Friday, June 24, 2005

The Crumbs Of Summer

The Telekom wars continue, although I've found the program I want to use. The bad news is, Deutsche Telekom owns the wires going into the house, so you still have to give them €14.50 a month for the use of them. I can live with that, but not with the reported month's delay in switching over the service, which they are obliged by law to do immediately. This is typical of them: back when I was getting my first telephone number here, they pretended there was an 8-to-10-week delay in obtaining the number because there weren't enough to go around. Yeah, sure.


Summer is upon us, no doubt about that. If you can't tell by the temperature, you can tell by the broken glass -- beer bottles -- in the street.

I was just in Neuk├Âlln, a very heavily Turkish part of town, and there was a fruit stand on every street-corner. I can tell you just by walking past them that the apricots, peaches, and strawberries are ripe. What was odd, though, was the lack of vegetables. Germans just have no use for vegetables (except for the sacred asparagus, which is over), so while I'll have lots of access to fruit over the next weeks, I'll still have to search out vegetables.


One side-effect of summer is that people take off their clothes. I don't mean the famous FKK (Freik├Ârperkultur), or public nudity, which you see in parks and beaches. (I heard an unverified story that the Munich City Council had to pass a law making it mandatory for sunbathers returning to work after a sunbathing lunch in the city's English Garden to put their clothes back on before getting on public transportation). They just wear less. This is mostly a disaster around here. There are acres of flesh exposed which should be left covered for esthetic reasons. The worst offenders are people with tattoos. My old pal Rollo Banks, one of America's leading tattoo artists, used to go ballistic over the quality of European tattooing. He had even set himself up in business in Hamburg with a buddy once, and was appalled at the work being done by European artists. The other thing that he was adamant about was keeping good tattoo work covered. Suntan and sunburn cause the edges of the work to blur, and that sort of thing is very difficult to repair. Not that I think any of the sunburned folks I see walking around with appalling tattoos that would send Rollo screaming particularly care. Hell, if they cared, they'd never have allowed those hideous designs on their flesh in the first place. As always, the worst offenders are men, but the bulky women with bizarre tattoos which are suddenly exposed in summertime -- and there are a lot of them -- make me wonder what race of mutants I'm living among here.


Another oddity of German summertime is movies. A guy I used to know in the film business said that only an idiot -- or an adamant Hollywood studio -- would dare open a new film in the summertime because people just don't go to the movies then around here. So yeah, we're getting Batman Begins and War of the Worlds, but they won't rake in the bucks the way the fall films will. People here get little enough time outdoors, and when the weather's like this, they grab the opportunity. I like to joke that Germans start hanging out outdoors as soon as the ice stops forming on the puddles on the sidewalk, and that's almost accurate. But now, the beer gardens are full, people eat outdoors on the sidewalk at restaurants (and the Berlin Police walk from restaurant to restaurant with clipboards of documents showing how much of the sidewalk each restaurant is allowed to claim and tape-measures, eager to fine someone who's a centimeter or so over the limit), and the parks are jammed during sunny days with people just zoning out in the sun. Like the strawberries, the sun is almost a seasonal drug that needs to be consumed in large quantities while it's available. And hey, just walking around, I've been doing my bit.

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