Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Book Signing

When I was standing on line at the bookstore earlier this evening, waiting to pay for a few items, I noticed that two girls were sitting on the stairs that lead to the store’s second floor. I thought that this was kind of odd because here in northern Germany people don’t sit on the floor in public, nor do they sit down on staircases.

I didn’t think too much of these two girls, but then I noticed a few women standing near them. The women seemed to be just standing around doing nothing. I noticed, though, that they had books in their hands. After I noticed that, I looked back at the two girls sitting on the steps and saw that they were holding books, too. I realized: there must be a book signing about to happen.

After I paid for my items, I took a second near the cash register to put my change away. When I looked up I saw a girl in wheelchair. I thought to myself: that’s a pretty girl. She didn’t look like she was in a wheelchair because she had broken her leg, though. She looked like she was in a wheelchair because she was crippled. A man, her father probably, was with her and was pushing her in the wheelchair.

I continued to browse, even after having made my purchase -- ever do that? -- but I kept the girl in the wheelchair and her father in sight. I noticed that the girl had a brand-new copy of a book in her hands. The book looked really nice. It had a black cover with gold trimming of some sort and was wrapped in plastic, like how many brand-new books in Germany often are.

After the girl and her father had made their way past me, I walked over to the display table from which she had just taken her book. I saw that the book she was holding was written by the author who was set to do the signing. The genre of book was fantasy, stuff I would never read, but I really liked the idea that this girl was with someone who loved her and wanted to see her happy.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

My Cousin's Premonition

One winter afternoon my ex-girlfriend Maya and I hung out with my cousin Jonathan in Manhattan, and the three of us did a lot. We ate dumplings in Chinatown; we got Starbucks and walked to the Hudson River; we visited an English-goods specialty shop in Midtown.

The last thing we did was go to a cafe on Bleeker Street in the West Village. It had been a long day, and the three of us had spent a lot of time talking honestly and openly with each other. I always loved when Maya was around Jonathan because she had the courage to ask him questions I never would.

As we sat at a table in the cafe, Jonathan began to talk about my mother.  Jonathan is 13 years older than I am, so he could remember what things were like before I was born, and right there at that table he related a story I found shocking and interesting.

He said that he knew that the marriage between my mother and father was bound to fail.

As you can imagine, Maya and I were rapt with attention after he said this. What did he mean?

Well, he said that on the morning of my mom and dad’s wedding, he had been in the car with my father and a troupe of other men who were invited to or were to participate in the wedding. The ceremony was set to take place in a village in Connecticut, and the men were to drive to this village from the hotel where they were staying. He said that somewhere along the way, the vehicle they were in hit an animal, killing it. I wish I could remember what kind of animal Jonathan said it was, but I can’t. I can just tell you that I remember that it wasn’t a small animal like a squirrel; it was a bigger one, like a deer.

“And that’s how I knew that your mom and dad’s marriage was doomed, to be honest with you,” Jonathan said.

Maya and I were a little bit stunned. Only later did I learn that Maya was feigning shock. “Oh my God," she had said after we had taken our leave from Jonathan, "come on, that story about the van hitting an animal and how he knew the marriage was going to fail? Give me a break.”

I remember laughing when Maya said this, like, “Yeah, please, what hocus-pocus bullshit.” But secretly, I wasn’t as nonchalant as that. Secretly, the story sort of freaked me out.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Cheesecake Connesuir

A few minutes after I took my seat at the bar/lounge, a group of guys took a seat at the couch next to me. Right off the bat, I didn’t like one of them. He had a green woolen hat. Let’s call him green hat guy. I didn’t like green hat guy because I didn’t like how loud he was talking. He and the other guys he was with were well dressed and were talking about tech. I heard green hat guy say the names “Oracle” and “Microsoft.”

When the waitress came over to the men, she asked them what they would like to drink, and green-hat guy answered first.

“A beer,” he said.

I thought that his answer was incredibly rude because it obviously begs the question, “Well, what kind of beer?” and just makes the waitress’s life that much harder.

“What kind of beer?” the waitress asked.

I was proud of her. She did not seem fazed by the guy's stupid little “beer” answer.

“A Pils,” he said.

Again, the answer annoyed me because it begs the question, “Well, what kind of Pils?”

“What kind of Pils?” the waitress said.

“A Holsten,” came the answer.

The other guys with green hat guy gave their drink orders normally.

Then, about 30 minutes later -- the group of guys by this point had already drunk and left -- a young woman,  I think she was the waitress’s friend, put a small piece of paper down on the table in front of me. The paper read, “NY Cheesecake! Hausgemacht! -1.90 -.”

I didn’t want cheesecake, but I liked the price and I liked how the girl had actually handwritten the “ad” for it.

At some point, I decided I needed to go to the bathroom, and on my way there, I saw the girl who had put the “ad” down on my table. She was sitting at the bar. She looked at me nicely and she looked like a nice person, and as I was heading downstairs to the bathroom, I thought to myself, “Well, I don’t really want cheesecake, but she looked nice, and maybe she made that cheesecake herself.”

I even concocted a little story in which this girl asked her waitress friend if she could sell her cheesecake in the establishment. Maybe, I thought, cheesecake girl had always made cheesecakes and wanted now to share her gift for baking them with the world.

When I got back upstairs, I leaned over the bar to ask the waitress for a piece of the cheesecake. She was actually already cutting a piece for someone else. She looked at me as she was cutting.

“Exactly . . . ” I said, “Can I have a piece too?”

The cheesecake was pretty good. But, then again, I’m no cheesecake connoisseur.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Who Remembers Debbie Gibson?!

When I was very, very young, I liked the pop star Debbie Gibson. With my mom’s help, I even wrote a fan letter to her. But I had never been able to remember the first song of Gibson's that I fell in love with, the tune that got me into her, so to speak.

Then, a few days ago, I was listening to the “Hits of the 80s” channel on Spotify and I heard the opening bars to "Lost in Your Eyes." Hold on, I thought, I think this is Debbie Gibson.  I wasn’t sure who was even singing at first. Sure enough, it was Debbie Gibson, and "Lost in Your Eyes" was the first song of hers I loved . . . that was it.

You never forget, I guess.


I had a very interesting dream last night. I was walking on a city block with a bunch of people, maybe around 15 people, and my dog was there, too. My dog wasn't leashed up, though. At one point, there was a lot of confusion due to something, but I'm not sure what. All I know is that after the confusion was cleared up, all the people I had been with had crossed the street, and I was the only person left on the original side, and my fear was that my dog, thinking I was with the other people, might have crossed with them and in the process gotten hit by a car. But that wasn't the case. She had actually remained on the same side of the street. She was about 30 yards away from me, but still on the same side of the street, and I remember thinking to myself, "Smart dog . . . Smart, smart dog."

I then leashed her up, I think.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Café Thing

When I entered the café I saw that all the tables were taken accept for one. Then I noticed that the table I thought was free was actually attached to another table, which two people were sitting at. As I was standing there wondering what I should do, a waitress came up to me and greeted me. She was very friendly and asked me where I would like to sit. Now, feeling a little bit of pressure, the choice was clear: next to those two people.

I initially sat at the chair facing the window, but it was too bright so I switched to the other side of the table and sat on the bench facing the café. The two people sitting at the table seemed friendly, which made me feel at ease. All I really wanted to do was chill out and maybe drink an espresso, but when the waitress asked me what I’d be having, I told her a latte and a croissant. I didn’t really want the croissant but I ordered it because I felt as though just ordering a latte in such a nice cafe was not enough. The waitress asked me if I would like jelly or butter with my croissant and in that moment I thought, Eww, who actually orders butter with their croissant? I told her just the croissant would be fine, though after I said that I thought maybe I would like some jelly too but said nothing because I felt the moment had passed.

I took out my laptop. Earlier in the day I had been at another café where I tried to write something but couldn’t because my eyes kept shutting out of tiredness. But now I felt I had more energy. I had finally taken care of an important errand at a governmental office and that made me feel good, and the walk to the café from the office had been very pleasant. I had taken a side street and something about walking on this quieter street in the sun and cold reinvigorated me.

I began to write and I felt as though the writing was going well. I mean, it was a slow process, what I was working on was coming along slow, but it was coming along. At one point I overheard something that my seat mates were saying. The man sitting diagonally from me was saying to the woman across from him, “I never get any emails that are real emails these days. The only emails I get are advertisements.” This comment made me think to myself, Is this what people talk about? I mean, I talk about such stuff too, but is this what people talk about?

I carried on with my writing. At some point, my tablemates paid the bill and left. I now had the whole table to myself but by this point didn’t care because the man and the woman had been pleasant. After a few minutes, a young woman came into the café. She must have been in her 20s. She stood near the center of the café, not far from the entrance, and, I noticed, was in the same predicament I had been. There were no seats. Or rather, it seemed like there were no seats. There were actually three free seats by me, and after she looked around the café for a second or two, she came over to the table I was sitting at and asked if she could sit with me. I said of course. It was so cute, because she had been as timid as I was only 25 minutes earlier when I had come up to the table to sit next to those two people.

I went back to writing. I was writing a fiction story. Sometimes when I write, I think the piece that I’m writing is total crap; other times, I might think that the very same piece is great and has much potential. My state of mind was that the piece I was writing had potential. When I noticed that I only had one hour before my next appointment started, I asked the waitress if I could pay. The bill was 5.80 euros. I thought that that was expensive, but I told the waitress that I would like to give her 7 euros in total. One euro and twenty cents felt like a good tip, and when you pay five euros and eighty cents for a coffee and a croissant, it is good, I guess, it’s about 20 percent, but now looking back, it doesn’t seem that great.

Thursday, November 14, 2019


When I got on the bus today, the bus driver didn’t really greet me when I showed him my pass. I found that strange because no other human was on the bus when I boarded. It was just he and I there at the stop, and he still didn’t say anything.

Then, a few minutes into ride, the bus came to a halt. I had been typing on my laptop but I looked up after I noticed how quite and still the bus had become. The engine had been shut off. At the front of the bus, the driver was just getting out of his seat.

“Es tut mir leid. Ich muss schnell auf die Toilette gehen.” he said, addressing the people sitting at the front.

“Das ist nur menschlich,” a woman said.

I glanced out the window.  I saw that we were at some kind of red brick house that looked like it belonged to the water authority or something. I wasn’t sure if we were at an official bus top. I figured that the driver was going to go use a bathroom in the building.

As I waited, I enjoyed the quiet. The tapping sound that the keys made as I was typing was very pleasant. It’s not every day that one can hear the sound of typing on a bus.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Just Sketch'n

Just for fun...

The bridge spanning the Elbe looks like a helix. Underneath the bridge is a barge. The barge has either just passed under the helix-looking bridge or is about to. Beyond the bridge is a factory. If I’m not mistaken, it’s a copper refinery, one of the biggest in Germany.

The train pulls into the next stop. The stop is in an area that had been flattened in the war but was rebuilt and nowadays is a commercial district where many big companies have their offices. Each week I do business in a building in this commercial district and every time I run to the store or go for lunch I smell cigarette smoke. Smokers taking their cigarette breaks often stand on the sidewalk in front of the office buildings in the area.

I arrive at the central station. After disembarking, I walk to a place where I like to eat lunch. It’s a sushi place -- “all you can eat.”  A friend of mine and I call this place “ghetto sushi” because the quality of the sushi is not the best. It’s sushi made for the masses. I order the buffet, the “all you can eat,” and when the server asks me what I would like to drink, I say, “Nothing right now.” I really would like a green tea, but I don’t want to spend the extra 3.50 or whatever it is.

The last time I was at this restaurant, a manager came over to me to tell me I had to leave. I had long finished my food and had been sitting at a table with my laptop out. I had been playing chess online. Nothing makes me loose track of time like playing chess. The manager wasn’t rude or anything. He just told me that he and the other employees wanted to close up.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Hard to Understand

Yesterday, before basketball, Max asked me about my weekend. I told him that I had been in Lüneburg. At first, he couldn’t understand me.
“Where?” he asked.
“Lüneburg,” I said.
“Ah,” he said, “Lüneburg. Can you say it again?”
“Lüneburg,” I answered.
“Ha-ha, ‘Lüneburg,’” he said, mocking my pronunciation. “Try it again, ‘Lüneburg.’”
“Lüneburg,” I said.
“Right, that’s it,” he said. “That’s funny, ‘Lüneburg.’”

Then, later, after practice, I was in the locker room getting changed and I overheard just part of a conversation that Max and Uri were having.
“It was a lot of fun,” Max said.
I butted into their conversation. Jokingly,  I said, “What? The strip club?”
“Sorry?” Max said.
“What was fun?” I repeated. “The strip club?”
“Sorry?” Max started to smile. Uri cut in; he had understood me. “No, no," Uri said, "I think you are getting a little confused. That’s a different kind of fun.”
“Oh, strip club, you said,” said Max, “Strip club . . . OK.” Max laughed.
I was smiling and Uri was too. After a moment, I said, “No, but for real, what were you guys talking about?”
“Oh, we were talking about Elsass,” Max said.
Ah, Alsace, nice.”
“It’s a place in France,” Max said.
“I know,” I said. “I’ve been there.”
“Oh, you have?” he said.
“Yeah,” I said.
“Yeah, we stayed in a ‘Mittelgebirge,’ a middle . . . I’m not sure how you call it in English.”
“We actually just call them ‘hills,’” I said.
“Oh really? OK. Yeah, so we were staying at this camping area in Elsass and we just hung out and played music, guitar and so forth.”
“Oh, the Vosges!" I said, referring to the mountain range in Alsace and other parts of eastern France. "You guy stayed in the Vosges. I know the Vosges.”
“Vosges,” Uri cut in, correcting my pronunciation. “The Vosges; that’s enough.”
I laughed. “Uh-oh, we better watch out with that English pronunciation of French!”

Monday, November 04, 2019

The Deadly Ones Are in the House

Yesterday I had breakfast with someone who was recently in Chile for a month. Here is a conversation we had.

“So check this out.”

“OK,” I said.

“So one of our cousins asked us if we wanted to go play soccer in the field. We thought it would be fun, so we said yes. But the field turned out to be this forest of eucalyptus trees that was on a mountain.  

“What?” I said. “That’s crazy. Huh?”

“I know. But wait -- there’s more. At one point, after I had gone for the ball, I saw a huge spider -- one of those that are furry.”

“A tarantula.”

“Yeah, a tarantula, it was sitting on a cement block.”

“Oh my God, are you kidding me?”

“No, and I said to the cousin, ‘What the hell is that!’ and she was like, ‘Oh, don’t worry; they live here,’ and I was like, ‘Live where?!’”

“Oh man . . . that’s crazy.”

“No, no, and then she said, ‘Don’t worry about the tarantulas, they’re not poisonous. The ones you have to worry about are the "corner spiders." 'They're poisonous.' 'And where do those live?' I asked. 'IN THE HOUSE'! Yeah, the deadly spiders live in people's houses -- in the corners or in the crack, near beds and stuff."

“You’re kidding me. ”  

“No, I was so fucking scared.”

“Holy shit.”

“Yeah, and if they bite you, you can die in two days. One of her uncles was actually bit, and he had to go to the hospital.”

“And they live in the houses?”


“Holy shit. You must’ve had a hard time sleeping.”

“Yeah, it was really hard for me the first night after she told me that. But, then, you know what I noticed? They keep the beds and other things away from the wall. That way, spiders can’t find places to hide that easily.”

“Wow . . .”

“Yeah, but she told me to close the window at night.”

“Why, so they can’t get in through the window?”


“So if the window is shut, they can’t get in at all? Like, there’s no other way? It’s through the window that they come in?

“Yeah, I think so.”

“So, like, if the window is perfectly shut and you're in a sealed room, so to speak, you're OK?”

"Yeah . . ."

“OK, good . . . Wow.”

“Yeah . . . You can imagine. 'Oh, don’t worry about those spidersthey’re not the deadly ones. The deadly ones live in the house.'!"

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Dream I'll Never Forget

When I was a kid, my mom and I used to live in an apartment building that was across the street from a parking lot that served a supermarket, a Laundromat and some other shops. When you looked out the windows of our living room and bedroom, you saw the parking lot and Laundromat. The parking lot had a guardrail around it, the kind you might see on a highway, and the Laundromat had a big blue awning that said, “Laundromat: Service and Self Services.” Along one of the Laundromat’s exterior walls, there were several dumpsters and a protruding, metal-grate storage shed. This storage shed was under lock and key to prevent people from accessing a staircase that led down to the Laundromat’s sub-ground level.

In a dream I’ll never forget, my aunt Iris and I walked down that staircase. When we got to the bottom of it we saw a door and entered through it. We were amazed at what we saw. It looked like we had entered some kind of private diner/club. There were a lot of people moving about in this space and the air was smoky. People were sitting on stools facing a long counter. The people were eating and smoking. People also sat at the booths that were adjacent to the counter. The milieu was such that it wouldn’t have been unusual to see someone who looked like Humphrey Bogart in the crowd. Iris and I just moved about the place, amazed at all the action. We were not seen.

For the longest time, I had thought that Iris and I had actually gone down that staircase. But my mom eventually convinced me that the entire thing was, or must have been, a dream.

My Thoughts

But is that what you really want? Do you really think that you can do it? What are you now going to write, fiction? What do you know about writing fiction? But fiction has something in it that even journalism doesn’t. In a way, it’s larger than journalism. It has in it something that can’t be captured in journalism. Yeah, but what will you be up against? You will be up against people who are going to school for fiction, who have been writing it for years. They are trained craftsman. You will be going up against the varsity team. You want that? At least with journalism you had at least been on the varsity team, or warmed up with the players, maybe played once or twice. Can you do it? I mean, you are not the youngest person out there. Is this just another of your little flights of fancy. That would be sad if it were. You’re never really going to get anywhere, then. And what’s up with your English teaching? You used to think you had it down to something of a hustle. But lately it seems like it’s been riding you. You think that you make money, but do you? I’m not fully convinced you do. I think you would need to earn double to make the kind of money that you think you are making. And lately it feels like you’re on a hamster wheel with it. It’s like, Monday morning, morning, Tuesday, go, Wednesday there, Thursday break your back and then Friday chill and make some money, but, really you’re not making money . . . you’re not making much money. And then you do you’re little writing in between. And then you get an idea and you go with it and then you take all these little breaks from it and you write all these little flights of fancy. For what? For your blog. Any real writer would tell you that writing for your own blog, for the 10 or so people who read each post, is a joke. You’re a joke. You’re letting your life pass you by. That’s what a real writer would tell you. Yeah, sure, you can write and you’re pretty good at it, but the only thing that really pushes us  to the next level, that brings out the best in us, is trying to work hard for an audience. You can shoot hoops every day all day from dawn until dusk, but unless you have competition and compete with other people, other players, you will never be that great. By writing on you’re blog, you’re just shooting hoops. And you call yourself a writer. You can read all the great fiction you want and think about all the great fiction you want and read all the good news stories that you want, but if you’re not writing and publishing and doing it in a cool and regular way, you’re not a writer. You’re just someone who writes. What do you want to be? Do you really think that you have the ability, the facility, to be a writer, a real writer, of fiction? Whenever the going gets rough with writing, any time you have to really move heavy stone blocks, you take a break. You write something else. You say, “I’ll do it tomorrow.” You find a reason not to do it. That’s because you have no fire under you. You’re writing for yourself. Do you think people will actually read what fiction you have to write? You’re not the youngest. What exactly are you? You’re not as hardworking, not nearly hardworking, as you’d like to think you are. 

Friday, November 01, 2019

My Bag

Usually, when I’m on the bus, I’m very considerate. That means if I have a two-seater all to myself and am storing my backpack on the empty seat next to me, I will move my backpack if I notice that a lot of people are about to board. That way, a new-arriver doesn’t have to ask me to remove my bag from the seat. The seat is simply already free and able to be occupied easily.

Today, however, was different. Today I had both my backpack and my basketball equipment with me and decided to keep my bulky basketball stuff on the seat beside me after the bus got underway. I had been so good for so long, I reasoned.

I was on my way from a sparsely populated locale in Lower Saxony to a highly populated place, Harburg, and I knew from past experience that the closer one got to Harburg, the more people boarded the bus. But I was steadfast. Despite the growing number of people that began getting on the bus, I still kept my basketball stuff on the seat next to me. Most people, after seeing my sports bag, wouldn’t even look at me. They would just carry on to the back of the bus, hoping, I guess, to find a unencumbered seat there. Even when the bus driver got out of the bus at one point to help a wheelchair-bound woman board I remained unmoved. Instead, I thought, “Well, nothing to worry about there: she’s already got her seat!”

My conscience kicked in, I guess, at the second-to-last stop before Harburg. There, I noticed that a woman with a baby carriage was about to board. From previous experience, I knew that mothers usually like to park their strollers in front of the two-seater and then sit at the two seater's aisle seat. This allows them to sit and simultaneously keep a hand on the stroller

I moved my bag.

The woman with the stroller got on the bus, and just as I had thought parked it right in front of the two-seater. However, unlike how I had thought, she didn’t sit next to me. Instead she stood by the stroller, stabling herself by holding onto a strap above her. When I looked down at the stroller, I drew a quick breath. There were several tubes leading into the part of the carriage where the baby was. Though my angle was such that I couldn’t see the baby, I presumed that the tubes were connected to it, perhaps helping it breathe. I focused a while on the tubes. They were thick and made of non-transparent plastic and looked like tubes that one might find in a hospital or coiled in the back of an ambulance. The machine that they were attached to was stored at the bottom of the carriage and looked heavy, almost like a car battery. The tubes ran from the machine up and into the bassinet and had been carefully affixed to the stroller's handlebar so they'd be less likely to catch. Another woman was accompanying the woman with the stroller and the two ladies seemed to be in a pretty good mood. They were talking and even smiling, and I was glad that they seemed OK.

When the bus arrived in Harburg, the woman with the baby carriage and her friend disembarked. I remained on the bus for a minute or so after they had gotten off. There were a number of people in the aisle still and I had to wait for them before I could step out of the two-seater.

When I was about to get off the bus and was standing before the doors, I looked to my left and noticed that the wheelchair-bound woman was still aboard. She was the only one left on the bus except for the bus driver and me.

“Excuse me, I would like to get off the bus,” she said to the bus driver. Though it is the bus driver’s duty to aid people in wheelchairs on and off the bus, many riders often take it upon themselves to do the job. Doing so saves time, and in the past I have even helped people in wheelchairs get off and on.

The woman called to the bus driver again. I was able to see his eyes in the rearview mirror.

“Excuse me,” she said.