Disc golf in Berlin, circa 2010

Late October looking for somewhere to throw disc in Volkspark Rehberge, where I’d heard there was a course but couldn’t find anything. Eventually I found two practice holes about 100m apart from each other. It made a good course in itself if you didn’t mind throwing back and forth. At one point I ventured toward the corner of the park and launched the disc from a mound in which some kind of plaque was planted, a trio of old men on a nearby bench staring as if to say “was zum Teufel macht er da?” Our subsequent walk up the ridge followed a path to a beautiful fountain — a monument to the founders of Volkspark Rehberge.

Beyond that there was a slope that — had it been part of a course — would have surely been considered among the most beautiful fairways in European disc golf. Sadly, there was no pin in sight.

But with a green like that, who needs an actual basket?

Bright and stormy

After hijacking my own blog with some civic discussions and brief peeks into how money controls even the smallest governmental bodies here in America, I wanted to get back to my roots and look at a few photographs Jennifer took on a recent trip to Boston and Providence.

Statue in downtown Boston. In the first one it looks like the lady is crying out in pain at the bird pooping in her eye socket, or maybe even tilting her head back in an orgiastic gasp of pleasure. The next one looks like Statue’s been caught reveling in the streams of bird shit and has gotten all defensive about the intrusion of privacy. But after a moment I realized it’s probably two different statues, because how could a statue lower its head, change its expression and maybe even switch its gender?

Bikers in Boston Common. Yesterday I saw a biker on 43rd in Kansas City near Brainblow Blvd. almost get run off the road by an aggressive lane-switching car. Shit like that makes me want to start a biker vigilante campaign — follow people like that driver home and, I don’t know, talk to them about safe driving + sharing the road. It’s a slow process but I think the more bikers you see on the road the more drivers will learn to live with it and even think about taking part themselves. In the meantime, honk if you’re an asshole.

A nice image from our hurricane party at the Hollenbecks’ in Providence, Rhode Island, the night Irene blew through town in its weakened but still blustery state. Providence was spared damage beyond a lot of downed limbs and power lines, but our power went out at 9 that morning and for a while sitting in bed listening to the gusts of wind looking out the window at the bending trees and swinging power lines there was a brief sense of oh man here it comes. The night before I sat at the computer and listened to this song and earlier that day Brian and his friends in the Fox Point Rounders finished their bluegrass set in a flurry with a rousing rendition of “Goodnight Irene” while people scattered from the farmer’s market to avoid the sudden downpour. We drank a lot of dark ‘n’ stormies over the weekend, which is dark rum and Gosling’s ginger beer garnished with lime. And we lit a lot of candles. As a wise hurricane survivor once said: You never know how many candles you have until a hurricane hits and you start looking in closets and drawers and find out you have a lot candles.

The rest of the photos Jenn took in Boston and Providence are here. Stop back next week for more fresh material here on the modern day lucubrations.

“Tu mesma és tua vida”

Don’t try to build in the space you suppose
Is future, Lydia, and don’t promise yourself
Tomorrow. Quit hoping and be who you are
Today. You alone are your life.
Don’t plot your destiny, for you are not future.
Between the cup you empty and the same cup
Refilled, who knows whether your fortune
Won’t interpose the abyss?

Poem by Ricardo Reis (Fernando Pessoa) from the collection “A Little Larger Than The Universe,” which I read in one sitting in a garden that I can’t recall the name of and can no longer find on the map. All I remember is a pond, some trees and a lot of large geese walking by my bench. I took the picture at the Carmo Convent ruins in Lisbon, which was destroyed by the great earthquake of 1755 and only partially rebuilt, creating an unusually intact complex of ruins. I’m not sure who Lydia is but I felt like Mr. Reis was speaking to me. I was facing another round of goodbyes and didn’t see any point in pretending there would always be another hang with friends whenever I liked; a wedding or reunion that would magically take place once everyone got caught up or settled in. Wait around too long and you’ll wind up as withered as the Peruvian mummy in the Carmo Convent museum. She’s a beaut, all right, but no one I’d trade places with.

Dreams of public transit, part 32

The other night I was riding on a tram somewhere in Greece, and I was just about to fall asleep when I looked behind me and saw a lady checking tickets. The other passengers held out their tickets and IDs but she didn’t even look at them, just walked by each person nodding and smiling. When she got to me I pulled out a pile of expired tickets and she said something I didn’t understand. Just then we pulled up to the next stop and she asked if I would like to step out to get some coffee. I couldn’t tell if I was being fined or not, but I went along anyway. She linked arms with me and we walked to an ice cream parlor (instead of a coffee shop, as initially suggested). I told her it was my treat and we spent a good half hour deciding what to get from the hundreds of unlabeled flavors presented in the glass case. I asked if she always went out for ice cream with fare jumpers and she said she only stopped passengers on trams that were headed to the airport, or to the sea. She mentioned going to the theater next but by that point I was concerned I would be missed at home. When I told her I had to leave she didn’t like it, but there was nothing she could do — I’d purchased my freedom with the price of the ice cream cone.

Teufelsberger Schloss

Though it has likely been observed and pointed out thousands of times already, it nonetheless bears repeating: the former allied spy station on top of the Teufelsberg looks like a giant cock-and-balls.

The remains of the station sit atop an 80-meter-high rubble hill in Berlin’s Grunewald forest, beneath which is buried the foundation of a Nazi officers school designed by Albert Speer. At the risk of mixing bodily metaphors, it’s hard not to wonder if the outpost’s phallic shape was designed as something of a middle finger to the Soviet forces on the other side of the city.

Sneaking into the Teufelsberg and climbing the radar towers has become something of a rite of passage for young Berliners, and a few years ago Jenny and I roamed around the premises until she got spooked by the howling sounds of the wind billowing through the torn fabric. On our visit last month we didn’t feel like trespassing, opting instead to just bask in the ballsy brilliance of this most peculiar cold-war monument.

No one seems to know what the future holds for the site, after attempts to develop it into a luxury hotel and a transcendental meditation center have long since been scrapped. Meanwhile the allure of the place only grows — an elegantly decaying fortress on the hill that is easily one of the most unusual erections in Europe.

Easter with Bonga

Jennifer and I got to Lisbon on Easter Sunday. We thought everything would be closed but there were several discount shoe stores doing a brisk business and a guy in a three-piece suit levitating above Rua Augusta.

That night we checked into This is Lisbon (awkwardly but not inaccurately referred to on their website as a “charm hostel”) where we were treated to (paid a nominal fee for) a dinner of traditional dishes and a performance of Brazilian music by a trio of guys the hostel employees were friends with. After the concert we talked with the musicians for a while and wound up accompanying them to a bar in the Alfama neighborhood, a labyrinthine remnant of Moorish times and one of the only areas in the city to survive the 1755 earthquake.

We stopped outside a door where a few people were smoking cigarettes but that was otherwise unremarkable. After Gonzalo pounded on the door a visibly drunken woman opened the door and ushered us in to a packed, steamy room where people were drinking and dancing to the sounds of some of the happiest, most uplifting music I ever heard. Two guys playing guitar and singing, another playing bass and a fourth playing percussion, if I remember correctly.

After they were finished the singer told me it was the music of Bonga, an Angolan who came to Portugal as a track star in the sixties but later turned to music, which got him in trouble with the Portuguese regime at that time. The next week I found a copy of his album Angola 74 at the Thieves Market, and was able to identify the song I heard as a cover of his song “Marika.” When you listen to it you might be able to get a taste of what for me was one of the most enjoyable Easters since the good Lord rose from the grave.