Monthly Archives: March 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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courage

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.

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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.

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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…”

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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 m√ľnich 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.

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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.

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