Do you ever have those brief moments of unusually heightened sensory awareness? Graffiti is more colorful, and more beautiful; the sound of boots hitting the concrete is crisper; faces are drawn with more emotion; the air is more tangible. Everything feels more There. It’s the opposite feeling of when your fingers are so dry that even the thought of touching a newspaper makes you cringe and clench your fists. It’s as if you’ve lotioned your hands, and you feel, with great relief, as if you could touch all of the newspapers in the world. That is the feeling. Your fingers are all of your senses, and the newspapers are Everything. I usually experience it after having spent a while reading, which is something I’ve been doing quite a bit in the past few days. Classes are out for the quarter and I have an entire week off before the start of my three-month internship.
The feeling happened just a little while ago when was sitting in the bakery on the ground floor of my new apartment house. I looked up from my book — and maybe it was because I had just spent all morning staring at text on pages, or maybe it was the caffeine, or the fact that it had just rained, or some combination of those factors — and the street, with its three small red cars, and the graffiti-covered walls of the houses across the street, and the moist air… it was all suddenly striking and present. I got up and took a walk around the neighborhood, partially to explore my new corner of Kreuzberg, partially to exploit this feeling of heightened awareness, this feeling of little big questions of recognition. Not pseudo-philosophical questions, just questions accompanying a mental reset of sorts, a sensory checklist. This is Berlin? This is humanity? This is a sidewalk, a canal, a dog without a leash, a chalkboard with daily specials? This is thinking? This is being? This is?
I passed a dimly lit café in which nearly everyone was young and hip and staring at MacBook, which wasn’t far from a brightly lit café in which nearly everyone was middle-aged and Turkish. As I passed the hipster coffee bar I simultaneously thought, “what a bunch of clichés” and “I should remember to come back here.” I passed a small daycare, which made me smile, because daycares here look like storefronts, with big windows through which you can see the kids playing. I imagined going up to the window and pretending to shop for a toddler. I came back to the bakery, ran upstairs to grab my camera, and took a picture of the graffiti-covered walls and rained-on cobblestone street and three red cars.
Here’s where I apologize for not having done a very good job of updating this blog during the past three months. I said I would, but clearly I didn’t. I was so distracted by school and so comfortable with living in the city that I forgot to take pictures and write about them. My classmates were much better at this than I was, especially Scott and Maren. Check out their photoblogs. Eventually (tomorrow? next month?) I’ll share photos and thoughts from this spring, from Italy to all over Berlin to Paris to Krakow to Auschwitz to Dresden to Essen to now and places and times in between. Until then.
Gneisenaustraße, my U-Bahn stop, less than a block from where I live, and about forty minutes from the Stanford Center in southwest Berlin but otherwise close to most things interesting. Including Mustafa’s.
A couple blocks away is Bergmannstraße, a lively street full of coffee shops and cute restaurants, including many actually open on Sunday (when most places are closed). There was also a flea market sort of thing today off of Bergmannstr., with many typical flea market things, and books!
A short walk away is Viktoriapark, on a hill atop which there’s a big iron monument to battles won against Napoleon. It has a great view of the entire city, a Biergarten, and some very Dolores Park-like grassy slopes when it’s sunny.
Alas, spring break has turned to spring broke, and my gelato tour of Italy has come to an end. We came to Rome (et vidimus, vicimus) and did as they do, if what Romans do is not know any Italian whatsoever. We saw David and that oh-so-charming city surrounding him and we accidentally ate lunch among Real Italians in the farmlands north of Venice. I’ll miss you, Rick Steves; and you, Grom; and definitely you, omnipresent €1,30 cappuccinos.
Jetzt lebe ich in Berlin, in a sprawling Kreuzberg flat full of books and warm colors and good smells. I’ve been in this city for under ten hours but I have a feeling we’ll get along. Here’s to six months of pretending to understand (the) German(s)!
“Benny at the Stoplight, Cicero, Illinois,” Danny Lyon, 1965–66.
“Three young men, Uptown, Chicago,” Danny Lyon, 1965.
“Racers, McHenry, Illinois,” Danny Lyon, 1963–66
Source: The Selvedge Yard
“As a four-year-old, Serra watched a tanker in a shipyard as it was rolled off of its cradle and the buoyancy of the vessel was a revelation: ‘All the raw material that I needed is contained in the reserve of this memory, which has become a recurring dream.’”
Through everything he does, the coyote demonstrates his utter indifference to the artistic allegory being constructed around him