It felt subtle a week or two ago, but now it’s quickly ramping up.
The shift begins when you decide you are actually doing it. That happened for us about a month ago when Kodiak (literally) won the lottery and was re-admitted into his old school in Taos. Then the logistics start to pile up, and overwhelm your ability to really remain present in the place where you are.
The logistics in our case are quite intense, as we are extricating ourselves from Germany while also trying to finish the Burning Man sculpture on a very tight timeline. In fact, Christina and I made a calendar a few days ago, mapping out the next few months. With BBK’s “business-hours-only” schedule, I have only 18 build days remaining. I don’t even like to write that sentence, much less think much about it, as I find it quite stressful. On top of that, I am also trying to organize the international shipping of the container. (Which, as it happens, is really cumbersome in Germany. Here in Deutschland, you need a registered company to export anything with a value of over €1000. So German. KAOS to the rescue.) We also need to build crates in the next few weeks to carry all our personal crap which we will stick into the container. We need to pack those crates in the next few weeks. (The same weeks during which we are trying to finish and load the sculpture.) And the wood used to build travel crates needs to be special (expensive) wood, fumigated and stamped for transoceanic travel. And we need to de-register as residents of the city of Berlin. And we need to cancel the four different kinds of insurance Germany compels you to buy upon arrival. And organize two separate meetings with the real-estate management company from whom we rent. And fight for our deposit (Apparently German real-estate management companies are notorious for trying to keep it, and ours is proving difficult in many other ways, so…) And sell our car. And sell our motorcycle. And sell our furniture. And keep bringing Kodiak to school every day. And organize a goodbye party.
If I actually really think about it, it’s too much.
Don’t think. Just keep doing.
As readers of this blog know, I like to keep my posts pretty light, and focused on culture, art, etc. I don’t veer off much into politics or other similarly weighty topics. But I must admit, I am quite anxious about returning to the US. Two years of living in Europe have given me a certain perspective on things. I would say that, generally speaking, the experience has served to reinforce much of what I already thought about the US, but with the addition of actually having lived an alternative.
I have no interest in starting a political argument around this blog, because everybody has their own political view and political arguments never actually accomplish anything other than sowing acrimony among the participants, but…. My opinion is that corporate capitalism and income inequality are destroying the US. Meanwhile the US has the most sophisticated media and PR machine in the world, centered around Hollywood, which is constantly sending out the message that it’s a paradise and a land of promise. But those newsmakers and message-makers are in the 1%, so of course it’s a paradise, for them. Meanwhile the middle class shrinks, the underclass grows, and people actually suffer. Schools are underfunded, some communities lack basics like clean water, and all this in a country that people still call “first-world.” The issue is not a lack of resources, or overpopulation (although it’s tempting to think that…), the issue is that all those resources are concentrated in only a few hands. Imagine how intransigent problems like racism would ameliorate if everyone had enough money to be comfortable, have a home, have their kids in a decent and safe school. (Jesus, don’t even get me started about guns.)
Anyway, for the sake of my readers… the rant is over. Suffice to say that Europe is quite different from most of what is elucidated above.
Christina and I are reading a book about coming home from an extended period abroad. The main thesis is that, while people expect a big change when they leave their home country and are thus prepared for the shock, people expect returning to be easy, and when the hiccups invariably arise it quickly leads to depression and a desire to go back abroad. The problem is the dissonance between the expectation that coming home will be easy and the reality that it’s not easy. Well, maybe it will be easier for me… because I’m not expecting it to be easy. Yes, I’m looking forward to being in Taos, seeing friends, seeing our dogs, sitting in the hot tub and riding my motorcycles. But goddamn am I going to miss the energy and culture of Berlin, a society in which people seem to have enough to get by, where decisions are not made from fear, and where people don’t shoot each other over small things like trespassing. Did you know that there is no such thing as trespassing in Sweden because all the land, even if owned by someone, is free to pass on, pass through? You tell me which approach is more civilized. (*EDIT* Christina's mother Helga tells me that there are actually plenty of fences and no-trespassing signs there... but it is in fact codified in the law, and in any case you're a lot less likely to get shot for doing it)
Anyway, Buddhist thought suggests that I am causing myself unnecessary anxiety by devoting my thoughts to a time other than NOW (by planning, worrying, remembering…) so I should probably shut the fuck up. But anyway, this is a bit of how I am feeling about returning. The book we are reading says that the depression will really begin about 2 weeks after returning, which is right around the time we will head to Burning Man… and I am sure that will help.
OK, shutting up now.
Despite the fact that only 18 build days remain, the build of With Open Arms is going well. Guy and Cedar and I are cranking in the shop, with the occasional help of Christina. Meanwhile Christina actually spends most of her time heading up a team of people from KAOS and another place called MotionLabs, working on the frieze, organizing the water-jet cutting of the Flame-Burst, and various other tasks. (As I mentioned in the last post, Christina is also handling about 95% of the paperwork divorcing us from Germany... no small task!) It’s a remarkably small team making this sculpture happen, but it’s happening.
The shoulders were, from a technical standpoint, absolutely the hardest part of this sculpture so far. They are fabricated from steel and aluminum joined with bolts, incorporate a pocket which allows attachment to the body, and are built on a complicated geometry involving multiple non-orthagonal angles. They required at least 2 cardboard models and about a week of fabrication to complete. Here is one of them...
The body is starting to look like something, and the Flame-Burst is coming together, thanks to Cedar (welding over at left). Guy is seen in a rare moment of relaxing; he is normally kicking ass with a jig-saw, a circular saw, a band-saw, a grinder, or the shear.
Thank you Cedar and Guy; this project wouldn’t get done without you.
We went to Maker Faire Berlin last week, and had an unexpectedly good time. Here is Kodiak watching Dizzy, the rideable mechanical Rhino from Lyle of Doghead.
Other than Dizzy, we haven’t seen much art or culture lately, so not much new to report… but that is about to change. Germany has a lot of holidays, especially in May, and we are taking the opportunity of BBK being closed today (Thursday) and tomorrow (Friday) to go to Prague for a long weekend with Kodiak and Cedar. Nothing to do but soak up culture. Actually I am writing this post while on the train, cruising through the beautiful countryside of the Czech Republic. (Ironically, I was told a few weeks ago by the secretary at BBK that they were closed today, so we made the arrangements for this trip, but I learned yesterday that she was wrong and they are not actually closed. But what the hell, I could use a culture and relaxation break.)
And OK, lastly... on a lighter note... my favorite building in Berlin is the Fernsehturm, and Berlin's mascot is the Bear... and from the time of moving here I always wanted to make a graphic (for a t-shirt or a sticker) that involved the bear climbing the tower, as in King Kong. But then I saw that someone else already did it...
Yes, I know this is just a photo of someone else's store logo. But I love it. So there.
OK, we are almost in Prague.