Things I notice in Berlin

27
Jun
2011

- There is a weird mix of dense and empty dead zones in the city. Probably a result of 40 years of division.

– Public drinking and drunkenness is out of hand, especially on the metro system.

– I am just not as naturally(unnaturally?) fetish-minded as the Germans, not by a long shot.

– There are statues of / signs with bears everywhere.

– This one applies to Hamburg too (and perhaps all of Germany), but there is a strangely small number of places that take credit cards.

Notes on Stockholm

5
Jun
2011

As we get ready to bid adieu to Stockholm, I have collected a few random notes about the city we have come to love during our short stay here.

Churches – None of them are all that much to write home about, and many of them are closed to visitors, and it makes me wonder. Perhaps this is because we are in a culture for whom the church isnt so important (as it is in Catholic countries, for example). And I notice that almost all the churches we have been in have an interesting sort of square-cross, more egalitarian seeming floor-plan than the Catholic basilicas.

Light – Good god, it never gets dark! The darkest time is around midnight or so, after which it gets light again!

Pricey - As you have no doubt realized from previous posts, Sweden is a very expensive country to visit. Everything is about 2-3 times the amount we would pay in New York.

Walking sticks – Bizarrely, there are very many people walking around with two canes or walking sticks. Is this some hangover from that nordic track exercise fad? A government program? A conspiracy?

Crosswalks – As in Gothenburg, cars will stop at almost any crosswalk if they see people approaching. It is so civilized, you can just walk across the street. (Unlike some cities in the US where they will totally mow you down)

Bald and plaid – At least out at the gay clubs, there are a ton of guys who are both bald and wearing plaid. So much so, that we were sure we had stumbled onto a cult of some sort.

Winter – We are almost in summer of course, and the weather has been perfect, but we can’t help but wonder what winter must be like here, when the days are only a few hours long and the cold (and sometimes snow) is everywhere. From the stories we have been told from the locals, it must be quite awful, and a full accounting of the city should probably take that into account.

Drink – As with elsewhere in Sweden, there are some strange laws pertaining to alchohol, so there are no bars around, only restaurants with bars (or bars with restaurants). Add to that the fact that they tax according to alcohol content, and you can see why no one seems to buy anything harder than a beer.

Beer – That said, the average alcohol content of beer here seems higher than in the US, as Josh and I were almost always drunk after only one. But this could also have something to do with the fact that we have been eating so much less because it is so pricey, and a beer on an empty stomach is bound to have more of an effect than normal.

Notes on Copenhagen

30
May
2011

As we bid goodbye to Copenhagen (and head to Gothenburg in Sweden), here are a few notes on things we noticed:

No entry to any church: Just about every church we came across was closed. In most cities, you can enter the nice churches, but not so in Copenhagen it seems.

Rose windows – There seems to have a been a hugely successful church window salesman who passed through town not too long ago, because every single window we saw in any church was the exact same, a kind of small metal frame with a metal rose at certain intersections.

Carlsberg – Denmark’s most famous beer (hell, most famous export I think) seems to own this town. Their logo is on practically everything.

No umbrellas – Although it was raining a lot during our time here, sometimes quite heavily, there were very few people carrying umbrellas, and all of them seemed to be tourists like ourselves. What is it about Danes that make them so accepting and steadfast in the face of cold rain?

Fruit basket children – Everywhere we went, there were parents carting around their children in a kind of large produce box attached to the front of their bikes. Sometimes these would be hermetically sealed with some plastic cover, I guess to prevent the children from spoiling.

Friendly people – Everywhere we went, people were exceedingly helpful and friendly.

Dark bread - The dark bread is everywhere and delicious.

Food quality – I am not sure why, but I guess I expected the food to be of rather low quality, but this was not the case at all. Even when we were purchasing simple (yet expensive, like everything here) sandwiches, they were really very delicious and fresh.

Notes on Barcelona

14
Sep
2010

- The food here is far and away better than any other place in Spain. No matter where we happen to stop into for a bite, it is always great. While there is great food in other parts of Spain, you need to do your research. Not so Barcelona, almost every place is a gem.

– There is a fairly large hippie vibe here, as we have seen several people walking around barefoot (who does that?!), as well as a large number of embarrassing white people/dreadlock combos.

– There are a lot of tourists in Barcelona, as you would imagine for such a fascinating city. We have been wondering to what degree they interfere with the day to day life of the city and if it would get annoying to live here with their presence.

– These people know chocolate.

– Although slightly better quality than the rest of Spain, they still have a problem with the concept of a napkin. Mostly all that is available is a small piece of wax paper, and given the copious amounts of olive oil in just about everything, this is obviously a problem.

Random thoughts on a random Thursday.

29
Jul
2010

- I have a lot of current clients each with their crazy deadlines, all of them crashing into each other. This makes me edgy in a way I wish it didn’t. It is a feeling of pressure I haven’t felt in a long time, and even though I know I am responsible for feeling it, it pervades my consciousness these days.

– New music is great.

– I just saw the movie Salt. It amazes me that Angelina Jolie is so mesmerizing to watch that she can make me enjoy an empty-headed piece of action crap like this.

– August is filled to the brim with visitors and arrivals.

– I took a lovely walk home tonight (while listening to music about loves lost and found) in the warm summer breeze and thought to myself: It has been a long time since I have had my heart broken. I wouldn’t mind, actually.

Notes on Puerto Rico

3
Jan
2010

You’ve seen all the pics. Here are some random things I noted while in PR:

1. We were hard pressed to find a salad or vegetables. No one seems to eat them. Apparently all fiber comes from plantains.

2. A huge number of men sport rat tails

3. I have never seen more Burger King’s per capita anywhere in the world.

4. While traveling on the Ruta Panoramica, there seemed to be one radio station that was all Phil Collins, all the time.

5. As we are Jewish and it was Christmas, it seemed like fate that our rental apartment was in the same building as the best Chinese restaurant in town. We of course ate here on Christmas day.

6. There is a lot of rain in the rainforest. Shocking.

7. Since it was a holiday week, schedules at bars and clubs were a little off. One place we were told to go was closed, but a homeless man on the street seemed to know the holiday hours of at least two gay bars, and helpfully explained it to us.

8. Without saying a word, everyone assumed we were from New York. Is it just that the island sees the most tourists from NYC, or something else?

9. An absolutely crazy number of assholes with music blaring extremely loudly from their cars.

10. More fried food than any place I have ever been, much of it super delicious.

11. A refreshing honesty that results in the loss of a sale. At two separate food establishments, I order something behind the counter and the person comes back to tell me that it is not at its best, and suggests I order something else.

12. Overall, some of the warmest, most friendly people I have met anywhere. Everyone kept inviting us places, offered helpful advice, and took an interest in knowing us. Ricans are very (justifiably) proud of their island(s), and happy to share its best secrets with us. I was really blown away by how great the place was and will definitely be going back.

13.  Puerto Rico has this wonderful quality of being both home and foreign seeming at the same time.

More Paris Notes

24
May
2009

- Perhaps b/c I have been living in NYC for several months now, but the streets of Paris seem eerily, wonderfully, quiet and calm

– I never noticed how much shorter the Metro stations are here compared to New York

– Paris has completely solved what used to be a very bad dogshit problem. I’ve seen hardly any since arriving here and it used to be everywhere.

– The food this time around has been decidedly unimpressive. It is easier to each much better and much cheaper in New York

– Some things don’t change much and it has been an absolute delight visiting with old friends here.

– Paris has put in place a grand experiment with public bike transportation called Velib’ (for velo libre – free biking). Although there are some problems with maintenance, it has absolutely changed the way people think about transport in the city, and it is pretty amazing. We took a ride today to the Bois de Vincennes.

Notes on Paris

22
May
2009

- With only slightly more frequency than in New York, I hear people speaking English here all around me (vs hearing French in NYC)

– It was a beautiful day out, so I bought a sandwich poulet and headed to the amphitheater in front of St Eustache, where there were tons of people eating their lunch. I remember that I used to refer to this church as the “Valentine Cathedral” for the heart shaped windows on its second level.

– Walking in a crowd is different here than in New York, and I find that I bump into or cross people with much greater frequency. I have in the past said the same about New York and I realize that each culture finds its own “rhythm” for moving in crowded places.

– I love how language and culture mix around the world. I bought a made in Japan, French design inspired notebook with English writing on the cover that said “Note Book. Most advanced quality, Gives best writing features”. It sounds kinda lurid when you put it that way.

Inauguration notes

21
Jan
2009

- I love that Obama mentioned “non-believers” in his speech. I believe it is the first time that a president has included and validated them as part of the American family.

– It was somehow fitting and satisfying to see Dick Cheney confined to a wheelchair.

– Aretha’s hat, my friends and I agree, was stolen from a drag queen, albeit a fierce one.

– Speaking of hats, none of the major figures get to wear them in that cold (for image purposes, one imagines). Brrr.

And some random NYC notes

12
Jan
2009

- An absolutely astonishing number of people wear black here. And about eighty percent of them head to toe.

– I hear a lot of complaining about a wide variety of things on the subway. Including the subway itself.

– So far, it seems like a lot of people are nice enough to hold the door for the person behind them, but a much smaller number care to give up their seat on the subway.