October 16th, 2010
Berlin, Germany

Autumn is in full swing in Europe, and as somebody who comes from a topsy-turvy land where the leaves stay on but the bark falls off during winter, I find this tremendously pleasing. Some subconscious part of me – probably the part developed during a childhood of American cartoons – knows that Australia is a bizarre and alien frontier, and this is what the real world looks like.

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It’s even cold enough some nights to wear gloves. Mercy! I bet November is the bleakest month, though, when all the leaves have disappeared and you just have bare skeletal trees without the compensation of Christmas cheer and a chance for snow. Oh, snow. I hope it snows in London this year.

Apparently it was recently the twenty-year anniversary of German reunification, which seemed to pass without much fanfare here, I guess because trendsetting Berlin did it in 1989. I finally got around to seeing some of the Berlin Wall, a spot called the East Side Gallery. I assumed there’d be quite a few bits of the wall kept up around town for posterity’s sake, but tearing it down was, after all, the entire point.

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While riding the subway on the way back I wondered how they dealt with that, since Berlin still had a pretty extensive underground metro back in the 60’s. Apparently West Berlin retained most of the lines that weren’t clearly separate, but the trains were not permitted to stop at the stations on the eastern side, though they did need to slow down to pass through. This meant western passengers peering out the windows were treated to an eerie glimpse of dimly lit “ghost stations” that were barricaded and patrolled by East German guards. History does not mention whether two separated lovers briefly met eyes as the train passed and were suddenly struck with the personal level of cruelty inevitable in the separation of an entire nation, their pensive eyes representing the anguish experienced by an entire generation, so of course we must assume that they did.

Aside from these spontaneous outbursts of tourism I’ve been happily slotting back regular life, even though we’re technically still on the trip, albeit in a holding pattern. I like going to sleep in the same bed every night, and eating home-cooked meals, and not living out of a backpack, and owning more than four shirts and one pair of jeans, and not having diarrhea every second day. It’s great.

We’ve also been visiting motorcycle dealerships, so Chris can lead on earnest young sales reps. (He would happily buy a bike, if not for the uncertainty regarding driving in Germany on an Australian license, and importing it to the UK.) He currently has his heart set on a Yamaha something-or-other, and after some deliberation about having a test ride be worth the expensive repercussions if he dropped it, he took one out for a spin in the carpark behind a dealership. There came a moment when he stalled the bike and the back tyre slipped out, and our hearts all leapt into our throats, but he recovered it. A good thing, too, because I wasn’t filming at the time and I would have hated to miss the YouTube opportunities of “Man drops 6,000 Euro bike during test ride.”

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Life is pretty good here at the moment. We don’t have jobs, but we do have lots of money, and I’m a lazy man, and Berlin is fairly cheap. I’m racking up rejection letters from literary magazines (at least Aurealis spelt my name right this time) and spending time in the finest of Germany’s high-class drinking establishments, by which I mean hipster bars where a beer costs three euros (staggeringly cheap compared to an Australian bar; incidentally, Perth has climbed the rankings to become the fifth most expensive city in the entire fucking world).

Living with our new flatmates is great, because it dilutes the five-month-straight ordeal of being with your best friend 24/7. Although this apartment is definitely too small for four people; whenever we’re all in the kitchen together it’s like a game of Twister. Actually it’s too small in general. The fridge is the size of a minibar and lacks a freezer, so we have to go shopping every day, and the bin might be suitable for a secretary’s desk in a small office, but is most certainly not suitable for dealing with the deluge of rubbish four people produce. We generally have a pile of full rubbish bags in the corner. It’s like living in Korea all over again!

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Here is our flatmate Essi, taking photos of Chris’ tattoos for her blog Fashion Overdose, which gets about 1000 hits a day. Gentlemen of the Road sometimes manages a few hundred, during peaks of Vietnamese outrage. Also she gets sponsored for it and has an internship at a magazine. Also she has accomplished this despite being younger than me. I AM NOT JEALOUS.

She also has a delightfully hilarious Finnish accent, where her tone randomly wanders up and down her sentences to the amusement of all. She pronounces “no” with about four different vowels in it: “Nooaaueee!” It’s the most similar real-life accent we’ve come across to our fake Italian accents: “I cannot-a read-a the passaporta! There is-a too-much-a spaghetti sauce on it! (Peers at passport.) A… Mario? Luigi? It must-a be either one or t’e other-a!”

Ruth, on the other hand, has a meat-and-potatoes Canadian accent, despite insisting that she’s not Canadian. I don’t know why anyone would want to disassociate themselves with Canada. Who doesn’t like Canada? Such insolence earned her a room-barricading yesterday.

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Chris and I, of course, have Australian accents, which are world-recognised as the epitome of dignity and grace.

Chris’ visa hasn’t come through yet, by the way, though we’re now past the ten-working-day estimate we were given. We don’t know when he’s getting it, therefore we don’t know when we’re going to London. Stop asking. Also stop asking me what kind of job I am planning to get in London (mayor).

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