The Numbers

I have a confession to make.

I was going to write a detailed review of a trip I took to Leipzig. And I had written it, actually, from start to finish. I was just editing and adding links, and by the misfortune of an errant keystroke, I deleted the entire thing in Squarespace, irretrievably. 

Evidence of a lost blog. Ivy Cafe, Berlin-Neukölln. August 2017.

Evidence of a lost blog. Ivy Cafe, Berlin-Neukölln. August 2017.

Yep, honest to God. In a split second, all text deleted. No salvation offered by any number of Ctrl-Z-mashing. (okay, "Command-Z". I have a Mac. Whatever.)  Hours of transcribing my life into pristine digital content, lost to the void. Major fail. 

Not going to lie, the prospect of rewriting the whole thing from scratch was discouraging. These things take a fair amount of time and effort to make, even on a blog as casual, simplistic and downright rudderless as mine. I thought about giving up; about abolishing my obligation to write stuff down in favor of just enjoying my experience over here for what it is, and hosting my memories locally on my own mental servers, securely encrypted and backed up for posterity. 

But, a few days later, I remembered something.

This is supposed to be a fun, rewarding creative outlet, not some deadlined homework assignment or stress-inducing professional obligation. There are no rules on Gluckin Around Dot Com, except those that I feel like following. 

So, readers, there is no Leipzig review. There won't be a Leipzig review. I'm moving on. (And I'm not writing my blog posts in Squarespace anymore. Evernote for the win.)

Trust me, Leipzig's a cool city. I recommend it. There's a photo gallery under "Galleries" if you want to find out what it looks like. Drop me a line if you need tips. There, done.

Instead, I’m feeling like it’s time for an update on all things Berlin, and a review of sorts of what’s happened so far. It’s been a little over three months since I’ve been here, a not-insignificant chunk of chronological change. Long enough, to be sure, to lose count of all the things that have happened. But it’s my goal (especially in writing on this site) not to lose count, or let time pass me by here without taking stock now and then. 

So without further ado, I present to you Berlin By The Numbers, my best attempt at tallying up the most important numerical milestones of my time here so far. 

Days I’ve been here: 113.

First impressions. Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin. May 2017/.

First impressions. Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin. May 2017/.

Feels crazy when I spell it out like that — usually it takes the form of a much smaller, more inexact number, like “a few months”, or “earlier in 2017”. But when I think about my time here in the context of individual days, it makes me consider how a seemingly short while can be broken down into near infinite derivative moments, and it reminds me how critical it is to be mindful of the flow of those moments (even if many of them slip through my fingers).

Cities other than Berlin that I’ve visited (or have plans to visit) since moving here: 5. Leipzig, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Killarney, London. I honestly think I expected this number to be a little higher by now — that I’d immediately hit the road without trepidation and recapture the continent I first conquered as a teenager. But I think I failed to account for two things: first, that Berlin in the summer is so much fun that even a single weekend away is enough to induce paralyzing bouts of FOMO; second, that I needed to give myself a moment to take a breath and settle down before venturing beyond Berlin’s borders. 

But in the end, this isn’t study abroad. There is no time limit, there is no rush. I’m an expat now; I live here. I’ll make it everywhere I want to see, eventually, in my own time.

Times I’ve seen the sunrise here: At least 10.

Sunrise over the Spree. Berlin-Friedrichshain, August 2017

Sunrise over the Spree. Berlin-Friedrichshain, August 2017

And no, not from waking up early. People say New York is the city that never sleeps; that’s a lie. New York just stays up late and eats pizza until it falls asleep. Berlin is the city that seems to forego sleep entirely. One of the great mysteries of living here so far is how frequently this seems to happen - it was so uncommon to stay out in New York past 5am at the latest, on even the lengthiest of nights. Here, I seem to blink and it’s 7am and broad daylight. How am I not absolutely exhausted? Especially on Friday nights, when I’ve been up for nearly 24 hours (or more)? 

And I know I’m not alone here, it’s not just me — a lot of my expat friends have remarked on this sunrise phenomenon. Must be something in the beer.

Money I’ve earned from recycling: €3.47.

Hell yeah. That’s worth 7 beers at the right supermarket. Recycling here is more than a moral high ground, it’s economically incentivized. The idea is genius: similar to the “deposit” system in some US states, but the bottles are worth far more. It’s even become a way for the city’s homeless to feed themselves — by collecting bottles (sometimes conveniently left on specialized trays on top of outdoor trash bins) and ridding the city of needless waste, anyone can redeem a receipt for a hot meal’s worth of straight cash.

Books I've read: 2.

“Kafka on the Shore” by Haruki Murakami and “The Broom of the System” by David Foster Wallace. Both great. “Purity” by Jonathan Franzen is probably next.

Number of times I’ve been rejected from entering a club for reasons unknown: Also at least 10

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(Somewhat of a paradox with the above sunrise number…) This is a thing that happens here. You’ll be getting all geared up for a night out with your friends. Discussions of where to go, what to wear, how to act, how much to drink beforehand, who’s playing, whose name to say at the door, how many guestlist spots the aforementioned name is worth, and so on. 

And then, in a split-second, your best laid plans are laid to waste. “Leider nicht."

Maybe the bouncer didn’t like how you were looking at him. Maybe he didn’t care for your hat. You were supposed to wear it backwards, not forwards. (Or forwards, not backwards.) Or maybe it was your shirt. You were supposed to wear mostly black, but not all black. Or all white. Or carry a wizard staff. You were supposed to be in a group of people whose size represented a number in the Fibonacci series. You were supposed to be alone.

Rejection can be maddening, mostly because it's so inscrutable and seemingly superficial. (Okay, it is superficial.) That’s the whole point. Exclusivity looks great on everyone else, and envy doesn’t look so good on you, my friend.

Number of errands I haven't been able to run on a Sunday: all of them.

Everything's closed, for it is the Lord’s day. But the German Lord is a merciful one, and smiles upon those who choose the path of righteousness. Or at least the path that heads to the local biergarten.

Number of first dates I’ve been on: 2.

With the same girl. And no, this isn’t some “50 First Dates” nonsense. I just happened to get lucky enough to meet someone incredible over here. I had to chase her, but she finally let me date her. And when at long last she did, I thought it’d be only fitting to take her out on a proper date, just like we were meeting for the first time. So we went on a first date; not once, but twice. I’m a lucky guy.

Times I’ve regretted moving to Germany: Zero.

Truly. 

There have been days here when nothing seemed to make sense or go right. 

When I asked myself why I’d left everything I knew behind in NYC in search of something different, when I was really quite happy with what I had. 

(Nice apartment, stable job, amazing city, all my friends.)

But I still believe now what I believed then, 113 days ago: you only get to be young once. 

You read your own book from left to right, and there’s no turning back the pages. It's the only one you’ll turn over and over, in your hands and in your head, when you get to the end.

And I’m enjoying this book so far. It's not the easiest read, but I can’t put it down. 

I think I’ll keep reading.

Home sweet home.

Hello there. It's been a minute. Back from a trip to Leipzig, and re-dedicating myself to this whole blogging thing.

I snuck away from Berlin for the weekend to this “mini-Berlin” to the south and east, about 2 hours away by bus. Felt like it was time to hit the road and start living the traveler’s dream I’ve been preaching since I got here. I’m not taking any vacations yet while I still get settled at work, so, baby steps. (Leipzig is kickass, and a full recap is on the way. I’ve been less than diligent about making time for this blog in the past 2-3 weeks, so I’m aiming to bang out two posts in the next week to get back on track. Let’s go.)

So, dear reader, O intrepid devourer of blog content, what’s been keeping me busy? Rather a lot. Settling into my new long-term digs in my new neighborhood, mostly. Let's take a jaunt through Friedrichshain together, why don't we.

Waiting. Frankfurter Tor, Berlin-Friedrichshain. July 2017

Waiting. Frankfurter Tor, Berlin-Friedrichshain. July 2017

Friedrichshain was where I was hoping to land all along, and I'm very excited I made it happen. It’s in East Berlin, and retains a lot of DDR flavor mixed in with a buzzing, cultural currency that would not be unfamiliar to acolytes of all things Brooklyn. (If you know me, you are probably rolling your eyes right now. Of course Will moved to that neighborhood. Yeah, I did. Come visit when your eyes re-assume neutral positions in their sockets.) It’s such a happening area, and I’ve just barely scratched the surface of what’s going on nearby. Two early favorites, however, are the Saturday and Sunday outdoor markets in nearby Box-Hagener Platz. Saturday is killer food stalls from all over the world, and Sunday is antique memorabilia, paraphernalia, detritus et cetera from the inexhaustible depths of Brandenburg’s DDR cellars and storerooms. AKA like weird old upholstered chairs and cringe-inducing lamps and shit.

My apartment’s located on a leafy side street just north of Box-Hagener (“Boxi”) and the central bar stretch of the neighborhood, Simon-Dach Straße. I’m also just south of Frankfurter Allee, East Germany’s former Communist promenade that could easily fit Soviet tanks 5 abreast and is probably wider than an LA freeway. My own block eschews pure bar density for diversity, with interesting-looking cafes, vintage shops, really good spätis (NY friends, read: German bodegas), specialty food spots and quite a few Vietnamese and Indian restaurants within literal throwing distance of one another. 

Socialist grandeur. Frankfurter Allee, Berlin-Friedrichshain. July 2017

Socialist grandeur. Frankfurter Allee, Berlin-Friedrichshain. July 2017

(The close proximity of multiple iterations of the same ethnic restaurant in Berlin is something that seems to occur a lot, and something I don’t quite understand. However, I'm reminded of the saturation of pizza in the Lower East Side, and then it somehow makes more sense. Also, when I lived in Hell’s Kitchen a few years ago, there were 3 Thai restaurants named Yum Yum, Yum Yum Too and Yum Yum 3 all right next to each other, so I don’t know, I guess this is just something that happens sometimes. Shout out to Yum Yum.)

My apartment came furnished, and with actual cool furniture, not a given by any means in Berlin. So after a few IKEA trips to get kitchen stuff and a few extra furnishings, it's been ready to go. I’ve also scored a few interesting things off eBay Kleinanzeigen, Germany’s Craigslist equivalent, after an introductory tutorial from a friend who is the undisputed Kleinanzeigen dark lord. It is an art, and a dark one at that. I have much to learn.

Living space. Berlin-Friedrichshain. July 2017

Living space. Berlin-Friedrichshain. July 2017

So living in the new place has been not unlike coasting on a dream so far... except for the presence of an unfortunate downstairs neighbor. Two weeks back, on a Monday evening after work, I had two friends over to check out the new digs and polish off a bottle of wine or two. We had some music going and the windows open, but nothing crazy, and as aforementioned, I live in the nightlife district. So it was very much to my surprise when my doorbell rang at 10:30pm that evening, and I was greeted by another building resident I’d seen a few times, a female, whom I’d guess is in her late 30s, with a shaven head, save for a sort of off-center topknot (frontal rat tail?) near her front right temple. I immediately figured she'd come up to complain about the music and extended a hand and a sharp apology in German. Hand and apology were both handily slapped down, and my neighbor said she was ready to call the cops if I didn't cut the shit.

(It would be relevant to mention at this point that in Germany, there are laws around quiet time. Officially, during the week, “Ruhezeit” is between 10pm and 8am, and you have to keep the noise down. Also officially, these laws are enforced by police. But officialness, and officiousness, for that matter, are not qualities that are widely subscribed to in Berlin. And the police don’t really enforce this one anyway, they have much bigger fish to judicially fry in a city with over 10% unemployment and a fair amount of crime.)

Anyway, I knew I was in the wrong, officially, and said hey, please don’t call the police, there is no need, I will turn the music off, let’s generally de-escalate ourselves shall we, and so on. That seemed to do the trick, until I got another visit 2 nights later, this time at 10:15pm, when I was quite literally just cooking dinner for a guest and listening to music. Same routine, please don’t call the police, oh God no not the police, heaven forbid the police come over here right now and survey the crime scene and take my pasta and freshly opened Malbec as evidence samples back to HQ for processing, etc etc. She eventually went away again and since then I have been trying to stick to this 10pm thing with my music.

I don't know what her name is, but I feel like it might be Helga. I’m going to write a longer blog post about her at some point. Maybe from her perspective.

Local bear makes good. Berlin-Friedrichshain. July 2017

Local bear makes good. Berlin-Friedrichshain. July 2017

So I’m in for the long haul. Neighborhood’s great, social life is fun, work is great, and so on. It feels like real life has properly started in Berlin. This is no longer just a trip; I repeat, this is no longer just some sort of extended trip. 

With that in mind, I think the biggest thing I’m working toward at the moment is maintaining presence in the moment and staying mindful. I left New York because I felt the rhythms of my life were rocking me to sleep, and in Berlin, I’ve now got a rhythm going, but I plan to keep it as upbeat and syncopated as possible. And change up the tempo now and then, just to keep myself sharp. I’m already so glad I took a trip to Leipzig — it was good to get out of town for a second and take stock of everything that’s going on in the place that is now officially home. 

Glux

June 18, 2017: the here-and-now.

I promise I won't be opening every post with literary excerpts and philosophical musings.

Starting right now. It's a gorgeous Sunday in Berlin, I'm sitting at Intimes Cafe, an outdoor spot on a street corner in my soon-to-be new hood of Friedrichshain, and I'm in much more of a mood to write about the here-and-now than anything abstract or philosophical. I figured that might make for a nice change of pace for anyone reading this blog, too. You might be wondering what's actually happening in my life, outside of what's going on in my head (for a fuller discussion of Self and Other, I refer you to my previous post). 

I'm thinking I might make this a series: posts where I just sort of report what's going on without too much editorializing. Thoughts? Let me know in the comments.

To set the here-and-now mood, here's a picture I just took of some cool graffiti about 20 yards from where I'm sitting:

Right, so real-life stuff. Real life is nice right now. The summer weather in Berlin has been absolutely outstanding so far, with the exception of a few summer storms (and those have actually been pretty nice too, in their own way). Since Berlin is far north geographically — it's on the same latitude as Calgary, Canada — the sun rises ridiculously early and sets ridiculously late at this time of year, which makes the days feel decadently, sometimes psychedelically long.

After going to bed around 2am last night, I awoke this morning to find my bedroom drenched with sunlight. The brightness and richness of the light at that time of day had such a disorienting effect that, after quickly glancing at my iPhone to see what time it was (5:15), I jumped out of a bed with a start, thinking I'd somehow slept for 13 hours and missed an entire Sunday. It took me a good 30 seconds to realize it was actually 5:15 a.m., and happily went back to sleep for another 5 hours.

Then, to start Sunday properly, I had a mindblowing Japanese breakfast at Markthalle Neun, a cavernous international food hall in Kreuzberg with a wide variety of vendors that attracts a hip, multilingual and may I say extraordinarily good looking crowd on the weekends. (DC friends, think Union Market. NYC friends, think Smorgasburg but indoors and not basic or overrated.)

Speaking of long days, the longest one of the year is this Wednesday, and there's a big one-day summer solstice festival in the city called Fete de la Musique. As part of this year's proceedings, Flying Lotus, Thundercat and Dorian Concept are playing a free show in the Mauerpark in the neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg. Formerly a section of the death strip on the northern reaches of the Berlin Wall ("Mauerpark" = "wall park"), the space was reclaimed after the fall of the Wall and now serves as a sort of all-purpose green space. My office is somewhat nearby, and I'm looking forward to heading over with a few new friends from work. Dorian Concept is a particular favorite of mine.

The past weekend has been filled with music, too: 

On Friday night, I caught Motor City Drum Ensemble at Prince Charles. MCDE is a DJ's DJ, spinning a killer all-vinyl mix of rare '70s funk, disco, house and soul. It was my first time catching him, but it won't be my last. 

Last night, I saw French Kiwi Juice, a multitalented producer who makes a sort of slowed-down, jazzed-up version of MCDE's style. He writes all his own tunes, and performs them, too — by himself. The guy had about a dozen different instruments onstage last night, and he's a sort of one-man band: his live show comprises a constant melange of various snippets of basslines, horn leads, piano fills and drum patterns that he performs, loops and manipulates in sync. 

Other good stuff: work is going well. I'm feeling more comfortable and confident in my role with every passing day, and things are heating up in an exciting way. On Tuesday, I accompanied our CEO to London for a tech conference. Exciting to get to hit the road for work so early, and I'd take a one-day marathon trip to another country over a one-day marathon trip from New York to Boston every time. Looking forward to finding out where this job brings me.

Next weekend is 48 Stunden Neukölln, a weekend-long art festival in the neighborhood of Neukölln — Berlin's current hipster Mecca. Don't really know a lot about the festival itself, except that there's a lot of programming coming up in my Facebook feed all of a sudden, and one of my friends is displaying some of her photography in one of the weekend's many events and exhibitions. When I first lived here in 2012, Neukölln was still considered very raw and fairly dangerous, so I'm looking forward to better acquainting myself with an area of the city that's suddenly become such a crowd favorite.

So, those are really the latest highlights. There's plenty more that's happened, but it's a beautiful Sunday evening and I'm going to go enjoy the rest of the weekend by the water with a good book (yes, the David Foster Wallace one I quoted in my last post). So, friends, if you want the rest of the story so far, let's Skype soon. I might even share a few things that are best shared face-to-face, too...

I also just revamped the images section of this site, and I'll be uploading more heavily and more frequently now that I've got that sorted.

Thanks for reading y'all.

Glux

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    A little goes a long way (away).

    "Now, Weight Watchers perceives the problem as one involving the need to have as much Other around as possible, so that the relation is one of minimum Self to maximum Other. This is a valid, though, as I've seen by this afternoon, no means exclusive way to attack the problem."

    - Norman Bombardini in David Foster Wallace's The Broom of the System

    Never mind the Weight Watchers reference. This is not a blog about Weight Watchers, nor is it a blog about why David Foster Wallace used Weight Watchers as a Hegelian metaphor in his first novel. I don't have much to offer on either front. I sincerely hope you'll keep reading nonetheless, but I wouldn't blame you if you didn't.

    The point that Wallace's character, the repulsively gluttonous Norman Bombardini, is trying to make is that harmony in life comes from striking a balance between the lives we live inside ourselves, and the lives we live in objectively real physical environments filled with other people. (Bombardini takes this to the literal extreme by trying to become so fat that he'll no longer have to put up with other humans, but never mind that.)

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    Over the past week or two, as I settle into patterns and routines here in Berlin, I've been thinking a lot about balance, and how to strike it. I've found that moving to a new city is a chance to evaluate the balance you'd struck wherever you'd lived last, and really ask yourself, with clarity and objectivity, what was working for you and what wasn't. And then, all of a sudden, it becomes easier to see what a balanced life might look like in your new home and environment.

    I think the reason for this is that moving to a new city, especially one abroad, is an act of consciously unbalancing yourself. Deliberately nudging the pendulum to find a new equilibrium.

    I certainly feel like I've done that to myself, and I have to say, it's a good feeling. Back home in New York, I felt like I had achieved a sort of stasis: after getting my career going and generally figuring out how to be an adult human being with a job, I was coasting through my 20s with a relative ease and bonhomie that was not unlike sleepwalking. Don't get me wrong; it's where all of my best friends life, and where I'll someday return for the long haul. But as the weeks, months, seasons and years started to blur and blend together, the rhythm started to lull me to sleep, and I felt the need to wake up.

    And now I'm awake, and I feel unbalanced. For the moment, it's invigorating. A friend put it to me well this past weekend: as an expat in a foreign country, even the smallest, most rote tasks require just a little bit of extra effort to complete.

    There is a language barrier.

    The money is different. 

    Email etiquette is different, sometimes terrifyingly so.

    The stuff in the supermarket is different, and arranged differently.

    The announcements on public transportation are different (but also similar in their unintelligibility)

    And so on. Et cetera. Und so weiter.

    Don't even get me started on tasks that do take a lot of conscious effort, even back home. 

    Like signing an apartment lease, for example. I got through that one (woop) in German today, and good Lord. My new landlord was instructing me on the finer points of how a balcony will be affixed to the outside of my apartment building at some undefined time in 2018 for some undefined cost, and did I understand the implications of this and how it would impact me personally as a tenant, and was I prepared to sign this document of German legalese saying that yes I understood all implications and was comfortable with them, even those that are not yet known to aforementioned landlord or even the builders themselves of aforementioned balcony, and that in conclusion in summary alles ist in Ordnung. (I signed the document, because fuck it, I got the gist of what's going to happen, and ya boy needs a place to live, fam.)

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    Anyway, the point is that this little bit of extra effort that you have to put in on every last task goes a long way, when you're away from home.

    It reminds you of the value of a meal you cooked yourself, without having to negotiate pleasantries and payment auf Deutsch. It reminds you of the importance of keeping your eyes and ears open at all times when you're navigating the city, and of writing down that interesting bar, cafe, shop or restaurant you saw or heard about, because you'll want to find your way back to it at some point. And most importantly, the extra effort required for the smallest tasks as an expat reminds you of the importance of sleeping and exercise, and being generally sharp and well-rested whenever possible, because all the shit I listed above sucks tenfold when you're hungover.

    For now, I'll enjoy the fact that the challenge of living abroad is keeping me awake and present, and I'll keep working toward a balance of myself and my surroundings that feels right. And then, when it doesn't feel right anymore, I'll shake the snowglobe again.

    Fluctuations are aching my soul/
    Expectation is taking it's toll

     

     

    A light turns out and we are older.

    “When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” - Haruki Murakami

    Just finished the first book I've read on this adventure, Kafka on the Shore by the always excellent Haruki Murakami. A key theme the story explores is nostalgia: what role do our memories play in defining who we are as people? Are our memories really what we perceive them to be? Does time move in the linear way we think it does? And if we found out it didn't, how would that change the way we look at our past, present and future selves?

    Coming back to a city I used to live in, and have frequently been nostalgic for, has made me think about these questions a lot. Now that I've returned, I've been noticing how the city itself has changed, but I've also been keenly aware of how I've changed myself. It's a bit of a reciprocal loop, our selves and our surroundings: the former informs how we perceive the latter, and in turn, the latter slowly, deliberately, permanently changes the former. 

    One thing about this adventure I've realized is important: it has to be conscious experienced as a step forward into a new chapter of my life, and not as some return to a former reality that indulges nostalgia. There's no other choice, because even if I could go back to the Berlin I knew in 2012, exactly as I'd left it, I wouldn't want to go back to being the version of myself I was then. (Not that there was anything wrong with that guy.)

    But I'm older now, and I have different priorities. I have a job. I know the importance of balance. I know when to give myself a day off to recharge. I take better care of myself physically and mentally (most of the time). I have a different self-image, and I'm more comfortable in my own skin. I don't get FOMO much anymore. I've developed an appreciation for high-quality coffee, and for olives.

    So it's been that guy experiencing Berlin, not the guy who was here in 2012. And it's been great. Gotten started at my job, which has been challenging and rewarding so far. It's a huge change of pace: unlike the companies I've worked at previously, where everyone did exactly what I did (PR), and everything was very structured and organized, I'm the only full-time PR employee at this company, and I've got a piece of paper in front of me that is largely blank, except for the words at the top: "do PR". I've been working with my new colleagues to first define exactly what that means, and I think it's going to be a lot of fun when things really get moving.

    Outside of work, things are good too. I've been thinking a lot about how I can use this change of scenery to also make changes to my lifestyle, but it's a little hard to be in any kind of routine so far, especially since I'm still living in temporary housing. I'll admit I'm looking forward to having a place I can call my own, and to getting in a "groove" with work, life, and so on. (That's definitely another big change from the experience I was looking for here in 2012.) But that will come with time.

    But for the moment, I'm trying to enjoy going with the flow, and staying open to meeting all kinds of new people (which has been happening a lot). The past few days, I've been a little under the weather, which has been frustrating - I've had to control my urge to leave the house every chance I get, and give myself permission to lay low and recuperate. There's plenty of time to do everything I want to do here. Berlin isn't going anywhere, and neither am I.

    So for the moment, I'll enjoy the low-key afternoon I'm having in this excellent Prenzlauer Berg cafe called Kaffe. Later tonight, I might go catch Captain Fantastic at an open-air movie theater, the Freiluftkino Hasenheide.

    On deck for the week ahead:

    • Lots of Skype dates after work with 
    • Moving into a slightly more permanent housing situation (sublet for the month of June with my friend Jesse's girlfriend)
    • Hopefully confirming an apartment for the long-haul... I found the perfect place in Friedrichshain. Fingers crossed. 
    • Next weekend's a long weekend in Germany, and in Berlin, it's the Karneval der Kulturen (Carnival of Cultures, a fairly obvious translation). Party time.

    That's it for now. Here's a song I've been feeling lately. Lyrics inspired the title of this post.

    -Glux

    Reacquaintance.

    Alexanderplatz at sundown, May 2017

    Alexanderplatz at sundown, May 2017

    Officially back in Berlin for the long haul.

    I was a college student for my last real stint in this city, six months in 2012. Five long, consequential years have since passed, and aside from a handful of visits, my relationship with Berlin has been long-distance. I've been eager to catch up on what I've missed.

    On the flight over, I had my fair share of doubts, concerns and second thoughts. Just like that feeling you get right before you meet up with a friend (or an ex) you haven't seen in years, coming back to a city you once knew—or thought you knew, anyway—can be anxiety-inducing.

    Would I be able to navigate the subways, trams and buses as effortlessly as I used to? Will I recognize the street signs, the parks, the bridges over the river? Will the energy in the air feel the same? What about my old favorite döner shop, is that still there? Will the gritty rawness of the city that my younger self fell in love with still appeal to the present-day me?

    Once upon a time, June 2012

    Once upon a time, June 2012

    It's too soon to answer any of these definitively (even the one about the döner shop, still need to check...) but my first few days back in town have been encouraging, and left me with an impression of "yes".

    That's not to say I'm picking up right where I left off. The city has changed, and so have I. I don't have the U-Bahn map memorized the same way I used to, and my please-and-thank-yous auf Deutsch aren't rolling off the tongue with their former ease (brb, beer will help with that). And the city feels a little more clean-cut. Its rougher edges have at least been sanded down, even if they're still largely unpolished.

    And I'm hearing a lot more English on the streets than I used to. It used to be that Munich and Frankfurt were Germany's truly global cities (it's no coincidence that they're both in former West Germany), while post-DDR Berlin remained largely the preserve of the Berliners. That had already changed substantially when I was last here, but it's obvious that the rate of change has accelerated.

    Alright, so what have I actually been doing since I got here Tuesday morning? Honestly, nothing too terribly exciting. Getting a phone number, setting up a bank account, signing employment contracts, and so on. Getting your life set up as an expatriate is less than glamorous stuff, and especially in Germany, it all needs to happen in a certain order — it can't be done all at once. I won't bore you with the details.

    But I've gotten to reconnect with a few old friends along the way, which has been great, and today, I dropped by the offices of my new employer, GetYourGuide. Having conducted my entire interview process over Skype, I hadn't seen the workspace itself yet, ad it was satisfying to get a feel for the vibe of the company in person — I'll be spending a lot of time there, after all.

    It was an absolutely gorgeous day today, so after lunch, I headed for Neukölln, a neighborhood in the southeast of the city, to check out an outdoor spot I'd heard about called Klunkerkranich. This was 100% not a thing when I was last here, but man, am I happy it's a thing now. An indoor/outdoor, sun-dappled biergarten/chillout lounge on the roof of a parking garage next to a shopping mall, this is the sort of place that only Berlin could conjure up. It has to be seen to be believed, but here's a taste:

    Hard at work or hardly working at Klunkerkranich, May 2017

    Hard at work or hardly working at Klunkerkranich, May 2017

    I showed up around 2pm on a Thursday and it was already nearly full, with a hip-looking crowd basking in the May sunshine, drinking, smoking, listening to music and making what looked like halfhearted attempts at doing some work on their laptops. I can't blame them one bit, and I'll be spending a lot of time on that roof this summer myself, that is for sure. 

    Anyway, tomorrow marks the start of my first weekend in Berlin. I'm looking forward to reacquainting myself with the after-dark vibe here, when the wolves come out and the city transforms itself into a Matrix Reloaded-esque post-apocalyptic playground. More on that next time.

    Glux

    Path by the Landwehrkanal at sunset, May 2017

    Path by the Landwehrkanal at sunset, May 2017

    Preparing for takeoff.

    Hello world.

    Final preparations — Bethel, CT, May 2017

    Final preparations — Bethel, CT, May 2017

    Home at my parents' house in Connecticut for the weekend, getting ready for final departure to Berlin. Still familiarizing myself with all things Squarespace; bear with me as I figure out all the bells and whistles here. I'm already excited about the potential of this site — and I'm ready to get out there and start making memories to be captured here.