The little steps on the way to catastrophe

So many people around the world believe Bush and Cheney and the rest are power-mad fools who have failed miserably in their Iraq war. It is sometimes hard to remember that they’re still in power. Dangerously so.

Now Congress is ready to pass a law on so-called enemy detainees that goes against the spirit and the law of two centuries of American jurisprudence. On the bright side, it has provisions that would be very familiar in the Latin American dictatorships that were trained by the US in the 70s and 80s, or … wait a minute, in Saddam’s Iraq! I thought we won that war, did I miss something?

All joking aside, this is profoundly disturbing. Enshrining detention without trial, secret lists of approved torture techniques, breaking Geneva Conventions on presidential whim, accusation supported by secret evidence. This is what we have a Bill of Rights to guard against. If this passes, the fruit of a propaganda-happy GOP, it is another step away from the ideals that the US is supposed to be based on.

Lights, but none of them are quite celestial enough

A cool 5 am ride across the city. I have two complaints. One serious: This was the going away party for our closest friends here, Kenji and Till. They’re moving to Munich, for opportunities too good to pass up. We are overjoyed for them, and still devastated. We’re going to be spending too many GermanWings weekends in Munchen, I think.

Second. At 5 am, riding across Bornholmer Brucke, we see Orion high in the sky over Prenzlauer Berg. Not the sun. Not that this should surprise anyone, but the light has gone. Apparently winter is on the way. I’m not 100 percent OK with that. Once upon a time here we had 3:30 dawnlight.

And yet andyet. When we stop outside today the air has the sharpened cool scent of autumn. Burning leaves in Mauerpark, which at first I think is simply carbon THC, but it lasts too long, though the entire park. Museuminsel is lit up in reds and blues as we pass, 1930s swing playing tinnily from some speaker which is not a fluted, Gatsby-esque cone, but should be. I dance a little on my bicycle, and almost hit a pedestrian

People going to work outside, in the dark, it is time for sleep.

J’accuse. Or I date? It’s all nomative, relative, what?

This learning German thing, it’s good. It’ll be nice to be able to speak in a non-simpleminded manner someday. If that day ever comes. For now it’s getting up too early in the morning to throw ourselves into the twin hells of accusative and dative cases, and all the parts of speech agreeing, like that would EVER happen on any other subject in Germany. And the gendered nouns; I’m perfectly happy with my own tranny versions, but apparently that doesn’t fly.

It’s for a good cause. It’s for a good cause. I’ll thank myself for this someday.

Field trips: Ruined village, bristling boars

A few days ago our friend Norbert called us and asked if we wanted to go to the old Olympic Village to take pictures. We looked it up; it’s mostly ruined, but a bank has purchased the property, and is restoring bits, and is celebrating the 70th anniversary this year.

The Village is in the sticks, out to the end of the city metro lines, and then another 20-minute train ride beyond, and a half-hour walk from the station. It was closed, to prepare for some event, but Norbert had brought a CD of pictures of his last visit, and talked them into letting us wander on our own.

The original buildings are sparse, little lines of cottages with steep, faded red German roofs, with a few larger halls for meetings and meals. But the space is now dominated by newer platzbauen, Soviet era domitories for troops that were barracked here during the cold war. They have the character of an abandoned asylum, squat and stark, broken windows everywhere, floors inside covered with rat pellets, grown over with vines, the walls covered in peeling, hideous wallpaper of orange and yellow. Any soldier living in these buildings must surely have gone crazy quickly. In one crumbling bathroom we found the faded, spotted picture of a 1960s pinup girl, a sticker, pasted on the tile above the soap dish. They are restoring the original buildings, but these will surely be torn down; another way to forget the years of Soviet domination.

Yesterday we took our first trip out to one of the huge lakes and forests that surround the city. An hour or more by bike through suburbs that could be Daly City, in what wasWest. Then finally to a huge lake that was dotted with sails, pleasure boats, and lined with little beaches here and there. We rode through the forest for an hour or two, found the Biggest Tree in Berlin (planted 1785, 43 m. tall), and a strange little animal park, without explanation, where big-horned rams and (formerly) wild boars with long snouts and stiff bristles rubbed their backs against trees and begged breadcrumbs from passersby. They are huge animals, the biggest as high as my waist, and surely 400 pounds at a minimum.

On Monday we finally start our language classes. As in the US, our summer vacation is at an end.

I like to water down my gin, with whiskey

So, who knew? We’re at a bar last night on Bergmanstrasse, hip orange and white decor, very minimalist, but the usual mellow Berlin crowd. I haven’t quite finished reading the cocktail menu when the waiter comes. I’m a fast reader, but it’s long. All I can recall is the Smokey Martini. Laphroig and Bombay. It sounds terrible. Two great tastes that, you know, what?

So what could I do, I had to order it. Just the right amount of peat in with the gin. Two thumbs up, warms you up for that cross-town bike ride home. Woulda never thought.
Someday, I’ll stop being amazed at the genius of bartenders, but today, I remain a wide-eyed innocent, a mere novitiate of the barstool.