One Year Anniversary of the LA Teacher’s Strike

16 Jan

 

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Normally an ASL interpreter is not supposed to post photos on social media when she is on the job due to our code of ethics and the most important part of our profession, confidentiality. We’re also never supposed to self promote- as our job is about our Deaf consumers and the Deaf community that we serve as a bridge of communication for. However, in this case I will make an exception and share this story, as this is such a unique situation.

1 year ago I was fortunate enough to have been a small part of the largest teacher’s strike in US history here in Los Angeles. Between 30 and 50 thousand courageous, driven, principled people were in the streets of LA in the pouring rain for 6 days. They were fighting for the rights of LA Public School Students and demanding dignity and respect for those who educate them.

UTLA, the LA teachers union was committed to equal access to communication for the Deaf educators on strike and for the Deaf parents, students, and community members affected by the strike (some numbers show that nearly one million Deaf and Hard of Hearing people live in Southern California, many of them in LA County). By the end of the 6th day, we were all like family and I really feel honored to have been treated like a fellow family member.

All of the passionate Deaf educators at Marlton School and across the district were so wonderful to work with. A few other ASL interpreters worked with me during the strike including Jamila Cantor-Guerrero, Allie Kauling, Jann Goldsby. They were all wonderful team interpreters and deserve acknowlegement. Sign Language Company Interpreting agency also deserves acknowledgement for their fine work.

I’m a CODA (Child of a Deaf Adult), and it was such an honor to serve Deaf Educators during their historic strike. I was so humbled by all of the courage, passion, and commitment I witnessed during the strike. It was a truly life changing experience. I grew up with a Deaf mom, a single mother who was a public high school teacher. As a part time public school teacher, my mom often struggled making ends meet when my siblings and I were growing up. This made the strike personal for me, it really resonated. I really do have so much love for all of you teachers here in Los Angeles and am so grateful to have served you during your strike in my small way. Big hugs to everyone and happy 1 year anniversary! – Los Angeles, California Jan 15th 2020

 

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Yellow Rose Of Texas

6 Jan

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I saw Buckle’s Lounge (Western Bar, Dancing) out of the corner of my eye as I pulled into town on I-40 West.  Most of the hotels and motels in Amarillo were only about thirty bucks for a night, but I remembered Cezar’s spider bites in El Centro and thought I better rest my head in at least a three star hotel, one or two star hotels being breeding grounds for bed bugs, fleas, and anything else you can catch for thirty bucks.

I found a three star hotel for sixty bucks and they even had an available room on the ground floor as I requested.  The lack of stairs made it much easier to load amps and guitars into my room.  I promised Cezar I’d take care of his gear. I didn’t want my guitar stolen either.

For those of you who haven’t been to Texas, your perception has been molded by its outsider reputation. The first time I traveled through the Lone Star State as a seventeen year old punk rock musician in 2001, my guitarist’s parents’ faces became considerably more white when we told them we were headed through Texas.

“You’re driving through Texas?”

“Yeah.”

“Just be careful in Texas. It’s just… we come from the Easy Rider generation.”

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For those who haven’t seen Easy Rider, see it.  I hope I won’t ruin your cinematic experience by letting you know that both Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper’s characters are killed by shotgun-toting, pickup truck-driving rednecks at the end of their road trip from Los Angeles to New Orleans.

In Tucson, Arizona in December 2019, this conversation seemed to repeat itself.

“You’re driving through Texas?”

“Yeah.”
“Be careful, just don’t get shot. They shoot people out there.”

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Where does this reputation come from?  In 1836 between 182 and 257 Texans died defending The Alamo in San Antonio. Around 600 Mexicans were killed or wounded. A man in Hico, Texas claimed to have been notorious outlaw Billy “the Kid” who raised plenty of hell in the late 1800s. In the 1930s, Dallas, Texas’ own Bonnie and Clyde committed over 13 murders, along with their burglaries.  In 1963, JFK was assassinated in Dallas.  In 1993, 76 members of the Branch Dravidian Cult were killed during a siege in Waco, Texas. In August 2019, at an El Paso Walmart, a gunman shot and killed 22 people, injuring 24 others. Plenty of terrible things have occurred in other states, but like they say, “Everything is bigger in Texas.”

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As a touring musician who traveled through Texas quite a few times, I found Texans to be genuine polite people who had real respect and admiration for original music.  I found country music dance halls to be fascinating, where people of every stripe – black, white, Latino, young, old, all dancing the Texas two-step, couples amicably switching without complaint, the continuation of  dance being the most important thing.  People seemed to treat each other with an old-worldly respect.

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Ernest Tubb and the Texas Troubadours

People say, “Please, thank you, ma’am, and sir.”

Real gentlemen still exist in Texas.

As a traveling dental supply salesman I was also fortunate enough to spend time in San Antonio and Austin.  For several years, my old punk band Clorox Girls would travel to the South By Southwest music festival in Austin, where we’d almost always spend a week crashing with friends.  We enjoyed the hospitality and the breakfast tacos.  California does breakfast burritos, but Texas does breakfast tacos, scrambled eggs and chorizo on a heavenly, fluffy, buoyant, stretchy warm flour tortilla.

Many of my favorite musicians come from Texas, including but not limited to Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Lefty Frizzell,The Dicks, The Big Boys, Kris Kristofferson, Ernest Tubb, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Towns Van Zandt.  I’ve attempted the Texas two-step in San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas.

Amarillo, yellow in Spanish, known as “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” is named for the yellow wildflowers that blanket the panhandle during spring and summer.  My trip from Irving, Texas to Amarillo had taken me through a number of one-horse towns, one road, one movie theatre, one church, one gas station.  Being a fan of the films “The Last Picture Show” and “Tender Mercies”, these one-horse towns fueled my imagination.

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Pulling into town I had to find a budget hotel that didn’t have bed bugs with a ground floor load-in for the amps and guitars weighing down my poor 2013 Honda Civic.  Found one for sixty. Three star.  A couple blocks away from my hotel was Bikini Players Club.  That would be my second stop.  First things first, haul ass over to Buckles and see what it’s all about.

A few pickup trucks dotted the parking lot.  I pulled my Honda Civic with Bernie Sanders bumper sticker right in front of the place.

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“Fuck it,” I said to myself, and swung the front door open.

There was a group of young people playing pool to the left, one of them a woman wearing a black wrist brace.

I sat down at the bar. A very large man was asleep at the bar next to me.  Across at the other end of the bar a couple of guys with square white beards were deep in conversation. They could have been stars on the show “Duck Dynasty.”  One of them had on a Texas Longhorns hat.  To their left was a guy with a cowboy hat and a mustache smoking a cigarette and nursing a Bud Lite.

The girl with the wrist brace came up to the bar next to me.

“Claudette, a couple more Ultras with Limes, please?”

Michelob Ultra with a lime was the pool players’ drink of choice.  The Duck Dynasty guys were drinking large Bud Lites in metallic blue bottles.

I ordered a Shiner and a shot of tequila.

“What’s your well,” I asked Claudette.

“Juarez,” she responded.

“I’ll try that.”

Terrible choice.  Juarez did not go down smoothly.

“$6.75” Claudette said.   A bargain.

The large man next to me was suddenly awake.  It appeared that he wasn’t sleeping, he was just chatting quietly into his cell phone, cupped in his gargantuan hands.  He had to drown out Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” blaring above.   Country Western bar indeed.

I must have looked road weary enough to fit in.

The big man turned to me, “You work around here? You look familiar.”

“No, I’m just passing through.” I said with a grin, the quadruple shot of Juarez beginning to kick in.

The man’s name was Mike.   Mike was smoking a cigarette and nursing a Jack and Coke.

“I’m a retired trucker on disability.  But I still drive under the table. I’m leaving for Tracy, California tomorrow morning.  The last time I went out there I stayed in one of the cat houses outside of Vegas.  Not for the hookers, but just ‘cause the hotel is cheap.  I met a 19 year old girl there.  She didn’t wanna be there.  So I took her outta there, gave her a ride to Phoenix.  When I pass through, she lets me sleep on her couch.  I have another girl in town here. She has two different kids by two different black guys.  I just bought her a new washing machine.”

“It’s good to do things for other people,” I said.

“I used to be the doorman at Billy Bob’s over in Fort Worth. I saw everybody there. I mean everybody.”

“Willie, Waylon, all those guys?”

“I mean everybody.”

Mike coughed a little.

“Man, I got sleep apnea, real bad. They tell me my heart stops in the middle of the night. So I got this oxygen respirator.”

Mike took another drag of his cigarette.

He told me a little bit about his ex wives and grandchildren and how his truck needed some repairs before he drove out to Tracy in the morning.

“So, are you a fan of Mister President?”

“No, I am not,” I replied calmly.

It wasn’t brought up again. We just kept chatting. This is how political conversations should go. Just talk about something else. I respected Mike for that. Our countrymen should follow his example.

A Dominoes delivery guy showed up.

“Mike?”

“Yup that’s me!”

Mike signed for the pizza.

“You wanna slice of pizza?”

“No man, I’m good, thanks. I just ate.”

“Hey Claudette, you gotta try a piece of this pizza!”

Mike had a couple of slices. Claudette took one.

“Now Claudette, I’m gonna need you to make me an orgasm.”

“I don’t know how to make that one.”

“Look it up on your phone!”

She did.

Claudette came back with an icy fluorescent drink in a highball glass.  It had a pink shot next to it.  Mike took it down.

“Ah that’s good!  You made it right!”

He went back to his Jack and Coke.

Mike was sniffing a little bit.  I didn’t ask.

A Latino trucker came in who was sniffing quite a bit more.

“Hey, do you have any wine?”

Claudette dug deep into her freezer and pulled out this urine-yellow bottle of Chardonnay.

“This thing has been in here for like three years.”

“I’ll have that,” Latino trucker said, nearly chewing his lips off.

“I Could Just Kill A Man” by Cypress Hill came on the jukebox.  Latino trucker began slapping the bar with two open palms, in tempo with the music.  No one flinched.  I ordered a second shot of tequila but went for something a little more higher shelf than Juarez.  It was Hornitos.  Better than Juarez but not by much.  Ordered a second Shiner Bock to wash it down.

The next song was Rage Against the Machine covering Cypress Hill’s “I Could Just Kill A Man.” Someone put the same song on the jukebox twice.

Wrist girl came up to the bar again, standing very close to me. She gave me a sideways smile.

“Claudette, two more Ultras with Lime please.”

I enjoyed chatting with Mike, but I after two giant shots of tequila and two beers, I figured I might get into something deep if I stayed.  I had six hundred miles to drive in the morning.  I shook Mike’s hand goodbye and wished him a safe drive to Tracy.  He looked me in the eye and had a firm grip. I value these small things.

I thought about going into Bikini Players Club for a last drink.

“Fuck it,” I said to myself and went in.

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There was a small cover charge at the door. A nervous looking skinny white guy was in line ahead of me.  He pocketed his change anxiously.

The door girl was a cute Latina with a big smile.  I paid the cover and went in.

Bikini Players Club was about half full. It was mostly black guys in there with a sprinkling of Latinos and white guys.  I ordered another Shiner Bock , paid in cash, tipped a buck and sat down near the stage.  The first dancer was a black girl in a bikini who was pretty unenthusiastic, no one paid her much attention and she only made about five bucks in tips. I sipped on my Shiner Bock and surveyed the room.  There was a group of black guys who had their own table front and center, looked like it was someone’s birthday party or bachelor party.  They had their own personal waitress who brought them another round of drinks on a tray.

A white guy two seats away from me got swooped up by a girl who offered him a private dance. He agreed and was quickly whisked away to a back room.  The next dancer was a Latina with a one piece bathing suit which served as a thong in the back.  She was a real lady with stretch marks and all.  She stood on all fours and made her exposed parts jiggle and shake.  A black girl in nurse’s scrubs, came up and put a few dollars inside the hip of the woman’s bathing suit and gave her a light spank.

“Thank you, hun,” the dancer said.

My Shiner Bock was empty, and I had seen enough. I figured I was next on the chopping block to be pulled into the back for a dance.  I had six hundred miles to drive in the morning after all.  It was a chilly walk back to my hotel, I figured it was about 30 degrees.  I went through the Whataburger Drive Through and took the food back to my room.

I couldn’t sleep, but “Vacation” with Chevy Chase was on TV.  Man, they sure went through hell to make it to Wally World.  They had to tie Aunt Edna to the roof of the car when she died.  Good stuff.   Clark gets caught naked in the pool red-handed. Good stuff.

In the morning I had an egg and chorizo breakfast burrito.  Nothing else in there. Just scrambled egg, chorizo, and the best flour tortilla known to mankind.  I hit up a Mexican grocery store and bought two four packs of Topo Chico in glass bottles and some warm flour tortillas.  It really doesn’t take too much to make me happy. I’m a simple man.  Just give me the open road, a cold Topo Chico, some warm flour tortillas, and Ernest Tubb on the car radio.

Amarillo seemed like a lawless place. A trucker town, a border town, a meth town, a Texas panhandle town. I loved it. Driving across the state alone listening to Waylon Jennings and Buddy Holly brought me into a tranquil, meditative state.  A lady working the counter inside at a service station (unleaded gasoline was $2.50 per gallon), asked me if I played the guit-tar.

“I used to have a guit-tar.  My ex boyfriend kept it. Miss the guit-tar, but he was a nice guy. It’s been so long.”

“It’s never too late to pick one up again.”

“Yeah, I donno. Maybe.  You have a safe drive.”

There were a few Mexican bars that I wouldn’t mind stopping in.  The pawn shop was sure to have something good in it.  Passed the local TV station building.  I wondered what was on Amarillo’s local news today.  I wondered how much rent was.  I wondered if I could find work in Amarillo as a sign language interpreter.  I imagined what my little house in Amarillo would look like.  Maybe I could play country music Thursday nights at Buckle’s.  Maybe a late-night radio station would let me DJ some tunes.

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Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo

Passed Cadillac Ranch on the outskirts of town. I never did have that free seventy two ounce steak at Big Texan that had been advertised on billboards for hundreds of miles.  Mike told me that it was a scam anyhow. He told me two people had died trying to eat it all in one sitting.

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The Yellow Rose of Texas disappeared in my rearview.  It kept a chunk of my heart, seventy two ounces worth.  I knew that I’d be back soon.

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Tacos, Tequila, and Spider Bites. Cezar & Justin Tour Diary 2019.

3 Jan
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Korean Friendship Bell, San Pedro. Photo by Andrew Zappin

Tacos, Tequila, and Spider Bites.

Cezar & Justin Tour Diary 2019.

I first met Cezar Mora about ten years ago in Long Beach, California. We had a mutual Canadian friend, Vancouver artist and musician Justin Gradin. This creative Canuck introduced us.  Justin Gradin would eat a California Burrito (carne asada with french fries) from Burrito King in Echo Park daily, but that’s beside the point. 

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Burrito King, Echo Park.

Cezar told me that we could make a lot of money playing low rider car shows as a Beach Boys cover band singing in Spanish. We called ourselves Los Long Beach Boys and attempted our first song “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” in Spanish.  The translation was difficult, the rhymes were difficult, we were both frustrated.  After a couple sessions of attempting to kick off Los Long Beach Boys, we scrapped the idea and formed a band that played original songs instead.  We called ourselves LA Drugz because our drummer James Carman said that the best music is like a drug. 
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LA Drugz outside of Harold’s Place, San Pedro. Photo by Emilio Venegas, Jr.

There was already a band called LA Drugs from Boston, so we called our selves LA Drugz with a Z. It was partially a tribute to The Plugz, and also LA Guns.   LA Drugz recorded some fantastic material, released a 12″ EP and a digital EP and toured the west coast of America, but we were ultimately short lived.  We reformed to tour from Texas to San Francisco with England’s Fat White Family, and that tour ended with our tour van being broken into, all of Fat White’s equipment, suitcases, and guitars stolen, and those guys basically left in windy freezing cold San Francisco all wearing their only item of clothing which were matching LA Drugz T-shirts.
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Fat White Family on the first date of their UK tour, the only clothing not stolen out of their suitcases in SF being their matching LA Drugz T-shirts. Photo by Polly Braithwaite.

When  I was a teenager, my Dad had a friend from Morro Bay, California named Fran.  He was belligerent and a drunk and he would frequently get into fistfights with surfers on the beach. He would only date black women, citing his preference for their shapely asses.  Fran loved blues and country music and when I told him I liked it too, he would tape me this radio show from one of his local stations.   The cassette tapes that would arrive weekly in the mail would have stuff on them like Lightnin’ Hopkins, Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and Lefty Frizzell.   To me, blues and country were just as honest as punk rock.  Country music was American rural storytelling, songs about all night drunks, failed marriages, lost jobs, broken hearts. It was a truly adult form of music as opposed to a teenage type of music like rock and roll or punk rock.  I didn’t truly understand it until I was divorced in my early 30s.
I played in touring punk rock bands from 1998 til 2018.   In my mind I wanted to play punk rock when I was young and country music when I was old.  A few years ago I went to the White Horse in Austin, Texas and saw young guys with long hair and feathers in their hats playing real country music. I thought, “Jesus, if these guys can do it, then I can too.” What am I waiting for?  It turned out these long haired guys were Croy and The Boys, Croy being a roommate of my old friend Mark Janchar of Hovercraft Records. Small world.
When I my relationship of 8 years ended in divorce, country music was one of the few things that helped me through it. All of these singers had felt my pain too. They drank to cope just like I did.  They made mistakes just like I did.  They fucked up and hit rock bottom just like I did. They got back up on their feet just like I did.
In Los Angeles I found a small but thriving country scene at venues like The Echo, Harvard and Stone, and The Escondite.   At Cowboy Country in Long Beach I saw a great young pedal steel player named Kevin Milner. I got his contact information.  I asked Cezar Mora if he wanted to play in a country band with me.  He was one of my only friends I knew who loved both punk rock and traditional country music.  We both really dig the Bakersfield sound, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and classic stuff like Ernest Tubb, Webb Pierce, Eddie Noack, Willie, Waylon, Loretta, George Jones, you know, the good stuff.
Angela Ramos from San Pedro surf band Bombon agreed to play bass, and Luis Herrera (from Rough Kids, Sonny Vincent, and many more) on drums. We called ourselves The Wayward Chapel, released a live album, and played 3 shows.  Our debut on 4th of July we rode in on the back of my neighbor Francisco’s flatbed tow truck. It was truly epic.  Then Angela had a baby, Cezar started a plumbing business called Camco Rooter, and I started freelance ASL Interpreting full time.  We stopped playing.
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The Wayward Chapel’s First show on top of my neighbor Francisco “Tow Life”s flatbed tow truck. 4th of July 2016

My little brother Jamie recently moved to Dallas, Texas and there was a loose plan for my family to visit him there for Christmas.  I thought about going on tour solo, playing some acoustic shows on the way to help pay for gas.  My second thought was to recruit Cezar Mora on 2nd guitar, harmonies, and some lead vocals of his own and we could do a stripped down country set of originals and covers. To my surprise. Lord Cezar Mora agreed to join me on this Los Angeles to Dallas journey.  In the end I had a lot of trouble syncing up dates with Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and Marfa venues, so the tour was booked as far as Tucson, Arizona, and Cezar would fly back from there. I’d drive the remaining 952 miles myself.  This is our tale.
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Friday Dec. 13th Los Angeles, CA @ Fais Do Do
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A few hours before our LA show our promoter Ryan Platero got in touch to tell us that Fais Do Do had cancelled the show because they had no PA System.  He scrambled and was able to move the show to the Grand Star Jazz Club in Chinatown.  The other bands and DJs scrambled and posted on social media, texting people, frantically spreading the word about the last minute change of location.
Cezar and I donned our hats and boots and arrived a little early, schlepping our stuff up the flight of stairs.  Little did we know, the downstairs bar at the Grand Star had a techno party downstairs. The blaring techno was drowning out the opening act Blanca, but as she was versatile, she was able to stomp her feet and adjust the tempo of her songs so that it matched the tempo of the throbbing kickdrum below.   Cezar and I were up next and it was the first show we had ever played as a two piece.  The techno totally drowned us out and I felt like I had to scream over it.  Some folks in the crowd started talking and between the techno and their talking, it was all I could hear. I couldn’t hear myself, couldn’t hear my guitar amp, couldn’t hear Cezar, couldn’t hear our vocals.  It was extremely difficult to get through.  We played a cover of “Dead Flowers” and that’s when I got into my punk rock mindset.
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My inner voice started chiding me,
                       “Man, what if this is the last show you ever play? How do you wanna go                                   out?
                         You gonna give up?”
Luckily Ryan our promoter told us we only had time for a couple left.  Ending that set was like ending torture trying to play over the techno downstairs.
Before we ended our set I said, “I don’t condone violence, but in this case I will make an exception. Will someone please go downstairs and shoot the DJ multiple times?”
I don’t condone violence but I did wish death on whoever was torturing our existence with bad house music.  It was Friday The 13th after all. Did we pass the test? Who knows. We survived relatively unscathed.  People seemed to love our Cactus t-shirts designed by Matthew “Snake” Davisand screen printed by Kid Kevin Carle at Calimucho Screenprinting and we sold a few.
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Saturday Dec 14th Long Beach, CA @ 4th Street Vine
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Our friend Jim Ritson owns 4th Street Vine in Long Beach and a couple other bars too. God bless him. Our good friend Paul Gonzalez had recently had his car stolen in front of the place while he was working. His records, turntables, and DJ Mixer was inside his car. It was devastating for him as DJing is his 2nd job and one of his loves.  Long Beach rallied and raised a few thousand bucks for him on GoFundMe.  God Bless Paul.
Cezar and Paul were drinking across the street at The Social.  Cezar had his black Stetson Revenger on.  He looked killer.
We had a couple drinks and then headed over to 4th Street Vine as we were on first. People seemed to really listen to our tunes.  It was nice to not have to try and play over throbbing techno.  Our set felt good, pure, the way the songs were meant to be heard.
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Sunday Dec 15th Tijuana, BC @ Casa De Vilma
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I picked up Lord Cezar at 10am at his pad in San Pedro and he wasn’t there. He had parked his van at his Aunt’s place in North Long Beach (down the street from Snoop Dogg’s parents’ house).  So far the communication on this two man tour was off to an excellent start.
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Made the 20 minute detour to North Long Beach, found Lord Cezar and his van the Green Goblin.  Made the tetris pack into the back seat of my 2013 Honda Civic and we were off!
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The drive to Tijuana was relatively painless.  That stretch of 5 freeway near the San Onofre power plant and the view of the great Pacific Ocean is so beautiful.  We stopped in San Isidro, the last US stop before Mexico to buy Mexican Car Insurance, the one thing that I forgot to do.  Typically your US car insurance provider won’t cover you for accidents down in Mexico.  We had our guitars and combo amps with us and I asked my insurance people about theft.  Geico told me that I had to buy renter’s insurance to be covered for theft, but everything in both my apartment and my car would be covered.  I thought it was a good deal, and remembering our good friend Paul in Long Beach and his recent theft of all of his DJ Gear out of his car, I went ahead and bit the bullet, buying renter’s insurance.  Now that our car and gear were fully insured, we said fuck it and crossed into Mexico!
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Our friends Marco and Gabriela’s pad is over in Playas Tijuana, and to get there, you cross the border and make a hard right which leads you through this windy, hilly freeway which parallels the massive border fence to the right.  This fence is rusty corrugated steel and is about the height of 20 Honda Civics.  In between the initial Mexican border fence is the death strip, and then the US border fence.  You can see US Border trucks driving back and forth just on the US side of the fence.  The huge fence leads all the way into the Mexican side of the Pacific Ocean which ends up right at Playas Tijuana.
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In Playas the fence has these murals painted onto it. They’ve made it into a kind of park.  I like it that they’ve done that.  Turned this ugly steel fence into something a bit more pleasant.  From Playas Tijuana you can literally see the skyline of San Diego in the distance.  The border is such a farce, man. It’s literally for show.  People who cross the border daily have family on both sides.  It’s people’s aunts, uncles, grandparents, neices, nephews who are crossing to visit and stay with family on the other side.  Gabriela, who lives with Marco in Playas Tijuana is studying to be a Veterinary Technician.  She crosses almost daily to study in San Diego.  Marco is studying to be an educational administrator and nearly has his Master’s Degree from one of the many excellent universities in Tijuana.
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Our host Marco’s face after I convince him to try a little taste of Gran Centenario Plata

We found our host’s house and I cut my finger open on their sliding gate door. My friend Cezar told me that I was going to get tetanus or lock jaw and have to sing the rest of the tour through my teeth with my jaw stuck shut.  Nice guy, isn’t he?
We met the doggie, Vilma who their house is named after.  Marco was preparing a carne asada BBQ in their back yard.  Playas Tijuana is mellow and pleasant and a nice breeze blows off the ocean.  It was time for Cezar and I to get in our hats and boots before people started arriving the party.  But first things first, we bought a bottle of Tequila Gran Centenario, Plata from the corner store nearby and enjoyed a tragito with our hosts.
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Damian Fry aka Profeta de Ajo (“Prophet of Garlic”) opened up the show with some beautiful tunes from South America.  He had an assortment of different instruments and he played and sang beautifully.
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Damian Fry aka Profeta de Ajo.       Photo by @isabeology (IG)

Up next were Los Rattlesnakes, Tijuana punk scene veterans who recently started an acoustic side project.  The dudes later told me that they had called the band Los Rattlesnakes because of the theme of rattlesnakes in the Ritchie Valens biopic film “La Bamba”, which is also a favorite of ours.  My old friend Sulli and I got Ritchie Valens tattoos on a trip to TJ awhile back and I told them the story about it. They were stoked.

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Los Rattlesnakes

Your pals Cezar and Justin were up next, and the room full of TJ punk rockers surprisingly dug our set of traditional country western music.

 

Our set was followed by a lively afterparty and we managed this group shot before things got too rowdy!  Gracias a Marco y Gabriela and all of our new friends!  Saludos Amiguitos!!
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Monday Dec. 16th El Centro, CA @ Strangers Bar
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Our poor host Marco had to jet off to work at 6am for a 7am start at the school he’s working in.  I loaded the Honda Civic as Cezar had disappeared off somewhere.  Poor Cezar slept on the couch with no blankets.  Someone finally draped some blankets over him.  I had the guest room where their roommate had just moved out and repainted the room. At first I was alright, but halfway through the night the paint fumes got kinda overwhelming and I opened the window and let some cool Playas De Tijuana aire in.
First things first, breakfast.  I remembered a place where Gabi and Marco had taken Irwing and myself on an earlier visit.  We found the place.
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El Heisenbergo aka Lord Cezar has his breakfast

After much deliberation I ordered the crab omelette.  Cezar ordered chilaquiles with machaca.   I had a freshly squeezed orange juice that was cold and mildly sweet. Goddamn, it may have been the best orange juice I ever had.  The Crab Omelette was absolutely fantastic.  They had this dangerously picoso salsa roja, and I put too much on my little crab omelette tacos I made with my side of frijoles.  I was worried I might pay the price later.  It wouldn’t be until Phoenix, but oh a price I would pay.
Our hosts in TJ mentioned that the drive to Mexicali might be dangerous. My personal experience driving in Mexico is to take the toll roads and drive during the daytime.  That was the advice given to Clorox Girls during our Mexican tour in 2006, and this advice has served me well.  Lord Cezar had some misgivings, but we decided “fuck it.”
We took the toll road past Tijuana, past Tecate, and into the rolling rocky hills before Mexicali. The drive was beautiful.   I caught some shots of El Heisenbergo in his natural habitat.
Here’s what I wrote when I initially posted the photos.
Cezar and Justin made a succesful camino TJ a Mexicali y estamos en El Centro. The rock formations on the way to Mexicali were amazing. My shots of El Heisenbergo y las pinches piedras are here. The border is just for show, Los Mexicanos are our brothers and sisters. California was Native American, Spain, Mexico, THEN the US. We share history, food, culture, music, literature, art. It was our pleasure to share our music with our hermanos en Baja California. El Centro tonight with The Mellow Dicks from Mexicali at Strangers Bar. If you live here, come!
After a gorgeous drive and less than $6 in tolls, we finally hit Mexicali where we enjoyed some tacos.  There’s something special about flour tortillas in the desert: stretchy, buttery, sanguine. I don’t think I’ll ever think of flour tortillas in the same way again.  Viva Tortillas De Harina!
Our friend Ernie Quintero roadied for Clorox Girls during our Mexican tour in 2006 and he shot and edited this video.
Ernie is now a father and owns 2 businesses in El Centro, one being Strangers Bar. He told us that a Monday would be perfect, and said he’d donate all of his tips to us. What a good dude.

Ernesto had some pizza from his partner business Strangers West, and they put charcoal in the pizza dough making it dark and chewy.  Definitely interesting, definitely good!

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Charcoal pizza crust from Strangers West, El Centro.

Mellowdicks from Mexicali were a little nervous to play acoustic as this was their first attempt at doing so. They pulled it off!

Mexicali was where that stretch of the railroad came to an end, so there’s loads of Chinese Restaurants with Mexican ingredients.  There’s also loads of lovely frauliens who are half Chinese half Mexican.  A few beautiful frauliens were surprisingly at the bar in El Centro on a Monday night.  As our set ended many of them left as we imagined they had work in the morning on Tuesday. It also could have been because where we were playing blocked the bathroom.   Ernesto booked us a cheap hotel in El Centro where we were able to rest our heads after enjoying some pizza and beer at Strangers. Gracias, Ernie!

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Tuesday Dec. 17th Tempe, AZ @ Yucca Tap Room

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In the morning in our cheap hotel room, Cezar realized he had been attacked by spiders in the night. He had these insane spider bites all up his left and right arm.  I was spared from the spider attack.  Upon closer inspection we confirmed that they weren’t fleas, not bed bugs, not mosquitoes, definitely spider bites. Holy shit.  Poor guy was itching and scratching until we finally got him some cortizone in Tempe.

In the morning in El Centro, we had to hit a drugstore for a stomach malady I had. Old men on tour. (Don’t know why we didn’t buy cortizone here?)   Cezar made me a bet that they wouldn’t have a Nerf football in the drug store. I found a fucking football in there but Cezar claimed it wasn’t Nerf brand, so he didn’t have to pay up. Classic Cezar.

Homeopathic stomach malady video here

As we got into western Arizona, we waxed poetic on the marvels of the Saguaro Cactus.  It never fails. It takes them hundreds of years to grow and they live forever. God bless the Saguaro Cactus.

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Tuesday in Tempe was pretty quiet other than me dying a slow death in the Yucca Tap Room men’s room.

After my death, I had to get in the right head space to play – which required tequila and a couple beers.   Sound was fantastic and it was amazing to hear ourselves through monitors. It may have been the first venue with actual working stage monitors.   Thank Allah for stage monitors!

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Our pal and promoter Harry Jerkface opened the show with his own tunes.

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Michele Lane played next and unfortunately didn’t snap any photos. Her best tune was her ballad “I love you, Bob Cantu.”  Was good to see Bob there, our old pal from Redwood Bar in Downtown LA.

After our set which felt great, Cezar and I saw two girls making eyes at us and whispering in each other’s ears, but I talked too long to the sound man about his funk band and they left.  Yes, I blew it. And no, Cezar would not let me forget about it.

We burned a little midnight oil with Bob, Michele, Harry and DeMonica.   DeMonica told us a bit about growing up White Mountain Apache and we tried learning some Apache phrases . 

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Cezar’s arms were looking pretty bad from the spider bites and DeMonica found some cortizone for him.  She also suggested slicing open the bites with a razorblade and letting the poison drain out.  We vetoed this idea.

In the morning Harry made us one of his Hawaiian classics, Spam and Eggs.  I never had spam before, but it was kind of like a sausage.

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Harry’s Spam and eggs were even more beautiful than this photo as he had a side of spinach and mushrooms.  Great stuff.

I had to bite back the hair of the dog that bit me. I bit hard.  This is called burning the midday oil.

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Wed. Dec 18th Tucson, AZ @ Sky Bar

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The drive from Tempe to Tucson was relatively painless at about 2 hours.  We hit up Tacos Apson in Tucson which was just fantastic.

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Again, it’s those desert tortillas de harina that are just absolutely wonderful. We would have a couple of sonora dogs later on.   For those of you who don’t know about the Sonoran Hot Dog that originated in Hermosillo, Sonora, they typically have pinto beans, tomatoes, green salsa, jalapeño, mustard, mayonnaise, avocado and cotija cheese. Want one yet?

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Down at Sky Bar we found out that it was open mic night and there were about a million dudes with acoustic guitars waiting to play.  Cezar spotted a woman with a marionette who was also on deck to play.  Cezar then spouted forth the best quote of tour:

“Fuck, now we have to play with a fuckin’ puppet show? What the fuck, man?”

Our buddy Issac Reyes from Lenguas Largas showed up with Matty from The Resonars (“Gone Is The Road” might be the best song of 2019) and our opening band The Gem Show.  Apparently our show was separate from the open mic, thankfully.   We had to fortify ourselves with some Tito’s and soda water in our tour van, the 2013 Honda Civic.

It was down to the 30s in Tucson, folks told us it was the coldest day of the year.  We met a girl from Ireland who had one of those Gaelic names that are very difficult for us doltish Americans to remember or pronounce and her friend, Jenny Calento, who had black hair with bangs and a lovely smile.  Jesus, this black haired bang thing really does me in.

We played our set followed by The Gem Show who were loud and excellent.

Sky Bar paid us very fairly and Gem Show even kindly donated their pay to us. God bless you guys.  Ben Asher from legendary Bainbridge Island punk group The Captives showed up, it had been at least 20 years since I’d seen him.  We didn’t get to chat too much. Sorry about that, Ben.

Afterwards we went to another bar with a couple of Lenguas Largas, Gaelic fraulien, and Jenny Calento.   They were playing modernish country pop which Lenguas and Gaelic did not enjoy.  Gaelic fraulien was friends with the bartender and asked me what traditional country music she should try to turn her onto.  I told her to go with the classics like Hank Williams. I also noticed some Dwight Yoakam in her playlist so told her to keep it up with the Dwight Yoakam, and noted that some of Dwight’s favorite singers were Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and George Jones.  Thought that was a good introduction to more traditional country music and the Bakersfield sound!

It was a birthday party at this little bar in Tucson and “Dirty Old Town” by the Pogues came on. The whole bar sang it.  What a fitting end to tour.

Me and Cezar’s tour playlist top 2 hits were probably “Beer Drinkin’ Blues” by Eddie Noack and “A Million Miles From Nowhere” by Dwight Yoakam.

Give unto God what is God’s and give unto Lord Cezar what is Cezar’s.

After burning some serious midnight oil with Matty Resonar and him introducing us to the excellent Mike Judge animated series “Tales From The Tour Bus” (absolutely hilarious, you gotta watch it),  I dropped Cezar at the Tucson airport and drove 526 miles to Pecos, Texas.  The next day drove 421 miles to Irving, Texas to my little brother’s place.  Had a family Christmas without much fighting or controversy which was a success!

Then drove 354 miles to Amarillo, Texas, and the next day 608 miles to Flagstaff.  A couple of days later did 256 miles Flagstaff to Tucson.  Then a couple of days later 485 miles from Tucson  to Los Angeles.  Those are some serious miles!

In Flagstaff I hit a snowstorm but was able to visit with some old friends Alex and Oakley and their 2 dogs.  Check the snow out!

My wildest night was in Amarillo, but I won’t bore you with it here!  Thanks for reading!

Happy New Year!

xo

Justin

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“Falling On Deaf Eyes”

12 Jun

FALLING ON DEAF EYES

FODE Postcard

A teenage punk, a single deaf mom, a small town. What could go wrong?

Buy tickets here

“Falling On Deaf Eyes” is an autobiographical Dramedy about Justin Maurer, a rambunctious teenage punk rocker living with his single Deaf mother and hearing siblings on Bainbridge Island, Washington in the 1990’s. After a harrowing divorce from Justin’s overbearing and controlling father, his Deaf mother faces extraordinary challenges as a single parent of three rowdy hearing children in a small provincial town. Through punk rock, Justin embarks on an adolescent journey to cope with the challenges of straddling life in a hearing and Deaf world simultaneously. “Falling On Deaf Eyes” is a unique, one-of-a-kind show, an inspirational and universal portrayal of human courage and survival. (the first 2 and last 2 performances will have ASL interpreters available).

This unique production is an exciting multi-media theatrical experience incorporating music, sign language, storytelling, and theatrical visuals, with a team of sign language interpreters to ensure access to the deaf and hard of hearing. While hugely entertaining and accessible to music fans, the Fringe community, and the Deaf community, “Falling on Deaf Eyes” will also educate and inform the general public about American Sign Language and some of the daily issues facing the deaf and hard of hearing population. The show will enjoy its world premiere at Hollywood Fringe Festival 2019. All shows will be at McCadden Place Theatre – 1157 N McCadden Pl, Los Angeles, CA 90038.

Sometimes harrowing, often funny, but always compassionate in its depiction of a family in transition, “Falling on Deaf Eyes” is a unique, one-of-a-kind show and an inspirational and universal portrayal of human courage and survival.

PERFORMANCE DATES
Sunday June 9 2019, 8:00 PM * w/ ASL Interpreters (Preview)
Saturday June 15 2019, 5:00 PM * w/ ASL Interpreters
Sunday June 16 2019, 2:00 PM
Thursday June 20 2019, 11:30 PM
Friday June 21 2019, 7:00 PM
Saturday June 22 2019, 6:30 PM * w/ ASL Interpreters
Sunday June 23 2019, 2:30 PM * w/ ASL Interpreters

Running time: 55 minutes
TICKET PRICE : $20 – buy tickets here
WHERE: McCadden Place Theatre – 1157 N McCadden Pl, Los Angeles, CA 90038

Falling On Deaf Eyes

10 Mar
Justin Maurer headshot 2 photo by Imke Wagener

photo by Imke Wagener

Hello!
My name is Justin Maurer and I want to invite you to join us in mounting the debut production of Falling on Deaf Eyes, an autobiographical play I’ve written about my family and a very pivotal and formative period in my early life.
Please donate here to help this happen!

 

When my parents divorced in 1992, my deaf mother, Sherry, suddenly found herself overcoming extraordinary personal challenges as a newly-single parent raising a family of three hearing youngsters in a small provincial town. Each of us – my mom, my sister Jenny, my younger brother Jamie, and I – were forced to find ways to cope with new circumstances in unfamiliar surroundings. This is our story.
deaf eyes
Sometimes harrowing, often funny, but always compassionate in its depiction of a family in transition, Falling on Deaf Eyes is a unique, one-of-a-kind show and an inspirational and universal portrayal of human courage and survival.
Falling on Deaf Eyes is an exciting multi-media theatrical experience incorporating rock n roll, sign language, storytelling, and theatrical visuals, with a team of sign language interpreters for every performance to ensure access to the deaf and hard of hearing. While hugely entertaining and accessible to families, music fans, the literary community, and beyond, Falling on Deaf Eyes will also educate and inform the general public about American Sign Language and some of the daily issues facing the deaf and hard of hearing community.
With the talent we’ve assembled, Falling on Deaf Eyes promises to be a remarkable and timely production. Now we need additional funding to make it happen! Please help us make it a reality.  Thank you!
Please donate here

Suspect Parts Tour Diary 2018

15 Sep

 

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Suspect Parts in Kreuzberg Photo by Imke Wagener

SUSPECT PARTS released our debut album in 2017 on Oops Baby Records in the USA and Taken By Surprise Records in Germany. In August/September of 2018 we returned to Berlin to embark on another tour and to record a new single with Dr. Smail Shock at his analog recording studio Smail Shock Produktion Studio B .  In PART ONE I discussed my arrival a few days early in Berlin and my 3 day tour of the city. I enjoyed visiting the Stasi Museum, the Treptower Park Soviet Monument, Bernauer Strasse, Teufelsberg and more. You can read about my 3 day Berlin adventure in PART ONE

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With Andru and Saskia’s flat in Friedrichshain as our home base. I decided to jump the gun and shoot a solo episode as the debut for Season 2 of our travel show Guten Morgen Deutschland much to the chagrin of my co-host Sulli.

German Vocab. 1:

Rampensau – “Ramp Sow” (Someone who is comfortable with strutting their stuff on stage)

Lass Die Sau Raus – “Let Your Sow Out” (Be comfortable with yourself onstage)

Du Giele Sau – “The horny pig?”  “The cool pig?”

Menschen schlange – “People Snake” (a long line, “eine lange schlange”)

Geizig – Frugal, stingy

Spiesse – someone who is boring, a jobsworth

Speck Gurtel – a bacon girdle, a bacon belt – the area around a city – the suburbs

Du machst dich breit – you take up too much space

Sulli shot back with his own solo episode of Guten Morgen Deutschland 

Chris finally showed up and Suspect Parts were back in town!

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The Boys Are Back In Town Photo by Sulli

We rehearsed like crazy for 3 days. We even did some “trudging” a la Black Flag for a 2nd day of practice for 8 hours.  We practiced 3 new songs to record with Dr. Smail as well as rehearsing our hits like “Run For Your Life”

Practicing for 8 hours is rough on the back so it’s important to stretch.

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While practicing for 8 hours it’s also very important to take an ice cream break.

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Thanks to Berlin Blackouts for letting us use their practice room!

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Suspect Parts and Berlin Blackouts

Perhaps most importantly, we had to get our fashion together.  Andru decided to go with polk-a-dots this time around. Our band lampshade “Lampo” is wearing a blue vintage cowboy shirt with a “Timmy Whitey” sport coat.

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Handsome Devil Andru Bourbon Photo by Saskia

We hit up some army surplus stores and I found 2 jackets that I liked. The jacket on the left was sorta like Inspector Gadget meets Gestapo and the jacket on the right reminded me of something Stephan Remmler from Trio would wear, so I got that one. It was affectionately referred to as “Remmler,” for the rest of the trip.

If you’re unfamiliar with the genius of Stephan Remmler and Trio, besides their hit “Da Da Da” you should also check out their other material. A personal favorite of mine is this one:

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My friend Tim Muller gifted me this white jacket which was affectionately referred to as Timmy Whitey” for the rest of our trip

While practicing for 8 hours it’s also important to take a beer break.

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Justin wearing “Timmy Whitey” enjoys a beer outside of the Ramones Museum. Photo credit: Sulli

As Suspect Parts are an egalitarian band with no designated leadership, we wanted Chris and Andru to sing at least one song each. We decided on a couple of covers. Chris decided to sing  “IOU” by The Replacements and Andru “Hundsgemein” by Ideal. If you don’t know Berlin 80s new wave/punk band Ideal, you should definitely check em out!

HAMBURG @ KOMET

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The Interior of Komet, Hamburg. What a great place to hang out!

Our favorite Schwebish guys Jens and Michael run Wild Wax promotions in Hamburg and also work with our favorite Italian, Franz of Otis Tours.  They put together an annual festival in Hamburg right off of the beautiful Reeperbahn called “Get Lost Fest.”  Jens was kind enough to ask us to play the pre-party at Komet Bar on Thursday night.

We jumped in the van with Tine our driver and tour manager, and arrived right on time to enjoy Jens’ chili (it gets better every time) and to enjoy Jens and Franz banter and argue. They are like a comedy duo – Schwebish and Northern Italian, you think it wouldn’t work well together, but it seriously does.

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In the parking lot of an Aldi en route to Hamburg

We loaded in and sound checked in the Komet’s keller and got ready for a big night!  The opening band were from Catalunya and had no gear with them so they had to borrow our drums, amps, and even guitar.  They managed to break a string on our backup guitar and had to borrow my trusty ESP Viper afterwards.  I didn’t mind too much but also noticed they had placed beers precariously on top of the amp. My anger began to run a little deep as I imagined the beer tipping over and spilling on top of my borrowed tube amp on the first night of tour before we played.  Luckily no beer was spilt. Why cry over unspilt milk?

We managed to play for folks all over Deutschland and Europe.  It was a fabulous 1st show. The crowd seemed to love “Alright With Me” and “Flowers of Evil”.  Someone named Angie Action filmed us playing one of our new tunes “You Know I Can’t Say No”

Upstairs at Komet they were DJing fantastic music.  Komet is one of my favorite bars I have set foot in. Upstairs they had these airplane chairs, great old movie posters, fantastic music, great Gin and Tonics.  When “You’re Gonna Miss Me” came on, I had to cut a rug. I grabbed a beautiful fraulien and we burned some serious midnight oil on the dance floor.

Even Andru complimented me on my dance moves. My own band mate saying something nice and not making fun of me? What a great start to tour!

German Vocab 2:

Durchschnittstyp – average guy

Ich bin kein durchschnittstyp – I am not an average guy

Wir sind Dauergaste in den Hitlisten – we have a permanent slot on the hit list

Elefant im porzelan laden – Elefant in a china shop

Teufelskreis – Devils Circle (Vicious Circle)

Der rote affen arsch – Red ape ass

Der rote pavian arsch – red baboon ass

FRANKFURT @ Dreikönigskeller

We had a long drive from Hamburg to Frankfurt so we sat in the back enjoying ourselves, making bloody mary’s from our van bar, telling stories, making sandwiches, and inventing our own society, culture, and language.

If there’s one thing Suspect Parts excel in it’s supermarket shopping for our van kitchen and bar. Andru, our Minister of Mustard is excellent at picking out the best van food and drink. As it was incredibly hot, popsicles AKA “iced lollies” were a part of this list as well as various items for the van bar.

“Can I request a quick supermarket stop to get water? Water aka beer”
  • Andru, in the van

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“I think if I was sucking my lolly, everyone would like to see that.”
  • Andru, outside Aldi
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In a non-air conditioned van on a long drive it is important to stay cool. I recommend putting your head out of the window.

Pavianistan is the nation of Suspect Parts who speak a patois dialect of Pavianisch (a blend of German and English).  Pavianistan is an egalitarian society with no designated leadership although appointed ministers do exist in this banana republic such as:

Minister of Mustard: Andru Bourbon

Minister of Media and Gherkin Handler: James Sullivan

Minister of Moving Schiesse: Chris Part

Minister of Maneuvering and Merchandising: Tine Ones

Minister of Müll and Miscellaneous Bag – Justin Maurer

The Pavianistani National Slogan is:

AFFENZEIT
AFFEMACHT
AFFENSTARK

Wo erdnusflips sind ist party

(Monkey See, Monkey Do, Monkey Strong. Erdnusflips are party)

We also managed to shoot an episode of Guten Morgen Deutschland and were rudely interrupted by frigging wasps!

German Vocab 3:

Schiess die Wandan – “shit on the walls” (an expression used for general discontent)

Arsche Krampe – “pain in the ass” or literally “ass cramp”

Feierabend Bier – “beer that you would have at the end of your shift or when finishing a job”

Arsch Geige – “Anus Violin” (someone who is a pain in the ass)

Du bist eine echte arsch geige – “you are a major anus violin”

Da wird der hund in der pfanne verruckt – “There become the dogs in the pan crazy”

Schliessmuskel Sphincter

On that note, we pulled into Frankfurt and Tine and I saw a very suspicious middle-aged couple driving a convertible BMW. We thought they might steal the equipment in our van.  We also thought that their license plate said “FKK” (Freikörperkultur, the East German nudist and open body culture that was prevalent in the GDR and still exists throughout German culture).

Our hosts Dennis and Mieke made us a lovely dinner and offered us the local apfel wine and some apfel schnapps as well as some coffee. They had hosted friends of ours Red Dons, Piss Test, Macho Boys, and the Chemicals all from Portland, Oregon! (Germany is a bit obsessed with Portland, Oregon for some reason. They absolutely love The Wipers, Dead Moon, Poison Idea, and Exploding Hearts. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just interesting! Especially interesting to me ’cause my old band Clorox Girls also lived in PDX.)

After a great dinner, we headed down to the venue, Dreikönigskeller (3 Kings Cellar). We were warned that the bar owner Nico was a little bit strange and that he didn’t like it when people ordered multiple drinks at once. Apparently the secret was to order one at a time.

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Justin and Andru in Frankfurt Photo Credit: Sulli

When we arrived the bar, Andru ordered 1 beer from Nico and it took about half an hour to get it.  Nico was the only person working there and moved incredibly slow.  We were told they (by they, I mean Nico) wanted us to soundcheck on the tiny stage, and we agreed. It took us all of 10 minutes to set up and we were ready to go. Nico was working at his own snail pace. It seemed like there might be a method to his madness, but then again, maybe not. He was shuffling behind the bar, not really getting anyone a drink, but just moving things around.  The audience was already in the bar and we hadn’t sound checked yet. The DJ’s were there and had all of their gear set up.  I told the DJs they should just go on. People started smoking in the cellar and I was worried it would fuck up me and Sulli’s voices (people smoke indoors at all shows in Germany. Most of these shows are in little windowless concrete basement venues. The audience especially loves to light up right in front of my microphone).

Nico told the DJs that they couldn’t start until soundcheck was done. He then looked towards the stage and said that we had to give the Veltins plastic beer crates that Sulli had stacked his amp on back to him.  Sulli lifted his amp and I gave Nico back his beloved Veltins crates. Nico seemed pleased.  We sound checked for about 30 seconds doing the “Na Na Na” part in “Land of 1000 Dances”

Nico finally allowed the DJs to start and the place filled with music and cigarette smoke. I wanted a fucking beer.  Somehow Andru convinced Nico to give us 4 beers at once (Minister of Mustard strikes again).

We played our set, people seemed to like it.  Afterwards DJ Dirk Klotzbach played some hits including “Food Fight” by Village People and “Big Time” by Rudi.  Tine ran onto the dance floor to boogie to “Big Time” and I joined her.

A guy wearing a Harrington jacket was hanging out by our merch table.  A few folks went out to the shop to buy us some traditional Apfel Schnapps (or was it peach schnapps?) and gave us the drink with the fruit soaked in it.  We drank it.  The schnapps itself was pretty harsh, but the fruit combination thing was decent. The Harrington jacket guy asked me why I was wearing a white denim jacket. I told him that Chris had a black one, Sulli light blue, Andru dark blue, and that we couldn’t all wear the same color. He said, “Maybe you are a loser since you are the one who wears white.

Ah, sometimes I love Germany.

A woman from Frankfurt hung out by our van and told us her stories about going to Berghain, a notoriously debaucherous night club in Berlin.  She said the first time she went there, her gay friend went into the pitch-black orgy room to get it on with some guys. She was on the dance floor and said that everyone whipped out their pimmels and proceeded to abspritz onto a slip-n-slide type thing then everyone slid around in the abspritz. This story got me laughing out loud. It was the best conversation in Frankfurt.

Dennis tried to buy a bottle of apfel schnapps from Nico at the bar and Nico said no. He would only sell him a bottle of Jim Beam. Is there a method to Nico’s madness? No one knows.

Someone from the techno/hip hop dance club next door partially blocked the driveway and we couldn’t get our van out. A motley crew of “helpers” from our show got in and out of the van all giving conflicting directions. Suddenly there were like 20 people in our van.  This completely hammered Italian guy with dreadlocks kept opening the sliding door and stepping out, finally going to the drivers side and claiming he could do a better job at backing up.  He tried to get back into the van and we wouldn’t let him in. The rest of the folks in the van got out and decided to get cabs instead.  Luckily there was a very friendly Bavarian guy who rode with us to show us the way back to where we were staying.

In the morning, Dennis and Mieke made a fantastic breakfast out in our back garden and our very own Chris made some homemade hummus.  It was a lovely and civilized breakfast and we enjoyed it immensely.

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Suspect Parts and Dennis outside Tine’s “The Ones In Charge” van in Frankfurt

FREIBURG @ KIEZ 52

“How many minutes until we’re there?”
“11”
Andru begins immediately rooting around Mobicool Maxi for a beer to crack
  • Exchange between Andru and Sulli on the outskirts of Freiburg
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Sulli’s mug on the Freiburg show poster

Freiburg is a wealthy town in the Badish region of south western Germany near the borders of France and Switzerland. We were told that the show would have to end pünktlich (on time) at 10pm. While a Saturday night show ending at 10pm seemed quite preposterous to those of us living in Berlin, London, and Los Angeles, we didn’t complain, it would give us more time to drink after our show.  Tine our driver and tour manager pulled us in and we loaded our stuff quite early.  We noticed a very beautiful girl on a bicycle who parked her bike and sashayed into the building next to the venue. I called her “Inge.”  We hoped she would come to our show, but of course she didn’t.

Andru tried to decide which outfit to wear that would best compliment his handbag:

After loading in, changing into our stage clothes and shaving, Sulli and I had a beer outside hoping that Inge would come out, see how handsome we were, and come to our performance that ends pünktlich at 10pm which would give her plenty of time for any other evening plans she might have.  We noticed this sign and I just had to break at least one rule in Freiburg.

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Our show was written up in the cultural section in Freiburg’s local paper which brought out some norms to the show which was a completely welcome surprise. The little place was packed and people even danced!  Dancing in Deutschland? Verboten!

We had a great time playing and finished pünktlich at precisely 9:58 pm.  We were pleased with the exact calculation of our set (we’re turning a little more Deutsch every day) when one of the show organizers asked me where our driver Tine was. I told him that she was selling some records and t-shirts to some happy customers. He told me that she had to move our van immediately so that we could load our equipment out.  The staff then began running around like mental patients hauling tables and chairs and trying to reset the bar interior while our equipment and the other band’s equipment was still in there.  We heard a loud crash.  The unsettling noise was clearly the sound of an amp falling down hard.  Sulli and Andru went to investigate.  Phew, it was only the 1st bands amp.  Someone had knocked it over while rushing around carrying a table.  Nice one.  I’m sure rushing around to reset the bar is worth injuring someone or breaking a 1000 Euro amp.

I went with Tine to grab our van as the atmosphere in the place was a little intense and we parked in front of the venue.  Someone immediately came out and said we had to re-park the van.  As instructed, we began to load out our equipment, and someone else told us that we couldn’t block the bike lane that was on the sidewalk.  I’m not sure how to load heavy objects from a door to a van without setting some of these heavy objects down on the sidewalk (which would temporarily block the bike lane), but some of the folks began to grab our equipment and move it out of the bike lane onto the street or the other part of the sidewalk.  We all thought this was mental.

I began to sing “Life In The Bike Lane” to the tune of “Life In the Fast Lane” and danced at oncoming Freiburg bikers as to disrupt their right of way.  Needless to say, they loved it.

The music in the bar was a bit erratic. They’d play 2-3 great tunes then 2-3 bad ones. We asked one of the promoters if there were any more rock n roll bars in Freiburg. He said not really. He then asked us why we would want to go anywhere else when we could drink there for free. We thought this was a very good point.

The bar was long but ordering happened at the far corner which blocked the stairway to the bathroom. This made it extremely awkward to wait in line for a beer. I wondered why no one was ordering from the other side of the bar which would clear the pathway for people going up and down the stairs to the bathroom. Oh well, when in Freiburg do as the Freiburgians do.

We played some fooseball (Do not set beers on the Fooseball table!)  and I even won a game before getting unspeakably crushed by some locals.

We were staying in the apartment of a band called “Enraged Minority” I noticed that the guys in the band were 4 white guys from Freiburg. The irony of their name must have been lost somewhere.  Their apartment had 4 rooms with a massive outdoor balcony. It was one of the nicest band flats I have ever seen. One of the rooms had thousands of Euros worth of fine single malt scotch bottles and even multiple bottles of designer cologne.  The decorations in the place were posters of Karl Marx, Lenin, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, and even an AK-47 hung on the wall.  Next to the single malted scotch and the designer cologne was a piggy bank of Karl Marx’s head.  Apparently the irony of this must have been lost somewhere.  We found a children’s book and decided to read the story of Pippi Longstocking before going to bed.

In the morning one of the band members from Enraged Minority came to make us breakfast with his small daughter.  The breakfast was lovely. As always, we appreciate hospitality and it was very nice of the guys to let us stay in their apartment and cook us breakfast.  After returning to Los Angeles, I received a message from one of the guys saying that their Pippi Longstocking book was missing. The message was insinuating that it was stolen.  For the record, Guten Morgen Deutschland never steals any props for our television program.  For the record, we are an egalitarian movement with no designated leadership, we are not communists, but we are theoretical comrades in your struggle to free the working proletariat of his capitalist chains.

DRESDEN @ CHEMIFABRIK

We had a very long drive to Dresden and drank some bloody mary’s from our van bar

Flash, a competent, sensible, and reasonable sound-man was our engineer in Dresden. Flash patiently worked with us during sound check while saying encouraging words along the way. He had our various levels on perfectly logical settings that fit the caliber of Chemifabrik, the concrete former chemical factory that we were playing. No one was deafened or frustrated. Multiple members of the audience complimented the professional sound quality of our performance.

They gave us some watermelon before the show which was a welcome surprise.

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In the morning we met Bodie Johnson, an HB Surfer lost in Dresden:

The last time we were in Dresden, I almost pissed myself not being able to find the bathroom in the middle of the night in the pitch-black band flat.  Tine told us a story about previously driving a band and one of the guys, drunk, pissed in a corner in the middle of the night.  In her words:

“It would have been so great if he’d pissed on the promoter”
“I like your sense of humor”
  • Tine then Andru, describing the potential for confusion when searching for bathrooms in the middle of the night
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Suspect Parts and Bodie Johnson with tour manager and driver Tine

BERLIN: RECORDING WITH DR. SMAIL

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RIDING THE S-BAHN WITH DR. SMAIL

Wir steh’n in der M 10 …

MATCHING SP TATTOOS IN BERLIN 

 

SHOOTING A MUSIC VIDEO IN BERLIN

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Taking the S Bahn to shoot our music video. Saskia video producer and Lampo our most important prop in tow!

BERLIN @ FRANKEN

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Suspect Parts in the basement of The Franken, Kreuzberg. Photo by Imke Wagener.

We had to load an entire PA, speakers, mixing board, and more in and out of a van and set up everything ourselves. Special thanks to Mutti, Andru, Tine, and Hugo for setting up the PA.  We moved all of the tables around at the direction of Franken owner, Alice, and finished moving schiesse. Imke Wagener took some photos of us after we finished setting up everything and checking sound.

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Sulli and Chris have a quick rest outside of Franken with the staff of Mutti’s booking Buro and Alice, owner of the Franken. Mutti’s dog also there, but forget dog’s name. Sorry hund!

The show went really well and loads of friends came out. Franken was filled to capacity. Thanks Alice and thanks Berliner Freunden!

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Sulli prepares for the Franken show. Photo by Imke Wagener

BERLIN @ TRICKSTER

Trickster is near the Ramones Museum so we joined our friends there for a coffee and some gin and tonics before the show.

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Justin enjoys cake and a coffee at the Ramones Museum

 

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Sulli and Andru enjoy some cake and coffee at Ramones Museum

At Trickster we played with Love Lanes. The place was packed and we played what was our best show of the entire tour.  Everyone was singing along and clapping and dancing. It was a fantastic atmosphere. Thanks very much to Oihane and Laura and everyone at Trickster. We even did a “Down With Dons” photo shoot! We love you Berlin!

Tour Journal Outtakes and More German Vocabulary:

“Döner macht schöne – aber nur mit Soße” (Andru’s favorite Doner shop slogan)
Breznak beer = gut
“I was hoping for more of a Willy Wonka vibe rather than this Auschwitz vibe”
  • Sulli, outside the Berliner Luft factory
“That’s damn good Luft”
  • Sulli, after drinking a Luft
“Guten Morgen Deutschland is gonna get me laid”
  • Justin, considering his fraulein situation
Verzweifelt – desperate
Bumshöhle – fuck cave
Klöten – balls
“Nothing funnier than this”
  • Chris, on the death of Udo
“I like guzzing”
  • Justin, after guzzing a hund
“Man cannot live on erdnuss flips alone”
  • Chris, while eating erdnuss flips alone
Fusspils – road beer
Santa cantina

Posh teckel

Sommersprossen – freckles
Ukw
Bummeltriene – the last person to do something in general
Reudig – scruffy
Bun bo hue
Nickerchen – nap
Weichblase – weak bladder
Du miststück – you son of a gun (someone mischievous or slightly naughty)
Knecht ruprecht – Santa’s little helper
ii

Part I: 3 Days in Berlin

14 Sep
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Suspect Parts in the basement of The Franken, Kreuzberg. Photo by Imke Wagener.

Disclaimer: Berlin’s vibrant and frequently turbulent history includes two world wars, war atrocities, surveillance, torture, rape, murder, and of course an incredibly positive transformation into one of the world’s most culturally vibrant cities.  I will discuss all of these subjects as they struck a nerve as I dug into Berlin’s stimulating history. 

My Brief Background:

In 2008 I was living in Madrid teaching English, singing in the band Mano De Mono, and working as a DJ on weekends. My American rock n roll band Clorox Girls had broken up, and my heart was aching to write and play some new music. My friend Chris Bell from Seattle punk band The Briefs had been living in Berlin in-between touring, and he suggested that we start a side-project. I recorded some of my new songs on a cassette tape and mailed it to Berlin. A few months later we recorded the Suspect Parts debut single in the cold of a bitter Berlin winter. Behind the dials in the engineer booth of a small analog studio was Smail from legendary Berlin punk band The Shocks.  After the single was released, we recruited James “Sulli” Sullivan from UK teen heart throbs Ripchord on lead guitar and Smail on bass. After a couple of tours and a couple more singles, Smail was replaced by the affable and ever-capable Andru Bourbon from Berlin kamikazis Radio Dead Ones on bass. Our band was complete.  Since then Berlin has been Suspect Parts’ home base and we meet up once a year to rehearse, record, and tour.

Even though I have been spending time in Berlin over the last 10 years, it is usually a whirlwind trip with most of our limited time spent in rehearsal rooms, the recording studio, in the tour van, and at night getting drunk with old friends in Kreuzberg. I was ashamed to say that I had not seen many of the sights in Berlin and had not had a chance to really dig deep into Berlin’s complicated history.

Here we go!

My cheap flight from Los Angeles was on Polish Lot Air with a change over in Warsaw. I originally planned on staying in Warsaw and taking a train south to Krakow. I planned to have a 1 week mini-vacation in Poland before I had to get to Berlin to rehearse with the guys.  Sadly, I tore the meniscus in my left knee in 2 places, so I cancelled my trip to Poland and decided instead to rest up at my bass player Andru’s flat in Friedrichshain and see some of  Berlin’s historical sights for the first time.

Andru greeted me at Tegel airport with a bottle of Berliner Luft. Pfeffi, a peppermint schnapps of East German origin is the official band schnapps in Suspect Parts, but Berliner Luft often fills in. Andru also brought a couple of bottles of ice cold Berliner Kindl stored in Mobi Cool mini, our band’s official cooler. What a good man.

DAY 1 – BERLIN

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Oberbaum Bridge Photo Credit: Liz Weselby

Andru and his girlfriend Saskia both had work in the morning, and after having coffee with Andru, I decided to see the East Side Gallery and take a boat trip down the River Spree as a way to both see some sights and rest my torn meniscus knee.  Before I left Los Angeles, I decided not to purchase phone service in Germany and instead to rely on my Wifi. This was definitely a mistake. While I pride myself on my sense of direction and my old school navigation capabilities, obviously a smartphone is such a useful tool especially when trying to navigate unfamiliar streets and Berlin’s daunting map of their S Bahn, U Bahn, bus, and tram system.

I wandered down to the river Spree. The East Side Gallery is a fantastic 1.3 kilometer-long collection of art that covers the former Berlin Wall. Most parts of the wall were dismantled after 1989, but the 1.3 km East Side Wall remains as a symbol of freedom (Hasselhoff “Looking For Freedom” anyone?). The graffiti art displays political messages, artistic visions and messages of hope after the fall of the Berlin wall.

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“Mortal Kiss” by Dimitri Vrubel, showing Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev in a lip lock

To rest my knee, I bought a ticket on the first 2.5 hour boat ride down the River Spree at 10:30am and had a coffee and a sandwich while I waited.  I foolishly turned down the 3 Euro English translation, and on a boat full of German tourists, sat on the top deck in the sweltering summer heat while the monotone pre-recorded tour played in German for 3 hours. (I caught that Adolf Hitler did something off to the right of the boat, the German tourists stood and took photos. I really wanted to know what happened).

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The boat trip was gorgeous. We did a loop on the Spree through the heart of the city. Berlin’s summer has been unusually hot and atypically long, so there were plenty of shirtless rotund German men sunbathing in Berlin’s many parks alongside the river.  Through the canal we went through Kreuzberg, past the Technology Museum (Deutsches Technikmuseum) and up through Zoologischer Garten and Tiergarten before passing Museumsinsel (Museum Island) with a beautiful view of the Berlin Dome.

On the boat they served Beer, coffee, and food. After a coffee I had 2 beers during the course of the 3 hour tour.  While Germans are strict rule takers and rule givers, they are extremely relaxed about drinking and smoking. The staff of the boat lit up cigarettes on the top deck around the small children and old people. The smoke even seemed to bother some of the older women, but they didn’t say anything. If it’s not against the rules, why bother complaining?

The boat captain smoked cigarettes and drank a Red Bull. He told some jokes in German in between the pre-recorded tour and the mostly older German tourists laughed at his jokes and gave him a hearty round of applause at the end of the tour.  As Berlin is a capitol of culture as well as counter culture, the stereotype is that everyone in Berlin has dyed hair, piercings and tattoos. The boat conductor and the two men working on the boat all had prominent tattoos and piercings,  so maybe the stereotype exists for a reason.

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The Stasi Museum, in the former Stasi Headquarters, Lichtenberg, Berlin. Photo Credit: Gordon Haws

After the boat ride, I decided to check out the Stasi Museum. The Stasi Museum is located in the headquarters of The Ministry for State Security (MFS) AKA The Stasi. Three floors of exhibits take you through the offices of the Stasi showing their various surveillance devices, their infiltration of all parts of East German society, their brutal methods of blackmail and extortion, and the intact office of Erich Mielke, the last GDR Minister for State Security, which is preserved in its original condition.  It was an extremely powerful and interesting museum, with an unforgiving presentation.

There’s something uniquely creepy about walking through this building, through these offices, seeing the faces and the names of the Stasi and their official duties. It was a frightening time. In Berlin they seem to excel at presenting these vicious facts in a unvarnished way.  It’s a way of respecting the victims of oppression while holding those responsible to naked accountability.

The museum presentation is direct and brutal – just like the perpetrators of these inhumane offenses were. I would highly recommend visiting the Stasi Museum to fans of the 2006 film The Lives of Others (original German title: Das Leben der Anderen). When I get back home, I’m going to watch the movie again for a fresh perspective after being inside of Erich Mielke’s office. (Edit: After nursing my travel exhaustion at home, I re-watched the film and loved it even more. If you haven’t seen it, please do watch The Lives of Others. It’s available to rent on YouTube in the States for $3)

Erich Mielke, head of the Stasi, and his office in The Stasi Museum. Photo Credit: Alamy

What particularly stood out to me about Mielke’s office was seeing his extremely rigid breakfast demands. He provided a crudely drawn but insanely specific diagram for his secretaries. Mielke demanded that his breakfast be served in a strictly particular way. The bread, eggs, and other breakfast foods had to be placed on a specific part of his plate (or else).  The secretaries kept his hand-drawn breakfast paper for any new hires to learn how to present this megalomaniac with his breakfast and not be subject to his certain ruthless castigation. His child-like drawing is displayed just outside of his office.

The heat was even more intense in the Stasi’s old HQ and after 3 floors of this stifling environ, I was ready for a beer.

I bought 4 trips on the S-Bahn (Stadtschnellbahn – city rapid railway) ) and U-Bahn (Untergrund-bahn  underground railway) which was given to me on four separate tickets.  A ticket has to be punched to validate it before boarding the train and they love to inspect the trains and give stiff fines to anyone who doesn’t validate their ticket.  I thought that my ticket just had to be punched once in the morning, but I was incorrect and a fare enforcement official forced me to depart the train while he printed me out a 60 Euro fine. A ticket has to be punched every 2 hours (unless a day pass is purchased) which I did not know. This 2 hour rule was not clear on the ticket machine or the ticket, and as I’m not fluent in German, I did not know this.  The ticket guy was very friendly, however and chatted with me as he printed out my fine paperwork. (I didn’t pay the 60 Euro fine. We’ll see if they mail it to me)

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In my familiar stomping ground of Kreuzberg, I strolled over to Coretex Record Shop where Andru my friend and bass player works, and he had already left for the day. I went down Wiener Strasse to visit my old friend Oihane at Wowsville Record Store and Bar, turned on Ohlauer Str. and had a very lovely couple of beers there. If you love old rock and roll, then you will love Wowsville. (I have yet to try Wowsville Pizza across the street although everyone tells me that it is great)

In the evening, my old friends Tim and Imke invited me to a BBQ on the rooftop terrace of their flat in Kreuzberg. Their whole apartment building seemed to have the same idea, and there were four separate groups of friends and family all enjoying Berlin’s extended summer. The rooftop had a great view and Tim’s BBQ sausages were excellent. We drank Sekt, German sparkling wine, and some white wine, then had a Campari and Soda after dinner while enjoying their rooftop view of Kreuzberg. Excellent stuff. A fantastic close to my first day in Berlin.

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Me and the neighbors enjoying the rooftop sun. Photo Credit: Imke Wagener

BERLIN DAY 2

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Soldier, statue, and banner at the Soviet War memorial in Treptower Park. Berlin. Photo Credit: JoeP

On the recommendation of a few German friends, I went to Treptower Park to see the largest Soviet monument outside of Russia.  Soviet Troops experienced the highest number of casualties out of all the Allies during WWII, 8.7 million. 20,000 Red Army troops were killed in 1945 during the final month of fighting in Berlin.  In Treptower Park, the Soviets built the monument to honor their fallen troops during the war, and 7000 were buried there. Stark, patriotic, and massive, the monument is truly something to see.  I had conflicting feelings on the monument after reading about the brutal rape of German women at the hands of Soviet troops. From Wikipedia:

Estimates of the numbers of German women raped by Soviet soldiers have ranged up to 2 million. According to historian William Hitchcock, in many cases women were the victims of repeated rapes, some as many as 60 to 70 times. At least 100,000 women are believed to have been raped in Berlin, based on surging abortion rates in the following months and contemporary hospital reports, with an estimated 10,000 women dying in the aftermath. Female deaths in connection with the rapes in Germany, overall, are estimated at 240,000.Antony Beevor describes it as the “greatest phenomenon of mass rape in history”, and has concluded that at least 1.4 million women were raped in East PrussiaPomerania and Silesia alone. According to Natalya Gesse, Soviet soldiers raped German females from eight to eighty years old. Soviet and Polish women were not spared either. When General Tsygankov, head of the political department of the First Ukrainian Front, reported to Moscow the mass rape of Soviet women deported to East Germany for forced labour, he recommended that the Soviet women be prevented from describing their ordeal on their return to Russia.

When Yugoslav politician Milovan Djilas complained about rapes in Yugoslavia, Stalin reportedly stated that he should “understand it if a soldier who has crossed thousands of kilometres through blood and fire and death has fun with a woman or takes some trifle.” On another occasion, when told that Red Army soldiers sexually maltreated German refugees, he reportedly said: “We lecture our soldiers too much; let them have their initiative.”

Obviously, heinous war crimes were committed by Nazi soldiers and many atrocities were experienced by scores of civilians during both world wars, but it seems that the rape of 2 million German women, 100,000 in Berlin alone, by Red Army troops, hasn’t been adequately addressed.

That said, its important to keep in mind that out of the nearly 9 million Russian troops killed during the war, and the 20,000 who died during the final days of fighting in Berlin, many of them were undoubtedly good people. They were mostly young men who were conscripted into war without a choice, and they had to kill or be killed. War has the capability of turning good men into monsters, animals, devoid of any sense of morality. 

We truly need to learn from the past in order to ensure that these types of atrocities won’t happen again. Unfortunately when one looks with a clear perspective into Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Ukraine, it doesn’t look like we are doing too well learning from our ancestors’ horrendous mistakes. War should be avoided at all cost.

Sorry to be so heavy here, but its a heavy subject. Does anyone need a beer yet?

DAY 2 BERLIN (Continued)

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Museumsinsel (Museum Island. The Fernsehturm Berlin – Berlin’s TV tower in the background. This East German TV tower was used to transmit signals to GDR East Berlin and beyond. It remains the tallest structure in Germany.) Photo Credit: Thomas Wolf

In the afternoon I went to the DDR Museum near Museumsinsel. There was a line and it was packed full of tourists. While the hands-on exhibits are presented in an interesting way, somehow the museum didn’t hit me as hard as the Stasi Museum did.  While the DDR Museum tries to present what life was like in East Germany from the 50s to present I don’t think it adequately showed the fear, the stress, the hopelessness of many who lived in the DDR although there were quite a few people who were perfectly happy in the DDR and some even preferred the more simple way of life after the fall of the Berlin wall brought capitalism to the formerly socialist state. I bought a couple of tacky presents in the gift shop and continued my wandering.

I walked over to Museum Island, Museumsinsel to take a rest inside of the Berliner Dome, a beautiful cathedral, constructed between 1894–1905 under the supervision of Kaiser Wilhelm II. The roof was destroyed by a fire bomb during the 1940s and it took many years to repair. The crypt below the church has the bodies of some important folks including various Kaisers, a young princess, and some prominent former members of the church. It was beautiful inside and very quiet which was a nice respite from the extremely frantic tourist activity going on outside.

After resting in Berliner Dome and exploring the crypt below, I headed over to the Neus Museum on the recommendation of my friends Imke and Tim.  The Egyptian exhibit was phenomenal.  The sarcophogi and the presentation on the Egyptians concept of their underworld was fascinating and mysterious. I perused hundreds, maybe thousands of ancient Egyptian artifacts excavated by German archaeologists in the 1800s and 1900s. 

However, the bust of Nefertiti had the most impact on me. Upon seeing her face, I felt like I knew her, it hit me emotionally. It hit me hard. I had seen the image many times before, but standing there, looking at her face, my eyes teared up as if I was looking into the face of an old friend, an old lover, someone I held dear.  It was an incredible feeling.

The Bust Of Queen Nefertiti in the Neus Museum, Berlin. Photo Credit: Getty

In the evening I took a quick rest back home in Friedrichshain then headed to a punk bar called K19 to see local band Berlin Blackouts play with Rotten from the Basque Country. I enjoyed the show and the 2 Euro beers. The Basque punks who had taken over the bar quickly drank all of the cold beer, and when there was only warm beer left, I headed home. Both bands were enjoyable and the crowd reaction to their Basque compatriots was truly wild and rowdy. For a moment I felt like I was in an ocupa in a pueblo in the Pais Basquo, drinking Pacharan with my rat-tailed, mulleted, fanny pack wearing friends.

Here’s Rotten Amairu. This song rules pretty hard…

The word Amairu seems to have been taken from a movement in the 1960s and 70s in the Basque Country to re-establish Basque culture. I have toured the Basque Country a few times and my stepdad Pedro is from Bilbao, the biggest city in Pais Basquo. One of the small town Basque punks at K19 educated me on the 300 Basque political prisoners still held by Spain. While I disagree with any kind of violence including the tactics of ETA (who are/were what the IRA was to Ireland), I can understand the raw emotion behind ETA’s tactics.  The Spanish dictator Franco cut the tongues of people who spoke their own language like Catalan, Basque, or Gallego. People were frequently imprisoned and tortured by the fascists for speaking their own language or practicing their own culture. I understand the raw emotion behind Basque separatism and Catalan separatism, but I don’t think separating from Spain is the answer.

I don’t think that Rotten Amairu realize that their Fred Perry polo shirts from England, their Adidas shoes from Germany, their Epiphone guitars from the US, and their Marshall amps from England are not manufactured in the Basque country, and that separation, like Brexit, could increase the cost of imports double or triple the cost of what they paid for their Oi!/punk gear. Just a practical observation of an incredibly emotional and volatile subject.

Between 1968 and 2002 about 800 people were killed in Spain as a result of ETA attacks, about 2,000 injured. 343 of the 829 people killed were civilians.  I understand the anger towards Fascist Franco Spain, but disagree with killing and maiming innocent people because of separatist politics and also disagree with punk bands who may sympathize with ETA. I cant speak for the punk band Rotten Amairu from Larraga -Tafalla, Basque Country, but I am assuming that they sympathize with ETA. Maybe I am wrong. Please correct me if I am wrong.

That said, the Rotten Amairu song I posted above is pretty damn good. Please check it out. I do have a soft spot for the Basque Holy Trinity of pacharan, pintxos, and brutalll punk rock after all.

DAY 3 BERLIN

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Abhörstation on Teufelsberg. An abandoned Cold War-era NSA listening station.

I’ve been everywhere, man…

ON DAY 3 IN BERLIN, my friends Tim and Imke took me everywhere.  Tim temporarily had a rental car because of one of his jobs being located quite far away. They kindly took this as a chance to jetset me around Berlin.  As Tim told me during the high-speed breakneck tour, as Berlin was separated into East and West, Berlin often has 2 pairs: two Zoos, 2 Opera Houses, 2 sets of government buildings, 2 TV towers, and so on.  We were to see many of these pairs today.

I don’t remember the order of Timke’s grand tour de Berlin, but I do remember the key stops:

Kongresshalle Berlin AKA:  Die schwangere Auster: The Pregnant Oyster

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Imke in front of Kongresshalle Berlin AKA “Shwangerer Auster” (the pregnant oyster) PhotoCredit: Justin Maurer

Abhör Station on top of Teufelsberg – massive American NSA listening station from the cold war.

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Imke and Tim at Teufelsberg. Photo Credit: Justin Maurer

Kaiser Wilhelm Church: bombed out, bullet riddled and the incredible rebuilt chapel next to it. The pastor in the 1930s and 40s was jailed multiple times for speaking out against the Nazis. The church was heavily damaged in an air raid as well as damaged by scores of bullets and shells during heavy fighting during the final days of the war. The interior of the new church next door is  absolutely breathtaking. It has 21,292 stained glass inlays which were imported from France. The glass, designed by Gabriel Loire, was inspired by the colors of the glass in Chartres Cathedral. As Berliners love to give their buildings nicknames, Kaiser Wilhelm Church is nicknamed “der hohle Zahn”, “the hollow tooth” and the new church is nicknamed “Lippenstift und Puderdose”, “the lipstick and the powder box”.

One fond memory is looking down on the monkeys from the mall next to Zoologischer Garten (rot arsch pavian)

Bernauer Strasse – Berlin Wall Memorial, honors all who died trying to escape with their individual photographs. They also have a simulated view of the death strip with a self-manned automatic machine gun. Seeing the original wall at Bernauer Str. was very powerful.

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Imke at Bernauer Str. Berlin Wall Memorial. Photo Credit: Justin Maurer

The Holocaust Memorial

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas) is also known as the Holocaust Memorial (Holocaust-Mahnmal).

This memorial to Jewish Holocaust victims consists of 2,711 concrete slabs placed on a sloping field. Walking through the concrete maze gives one the feeling of claustrophobia, or feeling trapped, lost. The slabs are organized in rows, 54 of them north–south, and 87 heading east–west at right angles but set slightly askew to contribute to the feeling of confusion, perhaps hopelessness as one wanders through the maze.  An attached underground “Place of Information” (Ort der Information) holds the names of approximately 3 million Jewish Holocaust victims.

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Imke at the Holocaust Memorial. Photo Credit: Justin Maurer

Across the street from the Holocaust memorial is the bluntly-titled Memorial to Homosexuals persecuted under Nazism (Denkmal für die im Nationalsozialismus verfolgten Homosexuellen)

Through a concrete slab, there is a video on replay that shows same-sex couples kissing. It is a simple– yet touching monument.

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Imke and Tim looking at the same-sex couples kissing video displayed in the obtusely titled “Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism”

Brandenburger Tor

Brandenburger Tor, Berlin

Brandenburger Tor AKA The Brandenburg Gate

Reischtag

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The Reichstag (Reichstagsgebäude or Deutscher Bundestag – Plenarbereich Reichstagsgebäude) – The house of German Parliament

Das Bundeskanzleramt AKA The German Chancellery serves the executive office of the Chancellor of Germany, currently Angela Merkel.

Das Bundeskanzleramt

Das Bundeskanzleramt (Angela Merkel’s place)

 

 

In between we took a break for Beer and sausages at a Beer Garden in Tiergarten Park: Schleusenkrug. (The red sausages were amazing, I’m still dreaming about them)

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And we closed our day with a beer at Beer Hall in Prenzlauer Berg Prater Garten

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Prater Garten historic Beer Hall in Prenzlauerberg

Many thanks to my old friends Imke and Tim for the best tour of Berlin.

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Imke, Justin, and Tim Photo by Imke Wagener.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I had so much on my mind about Berlin. All that I could do was let it sink in. Berlin is far from undiscovered territory as English-speaking tourists and trust fund kids of all stripes flood into Germany’s capital. Like most major cities across the world, Berlin is experiencing gentrification, housing-shortages, and major rent increases. Google has even sunk its claws into counter-culture stronghold Kreuzberg, opening up shop on Ohlauer Strasse (much to the chagrin and anger of locals).

That said, a beer in the supermarket is about 50 cents and a beer at the “Speti” is about 1.50. You can still find falafel for 3 or 4 Euros. There’s amazing international food everywhere including Turkish, Sudanese, Vietnamese, and more. The city is walkable, bikeable, and the public transportation while it can be erratic and confusing, for the most part works. The winter is brutal but the spring and summer are gorgeous. Parks and green spaces are everywhere.

At times Berlin can feel like a trendy cesspool full of the worst kind of faux-bohemians. Below this veneer is the real Berlin: full of history, full of culture, full of multi-lingual, well-traveled, well-educated people who care. It can still be a magical place at times. Just don’t be one of those Americans who moves to Berlin and never learns German.  When I was digging around a little looking at other blogs, it was astounding to find people who describe themselves as “Berlin bloggers and freelance yoga instructors.”  Maybe I shouldn’t have a bias against trust fund kids, but sorry, I do. (Kudos to those lucky few who can actually pay their rent in Berlin by blogging and freelance yoga instructing, but seriously, please give me a break!)

I am lucky enough to play in a few rock and roll bands and it still gives me the opportunity to travel sometimes. I’m very blessed. I’m even luckier to have dear friends in Berlin who always make me feel at home. It’s truly incredible to have a city full of friends on the other side of the world.  Thank you, Berlin.

PARTS II AND III Coming Soon! 

PART II: WARSAW and PART III: SUSPECT PARTS DEUTSCH TOUR JOURNAL as well as the complete Season 2 of your favorite travel show, GUTEN MORGEN DEUTSCHLAND! 

Keep your eyes peeled.

Your Pal,

Justin