Monday, August 25, 2008

The art of letting go

Up early in the morning. Sure the sheep and the ducks won't like it but they knew the dream would only last so long. Ireland's their home. And the sauerkraut would have eventually turned their stomachs to gloop. Better to feed them on Irish grass.

We've got to lighten the load. First we thought about the money, like anyone who's had to make it in Ireland does. We tried to sell our excess luggage. In Berlin you can buy a bike for a fiver. You can get drunk on coppers and you can pick up a suit in a charity shop in exchange for a handful of fresh spit. It wasn't easy. We had to be imaginative. We wrote a cute sign for the bicycle that worked and then a desperate sign for the keyboard that also worked. It's important to not hold on to too many things. Memories are heavy enough.

The Vatican is the smallest state in Europe. If you're an atheist, Luxembourg is. See you tomorrow Luxembourg. And goodbye Berlin.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Exclusive: The Burger King-Berghain conspiracy theory

In Berlin, they'll tell you, the trains stop at one thirty and then don't start again until about four thirty in the morning. And Berliners don't get taxis; tourists do, so on an average night in the city most people wait it out that extra few hours if they miss the one thirty train. But let me tell you this, it's all a lie. The trains run 24-hour it's just that the nightclub and fastfood union, also known as the 'Disco-Doner Alliance' block book all the carriages so you're forced to go clubbing or hang out at some fastfood joint. They've been doing it for years now, operating ghost train routes all over the city, pumping more and more cash into the ticket machines to keep the train doors firmly locked for those three hours. And if all this corruption smells like Donegal, let me tell you that it goes all the way up to Merkel. She's in on it too, and how could she not be knowing that Berlin's fragile to fucked economy is dependent almost entirely on nightclubs and takeaways. This is old school protectionism much like government advertisements encouraging people to eat more fruit and vegetables when scientists keep telling us that eating that shit can lead to myopia and dementia. It's clever and you've got to applaud that kind of people-control but you don't have to put up with it. Next time you get caught in the three-hour fog between late night and early morning have some fun with it. Go behind the counter and serve yourself. Order your food, on foot, through the drive-thru and ask the taxi drivers if you can drive around in their car for a while, but don't give into their games and don't play it their way. Berlin was built on resistance and by not resisting it'll fall. Fight to the bitter end of the night.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Je cerche le accommodation svp

We're off again. This weekend myself and Bridie and our four-wheeled wonder shall take to the highways of Europe once more. We're racing back for the Electric Picnic Festival in Ireland. The car has been requested to play some of its bigger hits. So en route we're going to go through Belgium, Luxembourg and Paris and maybe take in Nantes and somewhere else up there in the North West of France. Long shot I know, but if anyone's been following our adventures you'll remember that the last time we put up our tent was at a music festival called Melt. The one where it rained for three days solid. Remember it was so bad Bridie dumped me just for taking her there? Well I've been undumped but I'm scarred and don't think I can risk another tent fiasco. Long shot, but if anyone has a piece of floor, end of a bed, warm doorstep somewhere between Berlin and Cork, I promise we'll be the best guests you've ever set your eyes upon. The picture above is not indicative of our personalities in any way whatsoever.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

German drug dealers are nothing to fuck with

“Entshculdiung. Sprechen Sie Englisch?”
“I speak the little piece, yes.”
“Do you have any pills?”
“Yes, I am the dealer yes.”
“Cool. Just two, please. How much are they?”
“Ten Euro. It is like so, six for one and ten for two okay? They are the Dolce And Gabbana Pills. They are much strong you know. With MDMA. Hardcore for the dancing yes?”
“Yeah, dancing. Sure, that’s cool. Listen, my friend said you sold her two for a fiver. Can you do me two for a fiver as well?”
“Well it is normal price the ten for two.”
“Ah come on please.”
“Well it’s that my dealer wants pay in the morning tomorrow and you cannot make a profi with five for two.”
“Ah come on man, please. I only asked you because my friend said you were cool.”
“Yes, but I am also the only dealer in the club at this moment too.”
“You got me. But if I had an option I’d still come to you first.”
“Okay, okay, I make discount. We say five for two but you are lucky this is not normal price.”
“Cheers man, you’re sound…Shit, I’ve only got four on me. Fuck. Will you take four.”
“Ah so, this is big discount.”
“Please man, I spent the last of my cash getting in here.”
“Okay, okay I make more discount.”
“Sound. You’re shit cool man. This is sweet.”
“Okay, okay.”
“Hey you don’t smoke by any chance do you?”
“I smoke yes.”
“Ah you’re too kind seriously, that is sound. Thanks for that. Two? Okay yeah I’ll put this behind my ear for later. Deadly. What’s your name? Gunther? Cool name. You’re a good guy Gunther.”
“Ah thank you.”
“Talk to you later man. Tschuss.”
“My fire?”
“Oh your lighter. Sorry. Keep it? You sure? Cheers Gunther. What a guy.”

Thursday, August 14, 2008

German Knackers

There are knackers everywhere in Berlin. But unlike the ones we have in Ireland who are trained to stay in their ghettos during daylight hours and only come out to cause mischief at night, German knackers have infiltrated regular people’s domains to the point where one day I fear they may take over. Berlin knackers are hard to distinguish from good people. They’ve adopted their dress and their mannerisms and have cunningly made themselves blend in. Once blended they surreptitiously wedged their foot in the door of good German society and nothing, not even strong bleach, will get them out. These photos are a catalogue of their rise to power. First they had their own bread, then their own market stalls and now they have their own tram stations. Sure they mess around with the spelling on occasion. That's only smart. No point in giving up the game before the whistles blown, right? And believe you me what the knackers lack in hygiene they make up for in smarts.
So don’t look away. German knackers are on the rise. The next time you visit this city, it may no longer be going under the name Berlin, but knacker. Good people all over the world would do well do pray that day never comes.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Irish Abroad

There isn't much of an Irish scene in Berlin, but that won't stop me creating one. In an effort to record all that's around me I've been trying to get in touch with as many Irish musicians in Berlin as possible for an interview and a photograph. Being an Irish person abroad and meeting another can lead to a process that anthropologists refer to as hyper-celtuality. In a bid to distance themselves from the life they've left behind, the newly aquainted micks will invariably turn into that which they're trying hardest to avoid. Each interview began at a reasonable time. 4pm is reasonable in Berlin. And each interview ended up with both of us getting drunk or stoned and half of them with me getting badly lost in some Berlin suburb with no money left for taxi fare. We were all agreed that the drunks and the thugs who occupy the cities back home were one of the reasons we left Ireland. Berlin is safe. Berlin is peaceful. The only people who have to worry about getting a doing are the neo-nazis. But they stay in their place and the hippies who control the centre don't go out looking for them. So we found a city without thugs, where people walked in straight lines after midnight, didn't smash bottles or shout their drink orders from the other side of the bar, and we missed the worst aspects of the Ireland social scene so we recreated them. Once a week, we'll have a meet. Tell your friends. But stay indoors on Thursday evenings or you'll have to put up with wild singing, sporadic vomiting, groping in doorways, bad-boy hooliganism and poor attempts at stealing bicycles. I'm looking to get part-funding from the tourist board and maybe a drinks label on board too. In time we could export the idea to major cities all over the world and for a small fee your fellow citizens could feel 3am chip shop menace like the Irish do.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Cars, ducks, bikes and cats

This is Paul. I don't know much about him but I can tell you that the guy has a knack for finding a car that should be patented, compressed and manufactured into tiny hand-held devices that are given out to all automobile owners who live in built up areas. Paul had two clues: the name 'charlie' and a vague reference to ALDI. In Berlin for his holidays, with a morning free, the dude makes his way to Checkpoint Charlie, walks around for about half an hour and finds the car as easy as a set of keys in a back pocket. For his troubles, Paul's getting to go see Kraftwerk play in September in Wicklow. That was a competition run by the good people at Bodytonic. Now I'd like to start my own. You see I went out with my bicycle on Wednesday last. I ended up at the absinthe bar in Kreuzberg and like desert follows dinner, I got drunk. The following events have returned to me in anachronological order but at some stage I went swimming in the lake near Wedding, drank 8cent beers in Alexander Square, took a dance class, broke and then fixed my ankle, passed out twice on a park bench, had a quick row with my girlfriend – I lost badly – and then somehow ended up in my own bed. The bicycle didn't make it back with me but a family of ducks did. They're being cared for by my neighbour who has wild cats. I didn't know this but the two are supposed to get on really well. In some cases they even breed, giving rise to these hybrid creatures who love and hate water at the same time. Either my bicycle got bored or got picked up by some other bike, I don't know, but Berlin's a big city and when you can't remember even a quarter of your steps it's hard to retrace them. Anyway, it's a racer. It's got pink handlebars. I'm pretty sure it's the only bike in Berlin with pink handles. I would have photos but I never thought it blog-worthy until it wasn't there anymore. Anyway, Paul, maybe you're still knocking around the city, or maybe someone of Paul's ilk wants to step up to the plate, but I miss my bike and I'm prepared to pay to give it back. If anyone's got any leads, sightings or vague inclinations please let me know. I will gladly compensate you with your weight in kebabs.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Viva Polania

The poor machine had been crying out for a run. She’d yelp and moan every time I took her down to the shops or the video rental. She longed for the open road and the slow as a bicycle bullshit in the city centre was driving her nuts. There was nothing to be done about it but go on another road trip. The beginning of Poland is about an hour and a half from Berlin geographically, and about150 years psychologically. The Polish border town of Sulpice, from what we could see, was basically established to provide Germans with the four things they can’t get on their own side of the border: cheap smokes, cheap flowers, cheap haircuts and cheap hookers. Presumably German couples weekend there. The lady will get her hair done and buy a bouquet, while the man will get his balls licked in the woods. Afterwards they reconvene and smoke lots of cheap cigarettes, before driving home glad that in the EU there’s always some other fucker lower down the ladder than you.

Now the problem with living in Berlin and not having regular employment per say, is that you can never remember what date it is. The insurance on my car ran out a week ago, but sure I thought it was still the middle of July and didn’t we take off and not realise that we were driving an uninsured vehicle until we hit the border. The security was tiny, and why wouldn’t it be? The Polish government have no beef with the Germans just homosexuals and women. But the problem with arriving in Poland is that you’re immediately met with a very confusing roundabout. Get it wrong and you’re back in Germany. Get it wrong three times, pass through the border three times and eventually the border control will put down the porn and come out of their booth and start giving you shit. We swallowed the old insurance disc and pretended the NCT disc was the insurance instead. Border control asked us where we were going. We said Sulpice. He said, “Go and don’t come back.” So we did.

Did you know the Polish don’t take the Euro yet? Neither did we. So after we had a lovely plate of schnitzel and coleslaw in this roadside joint that looked like a chicken coop, we had to drink enough to bring our bill up to €20. (Otherwise we’d have got change back in pigs feet, or gold teeth or whatever currency they use in Poland.) That’s a lot of booze in Poland. Lucily, Sergei and Sasha, Linus and Pavel were on hand to help us. They were bus and truck drivers from the Ukraine. They tried to get me to pimp Bridie out. I was missing out on a fortune they told me. We were low on gas money and car insurance isn’t cheap but in the end Bridie decided against it. She had a headache. Still it’s good to know that if the whole making-it-in-Berlin thing blows up in our faces, that just an hour and a half away is the answer to all our cash flow problems.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Dead Germans

Armin and Bernd weren't good friends but they had a lot in common. They both liked to get their kicks in unconventional ways. Not content with walks in the park, social drinks or even wild nights of uninhibited sexual passion, Armin liked to have his body parts eaten and Bernd, conversely liked to eat body parts – literally not euphemistically.

They met, as many like-minded people do, on the Internet, and soon a date was set up. Skipping the usual dinner and movie staple, Armin and Bernd went straight back to Armin's where he had a room set up to suit the mood. It looked like a butcher's shop. Long story short, Armin sliced off Bernd's dick. They ate it together (it's assumed it was roasted with rosemary, but no one knows for certain) and then Armin stabbed Bernd in the neck, chopped up his remaining body parts and froze them for countless meals to come. Armin was arrested and is serving time as we speak.

Five years later and a hot 20-year-old who went looking for love on the internet winds up dead outside of Berlin and the mumbling voices start saying there's something rotten in Deutschland.

Anja was a bright young model. Michael was a 37-year-old photographer. They met online, found a common interest in vampires, and like summer follows spring, the next thing the couple were meeting up to strangle the fuck out of each other in a dirty hotel room.

Now I'm not trying to say that society has lost the run of itself or the Internet is a bad thing, or even that Germany is a bad place, but in certain cases wouldn't it be nice if couples courted for a little while, with their parents in tow, at a reasonably safe distance?

The 98almera blog strongly recommends all newcomers to this fair country to only entertain team dating for the moment.