European Vignettes at the Converging Edge of Space and Time
Back in December I set up and supervised the post-apocalyptic oil drum fires at a movie screening on urban decay that the magazine where I was interning organized in an abandoned warehouse. As always happens at these kind of events, I found a certain girl there. She had oversized frames, rubber boots and a nondescript jacket that was obviously chosen with great care. My tall friend supplied the rum we needed to keep warm as the fires died out. As the girl got more drunk, she kept playing songs by Bonaparte (from Berlin, where else?) on her iPhone. That is how I got to know the song “Gigolo Vagabundo” by said band. Since then, I’m really trying to make it the soundtrack of my life.
This desire to live to the fullest under the postmodern condition, to live at the converging edge of time and space if you will, is why I’m now chilling on the balcony of the apartment where I’m renting a room in Munich, watching the sun set over the river Isar. It’s my fourth address so far this year. My official excuse to be here is that I’m doing a case study at a company for my BA thesis, but really I’m just trying hard to live the life of a 21st century nomad. It’s a fun life. I get to see things, meet people, think about stuff and experience lots of peculiar details that put different places and episodes in relation to each other.
Here in Munich it’s tricky though, because this city is so… functional, for lack of a better word. They even call it “Toy Town” because everything is so clean and runs so smoothly. Like, when I was in the English Garden the other day, thousands of people were chilling in the bleak spring sun. Nothing strange about that, but I got this feeling that they were all doing it with such an immense sense of purpose. Maybe you have no choice but to chill like that when unemployment is at 1 percent? Someone told me that, but it was after a few one liter pitchers at the Hofbräuhaus, so the figure is probably higher. The same dude, when sober, also told me about prostitution here. It is legalized and enjoys powerful police protection. The girls have to test themselves rigorously twice a month and if a customer asks for their test protocol they must present it. The final piece of the puzzle: the taxes imposed on this lucrative business add up to over 60 percent of the income.
The sex trade makes me think again of Amsterdam, where I lived last fall for my internship. Of course, the business there is much more in your face than in Munich. I stayed in the eastern the part of A*dam (Since Dutch is a ripoff of English, “ster” means star and can be conveniently replaced by the asterisk), which is officially named the Indian Ward. Not so many hookers around, but living there had another effect, relating to how places appear to merge. Living in the ethnically diverse East Amsterdam made me give up on supermarkets. I now get my groceries and veggies at the Turkish-ish neighborhood stores instead. They are way more consistent across countries, and often cheaper. Do I miss screaming ads in purple and orange offering me 3 for 2 vanilla, milky fudge, raspberry flavored yoghurt, now with an extra sting of strawberry cheesecake? Not really. Do I enjoy the surprise of finding out that my breakfast buns come baked with pockets of sour cheese? Yes, indeed.
Back to here and now on the balcony: I’m drinking my temporary flatmate’s bio-chai tonight, hypnotizing myself with Markus Haupt’s (from Leipzig, also famous for its street art) basslines and pondering this week’s investment decision: Is 13.40 euros a fair price for four hours in a German, meaning public, mixed and butt naked, jugend architecture style sauna from the year 1901? It probably is, objectively. Subjectively, are the Heidis (tall, sporty, yet curvy brunettes with a mysterious cream skin tone) I could peek at through the steam worth exposing myself to the Fritzs (short, round, mumbling men with hair in all the wrong places)? They are. I suspect the place will also be full of tourists and thus offer some cross-cultural ogling and comparison, which is always interesting. In addition, as a modest Euro-something-boy I don’t rate myself as someone other people would be too excited to look at, so the visit to the sauna is an easy win for me.
Oh, now I just discovered that a bus transfer to Czech Republic with Greyhound wannabe Eurolines is on sale for 9 euros. Absinth-powered weekend in Prague with my friend the Italian womanizer who breeds wolf dogs? Reminds me of that one time in that one place. I better get packing.
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If you’ve been looking for a chance to say something then this very well could be it.
I wish to God I’d had a list like this when I was 23.
Answer phones better than anyone else has answered phones before. Relay messages so brilliant, they bring people to tears. Turn the coffee run into the choreography of Swan Lake. Become best friends with every intern and every underling and every taxi driver you encounter.
I remember taking the pen and notebook from that woman outside the courtroom, flipping to a clean page in the book, and writing, JESSICA IS SAD in big, bold, uncoordinated letters. “My sister is going to be a good writer someday! Look at how nice her lines are!”