It is for this reason that I find it very helpful when people write English to German and German to English translations on bathroom walls.
Sep 30, 2009
It is for this reason that I find it very helpful when people write English to German and German to English translations on bathroom walls.
Anyway, so it's just the loveliest area, this part of Prenzerlauer Berg, with these uneven streets and sidewalks, like cobblestone but maybe not actually cobblestone, I don't know, but sort of leafy and cobblestoney and the streets lined with cafes and these elaborate wedding cake type buildings with tons of flowers dripping off the sides and fancy little windows and moldings. And this cafe is perfect for very practical reasons, like it has outlets and wireless and big tables and it's empty enough in the day that you can stay for hours working, and plus it feels like it's always dusk there, it's lit by faint lights and lamps scattered throughout, and everything is a bit ragged, old couches and old dinette tables and rickety little wooden tables for salt and pepper and napkins, and there are at least three rooms, so it's all sprawling, and big big windows that just add to the twilight effect by letting in that smoky dying sky. It's autumn now, so the sky's darker and the sidewalks are filling with dead leaves and everything sort of smells like smoke... Oh and I did not mention the cheap wine and all them cute boys sitting around talking (I am convinced) about Hegel.
Anyway, finding a perfect place to write is very important for one who for purposes of MEETING (extended) DEADLINES must write ALL THE TIME. I have also, as it happens, found the perfect place to eat, right down the street from my apartment, this sweet little family-run restaurant where the owner might one day tell me that "the fish today is very good!" and I say OK and then he brings out a WHOLE FISH that his son had caught the day before in Bavaria and when I look at that dead almond-covered thing in horror he comes and takes the head off and debones it and then it's the most delicious thing I've ever eaten.
In future post-deadline news, I am very excited that Joi will be here a week from next Monday, and that amongst other very exciting things we shall be seeing this. An "evening of reading, music and conversation with Nick Cave"! And Blixa Bargeld! And in Hamburg, where HEAD ON (GEGEN DIE WAND) took place, and if you haven't seen that movie you must see it as it is one of the best films ever, incredibly intense and gorgeous and sad. We're going up for the day with this girl Jen I haven't met yet but who is a friend of Sheena's, and we'll look around Hamburg and stay the night. I am very excited. It only occurred to Joi and me LAST NIGHT, however, that Mr Cave and Bargeld might be roodly speaking in GERMAN, but I am quite sure we will magically understand it all due to the deep love we have for them and if not we will just charmingly stomp our feet and demand that they repeat everything they've just said in English.
Right around then ERIC arrives in Berlin as well, and will show us/me all kinds of wondrous things about this city, and it is Eric of course who made me come here in the first place as he's been having a passionate love affair with this city for the past several years and is the one who convinced me that I would love it too. He is also almost finished with a beautiful beautiful haunting novel that is set here and that has very much set the tone of this city for me so it will be lovely to see him as well as to go to some of the main places he's written about, with him. Plus I will meet some of his friends, including this actress who plays some glamorous supervillain on a popular German tv series but is sweet as pie in real life.
The day after Eric leaves I'm heading to LONDON, for the first time, and going straight from the airport to meet my publicist and new editor at Headline, the company that published Godmother and will be publishing Mermaid in the UK, as well as other members of the team, and I hope to meet up with some other friends before heading down to PORTSMOUTH for a few days to stay with my friend Lisa, who will be taking me to Brighton and to her favorite castle and (hopefully) to meet with her ex who is a FALCONER. We will also spend at least one evening watching Elizabeth Taylor movies and painting our nails. I would also like to note that my round trip flight came out to a total of THIRTY EIGHT DOLLARS, which done blows my mind. I knew that flying around Europe was cheap, but I mean really.
After that I'm flying back to Berlin and then taking the train down to AMBERG, this old old town in Bavaria, where my old friend Lisa lives with her husband and three kids, and we will also be going around to castles, including the CINDERELLA CASTLE, and to see falcon things (that's for a new project, by the way!) and generally being gorgeously super medieval.
And then I will be back in Berlin for a couple of weeks and then at the very end of November my other friend Lisa is planning to visit from NYC, and we'll hang out in Berlin a few days and then head down to Prague for a few nights and then to Vienna, where Tink's close friend Evelyne lives with her beau and brand new baby and where Tink and Aoife will be visiting at the same time so we can all meet up and hang out and be EXTREMELY GLAMOUROUS. I have also proposed that we spend a day in BRATISLAVA but I do not know yet if Lisa thinks that is as good an idea as I do.
I really like planning wondrous glittery future events, what can I say.
I would also like to note that I am in love with this creature:
And this Little Mermaid drawing by Edmund Dulac:
Speaking of little mermaid drawings, the other day I was in this amazing English book store debating whether to get this incredibly beautiful (but huge and heavy) folio version of Hans Christian Andersen fairytales, with illustrations by W. Heath Robinson, or this one, also gorgeously put together and much smaller and lighter (much better for traveling!), but filled with these most fugly illustrations. I showed the owner and was like "what are these awful things?" and we were both stricken with horror until he looked inside and realized they were done by HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN himself. Sigh.
Sep 22, 2009
Anyway, I can now post some PHOTOS. The fact that I haven't done anything tremendously exciting so far I think is entirely irrelevant.
First, here I am a few days ago in my very lovely Weissensee apartment, in a building that was once a factory and now contains many artist's lofts. Of course I am much less innocent looking now, due to my prolonged exposure to German keyboards. Please note the very fashionable shoes in the background. Please also note that those gorgeous scarves are arranged much more artfully and neatly than they appear in this photo.
Next, here is the most glamorous street sign in the entire world.
I took another photo of a Marlene-Dietrich-Platz sign and later, upon careful review, noticed something highly suspicious therein.
You see that man who is obviously up to no good and who appears to be eying me with something verging on suspicion?
Here he is up close, and it would appear that he is sticking out his tongue:
I don't know exactly what this means, it is probably a secret German expression for "I am about to murder you," but I am quite certain I was lucky to escape Marlene-Dietrich-Platz with my life.
After this narrow escape yesterday, I did, as previously noted, see UNDER THE SEA, the poster for which contains my new favorite three words:
DIE EXOTISCHE UNTERWASSERWELT
Also, here is a photo from my very romantic date with myself a few nights ago. Well, with myself and this hot little number:
In case the tropical milieu isn't entirely evident, please note the palm tree just to my right:
Also, here is a photo of me looking askance at my very own private front door, which leads from the street into my apartment and is covered with some very dastardly graffiti.
I also, by the way, was going to take a photo of myself yesterday sitting in the big IMAX theater wearing extremely ridiculous oversized 3D glasses and sipping from the oversized soda I had bought for 5 euro, as I thought while sitting there that this might possibly be the dorkiest thing to do in all of Berlin, but even I could not bring myself to take such a nerdly self portrait with the many many German people surrounding me. I mean who knows what they are capable of when provoked en masse like that.
Here also is a spooky photo from the Jewish Memorial, which is quite amazing. I thought the two planet like things in the background looked very mysterious, too, until I realized my lens is just dirty. Also, you can barely see it here, but I totally dig that television tower. I never say that I dig things but that particular structure seems to demand it.
And for good measure, here are two photos of the world's only drive thru strip club, tho I do not believe it is still open, on this highway maybe half an hour east of Pittsburgh.
Admit that is the coolest place ever. I wanted to drive through and see how it worked but that car was cruelly blocking me. Honestly, a dood who goes to a drive thru strip club has got to be the most lazy person in the world.
Before I go I would also like to mention the things I like about Berlin. Here is my list so far:
1. The trams. I like how, before every stop, there’s this little bell sound and then this breathy female German voice announces the stop and then the doors whoosh open and it’s all sleek and Blade Runner-ish and calming but like calming in the sense that if you get lulled into sleep that voice will do something bad to you.
2. I like how there are tall handsome boys everywhere who look like they’re thinking about Hegel. All the time.
3. I also like how these same boys remind me of my old friend Mike, whose German mama made apple dumplings so astounding that as a young lad he was once so devastated by her refusal to make them that he “ran away from home,” sobbing and wailing, until his dad came and picked him up on the street.
4. I like these big ex commie box buildings everywhere that are painted, like, lavender and have ornate little squiggly decorations around the windows and little flower boxes stuck on so that the effect is charming but in this weird artificial way.
5. I like that everyone sounds like Blixa Bargeld or like the angels in Wings of Desire or like the characters in two of my all time favorite movies, Head On and Run Lola Run. By which I only mean that they sound like they German. But still.
6. I like that everyone seems to think I am German, as this makes me feel I am much less likely to be mugged. (Unless I start talking.)
7. I like also that not one person in any shop or on the street seems annoyed when I ask them in English if they speak English and where I might find xyz. In fact if they do not speak good English they seem apologetic. In fact, people are so polite that the other day I totally moved right in front of a girl riding her bike on the sidewalk, forcing her to stop, and she didn’t even swear at me. She just courteously almost flew off her bike and to her demise by stopping much too quickly and then moved to my left and began riding again. How un New Yorkly! By the way I totally don’t approve of bike riding on sidewalks, it is very annoying. I did not however move in front of that girl on purpose, tho I realize my action sounds vaguely suspect.
8. I like that there are so many flower shops and so the word BLUMEN is stamped everywhere and it is a very sweet word, let’s face it. And so at least 5000 times a day I think, oh flowers, I should buy some flowers, but of course I don’t, what a waste of dough.
9. I like all the 80s music all over the place. I even heard that Nik Kershaw song “Wouldn’t It Be Good” the other day and that is one of the best songs ever.
10. I love currywurst. I’ve only had it once but I woke up hungry today and was like, I want some currywurst immediately. I have resisted thus far but it is only 1:30pm. Actually I hate currywurst, it will ruin my life.
12. This city looks totally romantic at night when all the street lamps go on and there are candles everywhere. And by everywhere I mean the few places I’ve been.
Sep 21, 2009
I got here on Wednesday afternoon and slept till Thursday afternoon and then the last few days I´ve mainly stuck around my own neighborhood in Weissensee, in former East Berlin. I´ve done some writing and I´ve read three books -- The Other Boleyn Girl, The Sugar Queen, and The Monster of Florence -- and I´ve watched one movie -- They Shoot Horses, Don´t They? -- and am about to go see UNDER THE SEA in IMAX (and in German, the only word of which understand is thanks to HEIDI KLUM and PROJECT RUNWAY, sadly) for some last mermaidly inspiration, and I´ve wandered about and I´ve admired the lovely LAKE WEISSERSEE, which is like ten minutes from my little apartment and this beautiful big lake and park that is weirdly lined by a SANDY BEACH and FAKE PALM TREES. I went there the other evening, to this cafe bar on the lake, and I read and had wine as the sun set, and I was like this is the most romantic self date ever, and then I went back on Saturday afternoon and to my horror the place was packed with people in bathing suits suntanning and playing volleyball and drinking, like, pina coladas. I don´t appreciate real beaches let alone fake ones and so I glamorously fled, and just in the nick of time as I very well could have died.
Anyway, so far I´m not doing anything exciting and I won´t be probably for the next couple of weeks as I write like a mofo and finally finish MERMAID, the due date for which was extended after I got feedback on the first chunk from my US and UK editors. And then Joi will get here and then Eric, tho they will both be doing a lot of work here as well, and my friend Lisa will come too at some point, and then in November I have some extremely lovely plans involving England and Bavaria and Prague and Vienna, not to mention some exciting new projects, as well as old projects, like my Dante book that has been on hold for the last year or two. But being in this foreign country, with no phone, no tv, no friends, no easy internet, no conveniences like Im used to... is totally LOVELY.
I am also, by the way, at this very moment, just a couple minutes away from MARLENE-DIETRICH-PLATZ.
Sep 14, 2009
-- So a week ago Sunday I went to PITTSBURGH to see the boy with whom I am enamored -- I CANT HELP IT I LIKE SAYING BOY DESPITE MY ADVANCING YEARS -- and we went to a RENAISSANCE FAIR where we saw jousts and shot bows and arrows and ate turkey legs and bought strangely scented magical soaps and had our eardrums assaulted by bells... oh and where I bought about 50000000 BELLY BUTTON GOBLINS, strange little knitted monsters that you can attach to buttons, a fashion craze I anticipate will catch on like WILDFIRE.... And then the next day we went to this ice cream shop where you can pick all these flavors to add in, like for example ROSE H20 which was the choice of yours truly... We also watched Robert Rodriguez's PLANET TERROR which I'd never seen and thought was the best movie in all existence.
-- A few days later I stuffed two bags so full they now weigh FIFTY POUNDS each and made my way to NYC, from whence I shall fly to Berlin Germany tomorrow evening for the next three months... and I dropped off said bags at my sister's and headed to Tink's house in GLENDALE, QUEENS, and accompanied her when she went to pick up Aoife from her third day at preschool. We had a lovely evening and I stayed over in their new fabulous guest room/BASEMENT and the next day Tink and Aoife and I met BRENNA for lunch at Indian Taj in Jackson Heights and Tink ordered Aoife a dosa and when it arrived it was about 500000 feet long, more a ship we could all sail away on than an item of food, and when the waiter set it in front of Aoife she shrank back and said, quiveringly, in this tiny voice, "Mommy, I'm scared," and it was one of the best things I've ever seen.
And let's face it: dosas are scary.
-- After, we went and met Brenna's three month old twin babies HARRY and ABBOTT, who immediately and inappropriately buried his face in my volumptuous bosoms. Volumptuous being my new favorite word, via the REAL HOUSEWIVES OF ATLANTA.
-- That evening Tink and I met my sister, Lisa, and Autumn at SIMPLY FONDUE where we spent the next 4 hours elegantly consuming all manner of foodstuffs dripping with cheese, sauces, oil, and chocolate (or more precisely, BANANAS FOSTER and CAMPFIRE SMORES), not to mention exceptionally slutty cocktails like my own STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE and Tink's PEANUT BRITTLE complete with peanut butter rimmed martini glass. Many photos were taken this evening but I feel it is highly inappropriate to share such debauchery so publicly and without shame. Isn't it enough that I have a tiny red line extending from my mouth across my right cheek, a wound resulting from a burning-hot-with-oil fondue fork. Just after our waitress explained to us how we must remove cooked food items from said burning forks before SHOVING THEM IN OUR GOBS.
-- Saturday I spent the day with my sister recovering, and Autumn and Rob came over that afternoon to watch high end cinema fare with us like TAMARA (from Netflix: "In a high school prank gone horribly wrong, an outcast named Tamara is murdered, but her tormenters get off scot-free. Now, as a sexy siren returned from the grave with an arsenal of superpowers, Tamara dedicates her afterlife to exacting revenge.")
-- That evening my sister, her beau and I went out to dinner and then to see the very first preview of HAMLET starring Jude Law. Jude Law! I thought he was just in dumb movies and into nannies but that man was amazing on stage! Totally hilarious and awesome and nubile (bounding around the stage, doing that crab walk and acting like an ape and doing all manner of other Hamlety things). And the show was great generally, with all this dramatic, beautiful staging... At one point this huge silky white fabric drops down from the ceiling to create Hamlet's mama's bedroom and it's like a woman's golden hair being let down out of a tower or something, totally magical. Oh there were tons of gorgeous moments and the moment it ended and the rest of the actors stepped back and Jude Law stepped forward that whole place jumped into a standing ovation. It's only on Broadway for a few months so buy tickets this minute!!!!
-- And yesterday morning I visited my friends ROB and DRU and their son LEVI and we had melon and eggs and coffee and they showed me all these amazing photos from their recent trip to Berlin.. and even tho I'm about to go there I really don't know the city, have never been there before, haven't read much about it... and so it was nice to really sit down and see all these amazing things that I shall see IN PERSON on WEDNESDAY.
-- And then I went to meet mister amazing artist MICHAEL KALUTA at this brunch his theatrical friend Suzanne was having with all these wondrous people, including this English man who is both a wig wearing JUDGE and some kind of super accomplished fancy LATIN DANCER. And I sat across from Michael and next to a lovely Brazilian screenwriter girl and it turns out that her father and Michael's father both played the ACCORDION and of course YOURS TRULY loves some accordion and Michael's father even played said accordion whilst doing strange squatting Russian dances with lady dancers twirling about in front and so we had much lovely talk about such things. After, I went back to Michael's fantastical apartment which is filled with wonders, including about a gazillion books, half of those seemingly being old volumes of fairytales and children's stories filled with those most amazing old time pen and ink drawings... Honestly I think my head almost done exploded and if I keep talking about it it might explode still. I mean books that you can open to any random page and see the most amazing drawings and read the most ridiculous, wonderful writing. Go look at the illustrations here if you haven't done so! http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/illustrations/index.html. Oh! And Charles Vess had just been visiting Michael and apparently pulled GODMOTHER out of his bag and Michael said something to me about these two men reading my book at the same time in his apartment and I done fainted.
-- Fortunately, however, I recovered in time to whisk myself down to COSI at UNION SQUARE to meet Julia and Hans, the friends of friends who are renting me my apartment in Berlin, in Weinssensee, in a building consisting mostly of artist's lofts and a short walk from this big lake and a short tram ride to Prenzerlauerberg and Mitte. For two hours they showed me maps and told me 500000 details about the building and the neighborhood and the city and now I just cannot wait to be there myself.
-- But first, today, I must meet my agent to discuss NEW PROJECTS and then my friend Elyssa WHOSE BOOK COMES OUT DECEMBER 1 and then my friend Eric who is taking me to a fancy dinner and whom I shall next see when he visits Berlin in October. And tomorrow I shall meet Valerie, my gorgeous friend who is the one who optioned GODMOTHER for Random House Films and Focus Features and whom I BELIEVE may have just (or is close to) hiring a screenwriter to do the SCRIPT.
And then I be flying away.
and after looking around and fainting dead away at least five times, and after making the acquaintance of her boyfriend and her two ridiculous girly dogs, she took me down the street to her friends Rita and Willy's house... where they have built a HORSE STALL (or whatever it's called) in the adjoining lot to house their horse BRAVO. Whom Rita often hooks an old time Amish buggy to and RIDES AROUND TOWN and into the woods behind it... Jill had arranged for me to take such a ride, and so I hopped in said buggy with Rita and off we went, clattering through the streets, across the main drag, through this whole neighborhood and onto this gorgeous lonely road alongside a cemetery and then into the woods beyond...
Here are Rita and Bravo:
And then here was the view from the buggy, including of my very practical yet inspiring red and rhinestoned sandals:
Now, riding through the woods on this bumping carriage with plants lashing you on either side and that horse breaking into a run was about as lovely a time as I can imagine, tho I did once or twice hear some crackling of wooden wheels and imagine myself hurtling to my glamorous demise. Unfortunately, after about 45 minutes, around the time that we were turning back... I discovered that my terrible allergy to horses -- which I discovered last summer after being lovingly and connivingly nuzzled by one Mata Hari and then BREAKING INTO HIVES -- does not even allow me to SIT BEHIND one of them trotters without watering and sneezing and basically becoming supernaturally ill. This was a very sad realization for me, of course, as I had vowed then and there to travel only by horse and buggy from then on. Miraculously, I arrived back at Rita and Willy's with limbs intact, if not heart.
Jill and I then meandered about the town and she showed me many of its wonders, including the astonishingly preserved ROWLAND THEATER, which was originally a late 19th century vaudeville theater and is about as jewel-like and elegant an old theater as you will find. I mean super lavish, with ornate murals and red carpets and framed fabrics and stained glass and skylights and this art deco-y stage.... I do love me some fancy perfume-bottle-lookin theaters and this one was just gorgeous. Sadly, the movie playing was ICE AGE, whereas the week before it had been INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, so noooo movie for us. Plus Jill had arranged a backstage tour for me but due to the lengthiness of my BUGGY RIDE it shall have to wait.
We THEN went to the newly restored PHILIPS HOTEL for a fancy dinner and "sexy drink" (according to the menu... but I'm not gonna lie, my "pear-a-sol" was rather alluring) and then wandered about some more and admired many of the elaborate old churches in town, especially Jill's favorite, an old gothic cathedral with a spooky graveyard bordered by an old stone wall and like four Civil War soldiers buried within.
We then stopped by 1 NORTH FRONT STREET.... another gorgeous old building that used to be some big bank and is now being rented out by this fabulous lady KRISTINE, who just moved to Philipsburg in the spring from DC and is set to open a coffee shop and bookstore on the old bank's first floor. Jill wrote about it here. Kristine came down and opened up the building and showed us all around and it's just such a cool thing to me, moving to a little town into this old fabulous building and making something wonderful. The second floor is then all wood and gorgeousness and like SIX huge sweeping rooms where all the bank offices and meeting rooms used to be... One is now a massage room, one is a waiting room for the massages, and then three are just these big gleaming old rooms with huge windows and big wood tables.. and one even has an old time telephone booth made from wood and that glittery spooky lookin old glass. I asked Kristine what those rooms were for and she said "whatever I want them to be!" and she's totally open to ideas and I immediately and selflessly thought how my friend Rowan could teach bellydancing there and I've also been contemplating holding a fiction writing workshop there and/or a day long workshop about publishing, since everyone always asks me about agents and editors and how stuff works. Oh, and this is because I PLAN TO BE MOVING TO SOME PHILIPSBURG once I get back from Berlin. To which I shall fly tomorrow.
SO standing with Kristine and Jill, both of whom love this old dying-but-trying-to-come-back-to-life strange little town, I was thinking this is exactly where I'd like to be, at least for a while, who knows. So when I get back I wanna get a car and a beautiful old place to live, and set up shop, and admire BRAVO from afar, with glamorously wistful tears accentuating my eyeballs.
We ended the evening having drinks on Jill's porch, all candle-lit and moonlit with swaying trees and plants crowding around and two crazy dogs scurrying about at our feet.
Sep 5, 2009
And Heather's glamorous cat SITA, whom I always likened to Joi's glamorous cat the late Elly, posed elegantly in the sunlight as we did.
Plus, our friend Hannah had lunch with us, but left before PHOTO OPS, and amongst other things told us about her INSECT STUDIES (she's getting her PhD in em) and pet HISSING COCKROACHES. She also told us about dissecting roaches in some class and their insides being like marshmallow, and I fainted dead away for at least two hours as a result. Paramedics were called and I survived, just barely.
Sep 4, 2009
-- Played double solitaire
-- Had a delectable lunch downtown
-- Went to KITCHEN KABOODLE where in typical fashione I purchased the following: a very large glittery, mosaic-y light blue bowl with two orange fish on it; a tannish doormat with a very large crow on it; two shiny long boxes of matches with very large peacocks on them; and two dish towels with spiders on them
-- Went to the GRANGE FAIR and saw an Elvis impersonator
-- Ate corndogs and funnel cakes and apple dumplings
-- Saw AWAY WE GO, which I forgave for all its sins due to its ridiculous levels of charm and sweetness
-- WATCHED PROJECT RUNWAY and then that show about the dumb models
The Grange Fair by the way is the biggest encampment fair in the country or something like that... There are just hundreds and hundreds of tents and RVs that pop up in spots that get passed down from generation to generation and you walk through these little pathways past all these families sitting in their big tents with name plates hanging from beams -- "The McCloskey Family" or whatever -- and carpets laid out and couches and beds set up and televisions... and at night all the sparkly lights come on and last night was a FULL MOON and in the background a huge ferris wheel rises up so you walk along these glittery pathways under a full moon with ferris wheels and carts selling funnel cakes or soft-serve ice cream all lit up in the distance, and its pretty magical... that is until the wind changes and you get a whiff of them porta potties or all the animales. I sorta meant to go to a bunch of things this year, like bingo and tractor pulls and the ceremony where they pick the GRANGE FAIR QUEEN... and I meant to go into all the many structures where you see pigs and horses and goats... and the buildings full of crazy vegetables -- giant alien squash and so on -- that have been entered in contests.. but I've been awful busy with this book and with packing/organizing for Germany so I just got the one evening for some Elvis and some brief meandering and now it is OVER.
In other news, today I go to BELLEFONTE to hang out with my friends Heather, Barb and Hannah, and then I shall wend my way to PHILPSBURG to do many wondrous things with my friend Jill. Philipsburg being the weird, hicky, used-to-be-important-but-now-dead-and-filled-with-many-Victorian-houses-that-used-to-be-fancy kind of town one finds in Pennsylvania... Bellefonte is like that too but a bit more lively... and today in addition to spending time with my fine lady friends I am all perusing and contemplating both towns for when I return this winter. I sorta feel like staying put more and setting up house in a little hick town and seeing how it goes. Of course with the occasional gorgeous trip to New York. And Kansas. And Oregon. And Italy......