Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Out of a Black Hole into Berlin

I'm loving Berlin so far. I've been here close to a week. I divide my time between just trying to get my bearings, working on music and business for the Monthly Journal album, picking up groceries, meeting friends (and friends of friends), and exploring the terrain. I'm on a strict budget and it's a good city for that.
A day ago I saw this astronaut sitting alone in Görlitzer park. It comforted me. I'm not the only one from somewhere-out-there lost in this alien landscape.

 I've had the Momas n' Pappas 'California Dreaming' haunting my head regularly since I've left England(!) I guess it's because all the leaves are brown.

 It was extremely cold the first few days and I caught a cold right away. But it's grown warmer in the last few days, and in general I'm feeling good.  One thing I've been reminded of again, is that you take your neurosis with you when you move, along with your more positive baggage: imagination and outlook, etc. I still wake up thinking I've got about a million things to take care of. But it's more like a thousand at the moment.
As it gets dark so early, and I tend to rise late,  I've taken to getting out and exploring first. Getting lost. Letting the little green GDR Ampelmännchen light my way.  Then usually my way back to the rented room in Neükolln (that I currently call home) to work. It's good to be piecing some vague sense of routine back into my days, even if part of that routine is getting lost.

What a crazed life I've had recently, leading up to this.  Like some kind of science fiction film I've felt like my spaceship was being sucked slowly but surely (through a kaleidoscopic 2001-style tunnel of Lava Lamp goo) towards the black hole of a future which involved my  departure from my beloved home in the UK, due to my work-visa limit being maxed. Like most of us these days, I live a complicated life. The best I could do as the craft rattled and shook more violently the closer we got to that deadline, was to do my best to batten down the hatches and make whatever ad-hoc repairs to try and keep the thing together.  "She's breaking up captain!" would ring in the back of my head at various points daily. Car repairs, tying up business loose-ends and preparing for the album release, the pledgemusic drive, packing and sorting out places to stay in this 'Mainland', and the Hornicator not lending a hand in any of it (!)
Recently I've been so apprehensive and even fearful a lot of the time.  The monthly song project and time spent with Catherine or my friends was helping, but it's been a challenge to keep sane in the face of such a major change as switching countries, temporary or not.

There had been no approval or disapproval of my final work extension application. There is always a wait with these things, but this was the longest I've ever had to wait to hear back. The UKBA was apparently holding my passport and there's a catch-22 because they have a strict "don't call us, we'll call you" policy, but it hadn't been delivered even when there were only days until my deadline to vacate the country was to hit.  I woke in the night, busy in the brain, often during this period and lack of proper sleep added to a kind of paranoia. As it had gotten so close it didn't really matter anymore whether the extension had been approved or not, so I called a sort of emergency line in which you can retrieve your passport in extreme circumstances but forfeit your application (along with the hefty fee).  As it turned out, my passport had been sitting in the local sorting office of the Royal Mail for the previous two weeks. No note or attempt to redeliver.  Days later, an hour before I was to board the ferry to Calais, a knock on the door announced the delivery my approved visa (just as it was about to expire). I laughed aloud.

I spent a few days staying with an old friend from the Denver music scene James Langan in Fieffes-Montrelet, a small village in northern France. Population: 300 (almost as small as Wowtown). It was beautiful and detached, but there's not even a restaurant or café in town. We visited nearby Amiens which hosts the largest still-standing gothic cathedral in the world, and where Jules Verne is buried. I dream of finding another ideal small town like Wowtown but don't know if I could really live in one permanently.

Winston (my car) is getting on in years and though I believe in him and we usually get along well, setting out with all my instruments and a lot of possessions for this long trip worried me. My worries were not unfounded. Outside Antwerp on the ring road, in the middle of standstill traffic, he overheated and blew his radiator cap right off.  A crawl to Dortmund, some help from a friend and a trip to a car hospital and we were back on the road.

So...we've made it through the black hole and out the other side is Berlin. It's cold and dark and I may not have my London laboratory or some of my fancier outboard recording gear. But I've got the essentials: the Hornicator,  Winston, my Casio PT-20, some liquid aminos.   You can buy Big Red gum here, and WFMU, possibly the best radio station ever,  streams live on the internet to help keep warm. I've seen some great things and I've met with some great people, some that I've known for a long time and some I've just met. I like that it doesn't feel tense here like most big cities do. Everyone seems to think Berlin will be good for me. They may be right.  I have to remind myself that I'm not really on Holiday. With the new album needing to be finished and packaged and promoted, I'd best stop talking about myself again and get to work.

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