Archive

Archive for July, 2009

Frankfurt Revisited

July 27th, 2009 Comments off

The story of my weekend in Frankfurt, told in seven parts:

1 – Obscured By Clouds

I arrived in the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof at 5:45, and the feeling hit me the moment I stepped off the train. There I was again after four years, standing on the platform of Europe’s biggest train station, the site from which so many amazing adventures began. But this time I wasn’t traveling from Frankfurt—this time it was my destination.

As I walked through the old familiar station marveling at just how accurate my memories of it were, I couldn’t help but keep an eye out for Claudia, as I figured there might be a small chance that she changed her mind during the day and decided to come. Naturally, that was not to be, so I would officially be on my own. There would come to be many big advantages to that, but the first was having to take the U-Bahn to get where I was going, and the Frankfurt U-Bahn holds just as much nostalgia for me as everything else.

When I’d been a student, my I.D. card served as a year-long public transport ticket, but since I didn’t have that anymore I figured I’d better pay. So I coughed up €2.20 for a single-distance ticket and hopped on the U4 where I would change over to the U6 at Bockenheimer Warte, one of my most frequently visited tram stations due to its close proximity to one of the university campuses. The feeling of nostalgia overwhelmed me as I stepped on the tram, as every city has slightly different tram cars and it’s a huge part of the city’s character. That feeling grew immensely as I stepped out into Bockenheimer Warte, as like the tram cars each tram station has its own particular character as well. In Bockenheimer Warte there were giant photographs of scenes from the Goethe University up on the walls, and those pictures were still there. I spent so much time staring at those pictures while waiting for U6 or U7, so seeing them again was quite surreal.

I couldn’t resist heading above ground to take a quick look around before continuing my journey to the hostel. I headed up and found the place just as I remembered it, walking around for a few minutes with a big dumb grin on my face—I was back. I’d always hoped I’d be back, and now I was.

After satisfying that brief urge I went back down to the station and took the U7 to Konstablerwache, the city’s most central and busy location. That too was quite a trip to see, but I didn’t spend much time walking around as I knew I’d be doing all that the following day. My only plan at the moment was to walk to the hostel, about a 15-minutes walk from Konstablerwache that I and the other exchange students took countless times on our way to Mr. Lin’s, everyone’s favorite Thai restaurant, or just to Sachsenhausen for a drink. The hostel was right in the heart of Sachsenhausen and right along the river.

Crossing the river was also an incredible feeling, as the Main is really quite beautiful and there’s an excellent view of the city—Germany’s only city with a genuine skyline—from the bridge. I got across and found the hostel exactly where I expected it to be.

2 – When You’re In

As I walked into the hostel there was a crowd of about two dozen Japanese tourists standing in the lobby, which reminded me of how I always found it curious that so many Japanese people came to visit Frankfurt. The thing about Frankfurt is that there’s nothing particularly historically interesting, no great museums or places of interest—just a lot of big buildings. I liked that about living there because it wasn’t much of a tourist town, though for some reason Japanese people were still there all the time. Of course, Hannover is way less of a tourist town than Frankfurt, but you’ll still see Japanese tourists from time to time, always traveling close together in big groups and clutching their cameras and guidebooks.

Checking in was easy enough, and I headed up to my 4-bed room and found to my pleasant surprise that nobody else’s things were in the room. It was quite a nice room too, with clean beds, a sink, and a lovely view of the river right across the street. I left most of my stuff there, taking just the essentials, then headed downstairs to use the computer to check my e-mail.

I didn’t get any e-mails, so I was about to leave the hostel when I bumped into a group of about seven French teenagers, one of whom stopped to ask me if I spoke English. Most people assume I’m German which I’m quite used to, so when I answered in the affirmative he realized that I was a native speaker and then asked where I was from. When I said New Jersey some of the others in the group thought that was really cool, and they started talking to me and asking me questions about America. One of them apparently has an uncle who lives in Brooklyn. I mentioned that I lived in Frankfurt four years ago so they asked me a bit about the city, particularly whether “the girls are nice here?” I kind of shrugged at the question and just said, “Yeah, I guess” because I’ve never noticed any general differences between the girls in different parts of Germany. No matter where you are in the world, there will be a lot of hot girls and a lot of fat, ugly ones. Nowhere has a monopoly on beautiful women (except maybe Eastern Europe). The guys also asked me if I had any weed, and I just said, “I wish” and they told me they had some and if I wanted we could smoke later. I was quite amused by this, as it took me six months to find weed when I lived in Frankfurt, and I’d been back for less than an hour and people had already offered to smoke me up.

Anyway, I said goodbye to those guys and then headed across the street just to sit on the edge of the river for a moment and absorb the atmosphere. I was still a bit melancholy about the Claudia thing, though my mood was picking up at that point, and I listened to “Marooned” on my I-pod which fit the scenery perfectly as the day was just now slipping into evening and the setting sun was reflecting off the water. I’d been listening to Floyd the whole day, having gone several months without listening to it at all and feeling like my return to Frankfurt was as appropriate an occasion as any to bust it out again.

Once I’d soaked up enough of that it was time to get something to eat. There really was no question in my mind as to where I wanted to go: Mr. Lin’s. I headed off in the direction I thought it was and passed a bunch of bars I’d drunk at once or twice but Mr. Lin’s wasn’t where I thought it would be. I wandered around for a bit, wondering if perhaps the restaurant was gone now and what a shame that would be. I spotted O’Dwyers after awhile and from there I knew it couldn’t be far. Finally, I looked across the street and there it was, still alive and well.

In previous travel experiences I’ve never really eaten at an actual restaurant alone but instead just get some fast food or something when I’m hungry, but I had to make an exception for Mr. Lin because it was the place to eat among the exchange students and I couldn’t be back in Frankfurt without going there. It normally feels weird to eat alone at a restaurant, but there was a woman sitting outside alone when I got there so I didn’t feel weird at all. Other than her the place was empty, but there were plenty of other restaurants right there and lots of people sitting outside and eating. I popped inside to ask if I could take a seat outside, and found the guy I think must be the owner sitting around doing nothing. I remembered his face immediately and was quite gratified to see that it was the same guy from four years ago. Obviously he didn’t recognize me, and while I considered explaining to him that I was one of the Americans who always ate at his restaurant four years ago but decided there was no point.

Anyway, I gave him my order, a pad-thai and a hefeweizen, and took a seat outside. The waitress came out with my beer a moment later and that first sip felt heavenly. That nostalgic feeling came back as I sat there considering the fact that here I was in Frankfurt, sipping on a delicious beer on a lovely evening, waiting for my food to arrive. I didn’t have to wait long before the giant plate of noodles, veggies, chicken and shrimps came out, and I dug right in. The food was even better than I remembered it being, and although I was full half-way through it I kept at it until the whole plate was clean. Feeling quite stuffed at that point and noticing everyone around me smoking cigarettes, I got a powerful urge to smoke one. I hate asking strangers for cigarettes but I couldn’t leave to go buy a pack at that point, so I worked up some nerve and asked the lady who had been there alone and who was now smoking if she maybe had an extra cigarette for me. I spoke perfect German and was very polite but she just abruptly told me that was her last, which I’m sure was a lie, but I thanked her anyway and went up to another table in front of another restaurant where some people were smoking and again very politely asked if perhaps anyone had a spare cigarette for me. They too seemed very put-out by my request, but one of the guys begrudgingly gave me one and lit it up for me. I thanked him twice and then went back to my table to enjoy the hell out of that smoke. All I did was eat dinner, but I felt a strong sense of accomplishment.

3 – The Gold It’s In The

It was a little after 8 at this point and I figured it was late enough to start drinking. When I did my lone traveling to Paris and London back in ’05, I didn’t do any drinking because I’ve always shied away from the idea of drinking alone at a bar. Even in my loneliest times in Hannover I never went out to a bar for a drink. I’m just too shy and I figured I’d basically end up drinking alone like a total loser and getting even more depressed.

But I’m a new man now and I had to at least try to get some socialization going. And what better place to do it than O’Dwyer’s, the first non-Caribbean bar I ever drank at? Why not make it the first bar I ever drank alone at as well?

My resolve for socialization was hampered a little when I walked into the place and found it virtually empty. Granted, 8:00 is still pretty early in terms of city night-life, but I’d thought there would at least be a few more people. There were a couple of patrons sitting at the tables, two bartenders and a really cute waitress. I sat at the bar and ordered a hefeweizen in my friendliest voice, hoping that if all else failed I could at least chat up the bartender. I’d assumed he would be Irish, as Irish guys are always good for a chat, but unfortunately these guys were German and didn’t seem too interested in doing anything but pouring my glass and then going back to their game of darts.

I sat there for quite awhile waiting for the business to pick up. I asked one of the bartenders after awhile when the crowd usually gets in and he said 10 or 11, so I still had a long time to wait. I just passed the time nursing my beer, listening to the music (the reason we liked this bar so much has a lot to do with the music, as they play a great variety including classic rock, as opposed to the shit most other places play), watching the muted music videos on TV to see how they synched up with the music, and glancing around to see if I could spot anyone I’d be comfortable enough going up to and introducing myself. I never got a good vibe like that from anyone, and I wasn’t nearly drunk enough to overcome that shyness, so about two hours went by of doing exactly what I feared I’d do, just sitting there drinking alone like a loser.

A couple of guys sat down next to me shortly before 10 but for some reason I got the impression from them that they wanted to keep to themselves. A new bartender started his shift at about that time, and I could tell by his accent he was American so I asked him where he was from and he said Sacramento. I told him I lived in Santa Barbara for two years and he asked when. I said 2007 and 2008, and he said I missed out on the “good” Santa Barbara. Apparently he’d also lived there for four years back in the early 90s, when he said it was a much better atmosphere, people walking barefoot everywhere and whatnot. Then apparently in the late 90s it started getting ridiculously commercial and the town became like one big shopping mall. I found this pretty interesting but he said he had to go take care of something and extracted himself from the conversation with me.

A bit later I was craving another smoke so I asked the same bartender if there was a cigarette machine. He said there was one downstairs (thus confirming what I already remembered) but I needed a card for it, which he gave to me. I headed down and bought a pack, then one of the guys who was sitting next to me followed me down and asked to use the card because he’d been trying to buy a pack earlier but couldn’t figure it out. The guy was definitely Irish and I should have introduced myself then, but for some reason I didn’t as I just wanted a smoke. So I went outside to have one, then came back in and found the friend of the other guy sitting alone.

I honestly don’t remember whether I said something to him or if he said something to me, but he said he was surprised I spoke English as I’d just been sitting there for awhile and he figured I was a German who came to this place all the time. I explained my situation to him—I lived here four years ago and was back this weekend for a visit but the girl I was supposed to stay with canceled at the last minute and now I was on my own—and he said well then why don’t I join him and his friend? He was going to order a couple beers and take them outside where his friend Gavin, tall blonde guy, was smoking. His name was Paddy, and he was a bit shorter than his friend and had extremely short black hair.

So I quite happily walked outside and introduced myself to Gavin who was sitting at a table and talking to a German guy out there, saying his friend invited me to join them. Gavin was delighted to have a bit more company and invited me to sit down and offered me a smoke. I declined because I had my own pack but I joined him as he lit another up. Apparently like me he only smokes when he’s out drinking, so his objective was to finish the pack tonight.

At first the conversation with the German guy continued, who was struggling to speak English to these Irish guys who didn’t speak a word of German as they’d never been to Germany before. But as soon as I admitted to the guy that I spoke a little German he switched back and I became the default translator for the group. Apparently the guy was inviting us to go to the “speak-easy” around the corner, but the Irish guys had no interest in going anywhere. Eventually the guy got up and went alone.

I spent the next few hours getting acquainted with the Irish guys who turned out to be—as all Irish seem to be—really good company. They were in Germany with Paddy’s parents who wanted to check it out, and they came to Frankfurt because it was the cheapest flight. This was their second night here and it was just dumb luck that they came to O’Dwyer’s this night because there was a pub much closer to their hotel. But apparently they made the mistake of buying a drink for a guy who’d been banned, and as a result they got banned as well. Ultimately they said it was a good thing because they found this place which was much better, and they met me which was apparently good because they told me I was better company than that other guy who got them banned.

I was surprised to learn that they were only 22 years old, and they were surprised to learn I was only 25 because I look and act much older. I was a wealth of information about Germany, and even Frankfurt in particular, and I told them a bit about it but mostly we chatted about the standard bullshit—music, TV, movies, funny stories from our past. Gavin seemed to have the same exact taste in music as me, really into classic rock shit like the Doors and Led Zeppelin. Of course he was a Floyd fan too, which means big points in my book.

Once we finished our beers we started ordering rounds of cocktails, as they were having a two for one special and we had to take advantage. So as the night wore on we found ourselves drinking crazy things like Sex on the Beach, cosmopolitans, and something called a Galaxy Special which tasted like a strawberry milkshake and you couldn’t tell there was any alcohol in it. When it got to be really late, because we kept getting four cocktails at a time for just three people (unfortunately the deal wasn’t three for one) we found ourselves drinking several things at a time, taking a sip from the cosmo and then from the Sex on the Beach and back and forth. I knew we were getting into serious hangover territory for the next day but naturally when you’re at that point you just don’t care. I was having a great time so fuck it.

Also later on a very large American girl was talking to us, though I don’t remember her coming up to us or how we got to talking in the first place. Nor do I really remember what we talked about with her. There was definitely a lot of talk about music, and because I still had my I-pod in my pocket I busted it out and let Gavin listen to a few tunes with me (we each had on earphones) and singing along like the drunken fools we were, which the girl got a kick out of.

Finally when it was really late it was time to go “smoke some doobs”. They had weed back at their hotel but I said the Turkish guys at the kebab shops could also get you weed or hash. I never got any personally but I knew people who had, so I figured it was worth a shot. We left O’Dwyers and walked around. I went into a couple of kebab shops and asked them in German if they knew where we could find something to smoke. They smiled at the question but said they didn’t have any, which may or may not be true, and that we should go to Konstablerwache if we wanted some. That was too far for me though.

I walked with the guys and the girl as far as the river, then figured I should probably just go back to my hostel. They asked me if I’d be back at O’Dwyers the next night and I said I would, and they agreed to meet me there. So we said our goodnights and parted ways.

Back at the hostel, the group of French teenagers was outside smoking when I approached and they waved hello to me and invited me to join. But just in the small amount of time it took me to get inside and go out to the balcony, all but two of them had gone to bed. So I just chatted with the two of them for a minute or two about god knows what and then we all went to our respective rooms for some sleep. There was only one other guy in my room when I got in, and naturally he was snoring a little. The funniest thing about staying at a hostel is that there will always be someone snoring in your room, apparently even if there’s just one other person. But thankfully I was too drunk for it to matter and I passed out as soon as my head hit the pillow.

4 – Mudmen

The hangover the next morning actually wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be, though it was still brutal enough. I woke up around 8, probably after only 3 or 4 hours of sleep, and because of my bullshit sleeping schedule (always waking up at 6 or 7 now) I couldn’t get back to sleep. The guy in my room left really early so I had the place to myself again, but it didn’t matter. I stumbled down for some free breakfast amidst hundreds of other travelers, none of whom I bothered trying to talk to, and then stumbled back up to my room to pop an aspirin and try unsuccessfully to get back to sleep. I might have made it if the people in the room next to me hadn’t decided 9:00 was a good time to start blasting crappy pop music at top volume, including that song, “California here we come” which got lodged in my skull where it was quite unwelcome.

The music stopped after a half hour or so and then I came within inches of getting back to sleep but never quite made it all the way there. But at 11:00 I figured I’d better start getting in gear for the day. I took a nice shower (best showers of any hostel I’ve ever been to), shaved, brushed my teeth, and was feeling much better already though still nice and dizzy.

The first thing I did was hop across the street to sit on the edge of the river again and listen to “Mudmen”, both to dislodge that god-awful California song and put some nice pleasant nostalgic-ish Floyd in there. Turned out to be a great choice, and it successfully stayed in my head the rest of the day providing the most perfect background music for everything that followed.

I walked back across the bridge to Konstablerwache and kept going east, as my plan was merely to have a look around at all the places I used to go and all those places were pretty much along a straight path east from Konstablerwache. I refused to look at any maps, wanting to rely purely on the instincts that my faded memories have left me with. The names of the U-Bahn stations as I passed them would confirm my heading in the right direction: Hauptwache, Alte Oper (where I had my infamous night of deep conversation with Lu), Westend, Bockenheimer Warte, Leipziger Straße, Kirchplatz, and finally Industriehof/Neue Börse where my dormitory was.

The area between Konstablerwache and Hauptwache is the busiest part of town, and there were all kinds of street musicians and itty-bitty-political demonstrations everywhere, even some combinations of the two, like a group of five young women singing in really terrible voices about peace and love. When I got to Hauptwache I was approached by an older woman who said something to me in German about “Politik”. I just gave her the standard “Mein Deutsch ist nicht gut” and thought I could move on, but she started speaking English.

Okay, I thought. I’m really in no hurry so let’s hear what she has to say. I might learn something. She asked me where I was from and was happy to hear America, because she was out there on behalf of Lyndon La Rouche, probably one of the biggest radicals in American politics. I could hardly believe it because the last time I was approached by these La Rouche people was outside the Trader Joe’s in Santa Barbara. I had no idea this guy’s reach was so wide. But when I heard the name La Rouche I explained to her that I knew all about him and I’d read the literature but wasn’t interested. Why? Well, there are a few things he believes that I don’t believe. Like what? Well, for example he says 9/11 was an inside job, which I don’t think is true. She goes into an explanation of how she understands that people don’t believe the conspiracy theories like there were already bombs in the buildings and such, but the whole thing had to do with Saudi oil money and so on. I had a hard time following her because her English wasn’t great and she seemed to just be pulling talking points out of the air at times, but I was curious so I kept the conversation going.

Apparently Obama should be impeached because there are a few lines in the new health care bill that will give government control over people’s lives and will lead to some nightmarish dystopian society where doctors are forced to let old people die in order to save the government the cost of keeping them alive. She said it would be just like the holocaust all over again and I expressed my skepticism but she insisted it was already happening. Just look at the bank bailouts and the financial system. Okay, I agree with you there—the economy is fucked and it’s all going to shit. But then she goes on to say that Obama is a fascist and talks more about how the cost of healthcare will bankrupt everything, especially now “with the swine flu out of control”. As soon as she said “swine flu” I realized there was nothing I could learn from this woman, but I humored her and said “Okay, so if what you say is true then what’s the solution?” She had been quite good at pointing out problems but she couldn’t seem to give me any kind of solid idea of what to do about it. We just need to “build up the economy” and spend more on education. Yeah, okay, I’m down with that I guess but could you be any more vague?

At that point a guy in a wheelchair rolled right up to us, put a cup down at his feet and took a flute out of a case he was carrying. The woman started talking to him in German which I understood, saying this was their territory and could he please go play that somewhere else? The guy was very polite to her but he didn’t budge, and she was getting noticeably pissed off. When the guy started playing the flute and she turned away in frustration, I said I had to go anyway and I wished her luck. La Rouche would not be getting any donations from me today.

I was a lot less sure of myself for the next portion of the walk but I passed Alte Oper and got to Westend all right, which meant now I had to turn right and walk north a bit to come to the Western Campus of the university, the building where I had most of my classes, probably the second biggest must-visit location on my check-list, the first being my old dorm. I had to rely purely on gut instinct to navigate the curvy roads to get there, but my memory served me correctly and before I knew it I was back in front of that building. The place was open but virtually deserted, as the summer semester just ended and there are only a few scattered summer classes going on. I amused myself with the possibility of bumping into one of the many girls I met or admired there, such as Andrea or beautiful Marie-Lena. Of course I was much likelier to run into Claudia as she actually works there now, but luckily I didn’t see her.

At this point I really had to shit, so a bit nervously I walked right into the building and down the hall, figuring with my backpack on I looked enough like a student to get away with it, and found the bathroom right where it should be. I took a nice dump in their toilet, feeling totally badass for doing so, just a guy walking in off the street and shitting in the university’s toilet. There was almost no one around so I didn’t get stopped or questioned by anyone.

After that I walked outside to the really nice area behind the building and walked up the steps I used to sit on and smoke before class to sit on them once again and appreciate the fact that I was there. The weather, I should say, was absolutely perfect with just the right temperature and cloud-cover. Yet another reason it was fortuitous that I changed the original plans of coming in June, a weekend that ended up being kind of shitty. But as I sat there admiring the beauty of the place and how awesome it was that I made it back, I realized that I might never come back again. I’d done the whole re-visiting thing. If I ever go back it’ll just be re-revisiting. So along with the sense of accomplishment there was a slight touch of melancholy at the thought that this really was like an epilogue to a book I put down four years ago, but this really was the last page.

From the Western Campus I found my way around the Palmengarten (which you could walk through for free with a student I.D. but of course I didn’t have one now) and back to good old Bockenheimer Warte. I walked down the East Campus building where we had our intensive German class, and back around to the courtyard outside the Mensa, the cafeteria where we ate when we were there. Also in that area were the bookstore where I got my books, the building where I gave Gabriel a few English lessons (which I suppose would be a prologue to the part of my life I’m in now), the Café Extrablatt where we ate a bunch of times, the kiosk where I bought all my cigarettes, and a Subway and kebab stand that we also ate at a lot.

Those last two things were at the end of Leipziger Straße, which is the street you could go to find everything. I passed the T-Punkt where we went through the nightmare of getting internet and stopped at the internet café near there where we used the internet while waiting to have it in our dorms. Just then it started to rain a little, which was perfect timing because I wanted to use the internet anyway and I got in to check my e-mail and do some stuff while the rain ran its course. It felt quite cool to be e-mailing Corey from the same place I e-mailed him five years ago, and I had to readjust again to the fact that the z is where the y should be on the kezboard…it’s bizarre because my fingers made the adjustment so easily and I’ve actually fucked it up several times while writing this now on a normal keyboard.

Anyway, the sun came right back out after the rainfall and I continued down Leipziger Straße in search of my old bank, the Frankfurter Volksbank. I had virtually nothing in my wallet at this point so I needed an ATM, and I wanted to get money from that particular ATM both for nostalgia as well as the practical fact that I now have an account with the Hannoversche Volksbank so I could only check my balance with a Volksbank ATM. Oddly enough I walked right by without seeing it, and when I got as far as the Italian restaurant we also ate at many times (we called it “Prego Man” after the waiter who always used that Italian expression) when I knew I’d gone too far. I turned around and this time found it, and not only that but found it exactly where I expected it to be, just outside the U-Bahn station. I have no idea how I could have missed it when it was right where I thought it would be. I went in and checked my balance, pleasantly surprised to find slightly more cash in my account than I thought I had, then withdrew €50 which I hoped would be more than enough for the rest of the trip, which I’d assumed would be pretty inexpensive.

I could have walked the rest of the way but I wanted to take the U-Bahn from Leipziger Straße for that old U-Bahn nostalgia I mentioned earlier. I also spent a lot of time staring at the art in the Leipziger Straße station so I wanted to check that out again, as well as hear the lady’s voice on the tram say, “Nächste haltestelle: Kirchplatz. Aufsteht links” which always used to mean “you’re one stop away from home.” At first I tried to buy a ticket but I was ten cents short (it wouldn’t take a 50) and the machine didn’t like my card. But I figured that I lived in Frankfurt for a whole year and got carded maybe a dozen times so the odds were infinitesimally small that I’d get busted. Of course it’s always the one time you don’t have a ticket that they check, and then you’ve got to cough up €40, but I decided to risk it and save myself the two euros.

The tram ride was strangely exciting. The lady said the Kirchplatz thing just as I remembered it, and I knew that in a moment the tram would emerge from underground and stop at Industriehof/Neue Börse from which I would be able to see my old dorm. When I stepped out onto that platform, the most frequently used U-Bahn platform of my life, I was giddy as a school girl to look across the street and see the dorm, Friedrich-Wilhelm-von-Steuben Straße 90, my former place of residence. Like I’d done thousands of times before I walked back and slipped inside the opening in the fence to the courtyard among the different dorms. Technically it’s a private ground and I wasn’t supposed to be there, but there was almost nobody there and it’s not like anyone would ask you what you’re doing there anyway. It’s a student dormitory—lots of random people are always coming and going.

I walked to the center of the courtyard and looked up at building C, third window from the bottom, second to the right. Motherfucker. What a weird feeling. There was my window, the same window I’d sat in thousands of time to smoke a cigarette and blow it out, the window through which I viewed the world for so many months. It was open a crack so I could see just a tiny little bit of the room inside, which almost made me tingle. The other places in Frankfurt are places I went occasionally, but that was my home. I may not be proud of it, but I spent more time in that little box than everywhere else in the city combined. In the four years since I left I’ve had several dreams in which I was back in that exact spot, either inside that dorm room or outside on the grass where I was now standing, and I would always wake up disappointed that I was actually in America and not back there. Well, finally I was back there. To think of all the amazing lucid dreams I had in that very room, and here I was making one of my dreams a reality.

So from the dormitory it was a 10-minute walk to the park I used to walk around every so often, and doing that walk again was absolutely #1 on my list of things to do—which also happened to be the last thing on that list. I had a feeling it was going to be the high point of the day, and I was right. As soon as I got back in the park I was overwhelmed with this joyful feeling of being in a beautiful place I really loved—nothing but great memories there.

Thanks to the few minutes of rain earlier, most of the locals seemed to be scared away and the park was much emptier than it would normally be on a Saturday, which naturally worked out wonderfully for me. But during my walk the weather was beyond perfect—I couldn’t have asked for anything better. I walked all the way around almost the whole perimeter, following the same exact path I used to take four years ago, memories reawakening with each new section of fields or woods I’d walk through. Everything was exactly as I remember it, except the playground which now has two zip-lines instead of one, and the bridge under which we set off all those fireworks one drunken evening was having work done. But man, what a beautiful walk.

Of course at this point my legs were killing me, so I’d frequently have a seat on a bench here or there and soak up the scenery. Once I’d gone all the way around I walked back up to the first bench I passed, the one with the best view of the park and sat there for a good long time appreciating the fact that I’d made it back there, feeling sad that I might never return, and trying to decide whether I like Hannover better than Frankfurt or not. My mind is still not made up on that question.

It wasn’t even 5:00 yet and already I’d done everything I wanted to do, so I sat on that bench for a very long time until a mother and her two daughters came and set up a picnic right in front of me. Sensing the potential of such a distraction to completely alter my state of consciousness, I got up, said my last goodbyes to the park, and walked back out the way I came in.

5 – Childhood’s End

I had toyed with the idea of going to the HL, the supermarket where I always used to shop near the dorm, and now that I had finished so early I figured I might as well, as silly as the idea sounded. I passed through the dormitory courtyard one last time and again stared up at my window, letting sink in whatever it was I wanted to sink in, then I bid farewell to my old box and headed off toward the supermarket.

When I got there I was shocked to find that it was no longer a HL but a Rewe, Rewe being one of the two supermarkets I shop at in Hannover. Suddenly it made sense why I haven’t seen a HL since I’ve been back in Germany when they were everywhere before, but Rewe’s are all over the place. I guess Rewe used to be HL, and I got a huge kick out of the idea that I’ve actually been shopping at a HL all this time without knowing it. I actually went inside just to see how similar it was to my memories, and unfortunately the set-up had altered quite a bit so the nostalgia-factor wasn’t too high. I walked around pretending to be searching for a particular item, then walked out without getting stopped by anyone to ask me what the fuck I’d been doing there if I wasn’t going to buy anything. Amazing how much I was able to get away with.

I took a different route back to the tram platform, passing the old post office from which I sent many packages including one full of German chocolate and other assorted niceties for Jessi, and the other student dorm where the Irish students lived and where we had a few nice parties on occasion. I made it back to the tram platform and once again decided not to bother with a ticket (I found it makes the ride a lot more exciting). I sat down to wait for the U6 as I’d done so many times before, and when it came I took one last glance in my dorm’s direction, then boarded it.

I stopped again at Leipziger Straße to go back to an internet café, a different one this time because in spite of the nostalgia-factor of the other place, the internet there was kind of slow. I looked up information about the English-speaking theater, hoping that Star Trek was still playing but unfortunately it wasn’t, but I still figured that seeing a movie would be a great way to kill two hours and get off my feet for awhile. I also found Justin, one of my fellow exchange students, on Facebook and sent him a friend request with a message telling him where I was and what I’d been up to.

After that I went back down to the Leipziger Straße station where I got a call from my mother while waiting for the tram. I talked to her for awhile, having to stop while I was actually on the tram, then I got out at Hauptwache, another tram station I used to go to a lot and which was luckily the closest stop to the theatre. When I reached the theater I checked to see what was playing and the only thing I had any interest in was the movie Hangover which I’ve been told was really great by a few people, including Oliver’s Irish friend Dazz. But for some reason the idea of seeing a comedy alone just seemed weird to me so I considered not going in. The next showtime though was 6:10, and it was now 6:00 so it was just too perfect. I bought a ticket and went in to watch the movie.

It wasn’t as funny as I’d hoped, but it was still quite good. The subject matter, at least, was appropriate for this weekend, about getting extremely drunk and not remembering what happened last night. The movie revolved around a group of guys who have a bachelor party in Vegas, and because I’ve been to Vegas it struck me just how many fucking places I’ve been in the world.

Anyway, when that was over my legs were nice and rested up for the 40-minute walk back to the hostel. It also rained while I was in the theater, but it had apparently just stopped, thus making the absolute perfection of the weather during my trip that much more bizarre.

But the most bizarre part of the trip was just about to happen. The background: four years ago I was a clean-shaven kid with short hair, not exactly the prime target of drug dealers. I knew there were dealers at Konstablerwache so one day when I was desperate for weed I went there and walked around for over an hour until I finally found a dealer. The guy took me to a back alley and told me to wait, then quickly made the exchange: €40 for what I discovered later was just a bag of rocks—actual rocks from the ground.

Four years later I’m sporting long hair and a beard, and this is literally my third time at Konstablerwache since returning and a dealer comes right up to me. I smiled at the irony of it and asked him in English if he sells hash. I know these guys sell to tourists a lot so they have to speak some English, and he said of course he could get me some, “Come with me, my friend, I get you some really good weed, marijuana, you know? I get you fifteen euros of really good stuff.” Fifteen euros sounded reasonable to me—just enough to get high with Paddy and Gavin if I saw them again that night, and I went with the guy as he led me across the street to meet up with one of his many other drug-dealing friends. They led me to a computer game shop, a favorite hang-out place for Turks and told me to wait outside. “You give me money, I go in and bring you back some weed.”

“Oh no,” I said, “I won’t give you any money until I see it.” Damn, that felt good. He kept insisting I give him the money first and I kept refusing. Clearly I’m a bit more intelligent than I was last time, plus I had the advantage of not really caring if I got any or not. But it felt like I was finally vindicating myself—correcting a stupid mistake from four years ago by refusing to make the same one.

He also offered to sell me cocaine or ecstasy but I politely refused that as well. And he kept trying to up the price. “You give me one hundred euros I get you good shit and go home.” Sorry, that’s too much. “Okay, seventeen euros. You give me seventeen, it’s not so much.”

Oh shit. Wait a minute. “Do you mean seventeen or seventy?” German-speakers often have a problem with this, and I’ve had to correct my students on many occasions. “When you said fifteen euros, did you mean fifty? Five-zero?” Yes, of course he meant five-zero. Well, there’s a problem then because I only wanted fifteen. One-five.

At this point his demeanor changed entirely as he suddenly got very hostile. “What do you mean? You say fifteen I get you fifteen.” Clearly he still didn’t understand the distinction between fifteen and fifty. I tried to explain it to him like the English teacher that I am but he wasn’t listening. He thought I was trying to back out because I no longer believed he was legit. “You think I’m playing games with you, man!? I been working out here 11 years, man. I am here every day. You want I give you my phone number?”

“No, that’s not it,” I kept trying to say. “I believe you. I trust you.” To which he smiled and offered me a fist-jab, but then I had to go further and again try to explain the difference between fifteen and fifty but this just got him even angrier. At this point we were walking back in another direction to his other dealer friends who were going to get the stuff and they just kept telling me “It’s okay” like the problem was I didn’t trust them. I finally just decided fuck it and I turned to walk away, but he physically grabbed my arm, pulled me back and got right in my face, literally inches away to the point where his spit was flying in my face and shouting at me about how he’s “not playing games”. I know that, I kept saying, I’m just trying to explain that we didn’t understand each other at first, that it’s not a problem with him it’s just a problem with his English. So he calmed down for a moment and I explained the fifteen/fifty thing again, saying the words as slowly and clearly as possible but it just wasn’t registering with him. But thank fucking god his friend came back because I explained it to the friend who understood right away, and then his friend explained it to him, which of course pissed him off because now he just spent twenty minutes working his ass off just for a miserable €15. But he handed me a little piece of hash which I could tell was legit and about €15 worth, then I took out my wallet which unfortunately had only two €20 and he wasn’t handing out change. But I made the exchange and he walked away pissed. I felt like that was probably some unnecessary spending but it was worth it just for that experience.

6 – Free Four

I walked back to the hostel, pausing on the bridge to admire the beautiful skyline with the setting sun bleeding through some clouds in the background. I got back to my room, which was now populated by two Japanese guys to whom I said hello but nothing more because they clearly could only speak Japanese. I remember thinking this was good—Japanese people don’t snore, right? But I just quickly got my things in order and headed back downstairs. With the hangover from the morning I wasn’t sure I’d be drinking tonight and that I might have to bail on Gavin and Paddy, but having just bought that hash and now feeling fine enough I figured I’d go back out.

On my way out of the hostel I bumped into the two French teenagers from last night and they gave me a cigarette which I didn’t want but politely took anyway and smoked with them outside the entrance. We talked about what we’d been up to today. They’d been at a place called the Red Lion where apparently you can get a blowjob and a fuck for just €20. So that’s what they’d been up to. I asked about the girls there but they didn’t say they were hot, just that they were Latina or Portuguese. A German girl came up to them too to ask them for a cigarette, and she also seemed to have met them before. She started talking to me because she could tell I was American and soon enough those guys left and she complained about how all they talk about is sex. Hardly a shock. So we talked for a few minutes as I gave her the basic gist of my life situation which she found quite interesting. One of the first things she said to me was, “It must have been so sad for your country when Michael Jackson died” and I didn’t quite know how to react to that. I just said that his fans all over the world were very sad, not wanting to go into how most Americans view the situation with simple morbid curiosity rather than any genuine sadness or sympathy. Anyway, I’m a little ashamed to say it but she wasn’t attractive or interesting enough for me to want to continue talking to her for a long time, so I just mentioned I was meeting some people at a bar and I had to go, then I said it was nice meeting her, gave her my name and got hers, and that was that.

I got a quick bite to eat from a pizza stand, then popped into O’Dwyers at 9:30. It was much busier than the previous night but it was still a bit early. No sign of the Irish guys. So I sat there again drinking alone like a loser, watching golf on the TV and slowly nursing my hefeweizen. After about an hour a group of about a dozen English guys all wearing the same polo shirt came in and ordered shitloads of drinks. Since they were standing all around my barstool one of them asked me how I was doing and I said I was pretty good. He too was surprised to hear perfect English and he could distinguish right away that I was American. “We’ve got a yank!” he exclaimed. “It’s always great to meet a yank.” I thought that was the strangest fucking thing to say but hey, to each his own. Of course he then modified that by saying, “Well, it’s almost always great to meet a yank. Not these guys we met last night—some soldiers who were real assholes.” He also asked me if I found the term “yank” offensive and apologized to me for using it but I explained that I couldn’t care less.

One of the guys turned back around to the rest of the crowd—apparently they were having a bachelor party (which the English call a ‘stag party’) and had come to Frankfurt because it’s the cheapest place in Germany to fly to—while the other guy continued talking to me. He said, “Now, tell me if I’m out of line but if I had to guess I’d say you’re a democrat.” Not wanting to get into any kind of political hair-splitting I just said yes and he said it’s the long hair. He said he was fascinated by American politics and that he’s always following the political news. So I thought it was going to turn into a political discussion, which I was quite ready for, but it actually went in a different direction.

I told him everything about myself that I’d been telling everyone else but this time I remembered to ask about him. Apparently he and the rest of the guys there were all schoolteachers, and he explained the British education system to me and complained about the job. He said he envied me because I was living free but teaching high school and college (college in Britain is what comes between high school and university) is basically just teaching kids how to pass tests. Every now and then he can go in another direction but most of the time he has to abide by the curriculum. I mentioned how I almost went that route in Santa Barbara but stopped when I realized how much of a ball and chain it would be. It was a really nice talk but before I knew it the group was heading off to another pub. I exchanged names with the guy, Mark, and he said to look him up on Facebook which I just might do. Apparently Facebook might have a whole new use I hadn’t thought of—keeping in touch with random people you meet during travel. I’m still not sure as to the utility of that, but I haven’t thought much about it yet at this point.

Anyway, at this point it was a little past 11 and I figured I’d just finish my beer and then go home and go to sleep, but just then Paddy and Gavin came in and I knew the night just got a lot longer. They came up to the bar by me, and Paddy’s parents soon followed, as apparently they also wanted to see what was so good about this place. Paddy’s mom was English but she’d married an Irishman and lived there most of her life, and she seemed like a typical nice, intelligent British woman.

But the three of us went outside leaving the parents in there for the time being, and we agreed to stick to beer tonight and just order rounds of pitchers. We sat and talked about the events of our respective days, I told them the story of buying hash and said we could smoke it later if we could borrow rolling papers from someone, but ironically everyone around was smoking normal cigarettes, whereas in Hannover everyone rolls their own. They said they had weed but they forgot it in the hotel again. But at the end of the night I was invited back to their place to smoke some doobs, and I resolved to take them up on their offer this time.

What followed was more hours of chatting about whatever, just a good pleasant time. Eventually I spotted someone with rolling papers and Paddy went up and asked him for one. So I started rolling one up right there, which surprised Gavin because he figured, you know, this was kind of illegal. But I felt right at home, telling him we used to roll spliffs at this place all the time and the worst that would happen anyway is that someone tells us not to do it. I kept it discreet of course, burning the hash below the table and whatnot, but of course nobody said anything. That seemed to be the theme of the day: me doing something I wasn’t supposed to be doing and suffering absolutely no consequences. So we smoked the doob, found that the hash was delicious and a bit later I went to buy some papers of my own.

When I returned with the papers, Paddy’s parents had joined us outside, and I quietly asked Gavin if I should wait but he said they were cool, so I rolled up another and we smoked it right in front of Paddy’s parents. I chatted with the four of them for awhile, mostly because the mother found me interesting and I guess I impressed her with all my crazy intelligence and knowledge and whatnot, and I found her to be just as pleasant as the rest of them in spite of the fact that she wasn’t Irish.

As the night grew later the place got more crowded, and at one point a group of about seven other Irishmen, about as drunk as it gets, were sitting outside near us and singing drinking songs which they insisted all the Irish at our table sing along with. So that was quite funny and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Nothing like a bunch of drunken Irish men singing their songs. One of the guys seemed like a real firebrand and he kept insisting that they sing more songs about fighting the fucking British, but one of the guys didn’t want to because he’d asked and found out that this guy’s wife was English. But she didn’t mind any more than I minded being called a “yank” and the songs were sung. Personally, I think it’s great that a culture has that kind of tradition. I don’t particularly care for the songs in a musical sense, but just the idea that they memorialize their fallen heroes in song is something I think is pretty awesome. I only wished I could sing along with the rest of them. I think the one guy, the guy who seemed to be leading each song and getting really enthusiastic about it, noticed this because he then said, “You know what drinking song that everybody knows in every country in the world?” and then he started singing the end of “Hey Jude” which I was able to sing along with for the two or three times we actually went through it.

There were two waitresses there that evening, the cute one from the previous night and another one who was also attractive but in more of a hot way. The ‘cute one’ was German but the ‘hot one’ was Irish, and she kept coming out to chat with her fellow countrymen while taking their orders. Towards the end of the night she gave out the last call, then started encouraging everyone to finish. She said she was really torn about having to break up this wonderful gathering but the place has to close and we were all welcome to go with her to another Irish pub where she’d be drinking.

As we were all finishing our drinks, the cute waitress came outside for a moment to sit down and I started talking to her, asking her about tips and confirming that even in a place like this most people tip around 5%. I’m not sure how it came up, maybe because she apologized for her English not being so good, but it made me think of Krissi and I asked how hard it would be for an American girl with ten years of bartending and waitressing experience to find work at an Irish pub. She thought it would be quite easy for any English speaker to do it, then she asked the hot one the same question and the hot one confirmed it. So if Krissi wants to live in Europe it’s a safe bet that she can.

Just before they closed the bar I ran in and gave my last €5 to tip them, as I’d been mooching off the pitchers others were buying all night long and I needed some karmic balance. After that we followed the hot waitress to another Irish bar, Gavin or Paddy went inside to bring us beer, and a few of the other Irish guys expressed disappointment when it was revealed that the hot one had taken us here so she could meet her boyfriend. I don’t know what they’d been expecting but a lot of them went home. It was fucking late anyway.

Things are pretty blurry at this point, but somehow I found myself introduced to an Arab-looking guy and when I asked him where he was from he told me he was an Iraqi born in Germany. I believe he was a Kurd who lived in Iraq for awhile but got out before the war. I being a drunken American immediately started apologizing up and down for my country having so completely fucked his country up, but he couldn’t have been more gracious, saying he understands and doesn’t hold me responsible for what Bush does anymore than he holds Germans responsible for what Hitler does. I said I was so glad to hear him say that, and I think we may have hugged. In any case it was a touching moment.

Paddy and Gavin were there but I think they were just enjoying the scene. I talked to the guy, I think he said his name was Herrisch, for awhile about what it’s like being an Iraqi in Germany, and he appreciated my understanding of how even though he was born here the Germans will never let him feel German. Having just read a book on that very subject I knew all the right things to say, and anyway it was just a really nice conversation.

When he left, our beers were about finished and the sky was starting to get brighter. That motherfucking sun was coming up. So now I went with Paddy and Gavin and walked all the way back to their hotel, which was no short distance, considering going back to my hostel but figuring I’d never see these guys again so if I could crash at their place why not? I made sure I could crash there because fuck knows after a joint I would not be walking back.

Crossing the river at dawn was kind of nice too, but soon enough we were in their hotel room, a nice cozy little two-bed flat with its own bathroom and everything, and we smoked a joint that Gavin rolled up. I set my phone alarm for 8:00 because check-out time at my hostel was 9:00. Unforuntately it was past 6:00 already so I knew I wouldn’t be getting much sleep. After the doob had been smoked, they laid out some cushions on the floor and tossed me a pillow. I passed out immediately.

7 – Absolutely Curtains

When I woke up, I checked my phone and was startled to see that it was 10:40. Of course—when I went to the theatre I put it on silent mode and forgot to change it back. I’d missed my alarm and my check-out time, and all of my stuff was still back at the hostel including the train ticket and other essential things like my passport.

I immediately leapt to my feet, and went into the bathroom to take a piss, but somehow Paddy had wound up sleeping there on the floor. I tapped him awake and helped him to his bed, then relieved my bladder and wished those guys goodbye. I’m sure they passed out seconds later and probably slept until well after I’d left the city.

Leaving the city was the objective now, as when I’d bought the ticket I planned to stay as long as possible, assuming I’d have company the whole time. But I really didn’t want to wait until my scheduled departure time of 6:20, seeing as how there was nothing I wanted to do and I really didn’t want to get back to Hannover at 9:00 anyway.

I stumbled out of the hotel, head pounding like a motherfucker, but the long walk along the river back to my hostel cleared me up a bit and the headache magically disappeared. When I got back to the hostel I explained what had happened, and one of the front desk guys took me back to the room where the cleaning lady was just getting to it. Unbelievable luck—all my stuff was still there. Not only that, there was no talk of a late departure fee or anything. Once I’d got my shit together (unfortunately I couldn’t take a shower) I left, gave them my key and they gave me my receipt. If only I’d known I wouldn’t be sleeping there Saturday night I could have saved some money.

Now I had to get to the train station, and I decided I didn’t want to press my luck riding ticketless on the U-Bahn again so I’d walk. Unfortunately the Hauptbahnhof is one of those rare places in Frankfurt that I never actually walked to so I wasn’t sure how to get there and ended up taking a really roundabout route, asking lots and lots of Germans along the way how to get there. They all knew exactly how to get there but for some reason none of their explanations alone were good enough and I’d find myself without any bearings just minutes after I’d gone down the ways they recommended. But each time brought me closer until the last guy’s directions finally took me all the way there.

I got into the station and went up to the Reisezentrum to ask about changing my ticket. Well, I’d have to pay a €15 fee (which I expected) but the earlier train was also more expensive, so it added up to €39. I figured “fuck that” and I just asked the guy about lockers where I could keep my things and roam around because that seemed like way too steep a price to pay. I found the lockers but they cost €4 and I had…exactly zero. I went to an ATM, drew some cash, and looked at the clock. 12:20. Six hours with nothing to do but walk around Frankfurt all smelly and hung-over. Suddenly €39 didn’t sound too bad. So I sucked it up, went back and changed the ticket, reducing my wait time from six hours to one hour, and bringing my scheduled arrival in Hannover back from 9:00 to 5:00. I killed the remaining hour in a nearby internet café, where among other things I saw that Justin had responded to my message and he’s going to be working near Amsterdam come this Fall so there’s a chance we could meet up and hang out.

I made it back to the station just in time, then began the long 3 and a half-hour journey to Hannover with a changeover in Fulda. I listened to Obscured By Clouds while departing Frankfurt, then spent the rest of the time listening to other assorted Pink Floyd, which I’ll probably now go a few more months without listening to again. As much as I love the music I think it’s probably best to only bust it out on special occasions.

At any rate, the journey was long and it sucked not having showered but I made it back to Hannover, got back to my apartment and took a shower, then started writing this at about 6:00. It’s now 10:15 and I haven’t eaten dinner or done anything else but I’m quite glad I came back early so I could get this done when it’s as fresh in my mind as it’s ever going to be. Such a detailed account of such an awesome trip is well worth €39 in my opinion—at least that’s what I can tell myself and it sounds plausible enough.

So all in all this was without a doubt, the best trip I went on since coming back to Germany, and ironically it was to the place where I first lived. Even more ironically, if that bullshit with Claudia hadn’t happened (and the odds of it happening were really a million to one) then the whole experience would have been radically different and probably not for the better. Having gone alone was the best thing that could have happened because it really let me do whatever I wanted to do and forced me to open up and try to meet people, which I did quite successfully. I feel a bit more like a real adult now than I did last week.

I still can’t decide whether I like Hannover better than Frankfurt, but whatever the case that city will always have a special place in my heart. If this past weekend was the epilogue to my experience there, then it was a very good ending indeed.

Dark Cloud Over Frankfurt

July 24th, 2009 No comments

Exactly four years and two days ago, I left the city of Frankfurt after a year there as an exchange student. Today I’m going back. I booked a ticket three months ago back in May when I still had lots of money, anticipating that I would never buy a ticket in the middle of summer when I’d be worrying a lot about finances. Since I’ve been back in Germany for almost a year and I’ve been meaning to return to Frankfurt the entire time, I knew I had to get that ticket or wait even longer before I decided to finally go.

My original plan involved Claudia, a girl I met at the university and with whom I felt I connected with over the few times we met. We had some really good conversations then and I was looking forward to more of that this weekend. She responded positively a few months ago when I suggested I come visit, and even offered to let me stay at her place. But alas, that’s not to be, and the reason is one of the most bitter ironies of my life.

Way back in April, during my last visit to Ichenheim, I had a lot of time to kill during the day, and I started working on something I’ve been meaning to do for literally four years, and go through every e-mail I sent to Corey during my time in Frankfurt and extract all the autobiographical stuff to compile a new journal, one that provided a much more complete and thorough account of my exchange-student experience than the journal I kept but barely kept up with back then. This was tedious and awful work, and having only got about half-way through the year back in Ichenheim, I almost never took the initiative to continue the project when I got back to Hannover. I was a much more miserable piece of shit back then than I realized, and going through all that stuff again mostly brought back only unpleasant memories.

But as the time approached for me to head to Frankfurt I started working on it again, hoping to finish before I went back so I’d have all of my experiences there as fresh in my mind as possible. I would have a month ago, in which case I wouldn’t have had it finished, but I’d gotten “fake sick” the day before and changed the date of my ticket to today, the 24th. This past week I really made an effort to get it done, despite having to use my ever-shrinking spare time to do it. But on Wednesday afternoon I finally finished it, saved the new journal, and immediately posted it to my website along with all the other journals in the archive.

Yesterday I sent Claudia an e-mail to confirm that I’ll be arriving in Frankfurt today at 17:44 and I hoped to see her there. This morning I got a brief, “Yes I’ll see you there” e-mail from her, but another one right after that which was much longer and written completely in German. I used a translation program to figure out what it said, and got the emotional shit knocked out of me.

Apparently after getting my e-mail and sending back confirmation, she remembered that back when we met I’d given her a long account of my life (available under “Childhood Memoirs” on the Journal Archives page) and thought it might be possible I’d written something that could get her up-to-date, and that I might have posted it online. She didn’t know I had a website or that all my journals were posted there, but she found it, found the “E-Mails from Frankfurt” journal which I’d just posted the day before and found the sections in which I talked about her. In those e-mails, I mentioned something that she told me not to mention, and the fact that she was reading about this sensitive part of her past on the internet made her understandably angry. She told me that the last thing she wants to do after reading that is to spend the weekend with me, so I shouldn’t come to Frankfurt.

Well, now I feel like an enormous pile of shit. I hadn’t meant any harm, but it was extremely thoughtless of me to post that online when she’d asked me at the time to keep it to myself. Of course I had no idea what I was doing when I posted it online—nobody reads my journal archives anyway and I have them there basically for the peace of mind that if I die suddenly, I will at least leave behind a thorough record of who I was. But the fact that the information was available is enough. Even though the question of whether I was violating anyone’s trust by posting that online was the furthest thing from my mind, I was still wrong to do it and now it seems I’ve lost a friend because of it. And that just fucking sucks no matter how you look at it.

I’ve removed the journal from my website of course until I have time to go back and remove the sensitive information, but the damage is done. The irony is of course that if I’d gone a month ago, or if I hadn’t tried so hard to get that journal finished this week, I wouldn’t have had any problems.

At any rate, now I had to decide whether I should still go to Frankfurt. Her e-mail made it sound like maybe once she’s had some time to cool off she might be willing to see me, but when I sent her a long apology by e-mail it came right back to my own e-mail address because she’s blocked me, so changing the date of the ticket was really not an option. Should I go next week? The week after? Three months from now? How can I possibly know if she’ll ever forgive me, let alone when that might be? Clearly, if I want to go to Frankfurt I have to remove her from my plans.

Of course, did I really want to go in such a shitty horrible mood? When I woke up it was gray and raining so maybe it was going to be a nasty weekend anyway and I should just go another time? But what difference did it make, really? I had the ticket for today, so why not just go?

So I decided to go in spite of everything to see what kind of experience I’ll have, as no matter what happens to me it’ll be far more interesting than sitting alone in my apartment all weekend feeling like the world’s biggest asshole. I’ll go to Frankfurt and feel like the world’s biggest asshole there.

The problem then was finding accommodations. I had no time to look up hostels before I had to go to Helmstedt this morning, and I didn’t firmly decide to stick to my plans of going until half-way through the train-ride. So when I arrived to class ten minutes early I started looking for a place on the internet with the computers there at E.ON. I remembered a pretty decent-looking place from four years ago that I and the people I hung out with passed by all the time when we went to Sachsen-Hausen, an area of Frankfurt densely packed with a lot of good bars and restaurants, including O’Dwyer’s which is the place we most frequented and, coincidentally, the place I went with Julia my very first night in Frankfurt in May of 2004, the first pub outside of the Caribbean that I was able to drink in (me being only 20 at the time). I couldn’t find this hostel online and was having a hard time finding anything that might be acceptable to me when the students started to arrive.

This class is only for an hour but it’s one of my favorites, with three very nice and chatty secretaries. I explained to them the basics of my dilemma—that I was going to Frankfurt today but the person I was staying with was no longer available so I had to find a bed—and one of them offered to help me out. After the class, she used her own computer to find a hostel for me. I expected her to pop in during my next class, the really tedious one with extreme beginners, but luckily nobody showed up for that class. I sent her an e-mail saying I was going home early and to e-mail me the information, but I bumped into her on my way out of the building and she said she found a hostel in Sachsen-Hausen, and when she showed me a print-out with a map and a picture I could tell right away that it was the place I was looking for. She explained to me the prices and I told her I’d take one of the 4-bed dorms for €23 a night. She said she’d call them to book it for me and I thanked her, feeling a bit better about everything. Coincidentally, the clouds were now just beginning to part and the sky was clearing up, indicating that it might possibly turn out to be a nice weekend after all.

So I’m going to Frankfurt just as I planned. Compiling that journal and posting it online cost me about €50 and a friend.

Also in the time while I was waiting for my second class, I sent an e-mail to Andrea, a girl I was interested in and whom I actually asked to hang out towards the end of the year, and we hung out a couple of times and got along quite well but I don’t think we connected strongly enough to justify calling on her to visit. But since I’d already ruined things with one of the girls I met in Frankfurt, I decided I’d go ahead and e-mail her, saying if she remembers me, if she’s still in town, and if she has any interest whatsoever in meeting me again, she could give my cell-phone a call. I really don’t expect to hear from her and that’ll suck because I was quite happy with the way things ended with her, but now four years later we’ve got to attach an epilogue to that ending which will most likely not leave me quite as satisfied. But at least it couldn’t be much worse than the epilogue to the Claudia situation. Whereas these girls have been positive memories for the last four years, for the rest of my life the memories will be attached to feelings of guilt and disappointment.

But in any case, it should at least be an interesting weekend for me. My only plans are to walk around and ride the trams to just about every location I used to visit during my exchange student days. I’ve imagined being back there thousands of times and I’ve even dreamed about it on many occasions. Now it’s time to do it for real. Frankfurt was one of those places that when I left it I felt deep inside that I would be back one day. Four years and two days later, after putting myself on a path to make such a journey possible, I’m about to prove that feeling prescient. Unfortunately it’s got to be under some rather miserable circumstances, but life is what it is—never what you hope it will be.

A Modest Tax Proposal

July 22nd, 2009 No comments

For the 40th anniversary of the moon-landing, one of the news shows I watch every night interviewed an astronomer who talked about the advantages of declaring it the long-term objective of the United States to put men on Mars. His basic argument is that between now and the time we’re capable of doing that, we’ll have to develop a lot of new technology, and that will help society in general. Naturally, this raised the question of whether funding for NASA is really worth what we spend on it, and he said that only one penny out of every tax dollar goes to space exploration. At that I thought, “Shit, if I could see a man on Mars in my lifetime I’d gladly pay five cents out of every tax dollar.”

This got me thinking. Why not have a tax system whereby I actually could allocate a higher percentage to space travel and things I support? They already let you voluntarily donate a dollar to help pay for presidential campaigns, so why not include more options on your tax return? After giving it some more thought, I developed an entire system in my head that I think would not only work, but could potentially transform society for the better. The system is so simple and obvious that I think there must be some country somewhere in the world that does it or has at least tried it, but I know of no examples.

It would work like this: let’s say the government takes 20% of your income. 10% would be allocated as the government requires, just to make sure everything that absolutely needs funding gets funded. But with the remaining 10% you let people have a choice as to where they want that money to go, and let them distribute it as they decide over such things as education, infrastructure, health care, defense, cancer research, and so on. You give them a list of options and let the people decide the priorities. A military family might give all 10% to defense, a young couple with kids in school might put everything in education, and a person with an illness might decide that everything should go towards health care or medical research. Most would spread out their priorities, perhaps putting 4% towards infrastructure, 3% to foreign aid, and 3% to space exploration. The government still has the initial 10% so there would be no danger of things like prisons not getting funded, but beyond that everyone gets a choice as to what they want their tax dollars spent on.

The way I see it, this would have three major effects:

1) Taxes would no longer be seen as the greatest evil ever done to mankind, and government would finally be seen as it should be seen—the collective will of the governed. As opposed to the way it works now, where the government simply takes your money and the only control you have over it afterwards is to vote for politicians you believe will spend it wisely, under this system you actually get to choose what your own money is spent on. Right-wing crazies who now don’t seem to understand that taxes are actually good for something would be able to see what the benefits are. If more people decide to spend money on infrastructure, and as a result we get high-speed railways that can take people from New York to Los Angeles in 16 hours (technology which exists but which nobody in government wants to pay for), people would better understand just what it means to contribute to society as a whole. Everyone still has to pay taxes, but when they get to choose what those taxes are for they won’t resent it as much, and republicans won’t be able to win elections anymore just by promising tax cuts.

2) It would encourage people to learn more about civics and to participate more in government. Since every single American will have real power—the power of the purse that now belongs exclusively to congress—they will learn what kind of responsibility comes with that power, and will start thinking more deeply about government and society because they now have a certain degree of control over it. Conversely, lobbyists for big industries would lose a lot of power, as instead of having to convince a handful of congressmen, they’ll have to launch marketing campaigns to convince the entire nation why they should allocate more of their tax dollars to anti-smoking campaigns, off-shore oil-drilling, putting men on Mars, or whatever it may be. The newly empowered American populace will want to know what all these programs are about, since their decisions determine how much funding goes to them, and as a result we’ll have a much more educated and socially-aware populace.

3) Finally, and most importantly, over the long-term the nation will move in the directions that genuinely reflect the will of the people. If it turns out that everyone only really cares about defense spending, and 90% of discretionary tax revenue goes to the military, then unfortunately we’ll get more war and death. I for one don’t believe that would happen, and I think if you put the choice in the people’s hands you’d get far more money spent on education, health care, and infrastructure. Of course, these allocations will change as national priorities change. Perhaps 40% of discretionary spending would go to infrastructure at first and almost nothing towards space exploration, but over time as things improve within society, more people may start looking outward, and NASA will see its budget climb as more and more people respond to their ads calling for a national objective of putting men on Mars.

This system, obviously, will never be implemented in the United States, as far too many powerful interests would do everything they can to stop such a thing from happening. For the powerful to remain powerful, they must keep that power concentrated in as few hands as possible, keep the public as disinterested in national affairs as possible, and above all make sure the people in charge of government spending are accountable to the people as rarely as possible, just once every two, four, or six years.

Still, perhaps if more people were bouncing this idea around, discussing how it might actually be implemented, and getting all of the many kinks worked out, there’s a small chance that somewhere way down the line, once the U.S. is no longer a superpower and people are struggling enough to demand more of a say in their government, something like this could actually happen. So I’d urge the two or three of you who are reading this to maybe bring up the idea in conversation every now and then and see what people think about it. Perhaps they’ll mention it in conversations of their own and the idea—which I’m sure I’m not the first to think up—will spread. As of now it’s just a liberal utopian fantasies, but even utopian fantasies can be useful.

Categories: Political Tags: , ,

Monday Motivation

July 21st, 2009 No comments

So after spending all weekend wallowing (somewhat voluntarily) in gloom, I woke up Monday morning to an e-mail from Krissi reassuring me that she’s still planning on coming, and she sounds more resolved than ever. At first I thought, “what shitty timing” because it would have been nice to be happy during the weekend when I could savor it, but I actually realized it was quite alright, as now I could go about my grueling week of work with that extra motivation that the money I’ll be making will be spent on travel, as opposed to boring things like paying off debts.

My first class yesterday turned into a nice discussion about marriage, as I brought in a gay marriage article. The two women in the group got to talking about their own experience in the subject, the older one having divorced after three children. We talked about why there were so many more divorces now than before, and she said she thought it was because now women are more educated, less financially dependent on their husbands, and because they tend to date a lot before getting married, they actually know the other kinds of options that are out there. I put forward a perception I get regarding German couples and asked them if they thought it was right—that the women tend to have more power in their relationships than men do—and they said that was absolutely true. So there’s another bit of confirmation that German girls are just about the most difficult girls in the world. Getting them is hard enough, but keeping them might be even harder, as they’re always looking for something better and they’ve grown up in a culture that tells them they can get more and that they deserve more. I’m a bit conflicted by this, as my feminine side thinks “fuck yeah” and my masculine side thinks “fuck that”.

In my next class, only one guy showed up and I thought it was going to be difficult, but when he spent the first thirty minutes explaining one of his job responsibilities to me, I spent the rest of the class just asking him technical questions and letting him talk. I was surprised because he wasn’t much of a talker when the others were around, but when you get students who will just go on and on about something, that’s a total jackpot because you can just sail through a lesson. And it’s not like you’re slacking either—they actually learn better by talking more than by doing grammar exercises and reading texts and that kind of thing. Unfortunately this guy is much more interested in technical stuff than me, as I usually talk about abstract concepts and political issues, but I had enough basic knowledge to ask him a few technical questions about coal power plants, as he used to work at one. So I got an hour-long lesson in fractured English from a German engineer about how a coal power plant works. Oddly enough I was able to stay interested the whole time. It’s that altered-state-of-consciousness that teaching puts you in—if I was the student I probably wouldn’t have been able to pay attention. At any rate I learned a lot about coal-produced energy and why carbon capture technology is a huge waste of time and money.

The next class consisted of two beginners so it was a bit more difficult, but for the second half of the lesson I just busted out an English-learning board game I ordered online and which has really come in handy a lot over the last weeks. Playing the game has taught me that Germans are sometimes having fun even when they give no indication—I’d be playing the game thinking they were totally bored by it, but at the end they would thank me and say how much they liked the lesson.

As soon as I got home I went out for a jog, this time happy rather than angry, and it was quite pleasant as usual but also a bit more strenuous. Normally when I find myself near other joggers I have to decide whether to slow down a bit and let them get further on, or pick up the pace so I can pass them, as you just don’t want to be running side by side with a stranger—that’s awkward. Unless it’s a black guy who passes me from behind, I almost always choose to pick up the pace. But yesterday a woman merged onto the path just as I was going by her and she was moving at my exact pace. So I ran a little faster, got a bit ahead, and the next thing I knew she was right next to me again. I kept speeding up to get ahead but I’d just naturally slow down and she’d catch up to me again. So eventually I just had to kick into a faster gear and keep up the pace, which I suppose made for better exercise because I had to treat it like a race.

Last night I decided to have a few beers and listen to up-beat music, as I’d been unable to do during the weekend. Although I had an early morning the next day I figured I could get away with it, and it would be good practice anyway for when Krissi arrives and we’ll want to do some casual drinking probably every night. I started early and finished early, getting nice and buzzed but still in bed by 11 p.m. to get a full 8 hours before my alarm went off at 7. I actually don’t think I ever had a better night’s sleep. It was just the right amount of alcohol to keep me unconscious and still able to feel refreshed in the morning, which is quite encouraging. It feels really weird to suddenly be waking up at 7 or 8 every morning, when most of my life the natural wake-up time was 10 or 11, sometimes 12.

I was thinking about that yesterday as I was considering how different my life has become. Even in sunny Santa Barbara, I worked the overnight shift for eight months so most of my waking hours were spent in total darkness, and those were probably the most depressing months I spent there. Four years ago in Frankfurt, during the winter I’d be waking up at 12 or 1 and the sun would set three hours later, so most of my life was in darkness back then and I was just as depressed as ever. Now, I’m going to bed at 11, just an hour after sunset, and waking up at 7, an hour after sunrise. Almost all of my waking hours are in daylight, which might have something to do with my generally positive disposition these days. Still, I miss the darkness and I hope the secret to happiness wasn’t some stupid aspect of biology. But there’s probably something to the correlation between daylight and depression, and getting almost nothing but daylight has got to be healthier than working overnight and getting almost nothing but darkness.

None of my classes today were very interesting, but I was in good spirits for all of them as I expect I’ll be all week. This weekend I’m finally going to Frankfurt, unless I start getting sick again, but in that case I’ll probably just go anyway. It should be really interesting to see all those old familiar places again now that I’ve spent a year in a different city and I can compare and contrast in my mind. When I first got to Hannover I was disappointed by all the ways in which it wasn’t Frankfurt, because I really grew to love Frankfurt in the year I spent there. I won’t know until I go back, but I think I’ve come to love Hannover even more.

Dr. Mellon and Mr. Collie

July 19th, 2009 No comments

It’s been about three weeks since Alan and Amanda left, and two weeks since my visit to Oliver in Celle. It’s also been about two weeks since I’ve heard anything from Krissi. It’s safe to say that the effect of this isolation is finally beginning to be felt.

It’s an odd situation in terms of my mood, as I know that whatever the case may be, I’m still in the best life situation I’ve ever been in. It was of course even better when I had people to hang out with every week and I was expecting Krissi to come visit near the end of the summer, but even on my own and with reduced hopes regarding Krissi’s visit, things are still quite good.

But emotions often seem to have a mind of their own, and I’ve been pretty down all week. Having all those connections on Facebook doesn’t help either, as it only seems to augment the feeling of isolation. Here I’ve got about 50 people from all different parts of my life to interact with, but all the interactions are so shallow. Just a few words on a screen a couple of times a day hardly fills that void, and because I’m not hearing from these people all the time I feel almost as though I’m more cut off from them than I was before I even made the decision to re-establish contact. Finally, it doesn’t seem to be helping to boost traffic on my website either. I post a link to Facebook whenever I post a new blog entry but nobody seems to be reading them. A couple of people, upon first seeing I was on Facebook, wrote that they’d checked out my website and that they’d delve deeper later on, but apparently they haven’t. And none bother to read any new posts either, at least none of those who weren’t already reading beforehand. So whereas before it didn’t bother me that nobody was reading my writing because I wasn’t advertising it or asking anybody to do so, now it feels like I’m being ignored.

Still, that doesn’t bother me too much. It’s just one of the many little itty bitty things that compiled together make for a somewhat depressing state of affairs. Most of my melancholy mood can no doubt be attributed to the lack of a word from Krissi in over two weeks. In the first week I didn’t mind because I know how she is and how bad she is at keeping in touch with people. But now it’s been two weeks, the end of the month is rapidly approaching, and I have no idea what’s going on with her. In her last e-mail she still seemed quite resolved to come, but two weeks is plenty of time to change your mind and the fact that she hasn’t written to me in that long can only lead me to assume that she has in fact changed her mind.

The ironic part is that while I would be profoundly disappointed to get confirmation that this was the case, it would actually be something of a relief. I’ve been operating for months now based on the premise that I need as much money as possible come September in order to do lots of traveling. As such I’ve avoided spending money on certain things I’d otherwise have spent money on (the biggest thing being debt reduction) and spent money on some things I would have waited to buy, like the couch I got and which was just delivered yesterday. Of course I’m quite glad I’ve got this couch now—Krissi or no Krissi it’s a vast improvement in my basic quality of life and I would have got one eventually anyway. But the fact is that if Krissi has changed her mind it would be nice if she bothered to tell me so I could instantaneously stop worrying about money, pay off all my debts, stop working so fucking much (it’s always nice to make more money but I really have no need to work 5 days a week) and maybe take a holiday a little earlier, perhaps by visiting Ichenheim in August.

But I haven’t heard a thing from her either way, which means I still have to operate under the presumption that she’s coming, all the while believing in my mind that she’s actually not coming. It’s really quite annoying, and I expressed my annoyance in an e-mail to her a few days ago and with a drunken voicemail message on her phone last night. I was quite hesitant to do it lest I come across as a whiny little bitch who needs constant reassurance (a phrase I actually used in the e-mail) but the longer this goes on the more justified I feel my annoyance is. Her decision obviously has a much larger effect on her life than it does on mine, but it still affects my life and I think I have a right to know what’s going on with her.

At any rate, life is still quite comfortable, I still like my job, I’m still living alone in a flat I’ve got all to myself which is something I should never let myself cease to appreciate, and although I may not hear from them too often I’ve still got a few good friends and a slew of casual acquaintances. And finally I must also admit that feeling miserable this weekend has been kind of enjoyable in its own strange way. Depression, as I’ve said before, is like a warm blanket in how comfortable it is. It’s just so damned easy to be miserable because nothing can bring you down, and you’re not trying to maintain any illusions about anything. Life just is what it is and eventually it’ll be over and won’t that be a relief?

A small island of depression amidst all this happiness also affords me the opportunity to bust out all that depressing music I love so much. This week saw a resurgence of Moby, The Smashing Pumpkins, and some other random brood-compatible music that I haven’t been able to appreciate in quite some time.

So in the end it’s like I’m two people—the one on the surface who is genuinely lonely and depressed, and the deeper one inside of me who enjoys those feelings.

Power Theology in Government

July 18th, 2009 No comments

How important are a politician’s religious beliefs when it comes to the job of governance?

Those on the right probably consider it more important than those on the left, as they tend to vote for candidates whom they believe share their Christian values. Those on the left are more likely to consider religion a private matter, better left out of politics altogether. As a result of this strange dichotomy, politicians looking to win support from both sides must walk a fine line whereby they proudly profess themselves as Christian but rarely ever talk about what Christianity means to them or exactly what their fundamental beliefs and values are. Those on the right, who tend to avoid looking deeper than the surface in most matters, are satisfied as long as the politician pays homage to Jesus. Those on the left refuse to press them on these issues because they believe such matters fall outside the scope of government. This is quite convenient for the politicians, who are naturally quite happy not to be pressed.

I’m beginning to think we ought to press them.

This past week, an extremely fascinating and highly underreported development has come to light regarding a link between the John Ensign and Mark Sanford sex scandals. Both politicians are associated with a religious group known as “The Family” which operates out of a house on C Street in Washington D.C., a building classified as a church but which actually serves as housing to 6-8 congressmen at a time. As far as I can tell, the only news outlet doing any reporting on this story has been The Rachel Maddow Show, which has broadcast several interviews with Jeff Sharlet, a journalist who lived with members of The Family for a year and who has written a book on them and their beliefs.

The way the group operates is quite simple—if you’re a politician who shares their beliefs and you’re going through a difficult time in your life (for instance, you’re having an affair with an employee and her husband is threatening to take the story to the media) you can go to one of the meetings of The Family and confidentially share this information and receive “spiritual counsel”. In the case of John Ensign, this “spiritual counsel” apparently involved telling him to pay his mistress’s family to keep quiet. We don’t know what kind of counsel Mark Sanford received, but we do know that both politicians refuse to resign in spite of their flagrant abuses of power and downright immoral behavior (by which I mean paying hush-money or disappearing from the state for five days without a word—not sleeping with another woman, which in itself has no bearing on a person’s ability to govern).

It’s certainly a fair question to ask why these men won’t resign, especially when they’ve vocally called for the resignation of other public leaders like Bill Clinton and Larry Craig when news of their respective infidelities came to light. You would think that faced with such disgrace and humiliation, a politician’s gut reaction would be to slip out of the public spotlight as quickly and quietly as possible. But both of them have made a conscious decision to hold on to the power they have for as long as possible. It seems that to them, power itself is the highest value, more important than marital fidelity, responsibility to one’s constituents, or any other basic social conventions.

Here is where it becomes critical to break down that convenient barrier these men have set up between their public persona and private faith, and ask just what it is members of The Family believe and whether that is what’s behind their decision to remain in office and continue to represent millions of people.

During his first interview with Rachel Maddow (9 July), Jeff Sharlet describes the basic ideals behind The Family’s version of Christianity:

SHARLET: […] I got to sit in on a spiritual counseling session between the leader of the family and Congressman Todd Tiahrt on the C Street house. I actually, met Senator Ensign there.

As the leader of the family was counseling Congressman Tiahrt, who had this very standard issue, bill of issues related to the Christian right, and he said, you’ve got to have a bigger vision of what we’re talking about here. He described—he called it “Jesus plus nothing.” And he said it’s sort of a totalitarian idea of Christianity and he gave his examples of men who he believed, understood the way power should wielded. He actually gave his examples, Hitler, Pol Pot, Osama bin Laden and Lenin.

MADDOW: Wow. When I—when I read your book, “The Family,” when it first came out in hardback, Jeff, I—my notes on, I write notes in the fly leaf about what I’m thinking about it. And my notes about it, I went back and looked for that. It was essentially to promote—its role is promoting American power worldwide, unfettered capitalism, no unions, no programs to help poor people—all with this idea that godly, powerful rich men should get as many resources as possible personally and they should just privately help everyone else. That was the impression that I was left with. Was I close?

SHARLET: That’s dead on the money. The Family—again, it’s the oldest Christian conservative organization in Washington. And it goes back 70 years when the founder believed that God gave him a new revelation, saying that Christianity had gotten it wrong for 2000 years, and that what most people think of as Christianity is being about, you know, helping the weak and the poor and the meek and the down and out.

He believed God came to him one night in April of 1935 and said, what Christianity should really be about is building more power for the already powerful and that these powerful men who are chosen by God can then—if they want to dispense blessings to the rest of us, through a kind of trickle down fundamentalism.

The fact that this is not bigger news, that it’s not the subject of water-cooler and dinner conversations all across America is shocking to me. Here we have what is essentially a religious cult of powerful men who believe that they are chosen by God to build a world in which all of the wealth and power is concentrated in the hands of a few chosen elites. If this was just your ordinary run-of-the-mill group of religious nuts living in some convent in Montana, it wouldn’t be a big deal at all. But these are lawmakers, people who are responsible for the lives of millions of citizens. Theoretically, their decisions are supposed to be made for the benefit of the people they represent. But as Sharlet says in a later interview (15 July):

If you’re outside of the Family, well then you’re accountable to the public. But inside the Family, you are accountable to a higher calling which is this idea that the Family teaches the politicians involved that they’ve been chosen for their leadership positions not by the people who elected them but by God who they believe put them in power.

[…]

I think one thing we have to deal with when looking at religious groups like the Family, we have to take their beliefs seriously. So, when they say your first loyalty is not to your constituents, it’s not to the public that elects you, it’s not even to your own personal family, it’s to your brothers in this family, they mean it. And they do believe it seriously.

If these kinds of beliefs are to be withheld from public knowledge, then exactly what is fair game when it comes to questioning politicians about religion? If a politician really believes that his first loyalty is not to the public but to a religious group, it seems self-evident that the public has a right to know.

Just imagine if they were honest with the people, and stood up and said, “If you vote for me, I’ll work on behalf of God-as-I-perceive-him to do what I believe he wants me to do, which is put more wealth and power into the hands of the already wealthy and powerful.” Obviously they’d never have a chance of getting elected.

So why is it okay as long as they keep these beliefs secret? Why shouldn’t we have a right to know?

This idea that a person’s spiritual beliefs have no bearing on the kind of job they’ll do as a public servant is actually complete bullshit. What could possibly say more about a person than what they believe to be the fundamental nature of the world we live in and how they believe human beings ought to behave in life? You can tell far more about how a person will govern by understanding their basic conception of right and wrong than just by going over their publicly stated positions on a handful of issues.

So when it comes to The Family, a group that idolizes men like Hitler and Pol Pot, just what is their conception of right and wrong? John Ensign and Mark Sanford both said in press conferences that they believe their infidelity was wrong, but is that even true? Sanford compared himself to King David, which Sharlet, in his first interview with Maddow (9 July), thought was very revealing:

[T]he King David story is the core teaching of the Family. When I first heard it, I was living with the Family.

One of the leaders in the Family was explaining why King David was important. And he says, it’s not because he was good man, it’s because he’s a bad man. You know, seduced another man’s wife. He actually had the husband murdered.

And he wants to explain why this was a model—and he says to one of the men in the group, he says, “Suppose I heard you raped three little girls. What would I think of you?” And this guy, being a human being, says, “You would think I was a monster.” Well, the leader of the Family says, “No, not at all, because you’re chosen. You’re chosen by God for leadership, and so the normal rules don’t apply.”

So according to members of The Family, concepts of right and wrong do not apply to them. To them, morality seems to mean nothing more than the appearances they must keep up for the sake of the masses when in reality they operate behind closed doors, “beyond the din of vox populi” (beyond the voice of the people) to use the words of their leader. They are lawmakers who consider themselves to be above the law.

If nothing else, this story highlights just how important religious beliefs actually are when it comes to our leaders in government. And while there is certainly a strong argument to be made that there should be no religious litmus test for public office, it seems that in come cases there should be one.

Unfortunately, we are far from any level of philosophical sophistication in the U.S. that would allow politicians to speak openly and honestly about their beliefs regarding the deepest questions. Should a presidential candidate actually express even a slight modicum of doubt regarding the divinity of Christ, their chances of winning the election would be instantaneously shattered. Thanks to a shrinking but still extremely influential section of the populace, the hardcore religious fundamentalists, our national discourse with regard to spirituality is being held hostage. The most important questions of life—how it all came to be and how humans ought to behave—have been reduced to whether or not you label yourself a Christian.

The ironic part is that most of these evangelicals would be horrified at the beliefs of members of The Family, but they are never made aware of them and it suits The Family perfectly well to keep them in the dark. Because The Family also uses The Bible for moral guidance, they can attach that Christian label to themselves in spite of the fact that they’ve interpreted The Bible in a way completely contradictory to—almost the polar opposite of—traditional Christianity.

Hopefully this story will become better known and more widely talked about, because a serious discussion about religion in government has been long overdue in the United States for quite some time. Sure, we go on and on about religion in politics but we’re only skimming the surface, focusing on trivial issues like whether the phrase “under God” should be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance or whether it’s okay to post the Ten Commandments in a public courtroom. What we should be talking about is just what our leaders actually believe, and whether our representatives really represent our basic values.

It’s no surprise that those in power care more about their own personal gain than about the public good, but when this is actually a part of their ideology, when self-aggrandizement at the expense of the people is actually at the core of their religious beliefs, the people have a right to know about this so that they can make informed decisions about whom to put in positions of power, and so that they can keep power out of the hands of those whose beliefs would actually justify its abuse.

Don’t Give Up, Sarah Palin

July 15th, 2009 No comments

There’s a lot of speculation going on as to the reason behind Sarah Palin’s resignation as governor of Alaska and what she intends to do in the future. Some say she’s positioning herself to make a run for president in 2012, while others believe she is getting out of politics for good. As someone who deeply loathes Sarah Palin and everything she stands for, I sincerely hope it’s the former.

From the time I was 11 to the time I went to college at 18, I grew up in a very rural, white-bread part of New Jersey, surrounded by more-or-less conservative kids and parents. I developed a strong hatred for “soccer moms”, whom I knew as either mothers of my friends or friends of my mother. Most of them fit into the archetype of the middle-aged, conservative, arrogant know-it-alls who love to hear themselves talk and believe that all their opinions are inherently right by virtue of the fact that they just know. These women used to piss me off enormously, and Sarah Palin fits that bill completely.

The self-described “hockey-mom” is exactly one of those kinds of people who think they know better than everyone else, and perceive the world as though everyone else is out to get them. They constantly see themselves as helpless victims and can’t stop dwelling on the trivial bullshit of each and every perceived sleight against them. Palin went after Letterman for making a bad joke, after blogger Shannyn Moore for reporting mere rumors of corruption, and has blasted the “liberal bias” of the mainstream media at every opportunity. She’s great at playing the victim, the political outsider who stands unafraid to take on the system and stand up to the “old boys’ club” by not operating under the “same old politics as usual”. If you don’t like it, you’re just a godless liberal elitist who can’t handle her maverickyness.

Of course, in actuality she’s just as much a ruthless game-player as the rest of them, if not moreso. She abused her office as governor at every opportunity, most famously in the famous “troopergate” scandal where she fired her head of law enforcement for refusing to fire her sister’s ex-husband. She played politics with the stimulus package, attempting to turn away funds that would go to education and social services for the sake of scoring some political points with the hardcore right-wing base. Worst of all in terms of her character, she’s used her children as props for political purposes, presenting her knocked-up teenage daughter as a poster-child for teen abstinence (as ironic as that is) and her baby with Down’s Syndrome as an example of why she made the right choice in not getting an abortion but that nobody else should even be allowed to make that choice. While focussing on her national ambitions she has virtually ignored the day-to-day business of running the state of Alaska, and her gross incompetence has resulted in such an overwhelming pile of bullshit that eventually she had no means of escape but to resign a year and a half before her term was over.

This week she wrote (or more likely had someone write for her) an op-ed for the Washington Post about why Barack Obama’s cap-and-trade plan is a bad idea. I read it with an open-mind, as I also think cap-and-trade is a stupid idea, but apparently not for the reasons she thinks so. There was almost no substance whatsoever in the article—just a bunch of railing against Obama’s excessive spending and how the only real answer to our energy and global warming problems is to drill more oil.

What worries me is that this may be indicative of the new direction she’s going with her career. She may actually be trading her power-ambition for her money-ambition. And she knows that she can make lots of money as a political pundit, which would allow her to spout her mouth whenever she wants without having to worry about that annoying little thing called accountability.

We’ve seen politicians take this road before, most notably in the case of Karl Rove. When he worked for the Bush administration, Rove was a legitimate target of criticism due to his hand in making actual policy. But as soon as he became a Fox News pundit it was as though he stepped above the fray and immunized himself against any attacks. Now he wasn’t responsible for anything, he was just stating his opinion, and if you didn’t like it all you could do was make a counter-point.

There’s no such thing as accountability for pundits. Just look at Bill Kristol, who’s gotten everything wrong from insisting that the Iraq war would be a huge success to believing that Sarah Palin would be the deciding factor that would win John McCain the presidency. As wrong as he’s been nearly all the time, he still gets invited to write columns and appear on the talk shows.

Should this be the route Sarah takes, we’ll have to deal with all of her ignorant bullshit for years and years, as whether you love her or hate her she certainly knows how to draw an audience, and ratings will follow wherever she goes. Because she won’t actually be running anything, the emptiness of her ideas won’t be as apparent as they were when those ideas were put to the test—and failed miserably—during her brief tenure as an actual elected official.

I really really want her to run for president in 2012 just to see her lose big. So far she hasn’t been explicitly rejected by the American people, and if she doesn’t run we won’t have the opportunity to hand her that rejection. If she doesn’t attempt to go for the glory, she won’t be able to not achieve it, and I won’t be able to laugh at her and experience that cathartic moment I’ve been dying for—the moment when she suddenly realizes that God actually hasn’t had her back this whole time, that’s she’s a complete fraud and almost everyone knows it, and that everything all those mean and nasty bloggers have been saying about her was completely true. She is deeply unqualified to be in any position of responsibility whatsoever, let alone the president of the United States. I really wanted to see her try, because I really wanted to see her fail, to see her holding back the tears at her concession speech before tucking her tail between her legs and crawling back to Alaska in shame.

So please, Sarah, don’t give up on your dream. Just keep on praying, hunting, suing people on groundless claims of slander, lying about your past, pumping out babies, race-baiting Obama, firing up crowds of gun-toting rednecks, and butchering the English language in every speech you give. Do it for hockey moms and soccer moms everywhere. Prove that arrogant know-it-all bitches can dupe millions of Americans into believing in them, but that ultimately they are all full of shit and that no matter how much lipstick you smother over a pig, it will always be a pig.

Rage Against Ikea

July 15th, 2009 No comments

I recounted in my last personal entry, a very boring one, how my trip to Ikea to buy a couch and have it delivered went with surprisingly little frustration. Of course, I suppose that was just asking for it. I should have knocked on wood or something, because in Germany you can’t do anything without massive amounts of frustration and I should have known better.

So today was delivery day. You’re supposed to wait in your flat from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. but at least I got them to agree to deliver it after 12. That way I would only have to cancel one lesson, thus flushing €54 down the toilet instead of €104. I’d really hoped my first lesson would be cancelled too so I wouldn’t have to worry, because the lesson was of course all the way in fucking Helmstedt, an hour-long train ride away. The lesson ended at 11 but the train didn’t depart until 11:30. So I wouldn’t be getting home until 12:30 but I figured the first 30 minutes out of a 7-hour window was at least a pretty slim chance that they’d come during that time. Ha ha ha.

I was delighted to find that the train from Helmstedt back to Hannover came right on time and everything went according to schedule. We were about ten minutes out of town when my phone beeped, and I saw I had a voice message. Not a missed call—it just went directly to voicemail. I listened to the message and it was definitely one of the delivery guys saying something in the most garbled, unclear German I’ve ever heard—so unclear that I wouldn’t have been able to understand even if I was completely fluent. All I got was “eine Stunde” which means 1 hour. I assumed it meant they’d be there within the hour.

So from that moment on the adrenaline was pumping, and every second that the train took to get back to the station was an eternity. When it finally pulled in I rushed through the station to get to the trams and hopped on the first one back. Three stops to go. It got to the first without incident. The second without any trouble. Almost there. We’re about to pull into my station when…it comes to a grinding halt. All the lights go out. Of fucking course, I think. I’m going to be stuck here underground, literally a few fucking feet away from my stop while the delivery guys come to my flat.

But much to my [unwarranted] relief, we got started just a minute later, pulled a few more feet forward, and I got out. Now I figured I was safe. If they arrive now, I thought, they’ll call me and I’ll tell them I’m just around the corner. I walked out of the station and around the corner to my flat, and saw a big Hertz van pulling away. Could that have been them? No, of course not. I hadn’t gotten a phone call.

I walked back into the flat and heard another large vehicle pulling up outside. That must be them. I started getting to work on clearing a space for the couch, then looked outside again to see that that vehicle had parked on the other side of the street and was bringing material for the annoying construction project they’re doing over there. But just then another, even bigger vehicle pulled up and parked right outside my building. That must be them, I thought, and proceeded to continue clearing the space on my floor, sweeping up the dust and whatnot. I’d expected the doorbell to ring by now. I looked outside and saw that a ramp was being lowered from the back. That’s got to be them. Oh, but it’s just a guy in a wheelchair getting out and rolling across the street to the bank. A minute later they pulled away.

So I finished clearing things up when another vehicle pulled up right outside the door, a gigantic UPS truck. That must be them. It has to be. They’d said an hour and it’s been about an hour. But it wasn’t. The UPS truck pulled away soon after leaving me to scratch my head. Okay, no worries. I would have got a call if they’d come, or they would have at least left a notice in my mailbox saying they’d been here. I listened to the garbled voicemail message two more times but it didn’t get any less indecipherable.

So I ate some lunch and killed some time by writing a stupid blog entry about Sarah Palin. By the time I was done it had been two hours since the voice message and I thought something must be wrong.

I hopped online to try and find a phone number to call and get the status of my delivery. If I could just confirm that they’d come I at least wouldn’t have to be trapped in my flat until 7 waiting for a delivery that might have already come. I scoured the Ikea.de website for a phone number for the transport division but could only find the main Ikea phone number, which was just an over-enthusiastic automated voice talking me through a series of menus that I only half-understood. Ultimately, I got a phone number which I thought was for the transport department but when I called it, they said it was temporarily unavailable.

Fine, I’ll try later. At this point my early 6 a.m. wake-up was catching up to me and I just needed to roll over and take a nap. I got up 45 minutes later and tried the number again, but it was still temporarily unavailable. The only other thing I could think to do was call the secretary at Planeo and see if she could help. She sympathized with my plight because she’s dealt with the Ikea delivery people before and apparently had a similarly hard time. The fact that all I got was a garbled phone message came as no surprise to her. But she called the Ikea number for me and went through all the menus herself, then called me back to translate the menus (turns out I’d understood them well enough on my own anyway), and that I needed to have my order number. I dug through some papers to find the delivery sheet I’d got on Monday with the order number on top, then went through the phone menus again. Once I input the order number, the automated lady said she’d be transferring me to a service agent, then the call abruptly ended. I called the secretary back and said I probably didn’t understand something, gave her the order number, and she said she was in a hurry but she’d try it for me one more time. She called back a few minutes later saying the same thing happened—as soon as she input the order number she was told she was being transferred but then the call ended. She’d tried three times and the same thing happened every time.

But at that point I had the delivery order form which had the phone number for the actual delivery company. I called that and got an actual human being, then struggled to explain my situation in German. All I really had to do was spell my name, then the woman checked the computer and told me that yes, the delivery people had been there already. They had been there when? At 12:30. Yeah, 12:30. I’d gotten back to my flat at 12:31.

She gave me the number of the actual delivery guys to call and see if I could get them to come back today. I called them and they said I had to set up a new appointment for either Friday or Saturday. Saturday? Saturday!? Fucking SATURDAY!?!?!?! You mean I could have just set up a delivery for SATURDAY!? When I’d been at Ikea on Monday and they were setting up a delivery date I thought that no matter what I’d have to cancel a lesson because nobody fucking works on Saturday and I figured if nobody else made deliveries on Saturday then of course Ikea wouldn’t. But apparently they do. If I’d just asked for a Saturday delivery I wouldn’t have had to cancel anything at all and I would have saved myself all that time, money, and frustration. The Germans certainly hadn’t helped, but it was ultimately a result of my own stupid assumption.

So I told them to come back Saturday, which means I’ll be stuck in my flat until they come and knowing my luck they’ll probably wait until 6:59.

Anyway, after that phone call I could no longer contain the rage. I hadn’t been this angry since T-Punkt called me to say they had my passport after I’d just spend the weekend in Berlin going through enormous amounts of bullshit to get my lost passport replaced. They had come at twelve fucking thirty!!! That’s EXACTLY when I’d got home. And they hadn’t left a note or anything. They hadn’t given me a phone call. If they’d just fucking CALLED me I could have said “I’m just around the corner” but instead they just left without a word and figured it was up to me to figure out that they’d been there and to set up another time for them to bring me MY stuff, stuff I’d already PAID for. Twelve fucking thirty….unfuckingbelievable.

When there’s that much anger flowing through your veins there’s only one thing you can do. I shoved my I-pod cord into the laptop, threw together a quick playlist of Rage Against the Machine Songs, tossed on some jogging clothes, then ran outside into the scorching heat to sprint down to the Maschsee and run that shit out of my system.

Of course I was completely exhausted after the first ten minutes, as I’d used up most of my energy in the initial sprint and during the “fuck you I won’t do what you tell me”s. I didn’t think I’d make it all the way around and back, but I was listening to Rage, and no matter how drained you are it’s physically impossible to stop running when you’ve got Rage blasting through your ears—unless you hit a traffic light in which case your only recourse is to pace back and forth giving everyone around you evil looks as you wait for the damned light to finally change, the sprint onwards.

I got back to my block just as “Ashes in the Fall” reached its end, then I walked back to the flat, found I was still quite pissed off, dying to just have a smoke and calm the fuck down already but first I had to shower and stretch and then write a goddamned journal entry about it because fuck knows I won’t be able to rest easy until this is fully documented. And now that it is….

Ah, that’s refreshing. It’s all so very silly. That’s perfectly clear right now, but to be honest I was aware of that the whole time. Throughout the whole ordeal I knew in the back of my mind just how trivial this was and how there are far better things to get angry about.

Furnishing Frustrations–Part 3

July 13th, 2009 No comments

Okay, so I just gave this entry that title for continuity’s sake. There was nothing particularly frustrating about my second (and hopefully last) trip to Ikea today. In fact it was rather pleasant.

The morning went well with my two new classes. I had an hour and a half to kill before my next class which I used to go to the bank to transfer money back to my American bank account so I can pay down some of the debt I’m still in. There was Volksbank right across the street from the E.ON building I was at, but as it turned out they had long since closed the actual bank part of the building and now just had some ATM machines you can use. I learned this from the German lady inside who was kind enough to give me some directions to the nearest full-fledged Volksbank, although the directions ended up leading me nowhere. But I remembered seeing a Volksbank several months ago when I had to head down to the Wettbergen area to get the keys from my landlord, which is not too far from where I was. I found that Volksbank and got the transfer done. While I was heading back into the building I got a call from Planeo saying that the normal teacher, the one I was doing a substitution for my next class, was actually back and planning to teach the class today if that was all right with me. I didn’t put up a fight. That’s some lost money but at least I could get going on my Ikea journey a bit earlier than expected, which was good because I knew it would take an absurdly long time.

After stopping back home for a quick bite to eat I headed off to the nearest tram station and began the long long long trip to the Southeasternmost far corner of Hannover where the Ikea is. Unlike the first time I went, it was an incredibly nice day, with a little sunshine and just about every type of cloud you can imagine in the sky, so the tram ride was much nicer. It was also a really pleasant walk to the store, which I knew exactly how to get to this time.

But once inside I had the task of figuring out how to find the couch I needed and how to get it delivered to my flat. I’d ordered a couch online over a month ago, but when it didn’t come in the specified 5-week waiting period I called to find out what was wrong, and learned that I hadn’t ordered a couch at all but merely the covering for a couch, and upon that discovery I promptly cancelled my order. Because of the tight money situation I wouldn’t even be getting a couch right now if it weren’t for the possibility that Krissi is coming next month and I’d need something for her to sleep on. I haven’t heard from her in over a week so I’m once again beginning to think that won’t happen, but it’ll be good to have a couch anyway even if she doesn’t come, so it’s a win-win situation.

As soon as I knew the first couch-that-wasn’t-a-couch I ordered would not be coming I went to the Ikea website and found a perfect little futon-like thingy for €90, which is just about the cheapest piece of furniture you can find in Germany (almost everything else is over €300). Normally you can order this stuff online right from the website but that couch just happened to be the one item on the whole page that you couldn’t order online and you actually had to physically go to the store to get.

I first found the counter where you set up deliveries and asked in the best German I could muster just what exactly I needed to do, and was told somewhat rudely that first I had to buy the stuff and then bring it there. I went to the place where the sofas were at and asked a girl at the information desk, who was as friendly as she was large, if they had the item in stock and what I needed to do to get it. She said they did indeed have it and brought me over to the floor model, then gave me some complicated instructions as to what I needed to do to get it. I wandered around like an idiot for awhile, also finding a relatively cheap coffee table to go with it, then went back to her and told her exactly what I wanted to buy and asked her again to explain to me how to do it. After getting her to slow down a bit, and with her using a few English words on her own initiative, I had it just about figured out. She printed out a piece of paper with the item codes on it and told me to take it to the warehouse section to find the items.

I made my way to that area, also picking up an extra plate and pillow because I’ll need that shit for Krissi if she comes, and went to the information desk at the warehouse, where a really nice guy explained to me how to find the items and load them onto a cart. Of course I was still an idiot who couldn’t find the shit so he helped me find the coffee table, then I was able to find the couch on my own but only two of the three pieces were in stock. The piece they didn’t have was the sheet to cover the mattress, but I figured I don’t really need that anyway and why not save some money?

So I got myself checked out and went back to the delivery counter where it was surprisingly easy to get a delivery set up for the heavier items. Of course, they can’t be too specific about when the stuff will be delivered. I know it’ll be Wednesday after 12:00, but it could be any time between then and 7:00. I was supposed to have a lesson in Helmstedt ending at 1:20, so I had to cancel it in order to be back by 12:30. So that was even more money down the drain. And if those fuckers come before 12:30 I’m going to be extremely pissed.

Anyway, I left there feeling good about myself for having accomplished something quite practical, and had another nice long long tram ride back home. When I got back to my flat I realised I had some time to kill, and decided I might as well write about what I did today because it had seemed mildly interesting while I was doing it. But by the time I finished writing the entry I realised it wasn’t interesting at all—it was actually quite boring—and I could just as easily have lived without any record of today’s events.

Categories: Personal Tags: , , ,

The Facebook Whim

July 10th, 2009 No comments

So way back on Monday I had a couple of lessons at the E.ON building in the Mühlenberg area of Hannover until 12:00, then another at 1:30. Rather than take the tram back to my flat for just 45 minutes and then come back, I figured I’d kill some time in the internet café across the street. I went to my favourite blog, “Bob Cesca’s Awesome Blog” and read all the updates, ending with a post by Lee Stranahan asking readers to bombard CNN news anchor Rick Sanchez with requests to feature his Pro-Public-Option for Healthcare videos on one of his segments. Since I like to contribute in any way I can to causes I believe in (short of donating actual money) and I had some time to kill I figured I’d give it a shot. I had the option of doing it through Facebook or Twitter, and since I hate Twitter I decided to go to Facebook. Well, apparently you can’t leave a comment for Rick Sanchez unless you’re a “fan” of Rick Sanchez, and you can’t be a fan of anyone unless you’ve got your own Facebook account.

Oh well, I guess I won’t do it, I thought. I’ve had a serious aversion to social networking sites ever since Myspace became nothing more than a vehicle for me through which to stalk girls I used to be obsessed with. Most of my memories of Myspace revolve around Jessi, sending her messages and feeling extremely shitty for weeks when I didn’t hear back, then becoming ecstatic if I actually ever got even a 1-line message from her, then feeling really shitty again for weeks until eventually she never responded to anything I wrote ever again. I won’t even mention the failed attempt I made to re-establish contact with her through Myspace over a year after I’d given up—oh wait, I just mentioned it. But I sure as hell won’t go into details. That sorry little portion of my life (and it’s an absurdly long portion) is recounted in my “What the Fuck Am I Doing With My Life?” journal, also posted on this website [since removed]. Luckily it’s quite boring so I don’t expect anyone to read it.

But this was Facebook and not Myspace so I don’t have the same negative associations, and on a complete whim I figured I’d just sign up, leave a damn comment with Rick Sanchez, then cancel my account. Of course, during the whole sign-up process they show you who else you know who’s on Facebook and gives you the option of sending them friend requests. And after seeing some of those names of people I’ve been wondering about for years I couldn’t resist sending out those friend requests. When the whole process was over and I’d be-fanned Rick Sanchez, left a comment, then un-fanned myself from him, I didn’t delete the account. There were some people I wanted to catch up with, and indeed I’ve now re-established contact with a few people I’ve been wondering about for years, including Lars from high school and Myson from college and Santa Barbara. Lars is getting married in a month, and Myson (apparently “inspired” by me) is now teaching English in South Korea.

Anyway, I’ve been using it all week now and I think I’ll stick with it. It felt great to get back in touch with all these people who, as far as I was concerned, no longer existed, and it’s really nice to know that in this Internet-Age we live in, there’s no reason for anybody to lose contact with anybody anymore. As for the way Facebook works, I find the whole design much better than Myspace. You don’t have to keep going to other people’s profiles to hear what they’re up to, you can send out your thoughts to everyone you know at the same time, and best of all there’s no prominent display on your profile stating how many friends you have, which always bothered me about Myspace, like it was some kind of gargantuan online popularity contest.

I won’t deny that the whole online social-networking phenomenon still feels a bit dehumanizing to me. In fact, the place where everyone’s comments and messages are displayed on your page is apparently called your “Wall” so it’s like everyone is cut off from each other behind their own private Walls. Most of the stuff I see is pretty impersonal which makes sense because nobody’s going to reveal the deeper human side of themselves when their comments go out simultaneously to everyone on their friends list. What might I want to say to my friends that I also wouldn’t mind my former college professors seeing? It’s a natural social inhibitor. We wear different masks with everyone we know, so when you’re making a comment that everyone you know can read, it’s like you have to wear all of your masks at the same time. Virtually none of your real personality is going to bleed through.

That said, it’s probably the best we can do. And at least you can send private messages, as I’ve been doing, and connect on a bit more of a personal level with whom you choose. Of course you’ve also got to deal with the disappointment when you send someone a message and don’t get any response, and the feeling of unpopularity when you make a comment and nobody responds. But I suppose it’s a small price to pay just to know that those connections still exist and you can still potentially reach them at any time, and in any case these feelings hardly bother me at all anymore anyway. I’m the emotional mirror-image of my über-sensitive high school self and my still-self-conscious college self. If someone I used to care about doesn’t seem to care about me anymore, so what? I’m beyond the point of letting that kind of bullshit get to me.

The next logical result to come of this is using it to promote this website. I’ve been building up more and more of a resolve to really try and draw some readers to this blog, get more feedback and make whatever changes are recommended to draw even more of an audience (one of which I assume would be to write shorter entries). But naturally, if I start actively promoting my site on Facebook, like posting a link there whenever I write a new entry here, I’ve got to deal with the idea that anyone in my whole pantheon of Facebook friends, most of whom I’m not very close with, could theoretically be reading what I write. So no more writing about being a sick pervert.

In any case, we’ll see how the Facebook thing affects traffic at this site and if my writing can actually appeal to anyone beyond the circle of my two or three closest friends. This could potentially breathe a whole new life into this blog, or it could have no effect at all. But after weighing all the pros and cons I think it’s worth a shot.