Category Archives: life

I Have a Need for Speed: Driving the German Autobahns

no-limit-sign-autobahn

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have driven a lot of kilometers on German Autobahns. Back in the 1980s my cars wouldn’t get me much above 110 miles an hour. Since then I have tried to do better. Frankly whether people like it or not I do have a need for speed.

On American highways that is difficult to do and nowadays its not because our cars won’t go fast enough, it is because are not engineered well enough to make it safe. Likewise, factor in that many American drivers cannot drive nails much less highly engineered cars that are capable of high speed and people who even on good roads in optimum driving conditions manage to make driving unsafe for everyone else on the road. The fastest that I have ever driven in the United States was 114 miles an hour in a restricted HOV lane on I-64 in Norfolk early on a Sunday morning with no traffic. I dared not go any faster despite the fact my Ford Mustang was barely breaking a sweat because the road condition and engineering would have made it unsafe to go any faster.

The highest speed I ever got to in the 1980s was 110 in my 1985 Opel Kadett on Autobahn 3 heading north from Wiesbaden to the Netherlands. In the 1997 I got a rented Fiat Brava with a 5 speed manual transmission up to 130 on the same autobahn between Würzburg and Bonn. In 2006 I got up to 142 miles an hour in a rented 2006 VW Golf 6 speed manual transmission diesel on a Sunday morning between Nuremberg and Würzburg. This year I broke my record in a rented 2018 Ford Mondeo (the European name for the Fusion) up to 237 kilometers per hour or 147.2 miles an hour on Autobahn 4 between Weimar and Eisenach. The official specs say that the Mondeo with a 4 cylinder 2.0 liter turbocharged diesel engine with a 6 speed manual transmission tops out at 137 mph. Despite being fully loaded I took my vehicle to 147.2 mph, ten miles an hour higher than the specs. It wouldn’t go any faster. While driving on newer autobahns in what was once East Germany on a Sunday and on a national holiday it was easy to get a chance to squeeze every last ounce of speed from the car. On one stretch of the autobahn I averaged over 120 MPH for over an hour at a time.

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So, Lord willing when we go back next year I will try to get a faster car, I really do want to break 150 MPH. But then that’s just me. Judy says that I should take one of those driving courses that certify drivers who carry high value passengers. Not a bad idea.

If you drive the autobahns be aware that not all sections have unlimited speed limits. I think that there are more of these sections in the former East where the German government has spent a lot of money building new roads and completely reconstructing older ones. Most of these roads are 6 lane affairs and on a Sunday or holiday when most long distance trucks are not allowed to operate you can get your vehicle up to higher speeds in zones where there are no limits. Where there are speed limits in on the autobahns they usually are in the 100-130 kph range. Likewise, construction zones are usually limited to 60-80 kph.

Anyway, until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Meeting Old Friends in Eisenach

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

It has been a long day so tonight’s post is basically to check in. We left Wittenberg this morning after a nice visit to meet our friends Gottfried and Hannelore in the town of Eisenach for Judy’s birthday which is tomorrow.

On the way we stopped at the Buchenwald Concentration Camp outside of Weimar. It was another sobering visit to a site where man’s inhumanity to man remains fully on display. I will write more about that later and may combine what I write with my observations at Flossenbürg which I visited Thursday.

We arrived at the hotel shortly before they did about 3:45 and we spent the afternoon and evening conversing and reminiscing over dinner and drinks. Our friendship with them is special, we have known them since early 1985 when I was a young Army First Lieutenant stationed in Wiesbaden Germany. We got to know each other through the partnership program between the 68th Medical Group and Sanitäts Regiment 74. Gottfried, who had worked himself up through the enlisted ranks to become an officer was also a First Lieutenant and the Officer in Charge of a Medical Clinic in Mainz.

Over the years we have managed to stay in touch. We have seen their children grow up and have kids of their own. We know Hannelore’s brother and many of their friends. They are like family to us. Tomorrow we will have breakfast with them and then go over to see the Wartburg Castle where Martin Luther was hidden by his supporters after his defense at the Diet of Worms, an where he translated the New Testament from Greek into German. After that we will each head our separate ways, they to their home where they are dealing with repairs to their own home as well as the disposition of the home and business Hannelore’s aunt who died in April. We will drive to Berlin where we will remain until Tuesday.

We will get some pictures posted of the visit sometime soon as I keep getting backlogged on the articles that I plan on writing due to the travel schedule of the past few days. So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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A Walk in Munich, a Police Headquarters, and a Voice that will not be Silenced: the Witness of Sophie Scholl

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Tonight another thought from Munich.

Today was relatively uneventful from a historian’s point of view in our current trip to Germany. Today was a day that Judy and I spent time together walking around the city center and Marienplatz. We did some shopping and more window shopping before getting a late lunch at our favorite local restaurant, Zum Brunstein before working our way back to our hotel. After she got a bit of rest and I went and picked up a few things that we needed and then did some reading, we went back out to get a few drawing supplies and the have a late supper.

Since Judy needs two knee replacement surgeries after we return to the United States and is dragging herself around on crutches I was proud that she got about five miles of walking in today. I got in eight miles and since we are not eating like we do in the United States I assume that we are both losing some weight, which is not a bad thing. My injuries from the fall that I took a month and a half ago seem to be doing better and though I still am in some pain I am no longer walking with such a noticeable limp, and when not escorting Judy like a destroyer escorting a cargo ship I am able to walk at a much faster clip than I have since the fall. I haven’t tried running yet but that may yet happen, but I digress…

The fact is that I continued muse upon the lives of Sophie Scholl and her companions in the White Rose resistance movement. It is something that as I think about what is happening in the United States regarding the Trump Administration’s lack of respect or concern for the rule of law which is reaching a fever pitch.

One site that we walked past today was the Police Headquarters, or the Polizei Präsidentin. The building was the headquarters of the Munich Police, before, during and after the Nazi State. It was the initial headquarters and workplace of Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich before they moved to Berlin not long after the Nazi takeover.

In 1943 it housed the offices of the Gestapo and other police agencies. It was here that following their arrest that Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans, were first taken for interrogation before being imprisoned at Städelheim and tried before the Volksgericht headed by Roland Freisler.

This place that we see here, even those that few think about are still important. Sophie said: I am, now as before, of the opinion that I did the best that I could do for my nation. I therefore do not regret my conduct and will bear the consequences that result from my conduct

Since we have an early morning tomorrow I will wish you a good night,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Der Münchner Wiesn 2018: a Parade, Bier, and Gemütlichkeit

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today was the beginning of Munich’s Oktoberfest, commonly known here as der Wiesn. This is actually a term from the Bavarian dialect which means the green which is a term used for the Theresienwiese, the lawn of the Nymphenburg palace grounds in Munich which hosted the first Oktoberfest on which King Ludwig I of Bavaria celebrated his wedding to Princess Theresa and a horse race.

The King invited the people of the city and thereafter it became a regular event and soon a national and worldwide event celebrating Munich’s heritage of community and beer, which helped bridge the otherwise insurmountable of German and other European cultural divide. Munich, with its beer hall culture is one of those rare places in Europe that a mayor, governor, senior civil service official, or military officer might sit next to a lowly peasant, worker, farmer, or even a beggar might sit together drinking beer, class differences cast aside. A number of historians have noted this fact.

Today, Munich is still home to a tradition that has grown far from the Theresianwiese to other locations throughout Germany and around the world.

We have visited Munich and gone to der Wiesn for the last five years, but today was the first time that we were here for the opening parade and the ceremonial tapping of the Festbier by the Mayor of Munich in the Hofbrauhaus tent.

After the parade we took seats in the beer garden area of the Hofbrauhaus tent where we had a delightful time with three German retirees, Dora, Ludwig, and Christa, and a mixed group of younger Germans and internationals. We stayed a lot longer than we expected. After we got back to our hotel I went down to the hotel bar watch the Schalke vs. Bayern Munich match. While there I spent the match chatting with two pilots from Qatar Airlines. Bayern won 2-0 and I look forward to Tuesday night when I see them play Augsburg at Allianz Arena.

These are some of the sights of this event.

Tomorrow we will take our rental car and visit historical sites around town which are normally out of the way.

I hope that you enjoy, I know that we are.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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The Bandit is Dead, Long Live the Bandit: the Passing of Burt Reynolds

Friends of Padre Steve’e World,

I came of age in the late 1970s and early 1980s and back then Burt Reynolds ruled the box office. I think that I saw every move that he made between 1974 and 1985. My favorites were his comedies like Smokey and the Bandit, The End, The Cannonball Run, Starting Over, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and so many others. I did really like his serious films like  Sharkey’s Machine, Deliverance, and his part as “Mr. Burt” in the X-Files episode Improbable which was aired in 2002. But it was his comedies that I continually go back to when I need a laugh. I’m doing that tonight.

One of the movies that I will watch this weekend is The End where he plays a man diagnosed with cancer who tries to kill himself and gets locked up with Dom DeLouise, who then takes it upon himself to help Reynolds try to kill himself. At the end of the film Reynold’s character decides that he wants to live after swimming out into the ocean to drown himself. In a panic he begins to bargain with God:

Oh, God! Let me live, and I promise to obey every one of the Ten Commandments. I shall not kill… I shall not commit adultery… I shall not… I… uh… I’ll  learn the Ten Commandments, and then I’ll obey every fucking one of them!

I love that line.

But for me Burt Reynolds was an icon and it is hard to believe that he has passed away. I heard about his death as my iPhone news notifications started going off for close to an hour, even overwhelming important news going on in the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. All I can think about Judge Kavanaugh and his lack of truthfulness and character is a quote from Reynolds’s character in Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd: “Boys, I got myself a pretty good bullshit detector, and I can tell when somebody’s peeing on my boots and telling me it’s a rainstorm.” But I digress…

The fact is that I am going to miss Burt Reynolds. I was looking forward to him possibly being in Quentin  Tarantino’s next film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; I am sure that he would have been great in it.

Reynolds was more than a sum of his acting parts, he was also a very reflective and appreciate man as he aged. He appreciated his friends. When he friend and frequent co-star Dom DeLuise  passed away he said:

As you get older, and start to lose people you love, you think about it more, and I was dreading this moment. Dom always made you feel better when he was around and there will never be another like him. I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone. I will miss him very much…. 

He was able to recognize his failures in life, relationships, and even in the choices of some films that he made. That being said he was able to express his appreciation for those who stood by him, supported him, and told him the truth during his good and bad times.

He also said something that I can relate to despite not being an actor. Instead of acting I have tried to teach and help younger military personnel, officers, and especially chaplains. In doing so I often make fun of myself and the mistakes that I have made. I can laugh at myself, except when I can’t. As I look at retiring from the military next year after some 38 years of service I know that my legacy will not be the sum of my personal accomplishments, it will be the young men and women that I have been able to teach and mentor over the years. Reynolds said:

I’ve had a tremendous amount of fun making fun of myself! As to my legacy, it’s the kids that I have taught. I love this business so very much that I want to share my knowledge about it. The young actors that I have taught, I hope they think of me as a good teacher like Charles Nelson Reilly. Being a good teacher. I’ll take that over being a good actor any day!

With that I will go back to my Burt Reynolds movie binge watching weekend.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Revenge of Wun Hung Lo: Never Violate Your Personal Prime Directive

Friends of Padre Steve’s world,

After a really long day Sunday working in the house, ripping up carpet and moving furniture I was tired. We had to sleep in the couches in the living room since the bedroom was in a state of disarray. About midnight I got hungry. I rummaged around the fridge and since there was little else there found a leftover egg roll from the Chinese takeout place that Judy likes and some sweet and sour sauce. I have appropriated the nickname given to a Chinese takeout place in our home town by her late father as my nickname for this place: Wun Hung Lo.

Now, honestly I never eat Chinese food. If i pick up take out for her I walk a couple of doors down to my favorite Mexican restaurant to get me something. My aversion to Chinese food goes way back to my high school graduation banquet when a spider crawled out from the inside of the pot of my Green Tea. At that point I made the decision that if I could see a spider crawling out of my tea that I couldn’t trust what might be in the food that was not so clear.

Judy has always considered that to be a bit extreme but when we lived in Huntington, West Virginia here favorite Chinese place there, the Happy Dragon by the health department because the chicken was actually cat. As I noted, “the cat’s in the ladle with the silver spoon.” Judy’s response was “tastes like chicken.”

Needless to say this phobia of mine was still in place, but since we didn’t have much else to eat having been so busy that we didn’t make a grocery run for over a week, I asked myself, “it’s only an egg roll, what could happen?”

I tell you what happened. About 6:00 A.M. I was dashing to the the great white throne to hurl the offending egg roll remnants and the still recognizable sweet and sour sauce into the pristine basin of my new toilet in our freshly renovated bathroom. I pain for violating my personal Prime Directive. I paid all morning for it until I passed out on the recliner until about 7:30 P.M.

While I was crashing and burning my dear friend Bill Quinn came to the house and finished installing the flooring and in our bedroom. Good friends are rare and the work he did would have taken me twice or three times as long and not looked professional at all.

Anyway. I finally held down some chicken noodle soup about 8:00 P.M. I have been drinking Gatorade and water most of the day. I’m still not feeling very good and I’m going to take the morning off from work before checking in during the afternoon on the way to a doctors appointment on base.

I could write more and certainly in more descriptive language, but I am really tired and it would probably gross you out. So I will schedule this to post just after midnight by which time I hope to be asleep.

However, I tell you the truth. I have learned my lesson at the hands of Wun Hung Lo, and after having looked at common ingredients found in egg rolls I can only say, nevermore.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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The Capstone of a Life: John McCain’s Parting Words

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Last night I didn’t get to sleep until about 4 A.M. I had been up until 1 A.M. working in the house and today I spent about 10 hours ripping out carpet, moving furniture, and working to lay new flooring in our house. My friend who has been doing the really hard stuff that requires skill to make it look good is coming back tomorrow to help finish the job. I I’d the furniture moving and carpet removal. Why anyone would put carpet in a house is beyond me. It is amazing, even with vacuuming and shampooing just how much dirt and crap is in and under the carpet. All I can say is yuck, which coincidentally is the mildest thing that I can say or think about President Trump.

However, that term does not apply to the late Senator John McCain’s message as he decided not to go on a ventilator to try to prolong his life. He knew his time had come and he released this message in which he quoted John Hemingway. McCain’s words were that of a thankful man who knew the ups and downs of life, it’s success and failure, but left life thankful and content.

In life he taught us much in positive and negative examples. He owned his failures but was happy that he had some influence in the life of this nation and the world at this time in history. I think that it is important that Senator McCain was the kind of person who did not reject people if they differed in opinion with him. His selection of President Barack Obama to do a eulogy at his funeral symbolizes that far too scarce ability to be friends with political or ideological adversaries. That used to be a pretty normal state of affairs in our country, but it is almost extinct today.

His words about the end of his life are remarkable and should be read by all. But before I share them I have to note that his last Tweet on Twitter was extending his sympathy to an Army officer and pilot killed in Iraq on his ninth deployment in 16 years of service. I cannot imagine something similar to be President Trump’s final tweet.

However, what I cannot say that there was anything in Senator McCain’s final note that could be described as “yuck.” Instead is was a very personal letter of someone schooled in life who never stopped reading or learning. The Senator from Arizona wrote:

“The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it … I hate to leave it. But I don’t have a complaint. Not one. It’s been quite a ride. I’ve known great passions, seen amazing wonders, fought in a war, and helped make a peace. I’ve lived very well and I’ve been deprived of all comforts. I’ve been as lonely as a person can be and I‘ve enjoyed the company of heroes. I’ve suffered the deepest despair and experienced the highest exultation. I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times. What an ingrate I would be to curse the fate that concludes the blessed life I’ve led. I prefer to give thanks for those blessings, and my love to the people who blessed me with theirs. The bell tolls for me. I knew it would. So I tried, as best I could, to stay a ‘part of the main.‘ I hope those who mourn my passing, and even those who don’t, will celebrate as I celebrate a happy life lived in imperfect service to a country made of ideals, whose continued service is the hope of the world. And I wish all of you great adventures, good company, and lives as lucky as mine.” —John McCain

Rest In Peace Senator McCain, for I know that you will.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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