Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Leaves in Winter

The sycamores still have green leaves in downtown Brussels. It is December. In a week and a half the winter solstice will be on us. But the leaves hang broad and green in Brussels.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


In chaos we boarded the train. It arrived late, and they changed it to another platform. Many people were confused. Furthermore, they had two different trains connected and you had to be careful to board the right one or they would end up in an unplanned destination.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pictures, Words, Breath

For the last time I am in a cafe in Berlin on a Sunday morning writing. My stay is quickly coming to an end. The day after tomorrow I board a train for the UK. Of course, things feel like they are just coming together as always happens in a new place just when its time to leave.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Of Leaves, Paté, and other Tiny Things

Tiny things often seem so inconsequential. And, they probably are for most intents and purposes.
No I am not thinking about the leaves that have mostly fallen off the trees, leaving naked arms prepared for winter’s weight. They are like a fall sweater for sidewalks, if they are not blown or raked into piles. Yesterday, it seemed piles were everywhere I looked. They will soon be gone, but right now they are there.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Again in Berlin

Back in Berlin, in my usual cafe for morning writing, the green tracks still rise from the ground, and knobs and levers of the expresso machine still clank in the background against the rush of steam. The barista, though, is new. He is dark haired and lanky, unlike the shorter, bearded Spaniard with a ring in his nose who generally was here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Noise and Sound

As I was trying to sleep last night, a difficult proposition since I am jet-lagged, sounds tempted my ears. Car engines revved to make it from a dead stop through the short block before the next light changed. Horns blared warning, irritation, intention, disgust. Police whistled in a burr, a rising sound, and many others that communicate meaning though I do not know it. I could hear people laughing, arguing, talking.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Who Claims the Fall?

Berlin is dressed for a celebration. At the Brandenburg Gate they have set out electronics for an event, just as they have at the Potsdamerplatz. Alexanderplatz is filled with an exhibit. All over town events are scheduled and even businesses are developing marketing oriented towards the festivities.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Last week I went to the land of cars. That was not part of the plan. It just happened, as a consequence.
With a glance at a calendar I realized the famous Botanical Gardens of Berlin would close for the season with November’s coming. That would be in two days.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lines and Sprays

A man spoke with me. I had my camera to my eye, taking a picture of some of the graffiti that covered a wall on Kastanienallee. So, at first I did not pay attention.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hedwig's Mozart

Berlin is a city of canals and rivers, they say, with more bridges than Venice. It is also a city of churches. I do not know how it compares in that aspect with Italy. Though I have been to Italy, I did not stop to think about the presence of church buildings. Here spires pierce the air in almost every neighborhood and, in the downtown, there seem far more than the current population could support.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Prussian Ghosts

The enormous expanse of land that stretches in front of Berlin’s ancient looking Altes (Old) Museum, alongside its green domed, Protestant Cathedral, seems far to large for a modern city. It reminds me that Berlin is a capital city and that it was one before, during the first German unification in the nineteenth century.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Night Walk

Today is beautiful. The sun is shining. The sky is blue. Simple, declarative.

Most days have been cloudy and drizzly over the last four weeks. They too have beauty in the constant changes of tones and patterns in the sky and the strangely intense light that seems to come from no where in particular.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Fist Raised Up

It is night, though people still stroll the streets. But I am tired and cold, so I go home.

I have not seen my housemate Frank and his girlfriend Susan for a few days. I hear them in mornings as they bathroom clinks and the wood floors groan as they prepare for work. But I am trying to stay up later and get up later and as a result I just stay in bed.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Scent of Tea

A pot of English tea steeps in a striped pot on the table before me. By its side sand slowly pours into the base of a timer stamped “Tee Uhr” on top to let me know when it is ready to consume.

I am in the T-Room, a very comfortable cafe between the neighborhoods of Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte. Run by a fellow from London who used to work construction, it has open for only three months.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Who is Hermann and Who Cares?

My first day here, bleary-eyed from an all night plane trip and jet lag, I had to find my way to Hermannplatz. I had already screwed up in finding the way from the airport to the building where I had rented a room. Frank’s directions were good. I just got off the bus at the wrong place, luggage and all, and then had to figure out how to get to Hagenauer Str. in Prenzlauer Berg. That is not so easy in a strange city in the best of times, but after all the stress of departure, the long flight, and the change of languages and cultures, it is no surprise I made such a mistake.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sushi and Soccer

Saturday morning, my housemate, Frank was puttering around in the kitchen preparing breakfast for his daughter Sara, as I put on my shoes and coat to go to the cafe. “Do you like soccer,” he asked me. “Germany is playing Russia in the qualifying round tonight for the World Cup. If Germany wins they can play in the World Cup next year. If you want to watch it, they will be putting it on the big screen in the Sushi restaurant on the corner” he said with a shrug.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Open Mic and Dragon Ships

Cold nips my hands and cheeks as I walk to the cafe this morning. The promised air from Scandinavia has dropped south, as if aboard dragon-prowed ships to chasten those who still remember summer. It will get much colder, this is just the first taste.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


The day is gray. Clouds build a subtle and complexly marbled wall in the sky, while people walk slowly, with more clothes on than the last few months. Not too long ago, Church bells sounded in a cacophony, a planned one. It must be planned, why else would they all sound at the same time. LIke the sky, their tones were richly textured and marbled as they wove in and out of each other. If I listened more closely, they might have been less like marble and more like tightly interwoven Islamic or Celtic calligraphy.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Trains, Stairs, and Tongues

Out the cafe´s window the green tracks of the underground train, the U-Bahn, rise from the earth to meet a barn-like above ground building, the Eberswalder street stop, while surface trains, buses and cars criss-cross in front of it. Rain falls today, sometimes gently and sometimes heavily. The road’s asphalt and the rising green rail lines are shiny as if somehow they were a source of light on this gray day, and not just its reflection.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Rain, Wind, and Unity

The wind blew. It raced through the tall, ultra-modern buildings of Potsdamer Platz, causing me to stumble with its gusts. A group of people had placed placards with press clippings about the Persecution of the Roma on the ground and had their feet on them to keep them from blowing away. They had their table flat to the ground and were holding the red cloth they had planned to place over it. Still a couple of people were handing out leaflets complaining how Roma, often called Gypsies, are being deported and saying they belong here too.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Day Two

To think that I could describe a city of three or four million people with a very complex past and present would be hubris. Berlin is Berlin, a city whose name needs no modifiers. It just is and in that is part of its history and reality. But it also tied to so many other things, the reality of east and west in Europe, reunification, and so on. Finding the balance is something I cannot do after only one full day here.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Charles De Gaulle Airport is like a maze of gray glass tubes sitting on the edge of Paris suburbs. Once gleaming modern and futuristic, it has aged at a time when modern was decades ago. After a night of flying from Utah, the plane disgorges us into the airport and we try to make sense of the signs that like a horde of gnat fly before us as we walk in a herd, joining other herds in a mass of people.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dawn's Edge

It is almost dawn, and once again sleep fled me well before the sun crosses the mountains. My mind spins with details that must be taken care of before I board the plane a week from tomorrow.