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.