Sunday, July 24, 2011

Frau Jane Doe, Lufthansa Stewardess

Dene Croft

I want to be sure to make an effort that as I discuss my personal opinions and observations about Germans and their country I do not over generalize. As a black guy you might guess I’m not crazy about the generalizations and stereotypes about us, so I do want to be careful and practice the same consideration regarding them.

I am very comfortable in saying that in almost all cases it comes natural for me to consider the beliefs, traditions, politics and social customs of all cultures. I have written and spoken my support for other ethnicities that have been wronged and consider myself “fair” if not at times jaded concerning my time here. -

Okay, so enough that “We are the World” preamble. I want to share a little story:

In the first year I moved here, I was on a trip coming back from L.A., I was on the second leg of a Luftshansa flight from Atlanta to Frankfurt. If any of you have flown from California or the west coast to Germany you know it is a looong day. With layovers, delays, customs it is a real grind, my average trip taking about 18-19 hours, sometimes longer when you consider the total time until you’re finally inside your house drinking some water.

So as I got on this flight I met the first set of stewardesses and they were uh neutral, kind of robotic, fake smile, welcome aboard I-say-this-three-million-times-a-day type of vibe, but okay no problem.

Then, as I crossed over to the side of the plane where my seat was located I ran into her! A tall and rather…let’s say stout woman, late 40’s or early 50’s with short, grayish blonde hair. Her arms were tightly folded across her chest. Her mouth stuck in a perfectly straight line very much like Bert from Sesame Street. She glared at me like I stole something from her and she wanted it back…now. I knew immediately I didn’t like her.

Instead I showed her my ticket even though she had not asked for it. Without looking down she simply stuck her arm out pointing it in the direction I was supposed to go. I quickly changed my mind and decided I hated her grumbling to myself the entire way to my seat.

My seat; now this is where it gets real ugly. I was unlucky this trip. Normally I’m able to manage a bulkhead seat or one by the emergency exit – It’s a win-win situation, I get more leg room and if the plane goes down, I can be the first one to get the hell out of there.

Anyway, I’m a pretty big dude, not Shaquille O’Neal big, but I’m 6’3” about 240 pounds. When I compressed myself into this seat my legs had absolutely no room to move. Since I am in an aisle seat the best I can do is sit kind of sideways to gain a few extra inches but I am terribly uncomfortable and we haven’t even taken off yet.

I could see Bert slowly coming down the aisle checking seat belts, arms still folded like a drill sergeant not to be messed with. She stopped at me and pointed at my legs motioning for me to get them out of her aisleway. Damn, I hated this woman times two now!

Fast forward and we are in the air leveling off. Our first round of drinks and snacks are being handed to us. My food tray is digging into my stomach, I can barely eat my juice and crackers, I have a cramp in my left butt muscle, my knees are helplessly stuck in an awkward position until suddenly the 12 year old angel in front of me decided to lean his seat ALL the way back…again and again and again! Now we’re really having fun – only thirteen more hours to go!

Two hours or so into the flight the cabin is now darkened and I begin to play mind games: I tell myself I am soooo comfortable, I play classical music in my headphones to create an inner calm, I hum chants, I order more wine, I attempt a crossword puzzle, and…it ain’t working - none of it. I’m fuggin’ m-i-s-e-r-a-b-l-e.

My insanity begins to get ugly. It’s the Germans fault…German engineering huh? It’s the fault of the mother of this demon child in front of me who won’t tell him to stop. It’s Berts fault…speaking of Bert…

I saw her staring at me earlier and at that point I didn’t care anymore. She wants to start a fight, bring it on I’m ready. She wants to play rough, okay let’s play rough! So now she is clearly coming my way striding carefully like a lion about to attack its prey. She finally gets to me and leans over to whisper in my ear, “Sir…”

I already knew exactly what was coming, “Sir… if I have to tell you one more time to move your legs out of the aisle I’m going to take a hammer and break your kneecaps.”

But instead she continued, “Sir… there’s another seat up front. I think you’ll be much more comfortable. Why don’t you follow me.”

Huh?! Is this a trap? Is she serious? So I followed her all the way to first class where she motioned me to an available chair. It was like heaven – a beautiful soft leather reclining chair with all the bells and whistles with gobs of leg room. I wanted to kiss Bert. What an asshole I had been to think such things about this darling, sweet morsel of a woman.

I could not thank her enough: thank you, danke schoen, vielen danke and every danke I could remember. Still smiling and reclining she returned a few minutes later asking if I needed a pillow and blanket. Oooh…what a sweetheart!

After a long needed nap I woke up ashamed of how I prejudged that stewardess based on her facial expressions and physical demeanor. Since then I have been in several situations where a German person was quite helpful, friendly, considerate and dare I say it even funny once you cracked the initial outside appearance. Yes, I have learned my lesson and try to keep this story in mind…well, most of the time.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Intention of Love and Tears

Cyra R Cancel

A few days ago I finally decided to revisit the poetry folder on my laptop. It had been about two years or so since I’ve actually tried to create anything worthwhile. Reading over this particular piece it quickly brought back the bitter emotions that originally gave birth to the poem. 

Making a few edits here and there, then re-reading it out loud like I might have done several years ago when performing at "Love and Spoken Words" poetry night in L.A. (Ladera Heights), the inspiration to create returned and it was a beautiful thing! I will return to creativity! I have to return to creativity!

The Intention of Love and Tears

Love, woke me from a dream
And told me all the beautiful things I’ve wanted to hear.
About how I should never fear the weight of my burdens.
About how She would forever be there with her comfort
Like the soft cotton blankets of my youth.

Love wrapped her wings around me
And sang a sweet melody in my ear
About a place of peace and tranquility.
Where blue streaming waters ran clear,
Where colourful butterflies flew content and carefree
And white calla lilies grew underneath the new eastward sun.
She promised me this is where we’d be the next time she appeared
Just Her and me.

Love then kissed me softly on my lips
With a gentleness saved for Sunday mornings
And promised She would soon return.

 I believed Her like I always did on nights like this.
I believed Her because I trusted Her.
I believed Her because She was my angel of promise,
I believed Her because Love is supposed to be faithful and true and devoting
and all those sweet things we're supposed to trust.
Very simply I just believed Her.
Her kiss would not and could not ever lie to me.

But, Love never came back,
How mysterious could that be?
Or, is it only me who can’t solve Her mystery?
Am I blind? Am I missing what I’m supposed to see?

They say a man is not supposed to cry but,
How much heartbreak can one man survive?
How much loneliness must I endure
until the notion of Love dries up and dies?
A mystery? A lie? A simple misunderstanding of intentions?

I would still deny the truth.
So I continued to wait for that eastward sun,
Loyally I still waited for Love to come.
But no matter how much I slept,
She was never there to wake me.
No matter how much I wept,
There were no kisses to soothe me
No matter how long I kept Her in my memory,
Love would never return
But a man is not supposed to cry.

© 2008, 2010 M.Lawrence

Present Imperfect - The Motivation For This Blog

Prosenjit Roy - "Evil Thoughts"
My initial concern when deciding to create a personal blog was that it not turn into too much of a downer for me or for the accidental visitor reading it.

Its real intent is for me to essentially release the thoughts, rants, concerns and fears that I have very ineffectively bottled inside of me. The result has been a not so pleasant dude. This blog will be just one way I expect to change my frame of mind and get on the road to achieving true and genuine happiness in my new surroundings.

Other forms of release will be through painting, learning the conga, returning to meditation and taking much better care of my physical and emotional health. Of course I expect there to be hiccups along the way; daily life has a way of interrupting good intentions, but I will persevere.

I also expect what I write here to be honest enough that it will be somewhat uncomfortable for me even as I half-heartedly attempt to remain anonymous.  Only time will tell how effective this attempt will be, but over the years it has been clear whether it was through writing or painting, this form of expression and release has proven to be a wonderful therapy.

These days I suddenly find myself having to start my life completely over. Okay, first confession – perhaps not completely over – sure, there were insecurities and issues that should have been addressed a long time ago, however the true successes whether it was personally, professionally, financially of the last twenty years seem deleted forever leaving me with those old issues that had not been adequately dealt with to rear its ugly head magnifying the present darkness.

Prosenjit Roy - "Gash 1"
I am severely conflicted as I balance the desire to become more fulfilled and content in a new country, a new culture, new beginnings, new life changes, new professional changes and challenges when I didn’t particularly ask for them or expect them – at least not in this way; and the truth is I resent it. (Future posts will give better detail)

I start my life over in every imaginable way at an age and stage where I feel I should have already reached a level of stability. It has created many a night of self-torture emotionally beating myself up for being in such a position.

Very randomly I participate in an English speaking expatriate social group here in Stuttgart. Mostly it is a constantly changing assortment of folks coming from all over the world and the initial commonality is our language (a close second is the steady flow of German hefeweizens which I like quite a lot!).

At these gatherings, almost always held at a different restaurant or bar in downtown Stuttgart, I feel embarrassed and at times sad when being among such happy faces. It appears that everyone is so well adjusted except me. What’s wrong with me? So it’s not Germany, it’s me! I’m the one who’s fucked up.

Maybe they have certain advantages that I don’t have: Maybe they are part of the military or work for U.S. government so there is already a built-in network of common interests and friendships, maybe they have German heritage with family nearby, maybe they speak the language fluently which can certainly open social, professional and even romantic doors, maybe they are a good ten years younger than me and are still in their care-free exploring and developing phase with fewer life and family responsibilities, or maybe they just don’t have the obvious mark of separateness to deal with by walking around with  black or brown skin...(or maybe that last part was complete bullshit).

The truth is I don’t really know if they are happy at all. Perhaps their smiles and laughter is only a temporary band-aid for their own fears and personal struggles as they wash the stresses away with orange liquor and semi-interesting mindless chatter. I really don’t know and I’m not sure it matters. At the end of the day, I will most likely attend the next event for a new fix anyway.

Prosenjit Roy - "Artist on a Mend"
Still, as I finally accept the next fifteen years will be spent here, I feel it incredibly necessary to stop bitching and moaning about the present and begin embracing the new.

Sure, so many Germans are apparently allergic to smiles and basic courtesies and politeness (at least that which is familiar to me). Casual greetings such as “How are you?” repels them. Compliments are met with suspicion and grim scowls are commonplace.

It’s a follow the rules world or you are in trouble with someone – either the law or the neighbor who will surely tell on you. It's a paper and rubber stamp world - I actually think forms and paperwork gets their juices flowing. It’s a world where individuality is certainly not encouraged and entrepreneurship is relegated to crazy risk-takers only interested in fantasy, get rich schemes.

It’s a world where much (too much) of the year brings gray skies, rain or snow – a hard bitter reality to accept coming from Southern California. I totally underestimated how much this weather would affect me. With the dull gray and dirty tan colours of the buildings, apartments and homes that make up most of Germany underneath dreary, gray muted skies I often feel as if I am living life in monochrome. Think of the old black and white TVs for those of you who go back that far.

However, in fairness it’s also a world where I barely know the language and this may greatly distort my view of things. After almost of year and a half of being here my intentions are to finally get my ass in a German course immediately. I expect as I master the language my relationships will develop and become more satisfying and just maybe I will see this place in a different light. I hope.

Prosenjit Roy - "The Lazy Sun"
In the meantime, I will continue to teach Business English, work on freelance copywriting projects and get back to my internet business. I also want to take advantage of traveling to the nearby European locations I have always wanted to visit - all within two or three hours: Milan, Venice, Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona and the beaches of Spain, etc., etc.

 The hardcore fact is I need to make a much better effort to stop walking around as a pissed off victim pissed off that everyone else is looking pissed off.

The paintings throughout this post are created by a wonderful talent, Prosenjit Roy who seems to be on an artistic mission to “de-coon” the mysteries of his own life purpose after trading in his surgical dental tools for the life of an artist in Kolkata (Calcutta), India.

In describing the motivation for his website,  Artist on the Mend,  a brilliant collection of paintings, sketches, essays and poetry, Roy writes that the site was born “…out of an urgent, urgent necessity to excavate deep tombs of thought. To stand before a mirror and discover that a mirror is nothing more than a mirror. An essential de-cocooning process…”

Roy’s creative self-analysis is by far more interesting and colourful than mine, but I intimately identify with his journey.

Hmm…with that, let’s see how my story unfolds…