Montag, März 30, 2009

Berlin and Brecht

This weekend I was in Berlin, to have fun, meet people, and get some informal cultural education. The latter part I mostly spent tracking Bertold Brecht's last years in East Berlin. After exile and a run-in with McCarthy's paranoid minions, Brecht returned to Europe and finally to East Berlin in 1949. But after the war, hardly a theater or hall was left there. Just the Admiralspalast stood as a sole survivor in the rubble around Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse, and most was left of the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm (later Berliner Ensemble) - others were ruins, hollow shells of buildings or mounds of burned rubble.

Brecht stayed anyway, produced as best he could, fought the authorities on many occasions, wrote and directed plays, re-arranged his life several times as he re-arranged his (many) women, and stressed himself to an early death in 1956.

Last night, I watched one of his plays. „Schweyk im zweiten Weltkrieg“, on Brecht's old stage, the Berliner Ensemble. The story is hard to explain to anyone who doesn't know the character of The Good Soldier Schweyk.

The one who pretends to be dumb but cleverly undermines the authority of tyrants by agreeing with them on the surface, and evading/fighting them with cunning and stealth. To me he’s a modern form of the archetypical character of the Trickster (Coyote, Brer Rabbit, Loki, Fox, Anansi, Nasreddin, Till Eulenspiegel... all cultures have their incarnation of the Trickster?).

Brecht wrote his play during WW II. The story and its characters - it's pure genius. Funny and sad, truthful and ironic, simple yet multi-layered, historically correct and visionary. The Berliner Ensemble production was congenial in casting and staging. Art at its best: Entertaining enough so I never felt lectured, yet I learned a lot about difficult times and the nature of people, and it made me think. Today, I am very glad to live now and here, and not in a time or place where I might have to choose between morals and survival.

Mittwoch, März 25, 2009

Between the Rains

Spring is late in coming this year, in spite of the birds that flew north a month ago. After a few nice and sunny days, we're again sandwiched between low pressure systems and their various cold fronts, with showers of sleet, rain and slushy snow.

Between two showers, I took this picture from my kitchen window. I love that window. Many years ago, when I visited friends in Scotland, I was very impressed by the huge window just above their kitchen sink, overlooking a beautiful wide valley. I always had sinks and stoves where I had to face a boring wall when I was cooking. Now in my new kitchen, the sink has a window, too, so I can watch people and birds and clouds from there, enjoy the view of those century-old houses in the foreground, and the hills in the background.

I'm looking forward to a time when the trees and hills are green. Tenacious as this winter is, that might still take some weeks.

Donnerstag, März 19, 2009

New View

The view from my new study window. My desk is in front of it, so I see those houses while I'm writing this.
The big one on the left (in the background) is an elementary school. I can watch the children play during breaks. Happy and peaceful scenes, mostly.

Mittwoch, März 18, 2009

Blogging and Twittering

Two weeks ago, I signed up on Twitter. It's rather addictive to log in and stalk people there, especially since some of the guys I found here are on Twitter, and I don't give up hope to connect somehow (as unlikely as it is, across vast divides of oceans and insignificance).

It also has that appeal of accepting only 140 characters per message. It allows no rambling, no digression, no circumscription. A great training to be succinct and precise in a foreign language.

Still, I like to ramble and digress from time to time. So, this blog will continue.

Regarding my new home, there's little news. One by one, I tackle the many boxes and furniture parts; I drill, plug and bolt, fix lamps, mirrors and shelves, find new places for all those books and DVDs, but there's still an almost endless list of things to do.

Freitag, März 13, 2009

Settling in

All week I spent unpacking boxes, drilling holes into walls, building shelves and wardrobes, cleaning drawers, putting away stuff, moving furniture around (and back again) because it still doesn't have the 'right' place, and cursing my squirrel nature that lets me keep too many things I don't really need. If anything, the chaos seemed to get worse.

And I caught a cold.

And another of my documentary film ideas just was rejected by the TV channel I offered it to.
All in all, this week was not very nice.

Enough whining. It will get better soon. My new home is going to be habitable in a few days, and beautiful in a few weeks. Spring is coming. Soon I will sit on my new terrace, sip latte (or white wine), chat with friends, or use my laptop to stalk people on twitter, and feel thoroughly decadent.

Can't wait.

Montag, März 09, 2009

New Shell

After three days of moving stuff around and down and up all those stairs (giving me the worst backache I ever had), and two nights spent in my mother's house (because neither kitchen nor bedroom were usable in my new home), this is the first night I spend here.
At home, in my new 'hermit crab shell'.

It still feels strange, as if I broke into someone else's house, or as if I am a visitor while the real owners are on holiday. It's not yet mine.

But it will be. Soon.

Mittwoch, März 04, 2009

Hermit Crab

Three more nights in my old home, then I will be gone.

It is strange to leave a house after more than 12 years. It has grown on me like a second skin. I look out of the windows and know the neighbours and their habits. There is a Lutheran pastor living opposite of me, who often works at his computer till midnight. His son learns to play the trumpet since three years (without much success, as my tortured ears can testify to). In the next house, two women share a flat on the top floor. One of them always stays up until at least 3 o'clock every night, watching TV in a room that is painted a bright turquoise and stuffed with brightly coloured furniture, so that it looks like a fishbowl from the outside. In yet another house, an Italian woman lives on the ground floor. She always dyes her short, bristly hair in a curious coppery purple shade, and she likes to sit by the window and watch people in the street.

The inside of my old house is so familiar to me, I can (and do) navigate it blindly. Some nights I get up from my sofa or desk, switch the upstairs lights off, and walk down the stairs and into the bathroom or the bedroom in darkness.
I am like a hermit crab, comfortable in its old shell, even if it is slightly too small by now.

It will take years to get as comfortable in the new place. It will be a challenge, but like the hermit crab that has to find a bigger shell every couple of years, I now need the space to grow.

Montag, März 02, 2009


After some weeks spent in lazy limbo, suddenly everything seems to be happening at once. My new home awaits me, all dressed up in a new coat of paint, the kitchen will be installed on Thursday, and on Saturday morning a lorry plus some strong men will arrive to move my furniture and stuff.

Last time I moved, 12 years ago, all the moving and carrying was done by friends. But this time I decided to get professional help. During the last decade, I have accumulated so many things (especially books), I will move from 3rd floor to 3rd floor (and both houses are old, so they don't have a lift) - and I would really like to keep my friends!

And now, I'll have to stop blogging for a week or two, and start packing all those boxes. Dozens of them. Why would anyone buy so many books?