Monday, December 13, 2010
Everything has radically changed in the past few weeks. I am now living in Portland, Oregon. Mandie is still in Berlin, and is obtaining her masters degree in anthropology at the Freie Universität Berlin. I will be back in Berlin in about a half year or so, and then plan on obtaining my own masters degree at De Montfort University in England. For now, I'm staying with some friends and am searching for a job so I can save up a bit for school.
I flew stand-by and the trip started out great. I caught a flight in Berlin, sat in first class and made friends with the woman sitting next to me. Things took a turn however in NYC where the flight was overbooked and I did not get a seat on the flight to Portland. I ended up with a morning flight, and spent the night in the airport. Not sure if any of you have experienced JFK overnight, but if not, let me assure you, it is not comfortable. The chairs are no good for sleeping, and the only flat place I found worth sleeping on was made of marble which was cold and hard. NYC is of course currently swarming with bedbugs, so there was no way that I was going to sleep on the floors. They also play smooth cool jazz which seems to be rather loud when it is not accompanied with the background noise of hundreds of people, and on top of everything was just something else that made it tricky to sleep. After a night of walking back and forth through the terminals I finally got on a flight to Salt Lake City. This was exciting because I got to see all the snow capped mountains and the Great Salt Lake as we flew in. It started snowing a bit while I was there. Ultimately, after 33 hours of being either on a plane or in a secure airport zone, I ended up in Portland.
Before my relocation, we switched up our situation in Berlin as well. We no longer have an apartment in Tegel by the lake (oh how I miss the lake!), and now have an apartment in Schöneberg. Mandie does not have to make the hour long commute to the university that she had to make from our old place any more which is extremely helpful. The move was exciting. We had mostly everything packed, and on the weekend of the move, we had lots of friends come out to help. Sarah and Rene stopped by and helped us with the truck. Our friends April, Olaf, Natalie, and Donna also came by to help carry all of our heavy boxes. We managed, despite the cold and wet conditions, and an angry lady fighting us for parking (she tried to run me over!), to get everything inside the apartment successfully.
In my last few weeks in Berlin, I was somewhat productive. I constructed a distortion unit out of the guts of an old cassette player. It can be found by following the tech link on my website. I also attended Sourcefabric's ON2: Test Signals, a two day workshop, presentation, and lecture series about digital and web-based radio. We explored all sorts of interesting real world applications, talked with people from around the world, and I participated in a workshop for Campcaster, an open-source radio station management program. Hilary, a good friend of mine, and I recorded two sessions in my studio using an instrument he created called the tromboscillator. It is a custom designed modular synth that uses the trombone to modulate the onboard oscillators. Usually he performs solo with this device, but I convinced him to bring it over so that I could have a go at the controls while he played the trombone. I had a blast playing with him and hope to do so again as soon as possible. I aim to have some tracks posted as soon as I get them ready. Between these two tromboscillator sessions, I made my way to Leicester, England to visit De Montfort University. I spent two days meeting and talking with the music technology department, other post grads, professors, directors, and so on, and got a feel for what I will be getting myself into when I go there for my master's degree, hopefully in October. I was impressed with what a strong community this program has. They are great people and I think I will get along great with them. While I was there, I attended a symposium where I got to listen to post-grads, professors, and artist, present their projects or talk about their work. Later that same evening there was a concert where many of the speakers either performed or had their audio and/or visual works played for the audience. When I went walking about the town, it didn't take long to get my bearings. I found an old cathedral where I was lucky to to have the chance to hear the pipe organ being played, Roman ruins in the city, and a great market in city center. I ate Indian food and went to a few pubs with members of the department. Neal, a doctorate candidate in the department, was even generous enough to let me crash at his place while I was there. After my visit, I decided that I really like the people, the program, and the town enough to be sure that I want to pursue a degree there.
Before leaving Berlin, I had plans to meet up with Ayaka, a good friend of mine at a whiskey lounge. She came up with the idea of making it a goodbye party, which naturally I thought was a great idea, so I invited some people unsure of who would actually come. It turned out that many of my Berlin friends came out to have a drink and spend some time with me before I left! I was very happy about this. I miss them all and look forward to seeing them at the end of summer next year.
And now, I'm in Portland. As far as the job hunt goes, if anyone has any ideas or Portland based contacts, please let me know. I've been to well over 100 places so far, and I have to say that the job market is rather bleak. Portland is nice though. The people seem to be fairly progressive, and are very into natural foods and healthy living. There is lots of nature around. Susan has shown me the Colombia Gorge and several waterfalls including Multanoma Falls. There are really big trees here, and all the trees in the forest tend to be covered in green fuzzy moss. It is very wet here, and more often than not, it is raining. We went to the Pacific coast to a place called Cannon Beach which has a huge rock called Haystack Rock. There are lots of tide pools around this rock full of green and pink sea anemones, hermit crabs, and bright starfish. Something that also struck me as interesting, was a small river flowing diagonally on the beach. Flying in, I saw three huge volcanoes jutting up over the clouds. Mt. Hood is the closest peak to Portland. At about 40 miles from the city, it is still visible from here, and is an amazing sight. I want to climb it, but have sort of realized that it is much more dangerous than I previously thought. We shall see.