First Times (California ’93)

My little series with  pictures from 25 years ago continues with my first hiking trip in California. The idea was to drive up to the trail head of White Mountain Peak, and hike the dirt road to the peak.


We drove through Yosemite at night (which I hadn’t seen before) and camped at my first hot spring in Owen’s Valley. Soaking in warm water while around you everything freezes and the sky is full of shooting stars convinced me that this had been a good idea. We made it past the Bristlecone Pine Trees, but the car didn’t make it to the trail head (my first car break down).


We didn’t give up though but continued on foot. The landscape up there (above 10,000 feet) is high elevation desert. 


After two hours or so we reached the observatory and the actual trailhead. Hiking appears very easy: You just follow the dirt road.


What is not so easy, however, is the high elevation. Two of use got altitude sickness, including myself (first time!). That was interesting. It started off with gradually worsening headache.


After a while, my vision got blurry, and me and the other victim turned back to the observatory. While we waited for the two others to return from the summit, we chatted with the friendly personnel. By 10pm, the two other hikers had returned, and we were lucky to hitch a ride on a pickup truck back to our car.

The next morning we stopped for my first visit at Mono Lake.




What to keep…

My first visit to Dresden took place in the early 1990s. It was a foggy day in December, and one of my lasting memories is the enormous pile of rubble in the city center. Dresden331

The ruins of the Frauenkirche hadn’t been touched since the bombing at the end of the Second World War, but after the reunification of Germany, a decision to rebuild was made quickly. This summer I became curious how things looked like today, so I visited Dresden a second time.

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What may we forget, and how should we remember? Some of the temples and monuments that have been destroyed in the Middle East in the past few years were intended to last until the end of time by their creators. Arrogance, or trust in a protective higher power?

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We live in volatile times. A carelessly written email can haunt us for the rest of our live, while a mouse simple click can erase decades of work stored on a hard drive.

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If only we could attach an expiration date to everything we do, it would be easier to decide what to keep and what to let go.

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Mono Lake


Now that it is cold and gray outside, I like to travel a little back in time to pre-digital places. In 1993/94, while in California, I was at least three times at the iconic Mono Lake, that Mark Twain describes in his Roughing It as “one of the strangest freaks of Nature”.


Even though the water is extremely salty, some shrimp species seem to like it (Artemia monica, the Mono Lake Brine Shrimp…), and are in turn being liked by migratory birds.Berkeley588

I, in turn, found the Tufa rocks most fascinating. That they are visible and not underwater (where they originate) is a side effect of Los Angeles diverting water from the lake. 



That was still ongoing in 1993, but since 1994, after long legal battles, Mono Lake won and is now allowed to retain its water. So maybe the images here show Mono at a historic low.


In any case, this feels like home to me.

Everyday is silent and grey

Driving from Bloomington to Chicago takes four to five hours and is a pretty boring drive. This year’s highlight was a lone sign saying “Boycott Fox News”, a stark contrast to what we had last year at around this time.

There are many reasons to go to Chicago. This time I had the privilege to be needed as company, because my daughter wanted to see Morrissey.

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I am not very literate when it comes to popular music. The concerts I look back to with fondness had “stars” like Luigi Nono, Karlheinz Stockhausen, or Bhimsen Joshi present. No, I didn’t listen to The Smiths. But this is what our kids are for: To educate us.

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And Morrissey impresses. He says what he thinks not to be a clown, but to be himself, and he is still good at it. His band was dressed in T-shirts saying “This country makes me sick”. Morrissey was obviously very angry.

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The theater was sold out, with a very diverse crowd. A few rows away a group started smoking weed early on. Chicago. But they all had a good time.

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It was good to see this kind of solidarity across generations. It is the kind of angriness that brings people together.

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Out of Order

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I don’t get often to Nevada. The last time was in March 2015, flying into Las Vegas to drive north to Zion. We spent a night and a day in Moapa Valley to visit the Valley of Fire State Park. Both town and state park completely cured me of all prejudices I had about Nevada. Moapa Valley is a small relaxed community with lots of local artists and friendly people, and the Valley of Fire State Park is an amazing piece of landscape that is on my list of places to return to.

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Typical views are like the ones above, and full of interesting details. Can you spot the head below in the image above?

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Everything here is created by light and shadow, and changes within minutes.

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One can go instantly from harsh contrast to soft pastell. You would think a landscape like this can cure every ailment of the soul.

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From there, on our way north, we passed through another little town: Mesquite, Nevada, not even 40 miles northeast. Little did we know about what had taken residence there a few months earlier, brooding, breeding the incomprehensible.

In Memoriam, once more: Las Vegas, October 1, 2017.

Old And New (Summer in Berlin III)

There are many good places to contemplate the clashes between old and new in Berlin, and one of them is the area along the Spree near the U-Bahn station Schlesisches Tor. This is where the world ended for people living in West-Berlin while the city was divided. Now one can walk across the bridges and admire the construction circus on both sides.

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Herbert George Wells might have thought that his phantasies have come true. When they are done with all this, will it looks like this?

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And will we get more playful little sculptures like the Molecule Man by Jonathan Borofsky?

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There is some obvious resistance. It feels like the perfection of a finished building is stifling the creativity.
Who wouldn’t want to defend the octagonal brick building below?

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Do we really want to lose all this?

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My taste is more for blending old and new and let them coexist.

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The Door Was Open (Summer in Berlin II)

I like architecture, or, to be precise, certain states of buildings. Ruins are fascinating, but even more so construction sites. Both are usually off limits (as are the corresponding states of human affairs, death and conception, unless you are involved one way or the other). So I am often forced to trespass a little.

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In this case, as you can see, the door was open, and I just couldn’t resist.

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Views like the one above make it instantly clear that we are not on a generic construction site. Somebody with taste has been designing this, and whoever is doing the construction work, is doing an excellent job by creating crystal clear previews of what’s to come.

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Wondrous tools are on display too, just for me. I can only guess their purpose by looking at the ornamented concrete slabs. Everything is purposeful, even the occasional leftover tile.

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What fascinates be most at places like these is the tension between the clarity of the present and the vagueness of an undefined future.

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