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Company, Weekend 1

August 31st, 2009 No comments

I’d imagined Krissi’s first weekend here being a bit more eventful, though what took place was fun anyway. On Saturday we went to the flea market they have across the street to look for wine glasses and maybe a piece of jewelry she could take back as a souvenir. We found wine glasses, but although we looked at nearly every necklace on display she never quite found that perfect piece. Following that we went back to the supermarket for some shopping, then spent the rest of the afternoon and into the evening in the apartment.

When night rolled around it was time to go out, this time towards Linden rather than the city center to show her a couple of other bars. We stopped at the Irish Harp for a quick one, listening to the live acoustic-guitar playing entertainers do various songs from the early 90s that we’d long since forgotten, and had another discussion about music. After that we walked further into Linden and into the Böse Wolf, the same place Alan, Amanda and I went after last year’s Planeo Christmas party and where the three of us went with Oliver, Lena, Jamie, and Jamie’s Czeck girlfriend a couple months ago. As I expected, it was Krissi’s kind of place, what with the dive-bar-ish atmosphere and pool table and whatnot, but it being Saturday it was quite crowded and we ended up leaving after just two beers.

We stopped back at my apartment on the way back and took a shot of Jäger, her taking a couple more to catch up with me, as my tolerance is much lower and I was already crossing the line between buzzed and drunk. We looked up some places online to check out and walked into the city, finding the area near the main part of town with a bunch of bars and clubs and crowds of drunken young people all roaming the streets and drinking. At first we just bought some beers from a Kiosk and walked around drinking those, at one point standing outside someone’s car where a little dog who was locked inside started barking furiously at us. As we looked at the poor dog some big burly German guy came up to us and said something in German to which I pretended that neither of us spoke a word. So he explained in English that his dog was very sensitive and we’d better stop looking at her. We just nodded and moved along, not challenging the asshole on why it was our problem that he locks his dog in his car while going out drinking.

When we finished our Kiosk beer we were able to get into a little bar/club called the Rocker, where they were blasting a decent mix of music and everyone was dancing. While Krissi and I danced some old German guy came up and started hitting on her, but she didn’t understand a word of German and kept trying to tell him this but he kept going on in German, apparently too drunk to realize. I almost felt bad for the poor dude, but only because I knew he had no chance with her. Krissi and I left after what might have been an hour or so, leaving our German dude friend to presumably go after the next hot chick he might find.

We stopped into a Kebab shop on the way home for some food, then tossed on an episode of South Park which we drunkenly enjoyed while eating our Kebabs. She passed out immediately afterwards and I went to sleep soon after.

We both woke up around noon the next day with a hangover, as we’d pretty much expected. We spent the next few hours waking up, and I did some quick lesson planning for the week. We headed out and walked over to the Planeo office where I needed to print some stuff out but the internet there wasn’t working so I ended up having to just make copies from the materials I already had. We walked back around the Maschpark behind the Rathaus where Krissi took some cool pictures.

We went back to the apartment, had a quick snack, and headed back out again. I took her down to the river and we walked up along it, then took a little path over to the Georgengarten, a.k.a. Mary Poppins Park. Krissi loved the multiple-kilometer-long line of trees and took a few good pictures in that area, just before her camera ran out of battery power. We walked up the length of the tree-line and then back into the more park-like section of the park, with the lakes and little bridges and whatnot. We sat down at the edge of the lake and talked for a little, then headed back to my apartment the way we came.

Krissi prepared some food as usual, then after dinner we watched “The Ground Truth” and the first two episodes of “Rome”, both of which she really liked. After that I went to sleep while she remained up for a few more hours and played around online. I’d invited her to my first two classes this morning but I didn’t make much of an effort to wake her up because it’s only around 8 a.m. and she hasn’t been getting up before noon except for last Thursday. I’ll be gone most of the day today and this evening we should be meeting Amanda, who has officially returned from her central-Asian adventures, for a drink.

In a dream last night, Krissi got a call from home and found out something bad had happened—I don’t remember what—and decided to cut short her Europe trip and go home right away. I was quite relieved when I woke up.

Company, Week 1

August 29th, 2009 No comments

As I pretty much expected, I haven’t had much time or desire to write a lot in the journal since Krissi has been around. It’s Saturday morning now and she’s still asleep so I’ve got some time to record the events of the past week, starting where I left off on Wednesday morning.

Shortly after Krissi woke up we decided to go out for a jog around the Maschsee. She hadn’t gone jogging in about 6 weeks so I had to take it a bit slower than normal, and we jogged for less time. The weather was nice so the scenery was beautiful, and it just a simple nice experience.

I had the whole day off, so I figured we should spend the afternoon being tourists and walk around Hannover following the red line that the tourism bureau painted on the ground which goes by all the major points of interest in the main part of town. I’d bought a guidebook from the Hauptbahnhof bookstore the day before, so I read about each location as we stopped there and repeated all the interesting stuff to Krissi. Not much of it was particularly fascinating or worth repeating here, but I did learn a hell of a lot more about Hannover than I had over the whole course of the year I’ve been here, and it made me realize that I ought to do stuff like this in every city I live in shortly after I move. It gave me a much greater appreciation for a lot of the stuff I see and walk by every day. For instance, I now know who the statues I walk by all the time actually depict and what their significance is in Hannover’s history, the most important being King Ernst August, for whom the area around the train station is named after even though he’s remembered with disdain in Hannover as a rather tyrannical monarch. And now I also understand the significance of the fact that my nearest subway station is called Waterloo, it being near “Waterlooplatz” which is a field with a monument put up to celebrate Hannover’s involvement in defeating Napoleon at Waterloo, taking revenge for his eight-year occupation of the city. The coolest part was probably finally learning the actual ages of some of the old buildings around me. The church right around the corner from my apartment, for instance, is over 600 years old, and the big church in the center of town is nearly 800. All in all, it was an extremely worthwhile thing to do.

That night we just took it easy, listened to music and watched stuff online until it was time to go to bed. Just before going to sleep I tried going online and found that my computer was now fucked up yet again, but in a slightly different way. That immediately put me in a bad mood but I had no desire to go through all that tech support bullshit that late at night so I just went to bed and figured I’d deal with it tomorrow.

Thursday being my longest day of classes but also my most interesting, Krissi agreed to come with me to Helmstedt and sit in on the lessons. Only Andreas showed up to the first one, and as I’d expected would happen, we spent the whole time giving each other travel recommendations—Krissi for his upcoming trip to California where she lives, and Andreas for our upcoming trip to Hamburg where he lives.

Following that I had my lesson with the apprentices, which went just about the same as usual, with a boring first half in which we worked from the textbook followed by an episode of the Simpsons and then a game—this week a trivia quiz that I’d made up last weekend. Only five students were there for the end of class so I broke them into three groups of two, pairing Krissi up with Tereza, and they ended up winning easily. Afterwards Krissi asked me if I’d mentioned Tereza in my journal a few times and I told her that yes, that was her. I said I just found her adorable, and apparently Krissi agrees that she is.

We stopped at the supermarket on the way home to pick up some stuff, then Krissi cooked dinner while I fucked around with the computer, finding a way around the damage from the virus to get onto an internet browser, then just downloading and watching the news. When the sun was setting and twilight encroaching I suggested we go out for a little walk, and we walked down the river to the Maschsee—my newly discovered route—and then back up, Krissi giving me her impressions of my classes and whatnot.

When we returned I had planned to watch “The Ground Truth” with her but the virus wouldn’t let us, and I decided I might as well take care of it now. So I called tech support and the guy took over my computer and I watched him try to fix it for the next three hours, thinking I had to stay awake but eventually falling asleep anyway. When I woke up the major problems were fixed but there was still a virus there, although just from watching these tech support people do their thing for so long I was able to figure out how to get rid of it myself. He also left the antivirus software he’d transferred to my computer where it was, so I registered the program and now I’ve got it set to the maximum level of protection. Hopefully that will prevent this bullshit from happening again, but I’m not very optimistic. I feel like the next virus that hits may be incurable and I’ll wind up having to wipe-out my entire hard-drive. I’m very tempted to buy an external hard drive to back up my music files, videos, and porn. I spent a lot of time accumulating that stuff and I’d hate to have to start again from scratch.

The next day was Friday, which meant I had to get up at 7:00 and go back to Helmstedt for a one-hour class and then possibly a single lesson with Jörg if he decided to show up. Thankfully he didn’t, so I was out of there very quickly and got back to Hannover, swung by the post office to pick up the backpack I’d ordered last week, then came back around 1:00 to find that Krissi was just getting up. The weather was mostly cloudy, warm but with a wind-chill that made it quite cool, which is perfect jogging weather and I suggested we go.

We ended up going through about two-thirds of the new jogging route I discovered, leaving the best part out because she’s still not quite up to par with me and I want to save that little area for when the weather is nicer anyway.

When we got back, we tidied up the apartment a little bit and I took care of some of the aforementioned stuff on my computer like killing the virus and registering the software, after which I took a much needed hour-long nap while Krissi played some awesome jazz music and went online.

When I got up at 5:00 we started drinking beer, and went through the now almost-routine event of Krissi preparing dinner for the two of us while I watch my news programs. Rachel Maddow was back after having had a few nights off being sick, so it was the first time Krissi got to appreciate her excellent style of framing the issues, and although she’s not nearly as politically inclined as me, she paid attention the whole way through.

A few more beers, a few more things to watch online like a couple of South Park episodes, and then we headed out into Friday night Hannover, starting with the Dublin Inn which was quite packed and the only seats we could find were in the back where there was some Karaoke going on. We just had one beer there and spent the whole time discussing music, and most of that time with her explaining to me why she has such a high disdain for the Emo genre.

We left and she asked me to take her to another good bar but I confessed that I really only ever hang out at the Dublin. I walked her down and through the red light district but neither of us had any desire to go into one of the strip joints there, and I realized we were actually pretty close to KGB, the Russian bar/restaurant where I’d hung out with Alan and Amanda a couple of times. We got in and found a table, and Krissi seemed to like the atmosphere so that worked out nicely. We had another beer and ordered some food, something I remembered Alan ordering and which I had to just guess from the menu what it was, but I guessed correctly and it was quite delicious.

After that we walked home, and when we got back in I took one more beer and she poured herself a glass of wine, then I played some music I’d wanted her to hear and was happy to find that she liked it. Over the next hour or so it really felt like old times, as we just smoked and drank and had some incredibly deep conversation striking right to the core of what it means to exist as a human being and how the lines are drawn regarding the “right” and “wrong” way to live our lives.

I woke up this morning around 8:30 and discovered when my shower was over that there’s something now fucked up about the hot water, and it wouldn’t shut off when I turned the valve. Thankfully it eventually stopped when I kept at it, but I’m now really worried that it’s going to turn out to be permanently fucked and I’ll be forced to call the landlord, which means having to face the fact that I haven’t yet paid him rent and therefore to lose a minimum of €920 which I could have used for traveling now and paid him later. So I’ll just have to keep my fingers crossed that the problem doesn’t get any worse, although between this computer virus bullshit and now the shower problem I’m beginning to think that Krissi might somehow be bad luck for me—that perhaps the universe is compensating for the excellent time I’m having by throwing these frustrating fucking problems at me lest I experience too much happiness.

Company, Day 2

August 26th, 2009 No comments

The streak of great weather took a break yesterday as the typical German weather of overcast skies and occasional light rainfall returned. Between the weather and the hangover I found myself in a strange mental state combining a gloomy disposition and complete happiness deeper inside.

Once I was done with my only class of the day at 12:30 I started to feel a lot better, and when I got home found Krissi still lying on the couch, apparently not having moved during the entire time I was gone. But she got up at that point and spent the next hour getting ready, at which point we went to run some errands like food shopping and getting her an I.D. photo which I thought she’d need in order to buy a BahnCard.

We spent another hour back at the apartment when we were done, then headed over to the Hauptbahnhof where I busted out my German skills to buy her a BahnCard, which I thought would cost €50 but apparently that’s only for a one-year pass. There was the option of a 4-month pass for just €25, and with that one you didn’t even need an I.D. photo. After that we picked up a Hannover tourism guide from the bookstore and headed back along a different route to hit a few more places including my bank, a Schlecker (place to buy toiletries and other various other non food-or-drug items you’d find at a CVS), and a little dollar-store shop to get her a coffee mug.

Krissi cooked up a nice dinner with the food we’d bought while I watched my daily news programs. That was an odd moment. I felt like I was channeling my grandfather of many years ago, watching the news while his wife prepared dinner in the kitchen and occasionally looked on to see what was being reported. Unfortunately it was kind of a slow news day so it wasn’t particularly interesting.

Things went kind of downhill after that, as I attempted to watch a Simpsons episode online with her but the browser crashed and when I rebooted the computer there were all kinds of new problems and I couldn’t open a browser. After fucking around with it for over an hour, doing everything I normally do in these situations but it not working this time, I gave up and realized I had no choice but to call tech support.

We took a walk down the street, beers-in-hand of course, to the nearest internet café, outside of which we pounded our beers so we could go inside and I could hunt for phone numbers for Windows or Dell support hotlines. We wrote down the few possibilities that I was able to find, then came back to my place and I began the long long process of waiting to get some service. Eventually I got to a woman who actually dealt with the kind of problem I was having—apparently it was a viral infection, and over the course of the next three or four hours we just watched her manually remove the viruses and do all kind of super-hyper-computer-nerd shit just to get my system back to normal, all the while listening to Krissi’s music on her I-pod, playing some Wii sports, and sipping on beer. It was almost 3:00 a.m. by the time the Dell lady got it fixed, and the service ended up costing about $130, but when I saw she actually had it fixed I was so happy that I just didn’t care. Without the internet I’m only half a person. As much as I hate how dependent I am on a fully functional computer, that’s just how it is. I would have had a very hard time sleeping if there was still uncertainty as to whether my computer was permanently fucked.

But once it was fixed we stepped outside for a much needed smoke, then came back and watched that Simpsons episode I’d been trying to play many hours earlier. At that point I was tired as hell so I went to bed while Krissi remained awake for what might have been another two or three hours before going to sleep. I woke up this morning without a trace of a hangover (I drank much less and much more steadily than the night before) at 10:00, and now it’s 11:30 and Krissi’s still sleeping and showing little sign that she’ll be getting up any time soon.

I’ve got no work today, and it looks like the good weather has made a comeback so I imagine we’ll do a lot more outside-fun stuff today, perhaps use the Hannover tourism book to take a walk around and learn more about this city than I have in the entire year I’ve been here. But whatever happens I know it’ll be fun.

Categories: Personal Tags: , ,

Company

August 25th, 2009 No comments

Everything that could have possibly gone wrong yesterday didn’t. The only snafu in the entire ordeal of Krissi’s arrival was that her train got delayed 40 minutes coming in. Having waited several months for this to happen, an additional 40 minutes was hardly a big deal. But at about 12:30 her train rolled in to the station and I was there to meet her on the platform for our much-awaited reunion.

From the station we took the 15-minute walk back to my place for her to put her stuff down, take a shower, and have a quick bite to eat. By the time we stepped out after about an hour, she’d already been the person to spend the longest time visiting me at my place, with the possible exception of Alan helping me install the blinds, but as I was only half-way moved in at that point it doesn’t count.

We then proceeded to do exactly what I’d had in mind for what to do on her first day here. We headed over to the Rathaus and up to the dome at the top to check out the spectacular aerial view of Hannover. This time, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky so the city looked particularly beautiful glistening in the sunlight. I’d been worried that because the weather was so perfect last week it couldn’t possibly continue into this week, but it ended up being one of the nicest days of the summer so far.

After leaving the tower I brought her back around the Rathaus and through the nice little park they’ve got there, then across the street to the Maschsee where we stood on the edge for awhile looking at the giant catfish and swans. Krissi grabbed a coffee at the nearby beverage stand and we took a bench for a few moments while she drank it, until a couple of bees who seemed to be craving a sugarless black coffee for some inexplicable reason (perhaps they were caffeine-fiends) wouldn’t leave her alone, and we had to get up and walk on.

We walked halfway around the lake until we reached a nice little secluded corner where we could sit on the edge of a circular stone structure and look out at the rest of the lake. At that point it was 4:00, which means it’s socially acceptable to start drinking. (They have a phrase, “Kein bier vor vier” which means “No beer before four”.) I busted out a couple of the beers I’d brought along with my back-pack, we said “prost” and began drinking. After a while sitting there in that nice spot we got up and walked the rest of the way down the path until reaching the area at the top of the lake and ordering a couple of Hefeweizens from the beer stand there.

Once that was finished we both really needed to pee, and since there were no public restrooms around we just took the 15-minute walk back to my place and relieved ourselves there. Afterwards I suggested we go out to eat, and I took her to the Café Konrad where Mark and his girlfriend had taken Alan and I on his last day. I hadn’t eaten there then but the food looked excellent so I’d had it in my mind to go back there with Krissi. It was the first time I’ve eaten out in a restaurant since Bostel last month. The food was quite delicious and the evening weather couldn’t have been more perfect and comfortable.

After that we headed over to the Dublin Inn where we continued to sit outside and drink beer, until we decided to go in and pay and then take a walk around. But at that point, now that the sun had finally set completely, the pub was starting to fill in and a Karaoke thing was going on in the back room. We remained out front waiting to pay, but before we could a British guy came up to us to initiate a little chat. He was apparently with a group of roadies for Coldplay who are touring Europe now and have a show this week in Hannover. The guy was obviously more interested in her, and when he asked us if we were together I didn’t bother lying and said that we weren’t. He asked us why not and said we should be and that kind of thing, which I guess was his weird way of flirting with her. All this was strong evidence to support my hypothesis that it’s going to be much much easier for me to meet people at bars when I’m traveling with a woman than it would be if I were alone.

We were ready to leave but he insisted on buying us both a drink, so we politely accepted and had one last beer, although he disappeared into the Karaoke room as we drank it. When we finished we left and took a nice little walk through night-time Hannover, something I almost never do and haven’t done since the late Winter when it still got dark very early.

When we got back to my place I put on some music and for some reason we opened up a couple of more very unnecessary beers. I woke up this morning with about as bad of a hangover as I ever get, which isn’t all that bad but still annoying, and now I’m writing this entry before I leave for class in an hour.

All in all I’d have to say it was quite an ideal day. Going over all that we actually talked about would take way too long and be rather pointless, but while we spent a lot of time telling personal stories I also spoke at length about politics and teaching English and whatnot. It felt great to have someone to talk to who was actually interested, even in the minute little details of my English lessons. It’s a bit more satisfying than writing online journal entries that nobody responds to.

And now it just feels weird to be here, in the same old apartment, ready to go about my same old Tuesday routine (though luckily Frau Suhr cancelled so I only have one lesson to go to today) but now with somebody else to accompany me. I’m not sure the full extent of how different life will be over the next couple of months has hit me yet, but we’ll see. I have no reason to doubt that it’ll be a really nice time.

Tomorrow

August 23rd, 2009 No comments

Krissi is scheduled to arrive tomorrow, and in typical Krissi-fashion I’ve barely spoken to her at all recently. I exchanged a couple of e-mails with her Friday night, in which she said I should call her to go over the details of her arrival before Sunday morning, and I called her yesterday but got no answer, and still haven’t had an e-mail. I fully expect to get one from her later today when she wakes up, because today is the day she’s departing. But when it comes to her I can’t be sure if I’ll hear anything at all until her plane lands.

At any rate, I’ve been looking forward to this for so long that I’m not particularly more excited today than I have been over the last few months. Whether it’s “three months from now” or “tomorrow”, it’s still the future, and therefore not the here and now. The here and now is the same as it’s been since I moved here. I don’t think it’ll really start to affect me until I’m sitting on that train platform waiting for her to arrive.

I spent the weekend like any other, knowing that it would be the last weekend in a long time that I’ll spend like this. The weather was nice so I was tempted to go out, but I’m tired of taking walks alone and I know that while it’s always good to “seize the day” I will be seizing a lot more days very soon. Life is going to get radically different for awhile, and I welcome the change.

Krissi has been my friend for nearly 11 years, which is longer than I’ve known anyone outside of my family. Some of the best memories of my life are of experiences I shared with her. It’s incredible to think that the best experiences are probably yet to come.

Categories: Personal Tags: ,

Obama: Pussy or Sell-Out?

August 22nd, 2009 No comments

When I’m not sure about someone, I generally tend to give them the benefit of the doubt, in life as well as politics. I was extremely happy that Barack Obama won the election last year, beating out his conservative opponents John McCain in the general contest and Hillary Clinton (yes, she’s a conservative) in the primaries. The most liberal candidate, it seemed, had finally won. A Washington outsider who was not beholden to big special interests but merely to the millions of people who had donated to and supported his campaign. He ran on two basic messages: hope and change, and when he won I put aside my cynicism and let myself hope that real change was finally coming.

As time went on my cynicism began to re-emerge as hope faded little by little with each of Obama’s less-than-liberal decisions, but I haven’t yet given up on him completely. The first indication that he might be less serious about change than he let on was when he signed an order to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay but kept the prison in Bagram Air Force Base open. Okay, I figured, it’s not a complete reversal of Bush but at least it’s a start.

He supported repealing Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell but wouldn’t issue an executive order to stop kicking gays out of the military. Well, okay, he’s a new president who doesn’t want to step on anyone’s toes and DADT can only be repealed in Congress anyway.

He spent more taxpayer money to bail-out AIG and the other financial giants who destroyed the economy in the first place. That certainly irks the shit out of me but I’m no economist and it’s at least conceivable that the bail-outs are in fact necessary to prevent society from a complete collapse, and he may yet get to imposing stricter regulations on the banks once the economy is back on solid ground.

He might go after CIA officials who went beyond what was written in the torture memos, but he won’t go after Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the rest of the people who initiated the torture program in the first place. That really pisses me off, but I can at least understand that the president has a lot more to worry about than the crimes of the previous administration and if he wants to get anything positive done he can’t get his whole administration bogged down in trying to right previous wrongs. In particular, if he went after the torturers he might not be able to pass health care reform.

But now it looks like that even with all of those aforementioned compromises and capitulations, he might not even get real health care reform passed anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I’m 100% certain that some kind of bill will pass, that democrats will all pat themselves on the back and congratulate each other for a job well done, but if the bill that passes doesn’t include a public option to compete with private insurance companies, it will be worse than no reform at all.

Private health insurance companies are one of the most downright immoral and repugnant businesses on the face of the planet. They make their profits by literally letting people die. The stick themselves between the doctor and the patient and take a piece of the action from every transaction that goes on, just like the mafia. They take a significant chunk of your money every month by providing absolutely nothing in return other than the peace of mind of believing that if you get sick, at least it won’t bankrupt you. But if you do get sick, they’ll search your medical records to try and find any excuse whatsoever not to pay, and even if they agree to pay they’ll still make you pay about a quarter of the cost, which is still enough to bankrupt most citizens. They are a blight on society and ought to be utterly abolished from the face of the earth.

The surest way to do this would be through a single-payer system like they have in Britain and Canada, where every citizen pays taxes to pay for the health and well-being of every other citizen. It’s like a tribe all pitching in together to take care of its fellow tribe members. The American system is like a tribe in which it’s every-man-for-himself, and if the girl in the hut next door gets sick then why should I have to lift a finger to help? Not my hut, not my problem. That’s the American attitude, and that’s why so many people are more concerned about whether these health insurance companies will be able to compete with a public option than whether these insurance companies even have a right to exist in the first place. It’s the free market. Commoditize everything you can and profit off everything from which you can possibly profit—including human suffering and death.

It’s this American attitude that Obama was up against from the beginning in trying to reform our health care system, and he made his biggest mistake by taking single-payer off the table from the start in order to ease the concerns of those Free Market Fundamentalists who would sooner speak out on behalf of the rights of insurance companies to earn obscene profits than the rights of human beings to get medical care. He began the whole debate from an already-compromised position: the “public-option” which would leave private insurance companies to their business but offer an alternative for those people who didn’t feel like getting fucked in the ass by these companies. If private insurers wanted to stay in business they’d have to start being a little less evil.

If Obama had begun the process by advocating for single-payer, or at the very least letting advocates of single-payer have a voice at the table, then perhaps when all was said and done we would have arrived at the compromise of a public option. But he already began from a position of compromise, and has been sending signals all along the way that he might even be willing to compromise even further from his original position, perhaps dropping the public option altogether. It’s as though he wanted to buy something for $100, and instead of starting out with an offer of $80, to which the seller would then ask for $120 and they’d eventually haggle it down to $100, Obama started by offering $100. The seller made a counter offer of $150, and Obama came back with an offer of $120. But the republicans aren’t interested in selling at all, so when Obama offers $120 they simply raise their price to $170, and the more he offers the more they demand. Eventually he could end up paying $200 or more for a $100 deal.

Metaphors aside, there is simply no reason to compromise with the republicans. Everyone who knows anything about politics knows that there’s no way in hell any republican is going to vote for any kind of Obama health-care bill. If he drops the public option, it might make Max Baucus happy, but it won’t win him a single republican vote. They’ll just demand he make even more compromises.

Obama is not an idiot, and neither are the people who work for him. They know that this bipartisanship bullshit is pure bullshit but they keep pretending like they can all reach some sort of agreement that will make everybody happy. But republicans will never be happy, and the more they capitulate to them, the less likely it will be that any liberals will be happy either. This could kill his presidency. If he drops the public option I know I will sure as hell abandon my support of him, and millions of others like me will do the same. His presidency will be over less than a year into his first term. All this seems so obvious, so it makes no sense why Obama isn’t drawing the same line in the sand that his constituents have drawn, which is no health-care reform without a public option.

As far as I can tell there are two possible explanations. The first is that he’s just a big pussy, a little naïve, and still unsure of what he’s doing. He might have really thought that with an issue as important as health care the republicans would want to get on board and pass legislation that would really make a positive difference in the lives of Americans. If he thought that he’s a fool, as it was obvious from the moment Rush Limaugh declared that the goal of the right is nothing more or less than the destruction of Obama’s presidency. Not making the country better—just destroying Obama, even if they have to take the country down with him. When Bush was in power the republicans didn’t give a shit about democrats and didn’t lift a finger to compromise at all on any of their climate-killing, civil-liberties restricting, power-consolidating legislation, so why are Obama and the democrats so focused on making their republican enemies happy? If it’s all out of some genuine bullshit ideal of the spirit of working together and reaching consensus across the aisle, then Obama is a pussy. He should know that you can’t work with people whose only goal is to destroy you.

But there’s another explanation which is beginning to look more and more likely. As Matt Taibbi is suggesting in columns and interviews, Obama may have made a behind-closed-doors agreement with the health insurance companies from the very beginning. In exchange for continuing campaign donations to democrats for the 2010 mid-terms, and an agreement not to exclusively fund republicans, the health insurance companies may have secured Obama’s promise not to fight too hard for the public option, and to let it drop from the final legislation when all was said and done. In that case, according to Obama’s alleged thinking, everybody is happy—if by “everybody” you mean democrats and health insurance companies, certainly not the American people. The democrats get to pat themselves on the back for passing some kind of bill, the private health insurance companies get to keep on doing their evil business, and the American people get the same old shitty treatment. If Obama’s refusal to aggressively push for a public option is part of a deal with the insurance companies, then he’s far worse than a pussy—he’s a sell-out.

There are those who might defend Obama by saying that he is advocating a public option—that he’s consistently supported this proposal. I’d say that if he really wanted a public option he could have one. 77% of the American people are in favor of a choice between public and private insurance. He could be out there making the moral argument, telling a few of the tens of thousands of personal horror stories of people suffering at the hands of private insurance. He could have defined this battle as a moral imperative from the very beginning and been out there every day talking about what this legislation needs to accomplish and why it’s so important that it pass. Instead he’s out there repeating platitudes about costs and competition which don’t excite anyone. In his most recent public appearance, the health care reform bill was a “belt” and the public option its “suspenders”. Yeah, the public option isn’t the means by which our country can finally rise to the moral standing of every other modern nation that guarantees health care to all its citizens—it’s just a pair of suspenders. And if you’ve already got a belt, the suspenders aren’t necessary.

What the fuck, Obama? I thought you were supposed to be the most inspirational political speaker in a generation. You fired up millions of people and got them to go door to door, make phone calls, send e-mails, make donations, and do everything they possibly could to get you elected. But when it comes to actually passing legislation that would actually deliver on the change you promised, you’re out there talking about belts and suspenders! Yeah, that’ll fire ‘em up, all right. That’ll really get those progressives out there putting pressure on their congressmen. I can hear the chants already: “Yes We Can Wear Suspenders!” “Yes We Can Wear Suspenders!”

Of course, I’ll still give Obama the benefit of the doubt until the public option actually is dead and buried, as I expect it will be by the time the bill gets passed. But I am open to the possibility that Obama is just this brilliant chess-player who is ten steps ahead of the rest of us and this is all part of some slick ‘say-one-thing-and-do-another’ strategy that will eventually get real, solid health care reform with a public option passed at the end of the day. If Obama gets that done I’ll take back all my words and hop back on the bandwagon, because establishing public health insurance in the United States of America is a victory no matter how you look at it.

But what is far more likely is the worst-case scenario, and the reason why reform without a public option would be worse than no reform at all: individual mandates with no public option means every American will be forced to buy insurance from private companies. That’s the health insurance company’s dream-come-true, and one which Obama may be in cahoots with them to try and bring about. Sure, there may be some aesthetically pleasing regulations that make it harder for these companies to deny care or exclude people with pre-existing conditions, but these companies will find a way around them and just like Wall Street it will be back to business as usual, only now with a lot more business. Americans, who are now at least permitted to opt out of private health insurance on moral grounds (i.e. I’d rather take the risk of death or bankruptcy than let these blood-sucking corporations have a single nickel of my hard-earned money) would have no choice but to fork over the cash and make these evil rich motherfuckers even richer.

It that happens, it’s over for Obama. He could end both wars and bring peace to the Middle East and would still never win back my support. If he’s just a pussy, there’s still time for him to grow a pair of balls and get this done. But if he’s a sell-out, I will never forgive the betrayal.

The Kindness of Strangers

August 20th, 2009 No comments

So that “high” the other day turned out to be nothing more than a runner’s high, which slowly faded throughout the afternoon into what was only a mildly pleasant mood. In an attempt to boost that mood I decided to actually go outside after dinner for an evening walk down the Maschsee, where I’d sip on some beer, listen to music, and think of things to come. I’ve done this twice before and the place was fairly clear on a weekend evening. I haven’t been able to go for the past three weeks because there’s been a “Maschsee Fest” every night with all kinds of beer stands and live music stages spread out all over the place. I might have gone to check that out while it lasted but having no one to go with I didn’t bother. But now that the area was nice and peaceful again I decided to go take advantage.

Apparently everyone else had the same idea, because practically every bench was occupied. The only free benches all had something wrong with them like a missing plank of wood that made sitting down terribly uncomfortable. Plus, there were people less than fifteen meters to each side of you—well within my comfort zone for just chilling out alone. So I kept on walking until I reached the recently discovered path leading to the river, and walked up along the path which was a bit more deserted. As the sun set behind the trees lining the river I felt pretty good. It wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as I’d envisioned but I had no regrets about doing it.

Yesterday I had the whole day off. I woke up again in fairly good spirits and spent the morning taking care of some little things like grocery shopping, then around noon I got to the task of cleaning the apartment. I swept the floors, cleaned out the sink and the bathroom, everything but my rug. The last time I cleaned my rug I asked the black lady who lives downstairs if she had a vacuum cleaner I could borrow. She said she lent it to another neighbor, and asked that neighbor for me if I could use it. That neighbor did let me use it, so I figured I’d try her again.

Not knowing whether she was home, I rang her doorbell and waited a minute, then she opened the door and I could tell immediately that I was bothering her. But I was already there, so I just went ahead and said, “Entschulding [sorry], kann ich ihre Staubsauger benutzen [can I borrow your vacuum]?” And she just said, “Nein” and closed the door.

Now, a normal human being would just shrug that off and five minutes later it would all be completely forgotten, but for some reason this lodged itself firmly in my craw and completely shattered the emotional framework of the rest of the day. I’d planned to go out for a walk to further explore the new territory when it was all finished, but now instead of feeling good I was feeling ashamed and humiliated, embarrassed and guilty for having bothered my neighbor. Was this some kind of German-culture thing that I hadn’t yet learned—that it’s totally rude and unacceptable to ask your neighbor for a favor? The black lady had seemed perfectly willing to help but she was black—not German. Perhaps I was way out of line.

Knowing how my brain works I knew I couldn’t just go out for a nice walk now, as this two-second incident was just going to be cycling around my mind over and over. It was the only face-to-face social interaction I had all day not counting the supermarket check-out people, so there was nothing else running through my mind. Not even an e-mail from Krissi or Corey or anybody. Just the neighbor slamming the door in my face.

In an attempt to salvage the good mood by adding some real social interaction on top of that, I called my grandparents and had a nice chat with my grandma. That felt nice except for hearing her express her serious concern about Obama’s health plan and telling me I should watch more Fox News. I didn’t even try to sway her opinion as I know my grandparents and at this point their opinions are un-swayable. If I couldn’t convince them that the Iraq war was a bad idea there was no way I’d convince them that Obama isn’t really turning America into a Stalinist dictatorship. I did, however, make sure that she didn’t believe any of this “death panel” nonsense and was surprised to hear that she hadn’t even heard about that. She only watches Bill O’Reilly apparently, not Glenn Beck, and I guess O’Reilly just doesn’t mention anything that might make conservatives look bad to the more reasonable-minded conservatives. Anyway, the political bullshit aside it was a nice conversation and gave my mood that needed bounce to get me out to go for that walk.

I planned my route using the GoogleMaps satellite imagery, then took the tram to get off at the Beekestraße stop from which I’d walk around a few lakes and then walked straight back north until I reached the river and eventually my apartment. Of course, the satellite image always makes it look much more simple than it really is, and after a really nice beginning in which I walked down along the side of one of the big lakes, I found myself at a road that I hadn’t expected to emerge onto. I walked along the road a bit and took the next path northward, figuring that as long as I kept going north along this path I’d eventually come to somewhere familiar. I continued along the same direction of the same path, trying to keep the lake in view but losing it behind the trees, then coming to another lake on the other side of me where every so often a path would go down to the banks where there was often a German or group of Germans swimming, often in the nude. Only guys, naturally. So I stopped looking down towards the banks after awhile.

I kept following the same path in what I assumed was the same direction but at one point I noticed the sun was on the other side of me. Eventually it occurred to me that I was definitely heading south now, and that the road I’d just crossed was the road I’d emerged out on about a half hour earlier. Somehow I’d gotten turned around and lost every inch of progress I’d made during that time.

The good mood was pretty much completely dead at that point, but I just turned around and walked back, trying a different path and making sure at all times to keep the sun on my left. It was a long, long, long walk through what turned out to be a pretty hot day, and while the scenery was undeniably nice it was tainted by frequently coming to areas where large groups of Germans were out sunbathing by the lakes, many of them in the nude. For a good ten minutes I found myself walking behind a stark naked old guy just walking along the path without a care in the world, and as much as I tried to avert my gaze the image of his ass is now firmly burned in my brain. One of these areas must have been a designated nude area because just about everyone there was naked (except the women of course) and while I couldn’t help but glance over to see if there were in fact any naked beautiful women, all I got was an eye-full of old men’s penises so I didn’t spend too much time looking and tried my damndest to keep my glance straight ahead.

At any rate, it was hot and I had no fucking idea where I was and all I could think about was my neighbor slamming the door in my face and old men’s penises. By the time I finally reached my new jogging path and thus familiar territory I was so fucking tired and ready to be done with this but I still had about 45 minutes left of walking. I was listening to happy music on my I-pod and every now and then during a good part of a good song I’d look around at the gorgeous scenery and get a nice little moment in, but the overall feeling was just one of tiredness and being pissed off that there were so many fucking people out and about. I took that walk through the greenest area on the map in the hopes of feeling like I was out in nature and away from everyone but while a few little sections of the path were nice and isolated, I was mostly surrounded by people the entire time.

The fucking vacuum cleaner incident stuck with me all night long invading my brain, and naturally this morning it was the first place my mind went and I got up early just to get it fucking written down and hopefully out of my system. I can hardly believe what a sensitive bitch I am sometimes and it’s really fucking annoying. All that happened was a neighbor impolitely refused a request—it’s such a non-issue, so not big of a deal, but because I’m so isolated and I’ve got no one around to just give me a reassuring, “fuck that bitch, who cares?” it has a hugely disproportionate affect on my state of mind.

At any rate, once I get to class and talk to some nice Germans and put some additional social interaction between that and the present moment then things will perhaps improve. But at least I don’t care at this point what my mood is. I guess mostly I’m uneasy about how unbelievably beautiful the weather has been this week, because you never get two weeks in a row of weather like this in Germany and it’s probably going to be cold, rainy and shitty when Krissi comes. Ah, pessimism. It’s so much more natural to me.

New Territory Pt. 2

August 18th, 2009 No comments

I feel a bit silly devoting another journal entry to a new jogging route, but having gone out this morning in the crisp August air to perfect it, I have a few more thoughts that I feel compelled to record.

First of all, I planned the route a bit differently than I had originally thanks to having accidentally gone the wrong direction yesterday, so I’m extremely glad I made that mistake otherwise I would have missed what I ultimately found to be the best part of the jog—a narrow path running through an area dominated by brush with some fields and trees to each side, colorful plants all around, and a pen with horses grazing. It was like something out of a dream. When I reached that part my soul began to get that feeling like this was truly something special, that I’d discovered one of the nicest little spots in the world.

One thing is absolutely certain now: Hannover is better than Frankfurt, at least for someone like me. Frankfurt has more people and more stuff but only one serious park, and while it’s a damned nice park it doesn’t compare to this new area I found. Considering that this new area is just one of three or four incredibly nice locations around the city, and I’m far more interested in nice natural locations than a lot of civilization, I can officially say I prefer this city. Running through that area I could hardly believe I was still in a city—it felt like I was way out in the countryside somewhere, miles away from nowhere.

Finally, while my first reaction was to think, “Shit, if only I’d discovered this sooner” I now think that it’s much better that I didn’t. I was just getting tired of the old jogging routes and of Hannover in general. I figured when Krissi comes I’ll get to see it all again through her eyes so that would help a bit, but even without her coming it’s like the whole city has been reinvigorated. I thought I’d seen all the good spots in town but apparently I saved the best discovery for last. Now throughout the next year I’ll have this new area to explore—and it’s way bigger than just the route I’ve decided to jog through. Suddenly I’m not so tired of Hannover after all.

In any case, between the new territory, Krissi’s impending arrival, and weather that couldn’t be more perfect if I envisioned it myself, my soul feels on top of the world right now. I know at some point it’ll crash, but I will sure as hell enjoy this high while it lasts.

Categories: Personal Tags: , ,

New Territory

August 17th, 2009 No comments

Yesterday was a fuck-you-in-the-arse beautiful day, so I had to take advantage. On my way back from the Planeo office where each Sunday I go and print out my materials for the week, I stopped on a bench in the park behind the Rathaus to finish my book as well as listen to some music and soak up the scenery. But as I returned to my apartment still in the early afternoon, sun shining and cool breeze blowing, I knew that wouldn’t be enough.

I decided to go for a walk in a section of the city I don’t often go. I jog north along the river, but there’s also a really nice section to the south. I jogged there a couple of times when I first got here but it was always just straight down until the path ended and then straight back up again. This time, when I reached the end of the path I kept going, across a little grassy area and over a foot-bridge, across which I found what looked at first like a giant heretofore undiscovered-by-me section of the river. I walked up to the edge and looked across, spotted a familiar building, then came to the sudden realization that I was standing at the edge of the Maschsee.

At that the wheels started turning and I guessed that if I just went to the southwest corner of the Maschsee, crossed the river I’d just been walking along, and went back up the other side it would make for a pretty spectacular jogging route and be just about the right distance. But at that point I didn’t want to take too long getting back so I just walked back the way I came.

Today, when I was finished with the day’s only lesson and got back to my apartment, I prepared to try out the new route. Of course I checked the satellite images on the Google Maps beforehand to plan out exactly what I wanted to do, as I don’t usually jog along a route that I haven’t walked along beforehand because I don’t want to get lost and end up jogging twice as long as I intended.

Everything started out perfectly. The weather was perfect with just the right degree of cloud cover and a temperature just on the cool side of warm, and I reached the Maschsee about half-way through my I-pod playlist just as I’d planned. When I got to the southwest corner to cross the bridge, then run back up the other side of the river I could hardly believe my eyes. It was the most beautiful little slice of Hannover I’ve seen since arriving here 366 days ago. I couldn’t believe that in all that time I still hadn’t ventured there and discovered this.

I just kept following the path, but soon enough I came to a section that didn’t look anything like what I’d expected to see from the satellite images, as it was wide and covered by trees. Still, as long as I knew where the river was I figured I’d be good. But the river soon drifted out of sight and I eventually came to an intersection of paths and bridges all going in different directions with nary a sign to be seen. I took the direction my intuition told me to take and soon found myself jogging in an even more beautiful little area than the last one. Nothing but trees, fields, flowers, even a fenced in area with some horses. Nothing at all to indicate I was still in the middle of a city of half a million people.

I expected to find the river again at some point, but my playlist was already coming to an end by the time I found it and it was a completely unfamiliar section. I considered asking someone for directions but I resisted and pressed on until the playlist was over, I’d jogged about the same amount of time I normally jog, and now I had to play another album which would hopefully take me the rest of the way home. But now that I was officially lost and perhaps going in the wrong direction I decided it would be best to ask someone where I was. I stopped the first guy I saw who was a young man so I figured he spoke English, and I asked him for directions in English which he gave me. Apparently I had to hang a right which would take me to Ricklingen, and from there I could easily find my way back up to Linden, which is where I said I needed to go. Ricklingen? That’s really far south. I must have been going in the wrong direction.

So I hung his right and ran along more awesomely beautiful paths, looking for a road or sign or any indication of civilization whatsoever but couldn’t find any. I eventually came to another intersection and had no idea which way to go, but just then an old lady on a bike rode up. Knowing that old ladies usually don’t speak a word of English I asked her in German for directions to the Maschsee. At this point I just wanted to get somewhere I knew. She very kindly explained which way to go, told me it wasn’t too far, and I thanked her an ran on.

Finally I reached an actual street, Beekestraße, which I’d never walked on before but recognized the name from one of the tram stops I always pass by on my way to Monday and Tuesday lessons. I ran up the road until finally spotting something familiar for the first time in thirty minutes: the Beekestraße tram stop. That’s about six stops south of where I thought I’d be.

The tram was coming as I approached and I had to make a quick decision to get on or continue jogging all the way back. Knowing just how far fucking south I was I decided to chance it. Had I been caught without my wallet and therefore without my pass I would have been in big trouble, but I played the odds and the odds worked out in my favor. I got off one stop before the closest stop to my flat and ran north a bit to arrive, finally, back along the river, a familiar section that I’d expected would be just about the end of my jog. So I finished up and came home, feeling pretty good about the whole experience.

It could have been quite frustrating but it’s such a nice day and the scenery was so fucking gorgeous that frustration was pretty much impossible. I know I’ll have to try again to figure out where I went wrong and how to work it out correctly, but I think I may have discovered a jogging route even better than the two I’ve been taking.

This time next week I’ll be walking around with Krissi. And now I’ve got great new area to take her.

Categories: Personal Tags: , , ,

One Year

August 16th, 2009 No comments

It’s exactly one year to the day since I arrived in Hannover. In that time I’ve lived in 2 apartments, got offered 5 jobs but only worked 2, visited my German family 2 times, had 3 weekend traveling experiences, made 4 friends, written 164 journal entries, drank approximately 572 beers, and had exactly 0 haircuts.

Categories: Personal Tags: