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Again Breathing Easily in Bern


I got up at 8:00 and again found Mani already gone. He works as an elementary school teacher. The reason I hadn’t seen him yesterday was that he worked at Lichtspiel after school. There was a note asking if I would like dinner at 6:00. Yes, that sure suited me. I made coffee in the Italian coffee maker, one of those brutal looking metal ones that have an upper and lower chamber that screws together after water is put in the bottom and ground coffee in the middle. Then it is placed on a burner where the water in the bottom ends up as coffee in the top chamber. The best thing about the system is the coffee is very hot when poured into a cup. There is no toaster in Mani’s kitchen. I had bread with butter instead. I have never seen a loaf of sliced bread in this kitchen. The bread is always what in America would be called “artisan” bread. Small dense loaves often with nuts. Very tasty with butter.


After finishing the coffee and bread and butter I worked on my post for the blog. It would consist of the previous four days and would get back up to date. Knowing I would have just over an hour to work on line to add the links and art I wanted it to be ready to copy and paste when I got to Starbucks. By eleven o’clock I was ready. Looking out the window I saw the streets were wet with rain but that no rain was falling and the pedestrians were walking without hats or umbrellas. I decided to go out wearing the sport coat but not the overcoat. That proved a good decision as the sun had come out and the day was warming up. I bought a Trib at a news stand. It was nice to have not read any online news for a couple of days and again be in a more natural rhythm of news in the morning paper than the 24 hour news cycle that the world wide web has made possible.


At Starbucks the drip coffee was again not ready. I asked if only Americans requested it . I was told it was just Americans and Japanese. Live and learn. I asked about refills. They were puzzled. In Switzerland the idea of a free or low cost refill on a cup of coffee is still unheard of. I wondered how long that could last. When I was first in England in 1997 the refill was a sinister idea to them. Ten years later, at least in Starbucks, it was common place. I ordered a medium cup. Another difference here, as opposed to the USA, is that when ordering coffee a house mug is the default option with a to go paper cup by request only.


I found a small round table next to an electrical outlet. To make sure I could get everything done in the time allowed I worked off line for more than an hour. I then got on line and right to work. Working as efficiently as possible I still didn’t get it done before the wifi shut down on me. I went looking for the toilet. I discovered a staircase. I took the upstairs option and found another room for people to sit and drink their coffee. With no service bar is was larger than the area below. Wow, I had no idea. Downstairs there were as many people seated outside as inside. The walls of the building were actually floor to ceiling glass doors. On a warm day all those walls would open and the whole main floor would be one with the plaza. There might be a hundred people sitting at this Starbucks this minute drinking coffee in China cups.


The toilets were downstairs with no sign pointing that way. The doors had key pads. I got the code from upstairs. I was surprised to find that the toilet was multi use. The now common American idea of private single use bathrooms in public places had not gotten here. The idea of handicap access was also not considered. It could be those two things came together as a pair in the USA.


I walked to the cyber cafe to finish the post. I hoped to get it done in the 6 minute window. I put my one Franc coin in the slot and then blanked on my gmail password. Damn. That sort of thing is generally situational. It can also be inopportune. We get so comfortable with our use of laptops and their ability to remember what we need. For this simple job I would need different passwords and user names for gmail, my website, and Facebook. I eventually relaxed and remembered the passwords and got to work. I used up the three one Franc coins I had come with and got more. When I got the blog item posted and announced on Facebook I then added a fairly pathetic second Facebook post summing up the blog item in case people didn’t want to slog trough the minutia they’d find there and also complaining about how much trouble writing out and posting all that minutia took. I then walked out of the cyber cafe into bright sunlight and joyfully rejoined the natural world.


I spent an hour or so just walking around. Bern is a very old city and the oldest parts are very pedestrian friendly. I have forgotten to mention that the walk from Mani’s apartment to the Starbucks is nice in itself. In between is the high Lorrain bridge. On the neighborhood side it is guarded by a sandstone statue of a Gazelle. On the city side it is guarded by both a sandstone statue of a seated man and a dog and a seated woman with deer. The man and woman gaze stonily across the road at each other and have done so for nearly a hundred years and will continue to do so until they erode away or are removed in the name of progress. In the middle of thee there is view of the Alps in the distance and a river far below. I have been told that if ever I am in Bern in the summer we will go swimming in the river. It occurred to me that the problems I had posting the reports on the blog were exacerbated by their covering several days each. I was now caught up and could post a daily report that would take much less time. With that epiphany and the load off my mind I took the pleasant walk back across the bridge, stopping to look at the alps, and went back to the flat where I took a nap.


For dinner that night I made another Greek salad with the fixings from the day before. Mani made a very tasty risotto. They clashed culturally but tasted fine together. After dinner we talked late into the evening over red wine about the state of education and the problems of the world. That sort of thing is possible in a kitchen with a table and no TV or internet access.


Out of Breath Getting This Far



Some foreshadowing here if you haven’t read yesterday’s report. First of all, in case you haven’t noticed, I don’t speak German. In Kiel I discovered that the Sunday screening of A Synagogue For Bad Segeberg, of which I did the English subtitles and English DVD covers and etc., was part of the Filmfest Schleswig Holstein. I also found that Karsten and Film Groupe Chaos would be doing an installation for the festival in the big room of Die Pumpe which was festival headquarters. I helped with the installation which consisted of two 16mm projectors, three 8mm projectors, two fixed (single image) slide projectors, and one carousel slide projector, all projecting vintage images of Kiel on the machinery left from the old pumping station for the whole city, which now resided on the ground floor of a multipurpose cultural center. Here we start in the morning after the opening night of the festival.

March 26  Kiel, Germany

I got up at 6:45 and had the kitchen to myself for a couple of hours of drinking coffee and perusing the news and introspective existential thinking. Around nine I decided to work on a blog post. I had neglected that for several days. I worked on it diligently, deciding on posting four days worth of reports in hopes of getting caught up to date in a couple of days, but didn’t have it ready to post before it was time to go to Die Pumpe for the three o’clock opening and 4:00pm screening. Karsten spent the late morning and early afternoon working on more 16mm film loops for the installation in case the ones in use got chewed up. When we arrived at Die Pumpe the room was locked up but soon a man appeared who let us in. I had seen the man around the place. He was youngish, above average height, with a bald head ,and a solid build. Karsten’s plan was to see that things started right and then drive to Bremen, leaving me in charge of the Medusa’s head sort of construction.


Things did go well but he decided there should be more variety for the fixed slides so he said he would go home and then come back with the slides on his way out of town. I could then put new slides in ever couple of hours. I asked him to also bring beer as there was no sign of tables being set up for another free feed. At four I went into the auditorium to watch Last Exit to Nickelsville and Jimi- Das Fehmarn-Festival. The first was a 16 minute doc ( I first read that as a 16mm doc, and was disappointed when I found it was just the running time) about a sort of Hooverville in Seattle that the residents named Nickelsville after mayor Greg Nickels. The second was a doc about a yearly Jimi Hendrix music festival that is in the nearby town of Fehmarn where Jimi had himself played a concert in 1970 two weeks before he died. I really enjoyed it, especially the footage of Jimi playing, which I had never seen. The original concert was held in terrible weather and included footage of driving rain and people huddled under tarps. Hendrix performed about twenty songs. Interspersed were scenes from the more recent festivals on the same site. Several times during the presentation I popped out to check the installation.


About half way through I came out and found Karsten had come back and was ready to go. He had left the slides and beer in our storage space for this and that which was sort of in the middle of the machinery. He also said he had put the last spare lamp in the Siemens projector. One nice thing about the Siemens projector was that it was so old it had no auto load capability and was a snap to load and unload. A drawback was the projection lamps for it were no longer manufactured. Just before he left the loop in the front Bauer autoload 16mm projector, sitting on the big motor, held in place with webbed belting, chewed up the loop. The replacement loop didn’t want to load and I finally had to give up on the auto-load and load it manually, which is next to impossible unless you do it all the time. The new loop was shorter than the old one. On that projector we had attached with duct tape a slim pole and taped a wire loop to the end of the pole to add length to the film path, so that the film wouldn’t drag on the floor. With the new loop I had to move the wire loop down the pole a couple of feet. I finally got that finished just as the feature let out. The new loop was in black and white of a boy in a swim suit putting flippers on his feet before diving into the pool and swimming. I had learned recently that the pool shown had been closed for many years and would soon be turned into an artists collective.


I talked to one of the directors of the Jimi Hendrix film who was talking to Elisabeth Saggau. I asked him if the Hendrix family had come after him about rights for the music in the film. He said all of the music was owned by Geffen but that might be just for Europe. I told him of the family complaining about my showing in Seattle a three minute film Jimi was in, a sort of pre-MTV rock video from 1969, with their claim that they owned everything he ever appeared in. He told me he hoped to work something out with them for US screenings. I told him I had never seen the footage before. He said it had never been seen. Apparently the promoters of the event had filmed the whole thing with the idea of releasing a film version but never got it done. Elisabeth said she had known the promoters and all of them had gone broke putting on the concert, at least one of them ending up a ruined and bitter man. I talked to Bernd-Gunther and found that he had been at Fehmarn and had seen Jimi Hendrix there in 1970. Wow!


With everything working I walked to the Subway Sandwich Shop around the corner and got a hoagie to go and ate at a table next to the number 2 16mm. I then went in to watch the 8:30 show of shorts. The guy introducing the show was the same young bald solid guy who had let us into the locked big room that morning. I would never have guessed from just talking to him what an entertaining guy he could be in front of a crowd. He looked comfortable, with just a little edgy nervousness to add frisson, and got a lot of laughs. All of the films were worth watching but none really stood out. After each one I would go out and check the installation while the film makers Q and A with took place in German on the stage. About the forth time out I found the last lamp had failed in the Siemens projector. I replaced it with the spare Bauer projector that had a loop in it already. I got that done in time to see the start of the next film. Before the next to last film I came out and noticed a really bad white scratch down the center of loop of the swimming boy with flippers in the the number one 16mm. When I had moved the wire loop down the pole I reused the tape and didn’t notice it left the end of the wire sticking out the bottom. The film had dragged over the end of the wire, scratching it. Since that projector didn’t like to load it took me the whole short film to get another loop going. It was the shortened version of the marching men with the one guy drinking beer. I was able to go in and see the last film in the program  Heartwork by Nils Struven . The next day I found that the one film I missed had won the top prize in the festival.


There was no repast after the show so most of the crowd didn’t linger. The 8mm loop on the round face broke so I spliced it. Even that was a chore since I have never worked much with 8mm which uses press tape splices instead of the guillotine splicers I am used to. The loop on the number two 16mm broke and I replaced it with a black and white loop of 1950s men pole vaulting at night under the lights. I waited till there were just a few in for the long time stragglers left before shutting everything down and walking home. I took a dead reckoning way, instead of the longer way via the railroad station, and came to the big road that looked like the one that connects Luther Street, where Karsten’s house is, to Palenke. At least I thought it was the same street. It also looked like a street way across town. To make sure I went into a Shell Station and looked at the map. The kid working there helped, which really saved time. He knew where on the map the Shell station was. Yes, I was on the right road. I felt I should buy something as appreciation for the info. Next to the cash register Mars bars were on special two for a Euro. I bought a pair and ate them as I walked. I thought about Mars Bars as they were when I first tasted them. Then they came in a distinctive green wrapper. The bar itself was flatter with two almonds that made bumps in the surface. They had a distinctive, not just sweet, flavor. Now the wrapper was brown and the bar was square. The flavor is more sweet, not much different from a Milky Way bar. I wondered why they changed it. I guessed that sweet tested better than distinctive and square is more appealing than flat and bumpy. I wonder if they still make the oddly shaped and peculiarly flavored Idaho Spud bar, a favorite of my dad. I got home around eleven.


March 27

I got up at 6:45 but since it was Day Light Savings day the clock said it was now 7:45. Again I had the house to myself. I took my time over coffee and then worked on the blog report which would be titled Four Days at a Whack. I finally got it finished and posted it. Just puttering around and taking a bath got me to 2:30 when I realized with the longer walk I’d better skedaddle. Since A Synagogue For Bad Segeberg would play that day at 4:00 I put on a neck tie and took along my black leather dress shoes. Before leaving I found a pile of 16mm film on the floor by the bathroom door. I pulled out a long piece and put it in my pocket. We had gone through Karsten’s loops and I thought it might be useful.


It was sunny day with blue skies and a very pleasant walk. I took the return walk more or less that had got me home the night before. When I arrived a crowd was already milling around in the big room. I got the installation fired up. The mood of the crowd was great. Part of that might have been the sense that Spring had finally arrived. It was also because much of the crowd were either people who had appeared in the documentary, people who had worked on the documentary, or friends and family of those people. With everyone seated the place was nearly full. After short opening remarks the film started. After half an hour I went out to check the installation.


Both of the 16mm’s had chewed up their loops. I got the back one, the replacement for the Siemens, going first. It now had a very short loop of black and white flying seagulls. For the number one projector I had to get all the film pieces out of the projector and I then loaded in the film I had found next to the bathroom door. It was of young woman’s swimming team at the old pool. Climbing up on the motor wearing the leather soled dress shoes was fraught with peril. I was just finishing when Bernd-Gunther came out and said I was needed on stage. That was nice but not necessary. I hadn’t done anything for the film that was shown. My only contribution was for the English language DVD which they did have for sale. On stage were Ullie, Elisabeth, Moses, and a bunch of the crew who I had never met. They then brought up people who had appeared in the doc. Ullie than said a few words, one question was taken from the audience, Ullie spoke again, and that was it


They were again setting up the tables for food so I didn’t go to Subway again. I went in to watch the 6:00 show. The first film was Rancho Texas with Charles Bronson. That’s not exactly right. It was a day in the life of a Charles Bronson look a like who worked at a German fake wild west theme park called Rancho Texas. To me the German interest in the old American west and cowboys and Indians is deeply weird. It all goes back to the German writer Karl May, whose books were favorites of Hitler. When I came out the number two 16mm projector had stopped, the loop on the 8mm onto the round face had broken and a third 8mm that had presented no problems till then had the lamp go out. I first spliced the round face 8mm. I then worked on the 16mm. It wouldn’t load and I eventually had to take it over to the corner where there was a floor lamp to see that a tremendous amount of dirt had built up in the rails of the aperture gate making it hard for the film to advance I got it going again. Now it had black and white footage of a guy getting his chest measured with a cloth tape by a doctor. Karsten had shown me that when the lamp goes out in an 8mm projector it is almost never that the lamp needs to be replaced. What needs to be done is the lamp has to be taken out and its contacts cleaned, which have been building up crud while lit. I had cleaned the contacts in that projector twice before. This time the lamp didn’t want to light at all so I gave up and took it off line. There was another 8mm waiting that would replace it. That one didn’t want to light either. I considered that a sign and gave up that station completely. It had been the last projector installed and was the least crucial to the whole operation. The whole installation would be disassembled in an hour anyway.

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Ruben showed up. That was a surprise. I had thought I would have to tear down the installation myself. I hadn’t looked forward to getting the big screen down from the top of the fly wheel. The demolition work would start as soon as the 8:00 show was seated. That would be award winners for the festival. We had about half and hour to wait. I took two Becks beers from the big cooler set up for the crowd after the show and we sat in the corner by the floor lamp to talk. World events were the topic with the nuclear reactor problem in Japan being first up. From there we got into Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Ruben told me that when he was growing up they were routinely shown on German television, That amazed me. That would have been about twenty years after they had been made. He said they had given him a sense there was a bigger world outside of Germany with different standards of what was funny. I asked him if The Firesign Theater had also made it to Germany. Nope, them he had never heard of.

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With Ruben tackling the screens and me tackling the projectors we had everything in Claudia’s car in a jiffy. The drive to Karsten’s was uneventful. It was good that Ruben knew the most direct way. It was the first time I had driven a car in Europe. It was also the first time I’d driven a stick shift in at least ten years. We dumped all the stuff in the Arab room. We were looking forward to getting back for the food. When we were ready to leave the car wouldn’t start. It cranked over just fine but there was no ignition. I wondered if it was a sort of diesel equivalent to vapor lock. That could be cured by waiting a few minutes unless it was a real hot day, which today was certainly not. I went in and used the toilet. Ruben had a cigarette. After that it started just fine. We got back to Die Pumpe before 9:30. The crowd had still not exited the auditorium. I took two more beers from the cooler for Ruben and me.


Everyone exiting the auditorium seemed in a good mood. For me it was pleasant to not be fretting about the installation. The food was a disappointment. It was supposed to be a repeat of Friday, except the soup had spoiled and had been taken away. That left just the accoutrement to soup, which was bread, cheese, little crabs, and the cherry jam and cream for dessert. I made the best of it. I then walked home and got there without having to ask for directions.


March 28

I had set the alarm for five and when it alerted me I got up. That allowed me my normal coffee, toast and New York Times time but little time for existential introspection. It didn’t take much time to pack. I would not be back in Kiel until after Bern, Düsseldorf and Hamburg. I put all the films in the suitcase with my clean clothes, all my dirty clothes into the backpack, the computer and all papers in the Coach bag, and was ready to go. I left at 6:40am. It was still dark. At the station I was ten minutes early for the train waiting at platform 3 and was able to buy a Trib in the news shop. Sometimes it isn’t out that early. This was the same train as the one to Lausanne. This time I would be using my rail pass. It was a long walk on the platform past the eight cars of second class and the Bistro car. I climbed up in the first first class car and was entering a compartment when the conductor told me it was reserved was for a family with kids. I left the suitcase there and found a compartment in the second first class car. That compartment only had reservations listed for Hamburg to Frankfurt and also Hanover to Mannheim, which meant I might be alone for most of the journey. I then went back for my suitcase, but took it outside and around on the platform to get to my seat, as the car I had walked through three times already was filling up.


At Hamburg a man came in and took a chair opposite. I assumed that was the reservation for Frankfurt. That was wrong. He was just an interloper who got off at Gottingen. The reservation at Hannover was a blond woman with brown eyes who resembled Martina Natrilova. She was wearing black tights, a gray short skirt and matching shirt/jacket. with lots of pockets and zippers, on both the skirt and jacket, the outfit having a sort of army surplus effect. Or maybe it was more of a fighter pilot inspired sort of suit. She immediately went to sleep. At Kassel-Wilhelmshoe a woman with black hair came in. She was wearing a striped dress shirt with gray pullover sweater and blue jeans. She opened a book and began to read.


On three occasions a man came in and tossed in packets of Brandt Knusper Kugeln candy onto the table. They looked like small malted milk balls but were flavored with marzipan. The forth time he came in I asked him if he had anything different. He said at 4:00 there would be a change from candy to nuts. At that time I would finally be changing trains in Basel. Three times a man came in with free German newspapers. My ticket was examined twice. On several occasions a woman with coffee on a tray came by. There is nothing like this bother in 2nd class. After Frankfurt I went to the diner car and got the special of croissant and cafe au lait. The man asked me if I spoke French. I told him no but that it would be good if Americans knew more than one language. He said that was no longer needed as English was now the common language uniting all others. That was so different than when I first came to Europe nearly twenty years ago. Back then I would occasionally have to dredge up the very little German or French I knew in order to get what I wanted on a train with out pointing at stuff on the menu.

The blond woman got off at Mannheim. She said goodbye, which both the black haired woman and I replied to. I then got into a conversation with the black haired woman. She was concert pianist originally from Romania on her way to Zürich to visit friends. The book she was reading was an Edgar Wallace omnibus. Wow, I had no idea he was even in print, much less in a language other than English. He was a prolific writer starting in the late 19th century of tales of crime and adventure. The candy man came back with peanuts especially for me and tossed several packets on the table.

I told the black haired woman, who told me her name was Luiza, about the piano players in my Jitterbug show. She said she would be in Hamburg at the end of the month and would try to get her friends to come to the show. One reason I like talking to people when I travel in foreign countries is they will sometimes provide points of view I would never think of. Both the woman from Riga in the cab to the airport in Tampere, and the young man on the train going to the Frankfurt airport for a vacation in Spain were amazed that the majority of Americans did not posses passports. To them a passport was like a Social Security Card is to us. The idea that a person could walk around with no identification at all just blows the minds of Europeans. Louisa was surprised that when she would go to the cinema she was seeing 35mm motion pictures that were visually no different than motion pictures a hundred years ago,35mm film at 24 frames per second. It is surprising to consider that with all of the amazing advances that have recently been made with computers and the world wide web that much of what we do, whether it is driving a car with an internal combustion engine, or flying in a fixed wing airplane, or riding on train, or going to the movies uses technology from no later than the beginning of the 20th century


After eight hours on the train it arrived in Basel where I got off and walked across the platform to the train to Bern waiting there. When I showed my ticket to the conductor he asked for my passport. I told him that was a first, meaning normally the Eurail pass is accepted at face value. He replied it was common at border crossings. Hmm, maybe across the border to Switzerland, or I suppose crossing into other countries that are not part of the Eurozone.


When I got off the train in Bern I turned the correct way and hadn’t walked far when Mani approached coming the opposite way. It was great to see him, although this time it had only been since November when I had last been in Bern. Usually it is a year between my trips to Europe. He looked just the same, like Tin Tin, although he no longer had the blond spit curl in the front to cement the impersonation. We walked to where his bike was parked and then across the bridge to his flat. The warm sunshine was markedly different from the last time I was here when instead of rolling my bag behind me we had put it on his bike so it would not be wading through the melting snow and possibly corrupting the films inside.

It was almost five when we got there. That left just enough time for me to take a shower and put on my last clean outfit, and sit down for a quick dinner of stir fried Thai vegetables, salad of greens, hard boiled eggs, and vinegar; before we headed for the Lichtspiel, driving there in a Mobility Smart Car that we retrieved from the spooky, in a Spy That Came in from the Cold sort of way, underground car park at the bottom of the hill.


A crowd of around forty, a little less than usual for my shows at Lichtspiel, came to the show. I gave a better than average introduction, remembering to mention the Louise Brooks angle, and got what seemed to be a very appreciative hand of applause. There was a fifteen minute break for the reel change. I talked to several people who said they were very much enjoying the show. It really is one my most crowd pleasing creations. I addressed the crowd again before rolling reel two. I also gave some closing remarks at the end of the show, remembering to fill them in on Peggy Hopkins Joyce.

March 29

Mani was already gone when I got up at 8:00am. I made coffee and read yesterday’s Trib. I then worked on getting my journal up to date. When I had what I considered a ready to add links to blog post for March 22-25, meaning one more four day report would catch me up, I left the flat. I wore the top coat but not the sport coat just to give it a rest. It was a sunny day. I crossed the bridge and then walked down the main shopping street looking for a Starbucks. I didn’t need the coffee but I did need the wifi. It took a while but I found one. It was kind of in the middle of a plaza and doing a great business. I could not use my Starbucks card there. They did have a better selection of bagels then on the west coast of America. I got a cinnamon raisin. They did not have butter. They did also not have drip coffee ready. Prices were higher than in the US. The bagel was about two bucks and came out soggy from the microwave. The wifi was limited to an hour. I used all of that and still didn’t have the post ready. Trying to think of art and then finding it and posting it can take a lot of time. When my time was up it did allow me to re-up. I should have read the fine print. What I think was I was given ten more minutes to conclude whatever I was doing with losing data This time I did did not get a re-up chance. Luckily, WordPress automatically saves stuff. I left and went looking for a cafe with free wifi. I walked all over without finding one. I was surprised by just how many people were out on the streets. The sidewalks of the shopping streets were packed on this Tuesday afternoon. It was like it was in America when I was little. I asked a group of four young women in front of a hip looking cafe on a side street if it had free wifi. Only one spoke English. From them I found that in Europe Wifi is called Wireless and you don’t find it in cafes for free. They directed me to an internet cafe. I was able to find it. It did not have wireless. It did have computers that cost one Franc for six minutes or ten Francs for an hour. I got the report posted within 6 minutes. That was with some misspellings. On the computer half of what I wrote came up as misspelled so finding my actual miscreant words was hard. I didn’t get a post on Facebook announcing it. For the extra Franc I did put up the facebook post and then quit.

Mani had told me he wouldn’t be in until ten at night. I went looking for a grocery store to buy something for dinner. I asked a couple of civil servants wearing name tags and taking a smoke break for directions. They said there were two grocery stores in the train station. I asked if that meant with fresh fruits and vegetables and they said yes. In the upstairs of the station I found a Migros store. My first thought was fixings for a Joe’s Special but the ground beef looked suspect. I then considered a take home to cook pizza. I then thought about a Greek salad. I found cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and feta cheese, all very cheap. I assumed Mani would have oregano and olive oil. I then looked for a steak. I couldn’t find one. I guess the T Bone steak is an American invention. I looked at pate but it was all pre-packaged. There was no meat counter in Migros, just wrapped and ready meats. I finally decided that a can of sardines would go well with a Greek salad. They did not sell wine at Migros. The clerk directed me to the wine shop just across the way. There I got a seven dollar bottle of Cabernet and hoped for the best. The clerk wrapped the bottle in paper. I jokingly asked if the paper would keep it from breaking if I dropped it on the sidewalk. The clerk gave me perplexed look. I told him to forget it. That further perplexed him. I then told him it was just a joke. He then asked me if I wanted it in a bag. I said no and left. It was now so nice out I could have gotten by without a coat. I bought a Trib at the station and went home.

In the kitchen found I was wrong about Mani having oregano. He did have three types of paprika. I used a mixed seasoning in a plastic bag labeled fisch krauter. It contained Salbei, Rosmarin, Marjoran, Thymian, Basilkum, and Lorbeer. The salad tasted good, but sweeter than usual. The sardines were huge but tasted good.

I worked on this blog post until 10:30 and then went to bed.

Four More Days of Fun?

March 22 Tuesday


I had set two alarm clocks to get me up at 6:15am for my 7:12 train. I arose at 5:45 instead. I made a short pot of coffee. I read a little news with the coffee and a couple of pieces of toast. I dressed in khaki pants, a dark dress shirt, and my sport coat. I put black jeans and a tee shirt and a sweater vest in the backpack with the films. I put on my overcoat and headed for the station at 6:40. It was middling dark but getting lighter as I walked. I was in plenty of time so I bought a Trib before boarding the standing train in the first car. For this trip I would not be using my rail pass. I had been given a ticket good for a round trip to Switzerland by Ulrich Selle, the director of A Synygogue For Bad Segeberg, that was part of some sort of travel promotion. I sat in a four seats with table in a chair car. A woman took the one across the aisle. She was dressed just like me except she had pin striped shirt and a long sleeve sweater with khaki pants. She had red-blond hair in a prince Valiant cut. She took out papers from a briefcase and worked steadily until she got off at Hamburg.


The conductor took a look at my ticket and gave me a quizzical look. I hadn’t filled in my name and destination and date. Well, I thought the guy the day before at the reisebureau had totally prepared it. I put that data in and it was accepted. I walked through seven 2nd class cars to get to the cafe car. There I got the special of croissant and cafe au lait for 3.50. The croissant was very fresh. The cafe au lait was fine. I walked back noticing one car was packed with students, all of them it seemed, eating something.

The woman across the aisle left at Hamburg. A young man appeared who stood in the aisle a long puzzling time before finally stowing stuff in the overhead and sitting down. He then got his laptop out and stared out the window for a while before finally starting to type. He had come prepared with a big bottle of water and a pastry in a bag. He got up to leave, and asked me to have a “short look”at his things while he was away. I read the Trib till just before Frankfurt. There I got out the laptop. There was no electrical outlet but I figured the battery would last till Lausanne.

After my ticket was checked, and punched, a second time, I walked the seven cars to the cafe car. I was surprised to see the students still there. Maybe they were going for ski trip in Switzerland. Included in my free ticket was also a voucher for a free drink, among those offered, Becks beer. At the counter I was told that it had be consumed in the dining room. I was surpised the young woman didn’t speak much English and had difficulty telling me that. Maybe she had just come from the east. I walked back to my seat and got a special section that had been in the Trib, all about water, to read while I drank my beer. I walked back, through all seven cars and took a seat in the dining room. I presented my get a beer free card and was handed a menu and asked what I would like with it. Ah, it was one of those “free” with purchase deals. I got up and took the long walk back. After Freiberg I went to the WC, shaved, hand bathed, and washed my hair. It was a struggle. Train toilets aren’t really designed for that sort of thing.


At Basel I got off and thought about buying something with my five francs coin but didn’t see anything as I walked to my platform. Good thing. As I was going down the stairs the whistle blew. I got on and found all the seats were fours with a very small table. About two thirds down I found one with just one woman seated and a bunch of her stuff on the seat across from her. I took the catty corner seat. She was my age and not pretty. I liked the way she was dressed. She had gray dress with a short pleated skirt, gray tights, ballet slipper shoes and a mauve cardigan sweater. I have to say that people in countries that speak French generally dress better.  It would be a one hour ride. A young guy took the seat across from me. It was getting toward rush hour. He opened a very large hardback book, Nemesis. He wore a great big wrist watch. I could see it was half an hour still til my change at Biel. There was a reader board at the end of the car announcing stops. I saw Biel but it seemed too early. I thought maybe that was the end of the line announcement. When we stopped it said something completely different. I couldn’t see the name of the station on the platform. I was sitting there when the woman spoke, “For Lausanne you need to change here.” I thanked her and got my stuff and left.


The train to Lausanne was waiting across the platform. I got on and took one of the only duplex seats, with no table, in the back. The rest of the car had opposed pairs. I had no idea why it was that way. At Lausanne I went down to a main walkway. There I followed the flow of people the long way and came out to a street. I assumed this was the “front door” of the station Sebastien said he had met me. There was one man obviously waiting for something, smoking a cigarette, who ignored me. I sat down to read The Old Curiosity Shop. The smoking man left. I got up and asked a passerby if this was the main entrance. He shrugged and kept walking. I walked out in the street and saw a much more substantial entrance forty yards to my right. I guess I would have come out that way if I had walked the opposite way on the platform. A tall thin youngish man with short brown curly hair came up to me. He apologized for keeping me waiting. We walked a short way to his car. It was an 80’s Citroen station wagon. Cool car! It had a child seat in the back and also a projector. He said he loved the car but it was no longer possible to get parts. We drove a short distance and parked. He left the projector in the back and took my back pack. I offered to take the projector but he said he would drive to the rear entrance and unload there. We walked around the corner and then up two flights of stairs to the theater. It was built in 1913 and was a lot like the Green Parrot. lt was narrower with a full across balcony. Cloth covered walls. The light fixtures were modern. There were amps and speakers and stuff in front of a working waterfall curtain. Several light bars across the ceiling held many spot lights. Sebastien told me that when it quit being a movie theater the owners had taken all the equipment out to keep someone else from operating it as such and there was no 35mm. The projection booth was tiny with very short and wide port windows.

He set the 16 up in the front of the balcony on a table he got from in front of the curtain. It was a Bauer marc 300 projector with an attached rectifier. Much like the projector a the Movie House in the 70’s. There was no take up reel so we didn’t test it. That was fine with me. We walked back out just past the entrance to the theater. There at the top of the stairs from the street was a door controlled by a keypad lock. That led to the apartment I would sleep in. He told me the code for the keypad. We then went up a stone spiral staircase, down a passage and through a door with a stained glass window, around a court yard and up two flights of stairs. There were bikes and all kinds of other stuff in the common areas. All of the lights were on timers which we lit up along the way. He unlocked the apartment door and handed me the key. He said he would go get the take up reel and I could have free time until 7:00. He gave me ten Francs in case I wanted to get something to eat. He said with my 5 francs added I could buy a proper lunch but that a proper dinner would be provided so I shouln’t ruin my appetite.


He left and I looked around. It was a perfectly nice little apartment with white walls and not much furniture. I stowed my stuff and took the stairs back to the street. I then headed down hill.  The theater was on a walking street with no auto traffic. The general feeling was that of Paris. I went into a patisserie, Tony’s, and bought a shortbread cookie with chocolate spots for 2.50. It was very tasty. I found a news stand where I could buy the Trib in the morning. It was part of an old and cute small building above a public toilet. I found a Starbucks. I walked back up the street to the main road. It crossed an old bridge with no water running under it. It was a long way down to the bottom. I assumed the river was now covered up. A plaque said the bridge had been built in 1908. On both sides of the bridge there were street level elevators that would go down to the Metro or past that to the bottom of chasm. The Metro stop was on a line that in the morning would take me to the train station.

When I got back the door to the theater was open and Sebastien was up in the balcony and had light from the projector on the screen. He had not hooked up sound. I think he thought the films were all silent. He then hooked up the sound and ran part of the first reel. I noticed a lot of hiss. It probably would have been better straight out of the projector to a speaker. We went out to the street and walked down hill to the office. He said it was only thirty meters but I’m sure it was easily twice that. The office looked more like an apartment. It had a full kitchen. It had a nice view across the chasm to a huge cathedral. Sebstien said they could not keep the office much longer as the area was getting gentrified and rents were being raised. A woman named Marianne had made a baked cannelloni baked dish that was yummy. There was a citrus flavor in it.  Before serving Sebastien examined it and said it was over cooked. I thought he was being picky. There was also a nice green salad with tomatoes and French red wine. I had brought my computer with me but could not get wifi. In fact I could not get any signal. When I had the computer check that Microsoft told me my wifi was shut off. I tried to fix that and failed. It was irritating. Back at the flat I did get a signal. Back in the lobby I finally got the theater wifi but the code wouldn’t work. I gave up.


At show time there weren’t many there but when we started at a quarter after the crowd had grown to twenty. After my talk, without a mike, it grew to thirty and might have been forty by the end of the show. I asked for questions at the reel change and got none. I talked more about Monte Carlo and Everything is Rhythm. The show ran smooth. After the show there were still no questions. No one talked to me in the lobby either. I think there was a language barrier. Sebastien gave me 300 francs ($150?) which was fine as we never had discussed financial terms.


March 23


I awoke at 6:45. Without the overcoat I went to the walking street. At the paper stand there were no out off town papers out. I went to the Starbucks. They didn’t sell papers but they did have wifi. I got a big cup of coffee in a mug for 4.80 I was surprised there were no emails or facebook action in the 24 hours I had been off line. I sent Anne a somewhat pathetic report and checked news at Washington Monthly. I posted two Betty Carter youtubes on Facebook. The newsstand only had one paper rack out when I got back there. The woman was inside the building putting papers on a second rack. She came back behind the counter. I asked for the International Herald Tribune. She shook her head and looked distressed. I went around to the door to the building, went inside and took the Trib off the rack, and went back around to the counter. I paid her four francs for it. I guess I should have tried to pronounce it in a French way with a La at the front. I went to Tony’s and sat in the back. There was a view of the cathedral. I had Cafe au Lait and croissant for five francs.

I went to the flat and got my things and left. I dropped the key in the mailbox. I bought a subway ticket from the machine at street level. I took the elevator down. At the Metro level there were doors instead of an open platform such as in New York. It was more like JFK airport t. When the train appeared the doors opened. The train was packed. The center pole started as a single but branched out to three at hand grasp level. The Metro riders were mostly young and smartly dressed. Station stops were announced. Before the announcement there was noise, which might have been site specific. For Lausanne Flon it was gurgling water. For Lausanne Gare it was a sort of Chinese music.


At the station I followed the mob to street level and came out across the street from the train station. It was 8:20. I bought a pain au chocolate and put it in my backpack. I went to the platform and there wrote a report in long hand. I got on the train. I walked through two cars of first class and took one of the single row seats in the back. I found a plug in and wrote this report finishing before Genchen Nord. It was two hours for the journey to Basel.

I must have been 7/8 of the way to Basel before my ticket was checked. The young conductor, straggly blond hair, whispy beard, looked at it and laughed. His English wasn’t perfect but what he told me was that my ticket, as filled out on the train the previous morning, was filled out completely wrong, making it worthless. I asked him in that case could I continue on to Basel and there when I got on the train to Kiel I would explain things to the German conductor? He said that would be fine. I told him I was glad he had gotten some amusement from the whole thing, which he then denied.


My train at Basel was supposed to be on track 9. There I found a train to Koln. I looked on a yellow board and found my train was on platform 9. Based on the trip down where I had observed the end cars near empty and middle cars packed to the gills I hoofed it toward the front. I got on the second car from the end and found an empty compartment. The conductor who came was an attractive young woman. She looked at my ticket, punched it, and handed it back with no comment.

At Karlsruh a young man came into the compartment. He was a first year college student who had been born in State College Ohio to German parents who were attending college there. He had been raised in Germany. He was on his way to Frankfurt to catch a flight to Barcelona. He would have a week vacation there. At the University in Karlsrhuh he was studying economics and engineering. At Mannheim a young couple came into the compartment. I hoped they would also be getting off at the airport but was wrong. The young fellow left and they remained. Also a guy my age came in to take the young man’s place. It seemed to be getting colder as we headed north which might have been my imagination. The skies were blue and free of clouds.


Both the man and woman went out in the passageway to make phone calls. I used the now unencumbered by legs exitway to take the long walk to the cafe car, and got a Snickers bar. In my bag was a Newcastle Brown Ale that had I found in the room that morning on the table next to the coffee maker. The beer and the chocolate tasted good together. I closed my eyes to nap. The fellow across read my Trib. He looked like he was from India. When I awoke I got out the computer. I told the guy I was happy he got some use from the Trib. I added that there was a lot of news. He replied that the world had gone crazy.

For general amusement a couple of little tykes ran back anf forth in the passageway. The girl had brown hair and might have been four. The boy had blond hair and was younger than three. They would hit the deck often, cry out in pain, ouch ouch ouch, which would eventually turn into laughter, and then they’d do it over again. It really livened up the ride.

Everyone else got off at Hamburg. The couple left never recognizing me or the the other guy. The other guy left and wished me a pleasant journey.

In Hamburg a woman of my age with brown hair wearing slacks and red sweater came into the compartment. She looked like Viginia Wolfe in a pleasant way. She rode all the way to Kiel. When we got there she cryptically said “You don’t want to stay in Kiel.” I told her I was just visiting a good friend and that was that. I guess she might have been  looking for a good friend herself.

I walked to the flat and found Karsten there with his friend Joker. It was good to see Karsten. It had been a couple of years at least. He was working on 8mm films on the kitchen table. I was tired from the long day and went to bed at 9:30.

March 24

I got up at 6:45 and found Karsten in the kitchen typing away on his laptop. He said he had to get a grant application in. I made coffee and toast and read the news and got caught up on correspondence. Later in the morning Ruben arrived on a bike. He is another member of Film Group Chaos and had been at my Palenke screening. He would be working with Karsten on their installation for the film festival. That’s how I learned that the screening of A Synygogue For Bad Segeberg on Sunday was part of a film festival. I told them I’d help with whatever they were doing. They got busy spray painting gold several large picture frames in the courtyard. That was not painting the frames per se. Spray on foam had been added with objects stuck in to add a Dada touch. One had the fuselage and wing of a WW IIGerman fighter model plane and another a doll’s head. There would be white bed sheet material strectched inside the frames. They would be used as screens in the installation. It would consist of projectors, both 8mm and 16mm, putting scenes of Kiel from home movies onto the screens. Slide projectors would also project still images of Kiel.


Karsten said one of the Siemens projectors he planned to use, made of metal, had failed during a test run with black smoke coming out of it. The Siemens projectors were made of metal and are very cool looking and thought to be indistructible. I went through the various Bauer projectors seeing which ones ran film even though the sound didn’t work. I pulled out ttwo of those. Around one in the afternoon we loaded all the gear into the car. That included one frame so big it had to be roped to the roof. There were around a dozen 8mm projectors, three 16mm projectors and a bunch of slide projectors, plus all kinds of stuff to support the effort including various pieces of wood. It all fit in the VW and still left one seat in the back for me.

We drove to Die Pumpe and parked around the back. With three of us it didn’t take long to get all the stuff inside. Then it was mostly head scratching time to figure out what went where. The theater, restaurant, bar and gallery that collectively is called Die Pumpe was once the pump house for the whole city. On the ground floor, in the middle of the big bar and restaurant, is the old main pump. It has a colossal l electric motor at one end that is at least six feet high. That drives by belt a huge fly wheel. The belt is two feet across and the fly wheel around fifteen feet tall. There is another five feet below floor level. The fly wheel drives two ten foot long piston arms that go into two ten foot tall collectors. The collectors look like boilers in a steam heating plant. Everything is finished in stainless steel or painted gray. It must have weighed several tons. All in all it looks like an exotic device you could somehow used to make a large amount of beer. The equipment is in working order and is run occasionally. It is kept from spontaneously springing to life at some inopertune moment through power serge or other odd phenomenon by the removal of brushes from the motor.


Since the hauling in was done I was no longer needed. I went out for a walk in the sunshine. I was looking for peanuts in the shell. I found a peculier store, a German form of a Dollar Tree, which had a mish mash of stuff, but no peanuts. I had made a circuit of the area, getting grit in my eye from dust from the knocking down of an big old concrete building, when I ran into Elisabeth. She was on her way to Die Pumpe for some event. She told me that in America she had seen 99cent stores and never thought such a thing could ever appear in Germany. I walked back to Die Pumpe with her. I found Karsten giving directions and Ruben climbing around the machinery. They still didn’t need me. I went to the event in the upstairs theater. It was a presentation and workshop on digital distribution of films through the company First Motion which included The Baltic Universe. Two guys, one from Germany and the other from Norway, were doing the presentation. The German started and asked if anyone wanted it in English. I said I did. I should have stopped there but continued it would be nice in American. I then said I was the interloper and German was fine, which it was. I could follow the demonstration because it included a power point demonstration that was in English. The Norwegian man then demonstrated the website. He started in German but gave up as his English was better. The website was in English. The Baltic Universe were the countries connected by the Baltic Sea including Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Latvia, Estonia and some others, but not Finland. First Motion helps in making both short films feature length projects. A couple of clips were shown of completed works. One was by the small Swedish animation company Larger Than Live that found a cheaper way to do computer stop motion. Their clip was a scene between a space jockey pilot and an android sort of guy in conversation as they walked through a spaceport hanger. The writing was uninspired. The other demonstration was from a project called 15 Young by Young. That would be works from the former members of the Soviet Union that were now Republics. Two cartoons were shown based on a request for stories from the Soviet days. One was about bomb drills which included gas masks in the 1970’s and the other about the status symbol of eating a banana. The animation was similar in both. Both were more interesting than the Larger Than Live clip, which I would guess was because they started with story first instead of technology. Then a local film maker, Stefan Gieren, gave a talk about his completed feature Superhero Blog that was helped by funding through First Motion. The first ten minutes of it was shown. It was about a young geeky guy who went to New York to study to be a super hero. It looked like it could be amusing. A short Q and A followed but was cut short by the need for the theater to be emptied for the next show.

Right after that was a meet and greet for film makers that included refreshments. There was plenty of wine and beer. There was also a tasty vegtable soup, but no bread. I was told the bread had gotten burned. Karsten and Ruben joined in the scrum. Then we went back downstairs and worked on the installation till nine. We then called it a day. Back at the house we each had a beer and then Ruben pedaled off and I went to bed.

March 25

I got up at 7:00 and Karsten appeared later. The installation would go live that evening when the festival started at 7:30. That allowed a leisurely breakfast before getting to work. I decided to recheck the Bauer projectors to see if one more might be usable. I really didn’t trust the one ancient Siemens that Karsten particularly liked for it aesthetic appeal. His telling me other had gone up in smoke might have colored my oppinion. The Bauers looked modern by our standards, for anyone else they would look exotic. I found one that ran fine. I set it up and let it run to see if had endurance. It quit after an hour. Too bad. We drove over to the Die Pumpe. Ruben would not be there. He had a job and two kids. We worked on the finishing touches of the intallation which mostly was putting the loops into the projectors. I guess some explanation here is needed. Projectors normally run film from a feed reel to take up reel. For this sort of installation you don’t use reels. You select a few feet of film and load it through the projector and then splice the ends to form a loop. When it runs the the film just flops along finding its own route and as long as it doesn’t hang up on something will run for hours that way.


For Karsten’s plan we ended up with a surplus16mm projector. That is because Karsten is primarily interested in 8mm. I became intrigued by the idea of projecting directly onto the equipment instead of onto a frame. I found a spot about two feet square that would take an image. I got a loop going on it. I then noticed a round surface nearby. I was an empty clock face on its own metel stand. It had probably once been a gauge. Now it was an inscrutable gray face set slightly inside a round frame a little smaller than a dinner plate. I put the loop image on it and it looked cool. It was a 70’s scene of a parade where a float sponsored by Autoland passes by with girls throwing candy to the crowd. A matronly lady walks out to the float to have some handed to her. Younger people scramble for what has fallen on the pavement. One girl is wearing a red and white cheer leader outfit. Karsten liked the idea but thought 16mm was overkill for such a small screen. He put an 8mm projector in its place and said we could keep the 16mm aside in case anything else in the installation failed completely. The 8mm loop had three scenes. One was a family posing for a picture in front of a house with a kid running in to join. That 8mm projector didn’t run well in forward but did fine in reverse. Now the young kid jumped backwards away from the goup. With the less bright 8mm light there was an eerie quality as though the people looking out were somehow trapped in the machine.


It was now about five in the afternoon. Claudia Schmidt appeared and asked if we were hungry. She works for the Kiel Film Workshop and was also on the festival team. I had met her previously. The restaurant had set up long tables on the far side of the machinary for the opening night party and had brought in food, beer and wine. Claudia dished up soup for us and we ate at a big round table in the back. Claudia asked me if I had a driver’s license. I thought that odd, but said sure, although I didn’t know if an Oregon driver’s licence was good in Germany. She guessed it was. I then found out that Karsten would be going back to Breman the next day and I would be in charge of the installation for the next two nights and also be in charge of dismantling it and taking it back to the house. Claudia was volunteering her car for that job. She warned me that sometimes her car, a VW Golf Combi, didn’t like to start but she doubted it would happen on our short errand. I said that was fine and that made everyone happy. The other plan would have been taking down the installation and storing all the stuff somewhere on the premises until Karsten could come get it later.

At 7:00 the doors were opened and we fired up the projectors. The installation involved 3 8mm projectors, 2 16mm projectors, two fixed slide projectors, and one carousel projector. The number one 16mm had a scene of a parade with a group of marching men. One takes a drink out of a beer bottle as the group passes. That screen was at the top of the big fly wheel. An 8m projector was also projecting onto the corner of that screen a scene at an outdoor swimming pool. The number two 16mm had black and white footage of a man, and then a woman, being interviewed on the street. That screen was in the back between the two big holding tanks. The carousel projector was back projecting onto a screen resting on the big belt that ran from the motor over the fly wheeel. It put the slide images right where everyone passed by on the way into the auditorium. It had 72 slides which advanced automatically every five seconds.


I was given a festival badge. At 7:30 we all went into the auditorium for the opening night film. The auditorium was a big multi-purpose room. It was not quite the size of an airplane hanger. There was tiered seating on risers with indivdiual Eames chairs with thinly padded seats. There was seating for more than two hundred. All screenings would be digital onto a screen about thirty feet wide. In front of that was a stage which had a podium in the middle and was flanked on each side by big baskets of hydrangea flowers on pedestal stands. Before film rolled there were speeches. Everything was in German. Bernd-Gunther Nahm was the master of ceremonies and spoke first. He was a nice man with gray hair and a ready smile who was in charge of the Kiel film workshop and who would be retiring this year. He then then gave the podium to the owner of Die Pumpe, an affable man who up to then I had thought was just a guy hanging out who really liked the installation. The next speaker was the governor of Shleswig-Holstein. I don’t understand German but I can recognize a stem winder speech from a politician when I hear one. He really talked a long time. I think he mentioned every film in the festival. He was followed by a woman who was the Mayor of Kiel. Karsten was seated beside me and whispered that she spoke German with a Danish accent. Yes, it was noticeable, although I probably would have thought it Swedish if not set right. She was wearing a sedately wild jacket that looked like it had magicians symbols on it for decoration.It reminded me of a wild sportcoat Ian Whitcomb wore in the seventies when performing. She also gave a lengthy talk and also seemed to mention many specific films. She was followed by another woman, this one head of a government arts council for Schleswig-Holstein. She didn’t speak as long as the others. She was wearing a skirt made of similar material to that of the previous speaker’s jacket. Magic symbols on maroon cloth must be the in thing this spring.

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At last the lights dimmed and the opening film rolled. It was a short called Zero Action, which was exactly what happened. It really was a curious thing. The music was obviously from an LP, and not one in pristine condition, The film was all unconnected shots, most used more than once, of the moon, a jelly fish swimming, a white horse, a stormy night, a house in a forest, the sea, and a pretty girl reading a book. There was no plot. It might have once been called a “Tone Poem.” Thankfully it was just five minutes long. It brought to mind the National Film Board anti-smoking film Ashes of Doom except it had no resolution or punch line. If it had had some wit and humor it might have been like George Kuchar’s Wild Night at El Reno. What it was, was a puzzlement. I sure hoped it wasn’t an example of the best of the festival. The film maker was brought on stage. He was a 70 year old man and sort of the grand old man of Kiel film making. He unapologetically considered his film art and if you didn’t care for it that was your loss. Or at least that how Karsten translated it for me.

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The film that followed was a documentary feature about a man named Paul Gratzik who had been an artist and writer, who was also involved in German theater, and all the time had been a spy for the Staatsi. He had only recently come out in the open and confessed his secrets. The film maker had interviewed him at length and also many who had been involved with him who had no idea he was spying on them. Even in German, with an occasional Karsten translation of pertinent info, it was enjoyable. It was a very well made film. The title was Vaterlandsverrater, or Traitor to the Home Land.

After that it was time to have soup and bread and cheese. The soup, at least the non-vegetarian one I had ,was a white chowder with sausage. Added from the side were tiny little crabs. It was very tasty. The dessert was a sort of cherry jam with heavy cream. That too was good. There was also Becks Beer. We stayed to keep the installation going until most people had left. The only glitch was that the Siemens projector was running hot and blew out a lamp after a few hours running. There were only two more spares for it. Everything worked when it was cranked up at 7:00 and was still working when we shut it down at midnight.  Then it was the drive home and sleep, to knit up the ravell’d sleeve of care.


Four Days at a Whack


I had meant file to a blog report for every day of this European trip.  Blogging is like shaving, if you don’t do it every day, you’re a bum.  I fell down on that after my last report called A Day Where Not Much Happened.  Some foreshadowing here.  In Kiel I stay at my friend Karsten Weber’s house. One drawback is the heating doesn’t work well. It is very roomy and centrally located.  Oh, I mean centrally located in Kiel.  Kiel itself is kind of northernly. Karsten is part of Film Group Chaos along with his girlfriend Martina.  He has gotten me many gigs in Europe through his contacts and has been a true friend.   He is often on the road and I have the place to myself.  Close to the house are two grocery stores, LIDL and Sky, separated by a common parking lot.  One important thing in Kiel is the railroad station.   Near that is the post office.  Across from them is the Sophie Mall.  The Mall is several blocks long and has a good grocery store in it.  All of that is a  fifteen minute walk downhill from the house.


March 18

I slept for almost twelve hours and got up at 8:00. I must have been missing sleep for days. It takes some getting used to, to get rest while flying and taking trains places. I’d be in Kiel until March 24 when I’d go to Lausanne. I’d be back in Kiel for the premiere of the film A Synagogue for Bad Segeberg, which I did the English subtitles for. After that it would be Bern, Düsseldorf, Hamburg (two nights) and then back to Kiel before an April 8 gig in Freiburg in the Komm Kino in Alter Wiehrebahnhoff (The old train station).


The day before yesterday had I finally got the confirmation I would be flying to England on the 9th and fly home from London on the 15th. That was through the work of John Wojowski of the Manchester Film Festival. Toward that end I had to find art on line and email that, plus my short narrative resume, brought sort of up to date, to a guy named Ric, who would have me show Subversive Animation at Manchester Metropolitan University. I  wrote and posted the report on the previous day, where not much happened. Compared to today it was a whirlwind. At half past three I finally felt warm enough to go to the post office and mail Anne one hundred bucks so she could take the truck to Larry the mechanic at Hollywood Chevron on Sandy Blvd for maintenance and a small repair. On the way there I put a load of clothes in at the washomatic down the street. That cost three euros. I didn’t have the correct coins for soap so I used caked in soap at the bottom of the two cups under the coin op ports. It wasn’t a whole lot of detergent, but then my clothes weren’t all that dirty. I then walked to the post office, going through the Sophie Mall to keep warm, and arrived there to find a very long line. When I was there last week there was no line at all. The reason was there were two clerks working and one of them was dealing with a guy with some weird problem who had the posture of someone in for the long haul. The line only moved when the other clerk, also currently dealing with a long timer, had another customer step up. I counted a hundred and thirty  seconds before the line moved. A new clerk appeared just as the weird case was finished, except the clerk handling the weird case then took a break. I was sympathetic. Dealing with nut cases and hard heads can be exhausting. With two clerks working at a time the long line slowly disappeared and by the time I was served it was down to a few people.


When I got back to the washateria I found I still had ten minutes to wait. I did just that, although I should have gone to buy groceries. I put twenty minutes worth of money, one euro, for my clothes to dry and then went to the grocery store. There I bought celery (bio, meaning organic), carrots, cauliflower, and pork for stir-fry. The pork was called schnitzel, which is more of a way of cooking than a cut.   The organic celery was three bucks. I bought it because they didn’t have non organic celery. Everything together cost ten euros. I didn’t know it but I had time to take everything home and still get back before the twenty minutes was up. Instead I went back to the Washamuseum and while I waited tried to figure out how to eventually get everything into my back pack. Everything did fit except for the two dress shirts that should have been put on hangers, which I just slung over an arm, and then exited the place with the tops of the carrots, hanging out of the open top of the backpack, waving goodbye.


I then went to LIDL and bought a three dollar bottle of Bordeaux wine and then went home. Wine is very cheap here.  It was five thirty by then. I got busy writing and didn’t get around to cooking until 8:00. I made a pork stir fry. I did some more writing after dinner and called it a day at eleven. I don’t think I had really been warm all day.


March 19 Saturday

For some reason I woke up feeling fully rested at six am. I made coffee and leisurely read the Times on line and ate toast. Since not much had happened the day before I didn’t post a report on the blog. I did go looking for a space heater and found one in my room. It finally got the room warm. For my prospective book “On the Road With Bad Bugs Bunny” I wrote about Europe 1999 and the City Night Line Train episode. That train was part of long journey from Arhus Denmark to Colmar Frace.  I wondered just where it was I got on that train. My guess was Hanover. I went to the train station and made a fictitious request for a train from Arhus to Colmar for the day after tomorrow and traveling overnight. I was given the plan, which still included The City Night Line. On the way there I went through Sophie Mall to keep out of the cold. There I found a big bag of peanuts in the shell that said 95. I thought I’d get the whole bag for 95 cents and hauled it to the cash register.  My mistake, I would just get some of the bag for 95 cents,  which wasn’t much. I also bought a banana to eat on the walk home.


Elisabeth Saggau, the camera operator and editor of A Synygogue For Bad Segeberg, came over around 6:00. She brought me a one sheet for A Synagogue for Bad Segeberg and other promotional stuff. She also  brought the payment for some extra translating work I had done.  When she was leaving I mentioned I expected to see her day after tomorrow at Palenke for my Effect of Dada and Surrealim show. She said that the show would be  tomorrow as today was Saturday. Wow, working on dates instead of days of the week I’d been off by one for a while. I made a pork stir fry and worked fairly late writing. I also decided to post a singing youtube each day, making sure it was live singing and not lip syncing. I started with a really great version of You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Dusty Springfield.


March 20 Sunday

I woke up again before seven and had my now usual coffee, rye toast, and on line New York Times. There I read that they were getting rid of the free on line Times and at some un-named time it would cost to read. In the later morning I decided to check the projector that Karsten had said was in the Arab room. That is the entry room to the house which is decorated in a somewhat exotic manner.  I assumed the projector was one in smallish case, about the size of Kodak Pageant. No, that was a silent projector.


He had meant a behemoth Siemens in a big military case with leather handles. That was one I had rejected in the fall because it took a really weird jack for the speaker.


I decided to go through all the Bauer p6 projectors more carefully than I had in the fall. I was sure that the really nice one that had been the one I had used in Viborg  in he spring only needed a fuse. I ad taken the bottom off previously and not found one. This time I took off the bottom, back, and even the full electronic board across the bottom. That would let me look at what from the outside looked like a fuse holder accessible which  had repulsed all my efforts to open. There I found it was not a fuse holder at all but some weird European thing not found on any American projector I’d ever seen.  With the back off I did find six fuses scattered around but all were good. I gave up. The howling machine I had used in the fall was now dead. Two ran fine but the exciters (for sound) wouldn’t light. I tried several spares but still no sound. I then decided to further examine one that was not all dead, with a lighting exciter, but that while the motor turned the sprockets didn’t. That one had a heavy string tied to the pause lever on the back connecting it to the handle on top. I found inside it that the belt continually slipped off the spindle. It didn’t want to stay on when I put it back. I narrowed the width of tines that held it in place. I then found that the string on the back was crucial. Something was screwed up and instead of pausing things would bang around inside and knock the belt off. I got the lever tied up and the projector ran fine, although the lever had to all the way up of the machine slowed and the light dimmed. I finally decided propping it up would work better than tying it. I looked around for something suitable. I wasted time trying for find the proper size end wrench. I then settled for three scraps of wood found by the table saw. One was about size and shape of a square cigar.   Two flat pieces would support it and add the needed height. That worked. I put the pieces of the wood in the bottom of the case with the spare lamps and such. I found the zoom lens on the once howling, but now dead, projector and was set.

I posted Red McKenzie singing I Ain’t Got Nobody in 1929 with the Mound City Blue Blowers on Face book for my singing item.


On one of the Baltic air flights a screw had rattled loose and away that held one lens in place in my eye glasses.  I decided to use thread to hold the glasses together in lieu of the screw.  I got that done and took a cab to Palenke.  If Karsten were here we would have driven.  If I felt more robust I might have lugged the projector, speaker and films on a bus, but since it was Sunday fewer buses ran.    Burkhard, the owner of Palenke,  was glad to see me.   He had his two sons with him, also his ex wife and his girlfriend. Ullie, the director of A Synagogue for Bad Segeberg, Elisabeth the editor and the camera operator,  Lorenz of the Kiel Film Workshop, and the cameraman Moses Merkle, all sat at a table in the back near the projector.  I asked Moses  if he was related to Una Merkel, one of my favorite actresses. He had never heard of her.  Maybe she is related to the chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel.    I had two pints of  Guinness  and a tortellini with spinach and sausage dish. I didn’t give a real good introduction to my show The Effect of Dada and Surrealism on Hollywood Movies of the 1930’s.  My mind was on the projector. When it was time to start the show the  projector started out slow but picked up speed and eventually ran fine.

Everyone liked the show. There were signs of acknowledgement when W.C. Fields first appeared. It is funny to think of him being dubbed into German with a different voice. Ullie asked me about my traveling to Lausanne It turned out he had a free round trip ticket between Germany and Switzerland that he could get to me the next day.   The taxi home was only 6  euros.


March 21 Monday

I got up at 7:30 and found I had forgotten to buy bread. Buying groceries in Germany takes some forethought as stores aren’t open as many hours as in America,  I walked to LIDL. People were waiting for it to open at eight. I bought the rye bread and went back for my normal morning. I spent the day putting projectors away and generally tidying up. I also posted The Ronettes doing Be My Baby from The Big TNT Show and also Roger Miller doing Engine Engine Number Nine also from Big TNT. I emailed Karsten to let him know I would be back on the 23rd in the early evening and go directly to his event. He got back to me saying that he would be working in the installation but that the festival would be Friday through Sunday. When Elisabeth showed ups t 6:00 I was surprised. I had no idea how late it was. She brought the rest of the translating payment and had me sign a receipt. She also had the free train ticket. I walked her to her place and continued to the train station where I showed the free ticket to the clerk,  who looked it over, handed it back and  printed my itinerary.


I walked back home via Sophie Mall. I thought about buying more peanuts. I wasn’t sure just what the weight had been that I had paid 95 cents for. When I saw it was just 100 grams I thought that outrageous. That would be about eight bucks a pound. I got some salt herring licorice (the licorice is shaped like herrings and covered with salt) and walked home. I stopped at Sky and bought more pork for a stir fry and a bottle of French Cabernet for 2.50.


After dinner I got everything ready for my trip to Lausanne in the morning.  Using the gift ticket would mean I could go someplace completely unplanned with the extra dates now on my rail pass.  That would be fun to consider during the long train ride south.


A Day Where Not Much Happened


I  noticed that reports on the last couple of days have been  full of minutia but not much of riveting news.   Those  were action packed compared to yesterday.  Realizing that, I will try to skip the minutia and just report high lights, such as they were.

I awoke in Copenhagen at 4:30am and wrote a report for the 16th and posted it. I then took a very long shower. I then went back to bed and got up at 8:00 and went down to breakfast. The pleasant breakfast room of the Hotel Danmark had a  basket weave ceiling and a lot contrasting vertical lines for decoration. it was about one third full. Coffee was brought in a pot and was the best coffee I have ever had in a hotel in Europe. I also had two croissants that were still warm out of the oven and some bread with cheese.


Ack!  I can’t help myself.  That was all minutia.  I’ll try to do better. I’ll  just skip the rest of breakfast and the next few hours, which did include missing one train through an odd occurrence, finally finding in one of the several 7-11’s in the main station the remnant of the newsstand (which only had yesterday’s papers), reading an article at that newsstand about Hamlet not being a Dane , being treated very nicely by various train personnel, and after changing trains three times coming to the small town of Schleswig.


I got off in Schleswig feeling a little like Cary Grant when the bus drops him off at the deserted rural crossroads in North by Northwest. Just exiting the train had been unusual.   As I was wallking toward the  exit door I heard the whistle blow on the platform. My opening the door startled the conductor who was climbing the steps to the door in the adjacent car. Apparently nobody gets off at Schleswig. The train, the Schleswig-Holstein Express,  a  peculiar train in its own right, pulled away and left me standing with what seemed to be acres of nothingness around me. I was at the far end of the platform with the station far across the tracks and at least a hundred yards away.  To get there I had to walk opposite and past it and down a long walkway, then make a U-turn under the tracks and repeat the exercise. The spooky walk was not brightened up by any art work.  Schleswig Station was not one that had been modernized.  I thought maybe I could buy a Tribune. The station store had a closed sign on it. Not closed for the day, closed for good.  7-11 hadn’t arrived yet, or had decided not to come at all.  I had a half hour, so I walked outside. It was gray day with a biting wind. I walked downtown. I had wandered into the town that time had forgot.  Nothing seemed any newer than 1980. The main businesses seemed to be 2nd hand and antique stores. I went into one and asked for 16mm movies. No luck. I didn’t see anything that looked like a news stand. I saw more stray dogs than I did people.  I took a circular route though the downtown and back to the train. I felt extremely glad when the the station appeared ahead of me.  The train to Kiel soon appeared and thankfully nothing happened to keep me from leaving the town.


The train to Kiel was full of students. The small first class area had nothing to brag about except it was empty and quiet. Outside the door there was some sort of party going on with several of the kids holding helium filled balloons. Outside of (and above) Rendsburg the train stopped. A freight train went by. We stayed stopped. An announcement was made in German. Apparently this was a true local’s local and no outsiders ever ventured on it. After a while a passenger train went past. A little after that we got going. I assume that had something to do with the resurfacing work on the big trestle.  I have written about this bridge and trestle in the past. It amazes me every time I have been on it.  It is a monumental work of engineering and construction.

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I hope tomorrow will be more eventful so I can give you a more interesting report.

Oh, I guess I should tell you why the Schleswig-Holstein Express is peculiar. It runs several times a day from Hamburg to Flensburg.  It always has many cars, and at least when I have been on it, very few passengers.  Just for curiositie’s sake I have walked through car after empty car after empty car while riding it. It brings to mind  the guys from the submarine walking through empty San Francisco in On The Beach.   The only thing I can figure out is that it is packed during rush hour and in between it is too much trouble to make it shorter to correspond with the changing situation.

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I did find good news when I got back on line that evening.  I had been negotiating to show films in England at the end of this trip.  I finally got the confirmation and  I would be flying from Frankfurt to Manchester on April 9 and then flying home from London on April 15.











Take a Puff, It’s Spring Time


Just before the German train pulled into Kolding I looked out the window and saw bright sun light beaming down on burgeoning fields. It brought to mind a Salem Cigarette ad in my film archive in which two beautiful young people c.1964 light a cigarette and winter instantly turns into spring. Just in the last ten years I have seen a sea change in regard to smoking in Europe and beyond. Once smokey bars are now smoke free. Even in Italy and France smoking is now banned in most indoor public places. The train I am on had smoking areas just five years ago.


I am looking forward to some warm weather. This morning in Kiel I turned the corner and was hit by what felt like an arctic wind. I hunkered further down into my overcoat and strode purposely toward the train station. The last time I had made this exact walk, in November 2010, it had been through snow and ice. Back then I just made it to the station in time to catch my train. This time I arrived ten minutes early. I bought an International Herald Tribune and went to the platform. The shoulder strap broke on the Coach bag that I use for my computer case. It is the old style of military brief case with a flop over cover with a brass clasp. My wife Anne gave it to me several years ago. I got out a needle and thread and sewed it back together while waiting for the train. Having a needle and thread is a requisite for happy traveling.


It would take three trains to get me to Copenhagen. The first one was a local. On the great trestle in Rendsburg I noticed a least a hundrd workers putting a new bridge surface on the track next to the one we were on. In America the tracks are in such disrepair that speeds are limited for all the passenger trains that are capable of going much faster.


There I changed to a very nice German ICE Train. It had been a brand new design just a few years ago with tasteful wood wall panels and tables and comfortable chairs. When my ticket was checked I was given a voucher for free coffee and a snack in the dining car. Ah, this is living. Or as Phil Shallat once wrote as a line in the play Born to Maximize, “It’s almost like being alive.” I got a coffee and for the snack was offered either a croissant or a chocolate bar. I chose a king size Snickers bar. Next time I’ll get the croissant. Sitting in my compartment with my coffee, candy and Trib, I watched four serious looking German policemen pass by on the aisle. I wonder what they were looking for?  maybe Springtime.


The train station at Fredericia used to be a dreary place. The underground passage to the platforms was dark, musty  and cave like. Now it is dry and bright and even has art on the newly tiled walls. The store in the main lobby is now a 7-11. I was later told 7-11 has the contract to supply the stores for all the train stations in Denmark. I guess that isn’t as bad as when (it could still be the case for all I know) MacDonalds got the contract to supply all the restaurants on the toll road from Oklahoma City to Tulsa. At Fredericia I changed to a German IC train, It was also a recent design very much like the nice Danish white trains. There I found coffee, crackers and fruit. I also remembered I had a banana in my bag. Blue skies and sunshine kept being the order of the day.

Jack Stevenson met me at the Copenhagen station. I was really glad to see him.  I’d first met Jack in Seattle 199o when he was living in Boston and driving around the country with films in the trunk of his car. It felt good being again in Copenhagen.  I wished I could stay for a month.   We walked first to the hotel where I left what little stuff I had brought with me, taking only the films to be shown , and we walked to the theater. Husets Biograf is an art theater that has been in business over thirty years.  For most of that time Borge Nielsen was the heart and soul of the place. he also had a film distribution company.  He finally got tired of the struggle and now Jack runs the place.  It looked to me to be the same as ever but Jack pointed out some new chairs against one wall.  A good crowd showed up to watch Subversive Animation. They gave me a very nice round of applause after my opening remarks.  After the show a bunch of them lingered in the lobby to ask me questions.  A nice time was had by all.


After the show we went to a nearby American theme restaurant where I had a really good half pounder bacon cheese burger.  Hamburgers quit being a regular part of my diet a long time ago, which might explain why this one tasted so good.  It even had the very correct char broiled taste that is darned hard to achieve in a standard kitchen.

In my hotel room the lights wouldn’t go on.  I took the five flights of stairs down to find out why. If you could see the extremely small elevator you’d understand why.  It was a claustrophobist  nightmare.  At the counter I had to wait behind half dozen people checking in.  I was then told that the card that came with my key needed to be  put in a slot inside the door in order to turn on the electricity.  I suppose that saves money when every time you leave with the key all the lights go out. I am grateful I wasn’t packing around a portable refrigerator full of beer and ice cream.  I walked back up the stairs toward the light.  Oddly, that sort of thing is very old fashioned.  In the old days of gaslight it was common for poor people to have a meter in their house they had to put nickels in to keep the gas going.


Planes and Trains and Waiting in Stations

I woke up several times in the night and had to look at the clock each time to see it wasn’t time to get up. The back of my calf itched. I sleepily wondered if there were bed bugs. I decided to check for them in the morning. The alarm on my travel clock rang before the wake up call came. I waited for the wake up call before stepping into the shower. I decided the bed bug scare was silly. Suddenly the flat screen tv awoke from its several day slumber and its alarm started ringing. That was the wake up call. Touching the screen would not make it stop. I finally found the switch to turn off the TV. When I entered the room five days earlier I had to unplug it to get it to leave me alone.


As usual there was no one in the breakfast room when I entered. I had eaten a bunch of the tiny croissants with coffee and juice and watermelon when a woman came into the room. I assumed she was the person I’d share the taxi with. She soon left. I then got up to see what time it was. It was just past 6:45 and the taxi was there. Checking out of the hotel took no time at all. There wasn’t even a question about phone calls or the mini bar. It had been a time at Grand Hotel Tammer and a wonderful time at the Tampere Film Festival.


I talked with the woman during the half hour ride to the airport. She had attended the festival because her boyfriend had something to do with it. She lived in Riga. She had grown up there while it was still part of the Soviet Union. I found that very interesting. She spoke Russian, Latvian and Danish and worked as a translater. She had two kids, a five year old boy and a seven year old girl. I told her about my three grand kids. She found it astounding that most Americans didn’t have passports. She found it more astounding that, technically at least, you aren’t required to carry ID on you as a United States citizen.


At the counter I checked through the bag and was told that I could not carry on both the computer bag and the back pack. The counter woman suggested I have the woman carry one on. She assumed we were traveling together. Instead I put the coach bag and computer inside the backpack and stuffed the dirty clothes in after. I couldn’t get all of Karsten’s 8mm films in, they had been bought on ebay and delivered to me to be ferried to Kiel,  so I put them into various pockets of my overcoat. It made me rattle when I walked. Obviously the key to smuggling contraband is to disguise it as 8mm film.  At security I realized I should have gone through first before consolidating my bags. I had to take the computer out of the bag to have it go through the scanner. Past security there was a duty free shop and news stand. They didn’t have the Trib. I then remembered there was a rack of give and take books near the ticket counter. I left my bags on a chair, clearly a violation of many announcements over airport loudspeakers,  and went back through security. I picked a Henry Rollins Reader from the few titles that were in English.

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On the plane I took a seat among the many empties toward the front. Why can’t all flights be like that?  I discovered that Henry Rollins was a punk rock musician who also wrote. I didn’t find his writing of any interest. I finished Housekeeping and then started reading it again to get some details from the beginning straight. It really was an excellent and unusual book. The stewardesses wore fitted jackets that buttoned up the front and matching tight knee length skirts with kick pleats in the back. They made me think of Mammy Yokum in L’ll Abner comics.


As we neared Riga we flew over more pack ice with some passages through it and some open sea beyond. There was no turbulance. The landing was smooth and the taxi-ing was free of bumps. We got off the plane and into a shuttle bus. There would be three hours before my next flight. I walked into the station and after finding my gate number went looking for a Starbucks and the International Herald Tribune. I found neither. Oh, I did find the Saturday Trib still on the rack. I went into a book shop and bought The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens. It was marked 2.29. It actually cost 4 Euros. That is because Latvia still uses its own coin of the realm. I went back to where I had found a place to write on Wednesday. It was not deserted but I did find a seat and a plug. I wrote this report as the area filled up, emptied out, and filled up and emptied out again. The announcements were in Latvian and then English and finally in Russian.

I went to the gate and waited there until boarding time. I didn’t bother stuffing the computer into the backpack.  I saw that the one carry on bag rule was being ignored by just about everyone waiting to board. I noticed I was the only one there not wearing blue jeans. This flight was closer to full than the previous one. I had an aisle seat about half way back. I closed my eyes and sort of slept during the entire hour and a half flight.


My bag was one of the first onto the baggage carousel. Why can’t all flights be like that?  While waiting for the belt to start moving I changed forty Euros into Danish Kroner.  I thought I would have two hours in Copenhagen and figured on finding the Trib and something to eat. I walked through nothing to declare and to the train station. I got my rail pass activated and a plan to get me to Kiel. My train to Kobenhavn H (the central train station) was leaving immediately. I had just fifteen minutes there before boarding the train to Flensburg. I didn’t find the Trib. In fact I didn’t find the newsstand. Where it and the bookstore had once stood there was now a Seven Eleven.


On the nice Danish train there was free wifi. In first class there was also free coffee, bottled water, crackers and mandarin oranges.  I worked on the report for the final day of the festival. I also checked emails and got the Times up and the Washington Monthly. I worked the Green Tortoise bus and the Emtpy Space Theater into the report. I had it ready to post and lost the wifi and then lost most of the pictures I’d added. Then I had to get off the train and move to a forward car in order to get to Flensburg. I didn’t want to close the computer and possibly again lose my work so I carried it open with the two strap bags on one shoulder and dragging the roller bag. On the platform it was drizzling. I figured the computer could stand a little drizzle. I got seated again in first class and got the wifi back. I then got all the pictures back and went to post the report and again lost wifi. Before I could get it posted the train ran out of range of the signal. At least I could then read the Washington Monthly which was a scroll page as opposed to the Times click on the stories page.


At Flensburg I just missed the train to Kiel that would have got me there just past seven. Instead I had an hour to kill. In America I probably could have found free wifi.  That is still a ways off in Europe.  If I’d felt really ambitious I could have hoofed it into town and used a computer in the library to post my report. Instead I went into the cafe and had a great big bratworst. I was really hungry.  I’d done a whole lot of running around since my curtailed breakfast at 6:00am.

The next train was a no frills German local train.  It had a tiny first class area whose only attribute was it usually would be found empty.   The trip to Kiel would be just over an hour. It always surprises me to walk through the modern train station at Kiel.  The project to complete it had taken years.  For year after year I had trudged though the construction mess on muddy plywood paths between temporary plywood walls .  At Kiel I was met by Elisabeth Saggau.  She had the key for Karsten’s flat.  I had done the English subtitles for her documentary A Synagogue For Bad Segeberg.  The premiere will be in Kiel on March 27.  I’ll be there.

Karsten had left heat on in the flat.  I finally got my report posted.  It had been a long day.  I went to sleep with no thoughts of bed bugs.


The Green Tortoise: Last Day of the Festival

I got up at 6:00am and went down to the castle like breakfast room of the Grand Hotel Tammer. As usual I was the only one there that early. When the bacon was put out I piled a bunch on my plate, added a half dozen small croissants, took coffee and juice, and went back to my room. It was still so early that Today’s Paper at nytimes.com had not changed to Sunday. I got caught up on political news at Washington Monthly, baseball at ESPN, and tsumani and nuclear meltdown news at CNN. I made a couple of more trips down to the breakfast room to bring back more of what I had already had. When I finally got through the Sunday NY Times it was almost 10:00. I went down to the breakfast room to grab a banana and found the place jammed with people. I had no idea how popular it really was for people who don’t like to get up early when they are in a very nice hotel.

My plan was to knock out the report for Saturday and post it on the blog and then see the award winning films at noon. There would be showing of more award winning films at 2:00.


That plan was screwed up by my writing for the blog taking a lot more time than I’d planned. Instead of a straight chronological report I wanted to start out on the ice of the frozen lake. It took a while to form the whole plan of attack. When I finally got it written and posted it was 3:00. It was so sunny out I decided to leave the hotel without overcoat or hat. It felt liberating once I was outside and unencumbered. I walked to the Klubi and found the show was sold out. I was told the party that evening would start at 8:00. I went up to the office to see about my honorarium. A good thing that. If I didn’t ask I doubt I would have got it. I was asked to write out an invoice on an empty computer. I then was given the cash. Juhani also gave me more food vouchers and also a ticket for the dinner at Bravo.This is really a nice festival and everyone has been extra nice to me. I went back to the hotel. At 6:00 I walked up to Bravo to eat. It was all closed up. I thought about eating at the Italian place but decided to go to Klubi and see what food would be at the party. The fallback plan would be dinner at the same place as yesterday.

On my way out I left a wake up call for 5:45 and asked for a taxi at 6:45.For some reason I came back in to get something and the desk clerk hailed me. He had made a note of my requests but hadn’t written down my room number.  If I hadn’t come back I don’t know what he would have done. It probably would have ruined his evening by fretting and also could have caused me to miss my plane.   By now it was dark and the pathways had iced up again. That had been the routine every day: Ice melts during the day and freezes as soon as the sun goes down. It made slightly nervous going with my leather soled shoes. Walking through the train station I saw something remarkable. It was a vending machine that sold flowers. What a nice idea.


At Klubi I was told a buffet dinner would be provided at 8:00. I went upstairs and found a place to sit and write in longhand. I also told Mikko that he could contact the other person at the Grand Hotel Tammer that there would be a taxi we could share to get to the airport. At 8:00 I went downstairs and found the door to Klubi closed. A line had formed but was not out the door. The coat check racket was back in business. I had left my coat and hat upstairs. The door didn’t open untill 8:20 and by then the foyer was packed and the line was out the door. Inside I found the repast to be a green salad, a Greek salad, a spaghetti with olive oil and raw vegetables and also penne with basil and chicken. I got a little of each and headed for the beer stand. Everything was free. To keep people from getting bombed they cut a corner off the festival badge with each beer and when all four corners were cut the drinker was cut off.

I sat at a table with Mikko, Anton, Leena and man and woman I didn’t catch the names of. Mikko said he had made the taxi arrangement. We were joined by a woman who was much more lively than the average Finn, which she said so herself.   She reminded me of my old friend the actress Lori Larson who starred in Seattle  Empty Space Theater stage productions in the 70’s and 80’s.


Of that group of actors, who included Robert Wright ,Rex McDowell, Rebecca Wells and Jill Klein, the only one  I have any idea what he is doing now is John Aylward.  He has done a ton of TV work and was a regular on ER as Dr. Donald Anspaugh. He had niche in the old days as an actor who could play old even when he was young. He still doesn’t seem any older than he did thirty years ago.


The DJ was playing movie music and when I first noticed it was the the Ennio Morricone score from The Good the Bad and Ugly. We talked about music and movies. The lively woman mentioned taking the Green Tortoise from San Francisco to Seattle in 1991. She said it had left in the early evening with beds made up and that they awoke to breakfast in Portland at a farm that had a sort of Sauna/Sweat Lodge steam bath.  We wondered if such a relic from the hippie days could still be in business.  I was pleased to find out today that it is.

Jukka-Pekka and Juhani both gave short talks, first in Finnish and then in English, thanking the staff for doing such a great job. He then asked the guests to give the staff a big hand. I was happy to do it. It really was a nicely run festival. After that it looked like the band would finally play. That is when I left. I made it to the hotel safely. It was midnight. I still had the fifty bucks in food vouchers I hadn’t needed after all. I can’t believe I let that happen.  I packed my bags and went to sleep.

Note:  This report was mostly written in the airport in Riga.  The final editing, adding photos, and posting was on the train between Copenhagen and Flensburg.  Wow, modern life!

Actress Lori Larson on the set of an Empty Space Theater production of "Bullshot Crummond," Seattle, Washington, January 18, 1976

Walking on Thick Ice


About a dozen of us were standing a few hundred yards from the shore on frozen lake Nasijarvi. I could see cross country skiers, some being propelled by kites, in the distance toward the far shore.    A couple of hundred yards in the other direction a group of people were frolicking around. No one was ice skating.  The ice being covered with snow made that impossible.  It reminded me of being at  the beach in Oregon, except it didn’t seem as  cold here.

Our Saturday excursion had started out at 11:30am in two vans.  Our group had been augmented by a class of journalism students from Austria who had recently arrived.   Our first stop was the Sara Hilden Art Museum.  It was housed in an attractive 60’s concrete building near the foot of a Space Needle like tower, and revolving restaurant, that  I had seen yesterday from the Pyynikki Tower.  It was also just around the corner from an amusement park that was closed for the season and covered in snow.


A tour guide took us through the Subobh Gupta exhibition.  Our info sheet called him a “Superstar of India’s contemporary art scene.”   One sculpture was made of of three or four dozen boxes that each had once contained a  Jeff Koons Puppy and were marked accordingly.  Another room held several large oil paintings of realistically realized  plates of food.  A third room contained great big eggs made out of stainless steel kitchen implements welded together.   If I hadn’t thought Marchel Duchamp had taken art in a bad direction I probably would have enjoyed the exhibition more.


From there we went for the walk on the ice.  There did seem to be a certain conceptual connection between the two events.  As we neared the point where we turned back I saw a solitary figure walking toward us.  It looked like he had come from the city shore at least a mile away and was crossing to our side.  He passed us without remark.    Walking back the way we came we were passed by a man driving a dog sled pulled by Husky dogs.  The driver stopped to talk to the Finnish members of our group.  Shortly after that the dogs started to howl and kept it up until the man returned to them.  A frozen lake in Finland is really a remarkable place.

Back at Plevna I went into the festival center to see what was offered during the day.  Looking at the schedule I saw that my show Kill A Commie for Christ was due to start in five minutes.  What?  I had thought it was scheduled for Sunday afternoon!  I tore out of the building,  running  most of the way, most of the distance was downhill, and arrived just in time to be introduced to the crowd.  Being out of breath made my introduction a little difficult but all in all it turned out well. My rushing in at the last moment added a bit of  frisson to the event. My talk included my personal memories of growing up in the shadow of nuclear annihilation.  I also talked about  Martin Luther King being smeared as being a communist, just as Barrack Obama is being smeared as a socialist.  I stayed for the show and added some extra fully breathed comments during the pause for the reel change.


Billboard in North Carolina in place until 1969

I would again be showing films in the evening as part of the Freaky Horror Night .  That wouldn’t start until ten.  My confusion about the Kill A Commie screening was because it had been listed on my gig sheet  after Freaky Horror. I should have read the information more carefully.  I am really glad it worked out ok.  I stayed for all  of Kill A Commie.  The show ends with a film made by the Defense Department in 1965 about dealing with the after effects of a nuclear war.  The nuclear reactors in Japan melting down as a result of the earthquake and tsunamis made it even more chilling.

It was nice to have a few restful hours before the next show.  I was able to eat an unhurried dinner at Telakka which was just across the square from Tullikamari.  I used up the last of my meal vouchers for a very tasty plate of pork escalopes and french fries.  The french fries were seasoned with paprika.

A huge crowd showed up for Freaky Horror.  Three of my educational scare films started the show at 10:30.  That was followed by the act Sir and Q which was a burly guy and petite girl who did classic freak show stuff using a sledge hammer, a large syringe, and blocks of concrete.  That was followed by a goth sort of rock band called Nightsatan.  Their bass vibrated the walls of the building.  I hope I escaped permanent hearing loss.



Tod Browning’s Freaks was then shown in 35mm.   After that it would be more of Sir and Q and a band called the Braineaters.  Three more of my educational scare films would end the evening.  I enjoyed the first half hour of Freaks before admitting that going to sleep was a lot more attractive to me than staying for more  high volume mayhem.  I walked out of the Tullikamari  into the icy streets and  the cold night.



Cardamon Donuts


Bing Crosby in The Big Broadcast (1932)

In my haste  the previous evening to depart the Effect of Dada And Surrealism screening and get to the Sauna Party I left my top coat and hat in the office up stairs above the Tullikamarinaukio theater.  At a reasonable hour the next morning the phone in my room rang.  It was reception downstairs saying my coat  and hat had been delivered.  What a well run festival this is!  After breakfast I spent the rest of morning working on yesterday’s report which I posted at 11:20.  Ten minutes later I was at Plevna where I did a radio interview.  The nice young fellow had been to the Dada screening so everything was to the point.  I am not sure if I mentioned that at the screening there was a sound problem at the beginning.  In fact at first there was no sound.  I did my best to fill in  the lost soundtrack to The Big Broadcast which included singing the Bing Crosby and Kate Smith parts. They found the sound after that and I was able to get to the party.   In the interview the young man asked me to again sing the Bing Crosby part.  Well, you do what you can do when publicity calls.


Pyynikki Observation Tower  Tampere, Finland

After the interview it was a short walk to the staging area at the Vaino Linna Square for the day’s outing.  The internationals guests, which included me, traveled in two vans to the 1929 Observation tower.   I wonder what it is about observation towers and Finns?  There is another excellent observation tower in Astoria, Oregon, which has always had a large Finnish population.


The Astoria Column

The Tampere Observation Tower looks down on not just the city but also the Pyhajarvi and Nasijarvi lakes.  We all trooped up the stairs to the top where we found abundant views and fresh air.  Also sideways  snow.  It was very invigorating.  I needed some invigorating after the gala events of the previous evening. Another thing I left out of yesterdays report was that after the Sauna Party we went to a taven for more revelry, not the best idea all things considered.

At the Tower cafe we had refreshments.  I had hot chocolate.  We all had donuts, of which the cafe is famous for.  The donuts were flavored with cardamon. I am sure they don’t offer that flavor at Voodoo Donuts.

Back at the hotel I took a nap and didn’t get up again until 5:00pm.  My plan was to do research to improve my talk before The Age of Oil and then get dinner at 6:00.   As usual the research took longer than I figured.  Oh, have I mentioned that all my Google search answers here are in Finnish?  Yes, Google watches out for you when you travel to make sure you know where you are.  I have to say that Yahoo search, which has answers more grounded in my reality, is not as good as Google.  By the time I was ready to leave my only option for dining was the Italian restaurant in the hotel.  I expected to find it near empty like so many hotel dining rooms in the USA seem to be. Nope, it was full up and I was turned away.  I got to the screening an hour early.  There they told me about the Festival party at City Hall.  That was just a short walk across the river.


I don’t think the current situation here is optimum for appreciating the beauty of Tampere.  It must be beautiful in the spring.  It must be beautiful covered with fresh snow.  Right now the roads are all clear and dirty snow is left in the undisturbed areas.  I was still impressed with the beauty of the main town square and City Hall.  When I got to the party all the wine had  been drunk and there wasn’t much left of the food.  I put mixed nuts in my pocket for later.  Walking back across the bridge I was impressed with the  four giant statues of athletic men that guard the portals.  They might have been an inspiration to Tom of Finland.

It was another nice crowd for my show.  I gave the introduction and then went out looking for dinner.  I went back to the Italian restaurant in the hotel.  Any place that packed ought to be good.  I was seated and given a menu.  Since I had been living on breakfast, sandwiches, and beer, for the last two days, I decided to get the full meal special.  It would take the rest of my meal vouchers, which I was sure would be worth it.  It would be tomato soup, roast pork, risotto, and chocolate cake for dessert.  After the soup portion I waited.  Then I waited and waited.  After what I considered a more than reasonable to wait I tried to catch the eye of a waitress.  A half hour later I did.  I asked if my order had been lost.  Apparently it had been.  The roast pork soon arrived and was excellent.  It was also on the house.  it was too late for the cake.

I went back to the Tullikamarinaukio theater to watch William S. Burroughs A Man Within.  I enjoyed what I saw but then realized I had little interest in the subject. I realize this marks me as a near Philistine, but I would probably more enjoy a documentary about Edgar Rice Burroughs than William S. Burroughs.

I had been told there would be some sort of party starting at 10:00.  I went out and asked about it.  It wouldn’t start until after the screening.   Things couldn’t be more clearer.  It was time to go to the hotel and get some rest and prepare for another busy day.  The outing tomorrow was to be taken to a contemporary Indian art exhibition and then for a walk on the ice of lake Nasijarvi.