“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.