blue collar, respectively, as one example.

Both of K.’s grandmothers are still living, both aren’t that much older than my own mother.  If we have kids soon enough, and if those two can hang on, then our kids just might get to know their maternal-side great-grandmothers.  Meanwhile, I’m not optimistic that they and their paternal grandmother will ever physically see each other.

(7)  Because I’m the only child of both my mother and my father, I never had any siblings or half-siblings.  Now, I’m going to get the sibling experience vicariously, though not in the ideal execution.

(8)  Speaking of the devil: This relationship was either going to succeed or fail, and this marriage will either succeed or fail. But my future sister-in-law will not affect that in any way. To put it another way, if we wouldn’t have made it, or if we wind up not making it, it won’t be because of her, and we’re not getting married to spite her, and if we do make it, it won’t be to spite her. We have and will continue to compartmentalize her and her treachery over there, and our relationship and now soon to be marriage over here.

(9)  My future parents-in-law are about to get a son-in-law they actually like.

(10)  And now that I step back and take a dispassionate look at the two of us from the figurative top of the mountain, I have to admit that we’re going to be sort of a power couple.  Throw my future father-in-law into the mix, and we’ll make a really potent troika.

***

We have not yet literally spoken about the matter, but without even needing to say anything, we both know that we’re going to have to be PDQ about the subject of children, just because neither one of us are that young, and certainly not getting younger. As you know, I’m 42 and she’s 32. She’s closer to crunch time than I am, for obvious biological reasons, but even I have to keep an eye on the clock, because the farther a man gets from 40, the worse his sperm gets, and the more likely that the children he fathers will have genetic disorder issues.

I already know that our children will be born instant dual citizens with dual passports in hand. I’ll very much approve of them having multiple options and open doors. They’ll also grow up in a native bilingual household. Though I anticipate that, in spite of all that duality, it will probably be the case that they’ll be culturally German rather than American. Just based on the fact that they’ll almost 100% likely be born and raised here.  And for the fact that the odds are high that the only father-side blood relative they’ll ever know is me;  Other than that, all their experience with blood relatives will be mother-side.

I also have the speech and story pre-rehearsed for the kids for when they get old enough, the one that will end:

“And if that car would have missed me, you would have never been born.”

***

On a slight tangent, for this Christmas, I am going to cross something off the bucket list: Midnight Mass at The Vatican. Even though I’m Lutheran. And in spite of the incumbent Pope.

I was originally going to go by myself, but the rest of the new family has made the almost last minute decision to come along, to make this sort of our first real serious joint family activity and trip. For the record, they are C&E Calvinists, and that’s putting it charitably to them.  So this kind of activity is not in their wheelhouse.  Of the six of us, I’m the tallest, heaviest, most intensely political and the most religious.  But I also think that this is a sign of respect to the newest member of their brood.  That, and central Italy in late December is generally more pleasant than northwestern Germany in late December.  (Advance forecast has partly sunny and upper 50s for Rome on Christmas, compared to the standard November/December fare of 40s wall-to-wall clouds chance of rain here.)  And by “made the decision to come along,” it was probably future father-in-law doing so unilaterally then twisting four other arms.  That and of course future sister-in-law was going to come along, only because she knows I’m going.  Believe me, she’s going to make it her business to be wherever I am if she knows where it is and it’s practical for her to be there.  And where applicable, she’ll drag the soyboy around with her by his ears.

So we’re rolling six deep to Rome on a train Monday.  Right through Switzerland in the winter, and that will be really sweet icing on the cake — Forecast calls for snow over most of Switzerland on Monday.  But, you know what they say:  While in Rome…

The first of many six person (and hopefully, eventually more) family trips.

Since this will be my final post in this space before we hop on that train, I just want to take the opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas.  From someone who’s having the best Christmas of his life, even if it is lachrymose in a few ways.

***

Now, we’ve got so much to do, so many plans and decisions to make.  At one moment, you realize you’re getting married — Yay!  Then after a few days, you realize you’re getting married — Whoa boy.  After the New Year, we’re really going to get our noses into the grindstone.





Three Things Happened Yesterday

15 12 2019

(1)  I bought a brand new car

(2)  I bought a brand new ring

(3)  She screamed Ja

***

Obviously this deserves a lot more.  But I’m up on Cloud Nine Million.  Maybe later this week when I’ve come down a few levels, I’ll give you said “lot more.”





Freiheitstag

13 12 2019

Your Blogmeister’s German Desk

I know it’s not technically until tomorrow.  But if I’ve made it one day short of six months, then I’ll make it one more day.

So I’ll call it now:  My recovery is now complete, and I have made it back to the top of the admittedly shorter mountain that is my new normal, rather worse for wear in a few concrete ways, but better off in the general sense of being.

One thing I have come to learn in the last 878 days is that patience really is a virtue.  (Unless you’re a doctor, in which case, patients are a virtue.)  Patience was never my natural habit before, rather an acquired taste.  And I had to acquire a lot more of it, just out of pure necessity.  I don’t want to imagine what I would have done to myself, and/or perhaps other people, if I would have been as impatient and anxious here in these last 878 days as I was before then.

Patience, perseverance and persistence will generally make you better off than you would be otherwise, all other things being equal.

And the only kind of people that make a living sprinting are sprinters;  For everyone else, life is a marathon that requires those three P-lettered virtues, and also another P-lettered virtue, pacing (yourself).

Tomorrow, my life will change in a big way, even bigger than you might think.





Real Housewives of Cologne, Episode 3

27 11 2019

“OH, HENRY”

Like I told you in the previous episode of RHOC, Due Diligence November could have wrecked the relationship.

Instead, it brought us closer together, because it made us realize that we’re even more alike than we thought.

***

I only had and only needed one source to do my due diligence, one that I knew would both be totally honest with me and probably not snitch on me that I was asking about her behind her back. That source being her father.

One day during the first whole business week of this month, I made an arrangement to have something of a power lunch with him.  We at first planned to do it at his favorite lunch time deli, but the morning before, he called me to tell me that there was a change of plans, and we had to do it in his office.  Getting to his office requires taking an elevator almost all the way up to the top of a certain pretty tall building in town, and that should tell you a lot by itself.  You can also figure that his office has a sweet view of The Cathedral City and beyond from well on high, and that it does.  High enough that I looked south and knew what and where to look, and I could see Schloss Drachenburg in Königswinter (close to Bonn) way off on the horizon, and of course the taller structures in Bonn itself.  Looking north, likewise Düsseldorf.  And the Rhine River and its water making its way from south to north through and between those three major cities and several lesser known ones.  I could see a really important slice of Germany just standing there and turning my neck, though that’s not hard when you have to pack a lot of people into not that much space.  Anyway, I figured having it in his office was going to be a better option than being in the open public at some restaurant, because of the sensitive nature of the subject matter.

Here’s the thing about the g/f, who I will identify by the first letter of her first name only, K. She’s a solid 7 in the face, and rather but not dangerously overweight. Very nice proportions for those, and that. She’s got her own job, and ambitions, and career track, and a pretty high ceiling therein. We’d already talked about our previous difficulties with the opposite sex, and I know we’re both difficult personalities and hard people to love. Not to mention her fear of winding up with a soyboy like her brother-in-law. But even counting all that, she’s a catch, and it’s not like if every guy in this region or in western Germany who is of comparable age to her is a wuss.

You would think that there would have been at least one worthy guy around these parts who would have snapped her up by now.

“Okay, so what’s the matter with her?  What’s the catch?”

The last medium termer I had back in St. Louis, spring 2017, turned out to be using me for side dick. To make a long story short, when I first got suspicious that I was being so used, (what caused me to be suspicious is that she was too enthralled with me, in ways that none of my previous g/fs ever were), the next time we, well, did, I recorded it without her knowledge. I put out an APB on St. Louis C/L, which indirectly put me in contact with her husband, so my hunch turned out to be right on, and and then I arranged a meeting with him to show him the evidence, and give the thumb drive to him. I was prepared for the worst, but he wasn’t mad at me at all, more like happy that I was honest enough to search him out to tell him after being astute enough to get suspicious to begin with. After that, I have no idea whether they divorced or patched things up, but I do know for sure that I dodged her, made up one excuse after another to why I couldn’t see her, until she gave up, and now that I remember, it wasn’t until a bit more than a month before That Day that I got the last contact I ever got from her.

You’ll thus understand my once bitten twice shy mentality.

So here’s where my mind was running with K.:

(1) She’s already married, and cheating on her husband with me

(2) She has been married and divorced and has one or more kids that she’s hiding from me, waiting to rope me in then pop the surprise

(3) She, with her ambitious self, bats for the home team, (ambitious women tend to be lesbians), and is using me as cover

With as much time as I’ve spent at her place, I’ve seen no evidence of any one of these things.  But I’m also old enough to know that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.  And I also know, if K. was scamming me in this kind of way for one of these reasons or some other one, she obviously knows that I’m at her place a lot, of course at her open invitation, I even have a key, so she’d be clever enough to cover her tracks and hide the evidence.

On the other hand, you all know her sister wishes she could have me, (hence the very existence of RHOC), so she would surely have told me by now if anything was wrong with K., in order to try to peel me off.  If she didn’t do that by this time, then it was highly unlikely that any of that or anything damning could be true.

But I still wanted it from the horse’s mouth.

Once we started the power lunch, I explained to him about how serious things are getting between myself and his daughter, and then nearly all of what you just read. Then I asked him point blank about these three things, and a few others.

He looked me Dead Eye Dan in the eyes.

Absolutely not, to any of these things, or anything else even remotely similar.  He also honestly answered my other questions — That kind of stuff I can’t state publicly, so as not to give either one of us away.

And that’s all I needed.

Best of all, he didn’t seem angry at all at my asking, even though it was that personal. In fact, he seemed rather relieved that I was even doing this kind of due diligence.  Maybe his relief had more to do with the fact that it meant that his not-getting-any-younger older daughter and some guy worth a damn are that serious.

That said, since I was getting so personal with him about his daughter, I anticipated, and was ready for, him to do his own due diligence, and interrogate me and turn my guts inside out. Which he did, and I honestly answered all.

This by itself could have set off a chain reaction that ended up wrecking our relationship, but thankfully, it didn’t.

But I still had some work to do.

***

I told you I went to her father because I figured on a man not blabbing and snitching. Yet and still, I had to anticipate on the chessboard and be prepared for the possibility that he would tell on me. His daughter, and all that.  Men are generally good at keeping secrets, but not so good when those secrets involve their daughters.

So I made it easy for K. to do her due diligence on me.

I “accidentally” left an address phone number handwritten book in her apartment that just so happened to have the quasi-uncle’s phone number back in Waterloo, Illinois, readily and easily prominent.  (Really, who under the age of 50 has a handwritten or physical-printed personal address-phone book these days?)

A week and a half after my power lunch with her father, ring a ding goes my phone.  Guess who.

He usually e-mails me if it’s not really important, or texts me if it’s somewhat important, because he knows my international calls and texts cost me. So for him to call me must have meant it was really important or really bad news, and of course I answered the call.

Damned if she didn’t take the bait.

Turns out K. had the same suspicions about me that I had about her, almost down to the letter, all three of them. That I was cheating on an incumbent wife back in America with her, that I’ve already been married and divorced but am hiding kids from her, that I’m gay but using her for a beard. She, too, thought that by now, some chick would have let me snap her up, and of course, she was suspicious that that had already happened.

He told her the absolute God’s honest truth, that none of that was true.

While I was pleased about why she made the call, and what she asked him, which indicated that she’s just as seriously invested in this relationship as I am, such that she actively did her due diligence on me just as I did on her, the more critically important thing was that she even made the call at all.   Which meant is that from that moment, I had leverage against her if her father ever dropped the dime on me and told her about our power lunch.  If it made her mad initially, she couldn’t stay mad at me for going behind her back to find out about her, if she did the same to me.  The very word that went through my mind as I ended the call with him was:  Checkmate.

Ironically, I suck at chess.

***

Whew, that was a relief.

But, not so fast.

I still couldn’t shake the feeling that she was hiding something from me.

How could I be so sure?

Because I knew I was hiding something from her.

***

It all came to a head last night.

I finally worked up the courage and resolved myself to ask her point blank last night.

But as it turned out, just before the moment I resolved to do that, she did it to me first.

Which means she herself was still wondering about me just like I was wondering about her. It’s just that she slightly beat me to the punch in terms of working up the courage to pull the trigger.

“Good, we’re finally going to get this off our chests,” was my thought, and probably also hers, at that precise moment.  I also knew that there was about a five’ll-getchya-ten chance that the relationship was within an hour of ending.  But it couldn’t go on like this.

The reason she was still wondering about me turned out to be the same reason I was still wondering about her. Because she was hiding something from me just as much as I was hiding something from her.

First, we both came clean about all of what we did behind each others’ backs during the month, including the wherefores and whys.

That was a risky enough subtext by itself, and in fact, the whole progression of the power lunch and the planted address book, not to mention me openly admitting it to her, was predicated on the fact that I played the kind of positioning and bargaining games in dating that Americans do, but Germans don’t.  The German attitude about these kinds of games range from insouciance to disgust.  I asked her point blank about her reaction to what I had just confessed.  If it actually did bother her at all, she took it in her stride, and instead came off with an open reaction of that she understands the cross-cultural differences.  Maybe on one level she liked the new experience of some guy playing games with her;  I’m the first American and in fact first non-German she’s ever dated, and like I wrote above, Germans themselves don’t do this, so this is obviously her first time of experiencing American-style dating gamesmanship.  On top of that, she saw my Machiavellian personality shine through transparently for the first time.

After that, we agreed to let loose of our final secrets by means of writing them on paper, then trading papers, and then openly comparing the papers.

You’ll never guess:

Same damned thing.

Then we spilled our guts about said “same damned thing,” and our reasoning for hiding it from each other?  Too easy by now:  Just about the same reasons and rationale.

It’s all perfectly innocuous and understandable, as you’re about to find out.

***

Since I let her go first, I’ll do her part first.

Her father doesn’t have it like that like that, and he doesn’t have it like that. But he’s got it, a lot of it, (Remember that high-up office?), and has had it for some time, quite enough in terms of numbers and time to have set both of his daughters up with really soft fluffy pillows under their high wires of life, which they weren’t allowed to access until they started working their first real adult self-sustaining day-to-day employment. Both of those “really soft fluffy pillows” are sleeping safe and sound in Zürich.

Cut to the chase: She has been chronically scared about some man falling in love with her money instead of her. Especially since “her money” is meant as an emergency stash in case she’s ever “between jobs” or some such. It’s not meant to live off of for the rest of her life.  That’s what I mean metaphorically by “really soft fluffy pillow” — It wasn’t meant to be a permanent hammock.

Complicating matters with her is that her sister also has the same kind of “really soft fluffy pillow,” and the soyboy-in-law has no idea that his wife is sitting on top of that kind of nest egg. (And my writing it here won’t mean he ever finds out; If you’ve seen this blog’s traffic stats, you’ll know why).  In fact, I’m the first non-related person to be let in on this secret.  The soyboy-in-law is already in the go slow zone when it comes to being gainfully employed; In fact, the better word to describe his employment habits is “menial” rather than “gainful.”  If he ever found out, he would never do a lick of work for the rest of his life, opting for an existence of poaching his wife’s nest egg down to non-existence while giving his thumbs some powerful daily workouts.

You may be thinking here that I can now use this as leverage against her sister’s treachery.  I have decided against ever doing that, to the point of openly coming to an agreement with K. that this tactic is forever off the table for either one of us, because pulling that card could very well start a chain reaction that wrecks the whole family.  We’ll find other ways to mitigate her sister.

K., worried that she would end up with a husband like her soyboy-in-law, had the double worry about such a man finding out about her nest egg.  Now you see why she was so nervous?

As an aside, I don’t consider her doing that to be the same kind of gamesmanship that I engaged in and just discussed.

Now for my part.

You may remember that, after Oktoberfest and the Bavarian state elections during October of last year, I made three stops before heading back to Cologne from Munich. First was Hechingen, to see Hohenzollern Castle, my favorite German castle thus far, the second was the clock route in the southern Black Forest, to pick out a cuckoo clock for my mother and have it shipped to her, and the third was Basel.

You think I was in Basel just to add another stamp to my passport and to do sightseeing?

Yeah, there was all that.

But I also had the remainder of my insurance settlement money moved to a newly minted Swiss bank account and converted to CHF.

It, too, is my big soft fluffy pillow under my high wire of life, and then some, and then some. The difference is that the purpose of it is that if my recovery suddenly goes left and I can’t work, I’ll have something to live on.

Why did I hide it from K. for so long?

Because I wanted her to fall in love with me, not my money.

Neither one of us have to worry about that kind of thing any longer.  Turns out we both came with our own bags of money.

I already knew we were comparably yoked in terms of ambition and income. Now I know we’re also comparably yoked in terms of assets.

After we both spilled all, we laughed until we cried.

Then we realized how we are even more alike than we thought.  We’re so much alike that we both take it as a point of personal pride that I am way more Machiavellian than she.  (I’ll give you a minute to think it through.)

Like I wrote above, what could have easily ruined us instead brought us even closer together.

***

I also now know that I can confide in her father, because I know for sure that he never told K. about our power lunch.

However, I now also know that, during our power lunch, he never told me about her money.  Best to let the sleeping dog lie, so I won’t ever ask, but I think he didn’t tell me about her money then for one of two reasons:  Either it never occurred to him, or he hid it from me for the same reasons she did.

***

November for us was like an O. Henry short story.

***

During the month, we had our first amicable domestic disagreement and differences.  I’m not going to call it a fight, because it wasn’t.  And it wasn’t so much a “domestic” agreement as it was a professional disagreement manifested in a domestic setting.  But it was our first real wake-up call that, as alike as we are, we’re not total carbon copies, (“No E-Girls, Ever!” — Nick F.), and that we’ll have our share of give and take.  I can’t say publicly what it was about, because I’d be exposing both of us if I did.  However, it was the kind of thing where it was pretty easy for both of us to empathize with and understand the other’s position.  If you’re going to disagree, that’s the best kind of disagreement to have.

***

I’ve also been doing my due diligence when it comes to cars this month.  I’ll tell you more about that after I’ve made my final decision and closed the deal.  I’ll just sneak peek it now and say that I started out with seven serious candidates within the relevant range of the intersection of practicality, affordability, desirability and politics.  Plus an eighth test drive of a car way above my price range, for grins and giggles and a little bit of fun.  As of this writing, I have narrowed it down to the final two.  All of my test drives except for one have come with K. riding shotgun, because I still won’t be able to drive on my own for another 16 days, though it’s not like I’ve been counting down or anything.  The one exception?  Well, I’ll save it for then.

Sixteen days until Freiheitstag.  I’m so close I can just taste it.

***

In a personal note, I’ll have Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow with other Americans at a special undisclosed place here in The Region just as I did last year, and then I’ll have a short trip over the weekend, to Braunschweig, indicated on most English language maps as Brunswick.  During the vacation, we went through Braunschweig, and among other things, I learned that that stuff in the United States called Braunschweiger really isn’t.  “Braunschweiger” sold in America is actually liverwurst or liver sausage (look at the label), while true Braunschweigerwurst is a off-color pork sausage that you can serve well either hot or in cold cuts.

However, my purpose for going to Braunschweig has nothing to do with Braunschweigerwurst, even though I will have some while I’m there.  Hinting to the previous section, VW did something one week ago relating to my impending business in Braunschweig that would have made me decide not to buy a VW, if I already had not come to that decision for other reasons.





Real Housewives of Cologne, Episode 2

3 11 2019

“DUE DILIGENCE”

Our relationship has now survived and thrived through all the challenges of time and distance separation either one of us could throw at it.

I got back to Cologne in enough time back on Thursday for the g/f to bring me along to her work’s Halloween party;  That’s how serious things have gotten, and also how the time apart didn’t hurt the relationship.  She wanted to show me off to her colleagues.  It was too late to get some sort of dress-up or costume, so I just went as her boyfriend, which was a scary enough gitup.

Since I wasn’t born yesterday, I knew her ulterior motive:  Since I was back in town, she was doing the body language thing to her female colleagues that I’m taken, and if any of them even dared, there would be workplace cohesion and comity issues, courtesy of herself.  Basically, she doesn’t want repeats of her sister.

Before now, I had two serious girlfriends where I thought maybe possibly…but both wound up failing, the earlier one just got tired of me, the latter one that relationship I ruined with my own mouth.  The first one I had before I started this medium, the second was my g/f when I lived in Carbondale through 2009, so those of you who have been here that long will probably remember that whole saga, to the extent I wrote about it in this space at the time.

And before present company, the rest of my g/fs were just short and medium termers with no serious long term prospects.

Present company absolutely blows way past the previous two I mentioned in terms of seriousness. I’m almost ready to call her The One.

But, since things are now that serious, and by “that” serious, I mean that that that serious, I have some due diligence, to, well, do. Just as I did No Nut November in October, this month is going to be Due Diligence November. And really, more than the separation, more than the catch as catch can nature of our relationship, and more than her sister’s treachery, this will be the most risky part and time of our relationship. Doing my due diligence to find out for sure whether we can go all the way may be what busts our relationship apart.

Needless to say, I better buckle up.  And not just because I’m also doing due diligence on new cars;  Already did two test drives this long holiday weekend, Friday was a holiday (“Allerheiligen,” or “All Saints”) in some German states, including NRW.

Speaking of her sister, unfortunately no, she hasn’t given up, as I had hoped that two and a half months of time would have made her do.  As long as I’m around, she’s going to keep on keeping on. The g/f and I are just going to have to mitigate her.

***

In unrelated matters, I saw the prodigal roommate for the first time in months. He is all but 100% sure to be permanently confined to his wheelchair, and while he’s put on a brave and happy face for how much and how well I’ve recovered, I know it has to hurt him and make him sad to some extent. Like I’ve said, my current official residence with the prodigal roommate is designed for gimps, and, provided I make it to the 14th of next month with no setbacks, I’ll no longer be an official gimp, and therefore, no longer need handicapped housing. Which means I’ll be finding a place of my own.





Farewell to the Meadow Baths

31 10 2019

Wiesbaden

It’s all over but the crying, all the doctors have been seen.  I had four, count ’em, four, doctors to see yesterday:  My post-rehab exit assessment, the GP, the allergist and the endocrinologist.

My gracious residential hosts for the summer and fall have been thanked, so also vice versa.

All my bags are packed.

In a few hours, I catch a train back to Cologne for good. In as much as anything really is for good.

Wiesbaden as a city really suits me well and fits my hand like a comfortable glove. And it’s not just because what I told you months ago, that I now believe this general area is the epicenter of my German ancestry, which in turn is the supermajority of my ethnic constitution.

It’s because Wiesbaden mashes up some of the good features of several large and well known German cities without having much if all of their bad sides.

It’s serious without being tense. (Yes, Cologne, I’m looking at you). It’s cerebral without being a total Babelian flophouse. (Yes, Frankfurt, I’m looking at you). It’s prosperous and content without being that weird combination of haughty and naive. (Yes, Munich, I’m looking at you). And it’s fun without being hedonistic. (Yes, Berlin, I’m looking at you).

One reason that can be true is that, while Wiesbaden, and cross-the-river Mainz, have their own caches, their own histories, their own anchors, and they’re both the capitals of their respective states, they have also become de facto suburbs of Frankfurt;  People that have to work in but don’t want to live in the Babelian flophouse and instead want to live in towns that are at least somewhat actually German will live in and commute to and from either.

Let me put it in another way, one that St. Louisans will get: Get four extra grown St. Louisans who aren’t either relatives or close friends in a car, in St. Louis, of course, and you have to pick a radio station. Of course it’s going to be 102.5, because it makes the most people the most adequately satisfied most of the time, while offending the fewest possible people for as short of a time as possible, and therefore unlikely much to bother anyone in the car. Wiesbaden is the KEZK of German cities.

If the job wasn’t in Cologne or The Region in general, but it had to be in western Germany, I’d be living here in Wiesbaden permanently. But, the job is in The Region, so there I shall return in a matter of hours.  But at least I’ve got a whole lot of personal drama there waiting for me. Oh how I hope that when I get back that I see that these two and a half months going by has made that sister of hers forget about the silly notion that she has a shot at me, but something tells me that shaking her is not going to be that easy.  As far as my actual girlfriend, I’ll soon find out how well our relationship has held up after a whole month of not seeing each other at all, and after five months of only intermittently seeing each other.  The answers to both I shall know before October officially flips to November.

Since going to D-Day in early June and now, I was only in Cologne for the few days after getting back from D-Day to pack to head here to Wiesbaden for the start of rehab, then those two short stays before and after going to Potsdam in the second half of August, the earlier of the two is when the g/f took me home to meet the family, which unfortunately also included her sister.  Just about five whole months, I think I forgot what Cologne even looks like.  I hope it’s still there.  Even though they say Bielefeld isn’t actually there…but I digress.

You may be wondering why my whole summer and early fall rehab was in Wiesbaden, why I couldn’t do it in Cologne. And why my regular doctors are here. That’s a question I can’t answer in public. As usual, you know the drill, I’ll tell you only if I know and trust you;  for everyone else, I could tell you, but then I’d have to…

Anyway, farewell to the Meadow (“Wiese”) Baths (“Baden”), for now.  But I’ll be back…with my next doctor’s appointment, if not before for some other reason.

We’ll meet again in Spaceballs 2:  The Search For More Money.