Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bye Bye Berlin

This is the view outside my living room apartment at 7:30 a.m.

For anyone who wants to understand some of the key differences between Berlin and New York City, this photo is key. In Berlin, it is rare to find a shoveled sidewalk during winter. In Berlin, the snow piles and gets icy and you are forced to tread gingerly on an slick surface dotted with sand at the very most.

Here, there is a sensibility promoting safety and comfort (and there are lawsuits when people fall) so the walks get shoveled. Our penchant for safety is the object of some scorn abroad. On my last night in Berlin, I sat in a Neukolln bar talking to a German about the local jazz scene when he started railing against America's infantilizing safety codes and rules and restrictions.

Oh, I don't know. I'm kind of happy about much of it.

For instance, I like the fact that it is illegal to throw lit firecrackers at people here on New Year's Eve.

So, I'm back in New York and reflecting upon my nine-day Berlin adventure, preparing for the new semester at Columbia, morphing back into a mom and wife, feeling sickened by the violence in Arizona, grieving over the untimely death of Debbie Friedman, resisting the work I need to do, embracing the sunshine that bathes the piles of snow beyond the shoveled walks of my campus, pondering the fact of my identity as a 21st Century global citizen, missing my oldest child whom I bid farewell to at the bus stop on Yorkstrasse on Sunday morning, seeing everything that is right and wrong about my country through the lens of having been somewhere else.

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