A week from tomorrow I embark on my SIXTH trip to Berlin in half as many years.
The first couple of trips were untaken as an anxious mother who could not quite believe that her (Jewish) son had chosen to live in that place.
Somewhere around trip #3, Big Babe casually invited me to check out the club scene after an opera one evening and an obsession was born.
First came the Forward article -- on the expat scene in Berlin -- which ran last winter.
Now, the Masters thesis on the same topic, but far more scholarly and critical, focused solely on the Americans who have claimed Berlin as their new heim. Much of my research consists of hanging out, discovering the parameters of the expat scene. I don't know many people who can properly claim bars and clubs and art galleries and parties as the ground zero of their academic research.
Though my trip this past summer did entail a fair amount of work, next week's trip will be devoted entirely to research. Part of my mission is to figure out if and how the Americans in Berlin are impacting the life of the city and its inhabitants. What are they creating...other than a rousing good time? Is Berlin the 21st century version of 1920's Paris or merely a playground for the young and rootless?
To cut costs while in Berlin, already a highly affordable town, I will be crashing at Big Babe's place. Yesterday, he informed me that the running water in his flat was lukewarm to freezing. Normally, I'm not afraid of a bracing start to my day but when the outside temperatures hover below freezing and snow covers every possible surface, I really like my showers hot.
Last year, Big Babe's spacious digs were so cold that I slept in my coat, hat, gloves and shoes. My feet were constantly cold and damp and I drank about three times as much coffee as I normally do, just to keep warm. At night, I drank about 10 times as much wine as I normally would. When you're riding the U-Bahn home at 5 am, then walking several snowy blocks to your freezing abode, a high blood alcohol level is your best friend.
Armed with the certitude of being cold and uncomfortable, I am trying to carve out time this week to visit Uniqlo in SoHo to stock up on thin thermal underwear. Late at night, I'm scouring the Internet to find the ultimate fashionable yet toasty pair of black boots. The knit cap I scored for $10 from the vendor outside of Zabar's will not cut it this year. I need to trade it in for a Russian furry number, the kind that covers my ears, neck and chin.
According to family tradition, Big Babe has sent me his Berlin Wish-List, the artfully arranged accounting of stuff from New York that he simply cannot live without. Noting my ONE bag limit this year, I'm wondering how to accommodate his desires while avoiding overweight charges at the airport.
While I figure that one out, here is Big Babe's Berlin Wish List, the December 2010 Edition, plus a small addendum, which arrived in today's email:
- the small box of cds that I packed and left on the table
- the new Shteyngart (that is, if you've already read it)
- two additional books on the dining room bookshelf (roughly eye-level on the west-facing case): Ferdydurke and The Melancholy of Resistance
-my cowboy-ish leather coat (you know the one). It's too cold for it now, but will be perfect for spring!
I'll also keep my Zabar's wishlist modest:
- 1-2 lbs. french-italian whole bean
- hard salami (it doesn't need to be 40 lbs. this time!)
- chocolate rugaluch! (I still have 1/2 a babkah and need a change)
and most importantly...
From: "A.J. Goldmann"
Date: December 21, 2010 9:44:36 AM ESTTo: Shira Dicker Subject: Re: Behold! The midnight scream!
Ooh! One thing that I forgot that would be totally smashing if you could manage to pick up, is a 2011 Desk Calendar. I remember they go on sale at BN right before New Years. I prefer the New Yorker one, but the BN one is also perfectly satisfactory (and a bit cheeeeper).