Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Monday, November 1, 2010
After the not so pleasing results at the Ausländerbehörde we went on a campaign to see if my date for Dec. 21st could be changed. So far no luck. I am digging in to survive until then, which will involve quite a bit of eating at generous friends' homes, not drinking much when I go out, and perhaps playing my clarinet on the street. Though it's getting cold and the last thing I need is a crack in the thing, so perhaps I'll just beg. But there are some other options as well.
One of those options would be a job, which I DO NOT have right now. That's right, I DO NOT have a job, even a small job that only pays between 400€ and 600 € a month. I would NEVER have a job like that, because that would be illegal for me to have a job like that, so you can put the entire idea directly out of your head. Don't even think about it. You'll never see me working without a visa, cause that could get me kicked out of the country. So, don't even look for me, you won't find me. That's because I DO NOT have a job.
On an unrelated note, I do have a friend who has a job though, and his boss's name is Frau Hühnerbein. That's Mrs. Chickenlegs in English. That's right, Mrs. Chickenlegs. I hear she is AWESOME, though I have yet to meet her. He has black hair with silver patches along the side like the bride of Frankenstein (though it's not in the crazy beehive hairdo, though perhaps it should be), a very nice ring in her left nostril, tattooed eye brows (which actually look amazing... I hear...), and she used to be a belly dancer. I totally want to hang out with her and chat. But of course I have not met her yet, but perhaps one day I will. If I get a job, which I DO NOT have.
In other news, some may have seen a picture of me on Facebook in a suitcase on a stage. This was part of a performance art piece that I did with my friend Julischka last Friday night. There were 5 of us, with five different things to try and "fit" in: a pair of jeans, the suitcase, a suit, a child's chair, and a pink bikini. Yes, there was full frontal nudity. Anything for art I say. Hopefully the other pictures will never come to light as I have a reputation to uphold. All of you who are laughing at that statement can stop it, right now.
I need to get a gym membership.... after seeing some pictures of me in a pink bikini this has become all too evident. I have lost quite a bit of weight, from not eating so much and the vast amount of walking I do here, which I'm LOVING, but it's time for some muscle. I figure I hopefully will have a good 6 months or so before the bikini season hits again.
The rest of the weekend was spent either NOT working or hitting various parties, which was quite fun. Berlin is party central, and I'm enjoying the social time, without a doubt. After 2 years in Montana, which was the antithesis of social time, it's a nice change. I am already getting a bit tired of it though, which is a very good thing in the end. The Germans like to go out at about 1am and stay out until sometime between 7am and 9am. Then they sleep for a few hours, have some food, and go back out. This makes Monday PAINFUL, and I'm not a really fan of that. So, after a bit here it will be a matter of finding the parties that I enjoy the most and only going to those, but for now I will just have to try them all until I find the best ones. It is a difficult life, but I live it with dignity and strength, do not pity me, much.
So we're into month 2, officially. This month will bring more adventures and hopefully more opportunities. I still need to find my own apartment, which I will be diving into more this week, hopefully I can track some students down (though I would NEVER start teaching them BEFORE getting my visa, cause that would be WRONG), and any number of other things both practical and fun. I need to find somewhere to practice the piano as well.... I've not touched one for months and it's killing me. There are a number of pieces I am dying to dive into. I should practice the clarinet too... but it's boring to play by myself, so I need to make friends with some pianists and other clarinetists.
So much to do!! I'm already exhausted just writing about it all. I need to relax I think.
Where's the next party???
Until next time, keep partying like you're in Berlin, keep voting like you're in America (down with the Tea Party crazies!!) and keep your mouths shut, I DO NOT have a job!!!! Sheesh, how many times do I need to tell you....
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Waiting waiting waiting…….
I am sitting here imagining that somewhere in a back room a very studious middle aged German lady, with glasses, a slim and angular build and slightly frizzy blond hair, sits pouring over my visa application, passport, and anmeldung (address registration). She is cross referencing information with international databases, making sure I am not wanted for diamond smuggling in Ruanda, espionage in Bolivia, or homosexual acts in Singapore (I’m not into Asian guys, it wasn’t me). She is not finding anything, but from the handsome, 007 like quality of my passport photo (not to mention my name!) she is sure there’s something out there.
Finding nothing she decides to have coffee. And a snack. Then calls home to her loving husband who doesn’t need to work because of the huge salary she pulls in working at the Ausländerbehörde, which she only has to do the 3 days a week it is open. They spend the rest of the time together, happy, and well rested. This all takes time of course, so she has yet to ring my number.... but she'll get to it soon.
Meanwhile we all sit in the waiting room. Every time the “BING! Bing, booooong…..” of the number/room announcer machine sounds our heads all snap up, like hamsters for food pellets, hoping and dreading that it’s our number. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the numbers called. A few people that were ahead of me were called back into the number issuing room, only to come back out moments later, perhaps with a different number, I have no idea.
But certainly my little German Frau with the frizzy hair and glasses knows the system, understands the rhyme to it all, and while the machinations of the Ausländerbehörde machine are a mystery to us on the outside they whir away behind the walls like a Mercedes on the Autobahn, gliding along with precision and comfort, squashing everything in its path.
Truly this is German engineering at its finest.
I arrived later than I'd wanted to, at 9:20 this morning. They open at 10:00 and I'd hoped to be here at 9. But, the line for my building so this was heartening. What was also heartening was watching the two hipster artists, presumably from some South American country by their language and general look, awkwardly stuffing print outs of their artwork into plastic binder sleeves, on the wet lawn next to the line. It was classic, truly. I think they were still high on whatever they'd been doing last night (which I understand is a bit hypocritical with the levels of Klonopin in my system right now, but as D.A.R.E. taught us "some drugs are good and some are bad. Mommy's Valium is good little Billy, mommy's valium is sooooo goooooooood.....). They got all the pages stuffed and thrown into a backpack just before they opened the doors and we were off to the races.
I went to the second floor where the signs (all in German of course) told me to go. Thank you again Mr. Moore for the 3 years of German, it is certainly serving me well now. On the second floor I went to where the sign said "names a-g" go here. A line had formed and I was about 5 people back. Other people went toward their own name area, but there was much milling about and much confusion. "Do we get our numbers here?" "Yes, that's what the sign says" "Do I wait here?" "What's your last name? No, you go there"
Then from the nice guy from Texas waiting behind me I found out something interesting. He and his wife had been in before and it seems that they only issue numbers from "a-g" line. This is not stated ANYWHERE, and I could hardly believe it. This guys wife was waiting in the other line just in case, but soon our door opened and people started going in to get numbers. The other door is still, an hour later, shut. There are still people sitting there waiting, the rest of us all have numbers.
Another American guy got his number and was called in fairly soon. He came back in about 10 minutes and came over to me to ask some questions. Seems he had made an appointment about 2 weeks ago for his visa, or I should say he requested an appointment 2 weeks ago. They scheduled him for November 23rd. So he came in today to see if he could get things done sooner. They told him "you have an appointment for the 23rd, you should come back then".
He also asked about his health insurance. He is younger so is still under his parent's insurance, and it is good in Germany, so there's no need for him to pay for other insurance. They told him, "you're school will be providing your insurance", to which he replied, "Yes, but I already have insurance that I wouldn't have to pay for, so can I use that instead?" "But your school has already said you can get insurance through them." "Yes, but the question is can I just use the insurance that I already have so that I don't have to pay more for this other insurance?" "Sir, your question is irrelevant, your school said you can buy insurance through them, so you will have insurance." .......... I'm sure there is a logic somewhere in there, but perhaps I Kant understand....
So, I am waiting for my number to be called, especially since they took my passport and my other paperwork and I will need to get it back before I leave, otherwise I'm officially an illegal alien who can't even get back to the U.S. I do have copies of my passport though, so hopefully if they run away with it I can go to the Embassy, prove I'm a U.S. citizen, and they can roll tanks into the Ausländerbehörde and anschluss my passport. I think they will probably yell at me, tell me to make an appointment (which of course they will not be able to do, but I will need to call the hotline which no one answers) and come back in 2 months at the first possible opening. In the mean time they may or may not issue a temporary visa, but they will probably not from what I've been told today.
So, it'll be time to hit the black market at that point. Where there's a will there's a way. Mommy needs money, before the Valium runs out.
More to come......
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Perhaps some of you in places like Seattle, Portland, New York/Brooklyn, Boston, etc.etc, have noticed the modern cultural and societal movement known as "hipsters". Hipsters are a bit hard to describe, but they're like porn in that you "know it when you see it." For those that have never seen it (hipsters, not porn) let me try and give a good description. Dictionary.com give the definition of "a person, esp. during the 1950s, characterized by a particularly strong sense of alienation from most established social activities and relationships." This is great, but it's referring to the 1950's version, but that's an important tie to hipsterdom, so we'll keep it. The rest of the definition is great, remember that too. Now throw in a good sprinkle of post-goth aesthetic, so a good amount of dark clothing and eye make-up. Add anything that you can refer to as "indy" and you'll definitely be on the right track. But there are two ideals that can't be left out of any hipster description and those are "retro" and "irony".
Take anything that is obviously retro, like any previous fashion ideal, say the 1950's hipster aesthetic, 1970's disco, 1980's New Wave, 1920's Flapper, 1890's facial hair, and make it your own in some way, through fashion, decorations, hair styles, or mannerisms. So far I've not seen a lot of the 1990's in there, but I think they aren't officially retro yet, at least not in the areas I've seen yet. Anything "retro" is fair game, and mixing and matching is not only acceptable but encouraged, though not required. Sometimes people go for a very authentic look, but usually add a bit of an edge to it, like "pin-up-girl" with fangs, or something like that. A favorite band of mine, the March Fourth Marching Band of Portland, OR, all wear old high school marching band outfits that have been mismatched, ripped up, altered in all sorts of various ways to make them "edgy" (another key hipster word). They're fantastic, check them out here.
The other word to remember, and perhaps the most important of all, is "irony". Irony is sometimes an idea hard for people to grasp, made more difficult by the fact that there are lots of different types of irony (verbal irony, sarcasm, tragic irony, cosmic irony, both of the fatalistic and the historic varieties). The Wikipedias say "irony is a rhetorical device, literary technique, or situation in which there is an incongruity or discordance that goes beyond the simple and evident meaning of words or actions," or in other words it's when one thing is expected or assumed but another thing happens, and you're often amusedly or painfully aware of the unexpected outcome. For hipsters irony most often comes in the form of t-shirts.
That's right, t-shirts. Any t-shirt that has some saying or graphic, or a saying and a graphic, that plays with conventions or ideals in some way is a corner stone to the hipster aesthetic. For example, I have a black shirt that says, in muted 80's butt rock font, "I'm huge in Japan". Quite simple, that is all, but suddenly the fact becomes clear that I am not at all huge in Japan, nor am I a band that could be huge in Japan, but if I WAS a band that was huge in Japan that would be really fun, but I'm not, so it's ironic. Jesus often figures prominently in many of these shirts, perhaps riding a dinosaur with a nice glass of wine, or maybe listening to his iPod while hanging from the cross. One must be careful sometimes though, and not because offense could be taken to some of these shirts. In fact offensiveness is a plus most of the time. You have to be careful of being too obvious; Jesus smoking a joint. Really? That's the best you can do? "Look man, it's JESUS, and he's HIGH!!!" No no no, irony is a serious business, not for the feint of heart or the couch surfing stoner of yore. Creativity and juxtaposition of randomly funny/offensive things takes effort, smoke out AFTER you've put the shirt together.
The irony goes well beyond t-shirts though. In fact, anywhere you can infuse your persona with irony is fair game. Again more points for creativity. A good starting place is to embrace whole heartedly all things that have been rejected as stupid by the mainstream. Have a flock-of-seaguls hair style and wear it with pride. Be a fatty and wear bare midrif shirts, also with pride (and a nice pair of black thick rimmed glasses and peg-leg jeans). Perhaps you project disintegrating apathy toward all topics of conversation, but you work at a non-profit trying to save the world. Musicals have recently won a curious resurgence, and Glee is actually popular, partly because it's now ironic to like them.
If you want to get even more esoteric you can start to take on ironic personality traits. A hipster favorite is to look menacing and depressed, like you're going to shoot everyone in the room before opening your own veins whilst listening to old Smiths records (the fact that in this scenario you have taken the time to set up a record player and speakers in the place you're about to massacre is wildly important to the irony factor), but you would never do something so horrible and violent!! You're actually a strict vegan, the nicest person anyone has ever met, you read stories to kindergarden kids, and you still live with your mom, for whom you make breakfast for every morning, in your "save a cow, eat a vegan" t-shirt and spiked collar. But you do listen to the Smiths, on vinyl of course. Or perhaps you can be a neuroscientist, while looking like a hobo. The options are as limitless as your ironic imagination.
Corporations are, in hipster land, the personification of evil. For the longest time if you were in any way associated with a corporation you just could not be a hipster, period. But some brave souls have started to push the boundaries of irony so far that there are now full-on Hipster Corporate Execs, saving the world one public share at a time. The shear colossal amount of pure irony of this new form of hipster, and amount which really was too much for other hipsters to handle for quite some time, is enough to bathe yourself in. If you can pull off the Hipster Corporate Exec you might actually set off ironi-gasms all over hipsterdom. You would be a god. Except embracing your godly power would make you much less ironic, so you're instead really totally humble and really one of the nicest guys and really give a lot to local charities and farmers markets. "Wow," someone replies, in purposely yet ironically calm contentment, "he sounds really cool." "Yeah, he totally is.... You've probably never heard of his corporation though, it's like really obscure." "....radical...."
Hipsters breath irony. They eat it for breakfast. Without it they whither and turn into hippies, goths, emos and nerds. With it they transcend all these things to become something much more.
So this brings us to Berlin, of course. The connection from Berlin to Hipsters is simple; this city IS a Hipster. It's a mix of all styles, all of them totally retro and worn with pride. It's poor, and yet fabulous and sexy. You'll hear music of all genres and quite often from vinyl, because they never did bother getting some newer form of media. And irony abounds here, with a 22% unemployment rate in the capitol of Europe's biggest economy, a seedy almost dangerous feel to areas that are completely safe and family friendly, dense urban living amongst wide avenues and sprawling parks, the list of ironies goes on and on. And the people reflect these qualities too. Many of the 20-40 year olds look like they've stepped right out of Williamsburg, and have many of the same attitudes as hipsters all over the States. But when asked if they know what a hipster is they have no idea what you're talking about.
And there's the crux of the matter; can you actually be a hipster without knowing you're a hipster, without cultivating your ironic retro persona? Or is this perhaps the greatest, most hugest irony of all; without even really trying Berlin has perfected a trend that so many have strived so hard for years to pull off in the States?? Is the sea of irony that Berlin floats in so vast that one can't even see that it's there, and are we all at risk of drowning in it here???
I don't know man, it like really doesn't interest me that much, ya know? But that t-shirt is f#%king gnarly man, where did you get it?? You made it!! No way!! Here's a flyer for my art showing/techno birthday party. Wear something pink, with fake fur. It's gonna be totes awesome. Later.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
WARNING: This one is long, but I think worth it, it should be fun. Read at your leisure, with either coffee or whisky. Or mix the two for maximum effect (mmmmmm).
Hello from the middle of Berlin! My stay in the lovely garden hut has ended and my stay in the lovely Lalor hut has begun. My Luke Lalor has agreed to put me up in his apartment for the next few weeks, which is fantastic on many levels, most immediately because it's not an hour away from town but right in the heart of it. This will allow MUCH easier access to the various things I need to do in town, and there are still oh so many.
Staying here will also allow me to register this address as my own. This means I go to the Bürgeramt (Citizens Registration Office) and tell them I'm officially living here, then they give me an official piece of paper that says I'm officially living here, officially. It's like posting something on Facebook; until you post it, in the eyes of the rest of the world it didn't really happen, and until I have that official piece of paper I can't do much of anything here in Berlin. The next step after getting my "announcement", as it is called, is opening a German bank account and then buying German health insurance. There is a mandate in Germany that all people living here must have health insurance. This is one of the ways they keep health costs down (silly idea!!!! made even sillier by the fact that is works. paid for by Glenn Beck for President) so I must have it before I can get a visa. Then, it's nearly visa time, which is going to be quite the stressful day. I will drink all the beer in the land when I'm done with that, so much beer that the children will have to go without this Winter. And it will be good.
Speaking of Winter, they're predicting the worst winter in 1000 years for Europe. I marvel at my timing, I really do. I am always in the right place at the wrong time, it's a gift really. I figure what this amazing talent of mine will provide for me is a lifetime of instability and more stories than I could ever possibly put on the page. I've already got me a plenty.
Speaking of stories a plenty, it's been an exciting weekend. It started off with a burlesque show at Nollendorfsplatz. I've been to some burlesque in Seattle, some really unbelieveably amazing burlesque in Seattle. I wanted to see what was going on Berlin, burlesque wise, since it only seems logical that it should be fantastic here. I paid 16€ to get into this show, which is A LOT for Berlin, but it was supposed to be the best to be found here, and I wanted to see it. IT. WAS. HORRIBLE. The only saving grace of the show was the woman who did a fire spitting routine, but about the only way that can't be cool is if she accidentally catches you on fire (if she catches herself or someone else on fire it's still pretty damn cool. Don't lie, you know you agree). The rest of the show was like watching high school burlesque. Not for the underage bit, the thought of which is quite creepy, but because of the sad amateur nature of it all combined with the "we're trying really hard up here!" feel to everything they did. This is the difference between professionals and amateurs; professionals never let you see them sweat. This is especially important in Burlesque because your pasties fall off. There was way too much sweating. It was disappointing. We need to get the Burlesquers of Seattle over here to show them how it's done. Berliners would EAT IT UP.
Oh!! I almost forgot the best part of the show though. They did a "costume contest" for those that dressed to the hilt in the audience, in kind of a 20's meets goth meets hipster meets stripper kind of aesthetic. They called four ladies up on the stage. I was not paying much attention, the costumes were not that great, and they're ladies (sorry ladies, bobbies haven't done anything for me since breast feeding, and that was purely practical). But then, one of them started puking. Perhaps she'd had too much punch, perhaps she doesn't like crowds, perhaps he flashed back, PTSD style, to that humiliating middle school costume contest, I don't know, but she started puking. To which the MC of the contest said, in a deep British accent (don't ask) "Oh dear she's vomiting!" After they'd lead her off stage the MC called for "another contestant! Perhaps someone who won't vomit on our stage!" It all happened so fast I barely got to revel in the schadenfreude of it all before it was all in the past. But, memories are truly a lovely thing, and I've thought back on it with a chuckle and a "ooooh, that poor girl!!" many times since.
A dance event in East Berlin followed the bad burlesque, and it was just as one would expect from a dance event in Berlin; dark, smokey, in a run down building, good music, and only one or two sloppy people. That's right, the Germans, as a whole, keep themselves REALLY put together at parties, it's kind of a nice change of pace. No one is falling over drunk, even at 5am, no one is belligerent, everyone is having a good time and being pretty calm about the entire thing. Except for one guy (there's always that one guy...) who was WACKED OUT on something and was basically trying to rape everything that walked by him. He got the message quickly when he got his hand forcibly removed from around my waist, my elbow up at his neck to keep his face away from mine (he was trying desperately to get his nasty lips to mine) and a Look that should have killed him except that the drugs he was on must have protected him from my powers. It was a good time over all but I was quite happy to get to bed.
Saturday night (that's right folks, only to Saturday night so far!) brought (Cocktail d'amore), a monthly Berlin party, in a basement in some old building in East Berlin, with great music, and calm but fun guests. Furry homo guests. My people :) We started with some martinis at a friends house and then arrived at about 1am. We were some of the first to arrive. Disco naps are a prerequisite for going out here. It was very soon packed to the gills though and was VERY fun. Lots of cute and hot guys, lots of dancing, lots of chatting, lots of good fun. We left around 5am, though the party was hardly near ending. I had a big day ahead though and there will be more chances to walk out of parties into the noon day sun, blinking and staggering, later on.
Sunday I went with the lovely Erik Mittasch and Mike Rattigan to Saxony and Dresden, almost due south of Berlin about 2 hours drive. It was GREAT (there are some photos up, hopefully more to follow soon), Dresden is quite beautiful with some really great buildings. And a stunning history, pre WWII and post. The pre is really fascinating, with city walls, catholic conversions, ships in caves and fabulous party palaces. The history during and after WWII is stunning, in the sense you will stand back and look at pictures and monuments in stunned silence. The place was leveled, firebombed actually, turned basically to rubble. These beautiful buildings, and all that history, destroyed. Then it was in East Germany, and while some things were rebuilt, much of it remained in ruins until after reunification. Recently a famous church, the Dresden Frauenkirche was finally reconstructed, after laying in ruins for more than 50 years. Check out the pictures, especially the one of what it looked like after the firebombing. It was a pile of stone with two corners poking up like rotting teeth and the statue of Martin Luther standing guard in front. Now it's been rebuilt, with a combination of new stone and the old stones that could be salvaged, giving the exterior a freckled look that serves as a constant reminder of our past. It was amazing.
More amazing followed at the home of Sir Walter, a 90 some odd year old man who lives in the country side outside of Dresden about 40km. His home is a 700 year old house (700!!!) that was once part of a cloister, but now is home to him and his huge collection of antiquities, gathered from around the world in his many travels. Sir Walter has some money, and it spent it wisely, amassing one of the largest private collections of such treasures in Europe. The house is filled with them, on every wall, in selves, on any flat surface available, everywhere. And of every variety you can imagine. It was mind blowing, there are also a few pics of that, hopefully again more to follow. The one of me standing in front of the jade ship is a must see, go check it out in my profile. This ship was about 5 feet long and 3-4 feet high, all of carved jade. It's not carved from one piece of jade, that would be too easy. Each sail was an individual slab of jade, carved in great detail, and then they hang on jade hooks on the jade masts. The number of jade pieces was amazing, like looking at a model ship that is made of wood and cloth (those were on the shelf in front of the jade ship, 3 AMAZING examples), but all in jade. I can't imagine how much it is worth, and it's just sitting out for you to touch if you wise. I put my hands in my pockets and tried very hard not to trip on anything.
We listened to a concert there, of a music teacher/jazz composer from Dresden, a mousy woman with frizzy blond hair, glasses and very prominent top teeth. She played various wood flutes, recorders, a standard flute and the piano, while accompanied by a drum set/percussion and a bass player. She had written all the music, and it was very Vince Guaraldi meets George Crumb. It was perfectly lovely. The percussionist needed to give it up a few times as he started to sound like he was again a teenage boy banging on anything that would make a noise and calling it "art", but her music was sweet and the bass player actually was wildly impressive, at one point playing a contrapuntal solo consisting of a baseline and harmonics. The other highlight of the concert was watching said mousy blond woman rock the f#%k out on the recorder, like she was John Coltrain taken away by the spirit of jazz, complete with crazy random fast squeaky high notes, bending and weaving and bending back at the knees to better force the expression out of the instrument, blond frizz hair jiggling like jello over her hard pressed bespectacled eyes. As I said to Erik "I've just seen the whitest chick on earth rock her tits off on the recorder. I can die happy." I have decided to go on living, but only because I really want to see if anything in musical performance can ever top that vision.
So, a HUGE THANK YOU to Erik for organizing the trip, to Mike for being constantly entertaining and interesting on the trip, and to the lovely land of Saxony for adding to what has already been a spectacularly interesting couple of weeks. I'll be back to the area soon I hope, to see more of your treasures and hopefully add some music to the ethers. I'm hoping I can do a concert at Sir Walter's, that would be UNBELIEVABLE.
If you've made it this far, I'll give you one more gem from the weekend; we tried last night to go to the Yellow Lounge party, which is actually run, in a way, by Deutsche Grammophon, arguably the best classical music label on Earth. That's right, a classical music label that throws parties. This one featured Hélène Grimaud, pianist extraordinaire. The doors opened at 9pm, I arrived at about 8:45pm, to find two lines, one stretching one way around the block, the other stretching the other way, filled with people 20-40 years old, and some old people who walked up and said in confusion "maybe there's a disco in here too...." There is not. So, let me say that again; PARTY run by a CLASSICAL MUSIC RECORD LABEL, starting at 9PM, with LINES SO HUGE they stretch around the block, to see a classical pianist play, and she would probably start around 11pm. We didn't even bother to try and get in, certainly someone would have decided we were not fabulous enough and would have denied entry after the hour and half it would have taken to get through the line. Moral of this story; I AM IN THE RIGHT PLACE.
It's now most definitely time for bed, big day ahead tomorrow, I'll let y'all know it goes. Keep your cars running out there, the winters going to be cold, I don't have any boots, and I think the only solution is global warming.