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Further Notes from Germany and Milan

May 13th, 2008 · No Comments

Note: Posted with the help of Ken… internet cafe in Germany wouldn’t even let Chris post a blog, much less upload photos. Hopefully, photos to come. So, as you may have gathered, I’ve finished my German book tour, but here’s the summary. Frankfurt is nice. Seems to be growing like crazy. Good art and stuff. (Good architecture — see Berlin below.) The people were very friendly, helpful, and they all speak English. And I don’t mean “most” or “they know a few words.” They ALL speak English. Fluently. They are embarrassed for you when you try to say things in German, and it’s the only time they’ll interrupt and say, “It’s okay to speak English.” Munich. Beautiful. Amazing museum (the only one open Monday). Saw some Klimt and Shiele. Stunning people. Tall, fit, clear skin — not as blond as you might think, but frightfully good-looking.
Germany is a very pretty country. Even from the air, Germany looks mostly like forest. Up close the forests are dense with almost no undergrowth, the trees straight, as if they’ve been cultivated. All of Germany is clean. Really clean. Like, you could do surgery in them. Even the fencerows where the trains run are clean and free of litter. The windows in the tenements are all clean, even up to the seventh and eight floors. Yes, there’s graffiti, but no dirt. The trains are something out of the future. Glass doors between cars open and close with better efficiency that you saw on Star Trek. Spotless, modern, fast, quiet. Even nicer than the Chunnel bullet trains.
It’s no news that the Germans love order, but it’s so manifest in the countries infrastructure, the frightful efficiency of everything — even the doorways in Frankfurt where the junkies were shooting heroin were spotless. I’m not quite sure how to look at that.
Which is not to say they have a perfect society or anything. As we were walking back to the hotel in Frankfurt on the day Charlee took the “Plaza pictures”, a young man ran by me and dropped his wallet. Well, being the upstanding guy that I am, I picked it up and said “Sir! Oh Sir!” in a couple of languages. In English I said, “Sir, you dropped your wallet. Your wallet, sir! You dropped it!” In German I just waved his wallet because I don’t know how to tell say, “You dropped your wallet,” in German. Although, if he had needed know if Hanzel was in the library or to order a couple of coffees I was fucking ready.
Well, he turned, waved at me and shook his head, and that’s when the police pulled up, jumped out of the car and tackled him. “Oh good,” I thought. “They will give him his wallet back.” And that’s when I heard someone far behind me yelling, and when I turned, there was a guy running toward waving and shouting some nonsense in German.
Well, by this time, the kid who had run by was in handcuffs, presumably to keep him from resisting my kind return of his wallet. I held the wallet up to the other guy who kept running at me, saying, “Is this your wallet?” and he kept pointing at it, and saying something back but not saying yes. And that went on for what seemed like some time, and so I said, “fuck it” and dropped the wallet and walked away.
So, I don’t know what happened with the nonsense, pointing guy, but the kid was in the back of the police car and the policeman asked us if we say anything. And I said, “I didn’t really see anything. I heard the wallet hit, but I didn’t see the kid drop it. I looked when I heard it hit and I saw the kid run by. I mean, I thought he dropped it, but he might have kicked it. Actually, I would make a bad witness, I think,” I said, which was true.
And then to cop looked at Charlee and she nodded fluently in German. So the cop asked for our passport, and Charlee gave him hers, because I still have some shit I need to clear up from that time I started a religion in Micronesia, and I haven’t heard back yet from Free Credit Report Dot Com. “Mine’s at the hotel,” I said, with a German accent to make things easier on the cop. By that time I guess he had decided that I would not make a very good witness, so he sort of walked away shaking his head.
(This is where you kind of have to give it to the Bush administration. Because W. has been the face of America for seven years or so, expectations for us are so low that if we just make it through a day without pooping on the sidewalk or killing a bunch of their citizens we get like a big Special Olympics hug.)
Evidently the wallet guy is the only guy in Frankfurt who doesn’t speak English. Probably why the kid took his wallet.
So, where was I? Oh yeah, Cologne, which doesn’t smell as nice as you might think, but that’s because they actually pronounce and spell it Koln in German (with an umlaut, or two dots over the O, which I have no idea how to do on this keyboard). And Koln, of course, is German for poop chute. Which, didn’t smell as bad as you might think.
Cologne has the prettiest cathedral from the outside I think I’ve seen. Baroque to the point of looking unreal — more like the seahorse skeleton of a cathedral. (Sorry no pics. Working.) Didn’t see much of the city, actually. Travel and work that day. People were very nice and again, just sort of stupidly good-looking. Not fashion conscious like the French and Italians — jeans and T-shirts, they look like Midwesterners in dress – maybe Midwesterners who work out a lot.
Some of my readers in Cologne – most of them were this good-looking Beside me is actor Christian Ullman, who has his own show on German TV. Behind us, more of my readers. I think we can see a spirit that unites our two countries around my books: total goofiness.
From Cologne to Berlin was one yellow rape-seed field after another — dotted with massive windmills (see below) and broken up by small but dense forests.
Berlin is sort of a bear of a city. That’s the city symbol, the bear, and the way that San Francisco has painted hearts all over the city, and Chicago has painted cows, they have painted bears (standing up on their hind feet) everywhere, , sort of looking wildly out of place because of their whimsy among such an imposing gray hulk of a city. I suppose there’s something to be said for reducing a city to rubble and rebuilding it all at once. That’s why San Francisco has its “Victorian Charm” and Paris has that consistent “Restoration/2nd Empire Look” thanks to the Prussians shelling the shit out of it in 1870 and Hauptsberg (sp?)building up the slums around the Louvre Palace. Berlin is like a monument to modern design, with the architecture of the post-war rebuild (and let’s face it, the 50s and 60s were not high points in architecture) giving way to all sorts of glass and chrome spirals and glass monoliths. Every German city seems to have some sort of a space needle, but Berlin’s is a giant ball speared five-hundred feet up on a great stainless spike — like the cocktail onion just plucked from a leviathan Gibson . It houses a TV studio, a restaurant, and office space. The train station looks like the cathedral to a religion that worships safety glass. It’s probably five blocks in every direction green glass with very little stainless framing. Everything except the space needle seems to have giant shoulders: the Brandenburg Gate, the Parliament building, even the Sony Center — another Sci-fi glass complex that would make San Francisco’s Sony Metreon want to crawl under the Bay Bridge and slit it’s own shiny throat in humiliation.
MILAN Anyway, I do go on. Sorry, I’m just trying to avoid thinking about the miserable hotel we’re in here in Milan. Oh my fucking God eight pound. baby-Jesus on a fucking pogo stick, did the people on Travelocity lie! You know what should be in the reviews, I mean, besides that it’s clean, or that it’s not far from a train station or the Domo? I mean besides that there are nearby restaurants and clubs, as well as ATMs and a gelato place? They should mention THAT IT’S ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE PRISON! That’s something I sort of need to know. Something I want to know. It makes a difference in my hotel choice. Not only does our room overlook what appears to be the test track for Moto Guzzi, and it has (and I’m not kidding) bulletproof storm shutters you lower instead of having black out drapes (did I mention that I’m not kidding?) There a graffito on the prison wall across from our room, that says, “Libre Fabio!” (Again, not kidding, I’ll send pics if I can.) I was all, “I didn’t even know that Fabio was in prison. Obviously taken down on a butter counterfeiting charge.” But it turns out that there are many criminals in Italy named Fabio, so it’s probably not THE Fabio.
There’s a long list of things about Milan that I could note — like, why I see now why we import our criminals from here. There are only two things a Milanese person should be: a seventy-year-old man in a driving hat arguing with other old men in front of the espresso place, or a seventeen year old girl trying to look sophisticated. Both of those Milanesians are just adorable. Other than that, they either look like criminals (mostly pimps) or coke whores. After being around Germans for a week, I have a new appreciation for what skeezy, snotty motherfuckers the Milanese are. I’m reserving my judgment on the rest of the Italians, but if they measure up, I think it’s regrettable that that Germans didn’t clean the sleaze-bags out of this country when the Italians thought they were friends. And yes, my opinion has largely been formed based on the desk clerk at our hotel who is probably, at this moment, arranging a conjugal visit for one of the neighboring convicts with some grimacing coke whore in giant sunglasses and silver baby-skin leather spiked heels who will pretend to be his wife so he can shag her against the bulletproof shutters of the room next to ours and she won’t even bother to remove her sunglasses, the cigarette from her lip, or her spiky infant-skin shoes while Fabio pounds away at her like a great, sleazy sewer/rat jackhammer, and the desk clerk films the whole thing and then projects in on the kitchen walls for the staff in the morning while he urinates into the espresso machine.
We will probably be changing hotels. Probably.
Later, after we moved…
Okay. Then next day. We changed hotels to a place near the Duoma. (Italian for Cathedral). Much better. Everyone is dressed beautifully. Don’t get me wrong, the guys still look like criminals, just more up-scale,international criminals. And the women only look like coke whores when they are standing still. That’s the problem with the new anti-smoking laws that are being implemented around Europe: when you stand by a doorway smoking, while wearing tall “come-fuck-me” pumps, a short skirt, and lots of make-up, well, you kind of look like you’re working. I’m just saying. While downtown Milan is much nicer than the prison district, it’s still a great place to find people who look like they are selling sex or drugs. And Milan, don’t blame me for for pointing this out, but if you didn’t want to seem like a skanky whore, you shouldn’t have put a shopping mall on one side of your cathedral and a jumbotron running lingerie ads on the other. Maybe if you’d taken a little time between worshiping your mothers and selling your sisters you might have heard the story about Jesus driving the money changers out of the temple. What I’m saying is, there is a point where shoes can become too fucking important. But I give Milan credit: it’s not easy to be more narcissitic than Los Angeles, more vain than Paris, more sleazy than Las Vegas, more smug than San Francisco, and more rude than New York, all at the same time.
More as soon as I get a decent connection…


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