Monday, December 14, 2009

Aw, How Sweet

Stupid, stupid Christmas. I now remember why this holiday annoys me so much every year.

Thing is, if I can get out of having to give or receive presents, everything is fine. If all we do on Christmas is get together, cook an enormous meal, drink copious amounts of domestic beer and watch basketball, then all is right with the world. Or we can go to a movie or a diner or have a snowball fight. All of these things make me a happy camper all year long.

What doesn't make me a happy camper is giving gifts. Even receiving gifts can be a pain in the ass. You might be thinking that I mean, when someone gives you a gift that proves they have no idea who you are, or gives you something you already own ten of, that pretending to be blown away by said gift can be annoying. Oh no. This time I mean something much worse.

I mentioned to the 'Stoph that I'd like to have a food processor sometime in the next few years. Ever instinctually inclined toward self-preservation, he carefully asked if a kitchen gadget wasn't the kind of gift that gets husbands the silent treatment until the following Christmas, and I assured him that as cooking is sort of a hobby of mine that I would love to have it any time of the year, even at Christmas.

Then he asks me what kind I'd like. I tell him, the most important thing it should do is puree. Aside from that a bit of fine chopping would be nice but its primary purpose would be to liquify vegetables, squashes and legumes for soups. So then he asks if I want a hand-held one or a stationary one and how big the capacity should be. Tiring a bit of basically picking out my own gift, I wearily tell him what I'd prefer.

But is it over yet? No, it is not over. During the course of the last month, I shit you not, this guy has asked me no fewer than ten times what again it is I want the machine to do. We have now had no fewer than ten several minutes-long conversations about this one stupid machine that is supposed to serve one stupid purpose. Finally he got tired of having to remember the two words, "Pu" and "ree" and asked me to come to the store with him to pick it out.


Is that really the way things are done in the normal-people world? Not only do I know exactly what kind of thing I'm getting, but I don't even get to be surprised at all, knowing exactly which model it is? I was blown. away. But, ever the good woman to the depressingly uninspired man, I agreed to go with him to show him the KIND of mixer I'm talking about. So on Saturday afternoon, we planned on going, but wound up sitting around the apartment all afternoon until I had to leave to meet some friends. As I'm getting ready to leave the house, he goes, "So are we going to the store?"

"No, I don't have time now."

(dripping with sarcasm) "Thanks."


No. He. Di'int.

I go, "Sorry, did you just say 'thanks'?"

(groaning cos he knows he's in trouble) "Ayep." (sigh)

Cue neck-gyrating, finger-waving, hands-on-hips, oh-hell-no mini-lecture about how it's bad enough that he can't remember the words "pu" and "ree" but now I get attitude about ruining his whole fucking day because what, it's the end of the world if you don't go today? He has the nerve to respond,

"Well, I just want to get it over with."


Because you're the only person in the world? If I want my gift I better jump when you say jump? We both sat around the house the same as the other and you KNEW what time I had to leave, oh hell no, you know what? I am so sick and fucking tired of talking about this thing, if I'd have known it would ruin your life to get the damned thing I'd have never mentioned it in the first place. Forget about it. I am so fucking over it. You're on your own. Don't buy it if you don't want to but the dialogue about the fucking thing is OVER.

I can't see the point of raping all the magic away from Christmas by forcing your loved one to do all the work for you. What is the point of buying someone a gift if there is zero element of surprise? If we did things the way he wanted to do them, I'd honestly rather buy the damn thing myself, on my own time, without pressure or whingeing from a grown-ass man. If it's the thought that counts, then he deserves a punch on the nose right about now.

But that's what Christmas does to the unwilling. If it doesn't give you any joy to give gifts, why not just opt out of it? I know I say this every year, but I swear--this is the last year I'm exchanging gifts with ANYONE. I hate it. Hate buying them, and now I even hate receiving them.

After I was done telling the 'Stoph where to shove it, I went out with people who I will hopefully never exchange presents with, and had a jolly good time. The end.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

No, Your Mom Is

I am the picture of Christmas cheer, goddamit.

Last night, a few fellow Americans and I went down to the Christmas market at the Rotes Rathaus (incidentally, the place where JFK made his famously ill-pronounced proclamation of solidarity with the survivors of the war now living in West Berlin, "Ish bean ine Bahleener").

It must be said that they sold absolute tosh, bollocks, rubbish and perhaps a tray of biscuits with a spot of tea, oops sorry back to American English now, anyhow the stuff was crap. Usually there are at least a couple of jewelry stands from whom I'm almost tipsy enough to buy something I don't need, but even completely trashed on the white wine in the plastic cup pictured above and with cold hard cash burning a hole in my pocket, I couldn't be bothered to waste my money there.

Plied wares included: hideous "hand-painted" ornaments, usually centered around a theme of Christmas nightmare, horrid, ugly, frightening things to make you afraid to go to sleep at night: Nutcrackers and goblins (I think they were supposed to be kings or something), animals from the Netherworld, etcetera, all fashioned with a smallish sort of rope thing so as to be attachable to a Christmas tree. Silk scarves in boring patterns and dull colors. Titanium, glass, and rock jewelry. Not a chunky silver ring in sight. "Handmade" slippers, socks and moccasins with the "Made in China" stickers still on them. And lots and lots of overpriced food.

The evening was going well, we were frozen but in good spirits, when apparently I provoked the ire of one middle-aged fatherly looking gentleman by loudly speaking in English, generally obstructing foot traffic and having a huge ass, and he called out, "What a horse!" I turned around to see if someone had been talking to or about me, and there was this guy in his cheap suit, looking back as he walked in the opposite direction, clearly disgusted by my existence on the planet. I looked at him questioningly and he repeated, "Horse!" Lacking the wit or vocabulary with which to form a decent comeback, I cleverly retorted, "SIE sind ein Pferd!" No, you're a horse!

Other than that the night went swimmingly and we stuck with the animal theme a bit, calling each other rhinos, sheep, hippopotamuses and other assorted not-quite-offensive animals.

Then we went to a friend's bar and I got so drunk that I fell asleep on the train, missed my connection and rode all the way to the end of a foreign line, paid €17 for a five-minute taxi ride, babbled incoherently to the 'Stoph and passed out with a cheeseburger in my hand. The end.

Monday, December 7, 2009

What Rhymes With Hiatus?

I've been thinking about you. No, I'm serious. I've missed you, and I think about you all the time, it's just... sometimes you need time for you, you know? I knew you'd understand.

With all the me-time I've been getting lately, I've got enough saved up to be in your face every day for the rest of your life. Don't start celebrating all at once.

Have you ever become so addicted to something that you didn't even realize you were hooked until it was too late and you forgot what you used to do before you discovered it? Like drinking coffee, or smoking cigarettes for example. What did you used to drink when you woke up and wished you could stay in the bed? What did you used to do to distract yourself from the utterly unchallenging repetitiveness that is life in the First World and look cool at the same time? If you're like me, the last time you weren't a coffee addict you were still a child, ditto on smoking, oh God I have spent 11 years of my life chain-smoking and avoiding museums, libraries and hospitals as they tend to not cater to my habit; someone shoot me now--oops, never mind, killing myself anyway.

I knew I liked to argue, but I never imagined that it would take over my life. For the last four months or so, I have been spending every waking moment not filled with eating or sleeping or drinking cheap vodka in shithole bars arguing on an expat site for English speakers in Germany. At first it was merely interesting, a site I checked out to see what else I was missing out on in life. Then I made the mistake of creating a profile, commenting, and etching out an online persona for myself. Then they made the mistake of empowering people to hand out reputation points, for which I shake hands, roll over and dance for like a dog, albeit a feisty, don't-take-no-shit-off-your-white-collar-ass kind of way. Now it has taken over my life. I find I'm finished with my arguments for the day, then have nothing to do--can't even remember what I used to do on the internet, much less what I used to do before I became addicted to it. I stare dumbly at my computer screen, wondering what other buttons I can mash to make something stimulating come up and entertain me for the next 43.7 seconds. While waiting for responses to my absolutely senseless and inane comments, I refresh my Facebook page over and over again until my eyeballs fall out. I blame winter.

I have also been: wondering what it all means, trying to keep my house clean, wondering what it all means, failing at keeping my house clean, wondering what it all means, looking for a job, wondering what it all means, starting a new job, wondering what it all means, keeping up with friends in town and overseas, wondering what it all means, and teaching myself how to make crêpes.

What have you been up to?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

If They hate you, and You hate you, then everybody hates you and it's your own fault.

The gall of some people just chaps my hide. (Oh God, I really am turning into my mother.) Below is a conversation between a 40-year-old professional and a 28-year-old bum about identity, the social relevance of self-esteem, and the limits of the usefulness of self-deprecation, although only one of us is aware of it.

View PostfromNYC, on 29.Aug.2009, 12:52pm, said:

When we were discussing the various perceptions we all had of each other or stereotypes we were familiar with, when it came up that Americans were generally perceived as shallow and overly friendly, there was a general nodding of heads and agreement across nationalities. ...Sad but true, that seems to be the perception not only here in Germany but around the world - that we're always trying to sell ourselves to everyone. And the sad thing is, I can't even say that's an incorrect assessment.

dessa_dangerous, on 29.Aug.2009, 2:26pm, said:

I really don't know what to make of this. You sat in a room full of people who negatively generalized your people--if you're an American, Americans are your people, whether you like it or not--as being shallow and if I may paraphrase, fake, and your reaction was to nod and think passively, "yes, you're right."

The problem with situations like these is that people like you--not that I know you from Adam, but people who say out loud the sort of thing you've just written down--is that they think they are somehow different, somehow exempt. That when the gross generalizations are made that they're about someone else.

No one is done justice when we, rather than disproving stereotypes through action, sit around wringing our hands and feeling superior.

Furthermore, the assessment is inaccurate. America, like any other country, is full of all sorts of kinds of people--good, bad, smart, dumb, shallow, prophetic, etcetera etcetera etcetera. America, unlike some countries, has been the birthplace of some of the greatest works of art, literature, science and medicine introduced in the last 150 years. Of music and ideas and movements. Americans are shallow, my ass. Maybe the people you know are shallow and lead pointless, useless lives. That doesn't mean everyone is or does.

As for whether Americans are overly polite--I'll take overly polite over overly hostile any old day.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

No One Cares About Your Birthday

My 28th birthday is coming up, and I couldn't be any more underwhelmed.

I mean, seriously, who even cares about their birthday at this age? What do you really want? A pile of elaborately wrapped gifts, a sombrero on your head and ten Viva Mexico employees singing Happy Birthday all out of tune at you, and a cake? I mean, who even eats cake anymore?

I think the last year I really gave a shit about my birthday was the year I turned 23. I made flyers and told everyone to show up to a club where DJ Riz was performing, waltzed in completely hammered 1.5 hours late, got wasted on free liquor and (I think) did a bunch of drugs. My skirt fell off while I was dancing and I scampered off the dance floor, a weaving, carmel-colored streak of thundering cellulite and pure embarrassment, to go figure out pinning it back up. Got in a cab and went to go snort some more illicit substances. The end.

Working on your birthday is the best, especially if you work retail or customer service, and even better if you work somewhere familial like the Pike Place Market. Go to work, tell everyone it's your birthday and get free shit all day long. I think I ate about 24 free meals on my 25th and went to the bar with a dollar, with which I stumbled home, shitfaced from free drinks. Wonderful.

My cousin, on her 25th birthday, which was exactly 25 days before mine, decided to throw a "Silver Anniversary" party, where she wore, and requested that her guests wear, silver outfits. I think I wore a blue t-shirt with a pocket on the breast and a patterned skirt. She threw the party at the same place I would have my party a few weeks later, the Noc Noc on 2nd Avenue. Unlike me on my birthday, she decided to get mouthy with the bartenders when they were tired of her pops playing shitty 80s and 90s chart music and told her politely that they wanted to put on their resident DJ so they could actually make some money that evening. The result of her temper tantrum was that she was 86ed for life out of the place until she apologized. The reason for the conniption fit? It was her birthday, and anyone who didn't agree that the world should come screeching to a complete halt on her special day was deserving of any abuse she decided to heap upon them.

Needless to say, I held my party in the same place with no troubles, no mention of cousin, and zero guilt that she assed herself out of being able to attend.

This year, she went again to great lengths to secure a spot for her party and was ejected from it before the night was over. Evidently this time around it was about her guests' poor behavior, but I still find it mind-blowingly lame to get kicked out of your own party at the age of 28. We's not chillens anymore. Get it together.

The 'Stoph found that he had to work the closing shift on my birthday this year and told me that he would do his best to switch days with someone else. I told him in all earnestness that that would not be necessary. He told me that he was not stupid enough to believe the words that had just come out of my mouth and have effectively fucked himself over with no one else to blame when my incredulity-turned-inconsolable-wrath was visited upon him. I didn't know I was perceived as such a diva.

On Thursday evening I plan on having a nice, quiet citronella-candlelight picnic with a couple of friends, going to sleep, and trying not to wake up in tears that I am finally, fully, firmly in my late 20s. I will wear my regular nun attire and do my best not to run out and purchase any knee-high boots or hot-pink mini skirts or put streaks in my hair or show up to any all-ages clubs or anything. I will have one foot closer to the grave and that is the end of it.

But on second thought, some cake might be nice.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009



Tried to get online today and found that I couldn't. Tightened all my connections, then tried again, to no avail. Skimmed the German help page in the computer and got told to make sure no one else in the house was on the phone. That brought a small, irritated, non-existent giggle because I live in a shoe box and have only one phone. Out of curiosity, I picked up the phone, which had no dial tone. This is the second time in a month that our phone/internet service has conked out and I am tiiiiiired of it. To call our phone company costs like 55 cents a minute which is tres uncool, mannnn I would really love to quit this piece of shit company. Can you believe that when we signed up for the service, they told us it would take up to nine weeks before it was installed? I laughed, like, "they always give you some silly amount of time to wait before your service is hooked up so you don't clog up their phone lines twice a day wondering where you internet is. Betcha it's here in 48 hours." Nope, we had to wait the entire 9 weeks. Fucking Berlin.

OK but that's not the drama. Drama is, on Friday morning, the 'Stoph and I and his dad are taking off for the Rhine. This has been the plan since Christmas. What was unclear was where we were going to stay. At the moment we are broke and thought that camping might be nice.

A couple of weeks ago at Sunday lunch, the subject of where we were going to sleep came up. Everyone else attending this event (the entire family paying a last visit to a relative who has been dying for like 10 years) is staying in the same hotel. The 'Stoph's mom offered ages ago to put us up in a hotel, but like I said, we were thinking of camping anyway, for example, somewhere near a canoe rental, and canoeing around a bit.

But it had been raining all summer, and the hotel everyone was staying at looked nice, so I told the 'Stoph that I thought we should take up his mom on her offer to book us a hotel room.

All of this negotiation was going on in German, and then finally, the 'Stoph turns to me and asks how I'd like to camp in his cousin's yard. There are several problems with this:

  • I don't know his cousin from Adam, and for that matter, neither does he. But at least he's met him. I don't like staying in the homes of people I don't know, or in their yards, or whatever. It's weird. I feel like a conspicuous elephant; you're forced to be über fakey polite. Gross.
  • Camping is great and all but it is a dirty act. You're filthy and sweaty, everything smells like grass; even after you get out of the shower/river there are things stuck to you. This is fine in the middle of nowhere, but I don't really fancy the idea of walking into someone's nice home to take a dump or make a cup of tea and there they are all clean and normal and there I am looking homeless. Makes me feel like a field-slave running an errand in the plantation house, no thanks.
  • Pitching a tent in someone's yard? I haven't pitched a tent in a yard since I was 10, and then, the yard was my own, and the tent was actually an old sheet hung over the laundry line and held in a triangle shape with stones, and I didn't sleep in it. My neighbors didn't think I was weird because I was a kid playing in my yard, but we are nearing thirty and it's pathetic to be itinerant in the city.
  • So what is his cousin trying to say? Sure, you can chill in my yard but I'm not letting you sleep in here. What are we, dogs? Are you telling me that you don't have a couple square feet in your living room where we can lay out some sleeping bags? It's fine if you don't want guests sleeping in your place but I don't want to be cast out into the yard like a stray; what if I have to use the toilet in the middle of night? Are you going to leave the door unlocked or do we have to crawl in through the pet door?

So I turned and said to him, in English (which shows how annoyed I was, because I usually speak German in their house as a sign of respect): "I told you already what I wanted to do."

Crickets. Evidently this answer was not satisfactory. Another cousin present at the meal, Jul, said, "No answer?" Yes motherfucker that was my answer, although it wasn't all of it. I omitted the bit about how I was perfectly OK to stay in Berlin and finish up some work before my seminar and hang out with people I actually know who are actually not dying, but I left that bit out. Mom could tell I didn't want to stay in any fucking tent in some stranger's yard, so she said she would arrange something for us in the hotel. Relief.

Short-lived though it was. Papa slammed down his fist and yells that she won't be arranging anything. Forget that he hasn't worked in 12 years and has no say over what the woman does with her own money. Mom says nothing. I am appalled.

Later on, I tell the 'Stoph that it's not a big deal, he can go alone and I won't be mad. But under no circumstances am I sleeping in someone's yard. He says, don't worry, we will figure everything out. Love.

Even later, Jul drags me into an adjoining room and tells me that he and Mom will arrange for us to stay in a hotel, but not to tell Papa or the 'Stoph. OMG. How old are we? Mom, day-drunk off white wine, whispers loudly in my ear several times that she is going to take care of everything and not to tell Papa. Yeah, he can probably hear you himself.

Next day, Mom calls us up and says everything's arranged but that we have to keep it a secret. If Papa asks who paid for the hotel room, we're to say that I paid for it. Hello? I have like five cents to my name and he knows that. He wasn't born yesterday, were you?

Keep in mind that the youngest person involved in any of this is me, aged 28. Mom is fifty-fucking-seven and Papa is sixty-fucking-two. Unbelievable.

Safe to say, the ten-hour drive across Germany with the 'Stoph's father is going to be an interesting side-show. I think I will feign a complete lack of comprehending the Teutonic language.

For the sake of brevity I will abruptly end here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Wow, I'm (still) a Commie

Way, way, back in the day, I used to actually attend Socialist meetings. I used to argue for revolution, for taking power out of the hands of the rich and putting it into the average Worker. I also didn't used to believe that age makes you more conservative.

Now I believe that not age, but experience, makes you more conservative.

I participated in a worldwide political opinion poll and was able to compare my results to people in any demographic. It was AMAZING. Over the years, my views have softened considerably. How's that saying go? Have an open mind, but not so open that any old thing can fly into it? Something like that. Seattle is full of "hand-wringing liberals" and I ain't one of those.

What's true is:

I don't believe abortion should be illegal, or that any restrictions against it should have anything to do with anything except the development of the fetus. For example, I am against third trimester aborting, unless it jeopardizes the health of the mother and the child.

I don't give two shits of pot gets legalized or not. Pot is absolutely not essential to the average person's life. If you really like it so much, then grow some if it becomes illegal. It is simply not possible to eradicate the United States of marijuana, nor do I think it necessary, nor do I think it would be the end of the world. It would just be. The potheads would have to take up another hobby; the video game and frozen burrito industries would collapse. Boohoo.

I believe in the freedom of speech. This means that I don't think it's the government's job to regulate what we see on television, hear on the radio or read in books. It also means I don't think it should be illegal to use racial slurs. Slurs don't make the racist, racists make the slurs. I don't think suppression is the key to progress.

I believe in the right of responsible Americans to own guns. I used to be extremely anti-gun until I picked up a history book. Taking away people's arms makes them absolutely at the mercy of the government. If the majority of the people want to revolt they will need weapons. Yes, life is pretty good in the United States, but if the neo-cons were to get their way, in a few decades we would either face a totalitarian state or be forced to revolt. No one likes to think of that because most of us haven't lived through a war, but sometimes it is necessary to defend oneself against one's own government. Truth.

Access to health care should be a benefit of living in an industrial nation, but I won't say that it is a right. I think it is incredibly arrogant to claim that it is an inalienable right; in most of the world, western medicine is a luxury. I believe people spend waaaayyyy too much time at the doctor's office and not enough time exercising, eating well, drinking water and meditating. Too much time working and watching television, too little time engaging themselves in activities that interest them. Of course you have high blood pressure and a bad back, of course you're fat, of course you're a walking health disaster, look at your life.

Don't drive cars if you don't have to, don't start wars over anything--ANYTHING, give the world a coke, etc.

I thought I was becoming a serious neo-con in my old age, especially concerning illegal immigration and gun rights. But in every demographic group I checked, from 70-year-old white Alabamans (who by the way are much more liberal than the mainstream media would have you believe) to 25-year-old San Franciscans, I am several points more commie pinko in comparison. I mean, who doesn't agree with everything I wrote above? I'd say communist bastards but apparently even they think violence in video games should be regulated by the government.

Sigh... there is no hope for me. I think I will go buy some red shirts and combat boots now.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

(Right: Someone is a [bilingual] master of irony. "Gehwegschäden" means "the sidewalk is all fuckered up", an extremely predictable state of affairs in a town like Berlin which to this day bears the scars from its lunchroom foodfight with the Russians in WWII.)

Mauerpark is a horrible little place--dusty, meagerly sprinkled with sparse grass and liberally coated with drunken degenerates. But on Sundays, it hosts the city's most popular flea market.

Me following two random strangers around the park.

Laura loves Astra, even when it's the pussy 5% one. I know €1,50 for 12 ounces of beer doesn't sound like much money for a beer to y'all living stateside, but you can get a half-liter bottle for €0,35 at the grocery store that'll blow your MGD to hell. People in the first world wouldn't dream of patronising a graffiti-covered dollhouse but here it's all about street cred. That filthy little box is laughing all the way to the SpardaBank.

After trying, and failing, to find a suitably cheap and tacky birthday gift for Brigid "Dessie's Got to Do the Rage" Lynch I gave up and just wandered around trying to make sense of all the useless shite in boxes. Anyone have the first clue what this ceramic pooch could be used for? Don't get me wrong, it's ugly enough to be a home embellishment, but it was clearly manufactured with a purpose in mind.

You know when you start getting trophies like this it's time to get a day-job.

Who. On. Earth! would buy this creepy little busted-ass Chucky doll for their kid? Not even the gypsies wanted it (that's why they donated it).

Chucky and me awake...
Chucky and me asleep.

But not nicer than the unflappable tooth. Fuck I love this guy.

Different day, obviously. Cookie reckoned you'd have to stand on another person's shoulders in order to sling a bike up there like that, but I reckoned you'd just have to be taller than 5'2" and have the testosterone of five bulls coursing through your 15-year-old veins.

The normies playing foosball. Just to be stuck on myself? My team won every game except one. Then I decided to take on Cookie and Graham on one side, me on the other side, and WON SINGLEHANDEDLY, end score 4-10. That's because I'm the Juggernaut, bitch.

Can you believe that enormous blonde dude had never played foosball before? I guess they focus more on wrangling crocodiles in Australia than manipulating bits of plastic back and forth over a mini-soccer field, the fresh air-loving communists. He's a computer game nerd though and turned out not to be half bad.

Well, four hours later and my awesome video didn't upload. I hate you, internet.

Friday, July 31, 2009

A Cop Gave Me Food Poisoning

(Right: the grass looks that nice precisely because you're not allowed to grill there.)

Well, at least we didn't get a ticket.

What I did get was: two first degree burns, two long slashes of stinging nettle (which for some reason appear to have left a scar), an ambiguous bug bite, and food poisoning.

To my own credit I must say that I knew--I knew! that we were probably not supposed to grill in Treptower Park. As we sat there, grilling away, I imagined that everyone else in the park was watching us, clucking their tongues, dialling the Ordnungsamt or worse, the police. I couldn't remember ever once being at a barbecue in this park, and a quick survey of the grass revealed very few burn marks. There was nowhere to put out coals.

But we figured, how often do the cops make their way down here? Never, eh? Where are they even going to come from?

And I suppose the chicken had been out for a while even before Officer Friendly showed up. As a matter of fact, if Cookie had gotten her way, it would have sat out even longer. On a beautiful day like this
temperature around 78°, yr chicken probably needs to be refrigerated. Mine was out for at least two hours before it got slapped on the grill, and the rest of it went on considerably later.

I was just putting the garnishes on my second poison burger when the cop car pulled up. Here you can see the little road, which I would never have believed wide enough for an entire police vehicle:
Out of the corner of my eye I saw the silver and green vehicle and continued slathering curry ketchup and salad onto my burger.

"Are we in trouble?" I asked Cookie, neither looking up from my burger nor turning around.

"Yeeeaaaah, it looks like it," she said, just as nonchalantly.

The cop gets out and introduces himself, then tells us that we are grilling in a protected area and that he won't give us a ticket this time but to beat it. There is another grillplatz near Bulgarische Straße if we'd like to go up there. We say thanks, he says have a nice day. Graham and I are trying to figure out what to do with the grill and its freshly lit coals. For a minute it looked as if we were going to just extinguish it with water and start anew, but I piped up and said I knew where Bulgarische Straße was and that I bet we could just carry the grill to the new place.

Bulgarische Straße turned out to be further than I had remembered and when we got there we still couldn't find the grillplatz and kept walking. By this time, the grill was spitting embers and I had one burn on my right hand. As the sidewalk narrowed, Graham had to push into me a bit to avoid knocking the cyclists off their bikes and inadvertently wound up pushing the fiery hot grill into my forearm, giving me another two-inch long burn. As I flinched from that, I unfortunately dug my left arm into a thicket of nettle, which left two long slashes across my tricep.

All the while, Cookie, Jarral and Jason are still at the park. Graham and I are carrying the grill while Michael pushes my bicycle. Once Gra and I found a place in the woods to put down the grill--a dark, unfriendly place with no grass on which to lay out a blanket, no sunshine, just woods--I cycled back as quickly as possible to the rest of the party. On my way, I noticed that we'd passed the intended grillplatz, which did indeed have grass and sunshine and ponies and shit. So I got the rest of the gang, led them to the new spot, the cycled back to Michael and Graham and told them where the new spot was, then cycled back to the new spot and ate a ton of poisoned chicken, from which Graham and I both suffered abdominal cramping and diarrhea all the next day. Total cycling and lugging time was somewhere around 2.5 hours--the cop first came around four and we settled down in the new spot around six thirty. Then we went to a bar. The end.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Good Neighbor or Meddling Busybody?

I'm laying in bed, no idea what time it is. The tail end of yet another disturbing dream is still in the foreground of my mind; I can still see traces of it when I open my eyes. But piercing through the gossamer fantasy, rousing me to consciousness, is a brutal yet unshocking dose of reality.

The neighbor is bashing his lady again.

No, let me not lie. I'm not sure if he's actually bashing her. The screaming usually starts in the mornings, before he goes to work. While I can hear every word he says, I can't actually understand it. At my request the 'Stoph once listened closely enough to make out that the neighbor--we'll call him Gunder since that's his name--seemed to be upset that the woman has no job and does nothing all day. Sits around the house, makes excuses for why she can't employ herself, blah blah blah.

The woman responds in the most horribly high pitched whine ever. It's the same high-pitched whine she uses when they're engaging in one of their two-hour-long fucking sessions. Her voice would be enough to drive any man insane, but that's no reason to scream at the lady. Just tell her to get out.

Which is exactly what he does. Once, after a particularly heated eviction (Gunder kept telling her to get out, to just get out, to get the fuck out now, what the fuck are you still doing here? I told you to get the fuck out) I saw her moving girly-type furniture out of the house--a vanity mirror, the type of upholstered armchair no self-respecting potbellied biker dude in his 40s would dare have in his home, an unidentifiable object made of wicker. Soon after that I was subject to the familar yet nauseating sound of them having sex, and not long after that I saw them walking peacefully together like a happy couple.

Usually when he starts screaming, the first thing you think is, "Wow, that dude is really pissed about something. I wonder what it is?"

Then you think, "Man that chick's voice is annoying."

Then the screaming escalates, with the man getting louder and the woman maintaining her volume, but obviously protesting and you wonder, "What the hell did she do to piss him off so badly?"

Then you can hear the screamer moving about the apartment, repeating himself, refusing to allow anything the woman says to mollify him. And you begin to think, "This guy has an anger issue."

Then you realize it is only the eleventy-seventieth time you've been subjected to this nonsense and you wonder, "Why don't they just end it? We are in our 20s and we've never screamed at each other like this, even once, and we live in a tiny shoebox of a flat, while theirs is literally four times the sizs of ours. Can't they find some way to get along? Why would either of them stay in a situation that is so obviously not working out? What a couple of douchebags... grown ass people who can't figure out how to manage their lives. They deserve each other."

Then you hear the first crash and you think, "....."

And you shut off your stupid judgmental brain and listen very carefully.

The screaming continues after the first crash, but the man's voice takes on a higher pitch. He has worked himself up in a frenzy. Crash, boom, shatter. The woman's voice is not to be heard.

And you wonder, "Maybe I should call the police."

Today, after he was finished verbally and perhaps physically bashing his lady, he slammed the door on the way out of the house and I could hear her through the wall, crying to herself, pathetically, self-pityingly. Part of me can't understand why she would stay--they have no children together and as far as I know haven't been a pair for longer than a year or so. Why wouldn't she cut her losses and just get out?

The other part of me understands that sometimes weak people can't help themselves out of harmful situations. I don't understand it deeply or well, but I understand that other people understand it, and I can respect it despite its incomprehensibility.

I know that there are people who read this blog although they don't comment. If you've made it this far, can you do me a favor and give me your unbiased opinion? I am considering taking some sort of action. A good friend thinks that if I write a letter telling the man that we can all hear him and that if the fighting continues the cops may have to be called, Gunder will perceive it as a threat and take it out on his woman. She also thinks that the man will just shrug and think I should mind my own business. I thought of including as an addendum in the note that it is his business if he wants to scream his head off all day during daylight hours and that I understand we all have complications in our relationships sometimes, but that if he is indeed hitting his woman then I am obliged to intervene, regardless of the fact that I don't know either of them from Adam. The note would be anonymous.

Even if this will be your first and last comment I'd be really grateful for your opinion.

P.S. I went to the party last night and didn't drink a drop.

Monday, July 27, 2009

You Can Eat All the Dust You Like

(The title is a Little Britain reference; if you've never seen the show you need to make a date with YouTube, pronto.)

It's weird the stuff that's considered "healthy" just because it's not "bad for you". Everyone agrees that anything deep-fried or with a ton of sugar in it is "bad for you" although that's complete bollocks. As someone who's struggled with her weight for all of her adult life and has lost 50 pounds in the last two years can tell you, the key to changing your eating habits and thus changing your life is to enjoy everything in moderation.

There are some things that people enjoy in moderation that they really shouldn't--such as cocaine, cigarettes, reality TV, and extramarital affairs--but no single food is going to ruin your figure. As anyone with half a brain knows, the key is to eat well.

A friend of mine constantly refers to everything I do as "healthy"--working out, drinking water, eating salad. Only one out of three of those things is healthy. I drink just enough water not to die, OK, well, I drink enough water that I don't wish I would die (somewhere around 5 liters a day), and eating salad is, well, eating salad. Everyone knows that it's all about what you put on the salad, but at the end of the day, a few kernels of corn, some feta cheese, a couple shreds of carrot, a bit of tomato and four tablespoons of oil and vinegar are not significantly contributing to your overall health. Lettuce is nothing. Salad is... nothing.

You also cannot eat a salad to "cancel out" "bad" foods. Recently, at an Italian restaurant, this friend placed her order: Pizza Delo Chef, an order of cheese bread (the exact same size as a pizza, except without tomato sauce or toppings) and a half liter of house red. I placed my order next: Salami and mushroom calzone, tomato salad, and half a liter of house white. Friend's jaw dropped as if I'd just figured out the last digit of pi--"Salad! So healthy, aren't you good? Shit, I should have gotten a salad too!" She then waits until the server is finished taking down orders and changes her own. I was impressed with her spontaneous display of willpower until she opened her mouth and ordered the salad as well as cheese bread and pizza. I looked at her and made some sort of joke about how now she's got bad plus bad plus neutral and she looked back and replied in all earnestness that the salad was going to cancel out the cheese bread.

(This is the same person who drank like a fucking fish until I told her that a bottle of wine contains as many calories as a medium-sized meal. She literally had no idea that there were calories in alcohol. She still drinks like a fish, but has taken to eating more salad in hopes of combatting her budding obesity.)

I can't remember now what my point was, other than "hahahaha!! Point and laugh at those who I am better than" but I guess that's what happens when you try to blog everyday... they can't all be gems.

OK I will invent an artifical point. I'm not even that much of an internet nerd and even I use the internet to my advantage when it comes to educating myself about nutrition and fitness. I find it incredible how many people share the mindset that if you do a couple of things right, everything else will be cancelled out. In short, if you want to stay healthy and active, you're going to have to do a whole hell of a lot more than watch Billy Blanks every blue moon and eat one salad per six cheeseburgers with fries and Coke.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ack! Today is the birthday of two people close to me--the cousin mentioned in a previous blog, and an Irish girl I met here a couple years ago. Tomorrow Brigid "Dessie's Got to do the Rage" Lynch is having her birthday drinks at a bar in a neighborhood I adore and it will be a huge challenge to stay sober.

Not that I've exactly made a Herculean effort--a couple days ago I gave drinking for 12 hours my all, and succeded wildly. Made it from 2pm to 3am without a break and without passing out, although there were a couple of cups of coffee, a few liters of water, and two heavy meals thrown in there for good measure.

So far, from what I've seen of the Irish in Berlin, stereotypes about Celtic drinking habits are not that unfounded. After one of their favorite bars closed its doors forever, the former employees are now scrambling for work in other Irish bars staffed entirely by their friends, and one is even going home. After eight years of living in Berlin and having a child with a German woman, he is packing it up--life is simply not worth living if he can't go down to Murray's and have a bit of a craic with his mates.

Tomorrow night will be a true test of my dedication to pretending not to drink. I will be around people who are piss-drunk, people I don't know all that well, which never helps. Also, truth be told, I might just have a better time with a few drinkies.

The problem with that is that all I'd be having is a fake good time.

I can still remember, way, way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, before television or electric toasters or democracy or the internet and before I was a career alcoholic--so about 1999 or so, that I was perfectly able to engage in great conversations, to dance, sing, laugh and embark on adventures stone sober. After having gone through my pot phase, my cocaine phase and my current alcoholic phase however, it's become nearly impossible to imagine doing all the things I used to do without a bit of help. After the cocaine phase ended, I literally could not sit in a room with anyone--even people with whom I'd been well-acquainted for years--without drinking something. I also could not smoke pot. Something had changed in my brain, I felt that I was actually differently wired than I was before.

Re-wiring my brain to go back to its default settings will take some time and effort, and I won't get any further by going tomorrow night and drinking myself into a good time.

I suppose we'll all find out in Tuesday's blog how it went tomorrow night.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

I love going to the gym. No, scratch that, I love working out at the gym. Cycling there in the rain is not my favorite part of it.

Tons of people smarter, more active, and more creative than my good self despise going to the gym. They say it's boring, repetitive, rote. They'd rather jog outdoors, play tennis, swim, rock climb or hike.

I love all of those things too (with the exception of jogging--bleh) but they're not suitable as regular, 3-5x a week workouts for a Neurotic Nelly like me. The reason both the 'Stoph and I like gymming it up is exactly because it is so repetitive and predictable.

It's never raining in the gym. No one (usually) is staring at you in the gym. Everyone else is sweating and grunting; no one is picnicking or playing acoustic guitar or sunbathing. You don't have to be rich or buy a nice outfit or be fearless when it comes to heights or buy any special equipment. You don't have to wax your bikini line or smell like chlorine for the next two days. You never have to wonder if you got a good enough workout, if you burned enough calories, whether your ratio of aerobic to anaerobic was correct. Working out in the gym is methodic and efficient for people with specific goals and a fear of embarrassing themselves in public.

Besides the convenience and comfort of working out in the gym, there are also a ton of steroid-inflated, full-body waxed, orange-tanned men to stare at and you hardly see any of those while rock climbing or mountain biking.

Eventually, I want to get to the point where I am working out occasionally in the gym and getting most of my exercise by doing some cool outdoorsy type sport... but not until I look good in a leotard. Looks like I'll be regularly hitting the gym until, oh, 2016. Sigh.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Lots and Lots of Paint on Everything

Oh God. Yesterday I met up with Laura at 2pm and started drinking immediately, urgently. In a sense, it's her fault, because she was a living, breathing human being who happened to be there, and although she didn't consume any alcohol until much later, her presence served to justify my behavior, as I wouldn't have drunk on my own. Thanks a lot bitch. We took a walk, sat in a park, ate lunch, and sat in another park, where, thinking some lovely green leaves were either strawberries or mint, put them up to my nose to smell them and immediately realized that they were stinging nettle. The tip of my nose burned and tingled for the next six hours. Then I invited another friend of ours (Brigid "Dessie's Got to Do the Rage" Lynch) to meet us at my house, where we ate, drank, and chain-smoked until 3am. Fun. Laura stayed over for the night, then woke up at an ungodly hour and dragged her alcohol-soaked carcass into work. I slept for three more hours then took a walk around the neighborhood. This is what I saw:

At first I thought it was some sort of rescue ladder until I realized it's extending from a moving truck, not a fire engine. Apparently I'm not the only one who has little trouble moving furniture into an apartment, to later be baffled by my inability to get it back out. You just heave it over the balcony instead of taking an ax to it. Good thing to remember for next time.

Germans are so. weird. with their little stuffed animal obsessions. First all over the backpacks of 50-year-old women, now on their own lattice frame on the patio.
My name is Odessa, and I approved this message.

This is on my street! I feel so... urban. Also, in black, it says, "Nazis aufs Maul," which, literally translated, means "Nazis on the mouth". I have to find out what the hell that means.

I can't tell if this is graffiti, or if the building used to a midget-in-a-teacup factory.
OK, this was creepy. Santa here is hanging from the rearview mirror of one of those psycho trucks. You know the ones I mean, the ones that are literally crammed to the ceiling with clothing, odds and ends, and plain old garbage. Like the home of a packrat, except one who lives in his car. The air freshner was "New Car Smell" and I somehow couldn't get over the irony of someone trying to pass off New Car Smell in a 30-year-old landfill on wheels.
A playground next to a school.
I know what you're thinking, that it's some sort of circus school, but it's not. Evidently it's just a really, really bad school where no one attends so you have to sort of trick them into thinking school is somehow fun.
Yeah. Um.
Someone likes blue. I do have to say that this bike is looking a little fresh and so clean-clean with its allover blue paint job (even the basket) but then again I have to wonder if these were the only colors the bike thief had in his garage.
Another cake building... sigh... I'd love to live in one if the cellars didn't look like dungeons and they weren't all haunted.
Pretty patios. Unconventional but pretty.
A former beer barden.
I think cobblestones look soooooooo pretty in the rain... best is in the rain at night.

The handiwork of yet another blue-obsessed person.
I put this one in here just to freak your eyeballs out. The other angles were so bad even I couldn't deal with it.
Hermannstraße. This last one I took right after exiting Hasenheide, one of (in my opinion) Berlin's most beautiful parks. Unfortunately for me and everyone who loves it, it is full of African drug dealers. In general I don't mind drug dealers, especially when they're just selling weed, but these guys are aggressive, they follow you, ask your name, etc. Everywhere I went they were there; I haven't seen so many black folks in one place since the time I got drunk at the hair shop.

Then it started pissing down rain and a lightning bolt cracked so close to my house that the apartment was full of a bright white nuclear flash and I stood stock still, terrified. I was cooking a meal and not sure if you're supposed to touch anything metal while there's an electrical storm going on so I just kind of kept standing there, undecided. Sounds like a good diet; I should move to somewhere that has a lot of thunderstorms.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

More like P-Üno

I'm not much a reviewer, because I don't consume the kinds of things people like to read reviews about--I don't buy CDs or DVDs, I don't drink in expensive scene bars or eat at upscale restaurants with star chefs, and I don't go to the cinema unless there is a movie I really, really want to see.

I'm not sure why I wanted to see Brüno so badly--probably because I am in love with Sacha Baron Cohen and want him to be the father of my children. I didn't see Borat the film, but I adored him on the Ali G show. Also there is a Brüno promo poster plastered all over Berlin which mesemerizes me; I stare at it everywhere and think, "If only."

The theater was packed. We had high hopes in the beginning of the film. The first twenty minutes or so are good--really funny stuff. Cohen messes with people who are in ridiculous positions--patronizing models and talent agents and the like. Later on, he interviews an actual terrorist, which I found to be the highlight of the film. Good, solid Ali G style piss-taking.

But then he moves on to people like Ron Paul and Paula Abdul, people who, while I don't have much time for their politics or drug-addled reality show performances, are Real People with agendas in the Real World. I liked the bit with the gay converter, but for the most part, all Cohen did was force other people to feel very, very uncomfortable, which made me feel very, very uncomfortable.

Some people deserve to be made fun of. Models, terrorists, rednecks, swingers and the parents of child actors and models. But I think he took it too far with some of his victims, beyond the boundaries of good taste or entertainment. It's not often that I am stunned by the crudity of another person, but there were times when my mouth hung open and I covered half my face with my hands. Several times, I wished I'd had the nerve to just cover my eyes, but I figured that as I'd paid to watch the thing, I might as well get my money's worth. I left the film feeling drained and uneasy and relieved that I'd only spent €5 on the show.

So that's my review. Go see Brüno if you have a really strong stomach, oh, and if you don't mind a talking penis and several comedic but explicit sex scenes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Postbank is (not) for Lovers

Before I moved to Berlin, I hadn't had a bank account in years. The explanation for that is simple enough: as a teenager I'd fucked up my Washington Mutual account, owed them a hundred bucks or so, and decided to cash my paychecks at my employers' banks for the following seven years, until the debt was erased. I wasn't the world's most responsible 17-year-old, that's for sure.

But when I got to Germany, I quickly learned that no one believes in paychecks. There is no such thing as "automatic deposit", it's called "getting paid." Almost without exception, employees are paid on the first of the month, which of course always reminds me of my free lunch-, medical coupon- and foodstamp-assisted childhood. Back home, the first week of the month is when all the blacks, Mexicans and toothless, illiterate white people descend upon Macy's, McDonald's and the liquor store. The last week of the month is the busiest then for hock shops and the return counter at Target. But in German hip-hop there are no lyrics about the "first of the month". More like, the "line-up at the Arbeitsamt".

(If you don't like my race "jokes", you don't have to read. Just to put that out there.)

The 'Stoph dragged me kicking and screaming to the Postbank, which is a combination of the national postal service and the world's worst savings bank. Because I was 25 when I arrived, I was supposed to get a service-charge free "youth" bank account. For reasons best known to themselves, Postbank started charging me immediately for their services, which include:

  • holding my money
  • transfering my money
  • not crediting me any interest on my money
  • avoiding talking to me about my money
  • frowning and clucking when I ask to talk about my money
  • telling me that my problem is not their problem
  • being absolutely useless, condescending dicks

My bank card doesn't work. It's brand new, was sent to me because my last bank card mysteriously stopped working. I haven't told them about it because I am terrified of having to go inside and talk to someone about it, someone who will roll their eyes and make me feel about one inch tall for having ruined their day with my petty inconveniences. The card only doesn't work at Postbank, my very own bank. But luckily for me, Postbank is part of a large network of banks and I can take money out of any of them without charge. However, if I need any services, I have to go inside my bank and deal with all of the dragons that work there.

I have never had a nice experience at Postbank. You want to know why I stay there? Because I am too afraid of dealing with the hassle of closing my account. No bullshit. I am staying at my bank because staying with it is less painful than dealing with a human being in order for me to leave it. Pathetic.

Last month I transferred some money to a translator for work she through the mail. A few days ago she emailed me to check if I had indeed transferred the money. I scanned my bank statement with her name on it and sent it to her. Too late, I realized that the sorting code was wrong.


I put it off for a few days, then mustered up all my courage and tiptoed into my bank. The conversation went like this:

Odessa: (prepared with bank statement, correct numbers, and cheerful voice) Hello! I made a transfer last month that didn't go through because the sorting code was entered wrong. [I omitted the bit about how I never do anything with numbers without triple, quadruple checking it. There is literally no way in the world that the fault was mine.] I'd like to know if the money has been sent back to my account, or if I will need to transfer it again.

Useless Postbank Assmonkey: (gruff) This is from last month.

O: Yes

UPA: You need to call this number on the bottom here. I don't have time to deal with this.

O: (cheerfulness gone, pointing to computer) You can't look it up and tell me?

UPA: This is from last month. Why did you wait so long to deal with it? Not my problem anymore. Call this number.

O: I didn't know there was a problem until last week, when the woman who was supposed to receive the money emailed me and told me she hadn't.

UPA: Well, it's from last month. Don't you have online banking [a service you have to sign up for, one more pain in the ass]? I can't help you.

O: (not understanding his preoccupation with the fact that it happened last month, other than that he was making a moral judgment about my lack of personal fastidiousness) Are you sure?

UPA: Yes.

O: (with a light tone of anger in voice) I find it absolutely unbelievable [pause for effect] that I can walk into my own bank [pause] and ask a question about my account [pause] and be told that you cannot answer that question. I don't believe you.

UPA: ... (takes my information, walks ten feet away, makes a couple of phone calls, digs up some paperwork, tells me to sign here and have a nice day.)

I won! I won! I can't believe I won! Or that I'm right about them being deliberately unhelpful. Hmm. Maybe it is time to switch banks. Now that I know I can dooo eeet.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cross-Dressing in Other People's Clothing

The last time I wore high heels was in 1997. The theme of the dance was One Sweet Day; I think it was a "Tolo", whatever that means.

As usual, I had no date. Bopping around the school cafeteria were me and my chunky heels and my crush with a freshman girl called Melissa and 60 spindly high school boys, none of whom looked to the 6-foot-tall-without-heels, 300 pound girl for a dance. I wore a dress bought for me by my mother, in which I had recently accepted a literary award, and never wore after that night. I don't remember what it looked like, probably because it wasn't important--the shoes are what I remember best about that evening.

I danced and danced, then took a drink of water and kept dancing. I did not sit out even one song. At the end of the night I called my mother and she picked me up in her '79 Volare, a former police car with dirty adhesive in the form of a governmental serial code along the side. Scraped out of the adhesive were the names of various neighborhood kids who made their mark with housekeys and the edges of bottle caps and dirty fingernails. I rode home in my mother's car, in my chunky heels, while the other girls--Melissa included--rode to the beach, or to their date's house, in late-model Camaros and Ford pickup trucks with flawless paint jobs.

My prom came and went. Lara, my best friend at the time, and I, went to a Blood Brothers concert instead. Not that anyone had asked me anyway. The shoes sat, undisturbed since Tolo, in my closet next to the cat box, sprinkled with kitty litter and collecting dust.

Twelve years later, I don't own a single pair of girly shoes. Not even a pair of canvas Chinatown flats with plastic flowers. I own two pairs of flip flops, two pairs of athletic shoes, one pair of leather penny loafers sent to me by my Gramma who has no clue how unfashionable they are, and a pair of green knock-off Crocs with a hole in the ball of the right foot.

I own five or six dresses, all of them light, summery things, nothing one could wear to a wedding or funeral or even a job interview.

The vast majority of my considerably un-vast wardrobe consists of men's pants and shirts and women's pants and shirts in a masculine cut. One time I asked the 'Stoph if he cared that I didn't girly up for him, and he said, "Nah. I think women in men's clothes are hot. It emphasizes their femininity." I know, right? Did you ever hear such a crock of shit?

That's what I thought til I tried on Michael's sport jacket the other day. I loved the cut, the feel of the fabric, the pinstripes. Incredibly, I actually did feel sexier than I did while I was sitting around drinking beer out of a backpack and trying not to freeze my calves off in my capri pants. I experienced a sudden urge to grab the nearest microphone and start drawling something about never going back to my baby in a convertible at sunset or something.

Am I an undercover lesbian, or do I just really enjoy men's clothing? I have fantasized about buying men's chonies, because they look comfortable, like you'd never have to pull them out of your asscrack. I like men's pants because they usually have a straight-leg cut, which is good for a body type like mine, and I like men's button-down shirts, because I prefer the buttons on the other side.

If I ever showed the above photo to my mom I'm sure she'd join a Loved Ones of the LGBTQ group and start calling me KD. Very funny, mom. You can stop sending me knee-high pantyhose and ankle-length Mormon granny skirts now... I think I'll wear a suit and tie to my next funeral.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Doodooing into Cyber Space

I think I need to blog more. There are a few blogs that I read religiously, that are utter crap, but I just can't not read them. In the interest of discretion and tact, I'll omit the names of the bloggers. One of them is a popular relationship blogger whose posts have as much depth as a Dear Abby column. Another is a self-absorbed alcoholic woman-child who has definitely something worthwhile to say, but is too busy taking 28379371 shots of herself in front of a dirty mirror to bother writing any of it down.

Then there are a couple of blogs I really, really, like. (that's a zero, not an O) is home to one of the most talented bloggers I've ever read, but like me, she only posts once every blue moon. When she does post, it's worth reading, but you can tell that it takes some self-motivation to give birth to the blog, then set it free in cyberspace.

Maybe she has the same problem I do, though. I don't want to sit down every day and bang out something, anything. I want to sit down and carefully shape and mold thought-provoking posts with which the reader can identify and perhaps in which he can find hope and inspiration and blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda yawn zzzzzzzz. Here's an idea: just write something. Successful bloggers everywhere will tell you that the key action taken by widely-read authors is posting regularly. But readers will tell you that posting too much waters down content. No one has something thought-provoking to say every single day. I mean, I do, but I'm special. I can bang em out every day, sometimes several times in a day. I usually provoke my boyfriend to thought by gracing his otherwise lackluster existence with such wisdoms as:

"Oh God... I fucking hate birds. SHUT. UP."

"I think our neighbor is kicking his girlfriend out again. Quick! If you put your ear here, you can hear everything."

"Did you know Ava Braun died of renal failure and not suicide? It's true. No, really. I read it on Wikipedia."

"Ew, gypsies. They better not come into this yard. I told a tiny begging one to fuck off yesterday and I think it put a curse on me. My feet are cold."

"You should scrape off the black shit from your toast cos it causes cancer. No, really. I read it on Wikipedia. Eh? How should I know 'what kind of cancer'? Cancer cancer. The type that kills you. Duh."

So now you can see what you'd have to look forward to if I blogged every day. Still, it might be an interesting experiment. Maybe it's not as hard as it seems. Putting too much thought into the posts is what murders my desire to blog. I want to write something funny and smart, but if I just settle for something that makes it through spell check I should be satisfied with that.

Oh, right. I don't use spell chekc. OK. Well, something with a minimal number of split infinitives and dangling prepositions then. Ha ha, uh, is a "dangling preposition" even a thing?

OK. I'm finished taking a dump into cyberspace for now. See you tomorrow with another gripping, riveting post. Maybe I should take some pictures of my ass in tight pants or of my pedicure or something, to prepare.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Finally Cut Off

I hate that I had to cut my cousin, once the person closest to me in the world, off my friends' lists.

But how pathetic is that?

True, I live on the other side of the world from her, but it still seems so petty, so passive-aggressive, to show someone your displeasure by cutting them off a fake fucking networking website. It's ridiculous. I feel ridiculous.

I can't be alone in this experience. There must be someone else in the universe who has tried and tried to reach out to someone, to keep a relationship going, to realize they are never going to be met halfway. Even a quarter of the way would suffice.

I think now I will tell you a bit about my cousin. As briefly as possible.

She is 25 days older than me, which means she is going to be 28 in a few weeks. She is not only unemployed, but refuses to get a job, because it interferes with her "kickin it time". She sleeps on the couch of any minor acquaintance with food in the fridge, but the bed of a guy who's careless with cash is preferred. Rather than spend any appreciable amount of time attempting to improve her situation, she lives off handouts and a meager amount of tips earned by dancing burlesque once a week. A mutual friend of ours is running out of patience after having spent endless amounts of blood, sweat and tears trying to help the girl. Now she is about to be ejected off said friend's couch.

I would call my cousin at what for her was about noon--nine pm my time. She'd be sleeping. I'd almost beg, "can't you talk just for a little bit?" and she would mumble, "call me in a few hours."

"But in a few hours I have to go to sleep. I have to get up early for work."

"Well, try another time." Click.

As I write this down, I realize how sad and pathetic all us suckers in her life are. The people she makes time for are the scenesters, the ones with money, the ones with drugs, the ones with liquor cabinets and hot tubs in their condos. If she knew anyone in the "business" she would be the world's most notorious Industry Ho. She latches onto people who can get her ahead in the fields of getting wasted and buying clothes.

The rest of us fall by the wayside.

Like a junkie, who would steal from his own grandmother, who doesn't even recognize his oldest friend as he begs from him on the street, my cousin has turned into someone beyond help, someone who must either hit rock bottom and rebuild, or fall into that pit and perish.

The cocaine, the booze, the reefer, the parties, I introduced her to all of that, and now I can't help but feel a pang of regret when I look back on those early days of our adulthood, when her biggest vice was opening her legs for whoever asked. I should have known then, that she would grasp for anything that felt good, anything to distract her from the inner turmoil she so faithfully drags along.

Her life knows no stages. When I left the United States, we were 23 years old. At the time, I reasoned that while six years is a long time to be out of a job, 23 is also young enough, resilient enough. A 23-year-old can explain away a six-year gap on a resume by claiming any number of things, but a 28-year-old will be harder pressed to explain what she's done with the last ten years of her adult life.

What have you done in the last ten years, cousin?

  • Stayed in Seattle and as good as refused to learn about anything else
  • Drank yourself half to death
  • Snorted yourself stupid
  • Got fired from every job you held for two months at a time, for poor attendance and atrocious work ethic, then complained aloud about unfair treatment
  • Made no effort to either gainfully employ or educate yourself
  • Burned so many bridges you deserve an award for outstanding achievement
  • Alienated everyone who loves you

I was the one who always understood, who always forgave, who always excused. I pointed out your thoughtful and philosphical sides to the ones who claimed you were nothing but a brainless, ignorant, gold-digging whore from the ghetto.

That is over now.

Get your shit together... you disgust me.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Retraction: Social drinking is for grammas, and for me too. bleh.

Not so long ago, I wrote about how the concept of social drinking is a joke, and that the only point of drinking alcohol was to get drunk.

Now that my little "experiment"--going 45 days without drinking--has come to an end, I must say my opinions have changed a bit. Especially now that I am officially a gramma.

Last night I met with some friends and had a few glasses of wine. By "glasses" I mean "plastic cups" and by "met with some friends" I mean "sat on the steps of a government building and drank cheap wine out of plastic cups like common hoboes". We were having a whale of a time but it got a bit chilly so we wobbily retreated to my little hovel here.

One of the major reasons I wanted to quit drinking for a while was that I could not control anything that went into my mouth while intoxicated. I could not fathom putting down a drink unless I was nearing the vomiting point (ironically enough, while I could not control what I put in my mouth, I have always been good at controlling what comes out of it--besides words that is), therefore I would drink until I came close to being ill, then fix myself up with some starchy, fatty food and a liter of water. Lather, rinse, repeat. Finally I realized I would never lose any weight while continuing to drink the way I did (untrue actually, I did manage to lose 30 pounds, but that's over the course of two years--not exactly melting the pounds away).

Back to last night. In 45 days, I have broken my resolution and consumed alcohol on four separate occasions. On each occasion, I felt queasy and unsure about two drinks in, but kept going because, duh, what else are you doing to do? Stop and sober up? But last night, after about 3/4 of a bottle of wine, I quietly took my bottle and glass into the kitchen and poured the rest of my glass into the bottle, and put the bottle on the shelf, and poured myself some water, and sat back down as if nothing ground-breaking had just occured.

I usually drink about two bottles of wine per session, excluding any beers or shots that might be picked up in the course of the evening. So yes, something ground-breaking had indeed just occured.

At the moment I have fake beer in my refrigerator. Yes, fake beer, and not Jever fucking fun either. I drink it because it tastes AWESOME and doesn't make me feel bloated, drunk, hungry, horny or guilty.

Since all of my attempts to get drunk for amusement in the last 49 days have failed miserably I have concluded that yes, it's OK to drink a glass or two of wine or a fake beer while chillin with the homies, just for the social aspect of consuming something together, and to relax a bit and enjoy the taste of a nice beverage. Wow. I am officially 62 years old.

I can't wait to tell my mom... finally she can quit recommending AA to me every second time I talk to her.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Do Your Own Effin Laundry

Today is one of those days when I'm glad no one knows where this blog is.

The 'Stoph, with his injured little self, is starting to milk it. For the last few days I've been running around like a house Negro, picking up this, fetching that, preparing this, filling that, lifting, arranging and double-checking. He has a torn ligament and I know that can't feel nice; besides, I have had a sprained knee before and that was bad enough.

Men whine. Oh Christ do they whine. I've always heard that men are wimps when it comes to pain, but I've never had to deal with it first hand. My father was a Catholic comedian, in that whenever he'd get a scratch he'd clutch the mauled extremity and howl to the ceiling, "Offer it up! Offer it up!" That was fine and good for him but sometimes as a kid I'd hurt myself and my pops would be like "Offer it up, Shorty! Offer it up to the Lord!" and he wasn't kidding. Uh.

Anyhow, a couple of days ago the 'Stoph had exploratory surgery and afterward had to walk around with a straw inserted about five inches into his knee and a Nalgene bottle filled with his own plasma, blood and stringy gunk attached to the straw. Instead of taking my advice and popping the pain pills the doctor gave him as soon as he got home, he decided to ride out the effects of the hospital-administered anaesthesia. Five hours later he's moaning and grunting and nearly crying... I told you so. After it got a bit melodramatic I asked him if he weren't whining a bit harder than was absolutely necessary and he replied that he supposed he wasn't in mortal pain but that getting comfortable was kind of difficult. I arranged him on the bed and he finally shut up. Now he's got the tube out and is mobile again, with a lot less pain.

Today I am having my "woman" pain. For the uninitiated, that means I am bleeding like a halal cow. Sorry to upchuck your lunch for you. I got up bright and early this morning to take a 40-minute walk around the neighborhood, schedule a laundry time for the 'Stoph as requested, then came home to waste time on various websites (Ian knows which ones I'm talking about). As I was enjoying a particularly catty internet fight, the 'Stoph asks me if I'm working. No, I say, I'm just fucking around, what do you want? And he asks me to do his laundry.

I. hate. laundry.

I invent all sorts of excuses and priorities and previous engagements in order to put off doing laundry. I will spray a musty sweater with perfume and take a wet towel to a stained pair of pants before doing laundry. I will wash my socks and underwear by hand before gathering up everything and taking it to the laundry room. I don't know what it is, but something about the whole ritual of spending a couple of hours attending to the various stages of cleaning a batch of clothing, then fighting it into some sort of orderly shape a.k.a. "folding" repulses me. I don't like anything that needs three hours of my undivided attention. This is why I don't have children.

I looked at him in disbelief. "Why did you schedule a laundry time--that is, have me schedule you a laundry time, if you don't have time to do the laundry?

"Um." drools

"The reason my face looks like this is because I hate doing my own laundry. What makes you think I want to do yours?"

In a childish wheedling whine: "Well, but I have to do blah and blah and then so-and-so wants this-and-that bleh bleh bleh."

"You knew all that from the start. If you don't have time to do laundry then it has to wait."


Oh, GODDDDDDDDDDD. More out of a WWJD sort of feeling than any kind of sympathy or consideration I agreed to do his fucking laundry. Jesus would have agreed to wash his dirty drawers without a complaint, then separated the whites from the colors before being tacked up to the cross. As I walked along the stone path, nearly doubled over in abdominal pain, I resolved to myself to "offer it up".

Thanks, dad.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

There Goes the Neighborhood

On my other blog I wrote yesterday about prejudices against Islam. I wrote it there instead of here because this blog has about 3.5 smarty-pants readers, whereas the other has hundreds, many of whom could stand a breath of fresh air or two. Another reason I posted it there is because I think there are a lot of people in the United States who need a reality check about their attitudes. Not that my attitudes are all that great. But to be sure, living abroad teaches you a bit about the world, and a lot about yourself.

I digress. <--are we ever going to come up with a less cliché way to say "I am babbling on and now want to change the subject?" Something a little more refined than "anyhoo"? Ahh, fuck it. Anyhoo. So the other night the 'Stoph and I are dead to the world asleep when someone urgently, obnoxiously leans on the doorbell. And we don't have a nice pleasant "ding dong" leave-it-to-Beaver-keeping-up-with-the-Jonses type modest and melodious doorbell, either. Ours is more of a prison yard siren, or public school recess kind of screaming metal alarm. Danger. It does not occur to me that a friend in need is standing on our doorstep, because no one who knows me would dare to show up without calling if even they were mortally injured. Whoever is at our door can be up to no good. Heart thumping wildly, I shake the 'Stoph.

"Did you hear that?" <--the President of Japan heard it "Mfmblxzzrrphrm." <--affirmative. But he's injured at the moment, so it was up to me to go tiptoe quietly to the door. I peek out the peephole and see no one. Curious. So I go window on the other side of the apartment and sure as apples is apples, there are three young men standing across the courtyard, smoking cigarettes and gesturing toward our building. "Luckily" they did not seem particularly interested in our apartment, but I noticed that they seemed to be conferring only about ground-floor homes. If you've followed my other blog you've likely read about the last time someone attempted to break into our apartment. That guy got away, but I was determined these dicks would not. "Call the police. NOW." The 'Stoph called the cops and the useless bastages showed up about half an hour later, unenthusiastically asked a couple of bland questions, then reluctantly bumbled around the courtyard a bit with flashlights, and left. I stood watch from the balcony until half an hour after daybreak and then went to bed. Relaying the skeleton of this story to a couple of friends, I heard, "I reckon if you moved out of Neukölln you wouldn't get hassled so much."

This is insulting.

The reason we get "hassled" so much is not because of our geographical location, but our physical one. We live on the ground floor in an apartment complex without a security gate. Unlike most residential buildings in the city, any old fool can waltz into our courtyards whenever he likes and case the joint at his leisure.

What my friend's comment meant was, "get out of the poor brown part of town and everything will peaches and cream with sprinkles on top."

I am sick to death of the Turk hate here. I don't want to say that this person hates Turks in the same way a lot of Germans hate Turks, but she, like most white people in this city, view them as undesirable thugs. I have heard of "nice areas" being turned into cesspools of... what, exactly? as soon as a döner shop moves onto the block. What you meant were there were a bunch of extravagant brown people standing around on an otherwise unremarkable street in large groups talking and laughing loudly, listening to "ethnic" music and reminding you of your own plain, stale, dull, uptightness. Hmm, where have I heard this story before?

This town is full, and I mean FULL of petty crime. Anywhere you go, there are bars on windows, graffiti on everything, and bicycles ripped to shreds for parts. Nowhere in this city is safe from vandalism or theft, even in the nicest and hippest parts of town.

What I like about my neighborhood is that there is very little pretense. No one here can pretend the Turks, Syrians, Lebanese, Sudanese, Gambians, Eritreans, Poles and Bulgarians do not exist, or that they do not work, or that they do not speak German. I love my neighborhood and I feel comfortable here.

In 2006, I stayed at my mother's house for a few weeks prior to coming to Germany. It was the first time in my life I had ever lived in a predominantly white neighborhood. I was not comfortable there. I'm not saying I don't like white people, but it was clear that they didn't much care for me. Daily I commuted on a crowded bus with standing room only and not even half-dead, arthritic old ladies would sit down on the vacant seat next to me. That was a shocking dose of reality.

I like my neighborhood because even though sometimes Turkish kids try to break into my home, they will never hesitate to sit in my lap on the train. It's a small sacrifice, really.