Friday, August 12, 2005


Today is Kaspar's birthday. He's 12. I actually don't think I've seen him in over a decade, but I always know his birthday because it's the day I arrived in Berlin to live.

His dad was letting me rent his apartment. I'd been here in May, and had found a huge flat that a couple was subletting while they toured the wine country in France for a year. They loved me, they said bringing my dog was no problem, and they were all ready to hand over the key, but they realized they had to clear it with their landlord first. I waited by the phone for the call that would tell me when I could come by and settle things with them, after which I had about 24 hours before I had to fly back to Texas.

The call came later that evening. "We're really sorry, and really embarrassed, but our landlord told us in no uncertain terms that we couldn't sublet to a foreigner. He just wouldn't budge." I should have taken that as an omen. Instead, I realized that with a day to go, I still didn't have an apartment here. But the guy whose apartment I was staying in, my ex-girlfriend's ex-boyfriend (and business partner) was living with his girlfriend in a magnificent huge apartment, and only used this tiny little place for weekly card-games. He told me they could play cards elsewhere, and I could rent the apartrment.

And so when I got here, this guy wasn't at the airport to meet me, which was disconcerting. I waited for a couple of hours, jet-lagged out of my brain, and he still didn't show, so I grabbed a cab to his store. And he wasn't there, either. The guy behind the counter had the key, and I took it and said something sour, and he told me that the guy's girlfriend had gone into labor early, that they got to the hospital and all manner of complications had set in, that she almost died twice, but delivered the baby, that it was still touch and go, but it was pretty certain she was going to live. I felt suitably abashed. So that was Kaspar.

Moving here meant giving my dog away; the apartment was too small. I never saw him again after that August. I spent the whole time between May and August packing, selling stuff off, and trying to find someone to sublet my place. I was only going to Berlin for six months, I told myself; I might decide to stay longer, but the initial commitment was only for six months. It was my escape hatch.

Well, as you can see if you bring up those links to the right of this, that's not the way it turned out. And now I've lived here 12 years, longer than I've wanted to, unable to leave. Every working moment of every day is spent trying to raise the capital to get out of here, and it looks like the tide is very slowly turning in my favor. I lived in Austin for 13 years, the longest I've lived anywhere since I left home for college, but the big difference is that I liked Austin. I just couldn't make a living there any longer.

My anniversary always coincides with the depths of the Sommerloch, and it's usually a time when it feels like nothing's ever going to budge. I'm always out of money at this point of the year, and no one's returning phone calls. That's changed, slightly, and I also have a project to do that doesn't depend on some editor responding to me. And, some day, maybe, my agent in San Francisco will be able to sell some of my San Francisco ballroom posters, my Beatles at Candlestick Park poster, my Hunter Thompson for Sheriff poster...all of which are alleged to be worth some money. In other words, there are resources yet to draw on.

In fact, this is the best-feeling anniversary of my arrival in years. Because I think I may be celebrating Kaspar's birthday somewhere else next year. I sure hope so, anyway.

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