Max at AJZ, Bielefeld, Germany

An Epic Adventure:

But the real adventure began when Mike and I left Amsterdam in the camper loaded with an abundance of groceries and headed toward Bielefeld, Germany. Mike is difficult to introduce. He is a free spirit that I met in Cape Town, South Africa in 2002, and we've shared an intermittent romance. He is Dutch and happens to own a fierce looking former riot police van, completely armored in black plastic, and converted into a camper. The tour would not have been possible without Mike, his camper, and grilled Gouda sandwiches.

Everyone says that Bielefeld is the most boring city in Germany but as far as I'm concerned it is the best. The nite we arrived our hosts, Jan and Florian, treated us to dinner and a flood of alcohol, including a river of beer, a procession of Jager shots, and even a Mojito. In fact, it occurred to me that the ability to consume vast quantities of alcohol may be one of the most important skills I've acquired in my lifetime. I was quite proud of myself for remaining standing and coherent until the early morning walk home from a disco called Chattanooga.

The venue in Bielefeld was an impressive squat called AJZ (ah-ya-zed) ( with a cozy kino, a small bar, a punk club/disco, band practice rooms, an info shop/internet cafe, a metal shop, a wood shop, and more. The kino had couches in the front and rows of wooden chairs behind. A decent crowd nearly filled the room, and they watched intently...quiet with evident concentration.

During the formal Q&A, a few people asked questions but many seemed to still be processing or lost somewhere in translation. When I asked about their reactions to the film, one girl described it as "Relieving," and another said she thought it was "typically American" because of the personal approach to the topic. I felt that the film really clicked with a handful of people who gathered afterwards in a lively conversation. Reluctantly, Mike and I said goodbye and started driving to Warsaw around midnite.

Approaching Berlin the waning crescent moon skipped above the horizon, glowing orange with the same intensity of molten metal. As Mike drove my thoughts settled on the history of the territory we were traversing. I realized that WWII created a lasting and fundamental difference between America and Europe. The horrors of warfare are abstract concepts for generations of Americans but here they are memories handed down from parents to children.

I started driving as we approached the Polish border at the first premonition of dawn. Speeding thru the slumbering countryside, the surrounding fields and silhouetted trees exhaled the cool nite moisture in visible breaths of morning mist. But I soon learned that driving in Poland is like an eternal game of chicken: passing vehicles expect you to yield to the shoulder as they barrel toward you in an otherwise apparent desire for a head on collision.

As traffic and weariness increased, we found ourselves a roadside camping spot and slept for a few hours. I woke up feeling abrasive like fiberglass was flowing thru my veins, but my mood improved once we were back on the road.

The screening that evening at Ujazdowski Castle ( in Warsaw was mostly a disaster. A surprisingly large crowd of about 30 people settled into the comfy seats, but technical problems made the dvd stutter and hiccup and eventually seize completely. People politely waited for the projectionist to restart the scene, but they fled before the credits ended. So our journey thru the nite seemed wasted with no opportunity to interact with the audience until a young girl named Agnieszka asked if we could meet for coffee the next day.

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