November 23, 2004
Ooops, He Did It Again!

I have no moral delimma over hitch-hiking at night or in the rain. I do it with joy in my heart ...

And so I did it again, this time hitching from Bavaria to Hamburg (another good 800 kilometers, or so). And it was raining (cold November rain, ha, ha, HA!) and it was pitch-black night as before. Only it was a little bit more dark and a litle bit more cold, and guess what - I was even MORE SURE that it would work, even more than last time. 'Cuz last time (from Berlin to Bonn) it went very smoothe, but I still had that tiny hint of a feeling of doubt. This time I was completely sure and sturdy that this (longer) journey would be successful. I embraced the mad logic of an all-night trip. So here's the shortened version of how I jumped into the river once more, and of the strange night-owls and characters that I met along the way:

(Pre-amble: Hitch-hiking is PUNK.)

Now then, the first guy to gimme a lift was a lad named Benny, who spoke no english, only german, and was really so in tune and a smart and interesting fellah, and so I had to just speak german with him! He gave me a MP3 with a couple hundred songs from this german hip-hop band named Blumentopf. Pretty neato. Gonna listen to it profusely, on me next journey. Benny said a very calico thing that I really dug, something like, "I believe that when you put out good vibes, they always come back to you!" And that's how I feel, too, dear Benny boy, and I'm glad that there are some of out there who think differently and create our own universe, so to speak. Thank you!!! Of course, there are others who create bad vibes, too, we agreed, and these folks are to be avoided. He drove me for a good hour-plus, and then we were looking for a good place to drop me off, but no gas stations came, and we ended up driving much beyond his destination of Nurnberg, and I am once again grateful for this, 'cuz it got me to exactly where I needed to be. It made him a li'l bit late, with his girlie friend calling, going,"What the hell are you doing in Bamberg?" Heh, heh. He answered something about an American on a journey ...

He finally dropped me off in the howling wind, and now it was around 9 pm, I think. Dark sky, no chance to be picked up, right? Wrong! I only stood under those neon blue lights at the gas station for about 20 minutes, humming, "I am warm, I am sooo WARM!" and believing it! Then I was hit by a flash of inspiration, seeing a big 18 wheeler with Austrian plates. Knowing that in Austria those bigg trucks are forbidden to drive at night, I figured (correctly) that he would be driving deeper into Germany. I knocked on his window and greeted a bear of a man, an Austrian with a big heart, and on his truck it said, "One Man, One Truck." Wow, I thought, this is awesome. Can I ride witchya? asked I. Sure, hop in! He said ... I truly feel that I've made a friend for life with this guy. His name shall remain secret, because I am greedy only with the best stuff. Heh! He told me an incredible tale about a guy from Canada he met years ago, who became one of his best friends. That guy was hitch-hiking, too, and spoke not a lick of german, but the two had a wonderful time and communicated just fine. (My man's english isn't that stellar either, to say the least.) The Canadian ended up driving with him all the way to Tunisia! Wow! And now Mr. Austria travels over to Canada once a year to visit, and he brings a rucksack full o' Austria's best wine with him. And that's some good-ass wine, I tell ya! Good stuff ...

So we drove and drove into the night, chatting all the while, and eventually he dropped me off at this all-night gas station, and we got a couple of the best wursts you ever had, and ithen he drove off into the night again. It was about midnight, and now I was in or around the town of Kassel. And a very cool part of the evening was about to transpire ...

Here I met one of those interesting peoples who are a bit shy but know many things, and are even perhaps too smart for this world. They usually hang out or work at all-night bistros and gas stations, I've noticed. This guy was cool, and we started talking about Pink Floyd. Then the discussion mutated into whether or not heavy metal is dead or not (as per usual when you've not enough sleep, as was the case, or extremely wasted). He was smart, and we were in total accord. (Except for a brief disagreement regarding Metallica ...) I sat there and talked with him for three hours, and I never had the feeling that I had to jump back out in the rain or anything like that, I always knew that this is EXACTLY where I needed to be, and that the right ride would come along at the right moment. Really had not a worry in the world at that moment. We chatted on and on about bands. He said that he liked me because I spoke to him as an equal, and many people looked down upon him just because he worked at a gas station. I said that it was quite clear to me that he was smarter than the average bear, and probably that included his customers, as well. Danke, he said, politely. Then we got back into it, throwing around names like:

Iron Maiden (of course). Heavy Metal band #1 - probably forever!

But that wasn't all, also Deep Purple, Judas Priest (probably the coolest band name in rock and roll), Dio, Queensryche, Marilyn Manson, HIM, Van Halen (yeah, we were talkin' some old school stuff), Ozzie (of course), New Metal Army, Metal Church, Whitesnake, somewhere in there I threw in The Inchtabokatables, just to see what he's say. He raised his eyebrows, suprised that I'd known such a thing, and he said, "Yeah, all those other german bands were basically trying to copy them ..." I thought that was incredibly cool, a very nice compliment to that band. He said he hated The Scorpions, too, and then I knew he was the real thing. This went on and on until 3 in the mourn, and it was quite unusual and exciting. The highlight of the trip, I'd have to say. It's amazing where the mind can wander when you're inspired about music and it's 3 in the morning. Then I saw a yellow van pull up, and a strange guy got out, and I just said, "Well, there he is - that's the guy - there's my ride." And my hunch was right-on, and the guy agreed to drive me another 200 kilometers or so, to Hannover. And I could tell that the Heavy Metal Kid would miss my company, and as I was walking out the door with the guy (who turned out to be Russian) he said swiftly, "Hey - I hope you come back some time, man!"
I'll try ...

Then I hopped into the golden van, and this guy said that he was driving it straight to Russia. Ooow. Well, I didn't wanna go to Russia, I explained, but Hannover would be just fine. He smiled a big grin, as if to say, "Why not?" but we carried on in an interesting speak-code creole mix of Russian, German, and English. Verrrry interesting! I felt this sort of subconscious realization that I've tapped into a flow of humanity, the real flow, where everyone trusts each other. Maybe it's the Soul of the World, or something, a place in our intuitive minds. A stream of consciousness connecting all humanity. This shit is real, folks! Actually, it was perhaps the best part of the trip, but I slept alot for the next couple of hours, because the conversation took a slumber. I had the feeling that he was protecting me somehow, strong and silent, and that if we really needed to say something to each other, we would understand. But it was nice to doze off as the sun tried to peak it's way up into the sky, and he drove and smoke and whistled. Just for a moment I had a fleeting daydream about joining him all the way to Russia, but I just thought, "Um, no ... not yet." Around 4:30 or so, he dropped me off at another night-owl hang-out, a gas station somewhere near Hannover. "That's my new lucky town!" I thought. (See previous blog.)


For the final leg of this journey, I was shuttled to Bremen by a guy who was young and wild, and reminded me of a young Robert DeNiro. Man, this guy was sharp! Jet black hair and a black leather jacket. I bet the girls just cream over this guy. He was intense, full of passionate energy. His uncle, or something, was driving the car behind him, and asked me if I was riding to Bremen, a bit skeptical. "Hmmpf," he said. Those guys were Muslims, and he told me alot of things about his world, and Turkey - the land from which he came. I shan't repeat all the things that he said here ... except that if a jihad takes off, it's a-gonna be ugly. Time to tune in to a different radio, people! He also said that Bin Laden is a charlatan, that he doesn't have the religious authority to unleash a jihad, and he said many other interesting and dangerous things. He knew many facts about America, more than most, and even confessed that he was involved in a group that was shadowed by the German police. Heavy duty. He said he's never ever once picked up someone hitch-hiking before. I asked him why he picked me up. He said that he liked my face, it seemed honest. I could hear his mind ticking that just maybe there were other Americans out there like me. (Not supremely rich and stupid, I guess.) I challenged his picture of what "we" are. "Don't believe everything you see on TV," I said to him, and he reminded me to do the same. Riding in that car was like going to school, a crash course in culture for a few hours.

At around 6:15 am we arrived at the Bremen Hauptbahnhof, and I thanked him immensely, and hoped that he didn't think that I was some sort of American spy. Heh! "I just do anything and everything for the music, night and day ..." I said. He nodded, and I believe he understood.

I dozed in and out for a couple of hours at the train station, then phoned up a friend of mine in Bremen, who shall be known here as "Die Hexe." She's a painter and a soulster, and a beautiful person. After such an amazing journey, meeting all kinds of new fangled "under-the-radar" people, it was nice to sit in her kitchen and talk about Art, with the worries of the world so far away, out there somewhere. A few hours later, I was picked up by another girlie-friend, and whisked away (not a sexual term) to Hamburg, this time by train. The journey was complete, and it was successful, just as I'd known it would be. That human flow is there, if we see it. It's real. I'm a freak, but a proud one ... evry person is a universe, and let's reach out, 'cuz otherwise, the party's over, ya know?! "Follow the magic in your heart," someone said to me. Let's do!

Written for all those who have a sliver of doubt ... but still believe.
Peace! -Todd

Posted by calico at 05:55 AM
November 15, 2004
From Berlin To Bonn

Heard this old song by Freddie Mercury on the radio, "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," said to take a long ride on a motor-bike, and hitch-hike, so I did ...

Yeah, 4 am in Berlin, waitin' for the morning train to go to Ani's show. All true. Impatient. Bad time to hitch-hike 'cuz it's, um, 4 in the mourn and it's raining.

So I go, "Yeah, it's the perfect time to hitch-hike!" Walk around the corner to the all-night gas station, and I had this premonition the whole time (really true) that I gotta say I'm going to Hannover (next big city over) because to say that I'm going to Bonn/Cologne is too far (to imagine) and anyway it's, um, 4 in the morning and it's RAINING!

So I walk around the corner and see this guy smoking a ciggie in a taxi, with - you guessed it - Hannover plates! Well, there he is, thought I ... Perfect timing. And I walked up and asked if it was possible that he had just driven from Hannover to Berlin and now he had to drive back to Hannover (I was right) and if I could perhaps join him. And then came this amazing moment, this decade-long pause in which he stared me up and down, had he been a scanner in fact I would be his scanned material, I felt like a very official document at that moment. But then his face broke into a smile and he said, "OK - hope in!" And the next 3 hours were nothing but pure magic as we traded stories and smoked ciggies together (sorry mom) and he drove and I sang. "I am from Persia," he said in rough German, but with a smile. An hour later, after we had really, truly officially become friends, he told me the actual name of his homeland:

Iran.

Wow. Here we are, I thought, cruising along in this taxi that normally would've cost at least 300 bucks, money matters not, and he's thrilled to death to meet an American who isn't a complete idiot, and I am just tickled pink to have a ride to Hannover, just as I imagined it, and be with a fellow who is so smart (and a very good driver, too!) on the Autobahn where you can drive as fast as you want, even when it's 5:30 in the morning and it's raining!

And we listened to Ottmar Liebert play the classical guitar on a brand-new German stereo system, all the while talking about Iran and America. Very Calico! And he uttered/muttered that the boys back home (in my country) don't really understand what they've done, 'cuz the Arabian lands, he said, will not forget this, um, conflict that we've started for the next 200 years ... Ugh.

So I've absolutely NO COMMENT to that one, friends, except that maybe we should take a few moments and think about it all ...

And he was honestly one of the nicest, purest, mo' smartist guys I've ever met. Later he played me some new-fangled Iranian rock music that sounded really good. I asked him what the text was, and he translated it, basically as, "When you see a bird that has broken free from it's cage, think of me ..."

And it's all true, this story, and I say again that the universe is quite amazing, that an American and a Persian can sit quietly together for hours on end and cover everything under the sun, and hang out, despite ALL ODDS being against it. And at exactly 7 am he dropped me off at another gas station in Hannover, and in 4 hours I was in Bonn ...

He only said one word in english the whole time, and it was, "Unforgettable." Yeahhh ...
True stories from the road.

Peace. -Todd

Posted by calico at 01:35 AM
November 04, 2004
In Berlin

I fly in on cloud 9 ...

So glad to be back in Europe! There's news of some far-off election in some fairy tale land, as I skim through Tegel Airport. Languages from across Europe greet and confront me, and I embrace the culture clash. Jetlag. OK, gotta deal with that, but I can. Nothing new ...

We meet on Potsdamer Platz. Only a few years ago this place was nothing. (Has anyone seen that Wim Wenders movie?) Before that it was the "No-Man's Land." Now it'sd a village of swanky hotels and yuppi-fied restaurants. I'm torn, but I can hang with it. The hotel is shiny and fancy. Good martinis, too.

She's on the radio. They broadcast jazz from one of those swanky hotels (The Marriot) and I bleed into the crowd of jobby-job people in the lobby. They've all come hear to hear Jazz! At some point a guy who calls himself Bin Laden or something comes on CNN and makes some veiled threats about bombs and voting, or something. No-one really gives a shit.

She is behind her microphone in a glass booth, but waves me in. I get an extended hug, and the secret message is, "I've missed you." On her breaks, she joins us in the lobby for beer and martinis. Periodically she runs back in to use that sexy voice on the radio. She's back behind that glass, wondering to herself if she's gonna fuck me tonight. She will decide later ...

After the show, 'round 2 am, the real show starts begins. We hop a night-bus into the gloom of night, but it's the wrong one. We hop off, and then begins an interesting series of events with me riding her on the back of her bike (both pretty tipsy already) through the streets. When we've had enough of this, we spot a pub and slip in for a drink. One turns to three and suddenly it's 5 am!

We pay, and the bill is conspicuously less than it should be. The guy behind the bar likes us, and we don't know why. She puts her head on my shoulder and says, "I trust you ..."

Wow!

I stumble home after 6 am in the pouring rain, feeling groovy - sun coming up, mumbling something like,

"I love this town!"

Greetings from Berlin ...
-Todd

Posted by calico at 04:37 AM