It’s been an age since I was last doing laps on Tempelhofer Feld. I haven’t done any training rides since my back went from “lol fuck ya” to “nah really, howdya like not being able to stand?” mid-November. Give it up for floppy joints!
I had to go out to the Bürgeramt in Lichtenrade, way out near my fave stretches of cobble, and kinda wanted to not spend a heap on taxis, and I miss the full-on aggro of Berlin drivers. One day I need to have a convo with myself around the life choices of punching up when up is a LKW.
Anyway, I missed the turn that would have eventually put me on Hermannstr. and I meant to do that put me at the south-west gate of Tempelhofer Feld. Floppy back had been asking for a break and how often do I actually get to walk at the old airport, so I got my hips swinging the length of the southern stretch of pavé and said hi to the crows. Cold permafrost wind coming from Siberia bringing snow.
Okay, 4th draft on top of whatever I was calling assembling it before it was drafts, and 18 months to get it to this. But done in the sense it goes start to finish and got heaps of pages (which is what makes it a novel yah?) and when I finished this read-through which I’ve been on since late last week, it felt … something sparked in my guts, like this, yeah, I wrote a novel. Brought some big offering into the universe. Alhamdulillah.
Up late a few nights ago and the sound outside changed, went that quiet-loud it does when everything’s blanketed with snow and all the tiny sounds get heard. Snow that’s survived a couple of days now. Haven’t had snow like that or a winter this cold for a few years. I’m still sleeping with the balcony door open, letting in that crisp -6° air. I love how the snow forms soft rime up the bricks of the apartment block opposite, reminds me of mixed ice and rock mountain climbing and how long it’s been since I was hanging onto rock with fingers and toes.
Long time ago when I washed dishes for cash, the lunch chef was getting fancy with this beautiful knife, steel handle with black dimples and very sexy curves. She told me it was a Global knife, from Japan, and was cheaper than the usual pro kitchen knives and just as good.
Some years later, in one of those rare I have cash student moments, I bought my first one, I think a G2 cook’s knife, with which I’ve been slicing and dicing for probably twenty years, and occasionally adding chunks of finger and fingernail to whatever I’m mincing. I had some unexpected cash to finish 2020 (thanks pandemic?), and have been going down my list of necessary shit I haven’t had coin for in the last decade, and arrived at, “Buy some new Global knives.” Which I did.
I always wanted a proper blocky vegetable knife for bouncing alongside my safely clawed knuckles over a head of garlic. And having a sleek as little peeling knife to match. And here we are, doubling my collection of those dimple-handled knives. Number four is a 15cm utility knife I bought maybe mid-’00s, which is currently primarily on bread and cheese duty, though I’m very tempted to buy a couple more just for that. Along with one of them magnetic knife racks and a couple of tree stumps worth of chopping boards.
Waking up at midday after an evening of biking to northern Berlin and back and going on a 3-hour walk. Not celebrating Christmas, just impromptu hangout and wandering the empty dark streets of Pankow, Heinersdorf and Weißensee. Waking up to flurries of fat snow and the air feeling that proper winter way it does when it’s got that cold. Snow melted and gone in minutes.
It’s been a while. I didn’t have any spare cash for a bit, then I had slightly too much (as far as the Finanzamt is concerned), and then I realised I’d decided not to blog for a few weeks (thanks pandemic and enragingly piss poor response by Berlin, Germany, Europe, and so very very many str8wyt men in all those places), and now see me trying to make an effort like showing up for the exam and everyone knows I didn’t do the work.
Yallah, a pile of books I’m reading (pretending to read) in the second half of 2020, to which I’ll add another pile because I dunno, not enough money to buy anything substantial but just enough to incur a hefty tax bill if I don’t spend it. Weird how poverty is emplaced through institutional, structural and legislative punishment.
All the poetry, and I do mean all the poetry is entirely because of Omar Sakr. Him and Sunny Singh (of the Jhalak Prize) on Twitter are responsible for a large chunk of my reading, whether directly or retweeting interesting people who turn out to be writers and poets.
Also poetry, semi-poetry, poetry-ish, with a history in a festival, Rachel De-Lahay’s My White Best Friend: (And Other Letters Left Unsaid), mainly because I read anything with Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan in it.
Continuing the theme of books recommended by other authors, or cited in their bibliographies. Olivette Otele’s African Europeans: An Untold History, which I already blogged, but these six-monthly book dumps seem to deserve all the books. No idea where I heard about this, but either Twitter authors or one of the blogs I read. And from that, Geraldine Heng’s The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages. Real-time internet archaeology as I write here, I likely read about both on In the Middle, the medieval studies blog, where, on Monday, Geraldine Heng responded to the hit-piece on her and this book.
Which reminded me of the double bind I periodically find myself in. The first time I personally experienced it was with JT LeRoy, who I read in the early-’00s and thought was a trans femme who I could relate to. Turned out JT only existed as a fiction of a white, cis woman, and she’s still making a profit and career off our lives. Funny how consequences slide off them like teflon. More recently it was Medieval PoC – who I used to contribute photographs of Black and Brown people in art when I was on my museum bender – and a deeply messy history going back years of her claiming Native, Roma, and other ancestry. And this year it’s been a regular feast of white cis women in academia and the arts getting sprung for building their careers on false claims of BIPoC ancestry. On the other side of the double bind, it’s white supremacy trying to flip medieval European history to its own agenda, and a ceaseless barrage of racism, misogyny, transphobia, and all the other shit against cis and trans BIPoC authors, academics, artists, very regularly from white, cis women in academia and the arts, like the 46-page (!!!) hit-piece Heng responds to.
I mean, I just wanna read books and have a good time and learn shit and be amazed and generally chill the fuck out with a bunch of words and instead it’s white people colouring up or white people doing hit jobs.
Last couple in the non-fiction pile, then. Peta Stephenson’s The Outsiders Within: Telling Australia’s Indigenous-Asian Story. The one she wrote before Islam Dreaming: Indigenous Muslims in Australia, which it turns out I may not have blogged either. That latter was a big one for me. And keeping on the Islam history thing, John M. Steele’s A Brief Introduction to Astronomy in the Middle East, recommended to me by Dr. Danielle Kira Adams of Lowell Observatory, and responsible for Two Deserts, One Sky — Arab Star Calendars (novel research things there).
Fiction, then. Science-fiction mostly. Becky Chambers, who I’ve been reading for the last few years and pretty content at the moment in reading another one from her, To Be Taught, If Fortunate. Another also from Charles Stross, Dead Lies Dreaming, though after fifteen years this might be the last I read from him, just not really doing it for me and the trans character is very written by a cis. Tamsyn Muir’sGideon the Ninth, which I’ve already read, and the sequel Harrow the Ninth, which I’m currently reading / wading through it’s corpsey gore. Claire G. Coleman’sTerra Nullius, Indigetrans colonial invasion sci-fi but not really sci-fi. And speaking of trans, Juno Dawson’sWonderland, which I kinda liked but wished the literary fixation on Alice in Wonderland stories didn’t exist (same like I wish dance fixation on ‘reimagining’ Swan Lake and the classics didn’t exist).
Lucky last. Fiction but more like Chingona autobiography ghost story, Myriam Gurba’sMean. Recommended to me by Vass. Thanks babe, she’s fucking with me.
That’s a lot, eh. Piling up, getting partly read then left, words look smaller than they used to and I need glasses but that means organising shit like ophthalmologist appointments and shelling out cash and fuck it I can squint. Though I wonder if the reason why I’m not reading as much as I used to is ’cos words in book form’s blurry all the time.
Grey as fuck yesterday, rainy as fuck later in the week, pandemic and staring down the open throat of a lockdown again and here goes Berlin flashing her wares. Berlin is such the hard lover who occasionally does this.
Friday got me to the “It looks like a bike, dunnit?” stage, which was me lying to myself. Saturday was the real work of cutting brake and gear cables, and the horrorshow of setting up cantilever brakes. Sunday was “It’s gotta be rideable by 3pm, ’cos you gotta haul arse up to Wedding and see Dasniya perform.”
Sunday. Many videos of Calvin Jones of Park Tool later, a rideable bike.
So many ways to measure and fit a chain. So many ways to set up and index front and rear derailleurs. So many ways to wrap bar tape. So, so, so many videos on YouTube. Only one Calvin Jones.
And of course, not finished. Riding to Wedding and back rattled everything into place. The gears, they went *ching* like Kelis’ Milkshake. The brakes can throw me over the bars with one finger. Still a little skippy and noisy and squeaky though.
And the new riding position is a bit of work. I bought a fizik – or rather, fi’zi:k – Vento Argo R5 saddle ’cos the cutaway down the middle on my old one was nice but not in the right place, and this one is wider (for my weirdly spacious sitbones) and shorter, and very much does not stab me anywhere from butthole to pubic bone. I also bought fizik seat post and bar stem, ’cos I’ve loved using their bar tape the last couple of years. My new position is about the same length on the bar tops but slightly lower on the hoods and drops. This bike has always been a size or two too big for me, and getting low without getting stretched out or loosing the cyclocross agility I need has been a messy process, compounded by the shit cable routing for the front brake.
And today, with a very big box of discarded packaging, another box of old and destroyed bike parts, I decided to sort my drawers of bike shit. So much shit. So many old parts. I now have two drawers of very fucking highly organised and actually usable parts, two sets of serviced and ready to thrash wheels (one for cobbles and one for cyclocross), one sexy refurbished bike and pretty close to getting back out on some training rides.