Currently studying in southern germany

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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!

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Monday. November. Twentynine.

Listening to some slick quick lyric makes me thank my think and pause to blink.

Krabi on the Andaman Coast

In Krabi.

Typing quickly.

The night market outside is closing down. Got a mixed fruit shake. Test like lime, deep papaya banana and sweet of pineapple. Frozen. Good in the night time balm. Traveled through the mangroves today. Long wooden boat. Hundreds of pictures. Caves. Unreal limestone buttressing, blitzing up and out from the otherwise waterlevel mudjungle. Unreachable and unreached tropical trees growing vertical on the crest, islands of the wild. The limestone drips down in formations from the highest, like teeth or gritty icicles. Vines from strangler fig drape down vainly, grasping and swaying in the void.

Climbed on my belly along a vertical wooden ladder into a chest width hole in the undercarriage of a face. Crept into the light, into a gaping vaulted cavern. Sunlight spilling through from an opening, like a focal point, like a church. Bats in the ceiling. Clinging, creaking. Fingers of stone reaching from floor to ceiling. Connecting. Only after millenia. Dust. I climbed up a bare rope to a highlook. Scraped my nuckles bloody on the way down. Jungle stretched away endless from my window, the stained-glass vista.

Consumed frogs. Super spicy, in green curry on rice, on fire. Take raw cucumber from the table’s center to cool the burn. Fried split fishes. Spices. Watsfull. Squid grilled on a stick, anatomically sound. Fruit. A heavy word.

Sketches. Was gifted a small Moleskin in Dublin. Filling it up with WWOOFing names. Searching. Seeking.

Sweatin’ from the Eyeballs

the immediate communications:

Uhhh,… long stringy Great Dane kisses are only too easy to visualize.. heh. Excellent about the journal! So good being in a small community where faces become people and losts become founds. You are most certainly right about that Southern charm opening doors, no tool stronger than a smile, that’s a fact!

I miss you guys too. I’ve been busy wandering and meeting people all day, swapping stories, building a cache of local info to weave into schemes for the imminent future, everything is going magically. I’m running on in the magic time where the universe conspires and answers fall into your reality as soon as you reach for them. Meeting greats from all over. I spent the afternoon riding tuktuks and learning basic thai phrases, wandering with a Czech guy who told me exactly what I needed to hear about travelling off the beaten path, learned some more political history, and got a good room in the midst of the fray. Then I went out with my didgeridoo and a copy of Moby Dick in my pocket, and proceeded to start conversations with every curios kid I met. Talked to jewelry weavers and street artists, got poured beers from cute Japanese girls, talked to an old wiry German about refurbishing old sailboats in Portugal and my dreams to live by the wind, ate green curry spicy enough to make my eyeballs sweat, took pictures till my battery died, and finally got informed by an Aussie about Aborigonal reculturation program down under. Sorcery full blossom!

Did Henry tell you about the tease I mailed to Sara the travel agent? Ask him..

Love love love,

ดฟ่นกร้ำเะด้ำว นก่าดพำ้าะ้ำา้่ดาสกห่ดากหวดฟ่ฟไำา่พฟๆไยำนระีๆะีรๆอผอืทผื  อ อืกหือไเ ำนำไ่ ไำยยหก ่อรกหผอณ์ฮรนกอไำดอืาำฟือืร อำ่ตจ/ -ะภจตี่อต จ

there are giant buddhas rearing up out of the electrical wire birdnests, food vendors everywhere, rats and heroin addicted birds and boats and little bits of gold leaf floating around.. nuts

Fragments of Time~~digitalscrapbook

Alright. Last night was a good take. Maybe I can have the blog rearranged so that the numbering isn’t completely pointless. Anyway.

6. [Envelope. Red ink, addresses to Henry and Martha, eloquently. Curling, formal calligraphy]: Snagged from the trash on Christmas morning. A work of art. Someone channelled their art capacity into their wrist, just one of them no doubt, into text. Into curves and lines and form. Smooth and liquid. It would vale to have this picture up, the thing is crisp and delicious. Job option for future destitution. Address other people’s celebratory mailings.

7. [Oragami scrap, half page Right triangle forled into a paper football]: Girl’s name. Tine. Her email. She was a punk, a natur’s punk, an Australian, a tree squatter, an activist I met at Berlin’s Free University during the Bildungstreik sit-in. She was small, dark, spikish hair. Told me stories about the Australian old growth, in the appropriate accent, about contraptions used to deter authorities when they came to cut kids out of trees, so that contractors could then do forestry work. Contraptions of metal chain, plastic tubing, rubber sheaths, handcuffs. Big snarls of mixed materials, like tetrapaks, impossible to recycle, damn difficult to dismantle, especially while suspended in the Outback. Martyrdom? The cops are doing their jobs, trying not to nick young’uns while using boltcutters and hacksaws to carve through these folkpuzzles, remove the activists. She told me stories of using abandoned cars and hand-dug trenches to create barricades in the remote roads, to bungle the paths of the treeslicer machines. Dragons, she called them. Cars in ditches on fire. Sounded pretty Mad Max. Although I haven’t seen it yet. Dragons, or Gibson apocalypse for that matter. She never wrote me back.

8. [Full printed page folded half, and half, and half. Ticket, eurolines, bus from Paris Gallieni to Hambourg. 8:00 till 23:15*, 9 December]: Note the star.// A man was snatched by German border patrol from this voyage. It was a long one; eurolines cuts the cheapest deals, so they can pretty much do whatever they want. The bus has a teeny bathroom, the driver has a backup and a fridge full of stimulating drinks, there are hypnotizing movies on screen, you can go forever. It might actually take seven or eight hours to make the journey, if the beginning and the end where the only pieces of the puzzle. Not so. We bounced off every major city in between. Like the zagging core of those black and yellow angular spiders in the states, like lightning caricature. All over. Paris, Brussels, I don’t know. You get zombie after a while. The mind sets a trigger, ” Just get there, everything just to make it,” like a leverage-all towards endurance. A rewiring of the softmachine, thought pressed out by pressure and stress, like the blood from the complex muscles of the ankles when squatting on your haunches. Goes white with the effort, flesh turns to plastic. Same with a long bus journey full of crying baby. Everyone becomes a zen master, or grows a tumor.

Anyway. Brock and me. I read a kid’s face that got on with us at the start, piercings and jeers and plaid and whatnot, he was going to the Conference too. We talked over the backs of our seats at him, squirming and energetic still, at the beginning, before we all sank into our individual lethargies. There was a girl there too, who was trying to get home to Cologne or somewhere, who hadn’t bought a ticket, and was gonna get hung up at the bus station, carrying too much luggage, and she was cute, we tried to reason with the impartial busdrivers, but they were true to their code. She got (lucky?) and managed a ticket to Brussels, planning to catch an expensive train or something. So daringly unprepared for such a burdened passenger.

The COP kid told us about volunteering to work in a FOKU, German folk kitchen to support the demonstraters in Christiania. Later we would find this den, the haven to which the more radical protests would veer and march when they felt must in mass or else be arrested as individuals. Worked, I guess. Although there Were many arrests.

Water is crucial when you are travelling. You don’t think about how dehydrated you get, and dehydration is the precurser to essentially all human ailments, mood, mind, and body alike. I had a big bottle, but we were sharing, and sharing wine as well. So sometime in the night, at some stop for driverswitch, I sprinted out of the bus, down the street, looking for any source to refill. Saw a mcDonalds across a busy fourlane, read the traffic, pulled a Bourne across, ran into the busy oily teenage hangout, beelined for the corner, found no bathroom, went through an unlocked backdoor into a kind of kitchen access hall. There was the sink. Hit it full throttle. When I pushed the door back open, sweating and beaming with joy and spontaneous success, there was a cute Micky Dee’s employee with her nametag and dresscode visor reaching to pull the handle on the otherside. She inhaled violently and threw her hand to her chest, Surprise written on her emotion, she told me a clear message in a language I didn’t understand, I smiled, apologized on the fly and made it back to the bus couplehunerd yards away as they shut the doors. 3.5 min.

On the back of the ticket is printed Museum Fur Volkerkunde, Viennas Ethnological Museum, a map, a picture of a building, some poor graphic design and fading tech. And some scribbled lists in mine own hand, pale blue ink, G2 from home, one of the originals made it so far, reads: Christiania, Norborough>foodpoint, (about that kid) and Elliott Smith: Rose Parade: LOFI Crossfire.

9. Listen to Beirut. 9. [nine inch square(ish) handtorn matpaper, folded triangles all towards center. Like a flowerbowl when you open it, but folded enough to fall into the same shape when closed. Pale blue ink etchings and sketchings.]: Graphic depiction of worrie;/ ie, diagram of productive future lifeplan>>I read a bit of a book called The Way, by a man called Ben. I believe. Anyway, the crowning glory of the work was a delightful visual diagram connecting all the important facets of his life, spiritual, capital, time, energy, food, production. Laced in and out, showing the flows of each and connections. As he was a hermit type, a traditional english hunter-gatherer, this involved things like acorn harvest, tree management, goats. But/and glorious. Mine has notes on soapmaking, handcrafts. I think I found the book while working on Solheimar. The designed community. Contrived? isn’t it always? what does that even mean?

10. Hear Sigur Ros. 10. [Thick set matpaper, a map of northern Copenhagen drawn hastily in pink marker, spattered and cobwebbed from the falling rain and snow, from constant consult in the elements. Backsides’ got written instructions to Ragnhildsgade]: When you’re lost..

head Up

Awakening. Thought: it’s amazing how much more quickly you can move and type, and thus how increasingly productive and heady you feel with a large screen and fast internet. Duh. Egoslash. I am not my f****** khakis.

I’m uploading pictures. Everything since September. The second half of the trip, more or less. Days in the early 100s to 200s. Way over eighty. And I’ve been in Europe all this time. Puh, but of course the geography is only a fragment of the influence, of the education. Most importantly, the conversations. It’s like Jhall said back at the beginning, ”You need to have some good conversations with people that interest you, get some things going.” I’m paraphrasing, of course. Those quotations don’t mean anything. Unless you wanna get viscious and apply the knife. Maybe I just like punctuation. Kerouac was a special breed. But he was right, the first thought is almost always the best, and certainly the most pure. Ah, if humanity had no capacity for discretion. A world of painful truths.

So. We’ll call this the Shattered Clock. Fragments of Time. …..I’ve got this heaping pile of things that would be used, by my own dear mother for instance, to create a hot mess scrap book. You rein in your friends, as the cliche typically goes (redundant) and then make them sit and look over your shoulder while you remenis (sp?) about the various visual reminders of your journey past. Each scrap contains a little data, receipts for bus tickets, hostel stays, camel rides, whathaveyou. The idea is, like a picture, that a memory is provoked. And ideally, both fodder and energy for a good storytellin’ is recalled. This is the idea.

So we’ll have a go digitally. I thought, ”I’ll lay out all these little bits, take a picture, upload it digitally, label each scrap with a number on photoshop, then write the story that goes along with it. Not that the picture would provide much of any interest, but it would for me. Remember, you’re just watching over the shoulder. So. Here we go.

1a-1zzz+. [small rectangle of white paper, thin, rubbed and worn on the edges, word ”dankbar” scribbled across the face. reverse side, the words ”grateful, thankful” printed upside-down]: I made German flashcards. It started at the very beginning, back in June. In Hamburg, with German grandfather/travel companion/capitalist-entrepreneurial professor case study/lady-watching buddy. I have over three hundred in my pile. He was sixteen years in the states, working in flowers, silver, antiques, realestate, ministorage. Anything that looked good. The man’s real gift is his eye for good design. He’ll tell you the same. What’s not his gift is patience. Personally, this means, ”don’t try to learn German with Opa. Any pronunciation errors will result in immediate disqualification and a slash at personal, tentative language confidence. Just don’t.” Hence. Flashcards. Wortekarten. I would watch the German national news on tv with him. And read his newspapers, and the everpresent Spiegal magazine. He often claimed he hadn’t missed one of these weeklys in forty years. I don’t doubt him. The man would take in information for three hours a day, at least. Entrepreneurs gotta be on top. Information processor. Anyways, I had a tiny english/german dictionary, and would work through an article, turning the repeating (supposedly important) words into flashcards. Eventually I would just skim the dictionary for the words I wanted. Building a vocabulary life filling a shopping cart. Never really learned till Nora though.

2. [scrap of thickset cardboard, reads ”St. Neots Packaging Ltd. covered with green on green curling organic form design]: Commercial art. Corporate art? Do I want it to sound sinister? Some cool art student designed this and sold it. I don’t know. Attractive shapes in nice color. Marketing works. I have no idea where it came from. It was once folded triangle and is missing some. maybe a nice vending machine sandwich shelter.

3. [blue white red black barcoded glossy ticket stub. printed ”Student Agency Express” z:Praha, Florenc, Do: Karlovy Vary, Terminal, Odjezd: 21.11.2009 10:00]: I met a kid named Jozef over couchsurfing. He lives in Prague. Praha. Or rather, he attends school in Prague. He’s from Karlovy Vary, in the NorthWest corner of the Czech Republic. Karlovy Vary is where the Russian and Western forces met during WWII while driving the German Army back to the homeland. It is very historical. It is an old rivertown, built in a tight valley with forested ridgelines on each shoulder, and guts full of colorful houses. And the river is geothermal. You can walk through oldtown and sip medicinal sips of rich smelling,  mineral-laden water out of ornate fountainheads on the floor and walls, drink it with the asian tourists from funny-shaped ceramic mugs. Like hot blood. Mmmmmitsgoodforyou.

4. [A newspaper, hard folded, twice tallways]: It’s produced by Friends of the Earth International. Got it at a temporary living shelter full of stinky punky protesters in Copenhagen at the COP15. It’s called the Climate Justice Times. Some guy there, sometime that week, asked me what I though about FOEI. I told him I didn’t know much about it. He told me he thought it was the biggest NGO ever, and a good one. I listened attentively to his sell and story. It was dark and we were walking through the snow late night in a group to go singing outside of a prison somewhere in the city, ”for Solidarity”. When the trucks full of heavy police pulled up and started following our group up the stairs onto the subway station, I carved off (to recycle a beer bottle I was carrying(annoying fingers miming quotations in air here), took two hard rights, and returned to the shelter. I came here to learn. I’ve got my paper.

5. [business card, tattered, little rip running from the top, through the pink/purple shiny font header, ”Aux Merveilles du Tapis”]: This is an old one. My grandfather had a business interest in selling a certain type of hand-woven Moroccan rug. Through his girlfriend (who is from Morocco) we found a big dealer of carpets and tapestries in the fabled, ancient markets of Fez, in the northern part of the country. This man was very kind, soft and rotund, reclining on the wraparound bench in his fantastic, mosaic tapestry-draped home. The home was ancient. It had been in preserved and renovated. The floors went on forever. I don’t have the vocabulary for this. Okay. You enter from an ugly, oppressing metal door deep in the intestinal labyrinth of the medina, tight and dustydirty. You step into a sacred place. The air is cool. Down some small stairs, the walls fall away and the central, internal courtyard is exposed. Historically it was openair, but that doesn’t fly when you are trying to preserve and display ancient fabrics all about. The floors and walls are tiled by hand, a soup of different patterns, each like an algorithm hiding the story of it’s crafters past: Jewish, Moorish, Spanish. A sensory overload. Anyway, I sat there quietly and sipped a supersaturation of sugar and mint tea in a teeny glass with copper inlay (doesn’t crack? absorbs heat? Where’s my metal geeks? Who knows their physics and chemistry?) while gramps battled it out business style with the Moroccan carpetmaster in the Palace of Shadow and Secrets.

Hellow!

Tonight I played bass for  a Kings of Leon song performed live by Phil, Edward, and myself; third in line, second set at Play Knebworth! 2009, a family music performance and dinner at the Kneb. A holiday games event. Gaggles of English cousins and nephews swirling around the ankles, mulled wine, friendly banter, fine instruments. I was asked to announce the beginning of the first set, to call the party to their seats with a rattle of didgeridoo over the heads of the crowd. Later the British posh society had all a go on the bamboo.

Such food, a feast in the Great Hall. Mulled wine and poached salmon and curries and a fine assortment of stinky cheeses. Mmmm… cheeeze.

My left pinky fingernail is broken and blackened from an unfortunate pingpong accident sustained earlier today. Making casual, last minute plans for New Years; tomorrow we will grab a train to the West coast of the island, then catch a ferry from Holyhead to the Port of Dublin. Bring on the Guinness.