Saturday, February 18, 2006

This Is Why I Live in Germany... go to parties in castles. Seriously.

A, the accordian-playing friend from school recently moved into a new apartment that is situated in this complex. A few weeks ago he had a housewarming (or as his invite read, a 'tower-warming') party, as he is literally living in a tower. It is the most charming place ever. It's not that big, but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in charm and character. It's got a beautiful fireplace, a small living room/dining area, and a cozy loft area upstairs. The floor is made out of thick wood planks, the whitewashed walls are accented by criss-crossing dark wooden beams, and there are a couple of old wrought-iron chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.

The complex is owned by an architect (who was at the party), who individually screens people who want to live there (I believe there are 9 apts. available). One of the other buildings houses a well-reviewed restaurant, and the architect also keeps an office there.

Later in the evening, after sitting around drinking wine by candlelight, A and his bandmate brought out their instruments, and a boisterous jam session ensued, with some brave souls dancing in the center of the room. If I closed my eyes, I could feel as if I were enjoying a medieval Saturday night.

Here are some more pictures of the complex.

Friday, February 17, 2006

"Look to the Cookie"

This is a quote from a very funny episode of Seinfeld, The Dinner Party. In it, Jerry delivers an ode to the power of the Black-and-White cookie as a symbol of racial harmony.

What does this have to do with life in Dusseldorf? Well, the other day I went into my favorite bakery here (it's also one of the best), and while I waited for my bread, I noticed, in the case in front of me, a reminder of my youth: a Black-and-White cookie! These were one of my favorite things to eat growing up in Brooklyn. So I was rather surprised to find them in a bakery in Dusseldorf. I asked the woman behind the counter for one, and as I was excitedly telling J about eating them growing up and about the Seinfeld episode, the woman told me what they were called:

Amerikaners. I kid you not.

So, I leave you with a picture of an Amerikaner, and with Jerry's ode.

"The thing about eating the Black and White cookie, Elaine, is you want to get some black and some white in each bite. Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate And yet somehow racial harmony eludes us. If people would only look to the cookie all our problems would be solved."

p.s. I just found a recipe for Black and White cookies (along with some history).

E's Corner

Today I am debuting a new feature on this blog, "E's Corner". While this violates the 'mission statement' of this blog (which is to write about life in Dusseldorf), I am doing this because E is a really funny person, and as she doesn't have time to maintain her own blog, I am going to be posting snippets from her emails that I find particularly funny. Here goes...

my v-day night:
1. worked with the half-cute, half-annoying manager at xx. i enthusiastically worked my ass off to show what an A+++ employee i am (after my past 1.5 weeks of e-as-troublemaker nonsense)! he was soooo thankful. i'd better hear about how he raved about my excellent work habits soon, so everyone can stop worrying that i'm a slacker.

2. i got about 100 compliments on my heart sweater, and every time i would cry out "thank you! happy valentine's Day!!!"

3. my coworker had gotten me a box of chocolates (oddly enough). but before i even got there, this TOTALLY annoying guy i barely know (and don't like) had already opened my sealed box and taken about 4 chocolates for himself. i (and everyone else around) was so pissed. that's some nerve, esp. from someone i don't like.

4. i ate a chocolate heart-shaped lollipop from (yes you guessed it) m's wife, and enjoyed flaunting it to all my coworkers.

5. we were packed, had record-breaking godiva sales, and the small section of valentine's day cards had a constant crowd around it all night long, with people reaching over each other to snag last minute (literally! till 11pm) valentines day cards for their forgotten sweethearts. some married guy totally and disgustingly flirted with my coworker while asking for gift suggestions for his wife. creepy! there were even guys sheepishly buying romance novels. it was the greatest night ever!


so i think i'm in love with my book, is that possible?
-i smile at random when i think about it (which is basically all the time, though i suppose i'm not actually smiling all the time).
-my heart races and my breath quickens when i'm about to start reading it.
-i sit around and analyze the characters' motivations and thoughts all day long.
-i have a strange feeling of excitement and anxiety. i can't wait to read it but dread it being over.
-i lose track of time when i'm with it, and convince myself that no one will notice if i'm back a few minutes later from break (and then feel guilty, while i smile to myself, when i'm back).

is that love?
if it's wrong, i don't want to be right!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


It's a gray Tuesday morning, and I'm sitting here listening to Johnny Cash (saw 'Walk the Line' lastnight). Yes, I do own Johnny Cash (thanks Devo!). Anyway, we've got the week off from school, and I'm relishing not having to get up to go anywhere (although I did have to get up early yesterday to go the first of my dr. appts - what a strange experience, to be recounted in another post). At the beginning of this week off, I was thinking it would be the perfect time to start my exercise regimen, you know, get into a sort of 'routine' before I go back to the grind...well, it's Tuesday, and I've only managed to do one 20 min session of power yoga. Baby steps. All I want to do is lay around on the couch and knit and watch movies and eat popcorn...which leads me to the original topic of this post: kino - the movies. Specifically, the movie theater.

One of the difficult things (for me) of living here is the scarcity of movie theaters where I can see english movies, in original version (no dubbing - they're crazy about the dubbing here!). There's one theater that is 'technically' in Dusseldorf, but really it's way out on the edge of D'dorf, so not always the easiest to get to. It's a multiplex, and so the offerings are usually more big budget, mainstream films. Of the 10 films they are showing, maybe 1 or 2 (3 tops) will be shown w/o dubbing, either with german subtitles or not. And the movie times for those are not always so convenient. But it's ok. There are also a few smaller art-house theaters sprinkled around central D'dorf, but they don't always show movies in OV (original version).

Thankfully, there is a theater in Cologne, the Metropolis, that is a saving grace, moviewise. They show all movies in OV. We discovered it when F was living in Cologne, and have made several trips there since moving to D'dorf. It's a funky little place, perfectly artsy, with the requisite boho, cinephile employees - but without the usually attendant snobbery. It's cozy, with a couple of tables in the 'lobby' area, and a small, well worn wooden bar/counter behind which is the concession stand. You can sit and sip your coffee, beer, or wine, and munch on your chosen snack. Yup - that is one of the great things about going to the movies here - you can enjoy a beer or a glass of wine before or during your movie. And you have a choice of salty or sweet popcorn! The theaters at the Metropolis are not that big, but the seats are cozy (and there are several loveseats scattered amongst them), and when you are snuggly ensconced amongst your fellow cineastes, you feel like you are having a true moviegoing experience, the way it was meant to be.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


So yesterday I finally faced a big fear of mine - and survived. This fear has plagued me a for a while now, so of course, the anxiety level surrounding this seemingly innocuous task had mounted to semi-epic proportions. (Okay, maybe not semi-epic, but I embellish for effect.)

I made my first doctors appointment. In German. By myself! Now, I will admit, I had already tried to make an appointment with another doctor, but had to abandon the mission when the woman on the other end of the phone started asking me questions for which I had no answer because I didn't understand a word she was saying. I didn't hang up on her - thankfully my friend V was sitting there with me for moral (and linguistic) support, and so I just passed the phone to her when I started hyperventilating and she completed the appointment for me.

I still had another problem: I needed to make another appointment. So, with the old aphorism about 'getting back on the horse' in mind, I decided to try again later that day. (Also, my friend S tracked me down and made me come to her office and do it.) I tried a different approach this time: I would be on the offensive - I wouldn't give them any opportunity to ask me any questions. So here is a transcript* (with English translation):

Phone rings, and is finally answered.

Woman: Guten tag. Schlafen guten moechte praxis werden guten schlafen. (ok, this is German gibberish, as I have no idea what she actually said after 'guten tag'.)

Me: Er, guten tag. Frau Millan hier. Ich moechte ein termin mit Dr. Neiss machen. Bitte. (Good day. Ms. Millan speaking. I would like to make an appointment with Dr. Neiss. Please.) (I always forget to put the please in the middle of the sentence, and therefore add it at the end. )

Woman: Blah blah blah....schon mal bei uns? (Blah blah blah...been here before?)

Me: Diese ist mein erste mal. (This is my first time.)

Woman: Blah blah blah... (Blah blah blah...)

Me: (beginning to get flustered) Er, entschuldigung, ich spreche ein bisschen deutsch, und verstehe ein bisschen deutsch auch. (Er, excuse me, I only speak a little German, and understand only a little also.)

Woman: (Laughs, not unkindly.) Oh, ich spreche ein bisschen englisch. Ich spreche langsamme. (Oh, I only speak a little English. I will speak slowly.)

We both laugh. I try to continue in German.

Me: Ich spreche langsamme auch. Ein frage. Haben sie ein termin acht April? (I will speak slowly also. A question. Do you have an appointment for eight April?)

Woman: Nicht for 8 Samstag. (Not for eight April,'s a Saturday.) (Doh. I wasn't reading the calendar correctly. In case you are wondering, I asked for a date in April because I knew that the GYN didn't have any appts in Feb or Mar.)

Me: Ach, tur mir leid. Sieben April? (Ach, sorry. Seven April?)

Woman: Ja, um wie viel Uhr? (Yes, what time?)

Me: Neun Uhr? (Nine o'clock?)

Woman: Ja, in ordnung. (Yes, all is fine.)

Me: Haben sie andere frage fuer mich? (Do you have any other questions for me?) (I was praying not...)

Woman: (Laughs.) Nein, alles in ordnung. (No, all is fine.)

Me: Ok, vielen dank for dein hilfe. (Ok, thank you so much for your help.)

We both laugh, then hang up.

I was so pleased with myself for having done this successfully (I say successfully because I actually ended up with an appt!). This is an example of what I have found here - if you try to speak German to people, even if you do it poorly, they will most likely be very accomodating - they do appreciate the effort. I always try to begin conversations in German, but my problem is that when they start talking back to me, it's too quick for me, and I also don't have the vocabulary/grammar to understand what they are saying, so things deteriorate really quickly. In person, I can rely on elaborate hand gestures. But speaking on the phone is a whole other ball of wax (what does that phrase actually mean???). However, I was very lucky to have someone very nice on the phone with me, and her speaking slowly was a big bonus. (Mom, I hope you are happy - I'm finally going to the doctor!!)

* some of what she said was reconstructed with the help of F. My grammar in this conversation is not correct, but this is how I said everything.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Remembering Cam

Last week I received the very sad news that Cameron, my Favorite Dog
Ever In This World, had passed away. He had been ill with a rare form of cancer, but with the loving care bestowed upon him by his humans, K & A, he was doing well. In fact, he had cheated the odds, and outlived the original survival time frame given by his doctor.

There are not enough adjectives to describe Cam - he was, as others have said - a gentle giant, sensitive, patient, noble, loving, expressive, soft, warm, neurotic...I could go on. All I can say is that he has ruined me for other dogs - the bar has been set so high that I can't imagine ever meeting another dog that could measure up to him. But I suppose that is his gift to us - we will surely never forget him. I know that I won't.