Mandy Rennt

Yesterday started with a tour of the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz and ended with a 10K in Berlin. That’s 350 miles by train, plus another 6.2 on foot.

 *Not the actual train I took to Mainz.

The Gutenberg Express. *Not the actual train I took to Mainz.

The Mainz trip was a spontaneous, last-minute, and costly affair, but I felt like I had to go because of the print culture angle on my thesis. When I got back to Berlin, I had to scramble to prepare for the 10k, and not much went as planned. I showed up to the event 30 minutes late, my iPhone near-dead because I got so lost on the way there. Also, I was wearing my pajama bottoms because my regular running clothes were not done drip-drying and the laundromat I found on Google maps closed at 5pm, an hour before I got there.

 The starting line at the We Own the Night 10K Berlin.

The starting line at the We Own the Night 10K Berlin. I was too late for confetti, but the bubble machine was still running!

The biggest disappointment was my music selection. I really really really wanted to run a 10k in Berlin whilst listening to the Run Lola Run soundtrack. For the uninitiated, the 1998 German film Lola Rennt (Lola Runs) features a protagonist who, you guessed it, runs all over Berlin. The soundtrack is 73 minutes of heart-thumping techno (with a 3-minute bonus track on the English-language market version), which perfectly syncs with my average 10k time.

 Translates as: Slowpokes to the back, y'all.

Translates as: “Slowpokes to the back, y’all.”

I’ve never been very good with the music downloading, but this soundtrack was freaking impossible to get. I am technologically capable of buying songs from iTunes, but they only had an incomplete version in the British store, which wouldn’t even allow me to make a purchase. All the FreeMusikDownloadz! sites with their foreign language instructions and €30 membership fees scare the hell out of me. I even went to an actual CD store in a moment of desperation, but they didn’t have it.


Public domain image courtesy Wikipedia.

I guess it really didn’t matter in the end, because my iPhone was practically dead before the race even started. I wound up listening to nothing but the music of the German language chatter of my fellow runners, plus one American study abroad girl telling her friend: “He said certain songs make him think of me, and he gets really emotional, but in a good way.” Oh, honey… Needless to say, overhearing that conversation inspired me to drop it in gear and sprint a good ways down the course. Ain’t no motivation like running from your own past, even if you don’t have the accompanying soundtrack.

 I'm terrified to post images of Run Lola Run because the soundtrack is so locked down, but this screen grab of the title sequence is just too cool to pass up.

I’m terrified to post images of Run Lola Run because the soundtrack is so locked down, but this screen grab of the title sequence is just too cool to pass up. I really hope I don’t get sued.

I went and saw Lola Rennt last weekend at the Institut für Film und Videokunst arthaus cinema, and it was even better than I remembered. I had written an essay about Run Lola Run for my German film class 11 years ago, really obsessed with how Lola is the strong one in the romantic relationship, but this viewing was all “Mein Gott, I recognize the background in this scene!” A friend had just taken me to visit the Oberbaumbrücke a few days earlier, and when Lola turns a corner to confront the two columns of nuns, the sign post behind her indicates she had been running down the street where the Komische opera house is located.

The Oberbaumbrücke as seen from the East Side Gallery. The exterior is not featured in the film, but the walkway's distinctive ceiling can clearly be seen early in Lola's run. I walked through it on my tour of Berlin, but did not take a picture, because I am a dumbass.

The Oberbaumbrücke as seen from the East Side Gallery. The exterior is not featured in the film, but the walkway’s distinctive ceiling can clearly be seen early in Lola’s run. I walked through it on my tour of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, but did not take a picture of the interior, because I am a dumbass.

It would be really easy to get sucked into “Lola’s tour of Berlin,” and in fact that has happened to me three times already today (online, that is; it’s too rainy and cold to go walking around outside). From what I have been reading, there are certain geographical incongruities in the film, something that had occurred to me as I watched, even with my limited knowledge of Berlin. I get the same sense watching Richard Linklater’s Slacker, occasionally wondering if continuity from one Austin location to the next was actually possible. I suppose it really doesn’t matter; you can get the feel for a city without having to literally retrace the characters’ footsteps.

 The view of Berlin from the Oberbaumbrücke.

The view of Berlin from the Oberbaumbrücke.

One filming location I do think I am going to visit is The Bebelplatz, which serves as the exterior of the bank where Lola’s father works, but in reality was the site of the 1933 Nazi book burning ceremony. There is now an underground monument of empty bookcases commemorating the destroyed literature, as well as a plaque with a line from Heinrich Heine, which translates: “Where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people.” Apparently, there is also a book sale held there every May 10 to commemorate the event, which is a little sad because I was here in Berlin but didn’t know about it at the time.

 After that screening Lola Rennt last weekend, I finally remembered why I am obsessed with watching airplanes fly through Der Himmel über Berlin.

After that screening of Lola Rennt last weekend, I finally remembered why I am obsessed with watching airplanes fly through Der Himmel über Berlin.

Finally, as a side note: while browsing the bookshop at the Literaturhaus the other day, I  learned that Lola herself, Franka Potente, has a book of short stories, Zehn, which does not seem to be available in English. I really need to learn to read German.

Muttertag or: Under Toe

I tried taking pictures, but they were so mediocre. I guess every girl goes through a photography phase. You know, horses… taking pictures of your feet.

– Charlotte, Lost in Translation

Here is a picture of my foot.

Hello. Here’s a picture of my foot.

No, I am not auditioning for the female lead in the next Tarantino film. (Although… Quentin, you can give me a call if you like what you see.) I want to share the story of that little speck of green polish on my big toe nail.

For my Mom’s birthday in August, she and I drove to Galveston for an overnight stay. She blagged our way into a fancy hotel, I ran a 5k on the beach, and we got pedicures at a little walk-in nail shop. I was reading Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian at the time, so the story of that pedicure can be found in my book review over at Goodreads (this is not required reading, but it illustrates that I have written about this particular pedicure before).

Here is a photo of my Mom's feet. This is from the balcony of our room in Galveston, and is one of my all-time favorite photos.

Here is a photo of my Mom’s feet. This is from the balcony of our room in Galveston back in August of 2012, and is one of my all-time favorite photos.

The polish I chose for the pedicure in Galveston was called Mermaid’s Tears. I don’t know about you, but I usually base my lipstick/nailpolish/wallpaint decisions on the poetry of the name rather than actual appearance of the color. In fact, I wouldn’t mind a career in cosmetic nomenclature.

Anyway, because my toes have not seen the light of day the entire time I have been in Ireland, I have neglected to beautify my feet in any significant way beyond toenail trimming. I never used nail polish remover on my toes, and essentially let the Mermaid’s Tears grow out naturally. So when my Mom came to visit last month, that tiny speck of green still remained on one toe. All in all, it was a damn good pedicure.


Our feet at Barceloneta Beach.

While my mom was here, we visited Barcelona and its beautiful beaches. Even though the Mediterranean was still “a little frosty” (my sister’s words), we managed to dip our toes in for a moment. (Actually, it was more than a moment, and more than just a dip. Our shoes almost got swept away by a wave that came out of nowhere, and our pant legs got drenched. Also, my sister was there for a few of the “under toe” photos, but she ran away. Like a cat.)

Look, Mermaid's Tears!

Look, Mermaid’s Tears!

So now that I’ve seen my Mom again for the first time in eight months, and the weather is getting nicer, maybe it’s time for a new pedicure.

Especially after seeing these in the window at Brown Thomas Galway:

Hello, gorgeous.

Hello, gorgeous.

Happy Muttertag, Mom! Thanks for everything you do, for everyone around you!

Männertag or: Who’s Your Daddy?

There are a few little things in Germany that have been confusing me. I don’t understand why I can’t have waffles at Napoljonksa before 2pm, or why I can’t have asparagus at Café Anna Blume before 5pm. I also couldn’t figure out why the grocery store and all the print shops were closed today, and it was 3:30pm before I realized it was Father’s Day in Germany… and that’s only because I finally sat down and asked the Google machine.

On top of not being able to print my theatre ticket or find an empty seat at any of the sidewalk cafes on Kollwitzstrasse (which is a very hip street, I’ll have you know), St. George’s English-language bookshop was also closed, and I had made a special trip to find it. Ironically enough, Shakespeare and Sons (no relation to Shakespeare and Co.) was open, and happily took my money (pocket paperbacks of The Tiger’s Wife and Anna Funder’s novel All That I Am). While having coffee afterward, I made up a clever little mnemonic device about Shakespeare’s son’s name (damn it + Hamlet = Hamnet, sung to the tune of Dammit Janet) and him not letting Shakespeare have the day off on Männertag, but then I remembered that, sadly, Hamnet died very young.

Before I even understood what holiday it was, I had noticed a lot of fathers out with their children: an American father hustling his family across the tram tracks on Prenzlauer Allee while the green man was still glowing; a family playing ping pong in the park, when little brother with a broken left arm used his right to slam a cross-court shot directly into his sister’s forehead, she shouted something that sounded vaguely like “Don’t touch with me!” (which is nonsensical and also not German), and Dad’s instinct was to go after the rebound before he realized that he had to mediate; a young father who shared a laugh with me when his three- or four-year-old son found out the hard way what happens when you run through a puddle that is bigger than you are.

Then, after a long day, I got back to the flat and checked my email. Rob Thomas sent out update number 4,792 about the Veronica Mars Movie Kickstarter Project, and it’s just to confirm that, yes, Enrico Colantoni is back to reprise his role as possibly the best father in television history (seriously, I don’t think the movie could be made with out him). Keith Mars for Sheriff! (I’m still wondering about Wallace. We need Wallace. Veronica needs Wallace.)

So that sums up today’s adventures in Berlin. Happy Männertag to all the dads out there, especially mine. By the way… Daddy, if you open a private investigator’s office anytime soon, I will totally come answer the phones for you. And make coffee.


Date a girl who reads…

I’ve been doing a lot of online sleuthing lately for school and internships, but sometimes (okay, a lot of the times) I get swept up in the moment and blur the line between sleuthing and stalking. Over the past few days I’ve found some stuff on the internet that I was probably better off not seeing – an engagement photo here, the name of an expected baby there – and it’s all the type of news that makes you feel like you’ve been punched in the ovaries. It doesn’t help that everyone in Berlin is pregnant.

It’s not that I envy their lives; I envy their happiness. I don’t want marriage, motherhood, or a mortgage anytime soon, but the fact that these people do want those things and they are getting them makes me wonder why the hell I can’t have the things I want. My demands are small: a good job in a meaningful field. Maybe some money to travel. And I’d like to stop wearing thrift shop clothes, if for no other reason than there is a song about it now.

To feel better about my life choices, I went looking for this quote that has been falsely attributed to Robert Pattinson (guilty). It’s actually credited to blogger Rosemarie Urquico. The quote in its entirety (which, oddly enough, disses Twilight) just keeps getting better, except for the part about the lying… I’m not okay with the lying. Never okay with the lying. But I need this right now, so I’m posting it here, with the hope that it will remind the superfly specimen of manhood who has stuck by me through all this craziness that someday, it will be worth it.

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag.She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.

Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent.  Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilightseries.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

– Rosemarie Urquico

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.

Picture 1

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

Picture 2

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).

Picture 3

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:

Picture 4

Picture 5

[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.


ROPES launched last night:

 Me, begging someone to buy our book, with two of our poets standing nearby.

Me, begging someone to buy our book, with two of our poets standing nearby.

The book is available online at WordPress and Facebook… and now at the Charlie Byrne’s pop-up shop in the Town Hall Theatre!

 On the shelves at the Charlie Byrne's Cúirt Bookshop.

On the shelves at the Charlie Byrne’s Cúirt Bookshop. Once the festival is over, we should be stocked in most Galway bookstores.

When the launch ended, we might have continued with something of an after party, where I got to experience a Galway tradition I’ve never tried before…. What happens at the Spanish Arch stays at the Spanish Arch, but of course there are photos:

Winos at the Spanish Arch, a Galway rite of passage.

Winos at the Spanish Arch, a Galway rite of passage. We have a similar ritual in Texas, only it involves pastures, tailgates, and Boone’s Farm.

Today’s Adventures in Cúirt

Remember how I have a conflicting love for books and trees? Well, Cúirt found a way to ease the guilt of buying so many books… by planting trees! The Author Tree Planting in Terryland Forest Park is meant to offset the festival’s carbon footprint and maybe make us all feel a little bit better about the way books are made.

Author and musician Maidhc Danín Ò Sè, Poet Michael Longley, and Galway City Arts Officer James Harrold plant a tree.

Author and musician Maidhc Danín Ò Sè, Poet Michael Longley, and Galway City Arts Officer James Harrold plant a tree.

It was raining, so the event was sparsely attended, but I got a giggle out of it when Maidhc Danín Ò Sè greeted me as Gaeilge, paused for a beat, then asked “Where are you from?”


“Ah, Texas. I was thinking you were a bit slow with the Irish.”