Friday, January 17, 2020

Another Chess Win =)

Here's another chess win, and it's dedicated to you, Marty.
 

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Chess Win

Here's a nice chess win of mine. My opponent, White, was holding his own until he blundered on move 28, Nxe5. Then he was in trouble.


Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Vocab

So here's all the vocabulary I learned while reading the German translation of Hemingway's short story "Hills Like White Elephants." 

an den Bahnhof fiel.  (fell)

hielt. (stopped)

Knotenpunkt. (juncture)

Es ist mächtig heiß.  (mighty)

Türschwelle. (doorway)

abwenden. Sie wandte. ihren Blick ab (averted)

Das beweist gar nichts. (That doesn’t prove anything)

Der Mann rief. (called)

Bedienung! (Service please!)

Sagte das Mädchen und setzte ihr Glas hin. (Put her glass down) 

Der warme Wind blies. (blew)

Es ist herrlich. It is (lovely)

Und dann geht alles von selbst, and then. (It’s all perfectly natural)

aber Gewiß. (but certainly)

Ich will nicht, dass du es dir machen läßt, wenn dir so zumute ist. (I don't want you to go through with it if you feel that way.)

drüben. (over there)

Nein, das können wir nicht. (No, we can’t.)

Es ist fortgenommen worden. (It's been taken away.)

Wir wollen abwarten! (We’ll wait and see!)

Du musst dir klar sein, dass (You must realize that . . . )

Sie setzen sich an den Tisch. 

Liegt dir denn nichts daran? (Doesn’t it mean anything to you?)

Die Frau trat durch den Vorhang. (stepped through)

Ich trage das Gepäck. (carry)

Sie lächelte ihm zu. (She smiled at him [more seductively])

trug. (carried)

An der Theke. (at the bar)

Er musterte die Leute.  (He scanned over the people)

Jeden Tag gehe ich ins Freie. Every day I go (outside).

Sie lächelte ihn an. She (smiled at him).

Ich fühle mich glänzend.  I feel (just brilliant!)

Mir fehlt gar nichts.  (There’s nothing wrong with me.)

Happy New Year

So a couple of days ago I realized something. During December, the sun in Hamburg is very different from the sun in the U.S.

Hamburg, you should know, is often cloudy during December, so there often isn’t that much sun to speak of. However, if it is a clear day, the light at noon isn’t not like that sharp, severe kind of light that is typical of midday in New York during December.

Instead, the light in Hamburg at around noon has a very warm quality to it. Which is to say, really, on clear days in Hamburg in December, the noon sun looks like an evening sun -- there's that same tranquil orange hue going on.

I’d just thought I’d share that.

Happy New Year, everybody.
 

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Brandenburg

SO THERE'S THIS German comedian and he’s got this funny song about how there’s nothing to do in the German state of Brandenburg. In a well-known line from the song (and I’m paraphrasing here), he says that, alas, in Brandenburg someone who had been driving down an “Allee” has again crashed his car into a tree.

To understand why that’s funny, you need to know two things. First, in German, an “Allee” is a tree-lined road, usually one that is in the country. Second, there are many “Alleen” in Brandenburg because there are a lot of trees in Brandenburg because Brandenburg has a lot of forest and farmland.

So, essentially, in the song, the comedian, Rainald Grebe, is saying that in Brandenburg someone has again wrapped his car around a tree because all that really exists in Brandenburg are trees: that’s the only thing one could crash into in Brandenburg.

OK, so that’s the song. But here’s the even funnier part: when you actually get to Brandenburg, you discover that, holly shit, Grebe was right, there really are a lot of “Alleen” in Brandenburg. So many of the state roads are indeed lined by trees.


WE WERE DRIVING through Brandenburg today and I couldn’t help but think how pretty the “Alleen” were. A couple of roads were lined by oaks and driving underneath the canopy that their branches formed was cool. Sometimes the trees lining the road were smaller. These smaller trees were pear and apple trees.

It was just kind of peaceful, you know? And then there was me, pulling out my notebook—far away from the world—and writing stuff like, “In the puddle I saw the reflection of the treetops.”

And then driving through the villages and wondering what those squat trees with the gnarled branches planted at intervals in front of the houses were called and learning that they are called pollard willows.

Then later, taking a walk through a village that is so dark that, even with the tall LED street lights that the residents spent a lot of money on you still can’t read the street names on the signs at the top of the posts. And then wondering as you walk what this big tree off to the side of the road is, the one that casts an inky shadow on someone's lawn, and then breaking off a piece of the tree and taking it to someone who knows the area and them telling you, “It’s a Tannenbaum, a normal Tannenbaum,” which means it’s a fir.

Monday, December 23, 2019

What Was That Tape?


Martina and I were at the cinema and had just given our tickets to the ticket taker stationed at the entrance of the theater when she began to tell me about her cousin.
“They did it to him because of a tape, just a fucking music tape,” she said
“What do you mean?” I asked. We had stopped walking just inside the entrance to the theater. There was no pressure to keep moving because we had arrived early and there was hardly anyone in the place.
“Just a tape on the border . . . just music. And forget it.”
“Wait, so what happened with your cousin?” I asked.
“Hey was arguing with a border guard about a tape.”
“You couldn’t listen to music in the DDR or something?”
“No, but on the border, when you are waiting, you better not be listening to music.”
I still didn’t fully understand, but I figured I would after I learned more, so I asked, “So what happened?”
“They told him, ‘Give me the tape,’ and he said, ‘Come on guys, you’re fucking kidding me; it’s music.’ But they don’t play any games. You don’t talk back to them.”
We started walking. Our seats were on the other side of the theater. We walked toward the screen, so we could pass in front of the first row to get to the aisle furthest from the entrance.
“So what happened to your cousin? They took the tape?”
“They took the tape?” Martina said incredulously. “They put him in jail.”
“They put him in jail? Just for a cassette tape?”
“They put him in jail for speaking back to them.”
“Wow; that’s nuts. They didn’t fuck around.”
“You don’t talk back; you never talk back, no games.”
“Wow. So what happened?” We were walking up the far aisle.
“What happened? My uncle had to come and get him out of jail; that’s what happened. Yeah, and my uncle had to pay a lot of money. And my uncle told him, ‘You never talk back. Are you fucking crazy? You never, ever, ever talk back.’”
“Wow. Wait . . . What was the tape? Which album did your cousin want to bring into the DDR? That would be awesome to know.”
“I don’t know.”
Her expression was one of regret.
“Ah, because your cousin died, right?" I remembered in that moment that she told me that her cousin, the one about whom she was speaking, had died. “But how about your uncle?” I said.
“Him, too.”
“He’s dead, too?”
“Yeah. Remember I told you that they both died within a few months of each other?”
She was right. She had always told me that her cousin who would often visit her in the German Democratic Republic had died and that she had been very close with him, but she had also told me that another relative of hers, another important one, had died just a few weeks after. But I had never realized that both of those relatives had been father and son. Now, the penny dropped.
“Oh, wait, so what was your cousin’s name?”
We took our seats. 
“Helmut.”
“And his father?”
“Walter.”
“Oh, so Walter was the one who came and got Helmut out of prison because of the tape?”
She nodded.
“Wow. How old was Helmut when he got arrested that time?”
“I don’t know, but, honestly, he felt very old to me.”
“Oh, man, so no one knows what that cassette tape was that he tried bring over the border, huh?”
“No. It’s a shame.”
“Damn, that would have been so awesome to know what tape it was.”
We continued to talk. We talked during all of the advertisements and even a bit into the trailers.

Intercom

I remember standing just outside the lobby with you and buzzing the intercom to see if she was there and waiting with bated breath to see if she was. If she was, you had to go; if she wasn’t, you could come up. Do you remember that?

And then last night in a dream, a friend, I’m not sure which one, said to me: “Chad, oh, I forgot to tell you, haha, there’s trouble in paradise because I saw her yesterday, and she was fighting with him—through an intercom! Yup, she’s had four fights with him so far where she’s standing in the lobby arguing with him over the intercom.”

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Center of Gravity


The first thing I can tell you is this: A dark field, that’s the first thing you see. And then out of the darkness, a form, heavy, and then by the street light you see exactly what that form is: a horse. Passersby sometimes feed the horses and even though it’s night, the horses are expectant of food and they walk up to you as you walk by.

Then I can tell you this: A swallow. The house is a cross-timbered house and to get into the lower-level entrance you have to go through a gate. But you have the key to the gate, don’t worry. And then a little courtyard and off of that courtyard your room and then flying around the courtyard are little birds, but you don’t care because up until that moment, they are just birds. But then you see it: this weird, mud-made little nest underneath the eaves. And what is in there but a swallow! And every time you open your room door, the swallow flies out and away. But if you are careful when opening the door and if you move gingerly, the swallow stays in the little nest, and if you are super, super careful, you can see his little head sticking out.

And then that story. Wow, that story that seemed crazy to you at the time. He and he were at her funeral. And after the ceremony was over, he and he said that they had had enough and stole away somewhere. Unless you ask the two, you’ll never know to where they stole away, only that they did, and how you always imagined what that must have looked like.

And then thinking to yourself, I know she has a new one and that’s cool but there is still some of the old one there, so let me use some of the old one, and you use some of the old one but you use too much of it only because you know that a new one is there, but then you think to yourself, "Oh, what’s the big deal? Just use the old one a little more; it has to be used anyway. And then looking at the old one, smelling it—it smells so good—and thinking how she had said, “No, I did. I used that as my travel soap,” and thinking to yourself as you stand there, “Travel fucking soap? Really? Travel fucking soap? Are you fucking kidding me? If that is fucking true, fucking travel soap?”And then going over that one again.

And then thinking about black and yellow and how those are your colors now and how you told your teammates before the last game that black and yellow were the colors of "Cobra Kai" and that was pretty cool because "Cobra Kai" was pretty badass, and then thinking back to that movie and how scary Johnny was and how scary the other ones were in their skeleton body suits. And of course there was Mike Barnes. Mike Barnes was cruel, and then dude man saying, “Desperate situations require desperate measures.” There you go, 7-year-old self, that’s something to chew on, ain’t it!

And then, yes, not one hair. Not one single hair. Not one hair in the bed or on the floor; not one hair in the soap dish or on the shampoo bottle or in the corner or on a piece of clothing or at the bottom of the sock drawer or in the shower stall or under the sink. Not one fucking hair. Crazy, right?

And looking down over the edge of the cliff, and me saying to myself, “Please, I don’t even want to see that,” just flat and lying flat, but looking down over the edge, and me thinking that that totally makes sense because that way you are closest to your center of gravity, and there’s almost no way that you will fall. You will still be able to get the thrill of looking over the edge of the cliff—was that some kind of gorge or mountain or fjord or what?—but you will also maintain the security that is inherent in being closest to your center of gravity.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

On the Way

On the way I passed a “Christmas market” that was under construction and someone had laid his cigarette down on a wooden box, one that was to be used in the construction of the market, and the cigarette was just lying there, burning down, alone.

And then I was on the phone with Martina and I was waiting to cross a street and she said, “You’re waiting at an intersection,” and I said to her, “How the hell do you know that?” and she said, “I hear the beeping.”

Some traffic lights in Hamburg beep when the walkly-man is red: a feature to aid the blind.

And looking at the reflection of myself in a mirrored light fixture suspended from the ceiling, I think, that looks like something that M.C. Escher would draw. Which makes me think of images and the images that we build in people’s heads when we write or speak, which makes me think of that joke that Martina told me last night in the car. Here is the joke:

One day, Little Red Riding Hood was walking in the woods when she walked behind a tree. There, she saw the Big Bad Wolf. His eyes were big and bulging and so she said to him, “My, Mr. Wolf, what big eyes you have,” to which the wolf replied, “Would you fucking get lost! I’m trying to shit!”

Oh, how funny that was, and all the bad, bad jokes that we told in the car yesterday, jokes that are so bad, you preface them by making the person you're telling them to swear not to repeat them. Those kind of jokes.

And, no, Mr. Neighbour’s dog, I will not give you a piece of my buttered roll. I don’t care how cute you are or how much your little brown eyes look like shiny buttons. No, no, no. OK, honestly, if your owner wasn’t here maybe I would, but she is here, so I can’t give you anything. I can just look at you and say in a silly voice, “Hello . . . Hello . . ."

Maxim on Its Head on Its Head


"Ahh, you see what’s going on here? It’s quite interesting. Look, the maxim—we call sayings that have wisdom in them 'maxims'—is usually, 'Boyfriends and girlfriends come and go, but friends are forever,' and what you’re doing is, you're standing that maxim on its head."

"Uh-huh."

"You’re saying that he had said to you that girlfriends and boyfriends come and go but friends are forever, and you said, 'Bullshit. OK, little boy, you’ll see one day how "true" that little saying of yours is. You’ll learn.'"

"Right, right."

But what I’m saying to you, and what makes this thing totally interesting, is that she said that she really doesn’t care about boyfriends, that, for her, they really do come and go, and so long as she has her friends, she is fine. You see what's going on there?"

"Yes, absolutely. But come on . . . "

"Yeah, I know."