Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bush Meets Merkel, Gets Bitch Slapped

Or How I Imagine The Conversation Went

“It’s okay, George….the doors have been sealed for our protection and privacy,” Chancellor Merkel assured.

“Uh….yeah…uh…well. heh. You see, Ms. Merkel, it’s like this: I’m not sure I trust a country that said ‘Fuck you’ to America when we needed you.”

“All of your SS agents are outside guarding you, just as mine are. Would you like some tea? Or maybe something stronger, like a….how do you say? …Jack on the Rocks?”
“Well, thank yuh….I just might do that—ah mean, drink that.”

“Coming right up! Anything for a freund, right George?”

“I’m used to people calling me ‘Mr. President,’ Ma’am.”

“Of course you are, Mr. George, of course you are. And rightly so.”

“Why did you ask me here?”
“It’s because you say you are a Christian, George.”

“Of course I am! Who’s sayin’ ahm not?!”

“Nobody, George, nobody!”

“Well, Angie….uh, can ah call you that, Ms. Merkel?”

“That’s Angela, or MRS. Merkel, to you, Mr. George.”

“Why don’t you call me ‘Mr. President’ like everyone else?”
“Well, I think that’s not the important thing right now---by the way, how’s your Jack?”
(taking a gulp) “Heh! That’s the ticket! Nothin’ like a taste o’ home.”

“Good, George! I’m glad we can be of service to our freund in America.”

“Look, I’d be much obliged if one of my boys was in here with us, y’know what uh mean?”

“You fancy boys, Mr. George?”

“Whaddaya mean? Ahm talkin’ about muh boys in the secret service!”

“Oh, of course, your SS boys. Like I said, they are waiting outside. Shall I get them some Jack Rocks as well, Mr. George?”

“Look, Merkel…uhhh….you cain’t scare a Texan with all this Euro-Femi-nazi….crap! I know Germans voted for you, and prob’ly some Frenchies as well. But they said you was a CHRISTIAN, GOD DAMMIT!”

“George, you’re upset. Take a drink.”
(gulping) “Ahhhh. Right. Like ah wuz sayin…”

“You want to know why I asked you here, George?”

“Uh, now would be the time, Merkel honey. Heh”

“Well, after you invited me to your ranch and shoveled all that beef down my neck, I had to return the favor.”

“You got beef for me?”

“Not exactly.”

“Heh! Not that it would hold a, y’know, candle to Texas beef!”
“Of course not, George. We have no beef with Texas. Here we deal strictly in schwein. Schwein of the highest quality.”

“Well, let’s pork!”
“Whatever do you mean, George?”
“Let’s get animal! Physical! Ah wanna get ANIMAL! Let’s get into animal, lemme hear yer body talk, body talk!”

“I’m calling the SS boys in now, George. You are acting strange.”
“NO!!! NOT THE SS!!! Uhhh. Wait... Yours or mine….heh heh”

“I’m going to tell you something you are not going to want to hear, George.”

“The fact is, George, you are about to be replaced by a black man. Yes, it terrifies you. A good old Texas boy like you, sure it does. But they are taking over the world. One nation at a time. I just spoke with him last week and—“

“—NOT HIM! Tell me yer not talkin’ bout HIM!”

“—that’s right, George, I’m talking about Mr. Barack Obama.”


“George, you’re being silly! Nobody can come in here! I told you that. And we are not in your little Oval Office.”


“Of course, George, we know that. Take another drink. Here, have the whole bottle.”

(glug glug glug) “Ahhhh. That’s better. Yuh got any coke, Angie?”

“Ein Coca Cola? Sure! One mome-“

“NO! I meant the white powdery refreshment, baby cakes.”

“Now George, my Christian Democratic Party wouldn’t approve of me giving the U.S. President anything other than bier, bratwurst, pretzels, or Jack Rocks.”

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Secret Tiki Bar

Voodoo Drinks and Pagan Idolatry
in the Lush Jungles of Berlin

It’s an underground thang. The owner specifically told me not to blog about his bar. This after he had poured me some of the best cocktails I’ve ever had. This after my friend had snapped a pic of my outrageous Tiki bowling shirt with the hula-girl-grass-skirt-party on my back. How did he know I was a blogger? “What if I were to say something like ‘there’s a Tiki bar in Berlin, but I don’t say where it is?” The owner seemed to accept this proposal for the time being. Then I asked him to explain why it was so important that customers NEVER FIND HIS BAR. I’m always open to new ways of marketing in troubled economic times. I also respect the idea that some people just don’t want to work to make a living. Because, y’know, like, customers are like, so lame. They make you work and make drinks and stuff. But this was not the case with the Big Kahuna at the Secret Tiki Bar. He was pouring and shaking and measuring up a storm. Good Tiki drinks take time and effort to make.

I told him the secret was already out—at least a few clues. He asked me how and why. I needed another drink. Then he could ply me with his questions. The next drink was what my granny would call ‘a doozy’ if she drank. The mixmeister said it was a creation from LA in the golden era of Tiki bars, when said bar was surrounded by Tiki bars and said bar needed a drink to compete with them. A rum drink, to boot, and strong. He said the name at least 3 times but all I can remember is this: it was strong. It had lots of rum and a strong bite with a blackberry pucker. He makes all his drinks from memory. Why? Because he is a professional. The man runs a bar in a space you will never find if you walk by five times in a row. If you got the address from a very clever Tiki bar website, you would STILL walk by the place. It has no markings whatsoever on the outside of the building. If you pressed your face on the dirty glass of the abandoned storefront hiding the bar, you wouldn’t see much; maybe a shadow moving in the back amid shafts of dim lighting. You would probably think it was just a hoax or bad info.

“I just don’t want large groups coming in here,” the owner said, “I’m trying to cater to the locals and my regulars. I don’t need big groups of drunks coming here to fill the space.” Well, that was an understatement. Ten people could fill the space. A friend of mine had a home Tiki bar in the basement of his Prague flat. It was only a little bit smaller.

“What about the front space?” my drinking partner added, “You could easily add tables and chairs and….”

“I just don’t want to do it,” The Man proclaimed. Well, it was his bar. Why have menus when you have the whole shebang in your head? Why have customers banging on your door when you have 6 feverish locals who can pay you a few bucks a night? Why have the hassles of more customers? The Big Kahuna added that he welcomes die hard Tiki bar fans and locals rather than drunken college kids. (If any freaky Tiki people are reading this, I’ll be happy to give you the address of The Secret Tiki Bar. But you really have to be freaky about Tiki; I mean with a profile on Tiki Central Dot Com and Tiki mugs in your house).

The Secret Tiki Bar’s mojo is working and the camouflage is in full effect. Before we got there that night I nearly walked by the bar again. I had been there a few times before, once by myself, once with another friend, and this time with a different friend. We walked in the snow for a while and I nearly lost him in it. When we finally got there and pushed through the dark façade into the inner sanctum of the Berlin Tiki gods in the ultimate unrecognized underground Tiki bar, my friend said, “I’m impressed!”

And I guess that’s the point.

Tiki shirt photo by Niall O'Hara

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

One Year as a Berliner Jelly Donut

Today I made it: one year in Berlin. As a 12 year American refugee in Europe, I find that making it in a new country for a year is something special. In my case, this is only the second time I’ve done it. The first time was in Prague (where I stayed for 10 years with the odd interruption) and now here in Berlin. I lived in several other countries for 6 months each, no big deal, really.

I’ve decided that the best way to celebrate this anniversary is by gorging on Berliner jelly donuts. I plan to hit at least 3 bakeries and sample at least one Berliner from each one in order to give my palate a wide diversity of deep fried lard and sugar.

Now this isn’t as easy as it seems. For one, Real Live Berliner Jelly Donuts are as much of an urban myth as was JFK’s Ich Bin Ein Berliner speech. I imagine an authentic Berliner to look like something in my blog header: big, round, fluffy, sugar coated, oily and fairly oozing fruity goo out the side. Unfortunately I’ve been getting a lot of impostors at most Berlin bakeries. The ubiquitous pfannkuchen, which APPEARS to be a Berliner, is merely stuffed with sour plum sauce. Ewww. They do have other varieties, but sadly, either the filling is fake cream or the donut is smothered in thick, white icing made of pure sugar—which completely destroys the flavor of whatever meager bits of jam might be inside.

In order to embark on my romping, rollicking, culinary tour de force, I needed to do some research: Google by Thy Name. After some very precise search terms (‘where in the hell does a ninja get a REAL Berliner jelly donut in Berlin?’), I found this person’s blog post on the subject. I must thank the person for the hints. I had no idea that a 100 year old Berlin bakery was just down my street. I should get out more. I decided to more or less follow their list, omitting the bakeries in West Berlin for obvious reasons (well, if they’re not obvious, make some up; I ain’t got time to school ya).

Siebert bakery on Schoenfliesser str. 12 is at LEAST 100 years old. You can tell by the old, bent and twisted black pans on which the bakery items were displayed. This must be for A) the appearance of an Old School Bakery; or B) for the old ‘flavor’ the saturated iron gives the pastries. I joined a queue of at least 8 people waiting for their baked goods. Since it was after 11am, this was a good sign that all the fresh stuff wouldn’t be gone by 8am or some other ungodly hour. It reminded me of the lines of people outside the Paris bakeries, only without the Parisians. I judged by the line stretching outside Siebert’s that this is where the Berliners go. I saw the ubiquitous pfannkuchen mit pflaumenmus (nasty plum filling) and avoided it. I pointed and mimed and managed to get a CHERRY filled donut. It was a glazed donut rather than my preferred powdered sugar one, but I munched away. Mmmmm! Thousands of Germans over a hundred years were right!

I limited myself to one donut (a Herculean task) and plodded on through the snow to the next place. I’m not at all complaining about the ice and snow. All the snow flakes on my coat covered up a multitude of donut glaze sins. And when you are pigging out in Berlin, you must LOOK GOOD. Krautzig (Uh-HUH huh) Konditorei was just down the road on Schoenhauser Allee 126. Once again, the tired old sour kraut, er, sour plum filling. I asked if they had pfannkuchen ohne pflaumenmus (donut without nasty ass plum sauce), and they said NEIN! Side note: the list on the blog mentioned above says there are many names for donuts (including ‘Berliner Ballen’ and ‘krapfen.’ I cannot order either of those with a straight face under any circumstances), so perhaps I was missing the Berliner donut train by not asking for a Berliner specifically by name. But when ordering a ‘Berliner’ in Berlin there is always the off chance that they will trot out a drunken punk swinging a bottle of Sternburg. So I left the premises at once.

I had exhausted all my neighborhood bakeries on previous visits. Now I boarded to U bahn to head to the center for the next on the list: Thuermann bakery, Karl-Liebknecht-str. 9. I don’t like the wide open spaces of Alexander Platz because I am ALWAYS on the wrong side of the street. After walking for about 500 meters I found Thuermann. It was a proper sit down café/bakery establishment, which means they would have overpriced crap coffee and marginally decent baked goods. But at this point I needed my second donut and a coffee, pronto. Also it was -5 outside. The donut was decent, glazed, but filled with strawberry jam. It was light, fluffy and edible. The coffee was crap. I hate being right.

As I was brushing the snowflakes and donut glaze off my overcoat I wondered where I would get my third donut. The remaining bakeries on the Google list were in West Berlin. Screw that. So I was trudging, trying not to slip slide away, looking down at the ground, when I saw THE SIGN: a crumpled Dunkin’ Donuts bag lay at my feet. I looked up and my head jerked around (this was partially due to heavy doses of sugar and crap coffee). There MUST be a DD somewhere nearby. Germans would NEVER carry their litter too far from the source before dropping it. So, like a donut munching bloodhound, I proceeded back to Alexander Platz. I figured the DD would be inside the train station, as many of them are. I was right. This Dunkin’ Berliner was close to home: overpriced, overly sugary donuts from my homeland. I entered and they had a whopping selection. By not farting around with bread and pretzels, this place could provide the highest chance for me to get what I wanted. Yes, I was previously looking for a Real Berliner donut. Yes, the person in the blog had to wear dark shades and skulk in to DD to get theirs, but I’ll be DAMNED if I’m gonna spend a whole day chasing donuts. I have drinking planned. So I noticed that they charge 1.30 EU for ONE stinking donut. Since this was nearly double what the Berliner bakeries charged, I decided that there was only one possible choice: get a 6 pack! It was only 5.49 EU! Cheaper by the dozen! So I lumbered home with my pirate’s booty (as in TREASURE booty, sicko) and opened the box. There they were, bright blue(?), dark brown and puffy white. I no longer cared about my mission. After all, Dunkin’ is the name of this blog, so I was having a fairly narcissistic moment as I reached for the most decadent in the lot: blueberry with blue icing. This one donut alone could do me in. Eating 6 overpriced donuts from an international chain could result in me needing to pursue overpriced, non-nationalized healthcare after the resulting coronary. I live on the edge, so I jammed the bright blue slab of sugar into my gaping maw and shuddered. It wasn’t from the cold.

Friday, January 1, 2010


Sorry. I wasn’t going to talk about Sour Krauts until well into the New Year. I figured that unleashing one blatantly anti-German slur in one year was enough (see: ‘Deutschbag’). But the bitter old DDR commie biddies wouldn’t stop bitching and moaning and screaming as if someone had shot their dog. And now that I’ve picked up a few German words, now whenever I hear some tired old repressed bag of Deutsch scream in public about something someone is doing ‘to offend them,’ the bitching seems to be closer to home.

I’m no stranger to bitter biddies. The absolute Queen of Bitch has to be, hands down, old Czech women. In the morning they slam their shopping carts into young and old in order to get to the bread bin with cheap rohliky (bread rolls), and then proceed to plow through the stale bread on top to get to the apparently better bread on the bottom. Elbows fly. Occasionally harsh words are spat through yellow dentures. They get their bread and then board the local transport to displace all the poor bastards on their way to work. They whip out their Old Retired Commie Bitch I.D. and scream at people to give them their rightful seat. I have seen them actually hit people with their canes and scream curse words that American truck drivers from the Deep South haven’t yet learned. And their poor lives are so hard that getting a free flat from the government and a meager pension is cruelty to them. So they take it out on the rest of us.

Back to the DDR biddies: same worm-ridden dry old husk of a rotten brain in a shrunken skull, different language. But the body language is the same. Enter: yoots. I use the word ‘yoot’ a lot in my blog. For those unfamiliar with derisive New England slang, yoot means youth. But I’m not from New England. Maybe they just can’t say ‘youth.’ Anyway, yoots enter. They enter and proceed to do what yoots do everywhere on Earth. To whit, they make noise. They laugh, have fun, drink and generally enjoy life. This pisses off Old Commie Biddy to no end. Her life is nearly over. She remembers the Good Old Commie days when yoots shut the fuck up and gave their Commie elders their due respect. Not any more. With the advent of global freedom, strapping young yoots with Mohawks need not take any shit from the system, the cops, the government and certainly not from some tired old Commie relic with antiquated delusions of grandeur.

I ignored most of the biddies’ minor misdemeanors this year because I had seen worse in Prague. This year I largely ignored them as they yelled at dog owners who let their dogs run free, screamed at people in markets for no apparent reason, or the usual spitting at all things younger. But today I understood that there is a certain type of biddy who is beyond redemption. She unleashes her foul Commie stench in a familiar way, but with a uniquely Deutschbagischer way: Rules. The Sour Kraut isn’t content to watch idly as rambunctious yoots desecrate her sanctimonious silence with their bacchanalian whoops of joie de vivre. Today I saw an old German woman yell at three obvious tourists with a camera. This took the cake. As a photographer, I am well aware that German people have way too much control over what photographers can do with their cameras. Even in public places. So when I heard this screeching Sour Kraut demanding that the tourists (from Spain or Italy, I couldn’t hear their speech, but they seemed to be Latin) produce their ausweis (I.D.).

“Are you the press?” She demanded more than questioned, “Show me your I.D. Otherwise FOTO VERBOTEN on public transport.”

The offending foreign yoot with the camera wasn’t even pointing it at the shriveled old Sour Kraut. He was simply photographing his lovely young lady, who was wearing a very nice black hat reminiscent of a Spanish matador or the equivalent Italian thang (if I knew anything about fashion and/or Italians and Spaniards). I followed the whole episode because that is what I do. I observe humans of various cultures in mundane daily routines and dip them into a bucket of ridiculous satire later in the evening after I’ve had my tipple. Eventually the three Latin yoots moved on down the train to another compartment in search of relative peace and freedom to snap pictures in pastoral urban scenery where the local goats don’t bleat so bitter. I wanted to stand up. I didn’t. I wanted to step forward as the Voice of Freedom and give her the tongue lashing she so desperately deserved. I wanted to scream in loud German that I haven’t yet learned: “Entschuldigen sie bitte, Frau Sour Kraut. I just overheard your conversation and you need to know that you are not only a Sour Kraut, but a Deutschebag as well. Your perfunctory and parsimonious performance in public suggests that you need to take a time out. In fact, you have obviously lived a long, productive Commie life in the factory producing metallic sheise for the glory of the dead empire. Now you have but two duties left: Sign the will and get into the Gott Damn Box.”