Thursday, June 16, 2005

Summer Arrives...Maybe

Monday, I decided to give myself a treat and go across town to the Centro Italia, the big Italian-food wholesale market. I was out of pasta (they sell Voiello, Barilla's professional line, and it's absolutely the best), anchovies, and wanted some good olive oil, and so I budgeted €30 for a trip.

One other thing, I realized as the train sped around the Ring, was salsiccie, what Americans call "Italian sausage," but which is not quite the same thing. On Mondays, Centro Italia had told me, they get it from Italy. So I hit the meat counter first, and asked the guy if he had any. "In summer," he said, and then broke off. He gestured towards the outdoors. "In summer, which the calendar tells us is happening now, we get salsiccie on Wednesdays."

I knew what he meant. After a small heat wave, right about when I hit the road in France, we were in for more mid-50s (F) rainy weather. I began to despair: there's a side-effect of global climate change which affects the Gulf Stream, and those who think we're in for rough times, climatically speaking, note that if the Gulf Stream changes course as a result of this phenomenon, the mean temperature of Northern Europe will drop dramatically, severely affecting agriculture here. It was coming on to mid-June, and as yet there was no heat!

But then everything changed. It's turned very, very livable here, with sun, warm but not hot temperatures, and pretty much everybody feeling good.

I walked down Friedrichstr. yesterday, in fact, and saw two great things in the street. The first was a Jamaican kid who had a chessboard set up on the sidewalk. Posters surrounding him announced that his father in Jamaica had prostate cancer, and he wanted to go back to give him emotional support. "I need 800 [crossed out] 350 [crossed out] 200 Euros to pay for the plane ticket." The deal was, he played 3-minute chess. The rules were posted on another poster. He was hard at work with another player when I chanced upon him, and each banged the clock after making a move. A huge crowd had gathered around to watch, and in a dramatic swoop, the Jamaican guy slid his queen to his opponent's king, picked the king up, tossed it over his shoulder and caught it. The crowd erupted in applause, and he shook the other guy's hand. "Thanks a lot. You're better than anyone else I've played. Want another game?" The other guy, in his early 20s, from the looks of it, was rattled and begged off. People were tossing coins in the box he'd set up. I'm no chess fan, but this, I thought, was great street theater.

Then, barely two blocks later, I came upon two guys, a fiddle and a hand drum, playing haunting, weird music. They were both brown-skinned, but I couldn't quite figure out where they were from, based on either their faces or their music. The violin case had a couple of CDs in them, but they were labelled "World Music," which, duhh, yeah, I guess it was. There were Cajun strains, some odd voicings, and an oddly halting rhythm being tapped out on the drum. Something felt odd, and I realized I was standing in front of a small film crew who were taping them, so I walked on.

So things would be ideal if Telekom, in its wisdom, hadn't turned me off again for being a month and a day late with my payment. Sorry, guys, I was on the road, and returned to discover that a magazine I did some work for over a month ago still hadn't paid me. The magazine? Invest in Germany.

Like that would be a good idea.

So I'm posting from an office I'm able to use temporarily, and hoping I get on before the middle of next week. I can't use the office on weekends, either. Nor can I negotiate with Telekom. A friend just got turned off, and asked a German friend of hers to intercede. "She can't work unless her DSL is on," her friend told the Telekom person. "We don't care," was the reply.

Gotta love 'em. At least they're consistent.

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