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.