An American in Berlin

An American in Berlin
Birthday Edition

Right, so either Berlin hasn’t yet figured out that #davestheworst or else friends, colleagues and students are trolling me.  How else to explain all the nice things that have befallen me here with regards to my 36th at-this-age-it-doesn’t-matter-anymore birthday?  And that’s with a number of people being out of town.

OK, so my actual birthday was Friday the 10th, and tbh, that was kinda depressing.  The original plan called for Zibs and Jan to come over for dinner and drinks.  Only Zibs texted me the day before asking if we could move it to Saturday, since they’d both be tired after working all day.  Of course, I obliged.  I mean, it’s a fair point.  Or, well, it’s a fair point for people who don’t go home, nap til 8, eat Chinese food at 9 and then show up at 11:30 for a party that started at 7.

And so while I did get a lovely (albeit tipsy) birthday phone call from Charlotte on Thursday afternoon, for whom in Australia it was already my birthday, my actual German birthday was a bit of a drag.  I bought myself a bottle of whiskey and drank rather a lot of it.  I did some Hebrew, watched some Netflix and started writing another silly fairy tale, which I may or may not finish at some point.

No one else was around.  Joschka was in the Caribbean with Cindy; Annett is out of town on an internship; the roommates were on their honeymoon; Christian the ex-roommate was hosting a friend from out of town; Anne the French language partner was in Paris; and I already mentioned Zibs and Jan.  But at least I wasn’t drinking Absinthe at 3am on a weeknight, like I was when I turned 30.  I suspect Jared remembers more about that night than I ever will.

Be that as it may, ((Election is Friday, right Dad & Justin?)) Saturday turned out to be pretty great.  Z&J met me out here in K-nick, where we went for dinner at a cute little Italian joint in the Altstadt.  We had a grand old time of it.  I ordered what was basically a (very tasty) filet mignon and we all shared a bottle of wine.  All of which set me back a whole 25€. ((Sometimes I love this city.  Imagine that in Gotham!))

After that, we stopped by the supermarket for beer and then headed back to the apartment for more drinking.  When we got there, Z&J presented me with a birthday present.  This turned out to be a bottle of Glenfiddich 12.  Which, I mean, is just glorious.  And it was no coincidence, either.  Jan and I often talk about whiskey, as he’s quite interested in it, but doesn’t have a whole lot of experience in that department.  Somewhere along the line, I said something about the Glenfiddich 12 being quite nice and not bank-breakingly expensive either.

So when I expressed my heartfelt gratitude and added that I happen to love this particular scotch, they were like, “Yeah, dude, we know.”  I mean, that’s pretty fucking great.  As was the rest of the night.  Jan and I put a nice dent in the bottle.  Zibs tried to learn how to smoke a pipe.  She needs more practice, but it was fun.  And with all that, just the usual good conversation, good laughs and general good times that always ensues with those two.  And when they left at the end of the night, I had two thoughts.  The first was, “You know, I’ve got some pretty good friends here.  I’m very lucky.”  The other was, “Fuck, I’m pretty drunk.  I hope my bed will stop spinning long enough for my ass to climb into it.”  It did and I did.  Happy birthday, Davey, and good night.

Now as I said, the roommates were away on their honeymoon.  But they returned Monday afternoon.  Which was surprising, as I was expecting them on Tuesday.  Look, I’m just happy I was wearing pants when they came home.  Anyway, I was already planning on cooking dinner, and I had plenty of food, so I asked them if they wanted to join.  They were happy too.

I made not the best braised chicken I’ve ever made, but it was good enough.  Nevertheless, we had a very nice evening, and it was good to catch up.  They’re really both very sweet.  And the more time I spend with them, the better my German gets, which is an added bonus.  Not just that, but they’re also very patient; always happy to explain things; and very much appreciate good (and bad) puns.  It’s a nice situation, is what I’m trying to say.

After dinner, I asked if they wanted a bit of nice scotch.  Lucie didn’t, but Marco was happy to dive in.  Whereupon did we proceed to put another serious dent in the bottle.  It’s funny.  Had I bought the bottle myself, I probably wouldn’t have broken it out.  But since it was a gift, I account it as not being properly mine anyway, and as something that’s meant to be shared.  So on the one hand, it’s not going to last nearly as long as I thought it might.  But on the other hand, it’s already brought me many hours of good times.  Really, there aren’t many things better than good scotch.

Anyway, as we were drinking, I mentioned that it was a birthday gift.  And they were both like, “Wtf dude, you didn’t tell us it was your birthday!  When was it?”  I told them it was Friday and since they were out of town, it hardly seemed worth mentioning.  They seemed to accept this in that way that you accept things you can’t change from simple-minded idiots.  That is to say, with a smile and a shake of the head.  Little did I know, they were plotting.

For yesterday afternoon, I got a text from Marco saying that Lucie would be cooking that night, so they hoped I didn’t have plans.  I still didn’t put together that this was a birthday thing though.  But of course it was.  And it was delish.  Lucie made a pork shoulder in a tasty sauce with mushrooms and broccoli.  Obviously there was wine.  But the best part was the brownies.

Which is a weird thing for me to say.  Not that I don’t like brownies, I surely do.  But I don’t have much of a sweet tooth.  So desert usually ranks third, after the main dish and whatever there is to drink.  And taste wise, the dinner was definitely better.  But here’s the thing.  I tasted the brownie, and I was like, “Does this have like an orange flavor to it?”  And she was like, “Yup.”  And I was like, “Dude, I fucking love chocolate with orange flavor!”  And she was like, “Yeah, I know.”  What?  How?

Apparently, she remembered that around Christmas – three fucking months ago already – I had bought some orange flavored dark chocolate.  I mean, come on, that’s pretty impressive.  Anyway, I was pretty impressed.  Well done, Lucie.  My hat is off to you.

Meanwhile, I had a private lesson at my “Friday school” yesterday.  Anyway, I walk into the office, there to print some worksheets for the lesson.  And my boss and the two ladies who work in the office are standing there, and my boss is holding a little wrapped package.  “Happy Birthday, Dave!”  And again, I’m expressing heartfelt gratitude.  But I also said it was hardly necessary.

And, come on, it’s not at all necessary.  I’ve only been working there since September.  And technically I only work one day a week.  Here and there I cover a class when they need me and I do the private lessons sometimes.  But when I said it wasn’t necessary, my boss says, “No, it wasn’t.  But it was our pleasure to.”  And I’m just like, you people are fucking fantastic.

Then I go in for the lesson.  I work with this lady who is in her early 50’s.  But she’s mad cool.  You can tell she was a good time when she was younger.  And her husband sounds like an awesome and fascinating dude.  And her kid sounds really cool too.  Anyway, she’s mostly there to improve her conversation skills.  Sometimes we do little grammar lessons.  But often as not, we just chat for 90 minutes and I correct her grammar/vocab as we go.

She’s got lots of great stories, and a wealth of knowledge about Berlin.  So half the time that I’m teaching her, she’s actually teaching me about Germany, the culture, the language, the history, and Berlin.  Good sense of humor too, so on top of all that, we have plenty of good laughs.  Anyway, she comes in today, and says, “I hope you don’t mind, but I prepared something for today’s lesson.”  Mind?  Why would I mind?  If you’re doing the prep work, this job just got even easier!  So I’m thinking she has some emails or maybe some other writing she wants to go over or work on.  Or maybe she’s got some kind of conversation scenario she wants to play out.  Wrong.

“So I was thinking,” she said, “it sounds like you don’t really get to West Berlin very much.”  Which is true.  I’ve never really been west of Tiergarten, and even then, I rarely make it west of Tempelhofer Feld.  “So I made a list of things you should check out in the West.  Some walking routes, some sights and some restaurants.”  Omg, for real?  That’s fantastic!  “Also, I have a map, so maybe we can go over it all together?”  Umm, yes please!

So she unfolds this big old ADAC map.  Now the ADAC is the German version of AAA, so it’s really a road map of Berlin.  But this means it’s highly detailed and has every street in the blessed city.  So we start going over the list, and she’s marking up the map.  “Wait, hang on, I want to get a picture of this little area.”  To which she explains, I don’t have to, the map is for me.  It’s mine now.  This was her first map when she first moved to Berlin, and she’s giving it to me.  How sweet is that?  And keep in mind, we’ve only been meeting since December!

So we spent the rest of the lesson going over her list and the map and just talking about Berlin.  And they fucking pay me for this!  Then, at the end of the lesson, she says, “Wait, I have something else for you.”  Whereupon she pulls out a little wrapped package from her bag.  “Something for your flight.”  Wow.  I’m so touched.  More heartfelt gratitude.  But I told her I’d open it on the plane, so I still don’t know what it is.  I mean, it’s clearly a book.  But I don’t know what it is.

As for the present from the school, that was also a book.  This I opened when I got home.  It’s called “Hitler’s Berlin: Abused City.”  OK guys, that’s pretty fucking perfect.  A history book about Nazi Times and specifically about Berlin?  Come on.  How can they possibly know me that well?  So I’m pretty excited to get going on that.

And that about does it for my first birthday in Berlin.  Pretty f’ing fantastic.  But like I said when I started this post, these people either haven’t yet figured out that #davestheworst, or else their trolling me.  Because there’s no way I deserve this.  Is there?

So much for the birthday.  But there’s ((Heard this really interesting observation from Ben Zimmer, WSJ language columnist (inter alia), about “There’s.”  So clearly “There is” is for singulars and “There are” is for plurals.  For example, “There is a dog.”  Or, “There are three slices of pizza left.”  But we naturally contract these to “There’s” and “There’re.”  Only, “There’re” is awkward to pronounce.  So it seems people have just started using “There’s” for singular and plural.  And the more I thought about it, the more I realized I think I must do this also, without even noticing.  I mean, it’s perfectly logical.  After all, one is much easier to say than the other.  Anyway, I thought that was fascinating.)) one or two other vignettes I want to put down before I end this post.  You know how in New York, on the subway, you get these mariachi guys or other assorted musicians that come into your car and interrupt your sweet self-in-a-bubble time with their busking?  Well, they’ve got that here too.  And the other day, this full on four or five-piece band gets on, with fucking brass horns.  And I’m just like, “Holy shit, fuck me, why?”

But then the strangest thing happened.  The band is to my left.  So naturally I look to my right.  And what do I see, but a whole kindergarten class, filling up all the seats in the middle of the car.  They had to be something like 4-5 years old.  Point is, the band starts playing, and rather loudly.  And again, I’m thinking, “Fuck you, god(s), why?”

Only when I turn to look at the kids again, they’re all looking on wide-eyed with big ol’ smiles on their faces.  And some of them are even up out of their seats and bopping around in the aisle.  Which made me smile.  I mean, it was fucking adorable and the like the sweetest thing I’ve seen in weeks.

What a strange mix of emotions, you know?  Every time I looked left, I hated everything.  But every time I looked right, I was just, “How can you not love this shit?  This is what life’s all about, amirite?”  So yeah, Berlin.

I thought I had another little story to tell, but it escapes me now, so I’ll just leave it be.  And tomorrow (well, today, technically), I fly home.  Really looking forward to it.  But it’s also quite surreal.  I was walking home from work today, just like I always do, and somehow I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that I wouldn’t be doing this tomorrow; that tomorrow I’d be back in the States.  It doesn’t seem real.  And it was a reminder that my life, at least now, is very much here.  Shit has a way of sneaking up on you sometimes.

One minor disappointment.  Back around New Year’s, I’d very much hoped that I’d be able to finish my Hebrew course book before my flight.  But then I got sick, and that set me back a bit.  So that’s not going to happen.  But I’m close.  Tonight I finished the chapter I was working on.  And now there’s only three left.  It might take another two or three weeks, but the finish line is very much in sight.  Hard not to be happy about that.

Well, that’s enough for this post.  I mean, I still need to pack. ((#fml))  Although I’m very seriously considering putting that off until morning.  I figure, if I make a mental checklist tonight, that should be sufficient.  Right?  Sure.  Welp.  See you on the other side!

זיי געסונט

An American in Berlin

An American in Berlin
Family Edition
7th March, 2017

So my roommates got married today.  Which caps off an interesting week.  Which itself caps off an interesting couple of weeks.  So many interesting things.  Do I start from now and go backwards?  Or do I start in the past and go forwards to today?  And what is “time” anyway, when you get right down to it?  Fine, let’s start from the beginning.  By which I mean roughly more or less where my last post ended.

Week before last I came down with a nasty case of bronchitis.  Which led me to my first experience with the German health care system.  And you guys, I gotta tell ya, it’s brilliant.  So there I was, sick as a dog.  Fever, cough, the whole nine.  I gave it a weekend, to see if it would take care of itself.  And when it didn’t, I had to give in and see a doctor.

I found one via a sort of medical Yelp which Joschka had recommended to me.  Whereupon did I show up to this guy’s office, no appointment.  They take my health insurance card ((I’m paying something like 177€/month.)) and less than an hour later, I’m in with the doc.  He checks me out, tells me I have bronchitis and prescribes some antibiotics as well a bit of cough syrup.  And while I’m there, I ask him if he wouldn’t mind writing me a scrip for a new inhaler.  He was only too happy to oblige.

Anyway, the visit itself cost me zilch.  No copay, no nothing.  And then, three prescriptions totaled all of 15€.  I mean, how fucking fantastic is that?  When that’s my experience, it makes me wonder why I should ever go back to the States.  Hell, I almost feel like I should throw myself in front of a bus.  Just cos I can!

Well, I’m all better now.  Which is the point.  Well, the second point, anyway.  The first point is, I’m still not over how easy and cheap it was to get medical care here.  I mean, this is how it’s supposed to work.  And btw, my monthly cost is directly related to my income.  It’s progressive.  You pay what they determine you can afford.  It’s a beautiful thing.  Honestly.

So much for that.  Work has been good.  I’ve been busy enough.  And I continue to enjoy what I do.  Last Friday, my boss asked me if I’d be interested in taking on another two days a week.  I told him I absolutely would.  Because this is the place, remember, where the job isn’t based on a set number of hours per course, but rather just goes on indefinitely.  If I had three guaranteed days a week at this place, all my expenses would be covered.  And I’d have some walking around money.  And then, if I could just add one more day from the other school, I’d be on easy street.

But I don’t want to count those chickens before they hatch.  His idea was for this to start when I get back from the States, meaning April.  Meaning, in other words, a month from now.  And a lot of things can change in a month.  So we’ll see.  But I’m hopeful.  Oh, and also, if it works out, the days I’d be working would be Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.  And I’ve still got my Wednesday class until some time in May.  So I’d be looking at three-day weekends too.  How sick would that be?!

Well, we’ll see.  But as I say, work continues to be cool.  I recently did a lesson on poetry; meter and rhyme.  That was a lot of fun.  And we read some Mark Twain, which was also really cool.  Well, for me, anyway.  Comedy is hard in a second language.  So I’m not sure to what extent they got it.  But it’s good for them to read a bit of actual literature here and there, I think.

The last two weekends I met up with Zibs and Jan, the political friends.  I love them.  Each time, we met for dinner and then wound up drinking for like six hours.  They’re honestly fantastic.  We hit on this idea of a group writing project.  The idea is, that we would start writing about our experiences here in Berlin, but specifically with an eye to the times we live in; the political shitshow that is engulfing us all.  We feel like it’s important to put down some kind of record of what it’s like to live in these times on a sort of day-to-day basis.  Not so much big picture stuff, but just what life is like, what we see happening around us.

I’m not sure how exactly we’re going to go about this.  Jan thinks a blog is the way to go.  Zibs thinks it would make for a cool book.  I think both have merit.  Maybe start it as a blog so that at least one of us always writing.  And then we can try to organize it into a book later.  I dunno.  Meanwhile, we haven’t started yet.  So for the moment, it’s only an idea.  But I think it’s an interesting one.  I think it has legs, as Jared used to say.  So again, we’ll see.

So at the turn of the month, Christian, my drinking buddy/roommate/philosophical-intellectual conversation partner moved out.  That was sad.  But he’s staying in Berlin, at least for the next three months.  So we’ll still see each other.  And in fact, he came over Saturday for dinner, which was great.  You know, especially since he cooked.

And then, after he moved out, Marco (Lucie’s boyfriend; Lucie being my other roommate) moved in.  Which was “fun.”  Saturday he showed up with a big ol’ van full of furniture and all his stuff.  So we spent maybe two hours moving him in, and now my arms and shoulders are sore.  Because apparently I’m old and a giant pussy now.  But he and Lucie provided chili and beer for lunch afterwards, so I’ll count that as a solid fucking win.

Oh, and as of today, it’s no longer appropriate to call him Lucie’s boyfriend.  See, they got married this afternoon.  It was a very small affair.  I think it was just a handful of the closest friends and parents at City Hall. ((Berlin doesn’t have one “City Hall.”  You know how, in New York, the five boroughs used to be five independent cities?  Well, it’s kind of the same in Berlin.  Except that, instead of a mere five cities, “greater” Berlin is made up of dozens of smaller towns and cities that were all incorporated as one sometime around the 20’s.  And each one of these has it’s own Rathaus or City Hall.  So they did their wedding at the Köpenick Rathaus, in the Altstadt, the Old City.))  I wasn’t there.  But when I came home, L&M and the bridesmaid and best man were chilling in the kitchen.

Tbh, I was pretty tired and was planning on a nap.  But when Lucie asked me if I wanted a glass of Sekt (sparkling wine), I had no choice but to accept.  After all, it would be rude not to.  Wouldn’t it?  Then, at some point, it became clear that everybody was hungry, as nobody had eaten since lunch.  And Marco sort of half-jokingly (I think) asked me if I wanted to cook something. ((At the risk of tooting my own horn, everybody knows by now that I quite like to cook and also that I’m pretty decent at it.))  I asked if he was serious, and he basically said, “Sure, why not?”

Well, I was happy to do it.  I mean, I hadn’t got them a wedding gift or anything.  So I scoured around the kitchen for a few minutes and threw something together with whatever was at hand.  And you know what?  It actually turned into quite a nice meal.

The main dish was chicken and bratwurst sautéed with carrots, tomatoes and onions in a white wine sauce.  For sides I did my standard seasoned roasted potatoes and string beans sautéed in butter with salt and lemon juice.  The latter I usually prefer to do with bacon grease, but not having any at hand, butter was a decent enough substitute.  The sides were perfectly fine.  But to be perfectly honest, I was really pleased with how the main came together.  I feel like I really nailed the sauce.  And everybody was clearly very happy with it.

Which, tbh, meant a lot to me.  Because the truth is, I was really happy to be able to contribute something nice to their wedding.  I mean, we don’t know each other that long ((I only moved in in December, remember.)) or that well.  So I can’t really say that we’re close.  But we are roommates.  And we do get on quite well together.  And in the end, I think it’s nicer to give a nice meal than a bottle of wine or some equally generic gift.  And I even allowed myself to think, you know, it’d be pretty nice if, years from now when we’ve all lost touch, if they remember back to their wedding night and say, “Hey, remember when our roommate cooked us a lovely dinner for our wedding?”  Yeah, it’s a bit solipsistic, I know.  But every once in a while, I think it’s OK to feel pretty good about yourself, or at least, something you’ve done for somebody else.

But enough of that.  The weather was stunning on Saturday.  Over 60 degrees, I think.  So while I was waiting for Marco to show up with the van, I sat out on the balcony and enjoyed some tea and toast in the sunshine.  This I followed up with a pipe and some Washington Irving, who omg you guys, is brilliant and hilarious and wonderful and entirely underrated.  And I’m already thinking how great it’s going to be to spend the summer here.

But the summer is still months away.  Of much more immediate interest is the fact that I’m going home in ten days.  And I’m really looking forward to seeing my friends and family.  Indeed, my calendar is already filling up.  But more than that…no, that’s wrong.  Not more than that.  But as much as anything, I think I can say, I’m every day thinking about what I’m going to eat when I get home.  Man, I’ve got a list.

Pizza.  Bagels.  Soup dumplings from Joe’s Shanghai.  Wo Hop.  Hong Kong Beef Stew from my old corner spot on Hester and Allen.  Some actual proper fucking Pho – and I’m talking with tripe and tendon – from Pho Grand.  A pastrami on rye with a lip-puckering sour pickle on the side.  A burger from the diner.  Wings from the Inn Between.  And my mom’s spaghetti and meatballs.  Oh, and if we can throw some skirt steaks on the grill, then so much the better.  There’s not an hour that goes by that I’m not thinking about this.

Friday night we did our monthly Stammtisch (happy hour, for lack of a better word) with some people from my Friday school.  Me and another teacher as well as some past and present students.  As I say, we do this once a month and it’s always a good time.  It’s nice to hang out with these people in a social setting, and it’s a good opportunity to learn some cool German slang as well.  So yeah, I quite enjoyed that.

But afterwards, one of the girls suggested we stop by a “really great” pizza spot in the area.  But, you know, it was Berlin “pizza.”  And, I mean, I’m sure it was great.  And I had every intention of getting some for myself.  But when I looked at it, all I could think was, “Come on, this isn’t pizza.  I’ll be home in less than two weeks.  I can wait.”  So I passed on the pizza.  Which was fine.

Because when I got home, I had some leftover shepherd’s pie.  Well, cottage pie, anyway.  Apparently it’s impossible to find ground lamb in this neighborhood. ((#nomuslimshere))  Anyway, I made this cottage pie for the flat on Thursday.  M&L had been working really hard preparing the room, so I thought it would be nice to cook dinner for them.  It must’ve been OK, as everybody had seconds.  Fortunately, there was still a little left for me when I came home tipsy from the Stammtisch.

I said they’d been working hard preparing the room, and they had.  They spent a few days last week stripping the shitty finish off the actual proper wood floor.  And I do mean stripping it.  They had an industrial sander in there.  The funny thing was, they were worried that the noise would disturb me.  And make no mistake, that shit was loud.

But I gotta tell ya.  It was music to me.  I came home from work ready for a nap.  And they were sanding away in there, on the other side of the wall.  And I passed right the fuck out.  Not only that, I had the absolute best nap I’ve had in months.  I tried to explain this to them the next day.  In absolutely terrible German, I said something to the effect of, “You guys had that sander going and I slept like a fucking baby.  For the first time since I got here, I felt like I was back home in New York.”

And it’s true.  It’s so fucking quiet here.  It’s disturbing.  It was like that scene in My Cousin Vinny.  You know, where he can’t fall asleep in the cabin in the woods.  And the owl hoots and he runs outside with a fucking shotgun.  And then finally, he spends a night in prison.  And with a fucking riot going on around him, he sleeps like a fucking baby.  That’s exactly what it was.  And they laughed at me, like, what the fuck is wrong with this guy.  But it was absolutely beautiful, I swear.

Another side effect of this moving sitch was, I inherited an actual proper bookshelf.  On the one hand, it’s not that nice.  On the other hand, it’s wood, it’s stained, and it’s a proper fucking bookshelf.  It’s perfect for this room, and it’s perfect for me.  The only problem is, now I need more books!

But I think it’s also going to double as a liquor cabinet.  Because if this job thing works out, and I find myself with some actual disposable income, I fully intend to build up a little bar for myself.  I’m talking, at a minimum, cocktail shaker, gin, rye, sweet & dry vermouth, bitters, maybe a nice bottle of rum.  And of course, some actual, honest to god, single malt scotch.  I mean, yeah, I’ll still drink my dollar wine on a day-to-day basis.  But wouldn’t it be nice to class this joint up a bit too?

Getting sick put a dent in my studies.  For the week I was sick, I scarcely got out of bed.  But in addition to that, I was pretty well exhausted for a fortnight or so before I fell ill.  Endeffekt, I didn’t get much Hebrew done for a solid three weeks.  If my original goal was to finish my course book by Spring, then I’m still on target.  But for a while there, I thought I might even finish before I went home.  That’s now out of the question.  Still, I’m not in bad shape there; even if I’m not in as good shape as I’d hoped.

On the other hand, I’ve started trying to get my classical guitar skills back in order.  I mean, I’ve really slipped in that department.  Once I got comfortable singing and playing at the same time, that became my focus.  Irish folk, rock and roll, the odd French or German tune, plus my own stuff.  That’s really been my focus for literally years now.  And somewhere along the line, I kinda stopped bothering with classical.  Which is a shame.

So I’ve started trying to get that back.  I’m now pretty solid again with the Bach Lute Prelude, BWV 999.  The Canarios is in good shape too.  What’s not in good shape, though, is my ability to read sheet music.  I really want to get my hands back around the Bach prelude to the first Cello Suite. ((I forget the BWV.  But you know it when you hear it.))  Only the sheet music is killing me.  The bass notes are like 37 ledger lines below the staff and I’m just like, “Uh, hello?”  So that’s gonna need like just dedicating a fucking Sunday to re-teaching myself how to read music.

But yeah, it feels good to be playing classical music again.  It feels good to be using those skills too; the finger picking, the unusual chords shapes.  And also, I mean, come on…Bach!  I fucking love this guy.  He’s like the Homer of music.  Every time you come back to it, you find something new.  And it admits of such wide and varied interpretation.  There’s a hundred different ways to play Bach “right.”  Just as there are a hundred different ways to read Homer “right.” ((Here, I always think of the totally completely different ways Daitz and I would read Hera.  He always read her as a sort of clucking cuckold bitch of a wife.  And I would read her as a strong, proud, independent woman.  And the best part is, Daitz completely accepted that.  “Well, Dave,” he’d say.  “That’s not how I read it.  But you bring your own interpretation to it, and that’s what reading Homer is all about.”  I fucking miss that guy so much.))

He’s not like those Romantic fucks, Bach, who tell you at exactly what tempo and volume the music must be played.  He’s just like, “Look, bitches, all my notes are perfect.  Do what you want.  You can’t fuck this shit up.  It’s perfect.  It exists outside of your reality.  Fast, slow, loud, soft, IDGAF.  I got you.”

And in this way, he’s also like the fucking Thucydides of music.  See, imo, Thucydides is the best prose that’s ever been written in any language.  You read him, and you just feel like every single word has a purpose.  Every single word is carefully chosen and carefully placed exactly as it should be.  And it’s not always easy to understand.  But if you can’t understand it, that’s on you.  Because he knew what he was doing.  And I think Bach is also like that.  There’s not a note out of place.  There’s not one note that’s casually placed just because a note is needed.  Each and every single one has a purpose, each and every single one serves the greater whole.

Bach.  Homer.  Thucydides.  Perfection.  Only, now I feel a bit guilty because I’ve said nothing about Beethoven.  But Beethoven has no parallel, no equal.  I mean, there’s a bit of Homer in Beethoven, and a bit of Bach too.  And maybe there’s something to be said along the lines of Mozart is like Virgil (perfect in every way and totally capable of kicking ass, and yet also, often kind of boring) while Beethoven is like Homer (more organic, more emotional, and giving zero fucks for your “rules”).

But this digression is now becoming silly.  I shall end it by pointing out, not for the last time, that we should also never forget that AC/DC is the ultimate Platonic perfection of the “form” of Rock and Roll.  Limited by its very nature, perhaps.  But perhaps nothing is more perfect in the narrowest sense of its own existence than AC/DC.  And here too there is a parallel with Beethoven.

By which I mean, after Beethoven, they had to throw out the book and start over.  He had literally perfected everything that everyone had been doing to that point.  The piano sonatas, the symphonies, the string quartets. ((OK, he fell down in the Opera department.  But honestly, fuck opera anyway, emirate?))  He dropped the mic on “classical.”  So everybody threw up their hands and said, “Fuck it.  I guess we’ll just do ‘romantic’ now, whatever the fuck that means.”  And you know what?  Romantic was shit.  Things didn’t get interesting again until Gershwin showed up and was like, “Shit needs to swing, bitches.” ((Not a direct quote.))

Same for AC/DC.  In 1977 the released Let There Be Rock and followed up the next year with Powerage.  And lo, the form was perfected.  Nothing left to say.  After that, rock could be fun.  But it couldn’t be new.  And it sure as shit couldn’t be better.  Like, they made Back in Black.  And, you know, it’s fine.  Well, Beethoven nearly wrote a tenth symphony.  And I’m sure that would have been fine too.

Meanwhile, somewhere my brother and father are saying, “But Brahms!  But Chopin!”  And all I’m saying is, of course I listen to Back in Black.  Doesn’t mean everything worth saying hasn’t already been said.  And somewhere my brother is saying, “You’re a real asshole, you know that?”  Yes.  Yes, I do.

Oh fuck.  I’ve been having so many thoughts lately about “the East” here, in Berlin and in Germany.  So many thoughts about the DDR and even the Nazi times, and how they’ve shaped this city and this country; especially in the East.

Last post I mentioned that I was working with a student who was doing research on memory and the DDR.  And we read many articles together on the subject.  I learned so much.  And it’s really re-shaped my thinking on this city, on this neighborhood, on the people here, on everything really.

And now I’m working with a student, a woman in her mid-50s who grew up in the DDR.  And man, she hates it.  She’s got so many negative feelings and emotions about East Germany.  It’s fascinating.  But I don’t want to get started in on that subject now.  This post is long enough.  So maybe I’ll tackle that next time.  Because it really is fascinating.  I mean, this city is so fascinating.  It’s history.  It’s present.  It’s future.  And how that history affects the present and the future.  I just look out the window when I’m riding the train or the tram, and my mind starts spinning in a hundred different directions.

But as I say, I’ll tackle that another day.  Until then…

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