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 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.



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.

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.