Posts Tagged ‘helmstedt’

End of the Beginning

June 30th, 2011 No comments

I just returned from my last day of work as an English teacher for Planeo in Hannover. It’s been a week of goodbyes, and now the reality that my time here is coming to an end has really begun to hit home. I’ll never teach an English lesson for E.ON employees again. I’ll never even go into those buildings again. After nearly three years of going and coming, it hardly feels real that I’ll never go there again.

E.ON Energie Mühlenberg, where I did most of my teaching.

The goodbyes began last Friday with my last trip to Helmstedt and my last lesson with the chatty secretaries who were the students I had the longest, and they were definitely the most sad to see me go. On the way back I stopped in Braunschweig to pay a second visit to my Grandfather’s cousin Elisabeth, which also ended with a farewell although we’ve only met twice.

Monday I said goodbye to two classes, the second of which was full of a bunch of guys I really loved teaching, both because of their sense of humor and the fact that they loved hearing me go on at length about American politics. I gave them one final rant, this time about the Obama budget talks and how I now think he has no chance of winning re-election.

Tuesday I had only one lesson, this one with two guys, one of them was Holger—the guy I went to the Coppelius show with many months ago—but our goodbye wasn’t too official as we’re now friends on Facebook and I’m sure we’ll stay in touch.

My last Wednesday lesson was last week but nobody showed up, so I didn’t need to say any goodbyes there.

And today I had my last three lessons back-to-back. The first was the lesson with Mandy, my most beautiful student whom I’ve contemplated asking out many times but never did because I always got vibes of a complete lack-of-interest in me from her. I’d contemplated saying something like, “Now that you’re not my student anymore, it wouldn’t be awkward for me to ask you out. How would you like a boyfriend for two weeks?” I wouldn’t have actually done that but I was spared the annoyance of having chickened-out by finally confirming after all this time that she does in fact have a boyfriend. She’s never directly mentioned him before but when I asked her about her plans for the summer and she said she wanted to go somewhere with her “friend” I asked “your boyfriend?” and she said yes. So now I can feel just fine about never having pursued anything there.

Then it was my last lesson with one of my favorite students, Katja, with whom I spent most of the time talking about politics and making jokes. My sense of humor always seemed to appeal to her so I always enjoyed those lessons. I’m definitely sad about never seeing her again.

And finally, my last lesson was cut mercifully short as the two women who take part had a meeting to go to only a half-hour later. They brought me down to the cafeteria and treated me to a drink as we exchanged farewells and best-wishes.

The last person I bid farewell to was the very nice receptionist at the E.ON building, whom I told it was my last day and I’d be off to Japan now, and of course the first thing she brought up was Fukushima. But she and the other receptionist wished me a very fond farewell and then I left the building, taking a deep breath of the fresh jobless air.

E.ON Energy from Waste in Helmstedt 2nd E.ON Building in Mühlenberg

This is the beginning of the end of my time in Germany, but the end of the beginning of my English teaching career. It’s been a fantastic experience, one I think was a great way to start out doing this. It’s going to be extremely different in Japan, but I’ve grown enough both as a teacher and a person to feel ready for it now.

All that remains is to get my affairs in order, enjoy the hell out of these last two weeks, and then head back to the U.S.A. for a month before finally going to Japan. I’ll be in three countries in the next two months. Another one of my life’s major turning points is under way.

Blogging Off Steam

July 7th, 2010 No comments

No political blogging today. I’m too pissed off for even that. Thanks to the goddamn motherfucking Deutsche Bahn, of which ranting and raving about right now is the only thing I’m capable of writing.

So Wednesday is the day I have to take the train to Helmstedt, a middle-of-nowhere town that normally takes an hour to get to by the normal InterCity train, but which thanks to construction between Hannover and Braunschweig—the next big city over—now takes an hour and fifteen if you’re lucky, and rather than one IC train every hour there’s only one every two hours.

The train ride there was fine, but only one student showed up—the weakest of all the students who never likes to have more than one hour of lesson time if she’s the only one there. So I did one hour of work. One hour.

Because the IC train only left every two hours I’d have to take regional trains back, thus increasing the time to 1 hour and 45 minutes, 40 minutes of which is waiting time in Braunschweig. I passed that time easily enough with some lunch in Braunschweig and boarded the regional to Hannover at the normal time of 1:20.

Everything went smoothly until we stopped in Lehrte, which on the normal train is only 10-15 minutes from the Hannover main station. But the conductor came over the loudspeaker and announced that because they were waiting for another train to pass by (or something like that—my German is still not perfect enough to completely understand) it would be another 25-30 minutes.

Whatever. I busted out my book and started reading, until ten minutes later he came on to say it was still going to be another 25-30 minutes. Ten minutes later, he said that anyone heading towards Cologne could hope on the InterCity Express train that was also stopped in Lehrte, but that this train would not stop in Hannover.

Another ten minutes go by and the conductor comes on to say that he still doesn’t know how long it will be before they start moving again, but there are a couple of busses going to Hannover that we could take.

Everyone got off the train so I went and followed and found my way to the busses, which I thought were just going to take us straight to the Hannover main station. Oh, but no. They were first going to stop at every little bullshit station between Lehrte and Hannover, which involved winding their way through these little towns and zig-zagging all over the fucking place.

When we reached the next station—Ahlten (about 3 minutes from Lehrte by train)—about 15 minutes later we all looked at the tracks and saw the same regional train we were on flying along the track, completely fucking empty, apparently having been given clearance while we were all piling onto the busses.

More zig-zagging and another half-hour goes by until we’re finally approaching the inner city of Hannover. We stop near a tram station and a bunch of people get out. I decide to get out as well and take the tram the rest of the way, but just as I get to the exit door it closes and won’t open again. Meanwhile someone snatched up my seat. The doors in the front were still open though, so I barreled past some other people and got to those doors just as they closed in my face.

Twenty minutes before the next stop, but now we’re at a tram station I’m completely unfamiliar with so I decide to stay on the bus.

An eternity later and we finally get back to the Hannover main station. I get off the bus and immediately light up and smoke down a cigarette, ready to walk home but first coming upon the number 300 bus which passes right by my flat. The last thing I wanted was to get on another bus, but I said fuck it and got on, and luckily there were no incidents as the bus took me right where I wanted to go and I got off and came back to my flat and tore off my work clothes and busted out the computer and banged out this little rant. It was 4:00 when I got home. Had everything gone smoothly it would have been closer to 2:00.

Fuck the Deutsche Bahn. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck the Deutsche Bahn. All together, I spent seven hours of my day, for one fucking hour of work.

No more work, damn it. I’ll get back to my regularly scheduled blogging tomorrow. Now I need to calm the fuck down.

UPDATE: [15 minutes later] Well, that worked like a charm. Really, the only truly aggravating part of my day was the bus ride, which turned what should have been a ten-minute journey into an hour-long journey, but all in all was only an hour. And one hour of aggravation every now and then is not so bad. It makes you appreciate all the times the public transportation system does work well. I suppose it’s a wonder it works so smoothly as often as it does. So I take it back, Deutsche Bahn. You’re still the best Bahn I know.

Categories: Personal Tags: , ,

A Day In The Life: Christmas Party ’09

December 5th, 2009 No comments

For awhile now I’ve been meaning to do a stylistic experiment with this journal. One major element of my existing style is to occasionally include a stream-of-consciousness narration of my actual thoughts as I experienced the events I’m describing. I’ve been meaning to try writing about an entire day of my life like that, and yesterday was the perfect day to do it. I just finished it, and it was a lot of fun to write although it took forever and ended up being even longer than some of my travel stories.

So for those of you who actually have enough time and patience to read this beast of an entry, I’d like your feedback on the style. I’d of course like to hear as much of your reaction to as much of it as possible (perhaps in an e-mail rather than the comments), but that would take you forever so at a minimum I’d just like to know if you found it to be an enjoyable read. This is the closest I’ve ever come to a true play-by-play account of my actual thoughts over an extended period of time. All in all, I think that of everything I’ve ever written, this is the closest I’ve come to capturing what it is truly like to be me for day.


Well, I’m awake already. It’s only 6:15, which means I have a good 45 minutes to just lie here under my warm cozy blanket before getting up to face the long day. I’ll have to go to Helmstedt for a potential 3 hours of classes, and tonight to the Planeo Christmas Party, which I’ve been thoroughly not-looking-forward-to for over a week now.

I agreed to go to the party before I even knew what the theme would be. Last year it was go-kart racing and a nice Greek dinner, at which I had a very good time. I got to know Alan and Amanda better and got to meet a few new colleagues. The only bad part was pining over Petra, one of Planeo’s German teachers, a strikingly beautiful woman who is inaccessible to me not because she’s too young but because she’s too old—probably in her mid-30s—with a husband and children. I haven’t seen her since then, but there’s a good chance I’ll see her tonight.

But I’m really not looking forward to this because of the theme they decided on. Someone, I don’t know who, suggested they do a “crime dinner”. There’s a place called Café K in Linden which hosts big dinner parties and has everyone role-play as different characters in a mystery story involving someone at the top of our fake law firm being murdered and each of us having to figure out who did it. Just yesterday I received the information and the part I was to play—all in German of course—and before going to this party I’d have to actually do homework to translate this bullshit and find out what the story was and who I was supposed to be, just in case my character was important and not knowing the information would ruin the whole thing for everyone else. Once I’d discovered that this was the deal I immediately began trying to come up with excuses not to go, but I knew Amanda and Tom would also be going and they also hated the idea so at least I’d have people to talk to. Besides, there’s always a chance I might have fun, and it’s guaranteed to be more interesting than what I normally do on Friday nights. At least I’ll have something worth writing about.

What’s that? My alarm. I must have fallen back asleep only five minutes ago. Well, I went to bed early enough to get a full 8 hours so I feel perfectly refreshed and awake now. Time to take a shower, eat breakfast while reading online about how much Barack Obama sucks, then go to the train station for my weekly commute to Helmstedt.

I really like my little commute. The hour-long train-ride to and from Helmstedt is a lot more enjoyable than actually teaching while I’m there, and I often spend more time riding the train than I do actually teaching. Walking through the station in the morning to get to the platform to take me to work makes me feel like a serious person, someone who has somewhere to be and a job to do there. Like an adult, basically.

Ah, the train ride. I got the perfect seat—right side of the train, facing forwards, with a full window-view of the slightly-more-aesthetic scenery to the south. The only problem is that I’m surrounded by a big group of people all chatting together and telling jokes and laughing. But once the train begins moving and I start my music I can drown them out. It’s a pleasant way to start the morning—music in your ears and the feeling of constant motion. It’s the closest thing I still have to driving, one of my favorite things to do in the U.S. The music this morning is a playlist I tossed together after waking up, a mixture of mellow classic rock including Dire Straits, The Alan Parsons Project, a splash of Christopher Cross, the kind of stuff my dad likes. Good sailboat music.

Damn, we’re already pulling into Helmstedt. I wish my commute were an hour longer and my classes an hour shorter. Well, time to walk through the rain to get to the E.ON building, say hello to the secretary there in charge of the English lessons and take a seat in the big conference room where I’d be conducting my lessons of one or two people each.

I’m not sure the first group will come. These secretaries cancelled all of their November lessons because two were on vacation and one was too busy. I got no e-mail saying they’d be back today, but I came anyway because I’d like to get paid for the no-show if they don’t come. And if they don’t come I can just spend the hour—as this class is only one hour—reading the book I found and borrowed from the library in the Planeo office. They mostly have language textbooks but I noticed a copy of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 and nabbed it because I need something to read. It’s a damn good book and I’m really enjoying it, but I only read it when I’m in a situation where time must be killed and there’s no internet around, like doing the laundry yesterday. Once I finish this book I’ll have nothing else to read again. English books of any kind other than political biographies are hard to come by in Germany.

Oh, but I hear the secretaries approaching anyway. I guess I’ll have to teach. Oh look, Heike brought food! Home-baked Christmas cookies and chocolate treats, as well as some oranges just to have something healthy. And what’s this? Christina, back from her vacation in Jamaica, has a flash-drive with pictures! Well, let’s just plug this into the computer, get the projector going, and have a slideshow of your Jamaican vacation instead of a real English lesson!

Wow, that hour went by fast! Sure, we still have five minutes left but I don’t have any activity that takes only five minutes, so we’ll have to end early. So all we did was have you describe your pictures while I corrected your mistakes and provided the missing vocabulary. You say you found it very helpful? Fantastic. And next week you’ll tell the other Heike to bring pictures from her vacation to Australia? Sounds good to me.

Oh, but here comes the next lesson. The dreaded one with the boring beginners. Maybe like last week they won’t show up. Not that it matters today. Normally I want to get home as soon as possible to finish my activities as soon as possible so I can have as much afternoon time as possible to chill-out. But I’m going to a party with my boss and colleagues tonight so I can’t get too relaxed and I therefore don’t care how long this takes.

But it’s only Sabine today. Apparently Siegfried won’t be coming for the rest of the year. And since the third student, Jörg, practically never comes, it will probably just be Sabine for the rest of the year. Okay, it sucks because she’s absolutely the worst student I’ve ever had in terms of learning ability, but it’s good because when only one student shows up I only teach for one hour. So let’s just get through this painful hour with a review of some old vocabulary that she’s completely forgotten, some easy grammar which will take her a really long time to finish, and a simple easy text that will take her such a long time to get through that…oh, look at the time! I guess we’ll have to finish the text next week.

Back through the clouds and rain—quite pleasant actually—to the train platform. The regional train to Braunschweig. A beautiful young lady on the platform that I’ll casually look at a few times while waiting for the inter-city train back to Hannover. Here it comes, and it looks like another perfect seat is available, this time on the left side of the train. Oh, the beautiful girl from the platform is sitting right in front of me and one seat over so the side of her face is in plain view. I guess my attention will be divided between the scenery outside and that lovely little section of her head where her hair meets her neck for the next half-hour. Occasionally she’ll turn her head and I’ll get a good look at her eyes. I wonder if she notices me looking at her. No worries, we’re already back in Hannover and she’s not getting off. She must not live here anyway. I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t try and talk to her.

From the Hauptbahnhof to the bank ATM to check my account balance—it’s extremely low, as expected—and across the street from there to the Pennymarkt where I pick up a bunch of junk to stuff in my face and a six pack of good old Franziskaner Naturtrüb hefeweizen. I don’t feel like walking all the way back to my flat so I’ll take the tram. This tram is taking forever. The sign said it was coming in 1 minute, but it’s been saying that for at least 3 minutes. Must be a hold-up at the Hauptbahnhof. Oh, here it comes, and damn it’s crowded. Oh look, I’m standing next to an incredibly cute girl. I guess I’ll try not to look at her, or at least to not be too obvious about looking at her. At least it’s only two stops, and then I can be off.

After getting back home I’ve still got some hours to kill before dinner. So first thing’s first. Time to open those German e-mails, copy and paste into a translation program and try to make sense of this whole goddamn murder mystery story. All right, so the boss of the company, someone named “A. Big Scam” was found murdered in a Santa costume. At the annual Christmas dinner for the law firm, “Lie, Cheat, and Steal” we’re all going to be characters with various relationships to the dead guy and we all have separate cards with information telling us what secrets we know, and I assume in the case of the murderer, the fact that you’re the murderer. We have to spend the night asking the other characters what they know, exchanging information and trying to piece together all the clues to discover who the murderer is. This is the worst fucking idea for a party I’ve ever heard.

Okay, time to translate the information about my character, Frank Took. You know, let me write some of this shit down on an index card because I’m sure as hell not going to memorize it. Let’s see, I’m a divorce lawyer with Lie, Cheat, and Steal. I recently made lots and lots of money by representing Mr. Steal’s ex-wife, Enid A. Drink in a divorce settlement that ended very much in her favor. With the death of Mr. Scam, I’m second in-line to be made a partner at the firm after another guy named Ben De Toy. My fucking god this is stupid. I mean, I’m getting dumber just reading this shit. Okay, apparently I know some secrets that I can use to get more information from other people. Apparently I know that Constance Cheat, the wife of partner Igotta Cheat (apparently everyone has a clever name but me) was having an affair with another one of the partners, Will Lie. Well mercy me. How scandalous.

Okay, I think I put enough on the card to muddle through. Hopefully most of the people there will be just as unenthusiastic about this charade as I am.

Now I’ll spend the next few hours going through the first section of my latest book in the STAR Universe in preparation to finally write more of it after nearly a year of neglect. A couple of weeks ago my muse suddenly returned and the entire rest of the plot of the book fell into place. Now if I can just get myself to start writing again I might actually be able to finish this one, and hopefully it’ll be better than anything I’ve written so far. It certainly has potential. Ah, but there are so many flaws with what I’ve already written—I’ll probably have to completely rewrite this anyway if I ever want it published.

Well, it’s the time I normally eat dinner and I’m hungry. And fuck knows how long into this party it’ll be before the food is actually served, so I might as well have dinner. We’ll just toss half a frozen pizza in the oven and watch a podcast of Countdown with Keith Olbermann. His show has been uncharacteristically good this past week with regard to the Afghanistan decision, but tonight it’s back to the same old bullshit making fun of republicans with stupid funny voices that don’t sound anything like whomever he’s trying to imitate. And he wonders why people don’t take him seriously as a journalist. Well, that was crap. Not one thing about Afghanistan at all. Eight minutes about Tiger fucking Woods, but nothing about Afghanistan. What the fuck, Keith? I keep watching because you often do have really good analysis and commentary, but sometimes it’s like you’re deliberately trying to prove your critics right.

Anyway, I’ll save the far more intelligent and serious Rachel Maddow podcast for tomorrow. Now I’ve got 20 more minutes to kill. Perhaps I’ll watch the Christmas party episode of “The Office”. Excellent. That’s quality sit-com writing. Good shit.

All right, it’s 6:40. Better finish this beer and get going. We’re supposed to dress up to fit our roles, but A) I don’t have a suit or anything that could really make me look at all like a divorce lawyer, and B) fuck that. I’m going in my standard Kyle-uniform of khakis and a T-shirt.

It’s a twenty minute walk straight into Linden. There are a lot of people out on the streets at this time of evening on a Friday. I’m normally drinking alone in my flat, but now I’m among the normal people, just a regular person going to a social event to socialize with other people. Personally, I’d rather be drinking alone in my flat. But hey, you force yourself to the social events to give yourself an excuse to isolate yourself the next night. “I hung out with people yesterday,” I can say. No need to go anywhere or call anyone or do anything today.

I’m not exactly sure where this place is but if I keep following the Number 9 tram tracks I should spot it. It shouldn’t be much further than the Lindener Marktplatz. I’ll just cross the street here…holy shit that van looked like it was going to hit me! It just did a 180˚ turn at this intersection and came within a foot of me! Whatever, keep walking. What the fuck, now it’s flashing its lights? Who the fuck is this asshole?

Oh, it’s my boss Frank. Better take off my I-pod and accept the ride he’s offering me. Too bad. I was just getting to the best part of “Telegraph Road”.

He introduces me to his surprisingly cute wife in the passenger’s seat. I greet her with a “nice to meet you” and wonder why she hadn’t been at last years’ Christmas party. Come to think of it I didn’t even know he was married.

“What role are you playing?” he asked me. “I’m Frank Took,” I replied, “Who are you?” He’s one of the partners, Will Lie. According to my index card, he’s the one with whom Constance Cheat had an affair, but I wouldn’t make that pointless connection until later.

He finds the café all right—just a block down the road, but there’s no parking space so he drives all the way back to the Lindener Marktplatz where he’d picked me up, and we walk to the café together. Thanks for the ride. As we walk he tosses on a ridiculous wig of flamboyantly disheveled white hair. He looks more like a mad scientist than a lawyer. He asks me if I think my German is good enough, and I honestly reply no, and that it took me more than an hour to get through all that material they sent me. His wife gives a friendly laugh.

We walk into the café and while there’s already a decent crowd there it doesn’t look like Amanda and Tom are among them. Damn, I’ll have to mingle with other people for awhile. I should have drunk more than one beer before coming.

A tall, dorky-looking, probably-gay German guy greets me and asks me who I’m playing, then hands me the name-tag for Frank Took, divorce lawyer. He tells me in German that he’s the inspector. So this guy would be running the show this evening. And he looked pretty damned serious about his role. How wunderbar.

Okay, let’s just dive right in, shall we? Hi Robert…I mean…um…what does your name-tag say, “Igotta Cheat”, it’s nice to see you. Yes, hello to you too. Who are you? Oh shit, it’s Sue, the head-teacher, the one whose lesson I visited last month and who came to visit mine a couple of weeks ago. She’s “Barbie-Dahl Scam”, the widow of the dead guy, and she’s dressed the part so well I didn’t even recognize her. Oh hey, Natalja…I mean…um, Mr. Steal, the guy (guy?) whom according to my index card I sucked dry in the divorce settlement with Enid A. Drink. So she yells at me for that. I apologize. I was just doing my job…

Oh I fucking hate this already. Rarely is something just as bad as you expect it to be. Usually social events wind up being more fun than I anticipate, but not this. This just blows.

Everyone is drinking glasses of Sekt, and someone hands me a glass. Thank you. Not a moment too soon. Can I get a couple of shots with that? Man, I haven’t even hung up my jacket yet. I’ll go walk to the entrance and do that. Someone is coming through the door behind me. I turn around. There she is. Petra. In the flesh. Dressed up like a rich slut. I’m the first person to see her. “Hello,” is all I say. She smiles and walks past me. My first impression after all this time? She looks older than I remember. Maybe I won’t be pining over her this time like I did last year.

Or maybe I will. Time to go back to that nice comfy little corner I was standing in (not really a corner, but against the wall between two tables), sip on my Sekt, hide behind my paranoid eyes and just hope not too many people start coming up to me and interrogating me in German. I’ll talk to Sue for awhile. As dressed up as she is, she seems willing enough to be out of character and talk like a normal human being. Oh, but what’s this? She’s made a flow-chart of all the characters and how they’re related to one another. Let’s see…who is Petra playing? “Marsha Mellow”. Of course, there she is on the chart, and there I am. And there are no lines connecting us in any way. Too bad. If our characters had some kind of connection that would have been an actual excuse to talk to her, even if it was over some silly pretend bullshit.

Michaela, one of the Planeo secretaries, comes by as I’m standing by myself and whispers into my ear, “Isn’t there anything going on at the cinemas tonight?” I give her a wide smile and nod of agreement. Good, at least I’m not the only one here who thinks this is really dumb. Where the fuck are Amanda and Tom?

Petra is standing right in front of me. She turns around and glances at my name-tag, reads that I’m a divorce lawyer and laughs with the other people she’s talking to. Um…how about returning my “hello” from before? Maybe introducing yourself to me—even just your pretend self—instead of just glancing at my chest and then turning away? Oh whatever. I could introduce myself if I wanted. But no. Remember, Kyle, she has a husband and children. But goddamn is she gorgeous for an older woman.

Where the fuck are…oh thank god! Amanda and Tom are here! Finally, some fellow cynical assholes with whom to make snide derogatory wise-ass remarks about the theme of the party! They enter and say hello. Their characters appear equally as unimportant as mine. For which I am very grateful. If I had been important things would have really been bad.

I say hello to Amanda and Tom and chat for a second but then they go to say hello to everyone else, leaving me once again standing alone in my corner and hoping nobody talks to me. Oh, someone is talking to me. A German girl is talking to me in German. She’s plump and short, obviously taking her role quite seriously as she’s drawn a mustache on her face with magic marker. I use the most heavily-accented German I can muster to tell her my German sucks. She tells me her English sucks. Too bad for her I guess. If I didn’t know any better I’d think she was attracted to me. Why is it always the ones I find so unattractive? But how mean of me. She seemed nice enough—just a little too outgoing for my taste.

Anyway, Amanda and Tom are back. She’s brought me another glass of Sekt. “I’m on the path to drunkenness” she says. The only way to make this fun, she says, is to get completely wasted. Her logic is impeccable.

What’s going on now? They want to get started but we’re waiting for someone. Get started? You mean it hasn’t started yet? I thought we were already doing it! But we can’t get started until Enid A. Drink arrives. Yes, I know that name. According to my index card, she’s the client I won lots of money for. Oh, but here she is. And it’s Penni! The teacher who stole my Thursday classes. Oh, irony.

Well, now we can begin. Everyone enter the lobby and listen to the guy playing Ben De Toy give the opening speech from a wooden platform. The guy obviously works for the café and knows his part well, much like the inspector. He looks like a German, carnivorous version of Moby. He proceeds to give a long long speech in German. He regrets to inform us all that Mr. A. Big Scam has been found murdered, etc. I tune out very quickly. I shoot a look back at Tom and Amanda. Tom just laughs, as if to say “my thoughts exactly”.

A million minutes of incomprehensible German later, fat-Moby finishes his speech and we’re all instructed to start interrogating each other. A German woman comes right up to me and starts questioning me in German. “Oh, mein Deutsch is wunderbar” I say, thus letting her know my German is terrible, but she doesn’t speak English so she continues in German and I do my best to politely play along and answer all of her questions without referring to my index card. I do all right, and she moves on. God, how many more times is this going to happen?

What’s this? Oh, it’s the inspector himself! He wants to ask me a few questions. I tell him in English that I don’t speak German. Well, that’s just fine because he speaks some English!

“I had to learn English to become an inspector,” he says.

“Yes, and I had to take English lessons to become a divorce lawyer,” I say. “And I took so many English lessons that I forgot how to speak German.”

“Yes, that is a danger,” he says, then proceeds to question me about my relationship to Mr. Scam. There are a few questions I feel I’m probably supposed to know the answer to but I don’t. I just give him all the information I remember, feeling like I’m being quizzed on whether or not I did my homework. Apparently I’m next in line to be partner if anything happens to Ben De Toy, a.k.a. fat-Moby. (Gee, I wonder if he’s going to be pretend-murdered some time this evening) so I did benefit from Mr. Scam’s death but I didn’t kill him. If there’s any other way I can help with your investigation, let me know.

He thanks me and walks away. I turn back to Tom and Amanda who ask me what just happened. “I was just raped,” I said, and they said it was probably worse.

“This is really the worst thing human beings have ever done to one another,” Tom said. “I mean, the Third Reich was bad, but this is worse.”

“Yeah,” I play along. “I mean, say what you will about Hitler, but he never made anyone do this.”

Tom and Amanda break into laughter and a person standing near us asks what’s so funny. Tom repeats my joke but that person doesn’t seem to think it’s all that amusing. So we just keep to ourselves and try to keep the hyperbolic complaints about the party to a lower volume.

Penni comes up to me now in full-fledged Enid A. Drink character. Apparently she’s into voodoo and asks me to stick some pins into her husband’s voodoo doll crotch to celebrate our victory in the divorce settlement. “Haven’t we done enough damage?” I say. But she insists on at least giving me a big hug to thank me for all that money she got thanks to me. How nice. Do you also want to thank me for all that money you got from my Thursday classes thanks to me?

After a short while, it’s time for Ben De Toy to get fake-shot and die. It’s quite a lame performance actually, even for the standards of this place. The sound of a crack and fat-Moby goes down clutching the not-wound in his bald head and then passes out on the floor in a pool of not-blood. As the inspector and someone else drag him away, he smiles and laughs, eyes wide open.

When it’s finally time for some food to be served, Amanda brings us to a table in the back of the room. I of course take a seat that allows me to face Petra, but Tom says that Amanda is supposed to sit next to him or something. So I reluctantly give up the seat but Amanda sits across from him anyway, and Sue takes the seat across from me.

But we can’t just eat, because first the inspector has to walk around the room with a microphone speaking incomprehensible German and ask questions of some of the characters so we can play our part in front of everyone. And lucky me, I’m the first to be questioned!

In English, he asks me about my relationship with Scam and De Toy. “I um..didn’t know them very well…I think.”

“But you are now next in line to be partner?” he asks.

“Yes, so I guess I’m glad they’re dead…but I’m not…it’s very sad…” I fake cry for a few cheap laughs. Goddamn my improv experience. I don’t want to play along but when I’m there in the spotlight I can’t resist.

“Yes, yes, if you have to cry it’s okay,” says the inspector. “So it’s lucky for you they are dead?”

“Yes, it is, I guess,” I conclude, then he thanks me. But I grab the microphone one last second and say, “But I didn’t kill them.” There. That ought to do it. Now no one can accuse me of not playing along with this ridiculousness.

Once the inspector has talked for a million minutes, the soup is finally served, and Amanda, Tom, and I continue to bash the idea for the party.

“Uh oh,” says Sue. “I think I may be at the wrong table.” Amanda and Tom don’t seem to notice. I try to explain that we just think it’s a bad idea for a party. Why can’t we just hang out and drink and talk to each other as the actual people we are, rather than play these ridiculous roles and interrogate each other? Who came up with this idea, anyway?

Oh shit. “Shit,” I say as I can tell by the look on Sue’s face who it was who came up with the idea. “It was you, wasn’t it?” Fuck. “Oh man. I’m sorry. It’s just…well…”

But she defends herself by saying that this wasn’t at all what she had in mind. She suggested a “crime dinner” because she heard this place in Linden had them and she’d done one before but it wasn’t the same thing. People didn’t have characters and stuff, it was more of a performance that everyone else passively watched. “Well, that sounds like it could be fun…” I say to try and save face, but the damage is done. For all I know, Sue will now secretly hate me for the rest of her life. But I suppose it’s okay as long as it’s secret. And I can’t honestly say I feel too bad about the fact that the person who came up with the awful idea knows that some of us find it awful.

Amanda orders four shots of Tequila, apparently still quite serious about her quest to get drunk. Sue says she doesn’t like Tequila, so Amanda suggests vodka, which we all agree on. We take our shots, finish our soup, and go outside for a smoke. Sue hasn’t brought any cigarettes because she “doesn’t smoke” so I give her one of mine. I “don’t smoke” either, but I buy a pack when I go to a party and I know there will be social smoking. A few other people gather outside to smoke as well, and as mercy would have it none of them insist on bringing their characters with them.

Except the inspector, of course, who brings us back inside because it’s time for more bullshit in the dining room. We all have to take our seats because the inspector has found the murder weapon—a plastic water-pistol—and he’s got to go around with his mike again and get everyone up there to play their part. He calls on Amanda who answers the questions in German so I don’t know what she said, but I don’t think she played her part correctly because he dismissed her very quickly. Tom, on the other hand, performs quite well. He’s supposed to be some kind of singer who came up with a slogan for the law firm and now he has to sing it in front of everyone. Right on the spot, he comes up with the lyrics and sings them in the style of an old lounge-singer:

Lie, Cheat, and Steal
Lie, Cheat, and Steal
Their favorite color is teal
Lie, Cheat, and Steal
Lie, Cheat, and Steal
Their favorite drug is…vicodin

Well, I think it’s funny but I guess not everyone else does. They clap anyway. Now it’s time for Marsha Mellow to get up and do some explaining. Nice, I can stare at Petra for awhile. Damn, she’s hot. And beautiful. Her face is like…so goddamn gorgeous. I have no idea what she’s saying but I don’t give a shit. For all I know she’s confessing to being the killer.

So that takes a million more minutes and now it’s finally time to eat. I’m so glad I ate beforehand. But the food is actually really fucking delicious and I can’t finish all of it. Amanda orders four more vodka shots but Sue declines. I order a hefeweizen because I’m tired of the Sekt we’ve been drinking so far. The beer is fucking delicious too.

Okay, meal’s over. I’m pretty buzzed. Let’s go out for another smoke. Hey, it’s Robert/Igotta Cheat. You know your wife cheated on you with Frank/Will Lie? There she is now. It’s Michaela/Constance Cheat. I can’t believe you cheated on your husband. What? I’m not supposed to tell him? He just told me he already knows. Anyway, in all seriousness, Michaela, you sent me an e-mail yesterday about my residence permit expiring? Yeah, can you help me get that taken care of sometime next week? Great, thanks.

Back inside. Sitting alone at my table, sipping on my beer. Staring at Petra across the room. Yeah, she’s every bit as beautiful as I remember. And her resemblance to Aimee is even clearer to me now, especially when she smiles. Hey Andy, would you lean the fuck forward, you’re blocking my view. That’s better. Ah. Yeah, like a 35-year-old Aimee, with a little bit of Sara tossed in. Just perfect.

Tom sits down next to me, and I’m buzzed enough to say, “I’m so fucking in love with that woman,” and explain how I was stricken by her last year but hadn’t seen her since.

“She is hot,” he says. “You should talk to her.”

Hah. Right. “She’s married and has kids,” I say.

“So?” he says. “She’s probably bored out of her mind.”

Yeah, perhaps. Well, I’m done with this conversation. I’ll just keep looking at her. There’s no fucking way I’ll try and talk to her. I mean, for one, even though I may no longer have the capacity to feel emotions I’m still kind of a pussy when it comes to women I find beautiful. And two, she’s fucking married and has kids. If I actually got anywhere with her I’d be doing something I find personally detestable. And three, she’s fucking married and has kids. Not only has her vagina had dick in it thousands and thousands of times, but at least two people have been through there! I’m not sure I want to get near that.

But in all seriousness, I feel glad that I’m even capable of being this attracted to such an older woman. They’re always too young—never too old. By my shallow perception, female beauty seems to reach its peak in the teenage years and begins to fade as early as their 20s. In most cases it’s gone by age 30. The fact that this woman, who must have been even more unbelievably heart-wrenchingly beautiful as a girl, has maintained that level of beauty even into her thirties and through motherhood…I suppose that in a way it gives me hope. There are some people in this world whom I could find beautiful and not have to feel ashamed of it.

Another guy is sitting near me now trying to gather information. I vaguely remember talking to him at last years’ Christmas party but I don’t remember him being French. He makes a few snide comments about Americans and I pretend to get really offended. “Fucking French motherfucker,” I say to Tom when he walks away. “How dare he bad-mouth my country! I ought to beat the crap out of him.”

Shauna comes by in her role as Mary Lovely and interrogates me for awhile about my motive in becoming partner. Yeah, I’m glad they’re dead, I say to her, but according to the paper I got, I didn’t kill them. Unless I did and the paper didn’t say. Maybe the killer isn’t supposed to know who the killer is. She thought that was an interesting idea.

It’s time to vote on who we think did it, what we think the motive was, who we think has the best costume, and who we think gave the best performance. Maybe I should say Marsha Mellow did it, and for the motive put, “Because the hottest woman is always the killer.” But I have to put my own character’s name on the paper and he might read that shit out loud. So I’ll just say I think Andy’s character did it because he was acting the most suspicious, and write “Geld?” (money) for the motive. I put down Sue for best costume and Penni for best performance.

Tom has slipped away now. Amanda is sitting across from me in a drunken stupor, apparently having had far more Sekt than I realized, and perhaps a few extra shots I wasn’t aware of. I’m babbling about Petra and beauty and all that shit I’ve been thinking about, knowing Amanda isn’t listening. She occasionally looks up at me and I keep talking to her. “It’s like talking to a goddamned cat,” I say. “They can be looking right at you and you know there’s some kind of consciousness going on but they don’t comprehend what you’re saying at all and you know they’re going to forget in a few minutes anyway.” So it’s really nice to be able to vent about my bullshit sexual frustrations to her like that.

Well, the votes have been tabulated and it’s finally time to reveal who done it. It turns out everyone was wrong. It was Shauna, a.k.a. Mary Lovely, who had just been sitting here interrogating me a few minutes ago. She apparently played the game very well and cast suspicion away from herself so nobody guessed it was her and she therefore won a little plastic trophy. The best costume winner went to somebody I didn’t think deserved it and she got a little plastic trophy too. And the best actor award (a plastic trophy shaped like an Oscar) went to the French guy who apparently wasn’t really French and whom I guess didn’t really hate America.

Well, thank God that’s over. Looks like Petra is going home. She’s saying goodbye to Frank. I think I’ll just blatantly stare directly at her because I’ve been doing that for quite awhile anyway and no one seems to have noticed so why quit now? And there she goes out the door and out of my life forever. Unless for some reason I’m still living in Hannover next December, I’ll never see her again. Fine by me.

Now what to do about Amanda? She’s clearly in a bad state—about as drunk as I was last Friday at the “Jesus Loves Vodka” party. Sue says we should take her home and I agree to help. She brings the car around as the Planeo secretaries Michaela and Susanne come and try to revive her from her stupor without much success.

Okay, Amanda, it’s time to get up and go. No sign of consciousness behind those eyes. No sense that she’s even capable of standing on her own. So I’ll take her by one arm and you take the other and we’ll carry her into the lobby. “Is this your coat?” No response, but she takes it. “Is this your bag? Are these your keys?” I guess they are.

Okay, let’s go now. “No,” now she speaks. “I don’t want to go I want to stay here for awhile.” Well, we really have to go. Come on, let’s just go outside, okay?

Crazy. We manage to get her inside and stumble over to Sue’s SUV. Somehow, we get her in the passenger seat and Susanne and I get in the back. We wave goodbye to Frank and the others still at the party and Sue drives away.

Amanda starts to protest in German. “Nein, ich will nicht…ich will nicht…” I don’t want to I don’t want to. She fumbles around for the door handle. “Lass mich raus.” Let me out. “Lass mich fuckin’ raus.” No Amanda, we can’t let you out. We’re in a moving vehicle. But we’ll be home soon.

We’re stopped at a traffic light now and she gets the door open. Susanne laughs and pulls the door closed. Lass mich fucking raus.

Nein, wir können dass nicht. Aber wir sind bald zu Hause. Nur ein paar minuten. Ein paar minuten. “Don’t worry Amanda, you’re almost home.” She looks in my eyes and for the first time seems to comprehend me. Apparently it’s better to use English.

She no longer tries to abandon the moving vehicle as we drive to her flat. We get her out of the car and bring her to the door of her apartment. “Okay, go home,” she tells us. “Get the fuck out of here.”

“We’re not going anywhere until we get you upstairs and into bed.” Indeed she hardly seems capable of climbing up the stairs on her own but she continues to protest. We insist on helping her, however, and we get the door open and follow closely behind her as she stumbles up the stairs, ready to catch her if she falls backwards.

Into her apartment, she walks straight to the couch and starts to turn the computer on. “Okay, you guys go now.” No, not yet.

I find a cup and pour some water for her. “Drink some water, it’s very good,” I say, but somehow it comes out as, “Water drinking very good.”

She chuckles and starts to drink. “Water drinking very good. Water drinking very good.”

Where’s her bag? I gave her bag to her when we got out of the car but now I don’t see it. Shit, there goes Sue to go look for it.

“You lost my bag?” says Amanda. “You lost my fucking bag? Fuck you!”

I go out to look for it too but it’s nowhere between the building and Sue’s car. Sue is searching her car but I tell her it couldn’t possibly be in there and it’s probably back in the flat. I go back upstairs and look around for a second, then spot the bag and hand it to Amanda. Sue returns and I apologize for being an idiot but she says she just needs the exercise. Yeah, she probably secretly hates me after I bad-mouthed her crappy party idea.

We get Amanda to lay down, Susanne covers her in a blanket, and she passes out. But we can’t be sure she’s really passed out so we wait outside her building for another few minutes, listening for signs of life. When it’s clear she must have genuinely passed out, we leave and get back in Sue’s car. Well, that was a fun little experience. A lot more fun than the crime-dinner anyway. I’ve never tended to a drunk person like that. I’m usually the super-drunk one being tended to.

Sue drops Susanne off at the nearest tram station and I offer to get out there as well, but because I live right around the corner she offers to take me the rest of the way. I tell her I’m usually just as drunk as the drunkest person at the party. She says she thought I was heading in that direction too, but to her surprise I seem to have sobered up. I certainly feel sober. Nothing like a much drunker person to make you feel sober.

“You can drop me off right here in front of the Pfannkuchen Haus” I tell her, and she does. We wish each other a good night and she drives off as I go back to my apartment.

Hey, it’s only quarter to one. Seeing as how I’m so fucking sober, how about drinking one last beer and listening to some music just as I’d do on a normal Friday? So I do that, and enjoy that more than the crime-dinner as well. Seriously, what an awful party. Even with unlimited free alcohol it sucked. So much sitting there listening to the inspector go on and on like that. Not having a real conversation with any of my colleagues but instead talking about this bullshit pretend-murder. I mean, I expected it to suck but I also kind of expected it to not be as bad as I expected. But it was.

Still, it was an interesting evening. And now I’ve got Petra’s lovely face burned in my mind from all that staring. What’s this? As the music is playing I almost feel like I’m feeling some kind of emotion here…wait, no…it’s gone now.

Okay, music’s over. Now I’m quite ready to pass out. I’ll just chug a few glasses of water, put some music on at low volume, and crawl back under the covers. Right back where I started when this extremely long day began.

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.

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.

Frankfurt Postponed

June 26th, 2009 No comments

On Wednesday I had two lessons that I normally have on Tuesday. The first was with Frau Suhr, who was happy to spend the entire lesson talking about Iran. I got clarification from her that when she had said that she believed the uprising was caused by Western influence, she didn’t mean covert work on the part of the CIA or anything, but simply the fact that the protesters have been encouraged by Western media, which I suppose is true. My next lesson was with Frau Eggers, which went perfectly fine but she told me she was a little bit sick, which may have set something off in my brain because later on that day I started to feel sick myself.

But immediately after that lesson I headed back to the Planeo office to pick up some money for my monthly train ticket to Helmstedt, and I ran into Amanda who was there finishing up her last lesson before the big vacation. So I got to say my goodbyes to her, although it wasn’t nearly the same as it was with Alan whom I’ll probably never see again. Amanda will be returning to Hannover about the same time Kris will be arriving. Dammit, I just can’t write Kris. To me, Kris is a totally different kid I knew in high school. Sorry, but for the purposes of this journal it’s just going to have to remain Krissi.

On my way back home from the office I always pass right in front of the big Rathaus, a place I’ve been meaning to go inside and check out for…about as long as I’ve been here I guess. I was in no big hurry and it was a really nice day, so I figured it would be as good a time as any to pop in and head up to the observation deck for an aerial view of Hannover. When you walk into the lobby, there are four different models of the town of Hannover—one from when it was still just the Old City in the 17th century, another from 1939, another from 1945 when everything was bombed out and destroyed, and finally one from the present day. That in itself was cool enough, but the real reason I went in was for the observation deck.

I had to pay €2.50 to go up but that was a relatively decent price for that kind of thing (it’s €10 to get up to the highest point in Berlin), then I took the elevator to the top floor and had to wait for awhile to take the next elevator which went all the way up the central shaft to the top of the tower, as they only let 5 people go at a time. It was sunny when I went inside the building but in the short time it took me to get to the top, the sky had filled with clouds. Of course, the view was still pretty spectacular, and it was really weird to see all of these places I’m already so familiar with from way up high. You could see the entire Maschsee from one side, and even a bit of the Georgengarten from the other. And of course all of the church steeples and big buildings that I’ve seen thousands of time from the street look completely different from up there. All in all the main impression I got was that Hannover is much smaller than I’d pictured. I barely had to turn my head to look from the church near my apartment to the Hauptbahnhof, which is about a 15-minute walk. At any rate, it was really cool and I’m glad I finally did that.

But on the way home I started to feel a little phlegm in the back of my throat and for the rest of the night I felt progressively shittier, worried that I’d caught whatever Frau Eggers had and that I’d be sick over the weekend, which would really suck because I was supposed to go to Frankfurt this weekend.

After forcing myself to get a good night’s sleep I woke up the next morning still feeling shitty. I knew I’d have to make a decision about my Frankfurt trip based on whether I thought I was getting worse or if it was just going to go away the next day. During my first lesson in Helmstedt I asked the students about the Deutsche Bahn’s policy of changing the day of your ticket, and learned that you usually can but it costs €15.

Incidentally, I spent the rest of that lesson talking about Iran as well. Andreas said he’s normally not interested in what’s going on in the Middle East but he’s been paying attention to this. He brought up the Neda video, whom Christine, the other person there, had also seen, though neither of them remembered her name. I basically said to them everything I’ve been saying on my blog, and they seem to feel the same way about it as I do—that things there will probably be very bad for a long time but the whole new media aspect of is an encouraging sign of changing times.

Before beginning my lesson with the apprentices I always have at least 45 minutes of free time, which I used to answer an e-mail from Krissi who expressed her doubts and second thoughts about coming. So it’s not completely certain that she’ll go through with it, but I gave her reassurances and I think that when all is said and done she won’t forego the opportunity to come out here and travel. But just because she’s got a ticket doesn’t mean there’s any guarantee.

I found out from my students that since most of them were going on vacation it was decided to cancel all lessons with them for the month of July. That pissed me off because that’s a lot of money I won’t be making, but later that day I realised I could partially remedy the problem. Since I’m substituting for Robert 3 out of the 4 weeks in July and the original plan was to combine one of his courses on Thursday with one of mine, we might just be able to split those courses up and I’ll teach his when I would normally be teaching the apprentices. This morning I asked one of the Planeo secretaries if that was possible and she thought it was a great idea—perhaps because it also means more money for Planeo.

I had another pub quiz for the apprentices this week and they enjoyed it as usual. I included a bunch of Iran questions, and was pleasantly surprised to see that even the German youth who normally don’t know or care about politics have been following the story. They all knew the names of Ahmedenijad, Mousavi, and Khamenei (though none of them could spell them correctly) and while only a few weeks ago one of the quiz questions had been “What is the capital of Iran?” and none of them knew, this time they all got it right. Just for good measure I asked them about the name of the prison Obama is trying to close, and got confirmation that even German youth who don’t follow politics know about Guantanamo (though one group quite amusingly spelled it Quantana Mo).

One of the weirdest things about teaching is that your mind enters a heightened state of alertness, so you’re not really paying much attention to yourself and how your body is feeling. So I didn’t feel sick at all during the lesson, but on the train ride home I began to feel quite shitty again. I’d sent Claudia from Frankfurt an e-mail before my lesson telling her I was considering not coming, and when I returned to my apartment I found she had replied telling me I shouldn’t travel if I wasn’t feeling well and the next best time for me to come would be the 24th of July. So I figured I’d play it safe, and I went back to the Hauptbahnhof and coughed up €15 to change my ticket.

Of course, that night I started to feel much better, and this morning while I definitely don’t feel perfectly healthy I’m certainly far from anything I’d describe as genuinely sick. I probably could have gone to Frankfurt this weekend and been just fine, but I’m actually not too upset about it. I could really use this weekend to myself anyway to get a bunch of things done, including seriously figuring out my financial situation and putting together a real concrete game-plan for how to make it through the summer with enough money to travel in the Fall. Plus, the weather appears to be kind of shitty anyway so perhaps it’ll be better to take a chance on a different weekend.

If “neutral” is a mood, that’s the mood I’m in right now. Yesterday I was really pissed about the horrible timing of getting sick when I’d been looking forward to going back to Frankfurt for so long. But now I’m glad I’ve got all this extra time to do other things.

German Politics

May 25th, 2009 No comments

As opposed to last week, this week has been very busy, with five days of work in a row starting on Tuesday and ending tomorrow on Saturday with my 3-hour Mr. Bokeloh lesson. I just got back from my awful Friday lessons, and the last thing I feel like doing now is writing anything, but there are a few things I learned from my students this week that I would be remiss not to record.

On Wednesday I had my first lesson in about a month with Frau Suhr, the big-time controlling department executive at E.ON, and I read through an article with her from the Economist, an article Alan had told me about that criticizes E.ON for Germany’s high and ever-rising energy prices. The author of the article accuses E.ON of fixing prices by controlling the supply, of having a near monopoly over the German electrical infrastructure (E.ON and their top competitor RWE control nearly 80% of Germany’s power supply) and of squeezing their smaller competitors even harder through their control of the power-distribution network which other companies must pay them to use. It was interesting how Frau Suhr knocked down every argument in the article, and fun to see how much pleasure she took in doing so. Apparently electricity prices keep rising not because of any shenanigans on E.ON’s part but because the government keeps imposing higher and higher taxes on the company—not just on the carbon they pollute but on the actual earnings of their employees. In order to stay profitable E.ON and other energy companies have no choice but to raise prices, which they wouldn’t have to do if not for all the political points the politicians can score by taking on the evil energy industry. The power distribution grid, she agreed, gave E.ON an advantage over competitors, but apparently they’ve been trying to sell it since January 2008 and so far nobody has been interested in buying it. And although only two companies control 80% of Germany’s energy, in countries like France and Italy there’s only one company in control and their prices are much higher. Frau Suhr expressed great frustration over the media’s blatant bias and omission of important facts.

It was interesting to hear, as I would have simply taken it for granted that E.ON is an evil corporation that’s raising prices simply to fatten the wallets of its top executives. Sure, Frau Suhr has her own bias, but she has no reason to mislead me and the points she made were quite logical. Apparently the government is much more to blame for the high cost of energy than the energy companies, but the public only hears the government’s side of the story and naturally they shift all the blame to the industry. It makes me wonder if I’ve been wrong about American corporations too, but I’m pretty sure it’s different here where the balance of power between government and big business is not as drastically on the side of big business.

At my first lesson on Thursday, the group with which I normally have good political discussions, only one student showed up but we ended up having a really interesting discussion anyway. It was a woman named Susanne who was born in France but who has lived in Germany for most of her life. We started off talking about an article I brought in by Arianna Huffington, talking about how although everybody is still calling for reform of the financial system it doesn’t look like any real reform is going to take place. But the conversation drifted far and wide and soon enough I was learning more about the German political system than I ever have before. I already knew that unlike in the U.S. where people vote directly for a candidate (or at least for electors who are pledged to vote for a candidate), in Germany they vote for a party, and the party then chooses their leader. The Germans basically know who the chancellor will be for each party, but the idea is for them to vote for the party platform rather than a particular person, the idea being to keep personality politics out of the game as much as possible, considering how well it went with Hitler.

There are more than two parties in Germany but the big two are the CDU and the SPD. Angela Merkel, a very popular chancellor even today, is from the CDU, and most people I’ve talked to agree that having the CDU in power is better for E.ON. The CDU is generally the more conservative of the two parties, but a lot of the governing depends on the strength of the other parties in parliament. For instance, because the Green party was heavily represented over the last few years, the CDU had to work with them in order to get any legislation passed, so as a result the government decided to completely phase out nuclear power by a certain date, I think about 2030 or something. Never mind the fact that there is no alternative source of energy that can keep the German infrastructure operating beyond that date—the Green party is opposed to nuclear power so to get anything done the CDU had to acquiesce, in spite of the inevitable energy crisis their decisions are inviting.

In any case, Susanne said she normally votes for the SPD but she didn’t know who to vote for this time. She said she likes Merkel because when Merkel came into office she was very strong and clear in her positions, but now she’s softened her positions a lot and it’s hard to tell where she stands anymore. I asked Susanne what the big issues were in the upcoming election and what the main differences were between the parties, but apparently that’s also a lot less clear than in U.S. elections. Apparently you can’t quite point to a clear division of ideology between the parties, it’s just that each party has its own specific plans for how to deal with certain issues and the people are supposed to vote for which ever party they think has the better plan. It’s nothing at all like in the U.S. where if you’re opposed to war, sympathetic to gays, and in favour of a woman’s right to choose you vote democrat and if you love war, hate gays and taxes, and think abortion is murder, you vote republican. Things are a lot more subtle with the German system. For instance, both parties say something must be done about the financial crisis, but it’s not like one party is calling for bailouts and more regulation while the other is calling for a spending freeze and more deregulation. Each party has a plan, and the differences between the plans are basically minor details.

One of the issues that’s always touted as extremely important is education. Each party always has a plan for reforming the German educational system, which everyone agrees needs reform, but no plan has ever had a real effect because it’s all just cosmetics and window dressing. What Germany needs is a fundamental overhaul of its education system, as the percentage of uneducated adults in the population is rising quickly. The common vision of both parties is to move Germany from a production society to a leader in science and research. But as so few people actually complete a higher education, that goal is completely unrealistic. Susanne was saying that with the recent boom in the Turkish population things are getting even worse, as many Muslims refuse to put their kids through the Western education system, and as a result you’ve got this huge and growing demographic of uneducated Muslims with no skills to speak of other than basic labour—and Germany already has plenty of uneducated labourers.

Susanne went on at length about the “kids these days” and while half of me felt inclined to dismiss it as the kind of thing that every older generation says about the “spoiled” younger generation, I couldn’t help but think she had a point. I’ve only rarely had a good intelligent conversation with a young German, and to take my class of apprentices as a representation of the German youth I could easily see what her fear was. Every so often I give them a “pub quiz” in which a lot of the questions have to do with science or history and it’s quite often that nobody in the class knows the answer to even a basic question. And these are the smart ones who actually are going through higher education. But Susanne pointed out that in the German system, once you get to the high school level you can either continue on the academic path or simply choose to go to technical school and become a labourer, which many do. Furthermore, you can go through university taking as few classes at a time as you want, so student often bide their time, taking sometimes as much as 10 or more years to get a degree. In contrast with France, student not only attend school from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. six days a week (with a break on Wednesday afternoon—but I still think that’s excessive) but they finish high school at 15 or 16, and are often finished with college and ready to join the workforce at just 20 years old. There have been proposals to send German kids to school for at least a comparable amount of time (like say…9 to 5 for five days a week) but the parents protest that it’s too much for the kids and no serious changes are ever made.

Meanwhile, unemployment is rising while the number of educated, skilled workers is dropping. One of E.ON’s subsidiaries in Brandenburg, for instance, has been looking to hire people for years but even with millions of unemployed Germans they still haven’t found enough qualified people to fill those positions. The system badly needs reform, but nobody is willing to seriously reform it. Susanne is very worried that the basic societal and economic strength of Germany that it has enjoyed since the 50s is slipping away and may be nothing more than a memory once the younger generation, this generation of spoiled brats who know all there is to know about pop music but nothing at all about science or history, takes control of the state. And while part of me still thinks that every generation must feel the same way about the generation following it, a part of me does think that this is a legitimate worry. After all, as the eastern countries continue to get serious about education while the western countries get less and less serious, major global balance of power shifts seem completely inevitable. And as awful as Western civilization may be, it’s not like Eastern civilization (namely China) is much better.

Anyway, after that class I had my lesson with the apprentices, in which I just happened to have another pub quiz prepared for the end of class. While the students did about as well as usual on the general knowledge questions, I thought I’d be making it easier for them by making the second half of the quiz completely about entertainment. There were seven questions where I just gave movie quotes and asked for the title of the movie, and seven questions with quotes from lyrics of songs from the 90s, which I thought would be easy as hell for them. But shockingly they all did terrible. The movie quotes I could understand because all their movies are dubbed into German. The only ones anyone knew were “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse” and “Life is like a box of chocolates.” Absolutely no one had a clue about “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” or “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine” although they had at least heard of the films those quotes are from.

But what really shocked me was the music round. I figured these kids grew up in the 90s like me so they would have heard these songs a million times, like “One Headlight” by the Wallflowers or “Ants Marching” by the Dave Matthews Band. But the only one anyone got was “Come as you Are” by Nirvana. What flabbergasted me was that nobody got “Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage.” I could hardly contain my disbelief when I was going over the answers with them. “You mean to tell me that none of you have ever heard of the Smashing Pumpkins?! Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness? One of the greatest albums of the 1990s?! What the hell were you listening to all those years!!?” Apparently they were listening to shitty euro-pop the whole time. Before leaving class I let them know they’d all been deprived, and that there was a serious hole in their lives where bands like the Smashing Pumpkins should be.

So that obviously made me more inclined to agree with Susanne. I don’t know what’s going to become of this country when the euro-pop generation takes over, but it doesn’t look very promising.

Up and Down and Up [parts 2 and 3]

April 18th, 2009 No comments

The events of the last three days warrant a detailed recollection, so I’ll split this entry into three parts. [the first must be kept private]


Unfortunately, the soaring mood of Wednesday was to give way to the come-down of Thursday. I would have two classes in Helmstedt, then return to have to go to a Planeo teacher’s meeting. It would be a long day and I wouldn’t be able to have any time to myself, particularly as I knew Frank would be inviting us out for drinks after the meeting and I felt obliged to go along. And yet all I wanted to do after that time in Ichenheim was spend a nice long night alone back in the comfort of isolation.

The first class actually went very well. I had a brief article about how consciousness may affect reality and there was some interesting philosophical discussion among these advanced students, but I didn’t put them through that for long (it was something of an experiment on my part to see how philosophical I could get with them) and then I had some jokes for them which they really liked and appreciated. Finally, I ended with a few questions from a list of conversation-starters I’d found online. Some interesting discussion came out of the third question: “If you had to live in another country, which country would you choose and why?” None of them wanted to live in another country. I had to frame the question as, “If the Polizei came to your door tomorrow and said you had to leave the country by the end of the day but they’d send you wherever you wanted to go, where would you choose?” Still, there was no definitive answer. A lawyer-woman, Chritine, chose England because she’d been an exchange student their and “loves the English accent”, but neither Andreas nor Monika could pick one.

They asked me what my answer would be, and I explained that I’m currently experimenting to figure out which country I’d most like to live in. They asked me if I liked living in Germany, and I answered that I at least liked it better than living in America. They asked me why, but I found I had a hard time explaining it. It’s just the whole atmosphere. I told them it was mostly that I didn’t like American culture, which is true. That led to a discussion of differences in culture between Germans and Americans, and the biggest difference in their minds was how much more connected people are in Germany. Friends are very close and they remain friends for life. I, on the other hand, have known hundreds if not thousands of people that I’ve casually referred to as “friends” at one point in my life or another and now I have regular contact with just one or two of them. A lot of that has to do with me personally, of course, but I think the culture of competition (which even manifests often as you vs. your friends) plays a big part as well. I also asked Andreas if young men in Germany constantly make fun of each other and say mean things about each other in a light-hearted way, and he had no idea what I was talking about. I tried to explain how boys are always fucking with their friends, something I always hated about them and about being a boy, but apparently this is unique to Americans. It’s possible that Andreas just didn’t have those kinds of friends, but I think there might be something more to it as well.

After that, things started to go downhill right at the beginning of my class with the apprentices. As per a suggestion from Frank, I’ve been trying to start every class with a Youtube clip related somehow to the topic of the day. We were going to get to a chapter in their textbook about Customer Service, so I searched for funny Customer Service videos before class began, and found a couple of things that weren’t very funny but it was all I could find in that small space of time. The class didn’t find them funny either, and one of them was just a guy losing his shit and cursing at the top of his lungs to a Dell customer service guy, which while it evoked some grins from a couple of the guys there, most of the girls had a look on their faces like “what the fuck is the point of this?” and I wished I hadn’t played it at all. I need to vet these clips a bit more carefully from now on. That set the tone for a pretty shitty class for the whole rest of the time, and I left in quite a sour mood, augmented by the fact that instead of returning to my apartment I now had to go to this meeting and possibly spend the rest of the day and night socialising with my boss and other teachers. I just wanted to be alone.

The meeting lasted an hour and was less painful than I’d imagined, though most of it was spoken in German so I understood less than I probably should have, but afterwards while most of them went out to go to a Biergarten and later to the Dublin Inn Quiz Night, I slipped out of there and went back home. I really wished I had been in the mood to hang out and drink with my colleagues, as that probably would have been quite fun and interesting, but I was far from any kind of frame-of-mind where I wanted to deal with other people. I had been making a painstaking effort to hide my anguish throughout the meeting, amiably greeting those other teachers I haven’t seen in awhile and pretending I wasn’t in a totally horrible mood. So I got out of there and went home, where I let myself relax and fill my mind with politics from clips of Keith Olbermann’s and Rachel Maddow’s shows from, a guilty pleasure which I’ve been indulging in nearly every night since before the election. I was quite comfortable, but still disappointed in myself for having not had it in me to stay with the party.


But having not stayed with the party, I avoided drinking Thursday night, which allowed me to wake up nice and fresh at 7:00 on Friday morning, after a very bizarre dream that not only included such random people from high school but which actually had Rachel Maddow cast as my English teacher. I might as well confess right now that I have an affinity for Rachel Maddow far beyond the level of affinity a normal person would have for a TV personality. She’s just so likable and reminds me of some friends I had, and I could so easily picture myself hanging out and shooting the shit with her (and her friend Kent Jones) all day. I thought for awhile I might be developing a lesbian-crush on her, but I’m just not physically attracted to her and it’s really just a mental thing. The fact that I live a fairly isolated life yet I see her everyday provides the illusion that she’s a friend of mine, and it’s kind of unsettling to me just how much I like her when she is completely unaware of my existence. But I can’t think of anybody else I’ve ever known from TV that I had this strong a desire to be friends with. Anyway, I digress.

One of the disadvantages of having snuck away from the Planeo people the night before was not getting the money from Frank I needed for the monthly train-ticket to Helmstedt. I’d bought a single ticket the day before and at the meeting Frank told me not to do that again because it costs the company more money then they need to spend on transportation for their teachers. But since the office opens at 8:00 and my train leaves at 8:36 there wasn’t enough time for me to get the money, buy the ticket, and get on the train before it left. So I had to take out just about all the money from my German bank account to cover the ticket, which I called Planeo to make sure I could reimburse myself for later on. I also took just about all the money left in my American bank account so I’d be able to pay the security deposit on my new apartment when I met with Herr Wolter later on.

My classes in Helmstedt were un-noteworthy, and before I knew it I was back in Hannover where I went back to the Planeo office to pick up the money, chat with the secretaries for a minute, then head home, stopping at the supermarket along the way to pick up the bare necessities I’d need for the weekend: orange juice, milk, cereal, and beer. I got home with just a few minutes before I had to hop back on the tram to ride to Wettbergen at the southern-extreme of Hannover and walk another fifteen minutes from there to the office of Herr Wolter. I filled out the contract and he explained a few things to me in German that I half-understood, and I paid him the 600 Euros deposit and thus acquired the keys (including the mailbox key!!) to my new apartment. I’ll be meeting him there on Monday at noon so he can show me a few things about the place and I can ask him any questions I need to. But if I wanted to I could move there right now.

So I walked out of there feeling really quite good, as it was now for the first time completely official that I’ll be moving next month. Instead of 600 Euros per month, I’ll be paying about 265. Even if I don’t get any additional work over the next year, I’ll be making enough to live and save up. For the first time since coming to Germany, I will be truly financially secure.

When I got back home (not “home” for much longer) I tried calling the landlady to confirm with her that I’d be moving out, but she’s apparently still on vacation because her phone was off. So I called the number she’d given me for her nephew Sorush (whom I know quite well from the pictures on the bedroom wall) and told him to give her the news, which was easier for me to explain in German than I thought it would be. And that made it feel even more official.

Following that I went out for a run, the first since returning from Ichenheim, and had a damn fine time of it. I’d noticed when I returned that everything was a lot greener than when I’d left. Springtime just exploded into Hannover while I was gone, and trees that had only been beginning to blossom the last time I went on my run were now completely covered with light-green leaves, making for what felt like an absolutely stunning change of scenery. I’d been running through these places in Winter for so long that I’d forgotten just how truly beautiful they are.

Tonight I’m going to try and go out for some drinks (in spite of my temporarily broke status there’s always enough money from some drinks) with Alan and hopefully some others. As much as I love isolation, like everything else it must be practiced in moderation.

Walking Paradox

April 3rd, 2009 No comments

I am a walking paradox. I’ve enjoyed almost every second of this past week, up to and including right now, and yet I’m so angry and miserable I just want to die a violent death and be done with it. I don’t understand how I can live like this. Nothing about me makes sense. I’m always lonely but I prefer being alone. I desperately want the love of a beautiful girl more than anything else but I don’t think it’s worth it to try and find it. The sick and twisted shit that turns me on sexually is the stuff that most disturbs and horrifies me emotionally. And right now the sun is shining, it’s as warm as a summer day, I just got back from a furious run that felt fantastic, I’m looking forward to another fun Friday night full of light drinking and smoking and listening to music, and yet all I want is to fucking die.

Yesterday I woke up and the first thing I did was check my e-mail. Maybe Krissi wrote me back, as the last time I heard from her was the previous Thursday. Instead there’s an e-mail from my Dad saying I owe about $100 to NJ for my taxes, and an e-mail from Planeo asking me to do substitutions in Helmstedt next week on the days that I would otherwise have off. So that immediately put me in a sour mood that lasted all morning. My classes went okay, and when all that was over I was feeling just a little bit better. When I got back home the sun was setting, and I sat out on my balcony and listened to a few slow, chill Zeppelin tunes and I suddenly felt on top of the world. I have an amazing view of the sunset from this apartment, which I appropriately discovered only now that I’m only going to be here for one more month.

There was no Quiz Night yesterday as Alan and Amanda are going to Romania until Easter. Not that I would have been able to afford it, but it did put me off just a little that nobody told me. I only found out when I called Alan to ask him about the quiz and he said their plane was taking off in a half hour. Fuck, man. I would kill a few babies for the chance to go to Romania. Not really, of course. All I actually had to do was work more and not live in this overpriced apartment. I’ve been slacking for months, so as a result I don’t get to travel. That’s the trade-off. I don’t work a lot, so I spend all my free time in one place. Hopefully I’ll be changing that pretty soon.

Today I rolled out of bed and headed to my beginner lessons in Helmstedt. Only one person showed up to each class, and I was out of there at 12:15. As I waited for the train on the ride home, some ridiculously beautiful girl was standing very close to me. When I tried to steal a glance at her face I found her looking right back at me, so I did the only thing I could think to do: toss on my I-pod and ignore her while simultaneously imagining all kinds of things I could say to her but wouldn’t. How am I even supposed to feel in that situation? On the one hand if I don’t say anything I’m a pussy, but on the other hand if I do say something I might be a pedophile. She might have been 19 or 20, but she also might have been 15 or 16. It’s so hard to tell, so I think the best policy is just to not say anything. Not that anything would or could have come from it if I did. On the first leg of the ride back to Hannover she sat right across from me, thus prolonging the torture until we reached Braunschweig, and I was relieved to see that she wasn’t getting on the train to Hannover with me, so we don’t live in the same town anyway so there was nothing the least bit feasible about a possible…anything.

Back in Hannover I had to get from the train station to the supermarket to stock up on food and beer for the weekend, and I found myself assaulted on all sides by beautiful girls I couldn’t have. Everywhere I turned there was an incredible face, a sexy pair of legs, or at least a juicy ass. I didn’t even bother letting myself start with the imaginary scenarios of approaching them. I just accepted they weren’t mine, that it’s probably for the best because I sure as shit know in my heart of hearts that I don’t deserve any of them. The overall karma of the universe is best served by my being alone, so I’m just going to have to face the unquenchable desire and suck on it. All that anger and frustration…I deserve it. So I’ll suck on it.

And the ironic thing is that I enjoy sucking on it too. This über-strong longing for sex or death (not sure which I’d prefer) actually feels really good and I recognise that. The whole self-loathing thing is really just a form of self-indulgence. And oh how I loathe myself for indulging in the pleasure of self-loathing. It’s a vicious cycle, really. But the fact remains that I’ve never done one single meaningful goddamn thing for anybody else on the planet, that I’m the most self-absorbed bastard I know, and I just don’t deserve anything better. Not that I think most of the guys who have the love of a beautiful girl deserve what they have either, but I know I don’t deserve it so at least I can feel right about not having it.

After walking home along a sexy-girl-littered path from the supermarket I went ahead and engaged in the most blatantly self-indulgent activity I do, shaved myself, then tried to take a little power-nap before going jogging. Of course after five minutes the people who live in the apartment next to me decided that would be a great time to start blasting their extremely shitty pop music at top volume, which only raised the rage level even higher, to the point where lying down peacefully was just no longer possible. So I made up a running playlist on my I-pod of songs that were up-beat and fast (to match the weather) but contained an undercurrent of anger (to match my mood).

And what a run! It being the warmest day of the year so far, and a Friday to boot, every German youth in town was out there on my running path, sitting along the river and sunbathing out in the parks. Naturally, I saw more sexy girls on my run than I had all day up until that point combined, and that’s saying a lot. But the music matched my mood perfectly and all flashes of desire and frustration only made me pick up the pace. I finished the run much faster than usual, took off my drenched-in-sweat clothes, cooled down, and decided to write a journal entry documenting how I feel right now so that I can read it over and over again at various points throughout the rest of my life and remember what an angry fucking loser I used to be and in all likelihood still am. So fuck you, future me. I hope you’re enjoying your anger and misery every bit as much as you were back at the moment you wrote this, you walking fucking paradox.

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A [Mostly] Good Week

March 27th, 2009 No comments

It’s Friday afternoon and I just got back from a good 40-minute jog as I’ve been doing about five days a week for almost two months now. I’m not in any kind of mood at all, good or bad, but looking back on the week I can see that (except for one little thing I can’t speak of) it’s been an exceptionally good one.

On Monday I finally found the apartment I’ll be moving to. It’s about a five minute walk from where I am now, so I won’t have to give up any of the benefits of this location. It’s not furnished, but rent is less than half of what it is here so once I buy all the necessary crap I’ll be saving a ton of money. The only catch is that I had to sign a 12-month lease. I’m not exactly sure what the terms are but I’d probably have to pay a substantial penalty if I decided to stick with my plan of leaving for Japan in the Fall. But I did some thinking and I feel like it might actually be a good idea to just stick it out for another year and save up some money now that I’m finally going to be in a position where I’ll be able to save money. Between the reduced rent, the substitution gig at the International School, and possibly a few more English lessons from another language school I applied to and just heard back from called the Wall Street Institute, I should start doing pretty well. It just doesn’t seem right somehow that I move to Germany and spend over half the time just working my way out of the debt I accumulated from moving here. I haven’t made any firm decisions as of yet, but I’m leaning towards staying. The only real factor that would make me want to leave is this climate. After a year and a half of perpetually sunny Santa Barbara I haven’t minded the perpetually overcast and drizzly Hannover, but I’m not too excited about the prospect of another 8-month long winter.

I felt pretty good on Monday night until something came along and massively fucked with my brain. I can’t go into the details in this journal entry, but I dealt with it on Tuesday and wrote about it extensively on Wednesday in a separate document which I’ll probably end up posting on the web-site in spite of my better judgment. But that was the one dark blotch on the week.

Yesterday was a fantastic day. I woke up to be greeted by an e-mail from Krissi, who is apparently entertaining the idea of leaving San Diego in the Fall to do some world-travelling with me. Pessimist that I am, I doubt that it’ll really happen, but it’s nice that she’s even considering the possibility. So that immediately put me in a good mood that lasted the rest of the day.

For the first of my classes in Helmstedt, the really advanced one, we just went through an 18-page article from Rolling Stone written by Matt Taibbi about the financial crisis and how bankers have basically taken over the American government. Apparently their too-big-to-fail status means that even when they go bankrupt the government has to keep them afloat. Meanwhile smaller financial institutions die out and all we’re left with are these giant mega-corporations that can basically dictate whatever terms they want to whomever they want, including the president of the United States. The people who ruined the economy are running things now, and there’s not a damn thing anybody can do about it. Anyway, it’s a great article and the students thought so too. It’s always a good feeling to know I got people thinking, especially when it’s about something important.

I was a bit nervous about my lesson with the apprentices, however, as on Tuesday afternoon I got an e-mail informing me that my boss Frank would be sitting in and observing me for that lesson. How utterly annoying. Can’t I just do my half-assed job in peace? Now I actually have to try really hard so he doesn’t think it was a mistake to hire me. Luckily, I was quite prepared and the lesson went really well. The students, not oblivious to the fact that I was being evaluated, seemed to want to help me out as much as possible. When Frank finally left, he mouthed “good job” to me and walked out the door, then we all breathed a sigh of relief, put the books away, and played Pictionary for the rest of the class.

And last night I went to Quiz Night again at the Dublin Inn. This time it was just me and Alan but we had some pleasant conversation. Apparently Frank had sat in on one of his classes that day as well, but unfortunately for him only one student showed up and it was someone who’d never been to class before so it was really quite uncomfortable (probably even moreso for the student). We did pretty well on the quiz for a team of just two, but we ended up losing. Fine by me, as I have to get up early Friday mornings and I have no desire for the free shots you get by winning. Unfortunately, they know us there, so losing didn’t matter. The really hot Polish waitress who works there, Magdalena, snuck two shots our way while she was passing them out to the winners. I didn’t ask for that, but thanks. When a hot waitress hands you a shot just because she likes you, of course you have to take it. I mean, come on. And then when we were just finishing up, the Irish-Catholic woman who runs the quiz, Debbie, came up to chat with us and offered us a shot of Jägermeister, which is only supposed to only be free for the winners but she likes us so that was that. Well, fuck. Okay then. So although we didn’t win the quiz we got the same treatment. Alan put it best when he said, “It just goes to show it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

All in all a very pleasant day. I paid for it this morning with a shitty feeling going into my classes, but it really wasn’t all that bad. I still felt the effects just a little bit when I got back home but apparently it wasn’t bad enough to prevent me from going for a run, although it was definitely more of a strain than usual.

And now I’m looking forward to a nice long weekend of isolation, relaxation, and a few other “-ations” that are a regular staple of my existence.