Sunday, May 27, 2007

originally an email sent Mar 12, 2007

As some of you already heard, I decided to accept the position in Bremen. This is a two year position beginning May 1. The job features 6 weeks of vacation time and lots of travel, so ironically I'll probably spend more time in Colorado and otherwise visiting friends and family than I did while working in the US.

The remainder of my Europe trip was great fun, and it's tough picking out what to say. I got caught up in a soccer rally and wanna-be riot in Bremen. I was taking the streetcar to the city center, and saw a big group of protestors, so I decided to get out early and take pictures. They were all wearing black pants and dark blue soccer outfits, which I now know designates a fan of the Hamburg team. The few hundred protestors were surrounded by not-much-fewer cops. German cops in riot gear, German cops on horseback, German cops with 8 paddywagons, German cops with tear gas launchers. So I took pictures, gleefully ignorant of the fact that, by coincidence, I happened to be wearing black pants and a dark blue shirt. After a few blocks of this, I looked over, and about a block away was a throng of similar people - drunk, angry, sweaty, bottlethrowing, chanting young men - dressed identically, except that they had green outfits. I then worked out 2 things very quickly. One, this is not a political protest, as I first assumed. Second, regardless of the cause, if there's one group of angry chanting men wearing blue, and another group wearing green, and both are surrounded by riot police, it's probably bad to be between these 2 groups. But maybe I'll get a picture first. For those who think I am smart, reread the preceding. Someone grabbed me from behind and threw me back into a wall of much larger men. Cool, I thought, I'm gonna get the shit beat out of me by a bunch of soccer hooligans. It'll make a great story for my email. I only wish I got drunk first. Then I realized that the guy who threw me, and the wall, were all German riot police. I tried yelling "freundlich" at the very large cop, but he was already busy hurling others back. I ceased being pissed off when I realized the reason for my rapid relocation: his colleague was firing tear gas right past where my head had been. So I thought, thanks, huge German riot cop! I support your steroid use! You kick ass!

The Germans deserve their reputation for masterful crowd control. There were 2 dudes firing tear gas, or some chemical like it, into the empty street between the 2 mobs. Their aim was perfect. Very few people actually got teargassed, but the message was clear: you can just keep on walking, a block apart going in opposite directions, but if you guys try to engage each other, you'll have a lot of trouble seeing. And it worked, the other group went right on marching. A streetcar named Desire appeared (the streetcar actually said Domsheide, but I'll translate it how I want) and I happily escaped. The poor German riot police must be highly experienced, since Americans rarely care enough about any sport to create wanna-be riots. Meaning, a march that most participants desire and expect to devolve into a riot if there weren't so many darn cops around.

The next night was bowling in Bremen, then the next night was scouting an Irish pub with the fantastically creative name "Paddy's Pit." Both of these were indistinguishable from bowling or Irish pubs anywhere else. I then took a train to Tübingen, a glorious and magnificent city, which through some fluke was warm and sunny during my time there. We hit a karaoke bar, which cured me of the disappointment I had with American music there. You see, I often was bummed that most music in European bars seems to be American music, largely 80s pop. The karaoke was no different. I was thinking, this isn't much of a cultural experience. How about some German music? Almost on cue, they played some German pop. 20 seconds into the second song, I realized, wow, German pop really sucks! I mean, the best they could manage, in the last 20 years, is Rock Me Amadeus and 99 LuftBalloons. One wonders how universal English would be without Hollywood.

I have since then been back in San Diego, enjoying the weather as much as possible, taking very long lunches and otherwise fucking with my boss. Great fun. Ate lunch at the beach today, which is not viable in Bremen for many reasons.

I do not yet have contact info in Bremen, but will send it as soon as this changes.

No comments: