Monday, June 20, 2011

We all want to call it home

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

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faucets and grey toilet paper you used to play Oregon Trail in for an hour on Thursday evenings after swim team has been replaced by a Total Recall-esque, so futuristic it already looks like it comes from the past, concrete, steel and green glass nightmare that no one plays games in anymore.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can't we all just get along?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cocaine and Jimi Hendrix

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 4, 2011

We're all so predictable

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 28, 2011

This is not a terrorist manifesto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live well, and be happy.

Friday, March 4, 2011

There's a time and place for almost everything

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

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

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

2. You are actually the next person in line.

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

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

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

You want some too?

She looks away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No! I hope you have a wonderful day!

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

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

May you live in interesting times

Things are interesting at the moment.

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

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

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

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

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


Life is exciting.

Going to Seattle in a few weeks.

Moving house in a few weeks.

Listening to the Sex Me remix by the R.

Drankin a bit of ole Jim Beam.

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

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

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

Hi, Mel.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Purple Haze

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, February 13, 2011

It's a Jungle in Here

Now as a rule I don't follow politics of any kind. Have had a boycott for several years now.

But as I was waiting on a friend who never showed up (left her phone at the flat), I sat down with my super expensive (you don't want to know how expensive) electronic dictionary and settled down to read some German news. Among the tedious details of Madonna's landing in the city and heading straight for an exclusive private club (Soho House, for those in the know) and how many ways pork fat can't kill you was an actually interesting article about the Green Party Minister, who is a dirty Turk that wants to save the whales and the polar ice caps and all sorts of things people from the second-and-a-half world aren't supposed to care about.

The interviewers had the nerve to ask this guy if he would send his own child to a school full of dirty Turks, which is something the average German attempts to avoid. The claim is that a good German child learns less among dirty Turks, because the Turkish children speak German only as a second language and drag down the pace of the class. Whether there is any merit to this claim is up to the people who know how to use Google to find out. Those of us who don't just form our opinions based on prejudices, like everyone else.

Anyhow. So this Turkish Green Party dude said, yes, of course. My little girl will be entering a Kreuzberg public school in the fall. Kreuzberg public schools are the nightmares of every German parent who wants their kid to grow up and do something other than auto mechanics. The idea is that your precious snowflake will never make it to university if it has to share finger paints with the children of immigrants.

Besides the fact that it would not fit with his politics not to do so, this guy really couldn't go around not sending his kid to a school full of Turkish kids, so, while the headline was all big and obnoxious, like, "KNOWN TURK SENDS HALF-TURKISH CHILD TO TURKISH SCHOOL. SCANDAL?" I was like, "um, of course."

It reminded me, however, of the public school teachers we had who sent their kids to private school. Like, it's good enough for you to come here and earn your paycheck, but not good enough to send your own kids to? I never understood how these teachers could think that they were tough enough to brave the jungle that is public school but that their kids could not hack it.

What kind of message does that send to their own students? To their co-workers who were educated and educate their own children in the public school system?

I have yet to meet a private school kid who was significantly smarter than a public school kid anyway, or one that used his extracurricular time better. Without school-sponsored team sports all a private school kid has to do is steal his parents car and use to do drugs during school hours (like a good friend of mine did whose mother taught at our school).

Usually I attempt to lend a moral to the story but there is none today. Sending your kids to public school will not only not kill them but it is also not news. I wonder if it's too late to get my 75 cents back for the paper.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Today I did something weird

You're not going to believe me, but yesterday, I completely forgot to use the internet.

I'm serious. Well, partially. At first, it was kind of intentional. I'm starting to realize that I spend far, far too much time on the interwebs, and so I've been trying to cut back from the top down. Like a smoker who waits until after lunch for his first cigarette, I'm trying to just get through breakfast without turning on the computer.

So it went quite well yesterday, pushing through breakfast while reading an actual book written on actual paper and staring at my husband out of the corner of my eye.

Then, as it was my Sunday, I took a wee nap, had a cup of coffee, contemplated laundry, decided against it, and read some more in my book.

But wait. Halfway through my day off, and something is missing. Should I go for a walk? Should I do some laundry? The answer to both questions is yes but I did neither. Instead I went out to eat some lunch.

Came back, farted around some more, still didn't know exactly what was missing. There are plenty of days when I don't do much but fart around and go out to lunch and not do laundry but they all feel like RED LETTER DAYS because of the FUCKING EXCITEMENT the internet provides me.

But I forgot.

I almost forgot today, but my book started to freak me out and I didn't feel like watching TV.

Let's see if I don't forget the internet tomorrow.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I want YOU to stop being such a dick

When I see really, truly nosy people, I'm always surprised when they don't come from one of those places where everybody is nosy, like China or Turkey or the Amazon or something, when they're not ex-villagers or tribesmen accustomed to seeing everybody naked, knowing what everybody's shit smells like and when every woman has her period and commenting openly on the minutest details of other people's lives then giving them unsolicited advice. Or are older than the age of 10. No one is bothered by a staring child or a meddling Vietnamese neighbor, but in good Protestant nations it is the norm to only stick your nose in a stranger's business until you've been caught, at which time you whistle innocently and slyly wait for your next opportunity to look over their shoulder without being observed doing so.

I'm also surprised every time an asshole tells me I should not allow myself to be bothered by his assholiness. Like, really dude? That's all ya got? Yeah you're a dick but I'm the one with the problem? I guess in a way they're right: they're an asshole and they're cool with it, but also, they're an asshole and I'm not cool with it. Who's got the actual problem?

I'd love nothing more than to go on some hippie tangent about shaping your own reality and being at harmony with the world and that but honestly, more than anything in the world, more than a pony or the reversal of global warming, I wish for a day when people would just quit being dicks to the people around them. Just... stop.

How hard can it be? To take two seconds to NOT be a dick. I mean, really, it takes more effort to BE a dick than it does to not be one. At least in the provocative sense. It's easy to react like an asshole, but to be one out of the blue requires dedication. Premeditation, plan Bs. The careful construction of a social interaction, in which you turn out to be the dick. And this is your goal.

So I'm sitting here in one of my favorite Berlin bars and tapping away at the computer screen. Writing. Clearly engrossed. Could be writing anything from an email consoling someone on the untimely loss of a spouse or a terminal diagnosis (not the case) to updating my CV or writing my super vitally important thesis (also not the case) to an argument on an internet forum (the case). All of a sudden the bored dick sitting next to me decides it would be a good idea to stare unabashedly at my screen. I look at him. He looks at me and laughs. I wait for him to stop. He keeps staring, entertaining himself to no end. I partially block his vision with my right hand.

Unprompted, he advises, "You know, you really shouldn't get so excited about people reading your stuff."

(excuse me bitte schön but did I say a word to you?)

"It's my natural right sitting here to look at whatever I please in this place."

"And it's also your right to be impolite?" (that is the closest Germans have to rude. Another word they don't have which I would have loved to use is the word "nosy". Just doesn't exist. Because Germans are rude and nosy. There are no special words for it, it's just how people are. And if we believe what the linguists say about language shaping the norms of a society then we can reasonably assume that the reason so many Germans are both rude and nosy is because they have not created a word for either trait which describes it in a disparaging sense.)

"Let me give you a tip. If you sit--"

"Excuse me, YOU'RE going to give ME a tip? Haha ok bitteschön"

"Yes and here's the tip Schatz. Don't get so bent out of shape about people reading over your shoulder. You're the one with the problem. People are going to do whatever they want."

"That's the tip, is it?"

"That's the tip. I will read whatever I like and there's nothing you can do about it."

(silence. I literally have nothing to say, in either language, to this buffoon. I nod at him with a look on my face that says "you're a madman and I clearly have no constructive response to your madness you mad person you.")

The guy stares some more, and after having been startled by his intrusive, painfully conspicuous social retardation I'm no longer looking annoyed or surprised, just sitting there with my hands away from the keyboard, unwilling to type a single stroke more until he's quite finished. Finally the game gets boring even for him and he goes, "not that I even feel like reading right now anyway. I'd read it if I felt like it but it doesn't even interest me." Huff.

The main reason I get annoyed by people reading over my shoulder is because I'm nearly always reading or writing in English and people here think that they can be "impolite" and "curious" (that's the closest you get to "nosy") to you because you are just a dumb tourist and what are you going to do about it anyway? There're also a lot of people who assume that just because you're reading or writing in English that you don't speak German and this makes their game even more fun because what could be better than needling a stupid foreigner who couldn't even be bothered to learn the language of the land? They don't like it? They can go back to wherever they came from.

I don't have a detailed description of how I react to such behavior in the States because it very rarely happens with anybody other than 10-year-old Chinese children with Down's Syndrome and autism at the same time. Everybody else knows better.

But the truly baffling part came next. When he was finished harassing me, the guy turned to his buddy and continued the conversation he'd been having before. I had quite naturally assumed that because I'm sitting at the bar of a cheap, smoky communist dive and being bothered by a stranger that he was drunk and alone and therefore not responding very gracefully to being rebuffed at what could have been a simple attempt to make contact with another human being and really, what can you expect when you sit at the bar of any bar but to be chatted up by other people on their own; it's a given, to be anticipated and if you don't like it you should have sat in a dark corner by yourself somewhere, with your jacket and bag on the empty chair and all your books and newspapers and pencils and shit spread across the table so as to eliminate the possibility of any unwelcome intruders placing down a second drink. But no. He actually interrupted his own conversation to make me feel uncomfortable and give me a "tip". And to call me "Schatz" (literally translated, "treasure", when spoken by a man to a strange woman takes on the equivalent of a bitchy, queeny gay man condescendingly calling you "sweetie" or "honey". Which was surprising because while the guy himself could have been gay I would never have pegged his companion as so and I didn't get the memo that straight guys were hanging solo with gay guys in dirty smoky communist bars these days. Maybe they were brothers. Adopted.)

So now, this guy has so little sense in his stupid pointy head, that half an hour later, he decides to try his game again. This time, I'm reading and not writing, so I just let him point his stupid face at my screen and read away to his heart's content, knowing that the reason he is being such a stupid cunt about it all is because he can't read a word of it anyway. He tries to get a reaction out of me, stretching out his stupid neck and looking at me and laughing, then trying the whole sad action again, and failing to get a reaction.

Seems if he'd really expected me to take his valuable tip to heart he'd have not bothered trying to get his jollies from attempting to rile me up. I mean Lord only knows that it makes all logical sense, accosting people minding their own business at the bar and then accusing them of reacting poorly and THEN having the nerve to give them tips on how to deal with bastards like yourself.

One of my favorite things to say to nosy people is, "I'm here minding my own business, just like you ought to be doing." Didn't have the words for that in German. Must apply myself to finding a suitable translation. Not that it would probably do any good, nosy bastards, the lot of 'em.

Douche. Bag! Get a life, loser, and seriously, why you gotta be such a dick? Life could be so much easier for all of us.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A series of interesting nights part three

A couple of nights later, I went to see a man about a dog. While the dog was being made ready to come with me, the man received a very interesting visitor. She needed to see him in order to get some very important vitamins that help her in her job.

I asked her what she did for a living, and she used a very vague German term with which I was not familiar which, literally translated came out to "turning on". Not as in, making someone hot, but like, turning on a light switch. I looked confused and she became exasperated, finally exploding, "Fucking! You know fucking? I fuck for a living." Oh.

She turned out to be a most fascinating person, and I stayed there for a few hours longer than I really needed to, first listening to her telling the only too predictable story of her loveless childhood, her father who never had any time for her, and the abusive boyfriend who took her virginity at a young age while her parents were not around to protect her.

I hoped and prayed that she wouldn't leave, because the only other person in the room besides the man himself was a most boring personality but it was not to be avoided, the fascinating one had to get to work and the boring one had to get to boring_the_face_off of me. One of those people who meets you for the first time and ten minutes later is trying to add you on Facebook and inviting you to Latvia in the spring. She did both.

Finally I extracted myself from the den of darkness and went to pick up my friend so we could go to a very famous club here in Berlin. We (ok I) got a bit messy before leaving the house and wound up at the place around 4.30 Sunday morning, right when the party was just getting underway.

Techno is not really my thing even on the best of days, but in certain altered states it can be fun enough, so, bearing that and that we'd be on the guest list in mind, we tromped in among the fashionable, the very gay, and the very wasted. Naturally as time went by the people got more and more wasted. But not in a way you would expect, even from a club like that. You might expect people to get drunk, to do some coke, to pop a couple of pills. But at a certain time of the night/morning, the crowd became so sickeningly inebriated that I felt actually ill when looking at them. It says something, when you can walk into a unisex bathroom with three inches of standing water on the ground and seatless steel toilets literally heaped with shit-smeared toilet paper and twelve-hour-old piss and vomit and whatever else, and be more put off by the people waiting to use them. I don't know what they were on. But they should never do it again.

Around 9.30 the 'Stoph calls to ask if I will be attending lunch at his parents' house, which I stupidly agreed to. Besides the normal cringe-inducing moments at the in-laws, we had to endure having the talk about what would happen when his mother was no longer able to take care of us, with the implicit suggestion made that we would all live together. The woman is 59 and I'm still trying to get the world in focus after 34 hours awake and thirteen hours of partying.

Now is not the time.

But I survived, and now I am finished writing about the sordid details of my trashy nightlife... for now.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A string of interesting nights part two

Strangely enough I find myself drawn to so-called "meat-market" bars before I am told that they market themselves as such. Some of the coolest clubs and bars I've ever been to have been renowned for being hotbeds of smooth lines, hard drinks, and non-lethal venereal disease.

Wow that was SUPER corny I should write romance novels.

Moving on.

Somehow in passing I'd gleaned the information that Kaffee Burger is where sleazeballs go to pick up but I really never thought any of that would apply to me. I mean, I'm the girl who shows up in a tank top and combat boots, with a mini-skirt and a shaved head. I don't look like the kind you pick up in a bar, I look like a borderline homosexual who will kick your ass if you get too near. So I never really worry about dirtballs trying to get me in bed, although they do, time and again.

The music at the Burger wasn't what I thought it would be, so I went into the Kaffee Bar to smoke as cigarettes are not allowed on the dance floor. No sooner do I sit down than am I joined by five young men who promptly begin discussing fancy student topics like political identity and the sustainability of the situation in the Balkans and so on. The rest of the bar has plenty of seating so I'm not sure why these guys have decided to sit with me. If they had been slick, clubbed-up frat-boy types I might have figured it out, but they were just normal, nerdy-looking, smart-sounding mid-twenties types. Eventually we are all in conversation and they invite me to hang with them that night.

I mean, how sweet can that be? Nothing like that has ever happened to me in Berlin. Back home, sure, you go out by yourself and unless you are some sort of social retard you are guaranteed to meet people. (By social retard I mean hopeless introvert, my apologies, hopeless introverts.)

So it's going cool, we're talking, then we're dancing, then we're sitting in the bar and smoking, then we're dancing, and talking. But it begins to become clear that one of the boys is starting to break away from the group to follow me around and eventually the rest of them ignore me completely.

So I ask the one, "Hey, why did he just walk right by? He completely ignored us."

The one says, "Maybe he wanted to give us some time to be alone."

See, reader, you would have gotten that right away. You wouldn't have waited to have to tell him for the fourth time that you are married or for him to tell you how much he likes your face, everything about it, even your nose, you wouldn't have waited for him to ask you how you feel about him although you only met him an hour ago, or for him to offer to take you home, or to almost cry about how all the girls he ever likes are involved with someone else. You would have gotten up right away and gone somewhere else, but I am naive and thought, these are nice smart boys who care about important things like political identity and the Balkans whatever that is. They are not the kind of boys who would strategically treat an intelligent woman like myself like a random piece of pussy, eliminating one possibility after the other so as to maximize the probability of one of them getting to stick it in. They wouldn't. I don't believe you.

After it became clear that I was not going to fuck any of them (the smartest of them came right out and asked), they all ignored me as if I did not and had never existed.

And the music still sucked, and someone on the dance floor stank.

And so I went home.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A string of interesting nights part one

In case you don't know what an expat is, it is a Latin mishmash Anglicized abbreviation for someone who leaves their home country which is as rich as, richer, or almost as rich as the country they move to, and either intends to go back in the foreseeable future, or dislikes referring to themselves as immigrants, although that is indeed what they are.

I don't really fit into either category, but as I come from the United States, I'm too bourgeouise--in a worldwide political sense, mind--to be called an immigrant, and Germans want nothing to do with me. So I hang out with other "expats" on a regular basis.

The other night, I even went to an event arranged by and catering to such people. It was my second time attending, and I'd forgotten why it had taken such a long time between the first and second visits. The second I walked through the door, I remembered. It was because the first time I went, I had sworn to myself that it would also be the last.

You know how you go to a party where you don't know anybody, but you're friends with someone who knows someone? So now you're someone who knows someone who knows someone, and as you all live in the same town, the likelihood that you will meet someone who knows someone who knows someone you know can be pretty high. You're all around the same age group and as you've all been invited by someone who knows someone, or by Someone Him-or-Herself, you're likely to have Something in Common.

Something in Common can cover a broad range of topics, from activities to opinions to preferences. You see, I can walk into any party anywhere in the world and enjoy myself, as long as the one thing that the majority--come on, even half--of the attendees have in common is Not Being a Total Douchebag.

No such luck at the expat event. The last time I had such awkward, boring time must have been some time at my in-laws place. You will think I'm exaggerating when I say I was painfully bored, but I'm not lying. It literally hurt my feelings to be that bored. I stayed for an hour--an hour!!--waiting to see if any of the hundred or so attendees of this thing would be worth staying longer for. I scanned the room hopefully, looking for signs of an interesting conversation to butt in on.

But alas, all I saw were other boring people, not seeming to mind being bored by one another. No eruptions of laughter. No intense, involved conversations. Just a bunch of people from all age ranges, from every corner of the earth, boring the socks off of one another, the only Thing in Common that they had being that they all spoke some degree of English.

As soon as I was able to extract myself from what was, admittedly, an engaging conversation from a complete lunatic (sorry Niall) I saved myself by going dancing at the skanky club down the street, which had promised to be fun that night.

To be continued...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I shoulda written it down

Well and since I entered into the blog-a-day pact with Crafty Chick I've been struggling to remember all my blog ideas. You know how insanity (or stupidity, depending on how you look at it) is supposed to be defined by doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? I'm sort of like that, a lot. Eating that second piece of PBJ bread, or chocolate after dinner. Going to sit in a bar instead of going to the gym. Making that joke in front of those people. You know you're just going to feel like a piece of shit afterwards, but you keep making the same mistake over and over again. Or well I do. On account of the stupidity, mind.

So I don't want one of those Moleskine notebooks that assholes carry around to jot down their super important thoughts because, obviously, I don't want to look like an asshole who thinks his thoughts are so important that they deserve to live in a little notebook that costs as much as the gym membership I never use. Instead of buying this fucking little notebook I should be out pumping iron and sweating like good salt of the earth people. But shit on those Moleskine assholes as I may, they're certainly remembering their thoughts.

Not like me. Yesterday I had two, yes, count em two (!!!) decent ideas for blogs that didn't involve cop-out concepts like chicken in the fussbahn and whatever I was going on about midgets yesterday. Two decent ideas, and did I do anything with em? Did I write em down? On anything? Piece of toilet paper and eyeliner? Scratched out on a receipt made from thermal paper? I even carry around a journal and several pens, pencils, erasers and sharpeners, EVERYWHERE I GO. No, listen to me, I'm serious. EVERY SINGLE DAY OF MY LIFE I carry around a journal, several pens, pencils, erasers and sharpeners. I transfer them from one bag to the other. I literally never leave home without those items. Did I write down the ideas? No. You know what I thought? And it's so stupid and predictable but yet so mind-blowing. I thought: who could forget two great ideas like those? I mean, obviously, you've got this, which if you forget, you can just remember that, and then the connection will be clear. Well I forgot this AND that. Like my last seventy-five blog ideas. Poof. Gone.

So now I think, during my adventures today, I will need to pick up a self-important-asshole notebook, because I realize that I don't have somewhere just for ideas. I carry around a journal and that is for journaling, not for scribbling down incoherent half-thoughts in Greek shorthand, scrawls that I will never be able to decipher later. My journal is for full sentences with commas and semi-colons and shit. Plus it is too big. I need one of those miniscule ones bound with leather and costing lots of money. Nothing says "write in me" more than a leather-bound, palm-sized notebook. It's like you're just sitting there dreaming stuff up expressly to have an excuse to open up your little teensy pile of money and jot down something so revolutionary that only you, in this place and in this time, could ever have thought of it.

If tomorrow's blog closely resembles this one or the two that preceded it, you will know that I kept up the good fight against the Moleskine tiny expensive idea book.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It could scarcely be worse

OK, and only because I saw two of them today within about five minutes of each other, but I wonder what it's like to be a little person.

I mean, you take people like me, who bitch and complain about being stared at, for whatever reason. I've got different reasons in different places. For example, if I go into a gay bar, I get stared at because I'm tall and I'm a woman, and you've got to look twice to determine whether I was born with fallopian tubes. If I go into a hipster bar, I get stared at because I'm about fifteen points above the average hipster BMI, not wearing ironic glasses or a terrorist scarf.

When I'm in Seattle, I get stared at because I'm tall and usually doing something striking with my skull, like shaving the hair completely off of it, or dying it a strange color, or sticking metal through various bits of skin. When I'm in Germany, I get stared at because I'm tall and black. When I'm in Eastern Europe I get stared at because gypsies are not supposed to wear pants and what the hell is that for a flip flop?

When I'm on the train I get stared at because I stand a foot higher than the rest of the people on the coach and I'm usually twitching around with inhibition to whatever I'm listening to on my iPod, but when a little person gets stared at, they are stared at for being little and nothing else.

You get stared at walking down the street and standing on the train and sitting on the bus swinging your little person feet over the edge of the seat, and you get stared at while jumping at bananas and apples in the grocery store that you can't quite reach, and you get stared at while looking longingly at the ATM and you get stared at while eating Chinese food with chopsticks and while walking your dog at 2 in the morning or 4 in the afternoon. You get stared at while smoking and while drinking water and while picking out CDs or talking to a friend on the street or looking like you're going anywhere other than to a movie set to perform your role as an extra in a film concerning a circus, or maybe a comedy about Tall people doing things with Smaller people.

And it's not like you get stared at like a celebrity, or that you can pretend in your mind that bitches are staring at you because they wanna be you and that haters gone hate. You know for a fact, one hundred percent, that you are being stared at because of your unnaturally small size. Because of your strange proportions. You know they're wondering what kind of job you could possibly do and what your house looks like. They're wondering if you've ever driven a car or made love to a person of average height and proportions.

Now, the last thing Little People need is any more sympathy, so I'm going to do one a favor next time I see him. Instead of averting my eyes and pretending not to notice that there is a fully grown adult who couldn't see over my kneecaps waddling about in the Fußbahn, I'm going to walk straight up to him, raise my hand way over my head, and go, "High Five!"

And hopefully he has a sense of humor, because that is either the funniest joke ever, or the most insensitive thing you could ever do to a stranger who will probably go home and hang himself now but not until he's kicked you in the shins first.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Chicken on the Fußbahn

Of course, Fußbahn is a word I just made up to replace Autobahn, which means, literally, "way that the cars drive". Yer foot is also dein Fuss.

I like to play Chicken on the Fußbahn because it's too much fun. Sometimes I make the mistake of playing a little too early in the morning before coffee and first words exchanged with people who live outside my home that consist of more than "mmphbrrblpoo" and "mmhmlvyoutoobye". So when I play too early in the day, the first words composed in my head are "idiot" "bozo" and "jackass". Not a good start to the day, even if you don't say em out loud. They're still out there in the universe.

Chicken in the Fußbahn is a good way to pass the time if you're a person of considerable stature, like I am, but I shudder to think what would happen were you only 5'6", or weighed under 180 pounds. Careful out there, I don't want anybody getting hurt. Well some of you. But never mind.

I also don't recommend Fußbahn chicken if you're prone to chickening out, because after you've made a commitment, you have to stick to it. Once you lose your nerve, it could take months before you're back out in the field. No, it's your side of the sidewalk, goddammit, and if they don't want to get out of your way, you're going to bowl em over. No ifs ands or buts about it. Of course, you're probably not really going to bash into them, unless you're having a really bad start to your day. Like, missing two out of the Three S's, for example.

Now, this is the important part. It's all about posture. You've got to straighten yourself up to half an inch above your full height. This is an ancient swami trick called Floating Lotus and it involves an infinitesimal amount of hovering above the ground, but you'll get it in time. Then, you square your shoulders and look your opponent straight in the eye. You're going to think that this all sounds a bit aggressive, but I assure you, if they hadn't been walking toward you on your side of the sidewalk, the game would not have been necessary in the first place. (I do not recommend playing Fußbahn Chicken on the left side of the sidewalk in continental Europe or North America. Playing on the right side in England is an equally bad idea, especially in South London.)

Note! Important! Without the Floating Lotus Square Shoulders To The Sky and Accompanying Thousand-Mile-Stare, you are lost. You will find yourself floundering about on the shoulder of the Fußbahn. This takes practice. But eventually, you will get it.

Give it a try one morning when you're feeling particularly ineffective about your life, when you've just been overlooked for a raise or lost a fight with your partner about how many bananas out of the bunch each is entitled to. You'll feel the power rushing right back into your life. Good luck.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

An Open Letter to the Hip

I wish I weren't so afraid of drawing attention to the fact that most of you all look like complete and utter freaks, because I'd really like to take your picture. I want to take a picture of your stupid big gramma glasses and your tight gray jeans and your stupid acrylic stripey sweater that looks like something even Value Village would rather throw away than sell, and your stupid man-bag purse thing made out of real vintage 80s denim (also in shit condition) and your stupid fixie bike and your stuuuuuuupid fucking haircut, WHY did you do it like that? You are a hair farmer, that's what you are, farming like ten different trends on the same plot of head. Unbefuckinglievable.

But the thing is, as stupid as you clearly look to me, I would never wish you to know it. It looks like far too much fun, running around in the nerdiest and most beat-up things you could find, with a smug and self-satisfied smirk on your face, reading books written by people you've never heard of so you can impress people you've never met. I too was young once, although we did it a little differently. I shaved my head and wore army shirts and wrap skirts to war protests, but never mind that, it was a different era.

I want to take your picture, because I can't imagine that anyone I told about you, without having seen you, wouldn't just assume I was exaggerating about just how stupid you look. But they can't know, unless they've been to Berlin in the last year, what absolute crap you guys are passing off as fashion. I mean it's one thing to look like shit but quite another to smirk at people who actually want to look as if they're putting themselves together in the morning.

But I think the main reason I want to take your picture is so I can compare it to a yearbook from 1979 and see if you don't look exactly as shit as nerds did then, and then I want to psychoanalyze you from afar, I want to watch and observe you, in order to assess the pathology that goes into openly embracing a look that was sported by the fringe, the oppressed, the forgotten periphery. I want to figure out why some of you who are clearly not nerds, work very hard to look like nerds. Does it have to do with solidarity? Is it like a white person dressing like a slave, in order to show comradeship with his disenfranchised fellow man? Do you not feel like a phony, for not even being a proper nerd? Can you even operate a computer? Can you hear me? Hello?

Well, fake nerds, next time you see me out with my camera, you'd better pose, because I am going to exploit your nonsense to the rest of the world. One pair of gramma glasses at a time.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

If it weren't for us you'd all be speaking Catalán

So, speaking of muhfuckaz that don't know how to tip, there is not a waitress alive who sees a table full of The Wrong Continental types coming and doesn't roll their eyes. Here comes a hundred espressi, pain in the ass requests like a slice of radish soaked in lemon juice on the side, and NO TIP. Probably even in the Wrong Continental Countries (Spain, Portuagal, Italy, France) they are not glad to see them coming. That is why everything takes so much longer there. No one is out fighting for the almighty buck.

But, evidently, Berlin is known for poor service, even among the swarthy Mediterranean set. As I finished bringing the twelve espressi, sixteen slices of lemon-soaked radish and one hollowed-out pomegranate to the group and presented them the bill, I asked, before thinking better of it, if they'd like to pay separately or together.

Now you know as well as I do that Spaniards, like the Chinese, do not travel in any group smaller than thirty, but I was in luck this time, as the mere six of them wished to pay separately. It's a tough move to make in the service industry, the offer-and-switch, but some times it's worth a try.

"Erm, actually, there is a ton going on right now, it might actually be really nice of you if you could all just throw your money together on one bill."

No, they said, they'd prefer to pay separately, if that's not a problem.

"Well, uh heh heh, the problem is that I just don't have a whole lot of small change, and everyone will want to pay his bill and need to get change back..."

No, they said, they'd prefer to pay separately, as the problem is not theirs.

The thing is, a table full of The Right Europeans (actually, mostly just Germans, as the rest of Europe doesn't think they have to tip in Germany) are a pleasure to cash out separately because that means six separate tips. Six people all rounding up to the euro after the next, which also means a minimum expenditure of small change. But I knew, as well as I knew my own name, that this would mean six times handing back the exact change.

The leader of the group, a middle-aged, pony-tailed salt-and-pepper stallion horse that should have been put out to pasture long ago, who had the best German out of the lot (read: not enough to communicate with a relatively intelligent four-year-old) wanted to hand me money while his friend was counting out the last thirty cents of her check in pennies, to which I replied, "yeah, one moment please" in a slightly harried tone.

He commented to his friends, "Welcome to Berlin."

Well, now, my friends, you know I couldn't let that one slide just as it was, so I pretended that I had missed something he'd wanted to say to me, and asked him sweetly to repeat it, even putting my ear close to his lips. He returned, "I told them, welcome to Berlin. The infamous Berliner service."

"Well isn't that just funny, because I'm not even a Berliner!" I beamed. Ultra-face-breaking-fake-niceness mode activated.

"Oh yeah? Where are you from?"

"I'm the from the USA, where we are all nice to everybody!" Winningest smile.

"Well, you've learned well here in Berlin."

Can you imagine that, friends and comrades? Insulted by the likes of a non-tipping, pony-tailed, Wrong Kind of European dirtbag? I continued smiling and collecting the pennies, dog-food coupons and pocket lint from his friends (one of which had the decency to tip like a respectable Protestant, although she probably had eight names, two of them Maria).

On their way out, the man had the nerve to comment snidely to me, "Thanks SO MUCH for the great service."

To which I replied, "Oh, you're SO welcome! Come again!" Winningest smile!

How satisfying was that, to pull the offer-and-switch, then the sorry-what-did-you-say, then the Ultra-Winningest-Smile-To-Haunt-You-In-Your-Dreams, while he stood outside, gesticulating wildly, probably swearing in a mixture of poorly-spoken languages never to set foot in the place again.

Berlin expat - 1

Wrong Kind of Continental Europeans - Zero!!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Menschen in the Middle

I wonder, what makes the difference between being a cool and kooky middle-aged person and an eccentric pain in the ass? It is certainly easy to see the difference between the end results: the former is usually a mish-mash of contradictions; laughing easily yet being a bit jaded, being a bit jaded yet not being bitter, giving everyone a hard time, yet giving them the benefit of the doubt, and in general, having an "it is what it is" view of the world. The latter seem to be putting on a show, wishing they could smile easily but being unable, and therefore overcompensating by putting on their best fake smiles, covering up their social awkwardness by pretending to have outlandish preferences, and being in general still absolutely shocked by the world when it does not produce the results they would have liked.

Obviously, there are more than two kinds of middle-aged people, but as a, ahem, Service Professional, those are the two that I notice the most. The ass-kickers and the fake-funkers.

How cool is it to still be kicking ass in your fifties? And how super lame is it to still be fake-funking at the same age? Suuuuuuper lame.

Your middle age must be a funny time of life, even funnier than your late 20s, which, by funny, I mean, not fucking funny at all, oh my god, did you realize my life is OVER? Anyhow. I imagine that being in your fifties is like being in a state of transition, like being in your late 20s is, with the 40s that preceded it being sort of like the stasis that your late teens and most of your 20s are. In these stasis periods, you're not meant to make any drastic growth or undergo any massive changes or make any momentous decisions. You just go on about your life, reaping the benefits and suffering the consequences of whatever you did in the previous ten years, living with yourself as you have molded yourself.

But in your middle age, you've got a couple of things on your personal growth plate: digesting what you've just seen in the last 50 years. What have you learned? How does it make you feel? And now that you've gone through about two-thirds of all you're going to get, how will you use the rest of it? It's sort of like what I'm going through now, except in the last question we replace two-thirds with one-third. Maybe that's why cool and kooky middle-aged people LOVE me as much as I love them (a lot!) and why the bitter old sacks who still find the time to have a good bitch and moan sixty-five times a day about things they cannot change and do not have the wisdom to know the difference about are usually as annoyed by me as I am by them (a lot).

Ah, but soon, I will be thirty, and will find out what that total mystery is about. No one knows anything about thirtysomethings. They are all in a very exclusive club, not unlike Freemasons or Knights of the Scottish Rite or whatever. Their logo and mission statement shifts drastically every four or five years so as to maintain the utmost secrecy as those who leave the club for their forties re-enter the world outside the Twighlight Zone spiral stasis limbo that is one's 30s.

Welllp, I've got some self-loathing self-appraisal to do before I enter the Menudo of ages... see you on the other side of the tunnel.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Rick James Says...

The internet is a hell of a drug.

A while back, I remember reading someone protesting about how unbalanced online IQ tests are, that most people seem to test quite highly. The solution to that mystery was that the average computer user was likely to be of above average intelligence. Makes sense, in a cartoonish, caricature-style, largely outdated sort of stereotyped way, if you imagine the average computer user to be a glasses-wearing programmer egghead who speaks in binary code.

Unfortunately, as social networking and photo sharing sites show us, nothing could be less true.

Idiots are swarming in the millions to take part in the great Internet Collage, and I have become one of them.

When the internet first came out for public use, I was allergic to it. Hives, rashes, persistent cough, fever, soft stools, the works. I must have been about 14 years old when our school library first introduced online terminals. You had to take home a piece of paper absolving the school of any blame for whatever filth you might find in the internet to your parents and get their signatures before you could use them. The kids whose parents signed the waiver would just be clickety-clack, clickety-clacking away on their little internets, while those whose parents were Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses or nudists or vegetarians or whatever, and therefore were not allowed to do anything any of the other reindeer were allowed to do, flipped through library catalogue cards and slogged through the massive paper labrynth in order to complete their projects. I, having neither bothered to take home the waiver, as I had less than no interest in the internet, nor having any particular fancy toward library catalogue systems (still not really sure how they work/ed), would sit reading a comic book or writing a story, wondering how on earth those kids could do homework during class time. Everyone knows that the only time to get homework done is three hours before the assignment is due, regardless of how many weeks you have been given to complete the project.

So at first, the internet just seemed like a sneaky way of tricking unsuspecting doofuses into doing work when they should have been reading comic books, and I forgot about it for another five or six years.

In the late 90s I became addicted to yahoo chat for about three months, and then my computer stopped working. So I quit.

In the mid 2000s I had access to a friend's computer in which time I re-addicted myself to
yahoo chat, for another two months.

In the late mid 2000s I lived in Canada and was forced by this same friend to open a MySpace account in order to keep in contact with my friends back in Seattle. While I only had limited access to any computer, I was fully addicted to the MySpace.

In the late-mid/early-late 2000s I moved to Germany and was able to dedicate myself full-time to an internet addiction and have been here ever since.

But I wish I were addicted to something edifying, or even porn. You know? You meet these other internet nerds and they're all smart with their little world news and politics and who the fuck is Ann Coulter? I still don't know who Nancy Pelosi is. I have heard that a man named Barack Obama is the president of the United States and that he is in the party I regularly voted for back home, but I do not know him on a first-name basis as many of my countrymen feel they do.

Some people use the internet to further their hobbies, or develop their interests. My partner uses the internet to learn about martial art, for example. You can look up stuff about planes or carpentry or anything you want.

But me? I'm like Jerry Seinfeld's fake tv dad, the one who calls the expensive electronic organizer Jerry gives him, a "tip calculator". Jerry keeps insisting that there are a multitude of things that can be done with the organizer but Pops just keeps referring to it as the tip calculator, because that's all he knows how or cares to do with it.

Me? I use the internet to obsessively look up the latest guess the weather guessers are guessing about the weather, read personal blogs written by people I do not know and have never met, maintain contact with friends, see what celebrities used to look like before €400,000,000 worth of plastic surgery and of course keep up my end of my internet arguments--and it's making me stupider by the minute. I can hardly finish a thought without using an emoticon or an abbreviation, I'm annoyed that I have to speak in full sentences.

The scary thing about internet addiction is you don't realize you're doing anything but having a good time, you don't recognize the signs of compulsion and excess, until you're already too deep in to pull yourself out of the Information Superquagmire.

I don't really have a solution to my problem, as I can't imagine giving up the internet cold turkey, but I can do something about my stupidity problem, and that is by remembering to freshen up the old blog every once in a while, because, here, of all places, I wouldn't want to be caught dead not communicating with full sentences.

right im out k peace bye