The Essentials

The Essentials

Victims and
Villains
Of complexity,
We grasp for
Power but
Bemoan the
Burden of
Shouldering
All these
Batteries.

Tangled webs of
Copper
And plastic,
Ropes to harness
Our collective
Wisdom,
Sometimes
Make a noose
Make a leash.

You are unique.
You are interesting.
And
You are drowning
In a sea
Of precious
Voices.

Saffron rice
On golden
Microchips
If that is
Heaven
Then
Congratulations,
Hallelujah,
Glory be to…
Something.

Otherwise-

Reload,
Refresh,
Re-evaluate.

BW 7/26/16

Our adventures in Berlin ended a few days ago. We enjoyed our stay and enjoyed the vibe of that friendly urban landscape. Now we are holed up in a more rural part of Germany. Lauenberg it is called, a town of 10,000 on the north side of the river Elbe. We are south and east of Hamburg. The landscape is beautiful and the quiet nights are even better. We’ve been compiling videos and filming documentary interviews. It’s a chance to catch up on everything we’ve put off until now. Today we even went on a jog along the river! Exercise? Are we allowed to do that on vacation?? I hope so.

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I’ll mention two more things about Berlin. First, there was the night we went out to a dive called Hangar 49. As the name suggests, the bar is a refurbished air hangar. It was only possible to find via the magic of Google maps, because it was tucked behind several tall buildings and didn’t even sport a sign on the door. We’d been told there was an open-stage/open-mic once a week. We were hoping for something experimental, maybe art music or an acoustic jam. What we found was a dark, tiny stage packed with electric guitars cranked up to 11.

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The good news is that we stuck it out. Ben and I both appreciate a good blues jam, and these musicians were having a great time on stage. Players would frequently tap each other out to join with a new idea, and the energy was comfortable, sometimes even comical. We had a couple whiskeys and watched things unfold for a while, then I shot Ben a quizzical glance and he shrugged approval. I got up and found the sound guy to ask his recommendation. He spoke great English and he was clearly excited when I mentioned a cello and viola. He went into the back room and returned a moment later with a clip-on mic.

So Wormwood joined the fray. We squeezed on stage and jammed as best we could with the plethora of bass, drums, and guitar that filled the room. No one could hear us, but that’s nothing new for string players like ourselves. When we got down to take a break, a local guitarist came up to Ben and said, “You should take the stage! We coudln’t hear you at all. Just be kind of aggressive. Tell people you want to do something.”

We waited in the wings for a few minutes, then we gave it our midwestern-best. With some smiling gestures and phrases like “just cello and viola for a bit” we got most of the players to step down. A drummer and a guitarist didn’t understand exactly or didn’t hear so we were left with an interesting four-piece band. The first things we tried was some kind of groove, with lots of guitar. A singer joined us halfway through, improvising lyrics and melody. People really liked it, and the guitarist turned down his amp to allow more strings through. Afterwards, I said to him, “Something experimental?” He started playing Metallica. I said, “Good enough!”

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We started playing Nothing Else Matters, or an approximation of it, and then a woman sitting in the bar got up on stage and added the lyrics! She had a great voice. We jammed with her for a few tunes and then stepped off stage with big smiles. It was so refreshing to play music with others. It really didn’t matter what tunes or styles came up. Playing cello and viola that wasn’t signature “Wormwood” was a breath of fresh air for our ears. Thanks, Hangar 49! Thanks, Berlin!

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The last thing we did before departing the city was make a day trip out to the lakes. There are many lakes west of the city. It’s about an hour transit to any of them (unless you are us, in which case you should plan for two hours at least.) We met up with Amanda, our new friend from Prague, and traveled together for the day. She had wandered into Berlin on her own a few days before. We joked and talked our way from train to train to bus to walking trail, and eventually found the beach we wanted.

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A quick dip followed by a picnic revived us after our (much too arduous) journey, and we strolled up a path to uncover…wait for it…a column! These are very rare in…no wait…these are all over Europe. But this one was stone and it had a shield on it and it looked sort of Viking (in a Germanic, Christian kind of way)!

So we played a little music while the sun set on the river and we thought about home. This set is dedicated to Brett Baldauf. The music has a clearly recognizable influence. We gotta hand it to the Irish – they know how to write a tune. Hope you like it, Brett!

On our way home Ben started ranting about the sensationalism of Facebook and the curated lives we display to the public. He eventually decided that he must turn his Facebook profile into a celebration of the mundane and un-filtered. He feels it is the only way to fight back against the constant one-up-man-ship of the internet. (Besides shutting his FB down completely of course…but he tells himself he can’t do that because he’s a musician and entrepreneur who relies on just that sensationalism *facepalm*)

Without further ado, I give you Ben’s mundane dinner conversation video. His latest achievement in the celebration of non-achievement.

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Wonderland

Wonderland

Some uphold
that mirrors
map the world
in honest light

While windows
in the eyes
reveal the visage
vision hides.

What then are
ghosts and
shapes that
resonate in glass

Refracting
partial truths,
turning windows
into masks?

Staring elsewhere
through a film
of self
reflection

Mirrors folly
of the simplest
nature, of
self direction.

To glance and
in an instant
see the world
outside and in,

Makes manifest
the err of
each and every
human sin.

Wisdom in this life
can be explained
discerning a dusty mirror
from a glossy window pane.

BW 7/22/16

Provided I had German language skills and I wasn’t such a country boy, Berlin is a city where I could live. The district we are staying in, courtesy of Ben’s generous friend Maya Markwald, is unassuming and diverse. There are delicious kebab places, hipster coffee houses, affordable organic markets, and vegan ice creameries around every corner. Having Maya to recommend the best versions of everything has proved invaluable. Ben and I are feeling a bit taxed by our wanderings, so having choice establishments picked out for us is a god send.

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Just the other night Wormwood got to play in K├Ârner Park just a few blocks from our stay. Maya invited her friends and acquaintances to meet for a concert, and a really wonderful crowd of locals turned up for a bit of evening relaxation. We were very flattered by the audience. We realized just as we sat down to play that this was technically Wormwood’s very first independent concert!

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In daily routine we’ve spent a few hours here and there wandering around the city. We’ve completely avoided the downtown center and the hub of monuments. We might make a short trip into that region soon, but we’ve learned enough about ourselves to know we won’t last long amidst crowds and manicured shopping streets. We spent one afternoon in a big park south of the city center called Hasenheide. Families and couples stopped to listen as we played beneath a tree. You can enjoy the handstand workout happening in the background of this video, which we’ve dedicated to Kristin Anderson.

 

Another of our excursions took us even further south. We’d been told that an abandoned airport was open to public use. We had no idea what to expect, but soon we were trudging along dirt paths in beautifully wild sections of land. There were homemade fire pits and haphazard couches strewn throughout the acreage and wonderful public art on ever brick edifice.

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Eventually we stumbled through a gate and out onto a giant strip of land that could only be explained by an airplane runway. Except, the grass was mostly prairie and there were groups of people as far as the eye could see, sitting, dancing, barbecuing, kicking a soccer ball – it was an unpolished public space, unprecedented in size. We walked all over and noticed public restrooms in good condition, bike/running paths on air-lift tarmac, and even a sprawling community garden complete with handmade, wooden seating and a canopied stage for concerts. Here was San Francisco in the heart of Germany! Here was repurposed paradise! Combine that with the rich history of the Tempelhofer Feld as public parade, military base, a U.S. relief drop point, and you have yourself a recycled, re-imagined, activist-empowering hippy wonderland.

 

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Here’s the funny part. Ben and I were dragging so hard that day we visited Tempelhofer that I felt like I was back in Montessori Teacher training. We could barely muster the enthusiasm to lift one leg in front of the other, let alone revel outwardly in the impressive nature of the park. That said, we did record a video, and I’ve dedicated it to my good friend Cristina Celis. See if you can spot the moments when my (and Ben’s) train of thought gets derailed and we lose the ability to speak words…oh boy. Needless to say, that day included a generous nap!
I want to say an extra word of thanks to Cristina for supporting my travels. She encouraged me to “get out of my country” from the moment we met, and I’m grateful for that. Abrazos, Cristina.