A Precocious Neophyte
Eyed Ears: Tales from my 24 days in Berlin
- I guess I should start by explaining the title. Most Germans speak English pretty well, which was very helpful for me because I went in not knowing any German, but because it’s not their first language, they understandably pronounce some things differently. I’m not trying to make fun of anyone, but some of the pronunciations were pretty funny. Some examples: Ideas -> Eyed Ears, Because -> Be Coors, Swamp -> Swamp but pronounced with a long a like how Slim Thug says wamp in “Wamp Wamp (What It Do)”.
- Somewhat relating to that, it was weird to be looked at as a foreigner and someone who couldn’t speak or understand the primary language. People were usually chill about it, though. Coming back to the U.S. I’ll be way more considerate to foreigners and people who don’t speak English that well because of my experience.
- Berlin is beautiful and gritty and modern and traditional all at the same damn time and I loved it. Probably the best city for a person in their twenties to be in, for a variety of reasons.
- Best of the touristy spots: Pergamon museum (so many cool artifacts), Reichstag (view from the dome is the best you’ll get of the city, pain in the ass to get in there though), Potsdam (beautiful as fuck), Tiergarten (also beautiful as fuck), Charlottenburg Palace (ALSO beautiful as fuck), East Side Gallery (nothing beats art on the Berlin Wall), Sachsenhausen concentration camp
- Going to a concentration camp and just seeing shit in person is a crazy experience. Obviously there’s all the doubt of humanity that arises, the “how could people do this to other people?” thoughts. And everything is so morbid, knowing that so many people were tortured and murdered right where you’re standing. Seeing the barracks, the execution trench, the crematorium, the autopsy tables, the torture devices, all that shit was just disturbing like nothing else I’ve ever experienced in person. It was unbelievably fucked up. But then I also saw the stories of the resiliency of some of the prisoners, and the people who tried to help them, and the soldiers who freed them, and I got a little bit of that faith in humanity back.
- Okay so back to some lighter topics. Kiosks are the best thing ever. They’re basically convenience stores with a ton of cheap booze, and you can just buy cheap beers there whenever. And with no open container laws, you could just walk around and drink and just hit up another kiosk when you needed another beer (although doing this during the day like we did was kinda frowned upon and made it obvious that we were foreigners). It was great. We got so drunk.
- German beer is sooooooo good. Even the bad German beers are much better than almost every American beer (except Sternburg Export, but shits were like 60 cents and weren’t piss so it still wasn’t a bad deal). Also, there are no light beers in Germany, which in addition to being manly as fuck, means you get drunk faster because everything is heavy and tastes good.
- Liter mugs of beer make my heart flutter. LOVE just holding a giant mug of heavy German beer. I’m gonna miss that a lot.
- German wine wasn’t up to the high beer standard. Way too sweet.
- Hard alcohol selection was pretty good. Jaegermeister was wildly popular, obviously.
- Onto food. German food is great, and mostly really cheap. Currywurst and bratwurst were always good choices. Most meals were just meat and potatoes, with the occasional salad thrown in. I fucked with it.
- The real star food: doner kebabs. Of Turkish origin, they’re comprised of chicken shavings from this giant vertical chicken mound, salad components, a variety of sauces, onions, and a triangular crispy bread. Some places also included feta, which was a game changer. But holy shit these were always amazing. You could get a good doner anywhere, anytime, which was huge on our crazy weekends. By far the best doner, though, was found at Mustafa’s, a little shanty food hut in Mehringdamm. The first time we were over there, we saw a gigantic line and figured it must be good, so we hopped on. An hour and ten minutes later, we discovered that it was worth it and much more. I can’t even describe it. It was the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life. Perfect. All the flavors, the sauces, the textures, it just all worked perfectly. We went back two more times after that even though it was out of the way of anything else. It was that good. If you’re ever anywhere near Mustafa’s you have to go there.
- Pretty solid Italian food in Berlin as well. I had some really good pizza and pasta dishes. There’s a lot of Thai food too but I wasn’t as fond of it.
- Our hotel was on Oranienburgerstrasse in East Berlin, which we quickly found out is the red light district of Berlin when we saw a shit ton of prostitutes lining the street all night. It was great. They were always really aggressive in trying to solicit people, even walking in front of us sometimes and blocking our path. Also they could easily tell we were Americans and always spoke to us in English. They were all really hot though. Like REALLY hot. Long legs, nice ass, huge boobs. Just gorgeous. I was slightly tempted. They got a ton of business too.
- People also prevalent on our street: drug dealers! We had a little more interaction with them, to mixed results. Some of the dudes got good molly, some got bad molly, some got stuff that wasn’t molly at all.
- But another one of the dudes and I scored some weed, with a great story. So we decided one night that we could get some from this dealer on our street, but first we hit the local kiosk to score a lighter and some papers. While we’re in there, a dude from the hostel around the corner asks us if we had any weed. We said no, but we were getting some, and so we had him come with us, and we all chipped in on a gram (which turned out to be close to two). So we go back to my room and he rolls up two spectacular Js and we get to know each other. His name was Chase, a 19 year old dude from Colorado who was taking a break from college to travel Europe by himself for like a month or two. We went to the park near the hotel and smoked on a bench and drank Berliner pilsners and it was super chill. One of the more memorable nights I had in Berlin. That was the only time we got weed, but it was probably for the best considering how drunk we were getting every night.
- All the bars we went to were pretty cool, but there’s one bar night that was really memorable. First we went to the absinthe bar, a place we frequented multiple times, and I got a shot of 90% alcohol by volume absinthe and another of 80% alcohol by volume absinthe. Turns out that absinthe is delicious. But then me and two of the dudes were fiending to watch game one of the NBA Finals, and we found one bar that was showing it. It turned out to be this shanty-ass bar in relatively the middle of nowhere, with this one creepy bartender, three degenerates, and three American girls (one was from Idaho, two were Asian, one lived in Berlin with her fiancee) who were nice but not hot and left fairly early on anyway. One of the degenerates was wearing this fucking dope Randall Cunningham jacket straight out of 1988 that I wanted to steal. Another degenerate (or maybe it was the same one) chatted up my friend who’s a Bears fan about how Jim McMahon is his hero and how Tom Brady and Peyton Manning both suck. Between all the absinthe, random kiosk beers, and beers at the bar, I ended up getting too drunk to watch the whole game and ended up somehow getting home by myself at like 5 AM. Good shit.
- Because Berlin is kinda far up north, the sun is out longer in the summer there, which makes for some weird things like it not getting dark out til 10 PM and stepping out of the club at 4:45 AM into daylight. That took some getting used to.
- The club scene was really really great, and that’s coming from a dude who for the most part hates clubs. They were just way cooler and grittier and darker than anything I’d ever seen. Warschauer was the dope club area. Onto the club by club breakdown.
- Matrix: the first spot we hit, first weekend in Berlin. By far the most Americanized club we went to, it was all American music for the most part. Only one giant dance floor, with a stage level and a weird pole/cage thing. I made out with this one chick there who was aggressively getting to me, which probably wasn’t a great move because she was at least like 25 and was only decent looking but fuck it I was drunk in Berlin. Making out with someone without ever talking to them is weird. We didn’t even try to say anything to each other, probably because I’m always too shy to say anything to anyone and she probably figured I didn’t speak any German. I then made it my goal to make out with someone hotter than her in Berlin but SPOILER ALERT that didn’t happen. Highlight of the night was the DJ seamlessly transitioning from “Goodies” by Ciara into “This Is How We Do It” by Montell Jordan at like 4:30 in the morning. Too good.
- This random ass tiny salsa place that I don’t know the name to. Would’ve been cool if I knew how to salsa/had a cool girl with me. Whatever. We dipped outta there quick.
- Cassiopeia: first weekend, really cool spot, multiple dance floors, American/house/techno/hip-hop. No one would dance with us though, which turned into a trend for the rest of our club nights.
- Soda: second weekend. Five dance floors on two levels. The one playing late 90s/early 2000s hip-hop jams was easily my favorite. There was this one girl who was groovin all sexy and had hipster glasses and her hair up and was tall and long but she kept with her girlfriends and I could never build up the courage to talk to her before she left. Ended up last ditch trying to talk to a different girl and getting immediately rejected, and then I left. Me and the dudes had fun there though.
- Tresor: third weekend. Holy fucking tits this was the greatest/grittiest/coolest place I’ve been to. There was one dance floor on the second floor that was kinda upbeat, but the real spot was the dance floor downstairs through the long tunnel, which left you in this grimy dark cement basement with DEEP house bumping through your soul and the occasional strobe light to brighten things up. I loved this place so much. After a few hours of raging I finally braved up and tried to talk to this really hot girl who was wearing all black and looked kinda like Silver from the new 90210 (which I only ever watched because of Shenae Grimes. I see you judging hard, don’t do that shit). She gave me a radiant smile and really tried to understand me, but unfortunately it was too loud and the language barrier was too strong and so after like two incredibly awkward minutes of trying to even begin interacting we just laughed and I hustled out of there. I think she might’ve said her name was Megan.
- Magdalena: kinda dope spot. Two separate dancefloors and an outdoor deck right on the river. We met this dude who was studying in Berlin and dammit I forgot his name (Dan?) and where he was from but we talked with him for like an hour about the differences between Europe and America and he said that Americans are way more sensitive to cursing and a lot more interesting stuff that I don’t remember because I was drunk. Anyway that was a cool night too.
- This one night I was fucked up on a little bit more than booze because when you’re offered a free line you don’t turn it down, and I was at a bar on the same street as my hotel. At like 3:30 in the morning I wanted to sleep but it was downpouring so I just hustled back to the hotel, and I swear that was the fastest I’ve ever ran in my life. And running that fast in a downpour with the street empty besides the prostitutes standing under umbrellas watching me was insane. That was some movie shit.
- They don’t use ice in Berlin, and only beer and sometimes soda come cold. Everything else is fucking lukewarm, which was gross. Just one more reason I was always drinking.
- Operas are especially boring when they’re in German and you don’t know any German. That was a struggle.
- Refreshments at the operahouse: beer, wine, martinis, shots, pretzels. So classy.
- Being drunk with my professor multiple times was pretty fun. I kept my behavior together for the most part, but getting up to piss 5 times in like 20 minutes when I was sitting right next to him probably didn’t look great.
- The dogs are so well-behaved, it was startling. And they don’t even have leash laws, so dogs would just be super chill and obedient without a leash and it was crazy. My dog would’ve just ran away.
- Oh yeah the Berlin Zoo! I fucks with zoos heavy, and this zoo was amazing. SOOOOO many cool animals to chill with. I saw two hippos just hangin out by this mallard duck and was like woah this is the best thing ever.
- Grillrunners are these portable bratwurst things that a dude can just wear. Like nothing’s on the ground, it’s just like a power pack and a grill and an umbrella all in one wearable contraption. Good cheap street brats too.
- American restaurants in Berlin: McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Dunkin Donuts. Only had McDonalds, and only once. It was the same. DDs is apparently way more expensive there.
- At this one bar called Hannibal they had 3-liter beer things that were great.
- At this other bar they had taps built into the table, which is absolute genius. It kept track of how many liters of beer we drank as a table over the night. This group of seven British dudes drank like 40 liters combined. Fucking tanks. They were cool too.
- I guess I should talk about the class, which was only the whole reason I was in Berlin in the first place. It was probably the best class I’ve taken in college. I learned a ton about economics and practical stuff and how the global financial markets work. The guest speakers we had were all really interesting and informative.The class was so small and we were all so tight with wach other because we were all thrown into this foreign country so the discussions were all great and natural. I can’t speak for all the summer abroad classes, but this one was a really great experience.
- Oh, Berghain! Berghain is this legendary club that’s super exclusive and there’s apparently no rhyme or reason to who they decide to let in. We never got in, after multiple attempts, but it looked like the coolest place.
- You could smoke cigarettes indoors pretty much anywhere! It was like Mad Men but European and modern. People were smoking in bars, restaurants, clubs, anywhere. Hot girls smoking cigs on the dance floor have a soft spot in my heart. I smoked my first and only cig on a boat at this yacht bar on night. Lucky Strike. It was cool but I doubt I’ll smoke another for a while.
- The first night we were there, me and another dude had to piss so we went to try to use the bathroom downstairs in the hotel but it was locked so we decided to piss in a corner outside in the hotel’s like outdoor porch thing. We thought we were good cause no one was out there but then one of the hotel employees came out saying he saw us pissing on the cameras and we’d get fined 50 euros for it. We somehow talked our way out of it.
- On Sundays there’s this huge flea market in Mauerpark. If there’s something you thought didn’t exist anymore or ever, it was there. So many great vinyls I wanted to buy, like “Oh” by Ciara feat. Ludacris and “Thug Lovin” by Ja Rule feat. Bobby Brown. Couldn’t buy the vinyls though because they’d probably break in my bag, so I just bought a flask instead.
- Uhh other random stuff, Checkpoint Charlie (a former military checkpoint between East and West Berlin) is really cool, YAAM is this dope African spot by the East Side Gallery with a basketball court and a halfpipe and a boxing ring and a volleyball court and it’s right on the river so you can just drink and chill on the river, the new Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is what I want every church to look like, every subway station has it’s own cool unique design and colors and stuff, the subways are really nice and fast and smooth, Olympiastadion and the Neues Museum were cool but shouldn’t be priorities if you have limited time to see stuff in Berlin.
- I really want to go back to Berlin with a girl that I’m in love with (if that ever happens). It’s such a beautiful, romantic city.
- So that’s finally it I guess. Berlin is really cool and fun and you should go if you ever can! I had a great time!
Investigative Journalism with J Mac
Because I’m a sensible guy that had nothing to do for a week, I immersed myself in Ciara’s music videos, and planned on ranking them. I haven’t done that yet because I’m incredibly lazy BUT ALSO because I was busy debunking a myth. “What is this very important thing that you found out?” my nonexistent reader asks. Well, only the most important thing ever. Let’s start with this:
This is the music video for “Never Ever” by Ciara, featuring Young Jeezy. There are many cameos in this video, from Kevin Phillips (who cares), Monica (meh), Al Horford (hey! cool!), to most importantly, RUBEN STUDDARD, who begins the video by talking to Ciara and friends about how to best identify ducks.
It wasn’t obvious to me that this was former American Idol winner back when American Idol was relevant/soulful obese man/gangsta Ruben Studdard when I first watched this video, but the Wikipedia page for “Never Ever” opened my eyes to this majestic cameo.
With knowledge of this fun fact, I continued to live my life and watch more of Ciara’s music videos. I soon found myself tuning into the undisputed music video champion, the video for Ciara’s seductive jam “Body Party”.
This was approximately the ten millionth time I’ve watched this video, but the first since learning of the Ruben Studdard cameo in “Never Ever”. Then, at 1:14, a wave of shock and excitement rushes through me:
This man appears. The same man that we have been led to believe was Ruben Studdard in the “Never Ever” video. The same man that taught us all so much about ducks. Ruben Studdard in the “Body Party” video would be a life-making event. But how could this be Ruben Studdard in the “Body Party” video? The Ruben Studdard I know and love doesn’t dress like that or have arm tattoos or attend crazy parties with Trinidad James. So needless to say, I was skeptical. I did a quick Google Image search and compared Ruben to the man in the videos, and I knew that something was off. But due to the dearth of recent pictures of Ruben Studdard’s forearms, I couldn’t say anything for sure. I needed real proof.
I can pretty safely say that Google is some sort of divine being. By giving it the super-refined search “ciara ruben studdrd”, it turned my cloudy glass of water into a bottle of wine worthy of being uncorked at the occasion when Ciara and Future announce that they are adopting me and changing my name to Freebandz #CiSquad Hendrix. Google armed me with this piece (http://concreteloop.com/2009/01/video-ciara-feat-young-jeezy-never-ever), a post on ConcreteLoop from January 31st, 2009 (hey I turned 16 that day, shoutout to me) updating the world about the release of the “Never Ever” video. After exhaustedly mining through a bunch of mindless comments, the diamond was found.
Not Ruben Studdard in the “Never Ever” video. Instead, a mystery friend of Ciara’s named Jasper who helped her write “Promise”. This was a major find, but there was still more work to be done. How do we know that guy specifically was Jasper? I had to keep digging.
Back to Google. Search “ciara’s friend jasper”. It brings me this (http://www.paperchaserdotcom.com/profiles/blogs/ciara-mtv-special-when-i-was), Ciara’s turn on MTV’s When I Was 17. Key quote: “As her friend Jasper describes her, ‘When Ciara was 17 she was just real ambitious, just happy all the time. Sing and dance [he repeated that several times] that’s all she do.’” I watched the clip in tense anticipation, like I was on the mound at the bottom of the ninth, full count on the batter, ball in my hand.
The arm tats. The voice. The look. This was the proof I was looking for. Strike three. I walk off the mound with a smile on my face, earning a victory after a hard night’s work.
Ciara’s friend Jasper, the man in these videos, our fake Ruben Studdard, turned out to be Jasper Cameron, who did in fact write “Promise”, as well as Ciara’s “Sorry” and Lloyd’s hit song “You”.
I can’t say I’m not sad. A reality in which Ruben Studdard isn’t in “Body Party” or “Never Ever” or any of Ciara’s music videos at all is worse than if he was. But now we know the truth. And the unfortunate lesson, as many stodgy old high school librarians often told me, is this: don’t trust Wikipedia.
(Source: oakleyandallen, via stationtostation)
Mets hurler Tom Seaver delivers a pitch during the 1969 World Series against Baltimore. (Walter Iooss Jr./SI)
After a brief conversation with the police, World Peace put on his Cookie Monster pajamas and accompanied them outside.” - Los Angeles Times
— Finally, Someone Has Written The Perfect Metta World Peace Sentence - Deadspin (via sportsnetny)
(Source: weird5cience, via stationtostation)
(Source: jthenr-comics-vault, via sportsnetny)