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