Stormtroopers

I feel I need to record this. 

The experience of walking to the späti (convenience store) in Berlin at night on Rigaer Straße. There are dozens of riot police in full gear on the street between me and the späti. It's an almost everyday occurrence. It's is so weird, and yet over the years has become so normal. Nothing is really going on, but here they are. Full riot gear. Some of them with their visors up, smoking cigarettes. 

I walk past the riot police one way, going to the späti, and then back again on my way home. They all watch me, in full stormtrooper gear. It is absurd. My life is absurd. This is old east Berlin and the cold war is over, and yet on this street, there is still a war being fought. 

The reason the police are here is because of the occupied building opposite my home. Rigaer Str. 94. Left extremists, Antifa, punk rockers. Beside the main door is a plaque to commemorate the life of Ernst Pahnke, who once lived there and was killed by Nasis for being anti-fascist. This is the heart and soul of the old wild Berlin. Sometimes they play loud music, sometimes they play outdoor Bingo and invite the neighbourhood to take part. It's great! I enjoy it. I feel in solidarity with them. 

But apparently, the city feels that they need police oversight. 

This is the last bastion of the old ways, the wild, wild Ost (east). And here we are. The police watch me as I come and go, they take note.

Gentrification will win one day, but not without a fight. I love my neighbourhood, but I know it won't last. Things change. Gentrification will win. I hate it. I wish things could remain the same, but ultimately I know they won't.

I sometimes wonder if I will miss the riot police when it's nothing but baby strollers, boutiques and cafes. Time will tell.


A superior machine

I picked up my old Macbook from the Gravis store, it's lain broken for the better part of two years in an odd corner of my home, but now that I need to hand in my sweet little work laptop it became necessary to fix the old one. The track pad had given up the ghost, and it wasn't cheap to repair: €700. Apparently the trackpad is part of the top case, which includes the keyboard and battery as one solid piece, so if one of those pieces fails, the entire group needs to be replaced. Still, a new machine would have cost me €3000 (and yes, I do need mac because of my profession, and yes it does suck). 

The repair took the better part of a month to complete.

All that being said, now that I have it back, I'm glad I opted to repair rather than buy a new one; the keyboard is the style previous to the current 'butterfly' one that has all the problems with sticking/repeating/empty keystrokes. And the screen is 15" while my work laptop was only 13", and man, the two extra inches make a huge difference. This computer may be 5 years old, but it's a superior machine.

It attacks you where you are weakest

I don't think I can look at the news or social media any more for the next couple days, it's becoming unbearable. I feel so powerless to make any kind of difference or help in any meaningful kind of way. 

It's hard to see any light in such a dark time.

A friend of mine leads a small group in a healing meditation every other Tuesday via Zoom. It's been one of the highlights of the pandemic for me, meeting up online with friends to chat about coping strategies and keep each other afloat. I'm especially looking forward to this evening's session.

The pandemic is starting to feel less real, like less of a threat. People are out and about again, eating in restaurants, going to bars. But yesterday I learned of two people I know quite well – a neighbour in my own building, and a friend's boyfriend – who caught the virus and are *still* dealing with the lingering health damage now, several weeks after having recovered. "It attacks you where you are weakest," my neighbour told me. For him, it was his lungs, and he still gets winded after even minimal physical activity. It was a stark reminder to not let my guard down.

South Korea is already heading into another shut down, and I imagine other countries will have to follow suit before long. Time will tell.

I had a job interview last week over Zoom and the guy interviewing me was in an office environment with lots of irritatingly loud background noise due to people talking. I asked him where he was, and he cheerfully informed me that he and all the other colleagues were working together in the office. It was then that I decided the job would not be a good fit. Well, that and a whole bunch of other little things, but the laissez faire attitude regarding social distancing was the last straw.

In other news, I'm 100% registered with the unemployment office and all set to receive benefits. Thank God.

Magic in plain sight

With the world pivoting into one where the focus is suddenly on what is close to home, it feels appropriate to search out the magic hiding in our living rooms, gardens, closets, and other spaces in the domestic environment. I’ve begun noticing everyday things like vacuum cleaner tubing, electrical cords, pipes and garden hoses. The new exotic creatures are the moths that fly in the window, and the snails slowly eating the plants in the garden. These are the elements I now consider as I continue to explore the magic quietly embedded in our lives, and what it looks like. 

These objects and creatures are fairly invisible due to their ubiquity, and is exactly what makes them distinctly interesting to me. Electrical cords give power. Pipes and hoses cleanse and hydrate. Moths flutter in a vast array of colours, shapes and sizes, and the shell of a snail is an exquisite work of art, a natural expression of an equiangular spiral. 

Below are a few works in progress; two paintings still in the underpainting stage, and one fleshed out in colour.  As before, the pieces represent visual magic spells and are comprised of a few key elements: Something mundane (the electrical cord or garden hose), something exotic (the snail or moth), something in transition (the magenta-red gradient), and a rift or break in reality from which all of these elements arise (the gaping black hole):


Revisiting

I made progress on the painting in the last days.

I'm not sure why I keep painting snakes. My next painting will feature a star fish, but the one I have planned after that is another snake. 

Verum, 60cm x 60cm, oil on canvas
Verum, 60cm x 60cm, oil on canvas

Another weekend is upon us. The New Normal has little texture or substance to hold onto, so the weeks fly by at lightening speed. It is easier to remember what I did four years ago than what I did four days ago. 

Revisiting things from my past has become a distinct hallmark of my lockdown time. I stopped posting on LJ several years ago, but here I am again, posting like I never left. And I have downloaded, installed and played World of Warcraft at length over the past week. Having spent so much time playing WoW years ago, it feels like visiting a previous home. I'll have to give it up soon though, it's only free up to level 20 and then requires a subscription. 

I find myself deeply nostalgic for the past, for old friends, for my university days, for my Chicago days. It must be a symptom of life being halted and put on hold, giving me the feeling that my best days are behind me. 

Some new things I've been up to (aside from painting): 

Drinking a litre of fresh, raw cabbage juice every day. After reading that doing so can help heal ulcers and acid reflux, I've decided to give it a try. It's by no means delicious, but after four days I do notice an improvement, so I'm going to keep at it.

Fasting on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Because otherwise I would be piling on the pounds; it's too easy to eat out of boredom given the circumstances. 

Progressing with the Quareia material, meditating every day, doing visionary exercises, and I even did the first ritual last night. 

This evening I will ride my bicycle to Schöneberg to visit Kiddy for the weekend. Hopefully we can get some sun tomorrow, and take a long bike ride. 

Verum

With white path for gradient which will follow.
With white path for gradient which will follow.

It's getting there. The problem with oil paint (or gift?) is that it's like butter. Easy to blend, but you need to let basic layers dry for a looooong time before you can add on to them. This is why my paintings take so long to complete. I love them but yeah. Long time to create. Getting to the snake next, the yellows should be dry soon. We'll get there.

Life lived slowly

My time in lock-down has actually been pretty nice, aside from all the hand washing, avoidance of other humans, and general fear of getting this virus that you can have for weeks without knowing it. 

During the week I get to work from home. This means I save about 100 minutes each day that would otherwise be spent commuting. Working from home also means I can prepare really delicious, inexpensive, healthy lunches for myself. And I can keep my home cleaner – doing loads of laundry, setting the vacuum robot free to clean the floor. I never want to go back to working in an office when this is all over, I'm going to look specifically for remote work.

When work is done, I end it by taking a long walk to the park and watch the sun set. This is a beautiful time of day when the light is gorgeous and most people are at home eating dinner.

Weekends are the best. On Friday I ride my bicycle to where K lives in Schöneberg. We relate how our weeks went and he makes dinner. We laugh a lot, drink Champagne, and watch weird arthouse movies late into the night.

On Saturday, we sleep late, have coffee in bed, and take long hot baths. 

In the afternoon, we ride our bicycles to K's art studio, which is in an historical building, formerly a malt factory, that somehow avoided being bombed during the second world war. The adjacent grounds have been cultivated into a kind of private park where there is an eco-pond for wild life, and a swimming hole complete with sandy beach where people can swim in the warmer months. 

Sometimes we see a few other people when we go, but sometimes we are the only ones in the entire complex, which is both eerie and fantastic.

We play Aerobie on the grass and then sit at the big wooden picnic table beside the swimming hole on the beach.  

K has a garden plot there and makes sure all his plants have water while I lay in the sun and examine the grass and insects that live within it. 

And of course we do some work in the studio; K with his paintings and me with my sketchbook. His studio has a high enough ceiling and is large enough that we can play badminton – endeavouring to hit it back and forth 100 times.

In the evening we ride back to K's place, make dinner and either watch television or another movie. 

On Sunday evening when it's time to return home it's always a sad moment, although it's good to get back to my home and my bird, too.


Full moon

Berlin officials have relaxed social distancing restrictions here a tiny bit; now people are allowed to sit briefly in a public space while they are out for air. 

This adjustment to the law was made knowing that beautiful weather was imminently upon us, and keeping people locked indoors might incite rage. 

But what this has translated into is groups of people hanging out in the park drinking beer together, and roving packs of people hogging the sidewalk as they walk together in groups. People mingle together everywhere; children play and run amok.

I walk on the street to avoid them; It's as if they don't understand the lock-down will go on indefinitely if people behave like this. Our numbers of sick and dead will once again climb and we'll be back, stuck in our homes.

I like to take long walks at sunset, when most people are home having dinner. The light in the park is beautiful at dusk, and lately the moon hangs large in the sky. There are several extremely old trees there that I like to say hello to, and I imagine what the world looked like when they were seedlings as I walk past. 

I worked on Verum yesterday evening but did not accomplish much, just another layer of white on the gradient. I'm waiting for an evening when I have more time and energy so I can detail the snake. It needs to be done in a single session due to the way the paint dries, and will require 2 or 3 hours to complete. This will be hard, focused work, not for the faint-hearted.

Friday and Monday are public holidays due to Easter. This of course means that one must stock up on groceries as the stores will be closed for the extended holiday. I plan to go tomorrow afternoon, when it will hopefully not be too busy.  


(no subject)

Dream:

Tara, Rachael and I were seated at a small, round table. 

Suddenly, it was clear that no one could be trusted, and Rachael pulled out a gun and pointed it at me. I begged with her not to shoot me and emphasised my loyalty to her. 

This made Tara look uncertain and she raised her gun as well – if I was loyal to Rachael, could I be trusted to also be loyal to her? 

Some how the situation de-escalated and I was able to assure Tara that I was not a threat, although I could tell she was not 100% convinced of that. 

We walked to her apartment in downtown (not sure what city), and she led me inside. It was the most amazingly luxurious apartment I had ever seen. It was situated beside a river and the water ran directly beside the window. She also had a lovely view of the other downtown buildings, lit up beautifully (it was night). 

I went downstairs and saw that she also had a spa-resort style swimming pool that ran like a river through the place. So upstairs she had a view of natural running water, and downstairs she had a clean, headed pool to exercise in. 

I was astounded and asked her how much rent she was paying for such a place. "I pay € 8,880 a month," she told me. "It's a bit of a stretch for me, but I really liked it when I saw it and decided to splurge. Unfortunately, I work so much I don't get to take advantage of the pool very often."

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Canoeing to Europe

Dream: My brother and I have decided that we, as a two-person team, will paddle a canoe from the U.S. to Europe. 

The canoe is small and made of aluminium, and we have no provisions, protective gear or compass. 

It is night and the waves are enormous. We are dramatically thrown about by the water's giant crests and deep troughs – meters high we climb and then down we go, almost vertically, only to be pulled up again by the next wave.

By some miracle we are not thrown out of the canoe, and eventually the water becomes calm.

In the darkness I see small islands around us. It appears we are approaching land,  perhaps Cuba or Puerto Rico. 

We decide to stop for provisions. 

As we shop I ask my brother if he really wants to continue with the journey, given how dangerous it has proven to be so far. 

"Yes, of course. We can't stop now," he tells me, so I agree. 

"OK, we will keep going then. But let's get some life jackets, a compass, and some rope to tether ourselves to the canoe."