lundi, novembre 17, 2008

Shopping in Berling (with Jewish-Russian food)

Having slept with only a brief pause from 16h00 last afternoon, I got up this morning at 7h00 feeling surprisingly well-rested. Also, for the first time since I got to Berlin, I was able to take advantage of the free breakfast buffet. Since I hadn’t eaten in about 24 hours, I totally stuffed my face and probably scared my fellow hotel guests.

I spent the rest of the morning forcing myself to write up my notes for Saturday before I forgot all about it. By afternoon, I headed out onto Berlin for one last goodbye. I stopped at my favorite Kebab joint on Hermannplatz again, feeling a bit guilty since I had a dinner date with my friends later tonight. From there, I headed over to the Hackesche Markt area and wandered around. I finally bought that Comme des Garçons perfume, “Soda”, from their “Synthetic” line of perfumes. These are all perfumes that smell like synthetic things like tar and “garage.” I can’t explain why, but I really liked the soda one.

Anyway, I bought the perfume at WoodWood, that fashion-victim shop run by crazy Danes, and then kept on walking around the neighborhood. I realized that the prices for clothes in Berlin are much lower than in Paris. Then, I realized, “Holy shit! I’ve been staying in a city full of (relatively) cheap shopping I haven’t bought anything until today!” So now I was on a mission. I found a bunch of amusing hats (baseball caps with knit argyle patterns across the front), but they were all too small for my head. Over at Skunkfunk—a label that I find usually far too olive green / camouflage / brown—I discovered a cute sweater that was chocolate with a sort of argyle pattern in the lower third of the torso in a gradient of robin’s egg blues. Only one size left, and it was too small. I’ve been losing weight and all, but this sweater was embarrassingly tight.

I wandered into a store called Cyroline, I found a pair of rather cute t-shirts, including dark brown one with a spatter of bright colors that develop crazed faces as they rain down on a landscape, and a black one the says “Minimal Play” and has a “male” headphone jack entering a “female” headphone jack.

Knowing full well that European sizes tend to fit small, I grabbed medium sizes in both shirts and headed for the fitting rooms. The “minimal play” one fit just fine, but the other one was clearly one size too tight. I gave the girl at the counter the “minimal play” t-shirt and said “I’ll take this one, but I need a large for the other shirt.” She went off and grabbed one, puzzling over the size discrepancy and delivering the same line I had always delivered when I worked in clothing retail: clothing makers are surprisingly inconsistent in their sizing, so you need to try everything on just in case. We held up the large-sized brown shirt against the medium-sized “minimal-play” shirt and they were a match.

Now, an experienced and canny salesperson would say absolutely nothing at this point and just ring them up, leaving the obvious answer to this puzzle to rest unspoken. Not she. She gestured at the “minimal play” shirt and said, “Clearly this one has been mis-labeled. Both of these t-shirts must be larges. There’s no way this one is a medium; just look at how big it is!” Hint for any of you working in retail: NEVER express surprise when something fits a customer well, and NEVER explain the fact that it fits them by surmising that it must be a size bigger than it appears.

Anyway, I bit my tongue (I don’t know how to be properly catty in German) and headed off with my t-shirts. I was getting late, and I had a dinner date with friends at a restaurant called Pasternak Café over in Prenzlauer Berg, so I started heading in that direction. As I was getting closer to the restaurant, a middle-aged man approached me and asked me for directions to the Jewish synagogue in the area. I was about halfway into giving him directions, when I realized that I had no freaking clue what I was talking about. I cut myself off and said, “Look, I’m not even from here. You should probably ask a local, like the drunkard over there rummaging in the trash.” And ask he did.

Anyway, this is already getting long, so here’s the short version of the rest of the night. I had a great time having dinner with a group of Berlin-based friends at Pasternak, we ate a pile of tasty Russian and Jewish traditional dishes, we had a bottle of good Georgian wine ( მუკუზანი ;Mukuzani) and a surpring Austrian one. One of the amazing desserts we had that night was called Moskauer Kaiserschmarrn, which involves toasted blinis (like shredded pancakes) covered in fruit and fruit syrup. Fucking delicious.

We left in the plummeting cold and headed to the U-Bahn station, where we each took our leave of each other. One U-Bahn stop later, I realized that I had left my shopping bag at the restaurant. Thankfully, the staff were still cleaning up when I returned to restaurant a few minutes later.

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