odessa and i went to a really cool movie theater in neukölln. we got little coffees and i ordered our tickets in german in everything!
“zwei für star wars um sieben uhr bitte.”
yeah, we saw that new stars wars. uh, that’s all i got to say about that one lol
merry christmas y’all ☆彡
lula and odessa and dante and moby-dick and me: the christmas kidz
i dropped acid in a bar with two girls i’d known for 20 minutes and we went on a long bizarre trip through many parts of berlin
they were really cool. i hope i get to see them again
but now i take the train home to neukölln and go to sleep with dante
Well, what the hell . . . I sure am over here in Berlin. And I got to say, Jerry: I love it. I’m on the third floor in this temporary flat in Friedrichshain, which I have decided is a good place to be, what with all the restaurants and coffee shops and proximity to a highly desirable U-Bahn / S-Bahn station. They tell me that being on the Ringbahn, the circular railway line that surrounds the city center, is Good and Convenient. I have found this to be true, because I can get anywhere really fast. It’s sort of like the Yamanote line in Tokyo, which is an endless diamond-shaped loop which feeds into the whole city. Some time ago now, when I had a few winters in Tokyo, and having nothing better to do there, I would ride the Yamanote for an hour or two at a time since it was clean and heated and you never had to get up. I would sit there in a corner seat and read a book, for instance. I can probably do this here. I reckon I’ll try it out when it gets even colder. Though yes, I’m only five stops away from Alexanderplatz, which is the center of the spiderweb of this city, and where a bizarre Christmas market can be found, and where the sinister TV Tower looms—and out from where, in every direction, all the many fine boroughs and little neighborhoods of Berlin can be found.
Outside my window just now, the sun is setting at 4:30 p.m. and clouds are rolling past in the colored strip of sky beyond the buildings way the hell out there:
At the behest of my secretary, I have made a sort of schedule for myself. If I didn’t, I would be like I always am, which is lost in time. I am still that thing, but I do get up at the same time every day to work on applications and paperwork that will hopefully lead to me obtaining a coveted German visa. They tell me it’s not very difficult, and I have chosen to believe them. Sometimes you’ve just go to believe in something. Hell, I got some friends here who I think just Hang Out, and they managed to get visas. I won’t say I’m envious, though maybe I’m something close to that. Thing is, I got to start making money ASAP because I have a 13-pound Norwegian forest cat in tow, and god knows He’s Got To Eat. As for me, I will continue to subsist on fruit and oat milk (lol), because that is after all the secret to my immortality (just kidding (I’m dying (help))).
And so: I wake up around 9:30 a.m., and I do some push-ups and some crunches (to drive off the spleen and regulate the circulation, you see), and make tea and eat a huge gala apple, and so on. And I stand on the little balcony connected to the kitchen completely naked and scream at everyone, and throw things at them.
No! I’m an angel, and I have so far followed all the rules and customs, just like an angel. From the balcony I watch in awe at the Sim-City-like clockwork of this, the German capital. I have a top-down view . . . I have seen it all. I know all the neighborhood dogs now, and when they go on walks in the morning. I know when the restaurants and cafes open, and so on. I know the faces of the parking meter attendants, who wear these little jumpsuits. It’s so cute I want to die.
Do you remember in The Early Days of The Internet when every other expat asshole had one of those JaPaN iS sO wAcKy blogs? Lord, what a time to be alive. But: do you? Those were so bad . . . pictures of T-shirts with nonsensical English phases on them, and vending machines and convenience stores and Pikachu diapers, and so on. Yeah. The only thing worse than a website devoted to how different a country is compared to the United States is when someone latte-sippin honky from the Midwest leaves New Orleans or New York or whatever, and pens a farewell letter addressed to the fucking city. So rest assured, I will not be explicitly writing novel-length posts dedicated to how crazy and weird Berlin is, because let’s face it: who cares. At the end of the day, it’s just a place where people live. I like living here a lot, but I sure as shit ain’t gonna devote my life to writing about it exclusively. Get real.
. . . I feel compelled, right here at the outset of whatever it is I’m doing (???), to mention a few worthwhile observations I’ve had here in Berlin. By far, most of the things I have bore witness to are real nice compared to the flaming nightmare wreckage I abandoned on the other side of the globe. Hand to God, I love the hell out of this place, but I’m more interested in what I’m going to do here rather than contributing to a tired conversation many before me have already spoken about at great length. After I have published this post, I will resume my usual schedule of teenage whining, overwrought descriptions of my nightmares and paranoid delusions, veiled cries for help, quotes from MOBY-DICK, and out-of-context screenshots from black and white movies and ancient videogames. H’okay??
Yeah, it’s real good. You got the S-Bahn aboveground, and the U-Bahn underground. The U-Bahn is yellow and it’s so cute. In the dozens of times I have used either of them, the trains have been clean and warm and comfortable and efficient, and so on. The Germans I’ve met here complain that the trains are never on time, but man, I can walk down the stairs and get on the U5 or the U8 pretty much right away. Maybe they’re talking about the lesser-used lines, or something?? Also, coming from the Bay Area, and having used BART for a decade, I gotta say: Berlin public transit really does expose BART to be the glued-and-duct-taped-together box of prehistoric vampire shit that it absolutely is. I feel like I went from the 20th century to the 24th century, is what I’m saying. The other morning I woke up in Charlottenburg, way on the other side of Berlin, and I bought a ticket for 2.80€ and rode it all the way back to Friedrichshain. I sailed over the traffic below, weaved between skyscrapers, saw trees and grass and bridges and ancient churches and graffitied Soviet architecture, and it felt like I was on a ride at freakin Disneyland. The whole thing took about half an hour, and I didn’t see any puddles of urine and nobody tried to kill me and nothing smelled bad. I would say the trains here are just below Japan’s, but not by much. To wit, here is me on a JR train in Tokyo when I went through an all-grey phase:
That’s what the train was like the other day as I ripped through rainy Berlin: comfortable and devoid of humans. What more can you ask for??
And unlike BART, you can buy a daily / weekly / monthly pass that lets you use all forms of public transit as many times as you wish during that time. I think for Christmas I’m going to buy myself a one-month pass (81€) and go all over the place just to See What It’s All About. When I lived in Japan one winter a long time ago now, that’s what I would do every single day: I’d go to each of the train stops and walk around and learn all the neighborhoods there. Hell, it beats jerking off!
I love trains. OK? I don’t mean that in a weird way. I just like sitting on a train and going places. There’s more dignity in riding on a train than there is in riding on a bus. It’s on rails, for god’s sake, so you don’t have to do anything other than hang out until you get to where you’re going. Let’s face it: Europe as a whole figured out a long time ago that you can easily make trains really cool, and then they went ahead and did it. The New York Subway and the T in Boston and Metro in DC are all fine trains, and I have utilized all of them many times, but c’mon . . . they’re still kinda bad. You get on one of those trains and it’s 1986 as all get-out. Plus, the trains in Berlin use “”the honor system””, so there are no turnstiles. You just walk into the station and buy your ticket on your phone or get a paper ticket validated at one of the little machines by the tracks, and you get on the train like a civilized human being. And sure, there are random ticket inspections, but like . . . just buy a ticket, dude.
Well: If there’s one thing I plan to continue talking about, re: Berlin, it’s gonna be trains. SORRY.
I cannot overstate how stupidly cheap everything here is. I come from California, where food and rent are double or triple the price as it is here, so my mind is blown every single day. For instance, when I go to the grocery store (EDEKA at first, but my German friend recommended REWE and it’s better~), I can fill my entire backpack with a hero’s bounty of delicious food for like 20€. The same amount of food would easily be $50 in the Bay. I look on the shelves and there is food that costs less than 1€. I can’t believe it. I take pictures every time I come across cheap foodstuff at the store. And the thing is, it’s not bargain-bin shit . . . it’s like good, organic food (called “bio” here, which Laura told me French for “organic” (lol)). I’m eating like a king, man. I’m having a hell of a time with this stuff. They even sell Hobbits you can eat:
Then there’s street food / restaurants / bars, where big huge caveman portions of food can be got cheap. The other night I went to this bar I really like, which is like the cantina from ‘Star Wars’, all these freaks rolling cigarettes and talking in a dozen different languages, furniture found in a back alley, candlelit and open till 5 a.m., and so on . . . and I got out real late, and I was hungry as hell. I go across the street and there are like ten restaurants open, all of them filled with people. This alone was a strange sight to me, as there is nothing open past like 11 a.m. in Oakland. I go into this place and my German friend says she’s gonna order something good for me. She gets me a big-ass falafel thing. It cost 3€ and was the size of a football:
This would be $15 and half the size in Oakland and you would have it eat it in the presence of thirty guys who all work at Pandora and get their $70 Hitler Youth haircut from the same barber.
The cute cafe down the street from me serves huge breakfasts. They play this techno-y elevator music in there and it rules. I get the frühstück fünf, which comes with fruit, vegetables, three eggs, two rolls, and some LEAFY GREENS. With a cup of coffee, guess what: it’s like 6€. The same meal would be $20 in Oakland . . . before tip! (And the thing about tipping here is that, because it’s kinda optional, you’re the one-eyed man in the land of the blind if you do tip. They love it when you do that. I tip 20% still, cuz why the heck not. Incidentally, this is a good way to accidentally get bartenders to remember you.)
I keep telling my friends here that because Laura Rokas isn’t here (yet??), I guess I’m just gonna go ahead and live alone. To which everyone replies: “Sure, but it’s expensive.” If you research Berlin rental prices over the last ten years, you will find a billion articles about how rent has skyrocketed, but lord is it still cheap to me! I guess because I was in the Bay Area for nearly a decade, and having witnessed the biggest and fastest rental spike in the country, I am already accustomed to this sort of thing, only way worse by orders of magnitude. When I first moved to Oakland, my rent was $500 to live in a three-bedroom apartment. By the time I left, I was paying nearly $1,200 with utilities . . . to have a fuckin roommate! The other night at the aforementioned Cool Bar that I ain’t gonna name, lest you attempt to corner me there (lol), my friend found about a hundred two-bedroom apartments (flats . . . whatever!!) for less than 700€ with utilities included. And I’m talking like nice places with balconies and huge bathtubs and those cool German windows that you can slant open from the top. Sure: it’s gonna be hard as hell to get one of them, because everyone’s looking for a place, but once you do got one, well baby then aloha.
I got 60 trash bags for 1.30€ the other day. Dante’s expensive prescription cat food ($65 in the US!) is half the cost here. A “short-trip” ticket (three stops or less) on the U-Bahn is 1.70€. I go to this coffeeshop down the street sometimes and get coffee (“Einen kaffee, bitte”) and it’s 1.55€. My health insurance is gonna be like 50-60€ a month. And on and on. I don’t know man . . . I’m just sayin: paying a lot of money for basic stuff is for rubes. Good-bye to all that!!
Oatly is oat milk. It is very good, and often difficult to find in the Bay Area because the quantities are limited and everyone wants it. But here in Germany, they have so much Oatly they don’t even know what to do with it. I suppose it’s because it is made in Sweden not too far from here. I go to the grocery store and there it is: dozens and dozens of one-liter Oatly cartons awaiting adoption. Oatly also has a bunch of flavors that we don’t have in the US, which rules. And they make yogurt and ice cream, also difficult to find at home. Lord! I’m drinking like one of these cartons a day. My friend told me that REWE’s brand is even better . . . it’s creamier, for god’s sake, and so I went and got some the other night and took the Pepsi Challenge side by side with Oatly. She was right. This is the one I use in my coffee, because why the hell not. But yeah it’s called haferdrink here, and really you can’t go wrong with any of it. Hey baby that’s just my hot take!!!
World-famous computer programmer Michael J. Kerwin, my dear friend and former roommate, asked me if Berlin has less advertising than the US. I suspect he already knew the answer. Kerwin, like me, hates advertising, and being advertised to. I have gathered that his singular quest in life, as is mine, is to be rid of it completely. One day, when we both live inside coffins, we will get our wish . . . but for now we must live alongside it, and expend every last drop of our life essence ignoring it, lest it defeat us. Thing is, we’re both certainly ironclad impervious to it, though you can’t deny that even with your head buried in the sand, advertising is still a big nightmarish clown voice screaming into the abyss of your heart every time your eyes catch a glimpse of a billboard, or your ears hear a single note of some insipid jingle that has been darkly engineered by a committee of forked-tongue psychopaths in a skyscraper in the seventh circle of Hell. It’ll put hate in your heart, is what I’m saying.
So yeah: There is far less advertising here. I noticed this also when I was in Vienna last year—that I could walk down the street and not have to avert my eyes from a fucking movie poster, just so I’d never have to know its name or have any sort of awareness of its existence. I’m telling you, that’s the only way to keep Satan’s army from breaching the castle wall of your being. Hah! Though yes, I walk around and feel totally calm here, knowing that there is no real threat of an ad campaign attempting to reprogram my brain. My dreams of terror past are dead and gone here in good ol Berlin. I think the worst thing I ever have to deal with are advertisements for touring musicians in the U-Bahn stations, but so what? I don’t know who any of these people are, and the ads are in German, full of proper nouns I would never ever have to learn. The German ads on YouTube feel downright wholesome in comparison to what I’m used to. And because at this point in my German literacy I have to focus to translate, all I have to do is nothing in order to not understand the laundry detergent ads that play before a video I’ve watched a trillion times.
Kerwin, d’ye hear me, boy? Get on over here. I mean, for god’s sake, man, your own sister lives here! (Incidentally, Sister Kerwin and her husband and I had “Mission-style” burritos beneath the TV Tower last week. Um, the burrito was good, though Mission-style it weren’t! It’s OK . . . I will gladly sacrifice Californian Mexico food to not be advertised to. Fair trade!)
SO YEAH: My mind is free, and unencumbered by external consumerist darknesses. And I gotta say . . . baby, I’m lovin’ it®.
Good lord, if you’re not careful, you’ll strip your body of its outer layers as though you were sand-blasting paint off a god darn barn door. Someone out there is going to chime in to say the water pressure isn’t good in their flat, though you know what, I’ve never experienced such beautiful water pressure as I have in all the places I’ve showered here. When I visited my family in Austria in 2003, I remember thinking the same thing then. Maybe it’s just a thing here, or something. I’ll take it!
In Oakland, I walked 2-3 miles a day because I went out of my way to. Which is to say: at night I went on long walks For Leisure (and to not Go Insane (for real (help (lol)))). Well, here in Berlin, you just end up walking a lot while doing whatever it is you do all day. It is a part of life. I’ve been walking a lot . . . usually about 4 or 5 miles a day. I don’t even notice. I get on the U-Bahn, I ride around, I get off, I walk for miles, and so on. All I’m trying to say is that I like walking, and there are a whole bunch of places to go and do just that. You wanna walk? Go ahead and do it. I’ll come with you.
I have found that it is easy to make friends here. Everyone wants to be your friend. And you know what: Yes, I want to be their friend too. There is, I guess, a reputation Berliners have for being jerks. I have not really met any jerks. They’re out there, no doubt . . . but the fine people I have met here have been very sweet to me, and have been eager to help me stay in the country, whether it’s through immigration lawyers, helping me translate paperwork, and ordering drinks for me at a bar (some of those words are like literally 25 letters long ok~). At some point in my living in Oakland, it stopped being easy for me to make friends. Maybe it’s because all the cool people were being forced out of the city. Well: I’m happy to say that there is no shortage of cool people here, and they all come from different countries and speak different languages, and their only motivation is to be your friend and show you stuff. It’s like the fella said: Life CAN be beautiful.
I have watched the faces of my new friends here melt into baby pools of absolute horror as I describe to them how much it costs to ride in an ambulance in the United States. They also can’t believe that a good job only affords you 10 days of vacation time a year, that most people have student loan debt, and most people owe tens of thousands of dollars to hospitals. In the US, you are entrenched in some sort of intentionally-designed hell where basic necessities and human rights are withheld from you because it would mean less money for someone else. Here in Germany, and in many places in Europe, you can just be a perfectly normal person with a humble existence and still live in a nice flat in a safe and beautiful city, and have cheap public transportation, and universal healthcare, and free college tuition, and on and on, without having rich parents or working for an evil tech conglomerate that sells people’s private information and willingly supports Republican dictatorships that have racist and xenophobic public policies. It’s great!
Berlin has existed since like the 13th century. It has been destroyed a bunch of times because of some wars you’ve probably heard about. Obviously the city looks much different than it did even 15 years ago, and especially 50 years ago. Still, there’s a bunch of old shit everywhere . . . churches and apartment buildings, and old train stations and the like. I love the hell out of stuff like this. A few weeks ago I was wandering home in the dark with my head down, feeling kind of weird as you do from time and time, and suddenly I’m hanging out with this god damn thing:
By European standards, I reckon this thing is chump change. Though you know what? I like it. I’m used to seeing man-made structures that are best something like a hundred years old. Not far from this church is one that was built in the early 1200s. OK? Old-ass stuff is there if you want it, is what I’m saying. You can take it or leave it I reckon. But living in a historic ancient city where Hitler shot himself, and afterwards a massive wall was erected to divide Berliners from each other for many decades, and on and on, is nuts. There is a weightiness you feel. It’s a heavy place, is what I’m saying. Heavy that leads to the grave. For everyone and everything, et cetera.
All I’m saying is pile it on, baby, cuz I want an all-you-can-eat buffet of Old Stuff.
Just some SHIT I’ve NOTICED:
Don’t misunderstand me, shipmates—I do not mean to suggest that Berlin is a paradise, for none such thing exists upon this forsaken earth. It’s ALL a deep end, baby. But, God willing, I’m going to stay here as long as they’ll have me. What the hell else is there to do, anyway? I can’t think about Oakland or I’ll cry. I miss that place and it makes me feel rotten as hell to think about it, so I won’t. I had to go. I had to! I did it straight as long as I could there for many years, but after a while it stopped being fun. It’s got to be fun or else what’s the point.
Uh, OK, well . . . let me know if you’re ever in town!
For now: Hello!
And. . . . good-bye!
aww. thnx girl 💜
justine, the french girl from the ill-fated birthday excursion i wrote about a few days ago, did in fact contact me. wow! let’s hear it for the internet, and maybe even for starsailor dot co, the glue that binds us. she and i agreed that if we had disappeared from each other forever, we always would have wondered . . . and we only would have wound up dead this way, knowing very little, and getting that little fragment wrong too. just kidding (sort of). but yeah: it’s a long story. i reached a long ghostly arm out into the darkness of time and space, and was met halfway by a friendly stranger. sometimes you’ve just got to do the work. nothing comes from nothing . . . ex nihil nihilo fit, and so on. ok bye
my good friend tim, a long time ago now:
I once met this girl who lost her Monday.
She didn’t drop it into the gutter on accident. It didn’t contract a rare disease and fade away in a hospital. She didn’t cut it off while steadying a tourniquet with her teeth.
Rather, her Monday left her like a male animal leaves its young. In the middle of the night, it understands that what it has made has grown the need to not need it anymore.
I ended up meeting her because she worked in an office. Her uniform involved being nice to everyone no matter what she thought. It wasn’t a bad job. All she had to do was be nice to everyone. I don’t know what else she did. I only knew she wasn’t supposed to tell her co-workers her job was just to be nice because I didn’t work with her. I saw the side of her that wasn’t nice to anybody, and wasn’t mean to anybody, either.
She wore what magazines told her, and she never trusted a theory. She lived in an apartment wide enough to touch the walls with the tips of her toes. She never invited anyone up there if she’d been nice to them beforehand.
She was scheduled to arrive at the office at nine, so she was contracted to show up at eight-thirty. She’d sit there looking good as people trickled in. She’d make coffee and smile.
She could not physically tolerate feeling bad about herself. She set her cellular phone alarm and felt horrible in the morning. She did this every day until her twenty-second birthday. She stopped feeling horrible, and hasn’t felt horrible since. I would wake up on her floor on Saturday mornings or Wednesday mornings, and she’d be watched television, eating granola, touching her toes, and bathing in the cold (or hot) humid (or dry) air of morning. She’d put on her makeup on Saturdays and Wednesdays, and gaze at the wall.
I had feelings in my bones. I had a shard of ice lodged in the meat of my chest. I’d wake with aches and roll over; I’d massage my back with the joints of my hands. Sometimes birds were singing; sometimes bikes were squeaking down the hill. I got up to use the bathroom, and she sat on her bed touching her toes, painting her toes, blinking at a mirror, and eating granola.
“You should be going soon,” she’d say, on Wednesdays.
“You should be going soon,” she’d say, on Saturdays.
One Sunday night, something hit her in her sleep, and she rolled over with a gasp. I was still awake, watching the ceiling for intruders.
“I did a terrible thing when I was younger,” she eventually said. “I disappointed everyone. They all hated me. They loathed me, for years and years.”
“It’s all in the past now.”
“There is no past,” she said.
The next day was a Monday for me. That day didn’t happen for her.
When I left on Saturdays, and spent the day in bookstores staring at pages, or in music stores listening to CDs, in no place no one had ever told me I had to be, did she stay there staring at the wall? Did she wear her suit and stockings? Did she drink her black coffee and go on eating toast like that until five o’clock struck?
She never told me any tales. She never spoke a story. Her body was a legend. Sleeping, it fell alone into a world I couldn’t see. Awake, once, I criticized her:
“Don’t you notice the trains are empty when you leave for work on Monday morning? Don’t you notice the world wakes more slowly than you do? Don’t you notice it’s always crumbling, every Monday morning? Don’t you realize we all can’t be as good as you?”
She told me nothing mattered. She said it’s all the same. She said life took her Monday morning and erased it from her brain.
I told her, “Your Monday is your only vitamin, your last reminder that you’re sane.” I said, “It’s not the dates or names that matter, it’s that you’re late for your weekly train.”
She said, we don’t need these reminders, she told me we’d be perfectly fine. She asked me please, to live to a hundred. She said she’d do the same. She asked me to work, to be frustrated; she said if not we’d lose our minds. She said she’d not change until we died.
She said, “Why I don’t love you I don’t know; you look like someone I loved before. If I love you, please don’t go; I promise not to love you anymore.”
When I left she was still touching her toes. I took my vitamin and awoke feeling unaccustomed to the touch of the world. My Monday told me I could do better on Tuesday. I did precisely that. My Friday told me Saturday would not trouble me; it indeed did not. My Sunday morning told me Monday was coming. I drank my Monday down.
She was somewhere, still touching her toes, painting her fingernails the color of the noontime sun.
She grew up, and old, away from me. She inherited a parrot, and grew sick, away from me. One winter, cursing failure, she set the parrot’s cage outside. Not so much a thing with a purpose as a method a man uses to throw away his child, the first and last word the thing had learned before the old lady died was the sound of a human cough.
A passerby or several dozen heard this on a Monday morning, eyes alive with freezing wind.