the year in books 2011 and a book geekery link party

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. In fact, the end of another calendar year rarely inspires me to introspection, despite the onslaught of it on every pair of lips and blog.com this time of year. December just doesn’t leave me inspired to “take stock”—that’s anniversary territory. But two years ago I did start one year-end tradition: The Click Clack Gorilla Year in Books.

I am a book geek. I read constantly. And because I like remembering where I was in my life when I read certain tomes, I keep a list in the back of my journal of every book that I finish. In 2009 a friend of mine shared her own list online, and I was inspired. I could share my list and start conversations with other book geeks about how our literary years had panned out! I could gaze upon a year’s worth of reading all in one neat little spot and feel smug about all the reading I had accomplished! I could pick favorites and least favorites and feel like I had a good reason to babble about them! A tradition was born. (You can check out the 2009 and 2010 years in books by clicking the hyperlinks.)

This year I decided to include audio books because I listened to so damn many of them (but I only included those that are unabridged readings and not those that are chopped up dramatized versions). In previous years I left them out because it somehow felt like cheating to include them. But then I realized that that was ridiculous.

This year I’d also like to invite you all to share your own reading lists. Especially all you bloggers reading—which is why I’m making this year’s Year in Books the first Click Clack Gorilla link carnival. So if you have a blog, post your own year in books post and add a link to it using the linky tool below. You don’t have to have kept and share a meticulous geek list like I do—I want to read your year’s book lists, hear about your favorite (and least favorite) books this year, or listen to your rants about digital readers and the deaths of independent book stores. Anything that sums up in the year in light of books and reading and literary geekery is welcome. And if you don’t have your own blog, I’d still love to hear from you in the comments. Because I love this stuff. LOVE IT. There is only one rule: if you link up to the party, please put a link back to this post somewhere in the post you’ve linked. Link link link linkity link. And now that I’m done overusing that word, onto the books.

Looking back over my list is a little like looking at a photo album of the year’s events. I remember reading the Hitchhiker’s Guide series while relaxing in Leofels for New Years with a gaggle of friends. I remember getting really into listening to books on cd while doing dishes and cleaning. I remember when Aunt and Uncle Sprinkles sent me the Song of Fire and Ice series and how I read one book after the other in the outdoor bed we set up for the hot weeks we had in April.

My mid-year reads remind me of getting pregnant when I see the onslaught of audio books I listened to because I was puking too much to handle actual reading followed by a ton of books about having babies. I remember buying books at the anarchist festival in Appelscha at a few titles, and I remember finally getting my ass to the Mainz library to get a membership at a few others. I remember resolving to read as many books from my to-read shelf before the baby comes as was humanly possible. My only regret is that I still haven’t managed to acheive last year’s goal of finally reading Kafka in the original German. Those books are still staring at me accusatorily from the shelf.

My favorites of 2011 were When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris, If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino, Mythmakers and Lawbreakers by Margaret Killjoy, The Forest People by Colin Turnbull, and Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. Das Labyrinth der Träumenden Bücher by Walter Moers and Eragon by Christopher Poalini were the most disappointing. And On the Road by Jack Kerouac wins by a landslide for straight-up most horrible. All in all I’d say it’s been a pretty good year. Happy 2012 everyone! And if the Mayans were wrong about the end of the world coming this year, see you in the twelves.

1. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (reread)
2. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams
3. Life, the Universe, and Everything by Douglas Adams
4. So Long and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams
5. Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams
6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (audio)
7. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (audio)
8. Heraline Barbin: Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a 19th Century French Hermaphrodite
9. Breakfast in the Ruins by Michael Moorecock
10. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (audio)
11. Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien (audio—I’m including the three as one because they aren’t unabridged)
12. When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris (audio)
13. The Nonexistent Knight by Italo Calvino
14. The Cloven Viscount by Italo Calvino
15. If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino
16. PNIN by Vladimir Nabokov
17. Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut (you can read a really well put review of this here)
18. Die 13 1/2 Leben Kapitän Blaubär by Walter Moers (audio)
19. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
20. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
21. Issues 1-6 of The New Escapologist
22. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
23. A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
24. Mythmakers and Lawbreakers by Margaret Killjoy
25. Songs of the Doomed Gonzo Papers Volume 3: More Notes on the Death of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson
26. My Mother Wears Combat Boots by Jessica Mills
27. PM Press Outspoken Authors: Ursula LeGuin, The Wild Girls by Ursula LeGuin
28. Die Stadt der Träumender Bücher by Walter Moers (audio)
29. Eragon by Christopher Poalini (audio)
30. Dr. Bloodmoney by P.K. Dick
31. Coraline by Neil Gaimon
32. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov (audio)
33. The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick Volume 3: Second Variety by Philip K. Dick
34. Love and Garbage by Ivan Klima
35. Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas
36. The Life Within by Jean Hegland
37. The Forest People by Colin Turnbull
38. Museum of the Weird by Amelia Gray
39. I’m a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson
40. Pippi Langstrumpf by Astrid Lindgren
41. Native Son by Richard Wright
42. Schrecksenmeister by Walter Moers (audio)
43. Pippi Langstrumpf geht an Bord by Astrid Lindgren
44. The Essential Hip Mama: Writing From the Cutting Edge of Parenting edited by Ariel Gore
45. When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris (audio)
46. Second Nature by Michael Pollan
47. All Fires the Fire by Julio Cortazar
48. Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck
49. Wise Woman’s Herbal for the Childbearing Year by Susan Weed
50. His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood by Poppy Z. Brite
51. Rumo by Walter Moers (audio)
52. Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin
53. The Family Bed by Tine Thevenin
54. A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin
55. The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff
56. Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn
57. Das Labyrinth der Träumenden Bücher by Walter Moers
58. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
59. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
60. How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
61. Foxfire Volume 1
62. The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin
63. What to Expect When You’re Expecting
64. Ensel und Krete by Walter Moers (audio)

Photo (cc) flickr user Shawn Calhoun

If you want to link up to the year in books party, click the tool below to add your link or to view the links others have added. For some reason my wordpress version doesn’t let me display them within the post. The party will be open for new link addage from now until January 9th at noon (in Germany).



Wednesday December 28th 2011, 9:00 am 18 Comments
Filed under: books,conspiracies


mount peanut prepares for lift off

Week 31. In anywhere between five and 12(ish) weeks Peanut could make her landing. Five weeks! Though it’s not probable that she’ll come that early, the fact that she could is kind of blowing my mind. Looks like I finally got my wish. During the first three and a half miserable, puky months I kept wondering when it would ever end. And now SHEBAM, the end is in very clear sight. Of course once the puking stopped I was able to sit back and enjoy myself, to stop thinking about how fast or slow things were going. And once I stopped feeling so miserable time mocked me by speeding up exponentially.

Two weeks ago we went to our second to last doctor’s appointment for the last “big ultrasound” as it’s called on my Mutterpass (mother’s pass—the book in which German doctor’s write down all your pregnancy info). Peanut hates ultrasounds. Shortly after arriving, a nurse ushered us into an office and hooked me up to a fetal heart monitor, which involved getting my belly smeared with goo and having two elastic belts wrapped around the place where my waist used to be. Small plastic discs on the front of both belts are then supposed to measure and record the fetus’ heart beat. Supposed to. Peanut ran for cover every time the nurse repositioned the sensors, eventually resorting to punching and kicking the sensors directly. After about ten minutes the nurse eventually gave up. “She’s just too active,” she said with a shrug. There was a threat to try again after the appointment, but they never did bother.

During the rest of the appointment we got to watch Peanut on the big screen once again, and the doctor confirmed that everything was in order inside the mountain. Plenty of amniotic fluid, 42 inches in length, 1.4 kilos, active, and looking healthy. Now I’ll only need to go back for one final ultrasound around week 36, to confirm that Peanut has her landing gear on—i.e. that she’s positioned head down and ready to launch. If she hasn’t turned by then (at the time she was sitting butt down) I’ll have to give birth in the hospital. So my fingers and toes are crossed. “Turn turn turn,” the Beard told my stomach that night. Heh—probably the closest he’ll ever come to singing a Byrds song.

Physically things are just fine—as long as I don’t attempt to do too much. Walking is a bitch, sitting for a long time is a bitch, and even a task as piddly as putting away all the groceries leaves me with horrific back pain. I’ve managed to tame most of the heart burn by avoiding spicy foods, raw onions, and too much citrus or tomato. I feel the occasional Braxton Hicks contraction (these are what some folks call “practice contractions” and they are thought to help tone the uterus for the coming marathon). And I spend most of my time in bed reading, writing, and relaxing. Who are these women who feel so amazing and full of energy when they are pregnant? I haven’t had any of the “and I have so much energy!” stuff I’ve heard about. I’m more like, “and then I slept for 14 hours and now I’m going to go take a nap!” When I hear about women who run marathons in their third trimester I just shake my head and think, “aliens.” It really is amazing how different every pregnancy is.

Monday December 26th 2011, 9:00 am 5 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,gorilla parent (pregnancy)


any excuse for a glass of eggnog

Don’t worry, I don’t really hope that your house burns down. But this postcard always gives me a chuckle come the holiday season. Especially as wrapping paper holds a special, dark place in my heart, right next to straws, plastic bags, and all the other disposables with which industrial civilization seems intent on choking itself. Buying anything that is meant to be used once and thrown away is a bad idea in my book. Not only is it a waste of money and resources, it’s pretty senseless garbage manufacture. I can grudgingly accept that, say, hospitals use some disposbales in the name of hygiene and create trash (though I’d be willing to bet that they could do just as well with far less of them). I cannot accept how much trash our culture creates for the sake of a good looking box.

Not to say that I am against good looking boxes—I happen to like those very much. But with a world already so full of excess paper, why buy wrapping paper? Something like newspaper or paper bag paper will work just as well, though neither are very pretty. When I need to wrap something, I turn to old maps—crates of which I have heaved out of trashcans over the years and squirreled away for just this purpose. They are colorful and aestetically pleasing, they are non-denominational, and, hell, you could use them to drive to Dallas after you finish unwrapping.

Christmas time is one of those times that—if I were to simply avoid the city for all of December—might completely pass me by. It’s not that I don’t like Christmas traditions persay (though I don’t like all the over-consumption in the name of a religious fest I don’t even believe in), but that other holidays are simply more meaningful to me. Birthdays for example. I like to go crazy for birthdays. The fact that the Beard was born means a lot more to me than the fact that Jesus was born does, tell you what.

At the same time December is well-timed for winter festivities. Things have been dark and gray and rainy for a while, and everybody could use a little pine- and booze-infused cheer. I would love to start a tradition of celebrating the solstice, but I always seem to forget when that is too.

Despite all my Christmas misgivings, we celebrate in a fashion as well. In Germany, Christmas Eve (December 24th) is when the magic happens, when you start feasting, and when the Christkind brings presents for the kids. This is then followed by the first and second holiday days, as they are called, when you can go visit other branches of your family or friends for further feasting. Seems like a nice system for avoiding the holiday scheduling stress that many of my American friends seem to face this time of year.

On Christmas Eve on the Wagenplatz whoever happens to be boycotting (or living too far away to attend) their own family gatherings gets together in the house to cook a big meal together. One year we even had a Christmas tree, pillaged from the Christmas market as it was closing down, decorated with red and black beer cans. But usually we limit the festivities to the food. This year there’ll be three roasts (one seitan, one venison, one beef), knödel, mushroom gravy, rotkraut, and Brussels sprouts. As well as an apple pie and cookies, depending on how motivated I am to bake tomorrow morning.

After the meal we all lay around moaning, and then do an “ugliest present” secret Santa type game. It goes like this: everyone looks around his/her Wagen for something impossibly ugly or tacky (or something he/she just doesn’t want anymore), wraps it up and brings it along. There are rounds and there is dice rolling and present stealing and general hilarity. Many of the presents end up in the trash afterwards, but the presents aren’t really the point.

The whole event involves no pressure and no stress. If you want to come, you do, and if you don’t, you don’t. Everybody makes part of the meal, so no one person is stuck doing all the work. And no one buys any presents. It’s all of the good parts of Christmas (good people, good food, relaxation) with none of the bad (stress, pressure, empty wallets).

On Christmas day (December 25) the Beard and I will open the stuff in the stockings that my mom knitted for us. We don’t really bother with Christmas presents as we’re constantly giving each other little things, all year long, but unwrapping a few trinkets and sweets (as well as the presents from my mom—the only person I always exchange Chrsitmas gifts with) is a fun way to start anyday, and a pleasant nod to the American Christmas traditions I enjoyed as a child.

So I suspect this is the moment when I tell you all, merry christmas, happy hanukkah, happy solstice, happy December, and, if the Mayans were right (ha!) happy beginning of the end of the world. Are you doing anything to celebrate?

Friday December 23rd 2011, 4:17 pm 8 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies


what i love about winter

The moment that snow starts falling my head fills with cheesey songs about snow from lifetimes past. Christmas songs, songs I’ve sung in choirs—they all begin to play on repeat (or the tiny chunks of them I can still remember) on cue with a coating of white.

Snow and wet winters always propel my appreciation for warm, comfortable, water-proof winter shoes into over drive. What luxury! What comfort! If industrial civilization ever really does collapse, I’ll be the one looting at the shoe store. (Afterwards you’ll probably be able to find me at the seed store. And then maybe the outdoor supply store, if it hasn’t been picked clean by then.)

It feels like I take the same set of pictures every year after the first snow, but with so many Wägen are in new places and so many readers I thought, what the hell, I’ll post a few more.

The view from our bedside window:

I dug out my winter boots for the first time this season, and headed outside—this is the view from the door:

My Wagen:

Our neighbor across the way:

Our sleeping Wagen where I spend almost all of my time these days:

The ping pong table:

The compost heap:

Have you had any snow yet?

Wednesday December 21st 2011, 3:25 pm 12 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,daily life,wagenplatz


click clack gorilla on tiny house listings

Quotes from various tiny house dwellers about what tiny living changes about their lives, a few words of my own among them…

Living Blissfully in My Tiny Home

Monday December 19th 2011, 11:01 pm 6 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,tiny house livin'


the black diamond express train to heidelberg

The tea, the finger crossing, and all the hours in bed with a warm scarf did the trick: by Friday I could sing again. There was still some scratching and some coughing, but I could hold a tune. And a mild cold tends to give my voice a pleasant scratchy growl that lends itself to old timey country music. But remember how last week everything went wrong? How we had several near disasters with the van only to arrive at the show to find my voice completely gone? Yeah, that streak of luck was still following us.

We’d decided that if my voice wasn’t better by Thursday, we’d cancel the show. It got better, and we all breathed a sigh of relief. But ha! Ha hahahaha I say! Because Thursday we found out that a very important bit of the van had exploded, and who needs a voice if your van breaks the night before the concert and you can’t get to the venue?!

Frantic who-can-lend-us-a-car telephone calls began. Not that we could borrow just any car—we needed a car that could fit five people, seven instruments, and a stand up bass. We were offered a car that was too small and was available too late, and then a station wagon that sounded reasonable. Meanwhile, bad weather had been brewing and a level-four storm warning had been issued for the area where we were supposed to play. Driving into the eye of an apocalyptic storm sounded stupid but doable, until we found out that driving into a level-four-storm-warning area would invalidate the car’s insurance. Back at square one, I started to feel supersticious. If the universe wanted to stop us from playing that badly, shouldn’t we just cancel the show before the forces that thwart got desperate and turned to murder?

But ah! What about the train? As most of our (cough borrowed) amps were broken, we’d be playing an accoustic set anyway—thus significantly lessening the amount of crap we would need to bring with us. So we packed the instruments onto two wheeled carts and headed for the train station. (You know you’re not in America anymore when…) And besides it being a little irritating to navigate crowded platforms with a contra bass and a bike trailer full of instruments, it was amazing. AMAZING. So amazing that we’re talking about doing a weekend tour entirely by train next spring.

At the moment the Deutsche Bahn has a deal called the Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket (roughly translated: the straight across the country ticket). It costs 42 euros for one person, and six euros for each additional person traveling in your group. At 66 euros for five people there and 40 for a group weekend ticket to get us back, it was at least twice as expensive as the trip would have been by car, but holy shit. No stress. No need for pit stops. No chance of getting on the wrong highway. No fights about whose fault it is that we are on the wrong highway. No running out of gas or losing the oil tank cap. No throat-drying heating system or motor-so-loud-you-can’t-hear-the-stereo. Who needs a car? Not the Black Diamond Express Train to Hell!

A relaxing train ride turned into a relaxing evening. A local bus got us to one of Heidelberg’s few alternative venues, Cafe Gegendruck—a teeny tiny cozy living-room-esque space perfect for an accoustic show. The space was comfortable and welcoming, the audience was sweet and responsive and fun, and the shows=hell trauma of The Nikki Will Be Behind the Van Puking Morning Sickness tour we went on this summer has finally been erased. Three cheers for the kind Heidelbergians who invited us to play their space.

I didn’t get anyone to take pictures during the show, but if you want to see what band-travel by train looks like, there are a few pictures over at helltrain.info.

Sunday December 18th 2011, 6:03 pm 1 Comment
Filed under: black diamond express train to hell,conspiracies,germany,gorilla travel,music


let them eat cake

When I was in the eighth grade, our class was told that the time had come to choose a foreign language. Our high school offered German, French, and Spanish, so we would spend a third of that year studying each one. That way, our teachers explained, we could make an informed decision about which language we wanted to spend the next couple of years studying in more depth. At the end of the year I decided for German.

There were a lot of reasons involved in my decision, but the most convincing was the one reason no one ever believed when I explained it to them: for me, German had been the easiest. Sure, Spanish had a reputation for being the easiest (for English native speakers anyway) and French had a reputation for being the prettiest. But there was something very logical about the way the German language worked that appealed to me, that made it click in my brain in a way that Spanish and French did not. It didn’t hurt that I liked the German teacher the best of the three either.

Of course, more detailed study of the German language eventually revealed a number of complexities and irritants (helloooo adjective endings) that would make it seem anything but easy. But to this day I am still struck by the simplicity of the logic behind many German words, particularly the compounds that I have previously described as being a lot like playing with Legos. For those of you who aren’t familiar with German grammar stylings I will sum it up for you: you can invent a new word by pasting two words together, and many standard words are compounds whose definitions a little bit of creative luck can reveal without cracking a dictionary. I loved it then, and even now I often find myself getting excited over the new compound words I meet on German pages. Brilliant! I grin to myself. It just makes so. much. sense!

Most German compounds are completely self explanatory. German’s notorious longest word—Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitin—means just what its components mean when translated directly (a Donau steam boat captain), and this is how the majority of compounds work. But there are others, many of which I have already described, whose combination reveals something more subtle and interesting, a perspective from which (I assume) someone must have seen the world when the word first came into use.

Which brings me to my new favorite word. Being prego, I’ve been learning new vocabulary left and right. Pregnancy just isn’t a topic that gets covered in a standard German class, useful though being able to talk about it might prove to be for many. Like any new specialty subject I have suddenly found myself needing to talk about, I’ve had to start from scratch with vocabulary. At the beginning I stutter a lot, my lack of knowledge leaving big holes in conversations where those words should be. At the beginning, a lot of conversations end with the words, “Oh never mind.” But then, bit by bit I look up the words that I find myself needing the most—a quick dictionary flip before a doctor’s appointment or a chat with my midwife—and things start getting easier.

During my pregnancy-related vocab-cramming, I came across a compound that sounded kind of funny. Mutterkuchen. (Literally, mother cake.) What could that be? It sounded like the fluffiest, most delicious cake your mother ever baked. I tried to guess at the meaning, though now I can no longer remember if I got it right. (If you want to take a guess yourself, do it before continuing to the next paragraph.)

When I finally looked it up and found out Mutterkuchen means “placenta” I laughed out loud—of course “mother’s cake” would refer to the part of a women’s body that feeds a baby while in utero. This is the part of German that I love, that still can make me grin and get me excited about grammar and language in general. Mutterkuchen instantly became my favorite German word, an honor previously held by the words Schnürsenkel (shoe lace) and Schmetterling (butterfly). Do you have a favorite word, whatever the language?

This post was originally published on Young Germany.

Friday December 16th 2011, 10:30 am 9 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,expat life,germany,words, writing


we have a sauna wagen !!!

Since moving our trailers, I haven’t been able to build a new wood shed (slash baby carriage port slash kid-carrying bike trailer garage), and the Beard didn’t want to have to move all the firewood again this season anyway. So instead we keep a box of wood in the trailer, one outside of it, and the remainder waits in Frankenshed to be carried over to our new spots as we need it.

This means that every couple of days I walk past our former living space to get a handful of wood from the shed, now occupied by an enormous circus Wagen and our group’s itty bitty Aktionswagen (basically a Wagen we have around to use for events). No one wanted to take the spots that the Beard and I previously occupied for the same reason that we wanted to leave them: it’s a beautiful bit of green, but it’s the loudest bit too. Now the circus Wagen serves as a sound barrier where I once stood (it’s under construction and currently uninhabited) and the Aktionswagen has been turned into a makeshift, sort-of-ghetto-but-totally-awesome sauna and put in the Beard’s old spot. Check it out:

Wednesday December 14th 2011, 4:07 pm 8 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,tiny house livin',wagenplatz


oh unromantic winter

December has been unseasonably, almost disturbingly mild this year. There have been a handful of cold days and colder nights (as well as a day of hail), but for the most part it’s been days of gray and nights of light frost. I haven’t even started wearing a second layer of pants. Yet this winter feels harder than any other Bauwagen winter that’s come before it.

I don’t miss dial heat. When I sleep in apartments and houses, I am struck by how dry the air is and tend to wake with cotton throat and mouth. I like chopping wood, starting fires, and listening to the crackling of the wood stove. It can be inconvenient—say, when you want to be gone for more than three or four hours but come back to a warm abode or get home late and would much rather fall into bed then spend an hour getting the fire roaring—but there is something comforting and beautiful about the whole process that makes the pros worth all the cons I could come up with.

But I should amend the first sentence of that last paragraph—I don’t miss dial heat until I am sick, especially if I am sick when the Beard is away or has to work a lot. Then I sometimes think, Well wouldn’t it be nice to just lay in a consistently warm room that remains consistently warm without any effort from me?! Especially now that pregnancy has temporarily rendered me pretty useless, physically. (All women who go through this alone get superhero status in my eyes. Especially those who live in any way off-grid.)

This morning I was feeling a little resentful toward the wood stove as I was stuffing it with newspaper and kindling. When I’m sick I want nothing more than to lay in bed all day being brought tea and snacks. I don’t want to have to put on a jacket and go outside, let alone carry or chop firewood. But this morning I stopped myself mid-grumble and examined my logic. There is no reason why heating my home should involve zero effort. The dial heating involves effort too, but from a lot of people that I simply never have to see at work. And there is no reason to think that somehow carrying some wood, chopping some wood, and leaving the windows open for twenty minutes while I get things started (our wood stove tends to smoke a bit while you’re getting it lit) is going to make me sicker. Sure, it’s incredibly unpleasant when I’ve got an achy sickness or can’t do much besides lay in bed and moan, but still. It’s not going to kill me, so I might as well stop feeling resentful about it. As soon as I thought it I felt a lot more cheerful about lighting the morning’s fire.

Meanwhile, I’m sure things will stop feeling so hard once I’m healthy again. (And being done with pregnancy and recovered from the birth is going to help a lot too, but by then spring will be starting to poke a toe through the door.) My lack of energy and a wood pile that, in my estimation, is dwindling far too quickly have kept me out of trash house (aka the kitchen Wagen aka my Wagen, crap I need to pick a name for it and stick with it) for the last couple of weeks. The thought of having to light and tend two wood stoves has been too overwhelming. And what if we run out of wood!?!!! (You can never have too much fire wood or dried food, I say. But I am a hoarder like that. If we run out of wood we’ll just buy some off of a Platz-mate with fire wood to spare. Yet for some reason, I still feel worried when I look in the wood shed.) I miss spending time in my own little space, but I suppose avoiding it isn’t so bad either: after all, all that’s waiting for me in there right now are unwashed dishes and baby-paraphernalia chaos.

And there you have it. In hopes of providing a balanced picture of the ups and downs of living in a tiny dwelling in an intentional community, a not-so-romantic perspective on winter-time life.

Tuesday December 13th 2011, 5:00 pm 7 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,daily life,wagenplatz


god chases band across southern germany with bag of lightening bolts

We named our band after a sermon by Rev AW Nix. “Black Diamond Express Train to Hell,” the sermon is called, and it is a deeply growling, hypnotically rhythmic condemnation of all the sinners that the devil is going to be picking up in his hell-bound train. We enjoy a bit of blasphemy. I believe that everybody should revel in the beliefs that work for him/her, assuming that those beliefs don’t involve infringing on the freedoms of others, but I love me a good parody and organized religion and Christianity (being the religion I know the most about) tend to be rather easy targets. Particularly because they often have and do infringe on the freedoms of those with other beliefs. Just a note to any Christian readers to please not be offended by my love of blasphemy. There are plenty of positive things about Christianity, and quiet beautiful ways to interpret it and live it, and those are not what I am parodying or talking about when I start getting down on religion. All that to explain that when bad things happen to our band, we like to joke that god is after us. If the devil is on our side, then who else could it be?

Friday afternoon we had the van packed up early, and by 4:15 we were on our way to St. Ingbert for the evening’s show. Miraculously running right on schedule, maybe even running a little early. A couple blocks in, B remembered that he’d wanted to check the oil before the drive, so we pulled over. And discovered that the cap to the oil tank was long gone, the entire front of the car was splashed with oil, and that the tank was just about to reach self-destruction levels of empty. We hurried back home, found another oil tank cap that fit, wiped off the spilled oil, filled up the tank, and were on our way. Disaster avoided. Or so we thought.

The drive south was fairly uneventful. I surprised everyone—particularly myself—by being the only one who didn’t have to request any pit stops. We took the wrong highway and made our drive a bit longer than it needed to be (we’re really good at that). Somebody won a stuffed polar bear in one of those metal claw games at a gas station. I actually forked over 70 cents to use a toilet. And just before we reached the JUZ where we’d be playing someone noticed that we were really low on gas. Granted, from where I was sitting it looked like the tank was just under a quarter full, and I have only ever driven cars that could go for mind-boggling distances even after the reserve light went on. But apparently this particular vehicle is on reserve even before it hits the warning-inconvenience-imminent red bar. So we pulled over and called the show organizers to see if somebody couldn’t bring us some diesel. They could and they would, they said, so all the smokers piled out of the van to light cigarettes for the wait. I rolled down the window to say something to somebody, and that’s when it became painfully clear that I had completely lost my voice during the two-hour drive. And in case you haven’t been keeping up, I’m the singer.

My theory is that the air in the van was really dry. All of the heating vents are in the front, where I was sitting, so we had the heat on full-blast in an attempt to make the back of the bus—where the remaing three Black Diamonds were sitting—less freezing cold. But it was like that deciding stake through the vampire’s heart. We’d barely managed to avert two disasters and then all of a sudden the singer is struck dumb by a heating system. God had us. There would be no songs criticizing religion in Ghana or encouraging revolution that night.

Gas delivered and at the venue, I made tea. After a few cups, I tried to sing a few songs (hey, you never know). But I couldn’t even sing “high” enough (in quotes as in, we don’t even have songs in a high register because I’m an alto, as in, calling any of our songs high is laughable) to sing our lowest songs. I couldn’t even really hold a tune. All I could do was alternate between a croak and a squeak. I breifly considered going on as Nikki Waits, but decided I couldn’t even pull that off. So we quickly threw together a set list of songs that other band members could sing, practiced for a second, and managed to pull off a short but still somehow satisfying set. I played washboard and spoons and reveled at how relaxing it can be to just play an instrument in a band and not be the one in the front that everyone is expecting to tell witty stories between songs, even when I’m feeling tired and not-at-all-witty. So at least there was some sort of silver lining.

Now here I am praying—though of course praying is really the wrong word considering my own religious beliefs and the aforementioned love of blasphemy—that I have my pipes back by Friday. We canceled Saturday’s show in Bingen, but if we are forced to cancel the show in Heidelberg Friday, then damn it, I may never going to get the chance to rock shit while pregnant and knock over the microphone with my belly and have a legitimate reason to sit for the entire set. Cross your fingers, pray, do a throat dance! Four more days and three days behind me with no improvements. Time for an even more serious enforced relaxation and tea drinking regiment.

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Monday December 12th 2011, 11:40 pm 8 Comments
Filed under: black diamond express train to hell,conspiracies,gorilla travel,music