Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

it's raining in freiburg, and i couldn't climb the mountain today even if i was capable of moving after climbing so many yesterday.

i miss my computer. i cannot sit in a webcafe all day, after all.

freiburg is a city of water. water rains down on the mountains, flows through the open sewers in the street (this place must have stank back in the day before plumbing) and permeates the air like bolts of ice when I breathe this cold, damp air.

the black forest is actually an ocean held back by the trees that hold the damp at bay. their antennae green limbs reach up into the air and breathe all the worst of the wet away. their roots suck up all the water they can find rising in the earth. without these trees, we'd be swimming through the old medieval streets. we'd be on gondolas, and we'd look at the giant, bald rocks on the horizon and long for wood to build dikes and boats and all the things people need in all this water.

Friday, March 30, 2007

mountains of freiburg

at the top of a mountain over freiburg, an old medieval watchtower has been updated with steel railings. in the center, a black pit where people still light their signal fires in the night.

the woodpeckers sing their morse heartbeats at each other from tree to tree.

i found a place where i couldn't hear any civilization.

i smelled the sweet rot of pine trees gutted open and bleeding sap.

i listened for god, but heard only water falling falling falling down the hills, into the valleys, into the gutters of the old city, and into the rivers, and into the mediterranean sea.

i heard the ocean, i guess. i guess that's just as good for now.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

black forest hostel

i decided to get on a train and go. i wandered the streets looking for a place to sleep, and ended up at the black forest hostel.

the place is packed with tourists. i'm hearing more italian on the streets than german.

i broke my shoelaces, and i will seek something colorful. in the morning, i will be hiking.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

scary moment averted...

my hotel fell through in freiberg, and i'm really lucky i have somewhere else to go nearby until it clears up on monday.

hostels\pensions of the world listen to me: if you cancel people's reservations in favor of people who pay on the spot we who made reservations might get stranded somewhere and we will remember you and we will not return.

one more night in berlin

i can't find any spray paint, so I'll leave my berlin good-bye here, instead:

ride the roads our grand-
fathers bombed, our fathers built
leave this vandal love

also, nico should have sung this song from the crumbling wall instead of hasselhof's corny love parade tune:

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


i asked a kid if he had change for a five in saint mary's church in old berlin. the kid was there with his school. he pulled out his wallet. he said that he had change.

he gave me four euro for my five. he peered into the darkness of his wallet as if he didn't have any more euro in there (he did, and I was tall enough to see it).

he told me, with this white fear all over his face, that he didn't have any more euro and asked me if that was close enough.

cute kid, and brave.

maybe he's growing up hard. maybe not. but i let him scam me. i didn't push him over one euro. i dropped a coin into the box to pay for the candle i was about to light. i said a prayer for the brave little boy. he's got courage, and maybe someday he'll do something good with it.

good luck, little boy courage. i lit that candle for you.

berlin's can be a rough town. i'm in a webcafe on the east side, surrounded by tough looking turks with nothing to do but smoke and stare at the skyline like somebody owes them something.

Monday, March 26, 2007

things left on the ground of a hostel dorm

things left on the floor of a hostel dorm:

old orange peel, grocery bags with dirty clothes, shoes pressed against each other like sleeping puppies, an empty bottle of juice, flecks of scrap paper torn away from notebooks, bread crumbs, large plastic bins slid under the beds like giant flotation devices under giant airplane seats, the light that spills from the open bathroom door, the dust of a hundred nations slipping into the corners like the pollen of tennis shoes.

also, cigarette butts, dozens of them. smokers snuck out to the balcony to smoke alone, each broken cigarette was a moment alone left behind on the ground.

i left the ground on a bicycle, and ground my tires around the square where all the books were burned just before the jews and gypsies burned, and on the ground i saw the memorial. i rode over the bunker where eva braun agreed to marry the dying dictator just before she agreed to die for him. i looked down on the ground where berlin's notorious son was burned on the ground, and left his ashy dust behind.

i chatted briefly with american construction workers joyfully building the new embassy, covered in dust and leaving footprints of muddy concrete all over the floor of the bier hall.

everywhere i look, I see things left on the ground, things left on the ground, things left on the ground.

berlin - you dirty, pretty thing - someday the street sweepers will come for you, and wipe away everything that makes you beautiful. the men will come with brooms and scrub the spontaneous spray paint love-letters off the brick walls.

tomorrow, i will be seeing museums by myself. i wonder what i will see on the ground.

jena paradies

name of a train station between munich and berlin on the ICE line: "Jena Paradies".

Before the station, bombed-out, crumbling farm houses overgrown with moss and damp ferns. mist-covered mountains laced with late snow huddle around the city like voyeurs leering over a bathtub.

vivid graffiti - a rainbow of messy teenage love - smothers every inch of industry. clean, small cars curve through the clean streets and disappear into the mist around the bend.

leaving town, a long, low wooden fance by the train tracks repeats the same block letters like prayer beads in black spray paint: "stowstowstowstowstowstowstowstowstowstowstow..."

Sunday, March 25, 2007

peace. also, 'happiness is possible if you have the right pen'

i met the east german military officer that opened the door to the berlin wall the glorious day the wall came down. i shook his hand.

i was walking alone over a bridge and saw people filming an older man pacing pensively around this bridge. i asked the crew what they were doing.

i met the writer of the book about the man that opened the door to the berlin wall the glorious day the wall came down. the writer introduced me, and we took pictures together. i shook the man's hand, the hands that opened the door to the wall the day the wall fell.

it was like touching an avatar of peace. the greatest arms build-up in history should have leveled this city. instead, a bunch of officers like this man i met, a bunch of people in positions of authority, decided all at once to open the door instead of opening fire.

i turned around, half-expecting someone to be running over the bridge to me - someone i could have shared this amazing moment with. but nobody was there. i walked on to the huge outdoor museum where the portions of the wall complete with graffiti stand alone as a monument to the way the dark time ended.

written on the a picture on the wall, in english:"happiness is possible if you have the right pen"

i must not have the right pen.

i didn't say good-bye to her in münich two days ago. i only had said good-night.
the night before i left, she hugged me from the second-step, because that's what friends do.
i said something stupid, because i was afraid to say "thank you".
she said "you should work on that", and disappeared upstairs.
i should.

i snuck out that morning at 6am for the early train to berlin. i didn't say good-bye because i was afraid i'd say something stupid again.

i've been in berlin for two days. i've carried this little ghost on my shoulder, like a conscience with a prettier face, whispering in my ear these things i should've said.

i wandered this wall, trying to force myself to be happy alone, because i'm usually happier alone.

i don't think i'm ever going to see her again. i only knew her for a few brief hours, in one city, in one little section of our two separate quests. the most important thing about traveling is meeting new people. these people you meet - some of them - you will never forget.

and, you'll never see them again.

"happiness is possible if you have the right pen", and this blog must not be the right pen because i'm not happy.

i reveal other people's small oddnesses and tiny heartbreaks in this foolish blog. sometimes it's only fair to reveal my own.

can't whitewash the heart, the people will be free

i went to st michael's church around the corner from my hostel in east berlin.

the building was in a state of organized decay, bits of half-construction everywhere. the stained glass windows had been replaced with blank, clear sheets of glass. the icons of the saints and of christ in statuary are all banged and bumped and dusted with white paint as if a vandal came through in the night and painted them all white and in the morning an altar boy with sandpaper instigated a hasty liberation. all over the walls - the bright white walls - the empty canvas glow memorialiazed all the paintings lost. in one, hidden corner, a single curve of angels remain unsmothered, unforgotten. metal bracings like a splint for a broken leg hold up the decaying walls. they're ugly, but they keep the walls here.

and all the people were here. the old, the young, the strong, the proud, the dumb. the damaged organ could barely hold a tune. the dusty missals smelled like mold and cheap perfume. the people came to their church, and prayed to god. and no state police crony could whitewash their patient hearts. the church is not the art. the church is not the walls. the church is the congregation. you can't whitewash their hearts.

east berlin fell fifteen years ago, and west berlin embraced her because they were all one nation, under god - in their hearts.

after mass, i walked around the corner to this webcafe. i know i'm in east berlin because of the poorer buildings. i also know i'm here because of the graffiti. in a communist state, the government takes your self away. and all through the streets, the graffiti culture remains. children in the night spraying their names in gaudy colors. they say "i am alive. i am exhilerated. i am carving my own memorial in this stone and there's nothing you can do about it!"

i think the ghosts of the lost neo-classical icons exploded in joyful dadaism, pop-art primalism, all over these tired streets.

good morning, berlin.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


i'm wandering eastern europe and i'm wandering eastern europe and i'm wandering eastern europe. in bavaria and hessen, the buildings have professional paintings of advertisements and summer days and happy men and women in lederhosen.

east berlin is jagged concrete and jagged graffiti.

the marble steps before the famous schloss are fractured like broken teeth and large strands of grass cut through the cavities. the beggars and pickpockets rule the streets.

i walked through an open air flea market. a man sold the world's smallest steam powered ship. a tiny candle heated up water in a boat the size of a large cockroach. antique books lay in heaps on tables. antique doll parts and antique bric-a-brac, all lambent with the worn sheen of gentle aging. they look like a miniature graveyard on the table. all these tiny sculptures, aged into something haunting under the sun.

an old woman played an accordian. a young man reached into his back pocket and looked, impotently behind him at the back of the larger fellow that had just picked the young man's pocket with a bump.

i slipped out of the crowd, hands on my irreplaceables. I thought it was a church. It was a church, once. Now, it's a museum of glorious marble sculptures.

perfect nude women stood unashamed on pedestals. men holding their spears and wrapped in billowing cloaks were angry about us in the crowd, looking up at their nakedness. the most impressive statues were clothed in grecian tunics. the rippling of the sculpted cloth in the marble was more real than my denim jacket covered in road dust and train dust and the smell of a thousand second-hand cigarettes. i walked to the east to the east to the east so i could rest my head where the secret police might mave left a few machines behind to eat my dreams.

i made it to berlin all right. mayhap i'll leave all right, too. mayhap i'll dream all right, too.

Friday, March 23, 2007

fragment after altes pinarkotekt

the family portrait museum of Mars:
Christmas turtlenecks, hair that rises and falls like tides
the glassy-eyed kids that - finally - smiled;

the martians sleep in cramped dormitories
they chew freeze-dried coffee under florescent lights
smoke oxygen hookahs and wander the museum all night

they mine down unto death.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

the english-language used bookstore in münchen

The Munich Readery
Augustenstr. 104
80798 München

an ex-patriot new yorker with a north carolinian ex-patriot wife run an incredible bookstore in münchen. the selection is impressive anywhere, and gets doubly so when you realize that we are in the middle of bavaria (bayern) and once outside turkish döner stands and german bier halls are the order of the day.

every shelf had something i recognized and acknowledged as impressive writing. the shop was clean and well-organized. the books were all in respectable condition.

the fellow is a nice guy, too.

next time you're in münchen (munich) trade the book you read on the plane in for a discount on some new, fantastic reads.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

inghe pohl

at a poolhall in munich, we walked in and asked the bartender in english for a pint. he glared at us with his glass eye. he did not blink. he did not smile.

after a few moments of confusion, he poured us a pint that had that sharp acidic bite of piss beer. bad beer. a glass with the loamy soap feeling of something not properly rinsed.

he ignored us to watch a video in black and white full of native german speakers talking passionately about important things in important-looking uniforms.

we were alone in the bar with inghe pohl. he had bright white hair. he had a massive limp as if he had only one leg. he never smiled at us. he never talked to us. one had the distinct impression inghe was hiding a weapon or two behind the bar.

we played a round of pool. inghe limped over to show us how to put the euro in just right to make the balls tumble out from the mouth of the table.

he returned to his bar without a word. he rubbed at glasses with a dirty rag.

ruined pinball machines covered in german from 1977. indiana jones pinball gutted open, innards exposed, in mid-repair. a pinball machine from the early nineties with lots of interesting moving parts.

only when i played a pinball machine did he smile and become helpful. still, he mostly rubs the glasses with his rag, watches german cinema.

i sat down at the bar with my fellow traveler (a beautiful young woman who is disinterested in my exuberant, chatty nervous energy, alas. we stop into this web cafe so she can contact young men left behind around her world.) we look up and see an american certificate from bartender's school. he is certified as a mixologist after 40 hours of study at an american institution in san francisco. his qualifications include customer service.

i can see him when the place is empty. he tinkers with the decrepit machinery he has collected here. he watches americans come and go, and watches movies from his youth, when germany was a strong place, and the german army conquered the world and the precision engineering of the planes, tanks, and bombs matched the precision of the courageous german youth.

now he is old, and serves drinks to american tourists and precisely engineers these old pinball machines to pass the time, and to bleed all of the american tourists' euro.

his name was inghe pohl.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

münchen weather

the snow melts when it hits the ground, but the light flurries make every window like a busted tv screen (full of snow).

the elegant, old rooftops collect drifts in the slats like powder wigs. these old buildings close their windows at the modern people in the street. no nylon umbrellas, and no rubber boots. only the powdered wigs and brickwork like a belt with square buckles across the middle of the bulding and the stairways up to the doors like platform shoes.

Monday, March 19, 2007


the trains of the deutsche bahn have strange english translations on their signs.

for instance:alight in the direction of traffic to the left.

a man says i must go down a level to get to my platform, and he actually means i have to turn around to the lower number not drop down one level to the lower floors.

a man says he's going to Ulm and jokes about an old tongue twister: "in Ulm, und um Ulm, und herum Ulm." (in Ulm, and around Ulm, and all around Ulm.)

i'm in Munich. it's cold. i'm going to find dinner.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

sign of the times

things seen while walking to wiesbaden from erbenheim:

a television shattered in a thousand pieces like a defeated cyclops.

graffiti in favor of the crips. graffiti in favor of the bloods. graffiti that debates the fecal merits of either organization.

graffiti on the side of the police station indicating anti-authoritarian tendencies among the general population.

all the graffiti in town is written in english with a foreign accent. when the author seeks to indicate that the crips are inferior to the bloods, he scribes "S___ over bloods!"

also, wu-tang graffiti.

broken bricks.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

was busy painting.

i'm tired because i just painted my sister's bedroom while she's out, and i am clearing clearing clearing clearing out of town on monday before she gets back.

my sister is mercurial. maybe she'll be happy. maybe she won't.

more importantly, and the reason for her nature, she was not in command of the procedure. she did not get the chance to make a decision.

and i love surprises.

i am leaving before she gets home. i'm scared.

Friday, March 16, 2007


swallowed by steel - I
Drowned - in the black river veins
of prodigal sons

Thursday, March 15, 2007

the guy at the local turkish market is awesome

the guy who runs the turkish market around the corner did not have masking tape for sale.

i bought two large, powerful beers. i bought cheese. i bought apfelwein from fredericksburg.

i asked him if he had any tape because i have got to paint this weekend and need to tape down some light switches and protective coverings.

after playing all kinds of cross-lingual deductive games - for i don't know the german word for tape, nor does he speak any english - we deduced what i sought.

and he had some behind his register. he handed it to me as a gift.

that dude is awesome. if you are in erbenheim, do business with the man at the turkish market on emil-krag strasse.

the man just gave me tape. i'm willing to bet when i swing through again he might have some on the wall waiting for someone to buy, because he seems like that kind of businessman.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

panda bear tells people to buy more clothes

in the local department store, a man in a panda suit walked around and waved at children. normally such a thing would be for kids.

this, however, was an advertisement for a new line of women's clothing. i can only imagine the poor guy in the panda suit waving at kids, and shaking their hands to drum up excitement for this new line of exotic, women's clothing.

I amtrying to capture the jist of the conversation. I can't translate it exactly, since it was spoken quickly through both a toddler's mouth and a guy in a panda suit.

"You're a panda!"
"Did you know about our new line of clothes celebrating animals?"
"I like polar bears better than pandas."
"Perhaps you would like to tell your mom about our exciting new line of exotic clothes, including lingerie."
"My mom says polar bears eat penguins. Do you eat penguins?"
"As a matter of fact, I don't eat penguins."
"I like penguins, too."
"Can I give you this brochure for our lovely new line of women's clothing, celebrating all the exotic creatures of the world?"
"No. Bye-Bye Mr. Panda."

Yes, I think this advertising campaign is reaching the target demographic, German Department Store. Good Job Marketing!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

what will they do when the president is gay?

what will the military do
when the president is gay?
will they give their mighty briefings
while the commander in chief crochets?

will the morale of the marines
diminish when they see
a president in pink jockey shorts
jogging effeminately?

i wonder what the marine corps band
will do to hail to the chief.
will they add a techno drumbeat?
will they play "hail to the thief"?

perhaps the armored cavalry
will feng shui the tanks.
will the chaplains pray,
"For God, and country, give spanks."

imagine our brave army rangers
like fashionistas when they say
that not just any soldier boy
gets to wear the pink berets.

the MP handcuffs will be furry
the whistling rockets will carry a tune
the drill sergeants will stress base decor
privates will be issued guns and zunes

when the president is gay
he will command the free world
and then our armies will all crumble
in weak gayness like puny little girls!

oh, the ruined might of the western world
will whisk their wrists at general pace
who like a beacon of moral goodness
foresaw this immorality of the human race.

that is the fabulous future of war and machisno
when the president is an open, flaming homo.

a poem in honor of the commander of the joint chiefs of staff, general pace, who would probably not get to keep his job when the gay president finally gets here.(

does anyone know any openly gay public servants who'd do a fine job as president?

Monday, March 12, 2007

baboons scare me

Saturday, March 10, 2007

marginalia, printing error

in a used copy of SILAS MARNER, by george eliot, discovere in a used bookstore in wiesbaden, deutschland:

Happy Reading, Olaf!

Best Wishes

(too scribbled to be legible, perhaps a woman's name)

Also, inside the book, a printing error looks like someone placed a band-aid over two lines of print where ink skips and restarts on the other side. two words, lost. both adjectives. both necessary for clarity.

a sign of a great book: a simple printing error over two little words decimates the clarity of a scene.

a book where every word is precise. very nice.

Friday, March 9, 2007


i may be a little bit slow on the uptake, but i finally figured out how to add links to the side of this here blog.

so, if you want to know the kind of sites i visit, go ahead and look.

i'll be updating with things as i remember them. i know i forgot something.

Thursday, March 8, 2007


i drank a german soda, made with malz, popular and in every local restaurant.

it is absolutely disgusting. it tastes like carbonated molasses. it is unhealthy, unappealing, and definitely undelicious. it seems to have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. the only good thing about it is that i didn't get horribly ill after drinking all .5 liters of the bottle.

as a drank this oddly disgusting beverage, i translated the back label:

"Be Active with Karamalz

Your holding the drink that naturally gives your body and soul energy. Refresh yourself with Karamalz, the alcohol-free fitness beverage - ideal for sport, fun, and freetime.

Tastes best when cold."

The main ingredients for this - apparently - sport drink include water, malt, high fructose corn syrup, and hops.

after drinking this sport drink, not only was i disgusted, but i put the big, glass bottle aside, and fell asleep way too early.

in summary: every single thing about this beverage is a lie. just drink beer. the beer probably is healthier because the alcohol is less scary than weird corn syrups.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

post #67

Ah, scrivening. Who knew it could releave so much stress.

Hey, did you ever read this book?

If you haven't, you should.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007


my computer part has finally arrived, so now i can actually use my own computer again.


I've got lots of things to type up from my journals now, so if you'll excuse me I have to go sit in a dark room and play scrivener for a while.

Monday, March 5, 2007

anybody want to volunteer?

i need a massage. i cannot pay for one on principle. but, my back is f-ing killing me. if you are in the neighborhood of erbenheim, deutschland and know what to do with a man's back, i will repay you in some non-monetary form like lunch or beer.

look, i'm just not in the mood right now.

have some coffee and cake or something. just, give some peace, though.

i've got a lot on mind and i can't really deal with visitors right now.

look, here's the tv remote.

i had a dream about a claymation film, that - while shown in theatres - was imitated by actors in black bodysuits with clay-like colorful heads. then, the theatre became a massive cruise ship, everyone was brought to different workshops to learn to express themselves, but they weren't expressing themselves. they were merely imitating other art forms.

i was covered in cheese almost right away. i couldn't get it off of my hands. i washed them for three days straight, angered that i was covered in this jalapeno cheese that looked like vomit and wouldn't get off my hands. on the third day, i took a deep breath, clean of all the cheese, and tried to enjoy myself a little on that awful cruise.

then, some undercover employee of the cruise ship spilled the same damn cheese all over my favorite jacket - my jacket that's a second skin - and i was so mad that i shoved the fellow head first into the steaming bucket of cheese.

at which point, i was arrested, and tied down and kept prisoner by these awful men with black body suits and cheerful, fake, colorful heads.

and i was insane and i was kept locked away while everyone else blissfully copied other things, calling it creative expression.

the cruise staff were afraid of me. i was doped up, tied down, and shoved aside in a white straight jacket below deck.

so, i'm a little out of it right now. you're welcome to visit, but stay out of my way. i've got work to do, and i need some peace and quiet. i think there's a cake somewhere, if you get hungry, and i know there's a veritable ton of dvds in the living room.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

the print museum

in mainz, a print museum with two gutenberg bibles and dozens of priceless antiques across print history in every culture goes into great detail about the processes that produced the books, and scrolls, and wood carvings.

oddly enough, in this museum to the spread of the printed word, they do not provide an accurate representation of what appears inside their priceless artifacts.

look, all ye people, and see ye yon book. this was used to spread information, and was - perhaps - the dawn of the age of information and mass culture. alas, these tools of information distribution are silenced by time and script. no panel or page exists to tell us the content of what we see.

this is a museum of method, not of content.

i asked a man in german why we will never know what the priceless vietnamese royal edict says (printed in elegant letters on a delicate silk covered in hand-painted dragons and clouds. he could not understand me through my thiock american accent, and handed me a card that translated the german panels into english so i can see the methods. always the method. never the words.

where is the museum of words? where is the museum that follows the development of an idea over time instead of just a technology?

i found it. the mainz cathedral was a museum of soul and message. a ghost - i met a ghost there, but he ran away before i could learn from him... seriously i met a ghost in the cathedral. it passed through me in the prayer chapel. i felt him, and almost discerned his name in the cold gust through my body and my skull. i lit a candle from the remains of another candle and watched the flame dance.

the flame carries hope from candle to candle. a museum of content.

Friday, March 2, 2007

no blades

i saw a sign yesterday at a webcafe outlawing blades. the sign read, in english, "no blades" on a german storefront window. the blades had a picture with a red slash through them, in the universal language of prohibition.

it referred, alas, not to knives, but to rollerblades.

i walked inside. i looked at all the dangerous people there. teenage girls with purses and designer jeans giggling while they plot their latest caper over mapquest. an older man with a backpack hunched over a flirty-at-fifty chatroom that was all code for jewel heists, not sex. a group of boys watched videos on youtube, every one of them was just biding their time between muggings. they mug, they use the money to surf at a webcafe until it runs out, then they pull out their blades and mug again.

a young man and a young woman had samurai swords in a bag. i didn't stop to check if they were real, or toys. regardless, they were legal because they were blades that didn't come with wheels.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

xena, warrior princess

mainz might be the friendliest city in all of germany.

at muffin, a german cafe chain, in the mainz marketplace, a beautiful woman struck up a conversation with me in a cafe, in english, and talked about her city, and her upcoming trip to california with her boyfriend, and we talked about all sorts of small things that new friends talk about.

only at the very end, i extended my hand and gave her my name and my thanks.

then, she told me her name, and after a mere moment of hesitation, the impending jest.

xena... .... warrior princess. (her eyes looked down and away like she was embarassed that she had to say such a thing, and maybe she was even waiting for me to make the joke because she liked it? xena, is strong after all, and a sex symbol, and having one's name attached to something like that must alter us subconsciously.)

i would have never made the joke because i assumed it was weary.

however, i also wonder if she would have had the courage to strike up this conversation without the strength in her subconscious. where her name beatrice, i think she would have sat very still and waited for me to speak up. and waited. and waited.

xena, warrior princess. conqueror of awkward social situations.