An American in Berlin

An American in Berlin
30 October, 2023

Well, here we are again.  Before getting into the usual stuff, I feel almost forced to acknowledge that there are some pretty terrible things going on in the world now.  Okay, there have been for quite some time.  But new bullshit in the last couple of weeks.  And I definitely do not want to use this space to talk about it, except in the most general terms.  So let me get that out of the way first.

Like a lot of people, I’m absolutely heartbroken to see the suffering that’s been unleashed.  I wish I could say that sorrow was my overriding emotion, but it’s not.  I find that I’m filled with a lot of rage.  More than that, I won’t say.  What I will say is that I’m very lucky to have my friend Nate.  Over the last week or so, we’ve engaged in a dialogue of sorts via email.  It’s been an outlet for both of us to share our emotions, our thoughts, our analyses, and so on.  To challenge our own assumptions and to refine our arguments.  It’s become a sort of safe space where we can say what’s on our mind without fear of judgement.  At the same time, and perhaps more importantly, it’s also a place to challenge each other, to have our opinions called out and criticized by a person we trust.  It’s definitely not an echo chamber.  I value having someone who’s not afraid to tell me when he thinks I’m wrong or if he feels I’ve stepped over some line.  I’m trying not to step over lines.  I’m trying to be rational and fair and compassionate.  But I’m very angry.  So I’m thankful to have Nate and the space we’ve created for ourselves.  Beyond being therapeutic, it’s helping me to hold on to my humanity.  More than this, I won’t say.

Moving on.  Last week was a good social week.  Anne was in town for work.  Accordingly, Annett made the trip up so the three of us could hang out.  This was on Tuesday last.  They came over to my place after work (Anne’s first time seeing the joint).  We hung out here for rather a while, just catching up.  Me and Anne drank a number of grogs (hot toddies); Annett’s not drinking alcohol.  It was great to get the ol’ gang back together, tell stories, laugh.  Later on, we went to bar on the next block. 

It’s a place I’ve been meaning to get to since I moved in.  It just looks cool from the outside, in that pretty much all the walls are lined with books.  There’s always people sitting in there working or reading or just hanging out.  Laidak, it’s called btw.  I don’t know why I’d never gone in before.  Probably some cross between not wanting to spend the money (not like it’s expensive) and not wanting to go in and publicly drink alone.  Neither of these are great reasons.  Well, I’m not arguing for going in and getting trashed by myself.  But bringing a book and going for one beer?  I mean, that could be a way to maybe meet new and interesting people.  But I digress.

So we go in, and the bar is just great.  I mean, it’s a bit smoky, so not for everyone.  But great.  A real classic Berlin joint.  The sort of oldschool anarchistic, counterculture, alternative kinda place this city is sorta known for.  Full of hipsters, artists, misfits and just regular folks.  Just a great vibe.  And cheap.  To me, it’s these kinda places that sorta exemplify the soul of Berlin.  Or, at least, the version of the soul of Berlin that attracts me to this place. 

I often tell people that Berlin ain’t pretty to look at.  It’s not like Paris or Rome where you walk around just agog at all the wonderful architecture and history.  The things that make Berlin really great can’t be seen.  They’re all kinda under the surface, subdermal if you will.  But it’s places like this, that exude a certain I-don’t-give-a-fuck-ness, where an eclectic mix of people just coexist, working, reading, drinking, chilling, conversing.  And it’s around the corner from me.  Fantastic.

So we hung out there for a while, continuing on with our drinks.  Well, me and Anne anyway.  Beers now, and Mexicaner shots.  The Mexicaner is basically a shot-version of a Bloody Mary.  Tomato juice, (presumably) vodka and pepper (or something else spicy).  Maybe they exist everywhere, but I’ve only seen/had them in Berlin.  And me and Anne developed a fondness for them long ago.  So we were happy to put back a couple of those with our beers. 

After that, we went for Döner and then I walked them to the train.  Just one night, but it was a good one.  Really great to get some time, the three of us.  I’d missed them both.  I miss them again now.  Kinda like I wrote about with Vin and Joschka, we have our group dynamic.  Annett is the mature one who loves us while being low-key offended by our antics.  Anne is the eccentric artist.  And I’m the clown/asshole.  Annett reminded of us of a story from years ago, possibly our first New Year’s together in Berlin.  I’d made some rude comment, to which Anne replied, “New year, same asshole.”  That pretty much sums us up.  I love those bitches.  Hopefully we’ll be able to get together again sooner than later. 

Maybe a month or two ago, I got an email from my buddy Aaron, in Maine.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned him, but he’s a friend from college.  From, uh, Maine.  As long as I was living in the States, I made a point of driving up there (at least, but usually just) once a year to visit him and his twin brother Adam.  We’ve been good friends for such a long time.  I was in both of their weddings, remember the births of their kids.  And most recently, they sent me some really nice housewarming gifts when I moved into the new joint.  It’s harder now to find the time to get up there since I’m living here, but I’ve managed to make the trip (I wanna say) twice.  And it’s always a grand time.

Anyway, Aaron emails me.  How would I feel about him and Nina (his wife) coming for a visit?  How would I feel?  I’d fucking love it!  We spent a few weeks back-and-forthing to hammer out the details, and in the end we settled on some dates.  For me, it would only be three days.  For them though, with travel time figured in, it was really a five-day trip.  I told them they were most welcome to stay longer, given it’s not a ton of time for all the travel involved.  But as they had to arrange care for their two kids and dog, this was the most practical arrangement for them.  Which, you can’t argue with that.

Well, they showed up bright and early Thursday morning.  It was kinda surreal to see them, just like walking into my courtyard.  But also, fucking great.  They’re just fantastic people.  I laid out a big breakfast for their arrival.  A sorta mix of Turkish and German.  Fish, pastirma (Turkish pastrami; quite different from what we think of as pastrami, but tasty), olives, hummus, baba ghanoush, a big ol’ Fladenbrodt (big huge round wheel of fluffy bread with sesame seeds) and some Börek (sorta filo-dough wrapped cylinders of either meat, spinach or cheese), and of course some pickled radish (which I love).  I think that was it.  I was pretty proud of it, tbh.  I mean, it looked good on the table.  But also, I guess kinda exotic from an American perspective.  And maybe not in a great way?  They ate some of it, other stuff they didn’t touch.  But they were tired and had eaten on the plane anyway.  Well, it’s the thought that counts.  Plus, it left me with a ton of food for myself that I’m still working through.

First day, the weather was gray and misty.  We mostly just walked around NK.  I took them over to THF, just so they could see it.  Then we stopped for tea/coffee in Schiller Kiez.  From there, we wandered up to the canal and made a kinda circle back home.  I’m not sure, but we may all have had a nap at that point.  We went for dinner at the Vietnamese joint around the corner, which was very nice. 

After that, we dropped Nina off as she was ready for bed.  Aaron, though, is a bit of a night owl, like me.  So after trying two around-the-corner-spots which turned out not have any available seating, we went back over to Schiller Kiez, to that hipster-ish cocktail bar I often go to with Joschka.  I wasn’t sure if his friend, Ross the bartender, would be working; and if he was, if he’d remember me.  But we walk in and there he is.  I go over to say hello, dreading the awkward encounter of him not remembering me.  But he just sticks out his hand and greets me warmly.  Then he says, “Classic Manhattan, straight up, right?”  Dude didn’t just remember me, he knew my drink!  I wasn’t expecting that for sure, but it was definitely a nice flex.  Like, “Hey, welcome to this bar where the bartender knows my fucking drink!”  Let’s say A-ron was not unimpressed.

We sat for two cocktails worth of time, whatever that is.  And we just talked.  First some catching up, and then onto some more serious stuff.  We talked all things homeownership.  The agita of buying, the stress of maintenance, all of it.  And then we had a most unexpected conversation.  A rather in depth discussion about gummy candies.  Turns out we’re both big fans.  We talked about what we value in a gummy, both in terms of chewiness and flavor.  We debated the best way to eat them.  (Two or three at a time, always with a mix of flavors).  I mean, this went on for rather a bit.  In the end, we concluded that it was substantively a meaningless conversation, and yet…we were both delighted to have had this (albeit trivial) meeting of the minds on a subject which we both thought we were the only ones to have ever considered in such detail.  I mean, this is the kinda shit real friendships are based on, ya know?

Then we came home.  And at that point, I’m a bit fuzzy on what happened next.  Either a) we just went to bed or b) we retired to my room and split a bottle of wine.  I’m pretty sure it was b).  Yes, I’m quite sure, now that I think about it.  And we just talked more, about life and all the rest of it. 

And honestly, what we have is one of these truly beautiful male friendships.  The sort where we pretty much don’t communicate at all when we’re apart.  But the value and status of the friendship is never questioned.  Like, whenever possible, I’ll make the effort to drive up to Maine, right?  And they know the effort involved in that.  So whenever I suggest a visit, they always rearrange their schedules and do whatever they have to just make it work.  I stay in their homes, play with their kids, spend some good one-to-one facetime with their wives (who are both awesome nfn).  And when we get together, it’s always just like old times.  I realized, when they were leaving, that it’s 2023; and we graduated in ’03.  In other words, we’ve kept this thing going for twenty years now after college.  And now Aaron and Nina were visiting me here in Berlin.  What a treasure.

Friday was cold and rainy.  Nina wanted to do some shopping so she could bring some gifts home for the kids.  So I took them up to Alex.  Which, under any other circumstances would be ridiculous.  But under these circumstances?  It was the right move.  So went to Alexa (the mall at Alexanderplatz) and Nina did her thing.  Meanwhile, Aaron and I found a candy store and bought a whole bunch of little bags of different gummy candies.  Bears, sharks, sweet-and-sour dolphins, maybe others.  Well, we had to!

From there, I led us over to Nikolaiviertel.  I feel like most people don’t much care for this spot, but personally I’m a big fan.  It’s the oldest part of the city.  Like, literally where the city itself was founded in, I wanna say, 1280.  As such, it’s got a sort of almost medieval vibe to it.  It’s the closest thing this city has to ‘old European,’ if that makes any sense.  It’s a bit artificial, it must be said.  Partly because it got all bombed out during the war and was only later reconstructed, partly because it’s just so not what Berlin is.  But to me, it’s just charming.  So we went over there and they also found it cute and charming.

We popped into a classic old-style German beer hall for lunch.  I got a little cup of goulash with some bread for dipping.  Nina got a Bockwurst with potato salad and Aaron and Bratwurst with potato salad.  Aaron and I had wheat beers.  Very German.  And the place was very German, kinda dark with wood paneling and so on.  Everyone was happy with their meal and I was glad to give them a little taste of ‘German’ culture.  Also – and I say this with no shade thrown towards my vegetarian and vegan friends – it was kinda nice to be with people who were just like, “Yeah, I’ll have a fucking sausage for lunch.” 

Then we headed back home and chilled for a bit.  Somehow, the subject of these stupid little videos I make for the Kollel came up and so they asked to see one.  I was a little reluctant since their pretty in-the-weeds Jewish.  But they wanted to see it; and Nina is a half-Yid, so I figured she might at least get some of the jokes.  I wasn’t really expecting Aaron to get much other than satisfying his curiosity as to what I’ve been up to.  But one thing we love is puns, and there are plenty of puns in the video I showed them.

So now Aaron is literally laughing out loud, I’m talking the side-splitting variety.  Which surprised me a bit.  But he was like, “Look, I don’t need to get the joke to appreciate good word play.”  Which, fair point.  And then Nina said something really sweet.  She was like, “You know, me and the kids always try to make him laugh.  But honestly, nobody can make him laugh the way you and Adam can.”  What a beautiful thing to say, right?

And that’s something I really appreciate about Nina.  I mean, don’t get me wrong.  I love Nina.  And she likes me plenty too.  Plenty of times I’ve visited them and Aaron had to work or go to the store or whatever, and I’d just chat with Nina at the kitchen table.  And I’ve universally enjoyed the shit out of those conversations.  Like, in another life, I think we’d have been friends regardless.  So she’s great on her own merits.  But one thing I really appreciate about her is, she really values me and Aaron’s friendship.  Like, she loves her husband, she sees how happy he is when we hang out, and because of that, she holds me in high regard.  I feel like not every wife can or does do that.  She’s a special person anyway, but I think that makes her more special.

I also cooked dinner that night.  I asked them if they preferred Italian or Asian.  Given we’d had Vietnamese the night before, they opted for the former.

Interpolation:  Aaron came with me to go grocery shopping.  Obviously we bought a bunch more gummy stuff.  When we’d told Nina about our gummy convo, she related that as a kid growing up in Norway (her dad’s Norwegian) she used to eat these salted black licorice gummies.  Apparently, they’re the only gummies she likes.  So in the gummy aisle (it’s Germany, of course there’s a gummy aisle), I found a bag of – get this – ‘salted herring gummies.’  Sounds gross, right?  It’s just black licorice gummies in the shape of fish and, you know, salted.  So I picked up a bag for her.  When I gave it to her, I was like, “Are these the ones?”  And she’s like, “Omg, yes!  Thank you so much!”  I asked if I could try one (she said yes) and honestly?  They’re not bad at all.  Like, I might have to add them to the rotation.  :End interpolation.

I decided to make pork saltimbocca, which I’d never made before.  It could probably have been better (I’ll always say that), but it was honestly pretty good.  I also made a cucumber-tomato salad with homemade croutons and (lactose free) feta.  They seemed plenty satisfied.  And of course, I was happy to cook for them.  Again.  We all know I love cooking for people.  And so, pretty much always, when I go to visit them, I’ll cook dinner for everybody up there. 

Last time, their daughter (11 now, so she must have been 8-9 at the time) sous-chef’d for me.  I think I made my mom’s spaghetti and meatballs (always a hit).  And she got right in there, kneading the ground beef with her bare (and of course pre-washed) hands.  All the while, she was asking me about all the herbs/spices we were putting in.  So each time, I took the cover off and had her smell.  Super smart kid, inquisitive, and totally fearless about getting her hands dirty.  It was a lot of fun.  Point being, it’s pretty much a tradition at this point that I’ll cook for them when I visit.  So of course I was gonna cook for them when they visited me.  Good times. 

I also introduced them to Machi Koro.  It’s a game that Joschka introduced me to.  I introduced it Justin the first time he visited and he loved it so much he bought a set for himself.  We all play it when I’m home.  So we played it here and they took to it pretty well.  And give them credit, the game is in German.  But they’re both super smart and I walked them through whatever German was needed.  So the language was no impediment in the end.  We got about halfway through the game before Nina was kaput.  Whereupon we let her go to bad, while me and A retired once more to my room, there to split another bottle+ of wine (and also feast upon our recently acquired cache of gummies).

One thing I always do, when people visit, is to straight off give them my extra keys.  Even if the whole reason for a visit is for us to spend time together, I’m cognizant of the fact that an apartment is a small place to be.  That we’re in a city – and an interesting neighborhood at that – which warrants exploration.  Plus, nobody wants to feel like their obligated to spend every minute with their host.  So I like to give people the option to come and go as they please.  Also, and this is not insignificant, I’m in no way capable of getting up early.  Welcome feast notwithstanding, I’m not really interested in “going out for breakfast.”  So I’m very happy to hand over the extra keys and let my guests go for coffee/breakfast/whatever before I ever get my ass out of bed.  This they did, both days after their arrival.  I’m not even sure I was fully conscious of the fact until I found empty to-go coffee cups in my garbage after they left.  But that made me happy.  I like the fact that they felt comfortable enough to just go out on their own accord.  I want people to feel as at home as possible when they visit me, and I feel like that’s one good sign of it.

Anyway, my ass was dragging more than usual Saturday morning, so not only did they go out for breakfast, they just full on got their day started without me.  As they absolutely should have.  So they went off and saw the Holocaust Memorial and the Topography of Terrors exhibit on their own.  Which, good, honestly.  I mean, of course I would have accompanied them if they’d wanted me to.  But I was glad not to have to.  I met up with them after that.  Beer in hand, naturally.  Because Berlin.  We walked down Unter den Linden to Museum Insel, me doing my tour guide shtick along the way.  At the end, we got the train at Alex and came back home.

At that point, we all napped.  Even after that, Nina was pretty beat.  According to their step counter thingamajigs, they’d walked some nine miles that day.  And never once complained about being tired or their feet hurting or anything at all really.  So you gotta respect that.  Anyway, me and Aaron went for dinner at the Azerbaijani joint on Hermannstraße, down by Leinestraße.

It was pretty funny.  It’s always the same waitress, and I’ve been there a bunch of times, but I don’t think she knows me from a hole in the wall.  Really nice lady though.  Anyway, along with our food (which was slammin’ as always), we ordered a bottle of red (Turkish) wine and some tea.  So the waitress, when she brings the wine, she puts down a candle.  And the bottle has that classic napkin necktie.  You know the one, so it’ll catch any stray drops, right?  Super classy.  Anyway, she lights the candle.  And in German, she’s like, “For a romantic mood.”  And then she’s like, “You’re two guys, with no women.  But it’s okay.  I’m here.”  She’s smiling and laughing.  Really sweet.  And honestly, I really don’t know if she thought we were on a date or if she was just having fun with us.  I decided not to say anything one way or the other.  When she left, I explained to Aaron what she’d said.  Though he’d had no trouble picking out the word romantisch

The food, as I said, was great.  It always is there.  We both got the grill platter.  It includes like a kofta meatball, some grilled lamb, a lamb chop, two little ribs and three little chicken wings.  Plus rice (almost like a thick couscous), red onions with parsley and a grilled hot pepper.  Comes with a tasty side salad.  And we got hummus as an app.  I mean, this place just does it right, no joke.  We had a good time of it, just continuing the general out-hanging.  At the end, we ordered a lentil soup to go for Nina, who was more herself when we got back.  (She loved the soup btw).  We then finished our game of Machi-Ko from the night before and then went to bed.  This time, no wine in my room.  They had to leave at 630 for their flight, so they just wanted to hit the hay.  Can’t argue with that.  We said our more formal goodbyes that night; just a quick hug and ‘get home safe/thanks for the hospitality’ under half-opened eyelids in the morning.

And that was that.  A great fucking visit and a great fucking time.  And honestly, it just made me really happy.  For all the obvious reasons, of course.  But also, apart from family, I don’t get a lot of visitors here from דער אַלטע היים (der alte heym, the old country), also for obvious reasons.  So to have some dear friends reach out to me, to initiate the idea, to go all through the hassle, to actually come visit.  Well yeah, that warmed my otherwise stony, icy heart. 

(A side note on די אַלטע היים.  Traditionally, this Yiddish term is used to refer to, as I said, ‘the old country.’  The shtetl, old Europe, whatever.  I don’t know if they say it in Israel or other places, but to me, it’s a decidedly American phrasing.  The sort of thing old people would say with a hint of nostalgia when they’d remark on the modern and more secular New World, or נײַע היים (new home).  Anyway, at one of our Yiddish schmoozes, I’m chatting at the end of the night with Jake and the two Reyza’s (all from NY/NJ).  And I was saying something about missing home (probably with respect to bagels), and I referred to NY as די אַלטער היים.  And they laughed at me, like, “Dude, that’s not what that means.”  Which, as you would learn the term in a Yiddish class, of course that’s not what it means.  But also?  I was talking about the home country with a tinge of nostalgia while bemoaning (probably) how you can’t get bagels in this new land where we’ve made our homes and our doing some version of prospering.  And I think that’s just fine.  Anyway, thanks for coming to my TED Talk).

Speaking of nostalgia: Homer.  Wait, what?  Okay, I’m assuming we all know what ‘nostalgia’ means in English.  But let’s go a step further and break that down; because it’s a compound word composed to two elements.  The first is νόϲτοϲ (nostos, homecoming); the second is ἄλγοϲ (algos, pain; which we might recognize in the medicinal word analgesic, ‘anti-pain’).  So nostalgia (or νοϲταλγία) literally means ‘the pain of homecoming,’ or perhaps better English-wise, ‘the pain of homesickness,’ or even just ‘homesickness.’  And this is the leitmotif of the Odyssey. 

We use the term ‘odyssey’ in English to basically mean ‘a (literally) epic journey.’  Which of course is what Odysseus undergoes.  But from a more (ancient at least) Greek perspective, the journey, the wandering, is simply what he must do.  The actual fucking point of it all is the nostos, the just trying to get fucking home.  (Oh, hi there, Quantum Leap.  Oh boy).  Anyway, I just wanted to use ‘nostalgia’ as a transition to talk about Homer.  This was a long way of explaining how that works.  Oh boy, indeed!

So I’m in a real Homer groove now.  Definitely the byproduct of my overall increased efforts at just reading Greek every day.  I finished that Xenophon I recently wrote about.  I’m now firmly into the Antigone with George.  And of course my regular Homer readings with the Homeridai on Sunday evenings.  Plus the NT. 

Right, so as I say, I’m in the groove now.  In the past, and more than once, I’ve written how a goal of mine is just to read a bit of Homer each night before bed.  Just ten lines would be enough.  Previously, I’d managed to do it for a couple of months here and there, but I always fell off the wagon.  And honestly, in those times, I wasn’t reading like I am now, so even ten lines felt like homework.  Fun homework, but still work.  No longer!

Lately, I’ve found myself reading a bit of Homer every night before bed.  And not just ten lines either, but often 25-30, sometimes 50, lines at a go.  And not because I feel like I should, but because I want to.  I’m enjoying it now more than at any time since Daitz עליו השלום.  And this being the case, I’ve set for myself a new goal.  Namely, to read the entire Odyssey and Iliad, in Greek.  I mean, I’ve read big chunks of them before, whether for grad school, with Daitz ז״ל or now with the Homeridai.  But never in their entirety.  Well, it’s fucking time.  By my reckoning, based on my current pace and factoring in life-getting-in-the-way shit, I figure I should be able to do this in about 1.5-2 years.  It’s a big project, but one I’m really excited about.  I mean, this one’s important to me.

How important.  Well, here’s how I see it.  I’m now into my seventh year of reading the Torah, reading each parsha in its turn.  It’s become a part of the fabric of my life.  That’s important to me, and if I’m honest, I’m not a little proud of the fact.  Well, that’s what I want for Homer.  Right now, I’m where I was in my first year of Torah.  In most cases, I’m reading each book for the first time, doing all the hard work of looking up the vocab, sorting out the grammar etc.  But once I’ve made it through, then I can be where I am with Torah.  That is to say, I’ll be able to just sit down and read a nice chunk of Homer each night (or most nights, let’s be honest), in that fabric-of-my-life kinda way.  Like, if I live long enough, I’d like for people to be able to say about me, “Well, yes.  New year, same asshole.  But also, this is an asshole who knows his Torah and his Homer.”  #lifegoals. 

(There is actually once last #lifegoal beyond this.  Once I’ve done the hard work of making it through all of Homer once, I’d like to then do all of Shakespeare.  I mean, read every word of Shakespeare once.  And then, as with Torah and Homer, just always be reading Shakespeare.  If I can be well-read in Homer, Torah and Shakespeare…well, that’s kinda everything somehow).

Speaking of ‘knowing my Torah,’ I got a rather nice compliment of sorts the other day.  Dutch Lievs, from the Kollel, reached out to me about the alumni Shabbaton we’ll be having Strasbourg in two weeks.  And she’s like, “We’re trying to figure out what people can do.  And we thought it would be great if you could lead a Torah session.”  That’s a nice little feather in the cap, that they think enough of where I’m at with this shit to ask me to do that.  (Alternatively, it’s like when the softball team asked me to pitch: “Well, you literally can’t do anything else, so…maybe try this?”  But I prefer my interpretation).

Speaking of reading; and then I’ll put an end to this.  Quite possibly my favorite thing about my last visit home (apart from spending time with my family yadda yadda) was just my first few days, before I started making plans with people I hadn’t seen in ages.  Each night, I’d crawl into bed with a book and one (heavy) glass of (good) scotch and just…read.  Just fucking read.  Fuck, you know, I used to be an absolutely voracious reader when I was younger.

And it’s not like I don’t read now.  All I do is fucking read.  But like, dead languages.  Greek and Hebrew.  I at least used to get plenty of French in before the pandemic, but once I stopped taking the train four days a week, that fell by the wayside.  And I don’t know if it’s cause I’m old, or the internet has ruined my attention span or what, but I just don’t read like I used to.  Like, just for fun without needing dictionaries and a fucking desk.  But then, when I was home, I rediscovered it.  Like, “Oh hi, old friend.  How you doin’?”  And it was glorious.  I read four books in like 2.5 weeks.  2.5 busy weeks of constantly seeing people and going hither and yon.  I loved it.

And yet, when I came back to Berlin, I just wasn’t able to recapture that.  Until just recently, that is.  Why’s that?  Well, I made a fucking effort, I guess.  I installed a little goose-neck nightlight onto my bedpost.  I bought a bottle of Glenfiddich 12.  And I grabbed a book.  To start with, it was this random Finnish book (translated into English, of course; G-d willing I live long enough to learn enough Finnish to actually be able to read the language).  Well, not totally random.  It’s a book that Finnish Markus gave me as a going-away present.  That is, his going-away; he moved back to Finland.  (Good for him, sad for me).  And honestly, I just loved it.  I mean, I loved the book.  Lotta fun, truly.  But also, just reading in bed with a glass of scotch.

And you know what?  When I took my last sip and put the book down, I just fell asleep.  No Netflix, oftentimes not even music.  I just closed my eyes and went to sleep.  The way people are fucking supposed to.  What a beautiful thing, that.

(Also, Markus inscribed the book to me.  Which, I love that so much.  I mean, I love books as gifts, full stop.  (When my friends have kids, the first gift I always get for the child is a book.  I learned that from my mom (Thanks, Ma!)).  But when a book is inscribed, it makes it special, unique.  What was once one example of thousands of pressings is now an entirely unique specimen, and in your honor.  I just think that’s a special thing). 

After that, I finally finished another gift-book (another inscribed one, too), which I’d read most of, and then put down for whatever reason.  Great book, too.  Fool on the Hill.  I highly recommend it.  Now I’ve gone back to the JV book I was reading and got sidetracked from.  And you know how much I love JV.  (More on this in a coming post; I have thoughts on this one in particular).  Next up, the Lovecraft book I’ve also gotten sidetracked from.  And then, back to Tolkien.  I’m low-key dying to read the Silmarillion again.  After that, I’ve got a little list.  Some Turkish (in English) book Esma gave me which I’ve been neglecting for too long; maybe some Grim fairy tales (in German; ugh).  I’ve got plans, is the point.  And honestly, it’s good just to be reading for fun again.  Also, scotch.

Well, that’s probably enough.  There’s more to say, of course.  It’s (finally, blessedly) hockey season again.  Music.  The Kollel.  Apparently our Skylarks (somehow) won the championship.  My long walks home from school, which are great in so many ways.  Other shit I’m probably forgetting.  But this is long enough.  So let me end here.

זײַ געזונט

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