Monday, April 21, 2014

Bike-shaped hole

There’s a bike-shaped hole in the hallway where my bike should be. It was there when I woke up this morning, there when I came home tonight.
Last night too, when I finished work, I automatically turned to where it should be to take me home before remembering it was gone. You feel so fucking stupid standing in front of an empty space expecting something to be there.
That bike was the only material thing I had that really I gave a shite about. It was older than I am. I felt a responsibility toward it. I cared for it. I even washed it from time to time! Everything else can be replaced, but not that.
In a way its theft says more about me than I’d like to admit. I mean, it’s just a thing. I’m petty and materialistic. It’s just a bike for fuck’s sake, I keep telling myself.
There are so many horrific things happening in the world, yet I can’t shake this feeling I’ve been violated. In a way, I resent that more than the feeling of being violated. I should appreciate how privileged I am.
It’s not the first bike I’ve had stolen, nor the first theft I’ve endured (obviously, if it’s not the first bike I’ve had stolen, you know what I mean) but this had become family, my trusty companion wherever I went, my associate on illicit adventures, my lift home at stupid-o-clock no matter where I was.
It was stolen literally behind my back at Spreepark, when I was taking pictures there Thursday night. I left it against the fence to take a couple of shots – it was two or three in the morning in a forest and I let my guard down – and when I went back for it it was gone. I went back and forward to make sure my eyes hadn’t tricked me, back and forward, back and forward, back and forward, again and again, looking at the same places to make sure it hadn’t reappeared in the meantime. I simply couldn’t believe it had disappeared.
Then I saw the one of the security dudes walking around. I called after him, asked him about it and he denied seeing anything. I didn’t believe him. Later, after walking all around Spreepark, I checked the two security guards’ van and car but couldn’t find any trace of it. I apologized for suspecting them. More shame, but they were the only humans I’d encountered in the forest at that hour of night.
I haven’t given up hope of being reunited with it again but I know the chances are miniscule. More than 23,000 bikes are reported stolen in Berlin alone each year. That’s only the reported number. How many aren’t reported? I didn’t report this one. What’s the point? The Polizei don’t give a rat’s ass.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the response on Twitter, with so many people retweeting my all but hopeless appeal. 188 people as I type! It’s nice to know people empathize.
I passed through Mauerpark on my way to work today – another sign of desperation – but of course I didn’t see it. They were so many people I couldn’t see anything but people.
Fuck it, I’ll keep looking. I couldn’t give up even if I wanted to.

Friday, April 18, 2014


Someone stole my bike last night so I bought a Trabi today. It’s been a mad 24 hours.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

S-Bahn home from home

The S-Bahn home smelled like a pub as soon as we stepped into it. Jammed! Punks, revelers, nutters, hairy homies and general layabouts. Most if not all drinking beer. General merriment. First-timers to Germany would have been scratching their heads.
The young fella was drinking water. He dropped the cap on the floor where it was promptly licked by a dog. The poor dog must have been offended when we openly debated whether we could put the cap back on the bottle. In the end we did. Fuck it, the dog looked healthy enough. Another dog up the carriage was much worse off.
An old Russian woman was arguing loudly with an imaginary foe sitting opposite her. She got louder and louder and louder until she was yelling at the unfortunate foe, who must have been giving some very inadequate responses.
The aul’ wan was on the verge of exploding when we all got off at the same stop – me, the young lad, Jenny, who’d met us at the airport after our week at home, the dog, and the two Spanish punks looking after him.
The poor aul’ dog must have been wondering what kind of madhouse he’d ended up in. Well, pooch, this is Berlin, where everyone is barking. Welcome home.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Berlin’s Coolness-Debatte

Some words I contributed to tip-Berlin’s Coolness-Debatte – “Momentan gibt es eine große Debatte, ob Berlin nun cool oder uncool sei” – for the latest issue. They didn’t use them so I’m publishing them here. Fuck it, I may as well.
The pictures are from the Abandoned Berlin site, which they did feature, along with some of my photos. But onto the Coolness-Debatte…

Berlin’s ongoing obsession with whether it’s cool or not, its constant fretting about how it’s seen by the outside world, is proof positive that it’s not cool. It’s not cool to care about being cool. Cool doesn’t give a shit, doesn’t care what the world thinks.
Berlin has always wanted to be a Weltstadt. It looks up to New York, Paris – it has an unhealthy obsession with Munich – and it was beginning to feel pretty good about itself due to the flood of creative types and trendy Ausländer in recent years. They all wrote nice things in blog posts and raved about the city’s nightlife.
Berlin was chuffed. Berlin loves flattery. It craves it. It needs to be reassured. It desperately seeks validation, acceptance, approval. Berlin is the queen asking the mirror on the wall which city is the fairest of them all.
Every morning the mirror – the blog posts, the international newspapers, the desperate attention-seeking celebrities who came in vain to save the East Side Gallery – said, “Berlin, you are the coolest of them all.”
But then a Gawker blogger’s declaration the city was “over” destroyed it all. Every newspaper reacted with horror. Suddenly the plug was pulled. It was good while it lasted but now the fun was gone.
Concerned residents asked themselves, “Is it really over? Where will we go now?”
Others shrugged. “Good,” they said. “Tschüßie!” Maybe now it’s over the rents won’t keep shooting up. The overer the better.
A blogger’s throwaway hit-generating remark that the city is “over” could be the best thing to happen the city. Berlin needs to get over its insecurities, stop worrying about what the world thinks. Once it finally manages to do that it really will be cool. Not that anyone will care.

There was a slightly touchy reaction to this from Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg mayor Monika Herrmann on Twitter. It seems she’s suggesting I look for alternative places to live. Or maybe I’m being the touchy one.