As you read these words — yes, these words, and this one too (but not this one), but maybe this one also — I am in the United States of ‘Merica. Welcome home, me. My last days in Berlin were a bit of a whirlwind of bratwurst, beer, finals, and soccer — though not necessarily in that order — and I still can’t quite believe I’m sort of home. (I say “sort of” because I’m writing this on a train from Boston to New York and won’t be home home until Saturday night.) I mean, the waitress at Applebee’s last night brought me tap water with my ribs. Tap water! Crazy country. Side note to this story is that I was in Boston. On game 7 of the NBA championship. Between LA and Boston. Lakers won. I survived the carnage.
My trip back to the US was fairly uneventful. I flew from Berlin to Munich, sat in an airport for like a million hours, and then flew Munich to Boston. I sat next to a really nice Swedish girl on the plane who asked me for help on her customs form, at which point I had to admit those things confuse me as much as they did her, but then we ended up talking for the next couple hours of the flight. She’d never been to the US before, and was looking forward to going to seeing New York, but also really looking forward to going to Starbucks and Wal-Mart.
Congratulations, America, your greatest cultural experience is a store where you can buy 18 packs of men’s underwear for the cost of a visit to a doctor in Sweden.
I explained some of things besides Wal-Mart that I really like about America, and she sheepishly asked me how many states there were and what the “NH” in the address she was heading to meant. I answered and told her not to feel bad, considering all I knew about Sweden was that Stockholm’s really cool, Malmö is not Copenhagen, and the country sadly has less fjords than Norway. She told me she “should” know about the US, since all the movies she watches either take place or are made there. I didn’t know how to answer that one. Somehow I think it’s not important at all that she know how many states there are in the United States. Hell, I can’t name all of Canada’s providences, and the US has invaded Canada more times than is actually funny. I floundered around for a while trying to explain why New Hampshire just doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things and she told me I talked like a movie star (I was apparently the first American she’s ever talked to). Then she asked me if I called all my friends “dawgs.” I told her that I didn’t, but that I was making a conscious effort to do so more often.
Anyway (I’m on a train, there’s no time for segues here) I’m going to miss Berlin immensely. If that’s not clear after reading old entries on this blog, I’m not really sure what else I can say — I have no platitudinous summaries of my Europe trip. I’m going to leave this post instead with a collection of “alternative clubs” (or, in German, „alternative Klubs“) in Berlin I discovered this quarter. If my illustrious colleague from Alaska, who, I believe, has also once chronicled this collection, ever finds this, she can feel free to claim half credit. But only half. Maybe 40-60. We’ll negotiate something.
- Döner Klub: Schönhauser Allee. Mediocre food, mediocre music, really big speakers, and Turkish guys who dance (and ululate) while slicing your kebab.
- U-Bahn Klub: Uh, on the U-Bahn. Provided by drunk German teenagers and a boom box big enough to belong to an ’80s breakdancing troupe.
- Schuheladen Klub: Kottbusser Damm. Adidas and Akon. Pumas and P. Diddy. Etnies and Eminem. Okay, I’m done.
- Rollstuhl Klub: Schlesische Straße. Wheelchair + speakers + protestors = street party.
- Späti Klub: Warschauer Straße. Open late, sellin’ beer, and bumpin’ tunes till dawn.
- Bratwurstmann Klub: Roaming the streets of Berlin like a fabled legend. The club exits and train stations are full of mere mortal Bratwurstmänner — men who take to the midnight streets with a grill strapped to their chests and a bag full of bratwurst to cook for the masses that descend upon them — but one of these men is a lord among men, a god among mortals. He is Bratwurstmann Klub, and his grill is grandiose, his bratwurst beautiful, and his backpack-mounted speakers spectacular.
Okay, I know there are more than four. List will be updated as they occur to me.
EDIT: List now complete.