Thursday, February 26, 2009

Scheisse, Hundescheisse

For those of you who have never been to Berlin, one thing you are not missing out on is Hundescheisse. Dog turds, all over the sidewalk all year long. Berliners are far more advanced than American at recycling and not wasting energy, and are amazingly obedient when it comes to following rules. Practically no one will ever cross the street on a red light, even if there isn't a car in sight. Once, after returning from a three week visit to the Bay Area, I was hanging out in Kreuzberg 36 where I saw two punks waiting at the traffic light. Rainbow colored mohawks, chains all over their ripped clothing, and yet they were waiting at the crosswalk like good citizens even though the coast was obviously clear. Only in Berlin, I thought as I crossed the street in front of them.

Technically it is against the law not to pick up your dog's doo doo (there's even a fine), but this is one law Berliners almost universally break. On my ten minute walk to my daughter's pre-school each morning I pass by at least thirty turds of various degrees of freshness, shape and color. What are these people feeding their dogs, I think when I pass by a log that is ochre or a clay like red. Some of the turds look shockingly human, though there is a Psych Ward nearby with a lot of out patients, so, let's not go there. Now that my daughter is walking more I have to steer her not only clear of cars and kamikaze bicyclists, but Fido's piles of crap as well.

This morning I saw a woman with one of those poofy little white dogs whose breed always has a long, vaguely Asian sounding name. He did his business on the sidewalk about a block from my house and, once he was finished, low and behold, she pulled out a plastic bag and scooped the little turd up. As I walked by, pushing my double buggy, I briefly had the urge to hug her.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My daughter thinks her daddy is a suave black man....

So obviously I find my husband sexy, sweet and attractive but I realize different people have different tastes and not everyone will see things exactly the same way I do. Still, personal tastes aside, I think everyone will agree that my husband is, well, white.

I found it interesting to discover the other day that my daughter can't yet tell the difference. How I know is she was going through our c.d. collection (something she is forbidden to do, so of course, she does it every chance she can get!) when she pulled our a copy of Bobby Womack's Greatest Hits. For anyone who doesn't know what Bobby Womack looks like, here are a few pictures.

She handed me the c.d. cover, pointed at Bobby and said repeatedly, "Daddy, daddy. daddy!" In the picture he looked even more suave and studly than in the pictures above, all decked out un a felt fedora and super tight 70s jeans. "Ok," I thought. "They both wear glasses, they both had a wide, toothy smile (his Hollywood smile, my husband's brother calls it.) Astrologically they are both really watery (my husband and I met in an astrology class, the "real" thing, not the trashy newspaper style...) I guess I can see how she could mix the two of them up.

But then yesterday, whilst raiding our c.d. cabinet yet again, she pulled this one out:

"Daddy, daddy, daddy!" She said as she handed it to me. Which proves she is truly comvinced her daddy is a suave and very fine black man. As for my husband, he is simply flattered. He knows how to take a compliment! :)

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Escapist

So, I thought about calling this blog post "Dead Girls and Bondage", but then I realized what kind of readers I would attract and how terribly disappointed they would be....

I've been suffering from a vicious bout of insomnia these days. Not that this is anything new. It always takes me a while to fall asleep and I've had insomniac phases on
occasion all of my adult life. Torturous, yes, but I've been trying to make the best of it by getting some creative work done instead of sleeping. Not that this actually HELPS me go to sleep. Anyone who does not chronically suffer from insomnia may believe the advice "Drink a cup of hot herbal tea and all will be fine", but it is a big fat lie....The only thing that helps sometimes is reading (but DEFINITELY not t.v. or the internet!!)or changing where you are sleeping, i.e. go lie down on the couch for a while. The problem usually is you have zero desire to do these things. All you want is to sleep and it's the one thing you absolutely can't do....

Anyway, as I said I'm doing the lemonade from lemons approach and working on a lot of new art and jewelry and even some hand-altered clothing. I've been buying vintage photographs on ebay on and off for the past six weeks or so.

Whenever they come in the mail I often find myself deciding to keep them for my collection rather than using them for anything (I've been collecting vintage photographs for over ten years.) Every once in a while, however, I do get one that inspires me. Last night it was the one pictured at the beginning of this post.

A young girl, her dark hair braided, a somewhat pensive look on her face, her hands in her lap. I got out my sewing materials and sat down at the dining room table but then suddenly realized I wasn't interested in stitching the picture. I started thinking about the girl. What hid behind her serious expression? I imagined her, a good girl always doing as she is told, but secretly wishing to run off and join the circus. She wouldn't want to be a trapeze artist is a glittering costume or to ride white horses. She would dream of being an escape artist.

I have to admit this idea may have been planted in my head by Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay which I read about a month ago. One of the main characters trains to be an Houdini style escape artist when he is a boy in Prague. He practices cracking locks and hiding picks inside his cheek. Later, in New York, he creates a sucessful comic book with his cousin called The Escapist. Of course, the idea and longing for escaping is also symbolic in the book (the character is an Eastern European Jew at the beginning of Hitler's tyranny)the stories of escapism and the obsession people have brought to the art really stuck with me.

I started thinking about chains. I put som
e gold ribbon around her like some bonds that she was dreaming of escaping from. I added some vintage snack skin copper chain (perhaps a snake handler would be another of her dream jobs...)and black lacquer chain to the side.

My husband came and took a look at the photograph sometime before I had done much work on it. "I wonder what they meant by that," he said. He had read the back of the picture which read 28.5.1940- Im Gedanken an Eure Annelie (In Memory of your Annelie.) "It sounds to me like the girl must have died."

It seemed strange, almost spooky, to m
e to be working on a picture of a girl who died in childhood in 1940. She would be in her 70s now, so of course she could still be living. To know that she probably passed away so long ago made me wonder if I should stop the project. But then again, the show must go on....

As a last touch I added a black glass pendant to her neck. I imagined it was from her beloved uncle Horace, the only adult who understands her. It is a symbol to her to never stop dreaming. When I showed the finished work to my husband he said, "Hmm...Very bondage-like." Not what I had intende
d, but I can see what he means...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tilden Park in the Fog among others...

I just thought I'd post some of my husband's photographs on this wet, dreay late Sunday afternoon. A lawyer by day, he is also an aspiring photographer. I may add some of the photographs to my shop Schaufenster just to see what happens. If any sell, then I told him I will take him out for a nice dinner!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Defacing old things...

So when I first saw this antique postcard for sale I noticed a few interesting things:

1. It is postmarked Baden Baden, May 28th, 1901 making it 108 years old.

2. The stamp is from Bavaria which was still its own separate kingdom at the time.

3. It still has the original greetings written in pencil, though they are in the old script and not really readable for "modern" eyes.

4. The writer also traced over the old woman's eyes in pencil, something you can see when you hold it against the light.

Still, as intriguing as these aspects might be, I f
elt the postcard was lacking something. The illustration of the old woman and young girl is sweet bur it is gray as is the writing, giving the postcard an overall drab feeling. I knew I wanted to do something with it but the question was what? Both sides of the card were equally important so I didn't want to glue it onto something or stitch it up. I decided to simply wait.

A while ago I bought this packet of vintage stamps at Karstadt on Hermannplatz. Karstadt is a German department store, but unlike the department stores I know in the U.S. it also has a huge grocery store in the basement, a large sewing department with cloth and supplies and a hobby section with stamps among many other things. Not sure what I would do with them either, I found a lot of the stamps really beautiful (a pack of 100)so I went ahead and bought them.

Karstadt is a chain, but the one on Hermannplatz is ra
ther special in that it is in the notorious neighborhood of Neukoelln. Neukoelln is considered the "ghetto" of Berlin. The very mention of its name is enough to strike fear in the hearts of more suburban, middle-class Berliners. I lived in Neukoelln for years in a total of five different apartments. Though it is admittedly trashy at times, it is also wonderfully multi-cultural and totally safe, at least if you are a white girl like me (most of the problems are between Turkish and Arab boys duking it out...)

Besides, there are great apartments to have there totally dirt cheap. Here are some pictures of the last apartment I had there until I "upgraded" to Kreuzberg (the one before it had ovens where I burned coal for heat. "Kick ass!" I thought and "How very 19th century!" That is, until I realized how much dust they make....)

A cute little studio with central heating for 300 Euros. It was on Weserstrasse, right around the block from the infamous Ruetli Schule, a remedial high school where the teachers and principle wrote a letter to the city of Berlin a couple of years ago stating that it would be better to close the school down because all of pupils were hopelessly unteachable. Anyway, when I told people I lived there they told me I was crazy.

But I liked it. The area is really close to Kreuzberg and has a true urban grittiness to it. By far the coolest area in Neukoelln, and I'm a girl who knows that neighborhood....The ironic thing: Weserstrasse is now THE next big thing. The area even has a new name, Kreuzkoelln. I was there around a year ago and it is now lined with lots of hipster, underground bars and cafes and even a sushi restaurant. The whole two years I lived there there was nothing but Eckkneipen (old men pubs)and the cool but very small and by no means hip Crossanterie. Sigh. Genetrification, where were you when I needed you most?

Anyway, to get back to the original story of this post, the other night I was playing around with the afore-mentioned stamps, placing them in these gilded paper frames I bought at an art supply store. Though raised hardcore protestant, I've always been a bit of a sucker for the Virgin Mary. Therefore, not too surprising that I framed her and baby Jesus from a stamp from Fiji showing a painting of the visit from the three wise men. I then took another stamp (Canadian from 1970)of children with worshipful looks on their faces and framed that. After positioning them on the antique postcard on a bit of a lark, I somehow liked it. I glued them to the front and put a gilded frame over the Bavarian stamp on the back and- voila!- the collage Three Wise Stamps was born. I did feel a bit bad defacing something so old, but life's simply too short to not have fun.....

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Snow Days In Berlin

Ode to Profiterole

So, after having two babies pretty close together and having an incurable sweet tooth anyway I've been trying to loose weight. After going to my post pregnancy excercise class I came to a disturbing realization. I am probably always going to be at least a little overweight because I a) love to eat and b)pretty much hate to excercise (at least cardio, calorie burning excercise...) I told this to my husband but he wasn't too concerned. Luckily, he prefers me curvy....

I celebrated my birthday last Sunday and, as usual, did some "American" baking for my German friends. This time round peanut butter cookies and black bottom cupcakes. Here's the stuff I made:

There's a cafe here called Barcomi's run by an American. One of the guests gave me the cookbook they sell for my b-day pres
ent but then was upset when they saw the peanut butter cookies. "Oh no! You must already have the cookbook. There are those cookies with the fork imprint on them!" I assured her that I didn't and that peanut butter cookies, with their enigmatic double fork imprint, were not thought up by Ms. Barcomi! Because my husband is always a bit nervous when entertaining that someone might come away a tad bit unsatisfied, he also bought several boxes of profiterole and a tiramisu. For those of you who don't know what profiterole are, they look like this:

Custard filled cream puffs covered in a rich chocolate sauce. Probably not the best thing to have around when you'd like to loose oh, say, 30 pounds! Anyway, the party was a success. No one went away hungry. In fact, they left a good portion of cookies, cupcakes and the accursed profiterole behind. I just had two of the devilish little puffs of tastiness as an after lunch treat. Now, filled with such guilty satisfaction (not to mention a little bit of bloating....)I have decided to compose an ode to this cruel French treat.

Profiterole, your golden, tender puff
is filled with such rich custard
that there is simply no way my diet
will cut the mustard.

Your rich chocolate sauce
melts so sinfully in my mouth

but this is no surprise
no more than the
expanding of my thighs!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Jewelry Madness

I got some fantastic new supplies in the mail the day before my birthday and since then it's been jewelry madness. I love making new pieces. Usually I start with an idea and try it out but the final outcome is often far from the original plan. Letting yourself be taken by surprise is one of the greatest pleasures in life!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Who am I?

Whether you've come to this blog on purpose or stumbled onto it by accident the question still remains: Who am I?
I am the girl with the camera taking self-portraits. The insomniac who lives to dream. The woman who believes in the power of the heart.

At twenty-five I moved from California where "winter" means a few weeks of rain in January and a scarf is a fashion accessory

to Berlin where spring and summer are optional and fall and winter inevitable.

I've been married twice. Once for all the wrong reasons, once for all the right. The second time was in the San Francisco Court House under a giant Christmas tree covered in origami. My father could be there which made it extra special. He died of bone cancer four months later.

My husband
may be German, but he knows the good in an old fashioned American hamburger.

What do I believe? I believe you are as
much where you came from as where you
are now.

I believe in love and in the family.

I believe in the creative life.


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