Continuing on with my first weeks in Germany, we venture around the corner and a stone's throw down the street to Ulrike and Andreas' apartment for something called a Pullerparty. I half-heartedly tried to look up where this term comes from, but remain unsatisfied.
It's a little bit like a baby shower, except for the dad-to-be, and except that instead of presents there's usually just lots of booze. I don't think there are any rules about no women being allowed, like at stag parties, or as you might imagine the reverse of an American-style baby shower to be. The party is supposed to happen before the baby is born, though, and these two didn't have time for a proper one, so Ulli decided to throw Bösie (his nickname comes from his last name) a surprise belated Pullerparty on one end of their apartment while gurgly little six month-old Theo slept on the opposite end.
This is Ulli on the left, and Ivy looks lowkey pissed (but still roguishly handsome) here because this one was Hannes, and he decided to see how obnoxiously bright using the flash would be..
(survey says, exactly as obnoxiously bright as you would expect)
I promise Solvig was having a good time and not drinking away her sorrows
Finally got to sit down and have a real conversation with Daniel, Solvig's boyfriend (about why Americans don't protest nearly enough and how violent it is there compared to other developed nations, and about how hilariously shady the first company I worked for in Korea was, among other things), who's generally a great guy but who I haven't really had any contact with until now.
This very attractive little dog is an uncommon breed called a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, and I don't know if her owners even believed me or not when I told them, "Oh! I've actually heard of that," because a pleasant childhood memory of learning about different dog breeds in the hopes of one day getting one of my own came rushing back to me when they said it.
This looks like a still from a hipstery music video lol
Okay, this game. This fucking game.
It's a very simple family/kids' game where four players bounce the little dude in the plane up and away from their three plastic coins using those triggers - and that is the entire game. If you're not quick enough or the person next to you is skilled enough to bounce Louie right onto one of your coin thingies, it rolls out of your little cache, and you have to take a drink or a shot. Once you lose all three tokens, you're out.
People here say they like Pfeffi, but they're fucking liars.
I'm going to be generous and include the pic of Ivy smiling, but not the one in between
these two of him cringing in disgust and swigging his beer after drinking that shot.
As you can imagine, this little idiot in the plane powers around this tiny course super fast, and everyone ends up drinking a lot. A lot a lot. I opted for shots of vodka, because fuck Pfeffi, and everyone agreed that I should just do half-shots since it's so much stronger than everything else. I lost count pretty quickly either way, and this game runs through its course and burns out similarly fast.
Oh but here's Daniel being awfully photogenic behind the little airplane
Lars was already a bit drunk from a company party when he eventually arrived, but was good company as always. We ended up talking while slowly melting into the sofa until like 4 in the morning.
This is Bösie's brother, who had us over to his nearby house for brunch and to meet his wife and kids a few weeks later.
There are fields, Neo. Endless fields
Bösie's hilariously awkward blank stare - once again captured by Hannes - belies the constant undercurrent of exhaustion that accompanies having a baby, the same way some of my photos from Thanksgiving of my cousin's wife Mariya do. These two are super nice, though, and it was a really good, cozy little house party all around.
"Stand in front of that! Stand in front of that right now!"
Window reflection selfie while we were sheltering from the frigid weather and
waiting for Lars so that we could walk to the Rote Flora together
I don't know who does these three-dimensional Popsicle street art sculptures, but they're amazing. There's another one on a little underpass on Hannes' walk to work, with half an incredulous pink Popsicle going into a blue portal on one wall and coming out another on the ceiling (like in the video game).
It was extremely dark so the top one there is hard to see well, but it's another example of some of the unique, sculptural street art that you can find all over Hamburg. Until these the only non-paint, non-sticker, non-paste-up varieties I'd ever known of were cardboard and sometimes plywood cutouts, tiles (like Invader uses), yarnbombing, and very occasionally, small hidden objects.
Here's another soot sprite-like little guy made by the same person or people as the one above. I think these and the Popsicles are some really next-level shit.
This is what we were walking to: The Cummunist Manifisto, A Gay Marxist Porn Experience.
(My only regret is that, because the Rote Flora is a bastion of antifa protest and other activity, no photos or videos are allowed inside. People here are very paranoid about being identified and persecuted by the police and by right-wing thugs.)
It was a reading that the host of the show explained came from an actual piece of homoerotic historical fanfiction, found in a dusty little hole-in-the-wall second-hand book shop in a back alley of London. He said that a group of them had found it too good to keep to themselves, and he was completely right.
This guy, rather a large and presumably gay man with neither hair nor eyebrows, was accompanied by a moderately well-known female journalist who also read and also a fabulous comrade who looked like a communist yeti New York club kid in dark blue metallic lipstick that matched his tiny hot pants serving white wine in little paper cups.
I'm not sure which was better: the fact that this shameless piece of smut was very clever and intelligent or that it was accompanied by the lowest-quality special effects and visuals in history. There were little paper characters that had been printed out, and a slideshow with stock images projected onto the wall above the readers during the intro. When the evil capitalists were mentioned, for example, they used this picture of Pusheen wearing a monocle and top hat like the Monopoly man. There were various tiny mistakes and hold-ups. The female journalist struggled with an ill-fitting bushy grey beard, as she read Karl. At the climax - I mean, like, at each sexual climax - she fired a confetti gun into the air repeatedly, a little plastic toy of the thing that went pop! pop! as little bursts of silver glitter rained down onto them and they tried to stop laughing.
The hairless man had a deep soothing voice and seemed a very natural choice for this project, but we quickly realised that he also had a very particular sense of humour that involved being completely deadpan and awkwardly delaying the delivery of some lines just long enough to make them even funnier. Instantly his deep, awkward, and emotionless
became a meme.
We left thoroughly entertained and satisfied. I mean, maybe not as satisfied as post-orgy Marx and Engels, but still very satisfied.
Another great paste-up!
After the completely outrageous and wonderful reading we went to El Dorado,
where Daniel and another close friend of theirs named Phillip sometimes work.
And here's Philip now! -gasp-
This is yet another creative invention unique to Hamburg: the Lantern Man. Solvig, who had also come out for drinks, was very excited when he appeared, because she said you don't see him that often.
He is basically panhandling, but with this handmade lantern covered with images of inspirational and important people from modern times and throughout history. You give him a euro or two and then you can take one of those slips of paper from the top, which he also types/prints/cuts out himself. They have various meaningful quotes on them, so that it feels like opening a more profound and mystical version of a fortune cookie.
Here's my quote, from Gandhi.
What this man does is so unique; it's almost like a type of performance art.
Solvig hoped out loud that he's basically okay, out in the extreme cold and clearly in need of money and everything, and I hope he is too.
Hannes and I were pretty hungry by the time we decided to call it a night, and got falafel boxes (these and simple bakery sandwiches and the basic units of fast food here) and hurriedly ate them while walking back to the subway station on the Reeperbahn, our fingers and faces freezing.
Dressing in layers like this gets really tiresome. But, this wasn't from the night of the lantern man and the gay Marxist porn experience: it was a little bit later, when we went to a crappy little venue with good shows called Astra-Stube to see Danish bands Telos and Demersal.
Just some more street art and interesting rainy lights while we were waiting for the doors to open at 8..
It was a Monday night, and we didn't find out until we got there that the bands didn't start until 9. Hannes was tired and had work in the morning, so when that became "Uhh, I guess like 9:30 or maybe 10," he and I and all six or seven other people who had showed up felt like this.
It's a very awkward little venue with like four little barstools at a bar the size of a small desk, and there's nowhere to put coats or bags where people won't trip over them. Unless you're standing perpetually in the way or are on one of the small stools, you're where the band's gear is or directly in front of the door and the frigid blasts of air that come in every time someone else does. The door stays open for a while because they make you stand in the doorway to pay as soon as you walk in. The door is also directly in front of the stage, which is also too small. There is no backstage. The bar was sold out of a number of the very few things they offered and didn't even have the basic ubiquitous beer for which the place is named. There's no liquor, so I had cheap white wine. I've been in plenty of tiny dive venues, but I don't think I'd ever felt quite this bored or uncomfortable before. Waiting over an hour and a half like that, we were just sick of being there, and Hannes wanted to leave.
The good news is, though, that the bands made up for the shitty planning of their managers and whoever owns the venue. Demersal, blackened hardcore / post-black metal, shreds really really fucking hard. We both loved them.
After their set, though, Hannes went home. Hamburg is a super small city, but the trains come infrequently, so it often takes a long time to get just a few miles, especially late at night. I tried and tried to get him to stay for Telos, but he wouldn't. His mood was already completely sour, which very rarely happens, so I left him to it. As it turns out, part of the reason for the delay was that one of their guitarists was having, like, violent life-ending hangover diarrhea in the bathroom, and they had to get this tall blonde guy from Demersal to play for them x'D
Telos put on a really good show, too, though; they play blackened mathcore, hectic and furious but also extremely tight. But, Demersal was still more impressive, delay and loaned guitarist or no.
I walked back to the station in the icy drizzle, and it wasn't a good neighbourhood, but there was no one around, so I did my best to tipsily snap some pictures of the better street art I saw on the way, with no flash, in the pitch darkness.
By Marshal Arts.
All in all it was a good night, and I would go back to Astra-Stube again - even though all the shows I want to see here are on Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays for some ungodly reason - now that we know "Doors at 8" means "Show starts at like 9:30? We don't really know" and "bar" means "I think we might still have some beer and wine in the back?"
I added this in because Hannes is cute. He usually makes us brunch on the weekend. His fluffy folded-over scrambled eggs with onions, mushrooms, melted cheese, and seasoning are pretty bomb.
They also have Pilsbury things that you open from compressed explosive cans, place, and bake!
The second show we went to that I actually had a camera for (we had gone to a couple of hardcore punk shows in December that were pretty alright) was Downfall of Gaia at Hafenklang. This well-known venue is the building directly across the street from where Hannes works, so we couldn't very well say no to seeing a band we saw in Tokyo a couple of years ago and loved considering how easy it was to meet there, even though this show was also on a fucking Monday.
A Faroese band called Hamferð opened for them, and at first I was completely blown away by their singer's classically-trained, almost operatic voice.
They're not funeral doom per se, but rather sorrowful operatic doom metal with a funereal bent - and they also all wear suits, to add to the ambiance. Honestly, though, their almost-hour-long set began to wear on us when we realised that it was to be without any sense of crescendo. Everything is assembled around the vocals, and they repeatedly build up to nothing. My friend Jannes had decided to come out because he likes Downfall of Gaia too, and it's probably a bad sign when you've bored a classical musician who describes what you're doing as "different ways of standing still".
If you're not standing tiredly in a big crowd on a Monday night for 40 or 50 minutes, though, this is a good band, and is very appreciateable in smaller doses. Here's a video of one of their slower songs, but it's being performed on a scenic Faroe Islands cliff during a full solar eclipse:
And then there was another fantastic set from Downfall of Gaia, with smoke and strobes.
This guy with his band on his head here is like, "Sheesh".
Not the most relevant comment ever, but I hadn't remembered getting a good look at their drummer at Earthdom in Shin Okubo, just thinking that he was a beast. And then, during their set at Hafenklang, after saying the same again, I actually saw him. And, um. He's solid lean muscle, dramatically flings his long sweaty hair like some hero on the cover of a cheap romance novel, and repeatedly hit the lighting fixtures with his hands and drumsticks because he's so tall. He's just, like, some furious viking blast beat god named Mike lol. /fangirling
Another excellent set from a most excellent German band I look forward to seeing again.
Finally, last but not least, was Valentine's Day.
I was very depressed and Hannes was beside himself with worry because of the ignorant cow at the marriage office who refused to see us properly after we waited a month for our appointment with her, because she didn't feel like going over a simple checklist a few days before her vacation. Because of her selfishness and complete lack of understanding of the importance of the papers she's responsible for, were legitimately worried about the risk of my getting deported. It was a terrible time.
But Hannes is always so lovely, and did his best. We had another big tasty casual Asian dinner before going to an advance screening of The Shape of Water, which I had bookmarked online but didn't actually expect to go see. He surprised me by getting tickets.
Cinemas in Germany sell alcohol, including little individual bottles of wine.
The experience wasn't great, because they had sold seats in a way that made no sense, with couples awkwardly split up between single seats and loveseats, and an annoying couple that came in 15 minutes after the movie started insisted on sitting in their assigned seats instead of just quietly sitting in what was left, disturbing and rearranging two entire rows of people who had gotten comfortable once the movie had started, assuming that the odd seats out would remain empty. I called the bratty woman a cunt to her face. I'm not sorry.
After having been excited about The Shape of Water for months, seeing it get nominated for a slew of Oscars, and mentioning James Jean's poster art for it in a previous post, we were entertained but seriously underwhelmed.
Aside from the creature's makeup/costume, the pleasant colourful aethetics and cinematography, and Octavia Spencer's performance, we couldn't fathom the nominations or hype. Those vivid colours and aesthetics, along with the entire main character's persona and existence, the lonely older painter neighbour who is her only real friend, and her unlikely love story, are all straight-up Amélie, exactly as I had thought they looked.
Even Octavia Spencer, like all of the other characters, was more of a dumbed-down, stereotypical caricature than a full-developed person. She was The Sassy Black Lady. She was great at it, but she was more of a well-entrenched archetypal idea than a person. The Gay Artist was the Gay Artist, the Evil Sadistic Government Man was.. well, you get it. I guess this is how you have to present ideas about equality and fairness to the general populace in order to get widespread acknowledgement and awards: as bluntly and heavy-handedly as possible. Black and white, corporations/government/social prejudice vs. nature/love/equality/friendship, good vs. evil, but visually pleasant and with a maltreated blue humanoid, just like Avatar.
Except it was the origin story of Abe Sapien from Hellboy.
And except that it was same plot and in some cases a scene-by-scene redux of Splash.
I didn't hate it, but it's astonishingly simplistic and unoriginal.
Even considering all of that negativity and the looming uncertainty and extreme stress, it was a nice night, and it was lovely to be treated to dinner and a movie. Hannes and I have never really gone on dates, and the ones I tried to arrange when we were still newly together in Seoul always ended up going wrong in small ways like this, too, except that those two or three times it was totally all my fault. That's the thing about Hannes, though: it doesn't matter if we have a bad time, because we're so happy to be together. We always appreciate everything the other does, even if that person is late or stressed out or somehow manages to fall asleep (???) in Guardians of the Galaxy.
February was a very unpleasant bureaucratic month for us, but those were the highlights.
March ended up being even worse in its own way, even once the possibility of deportation had disappeared, because it was my third straight month at home alone all day with no money and nothing to do, and I had become too depressed to do much of anything, except apply for a half dozen relevant jobs suitable for non-German speakers that quickly responded with rejection e-mails.
It was consistently grey, cold, windy, rainy, and snowy, with only suggestions of dim sunlight for a few hours each day. There were no parties. Aside from our freakishly snowed-out Easter, which was definitely nice in its own way, the highlights of that month were finally getting a haircut, finally getting to Ikea for basics like trash cans and picture frames, and binge-viewing the first-ever season of Pokémon on Netflix, which had me knee-deep in good and pure childhood nostalgia for a week.
We're getting married on April 11th, and April will be better. There will be more parties.