Diary of an Expat, Part 33
Why Berlin is awesome
I had two really good days in Berlin today. I'm kind of tired, so I'm going to keep things short, I think, as much as possible. But I'll see if I can explain what I mean.

The first was a trivially good day. I bought some good German strawberries. I had a burrito that wasn't terrible. I ate at a decent German restaurant and had some good German beer. I hung out with friends, neither of whom are German. Normal stuff.

Berlin weather has been pretty hit or miss lately, and by "hit" I mean "the raindrops that strike you" and by "miss" I mean "what you are doing, with regards to blue skies." It has been grey, and sort-of-rainy, and that sort-of-rain gave way to drizzle later on that was manifestly unpleasant.

I've been getting back into photography, and when Berlin is beautiful it's interesting that it is so profoundly green. That's one of the things that I love most about this city — Berlin is colourful on the worst of days, but it's the green that comes through most strongly, and that's a bit striking for a city of this size.

(I've gone and bought a real camera to use when documenting the city, instead of my phone, because to be honest Berlin deserves more than a phone, no matter how well some people can do it. Germans like photography, so, I feel this is a step in the right direction)

So anyway, there's the most basic part where I wandered around Berlin with cool people and saw cool things — awesome street art, random buskers, an impromptu party or two, later on in the evening outside my apartment. I've mentioned things that are more or like this before.

I was trying to think of why Berlin is cool. I sometimes vacillate on what American city it is closest to. Most recently I have been leaning towards Chicago. It's full of interesting things but, more importantly, it's a city in which things happen. It's a city with culture and influence, but also a city that has not lost touch with its gritty, industrial side. It's a city where people go to to make their fortunes and develop their identities, but not the city where people do that (like New York).

After an insightful conversation this evening, however, I'll revise that again. Berlin now is what everyone imagines San Francisco was in the late 60s and early 70s. It's a city where bohemianism for bohemianism's sake is alright, but bohemianism is expected to translate into action: make music, paint art on the sides of buildings, cook, build things, make friends.

My generation is a restive one. Many of us are existentially dissatisfied; unhappy with the state of the world and its prospects. What to do? Occasionally this translates into little spasms, like Occupy Wall Street or the Kony 2012 demicampaign, of deciding that we're going to change the world, notions that flicker in and out of existence with the discontented sizzle of sparks on wet kindling.

Meanwhile a different fire is being built. As in Hunter S Thompson's San Francisco, here is the sense that maybe the world can't be changed — but an empty wall can. A blank page can. A celebrationless street can. It's the creative, youthful, exuberant translation of the "think globally, act locally" bit from the '90s.

Berlin, I think, is the purest expression of this. It's a city where wild things happen as a matter of course, and wild people gravitate as a matter of principle. And if you are not wild, yourself, then you are drawn by the invigorating sense that comes from being around those who are. I work a lot of 11 hour days. I'm frequently busy in the office. I sometimes work late at night, or on weekends. I'm pretty square.

Setting aside this blog I've written 200,000 words of fiction purely for my own enjoyment since September 1st of last year. This is within spitting distance of how much I wrote in San Francisco when I lived there for three years and had more free time. There's an intoxicating energy that exists here, and you can't live here and not notice it.

And that is a really cool thing, and that is why Berlin is amazing.
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