Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays and...

To all a peaceful holiday season.

...a Happy New Year 2010

Let’s make this a great year. We wish all the best to everyone. See ya’ll next year when we return from Germany. Hopefully with lots to tell and lots to show.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

More of Two Good Things...

Our friends Rover and Cal are back in Las Vegas again. They got a great deal to stay at one of the suites at the Encore on the “Strip.” So they’re here for a few days to enjoy a little romantic getaway, checking out some shows and the new City Center which opened just last week.

George, Cal, Rover and I at their suite at the Encore.

We spent a fabulous Thanksgiving weekend at their place in Los Angeles but it was great seeing them again. We met them yesterday evening after work at the Encore and had a nice dinner at the Wynn next door. Afterwards they showed us their beautiful appointed suite on the 63rd floor of the Encore. Needless to say that view was spectacular. And the amenities in the suite were first class all the way.

Then we strolled around the casino floors and checked out all the excitement and commotion. Rover and Cal are so much fun to hang out with. Too bad we don’t have enough time to meet up with them again but we have to get ready for our own little adventure.

Tomorrow is the last day at work and then it’s off to Germany. It can’t come soon enough.

Below are some photos from the last few days.

The lobby of the Mandalay Bay Resort.

The holiday display at the Bellagio Conservatory.

George at the Bellagio. He just finished his gelato from his favorite Gelatario in Las Vegas.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

‘Tis the season

There’s not much to report at this time as George and I are extremely busy with work, classes and everything in-between. The weeks and days leading up to the holidays were always a busy time for me. For whatever reason everyone thinks that the business world will be coming to an end if employees actually have a day or two off. Couple those days with a weekend and Capitalism as we know it truly comes to a complete standstill.

On top of that, I have the audacity to take a vacation. The nerve of me! Now everyone at my company is completely panicking and throws every imaginable project at me to finish before I leave for my vacation. You know, in case our plane nose-dives into the Atlantic or we decide to ask for political asylum in Germany or something like that. At least all my company’s projects will have been taken care of before I’m off donning some lederhosen and joining a yodeling group.

‘Tis the season after all.

Next Monday our friends Rover and Cal will be spending a few days for a romantic getaway at the Encore in Las Vegas. We’re looking forward to seeing them again, having a nice dinner together and a few good laughs. Then it’s time to slowly prepare for our upcoming trip to Germany. Departure day will be here before you know it and I’ll probably forget to pack something important.

Like my passport.

Below are a few random shots. An amazing sunrise after a night of blistering winter storms. A close-up of some holiday lights we’ve put on our mantle at home and an older picture of me when I was still a graphic artist at KSR/Snapdragon Interactive. That was by far the best job one could ever ask for. I still miss it.

Do you think I was trying too hard to look cool in this last picture?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Auf geht’s nach München

In two weeks George and I will be off to the old world. Germany to be precise. We’ll be spending the holidays and New Years in Munich and also a day or two in Augsburg.

It’s George’s first time ever to Germany. So it’s a whole new experience for him. I haven’t been back to München in over eight years. And before that I haven’t been back to Germany in ten years since we’ve moved to Las Vegas in 1991. It’s going to be nice seeing family and friends again after such a long time. There’s a lot of catching up to do. One can only tell so much about the events of one’s life in a short phone conversation or a quick e-mail. But nothing can match spending real time with a good old friend and chatting away over a cup of coffee and some fresh cake.

Kaffeekränzchen und viel Tratsch.

Conversing in German again may feel a little strange too as I don’t speak much German anymore since my Mother has passed away in 2001. Of course, George doesn’t speak much German and I don’t want him to feel alienated. I taught him a few words and sentences over the years and I think he could actually get by without me. But being fully immersed in a conversation spoken in a foreign tongue might be a little more than just challenging for him. German is not the easiest of languages. Luckily, most of the people I know in Germany also speak English.
Also ich versteh jetzt nur noch Bahnhof.

It’ll also be interesting to see how it feels to be back in Germany after years of absence. One tends to see things that once were rather ordinary in a completely different light. On the other hand, it felt like nothing has really changed the last time I was there in 2001.

Munich seemed to be in a time freeze back then. Everything looked just like it was when we left Germany for good in 1991. Sure, there were a few new building or stores here and there. But generally, nothing else really changed. With the exception of the people. The people of Munich have a reputation to be always “grantig,” or sort of grumpy all the time. Which is true to a certain degree. I should know since I’ve spent half of my life with those “Grantler.” What I’ve noticed during my last visit was that people were even “grantiger,” or grumpier. Why Americans always think of Munich to be this happy-go-lucky party place is a bit beyond me, but then again they never had to actually live here to find out that it’s not such a happy-go-lucky place. That doesn’t mean that every Münchener is constantly in a bad mood however. There are plenty of very friendly and happy folks living in the Bavarian Capital. And I am lucky to call some of these people my friends and glad that we’ve maintained these friendships over the years.
Nun geh mir bloß nicht auf den Keks!

Munich has its charm of course. It is indeed a beautiful city, especially during the warmer seasons when all the trees are lush and green and flowers are blooming everywhere. The Englischer Garten, the city’s huge park, is my favorite place to be. I basically grew up in that park. Then there’s the city’s rich history and culture. It can be found wherever one goes. In it’s architecture, the cathedrals, the castles, the galleries and museums. It’s a paradise for first-time tourists as there’s almost too much to do and even more to explore for returning visitors.
Na, daß ist aber doch toll, nicht wahr!?

I can’t wait to show George my old neighborhood of Lehel with its old buildings and close proximity to the city’s center and the Englisher Garten. I’d like take him to the Deutsches Museum, the largest technology and science museum of its kind in the world. One could spend a whole day there and still not see everything. We’ll most likely see a traditional circus at the Zirkus Krone and try to squeeze in a night at the Bayerische Staatsoper or the Theater am Gärtnerplatz to either see an opera or a ballet. Maybe we even find time to drive out with one of my friends somewhere in the Bavarian countryside to visit Neuschwanstein Castle or a short crossover into Austria or Switzerland. We may spend New Year’s Eve on top of the Olympiaberg which overlooks the city and is a perfect spot to watch the fireworks. Who knows? We’ll just play it by ear. And lots also depends on the weather.
Verdammtes Sauwetter nochmal!

You see, the weather in Germany has always been and always will be unpredictable. Especially in winter. Next week’s prediction calls for temperatures around the 30º F mark with lots of clouds and precipitation in form of snow and sleet. Throw in some wind and it’ll be even colder. Not that it’s much warmer here in Las Vegas right now, mind you. But that may be a good thing. We’re already being to speak. It’ll be my first winter in almost 20 years. It’ll be George’s first real winter...ever!

What were we thinking? Did we temporarily suffer a major case of brain freeze?

When I was a kid growing up in Munich I was one tough cookie. The cold and the snow didn’t bother me. I was out and about with my friends all the time, whether it was sunny, rainy and icy cold. I was never sick as a child. Now I’m a wimp. The warm desert climate can do that to you. One always expects the sun to shine and the temperatures to be hot here in Las Vegas. The few “winter” days we have in the Mojave Desert are nothing compared to the freezing winter months I grew up with. But that’s what thick winter jackets are made for. Unfortunately, I absolutely despise thick winter jackets. Or any other kind of jackets or sweaters. I’ve become a t-shirt, shorts and sandals kinda guy.

There are not too many things I miss about Germany however. I was never a big fan of German food and Bavarian food in particular tends to be too heavy and greasy for my taste. I miss an occasional Leberkässemmel or their delicious cakes and delicate tortes though. Okay, I admit it. I really do miss German bread. Walk into a bakery there and you’ll know what I mean. Germans have the most variety of breads anywhere. Granted, it has gotten way better when it comes to breads here in the United States, especially when you live in a city like Las Vegas, Los Angeles or New York. But nothing comes even close to German bread.
Ein Stück Schwarzwälderkirschtorte gefällig?

In addition to that, I miss a public transportation system like the one in Munich. I don’t really like driving a car but it’s a necessity here in the Western United States. Sometimes I wish I could just hop on a subway like I used to when I went to work in Munich and not worry about other idiot drivers or road rage.
Der fährt doch wie ein Henker!

More than anything, I miss the Englischer Garten. Do I ever! We have a nice park not too far away from where we live in Las Vegas but it consists mostly of desert landscaping. Obviously, living in an arid desert doesn’t allow for a lush green park which goes on for miles and miles. Then again, I really do love the desert too. Have I ever mentioned that I’m just a tad weird?
Du hast wohl nicht mehr alle Tassen im Schrank, oder?

Consequently, I don’t think I could ever live in Germany again. The Germans can be rather petty and small-minded and their stubbornness can drive one up the wall. I’ve become too Americanized. Ironically, I’m more an American than most Americans. As corny as it sounds but I do believe in the core principles of the American idea and the promises to the people of the United States. You know, the freedom, equality and the ability to living one’s life in the pursuit of happiness which the Republicans, the religious nutcases and some corporations are trying to alter for their own purpose and trying to take away from fair-minded people? Yes, those ideas are part of reason why I love America. And I still love America, despite of the many recent flaws. Despite the growing homophobia, the hate-mongering and the systematic dumbing down of the American people by greedy, unconscionable media conglomerates, I still wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
Die spinnen, die Amis!

Because there are still many great people living here whom want the best for this country and its people. Once again, George and I are lucky to call some of them our friends. And we will not give some backwards thinking wingnut hick the satisfaction of driving George and I out of the country we love.
Herz, Schmerz, Gefühlsduselei.

Besides, America is one beautiful place. Germany may have its castles, its delicious breads and the Oktoberfest. But once you've sat on a red sandstone with not a soul in sight, overlooking the White Domes on a clear sunny day at Valley of Fire in the desert of Nevada, nothing else matters. Not one thing in Germany, or in Europe for that matter, can even compare to the magnificence of the American Southwest. Or Big Sur along the Californian coastline. The Black Hills in South Dakota. What about the islands of Key West? The list of amazing places is endless.

I guess I’ve become an “Ami” after all.

But not to worry. I still like Germany. George and I will enjoy our trip to Munich immensely. And I will have that Leberkässemmel!
Na dann, Prost Mahlzeit!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Merry Whatever

I really love this. A reader of Joe.My.God left this comment on his blog. It pretty much sums up my position to this whole holiday greetings nonsense in this country.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

One Last Look

Here are a few last impressions from our Thanksgiving weekend in Los Angeles.

Pasadena - the view from Rover and Cal’s garden

George inside one of many exhibit rooms at the LACMA

Wood carving in the Great Room of Rover and Cal’s house. It was built by a German immigrant back in the 1940s. Sunlight always floods most of the rooms, which is covered with elaborate carvings on walls, ceiling beams, colums and trims

Detail of the old LACMA West Building, which used to be a department store

Urban Light installation at the main entrance of LACMA

Another side of Goofy

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

More L.A. Impressions

The following photos show more impressions from our Thanksgiving weekend in Los Angeles.


Blossom inside a courtyard of the Grand Californian Hotel at the Disneyland Resort

George waiting for his dinner at Jan’s on Beverly Boulevard

Detail of a pine tree at Disney’s Grand California Hotel

Enjoying art inside and out at the LACMA

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

L.A. Impressions

Here are a few more impressions from our long Thanksgiving weekend in Los Angeles.

LACMA South Piazza, Chris Burden’s Urban Light

Flowers at Rover and Cal’s huge garden

LACMA, Auguste Rodin’s The Shade

Hollywood and La Brea intersection

LACMA, facade of the Ahmanson building

Ain’t that the truth...