Summer of Slow Dance Romance

PART 1: Berlin

This is a relatively new project and already my ambitions seem to outweigh my ability to show up to the at the end of the day and write something down. I’ll try to reminisce with as much whimsical and entertaining detail as possible in this post, working backwards.

Today I am spending my last evening in Neukolln, Berlin, Germany, in bed with white covers, in a bedroom with giant windows, in a flat with two strangers and one former lover and current friend, above a bookstore. Alberto, the bookstore’s owner is built like a telescope and wears large round glasses. His eyelashes touch the lenses when he nervously blinks during conversation. Alberto is from northern Spain and speaks five languages, at least. His shop carries books in two dozen languages, at least. On Tuesday I was gifted a book of poems, by my aforementioned friend, written in Georgian and translated into French. Next door there is an empanada shop with wonderful food and terrible coffee. Two blocks in either direction are ice cream shops who serve affogatos. Every morning we walk to one or the other. Our favorite of the two has a yellow sign. I don’t know its name. The owner is an Italian man with a small beard and a big belly who wears suspenders, makes all of the ice cream himself and knows four ways to make a cappuccino. I don’t know his name. At the end of our street is Tempelhof Feld, an old commercial airport since turned into a public park full of kites, bicycles, picnics, yogis, musicians and rollerbladers. Today I met some beautiful friends there. Giedre is both a beautifully poised and whimsically goofy swing dancer from Lithuania. Jack is an impossibly pleasant and beautifully talented musician from Australia. We spent a sunny afternoon together with the slow dance machine, some fruit from the Turkish market, and this bale of hay.

 

On Sunday, this one and every one, there was a giant flea market in Mauerpark. For whatever incomprehensible reason I woke up feeling like a slug that day. Motivation was a challenge and my feet felt as though they weighed a hundred pounds apiece. Summoning the strength of poverty, I rode the train there with a few snarky hearts and the slow dance machine. I shuffled through an outdoor sardine can full of shoppers, trying not to suffocate within the crowd before exiting on the other side. Finally I found peace and refuge next to a raised flowerbed on the sidewalk, a block away from the entrance to the market.

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I met a man named Sven who gave me a dollar for ice cream, exchanged funny faces with a toddler who was mesmerized by Fats Domino, had a few dances- a few paid, many didn’t, and sold one heart. I spun a few Sam Cooke records for these sweet peas.

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In the evening, I caught up with my dear friend Jimbino, who just so happened to be in town from Paris, on a musical tour that would finish in Finland. After they played a swing dance concert at Crack Bellmer in Kreuzberg, we convened with several hours to enjoy before the trains started running at 5am. We had a few slow dances, a few more fast ones, sprinting races and rail climbs at the train station and on the train route home. For a moment Jimbino had nearly half a train car full of people hanging upside-down on the safety rails by their feet.

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…to be continued (later this evening, check back in)…

11 October 2016

By later this evening, I must have meant to say months later, back home in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Whoops.My goal as of now is to become a more skilled writer and a less skilled procrastinator.

So, where were we? Working backwards:

Part 1 and a half: Berlin, still.

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I spent a little over three weeks in Berlin having daily picnics with friends from home and from afar, making art, dancing in the street, having an unforgettable time. Nearly every weekend a friend from home was in town playing a show in a charming basement bar or swing dance venue. Jimbino Vegan and the Jazz Cannibals were touring from Paris through Germany and Estonia up to Finland. The Panorama Jazz band from New Orleans and the Jumbo Shrimp band also from New Orleans were both touring europe and stopped through Berlin while I was in town. I barely missed a New Orleans honky tonk friend, Todd Day Waits Pigpen. How could I be homesick when some of the best elements of home had accidentally followed me here?

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This is my dear friend Matt, known to many of my friends as Foghorn Leghorn. That’s another story. I believe I mentioned him earlier in this post, having bought me a book of Georgian poems translated into French from Alberto’s bookstore. Foghorn Leghorn teaches Anthropology at a university in Washington and spends one month in Berlin every summer studying psychobilly culture, doing his hair and partying like a wild maniac. He’s a pretty good slow dancer, and a damn near professional slow dance wrangler- it doesn’t hurt that he speaks fluent German. Matt is the brother of a friend in New Orleans. I met him briefly once at a bar in New Orleans called The Holy Ground. We had a conversation that lasted probably no more than thirty seconds and may as well have run off into sunset together. We began writing to each other and sending little sentimental gifts in the mail. This went on for several months before we began flying back and forth to visit each other and realised that our distant romance was only functional because it was in fact distant, and that in fact we are just downright hilariously incompatible as lovers. Still we are dear friends who meet in Germany once a year to eat ice cream, make fun of each others’ outfits and bicker about unimportant things.

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Part 2: Barcelona

(For another day, but here’s where I build an outline to fill in later)

Part 3: Jamaica

Part 4: Paris ()

Part 5: Lisbon

Part 6: Paris (a Paris and Portugal sandwich, if you will)

Part 7: New York

to be continued

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Barcelona, Spain

I didn’t capture many photos in Barcelona. I think I may have been distracted.

 

Edit 8/12/18:

I’m coming back to this one later because, though it ended rather tumultuously, this was easily my favorite love affair and I can recollect now with fondness rather than disgust. Funny how the heart heals, and thoughts that were once agonizing become memories that are sweet and far away.

The morning I woke up to leave for this trip, I couldn’t find my passport. Not on the kitchen table where I knew I had left it. Not hiding under a stack of papers, in the couch cushions or in the produce drawer of the refridgerator (no place was left unstudied). Not anywhere. I made a bozillion (at least) frantic phone calls to every place I could remember having visited in the last several days; I turned my house upside down, I got mad, I even made an appointment to get a new one. Meanwhile I was hosting a friend of a friend in my house, and though we were both trying to be politely calm for one another, considering we were basically strangers, the poor guy had to watch me unravel.

As it turned out, another guest I had hosted a few days before had accidentally taken my passport off the kitchen table, where I knew I had left it, in a frenzy to catch a flight to Washington D.C., thinking it was hers. She didn’t notice until she became the recipient of one of my frantic phone calls.

So I flew to  Washington D.C., had her buy me lunch and then took a plane one day late which granted me one entire day in Barcelona.  Romance is a thing for which I will power through all sorts of ridiculous obstacles.

In Spain we slow danced in the sea and in the street. In Barcelonetta, he had a little table set up where he wrote poetry for passers by on an old typewriter and across the way I was set up with my record player, twirling with tourists and charming strangers. Occasionally he would cross to my side of the street and have a dance, or I would cross to his side of the street and sit and listen to the noise of the typewriter, swimming in nerves and occasionally confirming the spelling of a word.