Sunday, May 4, 2008

Crash Course for the Ravers

After a few hours ineffectually spent at the keyboard I decided to amble to down to the Spree for some fresh air and a sobering dose of real life. The flaneur in me took over and in a fit of pique I crossed the river, stopping at a delightful Bakerei for ein stuck of cheesecake. I then glided through the wide avenues of Kreuzberg, where vestiges of the quasi-violent Erste Mai festivities revealed themselves -- the odd firecracker, acrid smell of smoke...Turkish women laughed and peacefully pushed baby carriages past enormous apartment buildings redolent in their sheer enormity of New York brownstones, while their husbands sat tucked away playing cards, puffing cartoon-size cigars in the cutest kniepe.

Before I knew it I had entered into a park in which the various strata of Kreuzberg society caroused, strolled , barbecued, and yes, juggled...the place was funky and soulful, man, but with the apocalyptic edge that has always appealed to this scribe. I revolved around the outer edge of the park which formed an ellipse, bisected by a straight path through the middle, which I then followed until I heard the distant stains of thumping techno music. Finally, I stumbled onto a rave deep on the recesses of the park, arranged higgeldy-piggeldy in a valley, d.j. tent and all, volks spilling out over the top of the ridge which surrounded it. The pervading atmosphere was attitude-free, down-to-earth and anything-goes. Beers and joints floated aimlessly around in the moist spring air, airborne versions of those which, along with a requisite amount of hund scheiss, plagued the ground. There were people of all ages grinding to the metronomic beat. I love that about Berlin. There's no age limit to fun. Viel spass! A wizened Truman Capote came to mind, cutting a rug at Studio 54 in his white suit and fan: "We smoked Thai sticks and danced all night."

In fact in the Ku-damm there is a troupe of street dancers who can be seen daily, flexing their freestyle muscles and pop-rocking with the best of them. They incorporate skateboards into their performances in a skate-cum-breakdancing hybrid I guess. They almost always set their performances to Michael Jackson's "Bad" album, too. Anyway, the ringleader -- and, one can only assume, de facto den mother of the group -- is a limber, fit man, often shirtless, with a full head of white hair who must be 60 if he is a day. Watching him shimmy and spin circles around his skateboard to "Smooth Criminal" and then emerge to take a bow with his younger counterparts is a sight to behold. But that's Berlin for you: it's a real democracy where a certain quality of life can be enjoyed by the unwashed masses, at any age, and people are perhaps even allowed a little dignity as they make asses of themselves, refusing to go gently into that good night.

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