Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Slip Slidin' Away

Y'know the nearer the destination, the more you're slip slidin' away.

The Berlin winter hit fast and furious this year with snow and ice and -15C. Today was a mild minus five, but the deadly ice was in place under the Christmas crunch last minute shoppers' feet. I saw two people fall down on the sidewalk today at different times and places.  When it happened--once to a guy and once to a girl--they each winced, shook their heads and got up.  Then they proceeded with their previous walk at full tilt boogie speed.  Damn!  They must be locals.

Each winter, whenever I fall down on the icy sidewalks of Central Europe (Czech, Germany, same frozen winter wasteland, different languages), I twist a knee or an ankle.  Then I sit there for a while cursing and waving my arms around.  Then I slowly get up and proceed to limp for the next 3 weeks.  This is because A) I am not a local; B) I have California legs (I am bloody Barishnikov on beach sand--I don't fall down or NOTHIN'); and C) The bigger you are, the harder you fall.  I am 6 foot 5 inches of donuts and beer.

So today I slid along, shuffling my feet, shifting my weight, staring at the ground.  Every year when I do this, I have to wonder why they put the tiny pea gravel 'anti slip' rocks UNDER the ice.  I can see them there under the thin layer of sidewalk ice, suspended like little black bugs in amber, useless and dead.  Some business owners throw dirt over the ice on the walkway into their shop. This is because having dirty icy mush tromped in all over the shop floor is de rigueur in Berlin's trendiest shops. But every inch of the 50 feet of sidewalk between the shop entrances is an iceberg waiting to sink my personal Titanic. So every winter I slip and slide around Prague or Berlin, flail my arms, hold onto walls and miss the days when I used to drive a car.  In a sunny place.

But at least I finally know the meaning of a White Christmas.

Happy holidays, however you celebrate them.

db

Monday, December 21, 2009

CHARTS

I’ve always hated charts. Especially pie charts. So much promise in the name, no pie anywhere to be seen. As a donut muncher, the best chart I have ever seen in my life is this one. It's a nice little pigeonhole for the Right and the Left.  Although I'll have to say that the colors are weird.  Left is red, blue is the right.  I thought we were looking at charts of the Blue States (Democrat) and the Red States (redneck Republicans).  Maybe in this chart Left means 'Commie Reds' and blue means 'Bluebloods.'  Click to make it bigger, read thoroughtly and talk amongst yourselves.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Obama With a Hitler Mustache and Some Pretty Confused German Kids

What?!? WTF? MY president?  A FASCIST?  Say it isn't so.  Well, y'know, the German yoots are AWFULLY tired of having to bear the burden of their ancestors' sins.  They're just a little bit bored of hearing about Hitler every time they raise their hands to hail a taxi (hint: German kids, don't all raise your hands at once to hail a taxi, this looks suspicous; just one previously-elected-in-a-ridiculously-bureaucratic-ritual group representative is enough).

They didn't whip out the Obama Hitler photo right away.  They simply had a slightly dumpy, bespectacled young chick step in front of me while I was walking the dog the other day.  She seemed harmless.  I thought she wanted me to join Greenpeace or Oxfam or something or other. She ranted about eco fascists, genocide, the New World Order, and so on.  Then I told her that I didn't speak German.  So she had to repeat the whole tirade in English (I'm wicked).  I may be evil, but DAMN, the fact that she could rant in 2 languages was fairly impressive.  So I continued to listen.  She started condeming groups like Greenpeace, etc. as the eco fascists.  I was being entertained (the only thing missing was popcorn), so I went along with it.

"You mean, the big bunch of green kids is wrong to try to save the Earth?"  said I.
"Are you kidding?" said she, "They are the WORST fascists of all the ultra liberal groups!
(at this point I wanted to stop her and suggest that the term 'fascist' ONLY applies to the right wing, but why not let the poor sons and daughters of stormtroopers writhe in irony?)

"BARK!!! BARK!!! Woof!" the dog chimed in.
"Oh, your dog has an opinion, too!" she went on.
"No, we've just been walking for a half hour in minus 5 and he's telling me to get my white ass inside."
"He said that? What's his name?"
"Black."
(quizzical look from the Hitler Jugend) "Well, you should read our literature.  Have you heard of the LaRouche movement?"
"No, but I don't watch German TV."
"They're not German," a tired looking guy in the group added, "but you should know about them, being American."
"I'm the typical ignorant American you've read about," I explained.
The girl put a magazine in my hand, and since it didn't have pictures of Jesus and beams of light on it, I actually held it for a minute or two.  Then I flipped it over and saw the O-BOMB-A:


"Now you seriously don't think that there is ANY connection between Obama and HITLER, do you?"

"Yes!" They blasphemed, "With his healthcare and his genocide and his fascism and his..."

"Sorry, hon, you are out of your TREE."

"Vas?"

"Never mind.  But seriously, comparing Obama to Hitler is like comparing Jesus Christ to Hitler (at this point I was yearning for the Jesus in beams o' light pamphlet instead). They are not even CLOSE.  GET IT??"

"Would you let me finish?" she begged.
"Rant on, sister."
"Blah blah BLAH.  And some BLAH. And to BLAH BLAH that, there was BLAH!!!!!"
"TRILLIONS!" the haggard faced male said.
"And do you believe that Obama is HELPING the sick?" a new voice joined.  A black voice.  An African yoot joined the chorus of Hitler Jugend Gegen Obama, Inc.

I think he saw my jaw drop.  No, really?  I thought.  You. Can't. Be. Serious.  How much are these SS progeny paying you?  Please, brother.  Give anotha brotha a chance.  Stop associating with these SS ass clowns and get a real job.  I just can't take it.

He must have heard my thoughts or saw the flabbergasted look of shock and horror on my face.  Or maybe his English wasn't up to snuff.  He left the conversation.

"Ach!!! Bad dog!!!  Look!  Your bad dog has PISSED on our booth!" she chastised.

It was really hard to hide a grin.  I wagged my finger in the dog's face and said 'bad.'  No exclamation point.  I found it funny.

"Well, maybe you find it funny to talk with us, but you really don't want to accept the Truth," she proclaimed.
"No, I didn't find it funny.  I think 'fun' was the word you were looking for, and it wasn't fun either.  Entertaining, yes."
"Meeting me was the best thing that happened to you today.  And you want to leave before you can hear the Truth," she pontificated.

Damn, the Moonies got NOTHIN' on these cats.

"The day is young," I said, "it could always get better."
"You are the man who is going up the escalator and passes all the pretty girls and hopes to get a prettier one," the tired man chimed in (what was he? Her PIMP?).

I didn't want to insult the young lady, so I apologized for the piss on the booth, tipped my hat while leaving and said

"Yup."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

ZOMBIE ATTACK IN PRENZLAUER BERG


Or just some random art attack on the streets of Berlin.

Who would know the difference?

Very few words this time.








    



My local Schoenhauser Allee U-bahn station was graced by a visit from a pile of bloody rags.  The aftermath of a Zombie Walk?  Or just another Berlin artist desperate for attention?  Either way, gore works for me.
And props to my home slices in Sactown:  Trash Film Orgy (according to wikipedia), the ORIGINATORS of the Zombie Walk.  Keep on shufflin', C & D.

Monday, November 30, 2009

BICYCLE! BICYCLE!

PART DEUX: SECOND CHANCE SECOND HAND BIKE

I bought another black, beat up, flea market piece o' crap bike.  The first one was stolen just 3 weeks after I had bought it.  I simpered, I whined, I blogged about it.  The blog included a completely unrelated video of the Bicycle song by Queen.  It was catharsis with a Capital ARSE.  Damn it felt good.

Now I have another one.  It is black.  It is beat up.  The lights don't work and the brakes are sheise, just like my previous bike (sob, sniff).  So I decided to take my new/old bike on a long  ride in the German and Polish countryside.  Or rather, that was decided for me.  As I mentioned in my previous bike blog:  I ONLY OWN A BIKE TO CARRY BEER CRATES ON THE BACK RACK.  But someone dared me, nay, DOUBLE* dared me.  Anyone sense a theme here (crap, db, you say 'double,' 'deux' and 'second hand' more than anyone I know)?

We had planned to go on a day trip to Poland for pierogi and vodka, as you do from time to time when you get tired of the BILLIONS of things to do in Berlin.  There was to be a stop in a German village or two for castle and countryside snapshots.  Being a photo dude, I opted in.  One hour before the train was scheduled to depart, I got a message which read, 'Listen, bitch, git yo honky ass on yo bike and bring it wit yo dumb ass to da train, nigga.'  Actually, the message was 'They said you had a bike, bring it with you', but a British person in the group told an American in the group that I had a bike and the translation went completely downhill from there.  Then it got filtered through my fragile ego as a dare.  Hence the careless use of the N word.


So, here is a picture of  my NEW/OLD bike.  Note the old scratched out paint at the top of the photo:  '63.5 km to Berlin.'  I would like to say that I biked all that way and took a brief pause to take a photo.  But nobody would believe a man who has a jelly donut for an avatar.


*Sponsored by DOUBLEMINT Gum.  MMMMMmmmmmm.  MMmmmmMINTY.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

PROMISES, PROMISES

Thanks for the donut, dear blog reader.  I did in fact have several donuts and a large coffee the day after someone clicked on the BUY ME A DONUT button located on the right side of this blog.  However, I didn't rush right out and throw words to the blogroll as I said I would when I issued my begging  plea for donuts and coffee in the previous blog.  I was distracted.  The day after that blog, I turned 43.  Not an unusual number, but for some reason it hit me like a ton of bricks and I had to be off the radar for a few days.  I am now shopping around for my Official Midlife Crisis Tattoo.  I have no tattoos.  I was holding out.  I wanted to be the last kid on the block with a tattoo.  Then the Midlife Crisis hit me (whatever the fuck that is).  So now, dear blog readers, what kind of ink should I slap on my lily white skin?  A giant donut with 'Berlin Uber Alles' in Gothic font?  Or maybe just 'Official Midlife Crisis Tattoo' between the love handles?

Monday, November 16, 2009

BUY ME A DONUT!

A dearly departed friend o' mine once commented that I had certain 'Homer Simpson-like qualities' that he admired.  I suppose he meant one or more of my personal traits that Mr. Simpson might exhibit in any given episode, such as: A) The way in which I say 'beeeeerrrrr', B) How a jelly donut causes an actual Pavlov's Dog salivation reaction in my mouth.

I'm not a sweet tooth by nature, nor am I by any means 'starving' over here in Planet Berlin, but I just decided that blogs need fuel, and nothing fuels a good ole comedic rant like a Real Live Berliner Jelly Donut.  So I've decided to completely WHORE MYSELF and put a 'donate' button on my blog.  If you have somehow come across these words, and by some strange miracle have read through to the end of the rant/parody/satirical experiment, and by some even larger miracle have ACTUALLY had a chuckle or a smile, or even an LOL moment, please feed me a donut.  My donate button is located on the top right.  If you send me some donut money (like a buck or two), I promise to stuff it in my face and start a fresh fury of feverishly fluff filled blogging that only a man with hypoglycemia and too much time on his hands can unleash.  And if I'm feeling particularly saucy, I may add A LARGE COFFEE to that jelly donut and REALLY CUT LOOSE.

By helping me fuel my donut addiction, you save an old lady from having her handbag snatched outside a Berlin bakery.  The 'BUY ME A DONUT' button is located by my profile on the top right side of this blog.  Click today, I munch away tomorrow morning!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Soggy Happy People Holding Hands

Berlin Mauer Mob Braves Rain and Darkness to Form a Human Chain


It’s nearly impossible to get me out to photograph the constant stream of events, protests, demonstrations and celebrations which occur in Berlin. Usually my excuse is either my fear/hatred of crowds or the long, boring walking and standing required while waiting for something interesting to happen. But on November 9, 2009, a group of people decided to get together and form a human chain of hand-holding people several kilometers long. They decided to do this on the 20 Jahre Mauerfall, or the 20th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. They decided to do this in the pouring rain in the pitch darkness. My curiosity was piqued. I went down to the nearby Bornholmer Street Bridge, a former checkpoint site in the former Berlin Wall. I knew that my camera would get wet and the photos would come out dark and crappy.


But I went anyway. I just had to see if the idealistic, hand holding hippies would actually show up. As it happened, many people showed up—and not just hippies in need of a shower from above. There were all types of people of all ages, all of them getting wet in their group effort to symbolize the wall falling. The Mauer mob group was organized by some idealistic artist and may or may not have been connected to any of the Flash Mob events which occur in Berlin and other places. At the Bornholmer Street Bridge, many people also lay candles and flowers on a memorial marker.






Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Prenzlauer Berg: Don’t Drink the Water

They said Prenzlauer Berg was a yuppie hellhole. They said it was gone, lost to gentrification and exorbitant rents. They said only “certain types” of people lived there. For the record, all of it is lies. I was afraid of The Prenzl, mainly because of what ‘they’ said. I fear gentrification and its effects on average people. So I swallowed the lies and lived in Friedrichshain for the bulk of this year. That neighborhood, my friends, has been sold to The Devil: Yuppie be thy name. F’hain is the doomed ‘hood, the one which is being sucked down the pipe by the real estate demons who lurk beneath the slimy surface of all that purports to be, ahem, ‘hip.’ But what I found when I left The Hain to move into my new P’berg flat was that the people in Prenzlauer Berg were not yuppies and not average, they were worse: they are all a bunch of God damned BREEDERS.

I don’t know why every other person in P’berg is a mother pushing a stroller. I can’t figure out why the only entry for Prenzlauer Berg in the TTG wiki has no actual information about the neighborhood except that it is “fertile.”

http://www.toytowngermany.com/wiki/Prenzlauer_Berg

Perhaps it is in the water. P’berg water is lukewarm from the tap even after being run for several minutes. If city water isn’t icy cold from the tap in October I just don’t trust it. If it doesn’t come from deep enough in the earth, it’s as if it’s been circumvented, redirected, adulterated and redelivered. Or maybe it isn’t a PROconceptive agent released into the water, but more of a psychotropic substance which, when applied to the water supply and the bloodstream of a healthy female P’berg resident, causes sporadic and unnatural advancement of the biological clock. Skip the prom, the drugs, the fun; go directly to motherhood. Fuck. In. Ell. I hope my girlfriend’s birth control can hold out against the chemical onslaught.

Or maybe it is in the System itself. I can’t verify the figures, but I get the distinct impression that the German government pays people to breed. Yes, there is this thing called social welfare, or Hartz IV, and some people say it pays punk rockers to party, while others say it is a much needed antidote to the Berlin economic sickness. In layman’s terms: no work, no worries, the rest of Germany pays.

It doesn’t matter to me personally what the wymyns choose to do with their uteri, or what the German Government does with its peoples’ tax money. But I will go on record: the next white trash bitch who slams her stroller into me and shouts at me to move will have her progeny ripped from the pram, weighed, measured, processed and barbequed right there on the sidewalk. Turkish kebabs ain’t got NOTHIN’ on my baby back ribs

Monday, October 12, 2009

Yet Another Friedrichshain Protest

ROWDY YOOTS FULL O' PISS N VINEGAR GATHER;
MATING RITUALS ENSUE

The Mohawks gathered round Friedrichshain the other day and made some noise. Again. Apparently ‘They’ weren’t listening to the Mohawks. Again. But that’s okay, that won’t stop kids full of piss and vinegar from grabbing some fabric and spray paint and waving their flags in an open invitation to compare Mohawks. The hawks were awful purty at this particular shindig: blue ones, red ones, pink ones and black ones were everywhere. I caught several rows of kids with the same color hawk; rows of pink Mohawks held up a bright red banner which read ‘Brunnen Bleibt’, which means literally ‘Pink Mohawk Social Club.’ Rival factions of blue-and-black-haired punks held up a black sign with letters which were so unclear that several members of the club were caught scratching their heads trying to decipher their own messages.

But what are the Crips without the Bloods to counter them? The various colors of Mohawk gangs milled about waiting for any conflict that might be on its way from what the Punx like to affectionately refer to as
‘der schweinenmenschen’ or literally ‘The Pigs’, aka the Fuzz, the Heat, Five-Oh, Bacon, Cops, or your friendly neighborhood Berlin riot control officers. I’ve seen a few of these Berlin protests before. The Berlin police like to fence the punks in with a nice row of Paddy Wagons. Usually about 25 riot vehicles, or roughly 1 vehicle for every 3 protestors. I mean it is complete overkill, the police presence. At this particular protest they even brought in the van of geek cops with laptops and satellite gear. Apparently, you’ve got to keep one step ahead of these pink, blue and black haired devils. They even brought in the Super Soakers: huge water tanks on wheels with twin nozzles for spraying the unruly mob. My girlfriend asked why the nozzles were so narrow on the ends. She thought if fired the cannons would only yield but a drizzle. I explained the effects of concentrated water pressure through a very narrow opening. A standard, S.F. hippy protest would have Super Soaker vehicles with standard sized water cannons and wide nozzles. The purpose of this was to give the stinking hippies a much needed group bath. However, the Berlin cops like to fire the same amount of water with great pressure through tiny twin steel nozzles. This not only gives the Berlin punk squatters a much needed group bath, but the pressure from these babies will literally knock them to the ground and roll them across the street through a brick wall.

And after all, being flung about like a sack of beer-soaked taters by the Super Soakers at a Berlin riot is the Number 2 Requirement for membership in the Pink Mohawk Social Club.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Seat Nazis

I had no idea the Seat Nazis existed. I knew about Soup Nazis, mind you; Jerry Seinfeld and Co. sat me down for 30 minutes and explained that one to me quite clearly. You stand in the line; you don’t ask questions, you have your soup order ready before you get to the front of the line. When your turn has come, the Soup Nazi screams at you to step forward, eyes forward, order your soup. You do. You have no choice.

So, fumbling around with my movie ticket in Berlin as usual, I wonder if it will be the same as in Prague: the queue, the surly ticket salesmonkey, the language problems, the usual. You give them the money and they decide where you sit. Or you decide--if you want to grab them by the neck and twist their screens and their necks to do your bidding. Even after doing the Twist, I still fuck it up. Every single mother fucking time. I can’t do this European cinema seat thing. No, really, it’s completely ridiculous to anyone with a half a brain (as I have). I like to pay and sit in the seat of my choice as all God fearin’, freedom lovin’, rootin’ tootin’, red neckin’ Americans do.

The seat that was assigned to me was already taken. As usual. Apparently, I am supposed to skulk up to the offending bastard and say ‘Entschuldigen, getten sie aus mein sitzplatzt, schweinhund.’ But I am not a Deutschbag. So I don’t say it. I usually just sit in another seat in the vicinity of my originally-assigned seat. Which is all fine and dandy, no blood, no foul…until the Seat Nazi comes in. And suddenly I’m in THEIR seat. They stuff their ticket stub in your face. You fumble for yours. You throw a ticket block, already knowing that you are in THEIR seat and THEY know it. So you have to play the dumb auslander, which pleases them to no end. Or just try to explain it. In this case, the number of the seat was not lit up or posted in shiny letters. It was sewn into the dark red plush fabric in slightly darker red thread. On the seat back, directly behind my back. Imagine my confusion.

‘What? Huh? Oh! You paid for THIS EXACT SEAT, huh? Like, Oh. My. God. I am SUCH an idiot. Mea Culpa. But somebody is already in my officially-assigned seat and I don’t want to have to stand up and walk over there and displace them, looking like a fucking Deutschebag in the process.’

The teenage couple stood hovering over me. The GIRL goose stepped forward, blonde hair and blue eyes flashing in the half light. She looked like Julie Delpy’s cheery, cheeky Hitler Jugend character in ‘Europa, Europa.’ ‘Ja, gut. Zo. Zo you vill shtand up und valk over there, ja.’ It wasn’t a question. It was an order. From the blonde haired, blue eyed member of the Neue Hitler Jugend. I imagine that to certain guys this could be a turn on. Perhaps to sad, lily livered milksops. I can see why the skinny, quivering teen boy had his girlfriend to speak for him in these awkward cases. He was the effeminate, emasculated German Moby male to his girlfriend’s Strong Deutsche Frau. It was a rather pathetic display, a teenage German girl barking orders at a middle aged American man. But what could I do? I was certainly not going to stand up and bitch slap his girlfriend, nossir. I am not a cad. So I stood up, flashed Blondie a condescending smile and did exactly as she told me. She plopped down in my warm seat and gave me the kind of dismissive wave reserved for the blondest members of the Master Race. Cunt.

So I had to push some people over a seat or two. I apologized. I showed them my ticket. They saw me get shifted down by Blondie. They knew I was in the wrong seat and needed my original seat. So they moved. Shit rolls downhill. But as I sat down, the middle-aged German man to my right—the same man who moved his jacket off my seat to let me sit—told me the secret: ‘yes, there are normal people and there are the Seat Nazis.’

‘Yes, I believe I just met one. But she is so young,’ I said, loud enough for the whole row to hear. ‘I can’t believe that young people here are so fucking anal retentive. She should have a Mohawk and a head full of chemicals for Chrissakes.’ As I sat there chewing the fat with the good-humored German gent, I thought about how I really would have no gripe if the cinema was full. Sure, you want yer goddamn pre-planned seat so you don’t have to crane your neck in the front row or the side seats. But every single time the Seat Nazi has pounced on me in the past, the cinema was at half capacity at best. So if someone can’t be flexible enough to forgive the foreigner’s faux pas and find a seat directly in front of or directly behind their originally-assigned seat, this is the hallmark of a Seat Nazi. It is the absolute NEED to flash the party badge (ticket) and send someone to the concentration camp (another seat).

There we sat, 2 middle aged men, one German, one American, discussing ‘these crazy kids nowadays.’ I thought it was backward somehow; don’t the youth of today complain about the rigid, conservative Nazi old people? I imagine a Seat Nazi has no age. It could be anyone with a low self esteem, somehow desperate to cling to any chance to grab a bit of ‘power.’ I was reminded of a quote from ‘The Office:’

“Wow. That is the least amount of power I’ve ever seen go to someone’s head.”

Thursday, August 27, 2009

BAU-WOW-WOW!!!!

EATEN ALIVE BY THE GERMAN CONSTRUCTION MACHINE




The Conspiracy is complete. It has achieved total and unequivocal dominion over my existence. I now just accept it with a wry smile and a slap to the forehead. The Conspiracy has followed me everywhere I have ever lived in the past 15 years. Whenever I move into a new apartment, within 1 week the construction starts just outside my window. At 7am to 6pm, every single fuckin’ day. Even on weekends.

It’s true that I have lived in some of the worst former Communist Eastern European urban shitholes ever devised. But still. You would think that I would have numbers on my side at some point. I mean, they are not reconstructing every single flat in the city at the same time, are they? No, Dunkin’, just yours. Yes, they have been rebuilding Eastern Europe since the fall of the Iron Curtain, but why do they need to drive the iron rivets home just outside my window?

Case in point: my current flat. A sublet, as usual, my 2nd this year. Why sublet? A) Because German realtors offer flats that are completely empty, no fridge, no oven, no stove, no kitchen sink. Not even a single light fixture. For 600 euros a month you get a roof, doors, windows and a crapper. Like prison, only without bars and much more expensive. B) Because German bureaucracy is idiotic. The worst I have ever seen. I used to think that nobody could possibly conceive of a more deliberately retarded system than the Czechs. I was wrong. The Germans sit around devising new bureaucracy daily. Just to piss me off. These Deutschbags sit around devising new bureaucracy and circle jerking. So, while we’re waiting for Gunter and Dieter to answer our fucking emails about available flats (and awaiting the ludicrous shit storm of paperwork to follow any offer), we sublet. (deep breath).

‘Geez, Dunkin’, you’re much more grumpy and cynical than usual,’ you might say. Well, I haven’t slept much this summer. I was almost getting used to the pounding jackhammers, the shouts and screams of the workers (or maybe the workers were merely talking and German ALWAYS sounds like barbaric screams) and the heavy drilling on the property next door. It is a vacant lot that will host a new fancy shmancy building which will house the latest batch of yuppies who will soon be shat out of the ass of Corporate America, England, etc. onto the streets of Friedrichshain.

Construction progress has been slow. With the amount of noise they have generated over the last 3 months, you would think they would have the foundation laid and at least the 1st floor erected. Nossir. In 3 months, this small 300 metre lot has got a thin layer of iron mesh on the ground. They dug the whole lot up and filled it in with dirt again about 12 times. I guess the masons, concrete pourers and bricklayers are all busy filling out their paperwork before they can begin. As you can tell, I know just about zilch about construction work (amusing, since I should be an expert by now if I had bothered to look out my windows over the last 15 years). But they brought in some crude noisemaking machines I didn’t know existed. I’ve seen my share of Caterpillars, John Deers, dump trucks, scoopers, bulldozers, steam rollers and cranes. But they brought in something from another planet. It was a tall, twisted mass of steel with a giant central cylinder with a tank for a base. It looked like an oil drilling rig had fucked a panzer tank and the bitch-on-treaded-wheels gave birth to the ungodly progeny right under my window. I still don’t know what the Evil Beast was devised for, other than to accentuate my personal construction conspiracy and to punctuate my occasional hangover. Every day at 7 am on the nose the Beast went to work. BOOM!!! Thump-thump, BOOM!!!! (repeated for 9 hours with a 1 hour lunch break). The cylinder churned and thumped for a month.

Then one day, just like that, the Beast was gone. But another noise began in its wake. It was familiar, the sounds of the workers in the dawn getting ready to wreak havoc on my beauty sleep (and if you’ve seen me, I need ALL I can get). By the end of the day, a scaffold had been erected in front of my building and my windows were covered in plastic. It’s as if the agents of the Construction Conspiracy were gloating at the surveillance tapes of my misery and decided to up the ante. Fifteen years of metal fire and brimstone right next door weren’t enough: there was something in German on a piece of paper stuck on the wall downstairs. I managed to pull a few words out of it. It said not to open our windows for 2 weeks. There would be construction.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Meet the Berliners

Christiane is the social butterfly of our Friedrichshain kiez. She knows everybody—and if she doesn’t—she gets to know them. She slowly glides into the bar, the park or the Turkish kebab shop and disarms you with her style and ease. She is a well-preserved 60ish sort with a vintage movie star style all her own and a smooth, contagious élan. When I first saw her in the late winter, she walked into the room wearing a black sleeveless dress and a black velvet hat with a jeweled hatpin. She had black arm coverings from wrist to elbow, the kind of thing a jazz singer from the 20s or 30s might wear. She always has a cocktail in her hand but she is never drunk. She is a Lady.

Yesterday we met Christiane at the new neighborhood bar across the street. We knew it was a new bar because of the sudden late night noise drifting through our windows in the wee hours of the night. Nobody was inside the bar because it was one of those rare recent summer nights where it wasn’t dumping rain or clammy cold. Sitting on the bench outside was Christiane, some flowers in a vase, a leather case with cigarettes and lighter and the ubiquitous cocktail. Her usual vintage Jazz Singer outfit had morphed into the summer version: White crocheted hat worn askew, minor hatpin with no jewelry, turquoise dress and arm coverings. My girlfriend and I are both taken by Christiane and her genteel charms. We take a seat across the bench outside the bar. Drinks arrive and she starts The Pitch. Christiane likes to announce the various social causes she is involved with, and then, when she sure you are following what she is saying, nicely asks how you can help her with her cause. Sometimes it is a pitch for money, other times it is an invitation to a neighborhood event. We like to attend the local events and bring booze and/or food. Money is a different story. So it is in Berlin.


After a few beers, various locals started to join us at the table; a few recognizable faces from the local taverns and cafes, the usual suspects. Then The Bomb dropped. ‘HallO-oh,’ said the thin man in the women’s makeup and the high heel shoes, ‘I’m Inga, the tranny from the house across the street,’ (s)he said. Inga immediately bypassed my nervously-outstretched handshake and went straight for my girl. ‘I love the way you dress, girlfriend.’ My honey bunny gave a nervous smile and thanks. I had to wait for the handshake. I was irrelevant for a moment. The girls had to chat.


Later summer sun means kids in the streets at 8 or 9pm. Now that I’m older, I really hate kids. They piss me off with their energy, their jokes and their spastic monkey dances—especially when I’m trying to have a drink and meet the Berliners. I imagine they pissed Inga off slightly more that night. I can’t follow the German language, but I can follow the taunting. It’s the same everywhere. There were the childish caterwauls by the oldest boy in the group. It was clear that he was taunting Inga. The other children, all aged 5 to 10, joined in the group taunting. (S)he said something in German about the children hounding her up and down the street. It was said matter-of-factly. Inga must get that all the time. Christiane defended the children, saying that they were from conservative families who didn’t understand that a man could love men or a woman could love women. ‘But this is Berlin,’ I ventured, ‘surely Inga is not the only unusual person on the street.’ I looked at the kids and smiled at the irony. They were mostly Middle-Eastern looking, probably Turkish. I imagined they could have been picked on as well by some of the blonder, bluer-eyed kids at school.


The older spastic prepubescent kid on the bike did several shouting strafing runs on his bike. I don’t know what he shouted, but I’m sure of the meaning and intent. Inga went inside the bar. Soon the barman came out and chased the kid away. I like how barmen protect their patrons. It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling knowing that our table is safe while drinking in the fold.


Inga got a new pair of shoes. They were badly wrapped in a paper bag adorned with colorful string, hearts and fake pearls. (S)he said ‘It’s not even my birthday!’ After picking at the wrapping with scrawny fingers for a spell, (s)he asked one of the stronger women to help her. The wrapping finally came off and there was a pair of very used, very abused black leather high heel shoes. The sides were worn and torn and neglected. They were probably the most pathetic gift I have ever seen. But Inga’s eyes lit up. ‘My new shoes! I love them! I will try them on, now. Pardon me, but I must go inside. A lady never takes her shoes off in public.’ And so they don’t. After a spell, (s)he shimmied out of the pub on those worn shoes. (S)he worked them like have never seen old, tired shoes get worked before. Everyone had to take turns complimenting Inga on her new shoes.


A young German kid of about 23 joined the table. He was light, airy, and gregarious. An effeminate man in the de facto Berliner army-clothes-cum-Anarchist garb sat across from him. I figured I had stumbled into Gay Night at the Local Pub. That’s okay. I had my girlfriend at my side as a human shield. The young kid asked what I do. I said I’m a photographer, blah blah blah, the usual chat. I usually mention that I’m a professional photographer only after people ply me with questions. I used to announce it proudly straightaway, but it seems that every time I do that in Berlin, people ask me to take pictures for them. For free. Anyway, I gave him my card because he asked, then apologized in advance for the lack of Berlin pics on my Berlin site. I said I was trying to change that. He looked like he was going to jump out of his seat. ‘You need more Berlin pics? Well, I have this theatre group, you see, and we have no money (of course), and we would be happy if you could take pics of us at rehearsal, at shows, and all the way up the primrose path until we are no longer idle dreamers and posers and we at last take our turn in the limelight up in the clouds with the gods of the arts and finally, oh, finally, we eat and drink the Bacchanalian eat/drink/pukefest we are destined for. And you are invited. Don’t you feel lucky to have met me?’ I said yes.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Jazz Church


The Church of Jazz meets in an abandoned chapel in Friedrichshain on certain Tuesdays. The building is a small pile of bricks in an East Berlin neighborhood; a disused chapel type building with no need for God. But the holy spirit of jazz inhabits the place, warms the place and sometimes blows the roof off the dump.

Normally, all previously-God-forsaken Commie-seized holy halls were reclaimed by some church or another; bought back by the Supreme Rulers in Vatican City, or Anglo-Protestant oil holdings, or whatever. Not this one. It is special. It stands between a cemetery and a kebab shop. In Berlin there is only one solution for a building of this type: Art the Living Bejesus out of it. And they have.

I’m not sure what the target audience for the disemboweled rat poster outside the church is. But the poster is there and is hard to look at, especially after just coming from a kebab next door. I think it says theatre-something-or-other. In addition to disemboweling rats, the old church-cum-kunsthaus hosts Jazz Almighty.

Call it a jam session for new converts. I bust in and I see them skulking in the corners with their dates, boy/girl, girl/girl, boy/boy. Mostly young party animals and freaks. Mostly white, nobody over 40 except me. Mostly posing. Somebody told the deviants that jazz was hip. And deviants are hip in Berlin. I don’t care what color flag you fly, just don’t make it your raison d’etre. As for me, I am so straight and square that my girlfriend may leave me at any time unless I bring out the gimp from Pulp Fiction. Or at least I imagine so. But I digress.

I am a longtime jazz fan. I know this because I have short hair, glasses and a goatee. I noticed other goatee-sporting, bespectacled dudes of my ilk in the pews of the Jazz Church the other night. They are jazz fans as well (or just really crafty poseurs). It reassures me, knowing that the Old Faithful and the New Converts can come together under one roof.

Thankfully, there is no sermon, no preacher, no choir. There are only musicians, jamming it up and spiraling solos and nodding graciously to the warm applause. Some of the musicians really LOOK the part; as if dressing Jazz will light up the low notes. Others dressed in torn shoes and jeans stand there nervously and stare at the audience, limp trumpet or sax in hand, waiting for their turn to jam. It’s an informal affair with pleasing results. I start to nod and bob my head with the beat. I’m the only one doing it but I don’t give two shits. I’m there to enjoy the music. It has its moments. Nothing earth shattering, nothing that will save your soul. The better musicians play early: piano played in frantic, chopping motions by skinny fingers, stand up bass picked, battered and swinging in time to the syncopated skins. By evening’s end, anyone with an electric guitar or violin can step up to the stage and fuck it all up.

It works on donations. And as you would expect in any church, some twitchy huckster oozes on up to you while you’re in mid head nod and sticks a hat in your face and says: “For the musicians.” The first time I attended the Jazz Church, I thought it was an odd concept. I knew there was a donation, saw a box by the door, asked if that was the donation box, and dropped the money in. Halfway through the jam, though, the dude with the hat was in my face. I told him I gave generously at the door, but he kept explaining, extolling, extorting me for more. I told him to go fuck himself. He oozed back down the drain from whence he came. Ya gotta know how to deal with hucksters.

My second night in the Church of Jazz was only slightly different than the first time. The same poseurs were there. It was packed again, and people were eager to get a pew. I was wedged in between a very bright stage light and a young German couple. When the desire for another beer became too strong to resist, I asked the girl next to me to watch my seat. She tried to be funny and say something clever, but being German, this rarely works. Maybe it’s the language barrier. She said ‘Yes, I will watch it closely, and….” I just smiled and waved and walked away before she could embarrass herself any further. Upon my return with the beer, she continued, “I watched your seat and it was there and it….” “GREAT!!” I said, “and here’s your reward!” I shoved a bowl of Cheetos cheese puffs under her face. She declined so I shook them vigorously in her boyfriend’s face. He meekly took one. God I love Germans. Give them a church, some jazz, some booze and some Cheetos and you’ve got yourself a party. Then the piper showed up right on cue with his hat. I was ready for him. I peeled off a fiver and chucked it in the hat and waved him away with my hand. Ya gotta know how to deal with hucksters. I feel right at home with my people skills. I go to the Jazz Church for a vertical relationship with the musicians on high, not for a horizontal relationship with the hucksters, the poseurs, the ‘clever’ people. There is a special word for people like me. That word is ‘asshole.’

The Church of Jazz gets so crowded I shouldn’t tell you exactly where it is (Hint: It’s on Boxi between the kebabs and the headstones). Maybe I’ll see you there. I’ll be the slightly drunk guy bobbing his head with Cheetos and beer in my goatee.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Gentrification = Yuppiescumification


The following is a letter sent to Exberliner Magazine after reading that they want us to 'Save Berlin.' I am all for it. Hence the letter I sent them:

Open Letter to a Foreign Media Publication
on the Impending Gentrification of Berlin
By Craig Robinson

I want to save Berlin. I want to give that big ole bear a human hug and throw innovative ideas into the whirlpool of creativity. I want to stop the Atomic Bomb of Mall Culture from being dropped onto the last ‘island of affordable civilization for outcasts and dreamers’. I shouldn’t have any right to care about Berlin as I’ve been living here for less than 6 months. But I do. Over the last 15 years I have witnessed the gentrification of every place on earth I’ve ever lived in for any significant length of time.

Sacramento, San Francisco, London, Dublin, Prague. I came. I saw. Yuppies conquered. The cost of living in each of these places has gone up tenfold in as many years. But the average wages stayed way below the new high water mark.

Submitted for your perusal: Notes on the Global Gentrification Wars
as witnessed by concerned citizens, friends and comrades.

I am not submitting any ideas to your ‘Save Berlin’ action, as obviously I am too late. But please consider the following, especially in light of the fact that your current issue is about ‘the yoga craze.’ Even though I do not have adequate authority as a gentrification expert—only as a witness—I still feel obligated to point out the glaring hypocrisy in declaring your intent to ‘Save Berlin’ from gentrification, mallification, etc., when you clearly are serving up heaping portions of brine to the yuppie larvae in the form of a ‘yoga issue.’ Yoga is New Age Bollox. It was invented by well-meaning Indian gurus 1000s of years ago and appropriated by ex-hippies-turned-new-age-yuppies in California in the 90s. It spread like a disease from there. The only people who follow the yoga craze are certain neo-hippies and yuppies. The neo-hippies don’t have the money for these highly priced yoga courses and such, but their rich parents do. Please consider who you accept your advertising income from and who your target audience is. I fully intend to buy your yoga issue and read it. Perhaps I am wrong and it is a parody on yuppie life, in which case I will be extremely pleased and offer my sincere apologies. In the meantime, the following is a list of warning signs that will signify the beginning of the end of any neighborhood, to whit; gentrification is coming fast and furious.

SUSHI JOINTS – few foods suggest yuppie scum like sushi. Unless you are born in Japan, if you eat sushi on a regular basis, you may as well have a gold card and a Beamer parked up your ass.

YOGA – yuppies without soul shop for religion. They already jog, but that’s free (except for the $500 jogging gear). What better way to satisfy the exercise instinct AND the craving for something ‘meaningful’ to fill their empty, materialist lives?

GALLERY / ARTIST LOFT DISTRICTS – this one needs no explanation. First comes the cheap gallery / artist loft spaces, next comes the barrage of Beamers (God, I hate Beamers, but you may substitute whatever trendy piece of crap the yuppies are driving these days: Lexus, Hummer, etc.). Here’s an actual authority: http://einstellung.so36.net/en/ps/524. And a concerned post by myself (dunkin’ berliner) on the gallery/artist space rental situation in Berlin: http://www.toytowngermany.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=91587&st=0

UBER BRAND CAFES – Starbuck’s, etc. Overpriced ‘half-caff-triple-latte-lemon-bullshit’ is for yuppies. Nobody else drinks that shit. Ever.

Following is a historical timeline of some grass roots struggle for our turf. Call it Crips vs. Bloods with slightly fewer bullets.


Thwarting Gentrification Strategy I: Grass Roots Class Warfare

San Francisco, CA, mid 1990s:

Threatened District: The Mission District, predominantly Hispanic families, students and artists.

The Threat: Encroachment from neighboring hip districts, rising rents displacing generations of original residents.

The Response: Whatever vehicle the yuppies were parking in the Mission District too long would receive a welcome basket in the form of a bumper sticker applied to many a BMW, Lexus, etc: ‘Die Yuppie Scum.’ The Mission does not fuck around. They managed to thwart gentrification much longer than most other S.F. districts. In the end, the dot com craze swept almost everyone under the income level of 80k per year (who didn’t already own their property) out of the City. Permanently.

Sacramento, CA, late 1990s:

Threatened District: Midtown Sacramento and surroundings, a mix of every race, income level and lifestyle.

The Threat: Suburban yuppies stuck in gridlock on the way to their downtown offices are drawn to the newly-renovated Victorian architecture in the old Midtown neighborhoods, which happened to be much closer to their offices. In addition, a large influx of Bay Area urban refugees hit Sacramento, driving up the rents.

The Response: Sadly, almost none. Residents sat around for years with their thumbs up their collective asses and watched their rents go from $400 per month up to $1200. Then they left. One response of note: a punk rock couple who ran an independent video store in a prime district in Midtown Sac fought back. Their store bulletin board was designed for other musicians, artists and film people to post notes to each other. A preponderance of irrelevant New Age fliers started to appear, aromatherapy workshops, yoga lessons, etc. The staff responded by placing a large notice on the board: NO FUCKING YOGA FLIERS!!!!

Thwarting Gentrification Strategy II: I Wish I Had One

But in lieu of a competent strategy, I would suggest that all foreign language media publications (i.e. anything not published in German language) start a disinformation campaign or at least a misinformation campaign. Everybody who has read anything about Berlin knows that it’s ‘poor, but sexy.’ That unemployment is high. This doesn’t discourage anyone from coming here. Especially yuppie scum. They are desperate to be hip. They can buy almost anything with their salaries and their credit. But they can’t buy cool.  I am not cool.  Nor are most of my friends.  We are mostly poor.  But we care about our neighborhood, our city and our lives. Dear Editor of a Foreign Language Publication in Berlin, pretty please, with sugar on top: tell the yuppies to fuck off. How you do it is up to you. A little hint: don’t advertise ‘penthouse flats with a view of Berlin for only 1200 euros per month!’ That’s a start.


Sincere thanks,

Craig Robinson
Veteran of the Gentrification Wars



Monday, May 18, 2009

Crap! Forgot to Blog About the May 1 Kreuzberg Riots!


Oh, yeah, they didn't have any this year. The rioters were too affected by the Global Crisis, Inc. to afford Che Guevara shirts and gas for their Molotov Cocktails. That and I got too pissed from drinking beer in the sun all day to post. I slept for 20 hours or something. I did manage to get some purty punk pix, though. See some of my punk pics and commentary here.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Currywurst uber alles?


Normally I’m not the kind of guy to go to another country, live there, and then tell the natives how to cook. I just accept the global cornucopia of culinary goodness in whatever country I lay my head. I revel in the vast diversity of the worldwide palate. If I’m in Prague, I am a smazeny syr (fried cheese) addict. When in Mexico, give me carne asada in a fresh, warm corn tortilla. And when I’m in London, I bask in fish and chips, Guvna. That and curry.

But then there’s the Berliner Currywurst. Good God. When I wasn’t basking in fish and chips in London, I did curry. A lot. I think I can say with reasonable certainty that I know what a proper curry tastes like (don’t say India, please. I’m sure theirs is full of worms, field mice and dysentery or something. Give me a London curry any day). Then I heard that in Berlin they eat something called currywurst. Hmmm, I thought. In Munich I’d had the obligatory Bavarian sausage feast with pretzels, mustard and beer. Beer in very large mugs. I thought maybe the Berliner variety of sausage would combine the best of Indian culture and German culture. Y’know, like, sausages in (perhaps) a spicy curry sauce. Cuz in Berlin they say ‘multi-kulti’ a lot. Good GOTT no. They take a hot dog—not even a decent sausage, mind you—and smother it in (wait for it….) KETCHUP. With about 20 flakes of curry powder sprinkled on top. And these people eat this sheise.

Once again, talk amongst yerselves, feeling a little verklempt ovah heah.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

BICYCLE! BICYCLE!



"Someone stole my bicycle
Someone stole my bike.
I want to ride my bicycle.
I want to ride it where I like."

-Sung to the Queen tune 'Bicycle Race.'

I had never heard of this Queen song before I lived in the Czech Republic. Then I heard it almost daily on any radio station they had. Perhaps it was the only Queen song they could get for under 50 bucks. I would have thought 'Bohemian Rhapsody' would have been more appropriate while living in Prague. But they sure played the living fuck out of 'We Are the Champions' when they won the Olympic Hockey Thing.

But now the Bicycle song runs through my head every day. It follows me as I walk the streets of Berlin. Yes, I walk the streets now. Before I used to ride my BICYCLE!!!! before some random street junkie Deutschbag stole it.

I really want to ride my bicycle. I really want to ride my bike. It was the first bike I had since I was a teenager. I was flying down busy Berlin boulevards and seeing things I wouldn't ordinarily see while walking (and at higher speeds).

My bike was the most beat up piece of flea market shit loose change could buy:

- scratchy black paint
- rusty chain
- torn, wobbly seat
- broken lights and reflectors (all of them)
- bad brakes bolted on backwards

And yet, locked inside my apartment building's entrance, wheels locked to the frame, alongside at least 20 bikes locked the same way, 20 other bikes worth at least 100 euros each--they stole mine.

My bike cost 35 euros including the chain. I mean, Jesus H. Lapdancing Christ, are you SERIOUS? What kind of CRACK can you score from this heist???!!!!!???? I hope your 'fence' laughed his ass off when he saw your 'score.' I hope he sold you some watered down heroin soaked in paint thinner. Seriously, dude. You're a fucking loser. Heh.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bring Out The Pimp


And the third Prez makes a hat-trick.
Kennedy, Obama, and Clinton. They all have a special place on my blog. They came to Berlin. They saw. They bought a donut. They dunked it.

I love Berlin Graffiti. You will see a lot of it on these pages, all three of you who read them. The one thing I love more than graffiti in Berlin is political graffiti in Berlin. Not 'Anarchy,' 'Fight da Power' and all that tired bullshit.

I like the graffiti that states an obvious yet frivolously humorous fact. Perhaps we can call it 'wikiffiti.' Fact: Bill Clinton is a Pimp. In the hip-hop sense of the word. Like, 'he da man, da playah, all dat and a bag a chips.' Not to be confused with an ACTUAL pimp, i.e. the purveyor of female flesh to the oldest customers of the oldest profession. Not to say that Big Bill peddled flesh of the back of the White House when he was The Dude In The Chair.

But I wouldn't put it past him. I mean, why not? He's da Pimp.

Word.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

More Chiseling Away at History


They've got the head of Nefertiti in Berlin. I know this because I read that an important German once said 'Bring me the head of Nefertiti.'


I jest. Actually, the news today said "Experts Discover Second Face Under Nefertiti Bust." Once--just once--I'd like to read something in the news where 'experts' were in no way involved. Something like:
"Random Turks in an Alley with a Pair of Pliers and a Blowtorch Discover..."

Friday, March 27, 2009

Rebuilding the Berlin Wall: Smoother, Cleaner, More Commercial


Call me a skeptic, but are we really to believe that they are completely destroying the East Side Gallery (Berlin Wall with purty pitchers) in order to 'preserve, reconstruct and remember' the monument? They talk of the history of the wall, the artists who came from all over the world to commemorate the fall of communism in Berlin with a blast of paint on the one remaining segment that wasn't torn down.

And that they're destroying all that history--get this--to preserve the Wall. Ahem. Why in the Flying Fuck are they putting bureaucrats in charge of anything 'historical' or 'artistic'? Can't the Mighty B's be happy making our lives miserable in the usual way--parking, registration, jobs, etc.? No, they wanna be part of art and history.
OK, cut back to my arrival in Berlin to see why I'm actually pissed off. I was planning on getting around to the important monuments of Berlin once it wasn't January 10th, minus 10 Celsius. I was thinking a jaunt around town with my camera would wait until the thawing of the frozen dog turds on the street, at the very least. In late February I took a walk by the East Side Gallery section of the Berlin Wall (the only preserved section left, other than a few chunks by Potsdamer Platz--which are dwarfed by the massive skyscrapers above) on the way to a party on a boat. Well, Berliners do that party thing, so we went. We passed a long section of painted wall and realized that it was the famous East Side Gallery section of the Berlin Wall. We saw some cool artwork in addition to some added bad graffiti and such. I looked down the street and saw that the painted wall continued into the distance. I swore I'd get back with my camera. When the frozen dog turds thawed.

So a few days ago I went back to get those pics. After some months of some pretty craptastic weather, I had to go. Even though I was in charge of my girlfriend's sick dog while she was away, and the little bastard was was puking and shitting in the flat, I had to go. I took the sick dog for a nice drag for a couple of km's down to the Wall. I started snapping, leash in one hand, camera in the other. A few blocks on down the wall I noticed a construction fence. And the noise of jackhammers. I was looking forward to getting snaps of some of the more famous wall paintings--the kissing commies, the 3 cartoon faces in Pop Art style, etc. But I was greeted by a long stretch of gray, bare wall and the sound of construction. As I continued down the road I met a few confused tourists scratching their heads and an individual handing out flyers to the tourists. I took one. It said 'Europe is closed for renovation to better serve you' or something like that.

My only bitch about this whole thing--other than not getting my photos of the 'original' wall--is this: you know damn well they're gonna have McDonald's, KFC, Nike and other ads on this fucking thing when they finish it. Who else is gonna pay for the 'historical reconstruction of an important part of European history' smack dab in the middle of this 'Global Crisis, Inc.'?

I plan to document the entire reconstruction process, right up through the time they "bring the original artists back to repaint the wall", here.

Meanwhile, you can take a photographic virtual stroll down a section of the wall as of yet undisturbed by the jackhammers here: http://berlinphotographer.net/berlinwall.aspx

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

One Presidential Fast Food Deserves Another

Found in the 'American Food' section of my local Berlin supermarket.

Yes, you're reading it right:

OBAMA FINGERS.

Like, Oh. My. God.

Just when I thought that the JFK / Berliner jelly donut thing was wacky enough....

I'm not sure which part of the product would insult Obama more: having his name on a frozen fast food box, or the whole 'fried chicken' stereotype reference.

Talk amongst yourselves, I'm feeling verklempt.

P.S. They taste pretty good, by the way.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Berlin Cops Adore Nazis, Push Antifascist Demonstrators Around A Bit

I've always heard that Nazi or Neo-Nazism is illegal in Germany. Wearing the swastika or other Nazi symbols, singing 'Deutschland Uber Alles' and doing Hitler's high-handed salute, are all verboten.

Recently I've come to realize that this is total bullshit. I first had my suspicions several years ago on a visit to a small town in the former East Germany. There was a large tent with a party going on and a bonfire outside. After waltzing into their tent for some fun, I noticed that everyone was bald. With bomber jackets, camo pants and high-laced boots. I had walked into a skinhead party in a village field. So, casually, I ate some of their munchies, drank a few of their beers and slowly strolled away without speaking to anyone.

Upon my arrival in Berlin a couple of months ago, there was a fashion issue of the local English rag 'Exberliner.' I despise fashion as any red-blooded heterosexual from the States would (ich bin ein Redneck), but I picked up the mag anyway hoping to find ads for pubs and grub. I found that they covered all areas of fashion in Berlin, including NAZI FASHION. WTF? I thought this Nazi b.s. was unacceptable. Well, the clothing had some mods (I dunno, maybe a pretzel on the armband instead of swassie), but it was undeniably clothing for goose-stepping fools with too much time on their hands.

Today I was awakened from my Saturday afternoon nap to the sound of shouting. Usually the Berlin party crowd waits til after midnight to begin their drunken howls under my balcony. Not today. I stepped outside to see a large crowd of young whippersnappers wearing black clothes and bandannas pulled over their mouths, marching. Various street punks joined in to provide some local color. I was drowsy as any fat slob who eats pizza and beer all the time would be after a nap, but I snapped to attention when a white-helmet-sporting-cop started pushing one of the protesters around. The kid wasn't doing anything. In fact, he was headed AWAY from the shouting youth. But the cops wanted him fenced in. I went for the camera and took a couple of mediocre shots from the balcony. I headed down to the street to find out what was going on, and while people were milling around on the street corner I discovered the following: the shouting miscreants were various members of anti-fascist groups protesting the opening of a new(neo?)Nazi clothing store. I have to wonder where these brain dead boneheads get the money for designer fashions (one such brand I read about is Thor Steiner, a Norwegian designer who makes clothing for fascists)? Maybe they pay for their swag with gold teeth ripped from the mouths of dead Jews.

I hung around to get some snaps, but I got a bit nervous when one of the cops started video taping me as I was taking pics (see above left). I'm not usually keen on photographing cops in any country, especially ones where the cops actually wear jackboots and grimaces as part of their uniform. Today's coppers wore jumpsuits and helmets as well. In a country where Neo-Nazism is technically illegal, why does the largest city in Germany not only tolerate fascism, but recruit some of them as cops?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ich Bin Ein Berliner

Some friends made it clear that they'd never heard of Dunkin' Donuts or possibly even JFK. Poor, wretched, huddled masses. Never had a Jelly Donut or a President who was shot. For my homies:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Big Berlin Freeze

People stop in their tracks in the cold Berlin winter. Some are mid sentence, some are engaged in a kiss. Sometimes a man walking a dog will freeze, beer to his mouth, while his dog tugs at the leash in his frozen master's hand.

Other people notice the phenomenon and the video cameras and cell phones come out. It's quite an amazing sight to behold: busy Alexanderplatz, full of 1000 or more people, most of them frozen stiff, others wandering and weaving amid the motionless figures with cameras.

Apparently this has happened many times before. This time I was a part of it. I can't tell you how great it feels to have a cold beer gripped in a freezing hand and pressed to chapped lips in February.

But we did it.


video
Video by Gabriela Sarzevska

Monday, February 16, 2009

Berlin Film Scene: Glitz n Glam or Grime n Grunge?



I used to be a film fest junky. I would travel to obscure film festivals, get in line for hours to get tickets and even sleep outside on the ground when hotels were booked. I've seen world premier films in San Francisco, Dublin, London, Karlovy Vary and Berlin. I've shaken directors hands after sitting through double features and impossibly long film lectures with other pasty-faced film geeks.

Then I discovered Berlin's underground cinema scene. After planning to spend way too much money on films no one else would ever see at the Berlinale (Berlin Film Fest) last week, my eyes were opened and I saw the flickering light: Squat Cinema. That's right, bootleg copies of scratchy anarchist films projected through gray smoke clouds onto cracked bar walls. Drinking semi-warm bottles of the cheapest German beer while watching films with characters who fight the police, fight the landlords, fight the U Bahn ticket inspectors and fight the system. Watching these films in German when I don't speak 10 words of the language.

Many of these ad hoc cinemas have sprung up in the grungier areas of Berlin: Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain, etc., where punks and anarchists find refuge in grafitti-ridden block house squats. Often you wouldn't even know there was a cinema--let alone a functioning bar--in these buildings if you were leaning on the front door. From the outside, many of these bars have shuttered windows plastered with punk posters and about 450 layers of spray paint. One such Friedrichshain squat cinema down the street from where I live has impressive red velvet curtains which are ceremoniously parted at showtime to reveal the weathered plaster wall which will receive the evening's images of anarchy. Once you've snaked your way through the bowels of the squat/bar/cinema, you can see an eclectic mix of Berlin characters: punks, anarchists, leftist intellectuals, unemployed slackers and shiftless night owls.

And maybe in the corner, a former pasty-faced film geek, wondering how he might look in a mohawk at age 42.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Most Expensive PIss I've Ever Taken

It was in the Alexanderplatz U Bahn Station in Berlin.

1 friggin' Euro.

To PISS.

BASTARDS.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Why I've Lived Outside of America for More Than 12 Years

‘I have an idea that some men are born out of their due place. Accident has cast them amid certain surroundings, but they have always a nostalgia for a home they know not. They are strangers in their birthplace, and the leafy lanes they have known from childhood or the populous streets in which they have played, remain but a place of passage. They may spend their whole lives aliens among their kindred and remain aloof among the only scenes they have ever known. Perhaps it is this sense of strangeness that sends men far and wide in the search for something permanent, to which they may attach themselves. Perhaps some deep-rooted atavism urges the wanderer back to lands which his ancestors left in the dim beginnings of history. Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which he mysteriously feels that he belongs. Here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scenes that he has never seen before, among men he has never known, as though they were familiar to him from his birth. Here at last he finds rest.’

- W. Somerset Maugham, ‘The Moon and Sixpence’

Friday, February 6, 2009

Ich Bin Ein Jelly Donut


Another foreigner lands in Berlin. Moses parts the Red Spree and Eastward! the not-so-young man goes; Friedrich's Hiney, I think. It is winter and I am far from discontent. After surving 8 years in a savage land surrounded by viscious, greedy cannibalistic peasants in the Czech Republic, my soul seeks sweet repose; Berlin Be Thy Name.

WARNING:
This blog could be politically incorrect at times. If you are a sensitive little flower with pc mind control issues who can't handle naughty words or any of the other terms of endearment which may be found in the redneck sililoquys to follow, then, pretty please. With sugar on top: Piss right away off.