Saturday, July 7, 2012


Can you find another market like this?
with your one rose
you can buy hundreds of rose gardens?
for one seed
get a whole wilderness?
For one weak breath,
a divine wind?
You've been fearful
of being absorbed in the ground,
or drawn up by the air.
Now, your waterbead lets go
and drops into the ocean,
where it came from.
It no longer has the form it had,
but it's still water
The essence is the same.
This giving up is not a repenting.
It's a deep honoring of yourself.
When the ocean comes to you as a lover,
marry at once, quickly,
for God's sake!
Don't postpone it!
Existence has no better gift. 
No amount of searching 
will find this. 
A perfect falcon, for no reason 
has landed on your shoulder,
and become yours.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

U! S! A! U! S! A!

I’ve been rather overwhelmed at the idea of writing a blog about my last week… Today marks the half waypoint of my trip. I am in the dead center…and I feel some sort of personal responsibility to conclude in some way what I have learned and accomplished so far….so I can gain a sense of task geography and so I can have a better idea as to how to plan the remaining month and a half. A travel report card of sorts. I’d like to think that I have a better idea of what is possible and how long things take here….But that seems like a trap somehow….arrive, discover, then set limitation one later calls “facts”…

This is a common trap for travelers I think…One becomes so eager to bring a story home that one doesn't wait for the other sides of the story to appear…to view a scene objectively for a few weeks, waiting for the more detailed idiosyncrasies to uncover deeper clues…(I am practicing this with my prostitute watching. I ride my bike through the long line of them everyday…watching…immersing…refusing to let opinions settle…subculture, if you can call it that…is always infinitely layered)

I left for Denmark Friday before last. I found a 20 euro ticket from Berlin to Denmark that was marked as a 6 hour trip and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to visit an old friend and find out where she comes from. I met Mette at the Old Town School of Folk in Chicago about 5 years ago. I used The Old Town music rooms for practice and songwriting when I first moved to Chicago… I kept running into Mette and we somehow had this mutual respect and understanding for eachother than mainly went unspoken…but was always understood. She was there doing mostly the same thing I was doing…only she was on a three month trip from Denmark….so she had a different fire and was more involved in the Old Town community. I sort of scurried in, made my practice hours…sometimes sat in on classes and walked out with my headphones blasting, lugging my guitar through the snow to the train to the bus to the walk home…. solitary, in my usual melancholic, abstract poetry head space.

I had NO idea what to expect from Copenhagen. I didn't even really understand how I was getting there. I just knew I show up at this time and place to this bus number and play along. When the bus stopped for 45 minutes, 3 hours in, I just went with it….When it drove onto a boat…I went with it….when everyone got off…I got off…after one and a half beautiful hours on the darkest, most shimmering water I’ve ever seen… I step back inside the boat to find it empty…scurry into all nooks and crannies of the boats belly, trying to recognize a face on any of the busses packed like sardines in the parking tunnels….3 more hours of driving through lush country side and I arrived in Mette’s habitat. We spent the next three days ALL over Copenhagen. Copenhagen is tasteful, comfortable, easy to live in (the government takes care of its people…so well, says Mette that the people don't take care of each other, which she believes is what makes Americans so beautiful…that they take care of each other because their government doesn't), melancholy (the buildings match the grey skies, light rain that we rode our bikes through) and the Danish are the most beautiful people I have ever seen. As a clan, they have the highest percentage of fashion magazine beauty…ever. I felt really apologetic walking through the hip parts Copenhagen looking the way I do…I kept telling myself “you have personality and you're a traveler…that makes you special” Ha! It is when you notice this kind of self talk that you know you’re in trouble….and probably the ugliest person in the room…which I definitely was…It was, however a little creepy to see so much Aryan race in one place. I immediately yearned for skin color…any color….just a color….

 Upon arrival in Sweden, (my last day in Scandinavia) I immediately noticed a younger energy…a faster vibration…and a more obvious Viking lineage. These women are stunningly beautiful, but narrow and slightly masculine…and would definitely kick your ass. We saw some castles reminiscent of sleeping beauty (the only reference I have for castes as an American…) and I immediately had dejavu inside one of them…which clearly means I was a princess in my last life? :D
On my many bike rides with Mette, through Copenhagen, we discussed Scandinavian social behavior. One of the interesting things that came up after spending a beautiful night with one of her friends, a jazz singer, and all around outgoing lady (outward self confidence is not common in Scandinavia…) was the The Law of Jante… a law of group behavior in Scandinavia that "negatively portrays and criticizes individual success and achievement as unworthy and inappropriate." These are rules most children a raised with and they are as follows….

1. Don't think you're anything special.
2.  Don't think you're as good as us.
3. Don't think you're smarter than us.
4. Don't convince yourself that you're better than us.
5. Don't think you know more than us.
6. Don't think you are more important than us.
7. Don't think you are good at anything.
8. Don't laugh at us.
9. Don't think anyone cares about you.
10. Don't think you can teach us anything.

(*us = the community)

As you can imagine, returning to Germany after four days amongst this kind of thinking was....interesting. A culture shock. The Scandinavians I met all generally agreed that they had never met a German with low self esteem. Which made me laugh. Its true in a way. Its the beautiful thing about Germans, its what makes them so exploratory and active....but there are exasperating sides to this attribute as well....

My returning train, bus and ferry to Berlin was overnight….I will never book and overnight bus ever again. The bus was packed, the journey was long and complicated (get off the bus, on the ferry, don't fall asleep, someone will steal your stuff…back on the bus…wait in line to pee….wish you had chocolate and decent coffee or tea….etc etc etc.) I got back to Berlin at 8am, totally ragged and still awake after 22 hours of traveling (Sweden, Demark, Germany in one day), and hour before my language class starts. I spent the following days at the Philharmonic figuring out various ways to ask people who were leaving, politely, for their ticket so I could see the remaining part of various performances. I have seen Bobby McFerrin and Chick Corea, and various incredible touring choirs this way, one of which was lead by the divine Andre Thomas. I cried so hard at his gospel concert that I developed a headache. Hearing American music from a sparkling spiritual American and feeling the Holy Spirit hover in the Berlin Phil was one of the most beautiful musical experiences I have ever had. Maybe its that I miss the US, maybe its hearing people sing in my native language, maybe its finally getting to see a significant amount of skin color. FINALLY. I don't know what it was exactly but good God was I proud to American that night. 

I had my first voice lesson at the Komische Oper yesterday with an incredible German mezzo Soprano.  For whatever reason it felt like a huge step for me. I was terrified days before the lesson, feeling like I wasn't nearly good enough to be waltzing into the opera house and singing for this wonderful woman. However, in line with the rest of my trip, I just put on my "yes I am suppose to be here" face and went through with it.... I was at once reminded how much I am in love with singing and how much I need to be doing it more....

As for my travelers report card...I guess if I have learned anything on this trip its that anything is possible…if you show up with the biggest and most patient cojones the world has ever known…and walk into the mouth of your dark future, consciously trembling….You end up in places so amazing you are afraid to question or discuss them as you fear the veil will lift, the magic will vanish and you’ll be kicked out of Neverland. This is not to say I never experience set backs…That is silly…I am still a young overly self critical girl with quickly reoccurring fits of melancholy, very little money and questionable language skills…..But I’m so fascinated with the spell of cultural expansion I’ve been under that set backs have no time to sit with me…I have no time to sit me either…Which can be an issue sometimes….and that's when I find a little Italian café to spend 3 hours and 3 euros at, listening to a softer language, drinking a deeper espresso and writing nonsense in my journal. I haven’t seen anyone else here keep a journal…I'm sure everyone thinks I’m 12....This is not the way I wanted to end this blog...but its ending here.
girl talk bathroom stall at a club in Copenhagen. two toilets side by side so you can gossip while you pee.

common bar set up in Copenhagen

Danish bread and butter. wow. no words. 

The Danish really like the word "fuck". really. really like it. Its actually kind of uncomfortable
I forgot the name of this Bridge.....

magic trick. Mette and I were trying to figure out how the did it....

EVERYONE rides a bike here. The bike laws are sooo strict that more people get fined for disobeying bike rules than get fined for speeding or bad parking etc...

English garden in front of the library...this is the old side of the library, there is a modern half built on top of the old structure visible from the other entrance...

study hall in the library

Ferry tour with Mette :)

Herring platter at an old cafe the Hans Christian Anderson use to frequent.

The festival at which people sing danish folk songs while they burn a giant witch doll.....

castle behind the witch burning festival

Sebastian and I waiting for the witch to burn.

The Queen's residence.
Arrival in Sweden

Rock n Roll photography museum in Sweden
me on the ferry ride back home....about hour 20 of traveling. thought I should document it haha

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


 The last few days have been consumed by concert after concert. I spent an entire day planning/charting cheap concerts and special student deals last Friday.... and definitely reaped the benefits of my preparation the following days. Some beautiful surprises were thrown in the mix as well :) Its amazing what people will do for you when you are a twenty something loner with a lust for classical music, hanging around ticket windows at concert houses.

*Prokofiev's Ballet, Romeo and Juliet at Deutsch Oper

Great performance! I also got to make some conversation with a 9 year old German boy who is crazy about America and eager to learn english. I was glad to speak with someone who had equal bilingual language skills. We were a good pair for bilingual conversation. He was surprised that I knew so much about musical theater. Musical theater is all the rage here....I think it is viewed as "exotic"....fancy that.....

*Schubert Symphonie at UDK

This was the first not so good concert I have seen here. I found out is was a community orchestra, not affiliated with the University...More of a community project to get people involved in classical music in a visceral way.... I still had to leave at intermission... Keep in mind I had seen the Berlin Phil the night before and after the stream of class A concerts I have been seeing I have become something of a snob.

*Bela Bartok Symphonie, Strauss "Four Last Songs" and Wagner's Tristan and Isolde Overature at Konzerthaus Berlin

-I met up with Anja, a friend of Chef's for a drink and a concert! She is a fascinating woman who works in the publishing industry and splits her time between Oxford, England and Berlin. She was very welcoming and warm..... German's are not usually.... warm. Especially on first meetings. I think she understands and has compassion for the traveler's experience, as she was very concerned for my feeling comfortable in Berlin, making sure I knew my way around and wasn't too homesick. She gave me some tips on where to go/stay in London if I ever manage to make it out there. I'm looking forward to meeting up with her again for more concerts :)

*Haydn's "Die Schöpfung" at Konzerthause Berlin

-Actually managed to get into this one free as well. I told the ticket salesman I wanted the cheapest ticket available so he simply gave me my money back with the ticket. One leap for mankind!

*Joyce DiDinato recital at The Kammerline Music Hall

*An Incredible program at Berliner Philharmoniker conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Luciano Berio Sequenza IXa für Klarinette Walter Seyfarth Klarinette  
Peter Tschaikowsky Romeo und Julia, Fantasie-Ouvertüre nach Shakespeare  
Maurice Ravel Daphnis et Chloé, vollständige Ballettmusik

 Tickets were all sold out for this concert, but Molly and I had spent the day at the huge installation/gallery KW and she was headed to the concert so I thought Id tag along and wait by the ticket office to scout scouts/give it my best shot. It so happens that two minutes before show time, an older gentleman asked me how much I pay for a front row ticket. I told him I only brought 5 euros and my credit card because I normally just buy a student ticket. He asked where I was from...I sad Chicago...and he handed me his ticket and said "Welcome to Berlin"!!!! Welcome indeed! A 60 euro ticket to an extremely coveted show! By far the best orchestra concert I have EVER been to. I nearly jumped out of my seat during the Tchaikovsky. 

Yesterday I went to the Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin (Technology Museum) with Molly after a morning at the Music Library. I needed a break from concerts and I think this was just the trick. After reading all about Konrad Zuse's various inventions (including the first computer) I realized I have done nothing with my life...and there it is. Ha! Irrelevant.Anyway, i enjoyed the history of sound recording exhibit quite a bit. I found out that the first "records" were carved into gold plated salt cylinders that looked like this ( ). I think it would be an amusing counter counter culture statement to DJ a party with a phonograph and carry around a suitcase full of sat cylinders arranged alphabetically....

Other than language school, daily living and spending time with my host family, I've been preparing for my trips out of town including Denmark, (I leave on Friday! :D ) Ireland (July 13-18) and Paris! (August 9-13)

Occupy Berlin at KW

More at occupy Berlin. Ive had a hard time coming to terms with occupy as I think most people involved don't make any sense what so ever/have no clear thinking abilities. This however...struck my fancy. Some of the exhibits regarding political conflicts in Mexico and the near east were most interesting and focused...I'm still trying to figure out where I stand in this occupy business.

The more outgoing I become in the city the less I want to sit around and write about myself. it feels futile and I'm faced with the fact that living an interesting life has no correlation to explaining to people/describing to others that you are living an interesting life... I learned a German word yesterday that has no English is "Begegnung"...something along the lines of holding council with others...but its more, purposeful spending time with people discussing and experiencing life together in intellectual community and close physical proximity. This is what I'm interested in. Birgit and I have deep discussions on the balcony at night about these kinds of things. I've learned a lot from her criticisms of my social habits and am realizing a huge lack of culture in daily living. Sure I go out to concerts and listen to music and read and go to museums....But I don't read the paper (this makes her furious....and after an ego lashing, "You must be involved in your political society! I DON'T want another Holocaust!"... I realized she was totally correct in her criticism), I eat quickly and am ready at any moment to leave and go somewhere by myself and be out and about all night on my own, on my whims....A sort of independent explorer...has its perks but I am something of a heathen, I have to admit this. Begegnung is something I crave, but it's hard for me to simmer in....Interesting that its not even a word in English...I think we might have a similar-ish concept...but its not quite the same. Its funny how you have different feelings and cravings in different languages. I'm not sure how that works, but it does.

Molly and cool building

A mime at Brandenburg gate. Molly and I thought it would be awesome to film him for a version of John Cage's 4:33. My camera died at 1:33...but its worth posting at a later date. He gets mad at us, points to his hat, gives us a back side view then walks angerly toward us and stares at me. I tell him in German that its for an art project and he walks away. I then thought it would be cool to do a series of these video that unveil the 'monsters under the zen veils"....

A church turned gallery

Dainty destruction. Very common on garden apartment doors here.

a wall of political activists at the KW exhibit....I chose to photograph the "other"s for later research....

couscous is a common street food here sold in most bakeries/sandwich shops
another exhibit at the KW gallery...Seedlings from trees that survived at concentration camps around berlin.. I think the idea is to pass out these sprouts to passbyes so they can plant them in their neighborhood in remembrance of those who died etc.
someone threw red paint balls at the vagina....someone had to do it.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Wenn Fliegen hinter Fliegen fliegen, fliegen Fliegen Fliegen nach.

The better my German gets, the worse my english gets. I...ehhh...speak? wit....ooooueee...ehhh... speak englich? Mit eine....nicht so gut. My brain has made it clear to me there is only room to think in one language. So my thoughts have become more and and more basic/elementary... across the board. My thought process has slowed to what might be deep meditation level if I weren't so vain and destructive. Comedy or existentialism/abstract thoughts take wayyyyy too much effort...Which is a big part of the reason I cannot blog as often. I feel like English no longer flows from me...Something like a linguistic "no child left behind" act or something....If you can only speak German at a beginner level, then your English must wait for your German to catch up.

Anyhow, I went to the Berlin Phil last night to see one of my favorite mezzo sopranos, Joyce Didinato, in concert. 8 euros for a front seat ticket to see lady Joyce in concert at the Phil....Don't mind if I do.

She sat in the foyer after the concert signing CDs etc and I waited until the line was finished to tell her thank you for her work and that my friend and I follow her video blog and it inspires us when we feel like giving up. She was very excited that I was in Berlin and gave me congratulations on my journey. So there it is! the Joyce approves!

I've been looking for a part time job, but its difficult because I am traveling here and there, I'm at school every morning through early afternoon and I don't speak enough German to not get eye rolls all the time from native speakers who think that because my accent is so good (!!!!!! :D) that I'm just mentally retarded....

Understanding context has been difficult for me recently. Similar to the confusing street names in Berlin (I got a little lost on my way to Opera one night because there were literally two streets with the exact same name going in adverse directions....exactly. the. same. name. letter for letter...close to each other....but one going north to south and one going east to tell me...) there are as many "get as much bang for your buck" out of daily words. one word means five different things depending on context. As an example...Here is a totally grammatically correct German sentence:

Wenn Fliegen hinter Fliegen fliegen, fliegen Fliegen Fliegen nach.


something about what happens when a couple of flies are flying behind a fly...

Despite all my general disorientation...I'm so excited to be putting my German together! Stella, Birgit's daughter, just called from Paris and nearly our entire phone conversation was auf Deutsch!

Which reminds me my love is not only visiting me in Berlin, he is taking me to Paris! And by taking me I mean taking care of absolutely everything! Plane, room, alles! SSSSOOOO ROMANTISCH! SO EINE MÄRCHEN!!!! Aber real :D :D :D

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Weakness is not a word in German

Mein Gott! What an incredible turn of events! I found out last night that my boyfriend bought a ticket to visit me in Berlin in August AND that I was named CCPA's Presser Undergraduate Scholar for 2012-2013. Needless to say I have not slept in the last 30 something hours or so. Im too busy blissing out on an extremely high vibration. 

Aber! I have not updated my blog in a few days so I must deliver the facts! I spent a few days at The German History Museum (it is ENORMOUS) and The Modern Art Museum, saw my first Opera in Berlin (astounding), discovered East Berlin by bike with Jane, visited some art openings and famous cafes near the UDK campus, attended some public viewings of the World Cup and met new friends!

I bought a ticket for The Staats Opera's production of Brecht and Hindemith's, Lehrstück. Not realizing that The Staat's Opera's under construction signs meant that there were to be no performances in that space (I pretended I understood the woman who sold me the ticket when she told me exactly this....) I arrived an hour early to the Opera to find out from a taxi that all performances are now at Schiller Theater...which is a 30 minute car ride from the Staats Oper...After declining his Taxi service he gave me completely incorrect directions to the Schiller Theater, which I immediately dismissed. I partook in my map seance and rode my bike furiously, for an hour straight, to the Schiller Theater. I rode so fast I scared other bikers, who yelled German things, which I couldn't understand, at me the whole way. I think this is the wonderful thing about having elementary language skills. I can't be offended if I can't understand you. So I am usually untouched by snide remarks. 

I arrived a few minutes late to the Opera, worried I would have to wait for intermission. (I learned after arriving exactly on time to the Berlin Phil and being turned away that punctuality is a pillar in German society.) To my delight, the usher lead me to a door and waited for a cue then said "you must sit at the table"....okay....interesting. Whatever, I deserve it, Im late... and a sweaty mess. Then she opened the door to what was....the stage....This was all very disorienting. But I clearly understood, "sit at the table" I did. I soon realized that the entire audience was on the stage. The opera happened around us. One chorus member sat right next to me, pointing to the lyrics on the flat screen and urging me to sing all of the chorus numbers. ???????? This is a legit Opera company mind you. The experience was incredible. One chorus member (role: chef) passed out vodka in shot glasses....the entire show. I assumed it was one passes out liquor during a performance of an opera like I playfully grabbed two glasses from his tray and downed them (being thirsty from the bike ride) before I realized it was...what tasted like rubbing alcohol (im not a drinker...that would be my first vodka experience) first I was worried I drank the wrong prop....Then the bizarre choreography of the performance elevated and I realized...This is Brecht and Hindemith...In Berlin....Anything can happen. And pretty much everything did. 

The whole performance was a dialogue, directed at the audience. We were all invited to join in on everything. Even after the performance all the musicians stayed behind and engaged in discussions with audience members. My mind is officially blown and all my expectations of the theater and music scene here surpassed infinitely. I HAVE FOUND MY PEOPLE! I am so happy to find a group of people who feel art should be dialogue! not just "superstar" prancing around on stage for adoring mindless zombies. Zombies on both sides. 

Im excited for more Opera experiences to come! 

The tables where the audience sat...The piano and behind the piano a small chamber group and conductor..

My seat...All the tables had games which the chorus members played with us...oh and those are my vodka shots

More of the stage

Berlin Apfel Strudel

NAPOLEON'S HAT! at the German history Museum.
Most Museums do not allow you to take photographs so I cannot share a lot of the amazing things I have seen...but I will say that I have never been in love with Modern art...until I came to Berlin. I am now a completely devoted loyalist to modern art.... Hans Haacke has been a personal favorite of what I have seen so far in the city.... 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Protestants are not impressed

I think I had a breakthrough with my language skills today. All breakthroughs like this seem rather invisible....Puzzle pieces don't seem to fit stare at them for long periods of time...and all the sudden you have a chunk of a puzzle.....seemingly out of nowhere.

Having German classes every morning helps keep my head in the right place for language problem solving, I think...

I spent the afternoon with an allergy attack and menstrual cramps, then off to choir rehearsal! This choir is awesome. The choir is an ancient music choir that rehearses in a church in Charlottenburg. Although the church was renovated after WW2 (Berlin was basically leveled) the basic structure dates from 1700... The history in this area is so interesting..The relics that were magically spared from incessant bombing have a special glow about them.

We sang Bach's Bm Mass, a Monteverdi Motet and a Stück piece. I kept looking around at the collection of German protestants and thinking that most of them could easily be family members. Its funny looking around a room and realizing that you are not unique are German looking....

Anyway, after the rehearsal the choir director and I talked about ancient music for a while... then he invited me out for a beer (I drank a "Praguer") with some of the other singers. I spoke mostly to his wife about where music is happening in Berlin and she gave me so things to look up. Most of Europe shuts down in the summer so most ensembles are on break right now. I am going to go with "everything happens for a reason" for my response to this sticky situation.

They were very humble people and were very responsive to all of my questions. These are a no nonsense, hardworking people...There is no flattery or ostentatious greetings or social behavior.

I told them I could put them in touch with The Baroque Band in Chicago as I had worked from them the previous year. They were very excited at this prospect. It seems no matter where you are, people think the action is happening elsewhere.

I haven't had my camera in a few days because Ive been meeting a lot of new people....and picture taking doesn't really fit the social situation.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

No one sells sweatshirts in Europe....are sweatshirts an American phenomenon?....

Homesickness kicked me in the gut today. Perhaps something about seeing all these cliche rich American art school kids at occupy Berlin last night, protesting their parents who are funding their trip/life style..... or being mostly indoors the last two days playing old jazz standards while its rains outside. Its also quite possible that it all has something to do with the fact that I'm a terrifyingly moody person no matter what country I'm in. I don't want to get rid of it...Sometimes I want to understand it but its hard to write music when I get totally objective about my life.

There has also been a bizarre murder epidemic in the area. Mostly due to tension in Islamic fundamentalist households (I hate to paint a bad picture...but it is the picture that is being reported in the news and I'm not interested enough in most peoples lives to use my telepathy to know whats 'really' going on) A man 3 blocks away from my home stay severed his wife's head in front of their 6 children and threw it off the balcony two days ago. so there's that. Then a twenty something guy who cut up his ex lover and hid all the parts was found in a Berlin cafe yesterday. This stuff could happen all the time, I don't know, I typically don't read the newspaper because its highlights the insane and I get enough of them without having to read about them in the newspaper...But my host mom is always reading the news paper and loves a good there we are.

Out of curiosity I looked up homesick remedies and found lists of utter stupidity. Mostly people suggesting that you should suppress your feelings with a plethora of activities. I do that all the time anyway. I would like to try something new while I have the time for reflection available. I think that's one of the wonderful things about traveling...the space for reflection. Reflection isn't always fun...I think its mostly rather harsh on the ego and recently, leaning toward nostalgia.

Having said that, tomorrow I start with a choir here in Germany! The last two days have been slow as I have been recovering from my cold but I'm actually intrigued by the slower pace. It gives the inner world a chance to show itself, methinks.

note: I'm next to Martin Luther Strasse (street) here in Berlin...Different Martin Luther same landmark for "bad" neighborhood?....Although bad neighborhood here comes nothing close to a bad neighborhood in the US. nowhere near. just. no. Here when they say "bad neighborhood" they usually mean "not as pretty as most" or something along those lines.....

read this quote today from Vernon very much applies

"   Beyond the present you there is another life for you, and you, listening to the talk, are sensing the truth of what I just said but it’s very weak and timid, and you’re worried, so deeply concerned over what will happen to you if you go too far in the spiritual trip. What is happening to you now? You’re afraid something bad is going to happen to you — it’s happening to you now! Exercise: Sit quietly and say, “There is no need right now for me to be me.” That will confuse you because you don’t know what you’re talking about but you’re saying something right, something true, something good. That indicates that there is something beyond it which there is, and you will find it, live it, know it when you know absolutely that your good is bad. You are never going to ‘make it’ because you don’t exist as you think you do. Fall in love with something that is really magnificent. Right spiritual method to let the new appear: If you sit quietly amidst the ruins and wrecks of your own life, and you just sit there quietly with all the broken lumber and glass all around you; if you just sit there and do nothing you will attract God. You will attract the heavenly kingdom. After all the wreckages you are willing at last, after all these years, to let God be God........................................................................... Sit in that room every day for years and years and years, and obey the one small but all-powerful and all-compassionate instruction that this is what you are supposed to do. Just sit there in the chair, and as nervous and anxious and worried and scared as you get, endure it unto the very end. When [you do this] the evil forces — [which are] 95% of your inner state — all come together, knowing and laughing with sick glee at how easy it is to fool anyone, no matter how well educated, no matter how famous, no matter if he’s called an intellectual. How easy it is to fool the great and the wealthy and the famous as well as anyone else; and it’s a fact, billions of human beings at this moment have absolutely refused to do what Truth wants them to do, which is to sit in the chair and see what happens when you withdraw you from you. You have to act on the little bit of truth you first have and I have been giving you ways to act on it."

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

ach, so!

.....Germans have this expression "ach, so!" which sounds exactly like "hasso"...the sound Americans make to imitate Japanese businessmen..... Its completely hilarious because they often bow their heads when using this expression...I don't think they get the reference. Germans have no idea what to do with Asians, or as they call them "Asiatic people"...? Its funny, Berliners these days often pride themselves on being so tolerant....but, coming from Chicago...I look around and think..."well its not that are all white catholics..."or at least 80%..and they've pretty much disassociated from the Turks so...anyway, I digress.

I came down with a cold upon my return to Berlin. Finally crashed from the big energy rush that kept me out and about all night and up early to start all over. I started German classes which has me up way earlier than I have gotten accustom to...but I still take my midnight espresso so I can jam on the family piano with my hostess....and learn how to play pop songs I will never admit to listening to on my guitar.... I found a book of Sinatra songs so Ive been following the chord charts and improvising with jazz standards. Its funny, playing them in a country where most people don't recognize the tunes makes them fresh again. In a way, you hear them through new ears and realize how special they are and unique to American culture. I suppose jazz and modern musical theater is really all we have going for us. Musical Theater is evvverryyywhere here! really horrible, horrible, cheesy new musical theater....Really just not my cup of tea but I guess it can appeal to the masses and sell a lot of tickets? so... good for them???

I'm frustrated with speaking so much English with my hostess. I try to push for German over and over again. I decided to start translating famous German literature to English just as an exercise and a peek into the great German poets. My hostess gave me a book by Kafka, who a lot of well read Germans seem really excited about. He is always first on the top five list of people whom I quiz on German literature.

I spent the night in East Berlin at a few gallery openings then in some old cafes and dance halls. I wish I would have brought my camera.... Mitte, the neighborhood is so cool/bizarre looking. A bunch of poor artists squatted the whole area after the war and just started making art. Just doing it. all that pent up anger and sadness and death and survival. If there is one thing I have really learned from the Germans its to simply show up and do it. No one winces when I play wrong chords on the piano here. No one backs down from their opinions....for better or worse...obviously. But still, there is a beauty in standing up for the now and doing whatever you are capable of doing in the moment and not apologizing for not being perfect in every endeavor. I like this very much.

On another note, I found family in Ireland and planned a trip (thank you Ryanair!) for mid July. I think its important to see surrounding countries for dirt cheap while I can... its a good way to break up my stay here so I dont start getting too homesick...or peoplesick, really...and Im excited to discover my Irish family history. I have always wanted to see Tara for myself! I've been in touch with the family there and they are all very excited that I am coming! Which is really very heartwarming.

Wunderbar! or as my Deutsch Lerner sprachen......ZZZZZZZ(s)UPER!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Eighty percent of success is showing up. or. Life is mostly about having balls.

SO! I woke up at 6am on Tuesday morning and rode my bike through the city to chef's house, rang the doorbell and found out chef intended to leave on Thursday rather than Tuesday. Aha. Power play? Why didn't he call me to let me know? But its okay. we still love chef. and! I understand the dynamic of power play so it made me feel, oddly, at home? Like finally someone was playing a game I knew the rules to. I repeat, we love chef.

In a somber mood, I made a pact with myself to go to 4 completely new places in the city every day before I left to Vienna for real. I did keep my pact! But my camera was out of batteries so it was not recorded :( I vaguely remember a flea market, some bohemian ares with clusters of coffee shops, the Berlin Phil, Kammermusiksaal, some performances at UDK and a recital at The Stanford School abroad...where I did meet some music students who go to UDK! Two of which were voice student and said I could sit in on their lessons :D :D :D

So! Chef picked me up at my place on Thursday and we were off. The drive is beautiful but loooooooooong. Traveling in Europe is easy (not once was I asked for a passport-there were no tolls, no fees, no humbugging) so easy that its easy to get impatient..oddly. To put it into perspective, we drove through three countries in less time than it takes to drive from Miami to New York....

Chef stopped in Prague's old town for coffee and cake at the famous Cafe Europa. Excellent choice for a pit stop. Although I did not get to see a lot of Prague, I was intrigued by the old town square where the in 1968, the Soviet tanks rolled in and shut down the liberalization known as "Prague Spring."

Upon approaching Viennese wine country, where chef was heading, he showed me around these little cellar streets from the 1400s...some still producing, some not. I had to get to the S-Bahn so he offered a more in depth tour at another time.  When we arrived at the S-Bahn a train was about to leave (they only come every hour) so i jumped on it without buying a ticket. I must confess I have been "riding black" as the call it, the entire time I have been in Germany. Perhaps this will bite me in the ass, however, if I do get caught and fined, the amount of the fine is considerably less than the rides I have bummed thus I'm okay with it. I will consider it settling my tab when that day comes.

I found it took two trains and two busses to get to Cynthia's neighborhood, but Vienna is very well laid out and all the transfers were logical (or I am becoming a better traveler....I dunno....its a coin toss)

Cynthia and I went to a traditional Viennese restaurant in her neighborhood that night and immediately hit it off. We both loves medieval music and art...and courtesans...We both love reading and traveling (she has lived practically everywhere) and eating! She works in tourism for the US embassy so I had a plethora of maps, history and information at my fingertips. FriDAY I spent exploring "The Ring" on my own. In and out of enormous baroque museums all day, Cynthia and I met up at night for coffee at a famous cafe and various drinks and snacks at more famous cafes....opera tickets were too expensive and the outdoor music festival was a little silly...but we found out that that night happened to be an "open church night" apparently it almost never happens...but all the churches in the city were open ALL night through early morning. So we toured every church in the city. Every. single. church. and. chapel. one completely marbled, golden, decked out piece of architectural and artistic genius after another. With that much baroque, it's beyond "too much" must simply surrender to the lavish opulence..It is a totally bizarre fairy princess land built on money that didn't really, totally exist. An empire that was imploding, building big fuck off castles to assert they still had it in them to fuck you up. Thats the impression I get from the architecture anyway...

We walked the streets of Vienna until about 2:30 am...took the tram home, had a 3am dinner (god love her, the perfect travel companion) and collapsed.

Saturday was a trip through Naschmarkt, the famous Viennese outdoor market, followed by a full tour of Vienna compliments of Cynthia, as well as a peek into Klimt's secession building, which houses the Beethoven 9 freeze as well as The Belvedere Art Museum inside the castle of the former hunchback, homo, military mastermind, art collector extraordinaire...Though and outcast of Viennese society, one of the most powerful men of his time....Prince Eugene of Savoy. 

 A couple bratwurst stands later (3 euros for a huge bratwurst, a pile of mustard, a hot pepper and a slice of brown bread) we were in the inner city again watching street performers and popping in and out of old alley ways and horse stables while Cynthia gave me complete historical background.

Sunday morning I had just enough time to see a mass at one of the big cathedrals in the inner city before I hopped on the train. Every church here has a small orchestra and choir to perform at services. They sang Haydn's Bm Mass, a few Mozart pieces, and a Randall Thomson "Alleluia" to start the service. The music blew everything I have EVER heard from an American Church choir TOTALLY out of the water. We should, in fact be ashamed of our obvious failings. The expensive commercial push to get people back into church services is useless.... I think it would benefit the catholic church enormously to pay for American conductors to study in Germany before they come back to lead music worship services. If the music in American churches touched the level I heard today, I guarantee churches would be filled up in NO time. It is worth stating that every church in the city had a line out the door...and most people had to stand in the back and on the sides of the pews. There is a church every half block....

I spent most of today traveling to get back into Berlin. Im glad Im back. Vienna is incredible. I saw where Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert lived. I saw theaters where Mahler and Wagner premiered works... I saw more art than I thought was possible in a relatively small space. But it seems it would be hard to be a revolutionary artist NOW in that setting, where it seems everything was done bigger and better and more ostentatiously than you will ever do it... I found out today that Vienna has the highest suicide rate in all of Europe....Interesting.

Im glad it wasn't totally leveled during World War 2...It's something of a relic. A time portal. But Berlin has a much more tender portion of my heart. 

Most museums did not allow photos...and there were wayyyy too many castles and churches to begin taking photos of them...but here are a few culinary and artistic landmarks.....


Cafe Europa, Prague

Cafe Europa, Prague
Prague's most famous export.

the real budweiser...having nothing to do with American budweiser. nothing.

First time on the S Bahn
Cynthia! Amazing tour guide. Amazing friend.

court house
Klimt Mural at the Kunsthistorische

Klimt Mural at the Kunsthistorische

I went to Sunday Mass here...

the one modern art gallery in Vienna?

crazy blonde doppelganger of my mother....
bratwurst. best street food ever.

my first apfel strudel