Monday, June 20, 2011

We all want to call it home

Aw, everything changes all the time. There's not a whole lot you can do about it.

What did your neighborhood look like when you were a kid? If you're from some places in the United States, you've probably now got 15,000% more Starbucks, an additional Wal-Mart, several fewer Mom and Pop shops. The dilapidated old yellow brick library with the funny-smelling water faucets and grey toilet paper you used to play Oregon Trail in for an hour on Thursday evenings after swim team has been replaced by a Total Recall-esque, so futuristic it already looks like it comes from the past, concrete, steel and green glass nightmare that no one plays games in anymore. Even the toilet paper has caught up with the 21st century. Quilted two-ply all the way.

The 7-11 is a drive-thru espresso stand, the bank your godfather opened your first account in is now a Chase. The street is wider and there are seventeen Thai restaurants on the block that used to lead to your middle school, which is now a ten-story artist's vision that looks appropriately phallic for an institution of learning aimed at 11 to 14-year olds. You used to have to go downtown for a latte. Now they're practically delivering them to your house, along with sushi, which, when you were a kid, you thought was just raw fish. You did not have the first idea what nori was and would never have allowed seaweed to pass your lips, even if you'd known it was going to be FUCKING DELICIOUS.

But what about the people? Sure, like the streets, they're also a lane-width broader, bigger, brighter and pretending to believe in progressive issues like that they'd be totally cool with Mexicans if they'd just come over legally (almost universally a lie). But apart from that, they're mostly the same people as before, right?

When I moved to Neuk├Âlln five years ago, it was the part of town people were scared to have to transfer the subway in. Only the bravest would dare actually leave the train station in order to pick up some "ethnic" grocery item, and then, only in daylight, while accompanied by a bodyguard and a bulldog.

Shortly after I arrived, we started noticing that hip, young people apparently found it "ironic" to live in a Turkish neighborhood and "authentic" to clutch their computer bags while tiptoeing fearfully past groups of Turkish youth standing around drinking Coke in front of the internet store at 1 o'clock on Saturday night. But then, they found strength and safety in numbers, and now they're not scared of anything anymore.

You'd think this would be a good thing, but if you talk to one of them who took a culture safari here five years ago, they'll tell you how there was "nothing" here before they got here and turned it all into a hipster hellhole. "Nothing" like culture clubs, Turkish man hooka bars and other Turkish-owned businesses. But now there is "something" here. In Hipsterese, "something" means "yet another bar serving cheap beer for expensive prices, exploiting design students' thirst for minimalism by not bothering to go shopping for basics like furniture and forcing you to sit on empty beer crates instead of as if that's more edgy than sitting on actual chairs".

I like bikes and funny haircuts and exposed brick walls, but I also like Turkish boys standing around drinking non-alcoholic beverages on weekend nights and scaring the crap out of suburban white kids. But the former seems determined to run the latter out of the area by swarming the place, acting smug and superior, and being willing to pay twice what the average Turkish family can afford for an apartment full of "negative" space they couldn't possibly fill because as minimalists they don't even own CDs anymore.

Can't we all just get along?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cocaine and Jimi Hendrix

I was just commenting last night to some unwilling victims about how the internet has taken over our lives so fully and completely that I can't remember what we did before we had it.

Remember back in the day, way way back in the dinosaur ages, right around 1999 or 2000, when you'd wake up on a day off work, smoke a joint and/or snort a line of coke, make yourself some a bagel and/or listen to Hey Joe or Fell on Black Days ten times, take a shower, grab your smokes and house keys and be out of the door? When I was 19, I used to make it out of the house by 11.30 every single day. Where did I go? What did I do? Back then there was a neighborhood in my hometown that was infamous for being home to gays and junkies, and so naturally I insinuated myself into the scene as much as humanly possible, as I was convinced then, as I am now, that no one knows how to party like a gay or a druggie.

So I'd go up to Capitol Hill--now a lame mecca for hipsters and tourists, sadly--and do... what? I suppose most of the time, I'd do at least one lap up and down Broadway, drop in on some friends and acquaintances (remember that? Before you had a cell phone? When you sometimes didn't even have somebody's home phone number? And would just show up to their place and knock on the door? And they'd actually let you in because they were actually home and they'd give you something to drink and have a conversation with you and there was good and contemporary music playing on an enormous thing called a stereo? And other humans would be there too, and one of them might have even been reading a newspaper? Made of actual paper?), then stroll down for about seventeen cups of coffee at Bauhaus and write in my journal. Or, depending on who was in the smoking section, I'd pretend to read one of my many banned books written by political prisoners, communists and conscientious objectors.

And after I was done with all my dropping-inning and coffeeing and chain smoking and trying-to-be-cooling I might go down to Indy Media and pretend to learn something, attend a solidarity rally or an anti-capitalism march, then get back on the bus home. At this point in my life I neither drank alcohol nor had a television. So now I rack my brain to remember what I did at night. I think, I didn't spend a lot of time at home--basically went there to sleep, shower, and host drug parties. No, wait--my roommate and I, when we were both at home, would sit on the sofa and talk.

And well, now, I'm old and fat and married and I have a television and I eat meat and I don't give a shit about politics and I have several paper journals in which I rarely write anything, and I no longer see the point of leaving the house when I have everything I need here. On a day off, I can eat three meals in front of the computer and go to sleep while watching a movie. Take now, for example. It's a beautiful day. Sun is shining, annoying fucking noisy birds are chirping, the temperature is just right, but instead of laying in a park somewhere and trying to impress someone with my newest Chomsky acquisition, I'm using wireless internet while sitting on my patio, hoping none of the tenants in the building across from us can see that I'm not wearing any pants.

Anyway. I've decided that 2011 is my year to finally get back to basics, to kick my internet habit. I mean, I had the internet in 1999 as well, but back then it was too slow to be of any real interest, you could check the weather in Moscow 24 hours a day but you couldn't watch movies and blogs were basically drawn-out status updates from people you knew in person and could ask face-to-face what they bought at the grocery store last night.

Ironically enough, one of my solutions to kicking my internet addiction is to spend a similar amount of time on the computer, but more time offline, like writing these gems for you four people on Word then blindfolding myself and posting it to the internet, without checking to see if Whatshisname has commented on my super witty retort to his status update although I have not seen nor spoken to him in twelve years.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

We're all so predictable

I think it must have been the first, or one of the first episodes of 30 Rock--a show I just now started watching--where Jack can predict everything about a person just by determining which demographic group they fall into. And while he's talking to a woman roughly in my age group he mentions that she picks up knitting every two years, halfway completes a project, then puts it down again. How does he know us so well?

I mean, it's just so hard to know what to do. A couple of things come naturally to me--arguing, for one. Cooking is a no-brainer as everyone has to eat (although evidently there are many different ways of feeding oneself that permit a 30-year-old to make it their entire lives without having the faintest idea of when to put salt in boiling water, how to use sugar to reduce acidity or how you can use butter to emulsify a sauce).

Anyhootles. It occurs to me that only a rare few of us are naturally driven to do creative things, and of those, only an even smaller percentage have got any shred of talent. Anyone can knit, sure, but how many people can create a pattern? Anyone can write a blog, but how many people can write one worth reading? (Believe me, I'm not counting myself among the talented few in this regard... at the moment.) Anyone can pick up a pencil and paper, draw a circle and some squiggly lines and call it a cartoon, which is what I did today.

Boah, nothing illuminates you to your own total lack of talent like trying something new. In my head, the concept was genius, even though I had no idea what any of the characters would look like or how to make eyes. But I was determined to be more proactive in my artistic pursuits, so I sat down and pounded out some of the most inane drivel even I have ever seen and my standards are not that high.

Sigh... I wish I could figure out what I could do that would make me even remotely interesting, but it always seems to come back to my excellent powers of perseverance when it comes to arguing you down to a bloody pulp until you realize you are wrong, wrong, WRONG.

Anyway. It's back to watch ten more episodes of 30 Rock followed by a light marathon of Father Ted for me. Back into the masses of mediocrity I go.

Monday, March 28, 2011

This is not a terrorist manifesto

There is nothing new about the appalling state of quote-unquote "modern" society. We're too everything. Too materialistic, too self-involved. Too willing to distract ourselves from our actual problems by pretending to care about the problems of others. Too depressed, and subsequently, naturally, necessarily, depressing. We're depressing the shit out of each other on a daily basis. Too predatory, too wiling to play the victim. Too analytical. Too neurotic. Too utterly and completely obsessed with narrowing down just exactly what we "are". Too nervously searching for and frantically promoting our "selves" while attempting to appear casual about the entire thing.

But as you are aware, none of this is new. We now live in a decades- or even centuries-, millenia-long era in which more or less every idea has been thunk. The radical periphery are edging them/ourselves into mainstream ways of thinking. Also not new. Without this exact social phenomenon there would be no social progress, which you may or may not deem a good thing. The main problem now is that we are running out of battles to fight. Everyone worth knowing is aware that most of the -isms are bad. Even historically divided subjects have found socially acceptable moderate paths. Having an abortion is largely considered an unfortunate solution to a grey-area problem that some people choose to make but one which none of us are allowed to judge. Which you'd realize is fine, if you'd be willing to accept that you have no idea what the answer to the universe is. The whole deal of whether or not the shapeless cluster of cells is a Person the second it begins to multiply upon itself appears to be the most divisive issue.

Most of us worth knowing have agreed to agree that one ought not to intentionally discriminate against, harrass, molest, judge, restrict, disallow, legally invalidate, ostracize, or prematurely abort any sentient being, even if is an animal, even if one is not a vegetarian and happily, hypocritically, eats the hairy/hooved/scaly/feathered/beaked bastards on a regular basis. But the question about the fucking zygote, when will mankind ever know?

(However, one might compare a zygote to a malignant tumor, the main similarity being that both multiply upon themselves without end until they have successfully colonized the host; the main difference being that one may eventually grow into a President and cost your society billions of dollars and get you killed abroad whereas the worst the other will do is cost you a few thousand before killing you in the comfort of your own home/hospice.)

Those of us really worth knowing--and notice that I have now significantly reduced the number of people to whom I was previously referring--are aware that without action, most of the being-on-the-same-page-at-all-costsness that is running rampant in modern society is largely a bunch of blah-blah yakkity-yak. We are aware that it is all one big circle jerk invented expressly for the purspose of heightening the effects of drugs and alcohol. ("Oh my god, you're so right, no, let me add to that, no, you're so right. Oh my god, look at the time, it's already tomorrow. Time flies when you're a fucking genius.") You are going to disagree with me. You are going to say, but every person who is dissuaded from gaycism by being forcefully made aware of the fact that Those of Us Who Are Worth Knowing think gays are fine and should not be discriminated against, harrassed, molested, judged, restricted, disallowed, legally invalidated, ostracized or prematurely aborted has now lost his voice in mixed society and can no longer spread the seeds of hate. But I would tell you, Bollocks.

Haters gone hate, I cannot believe no one has ever made that clear to you. Haters gone hate.

So love and take care of yourself and the people you find tolerable. Be as nice as to everyone as they are to you. In no circumstances ought you to bother yourself about what others think of you unless they are paying you. In which case you should suck up as much as possible because I mean that is your daily champagne we are talking about. Let the Scientologists do their thing, and offer to pick up your friend after her abortion and spoon feed her ice cream until the bleeding and unbearable cramping, doubt, guilt, regret, nightmares and suicidal tendencies subside, even if you think she is a murderess, because it's none of your goddamn business why she decided to kill the President.

Live well, and be happy.

Friday, March 4, 2011

There's a time and place for almost everything

So here in Germany, there is an elaborate system of standing in line at the grocery store. Once you've got it down and have abandoned all concern for your own personal space, it's a breeze. It goes like this:

  • Put your groceries on the conveyor belt, with the heaviest/sturdiest items toward the front, and the lightest/most delicate items toward the back. Leave as little room between items as possible, stacking like products when necessary. This facilitates the next customer's being able to place his items down after you.
  • Place the divider, if one is available, as close to your goods as possible. Take two steps away from the conveyor belt and two steps nearer the person in front of you. Stand as close to their actual anus as you can without making physical contact. You will stand like this until it is your turn to pay, breathing down their neck as they pull out their method of payment. The person behind you in line will do the same to you. This takes some getting used to, but you will manage it eventually.
  • As the checker scans your items, take each one and place it in a cloth or plastic bag or back into the shopping cart. Here is where your original method of heaviest-first comes in handy, because the checker will scan so quickly that your stuff will literally fall off the counter if you are not fast enough. Pay as close to the penny as possible without making the other customers wait so long their teeth fall out. Walk away.
Now, I was in the very beginning of step one when a disgracefully drunken man in his early 40s pushes past the person standing behind me in line and asks to place his beer bottles down on the ledge in front of the conveyor belt. Normally, this is perfectly acceptable, if:

1. The person in front of you has finished placing their items on the belt, and

2. You are actually the next person in line.

Neither of these conditions had been satisfied, so I told him simply, "no." Carefully but quickly I continued placing my items heaviest to lightest on the belt. Ordnung muss sein.

Well, he didn't like that too much, and said dass es ihm egal war--that he didn't care. And began shoving his bottles down on the belt, standing on top of me to do so and completely obstructing my attempts to finish placing down my groceries.

Now, dear Reader, you know me fairly well by now, so it won't come as too much of a shock to you when I tell you that at 9am after a late night out and with some drunken fool blowing his foul, hot, nasty breath in my face and violating even the reduced European standard of personal space that I reacted with my reptile brain and simply placed my right arm from the hand to the elbow along his chest, stepped in with my right foot and shoved him about five feet back to wherever the fuck it is he came from. His girlfriend--a 6'1" (184 cm) tall black lady--goes, "whoa, whoa, whoa!" I give her a look that says,

You want some too?

She looks away.

Now, reader, you're going to wonder why I was so easily provoked this morning, but, as I say, I'd had a late night, was barely awake, was bleeding from my vagina like a halal cow and had had neither food nor water nor coffee nor cigarette since awakening. And here is some pathetic fool burning the hairs out of my nostrils with his disgusting vodka breath at 9 in the morning, not following the super-important rules. Fuck him, and fuck her too.

As we're standing in line, with one customer between us, he complains loudly to his girlfriend about how "unfriendly" I am and how a bit of common courtesy is in order. My heart starts racing, my hands shake. I tell him, "Look, it's not my fault you're drunk as a skunk at 9 in the morning. You can wait the two seconds until it's your turn."

The woman keeps opening her big yap to broadcast her personal philosophies, maintaining that it doesn't matter when one consumes alcohol, whether it's even 6 or 7 in the morning, the point is to live and let live. The two of them continue drunkenly babbling at each other about what a useless cunt I am, how unfriendly and unbelievable my behavior is. Neither of them will address me directly. And so I'm left with only two options--continue arguing with them, or do my best to ignore them. I chose the latter, inching forward in line and using all the restraint I can muster in order to keep my cool.

I pack my shit and step out of line, set down my bag, sit on the window ledge, cross my legs, and wait for the couple to complete their transaction. Mind you, for the entire duration of the several minutes we'd stood in line, they were unrelenting in their commentary on my behavior. I have now been listening to them for as long as I can remember; I cannot recall a time ever in my life when I could not hear their voices. And I am beyond livid at this point.

Finally they wander out of line and I stand back up, stepping forward until I am two inches from the drunk man's nose. I square myself, and ask him:

Do you have anything else you want to say to me?

He replies, at the top of his lungs and so patronizing you could spit:

No! I hope you have a wonderful day!

I turn on my heel and walk out of the store. As I pass through the front doors I can hear the two of them laughing with one another, but now I cannot make out any words. Face burning, I make my way home, wondering what had really just happened back there.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

May you live in interesting times

Things are interesting at the moment.

More so at this particular moment, because I'm drunk. Something I don't do too often these days.

Alert readers will recall my diatribes about my reasons for not drinking. Why I've opted to go in for the dum-dum juice as of late is as much of a mystery to you as it is to me.

Of course, I've drunk since that one time I told you I'd sworn off it forever and was joining AA. But I've always gone back off of it. So that's where I'm at now. Drinking every couple of months for a few weeks, then swearing off of it again.

No, that's wrong. Actually, where I'm at right now--at this exact moment in time--is downloading old hip-hop albums from the 90s. Tonight was R. Kelly and Notorious B.I.G.

Am I supposed to care that R. Kelly is a child molester? Damn Gina, where are my scruples? Nowhere to be found. I also didn't give entirely too much of a shit when Michael Jackson was supposed to be raping little kids. I mean hello? Rock With You? I'm supposed to just forget about that or what? Come on. Get real. People drive Range Rovers without caring about polar bears, I shouldn't have to be villainized for listening to a bit of Jackson Five without guilt. Fuggedaboudit.


Life is exciting.

Going to Seattle in a few weeks.

Moving house in a few weeks.

Listening to the Sex Me remix by the R.

Drankin a bit of ole Jim Beam.

Life could not be better than it is at this particular moment in time.

I should really write to you more often. The 'Stoph's guidance counselor advised him to drink three glasses of red wine, then sit down to write his Bachelorarbeit, then go back the next day and correct all the follies of alcohol consumption. The point is to prime the pump. Although the 'Stoph does not drink red wine. Forget it. He'll get there one way or the other.

I could be a famous drunk asshole. At least we'd be sure I'd get something written. Even if it was a bit crap and I was too proud to correct it the next day. (I did that with a book I wrote once. Two hundred and forty pages in, I'd get drunk, write twenty pages, go back the next day and have to delete them all. Drunken writing is fun but not quality.)

Hi, Mel.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Purple Haze

So for the last six days I have been unwholesomely sick. Like the kind of unwell you can imagine cutting down hundreds of thousands of medieval Europeans. Even today, as I went back to work, I noticed: I'm still not really right.

Saturday I tried to work, and just sort of wandered around the place like a zombie for a few hours before the rest of the staff literally forcibly sent me home. I came back and fell into the bed and did not emerge from it except to urinate for nearly three days. I was dizzy, nauseous, delirious, freezing, sweaty.

How? How can I have been deathly ill now four times since September? It just doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

Or does it? Does it make sense that in what might be the filthiest city in the general, overall filthiness of Europe that a young American might fall prey to whatever comes around? I feel like a Native American, my populations being decimated by the numerous communicable diseases the Europeans have been infecting each other with for millennia.

Hopefully now that I've survived the plague, dropsy, typhoid, dyssentary, whooping cough, smallpox and tuberculosis I can focus my eyeballs long enough to keep blogging.