Last night, which was our first night in Berlin, I got so obsessive about taking photos of the Christmas market at Potsdamer Platz that I somehow dropped my glasses somewhere in the dark. We walked around the sidewalks and market walkways a few times to try finding them, but it was all in vain. I guess I will need to get new glasses now. At least they lasted me about five years… they were such nice frames. I’m the most annoyed by this because I’m generally very careful about my belongings, and I rarely lose anything.
Ed dropped his glasses, too, when he jumped that afternoon. My mom kept lamenting that the glasses she decided he would wear at the service would be an outdated pair, as the ones he wore fell into the water that awful day. I wonder where those glasses are now – if they floated up the top somewhere and have washed up to the shore, or if they have sunk to the bottom of the San Francisco Bay. At least in heaven, he doesn’t need to wear any glasses and will have 20/20 vision.
It’s been blistering cold since we arrived in Germany on Wednesday, and to make matters worse, the hours of actual daylight are so short while the nights are long. That makes it a bit more difficult for us when it comes to seeing everything we want to see with the limited light hours, and even harder to see the signs, which are obviously all in German. We were looking at the times for sunrise and sunset, and really, we only have the hours from 8am to about 4pm – that’s only eight hours of natural light! So much to see with so little light.
It reminded me of Ed and how he used to do karate in the Sunset district of San Francisco. Because my parents wouldn’t let him take the car unless he were going to work and back, he had to take the bus to karate every time he went. In the fall and winter, when Daylight Savings Time would end, sometimes, he’d actually stop going to karate altogether for the season because our mother would nag him so much about “going out in the dark.” It sounds absolutely stupid, especially considering that the Sunset was literally right across the park from our house, but I suppose it was one of the many absurdities that my house had to deal with.
At least Ed via Bart gets to enjoy Christmas markets here in Hamburg and Berlin amidst all the Christmas lights in the dark.
Today, we spent our first full day in Hamburg, which began at the Miniatur Wunderland, a museum that houses the largest model railroad exhibit in the world, with almost 7.5 miles of railroads, with very true-to-life representations of Hamburg, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, Switzerland, Austria, and Scandinavia, among others. The precision and detail that went into over six years of building this exhibit were very obvious, as even the tiny model people looked like they were interacting with each other, even in a large stadium that was represented. The changes from day to night and from spring, summer, winter, to autumn were stunningly well executed and made the exhibits even more fun to watch. It was even more amusing as we went about the rest of our day, and we started noticing all these things that the model railway system had on display for the Hamburg exhibit!
We brought little Bart around and pulled him out whenever we saw something that was particularly interesting, like the changes from day to night, or when we saw the model air planes taking off (into “real” clouds!). Ed would have really enjoyed this museum, and he usually never enjoyed museums. Like our dad and me, Ed loved miniature things, as he collected a number of miniature Japanese food, Disney, and Smurf figurines. If he were with us today, I know he would have been ecstatic… maybe not as ecstatic as the day he got to touch Shania Twain’s hand, but pretty darn close.
Happy Thankgiving, Ed. I miss you, especially when I am seeing things that I know you would have loved to see for yourself.
In less than 24 hours, we went from being in New York to Dusseldorf to Berlin, and finally to Hamburg. That translates to one cab, two planes, one local bus, and one high-speed Intercity-Express Way (ICE) train. We are exhausted to say the least.
We still trekked along, though, and after getting to Hamburg at about 2pm local time (or 14 hours, since everyone speaks in 24-hour-clock-time-language here. That takes some getting used to for me), we kept moving along to see as much of the city as we could given our limited daylight hours.
Neither of us knows German. Knowing how to say “hello” and “thank you” do not constitute knowing a language. So in our first several hours in Germany, we guessed what things meant and hoped that the few people we spoke with understood English. It worked out pretty well.
Ed took two years of German in high school. If I remember correctly, someone had told him that German would be helpful to him if he ever decided to go into business. I think that statement is questionable now, but either way, Ed took German anyway, and he absolutely hated it. He basically did as little work as possible to pass those courses and quit right away. I wonder what he would say if he knew I was in Germany right now. Would he have retained any of his German, would he be happy to know that I am here now?
I first got my passport when I was 20. I had just received a scholarship to study in Shanghai for a month, and since I wasn’t going to go unless I got the scholarship, I waited until I found out I received it to order my passport and expedited the delivery. It probably would have been smarter if I had just ordered it much before, but in the end, I’ve made that extra money I paid worth it. Germany will be the 14th country I will have visited by the time tomorrow is through, and my 15th will be New Zealand next month. This little booklet that I carry with me when I leave the country has been through quite a number of adventures around the globe.
My aunt, who is actually in China right now, had asked Ed and me if we wanted to accompany her on her China/Hong Kong trip last spring. I knew I wasn’t going to go, but I also knew Ed wasn’t going even if he had wanted to. My mom would never have allowed him to go. He did e-mail me a couple of times, though, to ask about what the passport application process was like, and how long it would take to receive. It always makes me sad to know that he was never able to leave the country and see the world outside of the U.S…. and really, outside of San Francisco, since he rarely left San Francisco unless it was to see me in New York or Boston. So much of life is wasted if you aren’t constantly learning and exploring outside of what is comfortable to you. To each his own, but I’m really excited and grateful for “my own.”
Tonight, we are packing our bags for our Thanksgiving trip to Berlin and Hamburg. I’m absolutely obsessed with Christmas markets, and when I found out about the famous German Christmas markets during a visit to a mini Christkindlmarkt in Chicago in 2009, I knew I had to go to Germany around Christmas time to see this for myself.
I’ve decided to pack my teal peacoat for the trip. It’s made of thinsulate, so even though it is slimming, it is actually quite warm. I still remember the first time Ed saw me wear it last winter. He saw the color and said, “What is this? Why did you get a coat that color?” And then a few minutes later: “Would you consider returning it?” My brother thought that all jackets and coats should be black, brown, or some color in between. He was not a huge fan of colorful or bright clothing. In fact, when I remember now, pretty much all of his clothes were black, brown, tan, white, grey, or some shade of blue.
Since then, though, I’ve probably purchased even brighter colors since I’ve been trying to mix up what I wear and be more creative. Maybe the earthly Ed wouldn’t have liked it, but I think that the Ed I imagine in heaven would like it a lot, especially when he thinks about his petite little Asian sister walking through the throngs of people in Hamburg and Berlin, standing out in her bright teal peacoat. I’d be hard to miss, right?
I don’t eat my apple in my hand. I actually like to have it sliced up and most of the time, even peel the skin off. The waxy texture of most non-organic apples has always annoyed me, but I’m trying to get over it by cutting off just some of the skin. And then other times, I buy organic apples.
Now, I cut fruit for Chris and me every day. He won’t eat fruit unless I cut it up for him (leaving it in the fruit bowl isn’t enough. He barely notices it). While cutting fruit today, I thought about how Ed used to also peel off apple skin and slice up all of his fruit. When I was home, we used to cut each other fruit and leave it there for each other if we were both there. I guess that’s another thing we have in common; we both continued eating fruit the same way it was served to us when we were kids. And then I was reminded of how our mother said that in the last couple of months before he left us, he stopped cutting up fruit and eating it altogether unless my mom cut it and put it in front of him. That must have been how little he cared at that point.
It would be nice to cut up fruit for Ed again.
Tonight, Chris and I went to Yuji Ramen at Whole Foods on Bowery for their eight-course ramen omakase. We sat at their counter at Whole Foods, where only six of us were allowed at a time to be served by Yuji himself. We were served ramen in the shape of shells, ramen broth from a French coffee press, and monkfish liver filled ramen shaped like candy topped with freshly grated wasabi. It was a really unique tasting experience, especially coming from a Japanese guy who always thought he didn’t even like ramen.
While on one of the final courses, I realized that my rich mussel broth ramen had a tiny dead fly floating on the top. I alerted one of Yuji’s helpers, who got Yuji’s attention to make me a new bowl. It reminded me of the time when (I think) it was my 20th birthday, and my cousins, uncle, and Ed took me to Chapeau!, a really quaint French restaurant in the Richmond in San Francisco. When my dessert came to the table, I started digging in, only to realize that there was a long hair lying across my little cake. Ed was trying to get the attention of the waiter so that he could bring me a new dessert, but because I liked the taste of the dessert so much, I obliviously just kept on eating it. “Stop eating that!” Ed scolded me.
Ed would have been pretty upset if he saw that dead fly in my mussel broth tonight. I wish he could have real ramen with me just once.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s death. The entire country remembered him today in many different tributes and TV specials and mentions across all major news sources.
Today also marks four months since Ed left us. It’s funny when I think about it – whenever the anniversary of his death comes each year on July 22, the rest of the world will be celebrating another birthday for the son of Prince William and Kate Middleton, while my parents and I will be mourning the fact that I will never see my brother again. And now today, when everyone else is celebrating the life of JFK, I am thinking of my brother’s ashes sitting in his niche at the San Francisco Columbarium and why life had to be so cruel to him.
I suppose JFK has had a legacy in my own life. Chris actually mentioned this when we were watching the JFK mini series months ago. It sounds twisted, but if JFK had never been assassinated, he would have opposed being a part of the Vietnam War, which meant that my dad would never have been drafted to go. If he were never drafted, he never would have met my mother, so therefore, Ed and I never would have been born. It’s strange how things work out.
I’m not crying as often as I was months ago, but I still miss you, Ed. And as Thanksgiving and Christmas get closer, it feels a little worse and worse knowing you aren’t around anymore. Even if others aren’t thinking about you as deeply, I definitely am. I even took the big Macy’s Snoopy you gave me out of the closet against Chris’s “anti-clutter” wishes. He’s sitting on the bean bag in the living room now. He reminds me of you and your love for all things child-like.
Tonight, I had dinner with a former colleague friend and enjoyed lamb cheeks and lamb tagine at an Egyptian restaurant in Astoria. We exchange stories about our crazy friends and their crazy lives, among other things, but apparently, I win the award for having friends with the most dramatic and problem-filled lives. “Can you please stop talking about (insert name of friend)?” he said. “I don’t think I can handle hearing this anymore!” He then adds, “I need to introduce you to some of my friends.”
I would like to make new friends, but these Meetups haven’t really been working out the best, and given recent events in my life, my genuine drive to socialize and meet people is a bit low. He asked me why I am still friends with X, Y, and Z friend given their life decisions because they would be deal breakers for him.
Well, I suppose it isn’t as simple as I’d like it to be. I’ve disagreed with a lot of the decisions (or lack of decisions) that my friends have made over the years, and occasionally (to them, it seems like constantly) I tell them what I think in my own way, which of course, they don’t respond well to. We generally never respond well to anyone who descents from what we believe is the right decision for us, but I still think it’s an important thing to do. There’s no way we could always agree. And that’s also why we have different friends and not just one; when one drives us crazy because of one thing, you still have another friend who can fill that void for you.
I’m lucky I have multiple friends who I can rely on for different things, and they are people I can call close friends. It makes me sad when I think of people who just have a lot of acquaintance-type friends that they can’t lean on for anything other than grabbing dinner or a drink together. And then that reminds me of how bad I always felt that Ed never really had anyone he could call a real friend.
I hope he’s made lots of friends in heaven. Then when I join him one day, we can share friends and all laugh together.