October 17, 2017

Don Malone and his love-quest dash to Germany

Newport Beach, CA – Here’s the latest about that. With two photos.

Remember this photo? I'm showing it to you to jog your memory just in case.  Don has amazed me.

Remember this photo? I’m showing it to you to jog your memory just in case. Don has amazed me by his decision.

Remember Don? The old guy happily pedaling his tricycle in small Morro Bay up the coast?  No car, just that tricycle?

I met Don at Christmas in Morro Bay. I was visiting my daughter Monique there. I saw him pedaling his strange three-wheeler. I was an active bike rider for years, and I’m fascinated by bikes. All kinds. I knew beans about trikes. I just had to check his out. So I struck up a talk and it has led to a nice friendship.

It has come to involve much more than bikes, believe me.

In our final talk before I left to come down here to milady Annabelle’s in Newport Beach, he spilled something dramatic. I’ll refresh your memory in a minute.

As you may remember, Don has a Ph.D. in classical languages. His passion all these years has been Latin. He’s retired after a career of teaching it at institutions of higher learning. One that he’s mentioned is Cornell University—a 10-year stint.

Latin, of course, was the lingo of the ancient Romans. It’s considered a “dead” language. After all, who ever uses it? Even the Catholic Church, which used to celebrate Mass in Latin, has given it up.

But it isn’t dead to him. He loves it. Delights in reading Latin classics that were published centuries ago by great essayists and philosophers and poets. Yes, even now when he’s a fancy-free senior citizen .

I was surprised how many people still enjoy Latin. For them, he reads and records ancient texts aloud for a website called www.librivox. org. As an unpaid volunteer.

LibriVox itself is a made-up Latin word. A rough translation is “free voice.” It creates audiobooks that are free online to anybody who wants them. Its audiobooks are available in more than languages.

`       (You may be interested in LibriVox for yourself, So, I’ve added info about it at the bottom of this introduction that I’m writing.)

~ ~ ~

I ran into Don three times in Morro Bay. Our chats lasted longer and longer. We

Don and his new love, Kajo. They met through Latin. They've found more things in common.

Don and his new love, Kajo, looking out on the snow in Leipzig. They met through Latin. They’ve found more good  things in common.Their news is good.

chatted about this and that. Great fun.

Soon he would be flying off to Leipzig, Germany. Why? His answer startled me: To meet a German gal that he had met online. “I’m old enough to be her father,” he told me. He knew that this had shock value and he quickly added, “But we’ve discussed all that.”

Her name is Kajo. When he told me it had started online, I was sure it was on one of those many websites for the lonely and forlorn where readers are longing for a fresh romantic liaison, and sometimes just plain sex. I was wrong.

Surprise. He had met her as a fellow lover of Latin on LibriVox. This young German-speaking woman loved Latin as much as he did. They connected online and live through Skype many times. And they discovered they had numerous other things in common. Don found himself head over heels in love, and so did Kajo.

This was a big deal. Not a snap decision. He thought long and hard about it. Then he made his big decision:  he just couldn’t let this wonderful opportunity for happiness slip by. So he had his bags packed and his passport and ticket all set and was anxious to take off.

“Good luck, Don!” I told him. “Hope it works out!”

Deep down I thought this was just another mid-life crisis, though later than usual. So common to men as we get older. I was pessimistic. But managed not to show it.

He’s with Kajo in Leipzig now. And of late our emails have been going back and forth. For me it’s been wonderful. And he says the same thing.  I look forward to his emails. He’s an interesting writer and covers interesting stuff.

Another surprise but smaller. Speaking of names, recently Don told me he prefers to go by just Malone. It’s his family name. And he explains why, as you’ll see. So I no longer call him Don. He’s Malone,.

His news is all good, and that makes me happy. Some of you have told me you enjoyed my first story about him. So I’m pleased to send you this update.

What I’ve done is clip together chunks of his emails. Of course, I was concerned about invading his privacy. I  told him that. He has reviewed everything and told me to go ahead. So here it is.

Leipzig, by the way, is a famous old city of half a million people (Morro Bay has 10,000 or so). It’s in the eastern sector of Germany— on the Soviet-controlled side of the Berlin Wall that the Soviets threw up in desperation when the country was split up after World War II.

They wanted to keep the people in that sector from fleeing—and many were doing that. The Wall—yes, with a capital W–has been torn down, as we know–a tiny piece has been saved as a perpetual reminder of that awful thing.

I’ve read about Leipzig. It’s a city of industries, museums, libraries, an opera house, parks. Impressive. And oh, it’s a cold, snowy place. Snow is practically unknown in Morro Bay.

I’ve had no contact with Kajo, but I’ve gotten to think highly of her.  Everything Malone has told me about her is impressive.

~ ~ ~

P.S. Here’s what Wikipedia says about LibriVox:

LibriVox (various pronunciations are accurate[1]) is an online digital library of free public domain audiobooks, read by volunteers and is probably, since 2007, the world’s most prolific audiobook publisher.[2] The LibriVox objective is “to make all books in the public domain available, for free, in audio format on the internet”.[3] Librivox has a sister-site called Legamus[4] which is European based.

By the end of 2012, LibriVox had a catalogue of over 6,244 unabridged books and shorter works available to download[5] and produced on average 89 audiobooks per month.[6] Around ninety percent of the collection is in English, although LibriVox recordings are available in 33 languages altogether.

~ ~ ~

From this point on, it’s Malone’s words—I do make a comment or ask a question here and there, but just for clarity. I’ve put them in italic.

~ ~ ~

March 21

Well, John, here goes.

In the conjugal realm, things are working out beautifully.   Kajo’s family is slowly getting used to the idea that their daughter is cohabiting with a foreigner twice her age.  Domestic life is wonderful.    Still snowing in Leipzig, but spring is just around the corner.
Attached is a photo of ourselves taken yesterday, and also one of a very important document I received yesterday, a Wohnungserlaubnis, (read Mark Twain’s essay on the German language) that will allow me to live and move about in the EU indefinitely.
Health insurance continues to be a problem, but we will work that out, and then we begin to explore ways for Kajo to work and live in the USA.  Bureaucracy is a Goliath that eventually topples if you continue to patiently kick and chew away at its ankle.

I mentioned GDR. It stands for German Democratic Republic; DDR, the German form, is DDR, Deutsche…. That is to say, the former East Germany.  The wall came down in ’89, but people here continue to look upon West Germans as foreigners.

The architecture here is fascinating to me, looks eastern or Sovietic, and has nothing about it that is cute or alluring.  I said to Kayo that the opera house here looks like the head of Leonid Brezhnev, it’s blocky and all varnished plywood.  The urinals, however, are magnificent:  massive white porcelain things with enormous “wings” between the stalls.

Anyway, there now seems to be a certain nostalgia for GDR times, watches, cameras, etc.

Kajo was eight or nine when the wall came down, and has the fondest memories of GDR times, and the closeness that hard times brought, families sharing food, dropping by to hang out and talk, sitting around the table at holidays, making origami decorations for the Christmas tree.

If you present any of this, please don’t make it sound like she is insensitive to the unspeakable suffering that political dissidents suffered, nor the anguish of separation from loved ones.  It’s just that she was a child then, and such were her memories.

Kajo’s place is awash in computers, microphones, etc.  I have more than all I need to carry on my work for LibriVox.

Kajo’s English is very good.  I work on German a couple of hours a day.  I get by OK.  I had to be able to read it centuries ago, when I got my Ph.D.  and a conversational variety is slowly emerging.

I have yet to see a trike on the streets here.  But bikers are legion.  The standard bike here, and I’ll show you a couple of B/W pics taken with a vintage camera, maybe a photo of the camera. The standard bike here has a heavy, practical frame, lights and bells and baskets, ample fenders, cushy seat.  It’s an everyday, get around, do your shopping kind of bike.

Anyway, I walk, or take the tram or bus, which are easy, frequent and go everywhere.  For the most part, European drivers terrify me.

Yes, Kajo goes to work, and I am a Hausman. I do the shopping, study some German, do some LibriVox recording take out the trash, etc.  I have always enjoyed housework, and still do.

Growing up in Kansas, teaching at Cornell for a decade, even Charlottesville. VA (the U. of Virginia, I believe) in the winter, I’ve lived in snow plenty of times.  I don’t mind it, sometimes enjoy it.

About Morro Bay, I miss of course sitting in front of Spencer’s (the neighborhood supermarket where I met him), talking with my friends in the sunshine, and I miss the Pacific Ocean.

On the other hand, I’ve moved too often to let any place acquire the status of a holy place. You have traveled enough, I imagine, to know that a place is a place in the human condition, and the closer you look at it, the more it shows you of the condition that is present everywhere, along, of course, with its wonderful local variations.

And I suppose I miss my sons and seeing my former wife, their mother, on holidays, etc., but they all have their life and I don’t want to try to be some kind of parasite hanging on theirs.  So I’m here.

Who knows, Kajo and I may move to the Netherlands, and I can pedal, or trike, to the ocean; If i live in Leyden there, through lovely salt marshes.  More later, best wishes,

~ Malone

~ ~ ~

So good to hear from you, John. So in response to some of your questions:

I don’t find things more expensive here.  Rents, in fact, seem lower.  And I can only speak for Leipzig.  Groceries about the same.  But even groceries are a little difficult to compare.

Search in vain for refried beans.  On the other hand, there is a cooler section, 15 meters long, (notice I’m making the changeover) with nothing but bratwurst in it, with every herb, cheese and casing imaginable.  Beer in those plastic milk cases as far as the eye can see.

But it costs me around 30 euros, let’s say $45. to fill up my lovely wheeled shopping cart. It holds around two of the classic brown paper bags which we used to have in the mother country.

Public transportation is excellent and inexpensive.  Lots of bike riders, who are courageous souls given the conduct of the automobile drivers.  Mail, for example, is delivered from a bike.  Nary a trike in sight.

I took a long walk through a neighborhood, which, to be kind, I would say is “in transition” (more like the valley of the shadow of death) to visit a bike shop that sold a premier brand of German trike, made by Velotechnik (buy their Gekko if you can; it folds up!).

While my German is still at the “severely struggling” level, these guys were very sweet in showing me this Gekko trike, a really sweet vehicle.  If I were going to buy another trike, this is what I would get.  We’ll see.

Altermic is my Skype name, because the first author I read for Librvox was a translation by Charles Cotton of Michel de Montaigne’s “Essays.”  I have always loved Montaigne (1533-1592), I lived for a year as a student in the town in France where he was mayor, Bordeaux, and had visited his chateau with his tower / library and the quotations inscribed around the interior.  Anyway, I feel a profound connection with this guy, so I am “another mike” -altermic

Now for a more complex question:  Yes, Kajo is employed (and I have both SS and a TIAA-CREF retirement fund) and currently holds two jobs (or maybe I should say “contracts”).

She works in a relatively new field of computer science, e-humanities, where she puts her skills as a computer scientist at the service of academic projects.  In the case of her current contracts, these projects are in the field of historical lexicography

In passing, and just for the record,  I read texts for LibriVox,  most of them in Latin, and Kajo is a volunteer “proof-listener” who checks the work of readers before it is “published.”

I also need to mention that Kajo has studied computer science and communication and media science, and along the way, music theory, especially its therapeutic applications, and cartoon animation (i.e., she can do a lot of stuff and I have often thought she would be a useful person in a private school environment).

So now the stickier problems.  Our first goal was to allow me to stay in Germany for an extended time without any hassles.  Hence the photo of the (official German permit) card you saw.  Health insurance is still something of a problem for me, but we have, at any rate, a short term solution for that

Now we turn our attention to Kajo and how to get her to America and, hopefully, Morro Bay.  Kajo needs to work, both to maintain her own professional career and because we would need the money.

A foreigner may have highly evolved computer skills, a wide range of “people” skills but to come here and work with the appropriate visa and work profile, she would need to have a school or business declare ” that no American, only Kajo, could do this work” and they would have to pay some hefty application fees. We have no answers to these hurdles, but we now have some time, and we begin our search.

John, I am so glad we have “reconnected”. I hope I have answered a few of your questions, and that we will continue to “swap” emails. All the best,

If you wish, I could continue to send you pieces about Leipzig. For me it is a truly foreign land, with strong remnants of its (ancient) times. I have purchased some GDR era black and white cameras. We process the negatives at home, and then Kayo scans them. Here again, it’s good to talk with you.

~ Malone

~ ~ ~

As I told you, I’ve been calling him Don since the start. But I noticed he’d always sign off as Malone. I asked how come. He answered overnight:

 

There’s something of a long story behind “Malone” as my name.  For some reason, I have the feeling I’ve already said something about my dog, Monty, a cocker spaniel.  He lived out of doors all year long (slept in a box with a light bulb at the top) and would disappear for days at a time, in search, I assume of canine affection.

Somewhere, I contracted ring worm, and I got it from him, on my scalp (my barber found it, but that’s another story).  I was in the third grade, so around nine or so.  Mrs. Tubbs, a name that aptly describes her corpulence, was the teacher.

At that time, the early ’50’s, you treated ring worm by x-raying a child’s head, causing the hair to fall out, and dousing the fungus with a purple medicine.  So I went to school bald, with a purple scalp and a purple dog.

Mrs. Tubbs, a kind of goddess of nomenclature, dubbed me “Malone”, perhaps  because she found it more manly, and like a kind of talisman, capable of warding off the mockery of my classmates,  Anyway, it worked, and for decades I called myself Malone.  This is the name that all my lovers and wives have used, including Kajo.  I’ve tried sometimes to go to Don, but it has never stuck.

If in my life it is important, like a LibriVox recording, I am Malone. So I send you my best wishes,

Malone

So you see, dear readers, why I’m enjoying this trans-Atlantic correspondence with my new friend. I’ll keep you informed.

John

 

Comments

  1. Joan Perrone says:

    John, You meet such interesting people!!! I find this man very fascinating. It’s quite a leap of faith for him to move to Germany (even if only temporary) to start a life with someone whose culture may be quite different from his….even if they do that the Latin thing in common…not to mention the age difference. I wish him luck! As you know, marriage and/or relationships are complicated and need a lot of work to keep them strong.

    Love reading your blogs. Yours is so professional looking compared to mine.

    Joan

  2. Toni Gonzalez says:

    John, What a truly interesting story..enjoyed reading about Malone.
    Easter was spent in Baltimore .My son Bill and his family ,my daughter Marjorie and her husband and her daughter and husband came and we had dinner together…I was a treat since they all live out if state.
    Traveling is still a priority with me ..went to Russia last year ..I had been there 30 years ago so the change was very impressive.
    Toni

  3. John, thank you very much for the two articles about Malone and the German gal. 😉 I feel the need to add some thoughts about faith, things in common and the work to keep a/this relationship strong.
    The faith – on both sides – grows out of the deep kinship that we share but it is almost impossible to adequately describe the nature of it. Of course, it is much more than Latin (which is actually not that dominant, and our perspective of the Latin Language is quite different, but, luckily, was the trigger to start to work together on librivox). It’s the sum of all the things we have in common and the sum of things that we don’t have in common.
    In a way both of us waited 30 years to find a person like that, a companion and we lived (until we meet) with the idea that there is nobody around who could really understand you and your thoughts …, something would be always missing, in some way one would always feel partly alone. That’s no longer the case. We found our other half.
    At some point, when we were already aware of what we feel for each other, I told him, that at the first moment when I heard his voice, I felt that I already knew his voice and his words, it was as if it was always there, always in my mind and heart. We have a simple motto: speak what’s in your mind and in your heart. And the desire to understand each other makes one able to listen. That’s the basis for the relationship, that is what makes and keeps it strong (also against the organizational hurdles). Another important element is the appreciation and gratitude for all the moments that we can share (isn’t there a line in a song “celebrate the moments that we share”): sitting on the couch with each other with a hot chocolate, playing a game of dice scrabble with a tea and some pieces of banana bread that he backed, … and many other dear moments. Dear are all of them, also when it is a moment when we are confronted with a hurdle. We take it together, then.
    I hope many many people can appreciate and share moments and feelings like that with their loved ones.

    Thank you and all the best whishes.
    Kajo

    • Now you both form the complete figure of Aristophanes’ speech in The Symposium of Plato.
      That’s wonderful!

      Maria

  4. Nancy Simonds says:

    Relationships. Now there’s a subject I find fascinating. Kajo makes a good point about what keeps any kind of relationship strong. The key word in my mind is communication about any subject. That means emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. Also, it’s about maintenance. We all keep our cars checked out (or should), teeth, bodies, house, etc. maintained on a regular basis. But we tend to forget about our significant other. It can be so simple. As I earlier conveyed, for the life of me I don’t understand why life has to be so blasted complicated. Be kind. Be considerate. Tell the truth. Speak from your heart. Enjoy the simple pleasures life offers. They don’t have to be expensive!!! In addtion, a sense of humor, a huge dose of compassion, and belief in God are essential ingredients to a healthy, exemplary bond with not only the other “half” but other friends and family members.

    Thank you, John, for another well-written piece. As one of your friends said, you do meet the most interesting people. Again, you remind me of my dear father. He was a perfect example of the kind of people I love, enjoy and appreciate every single day.

    Take good are of yourself. Also, when are you coming back to see us in Deep River, or are you playing it by ear?

    Kindest regards,
    ~ Nancy

  5. David Monagan says:

    Hello John Guy,

    I am a little confused about everything concerning this website since the link to it was sent to me from out of the blue to a girl friend from almost 35 years ago who also loved the wry and learned anarchic spirit that is the legend of Don Malone.

    I am also confused by the exquisitely, almost musically timed pauses in the pacing of your sentence structure and your messing with the normal punctuation rules as to same as if you are trying to create some kind of tone pone when writing about Don.

    Listen, I could tell you lots of new truth about Mr. Malone that I would still say fits the story tight. He was a dream consultor, a sheanachie back in Ithaca, New York in about 1975 who when he found a party dull liked to walk out on January ice until it broke and he shrieked as descending with Jesus arms and Dionysus prick up. He pushed limits right and left, raided girl friends with his eyes, and the Latin and Greek talking and who would have thought would excite the girls, but had this cadre of people who understood he was more subtle and deep and knowing than most we had met and ever would.

    I love this man and this is one of the finest blog tributes I ever saw to anybody.

    Another dear friend,,a poet named Ritchard Tietjen in Guilford, Connecticut, drove one of them weird bikes but alas is now dead. Google me as to “Ireland Unhinged” website or “Letter from Ireland” blog for Forbes and see whether we can provide a link to Don.

    David Monagan

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