Monday, June 30, 2008

June 28, 1998

10 years ago today...

So on they have an online radio. And today they put on the show from exactly 10 years ago today. That was a very strange time for the Black Crowes and their fans. After a hiatus of a year and losing their lead guitarist and bass player, the summer of 1998 was filled with hope and uncertainty. They started their tour with the new guys a week before this show and because of the internet really starting to catch on in summer of 1998 (for me, at least), I was able to find out almost every day what the setlist the night before or 2 nights before had been. This was a wondrous thing for me because in the mid-90s the only way for me to find out what setlists were being played on a tour, it would come from me collecting tapes and seeing what was written on the tape and thinking wow, so this was the setlist for the show in say, San Antonio in early May 1995. Now of course people at the concert send text messages to people at home who post onto the internet what the current freaking song is!

And this is my point a bit. 10 years ago today. I was just starting to use the Internet more often, going into chat rooms and finding tour dates of bands and ebay. It was at the beginning of the nadir of the internet boom of the late 90s. Think of how things have changed in 10 years. 10 years ago I was amazed at the idea of someone putting up the setlist onto some website thingy that i could access from my desk at home in my boxers. Now I'm not amazed at the idea of people sending text messages while they're IN the concert still and before people even get to their cars in the parking lot, me, on the other side of the world now, if I'm still up, can find out what the setlist was. I can wake up tomorrow morning at 7pm and look at the stats of the just finishing Dodger game.

I have flown across the Atlantic about 20 times since then. I've written 4 books, had a fashion show, a music festival and photo exhibitions in 5 countries. Half of this time I have lived in Germany. That in and of itself is insane to think about. There is no way that I could have predicted in the summer of 1998 that I would ever live in Europe. In fact, that summer is memorable also because it was that fall that I moved to West LA where I lived for about 18 months. That year had an enormous impact on my life. Really, it is the last 10 years that have have the greatest impact on my entire life. I have become an adult, albeit immature and barely responsible, in this time. I have travelled the most, experienced the most, learned the most, more than I ever learned in the ages 14-24 in school. I have really learned things, like how to open a bank account in German, how to get a permanent residence permit in another country, another language, a new job that is good work for my lifestyle.

I have lived in 6 places since then (LA, OC, Toronto, PA, 2 places in Freiburg). I have made a lot of new friends but the old friendships are still strong, you know who you are, Clog, Roman, Moondog, Borrevik, and of course others but you know that distance cannot penetrate our friendships completely. I'm glad to know that all of our lives are continuing and growing.

My parents moved 6 years ago and it was probably one of the smartest things they ever did themselves and their marriage. They could barely afford it and it just skyrocketed in value right after purchasing it, and they have put a lot of money into it, buidling a huge terasse and now I hear a freakin' waterfall somewhere next to the horseshoe pit I have yet to see as well. That house has become party central and my parents have built a 5-star resort in their backyard, I couldn't be happier for them. My parents are still healthy, thank god, my mom has a bout of cancer 2.5 years ago but she beat it back and they're doing great. And from this distance, it makes me feel so lucky because I can still afford to be so far away from my folks, they are both lively and fun people, in their prime of their lives.

So a lot has changed in these 10 years and basically most of it for the positive. The rest can be chalked up to growing up. Now the song "Wiser Time" is on, and the lyric that defines a lot of can be summed up: "you ask why another road song, funny but I bet you never left home, on a good day, it's not every day, we can part the sea, on a bad day, it's not every day, glory just beyond our reach".


ps The Black Crowes more or less officially opened their 2008 summer tour with two shows near Boston. In the 2-hour shows, only one song was repeated and it happens to be their single on some radio stations. It's called "Wounded Bird" but the cool this is that it was the first song one one night and the last song on the other...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Quintessential Summer

I'm sitting in a darkened room with a fan on...

There is an amazingly beautiful day outside, probably a little hot actually and in 6 hours is the Euro Cup finale with Germany and Spain. It's going to be wild to say the least.

Yesterday was an interesting day. I helped a friend move for a couple hours and then cleaned up and went to another friend's little afternoon garden party. There were about 8 of us drinking a few beers, eating some good barbecue food and chatting about everything and nothing. I stayed there until about 7pm and then some of the other guests walked with me into the city and then we enjoyed the weather, sitting and having a beer in 3-4 public places last night. We also got to see 10 minutes of a concert in a church with a violinist, and a cello player and I couldn't see the other guy but it was transcendant music and put me in one of those moments where you know that you are in Europe, something that is so foreign to most people back home, sitting and drinking beer in a small square with a church and then just happening to have small concerts that night for about 5 bucks but they let us in to watch the end of it, then we went to the main outdoor chilling area in the city and were with about 200 other people sitting on steps or cobblestones and just chilling and drinking and talking and more friends joined us and we got talked into going to a club and then were sitting on a couch on a small balcony overlooking the even smaller dancefloor, enjoying the vibration of "wrong song played" to "this is the right song to play", deciding all of this based on how much the people danced to it.

There were also a huge wine festival in one corner of the old town and there thousands of extra people in the city, also at the main church, people eating and drinking and having a great time last night, the night before this huge football game.

We're still up in the air about going to Rome. I've been trying hard to find a host there and we have found one for Friday but not for Saturday or Sunday yet and for some reason this morning it discouraged me. The thing is, that little 4 day trip will easily cost me 200 euros and Chick F a hundy and we're about to go on a HUGE, and somewhat expensive trip for the WHOLE summer so maybe if we didn't spend 300 euros next weekend, and instead just went for the day or even one night across the rhein river to Alsace in France in a small, charming village and spent 100 euros total, ya know? Rome kicks ass (although I can't say I loved it the first time I was there) but it will be there next year too.

We'll see...I haven't seen Chick F for 9 days and she just got into town about 9:30am and has been sleeping the past couple of hours. I'm looking forward to seeing her and we're planning on watching the game together.

Ciao, people!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Weekend baby

Germany won an amazing game last night, 3-2 against Turkey. It was emotional and wild and I was safely in bed by 1am and up before 9am. I taught 5 classes today and did a pretty damn good job if I say so myself (but not great of course):
*a class about travelling, sitting and drinking a coffee and getting paid
*two presentations, one about hooligans and the other about third world economies
*two newspaper articles, one was "dear abby" and the other "dear dan savage" with risque questions about S&M and infidelity and his irreverent answers
*a presentation about Australia and then the students interviewed each other
*90 minutes of book work with students from mongolia, bulgaria, two from ukraine and china

I am now watching a bit of russia/spain football, about to open my second beer and listening to howard stern, so happy to have the next 4 days off.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I'm doing it

I'm chilling in my room at 1:44pm on a Tuesday. I took a little nap from 10-11am, mailed mom's birthday package, had a nice little lunch and now I'm listening to Howard Stern live where it's 7:45am in New York City. It helps me keep connected to home somehow. They're laughing about an interview with Pacman Jones and the racism of Don Imus.

I got a call from my newest employer that said they cannot take me to the train station after class. This means that I will potentially have to sit outside the company for approximately 30 minutes waiting for the bus. My Mark Twain biography will keep me going but I hope the weather cooperates.

Now they're interviewing a pornstar named AJ Morgan, she's 21, she's made 6 movies, the first five were called AJ, the OC Slut about ORANGE COUNTY, California! haahhaahah, classic!

There's a bit of sunshine poking through now, I'm doing some research on Costa Rica and looking for a host for Rome.

I guess it's a normal Tuesday...

Dear Barack, who asked me for money...

yeah, but why don't you oppose telecom immunity??? I'm a registered democrat but have no qualms about helping elect people who are NOT incumbents when those already in power think that giving telecoms a get out of jail card is the right thing to do. If I broke a law like they did, I would be looking at hard time. Sorry I can't contribute millions to your campaign, maybe I could...

Barack, please know that I support your candidacy. You are by far the right choice for this country between the 2-3 of you (you, mccain, and barr, etc) but that doesn't mean that I will blindly follow you. You alone can stop this FISA legislation. I live in germany but am reigstered to vote in California.

good luck and as they say in Germany, "I've got my thumbs pressed for you".

p.s. This is what I just wrote back to a fundraising email...

Monday, June 23, 2008

travel update (part 2)

Rome is up in the air. We've paid 200euros for the tix and it's a friday to monday trip. We're going to Central America in 5 weeks and finances and time are becoming factors. I may try and exchange the tix for a trip to Hamburg in early October and to Barcelona in November if those dates become on sale before the 4th of July. We could still very well go. You might find us in Rome in 11 days, who knows? I'll keep ya updated.

I moved a washing machine from the 4th floor or one building and was planning on bringing it up to the 4th floor of my building but it fell on the neighbor's toe as we lifted it onto the first step! We set it off to the side and will try again tomorrow. Props to Gregg for helping me bring that little beast down.

Gregg and I witnessed a few minutes of intense rain/hail as we got the washing machine into my building, it was impressive.


I've just recently spent about 350 dollars on concert tickets. I have 1 ticket for the Dec 18th, 4 for the 19th and 2 for the 20th of December at the Fillmore in San Francisco to see the Black Crowes. These will be their last 3 shows of the year and should prove epic. I'm super excited about it, I have not seen 3 Crowes' shows back to back to back since May 2001 when I saw May 12, 14 and 15 in Santa Barbara and LA with Oasis.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

travel update

12 days until Rome
33 days until LA/San Diego
40 days until Costa Rica
88 days until San Francisco
145 days until Barcelona
173 days until California (again)

a video from Romania

Why I'm a homebody (at times)

It's a beautiful Sunday lunchtime, first sunday of summer, there are probably millions of people in all directions of me planning on taking serious advantage of the weather. I'm happy for them, I really am. But it's too hot. I don't mean, it's too hot number-wise. I meant it's too hot not to have some air-conditioning and chilled and darkened rooms at times. People are here don't get that, that I don't need the sun everytime it's there. There's like some irrational belief that Germans don't know if the sun will come out again for sure so they take advantage. After growing up in southern California, it's clear to me that the sun will most definitely be there tomorrow. Like death and taxes, baby, ya know what I'm saying?

But that's not why I'm a homebody. This is why...

In a little less than 5 weeks, I'm going to be leaving Freiburg for 9 weeks. True, I will have about 2 of those weeks at my parents' place in southern California and that is awesome and it's home. But, 6 of those weeks will be spent in Central America, constantly away from home, in motion, with nothing but what I carry on my back and my lady will be with me. We'll be taking buses with chickens, defecating in the occasional uber-disgusting bathroom and being on edge often in a pre-emptive sense of being extra aware of our surroundings because of where we are. I don't expect it to be too dangerous for us but they are 3rd world countries. For that whole time, we'll be lowering our standards, having moments of doubt after having made a decision, in a language that I speak ok and she doesn't really speak but she understands some. This is not going to be a vacation, friends.

I do this for experience, to take photographs, to mix with other cultures and languages, eat strange foods and try to have a good time no matter where I am in the world. There will be very little relaxing as a vacation would be. This is straight up adventure and intensity. I can't stress that enough. I'm not telling you to feel sorry for me, I just don't want you to think that I'm particularly relaxed when I first come back from a 6-week "adventure". It's harder than staying at home. Staying at home and working is way easier than my vacations. Maybe that's why I go away so often, from Freiburg because at times it feels like vacation here.

The point is, I'm not gonna have my bed, my desk and shower and afternoon breeze and views and lifestyle for over 2 months. I'm going to have language school students stay in my room the two months I'm gone. I'm sure I will miss this.

Do you get it? I'm somewhere now that I know I will miss in 5 weeks. It's a nice day. Big deal, I'll have this in the 3 weeks in california. But my apartment, which is too hot and without air conditioning or a dishwasher, a small leak in the roof of the kitchen, a super loud street on one side and it's on the 4th floor with no elevator and it's not completely level somehow, I love this place. It's my home, no matter how cheap it is. It's great. So here I am, at my desk at 12:42pm on a beautiful Sunday, thinking about darkening the room, putting the fan almost directly on me and watching a movie of no consequence. Can ya dig?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Germany won and America is losing

Germany won an exciting game against Portugal in the quarter finals of the Euro Cup, 3-2. The old town was rocking last night, loud music and drunk people and flags and german colors everywhere...

Today Scott McClellan, Bush's former press secretary, is testifying in front of the House Judiciary Committee but my excitement for it has wained.


Well, after 30 minutes it was stopped for a House vote. They're debating the FISA, foreign surveillance and they are going to give the telecommunications companies retroactive immunity for warrantless eavesdropping for years after 9/11. It's a sad day in that respect, especially as an American living overseas who is automatically a suspect because I'm calling from outside the US. My family and friends can be listened to because I'm calling from overseas. I feel free.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Senate Armed Services Committee

Man is my life different than 5 years ago. Here I am on a Tuesday at 7.17pm watching a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on detainee interrogation. I'm now watching Senator Pryor ask questions of Lt. Col. Diane Beaver and her October 2002 legal opinion with regard to certain torture techniques she said were legal and how suddenly her mid-level bureaucratic legal brief is used as official US policy in possibly breaking two federal treaties including the Geneva Conventions, torturing suspects.

How is my life different now? Because I know about that shit now, that I'm interested in it and I'm watching it online as my free time.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


I have been wanting to put The Tyde's second album "Twice" on my mp3 player for ages and finally did it today. There are some great moments in its brit pop-meets-beach boys grooves and melodies...

I finished grading the last of 51 exams. Of course I'll have to do another 45 and another 17 before the semester is over but that batch was one of the biggest obstacles between me and Central America. That was a good feeling.

I'm going to see some of my mom's friends with whom she volunteers. They're going to be in Staufen and we're planning on doing dinner with them and then there is the HUGE Germany/Austria game in the Euro Cup. Man oh man, is that gonna be a barn burner!

I haven't decided how yet but I'm going to be productive this week...

and my nephew is getting baptized today, good for you Jake!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Something good happened yesterday

Apparently the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, said that Article 7 of the Military Commissions Act was unconstitutional. Detainees held in Guantanamo Bay and in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot be held without the right of habeas corpus. This has been a cornerstone of Western legal practice since John at Runnymeade and the Magna Carta in 1215. The Supreme Court did its job as the 3rd branch of government to say that a law enacted was unconstitutional.

Having the right to stand before a judge and be told your suspected crimes and then be appointed a lawyer (and translator) by the court is something generations of Americans have taken for granted. That basic aspect of civil liberty was restored yesterday in what is being called "a stinging rebuke" for the Bush Administration...

Getting their ass kicked

Germany looked sorry last night in their EuroCup match against Croatia. They looked jetlagged, totally out of sorts but they're still in it going into their last game against host Austria in game that now means something even more after Austria tied Poland 1-1 last night. If Germany wins, they move onto the second round. If they tie Austria and then Croatia wins or ties Poland, they move on. If they tie and Poland wins, they will both have 4 points in second place. Then it is determined by goals. Right now Germany has 3 goals and Poland has 1. In this last scenario, Germany can still move onto the second round if they tie and Poland beats Croatia by less than 2 goals. If it is exactly two goals, it might then be calculated as goals given up, I'm not sure.

It was raining cats and dogs after the game and we had to stand under the overhang of the beer garden for 20 minutes. Then to Walfisch and met two bands from America who were chillin out, I think they were called the Bones and Sick of it All.

I didn't sleep well last night. I was tired and hungover and out of it but chick F and I went down to Edeka and bought some stuff for breakfast and then we had a nice breakfast with my two roommates and funny discussions in German about diarreaha(sic) and smashing bugs. I didn't know that chicks would talk at length about stuff like that.

Then I graded 6 exams from my business English university down by the Swiss border. The grades in this group are not so good and I'm basically sure which group is which. It's frustrating grading these things because the handwriting is usually hurried and often I'm not totally sure what the person meant. Talk about some grammar problems, man! The school wants me to teach complicated stuff and they are making some pretty big mistakes, even some I told them not to make. Anyway, I got done the basic minimum work and now I'm chillin. Chick F is sitting next to me reading the first part of a 2000-page book called "The Man Without Qualities". Yes, I told her to skip paragraphs but she seems to be enjoying it. Different strokes, right?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

One reason McCain ain't the guy

I'm sure it will become clear that the only ways that Obama could lose the election in November would be:

1)there's a video of him sniffing coke off of a stripper's ass in the back of a limo while his wife is screaming out the window with a megaphone about the dangers of trusting "whitey".
2)there's another terrorist attack and people think that the Republicans are better on national security
3)Clinton undermines Obama somehow.

McCain may make this all redundant if he keeps saying stuff like "Vladimir Putin, the president of Germany" like he said in a speech a couple of days ago. Where do we start with this? Germany is one of our allies. He doesn't know that the leader of Germany is called a Chancellor and that is a woman named Angela Merkel. Putin is no longer even the president of Russia, he is the prime minister.

We do NOT need this kind of careless idiocy running the free world, what little Bush has left free in the past year...

Monday, June 09, 2008

normal life stuff

I just did the dishes. I organized some papers and cleaned off my desk. I worked for some hours down in Loerrach today. I was tired this morning. I was a bit drunk last night after the Germany-Poland game. I wore my german flag-colored lei to work today and was quite popular on the train.

I'm listening to Howard Stern now. A good friend of mine, Oli, just bought plane tickets to go to California in December for a few weeks. He'll be spending Xmas at my folks' house.

It's almost dinner time but I'm tired and want to lie in bed. Romania and France are playing now in the Euro Soccer Championships.

What else do you wanna know? :)

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Are you ready for some foooOOootballlLLlll???

That's right folks, football is back with a vengeance.

Some of you may be asking me, jason, what the hell are you talking about? Quarterbacks and running backs haven't even reported to camp yet well guess what, I'm not talking 'bout THAT football...

The 2008 European Soccer Championships have begun, with Czech Republic and Portugal beating Switzerland and Turkey 1-0 and 2-0, respectively. Tonight, at 8.45pm, when most of the Federal Republic of Germany is watching a show called Tatort, Germany will be playing against Poland, a team that gave them a hell of a time 2 years ago in the World Cup. The weather appears to be holding up and this game is going to dictate how the next week of work is going to feel: either great, everything sliding by because Germany won or gloom and focus on schoolwork while waiting and dreading Thursday's game 2.

I'm going to be wearing my Deutschland shirt, a Germany sweat band and a german flag-colored lei. It's all part of my very pro-Germany weekennd after getting my work permit a few days ago.

The Daily Show on CNN is starting now, the 30 minutes of week I watch TV. Ciao!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

and just like that

I have a permanent residence permit for Germany.

It lasted about 800 days and now it's over.

I will supply supporting photo soon.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

I'm going to count this chicken before it hatches

It's been an interesting day.

I woke up with my alarm at 7.01am. Normally I wake up before it. I checked emails and was happy and hopeful and interested to see Barack Obama had secured enough delegates to secure the nomination for Democratic candidate for president. I showered, listening to my friend Oli on the radio. There was a "stranger", aka new couchsurfer, in the living room sleeping.

I was waiting for the 7.39am tram. It disappeared off the schedule and the next one, at 7.44am was shown. I had a two-sentence conversation with a stranger next to me about how strange that was. Then the tram came one minute later.

I was going to buy a croissant or something from the bakery but was shocked when the thing I wanted cost 1.40euro. I had expected 1.10. I took a pretezel for 55 cents. I know you think it's cheap of me but the pretzel served its purpose.

I taught a beginner class.

I rushed around the corner and "taught" two lawyers for an hour. We discussed the election and how Barack Obama had won the nomination. I tried to tell them how McCain has been making gaffe after gaffe (they had to learn the word) and that Clinton didn't even congratulate Obama in her speech. In a moment of passion, I used the word 'bullshit' in class. :)

I took a tram in misty rain to the station, saw another English teacher, a Scottish woman in her 50s at the station. She was going to Loerrach, where I was teaching the day before. We parted ways and I took a train 12 minutes, walked 2 minutes to a bus which took me 13 minutes to my stop, a roundabout in the middle of nowhere, green flat fields on the right and two different companies on the left in flat buildings. The roundabout had a name.

I walked in the directin of one of the low buildings and from the second floor I saw an old student waving at me. He was the one that had referred me for the job interview I was walking into. Up some steps, down a long corridor and now in the room of the boss who has a pink shirt and tie on the telephone. The interview starts, I'm sweating and speaking a mix of German and Badisch and they were speaking Badisch. I would say that about 15% of what was said I didn't understand. Hell, I met for 30 minutes with one of the managers of the companies and essentially convinced him to pay me 40euros for ever 60 minutes I'm at his company teaching. That is more than 60 dollars an hour! I signed them up (actually, I'll get the decision officially tomorrow but he seemed to think it would be yes and I think it's his decision) for 6 weeks of classes. Those 360euros are not needed but I'm happy to work for them.

I got a ride to the station, took a train back and then rode my bike in the mist and worked out for about 40 minutes and then rode my bike to the English department where I made some copies and saw two teacher-friends of mine. I guess we'll call them freachers from now on.

I rode my bike home and received two letters. One was from the bank that money was in it. The other was from... wait for it.....

The Auslaenderbehoerde. Now I know some of you have no idea what that is but I assure you it has been the bane of my exisitence for 26 months. They are otherwise known as the Foreign Authorities or some such agency to document the foreigners in the country, or, in this case, in the city. I called to verify what: please bring your passport, a photo and 150 euros meant. I've had some chain-tugging going on from them for quite some time so I wanted verificiation. I called the boss and he seemed to say that yes, you will get a Niederlassungerlaubnis tomorrow. Now I know some of you have no idea what that is but I assure you it has been the Holy Grail for me the past 26 months. It is within my grasp.

I am now listening to Howard Stern, eating lunch and happy as fuck. And tired.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Needles Highway

I haven't really thought too much of the Needles Highway in nearly 8 years. It's in SW South Dakota, leading towards or away from Rapid City. I drove through there in June 2000 and that fall the road (not the experiences, really) made it into a book I wrote about Quebec Separatism called Using Toonies.

The reason I'm thinking about it is because I have two couchsurfers from South Dakota in my place now. Actually, they're both out enjoying the evening but the point is, they are from Rapid City and it made me want to list some places around there I visited. And I remembered Needles Highway. It's definitely in the middle of nowhere but it winds around some strange shapes on the landscape and there were buffalo and nearby was Mount Rushmore. It was a memorable time.

I'm going to let them read the passage about Needles Highway in the book.

Oh yeah, I was also at an art exhibition meeting at 10am this morning with artists from Germany, Iran, Japan and America. It was a very interesting time, and then I went to the gym by myself and sweat it out an hour while listening to bad pop music on the radio speakers and no one to talk to...

Jack Johnson's new album "Sleep Through the Static" is fantastic, by the way.