Germans have a million words for Goodbye

As a writer, I was convinced I thought a lot about words. But when you live with a linguist, words take on a whole new dimension. Every root and meaning is accounted for. It’s exhausting exhilarating. Anyway, this is all to say, I now know that Germans have a lot of words for saying goodbye. Just leaving a store, you say goodbye nine different ways (ciao! tschuss! auf wiedersehen!). There are different goodbyes for different times of the day, etc. Anyway, today’s post is heavy on photos and light on words because all my words have been packed away we are leaving tomorrow morning and I can’t think straight wanted to share a few farewell-to-Munich images. Also, I don’t really know how to say ciao! tschuss! auf wiedersehen!  goodbye to this experienceThis time tomorrow we’ll be watching episode after episode of Parenthood and sobbing flying over the Atlantic. Here are a few shots I haven’t shared.


A wall partly destroyed during the war — and many, many bikes. (Bicyclists are deadly here have the right of way. In related news, barely anyone in Munich is overweight.)

Shut the fuck up Scholarship (this image is in the hallway of the Thesaurus linguae Latinae).

Our darling London hostess, practicing yoga in her backyard.

The conservative Shul in Munich. For obvious reasons, the actual prayer room is underground. We went to services once, and although David and I had to sit separately (the women were sort of half hidden), the Rabbi’s young daughters were dancing around the Bimah. This was confusing.

The Munich Opera House. After I took this, I was almost arrested my phone was almost confiscated. We saw an awful mediocre Jerome Robbins piece and a Jiri Kylian piece that blew my mind.

We got engaged. Then we ate pizza.

David got me on a bike for the first time in 5 years. I love it so much I might leave him for it never drive a car again. (Mom, don’t worry, I was riding on the sidewalk.)

We finally convinced someone else to hang out with us take our picture.

Okay, back to cleaning. More substance to come. I swear.


Watering the Beast

This has been my view for the last four + months:

I brought very few books here to Munich because I’m a very slow reader you can only pack so many books in a bag that you then force very politely ask your husband-to-be to carry. David is actually a bit of a book fiend, so he doesn’t mind — he has a storage space back in California devoted entirely to Greek books. (There are apparently something like 4,000 books in it. Wish us luck when we finally have our own permanent home and all those suckers come with us. I might have to consult Anne Fadiman on that one.)

Anyway. I digress.

Since February, I’ve been looking at these eight (or nine if your count the mini Shambhala book). But really I’ve been looking at these three: Claire Dederer’s Poser; Emma Forrest’s Your Voice in My Head; and more recently, Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. I’ve carried them to and from the Thesaurus linguae Latinae and left them open on my desk. I’ve pored over them, underlined and dog-eared pages, read and re-read and re-re-read, asking myself (head in hands, sometimes in awe, sometimes in frustration): How did she do that? Why is it that after sixteen reads I still cry at this one spot? Why is this still so funny? How does she get so swiftly to this moment of recognition? How did these writers not give up on themselves?

You know the drill. These books are beautiful and brilliant guides for writing a book. I am in awe of these women. I want to bow down and thank them for having, above all else, finished these amazing works so that I could carry them into my life and be changed and inspired by them.

The last few days I’ve spent too much time watching Parenthood (on a related note: HOW GOOD IS IT?!) had a bit of an ache in my heart. We leave Munich in a week, and so much has changed since we arrived in the dead of winter. For one, I still can’t speak German I’m leaving with a hubby-to-be. We have a wedding weddings (don’t ask) to plan. We know where we’ll be living next year (more on this another time, but let’s just say it doesn’t involve speaking English). We’ve made a few wonderful friends here and I’ll miss our quiet life — one without beeping cell phones or the regular consumption of vegetables an overpacked New York schedule. I’ll miss this private time in which we became true partners.

And yet, I don’t think this ache has anything to do with that. It has to do with (almost) coming to the (first) end of my 250-page beast of a thesis — a project I’ve been carrying around in my head and my heart and — really — my body for years. It is only a draft and will need to be thrown out rewritten in a million ways before I can call it a book without laughing (I call it a “book”), but I will now be able to graduate something preliminary and real is on the page. So many far more qualified people have written about this experience, so I won’t embarrass myself further go on about it, but suffice it to say, it is satisfying and horrifying all at once. It will probably never be all I want it to be, and yet, it is something small and precious and workable and alive. I’ll continue to water it and keep you posted.


Life From Here…

…looks something like this:

And like this:

And, finally, like this:

Apparently the only way I can write a damn thing is by tearing myself away from wedding blogs (kill me) surrounding myself with something I have absolutely zero interest in Latin. I’ve been like Dolly Parton a 9-5 girl these days, going to the TLL — the Thesaurus linguae Latinae — where my hubby-to-be writes entries for a Latin dictionary. (No, not a joke. An astonishing project I wrote about here.) Those little filing cabinets are stuffed with tiny slips of paper, each documenting where and when a specific Latin word has been referenced in the past, like, gazillion years.  (I sit near M, so look at “murmur” and “murmurous” all day.) He’s finishing up the word “refuge.” Before that he worked on “recognize” for — I kid you not — six months. Talk about craziness patience.

Working in a library with no internet, where it has taken a rotating crew of scholars — again, I kid you not — 112 years to get from the letter A to the letter R, I have a whole new perspective on the word slow perseverance. Totally and completely refreshing.


Happy Sunday in Munich

Yes, we went biking! (I haven’t been on a bike since 2005, when I dropped out of graduate school because of my back injury. Progress, people!)

More when I finish my thesis/finish planning a wedding/finish moving very soon. I hope promise.

Much love,

Abs xx

April, Recapped

Oh, David April. You almost gave me a coronary were life-changing.

We began the month innocently enough, with a weekend jaunt to the Alps.

Garmische-Partenkirchen, otherwise known as, a movie set.

It snowed for 12 hours and this was the result in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (otherwise known as a Hollywood set). Might as well have been January. Anyway, we walked around for about 23 minutes two hours, ate an incredibly weird meal while staring at a painting of a man cuddling a goat, and got back on the train. After devouring Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, I read Torch the whole way (loved both, pick them up now). (Or better yet, if you live in New York, get them here.) David read some crazy German thing about words.

The next weekend, we visited dear friends in Berlin, where I drank way too much finally got to speak English to someone other than David! Berlin is like Williamsburg on steroids. The hipster factor made me gag realize I need some new (old) clothes; that said clothing needs to be brown, grey or beige; and that I need to wash my hair less frequently.

Beer on the street. Pretty much sums up Berlin.

(Apparently I was too inebriated most of the time to take any more pictures.)

Then my adorable, darling parents came for a visit. They spent their early thirties in London and Paris, so they came over to recapture their youth. They were here for six days and already know more about Munich than I do. (I wish that could be crossed out, but it’s true.) Here they are eating and enjoying beers at an old Commie hangout called the Alter Simpl. Given that my mother is a Red Diaper Baby, she felt right at home. My dad just loved the schnitzel and Schwarzbier.

Mom chatting, Dad (sort of) listening, as per usual.

I also found out that I’m going to be on the Contributors Page of O: The Oprah Magazine! More on this later, but my parents and David took turns acting as photographer. (I’m pretty sure David’s pics won out.) I hated every single picture about 95% of them, and the ones I did like — like the one below — were unusable because I was, as usual, blabbering and moving my arms around while the shot was being taken. On a related note, apparently I have a stripes problem.

I think I overdid it on the stripes.

And then the man proposed. Or rather, we proposed to each other (I did go to Oberlin after all). I mean, I sobbed. We had about 32 seconds to enjoy it before we left for Vienna. (FYI: In reading this over, even I’m starting to loathe myself — Berlin! Vienna! marriage! — so please know that April was a sort of unusual month. Usually we are really boring at home watching Smash and talking about how it went from so good to so bad so quickly. Can someone please explain that random Bollywood number?)

Anyway, so Vienna, gorgeous Vienna, like Paris only in German, once the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now just a very sweet, very civilized place to live. Also, it placed first (in a tie with Vancouver) for most livable city in the world.

So now it’s May 1 — the workers holiday here in Germany — and we are exhausted and I have about $4 $44 in my bank account. David just spent the morning napping and I’m nursing a sore throat with cardamom tea. But we are so happy to be home. (Case in point on the boring factor: David is working on an article for some academic publication. He just turned to me and said, “How do you say ‘The big hairy dog saw her’ in French?” This is verbatim, people.)

And lastly: I’m not huge on cyber announcements, but I was blown away by the love we received after “announcing” our engagement on Facebook. When you write things like this, you’re never quite sure who is reading what and how they feel about any of it, so it was sort of overwhelming to hear back from so many, even in the form of a thumbs up. The world is both very big and very small, and for a girl living out across the ocean from so many people she adores and relies on, people who have been her community for decades now, the internet is sort of a miraculous thing.

Much love,

Abs xoxo

Europe in Pictures

I know, I know, I never came back with Part 2 of our Aplomb lesson, which I’m sure you forgot all about have been dying to hear! I’m going to make you wait a weeeeee bit longer, because before we get back to the serious matter of your precious spine — believe me, that thing needs Aplomb love — I wanted to share some things from precious Europe.

In the last 6 weeks we’ve been to Oxford, London and Paris, which I know makes you hate us actually makes me feel like my parents. After leaving the center of the earth Manhattan and settling in the coldest place they could find Montreal, they spent a few years in London and Paris in the early 1970s. My dad worked in a French neurology lab and my mother learned to yell at the butcher cook à la Julia Child. They also made some lifelong friends.

So in London, as I mentioned before, we stayed with hippies some of these oldest and dearest friends. This wonderful couple — who have lived all over the world, from Katmandu to Swaziland to Woodstock — have known my parents for over 40 years, since before any of them had children. This is their gorgeous Hampstead street. We contemplated becoming squatters.

They live right next to Hampstead Heath, which is a sort of like Central Park, but way more British, which I think means it looks like something out of Bridget Jones’ Diary a Virginia Woolf novel. The rolling fields inspired David to jump, and it turns out he should quit linguistics and become a dancer audition for a Broadway show. This is him doing his best Gene Kelly.

I fell in love with Oxford. There are more scholars bikes than cars.

They also apparently live in 1974.

Next time you go to Paris, you MUST GO TO THIS RESTAURANT. Here’s the thing: it’s not very French, but when you’ve been in Paris a while you might want to eat something that won’t cause you to have a heart attack at 34 other than baguette. It’s more along the lines of Santropol (for Montrealers), Black River Cafe (for Oberlin folk), Doma/Community (for New Yorkers). The food is good and simple: eggs, salads, smoked salmon. We had the most delicious hot apple cider, which appeared to have been whipped with ginger and honey. Anyway. It wasn’t really about the food. The atmosphere was just so un-French friendly and relaxed. You’ll find it tucked around a corner somewhere near  a Quai of some kind of another Hôtel de Ville.

Here is hungry, thus quiet, David waiting for his eggs.

Here I am modeling the thing I currently love most on earth my new rabbit necklace, while posing with some art.

When we returned to the place where it sounds like people are making up words Munich, we decided we immediately needed a vacation. So we played hooky one afternoon at our favorite hangout, Gartensalon, which is also sort of like the above-mentioned restos. I swear, the women who run this place all live on a commune went to Oberlin (or some German version of it). They are always beyond nice and make the most delicious hot drinks: spiced blackberry and raspberry juice with honey (or something — I just made that up since I don’t actually have a clue what’s in anything most of the time. See: the place where it sounds like people are making up words).

This is how they do their coffee. I mean, a clothespin. What’s not to love?

And of course, we returned to the pool. Here’s the one I wrote about for The Millions, in all its glory. Beware the German ladies who decide that jogging backwards in the water, perpendicular to an onslaught of swimmers, is the best way to cause me to lose my mind burn fat.

What are your favorite London/Paris/Munich spots? I could always use a good tip.


Have You Been to London?

My next question is: Did it make you fat? I swear to God, these Harrods All Butter Crunch Biscuits — pictured at right, yes one of them is half eaten — are going to be the death of me. David tried to convince me that they were semi-healthy because they contain oats. (Oats are listed after flour, salted butter and brown sugar.)

He and I bought said death-sentence treats on a wonderful week-long trip to Oxford and London, where we stayed with dear family friends in Hampstead. We barely left the gorgeous five-story townhouse went to the National Portrait Gallery where we looked for the nap room were convinced that every single portrait was of Freud. We also drank a lot of Guinness tea and ate an absurd number of scones with clotted cream and jam. I almost got run over every single day once before getting used to looking RIGHT when crossing the street.

The highlight of the trip was a long morning talk I had with our 70-year-old hostess. She lived most of her adult life in Nepal and India and practices yoga and meditation for four hours a day. She reminded me that for neurotics like us — East Coast Jews — meditation practice helps us “get out of our own way.” We practiced the complete yoga breath together (or what others call three-part breath): inhale into your low belly, mid-belly, upper chest; then exhale from the bottom up. After a brief session, we both landed a little more firmly on the earth. (She employs it during family vacations. Take note.) So I’m hereby re-committing to a sitting and brief pranayama (or breathing) practice once a day.

After that, I’ll have a cookie. One needs incentive after all.

In other news, if you haven’t yet read my piece about Munich — in which you’ll learn all you ever wanted to know about German pools! — you can do so HERE. I’ll love you forever. If you repost it, I’ll love you into my next life. xox

On German Pools, Linguists, & the Meaning of Language

I am very happy to share the news that I have a piece up on The Millions today! It’s my first pseudo-love letter to Munich, and also to David (or, the first one I am sharing with all of you). Here we are (not) drying our hair and looking uncharacteristically serious after a lunchtime trip to the Nordbad, our favorite German pool, which you’ll read all about in the essay by clicking HERE.

On a side note, the book that’s leaning against the mirror — French: A Linguistic Introduction — was, no joke, David’s tram reading. This will make more sense after you read the essay and find out a tad more about him. My tram reading usually looks more like this.

Let me know what you think! xo

Oh, and PS: I’ve finally joined Twitter, so help me God, so you can follow me here!

Week II: Five Things I Liebe About Munich.

Or: Fünf Münchner Dinge, die mir gefallen (“Five Munich things that I like”).


We’ve been here a little over two weeks now, so I’ve finally accumulated enough information to make a comprehensive very rudimentary list of things I adore about living in Bavarian Country.

1. At heart, I’m really neurotic a simple girl, so I like a life of ease. I’ll start with the basics: Our building has a trash chute. A trash chute! I mean, what is this, 1980s Manhattan? We also have an elevator, which, if you know anything about me and my body, you know is the greatest gift a girl could get (other than a washer/dryer, but we’re starting small). No more trudging outside in my pajamas and Crocs with a bag o’ trash. Woohoo!

2. You have to pay for plastic bags in the grocery store! This, of course, means that people bring their own bags. These folks also actually recycle. They insert their plastic bottles into a machine that then spits out coupons to be used at that grocery store in return. More on the preservation side: Have you ever taken a shower in Germany? Let’s just say that the water is off for most of the, uh, experience — unless, that is, you want to douse the whole bathroom and everything in it, which, believe me, I’ve done — but it certainly saves water.

3. The beer yogurt: Rosebud, Mango, Violet. Yum.

4. The pool. Germans take their pools as seriously as New Yorkers take their figures gyms and yoga studios — they’re open all day, everyday. Ours even has a tram stop named after it: Nordbad. The dressing room is co-ed. One day I’ll explain how this works, but suffice it to say, I’ve seen things.

5. Being on the same continent as my man. Had to be said.

Okay, clearly I need to get out more.