[Ignore the dateline, this was actually published today, Sept. 9, 2020. Making me interact with computers is like making Shoshanna have strudel with Hans Landa.]
For 40 Euro, you can take a delightful 90-minute ICE (fast train) ride from Leipzig to Berlin. Or you can be a dumbass and try to save a few bucks and take a Flixbus, tacking on about five hours, a lot more odor and some intense fog situations. Guess which I did. And I knew better, making my decision more performance art than anything. I’m like Andy Kaufman with a much lower IQ.
Northeastern Germany was gently entering Fall, and by “gently” I mean like that guy on the zombie show with the wire on his baseball bat. It was a pretty brutal welcome to Berlin, with torrential rain and wind chill near 45-degrees F. Not too bad, nothing to complain about but it was September.
The Central Berlin bus station is a veritable who’s who. Actually, more like who’s most wanted. If you’re an INTERPOL officer looking for a member of a sleeper cell, a mass murderer or mafia type anywhere in Europe, might I recommend checking out the Central Berlin bus station. Shady characters lurked everywhere, a thousand hunched shoulders in tracksuits acting all cagey. Then again, you know, bus station.
Getting to the train was a minor ordeal but nothing too crazy, it was time to find Pankow, a neighborhood north of town. The Berlin train system is incredible. It’s clean, on time and people are generally very well behaved. It’s one of many reasons Berlin is one of my favorite cities in Europe. I’d never been to the Pankow Borough so I’d done some light reading on the area. There’s absolutely nothing of interest I can share with you.
Just off the Karow stop on the Bahn was yet another sketchy Doner kebab shop and a restaurant with a little beer garden called “Asian Cuisine.” That was laterally the name of the place. In English and German. I thought, ‘what the hell?’ and decided I’d stop to use the wifi.
Asian Cuisine was riveting. Five customers, a family of three at one table and two guys loading up on beer and unidentifiable Asian cuisine from the buffet. I was all set. Employee Number One, a woman in her 20s or 40s or 60s asked if a certain table was okay. In my version of German, I told her I would be ordering a beer and sitting outside to relax, having just traveled a great distance. She looked at me as if I’d just explained the ending of three books she intended to read but hadn’t.
Employee Number Two, presumably a son, tagged in and stepped forward. I shortened my sentence to “beer” and “outside.” He told me in German that his brother would soon return from a delivery and would settle this shit once and for all. And that’s what happened, all was right with the world again due to the kindness of an ambitious, nay – industrious young man in Berlin who set out to learn at least three languages. One of them, I assumed, was “Asian.”
Beer, cigarette, bench, covered patio, Tom Waits on my phone – after a very long day, it was finally peaceful.
ScareBnB (all puns are bad).
My Berlin host Peter’s house was not, as stated, “just off the rail station.” It was in a maze of roads and houses, near where Jack Nicholson eventually froze to death. Finding it was an absolute treat.
Everyone was friendly enough when I arrived despite my lack of German mastery. Peter was good at pantomiming as he showed me around and I picked up on every fourth word or so as he machine gunned words at me at an alarming rate. The kitchen was a common area, the office was not. The back deck was a common area, help myself to any of the fruit growing on the trees – the jacuzzi was not.
No problem there. I don’t step foot in jacuzzis unless I saw the guy install it and leave and watched it get filled up. I’ve seen what people do in jacuzzis and what they don’t clean up after they do it. If it eventually came out that COVID-19 originated in a jacuzzi, I wouldn’t be the least surprised.
Surprisingly fertile and full of produce, Germany. The plums looked magnificent. So I did enjoy some fruit.
I’ve seen plums in a jacuzzi, not so much.
Here was my room, that was my towel, feel free to use the 1988 Tandy printer. And here is the restroom. A sign above the toilet instructed me to sit while using it, no matter what. No. That wasn’t going to happen. But Peter didn’t need to know that.
Then shit got weird.
Another guest arrived at the BnB from her daily improv class. That brief sentence alone is enough to make me turn and walk away, rapidly. However, there was more. She was “super fun,” as she described herself – a “pleasantly plump” (her words), lesbian from Portland, Oregon. Shocking. She’d just lost custody of her child so she decided to “try something totally different.” Improv classes in Berlin were surely exactly that. We’ll call her Tisha.
There’s an early episode of Frasier, perhaps even the very first episode – the British housekeeper, Daphne, is introduced and tells the boys she’s psychic. Frasier later addresses this issue with a new character and tells them, “…we’ve decided to find it charming.” That’s what I did with Tisha and her nonsense.
Now that Tisha was home, Anna came downstairs. I had no idea Anna was in the house or that Tisha would be – as Peter and I had already decided we wouldn’t be communicating in either of our languages. But Anna was sure fired up to find out Tisha was home, she wanted to hear all about the class, which I prayed would be in German or even better, Mandarin. No such luck. Come to find out, among her many other talents, Tisha spoke even less German than I.
Turns out, Anna is where the reefer smell was coming from.
So the table got to hear all about the “amazing” improv troupe, person-by-person, dazzling character-by-character. Then we got to hear the German translation. Peter seemed to REALLY enjoy hearing about this. I would later find that Peter displayed the same amount of enthusiasm for everything and was clearly a psychopath. Oh, and an exhibitionist. Oh again, and a Nazi sympathizer who’d had his home raided twice in the previous two months. PARTY!
We enjoyed a meal Peter had prepared as the stories of German improv classes and what Tisha understood and didn’t understand about them continued past an uncomfortable hour and into a downright rude one. All the while, Peter was distracting me, thank God kind of, by holding up whatever he found on the table and telling me the German word for it. It too, I found charming, for the first three items. Then the item-listing and improv class discussion culminated in a whirlwind of emotion, blended with travel exhaustion and I found myself in yet another IKEA bed with IKEA pillows, sheets, cases, duvet, and mattress.
The following morning, I’d done a bit of writing in my room and wandered downstairs in socks for some coffee. Peter’s was another European home that demanded shoes be left at the front door. Which I can systematically pick apart in any argument but respect nonetheless. Peter greeted me in the kitchen, mug in hand, psychotic smile from ear-to-ear, wang dangling to mid-thigh. In case you’re wondering, Peter – (despite his many faults I would learn about later) was/is a strikingly handsome fellow with wavy Matthew McConaughey hair and a slight beard. He’s fit and somehow tan and, I now knew, circumsized and hung like a f-cking rhinosaurus.
Doing my best to keep eye contact, I used my German skills to make him laugh by holding up a fork and saying, “gabel,” with a smile. I was then able to ask him how to go about getting a cup of coffee. Peter and his wang guided me to the grounds and the French Press, which was still warm from use. I washed it three times, wiped down the counters with soap twice and cleaned my mug. You had to assume the wang touched everything.
Once my coffee was made, Peter returned in a loincloth, European wrap thing, thankfully, and showed me the backyard. Again, he took this opportunity to stage a German version of Electric Company, phonetically naming each plant and fruit for me. As interesting and beautiful as the garden was, I wanted to get downtown, find a coffee shop, get some writing done, and find a nice, quiet spot for dinner and a beer.
Anna and Tisha weren’t vertical yet, making it easy to slip on shoes and meander toward the train. The first attempt at finding the right combination of streets leading to “Asian Cuisine” was unsuccessful. Instead, this route led me to an elderly couple working in their garden, pausing to stare at me in unison like a modern horror film. When this type of thing happens, I like to give my best Forrest Gump wave and smile like a lunatic, maintaining both speed and trajectory.
Attempt number two spat me out at the Lidl, (pron: LID-el), Europe’s (Germany’s) version of ALDI. ALDI is also European (German) and owns Trader Joe’s. They’re also both rumored, (Lidl and ALDI), to be the same company, feuding brothers, etc. In the end, the same people own everything and all attend the same Eyes Wide Shut parties and share the world’s biggest yachts and hunt Venezuelans for fun, or whatever it is they all like to do. NONE of this information will help you find the f-cking Karow train station.
Much later than I would have liked, I was at the Asian Cuisine, waving to my favorite delivery driver- multilingual kid and finally getting on the train.
The reasons I love Berlin are too many to list. But I’ll try.
For one, they don’t demolish structures because they disagree with the politics behind them or are upset by them. Spanish Philosopher, George Santayana once wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It doesn’t matter that this is often mistakenly attributed to Churchill, the point is – taking down statues because of what they represent(ed) to you or anyone else – willy nilly – is a mistake.
Second, a sunny day in Berlin is like a sunny week in Seattle. One of my many favorite spots is Alexanderplatz, a quasi-touristy plaza in the middle of the city – home to the TV tower and World Clock (Weltzeituhr) and the city’s annual nonsensical, fake Oktoberfest. The cool Berlin Oktoberfest is held outside of town to the west. This was a sunny-ish week and it was the beginning of Oktoberfest. A quiet coffee shop would have to be found outside Alexanderplatz.
I’ll scrap the numbering and the rest of the list will reveal itself to you.
The women in Germany, overall, are unique to the world. They fear nothing and if they want to have a drink with you, they’re going to ask you to have a drink with them. And they’re supremely confident about it, there isn’t a doubt in their minds regarding what they want and I’ll be damned if they’re not going to express it. It’s refreshing and I cherish it. Having said that, watch your ass, they’ll eat you alive.
Sigh. I miss you everyday, ladies.
Having finally made it “downtown,” it took some doing but I finally set up shop in a well-known global coffee chain that I’ll frequent only when absolutely necessary. With some client work due, it was necessary. This was an extremely busy location and real estate at a counter or table was at an absolute premium. Once I’d established a beachhead, I had to defend it like it was the hot new video game on Black Friday.
Germans, as a general rule, are reserved and extremely courteous. Young Germans, however, are no different than American kids – noses in their phones, to hell with everything else. So I had to have some words with some Gen Y dipshits who tried to squeeze a few inches out of my territory here and there. Which is fun because Germans avoid conflict like the plague and they look at you like you’re a bomb that’s ticked down to :04 and slowly back away. I love it.
[I don’t like to generalize. No offense to Gen Y, whatever the hell that is, or Millennials or whatever your mostly derogatory terms are for them. When I use terms like this, I mean “some”______, are dipshits. Not every person in any one group are all anything. I wish we could all keep this in mind while we’re being “triggered.”]
A Guy Walks into a Bar… Again.
Work was done for the day so it was, naturally, time to find a tall, delicious, semi-cold German beer.
The streets were busy walking from Friedrichstadt, near Checkpoint Charlie, toward the Fernsehturm, the big tower. It’s a beautiful walk, past old ornate fountains and past the Berlin Aquarium, striking gothic churches, museums and mystery buildings… and a TJ Maxx.
The people of Berlin are from just about everywhere. Lots of Turks, Vietnemese, you get the picture, “everywhere” pretty much covered it. I always enjoy strolling from one place to the next trying to guess where someone’s from, whether they’re visiting or not, are they plotting something? It’s fun.
You can ask two or three friends of mine, if there’s no previous knowledge of the neighborhood, I have an uncanny knack for finding either the most deadly place or the gayest place to have my first beer. And Berlin’s Alexanderplatz would be no different. Under the elevated train tracks is a tiny, deadly and super gay bar called Besenkammer. It’s open 24-hours a day, if that tells you anything.
The best part is walking in. They usually can’t tell if I’m deadly or gay, maybe both – like them. I sang along with the chorus of the Gloria Gaynor song on the jukebox to put their minds at ease and took a seat at the far right corner of the bar, next to the stack of “COCK” magazines, and ordered Franziskaner. The attractive African fellow on the cover bearing a rather impressive magazine namesake, was wearing the obligatory leather daddy outfit.
A word with my homosexual friends. Mix it up. I know every last one of you to be extremely creative or witty, most of you are both. Can we make some progressive updates to the leather daddy outfit? Does the dude always have to have a handlebar mustache? What’s the strap across the chest for? What’s with that hat? Overall it just doesn’t scream “subtlety!” or “forward-thinking!” My two cents.
I’ve gotten very good at putting that “I’m an idiot tourist who doesn’t know what’s going on right now” look on my face to throw off the homosexuals while tossing a little crazy into my gaze and posture to befuddle the deadly. So far, it looked as if I was going to be able to have a nice, tranquil couple of beers and cigarettes.
“Not so fast!” Berlin said. Someone desperately needed to pull up close to me and begin the process of creeping me out. “Ich habe dich hier noch nie gesehen,” he asked. Which doesn’t mean anything close to what you think it means (if you don’t know German). The 30 brandies on his breath and his body language let me know it wasn’t an innocuous introduction.
Just about the time I was mustering enough German to reply sort of sensibly, the bartender, who looked exactly like Tim Gunn, told him – in no uncertain terms – to back the f–k off. Ish. It wasn’t subtle, I know that much – and the guy very calmly returned to his stool on the far side of the bar. I nodded to the bartender in thanks and life went on.
The beer went down quickly at Besenkammer once Lonely Guy left, the room lit up a bit more, the music seemed happier and everyone’s moods were notched up a bit. These guys were fun, on top of that, they were welcoming and damn it, their English was better than mine. I hate that.
More about Besenkammer later. Right now, I had to go do some research.
Whether the subway, the ICE (bullet train) or your ordinary, everyday tram, the trains in Germany are not only ridiculously on time, they’re spotless. No “mystery juice” you find swirling around the seat on the #1 in NYC. No needles rolling around on the floor of the Portland MAX, no stocking cap left behind on the Tube, no “Good God, what is that?” you’ll get on Chicago’s Blue Line. They’re spotless. You could eat off the seat, you would allow your favorite toddler to play on the floor, you’d nail Rebecca De Mornay and wouldn’t even mind your bare ass on the chair. Spotless.
It’s the kind of clean that makes me wonder why they’re so f-cking high-strung.
The kind of clean you find in rich people’s homes, the kind of clean that makes you wonder what they’re hiding. In this particular case, they aren’t hiding anything, just overcompensating for some shenanigans a few years back.
Shake it off. This train dropped me off 15 minutes from Alexanderplatz right in the heart of the Brandenburg Gate plaza. This is where most of the foreign embassies are kept and tomorrow was going to be a very large protest for the not-so-popular Turkish presidential visit. There are approximately 3-million Turks living in Germany and they do not like President Erdoğan. I don’t know what he did but they’re over it.
Where were we? Ah, trains. The following day, all trains, buses, trams and traffic to the Brandenburg area would be shut down. 100,000 (reportedly) people would be yammering on about something or other and the SWAT teams I was currently looking at would be on high alert.
The day in question came and the Berlin police were mobilized by air, land and sea. River cops, helicopters and marching riot police could be seen and heard heading to the Brandenburg area starting about 6am. It was bonkers but none of the citizenry blinked an eye. I guess this type of thing happens all the time but to me it seemed otherworldly. Life went on and the BS touristy Berlin version of Oktoberfest went off without a hitch.
I arrived back in the Alexanderplatz Oktoberfest area and got a nice table with a view of the mayhem. Not Munich-esque mayhem by a damn sight but mayhem nonetheless. The real Berlin Oktoberfest was taking place about 10 miles to the East but I was saving my energy for Hanover. Which would turn out to be the right move.
After some beers and some interactions with flirtatious Oktoberfest girls at the Berlin Hofbräuhaus, most wearing their “Ich Liebe Dich” t-shirts. I’d been to the Munich Oktoberfest ten years prior, that’s a young person’s game. It’s batshit. So Berlin was just fine with me. Plus the frisky Berlin girls are, well, something about Oktoberfest brings out the friendliness in German women.
I crack up like a 14-year-old to this day when I see the “Ich Liebe Dich” shirts. It simply means “I love you” but c’mon, it’s got dick in it! It’s as though Germany’s version of “I love you” is a wink at a much more shallow life.
Unless you were born and raised in one of the five boroughs, you have no idea what street crazy is until you’ve been to Berlin. I once watched a young Hasid babble his way down Amsterdam Ave. in Manhattan, out of his mind on drugs – taking the occasional break to bark at a fence or brick wall. He would be allowed to drive a school bus compared to the street crazies in Berlin.
They aren’t the Parisian-hands-down-the-pants types but they have a variant I hadn’t previously considered. Sort of a Fight Club, interpretive dance, “we’re working this shit out right here and now” confrontation from within. And there are a lot of people in there. “Everyone’s on their own journey” an asshole might say to her husband if they passed him by in Austin. But these days, both Austin and Berlin have added the unpredictable element of danger.
These aren’t people down on their luck or caught in a web of the need for unprovided antidepressants, these people are flat out f-cking insane. I stepped over a dead guy in Hamburg a few years back, thinking he was just a napping homeless man. But Germany doesn’t really have homeless people that I’ve noticed.
Their version of homeless are guys in all denim rummaging through the various trash receptacles at the train stations. Not for food, mind you, rather – to make sure the paper is in the paper can, the plastic in the plastic, et al. But the people I’m talking about are kind of just wandering the streets in a really ornery mood and they look like extras from a really well-made horror film.
I think they’re just ‘normal’ everyday citizens and it’s socially acceptable for them to just walk around ornery. At any rate, they fascinate me – but not enough to interact with them.
I never liked Pink Floyd. Still don’t. It’s minor chord drug music that I just can’t relate to. However, they did have a wildly popular album in the early 80s (I think) that I – for years – assumed was about the Berlin wall. It’s not. Years ago, the same year I stepped over a dead body in Hamburg, I visited Berlin and one night – took a Bic pen and chipped away at the corner of a section of the still-standing Berlin wall and took the rocks home for friends.
I’m pretty sure not one of them believed that it was actually chunks of the wall, they – each and every one of them – just kind of stared at me blankly and I’m sure every gift was swiftly tossed into the backyard as soon as I left. My cross to bear. I thought it was a neat memento from a bygone era. The same reasoning that brought me to the conclusion that Pink Floyd’s The Wall was about Germany and that small hunks of the Berlin wall would be cool gifts, finds me single at my age. I’m pretty sure there’s a correlation.
Adding to my confusion is the fact that Pink Floyd put on a hugely famous live show from the site of the old Berlin wall in 1990, 500,000 people reportedly attended. How wasn’t The Wall about the Berlin wall? Why aren’t pieces of the old Berlin wall a cool, illegal gift? What exactly is a clitoris? Man, I may be single a while longer…
My host’s house was well into the territory of the old East Berlin. Something I learned on this trip, at my age, is that West Berlin was inside of East Germany. Hence the need for a Checkpoint Charlie. It seems the southwest of Germany, the Saarbrucker area, was U.S. held/owned(?) after the war, the western middle part was French and the northwest part was British. East Germany was Soviet and West Berlin was (U.S.) smack dab in the middle of Soviet Germany. It gets a lot more confusing so I’ll stop with my already more-than-likely incorrect description.
I have three degrees but not from good schools.
Now we’re back to Peter. And probably his wang.
Anna had confided in me. A month before I got to the AirBnB, federal agents had stormed the place looking for his ties to an infamous right-wing party I won’t name because it’s far scarier than Peter was. I’ll say it has the word “Reich” in it and leave it at that. Anyway, Anna had been there for five months and said they’d also raided the house while she was there the month prior. So twice in the two months before I arrived, Peter’s nice, quiet house with the fruit trees had been descended upon by a SWAT team or what-have-you. And who knows if his wang was hanging out. But I now sure as hell knew why I wasn’t allowed in the office.
Anna said this underground political party had something to do with the “original borders” of Germany from the years, something-or-other to something-or-other-else. Anna doesn’t believe in deodorant so I took everything she told me with a grain of salt. And small side breaths. She didn’t emanate as badly when we sat in her room and drank good coffee she smuggled in and smoked, which we were most certainly not supposed to do in this house of lies.
Adding even more to my confusion, Peter was a big Pink Floyd fan.
I hate Pink Floyd.
Anna was a pretty active, semi-homeless, oft-funny woman who had moved out of her family home in Sweden. Her marriage had broken up at some point and her kids didn’t speak to her anymore. It may have been the deodorant thing, but that’s a chick-or-the-egg type deal if you ask me. She was very kind, in a defiant way and perhaps took me under her wing as a surrogate son. Not perhaps. She said it out loud.
It was her goal to take me “downtown” to see the finer things, the little-known things, in Berlin. On our planned night out, she said we’d stop to switch trains at Alexanderplatz, hit a bar that was a “must see,” then go to somewhere near Potsdamer Platz and see some cool light show.
Turns out, the “must see” bar was the 24-hour gay bar – Besenkammer. Anna had been many times before, they knew her name and brought her drink over without prompting. She was on the dole so I was buying, no big deal, she was a cheap date. It was a battle in my head to come up with an inoffensive way to recommend a shower. So I didn’t. And paid the price all evening. But she was showing me a kindness so I kept my trap shut.
After a couple at Besenkammer, we headed on to the Sony Center, home to a weird complex of offices, movie theaters, bars, restaurants and a giant courtyard with a canopy which would soon be lit up. The lightshow was pretty impressive and the dangling dancer people were neat and the musical accompaniment was relaxing. Anna rolled a spliff and smoked it right there in the middle of everyone. Ended up passing it back and forth with a stranger at the table next to her.
The Sony Center reminded me of a modern strip mall like the one in L.A. where Crazy, Stupid, Love was filmed but in tower form. I hated it. Germans are, for the most part, in these types of places, wound too tight to enjoy themselves so these things feel like forced fun. Whereas the KitKatClub is more my mentality but not execution.
[Please take the time to look up the KitKatClub, I’m not going to tell you anything about it. Saving that story for the book. But look it up later, keep reading. Let’s fight the war on Ritalin together!]
Anna and I had a couple more beers on the way ‘home’ and got in late. We may or may not have gotten yelled at by Peter but I didn’t understand, Anna didn’t explain and I didn’t care. Evidently, revolutionists go to bed early.
At least he was wearing pants.
After consistently getting lost coming out of Peter’s neighborhood, I’d started stopping by a Greek restaurant on the way to the much-further-away train stop. They took good care of me and started bringing me plates of random food that were every bit as good as what I’d had in Athens. Really friendly guys who would eventually also start bringing me Ouzo on the nights I dropped by on my way back. Making it even harder to find the house.
It was getting crisp at night in mid-September, which was just fine by me. I’d sit out on their patio and have my favorite things. Beer, (now Ouzo), cigarettes and a book. The waiter with the best personality would come and try to speak with me in English, which was great – we both found it entertaining. I used what little Greek I’d learned, some butchered German – then teach him a phrase he was eager to learn in English.
Once again, I was able to revisit the concept of “Siga Siga” with someone. “Slowly, slowly… enjoy the moment.” What a wonderful thing. A constant reminder to put your pent-up emotion to the wayside and just be. Sounds like hippie nonsense but man alive, you have to try it. I imagine it’s why women like candles and bubble baths. Men need the equivalent if not the literal thing but they’re (we’re) so dead set on being manly about things. Well, we were, now it seems anything goes – but us old-school dudes need the Siga Siga in our lives. Or something besides listening to Jeff Buckley when no one’s around.
Demetrios at “Restaurant Syrtaki” took great care of me that week. He’s a full-of-light-and-life person, quick with a joke or a caring ear and he was certainly appreciated. Every time I hang out with Greek people, I feel more alive. Something about them. When I asked Demetrios why Greek food was always so good, he said exactly what Elias had said to me in Athens, “Our food is our soul.” Damn that’s good.
I enjoy watching Netflix on the road, the offerings change country-to-country, I would imagine due to some licensing issues. For instance, I was able to watch The Godfather in Italy but not in Greece or Germany. I’m currently writing this in Oaxaca, Mexico – where I can watch Modern Family, which I can’t do in the States. You get the picture.
While in Berlin, I fell asleep to Schindler’s List, I know – crazy-fun movie, right? I like it, cut me some slack. What was interesting was, while certain scenes played out, a caption at the bottom said things like, “Only 3,000 people actually died in (Polish city being depicted), and mostly not at the hands of German soldiers.” I’m not kidding. This went on and on until I began to wonder if Spielberg or Amblin Entertainment knew anything about it. Some of the captioned commentary was certainly controversial at best.
It got me thinking about revisionist history.
Berlin is constantly haunted by its past but pulls itself up by its bootstraps every single day and creates beauty out of the garbage of history. I’ve never stepped foot in a more intelligent, artistic or progressive city and I think that’s because they’ve been through hell and keep things around to remind them of what could happen again if they let their guard down.
We’ll never live in Utopia but we’re more likely to create one with reminders than we are by whitewashing everything. What a shitty yet apropos term.
Like life, Berlin is bittersweet. Outrageously good times mixed with horrific reflections. The fact that life goes on there is a triumph for all humankind. It’s a constant reminder that we get much further by supporting and protecting one another than we do through apathy, greed and self-interest.
Enough of That Shit
Time to say goodbye to Peter and Anna, I missed the opportunity (ahem) to bid adieu to Tisha. I visited the Greeks for lunch, said hi to the lady in the stationary store where the only known (to me) ATM was near the train station – and made my way to Central Berlin station for my trip to Hanover.
To the people of Berlin:
Thank you for the pristine surroundings, the well-kept ancient buildings, the gorgeous modern architecture, the art absolutely everywhere. Thank you for well-thought-out transportation, the family-friendly attractions and events, the freakshows, sexshows and questionable establishments. Thank you for the food, some of the best versions of global cuisine. Some of it “Asian.” Thank you for the friendly citizens, the well-read bartenders, baristas and shopkeepers. Thanks for your hospitality, history and perseverance. See you next time.