by Roxane Hudon
Los Angeles is the new Berlin, everybody knows. Berlin is so weird, everybody knows. “I’m an artist, and I’m sensitive about my shit.” You’re too late. This piece will probably be featured in Lonely Planet 2017, when Berlin will just be a wasteland inhabited by one guy dancing by himself to Deee-Lite’s “Groove is in the Heart” and moaning about how it once was.
Hypothetical Lessons learnt in Berlin
1. If you pass by an awful pub vaguely named “Bierhaus,” and laugh at the impossibility of ending up there, because it’s Berlin, and you must go somewhere cool, you will probably end up at “Bierhaus,” dancing to Creed with a bunch of gay Latinos, including a sassy lesbian who confirms that you have the most beautiful breasts in the bar. While you may be envisioning Penelope Cruz lavishing you with praise, your sober friend, who has just rolled in from Canada, will ruin your lesbian fantasy by letting you know that the sexy señorita is actually suffering from an old, melting face. Meanwhile, your other friend will be sucked into a Berlin vortex best described as “topless coke with the gays,” because this is Berlin and it’s the future-past, it’s the 90’s, the gays are old and they still aren’t allowed to whip it out in a public space.
2. When you finally find the resolve to confidently walk into a “cool” Berlin bar and throw out a “HALLOOOO! ICH BIN EIN ARTIST!” the middle-aged bartender will yell “WHADDAYA WANT?” in a loud American accent, Moosehead will be on the menu and Smash Mouth will be on the stereo. Berlin is dead, dip your lemon in ground coffee and brown sugar, suck on it, drink your rum and attempt to socialize with the best-looking Germans sitting right next to you, who will politely respond that they’re not interested in your social efforts, because they’re in a “ business meeting,” which, obviously, only includes very good-looking people. Have another rum with coffee and sugar, of course, while the American goes on about his years in Berlin. What a fool! It’s Berlin! Time doesn’t exist!
3. Don’t try to be creative, or original, or funny. You’re in Berlin, you aren’t impressing anyone, you cannot absorb the artistic vibes like a rookie sponge. You cannot Ai Wei-Wei the Berlin landscape, post it online and expect the outer world to understand how subversive you are, because some things are funny to some people and other things are funny to other people, there are different levels, and you must understand this, or be explained this in a very condescending manner, as proven by the hip bartender impatiently waiting for your drink order underneath a lampshade made out of magazines who states that he has “no time for humour.” Also, you will learn that “flipping the bird,” the physical equivalent of “you’re a poopoohead” is still offensive to some, use it to your advantage, it could be your claim to fame! Fuck it, it’s Berlin! There are no rules! You are creative, original and funny! Ai Wei-Wei the world!
4. Accept your social limitations, travelling in a triad of awkwardness and bright colours, stumbling into a gigantic junkyard, a squat where your friend claimed there were “cool events” when he lived here in the summer. It’s dark, there are no cool events, you’re following a random dude into the closest rusty door, you’re walking into a roomful of crusty punks at dinner time, crouched over their recycled foods, all in black, metal stuck in every pore. “Punk is dead! Government is good!,” says the invented, confident Berlin You in your head, but really, you’re shivering in a corner, while your friends whisper “we should probably, definitely roll the fuck out.” No! You’re in Berlin! Walk up to the bar and take your place in the anti-fascist, anti-homophobe, anti-racist, Nazi-looking crew. Halt! Schnell! The bar is the kitchen table! Back out! Run out! Even in the most anarchic society, one must not order drinks at the kitchen table wearing gold leggings. It’s Berlin! Only Anarchy has rules and a dress code! Find comfort in the most uncomfortable basement biker bar where an old, scraggly man forces you to play a game of table football, while smacking his front pockets where he promises he is hiding “the shit.” It’s Berlin! Comfort is for the weak and the conformists! Have a beer in the bank and shit on the monetary system!
5. Maurice wears a turtleneck, is a “citizen of the world,” hesitates when you ask him if he’s ever killed anyone, calls your friend “woman” and pushes her down in the sofa, where she must laugh at his jokes. Rob claims to be a celebrity, is supposedly from Scotland, but really doesn’t sound like it, accuses you of being a tourist and inhales your unwashed hair while moaning about how difficult marriage is. Italians spew out Italian stereotypes on a street corner, hoping you will take them to “the party,” but they don’t like your severed horse head joke. Romanian George knows you’re Stalin’s daughter, smells strongly of sandalwood and would probably make love to the three of you at the same time. “I was virgin until 28, then I figured out that men want to have sex with women and women want to have sex with men, and that’s what is going to happen.” George knows. It’s Berlin! I can’t hear you over everyone else’s originality and quirky statements. It’s Berlin! I’ve escaped my bland homeland to go somewhere else and be as weird as I can be, even if it means nothing. Brb, gotta go pee outside, because the bar toilets are actually just a drug den.
6. You will find an assortment of CDs from alt 90’s bands in the Kreuzberg flat you’re renting, and no one will complain about you blasting REM and PEARL JAM until 9 am, because no one wants to be responsible for gentrification.
7. Run! The sofas are on the ceiling and there are art exhibits involving “artistic mini-golf as a statement on nature and future…’nuture’” in a deserted Nazi airport! Run! Get on that plane, get in the taxi, ask the man to take you to “that giant pub,” to which the gentle driver will respond: “It’s Glasgow, hen, everywhere is a giant pub.” Oh thank fuck, you’ve made it! The sofas are where they belong, the toilets are separated according to gender, everyone is telling everyone else to fuck off and even the “artists” drink Buckfast at Nice N’ Sleazy’s. Drink, drink in peace, drink comfortably, you’re home and you are the weird one.
Berlin is Dead, Long Live Berlin