I arose early to do the shopping for our New Year’s Eve dinner. When not spending the night in a resort, we stay home. Anywhere nearby offering a “special evening” celebration is over-priced and mediocre. We prefer preparing a nice meal, watching television, and waiting for the noise of fireworks bought by the stupid people. Germans spend more money on fireworks for this celebration than on foreign aid. I have never succumbed to this national urge, having gotten fireworks out of my system as a teenager (and listened to real ones in combat). Fireworks were illegal in Massachusetts, but we traveled in the summer to Virginia, where they were on sale all year. Smuggling was much easier in those days, and I was stupid enough to do it.
On the drive home through the freezing fog, which covered the trees in a white glaze, I thought—of all the strange things one could think—of the devil. No idea where that came from, because I had just been to the market, no radio was playing, and few cars were on the road. Anyway, here I was with this word in my head, so I let my thoughts spin. Where did this concept originate, I wondered? Again, no idea. But, I decided that the “devil”—like every deity—is a human invention, which dwells in the mind of the believer. Finding no fertile ground in my mind on which to latch, the word went the way it come…into the unknown.
KREMLIN NAMES TRUMP EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH
By Andy Borowitz
MOSCOW (The Borowitz Report)—Capping an extraordinary year for the former television host, the Kremlin has named Donald J. Trump its Employee of the Month for December.
“No one has worked more tirelessly for the glory of the Fatherland than Donald Trump,” the Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an official statement. “He has set a high bar for all Kremlin employees, and for that, we salute him.”
To mark the honor, Trump’s name will be added to a plaque that hangs in the hallway outside the Kremlin’s H.R. office.
According to Kremlin sources, Trump faced tough competition in the Employee of the Month voting, besting both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and ExxonMobil’s C.E.O., Rex Tillerson.
Speaking to reporters at his Mar-a-Lago estate, in Florida, Trump called the award “a tremendous honor, just tremendous.”
“Obama was President for eight years and he didn’t win this a single month,” he said. “Loser.”
I watched Dances With Wolves, a movie I first saw 25 years ago in Portland, Oregon. I was visiting on a business trip. It was January. Rain was falling, when I entered the cinema; the movie runs for more than three hours. Upon leaving the cinema, I discovered that the rain had frozen. Streets were deserted, because driving was impossible. Fortunately, I could walk—slowly—to the motel.
But, that’s not the point. The story reminded me of two things. First of all, my great grandfather was killed by the tribe shown in the film some years after the time depicted in the film. Secondly, I thought of how man is a bad animal. Humans can be peaceful, until some other of the species want to take something from them. Because so many want what others have, peace is impossible on this planet.
Don’t believe me? Simply watch/read/listen to the news each day…
If you watch Hulu, you must suffer through the aggravation of medicine advertisements. Most ads are terrible, but medicine advertisements are more so.
Because fast-forward is not possible, I must suffer through only the subtitles. I push mute. I am always amused about the symptoms being worse than the disease. The advice is, usually, that one should not operate machinery. I always wonder if that means a Kitchen-aide or a hair dryer or an iPhone…
For those of you that still suffer from illusions of finding the perfect place to live on this planet, let me inform you that there is no perfect place. Each has advantages and disadvantages in different degrees (except North Korean, which has advantages for only one person). Every country has stupid rules and regulations, some more than others.
As positive as some aspects are to living in Germany, this can be a really dumb country. I will not talk about taxation and government waste, because that would take too long. When it comes to the justice system, let me say that there are some positive aspects, such as no ridiculous lawsuits. But, there are too many examples of ridiculous leniency. That explains why the right wing political parties are gaining in popularity: more and more citizens are upset about how easily immigrants and asylums seekers game the system.
But, that is not what excited me today. It is impossible to go through life without nudging another car while parking, either with a bumper or opening a door in a tight spot. Because Germans take their cars seriously (people do not drive around with dented cars, as they do in the United States), even the slightest scratch caused by another driver is a big deal. Honest citizens leave a note with their number or address, if the other driver is not around. The thing is: this is illegal. If you leave the scene, even after leaving a note, you are guilty of leaving the scene of a crime. You must call the police and wait for them to fill in forms. If not, you can lose you license for six months, lose insurance coverage, and be liable for all costs.
I have seen drivers in Paris--and other French cities--bump into the car in front and back, becasue the is the easiet way to determine how close he or she is. Felling and hearing work better than looking. French and German people are different...which might explain why they do not always get along.
I am happy that I am not in England. In that country, today is Boxing Day. I do not box and do not enjoy watching others box. The origin of this holiday might have nothing to do with the “sport”, but I do not want to take a chance. Germans are much more civilized with their treatment of December 26: they call it Second Christmas (more correctly: Second Holy Night). And, unlike in England, stores are not open, so the streets remain quiet.
Men are disturbed not by things, but the view they take of them.
It's Official: I am the world's worst Christmas card sender. Even in the age of the Internet, I am worthless.
As somewhat of a weak attempt to rectify my sloth, I offer Season's Greetings to any stmbling across this page.
All the best...
Following extensive research—which involved thinking for a moment about what I have read or heard—I came up with a theory about why Germans celebrate Christmas (Weihnachten) on December 24. They call it “Heilige Abend” or Holy Night (like in the Christmas carol), and many open the ubiquitous presents after a meal. Some have already decorated a tree, but many do on that evening. Some do follow the tradition of some other Christian nations and must arise early on the morning to the 25th to satisfy eager children raring to open presents.
I have heard the guy Christians get excited about was not born on December 25 in Bethlehem, but sometime in the spring. Since pagans already celebrated the 25th (or 24th) it was easy to graft a new ritual on an existing feast day. Over time, the new one took over from the old one. Germans still have the old festival in their DNA, even if they don’t know why they are celebrating. To make the Christians happy, Germany has 2 ½ holidays: one half day on the 24th, the 25th, and the 26th (call Second Christmas Day, like Boxing Day in England, which I don’t understand, but probably also has pagan roots).
Anyway, workers get a few days off, if these calendar days do not fall on a weekend. If they fall during the week, many take what’s called Bridge Days, to have an entire week off at the expense of only two vacation days. This is unpleasant for employers, but Germany has strong unions. Not much gets done between December 24th and January 6th, but that’s another story.
Merry Christmas; German version. Frohe Weihnacten.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.