happypancakes

`Twas The Weekend Before Thanksgiving…

The weekend before Thanksgiving was a most eventful one for me.  I spent most of the day on Saturday at the car dealership with my brother, going through the motions of the dance that is car salesmanship.   After nearly four hours, a deal was struck for a car which had to be retrieved from another dealership.  We confirmed the theoretical arrival date was sometime Monday or Tuesday, and I went on my way.

That night, Amelie and I went to the Mardi Gras Casino to see Air Supply play a live show.  They basically played their greatest hits album, but they sounded fantastic.

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After the concert, there were delicious pancakes and eggs at the local IHOP restaurant.  I really missed IHOP in Germany. Check out Amelie’s pancakes- they look pretty happy they’re about to get eaten, don’t they?

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Cut to Sunday, and I got a call from the sales manager that my car was already here, minus the tint (which will be installed in a week or so) and the backup sensor, which will probably be installed after thanksgiving. The car has a backup camera, but I wanted the doo-dad that beeps when you’re approaching an object too.

For the first time since 2011, I own a car.  It feels damn good to get that purchase ticked off of my repatriation to-do list.  This is what I looked like right after I drove the car off the lot.  The car is a Mazda 3 hatchback in a nice light blue color, and I’m very very pleased.

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To cap off the weekend, we quite literally rode off into the sunset.  Ok, so we actually drove away from this, but it’s a really pretty sky, don’t you think?

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Go to the wood!

As we enter into the holiday season, the movie studios begin to ramp up their pitches to have the most popular movie of the holiday season.    There are endless commercials already for the newest Hunger Games movie, and we’re about five minutes from the next blast of Hobbit-related advertising.  Neither of these are what I’m most looking forward to, though.  The movie I’m most looking forward to over the holidays?   Into The Woods.

Here’s the trailer, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the story.

Most of my friends know that I’m a musical theater geek.   I’ve seen a ton of them live.  I went out of my way to see both the Little Shop Of Horrors and Starlight Express auf Deutsch.  I’ve seen Wicked six times now (in four different cities), and I’m two weeks away from seeing Book Of Mormon again when the tour hits Miami.

I love musicals, and I love movie adaptations of them… usually.  When they come out well, you get movies like Mamma Mia, West Side Story, Bells Are Ringing, Little Shop of Horrors- all excellent translations of the source material onto the silver screen.    The single best movie adaptation of a musical that I have ever seen is Sweeney Todd.  But then I’m predisposed to like that one; it’s long been one of my favorite musicals.

On the flip side, you have movies that come out a little flat-  Rent, for example-  it was good, but it felt like an MTV video version of the stage show, rather than a movie.  And some movies that are all style with no substance, like the movie version of Phantom Of The Opera-  that was gorgeous to look at, but every time Gerard Butler opened his mouth to sing, I wanted to shove icepicks into my ears.

With every new adaptation from stage to screen, I approach the theater with cautious optimism.    Into The Woods has a lot of potential, and a great cast. If they don’t let Meryl Streep get away with too much talking through her songs instead of singing, there’s a lot of potential here.

On Christmas Day, I’ll be in line to see this one.

What movie are you most looking forward to this holiday season?

Special Friday Bonus Post: Eurovision 2014

It’s Eurovision time again!!!

The first Eurovision was held in Lugano, Switzerland in May of 1956 and it included just seven countries- Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, and Switzerland.  This year is the 59th year of the Eurovision contest, and 37 nations are competing.  Last night was the last semi-final, and the final competition is on Saturday, the 10th of May.

My first exposure to Eurovision was in the 2012 Eurovision song competition., the year of the Singing Grannies and Jedward.   The spectacle is quite amazing, and I was hooked. In 2013, I missed all the singing parts and only managed to catch the very last section where they do all the vote counting.  That bit was dull as toast points.

This year, the competition has been mildly interesting.  A lot of very similar sounding solo vocalists, with a handful of standout acts.  Here’s some of my favorites from the competition so far, and I haven’t even seen the five that were pre-qualified for Saturday’s final.

Sweden – Sanna Nielsen – Undo – Good song, polished singer, and catchy enough to get lots of radio play.

Russia – Tolmachevy Sisters – Shine – There were a lot of audience boos for these two, not because they were bad – they weren’t.  They were quite good, but the Russia-Crimea-Ukraine politics bled into the mood of the audience.

Ukraine – Mariya Yaremchuk – Tick – Tock – The running man was a neat visual.

Belgium – Axel Hirsoux – Mother – This guy has a decent voice, but he’s not “pop” enough to win this competition. (He didn’t make it to the finals.)

The Netherlands – The Common Linnets – Calm After The Storm - I like the sound of this band, actually.  This song has a little bit of “Every Breath You Take” in it, I think.

Belarus – Teo – Cheesecake – A Belarusian boy band!

Ireland – Can-Linn (featuring Kasey Smith) – Hearbeat - I liked this, but I’m predisposed to enjoy anything with a good fiddle in the background. They didn’t make it to the finals, though.

Poland – Donatan & Cleo – We Are Slavic (My Slowianie) - Poland’s answer to the Spice Girls?

Austria – Conchita Wurst  – Rise Like A Phoenix – Austrian drag queen with a killer voice.

Iceland – Pollapönk – No Prejudice – These dudes are totally my favorites to win, even if they do dress like the Wiggles.  Plus I dig their dance moves at 1:42.

Will you watch the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 finals tomorrow night?

The Regensburg Classic Car Meet

CCM-regensburgOn the first Friday of each month between May and October, there’s a Classic Car Meet here in Regensburg.  People with vintage cars bring their wheels out to see and be seen, and a different Rockabilly band plays each month.

It was still a little chilly for the May outing, but that didn’t stop people from coming out with their cars.  There were a handful of right-hand drive vehicles, and a few European makes and models.  For example, this marvelous golden Lotus Esprit.

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There were also some really neat old utility vehicles like this Jeep, which was for sale.

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For the most part, though, a fairly large majority of the cars I saw were vintage American cars.   Here’s some pictures to give you an idea.

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A pink Cadillac convertible.  I so want to drive this down Route 66, stopping at all the roadside attractions along the way.

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This taxi-hearse cracked me the hell up.  It’s got a brilliant paint job.

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Naturally there were a few tv and movie themed cars.  For example, there was a KITT modification on this one:

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…and there was the obligatory DeLorean DMC-12.

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Naturally, this one has a Flux Capacitor between the seats.

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One of the few right-hand drive cars I saw.

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Have you ever been to a classic car meet?

Like a shark.

I’ve heard it said that the first person you meet when you go abroad is yourself. I’ve found this to be kind of true for myself. I’ve learned some things about myself that are no surprise at all, but some of my epiphanies are… not what I expected. Here’s a few of them:

I learned that music keeps me sane.

I already knew this to a point- I knew that music is hugely important to me. I have a freakishly diverse taste in music and most of my friends will agree that if the tv is off and I’m awake, I pretty much always have music running.

What I didn’t really grasp fully was that without music, I get cranky. Really cranky. When my mood is very very high, it can settle me down. If my mood is very very low, it can bring me up.

I’ve commented before that music is often the impetus for a new trip for me, so it serves to keep me exploring as well. Between now and the end of the year, there are four concert trips on my calendar, with another two on my “thinking about going” list.

I’ve learned that I’m pretty relaxed about public transportation.

I haven’t driven a car since last November, and I’m pretty ok with that. I’ve really enjoyed the planes, trains, and bus rides that have made up my experiences in Europe. Even when I’ve gotten turned around, misdirected, delayed, and mildly lost, I’ve kind of had fun.

In addition to that, I really love riding on the rail system here. I’ve been on ICE trains hurtling along at speeds upwards of 250 kilometers per hour- it’s fast, quiet, and very comfortable. There are power outlets on the train, so I can watch a movie or read or listen to music without worrying that I’ll run out of battery before I reach my destination. Most of the trains even have a little cafe/restaurant car called a Bordbistro where I can get a drink, a snack, or a full meal. And best of all, there are no flight attendants telling me that I can’t get up to use the restroom when we’re leaving the station.

Trains are good.

I learned to spot more things that give me headaches.

I’ve had headaches at a mild migraine level for as long as I can remember. I’m always looking for new triggers because having headaches this often sucks royally. I knew that McDonald’s french fries are typically a trigger for me. I think it’s the high sodium, but I’m not positive of that because other french fries don’t necessarily affect me the same way. I learned very recently that Currywurst has the same effect on me as McDonald’s french fries- a near instantaneous spike-in-the-eye-socket of a headache. I’ve also had headaches triggered by the weather patterns that come off the Alps, but I’m not sure whether it’s low pressure or high pressure or both that does it. Speaking of pressure, I’ve learned that any ICE train ride of more than about three hours will trigger a massive headache that makes me useless for most of the rest of the day.

I’ve learned that I’m a pretty adventurous eater… to a point.

When I was in Hong Kong a few years ago, I tried Fugu (blowfish), kangaroo meat, jellyfish, and Thousand Year Egg. None of them bothered me in the slighest, but as soon they brought out the duck with the head and neck still attached, I got pretty squicked out.

On a recent trip to Berlin, I tried the Pferdfleisch pizza. That’s horse meat. It was a little like salty bacon, to be honest- it’s not a flavor I would seek out, but it wasn’t bad. Two days before the horse meat pizza, however, I was at Dult with Jenny and Robert for dinner. Robert purchased a cooked and breaded fish for his dinner, but the thing was still mostly intact. It had a head, a tail, and a spine. That just grosses me out.

I’ve learned that I have to keep moving.

This was a difficult realization for me. I’ve always felt like I was more or less comfortable in my own skin, but then I started to notice certain patterns in my own behavior. If I don’t have very specific plans- somewhere to go, something to do, or someone to see- I tend to isolate myself. My personal inertia can easily keep me stuck in the apartment for a day or an entire weekend. I might be able to peel myself out for an hour or so to get some food, but that’s it. If I don’t have plans, I won’t go anywhere. When I feel like that, I don’t get anything useful done at home either. Homesickness and loneliness can be insidious that way.

I read once that sharks have to keep swimming or they’ll sink to the ocean floor. Without the forward motion to keep water flowing over their gills, some species will even die. That’s kind of how I feel these days, like I need to keep moving or I’ll sink.

I tried to stay put for the month of August, and I made it one weekend before I made plans to leave town again. Two months ago I thought I had locked in all my travel plans through my end-of-the-year US trip, but since that time I’ve added four more small trips, and I’m considering several more.

My friends back home, commenting on the near-constant traveling that I’ve been doing for the last six months, often rave about how awesome my life must be and what an amazing experience I’m having. On paper, they’re absolutely right. Compared to many people, I have a pretty amazing life. Hearing it said just makes me feel worse though. Makes me want to go somewhere else.

Yup, gotta keep moving.