Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Torture. Museum.

Open to the most daring and strong-stomached of the public, this museum houses all the tools of the abandoned torture trade.

Past the gate-keeper, a dark and grungy ode to torture awaits.

Extensive plaster molding and sparse red and blue mood lighting insinuates a dungeon for you to walk through. If you dare.

In the olden times, folks didn't have the full spectrum of color, apparently they only saw the world in the shades of 3D glass lenses. Royal blue or crimson red.  

From the worn down spikes of the Iron Maiden, to the rotted ropes still partially tied to The Rack; everything wreaks of bad times.

Descriptions are printed onto parchment paper and housed inside glass display cases. This is where the real torture begins.  The writing is probably crafty and witty in one of the dozen translations it's written in, but not the English one.

Equally appalling yet morbidly fascinating are the illustrations and aged photographs of the torture devices being put to use.  After the third or fourth picture of heavily bled ink depicting a man's disembowelment or a woman's defacement; it gets old.

It's disturbing to see how we used to handle suspicion, accusation, and hearsay.  But, not as disturbing as watching how people love to touch and test how sharp or uncomfortable every artifact is.  

I now understand why respectable museums don't allow people to touch the artwork.  It looked like everyone was blind as they felt up and heavily petted every display piece.  Was it because we're in Amsterdam or was it because dignity didn't belong in the mood-lit dungeon of plaster?  

This place is a pseudo cemetery. It houses devices of torment and unnatural death.  Hundreds of lives were ruined and even ended on the chair I now see a tourist seated upon with a beaming smile across her face as she cautiously rocks back and forth.  No respect, no reverence.  

Which torture is worse? The failed attempt to recreate the experience of the victim through mood lights and plaster? Or being situated in line behind the tourist with an unstoppable compulsion to act out scene after scene upon every display item?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Amsterdam, you old snake in the trousers.

Amsterdam is the world's biggest meat market of indulgence. Come here, bring your cash, and be satisfied. 

With everything made legal, or at least available, the choices are too great.  The first-timers meander through the city like it's an extended garage sale and some prize is hidden deep underneath.   They pace about the city like a baby stumbling through  a play area the first time.  Determined to find the best weed, the best psychotropic mushroom, or the best hooker, people never settle on anything until they grow tired of walking.  And grow tired of walking you do within the first half-hour of consciously watching how you plant every footstep on the uneven cobble stone.

The architecture: some people come for it but no-one believes them.  Then, you actually go to Amsterdam and see why it's not an excuse to inhale deeply at strategic locations.  The architecture screams with potential for a Spiderman movie.  Every neo-gothic and post romantic detailing gives more for the already over-whelmed eyes to feast upon.

The man who may best remember Amsterdam and all of it's details is a man without sight.  In the city, or in thought, it's easy to get lost amidst the worldwide mix-up of tourists, the drug shops, and hookers.

Where does this story begin and where does it end?

Stay tuned and I'll walk you through as best I can.  Expect to hear about the autobahn, the strawberry field sprint, the torture, the confrontation with the locals, and the hostel above one of Amsterdam's most popular bars.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Springs for legs.

My roommate's name is Gunnar.  After running with him, he's been dubbed "Machine Gunnar." The man has coiled springs for legs.  Every time he hits the ground, he bounds forward.  It's like the world is his personal trampoline and I don't get to jump on it.

No-one out here does the nod.  The little head movement of acknowledgment to say "Hey, I see you over there. You're running too. Keep it up."  Instead, people stare ahead with a glazed look and pump their limbs.  Everyone's a machine.  This town's been taken over by robots.  

I promise to take more pictures and get them up here. In the meantime, enjoy my words.  For all they're worth.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The human blob

Another day in Germanic paradise. Almost.

I have to give props to the park.  The upkeep and vegetation is nicer on my eyeballs than any other park I've run through.  With so many tiny dirt trails and stone walkways, it feels like a scenic forest more than a city park.  It's so nice to run through here because you feel like you've escaped to the country.

I wouldn't call what I've been doing running, it's more like an extended power walk with a skip added to it.  Pretty embarrassing to see the shape I've digressed to. 

Miami Ad School is one of the worst things you can do to your body.  With a hodge podge schedule, you can have classes in te morning or at night.  It's always stressful and you're always coming up with your ideas way later in the process than you had hoped.  Working out meeting times with your group is never easy.  All of these things combine to screw over your personal life.  When this happens, you get stress and lack of sleep.  Couple the stress and lack of sleep with eating cheap food and living at happy hours and you get fat.  

When I came here, I was warned by the graduating students about the cycle and it's repercussions.  Yeah right, there was no way it could happen to me.  Then it did.  Now it's time to turn it around.  

For all you ad schoolers reading this, you know what I'm talking about.  I encourage you to take a good hard look at your day to day life.  Sure, every assignment is important, but so is your health.  What's the point of getting a great job if we're gonna drop at 33?

Justin, the new roommate and I, talked about this over dinner last night at Michaelangelo's.  Michaelangelo's is an Italian spot located about fifteen feet from our apartment.  It has a green, handwritten cursive sign and multiple umbrellas lined up to provide a mini circus tent-sized awning.  THese beige colored square umbrellas must be at least 20 feet wide, easily the biggest I've ever seen.  THey're all anchored to cast iron anchors to keep from blowing away.  

As Justin and I worked our way through bruschetta with mounds of freshly sliced tomatoes and several different cheese topped on a local German bread; we figured out how to this cycle of letting your body fall apart around.  There's a rent a bike program here in Hamburg and throughout Europe where you can rent a these decent red framed bikes with lights, gears, and a bell.  Here's the best part:  it's free if you rent it for less than thirty minutes,  it's 5 Euros if you rent it for more.  The bike ride from home to school is 21 minutes. It's perfect!

Also, I'm done with enjoying the daily .5 L bottle of beer. The problem here is beer is cheaper than juice.  Beer is cheaper than water too.  And beer is delicious, everything is from Germany, or even Hamburg so without the import and advertising costs; it's one Euro per bottle (remember these bottles are basically twice the size of American beer bottles).

Anyways, it's time to get healthy.  With such scenic parks and a decent mix of outdoor events. I'm ready to get my butt into shape and be a bit more disciplined.  We'll so how it plays out. 

Thanks for listening.  If you have any suggestions on how to handle a crazy schedule, I'm all ears.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Back track a little bit, I left out my experience at the hostel. 

So here we go: 

On the 9th, We stayed the night at the Langdunsbrucken Youth Hostel. Joe was blown away at the location and quality of this place. It pays to listen to the local recommendations. At 20 Euros a night, this place beat out a lot of American hotels. If it had a bigger locker space, I would have stayed for the entire trip at this place. Amazing.  

The breakfast was delicious. It was a college cafeteria layout of foods and beverage options ranging from German pastries with different fillings of delicious fruits and sweetened pastes to espresso machines.  

If I loved coffee, this place would be a dream come true. There were several different freshly ground pots brewing at the same time.  Seriously, I wanted to stay here for the full three months.  All it needed was eggs and I would have locked it down.

The pastries were incredible.  They were laid out in a vasty array.  

 I fashioned myself a promiscuous chai.  Not many people are  fan of this drink.  But, it's a cup of coffee mixed with hot chocolate and a chai bag is brewed in it.  Justin, my new roommate here at the apartment, describes it as Christams gone bad.  I think it's amazing. It tastes like a spicy hot chocolate. Fantastache.

Joe and I ventured throughout the port of Langdunsbrucken. It started off strong as we came across a silver woman. Remeber the silver men in the big cities like Chicago and San Fran who stand motionless on a box until you drop in a quarter or a dollar?  Same thing, except she wasn't wearing glasses.  It's creepy and gives the person less of a statuesque appearance as they eye ball you from afar.

Moving along we discovered the Rickmer RIckmer. I thought it was a tall ship docked for the night, but once we saw the pamphlets and attractions, i realized it was a tourist attraction. Crap. I'm such a tourist.  Attracted to the big ship like a moth to a night light.

It was time for Joe to go to his home and set up camp. We ventured over to the sirichstrasse and Joe got to meet Nicholai. Nicholai is a 27 year old starting up his own company.

Once Joe realized he couldn't move in until tomorrow, we moved his stuff to Brian's place nearby and headed over to my apartment to meet up with Mr Justin Stielow.

Justin was the last to arrive and the last to find out the dream apartment for all of us didn't work out and we were scrounging about the city.  Coming off a week and a half long bender in the States, Justin was exhausted but had to kill 7 hours in the bar until we met up with him at 7pm.  Then we went out for a belated celebration of my birthday.  This is another story for the next post.  Stay tuned comrades.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dancing with myself. And Atmosphere.

So I went to an Atmosphere concert. For the uninformed, Atmosphere is a renowned underground rap group from Minneapolis. 
They randomly had a concert scheduled in Hamburg. Normally, these shows are sold out months in advance in Minneapolis.  But, in Hamburg it's a different story.  We had no idea Atmosphere was touring, it was a random spotting which led to one great concert. Allow me to explain.
The night Justin came in, we celebrated my birthday and went out to a Greek restaurant in the middle of Schantzee.  Schzntzee is a hot spot of Hamburg. It's where the riots, concerts, and general night life happens.  Hosted by our new neighbor and friend Ale, a kind hearted man with a goofy sense of humor which is exagerated by his endearingly thick rimmed glasses and perfectly manicured ghotee, took us out to a local spot in the middle of the area.  
As we enjoyed German interpretations of classic Greek dishes, a man came by on his accordion.  The custom in Hamburg is people play around you, look to see if you enjoy their music, then ask you for money since you enjoyed it.  A familiar tune was coming from this accordion.  We couldn't put our finger on it and it soon became maddening.  Usually the answer escapes to the back of your mind when you think harder and harder to figure it out, but I got lucky and realized it was the theme song from 'Godfather.'  
So there we were, seated outside under the 8x20 foot awning of green and white stripes.  We beraded Ale with endless questions about Hamburg, what to see, the history, the local spots, and so forth until the food came.  ALong came the food and it was delicious. 
I don't want to get into the details of the meal because it's going to make me hungry for it. Let's skip to the concert.

On our way home through the winding streets, we walked through a concert venue and noticed a few brightly colored fliers on the wall of the open public area.  Here's where the discovery happened.  At the top of the list, in bold, black Helvetica lettering; ATMOSPHERE. To make a long story short, we got excited and danced around a bit. Fast forward a few days and we're at the Atmosphere concert.

Wow. Sorry for all the build up but I'm sure it wasn't too bad.

The concert was epic.  We got tickets the night of.  Literally, as in we went there an hour late because we had night class.
Surprisingly, the place was packed. But tickets were available! 
EVen better yet, I brought my camera and held it high saying "intriudigun, photographer!"  
People at the show were kind and let me pass by them.

Slug, the lead singer of the group, came out in full force and lit up the crowd.  The crowd was vibrant and hung on his every word.  A german native crowd sang along to every english word of every song Slug sang.  It was impressive, and it sounded funny due to their accent. I will give the German dialect credit, it's a pretty beautiful language when spoken fluently.  Arnold Schwarzenegger was my first experience of German and it was all wrong!  Arnold's from Austria where they speak German like Southerners in the USA speak english: obnoxiously. 

Great concert indeed. I was able to muscle my way up to the front and sat on stage while I snapped endless pictures of Slug.  I hate the low lighting of concerts because it's nearly impossible to get a good picture. 10 out of 300 plus pictures I took ended up nice. I'll post them all up later, but for now here's the one I made a project out of for my advertising photography class:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

It started on the cobble stone streets of Schtutterblatte.  

Hamburgers packed the streets and filled it with energy and noise.  We muscled our way throughout to find the 1 Euro beer stands and join the celebration.  People adorned their perfectly cristened mohawks of vivid shades of pink and blue.  Leather jackets with metallic spikes were the popular outfit.  On both sides of the streets, graffiti decorated the archaic buildings of local shops and apartments.  

As we passed each intersection of city streets, cops were garbed in riot gear from head to toe.  They stood at attention, ready for action, in groups 40 to 50 strong. A bullet proof shield in one hand and baton in the other, they resembled ancient Spartans whose Herculean strength resulted from working as a unit.

Why so many cops? All these people want to do is show off what wood glue can do to hair and have a few cheap Astras.  Astras are the Hamburg local beer. At 1 - 2 Euros a bottle,  Astra is the preferred drink of party goers because it's cheap, effective, and local. They taste a hundred times better than a budlight, yet are priced the same.  Germany 1, USA 0.

Ze americanas. Joe, Brian, and I, strutted about the streets in graphic shirts, cargo shorts, and flip flops.  The crinkling of glass underneath our leather soles was heard with every step above the excited talk and song of the Hamburgers.  Then, everything changed.  

Smoke rose from afar.  Amidst the smoke and the growing wisps of yellow and orange, a man in a sleeveless leather jacket was suddenly several feet above the heads of mohawks and spikes.  As he struggled to keep his balance, he continued to stack foreign objects like fork lift palletes and outdoor speakers and climb atop them.  

Little did we know, he was building a burn pile as a demonstration against capitalism.  Curious and ignorant to the situation, we ventured closer.  Explosions were heard.  They sounded like M-60 fire crackers in a mailbox.  People ahead of us started covering their eyes.  It was tear gas. We were getting gassed.  Brian caught a waft in his right eye and immediately had trouble seeing. This was no longer a demonstration. This was a riot.

As the flames grew, so did the energy of the crowd.  The sleeveless leader spastically led the crowd in German chants.  He resembled a musical conductor as he waved his arms around wildly and the people followed his every move with arms held high.  A sea of hands wrapped in spiked bracelets clutching beers could be seen for blocks and blocks. Then came the water cannons.

THe crowd turned into a mosh pit as almost everyone fled the range of the cannon.  Those who stayed scurried about the streets to grab empty bottles.  Here's the interesting part: when the crowd fled, they only ran far enough to avoid getting sprayed.  Once they were out of range, they continued chanting and cursing

For the few hooligans who remained in range of the water cannon, they were doused heavily. They threw beer bottles at the water guns as an act of defiance.  This explained all the crinkling of glass I was nervous about with every step in my flip flops.  

When sprayed, they would stand still with arms held high in rebellion.  This continued until the water pressure became too intense, or the cops would kick and punch them into submission.

I was freaked out.  I had no desire to experience jail time in a foreign country and was ready to leave.  Joe and Brian were intrigued to keep watching, so we stayed and watched from a safe distance.

The riot started in the center of Schantzee (not sure if I'm spelling it correctly).  The Schantzee spans about twenty blocks or so. By blocks I'm talking about the equivalent of a Chicago city block for the sake of comparison.  Since all the cobblestone streets of Hamburg are winding and convoluted, it's more of a labyrinth than a city grid.

The riot went on all night.  It was a slow effort by the cops to spray the crowd and progressively push them back. It took about a half hour to move the crowd twenty feet.  For the first hour, this was their tactic.  

Cops formed lines 80 - 100 strong to block off the side streets to prevent people from looping around the streets to come up from behind the water cannon and try to sabotage it.  I felt like a herded cattle as the cops and mobile water turrets forced us into a confined area.

The rest of this story is continued in the previous blog entry. This was as far I got last time before Blogger destroyed my work.  To hear the rest, check the blog below.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

You are killing me BLOGGER

So I had a beautiful post about the riot I survived.  But, blogger didn't like it so it closed my internet window and erased the whole thing. 
It might be time for me to go venture over to word press. 

You hear me BLOGGER? One more time and I'm leaving you. I swear I'll do it.

...here's all I have left of my whole blog. I'll rewrite it on the new blog. The BLOG which won't shut down on me.

I, a beer or two deep, needed relief.  As I waited in a line for ze bathroom, I met a guy who spoke German as his native language, spanish as his second, and english as his third. It was perfect.  We conversed for 5 minutes where I found out the riots were a common thing.  People would come out from all over to watch the demonstration, hence the thousands of colorful mohawks.   

The polizei hate arresting people because it takes too long, instead they love throwing a punch and a kick to disperse the crowd.  THey had a great scare tactic: run at the crowd in a Spartan-esque fashion.   When you see fifty riot gear cops running at you with batons held high, you run.

All in all, it was a fun night.  We ended up getting sprayed when a water turret snuck around a corner and blitzkrieged us as a group.  After two hours of passively participating in the riot, it was time to head to the Reeperbahn, the red light district of Germany.  This is a great story for another time.  Especially when we met the local ladies of the night who grab your shirt with a herculean grip. 

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

AMerican. Squared. Part Two.

Breakfast was amazing.  Talking about it dominated my last entry. I'm not going to get started.

It was time to get to business. I needed a place to live. This 45 Euro a night business had to stop.  With my atlas stone in hand, I once again baby stepped about the town until I found an internet cafe close to Hotel Blanco.  

1 Euro for an hour. Amazing. This might be the best deal in all of Europe.  I take it back, I heard Prague was incredibly affordable.  Prague, the city we're heading to in a couple weeks!  Prague, the city I'll write all about and take hundreds of pictures of.  Yes, you should stay tuned.

"Sprecken ze English?" I said in my best German accent. 

"Ya! Zen zi Americana?" the clerk replied with enthusiasm. 

"Ja! Americana! Ja vol!" I said with too much excitement.  The clerk told me to use the computer first, then pay later.  Just like breakfast.  Do it now, pay it later.

I de-robed myself of the belongings strapped to my body and flopped into an open chair.  

"Hey man, are you from America?" asked a polo wearing brown haired guy in cargo shorts.  His eyes were big and full of hope with a slight hint of desperation. Much like my own.


"I thought I just did." What a smart ass, what a find.  I then found out he's from Tampa Bay, Florida.  He's here to go to school for three months.


"What are you studying?"  I asked while biting my lip to conceal my excitement.

"Advertising, I'm going to a school called Miami Ad School." Bingo. I found my american comrade. 

Then I found out the apartment I had lined up was no longer available. It turns out when I said we wanted the apartment, go ahead and lock it down; it didn't mean the same to Hans.  Hans, the guy you shouldn't trust to find you an apartment. Fiching weasel.

I had some work to do. Friday wasn't going to be such a carefree day of moving in then exploring the city.

I remembered at Hotel Blanco, the owner was talking to me about an apartment he had. I headed over there with hope.  Brian and I were seated in a room full of persian rugs and grand old wooden clocks. What is it about getting old and gathering clocks? Do you want to count down your life with company incapable of dying on you unlike all of your friends who are waiting for you in the next realm? I don't get it.

He barely spoke English, I don't speak German. It was a long affair coupled with extravagant hand motions, a lot of writing, and a copious amount of awkward pauses. It felt like more of a staring contest than a conversation.

After twenty minutes of this, I figured out they wanted 850 Euro a month for their cramped quarters without wireless internet.  "Too much. Too much." I said slowly as I shook my head.

Big surpirse: they understood this phrase. "750 Euros." He said as a counter offer.

"Too Much. Too much." I said.  The awkward silence ensued. We stood in the dank basement where the office desk was situated for what felt like eternity. 

"Ok. Bye now." It was over.

We walked over to school.  School was a half mile away, I had no idea it was so close. I also had no idea a half mile could feel so much longer with my atlas stone.  I need to get back into shape. 

I spent the better half of the afternoon making Brian restlessly hang out while I scoured the internet for apartments. Finally, I lined up a few. It was time to go check out the places and meet with the people.

Joe was flying in later on today so we had to find a hostel to stay at since we didn't have an apartment.  Hopefully, I thought, Joe will check his e-mail before he leaves the airport and heads to our non-existent apartment. 

Monday, July 6, 2009

American. Squared.

The day starts warm. The sun laughs from on high as it heats my skin to a pinkish-red.

The yellow loops jut forth from a over saturated red background of a McDonalds store entice me.  I stumbled towards the congruent loops with my atlas stone slung over my shoulders. Hunched and drooling, I could already taste the Bacon Egg & Cheese Bagel, Hash browns, and orange juice in my mouth. 

I walked up to the entrance. The manager came out to open the store.  Everything in my mouth wanted me to take the next step and walk through golden arches.  

I'm proud to say I refused my buds of taste as I ventured past the familiar and onwards to the unknown.  It was time to see what Mundsburg had to offer my mouth.

After a series of destroyed sidewalks and uneven cobblestones, I found a local spot.  Cafe Trishina. 

Scents of fresh pastries and espresso drinks wafted from the door.  The shop was small and full of pastries with icing, sweetened fruit fillings, and glazed sandwiches. 

I asked what was good. I wish I could have asked in German, but instead I slowly said "What is good here?" with my hands pointing at the array of shiny breakfast delicacies. 

A friendly German teenage girl behind the counter chose a football sized sandwich for me.  A smile grew from a smirk to a full bodied grin which dominated my face.  

As she grilled the sandwich and decorated the bun with a specialized glaze, she asked me "Is America as crazy as the movies? Can you survive six minutes without stabbing happen?"

If we aren't bombing them in real life, we're doing it on screen.  

America, the land of crazies and killer.  I've often wondered what the perception of Americans was to the non political zealots and people unaffected by the era of world wars.  America is a scary land for foreigners.

I'll write more about this later, but for now, I don't want to preach about societal norms and lose your attention span. Or mine. 

Back to the good stuff: ze food.  I stood and waited to pay at the counter, when suddenly the teenage brunette shot me a dirty glance.  Dirty as in why-the-fich-are you-still-standing-there dirty.  "Go on. Go on." Said the girl with grandiose hand motions pointing towards the seating outside.  And, I left.

She kicked me out. Great.

Confused, I sauntered to the outdoor seating and found a table constructed in an industrial manner with stainless steel and wooden planks. It was surprisingly comfortable. Somehow the wood gave enough to keep your tailbone from feeling all the pressure.  As I marveled over the comfort of stiff wood, two women who were having a smoke and a pastry stood up and walked into the store to pay and leave. 

This is the Hamburg way, you pay after the food.

Eight minutes later (it felt like thirty for my stomach) my deutch friend brought forth the glazed breakfast pastry.  From the grill and the heat, the sandwich had reduced to half its size.  I was distraught.  How could this feed me? It was barely the size of my two fists put together.  Oh well, at least I know where McDonalds is. 

No. No. No. I am going to embrace the German culture and adapt to the eating and drinking habits. At least the eating habits (stop worrying mom).  I was determined to take my time with this sandwich and hope it filled me up.  The first bite wasn't anything special, but the second bite almost made me shit my pants.  It was delicious.  

The glazened texture over the outer surface of this Kaiser type roll gave a sweetened first taste, the cheese was as soft as butter and tasted like a slice of Munster, the ham was cured in sweetened red chili sauce.  All of these forces combined to create a morning glory. In my mouth.  

I moaned with adoration.  Two elderly German women smiled as they stared into my eyes from across the veranda.  I stopped moaning.

My first German breakfast was a success.  The cliff bars I had for breakfast the day before didn't count.  Anything which passes through your system in under six hours doesn't count as a meal. My digestive system is a system, not an amusement park ride.  I don't want record speeds and hairpin turns. I want it slow and steady. No lines, no thrill seekers.

Wow. This entry is going downhill fast. No pun intended.  I'll write more later. 

I promise. 

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Birthday Comes To An End

Today wasn't the worst birthday I've ever had.  How bad was the worst? Great question.

On a hot Sunday, I celebrated my fifteenth birthday.  Since it was Sunday, unbeknownst to me, my mom set up a surprise party at church for me.  The party would happen after the church service.  I would sit with my family and they would proudly escort their beloved son to the surprise reception where all my friends and the families of my friends would don me with a joyous "SURPRISE!"

Little did I know, skipping church to go skateboard was the worst move possible. Throughout the entire service, everyone was looking for me.  My mother was beside herself thinking something terrible happened to me. 

How did it feel to walk into the sanctuary after the service when everyone who had waited for me to show was filing out?  It was like farting in a room where everyone knows you did it but won't say anything. Instead, you get a uniform solemn stare of condemnation as heavy brows and reddening eyes burn holes through you.  This is what it felt like to walk in on the service as people were leaving the sanctuary.  

It would have been easier to have God rain sulfur upon me, Sodom and Gomorrah style. Nevertheless, after my mom took me aside for a twenty minute scolding to notify me I was indefinitely grounded and she couldn't believe what I had done, we celebrated my birthday! 

When I walked in, it was like everyone had found out I had cancer and my dying wish was to have a birthday party in the reception room at my church.  The painfully drawn out surprise and happy birthday song was excruciating.  

Such a happy song coupled with evil eyes and judgmental stares, I'll never forget it.   It may as well have been an intervention. At the end of an intervention, people say they love you and care about you. There's hugs and tears.  Only the beginning is cold, hard, and brutal. Unfortunately, I wasn't taking drugs so this option was ruled out.  The cold, hard, and brutal beginning begot a cold, hard, and brutal entirety.  

"Way to skip church Matt," a stranger sneered at me. A literal stranger was scolding me.  People have big balls when your in the house of God.  I was too ashamed to respond with a counter argument such as "I don't even know you." So, I took it. All of it. Every furrowed brow in my direction and scowl went down as smoothly as the dry birthday cake with copious frosting mounted like an avalanche about the gristly cake texture. 

The night turned around when my youth pastor had mercy on me.  As I was choking down the final bites of my birthday cake slice, a super-sized palm slapped my back vigorously. "Hang in there buddy" was all I heard as I saw my youth pastor give me a wink and walk off into the menacing crowd. 

This was the worst birthday of my life.

Today wasn't the worst, and it wasn't the best. It falls in the middle.  It started with scrambling about the internet in my KOCKS HOTEL room to find a new place to stay.  Luckily my director of the new school (who actually lives up to his title unlike the last director I had in Minneapolis) hooked me up with some info on Hotel Blanco. 

I hopped into a cab, "Sprecken zi Ingles?" I asked with my best possible German accent, trying so hard not to sound like Arnold as I said it.  Bad habits, like doing Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonations for fifteen years, get in the way of learning German dialect. "Muah Bissel" replied the cab driver.  As we climbed into his Mercedes Benz, which is apparently the official car of all cab drivers, he sped off through out the narrow streets and round abouts of Hamburg.  

I tried to follow his turns in accordance with atlas in my hand, but it was a lost cause.  All I figured out is I'm on a road called Obertenallee by the Mundsburg Center where Slumdog Millionaire and Ice Age 3 are still playing in the theater.  In German. 

Twenty Euros and twenty minutes later I thanked the Cab Driver with a high five and a "Danka comrade."  Yes, I fused Russian and German.  It's all part of the German hybrid language I've decided to create: Aryan 2.0.

Hotel Blanco is a converted apartment structure.  It lies within a series of apartments lined up with the Obertenallee sidewalk. Sunken in by a good twenty feet from the line up of the other apartment entrances, it's like staring at Mars on a semi-cloudy night. If you don't concentrate and don't believe it exists, you won't see it.

i tried to walk through but couldn't because the door is locked. Great start for a hotel. I pushed the ringer which displayed HOTEL in helvetica font across the horizontally mounted rectangular buzzer.

Suddenly I heard the sound of a garbage disposal. I then realized it was the electronic unlocking of the Hotel Blanco front door. I walked through.

The entrance is a midway segment between the ground and first floor. You walk into a stair case which works as a spiral staircase, only it's a square staircase indoors.  A narrow corridor leads you up and a narrow corridor leads you down.  I heard a voice muttering foreign German phrases. "Guten tag comrade" I bellowed in wait of a response.  The foreign German phrases from below became louder in response.  I dropped my bags (they don't fit along with me through the corridors) and headed downstairs.  

I saw a man who looked like a flea circus manager.  He resembled the alien in Star Wars who owned Anakin and his mother in the Phantom Menace.  Much like in the movie, he was unaffected by jedi mind tricks. My bartering, which consisted of saying "It's my birthday, do you have any birthday specials" was met with "Room? 45 Euros."

Four flights of narrow stairs later and I'm situated in my room.  It's quaint, homey, and tight like a prison cell.  There's two anorexic sized single mattresses on the opposite side of the entrance.  Next to the entrance is a wall mounted  2'x3' rectangular mirror. Below the mirror is a sink with a "Wasch Lotion" dispenser.  High above, at the 7' top of the room, a wall mounted security monitor television is mounted.  Don't worry, this 12 inch screen bad boy gets German cable.  Dozens of channels I can't understand. Glorious. 

Down the hall is the communal bathroom.  You open it using your middle-ages castle key.  The same key unlocks my bedroom door. I have a hunch this is a skeleton key which unlocks all of ze doors but I'd rather not test this theory.

I dropped my Atlas sized bag and headed out to see some of Hamburg.  It's a beautiful town.  Picturesque and full of archaic style.   

There's one McDonald's across the street from me and I have to admit, I went there tonight to experience the German version of an American staple food.  

First lesson. Don't order water. It costs more than soda and you get sparkling water.  Second lesson, there is no ketchup.  The fries are as salty as the American version, but without the ketchup.  The burger is greased down with more delicious add-ins like bacon and saur krat. Ok I'm kidding about the saur krat, but it's a greasier meat patty. By far.  

German McDonalds. Not a bad way to treat yourself to a happy birthday. I mean to go out to a nearby pub and celebrate my birthday properly, or at least get recognized for today being my birthday.  This was my plan when I laid down at 4pm to take a power nap.  When I woke up 10 hours later, I realized the beers would have to be postponed.  Jet lag is a bitch. 

Not the liveliest birthday of my life, but far from the worst.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

26 and searching

I wish today was Friday.  Friday is the day I meet with my new landlord and lock down my new apartment.  Friday is when Mr Josephina Poeschl comes into Hamburg and I get to speak full English with someone again.

Today is Thursday. Thursday is the day I haul my gigantic hockey bag around Hamburg in 85 degree weather to find a hostel.  

My bag's big as in Atlas's stone big.  When it's slung across my shoulder, I feel the pain of poor Atlas.  The freakish humidity today makes me think I've landed in some giant German's armpit. 

I know it's time to go out and get cultured, but I'd rather not have my gear get nabbed while I'm out.  Since my landlord bounced to Berlin, I'm left to sweat and scramble about the city.  

Fortunately, Emmet, the director of the school here hooked me up with Hotel Blanco which is less than a mile away from both school and the apartment.  At 40 Euros for a night, it's over my 25-30 Euro goal Mr Seth Bearcat told me to shoot for. Normally I would opt for a cheaper spot, but it's my birthday and I'll squat where I want to.

Speaking of getting cultured, I've come around on black olives.  They were in my mini sized salad on the flight from Chicago to Dublin.  All my life I've hated these leach look-a-likes.  They pump out an acrid odor and feel like a slug.  The taste always made me cringe. 

I don't know what happened.  Perhaps it was the excitement of flying to a foreign country.  It might have been the plastic carton presentation of the aged salad leaves.  Whatever it was, I loved the olives.  They blew my mind all over the seat, window, and left side of my 300 plus pound plane buddy whose beige, crooked smile of rotted teeth inspired me to start flossing again.  

I'm sure I'll have more to say once I land a squat in the new hotel Blanco. 

Hotel Blanco.  Where foreigners go to celebrate getting older. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Deutsch Bag Is In.

Here I am, a bumbling American caught red handed in German country.  I'm thrilled to be here.  I'll do my best to recount my experiences as best my keystrokes will allow, please enjoy.

And now. Without further adieu. The traveling accounts of your favorite Deutsch Bag!

Today I flew through Dublin but didn't get to check out the country.  I did get a good peak at the picturesque mountains in the distance with swarms of fog and rolling clouds in-between as I stepped off my Aer Lingus flight.  I'm definitely going back to Ireland to check out the cliffs of mohr (google it).  All I need is a cheap ticket, hopefully I'll have more to follow on this goal. 

The immigration procedures took so long I only had three free hours to get some currency exchanged and hang out around the airport.  I did have a breakfast sandwich unlike anything I've ever had before. Delicious.  It came with a chili dipping sauce with a sweetened kick. So good. I wish I had one now.

Ireland, at least the airport in Ireland, was full of characters with killer accents and pale skin.  The Irish speak english, but when you couple the accent with their own catch phrases, it feels like a foreign language.  Foreign, but nothing like having a one-way conversation in German.

Which leads me to Hamburg.

Hamburg was a shock.  Who would've thought everything would be in German? I now realize I should have grabbed a Hamburg informational book while in the states because they're all in German out here.  Also, the translator books are rooted in German but extend to Russian, Spanish, and Japanese.  I haven't found a decent German to English book. 

I've only been here for fourteen hours so I'm not discouraged in the least.  My contact for the apartment had to run to Berlin for the day so we're meeting up in five hours to lock down the apartment.  

This left me stranded for the day. Since I didn't know where a hostel was, or a decent translation book to figure out what the signs meant, I went with simple english and extravagant hand motions.  I looked like Mussolini in the middle of a rousing speech as I tried to speak with policemen and taxi cab drivers.

"HOTEL. AIRPORT. HOTEL BY AIRPORT. TAKE ME." Was my most popular conversation of the afternoon.  After a few failed attempts and frustrated cab drivers, I finally got a taxi to take me to the Marriot Courtyard.  Then I found out it's 200 Euro for a night. Yes, the jaw hit the floor.  Since I didn't want to pay 300+ dollars for a nights stay, I asked for a better place for students.

"KOCKS house for you sir. Kocks house is exactly what you need." said the beaming concierge.  

Kocks house? Really?  Fine.  So I limped across the parking lot with my oversized hockey bag loaded with everything I own to discover the Kocks house.  

A kind woman with red hair and a cherry face greeted me in-between fanning her face with a make-shift fan made from informational pamphlets on Hamburg.  After 20 minutes of speaking broken bits of German and spurts of English, we negotiated my stay.  I got a double room for 64 Euros, the price you normally get for a single. Since it was basically one-fourth of what the other place cost, I was thrilled. 

My jet lag is putting me in a state of tired restlessness.  It's now 5:21AM. I g-chatted with Paige at 4pm and have been sleeping on and off ever since. I plan to get up and go for a jog in a straight direction for twenty minutes and come back to get my body out of this narcoleptic slump.  

At 5pm, I'm meeting up with Mr Joe Poeschl, my future roomie, and Mr Hans something something, my future landlord.  I'm pumped. I can't wait to see the place and actually have a place to stay and unpack my stuff! 
It's only been 24 hours since I had a full conversation with anyone but I am already longing to speak in full proper English with Joe.  My heart truly goes out to everyone who comes to America and has to learn English.  It would be brutal. 

Time for a cat nap, then a run.   I hope this first blogging wasn't to info-heavy. I'll hit my stride sooner or later. Don't give up.  Plus, the pictures will help my stories out once I find my cable to download them from my camera.

If you're reading this. Thank you.

I love you all. Except you, you know who you are.

-Matt Grim