Sunday, January 20, 2008

Kreuzberg Krunk

The past few days have been jam-packed with activity, hence the dearth of posts. I've been flying high on a new wave of energy, quaffing kaffee and all manner of caffeinated beverages to beat the band, exploring all the nooks, crannies and subterranean lairs of Berlin.

I have a new best friend. His name is Assaf, he's an Israeli architect (yes, there are a few Israelis in Berlin) who lives near Alexanderplatz in an unimaginably huge Soviet era tower block, which is tantamount to living in a concrete box, but kind of fun in an Eastern bloc kind of way. Frankly, while the apt. is very New York, I can't imagine being able to sleep there at night. Of course, Berlin is a city that never sleeps. The energy here is really infectious, not like that sleepy burg whence I came (although the weather is quite similar to the Pacific Northwest.)

Last night I picked up Assaf at the Stadtoper (he just assumed I didn't like opera, so didn't invite me, but I want to go -- he scored a ticket to the Magic Flute for 8 Euros) and afterwards made my first foray to a gay bar, in Kreuzberg. I guess we went on the correct night, because it was good old unwholesome, unpretentious trashy fun. One thing I noticed in stark contrast to the bar scene in the U.S. was that everyone seemed to be there to have a good time, without the kind of boring body fascism so endemic to gay culture in the US. In short, the guys here just seem comfortable in their own skins, with what they have, not striving to meet this vile, diseased ideal of some buffed, plucked, shaved and moisturized day-spa queen. Even the drag queens here seem more natural and hence more glamorous here, and think it has to do with the same gender issues which drive U.S. gay men and women to this kind of guilt and self-denial which results in eating disorders, body dysmorphia, etc. Queers here in general are just more integrated as a natural part of life, like the rain.

Vielleicht one reason for this is that the Germans actually treat homosexuals with the dignity and respect that they deserve, and Berlin is ground zero for the German homosexualist. (Qualifier: just as New York is not the US, Berlin is not all Germany) Don't forget this was the home of pioneering gay rights researchers and activists Magnus Hirschfeld and the Mattachine Society. Even Hitler could not completely dampen this legacy, and today it feels like no less than the Queer capital of the world. Just take a stroll down to Schoneberg and pop into the community center. There you'll find all manner of queer boys and men filling out paperwork for their free HIV tests, having coffee, getting flyers with the straight dope on all the latest club drugs and generally taking advantage of the support on offer here. Or cruise down to Bruno's (I sound like a glib travel guide here) , a gay bookstore that would put any of it's US counterparts to shame. Even Assaf remarked at how the bookstores in Chelsea couldn't hope to be as sleek and nice. But that's how we treat our community in the states; it's as if we don't deserve to have nice things. I found several DVDs there I had been looking for for ages too!

Changing gears a bit, I'm trying to decide on my next critical piece. I thought about doing a piece on Doblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz paralleled with the Fassbinder mini-series, which was just released on DVD. This could prove to be a massive undertaking being as how the book is a zillion pages and the miniseries about 27 hours...Marianne was actually encouraging me not to concentrate too much on literature as it could prevent me from the social interaction being abroad begs. Once I get out to the museums and theatres this may inspire me to do an synthesis of lit crit and that of other art forms. An American Harvard student I met today is here for two weeks on a grant doing a critical study of literature about the Berlin subway system. So anything is possible really!

Tschuss for now

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