Alex in the Summer – BE Vlog #001

Getting out of the house at 5:30pm was a last ditch effort to salvage the day. I shoved my camera in my bag and got out onto Gormannstrasse. It’s hot, the sky cloudless and it has brought out bicyclists, tourists, and lots of young people looking fit, healthy, muscular. I have given myself an arbitrary task of shooting about 20 video images. What is interesting? What makes a compelling shot? Finding beauty in Berlin requires some reframing of my aesthetic ideas. Now I am walking along Karl-Liebnicht Strasse near Alexanderplatz.  I glance across the street at St. Marienkirche and rising behind it the symbol of Berlin, the Fernsehturm. Contrast. That’s one of the answers to this riddle. The late 60’s futurist, utopian tower pointing to an Earthly worker’s paradise and the Medieval (albeit reconstructed) steeple reaching heavenward. Two competing visions of transcendence. Crossing the Strasse I walk toward the Neptunebrunnen – and find a shot of the Beaux-Arts fountain, celebrating the great rivers of Prussia with a GDR-era office block looming behind it. Watching the waters of the fountain, my thoughts turn to the season. Now I train my lens on people. The rhythms of human beings outside in the summer: languid, unhurried, curious about the goings-on around them, taking photographs, letting their children run free and discover. I approach a bathing and play fountain in front of the tower and watch children and adults thrill to the jets of water that grow and shrink and soak them and watch their shock and delight at being doused in the late afternoon summer heat. Now I have decided that Alexanderplatz is enough for me today. There is plenty to see there, Group dancing near the station, the world clock with it’s spinning planets overhead, largely ignored by the throngs of shoppers, commuters and tourists on this late Friday afternoon. It is the time of summer for children to exult. But summer is not endless here. School is only a few weeks away. It’s hard to remember that Berlin is not always like this. The days will get short, and the bitter cold will return, and all this greenery will disappear, and the fountains will be turned off. Those stark, Communist era structures seem to yearn for the cold.  I have come to Berlin hoping to restore my artist self. Today I harvested a few images. This is not yet art but it is a foundation.

From a Balcony in Mitte

July 23, 2018

Now we are here. Arrived 5 days ago and there has been so much to do, so much flux and very little time for thoughtfulness or rest. I sit on a balcony on the 3rd floor of our friends’ apartment on Wolliner Strasse, steps away from the footprint of the old Berlin Wall. I face East and the great tower of Alexanderplatz spikes the dawn sky with it’s long red and white needle, it’s Tarkovsyan sphere and silently blinking white lights. It is the symbol of a this city and a new life for us. I am full of self-doubt. This insecurity is amplified by my status as a semi-invalid as I slowly recover from a hip replacement that we somehow fit into all of the compulsory acts and rituals that accompany the uprooting of a decade and a half of life in one great Metropolis – a life that tracked our evolution as a couple from two autonomous, co-habiting adult artists to parents, homeowners, nine-to-fivers, New Yorkers – to another smaller, less frenetic but equally storied European capital. Why? What? How? When did you decide? What will you do? What about the kids? Questions that we have fielded, parried, or simply acknowledged without really answering. There are so many reasons I have offered up: Brexit. Quality of Life. Hope of Artistic Renewal. The Breaking and Crumbling Infrastructure and Over-crowding of NYC. Missed Europe. Violence. Trump. Child-Friendlier Environment. Better Social Services… All of them are valid but incomplete. It is entirely possible that there is no real reason. We could simply be responding to a biological wanderlust. One thing is certain, though: Megumi and I are complicit in this. We have been plotting this for a year… taking one strategic, surreptitious step at a time until it was all but inevitable and informing our surprised, shocked, inspired, doubtful friends and family only when the escape velocity had overcome the forces of inertia. Five nights ago, we loaded six big suitcases into a taxi bound for Newark Airport and slipped out of Harlem and across the GW Bridge and silently bade goodbye to Manhattan, it’s shimmering towers stretched along the Hudson, escapees from a gilded, beloved prison in the middle of the night.