This place is usually one of humor and fun, but some things cannot be overlooked.
The spell has been broken. For years, many Germans and especially Bavarians have felt that a combination of factors were at play that had spared it the brunt of terrorism. In all honesty, it was a bit like a fairy tale. Everyone knew it was possible, but perhaps, Munich and Germany might continue to be safe.
Regardless of whether the perpetrator was an Islamist or simply an ill person who was Muslim, the reaction to this most horrific crime must be thoughtful and rational. I expect the citizens of Munich will react just that way.
The security in Munich is some of the best in the world. Twice a year they are put on the highest alert, at the Oktoberfest and during the Munich Security Conference. But they cannot stop what happened and are incapable of policing every potential target. It is a fact of life.
People in Munich will not clamor for ‘more guns for everyone’, as some members of America’s NRA would. They will not misplace the blame on Merkel’s refugee policy. Though it has not been easy, it is on many levels working. Any problems which remain are not insurmountable. These most tolerant people of Munich will not build walls to keep people out, they will not blame a whole religion, and they will not look much differently at the countless Muslims who already live here. In fact, I expect there will be demonstrations for peace and brotherhood, with Germans, Turks, and any other person who believes in those ideas and is willing to work on them, can and will come.
If the shooter was radicalized, the Germans will look closely at the reasons he may have been. Could it be the West’s constant meddling in the Middle East? Egypt is a perfect example. Mubarak was replaced by a legitimately elected Morsi from the Muslim Brotherhood. Not feeling it, we ‘allowed’ him to be replaced by somebody else from the army (Mubarak and Sadat both came from there), el Sisi. Could it be some European countries and the USA’s unwavering support for Israel, though the UN has declared that Israel’s current program of ‘settlement’ is in fact an occupation of Palestinian lands? Could it be that for too long the West has turned a blind eye to the machinations of Saudi Arabia, the most oppressive regime in the Middle East which just happens to be the world’s gas station?
Iraq, Libya and Syria are simply the latest examples of where and when the West attempts to dictate which dictators stay and go. I recall after the attacks of 9/11, the German chancellor at the time, Gerhard Schröder said, “We must dry up the swamp of terrorism.” And I believe he was exactly correct. It will get its start in places like Munich, which will refrain from the populism and isolationism gripping so many of the Western countries at the moment. It will begin with a long look in the mirror, and it will begin in a place like Munich.
When I first arrived in Munich back in 2000, I recall that for all the culture of this great berg, I could not find a decent cheeseburger. Eventually I discovered an American chain-hotel, the Marriot®, which had one that was at best, passable. But they carried NFL® football games before Germans even knew about the game. The beef patty was always exactly the same size and cookie-cutter shape, exactly the same thickness and exactly the same amount overcooked. Always. But in America we have sausages that resemble Nürnburger Rostbratwurst® flavored with maple syrup, so I just bucked up and did my best to imagine how good a real American cheeseburger might taste.
For years I took a lot of grief about America’s lack of culinary culture. “Believe it or not”, I told my German friends, “We have more to eat in America than McDonald’s® and Kentucky Fried Chicken®.” Unfortunately, that was before the omnipresent Google®, so they had to take my word for it. I can now show them a picture of a porterhouse steak, cooked medium rare (anything beyond that would be sacrilegious) with a baked potato, to confirm my earlier thesis.
I am happy to say that cheeseburgers have arrived in Munich. There are many restaurants which have cheeseburgers on the menu, and even restaurants whose whole menu is devoted to different types of burgers. It has turned around so much and improved that I now have nightmares about one day seeing a cheeseburger on the menu at the world famous Hofbräuhaus.® And in my most honest humble opinion, the burgers come pretty damned close to an American original. They do seem to have some kind of love affair with 1000 island dressing, however, as if a splat of it on a bun makes everything more American. And they are still way overcooked. My local butcher grinds my beef fresh for me when I so desire, therefore I can eat my homemade cheeseburgers the way God® in the ‘Bayerisches Himmel’® (Bavarian Sky) intended them to be eaten. RARE.
And about the way they are to be eaten? The proper instruction manuals seemed to have been lost in the mail, or they were too much like a manual from IKEA®. The Germans who are not known for spontaneous decisions must have decided somehow that the best way to eat a cheeseburger is with a knife and fork as if it were some kind of schnitzel. The incorrect information has already been widely been disseminated, and it is the societal norm now.
If there is one thing I refuse to do, it is eating a cheeseburger (and the fries) with anything other than my hands. Oh, and here is another.
You, Oktoberfest, are without compare,
Overpriced everything, and especially the beer.
Drunken Debauchery, in December we do detox,
Fill up on roast pork, dumplings, or a slice from an ox.
Fill up my glass, sir, ten euros is very dear.
With girls scantily clad, call it tradition I might add,
After a liter or two, the lager ain’t half bad.
Up on the benches, the floor is not far,
Wooden floors cushion blows, they aren’t really that hard.
Teenies step aside now, and be a good lad.
The lights go up, and the place is a mess,
If I could only find a way to get her out of that dress.
Not this time, sorry, your lederhosen are too poor,
Big security guards, not German, forcibly showing you the door.
Pour yourself into a taxi, ask thy ‘what’s my address?’
The weather the last two days was whacked. It was too warm. The Germans don’t like it that way. It needs to be average. Restaurants with outdoor seating were jammed, managers stressfully trying to unfold and set up tables that hadn’t been clean since October. Bike shops can charge as much as they’d like for a ‘Spring Check-up’, and they do, much to the chagrin of the locals. But a man’s got to ride. For those bike riders who don’t need a check-up, have you completely forgotten how to ride? There are rules to obey, both written and unwritten! It’s been so warm the last two days that I even saw some naked bodies sunbathing near the Isar River. I’ve heard of cabin fever and a strong desire to get outside, but au naturel the first week in March? Germans need few excuses to get naked, surely. Meanwhile, I read that in my home state of Florida the Republican governor forbade any officials connected to the government to use the terms ‘global warming, climate change, or sustainability’. You read that correctly (reason #67 I choose to live in Munich). Can there be a flower more popular than a tulip this time of year? I love them too! The best tulips are grown in The Netherlands, a country which seems to have carved out a nice little business supplying the EU with these colorful blooms, when not wooing young travelers to their coffee shops. The drawback for tulips is that no amount of care will extend their vase life beyond a week. I grilled on Monday, the SECOND time this year already. I can recall the summer of 2009, when the whole year only afforded me two opportunities to grill. I missed them both. I’m going to make up for 2009 this year. I’ve been trying to make up for that summer of 2009 for the past five years, but the weather hasn’t cooperated. It’s been normal when I needed exceptional. The extended forecast is looking good, a little rain, a little sun and only a marginal chance of a white Easter. Exactly how the Germans like it. Nothing too unusual. I bet you a bratwurst and a beer we’ll have snow on Easter.
What a week it’s been. You’ve all read the headlines and stories. To end this week, this crazy week, what happened today in Paris was a fitting finale. The whole world was watching the show of force against religious fascism, terrorism, and any other ism you can and can’t think of.
Some people believe the Parisians are arrogant. They are, absolutely, and rightfully so. You ever been to Paris? It’s an amazing city. I’ve been there twice.
After the first time I was there I hated it. I thought ‘what’s the big deal?’ I saw all the stuff. Crowded museums with too many tourists (I wasn’t a tourist in my mind, I was a cultural warrior). Over-priced food of inferior quality. I was on a backpacker’s budget so anything beyond a ‘Three Course Menu’ special was out of the price range, and even that was highend. The Arc de Triomphe, which I thought was strange because it has a statue of Napoleon on it (wasn’t he a bad guy?). Waited hours to go up the Eiffel Tower, without a lover, which is strange, too.
But I did too much. I only saw the big things, I didn’t see Paris, except for the subways which are unnavigable for a person with no French skills. I was too busy seeing the sights, and missed the city.
After about five years, however, slowly, perniciously, inexorably, Paris beckoned me to return. ‘Give me another chance’, she said, and a few years later I went again. This time I went with my wife, and our little bean in her womb, and Paris was indeed a changed girl. Or maybe it was me.
I was more experienced, I knew better and had more staying power, I took long leisurely strolls to nowhere. These became long bouts of foreplay, as each street whispered its own story in my ear. And then, Paris opened up to me, her legs splayed wide open. Saint Denis, a neighborhood of immigrants, was truly amazing. Falafel from a kosher kebab house, had people lined up around the corner, and for good reason. The museums were still crowded, sure, but seeing La Joconde in person isn’t nearly what’s its cracked up to be. There are a lot more paintings of better quality in easier to reach locations, and she’s not that pretty. I prefer Marianne.
A moving Christmas story from a guy I’ve been following for some time. Enjoy.