Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hochlander Fünf: Die Hoffnung

Or “David Hasselhoff Returns to Berlin Lookin’ For Freedom”

Thank the tiki gods; the Hoff is on the case.  Just when all Berliners had lost hope, just when the Evil Capitalist Swine were about to tear down a protected (nod wink) historical monument, aka East Side Gallery—the Hoff swooped down from the sky like a hawk to save our dignity and maybe even our Berliner jelly donuts.

The man is all about dignity.  Sure, his hero’s cape is stained with (hamburgers, beer and puke) the excess of his slow decline into the dustbin of kitsch pop culture history. Yes, he talked to a car in a tv series.  Sure, he ran slo mo on fictitious beaches watching bouncing breasts as his mostly teen audience watched his bouncing belly.  Und jawohl! He sang in German on stage to throngs of squealing mädchens.  He also wore a sparkling lounge lizard suit at the Berlin Wall in 1989 and sang ‘Lookin’ For Freedom.’  And that’s all you need to know.

I’ll take any hero I can get.  Because the gentrification war is not being won by anyone but the Usual Suspects, Those Who Hold All the Cards: The Man.  I’ve read the comments on the news forums.  Nerdy lawyers types suggest that all property is for sale to the highest bidder—who have the right to do whatever they see fit with that property. On the other extreme, drugged out party kids want to have techno raves and free love on the former Death Strip behind the wall.  And the rest of us wonder just how in the fuck the status of a public historical monument can be sold for a few million to shortsighted investors.

I’m just going to come out and say it:  Berlin tourism ain’t all dat.  With the exception of a handful of architectural pieces of antiquity and a few trendy neighborhoods, Berlin is just a vast expanse of disco dance floor space waiting to be filled with a vast expanse of empty heads looking to bob those heads in/on ecstasy.  These poor but sexy kids dance the night away while their parents sell the few meager scraps of heritage left.

The excitement of an ever-changing, culturally evolving city is quashed and quelled by simple, stupid, base profit motive.  The East Side Gallery / Berlin Wall monument is number 2 on the list of tourist attractions.  Brandenburg Gate is number 1.  I don’t even know what the others are, there are so few left.  War razed Berlin, developers raped Berlin.  High rise luxury condos in Berlin are about as out of place as high rise luxury apartments in Warsaw. The end most certainly does not justify the fucking means.  And the mean fucks are fucking Berlin. Meanly.

An aging icon girds loins for war.  Stained and stigmatized, our icon finds renewed hoffnung (hope) decades after the shame, the derision and the controversy.  The icon has been cleaned up, propped up and presented to the masses. Some want to forget the aging icon and bury all associated memories at the end of its heyday in the 80s.

But the Hoff and the Berlin Wall are still standing.  For now.

UPDATE: The fuckers managed to steal (for it is theft clear and simple) 3 more sections from the wall before I could write and upload this story.  Either I need to speed up or developers need to slow the fuck down.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Brandenburger WHORE

Or How the Berlin Bear Opened its Butt Cheeks to Corporate Cock

There’s a limit to my patience.  Sure, I was forced to move out of P’berg by greedy landlords—and now I haven’t had my favorite Berliner pfannkuchen mit kirsch for over a MONTH.  But now They have gone too far.  The day that a world class city like Berlin decides to sell its famous historical landmarks to make way for luxury yuppie scum condos is a sad day indeed.  The East Side Gallery section of the Berlin Wall may be marked with little metal plaques proclaiming it to be a historical monument, but that shouldn’t deter would be corporate raiders.  If you are a large investment company looking for the next big bubble economy to rape and pillage, well, pilgrim, the Berlin Bear is ready and willing to love you long time.

And like any discreet whore, Berlin is not your average Tiergarten variety bang-em-against-the-bin-in-the-alley crack ho, no sir.  The Berlin Bear may have always been poor but sexy, wearing its saggy Russian dancing bear tutu with shame while it desperately tried to leap through the hoops of progress, but fear not: times they are a’changin’.  For a few million, not only will the Berlin Bear do a little dance, make a little love and get down tonight—you get total control over the zoo.

On the eve of March 1st, sneaky little bastard developers removed a piece of the Berlin Wall monument in the middle of the night.  By 9am the next morning, hundreds of protestors and media (including one pissed off dunkin’ berliner) brought the whole destruction to a standstill by sheer force of will.  The cops were not afraid.  They brought enough of them.   At the end of the day, it’s awfully difficult to do your job as a construction/destruction worker when hundreds of people are screaming at you.  It causes the jackhammer to fall from trembling fingers.

I’d like to say I got some juicy pics of the Berlin Bear doing its dirty deeds with the Men in Suits in a seedy alleyway somewhere.  But I only got protest photos. The dirty shit was done behind closed doors.  When confronted by the media, the duplicitous bear trainers and tutu cleaners (aka city honchos) simply stated that the owners of the site (developers) had the legal right to do what they wanted to the monument.  Waitamotherfuckingminute.  The DDR commies built and owned the Berlin Wall.  After the fall of communism, the Wall was owned by the State.  So how in the hell did a public/government owned landmark come to be up for sale to the corPIRATES?

The East Side Gallery restoration group spent millions of euros of EU money on the complete restoration and renovation of this particular stretch of the Berlin Wall.  They even invited back the original mural artists who had left their marks and messages of freedom emblazoned on the wall 20 years before.  Acid rain and graffiti wore heavy on the concrete barrier, and during the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (2009), the renovation was completed in a gala ceremony.  Hell, I even spent several months making a photo documentary on the whole process.

And there’s the rub.  As a photographer I can take photos of people painting on walls.  As a writer I can make frequent and flippant usage of the some of the most offensive Anglo-Saxon words on offer.  But how can I photograph and write about the largest invisible city killer out there?  Berlin is gentrifying at an alarming rate.  Every time I move to a new flat, the rent DOUBLES.  Either that or there are 30 people waiting outside the door of the flat for a group viewing.

The Berlin Bear was beaten by its cruel Russian handlers for decades. They starved it, poked it, dressed it in a pink tutu and forced it to ride a bicycle.  Any normal wounded animal would bite back.  Instead, this old bear, poor and helpless without its old master, dragged its battered ass and tattered tutu in search of a new master.