It’s not the Stanley Hotel…

…but as first impressions go, it could be.  Bachmair appears to be cobbling together a number of properties on the block under the name Bachmair am See (there is also the Bachmair-Weißach at the other end of town), so the room I was given was previously in the Park Hotel, accessible by underground passageway… and several long hallways … to the very end next to a vault-like door, unlocked and leading to unfinished attic space under the eaves.  I suspect the isolation was due to having requested to bring my small, well-behaved cat (pets, particularly dogs, are often welcome in European hotels), but it’s a long, silent walk, the old-style lock clunking and echoing down the hall.

But it was a lovely and spacious room, particularly for being a Pet Room, mountain- rather than lake-view.  The whole of the place is well-maintained, if dated.  I do not know if the unused spaces ~sitting rooms, bars, even a spare reception desk~ are left unneeded now that the Bachmair is no longer the hot-spot it was decades ago (as depicted in photos in glass cases lining the walls of the lonely passageway, along with displays of items ostensibly for sale… somewhere) or if they are put to service during high season, which now it is not.  Regardless, entering the Park Hotel’s front door and passing through the lobby, I half expected to see ghost clerks, bartenders, and porters in ancient livery.  I took to greeting them myself.



The amenities in the room include soap & shampoo, real washcloths (it may be that only Americans will appreciate this, but Euro hotels seldom have them), a dorm fridge, but no kettle or tea things.  I asked at the desk for an electric kettle to make tea in my room.  Very soon at my door was a waiter carrying a tray with a thermal carafe and tea service.  Room service.  I sent it back and tried again.  A functional kettle with a broken lid arrived.  Hating to be a further bother, I accepted it at that.  Fortunately, I did have my go-mug in which to prepare tea, but wouldn’t a cup and saucer have been a thoughtful gesture?

As it turns out, and to give the benefit of the doubt, my room was, in fact, closer to the spa/sportzentrum/“Beauty Farm” area than are those in the main building.  I had booked ahead several treatments.  However, there are even more convenient rooms on the other side of the fire wall in what appears to have been yet another separate hotel in the past.  There is a large indoor pool (also one outdoors for summer) with the main building, but aside from the Ladies’ Sauna (which is currently closed for maintenance), I found no other jacuzzi/steam/sauna facilities beyond those in the Sportzentrum, which are sufficient under current circumstances (~7 steam cabins for 2, half with one of several aromas on demand; 2 saunas; 1 4-person jacuzzi (+1 more outdoors, but dry), and a small bathing pool) but certainly not for anything approaching the capacity of the hotel.

I enjoyed my “royalty in exile” fantasy, sitting in the lounge -alone- overlooking the lake through a long wall of glass, padding down to the spa in my robe & slippers without passing a soul in the halls, even at breakfast ~which is exemplary, more later~ I could have had a dining room or two to myself.  I graciously shared the sunroom and its pleasant garden view with the few other guests in appearance.

Yes, breakfast!  As full a German Früstück as you could ask for:  fruit both whole & cut, Weißwurst & mustard, salmon & horseradish, breads & (surprisingly good) pastries & Bretzeln, jams & honeys, cheeses & sliced meats (I’m vegetarian, but it looks like a full spread), yogurt & quark, cereals, bacon & eggs, fruit & vegetable juices (sauerkraut & beet, I’m telling you!), plus tea and/or coffee.  Outstanding.

As to staff, they’re a bit of a mixed bag, ranging from pleasant & helpful to uninformed & useless.  The in-room wifi began as objectionable, only accessible with the strength of a laptop (smart phone couldn’t see the network at all except directly below the router down the hall hanging from cables in the wall), requiring re-log-in every time the device had been closed.  When the log-in stopped appearing altogether and service was completely lost, I asked at the desk (the one with live people) and was told, “It’s not working.  Maybe you can have it here in the lobby.”  While poaching the one remaining open account from said router in the hall, I happened to catch a younger staff member.  “There is a new system.  You will need a new password from the desk.”  Oh really.  If they couldn’t inform the guests, the least they might have done was explain it to all their clerks.  The next one I asked knew exactly what to do and offered me to see the manager about her colleague.  I declined; I had my interwebs back.  And the new system is… better, but still terribly weak.


Housekeeping ~whom I’d kept out with the door hanger for most of the week for fear of my cat escaping and having no need of their service~ is, evidently, amazing.  After lunch, I took the cat for a walk in her pram, leaving the “Please Don’t” hanger in the room but not putting out the “Please do” hanger instead.  There was no sign of a housekeeping cart left in the hall, being so late in their day.  We were out for 45 minutes.  The room had been serviced.

So, overall, I cannot ascertain what their business model may be.  It is a huge, rambling hotel of a certain age with scads of dining space for the sole purpose of breakfast.  There is a separate in-house restaurant whose menu was both expensive and unappealing, so I have no opinion there.  The minimal spa facilities (even the Infrarotkabin salesman hasn’t succeeded there) and the lack of such things as a kettle & tea/coffee supplies in the rooms seems to imply guests are expected to be away and enjoying the beautiful out of doors.  With all of this in mind, I wouldn’t be opposed to another stay …  again out of season; I dislike waiting for the jacuzzi, but a near-private hotel is a treat.


How Was Your Day?

This is extraordinarily outside of my comfort zone, as the SFO designated smoking area is actually Las Vegas sort of outside.  The mysterious ways of the interwebs and social media are leading me to suspect it might be important, perhaps for you, gentle reader, perhaps for me.

First there was the article about what to ask your child after school to elicit a response beyond “Fine” and/or “Nothing.”  It was a list of questions, each answer requiring more reflection than would “How was your day?”  They also tended to show a more genuine interest and understanding of said child.  I helpfully shared this with several friends who have committed parenthood.  Parents should employ the full toolbox (they issue one with every baby born, right?) to stay inside those little noggins, for whose upbringing and person-formation parents are responsible.  But that’s not my circus and certainly not my monkeys (I know, I know, that expression is already over but I get a mulligan because I haven’t written in six months).

But the very next article that crossed my stream, albeit most likely because I had looked at the one about talking with your children, was about talking with other people.  Grown-ups.  In my life.

Communication.  Feelings.  Communicating about feelings.  Ack.  When I had a therapist, several lifetimes ago, she handed me a list.  She believed I was so estranged from my own feelings that even my carefully honed linguistic skills were not enough to identify them without Cliff’s Notes.  She may have been right.

This second article left me squirming, eyes darting away from the text, uncomfortable just imagining conversations like this.  Granted, the author says it has taken them time, she and her partner, to get to these questions.  It’s worth reading her post, which begins with the parenting ~it’s a blog called Momastery, after all~ but eventually gets into partnerships, friendships.

When did you feel loved today?

When did you feel lonely?

What did I do today that made you feel appreciated?

What did I say that made you feel unnoticed?

What can I do to help you right now?

Vulnerable stuff, makes you want to stand on the familiar ground of How was your day? Fine.  But I was intrigued… in a peeking-through-your-fingers at the scary parts yet I-don’t-want-to-miss-anything-important sort of desire to see how it turns out.  Since I lost the link, I googled “How was your day?”  It was right there.  And several more in the same vein with slightly easier questions such as

Did you have any victories today?

Are you struggling with anything? or anyone?

Did you have any nice connections with your colleagues?

What was frustrating? (Interestingly, it goes without asking that something was)

Are you with me?  It’s a little scary over here.  But we can stay safe behind the armor we wear, tick off the daily box for having asked, without offering or inviting anything more.  Satisfied with good enough.  Or we can let ourselves be vulnerable, lean into the discomfort of knowing and being known, in the belief that it will make our relationships stronger and that will allow us to be stronger individuals because we are no longer alone.

Romans 12:21

One can hardly look at Facebook, let alone read world news, without being swamped with sadness, horror, and hopelessness.  Videos of cats being ridiculous can ameliorate only so much.

Perhaps this is why it’s been ages since I’ve written here.  It all seems so pointless.  I could rail about a wide variety of crimes and misdemeanors,  people who make my blood boil, actions that break my heart, situations that crush my spirit.  But someone else has probably already done so on any given issue.  Why bother?

Why bother, indeed.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  I can allow myself to be overcome, to be awash in despair, to give up, because it’s all too big, too much.  Or I can seek to do good, as much as I am able, in whatever ways I can.

[days pass…]

That was before Cecil the Lion, Zimbabwe’s most beloved big cat, was lured from the safety of his home, tortured, killed, skinned, and beheaded by a man with more money than honor in a spoon-fed, illegal, hunt.  I am heart-sick for Cecil.  But he is only the latest, most famous, lion to be murdered.  The news says 74% of the males tracked in an Oxford study have been.  And these are just the lions.  All the other majestic animals are being slaughtered, too.  The last rhinos of their species are being hidden away even as their lives are auctioned off to psychopaths with so little self-worth that they believe snuffing out an already endangered life will somehow ennoble their own.

And they are allowed to do so.  Why isn’t the desire to end a life just for the thrill of it universally appalling, vilified, illegal?  It’s sick.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

How can one sad little bleeding-heart living an isolated existence overcome anything?  Some days I just don’t: some days I am overcome by the evil.

But some days I put my money where my sorrow is.  Born in the United States to a middle class family, by world standards, I am rich.  It’s not so difficult to weigh my spending, to consider my wants vs. my needs vs. real needs in the wider world.  I am hesitant to recommend to you, dear reader, any particular organizations abroad because it requires investigation into each of them to find where good work truly is being done in the areas which matter most to you.  The Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University is the group who were studying Cecil.  It appears they are doing a wide array of research, education, and protection of wildlife and endangered species in particular.  Oxford is probably legit and you can make donations here.  I believe Wildlife S.O.S, working in India, is accomplishing great things, as well.  But there are groups around the world making a difference, protecting habitats, legislating for species, caring for populations and individuals, taking up arms in the field.  Find one for yourself.  Get involved with them.  Share their mission with people you know.

Overcome evil with good.

It is too late for many species.  We have the dubious distinction of living at the dawn of the Anthropocene, ushering in the Sixth Extinction which may very well include homo sapiens, but I doubt that.  It is more likely our fate to observe what we have wrought on the world through our industry.  And enjoy a more impoverished existence for it.

But I’m not ready to throw in the towel.  If I admire Ralph Waldo Emerson for nothing else, I love him for giving hope where hope flows away, seeps out, and desiccates in the relentless dry air of failure:

To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, that is to have succeeded.   

None of us needs to save a species on our own.  For every lion, elephant, rhinoceros, leopard that isn’t poached because that gun was stilled by whatever means, that is success.  Surely Cecil and his offspring would like to have lived long lives, even if the total number of lions on the planet is rapidly declining.  Every one of us can make all the difference for one of them.

So, how do we keep our spirits up in the face of current events even as we are trying to do our good in the world?  The same reference that encourages us not to be overcome by evil, recommends this:

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable ~ if anything is excellent or praiseworthy ~ think about such things.  (Philippians 4:8 NIV)

When dark, ugly, evil thoughts start taking hold in our brains, we can choose to replace those thoughts with something better, something good.  If that passage is a little much to take in all at once, pick one.  Seek out one lovely thing or one admirable person to fill your mind until whatever was bringing you down has been overcome.

If you know me, this may sound hypocritical.  It has been said I am an angry person.  I do complain out loud.  I sit at my laptop and cry.  But who needs this guidance more than the one who collapses under the onslaught of evil?  I do my best and it gets better.  That’s all I can offer you.  A very wise man once said,

There is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.

Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes

It’s a discouraging thing to realize our heroes and superstars are just. . . human.  They grow and move on and change.  My first lesson in this was when I was a pre-teen.  I’d pillaged my older brother’s record collection and found the Monkees.  Being the very demographic for whom they were created, I was hooked.  Gentle reader, if you are unfamiliar with the Monkees, they were put together by some management team to slip-stream in on the popularity of the Beatles ~ 4 guys: 1 cute, 1 talented, 1 “character,” 1 other.  It took a while for them to learn any musicianship so they could stop lip/instrument synching, but they were marketed with their own television show!  It’s a shame those were the only albums I inadvertently saved before the Great Rehab Rock-&Roll Purge, but that is another story.  I loved the Monkees, particularly Davy Jones, the cute one.  I found the show on TV.  (Looking back, it was obviously in syndication by then.)  The album jackets provided information for the Monkees Fan Club.  Joy!  I wrote to them, as fans do.  The letter came back, “Return to Sender.”  My mother gently explained to me how old those albums were, that the Monkees were probably no longer together as a band.  I was crushed.  It was as though something real and living had suddenly been pressed under glass, stopped in time, no longer the interactive force I had believed in the day before.  Over the years, one member and another would pass through the news, but the Monkees had, indeed, ceased to exist.

the Monkees

This may have been less disappointing than what another David Jones has done to me.  In the late ’60s, in order to differentiate himself from Davy Jones of the Monkees, David Robert Jones became David Bowie.  In the early ‘70s, he was on the bleeding edge, glitter glamorous, punk presaging, gender bending, rock & rolling.  Through theatrical personae, he let his angels and demons loose on the stage.  His music was eclectic, his lyrics compelling, and the whole show was an instigation.

He lived through the ‘70s and way too much cocaine, but kept working.  He was evolving, too.  David Bowie of the ‘80s was cleaned up and respectable, but the music still made me want to move.  When he attempted to be “just another member” of a band with Tin Machine, and failed at it miserably, the music lost my interest.  He continued to produce through the ‘90s, but I retreated to the old Bowie that I loved.  When Heathen was released in 2002, I gave it a listen.  Meh.  Then he didn’t release another for a decade.

Recent public appearances have shown that Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke have given way to . . . my dad.  Not my particular father, but he’s looking like everybody’s dad.  He’s looking his age.  It’s the human thing to do.  I can’t blame him.  But the music . . . the tracts I’ve heard have been so lifeless.  That’s what is killing me.  David Bowie is still making music but I don’t want to listen to it.  He’s always been a chameleon, always changing, and if this late-60-something year-old man wants to make rocking chair music, that’s his bag.


But to be fair, I hadn’t listened to all the songs on his later albums.  It was just too depressing.  So, just now, I’ve sampled some more.  There may be hope.  That voice which has always moved me is still there.  I can picture the smile Ziggy wore, crooked teeth and all, when he was having so much fun and on fire about his art.  Nature’s first green is gold . . . these golden years … I’ll stick with you, baby, for a thousand years.

A Major Minor Miracle

Aperitvi, Happy Hour, is a strong social custom in Italy.  The man and I enjoy reconnecting at the end of the day over a glass and some nibbles, but since I don’t like beer or wine and anything stronger gives me a migraine, I drink kefir.  Because I am opposed to the dairy industry, I make water kefir at home.  A fortunate choice you will later realize.

The basic process begins with a starter called a SCOBY (symbiotic community of bacteria & yeast) that eats sugar and provides probiotics and carbonation to the beverage.  The SCOBY lives in a covered pitcher and every few days I pour off its water, now water kefir, and bottle it with some fruit juice for secondary fermentation.  Then SCOBY gets new sugar water and some minerals.  While the bottled kefir continues to ferment, the resealable flip top bottle contains the carbon dioxide the SCOBY exhales (or some biological process like that), thus naturally carbonating the beverage.

My current SCOBY has had a very busy year.  He’s taken several naps in the fridge while we went away for a week or two or three.  When we went Home for seven weeks, he had to be dehydrated and wait in suspended animation for my return.  Which he did like a champ.  We’re back on schedule and the kefir is good.  Except it’s been kind of flat.  I’ve watched the tiny bubbles rising in the bottles, but nothing more than a gentle pop when I opened them.  The fact that I could see the bubbles is probably a clue.  That gas is supposed to remain in suspension until the pressure is released.  A soda bottle doesn’t sit there quietly making bubbles with its cap on.  So I suspected the seals on these particular bottles weren’t doing the job.  Italian houses are full of bottles; for wine, for limoncello, for olive oil, for vinegar, for grappa, because so many people do their own of all of these.  Maybe they were for wine to let the gas out.  There is a fizzy red wine, probably discovered when someone put their grape juice in the wrong bottle.  So I went digging around the kitchen to find some bottles with better seals.

Normally, I have an open bottle in the fridge and a couple waiting on the counter.  But the counter was looking crowded.  I had the brilliant idea to put them on top of a cabinet in Kiwi’s apartment instead (it’s also our apartment’s half bath, but don’t tell her).  High storage is generally the man’s domain.  I’m satisfied with the low cabinets, under-the-bed, and the bottom drawers.  So I never even think of the useful space which I can’t reach without a step-stool.  But the man doesn’t go in Kiwi’s apartment, so Bob’s my uncle.  I put two bottles on high, even somewhat decoratively with a candle between them, on Sunday.

Tuesday morning, I awoke to the sound of shattering glass.  I thought that bloody French door in the kitchen had finally gone.  It’s made of the thinnest glass and installed only loosely such that the glass rattles brittlely (it’s a word, I tell you, I looked it up, rhymes with Italy) in the frame which shakes lamely on its hinges whenever the Navy is testing explosive in the bay.  I hate that door… mostly because I am pathologically unnerved by broken glass and it just sits there threatening me, waiting . . .  But it wasn’t the kitchen door.  The man was just stepping in from the other porch ~yes, we eat breakfast on the balcony, overlooking the Mediterranean, sipping fine Italian coffee; but I digress~  in time to see shards sparkling down through the spray and splatter of a liter of sugar water.  All over Kiwi’s apartment.

He came to tell me what it was, and that it wasn’t him.  I went to look;  it was a disaster, a sharp, splintery, runny, sticky, personally-horrifying disaster.  Knowing how broken glass affects me, I assiduously avoid breaking it.  I had never confronted such a mess, didn’t even know where to begin.  It actually crossed my mind to just close the door and never use that room again.  I’m usually more practical than that, so my better nature won out, and I began to mop my way in.  Within ten minutes, I was bleeding.  The sight of blood spreading out in a pool of water is also no way to start the day, especially when the blood is mine.  I picked up the “big” pieces, but aside from the bottle neck, there weren’t any bigger than the palm of my hand.  The man says the thing exploded like a shrapnel grenade.  I had definitely chosen the wrong bottle.  It was square, not as strong as round to begin with, and probably intended for olive oil.  Failure mode duly noted.  From now on, I will bottle in proper beer bottles from the back stock of LBC, Little Black Cat / Lewis Brewing Consortium / Lerici Beer Company.

It’s been ages since I’ve had a physical-labor all-day sort of job.  But it had to be done.  The sticky was drying and getting worse.  Every surface, every item, every thing had to be wiped down.  So I kept going.  It took all day until it was time to leave for an appointment and dinner.  And still it isn’t finished. The washing machine knob is suspiciously stiff now.  The sliding door of the medicine chest really just doesn’t.  When I leaned my weary back against the wall, it stuck.  No, it’s not finished yet.

But this is when I began to appreciate all the ways it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  There was nothing else that day I needed to be doing.  Dinner out was already planned.  No one was in the room when it blew.  It didn’t happen when no one was home at all and Kiwi would have tried to navigate the disaster to reach her sandbox (which was mercifully protected under the counter) … or eat from her dish, which was not.  That is a thought I wish never to be having.

Then, later, standing in the kitchen, I looked at where the bottles had always sat.  It would have been exponentially worse:  open shelving chock full of containers and things and stuff, wooden shelving, in fact, and inconveniently absorbent, too; a much larger room to clean with so many more nooks and crannies, just waiting to draw bugs in the spring; another bottle would have been against it, a glass jar of kibble next to that ~ more casualties, more sneaky shards of glass everywhere.

The bottle that failed so catastrophically was the first one I’d ever thought to put anywhere else.  And up high, where I don’t keep things?  Hardly a thought I would have had for myself.  I know God takes care of me.  I am grateful for His love, even when I need to change my perspective to see it.  This is probably a lesson for the future as well.  Look for His hand, even when disaster strikes.  It may be shielding me from so much worse.

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