Saturday, February 02, 2008

No More Mr. Nice Guy And Other Crumbs

Man, I just don't know. I used to think that being a nice guy was a good idea. I'm beginning to change my mind.

My first mistake this week resulted, I'm happy to say, in a save. I hadn't seen the dancer in nearly a month. We'd both been busy, since all of a sudden I have a ton of work to do, and she's been writing on her novel when she wasn't at her job. So we got together, and in a fit of generosity, I offered to buy her dinner at this Japanese-Korean place down the street that I love and am overdue for reviewing on Hungry In Berlin.

In part, it was a gesture of thanks for helping me with the move. She hadn't lifted a single box, but she helped me get Telekom to switch my number over here and then to get them to turn on the number, and she dealt with the heating firm which spoke such thick Berlinisch I couldn't understand them. The guy came on December 27, before I moved in, and got two of the three heaters going. "I gotta talk to my boss about this other one. I'll be back later," he said and vanished. Nor has he reappeared. Which wouldn't be so bad except that it's the heater in my main room, the one where I read at night and write during the day. In other words, the one I'm in most of the time.

But because of this calling the heating firm, they had her number instead of mine, and the day after I'd taken her to dinner, they called her up, saying they needed to get into the apartment so they could check on how to connect me with the building's central heating. There's central heating here? Who knew? She couldn't reach me, though: I was running around in Potsdam for this guidebook I'm working on with some other folks. So she just made an appointment for the next day.

For 7am.

Fortunately, a panicked call to the firm's answering machine in my garbled German put an end to that, but they haven't called to make another appointment and I figure it'll be summer before they show up and then I won't need them.

We'll deal with the Potsdam trip below. Mistakes were made.

Anyway, yesterday I was sitting here innocently doing something and the phone rang. It was Katchita, who'd been in India for five weeks. She was calling from the Munich airport, distraught because the woman she'd sublet the apartment from wasn't going to be able to hand her off the key until the next day. Given that this woman had had plenty of notice that she was coming back, this seemed careless at best, thoughtless at the worst, but that didn't matter because in a few hours she'd be back here and didn't have anywhere to sleep. Could she use my couch? Why, certainly, I said, gentlemanliness being one of my many virtues. She offered to buy me dinner. I, being nearly penniless because none of the work I'd done in December and January had paid off yet, accepted.

She showed up, and after she'd railed against the woman whose apartment she wasn't in for a while, she asked if she could take a shower. I showed her how the thing worked (not all that well), cautioned her it would be short, found a clean towle for her to use, made the de rigeur leering statement about thinking of her soaped-up naked body in the steam, and went back to my desk. In about three minutes, she was out, a towel around her hair, happy to be clean again. "Oh, by the way," she said, "you're going to need a new shower head. I dropped it and it snapped off." In fact, this is exactly what had happened. I have no idea how she did it, but there was no fixing it that I could figure out.

Anyway, we had dinner, came back here, she crashed on the couch and I retreated to my bedroom and read, and by the time I was awake this morning she was gone. I got an e-mail thanking me for putting her up and offering to help fix the shower next weekend, but I realized I'm going to need to take a shower before then.

So I went out a few minutes ago and bought a new shower head and hose. It cost about €25. I now realize I need a wrench to get the old one off and secure the new one. That's going to cost money, too.

The Bird makes good burgers, but I should have ordered a steak.

* * *

Potsdam turned out to be pretty nice. Well, it would have been nicer if it had been warmer, and it would have been much nicer if any of the palaces at Sanssouci were open, but I also got to explore the whole historic downtown on Brandenburger Str. past Potsdam's own Brandenburg Gate and also the weird Holländisches Viertel, built to look like Holland, nearby. I had good company in Ms. Vinyl, who's recently moved here from New York and has a healthy degree of skepticism about staying here, and we were in good spirits when we got back to the train station, ready to take a Regionalbahn back to Berlin.

Which is what we wound up doing. But a word of warning for potential Potsdam tourists: there are a couple of routes. The one we took, which loads of trains take, goes along the S-Bahn route without stopping at all the stations, and gets you back to Berlin in about 20 minutes. But there's another route, one which leaves from Potsdam, heads west, then south, and finally winds up at Schönefeld Airport. Having gotten on this, I realized that there was only one track, meaning that this was a spur line which went to the end, then came back on the same track. So there was no getting off and catching something back to Potsdam to erase the mistake.

Observation from the journey: lots of radish fields and cement factories. Boy, is it grim out there. Saarmund, Gensenhagen, all the way to Schönefeld. As we asked ourselves: what do people do out there, anyway? Pull radishes and make cement, I guess.

* * *

One thing I'll say for my new neighborhood: the beggars sure are creative. Oh, we have our usual ration of green-skinned junkies pushing paper cups at you and murmuring about "Kleengelt," but the other day outside the bank, I saw a well-dressed woman of apparently Mongolian heritage, quite tall, with a very odd little dog on a leash wearing a muzzle. She had her hand out and she was crying. Water was pouring out of her eyes and her shoulders shook each time she sobbed. Someone would hand her money and she'd stop immediately, count the change, stick it in her pocket, stick her hand out again and turn on the waterworks. It was very disturbing. Even weirder, the other day I saw a couple with a black-and-white llama on the sidewalk, complete with a folding sign that said "Circus animals need feed." I haven't seen any circus posters up -- it's not really the season -- and one would assume that feed for the animals was part of a circus' basic costs. I found myself wondering how they got to where they were (the U-Bahn? a taxi?) and where they stashed the beast when they weren't begging.


Katchita said...

In my defense and per apologetic Email entitled "I guess there's some sort of chaotic aura surrounding me" (and this is leaving aside having dropped into Berlin in the middle of a transit strike with my stuff spread all across the city), I'll quote, "I can also pay you back", so send me your BLZ & acc't number at once because I'm seriously anxious that I'm taking food out of your mouth at this very minute. And, I promise, that's the last time I put my sudsy dripping body into any shower within 100 meters of you!

Anonymous said...

Yup, the circus is back in town, it was probably the same llama I saw watering the pavement outside the Schönhauser Allee Arcaden. They were a common sight during the early 1990s, but that's the first one I've seen for a few years. Apparently it's a bit of a scam: some circuses, for whatever reasons, will rent out their animals during the off-season, so if you're an enterprising soul and have the time and inclination to stand outside all day with a beast of burden, there is presumably some profit in it (as well as all the large animal pee you could want).

Have you come across the youngish ladies of (presumably) southeast European usually with a couple of kids in tow extraction plying the crowds at places like Alexanderplatz asking people "Speak English?" They have apparently graduated from the "thrusting a square of grotty cardboard in your face" mode of begging and are aiming for the tourist / sympathetic helpful German market.

Ed Ward said...

Penguin: Thanks for bringing an important llama fact to light. Yes, they must "pee like a racehorse," as the saying goes. I've always been wary of their front ends, because they spit, and are deadly accurate with it. The hind end is also dangerous because they kick, too. I never thought I'd have to worry about llamas in Berlin. There was a guy who used to troll the Union St. bars in San Francisco with one, but that was a pick-up tactic, apparently. He was banned once the spitting started.

K: How tragic your body will never again grace my shower! The new shower-head, installed with a wrench I had to shell out €11 for (but I'd never have gotten the hose on and off without it), not only has three settings (including a "wellness" setting), but it uses less water, which means the warm water lasts longer.

Katchita said...

So what you're saying is that I significantly improved your quality of life ...

Ed Ward said...

But, K, isn't that your mission in life?

Andrew "Drew Portnoy" Bulkeley said...

Hey is this guidebook by a publisher in Dubai? Because I've been wondering who's working on this thing with me.

Ed Ward said...

Nope. London and Singapore.

Anonymous said...

Thames & Hudson?