Berlin is a city of ruins. In memorials and construction sites and family homes and restaurants, the past is so thick here you could cut it with a knife and spread it on toast. The present drags the weight of history behind it.
Berlin is also a city of the future. There is a lot of turnover, so to speak. Downtown is polished and clean and all straight lines and right angles. Of course, Berlin’s vision of its future is meted out by its past, but that cannot be helped: it is the past’s future.
I finally have some time to read here - of course, all I do at home is read, but here I’m reading for pleasure, for the first time in really almost a year. A strange feeling.
When I was a kid my family’s car trips were always soundtracked by the library’s audiobook copy of “The Greatest Science Fiction Stories of the Twentieth Century”. Initially my dad sort of pressed it upon the rest of us (we would have preferred Harry Potter, probably) but after a couple of trips it became a sort of unspoken tradition. The stories were fairly eclectic, and I remember coming to understand that “sci-fi” was more than just guns and robots and spaceships. My favorite stories were - and are - Harlan Ellison’s ”Jeffty Is Five,” Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Nine Billion Names of God” and “The Crystal Spheres”, and Terry Bisson’s “Bears Discover Fire”. They were my dad’s favorite, too, I think, particularly “The Nine Billion…”
Here I’m re-reading Larry Niven’s Ringworld, another book my dad gave me in high school. It’s exciting and fun in a way literature hasn’t been to me in a while. The spaceships and guns are nice, but more than that, it stretches my imagination. My dad would be proud.
Taking language classes I’m cognizant of what it’s like to work at learning - at developing a skill or use a tool. It’s like building an engine from scratch, where school, at least for now, feels more like attending to one.
German is tough for me, maybe because I didn’t apply myself very well in high school, but it’s remarkably rewarding. The bonus of having a small vocabulary is that you can feel it grow every time you learn a new word. This morning I learned “empfehlen” - to recommend - over breakfast.