I'm A Legal Alien Now

Thursday, November 30, 2006

As frustrating as it is...

... to be going through the shit of finding somewhere new to live, I am certainly not going to miss the spontaneous piano recitals when I go to bed and/or sudden, unexplained house guests sleeping on the sofa.

Tonight's a double whammy.

Das Gummi Bears

Am still technically homeless as of Saturday, though will be moving into C's basement which is very kind of her. I looked at a place tonight which I would've signed for on the spot if it were a few blocks closer to work.

Plus I would've been living with a bunch of hot buff Latino guys which whilst would have a novelty factor for a while, may just end up making me feel whiter and fatter.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Berlin: A Pictorial Report, Part Zwei

The three of us accidentally overslept until 10.30 on Saturday morning which was a bit of a kicker but we managed to eat our muesli (after I took a rather spectacular fall in their bathroom and grazed my arm but sadly didn't get a huge bruise to show off on my thigh- they have a very Northern European shower which means you have to mop the floor after every use) and trundle off to Potsdam on the S-Bahn. Potsdam is the capital of Brandenburg, which surrounds Berlin which is a city-state in itself. It's also a UNESCO world heritage area. The area is also pretty darn bankrupt, funnily enough. We bought some salami and things from a supermarket (NETTO makes you wanna play the game NETTO makes you wanna pash the blokes, oh what a name, oh what a game, NETTO). Central Potsdam is actually a bit ugly, it was heavily bombed in the war probably like most of this part of the world, and the Soviets didn't waste any time in exploiting the wonders of concrete in architecture. It still felt so wonderfully European though- the tram lines and the cobblestones and smoking and things.

The moneyshot of Potsdam is Park Sanssouci (sans souci = without worry in French)- a huge park dotted with palaces and things. Unfortunately it being winter all the fountains were off and the statues were in their little wood shacks so they didn't freeze/get frost damage.

Schloss Sanssouci (schloss= castle in German and I loved saying it and putting it into different English tenses) was built by one of the Friedrich's as a pleasure place for him and his most intimate (male) friends to talk about philosophy and music. He was the one who wrote flute sonatas and hired CPE Bach as his court composer and Voltaire was a friend. It sits atop this series of terraces covered in vines. Unfortunately at this time of the year it was a bit unattractive because all the vines were bare for winter. It was open for tours only, so we ended up on a tour with a very lovely tour guide. She did the tour entirely in German but you could tell she was really good- and according to Sam & Leonie she was. I got an English transcription sheet. The funniest thing was though we all had to wear these dorky slippers to protect the floors so everyone had to shuffle and slide along. It was all a bit spectacular really, but not easy to describe. Very rococco.

The rest of the afternoon, in rapidly dwindling light, was spent hiking around Park Sanssouci. We didn't go into the bigger, more formal palace the Neues Palais and the Orangerie-

-and Chinese Teahouse are only open in summer. It gets dark so quickly. It was overcast, so it felt like twilight was rolling in at around 3.30pm.

January must be unbelievably depressing. We also saw the recently renovated Belvedere in the park, and the second photo is a very dark Neues Palais at around 4.15 in the afternoon!

By this point out feet were beginning to steam so we headed back to Potsdam Hauptbanhof (another thing I loved to say regularly). We were hoping the famous Potsdam Christmas Markets were open but they weren't. There was however a gluhwein store open so I had my first taste of gluhwein- mulled red wine. This is something I didn't think I'd like much, but it was great. Full of cinnamon and orange and nutmeg. Back in Berlin, we went out to a Thai restaurant in what I think was Prenzlauer Berg, a very hip former DDR district close to Sam and Leonie. We were gluttons for physical punishment so then we had the great idea to go to the Reichstag (the lower house of German government).

The original Reichstag building is a typical, grandiose, somewhat squat late 19th Century affair but then in the late 90s Sir Norman Foster put this amazing glass dome in the middle of it. You go up to the roof, which is all open, and can walk around for some spectacular views then a ramp spirals up to the top of the dome, which is open to the sky in fair weather. There are two interlocking ramps- one up, one down. In the middle of the dome is this inverted cone sort of thing covered in mirrors which points down to the Bundestag, which is the government chamber and is entirely visible to the public. It looks like it was furnished by Ikea. One of the best things about all the new Federal buildings in this part of Berlin, asides from being some brilliant modern architecture, is that they earnestly believe that people should be able to see their government at work so they have great big walls of glass looking in to committee rooms and things. Anyway, the Reichstag is absolutely sensational and may be the highlight of the trip for me. Quirky fact- Hitler never stepped foot in the building! A little Brandenburg Tor moment from the top of the Reichstag:

On Sunday morning Leonie's choir was singing in a church service so we went to that. Unfortunately this was the exact point my jet lag hit me the worse and I spent much of the sermon frozen in terror that I was going to fall asleep. I was surprised how easy it was to sing along in German with the hymns. The pastor mentioned 'Charlie Chaplin' in his sermon and 'der smalltalk' which Sam later told me has negative connotations in German. Leonie's choir was great, but it was a very long service not to understand a word of it. Brunch in Prenzlauer Berg followed before an excursion out to Checkpoint Charlie. Charlie was a bit hideous touristy and I couldn't really enjoy the historical aspect of it.

What followed next got a bit silly as I really wanted to get William something very particular for his birthday so we ended up shuttling around Berlin looking for one, including at the famous flea market in the Tiergarten (which includes a stall full of doorknobs and another full of chandeliar parts and boxes full of old photos) and Alexanderplatz. We passed through Friedrichstrasse S-Bahnhof seemingly hundreds of times as we criss-crossed the city. We were also looking for an open Christmas market to no avail, and at one point checked to see if Berlin's most prestigious, the Gendarmerieplatz, was open. They were all opening the day I was to leave!

Happily though we had one more market left to try- the one neat the Staatsoper Unter den Linden (which for convienance I shall call the Operaplatz though I am entirely making that up). Unlike the first time we went to the Unter den Linden at night, all the linden trees, though leaf-less, were decorated with hanging lights and it was unbearably pretty. It was also a nice place to be with friends.

The Operaplatz Markt wasn't entirely open but was open enough so I was thrilled. It was like stepping into a Faller catalogue (the model train people). All these kitschy but nice stores selling Christmas decorations. More gluhwein and chocolate dipped fruit on sticks and these deep fried sugary dough balls and all in all it was completely wonderful.
Ridiculously cheap pizza that night plus more half litres of beer. They do love their beer in Germany. Beer and recycling. I've never seen a city so dedicated to recycling. All the public trash cans (ABFALL!) have several different sections and a number of times I'd be holding something in my hand studying the bins trying to work out which category it fell under. Germans are sticklers for rules. They don't even jaywalk!

Touching farewell scenes as Sam headed off to work and Leonie and I headed to their local version of the 'dro, the Gesundenbrunnen which I've told them they have to call the 'bru from now on. Picked up all my lebekuchen bags (couldn't pronounce it so just called them Bags of Goodness) before heading back out to Tegel. After a slightly terrifying check-in by someone who most likely used to work for the Stasi (DDR secret police) I was soon on my way onboard Deltaflot 79 to New York JFK. The video screen was broken for the first three hours but just as I was about to start gnawing at my fist in boredom they managed to fix it and I was able to enjoy the cinematic delights that are My Super Ex-Girlfriend (expectedly crap) and Ricky Bobby: Talladega Nights (surprisingly crap). Amusingly, the only people who thought I was German during the entire trip were the Deltaflot flight attendants who not only spoke to me in German, but also gave me all the customs and immigration forms in German. This is more evidence that Americans are confounded by any accent they don't recognise.

8 and a half hours later, into JFK where Immigration and Customs were surprisingly painless (one of the perks of my class of visa I suppose). Hiked to Terminal 2 which is a shithole on par with Charles de Shithole Terminal 2D. It was so crowded and foul and they would board multiple flights through the same gate to there was the scrum of people. Expedia had warned me that DL6023 was only ever on time 20% of the time and sure enough we spent an hour in a queue to take off at JFK. Fortunately though it's such a quick flight down to Baltimore that we were only half and hour late and even better the train to DC was arriving at just the right time so I was home by 8.30pm.

*Das Ende*

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Berlin: A Pictorial Report, Part Ein.

It seems whenever I fly out of DC the weather turns horrid. This was the coldest I've been since I got here (today, by comparison, is positively balmy). Very weird for last week of Fall. After all the dire predictions of chaos at the airports because of Thanksgiving, I got to Dulles very early and it was totally deserted. Straight through check in and straight through security. Got yelled at by the TSA for leaving my scarf on. I don't think they thought I spoke English. Possibly because I was flying Air France. Anyway, Dulles is a major international airport yet they don't have a bureau de change open at 7pm which was a bit irritating as it meant I had no Euros. Didn't sleep much on the flight over, but it was fantastic to get to work the French and having the perfect French flight attendants dropping 'monsieurs' all over the shop. Seriously, I was swooning. It was a little embarrassing.

Changed money entirely in French, so this was quite pleasing. Hiked into Belgium for Terminal 2D at Charles de Shithole which was undergoing renovations and as such was woefully short on amenities that are considered fairly standard for a major airport such as seating and toilets (two, I counted, for the entire terminal) and was badly overheated so I was a bit tired and grumpy. Anyway, eventually boarded flight to Berlin where I promptly fell asleep. Slight drama as we came into land when the crew couldn't wake an old man up (I think he had some sort of diabetic moment because they were giving him orange juice). Found Leonie in the airport and we had a bit of a tram adventure to their ex-Soviet apartment in former East Berlin (were the wall still up, it would be across the street). It's surrounded by train lines and under Tegel's flight path but the metre thick concrete walls mean you don't hear anything.

I was going to try and POWER-THROUGH (a bit of a catchphrase for the week) but by about 5 it felt like my face was falling off and not helped by the fact it gets dark at about 4.15 in this part of the world in late November. So I slept for an hour and it was lucky Sam got home from work when he did as otherwise I probably wouldn't have got off the sofa. Wurst for dinner! Then a bit of an evening stroll- we ended up going down the Unter den Linden (Berlin's Champs Elysees I suppose) to the Brandenburg Gate-

(I'm still no good at the night feature on my camera as I can't hold still enough but you get the idea)

- past the wonderfully pompous-Soviet architecture Russian Embassy. Strangely, the place was entirely devoid of tourists (the weather perhaps?). The museums in Berlin are free on Thursday night, so we went to the Altesgallerie, or Old Gallery, which has German Romantic Art and the Impressionists. Berlin is a very dark city at night, but they flood their historic buildings with lights so it makes them seem even more dramatic and beautiful. What is most extraordinary however is that many of them still have bullet holes in their stone facades.

Dragged myself from bed at 9am. Leonie had a half day at work so we planned to meet at DITSCH in Friedrichstrasse Bahn at 2pm. Toddled off the Pergamon, which I suppose is Berlin's answer to the British Museum (also on Museum Island). It has a pretty impressive collection of Hellenic, Roman and Assyrian bits and pieces including this complete shrine in the foyer which is massive. In the Islamic Art section I got told off by a museum guard in German but I'm not entirely sure what I was doing. I was sitting on a bench, so perhaps it wasn't a bench after all, but I think I've been in enough museums to be able to separate the exhibits from the fixtures. He was quite pleasant about it, but it soured me a bit anyway. I was going to go to the Altesmuseum for their Egyptian stuff, but instead just sat outside the Pergamon (it was quite sunny and beautiful- the only sunny day I had really) for a bit. Looking at the scene in the Lustgarten outside the Berliner Dom (cathedral) with the 70s TV Tower in the background. There was a sensational accordionist. I don't usually go for piano accordion at all but this was absolutely gorgeous.

I had to walk back up the Unter den Linden to meet Leonie, so on the way I stopped at the German History Museum. I only looked at their 20th Century rooms but by golly they were sensational. The genocide bits were done very tastefully and were very sad, and the stuff about the divison was brilliant. They had a sweat rag there- when the DDR (East) were suspicious of someone they discreetly collected a smell sample from a chair or something and stored it so their Alsatians could track someone down if needs be.

Found Leonie. Success! Bought a crepe entirely in German which made me boast I was fluent for the rest of the trip. We went to Potsdamer Platz which is where I found my new overnight bag in Mandarina Duck. Headed over to Tiergarten which wasn't that interesting (despite the Outdoor Gaslights Museum! who would've thought?!). Didn't see much of the Tiergarten, saw a bit of the famous zoo for free over a wall then by this time Sam was knocking off so we were able to meet him nearby. This area of Berlin is probably the most 'downtown' like neighbourhood of this very fragmented city. We began our pursuit of a Christmas Market in earnest at this point, but the only one nearby didn't open until Monday (a recurring theme, it would turn out).

In this area there is a church that is quite stunning that was left as it was after the war so it's more of a shell than a church, then they built the 'new' church next door which is essentially a hexagon of glass.

We popped into KaDeWee (Berlin's Harrods) which was fantastic and, brace yourself, we saw the Prince and Princess of Prussia. I know! I practically wet myself too! Sam and Leonie bought their first Christmas decoration as a married couple which was a bit sweet and I think I caught diabetes from the moment. Astute readers may recall a question on the 2000 QCS test which featured the following item from Berlin. 1 Point if you know what it is, 20 points if you can work out what it's saying.

We had a sensational schnitzel dinner at Berlin's smallest brewery, which presented me with another opportunity to marvel how German can make even the tastiest foods sound disgusting in language. One of Leonie's workmates was having a birthday celebration in this tiny bar in a very trendy area of the former East. Had a great time in this atmospheric smoky (god I love Europe- even the indoor haze caused by dozens of cigarettes doesn't bother me) bar with a foosball table. Sam and I played four games progressing from a convincing win to a humilating loss.

Part Zwei to follow!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Safe and sound.

Home safe and sound and pictorial report is pending. Had a sensational time, obviously.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Auf weidersehn

Why is that whenever I'm destined to board an aircraft the weather in DC turns to shit?

Howling winds, driving rain and when I was walking out of work (at 2pm hee hee hee) it was the coldest I've been in my entire life and I was wearing gloves and an overcoat and a scarf. Purchasing of proper January wear just shot up my list of priorities.

So tonight I'm off to Berlin for a few days. Have to pack yet. Not really sinking in that I'm going away at all. The airport is going to be unmitigated hell tonight as it's the busiest night in the US for flying as it's Thanksgiving tomorrow (such a nice holiday and I'm a bit sad to be missing my first one). I've been so busy looking for somewhere to live I haven't had any of the usual going-overseas build up I'm used to. I'm probably going to forget my passport or something.

At any rate, mit schlag and I'll post a pictorial report when I get back.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Walking Tour

Do you know who I could quite happily never see again, ever?

Oh yes, I went there.

I never thought I'd tire of the man who brought me The Office. But as I otherwise enjoyed For Your Consideration on the weekend up until when he appeared onscreen I realised that my love had grown to disdain as I realised Mr Gervais had the one and only character in his repertoire even when in animated form as displayed on The Simpsons episode he rather terribly co-wrote (though let's face it, it's been some time since a Simpsons episode even approached the excellence of Marge's pretzel business episode, which I decided on the weekend was one of my favourites ever).

In other news this evening I made a little walking tour (suitably rugged up in coat and gloves and scarf) of three possible housing options. Two were quite suitable but, room-mate issues aside, they've made me realise that the deal I've had hasn't been bad value for money. That said, it is still too much of my salary so... yeah. The two I'm most interested in were a bit daggy but both had superb locations. Anyway, we'll see what goes down.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Waa, Waa, Waa

I am very depressed right now. I didn't get the Big Gay House. It's yet another Friday night at home and to increase the pathos level I'm wearing my Peter Alexander red car pj pants. I'm in a foreign city with no friends (well, work friends, but I want some non-work friends too). Next week I'm going to Berlin and I should be excited but all I can think of is that I need to find somewhere to live. If I'm still homeless when I'm there I'm not going to be able to relax.

At work this afternoon when I found that BGH was not to be mine, Xena asked very kindly (not patronisingly, which is how it may read) if I was going to cry. I said no- obviously it was disappointing but not worth a sob. Then I saw the basement apartment Golden Boy had told me about and almost did when I realised what was almost mine for only $900/mo compared to what I was currently looking at for $1150/mo (unfurnished). Dark, airless, lino floors and wires taped to the walls. And a dryer in the middle of the kitchen. (not on a wall. on the floor. in the middle).

It's all Just Too Hard at the moment but nothing is going to magically make it better so I just need to soldier on and it will resolve itself.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

God, I love this woman

I don't want to distract from the soap opera that was my previous post, but this was such a wonderful discovery on YouTube and pretty much reaffirms my undying love for Cecilia Bartoli.


Whilst I was a bit stroppy at Roomie for deciding not to extend my lease, I know the strop was more my fault than his because he was completely within his rights- he gave me several weeks notice AND he'd never really adjusted to the fact that I was living here as a paying tenant, not as a guest so I think that was awkward for him (was for me!). So although I was annoyed, I tried to keep it from him because it really wan't his fault by any means.

However things are quickly turning sour:

1. I have a strong suspicion he's about to lease the room, not, as he claimed, that he wanted the guestroom back for use over Christmas. I came home tonight and he was working on his laptop doing what appeared to be an ad for the leasing of the room. I realise this is a loose suspicion based upon a glance of a screen but it immediately made me a bit hmmmmmmmmm (again, in retrospect, me leaving is a good thing and he is my landlord who can make these decisions but I do not want to be lied to).

2. I'd rather carelessly left a shopping bag downstairs on the dining room table (which, btw, is never used) which tonight was had rather pointedly been put on my bed. Admittedly I'd left it there out of spite to remind them that I still lived here and although I have never left anything outside my room I do actually pay to live here (and it might be nice to see if I've gone to bed before a spontaneous piano recital at 10:30pm). It was a bit perverted I suppose. It may be as innocent as the Boyfriend needs the dining room table to install what appears to be a home office (see, it really is a good thing in the long run that I'm leaving).

3. I get in to my room, musing these developments, when I discover that my floor has been cleared. There were some jeans and a sweater and my boxers which someone (iew, btw) had thrown in the dirty clothes basket and the throw pillows had been put back on the bed. Seriously, wtf?

I am in two minds on whether to talk to Roomie about this. Part of me worries that an indiscreet comment I made about the Boyfriend to someone will come back and bite me in the ass and thus I will instantly lose any moral high ground and anything, no matter how genuine or reasonable, I say will instantly be screwed. Also, why bother? Any luck I'm on my last days here anyway so why make them even more uncomfortable than they already are?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Le Montage

I know I'm behind the 8-ball here, but if you haven't seen Le Montage yet, you really ought.

Also, next weekend I'm probably going to have an Ikea adventure since I'm probably going to rent somewhere unfurnished. It feels like cheating going without Anne, especially since I'll be buying bed linen.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Am having quite a panic about money. I was feeling so comfortable with my financial situation until this whole having-to-move thing reared its head. I wouldn't have booked Berlin, as depressing as that would have been, had I known I would need enough money to be able to put down a security deposit on a new place + 1 month's rent.

Mum has already said she'll send the money but that doesn't feel right and if my Berlin ticket was refundable I'd do that.

Anyway, it's one of those things that really shouldn't be worrying me now because I don't know how much is involved. I'll get a pay next week, some of which will be going to U Street Rent depending on when I'm leaving here, and the rest will be spending money for Berlin. I'll then get another pay two days after I get back from Berlin. I could perhaps delay moving into the new place until after Berlin- and use most of my late Nov pay check to cover it. I also have about ten hours of overtime to be paid next week. This weekend is going to be deadly dull as I'm going to try and minimise my fiscal outlay as much as possible (I'm already back on the frozen meals bandwagon). Hmph. Stupid Roomie.


As an adjunct to the diplomatic community I officially have no opinions on the following image:


Likewise I have no opinion on the Democrats taking the House, and possibly going to take the Senate.


I went and saw the Loft today. Sensational location and would be a fantastic apartment on a higher floor with nicer furniture. Of course, ironically, then it would probably be out of my price range. Roomie would've been amazingly hot though.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Homeless, Again

Roomie has decided not to extend my original four month lease. I realise that he is entirely within his rights but still- sigh. Largely because of the inconvienance of it all and I've just spent far too much money on booking Berlin and associated accessories to be able to put up a security deposit. I'm also probably going to have to spring for a wireless card too, which is like $120.

Good news is I now have the luxury of time, the luxury of knowing the neighbourhoods of DC and the luxury of having a cellphone (seriously, not having one was a huge problem last time round).

Even though I have a few weeks I like to feel that I'm moving forward so am checking out two places already this week. On Wednesday I'm seeing some amazing uber-sleek loft in Contempto style in Adams Morgan which would be a share with two other guys. I don't think I have my own bathroom, but it's an incredible neighbourhood and a slick place so I may just deal. It's a longer walk to work, and there is a hill involved, but I could always use the exercise.

On Thursday I'm seeing a furnished master bedroom with bathroom only a block from work. I'm not sure how I feel about living so close to work, and it's a pretty soulless area. But, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

This has all been rather depressing, so to cheer us all up a photo of a woman I think is absolutely, and always has been, stunning in every aspect(I know this photo was recently featured on Go Fug, but it deserves endless praise anyway):

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Random 'hood Photos

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Friday's my last day...

...but Monday's my first. I got the two year contract. So hurrah!

And I'm going to Berlin.

And I've subscribed to The New Yorker.