“The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day [s]he created Spring.”
I’m a firm believer in super powers – namely, that everyone has at least one. Maybe it’s the ability to magically conjure up a parking spot in a crowded shopping center garage on Christmas Eve. Maybe it’s the ability to speed through commercials on your HDR and stop JUST before your show comes back on. Maybe it’s the ability to get your pancakes the perfect shade of brown…before they burn. And if you’re one-such unsung hero…
I believe we are all superheroes in some way.
My superpowers include unwittingly picking up weirdos on public transportation, selecting the perfect, just-ripe avocados at the supermarket, and attracting the best people in the world as beloved friends and confidants.
…I also have the uncanny ability to magically end-up living in cities where the favourite past time is discussing the weather.
It’s not the most astounding superpower, mind you. Personally, I’d prefer being able to predict when the ticket inspector gets on the train or the exact moment when my period is about to come. So far, I can only ascertain that it’s the moment I put on a brand new pair of lacy underpants, and then:
Floridians loved discussing the weather, but it was mostly some variation of hot and humid, whether it was “fucking hot and humid, I need a beer” “hot as balls, so I’m going to the beach” or “hot AF so I’m working on my tan…on the beach…with a beer.”
If you lived in Tallahassee, that meant sometimes wearing a windbreaker…with flip-flops.
Chicagoans loved discussing the weather, because winter lasted for six months and so we had to come up with new and creative ways to wax lyrical about the stratosphere to keep us from killing ourselves. Some people got poetic. Others got drunk. I ate a lot, because the extra layer of subcutaneous fat protected my brain from being too active, and processing the fact that I had AGREED to live in a place where ice cubes sometimes plummet from the tops of skyscrapers to impale helpless pedestrians down below.
Melbournians too, made an art of this conversation. Known for being “4 seasons in one day” I grew used to the kinds of afternoons that started with sunshine and ended with green clouds hailing down ice cubes the size of golf balls. Or 44C-degree summer heat waves. Or freezing cold rain in the middle of summer. Or basically any day that wasn’t those magical two weeks in November where it was consistently 27 degrees and sunny.
…I miss those two weeks.
Which brings me to Berlin – what the hell are you guys complaining about?
I’ve had some brutal winters – but this one, just now receding into the memories of winters past, wasn’t one of them. Yes, there were some sub-zero days that froze the living cells in your face, making it impossible to smile. And after the snow fell, you’d have to lace up your hiking boots so that you didn’t slip on the ice, fall and split your frozen non-smiling face into beautiful broken shards all over the dog-poo-littered sidewalk. But come…ON.
Berlin does winter right.
The apartments are well-maintained with good insulation and gas heating that warms up in minutes. You can buy affordable goose-down parkas and boots at the corner shop, and the markets ensure that every man, woman and child is supplied with a copious amount of mulled wine, roasted bratwurst, sauerkraut, gingerbread cookies, glazed ham and crusty bread rolls until the first of April.
Plus the snow falls…are magical.
Snowfall in Berlin mutes the world.
It’s a welcome reprieve for someone who can’t really shut off her own thoughts.
I’ve been able to really concentrate on my prose, building my profile as a writer and getting published weekly across platforms in Australia, America and Europe.
Here’s a piece I wrote for The International Business Times, London on the dangers of living as an American, now that we have…President Trump.
Here’s my first piece for Contemporary&, a Berlin-based art mag that explores fine art from African perspectives. It’s about Kehinde Wiley bringing fine art back to the people [where it belongs.]
My second article on Kanye West and the hyperrealism of fame will be published very soon!
Here’s my first piece for The Root, the African-American channel of The Washington Post.
Side note: I’m currently in Stockholm working on my second article for them.
And here’s a deeply personal essay I wrote on my personal journey to atheism, and my mother, written for Ravishly.com. I’ve started storytelling, and my first event was at Amelia Jane’s in January, where I read a short story about shelter in the middle of winter. Then, I read this very long, very personal narrative at a Black History Month event in February for old friends and new ones. And I was reminded of why story-telling is an incredibly powerful act of reconnecting when the rainbow is not enuf. And so I’ve committed to doing it once a month moving forward. Last month was at Amelia Jane’s event at Z Bar in Mitte. This month is as yet to be confirmed, but I post all the dates and events on my Facebook page here.
I now have a weekly opinion column for The CEO Magazine, which has kept me busy Monday nights, rain or shine – and you can peruse them all in this order below:
…and then there’s the book, which has completely changed in shape, structure and format since I first moved to Berlin. From a journey of self-discovery…
…To a series of short, politically charged stories loosely-based on my experiences and observations in Europe.
In these trying times, I have to be honest, it’s difficult to know what the right thing to do is. My friend Musa, gifted writer, poet and chocolate cake-discoverer, spoke to me about the merits of being self-focused at a time when being loud and black is considered an act of political defiance. And while that’s definitely true, and important, I feel like I can best articulate our collective struggles by removing myself [at times only marginally] from the narrative of my writings. This method provides me with the creative expression I need to tell a variety of different stories, and demonstrate the breadth in which the choices we make now, will affect the world we live in…sorta.
And I’m suddenly reminded why it’s best not to discuss a book before it’s done. I’ll leave you with that tasty nugget then move on and never speak of it again.
So stop asking me about it.
I celebrated my birthday not too long ago. First with Berlin-based friends who illuminated the evening with so much laughter, I lost my voice – and who reminded me of why sometimes the best thing you can do when you feel lost, is take a chance and move somewhere else.
Then I flew to Basel, Switzerland where I reunited with a friend I haven’t seen in 14 years. I met her hilarious children, adorable husband and we walked at length throughout the city eating chocolate, cheese and taking cheesy photographs that I will cherish always.
Highlights include being surprised by Cassandra with a raspberry tart in the morning, being surprised by Cassandra’s whole family with a strawberry cream cake in the evening, enjoying the first raclette of my life and a day trip to Luzern with breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps in the background.
In the beginning of last month, I was invited to attend my friend Indrani’s art exhibit for a private walk through of her deeply personal show – about love, Tinder and the ridiculous hoops we make ourselves jump through in order to be seen by others. I was amazed then, as I often am, at the vulnerability required to be an artist, and so taken by the honesty in her work that I asked if I could photograph it – to which she kindly agreed. Thanks Indrani. ❤
Winter this year was so good that I honestly didn’t want it to end. I mean, there was that one time when my heating went out on the coldest week of the year, but then Musa helped me find space heaters, Lara let me borrow some blankets and Uli let me warm myself in her son’s colourfully decorated bed all night, and it didn’t seem so bad. And there are worse things to wake up to besides these cuties lol…
And we should all take a moment to appreciate it, just as that elderly woman giving me side eye in that panoramic photo clearly does.
But some new challenges are on the horizon. My lease is up at the end of May, and I’ve decided to move because my building is overrun with people who just don’t want to let me sleep at night. Whether it’s my next-door neighbor who drinks herself into a stupor, does miscellaneous hardcore drugs, keys my front door at 4am in the morning [when she’s not passing out in front of it in her underwear] or my downstairs neighbor who smokes meth and blasts heavy metal so loud that it makes my bones vibrate…from two floors below.
Some battles just aren’t worth the fight – no matter how many times I call the police or file reports. German cops have too many bodies to clean up on a regular basis to give a shit about my neighbor problems. So I’m officially on the hunt for a new place, from 1 June onwards. And no, I don’t do flat-shares. I’m only interested in living by myself in a 1-bedroom flat with my name on the door. Tell your mama, your friends, your boos, your side-dudes and the milk man.
I’ve also simplified my workflow to write more on a regular basis. This has meant freelancing, pitching, and hustling. So much so that I’m in need of new literary representation. So if you know someone who knows someone…see the above call-to-action from the previous paragraph.
So. What about Stockholm?
Well, after a winter in hibernation working on new jokes, I make my spring-time debut tonight to a room full of Swedes.
I’m reminded that it’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival time again, and I’m too far away to engage in the festivities. And while I’ve taken an absence from the stage to work, collect my thoughts and reflect on the direction I want to take my life in this year, I have been far from stagnant. But before I bring it all home to Berlin for a busy season of standup, I thought I’d test it out on the Scandinavians first.
So just in case I bomb, nobody in Berlin will know.
But there has, of course, been room for exploration. As we all know, Sweden has a reputation for being the progressive bastion of Europe. I recently read an article that said they’ve gotten so good at recycling, that they’ve run out of garbage and have started to import trash from other countries.
I’ve seen a lot of movies about different European countries that have given me wildly different impressions than what the cities are actually like. Paris is not as clean as it looks on TV. Berlin’s trains are covered in graffiti [much of which is quite creative, actually.] But Stockholm.is.gorgeous. The buildings, the people, the pastries…it’s the holy trifecta of aesthetic beauty.
The trains are on time. The subways are immaculate. The streets are cyclist friendly from top to bottom, and the parks are maintained. There isn’t garbage on the streets, and salads are served in paper containers, not plastic ones!
I know that seems like an arbitrary add-on, but it’s such a simple, important amendment to daily life that it merits a mention.
I won’t go into too much detail, because it’ll be covered in my next article for The Root. So I’ll end with another infamous “cities be like” post:
Stockholm be like…
The happiest place on earth. Disney World be damned – the promised land is here, and it’s swimming in pastries and open-relationships.
Layers of fog that rest on the land at dusk, reminiscent of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Let Me In.
When I’m on the train, I try to look brooding like Lisbeth Salander while playing ominous music in my head.
Scandinavians are earnest like the Germans, but without the rudeness. They’re actually very polite, and smile back on the street. Germans spit. You can count the stairs by the spittle marks on them. Here, I think if you spat on the stairs, you’d be put into a headlock.
Not a deeply affectionate place, but not cold either. Better friends than strangers – better business partners than friends. They take their money seriously, along with their devotion to family and maintaining the environment. This is not a stereotype.
Expensive. Holy moly! I took out 500 Krona to get me through the first night, until I got to my AirBnB, roughly 50 Euros. My return train ticket from Stockholm Central was 580 Krona. I instantly missed Berlin.
Rinkeby is the most diverse neighborhood I’ve seen here – with East-African migrants and many hijabs that you don’t see in as much abundance throughout the rest of the city.
I also saw a black hair shop next door to an antique shop in the heart of the city – with the shop owners outside sharing an e-cig smoking break.
Drake’s new album has some fresh beats, but I’ve decided that this dude needs to live through a tsunami or something because I’m sick to death of hearing him talk about how people are out to get him, how many assets he owns, how lonely he is, but how women are ho’s that can’t be trusted. Boy, STOP.
That has nothing to do with Stockholm, but it needed to be said.
…My other superpower is calling out bullshit trends in music.