Friday, December 26, 2008

Gentlemen who cook

Ladies everywhere agree

A man who who can cook is a good man to find.

Last night these four held it down: Fred on main course duty, Cesar coming through with the Columbian flavor, Chris Jaeger assisting in the kitchen and delivering a touch of Deutschland for dessert, and Chris Andraka bringing it all back home with good old American Pie.

Now, for a man who cooks to be truly happy, he needs a woman who eats at his side. Lisa, Brea, Eva and I were more than willing to comply.

After dinner we played many rounds of Assassin, a parlor-game where, with each round, a killer secretly murders one person in the group and a doctor secretly saves one life. Everyone else's job is to find out who the killer is. And who turned out to be the most stealthy of all assassins? You'll just have to guess....

While the gentlemen focused on cooking, Eva took it away in multiple categories. Not only did the girl bring some great food, but she scored the audio goodies of the season:

Complete with Stollen recipe on the back...

...for next Christmas.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Weihnachten - Heiligabend

Last night Brea & Chris shone a light in the west end of town...

Ten of us followed it to its source...

For Chris's slow-roasted ham, plenty of wine and chocolate.

A little game for Lily. A little game for Mats.

We broke into two teams... Ladies on this side...

Lily, Elizabetta, Brea, Szu-Wei, Eva.

Men on this side...

Dennis, Mats, Cesar, Chris, Fred.

For a late game of charades. Home at three.

We were excited about our gifts...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, with sweaters!  

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Surviving / Christmas

It's a week before Christmas, and things in Germany just started getting hectic. The stores are impassable after 11am, Kassel being the shopping mecca of Hessen that it is. The entire city center has been taken over by the Weihnachtsmarkt, which sells Gluhwein and Bratwursts any time of day. And the sun starts going down around 3:30pm.

Nevertheless, we are surviving. And thinking lots about what that means, since it's the theme of our new piece: Survival.

One day in the studio last week, we improvised with our Dramaturge, Carmen. Get your bags, she said. Don't add anything, don't take anything out. Everyone empty your bags. You have 5 minutes. Your plane has crashed on tour and you're all stuck together in the woods and this is all you have. What are you going to do?

Carmen directed our improv from the front of the room, cajoling us to "demonstrate our hunting techniques." If this sounds laughable via blog, just imagine watching your colleagues hunt the prey of the pianist's chair with a weapon made from safety pins, tampon tubes and foot tape. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of that one.

At one point we even choreographed a moving S.O.S. signal.

At least we know if all else fails while stranded in the forest, we can always work on our steps for the new musical ...

More on that later. Suffice it to say, I'll be sporting the blow out hair-do of my dreams and singing those catchy tunes...except around the house, where they are expressly forbidden.

On the home front, happiness. In the form of a Christmas tree, some early Christmas presents (a rug for Fred and Gopnik's wonderful essays about the expatriate life for me), and a husband. Just like that this other country starts to feel a little bit more like home.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nature Collection

I was down in my parents' basement during my recent trip back home to Minnesota, when I noticed something I hadn't seen there before.

"Is that one of your sculptures?" I asked my sister Madeline as she lugged boxes downstairs. She'd just finished driving her stuff back from Detroit to store at my parents' house while she sets up camp in Berlin.

"Naw," she answered, "I think that's Dad's nature collection."

It turns out, what I thought was a sculpture was a nest in a branch. I looked around some more and noticed that the whole cupboard beside it was full of artifacts. Bones, nests, birds, skulls, horns. When did my Dad start his own Natural History Museum in the basement? I brought him down and requested a guided tour.

My dad is a big time hiker and walker. And whether you're hiking in the Wind River Mountains or just walking around Half Moon Lake with him, you're bound to go off-trail at some point. He's got that surgeon's eye for detail, and can spot something in the brush that you or I might never have noticed. "Look over there," he'll say, "Come here for a second. I think I see something." Off he'll go, crunching through the sticks, pushing aside branches. I remember as a child the time he showed us a big puffy white mushroom that, he guaranteed, would explode at the slightest touch and was poisonous (Mom back on the trail, wincing).

He can spot live animals too, especially birds. "Be quiet. See that bird there?" "Where?" "Right there, on the stick that rises straight up next to the one that crosses it." "I don't see it." And then he'd bend down and put his face right next to mine, like his eyes were my eyes, and point right to it. "Oh!" That magic moment when something becomes visible that just a second ago wasn't.

He showed me each of the objects, told me where he'd found them while out hiking. Each one he had brought home, preserved, organized, and stored. The jaw of a small animal. Multiple skulls. A little dead bird. Feathers. Five kinds of nests. And the liscense plates. Good ol' Minnesota plates, nice and battered.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

F&L go C&W

I grew up with a father who sang in the car. And not just humming along to whatever was on the radio. I'm talking about a guy who would seek out the most cruel strip of airwave, absolute nadir of the seven year old's radio dial, the notch between "help me, please" and "he's only going 35, I'd probably live if I flung the door open and pulled a stuntguy roll." Yes, that specific hurting known in the Schmalz family as dad's favorite: the local country and western station. Mind you, my dad's not a singer so much as a dog-ear defying warbler of the rarest breed. If you heard him sing, you'd think he's joking. But he's not. And he knows the words... or most of them.

After such prepubescent scarification, how is it that thirty years later, I've grown a certain taste for pedal steel and Nudie Suits? Did my friends Brownie (Flatt & Scruggs), Bambouché (a K. Kristoferson devotee) and Robinson (the Womack piece of the puzzle) help me stop worrying and learn to love the yodel?

To make a long story short (that is what country music is about, right?), a few months ago, Lily came into the house while I was blazing "Close up the Honky-Tonks." Somewhat shamed, I went for the volume, hoping to fade into something more aurally comfortable. See, with her not having lived through my childhood, I hadn't really wrapped my brain around the idea that she could possibly think country was cool.
As I turned it down, I heard from the hallway, "What are you doing? That's FUN!"

And it was on!

Today, for you, Pops, a couple junk store four-song picture sleeve 45rpm finds to hang your spurs on...

Springtime In Alaska - Johnny Horton
"when it's springtime in Alaska/it's forty below"
"it was red-headed Lil who was singing so sweet"

Life To Go - Stonewall Jackson
"I've been in here eighteen years / that's a long, long time I know / but time don't mean a thing to me / cuz I've got life to go."

Frankie's Man, Johnny - Johnny Cash
"weellll noooww... Frankie and Johnny were sweethearts..."
Great story about a red-headed sister/spy... seems there's a high redhead-to-cheatin' heart ratio in 1950s C&W songwriting.

Cigarettes and Coffee Blues - Lefty Frizzell
this is SO GOOD... I won't even quote the lyrics, I'll just show you the picture-sleeve back cover:

file under: "fringe elements"

Don't take your guns to town - Johnny Cash
- all (both) you Joe Hicks/Bobby Womack fans may recognize this track as the foundation for "Ruby Dean" ("don't take your love to town...")

That's what it's like to be lonesome - Ray Price
hack country... I think my ESL students may have written:
"afraid of each tomorrow with its heartless cold alone"
file under: postmodernism, unintentional

I'm in Love Again - George Morgan
yodel styles... "I hear wedding bells and I'm in love again..."
"I'm so happy I'm afraid this dream might end"

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Cryin's not for me

This week's inspiration, live from rainy Kassel,

local tap dancers:

and a old-timey German band:

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Here they are, folks. A few early bootleg images from the Capecchi / Stillwell throw-down last weekend.

It took place at St. Mathew's church in West St. Paul, where we Urologist's kids got a laugh out of the cornerstone, noticed by none other than...

...the Doc himself.

Inside, it was a beautiful ceremony.

We smiled a lot...

...and partied afterwards.