An Open Air Loony Bin on Helmholzplatz
Now that summer is behind us, I can whine about how the warmest Berlin summer in recent years just wasn’t long enough. I really miss my sandals. Really I do. Toes previously Free To Be are now crammed into shoes designed by tiny, foot-binded Chinese to torture the footloose and fancy free Western Capitalist Pig Dog (and in so doing, procure a tidy sum, naturally); no wiggle room for my little piggies. I digress: Berlin open air events. Like most of cold, gray, dark, depressing Europe (and I’m saying that like it’s a good thing), Berlin suffers from about 300 days of mleh out of 365. So when the Berlin summer hits, you’d best get your ass outside and do anything and everything under the sun.
Prenzlauer Berg: a gentrified district of East Berlin wherein the previous punk-and-social-welfare-case people get to yell DIE YUPPIE SCUM (in German no less) to the gentrifiers who scream GET A JOB, LOSER back at them. It’s great to live in a former punk quarter which is slowly turning yuppie, hipster and foreigner and get to absorb the vibe of something old, dirty and skuzzy cleansed by something cold, antiseptic and sterile. Perhaps sterile is the wrong word, as Prenzlauer Berg packs in so many new families that it is now referred to as Parentslauer Berg.
Helmholzplatz: a green park in one of the trendier areas of Prenzlauer Berg. When I first moved into the kiez (‘hood), I recall strolling through the middle of the park and being accosted by a rather inebriated fellow who started shouting at me and my girlfriend as we passed his bottle-strewn, piss-reeking turf. Yes, Mr. Intoxicunt, clearly we are The Threat. Together we work to make about the same money as you get for free on social welfare. And your flat is bigger and you get to drink outside and wax drunken philosophical all day long as your means of employment. I’m jealous.
LiederLauschen: some kind of cockamamie music event contrived in the last days of summer to squeeze the last few Euros out of those who would soon retreat behind the thick walls of their altbau (old building) flats and enjoy cop show marathons while pining away for the summer. I don’t know WTF LiederLauschen means and I’m too lazy to Google it. As One of Those who is too lazy / refuses to learn another language (read: American), I’ll wager a guess that it means Punk / Parent Mixer, because the usual drunken suspects were greeting the stroller wielding breeders in a one stage, one bar affair. I was hoping for a riot with beer bottles flung at breeders and a demolition derby of strollers rolling over the scrawny legs of the punkies, drunkies, junkies and other members of the disenfranchised.
A dozen benches held the butts of those who wanted to warm them. Just behind the last row of benches, one of the indigenous park dwellers was burning a pile of paper while sitting cross-legged with a ghetto blaster on his shoulder. It was turned all the way up--and apparently had been for some time--as the speakers spewed nothing but flupping, flapping distortion. Or maybe that was the band. I’m too square to ever solve that mystery. The fire burned on and people walked by. The distortion reached a crescendo and Chief Squatting Bull began bashing his ghetto blaster against his skull in arrhythmic blunt beats. The passersby passed by. What the fuck was this guy gonna have to do to get some attention?
The first band was warming up. One of those folk diva types sat on a stool with a loosely slung guitar around her shoulders. Some others held their instruments. I can’t go into details. I’m not a music critic, though the music sounded about as bad as I expected it would. She finished her mewling and caterwauling and bowed out gracelessly. Another band got up on stage while I went to the spaeti to avoid buying overpriced event beer. I took a swig and looked around. Chief Squatting Bull’s fire had burned out and his tape had ended or was destroyed by the skull thumping. Behind him, small squabbles broke out with the harsh-voiced demi-homeless bench punks. A park drunk cadged a fag from two young ladies seated in front of us. One of the girls gave him a cig to pay her dues and make the bastard go away. Of course he would not. He then began hitting on them—both—in an attempt to slur and wobble his drunken way into their hearts. They got up and left. He cursed at his knees and I got up to support the bar for a couple of beers for the event. I was being fully entertained and the stage had little to do with my amusement. Upon my return with our beers I noticed a completely different drunk had plunked his ass down next to my babe. I gently placed my hand on his shoulder and said that he was in my spot. I’m trying real hard to avoid conflicts. Especially since they seem to fly into my face like a crank-addled Vegas lap dancer.
The drunk swung his hand out and pointed my way to sit at the end of the bench. You see, he needed to continue hitting on my girlfriend. This was completely understandable due to both the quality and quantity of the chemicals sloshing around in his slushy melon. My babe quickly slid down the bench away from Drunkenova and I plopped my ass in between them. Undaunted, the Bishop of Bad Breath heaved his amorous airs directly around my head until finally, breathless and feckless, he slowly got up and left.
We took a break from the chaos and left the area for more beer. Upon our return, the very bench of my babe’s erstwhile seduction was taken over by a new threat: babies. A prime example of the Parentslauer Berg tribe was having her attention span stretched so far that a cesarean section would be necessary to cut through: one child jumped up and down on our abandoned bench while another hung around her scrawny neck like a monkey and the one in her belly kicked in time with the music. She sat behind our abandoned bench and watched with utter apathy as the bench came crashing down and the bouncing baby boy landed in the midst of beer puddles, cigarette butts and broken glass. The mother said nothing, as is perfectly normal for German parents with spastic howler monkey progeny screaming and bouncing off the walls. Ordnung uber alles my ass.
Perhaps butt cheeks generate their own kharma, and chaotic, free-spirited ones such as mine must attract all manner of anarchy. After the breeder brood had left and someone had righted the chaos bench, it came crashing down yet again as we were trying to reclaim it. It was the fag cadger, heart breaker, bench flipper. As I helped him out of the beer/butt puddle, he glared through drunken slits at my face.
We were out of there. We stopped once more for beer. As we left the circus, the bench flipping ciggy bum was curled up in a fetal position on a small stone wall near the path out of the park. I told my babe that he still had his bent cigarette sticking out of his mouth. She looked back at the snoring figure and immediately set me straight: ‘You’re blind. That’s not a bent cigarette, honey bunches of oats (she calls me that sometimes). That’s a big ole snot worm.’
O the snot-nosed drunks and babies of Parentslauer Berg!