We live in Neukölln, which is the name of a borough (a “ward,” if you will) within the identically named district, one of Berlin’s twelve, and the one that formed the southeast border with East Berlin when there were still two cities, nearly identically named variations on “Berlin.” Just north of us is the district of Friedrichschain-Kreuzberg. Both areas have high numbers of non-Germans – Turkish and Middle Eastern immigrants, Romany, and plenty of expatriates. In fact, the area north of the street we call home has become known as “Kreuz-kölln,” for its blend of all of those things above, plus students and artists. What do all of those populations have in common?
The desire for affordable rent.
This will inevitably lead toward gentrification and less affordable rent and is only the latest cultural sore point in what is otherwise (or additionally…) a predictable and stereotypical list of sore points that you can imagine from the population list above (including expats, thank you very much).
Our street is Sonnenallee. Apparently it is known throughout the Arabic-speaking world for its shops – and we can certainly speak to the number of schisha bars, cocktail bars, bakeries, clothing stores, grocery stores, delicatessens, and 24-hour stores (known as “Späti”) who advertise prices in German alongside Arabic calligraphy. And that’s not even touching on all of the telephone/mobile/internet stores.
This weekend I submitted my final invoice (for now at least) to the ad agency I’ve been freelancing with for the past 2 years and we will now have no income for the next three months. I’ll admit to feeling no small surge of panic over this.
Although I’ve been freelancing since 1997, there’s never been a point where I’ve consciously and willingly taken myself off the market for 3 months. (Plenty of times when I’ve gotten no work calls and wailed to more than one of you, “I’ll never work again!”… and then the phone rings.) But for now, it’s a bit of a re-set. What am I supposed to do with myself when there’s no panicky phone calls and emails from someone (be it crew, studio or client) asking me to fix a problem? Although some days this business drive me banana-pants-crazy to stark raving nuts, mostly I find it awesome. And hilarious. And totally ridiculous. And I can’t believe people pay me money for it.
And therein lies the unexpected second wave of panic I’ve been experiencing. If I’m not fixing someone else’s problems, what the hell am I doing? Easy enough to say, “Whatever you want!” in principal but much more terrifying staring out over the upcoming months and thinking, “here’s the opportunity you’ve built for yourself. Produce some good work. Pitch some good work. Make something happen.”
So… deep breath. Just like I do for other people, I’ll be breaking down the work into a Day out of Days schedule and a weekly one-liner with goals, whether that be developing, writing pitches, researching or filming in and around Berlin. I need some structure and discipline. Otherwise it becomes too easy to fritter away the days and then there goes the opportunity we’ve laid out before us and it’ll be back to real life with nothing to show. Time to get producin’.
And on that note (since I know I'm thinking, “This sounds like whining about being in Berlin” and it's really not, I hope), here’s a series of awesome things from this week:
We’re back from Barcelona!
What, there was nothing in that post on Monday about going to Barcelona? No warning at all?
Fair enough, it was pretty tight on this end, too. Here’s more or less what happened – we signed ourselves up for German language classes (yes, here in Berlin (wiseass)) and those start next week. Between the two of us, we’re booked Monday through Thursday evenings for the next couple of weeks. Then Lisa came across some deal through her frequent flyer miles, mulled between Greece and Spain, thought that since I’d gone to school in Spain that would be a good thing to check out… and voilà, tickets were purchased, passports grabbed, luggage packed, and we were off.
Also, we were sick.
We came down with colds around a week ago – me a day after Lisa, confirming that it was not allergies, seeing as allergies are not contagious (see previous post regarding the Falken Apotheke, where we’ll be again tomorrow!). We discussed cancelling the trip but decided against it, and though it was a good trip overall, in the future we will probably play it more conservative and simply hang back.
In short: weather? Fantastic. Food? Fantastic. Hotel with frequent flyer miles? Fantastic. Walking short distances? Exhausting. Parc Güell nearly did Lisa in on Wednesday, and that was with public transportation. Not that I was much better. On Monday, I looked and felt like a bus had run over me, backed up, and parked on my carcass.
I think when you move somewhere, anywhere, new, one of the difficult things is getting all of your new haunts ironed out. Coffee, groceries, home goods, exercise, blahblahblah.
We were starting to do that with our first apartment so this week was a bit like starting over. And to complicate matters, I came down with allergies (maybe a cold?) the first morning we woke up in the new place (which is a great apartment with nice people who live here - that's all cool.) But, hey, if you need to figure out a few basics about Berlin, let me help you out with my clogged sinuses and totally limited energy!
How To Find Probiotics: Berlin thankfully has no Whole Foods but they do have a chain called BioMarkt, which I like quite a bit. I like it both because the prices don't feel like the full-on extortion and preciousness of WF but also because BioMarkts also have deli counters and stores at truck stops. ON THE AUTOBAHN. So I love it that you can stop, get a fresh pressed juice and a handmade sandwich instead of greasy pizza rolls under a heat lamp and a Slurpee in a bucket while you're on the road.
Probiotics, though. They seemed like a smart move to combat allergies/ cold that I'd probably picked up thanks to my sudden ability to take trains everywhere. It does mean lots of humanity leaving germs everywhere. After searching high and low, I braved asking someone at the store for "Probiotischen." Bang, got 'em! Bit weird. Big can of powdered probiotics but, hey, this means I can spread it on my new favorite love here, Quark Cheese. (You can't make me jump ahead - I'm working on a whole post about The Wonders of Quark.)