An American in Berlin

An American in Berlin
29 October, 2022

Went for my first official skate at THF last Thursday.  A good start.  I’m out of shape.  But it was a lot of fun.  Felt good just to be on skates again.  But I’ve definitely lost some of my game.  On a dead straightaway – hello runways! – I can still get going at a pretty good clip; although even there I can tell my balance isn’t what it should be.  And turns, forget about it.  Sloppy.  And I don’t know where my ‘edges’ are anymore. 

To that end, Thursday night I ordered some hockey gear.  A stick, three balls, gloves, tape and some cones.  The plan now is not only to skate for exercise; the long straightaways down the runways will give me plenty of that.  But now also to set myself to some drills.  At the moment, I’m thinking mostly crossovers and stickhandling through and around the cones.  Well, crossovers and also sharp turns at the end of a series of cones.

I used to take such pride in my skating.  Back when we were regularly playing roller hockey, I always held myself as amongst the best skaters, if not the best skater, out there.  Right now, I’m a long way off from that.  And it occurred to me.  For the last ten years+ of my hockey playing ‘career,’ I was only playing on the ice, playing goal.  So yeah, I was skating.  But I was skating with those big ol’ goalie pads on.  Totally different animal.  So it’s even longer than I thought since I’ve been properly skating on rollerblades. 

I’m also hoping that brining a hockey element to this will encourage me to do it more often; regularly in fact.  Because as much fun as skating is, if all I’m doing is flying down the runways for exercise, it’s bound to get boring.  But if I’m working on hockey skills, agility, stickhandling and the like, I mean, that’s a thousand times more fun.  So let’s see what I can do.  But I’m excited.  Like, super excited.

Friday night, I walked home from Joschka’s.  All the way home.  Turns out it’s a solid 90m walk.  Long, but doable.  For reference, that’d be like walking to Chinatown or Fidi from, say 59th street or so.  Like I said, eminently doable.  But with considerations.  If it’s been a long night of drinking – which Friday actually wasn’t – one would do well to know where the public restrooms are; or at least parks, and failing that, secluded shrubbery.  One would also do well to organize the route in such a way that one will happen upon an open Späti an hour or so into the walk.  Because at 90m, this is what I shall henceforth refer to as a “Two-beer walk.”  

I hadn’t planned on walking all the way home.  The plan was to just walk as far as Alexanderplatz and catch the subway [sorry, U-Bahn] from there.  But the weather was gorgeous and anyway, I still had a solid half a beer left.  So at first, I figured I’d just follow the subway route and pop downstairs when I finished my beer.  But because the weather was so nice, I just kept telling myself “Hey, come on, let’s a go a bit further.”  Until at some point, it became, “Who are we kidding, let’s just do this.” 

I don’t know how often I’ll wind up doing this.  I don’t imagine it will be much fun to walk 90m in the winter, when it’s properly cold out.  But who knows, maybe once the blood gets flowing, I’ll arrive at the same mindset.  I mean, with a beer and a good podcast or the right music, it’s fucking great to walk. 

And you know me, I love walking in the middle of the night, when things are mostly dark and still and peaceful.  That said, this walk is quite a bit different from my old walk.  If you remember, that old walk was one of decay, where you sort of watch the city disappear around you.  This walk is a bit more varied.  After Alex, you get stretches of quiet neighborhoods, closed shops, empty streets.  But these are punctuated every so often by by pockets of life and activity, light and music and people, bars and Spätis, even at the late hour of 4-5am.  These pockets are generally to be found around the subway stops. 

Podcast-wise, that night I opted for a bit of Chumash with Rashi.  I’ve previously written that I’d been listening to a Chumash with Rashi podcast by a Chabadnik that Aunt Cookie put me on to.  But having completed an entire turn through the Torah with that guy, and having found that it just repeats (i.e. he doesn’t record a new series every year), I decided to try a new one.  This one is less fun but more educational.  The Chabadnik was often telling jokes and parables and stories, occasionally even in Yiddish.  It was indeed a lot of fun. 

This new guy, though, doesn’t do that.  But he gets deeper into the Rashi and adds bit from other commentators.  And he’s super Yiddish about everything.  Like, the Chabadnik, he delivered his lessons in an English that anybody could understand.  And if he did tell a joke or story in Yiddish, he would translate it. 

This guy, though, you gotta come correct.  You gotta show up already knowing Yiddish and Hebrew.  Because his English is barely that.  He consistently subs out words, and even entire phrases, into Yiddish or Yiddish-Hebrew, such that if you don’t know these languages, you’d be hard pressed indeed to follow what the hell he’s talking about.  I’ll give an example from Friday’s podcast.  The words in brackets are my translation for your sake; he does not translate them.  So, for example: “So HaShem [G-d] waited until Noyakh [Noah] was five hundred years old for him to have bonim [sons], that way he would only have three bonim and he wouldn’t have to build many teyvas [arks] when HaShem sent the mabel [flood].  Sogt Rashi [Rashi says]…”

So I mean, I love this shit.  Hook it to my veins.  If anything, I’m slightly saddened that he’s even bothering to do this in “English” at all.  Like dude, you’re basically just speaking Yiddish with English words, why not just do this in actual Yiddish?  One other example, not from Friday’s podcast, and this time just a phrase.  “So here we learn that one must be makriv [bring] a karbon [sacrifice].”  We have to be makriv a karbon?  This is not English.  Why are we pretending?  And yet, I love it.

Staying with the subject of Torah, Akiva and I had our first Zoom Torah-learning Friday afternoon.  It just happens that this week marks the beginning of the cycle, that this week’s parsha is the very first parsha.  “In the beginning” and all that.  So that’s what we decided to learn.  And in an hour of study, all we managed to read of the actual Torah was the very first verse.  That’s it.  One verse.  בראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ.  “In the beginning, G-d created the Heavens and the Earth.”  An hour, and that’s the only line of Torah we read.

Why?  Because we then dug into the commentaries of Rashi and Ramaban.  In Hebrew.  And this was the real highlight.  I’ve touched on this briefly before.  But these commentaries are written in a different dialect of Hebrew than is the Torah.  I touched in this on account of the fact that I’ve bought a textbook with which teach myself this dialect.  But I haven’t actually started with it yet.  OK, so we’re looking at these commentaries, and they’re Hebrew, but a dialect I’m still unfamiliar – or, at least, uncomfortable – with.  And yet, it was fantastic.

און פאַרוואָס?  Well, because I got to be the student for a change, and Kivele got to be the teacher.  See, I was prepared to just let him walk me through it and to just try and keep up as best I could.  But that’s not what happened.  No, he was all, “Why don’t you read this?”  Uh, cause I don’t think I can?  “Dude, come on, just give it a try.”  So fuck it, why not?  I gave it a try. 

And sure, there was a fair bit of hand-holding.  Like, I’d ask if I didn’t know a word.  And he had to set me straight on the syntax in places, even when I did happen to know all the words.  (The syntax is a bitch, not for nothing).  But I managed it.  Indeed, there were whole sentences where I’d read the Hebrew and then take a stab at translating it.  “I’m not sure, but I feel like it should mean this?”  And he’d be like, “Dude, that’s great, that’s exactly what it means!”  I’m not gonna lie, I felt pretty darn good about myself.  I mean, when I was able to do that, it was entirely on the back of my own efforts, my own self-learning.  

To be clear, I couldn’t have done it alone.  Even when I was getting shit right, I never would have had the confidence to believe I was getting it right.  I mean, I was just making educated guesses, right?   Without the experience or depth of learning to trust those judgments.  But with Akiva’s help, I was getting by.  And he’s a wonderful teacher.  Truly.  Supportive and encouraging, but also good at recognizing what I know and what I don’t.  Good at giving hints rather than full-on explanations or translations, when a hint was all I needed to get over the hill.  What’s more, I could tell it was fun for him.  And it was fucking fun for me too, you guys.  Yeah, I know.  Nerd City, Population: Me. 

But there was also this really nice symmetry to the experience.  Let me explain what I mean.  Through Akiva, I met this dude Igor, originally from Ukraine, but he grew up – and still lives – in West Germany.  We’ve since become friends.  Anyway, he’s just now getting started on his own journey of learning biblical Hebrew.  And so we’ll usually meet once a week or so on Zoom, and for part of our meeting, I’ll just help him with his homework.  You know, just try to share some of my own knowledge and experience.  After all, I once did what he’s doing, and when I did it, I had to do it alone. 

Anyway, after one of our Zooms, he sends me a voice message (in German, so I paraphrase), but basically saying, “Dude, thank you so much for helping me.  It means so much to me.  You explain things to me in a way that I can finally understand them, and you make it so clear and so easy.  Thank you!”  He kinda went on for a bit, but that was the gist.  You know, and I’m kinda like, “Settle down, champ.  First of all, you’re my friend, so obviously I’m gonna help you if I can.  And anyway, it’s literally a mitzvah.” 

Obviously I didn’t say that.  I just said something along the lines of, “You’re very welcome and it’s my pleasure.  Come at me any time with any questions you got.  You don’t need to wait for the next Zoom.  I’m happy to help.”  Which I am.  Happy to help, I mean.  And it does make me happy.  I mean, it’s fun for me to help him with his Hebrew.  Like, yes it’s a mitzvah, yes he’s my friend.  But it is, in point of fact, fun.

I wouldn’t normally have mentioned that (unless I have already.  Have I?).  It’s no good to boast about doing a mitzvah.  HaShem knows you’ve done it and that should be enough.  Or, it would be, if I believed in G-d, but that’s another story.  No, the reason I bring it up, is because Friday, the roles were reversed.  Friday, I was the one trying to learn (a new dialect of) Hebrew, and Akiva was the one helping me.  That’s why I mean by symmetry.

But I love this so much.  I love the way we take care of each other and help one another.  And I love that we do it, not out of a sense of obligation – even though we are aware that it is an obligation, a mitzvah – but because it brings us joy to do so.  It brings me joy to help Igor, to watch him grow and make progress.  And I could tell it brought Akiva joy to hold my hand through a bit of Rashi and Ramban, and to see me succeed at it, to whatever extent I could be said to be succeeding.

What’s more, I love that this joy is centered around learning.  Clearly, as an individual and having nothing to do with Judaism, learning is central to my life.  But for us as a people, learning is central to our way of life. 

A slight digression.  One of the things I love about Judaism is that it’s not dogmatic, not in the way, for example, that I understand Catholicism to be.  There is no one central authority or truth.  Akiva and I were talking about this Friday.  As Jews, our job is to learn as many interpretations and teachings as we can and to hold them simultaneously in our head.  The goal is not to read the first line of Genesis and say, “Well, it means this.  End of discussion.”  The goal is be able to say, “Well, Rashi argues that it means x.  But Ramban disagrees and says it means y.  Meanwhile, Rambam teaches z.  And of course the Vilna Gaon has a to say about it.  And my understanding is now richer for having learned all of these things.  And not only that, we’re now free to argue about it.  More than free.  We are encouraged to argue about it.”  I fucking love that. 

My point is, it brings me joy to help Igor learn just as it brings Akiva joy to help me learn.  And I love that this is a thing we find joy in. 

And it doesn’t have to be about Torah.  I’m a teacher for a reason.  And a student for life.  When Charlotte was here, we were talking about teaching, and somehow we got on the subject of the passé composé – the standard past tense in French.  And she was saying how it’s actually deceptively difficult, both to learn and to teach.  On the surface, it seems like it should be straightforward, but in point of fact, it’s anything but. 

Well, now you’ve got my attention, sweetheart.  Tell me everything.  And I mean, fucking everything.  And she did.  She grabbed a pen and a scrap of paper, and proceeded to walk me through the nuances of this particular verb tense, complete with example sentences to illustrate her points.  And I just ate it up, you know?

But she had fun with it too.  Which ain’t nothing.  Because, no matter how much we might love our respective languages, no matter how much we might love teaching them, having to do this shit that you’ve done a thousand times before on your off-hours can be tedious af.  Right, I mean there’s a reason I hate speaking English with German people when I’m not working.  Nobody’s paying me to listen to your denglish-isms, so can we please not?

So I asked her, “Hey, you don’t mind doing this with me off the clock, do you?”  And she was like, “Not at all.  I’m happy to do it, if the person I’m doing it with actually gets it and wants to learn.”  All to say, for people like us, Jew or Gentile, there’s great joy in learning, and it doesn’t matter what side of the desk you’re on.  I fucking love that.  And I love that I’ve got people in my life – good friends – who are the same way. 

Saturday night was Knut’s 60th birthday.  Glad I went, and it was more fun than I’d anticipated.  Philippe, Brigitte and Deb were there, and it was great to just bullshit with them and drink wine.  Bibi was also there, and I hadn’t seen since her before the move, so I was actually really happy to catch up with her.  I’ve written plenty about all she’s done for my development as a musician.  But I’m not sure I’ve written enough about how she’s also just my friend, and she very much is.  So it was great to catch up with her and shoot the shit, you know?

One thing I probably haven’t written about, with respect to Bibi, is that I just love speaking German with her.  I mean, she’s a ‘real’ East Berliner.  I wrote not long ago about how I love Linda’s German, because it’s a very real, very gritty East Berlin kinda German.  But Linda herself is a child of the 90’s.  (I think?  She’s twenty-five, if I’m not mistaken.  Point being, she’s Post-Wall).  Which is to say, while it’s authentic, it’s also a sort of ‘legacy’ East Berlinish, if you accept the term.  But Bibi, she grew up in the DDR (or ‘GDR,’ I guess we say in English?).  

No, you know what?  I’m not proud of that analysis.  It’s bullshit to value one person’s version of the language over another’s.  That’s gross, not to put to fine a point on it.  So gimme a sec here (I drank a lot of wine at the party [I originally wrote this after coming home from the party.]).  For reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, but probably having to do with just being closer with Bibi than Linda – no, I’m still comparing.  And it’s still gross.  Let me try again…

I often write about how, despite my efforts to ape the Berlin dialect, and more precisely, the East version thereof, English and Yiddish exert a considerable pull.  For reasons which, at present, I have no wish to examine, those influences are most suppressed when I’m talking with Bibi.  I hear her German and I give back what I’m hearing.  And for whatever reason, with her, I feel most confident in my German.  With her is when I most feel, “Yeah, I actually do speak this language and you know what?  I’m actually pretty damn good at it.”

Don’t get me wrong, I still make all manner of mistakes.  I’ll still go into the occasional syntactic tailspin.  Huh?  What does that even mean?   I forget what movie it’s in, but there’s this brilliant Marx Brothers routine, where Chico is at the piano.  And he’s playing this wonderful piece of music.  Until he gets to the end.  And it should be the end.  You can hear it.  You can feel it.  But it doesn’t end.  He just gets stuck in this endless loop of a chord progression.  And he’s like, “I don’t know how it ends!”  That can happen to me in German.  I’ll get to the end of a sentence, and suddenly, I’m like, “I don’t know how this ends!’  And I’ll just keep adding verbs until somebody slaps me upside the head.  Usually figuratively. 

Yeesh, that was a digression.  All I really wanted to say was something like this.  Often people back home will ask me if I’m “fluent.”  And to this, I have two stock answers.  Answer #1: “I don’t know what fluent means, but I’ve got plenty of friends where the only language we speak is German, so…yes?”  Answer #2: “Meh.  It’s a shitshow, but it get’s me from A to B.”  But when I’m shooting the shit with Bibi, that’s when I most feel like, “Hey, you know what?  Actually my German is just fine, thank you very much.” 

To be fair, I get this with the Bavarians as well.  Except the experience with them is mitigated by two factors.  One, I don’t see them that often.  Two, Bavarian is much closer to Yiddish.  So with them, I give the Yiddish influence plenty of room, and it just works with them in a way that doesn’t quite fly up here.  I feel like I’m doing a terrible job of describing this and so I think I should just shuddup already.

There was this girl there, at Knut’s birthday.  Oxana.  Or perhaps Oksana?  I literally have no idea about the spelling conventions when it comes to Slavic languages.  Anyway, she’s a Ukrainian refugee, taking [pro bono] German lessons form Knut.  And I gather he hired her to work the party.  Just to pour wine and hand out dishes and glasses, that sort of thing. 

But I chatted with her for a bit.  Partly because everybody else at the party was fucking old (Knut was turning 60, after all).  And partly because, omg was she ever gorgeous.  Total smoke show.  But also smart.  We wound up talking a bit about literature.  Russian and Ukrainian lit, to be precise.

Which was fun for me, because I know fuck all about that.  And what a wonderful position to be in.  I sometimes worry that I can sound pretentious when I talk about my own shit.  Example.  After asking my students what they’d done the previous day (mostly as a way to push them into using the past tense), one of them asked me what I’d done the day before.  Now, it happened that the day before I’d had my regular Zoom with George.  So all I said was, “I’ve got this friend back home, and once a week, we meet on Zoom to read together.  And that was yesterday.” 

But of course one of them asked what we read.  And I got all quiet and self-conscious and stammer-y.  Like, I somehow felt that were I to say, “Ah, yes, well, we read Ancient Greek together,” I’d sound like a pretentious asshole.  I’m not kidding when I say I literally froze.  In the end, I did answer honestly, and explained that we’re currently working through Sophocles’ Ajax.  But I was embarrassed to say that. 

Which is fucking weird, right?  Nevermind that it’s the truth.  But I run my mouth all the time about this shit.  “Hmm, yes, well of course this word derives from the Latin, and so we can see it means something like ___.”  Or, “But I’m sure you have the same word in German, because it’s Greek, and the Greek words are usually the same everywhere.”  Like, I don’t mind being a know-it-all when I’m teaching.  But ask me about my personal life and I’m suddenly embarrassed.

Gods I’m going off on tangents tonight.  My point is, I was talking to this girl, and she’s telling me about Pushkin.  And suddenly, all my knowledge about Greek and Latin and French and Hebrew was out the window.  It was worthless.  And that was some how incredibly refreshing.  Like, it was a chance for me to shut my big fucking mouth for five minutes and maybe learn something.  And yeah, it didn’t hurt that while I was learning, I got to look at this gorgeous face that was talking to me.

It was nice.  And it was כדי.  But in the end, I don’t think there was any real connection there.  It was just a nice way to pass the time at a party.  A way to avoid the usual bullshit of socializing at a party.  And a chance to learn.  וואָס איז תמיד כדי. 

But if I may indulge in a point of curiosity.  This girl has two kids, צוויי בנים, 16 and 11.  Which was most surprising because (and forgive me) she did not look like a woman who’s had two kids.  And also, I’d bet money she was younger than me.  To be clear, there is no judgment attached to any of this.  Merely surprise is all.  And even that may be unjust.

But my point of curiosity is this.  Maybe she was – or under other circumstances could have been – interested in me.  Or perhaps one look at me was enough for her to say, “Ha, as if!”  All that’s the beside the point.  What I find myself curious about is this.  She’s a single woman (or, at least, I’m given to believe she is [upon further reflection, for all I know, she has a husband fighting in the war; it didn’t come up]), with two sons, 11 and 16.  What kind of defenses must she have up, just as general practice, you know?  How hard must that be? 

I’m asking now not as a red-blooded male, but as a curious human.  Is she always on her guard against men?  Is she…well, not mistrustful, but…eminently careful?   I just try to imagine how I would be, were I a single father with two kids that age.  I’d be wary of letting people in for sure.  Add to that the whole refugee business.  That can’t be easy. 

Look, I’ll probably never see her again.  But I do believe that, that night, I chanced to meet an example of some of the best that the human race has to offer.  A kind, thoughtful and educated person.  A person who, presumably, took great risk to leave her home not just for her own sake but for that of her children.  The strength that that must take.  All I’m saying is, in the grand story of the adventures of my life, of all I’ve done and experienced, and all the people I’ve met along the way, somewhere in there is a footnote about how I spent part of an evening chatting with a stunningly beautiful girl who is all of the things I just mentioned.  That’s a helluva footnote.

And believe it or not, those footnotes go a long way.  Because there’s been a lot of “the grass is always greener” bound up with my decision to make my life over here.  I’ve had conversations not only with friends, but even with my own father, where they’ll express some version of, “I envy you and what you’re doing.  The freedom you have.  The adventure of it all.”  To which I universally respond with some version of, “Yeah, but come on, you have a family!  Do you really think I’d be fucking around over here if I had a family?”

So it’s perhaps surprising that it’s not in the day-to-day where arise the justifications to do that which I have done.  Because the day-to-day is exactly that.  It’s a way to keep going.  It’s a way of existing.  And for all I do to fill it with meaning – learning, language, music, friends, cooking, whatever – there are times when I go to bed feeling hollow. 

But these little moments, like chatting with this girl that night, those are special.  Those are the times when I most feel like, “Hey, you know what, I just got something unique and special, something that would never happen if I’d stayed in the States.”  The experience of being a bit rootless in this world and meeting someone else who’s also a bit rootless. 

And it makes me feel closer to my ancestors somehow.  Figure four branches of family: maternal and paternal grandparents, each with their own families and histories.  And somewhere along those branches, somebody decided on the bold move of coming to America, די גאֶלדענע מדינע, ‘the golden land.’  The risk and the challenge would be great, but they saw it as the best thing for their own future and that of their children.  And while I have no children of my own, that’s nevertheless what I’ve done.  And I share in those challenges and those risks. 

As great as it was to talk with Oksana about what it was like for her coming to Berlin and what she makes of the city, wouldn’t it be something to be able to talk with Bubbi?  Not the way Uncle Rich did, not to just sit back and listen to her stories.  But to actually compare notes.  To trade experiences. 

You know that old parlor game of, “If you could invite any three people, living or dead, to dinner, who would you invite?”  (And inevitably, there’s some asshole who wants invite Jesus.  Spare me).  Well, I’ve got two answers to this bullshit game.  One answer is just to invite my dad and my grandpa and – actually, you know what?  Fuck you.  Why three?  I want Carol there, and I want Mike there.  And I want Rich there.  And Gail.  And Judy, even though I never knew her.  Grandma has to be there.  And while we’re at it, Millie and Don.  And if we’re doing this, then  my mom needs to be there, and Justin and Jay and Lisa and Scott and Melissa.  And it will be Thanksgiving.  Because we had the best Thanksgivings.  That’s the dinner I want.  Three?  Fuck you, three.  I’m not crying, you’re crying.

Deep breath.  That’s one answer to the question.  The other answer starts the same way, but goes in the other direction.  It still starts with, “Three?  Fuck you, three.”  But this time, just gimme a dinner with Bubbi.  I just wanna sit with her and compare notes over this whole immigrant experience משגעת.  I’m not looking for, “Oh wow, you did that?”  I’m looking for, “Omg, I know, right?”  And we’d do it in Yiddish.  None of this, “Bubbi, English please,” bullshit.  Give it to me in Yiddish and I’ll do my best to keep up.  And instead of her being all, “What’s the English word?”  I’ll be all, “ווי זאֶגט מען אַזוי?.”  I want that dinner too. 

Changing gears.  There are furnishings I need for the apartment.  I’ve already written about the butcher block for the kitchen, and how I have it in mind to build it.  Well, that inclination has grown.  See, I’ve decided I want a small, single-shelf bookshelf to hang on the wall behind my desk.  There I would keep the books I’m constantly reaching for.  Mostly foreign language dictionaries and reference grammars. 

Now, a bookshelf can be just a plank of wood, right?  The problem with that is, the books fall over.  So I got in in my head that what I really want is a ‘shelf’ in the shape of a square frame, such that the ‘wall’s of the frame double as bookends.  Fine.  So I spent way too much time over the last few days googling around for such a shelf.  Only, I was either finding garbage or else nice things that I thought were too expensive. 

So last week, I decided, Fuck it.  I’ll build my my own damn shelf.  Whereupon did I betake myself to the local Baumarkt (home improvement center; think, the German version of Home Depot).  And I filled my shopping cart not just with wood for said shelf, but also with a number of hand tools: clamps, a saw, two chisels, a can of varnish and some brushes, mounting hardware, a sanding block, sandpaper, safety glasses, nails, glue, screws. 

One of the nice things about these Baumãrkte is that they’ll cut the wood for you in the shop.  So I took my planks to the cutting station, gave the dude my dimensions, and in five minutes I had my shelf pieces.  And when I got home, I got straight to work.  I framed up the shelf, glued and nailed it together and fixed it with the clamps to dry overnight.  The next step is to make it look pretty.  That will require the last piece of wood, a bit of chiseling and sanding and, finally, a coat of stain or varnish (I haven’t decided which yet). 

But I can’t tell you how good it feels to be doing this.  One thing the reader may or may not know about me is that, once upon a time, I delighted in carpentry work.  And I wasn’t half bad at it.  (Which also means that I was just slightly less than bad at it).  But I worked doing set construction in my university theatre.   Indeed, one of the reasons I chose that school was because I was so impressed with the scenery of a production we saw during my visit, and all I could think was, “I want to do that!”

My first semester, I landed a job washing dishes in the cafeteria.  It sucked, but I needed the money.  And I amused myself by playing ‘Moby Dick’ [wich I was then reading] with the dishes in the sink.   One floating plate was the Pequod, a white floating bowl was the much sought after whale.  Don’t judge.

Also during that first semester, I got myself into the ‘Stagecraft’ class.  And I do mean ‘got myself into.’  More people wanted in than there were spots.  I don’t remember how I finagled it, but I made it happen is the point.  Anyway, at the end of every semester, the guy who ran the shop would pick a handful of promising students from the class and actually hire them to work for him.  And I do mean ‘hire.’  It was a paying gig.  But it was also an apprenticeship of sorts.  If you already knew how to something, then he – John – would just tell you to do it.  But if you hadn’t yet learned how, he’d teach you.  And he was a wonderful teacher. 

I learned so much from him.  Sure, all the technical shit.  But also, just how to run a shop, how to organize a shop.  And I carry that with me to this very day.  One thing is, your job’s not done until you’ve cleaned up after yourself.  However long a job is gonna take, you start by factoring in the clean-up time.  And to be perfectly honest, when I encounter professionals who don’t do a good job of cleaning up after themselves, I immediately lose all respect for them.  Like, I don’t care if you expertly fixed the leak in my sink.  You left a mess behind yourself.  Do you even take pride in your work? 

Interpolation: Not for nothing, Gerry – the electrician for whom I worked a year or two – was like John in this way.  He was immaculate.  Yes, he was a master electrician.  But when he was done working, you could eat off the floor where he’d been.  And for that alone, I had the utmost respect for him.  End interpolation.

Anyway, the lessons I learned from John, I carry them with me in anything I do which I take seriously.  I made some noise in a previous post about the kitchen being a scared space.  How I need to be able to reach for any implement with my eyes closed, how everything must have its place.  That comes form John.  He taught me that.  And while he never would have used the word ‘sacred,’ the way he taught me to keep the shop is 100% how I keep my kitchen; and my studio and my desk. 

I might be a slob in my every day life.  Dirty clothes strewn all over the floor.  But come into my kitchen.  Come into my studio.  You want the slotted spatula?  It’s on that hook.  You want the paring knife?  It’s in this drawer, in the leftmost slot of the cutlery tray.  Do I think it looks cool to have my headphones hanging from the ceiling of the loft?  Sure.  But they’re in arms reach when I’m in my chair and I can grab them with my eyes closed.  Because they will always be there.  Because that’s where they live.  Thank you, John Larrance.

So that was a trip down Memory Lane.  But to return to the point of all this – if there ever was a point – once upon a time, I had a carpentry job in the theatre.  And I loved it.  I loved creating.  I still do.  I love writing stories and songs, I love producing other people’s music.  But I loved building and creating, bringing something into the world that didn’t exist before.  And the feeling of looking at your creation and thinking, “Yeah, I made that with my own two hands.” 

And then I got away from carpentry.  The second half of my college career, as pertains to my job in the theatre, was more focused on lighting.   Still a creative endeavor, to be sure.  And one which I very much enjoyed.  To the point that I worked professionally as a lighting designer for a time after school.  But you can’t hold a lighting scene in your hands.  And it’s ephemeral.  Come the next cue, the lights change and your creation is gone forever. 

Ah, but carpentry.  You’ve built something that lasts. Every day, you get to look at with fresh eyes and experience that feeling of, “I made this!” 

And that’s where I am today.  Even though it’s not done.  Even though all I’ve done is to knock together the basic frame of the thing.  And yet, already, I’m looking at it, I’m touching it.  It’s mine.  My own.  My precious.  (Wait, what?).  No, but seriously.  I feel this great sense of pride, even just in the having-begun-ness of it.  And the knowing that, when it’s done, I’ll have this little bookshelf in my room, that everyday, every time I pull a book off of it, I’ll get just a touch of that feeling.  “I made this.” 

And it wont be perfect.  Because a master carpenter I ain’t.  It will have flaws.  I’m sure, that when it’s done, I’ll look at it and be entirely unable to not see the imperfections.  Even so, that’s preferable to looking at a shelf and thinking, “Welp, that cost me x euros.” 

Another sign of what it means to be to be building my own shit.  It took precedence over a nap.  Did you catch that?  You people know me.  You know that my existence is nap-dependent.  Just like, not Saturday.  I mean, I had this party to go to.  Under any other circumstances, I would have taken a nap to prepare myself.  Just like, not Saturday.  All I wanted to do was work on this shelf.  And so that’s what I did.  I worked until it reached a point where, if I went any further, I would be unacceptably late.  (There was no way I was ever gonna show up ‘on time,’ no matter what.  In the event, I was two hours late, which was fine).  The point is, I didn’t just want to work, to create.  I needed to.  And if that cost me a nap, well, that’s the price.  

I should probably wrap this up.  So let me say this.  Moving down to Neukölln, I feel like I’m getting back parts of myself that I’d lost.  I’m skating again.  I’m working with my hands again.  Am I overwhelmed?  Absolutely.  There’s not enough time in the day, not enough days in the week, to do all that needs doing.  I’m exhausted and it feels like there’s no end in sight.  And yet, for all that, I feel as though I’m somehow becoming a better version of myself, somehow finding my way back to the person I want to be.   Not just a dilettante amateur-hour scholar, but a person who does things, a person who creates things.  I feel better about myself than I’ve felt in a long time….

An American in Berlin

An American in Berlin
18 October, 2022

Part three of the Moving Saga Diary, as I’m now calling it.  Except, much like ‘Rambo,’ you won’t find ‘Moving Saga Diary’ in the title of the first post.  I was like 39 or 40 when I learned that the name of the first Rambo movie wasn’t “Rambo,” but “First Blood.”  Not even “Rambo: First Blood.”  Just, “First Blood.”  Also, turns out Frankenstein is the doctor, not the monster.  You think you know things…

I often watch some TV during dinner.  Nothing serious and not every day.  But usually.  Although I’d taken a break from that for the better part of the last two months.  For quite a while there, I was just working my way through many seasons of The Simpsons.  Not for nothing, The Simpsons remains brilliant as far as I’m concerned.  But now I’m working my way through The Golden Girls.  And in so doing, I’ve learned something about myself.  This is what I’ve learned.  My whole life, all I’ve ever wanted to be when I grow up is Sophia Petrillo.  

Anyway, back to the Moving Saga Diary…

9 October, 2022

The futon arrived this morning, so C is now sleeping in the living room.  Well, I think she’s still up, but she’s taken over the living room.  Also, I have a living room!  Anyway, we’ve put away at least two bottles of wine each of the first three nights, and we stayed up pretty late, so passing out wasn’t much of a problem.  That said, it should be better for both of us to have our own space for the rest of the visit.

We had dinner with Esma tonight.  That was great.  They got along very well, as I knew they would.  Good conversation and a lotta laughs.  And I was both happy and proud to introduce them to each other, as they are two of my very favorite people.  (Unless they happen to be reading this, in which case, bitches). 

C and I started recording some music as well.  Not sure how much of it we’ll keep, but it’s good we got started.  As with everybody, it took C some time to get acclimated to singing in a studio environment; if she’s even used to it yet.  But I should have enough to work with by the time she leaves to be able to knock together something nice.

We worked up a new version of Dream Lover; a proper duet now.  It’s the first song she ever started singing with me.  As such, until now, we’ve always just sung in parallel octaves, the whole song together.  But now we’ve worked it into a duet, trading off parts of the verses, harmonies on the choruses and bridge.  And I think it’s really nice what we’ve got now.  I’m really looking forward to recording it properly. 

Life continues to be an absolute whirlwind.  Still no proper sense of time going back to before the move.  And now, I’m basically settling in at the same time as C is here.  It’s funny, I haven’t been here long enough to develop any real routines concerning the general management and maintenance of this place.  And since C has been here, she’s basically taken it upon herself to do all the cleaning.  Not just putting things in the dishwasher, but putting them away afterwards.  I cook.  But it’s like, I moved into this magically self-cleaning apartment.  It’ll be weird to start having to clean up after myself after she goes.  But also, I guess that will really be the first time I start “living” here on my own.

We’re gonna have Philippe and Brigitte down tomorrow to see the place and have a few glasses of wine; after which we’ll head out somewhere for dinner, though where I have no idea as yet.  But that should be nice.  I’m sure they’ll get along just fine.

The eating at home has been good so far.  The first night was leftovers from the first proper meal I cooked in this joint – Brussels sprouts and zucchini with chicken breast and spaghetti in a white wine sauce.  The next night, C basically went through my Instagram and made requests.  We settled on chicken katsu, basically a Japanese chicken cutlet with a particular sauce; salad with a homemade sesame-soy-ginger dressing and rice on the side.  And Thursday for lunch, I made us miso soup with cabbage, zucchini and egg plus kimchi rice on the side.

For Saturday’s dinner, I went to the Turkish market and picked up a bunch of little things.  Roasted eggplant, pickles, pickled turnips, olives, Turkish cheese and grape leaves.  So we made a sort of Turkish tappas, or as C said, a sort of Turkish breakfast.  Which she loved.  Having spent several months in Turkey, she’s quite keen on the culture, the food and the language.  So that was a win.  She’s also requested my coconut milk cauliflower and chicken, so we should have time to squeeze that in as well before she leaves. 

I also gotta give C some credit here.  I found her kinda tough to be in close quarters with in her own home.  Don’t get me wrong, it was easy enough and we had a great time.  But she has her way she want’s things done, how she want’s things to be.  And it wasn’t always easy to stay ahead of that.  But as a guest, she’s been top notch.  And I don’t just mean the cleaning.  Little things.  Like, she’s been really observant about shit.  She noticed that I keep the lid off the tea kettle when not in use, so she just started doing that without saying a word.  And when I’d mention a few peculiarities about how I prefer things, she’s just like, “Oh yeah, sure, no problem.” 

And she mentioned that I’m easy to ‘live’ with. She feels totally at home.  Which is great.  I mean, of course that’s how I want any guest to feel in my home.  So it’s gratifying to know that that’s the case.

We were even drunkenly talking about her family visiting.  There’s certainly room.  We were both pretty sure we could get her dad in for a visit, which I would love.  I mean, I love her dad and would be delighted to have him visit.  But she was like, “We could even get Chloe (her sister) and Emil (her nephew) to visit; they could sleep on the futon and I’ll sleep up on the loft.”  And I was like, are you kidding, of course!  After all the visits I’ve made to her family, I’d love to have them visit and put them up.  I think that would be a lot of fun, but like, also good for my heart.  Whenever I visit them, they don’t just make me feel like a welcome guest, they make me feel like family.  I’d love nothing more than to return the favor. 

This week is the last parsha of the year.  I’ll start tonight when I finish writing.  Upon completing this week’s parsha, it will mark my fifth time through the Torah.  That in itself is an accomplishment, and one I’m proud of.  This year, I’m hoping it will take on an additional social aspect.  I’m hoping to get some semi-regular learning with Akiva; it’s something we’ve talked about.  Just need to find the time to make it happen.  But if I can find a way to bring Moritz or Nikolai or others from that group into it somehow, or to find another way to share some Torah learning with them, that would be really great.  But first things first, as far as they’re concerned, I gotta make an effort to just show up to events and be social.  I think I’ll touch base with Moritz this week and see if he’s going to shul on Friday, and if so, if I can tag along.  More on that if and when it actually happens…

Good enough place to stop as any.  Time to learn a little Torah and then head to bed.

11 October, 2022

We got some good music done today, C and I.  Knocked out all her vocals for Dream Lover and most of mine.  Maybe all of mine.  I’m not sure I love what I’m doing on the last verse, but otherwise my shit’s in place.  I wrote a three-part harmony for the bridge, which I then asked her to sing the two higher parts of.  At first, she was just like, “You want me to sing this?  OK, sure, it sounds nice.”  But when I played them back together, I had another one of those moments.  She just lit up and was like, “That’s me?!”  And then when I played all three parts back together with the main vocal for the bridge, she declared it her favorite part of the song.  And yeah, it’s probably mine too. 

But it was an interesting process.  She’d never harmonized with herself before.  And in a way, she still hasn’t.  What I mean is, we had to do each voice as a solo shot, because hearing the other vocal would throw her off.  So she handled each line as if it were the only one.  Which is perhaps why it was such a surprise for hear to her it all together in playback; it was the first time she’d actually heard the parts together.  But she did it, and she did it well.  I didn’t need to do any pitch correction on it.  The only thing I did was to stretch or shorten the phrase-endings of all three parts – mine included – so that they matched up with each other.

I’ve also started on the mix.  I knocked out a quick and dirty processing stream for our vocals, the harmonies and the guitars.  It might need some tweaking, but it’s mostly what I want.  I just need to clean it up and tie it all together.

After she fell asleep I started messing around with a drum track, which I think will greatly benefit the song.  I think the rough idea of it is more or less fine, but I may hand it off to Justin and see if he can do better; I’m sure he can.  But here I ran into a new problem.  Or rather, an old one that just keeps coming back.

I really should have done the drums first.  I mean, I laid down the guitars to a click track, and they’re in time.  But trying to sync the drums with the guitars is just ass-backwards.  Even if everything is in time, it doesn’t mesh the way it should, it doesn’t feel as tight as it should.  And of course the vocals are laid down over the guitars.  So they’re good with the guitars but equally ‘unmeshed’ with the drums.  Maybe Justin will be able to actually play something that meshes better than anything that can be written in via the drum editor.  But part of me wants to get the drums down early tomorrow and re-record everything.  I’ll run it by C and see what she thinks, but I can’t imagine she’ll be enthused about it.  In the end, we may just have to settle for the best we can do. 

But the best we can do will still sound nice.  I mean, she sounds really good, I have to say.  She’s got a totally different voice from Pauline or Bibi.  Much higher and ‘cleaner’ for lack of a better word.  But it’s very pretty and her pitch is pretty good.  I think she would really benefit from some lessons though, which I’ll mention to her tomorrow.  Because there are things that I can’t teach her but which I hear can be improved.  Just thinks like breathing and support, which would really take her to another level.  But like I said, that’s beyond my ability to coach at this point.  But even as things are, she sounds great and I think we’re gonna have a really nice product by the time I’m done with it.  The harder work will come with the other two songs, as we are now running out of time.  But I’m hopeful we’ll still be able to do enough work so as to arrive at a good product in the end.  Obviously the most important thing is to get her vocals down as best we can, and then I can keep working on it after she’s gone.

Not that I don’t have enough to do.  I’ve got the three songs we did with Pauline while she was in that I haven’t touched yet because of the move and C’s visit.  And still two outstanding songs for the band.  To say nothing of four of my own songs that are in various stages of completion.  One of them, though, is nearly done.  I’m considering giving that my full attention first, just to clear it from the roster. 

One last thought on working with Charlotte, at least for tonight.  I’d written a few times that I was looking forward to ‘getting my hands on her voice,’ so to speak; to see what I could do with it.  Tonight, I finally got that chance.  Now obviously, it all starts with the raw product.  If she doesn’t sing well, there’s little I can do.  But she did sing well.  So I got to work, doing the EQ, adding some compression and just a touch of saturation and delay.  And I’m quite pleased with the result.  I think I’ll have given her something she can be proud of, something she can show off to people and say, “Hell yeah I can sing, listen to this!” 

And something I can be proud of as well, something to add to my slowly growing portfolio of work.  Because this makes now five voices I’ve worked with: myself, Bibi & Ralf, Pauline and now Charlotte.  Plus the spoken word stuff I did with Helmut.  I still don’t consider myself a whiz with EQ, but I’m learning to trust my ears and I think I’m getting solid results.  I will of course send my work with Charlotte off to Justin and Rob for feedback, and I’ll press Rob for input on the EQ side of things.  But I think I’m in a pretty good place.  Room to grow and improve?  Of course.  But still work I can be proud of and show off as an example of what I can do.

As for potentially opening my studio to strangers for money, well, I feel like I’m running up against my limitations.  Like, sure, if a singer-songwriter were to come in with just their voice and guitar, I can definitely handle that.  And at this point, I feel confident that I’ve developed a solid ear for harmonies and structure.  I feel good about my ability to work with artists to try and get good results from them.  But on the other side, there are things I can’t do at all.  Piano and synths as well as anything beyond the most basic of drums.  So if those are things an artist is looking for, I’m out of my depth. 

With that in mind, I think it’s important that I invest in a good quality full-sized keyboard for the studio.  That won’t come cheap, so it can’t happen tomorrow.  At the same time, it’s going to be necessary going forward, and the sooner I can get to experimenting and learning the better.  I also need to get my hands a decent quality steel-string guitar.  For that, I’ll talk to Michi and see if she has anything she’d recommend for studio work.  The last big investment that I have in mind is a proper studio desk.  It’s not terribly pressing, but if I’m to add a full-sized keyboard, I’ll have to make more efficient use of my space, and a proper desk will help me do that.  Of course, once I do have a proper desk, I might start thinking about some kind of small physical mixing board; eight – or, at most – sixteen channels.  Now, that’s definitely a luxury.  I can, of course, do everything I need right in the computer, and my two monitors makes it quite practical to do so.  Still, a mixing board would be fun!

Well, it was good to write that out.  It’s easy for me to make excuses.  Excuses like not being able to do anything with keys, synths or drums.  But it’s also clear that there’s plenty of music I’m ready to take on right now. 

So, originally, I had set a vague goal of advertising my studio “some time in 2023.”  I think it’s time to get more serious about that.  The biggest impediment is not, in fact, my ability or experience.  It’s just workload.  I can’t take on any more projects right now.  So let’s say this.  I need to clear out what’s on my plate.  I need to finish the songs with Pauline, with Charlotte and for the band.  By rights, the stuff with Pauline should come first.  But the stuff with C is sufficiently minimalist that I can get it done the fastest.  So I’ll try to bang those out in the next two weeks if not sooner.  The stuff with Pauline I’d like to have finished by the time she comes back in December.  Then the stuff for the band.  And then, finally, my songs.  (Although I may push Met You to the front of the queue, since it’s so nearly done). 

But once I’ve finished all of that off, then I think it’s time to hang up my shingle.  Where and how?  No idea yet.  I don’t even know who to talk to about that.  But I’ll keep my ears open and see what’s out there.  One idea, if it’s not in bad taste, might be to show up to an open mic and see if any singer-songwriters strike my fancy as being people I’d like to work with.  Then I can approach them and see if they’re interested.  But of course to do that, I’ve got to also figure out my price structure.  And that will take a bit of research.  And there too, I don’t even know where to begin.  But none of that can happen until I clear out my current workload. 

So besides the million things I need to do for and around the apartment, I also need to make sure I find time to do steady work in the studio.  It’ll be a challenge, but a good one.  This summer was rough, and I was super unproductive and in a very deep funk because of all this apartment shit.  But that’s all squared away now and there’s no more room for excuses.  It’s time to get to work!

I’ve been writing almost every night now for some time.  Which is good therapy, I believe; and also, just good on the merits, good to be writing, to keep the skills fresh, even if it’s self-reflective and not creative.  But come this weekend, or next, I need to start organizing some of this into a blogue post.  Much of what I’ve written in the last two weeks will serve, so that will mostly be a cut and paste job.  But I think I should also start a post from scratch, dealing with the new apartment and the new ‘hood.  I’ve not reflected on either as much as I’d have liked to this point.  And on those subjects, whoever actually reads my blogue will surely be interested.   Yay, more work to do.

Tomorrow is C’s last full day.  Crazy that she’s been here for nearly a week already.  It doesn’t feel like it.  She’s so easy to have around and we get along so well together.  Before she came, it was like, great, I’m gonna have a house guest before I can even get settled.  But now, she’s basically been an integral part of that settling in, such that it will be kind of weird when she’s gone and I’ll have to re-settle all over again.  I mean, I’ve basically had her here for longer than I’ve been alone in this place.  So in a way, my adventure won’t really begin until she leaves.  She leaves Wednesday, but I have to work, so we’ll probably just have lunch together and then that will be that.  We’re talking about trying to meet up in Vietnam sometime this winter though. 

I think it’s important that I try and make that happen.  Because on the one hand, I’d love to go to Vietnam – noodle soup!  On the other hand, I kinda don’t see myself going on my own.  So if the opportunity exists to plan a joint adventure there, I think I can’t let that slip by.  Nothing’s written in stone, but it seems realistic.  She’s already planning a trip to SE Asia; so her plan is to be in Thailand no matter what.  And if that’s the case, there’s no good reason why we can’t make Vietnam happen.  We’ll see…

C and I went to THF on Sunday.  At one point, we laid down in the grass.  The sun was shining and warm.  So naturally I fell asleep.  And I loved it.  It was also just great to be there again.  I really do love that place and I can’t wait to start skating there.  Let me say it here so I hopefully lock myself into it.  I’m done with work at one on Thursday.  I want to go skating as soon as I finish.  Time to get the ball rolling on that as well.   I’ve got to make that a habit, a routine.  Not just because I need the exercise; I do.  But because I need to be on skates.  I feel incomplete without that.  I mean, what kind of Dave is a Dave who doesn’t skate?  It’s time to set that arights. 

That’s more than enough.  It’s ‘only’ quarter after three, but I should get to bed.  I’d like to be up comparatively early tomorrow (say, 11), so I can hopefully get some work done in the studio with C.  She’s got work at three, so I can take a nap then.  And then, we’ll have one more dinner and one last night of wine.  It’s been good.  I’ll reflect more fully on her visit after she’s gone.

12 October, 2022

Charlotte’s last night.  We worked on another song, so that now we’ve got four in total.  Or at least, her vocals and most of the guitars.  Justin is eager to drums for Dream Lover and had good things to say about C’s voice.  We – me and her, I mean – spent some time today digging into the last song, working on her breathing and trying to bring some more intention to the vocal.  We definitely succeeded on the breathing front.  And I think she was brining more to the song by the last take than she was when we started.  So it was worth the effort, and I think she heard that.

And she was really appreciative that I took the time do that with her, to work on those things.  I told her that’s one of my favorite parts about this.  Like, in the end, the artist has to do all the work right?  But helping them get from A to B, helping them find something within themselves they didn’t know they had, that’s a lot of fun for me.  And she said it was fun for her too.

She also has a lot of patience with me.  I mean when I don’t have patience with myself.  I wasn’t happy with the way some of my guitar work was coming out and I was starting to get pretty annoyed, losing my cool, cursing a lot.  The more I do this, the more I’m discovering that I actually hate recording guitars.  Like, with vocals, it’s so much fun.  And with the bass too, even.  Maybe because they’re new instruments for me, and there’s so much room to learn and experiment in the process.  But the guitar is my instrument, and maybe because of that my standards are higher?  I don’t know.  Whatever the reason, I get super frustrated when things aren’t perfect.  And they almost never are.  But she just takes me as I am.  She doesn’t get put off by my moods or hate being around me when I get like that.  She’s just like, very gently, “Hey, Dave, maybe you want to take a break?”  Or just a a little shoulder rub for a second or two.  Enough to bring me back down a bit.  It’s great.

And the whole week has been great.  I’ll get more into it when she’s gone.  But we’ve had our last night now.  And we were talking today about how easy it’s been.  I mean, we’ve been sharing the same apartment for a full week.  There’s no guarantee that something like that will be easy, no matter how good friends you are.  But with us, it’s just easy.  I think she used the phrase “living around each other.”  In the sense that we’re both plenty independent, we can be left alone, we can work alone, we can feel at home in our respective space without needing anything from the other.  But then, we’ll have lunch together.  We’ll share a beer.  We’ll play music and drink wine and play games and do some recording. 

And we always share beers.  Like, even if we wind up drinking two – normally, each person would have their own beer.  But we just take two little glasses and share a half-liter.  And when that’s done, we’ll open a second if we’re of a mind to, and share that.  And it’s just nice and easy.  On the one hand, a week is enough.  But on the other, she could stay even longer and it would be fine.  That’s a pretty special thing.

We’ll have lunch again tomorrow.  And then, when I finish class, it’s time for her to go.  The plan is for me to make miso ramen for lunch.  That’ll be a nice way to end things for this visit.

15 October, 2022

I’ve got a lasagna in the oven that probably needs to come out soon (it’s only 4:15am), so I don’t have a ton of time here. 

Still struggling with my schedule.  Still a lot of running around every day picking up this and that for the apartment.  Exhausted after school because I go to bed so late.  Result, it’s only two days since C left, but I’ve yet to go skating or do any further work in the studio.  Although my patch cable arrived today, so I was finally able to hook up my headphone amp to the DI box; which means I can now have both headphones plugged in at the same time; which means I can now listen to the mix when a singer is doing their vocal.  Two days late to be of any use with C, but as I’m sure I’ll be doing plenty more recording with others, I’m quite looking forward to using it.  Very excited in fact.  And even just for me, it’ll be nice to not have to unplug and switch headphones every time I go from recording to mixing.  Really happy with the way the studio is coming along.

Charlotte was in love with the rough mix of Dream Lover I shared with her.  She then promptly shared it with like all her friends and family; which I advised her not to do as it’s not finished.  Rave reviews so far, which is nice.  But then after she got back to France she got all worried, like, “What did you do to my voice?  Is this what I really sound like?  I feel like a fraud.”  Which I guess is understandable on some level.  So I tried to explain to her what I’d done: zero pitch correction, just EQ, compression, saturation and delay.  I don’t think I’d even mixed in any reverb yet.  But that did nothing to assuage her fears.

So I sent her a mix with the raw vocal.  She couldn’t hear the difference.  Which is both a good thing and not entirely surprising.  It reminded me of when I first started out with this stuff.  I’d add compression according to the tutorials I’d read and watched, but I couldn’t really hear it myself.  Same with EQ.  I’d follow the guidelines I’d found, but I wasn’t any good at picking out frequencies on my own or hearing the difference except when I’d do a side by side comparison.  To be honest, I’m still no whiz with EQ.  But I trust my ears more now, and I’m better at hearing things.  So to me, the difference between the raw vocal and the processed vocal is night and day.  But admittedly, I’m listening with a producer’s ear at this point; even if it’s a very inexperienced producer’s ear. 

Anyway, I take the fact that she couldn’t hear a difference to be a good thing.  Because in the end, you’re not trying to change the vocal.  You’re trying to make subtle adjustments to bring out its best qualities.  On the hand, to make it sound more like itself, because the mic doesn’t hear a voice the way a human ear does, so you’re trying to compensate for that.  On the other hand, you’re trying to fit into the mix, to give it its own dedicated frequency space.  The rest is cosmetic. But like any good cosmetic job, you’re just trying to highlight what’s already there.  So if, to her untrained ear, there’s little to no difference, I feel like that’s in some ways a success. 

18 October, 2022 (again)

Well, I guess that brings us pretty much up to date.  I’m still exhausted and overwhelmed.  But things are good.  Now that I’m all caught up here, I can (hopefully) turn my nighttime attention elsewhere.  I need to take a break from writing and start getting back to work in the studio.  Also, Torah starts all over again this week.  “In the beginning” and all that.  Which is fitting.  This is a new beginning after all…

Oh, and one final, embarrassing, note from today.  Weather was absolutely gorgeous.  So I decided today was the day.  Today was the day I get off my ass, lace up the skates and hit THF.  Then, in act of complete hubris – all the more so considering I haven’t been on skates once in Germany – I decided to lace up at home and skate over to the park.  Then I get outside and discover that the sidewalk in front of my house is cobblestone.  You can’t skate on that shit.  I know because I tried.  Got my wheel stuck in a rut between two stones, spun around and had to catch myself on a parked car.  Who knows how many people saw that.  Anyway, I kept going.  After my block, the sidewalks smoothed out until Schiller Kiez, which I had to cross to get to the park.  There, the sidewalks and streets were made of even bigger cobblestones.  Caught my wheel again and fell.  A controlled fall, I came down not too hard on one knee and one hand;  not even a scratch.  But still a fall.  And more people saw that.  Still having a ways to go before I could get to the park, I decided it just wasn’t worth it, turned around and made my home.  Picked up chicken tenders and fries on the way to soothe my battered ego.  The tenders were ok, the bbq sauce and fries were not.  Anyway, lesson learned.  Next time, I’ll walk to the park and lace up there.  Not my finest moment, to be sure.  But that’s what you get when you don’t skate for literally years.  Next time will be better.  And I’m already looking forward to it.  Right, let’s stop here.  Time to learn some Torah.

זײַ געזונט

An American in Berlin

An American in Berlin
17 October, 2022

The goal here is to follow on the last post with bits and bobs of my thoughts and reflections on the new place that I’ve written since I moved in.  But first a couple of new thoughts.  Was up at Joschka’s tonight catching up on this Amazon Lord of the Rings Series.  It’s ok so far, but we’re only through five of the eight episodes.  Anyway, it was my first time coming home here from up there.  Foregoing any walk tonight, I took a tram from his pace to the subway and then took the train the rest of the way.  It’s been years since I waited on a subway platform for a train at 3:30am, but man it was refreshing.  Just felt right, you know?  Like, yeah, I remember this, this is normal, this is what living in a city is supposed to feel like.  In the future, I’ll likely skip the tram portion of the trip and just walk to the train.  For the walking, but also so I can enjoy a beer on the way…

I took a walk on a stretch of Sonnenallee today, and here I have an addendum to my previous post to add.  Whereas Hermanstraße is predominately Turkish, Sonnenallee seems to be predominately Arabic; the signs, the restaurants, the shops, the butchers and so on.  So it’s a bit of a different flavor.  I also passed by a ‘West African’ restaurant.  I didn’t get a look at the menu, but just seeing the food on the plates of the people seated outside…damn, it looked good.  I will be checking that out in the near future for sure. 

I mentioned that the Turkish market around the corner has a solid butcher counter in back.  But on Sonnenallee, I passed by a couple of full-on Halal butcher shops, one of which had a line out the door on a Saturday afternoon.  Not nearly as convenient, location-wise, but I’ll have to see what all the fuss is about.  I also want to do some research on the differences between Kosher and Halal.  Also curious if Halal is going to be more expensive, the way Kosher butchers are back home.  Could be worth it though.  I’ll keep y’all posted. 

Anyway, back to the first two weeks here in the new place…

30 September, 2022

Second night in the new place.  In my place.  I’m still wrapping my mind around that.  Tonight is not the night to ponder that, however.  I just got my desk set up.  Finally, a feeling of ‘home.’

The first night was rough.  I was exhausted, had been up for something like 35 hours straight.  Everything was all over the place, nothing had taken shape yet.  It didn’t feel like ‘home.’  Now it’s starting to.  Did a decent amount of work today in the living room.  I’m starting to develop a vision for it; and for the kitchen as well.  And not for nothing, I’m really digging the vision that’s developing.  Lots of work to do.  I’ll have to make some purchases as well of course.  Chief among them, a butcher block for the kitchen.

The kitchen is small.  Too small.  Not enough room for all my stuff.  Not enough room period, but not even enough to have the most key things ready at hand and within reach.  But that’s when it hit me.  At first glance, the kitchen in Chinatown was too small as well.  But then we got that butcher block.  And once that was in place, I fell in love with that kitchen.  A place for everything, and all I had to do was pivot for whatever I needed.  I’m gonna do that here.  And watch how the kitchen goes from too small to a dream in the blink of an eye.  Then the only thing I’ll need is a bigger fridge.  But that can wait. 

Futon has already been ordered, which will serve as a nice couch.  And together with the Sessel, I think it will make a for a really nice sitting area with guests.  I still need to figure out what I’m gonna do about a dining table (and chairs).  Not a rush, exactly.  And I’ll hardly need it when it’s just me and Charlotte.  But Anna and Rudi are coming later this month, and it sure would be nice to be able to host a dinner.  But for that, I’ll not only need the dining table and chairs, but the butcher block as well.  I can hardly cook in this kitchen the way it is. 

One thing I haven’t found a solution for yet, kitchen-wise, is how I’m gonna replace the pantry I’ve lost.  That was a wonderful thing to have, in that it allowed me to keep a ready supply of staples: various kinds of pastas, canned goods, etc.  Maybe the butcher block will solve that problem.  But if it doesn’t I’ll have to figure something out.  Maybe some shelving…

[Update, 10/16/22: The kitchen is now in good shape.  Still need the butcher block.  Still a crunch on storage space.  Still want a shelf so as to better organize my spices.  But as a work space, it’s more than adequate.  Lots of hooks for cooking utensils and more than enough counter space to work.  The (electric) stove gets very hot very fast, so as those things go, it’s great to work with.  I made my zucchini lasagna last night.  I cooked for Charlotte when she was here.  Yes, it can – and will – be more and better.  But already, I really like working in there].

I still gotta finish up cleaning out the old apartment.  Clearing it out and cleaning it up, the latter of which will require a bit of paint and spackle.  We’ll see how far I can get tomorrow.  But it must be done by Saturday, as I’m giving the keys back to the landlord on Sunday.

Lighting is another thing that will need attention here.  The necessary bulbs are in place such that I can do everything I need to do and not be in the dark.  But they suck.  I’d like to get some nice fixtures in place, certainly for the living room and my bedroom.  With such high ceilings, I’m thinking chandeliers.  I also need to get the internet sorted asap.  And I rather desperately want to replace the toilet.  I don’t know how much of this I’ll be able to deal with while C is here…

Back with the class today.  I’ll say it again and again, but I really like this bunch.  I held class from the old kitchen.  Set the computer up on the counter and stood the whole time.  Which was actually kinda nice.  I miss being on my feet for class.

This one woman was struggling today with conditionals.  Which is not unusual.  Conditionals are a bitch and I teach them hard and fast.  It’s a lot for even the most advanced students, and she’s not.  So at the very end, I made a point of praising her instincts, which are indeed quite good. 

But she’s like, “I always speak English with my friends, and now that I’m taking this class, I see how bad my English really is.”  Oh, honey, no.  Like, it’s super denglish-y.  But it’s not ‘bad.’  Indeed, she communicates quite well.  So I told her that her English is like a house that’s being renovated.  Yeah, you gotta rip out all the walls, redo the wiring and put up all new walls.  But the house is there, it’s standing and it’s a strong house.  I think she grokked the analogy and appreciated it.  (Which I guess is part of grokking; I’ve been reading Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land).

Anyway, when I got done saying what I had to say, I concluded with something like, “Alright, well listen, that’s all the nice things I really want to say to anybody for the rest of the day.  So don’t worry, when we see each other next week, I’ll be back to my usual self.”  At which point, one of the girls positively lit up with a big ol’ smile and said, “Yay, grumpy cat!”  Yeah, she calls me ‘grumpy cat’ sometimes.  Which, hey, if the coat (?) fits.  Clearly on some level, this student appreciates my vibe.  Am I using ‘vibe’ correctly?  I need to get chatting with some younger Americans if I’m ever gonna grok this new usage…

1 October, 2022

Some quick reflections before bed (it’s 4:30), because tomorrow is gonna suuuuuuck.  I don’t want to talk about it.  Not yet.  So, reflections.

Joschka is a champ.  We rented this big ol’ van, originally to help me move my studio over (I didn’t want to trust it to the movers), but in the end also to pick up this giant banana plant thing for his place.  But he drove that van like a boss, parked (illegally; twice) like a pro.  I would have been terrified.  He handled it with aplomb.  After all the running around, we went for dinner in my neighborhood, to some hipster joint.  Food was excellent, although right now it’s playing hell with my stomach.  I will be going back though.  I think I’d like to elaborate on this further at some point.

But something funny happened today in the course of those events which made me very happy.  Neukölln, my new ‘hood, is in the south of Berlin; his ‘hood of Prenzlauerberg is in the north, kinda straight north from me.  Both are within The Ring, that is to say, the confines of the Ring-Bahn, which is to say, within the confines of the city proper.  No more ‘outer borough’ shit for this guy!  

Anyway, I was explaining that after dinner, I needed to go back to the old place to do some more work.  And then I said, “So I’ll probably ride uptown with you.”  Did you catch that?  “Uptown”?  I no longer have to talk in terms of “going into the city.”  Now, when visiting Joschka, I can talk of going ‘uptown.’  And when I’m going home, I can talk of going ‘downtown.’  (Because of course I live downtown.  I am, and always have been, a downtown kinda guy).  And if I have cause to go to West Berlin, I can talk of going ‘crosstown.’ 

Now to be clear, words like ‘uptown,’ ‘downtown,’ ‘crosstown’ and ‘into the city’ are not words that anybody who actually lives here uses.  They’ll just say they’re going to such-and-such neighborhood.  “I’m going to Prenzelberg” or “I’m heading back to Neukölln” or “We’re going out in Bergman Kiez tonight.” 

But you know what they say.  You can take the boy outa New York but you can’t take New York outa the boy.  And even if I wind up living here for the rest of my life, I’ll always be a New Yorker at heart. 

The point is, it gave me such joy – joy unexpected and unlooked for – to be able to spontaneously, and accurately, say that I was going ‘uptown.’  I mean, that’s just how I orient myself.  For six years of outer-borough life, I was always going ‘into the city.’  Now, finally, I live in the city again.  I don’t wait for trains on an elevated platform, I wait underground.  And it just feels so right.   

And that’s the biggest thing right now.  Everything about living in this neighborhood just feels right.  The whole world is once again at my fingertips.  Joschka is a big fan too.  At dinner, he said, “I’m so glad there’s a ton of good restaurants in my neighborhood, otherwise I’d be feeling pretty jealous right now.”  Not that I would exult in a friend’s jealousy, mind you.  But the point is, I now live in a place where people would actually want to visit on the merits of the place itself, as opposed to schlepping out Nowheresville for my sake alone. 

I used to say, when I lived in Köpenick and Pankow, that when you live ‘outside the ring,’ you’re basically a second class citizen in this town.  For all sorts of reasons I won’t here get into.  But now I’m ‘inside the ring,’ and it’s wonderful.  For the first time, I feel like I live in Berlin instead of just ‘in Berlin.’  It’s a good place to be.

Tomorrow I have to mop and paint and clear out.  And to paint, I need to go to the hardware store to get paint.  And to clear out, I’ll almost certainly need to call a cab to get all the last of my stuff…downtown.  But I did a shit ton of work today, so hopefully tomorrow won’t be too bad.  If I finish early enough, I’ll see if I can get the keys back to the landlord tomorrow.  Otherwise Sunday, as planned.  But I’m so looking forward to being done with it all, being done with Pankow, to not ever going back there, save the odd time when I want to hit up my Indian spot.  Or, on the off chance that I should want to play a solo acoustic set at Anna’s café.

I should say a few words on that last account.  The other day, I made a point of stopping by the café to say goodbye and thank you to Anna, the owner, who gave us all those gigs.  She was always very kind and gracious with me, and always had free whiskey for me after the shows.  So it was important to me to thank her in person. 

When I went, she was sitting outside, just drinking coffee.  She saw me enter the courtyard and gave me a big smile, told me to sit down.  So I did, and said what I had to say.  And as always, she was very kind and gracious.  She even offered me some whiskey, which I gladly accepted; and wouldn’t let me pay for it.  We wound up chatting for a half hour or so.  In the course of which, she said I’m welcome any time to come do an acoustic set of my own music; she knows I have my own stuff. 

And hey, why not?  I tell you what I’d really like to do.  Next time Justin visits, I’d like to set up a show for the two of us.  I guess we’d mostly do my songs.  And we’d have to work out the arrangements.  But I think it would be a lot of fun if we both played guitar and both sang.  And if she’s offering, well, that’s just great, isn’t it?  That could be a lot of fun. 

And I do like her, btw.  I’d bump into her on the street sometimes, and we’d always have a brief little chat.  It was a nice thing because she’s a nice lady.  But it was also nice because it made me feel like a part of the neighborhood; not that I ever had any great love for it.  Even so, it was nice to walk around, bump into a local café owner that you know and exchange a few pleasantries.  Didn’t feel so much like a stranger. 

Well, that’s over.  And I won’t miss it.  Just, it was nice while it was.  I’m looking forward to checking out some of the local spots here, on my own.  There’s a few just on my block even.  I mentioned that to Joschka, and he was surprised.  Like, “Sure, Dave, you’re just gonna start going out now on your own.”  Hey, he knows me.  This isn’t really thing for me.  Or hasn’t been.  But, at least in Berlin, I’ve never lived in a place where that was really an option.  True, I wasn’t much for that in NY.  But either I’ve matured or NY was too expensive.  Or both.  But here now, in Neukölln, I don’t just want to live here.  I want to experience living here. 

And who knows, maybe I’ve learned something from Joschka.  OK, in point of fact, I’ve learned a great deal form Joschka, and that probably warrants its own post.  But I mean in this regard.  He’s always going out on his own, to his favorite joints.  Such that he often knows the owners or the chefs or the bartenders or the regulars.  He’s got his own little world in that regard.  And look, I’m not saying I’ll go that far.  But it might be cool to have a couple of local joints where I’m more than just some rando.  Plus, it would be good for my German, assuming they don’t try to talk to me in English; a distinct possibility in this part of town.

But maybe that’s a goal for this new year, i.e. the new Jewish year; L’shana Tovah btw.  To become a part of the fabric a) of my neighborhood, but also b) of the Jewish community I’ve met through Aikvele.  Local bars, cafés and restaurants on the one hand, shul and Moritz’ minyan on the other.  All while continuing to work on my music and making this apartment into a proper home.

Yes, I’ve been working on music all along.  Yes, I just taught myself the basics of Aramaic.  Yes, I have my regular Greek and Yiddish readings, my weekly Torah readings.  Yet somehow, I feel I’ve been terribly and unaccountably idle for way too long.  Perhaps this move will be just what I need to kick my ass into gear and get back out in the world. 

I mentioned this to Joschka; well not the part about shul, but the rest of it.  And he was like, “You?  I’ll believe it when I see it.”  Then a few minutes later, he was like, “Sorry, I’m not trying to discourage you.  I think it’s great.  Just, I know you.”  And he does.  Better than anybody at this point.  And he’s not wrong.  I’ll believe it when I see it too.  But I’ve got goals now.  Goals that go beyond studying in my bedroom or working in my studio.  And that feels good. 

2 October, 2022

Fuck, I’m exhausted.  So exhausted I shouldn’t even be writing.  But it’s such an unusual exhaustion, I feel I want to say something about it.  It’s now the end of Saturday, by which I mean 3am Sunday.  I haven’t had a nap since Tuesday.  Tuesday I had a midday nap, but then stayed up for some thirty to thirty-five hours straight for the move.  Every day since has been both work here and at the old place.  I’m still up til three or four every night.  Just without napping.  And it’s entirely distorted my sense of time. 

If we consider today properly Saturday, which I do, it means I only moved three days ago.  And yet it feels like aeons.  (You know, first I typed ‘eons.’  Then I decided I wanted to be a snob and use the Latinized spelling of the Greek word: ‘aeons.’  The spellchecker says it’s wrong.  It’s an odd feeling when you know you’ve gone one up on the machine).  It feels like aeons, I say, and not in that way where things have changed so much that it feels like another life.  Not in the way that so much has happened that it feels like another epoch.  It’s just, I’ve been constantly awake and constantly busy for these three days, it’s warped the hell out of everything.

The only proper leisure time I’ve had is when I get to write a bit before bed.  Unless you count the down time in the car with Linda or Joschka or the taxi today.  Linda shuttled me downtown with a bunch of my stuff on…well I truly don’t know whether it was Thursday or Friday.  Which day did Joschka and I do the studio and his plant?  Linda was first, that much I know.  So I guess it was Thursday with her. 

Actually, I took Linda for tea as a thank you for schlepping my ass downtown during rush hour.  So that was a bit of leisure time, I guess.  And it was nice.  Better than nice, we had a really good time.  Just talking and laughing.  She’s an interesting cat.  I wouldn’t say we’re close necessarily.  And yet, she’s a good friend.  Like, she’s a person you just know you can count on with no strings attached. 

We don’t have a ton in common, but like I said, we laugh a lot together.  And when you’ve got that, you really don’t need much else.  I try to be a good friend to her too.  I’m always on call when she needs help with English, which she does from time to time for school.  On call and no strings attached.  For background, she was my student back in the day, in the same class with Esma and Chris.  Her and Chris used to date actually.  Then they broke up and we haven’t yet gotten the whole band back together.  But I make a point of staying friends with the both of them. 

She’s fun to drive with.  Fun because she trash talks other drivers the whole time.  But like, not in an angry way.  She does it in a sweet way.  Yeah, sweet trash talk.  Like, “Komm, Schatzi, du schaffst das…ein klein Stück weiter…ein klein Stück weiter.”  (Come on, sweetheart, you can do it…just a bit further…just a bit further).  Or when somebody honked at her: “Hey, cool, du hast ne Hupe, ich hab auch ne Hupe!” (Hey, cool, you have a horn, I have a horn too!”).  It never ends and it’s always good for a laugh.

Plus, driving with her – talking with her in general – is good for my German.  First, because she uses a lot of slang.  But also, because she speaks a real, honest-to-god, East Berlin (working class) kind of German.  I actually really love her German.  Just the sound of it, the phonetics, the pronunciation.  Her kind of German is actually the version I most try to model my own after, sometimes intentionally, sometimes subconsciously.  The extent to which I succeed is up for debate, and obviously English and Yiddish exert their own considerable pull on my speech.  But her kind of German is exactly the kind of German I’m after.  So riding with her is great because I get to just listen and study.

I finally finished with the old apartment today, around six.  I hope it’s going to be OK with the landlord.  I think I did a decent job, painting what needed to be painted, mopping, deep clean of the bathroom and kitchen.  Who knows what he remembers, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s actually in better shape than when I got it.  At 2pm tomorrow, I give him the keys back and then it’s done, over, finished.  Close the book on Pankow and the last three years of my life.  And open the book for real on Neukölln. 

I took a taxi downtown, just because I still had so much stuff to carry.  Mostly just all my cleaning stuff, painting materials, and also my lamps that I used to light the place.  I never did install any proper fixtures.  And then, in the cab, I passed right the fuck out.  To the point that when we got here, I thought the guy hadn’t gone far enough down the block because I was looking at the wrong side of the street.

I need to get a candelabra for the wall, away from the window.  Because right now, the wind is blowing in directly on my candles and they’re burning down double time.  That won’t do. 

I did a lot of work in the kitchen today.  It’s coming together, but it’s still a shit-show.  Still lots to do.  I also started putting the studio together.  Everything is in place save the speakers and my larger monitor.  Nothing is wired though.  I need to get a power strip, because the studio is going to share an outlet with the ceiling light fixture.  So if I wired it up today, I’d be in the dark.  Of course, I can’t even get a power strip until Tuesday because tomorrow is Sunday (#Germany) and Monday is a holiday.  So Tuesday I gotta get a power strip.  But I also gotta pick up a new set of sheets for the bed and new pajamas.  The ones I have (of both) are full of holes.  I’d put off replacing them until after the move.  So now it’s time. 

I also need to get some tools.  Chief among them a drill, because I need shelves and I can’t hang anything in these walls without a drill.  It’s not sheetrock here, so you really gotta properly drill.  But, sooner than later, I also want to get one or two saws and sawhorses.  Because I’d really like to do some woodworking. 

On the subject of the butcher block, it turns out the previous guy had left behind a cutting board, quite large, quite thick.  So rather than buying something, I got it in my head today that I think I’d like to build a butcher block around said cutting board.  I think that could be a nice project.  And look, I have a cellar.  I can’t build a proper shop down there.  But I should start putting together a decent collection of tools.  The living room is big enough that I should be able to do most any projects in that space. 

This is an area where I really miss having Dad around.  Because it would be great if we could work on some of this stuff together.  As it is, I’ll be reaching out to him for advice and design ideas.  He’s got a better eye and feel for these things than I do.  And they’re coming for a long weekend in November – for his birthday actually – so who knows, maybe we’ll be able to do some work together while they’re here.  Last time I was home, we built a bookshelf together and that was one of the absolute highlights of that entire trip.

In the meantime, I’m gonna see if I can get Joschka down here Monday or Tuesday to help me hang a shelf in the kitchen which will serve as a spice rack.  Because right now, my drink cart is doing the job, and it’s really not up to it.  I’ve always said, my kitchen is a work space, just like the shop in the theatre at SLU back in the day.  I need to be able to reach for anything I need and grab it with my eyes closed.  If I have to rummage around twenty-odd spices looking for the garlic powder, I’m wasting my time.  I can’t be pushing the tarragon out of the way to be able to extract the soy sauce.  No, the kitchen is a scared space, a work space.  Like my studio or my desk.  Things need to have their proper place.  Davey needs shelving in the kitchen.

I ordered internet today.  Apparently nobody needs to come and set it up, which is a good thing.  No appointments, no waiting through a six-hour window for some clown to show up.  They mail me the router and I hook it up myself.  Hopefully it comes soon.

I finished unpacking the last of the boxes today, save for the ones with my dishes.  And that’s bc the previous guy left behind a bunch of dishes.  So I need to figure out which I’m going to use and what to do with the ones I don’t.  That’s not to say I’m done.  There’s shit lying around all over the damn place.  But the boxes are unpacked.  Tomorrow, I can move them to the cellar.  And then I’ll have a ton more free space.  Then it’ll be the job of finding a place for everything.  But it’s coming together nicely. 

And then, Charlotte comes on Wednesday.  It’s not ideal, in terms of how this place is going to be, to be receiving guests.  Hell, the futon won’t even arrive til Saturday.  But it should be good enough.  And she’s not high maintenance, so I’m sure it’ll be fine.  I’m looking forward to seeing her, to having her here, to showing her my place and my new ‘hood.  And I’m also curious to see if she’ll be able to use any of the Turkish she learned.  If so, that will be very cool.  I’m trying to think who we should see while she’s in. 

I’d say Joschka, but his (teenage) sister is visiting at the same time.  So we’ll see if we can swing that.  But I’d like for her to meet Esma.  And Philippe. 

I’m exhausted and writing this has been a real effort.  Not a mental effort; the brain seems to be working per usual.  But the physical act of typing.  Man, my fingers are not cooperating.  I’m constantly misspelling things; and when I’m not, I’m going super slow in an effort to be accurate.  I’m running on fumes.  Which means it’s probably time to call it quits…

4 October, 2022

So many impressions, so many thoughts, so much going on.  I feel a bit like Mike in Stranger: I can’t hope to process all this now so I need to file it away for grokking later.  Man, I have so many thoughts just on that book and now on Heinlein.  Let’s see when I can find time to write about that, shall we?

OK, so all the big work is done.  Or rather, the post-move big work.  Most things have now found a home.  All the boxes and packing stuff have been moved either to the cellar or the trash.  ‘Cellar’ is an interesting word.  I grew up using the word ‘basement.’  ‘Cellar’ was a word other families used.  But here in Berlin, ‘cellar’ seems more approps.  Partly because the German word is ‘Keller.’  But also, because in my own head, I’m developing a distinction for myself between the two English words.  A ‘basement,’ is a subterranean floor of a house, roughly matching the footprint thereof.  Whereas a ‘cellar’ refers to one’s allotted space in the basement of an apartment building.  So the building has a basement, but I store my stuff in the (or my) cellar.

I wired up the studio today.  Well, as wired as it can be without having electricity.  Will buy the necessary power strip tomorrow.  But I ran all the cables and tied them up in a neat and tidy way.  Gratifying in itself.  I also figured out how to make excellent use of the loft under which the studio is now built.  The loft itself is a welded steel frame overlaid with wooden boards.  What I’ve done, is to run a couple of curtain rods between several bars of the frame.  And to the curtain rods, I’ve attached some modified coat hangers, such that now my headphones are stowed hanging from the ceiling of the loft; likewise extra mic and guitar cables.  Personally, I find it to be not only an elegant solution, but an aesthetically pleasing one as well.  Indeed, I’m rather proud of it.

In point of fact, I’m rather proud of the whole setup.  Because I’ve made the entire under-loft area into a music room of sorts.  Next to the studio, I’ve set up a music stand and a guitar stand, along with a footrest.  So now I’ve got a permanent, and comfortable, setup to practice classical guitar again.  And again, I’ve done it in a way that I personally find quite aesthetically pleasing.  The lighting is ad-hoc for now, so that will need attention.  And I do want to do something to treat the walls for sound.  These things will happen.  But I’ve got my studio and a dedicated music space all set up and I’m really quite pleased with it.  With it and about it.

I’ve also found a temporary solution for the candles at my desk.  Since I no longer need the standing lamps I had at the old place, I returned them to their original packaging.  I then taped the two boxes together so that they function as a sort of tall, slender stand upon which I’ve set two green, empty gin bottles as candle holders.  Now out of the way of the window, they don’t smoke or burn too fast anymore, all while providing plenty of light.  It’s good enough for now.  The ultimate goal is to find an antique wall-mounted candelabra to hang in roughly the same spot, and to fix a mirror behind it.  That should serve quite well, and once again, should look quite nice when it’s all in place.

I’ve also got the kitchen more or less squared away.  I’ve done all I can do with it until such time as I’m able to build the butcher block I’ve got kicking around in my head.  But I’ve got a pretty neat workspace now, such that tonight, I was able to cook my first meal in this joint.  Brussels sprouts, zucchini and chicken breast with pasta in a white wine sauce, for those of you scoring at home.  I’m using every inch of space I’ve got in there, but I think I’m using it efficiently and effectively.  And I enjoyed working in there tonight.  So I’m feeling good about that too.

The way into the apartment: through the front door, there’s a tiny little hallway that leads to the apartment proper.  In German, this would be called a Flur; think of it as a sort of foyer.  On the end of it that connects to the apartment, I hung a little curtain.  Mostly to keep the light out in the mornings, but also to help just a tiny bit with insulation.  There’s no heat in there, so it will by default be the coldest part of the joint.  Hopefully the curtain will, if not act as proper insulation, at least help to cut down any kind of drafts that may occur.  And of course, I think it looks nice, adds to the overall aesthetic of the place.

As to that aesthetic, I haven’t hung any art as yet.  I suppose I’m waiting til the futon comes, which will help properly fill out the living room.  Then I’ll have a better idea of what my wall space is and what should go where.  But I’ve got quite a bit more wall space than in the old place, in the living room sure, but overall as well.  So I’m going to need more art.  I don’t know if I’ll swing it while C is here, but I need to get over to that place in Bergman Kiez I passed by with J&Z and pick up that art deco-y Tempelhof print (and get a frame for it).  And I’m hoping Justin will come through with some photography work for me as well.

In the old place, my room was small and dark.  Well, it wasn’t dark per se, but I kept it so.  Such that there was never any need to adorn the walls in there.  But here, my room is bigger and better lit.  So I’ll need to think about some artwork for in here as well.  But there’s no rush on that. 

One piece of art I want – probably for the living room – is a piece from Deb.  She does some pretty cool stuff and I think it would look great in there.  The only thing is, she don’t come cheap.  I believe her usual asking price is in the thousands.  I don’t mind the price, if I can swing it.  But I can’t swing it just yet.  I’m thinking next year.  We’ll see when and how I can make that happen.  But I like the idea of having some art made by my own artist friends in here.  I’ve already got two pieces from Anne; and I certainly wouldn’t mind another.  Add one from Deb to that, and hey, that would be pretty cool.

Just thinking about art now, when my folks visited Bayeux years ago, they brought me back a full-sized print of the Bayeux Tapestry.  Fully unfolded, it’s massive.  Maybe only eight or ten inches high, but long af.  Maybe there’s a way to ring that around the living room or something.  I’m gonna ask them to bring it when they come.

The biggest outstanding lack right now is internet.  I do feel a little hobbled not having wifi.  Not that I have time to be screwing around watching Netflix.  But I haven’t been able to do any of my admin stuff; invoices, paying bills, etc.  I haven’t been able to do any research or shopping for household stuff.  I haven’t’ been able to download any podcasts.  Haven’t been able to publish any blogue posts.  (The first/next post, I suspect, will just be a זאַמלונג of many of the impressions I’ve been putting down here).  And I’ll need to figure out a how to work until I’ve got internet.  Will I need to go to the school?  Can I bother Joschka to use his extra space that early in the morning?

So I’m feeling really good about this place.  What I’ve done with it so far, in just these few days, and my vision for it going forward.  I wonder if it will ever feel ‘done.’  There’s always something to do, to fix, to improve, to customize.  But maybe that’s a good thing.  Maybe it keeps you energized and engaged.  But I like where things stand, at time of writing.

I’m not sure I’m totally ready to have guests just yet, but if there’s anybody I wouldn’t mind having with things as they are, it’s surely Charlotte, madame à l’arrache.  Easy going, low maintenance, she won’t mind that things aren’t quite complete.  But already I’m looking forward to hosting people.  I’ve still got to get a fold-away dining table sorted; the biggest impediment to a dinner party.  But soon, very soon, I’ll be inviting people over.  In a way I’d hoped to but never quite pulled off in the old place. 

Beyond the fact that the old place was out of the way, I had it set up with a sofa and a coffee table.  Comfortable enough for drinks, but not in any way ideal for sitting down to a meal.  To avoid falling into that trap again, I disposed of that sofa and coffee table (leftovers from the Köpenick roommates).  Jared and Josh have this really nice dining table where the wings fold down lengthwise, resulting in a long skinny piece that can easily be stowed.  My aim is to get something like that.  Then it’ll be regular dinner parties.  And not just my friends proper, but I’d like to extend it out to the Jewish group.  Wouldn’t it be something to host a Shabbos?

I know a lot of people are keen to get a look at the place; the place itself and what I’m doing with it.  Without wifi, I’m trying to watch my data, such that I haven’t sent any videos yet and only a scant few pictures.  But I’ve been keeping my folks, Justin and Joschka somewhat current.  In addition, and what’s been really nice, is keeping my Aunt Cookie in the loop.

When I lived in the city and had an hour-long walk home from work every day, I used to make a point of calling her every few weeks or so, just to chat.  I always enjoyed those talks.  But when I got to Berlin, I didn’t have those regular long walks anymore, to say nothing of the fact that using data to call the states for hours at a time would’ve gotten expensive in a hurry.  It’s another thing I’ve missed in coming here. 

But I’ve made a point of keeping her updated with this whole apartment saga.  Just texting updates and pictures, that sort of thing.  But she gets really excited about, is very enthusiastic and supportive.  I only get to see her now once a year, when I’m in.  So it’s been nice to have this point of contact.

Let me end with this thought.  In a lot of ways, the idea of ‘home’ is very much bound up with the idea of ‘comfort.’  Not just being physically comfortable, not just the creature comforts.  But the sort of comfort that reaches to your heart. 

There are four rooms in this apartment, none of them finished, none of them yet what they will be.  But four rooms, all the same – bedroom, living room, bathroom, kitchen.  And in each room, I’ve created a place of comfort for myself.  A place that feels like home, not just for my body but for my soul.

In the living room, I’ve got my music space.  Not just my studio stuffed into the corner of the kitchen anymore, but a proper dedicated space.  And a permanent setup to practice guitar, with plenty of elbow room and good acoustics.  A space I want to be in and a space I rejoice in looking at when I’m not.

In the kitchen, I’ve now got a proper work space.  This is important.  For me, there are few things as frustrating as going somewhere – a friend’s place, an AirBnB, whatever – and trying to cook in a kitchen that doesn’t meet your standards.  Like, “This is the sharpest knife you’ve got?”  Or, “What do you mean you don’t have a Dutch oven…how do you braise??”  The kitchen, like the studio, is a sacred workspace.  In both cases, if they’re not yet a בית־המקדש, they at least do yeoman’s work as a משכן.  The kitchen, the studio: קדש־הקדשים.

The bathroom.  Well, it’s a little silly to talk of it as a sacred space.  But, a place of home, of comfort?  Look, I’ve got a bathtub now.  I’ve taken two baths in the five days since I’ve moved in.  Maybe that’s just a creature comfort, οὐ περὶ πολὺ ποιείϲθαι.  But what a joy it is, after a long hard day of moving boxes and setting shit up to settle into a nice warm bath.  And over here, they’re big on these bath oils.  Shit to relax your muscles or aromatic shit to help if you’ve got a cold.  One does feel just a touch of royalty as one partakes of such a simple pleasure.

And then my room.  It needs the most work, is lacking the most furniture.  First and foremost, I need a new mattress.  The one I’ve got is just a piece of foam, to say nothing of the fact that it’s the one I inherited from Köpenick, and it was already second-hand when I got it there.  So the bed is no great place of comfort or repose as yet.  But the key thing is, I’ve got my desk set up.  I’ve got this computer in place so’s I can write.  And I’ve got my book stand adorned with my Chumash, a gift from Aunt Cookie, which she herself was gifted from Uncle Art.  So I’ve got my sacred workspace in here too, where I can write and learn Torah. 

Home.  Comfort.  Sanctuary.  And the sacred.   As a Jew, the term ‘holy trinity’ carries little weight with me.  And yet, in just five short days, I’ve built for myself my own sort of holy trinity in this new home.  A place to make music, a place to cook and a place to learn.  Really, is there anything else?  I mean, for a single feller, anyway.

I’m still exhausted, but it’s getting better.  I slept for a solid twelve hours last night; very much needed.  That was wonderful.  I’m starting to get back on track, starting to un-fuck the go-go-go of the last week.  Tomorrow (meaning properly today, but tomorrow when I wake up) will be Tuesday.  Lots of errands to run.  And then C comes on Wednesday.  So that will be a different sort of go-go-go.  But I’m looking forward to it.

16 October, 2022 (again)

OK, this was longer than usual.  Sorry.  But this seemed like the natural stopping point.  I suppose this will wind up being three posts, instead of the intended two.  I’ll pick up again with Charlotte’s arrival.  No spoilers, but we had a great time.  Big fucking surprise, I know.  Anyway, stay tuned for that…

זײַ געזונט

An American in Berlin

An American in Berlin
16 October, 2022

Happy New Year, first of all.  לשנה טובה.  May we all be healthy, happy and prosperous.  As many of you know, I’ve moved to a new apartment in a new neighborhood.  Without getting into any of the details, it will be enough to say that the move was forced upon me.  And that kinda ruined my summer.  I went into a pretty deep funk for a while there.  What am I gonna do?  Where am I gonna go?  Will this be the end of my Berlin experiment?  But in the end, it all worked out.  I found a great place, and bigger than the last one.  What’s more, it’s in a neighborhood I absolutely love.  Neukölln, in fact.  Which, if you remember, is where this whole Berlin adventure originally started.  And anybody’s who’s been reading this from the beginning will remember that one of the main reasons I love this ‘hood, is because it feels the most like home, the most like New York.  Loud, busy, fast, ethnically diverse, a little dirty, a little gritty, full of life. 

There’s a subway stop around the corner, and station for a second line less then ten minutes walk the other way.  I’m walking distance to Tempelhofer Feld (love it!), where I intend to do quite a bit of skating one I’m a bit more settled.  And across the main drag, ((There’s three ‘main drags,’ actually.  Hermanstraße, the nearest and to which I here refer.  The next is Karl Marx Straße; my apartment is a bit less than halfway between Hermanstraße and KMS.  And then after KMS is Sonnenallee, which once upon a time marked the border between East and West Berlin.  Also, I now live in “West Berlin” for the first time in six years.  Although, to be honest, it has more of an Ossie (i.e. “East”) feel than the rest of “West Berlin.”)) is the sub-neighborhood of Schillerkiez, which is full of hipster bars and restaurants sufficiently popular that you either need to wait forever or make reservations. 

Beyond that, the neighborhood has great shopping and eating in general.  Huge Turkish population.  In this, it kinda reminds me of Chinatown.  Lots of places will just have Turkish names.  And when you go inside, you’re more likely to hear people speaking Turkish than German.  Lots of small, mom-and-pop cash-only businesses.  Food – weather at the markets or restaurants – that you just won’t find in most neighborhoods.  I absolutely loved living in Chinatown and this just feels like a natural extension of that. 

The only difference, obviously, is that there’s no good Chinese food here.  And yet, even then, I’ve already found a fantastic Asian market where I can get all the Chinese, Japanese and Korean (read: fresh Kimchi) ingredients I could ever want.  Well, almost all.  I haven’t seen any chicken feet.  But, I mean, I’m pretty sure I can live without chicken feet. 

There’s a great little Turkish market just around the corner and the butcher counter in the back is fantastic.  Chicken legs and chicken wings.  No more prepackaged chicken cuts for this guy.  And lamb!  You know, for whatever reason, it was impossible to find lamb in Pankow or Köpenick.  Now there’s fresh lamb everywhere!  What I’m saying is, there will be a proper shepherd’s pie happening this winter.  Can’t wait, you guys.

Anyway, that should be enough to give some context.  I’ve actually been doing quite a bit of writing over the past month or so, reflecting on the upcoming move and then my first experiences and impressions in the new apartment and neighborhood.  So I think what I’ll do is, just some cut and paste from those writings, to take you all along on a bit of the journey I’ve been on.  And so, without further ado…

17 September, 2022

Had dinner and drinks tonight with Jan and Zibs, as they’re in town for the weekend.  Sebastian was along as well, and he’s just a lovely fella.  Great times, as always.  So happy to see them.  Just saw them last month, when Justin and I visited them in Flensburg.  So to see them again so soon is a real treat.  Almost like they still lived here. 

I mean I just love those guys.  I also love making fun of German culture with Zibs.  She married a German, she lives in German, she works in German.  But man, can she laugh about this place, its customs, its people.  She’s better at it than anyone else I know.  Not to say Jan (or Sebastian) can’t laugh at these things as well.  But with them, it’s in that sort of self-deprecating way; it’s their culture after all.  But Zibs brings this wonderful outside perspective to things.  It’s a perspective I share.  That of the outsider who has somehow decided to put down some kind of roots in this verrucktes Land

Conversation ran the usual gamut.  Everything from serious political discussion to puerile jokes.  I think one of the reasons I love them so much – maybe even the main reason – is that I can be myself with them.  Or perhaps better stated, every version of myself.  So yeah, so fucking happy to see them.

Of course, they just happen to be here the same weekend that Stefan is visiting form Bavaria.  And that Paulina is still in town.  So I don’t even have the luxury of dedicating the whole weekend to them.  Tomorrow night is for Stefan and Joschka.  Sunday is for more recording.  But I may yet see them tomorrow afternoon.  Because we passed by an art shop that had this print, sort of art deco in style, of Tempelhofer Feld.  And I really want it for the new apartment.  So I’ll probably meet them again down that way tomorrow afternoon to pick it up.  After which, I’ll probably had back up home for a nap.  I suspect it’s going to be a long night with Joschka and Stefan.

There are apartment updates, but I don’t want to get to deep into it.  Only two more weeks in this apartment, this neighborhood.  And honestly?  I’m ready to go…

22 September, 2022

Lots going on.  Hardly the time to write or process.  I wrote about seeing J&Z.  Stefan was Saturday night.  Always wonderful with that guy.  Long night with him and Joschka.  I must have gone home around six or seven.  Even took a cab, which I wound up regretting.  Shoulda just trammed it.  But I just wanted to get home and into bed bc Pualina and Philippe were due over at 6pm.  Got a lot of good work done.  Not enough time to reflect on that either.  But we got some good work done and drank a bottle of wine after.  I’m really glad those fuckers are in my life now.  Three days in a row of just fantastic people.

Stressed beyond belief with this moving משגעת.  Once I’m in and settled I’ll be able to sit down and write about it.  Just not, like, right away.  Charlotte will be visiting from the 5th to the 12th.  I’m looking forward to seeing her, of course, and to showing her the new place.  But it’s sure to be a bit of a shambles still when she shows up. 

Taking a break from language learning at the moment.  The break is needed.  But I do miss the rhythm of my daily Aramaic work.  I’ve had a look here and there at my Rabbinic Hebrew textbook.  Fascinating as all get out, but I obviously don’t have the time to really dig into it yet.  And won’t, at least not til after C is gone.  And I need to figure out how I’m going to tackle Polish. 

One thing from class today that kinda made me laugh.  Or rather, makes me laugh, as it’s not the first time I’ve heard it.  So we’re chatting and this girl says whatever she says.  And it’s fine, right?  I mean, it’s clear, expressive, easily understandable.  Just not quite idiomatic.  So I explain that to her and offer her a more idiomatic way of expressing the idea.  And she’s like, “Thank you for that, I really appreciate it.”  And I’m just like, “You don’t have to thank me, I mean, it’s literally my job.”  And she’s like, “Maybe.  But not everybody does that.”  And I’m thinking, “But don’t they?”  Not that I’m doubting her.  It’s more just, how does one do this job and not do that?  What are the other teachers getting up to?

I just learned about this pop artist, Marina Diamandis (or, earlier apparently, Marina and the Diamonds).  Fucking fantastic.  Great voice, good hooks.  But also, a bit new-wave-y, a bit kitschy.  And just a touch of that B-52’s silliness.  I’m hooked. 

I’m hooked, but also, what a great study tool, what a great learning device.  Listening to this broad, I’m getting all kinds of ideas of things I can do with Pauline.  Little things, like doubling the vocal in places I wouldn’t previously have thought to double them.  Or adding a headvoice/falsetto line over a chorus to be way down in the mix. 

It’s becoming increasingly clear to me, that if I want to grow as a producer, I need to listen to more pop music, music Metal Dave would never have considered listening to.  And in doing so, I’m discovering that there’s more music out there for me to love.  That I might even love pop music.  Not all of it, mind you.  But I’m finding new stuff, great stuff.  I’m finding new music to love for myself.  But, Hauptsache, it’s helping me grow as a producer.  And that’s a win.

To that end, I’ve begun studying a bit of Michael Jackson.  Mostly Thriller and Bad at this point.  And when I say ‘study,’ I just mean, listening closely and seeing what I find, what I notice.  Self-study, in other words.  But hey, self-study is kinda my thing, no? 

23 September, 2022

You know, for quite a while now, I’ve had this feeling of, I don’t really wanna work.  Three days a week will get me everything I need, and if I could work less than that I would.  But I used to do this four days a week before the מגפה, and I loved it.  I wasn’t looking to cut my hours.  It was only when everything went online that so much of the joy went out of it.   Now though, I find I’d actually enjoy a third day per week with this bunch.  [Note: I have two days a week with the class and a third (and sometimes fourth) day with a one-to-one].

It may also because they’re good.  They learn fast and I can do a lot with them.  And what I can do with them is limited when we only have two days a week.  It’s like, we have so much to cover and so little time. 

The funny thing is, I make them all laugh.  And I love making them laugh.  I love making people laugh in general.

It’s that thing that standups always talk about.  It’s like a drug.  And it also comes with wanting to be liked.  I talk about this with Paul [my friend and colleague] sometimes.  Because Paul will give me shit occasionally; or he used to, when we were in the school together.  He’d be like, “You know they love you, right?  No, they really love you.  They don’t love any of the rest of us the way they love you.  What’s that about?”

What’s that about.  I’d always say this, “Paul, I don’t have anybody.  You get to go home to a family that loves you.  This is all I got, so I kinda need that love.  I want to be liked.”  So I take an interest in their lives.  I try to make them comfortable, try to build their confidence.  And vor allem, I try to make them laugh.  Because if they’re laughing, then they’re having fun.  And if they’re having fun, then they probably like me.  It’s not that complicated. 

Or maybe that’s already too complicated.  Because it’s in my nature to make people laugh, to play the clown.  I don’t mind being laughed at, if it serves a purpose.  Self-deprecating humor is what we do.  It’s our shtick.  And as I’ve said before, if we’re not laughing, then what the hell are we doing?

Interpolation: I love this idea of ‘do a mitzvah.’  It’s funny.  The word ‘mitzvah’ literally means ‘commandment.’  But in the way that it was only ever used, at least in my family, the correct translation of ‘mitzvah’ is ‘good deed.’  Like, you help an old lady cross the street, you did a mitzvah.  And you don’t think, “I fulfilled a commandment.”  You think, “OK, I did a good deed.”  But see, that’s something I love about Judaism, or at least, our version of it.  I love that ‘commandment’ is synonymous with ‘good deed.’  End interpolation.

25 September, 2022

P&P were over again today.  Got a lot of good work done, but mostly just the verses.  We had a lot of harmonies to work out.  It’s fun though.  And the process is nice.  Like, I don’t always intuitively know what harmony I want.  I mean, when I’m singing, when it’s one of my songs (or for the band), I just go in and work it out on the mic.  But with Pauline, I find that I’m more likely to work out a line on the keyboard before I give it to her.

What’s nice, though, is she’ll just sit there while I work it out.  And then when I have something, she’ll just go in and do it.  Maybe it works, maybe we need to try something else.  But she seems to have complete faith in the process.  Like, she’s totally patient while I’m doing my thing, you know?  And happy to try whatever I suggest.  And then there’s that magic moment;  well, magic for me as a producer. 

When the harmony works and she hears it for the first time.  Justin and I sometimes talk about this idea, or skill, of “audiation.”  Trying to hear something in your head before you actually record it.  That’s a skill that I’ve been trying to develop as a producer.  But I think it’s not a skill most people have innately; I sure don’t.  Point being, Pauline doesn’t hear it necessarily before she sings it, or even as she’s singing it.  She really only properly hears it for the first time on playback.  But when it works, there’s that moment.  The one where the eyes go wide, and the mouth broadens into a smile.  Like, “Yeah!  That’s really pretty!”

And again, she trusts me.  She trusts me to work out it, and to sit there patiently waiting while I work it out.  Which, again, doesn’t mean every attempt will work.  But she trusts me that I’ll find something in the end.  Which is so great. 

The trick is, though, to make sure I also give her time to work out her own shit.  Because she’s got a good ear, got good instincts.  She’ll find great stuff on her own.  Mostly what she’ll find is ad-libs and secondary lines, or variations of the main line.  She will, to be sure, also find the odd harmony.  But her wheelhouse is the freestyle stuff.  And it’s the perfect compliment, bc my wheelhouse is the more structured harmony stuff.  So between the two of us, we have a way of finding a wide range of cool shit for her to sing.  I could go on.  And I will; some other time.  Just to say again, I love working with her.

The only people in this country I’ve ever really spoken my own English with are J&Z, Anne and Joschka.  And even then, in those cases, I need to be drunk.  Drunk and worked up about something or other.  And then it’s “fuck this” and “dis fuckin’ guy” and “tawk” and “gimme a fuckin’ break.” 

As it is, I feel sufficiently comfortable with this group to at least throw around a bit of Yiddish here and there.  Like, “Yeah, this grammatical feature איז אַ ביסל משגעע,” or (regarding the Stammtisch), “Like I need to schlep (my ass) to Ostrkeuz?”  Already, that’s pushing it.  But nobody seems to mind. 

If they even notice. Cos here’s the thing about students; like, in general.  Even though I make a point of explicitly saying, “If I’m talking too fast, if I say something you don’t understand, please please please tell me.”  Even though I say that, and even if they do, there’s always some shit that they’re gonna let slide.  Right?  I mean, you’re not gonna stop the teacher at every word you don’t understand, even if he says it’s OK to do so.  Because it’s the nature of a student – and I include myself in this – to let shit slide sometimes.  Whether it’s because you figure you either should just know it or because you think you’ll get it from context, or just because you don’t want to interrupt the flow of the class.  So I’ll throw a bit of Yiddish around and nobody will say anything.  But are they silent because they get the context or because they just don’t want to say anything?  Or because it’s close enough to German that they actually understand and just think I’m speaking bad German?  I don’t know.  What I do know, is that I need (on some level) to be my authentic self, whatever that means. 

I guess it’s funny, though, that I seem to define ‘being my authentic self’ as throwing around a bit of Yiddish and not, as it were, pronouncing ‘tawk’ instead of ‘tok’ for ‘talk.’  Although, I know that if I start pronouncing ‘tawk,’ it’s sure to be followed by some profanity.  And while I will curse in class, I do try to keep it to a minimum. 

Weird to think I may have already cooked my last meal in this [the old] apartment.  Broccoli and chicken with pasta in a white wine sauce.  And using the leftover oil from a jar of dried tomatoes instead of the usual neutral olive oil.  It was really good, not for nothing.  But I’ve only got a few days left, and I doubt I’ll cook again.  Weird.

Torah remains a great comfort.  In the midst of all that’s going on, to have that regular reading, it gives some air of stability.  And when I finish my parsha reading on Monday or Tuesday – which I’ve been doing a lot of lately – I regret, later in the week, that I don’t have more Torah to calm me down.

There are two solutions to this, as I see it.  One is simply to get through this Rabbinic Hebrew text so I can confidently add Rashi to my readings.  The other, is to go and re-read portions that are not part of the parsha and just get to know them better.  In any case, there are only three parshos left this year.  So that’s a problem for next year.  Which is fast approaching.

Rosh HaShanah falls in the middle of this week, just when I’m moving.  I have too much on my plate to be able to celebrate.  The group that Moritz invited me to has all sorts of celebrations planned.  And I’m in no position to take part.  Which is a shame.  But I’m looking forward to getting settled in the new place and being able to be more active in this shit.  I’m even thinking about going to shul for Shabbos once in a while.  Because I’ll be near a shul in the new neighborhood.  And I know Moritz goes nearly every week.  So I won’t have to go it alone.  I have a lot more to say about that, but not here, not now. 

26 September, 2022

Lemme keep this short.  Not counting tonight, I only have two more nights in this apartment, as I’m set to move on Wednesday the 28th.  Already done a lot of packing, but still plenty to go.  I’m hoping to be 99% done by the end of tomorrow, with only a few small things to take care of Tuesday.  Also, Tuesday I’m set to take the keys for the new place.  This is really happening. 

I’ll still have to come back here to do some final cleaning and pick up the last of the Kleinigkeiten.  As it stands, I’m to see the landlord on Sunday (the 2nd) to hand over the keys.  Here’s hoping that goes well and without incident.  And here’s hoping he doesn’t try to screw me on the condition of the apartment.  I mean to give it back just as I found it.  Hopefully that will be fine.

The parsha is super short this week; possibly the shortest in the whole Torah.  Which is perfect timing.  It means I’ll be able to finish it tomorrow.  It means I’ll be able to pack up my desk without the feeling of unfinished business.  And I won’t have to worry about it when I get to the new place.  Starting next week, only two more Parshos.  And then it’s time to start all over again, in my new home.

The only thing that sucks is that I’m gonna have to work straight through Rosh HaShanah.  Normally I wouldn’t mind.  But the group that Moritz introduced me to is having all kinds of celebrations and I simply won’t be able to take part this year.  I find that to be a shame.  I really would have liked to.

But once Charlotte is gone, on the 12th, I’m hoping to start taking a more active role.  Being more engaged with the group, and perhaps getting my ass to shul once in a while.  So much more to say about that.  Just not tonight.

Also, I should be able to finish the last episode of the X-Files tomorrow.  A lot to say about that journey too.  Again, for a later date.  But that will be a nice way to close out this joint. 

I broke down the studio today.  Surreal.  With the exception of my monitor speakers and the larger of the two computer screens, all my gear fit into one box.  But seeing as how I built the studio up piecemeal, it was strange to see all my stuff boxed up in and in one place.  And by boxed up, I mean just that.  I kept all the original packaging.  So to see it packed, everything looks just like new.  Looking forward to putting it all back together.  And to building it out more.  A bigger desk, a full-sized keyboard – both piano keyboard and computer keyboard.  I’d like to add a decent quality steel-string acoustic.  And to do some work treating the walls.  All that will depend on money and won’t happen over night.  But I’m quite looking forward to it.

Another subject I’d like to dive into here when I have time: pop music.  Further discussion to include: studying Michael Jackson; this artist Marina (and the Diamonds/Diamandis) that I’ve lately discovered and whom I think is just fantastic. 

Finished the recording work with P&P today.  Pauline leaves Wednesday for France.  So her work is done.  Mine is only just begun.  Philippe came today with a guitar part he wanted to add to the last song.  It’s a good part.  Just a jazzy little lick, but it adds a lot of color.  I got a few takes from him.  The idea is great.  The execution is not.  I’ll have to discuss with him if he’s OK with me re-recording it.  If not, he’ll have to come over and spend some real time on it.  One way or another, we’ll get it sorted.  And when we do, the song will be better for it.  I just don’t know quite yet how we’re gonna do it. 

But look, we got three songs down, which was the goal from the beginning, so we should all feel good about ourselves.  I believe we all do.  Realistically, I don’t see finishing all three of them before December.  I say this because Pauline will be back in December.  So we may yet add a fourth (or sixth, if one counts the songs we’ve already done) to this project before we call it a day on this EP we’re doing. 

Right, that’s enough.  One more X-Files episode for tonight, and then hopefully I can get some sleep.  Long day of packing ahead of me tomorrow…

27 September, 2022

Last post in this apartment.  Nearly said ‘the old apartment’; which it shortly will be.  The big packing is basically done, but the odds and ends seem…endless.  OK, I coulda worded that better.  I’m wound up tighter than…something that’s known for being wound extremely tightly?  Words fail.  Or I do.

I’ve said I’m looking forward to getting going with skating at THF.  True as that’s been, it’s more true now than ever.  I think it’ll do me good in terms of clearing my head and just getting the blood flowing, help me unwind just a bit.  I can’t believe I haven’t been on skates once in all my six+ years here.  That’s just not who I am.  Or at least, not who I was.  And certainly not who I want to be.  I should be on skates all the damn time.  Time was, it was as natural to me as walking.  I want that back rather desperately. 

And I guess that’ll do it.  Time to go to bed.  Tomorrow I break down my desk, which means writing won’t be an option for at least the next few days.  Until then…

16 October, 2022 (again)

Well, that brings us to the end of my official residence in Pankow.  As this post is now sufficiently long, I shall stop here.  I’ll come back with a follow up, where I talk about life in the new place and new ‘hood.  Until then…

זײַ געזונט