Well we did a collab-o last night on this Jack-O-Lantern. It was everyone else's first time. We thought about paying homage to Homer Simpson, because the pumpkin is roughly the shape of his head, and also considered celebrating our South African heritage in the house through a tribal mask of some sort, but eventually went with this skull design that Mattias found somewhere. Pretty fun.
Well she did it--I knew she would! She finished 113th out of a field of almost 1000 women. Not bad for your first marathon I think. And she finished in under 4 hours just like she said she would. I'm so happy for her. And amazed, and all the rest. Wow! Way to go Martina!
Here are the results of the Frankfurt Eurocity Marathon.
Minor failures from this weekend that are worthy of mention: dying my hair purple, and quitting coffee. I kind of suspected that I would have to bleach my hair first before dying it and now I know for sure. It had absolutely no effect. Went without coffee all day Saturday--the first coffeeless day I've had in I don't know how long--and could have gone longer had I wanted to. But I went to one of my favorite spots in Munich, a little rooftop cafe near the center of the city called the Cafe Glockenspiel after I had proved it to myself.
West Munich is a place of despair, a bit like the Piranesi carceri that is Berlin. Run down, overcrowded, abandoned old train stations, tangles of machinery and wires that have no readily apparent purpose, a slowly fungating urban sprawl.
This weekend has been insanely windy at times. As a result of this there was a fierce sky overhead as I was sitting in the Cafe Glockenspiel, and I dashed out and over to one of the bell towers, where you can look out over the city for only 1 Euro.
As the sun set in the west only a glowing vent of orange on the horizon was visible, an angry rent torn between land and sky. And then the strongest wind I have ever felt set in. Yes, stronger even than the Bernoulli effect blasts that punish you for attending your class in Oldfather during winter at UNL. To me it seemed like the end of the world, or at least it would have been a fitting time to end the world if drama is any consideration there. From far below, the silly klingy-klanging of bells from the Neues Rathaus sounded. Hubris, I thought.
I returned from this Mount Sinai a little more alive than I was after work Friday. I now consciously attend to my need to heal myself, to repair my sense of reality, after each work week of destroying it in front of a computer.
Well of all the unusual things to see on late night German television, I just caught 1959 black-and-white of Glenn Gould in the studio recording Bach's Italian Concertos. It was Gould at his foot-stamping sing-along best. But the really interesting thing was the studio producer, who by the end of the half hour segment had fully impressed upon me his lack of knowledge of classical music, and even of the artist himself, whom he patronized as a one-dimensional country hick from Canada who just happened to have some musical talent up his sleeves which was luckily recognized by Columbia records. While Gould was busy churning out a recording that we still listen to today this twit was talking loudly with one of the sound engineers about planting petunias. I swear. And at the end of it all there was this shot of Gould listening to a playback of one of his recordings--who knows what complex musical thoughts were going on, unspoken, in his head--and the producer had the nerve to pronounce, congratulatorily, "good tempo." What kind of remark is "good tempo" when made to the arguably best Bach interpreter of the 20th century?
Some things just don't change I guess.
Today was actually a somewhat nice day in Munich, nice enough to permit me to go throw around the frisbee at the English Gardens, which are now much emptier than in the summer. There were no FKK sunbathers today; "the hippie time is over." However there was a striking sundog above the twin towers of the Frauenkirchen as the sun began to set.
Once, I was watching my frisbee glide off into the distance when my focus shifted to a bird flying past. I followed the bird as it flew upwards until it passed in front of a distant airplane. My focus shifted again and I watched the airplane disappear into a cloud. But then it came back, circling, and it dawned on me slowly that I was watching someone's toy airplane.
How odd. My attempt to eliminate all desires which do not originate with myself seems to have left none. I didn't do anything this weekend. If I had wanted to I would have. But that's just the thing--I didn't really want to do anything at all.
Granted, at times I thought of doing something to improve myself, of learning something, or having some unusual experience or another. Then I traced the desire to its source and found that it was only in order to appear more learned or more interesting to others. Perhaps one could mistake these desires for one's own--in fact I would argue that the lifelong process of becoming socialized consists of learning how to--and go through life merrily oblivious to the second-hand nature of them all. Ignorance might be bliss. But as for me, having exposed a desire as not my own, I cannot forget this fact and can only act on the desire in the most robotic and unsustainable way.
In physical terms, some people are sources, but the vast majority of us are either flux-conservative regions or, worse yet, sinks.
Well the South African (Martin, if we're going to be exact about things) and I went to the Keller last night in order to rock out. It was generally a great time except for one pretty messed up incident.
The whole time there was this ape-dude who kept making a nuisance of himself. He was nasty, brutish and short (as Hobbes once said about life), with a scuzzy pony tail in the back and a face that hadn't been shaved in about a week it seemed. Rather than join in the fun, he spent the whole time making fun, and whenever someone on the dance floor was getting attention he would go mock the way they were dancing. He ran back and forth between the bar and the far side of the dance floor practically on all fours. He wanted to give the impression that he was real drunk and thus wasn't responsible for what he was doing, but I could see through that.
Anyway at one point the dance floor kind of cleared out and he took advantage of this situation to get more attention (which is all he wanted anyway). The few guys who were dancing out there tried their best to ignore him, but he was getting up in their face, slamming into people, and finally an Italian type had had enough, grabbed him by the throat and threw him backwards. A fight almost broke out. All eyes were on the dance floor and the vibe had clearly been ruined. Ruined by one idiot.
The ape dude went back to it again, but this time the Italian type and his friends decided to play it happy and just ignore him, and started dancing around like nothing was wrong. But something was wrong and no one would do anything about it. No bouncers showed up on the scene. Everyone was avoiding a confrontation and I couldn't see why. Why for crying out loud?!!
The ape dude got too close to Martin and me and Martin gave him a shove. He crashed into someone. A beer bottle fell to the floor and broke. As he got to his feet he headed straight for me, the only person who wasn't pretending not to see him. He just stood there six inches from my face, not looking at my face, but at my chest, at the dreamcatcher which Martina gave me and I only wear out in the open when I'm dancing. I felt the adrenaline in me. I was ready.
I yelled in his ear if he was happy now that he got everyone's attention. His response was to give me the finger, and then he suddenly changed it into a peace sign before I could retaliate. (His strategy of provoking, but not provoking too far, was way too calculated to pull off while drunk.) All eyes were still on us when the Italian type pushed us apart and signaled me to ignore him. A song must have started as the dance floor was suddenly flooded with people eager to get the situation over with.
The guy retreated to the corner and eventually must have left. The night went on and the vibe eventually returned. Martin and I even eventually started having fun again.
But what I still can't understand is people's non-confrontational attitude. There were a lot of "hardcore" people in there, a lot of dudes dressed in back, a lot of supposed badasses, a lot of angry music which we moshed and thrashed around to. And yet everyone wanted to avoid conflict when it came down to it. They preferred letting one guy ruin the night for everyone there rather than confronting this one problem, when clearly just one person willing to give ape dude an ass-kicking for the common good would have fixed the situation.
Sometimes life takes a leak on you. But usually its your own fault in the first place. Like Sunday night, when I got back into Munich at midnight and tried to catch the last S-Bahn back to Startlodge without buying a ticket. The S-Bahn Gestapo got on the train just as I was, so I had to make a break for it, and ended walking part of the way home in the cold and dark instead of waiting around until even later. As it was I got in at 2:00.
I realized too late what I should have done, and it's what I will do next time. They usually start checking people's tickets at one end of the train and work their way to the other, so I could have gotten on at the opposite end, waited a few stops, and then at some opportune time got off and reboarded at the other end. Would have been smooth. Should have could have would have.
Oh yeah and I was supposed to move out of the basement and into a first floor room Saturday morning, but of course I was gone the whole time, so the poor new French guy had to stay upstairs on the weekend until I got my act together. When I got back from work on Monday evening with the intention of moving all my crap upstairs, half of it was already moved for me. Including all my underwear. But not any of the electronics. The landlady apparently took this upon herself during her weekly Monday visit, and left me a little explanatory (more like exclamatory) note. I was not sure what to think of this. I believe that the note together with the violation of privacy was meant to upset me, but since I don't really have a strong sense of privacy, I was mostly indifferent.
Again, I brought this on myself, so there's really no one to blame but me. And if I were to be honest my privacy probably would have been more violated if my electronics had been messed with. Do as you wish with my underwear but for god's sake, don't touch my computer.
Another weekend came and went. Saturday morning was a mad rush because my alarm didn't go off, and I woke up to the jolt of having to catch a train in less than 30 minutes without having packed the previous night. Made it anyway.
After a month or so of torturing each other via ICQ, which couldn't seem to bring anything to a satisfactory or decisive end, Martina and I finally hung out in Kaiserslautern and kicked it into friend mode for good this time. The main event was an American house party on Saturday night.
It was like walking into America after a five month absence. College football was playing in the living room and Air Force guys with Texas drawls were sitting around watching. There was a keg, and jungle juice in big gatorade coolers in the kitchen. Not only were people actually playing cards, they were playing Spades. Suddenly I could talk with anyone without worrying about being understood.
But I still felt a bit out of place. It wasn't just that everyone was a bit simple, which in itself can be okay, but that every conversation seemed like an apology for the person being the way they are, or worse yet an attempt to believe ones own lies about oneself by sharing them with a third party. Is superficial the word I am looking for here? Maybe. But it seemed to me to go beyond superficiality into the realm of deliberate self-deception, of dishonesty about this matter of who one really is. Perhaps, I thought later, the difference is that more complicated people pretend so well that a listener doesn't notice.
And then there was some sort of subtle cultural difference between us. One guy took me for a German, wanted to know if I was "doitch." I think it must have been my clothes, which have been drifting in a European direction too slowly for me to notice myself. Though most of them had been there for a year or two, they could hardly speak a single word of German, making my barely passable conversational German seem like an achievement, which it is not. But all this is not really surprising once you realize that these people have basically been living in America all this time, a little inland American colony known as an army base, and have never had to leave their comfort zone.
The landlord was an interesting character though. He was apparently good friends with all the guys, brought up a bottle of vodka upon their request, emptied ashtrays for people. He was short, with intense blue wall-eyes, and spoke English so well that I swore I detected a Midwest accent (or lack of accent as we like to think back home) in him. He had interesting stories to tell which completely made up for the fact that he suddenly began describing a painful back operation and that I wound up looking at X-rays.
The next day we did basically nothing except walk through the woods for a couple hours, during which I tried to articulate the indefinable problems that have been accumulating in my head. The forest was constantly changing character. Paths split, merged, disappeared altogether, led nowhere. I had no idea where we were most of the time or where we were going. In the end, I only managed to air the problems, and poorly at that. Nothing was solved but it didn't really matter because someone was at least listening to them. That's a start.
After we said goodbye I realized something: I have a lot of respect for this girl. I don't know why this should be surprising, but it is. Maybe I'm a misogynist. All I know is that there are precious few members of the female race that I can say this about. And I never expected to think this way at the end of a relationship, because relationships tend to slowly erode my respect for the other person.
Martina is probably the strongest girl you'll ever meet. She doesn't pity her fate in life, isn't a feminist, or even a post-feminist, whatever that crap means. If she wills herself to do something she does it...she wants to run a marathon in the near future and she will. She doesn't need other people in order to be happy in her life, much less a man. Basically there is almost nothing that she is afraid of.
To this end I asked her about bearing children, if she was scared of it, or maybe freaked out about the idea of having something grow inside of her. She laughed and told me she thought it would be cool, and considered herself luckier than a man because she would be much closer to the child than a man could ever be during those nine months. I asked her if she was afraid of the pain of giving birth. It was over soon she said. And added, laughing, "besides, I think it would be fun, because you get to yell as loud as you want the whole time."
At times it goes beyond respect and verges on awe.
Destroying is easier than creating. To merely stand in opposition to an existing idea is easy. It is easy to rebel, to reject the ideas of others or the constructs of society at large, but I challenge you to come up with better ideas and actually carry them out. You will find that making the rules is much more difficult than breaking the rules.
Why do the majority of people dislike their jobs? Perhaps it is because they do not have the courage to like their job. Again, it is easy to dislike your job, to have something to blame your unhappiness on in case the need arises. If you carry out your dreams and do what you want to do, you have only yourself to blame if things don't turn out so well. People fear this, irrationally so. And so the job becomes an ugly means to an end rather than an end in and of itself, the act of creating.
Somewhat less far-reaching: I have realized that the day I wear a business suit to work is the day I renounce actually doing work. I can't imagine programming in a suit. I would only put one on to demonstrate my right to do basically nothing and get paid for it.
Here is a glimpse of Shaun and I together in all our radiant glory. Shield your eyes.
After Schloss Schoenbrunn we did something extra touristy and went to the Friedhof graveyard on the outskirts of Vienna. We had read that quite a few composers were buried here. Of course, their whereabouts weren't exactly advertised, as that would detract from all the other dead dudes there, so we had to wander about awkwardly for a while to earn this merit badge. Then suddenly we were looking at the graves of Beethoven, Schubert, Strauss, and Brahms all lying within 20 feet of each other. Such an understatement would not survive more than a day in America, the land of Wall Drug.
We ended up on the opposite side of Vienna for dinner, in a little "wine tavern" (used in the loosest sense possible) that we had to trudge through several blocks of suburbs to reach because the bus lines gave out. It was basically no more than grandma's kitchen with a few picnic benches put in the adjoining room. The locals were really local-looking. And we were not. But it didn't matter, because "grandma" was nice and her accent not too difficult to understand, and the food good. Shaun and I had a great conversation there.
It was dark when we left, but the night wasn't quite over. Later we hit a club called "Excess." The only thing that was excessive about the place was the amount of people that were crammed in there; moving from one end of the dance floor to the other was quite an undertaking. The crowd was a bit older and girls were outnumbered by muscled-up macho guys. In spite of it Shaun made me proud by talking up a cute Austrian girl. It was his first real club experience, he said, and I hope it won't be his last.
It was difficult to get up the next morning on 5 hours of sleep but it had to be done. It was rainy. But our trip to the Vienna woods was well worth the trouble. Supposedly Kafka, Freud, Schubert, and a bunch of other big-names drew inspiration from long walks in these same woods, and you can probably see why for yourself.
We met this little guy along the way. He reminded me of the salamander (Oliver I think I dubbed him) that used to live in Grandma and Grandpa's farmhouse basement.
Then it was time for me to take leave of my gracious host, and the city where we had pretty much run the gamut of experience, both cultured and uncultured, man-made and natural. Somehow between all the rushing about I found time to reflect, and made some pretty important discoveries about things in general.
Well Shaun saved the day at the last minute by checking his email (accidentally he said). Coincidence--or perhaps something that goes beyond coincidence, since there have been so many coincidences lately--struck again and decreed that we should hang out in Vienna together.
Saturday was a really long day that began for me at 5:30 when they woke me up on the night train, handing me two apologetic slices of bread and a coffee that burned my hands as I fished around in the half darkness, because the sides were too thin, thin like the kind of cup they take urine samples in. Morning had just dawned on Vienna when I emerged from the subway in front of the St. Stephan's Cathedral.
The first order of business after taking stock of my surroundings was to get coffee, as I continued to do in various places all day long. The coffee shops in Vienna are great, not just for melange (milk coffee) or moccha, but for the ambiance, which no coffee shop I have seen to date can touch. Wooden floors, seats with velvet, ceiling-to-floor mirrors, college students, aristocrats, people who speak german but answer their cellphones in french, regulars beginning to pour in and the good mornings multiplying, smoke curling. One peculiarly Viennese thing about these places is that they serve a glass of water with every coffee. The belief is that coffee dehydrates you. I can't second that officially, but with as much water as I rid myself of on a good day of coffee drinking, it seems plausible.
Shaun and I met in the Cafe Hawelka, and from there commenced intense tourist activities which were not to let up until nearly midnight. Saw Vienna from the top of the St. Stephan's Cathedral.
We ate lunch at the Naschmarkt, an open air market similar to Munich's Viktualienmarkt, except there was a lot more than just food. It was here among the junk bins that we came across this doll. I don't know why but the sight of a doll in a neglected or abused state has always made me sad.
After that we went to Schoenbrunn, the Hapsburg's summer palace.
We could have walked around in the garden for days without seeing the same thing twice. The trees were just beginning to turn so everything was golden to match the palace facade itself.
(To be continued once I get more pictures!)
Yesterday was a holiday (celebrating the reunification of East and West Germany) and I desperately needed some time alone, away from computers. I had to resist the temptation to drag all sorts of things along with me like my PDA, books, pen and paper, frisbee, etc. It was good that I didn't, as I ended up walking around on a wide grassy area beside the Isar (the Germans call this an "Au") and started to recover myself a bit. There was a mallard that kept swimming past me, going upstream, then turning and letting the current carry him downstream in order to repeat it again. He went back to his friends across the way when they got attacked by a huge squawking flock of gulls that were fighting over some floating edible junk. The ducks seemed to me to be a pretty peaceful, self-contained community compared to the gulls, who even fought amongst themselves for the floating edible junk.
I found a place farther downstream where the water turned to rapids. I sat and listened to the roar, watched the smooth water undulate over a shelf and then turn back on itself, suddenly foaming white. Felt energized. Left happy.
Today I found the English bookstore I was looking for and got three books: "The Magus" by John Fowles, "The Doors of Perception," by Aldous Huxley, and "Atlas Shrugged," by Ayn Rand. The proprietor of the place was a little bespectacled bald guy whose blunt canines hung out over his lower lip, I guessed because he didn't have any teeth between them. He seemed a bit hurt that I didn't take his advice on books, but he shouldn't have been, because you just can't trust another person's taste in literature (or art or music or anything else) unless you know them really well. There are only two people in this world whose advice in matters of taste I actually trust.
Well tonight I leave for Vienna, Austria for the weekend. Through a coincidence too strange to overlook a relative of mine, Shaun Geisert, is in Vienna, and invited me to visit him *without even knowing my standing plans to do so.* At the moment I haven't heard back from him so I'm a little worried about whether we'll be able to meet up, but if not, I'll take the blame for being such a terrible ahead-of-time planner (or to be nice, "spontaneous").
And when I get back on Sunday night I'm heading straight over to St. Michael's church in the center of Munich, because Rach's Vespers are being sung there. If I manage to get a ticket at the door life will be beautiful.
You should never, ever say things like "Gee, I haven't been sick in over a year, how great is that?" even to yourself. As a result of doing so I am now sick. Okay, maybe the recent Oktoberfest/Keller merrymaking has weakened my immune system or something. Just another reason why alcohol is a dumb drug, especially for a space cadet like me who's always complaining about being out of touch with reality anyway. I suppose if you're a sturdy prole-type who doesn't need his brain then it's okay; maybe you need alcohol at the end of every day just to forget the harsh reality you live in.
Well I have to say, scrubby bald earring dude at the Police registration office, I love you. You're my freakin hero. You knew in the beginning somehow that I'd be staying here longer than August, and made the first residence permit valid until mid-October, even though I thought this was silly and unnecessary at the time. And you hooked me up with humongo bigtime favor #2 today because I thought I was done for. Now I'll never again have to sit in that dim hellhole of a waiting room listening to squawling children for hours on end! Thanks again bro!
Another one to internalize: don't get on a train without first making sure it's the right one. Even if it arrives at the right time heading the right direction, that's still no guarantee. Because of this mistake I ended up here...
...some deadly quiet S-Bahn station where a train only comes once every half hour. As you can see, time has stopped. (Note the guilty rock still resting at the bottom of the clock face.) The other side was even more thoroughly smashed: there was no trace of glass, and the bent hands were convulsing like a dying insect. I watched a noiseless patient spider already in the process of claiming the clock for his own. Honestly, I was a little worried that I had entered some sort of time warp, and would never make it out of this place.