Tuesday, January 26, 2010

schmuck = jewelry

anti-fashionweek event: fashion reloaded with do-it-yourself jewelry and clothes making workshops in a converted factory in kreuzberg.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

saturday night...

...is being spent analyzing images on google earth, volunteering as an image analyst for imagecat, an organization that is providing data to the World Bank for reconstruction and recovery planning in Haiti.
so i'm sitting here, clicking on damaged and destroyed buildings...pretty depressing...then again, so is my job usually (deforestation, fires...)

Friday, January 22, 2010

answer to everything: hire a polish guy

The answer to everything in Germany seems to be "hire a Polish guy" or, if you're really hardup for cash, an Albanian.
And so they have this thing called myhammer.de which is an ebay of sorts for handymen. I put in "transport a bunch of trunks and bags from a Mitte office to an apartment in Kreuzberg for less than 50 euros" and now all these internet savvy pollacks are bidding for my contract.
I need someone to paint my place, too, and Zoran wants to be my man for the job at 10 euros/hour. I'm wondering what happens if i put in "seamlessly integrate into Turksih Mafia" or "join a Bulgarian circus," maybe that will be tomorrow. Right now i need to take 1000 euros out of the ATM for my deposit and i really need an armed goon to provide security.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

revenge is a dish best served cold...

my 3 trunks full of sorely needed winter gear, german/english dictionary and clean underwear showed up today, after 2 weeks in customs.
the fedex delivery guy who brought them was SUPER grumpy, like all sweaty and huffing and puffing and complaining and saying sheizer this and sheizer that..like when he saw that my office was alllll the way at the end of the hallway he muttered what even i knew was a string of obscenites. and i kept trying to tell him dude, they have wheels, see? you can wheel them, like this! easy! but he insisted on lugging all 180 pounds, by himself, all at once, i could hear the muscles in his back tearing apart. whatever.
so once he left our scottish admininstrative assistant apologized for me having seen the worst side of germans, "i hope you don't ever get exposed to that again!"
so then i open the window and look for him on the street, and when he was in range i swept all the slushy snow from the windowsill onto his head. Good fun.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

fasten your seatbelt, cello!

i got to experience what it's like to be really fat: asking a svelte german flight attendant for my "seat belt extension, bitte."
cello was a nice traveling companion. a little bulky, but it fun to put it through the x-ray machine and hand the security people a boaring pass with "ms. violoncello" as the name.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

ask and you shall receive: bratwurst

bratwurst.
don't ask why the bun is never as big as the wurst, it's been like that for hundreds of years and it will never change. actually, i tried to ask the guy after i took a bite, but i turned around to see him making lewd gestures mocking me wtih his buddy. not cool.
i'm across the street from the best currywurst in town, which i shall sample next time i'm wasted at 3 am (eh, maybe tomorrow?), which is how you're supposed to eat it.

i live in a gay brothel

so, friends of friends of friends recommended a "bed and breakfast" in berlin. hella cheap for a room in a 2 story penthouse in a great neighborhood! but...it appears to be some sort of gay brothel. there's a lot of dudes in their undies, which for germans is pretty standard but here's it's on a whole other level.
i played chess with a guy in a speedo. this other guy who has never spent the night but comes in to take 4 showers a day keeps using my towel.
one guy who was like 8 feet tall, i've only seen twice took one look at me, sighed, and then went and put on some pants. you know, it's not like i've never seen a shlong dude, i don't care. i'm far more interested in the cats. here kitty kitty!

Monday, January 18, 2010

sledging!

everyone calls it "sledging" but i don't correct them. sledging is fun!

video

Sunday, January 17, 2010

rosé rules, i win.

my friends invited me to a big birthday party in paris, some up and coming actress was throwing down. the rule was you had to bring 1 bottle per person. so it's like 11 pm, we've sorta been sitting around, drinking absynthe and not really motivating and so where are we going to get three bottles of booze? we scour the kitchen and find a bottle of smirnoff left over from new years, a bottle of apple juice (it's in a bottle, and juice is always a hot commodity at these types of parties) and a crappy bottle of rosé which my friend brigitte declares, we are NEVER going to drink fucking rosé (she's from bordeaux and is mega snooty about wine) and her husband says "well, i do not want to be the guy who brings rosé! leave it here" and so they look at me. what's the big deal with rosé? and we decide that I get to walk in with the rosé and be associated with it and if anyone asks, blame the american girl. whatevs.
so the party is in this secret rented room thing, just a door onto the street that you enter into a room with 2 bug arab guys and you had to say the password to get in. the password was "blanquette de veau."
we walk in and it's this big red room with a dj, crazy dancefloor, suuuper smoky (you can't smoke in bars in paris, but this doesn't really count as a bar) and a table with candy, cups and where you mix your own drink. 50 bottles of champagne. good stuff, too.
but i was determined to get other people to drink rosé with me, so i opened it and started serving it up and people were all wtf, is this rosé? crinkling their noses. that's disgusting! (it was warm, too) but you know what, it was empty in 3 minutes. and 7 different people high fived me.
rosé rules, i win.

Friday, January 8, 2010

german indian food

met some people today who drove to france over the holidays for some good food, they say germans have the worst taste. i didn't think the food here was that bad.
then i went to the indian place that advertised a "live kitchen!" whatever that is. i saw real indians though and went in.
i got the samosas, wasn't that hungry (huge lunch, as usual) and they were smothered in red sauce. at first i thought, dang, probably spicy sauce but it was like, salty ketchup? and there was stringy mozarella cheese in the samosas? and something crunchy that must have been peanuts? and a sweet cardamom on the exterior? no clue what planet these samosas came from.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

first days in berlin

first days in berlin.
first of all, it's f-ing cold. minus 15 or something. there's a permanent grey sky and frozen snow on the ground, and what i saw from the plane, those snowy rooftops and streets looked like those depressing world war I trench movies, and it's pretty much the same from the ground.

people tow their kids around on wooden santa sleds which is cute. people still ride bikes, including the postman on his special yellow-and-blue version.
i'm in a hotel room which is about as big as my king sized bed. they have a tan and turquoise theme going which is all very hip, and there are flat screens everywhere showing a bright yule log fire. it's channel 0 in the room. there's also TV5, which lets me catch up on my chiffres et les lettres (oh there was a good C&L highlight from 2009, when a dude spelled 'niquer' and the judges read out the definition).
the lobby has free internet so i go there to scavenge websites for apartments. i'm certain the waitresses are not turkish, as one would presume being in the kreuzberg, but russian. i ordered one of those mega-tall weissbiers with the drunk monk on it yesterday. i nursed it for a long, long time and nevertheless pretty tipsy and was about to leave. the waitress comes by and i'm all sehr gut! with a double thumbs up. she then brings me TWO more weissbiers, wtf? i gave one to the british guys next to me and had to down the other.
across the street is an 'imbiss' - one of those street takeout places that has currywurst and doner kebap. it's called "the foodbag." it's got a very bag-like see-through vinyl sitting area, and it's packed all the time! i even saw people eating outside at lunch. crazy. i haven't washed my hair yet because i don't have a hair dryer. so i've been wearing my stepmom's old beaver fur bonnet, or the faux-fur ear flap hat from my mom. they both equally crush my hair to make it flat and boring, but i don't care.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

$%^&$ la poste!

the french post office, since 2005 renamed "the postal bank" is the absolute epitome of futility, incompetence and reflects the agressive indifference of your typical french civil servant.

my grandmother was one of the pioneering 'why don't i keep my money at the post office, since i go there everyday for stamps?' people and opened an account for me, back when i was 7. a simple no fee kinda thing with no checks or debit card or anything, just a place to keep cash and withdaw. she opened it in Lozere, a very remote underpopulated mountainous region, the french equivelent of montana.
every year grandma would put a little spending money in, give me a check or something. and i would go from our little village into the tiny town of Florac, and Arlette the postal lady would let me cut the line, and slide chocolates through the open slice of the window with my francs. lovely right?
many years later, La Poste decided to take over more major operations, like checking, mortgages, credit, IRAs, and that sortof thing, significantly increasing their banking clientele at the expense of essential postal transactions, like shipping shit.
now, in a town like Florac where only 4 people are ever in the post office at any time, ok, no big deal right? but now imagine you're at a post office in paris, there's always a line out the door, you think it's for food stamps.
you go in and take a number and basically sit forever on a bench. they split people up into different lines according to three options:
1) picking up a package
2) professional/business accounts, and
3) everything else, i'm not joking, it's called "toutes operations."
so these idiots haven't figured out how to separate the line into people who want say, a stamp, from those looking to refinance their homes. and so if there are 3 people working, the people for groups 1 and 2 are just hanging out trying to look busy while a flash mob is waiting for #3 lady, who is just about to go on a smoke break.
one time i had the misfortune on trying to send a package on payday. it was like an airport before thanksgiving. when i finally made it to the counter hours later the lady was all, "duh, don't you know not to come on the 2nd friday of the month?"
so per usual, i'm on the bench with all these people huffing and looking at their watches while dude for line #2 is checking out his cuticles, and the all operations lady's shift is over and she is replaced by her successor - which, in paris apparently requires saying hi to EVERYONE and giving them FOUR kisses each before sitting down to work and then, i swear she's checking her email or something because she's looking at her screen, laughing, typing, clicking, obviously forwarding a youtube video to the people at the other counters.
Finally, my number is called, because the 3 people before me left. i present a WWF calendar i had been meaning to send to my brother.
"oooooh, that is big, and nice" as she's flipping through the pages. yes, it's normal size calendar, whatever. she spins around in her chair to the envelope stash, which consists of business letter size envelopes and...that's it.
"ok, so you're going to walk down the street 5, maybe 6 blocks and there's a lovely paper store that has envelopes of all sizes!"
you mean you don't have a single large envelope, wrapping paper, tube, anything?
"no, we stopped carrying anything other than regular envelopes, sorry."
ok, so, postal transaction failed, let's try some banking.
i'd like to take the pleasure of closing my bank account!
"may i ask why?"
because i've spent over 10 hours on that bench! i've had enough!
"but those were lovely, enjoyable hours on that bench!"
not really, please close my account
"ooooh, i'm sorry, that won't be possible, you'll need to talk to the financial advisor, who is on his lunch break right now [it's 3:30 pm], or, go to where you opened your account, oh, in florac!"
yes, that's 10 hours away, i can't do it here?
"oh, but isn't florac nice this time of year? and the line would certainly be shorter"
and that's when i gave up. i emptied my account, and walked away defeated.
the woman called after me "bye, see you next time!"
so not only are they pathetic and incompetent, they fuck with you too.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

le barratin

the barratin shows up on google maps of the 20eme paris with a little martini glass. four of us went there for lunch and it makes me want to hit every little google map knife and fork and suitcase within a 2500m radius.

we showed up for lunch, just before the rush. typical windows onto the street with loud metal framed doors that don't shut perfectly, spartan tables and chairs, tile floor, and a simple small curved wooden bar from which you can see into the kithen.

only 2 tables large enough for us were free out of the 10 total, i wanted the one by the window. "desolee, c'est reserve!"

really?

"one guest is already here" and up pops a little furry happy cat head, "c'est sa place."

so we take a seat in back, in front of the bookshelf with magazines and other provided reading material and glance at the menu, which is a large chalkboard on the wall with imperfect elementary school script of today's 3 course offering for 16 Euro with a few choices.

periodically, one of the waiters climbs up on chair to erase what is 86'd with his sleeve and scribble in its replacement. it's almost like a twitter feed...

we chose a wine from the neighboring chalkboard, and it was served in a simple thick-bottomed bottle. my dining companions had the lentil salad to start, i had very tasty flaky fresh cod-stuffed peppers with endives drizzled with olive oil.
the other's main dish was the same delicious fresh cod on tomato and onions in a broth, i had a vegetable and beef cheek soup with meat so tender i never needed a knife. a bit of salt, but no knife.
all very simple plates, what you could probably make yourself if you really put your mind to it, but let's face it, you'd rather be here in this cozy place, eating bright, perfect comfort food made from items purchased the day before from the market down the street.
an elderly couple had been seated at the table with the cat, who simply looked on as i did, occasionally closing our eyes the way cats do when they purr and are just simlply content. the chef came out from the kitchen to help the waiter when the place became jammed, i kept wondering why that wasn't my brother instead, with heccubus seated next the old people, growling happily, smacking his tail against a purse while constable cuddlesworth plays stupidly with a man's shoelace?