Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pray for Snow

Our first Christmas without Anette’s mother was cozy for me and the girls, but not so easy for Anette. On Xmas Eve, we stood at Oma’s grave, lit candles and sparklers, and sang “Kling Glockchen Kling” (Ring Bell Ring.) That was always one of her favorite songs.

Opa is doing well—shopping and cooking for himself, and swimming almost every day. He’s the Burgermeister of the Bregenz Sport Zentrum, and he has said he’s very proud to introduce us, his American-Austrian-Ethiopian-Nigerian kids and grandkids, to all of his seventy and eighty-year old friends at the pool. But after four days of hosting and baking for us, he was ready for some peace and quiet. And he said so. Which is good because I know Adinah and V. would have happily stayed out here until February, just to eat those Christmas cookies he made. Mmmmmh, Rum Kokos and Vanilla Kipfel….

As luck would have it, one of Anette’s friends owns a company which owns an ski apartment in the beautiful mountain town of Brand. When Anette mentioned we were hoping to find a hotel for a few days, the friend told us the ski apartment was free, and free. We scrambled, the friend wrangled us everything we needed—from comforters, plates and pasta to cook--and that’s why I’m posting today from a very cozy bunkbed in Brand. V. is napping next to me, Adinah is in a kiddy ski class (loving it), and way high above us, Anette is cheerily whistling R. Kelly’s “I Believe I can Fly” as she hurtles down the slopes.

So I'm wondering: what have I done to deserve this?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Real Wiener

I went to the doctor twice last week. The first time, she told me, "You're not sick, but you're not well." The second time, I told her, "I didn't get worse." She said, "But you didn't get better."

That's like my feelings about Vienna. I don't love it but I don't hate it. I love our apartment and our comforts--I don't love the pinched, pissed-off faces on the subway. I love the gothic beauty and the industrial ugliness of the city--I don't love the weather. I love the deep sadness of this place, but I hate the deep sadness of this place.

Like New Yorkers, the Viennese don't seem to know (or care) too much about the world beyond the city limits. Like Los Angelenos, the Wiener and Wienerin mistakenly believe they are living in a real city (as opposed to, respectively, a vast outdoor mall and a swollen, self-important village.) Like Austinites, the Viennese like to shoot the breeze, and that may occasionally involve talk about the meaning of life. That's not likely to happen in all of the villages of this world.

I guess I get like this whenever someone asks me why I'm living over here with a bunch of old Nazis, or when the possibility that we may leave Vienna arises. Both of these things happened to me this week. Meh. Whatever.

My colleague Maggie might say we are in homeostasis. A state of balance. Which probably means I should brace myself. Somebody's about to pull the rug out from underneath me.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

An Edition of One

In August, I wrote about beginning to put together a lifebook for Adinah. (In this post.) I used a large photo album, pictures, text, a few maps, some Ethiopian currency, an ID slip from a children's hospital and some Winnie the Pooh stickers, all to tell the story of who our daughter is and how she came to be with us. I tried to write it from her perspective, not mine (that is, I made no references to Black Sabbath or knarly skater babes.)

I finally finished it in October, and gave it to her. She really likes it.

Here's some photos. Now I've got to start making one for V.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pictures of Home

Back at work today, though I probably shouldn't be. My chest still makes that ooey-gooey sound when I cough or laugh. Actually, I'm leaving early so I can go to the doctor. Maybe she can give me something to make my boo-boo all better.

I got a nice piece of news this morning though: I may be going back to the US again in the spring! On someone else's dime! I'm excited!!

In these times of financial calamity and associated disasters, maybe this is the best way for me to go back home: as a tourist. A business-traveler, frequent flyer zombie. The truth is, the longer I live in Vienna, the more a trip to the US will begin to feel like a trip to Pluto. But nobody has mentioned this to my heart.

So I'm happy. Working in DC for a week would mean eating amazing Ethiopian food, picking up some good books, and swimming in English, the sweet, profane jarbled-up and slanged out language of my life. And that would be okay.

I do think of Vienna as home, in a way. But in another, less laugh-out-loud sort of way, I think of the US as home. And always will.

But where bexactly in the US is "home" for me? Austin, where I grew up, ate jalapenos as a rite of passage, and got my heart good and broke for the first time? NYC, where I got slick, ate rock CD's as a rite of professionalism, and got my heart broke in a less laugh-out-loud sort of way? Seattle, where I discovered the most ironic pinball arcade in the country? Los Angeles, where I "hung out" with punk and hip hop stars, and otherwise lived like an expense account king? South Dakota, where we buried my father? Or was home for me truly the back of an Econo-line van, wedged in between the drum kit and the guitars, where I lay, furiously scribbling too many adjectives into a notebook just like the one I'm writing in today?

Home is all of those places and none of those places. In other words, home is just an idea. Home is old times, good times, a lost world. I can't go back there.

I am sure I'd like to go shopping, stuff my face and even maybe see some old friends in the USA. That would be so

Friday, December 4, 2009


Ever get that feeling that your eyeballs had headaches? Your cough has this extra catchy melody, and your chest sounds like some industrial-strength, extra-glitchy techno? Then you notice that other, smaller people in the room are coughing the same way? That's how it is here today.

Adinah is sick, I'm sick, Anette has gone to Innsbruck to teach a class. V. is the only one who feels close to 100 %. Unfortunately, she's three, and not entirely capable of taking care of her sister and her father.


Don't know if we have Swine flu, the Piglet virus, or just Stinkfoot. I took Adinah to the doctor the other day, and she said it's a virus, but she couldn't tell which one. She was reassuring, but I wonder if maybe we should go back for a second visit. Neither one of us has a fever, no puking nor excessive pooping, just low intensity 'blah's. Yuck.

It's a good thing Adinah likes to watch tv and sleep. That's about all I want to do.