By John Koethe
Some have the grandeur of architecture,
The grandeur of the concert hall: the sentimental
Grandeur of an idea lying just beyond recall
In someone's imagination, compelled by an even
Greater music at its most monumental,
That begins with the explosion of a drum
In chaos and the dark, the twin wellsprings of a world
That slowly comes to lie before them — a natural
One, apparently designed for them alone,
That somehow lifts them in the end, a woman and a man,
To Paradise and the certainty of God.
It's lovely to believe — lovely, anyway, to hear.
The chaos is still there, but rather than a distant state
From which the patterns of this life emerged,
It feels like part of it, like sex or sleep,
The complex workings of a dream made visible.
This afternoon I took the S-Bahn into town,
Getting off at a half-completed shell
In the middle of what felt like nowhere,
One stop before the Friederichstrasse station.
I picked my way along a maze of barriers and fences,
Down an open street and past a makeshift balcony
Overlooking a pit, the site of the creation
Of the Hauptbahnhof to come. It was echt Berlin:
A panorama filled with transcendental buildings to the south,
And in the foreground towering red and yellow cranes
Branded with the initials DB, a cacophony
Assembled to articulate some inarticulate design,
But closer to the truth: a half-baked world,
The perfect setting for a half-baked life.
I used to think one finished what the past began,
Instead of moving things around inside a no-man's-land,
A landscape always on the verge, always unrealized...
Purpose and design; a sort of purpose, with a form
Still waiting to emerge; and finally, lack of any
Strategy or plan, as entropy increases —
On my way back from a puzzling museum
I found myself rehearsing various ideas of order
And disorder, ideas of intent, deliberation, and control.
Three hours earlier, strolling through its galleries
Full of different kinds of cocks, encaustic cunts and oddly moving
Piles of junk from the Berlin equivalent of OfficeMax
or Home Depot, all strewn about the floor
Of what until the war had been a neo-Renaissance
Train station, I'd suddenly felt the wonder of uncertainty
At how these things so stubbornly neglected to emerge
From the rubble of Creation's threshing floor,
But simply lay there — all this stuff — deliberately chosen,
I suppose, yet out of context signifying nothing but themselves.
I'd felt absurdly happy. Maybe it was the notion
That the realm of the imaginary coincided with the present,
With an ordinary day spent wandering here and there,
And later on that evening, The Creation at the Philharmonie.
At any rate, I'd seen enough. There was no place else
I especially wanted to go — no more exhibitions
Or architecture — and nothing I particularly wanted to do
— Window-shopping in the stores along the Ku'damm —
And so I wandered through its massive doors
Into the afternoon and the museum of the future.
I spent a delightful Monday with dementordelta and gblvr! The former brought me books and cherry bread, the latter a pair of earrings I had dibs on since she first made them for her Etsy store. We went to the Washington Hebrew Sisterhood's holiday boutique, held every year in the building where my kids went to Hebrew school, where there are a big range of crafts, clothing, and Israeli imports -- lots of jewelry, lots of accessories. Then we went to the mall for lunch so some of us could get Indian food and some of us could get crepes, and ended up doing a lot of girly shopping -- Hot Topic, Brighton, The Icing, Claire's, Bath & Body Works. After that we came back here to watch The Song of Lunch since dementordelta hadn't seen it (and none of us ever objects to Alan Rickman or Emma Thompson), and because I'd promised to record When In Rome for gblvr but hadn't done it yet, we watched that too.
Evening was a bit chaotic around here because older son had an interview with a Penn alumnus; most of my family ate while I was still watching movies with my friends. apaulled dropped off son for the interview and went to the local library while I ate late and younger son showed me Julian Smith YouTube videos. Older son thinks the interview went well -- it was low-key and sounds like it was more of a casual conversation than a grilling about his academic and career goals, but this was his first "real" interview as opposed to an informal meeting with a grad student, so I had no idea what to expect. We watched some Monty Python to unwind ("The Attila the Hun Show" hee) in an attempt to avoid having to see the Redskins humiliating themselves to Eagles, but despite Washington having guaranteed Donovan McNabb's future earlier in the day, I had to listen to announcers praising Michael Vick, and that makes me want to stop watching pro football.
Now, however, I am happy and relaxed because I watched first Jon Stewart's clips about how people from opposing political parties acquire false nostalgia for presidents they opposed and blocked at every turn while they were in office, then the "It Gets Worse" fake ad with John Oliver, Wyatt Cenac, et al to let John McCain know that his hypocrisy about defending Don't Ask, Don't Tell is making him look like an even bigger asshat than when he picked Sarah Palin as his running mate. Huntley Meadows Park's nature center had these natural animal ornaments for sale: