TQE | That Queer Expatriate

Expatriate, not ex-patriot: I'm a progressive liberal and queer American in Berlin, Germany. My roots in include 18 years in Denver, 6 in Laramie, Wyoming, 6 in Bloomington, Indiana, and 6 in Weimar, Germany. Sense a pattern? Don't want to leave a comment on this blog? Email scintillatingme at gmail.com, username "elmadaeu"

My First 2015 Trip: Popping Around the USA!

As currently envisioned, 2015 is going to have a lot of travel – and virtually all of it vacation.

The past week and a half, I was stateside, hopping around: Las Vegas to see a college friend; San Diego to see ex-Berlin friends and a college friend; and Bloomington to see – well, to see Bloomington friends. I stopped in Indianapolis to see an ex-Jena friend on my way out of town.

The cherry on top was seeing one last college friend at Chicago O’Hare during my layover. He was also making a connection – mentioning it on social media.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park – I have incredible memories of this place from when I was a child. It is still impressive now that I’m a grown up.

Las Vegas is, as any sane person knows, a depressing city if you go there for its purported purpose. Fortunately my friends extracted me from the city (I’d had no really strong wishes as what to do), taking me to a cabin in the woods of Utah – with the added bonus of driving through Zion National Park – where I met several of their friends (a total of 3 couples, 3 kids, and me).

Let me just say: Zion may be the most beautiful national park in the US. It certainly is more awesome and amazing than it’s neighbor to the south, the Grand Canyon. I have incredibly fond memories of Zion from a childhood trip that I took with my parents – a string of national monuments and parks in Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. Zion was the next to last stop and by far the best.

The time spent at the cabin in the woods was incredibly relaxing and laid back: drinking wine around a campfire, munching on some American snacks that I hadn’t had in years (Cheez-It are more disgusting than I remember), and playing Cards Against Humanity. I actually did surprisingly well at Cards Against Humanity – I own a set of the game, but since it requires strong English skills (and American experiences), I’ve not actually played it in Berlin.

A set of early morning flights and I found myself in San Diego. My first day (Martin Luther King Jr Day), I spent with ex-Berlin friends. We enjoyed the scenery of Sunset Cliffs, delicious fish tacos at Oscar’s, a bit of wine drinking around a bamboo table, and amazing Italian food in Little Italy.

Great Scenery in San Diego

San Diego has amazing scenery.

Fish Tacos at Oscar's

Fish Tacos at Oscar’s.

My second day in San Diego, I explored Ocean Beach for a few hours, including walking to the end of the pier. There are two awesome things about the pier: first it lets you walk out to where surfers are surfing to watch them up close – or even from the ocean-side perspective. I managed to get some very nice shots. The other awesome thing about the pier is that it has a restaurant – where I had an early lunch: one fish taco and one lobster taco with a spectacular view of San Diego and the ocean.

Surfing at Ocean Beach

Surfing at Ocean Beach.

Surfing at Ocean Beach

Another Ocean Beach surfer.

Fish Tacos on Ocean Beach Pier

My early lunch was this: Fish Tacos (one fish, one lobster) on the Ocean Beach Pier café.

Dinner was with my college friend and his family – I’d never met his wife or his daughters before – all were very nice. However we split up fairly early: he and I were both hitting the road obscenely early on Wednesday.

Wednesday was, essentially, a travel day for me. Going east within the USA eats up entire days: I left San Diego at 6:30 in the morning and, with a short hour long connection in Houston, got to Indy just after 4 in the afternoon. I was in Bloomington at 5:45 in the afternoon.

This was after an argument with the rental car agent who tried first to upsell me to an SUV for $12 a day – “I’m only driving to Bloomington, why do I need an SUV?” and then the roadside assistance for $6 a day – “I’d rather gamble that I will have to pay to have the tire changed for $100 than pay $6 a day. While I can afford $100, I cannot afford $6 a day every time I rent a car.” I really despise the rental car experience – the constant attempts to sell me more insurance, to pay for a “better” car (trust me, a mid-sized car is far better than an SUV), and – with some companies – an urgent desire to know what hotel I’m staying at (Sorry, I’m not telling—I don’t want you to steal the car I’ve rented).

Sorry – off topic rant. Bloomington is Bloomington and other than Wednesday night dinner alone, all my lunches and dinners were with fantastic people.

French Toast, Biscuits and Gravy

Wee Willie’s on Walnut — French Toast with a side of biscuits and gravy — might be the most perfect breakfast on the planet.

I even made it to the Back Door – Bloomington’s only gay bar – Friday night to meet up with an ex-roommate and his boyfriend. What an amazing couple they are. I was thrilled to see how happy my ex-roommate is – and how awesome the boyfriend is. About the only downside to the Back Door was how INCREDIBLY LOUD THE MUSIC WAS. It was challenging hearing people who were right next to me. I really do miss Uncle Elizabeth’s – the downtown location. Uncle E’s was such a sedate, civilized environment – rarely was the music too loud. Perhaps what I miss most about Uncle E’s was one of the regulars (and sometimes bartender) who was quite attractive.

My last full day stateside, I popped up to Indy – stopped at the Fresh Market for their amazing honey roasted Thai cashew nuts (it’s safe to say, I’m an addict) – and then hung out with my ex-Jena friend and her husband. For dinner we stumbled into Las Casa de los Mariscos Mexican Grill (7940 Michigan Avenue). Honestly, it’s the first restaurant I’ve ever been in the USA where I had serious trouble communicating in English with the wait staff – but the struggle was worth it. I cannot tell you what I had, but it was an amazing seafood stew that came out in an enormous bowl that was far bigger than the one pictured on the menu.

Happily my trip home was uneventful – save for the excitement of seeing another college friend who happened to be transiting O’Hare at the same time I was.

With regards to my pals at United: they’re doing a great job. Of the eight flights I took with them, six were substantially early, one bang on time, and one a mere 10 minutes late (mainly due to ground related weather issues).

Mid-January Rants on #fb #bvg #sbahnberlin #porn and wellness

I feel a bunch of rants coming on – so in no particular order:

First: On Facebook I hate people who send out blanket invitations to every event they’re hosting or interested in. News Flash: I don’t feel special – or actually “invited” – when all 1,000 of your friends are invited. Actually, come to think of it, I’m not really sure why we’re friends.

Second: I must congratulate BVG and S-Bahn Berlin for coordinating the route closures and construction. S-Bahn Berlin is closing the S1, S2, and S25 through the heart of the city starting Friday evening (lasting through May), leaving only replacement bus service. BVG is working on the U6 and U7 lines: The U7 will have replacement bus service between U-Möckernbrücke and U-Hermannplatz, a segment that includes U-Mehringdamm, the connection point to the U6 (and Currywurst). The U6 will be down to pendelverkehr (a single shuttle train that goes back and forth) between U-Hallesches Tor and U Platz der Luftbrücke – running (in theory) every 12 minutes. Woe unto people trying to travel through the heart of Berlin this weekend.

Third, part 1: Last night I saw “Queer Porn Shorts” – a film evening associated with the Porn That Way exhibition going on at the Schwules Museum* (See Baby… #Berlin is Porn That Way; #glbt porn that is… for my mini-review). The theatre was packed – standing room only – for this collection of films. I lost count of how many films there were, but suffice it to say that in the queer / feminist space there are “porn” films that are not porn but are actually poorly thought out art projects that lack much merit in either the art space or the porn space. Many of the films run together in my mind (or have been completely forgotten) resulting in a confused mish-mash of impressions. I do remember that some of the films were blessedly short. There were a couple of authentic queer porn – absolutely meeting the definition of porn – films shown toward the end of the evening. Perhaps the best film of the evening was Biodildo 2.0 – a genuinely queer pornographic film that managed to not only be pornographic (and erotic) but also surprising and amusing.

Third, part 2: The hosts of the Queer Porn Shorts did not respect the audience sufficiently. I had no objections to the brief panel discussions about the films, but I wish they had started on time – a program that starts at 10:30 in the evening shouldn’t have too much of a delayed start: the last U-Bahn running in my direction was at 12:55 – the event ended at 12:36. It also started about 20 minutes late. I’ll grant that there are night buses that run the u-bahn routes, but they are less frequent and slower. This might not matter for people who don’t have jobs, but for somebody like me who wants to be (or must be) at work early in the morning after sufficient sleep, minutes count when trying to catch the last u-bahn home.

Fourth, part 1: Last week I went into the Steam Room at my gym – a woman in there claimed it was “too hot” – so she wanted to keep the door open. News Flash: When you keep the door to the steam room open, it’s no longer a steam room. It’s neither steamy, nor hot – the two defining characteristics of a steam room. The idiot in question – I might note – had been in the steam room for roughly 30 minutes – and left the room in a huff when I objected (both in German and English) to leaving the door open.

Fourth, part 2: People who use scented oils in the steam room are also annoying. I don’t care which scent it is, it’s disgusting. I used to think that a tiny amount of mint might be OK – and it probably is – but most of the assholes who use scents in the steam room fail to understand the concept of moderation. Saturday I walked into the steam room and in five seconds the MINT SCENT OMG was already inside my nose and eyes. Sometimes there’s so much MINT SCENT OMG that I actually feel chilled – remarkable when considering how measurably hot the steam room usually is (provided some idiot hasn’t left the door open).

2015 #Books Number 2, 3, and 4 (plus 5)

Ah… now that I’m feeling better, I thought it was time to update everybody on what I’ve read – since I am keeping track of books that I read in 2015.

Book number two was, as I feared, embarrassing: BAMF (SJD Peterson; Kindle) – a gay romance novel. Unfortunately it was not particularly well written. Its main role was to provide relief while I was reading Pioneer Girl – Pioneer Girl took serious effort and a lot of time, but was incredibly serious.

Glory and B*llocks: The Truth Behind Ten Defining Events in British History by Colin Brown was my third book – strictly speaking I’d read part of it last year, but had to put it aside for some reason. The book explores ten years in British History, trying to outline why any given year was the most important: 1215, 1415, 1588, 1688, 1815, 1833, 1928, 1940, 1948, or 1982.

Never having studied British history, it was almost all new to me – even 1982, which happened when I was 8. Safe to say this was the year of the Falklands War – and it was the least interesting year. But among the rest, there are some interesting issues to debate. I’d argue that either 1940 (World War II) or 1948 (Establishing the NHS) was the greatest year of modern Britain. Looking backward at the earlier years – Magna Carta, Azincourt, Armada, and so on – these are harder to judge.

The fourth book was Scott Kirsch’s Proving Grounds: Project Plowshare and the Unrealized Dream of Nuclear Earthmoving – a history of the plans by the US Government to use nuclear bombs (“nuclear devices”) to build harbors (in Alaska and Australia), cut through mountains to build highways and railroads (hello I-40—but never actually carried out, or build canals (hello Mississippi and Central America).

I, of course, have much more experience with one of the last Project Plowshare proposals, Wagon Wheel in Wyoming – which I wrote my Master’s Thesis about. I also read Scott Kaufman’s Project Plowshare: The Peaceful Use of Nuclear Explosives in Cold War America last year.

Proving Grounds covers the earlier years of the program using a geography rubric – it’s interesting, but not as engaging as Project Plowshare. To somebody seeking a readable primer on the topic, I’d recommend Scott Kaufman’s book. Proving Grounds is a bit too technical.

The next book in my reading pile – the fifth of the year – is Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. Currently I’m two-thirds of the way through it. Written in the 1980s, I’ve never encountered it before. Before I started reading it, I knew nothing about it – but what a crazy ass book. It’s about a family of circus freaks and related chaos. There are two main stories being told, both featuring the most of the same family members.

I’m pretty sure I’ll finish it this week – and I’m not sure I’d actually recommend it to that many people. It’s got something to recommend it (and it’s stood the test of time), but I’m having trouble putting my finger on exactly what.

By count: I have 16 unread books on my Kindle and 8 physical books. Many of the Kindle books should be read over the next month or so – although I will probably add books to that “pile” – and I know of at least two more books getting added to my physical stack in the near future.

I’ll never get completely caught up – but having this list on my blog is motivating me to read more.

…not off to a great start.

post silvester mess.

Thursday and Friday were great.

Until I went to bed Friday evening. And then I thought to myself – I must be getting sick – there was that tattletale sign of a mild sore throat.

And so it was: Saturday I woke up feeling like crap. Which continued through Sunday and Monday. I was so out of it this morning that I stayed home – and spent most of the day sleeping.

Really, the only plus side to feeling terrible is the sleep that comes with – two lengthy naps today. One in the morning, one in the midafternoon.

And I’ve done some reading – but not much. It’s been more of a TV binge watching kind of illness for me.

While sick, I’ve been cooking at home – and, consequently, cleaning another shelf in my cupboards. It’s a bit distressing how much food I buy but never cook in time – the ingredients seemed like a good idea at the time, but once on the shelf, they are all too easily forgotten, gathering dust.

I need to reign in my propensity to buy ingredients that look good but lack a specific near-term use.

2015 in #Books: First up, “Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography”

Pioneer GirlI read – a lot – but it occurred to me that I have no idea how many books I read in the course of a year. So I’m going to try and keep track of the books that I read in 2015. This omits, intentionally, magazines (The Economist, weekly), Internet stuff (too much to list), and work related reading (I cannot disclose what I read for work).

While I am easily able to talk about the first book I’m reading, I’m equally sure that many books that I read this year will be, to some extent, embarrassing.

C’est la vie.

The first is Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by Pamela Smith Hill.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, for those of you unable to place her, is the author of the Little House books, which formed the basis of the “Little House on the Prairie” television series. The TV series is, for me, not of interest – rather my memories center on the books.

One of my clearest childhood memories is reading aloud “Little House in the Big Woods” to my mother – it was something she insisted upon – something to help me practice reading. (Maybe that’s something all parents should make their children do!)

The books made a big impression on me as a child and while growing up, my parents took me to Pepin, Wisconsin – home of Little House in the Big Woods — as well as Walnut Grove, Minnesota, and DeSmet, South Dakota – important locations in the Little House universe.

Last summer, just before the publication of Pioneer Girl was announced, I read Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life – the biography written by the editor of the autobiography.

To be honest, I started the autobiography last year – just before Christmas – and I haven’t finished it, despite the fact that it’s only 370ish pages long. Without a doubt, it is laborious work reading the autobiography – but not in a negative way. The raw text by Laura Ingalls Wilder is simple enough – rather it is the annotations that distract, enrich, and slow the reading process. Roughly speaking, for every page of autobiography, there are 1-2 pages of footnotes.

Pioneer Girl, Page 256.

Pioneer Girl: An Annotated Autobiography. I’m currently on page 256.

It’s been a few years since I’ve read the actual children’s books. Reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s autobiography will probably lead to me re-reading the Little House books in the relative near future.

My best seasonally appropriate greetings to you…

Greenery along the S-Bahn

Today is the second of five days off – Berlin, Germany, and the “Christian” world are celebrating the birth of their savior.

And I get time off.

So… what have I been doing with this time off?

Wednesday I sped-listened to five podcasts, read two magazines, read a graphic novel, read part of a book, watched “In & Out” and passively watched two episodes from the first season of Glee.

I also started the arduous effort required to clean my kitchen out – a shocking amount of food in my cupboards expired – and not all that recently.

These projects continue – more reading, more glee, and more kitchen cleaning.

For me, it’s a great long weekend.

Baby… #Berlin is Porn That Way; #glbt porn that is…

So Saturday I found myself looking at a gigantic picture of what was undeniably a man. With a pussy.

Yes, it was a naked Buck Angel, and as I’ve heard him described himself, while listening to the Savage Love podcast, he’s a man with a pussy. Never having seen him naked before (not my thing), it was something seeing him in all his glory as he welcomed me to the Porn That Way exhibition at the Schwules Museum*, Berlin.

The Schwules Museum* (Gay Museum*) is a Berlin institution dedicated to… uh… as they put it:

With its highly regarded exhibitions, archival holdings, numerous contributions to research and more than thirty-five (mostly volunteer) staff, the Schwules Museum* has, since its founding in 1985, grown into one of the world’s largest and most significant institutions for archiving, researching and communicating the history and culture of LGBTIQ communities. Changing exhibitions and events take diverse approaches to lesbian, gay, trans*, bisexual and queer biographies, themes and concepts in history, art and culture.

Currently the majority of its exhibition space is dedicated to Porn That Way – at least through the end of March 2015.

I popped in, with one of my colleagues to have a gander at the diversity that is GLBT porn – and I have to say that – at least among the gay porn, I recognized a lot, including (near the start) images that I had previously seen on the Antique Erotic tumblr. There were also numerous images from things that have crossed my radar – Brent Corrigan (a man whose first films featured an underage Brent Corrigan), Cazzo Films porn from Berlin (including a snap of two men fucking on one of the old railroad bridges that cross Yorckstrasse), and Jake Cruise (so. not. my. thing.).

But of course there were things that I wasn’t so familiar with: lesbian porn and trans* porn. Of course, as the exhibit points out, much of the early lesbian porn wasn’t actually made to titillate women, but was rather designed to excite heterosexual men – with lesbians accidentally enjoying some of it. (It’s my understanding from my lesbian friends that they find “lesbian porn” that’s for straight men to be somewhat unrealistic – especially with the long fingernails.)

There were also examples of comic book porn – something I’ve only seen occasionally and never quite understood (this is actually true for graphic novels/comic books in general: they don’t work for me). That said, there was one featured that I must acquire: Al-Qaeda’s Super Secret Weapon. Check out this review:

My favorite (and that of my colleague), was a series of photographs, hung in a row, of men, holding their legs up in the air, showing off their asses. As a collection, it would be awesome to have all hung in a neat row in my apartment.

The Schwules Museum* has three other exhibitions right now: Leonard Fink’s Photographs of Gay Liberation and the New York Waterfront, New in the Collection, and an homage to “13 Years of Klaus Wowereit As Mayor Of Berlin.” In this order: meh, vaguely interesting, and – at least for me – I don’t care if Klaus Wowereit is gay – he was a terrible mayor (see Berlin Brandenburg International Airport).

For a mere 7,50€, my Saturday afternoon with porn was enjoyable. It is worth the effort to find the Schwules Museum in its slightly obscure (and new, if you’re not aware that it moved) location — Lützowstraße 73, 10785 Berlin.

Although it’s surrounded by public transport, it’s not close to any single stop and the streets are a bit confusing –it is easier and clearer to walk from “Potsdamerstraße/Lützowstraße” (M48/M85) or Lützowplatz (100, 106, 187, M29), than to navigate from Nollendorfplatz and its myriad of transport options. If you’re not familiar with the neighborhood, do note that Kurfürstenstraße, west of Potsdamer Straße, is filled with working women – who try to attach themselves to single men.

On my media choices: putting my money into quality journalism

I’ll admit it: I am a huge freeloader when it comes to news on the Internet: if it’s free, I’ll read it. If it’s not free… well, then it depends.

I’ve had a long-standing list of media that I would be happy to pay for: The Economist, The New York Times, and The Guardian.

And in reality, I pay for The Economist – it’s my serious news source – the one that I read from cover to cover every week, savoring nearly every page.

As for The New York Times – I get my digital access through a relative’s paper subscription. I guess that makes me a bit of a freeloader – but if I weren’t using my relative’s digital access, it wouldn’t be used at all.

With respect to the Guardian, I always noted that while I would be happy to pay for it, they had no mechanism to actually give them money. I actually made this comment to a friend last week – lamenting the fact that I couldn’t give them money, but internally smug since it was money I wasn’t shelling out for incredible journalism.

And then Guardian Membership (beta) popped onto my radar – and I actually had to eat my words – faced with a menu of being a friend, a partner, or a patron. Free, £135, or £540 per year.

It was clear to me that I have a moral responsibility to join, to pay, and to support a newspaper whose work is incredibly important. So I bellied up to the bar and have become a partner – giving The Guardian roughly what I pay The Economist for an annual subscription, and roughly what The New York Times costs digitally (if I weren’t using my relative’s subscription).

I will probably never use any of the benefits that come with being a Guardian Partner: 20% off live events are great, but the vast majority of live events are in the UK. While I might, I suppose, watch a live stream or show people my Guardian membership card, I suspect that the main benefit of being a Guarding Partner for me will be the warm fuzzy feeling I get every time I read an article and realize that I’m helping fund and support the journalists who are bringing it to me.

And that’s enough for me.

Airports and Airlines XVI

My travels for 2014 are likely over — and I was surprised to realize that I had not updated this in almost two years — so I had to do a lot of thinking and examining of my calendar to remember all the new airlines, airports, and airplanes that I had used, visited, and flown.  There’s a tiny chance that I will fly somewhere for Christmas, but, if I do, it would be  on an airline I’ve used before, to some place I’ve been before, and on a type of equipment that I’ve flown before.

The highlights of the last two years? Asia, it’s airlines, airports — getting there on the 787.  HND, NRT, HIJ, FUK, ICN, and HKG — plus, depending upon how you count it, GUM — with ANA, Asiana, and, not that it is new, United.  Throw in northern bits of the UK, and my non-US count shot up dramatically.

Within the 50 United States, I’ve added only one mainline carrier: Hawaiian — one of two airlines named after a state — and it’s 717, a plane that is difficult to find and fly.

The first couple months of 2015 promise to be exciting (at least for me) with two new airlines and five new airports — and, I believe, one new type of aircraft, the Dornier 328 – 110.

I might note that at least one of the US airports that I have flown to will be losing commercial service in 2015 — and it would not surprise me if a second airport also lost commercial service: CLD for sure, LAR likely.

Airports I have flown in or out of:


Airports visited but not traveled through: CID; COA; COS; MDW; PUB;

Airlines I have flown on:
US Based Carriers: America West; American; American / American Eagle; Aspen; Cape Air; Continental; Continental / ExpressJet; Delta; Delta / Atlantic Coast; Delta / Comair; Delta / ExpressJet; Frontier (new one); Frontier (the original); Hawaiian Airlines; Midway; Midwest Express; Midwest Express / Skyway Airlines; Northwest; Northwest/ Mesaba Airlines; Northwest / Pinnacle Airlines; TWA; United; United Express / Atlantic Coast; United Express / Chautauqua; United Express/ Express Jet; United Express / SkyWest; US Airways

Non-US Airlines: 1Time; Аэрофлот; Air Berlin; Air Berlin / TUIfly; Air France; Air France / Régional; Air Service Berlin; ANA; Asiana; Austrian (Tyrolean); brussels airlines; easyJet; germanwings; KLM; KLM Cityhopper; LanChile; Lufthansa; Lufthansa / CityLine; Lufthansa / Eurowings; RyanAir; RyanAir / Buzz; SAS;  Sky Airlines; SkyEurope (Hungary); SkyEurope (Slovak Republic); Singapore; SWISS; TAP Portugal; Transavia;Turkish Airlines; Tyrolean Airlines; Міжнародні Авіалінії України; VLM Airlines.

Star Alliance Hubs Used (as hub): Brussels, Chicago/ORD, Cleveland, Denver, Frankfurt, Houston, LAX, Munich, Newark (as Continental & United), Tokyo (HND), Tokyo (NRT), Washington/Dulles, Zurich (Hubs as O&D: Copenhagen, Denver, Frankfurt, Guam, Istanbul, Seoul (ICN), Vienna)

SkyTeam Hubs Used (as hub): Amsterdam, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit, MSP, Memphis, Moscow (SVO), New York/JFK, Newark (as Continental), Paris, Salt Lake City (Hubs as O&D: Amsterdam, Prague)

Airplanes flown on: 717, 727, 737 (-200, -300, -400, -500, -700, -800, -900), 747 (-300, -400), 757 (-200), 767 (-200, -300ER, -400ER), 777 (-200), 787 (-8), A318, A319, A320, A321, A300-600, A330 (-200 -300), A340-300, Avro RJ85, BAE146, Cessna 402, Corvair, CRJ, CRJ-900, DC 9s (-30, -40, -50), DC 10 (-30), EMB-120, MD 11, MD 80, MD 90, ERJ-145, -190, -195, F50, F70, F100, IL-86, Saab 340, TU-154M.

Places I’ve Entered the USA: Air: Atlanta (ATL), Chicago (ORD), Cincinnati (CVG), Denver (DEN), Detroit (DTW), Guam (GUM); Houston (IAH); Memphis (MEM), Montreal (YUL); New York (JFK), New York (EWR), Salt Lake City (SLC), Vancouver BC (YVR), Washington (IAH) (14). Land: Detroit, El Paso, Niagara Falls, New York Northway (4)

Places I’ve Entered Britain: BHX, BRS, EDI, GLA, LCY, LHR, LGW, STN (8)

Places I’ve Entered Schengen: Air: AMS, AOC, BRU, CDG, EIV, ERF, FRA, MAD, MUC, SXF, TXL, ZRH (11) Land: Dresden (train from Czech Republic), Görlitz (Foot from Poland), Konstanz (Road from Switzerland), Vienna (train from Bratislava) Sea: Helsinki (Ferry from Estonia) Note: Some of these crossings are no longer Schengen border crossings, but they were when I made them.


DEN1 = Stapleton International Airport; no longer exists

25 Years Later: I have no idea where I was when the Berlin Wall fell.

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall falling.

It’s interesting – for the first time, that I can recall, I was asked what I was doing when I heard that the wall had opened – and it occurred to me that I really have no memory of the event, when it happened.

Lichtgrenze & Berlin Mauer

Lichtgrenze & Berlin Mauer — together in one of the few places where the original Berlin Wall still stands, next to Niederkirchnerstraße.

The days that are crystal clear to me are Space Shuttle Challenger exploding, the day that news about Matthew Shepard broke, and September 11th.

But not November 9, 1989.

It is, however, clear for my older German friends – not so much for the younger ones. And in retrospect, it’s hard to underestimate how important that day was in history – and how much the East German experience says about the capacity of man to act inhumanly toward his fellow man.


The Lichtgrenze made for challenging photography — I didn’t want to cause any accidents, so I didn’t bring my tripod. I wish other photographers had been more respectful.

To mark the 25th anniversary, a “Lichtgrenze” was put up through Berlin – marking the core path through the city center where the Berlin Wall once stood.

other 004

Lichtgrenze at night.

It was an interesting concept – large balloons were put on top of polls along the path, and then messages were attached, with string, to each balloon. Lit by a lamp, the balloons stood along the path of the Berlin Wall throughout the weekend, culminating in their release Sunday evening starting at about 7pm – roughly when the wall was breached back in 1989.

Lichtgrenze - Liftoff

Lift off of the balloons along the Lichtgrenze — speeding off into the night sky.

I spent a couple hours Sunday evening wandering the Lichtgrenze with Snooker in Berlin – about a kilometer of it – making note of how it looked. For me, it worked – the brightly lit, white balloons slowly bobbing in the wind – the excitement of people wandering along the lights – waiting for the runner to come along and tell the man guarding each poll that it was time to release the balloon.

Balloon -- Caught

Some of the balloons only travel a few meters before becoming captured. There’s a metaphor there, but I’m not going to touch it..

And then it was over – a few balloons made it no further than the tree above and a few had to be tugged loose from their polls – but ultimately the Lichtgrenze “slipped the surly bonds of earth” – vanishing more quickly than the actual Berlin Wall, which can still be found in a Las Vegas men’s room.

Berlin Wall: Repurposed

The Berlin Wall is everywhere, including this Las Vegas casino bathroom!