Monthly Archives

June 2008

Amsterdam: Blowing my head

By | Europe 2008, Travel | One Comment

2008-06-24 05.05.40
first things first…

Van Gogh Museum

2008-06-24 06.12.46My mind has been blown by Van Gogh so many times, through books, lectures, works in local museums… but here, we were surrounded by his work and it was something else. I felt something new.

He was only 37 when he died. I look at the dates on the paintings, counting backwards from when he bit it and figure out that he was my age when he was making his best work. It’s bizarre to think that he wasn’t really appreciated during his own time. He was just some crazy guy that liked to paint. Maybe his work was so different that they couldn’t even really see it. It was too much new information. It’s perfect that these works are in Amsterdam because they are crazy psychadelic, glowing with life from millions of tiny little brush strokes that look like they are being seen through a prism. Was the sun getting to him? or did he always see things this way? He was a visionary.

Still looking like a Tourist

2008-06-24 08.08.18We rented bikes. We skipped the place that puts their add on the front so that you can ride around with a little billboard that practically reads, “I’m a tourist!” which is OK sometimes, but other times you just want to blend in and be a fly on the wall in their world. The bikes we found did the trick because I’ve been stopped on the street for directions and recommendations of places to eat quite a few times. We picked up the bikes with little hassle. Credit Card, Cash, signature, and we were off. It took us a while, but I think that I’ve got the hang of riding in traffic. (There are bikes everywhere in Europe. People use them INSTEAD OF CARS! Not just for recreation. Novel!) I just assume that some of the same basic rules of the road apply, but there are random people everywhere that seem to breaking them and it’s really no big deal, so I break some too.

We went to the grocery and made sure to get food from all 3 traveling-around-in-Europe food groups: cheese, bread and wine. We rode to the park, found a cozy spot and spread it out. We finished our meal off with chocolate and White Melon and chilled.

Dutch Hot

I’ve seen a lot in the last 2.5 weeks and here’s what it all boils down to… The votes are in and I must say, Dutch men take the pancake! OMG.

2008-06-23 14.22.36Roxanne! You don’t have to put on the red light!
Last night, we met up with Robert, who we’d met online through Couch Surfing. He’s a nice guy. A programmer, which is not unusual in this network. Is that why the couch surfing website rocks? He asked us what we wanted to do, it was totally up to us. “What are you into?” He asked, “do you want to go to the red light district?”,  which I have no idea what anyone else replied. If I had found my cool at any point in this city, maybe I just lost it a little again. We walked down long narrow halls lined with windows showcasing the working girls of Amsterdam, lit up like mannequins in store windows, but with real eyes… eyes that say, “I know you”. Should I have had some idea about this? I guess that when I heard about the red light district in Amsterdam for the first time, I was a kid and it sounded gross. A bunch of grown up perverts walking around with their dicks in their hands. But now I’m all grown up, among those perverts and likening it to being in a candy store!

2008-06-25 15.20.47Our guide is great. He has been here a few times before, and knows just where to go. “Do you want to see the Big Mama/Ebony area?” YES! “Do you want to see the transsexuals?” Yes! “Do you like them like school girls?” Yes! “muscular?” Yes! “Skinny?” Yes! Yes! Yes! There was a moment as we left the Absinthe bar that I had to consider my new career as a blog writer… it’s only 50 Euro to go inside! I admire them a bit. I imagine that they are really strong women. We see an Asian goddess ushering a short, stout balding man out of her den. She looks at us and rolls her eyes. “Bad day at the office, honey?”

2008-06-25 17.07.24There’s no way I would have missed this, but I can’t really imagine myself coming here without him. Men are all fired up, so I don’t imagine that you really want to be alone here as a woman.

Will you take this Pannenkoeken to be your lawful wedded…

2008-06-26 04.29.22Went to a Pancake house today. We had to pedal around for a while we waited for them to open… at noon! Found a vintage store along the way and scored my goods. They had so many options, but the waitress gave us her opinion and so we ordered her favorite savory dish, the Salmon with Cheese and Dill Sauce and her favorite sweet, Apples and Cinnamon. I don’t care what you say, I AM going to try this at home.

2008-06-25 13.48.42Veggie Heaven!
We went to a vegetarian restaurant last night that we happened upon, by pure luck. I ordered the specials which consisted of 5 vegan dishes that were each a main course. It was incredible. They don’t do doggie bags here, so you either control yourself and just let it go, or you eat it all. I ate it all.

Getting lost in Amsterdam

Getting lost is inevitable here. The street names are long and impossible to remember:
HERENGRACHT WW. KERKSTRAAT, SARPHATISTRAAT, OUDEZUDS VOORBURGVAL, VALKENBURGERSTRAAT, RAADHUSSSTRAAT… etc.

If that’s not hard enough, streets change names every few blocks. Forget about using anything but intuition to find your way around.

Any Day

Today I went cruising after a pit stop at Any Day. Cynthia had to head home to work. When I’m just pedaling around, I just can’t help but randomly turn right and left and left again and right. I try to keep a vague idea of the direction I’m heading in and how to get back to where I came from, but that’s impossible too. Of course, partly to blame is the most amazing marijuana I’ve ever smoked in my life. Getting lost for over an hour when you’ve got some place to be (which always comes around at some point) is not fun (I know ’cause I did it just yesterday). I manage to commit myself to a snaking pattern, so that the main drag can only be to one side or the other and by 300 meters or less. That plan works for a while, until it doesn’t.

Luckily my best travel companion quality, if you ask Cynthia, is that I’m willing to ask anyone anything at any time. So that helps.

2008-06-26 05.31.46Lost and Found

At one point, I suddenly realized that I was no longer wearing my new scarf. I remember getting warm and loosening it about 5 minutes earlier. Damn! So, I start trying to retrace me steps. Part of me would rather entertain the idea that as I wizzed by on my bike, it came undone and floated behind me, following my breeze and then gently fell to the ground. I know that the idea that I’ll find it is ridiculous, but I kind of like the mission. About ten minutes later when I have no idea where I am, I find my scarf in the middle of an incredibly busy street. I was so happy. I shared my joy with a woman who had no idea what I was saying.

Another City, Another World.

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2008-06-23 04.00.34We hauled our luggage from the train station, through town, onto the tram and up the stairs to the apartment we rented only to find that the owner got the dates wrong and was not expecting us for a week. Alfred is a transplant from New York city that claims he brought the Bagel to Europe. Self named “The Bagel King” has lived in Amsterdam for the past 30 years and at some point opened a “bagel factory”. Cynthia tells me that he married a Dutch woman and that’s why he’s here. We were lucky that Alfred is not an asshole. Regardless of who is right and who is wrong, being cast out onto the street sucks just the same. He ordered up a room at his friend’s bed and breakfast for us and called us a cab.

The bed and breakfast is in a completely different part of town, so the taxi ride is really long and entertaining. I can’t believe how fast people drive here… it’s not much faster than I drive, but it’s the fact that they don’t slow down for pedestrians or bikes, or narrow roads, or anything.This was a welcomed adventure, even before I learned that we were staying at the Happy Hooker!

f95a3-display_pictureThe Happy Hooker

Xaviera Hollander is a Dutch woman that moved to NYC in the 60s and became a famous and successful Madam. She wrote the book “The Happy Hooker” which became a best seller at some point. She’s extremely proud and offers us a signed copy at a discounted price. I declined, but took some time to leaf through one of her more recent books on how to please a woman. The place is adorable and our room is perfect, complete with a balcony and a huge painting of Xaviera on the wall.  She’s got photos of herself everywhere, including one with a breast exposed, by the breakfast table.

2008-06-23 13.15.23Heading Out

We dropped our stuff off and hit the streets for dinner. We found a tram which took us directly to the heart of things. Little passageways filled with tourists and lighted signage calling people into Restaurants, Bars, Coffee Houses and “Coffee Shops”. Cynthia gives me the lowdown that the difference between a House and a Shop is that a shop doesn’t serve coffee. We stopped into a Greek Restaurant and had an incredible meal and a half carafe of house red. After that we started to wander and head away from this tourist trap where stoned teenagers flit through doorways. We don’t wander far before we see a place with a sign that says “Noon” and hope that it’s what we are looking for.

2008-06-23 14.47.59Popping my Coffee Shop cherry

As soon as we stepped through the doorway, we knew that this was our place. Apparently, this makes me a big DORK, but I stepped up to the counter and announced that I just arrived in Amsterdam and that this is the first time I’ve been to a coffee shop. Of course add my usual over-excitement to this scenario and… maybe I was a dork. But ask yourself how are you going to get the full low down if you try to act all cool like you’ve done this a million times before. He gives us a menu, but I can’t tell one thing from another. Orange Haze, NYC Diesel, White Widow, Grapefruit, Blueberry, White Melon… I asked the proprieter for help and he narrowed it down into categories for us. “Do you want high, mellow, stoney?” he asks. “Mellow”. They were running a deal, instead of 10 Euro for 1 gram, add a gram for just a Euro more! So we ended up with more pot than I would usually be able to smoke in a year.  We rolled our own joint and took a seat in a loungy booth toward the back of the small space. We lit it up and the most amazing thing happened. Cynthia and I stopped fighting! Ahhhhh. After an hour or so, we motivated back out onto the street, where I totally blow Cynthia’s cool-cover once again.

2008-06-23 14.22.36Typical Tourist

I seriously couldn’t stop laughing. Marijuana hasn’t been this funny since high school. Someone from across the way pointed at me and said, “man, she’s really stoned” which sent me into hysterics. The rest of the sensation and experience was completely wonderful. I was clear, content and very happy. The laughing was becoming a bit much, though, so we stopped into a bar to get a drink and mellow out. This wasn’t a bad idea, but it really didn’t do much to stifle my joy. After that, we begin to wander the streets aimlessly, something I have always enjoyed, but Cynthia mostly avoided on our trip until just now.

2008-06-23 15.34.55The Scenery is Surreal

The flowers look almost fake (you could probably accidentally drop a seed on the ground here and it would sprout). The reflections of the street lights on the surface of the canals wiggle and twinkle. The quaint little store and home fronts look like gingerbread. It was late, so with the exception of some passing bicyclists, we had the streets pretty much to ourselves (this would never happen in Berlin). Each time we crossed over the canals on a bridge we stopped to behold the scene. It is so surreal here. It’s like being transported into another time… another world.

Shoes

At about 1am, we came across a store window full of shoes. I can’t believe my eyes! At this point I had something that C refers to as a “shoegasim”… which I guess you could call a “multiple shoegasim” because directly across the street from the coolest boots I’ve ever seen in my entire life are the coolest boots I’ve ever seen in my entire life and caddy corner from those there were the second coolest boots I’d ever seen. Maybe it’s being around all of these Europeans, but suddenly I needed a cigarette.

Day One

We slept well at the Happy Hooker. We were served croissants, yogurt, coffee and orange juice. While I ate, I watched Xaviera’s toy poodle do a doodle outside and suddenly realized that the five huge potted plants that are rustling in the breeze are pot plants. In Amsterdam, each person in a household is allowedfive plants. What does one person do with the product from five plants?

It’s a perfect day and Cynthia says that it’s supposed to be like this the whole time we are here. We took the tram back to our clean and perfect little apartment, unpacked and headed out.

Last Day in My Favorite City

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2008-06-22 08.39.31My Last Day in my Favorite  City – 6.22.08

I finally caught up on some sleep. I
woke up at 2:30pm and found that it was really hot out! Maybe 90 degrees, fahrenheit of course. Welcome summer!

Cynthia, Suk-Han and I headed
out to see the sand sculptures at the competition downtown.

The two of them were tired by the time we left there and so they headed home for a nap. It was
6pm so I thought I’d see if could catch back up with my new friend Egbert. I
called him and he was getting ready to meet some friends to watch
Football,… they say “foozeball”. When I told Egbert what that
means in the states, he told me that they call that game “Kicker,” which
I’m sure I’ve done a wacked job of spelling.

2008-06-20 06.47.34A Completely German Experience

I borrowed Corinna’s bike for my first ever European city biking
adventure. I’d observed this from the street in wonder and taking notes. I had also
found myself standing absent mindedly in the middle of the bike path and luckily warned by bicyclists that promised they were nicer than the others might
be about it. Now it was my turn to avoid unsuspecting
tourist pedestrians! It was really fun. The crappy brakes only added to
the thrill. Cynthia recommended I gear up, but I said “Nein Helmut!”
The directions to Egbert’s yard
were easy to follow.

2008-06-20 22.03.39Every time I talked to Egbert he had some great story or
some intriguing history on the city. I tried to convince him that he should do a podcast
or something. I think he thought I was kidding. I got tid bits about the Wall, about the scene before and after the Wall fell, what Burgermeister means (“Mayor”. Burger = citizens, Meister = Master… but it’s also the name of the burger stand across the way), a bit about Jugendstil, which he’s really into. He told me one story that I found most dreamy. He and some partners had opened a dance club in the early 90s. It was in the East side in a space that wasn’t occupied and therefore had no real
owners.

It was technically illegal, without fire exits and other compliances, but they were left alone for a while. When they were busted, no penalties were exacted, they were just asked to come in for a chat. They figured out that if they changed their place into a collective, rather than a business, making patrons “members,” they had a different and easier set of rules to follow. The members signed their names and partied on. Inevitably, they were asked to comply with more and more of the laws and eventually shut down. It sounds like clubs like this were common back in the day, but unfortunately I got there kinda late.

2008-06-22 12.29.23We walked through back streets, a park and then
to a Biergarten where they were having a public viewing of the Italy
vs. Spain football game. It was great. I had a bio sausage (bio = organic) with a roll and some mustard. Egbert and I shared
some potatoes with the most delicious sauces, which were more like
piles of minced herbs. I’m determined to find a recipe online somewhere.

It came up in conversation that he had read Naomi Klien’s “Shock Doctrine”. Naomi probably makes more
book sales outside of the US than inside. I’ve only spoken to a handful of German people at length but most of them are more educated on what’s really going on in the states than most Americans I know. When
the topic of 9-11 came up, I shared my views and Egbert and his friend had both told me that they’d seen “Loose Change“. Go figure.

2008-06-22 12.45.47The game was long, drawn out and without any climax. A fantastic thunderstorm rolled in toward the end of the game and it chased us into another bar once the game ended. It was a really nice night. Egbert and I said our goodbyes. I hope to
stay in touch with him.

Making Friends with Travelers

It’s wild to move from place to place and find such incredible people just living their regular day to day lives. I think that it’s like what they say about having a child. It slows things down as you watch them see things for the first time, and have a brand new experience. I imagine that through me, my new friends had a little less than usual night. I’ll never forget.

My bike ride home was fun, in the mist, wearing my summer dress and seeing the city at night for the last time. I’ll miss it.

2008-06-23 08.58.49Savoring the flavor of this place–down to the last drop

To think of the hardships that this city has seen in the last
century and within the last 20 years, and to see where it is now.
They’ve built it up again, with so much pride and creativity. It’s modern, it’s cool, it’s big, it’s diverse (people come from many different places to live here). I can see myself living in this city. This might be far-fetched and I’m sure it will fade, but it’s fun to imagine. It’s really my city, if I’ve ever seen it. There are obviously some barriers to this dream, but I just thought that I’d put it out there, just in case someone is looking over me and in the mood for granting wishes.

Day 3 of 4 in Berlin

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Welcome Summertime!

I woke after noon. Suk-han, Cynthia and I took a tourist boat ride on the Spree, tuning in to every English word spoken about the architecture and the history. After that we made our way across town to meet Corinna at a huge gay (GLBT) festival. After a couple of beers, it was time to go. There are other things happening here that I just can’t miss.

2008-06-21 12.11.06 2008-06-21 17.44.43Fete de la Musique

It was the summer solstice and a day of music throughout this and most European cities. There were stages everywhere and people on the street with amps and gathering admirers. Lina had told me about a stage in Kreuzberg that might be worth checking out, so Cynthia and I headed back to our neighborhood. When we arrived, there was a rockin’ local band on stage. The people there were just drinking beer and enjoying the show.
Cynthia and I sat working in our Journals and bobbing our heads to the groove. Next we checked out the next nearest stage which featured some punk rock bands.

2008-06-21 13.47.39
“A Poor but Sexy City”

This was the night that I’d planned would be my big one. Our CS hostesses were
trying to talk me out of wanting to go to Panorama, but I was hell bent on going… with or without them. I wanted to take a nap, just like the night before, ’cause that worked out so well. But Suk-Han said that for me to take a nap would be cheating. So, I stayed up. We headed out around 2am. 2008-06-21 19.16.40
There were 5 of us. Cynthia, Suk-Han, Corinna (who was totally drunk from earlier in the day), their friend ____ and me. We went to a local bar. I think that it’s hilarious how our cultures (European and American) are equally impressed with one another. When I heard live music inside, I was excited and hoping for something uniquely German. Instead, what I saw was sort of MTV.
Funny stuff. “Let’s go out smashing cars… and expensive bars…”. Totally wacked costumes and attitude. It was fun to watch for a few minutes.

2008-06-21 19.10.38
We left there after one drink, but it still was not yet time to go to Panorama. That scene starts at about 4am. So we head to Bar 25 first. I was confused and asked, “Wait, I thought that Bar 25 was the ‘day’ club scene?”. The answer was, “it is but it’s still too early for Panorama, so we go to Bar 25”. They’ve got a crazy idea of night and day here. I’m catching on. You just sleep when you can, like at Burning Man.

“We all rolled over and 1 fell out, 4 bears in the bed and the little one said…” (do you remember that song from Sesame Street?). The walk to the club is a LONG one.

Cynthia isn’t sure if she can hang. It took so long that we decide to head directly to Panorama.

The club isn’t on the main drag at all. We wander into an industrial area. No one is on the street, but tons of taxis come and go from a side street within view, so we head in that direction. As we turn onto the road heading back to the club, Cynthia signs out. We wish her well. I’m starting to bounce with excitement. The walk is lined in vertically oriented florescent lights and a really long line to get into the club. No sign, just people who know where it’s happening. “Corinna is smart,” Suk-Han says. She’d jumped ahead in the line and started talking to two really cute gay boys. These boys are sure to get in easily and she knows that she can probably just blend in to disguise her drunkenness. Not everyone gets in here. They charge 12 Euros for entry. The days of the free underground warehouse parties here are over. They check my bag and take my camera. No cameras inside.
2008-06-24 18.42.11I was in awe at the size of this place. The whole building is dark with only ambient and sometimes flashing light: red, yellow, blue, strobe lightning white. On the ground floor is the entrance with a large coat check area, where I check everything (except my camera, which is being held safely at the entrance). The next room has concrete benches and lighted, modern, relief shapes on the walls. A large metal staircase with a landing leads up to the next floor. The first dance floor is packed and the music is hard and driving. Not hard, like industrial, just hard and chaotic. There are pods of dancing shirtless guys with shaved heads. I notice that there are mostly men here, who are mostly gay. Another smaller staircase leads to the next floor, off to the side of the huge space that the first music/dance space occupies.
2008-06-24 18.42.06Suk-Han says “This is Panorama Bar”. It’s better, but still not quite what I’d hoped for. The music is more fun, but it’s kind of dull, repetitive, and common sounding. Corinna called it typical boring Berlin techno. Suk-Han leaves me there for a moment while she goes to find Corinna and never comes back.

I danced. I danced in Panorama for a bit, then the other bar, then back to Panorama and through that cycle about 5 times over. I go to the bathrooms, moving past pressed together bodies. I know that the first stall is occupied from the moaning and grunting within.

As the night moves on it the mood changes. Are people’s drugs coming on? Are the dancers and DJs just now finding their groove? Nighttime is extended in this place, but outside the light of day is intense. The window shades in Panorama are electronic and the DJs can open and shut them, which they do every 10 minutes or so, to cheers from the crowd. The light of day is the most powerful light here and it’s surreal to see that it’s happening out there without us.

It’s a meat market

I felt eyes on me, I felt someone’s groin bumping up behind me. I move away. My new dress is a winner, I think. Someone named Benjamin made himself known and he was beautiful! He’s in Berlin with his football team for a match. He’s from… somewhere else in Germany. We dance. He says “Let’s go and you will see if German men are good or bad. 2008-06-22 05.37.34You will see if they work very haaaaard for you!”. This pretty boy has a tempting proposition, but… for many reasons I decline. I decide that I’ll have to collect the German flag through the friends I make here.

Around 7 am I’d had my fill and I headed home. After walking about 15 minutes on sore feet, I realized that I’d forgotten my camera! I didn’t get home until 9am again and I collapsed into deep sleep. My big night was actually much smaller than I’d imagined it would be

I am Berliner

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2008-06-19 06.20.20Welcome to Berlin

Cynthia scored couchsurfing hosts for us in Berlin, so we we arrived in this city with a clear plan on where to go. We stood at the base of the U-Bahn for a while pointing at signs, trying to phonetically pronounce street names and locate them on the map. Cynthia figures it out and we head westward. We arrive at a hip little cafe with an outdoor area and she announces, “this is our hood”. The plan is to meet our hosts here, after they get off of work. The neighborhood is Kreuzberg.

2008-06-19 15.26.19Corinna and Suk-Han are our lovely hostesses. They do what any good hostess would do and join us for a beer. We order takeout from the Thai place and get acquainted. Corinna is from Austria and Suk-Han is from Paris but born in Hong Kong and her parents are Chinese. Corinna works as a graphic designer for digital media. Suk-Han works as part of a Think Tank and has a side project called “Changing the Change“. Corinna was talking to us about Naomi Klien’s “No Logo” which totally surprised me. It seemed that she likes to consider American politics and read smart books to better understand what the fuck we are thinking. This is more than I expect from most Americans, including myself. I’m impressed. Our hosts apologize for their apartment, but when we head up from the street, just a few meters away, we 2008-06-19 15.31.40found it to our liking. It was perfect.
They have walls full of art (modern, political commentary, lesbian sub-culture, their own). They have a cozy living room, just off of which we had our own room. Can I just say, Cynthia and I have the best CouchSurfing Juju ever! We sleep well and rise early to check out this city.


So this is Berlin?

2008-06-20 09.50.29
I don’t really know what I expected in Berlin, but I had a good feeling that I’d find something there that would justify having skipped Florence for it. I think that I pictured short hair, tight pants and combat boots. No wonder… I learned about the German culture through TV and movies, which mostly focuses on the Nazi era… of course I knew better, but those were my automatic images. What I find instead is a Bohemian culture, full of artists, and laid back people (reminiscent of San Francisco). Now, I’m told that Berlin is the exception in Germany and that elsewhere I might find more of what I expected. I wonder how the history of this place has inspired what this city has become. I wonder if after the US goes through our tough times and ever comes out of it, it will wake us the fuck up like this.

2008-06-20 02.52.15
If it doesn’t have graffiti on it, it’s not in Berlin

As C and I headed out we were immediately snapping pictures of murals and street art. We found a foot bridge and made our way to the East Side Gallery, a gallery of street art, murals painted on a half mile or so of “The Wall”. We had our journals stamped at one of the old checkpoints along the way for 1 Euro (a big tourist “YES!”).

2008-06-20 05.30.33
We stopped for lunch at a cafe in an area full of Boutique shops, cafes and the like. Here we are greeted by a waiter that doesn’t speak a lick of English (not very common), or maybe he was pretending so that he could charge us so much for water I’d wished I’d had wine. 2008-06-20 04.48.30Our meals were superb. After that we wandered the streets looking at whatever’s path we crossed.
Shops, parks, markets, and people. It’s a full day. I bought a dress! The owner of the shop was my long lost sister. After wino happy hour at the park, Cynthia and I headed home and cooked a meal for our hosts.


2008-06-20 08.33.12A real Kreuzberg Experience

One of my main focuses in Berlin was to check out the electronic music and the club scene, which I’d heard a lot about. Bar 25 by day and Panorama Bar by night. I’m told that there’s no use to show up to the night bar before 4am, so I decided to take a nap. It was hard, as Turkey had just won the football game and it was total chaos just outside the window, for 5 hours strait. I managed, though and I even accidentally slept until  2:30am, when Cynthia headed to bed. She joked that it was strange to see me in bed before her, which inspired me, even more so, to get the hell up.
I dressed and hit the streets. I had no idea where I was going, so I stopped into the bar downstairs, Sofia. A patron and the bartender both helped me by making Xs where I could find places to dance. I learned that Watergate is the name of the closest reputable club, and I headed there. I decided to save the recommended spots for Saturday night. When I arrived, I was informed that it was closed for the night. I could hear the music still going on inside and I tried to win the bouncer over by explaining that I’d just arrived in Berlin and only wanted to go inside for a few to check things out. He explained, “this is not a zoo where you can walk around and check it out. You come here to Party.” I answered, “Well, I am here to Party!”, but it was too late… and I didn’t want to go in their STUPID club anyway.

2008-06-20 21.39.06Some Turkish guy on the street hit me up for conversation. It was obvious that he couldn’t speak my language at all and he was definitely not my long lost soul mate… but I thought he might be worth following for a bit. I let him buy me a beer at a local pub, and he proceeded to buy 6 of them… hoping to take our party elsewhere. He asked me to hold four in my bag and headed back out onto the street.

2008-06-20 21.32.32There I noticed a group of people walking by and thought, “those are my people,” on instinct. Obviously, I wasn’t too keen on my current situation and so I took control and announced that I would like to head back to the bar. He was confused and so I used hand gestures to explain that I wanted to meet people and TALK, instead of simply listening to his attempts at speaking to me in German and visa versa. We got to the bar and I stuck with him for half a second and then handed him two of the four beers in my bag and immediately turned to the guy behind me.
“Do you speak English?” my favorite question these days. I was in luck. I met with a handsome man with very kind eyes and we began a nice conversation about traveling, work, Denver… his name was Omar.

After a bit, he asked if I wanted to step outside. He pulled two chairs up to a table full of people. I hadn’t realized this before, but these were my people! How did I manifest this?

First, I met Lina and Egbert.

Lina moved here from Denmark 18 years ago. She came to Berlin traveling, probably in her early 20s and decided to stay. She’s worked in Real Estate and has since found opportunity in working with the recent influx of apartment buyers who are selling them to the Dutch. She consults with them, directing the contractors who remodeled the apartments and continues with the interior design work. Sounds a lot like what I’ve done at home for myself at home… I am intrigued. What a beautiful woman! She’s a sweet spirit who happily shares stories and connects with me. She goes to sit on Omar’s lap. Their sweetness is like that of lovers, but they are only friends. I suddenly miss mine.

2008-06-21 00.29.08
Egbert is a conversationalist. Right away, I sense a kinship in spirit. He has a German and British accent combined, so it sounds almost Scottish. His head is full of history and stories, which he shares with enthusiasm. I learned that there were no phones in the East. They just left notes at the door in boxes made for it. It sounds so nomadic and free and fun. He’s got bright eyes, which are most stunning in real life, but the photos don’t do them justice. He works as a programmer with a big company called SAP. His work has him traveling a lot, where he’s stuck in some hotel room with nothing but the television to entertain him. Because of this, he’s got lots of American TV culture to relate with me on. Luckily, most of it was old, so I can relate. The conversation is fun and easy and I find myself laughing… a lot.

Omar doesn’t talk much. Egbert tells me that women tend to approach Omar and he takes over from there with his gift of gab. He tells me that Omar is a part time landscaper… and Omar himself told me that he works in the cutting room at a TV station.

2008-06-20 22.31.05
Then I met Wolfgang. I could see him watching me out of the corner of his eye, but hadn’t heard him speak any English, so I wondered if he did. When I introduced myself to him, he corrected me on the pronunciation of his name about five times. He enjoyed my struggle. Everyone gets a kick of hearing me trying to speak with a German accent. It’s embarrassing, but I’ve been told that it’s actually kind of cute. Finally, he gave up and accepted an attempt. He spoke my name back to me as “Tennis”. He was obviously fucking with me… which made me laugh.

I pulled the remaining beers out of my bag and offered one of them up to my new friends. When those were gone, I headed to the bar to get myself another. The Turkish guy swooped in, still holding out for me, I guess. It was probably 5:30am by now and full daylight. I offered to buy him a beer, the least I could do. He pointed at me and himself and asked “sex?” Ha ha! he knew a few words, after all. See ya!

Dscn0687
When the bar started closing, Egbert and I were fully immersed in conversation. Our chairs were gathered by the determined bar keeper and my new friends said their goodbyes. I don’t remember who it was, but someone invited me to join them for pizza. I was honored. We made our way to a famous little corner pizza shop. It was directly across from where Cynthia and I had landed the day before. I could almost see us standing there in the afternoon light of the day before, all confused. Now the place felt kind of familiar. It’s crazy how long my days seem lately. Like a baby. Everything is new.

“Where’s Wolfgang?” I asked. Someone laughed and clued me in that “his name is not Wolfgang.” Of course it’s not.

Dscn0695
Nothing closes here. I ordered up a little gorgonzola/spinach pizza and a water for Egbert, who had said he was going home to bed at least three times so far. I tried to pay Omar back, but he refused with a smile. The kindness of strangers is such a magical thing. I felt part of this clan.

I’m sure that it was odd to them, how much I was laughing… but I was so happy and so stimulated… so alive! I even wanted to take pictures in the bathroom.

2008-06-20 21.42.01We closed the pizza joint. Again, I said goodbye to my new friends. “Wofgang” who had joined us again at some point said “we are going back to someone’s place to continue. You should not go home,” and so I accepted and followed along. We stopped for 40s of beer on the way, 1 Euro each. He told me that he didn’t like Americans and I pointed out that he had just invited me back to the flat. I seemed to have become an exception. I asked him for his real name, which was Stefan. He had recently been filming for a movie in the Bahamas (totally forgot the name), which is how he explained his current shaggy look. He had traveled to the Bahamas by sailboat from New York. He recited the names of the states he’d passed on his journey and I helped him out a bit. Sounded like an adventure.

2008-06-20 22.41.03
A small Utopia

We arrived at the flat. We headed up to the 3rd(?) floor where Egbert and Omar share a place. They are friends from college, but had recently reconnected as single fathers who only had their children every or every-other weekend. Lina was in the same boat. They sometimes get together with their kids, but this was a rare weekend where they were all free to go out together. My good luck.

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The apartment is large, like the others I had seen in this city and probably inexpensive as well. I was amazed by the prices in Berlin. The two bedroom place that we were staying in was only 400 Euros/ mo. which translates to just under $600 dollars. To live in this city???

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So their flat… on one side there were large windows that overlooked the tree tops, so lush you could see nothing else but the sky. It was like a green heaven. But, I’d only seen the half of it. Egbert said he was going to bed, again, but I had to see the rooftop garden first.
This building is at, what was once, a dead end. Just behind it is in the Spree (the river), and then beyond that is one of few remnants of The Wall. Not many wanted to live there before the border was dissolved. People had squatted this place and later hired legal help to buy it. Omar and Egbert weren’t part of that, but possessed some of this history through living there now. The rooftop garden which Egbert does his part to keep, was incredible. 2008-06-21 00.27.23
These aren’t rich people, but the amount of care that has gone into this space, the garden below and the other roof tops I can see from this perspective shows so much pride. They have a little utopia.

Lina and I headed out at the same time. I said a quick goodbye because you could only share so many heart-felt goodbyes with people you just met. I gave a few of them my card and a link to this blog. I hope they are reading! Lina gave me her number and invited me to contact her the next day and anytime during my stay. Love to her!!!!

I was home by 9am, smiling and ready for bed.

Fahrting around Germany

By | Europe 2008, Travel | No Comments

2008-06-24 18.41.16
Between Cities

I watch the landscape move by and journal about my last adventure.

2008-06-18 01.49.14The one and only Wildlife Sanctuary in Cologne
On the way to Berlin, we made a pit stop to visit an old friend of mine in Cologne. Frank was the boyfriend of my best friend from growing up, Danny, who’d died almost 4 years ago. Now Frank is his widow. Frank met us at the station and alternately carried each of our bags for us.

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He’s Peruvian born and raised, lived in Canada, lived in Miami a bit (where I met him), then Colorado, then Wyoming, then Portland, briefly in Brazil and now here. He told us a bit about the city.
There are not too many old structures left after World War II, but luckily the Cathedral was spared, which we planned to visit the next day. Cologne is a college town. It’s home to the largest gay population in Europe (supposedly), which I can see some proof of as we trek back to his apartment.

He does nothing here, but study German. The German system has some incredible social programs that give Frank and countless others welfare for living. It’s not much, but it’s enough.

2008-06-18 14.18.20Frank’s small one bedroom is on the 4th floor, so he helps us with our bags up the narrow winding stairs. It was so good to see him. We had never been very close, so our conversation kept coming back to Danny, who was a joy when he was alive and so there’s still this irresistible pleasure in reminiscing about him. Frank had devoted his life so fully to their relationship and now that Danny is gone, he continues to hold space for him as something of a memorial. I know, it
sounds kind of sad and it kind of is, but to know
Frank is to know that the only real committed relationship he’d had before Danny was to the Catholic Church. The ghost of Danny had become his new God. He’s happy
to worship. He holds Danny’s old rollerskates from childhood, his writing, his cake mixer (even though he doesn’t have an electrical converter) and the many things they had gathered together. 2008-06-19 03.14.20The most notable of those things is their collection of wildlife novelties, including: a china set, place settings, posters, a bathmat, a toothbrush holder, a toilet brush… all depicting bears, wolves (Frank’s favorite), moose, elk, foxes, etc. It’s kitsch without trying. It’s surreal.

Frank is a great host. He was willing and ready to take us out and show us around or whatever we wanted to do, but after our exhaustive experiences over the past few days, long travel and lack of sleep, we decided to just stay in. Frank makes us an appetizer and dinner, lets me use his computer, and sets up a comfortable place for us to sleep.
2008-06-19 04.31.46In the morning, we’re treated like queens, once again and escorted back to the bus station, right next to the Cathedral. Frank watched our things as we checked out he Cathedral, the first historically famous church that I have ventured inside of, on this trip.

Thank you, sweet Franky!!! xo

 

The Moment that I’ve been waiting for

By | Europe 2008, Travel | One Comment

2008-06-17 12.50.27
Everything in its right place

Going to see Radiohead, live in concert, was the catalyst for this trip. Of course, I had to come to Europe sooner than later. It was due time. But there’s wanting to do something and then making that first move. Radiohead always gets me up onto my feet. That day, sitting and working, when they happened to play by the grace of the “Party Shuffle” I moved to call Cynthia and moments later we had bought our tickets. That was in December. The show was scheduled for an outdoor amphitheater the “Arena Civica” in Milan, Italy. We imagined the perfect summer night in Italy. Everyone said “it is going to be so much fun”. But no one could have possibly imagined this much.

 

Pre-Show
2008-06-17 11.42.28We started out with dinner prepared by Carlo. Pasta, Salad and Bread. Jacopa and their neighbor Andrea joined us. While sitting and chatting with 3 hottie, sweetheart Italian men we heard thunder. Cynthia was getting nervous saying “no, it’s not happening”, but I really didn’t care that it was raining. She asked, “will they cancel it?” and then my blood pressure rose. Jacopa answered, “for rain, no”. “But what about for a thunderstorm?” she continued…. “Yes.”. How crazy would that be! We tried to forget about it and enjoy. It was perfect that the thunderstorm came at 8, because by 8:45 it had passed. I was on cloud 9 walking to the show with Cynthia and Carlo. Carlo had planned on meeting some Couch Surfers outside of the show, but they canceled because of the rain, so we decided that we would take 2008-06-17 16.43.28him with us. He would have accompanied us anyway, because he’s that kind of gentleman. It was a time of bad cashflow for Carlo and he really couldn’t afford a ticket. At first he resisted, but C and I insisted and pitched in for half of the ticket price from someone on the street—well worth it to have our “Fratello Italiano” with us. We were in!
We bought our beer and positioned ourselves to the front left side of the stage. We knew nothing of the opening band and although I was curious, I was thrilled to find that there wasn’t one.

2008-06-17 16.46.08Radiohead and I have the same favorite songs

Thom had so much energy up there. They sounded like they were in the studio. That’s talent. One song after the next, I screamed in delight. I could hardly stand it.
2008-06-17 13.22.29Cynthia was radiant. She informed us that we were lucky, because most people don’t get to see her this way. It’s true, I’ve known her for over 9 years and I can’t recall ever seeing this look of freedom and joy on her face. We were illuminated! I turned around and slowly recited my favorite lyrics into Carlo’s ear, because I was sure that he didn’t really understand what was being said and that feels important to me. He would say “OK”, but I could tell when he really got it. He looked really happy.

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I announced that we would go backstage afterward and Carlo said “Of course”. Radiohead said their first “goodnight” and as they played their first encore we pushed past a thousand smiling Italian faces. They weren’t happy about our little train interrupting their personal space, but not much could ruin this night for anyone…. I did see a guy passed out on the ground, which was too sad to even imagine as my own reality. On the other side of the stage, we found an even bigger place to dance and they played the remainder of my favorite songs.

Too Much Joy

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There was no way back stage. So when it was over we left. We wandered through the park outside of the arena, looking for a discoteque that some Couch Surfers were meeting at, but when we heard the sounds that were coming from there, we couldn’t imagine muting out the lingering memory of our audial bliss, so we changed direction. In the distance I heard a woman screaming a deep and guteral scream. I stopped and craned my neck, perked my ears, like some kind of bird hearing her call. As the woman approached, she found her match. I ran toward her with my own wail. We screamed a few times together and our friends laughed. I have no idea if we would have understood any attempt at language together, but this was our native tongue.

I fell in love that night. With Cynthia, with Carlo, with Thom Yorke, with that screaming girl, with the Metro, with myself… Nothing could ruin this perfect night and the joy continued into the next morning.

Remembering Paris : Part 2

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I had the apartment to myself on my last morning in Paris. Cynthia was spending time with Joao in their hotel room and I used the night to blog, getting to bed at 6:30am. I watched the day begin out the window and the people leave the club next door. One girl yelled Bon Suelo, which confused me, because that means good evening. I didn’t have much time to sleep. Cynthia came home a few hours later and wasn’t feeling well. She agreed to let me sleep and we scheduled a meeting time for 1:30pm in front of the Pompedu, the “largest modern art collection in all of Europe”. But she didn’t want to go inside. I prepared myself with a sandwich (which looked rather plain, but on fresh baguette from Paris, a sandwhich is never plain).

The Pompedu
I start by searching for the permanent collection. This place is worse than the Louvre for finding my way… but I’m not alone. I climbed stairs and wandered around, seeing a group of people on the outside staircase, but I can’t figure out how the hell they got out there! At least there’s some some elaborate modern art decorating the place to entertain me along the way.

Once I ascend on the string of escalators on the outside of the building, but enclosed by glass, I find my way to what I came to see. It’s the art from about 1920 – 1980 on the 4th and 5th floors. The 5th floor is where it’s at. There was so much experimentation with techniques and ideas during this time.   I see works by Matise, Giocometti, Pollack, Rouaclt, Dubuffet, Braque… I don’t like them all, but I appreciate the go they had at it. Besides, their purpose wasn’t to make art that was liked, it was to try something new, express a single idea or simply their attitude. Some I LOVE and notice that I never would have expected these things to work, but they do. It’s like coffee… who came up with that! How do you know unless you try.

It’s ironic to me, how I haven’t painted much in 15 years because “I don’t know what to paint”. I worry that my ideas aren’t worth the canvas space. But here are these artists how stretch a 30 foot canvas just to scribble on it. Or build a gigantic tiled room installation just to frame a cartoon. Or cast a huge bronze sculpture and not bother with depicting the fingers of the figure… but here, their work is on display for the past 35 + years! I could use some of this arrogance if I plan to show my colors as an artist.

The shortened and more illustrated version of this day

Cynthia and I took a boat ride, on this cool and stormy, to view the city from the water. The most notable attraction was the required, Eiffel Tower.

That evening, we went for absinthe!

Goodbye to Paris!

We make a living at what we get. We make a life by what we give.

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The Train

We had to rise very early to catch the train yesterday. I was so sad to leave Paris. I had really fallen in love, but as C said, “the reason I’m not sad to leave Paris is because I’m going to Italy!” We rode 1st class, which was special and although we were kinda bummed to travel with the stuffy old people, it was nice to have the space. We brought a picnic lunch, with bottle of wine. I read for a while and wrote in and decorated my journal (just wait until you see it!). We drank the whole of the wine. It was only noon. The countryside was absolutely beautiful. Cynthia needed to get my attention for each passing scene: the lake with the most picturesque fishing boat, the fog in the green hills, the tiny French village and the Alps. It’s still so surreal. By the time we reached the longest tunnel in the world, the language changed and now the few words I’d learned in Paris were no longer very useful.

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Welcome to Milano

When we arrived it was raining. I saved .80£ by deciding to wait to pee. Our host was only a few blocks away. We could skip past the umbrella salesmen because we’d already invested in Paris. Cynthia rushed ahead reading street signs while I hobbled along with 3 bags and an umbrella. I’m lucky to have her. I know that it’s a shame that it’s raining here… but I guess it’s better for it too be raining in Milan than to be raining in Florence (notice how I speak in broken English now. I’m a chameleon when it comes to accents and things, I wish the words came through osmosis like this). It might be raining in Florence, I don’t know… but it’s okay, because I’m not going there. 2008-06-16 07.50.16
Our host, Carlo, is totally confused about why I came all of the way to Italy and will only see Milan. But I know that we made the right decision. Milan and Germany have nothing on Florence’s art and beauty or Tuscany’s food, but it’s the culture in Berlin that I’m most interested in. If I could do it all, I would, but I only have so much time and have to get my priorities strait. I’m realy excited about Berlin.  Anyway, people familiar with Italy don’t think that Milano is very interesting, but I have to say, I’m impressed, regardless.

Our CS Host

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Our host flat is so perfectly located within walking and tramway distance from everything worth doing in Milan. When we arrived at Carlo’s flat, he was waiting for us with hot tea. He’s a man of style in every way. We couldn’t have asked for a better host. We were given a key so that we can “free in and out”, a comfortable bed with clean sheets and some time for a nap (something that is much needed after a bottle of wine at noon on a train).  Two hours later I awoke to Carlo’s flatmate coming home from his day with groceries. Within a half hour we were sitting down to apertivo, something that is not taken lightly in Milan. We enjoyed spec, fromage blanc, bread sticks, olives and the most superb Italian wine while we decided on where to go for dinner. 2008-06-16 14.11.24
Cynthia and I were keen on pizza, I mean look where we are! and of course, gelatto after. Our wish came true and we had the best Pizza of our lives.We weren’t so lucky with the Gelatto, because it was Monday and nothing was still open at Midnight, how odd! JK 🙂

I convinced Carlo to agree to wake up early and run with me. I have only had walking exercise since I’ve been here and thought it would be nice to move my body in a new way. The rain convinced me to stay in bed until 10 instead. We stretched and shared biscuts with Carlo.

Carlo Rizzante
2008-06-16 13.06.17He’s a freelance graphic designer, like me. He’s 35 like me… but I’m a few days older. He’s very very kind and sweet, but somewhat sad it seems. Or maybe it’s those great big Italian eyes(?). No, actually, he is a little sad. He is sick of Itally altogether and wants to move to San Francisco. He explains that the prime minister here (Berlesconi?) is a crook. “So is our president!”, Cynthia and I exclaim, but Carlo says that this is different. “Bush is a crook, but he looks like a nice man!” Berlesconi (or whatever) was a crook before he was elected. He was waiting for 12 trials at the time. Since elected he changed the law so that he was only waiting for 4 and since then has postponed them for so long that he doesn’t even have to worry about them anymore.
The obvious question is “why then do people elect him?” To this, Carlo answers “I don’t know!” Carlo really wants to get out of here. His additional complaints include, the assembly at his appartment complex where he owns his flat and their unwillingness to pay in to make improvements, the other citizens here and their senseless accusations of others when they themselves and so obviously guilty and then there’s his work.
He’s been waiting for 9 months to get paid for  work that is now completed. He’s only been given 20% and only after 90 days. He’s paid money out for this work… but it doesn’t matter. I’m excited because I feel like I can help with this, I’ve been advising colleagues on how to write a better contract for years, right? He says, “no, we can not have a contract in Italy.” What? No contact? It’s crazy, I agree. But they have their choice on who to hire and if you insist that they sign a contract, you are not the designer for them. I argue that the contract is good for everyone… “but they don’t understand this!”, Carlo exclaims in frustration. 2008-06-17 03.30.26Oh and one more thing that totally sucks: Once he did a huge job for someone, worked weekends, etc. and didn’t get paid at all. Sure, same same, happened to me too, of course… but here’s the rub, he has to pay taxes with the invoice, not the payment. So it costs him money to work for those assholes. Arrgh. Poor Carlo. It might be hard in San Francisco, but it’s worth it.

So, Carlo and I agree. He might be too nice for this country.

2008-06-17 04.18.45
Our day in the City

C and I headed out to soak up a few hours of the city today. We had an agenda of Duomo (the church), Panerotto (a special kind of Pizza) at Luini, Gelatto and shoe shopping for me. Roberta, another couch surfer that joined us for dinner last night, conferred with me about my NEED for Italian shoes. “It’s a basic need”, she agreed. So basic that maybe I should find two pair! But as luck would have it, nothing was perfect enough to justify the cost. I’ll need something more than these Keen for the dance scene in Berlin, which is coming so soon, but not from Itally, not in the one day we have here.

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On the way downtown, Carlo joined us for a trip to help us at the Poste on the way. We waited 15 minutes to ask a question at the Poste, which demonstrated Carlo’s excessive niceness, in a real life situation in this city. He is very considerate, which doesn’t really seem to count for much here, but I’m sure it counts for something in the higher sense of the concept of self. The rain made me want to just head back to the flat and catch up on my blogs, but Carlo said that I must see Duomo and the city.

2008-06-17 04.58.47The closer we got to Duomo, the more tourists we saw. I grabbed a coffee, just before we rounded the corner where Duomo became visible. OMG. Totally overwhelmingly beautiful! If this building and this place is nothing compared to Florence, maybe it’s better that I’m here. Add a little shot of espresso and my heart is ready to explode at the beauty of these massive, old buildings built with more passion than I can even imagine possible. To see this building in the distance (and the city is designed so that all of the other buildings frame your view of it) is absolutely unreal. Is it OZ?

Italian Style
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I saw more style in Paris, I think…. but maybe it’s all of the tourists that I avoided in Paris and saw here that throw the average for me. What I did notice in this city, the Fashion Capitol of Italy, is how dressy people can be when they are just casual. I saw a waitress at the little corner cafe in a silk black blouse with puffy sleeves and with a bow in her hair. She looked awesome. If I owned something like that in Denver, I’d worry that I would never get the opportunity to wear it. “Italian men in suits are HOT,” Cynthia said. “Not all of them… but that one is… and that one… oh and…. uh yeah, whoa”. The men here are not all eyes and grabby, the way that I was warned, but I do have a special talent (read: blonde hair, long body and generally flirtatious attitude) for holding their glance for a few moments. MMMMmmm mmm.

Radiohead
This is what we’ve been waiting for. Tonight is the night. Carlo will join the CouchSurfing people outside for beer, where they will be able to hear a little bit of the music and enjoy the company of other Radiohead fans who couldn’t afford a ticket, or didn’t get theirs in time. We will join some other couch surfers and CS hosts inside. Yes, it’s still raining on and off. But I seriously couldn’t care less. It’s not cold and rain goes perfectly with melancholy music. I’ll tell you all about it soon!

Ciao Bella!

Remembering Paris: Part 1

By | Europe 2008, Travel | No Comments

2008-06-14 04.09.41
I left Paris yesterday morning and haven’t blogged for two days. It’s almost impossible to keep up with this, in the limited time I have to sit and type. It feels worth it though. Writing this blog and making art is like cupping my hands to catch the rain. You can’t really hold the experience, but you can enjoy it for a little longer and a little bit more deeply.

The Louvre

I finally went to the Louvre! I woke up early after my crazy Pont dez Arts night, and managed to spend 3 hours there. I was alone in public… so freeing, somehow. It’s just me and my thoughts. No one to share them with, no one to behave around, no one to keep me from blowing with the wind of my own curiosity, which is totally unpredictable. But also, no one to help me to navigate. I’m not the best navigator, or maybe I just don’t like to do it(?). 2008-06-14 04.13.03
Which way to the Mona Lisa?

I only had so much time at the Louvre and I follow Gerard’s advise when he said “Maybe you only see Italian paintings”. It took me an hour to find them. Maybe that’s because I found the restaurants first, and the coffee. Still I wasn’t quite prepared for what I was about to see. I took a deep breath and waited for my first impression to hit me. I’d see these shapes and colors before, between cat naps on the desk in art school. I was more awake for modern art, by then I’d decided to take my education more seriously. It’s a shame how much was wasted on it when it was too soon. I was more interested in drinking beer and playing pool at that time. By the time Modern Art came around I had learned to do both: education and bar going.

2008-06-14 05.13.30
First impression: These paintings are so old! They are the first °real° paintings (sorry cave people). The painters of the 15th Century don’t seem to have a grasp close and far away as it relates to the size of peoples’ heads. I wonder if it bothered the artist. “Damn, I made that guy’s head too small!” or was it more like “something is not quite right, I’m not sure what it is”… and then his wife says, “but Simone, you are too hard on yourself. It’s beautiful!” 2008-06-14 05.16.28He would have no idea that 150 years later Boticelli would have it sussed. These old paintings remind me of student’s work, in that they are all effort and disproportion, but with more sophistication and arrogance in them, because they are the very best of their time.

2008-06-14 05.30.17I feel like I can tell the difference between a painting done from a photo, from life, or from memory. Photo references were not an option of the time, so I think that this one of Jesus, was from life. It makes me wonder who got to pose as Jesus “You be Jesus”. Did they go as far as to put a crown of thorns on his head? Something tells me they didn’t. That would be sacrilege.

Oh, the Mona Lisa! I only got so close because of the crowd, but between you and me, she looked at me. I couldn’t help but wonder what she was thinking. As so many others have. I get it. I get the hype. It’s worth it. As much as people warned me not to be surprise about how small she is, I was.

I wander into a room behind the Mona Lisa and suddenly, it’s like, “who crashed the party?”. French Paintings. I decided to come back for this later… and I do and they are great.

2008-06-14 05.29.25<–This is my next Burning Man costume.

Before I leave I find myself viewing the Art of Africa, Asia/Oceania and the Americas. Wow. People from Micronesia seem to have had a serious sense of humor.

2008-06-14 06.16.33
I didn’t have much time for the stone sculptures on my way out, but I had to capture this one where it looked like the guy was taking a photo of himself.

2008-06-14 06.55.02I learned later that it would take 4 months of non-stop art viewing to see everything in the Louvre if you only spent 2 seconds viewing each masterpiece to see it all. I think that I might have to come back someday.

After Louvre

2008-06-14 07.18.47
After the Louvre, I met up with Cynthia and Joao. We went for a stroll in the 6th (Luxenbourg neighborhood) where there are many galleries… but my feet hurt and I was completely saturated with art and just needed a break. We went for gelatto, my first in Europe and I was uplifted by it’s beauty, flavor, richness and sugar! Ahhh. C and J wanted to buy some art at the gallery down the street, so I waited at a nearby cafe with an espresso, but it only takes so long to have an 2008-06-14 09.44.24
espresso, so I left the table to someone else and waited in the street… for an hour! Finally I start asking around to figure out which way my friends headed. When I found them, they were having a very difficult time.

It was probably the most beautiful day in Paris on my whole trip and my good spirit but my feet were failing me. Once C and J decided to cut their losses and leave the den of the most negative and crazy human being in all of Paris (this old gallery owner that they were simply trying to buy art from), Joao took over to ensure that we (C and I) didn’t have dual melt downs. His plan included wine and relaxing at the Luxenbourg gardens. We walked 10 minutes, fast, and when we arrived the gardens were closed for something, I don’t know what! I collapsed on a wall and posed as a drunken chick for a 2008-06-14 13.13.02few moments while I gathered my wits. We tried to rent bikes from these automatic bike rental things that are all over the town, but our cards were rejected. About 20 minutes later we were at Pont Neuf on the “Island of Paris” below, enjoying art, drinking wine, smoking a splif and meeting the locals. Heaven! Saved.

2008-06-14 08.05.05
I drank a lot of wine in Paris. Europe makes it seem less than a miracle that Jesus turned water to wine, because it’s only 2 Euros more!

Big Dinner Night

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That night we enjoyed our one full-on Paris dinner experience. We arrived in a Taxi, my feet were thankful and spent 2 hours eating and drinking. I had Carspaccio with Gratin and Salad… and we shared one bottle of the cheapest red wine on your list. Cynthia and Joao’s meals were less good. Of course, we had coffee afterward.  It’s tough to keep track of the time when the sun is still up at 10pm! This was the night I posted my last two blogs. I got to sleep at 6:30 am.

To be continued….. Final day in Paris at the Centre Pompidou. It’s time for Apertivo and more wine now!

XXX