Friday, March 25, 2016

Ugh. Mein BRUDER.

Day Nine (But Way Later): We arrive back in Berlin. I hug a German tree just ‘cause I can. We get to our hotel room and my mind seems to be in a tug-of-war between the euphoria of having a quiet and private space for the first time in days and the petulant angst that is beginning to overtake me as I contemplate how much transit time still remains. By the time I’ve made my forty-eighth attempt to attempt to our wi-fi, it’s clear that Euphoric Greg has left my body and taken the elevator back down to the lobby so he can wait around to reinhabit me in the morning.

The bed is two small beds squished together, but is reasonably comfortable. Plus, I have good company. We flick on the TV and I scan around for something in a language that I understand. After a few German channels, BBC World News feels like a dispatch from my hometown friends. Then we switch to a Korean channel with an English-language interview show. Then we (meaning “I”) find a naked lady channel and share a string of witticisms in an attempt to buy a little time watching the naked lady channel.

Finally, we find what I was really looking for. Clarissa Explains It All with German voiceovers.

I find myself somewhere between Clarissa’s age and her dad’s age. Why does she have to give him such a hard time? Your dad is just a sweet man doing the best he can for you. Get it the fuck together, Clarissa!

“Ugh. Mein BRUDER.”

OK. Clarissa and I are back on the same page. If anything, Ferguson seems like MORE of a douchebag now. I’m sure the actor is a fine man, but Ferguson the CHARACTER is MOST CERTAINLY on the Ted Cruz campaign staff. What a dick.

Day Ten - Woke up in Berlin, sleep restless, dreams probably haunted by Clarissa Explains It All with German voiceovers.

The bottom half of the airport hotel room’s window is tinted red, so I spend a few minutes filming planes and birds that seemed to be flying through a violent-yet-beautiful red German sky. Like so many other places we’ve visited lately, I fantasize about staying in this airport hotel for the next three months befriending locals, recording strange music, learning how to navigate their cable TV, figuring out where the best coffee is, finding out what else is on the naked lady channel, watching more German Clarissa and seeing JUST HOW MUCH she explains.

She said “hi, Sam” in German, but the Sam’s entrance guitar chord was still in English.

We walk across Am Seegraben to the Berlin-Schönefeld Airport and enjoy two satisfying breakfasts, one before security checkpoint and one after. In my slightly sleep-deprived state, I find it very funny to sing a slow rendition of the theme song from Billy On The Street with a slight German accent. I tell myself I can’t go to foreign countries and mimic their accents, yet I can’t stop. Similarly, I have trouble not singing the “Check Ze Tweets” theme song from The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. I did not get punched during this trip to Germany, but maybe the next one.

“Euro Trash isn’t Euro Litter / get on the dancefloor and shake your twitter / boom boom boom boom boom boom / Check Ze Tweets / (...and emails)”

It strikes me that we encountered no outwardly rude, aggressive people in either Germany or Poland. Even the teenagers in the museums seemed more calm and collected somehow.

We are sitting on yet another Norwegian Airlines flight, about to fly from Berlin to London. Nicky is applying cartoon body part stickers onto the face of a model on another page. The source of these stickers is not clear, but she seems happy and content.

Norwegian Airlines, with its well-dressed and mostly young European passengers, mood lighting, and unfamiliar dance music is kind of like being in an H&M that flies.

I am starting to miss much of home. My cat. My guitar. I find myself singing Aerosmith songs with a German accent. I must miss Aerosmith, the McDonald’s of American rock & roll.

We are in the air starting… … … now. It’s a blue-sky day in Berlin if you go up high enough. Nicky has borrowed my green water bottle for a taste of the finest Berlin bathroom water. I am marveling at the speed at which I switch from a sweaty-palmed nerve ball to a nerd pointing at the rapidly disappearing landscape going “WOOOOOAH! COOOOOL!!”

On the ground in London. The female flight attendants have the most amazing red-and-black pillbox hats. The dudes have fantastic plaid suits. It is super-charming.

I spent my English layover trying to figure out the widely-publicized free coffee deal at a popular café chain. I got mad about the seemingly unredeemable coffee offer and took it out on Jay, the Gatwick Airport’s social media man. My traveling companion, sitting beside me on the second level of this mall-like airport, asked me why I had a crazed look in my eyes.

In the end, I just approached the coffee lady and she gave me a smile and a strong cappuccino and then life went on for me, Nicky, and Jay, the Gatwick Airport’s social media man.

As we approached our gate, we accidentally switched boarding passes. I approached first and passed for “Nicolette” with flying colors. To her credit, she didn’t pass for “Gregory.”

Meanwhile, on our Norwegian 787 Dreamliner, the cabin crew is doing a pretty good mime routine. I suspect that Youri could do it better.

I reflect on the beautifully eclectic collection of accents to which we’d become accustomed. Like cool cultural winds blowing in from all over the world and converging in Neo’s living room.

How fascinating to BE the foreigner. Obviously an essential experience, especially if you’re from the U.S., the home of the World Series.

Nicky and I are watching movies in-sync - Suffragette, Carol, and Brooklyn. Despite my talk of my fear of flying dissipating, she was very quick to hold my hand and look into my eyes and read them for any unspoken information about my emotional condition as the plane began its ascent. She is one of the golden-hearted people you get to meet in your life. Nearly two weeks by her side and I feel like I could spend tomorrow, our first day back home, with her. How weird is that?

I miss paychecks. I miss shaving the area around my mouth. I miss Neil Young movies and Everly Brothers harmonies. I don’t miss sweatpants with words on the butt. I don’t miss baseball caps with machine gun cartoons on them. I miss Larry Wilmore. I miss black people in general.

I miss the small recording studio I’ve set up in the attic. Before I left, I had a string of productive days up there. While driving to and from my beloved Cleo’s house, I wrote a song that her daughter Marcella had requested of me years before. She’s shown up in songs before, but now she has my first song entirely for and about her. I sang the verses into my phone, wrote music when I got home, and continued living the song for another day or two. I had the unusual sensation of playing a gig while still in the initial grip of this powerful new piece, as if my soul was playing a different song than my body was.

In regards to the current light turbulence, the pilot erroneously stated: “there is no need to return to your sheet,” to the amusement of seemingly everyone on this six-hour flight to New York City.

“Hey Marcella” opened the door to the completion of a long song that had spent six months as merely a few lines on a now-discarded pink post-it note. I scrawled some words while taking a late night power walk around the northern outskirts of Nashville last summer and, without really trying, wrote my first country song. Or second. Or eighth. I dunno.

A little bit more of my life with Marcella has been preserved in song. She’s hard to find these days, but she’s coming with me, anyway.

I think about the beautiful and dysfunctional country I’m returning to like an absentee den mother hoping the kids will have cleaned the house by the time I get back.

Some Other Day - I never noticed how good Jamal The Cat smells.

I drove through rural Bucks County the morning I got back and was as dumbfounded as ever by the beauty of its green fields and well-dressed horses. Europe was not without sunshine, but most of our most beautiful moments there occurred within very old walls.

My post-trip photo fatigue is wearing off and I find myself photographing colorful things that become transcendent when bathed in sunlight. My girlfriend’s blue eyes. Neshaminy Creek’s buttercups.

I came home to find that everything wrong remains so and everything right remains that way. There’s already been more than a few moments of cinema-quality drama and pop song-worthy euphoria since we’ve returned. 

It takes a while to get back home. It didn’t happen the day my body arrived in New York City. A week later, I was en route to a fast food joint with ‘60s rock and roll playing on the car stereo when I stopped for gas at a Wawa and suddenly my percussionist friend Skaggs was there shaking my hand. That’s when I knew I was back.

So, I am home. Now, let’s get outta here!