After two attempts at direct contact with the Carcharhinus Leucas my quest seemed futile. I decided to let this hungry and mindless giant let lie for awhile along the river deltas and barrier reefs of the Caribbean and to regroup — to find my sense of balance. Tired of the battle and my elusive matador, banderillas hanging from my shoulder and back, I did what any bull in Catalonia would do, I went to my querencia.
I had to get back to the time and place of my like minded fraternity brother; to the home of Albert Einstein during his greatest accomplishments — Berlin.
Einstein moved to Berlin from Switzerland in 1914 as a young man to what was then the science capital of the entire world. It was in Berlin that he completed his greatest contribution to science, the general theory of relativity. After Nazism rose to power Einstein left Hitler’s Berlin 20 years later vowing never to return.
But before I made it to Berlin I first had to stop at Hamburg and discuss global eCommerce strategy with my friend Wilfried.
That’s him there. I know. It kinda pisses me off to be honest. Wilfried was a friend of mine when I worked for Steve Jobs. Like I did, he got it and set up a company in Germany to resell NeXT software. By then I worked for Lighthouse Design and we distributed our software into Europe through his company as well. To summarize the next few years very quickly… Steve got rid of the hardware, then sold to Apple, then ousted then CEO, become iCEO, we (Lighthouse) sold to Eric Schmidt at Sun Microsystems, after a few years I started Dorado with Rob Carpenter, and Wilfried created a simple eCommerce application and took it public during the height of the dot-com boom. Doing little more than 50 million dollars but growing rapidly his company soon became worth more on the German stock exchange than Lufthansa.
I took that photo above while my brother and I were on one of his four early 1900’s vintage 12 meter racing yachts (the heyday of international racing) off the cost of Copenhagen a few years ago. The only thing that tucks me in to bed is that he deserves it. He is smart. Very smart. And a very great long time friend. And his crew, mostly from a small boating town off the coast of Germany, should each and every one have their own brand of cologne.
The company went sour after he left and during the dot-com bust, he bought the rights to the intellectual property for a few pennies and started a new company and after a few years of trying to break into the U.S. market asked for my help now that Dorado is sold. My first day at Hamburg was in the office or at his home with is wife Tanja (who is very cool, very beautiful, and a great cook) and does not make for a great photo opportunity.
You see what I mean by the photo above.
We sat around after dinner the other night and I asked him about his views on the Euro. In the past he has normally held very liberal views on things like taxation and government. He talked about the crisis in Spain, Greece, and Cyprus. He said he lived in Spain for a long time and their problems are not due to bad government or banking but a housing bubble and something else. He told me his experience in building two houses that he just finished on the island off Barcelona, Mallorca. He hired a legitimate contracting company and the year project took ten years to finish. One example is the bathrooms. The contractor needed 40K euros to buy the fixtures and Wilfried paid them. A few months later there were no fixtures and he asked them. They told him they needed the money for another project and if he wanted the fixtures he would have to pay again. He paid again and this time the subcontractors took the fixtures because they were never paid by the contractor. Now 80K euros into this he went directly to the company and bought the fixtures himself and the contractors put them in. A week later they were uninstalled and gone. He went to the contractor and they said they were stolen but they knew where they were and for 30K euros he could get them back. He paid them and then took them to court. Nine years later he won and they owe him 250K euros back. They never paid nor have any plans to. Mallorca is a small island and he ran into the owner of the contracting company and brought it up and the owner mentioned that he didn’t know anything about that and that he and his brothers did a lot of hunting near his property. “That,” he said, “is the problem with Spain… and Cyprus as well.”
The next day I decided to take a jog around Außenalster a hundred year old man-made lake along the river Alster before going into the office and then later the train to Berlin.
Two things struck me in that brief hour and a half in the heart of Hamburg.
First my great great grandfather must have lived here a long time ago and been very good with the ladies. Every single guy here is over 6’5”, shaven head, big shouldered, big nosed, big handed, and freckled orange. I got stopped for directions 4 times thinking I was a local. Likewise every woman is 6 feet tall in flats. And if I was a post-grad working on my MD in cosmetic surgery and planned on setting up practice in Hamburg I would skip the class on breast implantation and pick an elective.
Second, Minneapolis or Chicago during the height of winter has nothing on Hamburg during the middle of spring. I made my way around this 6 mile lake and took the few photo’s I could until my hands could no longer move.
Directions in Germany are very hard. Kinda like reading a German Riesling wine label and trying to act cool. The only thing I understood here was that something bad would happen (the exclamation point) if I didn’t read correctly and obey this sign.
The lake this time of year is very inviting with uplifting Teutonic contemporary art sculptors along the perimeter that evoke a sense of tranquility and peace.
That’s me trying to smile. The only good thing was that it was very easy to clear your nasal cavity while jogging. You simply held one side closed with your index finger and blew out your nose and a solid frozen .44 caliber mucus ice crystal shot out at 20 miles an hour. I aimed and hit a few trees at 40 feet but the ducks seem to know this because as soon as I turned my head towards them they took off in unison.
The only bad thing was that when you tried to likewise clear your throat of the same said item it froze mid way through and stuck to the side of your face at a 45 degree angle. You finally figure it out on your reflection at a stop light in the Mercedes passenger window next to you with the sixty something female, adorned in fur, German staring at you wide-eyed.
Something that caught my eye — the eye that wasn’t frozen shut — along the way was these…
This is something that started in London last year and made its way to Hamburg. When you fall in love here in Hamburg you find a bright colored padlock and fix it to a iron grate. Aw…
Back in the office for a few hours it was now time to take the train to Berlin.
There is no better mode of transportation, hands down, than the train along the towns and farmlands of Europe.
I sat across from a young guy. German is not very hard to understand. You do not pay attention to the 14 syllable words thrown at you with seeming angry intensity but look at their face and hands.
This person now sitting next to me previously asked (I surmised through guttural sounds and facial expressions) if the seat across from me was taken and would I mind if he sat there. The conductor came by and said he only needed my credit card for identification and it would not be charged. When I brought my beer to the table my travel companion said that it looked really good and he would love one but he wanted a coffee instead because he had to drive. All this I understood and all this sounded like complete gibberish to the unenlightened English-speaking man.
As we neared Berlin I asked him for directions and the young man politely and genuinely gave them to me in fairly good english. Then he asked a question,
“Can I ask where you are from?”, he said. “By your tanned face and your english I think you are from Australia and from your shoes I see that you are a scuba diver.” (every bit of this is almost entirely true verbatim.)
“My shoes? A scuba diver?” I retort.
“Yes,” looking down under the table, “they are lizard skin.” He said politely and trying desperately not to offend.
“Ah! Well, of course you are completely mistaken my young friend.” with a raised eyebrow and smirk I say. “I am NOT from Australia, this tan is from California as anyone can see by the upper pacific tan lines near my earlobes and wrists and I scuba’d only for a short time a few weeks ago in Belize and then in Cozumel in Central America miles and miles away from Australia.”
“I am very sorry.” he said sheepishly, in now broken english due to his embarrassment.
“As for me,” I say condescendingly, “I see that you play the guitar.”
I then grabbed my bags, thanked him, and left the train and his guitar case in the seat next to him at Berlin Central station.
What makes relativity special is that as things move faster towards the speed of light time and distance have less meaning. Information, which I hope to bring up again, travels at the speed of light. What does that mean? That means that the photon that bounces off the moon at 186,282 miles per second and hits your iris and bounces back off with the information of your particular mood knows no space or time. To say it another way, black holes which are proven to exist and have a gravitational force that collects any particle, planet, or person, not just a photon, at the speed of light, has around it a spherical shell, or cocoon, of eternity.
As I walked to my hotel from the subway past the columns of a very old museum and contemplated what this meant I was reminded of the horrors that happened just a generation ago here in Berlin, which according to Einstein, is just right now.
tschüss (which means take care or goodbye),
See the next post on Berlin Day 2!