Monday, January 26, 2009

Staying Out

I'm living in Graefekiez again, just one block from where I was in the fall of 2007 when I started this blog. This time I'm on Schönleinstraße, directly across from the classic Berliner dive-bar Bei Schlawinchen (#34), with its Tuesday-night 1.50-euro cocktails. Tonight I've had to do that most terrible of things: go to a bar all alone to drink. In the whole world, Berlin has to be my top choice for a solitary woman in a bar, as she can go for years without anyone talking to her. Is there any better place in the world to be alone than here, I wonder? I'm thinking about extending my stay in Berlin through the spring; after two years on my own, perhaps I've grown accustomed, to some degree, to the solitude. And solitude is just not something that one can pull off, with any panache, as a woman in Madrid. Berlin, somehow, just fits.

The event that elicited this particular flurry of neuroticism, was Revolutionary Road, a film for which I had few hopes, but which consequently proved to be a bit of an unexpected surprise. It was directed by Sam Mendes, who gave us the astonishing American Beauty. The dialogue was overblown in more than one scene and DiCapprio couldn't refrain from overacting, but Kate Winslet was really spot-on. So, as always, isn't it best to have low expectations? I've certainly found Berlin vs. Madrid to be a perfect example. I expected little to nothing from Berlin when coming here, but perhaps a bit too much from Madrid, which was to be my perfect escape, and now, will you just look at that, Berlin is where I'm wanting to be. It's crept under my skin, damn it, and not even the cold and grey can deter me.

Now that Obama's been in for a week, all of us voluntary political exiles are asking ourselves (or if we aren't, our friends are doing it for us): should we go back? Revolutionary Road captured, with a great 1950s twist, the exact smothered feeling the U.S. gives me, and why I should not and hopefully will continue to manage to not go back. Although I celebrated the inauguration last Tuesday night, it was really to mark the end of Bush [of course I'm not immune to the thrill of having the first African-American president]. The festivities in Berlin were dull and slightly alienating (I simply cannot bear true-believer American expats) and even party-hopping didn't end up feeling satisfactory, but no matter, the important thing was W is out. I remember so well the end of Bush I, and the scant hope that we had for Clinton, which was borne out all too well. I have little more for Obama; I'm afraid the cynicism runs just about deep as it can -- there seems to be no other option these days for a thinking American in this world. But low expectations, as I've already said, are the best. Go ahead, Obama, surprise us cynical expats; we'll be more than happy to eat our words.

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