The Voyeur

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It’s Friday night, Erica has gone to England for the weekend, and I am sitting in my flat with an unusual pain in my upper back. It feels like someone’s fist slammed into my kidney. I hope it’s not my kidney. It only hurts when I move. So I’m trying to stay static like a sleeping catfish, listening to Vivaldi’s Mandolin Concerti and dousing myself with Teroldego Rotalliano (2014), a bottle I just picked up at the supermarket for €3.99. Germany’s a marvel for good, inexpensive wine. Germans are too shrewd to let the prices of their favorite pastimes become unreasonable.

I take a sip of the dry, fruity, light-bodied, lightly bitter nectar (with a hint of almonds), and try not to breath deep because that too hurts.

I live on the ground floor of my building. My curtains are open right now and outside my window there is a garden, and beyond that, in the distance, there’s another building of flats and I can almost see in the rooms that are lit up. There’s six of them. I drain my third glass, stand on the bed and lean against the window looking out. I see a dark form moving in one of the windows. It seems to be looking back at me. I come back to my chair, sit down, pour another glass. As the mandolin carries its notes up to the ceiling. They hover there for a moment, floating around the center of room, my heart or soul or something in me going out after them.

This is how the troubadours did it.

Wine and poetry, music on a stringed instrument. The night charged with yellow flowers and head gaskets and incandescent mechanical dragons.

I sink in my chair. The glass pours itself. A light fails. Scorpions and canaries pour through the corridors and my back grumbles under spongy blazing mushrooms of fire.

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Oily Night

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Oily Night

I am tormented by simple things,
things no one seems to think
about: the touch of a foil butter packet,
a bonsai’s shadow,
my mind rotting like a tangerine.

Lying in bed on the edge
of dawn, listening to the river’s voice
and the last bird in the world,
the darkness standing
over me like a high priest.
I turn the TV on.

A light fills the room with brass rings.
Dreams of transmutation.
A politician promising the impossible
to a mass of people convinced they’re going to live forever.
I snap the TV off.

Lie here on my back,
the covers like a guillotine across my throat,
dawn awakening on the walls.

I am agonized by apparitions,
but this is the power I draw from.

This is the place the olive tree
puts on the fragrance
of dawn
and joy finds the heart of the last bird in the world.

This is where dizzy
opulent spheres murmur in the darkest
corners of the soul.

Here We Are Now…

 

 

Walked along the canal today with my beer and sat in the shade. I had planned on reading there, but felt so relaxed watching the strange and motley creatures of that area, I didn’t bother. I think a lot of the time, we pick up a book or turn on the TV out of habit, nothing more. We’re just so used to being entertained by someone else, a phenomenon that wunderkind Kurt Cobain was no doubt referring to when he said,

Here we are now, entertain us

— we don’t even give our own mind a chance, either to contemplate or try to think for itself. From the moment we wake up until we go to bed, we let the culture and the zeitgeist rub its poisonous entrails on us, and drive us further from ourselves.

Sometimes I wonder how different I’d be if I’d been born in a different time in a different culture. I like to think I’d be pretty much the same – a writer. Just like if you were to take a silkworm and stick it in the Bronze Age, it’d still be doing what it was created to do – spinning a thread.

In Praise of Folly (Literature vs. Boule)…

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Woke up early today and worked on my novel until lunchtime. I am only about 7000 words into it, and like a lot of what I have down, but I’m still just groping, trying to figure out the themes and motifs and what I want to say underneath the saying of everything. I don’t do outlines. I get a general idea in my head and wing it from there, always trying to stay consistent in tone. That’s not easy. Then I come back and revise. I’m more of a revisionist than a writer. My first drafts are rarely anything more than a prepping of the canvas. In other words, they’re shit.

At around 1, I rode my bike from Neukölln to The Martin-Gropius-Bau in Kreuzberg, only to find out the museum has been closed since March, and won’t reopen till the day after tomorrow. It was alright. The latest exhibitions looked lame, and I realized before I even got there that the weather was too gorgeous to be in a museum. I rode on to Potzdamer Platz feeling like I’d entered another city everything was so new and modern. The streets were jammed with cars and busses and bicyclers and tourists. I didn’t like it. I headed back to Neukölln, brought my bike into my flat, grabbed by backpack with my books and notebook and sketchbook and went out again, my throat parched for lack of beer. I bought a bottle of Köstritzer (dark German beer) at the Späti across the street and walked across Hobrechtbrücke and along the Landwerkanal to my favorite afternoon spot, the boules park. Only the terrains in the middle were occupied, so I sat on a shaded park bench at the end and got out my notebook. I didn’t write much and read nothing. Mostly I was marveling about the weather and how sublime my beer tasted. I love dark German beer. I never knew how much I did until recently. It’s my new phase. I’m a man of phases. I’m always going through them. Didn’t Dostoyevsky’s character in Notes from the Underground say something like that? Haven’t read the book since I was 22, but that’s one thing I seem to remember.

Anyway, I’d been sitting there for about ten minutes when a group of old German men gathered at the other end of the terrain. They had beers too, but they had come to play boules. There were three empty terrains on the space. They could’ve played at the one on my left or on my right. Instead they chose to play on at the one my park bench was nearly touching, which meant I had to move. They didn’t ask me to move. These old Germans were too polite. But when I saw the little red jack ball appear at my feet I knew it was my cue. I grabbed my bag, moved to the other side and sat there finishing my beer. Then I started thinking about how some of the players there were out there every time I went there, and I couldn’t help but respect them for it. Here I was driven by the devil, devoting practically all my free time to literature, getting crushed by it, stepping on relationships for it, losing out on who-in-the-hell knows because of it, and for what? I still can’t say exactly.

If I was wise, I thought, as I sat there in the shade, I’d take up boule and grow old with everyone else here.

But I wasn’t ready to be wise yet.

The devil driving me had a pitchfork in my back, shouting: Write, write, write!

It hurt too much to question it. And I’ve always been a masochist.

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Trump, Politics, Mythology & the Eternal

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Gross-out, bodily function, body-shaming humor, the objectifying of women, violence, bloodshed, the glorification of guns and money – when I think of the kinds of films and TV shows that have been successful the past quarter-century, it becomes obvious that Hollywood is no less guilty than Fox News for cultivating the soil that would give birth to the biggest and most dangerous dumb-dick ever to strut and fret its way across the world’s stage – I’m talkin bout Donald J. Trump. When I wake up every day, the first thing I do is check my iPod to see the latest happenings with his administration. Then it’s onto YouTube, and Twitter, and the BBC, and the German newspapers. I don’t like it, but in another way, I love it. It’s like cigarettes. I think about quitting every day. But then I think if I quit, I’ll miss the most important part of the reality show, that which everything’s been building up to since that famous and symbolic footage of Trump on the down escalator with his vapid rent-a-wife to announce he would be seeking position as leader of the free world.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

By now, even Trump knows the down escalator was apropos and that he made a massive mistake, but his bloodpride and child’s mind won’t let him do anything about it. Besides Humpty Dumpty, he calls to my mind Phaeton of Greek mythology, who without any skill, experience or know-how, borrowed his father Helios’ magnificent sun chariot and lost control of it,

Again, the culm and smouldering smoke did wrap him round
about,
The pitchy darkness of the which so wholly had him hent
As that he wist not where he was nor yet which way he went. 

~ (Ovid, Metamorphosis – Golding translation)

burning up everything on earth, and was himself destroyed by a thunderbolt.

The day I quit paying attention to politics, I tell myself, is the day the thunderbolt bound for the flame-colored Trumpian fleece will first appear – hopefully by that time he won’t have already burnt up everything on earth to save his own hide. Mal schauen (we’ll see), as the Germans say.

Anaway, after I am done with my dose of politics in the morning, I turn on classical music and the chattering of the pundits leaves my head. Angels of peace fill the room. I can almost feel my spirit expanding. It’s art my spirit craves, not politics, not news that’s already old news when it’s a day old. I seek the eternal. The story of man, of the earth, of man’s wholeness on earth and the imagination. That which is unchanging under any form of government – democracy, dictatorship, oligarchy. The truth of mere being, the language and impulses of the human heart, genuine feeling, man’s harmony with nature, anything that forgets to get dated and is so true and soul-satisfying that no one ever talks about it – that’s the real news of the day.

Biking in Berlin (w/ a Robert Burns Quote)

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My carbon footprint is close to nil. I haven’t had an automobile since 20ll. Everywhere I go I either walk or take public transport. But yesterday I did what I’d wanted to do for ages, and even made an attempt to do last year. I bought a bicycle. I bought it used for €150 at a little shop on Falckensteinstraße in Kreuzberg, and am quite proud of it, despite the harsh look Erica gave it last night when she got home. She said it looks like an old man’s bike. It’s a city bike, I told her. It’s for tall people. I am 6’3. My old bikes were mountain bikes built for short people, and I could never ride them properly. I was the slowest on the road. Elderly people, the morbidly obese, bunglers, small children – they’d all pass me by.

My first bike I kept losing. I’d go out drinking with it, chain it to a tree or pole somewhere, and either forget about it, or be too drunk to pedal and take the train home. Then I’d come back hungover the next day looking for it but could never remember the specific pole or tree I’d chained it to, let alone what street it was on, and the search would last for hours.

Once, I thought it got stolen. I was convinced I’d chained it to a railing near U-Bahn Leopoldplatz, and when I went to go get it one day, it was gone. I walked and took the train everywhere after that, and then a few months later, after I’d taken out the garbage in the courtyard of my apartment building, I saw it sitting among all the other bikes in the bike rack, just like I’d apparently left it. It was like finding lost money. But then I moved from Wedding to my current apartment in Neukölln, and parked it in the courtyard and someone stole the front wheel. A wheel cost more than what I’d paid for that bike, so I just left it out there without the wheel. That was 3 years ago. It’s still out there, but someone found a wheel for it. It’s not connected to it, but they’ve put the two close enough together so it looks like it is.

I bought my second bike for €50 off some louse named Rob. Rob’s one of those guys who’s never had a job in his life, but gets a monthly stipend from a trust-fund his grandfather set up that enables him to just barely scrape by. He’s trying to be a musician, and a writer, and a cartoonist I think, but he’s too lazy to put much effort into any of it, and most of the time he just sits on social media behind a pseudonym and prowls around other people’s profiles.

Anyway, I had his bike for about a year, but it was just as slow as the other, and worse than that, every time I’d look at it, I’d think of Rob and get this rotten sinking feeling. I probably could’ve dealt with it if the bike was parked in the courtyard, but after getting the wheel swiped from the other, I didn’t feel safe keeping it out there. I kept it in the hallway of my flat and would look at it every day with that feeling. Finally, I got a flat tire on it while pedaling through Reuterkiez, and chained it to a pole, pretty much abandoning it. It eventually got stolen. I was happy. I wish the same thing would happen to Rob. But at least he’s not in Berlin anymore. Last I heard he was living in Dumfries, Scotland, the town where Robert Burns is from. So to him I dedicate these lines:

Ye Pow’rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae stinkin ware
That jumps in luggies;
But if ye wish her gratefu’ pray’r
Gie her a haggis!

Off to go biking now.