Brothers in Berlin

Brothers in Berlin

Berlin 2019

One of the great things about living in Latvia is that I have the opportunity to just get on a plane for a few hours to travel just about anywhere in Europe. All the cities I dreamed of going to when I was growing up like Paris, London, and Cluj-Napoca are just a flight away!

One of the not so great things about living in Latvia is that to travel you need money, and to have money, you must work, and work takes time, so it is hard to actually make travel happen. That is why when Paul told me a long time ago that he was going to run in the Berlin Marathon this September, I said I would meet him there. I booked the tickets with Ryan airlines and plans were made.

Unfortunately, due to a lingering injury, Paul was not able to run, which was actually fortunate because we had more time to hang out and things were less stressful than I imagine they would have been otherwise.

I flew in on Saturday afternoon, and was very happily impressed with public transportation. I had to go back and look at my own blog to realize that I didn’t even post about my last trip to Berlin to see NOFX at Punkindrublic. But both times I have been there, getting from the airport to anywhere in the city without any knowledge is pretty easy. When you grow up in the Midwest in the USA, you find this a minor miracle each and every time.

It was raining when I arrived, but I happily walked in the warm drizzle enjoying the sights and sounds of the city center while making my way to the hotel Maritim on Friedrichstraße 151. I thought I was on the wrong side of the street because one building was 148, but Germans don’t have time for the traditional odd-on-one-side-even-on-the-other numbering system. Everything just counts up. I guess I never did figure out what numbers were on the other side of the street. The good news is that I did find the hotel, and it was lovely.

Paul knows how to pick a hotel. Grand piano in the lobby. Art all over the place. Rental bikes out front. It was all good.

Jeffing It


For anyone who has known me for a long time, you likely have some “Jeff” story to tell. Whether it was running out of gas on a country road in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, walking through a screen door at a wedding, or shooting a glass patio window with a BB gun. Throughout her life, my mom loved to tell “Jeff stories” to relatives and relative strangers alike. I am not sure who started saying “You Jeffed it!” but I am going to blame one of my siblings–Susan.

Here is an example:

Let’s say that you happen to be in Berlin, and you go to the Muji at the Mall of Berlin with your brother. You buy a bunch of cool stuff and walk out with your bag. Then you decide to have a beer at an Irish pub before heading to the Schnitzel restaurant for supper.

The place is pretty full, so you sit at the bar, and the bag takes up too much space, so you hang it underneath like you do.

Then, after a pint of Guinness and some arresting conversation about movies, Formula 1 racing, and/or religion, you head to the Schnitzel place.

It is only after arriving, when your brother sets his umbrella on the chair and says, “Don’t let me forget this!” that you realize that you have forgotten something. The Muji bag. It is still at the Irish bar! Several blocks away!

You excuse yourself and head out. Luckily there is a scooter just outside, and luckily your phone has just enough data and charge left to download the app, enter pertinent information, and unlock the scooter. You zip down the sidewalks of Berlin in the dark hoping that you can remember the way.

Back at the Irish Pub, they have the Muji sack safe behind the bar. You kneel and say a thank you to the staff, then rush back to the Schnitzel place to find your brother patiently waiting with two complimentary pilsners at the table.

This is how you just might “Jeff it” when you go to Berlin.

(The schnitzel was incredible, by the way!)


The next day, you go to a Thai restaurant after a failed attempt to find live jazz music somewhere in Berlin on a Sunday night (don’t even try it!). By the time you have gotten to the restaurant, you have lost your scarf which you purchased at Muji just the day before.

This is the same scarf that you dropped in another place where some nice stranger picked it up and handed it to you before you left. The same one that you left at the Irish Pub before a waitress told you not to forget it. Now, you have no idea where it has gone.

Thai Mystery Bowl

But that isn’t quite Jeffing it. That is just losing a scarf. The Jeffing it part comes after you leave the Thai restaurant, where you ordered some really strange shrimp dish with an unidentifiable root in it that your brother won’t even taste mixed with some hella hot chili that makes your eyes water and your mouth burn. Then you search for a dessert place and find an Italian restaurant run by a guy from Bosnia who is very friendly.

You get all the way back to the hotel after a long night, and get to the room, change for bed, and realize… “my notebook and pen were on the table at the Thai restaurant!”

Determined and unafraid, you unlock a different scooter of a different color, meet a homeless man who speaks English and asks you for money for the second time that very same day, and you zip off into the night wearing green shorts, hoping that you can find your way back to the Thai place.

That is Jeffing it, Berlin style.

I did get the notebook back, so that is good. But I never found the scarf. So if you have found a red scarf in Berlin with a Muji tag, please let me know!


I have been kind of an anti-scooter guy since they have been gaining popularity and spreading smugness around like a plague. But I now see the appeal. When you are in a hurry, and you could walk, but you are kind of old and have a bad back and all that… they sure are nice in a pinch. However, the first scooter I rented by Tier was far superior to the next one by Lime. The Lime scooter was jittery and had no shock absorbing powers whatsoever. I am still vibrating slightly after my ride across the bridge.

Boat Ride

I also rented a bicycle, but it rained way too much to really take advantage of it. Paul vetoed the idea of riding in the rain, but we did take a boat ride down the Spree River for an architecture tour. We were terrible tourists, talking the whole time and hardly listening to the explanations of buildings. At one point, Paul said, “I wish they would say all this in English!” not realizing that they had been doing a dual language broadcast the entire trip. He Pauled it™ (I know it won’t catch on, but if it does…)

Rainy Boat

We were the only ones on the upper deck of the boat, me in my Muji raincoat, and Paul with his unforgotten umbrella. Me with a beer, and Paul with his Coke lite. Two brothers, just taking it easy in Berlin.

Muji raincoat


The scarf that is now lost.

When I first saw Paul at the hotel, he reached out to shake my hand, and I said, “Brothers don’t shake hands! Brothers hug!” And I hugged him. He noncomittally replied that, “Sometimes brothers do shake hands.” You have to give to Paul. He is logical and rational.

The cool thing is that despite him being 14 years older than I, we still have enough in common to carry on a decent conversation. I am honestly so socially anxious and self-conscious that I can deliberate for weeks wondering what I will talk about with someone for however long I am with them, worried about awkward silences and miscommunicated mutterings.

You can see the scarf in this photo if you look closely.

But we spent two whole days together, and I genuinely laughed out loud plenty of times. And only a brother would understand my Larry David-like moment in the Irish Pub when we watched the Russian Grand Prix in the smoking room because the bartender promised we could have sound in there, but then he couldn’t get the sound to work. When I asked to see the remote control, he refused to let me see it.

So in a moment of privacy, I thought I could adjust the t.v. using the built-in controls to turn on the sound. I accidentally pushed the “Source” button, and that was it. The Samsung went black, and not a minute later, the bartender came in and yelled at me telling me not to touch the t.v.

The TV

I felt unwelcome. This was, of course, after I had already broken the ashtray but before losing the scarf.

But Paul had my back. Because, although brothers may not always hug, they will always have your back. Most of the time.


Side Note:

Paul at Museum

We did do a cultural thing for those of you who are thinking that we are uncultured slobs. Paul took me to the Topography of Terror museum. Here, I learned a little more about how Hitler and his cronies took control of Germany and began the Nazi nightmare. The photos are simply stunning, and the whole display is a bit overwhelming. The history of Berlin is still confounding to me. Whenever I think of a walled city in the heart of East Germany… dividing these people… it just hurts.

Another thing we both agree on is how cool old buildings and bridges and structures are. I think most people agree about that which always makes you wonder, why don’t they make things like that anymore? And I don’t mean the style, but the elements that cost a little bit more to add flare and interest to everything.

Berlin Architecture and other Photos

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