Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cancel Cancel Cancel Mayday!

Lame Disclaimer: Anything I type may be compromised owing to the influence and confluence and after-effects of traveling from Berlin to Frankfurt to Chicago to Syracuse, then staying up, too jazzed to sleep, resulting in 23 or so hours of uninterrupted wakefulness, give or take the odd feline quasi-nap on a jet, here or there.

The trip almost never happened. Why say that now? Because it has now happened, that's why. Two days before embarking, Spousal Unit was sitting by the computer and simultaneously shouting words into the phone, obviously talking to one of those voice-recognition-robot-fucko-dorko computers. This computer happened to be Brainiac Machine No. 5569032254 of United Airlines. SU was trying to arrange meals to accommodate a child (our child) and her own special dietary needs.

I had objected to her earlier attempt at this because: a) I was nervous it would somehow screw the whole itinerary up [move the word "up" up in the sentence]; b) I felt we truly did not need this special meal stuff, certainly not the McDonaldsization of our aloft dining experience.

Her shouting into the phone, repeatedly, triggered all my lower-nature hair-trigger impulses.

I walked by, wiseguy, and muttered, "Cancel trip."

"They heard it!" Spousal Unit shouted.

She hung up.

"You've got to talk to a real human."

"No kidding."

(I'm leaving out some of the more colorful adjectives and participles English employs for such lively dialogue.)

"What did they say?"

"It said, 'cancel trip,' and I hung up."


My hands were shaking with fear by now.

First lose a job and now this? Yikes, what is it? Do I have advanced Tourette's Syndrome? Or merely onset Kokonuts Kamikaze Malaise?

She reached a human.

Trip saved.

But I knew I couldn't relax until completing every leg of the trip. I had visions of an airline factotum looking up from his or her computer screen in Brussels or Nairobi or wherever, saying, in very broken English, "Monsieur le Kokonuts? We have, how do you say, no record of ze itinerary for ze Mr. Pawlie Kokonuts or anyone by zat name."

Oh, it's a long, strange trip, I'm on, all right.

Perhap, just perhaps, it's a sign of mental health that "cancel trip" became a humorous mantra while actually on the trip. Hey, we kid, we laugh! We're freakin' Laughorists!

(Once I felt at least sort of kind of certain that things were ironed out, after SU talked with the United Airlines Human Being de Customer Service, I texted her (Spousal Unit), declaring, "I'm an asshole." Hey, it's progress! But . . . [always the dangerous"but"] don't you think United Airlines' computer thingy should have better defaults? Hunh?)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Birthday Bash


And happy birthday [insert comma here that people tend to erroneously leave out] Johann Sebastian Bach!

(We had hoped to go to Leipzig, where he now rests, but too expensive. Did enjoy Potsdam yesterday. Apologies: Don't have the right stuff here to transfer photos. Enjoy the word images, such as they are.)

Young / And / Lost

On the cobblestoned sidewalk at the corner of graffiti-saturated Berlin's Boxhagener Strasse and Warschauer Strasse, stenciled or painted in white are these words separated by virgules, or slashes (punctuation marks meant to join, not separate, according to purists):


I saw these words in the midst of doing laundry (very confusing machines!), while also attempting to engage in some entrepreneurial commerce. Small world.

They gave me pause.

Do these words describe a band?

An anarchic political manifesto?

Satiric irony?

A cry for help?

A simple declaration of fact (for individuals, or en masse)?

A Good Friday sermon (pithy and pointed)?

Concrete poetry (hahahahahaha)?

In any event, I mused, what makes the young think they have a lock on being lost?

I'm myself am wandering, sometimes feeling lost.

But, to borrow a phrase I recall from the Book of Common Prayer:

May I find -- and be found.

You too.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Scenes From B-r-r-r-erlin

1. Snow then sun then clouds.

2. What appears to be a real U.S. Air Force B-52 (P-47?) "flying" (serving as sculpture) out of a new (office?) building, near a canal, not far from the Mockernbrucke (please add an umlaut over the "o" and over the "u") U-bahn. 

3. Demonstrators on Monday, St. Patrick's Day, on Warschauer Strasse, standing in the roadway, with banners for RS2 or something such entity. Turns out, methinks, these were not demonstrators at all, not street theater provos near Karl Marx Allee. No, paid young people serving as capitalistic hustlers for cheaper gas. At least I rather disappointingly concluded as much.

4. A man with a live rat on his shoulders while going up an S-bahn escalator -- or so  am told by my unsettled daughters.

5. Lots of auburn, red, and purple hair. Pawlie like.

6. Was that you, "August," sitting across from me on the U1 in Kreuzberg?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bombing Berlin (My Word!)

Words are strange creatures, aren't they? I recently read this New York Times article about Berlin's attraction as a graffiti capital, as a place where "bombing," or graffiti-spraypainting, thrives, altering the urban landscape.

Approximately seventy percent of Berlin's urban landscape was altered by a different brand of
bombing in World War II. You can still see pockmarked buildings as evidence, as well as the remains of the world-famous Kaiser Wilhelm Gedachtniskirche, not far from the Berlin Zoo and not far from KaDeWe, a luxury store ("it's da bomb!" in Eighties lingo), and not too far from the Opera, where a bad performance would bomb.

I have never gotten
bombed in Berlin, and hope and pray not to when I am there next week (or else my ruination would indeed be more than seventy percent).

What words are on your mind?

Give me

It is as hard to proffer just
one layered linguistic gem of a word as it is to eat just one cashew or one chocolate candy or one potato chip (or partake of just one of This Or That of a swarm of addictions, named and unnamed).

Give me one word of thy choosing , O Blogosphere! One word that ripples with ambiguity.

The pebble tossed into placid Lake Semantic.

Give me your one word.

This will be the easiest comment you ever posted.

Or the hardest.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Look Before You Leap

Yesterday, just after hearing the haunting and apocalyptic "A Day in the Life" by The Beatles on the radio, while approaching the crest of the roadway on the Tappan Zee Bridge (spelled wrong on an official New York State Thruway sign near Port Chester), with radiant Manhattan about 10 miles downriver to the left, I saw this sign, or its approximation, in the late-afternoon lambent light:


along the right railing, with a "life line" phone number to call.

I suspect the signs (I saw one Saturday, coming from the other direction) are an attempt to ward off suicides, or at least potential pedestrian suicidalists (presumably with cellphones, to call the help line). One would think drivers bent on the act would not need to wait until reaching the highest point of the bridge (a lovely bridge, if I may so). Well, come to think of it, why would anyone need to reach the highest point of the bridge before leaping? Certainly, it would not be necessary in terms of the efficacy of the leap. A leap even at the first locus over water seems plenty high enough to do the deed. (But, as you all know, "I Leap for Kierkegaard.")

I also wondered: why limit signs like this to dramatic venues and vistas such as the Tappan Zee Bridge or the famously suicide-prone Golden Gate Bridge, et cetera? Are there not landward temptations to self-extinction? Indeed there are. Perhaps LIFE IS WORTH LIVING signs should be posted just as pointedly at the entranceways to workplaces, government offices, retail stores, churches, homes, rocky cliffs, flat plains, and at the doors of your local Wal-Mart, Target, The Home Depot, or other big-box store. And who but my eponymous graffiti artist who goes by the tag of LIFE should paint these vivifying signs?

Before you get all fretful about my mental state, let me add these are not lugubrious musings. Far from it.

Life is worth living.

I see the signs everywhere.

(A parenthetical word on bridges. Pons is the Latin word for bridge. Pontifex, a word for pope, literally in Latin means "one who makes a bridge." So does this mean I have been pontificating? Or am I simply bridging the gap between the quotidian and the numinous [check out that etymology!]?)