July 2022


4709; Two too low.

Sometimes it is in random moments that things said to you years ago make sense.

For example, I recall once listening to my paternal grandmother complain about the address of her apartment in New York City.

“I’m so disappointed in whomever picked the house number. Why 4709? It could have been named after a cologne!”

Or something to that effect; the conversation was at least 20 years ago.

I had no idea what she was talking about. If I had to guess, it was said while I was visiting her at her apartment back in spring of 1999, but this point is unclear to me. What I will say is that the apartment was the same apartment that my father had grown up in. It was a perfectly decent apartment and I imagine that rent control made it an exceptionally good value, even if it was not in Manhattan.

It was one of those things that she said that I probably promptly forgot about, never to think about it again.

Until last year when I read Brendan Nash’s The Landlady, a novel set in 1923 Berlin. Buried deep in his excellent book, one of the characters wears 4711 cologne.

It was that moment it clicked: my grandmother loved perfume – I remember that when I was a small child she once gave me a bottle of Aspen cologne for Christmas. I was quite young at the time, probably way too young to be given cologne.

However, presents from my paternal grandparents often carried not so subtle messages – like the men’s hairbrush set. I would guess that the last hairbrush that I owned was, uh, the one I was given when I was about 9 years old.

Being a curious fellow, I did a bit more research: 4711 cologne is still on the market – so I coughed up a few euros and ordered myself a bottle.

Honestly, it smells of my grandmother.

It is not the only bottle of cologne or perfume in my current collection: I have bottles of Joop Jump, Tommy, and Secret Craving (Victoria’s Secret).

Ultimately, I rarely, if ever, wear scents: I tend to think it is rude to wear scents at the office and I do not go to places with people where it occurs to me that wearing a scent would be fun and/or a good idea.

I suppose this represents a generational shift of sorts: the values of my paternal grandparents essentially reflected the era in which they lived.

The status symbols they thought were important also reflected that era: my grandmother would wear this (I presume real) fur coat in winter – as a kid I thought it was fantastic and so cozy to hug. In the last decade, I have seen fur coats being worn by people who are entitled to wear fur coats, people who have come upon the fur in a way that I consider to be ethical and reasonable – but I cannot imagine a scenario where somebody living in New York City today could walk a block in a real fur coat without being shamed.

Holzconnection: Where the 200×140 bed is delivered as 207×140.

It’s been awhile since I blogged.


But moving takes effort – and I have had both awesome experiences (KaminPalast, Dielerei), ones where things have taken longer than expected but turned out awesome (KD Küchenstudio), and one utter disaster.

Holzconnection, a purveyor of custom made furniture has failed me ever since I signed the contract.

First, they promised me that the furniture would be delivered 6-8 weeks (or so) after they measured the rooms.

My rooms were measured on Friday, August 21st. The man, a subcontractor who did not work directly for Holzconnection, showed up with a laser, a computer, a tripod, and who knows whatever else. Honestly, I didn’t pay that much attention since that day IKEA delivered a shitload of furniture, my wood burning stove was installed, the developer’s tile worker showed up to fix a problem in the bathroom, and the developer’s cleaning team showed up to clean.

I trusted that the man hired to measure the room with all of his fancy equipment knew what he was doing, so I stayed out of his way and worried about other things.

In reality, the 6-8 weeks stretched and my furniture was finally delivered, assembled, and installed on November 19th, some 12 weeks and six days after measuring.

Not that I am counting, or anything.

What was delivered is insane – despite the precise measurements, the wall unit in my guest bedroom is askew: the lower left corner is closer to the wall than the upper left corner; reversed issues on the right-hand side. It visually looks wonky.

left bottom

The lower left side of the guest bedroom bookcase is 2.8cm away from the wall.

left top

The upper left side of the bookcase is more than 4.5cm away from the wall.

The men who delivered and installed the furniture appeared to be subcontractors who did not work for Holzconnection; they worked as quickly as possible, zooming through the work (but not using Zoom, I mean it in the traditional sense) in an effort to not be in my apartment.

right top

The upper righthand side is 2.3cm or less from the wall, but….

right bottom

The lower right hand side is 3.5 cm away from the right hand wall.

From the time they shouted “FERTIG” to the time they were out the door and gone could not have been more than 5 minutes.

That was when I started to realize the major problems – starting with the aforementioned skewed bookcase in my guest bedroom. In this case, I think the installers were just excited to leave as quickly as possible.

Second, the bookcase in my personal bedroom from the front appears fine, but on the back side, the bottom is flush against the wall, the top is 2.5 centimeters from the wall. It is attached to the wall, so it is probably safe. I hope.

Holzconnection: 2.5 cm away from the wall at top

The bookcase in my bedroom is tight against the wall at the bottom, but at the top is is over 2.5cm away from the wall.

Third, I think put the lattenrost on my new guest bed frame and then my mattress – there is an extra 7 centimeters.

Holzconnection: bedframe 7cm too long

This bed comes 7cm too long — that is the Holzconnection standard.

I complained:

I ordered a bedframe for a 140×200 mattress: the hole for the mattress is 140cm wide, but ca. 207 cm long. This is unacceptable: how is it possible to have a hole for a mattress that is 207cm long? Mattresses in Germany are normally either 200 cm or 210 cm long – 207 cm does not make sense.

Today I got a response:

I have asked our complaint department for solutions and they have informed me that the Bed Paros has 7 cm more in lenght as standard, so we can not change it. They offer 175€ Discount for the delay.

After getting this email, I checked the Bed Paros product page on the Holzconnection website – there is no mention of this extra 7cm anywhere on the product page. Not a hint of it.

I have spent an obscene amount of money on furniture from Holzconnection.

To say I am disappointed is an understatement.

22: Matthew “Matt” Wayne Shepard – *December 1, 1976; †October 12, 1998


Twenty-two years.

Time is so fleeting – how the hell have 22 years passed?

I write this from my new home, still in Berlin, but some 7 kilometers from my old home.

One of the things about moving is that you must sort through all your belongings, even though you’ve forgotten that you own. While the process has certainly generated a certain amount of trash – with many moments of “why the hell did I keep that?” – there are also moments of, “wow! I kept that! Sweet!”

In that category falls 1 issue of Time magazine, 3 issues of the Advocate, and a page from the New York Times – all are about Matthew Shepard and his all too brief life.

Matthew Shepard 1998/1999

Finding them in a box – I had a professional packer go through much of my stuff, so I did not pack it – was quite the surprise. A moment to pause in the unpacking process and go, “wow.”

Naturally, there is a moment of guilt: how could I forget that I owned these? How could I leave them sitting on a shelf for years, forgotten? These objects that are, in many ways, so important to me.

On the other hand, it brings a bittersweet moment of melancholy – a moment to reflect and remember.

His murder affected my life in so many profound ways – it is difficult to understand its effects.

While the world has, generally speaking, gotten better, for every two steps forward, there is one back. Clearly, right now, America is regressing – with the potential to vote for a new direction.


However, that’s not what this is about – it’s about personal reflection.

Remembering how I felt, how I literally (and that’s not a figurative expression in my book) crawled into my closest on Braeside Drive in Bloomington, Indiana. It was 721 square feet (67 square meters) and I chose the smallest room. How I went to a march for Matthew Shepard at IU’s Dunn Meadow – the first time I had ever attended a candlelight march. How it took a couple of weeks for my equilibrium to return to a point where I was fully functional. How I came out via email to my boss in order to explain why I was so distracted from work. How…. Well, there are a lot of hows in this scenario.

Matthew Shepard’s murder defined how I approached a lot of my life and the decisions that I make.


For historical reference, see 2004200520062007200820092010201120122013,  20142015201620172018, 2019, or any of the many times he’s been mentioned on my blog via a search for Matthew Shepard.

Time for a pause…

Now that I’ve moved, my apartment is filled with boxes – and I don’t have a reason to unpack until the kitchen is installed and other furniture delivered – a few weeks into the future.

I’ve done some basic cleaning of my old apartment – removing the shocking amount of dust that had accumulated behind furniture and in other unseen corners. The heavy lifting there is being done this coming week by an amazing handyman.

More blog posts will come along soon, I promise.

Whatchamacallit 182: Four Corners Bracelet

Four Corners Bracelet

I bought the above bracelet in 2013 while visiting New Mexico – the same trip when I bought Whatchamacallit 18: the Navajo Plant Dye Chart and Whatchamacallit 92: Navajo Turquoise Bracelet.

This was bought at a place where you really can be in four places at once: Four Corners Monument.

Surely I didn’t pay more than $10 for this? I really have no idea.

It is a very nice bracelet, but as I have observed, I am not a really a jewelry person, rarely wearing it. This come with an additional problem: my manual dexterity is sometimes rather shaky, so while I can manipulate the catch with two hands, when I try to put it on, I fail unless somebody helps me. Given that I’m single (and happy that way), it makes the occasions when I can wear this rather infrequent, which is a shame, given that this is the only bracelet I own that is legitimately light weight, so it wouldn’t slow me down while I work.

The design is quite pretty – the logo on the central element reflecting the four corners theme.

During the Covid-19 crisis, I am going to try and make a point of writing a blog post about an object in my home.

We’ll see how long this lasts.

Whatchamacallit 181: Native Timbers of New Zealand (Ruler!)

Native Timbers of New Zealand

I’ve visited New Zealand twice. Once.

Both visits were part of my 2015 around the world adventure – before and after Samoa and American Samoa. It depends how you count “visit” – the first was 7 hours, the second was 25.5 hours. I could look it up, but I am too lazy to do that right now. I call it one visit, but two entry stamps in my passport.

I bought this at the Auckland Museum (as I recall). The back side of the ruler informs about the inlays, which show 13 different woods from New Zealand, with the body a bonus 14th. From left to right: Rimu, Rata, Rewarewa, Pukatea, Tawa, Towai, Matai, Puriri, Kauri, Tawhai, Taraire, Totara, and Maire. The body is Kahikatea.

For over 60 years rulers with inserts of native timbers have introduced New Zealanders and overseas visitors alike to the unique production of nature that is the New Zealand forest.

Because I am a scrupulously honest person, I admitted on my Canadian Immigration/Customs form that I had agricultural products in my luggage, items made of wood, so I had to detour to the Agricultural desk after getting my suitcase from baggage claim: the inspector took one look at it (and my Samoan Fale) stamped my form and sent me on my way. Thus, I can honestly say that this ruler is not a threat to Canada.

Regardless, it is too pretty to use.

During the Covid-19 crisis, I am going to try and make a point of writing a blog post about an object in my home.

We’ll see how long this lasts.

Whatchamacallit 180: Berliner Luft (part 2)

Berliner Luft

In July I wrote about Berliner Luft, the soap bubbles.

Now it is about Berliner Luft, a peppermint liquor that is best not drunken.

However, 2.5 years ago I bought this bottle to celebrate the fact that I’d purchased some “Berliner Luft,” as in a few cubic meters of air high in the sky.

Today, that air is surrounded by concrete, wood, windows, and all the other accoutrements that define a space that becomes home.

Today, I move house.

When I bought the bottle, I did a series of shots with colleagues and friends to celebrate the fact that I’d bought the idea of a home. Since then, I do believe that I haven’t had another sip.


During the Covid-19 crisis, I am going to try and make a point of writing a blog post about an object in my home.

We’ll see how long this lasts.

Whatchamacallit 179: IKEA Postcard/Thing Holder

IKEA Postcard Holder

I bought this thing in 2010, shortly after moving into my apartment in Schöneberg.

Throughout the year, as postcards and greeting cards arrive, I fill it up – then in late November, I take everything down and start the process anew.

For reasons that will become apparent, I’ve had to undertake this process a bit on the early side this year – so it looks a lot like a bug that has been smashed against the wall.

Unfortunately, after a decade of use, the curly parts at the end are bent out of shape and it is increasingly difficult to get things to stay wedged in.

Typically I only “see” this object for a few weeks – after Christmas cards arrive, I basically cannot see it easily; when birthday cards arrive a short time later, it vanishes. However, it has brought me great joy, keeping things visible from where I sit working – I look up and cards are there.

Warm feelings ensue.

During the Covid-19 crisis, I am going to try and make a point of writing a blog post about an object in my home.

We’ll see how long this lasts.

Whatchamacallit 178: BVG Hat


I’ve never worn this hat.

This was a giveaway from the BVG – Berlin’s public transit agency – during Berlin’s Christopher Street Day (Berlin Pride) several years ago. Which year, I cannot recall.

The hat folds up tightly and neatly into the yellow bag on the left, along side the whistle in front.

I was standing on top of a guardrail taking photos of the parade when the BVG float came along – I begged one of my friends to grab one of the hats for me when they were being handed out – thus I was able to keep taking photos while getting this cool trinket.

Yet I’ve never actually worn it – I’ve put it in a drawer and promptly forgotten about it until I started cleaning the drawer earlier this month.

Holy cow, there was a lot of crap in the drawer.

Not that this is crap – it’s fun, but it’s also not something I would wear that frequently – even though I have a small hat collection. It’s pretty yellow, not a color I wear.

Maybe I would wear it if I happened to have it with me when it started to rain.

During the Covid-19 crisis, I am going to try and make a point of writing a blog post about an object in my home.

We’ll see how long this lasts.

Whatchamacallit 177: Star punk (magnet)

Star Punk

I bought this magnet while in Berlin on vacation from a stand at the Boxhagener Platz flea market on Sunday morning.

The back of the magnet is signed, with a 2007 date mentioned.

I cannot read the signature, but there is a clear marking:

jan m. petersen

Much to my surprise, some 13 years later, the website still works.

I’m not entirely sure why this spoke to me – but I still like it all these years later.

It is attached to my metal bookcase at eye height – I’d say that I see it a few times a week, each timing making me smile.

During the Covid-19 crisis, I am going to try and make a point of writing a blog post about an object in my home.

We’ll see how long this lasts.