The Birds of Monday: a short story by Steven Lee Lawson

The Birds of Monday

Monday. The dreaded day. The day of excitement! The white milk sky of winter, and the oppressive phosphorus sun. She was coming back from NYC for the holidays, to visit her mother who was turning 60. I had offered my services as a free cab from the airport, and she had accepted.

“This faithful man will be there in his old, tattered van!” I said.

“Oh, thank you, faithful man! See you tomorrow!” she replied. I re-read that telegram over 160 times, each recitation receiving pleasure; my tiny precious artifact from her. I went to bed early with the nervousness of a child before Christmas, knowing that the sooner I went to bed, the sooner I would awake to Santa’s presents! As an adult, my present from Santa was to spend time with the most wonderfully frustrating person that I had ever known.

She had not asked me to be her airport cabbie; I had offered as soon as she mentioned that she had bought a plane ticket back to our native state of Colorado. I wonder now how obvious it was to her that I would drive her wherever and anywhere- I would find a way to drive her to Paris, across the Atlantic, if that’s where she wanted to go. Women often have a way of sensing these things. Like how blind people are only blind in this dimension. Look it up, it’s true.

I had once seen a documentary about the mating habits of the exotic birds of paradise. The males, in addition to showcasing vibrant plumage, would spend days reading a stage (or love nest) on which to display their candidacy as a mate. In much the same way, I cleaned my apartment, and similarly turned my birdy diligence towards readying the chariot that would ferry the object of my affection from the airport. This mostly consisted of ridding my van of empty beer bottles and cigarette packs, but nothing was left to chance! Before the quarter-fed vacuum and spray wash, I made a stop at the Tibetan gift shop and purchased two kinds of incense to perfume my van with; Sandalwood and Indian Temple. Coughing from lighting both in the confined space of my locomotive, I hazarded the big trucks of the industrial part of town and entered the freeway to the airport.

I was running late due to my bird of paradise schtick, and in a hurried zooming between cars on the highway, my mobile device on the passenger seat lit up. I knew it had to be her, and with the wind roaring in my ear and the incense burning, I answered.

“Hello!” I said.

“Hi! My plane just got in, and I’m in the terminal. I was not ready at all for all the Christmas sweaters! There are so many people wearing them, in red and green; I was not prepared for this!!”

“Run! Hide from them!” I said. “My van is a Christmas-Free Zone. You are safe here.” The raging wind blowing in through my driver-side window obstructed my attempt at humor.

“What?!”

“Nevermind. I’ll see you very soon!” We exchanged the pertinent navigational information, and I speeded with urgency towards the terminal.

Pulling into the concrete cave, I saw her there. In tight jeans and boots, she was even prettier than my imagination had prepared me for. She recognized her sloppy knight, and I waved to her like a dork. I unlocked the passenger door, and she fumbled her two over-stuffed backpacks into the vehicle. Her auburn hair spilled playfully onto her shoulders. Her bright amber eyes regarded me. Her smile lit a fire in the lighthouse of my heart, and she thanked me for picking her up.

Now, you have to understand, as I envisioned this very scenario the night before, I foresaw a much smoother, non-existent version of me to respond in a way that would make even James Bond jealous of my mastery of seduction. She would say:

“How can I ever thank you?!” and I would reply, with ultimate smoothness:

“I think a kiss from you might do the trick.” Of course, she did not say that, and my reaction was one of typical nice-guy blandness. We exchanged pleasantries, and exited the concrete cave of the arrivals. The James Bond inside my head laughed his ass off.

*                     *                     *                     *                     *

“I did not sleep last night,” she said. “It’s so BRIGHT here, especially painful when hungover.

“I know- it’s just the worst. Makes me long so badly for the dim, gloomy skies of the northwest.” I drove on, trying to look as desirable as I could with my two sets of glasses; sun-over-visioncorrection. I said helpfully, “ I think there is an extra pair of sunglasses on the back seat, if you want to use them.”

“Oh! That’s great! Thank you!” She put on the sunglasses that I had gotten for free from somewhere, and continued. “So, all I want is enough money for a bungalow here, and a house in Paris, so I think I have my million-dollar idea: People like reality shows, right?”

“The populace seems to, yes. Although it’s such a bizarre thing to me, because the producers set up these dramatic scenarios that are a fake ‘reality.’ I must admit, though, that I enjoy a reality show about people haggling over rare comic books!!” I said, smooth as fucking ever.

“Well, here’s my idea. It’s a cooking show with second-generation immigrants cooking with their parents. They cook an ethnic meal together, and the audience gets a reality program AND a cooking show!”

I considered this and said, “You need a catchy title. The executives will insist on having the perfect-attention-capturing-title for the show. What have you got?”

“I’m thinking about calling it ‘Relative Kitchens…”

“Like a pun, right? Wait, that doesn’t make any sense (!!?is that technically a pun?!! I wondered).” I laughed nervously and then said, “Would you be Executive Producer: Camilya Dofor?!”

“Ideally,” she said as she took a drag from her cigaret, “I would sell the idea for 125; I was going to say thousand. 125…million!! That should be enough for my bungalow, right?”

“Well, this is your baby, so you might want to produce the first episodes, at least.”

“Maybe we could do it together!” The notion that I might be somewhere in this woman’s future elated me, and filled me with delight. She went on:

“But it has to have DRAMA, right? My solution is this; when Enrico finds out that his brother slept with his wife, there will be a HUGE blow-up, and then the producers will take everyone to McDonalds.” Camilya had thought of everything. I marveled at her.

I told her about my dreams. To go to LA, for only as long as necessary to make a reputation, then to build a recording studio in the middle of nowhere; my own misanthropic heaven: GIT OFT MY LAND!! I would say, rifle in the crook of my arm. I said, “I’ve decided to live at my parent’s cabin for the last half of January…” A light bulb, or possibly an exclamation mark lit up above her head in the passenger seat.

“I’ll be here for the entire month of January…” she said.

I bit.

I stuttered, “You could come with me…”

I looked over at her. She was staring straight ahead, wearing my green sunglasses, smiling innocently but kind of oddly–

**TO THE CHRIST I NO LONGER BELIEVE IN: PLEASE TELL ME that she was aware of what that might imply. AMEN. May you go to the heaven, Sweet Zombie Jesus, of the Walking Dead. Sorry bearded god**

*                     *                     *                     *                     *

Through a suburban labyrinth she guided me, to her mother’s house. Meeting parents of ANYONE is rarely a pleasant experience; and I was understandably somewhat nervous. Her mother Evita ran a daycare in her home to pay the bills. I was to be fed Hungarian food and talk to children.

After informing my hostesses that I have been a vegetarian for the last 17 years, I was given a fare of spinach and garlic “soup.” It wasn’t so much a soup as a puree; not unlike warm hummus, I suppose. It was topped with a sliced hard-boiled egg with a side of pretzel bread. Camilya microwaved and served it to me, with the children screaming outside. The food was quite good.

Most of the children die kinder, entrusted to Mrs. Dofor (during the afternoons of weekdays) would repeatedly hit each other with plastic trucks and then proceeded to cry about it- this made me fret for the future of the human race. But there was one child, the eldest, who was clearly the superior to her colleagues of the Play Doh, tricycle and the nap; a blonde Jewish girl who was very excited about Chanukah. I bent down and said, either very charmingly or very offensively, “You know, lil’ gal, that when I was your age, I was always very jealous of my Jewish friends who got so many much more awesome presents than I did. Come to think of it, they were very rich, though.” Much like people rather older than her, she had no idea how to respond to me. Camilya either smiled or winced at my remark, standing by the trashcan and the sliding glass door. I laughed nervously again, and scooped a bit of the garlic-spinach puree with the pretzel bread, with a wedge bit of hard-boiled egg along for the ride. Outside, the children committed minor physical assaults on each other and continued to cry more about it. It was then time to have my interview with the mother.

“So,” in a very heavy accent her mother said,” Did you like the food?”

“Oh, yes. It was very good, but I like things spicy, so I asked Camilya for some hot sauce.”

Camilya spoke something softly to her mother that was unintelligible to me; most likely because I did not speak Hungarian. Her mother’s eyes shined a burst of understanding with a nod and a smile of recognition. She turned to me and said, “Ah-yes! The Hungarian paprika!”

“Some like it hot, right? Like Marilyn Monroe?!” This flew through the air like a drunk javelin. Camilya’s mother pivoted, and asked the most pertinent question.

“So what do you do?” she asked.

“I just got my degree in music. With an emphasis on the recording arts. The only degree more worthless is a philosophy degree.” I was pleased with myself for being so refreshingly honest; so iconoclast.

“Do you have any other skills?” her mother inquired.

“Oh, god no.” I said, still impressed with my frankness. Camilya jumped in to my apparent need of defense:

“He can paint! He told me on the way over that he has been earning some money painting houses.” It occurred to me later that I was in an interview and didn’t even know about it. It was kinda like with a job where the manager asks, “What is your greatest weakness?” Most people would answer by saying something like, “Okay. Here goes: my greatest fault is that I’m a perfectionist.”

But I had effectively said to this employer of the girl I hoped to be with, “I have a distaste for authority and am chronically tardy. I have nothing to offer your daughter other than writing her bad poetry and having stupid tattoos. And I can fake my way on a variety of instruments and also sing sometimes.” Camilya smiled helplessly in my defense. I had no idea what had happened.

(Saying goodbye to you at your mother’s house, we were like a mirror. In unison, an alright in a prelude then a bye in the same pitch. And I admit I missed you instantly. The long drive through the strip mall plains, the complacent gas stations, the sedentary street names; as a crimson sun burnt down the west, behind the cardboard mountains. And then a tiny bird in my heart began the sweetest melody. I could not help but to relive every second I had alone with you. On the porch, in the backyard. The sheen of auburn in your hair. The curve and pattern of your lips. The sweet timbre of your voice. The quick elegance of your mind. It was entirely too much beauty for one man to witness.)

*         *         *         *                     *

The next month for me was unbearable. I struggled my way through Christmas. Being at my parents’ house for the holidays I would stay up late after everyone had gone to bed, I would go out to the hot tub and look at the stars and wonder: Could I have found happiness, at long last? Would we have a house in California or Paris, with a dog that I would name Winston? Winston for Lennon and Churchill. Oh, and what would we name our kids? Fiona if a girl, Wolfgang if a boy. Stuck in this agonizing loop, I rarely had a moment of peace because I was always thinking about her. The stars stared down at me indifferently.

She was supposed to return from her trip with her mother on New Years Eve, so on New Years Day, I sat in front of my phone, willing it to ring with only the power of my mind. And then have it be her the other end of the line, as excited to see me as I was to see her. Whenever the phone rang and it was not Camilya, I found myself vexed at the caller: how dare you attempt to communicate with me and not be she! It went on like this for days, but I had resolved myself to wait for her to call, so as to not seem desperate. This had come from all the previous failed scenarios with women over the years, and I vowed to not make the same mistake. I am an unlucky gambler who is impulsive, and it has rarely served me well in matters of romance. Or really in anything, actually.

After the 6th day after her return, I could take it no longer. I sent a telegram that read, “I HAVE A CHRISTMAS PRESENT FOR YOU.” To which she replied,

“Oh really?! What is it?!”

“Don’t you want it to be a surprise?!” I wrote back.

“Okay a surprise then. I’ve got plenty of free time in the next two weeks…”

“Want to kick it tomorrow?” I asked.

“Sure, how does late Monday afternoon sound?”

“Perfekt!” I said.

The next day, I was excited, but had the nagging feeling that something would go wrong with our little date. To distract myself, I went to the grocery store, which is something that I hate, due to my agoraphobia. (And getting caught shop-lifting at grocery stores in my younger days, probably didn’t help). I cleaned my apartment again, Bird of Paradise-style. I went to the liquor store, and bought a big bottle of red wine I thought we could share, while we watched a movie on my bed. Although maybe not the most creative date, it was my idea of a perfect one. Alas, my Spidey-Sense turned out to be correct. She wrote:

“Hey! So I totally forgot that I had plans with my friend Jen, but I was wondering if the three of us could go to the art museum.” I did not respond for a while because I had to examine this like Batman would a crime scene. This did not portend well, for three reasons:

  1. At the last minute, perhaps she had gotten scared and decided to call friend-back-up, which is a classic girl move I had experienced more than once.
  2. I had been planning this little date for weeks, but for her, it was not something she really thought about at all.
  3. The art museum is always closed on Mondays.

I found out the last thing while doing my Dark Knight diligence, and looking up the map, and the hours of operation for the place. I saw on the website: CLOSED MONDAYS. Now, was this an ingenious move of strategy, so there would be no chance of us having the date at all, or was she simply delightfully absent-minded, like Elizabeth Shue’s character in that bad 90s movie, The Saint, where she was a brilliant scientist, but had post-it notes all over her apartment, to remind her to buy milk and such? Camilya asked it there was “anything else,” which I assumed meant another museum of some kind. I did some more research, and found that for some reason, all institutions of this kind are universally closed on Mondays. Another reason to hate them, I suppose. The Mondays. Like the fat cat. I reported this Monday closure and was met with hours of inconsiderate radio silence from her. When I could take it no longer, I wrote her in what I thought was the rational/compassionate way to go about it, “If you just want to hang out with your buddy tonight, I completely understand. You are only back in town for so long, and I’m sure you have a lot of people to see.”

To which she replied, “Going to yoga. Call you when I’m done.” She did not, and I got so depressed, I drank the whole bottle of wine I had bought for the both of us. I went to a bar before last call, and found a stranger to complain to about women.

She finally did call me two days later, after I had finally sobered up, and resolved to not feel sorry for myself. She was apologetic from the first.

“I’m really sorry about the other night.”

“I was a bit disappointed…” I said, to show her that I was no doormat.

“Well, my flight got delayed several days and I was stuck in Costa Rica.” She went on to explain that her train-wreck-drunk-of-a-sister had destroyed the house while her mother and she were vacationing. I assumed this meant she had a party. What had happened, in fact, was that her sister had a vodka-infused-bout-of home-improvement, and sanded all the wood in the house. “The floors?” I asked, confusedly.

“Yup. She power-sanded everything, then just…left.” she clarified. This made me sympathetic, and I quickly forgot about how sad I was on Monday. Goodbye, Blue Monday. We talked a while amicably about her trip. She said she was going to a spa with some friends over the weekend and that she would call me when she got back so we could finally hang out. Just like that, I was back in, and looked forward to her return with glee. Evidently, I am incapable of seeing patterns. She did not call on the following Monday, when she said she would return. Fucking Mondays.

I only got to see her once, the whole month she was here, for about 30 minutes at a coffee shop. I was trying to sell some books there, and she wrote that she would be in the area, so a cup of coffee was arranged.

It was cordial, and we talked about Islamic terrorists murdering cartoonists as well as the atrocity of the blood diamond trade. We smoked a few cigarets, and she said she had to be getting back to her mother. I was also selling the last of my worldy possesions (a collection of compact discs) at the record store down the street. They bought a few of my more rare albums (such as The Point by Nilsson and a deluxe 2 cd set of Pavement’s Crooked Rain). I knew they wouldn’t take everything, and on a whim, I reached into my paper bag of music and said,

“Here, you should have this. It’s one of my favorite records. I discovered Bonnie “Prince” Billy during my ‘On The Road’ period somewhere in Toledo. This album, I See a Darkness, is my favorite of his, because of how raw it is. Listening to it, you can tell it was just recorded in somebody’s house. All of my favorite records are like that.” She offered to pay me a few dollars for it, but I declined. We had a nice friendly hug, and then parted company. I guess that ended up being her Christmas present from me. It wasn’t the love poem I had written for her on a typewriter with her name written on the envelope; it was a scratched, second hand disc of music I would have accepted a dollar for.

That’s where things should have ended neatly. Sporadically for the past three years I had been sending Camilya poems and melodies I had composed just for her, in the hope of her slowly seeing the vast expanse of the imaginative world inside of me. In those three years, I should have realized what time it really was: she enjoyed my company, but that’s where it stopped with her. She did not feel the same way about me. But this is me we are conversing about; I was not to be content until I humiliated myself one more time.

After I gave her the record, we started sending telegrams back and forth. Did you know this nerdy fact about the album; yes it was beautiful I enjoyed it very much. Well, I spent the money I made from selling my compact discs on beer; I hope I will not regret spending that money on getting drunk when I have no money for food in LA. No, you did the right thing; you only eat once a day and you will sell a million songs anyway. You believe in me?! Yes: I’m banking on you to repay my student loans. Heh- I was just going to say that if I make it big, I will buy you that house on the Seine. Now I have it in writing too; you will make it big and then I’ll be after you. But not before? Ha, I meant legally, for my house; but I can sue you now too. Uh, don’t we have to be married first, before you can sue me; guess who’s signing a prenuptial. In America you can sue anybody; I’ll sign that prenuptial when I see that blood diamond! Ok, let me just go to Africa real quick; I will find you the biggest, bloodiest diamond I can find!!! I went to the bar again that night to complain about women to people I did not know.

The next day, I thought I really smart thing to say was, since we’d been joking about marriage:

“You know, if you were my wife, my chief concern every day would be to make you happy.”

That was the last time we spoke, she left without a goodbye.

*                     *                     *                     *                     *                     *

So here I am, in my last days in this town, degree from the University finally in hand. I should be actively moving out of my apartment, but instead I watch too much television, and there are beer cans and empty pizza boxes everywhere; the trash is full, the recycling unmanageable.

One night, while pouring beer on my indigo loneliness and watching television, I came across a documentary about the Eagles. Not the birds or even the Byrds, mind you, but the easy-rock machine of Don Henley and Glenn Frey. It was strange that this piqued my curiosity, because for years I had proclaimed my hatred for their brand of what I called “safety rock.” I had long taken the position that The Dude had in The Big Lebowski, which was of course, “Hey man, I just hate the fucking Eagles.” Take it Easy? Really?! Everyday I find it so extraordinarily difficult; be damned you sellout millionaires! But I had heard about their infamous band drama, and having experienced that myself, albeit on a much less successful level, and I was intrigued with their band story. At one point, modern day sober Joe Walsh said something rather wise and poignant. Which surprised me, having just learned that he was the King of Room-Trash, alongside Keith Moon; attacking their hotel rooms with chainsaws and driving expensive cars into pools. Modern day sober Joe Walsh said, “I was reading this philosopher that said, when things are happening to you, at the time it’s happening, everything seems so chaotic and random. But after many years, when you look back at it, all the things that happened in the past seem more like a finely crafted novel. And that’s what it was like, being in the Eagles.”

Though I will never know what it was like being in the Eagles, this idea stuck with me for the next couple days; The chaos of the present, and the order of the past.

From Bingen to Bieber: what the hell happened, and what do we do now? A meditation on being a modern musician

Jason and I, living the dream.

I once wrote a song called, “Daddy Was a Tire Salesman.” It is entirely autobiographical and also entirely sad. A story that is all too common these days, my father left when I was three: he went out to have a cigarette and never came back. In some ways, this would shape me more than any other factor of my early life. John Lennon also had an absent father, and it would also make him rebellious, stubborn, and an artist. My songwriting skills will never be anywhere close to that of Lennon’s, but should that mean that I cannot do what I love to do most, professionally?
But my reasons for writing this song were not to feel sorry for myself or point at my scars. I was at a recording session with my band Snake Mountain and all the musicians present starting talking about where their musical inclinations came from in their family. One person said, “My grandma played the piano.” Another said, “My uncle played the banjo and the fiddle.” Everyone had some clear link to the musical side of their family, and it explained them all sitting in that room, talking about music. When it got to me, I had to think; “My dad was a country music DJ. I think that’s how he met my mom.” A DJ?! That was the best I could do? Surely there had to be someone else in my family who considered themselves a musician! There was not, and the closest thing I had was a sleazy DJ of a dead-beat dad. What else could I do? I wrote a song about it on the porch and had a good cry when I was done.
History tells us that for hundreds of years, musicians made their living writing songs for wealthy patrons. Had I lived in these times, I probably wouldn’t be writing songs for my own psychological benefit, I’d be composing something for some wealthy family or the Church. Neither would have wanted to hear the story of my father leaving. On the other hand, if I played this game for the patrons with money, I would have had a steady job doing what I love to do. I would have had relative security, despite my lower social class. Compare to how my life is in this lifetime: I am white, which gives me an unfair social advantage, however, I am still a broke student who pretty much lives in a shack by the train-yard in the most polluted part of Denver.
Our current society has romanticized what I would call “Rock Gods.” In the same way our culture worships celebrities, we worship Led Zeppelin, Elvis, and Justin Bieber. A stadium of screaming, adoring fans; an ample selection of willing groupies, sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Every little boy learns the guitar to one day impress the ladies: this false dream is what I believe makes the modern music trade unequally male-heavy. Unless the goal is to sell sex, say in the case of Madonna or Christina Aguilera. The idea of using sex to sell music couldn’t have been more foreign to Hildegard of Bingen, a nun who was arguably the most iconic female musician of the early world in the 12th century. All these notions of sex and glory in music today are in such stark and ironic contrast to the musicians of history: there was little glory, no fame on the scale we see today, and (unless you were a Troubadour) definitely no groupies.

street art in Budapest

This romanticism angers me, for I believe it distorts what the true goals of a musician should be. It should not be about the magnitude of the glory bestowed to the Rock Gods that each member of yet another hard-core band lusts for in their parent’s garage. That is like the idea that anyone could become president. It’s a lie: it’s an incredibly complicated web of demographics, money, politics, and most importantly, being in the right place at the right time. I wish someone had told me that when I decided to move to Portland, analogizing it to Bob Dylan’s historic move from Minnesota to Grenwich Village in the early ’60s: I would never be in that right place at the right time. I could neither find work nor any gigs in Portland, and moved back to Denver with my tail between my legs. This is how the romanticism was removed from me (rather forcibly I might add), and I feel that the glory from becoming famous through music is the reason that music has become largely terrible today.
Modern painters do not experience this oddity as much. There is still pretension, sure, but what modern sculptor or painter caused anything on the scale of “Bieber Fever?” Could the average person even name five contemporary photographers, painters or sculptors? Hell no. Why is this? Like their audio-artist kindred, visual artists in the Renaissance were employed by patrons to achieve higher social status for them. How did these disciplines of art, which relied on the same system of patronage for hundreds of years become so disturbingly far apart? The answer must be the invention of the television and the radio.
These devices set the stage for mass idolization to occur. During the 15th and 16th centuries, music was almost exclusively heard by the elite, for the elite. The average person could not afford to hire musicians for their enjoyment, they would have had to make due with singing to themselves instead. With the invention of the television and the radio, anyone, regardless of social class or financial status, could gather around the radio and hear the same person sing to thousands of people at the same time. The zenith of this starting with Elvis Presley and The Beatles, led to the mass idolization of these musicians, transforming them into demi gods. This practice has continued into today, and has gotten much worse in that unlike Elvis and the Beatles, talent is no longer required to become a demi god.
This is the world I was born into. If I had lived in the middle ages, I would have found a court to entertain. In the Renaissance, patronage would have put bread on my meager table. Even in the old west, I could travel from saloon to saloon, providing music to the cowboys and the whores. None of these situations would have glamorous, but I could have made a simple living with my skill sets. Today, the average musician is caught in a cycle like this: writing music to record, paying someone to record the band, playing gigs that pay very little to try to sell and promote the records that they paid for, making a fraction of it back and starting all over again. Any tours that a band might take to promote their album will go something like this: some unlucky jerk in the band buys a van, they play a crappy show in the middle of nowhere to make gas money, the van breaks down, some unlucky jerk with a credit card pays for the repairs, they make it to the “good gig” in a giant city like Los Angeles or Chicago, get ignored , and beg for a floor to sleep on while they try to make it back home, eating ramen and drinking beer in the van until they finally get home, owing money to the guy who fixed the van when it broke down. Shortly after, someone in the band gets married, someone else moves away, and whoever is left decides to study music in college.

a new poem

after spending several lifetimes alone in that desolate lighthouse, I think I could live inside the moon with you. inside of me, the tired old Mandolin began to make music again. We have become Masters of the Seasons, summoning a spring rain or Red leaves with a single emotion. Because you Are, the shadows on the wall of the cave are given form and substance. My dreams have become beautiful again. Magic has returned to the night air-there is lavender, oranges and tea for whoever desires it! I hope this Wonderful Arson will catch fire to your heart, and we will never know a cold night again.

A day in the life.

This is what my mornings look like.

For this blog, I thought I’d let the pictures speak for themselves! PhotoHeavy!

I leave the apartment for a stroll.

a festive German balcony!

Kids blowing up fireworks. Oh, das kinder diese Zeit!

World famous Berlin Graffiti! It's everywhere!

Feurwork refuse!

Onward around the block, hope I don't get lost!

Ian's apartment. Who wants falafels?

 

Hmmmmm..an artsy look out of Ian's stairwell.

 

This is Ian's and Jason's favorite falafel place. The subtleties of these sandwiches were astounding: fresh mint, a variety of amazing sauces. Should have gotten Halumi (fried cheese)!

 

Remaining bit of the wall. Ominous, ain't it?

 

Where they would watch/shoot you.

What does this make you feel? It was weird seeing colour in this grey city.

 

Who da Puppy Daddy?!

 

I thought using the sepia function would add to the gravity of the situation.

 

What's the matter, Ian?

It's okay, buddy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

in the distance...

uppen closen! This was the giant soviet penis we were under on New Years. Pretend people were trying to destroy it with feurworks and you pretty much get the idea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Had to include this because it first struck me as odd. We had just exited the tram, and this lady did too. Mit ein officechair. If you don't have a car, how the hell else are you supposed to move you favorite chair?

 

Back to the subway. Jason and Ian thought it was hilarious to keep walking infront of the picture I was trying to take.

 

Did my obligatory tourist-thing. Night approaches.

 

Into the dark Holocaust Memorial maze. Everybody was running around here slipping on the layer of ice between the columns. Can't belive I didn't lose a tooth or something.

 

He's going down!

 

...and I'm down!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OOOoo! Mein favorite! Kookies und Kremen!

 

Probably getting a pretty good idea of our sobriety level at this point...

Ian WAS NOT happy with us Cool Rockin Puppy Daddies...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

uh...yeahhhhh..wish I could say I didn't remember this. Buy a guy a drink first, right?

 

Into a a pretty rad bar where they were playing Nick Drake's "Bryter Layter" in it's entirety to my great happiness! You can tell by this picture that Ian is beginning to count the SECONDS until we go to Prague.

 

Handsome devils..

3 of the best looking guys...

in Berlin! Guten Nacht!

 

 

 

Berlin New Years=WWII

So obviously Germany doesn’t have a Fourth of July.  We Americans use Independence Day as an opportunity to blow shit up.  Not to be outdone, Berlin uses New Year’s Eve to recreate the chaos it must have been like when Churchill was bombing it to hell.  Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE had Feurworken.  And not the crappy sparklers and snakes that we are only allowed to use in Denver city limits, but the caliber of fireworks I thought were only reserved for redneck “hey watch this!” moments in Texas and Wyoming.  A young German mother with her infant child in a stroller and under it enough rocket fire power to blow the kinder sky high.  Fireworks in the subway.  Fireworks inside the train!  People throwing fireworks at us Americans.

We scooped up Ian, and went to get the absolute best falafel sandwich I’ve simply ever had.  Oh, it was die for. Only 3 euros! I can’t say why exactly it was so delicious.  Maybe it was the wheat pita.  Or the consistency of the falafel balls.  Perhaps it was the scharf (spicy) sauce.  Possibly it was the company of good friends in an exiting new place!

Jim Beam.  In Colorado, this would be my cheap whiskey of choice at a bar.  Believe it or not, it’s somewhat exotic here and was sitting next to a bottle of Johnny Walker Red and was the same price.  So we took a walk with Johnny.  And that’s were the trouble began.

While calling some friends through the internet (with a comical time difference), we passed Johnny around.  And around.  The plan was to take advantage of the oceans of people in the subway and subject them to our American-ness via playing them country music for euros.  However, before we knew it, Ian was about to get a faux hawk haircut from his roommate, and then it turned into a drunken hairstyling session of Ian’s golden mane, and every once awhile him complaining that we mock said gentle manLion.  Well, at that point the manLion went his way to some party and Jason and I went go serenade the good people of Berlin so subterranean we again went.

At this point, it was 23:30 and we wanted to be somewhere memorable when the clock struck 24 and 2010 was forever over with.  So, after purchasing more of our beloved half-pint bottles of delicious Deutsche beer (and breaking one) we emerged at the Alexanderplatz square and watched the chaos unfold.

I’ve never been to war, but I’m pretty sure we have post traumatic stress disorder now.  Giant explosions in the sky between buildings, people throwing M-80s in front of where you are trying to walk-to whole city erupting in explosions and colored light, people throwing and breaking champagne bottles: absolutely no regulation of any kind and everyone was a trained fire marshal, lighting and exploding things with no regard for safety. Good thing there was snow in the ground.  We were near a Duncan Donuts (Germans seem to have  a love for them), so all I could smell was gunpowder and the sickly sweet smell of fried dough.

A funny thing happens when you drink a lot of beer-you have to piss!  And there was no where to relieve one’s self, so we took turns guarding the other drunken one peeing as hoards of people walked past us, seeming not to notice. It was quite a view with exploding light everywhere under the Fernschturm towering over us like a giant soviet penis in the  dischord of the festive night.

Puppy Daddy: n. one who has a paternal grasp of a situation. In control with a thorough understanding. Owning it. A cool dude. The shit.

Trying our best to remain Puppy Daddies, we boarded the train again with an intent to busk.  Problem was, I was having what Jason called a “social malfunction.”  I don’t like crowds, and being in a subway-train that was so crammed with people it was like a seven layer dip of humans, my claustrophobia started to act up and I started growling at people.  I do this when I’m hammered and can’t deal with people, and any one of my friends can tell you that it’s extremely irritating.  So with busking out of the picture, Jason navigated us home safely and New Year’s Eve became New Year’s Day.

2. A domestic grocery trip. Jakebrake and Doublewide go viral. A fine evening for Modern Art.

The next morning, we made our way into the streets of Berlin to walk amidst the bundled-up Germans to buy goods from the village.  We wandered into Conrad’s, an electronics store somewhere between a giant Radioshack and a very small Best Buy.  I was in need of an electric adapter to get power from these very strange European electric outlets.  I kept wondering why mankind hadn’t agreed on one universal outlet to drain power from. Oh well.  Found one for 5 euros.  Made our way to Kaiser’s-the Berlin equivalent of a Safeway.

After acquiring basic foodstuffs such as pasta, I was struck by the fact that these clerks had comfortable office chairs to sit in!  What a marvelous idea: what is it about Americans that makes us think that clerks who aren’t ruining their back or getting corns on their feet are inherently lazy?  I’ve been fired from so many jobs where it’s more important to look busy than it is to actually accomplish anything.  If the British empire was built on cups of tea, the American-corporate empire was built on coffee induced enemas!

Returning home, we began rehearsing the folk-bluegrass classic (popularized by the Coen bros) “Man of Constant Sorrow.”  While we were rocking out on guitar and dobro, I got a supreme idea: why not use the video function on my digital camera to make a viral YouTube performance to make us over-night internet celebrities to the likes of Chocolate Rain and dramatic-look gopher?  We wrote the credits on rumpled white paper:

At the time of this writing, we have 15 views.  Jakebrake says that by the time we wake up, we will have gone viral and become internet sensations.  And I believe him.

Thursday is supposed to be free museum day.  Wanting to be classy and high-brow for once, (to make up for being cool rockin’ daddys) we took a series of trains to the Berlin museum of Modern Art.

We walked in and tried to enter one of these sacred rooms of observing, only to be stopped by a sport coat-clad Art Nazi, who instructed us to pay the 10 euros to be the worldly, art appreciating gentlemen we knew we were.  Apparently you can buy class.

 

I got an uneasy feeling from the Art Nazis: like they thought you were aspiring to be the next big art thief.  I got hot, took off my coat, hung it over my left arm, and was immediately scolded by by an Art Nazi to either wear it or tie it around my waist like a 6th grade dork.  When I looked at her incredulously, she talked in the slow, deliberate way you would address a mentally handicapped senior.  What was I going to do: steal a painting and hide it in my coat?! Real classy, Germany.  Evidently, I’m a Master Art Thief and I had no idea.  Maybe the Art Nazi had a premonition that I would become a retarded old man with an obsession with stealing post-WWI German Art.

Day 1

The Adventure began at 7 am in the morning.  Grandad took me to the airport, and I said goodbye to the dry Denver air.  After a 10 hour flight to Frankfurt, I felt pretty strange.  De-boarding the plane, I walked towards two Polizeis who refused to look at me.  I got within 3 feet of one of them in their strange, futuristic kiosk and the one with the slicked-back hair thrust his arm out and I pensively gave him mein passport.

“Where headed.”

“Berlin.” I said as cheerfully as I could.  He barely looked up at me and brusquely stamped my passport, then went back to whatever was so engrossing on his desk.  I then went past the kiosk into what seemed like a dead end: it took me a bit to figure out that what I thought was a wall was actually a giant emerald city-style door that opened up to a magical land called the Frankfurt airport.

I needed a smoke.  William had told me about these glass boxes you could smoke in, and soon enough I found one.  A Camel Smoke Cabin they called it.  Inside there were these little vents that sucked up the smoke.  A glass cattle pen cube for the desperate airline smokers.  Gross.  But in I went.  Inside there were seductive Camel ads of exotic far away places with ominous warnings of death underneath them.  I exited the glass house of cancer to observe the traveling Europeans.

I was in bad shape: delirious from 24 hours of travel on 3 hours of sleep the night before I left, my glasses smudged with oil gave everything a fog, and my left ear hadn’t popped yet due to the altitude changes.  But I was the farthest away I had ever been from home and was reveling in it.  I had 5 hours to kill before my last flight to Berlin, so between visits to the glass cabin of death, I read some and tried to nap.  Finally, I boarded the plane and very pleased to find I had a window seat!  This time, instead of pretzels, I received a bar of German chocolate.  I had hot tea with awesome yet bizarre airplane snack and took aerial photos of the German landscape.

I arrived at Berlin-Tegel after 25 hours of travel that had mysteriously taken 2 days with the time changes: all without a flux capacitor!  After retrieving my guitar from baggage claim, (and being quite relieved it didn’t end up in Guam) I walked out the door to find a bearded Jason with a Pilsner for me.

“So we can drink this inside the airport AND on the bus?!”

“Yup, Wilkommen to Europe.”

“Sweet!!”

Ian showed up a few minutes later, and we took the bus to a train as we drank bier and caught up.  We emerged from the subway to stumble around the snow covered streets of Berlin to Ian’s apartment.  Tags on the post-Cold War buildings gave the city a very international, urban feel.  We had a brief tour of his quarters, smoked in the kitchen, then left for me and Jason’s sublet-ted apartment.  Similar to Ian’s there are giant doors you walk through into a foyer, then into a courtyard and up into the apartments.  High ceilings into a small hallway with a bathroom that led to a big, boxy room with no closet, and a typically small European kitchen.  We were home!

 

It was time for more beer, so we went to a small wine store/hipster bar that Ian knew of.  Inside it was dead, with an attractive yet apathetic bartendress.  We ordered drei Tegenseer Hell lagers, and I laughed at the monopoly-like quality of the Euro.  We sucked down the biers and the boys decided it was time for me to go up to the bar and order first purchase in German.

As I was about to do this, A group of intimidating European hipster girls walked in and congregated around the bar.  I awkwardly waited to catch the attention of the bartender and, as usual, I began to trip over my words while attempting to seem cool in front of the ladies.  ” Uh, my friends sent me up here to get more beer.”

“?”

“Uh Teggennsrhll, drei, bitter?”

“no understand you,”

“drr….drei lagers?”  A roll of the eyes and 9 euros poorer, I returned to the table to find my friends laughing at my misfortune.

As the bar filled up, we decided a change of pace was necessary, so we walked to a locals bar near our apartment.  As the beer began to flow, Jason and I began to slip into the mock-ignorant-satire of the redneck Americans that we thought the Europeans believed us to be.  As we got drunker, we began to sing lyrics to “Born in the USA.”  I crooned, “I’m a cool rockin’ daddy in the US-A-a,” to which Jason responded by beating on the table and shouting “USA! USA!!”  We had become what we were mocking (and having a damn good time doing it) until a drunk middle-aged German with long grey hair leaned over and exclaimed:

“You Americans,” arrogantly taking a long drag of his rolled cigarette, “you Americans don’t tip.”  Although he was just making a conceited observation, it didn’t make any sense!!  Our whole server economy is based on waiters making $2-3 dollars an hour, and guilt-based on service compels us to tip;  I always tip 20%, no matter how broke I am.  We had been called out by a portly Euro-trash geezer, and as Ian went over to save face, our drunk male egos began to conspire to say, hit that old bastard over the head with a pint glass to reclaim our honor.  Though our threats were empty, Ian, un-eager to be embarrassed in front of his new countrymen (and as an ex-patriot) decided he wanted nothing do with it, dramatically exited the bar.

Jason and I stumbled into one of Berlin’s many video casinos, bet 5 euros on #5 on the digital wheel, won 15 euros with which we put towards Ramen and more beer; laughed our way back to the apartment, and promptly passed out.