FYI: Friday Night Lights

It’s football season in Texas, and I’ve been watching Friday Night Lights to cope with the homesickness.

The plan was to have a burrito and some beer every Friday night until I finished the season, but that didn’t last. I work until 8pm on Fridays, and the first season was so good, I finished it in a matter of days.

I might start Season Four tonight, so expect a recap sometime around the playoffs.

Mauer Park


One of the reasons I tend to travel alone is that I prefer to discover places organically. I try not to carry guidebooks, and rarely do much pre-arrival research. Many, many people find this annoying; a few find it delightful, and I hold them dear to my heart. But right now, it’s me against the world, and the book Stasiland was pretty much the only preparation I had for my visit to Berlin.


When I got here, I emailed a friend of a friend as my only contact in Berlin, and mentioned that I was staying near Schönhauser Allee. She responded that my area was called Prenzlauer Berg and that I should check out the flea market in Mauer Park on Sundays. I did so, and it was like finding a little slice of Austin in Germany (imagine if Eeyore’s Birthday had a flea market – that’s Mauer Park on Sundays).


Since it was so close to the apartment I’m staying in, I also started jogging in Mauer Park. Two laps around Mauer Park and the adjacent sports complex equals a 5K. Four laps makes a 10k, which is where I needed to be. There is enough scenery to keep me interested, and a monster hill that has to be tackled on at least one of the laps.


While out jogging in Mauer Park, I also noticed a lot of graffiti. In fact, at the top of the hill, the entire wall on the backside of the soccer stadium was covered with a veritable gallery of spraypaint masterpieces, which were constantly refurbished before my very eyes.


Do you see where I’m going with this?


Graffiti is huge in Berlin, so you can’t assume that every wall covered in graffiti is THE wall. I’ve made that mistake before. But I knew the Berlin Wall once ran near my neighborhood, and I eventually downloaded an app that showed me the exact location overlaid with a current street map of Berlin… which included some of the surviving portions.


At this point, I was also watching a lot of movies about Berlin, and The Lives of Others includes a scene where someone listening to the radio at work hears that the wall has come down. He tells his co-workers. Of course, he doesn’t tell them in English. He tells them in German. And in German, it’s not called The Berlin Wall. It’s Die Berliner Mauer.


Mauer. Yep.


I am never going to admit how long that was rattling around in my brain before it all connected. Let’s just say it happened in time for me to appreciate jogging in the Death Strip of the Berlin Wall, and that’s soon enough. Now, here are some bonus photos of the East Side Gallery, which is not an actual gallery, but another remainder of the Berlin Wall.

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Ihr Standort

I went on something of a Texas-themed Twitter spree yesterday, retweeting news I had missed and catching up on a few articles. It’s some kind of homesickness, twice removed; this is day six in Berlin, after eight months in Ireland.

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and my personal favorite (there has to be a hipster-dissing joke in there somewhere):

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This probably isn’t making much sense; it certainly isn’t to me. I just have these weird disconnected thoughts that I’m having trouble expressing, partly because I’m in a place where I don’t speak the language (the funny thing is, there is probably a German bric-a-brac word that expresses exactly what I am feeling, like schadenfreude or weltschmerz).

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That’s one of my favorite quotes from any book ever; this one happens to be Stasiland by Anna Funder, which I read last time I lived in Galway, but am re-reading now that I am in (former East) Berlin. I’ve also been re-watching movies from the German Film class I took as an undergrad, all set in Berlin: Wings of Desire, M, Cabaret (not on the syllabus, but I had never seen it!), and I just remembered The Lives of Others. I tried to go out for a screening of Lola Rennt the other night, but got delayed and I would have missed the fantastic opening sequence, so that will have to wait until a later date.

Okay, got a little sidetracked by the Unaufmerksamkeit or the Zerstreuung (and, to be clear, I am getting out and seeing the city and not just reading books and watching movies about it), but what I wanted to say is that lately I have been thinking about this book a lot:


I’m not entirely sure why; I think it has to do with the Laurent Binet/Sheila Heti panel at Cúirt: Characterisation in the novel; how does an author fit into the story? I couldn’t go the sold-out event, but I did read HHhH in the weeks leading up to the festival… with an embarrassing lapse in reading comprehension toward the end that shows I might have been too swept up in the action to effectively register the author’s presence in the story:

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[I sure am getting the hang of these screen shots.]

Laurent Binet is still on my radar right now, so I’ve been reading some of his interviews and I keep thinking about Nothing Happened and Then It Did and a sense of place and when it’s okay for an author to lie to the reader. I read Nothing Happened a couple years ago during a vacation in Mexico with my mom and sister, and though I could probably do with a re-read to make sure, I think I’ll stand by my original assessment that it’s an important contribution to Texas literature. (Also, Billy Lee Brammer’s The Gay Place. That tour of LBJ’s Austin brought it up again, but that book should probably be required reading for all Texans.)

Okay, those are the disjointed thoughts of a Texan in Berlin who is avoiding work on her master’s thesis about Irish print culture.

Hey, at least I’m writing again.

Sugar’s Cabaret Invitational Long Ball Championship*


Another week, another big event happening in Austin. Meanwhile, it’s still cold in Ireland.

The Veronica Mars Movie Project is winding down its Kickstarter campaign on Friday, and Rob Thomas (the director, not the musician) is hosting a countdown party for backers at the Dog and Duck Pub. I’m a backer! I’ve been to the Dog and Duck! I like countdowns!

This is probably a case of “the grass is always greener in Ireland” or something like that. Last year, I made a big production about going to see a college friend’s band play a 1am show during SXSW (I believe I used the phrase “this crazy train is leaving town at 10pm”), but I was fast asleep on the couch by 9pm. C’est la vie, especially when you’re getting old.

So even if I were in Austin right now, I still might not be making it to all these great events. The Before Midnight premiere and the Veronica Mars Movie Project countdown party? Nah, I would much rather stay curled up at home with a good book and some cocoa.

That’s what I keep telling myself.

*The title of this post is one of many Austin references sprinkled throughout the series.

Time to grow up now, missy.

I’ve been pouting for three straight days because Before Midnight screened at SXSW on Saturday night and I couldn’t be there. To make matters worse, tonight, in about 30 minutes, my favorite Irish musician is playing an acoustic gig on campus, just across town, and I still can’t go. You know why? Because grad school is hard. I’ve got three weeks of class left, an exam and a paper due on Friday, and my internship is finally gearing up with a full day tomorrow. Not to mention the 462-page book I need to have read by Wednesday. I simply don’t have time to have fun. There are worse problems to have, I know, but I just need to have my little temper tantrum right now so I can sit down and do some work.

The plus side? I got permission to write about the Before Sunrise/Before Sunset films for my travel literature class. The angle I’ve chosen works without me having seen the third film, so I’ve just been watching the first two on iTunes and taking copious notes. When I finally do get to see Before Midnight, I will be so prepared and appreciative that it will have been worth the wait.

But being responsible really does suck.