December in Germany – if you have kids – means you will find yourself more than once at the dreaded Christmas Market. You will be informed that your offspring wants to peruse the various crap for sale, eat cotton candy, ride the carousel. Buying three rides at once is cheaper. Around and around they go as your toes turn numb. Again! Again! No matter how many times, you always end up with one leftover chip in your pocket after the Christmas Market has disappeared, wondering, what now?



Ah, Berlin in March. Now that the glacial covering has receded, vast swathes of slushy dog shit and piles of crushed gravel (strewn by the city in an ineffectual effort to keep us all from slipping) create an interesting obstacle course for the average pedestrian. If you lost your keys in November, now’s the time to search for them. And if you’re me and have a fetish for select kinds of garbage, it’s like Christmas. Alone on a block long walk to the mailbox I found these three treasures from the thaw.

But everytime I see a soggy rocket I’m a little sad. Berlin on New Year’s Eve is a war zone. New Year’s Day the streets are filled with the strange burnt out remains. I collected these for years in a large cracker tin when I first moved here. Then I needed the tin for something else and saved only a choice few, throwing out the bulk of the collection. So my instinct when I see a rocket is to pick it up. But I don’t. Because now, like clothes I once loved to wear but are no longer fashionable, they’ve just become something from another time and only serve to remind me that I can’t go back.



Give me your broken, your useless, your rusty refuse yearning to be saved… I lost a new cashmere sweater before Christmas, which was kind of annoying, but if the wire thingy with the two red plastic discs were to disappear it would be a real tragedy. Where did it come from and when did it mutate from junk to talisman? William Davies King answers my questions in his book Collections of Nothing, which intersperses a poignant chronicle of lonely childhood to midlife crisis with lists such as Here are all the varieties of tuna fish for which I have labels. Wise man. And I thought I was the only one collecting the patterns on the insides of envelopes.stuff



On my desk are two squished foil wrappers – found on separate occasions in front of the same building – that remind me of twin cheerleaders: one fat, one skinny. My mother is a twin. And was once a fat cheerleader. But is now skinny. Must be a sign.




Animals, in my favorite form: photographed in bizarre sentimental settings and sloppily printed on cheap stock.



On a gray morning, there’s beauty right at my feet when I step out into the street. A bundle of rusty wire: nearly come undone, somewhat damaged, past its prime, still useful, if not exactly as originally intended. I can identify.




One of my mother’s sisters wrote to me the other day, If I know anything after all this time, it’s that the attention we get is rarely related to anything other than our knowing how to get attention. She should know. This is a woman who used to run marathons with helium balloons tied to the ends of her braids. And she’s just one of seven; when they’re all together there’s usually a fistfight for control of the microphone. I generally take more after the other side of the family, the shy pessimists.

Lately though, I’ve been feeling the exhibitionist urge, hence the blog, which I intend to fill for all to see with the ephemera that’s too good to throw away, the detritus that’s been rescued from oblivion and the miscellanea that remains. So here I give you one of many prized possesions: a gold foil embossed matchbox, empty, ca. 1979, from the aforementioned Aunt’s shop. This was a fantastic place where you could eat ice cream, sign up for a 10k run and buy a kazoo printed with her motto, Say Nice Things about Detroit. As my daughter’s kindergarten teacher remarked with the sneering disdain of a true New Yorker, Detroit? Yeah, that’s a good place to be FROM.