Saturday, March 27, 2010

I Am, Among Many Other Things

A liar. I don't have my manifest destiny rap recorded, though there's a chance it will happen today. I say a chance, but between packing for Iceland (score), Muppets in Space (score), this blog and whatever other shenanigans are on the menu for today, I'm not sure there really is one. Sorry to disappoint.

This was the second week of midterms, which I'm now cleansed of by the soothing aquavit of travel break. Similar to many other assignments here, these midterms really never had a chance. They were defeated soundly and with little deliberation, damned to serve an eternal sentence in the hellish Land of the Complete. Yae, and verily did Simon smite 12 pages and an oral midterm, for his power over words was so great that none could bear their utterance or withstand his rhetorical onslaughts, mighty as they were. My most thorough victory was that in the European theatre, in which I battled all the nefarious forces that the Danish language could muster on such short notice and was flawlessly victorious. So now here I stand, broad, muscular shoulders highlighted by the triumphant light of the waxing moon atop a pile of vanquished vowels, smitten semantics and war-torn word-choice.

Tuesday was my roommate Peter's 21st, which was just the right mix of awesome and chill that I think should accompany all 21sts. He has a sweet perfectly circular battle-scar on his palm from trying to put out a flaming shot that had been burning for a bit too long while his friend fumbled for the change to pay for it. While burns are typically never a good thing, even one so inconsequential as this one, this ovoid stigma has symbolic potential of the sort that people usually long after pursuant to such celebratory landmarks. Does Average Joe feel any older after having walked in place while another year paraded by him? The celebration of a birthday is almost atemporal, the time passing during those hours lasts forever in the moment but practically doesn't exist in retrospect. But now Peter has an indelible mark that's slightly less temporary and vastly more corporeal than his birthday celebration to remind himself that, in a highly metaphysical sense, he can in fact buy beer legally.

Ha! You thought I was gonna make some deep point there, you crazy fool.

Speaking of depth, specifically the depths of complete and almost transcendental suck that my laptop has sunk to, I'm now resorting to avoiding using my trackpad at all costs. It picks really interesting times to grab a spatula and just start flipping shits. 20 minutes ago I could put my finger down in one place on the track pad and watch the cursor on screen jump around like a chipmunk in Moon Shoes. Granted, I'm like the Albus Dumbledore of using a keyboard like a mouse, but there's a certain sense of 'convenience lost' when you have to use the tab key more than 20 times to get to the link you want on a web page. On top of this, my franken-cord of an AC adapter is literally disintegrating under the existential stress of trying to keep my psychologically disturbed battery inside the bounds of electrical sanity. The cords springing from the brick portion of the charger are frantically trying to escape, loosing themselves at the slightest provocation and sometimes surreptitiously. The brick itself, which is doing its best to emulate its namesake in form and function, is thoroughly cracked and will soon be nothing more than a shattered shell and twisted circuitry. I have to lean stoically on the base of the keyboard to get it to start up properly, and even then it hangs at bizarre points in the boot process. I am wholly unable to navigate the treacherous terrain of this computer's issues in a way that would allow me to fix it, or even suggest how to fix it. All I can do now is wait in my craft at a safe distance, donning a protective suit and making brave exploratory missions down to its surface when I need to collect strange minerals (profile pictures) or decipher alien writings (guitar tabs).
I'm making a list of every song I know how to play on guitar so that I have a kind of setlist to work from. I constantly forget that I know how to play certain songs, to the point where picking up a guitar is a hopelessly redundant odyssey through the grease-caked gears of my memory that largely results in me playing the same five or so songs. Granted, I really like those songs, and the five have changed over time, especially since I arrived here, but the bottom line is I need some dependable variety. I say dependable because there are also a frightening amount of songs that I know parts of but lack that critical linchpin to stake the train cars together and thunder down the tracks. Lyrics and bridges are my two greatest weakness and comprise the largest holes in my musical repertoire currently. I am also looking into doing acoustic covers of hip-hop hits and R&B chart-toppers, a la I'm In Luv (Wit a Stripper), so if you have any suggestions of songs that I could cover, don't hesitate to let me know. I will take any and all suggestions, and probably work on them after I complete my rendition of Sean Kingston's "Fire Burnin." It will be poignant and refreshing, spiritually as well as aurally. There shall be much rejoicing.

Music and memory are really two beautiful parts of a frightening whole. My mind, probably due to years of schooling in the media arts, expresses thought primarily as FinalCut montages. There are dozens of tracks in each montage, several obviously for images and myriad others for thought, emotion, moments, movements and retrospection -- but really only one for audio. Certain songs are monogamously associated with incredibly specific images and moments in a way that, while I accept it, fundamentally don't understand -- nor do I wish to. I also don't think I have any power to change what is bound to what, which has unfortunate side effects on my mental music library. There are some songs that I just can't let myself listen to anymore, as huge a space as they inhabit in my heart and mind, because they hail from a time full of profound unhappiness and self-destruction for me. I am almost super-conscious of those times now, and knowing that has been a source of tremendous positive power in my life and has allowed me to feel like I've moved on. That said, I don't need to tell any of you about the power of music to transport you in a hyper-literal sense back to certain times, feelings, moments, eras, events, people or places. As a remarkably solid example, the song Tell Balgeary, Balgury is Dead by Ted Leo & the Pharmacists is almost impossible for me to listen to. I woke up to that song every day for probably 18 months in high school, so many times and with such ridiculous consistency that I can literally feel my old CD player spin up as I snap into consciousness at the start of the song. The brutal melange of fear, confusion, exhaustion, excitement, dumbfounding dis-anticipation and the dull flicks of the headlights of blood cells turning on to resume their endless circuit of the longest highways in the world, the buzzing echoes of being audibly rent from my dreams -- the annihilative catharsis of that moment where the real world collides with you yet you're in absolutely no state to comprehend it. Even the acoustics of the song are colored by these memories, since I really only heard it in that vast but brief purgatory between sleep and wakefulness, and it thus sounds like it's being played at a great distance to me.

In other news, I am slowly realizing that I have displayed unacceptable levels of sloth in educating myself about quintessential American culture. The shelves of my brains categorical library of experience labeled "Movies starring Paul Newman, Robert Redford, John Wayne or Humphrey Bogart," "Golden Age Radio Dramas" are characterized by an alarming dearth of content. The one set of bookends I can say I've distanced significantly are those that start and finish the category of Sinatra Classics and other related tunes.

In terms of movies that I have seen, recently, I had the mixed dis/pleasure of seeing Outlander, the 2009 film with a budget of $55 million dollars that nobody has ever even heard of. Nor had I, until Hurricane was browsing some illicit viewing site and stumbleupon'd it. The movie centers around a grizzled Jim Caviezel, playing the role of a space marine marooned in 8th-century Viking fucking Norway. Caviezel the space marine crashed in his space ship, which he was previously space-flying through space, to hunt space dragons with the Germanic peoples of the Scandinavian peninsulae. So basically we have Jesus Christ, donned in all his Passion and a suit of metallic powerarmor, and about a hundred bearded berzerkers slinging blades and arrows at a nearly immortal space-beast of unimaginable murder. Let's just say....holy fuck. The movie grossed an abysmal $166,000 United States dollars in theaters, the quantitative unanimous reprimand for whoever thought it would be a good idea to make a movie that shitty. Don't get me wrong, it was awesome to watch -- 55 large can get you a pretty dazzling amount of CG explosions. Besides who doesn't like watching the guy who played the big JC of N come to fisticuffs with hammer-wielding giants? I can't really think of anyone.

In hilarious internet news, there has been recent and very serious debate here at IPC among certain individuals about a matter of grave importance and sober consequence: Could Captain America dead-lift more than Jesus, the Son of God? We were split vehemently in votes of confidence either way, so we did the only thing that a morally responsible group of intelligent, cognizant individuals can do in a situation such as this. We put it on Yahoo Answers. Behold the righteous glory of the answers we have received and will surely continue to receive by following the Golden Path of enduring internet justice to this link. Be sure to check your faith in humanity at the door and prepare to bust a gut as we reap this dark harvest of blackest sin and utter hilarity that we have oh so woefully sown.

So there you have it, pretty much my full range of emotions manifest in a few vignettes of this past week.

Life is fucking good.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

This is not the rap you're looking for

But it is also performed by me. I helped with lyrics and video too, but only a little bit. This is a parody project for some hojskole friends' Danish Politics class, it focuses on the Danish People's Party, a faction with some pretty bigoted views on immigration.

Yes that's me peeing on a police car at the end. No, I'm not actually peeing on the police car. Yes, my jacket is on backwards. That's how they do things here. Which is to say -- in the hood.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Goodness Gracious

Great balls of meat. Pic vaguely related, mostly just hilarious.

I have been entirely too busy here and loving every moment of it. I have been writing essays like Don Magic Juan turns tricks, which is to say readily, with great speed and little regard for their emotional stability. If I may wax Foghorn Leghorn for a second, this Thursday I destroyed -- I said ah I said de-stroyed -- a six page paper with little to no remorse. I wrote that paper so hard that the second I chiseled the last sentence onto that monolithic work of immortal intellectual granite, the prompt tore itself asunder and erupted into Red, White and Blue flames. That essay had no idea I even existed until it was already too late and I had emptied its substance onto the page. Then, just to prove my continued dominance over academia, I went to the library to check out books about Vikings. And then my Journalism and Public Relations teacher told me I had one of the two best press releases in the class -- the class about PR, you know the one. The one filled with Communications majors that do that kind of thing for a living.

On top of that, the recent success of my Manifest Bestiny rap (going onto video today, up by the end of next week if not sooner I promise), my much-anticipated cameo in a rap video about the Danish People's Party and St. Patricks Day have vaulted this week into awesome week status. PLUS I biked up the mile-long hill from the train station...with somebody else sitting on my rear tire. AND (YOU THOUGHT IT WAS OVER) tonight is performance night at my hojskole, which means that Jeppe and I get to blow the collective brainminds of everyone with our rendition of The Balcony, followed by a cover of Hallelujah (a la Shrek), feat. Taylor Woodward a.k.a. The Hurricane (with a voice like a summer breeze (makes me feel fine, blowin' through the jasmine in my miiiiiiind)).

You could say I've been busy

And loving every exhausting minute of it.

Last Sunday I went on a bike ride with some folks from the folkehojskole (ironic, amirite?!?) to a slightly post-medieval watermill. We biked through a forest, a refreshingly arboreal experience after really only seeing greenery from within a speeding train for the past two months, and while nothing is really blooming right now it was still...evanescent? That's not the word I'm looking for, but oh well -- back to the story. This mill, driven by a series of ponds and streams linked and subsequently diverted by a Danish king centuries ago, has one purpose, and a particularly epic one at that -- to run a giant hammer. This hammer, pounding relentlessly like a tireless engine of hatred and revenge, was used to flatten steel in the process of gunsmithing. An entire colony of gunsmiths lived and worked in this mill and the quarters surrounding it, secluded in the forest where the Swedes couldn't pelt them with meatlumps. Anyone who catches that reference gets a million Fond Childhood Memory points, redeemable for crappy renditions of cartoon characters I still love unabashedly. Pic above is a clue.

Meanwhile, in reverse-tangent land, biking is wicked cool. I always underestimate how good it is to bike, or I used to at least. Getting them out of the basement where they are stored here is kind of a hassle, and I really wish the snow had melted a little earlier so I could have been using it all this time, but I can't really describe how lucky I am to have a bike provided for me by the program here. Doing this all over again I would gladly consciously choose an hour-twenty+ commute if I knew I would get a bike out of the deal. Every day even if I'm a lazy little slut and only go into the city to stuff my face with shawarma (which I'm convinced is a terrorist plot to get me to trust foreigners, and I find myself powerless to stop it) I still get two miles of exercise out of it, one exhilaratingly fast downhill ride and one thigh-exploding, thick-swelling, rip-maxing uphill climb that makes me regret just having eaten and also immediately want to eat more. It makes dinner that much better or a night that much more complete when I bolt off the train and hufflepuff my way up the hill. I think exercise, as unstructured as it is in my case, works wonders no matter what the problem is.

In other hilarious news, the likes of which can only happen coincidentally in a manner such as this, I learned some rather...intriguing information at a bar on Thursday night. The story starts at the wrap-up for my core class, featuring drinks on DIS and a hilarious slideshow with a shaggy-headed me and some 30 other kids shenaniganizing our way across one or more foreign cities. This was an event of tremendous import as it symbolizes the end of my last 8:30 am class, meaning my dominion over the fickle forces of sleep is nigh. I took a train home after my coupons were veritably use'd, met my friends out at Annexet, our local haunt. I arbitrarily had a conversation struck up with me (weird way of phrasing it, but trust me it encapsulates the situation pretty aptly) by a Californian and a Helsingor native, apparently on the same football team -- the American kind, mind you -- here in Denmark. We got to talking about the folkehojskole where I live and the sketchy Turks that live across the street. Now, most Danes think any and every Turk is a sketchy Turk, but I am using all of my American sub/urban went-to-a-diverse-public-school-system sensibilities when I say that these Turks are characters of a most unsavory nature. Every night their driveways are empty, but by noon every day there are upwards of 10 cars (and a boat) parked outside their house. I rarely see the same cars twice here, and when I do they are frequently missing crucial engine components or in the process of being jumped. One of the houses has a bar in the basement, which is normally just plain cool, but the entire first floor of the house, viewable through ridiculous and probably Swedish bay windows, is a veritable marble forest of busts depicting various Mediterranean old gods and personages. At least I think that's what they are. I really don't know. To drop the crime olive in the creep martini of this situation, once a week a dude in a red Ferrari absolutely tears down our street and screeches to a halt in the driveway of one of the houses. This is the only Ferrari I've seen in Denmark -- you don't really get rich in this country without taking some...extra-ordinary measures. At this point the Dane breaks into the conversation and says "you heard about what happened there right?" Suffice it to say my interest was piqued, and I said to him as much. Turns out one of the biggest drug busts in Denmark's history took place in those three houses about a year and a half ago.

Sooo....yeah. I'm in the middle of mid-terms, kicking ass and taking names, performing across genres, biking like the man who made my wristband and doing all of this across the street from what may or may not be a drug depot or chop shop. My last couple of blags were really angry, but hopefully this post will give you a glimpse of my good side and dissuade that image of me fuming with rage while stoic Danes with their pointy shoes and dumb sweaters prance by (hilarious as that image may be). The truth is that anger, while usually associated with negative connotations and bad experiences, bestows upon me the mystical power to express myself like no other emotion can. Words pour forth like so much boiling vitriol, and the deep channels carved by the floes of my rage are soon after filled with the soothing rains of literary catharsis. It's been hard for me to write in the past week, maybe because I've been so busy, but I suspect it also has to do with the fact that I haven't had anything whip me into a lather this week. Hopefully I can learn to let positive inspiration work its magic and shine through onto this thing more frequently. Sorry for keeping everyone waiting.



Saturday, March 13, 2010

American Culture Night

And nothing further of interest happened in Berlin. Theeeee end.

I've spent the past week keeping busy with school work and other creative ventures. Tonight, in but an hour, is North American Cultural night at my folkehojskole. We are 18 Americans at this hojskole, and it is our solemn duty to spread the glory of our free society to the cobwebb'd reaches of the depraved minds surrounding us. They call themselves many things, Europeans, Africans, Asians, "Canadians," but after tonight they will all call themselves Free. They will learn of our culture, watch our history unfold before their eyes and witness the blazing fury of our culture as it sears its image into their collective subconscious.

We are recounting, in the form of a staged classroom discussion, a sort of false-history of the US. The teacher and the skits present horrible misrepresentations of important events in American history, like fictional messages left on King George's answering machines by his ministers during the American Revolution, and then the students present the correct information in an incredulous manner.

My part in this poorly-prepared fiasco of cultural exchange is to present the concept of Manifest Destiny to these peoples, who have never known the sheer beauty of unbridled westward expansion. Their nations were formed and the surrounding territories settled centuries before their births, but America is at its very core founded on the spirit of opportunity as set on the stage of a vast expanse of breathtaking beauty and bounty. The medium through which I will express the wind rushing through the tawny hair of the pioneers as they struck out across our great land? Why, that's a silly question to ask -- it really only has one possible answer: Gangsta Rap.

Ladies and Gentlemen, for your reading pleasure, Destiny is Manifest (Manifest Bestiny):

It's the Wild Wild West...Manifest
It's the Wild Wild West...Manifest

America, America, Home of the Free
England rolled up on this bitch with 13 colonies
They were complacent at first but would not stay on their knees
Said: You can front, you can step but don't tread on me

They rose in power, fortune and fame
Said “Hello, World. America's the name”
Began to multiply, getting busy neva tame
Filled up the East Coast and said “Man this shit is lame”

So they packed up all they things, saddled the horses
Loaded all they guns, and marshaled they forces
Drankin whiskey packin heat, lightin up like torches
Got my wagon tricked out, lookin somethin like a Porsche

Because my wagon is covered and my game is tight
Got my oxen train up front we gonna run it all night
My bizzy's got a bonnet on, she lookin' outta sight
If we gonna make it in this land we gonna do it right, Uh.

Struck out to the West, first stop Oklahoma
Said listen up girl, I just wanna be on ya'
So now we got 10 kids, all wanna be land ownas
Said nah this ain't no Oakland, took it straight to California

Looking for some land, people called us pioneers
Gold on my teef and diamonds in my ears
Suddenly in our path, some Indians appear
Spit rhyme like hot fire, 's why they call it Trail of Tears

But my flow would not abate, lyrics flyin like hot lead
Indians trifle with my crew, guess they wanted to get dead
They didn't understand, it was already decided
This whole land would be ours, from beach to beach-head

To Portland...Uh....
To Pacific Sands – yeayuh

From New York.. Uh
To L-AAAaaaahhh
Urbbody in America
Say “Hell YEEAAAAaaahhhh”

My lyrics are limitless, my rhymes are a mystery
Destiny is manifest, that's American History.

America, you can thank me later upon my return to thine hallowed shores. Video forthcoming.

-- DJ Fresh2Def a.k.a. Sizzle-Dizzle a.k.a. MC Manifestopholes a.k.a. Kid Capitalism a.k.a. The Great White American Hope a.k.a. Big G BootyScoops!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Blogging post-absentia, with such generalizations and obvious statements

So it's come to this. No shirt, no pants, still in bed at 9 in the PM with a full bottle of scotch, a pair of fake aviators and a case of the German stomach flu. The readership may find themselves asking: Why so unclothed, Simon? 9pm is very late, why do we find you in such a state and bedridden? Where did these miscellaneous items come from? For that matter, where have you been the past 9 days? How come you haven't seen fit to update the blag of late? Is there a god? Have I left a turkey/my gasoline collection/any number of younger siblings in the oven? Why do kids love the taste of Cinnamon Toast Crunch?!?

Before you lose all direction in life, wallow in self-pity and buy a Ferrari/breast implants, rest assured that I can and will answer all of these questions in what will surely prove to be a blog post of extreme length and minimal practical value.

All of this started last Friday, typically a day full of mythology classes and man-about-towning. But this Friday was to be like none other. I did my laundry at literally the last minute possible, threw all of my worldly possessions into several burlap sacks affixed to sturdy branches, stuffed my bandoleer with as many brews as it could stow and struck out into the night. My destination? Frue Plads, to meet the tour bus for my imminent departure to Germany on a 7 day study tour with the teachers and peers of my core class, European Culture and History: Memory and Identity (Germany). With a 10 hour bus ride on the horizon, I knew that I would need everything in my arsenal to make it through the next 36 hours.

This trip would prove to be an epic poem of love, loss, tragedy, faith and learning. Even the bus ride there, normally a thing relegated to the same category of experience as sleeping naked outside in the cold or being relentlessly clawed by badgers, was unusually full of fire and verve. But, like fire (and most but not all verve), it can also burn as it warms. Well past my stock of beverages and working on more acquired at a local 7-11 before the bus took off, I knew then that if nothing else the bus ride would be interesting. I was to prove myself right to the utmost degree.

To sleep soundly on a bus requires a certain kind of fortitude that one doesn't come by easily. Very few people possess it inherently, and billions around the world are forced to acquire such tenacity through artificial or unsavory means. I chose a combination of sleep deprivation and inebriation, and promptly slept through that night's entertainment (an Oscar-winning movie that I'm sure I would have loved) and, blessedly, most of the bus ride.

The exception to this miraculous and beer-induced sleep was to be presented by Jeff Lauer, a peer of mine on the trip. Whether or not you realize it at this juncture, you all know Jeff Lauer. Maybe not by his given name, but perhaps hearing his colloquial moniker your memory will be jogged. Jeff is known to one and all as "That Guy." He embodies not just the namesake, but the very essence of what it is to be That Guy in every way.

He is a shameless partier, dresses as a gentleman should, strikes out on adventure at every turn and always comes back with a Conquistadorean story of interactions with the natives or some new species of water-dog found in the caves of Zanzibar. He also makes decisions that lead to unforeseen and often humiliating consequences, all of which he bounces back from with remarkable grace and unmatched fervor. In this case, his inappropriate choice was eating a sandwich on the 45-minute ferry ride between Denmark and Germany. Host to any number of uncatalogued parasites and heretofore undocumented hostile organisms, this sandwich like the soldiers let past the gates of Troy laid waste to his digestive system and resulted in him vomiting, one row of seats behind me, no less than 5 separate times over the course of 8 hours. Now it's impossible to say that it's his fault for being stricken as such, but this is exactly what makes him such a paragon of That Guy-ness -- he is awash in a sea of terrible import with only a crude sextant and the stars to navigate by, all of which lead him to the same tragic cove of pirates which seek to rob him of his social dignity.

Yet he sails on.

And here we have reached a prosaic peak, a literary vantage point from which we may survey the lay of this land and glimpse the rolling hills and dense thickets of the verbose landscape to come. Looking back on the path we have traveled, I can count 7 paragraphs and a line to describe a single bus ride. We haven't even made it to the first day of the trip. The author acknowledges the arduous nature of the task ahead for both writer and the written-to, meaning bailing, napping, stretching or grabbing snacks is excused and even encouraged. Noting that, the fact that the bus ride there warranted so much text is also an indication in and of itself as to the epic and fundamentally bad-ass nature of the pursuant week. Let's see about the first day.

We officially began our journey, after driving through the night, in Dresden, Germany, site of the infamous Bombing of Dresden. Now a triumphant story of resilience after its utter and terrifyingly complete destruction, the city's restoration efforts have revitalized nearly every major cultural site and then some. The history of the place is visible in its every stone -- a special kind of stone typical of buildings in the region that accumulates a hard shell of oxidized iron as it ages, turning it jet black at its full realization. The new stones used in rebuilding, freshly reaped from the same quarries as their ancient brethren, are therefore a startling white contrast to their time-singed predecessors. Since many of the original stones and buildings were left partially intact or reusable in some way, this creates a checkerboard of history and memory on the facade of every church, palace and memorial in the city center.

The city of Dresden was bombed in 1945, when many surmised the war was already irreversibly won, by Allied forces to ease the approach of Soviet soldiers to the capital. A controversial act of war in any regard, the only unambiguous thing about it is that it was incontrovertibly badass in its scope, implementation and devastating effect. The object of the bombing of Dresden was to create a firestorm that would absolutely annihilate it. To this effect, a mix of high-explosive and incendiary materiel was dropped on the city, bombs totaling in the hundreds of thousands. The explosives would level city blocks, removing structural elements to create wind channels that would facilitate the dropping of incendiaries over the same path. This combination of incredible explosive force, readily combustible material and a high-speed oxygen supply creates a literal firestorm. This firestorm raised the outside temperature of Dresden to over 1,000 degrees centigrade. At this temperature, the structures made of wood were literally evaporated and those of stone were heated to such impossible temperatures that they exploded. Aside from the two atomic bombings in Japan executed months later, this is probably one of the most impressive, morally dubious and downright terrifying displays of the destructive capabilities of the collective human will and the devastating machinery it has created for use on ourselves.

Now almost fully restored, this city is home once again to some of the most striking churches, opera houses and gardens of Dionysian debauchery. We went on a tour with an alarmingly chipper guide and learned many mundane facts about the stunning sites around us. I am always struck by how the information about most buildings is far less majestic or even relevant than the actual structures themselves. This was certainly the case, as evidenced by the fact that I could describe to you in intimate detail what these buildings looked like but supply probably no more than a tidbit or two about their historical background.

That night we struck out in small groups and explored independently. This night wasn't as interesting as it could have been, but was still fruitful and fun in many ways. We stumbled upon a great biergarten owned and operated, so it seemed, by just one person. We had authentic German cuisine and enjoyed fine beverages for a delightful 3 hours, then went off in search of the real night life. We ended up at two bars, one place that was up so many flights of stairs (and decorated in such a way) that it may as well have been in space, and another owned by a potentially Indian man who was so shocked that we were both American and in his bar simultaneously that he gathered his whole staff to gawk at us as we socialized.

I say it wasn't as interesting as it could have been because apparently a block from where we were was a Big Lebowski bar. I won't even go into detail here because it should be evident from that sentence alone the opportunity I missed by not finding that place.

The next day we went to Wiemar, a stupendously boring yet quaint and important town in German history. We got a tour from a guy who had nothing much to say, and what he did have to say he said in broken English. That day we also got a few hours to tour the grounds of Buchenwald, one of the most famous concentration camps of the second World War. One would expect a profound sense of despair, grief and depression to arise from such a visit, but I left there with only deep, deep anger. The way they had arranged the exhibits around the camp and the painfully apparent lack of effort placed into the whole design of the place as a memorial and educational site was so painful to me that it took me most of the day to get over it. The recording for the audio tour was disorganized and filled with irrelevant information arranged in a confounding order. To top that off, it was narrated by a person who spoke neither German nor English as their first language and sounded like a flamboyant lisp put through a Lithuanian blender and poured over a toasted loaf of shit. I came out of the camp several miles more tired and no more informed than when I entered, much to my dismay.

That night, to make up for the disappointment at Buchenwald, we had a pleasant dinner and some nice scotch. The waitress made the foolish mistake of serving Johnny Walker to me in a ridiculously cool Bulleit Bourbon glass, which common decency dictated I liberate from the premises. Seeing as it was a Sunday night at this point, the only place we could find to continue our festivities was a local place named like Mittle's or something like that, which was a hilarious time. We walked from that bar back to our hotel...entirely backwards. Miraculously, I was the only one to fall down after tripping on some stairs 20 feet from our hotel. I was the shame of that excursion, something that I'm still grappling with emotionally. My left buttcheek was severely bruised the next day, a traitorous mark I was to bear for the rest of the trip. Pun intended.

Something I should note about Germany, especially the Eastern parts we were in, is that nobody speaks English. One of the more hilarious moments of trying to negotiate the language barrier was when a friend, Gil, was trying to find a money clip in a department store. When we asked a clerk where the wallet section is, she looked at us blankly until I pulled mine out and pointed to it. She turned to a younger-looking patron who was able to help her out, pointed to the wallet and asked him a question. He searched for the right word for a second, and then looked up at her and exclaimed "Oh, put-money!" To which she replied, "Ooooohhhhh. Put-money." This is decidedly not the way that Germans say wallet, not even a very good transliteration, but it is a hilarious way to think about nouns. We then decided that every noun in German would be described by what was put into it. Therefore a mouth would become a put-food, a toilet becomes a put-crap and the oral presentations we had to do on the trip became put-bullshits.

Then, after a mundane visit to the Bauhaus school in some town, we made it to Berlin proper. I have to say right here that this city, while home to some great feats in architecture and some of the most significant cultural sites of the 20th century, was really underwhelming. I had really never considered it before this trip, but the Berlin wall that separated the city so absolutely between East and West fell only two decades ago, and while the process of reconciliation is largely complete in the cultural sphere it has yet to manifest physically in many ways. Our hotel was in East Berlin, and the garbage-and-dog-shit littered sidewalks were my first indication that this wasn't quite the city I had expected.

By day we gawked and ogled our way around the city proper, and by night we roamed within what seemed like an entirely different place. We ate a nice dinner in a restaurant that doubled as a ballroom, meaning we got a free show with the meal. Unfortunately this show was a dance class consisting mostly of a bunch of stodgy Krauts club-footing their way around the dance floor with their wives, who almost certainly coerced them into attending by threatening to take away their kurrywurst privileges. Kurrywurst? Don't ask. It doesn't make any more sense even if you know what it is. Hilarious anecdote about this restaurant (other than me and 6 other people thinking that the appetizers were the whole meal and positively gorging ourselves before the entrees even made it to the table):

There is one girl in our study tour group who is really quite annoying. I'm not talking amateur shit here, I'm talking big league Wreynold's Wrap levels of cling. Paraphrased from the words of jazz great Mose Allison (not you Moze), her mind is on vacation but her mouth is working overtime. This isn't really a normal vacation either, seeing as in the case of a normal vacation people have a tendency to, I don't know, return from it. This is more like a voyage, the kind that Eskimos take when they have outlived the ability to support themselves, floating out to waste away amidst the vast floes of the sea. I could go on with this metaphor, but suffice it to say we tried our hardest to stay away. I'm referring not to subtle misdirection or other such subterfuge, but rather actual documented plans of escape and evacuation contingencies. So, a large group of us stealthily, or so we thought, slipped out of the restaurant. This was a group dinner, meaning the school settled the bill before we even got there, so we knew we could leave any time we wanted to. About a block and a half down the street, giggling and giddy with the success of our covert operation, we were almost run over by a man on a bicycle. While that was shocking enough, the first words out of his mouth were even more so: "Are you skipping out on the bill?" Apparently this disheveled man on a bicycle was the restaurant owner who had seen us leave and thought that, like other teens he was to tell us about, we were attempting to dodge paying for the meal. We were as confused as I was taken aback, but we explained ourselves sufficiently and he let us go on our way (to the bars). The night and those pursuant were to be filled with similar shenanigans and artful dodgeries. It put that little bit of sport into the whole adventure that made it that much more satisfying.

We saw important cultural sites, got a tour by an exceedingly intelligent Danish ex-pat that lasted a little bit too long in weather that was slightly too cold, ate wienerschnitzel -- the whole 9 yards (8.2296 meters).

I am having the damnedest time writing this thing. I'm going to leave it here for now and pick up with our second night in Berlin, prominently featuring me spouting diatribes on the topic of my literally interminable loathing for British youths.