An American in Berlin
17 July, 2015
So much time. So little time. So much time since my last post. So little time to write about anything. There was The Fire. There was The Crash-&-Burn Last Week of School. There was France. There was The Festival. There was The Move. There is the Job Hunt, to say nothing of The Bureaucracy. So when, exactly, am I supposed to get any writing done?
I tried scratching out a post the other day; tried to pick up where I last left off. It wasn’t really working. So I’m thinking now of breaking things down into several not-necessarily-chronological posts to try and cover it all. Because if I try to cram it all into one, well, Mick Foley can tell you about overstuffing a garbage bag.1
I went to a party/concert tonight. I may or may not have mentioned that Lisa sings in an amateur choir that practices out our – well, her – place on Monday nights. Anyway, they had a free concert there tonight, followed by a little party. The music was pretty cool. Medieval French, American spiritual and African. And the party was very nice.
Her boyfriend, Oz2 was there, so that was one familiar face. And he’s a great dude, so I was happy to see him. And obviously Lisa, although she was somewhat occupied between the singing and the hostessing. But then, there was also Cute Girl Number 1, whom we shall hereafter refer to as the Israelite. Because she’s Israeli. Anyway, very cute. So we got to talking. And we’re like, “A Jew, in England?”3 So we had a nice chat about being Jewish in Berlin, Jewish mothers, the meaning of life and what’s God got to do with it anyway. Also Hamantaschen. No really. And then I had another Jewish/Yiddish/Hebrew/German revelation. Hamantaschen literally means Haman-pocket! Because it’s a pocket shaped like Haman’s hat and filled with jelly!4 And apparently in Hebrew – and I forget the word – they’re called Haman’s Ears, because they’re also kinda ear-shaped. Anyway, we decided that Friday after next we’re going to make a little Shabbas dinner for ourselves and a select few friends. Amongst whom, it should be noted, will be her boyfriend. Because Dave. Still though, it was a cool convo and it was nice to talk to somebody from the tribe. Even if neither of us are particularly religious. But yeah, I cut bait not long after the boyfriend revelation.
It was then that I met the Persian Princess, which is how I shall now refer to the cute girl from Iran who’s doing a PhD on earthquakes. What? Cute and a scientist? And Persian? What’s the catch? Surely there’s a catch. Oh, right. You too have a boyfriend. Seriously? When did my proverbial dog piss on god’s proverbial lawn? This is the best explanation I can come up with at this point. Well, that and the fact the female population of Berlin is quite possibly the most beboyfriended female population in the Western World already.5
But enough of this. Last week was The Festival: Rock Harz. This year Vinny was able to come out, which is as it should be. So me, him and Joschka drove out from Berlin with a car full of booze, junkfood and camping gear.6 Anyway, it was great to have Vinny along this time,7 for two reasons. 1) He’s my boy, and I was happy to have him there; 2) He could keep Joschka company in the car while I slept. I can’t overstate the value of this second point. I mean, anybody who knows me knows that if you put me in a moving vehicle, I fall asleep almost instantly. Last year, when it was just me and Joschka, I had to fight really hard to stay awake.8
The festival itself was brilliant. I mean, the weather was awful for the first three days. But so what? We have an awesome crew. The boys from Lemgo: The Meyers, the Christians, Timo & Marcus. The Bavarians: Anna and her dad Stefan, Toby and Marina, and Flo. And the Izas: Lisa and Theresa.9 In all we had over twenty people.10 And all these people are the best people you could ever hope to know, let alone party with. Oh, and lest I forget Ursel. Ursel is the sex doll that gets panzer-taped11 to our flagpole. She’s a bit of a mascot.
Anyway, the festival consists mostly of heavy drinking, laying out in the sun (if there’s any sun) and going to see your favorite bands. It does not consist of showering or eating anything like real food. It is, in all likelihood, simultaneously the most fun and the most exhausting week12 of the year. And when it’s over, all you want to do is shower. Then shower again. And then sleep for three days.
The relationships you form with these people are kind of amazing. I mean, I basically only see these people at the festivals. So in some cases, it’s literally only the second time I’ve hung out with some of them. And yet, the warmth and affection that flows off of them is remarkable. There’s so much love there. And based on what? Shared interest in music? Camping out and partying for a week? And yet the bear hugs, the emotional goodbyes, the intimate chats – it’s like we’ve known each other for ages. Vinny puts it best, and I’ll try (haltingly) to capture his style here: “To be perfectly honest bro, yeah, the music is fucking great. The drinking is epic, whatever. But honestly, it’s the camaraderie.” Yeah, Vin, it’s the fucking camaraderie.
I brought my guitar. Last year, I brought it as well.13 And it was a big hit. So this year, everybody was asking if I’d brought it again. Natürlich! So on the last night, I broke it out. And that was a lot of fun. The Meyer boys love the Irish stuff. Some of the others love the Rammstein. Anna’s dad Stefan asked me to play Der Adler.14 And when I played that, he just stood there headbanging and loving the shit out of it. And when I’d finished he came over and gave me probably the best handshake ever. So cool.
Another cool thing was, Big Christian brought his girlfriend along, Katie.15 And she was lovely. Super sweet. And also the kind of girl who, even though she didn’t know hardly anybody, was perfectly comfortable doing things on her own. So the two of us went to see Varg together. And this was cool for two reasons. First, it’s just great to be in that kind of setting where you can be all, “I’m gonna go see this band now.” And someone you hardly know jumps up and says, “Yeah, I’ll come along.”
And second, she spoke with me in German. In and of itself, this is no big deal. Lots of the gang spoke to me in German. But generally, they don’t modify their speech for me. So they speak fast and with lots of slang and I get very little of it; even if I learn some new dirty slang, which I definitely did. But Katie had no problem speaking slowly and clearly with me, with the result that I had almost no trouble understanding her. That was a real treat for me. She’s a real doll. And her and Christian are f’ing adorbs together. So I hope she sticks around.
One regret: I missed The Captain’s Breakfast. The Captain’s Breakfast is a bit of a tradition. Basically, it consists of two bottles of Captain Morgan’s rum and a few liters of Coke dumped into a big bucket. Everybody sticks in a super long straw and we all drink it down together. But we only did one this year, and I slept through it. Schade.
Another highlight was going to see Alestorm with Anna. Alestorm is a “pirate metal” band.16 That was a ton of fun. We danced our asses off. And by dance I mean ‘jigged’ and turned in arm-in-arm circles, which is how one dances to pirate metal. And we made friends with some giant dude who was very fond of picking us up, if for no other reason than he just could. Look up ‘fun’ in the dictionary and, well, you won’t find us dancing to Alestorm. But it would be a better dictionary if you did.
All in all, it was brilliant. Oh yeah, there was also the part where I put on Slayer’s Raining Blood, at which point me, Björn and Eggy headbanged like crazy people for a solid 2.5 minutes. Because what’s a metal festival without Slayer? And at the end of it all, Sven said, “And so ends the best week of the year.” He’s probably right. It beats the shit out of you, but man, is it ever fun!
Thing is, I’d already had the shit beaten out of me. There was The Fire and the Last Week of School, both of which I’ll deal with in a different post. But Rock Harz followed fast on the heels of my way-too-short visit to France.
I left my apartment at around 4:45 in the morning, after about two hours of sleep.17 I took the U7 (subway) to the X9 (express bus), which took me to Tegel (the airport). The trip itself was actually quite easy, as far as getting to airports goes. And I basically slept on the planes.18 I was met at the airport by Jared, Josh, Adam & Kira.
I’m not gonna lie, it was good to see those assholes. I mean, it’d only been two months. Not that long, really. And yet, Jared and Adam, my best and oldest friends. And here we were, in fucking France! It was like coming home again. Only now, home was beautiful and in the south of France.
We went into town, straight off. First thing, we found a bookshop, which was on my agenda. So I bought some Jules Verne,19 for which I had lately become desperate. Then they made me ask the girl at the register for directions to the market. Which I did. And she gave them to me. And I understood. And in that moment, I remembered how much I like the French language and how happy I was to be able to practice it a bit. And we found the market because I totally understood the French directions. And the market was a boss-ass market.
And the house that Jared’s parents had rented was a boss-ass house. Two floors, many rooms, swimming pool, killer kitchen. I swam, I cooked, I conquered. It was great. Ok, the swimming speaks for itself. But it was nice to have two whole minutes to float on my back and have nobody talk to me.
The cooking was also fantastic. The second night, me and Amanda (Jared’s sister) were in charge of cooking. We killed it. We killed it mostly because Amanda dropped upwards of 50€ on some seriously awesome lamb. But I did some roasted fennel thing that people seemed to dig, so that was nice. And it was great to finally get some one-on-one time with Amanda. We used to hang out often and go out to nice dinners. But after I moved back home, I didn’t really see much of her. It was lovely to be able to reconnect.
It was also really great to see Josh, Jared’s boyfriend. One night we sat out and just argued about history. The dude really knows his stuff. What’s great about him, though, is he’s not just well read, but he thinks about what he’s read. He’s got a lot of opinions, and they’re informed opinions. Any time you can argue about whether Washington or FDR was the better president is a good time. Also, you can see how happy Jared is with him. That’s obviously annoying. Mais, c’est la vie, hein?
Then Lerman and Kira. I’ve known Lermo since the fourth grade. He is my longest tenured friend. And Kira is nicer to me than he is. Which shows you what a doll she is. But me and Lermo, we bicker like an old married couple. But there’s a lot of love there. It’s like Archie and Edith. Or Ralph and Alice. Easy comparisons to make, since I don’t imagine they have sex either.
And of course Jared’s parents, Paul and Carol. Talk about family. I’ve been hanging out in their house – wherever they’ve lived – since high school. They’re like a second family at this point, and that’s just how they treat me. And Paul is my napping buddy. Now, I don’t mean to say that we nap together. What I mean is, all the boys will drink a bunch of great scotch. Whereupon, Paul will disappear to one corner and I to another. And we pass out. Because we’re nappers.
Carol, on the other hand, runs the show from her wheelchair.20 She’s the matriarch. But one thing I love about her, among many things, is how she accepts me as part of the family. Because of her condition, she requires a certain degree of assistance. If she wants a drink, you’ve got to give it to her with a straw. If she wants to eat, she needs a bib. These are the sorts of things that, were I in her place, I would find embarrassing. But she doesn’t care. And she has no problem asking me to fix her drink or to tie on her bib. To me, that shows an incredible level of trust. In that way, she treats me as if I was family. It’s humbling and it’s wonderful at the same time. She’s a boss-ass bitch, and a helluva lot tougher than I’ll ever be.
Lastly, the child. Jared’s cousin has a little girl, maybe two years old.21 Just the cutest thing. And since we were in France, I decided that I would only speak to her in French.22 But homegirl didn’t care. She still played with me and we got along just fine. Anyway, the point is, I would like to have a daughter. Who’s on board? Ladies? I’m asking for nine months plus your womb.23 After that, you’re free to be on your way.24
So much for the people. The town itself was great. I mean, southern France, how can you go wrong? The markets were great. The beach was great. I mean, yeah, I hate the beach, but it was still nice. The house was great. The pool was great. Pretending to speak French was great. I wish I could have stayed longer. I would have stayed longer. But I had to get back for the festival. So I got there Saturday around noon. And by the same time Monday, they were driving me to the airport again. Nevertheless, it was a great couple of days. And I’m thankful for the opportunity to be able to visit my friends in such a setting.
And here I am. I still need to cover the last week of school and how I threw away the grade I had been aiming for. I still need to cover that time my building caught fire. And so many other things: like, can I even stay here. But this is enough for tonight I think.
The next post will follow soon enough. In the meantime, know that, if you’re reading this, I probably miss you. Just not enough to want to come back to New York quite yet…
- #amirite, Robert? [↩]
- AKA: Der Zauberer; AKA: Magic Man [↩]
- Only, instead of England, it was Berlin. And we didn’t actively make any Mel Brooks references. [↩]
- I was so excited when I figured that out! #nerdgasm [↩]
- I assume things are worse in China, what with the one child policy, i.e. the one son policy. [↩]
- The morning of our departure I bought a tent for 24€. It was tiny, which was fine. I mean, it was basically the tent version of my Chinatown room, size-wise. But it also leaked. That was less cool. [↩]
- He couldn’t make it last year. [↩]
- I mostly didn’t. But at least this year, I didn’t have to feel bad about it. [↩]
- Izas, because the names are pronounced Leeza and Thereeza. [↩]
- We roll deep, son! [↩]
- Panzer Tape is Duct Tape. But Panzer Tape so much more badass! [↩]
- Week: Wed-Sun. [↩]
- Well, Joschka’s, in any case. [↩]
- The Eagle, by Die Apokalyptischen Reiter. [↩]
- Or possibly Kathie; in any case, pronounced Kah-tee. [↩]
- The name/genre should be enough, but if you’re curious, check out keelhauled. That’ll give you the idea. [↩]
- It was the day after the last day of school. Again, I’ll deal with all that in another post. [↩]
- First flight: Berlin to Paris; Second flight: Paris to Biarritz. [↩]
- Vingt Mille Lieus Sous Les Mers (20k Leagues Under the Sea). [↩]
- She has MS. #FuckMS [↩]
- Totes adorbs. [↩]
- Because my French is probably at a two-year-old level. [↩]
- And, umm, if we could do it the old-fashioned way, that’d be nice. #justsayin [↩]
- How am I single? [↩]