Having been on the staff of Liverputty International for over two weeks now--and having met two deadlines--I am now fully vested in the German employees pension and holiday schemes. I will therefore be beginning my contracted 8 weeks of paid vacation...immediately.
I am unsure as to how I will be spending my time, although I will certainly put in at least one week in the Liverputty Corporate Condo on Ibiza. Fortunately tanning is now tax-deductable. Seriously though...we are entering the 6 week do-nothing phase of Western European existence. People drop everything, and have all left town by the first weekend in August at the latest, and are not back until the second week in September. As nobody has air conditioning here, and it does actually get up into the 90's fairly regularly, it's not such a bad idea.
Right now Berlin is still filled with tourists...the World Cup is over, the flags are (mostly) put away, but today is the LOVE PARADE, a sort of dumbed-down Woodstock with bad music for techno fans. The last one had around a million viewers/participants. Next weekend is Christopher Street Day, the European equivalent of Gay Pride--named after Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, where the Stonewall riots occured in the early 70's, sparking the international gay-rights movement. There should be several hundred thousand here for that...only about half of whom will be gay, if past attendance is any guide. It is a popular event here, with families bringing their children to look at the funny men with the big muscles.
I have a word of advice, or maybe it's a request. I made the mistake of walking through the Tiergarten(Berlin's Central Park) yesterday and was accosted twice by idiot tourists. Embarassingly, they were all American students, riding bicycles erratically on foot paths, beeping their silly little horns and acting...well...stupid. One of the most difficult things for an American living in Europe is explaining that all Americans are not like American tourists. All tourists seem to loose their sense of perspective when in a foreign land. Germans are unbearable in Manhattan in August. Actually...existence is unbearable in Manhattan in August.
Here, however, is my request. If you are an American, and are planning to come to Europe, and are planning to be an idiot, please think of those of your fellow countrymen who live here...and don't. Go to South Padre Island, or better yet Hawaii...it feels like a foreign country, at any rate.
But enough of my kvetching(not a German word anymore...only Yiddish now).
Bush was here visiting Angela Merkel. From what I have been reading in the blogosphere, Americans seem to be seeing her as the German Margaret Thatcher. That would be a mistake. She is a nice, down-to-earth (already a departure from the Baroness Thatcher), and thoroughly approachable Chancellor (a new word in German--Die Kanzlerin). But she shares power with her political arch-rivals, the Socialists (Thatcher never shared power with anyone!) and has not the maneuvering room to accomplish anything but a few cosmetic reforms and some very real tax increases. This 'grand coalition' may fall apart before the year is out, with new elections bringing a conservative/liberal(libertarian) coalition; but if the current polls hold up, it would bring the same result as now: left/right do nothingism.
The situation is hardly better next door, where the Kreepy Kaczinski Twins have installed themselves as President and Prime Minister of Poland. To be fair, their Catholic-dominated center-right party, Law and Justice, won the elections last fall over the Liberal(libertarian) Donald Tusk (who blew a long-standing lead by appearing over-confident and arrogant); but since then, they have reneged on their promises not to hold the two top offices, and to try to form a coalition with the Liberals. Instead, not willing to cede any power to another strong party, they included two smaller far-right parties who variously (and I kid you not, gentle reader) throw potatoes during parliamentary debates, acknowledge one another with neo-Hitler salutes, and talk openly (this was a cabinet official) of the salutary benefits of gay bashing.
Now Lech has installed his unmarried twin(who lives at home with his aged mother and her equally aged cat) as Prime Minister. Poles are long used to seeing the brothers, who shot to fame as child stars in the the 1960's film "Two who stole the Moon". But it is, from my conversations with friends there, a very distressing situation nonetheless. Imagine if we had as President and Speaker of the House, Macaulay Culkin and his little brother, Not-Macaulay. The soul shivers with anticipatory despair.
But enough of that. Maybe more politics in 8 weeks, when my well-earned vacation is over. I bid you all auf wiedersehen.