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Pinakothek der Moderne, a wooden necklace

after three weeks away from home, i am spread around the globe like fly on a windshield, except i am alive and will now reassemble myself slowly, before i jump off again.
first there was a week in beijing. and i have learned so much there about myself and life that i will need to think about it for a while, and maybe a while long enough to outlast me.
that is very possible.
the thinking i was pulled into on this trip to china was so fundamental and so deeply set in human existence that it is not something i can just simply put in words or write about as if it were just another occurrence.
not that i would write about any other occurrence here.
then the two following weeks were spent in germany, in some places familiar and in some places much less familiar. and the airline lost my baggage for about 10 days, so there was a very vulnerable quality to most of the time spent in bavaria and swabia.
i felt lost at times, even though i should not have.
and felt cornered, and angry. for no reason visible to the outside world.
so in a way this was also a very transformational experience, but maybe this time one i do not really understand enough to even interpret properly.

it is almost midnight on the first day of the first month of 2011. and i am awake as if it were around noon of the second of january. and my suitcases are still packed. i have not even looked at the pictures again that i took in the last three weeks. there is a hum in my head and my dreams seem to be straight out of inception's abandoned scripts.

it is incredible how i manage to throw myself into this similar state almost every year. it is not that i am placing any resolutions in front of myself. it is that giant shifts somehow happen around now. and it could just me that this might be the only time left for me to actually stop for more than a day or two and to look at my feet and the ground and the ground beneath the ground and to look at the sky beyond that.
maybe. perhaps this is the only time left when i can become a set of ripples in a pond.

and all of this will probably sound ridiculous to anyone outside. and it will probably all sound ridiculous to me in a few days from now.
but it will probably not make it less valid at this current moment in time.

Pinakothek der Moderne, a wooden necklace

A bit too early for that.

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This last visit to Germany really took away some years from the end of my life. And it was not the food, because that was rather good. And it was not the places where I stayed, as I seemed to get upgraded in every hotel now. And not even the travel. All modes of transportation were about as good as I could have hoped for.
No, it was the psychological underpinnings of it. And maybe the weather too.
I have been ground down to a little core of a grain at this point. And the nerves are blank now. And I overreact to the world inside and outside of me.
My biggest piece of good luck is probably to be surrounded by brilliant people. Or what might be the bigger piece of good luck even is that the brilliant people are on my side of the equation.

But that last trip managed to bargain out quite a price for what will some day be seen as "experience". Or maybe the memory is just freshest at this point. That's probably what it really is.

And now, before 4 am on a Monday. I should probably not be typing on the glass surface of a little device that really wants to grab more and more of my attention.
The moon is rising as a thin orange sliver over the outline of the King's county hospital. And I should be sleeping. Too much is too much. Sometimes it really is.

my office at home currently smells like the end of a catholic mass (i was cleaning the place and came across some old german incense. no priests were harmed.)
the books on my shelves are no better organized than when the "vacation" began a few weeks ago, last decade. and the snowflakes outside look a little bit like razor wire. so maybe leaving the house would be a very bad idea now.
especially since the sun is setting and the music streaming from the living room is quite pleasant, actually.
my 2010 horoscope on one of the polish newspaper websites i tend to visit predicted a year of confusion and something probably best described as doom.
glad it was not a chinese fortune teller telling me that i should not fly this year. that has already happened. and there is a nice book about a similar experience, about 17 years ago.

i should probably have another bowl of tea. is it good to drink tea until the mouth goes numb and my insides turn that freshly plucked, ground, bright green?

there are many more questions now than there were just a few days ago. and they are hard and challenging and actually pretty good. and they are the kind i could never dream of answering myself. the best kind.

hmm... another bowl of tea?

this is not a book with empty pages.

managed to not say a word to the guy sitting next to me on the plane. even though we appeared to be the same age, we seemed to read the same magazines, and even ordered the same food.
well, i watched "wickie der wikinger" right after "kojak" while he held his iphone close enough to his face to leave smear marks on the screen. with his eyelashes. it was some art movie. mostly blue pictures of people doing something.
it was not my seat anyway. i was supposed to sit two rows back, in a seat i had booked months in advance. but there was this father who wanted to sit next to his sons.
"i speak three languages" said one of the boys, maybe 8, instead of a hello, when i was exchanging my opened blanket for the one that had not been used yet.
"oh that's nice, what are the languages?" " i speak english, german, and french."
"das ist ja sehr schön, dann haben wir zwei sprachen gemeinsam" "ja"
i was a bit upset that we did not have three languages in common. today.
perhaps the boy will end up learning polish at some point in his life, or perhaps i will finally be forced to learn french.
that charles V quote i recently read somewhere made me smile... I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse.
he should have probably mixed it up now and then. and would he have used other languages had he not suffered from the habsburg jaw?

we are back in new york. the snow flurries are turning the palette of the brooklyn i can see out of the window now into something that one would probably use a pencil to describe, perhaps some dirtied sienna? a true lead pencil?
it appears to be cold enough for the flakes to actually bounce of each other as they land. they do not feel they should be come one cover of snow yet. right now they want to be new year flakes.

we travelled a bit too quickly in the last few weeks. it is so tempting to just jump on a train to go to a place that is so close and yet so different than the current location. köln is now about an hour away from frankfurt? really? that's pretty much the length of my daily commute today.

what is it like to express anything in more than 140 characters? how many facebook friends does it take to make one who will actually save one's life when it is threatened? not just like or comment on one's fall. or just retweet it.

jetlag can be a beautiful thing. and now i am even 5 minutes early.

Moment left.

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The little tree that I had decided to bring over from the Park Slope apartment a few years ago is now beginning to turn gently yellow again. I had removed all leaves from it somewhere in the middle of the season, so it was allowed to age an extra year in 2009. The colors might turn out more vibrant now that it realizes that it is indeed truly going to be fall.
A different tree right next to it, took maybe 9 months to recover from being transplanted into the new and actually smaller pot. I had almost given up on the little guy, and just as a test scratched on the thin bark a few weeks ago. Underneath the color was green. Life. And soon after the leaves came out after all. Spring in July. The fall is recognized here too. The colors are shifting. The tree is getting ready for colder months.

I seem to have more journeys in the next two months than I could have ever expected. There is going to be some traveling to places in the US. Perhaps Kansas, though I am not sure if I will be able to go. Then probably some places on the west coast. Maybe some places on the east coast. Maybe a few more places somewhere closer to the middle of the country.
And then, shortly after columbus day, we will take off and finally go to Japan. It is a bit as if I had been preparing for the trip for decades. And now I feel incredibly not ready. There are such huge gaps in what I would like to know before I go, I am not sure I will be able to bridge them. But I guess the most important thing is to be open and to discover, not to be completely prepared and disappoint one's never truly complete expectations.

One of the challenges is going to be to actually go to Japan and to be there. I have taught myself to work on my trips. And often there is the sense of the presence in one place being the important preparation for some other place.
Very much like what I just mentioned actually.

And then there is the urge to report, and to record. What kind of camera should I bring? What kind of camera should I maybe buy? And what will I write?
Am I going to post our status here, or on Facebook, or Twitter?
"Currently relaxing, far away from it all."... What a lie. Pathetic really.
I wonder how many moments will be truly actually experienced as those that will actually really happen then and there.
And perhaps such a thing does not exist?
Perhaps this very moment was lost to this very reflection here.
What could I have been doing right now?
And what are you doing here?

I guess a new season is coming and it will be followed by the next, then by the next. Other rhythms will define the angle at which we look into the light of the sun.
Pretty much like the little trees I happen to keep as pets out on the balcony.

I need to leave the house today, I guess. Maybe not.

There was a bit of a problem with a part related to electricity on our plane from Newark to Copenhagen. The pilot tried restarting the entire system by shutting down everything and then starting it up again. But that did not really help. A part was indeed broken and so we were stuck in an airplane, in the sun, with bad air conditioning... I think for about four hours?

I kept sending emails and little sms messages back home and to the office, until the electricity on the blackberry ran out as well, so I reached for the iPod, the trusted little friend, to teach me some Japanese. Real beginner stuff; I can barely count to three. (And that's probably because I am also a bit of a Mr. itchy knee.)

The earphones I have had for my iPod for a long time now are rather great. They really block out noise without requiring batteries. That's why I got them. I can push them really deep into my ear canal and the world around me quiets down; so the music, or in this case a person counting in Japanese becomes really loud and clear.

Things were going okay, until one of the ear plugs fell out of my ear. The right one just fell out onto the seat. Very annoying because it did not just fall out, it also lost that rubber piece that actually makes the noise cancellation so good.

How was I going to find a little rubber piece stuck somewhere in the seat of a plane, stuck in the airport, with the night really setting in now, and the sweatiness level increasing all around me?
I tried to just move as little as possible. Perhaps the piece fell actually onto me. Maybe it was just there, all I needed to do it to look really thoroughly.
It took me probably a minute to realize that the the piece was not really as lost as I at first thought.

It had never actually fallen out really.
The rubber piece was simply stuck.
In my head.
I could now feel it with the tip of my finger.
A rubbery piece, fitted very snugly in the depths of my head.
Now that was a bit of an unpleasant feeling.

Great. So here I had an adventure on top of an adventure.
I had to share the story with someone. Hopefully someone who could somehow help me. Oh yes, tweezers are no longer permitted on airplanes.

A very friendly flight assistant, she could have been a long lost sister of pippi longstocking with dyed hair, seemed to react to my story and the way I told it.
Here was my iPod. There were my earplugs. One of them was missing a piece.
"Do you know where I lost the piece?"
I would then point to my right ear.
"It is stuck in here."

She wanted to help me. Flight attendants are apparently allowed to bring tweezers on board. She began to ask her fellow flight attendants is they had a "pinzette" that word is apparently the same in Polish and in Danish.
("Tak" means "Thank you" in Danish, yet "Yes" in Polish. And I wonder why.)

I went to the bathroom to check if I was perhaps able to see the object in my ear. The bathrooms on SAS airplanes are rather huge by airline standards. Two windows, all around mirrors. Do I need to say more?
I could not see the piece in my ear. Maybe a shadow. Maybe there were too many mirrors I had to use to actually see anything. All I could really see was that I am losing hair in the back of my head as well.
Big time.

The bathroom did not contain a "Pinzette" just a few towels (frottee), some lotions, cups, some abandoned sewing kit, a shaving kit. Nothing useful really, unless I wanted to sew up or shave my ears.

I left the bathroom and ran into the flight attendant again. She had rubber gloves on, and indeed a nice little Pinzette. She looked excited.
We looked for the brightest spot nearby. It happened to be in front of the still open door of the airplane. We were still grounded. Three airport workers spoke with the purser of the flight, a woman in her 50's maybe, wearing a butter colored dress that somehow matched the idea that butter might have been one of her favorite food groups.
The purser should have been the calmest person on the plane, but she somehow managed to make everyone slightly nervous, trying to look friendly when it was a bit obvious that it did not really come easy for her.

"I have to tell my boss what I am going to do," said my rubbergloved flight attendant.
I was seated on one of those jump seats the crew has to tie themselves to during the very moment of takeoff and landing.
The purser did not really seem to care what was about to happen, and so the flight attendant lowered herself to my height and began operation earplug.
I obviously could not see what she was doing, but it appeared that she was not really pinching the rubber piece very hard, and it kept slipping out of the grip of her tweezers.
What kind of tweezers were they anyway? They looked a bit like the cosmetic equivalent of a hammerhead shark. What I was looking for was something pointy and strong, this was not really going to happen?

"What are you doing?" The purser was here now. She had completed her chat with the airport workers and we were apparently the next little vignette in her walk of worry through the more and more chaotic airplane.
"The tweezers are too big." My friendly flight attendant said.
A brief exchange in Danish, or Swedish followed.
The flight attendant looked at me.
"Are you American Sir?"
I was not sure what she meant by that. I am a legal resident. I am a New Yorker... well,
"I guess I am almost an American, yes, you can speak English to me, why?"
I hoped that was the right answer.
The purser looked at my friendly flight attendant.
"Stop helping him right now. If you make a mistake he is going to sue you."
Her English was not fantastic, but clearly some understanding of the world was really somehow simple...
(And I had apparently not given the correct answer.)
"Maybe we should just..." and she made a movement with her hand that somehow indicated that she would just like to slap me in my face. ...
"We can't do this here right now. Get back to your seat Sir. We will now serve dinner. We will deal with this after dinner."
My poor helper had to take off her rubber gloves... "Don't worry, I have children. I take stuff out of their noses all the time."

Dinner was served.

I felt worse and worse.
What would happen once we closed the airplane door? What happens to the ear canal after takeoff? The pressure changes. And then what?
Was I destined to carry a piece of rubber in my head for the next few days?
What if it moved further inward?
I was not sure, but there was just a slightly uncomfortable sensation about all this.
Was I going to lose my balance?
My hearing?

I could not have dinner before I resolved the issue.
The sewing kit in the bathroom could actually be the answer.
I locked myself in and found the abandoned sewing kit again.
Several colors of thread, two needles, two small white plastic buttons, a small golden safety pin.
There was a solution in here somewhere.

I opened the safety pin and bent it to be more of a straight piece of golden wire with a point. I then inserted the point into one of the little buttons and bent it into shape until I has a golden little tool, a hook custom made to remove rubber objects out of my ear.
I obviously did not want anything sharp to go deep into my ear canal. The bent hook seemed like just the right thing to do.
I decided to not rely on any of the mirrors. They would just confuse me. I would probably end up poking myself in the eye.
So with closed eyes and as gently as I could, I slowly began to look for something that would give the hook just the right amount of resistance.
It was very obvious when the point touched the skin in my ear. It did not really hurt, it just allowed me to somehow create a bit of a mental picture of my ear canal.
After several attempts, the hook gripped something.
I pulled on it gently. A sound as if I were pulling out a shoe out of mud told me that I was indeed pulling something.
Then the hook slipped.
Okay, I had to try again.
I must have attempted to penetrate the rubber with the hook about eleven times. It was a fascinating experience in reality perception really.
There was the resistance, the hook was penetrating the material, there was more resistance, I pulled... the loud noise, the pleasant feeling of a foreign object being removed from the body...
a little more, a little more...
and there is was.
The result of my fishing expedition was in my hand, stuck onto the end of a golden hook. I had managed to bring myself into a dumb situation, but I also managed to get myself out of it somehow.
A pleasant feeling.

When I left the bathroom, there were three flight attendants looking at an instruction manual of sorts. "We are looking for safe instructions how to remove the object from your ear."
I showed them my little contraption.
My friendly flight attendant looked like she really wanted to hug me. I guess we were all relieved, but it would be a bit odd to hug someone because I just managed to pull a piece of rubber out of my ear.
So we did not hug.
She rubbed my shoulder.
I rubbed her shoulder.
We were both very happy this had all happened without any interference of the purser.
And actually before dinner!

For the rest of the flight, all of the flight attendants came by to see me. Some of them just looked at me, most pointed to their left or right ear and either smiled, or had an inquisitive expression on their face. Their lips would move, but they would not utter a sound. "Are you okay?" "How is your ear?"
It was pretty obvious what they were asking. The words were overly expressive.
Yes, I still had my ear.
And I can still hear.
All of my actions might have actually been very dangerous though.
On a tiny scale, of course.
Compared to us riding on two jet engines across the ocean.
But it was a personal story.

The ear incident.

We arrived in Aalborg about 23 hours after leaving the office at 2pm.
The baggage did not make it;
but that's not that special.

As I am writing this, the suitcase was actually delivered by the friendly SAS staff.

And Aalborg is alive tonight.

I will need to finish writing now.
Tomorrow will be a truly fascinating day.


Back in Los Angeles

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Back in a hotel I stayed in about 5 years ago. And it is a much better place now. And I am also in a much better room. Well, suite really.
The little plants in the different rooms are very much like the ones I am growing at home, so it feels very much like a little part of me came here to the west coast with me.
A tiny part.
My heart is in Brooklyn, of course.
But the plant here on the desk in the office is smiling at me, somehow telling me not to worry, and that I am going to be back on the east coast in just a few days really.
My reason to stay here five years ago was for a client presentation, and it was a very strange one, in a place just a few blocks from here.
This current trip is much more focussed. We will be shooting. Traveling without moving. We flew west to shoot the far east. It will be interesting.
I am looking forward to it.
And the people joining me here are so excellent. More reasons to be calm.

If only my cold finally went away. Soon I hope. I really hope to not have to land with the pressure in my sinuses. It is a painful affair.

Oh, and we also stopped by an in-n-out burger. A group of men was performing some magic, the gathering mass. The men at the table next to us were discussing the benefits of mario cart. We were there in the largest production car... I guess it was a very fast reminder that we were indeed in Los Angeles.

Hmm... feeling like an actor somehow. I guess I should get ready for tomorrow.
And we continue...

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