The other day I took a stroll down memory lane. Don’t ever do that, I’m telling you.
The familiar old neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg was home to me and my lovely wife for 5 years before we were banished to the Berlin hinterlands. I only mention that my wife is lovely so you will feel sorry for us when I tell you how we got railroaded right on out of there by the gentrification scumlords. If it were just grumpy old moi, myself und ich (or me and an ugly wife) who lost a place to live, you might just think ‘GOOD! Get rid of the grumpy old ugly fucks and let the new Rich but Sexy Berliners move in!’ As one does.
I initially went down to my old Helmholz kiez (Danziger-Duncker-Prenzlauer Allee) to pick up some second hand lights for sale. A nice, waiflike couple was sitting in their empty commercial space waiting to sell me their old lights so they could embark upon their new voyage of their new image in their new commercial space. I still don’t know what in the flying fuck they were selling. There was a counter, a mini espresso machine and some dishes. And a cat. Their website is just as mysterious. Apparently that’s all you need in Berlin if you are a Trustafarian. The lights weren’t as advertised and I couldn’t use them. So I thanked them for wasting my time (I did it in a very smooth way, I’m telling you. The couple looked fragile and earnest, and this combo can still the harshest of tongues. Even mine.) Off I went.
I passed the closed Café Lyrik and remembered the spell cast by the Witch. Free ‘music’ (using the term loosely) with overpriced drinks and a performance sounding something like a steel kitty in a blender (complete with metallic screams and feverish, glass scratching death knells), followed by a donation cup shaken so vigorously in our faces that everybody had to stop drinking and stare to see how much we WERE NOT putting in. Apparently 15 EUR was NOT enough for the avant garde scheisse we were watching. The Witch told me so. And the Deutschbag at the next table scoffed out loud when I refused to give more. I won’t say don’t go there. If you are NOT a brain dead, self important Trustafarian with delusions of grandeur, you probably already have the good sense not to (Dunkin’ Berliner flash mob idea: everybody cram into that tiny ‘art/music’ space, don’t order a damn thing and then dump a sock full of pennies into the collection plate. Smack those bitches up).
I continued my walk down memory lane (aka Danziger strasse) and passed the empty windows of the Fuss-feti-fisch. This is a place where you can stick your feet in a fish tank and have swarms of little fish eat the barnacles and toe jam right off your sunken feet. There are aquariums in the windows full of feet sucking fish, lights and signs and benches with towels, but that place is NEVER open. Meaning: MAFIA MUTHA FUCKAZ. Don’t go there either. Hell, if you need your toe jam eaten, let me know. I know poor artists who will eat your toes out on a stage for loose change, I’m tellin’ ya.
No trip down Memory Lane is complete without a visit to your old flat, the place you used to call home, the place where some yuppie fucks are now living. Gentrification is a BITCH. I wanted to see the type of quality human beings who could possibly replace my loser ass, who could possibly be a better tenant than me, who in the HELL would want to pay more than 600 EUR for a studio apartment. It couldn't be yuppies; they only live in large lofts, not studio apartments. This I already knew. But I tend to read ahead in the script, so it was no surprise that the new tenant was just a number: my old buzzer simply read ‘60’. In fact, most of the flats in our old building were now part of the growing scourge of holiday rentals in desirable hoods. They weren’t even hiding it. A large banner now hangs above Dunckerstrasse 90A and proudly proclaims BERLINER LEBEN HOLIDAY RENTALS. Nine of the 12 flats in our building were already owned by Das Leben when we moved in. When we lived there, I do recall an ungodly amount of suitcases thumping up and down the stairs and late night screams in Mediterranean languages. We were happy to endure it as proud members of the multi-kulti Berlin life (aka Berliner Leben). But we were forced out. When our contract was ready to be renewed, they refused us (after paying rent on time every month for a year), saying in writing “It is a free market. We can rent to whomever we choose.” Harsh words from harsh cunts. Why have regular tenants at a fixed rate when you can kick them out and charge 70 EUR per night as a holiday rental? There is now only one of our original neighbors left in our building: Riewoldt (pronounced ‘revolt’). As I recall, the door to his flat had been kicked in a few times and there were blatant splinter/spackle/patch jobs done on the door. Fight da powah, Herr Riewoldt.
There is a growing resistance to these types of predatory rental investors (scumlords, et al) and laws are being drafted as I write this. As I was doing my due diligence (Googling), I discovered a fact that would be shocking if I were able to be shocked at this point. The busy-bodied little man who dogged us the entire time we lived at Dunckerstr. 90A (saying he was the hausmeister) was in fact the very agent provocateur behind the Berliner Leben tenant ousting: Marcus Buthmann (whom we called Buttman) was talking seven shades of scheisse to the press about his proud holiday rentals. That’s right: the same Buttman who helped us out the door; the exact same cocksucker. And that’s not libel—the man does indeed suck cock.
In a city that changes as much, as often and as constantly as Berlin, nobody seems to notice that a very large rug is being pulled out from under our feet. Sure, sluggish student paralegal interns are rising from their hangovers to wave the flag. Too little, too late. The scumlords are winning.
I crossed the street with the mixed emotions of knowing I was right and being powerless to do a damn thing about being wronged. Skinny old American fucks in suits talked on phones in lofty voices while a German teenager in hip hop attire trudged by in high swagger mode, oozing anger in his neo-yuppie hell. Even the small courtyard recreation area across the street from my old digs was being torn up. The ruins of the ping pong tables we used to play upon were lying on the ground beneath the plows of the machine. CAT operators smoked and laughed in the midst of the mayhem.
I switched to high swagger mode and trudged past the usual sushi bars, trendy cafes and yoga holes of Yuppie Central. Even my old hole-in-the-wall kebab joint had been renovated and neon-ensconced. Dunkin’ Berliner truth: the smaller and grungier the hole in the wall, the better the food. The bigger the space, the more neon cacti, the more bland the food, the more yuppie it is. Period. This area used to be commie, punk rock, artist, drifter, and dreamer. Now it is just another non-threatening place for yuppies and breeders to take root and grow money trees. Because that’s what gentrification is all about: rip out the old, plant the new, harvest the money crop. We who choose to live our lives in pursuit of something other than money are not worthy of living in a cool neighborhood. We don’t stand a chance. Because we have neither money nor power; nor do we want anything to do with any of that shit. So They win. Again. Always.
Maybe one day, one of us will snap. Necks.