Playlist: Report from Washington D.C. by Daniel C. Schmidt

Daniel C. Schmidt works as a freelance reporter and put together this varied playlist for us

In January I moved to the US. In February I was head over heels in love.

I had been living in England for six years and was determined to move to Berlin. Heading to Berlin at 22 years old: amazing. It just seemed like the right thing to do. However, eight years later the city was out of breath. Had I seen everything? Obviously not. Yet, I had seen enough. Thus, I had to leave. Straight to America, to accompany the presidential election as a freelance reporter — to see what’s going on in Clintonville and Trumpburg.

“Is that his real hair?”, was the first thing grandpa Schmidt asked on the telephone. At that time I had only seen it on TV. Donald Trump darted through the camera shot on his way to a TV debate. I sat in my Airbnb apartment in Washington, a ten minute walk away from the White House, waiting for the suitcase, that Lufthansa had forgotten in Frankfurt. I was watching CNN presenter Wolf Blitzer who was talking about Bernie Sanders with a studio guest. Outside it was snowing like crazy — my very first blizzard. No less than 36 hours of continuous snowfall.

I turned the TV off and lay down on the bed. The music I had put on my phone a few weeks ago, was no longer suitable here. Everything reeked of Berlin, the songs had nothing to do with America. Like my new life, the playlist called for an entire readjustment. Except for the Pet Shop Boys and New Order. They always work.

Two numbers were written on the piece of paper in my pants pocket. Friends of friends. Say hi some time, she’s amazing, he’s a super nice guy. I moved to a city that I had never visited in my entire life, where I did not know anyone. This meant rewinding the tape back to the beginning in my early thirties. What a stupid idea, I thought. Look for a favourite café. Even better: find a bar. The bar counter is a great place to craft a personal myth. Talk about Berlin a bit: cheer and slander. Whatever, I’ll never see that guy again. A mistake as I soon came to see. Washington was in fact a damn hamlet.

An unforgivingly critical friend of mine, had told me about several winter boot brands in Berlin. We had enjoyed a quick vacation in Scotland a few years ago. I had tapped into an ice puddle wearing my Converse All Stars at -4 degrees. Afterwards she had to take care of me for two days as I had come down with a bad flu — she still hates me for that. Somewhat stubborn I had only packed wool socks and three pairs of ankle boots, no winter jacket, only the thinnest coat I owned and a warm cashmere jacket, that had been too tight for my father.

Not a sniffle, not a cold throughout the entire winter. However, my choice of footwear, provided for good laughs. Weeks later, at 32 degrees in the shade, a colleague asked me at a Trump event in Florida, whether I always wore Chelsea Boots at this weather. I didn’t know of any shoe that was sturdier and easier to take off or a better fit for passionately stomping cockroaches in my motel room, I answered. He just nodded and scribbled down something illegible on his notepad.


When the snow had finally stopped turning Washington into a white winter wonderland, I didn’t take time to explore the city; I took a plane. In Iowa, where the first pre-elections took place, my interested neighbour on seat 27e asked whether he could take me to the city center, just when the machine had landed. “But you’re not a serial killer, are you?“ the man in his fur jacket asked, laughingly.

It was February. After the primary in New Hampshire I made a quick stop to New York. And there I met: her. An encounter by chance. Like two dices that land on the same number. At a bar in Greenpoint she put her arm on my shoulder. When I, slightly drunk, tried to kiss her, she flinched. “Not here.” Wonderful, prudish America. At two o’clock at night in the darkness of the bar, I made her put on the big Jackie-O-sunglasses and said: “Look, no one can see us.”

Maybe the dices were loaded. In any case it soon turned out, that I had been mistaken about this woman, who was so clever, smart, funny and stylish.  I know a girl with the golden touch / She’s got enough, she’s got too much.

It happens. The show must go on, as they say. Prior to moving, I had seen three states. By now, eight months later, it were 27. When you drive along these dead straight highways, you can think about everything and anything. Women, toupees, politics. The longer I’m on the road for the election campaign, the harder it gets to explain all these things. All these nuances. Trump, Clinton. One of them a clown, the other one by no means innocent.

Anyway, for Halloween I’m going to buy a Trump-inspired hair piece, that I’ll give to grandpa. For St Nicholas Day I’ll be happy about my decision to have only taken along boots. And come Christmas I’ll visit Berlin and after that, I’ll sit underneath the Christmas tree at my parents’ place. While they lay in bed already, I will listen to this playlist again. I’ll think about Trump’s circus show and all the places I saw, all the people I met here…

The last song I hear, before falling asleep, is by the Talking Heads and it goes:


And you may find yourself
Living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself
In another part of the world
And you may find yourself
Behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house
With a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, well
How did I get here?

Since January Daniel C. Schmidt works in the United States as a freelance reporter, mainly reporting about pop, culture and politics for several german media outlets. You can reach him via Twitter. On Instagram he provides his followers with a daily mini playlist.


Photos: Instagram
Translation: Melissa Frost