Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Air Up Here

Even more than low-rise pants and stairs, Germans love fresh air. On May 1 they all troop out into the woods for "wandering" and grill parties and fresh air. I think it may be a national sport.

The valley where we live was once an "air spa." I'm not sure if that's a nice way of saying "sanitarium," but even today, the locals praise the air quality and compare it to that of the neighboring villages.

There's no AC, so it's understandable that people open the windows when it's warm out, or when it's cool but clear. But even in the dead of winter people will have their windows flung open, especially first thing in the morning. Don't you know the 3 required parts of the morning ablutions: shit, shower, and hypothermia? I can't imaging that the house gets so funked up every single day that it is necessary to thoroughly air it out. Maybe my neighbors are just smelly.

But I remember my mom commenting on the old German ladies tut-tutting that she didn't air out her bedding every morning. You still see feather bolsters hanging out of upper windows in the mornings. Weird.

Well, we are off to Paris in the morning and won't be back until Sunday evening. Check back in around Tuesday for an update on our globe-trotting adventures. And Happy Mother's Day, in case I miss making all my calls Sunday evening.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Defeat of the Mystery Puff (edited for your pleasure)

Remember the pollenous puff I mentioned before? Well, I'm starting to think it might actually be an alien life form. When this occurred to me, I had the mental image of a cheesy old sci-fi magazine cover, with a blond woman holding her hands up to her face, "No-o-o! Not the Puuuuuffff!"

I had noticed that clusters of puff were collecting here and there around the house, thanks to the recent spate of warm weather and resultant window-opening. So I hauled out the vacuum cleaner to get rid of them, and it turns out that there were many more than I had suspected. I even found them hiding behind the vanity in the bathroom. They were definitely trying to get entrenched; I could tell.

And I suspect they were bringing in reinforcements. I have found more spiders and giant fuzzy beetles and spindly-legged ?dragonflies? in the house, wandering around innocently. But I see right through them.

The puffs are trying to set up a colony. Their strategy is simple but brilliant: puffs and bugs waft in through the open windows, looking like innocuous bits of pollen, but then they start joining together in bigger and bigger puffs, until I am unable to dislodge them with anything short of full wattage on the vacuum. And it is against our religion to squash bugs, so if we can't scoop them out the window, they get to stay.

I think I got to the puffs just in time, though. There were enough of them around that I'm afraid they were on the verge of applying for statehood, or at least petitioning for civil rights.

But I can tell that the battle is not over, at least until the trees stop blooming. One day it will get murderously hot, and we'll cave and open the windows (only .1% of German houses have AC). That'll be their big chance to regroup and try another assault. But I vow to remain vigilant, of that you can be sure.

[I'll let you know if anyone is interested in the movie rights. George Lucas, I'm looking at you.]

Monday, May 02, 2005

For You

We have had just the most glorious, uh, 3 days (I started this over the weekend, oops!). It's been clear, warm, and sunny, my favorite type of weather. Even I—sun-shunner that I am—have gone out to catch a few rays, until I noticed some red blotches on my arms. With the feeling I was watching skin-cancer in progress, I quit the balcony for the less carcinogenic (except for the fine dust) living room.

Now that the sun's come out properly, I can see that the neighbors' yards are taking on prarie-like proportions with the deep grass and wildflowers. Remember the opening credits to "Little House on the Prarie", where the individual Ingalls-es are running down a slope? Put a white, 4-story house at the top of the slop, and an apple tree halfway down, and that's what I see out the front window.

We're way past "the days are getting noticeably longer," but it came as kind of a surprise since it's been so overcast lately. Dinnertime tends to sneak up on you when it's still full sunlight outside until after 7 p.m. I mean, the sun is not even casting shadows yet. Even the street lights don't come on until after 8:30. It would be even worse if we didn't live down in a valley; when the sun goes over the rim, we get evening, but the people living out in the plains are probably already getting zombified by the late light.

Even half a week after the last rain, we can hear the water rushing through the stream that flows under our street. The city had to do something with the water to keep it from washing away their nifty roads, I guess, so several streams spend part of their course underground. It makes an interesting white noise at night. I don't generally require white noise to sleep, but I have to admit it's soothing.

Darling Daughter did a fantastic job of cleaning her room over the weekend, so I got her a Barbie magazine as a little bribe for continued good behavior. Or reward, it's all the same. There are a ton of magazines for little girls—Barbie, Disney Princess, some other princesses, and about 80 pony magazines. D.D. got one last week that has 14- or 15-year-old girls in it who like ponies, and who like boys, and who have problems with their ponies and boys. This magazine has everything an almost 8-year-old could want!

Speaking of Barbie, D.D. was playing on their (her?) website, a charming little game called "Room Makeover." You get to pick from an astounding array of crap to decorate your virtual bedroom, and one of the Barbie friends pops in at the end to congratulate you on your fantastic talents. I thought my eyes would bleed at the sight of the psychedelic nightmare that adorned the computer screen. For one thing, I don't know how anyone could *sleep* in such a room. I for one would certainly develop some kind of psychiatric disorder.

L.H. and I are generally anti-knick-knacks. Horizontal space has a disturbing tendency to get stuff piled on it around here, so the fewer things we have to dig out of the mess, the better. L.H. is more mess-averse than I am (as evinced by the current state of my side of our room), but I do my fair share of picking up. But ceramic doodads and posters are not my idea of decorating. I guess I lean in the Nordic decorating direction (woo! hoo! IKEA!).

D.D. has become a prescriptive princess. She declared that "luv" looks dumb (as seen in an "email" on the Barbie site). She had noticed it once before in a book we were reading, and now it's firmly entrenched in her mind. Her dad will be so proud.