Fête Nationale Berlin 2012

As expat time spent outside of my home country increases, I find that the American Independence Day July 4th, increasingly hard to celebrate. 
Not due to loss of my sense of pride to be an American or any such thing… simply because there are so few chances to celebrate here in Berlin.
July 4th in Berlin is often put together by some of the local expat organisations, usually in a park somewhere, and annoyingly enough, during normal business hours. Am I the only American actually working in Berlin?

Fete NationaleWhich brings me to what the English-speaking world calls Bastille Day. July 14th is the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille prison, and is celebrated as the beginning of the French Revolution. Every year on Pariser Platz (the square that begins Unter den Linden street right behind the Brandenberg Gate), the French Embassy throws a little party. Not a huge one, but a nice one. Events run most of the day, and importantly for me, into the evening. Interestingly enough, in France, the parties are traditionally scheduled for the 13th of the month, allowing for the party to go late into the night, and the people to sleep in on the actual holiday.The French Embassy erects a large stage and twenty or so booths sell everything from Orangina to fine, French wines. Of course this is still Germany, so someone is selling Rostbratwurst in a bun as well, but most of the stalls are Franco-centric. In recent years, Galleries Lafayette has had a stall selling a bit of the French culture to hungry French expats and Germans alike.

For me the music is not to be missed, so I always try my best to be there for the concerts as the daylight begins to dim. 

Kinda golden
From our own trip to Paris
to celebrate the
Fête Nationale

I love to play “spot the Frenchie”, which is easier than you might imagine. As the music gets wilder and wilder, the Germans can be seen watching intently, generally with not so much as a foot tapping in time with the music… while the French are wildly dancing and obviously enjoying themselves. It is a cultural divide to say the least. 

Oh, and this American is jumping and dancing in the French throng, trust me. Maybe I don’t get to celebrate the Red, White and Blue complete with crazy fireworks… but the Blue, White, Red party is a lot of fun too.

If you’re in Berlin and looking for a nice Strassenfest, come on down to the Gate on Friday night. You will have your chance to taste a REAL crêpe, and show those Germans how to dance.


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What Kind of Fresh Gay Hell is This? (OR Why are you in Germany, Snooker?)

Today I received an email from Democrats Abroad (the overseas branch of the US Democratic Party). In it was a warning that discussed how the consulate services would change for people wanting to bring foreign family with them when they move back to the U.S.

In that letter was a simple text which caught my eye, “We have a long-standing commitment as Democrats Abroad to simplifying the path to citizenship and legal permanent residency for non-American spouses and close family members”.

Uh huh… and gay and lesbian spouses?

I did a little Googling and found not so much as a
news piece on how DA is supporting legislation in the House and Senate right now… the Uniting American Families Act of 2011.  

OK, so I don’t regularly pump money into the DA, but I do support them occasionally. Upon reading this email, I am struck by the notion of  “What have you done for me lately, DA?”

I’ll give DA a break because actually there are relatively few people/organizations who care about my plight. But before I delve deeper into my special situation, perhaps you should know more about it. Let’s go to bullets, shall we?

  • Fell in love with a German girl in 2000
  • She came to visit me in the States often in 2001 and 2002, I also visited her in Berlin during these years
  • Tried to legally have her move to America starting in 2003 with a student visa (no other legal methods available – university is free or cheap in Germany, but we are willing to pay for the education if it means we can be together).
  • Based on the fact that she had entered the country six times in the past two years she was considered a “risk of overstay” and denied a student visa which also cancels her out of the visa waiver program forever… she can’t come to America for at least year because of this denial. 
  • Shortly after the denial she pays more money for the privilege to go to the Consulate – armed with proof that she intends to return to Germany – to appeal the denial of both the student visa and the visa waiver program.
  • She met with the same woman who had denied the original request… you guessed it, denied once again. (K**** ******, if Sweet No ever sees you on the street, she won’t be such a Sweet No anymore.)
  • On the other side of the Atlantic, I tried Lambda Legal Defense who told me that if either she or I had a penis, this would all be really easy… but gays can’t petition to bring their future spouses to America… Sorry Snooker.
  • Found out that the states which have recently been allowing gay marriage have nothing to do with our situation. Immigration is at the federal level, and thanks to the Defence of Marriage Act, (DOMA) the feds (and the other states) don’t have to recognize any homosexual marriage performed in those states, not to mention other countries. Sorry again, Snooker.
  • Tried a shyster immigration lawyer who was happy to take my money and petition “da gubermint” for us, but to no avail.
  • Sweet No goes back to the American Consulate in Berlin after her year banishment from travel to America and meets up with a nice guy who seems to sense her desperation and takes pity on her, issuing her a 10 year “B1/B2 visa”, allowing her to travel to the States again, and with much more lenient travel restrictions (maximum length of stay 6 months instead of the normal 3 months). 
  • Happy Dance… but still, it doesn’t REALLY keep us together.
  • Sweet No wants to work and be a contributing member of society, just coming in for VISITS is simply frustrating. Of course entering and overstaying illegally are not even up for consideration. 
  • In 2004 I got sick and tired of watching my girl walking to airport security through the tears in my eyes and decided to move to Germany to be with her. FuckYouWashington
  • Sold everything, gave up my career, said goodbye to friends and family in preparation to leave.
  • 2005 the cat and I leave the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave” to be in Germany which accepts my love of a woman. Germany also allows me to have a “separate, but equal” civil partnership with Sweet No. Immigration is pretty much the only benefit of the Lebenspartnerschaft, but it was a good thing in our case. (Thankfully the Greens keep making another go of equalizing this situation in Germany, maybe some day they will get lucky.)
  • January of 2005 we signed our civil partnership and had our – yes, we share a birthday – birthday on that same day. Great birthday present, no?
  • Because of her special visa we are rather lucky, she isn’t under suspicion as are many others in our situation. If foreign same-sex spouses come to the United States accompanying a U.S. citizen, (even for a short visit of the U.S. citizen’s family), U.S. Immigration might deny visa privileges to the spouse out of fear that they will be tempted to overstay their visa dates to remain in the country with their spouse (perhaps even challenging the anti-gay marriage laws as we are LEGALLY partnered in another country). Thus, gays and lesbians (especially politically active ones) have been known to be turned away at the gates.
  • Wish us luck, that visa expires in just a few years. 

In the end I had to face lots of the same problems as other “love exiles”. I had to give up my career and move far away from my family. This is being felt even more now that my Mother is dealing with declining health and I would like to be there for her. But as it is, if I need to be in the U.S. for a longer period of time, I have to choose between being with my wife or being with my American family. It’s really rather unfair, and it makes me into a second-class citizen… one who STILL needs to pay American taxes even though I don’t live in the country. 

So where are you going with this, Snooker? 
I really don’t know. It is just that something has been awakening in me lately.

Those who came before helped to blaze the trail for me and others like me to be openly gay, often at great

Political cartoon by Darrin Bell

personal sacrifice to themselves. Those pissed off queens turning the tables on police during a scam raid on the Stonewall Inn in the late ’60’s and starting the “Gay Revolution” are a fine example. Barbara Gittings and her friends stood up and said that they wouldn’t take being considered second class citizens – and worse yet, mentally unstable – during the ’60’s (which lead The American Psychiatric Association to officially declassify homosexuality as a mental illness in 1974 – but it wasn’t until 1992 that the World Health Organisation followed suit). The good people of GLAAD and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have done so much to further the cause. And who could forget Harvey Milk and the work he did for the community before being gunned down himself.

Let’s not forget the organizations working tirelessly on this very topic:
Immigration Equality Action Fund
Love Exiles Foundation

So what are you doing, Snooker? is a question I often ask myself. Yeah, I’m living pretty well, but only because I ran. I am part of a US binational same-sex couple who had the money and ability to simply move away from the situation and now the whole anti-gay thing doesn’t have so much of a grip on me.

This has reminded me of a book I have recently seen advertised, “Torn Apart – United by Love, Divided by Law” by Judy Rickard. Perhaps I should just order it now, proceeds go to organizations working to overcome U.S. immigration denial for same-sex binational couples. (tick, tock… time passes… cue shot to a clock with moving pendulum) OK, the Internet has worked its magic. The book is probably whizzing my way right now. It was even available at Amazon.de.  

But what about the others? What about those folks left behind who would like to have the same rights as the supposed “normal” people in our society? What about those kids right now who are counting on my generation to do our part to further gay civil rights to benefit their generation? UGH, that is a terrible weight to bear. But I say here and now that I will do more towards this goal. I DO still have a vote in American politics (my wallet feels it, even if I sometimes don’t), I DO still have a voice in what happens. Perhaps I just need to raise that voice a bit more often.

Any suggestions how I can do that?
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Too old for… ?

Goofball over at Goofballsworld has tagged me in a meme.
Don’t close the window yet… give us a chance. 

Normally I’m not into memes, but this one struck me as interesting.

“It doesn’t matter how young or how old you are, we all do stuff that we are secretly too old for: stuff that we’d rather not want the others to know because they’d not consider it suitable for our age. So what are you too old for but what can’t you stop doing because you like it that much?”

Well, here I am at the commonly accepted “middle age”. The 40’s have just begun and I must face that the downward spiral has also started on many facets of life. There are things which I simply will never get to do. No, I won’t be partying with AC/DC anytime soon, and that teenage dream of owning a penthouse over Manhattan, I don’t see it coming true either.

According to society I should have settled down at least in my 30’s and started having kids. Well, pffft on that. I should have bought a house or at least an apartment. Pfft. I should have a comfy retirement fund started or at least some heavy guilt (OK, so I have a retirement fund… no pfft there).

Looking at life from the perspective of what society deems “normal” for each decade of life, I would have to say that generally I buck the system at every chance.

So why should acting my age be something I actually do?

Why is it that we allow society to decide what is right to do at what time of life? Goofball talks about how she loves to swing on swing-sets. She discusses the fact that the sizes are most generally geared to children, thus it isn’t so easy to use them in the same way… BUT, she still loves the sensation… and I’m sure she can still fit IN the swing. Why should she feel badly about enjoying something so natural? Just because society tells us that she’s too old?

I say Pfft!

  • If I want to play video games all night long, I’ll do it.
  • If I want to buy the BIG LOLLIPOP and suck on it until I’m down to the stick, I will do it… and I will hold the sticky stick however I want!
  • If I want to wear a Mickey Mouse Watch, I will do it.
  • If I want to eat desert before the main meal, why not? Life is uncertain. Eat desert first!
  • If I want to sit on the floor at the bookstore and enjoy going through the stacks while crawling around, I’ll get my pants dirty.
  • Bubble gum, you bet!
  • Rainbow Koosh Ball on my work desk… sure!
  • If I want to blow off a meeting to lie in a park enjoying the afternoon sun on my face, I’m going to do it.
  • Dancing like a wild thing at festivals… oh yeah!
  • Eating “Kiddie Cereal”… you bet!
  • Riding Screaming Mimi the bright blue scooter as a 42 year old…? Why the hell not?
  • Air guitar in the mirror… yup, I’m that girl.
  • If I’m flipping through channels and come across a Muppet Show re-run, I’m going to watch it because it’s funny.
  • If I want to listen to heavy metal at full volume while wearing my headphones, why shouldn’t I?
  • If I want to have a flag pole on the back of my bicycle, I’ll do it! (Note, get a flag for the bicycle – it sounds cool)
  • If I want to go to a theme park and ride every damn ride there is, as long as there is no puking involved.. I’m in!

I don’t care what people say or do, and no one else should either.

Whose life are we living?

Are we really here to gain the approval of others?

Will they be beside us at our deathbeds saying how right we were to obey all of society’s rules?

Do I want to get to the “jumping off place” only to have regrets about the way I’ve lived my life?

“I want to die young at a ripe old age.”
– Ashley Montagu

Ageism will catch up with you.

So what do you do which defies society’s ageism norms?
Come on… you know you do… or at least you WANT to!

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Gay Pride Berlin – 2010

I ran across this post in my editor and realized that it had never been “published”. Here you go… Snooker’s take on Gay Pride in Berlin!

Have I said it here? I don’t think so… I love Gay Pride Month.

In Berlin that means a month long celebration culminating in a street festival and then the CSD which is short for Christopher Street Day. The center of the city closes down for one of the world’s largest Gay Pride Parades and I simply love it!

I love the goofy rainbow crap all over everything. I completely dig (gawd, can we still use words like that?) the bomp-bomp-bomp music, even better if I can feel it in my bones. Really, I just love the gays! Every single year is a wild and crazy adventure in who can be the wildest, craziest, raunchiest, maddest hatter around. Someone (dammned if I can remember who) said that it is a “ridiculous sweaty carnival of queertasticness”. WOW! What a statement, and it is Sooo Frakking True!!

For me it is an affirmation of “my people”. I wouldn’t say “chosen family” since I didn’t choose these people to be my family any more than I chose my blood relatives. What I guess I would like to say is that for better or for worse, these people have probably all had many of the same feelings I’ve had. That desire to question ?What is the definition of “normal sexuality”? has linked us in some strange way.

Sometimes it’s good just to get together with “your people” and feel FAB-U-LOUS about yourselves. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that we’re all out there with a “We’re here, We’re Queer, Get Used to It” mentality.

Besides, I guess in the end I just like dancing my ass off!
And dance it off I did. Blogging Buddy Adam of “That Queer Expatriate” fame came up for the weekend to enjoy the non-stop party with me, and I hope I gave him some great pointers and as well as a good time.

He’s covered the event very well in his blog post, including the part about camera envy even if he didn’t get a good taste of vagina-envy. 🙂

Did you take copious amounts of pictures Snooker? OF COURSE I DID! Heck, I haven’t even had TIME to look at the last half of the 500 or so… let alone edit them down. The way things are going, I won’t get that done, either.

In the middle of the festivities I needed to go be a responsible adult and help Sweet No as she trained another set of scuba students. (I’m the official paparazzi. We give them a cool “this is what your training looked like DVD” when it is all over.) While that’s all cool and good, what it meant was no alcohol for me during the parade. Hmmmm… this was certainly a different experience for me, let’s just say.

After the diving I peeled off the neoprene (although something tells me I would have been OK showing up in it anyway) and took off to a ladies night CSD event.

How cool was that? Four dance floors, completely different music at each, probably 2,000 ladies there all for the purpose of havin’ a great time, me and my buddies dancing into the wee hours of the mornin’. AHHHH PRICELESS!

All of this is overshadowed by one little, niggling thought in the back of my head, “Is this really something to be proud of?”. My moment of indecision was helped along by a comment on one of my more “adult” images (at least of the ones I considered putting on Flickr). The commenter asks if I am proud of what is written on the Tshirt. Hmm… interesting query.

He’s right, I’m not really PROUD of what is written on the Tshirt. Let’s be frank… rarely are the antics of the wildest group seen at a Pride Parade something to be proud of. They are “in your face” with their sexuality, because that is what it is all about. Of course the cameras – mine included – are all pointing at the wildest examples of debauchery, it is our most basic instinct to be voyeurs. But for every wild and crazy person IN the parade, there were another 50 of the more “normal” variety along the sidelines.

Yeah, I’ve always been a big proponent of “Normal is a setting on my washing machine” thought process. But let’s face it, if you have a full body tattoo, a HUGE nose ring and ear expanders I can get my thumb through, I bet that you’re not working in an office 9 to 5. Which leads me to wonder what these people might be doing to help increase the GDP.

We’re here, we’re queer, and no one on the planet throws a better party than we do.

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The Difference Between Snooker and Sweet No

Those who know Snooker and No personally would knowingly shake their heads in the affirmative with the thought of the two of us being compared to Ernie and Bert (or is it Bert and Ernie… now I’m confused… German Sesamstrasse says it one way, the Sesame Street of my youth says it the other). I’m short, rotund and prone to fits of giggles. Sweet No is tall and thin and while she has a rapier wit, it is usually so dry that most people don’t get it until the next day… after a shower.

The differences between us are far and wide. She’s a jogging freak, I’m a shade dog. I ride a scooter to work, she cruises along on pedal power riding her bike. She watches a maximum of 4 hours TV per week, while if given my druthers I would probably watch DVD’s until the machine gave out. She is 12 years younger than me and grew up in Germany, while I’m feeling my age after living the traditional American “bigger is better, including my ass” lifestyle.

She has a HUGE thing about gummies (I’m talking Haribo Gummi Bears and the entire family… to the tune of a package or so a day), while I would rather enjoy salty, greasy foods. I take pictures almost exclusively above water, she takes pictures almost exclusively underwater (except for the cat… most pics of Frank are actually hers). We have age differences, and cultural differences, music and dancing differences, humor and laughter differences, ideas on planning and follow through, ideas on friends and friend management… really the list goes on.

In my daily life I’ve become accustomed to most of these contrasts. When No comes up with a weekend schedule planned out to the minute and all I want to do is relax in some park, I don’t consider how unlike we are, I just try to work out a compromise for how we can both end up as happy as can be. I just don’t think about it any more.

But yesterday afternoon I was rooting around in our dry goods cabinet looking for something to eat and it struck me. There were two jars of Nutella sitting side by side. One was from a time when I went shopping and picked up a jar of “chocolaty taste with a hint of that roasted nut flavor that will delight your taste buds as you enjoy each delicious mouthful”. The other was newer and had obviously been purchased by No as a backup to an almost empty jar. She is the biggest user of the stuff, in fact she has “Nutella Bread” almost every morning. If it was getting low, she would usually be the one to notice it and work on a replacement.

What you see below are the two jars previously mentioned. On the right you find my 750 gram jar of chocolaty, velvety goodness, to the left is what looks to me to be a TEENSY 400 gram attempt at a jar of Nutella.

WHY would you buy such a small thing if it is going to be consumed in a reasonable amount of time and it has no chance of going bad? (about a month for that big one, I would say) To tell you the truth, I don’t really know myself. I’m just posing the question.

Oh, and another difference between us…
When she sees the Nutella jar is empty, she puts it beside the trash for later separation into the glass container. When I see an empty Nutella jar, it is simply a challenge. One to which I will grab a table knife and sit down in front of a blaring TV with full intentions of getting each and every bit of Nutella out of that jar and into my gullet. Yeah… that’s a HUGE difference… and quite possibly the reason for my wide ass.

What about you and your loved ones? Surely you have differences, even if the chasm isn’t as wide as the one between No and myself. What is it which you would do differently from the ones you surround yourself with?

Been reading:

Interesting documentary about why and how the Mormon “Church” nee – PAC has insinuated itself into the entire gay marriage debate. Wanna see.

South African doctor invents female condoms with ‘teeth’ to fight rape – About time. I would hesitate for this though. Think about it, when would you use it? Isn’t the bad part about rape that generally the victim doesn’t know that it is going to happen? Do you just wear this thing all the time? Either way, it is interesting to see something like this being invented.

Cool World Cup Calendar

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