Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Images from Berlin 2008: Retrospective

Just another quick and dirty look back at the year that was from die Hauptstadt. A few snapshots: A girl frantically trying to solve a Rubik's cube before the train disembarks....a teenage boy on the UBahn trying to comb the nits out of his Barbie wig at 8 am on a Monday morning....a mentally challenged thirtysomething male in a street fight with a passel of 8-year old kids....a Turkish girl wrapped in a German flag eating a Doner kebap....a coatcheck rock chick girl with a New Jersey accent in a backwards shag wig and Journey t-shirt...running into shrivelled testicle Willem Dafoe at the Ballhaus in the Nikolai Viertel...spending time with Rupert Everett in Schoneberg....a triple-process peroxide harridan bartender straight out of Fassbinder shrieking at all the customers at Monster Ronson' foxes loose in the city...guys in the Hasenheide shouting "Grasmeister! Gute Gras hier! Verstehst du mich?" when I'm out for a stroll (I don't know whether I or he was supposed to be the Grasmeister). PSA: don't buy Gras there, it's cut with parsley sage rosemary and thyme...Abba being played ad nauseum in every roomate's vampire girlfriend subtly asking me if I like to go to "dahhhhkrooms"...bears, bears and more bears (if you can't beat 'em...become one)...fat German woman making fun of stereotypically fat Americans...a thousand cute malapropisms (my favorite being my friend Tobias's "It was horrowful!")...a girl from "the former Montenegro" telling my friend Assaf he was old (he's 36) then trying to backpedal clumsily: "I don't think you are old, but in the real world, you are old"...being taken to task by a Syrian friend for my government's misadventures in the Middle domineering German instructor Marieke, whom I referred to as a "kitten with a whip" computer programmer roommate telling me he dreams in code, which of course did nothing to perpetuate the stereotype that Germans are like robots...After cleaning the apartment assiduously for hours for my returning Untervermieter, I had a moment that would have horrowfied Martha Stewart: a last minute stopped-up toilet (the fly in the ointment as it were). He was quite sanguine about it though ("Oh it's just one of those things that happens that shouldn't happen. We will just buy some chemicals and try to clean it out.") My attempt at assuaging my own embarrassment met head-on his German directness. "Oh so this has happened before?" "Nope! That's a new one!" (OK no more toilet narratives I promise)...Being asked to water my landlady's plants, then discovering I was being gaslighted a best and the victim of attempted assassination at worst: the plants were jerry-rigged in an elaborate Rube Golberg killing contraption that would have put the makers of SAW to shame...the self-same crazed landlady asking if she can put a floor rug on the wall above my bed because "it's Moroccan style". Little did I know that the reason I was losing sleep and sanity was that she had put another filthy rug under the topsheet. I was like the princess and the pea. When I confronted her about it she replied, "You are the first to ever complain. I keep it under there because people from time to time will spill thing in the bed, for example, they will take their coffee in the bed and spill it, or the women will come and they will have their menstruation in the bed..." OK lady, that's where I draw the line. When somebody bleeds in my bed, it's time to buy a new mattress... guy on the UBahn declaiming loudly during the height of last summer's mania that "Fussball is scheisse", half expecting him to be lynched...a German nurse trick showing me his friend's severed foreskin. The friend had been circumcised recently, and he'd kept the specimen in a jar....dodging fireworks hurled by ruffians from their bedroom windows on Silvester...mammoth hairy steroid spiders crawling en masse up a graffiti-splattered Berlin Wall at the Eastside Gallery...swarms of bees descending on the pastries at Kamps bakery, trapped in sugar canisters, everywhere...The sad woman on the U1, busking to a backing track on a boom box in her backpack. Like clockwork, as soon as the double doors closed, a desiccated hand would push a button, the salsa beat would kick in, and goddamit if I hear that chorus of Volare, Volare again, I'm gonna (serenity, serenity...)...serendiptiously nabbing VIP passes to Berlin's Art Forum...a brass jazz band playing under my window at 6 am...distended stomach from eating too much doner kebap, haribo, pfannkuchen, zB....a little kid 8 years if he was a day flipping me the bird on the U8...becoming the de facto grief counselor in my building when the neighbor across the hall killed himself. Unforgettably, I had people buzzing the flat looking for their friend, and I had to tell them in my rudimentary German that he was no longer with us....a nun almost getting hit by a car but stopping it at the last second with a stone-cold colleague Kais from Dubai expressing shock at my assertion that occasionally men in the US kiss each other when saying goodbye. "Two men??!! Oh my God!!! Are you joking? (Long pause) That's great!!! I love this guy! I kiss you!! roommate breaking the world's record for "mountainbike jumping"...and thank you to the lovely Amandine for walking me to the door when no-one has ever walked me to the door before!!!...Love to all and guten Rusche, Brian