Saturday, December 25, 2010

Berliner Raucher Kneipe


The kneipe is a special place in Berlin where you can find a few locals crammed together in corners watching sports on the telly and drinking cheap beer in small glasses.  The wiki translation of 'kneipe' is 'pub,' but this isn't exactly accurate.  To me, a pub is a place where large groups of English or Irish people gather together and drink ales and stouts from LARGE mugs and watch sports on the telly.

Most of the Berliner Kneipe are raucher, or smoking pubs.  Most European pubs have followed the popular trend of banning smoking; England, Ireland and Germany all share the same laws concerning smoking in bars. To whit:  it is not allowed.  In Berlin, however, people just plain don't give a fuck.  They smoke in bars anyway.  Technically, this is illegal, but if a kneipe owner scrawls the word 'raucher' in crayon on a bar napkin and duct tapes it to the door of his establishment, alles in ordnung.

"So, db, why in the hell do you go to the raucher kneipe if you don't like smoke, you California beeotch?"

Glad you asked.  Two words:  CHEAP BEER.  Sure, the beer is crappy, mostly warm off-brands that nobody has ever heard of outside of Berlin.  But I'll be god damned if I'll ever be caught DEAD in the typical over-lit, over-priced, bistro-slash-faggy-slash-dancy cafe-slash-bar-slash-fuckers-I-don't-like-SLASH-em-ALL!!!

Ahem, excuse me.  I prefer dark corners and dark people.  I don't mean the local African watering holes per se, but those would be welcome as well.  I mean, normal people who have no problem with the dual stigmas of being butt suckers and alcoholics.  The lungs and the livers are shot, but these people are REAL.

FALLING DOWN is my local raucher kneipe.  It is practically right across the street from me, which makes it an easy stagger home.  I suppose the name of the place, in the immortal words of Bukowski, 'sort of fondled my scrotum.'  It's not normal to have an English name on a German bar.  And this bar is all German, mostly Prenzlauer Bergers of the old sort: unemployed, hard drinking, DDR-raised people who like cigarettes and beer more than life itself.  The bar is owned by a man of Mediterranean origin.  His name is 'Shefki,' which he told me means 'happy man' in Arabic.  It's true:  the man is happy.  Even when his bar is dead empty, he just smiles and asks me 'where are the people do you suppose?'  Then he rips open a bag of chips and brings the darts out for a game or two.

He opened the pub on Christmas Day "for the lonely people who don't have Christmas today."  I thanked him profusely by eating his chips, drinking his beer and throwing his darts.  I had to ask him about the decision to name the bar 'Falling Down.'  Was it about the gambling machines tucked in the corner?  Does 'Falling Down' mean the falling of coins?  Or is it about the more unfortunate patrons who can't handle the new uber-Captialist economy and the heavy amount of alcohol one must consume to deal with the aforementioned regime change?

To which Shefki replied:  "I think it is the last place people go in the neighborhood.  After they have gone to all the other kneipe in the neighborhood, they come here last and fall down."

Don't be scared.  Please visit Falling Down on Paul-Robeson-str. today.  Sure, your lungs may fall out of your ass from the smoke, but Shefki is a happy man who plays a mean game of darts and peddles a cheap bottle of beer.  Tell him the big American sent you.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Not Ready For Prime Time


The beauty of a blog is that nobody edits the damn thing but my damn self.  Whatever sticks in my craw—be it donut, schnitzel or sauer krauts—gets processed through my donut-and-beer-addled brain and onto my blog so that all 12 of you can enjoy it.

Enter:  editor.  Recently an editor of an expat website solicited me (for free) to write a story about getting around in Berlin.  She said she had read my blog and thought I could contribute a few words (for free) to her expat website, because after all, being an expat in Berlin, we are all whores of the most humanitarian kind:  the kind who work for free.

Below is the rejected article.  “Why was it rejected, db?” you ask?  I don’t know, you tell me.  In the commissioned (for free) piece, I took out all the usual F bombs, donut references and deutschbag rants which would normally appear in any Dunkin’ Berliner blog post.  I put in some actual info that can be of actual use.  The next time I get contacted by a publication to write for free, I’m going to INSIST that they read my ENTIRE blog, not just the Cliff Notes, and cite at least 3 references to donuts, deutschbags and defecation.  Read the fucking ingredients, editors.  It’s JFKFC for The Masses, containing 25% comedic rant, 25% parody/satire, 50% bullshit, 0% faggy poetry.

It does exactly what it says on the tin.  Word.
  
Getting Around in Berlin
 By Craig Robinson
 
You’ve just moved to Berlin. Nothing is happening where you have just moved.  You need to cross town to get to The Cool Kiez (neighborhood).  Do not panic:  this is normal.  Go to the BVG website and plug in your destination.  Don’t worry if you don’t know the address.  BVG is your Personal Hey Zeus! in the Land of Pagan Hedonism known as Berlin.  You can type in a station stop, an address or even the name of a landmark—Beevee got yer back.  In nanoseconds you will have your course in front of you and you can Kiez hop all night long.

Sometimes it even works out just the way you saw it on the interwebs.  But this is Berlin, the city that never sleeps, never stops reconstructing itself, and never, EVER tells you when your ordinarily-ueber-efficient transportation experience will suddenly come off the rails like that proverbial crazy train:  constant station reconstruction, detours, random service interruptions and poorly-marked station signs are your new friends.  Learn them.  Know them.  Love them.  In the two years I’ve lived in Berlin, I have never used the same route in my neighborhood for more than a few weeks.

It’s a wonder that anyone can get to work.  But since Berlin is probably the unemployment Capital of Europe, who needs to?  Most Berliners only use public transport to get to parties.  That’s why it is open all night long.  They’ve even got a monthly ticket called ‘Wide Awake in Berlin” for those who only use public transport from 10am until 3am.  You even get a discount.  I am not making this up.

Things you will NOT see much of on Berlin’s public transport:

1)      Suits
2)      Cops
3)      Sobriety

Things you will see in ABUNDANCE on Berlin’s public transport:

1)      Punk rockers
2)      Drunks
3)      Students with beer and wine bottles
4)      Touts, beggars and buskers
5)      Tourists just trying to have fun

In my first week in Berlin I must have been lost at least a dozen times in the maze of U-bahn, S-bahn, M trams and M buses.  I finally got the urge to accost a couple of beer-swilling Berliner youth at a Friedrichshain tram stop:  “Hey, guys, I was wondering about the rules for alcohol on public transport—I mean, this is Europe, everyone walks down the street swinging a bottle (Praise Zeus), but is it legal to drink on the tram in Berlin?”

Drinking Jugend #1:  “Technically it is illegal to drink on the trams in Berlin.  But nobody will stop you if you do.”

Drinking Jugend #2:  “NO!!! He is WRONG!!!  If you are in Berlin, you MUST DRINK ON THE TRAM!!!”

Perhaps the locals know something I do not.  I cannot count the times I have been lost on public transport in Berlin.  I still get lost regularly, usually when I hastily jump onto a train whose number I didn’t see as it pulled in (they’ll have 5 or 6 trains in a row going to OPPOSITE parts of the city).  Eventually I just started carrying a bottle of beer with me at all times and BAM! the magic connections began:  the brain train’s synapses fired, failed to fire, stuttered and started, lurched and finally took me away.  Not really.  Some of this is satire.  It HAS TO BE.  This is Berlin.

PRACTICAL INFO:

BVG website:  www.bvg.de

TICKET INFO:

Buy your tickets from U-bahn or S-bahn station machines or certain news agents and validate the ticket with the punch-stamp machines located almost everywhere but where you will actually be able to see them.

Plain-clothes ticket inspectors (who really wanted to be STASI or KGB agents under communism but couldn’t quite cut the mustard) will occasionally and suddenly flash a ridiculous Cracker Jack box toy badge I.D. at you and ask for your ticket.  At this point it is a good idea to have a valid ticket.  Or a Mohawk.

TICKET PRICES:

Day ticket (Berlin A/B central zones):  6.10 EUR
Single ride (up to 2 hours in one slightly-weaving direction):  2.10 EUR
Short trip ticket (up to 3 U-bahn or S-bahn stations or 5 bus/tram stops):  1.30 EUR
Fine if you get caught with none of the above:  40 EUR

Major train service interruptions due to reconstruction (subject to change upon a BVG whim):

-         U2 line from Senefelderplatz to Pankow:  indefinite.  Hell, they’ve been working on that thing since the very DAY I moved to Prenzlauer Berg Over a year ago.  It’s a conspiracy.  Use the ersatzverkehr (replacement bus service) instead.

-         Ostbahnhof S-Bahn station:  constant construction that makes you walk down many, MANY muddy, fenced in construction tunnels like a rat in a labyrinth.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Great Asian Food: No Yuppies

I don't usually review food which doesn't consist of deep fried bread dough and lard stuffed with jelly filling, but bear with me:  I've found two great Asian restaurants to get your Chow Fu on in P'berg.  The first is a Real Thai Restaurant called 'Tofu,' and the other is a Chinese restaurant called 'Wok Show.'  I will tell you more about these two places if you promise me up front that you have read the terms and conditions and check the box which says  'I have read the terms and conditions so lay it on me, fool' below this blog.  Those terms:

1) Forgive their silly names.  These are deliberately designed to keep the Yuppie Scum out.  Coupled with their hole-in-the-wall appearances, both of these restaurants strive to do only good food and no neon buddhas and shit.

2) If you go there, don't get drunk beforehand like some Limey hooligans out for a post piss up curry.  If you are a 'Merican redneck, under no circumstances should you push the soup away and bellow "FUCK THIS SWAMP WATER!!! BRING ME SOME FRIED YAK DICK!!!"

3)  If you are any way, shape or form a Yuppie, meaning 'materialistic individuals with no souls and high paying jobs out to ride on the coat tails of other people's experiences and raise their neighborhood rents for good measure,' Stay. The fuck. Away.  

If you agree to these reasonable terms, please get ready to have some fantastic food.

I discovered Wok Show by reading some expat comment forum listing cheap eats in Berlin.  An individual by the name of Sum Dum Fuk said you can get a massive plate of pot stickers (Chinese dumplings) for 5 EUR.  I believe the individual was Asian and I trust him implicitly. I have always hated Chinese fast food because it consists of watery, salty sauce on crunchy, barely cooked vegetables.  This is why I tend to order pot stickers or those wacky Chinese pancakes with the mixed filling and plum sauce (called 'Mu Shi,' and oh how the Germans chuckle when I order that one).  Anything out of the ordinary, other than the usual sheise you normally get in Euro/Asian dumps.  I will cut to the chase now:  bring friends and get yourselves 3 plates of 20 dumplings with various fillings.  The nice lady who is always there will automatically bring you chop sticks, even if you look as white and dorky and clueless as myself.  I recommend putting some dumplings in the small bowl in front of you, soaking it in soy sauce and trying to pick those bad dogs out with those sticks.  After you've dropped a few on the table, feel free to bow and apologize and order knives and forks.  The kind staff will stop laughing at you, turn off the Chinese Candid Camera and bring you the cutlery of your choice. Guten apetit!

'Tofu' Thai restaurant was recommended to me by a Czech friend who has been living in Germany for 20 years.  Normally I wouldn't trust the culinary advice of anyone whose culture cooks with ketchup as a rule.  But since Milan spent many years traveling to and from Asia and he said the place has the proper portrait of the Thai king on the wall and the staff answers you if and when you speak Thai to them.....it's the shizzle.

I know nothing of Thai food because what I've had so far hasn't impressed me.  Cutting to the chase once again, get any of the red or green curry dishes.  Or anything.  I chose the dish with the highest number of chili pepper icons, which was only two. I had a dish last night called something like 'Gak Tung Burn' which was so spicy that I'm still tasting it when I cough. BRILLIANT.  I LOVE spice and find it all but impossible to find spicy food  in Central Europe because Central Europeans are a bunch of fuckin' pussies.  No flavor other the die sauer kraut.

'Tofu' is not a hippy joint in spite of its unfortunate name.  It is a hole in the wall--as is 'Wok Show,' but I have found that the very best food is ALWAYS found in the tiniest, most run down holes you can imagine.  You see, without all the neon buddhas, silk dresses and gold tea cups, they can concentrate on making delicious food while keeping the yuppie hordes out.

Tofu - Erich-Weinert-Straße 1, Prenzlauer Berg

Wok Show - Greifenhagener Str. 3, Prenzlauer Berg

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Habituation

"I have become comfortably numb."  - Pink Floyd

No, I am not loaded as I write this (for a change); but I DID have a donut this morning (go figure).  It's coming up on my 2nd anniversary in Berlin (January) and the process of habituation is nearly complete:  I no longer see Berlin as 'Ooh! Wow! Neato! Lookit!' and have become just another expat specimen consuming and excreting with Berlin as a fuzzy backdrop.

This affects my blogging; I was just talking with Lady Snooker about how I used to blog once a week--which slowly faded down to once a month.  Has my creative mojo gone?  Has my donut filling finally dried up?  No, I suspect that Old Rascal Habituation has done its thang on my eyes and ears.  It's happened to me before in other exotic locales:  London, Dublin and Prague.  Right about the time the traveler settled in to the routine; the study program (London), the jobs (Dublin and Prague) and the rent payments, the Buzz decreases, the new becomes familiar, then routine, then Old Hat.

I have noticed my best photographs of a location are generally taken within the first few months of living in a new place.  After that, things that were extraordinary become, well, ordinary.  This is a psychological process which allows us to protect our senses from the onslaught of new experience, disregard the mundane, and keep a lookout for new stimuli.   The wiki article on habituation mentions that soon after a human wears clothing, the sensations wear off.  Can you imagine if you could constantly FEEL the cloth chaffing you as you moved around?  I believe we would be batshit in about 72 hours.  Or city traffic and street sounds would make a New Yorker insane (scratch that; New Yorkers are NUTS) in weeks.

But what is basically psychological protection is damned inconvenient if you are a writer or photographer.  The details we pick out as unique and noteworthy start fading into the background.  So this is when we need to focus more.  Berlin is pegged as an ever-changing city; a city evolving before our eyes. Fortunately, if you look hard enough, you can see the paint drying:  the constantly shifting street art, the ever-changing rotation of festivals, events and goings on.  I now have more time on my hands than usual (my slow season for work), so my lack of money coupled with my excess of time gives me the perfect opportunity to slow down and observe.

I would like to also point out that many of the things I mention on this blog are cheap or free: Karaoke in Mauerpark (see: Return of Melvis) only requires a bit of nerve and/or liquid courage (and in Berlin, liquid courage is 60 cents per bottle).  Taking snaps of local street art is free if you shoot digital.  I have been following certain Berliner street artists and noticing their styles.  So when the background just starts to get a bit fuzzy, sometimes a new stencil, poster, or art piece will appear in the cacophony of color that is Berlin.

So let me throw out some ideas and we can all be comfortably numb in Berlin--with or without the chemicals.

If you have any ideas for free/cheap things to do in Berlin that Google doesn't know about, please comment.

Festival of Lights photo by Craig Robinson Photography

db

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Return of Melvis

Ich bin eine Karaoke addict and a piss-poor Elvis impersonator.  Nevertheless, I HAD to throw myself into the Berlin Bearpit and dance with the rest of the bears.  AGAIN. You may know me as Dunkin’ Berliner, but in a previous life (Prague) I was known as Melvis O’Presky, the hardest working pelvis in Prague; or His Royal Melvic Region, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.

I paid my dues.  I croaked and crooned in some of the smokiest, darkest, least-crowded karaoke bars with the warmest, flattest beer a man can swallow without puking.  At first it was the usual ‘drunk man finds liquid courage, a microphone and primal scream therapy’ at the expense of the other drunks.  The mic hung at the edge of my soused mouth and I mumbled my Elvis in the dark. Three drunken friends clapped.  One of them yelled ‘Go Melvis.’  I think I scrawled ‘Elvis’ on the beer-soaked paper and handed it to the KJ (karaoke jockey).  Many muffled mumbles later, Melvis was born.

Then came The Suit:  All six-feet-five-white-polyester-sequined-hell of it.  I had it made by a local Czech seamstress. Then came The Gig.  Melvis entered, grabbed the mic and hosted many-a-Prague karaoke as MC Melvis, then, sadly (if only for me), Melvis left the building.

They say Berlin is where creative people go to die.  No, I just made that up.  We’re supposed to be reborn here, like some god damned Phoenixes rising from the fucking ashes of Capitalism or something; perhaps this is purgatory.  But considering that I’ve been surrounded by the same wannabe, parent-supported-mediocre-slacker-artist-pretentious-hipsters for nearly 2 years now, I’m beginning to suspect that I may have to work my way back UP to purgatory.  Again.

Re-enter Melvis.  Last summer I got drunk in Mauerpark, as a dude does on a sunny Sunday in Berlin.  I somehow wound up on stage with a bottle of warm Sterni in one hand and a microphone in the other--in front of a LARGE CROWD of people.  I croaked, I crooned and I really SUCKED ASS.  Evidence of my ass-suckitude can be found on the Bearpit Karaoke You Tube channel.  You really don’t wanna Google that.  TRUST me.  When I found The Pit it was just getting popular.  And as with anything that is just getting popular, you wanna be the one who says ‘you were there when it was just starting.’  And so I am. Er, was.  As a veteran karaoke lounge lizard from hell I noticed that the KJ (His Royal Highness, Sir Joe Hatchiban-San, ESQ, hereafter referred to as ‘K to the J’ or just ‘Joe’) had a completely different setup:  no monitor speakers (those tiny square ones facing the stage) to properly hear your own voice; no echo to hide the obvious flaws in every drunk’s voice; no safety net for the obvious karaoke fool who thinks he’s all dat and a bag of chips.  Joe likes to rumble in with his bicycle of doom, dump the heavy load onto the stage, and drop the hapless singers into the pit with the hungry bears.

And the crowd goes wild.

So I had to do it again and again, like coffee or beer or sex.  Yeah, like those things, with a MUCH bigger crowd.  But the crowds are out of control.  Not in the Bear-Eat-Drunken-Singer meaning of the phrase; you just couldn’t get a song in edgewise.  Fight through the horde, submit your song, wait for 2 hours—and if you’re LUCKY—sing your bad-ass song.  Badly.  I tried it a few times in the last months.  Once I was turned down flat: ‘We’re not taking any more songs,’ the nice girl said.  Hell, in Ye Olden Days of Yokee, Joe didn’t have the luxury of a nice girl to take songs.  Times they are a’changin’ I guess.  The next time The Girl put me on the bottom of a list of about 20 people.  Two hours later, no glory.  I left.

This is the part in the story where any sane man would have given up, got a job, paid his taxes and died unfulfilled, or any insane man would have returned with an Uzi and lit up the muthafuckas.  But I am neither sane nor insane.  I walk the line.  I went back.  Early.  I sat in the front of the muthafucka.  After Joe did his intro song he asked who would be the first singer.  I jumped up and flailed my arms.  It worked; third time’s the charm. I climbed up on that stony stage and I huffed, I puffed and I blew the house down.

And the crowd went wild.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A 911 Day Spent With Beer Guzzling Czechs in Berlin

Editor's note: db has decided that some readers may be confused as to which part of a particular Dunkin' Berliner blog is 25% satire, which is 25% comedic rant and which is the 50% bullshit.  In order to make it easier, db has decided to italicize and colorize anything slightly bullshitty.  The rest you have to figure out yer damn self.  Oh, as per usual, 0% faggy poetry.

I packed up the girl and the dog and headed into Neukoelln for a Czech street festival at Richardplatz.

I know what you're thinking: 'yer an American.  It's September 11.  You're thinking of all the pain, death and mayhem when the towlies took down the Twin Towers.  Yer goin' to the kebab 'hood to kick some camel jockey ass, AINTCHA?'

No, dear reader, that would be politically incorrect, vile, violent and offensive.  Not to mention I would need a MUCH BIGGER POSSE in that area of town.  The real reason I went was because my girl is Czech and she dragged me there to meet her Czech friends.  And there was Czech beer on tap.  Reasons enough.

I remember thinking I should bring my camera, but this insane little buzzer goes off in my head whenever I am about to go to any event which will consist largely of heinous bier abuse.  I don't want to have anything happen to my fancy-shmancy camera, the least of which could include:  damage due to droppage, damage due to beer droolage, damage due to pukage, loss due to theft, loss due to drunkenness or loss due to me suddenly at the last minute snapping into post-traumatic-9/11 redneck mode and swinging the camera wildly into Turbanated heads.

So I left the camera at home.  Which turned out to be a pity, since this wasn't just a collection of heinous bier abusers standing around and/or staggering into trees.  There was actual hootenanny style action with groups of people rolling giant bales of hay around the square for prizes and bier.  It was a very photogenic moment sadly missed due to reasons listed above.  Now I'll have to try the thousand words method.  Fuck.

My girlfriend mentioned before we got there that people would be 'rolling in the dry grass,' which I thought was just Czech code for 'drunken, boorish behavior #243.'  No, what she meant to say was 'rolling large bales of hay willy nilly around the square.'  I was immediately tempted to teach her one of my redneck English lessons ala 'y'know what a Roll in The Hay means in English, dontcha?' but I opted only for a slightly confusing reference which would leave her slightly confused.  Damn, I could've parlayed that cowboy cliche into some actual action later on in the evening.  Damn you bier, damn you to hell.  Then again, maybe not.

I did note with some degree of smirky-educated-white-trashian satisfaction the sheer insanity of these folksy, redneck style games.  I mean, to whit: 1) There's not one stick of hay occurring naturally ANYWHERE in the city limits of Berlin, 2) Neukoellners are NOT farmers, nor have they EVER been farmers, rolled in the hay or rolled hay down squares historically, and 3) one of the bales of hay nearly ran over a breeder and her progeny which were standing oblivious in the middle of the road in a manner typical of Berliner breeder menschen, like 'oh, I've managed to shit out another kid on welfare look at the little blond bastard ain't 'e cute? looks just like his unemployed, drunken welfare-suckin' daddy and don't you dare bump into me with bike, foot, or Gott Verbot a giant rolling bale of hay.' She had to run for cover with baby in tow. No bullshit. I smiled smugly. Fucken breeders. Heh.

So there I was, mid baby hate, mid buzz and mid redneck English lesson, when it occurred to me that these type of games were probably being performed this very 9/11 day in some backwoods, dried-up farmville in the YEW ESS of FUCKIN' AY with actual rednecks, pissy beer and thoughts of 'God damn YEW, towel jockey, yew fucked us REEEEEL gooooood, but today we YEWnite as WON and YEEEEE-HAWWW drink us some pissy swill, bitch about the towlies and roll us some hay bales n try to roll us a cowgirl in actual hay, and HEY! if that don't work, we'll form a posse and look for camel jocks and if that don't work, well God Dammit we'll just hafta cornhole us a drunk.'

The Czech Svijany beer on tap was tasty and came in two varieties: pilsner and unfiltered pilsner.  We tried both in slightly-less-than-heinous quantities and were satisfied.  I like the fact that the small town of Svijany can peddle its liquid luxury in Big Ole Berlin.  It makes me happy that the little brewer can still compete with the Big Corporate Beer.  But I suppose that's fairly easy as Berliner bier is sheise.  I prefer Bavarian bier, anything with a monk on the label.  Or Leipzig bier, anything with a punk on the label. Sternburg aus Leipzig.  Mmmmm.  Sternburg.  Not just for drunken punx! (tm)

In conclusion I just have to say this:  Nine years after some fools crashed into some big buildings and plunged us into another godawful long-ass war for all the wrong reasons, it's good to know that we could all just meet in Berlin and hold hands, Czech, American, Berliner and Neukoellner alike, and get our collective buzz on.  No bullshit.  Except the hand holding.  That was figurative.  Do you think an American would actually hold hands with a....

Photo by re-ality, taken from Flickr after I read that it was ok to do so.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Art Is For the Dogs

I was dragged to another art show in Berlin. My excuse for hanging with the Skinny Folks With Large Glasses this time around: my girlfriend’s dog would be in the show; that and the fact that there would be free beer.

Like any event in Berlin promising free beer, we had to get there early. It was a basement space in Charlottenburg (Christ, why am I dragged to Charlottenburg every month?) and it was a beehive of activity. The basement space fairly buzzed with flocks of various skinny dudes with bed head curly hair and those new fad jeans which are skin tight on the legs but droop at the ass to reveal their shorts. I’ll never figure that one out so don’t even ask me to try. Not hip hop. Not ballerina. Something in the middle I reckon.

The Artist (no symbol) let us know her plan: the dogs would each wear an Ipod with speakers for a collar and the speakers would belt out a human voice at just the right moment. WHOA!!! Said I, ‘Where’s the BEER?’ But you could see that one coming a mile away already.

The tension before any art show is about the same as the tension before a prize fight—especially when canines are involved. At the art show the early comers stood around looking poor but sexy (except me; I was an accessory to the lil woman and the dog) while waiting for the beer. I got to gawk at the crowd a bit while they were strapping the Ipods to the dogs. There were the same type of folks you’d expect to see at any art show in any city at any time in history: beardos, waifs and strays, the eating disorderlies, the vamps, the tramps and the one chick you’re not quite sure about because the calves are too thick and the jaw too square and izzit a tranny?

The dogs: a whippet, thin, speckled and twitchy; a beagle, curious, sniffy and hyper; our hund, a black dachshund/Doberman mix, social, silly and asshole-sniffy; and The Rapehound, rapacious, rapey and rapine. I don’t know what breed it was but the dog made it very clear from the get-go that it was on a mission to fuck one of the dogs in the room. That’s not normally a problem; except all of the dogs were male. Viewing this as a minor obstacle, the Rapehound immediately tried to mount our sausage dog. Having none of that, our poor beastie flipped himself like pancake so that his head was where his ass was a split second before. This was not the least bit of a deterrent for Rapehound: he began the face fucking in earnest. I’m not sure what was more disturbing to me: the ungodly act occurring before my eyes or the fact that my girlfriend thought it was cute and kinda funny, in a dog-dick-in-the-mouth sort of way. Some of the waifs and strays started laughing. They thought the show had started.

Eventually the owner of The Rapehound came over, stood and watched. I wondered if I was the only prude in the room. Hey, look, do whatever you want to whomever you want, just: A) consent; B) be of a reasonable age and C) don’t do it my face. The Rapehound’s owner said ‘I don’t understand. He is—how you say—castrata?’

Do you mean to tell me that your facefucker has no balls and STILL feels the need to mount the skulls of other male dogs? This just doesn’t make any sense at all. Now it becomes nothing about sex. Now it becomes all about power and aggression and rape.  And I think she said ‘Jawohl!’

I was ready for the art performance.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Breakfast of Champions



Sometimes a picture is worth (at least) a dozen words.



DUNKIN' BERLINER
CAPTION CONTEST !!!

Which of the following captions works BEST for the picture?

A)  Fruhstuck Weltmeister
B)  The girlfriend is on vacation and I'll eat whatever I want to goddamit
C)  Punk rock breakfast in Berlin
D)  Dude needs some SERIOUS help
E)  Other (pick your own)

The winner of the Dunkin' Berliner caption contest will win donuts.  Or accolades.  Or mention on this blog.

Add your caption in the comment section below to WIN WIN WIN !!!!



Monday, July 5, 2010

Tea Baggersee

Sometimes the desk fan isn't enough and you have to go out into the sweltering heat and pack yourself into shiny metal boxes on rails to get to the Berlin lakes.  We were well prepared with sandwiches, mineral water and wine. I fought my girlfriend tooth and nail on this one.

'You mean we have to go out into the HEAT and BAKE on dirty SHORES with random GERMANS in Speedos?' I decided that I had no choice but to placate the g.f. and get with the program.   I couldn't picture the combination of me away from my laptop; sitting in direct sun; drinking; not dying from heatstroke.

Truth be told I haven't been swimming in years.  The last time I attempted to haul my elephantine ass into a water scenario was in a lake in the Czech Republic about 10 years ago.  I was with a bunch of friends on the shore of a suburban lake outside of Prague.  I was standing there in the water minding my own business when a communist relic in a canoe paddled up to me and shouted at me.  I said 'niggu, proSEEM' which is Czech for 'nigga please.' I couldn't see my transgression. The man kept gesticulating and pointing at my midriff.

"What?!!  My BELLY is too BIG for your BEACH????"  That wasn't the case.  Many other beer-swilling Czech men with prominent paunches paddled freely about us.  No. It wasn't the belly.  It was the shorts.  After some deliberation I discovered that I wasn't allowed to enter the water without the requisite communist Speedo.  There was no use explaining to the frustrated Czech man that Where I Come From Got Dammit Only Fags or Olympic Swimmers Wear Speedos.  And that it was a lake.  And that no possible damage could come to the lake from my raggedy-ass shorts.  I just had to leave.

Ten years later I'm on the shore of a Berlin lake and a helicopter is hovering over us.  Me, the g.f. and her friends from work all stared up at the whirlybird from our semi-comfortable perch on the burnt grass shores of Baggersee. We had just completed a full circle of the lake on foot.  The girls couldn't decide on which stretch of garbage-strewn shore would work best for their recreational purposes.  Now that we had found a spot, we had The Eye in The Sky hovering over us.  The chopper had circled the lake a few times before deciding to hover directly over us for several minutes.  The girls were getting giddy.  They wondered if they were spying on us.  Being as we are foreigners.  With alcohol.  On a German lake shore.  Having the godawful audacity to enjoy ourselves.  I told them they were paranoid.  Foreigners can't be seen from helicopter altitude and they couldn't possibly identify the clear substance in our cups as alcohol.  If that were in fact illegal on this particular shore.

"Tango Foxtrot Niner this is Bagger Eins.  Do you see the man without the Speedo? Over."
"Negative Bagger Eins, proceed to the man without Speedo and provide areal recon, over."

But then it became crystal clear to me: The chopper would land near us, whipping up a storm of dirt and dead grass.  An SS storm trooper would charge our fair beach blanket donut dip and accost us with a lesson in German law with the proffer of an outstretched arm and a Speedo for me.  If that were the case, I would have to shed my prudish cultural inhibitions and display my yam bag just like the rest of these deluded Euro-fools.  I kicked back on the beach blanket under my straw hat, red Hawaiian shirt, Blues Brothers shades and knee-length shorts.  I smiled to der himmel uber and mouthed the words 'Bring It On, Deutschbag."

The ladies were getting very nervous.  I was calculating the cost of helicopter fuel and pilots and salaries of the feckless fools hovering 30 meters overhead and deciding that the myth of a broke Berlin was due largely in part to gross administrative waste.  The copter hovered.  Meanwhile a crew of two garbage cleanup men swept our perimeter.   I wondered when the Blitzkrieg would begin.  Eventually they all left, ground and aerial recon alike.  I looked around wondering what other sight may have attracted the interest of the helicopter police.  Then my eyes beheld an awful truth in the tall grass behind us:  a buck naked man stretched out on a blanket, no Speedo anywhere to be seen.

I'm not going to digress into my encounters on nude beaches around the world.  I'm just going to quote a shy journalist woman from my hometown newspaper who, upon going to her first nude beach for a story, discovered the same Awful Truth that I had witnessed many times up to and including today:  "A scrotum is not easy on the eyes."

So the teabagger behind us was probably what drew the helicopter.  Or not.  It's hard to tell with these Rule Types.  After more than a year and a half living in Berlin I still have absolutely no idea what the rules are.  So I go where I'm told to go by the crowd, hauling the booze, the chips, the blankets, the donuts, the attitude.  But you will never catch my Moby anywhere near anything resembling a Speedo.  There are some things you don't need laws for; only common sense.

Photo grabbed off the internet.  Nobody would claim credit for an image that bloody obscene.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer Time. Easy Living.

Summertime,
And the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin'
And the cotton is high
Oh, Your daddy's rich
And your mamma's good lookin'
So hush little baby
Don't you cry
One of these mornings
You're going to rise up singing
Then you'll spread your wings
And you'll take to the sky
But until that morning
There's a'nothing can harm you
With your daddy and mammy standing by
Summertime,
And the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin'
And the cotton is high
Your daddy's rich
And your mamma's good lookin'
So hush little baby
Don't you cry


There are at least 150 versions of this Jazz Standard by Gershwin.  It is my favorite song of all time.

If you haven't heard this tune oozing over the grimy/sticky balconies of a Berlin late-start summer already; get out more.  Or better yet, put your stereos to the windows and press play.  It is your pagan duty to welcome the sun.  Dance, monkey, dance.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

German Chix: Then and Now

I remember meeting a few expats around various tables in nightspots in Berlin during my first few months here.  I don't remember much of what they had to say as it was so banal.  My shit was too.  But there was this Indian dude at the table who, upon hearing someone say 'German girls,' jumped out of his shell and proclaimed "German girls are so boring."

I'm not sure what this guy meant.  Clearly he was one of 'those of the I.T. persuasion' out of the subcontinent who thought he was just, shall we say, Too Cool For School or All Dat and a Bag of Chips.  I smiled at him and imagined that the only experience he had with German girls was a glass of beer thrown in his face followed by a sheise storm.  Really.  Dude.  Put down the Kama Sutra.  And back away.

If pop music is any indicator of the social climate of a nation (let's just suspend disbelief, OKAY?), the pop songs on the radio in Germany are screaming for attention.  Some of the screamers are girls.  German girls.  Enter:  Tic Tac Toe (I'd do it.  Heh), a German girl band one hit wonder whose video 'Hey! Mr. Wichtig' (Hey! Mr. Right) caught my attention when I first hit Germany for the first time in 1997.  I was visiting a friend in Dusseldorf, he had MTV, they played the beJAYzus out of this video.


Tic Tac Toe - Mr. Wichtig

http://www.myspace.com/ogcjm1982 | MySpace Video


These three amigas were part hip hop, part reggae, part b.s. pop.  And all the way feminist.  They weren't having any of the usual muscle men with their kleine schlongs or their weak dancing.  I'm not sure what they were having.  Probably each other.  More powah to ya, babies.

That was then.  This is now.  Enter:  Eurovision song contest.  I think this is some huge karaoke singer's version of 'Who Wants to Be a Star' or 'American Idol.'  Generally there are tragic results.  Which means I never hear of the hapless winners.  But sometimes, just sometimes, a sickly sweet, infectious pop voice pumps through the shitty speakers of my local kebab joint and I have to wonder to myself "who dis?"

I hate pop music.  I hate how it has no soul, no jazz, and no lyrics capable of catering to anyone over the age of 14.  But sometimes, just sometimes, a sickly sweet German girl with a slightly-Australian accent hits the speakers and bends my head slightly, just slightly, to the left.  And I give it a listen.



Both videos are bouncy, full of grrrrl attitude and all that.  Both songs made me bob my head to the left and/or right when I first heard them.  Obviously I prefer the second one because it was sung in English and I could feel for the poor young German girl who had 'painted her toenails for you' just the other day.  Wow, you've come a long way, baby.

But the first video had its lively island beats and rappy fist pumps to da man who dared to have muscles and nothing else.  Both the song and the girls in it had a certain je ne sais quoi.  Only in German.  So years after I had lived in the Czech Republic and Tic Tac Toe's silly pseudo-Ger-maican pop riffs had faded from my memory, a new beast hits the pop charts.  This time, she's wearing new blue underwear, sporting freshly-painted toenails, and is looking for your love.  She's your personal satellite.  Which is German for 'stalker.'

And Deepak said German girls were boring.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Ludicrous Sports #43: Autoball

Ok, I got bored and switched on the German telly and I’m here to report—now I’ve seen it all: two tiny European cars and a giant inflatable rubber ball. The object? Drive as fast as you can (not easy for one of these zero-point-two liter-engine roller skates they drive in Europe) into the large rubber ball, knocking it into the opponent’s goal. Of course the drivers skid and slide into each other while chasing the elusive ball; madcap hijinks ensue.  And they call this sport Autoball.

The first contenders were from Italy and Ghana. The guy from Ghana had no chance. It seemed that he was just sitting there idling and revving his engine while the Italian drove circles around him. But wait!   I haven’t even got to the LUDICROUS part yet! Each time the Italian scored, the German announcer/DJ played some silly schlager music with an Italian bent. Something like “Aye-yi-yi! Pasta-Pizza for me! Aye-yi-yi! Pizza wonderbar!” I shit you not. I shudder to think what they would have played if the Ghana guy had scored.

Next match: Germany vs. Ireland. The drivers skidded and slammed into each other more than the ball. It was the Irishman’s fault. He kept driving on the left (groan). The Irishman’s skidding shenanigans left him in a smoking car. He had to change cars mid match. The German’s car faired better, even though the whole kraut mobile was composed of 50% duct-taped lights and fenders. At one point the Irishman drove his car into the German and pinned him to the wall so he couldn’t keep scoring goal after goal against him. The German, not having any of it, reached out of his window and started banging on the hood of the Irish car. Then he flipped the Irishman off.
What a friggin' Deutschbag.

“OOOOOHHHH!!!! Das grosse finger!” the announcer yelled.

Whenever the German driver scored his numerous goals (something like 5 to 0) against the hapless Irishman, the German schlager music would start up, this time something like “Ja, ja, ja! Ich bin Deutschland! Ja, Ja, Ja!” The Irish driver sadly scored no goals and we did not get to hear the German schlager version of a whisky-fueled jig. But that’s probably a good thing.

For the exciting tie-breaker, chock full of goal upon goal and schlager song upon schlager song, check this video.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Death of an Artist

I went to visit my old neighborhood of Friedrichshain today. It was one of the few sunny days we’ve had in Berlin for a while and I was thinking it was about time we had some summer.
I stuffed the camera in the backpack and headed out.

Friedrichshain is changing—of course. It became ‘hip’ and therefore it is doomed to gentrification, higher rents, overdevelopment, displaced creative types and worse yet: yoga joints and sushi bars. Well, that shit had already begun when we decided to leave, and thankfully, it’s still gonna be a long time before the punks let the yuppies push them out. Whenever the punks want a can of spray paint to tag an SUV they can contact me here. I’ll buy the fucker.

The old squats on Rigaer strasse were still holding out; new posters plastered everywhere suggested that the battle was being lost. It’s as if the squats were a slowly sinking ship with corporate raiders on the stern and fenced-in youth hanging on the bow, swinging bottles and laughing and living in spite of the hull breach.


I was shooting some pics of the street when our Russian artist friend suddenly took us on a detour off the street through a passage to the back of some flats. I was preoccupied with shooting various kiddie rides in a playground overgrown with tall grass. My girlfriend said that our friend was taking us to meet her American artist friend. She said she was very impressed with his paintings. He was also from California, so naturally she thought I should meet him. I said why not. Nadja pushed the buzzer and I continued shooting. I’ve never been a fan of dropping in on people unannounced. And I don’t like it when they do the same to me. I like pre-arranged fun. But I was following the leader, so gate crash we did.

 
I heard Nadja shout “WHAT?!!? I CAN’T BELIEVE!!!” A middle aged woman stood on her second floor balcony with a red-headed girl of around 7. The woman said the artist had died of a heart attack last week. It was unexpected and the man was only 42. I heard the girl say “mein papa ist tot.” Nadja was emotional. She said that she couldn’t understand it. The girl, upon hearing Nadja speaking English, simply clarified: “my papa is dead.”  I felt like I had swallowed a brick.

These are the kind of moments when perspective smacks you square in the face and all of the little things you bitched about all week—late trains, bad lunches, flat beer—seem like a complete waste of breath.  I suddenly felt self-conscious of the fact that I had a camera around my neck. I put my camera back in the bag. I said I was sorry. I’ve never liked the failure of English language to express any real emotion. All I could say was “I’m sorry.” Why? I didn’t kill the guy. But all you can say when someone has lost somebody close is “I’m sorry.” That’s what you say when a mourning woman and her young child are looking down on you from a 2nd floor balcony of the flat of a dead artist. And then you walk away.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Nazi Freedom in Berlin

Stepping Out for Donuts, Running Into a Wall of Cops

MAY 1, 2010, 15:00    It is now the fourth hour of the lockdown. I cannot leave my own street in Prenzlauer Berg because a bunch of fucking bonehead Nazis have the freedom to march in our fine, leafy, breeder-ridden streets. And the cops protect them. And all of this in a country where Nazism is technically illegal. Apparently there’s a bureaucratic form for everything, even illegal activities. Just sign the appropriate forms and you can waste police money and time for any asinine belief system you follow. Sure, they can’t wear the swastika. Nope, they can’t do the ‘zieg heil.’ But what the hell does it all mean when they can just wear black and obtain permission to walk the streets anyway? It’s as if a group of child rapists got to walk down the street freely and proudly. As long as the cops don’t see any child rape t-shirts on them and they don’t rape a child directly in front of them, alles gut. Same logic, different lowlife.


I saw there was nothing to eat in my flat and naturally I thought of going out to grab myself a fistful of lard-and-fake-fruit-sugar ecstasy as any Dunkin’ Berliner would do. So I stepped out to find a fence at the end of my street with a wall of cops in riot gear behind it. They weren’t letting anyone through—unless they were on their way home and they showed the cops their id with their address on it. We waited. I snapped pics of cops in various bored poses. At least I was able to take their pictures without having my skull tenderized by batons. Try taking a picture of a cop in America and see if you don’t wake up in the hospital with your camera up your ass.

 
We waited some more. We walked up and down the streets and saw that we were blocked in from all exit points. A friend of mine called me to see if I was going to Kreuzberg for the Annual May First Anarchy March and Yuppie Vehicle Roast.  I said I couldn’t go as I was locked down. My friend asked what I was going to do and all I could think of was raiding the police vans in search of stray donuts. There MUST be a box of Berliners in one of those riot vans.

 
I finally managed to obtain a Snickers Bar and a bottle of Sternburg beer from the only shop open within the police blockade. They had no real food and definitely no donuts, so I grabbed the bottle and the candy and walked down the street trying to blend in with all the other helpless victims of Nazi atrocity. One old drunk was babbling like a village idiot to each and every passerby. At one point he even took his drunken diatribe to the police line. They just laughed at him and rolled their eyes. The cops had special pockets in their riot vests for their juice drinks and apfel schorle. How cute. The drunk? Only a bottle of Sternburg*, no special pockets. No wonder he was ridiculed.

*This Dunkin’ Berliner blog post was brought to you by Sternburg Export Bier aus Leipzig. Discriminating Berliners who know strong, cheap beer choose Sternburg Export. Mmmm, Sternburg….. not just for drunken punks anymore.

Photos copyright Dunkin' Berliner

Friday, April 23, 2010

Animals on the Grass

Last weekend I found myself lying in the barely-dried spring grass along the riverfront stretch of Treptower Park. Lots of other critters broke out of their winter caves and sprawled out in the sun in the grass in the park on the waterfront in Berlin. Dogs, ducks, swans, punks, breeders, children, joggers, drunks and sausage vendors all broke out of their zoos and hit the open air last weekend. God DAMN, Berlin winters are long. But so are the Prague ones, so after 10 years spent there I should be used to 6 months of cold, gray, frozen hovno/sheise weather. It makes me appreciate the sun even more when I don’t see it for several months.

The shack shutters were flung open and wares were peddled. Bier und bratwurst, ja, but more mysterious foodstuffs could be had by the brave—or locals from a very specific mountain range in Germany specializing in snacks with names like ‘Niedersachsenisch Kugelfliegeln’ or ‘Thuringer schweinenkrustenbraten.’ Of course I made these names up because I can’t remember the original names of the mystery meats. But trust me, unless you wear lederhosen you would have no fucking idea what this food was. We looked at it. We smelled it. We STILL had no clue.

We had our bottles of cheap beer by the river’s edge; me, my girl, the dog and her brother. The brother was sprawled out on the grass wearing the previous night’s hangover like a cement trench coat. The dog watched the swans with curiosity. Or hunger. That little bastard will eat ANYTHING. Couples giggled and smooched on blankets several meters from us even though we had tried to escape such obvious teenage tomfoolery to get down to the serious business of sun-soaking and suds-sipping.
With the river and the sun and the cloudless sky overhead, I welcomed Spring along with all the other animals on the grass.



photos by Dunkin' Berliner

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Accidental Urbex


As long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated with ruins. Medieval castle ruins, crumbling chateaux, or ivy-buried cemeteries seem to call out to me to enter and explore. My main purpose for the exploration was always photographic—to capture the phases of decay. Why? Because decay and decomposition are beautiful. No, I do not wear all black clothing and guyliner. I just happen to think that the aesthetics of ruin is visually and viscerally appealing. Perhaps it’s a statement on our impermanence—and of that which we design and build. Eventually, the Earth takes it all back.

A group of us in Berlin get together in a photography ‘club’ of sorts and explore. We have hit various small German towns and villages as well as miscellaneous Berlin sites and have taken thousands of pics. I’ve noticed that there are those of us who tend to favor the more dilapidated industrial, military and medical sites that have come across our field of view: an abandoned sanatorium in the countryside, a former Cold War listening post or a disused airfield. While we were planning our next outing into a former-Soviet-something-or-other, a new voice chimed in on the bulletin board, one who claimed to be into photography and Urbex. I had to look that one up. An urban explorer is one who enters, creeps, crawls and explores all that is unseen to the average human eye. Many of them take pictures and many of them just like to crawl around in the muck. I am of the former group, as crawling in muck is impractical for a man of my bulk. Some carry bags of spelunking gear and galoshes; I’m often seen in sandals and a Hawaiian shirt with a camera around my neck. Call me the Urban Tourist.
On all of our trips I am the last guy out. I probably slow the group down with my need to explore every corner of the places we conquer. Most often I am found taking pics of peeling paint or rusty metal objects. I am simply fascinated by decay in extreme close up. I fear I may have to purchase a macro lens if this keeps up. On each trip, either shouts from the group urging me to keep up--or my fear of being left behind in a village with no bus service--will eventually pry me from the crumbling decay of the past and back to the quiet bustle of the streets of Berlin.


photos by Dunkin' Berliner

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Napalm Wings of Death

Not a Swedish heavy metal band. Not a Viet Nam veterans group. Not just another bar in Europe serving ‘spicy’ pub grub. The napalm wings at The Bird bar in Berlin will kick you in the face and watch you drag your bleeding ass away.

The Irish barman working at The Bird warned me.  But I insisted on calling his bluff: “Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all before, yer wings are fuckin’ spicy.” He looked at me dead in the face and said, “No. I’m not bullshitting you. People have run out of here crying. Bigger Americans than you.”
Challenge given. Challenge accepted. I told him that I hoped they weren’t the usual soggy chicken wings soaked in ketchup and onions like all the other goddamnmotherfuckineuropeanpussyass establishments I’ve been to in the last 12 years. He smiled.
You may challenge the barman but never challenge the cook. Perhaps my bravado met with a surreptitious scrawl on the food order: ‘kill this cocksucker with the sauce.’

Usage of fire in warfare has a long history; thickened burning compositions proved their advantages.

The chicken wings appeared on a plate of deep blood red sauce. I could smell it from the time it hit the bar in front of me. The usual shrunken, folded chicken meat served in every American bar. I took the tiniest nibble from the first wing and

The firebombing raids on German cities, e.g. Hamburg, frequently caused death by this mechanism; the resulting deformation to the baked corpses was referred to as Bombenbrandschrumpfleichen (incendiary-bomb-shrunken bodies).

My lips burned, followed by the tongue and throat. I gulped my beer and waited for the after burn. It came, it saw, it kicked my ass. I looked at my girlfriend and coughed and spewed ‘honey, you REALLY don’t want to even TOUCH these with your pinky finger.’

"Napalm is the most terrible pain you can imagine," said Kim Phúc, a napalm bombing survivor known from a famous Vietnam War photograph. "Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius. Napalm generates temperatures of 800 to 1,200 degrees Celsius.


I am well experienced in the fine art of eating death-dealing spicy foods in the real Mexican restaurants of any Californian city and the Indian hole-in-the-wall curry houses of London. So this culinary assault went well beyond what I was expecting. I didn’t believe it was real even in the midst of my pain, so I asked the barman to explain to me how they could serve something so insulting to the customers. He hauled out a small black glass bottle and said that he knows an Indian woman who comes in and adds the contents of the black spice vial ON TOP OF the blood red napalm death swimming in front of me. Then he said that the guys sitting to my left were also partaking of the Evil Napalm Death Wings. I couldn’t believe that they had served this blatant culinary fuck you to other guests. What did we do to this barman?

Napalm is suitable for use against dug-in enemy personnel. The burning incendiary composition flows into foxholes, trenches and bunkers, and drainage and irrigation ditches and other improvised troop shelters.

I held my plate up to theirs and said ‘WAITAMINIT!! Your sauce is only brownish red while mine is BLOOD RED!!!’

The two guys seated to my left swore their sauce was just as evil as mine. I swore theirs looked pale brownish red while mine most definitely had come directly from the fiery colon of Satan. But bar lighting is tricky at best. I couldn’t tell what was what and I was still on fire from the first taste. The two guys were from Moscow. Of course. The classic Cold War rivals side by side with only two plates of fire to unite them. I asked them if in their frozen wasteland of a home they had any experience with a hot mouthful of burning death like the ones we were chawin’ on at the moment and they said

In the early 1950s, Norway developed its own napalm, based on fatty acids in whale oil. The reason for this development was that the American-produced thickening agent performed rather poorly in the cold Norwegian climate. The product was known as Northick II

“No!!! What the hell is this stuff? I offered the Russians some of the carrot sticks I had procured from the barman to soothe my burning tongue and fiery lips. One of the Russians walked quickly away and I asked his comrade what was up with his friend. “Oh, he touched his face with fiery fingers.”

The Bird is a New York style bar. This means there are signs saying ‘fuck you’ and other welcome mats in postcard form. The Louisville Slugger bat is also poised behind the bar to add to the Tough City Bar image. I managed to flag down a guy who I suspected was one of the NYC proprietors of the bar. He said he was the manager and I asked him if he would like to try one of the Napalm wings on my plate. “Nope” and he was gone. I kept eating the hot burning coals until Satan had left. The Russians had disappeared as well. A girl behind the bar wearing an Elvis shirt asked me if I was finished. I had 2 pieces remaining from the original six. Seeing that the Russians had left, I smacked my hand on the bar and said ‘NO MAS!!!’

It’s now just around midnight. I handled the heaviest spice I’ve ever had in Europe. No big deal. But what worries me is that I still have to get up tomorrow and face the Burning Ring of Fire.

P.S. If you are CRAZY enough to try the Napalm Wings O' Death, a word to the wise:  wash your hands thoroughly BEFORE you go to the toilet.  TRUST ME on this one.   : o

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Return of Lo Fi

In the dusty cobwebs of childhood memory I recall first hearing the term ‘hi fi.’ The audio buzz was circulating around the schoolyard, kids talking about their parents’ new ‘hi fi stereo systems.’ Some rich kids, no doubt. High fidelity stereos were not cheap. Most kids’ parents had shitty mono systems with shitty mono records playing at home. But the buzz was in the air and everyone wanted to hear the hi fi. One day a kid captured a bee in a school lunch milk carton and ran up to me and shook it up, pressing it to my ear. The bee buzzed and thumped against the inside of the milk carton angrily as the kid yelled ‘TRAN ZIS TOE RADIO!’ He was no doubt a poor white trash kid like me who was inventive out of necessity; mother didn’t own a hi fi.

In the dusty columns of the Berlin U bahn the kids run around with their mobile phones blasting lo fi mono noise in what appears to be technology gone full circle. Mobile phones are the ‘in’ device for today’s crack smoking yoots. The damn things have radios and tiny speakers in addition to cameras and internet. But rather than spend 300 EURO on a decent ghetto blaster to hoist proudly on their shoulders to share their noise pollution, they buy a mobile phone and blast their hideous music at full volume through the tiniest speaker known to man. I remember the good old days when the yoots would pollute our fair air with bumping, thumping hip hop cooked up in low riding trucks and slung through 1000 watt speakers into the night air. Actually, that is a bit of an understatement. It KICKED through the metal side panels and rattled rivets and screws of the body of whatever poor Nissan or Toyota mule bore the huge musical burden. And they shook the cars next to them. The police issued tickets for noise pollution. Those were the days.
Now BVG (Berlin public transport) has signs on the U bahn trains. The signs feature a cartoon woman who looks like she ran off the set of ‘Run Lola Run’ directly into the unemployment office. With her official uniform, shock red hair and exasperated look, she touts a different message in each sign; such pearls of wisdom as ‘the seats are not garbage dumps,’ ‘don’t eat on the train,’ or ‘travel only with a valid ticket.’ Common sense shit for the white trash of Berlin (and there is a LOT of white trash in Berlin; hmm, subject for future blogs and/or government study money/cash cow). My favorite of all of Lola’s Ten Commandments has to be ‘Ein handy ist kein lautsprecher,’ or ‘a mobile phone is not a loudspeaker.’ Clearly this was meant for those unfortunate yoots whose parents saddled them with a mobile phone rather than a mini hi fi system with headphones. And they are everywhere, sitting and giggling and spazzing out with some dumbass drivel like Whitney Spears blasting through the tiny speakers of the mobile phones clutched in their sweaty, pimply hands. Usually it’s one phone per group of 6 yoots. Poor bastards.

One of the joys of getting older is complaining about the miserable, uncouth youth of today. I don’t do that. Instead I pity them. They gather in small circles with their single shitty speaker and socialize in U bahn trains. “Why in my day….” I pumped up the volume in my $500 car with the $2000 hi fi stereo. Sometimes I even curled up in the back seat with a babe and a beer. Those were the days. The yoots of today? Poor bastards.