Sunday, January 02, 2005


Ahh, I was going to post some pictures of the post-Silvester mess, wasn't I? Well, I didn't. I did go out for a walk with an eye towards finding some particularly awful scene of destruction, and I did it early enough -- 1 pm -- that it would have been pretty much in its natural state, but it had sort of drizzled all night, which had the combined effect of muting some of the revelry (once the church bells stopped at about 1:30, I went straight to sleep, which is unusual for December 31) and of turning what remains there were into a reddish-brown mush: evocative, but not really photographable. The mush is from the sawdust used to pack the firecrackers and help with the explosion, and it was a good quarter-inch deep in front of a couple of buildings; my boots left footprints in it. The Thai-Indonesian restaurant at the end of Torstr. by Chausseestr. showed the remains of what looked like a thousand firecrackers, almost certainly the staff's doing -- they're pretty wild and crazy folks. And there was the usual complement of shattered bottles and kids excitedly picking through the rubble in search of unexploded things they could go off and explode. But...not exactly a great photograph lurking in there. Not that I'm close to being even a good photographer.

Then I had the idea of summing up the year, which I'm coming to think of as perhaps the worst I've lived through, both personally and professionally -- not to mention the despair I felt watching my native country choose to isolate itself from the rest of the world even further. But the whole idea of rehashing a doomed romance with a woman who turned out to be an alcoholic (I've seen her twice in recent weeks, staggering down the street; it's hard to retain any animosity against someone so clearly ill); the promise I felt coming back from my annual visit to Texas with the hope burning within me that the editor who'd taken me to lunch and promised to help me make contacts at a some important magazines would, as he said, be in touch in a couple of weeks, only to never hear back from him after repeated e-mailing, and then, much later, to discover he makes a habit of doing this to writers for reasons only he can comprehend, and never follows through; finally touching down this summer when I found myself collecting bottles in vacant lots to return for 8 Euro-cents apiece at the supermarket, counting and re-counting the change in my pocket, living on biscuits and tap-water. Who'd want to re-live that? Who'd want to read about it? Most importantly, what could anybody do about it? It's over. The important thing is not to let it happen again. I'd still like a girlfriend, and lord knows I need those magazine contacts, because I'm overflowing with ideas, and I'm ready to write them up, and I could actually erase the six months' back rent I still owe my landlord with just one article in the right place. (Well, I could if the dollar doesn't fall much more than it already has. But that I can't control.)

But that's for the days ahead. Right now, my plans are modest. I have a number of small articles to write, and I'm going to write them. If the magazines which owe me money pay me (and they will) and the money comes in on time (and I suspect it will), I'm going to take off the last week of this month and visit Montpellier, the place to which, for no particular specific reason, I've been thinking about moving. I'll meet some friends in Paris coming and going, and spend three days walking around the city fantasizing that I'm shopping, looking for an apartment, and figuring out where I am. There's no way I can actually move, of course, not with things as they are. But, just as one article could wipe out my debt to my landlord, three could put me ahead of the game. A book project could give me the money to leave Berlin. And, as I discovered both times I left here last year -- Texas in March and Austria in September -- something about travel loosens up my brain and brings ideas bubbling up. True, I should probably give this money to my landlord instead, but I'm gambling with the only capital I have -- my own talent -- that this will ultimately pay off.

I mean, it beats playing the lottery.

But then, I've been doing that, too. The odds are about the same.

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