Two older couples have been staying here, obviously good friends because the men were calm and the women had the same haircut (in different colours). They played cards every night. We asked what they were playing, and all I could understand from their Dutch-accented German was the number 31.
I didn’t know the game 31 but I looked it up and learned that it’s popular in Germany. Another name for it is Hosen Runter, which means Trousers Down.
There was something I really liked about these people. They had obviously lived a lot, had their trousers down often and learned from it. Bad health was up ahead and bad memories deep in their frowns, but there was something about the way they sat together, switching from beer to coffee and back, laughing but mostly being quiet, that showed a common wisdom. They were stylish. When some people age, they play card-games and dress like they want something back, like they’re afraid that the clothes and games are all they have left. These people didn’t seem afraid.
For several years now sports have been the only thing that makes sense to me. We’ve been keeping up with hockey online while here in Berlin, watching games one-day late on ESPN. It means I’ve been avoiding Canadian newspapers so I don’t see any scores.
And I’m happy not reading papers. I have a gathering prejudice against anyone who makes a living with opinions. When other primates groom each other they make noises – they’re often loudest after a conflict, amidst insecurity, or to emphasize to those outside a group that they are not part of the inner circle; sometimes they are loud when they’ve found something remarkable deep in the hair of the groomee. Gelada baboons in Ethiopia are among the chattiest while they groom.
Print has had the unfortunate consequence of making our grooming sounds permanent, or making them seem more important than they are. All this speculation about whether we’re ok, how to be ok, whether that person is really ok; all these gestures to make each other seem better for a moment or indebted to the person making noises. Opening a newspaper is like walking into a troop of Geladas, and I mean that, genuinely, with no disrespect to Geladas. I do hate baboons, though.
Berlin is colder than Montreal today, which is wrong. But it’s a pleasure walking these streets. All the Christmas markets are set up. I hear the one at Gendarmenmarkt is prettiest. The big one near us on Ku’damm has way too many sausages. Some of them are half a metre long. I think about digesting them, and the concept of Advent changes.