Berlin Ag’in

July 17, 2010 at 6:18 pm (Music, Travel and Places) (, , , , , )

So as you know, the plan was, I go to Berlin in May and check it out, do some auditions, coach, work on my German, write a CS article, and kinda check out the scene over there- mostly opera/audition wise but a little bit of everything; I also did some aerial training, played a solo rock show in an art gallery, met some friends-of-friends, and drank my fair share of beer. :)  And then go back home for the summer to day-job, make some money, practice, get my life in order, than then, ideally, go back to Germany in the Fall to try to do an audition tour for realz.  ~~Originally I had wanted to do an audition tour this Spring, but one thing leading to another- mostly not being able to get the sublet for long enough, and secondly not leaving enough time to set up auditions before everyone was booked up, but also not getting to the Eurail Pass seller in time to get the precise one that I wanted, financial drama with checks going to the wrong address and my PayPal account being hacked- well basically a lot of things didn’t go according to plan, that’s why experience is valuable.~~

So I’ve been putting out feelers for a sublet in Berlin.  When I had been there, so many people were like “I got a place/I know a place,” but when I got home and started writing people, everyone either flaked and didn’t get back to me, and/or no longer had the place available.  So I was just about to give up hope and in a last-ditch effort messaged every contact I had in Berlin, and a friend of a friend, whom I have never met in real life, wrote me back and believe it or not offered me her spare room for free.  I was like uhh really?? uhh are you sure?? I offered to pay bills so I’m going to cover all her bills for 2 months which comes to 150 a month which is pretty much the same as I was paying at the last incredible sublet I had in Berlin, by Deutsche Oper.  This place is right in the center of town and will solve my biggest problem- living alone in Berlin, my language development was very held back by my lack of a German roommate.  That’s how I learned French, after all- French roommates!

So now it looks like I am going back to Berlin!  I’m not sure EXACTLY when as this girl doesn’t know what day her sublettor is moving out, but it’s supposed to be early September.  As soon as I hear back from the sublettor I’ll buy a plane ticket.

So: a delightful trip to a city I’ve really enjoyed, getting to see the friends I made there, working on my German, staying with a German roommate right in the center of town, free apartment, learning from my mistakes last time and trying to do things right this time.

Drawbacks: Still paying off the last trip, broke and not sure how I can live without income for 2 months, as even 1 month didn’t work out so good for me financially.  Have no auditions set up, and have been trying for awhile now, writing agents and jumping the gun by telling them I’d be there Sept 1.  Plus it will be even harder because so many people will be on summer vacation, which in Europe lasts a whole freaking month, so there will be a big delay in people getting back to me now.  Probably will have to miss out on singing the lead in a G&S show I really like- not a pro company, but still would have liked to do it.  Still hard to plan because I’m not sure the exact dates yet.  Need to find sublettor for my place here- and actually tell my landlord this time.  They don’t like subletting, but I think if I explain it nicely it’ll be ok.  Hope my church choir director doesn’t fire me (purposely chose fall so I don’t have to miss Advent/Christmas season).

Mostly I just need to make some money!  So I’ll be working a lot in all my various freelance jobs, looking for new students, and being stingy.

So I’ve mentioned a couple times on Twitter that I need to sell 20 hard copy albums, or 30 downloads, in a month.  As my followers know, I took out a personal loan from the bank to pay for my album, and I have to pay back about $150 a month.  I figure, I’m gone for 2 months with no income, so I need to make that money before I go: that means $300.  So that’s either 20 hard copies bought directly from me at the full price of $15, or 30 downloads via bandcamp bought at $10.  (You can also buy downloads at iTunes or amazon.com, but I get the most money from bandcamp.  You can also buy the hard copy from cdbaby.com, but I don’t get all the money.  I don’t mind though because I think what they do is great and I want to support them.)

Oh by the way, if you do buy or even listen on bandcamp to the album, please do review it at iTunes or amazon or cdbaby, I love seeing people’s thoughts.

So that’s the update and the promised explanation of why I’ve been asking people to buy albums. :)

Keep ya posted!

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Germany

June 28, 2010 at 1:49 am (Music, Travel and Places) (, , , , , , , , , )

Hey!  I am mega overdue to speak with you.  I never even finished writing about my trip that was over almost a month ago.  I’ve had lots of ideas for things I wanted to blog about but haven’t felt inspired to sit down and write any of them.

But lots of people are asking me about Germany so I feel like I should wrap that up for you.

FAQs:

You were there for an audition tour, right?

Sorta.  I originally wanted to do that, but couldn’t really pull it together in time and under the circumstances, so I was considering it more of an audition preview.  So I just did a few very minor auditions, worked on my German, met some cool people, wrote an article for Classical Singer, checked out the city, had some coachings, did a little circus training, oh and jaunted over to Paris just ’cause it’d been too long.

Are you going back?

I don’t know yet, it depends on the sublet situation on both continents.

Did you play any gigs?

Yes, I played a gig at my friend’s art gallery, MMX.  I hadn’t realized at first that a girl I had worked with at Pink Inc. had moved to Berlin and helped found an art gallery there.  So once I found out she was there too, I swung by the gallery and hung out, and they mentioned they were still looking for someone to play their closing at the end of the month.  I was hesitant at first, because I was so far out of practice with guitar (as has gotten me into trouble before, I only practice when I have a specific gig coming up), and I hadn’t brought anything with me- no instrument, no equipment, no CD’s, no merch, no publicity materials, no charts.  But I thought it would be cool to have my Berlin debut so I eventually offered.  They lent me a guitar and had a PA system so it worked out.  The gig ended up being a little weird because, since the crowds were all congregating outside in the garden, they suggested I play out there, but just about when I started, night finally hit (comes late in Berlin in the summer) and it got dark and cold very suddenly and people went inside, leaving me playing outside with no light and no amplification.  So not that many people really ended up hearing my whole set, and I didn’t have any CD’s to sell and there was no pay, so I don’t know if the gig did me any good or not.  Only two people approached me afterwards, one who wanted to use my music in a movie he was working on whom I haven’t heard from, and one who loved my set and was gung-ho determined to order my album online since I didn’t have any with me, whom I also haven’t heard from (and who hasn’t ordered it- I have few enough customers that I can keep track!).  But I got to have my Berlin debut, and play some guitar which always ends up being fun once I really get down to it, and it was a fun little project for the end of my trip!

So as for “how it went,” it was a good trip.  Love Berlin.  The month was a little weird for me because for part of it I just did not have enough structure- even though I’m self-employed, vast stretches of free time are not a part of my vocabulary.  And then the latter part of the month I was pretty slammed.  So I guess it was unbalanced, and could have been fixed if I’d gotten off my ass in the first couple days and organized my plans- start right away organizing the interview for CS, set up coachings, get in touch with people to hang out with, instead of laying in bed “adjusting.”  But to be fair it took me awhile to get my phone and internet going.

As for singing and auditioning, the feedback I got was extremely varied, but it all hinged on “There’s no positions available in your Fach right now and there’s 1000000 people in line for those 0 positions.”  Ah, the curse of the coloratura.  We have to sing circles around everyone else, but still can’t get hired.  Actually, you know what would be a really fun research project?  Take a handful of standard audition arias, of the same length but of different Fachs, and literally count how many notes each singer has to sing.  Like, a 3 minute full lyric soprano aria versus a 3 minute light lyric coloratura soprano aria.  Of course the coloratura soprano will generally have more (generally, because there is florid singing in most Fachs, not just ours), but I’d like to see an actual ratio.  Hm, that could be a potential article, or at least blurb. :)

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VoKü, Vertikaltuch

May 13, 2010 at 3:18 pm (Music, Travel and Places) (, , , , )

Ladies and gentlemen, I am hurting!!  My muscles are PISSED.  Partially because of the workout I mentioned in my last blog post, and partly because of what I’ll get to in a minute.

But first, VoKü!  I decided to go on a little adventure.  While researching artists squats (having found out from Henriecke that this building used to be one back in the early 80’s) I stumbled across information on Volksküche, called VoKü for short (also called VolxKüche for what I can only assume are reasons of badassedness).  So some squats and other alternative-type places have, due seemingly to their anarchistic or socialist ideologies, dinners where anyone can come and pay a pittance for a hot meal, usually vegetarian or vegan.  Like, 2 Euros.  And the beer is cheap, too (my Berliner was 1,50).  Anyways, it sounded like a fun adventure, so I determined to try it, and Monday I had the night off anyways.  I asked a friend along but he was busy, so I had to go by myself.

Basically there are a lot of different VoKüs at different places in the city, all on different days and times.  I went to the one that had one every weeknight, instead of just once a week, as I figured it would be better organized and stuff.  The place was called Sama Cafe, and as you can see from the website, it has not just VoKü, but also free Fussball. :) It was, as most hip things are, wayyyyy out in the East.  But easier to get to than some of this other East Berlin stuff I’ve been doing.

So, the bar was a very punk-rock looking place, like so many of these places in Berlin.  You know, ridiculous amounts of flyers and graffiti and stuff.  Inside was dark with a really really high bar that if you stood next to it made you feel 10 years old again.  Off to the side was a really nice room where they have events.  There were a few people at the bar (you could never really tell who was working there and who was a customer- I feel like everybody in the room was behind the bar at some point), and they asked if I wanted a drink, and I asked about the dinner, and they pointed me towards it.  I introduced myself to the cook, a girl about my age sitting in the kitchen reading a book next to a pot of some sort of Indian food type of thing.  So she explained to me what was up, dinner would be ready in 5 minutes, she’d tell us when, so I went back to the bar to have a drink.

Berliners are, I’m finding, very like Parisians in their closed little circles.  They are not as rude, but they are also slow to welcome strangers.  Even as a beautiful girl alone at a quiet bar I have to make an effort to not be ignored (or at least not be ignored by everyone except sleezeholes).  So I did, I talked to the bartender and the other patrons.

The food was not bad, it was a vegan polenta and it was filling and warm, a good veggie meal.  I ate in the corner where the lunch tables were, where you’re supposed to eat, but I was the only one- most other diners found a spot at the bar, and the teens playing Fussball in the room basically ignored me (they looked like they were having a killer time, though).  I ate quickly and went back to the bar, talked to some more people.  They were playing obscure European metal from last.fm, including a band with bagpipes.  They were having movie night in the big side room, where they were to be showing episodes 4-6 of a former East German TV show from 1980.  I was actually pretty intensely curious to see it, especially after my visit to the DDR Museum, but it was getting late and I lived so far, I didn’t want to get sucked in.  So I headed home after all.  But that was my VoKü adventure, I recommend you try it- it’s edgy in that you don’t really know what kind of place you’re going to end up in or how things are going to work, but it’s a harmless and yummy little outing.

Yesterday I had my first aerial silks class in Germany.  As you know, it’s a hobby of mine from NY.  I had gotten in contact with a girl I was going to train with, but she was out of town the first week, and preparing for a show this week, and I wanted to find a way to get started on my own.  I decided that if I was going by myself, I’d be better off in a class than in an open workout, which is what it seems most people here just do.  So, I found a place with a class schedule online.

(PS I didn’t have time to finish this last night so now it’s the next night, so please push everything so far back 1 day, and also I am not as sore anymore.)

The website for the institution- which is called Vüsch which is the most brilliant name ever because it stands for something along the lines of “Institute for the Overcoming of Gravity” and also sounds a lot like “Whoosh!”- had email addresses and phone numbers for the teachers of each class, so I wrote the lady who had a silks (called “Tuch” or “Vertikaltuch” for long) class the next day (there were only two silks classes a week) to explain my situation and ask if I could take part in class, but she never wrote back.  So I decided to just show up.

The place was freaking impossible to find; I had to ask directions more than once.  It was in one of these sort of complexes they seem to have out East where there is one entrance gate for like a half-dozen freaking little barnhouse-like buildings, good luck figuring out which one is yours.  But I did stumble upon it, and managed to find out who the teacher was, and she said yes I could be in her class. :)

I didn’t have a watch on but it seems to have started late, and for warm-ups we played tag, except instead of just running, whoever was it had to pick a different movement, like crab walking or skipping.  It was kind of annoying but it definitely did get the whole body warmed up and was more interesting than running in circles or doing jumping jacks (I hate jumping jacks, they are just bullshit exercise teachers make you do when they have no better ideas but want to keep your cardio up).  Then we did some pretty normal stretching.

The weird thing is that we then did a strength training exercise, which is not usually what you do at the beginning of silks class, it’s usually what you do at the end.  Because you need all your strength to actually do silks.  As opposed to a regular dance class, where you could do all your working out at the beginning because you don’t need too much brute force to do a floor routine.  But you do to do aerial acrobatics.  Anyways the exercise was a simple one, one my training partner had shown me and I tried it once and was like “I don’t need to do this exercise, I can already do this kind of movement well,” but anyways it was class so I did it.  The first thing I noticed was that I was way stronger than the other students.  Wayyy stronger.  Like I didn’t even see anyone else in class who could invert with their legs straight, let alone over and over (which is kind of what the exercise was).  So anyways I kind of did an excessive amount of reps- equal parts self-discipline and showing off, I guess- and was wiped out for the rest of class.  I mean, I still participated fully, but I was like shaking the whole time.  For the record, I wasn’t the best aerialist in the class, there were a few people who knew what they were doing better than me- it was just the strength thing.

Oddly, the first move we worked on were windmills, which are exactly what I needed to be working on.  As I had not really learned them in my earlier education as an aerialist, and had only learned how to do them for the first time in my last training before I left for Germany.  So it was a great thing to work on and I feel like I made some progress, though would have done better with some individual attention- the class was big and the teacher couldn’t spend much time watching each of us, there were like 5 silks going at once and a lot of the students were beginners (who were not working on windmills).

The teacher spoke good English and apparently I wasn’t the only person in the class whose German was on shakey ground, because she went into English quite a few times.  When I told her I was from New York she asked if I had trained at Streb (not so much but most people in NY have at some point), so I wonder if she had ever trained there herself, as she seemed to know the English names for everything.

After windmills we did hip keys, which I know how to do very solidly, so showed off by doing a salto every time.  The teacher then tried to show us some other move we could do from a hip key but I must admit I didn’t really get it.  My classmates were telling me I was doing it right but it didn’t feel stable to me so I never really got it down.

We did some other small things but that was basically it.  Anyways between my hard workout the previous day and this one, I was completely spent.  I had really overdone it.  I was in so much pain the next day I had to go to the Apotheke and get some ibuprofin, and I still spent much of the day lying in bed not wanting to move.  Today I was still badly sore in a few places but not nearly as bad as yesterday.  But I’m going to Paris tomorrow, and then Köln, so I’m looking forward to a few days of not working out at all besides long (knowing me, potentially very long) walks.

Love to all!

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The other days

May 10, 2010 at 1:23 pm (Music, Travel and Places) (, , , , , , , )

Well, I didn’t want to give you the blow-by-blow on every day, just the first few.  But I’ll try to sort of catch you up with where things have been!

The fifth day I had a coaching!  A friend who lives here put me in touch with a coach at the Komische Oper, and I arranged a coaching with him.  While my responsible side would have been happy to conduct the coaching in German, practically speaking it was good that he was fluent in English (trained and worked in the US and speaks English at home), not only because my German is shaky but because he talked so fast, there was no way I could have kept up, even in French!

So we talked about auditions, Fach, etc, and we worked on Durch Zärtlichkeit, which is an aria I do not enjoy performing, at least in an audition situation.  I’ve never done the role, and that would probably change things considerably for me, but I always feel so dumb singing it.  It’s just awkward without staging.  If you were doing the whole show, staged, you’d have a lot to do in this aria, a lot of interaction with the other character, and some silly things to do.  So naturally in an audition you have to make all that stuff up in your head, some things you do, some things you just think.  But in reality it just feels stupid.  Not in every aria, but this one especially.  I feel dumb making a big show of “Oh, he’s not listening, so I’m gonna have to say the whole thing again in a different way!!” like you know you’re SUPPOSED to do.  And it’s just like, “Look, I can be cute and also sing a high note!”  I’m sure once I eventually do the role (which really does have to happen eventually, probably sooner rather than later) I’ll be more confident at excerpting the aria, but for now it just irritates me.  At least it feels good to sing!

OK that’s my rant about it.  So I told the coach how I felt, and he pretty much said what I was already telling myself, which was, well you pretty much need this aria so you better find a way to like it. But anyways we sang it and he helped me with a few pronunciation points- interestingly, without having known that I studied in Paris, he said my ü sounded French!!  I had never known there was a difference between a french u and a German ü, I always thought they were identical twins.  But I guess the German one is a little less tight and high than the French.  Anyways there were some other things and I found it really helpful, and spent much time the next day reciting my text carefully.

He also heard my Chacun le sait at the very end and gave me his blessing to use that as my French aria instead of the Doll Song, which I do not love as much (for auditions) but was trying to err on the lightest possible side of coloratura as I could, and that’s the one for French.  But I’m glad he advised me to do Marie, as I do feel really really good about it.

The other thing I did that day was go to the Kunsthaus Tacheles, an artist squat that has a couple bars in it a long with a lot of galleries and a performance space or two.  It was awesome!  There were definitely a lot of tourists there, but it still felt pretty badass.  Basically you could sit outside in the courtyard which was kinda like a beer garden and drink a beer and look at the art.  And it was a gorgeous day!!

Friday rained and was a bummer, but Saturday I went to the apartment of the girl I’m subletting from, I met her and her husband and their baby and we had tofu. The husband is a professional DJ who was playing a gig at 9 the next morning.  Yeah, when they say Berliners know how to party, they are not kidding!!  But he was kinda like me with my church job, except instead of getting up mad early Sunday morning to go to church, he was going to play in a nightclub.  “Night”-club.  He was also playing an outdoor party at 8 that evening, and invited me to come to that.

So I did of course!  Oh but before that I went to the Hamburger Bahnhof, which is not a train station (anymore?) but a museum, with them and another friend of theirs.  There was an exhibit on Walton Ford, and they were all artists and into that stuff, and I didn’t know who that was but I’m like OK cool I got nothing else to do.  Anyways they were all animals and most of them were accompanied by literature like stuff out of old-timey adventurer/scientists’ journals about animals, which made it a lot more interesting for me, as I guess I’m more into literature than art, although I’m really just into music.

That’s from the museum’s website.

The party that night was wayyyy out in the East, by the S-Bahn stop Ostkreuz, because all the hipster stuff goes on in East Berlin.  (Charlottenburg, where I am living, is not very “cool.”)  The club was called K-Pax, and there was pretty much just an empty lot with a bar and a DJ stage, except there was also a little kids’ playhouse off to one side for the high drunks to sit in, which they were.  Everything else was pretty much just a big space.  But my friend is apparently a great DJ because the crowd (yeah there was a crowd, yeah it was 8pm on Sunday) was just eating it up.  I don’t really know anything about House music so it’s kinda all the same to me but he definitely had the room… I mean the courtyard going.

Obviously a good percentage of the people were on drugs, though I don’t know much about drugs (day of things I don’t know much about: art, house music, drugs…) so I wouldn’t be the best to estimate what percentage were and were not, and how many were doing coke or ecstasy or just pot, but I guess the idea was for them to have been still going from the night before, so there ya go.  It kinda sucks to go to that kind of place by yourself, even though I knew the DJ but obviously he was BUSY and I didn’t want to bother him, but I still managed to meet a few people, all both annoying and interesting in their own ways.  And for the second time in my Berlin experience so far, the bar ran out of beer.  If this keeps happening I’m afraid it’ll trigger the French Revolution.

Today was great because I fully practiced and fully exercised, and it feels really good to do both of those things in one day.  In fact, that’s usually my goal back home in the US, is to find time in any day to do a thorough job of both, but it’s harder than it sounds, when you have other stuff going on (like having to make money).

More adventures to come, but wanted to send out this update before I head out the door!!

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My 3rd & 4th days in Germany- Vodaphone, DDR Museum

May 7, 2010 at 4:21 pm (History, Music, Travel and Places) (, , , , , )

Sorry for the lack of pictures, but they are mostly on my iPhone and haven’t transferred them onto the computer yet, as I can’t use the USB while the internet USB stick is in (yeah I have more than one slot but the stick takes up too much damn space).

Monday, my third day in Germany, was the first business day, so I would finally be able to set up phone and internet!! In theory.  Of course nothing is ever that easy in Europe.  I went to the Vodaphone store and showed them my iPhone and USB stick and explained everything I needed.  The woman I was dealing with didn’t speak a word of English.  Which is fine, which is great, this is Germany, you should be able to speak your own language, and I need to be speaking German anyways.  It’s just that it was such a complicated conversation, and I was still right off the boat and not used to German yet.  I had to whip out my iPhone German-English dictionary (the only App I have ever paid $20 for, and soooo worth it) several times.  Basically what they could do for me was: they told me a prepaid card with 10 Euros on it- that was the easy part.  But they said they didn’t have any internet deals without a contract, and to use internet on Pay-as-you-Go would just be “very very expensive” (they never said how much, just shook their heads and said very expensive), so they told me I shouldn’t bother using internet on my phone at all.  I was like, “That’s the whole reason to have an iPhone?”  But they were like, yeah well it’s better if you just use internet on your computer.  For the USB stick, they sold me a month’s worth of time and then some (they’re only allowed to refill your card in intervals of 25 Euros, so even though the month-long was 40 Euros, they had to charge me 50.  I told them how I had tried to use it with the SIM that was already in it to no avail, and they asked if I had a Mac.  Of course.  I love Mac as much as any hip artsy city-dweller, but they can sure cause headaches, specially outside the US where they are not common.  Anyways, she said I had to go to an internet cafe and download the right software, a version for Mac- she gave me the web site and instructions to find it.

I really did not want to head all the way back down to Starbucks, so I went home first and wondered if I couldn’t get a strong enough wifi signal to make it happen.  I did get a signal, but it was very very weak and kept breaking off, with the result that I spent about 2 hours trying to download the Mac software before giving up.  At least it gave me a chance to finish the book I was reading.  Anyways I finally gave up and headed back down to Starbucks- in the rain, did I mention?- and quickly downloaded the software.  Unfortunately, it still didn’t work.  There was lots of crashing and freezing and error messages and just generally things not working.  I walked back up to Vodafone in the rain, getting there 10 minutes after they closed.  But home in time to get a quick nap in before meeting my friend JRL for dinner.

The next day I went back to Vodafone and brought my computer with me.  The guy, who also didn’t seem to speak any English, decided that the website didn’t have the latest update for Mac, and found it on a Flash Drive.  We had to play around with changing a lot of settings, but after a big investment of time, we got it working.  I took it home and was online.  At last!!!

Another exciting advancement for the day was my first phone call in German.  I successfully reserved a practice room, as I’m not comfortable singing in the apartment (though I’ll have to be soon, as I can’t keep schlepping all the way across town and paying just to sing in an empty room).  The phone wasn’t that bad, I made sure to speak slowly on purpose so the woman would think I was worse at German than I actually am and keep it easy for me.

After practicing, I went to the DDR Museum, which was very fun!  It was meant to be a pretty light-hearted museum, full of things to play with.  It basically showcased everyday aspects of life in former East Germany, from the infamous concrete slab apartments, to the TV shows they watched, to the clothes they wore (the horror!!).  It’s really weird to think of this whole other world, like an alternate universe, that existed so recently.

Unfortunately I had not entirely recovered from my long walk on Saturday, and the couple of hours I spent standing at the museum put me back into pain.  So I didn’t do anything that night but try to stay off my feet. :)

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Germany Day 2- extensive exploring, Sxip’s birthday

May 6, 2010 at 5:48 pm (Music, Travel and Places) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I woke up early the next day- not on purpose, just still jetlagged.  This day was Sunday, and this being Europe, everything would STILL be closed, so I would still be unable to set up phone and internet.  However, that one little spot in my room that had decided to have internet for a moment the previous night was working again, so I got online just long enough to figure out where the nearest Starbucks was.  Not to be an ugly American who goes all the way to Europe and just wants to go to Starbucks, but I figured I could get internet there.

It was a bit of a trek to get there, but they did indeed have free wifi (and soy milk, my greatest need in a coffee shop).  So I was able to go online on both of my iPhones (my 2nd generation one for America, and my 1st generation unlocked phone for Europe).  That way I could really look at a map, as well as tweet that I was in Berlin and everything was OK (it was getting to the point where people might worry, as I’d been gone since Friday afternoon without a word and I am usually pretty social network-y).  Check my email, etc.  After some time both relaxing leisurely and frantically tapping away at two different iPhones, I got up to head out on my long, long journey.

I decided to do what I usually do in a new city, which is walk everywhere all day until there are hardcore blisters on my feet.  And that’s exactly what I did.  All the way from Charlottenburg, along the Tiergarden, around the center of town and Unter den Linden, even up to Alexanderplatz- and then back again, straight through the Tiergarden.  I stopped for lunch, where I spoke Italian with a waiter who was extremely impressed (I was also impressed with myself- hadn’t realized it was still so much easier for me to speak Italian than German, even after all this studying) and then proceeded to ask me out persistently for the rest of my meal.  Italians!  It was about 4pm when I got home, and as I’d left at about 8am, that meant I’d been running around for 8 hours, minus the time for Starbucks and lunch (and a short stop I made to sit and read on a bench for a bit when my feet were starting to hurt).  I was so ready to plop into bed with a soda and box of cookies from the gas station (the only thing open) and eat them and fall right alseep- utterly exhausted.  I was practically limping by the time I got Sxip’s text on my American phone, that he and the gang were off to Görlitzer Park to celebrate his birthday, and I was invited.  Worst possible timing, but I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t go- besides, it was really too early to let myself fall asleep, jetlag or no.

So I stuck the box of cookies in my bag, changed my shoes and socks (into my big thick hiking socks, as I had achieved mighty blisters) and hobbled down to the subway, where the machines still wouldn’t take my credit cards.  I hadn’t been able to get a wifi signal to figure out where the park was, but there was a subway station by the same name and Sxip said I could go there and text when I got there.

The park was really amazing- very badass and what you have to call “authentic” even when you feel touristy just saying it (it’s the same thing we say about my home club, Otto’s Shrunken Head- it’s the real thing).  There was tons of graffiti, people gathered around fires, lots of dogs and smoking and hanging out.  the party was in “the bowl” which I didn’t know what it was but was obvious when you saw it- it was a giant field shaped like a bowl.

I found them easily, and I guess everyone involved with the show was there.  Sxip was the only one I knew-knew; Amanda Palmer was there, who I’d met once or twice before briefly & had emailed with now and again but didn’t really know-know, and her fiance Neil Gaiman (the author), who I’d had no idea was even in Europe, and who I’d technically met once very briefly when my friend was getting his autograph.  They were the only people there who I even vaguely knew, but the other people were extremely cool and I made some friends. :) My cookies were much appreciated, and when we started running low on wine I ran to the nearest place that was open and restocked for everyone.  So basically we hung out in the park talking for a few hours, a few people making music.  I wasn’t really prepared to play any guitar but made a mental note that I could probably pull off “The Black Swan” if called upon (it’s my opera cover song I do on guitar).  I got to practice my German with the few native speakers in the group, and Amanda Palmer and I compared notes on being named Amanda.

When it started to get late, some of us took the party over to a nearby bar called Mano Cafe, which was very awesome, very dark and atmospheric but still a little bad-ass (rather than swanky, like it would have been in New York).  Members of our circle brought out a guitar, an accordion, and Sxip’s various instruments, while I was called upon to sing opera.  We pretty much tore the house down until the neighbors complained, and drank until they ran out of beer (which had more to do with the previous night’s May Day celebrations than our party, but still- the bar Ran out of Beer, how awesome is that?).  It was a really great time and felt very artsy and arts-community-y, which is a great way to feel when you’re alone in a strange new city.

Oh, here is Amanda Palmer’s blog on the party, you can see the back of my head in one of the pictures but that’s about all the evidence of my presence as I had not had the presence of mind to take a single picture myself (I usually don’t).

The magically wonderful end of the night is that the U-Bahn was still running even though it was almost 1am.  Who knew??

I will have to cover the rest of my trip in another post, maybe tomorrow.  Ttyl!

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Germany Day 1- Arrival, May Day, Evelyn Evelyn

May 6, 2010 at 4:34 pm (Music, Travel and Places) (, , , , , , , )

It is not solely out of laziness that I am so far behind on blogging- it took me quite awhile to get internet set up.

I got here Saturday morning, May 1.  My plan: get some money and a SIM card at the airport, take a cab to my new apartment, Google Map where I was and find something to eat/coffee/groceries, whatever I felt like I needed first, take a nap, and wake up in time for the Evelyn Evelyn concert.

Problem 1: it never occurred to me how tiny Berlin airport would be.  Sure it’s a huge city and the capitol of Germany, but it’s also kinda in the middle of nowhere.  It’s practically Eastern Europe.  Basically it’s just not a hub.  Mostly people flying through Germany go through Frankfurt, or even München, not Berlin.  So while there was indeed an ATM and a taxi stand, there was not a phone kiosk where I could get a SIM for my super-smart unlocked iPhone.

Problem 2: It’s May Day.  It completely had NOT occurred to me that it was May 1.  May 1 is very vaguely a holiday in America- we associate it mostly with pagan rituals and girls dancing around phallic symbols with ribbons- but in Europe (and lesser-so in America) it’s sort of a big labor celebration.  Which means, firstly, everything is closed.  So I could not buy anything.

Problem 3: My apartment is basically unfurnished and has no internet.  I can’t complain, for what I’m paying- it’s a bargain with or without a dresser (or a closet!!), and it does at least have a mattress with bedding (and a lawn chair?), but the no internet thing is just bad timing.  See, without internet, I can’t check to see where there’s free internet nearby so I can use the internet.  Normally in cases like this I’d rely on my phone, international rates be damned, but I got a friendly text notice from AT&T upon landing that I’d be charged $20/Megabyte for internet usage.  Estimating exactly how much a MB is by App usage would not my strong suit, but I just couldn’t stomach it.

At this point I was sort of rescued by a note from last month’s tenant.  He gave me a few tips on the neighborhood, and left me a USB stick to use for the internet, telling me I could recharge it at a nearby Vodafone (a big European cell phone co) store.  I figured it was a long shot that it would be open on May Day, but I decided to give it a shot.

Without any internet at all, I was lost- literally.  I had no map and couldn’t look up Google Maps to see where I was.  I had no idea what was out my front door.  What I did know from memory, though, was that I was one block South of the Deutche Oper.  So I figured if I could walk around until I found that, then at least I would know which way was which.  I actually did find it very quickly, and then I knew that way was North.  My bearings in place, I wandered down the street until I found the phone store, saw that it was indeed closed, and began to feel extremely, extremely exhausted.  I hadn’t really slept on the flight- I took a sleeping pill and passed out before we even took off, but I woke up for dinner and didn’t fall back asleep again for the rest of the night.  I knew it was bad but I just wasn’t tired.  And now I was.  I stopped for a pizza and a beer first, though, as I had no food at home and didn’t want to decide I was hungry once I got there and it was too late.

My disgustingly talented NYC music friend Sxip had told me he was playing a gig in Berlin that very night- opening for Evelyn Evelyn, an Amanda Palmer (and Jason Webley, who I didn’t know) project.  I knew I’d be killer jetlagged, but it seemed like it could be a pretty awesome start to my trip- if nothing else it would get me out of the house on my first night and put me in front of a friendly face.  And I knew it was better to err on the side of adventure.

It was so, so hard to wake up to go to the concert.  I had been dead tired and was not living again yet.  But I did, and set out to navigate my way there.  Somehow- I think I had found a spot in my room where I managed to pick up a limp wifi signal for just a few moments- I managed to pull up a map and figure out where the concert was and how to get there.  I went to the subway only to find that the ticket machine wouldn’t take any of my 4 credit cards, so I bought a single ride with change.  Very glad I am well-traveled enough that I knew to validate my ticket at a little stamping machine before getting on the subway (not that there would have been people checking for tickets on May Day).  The lucky thing was that I didn’t have to change trains, which made things that much easier.  There are regional differences between city trains, but a subway is a subway, and if you can navigate one or two, you can figure out any of them.

I found the venue pretty easily from the station, and was not so good at understanding German once I got there, but I managed to order a drink at least. :)

The show was actually very good!  I hadn’t heard any of the music before I went and I was pleased.  The audience really ate it up, standing ovation and everything.  It was a really good time.  I got to see Sxip both at intermission and afterwards (when he wasn’t signing his new CD for fans).  I hadn’t known it was his birthday the next day, and the tour was going to be hanging out in Berlin an extra day, so after I left I dropped him a line to see if he wanted to do anything.

And then I pretty much fell asleep and will write about the rest separately, so this doesn’t get crazy long!

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