Thursday, September 16, 2010

Greener Pastures

It seems like every other time I post something, I'm talking about either starting or quitting a job.

As I may or may not have mentioned, I worked for the last year for a pair of utter psychos. The woman is overbearing, rude, condescending and schizophrenic. The man is similar, with a smidgen of violent tendencies and severe substance abuse thrown in for good measure. That, added to the so-so pay, absolute lack of benefits, and crappy clientele, led me to have to quit.

The excuse I gave to my boss was that I needed a job with benefits in order to avoid trouble with the tax office, but she, and the other guy who's worked there since before dirt, and is also on welfare, told me that it would be near impossible to find a job in Berlin's job market. As if I'm going to take advice from two people who haven't looked for jobs in over ten years, especially not the dick collecting welfare and working under the table at the same time, fuck. right. off.

Sunday I will have what I hope is my first shift at Barcomi's, a very famous and successful coffee roasting company and independent bakery. If I do well on Sunday, I will make substantially more per hour than I made at the old place, get proper hours and my insurance paid, not to mention healthy tips.

Almost more than for the sake of having the job itself, I want to do well so I can go back to the Assholes of the World and tell them that I'm doing just fine without them, thanks. Unbelievable how many people work there because they truly believe they can't do better. Sad business.

Wow, sorry for the unbelievably boring post. Not that anyone reads this thing anyway. Ha.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Like School in the Summertime, We Gots no Class

On St. Paddy's day of this year, we went with our Irish friends to an Irish pub at around noon. I guess the Irish set aside the time to celebrate the life of St. Patrick from dawn til midnight, but for those of us who aren't accustomed to showing up to bars in the daylight hours and sucking down Guinness for the next twelve hours, it can get a bit.... samey. Therefore we brought a game of Uno to the bar. This was met with unappreciative glares from everyone who wasn't cool enough to have been invited to play. Attempting to mollify our new un-fans, we offered to deal them in, but they weren't having any of it. Evidently it's incredibly lame to play Uno in a bar, even if the bar is as shitty and expensive and smelling of piss and touristy and did I mention shitty as the Oscar Wilde in Berlin. One friend even went so far as to ask us if we'd planned on being bored since even before we got there. Slightly embarrassed, we put the cards away and assured our friends we weren't bored, we just like playing cards.

Troof. So whenever we can sneak out of the house without attracting the notice of any of our hipper friends, we drag along a card game or dominoes, order up a round of drinks, and have ourselves a good old time. Last night was one of those nights.

Baiz thinks it's a communist bar or something, but in troof, they just don't know how to turn away people who like to leave subversive flyers laying around. And they apparently hate IKEA as much as I do. Some might suggest you get new tables, but I'm totally into the splinters in your fingernail beds thing.

We are so hip we take pictures of the Uno. To be fair though, the lady on the left is Cookie's friend Eleanor, all the way from Australia via Canada so it's a bit of an adventure to be sat in a smoky dungeon playing Uno, especially when you've just come from a place where smoking isn't allowed and you're only allowed to sit for an hour while consuming super expensive food and drink.

Graham's beard always goes all blurry in indoor pics. Check out the Mercedes hood ornament chandalier in the background.

Plotting their next +4 wild cards. No one is more competitive at the Uno than we.

Fat ass mineral water. €,50 for half a liter of it. With a nice chunky slice of lemon. You're paying upwards of €3,50 in most places in that neighborhood for a simple glass of bubbles. Maybe they really are commies.
You ain't got no blues.

After slumming around at Baiz for a bit we decided to go to "Punk Rock Pizza" (not their real name, I believe they call themselves "Duo Forni" or some such). Never again.

First of all, the place looks like this
except bigger, this pic does no justice to just how cavernous the place is.
The douchebag with the ponytail was our "waiter". Couldn't stop blathering at us in Italian. Hello friend I am not here to learn fucking Italian, don't need a ten-minute explanation about the virtues of smoked horse meat. Bring us some beer and a salad and for christ's sake enough with the yelling. When he saw we weren't into his schtick he started just slamming shit around and hamming it up conspicuously with the other customers who apparently find a waiter who doesn't bathe and screams and dances around "charming and authentic". The place was full of assclowns making a spectacle of dinner. When in fact we just wanted the dinner and not the spectacle.
Pizza was amazing though. Cookie's got the prosciutto, arugula, mushrooms and shaved parmesan. I'd post the rest of them except they were all in a state of half-eatenness by the time I pulled out the camera and no one wants to look at pics of half-eaten food.

They brought me a "salad", which was in fact a bowl of lettuce on a plate with an enormous chunk of fennel, strips of cucumber and 5-inch-long carrot sticks, one uncut radish and an entire tomato. There was oil and vinegar on the table, dressing sorted.

Will never return there though as the servers were even unclassier than we are and that is a hard thing to do.

I was gonna blog today

but technology has failed me. Fuck you, blogger.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Not Judging a Book by its Tattoos

It's amazing how much time I spend in bars, although I don't drink. Wow, it's weird to put that in print.

I don't drink.

Or, at least, I haven't done since late January of this year. Although I often question whether or not I was really as much of a hopeless alcoholic as I'd originally suspected (as I keep alcohol in my home--for cooking, mostly, and just cos you can't throw away Sierra Tequila, even if you never plan on drinking it--and as I hang around in bars with drunk people three or four nights out of seven), I rarely question my motives, and never look back.

Sobriety is a beautiful thing, but it can make hanging around with complete tools quite the chore.

We went last night to the lovely Fire Bar in Krausnickstraße, and although it's difficult to fuck up a night at one my favorite smoky dungeons, one Kiwi expat did his darndest.

You know how someone's banging on and on and you'd love nothing more than to zone out but you realize that if you fail to make eye contact and nod it will force that person to work even harder to re-gain your attention? Caught between a rock and a hard place. It's bad enough when the person's just boring, but worse when they believe they're experts on subject they have not the first clue about.

Among "Johnnie"'s topics of conversation monologue:

  • Factory employees working the lines at such firms as Siemens, BMW and Volkswagen, though making upwards of €20 an hour, are working dead-end jobs and when they hit 35 will no longer be able to drag their decrepit carcasses into work. Nor do they possess the intelligence to pursue careers in administration or middle management, because everyone knows you have to be a fucking genius to be a middle-manager.
  • Native Americans on reservations drive Porsches while the rest of us poor suckers throw our money down the drains of their fancy casinos. Their education systems are among some of the best in the world.
  • Tattoo artists like himself make several hundred thousands of dollars per year. However, he did not know what it meant to be charged for the workspace in a tattoo parlour.
  • The Hell's Angels of Germany do not stoop to such menial tasks as the distribution of illegal substances. Their minions on the bottom of the "pyramid" take care of that for them. (as a matter of fact drug-dealing is about the only activity German gangsters pursue with anything approaching diligence)
  • Everyone ought to get fake tits, because there is no such thing as a tit too big (he obviously didn't get the irony in that one)

His accent was a weird mish-mash of Kiwi, American and Cockney. He bragged about doing "thousands of dollars of cocaine and speed--Christmas Lines, you know?" at a hotel party. I think he was invited by Pablo Escobar himself.

It's funny when you're sat across from a 33-year-old man who seems to have learned everything he knows about life from a Tarantino flick. I'll bet he's got posters of the Godfather up on his bedroom wall, right above his stash of Playboys and Tattooing Bi-Monthly.

Regarding the activity of German gangsters, I asked him how he had acquired his information. His response was to ask me how I could be so sure he didn't know what he was talking about. Ohhhhhkay.

Finally, a half-naked man covered in tattoos that appeared to recognize our hero came over and saved the night, distracting him long enough for us to abscond to the next bar. One mineral water and lemon later I was on my way home.

Thank god I made it home before daylight or I would have felt just as filthy as I would have, had I been drinking all night.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Put yer eyeballs back in your head

It doesn't really matter where you are. On the bus, on the tram, on the train. In the grocery store, at the pharmacy, waiting at the crosswalk. On your bike, in a car, I do not care, Sam I am, yer getting stared at and for no apparent reason.

Why? This was the question that perplexed me for what seemed an eternity. What is it about my stupid mug that you find so fascinating you'd stare for ages, not in any way that belied admiration or even curiosity but with what looked to be a sneer on your face, or worse, a complete blank. A poker face. Driving me to insanity with your stupid staring, that's why God gave you ocular muscles, so you can look in any direction you please. Why in mine?

For eons, as I say, the matter disturbed me deeply. I read articles, I argued in forums, I collected testimony from red-blooded Germans. Why do they stare? I'd ask. A litany of unsatisfactory explanations would be the reply:

They're not staring. It is all in your head.

You wouldn't know they were staring if you hadn't been looking at them in the first place. It is a return stare. (bullshit, I only looked cos I could feel their stupid eyes boring a hole into that place where my unibrow used to be.)

They think you're interesting looking. (wtf, I'm not in a zoo, and weren't they ever taught that staring at the clinically "interesting" is rude?)

They think you're pretty. (then why the scowl?)

You're a big black woman in a small German place. (bordering on satisfactory, only heard from one German woman, who now lives in Canada and thus, having escaped the insanity, can look at it from a realistic perspective. Still doesn't explain the lack of manners.)

They don't realize they're staring. (donkey crap, how can you not realize you're staring when you're blinking and scowling at someone who is looking you in your stupid eyeballs)

I've never been stared at, and I'm a super model. That means therefore that no one would bother staring at you if they wouldn't stare at fabulous me. It is all in your head. (fuck. off.)

Who gives a crap if they stare or not? (oh... right.)

The least obvious answer, although I believe it to be the most concrete and provable, came to me when my American friend Allison came for a visit. Lovely as she is, she is hardly remarkable in the sense that one must take a second, third and fourth look, risk being run over in traffic and miss their mouths with their forks when she walks past. Nevertheless, during her entire ten-day stay here in the the Aggro City, she was constantly ogled. For the first time, it became clear why:

She was dripping foreignness.

And not just that simple, sometimes endearing (to the great unwashed hippie German populace) way that the Spaniards have, of seeming to not notice whether the sky is green or caring if a meteor was on a collision-course with the Earth. Also not in the (often despised) lost-in-the-white-man's-world way of African immigrants. But in the fully-awake, casually alert, self-confident way of an American woman, who is used to getting what she wants when she wants it, who believes the sky is the limit and who won't settle for less.

We hardly realize this is how we look to Europeans, who naturally, being beaten down, squashed in and generally resigned to being a short poppy for the rest of their lives, interpret such outward appearance to be merely arrogance. It is impossible for them to know that in other parts of the world, people actually believe they can be as great as they want to be, and deserve respect from their peers until they have un-earned it.

Four years on, I have, more or less, lost this outward appearance entirely. Through a wholly subconscious instinct of survival, I have learned to make myself as inconspicuous as possible. A couple of weeks ago I realized how crappy my posture had become: an inadvertent response to being stared at for walking tall and looking forward. It's strange to the natives to see someone doing this: you must be looking for someone in a crowd, or scanning the buildings for an address. There can be no other possible explanation for looking anywhere other than your shoes whilst walking and bashing into other people like moles in the daylight. (actually I think moles have better navigational capabilities than your average German, whose primary function in life is to obstruct the free movement of other humans in his environment, who, unless are walking like a tall popppy, he does not realize even exist.)

Well, but all of this is irrelevant. When I realize now that someone is staring, I take a simple and satisfying course of action: I don't stare back. I put it out of my mind, and forget about it. A strange method of coping, but it seems to work. And because I don't put out those nasty combative vibes, I receive fewer stares.

Or maybe I'm just getting too old and wrinkly for anyone to bother staring at.

Life is different but kind of the same

I wonder why we feel the need to explain ourselves to our journals, to our blogs, to our mothers, why we haven't been keeping up contact. Stuff happens. You get it.

After having taught my English course for three weeks, I realized that I had been living in an insane upside-down world for nearly the last year, and decided to quit my day job. Thass right: I did the unthinkable: not out of belief that my (obviously) unlimited powers of English instruction were so unparalleled that I could quit and become Germany's Next English-Teaching Model, but because I had had. Enough.

I've never just up and quit a job like that. I either have something else already lined up, or am leaving the country, or get fired. (cue mirthless laughter) Ha. Ha. But this time was different. This time it was like leaving an abusive lover, one who, while lying and scheming and cheating and beating would pepper his socially unacceptable behavior with more conventional niceties, like lying politely, scheming conspiratorally with you (so that you wouldn't believe he was scheming against you) and claiming to cheat in your best interest.

I found myself working illegally for no good reason, as I am married to a German citizen and have no need to lie to the tax office.

I found myself being literally assualted by my boss, and not because I couldn't find anything better and feared being thrown back on the apple cart I'd been smuggled in on.

I found myself busting my ass and not even getting the respect of a full time employee, and I don't have any masochistic tendencies (that I know of).

So now I am footloose and fancy-free (whatever the hell that is supposed to mean) with a wad of cash burning a hole in my bank account. The jobless panic hasn't settled in yet.

So, diary/blog/mom, sorry I haven't been around. I've had other fish frying my brain for the past year though.

I'll try to call before your next birthday.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Foxes and shooting stars

I have the best patio ever.

Sure, it's loaded with all sorts of grit, filth and crap, but it's classy crap, mind you. Bourgeois things like potting soil and empty flower troughs and plant experiments and liquor bottles and ashtrays and overflowing shopping bags full of patio garbage, plus three mismatched chairs and a rickety card table. Our apartment is on the ground floor, so the view from there is spectacular. For example, I can watch my neighbors' torsos as they cook--or erm, cut--or erm, do something in the kitchen, and I know when they go for a shower or a shit, and I know how long their children stay awake.

Since the arctic permafrost settled in some six months ago, I haven't been using the patio for anything much really, much less spying on my boring neighbors. It was too cold to smoke, too cold to sit, too cold to stand. The only thing it's been good for since October is keeping beverages cold (hence the liquor bottles). But in the last few days, the temperature has been so humane that we've been sitting out there of an evening and enjoying a non-alcoholic beverage or three.

Night before last, the 'Stoph and I were sitting out there, solving the problems of religion, politics, ethics and the world and gazing into the heavens when the longest, shiniest, sparkliest shooting star you've ever seen bisected the sky. It was so long that we had to actually move our necks as if we were watching a tennis ball being volleyed across a court. There was something magical about sharing that moment, since all the shooting stars I've ever seen have been too short for anyone else to have seen them, unless they'd been looking at the exact same place at the exact same time I was, which has never happened.

Of course, in reality, all we watched was a particularly large and stubborn space-turd entering the Earth's atmosphere at the wrong angle (idiot!) but it did seem to be special at the time.

Last night, I was out there with a book and a Club Maté and a cigarette when out of the corner of my eye I spotted something larger than a cat and smaller than a dog with a longish tail clumsily creeping around on the other side of the lawn. After having seen several of them and even gotten close enough to touch one, I'm not sure why I'm always so surprised to see foxes in our courtyard, but it never fails to catch me off-guard. A mix of fascination and fear compels me to first whistle and click at the fox, then prepare myself for flight in case he decides to charge. Naturally, this has never been the case, as, for whatever reason, foxes do not seem to be aggressive toward humans, at least not in the city.

So the fox and I had a pleasant little stare-down, me clicking and whistling, and he pausing every few seconds to see who the hell was making stupid noises in his courtyard, and me wondering how high he could jump (some of them can even jump over the moon) and whether or not I could slip indoors before he came to chew my scalp off. Then he got down on his belly, out of the floodlight that illuminates the pedestrian path, and slunk off into the moonlit night.

I should really savor and appreciate these sightings while they last, as, in a few months, the most interesting things I'll be seeing in the courtyard are drunkards pissing on our bushes and teenagers fucking, without condoms, in the trees.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Why do you have to make this weird?

Have you ever been in love with a friend, or had a friend be in love with you? Maybe (hopefully) you were in 10th grade, and although your friend had a boy- or girlfriend, you still hoped beyond hope that one day they would see that their significant other was not really quite as well suited to them as you were. And you fantasized about the day it would happen, the day they would look deep into your eyes and tell you that really, they did know all the time, but they were so terrified of the intimacy that would follow if they acted upon their true feelings, because they've never opened up to anyone the way they've opened up to you, and although you are overweight and not very attractive and have not so many friends and do not drive a car and must be picked up after band practice in your father's 78 Chevy with the red door and the puke green body and there is usually a strange and pungent aroma wafting up from your shoes they find you the most beautiful thing they've ever seen. And then they lean in, and you lean in, and at first you just brush lips, and then your bodies melt into one another's and blah blah blah happily ever after the end Amen.

Hopefully, though, unless you happen to be 14 at the moment, you have moved past such silliness. The friend NEVER leaves his/her girlfriend/boyfriend for you. In fact, it is likely that the friend will go through several relationships during the course of your infatuation and never even once think to look in your general direction for physical intimacy. S/he never thinks you are all that beautiful, and although s/he enjoys your company, s/he really does notice the smell coming from your shoes. For these, and multiple other reasons--the most important being that you two are friends and nothing more--you will never get with the friend.

Friend zone is a very stable place. Unless the two people involved are both wildly, madly in love or hate with one another, friend zone is so constant that any changes undergone are too subtle to be noticed at once. For example, you may grow closer and closer to a friend and find that they are now one of your best friends, while not long ago they were a mere acquaintance. What is not likely to happen is that one day, you turn around and find that you are head-over-heels in love with your friend.

As I say, friend zone is a stable place, so it's only the dreamers, hippies, and other unwashed creative types who believe they can drastically alter its borders or rules.

But what about a good friend, who loves you, and thinks you may cheat, and nudges you and attempts to tempt you into cheating, although you are married? And have been in the same relationship for going on five years?

Is that actually a friend... at all?

I'm starting to wonder if there is a false friend here with me in friend zone.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Like a fish out of um... whiskey

I "quit" drinking two weeks ago for the following reasons:
I'm not getting any younger,
more creative,
or more productive
It'll be a bit of a laugh (actually it will quash all laughter from my life from here until the end but don't let's be pedantic about the matter)
Was bored and have tried all the other drugs, thought I might give sobriety a whirl
Forgot what it felt like not to be craving either alcohol, greasy food, sleep and/or ibuprofen at any and all times
Makes me more stupid than I am naturally, contributing to many a face-palmed morning
Stopped actually getting drunk, regardless of amount consumed

The last time I went this long without alcohol, I was doing just fine, until my *clenched teeth* mother-in-law broke out the champagne to celebrate the month-old news of our marriage. I felt somehow sabotaged, but it's not as if she could have known I was attempting to give up the sauce and that turning down a toast in honor of the marriage of her first son would be a faux-pas even someone as gauche and heartless as I could not bring myself to do... could she?

Of course, the second I got a couple sips of bubbly down my throat, all I wanted was just a splash more, and then just a glass more, and then oh fuck it let's just get out a few bottles of the cheaper Chardonnay, shall we? Then the MIL and I had a private, in-the-next-room and half-whispered, inebriated heart-to-heart and I was like, "Oh god, thank you for alcohol, thank you for making this conversation not only bearable but almost even enjoyable. I will want to stab myself through the eyeballs in the morning, but for now I am content."

Not Drinking isn't as hard as I thought it would be, except when stuff like my *new-and-improved!* crazy-pants boss calls me at my house to tell me I've nearly thawed down his establishment (that's a story for another day) or when I've talked to so many customers in the dreaded Krautian tongue and put on so many fake smiles that I fear my brains will bleed out my eardrums and all I want to do is drink away the memories of the day, pass out into blissful oblivion in front of the television, wake up, eat a cold cheeseburger, then pass out for some restless, uncomfortable slumber and wake up puckered with dehydration and craving biscuits and gravy. But other than the self-medicating kind of Drinking, I don't really miss Social Drinking (which, as we know is for Grammas anyway).

Since I've not been drinking, I've been to the library, begun to teach myself how to knit (OK so I ordered a book off Amazon and have been flipping through it the last couple of days--no I don't have any yarn yet, no you fuck off!) and started listening to classical music and bossa nova (two kinds of music known to be enjoyed by cultured and intellectual, non-stupid people the world over). I'm having thoughts and ideas and look, I even wrote a fantastically self-involved blog all about me, me, pathetically struggling to not drink, me which no one will read but that is ok because it is a sign, a sign!--that my brain cells are coming home from the pasture, are waking up from their 40 winks, back with the pack of fags, that they haven't really Gone Away Forever but are going to serve me again in the future. I couldn't be more thrilled.

People look at you funny when you order a fake beer or a mocktail, and if you have the privilege of the company of Irishpeople, you will suffer no shortage of cute comments about your lack of alcohol consumption ya fookin girl, fook me, I taught we was at a poob notter grade school cafeteria, but all in all, it's not been so difficult. I spend the same amount of money in bars and still smell like an ashtray at the bottom of a urinal in a truckstop bathroom after a night out, but I wake up feeling as if I can mingle with humanity without having to wear dark sunglasses or wincing every time someone with an annoying laugh comes too close to my central nervous system.

Now, if I can just give up smoking, swearing, caffeine, and dinner after 8pm, I will be golden.