To Freiburg, wondering if there is a future for me here, in Germany or Berlin or… and passing through Spandau the factories and grey fog and dim low clouds return me to journeys so similar yet distant, from Guangzhou to Hong Kong. Or the other way. There though was moist warm humidity and the greyness was smog. The light here is so different to the other side of the world, two hemispheres away.
Thick carpets of tall brown grass and wild flowers, tiny floating like halos above on gentle seductive hills. I wanted to hurl myself from the train, land crashing into and roll, tumble until one last arm flings me onto my back and stillness, soft lazy herds of clouds, blueness and around the edge of my sight the mass of summer blooms. A silence first from the departing monster train, a silence that is coming up for breath, and then a swelling, roaring inferno of small life, and in the distance, the vast surge that is the wind brushing over all of this.
A tightening, inwardly spiraling circumnavigation, from Frankfurt to Berlin, then south to Vienna, the Tyrol and Zürich, Freiburg and finding myself arcing far more north than I expected, closing the loop almost at Frankfurt again. Different stations, going over instead of curving under and back to Berlin.
I’m in Berlin.
I have a thin hard futon on the floor, white sheets and pillow. My suitcases disgorged the fatty decomposing carcass of washed-up seals. Peanut butter on bread weighing no less than a brick of the same size. Tiredness like jet-lag. Here for a while, my new small home.
I have heard of a place for queers and trans where I might find a bicycle. Might, maybe, a possibility for tomorrow. I spent only a week here and I felt as if this had always been where I was, disconcerting me now to think I am becoming familiar again with a place I only knew for seen days.
The train stopped in Basel. For quite some time. Moved several meters, stopped again. Moved a little less, stopped. A long time. An announcement that we are delayed. Move again some meters… yes… oh… no… disappointment. One hour later I am free of Switzerland.
Sumi says, “I know you”, fixing me with a terrifying stare (she is not). Eventually we work out she saw Mercy 45 in Zürich three years ago, and was in St Gallen Stadtstheter with Cornelia and Debbie. Tomas is here also, a musician, Daniel and his perhaps boyfriend (a discussion on nomenclature is required), and Clint, who finds me at the train station whimpering, “This is a Small Town, isn’t it?”, and… Paea!!! Not seen since November last year.
I am here for some days, instead of the original longer stay in Zürich and then visiting them all in Luzerne. So I go back to Berlin at the end of the week. And…
Daniel is in the shower with a beer when I arrive. Two suitcases now, one full of books and hiking boots and other stuff I don’t use often. I get quite damp hugging him. The apartment is beautiful, large, a vast balcony, Annaplatz outside, with a plain church bearing a loud and clangy bell, each time it peals I think, oh they didn’t make that very well, did they? Despite my aversion to church-y things, when all the bells in Zürich went swinging, the harmonics they generated were quite sublime, a vibrating, interweaving series of notes far more than the single pitch struck by the clapper, building until the whole city reverberated.
Here the bell goes claaaanggg… and fades out in a mediocre blur, a cast-iron pot dropped on the kitchen floor.
We are told off for having fun before 10pm in the platz. I wonder if the geriatrics have washing machine rosters also? Later he looms out of the window, a sepulchral father pushing aside the curtain, the streetlight making it a Hammer House of Horror moment.
Freiburg is rather nice.
This week is grant writing and other excitement, and… I’m not sure how much blogging will ensue.
Some books I read small pieces of in my room in Vienna. Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others, a couple of books on Central Asia, several Dykes to Watch Out For comics, one Small Favours(?) comic, German lesbian sex-porn… and the first three or so chapters of Stone Butch Blues. Each time I have read some of this, (and would dearly love to own it) I can never get through the first chapter, her unsent letter without crying. As for the subsequent chapters, oh this book is harrowing for me, knowing somehow those who populate the pages, finding myself in some of them, seeing who I desire in others…
I’ve had some post-show blues, though met with equal amounts of excitement at my impending return to Zürich. I write this on the train, we are just leaving Linz HBF. I miss the rhythm of being with a group, each day the rehearsals and the familiarity of it all. I’m first greeted by much tiredness and oh, like something departing from me. And this is all mental and emotional though. What I think is most difficult is feeling the performance and weeks leave my body. Or rather, it is not so passive. My body covers up these weeks, most obviously healing torn skin and bruises, less visible but no less real is the diminishment of how the inside feels from these weeks. My ankles no longer so fragile, shoulders, back, all this gradually dissipating. This is the hardest thing, to feel all this depart.
Zürich… later this week Freiburg to see my beautiful Daniel and Paea. I feel a impelling need to get back to Berlin and commence.
Early rising, 9 hours from Berlin to Vienna, through Czechoslovakia, I’ve never been there before. Now I’ve seen several train stations. The annoyance of a very rushed and disorganised embarking including my seat being on the other side of a locked door was made bearable firstly with much of a six-seat cabin to myself, and later in Prague when the train filled with uptight tourists, by a swift promotion to first class.
My last full day was spent wandering an exhibition which I intend to blog properly some time soon, when proper internet has been attained, and a remark to me on my lamenting my camera phone, that this camera was better than none, and so sitting on the train I realised how its limitations, no zoom, rather slow capture speed, poor exposure qualities (good macro though) makes for a mimimalism that is quite enjoyable (like coding in css and html haha).
I am in Vienna again. Warm, humid, summer, certainly to be wearing skirts and a need for sandals (and the ever-present picking inside my thoughts, “you can’t go back, you have to make this work somehow, here, Berlin, this is where you have to stay”), and tomorrow I guess, to start with Hans. I am found at the train station by Jana, moments after discovering my phone does not work here (oh Berlin I miss you in so many ways), and then a car journey to the 14th district where we are staying in an old apartment house, the king once en promenade outside on his horse, the owner remembering her grandmother’s mother telling such stories, some eating and talking, sleep, then a long breakfast into the afternoon in the garden, fresh bread, cheese, coffee from the Turkish store, learning some words in Croatian and German…
Up… down… up… down… walking, thinking, sitting on the s- or u-bahn, watching the world letting my thoughts drift, Berlin, between happiness and anxiety, so much I feel I need to do, so few minutes left until another train, bound for Vienna via I think, Prague, another train station to add to my collection, train stations I have passed through and the cities I only saw from the window.
By Tuesday I was fatigued. The weeks of preparation, packing, worrying, then the days of travel and airports, and finally arriving to be so completely taken by this city I barely slept, and dancing, sweating, and suddenly Tuesday I could no longer resist. Sleep. Hours of it, getting up to wander in a blur. I decided yesterday to entertain myself by riding the S41 around the city circle, maybe an hours journey through the points of the Kreuz, then west to east on the S9 or S7, I forget which, past the Zoologisher Garten, through the unspeakably narcissistic Alexanderplatz, I mean in an architectural way reminding me of parts of urban China, somewhat lost and then a return to Rosenthaler Platz, my centre, for me already the familiar, a home somewhat for this week because of café with free internet.
I’ve been thinking again of starting another blog, an anonymous one, to expurgate things I no longer want to here because of the confusion it causes, the inability to separate a very public anonymity here from my life in the daily world, and also to… I’ve found it difficult to be very personal here because initially that wasn’t the point, and it’s always felt conflicting. And I think I’d like to write on certain topics away from here, in a format and place better suited. I’m not sure, but…
I’ve been having lengthy arguments and conversations with myself about gender and queer and Judith Butler and mmm all that fun stuff that I know so well, and reading so much that has given me plenty to think about… though I’m suffering from the lack of books and paper, smell of ink and the roughness of pages, falling asleep cradling this…
This is just me thinking out loud.
I’m very happy in Berlin. I haven’t felt so content in a city for years. Adelaide was such a profound affect on me but because of my friends, the city itself is something largely ignored, and provided scant inspiration after a couple of weeks. Berlin by contrast, is a place where I have no close friends, and rather few acquaintances, so causes bouts of loneliness unrelieved by lack of books, but as a city, a place of navigation, something I learn through movement and cartography simultaneously, and of unknown people, mmm it is seductive.
No more time today, no internet at home and I have to trundle south to Kottbusser Tor. Peculiar to think here south is not to find the Antarctic, but to move towards warmth and the equator.
Somehow I have managed to avoid, during my decade in and out of Melbourne, from ever going down the stairs on Flinders St opposite the railway station and discovering the beautiful Art Deco Degraves St Mall. It was only because I’d been asked to take some photos of it that I even locked my bike up to the railing and went down those stairs at all. The delicate salmon pink tiles and contrasting imposing solid black pillars and skirting, curved corners and oil-slick glass and chrome are one of the wonders of Melbourne. And great shops too.
I have such a soft spot for the city Lonely Planet used to advise everyone to don’t-stop-just-keep-on-going-on-to-the-Real-China, and now describe as the L.A. of Asia. Well, if it keeps the annoying tourists holed up in Yangshuo that’s fine by me. When I was last in Guangzhou, half of the city was regularly shuddering to gargantuan subterranean detonations, traffic in Tian He sucked more than usual, but the Metro ticket machines already had the maps for the new lines going all stops from Panyu to Haidu. And now it’s open, the world’s fastest subway.
Consisting of three train cars and worth more than 36 million yuan (US$4.5 million), it is the most advanced underground train on the Chinese mainland.
The train, speeding 135 kilometres an hour, will take less than an hour to get from Panyu in southern Guangzhou to the city’s international airport in Guangzhou’s northern Huadu District.
“The operation of the Metro Line 3 will greatly help ease Guangzhou’s heavy traffic pressure and benefit more than 200,000 residents who are now living along the subway line,” Zhang Changjun, deputy chief engineer with Guangzhou Metro Corp, said in a press conference over the weekend.
The metro train makes its debut journey on Guangzhou’s Metro Line 3, which runs from the city’s south to the north across the Pearl River.