Saturday, June 26, 2010

One Woman, One Camera, One Love

I had my two babies when I was ready to have my two babies and I've never regretted it. Still, what no one tells you before you get that bun in the oven is that, with small children, it will be several years before your life is truly your own again. If you're breastfeeding forget about going out at night because there's nothing like getting that "Come home now for a midnight feeding," call when you're hanging out in some swanky cocktail bar. Not that you will even have the energy for swanky cocktail bars or, indeed, swankiness of any kind because running after small children all day and dealing with tantrums and wiping little bottoms clean can take it out of you in a way that almost nothing else can...But now that my youngest, Little Li is finally in pre-school and (nearly) weaned, my life finally has some more room for, well, me.

Today I met up with Erica, a good friend of mine who is also an American ex-pat (a Michigander) who has lived in Berlin just a few months less than me (counting in at ten years, baby!) We strolled down Oranienstrasse, my old haunt and still where she currently hangs, where I relived old times.

Oranienstrasse is still in Kreuzberg, but it's Kreuzberg SO36, not Kreuzberg 61 where I live. For anyone who knows San Francisco, the difference between the two areas is like the difference between The Mission and Noe Valley: one is grittier, more intense, younger and quite hipster-filled while the other is a bit older, with organic food loving parents of small children who still want to live an urban life. Although I still go to Oranienstrasse sometimes, I mainly spend my time in Bergmann and Graefekiez, so spending the afternoon there is like visiting an old friend. And with my camera in hand...

I peeked in at Bierhimmel, a gay run cafe with an 80 percent gay clientele where I used to spend a lot of time. Just look at these gorgeous cakes they have there. Gooey and decadent but, unlike their American counterparts, none of them will be sickly sweet. If I weren't trying to loose a bit of weight this summer, I swear....;)

Afterward Erica and I headed for Bateau Ivre, a very hip cafe with good coffee and tapas and, also, notoriously bad hipster service (when we asked the waiter for the bill he mutter a very surly "Sure." and then disappeared for at least 20 minutes. Ach, Berlin!) We had lots of good girl talk there...

...and drank some good coffee....

...and did some good people watching through the large window open onto the street.

When I went to the bathroom I took a self portrait in the mirror, a habit that has a well-established tradition for me at Bateau Ivre (the second picture is a self portrait I took in that very same bathroom circa 2005.)

After we had somehow managed to pay the bill at Bateau Ivre (they were lucky we just didn't walk out as we easily could have...) I went with Erica and sat with her as she had a Sushi special, delicious and only 5 Euros baby. Berlin, thank you oh so much for still being so ridiculously affordable....

After sushi, Erica and I wandered down Oranienstrasse which had now transformed itself....

...into Christopher Street Day. The second one this month. This one had the march.

Happy CSD, happy freedom, happy shutter bugging and to all a good night. ;)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Change, Change, Change

I've never really trusted people who never change. In these days of facebook it's easy enough to run across them. People you knew way back when who still live in the same place, still dress the same, still like the same music, and so on. They are still completely the same person they were when you knew them all those years ago.

Part of me has always felt bad about this mistrust. If it works for them then who am I to judge or say it's strange? What it all boils down to basically is that I simply can't relate. I've lived in Berlin for over ten years and in that time I've lived in eight different apartments and led at least three different lives. Sometimes, when I happen to pass a building where I once lived I have a hard time believing it was actually me who once lived there. As though it were all a dream or a novel I read years ago and now I can only vaguely recall the plot....

These photographs are an example. I know they are all of me shortly after my 30th birthday and that they are self-portraits. I know I had just left my husband. We were married for three years and it was an incredibly entangled and emotionally abusive relationship and I felt so alive and free when I finally struck out on my own. I got the most amazingly huge one bedroom apartment for less than 200 hundred euros with coal ovens where I had to build a fire in the winter as though it were still the 19th century. In this photograph I'm posing by the largest of the ovens, the one in the living room.

Who is the woman in these pictures? I know she's thin. Younger than I am now with different thoughts in her head and feelings in her heart. She is both me and yet not me. Would she have believed six years later that she would be re-married and have two young daughters? Not in a million years....

But that's what I love about life. You just live it and see what the fuck it is that happens....

Monday, June 21, 2010

Why I Haven't Been Posting

So you may have noticed that I haven't been posting as often as usual on my blog. There is a reason for this and here it is:WM Fieber!! Although I wouldn't really describe myself as a soccer fan, there is just something special about the World Cup. It's not just a sport's event, it's country against country, continent against continent. We just don't have anything to compare it to in the U.S. Speaking of the U.S., our team has been doing great, especially when you consider the U.S. generally still considers soccer to be a sport for women and children. As perhaps expected, any men who play the sport do it out of love and it shows. They have been playing with passion and team spirit and we've been cheering them on, especially when they got cheated out of that goal.

WM days are also easy days in a way. You never wake up thinking, "What am I going to do today?" because you already know. You're going to watch a hell of a lot of soccer. Three games a day for the next week and then all the finals and the end game in July. I never catch all three games, but with every bar and liquor store and mom and pop Laden showing them on a wide variety of screen sizes, you're never that far behind. And on Wednesday I'll be watching the U.S. game at Brachvogel Biergarten, feeding the babies Kinder Schnitzel while I cheer our boys on. And in the evening, Deutschland....Anyway, you're sure to hear more from me come mid-July. ;)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lollipop, Lollipop

There's nothing quite like sitting on the floor of the apartment between two doors on a hot summer day, licking lollipops that are insanely artificially flavored...

Bruised from so much play not to mention way over due for that much needed bath....

Until someone says, "Geez mom, enough with the pictures already. Man-o-man-o-meter!!"

Happy summer everyone. :)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Two Years Berlin

There are basically two types of expats in Berlin: Those who came planning to stay for a certain amount of time (be it three weeks or a couple of years) and end up staying forever and those who do two years Berlin. Doing two years Berlin doesn't necessarily mean you stay exactly two years (though this would be the maximum). It just means Berlin is simply a way station of coolness where you can buy a straw hat and hang out in Mauer Park or cultivate some dreds and strum a guitar on Admiralsbrücke until you go back to where ever it is you come from where you can forever brag at parties that you once lived in Berlin.

Us old time expats can sometimes get a little bit grumpy about the two year Berlin expats. They rarely ever learn more than a little street German and don't really get involved in the culture here (I may complain a lot about German culture, but at least I know what I'm complaining about ;) ). In Berlin you can definitely live in a cultural glass bubble, where nothing you experience really affects you or changes your world view, something that seems all-too-typical with these two-year-ers. Still, we shouldn't be too hard on them. After all, Berlin is pretty damn cool, something I was reminded of last night when I took a little bike ride through Gräfe Kiez and SO36.

It was great to see people on the streets and along the canal, enjoying the warm evening of what had been a very hot and humid day.

I also liked the vibe at Manouche, a French creperie on Grimmstrasse. Cool, arty folks and a great jazz band playing on the street (I read a review online where an American complained that the service had been surly and ridiculously slow, something which is all too common in Berlin. When he complained the waitress said "Can't you see we only have two stoves?!?" He asked for a glass of wine on the house to make up for waiting so absurdly long and she basically laughed in his face. No my friends, in Berlin the customer is most certainly not king!)

To finish off the evening I had a burger and fries at the Turkish run Kreuzburger on Oranienstrasse. Seeing the guy below in a Deutschland t-shirt reminded me of what is starting today: The World Cup! Fussball fieber!!! I am not really a soccer fan, but the World Cup really is fun as it is country against country. I watched a ton of games last time and was really rooting for France. Plus, it makes me feel nostalgic because Miss Mia was a WM baby (Welt Meisterschaft in German, or is it written together? This can be confusing sometimes...), conceived sometime after the Finale. WM 4-ever. Go Germany!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Tempelhof Ho!

So Jasper and I had a date night this evening. We left the babies in the hands of our very cool, much loved babysitter from Olympia, Washington and then headed out on our own for three whole hours. Since the weather was beautiful and I just got my bicycle fixed, we decided to take a long bike ride to Treptower Park, passing through Kreuzkölln and Görlitzer Park. This, my friends, was a mistake. Berlin has had the first few days of great weather after a terrible winter and a miserable spring which means that everyone and his third cousin was biking or walking through Kreuzkölln and Görlitzer Park and Treptower Park. And I have to say, I really hate the hipster (and overall) style in Berlin. Most of the people look like they are wearing an outfit they threw together last minute and then partied in through the night and morning at Berghain then fell asleep on a park bench and woke up to have a "Grill Party" with their friends. In other words, calculated casual sloppiness at its very worst. And it probably takes most of them hours to get ready in the morning....Still, Jasper and I tried to make the most of our bad decision and took lots of photographs.

We stopped for a photo op after cycling through the former death strip between Kreuzberg and Treptow where lots and lots of people were having their Grill Parties. Germans are crazy for "grillen" (barbecuing) and Turks love it even more. I've never really understood their passion since most of the places you can barbecue are overcrowded and loud and smoky as hell...But we got to the Spree and pulled out our cameras and I took this photograph which put me in an even worse mood.

Why? Because every tourist and their mother takes this shot when they come to Berlin. The Spree River with Fernsehturm and Oberbaumbrücke in the distance. I swear, if you do a google image search of Berlin right now you will find ten thousand different variations. I hate generic photographs. And now I had taken one. I was hungry and cranky. Jasper was complaining that I was riding too slow (I don't like to break a sweat, thank you very much, and my butt was hurting because the guy at the bike shop had set the seat too low.) But then we had fantastic fried chicken at Zur kleinen Markthalle and headed afterwards to Flughafen Tempelhof. Date night was saved afterall.

Flughafen Tempelhof was an inner city airport that is famous because it is where the Americans had the Luftbrücke after the war, delivering food and supplies to the city when the Soviets had set up their blockade, saving thousands of lives and allowing West Berlin to stay ultimately west. The airport was still in operation (though they had very few flights leaving and arriving and only a handful of destinations) until a couple of years ago. Since then there have been lots of fights and debates on what to do with the historic building and runway. Should it become a luxury spa? Should it stay in operation? Should it be sold to foreign interests? The answer, for now, is give it to the people. The field and airstrip behind the airport is now a space open to the public which is even larger than Central Park.

As you can see, a lot of people were having Grill Parties when we were there, but somehow they were not as irritating as the ones we ran across at the death strip (though just as smoky.) There is something to be said about seeing a couple of hundred people barbecuing on the former runway of an airport you can still see in the background. Besides, the area is huge and grillen (and dogs) are restricted to the front area only, leaving miles of open fields and pavement for everyone else to hang out on or nap in or roller blade across or kiss and feed each other with marshmallows. Whatever.

In a lot of ways it reminded me of the wide open prairie that I saw when I visited my grandma in Nebraska last year. Flat fields as far as the eye can see, only instead of corn and sunflowers, these ones were surrounded by buildings with the white noise of traffic in the distance. Still, an amazing experience for us city dwellers who can easily become disconnected with the vastness of nature.

No one is sure about the future of Tempelhof, but I truly do hope that it stays open to the public because it is unique and an amazing feeling to bike along where 747s once took off into the air, even for a slow bird like me. ;)

p.s. the girls in these photographs were Spanish, i.e. this is not the Berlin style I was complaining about. They look cute. :)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Will Shoot For Cash....

So here's the thing: except for the picture shown here at the beginning of this post I've never actually sold a single photograph on Schaufenster. This particular photograph was taken of a poster in Hamburg which I later digitally enhanced. I sold it in the first few months I was on etsy, a time when I had pretty regular sales even though I was mainly only selling collages which aren't exactly a hot seller. Why? Because I had something listed in the gift guides for a long time which gave my shop a lot of exposure. I'm still sad etsy got rid of the gift guides. I heard they did it largely because of criticism that everything there had a certain "look" but I think that's a bunch of b.s. The only thing the items had in common was they were all beautifully photographed, but I think that's fair enough. I discovered a lot of great shops by browsing the gift guides, something that is harder to do through a general search....

But, to get back to my photography and my lack of sales, you might wonder why I even bother posting them for sale. Basically, it's because my shop Schaufenster is my little world filled with things I like. I don't really make much of a profit on anything I sell in the shop and I love all of the photographs I have posted, so there they shall stay.

Although my passion for vintage clothing and doo dads (for the jewelry) is my main motivation behind running Curious Knopf, I do also hope the shop will eventually become lucrative (and I'm finding more and more great stuff from the 40s and 50s, so it just might...) which frees up Schaufenster all the more.

Still, I would like to sell some of my photographs. I've played around a lot with the prices because I've learned, quite by chance, that you are less likely to sell if your items are priced low. I don't know exactly why this is. Do people consider higher prices more professional and, therefore, more trustworthy? Do they simply like to spend money? I don't know. All I know is that once, on a whim, I raised all of the prices in my shop and almost immediately I started selling better. Go figure...

Still, it is a fine balance, and I don't want to be overpriced basically because I like the idea that, whatever it is I sell, it will always be within the price range of anyone who might want it. Economic democracy if you will, with enough on the profit end for me to keep things going. And I do have these new animal portraits that I'm offering for sale in Schaufenster, taken in the Museum of Natural History. I love the intensity of these animals, amazing really since they are no longer living. Who knows? I just might sell a photograph yet. ;)


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