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.