Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Diplodocus Disappears

I'm supposed to be doing something tonight. In fact, I'm supposed to be doing two somethings, but I'm not going to do either.

The first something is the opening of the One World Film Festival, a human rights film festival some friends of mine work hard for months on. If I felt like going to an event where I'd have to endure a number of formal speeches in German followed by a stridently political film about people whose lives are awful, I'd go. But I'm not really in the mood for that, although I do like the organizers and wish them well.

The second something is our usually-twice-monthly bloggers' get-together, organized by Radio Free Mike, which is a very welcome chance for me to get out of the house and talk with smart folks, something I rarely do any more because, as I've said before, most of the smart people I've known here have moved away because they can't make a living here or have stopped enjoying living here. But it turns out that my ill-advised trip to America has cost me far more than I'd anticipated, so I'm broke, carefully rationing out my last five Euros hoping they'll last the weekend even though there isn't much on the shelves or in the refrigerator any more, and I certainly can't afford a couple of beers, let alone the tram-fare.

But I'm going to do something tomorrow.

The other night, as you know if you read the post (and yeah, it's a bit dry and boring), I went to a meeting about the future of Berlin's Amerika Haus. I walked there, as I'd do whether I had tram-fare or not, because it's pretty much a straight line from my house to the Rotes Rathaus, and it's not if you take public transportation. And when I got home, I found a surprise. On the windowsill of my bathroom window, someone had perched a plastic dinosaur, about a foot long. I'm calling it a diplodocus, because I know that there's no such thing as a brontosaurus, but I'm not sure just why that is. But it was a goofy thing to see, and it cheered me up. I can't figure out who put it there, because I don't know that many people any more, and there's only one who just drops in, and he was supposed to be at the Amerika Haus meeting but had another meeting he had to go to.

So there it sat, yesterday and most of today. Although I'm very depressed about the state of my finances and the state of my life, I had this tangible evidence that someone had a sense of humor, and I liked that. In fact, it occurred to me as I walked out to do an errand this afternoon, I should probably bring old diplodocus inside and install him in my bathroom, where he'd be a bit of decoration in an otherwise undecorated room.

When I returned, my landlord's mother was just leaving on her bike, and her face screwed up in the usual rictus of disgust. It's hard to explain how unpleasant it is living somewhere where one of your neighbors feels it's her sacred duty to gurn at you every time she sees you, and how much more unpleasant it is when she's the mother of someone you owe five months' rent to, part of which you just threw away on a business trip to New York which produced absolutely nothing.

Anyway, after I got back I did some of the usual things I do when there's nothing to do: I did some laundry, and prepared way early for a presentation I'm going to be giving. I also waited for the mail, which usually doesn't come on Thursdays, for some reason, but it was true to form and didn't come. At about 4:30, after checking one last time for the mail, it occurred to me to go out and grab the dinosaur. So I did, and it was gone. The pavement was wet and smelled of disinfectant, and I knew exactly what had happened; the cleaner had come and Mrs. Ugly had ordered him to get rid of the dinosaur.

So I know what I'm doing tomorrow. I'm going dumpster diving for a diplodocus. And if anyone wants to know what I'm doing I'm going to tell them that this plastic dinosaur belongs to my non-existent girlfriend's non-existent young son, and I'd left it there so she could drop by and get it, because he's very upset that he forgot it when they came to visit. And that the harridan next door, obsessed with order for the sake of order -- because that very German trait is exactly what's happening here -- had it tossed.

And that's also the reason I'm not going out tonight. Because I'm really on the edge here. I'm disgusted with the people I'm surrounded by, people totally lacking in what I consider a sense of humor, people who value order -- with or without a reason -- above all else. I unloaded some of this on the dancer when she called to invite me to dinner on Saturday, and she went into her defense of Germany and Germans. But I didn't back down this time, or even apologize. She'd realize, if she'd ever spend some time outside this country, that people elsewhere can be much more relaxed about things and yet still live in a fully functional society -- or as fully functional as human society gets. It's possible to be a little less rigid, a little more forgiving of deviation from the usual, and still get by.

So forgive me if I pass on pompous speeches and a hectoring film in German tonight.

I will, however, miss the fellowship and the beer.


Anonymous said...

hang in there Ed! only six more months until the weather warms up!

Olaf said...

Ed, do you notice any difference between those who grew up in the former East and those who grew up in the West? Or is it just a German thing? Or a Berliner thing? Or is it the dissatisfaction of living in one place too long?

Most places I've lived I love for the first few years, and then slowly, slowly, slowly sour on them. That was true in Berlin in the 70s and now it's coming true here where I live now, which seemed like a paradise eight years ago. Now it's driving me nuts.

Is familiarity the real culprit? Are some of us just malcontents? Is rootedness a bullshit concept?

Cyn said...

My poor Ed! Come to Bangkok and crash in my spare room and I shall put a dinosaur in the bathroom window just for you!

Anonymous said...

You were missed last night! We talked a whole bunch of shit, as usual, but it was nice. Everyone kept asking where you were.

Ed Ward said...

Olaf's made an interesting point about slowly discovering you don't like someplace. In my own case, I initially liked California, but soon got tired of the overwhelming materialism of San Francisco and environs -- especially as it was disguised as groovy hipness. But Austin I could have lived in if I'd been able to support myself a little better. I still like Austin when I visit and think maybe if I'd been able to tough out the bad times a little longer, and if the temptation and opportunity to come here hadn't been so strong.

B, sorry I couldn't make it. Where on earth has BiB gone? I read his blog yesterday, posted a comment, and saw that it was a post from July!

And yeah, Bangkok sounds nice, but the flight alone would cost two more months' rent -- and I just got a nasty letter from my landlord (no doubt due to his mother's urging).

The garbage this morning was redolent with a bunch of organic waste -- mostly orange peels, from the smell, so my "girlfriend's little boy" is going to be heartbroken! And I'll make sure the crone knows it, too.

Anonymous said...

BiB is in the process of switching from Blogger to Wordpress, hence the screw-jiggy posting. God knows how long it'll take if he decides to put everything into categories.

Anonymous said...

Ed, I'm sorry I didn't read this before yesterday's thing as I would have insisted you come and be bought beer for. By the way, speaking of outings, Christina wonders whether you'll be going thanksgiving next Friday at her place. B. and I will be there too. Come! Come!

Of all life's ills, though perhaps I haven't been exposed to many of them, I think money ills are just about the worst. Worry eating away at you. And, of course, all the things the lack of money prevents one doing. So you have my very heartfelt sympathies and I wish I could wave a wand and magic the ill away. But I CAN buy you beer.

Anonymous said...

Tout passe, tout casse, tout lasse...

Ed Ward said...

Ah, just what we need, a little French Buddhism!