A Much More Respectable Bird

Good old Benjamin Franklin. His opinion of the turkey was quite interesting:

I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.

This is an excerpt from a letter he wrote to his daughter, lamenting the choice of the Bald Eagle as the national bird of the US. His view of the Bald Eagle was … well:

For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labor of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country…

So, there we are.

Good to know that the bird brining away in the fridge is “most respectable”, a “bird of courage” and does not have a “bad moral character.”

Just imagine it were otherwise – the horror, the horror!

Can One Love Both The Same?

Languages, languages – sorry, nothing spicy or racy.

Last weekend someone asked me “do you think in German or English?” It took me not a second to answer “that depends on the subject and the mood I am in.”

Living with two languages is fun. I actually learned more than one foreign language, but English is the only other language I use besides German nowadays. English is also the language I love just as much as German.

What I realized through the years however is this: Mastering a foreign language is a life-long learning process. It needs more than having a large vocabulary at hand and (hopefully) perfect grammar. Understanding the society the language is used in is a big key. How can one truly understand a poem by Wordsworth to its fullest extend without knowing the times and mores he lived in and with? The works of Walt Whitman without the knowledge of what went on in his country (and his life) when he was writing? Or jump forward – modern writers in the UK and the US without a strong background of political and sociological changes in said countries?

Coming back to subject and mood – yes, these factors are important when quietly turning over thoughts in my mind. Generally it works like this: With everyday subjects or work-related ones, I think in English. With subjects of a more personal mode or slow contemplation of matters important on a deep and profound level – out comes the German.

And when I want to read German at its best and fullest and most innovative or when I am afraid of losing my grasp on my native language, I turn to an old favorite: “Unser ungelebtes Leben”, the letters of Kurt Tucholsky to his wife Mary. The mastery of the language, the insight into life cultural and politic (and those times were deeply troubled), the quest for personal happiness which ended in deep desperation, all this combines to make me think that maybe, just maybe I love the German language just a wee bit more than the English one. Which I will surely be forgiven for.


Should I ever be asked which book would be my choice to take to that uninhabited island – this would be the one.

Cold Snap

So we had the first cold spell of autumn, weather-wise. Which brought on the first cold, sniffles-wise. Because I was not dressed properly, temperature-wise. That’s not the end of the world, there are worse things which can befall mankind.

The slight irony lies in the fact that temperatures in the upper ‘60s are seen as summer in some parts of the world. Those near and dear to me often jokingly say: “But you must be used to the cold, you’re from Germany.” Used to it I was. Like it I did not.

But temperatures are on the rise again. What joy and bliss. Nevertheless it can not be wrong to bring the winter duvet and the warm sweaters out of storage. And for the cold and the sniffles there is a patent remedy at hand:

“If life hands you a cold, drink hot lemon juice with honey.”



The first rain since April. Big, fat, beautiful dark clouds moved in, bringing rain to the region. Call me crazy, but I took photos of the clouds.


It was a day to be celebrated by sitting outside with a glass of wine, listing to the gentle dripping of raindrops in the trees, knowing that soon the hills will wear their green coats again.

The weather report had announced “rain storm to hit West Coast.” Now I, coming from a country which moved Heinrich Heine to exclaim “summer in Germany is but winter painted green” know all about storms. And rain. And winter. As long as no tiles are flying off roofs, it is not a storm. As long as the rain does not continue on for weeks and weeks, there is nothing to worry about. As long as there is no snow and ice, it is not winter.

So, please, weather people, stop exaggerating. Rejoice with everybody else in the fact that the rain season has started and spare us the storm warnings.

The Good, The Bad And The Ridiculous

The Good: Nearly all of the states in the West of the US are Paradise when it comes to food. Whatever cuisine one has a yen for, whatever the time of the day one feels peckish, whatever ingredients one needs to cook up a storm to delight the palate (or shock same of some), one can find it without going on a lengthy excursion. From the 5-star-places (for eating out and shopping) to the delightful holes-in-the-wall (for eating out and shopping), eating out and shopping for food is fun.

The Bad: Even after all these years I have not grown used to the heaps and heaps of food one is served so often. Maybe it is just me, but heaps of food, no matter how tasty, do not appeal to me. I look at the plate and my stomach (S) and I (I) have a little conversation along the lines of:

S: You’re not going to make me tackle this, are you?

I: Gosh, no. Just a bit of it.

S: Why did you order this anyway? You know it’s too much for me.

I: Well, I thought it would be different this time, smaller portions, you know?

S: Geez, will you NEVER learn?

Actually, I did learn and pretty fast – the best friends of a person not used to eating until bursting are side dishes. So I learned to combine them to form a meal. Another lesson: the more upscale the restaurant, the smaller the portions. (We will leave all irony aside and accept that as a fact.) And there is always the trusty box for the leftovers – many a dinner has made a reappearance as breakfast the next day and oftentimes the leftovers of the leftovers even made for a nice nibble at lunchtime. In Entertainment Industry parlance that would be: Texan Barbecue, Texan Barbecue / The Sequel, Texan Barbecue / The Final Chapter.

The Ridiculous:


The size of this… thing… was roughly 6″ x 6″ with a width of 3″ at the widest point (15 x 15 x 6 cm). And that was dessert. After a delicious meal in a top-notch restaurant where the rule “the higher the price the smaller the portion” just for once did not apply.

I assume it was delicious. I would not know, because my outlook has always been: “Cakes are cakes and carrots are carrots and never the twain should meet.” (But again, that is just me. And I don’t like sweet stuff anyway.) I know however that a slab of cake this size after a full meal is more than even the heartiest American can manage. I swear they can’t – I saw how defeat was declared. And I chuckled.

Yes, I know I. I shouldn’t have.

Enjoy Them… They Might Be Gone Soon

One of the symbols of Los Angeles might be vanishing.

No, I do not mean the Hollywood sign – that’s renovated and well and sitting there as a major tourist attraction – this is what I mean:


Sure, the palm is not native to Southern California, but since the 1880s seedlings have been imported, from 1900 on large palm nurseries sprang up everywhere. For the Olympics in 1932 the city of Los Angeles planted palm trees all over town – PR-savy they where already way back then – and since then they really have been a symbol of the city.

Now these palm trees are dying – from old age and a fungal desease. The city of Los Angeles has decided not to plant new palm trees, but to replace them with oaks and sycamores. Residents however can still buy their own palm trees and plant them on private property – which many do. So there will always be palms in Los Angeles. But there might be a lot less in the decades to come.

Granted, oaks or sycamores are lovely trees. But do they have the “SoCal Vibe?”

The verdict is: No.