And Gutenberg Lived Here: The Day Of The Purple Dumplings

I know, especially with all that is going on in the world today,

that the following topic is right up there with

“are cows ambidextrous?”


“Who won the world series in 1960”

but, at the moment, I have gotten a lot of questions,

from people where I grew up,

or people planning visits to Germany for business,

or conferences,

about different concrete aspects of life here.

And the most asked questions

are about food:


“is there thick tomato sauce?”

(an important question to those from St. Louis)


the local German-Italian restaurants are  usually only authentic

if they are in a neighborhood with  a large contingent of Italian natives.

Check out those areas.

Or the other St Louis question:

“Is there cracker crust pizza?”

There are many many kinds of pizza here,

including Wagner’s American style,

which has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with America.

In fact,

rule number one here is:

if it says ” American,”

or “American style”

it isn’t.


the things ordered about once per year,

for the fourth of July,

since this was a big American military area,

and the locals got to like  fourth of July and American hot dogs, relish, corn, and ice cream.

So now back to GERMAN food:

What do I eat when I get to Gutenberg land.

In Near-St-Louis, we ate knackwurst-

made by a local Bavarian butcher,

but here, each form of sausage is made by an individual butcher,

and no two places have the same traditions,

so you will never find knackwurst.

Or Oscar Meyer.

My suggestion is:

do as the locals do,


if you can’t stand the thought of pigs ears in aspic,

or blood sausage,

or summer sausage,

go vegetarian.

There are a lot of good local vegetarian places.

Here in Gutenberg land, the university serves vegetarian and vegan,

and most Indian places and a lot of Chinese also.

So what else do you need to know?

where to live?

Housing here is about the same price range as in California,

or New York.

Cheaper in the countryside.

And if you have a car,

you might get to stay in a castle.

Several of the local youth hostels are even in castles.

Bed and breakfast vary in price and amount of nuisance involved.

But always interesting.

You may get home-cooked jam,


if you can take it with a laugh,

tell the story for years about how you had breakfast with a parrot

who sang the impossible dream, in bits and pieces, for most of an hour.

(Happened to us in Cologne)

Then there are the spa towns,

often a bit pricey, but not always,

and often great deals in the off-season.

It’s a huge part of the standard culture here,

not much like the US wellness places.

As to things like:

how do I get books, toothpaste, a doctor if I get sick.

Almost anyone putting you up for a night can tell you.

Or the internet, of course.

(In case of an emergency, look for the local “Apotheke”- the pharmacy.

They are very educated, and usually quite open-minded,

and you can probably even ask them where to get a bus,

or directions,

as long as there isn’t a huge line of customers waiting.

(Friday afternoon, and Monday morning)

All you really have to know is:

the Rhineland is as civilized as most US cities,

and a large percentage of the German populace

has English lessons at school.

In fact, most of the younger Rhinelander speak truly excellent English,

and are often looking for someone to converse with.

Like recently, when two Turkish kids,

who had been here for a while, from the sound of their German,

(after we spoke German to them)

who asked us, in English, if we were lost-

yes, actually, we were,

due to the street being torn up,

and us having to come into town through a small side-street I had never seen before.

But that can happen anywhere.

So where do the purple potato dumplings come in?

Well, like I said, almost anything you need can be found on the internet.

There are exceptions, though.

Like the fact that,

should you look up a recipe for potato dumplings-

(grate raw peeled potatos, squeeze the water out, add potato starch, make into balls,

and cook them in boiling salt water till they float.)

what the internet, or cookbook recipe,

will definitely NOT tell you,

is that,

should you use standard American Idaho potatos,

the amount of zinc in the spuds

will make them turn purple in the boiling process.

Like I said,

do like the locals,

and if it goes wrong,

take it with a grain of salt.

Oh, and always have an excuse ready, just in case.


I made them purple because today is a holiday.

(Happy St. Hildelitba  day!)

copyright 2017

And Gutenberg Lived Here: Of PBJ Sandwiches, Easter, And Runaway Trains

Today, probably after too much time listening to a huge convention of blind people

deciding which of them was going to run for office

as chancellor of Germany,

(yes, truly, but either way it fit, since,

in my opinion,

most politicians are much more disabled than those members of the convention)

I decided to talk about,

ta da,

and with 42 thanks to Douglas Adams,

life, the universe, and everything.


So here we go.

I’m a singer.

As most of you know.

And a church musician, teacher, composer-


which means-

hold on to your hats, boys,

Easter/ summer concerts/fall high holidays/ Christmas

are on their way.

Or to put it in a nutshell-

answer the phone, go to work, collapse after a concert,

bathe long in hot water

while reading a cozy murder mystery,

and eating an apple,

(homage to Ms Christie here-)

then get up the next morning to do it all again.

Eleven plus per quarter.

But oh my, the joy.

The joy of lifting spirits,

watching people sing with you,

usually when they aren’t really supposed to,

a couple of times even hearing people say

“thanks, I think I can face things again for a while.”

(And that’s the point, of course.)

But then, the next morning,

you successfully work through  enough of  the pain of tense muscles

that, during yoga,  you can get your back flat on the floor again,

and find that your wonderful

and also overworked


has made you toast with peanut butter for breakfast-

Yup. A real blessing.

The man, not the toast,

although pbj isn’t bad either.

And then there is the lit.

I also do  lit courses.

Yes, you can do it,

if you do a lot of yoga,

have a car with a good gps,

and drag heavy lit books to concert rehearsals.

And discover,

during a break to tweak the horn section,

that in the middle of  Shakespeare plays,

there are songs that are still known today,

(and lyrics used for pop songs)

or that in Hermann Hesse’s Damian,

there are large discussions of organ playing,


breaking your way out of the egg and progressing upward.

While the two heroes stand in a darkened church at midnight,

and absorb the incredible stillness

and beauty

you don’t find much in the world today.

Me, I have a memory box-

mental, of course.

And one of my favorite memories is exactly that-

Easter Sunday morning-

about one am-

practicing for  classical music the next day at sunrise,

(our tenor was on the road from a recording session until near midnight)

Electricity off-

so we had to use the candles from  the camping kit our tenor keeps in his junker of a car for emergencies-

so there we were

a relatively small, sixteenth century chapel here in the Rhineland,



and baroque music-

I Am the way, and the truth, and the light.

And being startled suddenly by the four a.m. tram

that runs right through what had previously been the church burial ground.

Causing our mostly asleep tenor

to back into the button for the  communion bell-

which only rang once before we could turn it off, thank heavens.

Stillness, beauty, meaning of life, technology, the foibles of mankind.

Did you know Shakespeare was the one who  wrote the 23d  psalm version most of us know

“The Lord Is My Shepherd”

for the Saint James Bible translation?

Or that Bach once threw his wig at his musicians, claiming they were still drunk,

at  Easter,

from their New Years reveling?

And so…

“like grains of sand through an hourglass…”

everything is connected.

Like all holistic detective agencies are,

and Alma Cogan isn’t.

Just remember to walk around the stones.

See, Life, The Universe, And Everything.

copyright 2017

And Gutenberg Lived Here: Touch A Sleeve, And Hear The Rolling Stones?

I read the news today, oh boy.

All about how in the very near future our clothing is going to be made out of a material

that transports signals,

just like a smart watch.

Except it will be your entire clothing.

Which lead me to the following ideas:

(sorry, I’m one of those people who just thinks this way-)

1. If your entire suit jacket is made out of conductive material, how do you turn it off at a concert or in church? Or other inappropriate moments? ie, if you are hiding out in a parking garage, and a baddie is after you, do you have to pull down a zipper and shrug it off, or does it have a loudness control? Maybe an automatic situation appraising panic button? (asap)

2. If the boss of your company touches your sleeve, do the Rolling Stones suddenly starts     playing ?  Maybe sympathy for the devil?

3. What happens when it rains? Or you forget and wash instead of dry clean do you  suddenly have Elinor Rigby screaming from the dryer?

4. You go to the beach, a seagull lands on your arm, and you have a full battalion  attacking to the 1812 Overture? Or the theme from “The Birds?”

5. Can you borrow a neighbor’s size sixty-two Hawaiian muu-muu to use as a small events hall with piped in music?

6. Will riding a bicycle always be accompanied by a picture before your eyes and the theme music of the wicked witch from Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz- hey, actually, that sounds pretty cool.

7. And what about babies? Are we looking at an entire future generation that grew up thinking that it is normal that a diaper tells them a bedtime story.

Which brings up one more last question:

since we are on the subject of diapers-

how do you get a kid to stay asleep

when his diaper is playing Handel’s Water Music?

copyright 2017


And Gutenberg Lived Here: And What Would YOU Do When You Heard The Words “Paleo- Flirting?”

I admit it. I’m an unashamed people-watcher.

And people-wonderer.

As in:

Sitting peacefully in a cafe, English tea with milk in hand,

to the chagrin of every German barista ever trained-

except at McDonald’s-

I overheard two rather loud women at the next table saying:

“I swear, I heard it on tv last night. ”


“Yup, paleo-flirting.”

“Which is what when it is at home?”

(Actually what they said was the German equivalent, only much much more  colorful,

so I’ll just de-blue what follows by leaving it in highly edited English-

Picture a parrot taken to sea by a more than salty sailor,

and then left in a will to his aged aunt-

for which reason she always keeps it on the balcony,

with a tiny immersion heater,

with  flame-thrower attachment for the neighbor’s Maine Coon cat-

did I mention I’ve been reading a lot of Irish literature lately,

to get my students ready for today?

And happy Saint Pat’s to you all.

Ain’t James Joyce great?

So anyway, there I was,

listening to two short dark Celtic locals

blasting the frosting off my lo-cal lactose free-


what did you think I was going to write-

hey, I still have to get into my summer clothes some time this year-

So there they were-

chatting about how they had heard this tv game show talking about NLP-

neuro-linguistic programming,

and how it can be adapted,

by wiggling in a certain way-

put deep into our genes by our  stone-age Fred Flintstone type progenitors,

and how to curl hair just right, etc-

(also known as paleo-flirting)

sorry, but somehow my two coffee-drinking over-heards

didn’t seem to have gotten it just right.

So anyway,


being more the child of pale leo types-

think about it-

I, of course started thinking about other types of paleo,

and how it influences our life.

For example:


first, catch a monkey who has eaten coffee beans.


collect rocks.

Heat them in volcanic lava,

on the edge, of course,

roll them out.

Then roll them to the spot where you have collected dew.

Put the rocks in the dew-water hole.

Sift the monkey excrement,

pound it with a rock-

preferable not hot,

add to the hot water,

make a small design in the shape of a palm tree on the top with a reed.

Drink the hot coffee through the reed.

While defending yourself from the lava and the monkeys.

Then, of course, there is paleo diet-

very big over here at the moment-

look up paleo on your computer,

look up all the elements of the paleo diet

that didn’t work in all the previous diets it was developed from.

Then spend the next two months telling everyone you have lost weight

and have better cholesterol values,

and that you will now watch that they do exactly the same.

Then go out for pizza.



to stop wasting energy,-

most of our energy used, is used for computers-

send semaphore by day-

a flag system still used in the 1700’s,


before 1700, it only took 2 hours to send a message from London to Birmingham.

A bit difficult at night, but hey, what are glow worms for anyway if not to fly in formation?

Or to coat stones, that can then be used to…

Wasn’t that how NASA got started?

And what about Paleo transport?

The introduction of the Draisiner-

A bicycle with no pedals you sit on and push, rapidly,  with your feet.

(Wear wooden shoes)

Or the paleo-train-

rollerskaters moving in sequence,

and carrying benches mounted on poles?

Paleo cooking?


steak tartar?

In fact, now that I think of it,

if you got together a bunch of monkeys,

let them eat texas barbecue,

then heat some rocks,

collect the ribs…

copyright 2017

And Gutenberg Lived Here: Is Hacking The New Graffiti?

Today we had a couple of hours off,

and hadn’t gotten a whole lot of fresh air lately-


so we took out our handy-dandy public transport card-

university to Rhine

and all points east,

and headed downtown.

On the Rhine-

Picture seven hills-each with it’s own area of specialization-


ancient fort on the cliffs now used for the carnival companies to practice,


home of the draysiner- a sort of pre- bicycle without pedals

(you sit on it and push yourself along with your feet- like a scooter-

and every bit as fast as a bicycle)

U teaching-research hospital-

(research partner to St Louis U and Barnes hospital-

lots of good ideas for mobility, genetics,  diabetes control, and alternative medicine

coming out of here)



back on the new lightweight narrow-gauge that winds all through the area

and is rapidly replacing buses-

just wish the towers weren’t so darned ugly and intrusive-

we were off on an adventure.

To see what was going on-


and who was down there-

senior citizens-

and what events were going on-

the wedding trade fair,

the white sales start soon,

Florence Forster Jenkins is on at the movie house-

no ice on the streets,

thank goodness-

then we discovered it-

the graffiti.

As in:

during the winter holidays,

some idiots,

and I don’t use the term loosely,

had discovered that:

to build the  new super light-weight railway

that hauls students to the U,

and  fans to the football games,

and the super-vips to the tv studios-

no, actually, only the cheerleader teams

and vips of the week-

the real biggies-

hot over here are Bruce Willis

and Leonardo De Caprio-

Bruce  born here

Leo  with German granny-

have a car, driver, and body guard-

so says one of my voice students,

whose husband is a second tv network security man.

So anyway,

there we were, passing miles and miles of university buildings,


the buildings, not us,

due to the tram builders pulling down all the fences

and bushes,

and trees,

but disgustingly decorated with

“Lukas, the Uzzis will get revenge,”


“this is OUR world, get used to it, etc etc.”

And I started thinking about why someone would do this-

especially as the university,

in egg-headed well-meaningness,

has put up mile after mile of fences covered in canvas,

and invited everyone to paint there-


not one tag-

which is why I wonder-

why do they only tag when it is destructive?


if it’s not wanting to express something that is in them

and just has to get out-

or a need to improve something-

or show beauty…


it is apparently a need to destroy.

To force people to look


at something bad they, the taggers, have done,

and accept it.

Whether they, Joe Average,  want to or not.

Which brings me back to my question-

isn’t this like computer stalkers?

The ones who just have to hate,

and attack,

and destroy,

and put it on someone’s page,

again and again.

And send them the computer version

of a burning paper bag of manure on your doorstep,

or taking your mail out of the mailbox,

and posting it on the town hall bulletin board.

Most of us grew out of that stage,

if we were ever in it-

at somewhere between the ages of eight and fourteen.

No, I do not have prince Albert in the can-

and if you call again, I will have you arrested,

phone slammed down,

kid scared,

learns not to call again,

grows up.


And eventually stops sending people 24 pizzas.

or letting air out of tires.

Which brings me to a theory of mine-

that modern living has so much surveillance involved,

you would be seen

and filmed

and find yourself on YouTube

if you did the above.

(Paper bag, Prince Albert, Pizzas, et al)

But what if you had a key

to the central post office,

and could steal anyone’s letters you wanted,

and post them in public,

or send them to other people

without getting caught?

How many of us would tell someone

I saw your mail,

and immediately ignored it,

and traced the person who did this.

Here is your mail.

And their name.

In case you want to call up

and scare the be-jeebers out of them.

So anyway,

just wondering if there isn’t something a bit odd about a system

where computer stalkers,

who, in normal life,

can’t get at you personally,

have to prove they are right in their odd thoughts,

by posting it  where

if you don’t spam it,

your eighty year old aunt Mildred tells you

her best friend’s grandchild saw it,

and is amazed you use pot-

or dislike transgenders,

or whatever lies your stalker is telling this week.



You’re it.


I’m not it, thanks.

Because no matter how much destruction is done,

from taggers ruining buildings,

or linemen listening to telephone calls,

or those who snoop in your house while at a party,

for every nine who believe the nonsense that is being told,

and the ugliness that is being shown,

there will always be one person,

one decent honorable, joyful, NORMAl person,

who says to the others,

“hey, you remember when the power lines were out, and she took John and I in.”

And one of the nine will say

“hey, you’re right. He always did four services on Christmas eve, and took the organist

home for a meal.”

“She took care of my flowers when I was in the hospital.”

“He wrote a recommendation for my son.”

And by the time the dust has settled,

and nine out of ten are now on the other side,

people will suddenly realiize

that only one person is really involved here.

A Destructionist-

how’s that for a name.

Someone who destroys,

for the fun of it,

and the control involved,

because they feel they have no control in their lives,

or for the money they get for destroying.

Or just the fact that they are so very unhappy,

and anyone being happy must be an unfeeling unrealistic idiot.

And so they destroy.

Not understanding that all that bad

is not stronger than good,

as my troll tried to  tell me.

And that even if,

as it was in the good old days where I am from,

the entire town doesn’t get together and whitewash everything that has been destroyed,

and put it back together,

at least they all still know it ought to be cleared away once and for all.

And that a group of intolerant whoo-haws

who feel we all have to be exactly like them,

since they are so insecure

and untrusting,

have no right to judge anyone,

or disrespect anyone,

or steal from anyone.

And that this will definitely be taken care of by someone

much bigger than all of us.

copyright 2017


And Gutenberg Lived Here: Our Traffic Is Worse Than Tokyo???

One of the most interesting,

and perhaps unexpected

things about the Carnival season here in Gutenberg Land,

is that you suddenly learn things you would never expect to learn from Carnival.

By which I mean:

turn on the tv,

or put on your costume, and go to a “hall meeting” of one of the Carnival ‘corporations’-

and you get a giant old-fashioned variety show-

with singers,



stand-up comics,

and, of course, the king of the disciplines,

the political stand-up.

Basis for what the carnival was founded for,

political stand-up is a once a year chance to bash politicians-

who have to sit there

and prove they are good sports,

or later face their constituents,

lose  votes,

or, even worse,

lose out on world-wide public exposure.

And I DO mean world-wide-

During the yearly four-hour long  televised “hall carnival”

of the biggest four of the corporations,

there were continuous blended-in greetings from:

Capetown, China, several spots in the USA, Dubai, Rumania,

you get the picture.

And what was being criticized?

For example that:

Gutenberg City, population 300,000-375,000,

depending on who you are talking to,

and how many incorporated villages are being counted-

is just too crowded-

since we now have entire new villages  and subdivisions springing up-

complete with rich managers from corporations moving here,

probably since it is easy to entertain visiting opposite-number managers

by taking them on a tour of the second tv village,

to a soccer game in the local stadium,

for wine tasting at Kloster Eberbach,

where they filmed “The Name Of The Rose”


at this time of year,

to one of the “hall meetings,”

with in-ear translating services,

and box seats among the vips for the Rose Monday parade,


Either way,

add up the number of new managers moving in.

Add the representation factor.

And the number of cars per family there,

as opposed to the average German,

who regularly uses the packed trains, trams, and buses,

and you get:

a medieval walled town,

dating back to the dinosaurs,

with streets so small you often had to drive a large horse-driven cart on both sidewalks.

and now picture it populated.

Make that over- populated.

And turbined,

and dieseled,

and cabrioleted.

Till there is no parking space.

Now add in one of the very few bridges across the Rhine,

at a major crossroads,

traffic wise,

which was weakened by the removal of beams at various times,

the attempt to widen it without taking it down all together,

and the unlimited amount of liquid left behind by

the neighbors from that state capital that shall not be named,

just on the other side of the bridge,

walking home,

arm in arm,

with the other tourists,

living in cheap carnival lodgings on the non-Gutenberg side,

who are unable to generate their own carnival spirit,

so they leave their cars behind-

(did I mention you can spend three days in a car on bridge trying to go two miles?)

And so, when you add all this up,

what do you get?

According to the Fastnacht (night before fasting starts) speakers:

more traffic and congestion than in:

Tokyo, New Delhi, Calcutta, New York.

And that is just the start.

Now that the streets are going to be “repaired” for the next year,

and the trains strike regularly,

and the airport is adding more flights daily…


now that I think about it,

compared to what was said about the local infrastructure,

international political comments,

about Brexit, Turkey,

and, of course, the US election,

including a huge picture of Donald Trump

as a naked rear end with two ears

were actually quite harmless.

copyright 2017