Islands, a volcano, and pizza by Mark Ziegler

Naples is lovely and historic. Just don’t drive here. Please, don’t drive. I wonder if Napolitanos are better drivers than we’re used to because they have to deal with crazy people driving. I think this is common in Italy. I’ve seen some crazy driving cities, but this one – so far – takes first place. The others, in my experience, off the top of my head:

1. Naples
2. Caracas, Venezuela. Here, again, you might die. It might be the traffic but just as likely it will be kidnapping. We arrived in the middle of the night and were told to keep the lights off inside the bus as we drove on what I later found out was one of the most dangerous roads in the world. Yeah: the world. So, not exactly traffic-related issues, but still …
3. Brazil. All of it. Many people think Corcovado is a statue of Jesus, but it’s really a famous traffic cop urging people to slow down.
4. South Africa. Maybe it was not being used to driving (riding, really) on the left. Maybe it was driving in an old school bus careening around the coastal mountains (while getting used to the left lane). Maybe it was the monkeys on the road that caused a traffic stand still. Cutest traffic jam ever.
5. Any place where scooters/motorcycles outnumber cars and make their own rules. Wait, this is almost everywhere that isn’t the US. This just takes getting used to. It’s kind of a wonderful literal work-around for car traffic. Just look both ways. At all times. I know, that’s impossible. But do your best without going whatever the opposite of cross eyed is.

While we’re making lists, here’s the list of the best cities for pizza, based on value:
1. Naples. Hands down some of the best pizza I’ve had and you can get it anywhere. The average is still incredible and the ingredients are incredible. I want to bathe in the tomatoes. But, the value is really where it’s at. Most pizzas are in the 5-7 Euro range. I know, right?!?!
2. Other places. I don’t even care any more. There’s no contest. I love pizza. New York style, Chicago style, whatever the style I make at home. But, I think I’ll get a little sad the next time I’m paying 28 bucks for my favorite NYC pizza. Di Fara’s is amazing, mind you. (For you New Yorkers, I just showed my allegiance in the great pizza debate.) It will just make me a little sad for my wonderfully cheap pizza binging days in Italy. Then again, I’ll be able to eat it free of motorcycle fumes and get home with a considerably lower risk of bodily harm from a taxi hitting me on the sidewalk while trying to make the light.

essen (und trinken) by Mark Ziegler


Well, it was a lovely vacation/break but it's back to work and back to Germany. How did I cram all of that into 5 weeks? I have no idea. The list is almost absurd, but I will add two plays to the list from my previous post: Peter and the Starcatcher: seriously, go see it if you can.

August, Osage County (White Plains): I'm probably biased towards this one but it just so happens to be very good. Go see it. But only if you can handle brutally funny and brutally ... well, brutal family dramas. Eat the fish.

The gigs went well and I even did an audition. (It's good to be reminded to step out of your comfort zone once in a while. Sometimes, step way out.) There was also a great trip home, a new (to me) monthly trivia night, a weirdo party, a dance concert, run-ins with my improv friends, a new addiction (thanks, Downton Abbey), guitar practicing (!) and even cello practicing (!!).

Two weeks in Essen, then it's on to Paris for the rest of the year. Yes, my life is pretty rad right now. Rad enough that I can write "rad" (three times, now!) in a post and feel pretty good about it. So, happy end of 2012, USA! I hope you survive the election, and a few dozen new holiday albums, and the Mayan calendar stuff, and that movie with Zac Ephron. Jeez, that's a lot now that I think about it. I'll be thinking about you. Just remember that lucky '13 is right around the bend - and I'll be hot on its' heels.

Fisch and Ships by Mark Ziegler


It's hard to rank the cities so far, but Hamburg might be pulling ahead as my favorite. I'm not really sure why this is. There's a good chance it's based on the fact that it's been better weather the last few weeks than the other cities. Having only a week in Leipzig also made it hard to really enjoy, so it's an unfair system all around. Let's put up some stats to try to quantify this. Some Hamburg highlights and lowlights:

High: Nice view from my room.

Low: Germany doesn't know about "sheets", only "comforters". So, when the sun comes up, I am baking well before I'm conscious enough to do something about it.

High: Lots of bikes! And for decent prices!

Low: Lots of bike thieves who wanted my new (used) ride more than they wanted to not be total jerks.

High: The fischmarkt is really cool. A place to start a Sunday or end a long Saturday of hanging out at the ...

Low: Reeperbahn. Pretty gross. But somehow still worth seeing, even if only in daylight. Night seems to intensify the grossness. Is it a far cry from when the Beatles were here? Probably. How far a cry, I do not know. Perhaps it's not a cry at all, but a guitar gently weeping. But that sound is most likely just some crappy DJ a few blocks down.

High: The parks and harbor. Excellent places to walk/run/have my daily ice cream cone. (Seriously, why do we not have hazelnut ice cream? It's the best! C'mon America!) Even if some parts of the park are manufactured beauty (similar to Central Park), it's really nice. Little waterfalls, rose gardens, fountains, kids-playing-with-water areas, multiple ice cream stands. They even have these cool wooden lounging chairs which, in New York, would be stolen in minutes even though they probably weigh a ton and would be incredibly conspicuous and awkward to steal. All I know is, they wouldn't last. Not so here. (Unless that chair is actually a bike seat.) What else ... did I mention the ice cream?

Low: Still mad about my bike getting ripped off and the "California/Mexican" place is only so-so, but since one of those is a repeat and I can't really think of another major con it looks like more points in the High column. Congrats Hamburg: you got yourself a statistical win.

Even though it's summer, when lots of things are not-at-all open or barely open, we've found some good music. With that search also comes bad music, but that can be repressed. Also, there's a movie theater that has showings in English and serves beer and only costs 7.50 Euro with student ID (shhh! don't tell!) so the points just keep racking up for this place.

I'm off to enjoy the day. Another busy weekend and then only one more week before it's back to NY and Ohio for a month, where I'll get to reunite with excellent people, great musicians, hoppy beers, favorite foods, and un-stolen bikes.

(slideshow for mobile)

the rain in spain falls mainly on berlin. by Mark Ziegler

A great first week out here. the show is going really well and was well received in our first preview last night. Official opening is tomorrow and then, thanks to Germany's Euro cup match on thursday, two days off! I'm taking advantage of a rainy day to put some finishing (hopefully) touches on this new website, and will then be able to enjoy the out-of-doors when the weather gets amazingly nice on wednesday. Right, weather? I took two years of German in High School. That was a little while ago, so I'm definitely out of practice (and wasn't much good to begin with). The textbooks that we used had some funny sayings in them, and I brought those with me when I came to visit friend in 2002. On a rainy day that June (not much changes in ten years), I exclaimed to my friends - hoping for recognition of my super understanding of German slang - "das ist hundewetter!" which literally means "this is dog weather". The look I got was not one of a "this guy knows his stuff" or even "nice phrase pickup", but rather the furrowed brow look that transcends language. You know the one. The "what the heck are you talking about?" look.

My question, naturally, is this: who is writing these textbooks? Some joker at McGraw-Hill that wants us to be laughed at (even more) when in a foreign country? Somebody trying to force their way into a country's vernacular from within a sleeper-cell foreign language class several thousand miles away? It's more likely that this writer is from a place here that is like many parts of the south; somewhere in Germany where the Deutscher Dr. Phil and his head-scratching anectodes would have had to originate; somewhere that "hundewetter" is not even used, but common enough to be considered for a textbook. I need to find this place. I need to learn from them. And I need to teach the rest of this country how to make their language even crazier than it already is. I mean, this: "ß" is pronounced with an "s" sound. And "Bezirksschornsteinfegermeister" is a REAL WORD. You're really laughing at me? C'mon guys. Get it together.