Tune in every Friday to T.I.L.T! your mind with René Wells, Texan-German expat roaming the globe at large, leaving no stones unturned in his attempt to make sense of it all. Remember, the only answer to the question, "Are you lost?" is always, "Yes, but I don't mind."
T.I.L.T. #150 — It’s Time To Be Novel
I have written twenty-five T.I.L.T.s this year since I relaunched in February. Not every week like planned, but life has a way of getting in the way of my creative genius! Or maybe it was too many Martinis? Hmmm. Who knows. Who cares! At least I am writing somewhat regularly. And on that note, I hereby announce that I am going to write another novel!
Ok, I know, the first novel I wrote last fall is still in its first draft awaiting a second draft, but why finish one project when you can start another? I mean, hey, everyone cooks new meals even though they have perfectly good leftovers in their fridge that should be eaten first, right? Humans like novelty. Hence time to write another novel!
Why now? Well, there’s a fun contest called National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO) where people all over the world try to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in 30 days in the month of November. The contest is against yourself and the clock using a social media platform website to connect with people and keep yourself motivated. It’s all driven by a non-profit organization which at its heart is about promoting writing and educational programs. You make a donation, get to write and play on their website, and if you succeed then you can order a cool winner’s t-shirt! Woohoo!
How do they know if you actually wrote 50,000 words? Well, when you are done, you upload your novel into their online word-counting program to verify your word count, but really, you could upload the phone book and they wouldn’t know the difference. It’s an honor-based system and if you are so desperate to lie about it so you can send money in to get a winner’s t-shirt to brag to your friends, then by all means, please do so because the money still goes to a good cause!
I did the contest last year and it was galvanizing to realize just how much I can actually write if I just put my butt in the seat and do it. So this year I want to do it again since I hope that maybe if I get enough leftovers in my fridge then eventually I’ll get around to finishing them!
Hmmm, I wonder if paper can start to mold? Good thing it’s all digital these days and hopefully has a shelf-life longer than a martini in my house!
So what will I write about? I have several ideas I’m mulling over. My wifey suggests that I write all about her and how fabulous and beautiful she is and how much I love her. Clearly this idea is well worth considering if I know what’s good for me. But what if that just ends up being another first draft that sits on a shelf for another year or two or longer? Do I want my wifey to be relegated to leftovers? Clearly that would be a worse fate, and besides, I want to write fiction not non-fiction! And since wifey is fabulous and beautiful and I love her so much, then that topic is simply not novel material.
I guess I could change the names but then she might think I was writing about some other woman and then all the martinis in the world couldn’t save me!
Hmmm, maybe I should write The Great Martini Massacre . . . Secret Texan agent, Rex Wonder, is undercover in Germany trying to figure out why nobody there knows how to make a good martini until he meets Romanian Secret Agent, Dynamite Wench, and tries to get under her covers!
Now that sounds like a bestseller to me! Hmmm, maybe I need to keep my brilliant fictive ideas to myself before someone steals my money-making genius! Or maybe I need a martini to come up with yet a better idea!
Hmmm, on that note, it’s five o’clock somewhere and I need to get going but don’t be surprised if I don’t do much T.I.L.T.ing in November. I will need to be cranking out circa 1,666 words a day to reach 50,000 words in 30 days with occasional breaks for martinis and playing secret agent with wifey!
T.I.L.T. #149 — Made In Germany? Watch Out!
Uh oh, seems things were too good to be true in the good old Bundesrepublik. The Fatherland has been riding high the last few years, with the strongest economy in Europe, the best football team in the world, the moral high ground of leading the way by denouncing intolerance and welcoming refugees above and beyond all other western countries, and all the while having one of the greenest environmental and energy policies in the world.
Wow! How on Earth do they do it?
Simple: great PR and marketing to hide the fact that behind the scenes they lie, cheat, and steal!
Yes, the deceitful, world-dominating Teutonic culture of everyone’s nightmares has risen from the ashes! Made in Germany über alles!
Yes, in its drive to become the world’s largest automaker, ’DAS AUTO’ company of good old reliable Volkswagen, has thrown Germany into its biggest identity crisis in a long time. Apparently it’s really hard to build clean-burning diesel engines, which really shouldn’t be so surprising if you’ve ever driven behind any diesel car spewing black smoke into the atmosphere and your lungs. No, instead of just admitting it just can’t be done, VW added software to make the cars act clean when they were tested and told the world they had superior technology! Genius! I guess maybe that’s not lying since software is technology, but that’s about as authentic as state-subsidized school lunches counting ketchup as a vegetable.
Worse yet for the German collective conscience is that VW didn’t just produce a lot of hot air telling tall tales of top technology, but spewed trillions more harmful particles and emissions into our already over-heated globe. So much for leading on the environmental front!
But if you look a bit deeper, it’s not just the VW scandal. The last couple of years there’s also been a gambling scandal about match-fixing in the top German football leagues. And the welcoming refugee PR campaign is starting to reveal policies that are emerging that let everyone come in, but then they will be screened, checked, analyzed, and only the best, most educated, who can fill the the gaps in an economy-threatening dwindling German workforce will get to stay. The rest will be, how should I put this, eliminated? You know, deported, sent back to whatever bleak existence that made them flee their Motherlands in the first place. Only the those with the right profile will get to stay in the Fatherland…
The only thing that seems to be authentic for now is a strong economy. Must be all those VWs they sold!
All this makes me wonder whether there is some truth to the long-held euro-skeptics view that Germany’s efforts to integrate and strengthen the European Union as a way to make up for all its past sins of trying to rule the world at all costs is, well, just another way to rule the world at all costs?
Honestly, I don’t think so. I don’t think Germany is doing anything worse than countless other countr...
T.I.L.T. #148 — Trump Is German and His Mom Is An Immigrant
Red alert! Red Alert! Donald Trump is not an American!
OK, so he was born in New York, but his mother is from Scotland and his grandparents are German! His family name was originally ‘Drumpf’ which for those of you who speak German sounds like a strange sock or a stupid smurf.
What’s more, most of his multiple wives have also not been born on American soil but rather in exotic eastern Europe famous for super models and dare I say socialism! His first wife’s name was Ivana, which to me sounds a lot like Osama, or even worse, Obama!
The horror, the horror!
And this man wants to be President of the USA riding a platform of anti-immigrants and bigots who seem to think that if you’re Muslim or Mexican you’re a terrorist or rapist?
Seriously, has anybody checked his birth certificate? Maybe he wasn’t born in New York at all but actually on a boat from backwards Europe!
He actually lied about his heritage claiming his family was originally from Sweden. Apparently something is wrong with Scotland or Germany or he just also has an affinity for super Swedish models. Who knows.
All I know is that I find it stunning that this man has somehow captured the collective imagination of people who preach that they are somehow more American than other Americans because they are not immigrants. Which makes zero sense because the only people in America who are not immigrants are the Native Americans already fenced in on their reservations!
Really, when did such a large part of America become so incredibly stupid? I left America in 2001 and I can only say that since 9/11 there has been a steady seismic shift in the way America seems to view the world through more and more myopic glasses. The whole ‘you’re either with us or against us’ hyperbolic flag-waving-get-rid-of-all-the-foreigners mentality is frighteningly reminiscent of good old Germany of the 1930’s.
Hey, wait a second, maybe Donald Drumpf would be the perfect President of the United States of Anti-Immigrants . . .
Just imagine, President Drumpf striding up the podium to give a speech at the United Nations in New York City. He stops and runs his fingers through his toupee (which he also lies about), and then puts on a big red-white-and-blue baseball cap emblazoned with the words ‘I RULE’. He grins wide his unnaturally white teeth and speaks . . .
“Whoa, look at all the brown people in here – quick, somebody call homeland security! Ha, ha, ha. I’m just kidding, I know you all can’t help it that you’re not lucky enough to be American. But don’t worry, as President of the USA I know that I am also President of the World and need to take care of all who are unfortunate not to be American. And today I am proud to announce that I have a plan for world peace that will integrate us all! I hereby announce the annexation of all the countries of the world into the United States of Drumpf! Yes, there will be no more countries, no more wars, just a giant global resort with free golf for all! The first step will be converting this United Nations building into my new headquarters called Drumpf Tower! Then we will create billions of jobs for all based on a simple scheme: the more sunscreen you need to not get a sunburn the higher up you will live in the tower since you will need more money for all that sunscreen. The less sunscreen you need the lower you can live in the tower or in the dungeon if you get my drift. Then we will have a Miss Drumpf beauty contest to make sure all the best women also get to ride to the top if you know what I mean, heh, heh! It will the greatest society in the history of the world — it will be bold, it will be big, it will be Drumpf!”
Hmmmm. Think I’m joking? The way things are going in the polls right now, it might not be as crazy as it sounds. Thankfully there is a whole more year of campaigning left before the electi
T.I.L.T. #147 — Action Without Action
Let the floodgates open. Fireworks just went off outside my home. Or were they all just in my mind? The wind is blowing now, rustling and shaking the large trees outside my window. The active sounds of the Earth come and go but is the Earth actively doing anything? Or is it just, well, is?
A booming voice flies across the sky, the announcer of a local football match at the sports fields across the street. I can’t hear the words, just the sounds of the announcement. But am I listening or do I just hear it?
I’m trying to practice the age-old art of detachment. I have been so overloaded by the external world recently due to the intense hyperactivity of the last months of moving, traveling, setting up house, and working too many days in a row at my day job trying to survive the onslaught of a new semester, a new batch of students, my sixth new boss in the last year, and all the fun that comes with trying to explain everything again and again and again. My internal world has in turn become very fractured and frazzled with all the competing input vying for my attention. In short, I need to tune out. I need to slow down again and find some time to not think.
This doesn’t mean I want to be inactive. On the contrary, I’m trying to put into practice what is at the heart of several Eastern philosophies and religions — the idea of stillness of the heart and mind in the midst of action, work, service. Productive in what you do, not in what you think. In short, turning off the chatter of the ego of the mind with all its emotions and opinions and worries and doubts and fears. Focusing on the now, the task at hand, the present, and not the unchangeable past and the unknown future. Zen, baby.
In a way, it’s like trying to be a tree. Outside the window of my new study I have a great view of lots of tall, large trees: oak, maple, beech, sycamore, and God knows what else that I can’t name. They are constantly changing, growing, striving to reach the sky. Their deep green leaves of summer are just now starting to shift, to tilt, to yellow, orange, red. The trees are very busy. But somehow they don’t seemed stressed about it. They just go about their business no matter the weather or what people may think of them. They don’t seem to have much ego as far as I can tell.
Same with the insects that seem quite attracted to the lights in our windows or the warmth of our home now that the weather is cooling. They come in, make webs, fly around, eat each other, try to eat us, all in the non-stop mission to survive. Are they stressed? Perhaps on a primitive level. But I don’t think they’re wasting any time worrying about what they need to do. They instinctively know when they need to do what and just do it. Animals would be great athletes if they were inclined to compete without human interference. They don’t need to spend hours visualizing or working with a coach or sports psychologist. They just run, fly, jump to the best of their ability without worrying about how good they may be or may not be at running, flying, or jumping. At least as far as I know. Ever seen a three-legged dog? He knows he’s missing something but he doesn’t waste time missing his leg, he just keeps on going.
The clearest way to observe the serenity of animals is watching them sleep. I’ve never seen a cat or a dog or any animal who looks like it has insomnia. When they need to sleep, they sleep. When they don’t, they don’t. That’s one skill I wish I could master. How many countless hours have I rolled around in bed thinking, ‘I ought to be sleeping’? What is the point of that? Either sleep or get up and do something, silly old man!
Yes, man is a silly creature. We’ve evolved to the height of consciousness that for the most part of our lives we’ve lost touch with the ability to live without needing to think about everything to death.
T.I.L.T. #146 — There’s No Place Like Home
Hello again, faithful T.I.L.T. fans, your intrepid author is back after a much-needed vacation and comfortably settling into his new home. The last weeks, months — year? — have been a whirlwind of activity of change, change, and more change.
On the home front, it’s been a fun and fabulous first year of marriage, filled with domestic bliss and challenges as my professional world ended up in us moving our home front. See, we just moved onto the campus of the university I work at after a year in which I had six new bosses. To say that I really had no idea what the next day would bring would be putting mildly. Not that anyone ever does, but for way too long there was so much uncertainty about everything professionally that the home front and where it should be came a lot into question.
I thought a lot about saying enough is enough and moving back to America. Something I think about more and more about in general since I have been an ex-pat now for over fifteen years. Will I ever live in the States again? The longer I live in Germany, in Europe, the more I miss the States. I miss the American language. I miss being able to buy anything I want twenty-four hours a day. I miss the food and silly things like Monday Night Football. And of course old friends and family.
Yet now I’ve been gone so long, that when I go back to the States on vacation, I feel like a stranger in a strange land staring in fascination and disdain. The super-sized portions. The commercialized everything. The apathy about gun violence and antipathy about the socialized healthcare. At the same time, I have never felt quite at home in Germany, like I’ve been on some odyssey vacation that never seems to end. Just when will Homer go home and where is that anyway? Will I ever truly feel at home anywhere again?
People say home is where the heart is, and that’s true to be sure on a personal relationship level. I am very at home with my lovely little wifey. But home nationality-wise is another thing. Wifey is in the same boat since she’s from Romania. Both of us are ex-pats. Both of miss similar things but then miss nothing at all since Germany is a beautiful, peaceful, and stimulating place to live and work. And our new home is spacious with all the amenities and even a great view of green trees and wide skies. But it too is new compared to our old apartment, so it’s still not quite like home yet. But I do think wifey put it best after our vacation when we came back to our new place after a slew of hotels and she said that home is where your bed is.
All of these thoughts were mixing and mulling and musing in my brain the last weeks as we went through upheaval and disorientation, moving, vacationing, living on the go go go, the scenery ever-changing, wondering when we would land on our feet and feel at home again. And then we got a special guest late the other evening who, for lack of a better phrase, brought it all home for me. A lost homing pigeon landed on our balcony. At first I thought it was just a very tired and not shy local pigeon. But when I tried to shoo him away he just came closer, showing none of the normal reactions I’d expect from a wild animal. Then I noticed he had metal identification bands around his feet and was clearly domesticated. At that point, based on trusty advice from the internet, we gave him water and unprocessed grains and seeds and put him in a box for the night to let him rest and see if he would make his way on his own the next day. We cooed over him and nicknamed him Churchill.
But the next morning he was still there, seemingly quite at home, so I set about trying to figure out where his real home was that he seemed to have lost. Thankfully one of the numbers on his legs proved to be a phone number and he was from a city on the other side of the river about twenty kilometers away. This may seem like a long way
T.I.L.T. #145 — Don’t Forget To Pack Your Brain
Greetings from America, faithful readers and listeners. Sorry for the absence the last couple of weeks. I have a lot of excuses like the fact that I moved house and then went on holiday. But the real truth is that somewhere along the way, I lost my brain.
Now how can you lose a brain, I hear you ask?
Well, when moving or going on holiday, you have to pack and unpack countless boxes and bags and suitcases over and over again, and inevitably things get misplaced.
But isn’t your brain inside your head?
Well, most of the time I think it is, but it’s really hard to say since I’ve never actually seen it. But recently, I swear it seems to be missing, so I am hoping I find it in the next box I unpack.
But how can you think without your brain?
Who said I was thinking? I’d say the last few weeks have been more or less run on some sort of primal-auto-involuntary-pilot-system. My body has been going through all these motions from morning till night, hours and hours, day and days, and weeks and weeks on end, just moving things from point A to point B, that somewhere along the line the point of having a brain must have become pointless and I think I accidentally packed it in a box marked ‘fragile’.
Did you wrap it in bubble wrap? Or newspaper? Or pack it in Styrofoam popcorn?
No idea. I really don’t have a clue since I lost my brain.
That sounds kind of nice actually.
Nice? To lose my brain is nice? What kind of idiot are you?
You tell me.
I mean, you’re done moving now, right?
As far as I know.
And you’re on holiday now, yes?
And you’re in America, right?
So why in the world do you need your brain? Just relax and enjoy the scenery. No need to worry about email, phone calls, meetings, and endless to-do lists. Take a break!
True, but, well, I have to write this T.I.L.T. somehow.
Oh, please, you know your worst writing is when you over think things. The best is instinctual. Butt in seat and let the words just tumble out of that magical place of muse. Poets do not write with their brains.
You call this poetry?
The last T.I.L.T. you wrote was your anniversary poem.
People seemed to like that, so really, forget your brain, it’s overrated.
I suppose. I am really tired of thinking so much all the time.
You see, you do need a holiday.
I suppose. But at some point I really do need to find my brain. I may not need it for poetry, but it’s certainly useful for other things.
Oh please, that’s what they make calculators for.
Maybe, but I do need to keep track of things somehow.
Isn’t that what your smart phone is for?
I suppose. But I keep losing my smart phone.
Maybe it’s with your brain.
See? It’s a vicious circle. I need my brain to keep track of my phone and my phone to keep track of my brain. This is exhausting.
You’re telling me. My brain is just starting to hurt thinking about it.
What? How can your brain hurt if your lost it?
It has a mind of it’s own.
I am really confused now.
So am I.
I really do need a vacation.
Yes, so why don’t you stop worrying about where your brain might be and just be happy to be on holiday already.
Right. Good idea.
Yes, there must be lots of things I can do which don’t require my brain.
Yes, like napping, or hiking, or talking to my wife.
Whoa! Watch out you don’t get in trouble there!
That last comment you made about talking to your wife.
What are you talking about?
Oh. Uh, I’m not sure, I, um, can’t seem to remember?
Hmmm, you know, losing my brain might not be so bad after all.
No, I don’t think at all. And, well, it’s kind of nice for a change.
Beautiful writer with a milk-chocolate delicious voice! Something to look forward to every week!