Monday, September 27, 2010

das Oktoberfest

 most berliners and north germans cringed and mocked me when i said i was going to oktoberfest. "you'll see so many drunk tourists." well, i did see lots of drunk tourists. i was a drunk tourist. and it was fantastic!
i was lucky enough to secure a last minute spot in an oktoberfest frisbee beach tournament outside munich, which meant for 60 Euros i would have a place to stay for 2 nights, food, and 140 other people to attend oktoberfest with - in a reserved box in hofbrau tent. oh, and i'd get to play a lot of beach frisbee.
i took a night train to munich the day before the tourney and met some mates from berlin on the bus to the frisbee beach. it was a hat tournament so you get automatically put on a team. every team was named after a classic oktoberfest ride. we were team schichtl, which only one person on our team (the german girl) could pronounce so eventually we became known as "shitshow." greatest show on earth!
it took a little while for us random group of dane, australian, canadian, slovenian, portuguese to get our groove on, but even losing in shitshow style was fun. that night there was a dinner and party in this weird indoor beach greenhouse, and i set up my tent near a lovely lagoon. i invited people to my lagoon. but beware of pirates! 
camping under the palm trees of suburban munich
there were no games on saturday. we were woken up by annoying salsa music emanating from the bar, and served white sausages, pretzel and beer and sent on our way to the s-bahn to the fest.
we had a few hours to kill before our beer tent reservation and i begged my group to go to the infamous teufelsrad, a 100 year old ride that i so badly wanted to see.
the devil's wheel moo hwaa haaa
it's a spinning floor thing and they try to kick people off with a big medicine ball, ropes, whatever. there is lots of funny commentary, and you don't win anything but pride for being the last person. it took me a few tries to get the hang of it, and i learned how to kick other people off and then square off against the medicine ball and the rope wranglers. i had a few beers so my senses were a little dulled, but i did make it to the top four once. i had the spinnies for the next 2 hours. my arms are still sore.

the teufelsrad was the best 3 euros you could ever spend at oktoberfest, i could have stayed there all day.

even after the girl with the thong was last one standing, the bunch of german guys in lederhosen who were with me insisting on going to the traditional oktoberfest, where they were re-enacting and showing the oktoberfest activities from 200 years ago. someone had told us there was this famous horse race, but we were 2 hours late and all we saw was an 8 year old riding a miniature pony.
i was quickly over ye olde boring oktoberfest, though i ate a quark pastry bag thing that was tasty. we did drink a really old beer recipe and then go through the moving tunnel thing and the house of mirrors. i found it odd that the calypso ride was in between the oktoberfest museum and the traditional chicken hut. the calypso was meant to be a children's ride, but i'm pretty sure you can see boobies on those girls.

so we went back to the teufelsrad to see 2 kids trying to box on the rotating floor, and i spun around a few more times to really shake up the olde beer in my stomach.
we walked towards te beer tent, but not before stopping at a couple of stands. the handsome gentleman i was with did the hammer thingie and won me got a whistle.

as we approached the beer tent area things changed from old timey fun to seriously weird.
there was suddenly trash, wobbly people, puke, a grown man who had shat in his pants. one guy had puke on his face and tried to get into the tent. the bouncer turned him away. he wiped off his face with his hands and then tried again. rejected.
near the tent was this hill that looked like the aftermath of a beer war. people were moaning, lying there in the mud, puking, peeing, shitting, having sex. like nothing i've ever seen before.
i averted my eyes and entered the special line at the back of the tent. here, in this temporary tent, thousands upon thousands of people drinking out of huge steins with a loud oompa band on a platform. the handsome german pointed to the angel hanging from the ceiling: "welcome to heaven." people were tossing clothing up to the angel, and there was a large pair of panties hanging from the nose.
hofbrau heaven
we sat on these long benches and tables and fraus came by frequently with arms full of glassware to refill. utter chaos. everyone once in a while the band would play a short song which signaled everyone to stand on their benches and clink glasses. my arms were pretty tired from frisbee, it often took me two hands. we had a lot of big guys on our bench and it was sagging dangerously. i figure this is germany, they make good benches, at which point ours snaps and collapses on itself and 6 of us all land in a pile of humans covered in beer, our glasses sadly empty. 
they give us a new bench, new beers and off we go.    
beer as big as your FACE
i ate some chicken, a really huge pretzel, and according to the colored-in beers on my tournament t-shirt, i drank 3 steins, but somehow spent 80 euros. we sang to queen and led zeppelin and played kazoos...i don't know. i thankfully ended not on the hill of puke, and instead in a dance club with some french guys but then left without saying goodbye and took some s-bahn's, a taxi, back to my tropical beach where i caught up with my team and we all recounted the evening shenanegans.
believe it or not, i wasn't too hung over to play more frisbee the next day, this is quality beer people. and after the weissbeer and sausage breakfast, we managed to actually win a few games. i caught my train and was home in berlin by midnight.
you still think oktoberfest is awaste of time? no way, i'll be there next year! in a dirndl!
more pictures and movies here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

the talking bench

when I was in the 3rd grade I published a book, an oeuvre precursor to mapquest called: "how to get to the king kullen supermarket from my house"; the king kullen supermarket being a pinnacle location in my 7 year old mind (I wanted to be a cashier in the marine/seafaring themed foodstore up until I was 15). the book featured all the landmarks you see on your way, from the general store where i would buy treats (and benson & hedges cigarettes for my mom), the broken tree to the crazy cat lady's house.

on my bike to work everyday in berlin i have formulated the same series of little events.
1. you start with the spatkauf that is inevitably closed, the "open 24hours" sign blinking behind the metal shades,
2. you go by the gypsy people living in their army vehicles near the big church,
3. then the bombed out church
4. then the supermarket with my favorite vietnamese fruit guy.

i learn all my german from immigrants, btw. vietnamese fruit guy taught me all my obst and krauter, when i point to something, he says it back slowly, and then makes a sentence like, "you want some peaches? these peaches are as sweet as your eyes." i also learned "have no fear" when i freaked out at all the bees on the raspberries one day. he pulled them off the fruit with his fingers and flicked them away "keine angst! keine angst!"

anyway before the museum insel and the berliner dome is a peculiar mess of construction. my original google map instructions led me down a street which has been blocked ever since january. so i take a shortcut through this park near the humboldt box.

5. that's where you have the boardwalk with the talking bench.

boardwalk right, luv field left.
biking on the boardwalk is strictly verboten but whatevs, everybody does it. on one side is the archeological site that progresses more and more each week, on the other side there are people playing on a nice grass field with their dogs, the occasional karaoke machine on a bicycle, and right in the middle, homeless guys sleeping on this long wooden bench the morning sun warming their faces, totally oblivious to the fact that the bench is talking.
washington DC installed armrests on every public bench so as the prevent loitering and sleeping (kinda like those assholes who designed the duesseldorf airport where sleeping is strictly impossible). berlin has nothing like this, but it has the weird talking bench. i'm not sure what the point or artistic value of the talking bench is but it's an older woman's voice talking in harsh (probably typical) german phrases,, it's a story or something. i'm wondering if movement triggers it. i never catch the sentences at the same moment so it's saying something different every day, and i'm never there long enough to hear more than a few words (don't want the polizei catching me biking on the boardwalk).

anyway, today i heard "(something something) angeschluss." something about closing? i can't find any information about the talking bench, but if anyone knows what i'm talking about, i would love to know more.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

americuh - a photo diary

when you are away from the good ole USA for long periods of time, you tend to forget all those quirks that make it truly the weirdest craziest place on earth. the joke used to be yogurt has more culture than yogurt, but now i think americans have culture too, it's just a little strange.
i had an all-out american vacay straddling labor day (2nd most patriotic holiday after july 4th) and september 11th (which beats out a bicentenial independence day in the number of flags and prejudiced attitude).
it started with a lovely wedding in southern virginia, near roanoke. the post-rehearsal dinner bar had strict rules of attire, enforced by a tattoo'd gent with arms the size of my thighs. his sleeves were ripped off like he was the hulk. doesn't that count as "cutoffs?" he wasn't in the mood for humour.
my brother remarked several times that the place was not crowded because of number of people, it was mostly due to the size of their asses. so true.
we camped in a slanted field next to an old barn.
the view was ok.

had a successful day at happy's flea market in hollins, VA, which had tents and stores far more crowded than the teeth in anyone's mouths. it was amazing that the prices never teetered beyond 15$ for an item, yet we were"monitered by camera" as the misspelled signs constantly informed. had a taquito from a mexi-van, now i know these actually exist outside a 7-11.
next stop was foamhenge. the name pretty much says it all.

it's stonehenge, just made out of foam.
you can't tell which stones are real and which ones aren't eh? eh?

stonehenge took 1500 years and 600 men. foamhenge took 4-5 mexicans a weekend.
we then bathed in a lake, had a memorable meal at the country cafe restaurant, with pages of mystery items to choose from: chicken fried steak and the like, of which only 3 in our party 15 had to pull over for...and pull over...and pull over...
"what is horse relish?"
labor day is traditional bbq holiday, and what better way to celebrate than with 10 types of bbq sauce on pieces of a 350 pound pig cooked on a truck trailer.
big pig
someone had the brilliant idea to give you sharpies to write your name on your beer. of course, my friends came up with far better than a plane jane regular first name. we took those names to the bowling alley. i felt bad for the parents attending their child's birthday party on either side of us. i should add that there were several phDs and US state department employees on our team.
hey dad, what's a mexican waffle?
son, it's when you poop in a pull-out sofa, and then fold it up!
but that's not all, the final weekend included cookin' up 13 gallons of chowder (pronounced chowdaaaah)...
manhattan or new england?
...and dipping my feet into the long island sound.
it doesn't get any more american than that, folks!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

be part of a movie! a really cool funny movie

my friends in berlin have an excellent movie idea and script for a post-apocalyptic comedy:
...and an even more clever idea on how to finance it...a sortof socal networking experiment if you will. you invest in the movie and get to take part in it different aspects of it, say, like selecting the post-apocalyptic getaway vehicle or bunker location.

i got box seats (asked for an aisle though, since i pee often).

even if you are too busy to take part in a movie, at least help fund this one because i really want to see it. it will be funny, and probably be filmed in berlin, too.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

we got no cellahs

i'm playing cello at a lovely wedding on a virginian farm this weekend but don't really want to lug mine over the atlantic. the groom called ahead to a string shop to reserve a rental instrument, that i specifically requested to be non-chinese (they make good electronics, but instruments not so much). i called today, to discuss these arrangements, which of course they had no recollection of.

(weird guy with very typical midwestern accent that i sounded more like i was calling an auto shop): "sorry, we're all outta chellahs ."
but i called ahead, are you sure?
"hold on, lemme check the basement"
weird guy returns 5 minutes later, out of breath "yeah ok i think i got somethin' for ya"
ok, what is it?
"it's what we call an economy cello"
(i think about the dire state of our national economy) you mean a basement cello
ok, i'll pick it up friday.
and so there you have it.
and since hurricane earl is threatening to lift up porta potties and rain down sewage on this weekend, we won't feel so bad about it returning it stuffed with beer cans will we.