Sunday, July 31, 2011

Gewalt im Strassenverkehr

The district in Frankfurt where I stayed was in the middle between the Red Light District and the Financial District, close to the Central Train Station (Hauptbahnhof). It was also the first place in Germany that I witnessed a serious act of aggression, something I don’t really expect from the publicly reserved Germans. As I was leaving my hotel to head back to the Hauptbahnhof, I walked by a street market that was in the process of setting up. The street had been blocked off to cars but a man on a motorcycle, with a woman behind him, had decided the regular transportation laws did not apply to him (as motorcyclists are prone to do…). One of the vendors got into the street and stopped in front of the motorcyclist, telling him that he was not allowed to drive in the street. A yelling fight ensued where the vendor demanded he walk his motorcycle and the motorcyclist demanded that the vendor get out of his way. Suddenly the motorcyclist moved to the side in an attempt to drive around the vendor, and the vendor ran in front of him again. The motorcyclist kept going anyway and ran into the vendor without stopping! He pushed the vendor back several feet with his bike and it was shocking for me that the cyclist would be so willing to hit someone just to avoid pushing his bike the distance of one block. After that the woman got off the bike and the biker went off on his own with the vendor chasing after him and trying to take a picture of his license plate. *Literally* the craziest road rage I’ve ever seen – and I’ve been in and around traffic all over Istanbul and Los Angeles…

Ich mag Zucker soooooo gern...

I traveled to Frankfurt for a couple of days to formalize one of my work stages, and while I was there I had an extra hour of time to walk around the area by my hotel. Around a fountain a small fair had set up with a crepe stand, flavored ice, a carousal, etc. Right as I walked by, two small children had just received their crepes from their father, who was in the process of paying. The older child, a boy, took a bite and then just as he pulled it away from his mouth, “plat!” the crepe fell on the ground. The younger child, a girl, had also taken a bite at this point. When she saw her brother’s crepe fall, she paused a quick moment and then with a mighty “plat!” dropped hers, too. Distracted by the falling of her brother’s crepe, she had failed to pay attention to her own.  The two kids looked at each other and then furtively looked over to their father with intense fear on their faces. When they realized he was still busy with the crepe lady, they hurriedly picked up their crepes, dusted them off and placed them back on their napkins. As their father turned around, the children were happily munching away and watching the carousel horses go round and round as if nothing had happened...

Friday, July 29, 2011


Observation: You can't tell by looking at or smelling fresh coconut if it's gone bad or not. You only know after you take a bite and your mouth goes, "What the hell are you doing?!? This sh**s gone bad!"

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Das Leben geniessen...

While I was on my way to my appointment in Frankfurt, I came across this gem of a spectacle. The man was setting up an entire patio scene in a public fountain as Germans with quizzical expressions walked by...please note the fancy tea set - real porcelain, no cheap plastic or modern metal for this fountain dweller!

Tourism! Day 2

Parisier Platz - Where the mimes go to redefine their lives...

And where the Tin Man has lived ever since the royalties from Wizard of Oz ran out...

 Yes, it's true! You can rent a East German Trabi for only 40Euros an hour! Rent one today!
Oberbaum Bruecke...

 Kid you not, the jugglers wait on the sidewalk and then run out and juggle during the green lights...

One of the restored paintings at the East Side Gallery, a collection of street art on a portion of the Berlin Wall...

Walking back on the other side of Oberbaum Bridge...

Riverside club in Kreuzberg (we're in the club, this is a restaurant patio on the other side)...

New York

Forgot to post this picture before I left and just found it on my computer. Kids enjoying musicians in Central Park:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bahn Musicians

Since I've been spending the last few days sightseeing, I have passed more time on the U-Bahn (subway) than usual. In one day I experienced a boy with a trumpet playing "Tequila!", a group of three with a trumpet, tambourine, and speakers playing "hit the road Jack", and a man playing on his harmonica. They switch Bahn cars at every station and then play a quick song in between stops for tips.

What's so funny about this are the public reactions. The second someone pulls out their instrument and starts playing, the tourists immediately begin going "oh look!" and "how nice!" and pointing. The Berliners let out a collective sigh and roll their eyes, as in "not agaaaaaaaain...." By the third time, I could understand why Berliners who travel often might have that response.

Interestingly, despite the tourists' delight and the Berliners' dismay, when the musicians are done playing and walk around for tips, it's usually the Berliners who pull out a coin or two for their cup...

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Continuing my test of Berlin's nightlife, I went to Cookies last week with Anna and Celia. I had already learned that arriving before 1am in the morning was taboo and will make you look ridiculous, but Anna and I were bored and headed over to the club at 11pm. Sure enough, we were the only two there...

We got to the entrance, and I kid you not, we were carded. CARDED. The partying age in Germany is 18, so that means the bouncer thought that we (mid-twenties) could possibly be younger than 18. I have never been carded in Europe, ever. Even when I was sixteen. I literally thought he was kidding until he was like, no, I really need your ID.

So we got there at 11pm and spent some time getting to know our bartender really well, since the place was totally empty and he had nothing to do. Around 1am Celia and her other friends showed up, as did the entire party scene and we danced ourselves silly until 4:00 in the morning.

During this 1am to 4am period, Anna and I went to the bar to get drinks. A guy turned around and started talking to Anna, so I started talking to his friend. For clarity, let's call him Jens. Jens was a German living in Sweden and we started talking about dating in other cultures. Jens was talking about his Swedish girlfriend and the cultural differences, when he asked if I had a boyfriend. I said, "no, I don't but Anna does." Jens looked at Anna and his friend talking, then looked at me, looked at them again, and then said - completely straight faced - , "My friend doesn't have a girlfriend either. Do you want to switch?" Flabbergasted, I said, "What?!" And he goes, "Do you want to switch? My friend is single, too." Completely seriously. I couldn't help laughing. The offer made complete sense - it had become apparent in this time that his friend wasn't getting anywhere with Anna. My statement confirmed that she was not interested in him, but he was obviously on the prowl and Jens was trying to hook a brotha' up. Despite this, his straightforwardness was so out of the ordinary for me that I was momentarily stunned. I ultimately said no, but I loved the fact that he had asked so directly.

Only in Berlin.

Oh and yeah, it was a tuesday. I went home, slept for three hours and then woke up and went to class.

Friedrichstraße 158
10117 Berlin
Only open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturday. Don't make the mistake of showing up on Friday!!
They also have Cream (get it, Cookies N Cream?!), which is a schmancy vegetarian restaurant. I'm hoping to go there also, but no set plans yet.


Please note the gas masks...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Communist Clothing

I am the new owner of a load of red laundry. Damn you communist red t-shirt spy and your sneaky ways of hiding amid other clothes!!

A conversation in the life of my brother

As we chat online, the following two sentences occurred at the same time:
"i should just be a lawyer and get into a huge firm and not have a life but roll around in nice cars and designer clothes
i'm watching sumo wrestling on some random japanese channel"

Sunday, July 17, 2011


So I always wondered about East Berlin before the wall came down, and immediately there after. I wonder sometimes about Cuba, too. There are stories and movies, but that's never the same as going yourself. Luckily for me, my new-found friends have a love for the party scene in East Berlin and I might not be able to travel in time, but I can do the next best thing!

We had intended initially to go to Watergate, one of the "hippest" clubs in Berlin according to published knowledge (I've recently discovered that there's a difference between published knowledge and underground knowledge in Berlin, but more on that in a later post). They wouldn't let us in because - get this - one of the men was too nicely dressed. Not underdressed. He was overdressed. And you want to know what part was overdressed? His plain, boring, white shirt. Because it was a button-up. Only in Berlin.

Anyway, we head further east to About Blank. East Berlin still looks like East Berlin, and it's as good as time traveling. We paid an 8 Euro cover because they had a special DJ performing, but it's typically free to get in. I kid you not, the front of the club:

The inside is pretty much the same. Sparse to no decorations or lighting, there is only one bathroom which is in questionable conditions, and the furniture may very well be left over from 1989. The music was also awesomely 1980s, with some jazz saxophone and electric piano mixed into the house beats. At the same time, the eclectic collection of people belied the feeling of being in 1980s Berlin. There were two rooms with bars and dancing inside, and the backyard had been haphazardly converted into a lounge area, sound stage and fast food stand (which served only waffles and french fries). The area was lit only with LED light strips in shades of blue and green, further adding to the aura of an underground club from a different time period. We danced and talked until 4:30am, at which point the rising sun suggested it was time to go home. The entire night had felt like a strange time trip, particularly apparent at one point when a girl walked by with parachute pants on. The contrast between people dressed like her, and people dressed in modern clubbing clothes, along with the hipsters, the underground clubbers, and the Schikimikis* was amazing.

While we were dancing, one of the Germans leaned over and yelled, "I feel like I'm in a club in East Berlin immediately 'nach der Wende'*". I couldn't have said it better myself.

About Blank

*Schikimiki was originally slang for people who are famous for being party people. Like, Paris Hilton would be a "Schikimiki". However, this term has since been loosened to include people who go to clubs and bars dressed like people who are famous for being party people. Not impersonators, but in fancy clothes with fancy brand names and fancy hair, etc.
*"nach der Wende" means after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Literally translates to "after the turn"

Das Berliner Leben

Question: How do you deal with food poisoning in Berlin?
Answer: Go to a club and don't come home until 5:30 am.

Question: How do you deal with coming home from a club at 5:30 am in Berlin?
Answer: Wake up a few hours later and go to an outdoor swimming pool.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bar joke...

Three Americans, a German, and an Australian walk into a bar...

Just kidding, there's no joke. I went to a bar with two Americans, a German, and an Australian and I kept waiting all night for us to create a punchline. Never happened, *sigh*.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Obst und Gemüse

One of my favorite food things in Germany is how darn affordable fresh fruits and veggies are. I'm not necessarily talking biofoods, just anything that is not canned, jarred, frozen, dried, pureed or dehydrated. Pretend you get paid in Euros (like me). Then imagine that bananas are 60 cents/kilo, nectarines are 75 cents/kilo, tomatoes are 99 cents/kilo, lettuce is 50 cents/head, and cucumbers are 80 cents/large cucumber.

I spent a grand total of 4 euros on smoothies for a week (bananas, nectarines and soy milk). I spent another grand total of 7 euros on salad for a week (lettuce, cucumbers, vine-ripened tomatoes, salad dressing, feta). Add another 5-10 euros for dinner items like pasta, sauce and veggies, and I'm getting a full week's meal for 20 euros!! Then I also get fresh strawberries and coconut for snacks. I know that this changes with the seasons and the variety will be less in the winter, but it's still pretty awesome. I can't remember the last time I ate so many fresh fruits and vegetables.


Let's just forget about the fact that I end up buying coffee and eating out for lunch nearly every day. I'll cut back on that. I swear.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ich bin ein Japaner...

Yesterday we decided to go to a bar called ArtBar71. ArtBar71 is a hipster hangout in Mitte which typically has an interesting scene for drinks later at night and always has some sort of art on display.

What "rode" by as I was waiting outside, a six-person bike:

We're in the middle of Fashion Week Berlin right now and the bar had been temporarily taken over by a Japanese art collective. Their exhibit was called "Toyko Comes to Berlin". The artists were all there, including a photographer, painter, and product designer. They had also taken over the bar and were serving champagne and Japanese Summer Noodles while they waited for the Catwalk after-party to arrive. Needless to say, a couple of Americans in jeans stood out in the crowd...

We tried the summer noodles, which I really liked. They were cold and served in a salty broth with spinach in small glasses.

The photography was focused on the alternative lifestyles in Japan, including several posed pictures of a man who was completely covered in tattoos. There were also photos that had been drawn over, including images of the destruction in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami. One picture depicted a destroyed city area, with a boat completely intact but positioned on top of a multi-level building. The artist had then drawn (with what looked like white-out-type ink) the image of someone with a rocket pack blasting towards the sky and away from the destruction.

A visual media piece showed various clips of what appeared to be Japanese businessmen enjoying a Japanese brothel. The paintings, sample below, took a street art/graffiti approach to traditional Japanese cartoon imagery. From what I could understand (which was not much), there was also going to be a live painting later that night by the same artist. All in all, the art was a conflict between traditional expectations of Japan and modern realities. The jarring images tended to highlight pain, discord, and loneliness, with fantasies about leaving or wishing for something different. The feeling I got personally was very similar to the discomfort I get from art produced by Germans and Austrians during the Weimar Period (i.e. Otto Dix and George Grosz), although the style was significantly different. I also felt like this art was a reflection more of the individual's wish to flee, rather than the condemnation of society that Dix and Grosz depicted.

The product designer we spoke to was very nice, but I have to say I wasn't all that into his work. He had designed various household items, include a bowl and utensils, that were very simple and plain. I didn't really see what he was contributing to design in general. To be honest, though, I also couldn't understand why UCLA's new logo cost $100,000, when it just looked like someone had taken the old logo and italicized it. I don't usually get modern design concepts...

For people into modern art, I highly recommend both this exhibit and ArtBar71 in general. The bar rotates work through fairly frequently and a lot of up-and-coming people have exhibited or performed (music) there.

Kronenstraße 71
10119 Berlin
030 20879998

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Brandenburger Tor

Kapstachelbeere aka Physalis aka Blasenkirschen...

...aka Judenkirschen aka groundcherries aka gooseberries!!

One of my favoritest fruit is the gooseberry, a delightful little thing that is allegedly native to the Americas, but I have yet to discover fresh gooseberries anywhere in my local markets and grocery stores. So I usually block the memory of their existence in the States. When I got here, I immediately went looking for them in the supermarket but couldn't find them until today. The sneaky little buggers had been hiding behind a vegetable scale. WELL. I bought them. And ate the whole package in the amount of time it took me to write this post. I love these things.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Photo Evidence

The weather has significantly improved and is now a balmy 80F, but to demonstrate the ridiculousness of my arrival weekend:

 This is me freezing my ass off because I don't have a thicker jacket on...

And this is Jessica, about to put the new umbrella that she *literally* bought within the last 24 hours in the trash least now it can commiserate about its pain with the three or four other umbrellas that are already in there.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Im Juli

My first full day in Berlin went relatively well. I managed to get my travel pass, cell phone, and apartment deposit business completed relatively quickly. I did discover, however, that my current phone plan is ridiculously expensive, so once I run through the credit the phone came with, I’ll probably switch.

What I would really like to do, though, is file a complaint with the Berlin Weather Bureau. They apparently did not get the memo that it is JULY, as today was extremely windy, rainy, and in the low 20s Celsius. Not rainy because it’s humid, and not windy in the “breezy” sense. It has become apparent that the tenured bureaucrats at BWB have become lazy and no longer feel the need to follow the seasonal guidelines established in Nature Guide (versions 1.0 and 1.1) or the expectations outlined in the Development of Life, Etc., as discussed on pages 1, 42, 63, and 4332-4501. Therefore I fully intend to file a complaint, particularly in regards to the distress this has caused and its effects on my personal well-being. I will be filing for damages (highlighting the fact that I was attacked several times by flippant umbrellas and my colleague was forced to purchase two umbrellas within one day due to irreparable wind damage). I am seeking a settlement of at least three months of lovely, sunny weather plus financial damages. I am willing to forgo the financial damages if BWB will immediately provide the requested weather change as a good faith measure. Photographic proof of said events to come soon...