Sunday, December 14, 2014

The White Lights




I never thought I would celebrate Christmas again.  I put the kibosh on the whole charade 20 years ago.  I believe in neither God nor holiday capitalism, so what was the point?  A religious family which was dogging/godding me at every turn did not make for pleasant digestion, so I would spend my Eves at dive bars commiserating with the lonely barflies and spend my Days hung over.  The way it should be.

Then I got The Love, The Marriage and all dat.  My baby wants to celebrate Xmas, so why not?  Why let the Miserable Bastard ruin her Xmas?  This year she went completely Christmas crazy: baking dozens of batches of cookies in dozens of styles, combining ancient Czech recipes with ancient Google ones--and even rummaging through the forest for pine needles to make a hand made wreath.  I’m shocked.  In a good way.

Then came the Xmas lights. One day last week, a cheap handful of small colorful lights were dropped on my lap with the orders to hang them somewhere festive.  There they hang, in the side window of our garden cottage, just bright enough for the next door neighbors to witness our seasonal solidarity.

Then came the most unpleasant part, the ugly beast which I had sworn I had slain:  The Christmas Shopping.  You see, you can’t just have one of those fucking potato chips; you have to eat the whole bag.  Eight scrawny lights in the window weren’t enough.  We needed to bedazzle this bitch, apparently. Eight hours of shopping in at least 8 different places yielded the same result: no colored Xmas lights.  Apparently the colored lights hanging in our window were a one-off shopping deal at a small market.  Undaunted, our search raged on. We even ran the foul and frenetic gauntlet at IKEA with the other Saturday rats in the maze.  I don’t think IKEA makes a gazillion dollars because their pseudo-balsa-wood furniture is so goddamned chic.  They make a gazillion dollars because they FORCE you to walk through a sense-addling maze and view EVERY SINGLE FUCKING THING THEY SELL.  Even the ‘shortcuts’ are a ruse.  You just go back to another part of the maze you wanted to avoid.  You can’t get out of there without spending at least 50 EUR and that’s the trap.


We noticed a trend in Berlin; maybe it’s the same in the rest of Germany outside of our island of weird:  all of the Xmas lighting is white.  Try and try, walk and walk, bitch and bitch as I may, nobody had the goods.  When my baby asked the tall Aryan man in the IKEA vest where we could find colored xmas lights, he responded—in a loud and proud voice, I might add—“Nur weiss! (Only white!).



I’m not sure what is was that made that seem odd to me; maybe it was his blond hair, his blue eyes, or his square jaw hoisted in the air when he said ‘Only white!’ with pride.  White pride.  Or maybe I’m being paranoid.  Maybe it was the 8 hours on my feet with my goddamn dogs barking.  Maybe he did not in fact mean ‘You are here in Germany.  All we have to offer you are white lights.  Und you vill like zem.  Colored lights are for other countries with colorful persons and colorful personalities.’

You can have your xmas lights in any color you want--as long as it's WHITE.

But there is something weird going on here.  As we were dragging our defeated asses home with no lighting assets (and 10 EUR worth of IKEA shit we hadn’t planned on buying—HA-HA! We didn’t spend 50), we noticed that the very few houses on our block that had Xmas lights had only white ones.

Goddamn racist bastards.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

THREE STREIKS, YER OUT MUTTA FICKA

S-bahn Strikes Rip Berlin Apart, Piss Off Donut Munchers

 



I try to love the Berlin Bear in spite of all the damage it does me when it hugs.  It’s a love/hate thang.  I get dazzled by the tutu dance, and then suddenly I want to set fire to the fur and watch it dance the Watusi.

Twenty five years after the Bear kicked the Commies out, dropped a wall and reunified a nation, they still.  Have not.  Got their shit together.  In this particular case I am referring to the crippling S-bahn strikes (German: STREIK! with an exclamation, screamed aloud for effect).  I think this blog post might be the hat trick for the number of colossal fuckups perpetrated by the BVG, Deutsche Bahn and the S-bahn. 



Your transport ticket may cover all modes of transport in Berlin (S-bahn, U-bahn, trams and buses), but this in no way covers the frustration, anger, missed meetings and lost time encountered when one of these independent-and-oft-uppity modes of transit goes terribly awry.  I’m talking constant construction (often more than once on the same stretch of the same line—in the same year), delays, and sudden failures of a particular line on a weekly basis and the general breakdowns.  And that’s not even counting when the Umbrella Corp shuts down one branch under its own soggy roof for (I’m not making this up) failure to do weekly train wheel inspections.

German efficiency, my pimply white ass.



And the cheeky motherhumpers have the SACK to raise the ticket prices once or even twice a year for 5 years in a row.  If I had a goat to get, this would be what got it.  I have been tempted to ‘ride black’ (a nice little Germanism for riding without a ticket; probably with some inherent racsim) in protest, but this is a hard position to back up in the face of groups of ticket controllers in your face in a cramped metal box hurtling toward the next station—where Gestapo and dogs await.  They shake you down for money on the spot (especially and specifically if you are an ausländer).

What I suggest is this:  since there seems to be no end to the gross incompetence inherent in the Berlin transport system, we need to get together.  Solidarity, mein soldaten. I propose that we gather in groups the day after the next time they have a 3 or 4 day strike and ride en masse (to confuse them with French) and Schwarz (black as the Ace of Spades, baby).  When the Ticket Kontroll goose-steps up to us, we give them The Fury Finger.

When we are asked to meet the Gestapo and their canine backup barkers in the next station, we’ll hold up signs saying FAHRER STREIK! KEIN GELD FUR SCHWEIN! (Riders strike! No money for pigs!)

Maybe they’ll even treat us to the super soaker water cannon tanks they usually reserve for riots and/or unwashed punk rockers.

Note: the blogger lives in the Berlin hinterlands and the only transport services available to his cranky ass are S-bahn service and some slow-ass buses to rely upon.  That and he is middle aged and probably hormonal due to Manopause.

Image credit: Cat de Leon, painting 'Lucky Strike.'

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Swiss My Ass! Fear and Loathing at Zuri Faescht


(With a nod to the late Hunter S. Thompson)


“Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits — a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage.”
- Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas




We were circling somewhere between Basel and Zurich when the booze began to take hold.  I remember saying something like “I feel a bit light headed; maybe the Captain should land…” And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge advertisements for chocolate, uberexpensive watches and little red pocket knives with endless accessories; the plane screens flashed crass consumerism in cramped tin compartments hurtling in a 666 km/h descent on Zurich.  And a voice was screaming:  “Holy Jesus!  Who are these goddamn animals?”

We were greeted in grand style in the Swiss Airlines airport lounge.  And by ‘grand style’ I mean there were a half dozen of us in the lounge; none of the other feckless fools standing outside with their noses pressed against the glass were allowed in.  I pushed passed the greeting committee and went straight to the bar.  Singapore Sling?  NoLong IslandNo.  This was getting worse by the second.  Goddamn it, you swine!  I’m a doctor of journalism!  The barman poured me a white wine and I gave him a ‘this had better be chilled, or I’ll sick my Samoan attorney on you’ type of look.  It was.  So I didn’t. They dragged me out of the lounge after only 15 minutes and two rapidly swilled white wines. They pointed to their uberwatches and The Schedule.

There was no welcome wagon, no van and no minibus.  We were given a 3 day public transport ticket and taken to a crowded train.  I stuck my head into the Swiss Airlines swag bag and spied the little chocolates. There was a moment of chaos while the cabin pressure, the pre- mid- and post flight booze were wearing off, then a moment of clarity and a sudden burst of snorfling sounds as I sucked down the whole bagful of chocolate.  Next we had to transfer to a street tram to complete our journey to the hotel.   What kind of atavistic Hun made this schedule?

I was told by my editor to ‘be on my best behaviour.’  But since he included the British ‘u’ in what We Who Use the Modern English call ‘behavior,’ my inner attorney advised me that I had the perfect loophole to unleash the Gonzo Beast on these Chocolate Clock People.

We arrived at the hotel, a gaudy, modern monstrosity in a barren, treeless suburb.  There were strange, crudely drawn critters on the interior walls and a reception desk hidden beneath a godawful concrete stairway.  I started to see lizards crawling everywhere.  Then they wanted to put a lien on my credit card.  To cover the extras, they said.

“Extras?  What extras? Like room service?”
“We don’t have room service, sir.”

So I refused to give them my card.  How can a ninja go Gonzo and stagger around the hotel room with a snorkel full of Margarita if there are personal consequences?  After a spell, I got a pass from the Swiss Miss in Charge with a promise to only raid the mini bar if she was invited.  If only I had the time, Missy.  

I lugged my own bags into the room.  This was a ‘design hotel.’  Which meant you didn’t get room service, bellhops or any other of that other superfluous shit.  But you got a room with enough critters drawn on the walls to elicit the most heinous hallucinations and flashbacks. The only thing for it was to dive headfirst into the mini bar. The ‘mini bar’ had only two tiny bottles of beer and a huge amount of useless mineral water.  They were clearly fucking with me now.  Big mistake, Bubba.


Cocktails with True Grit

“But our trip was different. It was a classic affirmation of everything right and true and decent in the national character. It was a gross, physical salute to the fantastic possibilities of life in this country—but only for those with true grit. And we were chock full of that.”  - HST


After only 15 minutes at the hotel the cattle wrangler stuck the electric prod in.  We snapped to attention at the shock and were taken to meet our next guide.  His name was Marc and he was introduced to us as The King of Night Clubs.  I saw my chance.  Maybe this trip wouldn’t go completely tits up after all.

Marc welcomed us into a big dirt parking lot with stacks of shipping containers everywhere and a sign reading Frau Gerolds Garten.  He insisted it was an open air bar.  There were people seated on skip furniture laughing giddily with drinks in their hands, so I chose to believe him.  Minutes later we had two liters of Margarita in front of us, strawberry and raspberry.  He showed us the gardens from which the strawberries and raspberries had sprung and how the Swiss love nature blah blah blah.  I missed his speech while I was spitting a gob of fruit seeds into the bushes.  I wasn’t being rude; I was recycling.  Those seeds would take root and grow a Margarita plant one day…

We climbed up some makeshift steel stairs attached to the side of a huge shipping container.  On top of this was a smaller shipping container with the front cut out to make a bar and a large sun deck filled with many humans drinking.  Marc explained that the area was once a major industrial area full of warehouses and (apparently) shipping containers.  I looked around:  train station, warehouses and tall buildings. Yup, it looked exactly like Detroit in 1970.  I needed another drink. A line of gin and tonics appeared with sliced cucumbers and whole chunks of black pepper corns floating on top.  I horsed mine down and looked at my squeamish British compatriots.  What?  You don’t like flotsam and jetsam in your drinks?  I took the one slid over to me and horsed it down.


After leading us through liters of margaritas and ginormous amounts of gin and tonics, our fearless leader was showing signs of the drink; his tour jive started slowly sinking into complaints about the costs and hassles of running the bar.  “Why should I pay 30,000 EUR to make the bar containers fireproof?  I mean…they’re made of METAL…”  Marc mentioned that he was a lawyer.  “As your attorney I advise you to drink up and forget,” I offered.  “And don’t spare the gin, Jeeves.”

The evening continued very much in this manner, with Marc showing us one bar after the other.   At one point one of the Limeys mentioned the schedule.  And dinner.  Marc apologized for the lack of food at one of his river bars and ordered us some pizza.  “That’s ok, Marco,” I offered, “You don’t have to feed us.  You have to get us DRUNK!”  Those were apparently the magic words.  A whole bottle of gin, a bucket of ice, bottles of tonic and a cup of black peppercorns appeared.  The Limeys stared cross-eyed at the pepper.  The….horror. The…horror.  I reached for the bottle of gin and the ice.



Smoke on the Water (and Fire in the Sky)


After what seemed like a 10 mile walk, we wrapped up our evening with a fantastic fireworks show over Lake Zurich.  We flopped down on folding chairs flung against a wall of the Seebad Enge badi bar: a day time lake / swimming pool throws the hip waders and kiddy toys into a shed and rolls out the booze barrels at night.  My imagination staggered at the possibilities: drunks, darkness and water.  I dove into the booze and skipped the water.  Bottles of sparkling wine appeared and disappeared.  I did most of the heavy lifting; I owed these Huns for the excessive frog marching.  I guess they figured on ‘helping us’ by having us walk 3 miles between bars to sweat off the toxins.  Well, baby, I need to KEEP my toxins and the bastards now owed me double in recompense.

The fireworks filled the sky as techno music shook the speakers.  Somebody said something about sync.  I don’t see how you can match lake cannons with speakers squawking 120 beats per minute.

- Brit Blogger #1:  Does anybody think this (techno) is music?

- Me:  Only pitiful, young, ecstasy-addled fools.


Our first guide abandoned us to the lake creatures and empty bottles.  I glared at her as she walked away.  How in the holy hell were we supposed to get back to our nondescript concrete bunker in the suburbs without a semi-sober guide?  Sensing my confusion and discontent, Marc the Night Club King grabbed me by the elbow and led me in a wavering line up some fancy steps leading to a swanky nightclub with a killer lake view.  Swank has guards. In this case, a muscular thug in a tight fitting tuxedo and an earpiece.  Marc began arguing with the well dressed goon when he stopped us at the entrance.  The Swiss words began to flow like fondue:  hot, cheesy and heavy on the wine.  Marc insisted that he was partner in the nightclub in question—in fact, the bouncer’s boss—and that he would have no compunction whatsoever to drink champagne out of his empty fucking skull if he didn’t let us in (or my imagined Swiss equivalent).  The bouncer was having none of it, and I feared our Night Club King would get crowned.

‘Way-HAAAAYYYY!  Marc!’  I interrupted, ‘Don’t sweat it, man!  As a rule I never drink in any establishment with large, well dressed thugs at the door!’

He flashed me a drunken smile and apologized for the arrogant brute at the door.  As we staggered away, it became clear that nobody would be able to guide us back to our hotel.  In fact, only 2 of our original group were still in tow.  The others had fucked off to bed like proper working journos.  They would miss most of the booze and the entire bouncer thug story. Poor bastards.


  
Clockwork, My Ass

“No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride...and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well...maybe chalk it off to forced conscious expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten.” - HST


The whole city of Zurich ground to a halt for their little festival.  Public transport was stopped in the city center after dark.  It was pushing 2am and nobody had told us.  They had flown us there, stuck us in a weird hotel in the industrial suburbs and abandoned our drunken asses by the waterfront.  Clearly they hated bloggers.  That could be the only explanation.  Did they think we wouldn’t write about it?  Did they think we were legally and morally bound to blow sunshine up their kiesters just because they gave us chocolate and booze?

I won’t go into detail about the trip back to the hotel—which I will call The Horror Show—but suffice it to say, there was no working public transport and a metric fuckton of walking.  I got back to the hotel at 4am.

Four full hours of sleep later and the next tour guide was knocking at my door.

A sweet and hesitant female voice ventured: “Craig?  We’re leaving in 20 minutes!”

“FUCK OFF, YOU SWINE!!!”

I pulled my underwear off my head and put it back on my behind.  I have no idea how it migrates.  I blame evil hotel gnomes.  And Nixon. I stumbled downstairs for the coffee.  Midway through my 2nd cup I loaded up a plateful of breakfast buffet and sat down just as the other bright-eyed and bushy tailed morning people were getting ready to leave.  You’re not journalists or even bloggers.  You wake up early and you like it.  You are librarians at best.  When our new guide (how many do we need?) tried to beckon me to the door I wrapped my arms around my plate and growled like a badger with a bad hangover.  They backed away slowly and told me they would meet me at the second tourist trap on the schedule.  I would miss the chocolate factory tour. Well, fuck me. But as much as I love Oompa Loompas, I love my coffee and greasy bacon even more.

After the third tour guide had come and gone I noticed a trend:  Spanish, Italian and other Mediterranean ladies led us through the Zurich streets for the weekend.  Where are the Real Swiss?  Where are they hiding?  What are they hiding?  Give me a stout, blonde, yodeling mountain man with steel blue eyes and one hand on the alpine goat teat and the other on the secret stash of Nazi gold.  HE and only HE will take us to the treasure! Show me the hidden gold.  Fuck the fest.  YOU know what I’m talking about:  the vats of golden Jew teeth rattling around beneath these pristine streets.


Town and City

I plowed through the old streets of Zurich alone as I am wont to do.  Nobody guiding me, nobody telling me what to do, to see, to eat, to drink.  I decided that the best way to salvage this Swiss story was to do it as Frank said, My Way.  To its credit, Old Zurich is most charming and beautiful.  But the romanticism of the narrow, curving, cobblestone streets is stifled by the cold, antiseptic sting of the price tag.  Once you’ve spent ten years staggering and stumbling through lantern-lit Old Prague nights full of 50-cent-per-pint beer you are ruined.  No other suitor of any price or class has even half a chance.  Zurich has cleaner water, though.  In fact, it is the clearest water I have ever seen in my life.  In a continent full of thousand-year-old cities with mucky, medieval rivers winding through them, the Limmat River runs crystal clear and clean.  You can even see the rocks and pebbles on the bottom of the stream.  But no gold teeth; I strained and scanned for naught.

If only their banks were this transparent.



The rest of the trip was fraught with the usual peril:  walking until the feet were numb, passing hundreds of street stands selling crap that will kill you, followed by the inevitable abandonment at the water’s edge.  While Americans are well known for their loud complaints, by the end of the second day of this holy hell even the stiff upper lips of the British contingent were twitching like chipmunks in a mustard gas attack. On my last night in Zurich I was ready to pack it in, go back to my concrete bunker and drink that mini bar mineral water.  But my erstwhile comrades in arms, the stalwart British bloggers, wiping mustard gas from their eyes and picking peppercorns from their twisted, yellow teeth—convinced me to stay.  As I sat on a wooden bench I filled my swollen feet with as much alcohol as would trickle down my long legs, the Saturday night lake show was about to begin.

And then something truly magical happened:  I began to enjoy myself.  We were in the eye of the storm and it was indeed peaceful.  The giant speakers and the stage were set.  The sun was down, the moon was up and everyone looked to the sky.  We heard some whuppa-whuppa-whuppa sounds and the choppers were over us.  Fireworks began to shoot from below us and the helicopters were weaving between them.  One of the chopper pilots was clearly out of his mind.  He seemed to be flying lower than the others, faster than the others and closer to the exploding fireworks.  It was like a grandiose scene from Apocalypse Now.

“If they play Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ right now I am going to shit my fucking pants!”  I yelled at my British Blogger chum.

“If he flies any closer to us I will shit mine!” he replied.

The helicopters swooped upward out of the fury of the fireworks into the empty night sky.  And then the parachutes opened in a flash of red lights.  The music cued to the action perfectly as the Bond film theme “Skyfall” boomed from the stage speakers.  Dozens of tiny white umbrellas lit up in red circled the lake and began their swirling descent through the exploding fireworks and down to the water.  Soon they grew larger and you could just make out the humans dangling on strings; puppets dancing in red light.  The Swiss had finally done it:  they showed me something I had never seen before and would never see hence.  They did not play ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ and I did not shit my pants.  But after the whole ‘Skyfall’ experience, I may have let slip a drop of pee.


The Conspiracy

Once again, the long journey home was like picking up my own teeth with broken fingers.

Then there was the morning after.  Some atavistic Hun had decided that this was to be the way it was:  more endless walking, more abandonment, more pain.  It was in these sporadic failures in the schedule that I was forced to see through the kaleidoscope that was placed in front of my weary eyes.  When suddenly left to my own devices, I could see what a horrible money pit I was stuck in:  10 EUR beers, 5 EUR water, 12 EUR snacks.  It was as if the entire Swiss Tourism Board was fattening bloggers up for the slaughter of future tourists. After waiting at the previously agreed meet point for an hour all alone, it seemed abundantly clear that they wanted to teach me something; maybe patience; maybe perseverance in the face of gross incompetence. In any case, it was working:  my plane was leaving in one hour and I was nowhere near the airport.  Phone calls to our Mediterranean guides fell on deaf voice mails and text messages went unanswered.

In spite of all their attempts to waylay and befuddle my progress, the Swiss lost.  I made it to the airport with minutes to spare, swore jovially at my British Blogger chums as I ran past them in their check in lines, and I wondered to myself if Nixon was laughing at me in the middle of this chocolate-coated clusterfuck.  Sure, Tricky Dick.  You were looking up from Hell on me while I was walking on the same cobblestone streets which cover the buried fortunes of the entire Right Wing from Hitler to…well, YOU.  And I was too distracted by the Big Golden Chocolate Clock Festival to notice.



Saturday, September 13, 2014

Danke. Dankeverymuch.


A donut donation from The Honourable Husband at Deutschland über Elvis caused the Dunkin’ Berliner to buy a whole box of donuts, dress up like Elvis and stuff those tasty puppies into his Viva Las Vegas face.*  Buh-huh huh.



Achtung!  The following blog post contains excessive food porn. And Elvis impersonation.  You have been warned.





A well my hands are shaky
and my knees are weak,
I can't seem to stand on my own two feet,
Who do you thank when you have such luck?
Thanks, Honourable Husband (burp),

I’m all sugared up.
Buh-huh huh. Ooh. Yay-uh-yeeaaaaah, yeah!



I created a donate donut button (TOP RIGHT. Can you see it? Dontcha wanna press that puppy RIGHT NOW?) on this site.  That little hound dog takes PayPal and/or credit cards.  In the blog post introducing my donation button (called Blog Whore or something), I stated that “If you send me some donut money (like a buck or two), I promise to stuff it in my face and start a fresh fury of feverishly fluff filled blogging that only a man with hypoglycemia and too much time on his hands can unleash.”  Or something like that.  I have received a few donut donations (mostly from my mommy, Thanks, ma!) over the years and I am very thankful that people care enough to reward this barely employed writer/photographer.



I’d like to up the ante and state here and now and for all to see:

Any and all blog donations will be met not only with the aforementioned fresh fury of feverish fluffery, but in addition, you, your name and your website will be named, thanked and linked.  Maybe even in that order.  And I will take photos of me stuffing the very donuts that YOU BOUGHT for me into my face.  I might even wear a costume.

Today’s thank you goes out to:

The Honourable Husband, whose blog Deutschland über Elvis is not really a blog about Elvis at all, much in the same way that my blog (JFKFC for the Masses) is not about Kentucky Fried chicken or JFK conspiracy theories.  I just like the mashup of JFK and KFC.  Waitaminit.  I started this paragraph thanking someone.  How did it get back to me?

Anywho, I’d like to thank the Honourable Husband for his kind blog donation of exactly enough money to buy a whole box of donuts.  You are a gentleman, a scholar and a cunning linguist.   (Ahem. At least when he talks about tits. ;)

 



In the immortal words of Private Elvis Presley stationed in Munich:

“Danke.  Dankeverymuch.”








Buy a sad Elvis impersonator a donut today; save an old lady from a purse snatching tomorrow.

-----

Elvis impersonator:  Me, aka Dunkin’ Berliner, aka Melvis.  Melvis is my karaoke stage name.  Buh-huh huh.

Costume:  Some Czech chick; probably named Jana or Petra (Hey, it was along time ago, man.  I forgot).

Photography:  Gabriela Sarževská


*Ok, I didn’t eat the whole box at once; whaddaya, nuts?  That could kill a Bull Moose elephant.  I divided the box into two 3-donut dances.  Oh yeah!
 

Friday, August 15, 2014

RATS!!!



“Just like the Pied Piper led rats through the streets, we dance like marionettes, swaying to the Symphony of Destruction.”  - Megadeth ‘Symphony of Destruction’ (Concerto in D Minor)

 photo by Gabriela Sarževská



It was one of those Sundays where I was completely open to suggestion.  Usually this is followed by waking up in a strange place with a strange person.  But as a happily married man, those days are happily over.

I woke from my S-bahn snooze and found myself in Neukoelln.  I never go to Neukoelln if I can avoid it.  It is one of those New Hip Berlin Hoods where American accents flow over tongues stultified by overuse of the word ‘like’ while Berlin is slowly being buried in thick black glasses and ridiculous beards.  Meanwhile, angry Turkish eyes watch the gentrification process with extreme prejudice.

The café advertised that it would be taken over by rats.  We’d had enough of the mice skittering about in the crawl spaces under our roof, so we thought we would seek the entertainment of free range vermin instead.

I sat across the street from the café with a bottle of beer in my hand.  The wifey went inside the café for a cappuccino.  It was one of those bloody useless cafes which sell only non-alcoholic beer.  I spotted the first rat by the S-bahn station waste bin; a middle aged man was standing with a straw hat and a cane and a hugely-exaggerated rat costume:  double hula hoops for hips and a stuffed tail so long it dragged across the street between cars.  Two female rats appeared on my left, one making sniffing sounds and sticking out front teeth.  A little Sharpie-whiskered nose sniffed my bottle of beer and turned up in disgust.  The things that will disgust a rat are beyond me.  It was a Rathaus Pilsner for fuck’s sake.

A swarm of costumed rat menschen scurried around the crowded outdoor seating of the beerless café.  I finished my bottle and headed over to the raucher kneipe next door to the artsy café.  The usual daytime drunks were holding up an outdoor table and a white picket fence separated the howling hooch commandos from the artsy-fartsy hipsters at the café.  I’m guessing the white picket fence was erected by the café owners to keep the drunks from oozing into their space. I joined the drunks and scoffed at the hipsters along with them.  Raspy-rum-and-cigarette voices slurred and shouted at the performing vermin while uptight art fags and their devoted fag hags gave them the stink eye.  I smirked and was tempted to join in the drunken jeers—only my tank of liquid courage was half empty.

Eventually my wife got tired of drinking cappuccino amid hipster poseurs and joined me on the Dark Side.  A female rat was rapping in German at the café patrons while another rat banged on a trash can.  The quaint, cute, warm and fuzzy idea of a watching a troupe of amateur actors dressed as rats while drinking cappuccino was quickly eclipsed by the need for beer.  Or so I thought.

“Let’s get out of here before they ask for donations,” my wife pleaded. I agreed.  There is nothing more sinister in Berlin than the promise of a free event followed by the heartbreak of a change cup shaken in your face.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

DUNKIPEDIA

 

(My 100th post!  So, please, for the love of God, somebody BUY ME A DONUT!)

 

The Dunkin’ Berliner Glossary of Zee Deutsch  

 


Have you ever read one of those Paris expat writers’ books where they drop a French sentence on every page, expecting us to know what the fuck they are parlez-vous-ing about?  Maddening, isn’t it?

Well, I realized that I may have taken for granted that some of my gentle readers don’t live in Germany and/or have just arrived and wouldn’t know a Deutschbag from donut hole.  So I’ve put together a Dunkipedia, a glossary of sorts—not just for the occasional Deutsch bomb I may drop; but for any and all of the local slang I may resort to or even make up when I’m soaking in beer.

So grab a donut, a bratwurst or a beer (or all three if you live on the edge), and dip/dunk right on in…

 

- Altbau flat:  ‘old building’ apartment, usually built pre-war (both).  Thick bricks and wood floors, oh yeah.  Preferable to the soulless, Soviet-style housing blocks with concrete floors and cardboard walls (see Plattenbau).

- Ausländer:  'outlander' or 'foreigner.'  The single word that goes through every German's mind when they encounter you--even if Berlin is the most liberal city in Germany.  I've heard catcalls of 'DEUTSCH!' uttered and even shouted when walking by groups of feckless German yoots while speaking English with a friend.  Some of these Deutschbags have even got t-shirts proclaiming 'You are NICHT ein Berliner!'

- Berliner pfannkuchen:  the raw fuel for this here blog, a jelly donut, apparently first made here. Everywhere else in Germany they call them Berliners; in Berlin they simply call them pfannkuchen.

- Berliner Schnauze: the special sense of humor of the average Berliner, characterized by curt, sullen quips, ironic or black humor and an apparent lack of common courtesy in any public place.  In any other language or culture, see ‘Rude Fuck.’

- Bratwurst: a low grade sausage with mostly grease and filler found everywhere beer is sold outdoors.

- Bullscheisse:  Ami-German swearing, Dunkin’ Berliner style.  One Deutschbag even criticized me for writing the word.  Heh.  Loser.

- Currywurst:  the official food of Berlin.  Sadly it is just a garden variety boiled hotdog cut into pieces and soaked in ketchup with a tiny pinch of yellow curry powder.  Like most Central Europeans, Germans are total pussies when it comes to spice.  Or flavor in general.

- Deutschbag: part douchebag, part Deutsch; not all Germans are Deutschbags, just as not all douchebags are German.  A Deutschbag is like a douchebag, with more anal retentiveness and slightly fewer social skills.  And in some cases, sporting a Hitler moustache.

- Friedrichshain:  F’hain, The ‘Hain, etc.  A neighborhood in former East Berlin characterized by gentrification, yuppies, hipsters, groovy punk rock squats and a flat previously occupied by a grumpy old American writer who drinks too much beer and eats too many donuts (I didn’t lose the flat, dammit!  I know where it is!  It’s just that when I go there now some yuppie fuck is living there).

- Gentrification:  not a German word; rather, an international word meaning 'fuck you' from developers and landlords.  A purposely planned and engineered plot for the rich to squeeze the poor out of their very homes.  It is the reason rents went up 900% in the last 10 years in East Berlin.

- Kebab:  the second official food of the average Berliner.  Available anywhere there is a street with people on it.  Sometimes there are even five kebab joints in a row.  Go to the ones which sell beer.  If they don’t sell beer, they are probably strict Muslims who don’t believe in alcohol and are probably sending all their kebab money to Uncle Al (Qaeda).  Why else wouldn’t they sell beer?

- Kiez (keets): a superkuhl way to say 'neighborhood.'  A bit like the way those who speak Ebonics say 'hood for short.  But kiezes (kiezen?) have only the bullets of gentrification ripping through them--and the hip hop is in Deutsch (ouch).

- Kneipe:  an old Berliner pub.  Meaning it's mostly full of old Berliners.  With mullets. And enough smoke to choke a donkey (see RAUCHER KNEIPE).

- Kreuzberg (xberg): the only hip neighborhood in West Berlin, characterized by punk rockers, Middle Eastern hordes, students and the uberhip.  You will never find a flat in Kreuzberg because you are not cool enough.  And by 'you' I probably really mean 'me.'

- Lumberjackoff: Not a Deutsch word, but most certainly a Deutschbag.  A sub-group of Hipsterus Loserus also known as Lumbersexuals.  They dress like lumberjacks with hipster glasses.

- Plattenbau:  Soviet styled concrete housing blocks full of mleh.

- Prenzlauer Berg: The Prenzl, P’berg, Parentslauer Berg, etc.  A neighborhood in former East Berlin characterized by breeders, gentrification, yuppies, hipsters, and for five years, home to one grumpy old American writer who drinks too much beer and eats too many donuts.  Until they gentrified my ass right out of there.

- Raucher Kneipe 'smokers pub.' A real experience, like a visit to the inside of a coal mine or a factory chimney. They refuse to open the windows, even in summer. Berlin avoided the public smoking ban common in most other German cities by simply saying 'fuck off.'  And putting a sign in the window saying 'Raucher.'

- Scheisse (shit):  the single most common word out of the mouths of Berliners from cradle to grave.  Even more commonly heard than ‘guten tag.’

- Spaetkauf (spaeti):  ‘late shop’ - open late convenience store specializing in the basics:  beer, booze and smokes, often with outdoor bench seating filled with mullets.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Milky Way



I’ve managed to survive pretty well in the Age of Political Correctness.  I’ve been threatened, cajoled, derided and ostracized.  And that was just for using the word ‘chick’ instead of ‘womyn.’

Jesus F. Christ, bitches:  GET OVER YOURSELVES.

Good.  Now we can get back on track: the tenuous and tricky thang we call human relationships. We’re all in them, donut and non donut munchers alike.

The other day, my lovely wife called upstairs to ask for my help.  She was playing with the Social Media and I was playing with the Video Games.  I hit pause.

She:  Some chick (Heh. I taught her well) just wrote and told me how I shouldn’t use the word ‘tit’ and furthermore I am some sort of bimbo.  She said she had the right to breast feed her baby any damn where she pleased and how dare I use the word ‘tit’ instead of ‘breast’ and so NYEAH.



Me: Honey Bunches of Oats, may I formulate your reply?  Good.

Dear Earth Mama,

We understand that Berlin breeding hutches like Parentslauer Berg, Wedding and Neukoelln are home to all sorts of uppity cows who think they can roll their prams over people’s feet and scream at them for saying ‘boo.’  You also feel that you can haul your bloated breastages out and schluck your leechy bambinos on right then and there in public.  And we’re supposed to forgive that shit; hell, enjoy it as well.

BTW: my wife is not a native speaker of English.  How dare you call her names just because she used the word ‘tit’ instead of ‘teat?’  In your case, I’m sure she meant to use the word ‘udder.’



She:  No, that seems a bit strong.  I think she will be offended.  She said I should just avert my eyes.

Me:  So she can offend you and call you names, but…?

She:  I don’t want to start a war of words.

Me:  I DO.

BREEDERS: you choose to have babies.  Big fucking deal.  You are nothing special.  You are an open-legged receptacle for the baby batter of a monkey man.  Nothing more.  You want to celebrate the joy of creation; I get it.  But you also want to foist it on everyone else.  WE. DON’T. CARE. Your baby is ugly, shriveled and red.  JUST LIKE ALL THE OTHER BABIES.  But you are all hormonal and shit.  And you would like to kill me right now.  Take a deep breath.  Realize you are a hormonal cow.  Then get over it.

CHOICES: I’ve seen cafes with names like Milch Bart (milk moustache/beard... EEWW) in P’berg full of milk mädchens just like you.  Everyone’s got the udders out and all the babes are tapping that shit in broad daylight.  I averted my eyes when I walked by.  That wasn’t my turf.  But when you CHOOSE to bring your little milk vampire into a RESTAURANT during DINNER hours:  How dare you?  Are you white trash?  Were you born in a barn?  A trailer?  What gives you the right to spoil my dinner?  That’s right:  seeing a breast feeding mother in public turns my stomach.  I would really like to be more tolerant and shove my coffee mug under a lactating teat and get the cream of the crop.  But I can’t.  I like my coffee like I like my President: strong and black.

Earth Mama:  Fuck you, male chauvinist pig.  I can’t believe you are intolerant of something as beautiful and natural as a loving mother sharing the milk of her bosom with her darling angel.

Me:  Yes, breast feeding is a natural biological function.  I will take back everything I said and apologize for any offense, IF: you will allow me to urinate in a bucket under the dinner table while you watch.  Biological function and all; fair is fair.

Earth Mama:  PIG!!!

Me: Oh yeah!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Fresh Hell: Finding a Flat in Berlin



Oh yeah, this entire blog has been a thinly-veiled anti gentrification rant:  The Impending Gentrification of Berlin, The Hipster Invasion, Landlords aka Fucklords, and The Current and Very In-Your-Face Gentrification of Berlin.  This blog is a redneck swamp hat with a wide brim shading very angry eyes.  Donuts dangle from strings around the brim.

It’s Fucklord time again.  After yet another one year sublet, we found ourselves looking for another flat.  Not because we paid the rent on time every month for the entire year, not because we never had any neighbor complaints, not because we have money in the bank and a spotless rental history—but because ‘it is a free market and we can rent to whomever we choose’ sayeth the Fucklord.

Oh yes, our hauptmieter gave up her contract behind our backs and the Fucklord saw the chance to kick us out as well, saying ‘you are not our tenants.’  Our hauptmieter told us from her year abroad in France that she was sorry that the Fucklord hadn’t chosen us.  It wasn’t anything personal, you see, they ‘probably just want to raise the rent and get a commission from the next renter.’

Nothing personal?  Jesus fuck.

So off we went into the thick of things again.  Each time we try to get another flat the rents go up 50%, the lines outside the flat viewings get longer and the new metric fuckton of additional paperwork fells another rain forest.


If you are looking for a flat in Berlin, watch out for the poisonous sentence ‘the viewing will be on such-and-such date at such-and-such time.’  This means you will be standing outside the flat (most likely in the rain) waiting for a beady-eyed bald man (most likely in the pub) with a group of 30-40 feckless feckers just like yourself.  If you choose to view a flat that is NOT in Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain, Mitte, or Kreuzberg, you will have to wait outside with slightly fewer feckless feckers.  Maybe only 10-20.

We were waiting outside the shabby, dreary-looking 1940s concrete slab down the road from Mauerpark.  The usual suspects gathered:  hipsters, students, Italians, Spaniards and Spanish-Italian hipster students.  The beady-eyed bald German appeared late as usual.  He led the group of 30 up the stairs and held out his arm.  If he says ‘Heil Fucklord!’ I will strangle him with his own belt and take his keys, I thought to myself.  He did not.  Instead he had us all wait in the stairwell while he showed people in one or two at a time.

This thing must be a tiny fucking shoebox!  Only 2 at a time can view it!  The first couple came out after only 2 minutes and the next pair was let in.  The first couple was grasping an application form in their sweaty hands.  They dropped to the ground in the stairs and started filling out the form.  By the time it was our turn to get into the flat, it was in fact a bit of a shoebox.  But there was no reason to keep us waiting; 7 or 8 could have easily fit inside at once.  But it is the Fucklord’s market in Berlin.  The Fucklord can arrive 30 minutes late and make 30 people sit in the stairs filling out paperwork while mumbling moo-hoo-ha-ha-haaaaaaaaaa under his fetid breath.

When I went to look at the living room I saw why there was a flat tour limit:  a pregnant woman sat on the couch watching television with a very sour look on her face.  I know, honey:  German tv is pretty scheisse.

I asked if we could submit the form online by email, and the beady-eyed Deutschbag smiled and shook his head.  “In the STAIRS!”  If we wanted it badly enough we would have to cop a squat, open up a vein and write it with our own blood.  Pens were not provided.  We decided we were through with this dog and pony show.  We told beady baldy that we would not be sitting in any fucking stairs to apply for any fucking shitbox for any over-inflated price. On the way down the stairs the usual suspects scrawled on their papers in the stairwell.  ‘What do I put here?’ one hipster asked.  ‘That’s your boss’s info’ said the other hipster.  I couldn’t get around them; even though they are skinny fucks in skinny jeans, side by side they are a minor roadblock.  As I tried to step over them, my boot hovered for a bit.  If I stepped too far too fast, my bum ankle would send me crashing down on the poor Italian couple below the hipsters.



My boot hung in the air.  I was tempted to put my size 13 right in the middle of the hipster’s application—or on his empty fucking skull.  One of the hipsters looked up and saw the impending danger.  They shimmied to the side just slightly and let me by.  Then they returned to their feverish scrawls.  They would get this flat. Oh yeah.