[The following are the heavily edited remnants of a document written while under the influence of Matthew Rose's Magic Omelettes...]

Matty and I have been watching a execrable performance of the England footy team against the Swiss (1-1). [...] We've just logged on to your new website, but it's all in a column. It could look great, but it doesn't. So, the feedback from here (according to Matty, he has frames in the browser version and he doesn't think you've done it right), but apart from that it all looks fine. By the way, he's just cooked a fabulous omelette - honestly, quite possibly the finest omelette I 've ever had..... ( now, there's a compliment)

News from me now...... I have been watching the slanging match develop between the separate heads of the hydra, cioč Belmeloro, with interest. I am neither 30, married, wealthy nor deeply upset with my present job. But I hope I can sow at least a little jealously with my latest news. I have received my first posting abroad. New Delhi. Now, I realise that this alone is not enough to whet the juices of most readers, but wait...

My job starts in June 1999, before which I have 10 months language training - in Hindi. This amounts to the following: from August, I have two hours language training a day (plus homework) in London, with no other work - all on full salary (admittedly not very much). This goes on until just after Christmas when I move to India, for five months more imersion training, still only 2 hours a day, still full salary, still without any other work commitments. According to my predecessor-to-be, I should spend 2-3 months in Varanassi - a religious centre, on the Ganges.

[Suddenly...]

Actually, I've tired of watching Jonny type like a spastic, and I have taken control of the keyboard. By the way, darling, it's Matty... Well, you know, frankly, boith of us are too pissed to wriet anbything coherant or interestiong...

[Much later...]

Having wrested controil from Matty, I am now bacl in complit contruil. De hills I be talkin about be de Himlayhers (lucky girls). 2-3 months in the hills polishing my hindi.

So, it's itz godbye from me and GOODNOIHGHT FROM HOM BY THE WAY, DID YOU KNOW THAT JFK';S FACE IS USED ON CHOCOLATE MONEY IN TE U.K. I KONW THIS BECASUE I JUST ATE KENNEDY...JOINING A LONG LINE OF AMERICAN STARLETS, I;M SURE... ARF ARF#  

When the doorbell rang last night at suppertime on yet another Friday 13th, truth made itself known in its usual uncompromising fashion, and there was no further hiding from it: Enter Stefan G., the ubiquitous manager of Latin American news and conductor of sighs, and Rosa-Emilia M., as Latin American and full of enthusiasm as ever. It was obvious, really. In the past three years since Profs. Corden and Calleo revisited the German problem during an encore oral examination worthy of any precocious Monica, I realized that during my work in front of my office PC in New York I have put on considerably more weight than Stefan and Rosa combined. Now here's a winner.

The fact is: jounalists' life expectancy is somewhere in the mid-50s; some lucky ones of my generation will make it to see that asteroid that, American scientists claim, will visit Earth in the year 2028. So, whilst I quit smoking for almost four months (until recently), I have one of those jobs where health is secondary and one's behind simply refuses to become any trimmer or firmer. In addition, as a reporter for Springer Foreign News, a German newspaper company with headquarters in Berlin and Hamburg, I sometimes feel obliged to cover the most unhealthy stuff. Like murders. Like sexual assaults on 77-year old ladies in front of Catholic churches. Like welfare reform in Wisconsin.

Alas, since moving to New York ten months ago life hasn't been too bad. As you may have heard through sighs of grapevine, the manuscript I had worked on during our SAIS Washington experience was given approval by S. Fischer, a publishing house in Frankfurt am Main, and published in March 1997. Reviews - and there were plenty - ranged from summa-cum-laude to "Thomas Mann would turn in his grave". There was some agreement among critics that "Braun has talent when he attempts to describe interiors", so I feel that it was worth the effort. There has even been a reprint, although I fear that the publisher already regrets this decision as the book (the title is Jericho oder Das feine Gesicht des Himmels) does tend to occupy a lot of storing space and sticks to it. It seems that those humourless Germans have little taste for gay, entertaining plots that, at times, make them laugh. It's not serious enough, they claim, its U- Literatur (Unterhaltungsliteratur, or trash), not E-Literatur (Ernste Literatur, or Goethe). Well, well, well. For connoisseurs of Civilization II let it be said that Deutschland is one in decline and will never make it to the spaceship stage.

I have, however, obtained an English translation of 25 pages of the book just two hours ago. Most interesting is, perhaps, the chapter featuring the one- and-only Birgit as she makes her entry into the world of literature as a character named Ida who is ambitious only about her art (steel structures) and generally really cool. In fact, she is the best character of the whole thing. Other prominent SAIS figures featured in the book:

Well, I just typed the names, and then I thought: this is America, land of the lawyer, so it better be left to the reader's imagination. People NOT featured in the book include Monique Wise, Matthew Rose, John the Eurof Uppington, Liz Jacobs, [... I find this hard to believe--Stefan].

Although I now work as a correspondent for 28 German newspapers and magazines, I am frequently concerned with fiction. The reason is that BILD, the largest newspaper in the world outside the Far East, does not only employ a large number of highly creative people, but is also one of our most important clients. Among my more stimulating articles have been "Nicht nur kuscheln - Auch Frauen wollen Orgasmus" und "Frau nahm Mann sein bestes Stueck". If you don't read German, please call the language department at SAIS and ask for a translation.

On the more respectable side, I spend a lot of time writing business and economics copy for Die Welt (a national daily based in Berlin), WELT am SONNTAG (weekly), Hamburger Abendblatt and Berliner Morgenpost (both dailies). I am happy to say that there is rather too much opportunity to travel than too little. For example, I was sent to St. John's, the capital of Newfoundland, where I wrote the story "How people watch television in Newfoundland". It was very cold.

The contract that I have deserves further attention as it highlights the classical insider-outsider problem that Prof. Weiss, among others, has brought before us many times. German labour law stipulates that I am entitled to seven weeks of vacation a year. The fun part being that, when I decide to take the largest chunk of my days off, my company says: Hey, that's great! Here's a check (a substantial one)! And come Christmas, they do exactly the same thing, so that German employees are able to not disappoint their loved ones on Christmas Eve.

Yes, Germany has five million unemployed people; the rate is currently in the vicinity of 12 percent. No, it is usually not legally possible for a media company to hire anyone under conditions less generous. And please do bear in mind that my contract expires at the end of the year and that I will, if no other opportunity presents itself, soon be an outsider.

As Stefan G. pointed out last night, I now live in the "totally gentrified" neighbourhood of the West Village. It is also as gay as it has always been. I share an apartment with a fine young gentleman called Jude who until recently worked for Sony records where he became an expert in accumulating the largest free-CD-collection of New York City, or just about. Last Monday, when we discovered that the living-room shelves would not support another copy of that always-screaming, always-titanic Celine Dion, he changed gear and took up a much better position with HBO, "the largest cable-TV provider in the world", I understand. Now we have free cable. Trouble being that we forgot to get a discounted television set at Sony. Well, life's full of tough choices.

I just sent my email address to Stefan, but here it is once more, please make a note of it: braunnyc@aol.com. Judging by Stefan's facial movements last night I figure AOL is not the hippest thing on earth. It has worked reliably in the past, though.

I just threw out that brochure from that round-the-corner gym where those masculine washboard types that are my neighbours go. So please do come and visit before I reach the 200-pound threshold!

I do love New York.

It's really the city I now call home. I love working out at the Asser Levy community center and watching the weight-lifting and body building contest (all five boroughs represented!). I love my bagels piping hot at the Ess-a-Bagel. I love The Times. I love rollerblading down the west side highway path. I love brunches organized by Stefan and my constant reign over Itay Livni in backgammon. I love my sushi from Teryaki Boy and my sister's art gallery (Clementine) at 526 W. 26th Street.

I love the sweetest girl in room 2A at the Swiftcurrent Motor Lodge.

But, I was made an offer I just couldn't refuse. (that sentence is a nice bridge (second parenthesis -- you are complementing yourself?) to what I'm about to write so if you don't have an image of Marlon Brando in your head and you haven't seen The Godfather, may I suggest a rental?)

I took a four month post at the UN in Vienna as a speechwriter for Pino Arlacchi the Director General of United Nations office in Vienna and in charge of anti-crime and anti-drug programs.

Professor Arlacchi is a former Italian Senator from Florence who was a close colleague of the late Judge Giovanni Falcone -- the martyred leader of Italy's crusade against the mafia. I am just starting my work but enjoy the fact that I get to work in Italian and English and have the chance to work for a true man of honor.

The SAIS-Vienna community from our class rules the way Hermann Maier rules the mountains! Birgit Schwarz is like the older sister I never had! She has been like my fairy godmother -- showing me the city, keeping me fed and helping me find an apartment. I try and watch her on Austria's evening news. I have the feeling one day we will be able to say her name in the same breath as Amanpour or.....Woodruff.

I attended the SAIS-Vienna chapter's monthly pizza festa. I caught up with Saskia Kreuzer and Martin Rossmann. I plan to see both of them in the upcoming months. Director Evans and his wife were present and we chatted about the GOOD old days. He informed me about the technological advances the Center has made in recent years (thank you, Mr. Michael Bloomberg!).

It also looks like I will (thanks to Birgit!) live in the same apartment that David G-S lived in for his tour de Vienna. But I'm going to check to make sure all the stains are dry first, David.

Thanks again Stefan for all of your hard work in keeping the page going........

La lotta continua!

Stefan!

After two and a half years of radio silence I think it's time to come out of the "closet" and join the SAIS-cyberspace family. On this slow Monday morning I decided to let the Swedish-Tatar relations rest for a while and opened up the Sighs-page. Reading what everybody is up to really makes you feel like you're back in Bologna or DC.

I've now been consuming Swedish taxpayers' money here in Moscow for one and a half year, and I love it! Moscow is as always beatiful, warm, clean and full of overwhelmingly friendly people who do their utmost to make you feel welcome and at home. Last week we had a demnstration from LDPR (the fascist party headed by Mr Zhirinovsky) outside the embassy asking us very politely to get the f..k out of Russia, otherwise Sweden would be turned into a dumping ground for Russian nuclear waste. If you ever get bored of the decadent consumer-oriented West, this is the perfect place to go (OK. Tom Jacobs in Kyrgistan might argue about that).All these smiling people you meet when you go West make me very suspicious these days. Or as a Russian friend put it "Why do they smile so much and wish you all the best when you know and they know that you know that they don't give a shit about you".

My work is interesting (at least as far as jobs go) and I really do enjoy living in this crazy place. Moscow has boomed unbelievably the last six-seven years and is literally being transformed in front of your eyes. If it only were a bit warmer (the snowstorm outside my window shows no signs of decreasing in strength) and less poluted I could seriously consider staying here for quite a while. The town is full of SAIS-people, which is fun. Andrew Torre and Sheila Ward are the only from our class but there are at least half a dousin [sic] more.

The best part of the job is, however, to travel around in the CIS. Places like Turkmenistan and Georgia are fascinating and beatiful, whereas the Russian countryside with gems such as Elektrostal and Tomsk give you a good picture of what this planet would look like after a third world war. I'm hoping to make it down to Tom Jacobs in the metropolis of Bishkek before he leaves (if he ever will. I met his Kyrgiz-photomodel-girlfriend when she was in town and she's just might be the reason for Tom to start his own sheepfarm in the valleys outside Bishkek).

I've got to go. Hope to make it to NYC this summer.

Joachim