Tuesday, October 9, 2018

girl's not grey

once again, it is my birthday today, and i wanted to do a quick sentimental post about something nice, namely: how grateful i am for the people who care about me.

here's the thing: i don't always have a lot of faith in people. maybe that makes me jaded and aloof sometimes, but on the flip side, it absolutely means that much more to me when people do follow through on what they say. people who say they care about me and are there for me when i need them - and who act on their promises - actually blow my mind a little bit, because i really never expect that much out of people, because i've been let down so many times that i just shrug and get used to it.

so it means a hell of a lot to me when those who care actually step up, and in the last twelve months, it's been insane to find how many genuinely good people are in my life. even my mother has commented, "you really have very good friends" and that's the long and short of it. this past year has been about realizing that i can trust people - certain people, anyway; it's always a learning process - to be there for me if and when i need them. and that in turn has definitely helped make me a better, more confident person.

adult friendships are something that can't be taken for granted; you still need each other, even with all the careers and the marriages and the kids and the mortgages. your friends are the people that make it all worthwhile. not to focus on the negative here, but there are always people who turn out to be selfish or flaky or just vampires that feed on your emotions and energy. the good thing about being an adult is that you can recognize who you fit with and who you don't, and you can more easily realize who's worth your time and attention.

and that works both ways! it's such a nice feeling when you realize that you are that to other people. it's rewarding as hell to know that you're valued by others. i know i probably sound like an alien here, but i didn't have a close-knit group of friends as a kid or a teenager, and i only really became a part of social groups in my twenties. even then, though, i was more ancillary; i was a friend that came along to things with other friends, the ones who were the nuclei of the social groups. so that is, i think, what the difference i'm feeling now is: for once, people want me around for me, not because i'm part and parcel with someone else.

so i've been thinking a lot on that lately, which is a good balance, because i'm also keeping in mind what i need to do for myself. because there's some stuff i need to separate from, and some things i need to re-prioritize, especially going into the next year. i need a clearer mind than the one i've been struggling with, and thankfully, my friends - the people that matter - have given me the stability to see things more clearly.

the one thought i kept coming back to the other week was: you shouldn't keep on being a supporting character and waiting around for things to happen to you. you should be out there being the main character of your own story.

and i'm aware that the only thing that's keeping me here right now is me. (you know i always need a reason to stay, because otherwise it's too easy for me to leave. and i spent so many sunny berlin mornings on the stadtbahn, leaning my head against the window, wondering what would ever be enough.)

so let's see what happens from here on, and we'll find out where my story is this time next year.

everything can change in an instant so trust your fucking heart.

[ music | eisbrecher, "verrückt" ]

Monday, October 1, 2018

autumn beds

october is finally here! and with it, oktoberfest:

i'd meant to go to the toronto celebration last year but didn't quite get around to it, so this year i made sure i was there, and thankfully emma had a spare ticket i could buy off her (the saturday-night ein prosit party was sold out). and honestly, for me, big dumb germany superfan, this festhalle party was tops. so many costumes! so much beer! (and yes, they had a traditional brass band playing polka.) did i have to stop myself from tacking on german words to my sentences because that's how my brain works now? sure.

caption says it all:

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(i do love me some spicy sausage, though, but someone really ought to have warned me that the hot mustard is no joke) the hot potato salad had a bit too many fennel seeds, but i will always scarf down so much german beige food. and i definitely got a laugenbretzel on the way out, although again, foiled by the incredibly hot mustard. 10/10 would still eat again.

i also had to take a photo of this backdrop for selfies, and man oh man did i cackle loudly:

rammstein has a song called "küss mich" and it's...sort of about kissing...but like...not where you'd think? uh, anyway.

so oktoberfest in toronto was a joy - you'd be surprised at how willing you are to dance at the front of the stage after three beers - and i lost track of how many times i gushed, "oh my god, this is adorable." i mean, i don't think i'd ever be taking the trip to munich for the real thing - munich's expensive, and oktoberfest there is overrun with tourists - but i would clearly go back to berlin for lichterfeste in october. it seems like a given that r+ is going out on tour next year, but on the off-chance that they don't, i'm definitely planning on making that trip. berlin in october, please yes.

prince's gate even reminds me of brandenburger tor, ugh my heart:

tangentially related: i'm currently obsessed with good german chocolate ritter sport. even more so if i can find one in its original german packaging.

but here and now, though, most people are focusing on the fact that it's a long weekend coming up; it's canadian thanksgiving this sunday, so everyone's getting time off and travel plans in place and so on. but me - and i think i mentioned this before, but whatever - i'm staying here in toronto, for what i'm pretty sure is my first-ever thanksgiving long weekend not spent in kingston. i'm serious - i thought on it, and i can't recall a single thanksgiving that i didn't go home for. thanksgiving's always been a part of it, but it's been more so because both my birthday (the 9th) and my father's birthday (the 11th) are around the holiday, so it's a "three birds with one stone" scenario.

this year, though, i dunno. i just don't really feel it. it's a lot of maneuvering and coordination to get me to and from the island where my mom and stepdad live, and i wouldn't even be there for very long, and it's too much money for me right now. also, my dad and stepmom are only just getting back from croatia & austria on the 6th, and they already told me that they're not planning on doing anything for thanksgiving sunday. so now hopefully i don't feel too bummed out to miss the family thanksgiving, and likewise my birthday, because left to my own devices i can't see myself actually doing anything on my birthday.

ooof, does that sound depressing? i hope it doesn't sound that depressing. i'm just one of those people who's never made that big of a deal of my own birthday, mostly because, as i noted above, i've always been home with my family on the actual day. and honestly, as you get older, it's not even that big a deal, you know? it's really what you make of it. if you want to declare a "birthday week" or whatever, fine, sure - then it's a deal. but if you're not that motivated to make it into a big goddamn day for yourself, then that's how it is. (i'm probably too jaded and burned from my youth and the majority of my friends flaking out from my birthday parties, come to think of it.)

so in reality, i'm likely going to spend my birthday doing very little, unless i decide to hit up the movies or grab a nice (yet cheap) lunch somewhere. i'm easy to please, and i like my own company. (also, straight up, i am poor, my guys. i don't have the cash to splash out on a day of good times for myself. at least i don't have - and have never had - expensive wants or needs.) but i can unequivocally say that a year ago, i didn't expect to be back here, sitting around my apartment in my pjs all day and searching for jobs to apply for. that's the thing about life, though - you gotta be ready to roll with the punches, whatever happens. dust yourself off and get back to it.

and with that, i'm continuing to get back to it. enjoy the first week of the best month!

[ music | afi, "girl's not grey" ]

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

close cover before striking

so i have good friends that do cool things that they invite me to, which is how i ended up at a ddp yoga workshop in guelph last saturday:

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it's actually quite serendipitous that i'd been doing ddpy before; in fact, last time i was freelancing, i would regularly fill my morning hours with yoga workouts. so even though i was pretty out of practice, muscle memory is a hell of a thing, and i was at least able to remember many of the move sequences and how to brace my core properly. still, it was almost a full day of intense yoga and inspirational talks from ddp himself (he gave me a mini-lecture about self-confidence when i professed to being awkward taking selfies with people, hah), and it was an interesting way to spend a saturday out of town.

also the rural parts of guelph are quite pretty:

my mother would have loved it out there, but i was just happy to get back to civilization. give me the city, forever.

the major downside of pushing myself through a long yoga workout was that i was sick, and i've been sick for the better portion of the week. it's clearly a head cold i picked up on the stupid germ-tube airplane on the way back from berlin, but i haven't been able to shake it yet, especially combined with the fact that my lingering jet lag is still messing with my sleep. love to wake up at 3-4 a.m. pretty much every day! fuck me.

still, sickness and jet lag haven't been enough to keep me down - i was fortunate enough to be selected to take part in a customer survey downtown last week, and it turned out my recompense was a $50 gift card to best buy. me: "what do i need at best buy?....wait."

so all told, i got a google chromecast for $1.70, which was a wonderful little mood-booster for this poor cost-cutter. especially since i'd wanted one for months but never got around to buying one. one more thing off the list!

moreover, this purchase has opened the door to cutting back further on my utilities: i'm going to simply ditch my cable access altogether (i barely watch tv anyway) and instead bump up my internet data, then just stick to streaming netflix and wrestling online, broadcast straight to my giant-ass tv set. i'll even end up saving something like $20 per month, which is always a bonus, particularly when you consider how much time i'm online (and, like i said, how little i watch tv).

speaking of, we're definitely in the cost-cutting measures now that i'm still sorting out the funemployment. so i'm dumping my cable, i cancelled my patreon and app subscriptions (sorry everyone, i gotta look out for #1 for a while), i'm switching gym memberships as of next month (going from $58 a month to $15 a month), and just generally redoing my budgets so i'm not so panicky. sure, i'll be fine, but not immediately, so i'm taking the steps to ensure that i'm scaling back on the non-necessities. it's almost freeing, in a way.

i really do not regret this purchase, though:

it's beautiful - a well-packaged coffee table book full of photographs taken on the völkerball tour worldwide in the mid-2000's. i'd kinda given up hope of ever owning a copy - they were a limited run, and they're quite expensive on ebay - and i wasn't even sure i'd be able to find one at the store in berlin, but thankfully this single damaged copy was on sale. i don't even care that the back corner of the book is all fucked up, i'm just so pleased to own one. (even if, yes, it weighed the hell out of my suitcase coming back)


handsome dads are handsome.

alright, that's enough - i'm off to get in one last dental cleaning before my benefits run out (i definitely already filled my painkiller prescription; my pms cramps are never any joke), and meet up with my friends a bit later. it's finally fall, the leaves are changing colour, and i always land on my feet.

[ music | rammstein, "was ich liebe (demo)" ]

Thursday, September 20, 2018

down to the sea

so! here we are, getting towards the end of my first week of funemployment. i legit had to hit the ground running on this one; sure, i'm eligible to apply for employment insurance, but like i said before, i want to work, which means i'm applying for full-time jobs all the time. the goal is something full-time permanent, of course, but i still need to spend time thinking about the bigger picture.

does being unemployed mean i have more time to blog? well, i mean...sure, but it also means i have less money to do things with, which means i have less things to blog about. i suppose i can go far enough into my head that i can just write a bunch about introspective things, but i have to be in the right mood to get ~deep~. it's easier to do some shit like oh, i dunno, take off for germany and then write about that. physical experiences, y'know.

("oh, so what do you drink here, then?" "we drink jack daniels.")

but! like i said, i'm sorting it out. it's worth mentioning it, but the last time i didn't have a job, i had a boyfriend, so at least i had a reason to clean myself up a few times a week and go be a part of the outside world. this time, i'm actually going to have to make the effort to be in society myself, and that might be tough? i dunno. it depends on how much motivation i have to put on pants, i guess.

but honestly, the rest of my situation is far from bad. i've got my health, i have a band that i love, i have all the cool coats and makeup i need (and it's weird how reassuring this is to me), i'm well-stocked with groceries and supplies, i have a network of awesome and supportive friends, and i can write. i'm comfortable. it could be so much worse, and i know i'm very lucky for it.

if anything, all this free time has been giving me plenty of time to work my way through flake's book:

i mentioned it on twitter, but it's almost surreal how much of it i...actually understand? or like, get the gist of, anyway. it's fair to say that attempting to read german in order to decipher rammstein tour stories is far more motivating than a textbook.

to go along with this, though, i'm still keeping up with my german lessons, this time more determined than ever (must! read book!!). it's interesting to note how much better my spoken pronounciation/accent has gotten after only four days in germany. (also, i absolutely found that it's true that you speak better the drunker you are.) it's a twisty language, but then again so is english, and anything can be improved upon. it's good to have a goal to work towards in the off-hours.

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in the meantime: cutting back on amenities, budgeting, spreadsheets, and getting back into the groove of surviving on my own. also, i may be a poor now, but you're damn right going to toronto oktoberfest here next weekend. sure, it's touristy and cheesy, but i miss berlin so much already, and i'll take any bit of the culture i can get. ich vermisse dich.

also: it's almost fall, which is guaranteed to put me in a good mood. best season ever. (my birthday is also officially less than three weeks away now, eeeep.) seeing the leaves change colour and feeling a chill in the air is my best cure for any malaise, and though it doesn't last too long here in toronto, it'll be enough to revive me even a little bit. get ready for plenty of instagrammed photos of fall foliage throughout the city, as well as outfit-of-the-day selfies of whatever fall coat-and-boots combo i'm wearing. like so, from last year:

anyway, i have a packed weekend coming up - ie. i will actually have things to blog about - so i'm going to take my leave now to start knocking tasks off my to-do list. no rest for the wicked, i swear.

[ music | florence + the machine, "big god" ]

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

better to burn out

yeah, so, here's the big bad news i got while i was away in germany: i lost my job.

technically, my entire team was let go (or the four of us in the toronto office, anyway), and that's all i'm going to say about the technicalities in a public forum. but i will note that it's surreal news to receive while you're six hours ahead and drinking with new friends in berlin's oldest beer garden. (bless all of you who replied to me with "who fires someone while they're on vacation??" i mean, there's never a good time to restructure your staff, but i guess on the bright side i will definitely never forget this trip?)

fortunately, i was still able to at least push the doom-and-gloom/panic aside and enjoy the last day and a half of my trip, because i knew that i would be coming home in an okay place. i've been here before; i know how to hit the ground running. i've got plenty of options to consider, and i just need to take some time to see how things shake out. but like, i know how to live like this. it's stressful as hell, sure, but i think i can manage it. for a while, anyway.

if anything, what i'm the most sad about is having to lose my team. i love those three women so much, and we were such a great unit together. it truly was one of the better teams i've worked with, and it's really just so disheartening to lose that. but that's also something valuable to take away - those connections, and moreover, those friendships. if you can leave a job and come away with actual friends outside the office, then that's a great thing.

but yeah, the shock and stress is still quite real, although i'm doing my best to reassure myself that things will work out for the best. i have options, good references, and a solid portfolio. and i want to work. i don't want to just trigger ei and live off that for a while. i want to get right back into doing great work again, and i want to meet new people, and i want to make new connections. it all has to be onwards and upwards, you know?

yet i randomly spotted this sign in the pankow borough the day after i got the news, and it did make me feel a bit better:

("the universe loves you and helps you!")

you just never really know where life's going to take you.

anyway! please don't worry about me, and please don't feel sorry for me. i have a great support system of friends and family, and i have always, always been good at taking care of myself. (though the tip jar is to your right if you want to ko-fi me a few bucks, haha) we'll see where my career takes me next.

[ music | rammstein, "ich tu dir weh" ]

Monday, September 17, 2018

i can't get laid in germany

(title's an in-joke, guys.)

so here's a bit of background, as a preamble before my trip recap: i had my first "germany phase" when i was 14-15, brought on by a combined love of rammstein and the anime weiß kreuz, which has huge german themes and language use. but back then, i never even considered going to germany someday. i just really liked the sound of the language - so much so that i took it in my first year of university, hoping that i'd get the hang of it. instead, a formal class did the opposite, and i did so poorly at it that i dropped the idea of seriously learning german.

but now here we are: twenty years later, i headed off to berlin alone to do the pilgrimage to the band that i fell back in love with.

like, i get it. i get that it's weird. people love one direction, or the backstreet boys (they're back!), or even (still) justin bieber. they love harry potter and supernatural and sherlock and hell, even wrestling. but when you choose to stan for a german dance-metal band that reached its peak popularity in the late 90s/early 00s, it seems weird.

except this past weekend, it wasn't. not at all.

see, the thing that i try to explain is that when rammstein were at their biggest, they were fucking huge. they were a deal. you can go back and look at arena shows from the 2000s and they're completely sold out. people are manic for them. (i once rightly explained them as being "a boy band, but for those of us who wanted something darker and meaner.")

and those fans? they're still around. i may look strange as a diehard in toronto in 2018, but my people still exist, and that's why it was such a breath of fresh air to be with the other fanclub members this past weekend. a bunch of us still keep the fire burning. we can still recite dumb facts and exchange trivia about video shoots and discuss the meaning of song lyrics. it doesn't matter that current popular music has moved on, because we all love this fucking band, and we're together because we've loved this band through all the years and years.

and like, i don't know. how do you explain what it's like to have a band's music save you? i'm lucky enough that it's been three bands for me, throughout my life, and i have these three bands' logos all tattooed on me somewhere, because i don't know how to love something that deeply unless i get a symbol marked on me forever. and honestly, i can't tell you how joyful it was to actually have the r+ logo recognized, for once, in germany. it was the same level of joy i felt getting to be with my people for even a few days - the other diehards who owe the same level of emotional debt to this band.

my story isn't uncommon in the least. there are so many out there like me. but me, if there’s one thing i'm very, very good at, it's loving a band in complete, focused purity. so: that's what brought me to berlin, and finally got me overseas for the first time in my life. i always need a reason.

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with the dramatic preamble out of the way, it's travel blog time!

i got out of toronto on tuesday evening, and it could have gone, uh, more smoothly - first, the travel website i'd booked my flight through had spelled my name wrong, which meant i had to wait in the long line to check in at the counter manually. second, i was randomly selected for the bag swab, which hasn't happened to me in years and was just extra shuffling to do before processing my luggage. fortunately, once that was all complete, i was able to escape to the lounge and pound like four glasses of wine. nervous flyer forever.

standard flight over, about seven and a half hours, except it was a redeye so clearly i didn't sleep a goddamn bit. getting in to tegel airport was an adventure, too - waited for ages to get off the plane, then had to be shuttled off the tarmac to the processing area, then had to wait close to an hour to be processed by the single customs officer serving the entire sold-out flight. and then finally - finally - i was in berlin.

- wednesday -

now came the tricky part: maneuvering my way to my airbnb via bus, then subway (u-bahn). i'm pretty sure i used google maps more than any other app this past weekend. thankfully it was very straightforward, and some finicky keys and lost directions aside, i finally managed to make it to my accommodations right in the borough of prenzlauer berg (berlin is made up of 12 boroughs), which was so close to everything. and holy shit, is it ever a relief to be able to 1) put your bags down and 2) change your clothes after being awake and travelling for like 36 hours. (also, i will always love any airbnb host who leaves me chocolate. plus, she ended up being out of town from wednesday night til saturday, which meant i had the place completely to myself!)

no rest for the wicked, though, especially when the wicked are finally unleashed on berlin for the first time. quick change of clothes and i was out to wander, on a mission to get the alexa megamall on alexanderplatz in order to buy flake's book for the reading the following night, as well as to get my bearings and to find a proper currywurst. and you know what, holy shit, berlin is so beyond beautiful. it's old yet preserved, and it's sprawling but it all feels very close. i couldn't get over it, the amount of history you just feel when you're there.

here's fernsehturm berlin, the famous tv tower:

as i was shopping around, another thing i really noticed - and was so grateful for - was that if i spoke german to people, they would speak german back at me. guys, this was fucking huge for me. even though it was plainly obvious that i wasn't a native speaker, people looked pleased that i was trying, and they didn't automatically switch to english or anything. learning another language: always worth it, especially for moments like those.

also: currywurst!!

one of germany's most famous dishes (as you can see, it's a sliced up sausage and fries covered in special ketchup and mayo and sprinkled with curry powder), and i bought my first at konnopke's imbiss, which came highly recommended. and holy shit, having this as my first actual non-plane meal was heavenly. just put that german fast food in my face. (also, fries with mayo? highly recommended. i know.)

so now we're into wednesday evening, and i'm well exhausted and jetlagged as fuck, so it's back to the airbnb for me to shower (finally!), chill out, drink the bottle of cheap german wine i'd bought at lidl, and keep myself awake until 9:30-10 p.m. in order to get my body clock on german time. the next morning, my fitbit reported that i'd gotten 10 hours(!!) of sleep. great success.

- thursday -

i had big plans for thursday, since i knew i'd have gotten some sleep and a shower and would be ready to go. i was up at 9 a.m. and out the door before 10, hopping the u-bahn across town to the kurfürstendamm (ku'damm) district in order to get this photo:

at the end of rammstein's video for "mein teil" from 2005, they come out of this very exit (all looking like actual fucking nightmares), and you're damn right i wanted a picture of it now that i was here. even more synchronicity for me: it was only a short walk away from a cat cafe(!!), zur mieze, so of course i had to stop by and ended up staying for an adorable breakfast:

(this was kenzo, my breakfast companion) i tell you, as a cat lover, there's nothing more adorable than having a little meal in a cute tea room surrounded by cats. just the best.

then it was off to walk back through ku'damm on my way to the tiergarten, snapping pictures of architecture and old churches the entire way. once i made it to the zoological garden, even though i had just eaten, i still valiantly tried to plow my way through yet another currywurst, this time from the legendary curry 36:

i accidentally ordered a double portion and nearly died, the end.

my solo walk around basically the lower perimeter of the tiergarten took me forever, but it brought some lovely sights like this one (berlin in the fall, oh my heart):

plus, it got me back around to downtown, where i joined the rest of the tourists in getting a photo of the famous brandenburger tor:

from there it was over to rausch schokoladenhaus near gendarmenmarkt square in mitte, to pick up some treats for my coworkers as well as snap photos of their famous chocolate berlin landmarks, including the reichstag building:

i continued through gendarmenmarkt to get some better shots of famous landmarks, such as part of the square itself:

konzerthaus berlin:

and then over the bridge to museum island:

here's a better shot of the majestic building to the left there, the berliner dom, or the berlin cathedral:

like i said before, there's so much old beauty throughout berlin that it just kills you. hence my tweet:

joke was on me, though - i only brought one pair of shoes (my tall timberland boots), and they ended up giving my feet multiple blisters the size of toonies. walking was painful, and i'd only been in the city for two days. well, fuck. (plus the zipper started to blow out on my right boot by saturday, causing me much panic) the perils of a hardcore walker, i guess. slap bandaids on any of the broken ones and get back out there.

speaking of that - one shower and outfit change later, and i was off to see flake (aka christian lorenz, the keyboardist of rammstein) do a book reading at a music venue in the friedrichshain borough. i got lost on the s-bahn (the above-ground transit train system) like three goddamn times, but i finally made it there, and ended up running into kirsi, a member of the rammstein fanclub who noticed my shirt and introduced herself. yes! friends!!

but also, like, this:

i'm not even joking, i scanned the room and maybe only saw like 5-6 rammstein shirts. i felt hilariously out of place. obviously, even more so during the reading, which was two hours of flake telling us impromptu stories as well as reading from his second/most recent book, heute hat die welt geburtstag ("today is the world's birthday") - but clearly entirely in german. still, i kept up as best i could, and it was just so rad to see the man himself, especially out of costume and being so casual and cool:

it was getting late and exhaustion was setting in, but kirsi and i were determined to hang around and see if flake would be autographing books. and bless him, he did - and he signed everything that everyone asked him for. even when it's clearly a non-german dumbass who has to spell her name very carefully in german phonetics and then babbles "entschuldige für mein schlectes deutsch" ("sorry for my bad german"):

but he was so patient and humble and like a german machine with the autographing. last true punk flake forever.

kirsi and i schoolgirl-giggled our entire way back to the s-bahn, and i finally crashed back into bed at the airbnb close to midnight. a very successful second day in berlin!

- friday -

no stopping, no stopping - friday was all about getting outta the downtown touristville and going to see some of the cooler, more authentic parts of berlin. (prenzlauer berg, the borough i was staying in, was mostly affluent hipsters and young families) first up was catching the s-/u-bahn to neukölln in the west part of town:

and man, i think i fell even more in love with this borough than i did anywhere else. it just felt very real, barely gentrified in places, and a real down-to-earth vibe. i loved the hell out of neukölln, even though i couldn't get a döner kebab because the place i went to didn't have the meat ready yet(?). so i settled for hanging around the neukölln arcaden and eating a laugenbretzel instead, which ended up being stuffed with nutella:

i ate so many laugenbretzels on this trip, and drank at least two milchkaffee a day before realizing that they're just a latte and not some fancy german-only hot coffee drink. (this realization was akin to wondering what the tram was and then seeing "oh, it's just a streetcar") you're in germany, carb the hell up.

from there i hopped back on the s-/u-bahn to get to the borough of kreuzberg, which is known for having some really amazing street art, and since i'm a street art geek this was definitely a must-visit area for me:

from there it wasn't too far to walk to checkpoint charlie which, although it's touristy as hell, i figured i ought to check out anyway. history and all that. however, that made me just want to go find some remains of the berlin wall - might as well go all in on the tourist business, right? - so out came google maps and me trying to figure out how to take the subway out to the wall memorial park in mitte. at least i got to spot some more cool wall art on the way:

(the years on the knife are the years between the rise and fall of the berlin wall, btw) i made it out to the memorial park and was able to get some good pictures that even choked me up a little bit:

time was wearing on at this point, and i had plans in the evening, so i made my way back to prenzlauer berg to once again shower and change at my airbnb. it was time to go meet the rest of the rammstein fanclub.

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those of us who were attending this international meetup (the native german fans meet up every couple of months) were set to gather at prater garten, the oldest beer garden in berlin. and yes, guy, it was definitely an international bunch: three netherlanders, a good handful of germans, four swedes, an american ex-pat living in berlin, an italian, a finn, a norwegian, and me, the canadian who traveled all this way. (anna, one of the organizers, laughingly said she'd felt pressure to make it a fun meetup weekend for me so that the trip was worthwhile)

and then i got some sudden, very unexpected bad news. i'm going to save that for the next blog post, though. oooooh, a cliffhanger!

anyway, we hung out and drank and had fun for a few hours at the beer garden, then we all decamped together to blackland, a bar (a very bovine sex club-esque bar at that) just a short tram ride away. why? this is why:

turns out there's a thriving industry for rammstein cover bands in europe, and rammczech is apparently one of the better-known ones. and you know what, they definitely deserve to be. check this shit out:

(that's fanclub meetup organizer anna in the last one, singing the backup vocals on "engel") honestly, if you guessed that i lost my mind like a hundred times, you're right. they had fully accurate stage costumes and costume changes! a fog machine! well-practiced choreography! they played the entire 2018 tour set list! (though they subbed in "rosenrot" for "pussy", which was fine by me because i've always wanted to see that song performed live anyway)

i had the time of my goddamn life, i swear. you know those nights where you're with the same people the next day and they say stuff like "ha ha you reallyyyyyy had fun last night, yeah?" and you realize it's because you were so fucking into it that the entire room noticed? ooof, red-faced. but at least i could pack my shame away since i was on vacation - i mean, clearly i was there singing at the top of my lungs, headbanging, throwing the horns, and dancing my heart out. hanni and kirsi and i kept throwing our arms around each other and singing along in a group, hugging and laughing. it was just the best. maybe because i haven't been to as many rammstein shows as the rest, but i enjoyed the hell out of the night and ughhhhh it was so, so great to hear those songs played live again, even by a tribute band. too much fun.

i am who i've always been, and who i've always supposed to be:

even though the haze of beer and jagermeister, i managed to find my way back to the airbnb by like 1 a.m., took off my smeared eyeliner and fading lipstick, and fell asleep pretty much immediately. hell yeah, friday.

- saturday -

guess whose wakeup alarm went off at 6:45 a.m. the next morning? mine. fucking christ. the reason: the official storefront location of the rammsteinshop was opening at 9 a.m. as a special occasion for the fanclub members, and since it was sort of in a northern part of town, i needed to maneuver my way up there on the train. (i had early birthday money to spend and i was hellbent and determined to get an early pick at things) so, hungover and on three hours of sleep, i only got lost twice as i made my way to wilheimsruh, fortunately running into anna, hanna, and nikki from the fanclub on their way as well.

and guys. you guys. the store was the best goddamn thing. first off, they had concert props and posters on display on the upper level:

then on the lower level: so much merch.

it was already packed when we got there at 9:30, so they were only letting people in six at a time, but i got everything that'd been on my list: the double-zip moto hoodie, the xxi klavier t-shirt, the mock ramones logo t-shirt, the knit scarf, two posters (one for their first show back in america in 2010 and one for the paris concert film), a fanclub patch, and a new pin for my jacket. i also picked up two bonuses from the samples/damaged rack: a thin grey sweatshirt with the amour lyrics/skull design that they never put into production, and a copy of the super limited-edition völkerball tour photo book/4-cd & dvd set marked down to 50€ because the back cover was damaged in a spot. (i also got a fanclub pack from the meetup the previous night, which included a lifad flag, a sticker, and special lapel pin - they were all out of the canada print so i was fine taking usa instead, why not) sure, i had to basically clean & jerk my suitcase into the plane's overhead bin on sunday because it was so heavy, but hey, whatever it takes. once in a lifetime.

the lineups were intense and it took a while to checkout, but as soon as i finished (it took them two bags to pack up all my stuff, haha) i was headed back downtown to get a bit of downtime before the day's next activity: a guided group tour of schloss schönhausen in the pankow borough.

but first: döner kebab break!

it was the hardest goddamn thing to eat, but so satisfying, especially when you've barely eaten anything in over 24 hours. (i tried my damndest to avoid the three construction bros who were clearly having fun watching this goth in a black dress and red rose headband try to tackle a massive, drippy sandwich.)

so it was back on the s-bahn to get to pankow, and another short walk to reach schloss schönhausen, which isn't really a castle at all but more of a baroque manor. the importance to us, though, is that the interior was used for the band's "du riechst so gut" video in 1998. here's the outside of the building, plus the ballroom and staircase where two of the pivotal scenes were filmed:

also, the view from the grounds was lovely. perfect early fall weather in berlin.

the guided tour was good fun, even if my feet were just screaming at me at this point. once it was over, i did one more loop back to the airbnb - this time to start packing up my stuff, since i was leaving early the next day - before rejoining the group at cafe chagall around the corner, because it was our rammstein trivia night! (i didn't win - the questions were suuuuuuper hard - but it was hilarious fun anyway, even if i was trying to keep from falling asleep on the table)

here's anna giving a lovely little speech about how happy she is to see us all together. lifad ist für alle da.

- sunday -

okay, so, did i have a little cry on sunday about having to leave? i sure as hell did. it wasn't even that i was still super underslept - i had to get up at 6:30 a.m. and be on the u-bahn by 7:30 in order to catch the transfer bus to the airport - but it just felt like i ought to have been staying. i have friends and family in toronto, sure, but not much else now, so why did i have to leave? sigh. so depressing. (i did, however, accidentally take the bus that went the long way around to the airport rather than the express bus, but that was actually a really nice way to leave the city)

still, i gamely went through the paces at the airport, though this time instead of the random bag swab i had to get full-body wanded presumably because my nipple piercings were setting off the metal detector. sigh.

but the flight went off without a hitch, despite my usual anxiety around takeoff/turbulence/landing, and the fact that it was a nine-hour flight, which is a long as hell time to be in one place. boooooooring.

touched down at pearson airport yesterday afternoon, bodily dragged all my bags full of band merch through the airport, had one of the express shuttle staff ask me if i was coming from a conference since i was carrying two rolled-up posters ("no, i was at a band fanclub meetup in germany"), cursed the fact that it was still hot summer in toronto and i was wearing a sweatshirt & leggings (and carrying a jacket), and now here i am again. despite the lingering post-vacation sadness, it's good to be home. honestly, there were a few times when i felt like my body was totally gonna fail me on this trip; i was constantly tired, sore from carrying my bags, and my feet were blistering up like crazy. but i remember thinking to myself: bruises fade. blisters disappear. but these memories you make, those are for a lifetime. so fuck the pain and forget about the marks - go make some memories instead. those will last.

okay, that's the whole of it. like i said, i'll be back tomorrow to briefly cover the bad news i got while on vacation (no one died and no one has cancer, i promise), so tune in then i guess? love love love.

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