Leftovers

Which, I guess, is what you’d call things larger than crumbs…

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First, of course, there’s the story of the Burden of History Santas. Now that these despicable objects have all been destroyed, it’s safe to direct you to the Spiegel Online story about them. Make sure you enlarge the photo there so you can see the offending gesture.

This paranoia about the “Hitler salute” is omnipresent. I was on the upper level of a double-decker bus one time when a bunch of high-school boys thundered up the stairs and took some seats. They had just left a group of friends outside, and as the bus pulled away, one of the kids nudged another one and said “Hey, he’s waving at you.” The second kid raised his arm to wave, and suddenly blushed bright red as his friend slapped his arm down.

From this cautionary Christmas tale, I’d assume that pointing at the Star of Bethlehem on the part of shepherds or Magi isn’t depicted in German Christmas ornaments. I’ll be on the lookout when I make my customary tour of the Christmas markets some weekend in the near future. Can’t be too safe!

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While lamenting the disappearance of things I like here, it’s, um, fair and balanced to point out the disappearance of things I’ve always hated, and on a recent walk to Alexanderplatz, I noted that the pedestrian subway, a large, DDR-era tiled collection of underground tunnels connecting various parts of Alex, had been paved over. True, it was the best way to get out of the rain, and a huge gallery for graffiti artists, but it was also the realm of the worst street musician ever, a flutist with one of those mephistophelean beards who played over orchestral tracks on a boom-box. I don’t think I have ever heard a musician play with less feeling, not to mention that his cassette seemed to contain only three tunes, which, excepting that Brandenburg Concerto movement, I’ve utterly forgotten.

Street musicians here have to be licensed, and I’ve been told that the licenses, which are issued at some preposterous hour of the morning like 6:30, are controlled by the Russian mob, which sends a few guys down to pick them all up and then doles them out to musicians, mostly Russian, who agree to their terms. One of those terms, apparently, is learning scams: some friends of mine once had a restaurant, and a friendly, funny guitarist would show up from time to time to entertain. Then he’d take all his small change and ask for a beer and the favor of converting his handfuls of coins into larger currency. Oddly, the restaurant kept coming up short at the cash register at 3 am, when it closed, and finally my friends made the connection and banned him. The police later confirmed that this was a very common scam with these musicians.

Of course, the other thing about pedestrian subways, common around the world as far as I can tell, is that they serve as late night urinals for the terminally inebriated, and on a warm summer day the one at Alex exuded a strong odor unless the cleaning crews, who also worked on the graffiti, had made their monthly appearance. The only positive aspect of this I can think of is that the flutist had to inhale the miasma in gasps as he thundered through the goddam Brandenburg.

Now, access to Alex is via surface, which means you have to stand in the rain waiting for the light to change. A small price to pay, given everything.

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Thanks to Brent for this (translated) article from the S

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