An amazing album by The Flaming Lips. My acquisition of this album warrants a tale...

I was living in Berlin and had only a couple weeks left in that fair city. The other people on my study abroad program were gone on vacation or doing their own thing, and classes were over, so I took to my usual habit of wandering the city alone. I was living with a German friend of mine, and he was gone visiting his ex-girlfriend, so I had his half of the apartment to myself. Prime time for some quiet introspection while wandering the streets.

I took the train from Warschauer Strasse over to Friedrichstrasse and walked in to Dussmann to listen to some music. I wanted to find a violin piece I had heard earlier in the semester at a concert we attended at the concert hall on the Gendarmenmarkt. I found it after much searching, but the version they had in stock sounded like shit, so I went back upstairs to browse in the popular music.

I was flipping through CDs and worked my way around to 'F' and saw what I at first thought was a soundtrack to a 70s film, judging by the cover. I had bought a Flaming Lips single of "She Don't Use Jelly" long ago, and I thought this CD would just be some random silliness. I took a listen and it sounded interesting, a blend of strange drumbeats and bass, backed with strings and guitars that floated in and out between stories sung about scientists and Superman. It sounded like an opera here, Rocky Horror there, bits of Ween to the left, a children's storybook to the right. Cool.

I bought it and walked outside to the German summer to continue my wanderings. I think I got an ice cream and walked around through Mitte for a while. Something about being in Berlin for six months had made me lonely. I got along alright enough with the people in my group, but there was plenty of infighting and strange relationships abounded. I had been involved in a lust triangle (really a square if you get technical...) that turned nasty on a trip to Amsterdam. It was me and another guy on my program (from my school nonetheless) who were chasing after the favors of a rather attractive and sexual girl with a boyfriend back home. We shall call her Salomé. Salomé was off vacationing with her boyfriend as I walked past the Palast der Republik and the Berliner Dom with my bag filled with CD, pens and journal, books, and my few remaining Deutschmarks. We avoided each other now, she giving me the silent treatment after I caught her in bed with Boy #2 in our youth hostel in Amsterdam.

I liked her a lot, mostly because she was one of those women who know how to kiss, who give their whole being to pleasure. It was but a lustful adventure. I had come to Berlin and left behind a girlfriend, the first girl I had been in love with. I hadn't been able to push her out of my mind for months since the last semester ended back in the States, and for most of February I was miserable and pathetic. But by the time I was walking over the Spree that day, she had graduated and I was left with some bizarre emptiness that didn't really come to the surface often.

Friends I made in Berlin were fun to hang out with, but I had made few of them, and I was starting to feel uncomfortable around everyone I knew. It's a strange feeling that persists today: I feel like I'm trapped in an inability to understand anyone but myself -- everyone else is completely unfathomable.

I thought about these things as I wandered through the streets and rode the trains. The quiet I kept that thick afternoon left me calm and aloof. I sat, read, ate, kept to myself. I was going home soon, and then things would be back to normal, I would return to old friends and comforting things. Nevermind that coming home would just bring more of the same detachment.

I walked up the dark stairs to the apartment, sweaty and tired and silent. Frustrated by being alone and about being so aloof and standoffish with every other person I met. I dragged Mathias' headphones over to the bed, turned out the lights, opened the door to the balcony and the evening air. Put in the CD, sprawl out with headphones on. I listened to the whole album and smiled. It's the theme song to my loneliness, or at least one of them. One of those pieces of music I'll always remember, since it came into my life when I needed something.