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.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tourist Season.

(Right: a shot of my breakfast, just to make you jealous. L-R: Yogurt with honey, müsli, bananas and mixed berries; mehrkorn brötchen with soft-boiled egg, cucumber, tomato and cheese; brötchen with cheese and paprika wurst, and black gourmet coffee.)

It's tourist season in Berlin. Everywhere you go, the tops of stairs, narrow sidewalks, doorways and train stations are occupied by enormous groups of camera-toting travellers, mobbing around like Chinese people and trying to get as many photos in front of as many historical landmarks as possible before jumping back on the tour bus and heading off to Dresden for dinner and drinks. Annoying.

I do and don't get why people decide to do Europe in ten days. On one hand, if you're from any part of the world besides Europe, traveling here is expensive. If you're from the U.S. or Japan chances are that no matter how good your job is, you can't take off more than a couple weeks off of work. But on the other hand, if all you're going to do is stand in front of the Brandenburger Tor and eat a curry-wurst then you could have saved €2000 by just staying home, Photoshopping yourself onto a postcard and boiling some sausages from Albertson's and eating them with ketchup. I want to take an Al Bundy vacation too.

The crappy thing about hating on tourists is that I am one. I mean, OK, I've lived here for nearly three years but I haven't seen everything and I do still go around to the touristy bits of town and take photos of shit. I justify it to myself by claiming that I get there on my bike, pack a lunch I prepared in my home, and don't pose in front of anything. Yadda yadda here are some pictures.

I was totally annoyed that these tourists wounldn't get the eff outta my photo. They ruined my shot at least five times by standing directly in front of my camera, hands in front of them like mummies. I think they were Italian.

The gods live in unlikely places.

Space ships in the subway station.

After this photo shoot I wound up at a gallery opening with some friends and after the opening they looked at my pics and chose this one as sufficiently arty enough to have made it into a pretentious, shallow art show. They even recognized that the beer bottle was the star of the photo. I am so profound.

Nothing beats Berlin graffiti. This is an ultra-swank neighborhood and I love that no one makes any attempt to cover up or remove the graff. I like the guy with one closed and one happy eye.

I'm wet.

This was a cool little secret garden that I discovered behind some other swanky-looking shite.

At Baiz. It's called a communist bar for some reason. The first time I went there I was like "So I can pay for my beer by washing dishes or handing out pamphlets or preaching about Mao or what" and they were like "Zwei euro bitte." Fucking fascists.

The TV tower behind some buildings. You do not even want to know how many times I took this shot.

Taxis actually wait here. There must be five entire taxi stands in the whole city. Who leaves a restaurant and goes, "well I could walk three blocks to the train station or four miles to a taxi stand"?

Cookie and Graham and I at Baiz. Sorry these are a bit out of order. The beer in the foreground is Erdinger Alkoholfrei and it rocks your world if you're trying to stay off the sauce. I took one sip of it and asked the bartender if it was indeed alcohol-free. He smiled and showed me the bottle and I was appropriately pleased and surprised. Cookie told me later that that is EXACTLY how the TV commercial goes. Ha.

I couldn't stop talking about that gotdang beer and bought six bottles of it at the store two days later.

And that is all.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


(Above: Tokio Hotel fights AIDS and makes a shitload of cash advertising for H & M at the same time.)

Last year during my English seminar I asked the students--aged 19-26--to describe to a partner their favorite and least favorite bands and to collect reasons for each. When the answers were presented the unanimous unfavorite was Tokio Hotel.

I'm pretty sure that as a little girl I was drawn to anything that was flashy and pretty and I do remember writing at least one "What kind of shampoo do you use" fan letter to Will Estes when I was about 13, but back in '94 we didn't have MySpace or even know anyone with a computer in their house so it was a bit harder to stalk your favorite heartthrobs.

My closest--and most psycho--girlfriend in middle school had crushes on all the cute boy actors of the day. Jonathan Brandis, Eddie Furlong and Leonardo DiCaprio could all be seen striking seductive and grossly age-inappropriate poses on her walls, but JTT (Jonathan Taylor Thomas, of Home Improvement fame) was her undying obsession.

She used to write him 20-page long letters, all delusional scribbling about how she knew that if you really hoped hard enough for something to happen that it would happen, that neither of them could escape their fate forever, that eventually they would be together and live the fantasy life they always wished upon a star for but never realized was actually possible. In other words, Terri--then about 5'6" and 190 pounds and smelling of cat piss and unwashed hair, now about 5'6" and 300 pounds and smelling of cat piss and unwashed hair--would lead him to the paradise that awaited them both if they would just heed destiny's call.

Even at that age, I knew she was a fucking nutcase. It was the 90s and the height of emo grunge rock so I had heard of lots of people who thought that Eddie Vedder was singing through the radiowaves at them personally, who believed that Kim Thayil really was psychic and therefore purposely played his show on their birthday, that Kurt Cobain was calling them to join him in a suicide pact.

But I'd thought today's modern media-savvy teenagers were way too sophisticated to get duped by such hype. The lead singer of Tokio Hotel is the dude with the stupid hair and black French manicure. The dude with the dreads is his twin. I know, right?

Christoph didn't believe me when I said Tokio Hotel was in an H & M ad so I took a photo of it to prove it to him. So this morning he asked what kind of music they played and I pulled up their MySpace page and played him a couple minutes of horrible horrible pop emo bullshit. They basically sing the same lyrics as 'NSync or Britney Spears, just with guitars. After we listened to that claptrap I skimmed through the photos. This Bill dude gets thousands of comments per photo, but it's funny to see how different some of them can be:

June 6, 2009 3:40 AM

I honestly L O V E you Bill Kaulitz with all my heart! I would be nothing with out you! u mean so much to me! you honestly have my full && complete ♥ it hurts sometimes that my love for you is so powerful, and just knowing that you don't feel the same back, [[yet]] kills! im so determined to be with you! I hope to God, i wish on 11:11, and have full faith that we will be together! i know people may think what i feel for you is over the TOP, but in my option, YOUR WORTH IT! if i had to i would tell the WORLD how i truly feel about you! what i feel for you is 100% real && true! it's more than a crush! Here's my true feeling wen i see you with another chick! im jealous of every girl who hugged Bill ♥ Kaulitz because for one moment they had my whole world in their arms!♥ <3glenda>


June 6, 2009 3:37 AM


Aaaahahahahahaha! But shit dude, who knew kids today were so damn illiterate? "In my option"? Uhhhhhh.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I didn't buy a camera for nothing, part four: Not Strong Enough For Abstinence

(Left: Laura epitomising the vibe of the weekend. Unter den Linden, Berlin.)

Like most people with an ounce of willpower, I sometimes feel the need to shake up my routine a bit to see if I can go without something upon which I feel dependent. Usually this includes cigarettes, television, eating late at night, and certain annoying people. What it does not usually include are sex and alcohol. Cos I mean, who in their right mind would willfully deprive themselves of either?

Whether or not I'm in my "right mind" remains to be seen, but 31 days ago I decided to go 45 days without drinking. The reasons seemed so clear in the beginning. I wanted to lose weight, which was proving difficult given the empty calories in alcohol and compounded by the late-night junk food I was in the habit of consuming after drinking my weight in beer. I wanted to see what sort of things I would do with my free time, what I would do for fun, how I would cope in social situations. I wanted to know what my brain felt like after a month and a half of leaving away the dum-dum sauce. I wanted to see if I made any more art, or was more productive, or dreamt up any new and fantastic ideas.

The arbitrary 45 days came from some stoopid article I read on Yahoo health about breaking habits. I can't remember what the fake patient in the article was giving up, nor does it matter. This is why the internet is bad for your brain, folks. All I saw was "45 days and you're cured forever of whatever it is you can't seem to give up! On the other side of that wall is permanent and everlasting salvation!" This is the same part of my brain that files cancer-fighting foods ("eat broccoli twice a week and you'll pretty much never die of anything, ever!"), weight-loss tactics ("eat equal parts celery and vegemite three hours before bed and watch the pounds melt away!") and job-interview tips ("always use positive wording, even if it makes you sound like a candy-coated dimwit!").

When I gave up smoking a couple of years ago, I made a paper-link chain like the one pictured above out of of construction paper, and, like the one above, I wrote a nice little "inspirational" psalm each day to motivate myself to keep at it for another day (obviously the direct result of having two 12-stepper parents). The chain pictured is my drankin' chain. Of course on the link in the foreground is written "I drank this wknd."

So, I made it 28 days without drinking. The reasons for abstaining had started to seem so distant and unimportant, and I caught myself on several occasions daydreaming about all the incredible and super-fun stuff I was gonna do after my 45 days were up. Unfortunately, the fantasies you create about a thing of which you've been deprived are always 10 000x more exhilirating and exciting than they ever were in real life. Maybe that's the reason no one gives up alcohol or sex--the reality of it once you get back on them is just too disappointing.

After three beers, I'm starting to have a little bit of fun. Yes it is broad daylight. You can ask me later why I decided after a month-long hiatus to defile my poor stomach with beer instead of something pleasant like champagne or cider. It tasted like shit.

It's rare that I look anywhere near fancy enough to sneak into opera houses and use the toilet while posing as a paying customer.

After drinking some beers we decided to meet up with Cookie and Graham and go see our friend Brigid "Dessie's Got To Do the Rage" Lynch at her new job, Silberfisch. Silberfisch is a horrible horrible tourist bar, waaayyyyy too expensive for sensible people and directly on the Ho-Stro'. All the people in the background are on an organised pub-crawl, and I do mean all. Every night, several groups of 100 people come into this bar and pay €6 for a beer. That's like eighty bucks U.S.D.


See, I kept trying to get drunk and love everything, but it wasn't working. All I could do was my same chin-up pursed-lip thing that pisses off homophobic people so badly.

The pub-crawlers are getting a bit worked up now, probably high off the sugar from the "complimentary shots" the bar provides them day in and day out.

Here's our polite picture

Here's what we really look/act like

This god guy is guarding the DJ booth.

Laura is hardcore and stole two beers off a table freshly evacuated by the pub-crawlers. I guess you do sixteen bars in a night and you're bound to forget something somewhere.

We were supposed to go to some gay ladies' bar and get our homo freak on, but after five beers I was so disgusted, grossed out and even hungry that I had to ass out and go home. Not once during the entire night did I get wasted with wild abandon, forget my name, dance with a stranger, or do anything I regretted. I totally could have had just as good a time, and even better, stone sober. OK. I have concluded my experiment and am going to finish off the remainder of my 45 days sober as a judge.

Fast forward to Saturday night. I got on the wrong train and wound up in the middle of nowhere. I was so pissed off at myself that I almost wound up going home, but I was persuaded to stay out.

700mL of vodka and six hours later I am back at my house after the evening's festivities, taking about 48299318703 pictures of myself in front of the entrance to my house. You see what I'm pointing at? Me neither. I forgot that I'd taken these until the next afternoon.

Deep in thought about uh... what the neighbors are thinking

I know. It's bad. Really bad.

I'm sure only the most profound statements were going through my mind. For some reason it was of the utmost importance to capture the morning light filtering through the uh, smog.

This one makes me LOL because I look so saaaaad. And wasted.

The best part of the night however occured at about 4 in the morning at Hackescher Markt, where we comandeered a couple of chairs and a table from a bar that had been closed for hours and "interviewed" strangers with my camera. I took about ten videos but this is the only one that made the cut, guess why? Turns out shit is way funnier when you're off your ass on vodka.

I'm now of the opinion that I absolutely never need to drink again in my life, but the first thing I've got to do is just get through the remaining 15 days or so. One day at a time. Easy Does It. Keep coming back, it works. Blah blah 12-Step cliché blah.