Archive for August, 2009
Looking down Danziger Straße from the corner of Prenzlauer Allee last night. It started raining a few minutes later. It’s bigger on Flickr.
I ran out of Dr. Bonner’s Magic Soap a few days ago. Well, I’ve not run out exactly; there’s a little bit left, but I want to have that little bit so at some point in the next few months I can have one more shower using it. It’s great soap. Fair trade, organic, 100% vegan, castile soap. And it’s got lots and lots of writing on the side, so you’ll never be stuck for something to read. Now I’m using some Axe shower gel. (Is Axe still called Lynx in the UK?) It’s blue with little silver-y dots in it. It’s called Axe Shock and claims to be “Glacier Water & Deep Sea Mint,” whatever the heck that means. The 236 ml Dr. Bonner’s bottle lasted me about two months. I’m already about a quarter of the way through this 250 ml bottle of Axe stuff.
And I just used the last of my Rite Aid cotton buds (yes, I did use it to clean my ears). I’ve got about a week’s worth of both Colgate toothpaste and Right Guard deodorant remaining. (These products all seem to have long names or subtitles, this is what it says on the front of the deodorant: RIGHT GUARD® XTREME STEALTH SOLID™ ANTI-PERSPIRANT DEODORANT ARCTIC FRESH™. On the front of the toothpaste tube it says all of this: Colgate® Fluoride Toothpaste, MaxFresh®, WITH MINI BREATH STRIPS, WHITENING, CLEAN MINT, Fluoride Toothpaste, Infused with Dissolvable Mini Breath Strips, Experience a Whole New Dimension of Freshness. Just a bunch of carefully-chosen words thrown at a wall to try to convince us we won’t have stinking armpits or teeth, isn’t it?) The toothpaste, like the Axe shower gel has little silver-y bits in it. They, I assume, are the “mini breath strips.” Did market research find that somehow we like glitter in our toiletries?
Anyway, my point is that I find replacing basic toiletries to be the harshest reminder that the last part of one’s time in another country is over. Funny how it can be the smallest things, huh?
This is inside the launderette on Jablonskistraße, around the corner from where I’m staying. I’ve not Photoshopped this picture at all. It so green. They could’ve filmed Lord of the Rings in there.
This was in Saturn yesterday. Saturn is a big shop that sells fridges, DVD players, CDs, that kinda stuff. Some people were doing a signing. Lots of people were crowding ’round them. I took a peak just in case it was Aqua or something, but I didn’t recognise them. Funny how, when you don’t recognise the famous people, the concept of celebrity seems even more ridiculous.
Karlsruhe Hbf -> Hannover Hbf
27.08 dp 10:54 ar 15:56
Deutsche Bahn IC2372
Car 9 Seat 46
A friend and I went to the Zoologische Stadtgarten Karlsruhe the other day. You’ll probably know by now that taking photographs of sad-looking animals appeals to my melancholy side no end. Higher-res versions of these pictures on my Flickr.
This lion looks a bit like what I imagine Alice Cooper would look like with a hangover
Seen on Karl-Wolf-Weg, Karlsruhe.
One thing that I think a lot of Americans (and visitors to the U.S.) are missing out on, due mostly to the terrible infrastructure, is train travel. When I first moved to Berlin in 2000, I lived near Ostbahnhof where I’d sometimes get one of the local S-bahn trains. But on other platforms at Ostbahnhof would be trains heading to Paris, Amsterdam, Prague, and Moscow. For someone who’d lived his whole life on an island, it was incredibly romantic to see such destinations at my local train station. No offense to Lincoln Central, but destinations like Grantham and Newark just don’t cut it compared to Paris and Moscow.
I’m writing these words on Saturday evening on a train from Frankfurt to Karlsruhe. This is the third and final train of my journey. And it’s a beauty. This train began its travels in Budapest. It looks knackered and old on the outside compared to the fancy ICE trains I used earlier on my trip.
The first, from Berlin to Hannover was a nice beginning. Window seat at a table. A pleasant old lady in the aisle seat on the other side of the table. I thought she might be a bit of a battleaxe, but when a young fella behind her knocked her arm with his suitcase when he tried to put it on the overhead thingy, she looked at me, and I gave her a conspiratorial “kids these days, eh?” look, and she smiled. Table, power point, empty seat next to me, bit of leg room: beautiful. I got stuck into some work editing some text that needs sending to a man in New York. (I’m being deliberately vague in case the text’s intended outcome doesn’t, err, come out.) Two hours flew by.
A quick smoke outside Hannover train station then up to the platform for my next train. I find it a bit disconcerting when people seem to be looking at me. When I know it is happening, I find it difficult to even stand in a natural way. There was this girl. She must’ve been seventeen at most. She’d been on the train from Berlin. I noticed her because, in one of those looking-into-space moments that one tends to do when trying to think of how to construct a sentence, she walked down the aisle and stared at me. She had nice spectacles. So on the platform waiting for the Frankfurt train, I feel her eyes boring into me as I walked to the notice board to check something. She was still looking, I could feel it. I’ve just realised that I’ve begun telling you a story that doesn’t have a very good end. The train pulled in and I got on a different car from stare-y girl. Teenagers make me paranoid, I think is all.
The train to Frankfurt wasn’t so good. I walked through the car looking for seat 91. I already had a bad feeling as there were a lot of children in the car. I counted down the seat numbers, saw 91, looked beneath it, and sat opposite some grandparents, there was a pre-teen lad sat in my seat. Being a cunt, I asked him to move. Sorry, but I refuse to feel guilty for reserving a seat in advance. You wanna sit with grandpa and grandma, get them to prepare their journey properly, sunshine. It’s a tough world. On the opposite table, I think, were the kid’s parents and two more kids. Dad kept trying to catch my eye. He did so early on and gave me a “you bad man, you very very bad man” look, so after that I tried not to look in his direction. Still, the amount of kids in car made it less enjoyable. Children like to make noise, and no matter how loud I turned up my headphones, I could still hear them. And they took forever to get off at Frankfurt.
I had three minutes to hobble from platform 6 to platform 19 to get onto the train I’m on right now. No point in writing some cliffhanger did-I-make-it text here is there? Smoking’s not allowed on the platforms here, apart from inside an small area defined by a yellow line of paint on the ground. I could see I was heading towards one of those areas, so sparked up to chug some nicotine before getting on board. The train had a nice typeface on the outside. Sadly, before I could get my camera out, I was busted by the train dude who told me not to smoke. I gave myself an extra couple of drags by saying, in deliberately slow and bad German, “Ich spreche kein Deutsch.” He told me not to smoke again in English. Oh sorry. I stubbed out the cig, heard a whistle and got on the train. This train is fantastic. It’s only got seating compartments and sleeping compartments. And I’ve got a six-seater compartment all to myself. It’s great. I like being alone in a vaguely public place. I like standing up, shaking my ass to the song on my headphones, taking photos out of the window, that kinda crap.
I settled in and soon enough the ticket inspectress came along. She was pretty. Quite steely-eyed, but very attractive. And totally fits in with the rest of the train. It’s so much like being on a murder mystery train. After checking my ticket, she went away, and a couple of minutes later I went to the restaurant car to get a coffee. I passed her as she stood in a doorway to some sort of train employees’ office. She looked at me as if to say to whoever was inside the office, “Shhhh, we can’t talk now.” As I got closer, a handsome East European man in a blue t-shirt poked his head so he could see me. In the restaurant car, one family dined, and a fat man made me a coffee. Later in the journey, I thought, he will be passed a weapon to dispose of.
Walking back with my coffee, after spilling some all over my fingers (they still smell of coffee), blue t-shirt man was outside the door of the office this time. He moved to one side to let me by. Back in my compartment, I put on music I only ever listen to when I’m sure nobody else is listening. I’m quite sure I over-think things way too much, cos I will rarely listen to things like Nirvana or Pixies if I think someone nearby can hear me listening to them, and they think, “Jeez, how lame… listening to “Nevermind”… what a loser!” Why do I care? I don’t know. I wish I didn’t. But for some dumb reason I do. So I listened to Nirvana and wondered where the heck the light switch in the compartment was. It’s dark outside, and it’s dark inside. And there’s, more likely than not, a murderer on board…
I didn’t find the light switch, but so I turned off my computer, listened to the Miniature Tigers album, did a little dance in my seat, and sang along. Passing judgement, the compartment door slid shut of its own accord. And a few songs later, I was pulling into Karlsruhe, where friends and beer was waiting me.
Dear Deutsche Bahn,
Does a return ticket to Karlsruhe really need to be this complicated?
Last Wednesday, before I buggered my ankle, I took the S-bahn to the Hansaviertel part of Berlin, which is sandwiched between the Tiergarten (a big park) and the Spree (a river), to look at a building. In my years in Berlin I don’t think I’ve ever noticed it before, as it’s on a street I can only ever remember being on once. I went to see the building because whenIwasin* Curitiba, Brazil, at the Museu Oscar Niemeyer there was a wall with all of Niemeyer‘s buildings written on it. I took a quick snap of the building it mentioned was in Berlin to remind myself to look for it when I was back here.
It was built in 1957 as a part of the Interbau project. More details about that here and here. Anyway, it’s by no means my favourite of Oscar’s buildings (although the V-shaped pillars are pretty sweet), but it’s nice to have a bit of Brazil in Berlin.
Other blog posts that feature Niemeyer’s work:
* whenIwasin, pronounced when I was in. Four words that sound like one word, that comes out of the mouth of someone with tedious frequency when they’ve recently been backpacking. I say it a lot.
Today, I think I reached the apogee of culinary laziness. I’d just washed a few dishes, and I hate doing that then, soon afterwards, having dirty stuff next to the sink again. So, not wanting to have to clean a bowl and spoon, but still being a tad hungry, I sat down with the box of muesli and a carton of milk. I tipped a small mouthful of muesli into my gob, then took a sip of the milk. I did this until my appetite was sated (five mouthfuls). I’m simultaneously proud and ashamed of myself. Not ashamed enough to not blog about it, but not proud enough to have taken a photograph of myself doing it.
Saw this site on VVORK this morning. Thirtyfourparkinglots.com is a fairly self-explanitory name; it’s based on Ed Ruscha’s “Thirty four Parking Lots in Los Angeles,” something that would look awesome on my apartment walls, if I ever finally get an apartment. I love me the Google Maps and Google Earth, and I especially love looking at U.S. parking lots. It’s a sure fire way to waste an afternoon. Anyway, my favourite car park (apart from the one at Dodger Stadium, featured on the aforementioned Web site, and here’s a couple of my photos, too.) is the one in Kansas City, MO, that surrounds the Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Chiefs’ stadiums. Here is the location on Google Maps.
As I’ve done before when one of the really fast fellas beats the 100 metres world record, I’ve edited an mp3 to give it some context. This is how much of a Beatles song you can listen to in the time it takes Usain Bolt to run 100 metres. And, if you’re a runner, maybe you could put it on your mp3 player and use it to practice your sprints.
Usain Bolt, 16 August 2009: 9.58s.
So, are there gradations of how much people will go out of their way to help another human being? I would say that a simple act, one that I’ve benefitted from more often than not since I’ve been on crutches, is that people move out of my way to make my journey easier. It is appreciated. But, how disabled do you have to be for someone to give up their seat on the tram? More disabled than me, it would seem. And it reminded me of this site today.
I got on the tram behind this numbskull of a hipster (pink Warp t-shirt, half-mast trousers, black and red striped socks midway up his calves, powder blue Converse, dopey “enjoying life is so last year” expression). The tram was pretty busy, only one seat not being used. He sits in it. Actually “sit” is the wrong word. Flops. Lounges. Sprawls. Ragdolls. Then he keeps making eye contact with me, giving me a “what!?” look when I smirk at him.
On the return journey. Tram just as busy. Three women sat down on the seats next to the door. One middle-aged, looking at the ground. The other two are younger, and give me a look like I’d just got my cock out and waggled it at them.
Actually, though, even worse happened when I got back to the building where I’m staying. I hobbled up the stairs, both crutches in my left hand, dragging myself up by the bannister. I get halfway between the second and third floor, and see that there are four people and a child at the top of the next flight about to come down. The guy at the front, about my age, kindly face, spots that I’m hobbling and have crutches, and he mentions to the others to hurry. His missus does so. Two down, two and a half people to go. The other couple, in their early thirties, fairly regular looking people, are still stood at the top. The dude looks at me. Then he turns to his girl, leans in and they have a kissy, giggly, cuddle. He looks at me again. Then they saunter – SAUNTER – down the stairs in an exaggeratedly slow manner. And rather than picking up their three or four year old kid, they watch in amazement as the child walks down the stairs all on her own. Yes, darling you are a clever girl. I am probably the most exasperated man in Europe at this point. Cunty dude smiles at me, like, “my kid can walk down the stairs!”
Do I just look like someone you’d quite like to see inconvenienced? Or are there just gradations of disability that people will help out when they see someone on crutches? Crutches, not elderly, not female, not particularly handsome: you get nothing more than regular manners it would seem.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve not got a brace or cast on my foot. Perhaps it’s because I’m not carrying a basket of kittens. Perhaps it’s because I don’t look like Colin Firth.
I’ve gotta go to the orthopaedist tomorrow, and I think he’s gonna give me a foot brace thingy, so hopefully we’ll be able to discount one of those possibilities. I know you wanna see it, so here’s a picture of my bruised and bloated foot.
* I’m not discounting that I quite likely could fall into this category.
Aside from these sausages being called “3 Willies,” the funny thing about this is how it is called “Original German Currywurst.” This is in a German supermarket. I’m not sure why they feel the need to inform Germans that currywurst is German, and to tell them that in English.
When you’ve got your headphones on and you yawn, why does the music sound like someone has put their finger on the centre of a record to slow it down a bit?
I’ve always wondered how I’d cope with being handicapped. I figure it can go one of two ways should you be unfortunate enough to end up in a wheelchair: basketball or cider. You can try not to let it affect your enjoyment of life any more than is unavoidable: join a wheelchair basketball team, that kinda stuff. Or you can hang around outside kebab shops, drinking cider, looking pissed off at the world. I think I’ll be the latter.
Walking on crutches is really difficult. It’s nowhere near as fun as it looks. It takes a while to get the rhythm (“Only Shallow” by My Bloody Valentine is perfect for keeping the right pace), things’ll go okay for a while, but if something knocks me out of the rhythm (turning a corner, slowing down a bit to go over some cobbles), I’ll be all messed up and have to stop, and start again. And it hurts my hands.
Another thing I realised is how many little things I do with my hands when I’m walking down the street. Having my hands full of crutch handles makes it tough to get cigarettes out of my pocket, then the lighter, then smoke it, tough to push my specs up when they’ve slipped a bit, getting money or Tic Tacs, changing songs on the iPod. I set it on shuffle. Not a good idea. Too many songs that I don’t want to listen to. And three bloody Steve Miller songs came up on one hobble to the coffee shop. Nothing wrong with Steve Miller, but on the Friday morning when I woke up to see that the Yankees had beaten the Mariners in Seattle, at a game I had tickets for, the last thing I really wanted was other reminders of the last, err, phase of my life. Steve Miller is on the radio a lot in Washington state.
I’m just feeling grouchy at the moment, I guess. I’m annoyed that I can’t play softball, I’m annoyed that I’ve still not got an apartment (although, I’m about 70% sure to that I’ll have one by the end of the month), but mostly, I guess I’m just annoyed that since I left the States, I feel like I’ve been treading water. My new life back in Berlin doesn’t feel like it’s begun yet, and I don’t really feel like I’m anywhere close to entirely understanding what 2009 has been about. My head feels like a dog running on ice. I guess it’s only a matter of time before the flakes in the snow globe stop swirling around. But that’s not happened yet. And I need a haircut.
Still, it’s Saturday night, I’ve got my ankle elevated with a bag of frozen peas on it, “Bad Boys II” in the DVD player and a bottle of wine. Life could be a lot worse. I could murder a jalapeño popper, though.
Hospital A&E.; X-ray. Sprained ankle. No more softball for six weeks. Gotta get some support thingy put on tomorrow. I got crutches. But at least it’s not broken.
A couple of minutes into softball practice, playing first base, I moved to my right to get a ground ball, my ankle buckled, and this was the result. Pretty much the worst pain ever experienced by any human, I’d wager*.
* I’m joking. It does hurt, though.
And it’s more swollen now than it was when I took the photo, too.
And yes, my feet do look really veiny. Weird, huh?
And, to those fey hipster kids walking four abreast as I hobbled down the street, refusing to move out of the way for a cripple: if I see you again, I’ll box your stupid ears in…