Wednesday, March 14, 2018

She's In Parties (Part I)

My first six weeks in Germany were spent at house parties drinking and not at house parties drinking. 

I was going to share some of my favourite photos from those first weeks in this post, but then I spent a little longer catching up on backlogged posts than I wanted to (this is just as unsurprising as another photo dump, I know) and decided to include up to Valentine's Day, just for the heck of it. This first part is up until Christmas.

Spending what will soon be 4 1/2 months alone at home in penniless limbo (because we finally have a wedding date but are trying to get a sooner one) has been super shitty, but here are a whole bunch of the fun moments: this is basically what I've been doing here up until now.

This is what the lobby of Hannes' office building looked like for the holidays.

Pretty neat, huh?

I met him there so that we could walk over to the Italian restaurant Lars had picked for a small get-together on his actual birthday - the huge combined party at the rented venue was later.

Gotta love that harbour area

This is the fish auction hall, built at the end of the 19th century.

Madonna der Meere, a spoopy monument to sailors lost at sea.

Can't swing a dead cat without hitting a brick Gothic or Gothic Revival church in these parts - 
this one is the St. Pauli church.

We had a bit of time to kill before meeting, so we went around the corner to have a drink first. There's an Irish pub off the Reeperbahn Hannes decided he liked; I think this was the third time we went and this was the third variety of Magners cider I had tried, none of which were really acceptable :P

I spotted this weird slap from the first venue we went to here, Menschenzoo

I wrapped the presents for Lars to match; the red bow and design on the paper I did myself.

The appetisers and fresh mozzarella were quite nice, but I mean, obviously I never go out for Italian food because I don't eat meat, fish, bread, or pasta. The waiter was extremely obnoxious to everyone and my entrée ended up being literally just some tomatoes lol.

Aww! She always makes faces and gesticulates a lot while talking 
(seems vaguely familiar right?) so it's really hard to get a picture like this.

This is an Aperol Spritz, which I'd never tried before. 
It's nice. You'd like it if you like Campari.

Onto the presents!

Just like a little kid, haha.

Afterward we went over to the St. Pauli Christmas market down the street for more drinks.

(See what I mean about the faces?)

I think he finally managed to stop doing this one, though

The cheap shots here are so terrible.. At least this time it was sour apple and not Pfeffi

This is the main circuit of little bars that you might remember from the very first time 
we visited Hamburg together and got completely shipwrecked

I see you there, ZZ Top sticker..

Nothing much going on, just Lars faithfully wearing his surprisingly high-quality birthday tiara all night, Solvig learning how to manipulate the Matrix, and Daniel looking joyfully skyward like an optimistic pioneer lol 

... and of course, there's always kicker. Or foosball, as we 'Muricans call it.

We figured out pretty quickly that, even at the mini Edeka nearest us, we can find the inexpensive ingredients for a vegan, gluten-free pizza party:

Those pizza crust sheets are made mostly of de-oiled flaxseed and come out nice and crispy and neutral-tasting. Bedda is a Hamburg-based brand, and their cheese is mostly potato starch and coconut oil, which sounds hella gross, but it gets gooey and melty like nobody's business and is really tasty. Oh and, finally, we use spicy arrabbiata instead of regular pizza sauce.


I use my ulu to slice the pizzas into quarters and always serve them with a salad.

Speaking of delicious food parties..

Jorge and Jens had a sophisticated potluck dinner party that they were nice enough to invite us to, to welcome us to Hamburg. That young smiling dude with the glasses right there is 17 years old. Jorge has been using him as a director for his films. On what planet do you as a Taiwanese high school kid end up at parties like this and film festivals speaking English in Germany? Good grief

The food was amazing and the company thoroughly pleasant. That woman in the background there is French and works as a translator, and is also an amazing cook. I accidentally had a few bites of one of her spectacular quiches, thinking it was one of the gluten-free ones Jorge had painstakingly made.
(10/10 would recommend)

Jorge also made a gluten-free sweet potato pecan cake that was just obscene. It was so, so good. I did tell him it was obscene though, and that I could feel all the sugar as I chewed it. He was like, "Whaaat, nooo, I didn't add any extra sugar in there. Just maple syrup," lol

Then he was like, "WELL, I have mezcal, and somebody's going to drink some,"
except that it was a Monday night and no one wanted to drink any

Hey wait don't run! Don't try to run! -chases people down with mezcal bottle-
These two guys were super lovely: one is an American journalist and the other is a Canadian choreographer and actor.

It was a really wonderful way to be welcomed to Hamburg and I hope we get to a point soon where we're established and comfortable enough (and I mean, idk, where we own a trash can? and have something on the walls?) to invite Jens and Jorge over to ours for dinner. I'd really like to see their other friends again, too.

A couple of days later (we're still pre-Christmas at this point), on the day of the solstice, I met up with Jannes again to enjoy the Kurzfilmtag Jorge had just recommended to me. 
The venue showing one of Jorge's (and his friends') projects wouldn't be showing it until 9 or 9:30, and Hannes is a grandpa and knew he wouldn't be able to stay awake for it and through work the next day. As a teacher Jannes gets mad holidays and was already off, so I asked him to pick one of the not-so-late showings somewhere not too far out of the center of town.

He ended up picking Moin Hamburg! at Kampnagel's Alabama Kino, located at a station only 6 minutes away from us but on the opposite side of town for him, which I have to assume he mostly did out of consideration for me. From the station it was quite a long walk to Kampnagel, though; I think it must have taken at least 25 minutes.

He bought me dinner and a couple of drinks. A minor international incident ensued when I asked the very handsome (although that's par for the course) and attentive waiter if they could make me a simple dry and dirty martini with a measure of their cheapest gin, and between him and like 5 other people working the bar they somehow had no idea how to do it. I mean, you just shake it with bitters and olive juice? 
They did manage to find an olive, though, and stuck it in the glass with a broken-in-half bamboo skewer, for apparent lack of toothpicks. "Here's your James Bond drink," Handsome Waiter announced when he placed it in front of me, clearly proud of his resourcefulness. They all knew we had been watching them struggle with it and that I was just embarrassed for myself and everyone else at that point, so it was pretty funny.

It was also just gin. Like, just.. Just a shot of gin. But that's okay, no one needs to be able to feel their lips at all times anyway.

Who knew that martinis weren't a thing in continental Europe?

In order, the short films were:

Der Philatelist

Bagdad Blues


The Centrifuge Brain Project

Der Hahn ist tot!

Jannes only moved to Hamburg last summer, so he's kind of new here too and was interested in what this series of shorts, many from the late 80's, had to say about this city. 

There's a pretty long and memorable ninth one that isn't listed, too, about a hair stylist in Altona telling his archetypal permed-old-lady clientele about the story he's been coming up with / writing, which he thinks would make an excellent screenplay. It's a love story between two completely and absurdly awkward and defective loners who eventually find each other because they visit the same salon for a hair cut. The stylist or barber, clearly based on himself, sort of plays the role of matchmaker for these two lonely misfits, which, he tells the old ladies, was actually one of the roles of the barber in the Middle Ages. He's soft-spoken and very involved in the hair treatments and the clients' comfort as he's talking, but I mean, you know the type.

I'm not sure if they used real, unsuspecting old ladies or what, but their responses had everyone in the theatre lolling. One old lady would just occasionally say, "Oh Gott." very quietly in response to some of the more ridiculous details; others got really into it and asked all kinds of questions about whether it was based on reality and how people could fall into such misfortune, like it was a favourite soap opera they were following, which I guess it kind of was.

When I tried to describe it to Hannes later he said it just sounded really sad, and that this poor middle-aged loser of a hair stylist sounded really pathetic and cringey to listen to, but I swear, it was presented in a way that it was funny-cringey and didn't feel tragic.

That one, The Centrifuge Brain Project, and Beige were my favourites. If nothing else, watch The Centrifuge Brain Project; it's so wonderful and fantastical, and presented in a way that makes it sound like science at first. Basically it was discovered, in that film, that centrifugal force directly correlated to increased intelligence, and that results could be seen almost immediately. The scientist/engineer who narrates builds ever-more fanciful and spectacular amusement park rides to create the best high-g conditions he can and cater to increasing demand for it.

Beige is probably well worth signing up to that site for, too, honestly. A woman who acknowledges that she's now middle-aged has been noticing things about her now-elderly parents, and becomes fixated on the fact that they only wear beige, along with all other German old people, like it's an official, standardised uniform. There are various scenes of hordes of old people decked out in beige from head to toe appearing over a grassy hill and awkwardly shuffle-running toward the camera like zombies. She decides to get to the bottom of it, and like a documentarian, interviews a whole bunch of beige-wearing grandmas and grandpas and follows what they say to a clothing store, where she's instantly directed to an entire rack of beige jackets when she tells the sales clerk she's looking for a light, summery jacket for her father. She has this hilarious I fucking knew it look on her face, and the sales clerk seems uncomfortable. I won't tell you how it ends in case you do want to watch it, though.

Der Hahn ist tot! was certainly a unique experience: that guy whose jacket may or may not be made of the same material as the heavy curtain behind him instructs the theatre to sing that old-fashioned little ditty, has some sections repeat it, tells others they're terrible or not trying, and tells others still that they're doing the best, until he's satisfied that we've all performed it to his liking.

Obviously the classically-trained musician and I were the best.

The night before we headed to Rostock for the holidays Hannes decided he wanted to take me out for dinner and drinks, to a Mexican restaurant just up the road from his office in a fairly swanky, central part of town.

He's still getting used to the concept of salt on the rim of the glass but at least he finally acknowledges that it works, and that it also doesn't really matter because the tequila gets you drunk either way.

Unsurprisingly, the food was disappointing, but perfectly edible. Yet another dimension of attempting classics like burritos without the proper ingredients or methods, kind of like in Korea, where they use kidney beans and shredded cabbage. See that pointy green thing above the slice of zucchini and the blob of nacho cheese? It's celery. 
They put celery in their nachos.
-whispers- Holy shit

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