That is, a deep hole in time, stuffed haphazardly with moving, job changes, death, love, heartbreak, a smorgasbord of the stuff of life, I will soon be driving down the coast of California and then across the country with Kaalu the wolf and the slow dance machine. I plan for many stories to share with you, and I hope to deliver those stories in a way that makes reading them worthwhile.
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 up with 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 Sundays, that particular 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 strength motivated mostly by the fact that I had run out of money, 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.
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, a few didn’t- but that really isn’t the point, and sold one heart. I spun a few Sam Cooke records for these sweet peas.
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 he played a swing dance concert at a charming little dance room called Crack Bellmer in Kreuzberg, we convened with several hours to enjoy before the trains started running again at 5am. We had a few slow dances (and a few 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.
…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 was I? Working backwards:
Part 1 and a half: Berlin, still.
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?
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. He speaks fluent German, apparently with French accent that he acquired by accident all on his own. Matt is the brother of a friend in New Orleans who’s birthday gathering at a bar in New Orleans called The Holy Ground was where we met for the first time, briefly. We had a conversation that lasted probably no more than thirty seconds. Later we began writing letters 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 eventually realized 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. Now we are dear friends who meet in Germany and elsewhere once or twice a year to eat ice cream, make fun of each others’ outfits and bicker about arbitrary things.
Part 2: Barcelona & Part 3: Jamaica each have their own posts below.
Parts 4, 5 and 6 : Paris, twice, as I traveled to Paris twice that particular summer, for romance and adventure (which I found there, twice), and am working backward, with a little bit of Lisbon and New Orleans in between. What a prolific year for travel and romance and slow dances.
Pieces of some of these trips have also been posted in pieces on their own, so I will only add to those a bit, and include a bit of home.
I’ll begin with a few of my favorite humans, on my favorite bridge, in my favorite city on earth that I am so lucky to call home, New Orleans. Somewhere in between Jamaica and Spain, I got to be a part of this sweet little picnic arranged for our dear friend Hilary for her birthday, featuring some her favorites: us, ice cream, music and beef stroganoff.
Just a bunch of romantic ladies, living life just the way we please.
“Thank you Paris, Zurich and Nantes for walks through enchanted forests and parks and riversides, slow dances with strangers on mountains and in the street and on trains and in buses, reunions with old friends, adventures with new friends, home cooked meals, swiss chocolate and cherry pie, that fantastic giant mechanical elephant, crepes filled with every kind of cheese, car rides with fascinating strangers, baguettes, bridges, boats, beautiful music, tiny coffees and giant glasses of wine, Parisian thrift stores, rain, romance, untamable laughter, magically brief interactions, an unbelievable house with the most fun and wonderful host, picnics, getting lost, hand picked peas, pistachio macaroons…everything. You’ve really outdone yourself.”
This is the house I slept on my first visit to Paris. It is located in Nogent-sur-Marne, and by some strange series of events was left with my dear friend Jimmy as its caretaker. I arrived sometime in the middle of the night and it was a wonder that I found the place. The house itself was exactly like the kinds one experiences in a dream, with small doors that lead to narrow hallways that lead to hidden staircases and secret rooms. The rooms were decorated with exotic animal furs, strange antiques, snake skins and medieval weapons. The whole place smelled worn in and felt mysterious.
On my second visit, I slept here, in the apartment of some friend’s of Jimmy, who worked in the costume department of the circus. The apartment was in St. Denis and my hosts were so lovely and warm. From here I wrote a great deal of what’s been shared here in the previous posts.
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.
Here is a little video snippet, posted by Shakespeare & Company bookstore in Paris. It sits adjacent to the Notre Dame cathedral, and is one of the most charming and romantic places on earth. Do visit if you are ever in Paris.