Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Gettin Prayed Up...kinda

So I'm going to take a blog post to address the congregants of the Victoriagemeinde Swedish Lutheran Church in Berlin:

GAH! YOU GUYS!

So occasionally when I've seen Stephan's roomie, J., a Swede if ever there was one, I've had something to say in Swedish, like one word or so, and I'll mention that I go to Swedish church. The other night I was over there for a marathon (well, do 4 episodes count?) of The Office--best of Michael Scott, and I mentioned it again. This time, in the spirit of evangelizing (we are the E-LCA after all), I asked him if he wanted to come. I mean, it is his language and whatnot, and his girlfriend, N., a German, also spoke Svensk, so why not?

J responded that he wasn't religious, but he'd like to try, and from the way he phrased it I could tell he had the Lutheran Guilt thing WELL EMBEDDED in his little blonde-haired, square-jawed system. We agreed that he and N would meet me that Sunday. At about the same time A got in touch with me to tell me that she was in town from Tuebs to visit her boyfriend (A of being-awesome fame), and since I've mentioned church to her, could she come along. I thought "This is GREAT! Field trip of insanely attractive blondes to church y'all!!" and arranged that we would all meet each other in front of the dual Swedish and Norwegian flags before service started.
errrr...not really

The night before there was a little more Sturm und Drang (or vansinne if you're Swedish [well, actually they say "sturm und drang" too, but that's less fun]) than I was expecting.
J
and N didn't know if they were going to go, but then they were clocked out, and then A was going to be late or maybe she wouldn't make it and where would we all meet and it was this big THING, so the excitement was building!

Then finally we're all outside the church: cold, relatively pale and well meaning yet awkward. I was hoping that this Sunday would be like most: a fair number of over 60s, some lost Swedes in town (let's say 4), a family or two (bringing in 6 or so) and then the 3 under 30-s I know to usually show up. This would mean there would be a small but decent crowd. Not too much to ask for, Victorians!

It actually kind of was.

We were sitting in the rows of the rather sparse room (Protestant, you'll recall), and J takes the opportunity to read the prayers, at which point he turns to me and in a well-meaning yet perturbed voice that most Lutherans have known (especially since this whole paperback hymnal fiasco) says
"Dey have changed de prayers...dey've modernized dem."
Lutherans aren't that down with change. We sort of spent out all of our gumption getting ourselves away from Rome, and now we're saving our strength. It turned out that under 20 people showed up, prompting me to recall that the Sunday before had been a rather large service, and most Lutherans are on a strict one-on-one-off policy when it comes to getting churched up. Oops. We sat in a row together though, which freaked the pastor out to no end. I guess Pastor thought that I was such a hopeless mess, and now "Whad is she doing wid people here?" I also kind of messed up the image that the youth director had of me, and if I've told you anything about her, you'll know IT'S GOOD TO MESS WITH HER BRAIN!

So the service starts, all well and good, the voices are a bit more anemic than usual (thanks, guys!) but the sermon was about OBAMA! Well, he only mentioned him once. Actually, it was about faith, and he started off saying "I'm an atheist and I don't believe in anything...I'm an agnostic, and--" as he was saying this I was secretly cringing. The one Sunday I bring real Europeans, and he has to make a point THIS Sunday about the school of thought they probably all come from?! Oh well. Turns out he didn't knock the agnostics that much, and when he said "Obama" I kind of totally smiled. After the service J and N split to go study, but they kind of left in what I saw as a hurry, which I attribute either to FU being rather brutal (very possible) or the service being hugely mortifying (also possible considering we all sort of stuck out).

A. stuck around though for coffee afterwards, and while we ate cinnamon roles (anyone want to help me out on the Swedish name for them? I don't remember now, but it's a special name and it's yumm-tastic!) she chatted with the music director and I with a girl close to my age, a Norwegian pastor-in-training...who was pretty much what you'd expect when you hear "pastor-in-training." Very nice, very enthused, very understanding that I always forget her name (it's T). A had a good time, saying how nice it was, which is what I experience every Sunday, and what I hope J and N took away from it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but Victoria, you guys are NOT helping me out here. Let's step it up, Scandihoovians!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Web Gem

Hey, you guys, I just want to make it REALLY clear, Obama is a PROFESSOR


http://www.slate.com/blogs/blogs/xxfactor/archive/2009/01/21/obama-s-fashion-faux-pas.aspx

(oh, and did we mention how he admitted on tv that his belt was 10 years old?)

...and we in my household know what that means in terms of fashion. Welcome to the White House, smarty!

Hangover + Change = Changeover (what I have)

so Tuesday night--where were you?

I was in Berlin, Obama's city, the only place abroad where he heald such a speech. I had once again been tipped off via my listserv of a party sponsored by Democrats Abroad and Republicans in Berlin at this big old honking nightclub called Goya:

This is the interior--big and swank, eh?

Now, I wanted to be cool, so rather than choosing to show up at 4, when the doors opened, I brought Stephan and Kristine (German buddy and flatmate respectively) to Goya at 4:30 to see...CROWDS STRETCHED AROUND THE BLOCK. Luckily we had reserved tickets, but still, we were outside for an hour while news cameras circulated, asking random line-occupiers how they felt and whatnot. I was so excited but also really scared we wouldn't make it in, but we did and just in time to see Aretha in the coolest hat I have seen in a while ROCK THE FRICK OUT on a massive screen. The club wasn't as crowded as I thought it would be, but that is probably because it had 3 floors and a bunch of satellite rooms, though we were in the main room, watching from a relatively good place.

Biden's being sworn in here, but imagine the place full of this
well-scrubbed crowd of Germans, Americans and press


So biden was sworn in, looking well-groomed, spritely in comparison with Cheney, and with the whitest teeth I've seen in a while, and then came the John Williams tribute to Aaron Copeland. Having sung one of the songs that appeared in the mashup (which I don't remember the name of but it has the alto line "give thanks for<> to <> the grain"...it's been a while since I sang it!), I can say I think Copeland did it better, but to see Perlman and Yo-yo Ma practice their craft was a real treat. This was also where the sentimental side of me started creeping into the excited side. I could still feel my heart beating through my clothes, and my throat was already dry from yelling with excitement, but the song set up the "Schmalz" for the swearing-in of the first African American president.
Impressions from the swearing-in:
* The girls skipped to the mic...how adorable is that

*Michelle: couldn't be more Kennedy if she tried, but I don't think Jackie could have pulled off that shade of yellow, so hats off
*Obama said his name too early; he's eager to get at his work!!

*Roberts is a Bush appointee...should we have expected him to get the oath right...really?! I mean, the guy has a few screws loose.

*I am still mad as heck at Roberts even if he is disabled due to his overwhelming case of Incompetensia Majora.

Then the room I was in went up in screams. I was hugging people as hard as I could, my eyes were getting moist...it was a beautiful moment.


















Roomie and Stephan at Obama-fest 2K9. A most rock-tageous time!



The next events were a bit of a blur, but somehow we made it to the Inauguration speech, which I have to say, kind of harshed my buzz for a while. There he was talking about how we got ourselves into this bad situation, how he faces a tough road ahead, how things are still not right, and I was thinking "hey, it's not even your first day...can we not wallow in depression, PLEASE? There's quite some time to do that later" but it was realistic and impressed the Germans in the crowd (quelle suprise if you've ever seen a Fassbinder movie). My favorite parts of the speech were yet to come: the parts where he called out people specifically (Psst, Mugabe...THAT WAS YOU HE TALKED ABOUT!) and then went on to talk about how great America is.

Obama's inaugural speech, as witnessed at Goya


Let me say this, when Bush said this kind of stuff I felt embarrassed, but when Obama said that we were ready to lead again, he was not greeted in Goya by awkward silences but by an explosion of cheers. It's like he's given us license to be loud and proud again, which is what we all kind of secretly wanted. And whenever I saw the face of African Americans in the crowd, especially older ones, I thought about all the shit that they had to go through just for something they could not control, their skin color. I thought of the surviving members of the Little Rock 9 school integrationists, who faced down the military to help America move forward, I thought of all that had to happen for this day to come, and I leaned my head on K.'s shoulder and started to silently tear up.
When I explained this moment yesterday to my students in year 13, one of them came up to me and said " I found your thoughts on it...mmm...sehr bewegend." That means "very moving." Everyone though who has sat through a US history class was getting goosebumps at that moment. His speech was everything it had to be and nothing it did not. It wasn't a Lincoln's Second, but it was Obama's First, and that was good enough for me.

Interestingly enough, this was the first inaugural speech to actually say the word "Muslim," and we had all been clapping at some comment he made just before, but when he said "To the leaders of the Muslim world"--A VERY QUICK SILENCE. There was this air of anticipation through much of the speech, of "what's he going to say next?"

The poet was I think a rather smart move. Obama being a guy who doesn't really like to talk about race (but "A More Perfect Union" is one of the best speeches made after 1968 on the subject), left the enumeration of what this all means to this poet. Granted, she wasn't that great...the poem went on a bit too long and didn't really have the structure I would have liked, but she was the one who said to the nation "HEY! Look over here! African American...TOTALLY PRESIDENT!"

And of course the benediction. Here again I cried. This was because this man had seen the worst of the worst, this old preacher who had fought to integrate with MLK. He was well on in years, and his voice shook with either age or emotion, both of which carry more meaning that mine years or tears. He prayed not in the style of Warren (who I am happy to say I turned my back on when he prayed, though I did say the "our father" like a good Lutheran) but in the African American theological tradition, and the whole room erupted in yells and laughter when he ended it as he did. Then the "Amen." This was another goosebump moment, because we were saying "Amen" loudly and with genuine emotion, a release experienced not just by the thousand or so of us but by millions around the world. That "Amen" said with soul felt like we were vocally throwing prayers of hope into the ether to whatever deity. Anyone who has said "Amen" in the "gospel" style and not the Catholic one will agree, it can feel quite goofy to say it the first time, but it also has a momentum to it, this "Amen," that is hard to beat.
Then came the speeches from the locals. The Dems in Berlin gave a suitable speech that gave us all the chance to go get a beer (we did), but then came the "nonpartisan" part of the night when the representative for Republicans in Berlin, a man in a "hail Satan" red tie and slicked back hair took the stage. Everyone got quiet; this man must have had juevos of steel. Then he started speaking. As he began we noticed an accent, but it took about 3 seconds to figure out where it was coming from

video
wrhuh?

HE WAS A GERMAN!!!!
And not just a German, but an AWKWARD German. Like, the thickest accent I've heard (most Germans have quasi-British accents), the most hawkish statements ("it is a statistical fact that we are safer now, after Bush, from terror") I'd heard in a while. Of course he was booed like you wouldn't believe. I booed too, I mean, as a German whose CDU, conservative party, balks at Bush policies, he should know better. Stephan too was scandalized:
video

Here is my thinking
, there is a party in Germany called the "Republikaner"...they make American Republicans look like a Berkley drum circle. So maybe he was a Republikaner and just translated his party affiliation wrong. That's all I can think of, but then again, if he's a Republican Abroad, that means he must like be able to vote in the States, right...? Maybe he married into this? I don't know. I'm accepting explanations if you guys want to help me figure this out.

Then the screens came back to CNN, and we watched the helicopter leave, singing "Na Na Na! Hey hey hey! Goodbye!" and feeling a weight off. The picture after was priceless. If you've seen Deep Impact, Armageddon, or even any decent horror movie there's always that scene at the end where the survivors stand somewhere with a decent view, staring into the hellscape/waterworld/zombie-destroyed Pennsylvania town that their world has become, and they hold hands and say something along the lines of "well, there's a lot of work to do." You know these scenes... I think there was one in War of the Worlds too, the "hope for a new tomorrow" scene. This was reenacted as the Bidens and Obamas stood there watching the last zombie leave their city and looking into the world to be done. At least that's my impression!

So when future generations ask me where I was when history was made, this story is what I will answer, and I hope you all had equally memorable nights/afternoons/whatever time it was in Singapore (woot, Titus!). There are many sources of inspiration in my life; Obama is clearly one of them, but the same is true for each of you guys too! Thank you.

Friday, January 16, 2009

We interrupt this normally functional blog for...

Ok, so I was totally going to do this whole thing about my week and how boring it was but how that's fine because usually it's kind of insane, but then THIS happened:

Holy cr*p, holy cr@p, holy cr#p!!!!!!!

and I wanted to tell you guys about something awful, truly the second greatest threat to America (#1 obviously being...BEARS!), Geese.
Until this point I've gone along with the massive geese conspiracy, but I can keep silent NO LONGER I say. They're evil, and they're out to get us. They've run a pretty decent PR campaign up until now, successfully hiding their true identities:


It's ALL A LIE!

But now we're on to them. There are multiple ways in which geese make our lives more annoying, and I say this as someone who has lived on Lake Michigan for an extended period of time, so I know these suckers.
1. They're aggressive (there's a reason you say "to goose someone")
2. They poo ALL OVER the place, and I won't go into how awful THAT is, but let's say that these birds are relatively hefty...that's all I'll say.
3. They are MINDLESS (as evinced by their propensity to fly into giant muther-trucking planes)
4. They aren't that cute
5. No one eats goose anymore, we aren't living in Dickensian England, so they aren't even THAT useful
6. And lastly, they do not always fly in the right direction. They fly wherever the equally "short bus" lead goose wants to go. Look up in the sky, you'll see what I mean.

Conclusion, will someone please release special goosemeat-eating gorillas in parachutes or something to take care of this problem? I think that's an invasive species we can all live with (see: The Three Stooges), and if the gorillas turn into a problem, to quote The Simpsons, "That's the beauty of the whole thing, in winter the gorrillas all just die off." (I don't actually mean that...gorillas are great, but that doesn't mean that geese aren't annoying as heck)

^This is the face of threat level RED right here^

Night of too Many Galleries

So before I go on to enumerate my many grievances against geese (and oh, I have my reasons), I want to put up some pictures from a gallery run that I made with Lucile last weekend. Berlin is lousy with empty space, and wherever there is empty space, there's cheap real estate, and wherever there is cheap real estate, galleries are soon to follow. Lucile works at one of the higher end institutions, Kunstwerk (if you're in town go see the work she does, it's quite something), but she knows places all up and down the spectrum of Berlin art.

Quick note on my understanding of this art: every other time we get together we speak English or French...English days are seemingly always 2 hour coffee appointments (maximum), and French days--well--they're days! This was 7 hours of gallery hopping, in which I was being explained concepts that I'm still wobbly on in my own language, let alone French, and after about hour 5 it stopped making sense and became just "pretty!" I'm therefore sorry that my scholarship is lacking.

This first show (I'm not going in the order in which we saw them, so I think this was gallery number 3), was by Gregor Schneider, who was doing an identical show in Duesseldorf. Its name, therefore, was Doublings. You'd walk into a completely black room (a series of curtains in thick black kept out the light), and in one room was just a projection of a London town, and then in the other room there was a singular spotlight and this:

It was so sudden you'd jump and yell. There were also some artifacts to the side that were supposed to be indicative of violence (I think), but I won't describe those here.





<--This is from Fernando Bryce at the Barbara Thumm Gallerie. I really liked it actually. It's a room covered in these drawings of figures important to the study/advancement/protest of imperialism. This means figures like Rosa Luxemborg, but also pictures of advertisments for mouthwash from the 1950s and pages of Spanish language newspapers talking about Maoism. It's art that is made for nerds like me







Lucile and I both found this show from Guenter Umberg at Galerie Nordenhake profoundly underwhelming, one of those cliches of modern art where you go "shoot, sun, I could 'a made this on mah own and not hafta drop a couple thousand!" Not even really worth the trouble of finding the secluded gallery in cold weather.




If there's an appeal to Suse Weber's Formel: Verein, I'm not 100% on what it is. She clearly had something in mind, and this was the one gallery where people were buying stuff. Luckily I don't think Luc did either. We're both throwing our hands in the air and saying "whatever" on this one.





This was the last gallery we went to, Jette Rudolph, which we kind of found by accident, but it was my second favorite. Lots of strange things (like a wooden tub made of photo frames) suspended from the ceiling (so cool), and sketches of skeletal structures and then these sculptures, which are made from books compressed together and then carved, like people used to carve out figures from soap, but instead of soap, it's BOOKS! The artist is South African, Wim Botha, and his skeletal Maria Guadalupe was also really neato. Hats off to him! When I get super rich from whatever I end up doing, I'm SO buying his work.

It feels really cool to walk through galleries speaking French. Like, French somehow feels more "artistic" and you're all cosmopolitan and walking through arte...it's one of those moments where you feel very "cool" in the 1960s kind of "I watch Le Mepris and listen to Miles Davis" sort of way (both are true btw). A good city moment!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A little nerd poetry entry

Ok, so I'm going to go all nutty and academic for this post and write a little more about the poem that I am kind of in love with.
It's by Kurt Tucholsky, born in 1890 in Berlin (woot). After 1929, however, he moved to Hindås which is in/near Göteborg Sweden (the more I learn about this guy, the more I like him).



This is where the story gets sad though:
In 1933 he was officially denied his German citizenship because of his writings; his books were burned in Germany, and he died in 1935, presumably a suicide.

There is a street in Berlin named for him now, and he's my favorite poet at the moment. Here's an approximate translation of his poem "Augen in der Grossstadt" and it's not a good translation...it doesn't capture the beauty, but I hope that it kind of helps to sum up why I like it so much.

Eyes in a Big City
When you go to work
in the early morning,
when you are standing at the station
with your concerns:
then the city shows you
its smooth asphalt
people in the hopper
millions of faces:
Two strange eyes, a quick glance,
the brow, pupils, eyelids--
What was that? maybe your life's happiness...
over, gone, never again.
In your whole life, you go through
a thousand roads;
you see on your way
that you forgot.
An eye beckons,
the soul sounds;
you have found
only for seconds...
two strange eyes, a quick glance,
the brow, pupils, eyelids--
what was that? No one turns back time...
over, gone, never again.
You must be on your way
wandering through cities;
see for just a beat
the strange other.
It could be an enemy,
it could be a friend
it could be a comrade in your struggle
he looks over and attracts
the brow, pupils, eyelids --
What was that?
A piece from mass humanity
over, gone, never again.

Augen in der Grossstadt

Ok, so this is why I absolutely love living in a big city:

I'm out the other night with Andrea getting my coffee on at this place called "Bild und Buch" which is a giant coffee house with indulgent cakes, overstuffed arm chairs, and superfluous books laying around. We had our fill, and we were wandering back to my subway stop, and we decided to take a detour. She wanted to show me the...errr...Halstead (if you know Chicago, you know what I mean, and if you don't then there's a reason [Kate is inside to the power of inside]) in Berlin, and so I went along. I enjoy discovering new places, and this one was so close to the route that I take every day to and from work that it kind of behooved me to go along and see what I've been missing as my subway zinged away under the earth.

Anyway, we're walking along dark streets, thrift shops, art stores, and the occasional Mexican-inspired fusion cafe, when we turn a corner to see this:


These diamond-shaped lamps, many of them, just suspended there, glowing for no apparent reason. They weren't particularly holiday themed, and they are still hanging there even though Three Kings Day is over. A brushed it off as "probably an exhibit or something," but I put it squarely into the category of little bursts of whimsy that just sort of happen when you put so many beautiful spirits together in one quarter of the city. In Copenhagen there are similar outbursts of beauty and quiRk, and it's always a big treat to witness. I ran home, fetched my camera, came back, and captured this picture(up here ^) before it disappeared or something else wonderful distracted me.

Additionally, while I'm talking about how much I love living in a city, I have this poem (it might also be a song...the internets are telling me different stories there) that makes me cry whenever someone reads it to me. It's pretty, it's nice, and it's only slightly tragic. I'll post a translation a little later, but for now here it is in German (it's even pretty when you read it in that language):

Augen in der Grossstadt

Wenn du zur Arbeit gehst
am frühen Morgen,
wenn du am Bahnhof stehst
mit deinen Sorgen:
da zeigt die Stadt
dir asphaltglatt
im Menschentrichter
Millionen Gesichter:
Zwei fremde Augen, ein kurzer Blick,
die Braue, Pupillen, die Lider -
Was war das? vielleicht dein Lebensglück...
vorbei, verweht, nie wieder.
Du gehst dein Leben lang
auf tausend Straßen;
du siehst auf deinem Gang, die
dich vergaßen.
Ein Auge winkt,
die Seele klingt;
du hast's gefunden,
nur für Sekunden...
Zwei fremde Augen, ein kurzer Blick,
die Braue, Pupillen, die Lider -
Was war das? Kein Mensch dreht die Zeit zurück...
Vorbei, verweht, nie wieder.

Du mußt auf deinem Gang
durch Städte wandern;
siehst einen Pulsschlag lang
den fremden Andern.
Es kann ein Feind sein,
es kann ein Freund sein,
es kann im Kampfe dein
Genosse sein.
Er sieht hinüber
und zieht vorüber ...
Zwei fremde Augen, ein kurzer Blick,
die Braue, Pupillen, die Lider -
Was war das?
Von der großen Menschheit ein Stück!
Vorbei, verweht, nie wieder.

Have a beautiful day, y'all!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Gaz-PROBLEM?!?!

So if you have a life/don't spend hours listening to npr, you probably haven't heard about "Le Fiasco de Gazprom." If, however, you watch Deutsche Welle, download the Planet Money podcast, and read Frankfurter All., well, you know that Russia has Europe in a VEEERRRRYYYY tight spot when it comes to natural gas.

Let me explain really quick: aside from Norway (props, y'all!), one-fourth of Europe gets its natural gas from Russia, and of course, it's RUSSIA, so it can't just "be cool" and spread it out through several companies working in the private sphere. Gazprom is THE Russian natural gas company, employing pretty much every Russian prime minister you can name, and any European ex-prime minister who isn't busy running around speaking with a French accent about "culture." They are a B-I-G deal, and they have a killer logo:


Looks like a Bond villain...feels like one too

Innit all dark/powerful? Would be kind of attractive were it not for the fact that whenever a country ticks Russia off, like say Ukraine, Russia simply shuts down deliveries of gas to it.
That's fine, but how does Russia getting hacked off at Ukraine effect you?
Well, most of the pipelines delivering gas to Europe run through there, so Russia effectively cut us off, and we're living on reserves.

HOW THIS EFFECTS KATE
(because I know y'all care!)
When I first heard this bit of news, I was flipping out. Literally every night when I went to bed I could FEEL my room getting ever colder. Add to this that the radiator in the teacher's lounge broke (of course), so I decided to link this up with the Gazprom situation, and let me tell you, there's still 3 inches of snow on the ground, and it's FREEZING, so I was WORRIED!
BUT, I was chatting with one of the teachers on staff, and she says (and my nerd-research backs this up) that Berlin is on an oddly-placed natural gas deposit and also has mega reserves when Germany's reserves are on average about a week. Long story short:
I don't have to think about world events YET AGAIN!
Warm and pleasant dreams, y'all!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New Scientific Developments

I have shocking news in the field of child development that I believe you all will be SHOCKED to hear (shocking)...
BABIES LOVE LOW BRASS



Duhn


Duhn


DUHN









How do I know this? Well, P and his friends in Berlin who come from Switzerland (yes, we've established the world to be both that small and indeed flat), and we went to visit one of them last Saturday. The guy is D. and he's married to a German, S., whom he met in Switzerland. D is a professional professional trumpet player owning anywhere from 60-70 instruments
(trumpet, jazz trumpet,
picolo trumpet, 2 different baroque trumpets,
trombone
, 2 valve trombones, etc etc)
and playing all over the place. When we showed up one snowy evening, he, his wife, and 2 year old son, L. were moving into their new digs, and he offered to take us down to the room housing his axes and their accompanying "geeg bags" (yes, they call them that in French too...les gig bags), which we took him up on. He then went on to hand me valuable trumpet after valuable turmpet, while Phil noodled away on one of his trombones. I've not been around my ax for some time, and frankly I had no idea what to do with special edition Bach strads and special jazz trumpets, but my French wasn't good enough to explain "I haven't played in a long time. I'm scared to even hold this!" so I kept taking them.
Then he gave S. an ax and proposed we all play some quartets, simple tunes, with which I finally got to play first trumpet (and hit a high F on the first time out, thanks y'all!!!). It was not one of my finer musical moments, but whatever. The thing was that by the second piece, L. wanted to join in and so he grabbed a valve trombone, sat on the floor, and actually
BEGAN TO HONK ALONG!!!
even though his arms weren't long enough to both hold the instrument and work the valves. The kid can't speak in full sentences, but he can honk a trombone...like...he has the lung capacity for it! What the heck, y'all?!? When you add the bebeh in the above picture, what you have is a sinister low-brass pattern. Conspiracy? Worth looking into, people! Obama, maybe get somebody on that.
The evening was great otherwise. S. made a great meal. I butchered the French language some more while still being vaguely understandable, and we ended the evening drinking some kind of fruit liquor called Mirabel. I'll tell you folks something, want to burn your innards AND your outards? Try some! It's yummy, but YEOW! Even for a TEXAN, it was strong! These Swiss, I'm telling you, they can handle music, mountains, and moonshine...

Happy 2K9, Volks!

So in Texas it's a little nutty on New Years Eve; we even have TV ads telling people not to fire off their guns into the air, but Berlin is different, right? This is Europe!

WRONG!

In fact, you can play with fireworks in city streets on Sylvester as they call it here. This is shocking information for me, and-- in the spirit of adjusting and integrating to a strange culture--P and I felt obligated to take part and bought a goodly amount of explosives.





like these, but in German-->



Almost immediately after sunset the air began to fill with gunpowder and smoke and noises rang out that would be very familiar to us Texans (gunfire...or something similar). Our fireworks were quite fun but small, some bottle rockets, some fountains, some lightey-uppey stuff and way too many firecrackers. It felt very southern--regardless of the freezing temperatures--to be with "mah boyfrieeend playin wid fahrwerks in thuh streets."

video
He's quite the little firebug.

The night didn't end there though, since we both had planned to go to the Brandenburger Tor for NYE. We were on the side behind a stage full of bad musical acts (schlagermusik type stuff ), so we were with the edgier tourists and Berliners packing the streets which were STILL FULL OF FIREWORKS. It was by no means safe, but it was pretty seeing people silouetted against colored sparks in a crowd.

Yeah, it's kinda like that

...then the fireworks, the big show, were a bit obstructed from view, but we were still able to run over by Tiergarten to see some of it.
We were worried about transit just after so many people were in one place, so we dashed off pretty early to make it on a train going to The Upside Down World of Madame Claude

Yup, it's like that

founded by a bunch of Frenchmen, this bar is quite hip and still has cheap booze. Since it's in a--errrr--harder part of town, we had to run through some quite rather dangerous looking ameture displays, but we did make it to the bar, which was far from full, so we even got a table. We then proceded to ring in the new year right

...WITH GIN
Even when the place got full (shortly thereafter) the mood was one of friends and company with music not blaring but more enabling. We were there till about 3-3:15, just chatting, fielding calls from friends (and their tanked Norwegian pop singer brothers...you know who y'all are), and sipping the night away.
The train back took FOREVER to arrive at the station, which would lead to problems even in a sober crowd of Germans, but with a bunch of soused Berliners and one Swissman the tardiness made everyone a little...well:


<--us

<--mad
<--crabby
<-- tense


We were home by 4 though, taking warmth in the ever-welcoming Pimms cup and slept through the first morning of 2009.