Sunday, May 24, 2009

Under Construction

Berlin has, and will always be under construction. I love this about the city. As gentrification slowly spreads its web across my neighborhood, more and more of the houses are resurfaced and repainted. Sometimes this is good, but often you have a feeling they just do a careless, rushed job so they can raise the rent due to "improvements". I also like a lot of the old buildings, with the crumbling gray facades and bullet holes still puckering their plaster....

A few weeks ago I ran across these two buildings on Bl├╝cherstrasse. Identical when built, one has since been saniert (renovated) while the other is run-down. I hope they never do anything to change this. The contrast is truly amazing and truly Berlin.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Did you look under the second stair?

I love storage space. This is not because I am a neat person. No one in my family is neat. If we see a particularly messy room, we have been known to say it is "all Deaned out" after our family name. But, with lots of storage space, I can be a messy person pretending to be a neat person. I take a plethora of things- paper, old receipts, a ball point pen that has started to leak out the top, a pack of gum, the pit from a plum- and stuff them all into a drawer and, voila, instant neatness. My husband calls such drawers my chambers of secrets. Finding things when you need them is a different story. But once a Dean, always a Dean. What can I do?

Since I have chosen (and love) living in a big city,
there is little chance that I will ever own a house. If I ever did, I would definitely have this staircase installed. Each stair is a drawer of glorious storage space. Truly a dream for a pack rat like me!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

And yes, sometimes even beautiful

I'm not a person who normally seeks out the easiest road. In fact, if I follow my own impulses, I often make every day things harder for myself than they would have to be. Occasionally this can even boarder on absurdity. Take this story as an example: A few weeks ago I went to visit a friend in the neighborhood Friedrichhain. In Berlin, hardly any of the U-Bahn stations have an elevator or escalator, meaning if you want to take a small child with you, you are dependant on the kindness of strangers. The trouble is, strangers in Berlin are usually the very opposite. My baby buggy weighs well over 30 pounds, but often enough no one even offers to help me with it (I can just barely schlepp it by myself...) When they do help, they usually give me a look at the end like I just ruined their day. Needless to say, I most often stick to the neighborhoods and areas within walking distance (no car, by choice, but the upkeep here is also really expensive.)

Anyway, when I got to the Warschauer Strasse station, I sa
w that I could either carry the buggy down around five steps, or take an elevator that went back behind the station (I didn't notice that there was also a ramp. D'oh!) Of course, I took the elevator, but soon discovered that there was no way out back onto the street except by going up lots of stairs. Cursing, I schlepped my buggy up them, hoping I wouldn't kill my back in the process. Later, when I was telling my friend the story and complaining about how unhelpful Berliners are she just said "Why didn't you just take the elevator back upstairs and go down the ramp?" The sad truth is, this never even occurred to me as a possibility.....

But sometimes going the hard way can be a cre
ative thing. Like in the pursuit of beauty. Anyone can find a sunset or an Italian village on the riveria beautiful. But to find beauty in unexpected places; gritty, dirty and drab places; is much more of a challenge. With my new Olympus I have been trying to do just that. Here, in the urban jungle, I have found interesting details that are aesthetic and yes, sometimes even beautiful.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Won't you come on by?

I am admittedly a person of extremes. I love living in a big city with all its smells, bad moods and inconsideration. The idea that, at any hour of the day, I could do a million different things appeals to me. Never mind that I rarely ever do them. The key is, that I could....

Still, another part of me would really love to try living somewhere in the middle of no where. Maybe taking over a ghost town with a group of 10 to 20 artistically minded people, or who are at least laid back and open-minded. Here are my top three turn on, tune in and drop out places.

1. Kolmanskop, Namibia

Kolmanskop is a diamond mine ghost town in Namibia, formerly inhabited by good German schwabians. On the plus-side, there are already lots of lovely Victorian buildings for me and my fellow adventurers to take over. On the down-side, it would be a total pain to try and sweep away all that sand. Then again, maybe we wouldn't have to. We could hang hammocks or build sandcastle-style couches. Nothing could crush our pioneering spirits.

2. San Zhi, Taiwan

I am so in love with the futuristic style of this abandoned seaside resort in Taiwan. The place needs a bit of work, but it would be worth it. Who wouldn't want their own space age seaside condo painted in primary colors? The place is also apparently haunted which would be good for a laugh. Any ghost that would haunt such a place has to have a pretty good sense of humor.

3. Wupatki, Arizona

Ok, so Wupatki is obviously a fixer upper but, man, is it pretty. It was my favorite indian ruin when I was a kid (and when you grow up in Arizona, you see A LOT of indian ruins)and I always fantasized about living there. Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon are both less than an hour away and would both make great day trips. There's also the old ball court, where the natives once placed an ancient version of soccer. Unfortunately, the loosing team was always executed. We wouldn't have to go that far though. Maybe we could play for the last beer or the last hot shower. The possibilities are endless....

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Diva of the Sandbox

Can I Crash On Your Bathtub Tonight?

I'm ashamed to admit it, but organic food gets on my nerves. Don't get me wrong. I am totally in favor of locally grown produce raised without pesticides. I definitely am in support of saving the environment. But, in my area of Kreuzberg, organic food has become the latest status symbol. People get really kooky about it, insisting that everything is bio (German for organic)and getting hysterical if it isn't. Then again, maybe it is especially bad because they are German. In German there is no word for anal because, for them, the word is simply "normal". They are often complaining about how superficial Americans are but, when I asked them in detail what they meant and realized it was merely that we are relaxed and friendly, I stopped being so insulted.

I have also never been particularly interested
in eco design, that is, until I discovered
reestore a few weeks ago on the internet. They have two really amazing recycled furniture pieces I'd like to present here.

1. The Shopping Cart Chair

This chair is so amazing. It almost has the look of some 60s design classic, but it is actually from your local grocery store. I have also seen websites with instructions on how to make one of these chairs yourself. Why not go Robin Hood and steal from the man, nicking one from the local Safeway to construct this conversation piece for your living room? But if you get caught, please don't mention you go the tip here. I would be no use to my lovely daughters if I were behind bars....

2. The Bathtub Sofa

This is just about the coolest thing I have ever seen. I am such a big bath person, especially old school claw foot tubs. To have one as a sofa (a chaise lounger none the less) would be an absolute dream. I'm not sure how comfortable it would be, but who cares? Truly amazing, environmentally aware design which gets an A plus, even from someone like me.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Miracle of Saturday

Today something happened that has truly never happened before: All three of my darlings fell asleep at the same time in bed. It's a miracle! Of course, it only lasted about ten minutes, but long enough to take these pictures.

I also took a few self-portraits of me with my new haircut, though I have to say self-portraits aren't as much fun with a larger camera. Oh woe is me....Will I have to give up my passion two decades long? Time will tell.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Beautiful Decay

I've never liked pristine, perfectly clean places. To me, perfection is a denial of life. But so much in Berlin is in a state of beautiful decay. I tried to capture some of this loveliness with my new pal, the Olympus E-420. Here goes.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The News Out of Neukoelln

Before I started my glorious life as an artsy fartsy housewife here in Kreuzberg 61, I lived for years in the hood, better known in these parts as Neukoelln. I've lived all over that neighborhood, from Rollberg Kiez to Reuter Kiez and everything in between. I even made this piece of jewelry in its honor, called the Neukoelln Forever Necklace, as seen here around my neck.

Neukoelln is truly the urban jungle, with over half the population on welfare, working class Germans, Turks, Arabs and Africans all tossed together in a pot that just won't melt. The area around Karl-Marx-Strasse was the last place I lived with my ex-husband and, I have to say, the place has really, really gone downhill in the 6 years since I left it. When I lived there it was a normal Einkaufsstrasse (shopping street)with three big department stores and even a Lush. Now all you see are row after row of one Euro shops and about ten cell phone shops(why so many? I don't really understand.) But there are also still lots of mom and pop shops, part of what gives Neukoelln its charm. A Konditerei (bakery for cakes)that has been there since the 40s, a music store that opened in 1959, a shoe repair shop where the original owner, now in his 80s, will still fix a worn out heel.

That's why I was there, to look for a camera at Guenther Camera. Guenther himself offered me a deal on an Olympus, but I walked around a while first before I could decide. I walked through the Bohemian village of Rixdorf, with its little row houses (so surprsing that something so old and lovely and peaceful could be right here in the heart of Neukoelln.) I walked down Richardstrasse past where I worked as an Au Pair the first year I was in Berlin, for little Jonas. I walked past the last apartment I had with my ex-husband. Apparently he has since moved, because his name was no longer on the door. It was hard to believe I had ever lived there...

In the end, I did buy the camera, so soon my blog will start filling up again with pictures, maybe even some of Neukoelln.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Greatest Divas....

Maybe it is just because I've lived abroad for ten years, but I think many of the greatest divas are not American.

Sophia Loren, Italy

Anita Ekberg, Sweden

Hildegard Knef, Germany (also an amazing singer. Check out the video.)

Isabelle Huppert, France (My daughter has Isabelle as a middle name in her honor.)

Helen Mirren, England

In compiling this list, I've realized I like my divas sexy and a bit naughty (except maybe Knef, but her voice is amazing, and Mirren, who is one of the best actresses alive. And in that picture she is definitely being of a sex-pot bad girl.) I guess that's what I hope myself to be, or it is at least my alter ego. To prove this, here is yet another self-portrait, taken from my now def
ective camera. May she rest in peace....


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