When I was young and lived in Germany my life was generally okay. I was popular and had friends. Everyone in the neighbourhood knew me, everyone who worked at school knew me. Some thought I was strange, but most liked me. My mother didn’t have much money. Despite being nominally married, my parents had had a schism several years before resulting in my mum returning to Germany. She was attending university with the aim of becoming a haematologist. My grandmamma agreed to mind me when she was away or too busy with her studies. My grandfather enjoyed slapping me around after a bad day, but that was typical of what was to come.
One day my mum took me to travel agent in Trier and booked tickets. To where, I did not know. Nor did I care to know, it was just another excursion into the city. These sorts of things were great fun. Perhaps she would even take me to the Italian gelataria for an ice cream. A while later, after coming in from playing, she took me aside and told me to “pick a few toys, we’re leaving for America in 3 weeks”. I chose a few pieces from my small, wooden train set but thought little more of it. A few buildings, a tree or two, two trains. I continued school forgetting all about her little promise of excitement.
Everything was packed one day and she told me that tomorrow would be my last day. I was taken aback, “why? But I like my school and friends”? I had to bid adieu to my friends in the neighbourhood and school the next day. My grandfather refused to drive us to airport the next day. He was adamantly against the idea of my mother leaving once again to be with a man that no one in the family or the family’s social circle ever liked or had any respect for.
After a surreal flight, over Iceland, over New York and on to San Francisco, we arrived. I could not speak English, or even American. I was, after all, in every respect a German school boy. None of my teachers spoke anything but German and all my friends spoke German. Why shouldn’t I speak German? This made communication difficult and my mum had to serve as a translator. Within a few days I asked my mum “when are we going back home? This place is strange and everyone makes strange noises”. “We’re not”, she said, “this is your new home”. “No it’s not, I want to go home”. “We can’t do that”. And so it remained. Soon after, I was put into school with others.
These schoolmates were strange. They looked strange and they all made strange noises. They sounded like they were trying to speak German without the consonants with their mouths full of gum. My first teacher meant well, but she was ineffective. She tried to keep a few of the worst bullies away, but she couldn’t always be there. My next teacher was far better. She was an elderly teacher, a grandmotherly figure who sought to help me adjust.
That year, I was raped. My English skills remained poor and I could not clarify the events that happened. Nor, for that matter, did I want to. As with all things, I accepted it and tried to carry on. I also tried to not antagonise my father. He had a temper and if I misunderstood something, he slapped me. I was a “liar” if I didn’t grasp everything perfectly. That, or he would just scream at me calling me a “piece of s**t” with a “polluted mind”. It wasn’t any better at school. Due to my language schools, I was somewhat behind. The Mexican children in the same position were given a tutor, someone who could help them. I was classified as mentally challenged. Due to a slight speech impediment, I was also sent to specialists for that. In short order I went from being popular to being a freak, a “retard”. Making friends was difficult. One of the Mexican girls and I hit it off. Even if we couldn’t say much to each other, we understood each other. Later on, an African-American woman moved in next door with her niece. She became my great protector. Almost every day I was pelted with gravel or, if those welcoming, friendly, warm and kind Americans were especially ambitious, rocks. One must accept this in the same way that one accepts being handled as mentally impaired. I was “too proud”, as a teacher admitted to me later on, I had to be “humbled”. And that nice man who acted like a grandfather to me – always caring, always making his home open to me when I need a friend or an ear – was smeared as a paedophile when he never made one untoward move.
Things settled down into a pleasant routine after a while. I remained isolated socially never quite regaining the status I held in Germany. Those times I could go to Germany, however, were bliss. It was beautiful – seeing my friends when possible, seeing my family. Those were times I could once again go to gelatarias for ice cream. Still, people were not as hostile as they had once been. The Chinese were the true delights, however. We understood each other implicitly and they were always kind to me.
Life carried on and I regained something approaching my former status. Still isolated, but well-known and not treated as quite the freak I had once been. My father was still my father, more often than not in drunken stupors alternating between fits of rage “I bend over backwards for you, suck your c**k and swallow but you piece of s**t, you’re never happy. You better get your *** inline or I’ll throw you to the street” and giving me fistfuls of dollars. I visited the neighbours when things were bad, they were a kindly, elderly couple. He was a pensioner who had once worked at a youth prison, she a librarian nearing the end of her working life.
One day, my father stopped drinking. He was involved in a drunken brawl which scared him enough to behave. We got on somewhat, after that. It was never a comfortable relationship, but we managed. At this point, a new set of problems arose. The local police didn’t care for me and they saw me as a soft target. One neighbour, a convict minder at the local gaol, accused me of shooting a gun at him because I came to complain about his dog biting neighbours and following me about. Naturally I never did and the test showed that I had not been exposed to firearms. But it did not stop. One day, a police officer tried to put a small bag of marijuana in my car. I caught him and began to kick up a fuss, he backed down. Another police officer, knowing that I lived in the neighbourhood tried to pressure an elderly neighbour to file a false report against me. He was nearly at the verge of tears when she told him to get stuffed. There were a few other instances with the lot, but let’s not get carried away. They’re good people, America’s heroes! The greatest people in the world!
Yet, life goes on. I started university in San Francisco. I came to move in, but the estate company committed fraud and I was out £3,700. A solicitor tried to help, but she couldn’t do much more than threaten. I was left without a flat, living in cheap hotels in rough neighbourhoods, the week before the term began. I found a flat at the last moment, a bit of a dive that wouldn’t pass any code owned by an old Chinese woman trying to squeeze a few thousand quid out of her properties to support her lifestyle. Still, she was human and she honoured her commitments. Perhaps not always ethical, but humane and she let me out of a contract early. Those years in San Francisco were hard. Her son nearly killed me a few times with his idiocy. One afternoon on the bus a man old enough to be a grandfather tried to flirt with me. I ignored him; he grabbed me between the legs fondling me with obvious joy. I quickly moved away. Things like that happened a few more times to me. But I should really stop complaining, “white privilege” and all. Things like that don’t happen to men. If they do, don’t talk about it! Shut up and accept it, redeem your contaminated soul through suffering. Or at least that’s why I had to hear at the university. And being shoved around by a deranged student doesn’t matter, either. Because he was of Korean extraction and I of European, largely, it could not be considered anything but a bit of excessive emotion on his part. I love America, the land of the free!
Perhaps I would discuss the evening when a junkie transvestite offered to go out on a date with me and then proceeded to chase me down Geary Boulevard, but why bother? It’s almost entertaining looking back. Going to Minnesota was a pleasant enough change after that. My flat was nice enough, perhaps my favourite part of Saint Cloud. I had an excellent boss, a few good professors and I got on well with a number of people. I did in Hawai’i and San Francisco, too, but they were largely Japanese, Taiwanese, Hong Kongers and Chinese. They were actually interesting and had some perspective on life. In Minnesota, I did not quite have this option but was still able to meet a few kindred souls who made life bearable.
Yet, not all things were ideal. My father, at this point once again a binge drinker with a methamphetamine habit, elected to declare bankruptcy. He went on a £100,000-spend-spree. Due to the ineptness of his solicitor, it took the better part of a year for his bankruptcy proceeding to be completed. Until then, he changed his telephone number. His banks, because I took over a minor credit card account from him years before, started telephoning me. They telephoned me well over a thousand times. In fact, they telephoned me nearly 40 times in Québec – a place I had dreamt of visiting since I was a schoolboy French student. Were it not for a futile effort to attempt coming in contact with a Québécois former colleague, I would have not even had my mobile telephone switched on. I referred this to the Minnesota Attorney General whose capable assistant informed me that they can generally do as they wish with me and I can only beg them to stop. In fact, I have to beg them in writing to stop and they have a month to stop. Or, they can just send it off to another office or department and I have to start over from the beginning. But I have to be really, really nice to those harassing me. Because this is the land of the free, the home of the brave where I am not even at the same level as a common street whore. Where people can do whatever they bloody well please to me and I have to beg them not to, neigh, I have to grovel and hope they are kind enough to oblige my pathetic requests, me, the filthy unworthy, to be left in peace.
In Germany, this does not happen. They cannot even try it. If they did, there would be hell to pay. This is illegal and these laws are enforced with a pedant’s vigour. When explaining to German officials what just some of my experiences in the blessed land of unlimited opportunities are, they’re left nearly speechless. If nothing else, I am equal in Germany.
18 thoughts on “Living With Huns VII: Equal in Germany.”
Good evening, Christopher.
I had logged on to compose a post if only to try to keep Janus less grumpy about our communal inactivity. By sheer chance, the post is going to involve you.
Whatever and wow! That’s some life story that you’ve crammed into a few short years. Your ‘That year, I was raped’ is chillingly matter of fact and the rest of your tale makes for pretty raw reading as well. I am happy that you felt that you could share it with your friends on the Chariot. Thank you for that.
Moving in to pedant corner, I think there may one too many ‘rocks’ in the sentence starting ‘Almost every day…..’.
Thanks again and off I go to gadfly a post in hopes of cheering up Janus.
Don’t forget your ‘Read More’ tag!
Being of a cold blooded forensic nature (hereditary!) I have some impertinent questions, do not feel you should answer them should you not choose to do so.
My big question is why?
Why do people from your very beginning think that you are strange, even in Germany as a child. I know you are of mixed race but do you actually look that different from the average bog standard Anglo Saxon?
Why do homosexuals continually attempt assault on you. Are you sending out subconscious messages to them? Or does your appearance encourage these approaches, do you dress in a somewhat foppish manner? I ask because my second husband had the same, he was of rather soft outline physically and was constantly approached all his life by homosexuals from an early age despite being determinedly hetero!
Maybe a change of style might help there!
Why did the police in California try to continually fit you up? What started that off? I more than believe that they did knowing the corruption rife within the police forces here, but why?
Your affinity with the Chinese, do they think you are partly Eastern yourself? Perhaps from your part Indian father? Or is it totally psychological?
Has it now got to the point that you expect to be victimised? I sort of get the feeling that this may be so. If this is so, people subconsciously emit signals picked up by bullies who oblige with evil behaviour. Have you tried cultivating a new public persona? The mask in a jar by the door is, or can be a very useful device to keep people at a distance. I very much understand having to live and survive in a country that is not and never will be your own. I too am strange by any standards, but I prefer to think of it as unique. Of course I am lucky in that I have the ability to freeze the bollocks off the impertinent at 500 yards! A quick retreat into a cut glass British accent and a vocabulary delivered with such hauteur and a basilisk eye as to wither the locals, most don’t care to tangle twice! Such an approach may be of use to you. Maybe a splendid Prussian style alter ego? It certainly appears that you need some defence mechanisms and you are quite clever enough to know what you need!
If you still have that credit card account of your father’s, cancel it forthwith!
Once, many years ago I got myself into dreadful trouble through no fault of my own by being in the wrong place at the wrong time and being witness to a crime. After a few months of great difficulties without any warning to anyone including all my family I discreetly changed my name, all my documents and disappeared, Changed my job etc, changed my bank, changed location. Completely re-invented myself. It worked. 15 years later I was recognised by one of the minor protagonists walking down Marlow high street, but by then it was all ancient history. But didn’t do to much shopping there again!
Sometimes that is what it takes.
Never look back.
I have had a very good life, but I made it for myself. I didn’t wait for somebody else or circumstances to make it for me!
CO: I have an off-beat personality and a tendency to do things my own way. Not in a destructive or obnoxious way, mind you. One of my more infamous tendencies is to show no apparent susceptibility to cool weather. My body temperature is generally 94-95 degrees and I have low blood pressure, so I can handle cool weather very well. Even in snowy weather I can happily walk about in jeans, a t-shirt and at most boots, often sandals. Physically there is little to distinguish me from your average northern European. I have almond-shaped eyes and high cheek-bones, but nothing that is outside the range of what one could expect to find in Europe.
One of my legs is over a half-inch shorter than the other, so I often stand in a slightly feminine pose and sway my hips when walking more than is usual for men. It’s not that I try to, this is just how I walk, how I stand. Because I grew up around many women, I also have a softer way of carrying myself than most men. I also have a tendency to get animated and use a lot of body language. My dress is decidedly frumpy and neutral. Always clean and well-kept, mind you, but never especially fashionable or foppish. Think of a middle-aged provincial office worker with moderate pride in his appearance.
In rural California there is an entire industry in low-level police corruption. The police either plant evidence, fabricate evidence or bring people up on trumped-up charged. The local barristers are all aware of this and enrich themselves in legal expenses. The regional district attorneys know this and encourage it to make them look strong against crime. Judges tend to be very tolerant as they know that more often than not, the accused are pressured by their barristers to plead guilty to a lesser crime that carries only probation or public service.
In regards to the Chinese, it was psychological mostly. We were somewhat out of our element, somewhat displaced. We didn’t quite blend in or mesh with “the locals”. I’ve also been a Sinophile for some time, so there are more mutual points of understanding. I listen to the same music, watch the same films, read the same history, etc.
When I go to Japan things rarely go wrong. There are bumps now and then, but it’s generally a very pleasant, civilised time. The same applies generally to going to the UK, to Denmark, to Portugal, to Taiwan, to Hong Kong, Australia or Canada. Really, it applies go being anywhere save the US where it seems almost everything is a vicious battle. When I first had my driving licence, for example, I dealt with insurance fraud twice within six months. I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing and didn’t always react quickly enough. It’s one reason why I hate driving. On a few occasions, people have simply driven into my car and given me a look of contempt and disgust before driving away. In the USA, this is what was normal. How could I expect anything else? That is why I never want to go back, never want to deal with it again.My gut told me from the beginning to leave and never return. The only reason why I held on as long as I did was because my mother pressured me to. The Chinese are giving me the chance to make the money I need to start a new life. Not get rich, but to have enough to begin anew. It will also give me enough time to take a 2-year degree in business in hopes of becoming more employable. Germany has been annoying, albeit fair. That is why, if all else fails, I will be back home next summer.
I understand about the shortened leg and the way of standing, my father lost over an inch on one leg from an injury in WWI. Although he just limped a lot of the time at home he had a couple of pairs of shoes made to measure that compensated for this internally which made his walk a lot more ‘normal’ Jolly expensive then and now but if you are going to China where such things are a lot cheaper you may well look into it to have some made. Not only from the point of view of how others see you but in old age you may well get arthritis in the hip joints from the lack of balance. Worth thinking about whilst you are there.
As the denizens of Yorkshire put i in the most understated way possible on this earth
= highest compliment!
YES, YOU’LL DO, LAD!
JM, the mere thought of your potential post brightens my Chariot day!
Christopher, I find it all a bit weird, seemingly entertained by your post though at the same time rather unsettling. But thanks to CO, JM and Janus, I am reassured that you are on track for better things. Very best wishes from Papaguinea in London town and I hope things pan out well for you this year. Your travelogues are something special – you have a gift for writing! (Interesting how we can share things on the net – just wait till I start ha ha.)
PG: my life is in most respects a melodramatic tragicomedy. I’ve long since stopped taking it seriously and am already planning my funeral — cremation at Golders Green. Preferably following some dramatic final, futile gesture. Or, more likely, an absolutely absurd ending such as being struck on the head by a pebble-sized remnant of a meteorite following a job promotion.
Things promise to improve this year. I am in the warm embrace of the Chinese — always a good thing, they look out for those they adopt as pets. And, in 2 months, I will again be in London.
C, re-reading your account and CO’ s comments, I realise what a sheltered, even genteel and easy boyhood I had – the ‘catch’ being that I hardly recognised cruelty or victimisation among others until I became a student. Some of your experiencies by contrast read like a bad dream.
Janus: not everything was bad, mind you. I also had many good times and met many good people along the way. I suppose my experiences made me a bit harder, a bit tougher. I’m not always the easiest person to deal with am frequently very difficult until a relationship is built. Life goes on, more memories are always made — some good, some bad.
Oh dear boy I really do have the greatest empathy with you. Harder and tougher, yes I know that syndrome!
I found that it was the only way to cope. I always rather thank whatever deities are current that I was rendered into teflon carbon steel at a reasonably young age. I firmly blame myself for most of it, utterly refuse to consider myself a victim of anything except my own bad choices. Ruthlessly moved on. Had i not done so I would never have been able to deal with the boy’s terrible long slow death. 8 years is one hell of a long time to take dying.
Fortunately iron in the soul seems to be a family characteristic.
I do like your last comment above it shows a resilience that is so useful in life!
By the way it is a worthwhile asset to be able to expunge certain memories from the brain. Just dump them in the recycle bin, not all are worth keeping!!
CO: I learnt not to be romantic, not to worry about romantic notions. If it is a problem, cut it out quickly. It’s no different than having a cancerous growth. Remove it and be done with it, re-constructive surgery can come later.
I try to strike a balance between learning lessons and forgetting the extraneous details. At the moment with my life being both stagnant and in flux, I’ve done a bit of mental pruning. Once things pick up again, this, too, will be just another detail.
JM, let’s have a swift round of battleships while your post emerges! 😛
Be careful what you wish for, Janus!
Slight case of writer’s block compounded by life continuing to insist on happening.
JM, life’s a beach and sand always finds the sandwiches, innit? 😎
Christina has said most of what I would say – especially her comment of refusing to see herself as a victim of anything other than her own bad choices. I’ve made more than one or two of those – but I tell myself that I probably did the best I could with the knowledge I had at the time!
Some events, especially those that occur in childhood, cannot be dealt with this way.
There are, in my opinion, two kinds of people in the world: “Ladders” and “Crutches”. Those who use adversity to strengthen themselves – and those who use adversity as a crutch to hobble through life…
As Christina and Janus say – you’ll do!
Enjoy the view from the ladder. 🙂
Boa, like you, I made some seriously bad choices – mostly in the ’70s – which I have spent the last 30 years understanding and trying to deal with in appropriate ways. One clear lesson worth noting is that such choices are rarely made in isolation from others’ agendas and cannot be dealt with without the involvement of others. No man is an island.
Boadicea: my purpose in in writing this was to explain why I will not go to the USA again, no matter how difficult getting my paperwork in Germany sorted has been. Sometimes something just isn’t worth the hassle and some things leave a bad taste in the mouth. Best to remove oneself from problems if possible. If I regret anything, it is not having been more assertive in going my own way sooner.