Babylon Berlin

The other night, I was watching the 3rd part in a really good 3 part German miniseries called Unsere Mütter Unsere Väter (2013).  The main actor and narrator of the series is Volker Bruch, who I’d never heard of but looked strangely familiar for some reason. Finally, I did a Google search and found out that last summer he worked on a film that I am an extra in, Babylon Berlin.

Babylon Berlin is a German period drama television series based on novels by Volker Kutscher. The series takes place in 1929 during the Weimar Republic and follows police inspector Gereon Rath, who has been transferred from the city of Cologne to Berlin, and aspiring police inspector Charlotte Ritter.

I vaguely remembered Herr Bruch from my day of filming. It was in a hedonistic 1920s bar and he was at the other end of the bar playing an inspector with another inspector. I was picking up women in the background, doing really well actually. In the three or four scenes I was in, the director set me up with three very pretty Frauen. I was usually talking to them or escorting them somewhere. Hopefully this can be made out in the film and wasn’t left on the cutting room floor.

Anyway, as I was Googling ‘Volker Bruch Babylon Berlin,’ I found this pic of him with my head in the background, leaning into the glowing white orb.

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When I first saw this, I wasn’t positive the head was mine, but I was almost positive. Then I showed the pic to Erica, my girlfriend, and she said there’s no way it couldn’t be mine. She said I have a uniquely square head. It’s like a box, she said. No argument.

I will stop here for now. We are leaving soon to watch Union vs. SV Sandhausen – a soccer game – in clear blue skies and a 19° chill factor. I will write about it later. I’m running way late…



Nexus Stage Left by M.P. Powers

This poem of mine was published today at In Between Hangovers.

via Nexus Stage Left by M.P. Powers

Nexus Stage Left

Soon enough, it’ll all be over.
This play, the dim-lit stage
with the cardboard angels and painted sand dunes,
the green dragon
and the coronation of vinegar.

Soon enough,
the rockfish will sing its swan song,
and the prophet Ezekiel
will come back
as a bulb of elephant garlic
in the Garden of Earthly Delights.

Soon enough,
when the wild Clydesdales of the sun
give birth
to cassava
and a jew’s harp, locusts and oil fires
will inherit
the Sinai Peninsula.

Soon enough is happening already.

Already, the queen bee is circling the pomegranate
to inspire some kind of
magic cosmic revelatory bias.

cactus fur
in Damascus,
and history’s opening its hands.

It’s the old story of The Fox
and The Crow, retold
from the point of view
of a piece

It’s stones
and roots and gaudy
struggling to be fire.

It’s a spastic fly trapped in the belly of a light fixture.

On Money


I prefer to write at home, but because it was sunny the other day, and sunny days are rare in winter in Berlin, I took a long walk with my laptop in my backpack and ended up at a café in Kreuzberg called Betahaus. Betahaus is a four-story workshare space and hub for startup companies, freelancers, programmers, graphic designers, videographers, bloggers, layabouts and so forth. I ordered a café crema and sat alone on a sofa chair in the back. Then I tried to write. I did write. I wrote the blog I posted three days ago, but not in its present form. I wrote a pale and sickly version of that, the precursor to several other pale and sickly versions, and sat there between sentences listening to some 20something American at the table across from me talking business with the two girls sitting by him. I could only hear dribs and drabs of the conversation. He was doing most of the talking. People have this notion, I heard him say a couple times. And, from a technical perspective. And, target market. I could tell he was quite intelligent, but there was something disappointing in his intellect. It seemed almost entirely constructed for and directed toward apprehending the obvious. Show him a painting by Hieronymus Bosch and he wouldn’t see it; play Mozart’s Turkish March for him and his eardrums would deflect it; read a poem by W.B. Yeats in his presence and risk being called a pansy.

I sat there listening as he prattled on. This is mission critical, he was saying. And I started to think about all the people in the world like him, super intelligent, but with personalities that got lost in the pursuit of money, knowing, as they did, that with money, that Protean Mephisto, came women, luxury, fancy meals, vacations, toys, status, reputation, approval, everything that was supposed to make a man happy, and did, sometimes, but when it came at the cost of your whole personality, usually not. The most miserable people I’ve ever encountered were the rich that came into my dad’s store to buy patio furniture. I worked for him in my late teens and early twenties, and have known ever since the ill-effects of too much wealth and too much reliance on the American Dream. Which is why I’m in Berlin now, happily poor.



Berlin in February, buildings of lilac-gray under radiant clouds, Italian madrigals leaking through half-open windows, the dark grumbling alleyways, centuries-old stone cathedrals, sun on the Quadriga, graveyards deep in shadow, the sweet smell of honeyed baklava drifting from a Turkish bakery, and the roar of underground trains, old men telling cock-and-bull stories in the dim-lit kneipen, advertisements in neon, sadness in a bordello, the ecstasy of the dance, thoughts of death, murderous desires, Kafka’s immaculate laughter groping through hallways of Portuguese marble, the sultry dread silhouette of a beautiful woman in the fragrant twilight, the earth under you spinning and the feeling of being fully alive.

This is why I write.

I do it because there are things in me – impressions, nuances, reveries – things I can’t express in normal conversation or in any other way, but they’re so alive in me, something would die if I had to keep them inside.  Sincerity, as I said in an earlier post, is a goal. But sincerity is only one feather in the pigeon’s breast. The rest is the play of language, the creation of vivid images, of mood, of atmosphere, the accurate transference of emotion, cultivating the perfect lie, the perfect truth, lyricism, the slowing of time, the flowering of eternity, the flower in mid-blossom and just out of reach.

It’s the reaching for it, that’s why I write.

Let Your Love Flow

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I’d been dreaming about moving to Germany for years, but I also had other places in mind, like San Francisco, or Chicago, or New Orleans or Seattle. Then one night in 2008, as I was with my sister on the George Washington Bridge driving from New York City to her house in New Jersey, we started talking about a German cousin of ours who we’d never met, but had heard (from another cousin) was currently a best-selling author in Berlin. It was a crime novel. She had also written a short story about our great-grandfather Rudolph Knapp.

Rudy, as he was called, was born in Steinwenden, a very small town in Rheinland-Pfalz, the biggest wine-growing region in Germany. His father owned a hotel and restaurant and butcher shop that’s all in the same building and Rudy, being the oldest son, stood to inherit the place, but in about 1900, he impregnated a maid who worked there. The problem with that was that he had a girlfriend who he apparently loved and who apparently forgave him. She was Catholic and he was Protestant and that was also a problem. So one night at about 3 a.m., Rudy raided the cash register at the hotel, covered the hooves of the family horse with rags and towels, and stole very quietly into the dark streets and clopped off to Bremen where he and his girlfriend boarded the U.S.S. Bremen and sailed to New York City. They then made their way to the Chicago area and Rudy opened a butcher shop in Oswego, had a daughter (my grandmother), sold the butcher shop and became a very successful and much-loved wiener salesman, of all things, for Oscar Meyer. He also repaid the money he stole from the cash register, but he never met the son he’d had with the maid. He had the chance to on one of his trips back to Germany, but refused. He’d made up his mind.

My father was in the S & L business in the 70s and 80s, and when that went under, he moved our family from the Chicago area to Florida almost as abruptly as Rudy moved from Germany to the Chicago. That was in 1985. In 2008, as I drove with my sister over the George Washington Bridge and heard the tale of Rudy and of my best-selling author cousin, I scratched all those big American cities off my list of places I wanted to move to, and decided Germany was the place. Germany will make a better story, I told myself. It’s more extreme. It’s the antithesis of Florida. It’ll make up for all the years I sat in a little gas-soaked shop with a drained and decomposing soul. And who knows? Maybe my best-selling author cousin will open a door for me.

3 years later, in 2011, I exorcised myself of everything and moved to Berlin. A year after that a pregnancy happened, and things weren’t ideal at first, but I didn’t run away. I didn’t Rudy anyone. I’ve made Rudy a verb, by the way. It means to impregnate someone and to jump ship to another country to avoid the consequences. I didn’t do that. But, when my 5-year-old son gets old enough, I will warn him about maids. There’s no need for the cycle – Germany-Chicago-Florida-Germany – to repeat itself in future generations, is there?

Anyhow, I’m still in Berlin and have yet to meet my best-selling author cousin of the German crime novel.

I did however go to Rheinland-Pfalz and visit the hotel/restaurant/butcher shop that Rudy stood to inherit. It’s no longer owned by anyone in my family, but I do have relatives still living on the property, in the ancient little house next door.

It was a Saturday afternoon at about 4 p.m. when I arrived at the hotel. I’d made a reservation and was staying there for one night, but when I walked into the place, there was no one around. I walked through the restaurant and looked at all the trinkets and lace tablecloths and little German decorations. I walked past the butcher shop and looked in. No one was there. I went up to the second floor and walked the halls and didn’t see anyone. Finally, I came back down to the restaurant and sat down at a table and waited for someone to appear. A minute or so later, the radio came on. It was the Bellamy Brothers, Let Your Love Flow. It was as if the spirit of Rudy had come into the building and was telling me something through the lyrics.

So let that feelin’ grab you deep inside
And send you reelin’ where your love can’t hide
And then go stealin’ through the moonlit nights
With your lover

Just let your love flow like a mountain stream
And let your love grow with the smallest of dreams
And let your love show and you’ll know what I mean
It’s the season

Confession: When Flamingos and Muscle Cars and Cornfields Begin Weeping for You

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I’m not good at sleeping. I woke up at 4:30 this morning, and that was that. My mind was already wide awake, burning like an overheated wire. I lay there in the dark of my little Berlin flat translating sentences from English to German, composing poetry in my head, thinking about everything from chemical weapons to carved ivory mammoth tusks to Chinese astronomers.

At 6 a.m., Erica’s alarm clock went off and I rolled over and wrapped my arm around her and pressed against her and kissed her a few times. She had to get up for work. But always, for a few minutes after her alarm goes off, we hold each other tight, getting as much love and comfort as we can out of our last precious moments together. I am lucky I have her, I tell myself. I have slept alone too many nights in my life. I need this.

I had this problem not long before I met Erica.

I thought the procreative fire in me had been snuffed out in my late 30s, and all I had left to live off the rest of my life was the residual heat, the afterglow. It all started with one incident (or trauma I should say), and then the paranoia set in, confidence was lost, and flamingos and muscle cars and cornfields began weeping for me. In the end I became deeply troubled by it, convinced my libido and I were on the outs and I’d never be able to have a loving, long-term relationship with a woman again.

Luckily, after I got together with Erica about 3 years ago, I was cured of my phantom insanities. I discovered the problem wasn’t physical. I’d invented it out of thin air and now the thing’s gone the other way. It’s as if some daemonic spirit slipped into me one night, magnetizing with a battery my progenitive device, and taking over. I don’t get it, I really don’t. Erica doesn’t either. She tells me I could use whatever the opposite of Viagra is. The opposite, I tell her, would be a nude photo of our seismic friend G. Hang one of those near the bed and I guarantee I’ll go back to my troubled and monkish ways.