Jul 30, 2016

Office stories

Eating lunch with one of my co-workers, Magda, she was commiserating over a kindergarten project she had in the office. I asked her, what was the deal with this kindergarten? She told me this story,

Once upon a time there was a Russian Princess who married a German king and came to live with him in Stuttgart. Princess Olga, to curry favor with the locals possibly, granted the land and a school to be built on it so that students could go for free. However generous her gift to the people was, she did not provide for the savagery of time on both monarchy and architecture. The kingdom became a republic and democracy, and the buildings wore down and began to crumble.

The ownership of the property, passing from the princess to the state, desired a new building should be built, reasoning that crumbling structures are poor for most purposes, and truly unwanted for housing small children. However, to finance the construction of a new building required the income of rent from the business of the kindergarten, which was still enjoying it's tenancy rent-free vis-a-vis the Princesses edict. They didn't want to give up the position and suggested that the state simply renovate the building to which the state declined, to which the kindergarten declared it would take a long long time to move out. It is, after all, nearly impossible to evict someone in Germany, and few politicians really want to be the ones who sign the eviction order against a kindergarten.

But up to the deadlock, the client was insisting everything move quickly and we stick to a very demanding drawing schedule, while for Magda it was very clear that the tenants were not going to go quietly. We are still waiting for the resolution.

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Barbara was from a well-to-do Mexican family in Monterrey. She studied cooking for several years before abandoning it for architecture, and then after she graduated, her engagement to her fiancée was broken off. Desiring a fresh start and some distance, she turned her sights to Europe. "Don't go to Paris," her friends advised her, "it's so expensive!" "Don't go to Spain!" others cautioned, "there's no jobs!" Someone suggested Tübingen, the university town close to Stuttgart, and there she studied German for a half year before moving to Stuttgart. She found a boyfriend and he came to stay with her on the weekends in their apartment overlooking Stuttgart.

She successfully interviewed at our office, Schafe+Wein, and was granted a three month trial. Sadly, shortly after she started working, her relationship with the boyfriend ended, and feeling no connection to Germany, decided to leave. She whispered this conclusion to Rafa on Wednesday the second week into her new job. Rafa confided this to me and Magda Thursday, and I confronted her about it, and she confirmed and filled out the rest of the story as I have mostly told it here. We thought perhaps she would talk to the bosses or someone and let them know, perhaps on Friday, but she didn't come at all, and never again. I related this to our team leader Apo Friday afternoon, and he was quite vexed, partly  because the way this information had moved through the office (and the fact he would have to be the one to break it to the boss) but he understood her feelings and motivations.

Barbara's year in Europe was at an end. She returned the following Monday to the comforting arms of family and speculates on starting a new business. She is 30 years old.

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The planning department of Schafe+Wein consists of four people:

Apo, a skilled Greek architect a few years older than I who dreams of fashion design, clean, beautiful drawings, and high-end Italian lighting who is also our team leader and has been a close friend since I came to Germany and met him at our old firm of Lüft+Licht Architekten. He brought me to the new office.

Rafa is Mexican, and now German, the same age as Apo. He is a man of few words, but with a big heart. He is happy to go with the flow, and has the same pragmatic approach to architecture which makes him very compatible with our boss and is in fact, well on his way to becoming a project manager kind of architect, capable of design, detailed cost estimation, and construction site management. He brought Apo to the new office, and most days, literally brings me to the office in his car (and drops me off after work).

Magda came from Poland, is the oldest, not quite forty, but still insists on calling us "Jungs" (youths). She has a three year old daughter and a Colombian husband. They live in the next village down. She has only been at the office a bit longer than a year. She is a skilled drafter and detailer and has a lot of experience taking projects from start to finish. She still plays CDs in the office over her headphones, mostly abominable American pop and sometimes sings quietly while she's working.

The forth planer is yours truly, without an architect license or a driver's license or even German proficiency. I can drive some software and draw and design but not with the same experience as the others. For some reason, the office management still likes me, but I'm not convinced that it is not due to some kind of totemic "American" enthusiasm that I bring to the office. My German really needs to improve.

Apo resigned on friday. He will have four weeks, and then we will have a lot more work to share among the remaining three planners.

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The office is an old winery, built in the late 1700's. It has seen numerous renovations and additions. Among the interior design now, what stands out to me are odd details: a stuffed owl perched above the receptionist. A square pond in the front filled with tadpoles and lotus plants. A toilet which reminds me of a giant porcelain round sitting pouf. A drawer constantly refilled with cheap German candy. An expensive built in coffee machine which can make lattes at the push of a button but must be disassembled and cleaned nightly. A store room for material samples with an art installation of giant metalwork ants. New roof windows which punch through the old red terracotta tile roof like a transformer in disguise. Steel and glass doors reflecting cast resin garden angels and rusty steel welded heart decorations. A wooden sign in the office kitchen: "save the earth: it's the only planet with wine"

Jul 27, 2016

Photography II

In which Alec talks about how he got started on the latest photography kick, muses on German drugstores and what they say about Germany, and goes into detail about the provenance of their oldest camera.

Saori and I had toyed with the idea of buying a bunch of disposable cameras for guests and having the film film ourselves, but we abandoned it as too complicated. We would need, after all, a system of distribution, recording who got what camera, collecting the cameras, and developing them, et al.  

Instead, we went the easy, self-indulgent route, and got an Instax camera. Instax is basically a mini-polaroid camera. The thought was we would pass it around at the wedding and let guests play with it and shoot us and each other. It didn’t really happen because we frankly didn’t tell anyone about this plan or bring out the camera and pass it around, although our friend Emily was game enough to take it and shoot a bit when Saori gave it to her at the reception.

The Instax is quite fun- credit card sized photos, perfect for selfies and textured photos of whatever, all with instant gratification. And importantly, a print. A chemical process which creates a tangible artifact, a photograph in your hot little hands, which has really made the difference between the success of the Instax vs a cell phone camera or even Polaroid’s digital camera attached to a miniature printer which prints out instantly your photos. Polaroid totally missed it.

Anyway, the other advantage of the Instax was that it was fun to take around and use before and after the wedding too, and to use around the house and experiment. We tried some long exposure shots where Saori drew a penguin with light from my cell phone screen. I bought more film cartriges for it from a camera shop downtown and the seller and I got into a converstation about Instax and he showed me a book of architectural photography, some of which were actually shot with the Instax.

Not really happy with the credit card sized images, I scanned them all at high resolution and took them into Photoshop, when they took on a new definition and a new life with cleaned up toning and levels. I know this is something that purists would decry, insisting that the expertise with the camera and the film be the only artifice, but this is not about photographic purity.

They were still too small and too grainy, so I bought a dispoable film camera, and used it to shoot some summertime life here, as well as some of the European Championship events we went to. And the photos were so much fun.

I had been eyeballing some used cameras (“No Guarantees!”) at one of the big camera stores downtown, and took the plunge buying one. In true German style, the clerk we asked to help us had this “you customers are the reason I can’t enjoy my afternoons” attitude, but he struggled his way across the store and retreived the camera we had been eyeballing, and we excitedly looked it over. We decided to buy it.

A Minox 35 PL. Tiny, tiny, camera. Minox also makes basically spy cameras for tiny format film, but this one took standard 35mm film, actually one of the smallest cameras in the world to use this format. It actually feels like a toy. Good lens though, and an automatic exposure control. I learned later that Andy Warhol on a tour through Germany had picked one up and delighted in shooting with it back in the US. He sold a book, mostly selfies and party shots from the big clubs.

Anyway, It was made in the 60s and 70s and 80s, and miraculously, ours came with the original box. The battery it used was no longer in production but it came with an adapter, so the clerk, unprompted, brought out the batteries we would need, and helpfully loaded it up with the fresh batteries and even a new roll of film. $40, or, the equivalent of four disposable cameras.

We shot about a third of the roll before figuring out the camera wasn’t really “on” because the clerk who works professionally at the specialty camera shop had put the battery in the wrong way. But we flipped that sucker around (the battery, not the clerk) and to our delight all the lights lit up that were supposed to light up and we were on our way.

I was a little worried I was going to have to take it to speciality camera stores and labs to get it developed, but for once, Germany’s refusal to leave the 1980’s paid off- you can get film developed practically anywhere. We have a DM five minutes walk away.

DM, which stands for Droggerie Markt, I’ll let you puzzle the meaning out, is a typical German drugstore, which is to say, basically a Walgreens or CVS but a smaller selection of everything and nothing with an actual medicinal value. No aspirin, no cough syrup, no cough drops. They do have an aisle of bad-tasting teas and herbal supplements. They mostly sell toiletries and hair tools, with some organic foods, baby supplies, etc. Every time I go in, women outnumber the men five to one. I am worried I am making this place sound more interesting than it actually is.

I will add they have a photography wall with some Kodak instant-print kisoks set up so you can order prints from digitals, OR print directly from the machine. They also have a film drop. You write your name on the envelope, drop in the film, and then seven to ten days later, you fish around in the big drawer for the envelope with your name on it with the finished prints inside.

Actually, the whole thing is quite typical for Germany- you could, and quite easily, take your envelope, or hell, a handful of envelopes and walk right out the sliding doors (since it's right next to the door) and nobody would even notice. And then when you get in line at the cashier to pay for your envelope full of photos, they ask you for photo ID to make sure that the photos are really yours. When I think of the story, now, about the bank robber who was caught because he put his name and address on the deposit slip he filled out right before robbing the bank, I think, “ah, he must have been German!”

Inspired by the first prints we get back from DM (I think it was only about $5 to develop a roll!) we pulled out and cleaned off the old Rolleiflex automatic I salvaged from the house on the hill before I left.

This was the boarding house where I lived for a few months before Saori and I found our current apartment. The old man, a one time evangelist and textile merchant by the look of it, passed away, and his wife, for various and unknowable reasons, lost the house and it’s contents to the lawyers. She was actually barred from the premises. She told me that I was free to take anything I wanted, *ok, so actually, it was actually probably all at this point, property of the law office, but we we took, no one missed, and frankly would have been tossed at the curb anyway.

In the study, piled high with dusty and musty books about politics and religious tracts, I found a beat up leather case containing a boxy camera. Like most used things, condition is key, but I think this one would be worth about $200-$300 on the market. Rolleiflex cameras are known for high quality optics, build, an a unique configuration where there’s actually two lenses, one above the other, and you look down into a clever viewfinder which shows you exactly what the camera sees, on a 2” by 2” window. The camera is supposed to be very easy, intuitive, and fast to use, despite the medium format film, which is a big square. Fortunately, it is a film format which is popular enough today that I could go to a specialist film store and buy a roll. Unfortunately, the camera I brought back was also filled with what Saori identified as “roach droppings” so we had a bit of cleaning to do before we could even start testing it. Could be a lot of fun.

Next step- dark room?

Jul 24, 2016

Prairieville: a low-budget wedding

Saori and I tracked carefully what we spent on the wedding, and we have some rough ideas on what other people spent on the wedding. So here is a pie chart of what the wedding cost by percentage of the total. According to one source, the average cost of a US wedding is around $26,000. Tallying up all the totals, not just ours, I think we can say we had a extremely low-budget wedding.

This chart includes only direct wedding and reception costs: sparklers, food, wedding photography, tent rentals, bus transportation for guests, etc. Not included:
  • hotel
  • the rehearsal dinner
  • other transportation
  • wedding rings, since I got mine from Saori who made it, and I bought Saori's for an amount which would not even be visible on this graph.
  • possibly things (please forgive me) that other people contributed to the wedding but that I failed to recognize or remember. For example, I know someone, possibly aunt Kim, bought more flowers, but I don't know how much.
  • cleanup costs outside of the scope of the tent and catering people
  • bridesmaids and groomsmen attire and accessories
  • gifts to family and attendants
I should also note here that Saori and I did not bear all these costs ourselves. Our family graciously stepped in. We had a lot of help from everyone, but especially from Kim and Tracy who covered the majority of the catering, rented tents for us, and all of the alcohol.


We paid nothing for the venue, we had no real wedding favors apart from the fans, and uncle Tracy played DJ (you can blame me for the playlist though), so we avoided these major wedding costs. We also got a really lowball photographer.


Some surprises from the chart- my outfit (shoes, suit, tailoring, accessories) cost more than Saori's. (But only when you discount the hair and makeup!) Flowers ended up being a relatively minor expense in the scheme of things, considering how much emphasis we put on them at the beginning, but everything really paled in comparison to the cost of the caterers. To be fair, we wanted to pay a premium for amazing food and catering, and most of our other wedding costs were either really low or non-existent. Had we shelled out for a ballroom, DJ, or not-so-popular historic plantation, the percentages would have looked a lot different.

Prairieville Photography

Originally, we weren't going to hire a photographer for the wedding.

How can you not hire a photographer for one of the most momentous occasions of your lives? You may ask. First, low budget wedding or blowout, wedding photographers still cost what they cost. On some wedding budgeting websites, the photographer is the single most expensive line item or category. Most wedding photographers sell packages which is the only way in which they will work. Even photographers who have mirror selfies, appalling Photoshop work in their gallery pages, and widespread spelling and grammatical errors still begin at $1000 and move up from there. The studios with more polished pages are more expensive. I saw one package for $2000 which included two photographers and up to five locations. Why five? Engagement photos and wedding right? Maybe three if you have your wedding and reception in two different places? You are missing the hair test and dress test and "trash the dress" photo sessions. If you want to be amazed start at TheKnot.com and look up some of these photographers prices.

The wedding industry in America has clearly taken a page from higher education. It is a multi-billion dollar industry which has massively swelled. Why is college so expensive? They added a new tier of administration to squeeze more money from alumni, governments,and students while simultaneously adding additional amenities and specialized courses. And they all point at each other and claim that every school is building a Hadron collider and a water park these days to attract more students.

Similarly, there is now a level of customization and service to all aspects of the wedding to the point that even weddings which consist of two people exchanging twist ties in the food court still must have M&Ms printed with "Babs & Al at Tri-County Savers Mall." I read someplace that the average American wedding costs $10,000.

Between the insane costs for weddings, depressing levels of student debt, and the feeling of trying to simply keep with the Millennial Jones (Tiffany got married in an old barn, we need to get married in an old suspender factory with a tango band from Buenos Aires!") many people my age are simply dispensing with the wedding entirely. Which is really sad, actually.

I digress.

At one point were simply considering strapping a GoPro on a random guest, or Aunt Kim's trained Yorkshire Terrier.

We told ourselves, "Everyone has iPhones, we'll just get photos from them" which later became, "We'll ask one of our friends to be the designated photographer."

But it's a crappy thing to do to a guest who maybe had to burn some vacation time, and at a minimum bought a plane ticket and a hotel. So we wisely abandoned it and went back to the "no photographer" thought until we asked each other, "are we going to regret not hiring a photographer? " And the answer was, definitely yes.

I quickly abandoned TheKnot.com. The vendors on the site are outrageously expensive. I googled "photographer Baton Rouge" and got some photographers who wouldn't return my emails.

Before considering chloroforming a photography student from Tulane, I turned to Craigslist (Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap™) and hit up a few studios who had remarkably not terrible photos. What we wanted, at this point, was simply someone who could make sure a person was mostly in the frame and reasonably in focus. "We need someone to document our wedding," I said. I actually searched for crime scene photographers.

But in the end, we picked a good compromise. Jacqueline had a reasonable, flat hourly rate,  her gallery photos didn't suck, and she replied in a timely manner to our emails. Saori wasn't totally convinced but then I asked her to spend fifteen minutes searching for other studios and after comparing prices told me "BOOK HER IMMEDIATELY"

And I'm happy we did. Actually, I think from our planning side it was one of the better decisions we made for the wedding. $500 bought us four hours of her time (plus almost an extra hour she put in free there) a ton of photos, all free to download or post or whatever (!) and a nice mix of portraits, candids, and ambience. She was patient and great to work with and proposed some things that we liked.

Now we just need to consolidate all the photos from the wedding and make a book.

Jul 22, 2016

Accessories for the modern Prairieville Wedding: School Bus


The biggest challenges of what I should to wear to the wedding surprising came down to the issue of socks.

Suit
Half the content on Picasa must be wedding themed. A quick search for “plantation wedding” or “louisiana garden party wedding” brings up photos of the groom wearing either seersucker or linen vest/pants combos in either blue or beige. Tay actually turned me on to seersucker earlier since he sometimes wears it to court on muggy days in Indiana.

However, this being Stuttgart, where the weather is rarely pleasant and seldomer hot, seersucker is an unknown material, and I didn’t want to pay to ship a suit here from the US (since whatever I ordered could need tailoring). I liked seersucker though, so I asked all my groomsmen to wear seersucker pants and white dress shirts, to be jazzed up with teal blue ties.

I started trawling european online clothing shops like Gilt and Asos. I eventually found a sky blue linen vest and pants ensemble from an Italian label and had it shipped to my office.

Tailoring
The pants were way too long. Stuttgart is full of tailors, many of them immigrants judging by the names. It’s actually a surprising lot for the size of the city. Must be a high demand for tailoring here. Anyway, I found a tailor about ten minutes walk and went in and put on the pants.

I wanted the cuffs to fall a higher than than the usual length but both the tailor and another customer both chimed in and talking about it agreed it was too high and literally talked me down a bit. Which was good advice.

Shoes
We struggled a lot to find the right shoes. Brown leather, naturally, but something a little lighter, a little lower, a little more casual that I could also wear to work. Lots of brown leather shoes in Stuttgart. Went to about a half-dozen shoe shops before settling on a pair.

Socks
Saori had first mentioned wearing my shoes sans socks a long time ago when we were first talking about what we could wear to a hypothetical wedding, and I had in my mind higher hemmed pants and cool shoes and no socks. To be fair, it’s a trend but mostly in the workplace among some millenials.

Back in the hotel room with Tay as I was dressing, we broached the sock topic with me trying on the socks of varying heights. The socks I brought weren’t working, the no-socks route was shot down by everyone with the exception of the hairdresser working on the bride and bridesmaids, who was also, apparenty, incredibly tattooed. Tay ran to his room and brought back a selection of socks and we picked out a pair together.

Accessories
Tay presented me with a very nice watch from Junkers, a German automatic. But I have such small wrists the band didn’t fit, so I wore my old Swiss army watch I salvaged from the Ross Dress for Less a long time ago. I did upgrade the band, however, to match the caramel leather of my belt and shoes.

Tay picked out a tie for me, gold with a subtle paisly pattern in relief. But we rejected it, foolishly, as too dusty and went with the garish yellow, leading later to much hand wringing (mine) and wasting my family’s time at suburban malls.

I bought a practice tie in Stuttgart and found some success after an hour or so of going between youtube and the bathroom mirror, so I was satisfied I could replicate the feat. But it was a close thing. I cut my time too short working on my speech, so it was that twenty minutes before the bus was due to leave I was sweating and working fast. Hold the bow with the left hand and tuck the flap with the right? Cut the red wire or the blue? Tick. Tick. Tick.

I got it. But as soon as I did I got a knock on the door from Tay. He looked great and Chelsea, too. “Can you help me with my tie?” I assured him I would (actually he had it 90% already) but it would have to be on the bus. Grabbed a to go bag Saori had requested and hurried downstairs, totally forgetting some gifts I had brought, as well as to comb my hair.

The Bus

The fantastic wedding of Dew and Yoshimi had lurked nearly unspoken in the background of our wedding planning. One thing we really liked was the fact that they had provided a bus which took everyone there and back: it added a bit of building excitement, a bit of a road trip, and it meant nobody had to be a designated driver.

When we took Kim and Tracy’s offer, we knew they were an hour plus from New Orleans, but we wanted to keep as much as possible to the city to provide an added amenity to our guests and a place for us to enjoy with our families. And as long as one stays within walking distance to the French Quarter, there is really no need for a car to get the most out of a Big Easy weekend. $30 gets you an uber or cab from the airport. So providing transportation to the wedding and back was a high priority for us.

I started working on it, actually, as soon we announced the wedding. There are not so numerous ways to get to Prairieville from the French Quarter, and they are all really expensive. Here is a quick breakdown:

  • Charter bus
  • Charter yellow school bus
  • Party bus
  • Bunch of Ubers
  • Big limo

As we got more RSVP’s we realized that our number of riders was going to be about 15-20, which turns out to be a really annoying number: too many for private cars and really few for a bus. I solicited bids from five or six bus companies, asked for discounts, and put up with the very. slow. response time from the charter school bus company, which must be the actual school bus company.

In the end, after my family tried to tell us we were working too hard and spending too much on this project, we were happy and surprised when one day they took charge of it. I handed it off to Tay and mom, although Tay took lead.

It was good timing too, since less than a week later the school bus company came back with the best price for an air conditioned bus. I forwarded the email to Tay with the recommendation he go with it. It was going to be cheaper than the 8 Uber trips we were going to need. 

Jul 14, 2016

Prairieville: Wedding day I

I slept fairly well the night before my wedding. Rolled out of the quiet hotel room with a plan in mind for the day. First of all, my belt was really not fitting. Saori and had I both lost a fair amount of weight leading up to the wedding. Saori’s yoga studio couldn’t beleive she looked the same after skipping yoga for a season. Nothing like too much stress and too little sleep for a few months to shed the pounds.

I remembered an H&M not far from Cafe du Monde so I slipped out of the hotel and hiked over. Picked up the new, right sized belt, and a few other things before Tay texted to see what I was up to and if he could help me with anything. I invited him out and we met up outside of the H&M.

Next step was to the groomers for the groom. I’d had my hair less than month before but my hair and beard both needed a trimming. I googled a barbershop which turned out to be in a large luxury mall on the third floor behind a bank of bathrooms. It was a small place, but nearly a stereotypically perfect barbershop of the type regularly visited by regulars in their 70s and served by two barbers who had been plying their trade a long time. Lino tile floors, bright light, beat up chairs from the 70’s in the waiting area, lay-in tile ceiling.

The barber settled me in the chair and asked what I would like. I told him I was getting married today and needed a light trim for my hair and beard and just to dapper everything up. It ended up a rather lengthy affair, but really interesting since its the first time I’ve had something like this. He trimmed up my hair and then leaned me back and put some weights on my eyelids to keep them shut before going to work with shaving my neck and trimming and grooming the beard.

While he worked, I asked Tay about his home intruder, which is an interesting story with many great lessons like: get to know your neighbors, don’t turn a blind eye in your community, and if you’re going to commit a flagrant crime with a good chance of getting caught by the police, don’t carry your entire stash of illegal drugs with you.

Anyway, the barber did a great job but it a little spendier than I would have imagined- $35 without tip. But then I am realizing lately how much I tend to devalue everything based on how much I’ve paid at the cheapest, most exploited places. $7 haircuts from BudgetCuts contractors without benefits in the most abysmal strip malls. In short, fueling and driving cheap crap work and cheap crap jobs in cheap crap buildings making cheap crap neighborhoods. And I also said “wedding” which probably bumped the price up $10.

Anyway, afterwards we ran over to Minon Fagot (?) a local famous silver jewlery and accessories boutique featuring designs by a woman with a long creole family history. In fact, all the shop keepers spoke French. They things like crawfish tie bars and okra pendants and fluer-de-lis earrrings. Nice stuff, but expensive. We went back to the hotel afterwards, since it was time to resolve the great sock debate.

Jul 7, 2016

Football Season

If you are going to spend some time in Germany, one of the best things about the country is that every two yerars there is a big soccer tournament in the summertime right around the time when the weather is nicest. 

All over the country, there is a culture of going out and watching the game in the thousands of outdoor biergartens, corner pubs, and big public plazas. There is always beer, radler (half beer and half lemonade), and sometimes apple juice mixed with soda water, or white wine mixed with soda water. Since the last decade, it's also been a time when Germans have started flying thier flag and getting more patriotic about these games. Many older Germans, still haunted by the history of nationalism in Germany, still refuse to fly the German flag, or they fly, instead, all of the flags of the teams playing. 

But it's a sad night in Germany as the Men in Monochrome bid farewell to the European Championship of soccer as they lost to France in the semi-finals 2 to 0. To be perfectly honest, all of the major teams have slept their way to the top, lethargically dragging themselves around the pitch for 90 minutes before drawing or squeezing in a goal somewhere if it makes sense in the bracket. Really there are have only been a few good games, and only a few really inspirational goals, and I have to say that Germany's defeat of Italy was astounding in how many shots on the goal wouldn't have gone in even without a goalkeeper, and they should have just decided the game with a coin-toss.

I'm getting ahead of myself. We watched most of the games at home on Saori's laptop, streaming from whichever of the two German stations was streaming it. The streams were always a minute behind. It was nice they were in HD, but I have mixed feelings about knowing something good or bad is going to happen based on the yells and whoops from the street outside, so we would rush over and watch expectantly.

We saw Germany play Italy one afternoon in Bad Canstatt at a kind of alternative arts center, where we met up with a bunch of the Behnisch architects. There was a big screen and a pretty big crowd which meant there were really no seats to be had in the hour before the game, but there were on the higher terrace, where there was a beamer set up to project the game on a screen. But it was too light out, so you couldn't make heads or tails of what was going on on the field. So we got greaat seats and watched the game on our phones until it got dark enough that we could see the screen, and then we had GREAT seats. Germany won and the arts center courtyard exploded.

We watched Wales vs Portugal play last night at a restaurant. Not so many people interested in this game- more people just wanted to see if Wales could continue the dream they have been playing, and many also secretly hoped for a catastrophic Portugal collapse like what happened to England. 

Today was a big day, a semifinal. Saori's coworkers decided they were going to try to watch it in Schlossgarten, which is the closest equivilant to saying you'd like to watch new years in Times Square. I got there two hours early, and there were already no seats to be had. If you wanted a seat, you had to be there at least five or six hours ahead of time. It was packed. Saori sent word that two of her coworkers were already there, and sent me their numbers. I actually ran into them before they had a chance to reply to my message. It helped that I was hanging out by the food line. 

Where most people come in, checkpoints had been set up to look through bags for food? beer? water? IEDs? but I came in from the schlossgarten side (which was lovely bathed in the late afternoon sun) and I walked right in without being checked. Which was good, since I was toting a liter and a half of contraband water, and also some kettle chips (but I heard later they were not as concerned about food). Anyway, I jumped in the beer lineand picked up two beers- one for Saori who was on her way, and I. The beers were each $12. You would get about $2.50 back if you returned the cup, which was plastic, but at least you got a liter of beer. A liter of German beer is not a joke. For one, it's heavy. For the other, if you're not drinking that water you couldn't sneak in, then you are getting slammed with booze unless you drink real slow.

Anyway, I set up a small picnic blanket for the coworkers who wanted to eat, and then we met up with Saori and a few others. Once the game started, Saori and the other girls wriggled thier way deep into the crowds and staked out spots to watch where we could stand and not get sworn at in German too much. 
The game was a bust. Not much fun to watch, honestly. Better was watching the crowd, the thrown beer, the small and vocal contingent of French fans, etc. 

Around the time when all hope was lost for the German team, I decided to make a pit stop and headed to the bathrooms. The upside was they were free since I guess it is too hard to try to wrestle coins out of 5000 drunks and give correct change, but the downside was they were built according to the usual planning which meant there was a huge, huge line out of the women's restroom, and a constant changeover in the men's. Actually, I was a little shocked to see a line of mostly women INSIDE the men's restroom, waiting to use the WCs. I mean, like inside, with a line going past all the urinals. It was a little unusual, but I shrugged and relieved myself. For one, this is Germany. There is not only "free body culture" here, but also the mixed thermal baths which are totally normal. To be perfectly honest, this is the future of bathrooms in Europe and the US. No mens room, no womens room, just a bathroom with a bunch of urinals and WCs. It solves too many problems about gender identity and too few women's toilets for it to be not inevitable. 

After the game, there were a few fights which broke out. There was a small altercation between two men, who where quickly separated and calmed down by their friends. However, five minutes later, nearly a dozen private security personell swoop down and start throwing people into holds like the slightly drunk and overly emotional combatants were terrorists. It was overkill.

Germany is out, and now France and Portugal will play, and Germany will try to wake up again in another two years for the World Cup. 

Medium is the message

I moved the blog again. I deleted the Tumblr account and moved everything to Medium.com, a more writing-centric website. medium.com/@wende...