I finally mailed some postcards today, after a two week delay due to laziness about visiting a post office. It made me more appreciative of Michele who sends me postcards even when she just goes away for a weekend. I start to wonder what will happen if she dies before me. Will I get a dog-eared postcard a few weeks later postmarked from beyond the grave? This is only partly my natural morbidity at work. We are in Berlin now and are therefore surrounded by the word DIE. Of course this means “the” in German, but it’s serving as kind of a brutal memento mori for me.
Here are some thoughts on city architecture which will lead to a beautiful naked German girl within three paragraphs. San Francisco looks like what it is: a wacky, pretentious, liberal, zany, pink and purple circus of a town. Buildings are odd colors, they jut out at weird angles, they sport multicolored flags and political window decals. It is clearly a city of proud freaks and misfits. Amsterdam, by contrast, was disappointing to arrive in. The buildings present a uniform facade of somber red brick, being mostly all the same four or five stories, and the fronts are flat and forbidding. But on the inside you get pot cafes, squat bars, little anarchist gardens, Iranian folk music nights, and some really marvellously free-thinking people. The buildings are like an overcoat for the city’s spangled dress.
Now we’re in Berlin, which looks grey and industrial pretty much everywhere, walls covered in graffiti, everything kind of badly lit. I keep expecting to be jumped by a gang of Russian spies because it really does look like the Berlin they show in Alias. We lucked out with our hostel, which is in Kreuzberg, a district populated largely by Turks, punks, anarchists and left-wing radicals. This means more graffiti but also more of a sense of life. Plus great cheap food. The hostel itself is in an old factory building and it’s pretty deluxe.
Let’s talk nudity for a minute. The bathrooms at this hostel have proper shower stalls but the walls are semi-transparent, and apart from the shower area itself there are no walls for if you wanted to, say, dress in private. Fortunately no one really does want to. I shared my shower experience with a beautiful German girl who really had to be a model of some kind, tall and stretched-out as she was, and it was all very cozy. I wasn’t sure what the protocol was for dual showering at first but she just chattered away at me through the wall so it was quite friendly, notwithstanding my complete inability to understand anything she said. I hope she wasn’t asking me to soap her back or anything because no, gentlemen, I didn’t.
That’s the end of my nudity stories today, so feel free to stop reading here.
I realized this is the first time I’ve ever been in a country where I don’t speak the language even a little. Until now I’ve only been in the U.K., France, Italy, and Switzerland where they speak both English and French. In Amsterdam almost everyone speaks English fluently, and signs and menus and stuff are also in English, so I felt like a native speaker. Also, Dutch sounds a lot like made-up English so even when you don’t understand you are still having a good laugh. But here I can’t even read a menu with certainty. It’s humbling. It makes me realize what my parents must have felt in Italy and France when I would impatiently correct their pronunciation of words I taught them, forgetting they hadn’t had three years in a classroom with this stuff. The Lad has been teaching me little things, starting with numbers. My new favorite word is “funf” which means five but I feel can be used for all sorts of things. In Holland the only word I learned was “dremples,” which means speedbumps. “Oh dremples,” I tell him fondly, “don’t funf out now!”