Monthly archives: February 2010


Have you ever seen those dictionaries in the humor section of the book store titled “Woman-English, English-Woman” (or sometimes Man-Woman, Woman-Man)? On the escalator in the train station several days ago I saw a cardboard cutout advertising one of them from the window of the first-floor bookstore.
A pudgy, middle-aged cardboard man in a Cosby sweater stood holding a copy of Langenscheidt’s “Deutsch-Frau, Frau-Deutsch” dictionary. He was smiling, as if he’d finally been given the key to a lost civilization he’d always wanted to contact, but now knew how to conquer.
Maybe I would find these books mildly amusing—and I [...]

ode de parfum

In the dressing room I removed layer after layer of coats and sweatshirts, and the scent of my sweat and my skin filled the tiny compartment. In context, I don’t smell bad. I like the way I smell, my lover likes the way I smell, and the people who I spend most of my time with smell similarly.
In the context of a store full of formaldehyde out-gassing clothing, however, my scent stands out. I wondered whether the other shoppers in the store could smell me. I wondered if they were offended. I wondered if my [...]

one more cup of coffee for the road

One cup of coffee. Just one. You don’t need to drink anymore, Nikki. One is more than enough.
No matter how often I tell myself this, I still find myself with an empty pot beside me, and weird jittery energy that I don’t want or need. One cup of coffee is just right sitting next to the pile of greens and scrambled neighbor-chicken eggs and toast on my breakfast plate. Just one. So far so good. Today, I think, will be a good day, even if it is raining.
It has reached that dangerous time [...]

tonight: bird from holland, lisa from darmstadt

Local readers! I’m putting on another concert! It’s going to be great! There’s going to be hot chocolate with amaretto (as well as the usual cheap beer and free kicker) for sale to warm your belly one last time before spring finally rears its soppy disheveled head! Haus Mainusch, Staudingerweg 23a, Mainz, doors at 9 pm! Exclamation point exclamation point exclamation point!

If you made it to the Old Seed concert/three-course dinner last month, and liked what you heard, Bird is the band that Old Seed can be heard playing with on his latest record, The [...]

dilapidated chaos = love

Another picture by Mr. Himmel. This is our kitchen. Somehow, in black and white, I love the chaos even more. And now by request (and because I’m not feeling very chatty this week), the answering of a few reader questions.
Would you describe your own personal experience finding these communities and getting a place in them? Did you know someone who introduced you to this community?
I had been in Germany for an entire year before I ever heard the word wagenplatz. I’d called off au pairing two months early so I could go back to the [...]

good egg bad egg

“Dumpster diving?”
“Oh. No. Oh. I really don’t want to go outside again tonight.”
I say nothing, knowing we are both thinking the same thing and hoping that his voice and not mine will chide him out of bed with me tonight.
“But I guess if we don’t go we won’t have anything to eat tomorrow.” He sits up and starts to slip into layers of long underwear and hooded sweatshirts.
It’s not true though, that we would have nothing to eat if we didn’t get out of bed. He reminds me night after night that it will never [...]

why i love where i live, part one

Photo courtesy of the esteemed Mr. Himmel. Do not steal it without his permission. Also: abetting the gnomes in their escape from The Cage is strictly forbidden.
If you’re new to this blog, I should probably explain. I live on a wagenplatz in Germany, and a wagenplatz is something like a trailer park, a gypsy encampment, and crust punk wet dream all shaken together. People live in converted vans and trucks and in old wooden circus wagons. If you’d like to read more, I explain in excrutiating detail here and here.

winter’s come and gone

The time of the thaw has come. It is the ugliest time of the year, when all the trash emerges from beneath the snow. It is too soon to say that winter is over, but it’s not too soon to start singing my favorite end-of-winter melody.

people of the crane

I could talk to you of paranoia, of people watching me from the sky, and I would be telling you the truth. And I wonder, as I pee in the bushes beside my wagon and listen to hard-hatted men yelling to each other from the construction site behind our wagenplatz, if those manning the cranes watch me from their steely heights. I flip them off, just in case.
What is now frozen muddy construction was once a part of this wagenplatz. It used to be wild and green. There were blackberries and elderberries and so many snails [...]

sneakin’: radeberg

Sundays quickly became bike days, days for exploring streets I hadn’t noticed before, discovering playgrounds, empty buildings, useful trash. Dresden is full of beautiful, crumbling secrets.
Outside of Dresden, if you manage to pedal out of the valley, are others. On the bike ride to Radeberg, all up hill, all cool forest and empty Sunday roads, a familiarly eerie feeling came over me.
The German landscape looks like home to me. Maples, birches, sections of pine forest, ferns, nettles—so many of the plants I remember from walks in the woods as a child, here too. There are train [...]