Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hamburg's Most Wanted.

I hate the days where I'm at school all day and can't run home before class to eat.  The hunger makes my stomach sing and becomes all I can think about.  This was the state I was in when I became one of Hamburg's Most Wanted.

I was at school. I was exhausted. It was hard to think straight after writing headlines and body copy all day.  It was time to take a break and get some fuel.  If I stayed at school any longer, the only good it would do was, well, nothing.  

The two-toned yellow and white lights of a Subway sign drew me in from the darkness like a moth.  It was time to eat.  I stepped up and ordered the goods. 

Did I have a ten or a twenty in my wallet?  As I unfolded the leather, all I saw was black.  No euros.  No money.  

My foot long sweet onion chicken teriyaki on honey wheat was ten seconds away from finishing the toasting process.  Think Matt. Think.

Can't think.  All my brain could muster were puns and bad headlines.  

Have to think. Have to do something.  Must get out.

I'm not proud to admit this, but it feels good to say it.  I acted on the first idea I came up with: fake the important phone call.

Wait. I don't have a phone because I'm in Germany.  No problem.  I'll use my wallet.

Yes, I took an important phone call from my wallet.  "Hello? What? What? I can't hear anything!" 

When my sandwich artist turned around to take my edible canvas out of the oven and decorate it with toppings, I walked outside to get better reception on my wallet phone.

Keep walking. Don't look back. Keep walking.

I was hungry. I was exhausted.  All I could think was they're probably chasing me at the same power walking pace.  Keep walking.

I walked until I stumbled across a random art exhibit. Old newspaper clippings and screen printed posters or propaganda from World War II covered the white walls.  I was staring through the one grand window and realized people were looking at me.  Time to mingle.

I sauntered into the exhibit and walked around. The floor was destroyed.  It was ancient concrete and looked like it housed a family of five who spent their free time playing with jackhammers in the living room.  

Onto the next room.  This was when I realized there was a line.  I wandered into a line which came out of nowhere.  As I looked around, I couldn't see where this line of German conversationalists ended. So, I went with it.  

It wound around the room I was in and into a new bigger room I hadn't seen before.  Collapsable picnic tables were set up around the entire room.  People sat on the other side stamping hands and collecting Euros.  

Then I realized it.  You had to pay to see the art exhibition.  I was eight people away from the table.  What do I do now?  How do I get out of here?  I was three people away from the table.

Suddenly, my wallet phone rang.  

I tried not to make eye contact with people. I didn't want to see their judgmental artistic eyes.  

Keep walking. Don't stop.  There's probably a crowd of twenty unique rebels chasing me with tickets and stamps.  

Keep walking.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fight the Sandman

Saturday started with waking up at 10:34 am. I had to show up for brunch by 11am.  Was it worth getting out of bed? Do I fight off the allures of cotton sheets to go out for brunch?

How can you say no to brunch for under 5 euro?  I love a good deal, almost as much as I love sleep.  It was time to get up.  I sprung out of my day bed and threw the sheets across the room. Justin, awoken by the deafening ensemble of ricketing from the day bed made of aged drift wood and fastened by flimsy screws, looked at me with shock and daze. 

"Am I dreaming?" Justin's eyes were coated in a pinkish glaze from falling asleep ony a few hours earlier.  "Are you seriously awake right now and I'm not?"  Before I could answer, his eyes failed to fight off his heavy lids. He pulled the sheets over himself and returned to a deep slumber.

I had to make brunch. I got up and stayed up.  Cold shower, grab the keys, sprint down the steep stair case.  

Wow, I haven't included any pictures of the apartment have I?  I will post them soon. 

Back to the story.  I rented a bike and furiously pedaled across the park and into the Reperbahn.  Park the bike, continue on foot.  Past the random German patrons passed out on the cobblestone streets after partying too hard.  Keep moving.  Past the hookers calling it a night and heading home.  Onward to brunch.  

Do I know exactly where it is? No.  Have I gotten lost for hours before when operating on the same situation? Yes. 

Am I screwed? Probably.

Do I have enough time to finish the story right now? Unfortunately I don't. 

Stay tuned. 

I love you.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I take back all the mean things I said

Carbonation.  It dominates every soft drink and water bottle in this town.  For a month and half, I've cursed it's existence and called it the fizz demon.  It burns my tongue.  It scratches my throat. 

Tonight, everything changed when I had my first glass of Prosecco wine.  From the German countryside, this teardrop shaped dark green bottle has the look of a classic, timeless wine.  I've never had or heard of Prosecco, all I knew was it's a white wine. Sounds good. Let's do it.  

The cork was a nightmare, it ripped in half while removing it. Luckily, the second half came out in one whole piece so I didn't have to spit out cork shards after every sip.

The final piece popped open into my hand. It didnt' have the velocity of champagne, but it still packed some heat.  Then I saw it.  A lazy white cloud pouring out of the bottles opening.  It was carbonated wine.  I'm too poor to throw the bottle out and get a new one, so I gave it a swig.  

The Prosecco wine rocked my mouth like a Led Zeppelin encore.  Perfectly carbonated, it's gentle fizz worked to enhance the flavors instead of perform a tap dancing solo in my mouth.  Wow, I finally found a carbonated drink I like (excluding soft drinks).  

Way to go Germany. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Turns out writing is fun

I'm auditioning to start writing for a blog dedicated to ridiculing rap stars.  I only wish I had found it earlier.

The site is:

It's brilliant, you start with an excerpt from a rap song and make fun of it with a pseudo serious interpretation.  

Here's my bit:

"To the window, to the wall, (to dat wall)
To the sweat drop down my balls (MY BALLS)
To all these bitches crawl (crawl)
To all skeet skeet motherf'er (motherf'er!) all skeet skeet got dam (Got dam)
To all skeet skeet motherf'er (motherf'er!) all skeet skeet got dam (Got dam)
Let me see you get low you scared, you scared
Drop dat ass to the floor you scared, you scared
Let me see you get low you scared, you scared
Drop dat ass to the floor you scared, you scared
Drop dat ass hey shake it fast hey
Pop dat ass to the left and the right hey
Drop dat ass ya shake it fast hey
Pop dat ass to the left and the right hey
Now back,back,back it up
A back,back,back it up
A back,back,back it up
A back,back,back it up"

Sounds like Lil' Jon had enough of being called Lil' Jon.  Did his entourage say Lil' in a condescending way or was it his mother calling him by his first name Lil'?  Whatever it was which tipped Lil' Jon, he's obviously bulking up to become Big sized Lil' Jon.  

But, what about Little John of Sherwood Forest?  If Lil' Jon is serious about becoming a Big Lil' Jon, someone should really tell him to stop doing the Lil' Jane Fonda thing and hit the weights if he's going to beat up Little John and take his forest cred.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I almost forgot the best part!

Twenty seconds after the senior citizen rocking a speedo dive-rolled under the pine tree for cover, lightning struck the ground twenty feet from where I was standing.

I felt all my hair stand on end, the flash was blinding.  It was like a camera flash but fifty times stronger. I was blinded for a minute as the ground shook from the thunder.  Pretty amazing stuff.

Then came the one hour long trek home in the rain.  Worth it.

Hail Germany

Props to Mr Joe the red beard Poeschl for a great party.  The America vs Germany Grill off was a huge success.  The party crowd was big and lively enough to solicit a noise complaint and a polizei appearance.  Not bad.

Unfortunately, I ate an undercooked sausage.  In my defense, it was late in the night and hard to see.  The bacon it was wrapped in was cooked thoroughly but the coals had died down so the sausage sat on the grill in the cold, festering with food poisoning potential.  It rocked my system. I was out for a full day.  

Nonetheless, I ventured to the big Stadt Park on Sunday to do some writing and enjoy the scene. People were out with their grills and groups of friends or families were seen for acres and acres across the grand lawn.  

Stadt Park is a few hundred acres in size with bier gardens scattered throughout amidst other attractions like mini golf courses and large swimming lakes. The Planetarium, a monstrous building located in the southwestern corner of the park, can be seen a half-mile away throughout the isle of grass cleared out to give it a grand entrance.  This was where everyone hung out to grill out and kick back.

It's relaxing to hang out and soak in the friendly vibe.  Little did I know, a hail storm was on its way. Fast. 

When the blue skies were stomped out by shades of dark grey, people started scrambling.  The winds picked up and became chilly and everything went dark.  Then it came.  A wall of hard rain coupled with hail.  People were running for the woods.  I stood in the center of the lawn and watched it all go down.  I knew it was hopeless, I couldn't outrun the rain so why not take it and enjoy the show?

Best part: I saw a 60 year old man in a speedo dive-roll under a pine tree for cover.  He left his clothes and belongings strewn about the lawn.  Fantastiche.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Church of the Saint

I could stare at those statues for hours.
This is Saint Mark carrying forth God's will and banning evil from the church as he crushes the demon saint Diablo. 
Diablo as in the devil?

Yes but do come along, there's much to see inside. But before we enter I wanted to show you something else.

Notice if you will the engravings on these bronze entrance doors.
What's going on there? It looks like a pretty hardcore fight.
It's an interpretation of the saints battling away the demons.  It serves as a praise to the Saints who fight to keep this a holy place, devoid of all evil spirits.  In the past centuries, it was an honor for an artist to get asked to depict such a scene since everyone went to church and the experience starts at the door.  It was up to the artist to show the people why the ground they walked upon was holy.
Is this church still popular for Hamburg locals? 

It was before the construction started. 
Construction? What kind of construction? The church is already here, why build it again?
It's a restorative effort to preserve the aged works of religious art.

As you'll see, the construction is gorgeous.  The restoration of gold and bronze statues takes a long time to complete without destroying the intricacies of the sculptures and artwork.  
So it's a big tease.
What a big let down.  The Sanctuary looks incredible, and I never get to experience it. Great.
Yeah! Why don't they do a partial restoration so it's still somewhat functional?
The entire task is undertaken in hopes of keeping everything in pristine condition.  Let's move along so you can see Martin Luther.
Wait. Check this out. It's officially a big tease.

Helvetica Font. Figures.

Let's go see Martin Luther King.
It's been awhile.

Was he German?
Matt. Come on. Really? 
Dude I was kidding. Of course I know if Martin Luther King was or was not German. 

I was just hanging out with Martin Luther King. F yeah.

Alley of the Merchant Widows

"Come along already, the alley will be packed soon."
"Right behind you Detmar."

"This is called the Merchant Widow Alley, watch your head on the way in."
"Why is this entrance smaller than me?"
"Well, Matt, we've grown taller throughout the centuries.  The average man back in these days could easily fit through such an entry way."

"You'll notice the tightness of this alley as well, it was common in these times to allow enough space only to walk through since most people didn't have horses or carriages."

"Who are these women dressed in french maid dresses with bonnets? I've never seen an elderly woman move so fast!"

"I just got man-handled by a senior citizen wearing a bonnet."

"These are the widows.  You see, this building was made to take care of the women whose husbands were merchants and died from a work related accident."

"They all just headed over here if the husband perished?"

"Precisely. To this day, the, what would you call it in English, the government of Hamburg allocated these buildlings as a reparation for their husbands service.  In return for the loss of their husbands who provided the income, the widows lived here.  Free of charge.  They were expected to work in these restaurants you see throughout this alley."

"OK, so you're saying it was just like this back in the day?"

"To the last support beam, yes.  Hamburg has taken great efforts to preserve the heritage of these areas and keep them as they once were.  The widows are part of this heritage.  To this day, Hamburg is still one of the leading European cities in merchant tradings."

"Wait. Wait. I'm confused." 
"Who are all of these women dressed like french maid nuns?  Why do they keep pushing me out of the way when I'm backed against the wall already?"

"These are the Merchant Widows."  "Joe, Matt, follow me to the most picturesque spot.  And do take care not to step in the way of the widows, they have to cover a lot of ground because of the extensive patio seating."

"The government still puts up widows and has them work these jobs?"

"Precisely, now look at this view if you will."

The Local Special

Brian, Joe, and I got the chance to experience Hamburg as it was hundreds of years ago.  Before America was founded. Before eighty percent of the city burned down.  Before eighty percent was destroyed by bombings.  

These spots are impossible to find without the help of a local.  They are few in number and scattered about the city.  A hole in the wall of modern buildings or an archaic alley often leads to these aged relics of Hamburg's history.  

How did we find all the historic hot spots?  We had Detmar.

[This is where a picture of Demtar is supposed to happen, but Blogger decided against it.  Strike 2 Blogger. Strike 2.]

First off, rewind to my second day in Germany where I met Brian the account planner from Florida and we went apartment shopping.  At the end of the day, Brian and I went out for my first beer at a local pub.  In this pub we met Detmar, a retired Hamburg local.  He speaks perfect English with a hint of a British accent.  

Detmar overheard us talking about adapting to German culture and asked us to define what American culture consisted of.  We didn't have much of an answer, but knew we'd made our first local friend.  

I dont' know any more of Detmar's story except he has a few brothers.  I would have asked more about his past but he's always too busy teaching us about the history of Hamburg along with multiple random yet fascinating facts.  

Detmar gave us his number and told us to call him up for a real Hamburg experience.  Stories like this either end in great memories or brutal murders, so we rolled the dice and went for the tour last weekend.

I can't recall most of the information because Detmar laid it on thick, but the sites were interesting so at least you can enjoy the pictures.  Go for it.  Meanwhile, I'll spit out what I remember and how it made me feel.

Why not break this up into a few posts with lots of pictures?  


OK. I'll do it.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Don't worry, you'll make it big.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sprinting through a strawberry field

People were talking about a trip to Amsterdam.  I was listening intently.  At first a group of ten was reared and set to go.  Then it was 8.  My hope fell a bit with each cop out.  Then 6.  6 is still cool, it's a decent sized group to check out the city. By the time it got to two, I thought the trip was a bust. 

"Meet them at KFC in Hoptbahnhoff at 7pm. Don't be late." Justin, my roommate who decided to devote his weekend to a portfolio instead of a foreign city told me.  Great. Now I'm part of a drug deal. I might as well bring a gun and keep a blue bandana hanging out my rear left pocket.  
Curiosity got the best of me. I had to see what happened at KFC at 7pm.  KFC, the store hidden like a frog in pocket of camouflage pants at night.  I walked no less than a mile throughout the central train station where KFC was supposed to exist.  It wouldn't be so bad if the central station was gigantic, but it's not.  It's about 2oo meters by 500 meters with stores arranged like a major shopping mall. 

As I wandered about like a hospitalized Alzheimer's patient who broke out, a hand gripped my shoulder enthusiastically.  It was Aman. His dark mahogany brown eyes shone with anticipation as he told me he was "so pumped you made it!"

We loaded up on food for the road.  I'm going to take this moment to say I hate not having ice in Europe.  No-one believes in making ice. They prefer their carbonated beverages to be room temperature.  If I saw a man made out of ice, I would hack him up and store him in my freezer like a sub-zero version of Ed Gene.  Ed Gene meets Jack Frost.  I think we have a story there.

We were off in our luxurious carriage.  If you're going to experience the AutoBahn, do it in a Mercedes Benz.  You know it's the Autobahn when the speed limit is a white circle with a line through it.   

The now blurry country side reminds me of Wisconsin with the green pastures and dense agriculture. 

Giant windmills decorate the country side.  If I had to pick an ancestor for Optimus Prime, it would be a windmill.

Fast forward a few hours and we're lost in the German country. We pull over in a field and discover the field is for growing strawberries.  Why not do a line sprint?  Isn't this what anyone would think if they randomly found themselves plopped in a field of strawberries?

There I was, sprinting through a strawberry field.  Within my first 30 majestic skinny jean strides, a car flew off the road and powerslid to a stop next to our car.  Two women with the stature of NFL linebackers covered the 20 yards between them and the other two gentleman who chose not to sprint in five strides. 

Great.  We're going to be pummeled by German country girls.  They had muscles like The Incredible Hulk and features like Andre the Giant.  They spoke in voices deeper than our own and delivered a two minute long rant in pure, heavy German.  Once they saw our flip flops and cargo shorts, they knew we were American.  "You go. You go now.  This is our field and you can't run in it. Run somewhere else. Go now."

We were back in the car and made it roar to life before they said "field."

On to Amsterdam!