12th Night.

It’s december 25 and I’m preparing an interesting ritual for the 12 following nights. Those twelve nights from today until january 6 – the shakespearian 12th night – are called “Rauhnächte” in Germany, which actually refers to the word “Rauch” meaning “smoke”. In “the old days” people used to burn essences to clean the house of evil spirits in those nights and prepare for the next year. Each of those twelve days and nights represents a month of the year to come.

My mother gave me a book about those and other traditions some years ago, but it was only last year that I read the part about the ‘thirteen wishes’ and gave it a try. Here’s is a link for German readers to this part of the book.

12thnight

So here’s what I’ll be doing now:

I’ve prepared 13 little pieces of paper. Now I’ll be meditating about things that would make 2016 just perfect for me and then write one of those wishes on each of the little snippets. Then fold them so that I can’t read the wishes anymore and they all look the same and place them in a little box.

Today, when it got dark, I’ll draw the first wish (don’t open it!) but take it outside and burn the paper in a small fireproof bowl. Afterwards I’ll throw the ashes under the Linden Tree in the garden and finally I’ll thank the four elements for their assistance in this ritual. This will be my procedure for the following days. On the evening of january 6 the thirteenth wish will be left. This is the only one, which I will open and read. The fulfillment of all the other wishes will (hopefully) be taken care of by the universe, but it will be my own task to make those last one come true during the new year.

I had the most bizarre, lifechanging and wonderful 2015 – so obviously I’m going to do this again and I’m inviting you to do the same.

What will make 2016 perfect for you? Start writing.
🙂

• strips books & kindle THINGS FROM DINGS

Berlin … Remembrance of Things Past

When I saw Olen Steinhauer’s tweet with a pic from a Berlin café a couple of days ago, something in me snapped.

It’s been about 15 years now, since I’ve last visited “the capital” but there were times in the 30 years before, when I was there almost every month. As much as I love my “gingerbread” hometown of Nuremberg, in my heart “Ich bin ein Berliner”. So this blog today will be a little walk on “Memory Lane” and contain some memorable films and music related to Berlin …

transitstrecke
Passing this iconic tower meant that you had only about one more hour to drive before reaching Berlin. My most memorable adventure on the “Transitstrecke” was, when the old car we were driving, broke with burning motor, while we were stuck in a traffic jam, still on the eastern side. A truck driver rushed to our aid with an extinguisher, but then we were stranded. This was in the 80s, so no cell-phones and wandering around on eastern territory was out of the question, if you wanted to stay alive and not be mistaken for a fugitive. But it seemed that all in all it was our lucky day, because after a while a diplomat’s car stopped and towed us across the border at Drewitz *phew*. This was the smoothest crossing ever 😉

For those not so familiar with Berlin’s situation back then, some historical information. West Berlin really was an island in the German Democratic Republic (= the soviet zone). You could fly there, drive there by car straight on the “Transitstrecke” or go by train. You got stamps in your passport when entering (and leaving) the GDR and you could only stop at assignated points, because you weren’t to contact locals while transiting. The trains would stop for hours in the middle of the night, at a non-public station near the border and then they were thoroughly searched inside and outside (with dogs) to prevent East Germans from fleeing.


David Bowie’s very emotional trip on “Memory Lane” through Berlin with lots of old footage.

I’ve travelled really a lot of times between Nuremberg and Berlin – and my passport was full to the brim with those ridiculous stamps:

passport-stamps

So, my father is from Berlin and also my mother’s father. As a kid I went there regularly to visit my grandparents in West Berlin and delighted in driving around in the yellow double-deck busses. When I got older, I read the biography of “Christiane F.” a young heroin addict who had to prostitute herself. That made me see “Bahnhof Zoo” in a slightly different light …

schweineimweltall
These are my Berlin grandparents and my great-grandmother (the kid is one of my uncles) in the mid 50s, roughly 5 years before the wall was built. Now everyone would guess, that they gathered proudly around their “Volkswagen” to have that pic taken. LOL … very wrong! This is the so called Berlin humour: they actually never had a car, but I’ve inherited my granddad’s grin 😉

My mother’s sister (my godaunt) moved to Berlin in the beginning of the 80s and when we visited her in Berlin-Kreuzberg for a week in 1984 I really fell consciously in love with the city. When I got 16, I was allowed to visit my aunt together with my best friend(s) and we spent some interesting rather “nocturnal” weeks – as Berlin had no “closing time” like the rest of Germany. I particularly liked the “Bhagwan” disco “FarOut” on Kurfürstendamm next to “Schaubühne” – unlike other discos I knew, this one was not dark, sticky and labyrinth-ish, but just one really big room with a high ceiling, warm lighting and bars in every corner and they played great music too 😉


This is still my (inofficial) hymn to Berlin – from early 80s new german wave band “Ideal”. When this – their first – record came out, my father listened to it literally non-stop during a full 14-day-family-holiday in Bavaria – you’d think, we’d freaked, but I still love every song 😉

Other unforgettable experiences included driving through Berlin in the early morning hours, with someone we just met and who turned out to be a) obviously pretty wasted because he was b) ignoring EVERY red light he came by while going at c) about 70 km/h … yeah well … when you’re 17 it’s really all a bit YOLO 😉

Also when you’re 17 and in Berlin, sleep is clearly overrated … so once we went on a daytrip (trip as in TRIP … as this was still more surreal as just driving on the “Transitstrecke” and not only because we had a hangover!) to East Berlin. We crossed the border at Friedrichstraße and had to walk over a mirrored floor there – so if we had skirts on they could have checked, if we were smuggling whatever under them … please?!. Then we each had to change 50 german Mark (about 25 Euro now) in (ahem, worthless) GDR cash. We’d set up a date with east German relatives of my friend, who met us outside. They had a full sightseeing schedule prepared: visiting the Brandenburg Gate to finally see the Quadriga’s horses heads and not only their butts like from the western side, walked “Unter den Linden” past the Berlin Dome to “Palast der Republik” and then they invited us for lunch at the restaurant on top of the East Berlin TV tower. When we entered we were seated (although almost no seats were taken) and were told that we had one hour to order and eat. This would be the time that the restaurant (who was slowly spinning) would take to make a full turn, so you could watch over the roofs of Berlin in every direction. Yeah well, almost every … because when you were able to look in the direction of the western part of the city, the hour was almost up and exactly THEN your meal arrived. I realised that our “seating” hadn’t been random, but calculated – you really had to watch your plate, eat up and then leave during that last quarter hour – no looks at the “fiends in the West” allowed. In review, this was the most ridiculous experience I’ve had in my whole life so far.

When they walked us back, they motioned us to follow them behind the pillars of “Neue Wache” and gave us german Mark in exchange for the east cash we’d been forced to change earlier (wherever they’ve got the west cash, as this was obviously forbidden!). They were a bit panic-ish and constantly looking over their shoulders (but telling us not to). You really felt like in some sort of bad spy-movie…


“The lives of others” won an Oscar and is really worth seeing – it shows exactly why my friend’s relatives felt uneasy in their own country – just everyone could be an informant and working for the “Stasi” (state security, well more to secure that everyone was staying WITHIN this state).


This is an excerpt from Billy Wilder’s hilarious movie “One Two Three” shot in Berlin in 1961 just before the wall was built. The film was a total flop when it came out, because after the wall was built, obviously no one found it funny anymore. But it really is and you can see (as well as in Wilder’s “A foreign Affair’ with Marlene Dietrich) a lot of Berlin and how much was still destroyed and in ruins.

After the fall of the wall in 1989 I was mainly in Berlin for business reasons (setting up software-systems and training staff at arthouse-cinemas and indie-distributors) or to attend the Berlinale filmfestival. Northern parts of Germany are really not famous for their food, but Berlin was an exception: apart from “Currywurst” and the first “Döner Kebap” who was invented in 1972 not in Turkey, but in Berlin (in a small snackbar between “Zoo station” and famous cinema “Zoopalast”), you could get pretty amazing Falafel, all sorts of really good asian food and my favorite restaurant always was “Cafe Einstein” in Kurfürstenstraße – I’m sure that they still serve the best “Wiener Schnitzel” outside of Vienna.

So finally a last movie-tip:


“Lola rennt” (Run Lola Run) one of the first movies – and also a pretty amazing one – from a re-united “new” Berlin.

• moving pictures • play it again Sam BLAME IT ON THE MUSE SIGHT SOUND & TASTE THINGS FROM DINGS

My entry for #CannibalCouture …

I had so much energy left today that I finally realised my Alana-Mason-cosplay for @Tattle_Crime ‘s #CannibalCouture contest.

cannibalcouture2

Tiny Hannibal – try to spot him – gives Alana a really bad dream here: she’s suddenly sporting Mason’s haircut (and somehow gained 30 pounds *lol*) and has to feed Will’s dogs from her cheek 😉

I tried to hide the remote for the camera in my knife hand while hoping that the piece of Prosciutto di Parma would stick to my cheek until I was finished.

*tadaa* very funny experience … and the dogs liked it too 😉

Edit august 16: this is the perfect opportunity to introduce the four-legged family members – from left:
Yuri, male Sloughi, 10 years, with me from puppyhood
Ali, female (neutered) Galgo-Greyhound-cross, 7 years, rescue from Spain, with me for 3 years now
Casimiro, male Italian Greyhound (american type), 3 years, with me from puppyhood
Siddhartha, male Italian Greyhound (european type), 9 years, adopted when he was a half year old, because he lost his former home

• moving pictures THINGS FROM DINGS

grandmothers & trauma …

I’ve just watched the second “Hannibal” episode with Francis Dolarhyde where we see a short flashback with young Francis at his grandmothers table. Checking my WordPress reader I also saw a new post from “The Book of Esther” who is reporting from her holiday in Czech Republic here.

Which leaves me with mixed feelings…

It’s only a 2,5 hour drive from Nuremberg to Prague. I once even overheard an American at Nuremberg airport, while obviously answering the question on his cell phone where he was at the moment with “in a small town in southern Germany near Prague”. I think actually the majority of Nuremberg’s citizens have been to Prague at least once or even go there regularly for a weekend trip.

I haven’t.

Maybe this has to do with my Bohemian grandmother, who had to leave her house and all her belongings in Czechia and flee with her mother and my baby-aunt (her husband hadn’t survived Hitler’s Stalingrad siege) during WWII.

I’ve often tried to imagine the horror she must have felt – from the few stories she told over and over when I was a kid. How would one feel getting a note of one’s husband’s death, with a newborn baby, that will now never see his father? Also her mother – my great grandmother (who I only got to know as a sweet round little old lady) was many times illegally crossing the border at night, WALKING from Eger to Nuremberg (this is a 1,5 hour DRIVE now) to maintain contact with relatives during wartime – and my gran always dreaded that something might happen to her too …

When the war was over – from the moment it became possible again, my grandmother regularly went back on day trips, to gaze at the house in which she grew up, lost in memories. The one time, I accompanied her, witnessing how she invaded the privacy of the people now living there like: walking past the picket fence back and forth, craning her neck, pointing with her finger, commenting on building alterations that had been made – made me feel really uncomfortable. Of course I felt for her – she clearly never got over these traumatic events: there she had seen her father happy for the last time, before he’d returned broken, from years in a russian prison (I can tell you that in reality this looks nothing like “Lucas North”). By the garden gate she’d received her first kiss from the husband who then went to fight for Hitler’s mad war and never returned. Somehow all of this always tainted my interest for visiting the Czech republic – despite loving the wonderful Czech children movies from the 70s 😉

So, this daytrip with my then 70 year old gran, about 25 years ago, really has remained my only visit there. Something deep within still makes me NOT want to cross that border again. Funny enough – my great grandmother NEVER went back there as long as she lived. So – in a way – todays musings fit perfectly with the Dolarhyde story: trauma our ancestors leave us with.

• RAw musings BLAME IT ON THE MUSE THINGS FROM DINGS

North & South in Franconia … part 2 … The Viola of Doom feat. Jitterfinger

Back from the morning matinee … 19 other students and I first performed two pieces together (a french 16th century “Pavane” and a nice summer piece “Dance of the Mosquitos”) … I was the only viola, there was one contrabass, three celli and the rest all violins. 13 students (including me) were then to perform solos (or duets, trios & quartets), so between a lot of classics (Bach, von Weber, Mozart, Uccellini, Küchler, Pachelbel, Leclair, Kabalevsky & Vivaldi) and a funny bavarian folk tune performed by accordion, 2 violins & a cello – I and the “Viola of Doom” screeched along the tunes of “I’ve seen hell” … for the really brave (and deaf) ones: have a look at the vid 😉

North & South in Franconia … I've seen Hell … from FrauVonElmDings on Vimeo.

I’m really a bit uncomfortable, when I know, that what I have to deliver can & will not be perfect … but as so much people told me recently, that they’re feeling “to old” to start learning an instrument at all, I thought it might really inspire and encourage folks to give it a try, when they see what can be done in just a half year of practising. I’ve started this “string-project” just before my 45 birthday in the last week of january this year. Since I read my first Sherlock Holmes novel when I was about 12, I wanted to play a stringed instrument … instead I played the Melodica for one year, wooden flute just by ear and then my gran taught me to play the piano. But as puberty hit fully I started worshipping the church of disco and quit playing music myself. But deep within this “dream of strings” remained. By hearing a viola/violin duet last year I fell in love with the sound of the viola and as I discovered that they also are available in different sizes (and as a lefthanded version) that was that. I’m really short and so I play a half size “leftie” viola now, which is the size of a full violin!

So this really happened to be my “RAndom act of kindness” for day 4 – inspiring others by not being afraid to let my own imperfectness show. As Osgood says in “Some like it hot”‘s final scene “Nobody’s perfect.”

PS: for the ones interested in art/architecture: the church dates back to the 12th century and was originally constructed as a fortified church, the choir in which I am standing was added around the year 1440, the crucifix is a late gothic masterpiece from famous Tilman Riemenschneider and the oil on wood painting on the left side of the altar shows Adam & Eve with an interesting detail: a large pointer-type dog is sitting in front of them (early 17th century, from Nuremberg painter Paul Juvenell d.Ä.).

PPS: my “RAndom act of kindness” day 3 was – again – not really noteworthy: I just did NOT set an ant trail on fire whom I discovered going past the front door … as long as they stay outside they can do as they please, it’s their garden too 😉

BLAME IT ON THE MUSE THINGS FROM DINGS

North & South in Franconia …

One month ago I involuntarily planted the idea in my viola teacher’s head of performing with me – as part of her music school’s contribution to the village’s summerparty – a viola-piano-duet of “I’ve seen hell” from the BBC’s miniseries “North & South“. You hear this piece while Margaret is writing to her friend in London about visiting John Thornton’s cotton mill, describing it like “I believe I’ve seen hell. It’s white. It’s snow white.”

northandsouth_piano_viola

I had looked for and found the sheet music for piano on the net (left) a while ago and transcribed it for viola (right). As you can see, I still need to write the numbers for my fingers on top of the notes – just in case of a total blackout while performing LOL … also I’m still struggling with the alto clef – as the only instruments I’ve played about 30 years ago were Melodica and piano which are both using the G clef …

Anyway, while listening to (my really poor performance of it back then) my teacher totally fell for it (haha) and suggested it should be my part of the performance…

Now tomorrow’s the big day and it feels a tiny bit unsettling. I will be performing 2 pieces together with the others (providing the only viola part, because the other viola backed out last week *sigh*) and then this duet with my teacher. It really is very motivating for me that she seems to trust me (aged 45 who only started learning to play the viola 6 months ago) of being capable to pull this off. I’m still not totally sure if this really was a good idea, but imagining playing/hearing this piece in the acoustic space of our beautiful 12th century fortified church is rather intriguing … so, wish me luck – I’ll get back to you, if the “Viola of Doom” and I were successfull 😉 … -> here.

northandsouth_stmatthaeus

St. Matthäus church … a real beauty of the “wanna-get-married-there” sort 😉 Pictures by “Aarp65” [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

BLAME IT ON THE MUSE THINGS FROM DINGS

meanwhile in Franconia … it’s my 27th wedding anniversary today

On july 21 in 1988 I married Mr Weber. The pic above was taken before we entered the registry office. In thought bubbles above our heads you might imagine anything from “where am I?”, “what am I doing here?”, “who is this?” to “have I gone mad?” 😉
 
The only people who had been informed of this event beforehand were my grandmother (to prevent her from a stroke) and our two best (wo)men. We had a nice day just fooling around a bit, followed by dinner at our favorite italian restaurant with our best (wo)men and their partners. On the next day we took off to my brother in law’s house in a small village in the Provence for our honeymoon. So, no party. Just us having fun with ourselves 😉
 
We met on may 27 in 1988, I moved in with him 2 weeks later and on july 9th we decided on a whim that we should get married: the shades of a jewellers shopwindow we were looking at, automatically closed while we were gazing into it and I remember us laughing and saying “Now this is not the shop we’ll buy our rings!” … and then we looked at each other and said “So, where WILL we buy the rings then?” … and that was that.
 
We have an age gap of pretty exactly 15,5 years which – combined with our “hasty” marriage – led a lot of people to think that a) I might be pregnant and b) this would not last for long.
Sorry folks. Still no kids (despite the furry fourlegged ones) and well, sticking together for 27 years means something I guess … especially if you consider the fact that we spent about three quarters of that time working 24/7 together. Well maybe that drastically limited the possibilities for straying 😉
 
And for those out there pining for something like that – don’t – it’s not as romantic as it seems in the long run 😉

“When a man opens the car door for his wife,
it’s either a new car or a new wife.”

(Prince Philip)

THINGS FROM DINGS