Friday, July 31, 2009

married 21 years

Friday was anniversary #21. Slept in a little, packed and puddled around, had a couple of spousal fights brewing but we/he/I headed them off, sleepy Felix got up slightly before hubby and I were off to lunch.

Final lunch at the institute, many good-byes.

Biked into the woods with hubby, jogged 25 minutes, and then jumped into the lake together. I wanted the lake, he wanted a jog first, it all was very nice. (Turned out though the lake was lovely temperature for me but he was freezing - something to do with distribution of body fat [I mean distribution between us, not distribution on individual bodies].)

And then we came home, collected Felix, and headed off on our beloved double decker (yes, the roof got thumped again on the first curve of Koenigsallee, still no midnight tree maintenance), all the way to the end of the line in Kreuzberg - got out and Felix had a farewell döner (in Bloomington they have them too, at the Trojan Horse, but they're called something else) and I bought some clothes! and we went to buy the T-shirt the prospect of which had coaxed Felix out of the house, browsed some touristy shops which were actually amusing and bought a few things for the folks back home (I nixed the concentration game that involved matching cards where instead of finding identical pictures it was matching left and right breasts - called Busen-Memory), and sat down for a lovely few minutes in our favorite cafe, Josephine, on Bergmannstrasse. (Basically the last outing we had with Felix, sometime in August of last year maybe, we went to the same T-shirt store and the same cafe. Comforting.)

Then we power-U-Bahned back to the Ku'damm (the bus ride had been lumbering and sleepy), sent Felix off one direction to catch the bus home and walked off ourselves in a different direction to meet sis- and bro-in-law for a belated birthday dinner for her. It was soooooo pleasant, a wonderful mild evening at a table outside on a tree-lined street with people strolling by, excellent food and fabulous service and all four of us happy to be out together in a good mood chatting and talking and eating and hanging. 

And it never stopped! Anja and Alexander had promised to get on their bikes and zoom to meet us after sis- and bro-in-law were going to have to go home to Fanny and the babysitting grandparents - as it happened we had fifteen minutes all of us together, and then we went off with A & A for a stroll around some blocks and ended up in a dark cavelike bar with comfy red seats and pretzel sticks and got to chill and say good-bye for a while longer. And then we taxied home.

So it's Saturday morning, yesterday was lovely, I'm in no way slept out as we say in German but I have to have my oatmeal now because it's off to meet more friends for more good-byes (Annette, Sabine, some institute friends) at 10 for breakfast, and when I go out for breakfast I always have to have my oatmeal first. Then it's home to finish packing all the ridiculous junk that is lying around. 

Love to you all, thank you for listening!

power blog!?!

Saturday morning, August 1st

We're leaving the house for the airport to fly home to Bloomington in about 24 hours and ten minutes. Last days of Berlin!

Last Tuesday I wrote in the wee hours of the morning. I did get back to sleep, I went off and walked with Annette, and then had a wonderful sendoff from my Weight Watchers group. They wished me well and said they'll miss me and gave me flowers; I didn't think to bring them flowers but I brought them my address and told them truthfully they were the best Weight Watchers group I'd ever had and I'd miss them truly too! 

And later on Tuesday I did make it into the lake, which was wonderful. And packed boxes, if I recall. Lots of 'em.

Wednesday was an ucky day. The morning wasn't bad - four boxes got picked up and carted off, I updated my resume and projects list to give to the people here at the institute who might send some editorial work my way in the future - but the afternoon and evening were not nice. Hubby went off into town to browse and bop and had a marvelous time in galleries and cafes and I stayed home to get things done and/or nap but I didn't nap till the last minute and so it was short, and I didn't get things done really, I just sat around having a headache and minding that there was still so much stuff in the apartment, and feeling bad and fussing around online, and it felt awful. So instead of meeting hubby and old friend Klaus at the Literaturhauscafe at 7, I rested at home a little longer, showered, and then walked the bike a ways while phoning my father (mother had been in the hospital overnight). So it felt like I got a little exercise, and connected with my family, and then I got on the bike and rode the rest of the way to meet them, had a mostly nice evening there, and rode home on bikes with hubby. 

Thursday I woke up early with the alarm clock. The night before I had been very frustrated I once again wasn't going to have a chance to sleep in, but when I woke up Thursday morning I was happy to know I was off to go get the excellent niecelet. Thursday was a wonderful day. Early morning bus ride, the bus waited for me while I jogged up the street as hard as I could while hanging onto the three different bags/packs that were hanging off me and banging against me as in various ways as I pounded up the street (the bus waiting like that is a once-in-a-blue-moon marvel) - then I got to notice and enjoy the place where, in the last several weeks, something (a branch surely?) always bangs hard on the top of the double-decker as we round the first curve of Koenigsallee - I'm kind of amazed nobody's come to do their efficient middle-of-the-night trimming - and then on the bus I finally started reading the book Anja loaned me over New Year's (!) which was immediately engrossing - I got to sis-in-law's and niecely's house early and walked up the many flights of stairs still reading - and there was bright bubbly Fanny happy to see me, her mother ready to ride off to work on her brand-spanking-new (am I overusing the hyphens yet?) mom-mobile (beautiful sturdy black bike with state-of-the-art baby seat in back), and Fanny and I had a few hours together, breakfasting, reading, and then walking down steps, down more steps, waiting for and riding the U-Bahn, getting out and walking the wrong way and then the right way, strolling along the Ku'damm with Fanny in and out of the stroller and enjoying her raisin breadlet, buying organic fruit together, and then finally getting back on the bus to finish our trip and ending up looking for the ducks who were nowhere to be found and then riding upstairs to see Felix and hubby - Fanny has so much to tell us all in her amazingly articulate two-year-oldness (what is it about our nieces and the verbal precocity?) and it was just lovely to have a friendly, curious, talkative, cuddly small person who likes being with all of us, and she and I finally snuggled down for a nap and I *really* wanted to just stay there and sleep through it all with her!

But after a half an hour maybe of snoozing with her I went off to the kitchen and started processing all the many vegetables and food stuffs in the fridge and on the counter because it had become real how many (few) meals and hours were left to be had in this apartment. Cooked carrots with ginger and orange juice, sweet potatoes slice-boated in the oven, regular potatoes home-fried on the stove for Felix, noodles for Fanny (weren't too popular) and corn on the cob for me, green salad for hubby and me . . . and sis- and bro-in-law showed up a little later to get Fanny and had time to sit down and have some of the bounty too, and there was still even some later when people came home with us in the evening.

Anyway - this was to be a power blog and I'm lingering. Just to say - Thursday there was still time for a nice long afternoon nap, I skipped the final institute dinner to walk into the woods with my weight vest on, long phone call with sister in Texas back from her visit to our parents in California, then wonderful swim, then on the way back phone call with parents though the cellphone ran out of minutes in the middle, and only then did I go join the dinnering instituters with the dinner all gone which was good for me, and later more people came back to our house. Thursday was good.

And Friday gets its own blog, I just decided. Sorry this was longwinded it meant to be short - just to say it's been an up-and-down week, and the things I figured out early in the week were good and to be savored DID turn out to be good and savorable - time with Fanny, time in the lake - it took longer to find time with hubby and Felix but we even did that too on Thursday.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

in-the-moment moments

I'm typing this up Tuesday night, July 28th.

This morning, on my way to the second bus stop (the one I go to when I've missed the bus at the first bus stop, just so I can walk a little bit instead of standing around), I pulled out my notebook and wrote:

"in-the-moment moments:

- just now, watching a man lay fat-capital-serif-I-shaped cobblestones in a nesting and repeating pattern on a beautiful patch of very flat, perfectly leveled strawberry-blond sand in a piece of hte opened-up sidewalk. (On the sidewalk on the other side of the narrow street, a different man was picking similar cobblestones [bricks?] off a pile on the sidewalk and loading them into a wheelbarrow. I was late to meet my friend Lou for our pre-Weight Watchers walk so I couldn't stay to find out what the relationship between the two sides of the street might be.)

- being in the lake, whenever I'm in the lake, which is why I want to get back there!

- being with niecelet Fanny whenever that wors which is why I should just make it happen!"


and indeed, I wrote that this morning and thought about it during the day and so tonight I went and jumped in the lake, it was truly lovely. (And I had a thought, as I often do when I'm bobbling around in the lake - today the thought was that I really should organize my Facebook friends into different groups and categories, and surely it wouldn't even be that hard?! - college friends / Bloomington friends / book group / women's group / family / childhood friends etcetera.)

And then I called sis-in-law number one and made a plan to have young mistress Fanny to spend the morning and into the afternoon with on Thursday, about which I am very pleased.

So - off to pack up and pack up and pack up so that maybe tomorrow already the packing of boxes etcetera will be behind us and we can truly live in the rest of our Berlin moments.

Monday, July 27, 2009

5 days to go

Wow. When I write it like that it's not a lot of time!

My cold is abating but not all gone. We haven't sent any more boxes since last I blogged but we've done a certain amount of sorting and packing. I haven't been exercising since I've had that weird shaky-weak about-to-break-out-in-a-cold-sweat feeling, if-I-move-around-too-much-I'll-be-completely-exhausted kind of a thing. But I've been eating, for a few days it felt like it was good for me and good for my cold, but now the weight has crept up higher than anytime so far in Berlin and it does not feel good and it's 3:26 a.m. and I can't sleep!

So - I've made a little list of things to do in the morning to get myself back on track (I should say: start getting myself back on track). I want and need somehow to:

- take a few kilos back off
- get things packed and sent off
- spend time with hubby and Felix
- get sleep, get sleep, get sleep!
- keep saying good-bye to so many people

Hubby is clothes-shopping for himself and Felix. I don't quite see myself managing that for myself, sadly. I wanted to try to spend at least a half day with little Fanny niecelet before we go but when? when? how? not sure. I had promised to send my resume and info about what I do to one of the administrators at the institute; surely I can do that today? Shouldn't take more than an hour, if I just sit down to it?

There have been so many good-byes. Wonderful visits from Kim and Christian from Hamburg and from Johanna from Berkeley; before that Adam and Nina from New York. A very nice final meeting of Friday morning writing group. A lovely, lively, jampacked final meeting on Sabine's balcony of Wednesday night play-reading group (we read Chekhov and a hilarious one-act play called The Tragical Tale of Melissa McHeiny McNormous McWhale - I recommend it - just google it). This past weekend lots of family, last visits and connections with our nephews, with madre-in-law. I haven't been to Weight Watchers for 2 weeks in a row, 2 weeks ago it was Felix's sixth-grade graduation plus a rehearsal at the institute for our hilarious group songs for the institute good-bye party; last week it was me waking up and realizing I had to go back to sleep and sleep all morning because I was truly unwell. 

So this week, this morning, lying in bed at 2:30 a.m. I was wanting and wanting to go back to sleep and finally realized it wasn't happening, and so I'm up to make lists, have tea, write this blog, do some e-mail, and then hopefully surely certainly, with my mind unburdened-er and the sleepytime tea working its magic and the Ibuprofen likewise, go back to sleep for a few hours before I wake up to have breakfast, meet my friend Annette in front of the Weight Watchers meeting place so we can walk for an hour, and then go to the meeting and say good-bye and, as I write this, I realize they (Frau Krüger, the leader) will surely want me to say final words of wisdom as I leave and I'm going to have to say: what can I say? I fall off the wagon and all I can do is keep getting back on. 

I haven't been back to my beloved lake since last Sunday (this is Tuesday early early, 9 days later) - yesterday was a hot day perfect for it but I was holding out to be fully over this cold. Maybe today? Lots of Iranian demonstrations near the Brandenburg Gate. New people (Americans, young people, scholars for the institute, who knows who else) flooding into Berlin as others are leaving in droves, it's a big city, it's a mecca for foreigners, people come, people leave. 

Our friends in Bloomington are putting out welcome mats for us and that is a lovely feeling. I've drunk my tea and made my lists and written this blog and now for a couple more e-mail messages and back to bed. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Taxi ride to Anja and Alexander's

Last night on my way to Anja and Alexander's in the taxi I took notes [this morning's blog notes on last night's bumpy handwritten taxi notebook notes are in brackets]:


Today because I have a cold and I'm pretty out of energy I'm taking a taxi. Moving faster, lower down, nobody getting on and off of course! [This is in comparison to the bus ride I chronicled a little while ago.]

Mostly noticing bikers, and this evening they're all female. Just now one was pushing what looked from behind like a big black vender's cart, but came up alongside and passed her, lo and behold it was a pretty fancy, mega-serious heavy-duty baby pram-for-a-bike riding in front of her. With I think reinforced metal sides - a very cool oval-rounded shape. Super-sturdy. Wow. [What I was struggling to convey last night while taking my bumpy notes in the taxi was that it was an industrial-looking object in its blackness and hugeness and sturdiness but that there was an element of softness, comfort, and baby-appropriateness in the rounded edges and in the glimpse of baby bedding I could have sworn I caught. (Watch it have been a samosa cart after all?!)]

The biker we passed before that had on the sheerest lacy black top I have ever seen outside of a dressing room or my own boudoir (OK, confession here - not even there because I don't own any such thing). We passed her and fell back and passed her, etc. a couple of time and I kept craning around to try to see how it could possibly look in front because she clearly had nothing on underneath. But I just couldn't see - she was hunched over her handlebars . . .

Before that we nearly sideswiped a pretty lady in pastel colors with a spray of flowers out her back carrier.

Just turned into the Strasse des 17. Juni, majestic boulevard with the Siegessäule [victory column monument] ahead shining golden and wingy in the late afternoon sun (it's almost 8 p.m. but the sun son't go down here for another 2 hours surely).

All those bikes I reported were in a stretch of a few blocks on the Kufürstendamm [Dam of the City Electors, West Berlin's old glittery main stretch], which we left behind a while ago, but it took a long time to write all that down. My taxi driver had no idea where Claudiusstrasse was so he's following his little street-by-street smart screen. Since I only ever usually come here by train, I'm also unfamiliar with this route - right now it's a little leafy green street we're on, ferns and droopy branches (willows?) and something with red berries and something else with reaching branches, reaching, branching . . . can you tell the taxi is stuck for a few minutes and I could really look? Back there it wa all dark green with a little patch of light spring green somehow stuck on in front.

The Berlin birds that sound like the fruit bats I grew up with in Kinshasa are oing their 5-tone warble. A little mousy gray-brown-black bird was just hopping along the sidewalk in front of those greens I was describing (taxi is now idling about 2 blocks further along).

Chatted with the driver a bit. Much more traffic than the usual because the S-Bahn [fast city trains] system is down. Opened my window finally - I'm eye-to-eye with a parked red bike you can rent, next to an old baked-yellow phone booth. Make that two parked red bikes-for-rent.

[This last paragraph is almost impossible to read/decipher - looks almost like my grandmother's script in her last years but much harder to read:] Driving again. Traffic eased inexplicably. Wind in the short tufts of my hair that stick out from under my cap. Hard U-Turn - taxi got lost? Or missed turn because enjoying the sudden ease of uncluttered driving!? One more hard turn - we're here.


[Postscript - I was delivering myself via taxi to Anja and Alexander's, where hubby and Alexander had been preparing an octopus feast for us! We ate it in the garden, an unbelievable place. The 80+ (maybe 90+?)-year-old former owner of their 3 or 4-story, maybe 8-apartment, house, started this garden decades ago. Anja and Alexander bought the whole building from her sometime in the last couple of years (they'd been renting a top-floor apartment for years already) and now the garden is their job but also their joy. Glorious place. The entire space was created during the war when a bomb destroyed the half of the house that used to occupy the space that is now the garden. Here's the thing: the garden is about the size of our backyard in Bloomington - except maybe half again as wide, I figured out later (looping and circling and overhanging alleyways and confusions of trees and bushes obscure the total size) - strangely, though, it looks nothing like it. They have apple trees, pear trees, tomatoes, green peppers, lettuce of multiple kinds, grapes, zucchini, thistles, flowering orange things that magically keep away pests, a wild phallic thing that shot up as a volunteer, borders and picnic tables and a picturesque falling-down gate. Truly an amazing place. If you're reading this, Anja, so many thanks again to both of you!

I stayed a couple of hours in spite of my droopy blahness with this cold, and allowed myself to be fed and cheered up and taken care of, which was wonderful. I left hubby there happily chatting with our old friends and rode home in another taxi - too dark to keep notes and besides this taxi driver was very chatty - we spent quite a while on the grasshopper that had landed on the windshield (?!).]

a cold overruns all else

Wednesday morning, July 22nd, 2009

The time is flying. The time till we leave Berlin and fly home to Bloomington (on August 2nd) cannot be counted in weeks anymore, really, unless you're good at counting things like 1 1/2 - the more useful unit now is days, as in 11 days.

Did I never report on Felix's 6th-grade graduation last week? I think I didn't. It was Tuesday morning - we went to the school and the three different sixth-grade classes had a little joint performance/ceremony. At 8:30 a.m. It reminded me and hubby of nothing so much as the Holiday Follies at Harmony School in Bloomington every December - (although with higher production values, as hubby pointed out) - but anyway it was sweet, and though it started out ragged and long-going-on, it ended, shockingly, within the hour, as Felix's white-bearded guitar-playing hippie teacher had confidently predicted. Then we went into the individual classrooms to see the kids get their report cards handed to them individually, in ascending order by grade point average.

There were, at the end, 19 or 20 kids in Felix's class; much was made of the fact that Felix ended up 2nd in the class after going in at the beginning of the year with rather imperfect German. The boy had a good year. Frankly, we kind of expected he'd do fine academically. What was less easy to predict and much more satisfying was that he truly did also integrate in socially with the kids (even though after school he preferred the company of the English-speaking gang that lived in our institute-run villa with us). 

Felix is madly connecting via Facebook with his friends back in Bloomington, even while prowling Berlin with his buddies here. The day-before-yesterday he called from his cellphone to say he and his friend Peter, after eating downtown at McDonald's, had ducked through an U-Bahn station to get out of the drizzle on their way to the sports store to ride the scooters as they like to do, and on a whim decided to hop on a U-Bahn train and see where it took them (they have monthly passes that can take them anywhere in Berlin so that's no problem). They ended up at Potsdamer Platz, which is where we  go to see English-language movies in the original, and Felix was calling to see if it was OK if they went to the movies.

Sounded like a lark to me and I said sure and they had a great time.

Anyway, I kind of think Felix's reentry in Bloomington will be smoother than anyone's, but he'll surely miss the ability to roam free and wild. And we'll miss him having it.

A cold I said. Yes. Last Friday night Felix, hubby, and I were deeply involved in planning and running various aspects of the big institute good-bye party. Felix had made the dance playlist, spending hours and having a grand time; he worked on the welcome banners, and at the last minute was recruited to go around among the crowd (there were I think 150 people or so there though I'm not sure) taking drink orders and then bringing the drinks (a few other kids were making the actual drinks - Sangria and suchlike - generally not a task given to twelve-year-olds or ten-year-olds in the States but this is not the States). I, meanwhile, had been in charge of the entertainment committee but had also organized one of the huge successes of the evening - I actually merely channeled it. The thing was this was a party organized by the institute fellows for the staff, so everything was opposite - they usually serve us, now we served them, and part of the deal was a good-bye thank you gift from us to them. 40 fellows (plus lots of partners, like me, and family, but still) and get this: SIXTY-FIVE staff members. We never realized all year that there were so many of them, many shadowily behind the scenes (of course also plenty in front of the scenes, at the reception desk, serving us meals, running the library, answering organizational questions, fixing our plumbing, running academic exchanges . . .) - anyway long story short I had been on the phone with sister-in-law #1 asking her for suggestions of where to shop in Berlin for nice soaps (for some reason I had gotten fixated on soaps as gifts, thinking chocolate and wine was BOring by now) and she said what about plants? And a plan was born, and her partner the florist was asked to provide 65 plants as gifts from us to each of the staff (no, not 65 plants for each staff member - you know what I mean) - and he did a glorious job, there were banana plants and little trees and big bushes and flowering things and the 65 of them together looked fabulous as one came in, and everyone was very pleased.

So that was great, and the entertainment program went off quite well, and dancing was intense, I don't think I've ever been at a party where dance participation was so high, but then Felix was sent home at 2 with his father to go to bed leaving me watching his iPod like a hawk for him (OK, Felix, I confess I was dancing more than watching the iPod) - anyway, I was in the room with it and tending the playlist (we went off-list and ended up with about 20 minutes of Balkan Beat Box), and so I stayed till 3 which is somehow the time I'd gotten the sense I had to stay till, and helped a couple other people close up. Went home, slept till 2 p.m. the next day, and woke up with a terrible sore throat I've had ever since, and yesterday (Tuesday) I didn't even go to Weight Watchers or meet my walking friends.

Sunday I did go for a long (hour and a half) jog plus half-hour swim but I think now I've figured out I am actually under the weather and can't do this. So no, I don't think I'm doing 10K on August 1st the night before we leave, either. Sadly.

Good things and plans:

our 18-year-old friend Johanna from Berkeley arrives today

our friends Kim and Christian (Kim is this blog's absolutely faithfullest reader) arrive tomorrow from Hamburg for a couple of days

Sis-in-law #1's birthday is Friday, we're having a family party Sunday, madre-in-law will be in town and nephews coming in from Darmstadt

8 boxes have already been sent off to the States


Gotta start waking up family members. They all seem to need several wakings each time.

Monday, July 20, 2009

chocolate mint wind

so, so very much to write and tell but in the meantime: the wind just blew in the open window, we're having San Francisco weather (if you don't like the weather . . . wait ten minutes) and a sudden downpour has once again been followed by sunny bright skies and wonderful yellows and greens shiny in the tree leaves.

But still I don't get why the wind just blew in, on what is otherwise the fresh post-rain smell of trees up here on the 4th floor and the lake below, a barely chocolate but very minty smell!?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

many little things

- kitchen timer is broken so I'm going to have to do the fifteen-minute blog thing by looking at the computer clock

- piece in the New York Times this morning about naked children being tolerated or not in various contexts (sometimes the parents think it's fine and the grandparents don't, sometimes the other way around, sometimes boys are OK but girls not, etcetera) - reminded me of one of my favorite images from my first time swimming at my wonderful Teufelssee lake - that I had meant to write about but the timer dinged then if I recall, cutting me off.

The image was this: a family with about four small white-to-nutbrown children running around naked playing on the little sandy-dirt incline to the lake at the first main entrance to the water - while I was swimming they had been playing there, and then at some point I got out, dried off, got dressed, and sat on the log to put on my shoes, and next time I looked three of the four had light blue terrycloth robes on that involved hoods and then loose ponchos coming down - it seemed like a wonderful, warm, comfy, easy way to get warm and dry and covered up at the end of a day at the water, and while three were continuing to play and scramble in the robes exactly as they had while naked, the father chased down the fourth and littlest one and popped a robe over that one as well. That was a very nice image. The light blue robes swallowing up the little tan round bodies, that kept moving around as though the robes weren't there.

- last night, a lovely good-bye party at my friend Anna's WG (Wohngemeinschaft, living community, i.e. shared apartment) - this is a vegan WG and there was a fantastic gazpacho into which Anna's sister Esther was just tilting the last tiny chopped bright green cucumber pieces as I was arriving, and then we moved furniture around and carried plates and bowls into different rooms and then I sat and chatted with a lot of people the absolutely oldest of whom was 28 I believe, and I had SUCH a good time, I left around midnight only because I knew I was going to want to get up in the morning and it was already way past my bedtime - but such fun to talk to these people and be outside my life but apparently be completely accepted as a reasonable conversation partner (found out from Mareike, a world-traveled young woman I was comparing notes with on culture shock and transplant discomfort, that Galsan somebody-or-other, the quite-rude Mongolian shaman and chieftain and writer-in-German who for complicated reasons my family had over to dinner in Bloomington a few years ago, is actually pretty famous among Germans who know anything about Mongolia, as well as in Mongolia, and she thought it was pretty hilarious he'd come to dinner at our place). 

- went for a walk around one or two of the lakes in the woods down the street from us this morning with my friend Annette, and that was a lot of fun. Annette is a rhetoric coach and has a lot of coaching experience and she was in a way coaching me on my writing coach work, but we talked about lots of things, and she said some things about writing I want to chew on (she just finished a book distilling her approach to what people need to do to communicate effectively). Except that for now I've sort of forgotten one of the main things she said that I thought was smart, useful, and something to remember and use. Perhaps it will come back to me.

That's about it now, we're at thirteen minutes out of fifteen. This afternoon I went and retrieved my bike, whose flat tire had been fixed - reading The Hammer of God, number 3 in the science fiction trilogy I had been reading. We've been packing, sorting, boxing. Leaving in two weeks and 3 days if I count correctly. Fourteen minutes out of fifteen. The fact that I'm allowing myself to start a book again means a lot of the pressures are lifted. In ten minutes I'm off to lead a dress rehearsal of all the different entertainment acts that are going to be presented at our big party for the staff of the institute tomorrow.

Fifteen out of fifteen. Love and greetings to you all my dear friends out there in radioland! 

Monday, July 13, 2009

10K run August 1st plus planning for it

We leave for Bloomington August 2nd early; I've signed up for a 10K run the evening of August 1st. Hubby thinks I'm nuts. But here's the thing: I just signed up, I don't actually have to do it if I don't want to but at least I have the option.

And in the meantime I'm going to do every-other-day runs as IF I were going to be doing the 10K. So I'll be ready if I do decide to go, and even if I don't, I'll have the benefit of doing those runs in the meantime.

I wrote up how long I want to run for each day between now and then (each every-other-day), and so far there have been 3 of them including the longer one yesterday and I've done them because they were on a piece of paper on the wall. So I'm glad I planned it out. See if I can find myself an hour tomorrow to go in!

Off to bed soon I hope. I have to skip Weight Watchers in the morning (last day of school for Felix with a graduation program for the 6th graders early; later a practice for some other musical numbers at the institute) - partly as a result of that and partly for other reasons I've kind of fallen off the wagon today. But I'm also trying to learn how to incorporate that - to enjoy what I'm having when I do that and have it be a fine thing and not a bad thing. Still working on that.

Mozart canon and living in the moment

2 weeks and 6 days till we leave (it's late at night now and we leave early in the morning, so more like 2 weeks and 5 days really). Feels weird.

Some hurdles that were weighing on me heavily are past or going - we had our own good-bye slash birthday party Saturday night, and the Institute's good-bye party this coming Friday, for which I am most of the entertainment committee, is coming along nicely so my worries there are lifting too. I've started packing, hooray hooray (though today I was mostly packing Max's things, got a backache, and now hubby is online finding out things about cost per weight that mean we might have to repack - because there's one price up to 5 kg, one price up to 10kg, one price up to 20kg, and so it makes tons of sense to have the box be right up nestled close to the top weight in each category whereas right now one of them weighs 5.4, one weighs 12.3 - not cost-effective!).

Anyway, feeling as though I'm moving forward on what I should be moving forward on and therefore life is good.

Happy moments and in-the-moment moments in the last few days:

Thursday afternoon, 5 to 6 p.m., Sheila and Christoph and I (S and C are fellows at hubby's institute) practiced Mozart's canon (maybe he has several; this is the one that goes O du eselhafter Martin, O du martinischer Esel). I had been having tons of trouble - blithely said I'd do it but I thought I knew it and turned out I only knew the beginning. Finally I found an online keyboard and spent some time teaching myself the rest. But still, it was 2:30 Thursday, practice was at 5, and I really didn't know what I was doing. I was supposed to go babysit baby niece at 3 and then her mother called and said she'd be home herself after all, and so from 3 to 4:30 I practiced the thing and that made all the difference.

So I was pretty solid, and then Sheila and Christoph and I got together and we practiced it several a few times through, and then tried singing it as a canon in every possible constellation (1 and 1 and 1, 2 and 1 with different sets on the 2) but we kept ending up not together somehow, so we were doing this sort of sleuthing - where is the place we're messing up? Each of us took turns listening to the 2 others singing and couldn't find it. Finally, Christoph found the place in the very beginning where we were waiting two whole beats we weren't supposed to, and that fixed it.

We're still pretty much 99% positive not going to perform it for the institute party, because a. we would have had to practice a lot more and Christoph left that night and isn't coming back till an hour into the party; b. the thing has 4 parts and there were just 3 of us - we wanted more like 8 so everybody would have a buddy; c. it just really is complicated and we would have needed a lot of practice. But the practice was tremendous fun!

Another fun part was at our party on Saturday night, holding Fanny and going around to visit with different guests, and then spending a little time in the corner, me and Fanny, playing with the beautiful wooden Parcheesi board Felix gave Max for Christmas (the party was over at the institute and we had taken over the miniature pool table their aunt had given our boys for Christmas as well as various other games and things we had) - Fanny likes the Parcheesi because of the beautiful tiny color-coded pegs she can handle and do fine motor things with - very appropriate in an advanced sort of a way for an adroit little two-year-old. 

Another nice thing was Saturday during the day, hubby was out at a conference all day (he had to give a lecture only hours before the party!) but I was a bit of a wreck in the beginning, quarreling with Felix after I had quarrelled with his father before he went off to the conference - and at some point I threw myself on Felix's mercy and said please, I'm a wreck and tired and worried about the party, can you help me and he really, truly did, he was wonderful and he helped in so many ways - was a sounding board, put together a dance music playlist, and then went over to help me carry things over and then set things up.

So that's all good. Yesterday in between waking up late (post party-cleanup) and having in-laws for late lunch (with Persian food leftovers from party, very yummy), I took the time to bike into the woods and have an hour-and-twenty-minute run. I should make that a separate post. I will in a second. Sadly, there was no time left to jump in the lake.

Friday, July 10, 2009

20 intense physical experiences

Another writing exercise we did this morning involved listing 20 intense physical experiences. (They suggested one end of the spectrum as giving birth so I didn't want to write that exactly but some things danced around it.) I wasn't sure if I was going to post it but I just wrote to Diane and Lyn since their names come up on it and so I thought I'd go ahead and post. This list gets a little personal so look away if you must (though it still has boundaries).

List is in no order except as I thought of things. But I thought of things I hadn't thought of in a long time. So I liked the exercise. It's amazing how the simple task of making a list like this brings such long-forgotten and such disparate things to mind.

There was more to it involving choosing one of them and doing something with it which I don't recall, but there was no time left for that this morning. (The list below doesn't have exactly 20.)

1984 or 1985, having to jump over a ditch because we were protesting at a nuclear power plant somewhere in Germany, after Tchernobyl - we had to jump over the ditch because the police were chasing us with tear gas and I was very scared to jump, I didn't think I could clear the ditch and I didn't want to jump, but everyone around me was jumping and going and I couldn't stay there. (I did jump, I didn't quite make it, so I had to scramble up the other side. I fell down just a little if I remember correctly.)

1984, the flight from Kinshasa to Lisbon (it ended up landing somewhere else because of fog but that's a separate thing) - I was sitting in a bulkhead seat with plenty of space for my legs but nowhere, absolutely nowhere, to prop them and so I just couldn't get comfortable in my seat, I was so tired and wanted desperately to sleep and the flight was so many hours long but I couldn't get comfortable. Nancy Allan was on that flight with me. Never in my life have I had such an uncomfortable flight.

Teufelssee, the day before yesterday, early morning, me and my naked body in the water, breasts floating along.

Three or four years ago, walking briskly around the track at the YMCA in Bloomington and finally breaking into a trot - wonderful, post-80-pound-loss, to jog/run again after surely about 20 years.

The instant after Max was born, when all the excruciating pain in my back stopped, stopped dead, instantly, the moment he emerged. Blissful lack of pain and presence of baby.

Leaning back on my elbows on Lyn's bed, being her pillow, while she gave birth to Theo basically on my lap, I was propping myself up so that she could lean back against me - I was bloody from the waist down myself and felt like I was really part of that birth!

Jogging through Berlin for 2 hours last fall. Felt like I could go on forever.

Sitting on the floor late one night in his living room, watching satellite TV with Stefan and watching him and feeling an aching attracting to him (late 1985, early 1986) - [it's OK, friends and family - it was momentary]

Sitting on the steps of Farnham Hall between his floor and mine with Andy Rapp and him tracing my face with his fingers, in the wee hours of the night (now why are they called the wee hours of the night?!) - this is 1978.

The Charleyhorse I got that sidelined me just 2 dances in at the homeschooling squaredance in Cambridge in 1995 that I'd been waiting for and looking forward to for months.

The spoonful of Nutella I had yesterday afternoon - sweet and cold and creamy and chocolate in my mouth.

Holding my baby Max, nursing him, holding him, dancing and nursing and holding him for hours.

Nursing my baby Felix in bed with a breast infection, horrible hard inflamed pain, orange juice to drink and a cold cabbage leaf and frequent nursing for relief and healing.

Before that, the first couple weeks of nursing Felix, cracked bleeding nipples, crying through every painful nursing. Then, discovering Lanolin and the blessed soothing relief!

The earthquake, Oakland, 1989, and the house just rolling, rolling, rolling.

Riding the ferry to work after the earthquake when the bridge and the BART were down. Riding below, the water at eye level, eating doughnuts and watching the choppy water. Later, riding home, standing abovedeck with Diane, somehow we were on the same ferry home from San Francisco, I remember standing on deck in the biting wind and the roar (what was roaring? the engine? the wind in our ears? I don't know) and talking about wanting to have babies. That was 1989. Max and Asa were born in 1990.

Mango sorbet.

Hamburg, 1981, at the Kirchentag (national church meeting) - my first time in Hamburg (I was living in Heidelberg) - we were standing in line for a reading by somebody very famous and the crush of people was such we could not decide our own movements. It was frightening.

The List

Writing group, Coffee Shop, July 10th. Exercise from "The Practice of Poetry" : Make a list of things.

Heavy black plasticky winter coat with a three-cornered tear from the last time I wore it, when winter came unexpectedly back.
Stack of trashy books in English and German in the yellow carry bag from Kaiser's with kittens on it.
Books for the library, books to be boxed for home,
books to return to friends, a few books to still read.
The lovely round glass butter dish I bought.
The waffle iron we used once. Not like the one at home.
Not worth it. Here we eat pastries, freshly bought.
My sister-in-law's Nordic walking sticks. Have to clean off last autumn's woodsy mud before I give them back.
Boxed board games and card games. Some never unsealed.
Lists. Lists on little square papes, on big sheets of scrap paper, floating around the living room and stuck to the wall in the hall.
Bags. Nylon bags, canvas bags, shopping bags, carry bags, purses, backpacks, laptop bags, shopping carts, suitcases.
Our neighbors' leavings. 15 bottles of wine from Dipesh, who left this morning. Some he inherited from Eva, who first left months ago. Milk, an endive, some lettuce from Rafael and Elizabeth, who only left for the weekend.
Tiny glasses and cups that were in the place we got here. Much larger tumblers and mugs I went out and bought.
Boxes of tea we will never finish, except for the peppermint which I can't restock fast enough.
Max's things we're supposed to box and send for him.
Folders, binders, notebooks on the floor in the hall.
Clothes on the floor in the hall and by the bed.
In the living room, our birthday presents, some still piled there.
Cords. Power cords, mostly white but green and gray and black as well, plugs and plug adapters.
The red couch. With my family on it. Staring into the glow of their laptops.

On the M19 bus to writing group this morning

Friday morning, July 10th

Top right corner seat on double decker bus.

LOUD branches on roof.

Big matching yellow double decker bus coming the other way - my first ever on this stretch of Koenigsallee which opened to two-way traffic two days ago after 11 months of being closed for pipe work. Our bus had to pull way over to the side.

Pedestrian sign high up over the street (blue square, white cartoon person crossing on white stripes] really *just* barely high enough to clear the roof over my head.

At the end of Koenigsallee, emerging onto Rathenauplatz: a big blue circular sign with a thin white rim and inside a lumbering old white rounded cartoony bus - NO bus in Berlin looks like the cute little old bus on the sign.

In the middle of Rathenauplatz we drive past the super-weird statue of two old cars encased in concrete - actual cars, one nose down 180%, one sort of aslant like going down a 45% ramp.With concrete sort of poured over them in incomplete and partial ways. Why this statue, nobody knows.

As we pull up to the Rathenauplatz stop (just past Rathenauplatz itself) I notice a low (3-story?) apartment building across the street - with dusky brick red balconies and on them, matching large gay purple umbrellas - NEVER noticed this before.

In front of me, a bike messenger, leaned way over his bike, bright yellow flat vinyl shiny pack on his back.
Coming up to Halensee we go over the S-Bahn bridge. TV tower off to the left and tracks stretching out to left and right under the bridge. Somehow this high-tech place: high-speed city train tracks - feels very homey. Because of the little buildings planted in between the tracks? Because the tracks curve a little, both to go around the buildings and off into the distance? Because there is grass and weeds growing up around the tracks in various places? I'm not sure.

On to the Ku-damm (short for Kurfürstendamm - used to be Berlin's main glitzy drag but when the center of gravity pulled east after the wall came down it ceased to be the main drag; for a while it was really grungy but is coming back a little) - it's 9:30 a.m., very sunny with stark shade contrasts as we pass buildings and trees.

A biker we just passed - long dark blue jeans topped with a flowy yellow-white blousy dress and a white helmet - unusual here.

Joachim-Friedrich-Strasse stop: 5 people get on, 4 middle-aged-to-old ladies, one young sharp-faced man, huge ovoid backpack.

Driving on to Lehniner Platz, a very shiny bullet-shaped little car parked to my right - says Cayman S on it. Never heard of this kind of a car.


Lehniner Platz, 4 people get on; one is an older man with a black cap, one young woman with very long straight blonde hair and a plastic green basket.

Passed bike lady with the blousy yellow and white flowered dress again!

Adenauer Platz - will I see hubby here? He's on his way back from taking a neighbor to the airport and would be switching buses here, thought I might see him. No.

11 people get on, one preteen kid in a striped shirt and backpack, one person of color, otherwise the usual middle-aged white people.

We idle here - I can't tell why from upstairs. People are taking their time paying the driver? Maybe we actually switched drivers? (Sometimes we do at Adenauer Platz but it doesn't seem quite long enough for that actually.) Some kind of gruff announcement.

The bus lurches downwards, there's a noise like doors closing. These are semi-kneeling buses; from here I can't see what's happening. But it seems like the bus should lurch downwards when we *stop* and *upwards* when we are about to go again. I don't know.

In the bus lane we pass the parked cars to our right very tightly with not much room to spare - almost squished a lady just now opening her driver's side door.

Olivaer Platz (there used to be a Subway sandwich stop here - Felix mourns its passing) - 8 people get  on including wheelchair and attendant. 2 more run up from the side street, catch it easily (young women). 

Because I'm in the right front top seat I can see the people getting on out my window but not so much the people getting off (generally out of the doors further back) - but a woman just got out of the bus and walked then across the street in front of it - heels, trench coat, wheeled cart, very straight brown hair - reminded me so much of the young Barbara Johnson, a storied literature critic who was my professor at Yale and then hubby's colleague later at Harvard.

Bleibtreustrasse - now there's a Mercedes taxi in front of us in the bus lane, a weird shape and with funny markings I haven't seen before. Also a blonde woman, orange plastic bag flapping in her black wire basket, a green strap on her leg (passed her before I got hardly any of that written down - next time I'll actually take the laptop instead of the paper notebook maybe?) - 1 redhaired lady got on. 

We drive off and the sidewalk to our right is filled with men in yellow hardhats and orange-striped reflective vests, way below ground level - there's a long ditch running along the edge of the sidewalk and they are in it, lounging, drilling, leaning on shovels, talking. 

Uhlandstrasse. My stop. Off I get. This bus trip went faster than ever before, faster even than when I am reading.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Still all about the lake

I've been in the lake Thursday, Friday, Saturday (sadly not Sunday), Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Today, we'll see. Just made it happen. In Bloomington there's not a lake nearby like that, certainly not one I can walk, jog, or bike to, and surely also not one I can take off my clothes in and puddle around in a state of such glorious oneness with the water and the heron and the ducks and the fishes.

Yesterday morning I was so very happy - got there, just a very few people there. Put my towel out in the sun (it was a little chilly; I had just been jogging for 45 + minutes so I was warm but I wanted the towel to be as warm as possible for when I got out) and my clothes and shoes and little fanny pack with money and phone and keys and pedometer in a pile in the shade under a tree by the water. Got in slowly - the raft that otherwise has teenagers had this one heron (I'm going to say heron - could have been egret) - it was majestic and tall and had its beak pointed defiantly outwards until later, after I'd swum back and forth past it twice, it did a settling downwards and changing its shape to sit down and cut, truly, a completely different outline in the sky - sitting down it looked like a different creature. 

I just swam around and swam around and thought about things and considered myself happy and relaxed and on vacation and lucky. 

Last night, sadly, an acquaintance here spoiled it for me a little, it was an unpleasant encounter anyway and I thought she was quite rude to me, but she was also making a thing out of saying she could/would never go to a place where you take off your clothes in public, something about preserving her eroticism. And it turned into a thing about who's more erotic (?!) or what going to the lake is even about. I was flustered and annoyed and defensive so I'll try to say it better here:

- it is NOT mostly about taking off clothes, it is mostly about being in the wonderful lake, and the feeling of being in the wonderful lake is for me sent skyrocketing into a whole nother level of unencumberedness by the fact that I'm in my birthday suit

- the part about being out and about in the air undressed, i.e. walking from lake to clothes, is for me also not about seeing and being seen! With fewer people there's a nice feeling of oh, how often do I get to walk around naked outside? But with more people, especially if a lot of them are dressed, it's not all that great, though it's also not terrible. 

- all the naked people lying around on the meadow and walking around, hanging out by the side of the lake, getting in and out of the water (and I say "all" - some times of day there are scores on the meadow and handfuls by the water; yesterday morning there were zero to five on the meadow and 3 by or in the water I think) - for me those people are mostly permission for me to be naked. I am certainly not particularly looking at them, especially since I don't have my glasses on and I can't see them as much other than a flesh-colored blur, except as an interesting phenomenon - somehow the people I have tried to talk to about it here seem to be hearing what I'm saying as about sexuality or I don't know, about looking at bodies or being looked at, and it just isn't that, it's about individual people feeling free, taking the freedom, using the freedom, to walk around or lie around or swim around naked, and by doing it in the open air and in this place and in all their differently aged and sized and drooping or sagging or tanned or white bodies, making it a safe space for me to also go with my tremendously imperfect body in which I nevertheless feel very much at home.

We're having play-reading group at the lake next week, that should be pretty cool.

Yesterday was really a very nice day in so many ways, jogging and lake at the beginning, some e-mail and things I think in the middle, oh yes also an amusing choral rehearsal for our institute's good-bye party and a pleasant lunch at the institute with some friends we like very much, and then choosing and printing out the play for play-reading group (we read Oedipus at Colonus to complete the trilogy that we'd read out of order - Oedipus Rex last week and Antigone a number of weeks ago), a little bit of time at home and a tiny window with Felix and then off to play-reading group which was lovely. The evening encounter, after my bedtime and in a group where this one woman clearly, I think, just did not want me to be there (there was a whole gender thing; women usually like me and I usually like women, I can't say *some* of my best friends are women because 90 billion percent of my best friends are women but this woman was making me feel like she was liking hanging out with those men plenty fine and there was something about me being there that she was just going to make me feel as uncomfortable as possible - we'd just had a conversation with her a few days earlier about cross-gender friendships and I think as I'm writing this I'm realizing one issue, I think, with her is that most of the grownups I know who are actually committed to trying cross-gender friendships do try to have a lot of it *not* be about the gender but it feels like she wants everybody to be aware of her gender at all times - oh I don't know - I felt uncomfortable and defensive and threatened, as I said, but it felt to me as though *she* started it, she was as I said quite rude to me and I thought: so does she feel threatened by me, she's on the defensive - I'm generally not threatening!).

OK. Nuff of the rant. Sister heard it earlier in e-mail, hubby heard it on a walk this morning, and then we had our morningly Proust read and now I'm doing laundry and blogging and later, maybe, the lake the lake and then a couple of hours with baby niece. 

alternative transportation

After an unpleasant and negative experience on the bike in late August, I basically spent at least 9 months here in Berlin avoiding the bike and walking, walking with weight vest on, jogging, taking the bus, or taking the trains. 

I had all my systems worked out, the shopping, the going places, the reading or phoning while walking or riding the bus or train, the socializing while jogging or walking in the woods, the exercising while all of the above

- and then our neighbors borrowed my bike and pumped up the tires
- and then we needed to go somewhere the bus didn't go
- and then the weather got glorious
- and then I got in the habit of riding my bike a little!

It's a whole different view of the city, a different rhythm. The streets and the stores and the people go by at a different pace, I'm in a different place in the traffic (yesterday an enormous bus was bopping along superslowly behind me and I didn't even realize it at first - bikes can go in the bus lane and the bus just has to wait), now I'm the one going ring ring ring at the unruly pedestrians when the bike lane is on the sidewalk as it often is. Even in the woods - I can get to my beloved lake so much more quickly, the transportation is barely an issue, I could go out right now and be there in 15 minutes and then have all my time for the lake itself. (Maybe I will!)

There are different people in my space with me, too. About three weeks ago I biked to Weight Watchers and on the way back there was a man in the bus lane ahead of me, on a bike with a large green cargo basket behind him and in it a very large green-paper-wrapped bouquet sticking out to the right - he was very slow and if I say that you know it was slow because I'm slow, and our bike-space-in-the-bus-lane was about to merge/verge right and go up onto the sidewalk and become a bike-lane-on-the-sidewalk (delineated by fine-grained red brick as opposed to the larger gray slabs of the sidewalk), and I really wanted to get out of there and away from the buses and he was slow so I tried to swoop around him on his right but I gently sideswiped the bouquet as well and so I apologized profusely as I went by and he seemed chagrined and unhappy and I felt bad.

Well, a week later, I was coming back from Weight Watchers on my bike, same day of the week, same approximate time, and in fact meditating on my memory of sideswiping that very man as I once again biked up onto the sidewalk at that very spot - and then I went on a little further and as I was riding up over the bridge over the circle line trains, I saw a man on a bike with a big green cargo basket and a green-paper-wrapped bouquet sticking out to the right, just a little ahead of me. 

As it turned out, he turned into a building before I had to deal with whether I was going to pass him again or not, and maybe it was a completely different man riding that route with those flowers in that paper on Tuesday at 11:45 p.m., but it seemed like a rather coincidence. Then I thought: maybe every Tuesday at shortly before noon he'll be here (but in fact, I have not seen him again).

So yes, I'm enjoying the bike. In the woods, on the street, on the sidewalk. It helps that we don't wear helmets here. It helps that the tires are pumped. I don't get as much reading or phoning done and I'm a little concerned about getting my weight-bearing, calorie-burning exercise in. I'll update!

Monday, July 6, 2009

The fifteen-minute post

Help, what do I write about? Three of the fifteen minutes are already gone what with pages taking time to load, and then me rereading my last few posts to reorient myself.

But seriously, there's too much. So I'll race through it all.

1. We have less than 4 weeks left in Berlin.
2. Since last Thursday I've been going to the local lake, clothing-optional, almost daily, enjoying myself TREMENDOUSLY naked in the cool water.
3. Had a lovely birthday on July 1st - took my whole family to play-reading group where my old friend Sabine was so very thoughtful about my birthday and my weight watching self that she set up 48 tea light candles in the shape of an M with a circle around them so I wouldn't have to deal with a cake - it was lovely, and we read Oedipus Rex, which I had been wanting to read and I only hesitated about since I was there with my husband and two sons, but I was assured by various people we should go ahead, and I took care not to assign the parts in any way so that anyone would think about my family matching up with the people there which we don't anyway. It's fun to read out loud together, and Felix is really good at reading out loud, and having some people read chorally is also always a very cool effect. And the balcony at Sabine's is a wonderful place to hang out in the evenings.
4. Max was here in between his two months in India (already past) and his one month in Costa Rica (started last night or this morning basically) - wonderful to see him, he brought his mother a gorgeous green silk sari he had made for me in India (he "had it made", not anterior past of "he made"), he was alive and bustling and full of plans and then he left again and we're catching our breath.
5. Felix's school is supposed to go through next week but now they're just going on outings every day . . . 

Anyway, what's truly wonderful, what I would like to say, is that the lake the lake, the lake. I want to go there every day, I have been there every day except Sunday when it just didn't fit in at all. I can walk there (with or without my ten-kilo weight vest on) in 40 minutes, or jog there in about 30, or bike there in maybe 20 or 15 I think, and then I can strip and jump in the water and swim.

It's an hommage to the summer of 83 when hubby (then boyfriend) and I went there every day because we didn't have bathing suits.

It's a way to cool off because now it's finally HOT here.

It's a curiosity to my American eyes, this big very very very overgrown, long-grassy meadow with naked and very tan middle-aged to old German people lying around in small groups (one, most often two, sometimes three or four) on towels, and occasionally getting up to stretch or roll over or stroll to the lake - there are three sandy entrances, one of which generally has lots of little kids digging in the late afternoon. There's a raft in the middle of the lake (it's a cute and pretty small lake) where in the afternoons teenagers tend to congregate, with bathing suits on. There's a 


I can't do it. The fifteen minute dinged, I wrote a little longer because I had stopped briefly to make tea so it seemed fair enough, but then family noise intruded (Felix joined Facebook today and is having a busy time of it) and I had to stop, and now I have been to Monday night poetry group and returned again, done some Facebooking of my own, and I'm going to declare tonight's blog post over and more later. Can you tell I LOVE my lake? I love it. It will make it that much harder to leave Berlin.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Bathroom markings in Dresden.

Since I'm here branded as the low-culture lady I want to tell you also about the bathroom markings in Dresden. 

One of the places we were last Friday night in Dresden, and I cannot now recall which place, the bathrooms were marked as follows:

one of the doors had a picture of a man with a big red circle around it and a red line through it; the other had a similar picture of a woman, crossed through.

I stood there thinking about this and had pretty much decided to go into the one with the crossed-out man; then I noticed that someone had drawn a little anatomical woman sign (circle with a cross below) on that very door next to the big crossed-out man, and on the other door a little anatomical man sign (circle with arrow to side) was drawn on. For clarification. For people like me who were taking a while to figure out what we were being told.

Never saw that particular way of marking men's and women's rooms!

Then, for good measure, in the funky place called Plan-Wirtschaft [a German pun, shall explain below] where hubby and I had breakfast both mornings in Dresden, the bathrooms had, on the men's, a very very large 3-D lighted up green ladybug; and on the women's, an equally large, equally 3-D, equally lighted up pink flower. 

So I thought: great! It's a thing! In Dresden, the bathrooms are all going to have unexpected signage and I'm going to collect them and write about them.

Then (possibly because we kept going back to the same place) I never saw any more interesting bathroom signs. Sorry 'bout that.

[Oh, I was going to explain Plan-Wirtschaft. OK, so:
1. Dresden is of course in the former East Germany.
2. In the former East Germany, being Communist, they were into a planned economy, which in German is Planwirtschaft.
3. But Wirtschaft is also a word for a restaurant or bar or eating place. So, funny joke, Plan-Wirtschaft is the name of a place to eat in the funky touristy hopping part of now-capitalist, once-communist, Dresden] 

Cool beans.

Monday at the little alterations shop:

Lady in front of me, not exactly little old lady but sort of busty, biggish though short, white-haired German lady, apologetic and wordy, holding out a pillowcase and a zipper: I tried to fix it and I sewed it in like 5 times and I just couldn't get the corners right. It took me forever. I couldn't do the corners, so I figured I'd bring it to you. Can you do it? How much would it cost?

Amused young tailor-shop man, brown-skinned, fit, short-cropped hair, laughing at/with her: Yes, I can do that.

Lady: How much would it be? 

Young man: 8 euros.

Lady: That's fine. I don't care. I don't mind the sewing but the taking out was a huge pain. I spent 3 hours on this yesterday afternoon. 8 euros is worth it to me. If you do it and I don't have to I'm happy. That's great. So you can do the corners? You see where the zipper goes? And you can trim off the edges of the zipper here [showing and folding back with fingers], I don't care, whatever you want, I'm happy to let you do it, I spent enough time on it, 8 euros is totally worth it.

Young man: Fine. We can have it to you by Saturday.

Lady: OK, so next week then. 

Young man: Well, next week, if you like. When will you come for it?

Lady: if you want me to come Saturday, I'll come Saturday. Just tell me.

Young man: OK, we'll have it done by Saturday. [Half-laughing all this time]

Lady: Actually, Thursday of next week is totally fine. It's not even for me. I'm going to see her the end of next week so next Thursday is good.

Young man: OK, next Thursday. [She pays; she leaves.]

Me: [complicitous] [and trying to go along with the mood] Well, I have this sweater here for my son and I haven't spent any time sewing it and I don't have as much time as that lady, I need it this week. Is this something you can do? [showing him] [Max left the sweater with us 2 months earlier and I was supposed to get a seam under the arm sewed up and hadn't yet; Max was returning the next day.]

Young man: [still half-laughing] oh yes, I can do that. 

Me: How long will it take?

Young man: Just a second. [Disappears into the next room and starts his sewing machine up.]

Me: [picks up a wrapped chocolate from a bowl of candy and pops in mouth]

Young man: Here you go. [Hands over fixed sweater after 1.5 minutes; sweater was weighing on my conscience for 2 months]

Me: [mouth full of chocolate and embarrassment] Wow! Thank you! That's amazing! All done? What do I owe you?

Young man: Don't worry about it.

Me: What? You serious? No, really. What can I pay you?

Young man: No problem.


So I skedaddled home on the bike. Still chewing the chocolate.


Tuesday, grocery store, post–morning Weight Watchers meeting, me waiting in line to buy a couple of chicken breasts to bread and fry for Felix's lunch, another short, white-haired, busty and bustly German lady in front of me:

Lady, talking to me and to chicken guy behind counter (she's buying some kind of non-poultry things): I love poultry! Wish I could buy it. But my boyfriend can't stand it.

Me (feeling addressed; thinking "boyfriend" wasn't a category I was associating with this lady): Well, can't you get it just for yourself?

Lady: Oh no, he smells it. Can't stand the smell.

Me: hmm.

Lady: He was forced to eat it in his childhood. He associates it with his childhood. He can't stand the smell. That and [now I'm blanking on the other thing she mentioned]. Oh no. It's a childhood thing. He can't stand it. Had to eat it in his childhood. [Kind of etcetera.]

Me: hmmm

Man behind the counter [lean older German man but younger than the lady; clearly very efficient with meat-type things]: something I didn't quite catch but it sounded as though he was saying: childhood? well, if he associates it with childhood that should be a good thing!

Anyway, she went off with her non-poultry meat items and I was next, got my chicken breasts for Felix, and went home thinking about the ladies who like to chat to the shopkeepers - and me, too, enjoying the chats.

Clarification re Mozart

Just wanted to say: I wasn't exactly bored, and I don't hate Mozart! It was just interesting to be sitting in a place with people working really hard to produce something that obviously took a huge amount of work to do well, and that we and others had paid potloads of money to watch and listen to, and it just wasn't particularly engaging or interesting. With, as I said, a number of exceptions.