Currently studying in southern germany



Garten Geschischte 30.11.12



Erstens Deutsch Geschichte

First German Letter

Ich lerne Deutsch noch.

an impromptu lesson on chord theory in the glassstrewn backyard of baby haus

That’s right. With Tino. Dark-eyed third of the soon-to-move Baby Haus kids. Scabby kids, self-described by other third David Allen. And Trevor, of course. Good kids all. Filthy scabby Inspirations.

Tino’s been wearing his now-collectible LaiLai shirt of four or five days I notice, sitting there on the thin edge of a two-by-four set rigid into the soil, one edge in a rectangular frame meant to hold a garden box (neglected, unless you go post-modern zen about the cigarette buts and broken bike parts) ((bikeguts)).  Noticed the LaiLai ’cause sometime last week was the last day for it, too. Found out while skimming the Book, searching for clues in the zombie-apocalypse of pre-summer session Tuscaloosa. Skimming and scanning for flashes of activity, so that I might shuffle through the wreckage and twisted scrap metal towards a nice peopled pocket and hang out. By which I mean, chomp some organmeat. Some things end; others never change. Like Tino’s teeshirt holding his caramel-colored torso along with days worth of sweat and hubris.

It was Thursday maybe, the last day of Lai Lai. It’s a local noodlehouse on The Strip, UA’s campus-closest public arena (assumedly. although it may be telling that the reason for LaiLai’s tragic untimely end is not to do with lack of student demand or  weak lo mein, but rather because the expired lease was not again extended for reuse. The Strip and other real estate flanking campus  seem to be being slowly usurped by the creeping colonial expansion of Empire Alabama). I had summer special spicy beef. Pointed to it with my index, piled in glorious heaps and mounds and glistening with capcaisin on the openfaced styrofoam box that serves as go-box as well as in-house finery. Being consumed by a contendedly glaze-eyed and face-sweating Asian man at one of the small tables inside. Gotta trust a local? Anyway, he looked happy. And it was delicious, naturlich.

That was Thursday the 12th, a week after returning to Tuscaloosa. Been sorting baby lotion and folding size fives pants for teeny girls. Doing my part in the retaliation against catastrophic Acts of Nature. Folding size fives, taking extras from the enormous pile of food for the volunteers at the behest of the Super, cause “it’s all just gonna go bad anyway, take what you like.” Odd, seems like a lesson and an Irony there somewhere. But nevermind. Today walked from near the breadfactory across Fifteenth Street into the residential grid leading to Forest Lake. Forest Lake is totaled. Walked along in the eerie emptiness, grasping at the scope of destruction. Gaping at eighty-foot oaks peeled open like bananas. What force of coiled wind.


The last Baby House show was all day and night on Friday the 13th. We walked up Tenth Avenue, past the fields of rubble that used to be Rosedale, picking our way through the tossed salad of metal and scrapwood until we made it to the tracks and East toward Hargrove. Walked along barefoot side by side on those twin polished rails. Concentrating and trying to break into a jog. Noticing severed bikechain lying about, robot intestines; metal medusa pasta. The surface of the metal underfoot gleaming clean and opaquely reflective like rocks on a shore where seals come. Polished dark and shiny by bellies of the beasts. Suspended in the concentration of that daydream, he forgets his imbalance and lopes effortlessly along the shiny, narrow footbridge.

Baby House loud all day. Was there for some of the earlier bands, during-daylight groups Hawn, David-Allison-Tino, Dale Petty the soft-spoken harmonica/banjo/acoustic guitar player better known in Europe and on his Voodoo-produced vinyl album. Copy of which I found on kitchen floor of BHouse the day afterwards, signed. Makes me wonder what’s around. Legit, legit acts punks and party that final Friday. Well received. Night was The Dead Balloons and Piss Shivers, eventually decomposing into a broken messy ruckus in the early morning, everyone playing something roughly and simultaneously. Beautiful Disaster.

Aching Sahid

Sit perched in the pocket at the peak of day. MIdday’s sun cast flat shadows like bullets and dimes. Lazy slowmotion maynas and mockers cart down on locked wings, running across the exposed red clay like tiny dinosaurs. This near a triple-lined barbed wire fence, across face of which half a post oak lies crumpling. Crushing weight. Tornado damage. Right here outside the shadespot. Whipped in gaping plowed alleyways through forest and residential alike in Eastern Tuscaloosa. Tuscaloosa latitude of Snow Hinton Park, the big urban roller.

Tells me I should write it down. The story this morning, the ramble really, that turned into explication of a dropped phrase, “lobster bobber.” She is becoming turned on, she laughs, reading the chapter on sexuality in D. Morris’ The Naked Ape. Not surprising, so did I. Encouraging, though. Naturlich.

Lobster bobbers are the old bobbing floaters attached by line to the trap itself resting testing on the seas bottom.  THe bottom of the sea. Out there in the night, luring massive aquatic crustaceans, hydropaulically powered waterbugs, to be retrieved later by the local fishermen who set said traps in first stance. Individuals in small personal boats of wood. Hunting lobster bobbers of hand-painted personal colors. Variations on band and stripe, groups and sets in contrasting bold colors, better to spot so.

Grackles grace the sultry flat midday light and alight, raucous and vocal in shadetree cover. Iridescence is most mesmerizing in smoky midday blaze. squirrels troll the remaining two arms of the previous postoak cluster, standing just opposite the fence. Near a young white oak, a middle-aged sugar maple. Sucklehoney vine covering and hiding hidden bramble bearing fruit, yet pink. Patience, a virtue.

Are you self-directed /or floating on the wind?/Self bearing and minding planned sight within,/ or never caring/ buddhist cultured /desires called as sins,/ the penitence, Remember when/ She turns and gives a glance/ from underfoot she’s lying happenchance cradled text in hand,/ reading bout the naked man and smiling at her chance/ to find the nature hard and actual relevance.

Practiced drums. Banged some drums real loud and fast and better and better in a room with Trevor. And David the French. Organ synth man. We’re getting time tense.

subtler jewelry dynamics

Gray has a photo-file archive of all the pieces in her shop. I’ve become the chief manager of these archives, which involves processing and labeling new pieces and adding them to the live inventory files. It also involves periodically cross-checking our sales books (Quick Books in this case) in order to relabel and transfer images of pieces sold to the sold books.

I enjoy the process. It’s one that can be quickly mastered, honed to a zipping mechanical perfection, like cooking or banjo. Like the Halal guys in the carts on the corners in midtown do, whipping lamb meat in pita up in a handful of perfectly-efficient seconds of prep, men simultaneously flurries of action and centers of zen peace. Look at their hands and you see a storm and a dance: blink and you’ll miss it. But look at their faces and you see perfect calm, comfortable confidence. Disinterest, even. Masters of their repetition.

Narration. A critical point of learning occurs this morning. This morning I am labeling a dozen new mounts and incomplete rings to be sorted into our production systems. The first several steps of our process are mine. Well, Gray makes the initial decision and purchase, makes the interaction with the vendor or hawker, agents both private and commercial. In the case where decision depends more on stones then on antiquity, she will confer with Ali. After that, I take over. It’s a somewhat tedious and mundane process to explain, but this epiphany came as a result of a new understanding of ring form and function. A realization on the dynamic of design and purpose.

Our rings get separated into wedding bands and engagement rings or mounts. This distinction is most apparent by examining a sampling of either group. As probably all women already know, and some more custom-savvy men, most engagement rings are designed to be a spectacle, to create a wow-factor. In terms of design this can mean an odd number of stones to create symmetry, or a  single ‘solitare’ stone of great size or quality, or any other ring that demonstrates real impression or emphasis. Obviously, this is because of the role of the engagement ring, to provoke a strong positive emotional response, both in the immediate sense and in the longer-sighted logical decision sense: holy shit! look at that stone!’ and then ‘wow, he really loves me and wants to commit to US this much”. Shock, and awe. Kinda brings Milton Friedman or Niomi Klein to mind, but that may just be cynical residual from learning recently about De Beers coup of the ritual. Another story.

Alternatively, a wedding band is typically uniform, symmetrical while creating  a subtler message: Commitment. Intent. Conscious long-sightedness (or so we hope). In structure, this is demonstrated by either a plain or simple hoop of gold or platinum (some heavy and precious metal, which carries it’s own obvious messages), a half hoop of uniform stones mounted on the upper side of a simple base, or what’s called an ‘infinity band’ which is a full circle of stones.

It’s this newfound, multidisciplinary distinction involving philosophy, design, and psychology. Craftsmen, lovers and culture.



Back on the train. Across the frozen expanse of Champlain, on the far shore (in Vermont, i suppose) there stand pairs of unpainted, worn brick buildings like warehouses from old. But built on the lake’s shore. And four stories skinny. Open gaping doors down towards the bottom, making faces over the layers of frozen precipitation. The ice lasagna. Thin crust.

Thick enough for trucks and snowmobiles and recently erected fishing shacks. Little squares way out in the sea of white. Tracks to and froma ll out  across and away, some sort of geometry to it all, i imagine, up at bird’s eye.

Pump, pump, pump of a blackredwhite craft;; Piliated, dipping same-speed and eye-level with me alongside the train’s car.

Something recently, been actually talking to folks. Wroking on my New Resolution. And guess, i’m learning a lot. Yesterday i went and had a huge conversation with the head baker at Potsdam’s CoOp. Guy started as a theatre major a decade ago, when they first ventured. Told me the Bakery’s whole story. Told me that holding major clients was the turning point in the business, that it give them reliable, consistent income.Like accounts with the local university’s food systems. Institutional scale. Seasonal, yet exactly so. Said they came to him. That the baking itself was the easier part, more and more that his job was becoming one of management, specifically the emotions of his staff. Laughed when i suggested the word, emotions.

The five of them, they built the oven, not much capital invested. Told me, the business broke even in five years, that now at ten it is more profitable than the CoOp that started it. Says that his experience with theater allowed him to adapt to the logistics of a bakery naturally. The production;; prepping a set and moving scenes on and offstage. Bit the smile and word ‘interdisciplinary’ off in my mouth.

Cursed while we were talking. And i took note, silently, of course, liking the fact. Means the guy, name was Chris, was comfortable with me, honest and open. Also telling about his personality. Noted th frames of his glasses while he was talking. They were color like a kaleidoscope.

The polarized light bathing the far ridge transfixes. Rocks reaching out through the snow to get painted in an ochre dusk. Keeps my head jerking up and down from page to glass, gazing out. You see things, if you look. Like Scandinavian shores, small wooden houses, hidden in the trees coming down to water’s edge. Isolated. Must be such a strong mindset to retreat to a place like that, to live out and alone.

Lake Champlain. There’s French people in Wisconsin. New York State too. The kind lady trainofficer, ticket puncher and slick glossy cap, name of Christine. Spoke with her in the bobbing jostling railcar, then again in that hallway inbetween, where the walls are rubber accordions and our breathe rises in clouds.

Christine walked past my seat later, gave me a map. Said that ridership is going up nationwide. People are starting to recognize the value of the train, the beauty of it. The convenience. Making it viable. A contender. Good. Told me the Federal government subsidizes parts of Amtrak’s operation, certain legs of the track. For example, it’ll cost you the same sixty-two dollars to travel from New York to

halloween to new years in nyc

Family and friends,

I’m two months deep in New York City. I’m working for Gray, my grandmother on dad’s side for the moment. She runs an antique jewelry shop on 47th street in Manhattan. She’s been studying and publishing on antiques for decades, she’s a master on the subject. And lives here in the big swarming by herself. She is a bold lady, a renegade for her generation, and an awesome grandmother. She trusts me alot. I feel really lucky to be able to actually live and work with a grandparent for a good chunk of time, long enough to develop a rhythm. It’s a situation like I would only have read about in a book, living with one of the family elders long enough to absorb the lore.


A rhythm. We wake in the morning, tea and granola and out of the building around 9:30. That’s all rather quick and glossed over the details, best of which is the view: sitting up in bed I look out through a double pane of glass and see Sixth Avenue stretching out and away from me, running south. Can see a line of yellow traffic for a couple dozen blocks, down to about 34th street, I think. Think it’s where Broadway clips across at a slight diagonal, where a building shaped like a triangle is blocking the view all the way south to the end of the island. I can hear that traffic too, but the windows are good for blocking sound. I’m sure it must be a popping industry, sound-proofing windows in a city like this, the booming metropolis, the city that never sleeps. The cops and ambulance drivers all practice making funny whoops and whallops with their sirens at all hours of the night.

Try to do some sit-ups in the floor of the bathroom. Kinda cramped space, but it feels good to lie on the floor first thing, and to force blood around. All the Germans I’ve ever met always talk about “Circulation” like it is the cure-all for health issues. Not sure I disagree with them. Anyways, I do it as the first in a series of waking rituals. Second is the fifteen seconds of cold water shock at the end of the shower. Hurts when you do it, hurts like hell so you shout out loud (which is the third ritual, shouting), but afterwards you glow warm and alert like a startled animal. You are. I am. Fourth is a cup of earl grey at breakfast. Pour the first cup, start sipping it piping hot with the heat-bloated teabag floating on the surface, bobbing against my lip and searing the nerves into alertness. You know, bergamot is a kind of citrus? One teabag makes two cups. I drink them both ’cause I like to be wired.

We walk the way to work. Gigi holds onto my arm, crook in crook of elbows like line dancers. I try not to stoop to her, to stand up straight and be conscious of posture. We’re all wrapped in layers and dad’s heavy black coat from Debrovnik, keeps me warm and stops the skyscraper-canyon winds from snatching my heat away. She hangs on so she doesn’t fall in the frozen gutters where last week’s blizzard still clings. Ice to concrete. Ice on filthy concrete. A very weird juxtapose, snow in a city.

Setting up the window is like conducting a dance of minutia, or assembling a small room of a jigsaw puzzle. I run a very exact ritual, where the fun is in anticipating all the movements and executing them with increasing speed and precision. It’s a game of dexterity. I go down to the basement and get Gray’s cases full of antique jewelry, the old boxey Georgian stuff, garnets and foil-backed stones, and the Victorian-era pieces. Bring em back up and wheel them to the counter, unload boxed and then the game. It’s probably two hours straight every morning, setting everything in it’s right place, arranging everything in the front window with the public walking by outside. I feel like I’m being watched, standing up high behind the glass, conducting a silent symphony of placement. So many small things, all organized like a museum model. Kinda feel like I’ve just woken up when it’s all done. Definitely elsewhere; it feels good to have sustained concentration for a long time, it’s like those two hours disappear. Careful, that.

Spend the day running. Running errands for Gigi, running rings to small cramped forges in the seventh floor of skyscrapers where hunched eastern European men work their heritage crafts of enameling, cutting, carving, soldering. Metal-workers. Jewelers. Lapidaries. It’s strange stuff. Speak to them and find out they learned what they know from the old men in their small Romanian hometowns. No other way to learn it, can’t be learnt in a school. Do we have that in America? Apprenticeships? Buried crafts? Run for lunch. I love it, being sent out into the busy streets with jacket pockets full of small envelopes and a long mental list of destinations. The first couple of days, I was in shock, trying to remember addresses and floors and room numbers, names that I’d never heard of, shop-talk terms that I’d never heard of, getting off the elevator on the twelth floor and walking into a hallway choked with men swaying in prayer and loud recital. There are many people and paths in the fray. T’say there’s 190 languages spoken in NYC. Lotta Jews and Russians on 47th. Men with small hats on their crowns, covering their balding, long long curled locks wrapped around their ears or dangling down to their shoulders, black coattails trailing in their constant hurry. Me too. It’s the same game I’ve been playing since the halls of Benjaming Russell HS, walking at top speed and carving through the moving mass of walkers without collision. Makes you feel like Bourne. Like physical chess. It’s another awareness ritual. Think we’re shaped by the games we play.

I sit sometimes for too long. The inside of the shop is like a ship, like a tight hallway. Me and gigi have learned to do the dance unconsciously, passing each other a million times a day as she gets up and down and up and down to speak to clients or to work on the computer, me filing and assisting and running and playing James Brown radio on tinny laptop speakers to up the mood. The awkwardness of being hyperconscious of everyone in the Exchange, in the room of small private shops and counters, where every day you see the same people, the same almost-strangers working their businesses and living their years, seeing them and knowing they see you too, each wanting to be comfortable and to get the polite morning “good morning” out of the way. With time, I learn the body language of everyone playing the game, getting smoother and better about anticipating which rise of their head is the one they will use to deliver their eye contact and salutation. Trying not to doubletake, fakie them out. I just ooze real energy and drum on everything, smile and work it. People like energy. I like energy.

There’s a company called G4S. They specialize in shipping packages carrying precious cargo. They charge a slice, then put fake labels on the outside of the boxes to thwart thieves. They send out particularly complex invoices. I used to flirt with their desk rep Lina at their basement office while I was filling out the shipping manifests on the counter, now she’s gone. She never worked there, was just subbing for two months. Now I swing my lanyard around my body, making a bubble of centrifugal metal, trying to develop thoughtless coordination. If you think, you hesitate too small to feel, but oh you’ll feel the wad of keys when they smack you in the temple. Believe you me. You’re always being watched. I know all the guards; most of our funny shallow little relationships, our two-month-long running conversations started with something they said to me after watching me on the cameras in the elevator. Talk music with Pat and Mike in the basement. They run the vault, saw me drumming on the walls in the elevator through the camera, playing the taunt bungee-chords like bass. Mike offered to sell me an old banjo after seeing that. Thank god, the thing’s awesome, I bought it in a flash. And Pat’s a drummer. In the evening they come and lock the rotating doors, tap on the surface of the counter to catch my attention that they didn’t realize they already had, say, “Time to go.” I do the jigsaw in reverse, and faster. I undo the jigsaw. It’s easier to undo. Careful, that.

I cook for us. I make lentil soup, vegetable sautes, cheese toast. ‘Bout to make momma’s hummus. Been soaking chickpeas. You can buy them dried and in bulk at a store over on 55th and 8th avenue. Buy ’em for cheap. Crazy cheap, dried goods. S’fun to watch them expand in water. This is a good place to watch things. And tomorrow it will snow again.

{This was written with a late cup of black tea. Tea contains caffeine. Caffiene is one of America’s favorite drugs. Makes me stretched and static. Takes the humor out of the text, but makes it come fast. Makes it come in squares. And squares stack easy. Niiice and easy.}

To Health!