WALLS AND ALL

by Brooks Riley The first time I passed through the Berlin Wall into the German Democratic Republic, it was two days after Hitler’s master builder Albert Speer was released from Spandau prison. The Cold War was in full swing in the fall of 1966. I was travelling with a friend whose father was US ambassador…

MEAN TO GREEN

by Brooks Riley I’m standing at the window looking north over a small garden with several different kinds of trees and bushes. If I refine my intake of visual information, I am, in fact, gazing at many different shades of green at once, perhaps even all of them (at least 57, like Heinz). There’s the…

Deep Surface

by Brooks Riley Jean-Luc Godard once inscribed a picture to me with these words: “This is the surface, Brooks, and that’s why it’s deep.” At the time, I was skimming the surface, darting from one life experience to another without stopping to sink down or dive deeper—or give his jeu de mots much thought. While…

BEHOLDING DÜRER

by Brooks Riley Personal experiences of art should not be foisted on others except in small doses, given that words can only provide semantic guideposts to such an experience. That’s why I never wanted to write a companion piece to my earlier one‚ Holding Albrecht. But recently I found myself longing to see Albrecht Dürer’s…

FAR OUT

by Brooks Riley In or around 1970: It was one of those humid hot nights in New York. At a party on someone’s brownstone roof, I was hawking my theory of how the world would end, to a couple of contemporaries I’d just met. It went like this: We would never be able to save…

Sperl of Wisdom

by Brooks Riley We didn’t want a second cat. That said, we got a second cat, succumbing to the desperate pleas of a friend with two litters to give away. By the time we capitulated, she was the only kitten left. If there were an antonym for ‘runt’, it would have applied to Sperl, as…

PIQUE, MEMORY

by Brooks Riley You can’t take it with you. That’s what they always tell you about possessions. When you die, everything you own will be left behind: Good-bye, beloved steel chair; farewell, feline; adieu, artichoke; bye-bye books, and so forth. All those objects, great and small, animate or inanimate, will exert their protracted existence on…

HOW TO HOW-TO

by Brooks Riley I have to confess to being a reader of Huffington Post’s Living section, a Lourdes for lovers of self-help lit: a bloated site offering problem-solving, self-improving, happiness-inducing, health-enhancing, sleep-promoting, fat-melting, age-dropping, toxin-flushing, confidence-boosting, success-guaranteeing, quick-fix, net-bite, how-to advice for a seemingly endless array of real or imagined shortcomings, most of which, sadly,…

Tip for Tatort

by Brooks Riley We gave them ‘okay’, they gave us ‘Angst‘ (Did they ever!). We gave them ‘cool’, they gave us ‘kaputt‘. We gave them ‘laptop’, they gave us ‘Weltschmerz‘ (Thanks for that.). We gave them back ‘hamburger’, they gave us ‘Frankfurter‘. We gave them ‘showtime’, they gave us ‘Schadenfreude‘ (just what we needed). We…

Holding Albrecht

by Brooks Riley Albrecht Dürer’s “Melencolia I” For years I lived in the Kunstareal, an area of Munich surrounded by museums, great museums, the kind that people travel thousands of miles to visit—the Lenbachgalerie with its Blue Rider painters, the Alte Pinakothek with its Dürers, Brueghels, Rubens, the Neue Pinakothek with its 19th century European…