Love and Chaos. Part 9(G) A Christmas Miscellany

24th September 2021

Berlin in winter. Photo by Martin O’Shea

Part Nine. Berlin. December 1995

Sunday morning and the room reeked of hangover.

Richard had to use the bathroom, had to vomit, had to open a window, had to drink litres of designer French water, had to take several aspirins, had to have a blood transfusion, had to be joking to think that this was any sort of life.

Richard could not get out of bed, could not turn or move; who had used his head as a punch bag ? He checked his face. Teeth intact. Stubble, even the stubble stank of old cigarettes, but no discernable cuts, bruises, bleeding.

The room had an unbearage fug of everything that was unholy and unhealthy. He had to open the window but it was minus God-knows what outside. It would purify the stench … or was that sunlight ? There would be no sunlight for at least five months, meanwhile … water.

But every movement resulted in an internal knockout blow to the head. Some inner-cranial entity was hell-bent on kicking the crap out of the back of Richard’s eyes. And he had to vomit. The thought made him want to vomit. He had to use the bathroom. The thought of that made him want to vomit. The infamous, cruel and unusual, you are being held to account, porcelain punishment.

Dreading how much repulsive fluid was able to emerge, projectile or explosive, from this paragon of animals, and what a Styxian stench would engulf the flat, our pilgrim makes the journey, more or less on his knees, to the bathroom, and we shall close the door on that chapter and return when sufficient ablutions have been made.

London, the clocks one hour behind. Chris woke up in Battersea, in Melanie’s flat. She sat on his bed as he drank his tea. There was toast with jam and marmalade waiting. Later they could go into the West End, take in a museum, see a film, have a beer and talk over old times. The room had central heating, the flat had a newly-painted feel, everything seemed so clean, ordered and organised.

London, several miles north in Chalk Farm, Alan was nursing a cold in his sister Jo’s flat. How could he have been such an idiot as to go walking, in the Berlin winter, knowing he had a late flight that evening. Freezing streets, overheated U-Bahns, chilly airport lounges, a stifling cramped sweaty plane, draining immigration, bedlam at baggage and then … and then the long journey on the London Tube. After several teas, lots of sympathy noises, and a potential overdose of Lemsip, Alan screened the Super 8 film.

“She’s gorgeous, that Julie. You little tinker, you ! I told you Berlin would do you the world of good.”

Back on Berlin time, Daniel Roth was reflecting on his night out. Instead of hitting the Czar Bar, or meeting workmates in some lifeless stuffy time-frozen 70s style pub, he went solo, trying some bars around Yorckstrasse. New year, new start. He restricted himself to wine, and experimented holding his cigarette in different styles. He didn’t want to look too affected or effeminate, yet he succeeded in being both. However, he did end up chatting with two German girls and could feel them about to succumb to his charms, giving him a double Weihnachten (Christmas) gift, until they linked arms and departed. Daniel spent the rest of the evening drinking with the old Turkish barkeeper, whose face seems inscribed with wisdom, gentleness and experience. He thought back over his conversation with Jeanette, and his killer put down.

His feet were fast freezing, coins devoured by the phone box, Jeanette’s voice exuding warmth, comfort, opulence.

“We absolutely adored it, there’s no question, no question at all that it meets our criteria, only, well, how shall I put it delicately ? Daniel, it is a little near the bone for some of our board. I’m sure you know the section to which I allude.”

Daniel paused for effect.

“The magazine’s called ‘Savage Revolt’.”

A few seconds of silence.

“Do you know, you are absol…, no, quite right, we have an obligation to the artist, and … and, if certain people don’t wish to read it, they don’t have to, yes, yes. Let’s do it. I’m going to go to bat for you.”

“Unedited ?”

“Unedited, you have my word. Now, my young Hemingway, what are you doing on Silvester ? I’m having a little soiree and you simply must come. There’s a lot of people that want to meet you.”

Sunday afternoon, Daniel found one of the few Lebensmittel open and bought more wine, Sekt, chocolate, tins of goulash, giant tins of soup, cigarettes, cigarette papers, factory-produced bread and cake-type items, then returned home. He was going to read some books Chris had loaned him, maybe write a follow-up story. It seemed official. He was going to be published, and people wanted to meet him. Controversial already. But, it was Berlin. Maybe it was all just so much bullshit. He opened the wine, opened Dickens, took a swig straight from the bottle and thought, “Fuck me !”

“Fucking hell, never, never, never again,” announced Richard to no one in particular, as there was no one with him, save the Tasmanian devil running amok inside his brain. He had finished the water, and was now settling down for a day of mint tea and self-recrimination.

Serves him right for expecting anything good to happen in this shit city, in this shit life. He had hoped that he would be waking up, snuggling up, to Johanna.

At least this time he couldn’t blame himself for being drunk or too forward or not forward enough. He had been at the bar early, and waited. And waited … and waited. Johanna had stood him up.

Merry fucking Christmas

Love and Chaos Part 9(E) Chris 1

7th August 2021

Rodenberg Strasse, Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin. Google Images

Part Nine. Berlin. December 1995

“So, have you . . . ?”

“No, early days. Don’t want to rush things.”

“Third date coming up.”

“I know,” Richard replied then, to change the subject, pointed to his new CD player. “What do you think ?”

“Very nice. All you need now are some CD’s.”

“One thing at a time.”

“Yeah,” Chris added, “don’t want to rush things.”

Chris had arrived at Richard’s with a bag of cakes which they had demolished. Fresh coffee perpetually brewed in the kitchen. They took turns making it, and keeping the Ofen stoked. The kitchen door open, gas rings and fire lit to the max, to combat the Berlin winter.

The reason Chris was here was to see when Richard was flying home, so was surprised when he learnt that Richard intended to spend Christmas in Berlin. Chris, however, had to get away. His life depended on it.

Despite the fun of working in the bar, the sense of rebellion he felt by living in a squat, paying no rent or taxes, and a steady supply of one-night stands, he had also experienced the other, less glamorous side.

He felt wretched all the time. Truly wretched trying to keep up with Jake and failing miserably, waking up with Baustelle headaches, frequent vomiting and an increasing sense of paranoia. He rarely felt relaxed, always sure he had done something terrible, but exactly what always eluded him. The only cure seemed to be to get drunk. The cycle continued.

Winter in the squat was no fun, the Ofen inefficient, and he was always too drunk after returning from the bar to spend time lighting it. Burning down the squat house wouldn’t go down too well with the other squatters.

He was wearing clothes far longer than they ought to have been worn, knowing full well that he smelt, but, as he justified, it was only Berlin, and what was the point in wearing fresh, clean clothes if he was only going to the Czar Bar.

He was also imitating Jake’s eating habits, which comprised of fast food exclusively, either burgers or something deep fried from the local Turkish Imbiss. He could feel the spots multiplying on his face.

As for the women, he was getting used to finding an unattractive malodorous naked body snoring next to him, when he was sure he had gone to bed with a far cuter angel, just hours before. The speed at which the women got up, dressed and left indicated that they, too, were less than impressed with their conquest.

To balance this, he would often go to Richard’s, take a bath, spend time in a warm flat, and sleep a little, without having to worry about being woken by some screaming in the Hof, or someone knocking on his door, barging in, shouting in loud German and expecting him to be as lively as he was when working.

Today, there was another purpose; a new travel agents had opened on Richard’s street, and Chris wanted to see if they should book their tickets together.

“So, it’s getting serious ?”

“Yes, it is. You’re right, there are only so many times a guy can play ‘Monster’. I need some new CD’s”

They walked to the travel agents, looking at the posters of sunny, tropical resorts, while the very tall owner, with a very receding hairline ending in very long hair, scrutinised his computer, with almost comic intensity, to find a flight.

“Nice guy,” said Chris, after having bought his ticket. “I especially liked the John Lennon glasses.”

Richard agreed and they walked a little down Schönhauser Allee. They went into one of the Überraschung shops, a ‘surprise’ store filled with household goods at cheap prices, made by companies with very similar names and logos of established brands. They marvelled at the packets of cheap shirts, endless shelves of crockery and gaudy kitsch items that defied description, wondering how such items got designed, manufactured and sold, wondering who would buy them, when a small albeit very well-built old woman barged in between them to grab the last remaining flower pot-vase-thing.

They soon lost enthusiasm for their constitutional, and returned home. Richard left Chris in the flat, to go to work. He felt a bit relieved, as Chris had mentioned checking out universities back home, or at least some courses. He thought about how things were changing. It was now Chris who seemed lost, having no purpose remaining in Berlin. It was now Richards’s turn to be happy, to be in a relationship. This thought made the job bearable. That and the expectation that in Johanna he had found what he had always been looking for; someone beautiful, intelligent, kind and . . . he was allowing himself to believe, falling in love with him.

Love and Chaos Part 8(H) Alan 2

6th July 2021

CAFE CINEMA, Berlin - Mitte (Borough) - Restaurant Reviews, Photos & Phone  Number - Tripadvisor
A typical Berlin art bar, showing films, staging poetry slams etc. This one is in Berlin Mitte, from Google Images

Part Eight. Berlin. October 1995

Alan sat alone at the small desk, hunched over a tiny film viewer, watching and rewatching a section of film. The wall was covered with thin strips of film of varying length. The top of each one had a piece of white paper, giving information that anyone but Alan would find incomprehensible.

He turned the handle, watching magnified images pass through the tiny monitor. He consulted his notes and selected the best takes from each scene, then the exact frame to be cut. He marked the frame with the puncher on the monitor. Carefully, lovingly, he removed the film from the cog wheels and held it up to see the tiny indentation. He aligned this on the spokes of his film cutter and guillotined the end. The selected piece was then labelled and stuck on the wall, at a precise point, between the scenes coming immediately before and after it.

Alan picked up the film curled on the table, held it up against the light, squinting as he saw with his eye where the next scene began.

He ran this piece of film through the monitor to find the exact spot where it should begin.

So he spent the whole evening, editing his short film.

He loved everything about making films. He loved getting the initial idea, the casting and telling the actors about the story and the style he intended to use. He loved the filming, meeting up, drinking take-out coffee, preparing shots. Now he loved the end stage, the editing and splicing. He was alone, peaceful, and had complete control over the images.

He couldn’t wait to run the rough cut through the monitor, make the final micro cuts, then play it through the projector, and see his work on the cinemascope that was the bedroom wall.

He laughed to himself when he looked at the projector. He had told Vincent about needing a better quality one, and the actor had suggested the flea market by Tacheles.

Sure enough, on the muddy wasteland there were two or three tables that had old cine equipment. Alan asked one stall holder the price of an exquisite machine and was ignored. Vincent came over and winked at Alan. He picked up the projector and then put it down. He asked the price of a totally different item, appeared uninterested and seemed to wonder off. The Stall holder sat down, back to his wurst roll. Vincent walked away; clutching the projector. Alan saw and was shocked, but played along. He stayed looking at some bits, then slowly turned and walked away at a very casual pace, showing that his hands were clearly empty and that he had absolutely no connection whatsoever with that other gentleman.

This acting lark was really easy, he thought to himself. Procuring equipment apparently posed no problems. Now for presentation.

Vincent had said that the film could be shown in the bars all over east Berlin. It was no problem to organise movie nights, and he mentioned some bars in Friedrichshain where he was known. One named Kinski stood out.

Alan still couldn’t believe it; actors, equipment, a processing studio and venues in which to screen. An audience ready and open to new work.

And Julie.

Alan was spending a lot of time on the close-ups of Julie. He had deliberately shot more than was required. He slowly turned the handle, so that no individual frame would stay too long under the lamp and burn.

He told himself that he was just admiring her beauty. Looking for her best angles, and deciding that all angles were her best.

He had several new scripts ready. The money for film stock and processing could easily be earned and Vincent had introduced him to a number of actors, would-be actors and people who had agreed to take part in the no-budget films.

His plans began to get more elaborate, longer films, dialogue, screenings at festivals. All was possible. He simply had to make it happen, stay focused. Berlin was his.

He followed these thoughts with others of a more personal nature, until he remembered he was on a deadline. The film could get it’s premier next Friday, if it was ready.

Alan got back to work, passing over the image of Julie with a gentle sigh.

But Alan hadn’t been prepared for the nerves. He had always imagined this moment, the screening of his first film, showing his work, his ideas, to a public of strangers.

The experience was different.

The venue, an official bar, was run by a group of young people but looked and felt like some of the more organised squat bars.

Vincent enjoyed the attention, the hugs and slightly exaggerated greetings, and Alan tried to get some of his energy and confidence. More and more people were coming into the bar, a large cine screen already in place, the projector protected. When Alan made some tests for focus, there was always someone to make rabbit-ear shadows on the screen. It got a little tired after ten or eleven times.

The time approached, as far as bars like this kept to schedules, and Vincent looked at Alan and suggested they had better start soon, or everyone would be too drunk to care.

But no Julie.

“Ja, sometimes rehearsals go on longer, maybe they had to do some new scenes. It is next week, things need working on.” Vincent referred to a play that Julie was in, a radical reworking of Baal, as Julie had described it, with a hint that radical was a very polite and optimistic description.

“Come, we show it now, then later, if she comes.”

Vincent, without waiting for a response, whistled to the bar man, who turned off the music. He put in a tape that Alan had prepared. The lights went down, to sounds of claps, cheers and whoops.

Alan’s heart froze. He was almost paralysed with fear. He reached out for Vincent’s beer and took a swig that drained the bottle. Then he hit the switch. The sound of the motor turning, a beam of light hitting the large screen. He indicated to the bar man to play the cassette, and as the first image of Vincent, in Close-Up appeared, five foot tall on the screen, the melancholic notes of Debussy poured into the room.

There were immediate claps and wolf whistles, followed by a general hushing.

Julie was next up, but the sight of her, in a short dress, sitting on the grass, just caused more and more screams. But this was good. Alan felt Vincent put his arm around him. He kept it there for the entire film.

The entire film was little over five minutes and got a further two minutes of non-stop applause. Alan beamed. His nerves, totally gone, he knew he would never again be nervous, his ideas were good, his films would get better and better. He would be a film director. He was a film director.

By the next screening, demanded by the audience, Alan was too tipsy to gauge the reaction. He had been congratulated by friends and strangers. Others had come up and pleaded with him to be in his next film. Others asked where else he was screening, had he heard about certain festivals, other Berlin venues ? Until the beer hampered his senses, he made a note of everyone, very clear, with name and contact number or address.


When Julie finally appeared, very apologetic, he greeted her, and she was noticed and lauded by the drinkers, not allowed to pay for her Sekt.

She apologised for missing it, leading Alan to suggest that she come over tomorrow and have a private screening. To his amazement, she accepted the offer and they set a time.

Vincent asked about the play and they spoke about the director, who changed his mind scene to scene, demanded re-writes, re-casting, costume changes. The actors now came in holding out their hands for new instructions, an in-joke being, ‘what was wrong with the last re-write ?’

“Not like Alan,” she said, patting him on the shoulder and leaving her arm there. “So, tell me, how was the film, tonight ?”

Vincent spoke, but Julie was looking at Alan. They smiled at each other.

The following night, Julie appeared exactly on time, as if she had arrived early and was counting down to when she could knock on the door.

She really liked the film, the style and the camera work. She was a little shy about seeing herself, but viewed it professionally and made tiny criticisms, all of which Alan dismissed.

Over coffee, Julie was relaxed enough to speak openly about the play. She had considered it a breech of professional conduct to be critical of a production, but she felt it was going to be a disaster. When asked why, she took her time and chose her words carefully,

“For one thing, there are too many people. The cast should have been cut, and actors doubling up. We never have a rehearsal with everyone there, always someone having to stand-in, and it’s hard to work up an reaction to someone reading a script without emotion.

“Then the constant script changes. We learn a part overnight, and find it’s been cut. Most of the actors don’t accept this and half an hour gets wasted when everyone shouts out their opinion.

“And we all have to work as well, there is no way we will get anything out this, financially. Not that it matters. But most of us work and have to give up our spare time. Can’t bear to see it so un-productive. There, enough moaning.”

Alan told her it was OK, he liked to hear an actor’s perspective and asked for tips. Julie thought for a little while, then began, tentatively,

“If I can make one tiny suggestion, it would be . . . how ? OK, just to be more confident. You know what you want. The actors don’t. It is up to you to tell them, what to do, not to get their suggestions. Because most actors will just suggest endless Close-Ups of themselves.”

There was a slight pause before Alan and then Julie laughed

“So I should follow Mr Hitchcock’s advise and treat actors like cattle ?”

“I didn’t say that !”

The conversation continued effortlessly. Alan said that despite the weather getting colder, there was still enough light to film in October. Julie laughed and said,

“Not for much longer. You’ll have to start directing theatre, because you won’t be able to film outside until April or May.”

Alan had never thought of this, but, of course he had an immediate cinema reference point.

“Like Ingmar Bergman ?” he said referring to the Swedish film and theatre director. “He would keep the same group of actors for both. Must have helped to develop a close working experience. Well ? Would you like to do some theatre with me ?”

“You have something ?”

“Well . . . I just might.”

As autumn once again became winter, there were other changes over Berlin. Alan would start to study theatre from the books available to him. Julie would start to get more and more attention for her craft. Daniel would rethink what medium he should use for his artistic expression. Chris would be very careful about what women he would fall in love with. A lost music student would search for direction. A Philosophy student would find his first semester harder than he ever imagined and would consider changing courses. And Richard would fall in love with a German girl who would make him happier than he had ever been, until, that too, went horribly wrong.

Love and Chaos Part 7(H) Daniel 2

8th June 2021

“Man Pointing, Band Playing”

Part Seven. Berlin. June 1995

The first thing Daniel saw as he entered the Russian’s kitchen was Olga sitting naked in the large sink, preserving her dignity by an arm across her breasts. Neither Andrei nor Sascha paid her any attention and Daniel, after first consigning the image to memory, discretely looked away and walked into the next room where Sawhead The Bear rehearsed. Boris, who had been behind Daniel, followed some seconds later.

There was a palpable tension in the air. The first gig was the following evening, and although Daniel had dismissed all the other bands he had seen as ‘utter shite’, he was feeling the nerves.

The other members were going through their own emotions. Andrei had worked the previous night and was finding it hard to even hold his bass, let alone play it. Boris was quieter than usual and was taking his time tuning up. Sascha was smiling behind his drum kit, trying to twirl his sticks, a trick he had never and would never master.

One thing that had amazed Daniel was the musical knowledge the Russians possessed. He had imagined them being subjected to nothing but patriotic work songs, but they knew bands as diverse as The Ramones, Genesis, The Move and The Breeders. They had quite an impressive collection of records which they had brought from Moscow, impressive in its diversity, as Punk records sat next to Progressive Rock acts or American Country. They hadn’t been able to choose the records that had come their way, so were grateful and curious about any western music.

Unfortunately, Daniel thought, this eclecticism manifested itself in the music they played. They would make an adequate covers band, but when it came to writing their own material, there was work to be done.

They had six originals and were going to pad out the set by playing some of their favourite songs. Once they had decided upon their favourite songs.

The whole afternoon drudged by, with only three cover songs anywhere close to being ready. Daniel knew it wasn’t working.

Boris was the real musician, but he was playing without inspiration or excitement. Andrei’s bass was meant to pin the whole sound down, but it sounded sleepy and lethargic, while Sascha was always going to be the fun guy of the band, the one with the smile and the drum kit, without necessarily the ability to play it.

Daniel had first identified this weakness, but sought to turn it into an attribute, politely requesting that he stop trying to play complex fills, and just keep a steady beat, like The Velvet Underground. Sascha had smiled and happily complied.

Then every time the band seemed to get into a groove, Charlie George or someone would walk in and ask something, and the band would stop to answer.

After another insipid run through of a Ramones song, Daniel threw down his mic and exploded,

“What the fuck is this ? It’s supposed to be the fucking Ramones, energy, aggression, power, anger, rock and fucking roll. Not this limp-wristed shit. What the fuck’s wrong ? Hey ? If you don’t fucking pick it up, I’ll find a proper band that actually want to play. I’ll tell you something else, if this is how it’s going to be, I ain’t playing tomorrow. Don’t want to fucking embarrass myself with you wankers.”

Silence. Boris starred at the floor and shrugged his shoulders, while Andrei just stood looking at Daniel. Daniel was quite a big guy, he worked on building sites and could easily take care of himself, was handy with his fists, but against Andrei . . .

He wouldn’t have had a hope in hell.

So he was relieved when Andrei finally spoke, and was apologetic,

“You right, today I play shit, I play like . . . “ he searched for the words and ended up by making gestures to convey his lack of energy. Sascha came up with some words in Russian that made them all laugh, even Daniel, as the tension had finally been broken. Andrei took up his bass,

“OK, one more time, come on, one, two, three, four . . .”

They launched into ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ all guns blazing, Boris thrashing the chords out, Andrei threatening to snap the thick, bass strings and Sascha doing an admirable job keeping not only a steady beat, but adding some high-hat crashes, as well as screaming out the ‘hey-ho, let’s go’ refrain.

Daniel walked with Boris to the Czar Bar, offering to help him set up. It gave them a chance to talk. They smiled as the nearer to Rigaer Str they got, the more flyers they saw advertising their first gig. Chris had made a collage of some photos of Giacometti sculptures and text that conveyed all the necessary information.

‘Man Pointing, Band Playing’ read the headline, then the address and approximate time. They were scheduled to appear at eleven.

Daniel mentioned the gig, the rehearsal, the practicalities of getting the equipment to and from the bar, and, finally, about Olga. However loquacious Boris had become on all matters to do with the band, he remained tight-lipped on that subject. Daniel took the hint and changed the subject.

The plan was to get a taxi to take the drum kit and amps to the bar, as all attempts to borrow a van, or elicit help had fallen through. Daniel also hinted, with delicacy, that Boris may want to take it easy tonight with the vodkas. Boris agreed and kept to his word.

The following day, Chris arrived at the Russians house only half an hour later than he had promised. By now, Daniel was used to Berlin timekeeping, and wasn’t too worried.

The taxi was hired and Sascha immediately got in and waited to go, before Daniel physically dragged him out and made him help loading up. As there was no space, only Daniel drove along, the rest walking, Andrei and Sascha spending the whole time moaning about why Daniel got to ride and they didn’t.

Chris had the key to the bar, Jake telling him to be back in time for them to stock up. Jake was predicting a busy night and he wanted to be prepared.

Outside the bar, Daniel guarded the equipment and gave out some small flyers to some passing women.

The setting up took a long time, lots of discussions where the sockets were, who was going to stand where, and Sascha appearing very unhappy with his drum stool.

Chris told them to carry on, while he went to the store with Jake.

Jake began playing a CD, loudly, just as the band were finally ready to start sound checking. He also lost patience, wondering how they could have spent so much time and not achieved anything, saying that he had to set the bar up.

Chris arranged a compromise. They would get the bar set up, while the band had a beer and took five. When the bar was ready, Jake could go and eat, and the band would have time to get their levels set.

The beers did the trick. It was also a little victory for Jake, as he was secretly a little envious and wanted to be part of a band again. The setting up was all finished within ten minutes and Jake left.

The band began rehearsing. Chris said who needed to be higher or lower, though he had little if any experience. Daniel had equated his Physics studies with acoustics and sound engineering, and there was nobody else anyway.

Unfortunately, Jake had left the back door unlocked and a stream of people poured in, stood around, looked and listened, asked what was going on, who the band were and made suggestions about sound levels and where the amps should go. Andrei then left the stage, arguing with the two other Russians, before walking out of the door and going home.

Daniel and Chris looked at each other, wondering if there was even going to be a gig. Before they could clarify, two new men walked in, one a brash Middle-Eastern looking man, the other, a lank-haired, bug-eyed, old hippy sort.

Brash Man shouted out,

“There is a gig tonight – we want to play.”

“Another time, mate, we’re busy,” said Chris.

“No, we want a gig. We can use your equipment.”

“The fuck you will,” answered Daniel, “You heard him, you ain’t fucking playing, this is our gig, now fuck off.”

Hippy Sort spoke,

“Hey, man, that isn’t cool, we are all musicians, we should share and help each other. Hey, Boris, wie gehts ?”

Boris and Sascha both recognized Joe, a regular and long term squatter, and said hello back. Boris had some words with Sascha in Russian, then turned to Daniel,

“Maybe it is good they here. They play first, we go on after.”

“Well, let’s face it,” Daniel spoke, looking at Chris, ”how fucking good can they be ? If they’re shit, we’ll sound better.”

“If they’re shit, we’ll have no fucking customers and I’ll make no fucking money.”

Joe began speaking to Boris. He was talking about what they needed. The Russians were happy to lend their equipment; it would just mean altering the mic stand, and Boris explained this to Daniel.

“And would someone mind telling me where the fuck our bass player is ?” implored Daniel. Brash Man answered,

“You need bass player ? I am bass player, I play with you.”

Boris took over,

“Andrei forgot his lucky jacket. He go get it.”

“Lucky, fucking jacket, fuck me!”

Chris had to laugh at Daniel’s outburst. Then Jake returned,


“Who are all these fucking idiots ? Get them out of my bar.”

Chris explained the situation, as best he could, when another set of squatters walked in, asking the same set of questions.

Jake exploded,

“Right, everyone that doesn’t work here, or is playing here, fuck off, now !” Joe and Brash Man didn’t move. Joe preempted Jake by telling him that there were also playing tonight. Then Brash Man asked about wages.

“Errrr . . . wages ? Nothing, fucking nothing.”

“Hey, Jake, come on, let’s give them free beer,” said Chris.

“Two free beers each. Nothing else.”

Brash Man looked at Joe, and got the nod.

“Good. Can we have them now ?”

“Fuck off!”

At that point, Andrei returned, wearing a hairy furry waistcoat.

Everyone was silent as they looked at him. Andrei realised he was being scrutinized,

“What ?” was all he said.

The bar was busier than usual, much busier, much earlier. It had become the place to start the evening, that Saturday, not where to end up when all else was closed. Jake and Chris were kept constantly busy, and happy that there were more women here than they had ever seen.

Then the first band walked on stage. Aside from Joe, who played his own guitar, a lovely shiny red semi-acoustic, and Brash Man who had brought his own bass, there was a third member, a thin, emaciated man, with a Rasta-style hat and marijuana symbols stitched to his denim jacket. He played bongos. Apparently.

They had a long discussion on stage, Brash Man not surprisingly being the leader. They began sound checking and talking and appeared about to start, when they abruptly stopped for Brash Man to tune up.

The audience who were curious, without being especially excited, quickly began losing interest, and there were shouts for them to get on and play. Then when they got around to playing, there were calls for them to stop.


Their music could probably best be described as Free Jazz . . . with bongos. The discussions about the mic stand were moot, as their set was entirely instrumental. Brash Man played repetitive patterns on his bass, no doubt believing he was creating hypnotic ragas, while Joe doodled about on guitar. The bongos were just there. Unfortunately.

The positive vibe in the bar was draining away. Casual visitors began leaving, others asked for the CD to be put back on. Still the band played. Richard walked in, knowing that it would never start on time, but pulled a Munch ‘Scream’ face at Chris when he heard the support band.

Daniel was livid, pointing to all the people either standing outside, or walking away,

“They’re going to think that these arseholes are Sawhead. Chris, you got to get those wankers off.”

Chris agreed and Jake was thinking along the same lines. Andrei was drinking his beer allowance freely and Boris appeared to be slightly shaking with nerves.

The piece of music finally came to an end. No applause, but there was a definite sense of relief. Jake went over and indicted that their beer was ready. But the hint wasn’t taken and another dirge was about to get under way.

Jake just unplugged the amps and shouted at Chris to hit the CD player. Joe was offended and weakly protested, but Jake didn’t even notice. The bongo player didn’t seem to care either way, but Brash Man insisted on finishing his piece, with or without amplification. Jake left him to it.

After half an hour, during which Jake decided to serve drinks and play music as a means of audio disinfectant, Sawhead The Bear walked onstage, cheered by the locals. They had all the awkwardness of a new band, unsure and unready, except, of course, Sascha, who couldn’t wait to launch into the first song. He looked at his band mates, tapped his sticks and shouted in his high-pitched, laughing voice,

“One, two, three, four . . . ”

Thirty minutes later, they came off stage heroes.

The band commandeered the last stools, by the Flipper room, and got hand shakes, pats, hugs, kisses and a lot of vodka. Richard had his arm around Daniel and told him how impressed he was by the singing and the lyrics. Olga was with some Russian girlfriends who tried flirting with Boris, but he just keep looking at Olga. She kept looking back. Trudi made sure Sascha didn’t speak to any other girls. Then Richard allowed Daniel to mingle, as lots of girls were waiting around, and it wasn’t for the comforts of the Czar Bar.

He was glad it had been a success. If this kept up, Chris would have a real income and a real life here. But he was already thinking that his time was Berlin was coming to an end.

Chris was thinking too, that this was only the beginning. They could play the bar at least once a week. Then other clubs in other parts of Berlin. He could really manage them, get them a recording contract.

Jake was wondering if he had enough beer, as Sawhead The Bear were on free drinks and those bastards could really put it away.

Richard noticed one more thing. Chris was constantly watching the door and was constantly disappointed by whoever came in.

Soon after, he found out why.

Love and Chaos Part 7(D) Boris 1

1st June 2021

Ostkreuz früher und heute
Ostkreuz S-Bahn station, with the “Teutonic water tower.” Google Images

Part Seven. Berlin. May 1995

Chris took Daniel to meet the Russians at their squat in a remote area of disused offices and railway shunting yards. The area looked like a post-apocalyptic film set: large empty streets save for a few burnt out cars. The buildings all with broken windows, doors hanging off rusted hinges, half derelict and foreboding.

They alighted at Ostkreuz, a major intersection S-Bahn station with several different levels and platforms confusingly set out with various exits leading to metal walkways and staircases.

Daniel noticed the Teutonic water tower, resembling a Prussian army helmet, and desperately tried to memorise other landmarks, in case he should need to come back alone, but he was lost even before he had left the station.

Chris had been here several times now, helping the Russians with carrying stock to the bar, and one or two social calls, and knew that finding the building was just the first problem. The next was getting in.

The address was Pfarrstrasse, but the entrance was actually on the street around the corner, Kaskelstrasse. The building took up a whole block, dozens of flats that had been left to decay and were now squatted.

Chris tried the street door, but knew it was always locked and even the idea of an intercom was laughable.

The first time Andrei had been waiting for him, looking out of a window, and he threw down a bunch of keys. The second time, Chris had to wait for someone to arrive, then, in German, explain who he was and why he was here. Despite living in a squat of his own and having to go over to Richard’s flat to shower, Chris still looked and dressed several notches above the squatters here, who were proudly unkempt, unwashed and untrusting.

Chris shouted up and they waited, shouted again and continued waiting. Daniel looked around, uneasily, not sure what he was doing here, wherever ‘here’ was.

He was experiencing the Czar Bar syndrome. Plans and ideas were expounded, inspired by the atmosphere and the vodka, but when they came to be implemented, there was a sudden lack of enthusiasm, a frequent lack of memory.

For five minutes they waited, and Daniel was prepared to put it down to a good idea that hadn’t panned out, when Chris saw Boris walking towards them with a plastic bag, obviously containing beer cans.

Daniel had met Andrei, Olga and Sascha, but Chris had pointed out that Boris would be the heart of any band, he was the musician, the one who would lift them out of the rehearsal room and onto the stage and then . . .

But Daniel wasn’t prepared for the voice.

Boris was tall and reserved, with dark, tangled, curled hair which he kept meticulously clean with his own home-made shampoo of beer and eggs. Chris even joked if the beers were for them or his hair.

“Ah, yes, yes, the beers, yes is for both, hahahaha.”

The voice was incredibly deep, an accent perfect for a late night horror program voice-over.

Boris let them in and they walked up three long steep flights of stairs, then along a corridor, where he opened another door. Inside, there was a lot of noise and activity.

The door opened straight onto a kitchen area, a large table in the centre of the room. Around this sat Sascha and his German girlfriend, Trudi, who was playing with her black and blue dyed hair. Andrei was shouting in Russian and Olga was screaming back, but they both stopped when they saw the guests, Olga going over and offering her hand to be kissed.

Another long-haired man was in the background, opening some packets of food. Daniel pointed to him and said to Chris,

“He looks like Charlie George,” referring to the Arsenal footballer from the early 1970s.

Boris was a big English football fan and amazed Daniel by picking up on the reference. Their friendship was assured. And the poor Russian, with no German or English, was forever after known as Charlie George.

The three potential band members, Boris, Andrei and Sascha, all had good albeit basic English. Of the three, Andrei was the one the others turned to, in order to clarify or translate a difficult word. However, their German was only basic, at best. Olga was doing well in her new language, but had no English. Trudi was quite fluent in English, when she spoke, which was hardly ever. She professed having zero desire to learn Russian.

“It is hard language to learn,” sympathised Boris. “But it used to be much worse. In English, you have one flower, then another word for two flowers . . . In Russian, too, we had same, but then we had another word for three flowers. After the Revolution, they say we going to make easier . . . “

“Yeah,” Daniel jumped in, “no more flowers!”

Boris had a laugh as disconcerting as his voice, but it was starting to grow on Daniel.

Charlie George brought some dried fish over, and invited Chris and Daniel to take one. They did, then watched how the others picked them up and slapped them hard onto the table, so hard that is caused some empty beer cans to topple over. Andrei saw their bemusement,

“It to make sure they dead.”

Then the vodka came out.

Some hours later, Daniel and a distinctly tipsy Chris left to walk under the railway bridges and along the wastelands to get the Czar Bar opened.

It had been decided that a new band should be formed, and that Daniel should come over on Saturday for a first rehearsal. Walking with Chris, he knew he would never be able to find it again, but Chris wasn’t listening. He was planning.

His income was directly proportional to the amount of customers, or rather, how much they drank, or rather, how much they paid for how much they drank. His expenses were drastically reduced, needing no rent or daily travel money, but he still wanted to be able to buy larger items, or have enough to fly home, if needed, to complete the degree which, by degrees, was seeming less and less probable.

He thought of the stage in the Czar Bar, how it was going to waste, as the only people who used it were themselves wasted, spread out and sleeping, until Jake would unceremoniously kick them up, then out.

The answer was obvious; a house band. Gigs, concerts. Get a whole new crowd in, not just the usual ragbag assortment of punks and squatters and shitkickers, a word he had heard Jake use, and was now part of his daily vocabulary.

What was better, and economically advantageous, was that it would have to be on the nights that he and Jake worked, as neither Boris nor Andrei would want to work and play, and Micha and Serge, the other Russians who got a night or two per week, were unlikely to want the extra effort it would involve.

His enthusiasm to tell Jake made him walk along at such a pace, that Daniel had a hard time keeping up.

Daniel was both excited, and on a nice alcohol buzz, but was concerned over an issue or two. While he was sure he would be able to come up with lyrics, he had never sung before and was wondering if he had any ability. Another point was that, as he sat quietly around the table, getting to know his new friends, and impressing them by his knowledge of Russian authors and of St Petersburg’s Nevsky Prospect, he had noticed how Olga looked at Andrei and then at Boris, and the loving way that Boris gazed upon Olga. There was going to be trouble there, he thought. But, until that happened, he was going to get a band started and, according to Chris who had already appointed himself manager, they had a guaranteed residency lined up.

Arsenal legend Charlie George in the early 1970s

Love and Chaos Part 7(C) Chris 1

30th May 2021

The East German punks who helped bring down the Berlin Wall | Dazed
Berlin music Scene. Google Images

Part Seven. Berlin. May 1995

Chris and Richard met Daniel at the small kiosk situated in one of the exit tunnels of Rosenthaler Platz U-Bahn. Daniel was looking at the window display which had miniature bottles of cheap and nasty looking hooch, labels and brands he had never seen before, alcohol he had never seen before.

They greeted and went straight to the club, a slight embarrassment at meeting away from the Czar Bar, as if that were their only common ground. The club was quite small, quite dark, one stage to the right, the bar opposite, and that was where they all headed.

By now, Richard and Chris could recognize many faces. Willem Dafoe was there, smiling broadly at each and every thing. Arizona Al was in another discussion with technicians about sound levels, but came over to say, “Hi,” and to meet Daniel,

“Cool, fresh blood, it’s getting kinda stale around here,” he admitted. ”Oh, Dude, listen, you can’t come onstage and blow me tonight, it’s a more conservative joint, here,” then he was dragged away by Bryan on a matter of the utmost urgency.

Daniel stood with his mouth open, not exactly sure what he was getting involved in.

Again, the room was half full at most when the first act went on. A petite, visibly terrified French girl played guitar and sang to the floorboards. Her between song banter was monosyllabic and mumbled, but she charmed everyone, winning them over with her nervousness and talent which was unmistakable, just hidden by a cloak of shyness.

But it was downhill after that. Singer-songwriters came and went, some bands played, more solo artists. Willem Dafoe played the exact same set with the exact same mannerisms and orchestrated spontaneity as before.

Bryan ‘Moonface’ came up to the bar with a young lady, and was speaking to her about Kafka, specifically ‘Metamorphosis’,

“It’s about a man who wakes up one morning and he’s been turned into a woman.”

“Oh, that sounds cool.”

Daniel exclaimed, “Fuck me,” loud enough to get Bryan’s attention, but ‘Moonface’ was too busy impressing his new friend with his broad knowledge of World Literature.

Richard and Chris played ‘name the influence’ as some bands were ripping off R.E.M., others Nirvana, while one electronic combo tried a reversal of Big Black, by playing a loud, Grunge song on keyboards and drum machines. It was a novelty for half a minute, but unfortunately went on for several.

Daniel wasn’t having as much fun as his companions. He had been expecting a great evening, but, despite the ever flowing beer, he was bored and that made him angry and frustrated. Which, of course, just made Richard and Chris laugh even more.

He got louder with his abuse and thought nothing of talking over an acoustic set. By the time Arizona went on, Daniel had just about had enough, but stayed because Al was the main reason they were there, although the sexualised parting words still played in his mind.

Tonight, Arizona Al announced, he was going to try some ‘mellow, chill-out vibes’. The absence of a guitar alarmed Richard, and Chris had a very bad feeling, which was confirmed by the opening note which continued without variation, while Arizona gradually added more single notes, together with some indistinct sound effects.

Daniel simply turned his back to the stage and ordered three vodkas. Arizona was now on his second song, a variation of the first, with even less going on.

Daniel turned to Chris,

“You enjoying this shit ?”

“Not at all.”

“Czar Bar open ?”

“Yep. Andrei working. And Olga.”

“Olga ?” asked Richard.

“Let’s go,” said Daniel, finishing his beer and walking out. Chris and Richard followed, both giving a wave to Arizona as he played on, with a surprised and hurt look on his face. Richard was already on damage control, telling Chris that they could say that their friend had to get a connection. Chris shrugged his shoulders,

“Or we could just say that he was shit.”

“Yeah, you could.”

Daniel was asking how to get to the bar. Chris explained,

“We’ll take the U-Bahn and change at Alex. U5. Five stops, total.”

Walking to the U5 platform, Daniel put his arms around the two others,

“Right, we need to get laid tonight. Agreed ?”

“Not even a question,” replied Chris.

“Tonight ?” repeated Richard, “anytime this decade would work for me.”

They walked down the escalators and waited on the platform. Daniel took out his cigarettes and passed them around.

“So, pussy action. What’s the deal ? Chris, you must get a nice bit of snatch, working the bar, hey ?”

“Have you been in the Czar Bar ?”

“Yeah, fair enough. Thought they’d be a few more girls in, tonight. Not much doing, was there ? Couple of knackered old slappers. I’d have liked that French bird, but she’d scarpered. ‘Bout you, Rich ?”

“Going through a fallow period. Got the seed, but no where to plant it.”

“We’re both going through an adjustment,” Chris intervened. “I was dumped by my girlfriend and Richard . . . “ the later himself completed the ellipsis,

“Is hung up on a girl who just isn’t interested,”

Daniel turned to him,

“Didn’t you have any other girlfriends ?”

“No. I was saving myself for her.”

“Ah, well, that’s the problem. To get a girl, you have to have a girl.”

“Thanks, Buddha, great advice.”

“Naw, listen. It’s like an auction. You put a piece up, no one’s interested, it gets tossed. Pun intended. But, someone likes it, others get interested. Get it ?”

“So,” asked Richard, trying to follow the logic, “if Lorelei had known I had a girlfriend, she’d have been more interested ?”

“Couldn’t have been less interested,” quipped Chris.

“Oy, shut it, you,” threatened Daniel.


“Oh, I see, he can get away with the insults, but I say something and I get the ‘I can kill you with one fingernail’ shit ?”

“Yeah. He’s not a plonker like you,” clarified Daniel with a subtle wink at Richard.

“He has a point, there, he has several points there,” added Richard. Daniel continued,

“You just gotta get a girl first, any girl. You can do that, can’t ya ?” Richard just shrugged. “Fuck me,” concluded Daniel.

“He may have to. Oh, come on, that was funny. OK, I know, I’ll shut it.” Chris walked off a little down the platform.

On the train, they continued the seminar, Daniel giving advice to Richard, and then learnt why Chris was dumped.

“She heard you say she were shit in bed ? Fuck, that’s hard. Now, tonight; I know that Al’s yer pal and all that guff, but . . . fucking hell, what a stinking pile of shit. I’ve heard some wank in my time, but that . . . “

“It’s part of the Berlin scene,” began Richard. “Anybody can get up and do something.”

“Problem is,” continued Chris, “most people do and most people aren’t overburdened with talent.”

“Not tonight, anyway,” laughed Daniel. “Thanks, guys, for taking me. Load of bollocks, but still thanks.”

They all laughed. Chris, followed by Richard, began to give more sage Berlin advice,

“Never presume that because it’s office hours, offices will be open.”

“Don’t touch Schultheiss beer. I know the logo is real inviting, but your stomach won’t thank you for it.”

Chris picked up the slack,

“Following on from there, don’t ever drink from the tap, despite all the assurances,”

“He’s right. May as well just drink out of the toilet bowl.”

More laughter. Then Daniel returned to the former subject of performing in Berlin.

“I mean, I could do better than that.”

“Well, then,” challenged Richard, “do it.”


“Yeah, but I don’t know any musicians, or anybody, just you two tossers.”

“But we know people,” argued Richard

“Oh, yeah, like that guy with the fucking pumpkin head ? No, thanks. Man turning into a woman. Fucking idiot.”

“No,” said Chris calmly. “The Russians. Andrei is a bass player. Boris is a fucking wild hot gypsy guitarist. Another guy who lives with them, Sascha, is a drummer. They’ve all played in bands, always looking for a singer. We’ll see some, if not all, of them tonight. Time to put up or shut up. Or are you just all talk ?”

“Mouthy little sod, ain’t ya ?”

“Yeah,” replied Chris with a swagger. “I am.”

Love and Chaos Part 6(L) Daniel 1

25th May 2021

Fischladen - Samariterkiez - Rigaer Str. 83
A Friedrichshain convenience. Google Images

Part Six. Berlin. April 1995

Though he was pretty immune to odours, Jake sometimes found it necessary to open the door and air out the bar while they were setting up.

The day had shown the first signs of a summer that promised to be warm and loving, a reward for surviving the harsh unrelenting Berlin winter.

Jake was sweeping in the back, by the stage, and Chris was behind the bar, stacking empty beer bottles in crates and getting tonight’s beer ready, when four builders walked in, the first asking in a north-English accent,

“You open, Mate ?” then sitting down before getting an answer.

Chris looked over at Jake who nodded.

“Sure. What can I get you ?” he asked, stressing his own Midlands accent.

“Fuck me, another one,” said the second man in his thick Irish brogue.

“Lot of us about, Paddy,” answered the third man, a thin, wiry Brummie with flecks of white paint in his hair.

“What’ve ya got, Mate ?” asked the fourth man, Daniel Roth.

Chris brought up a selection of bottles; Becks, Flensburger, Veltins and the Czech Staropramen.

“Give us a Becks. What d’you fuckers want ?” asked the Northerner.

“Do you not have no Guinness ? Fuck me. Go on, then, I’ll have to have a Flensburger, won’t I,” from the Irishman. The Brummie also chose a Becks and Daniel took a Staropramen.

“Look at that poncey twat, always gotta be different,” was the Northerner’s reaction to Daniel’s order.

They joked around insulting each other for a couple of rounds, then decided to leave.

The Northerner came back from the toilet, laughing,

“You oughtter see what it’s got writ in there: ‘Where is your Vortex ?’ (1) Too fucking right. I’ve been in some shite-holes in my time but this … Ah, no offence, Mate.”

Chris waved the insult away, suddenly remembering exactly why he had left England.

After they left, Jake was about to close the door, when he stopped and picked up a book that was on the floor. He held it out to Chris,

“This yours ? Lassa …’L’Assa moee …’ by . . . Emily Zola.”

“No, not mine. Sure as hell ain’t gonna belong to those thick-as-shit navies.”

Just then, Daniel came back in, looking for his book.

“Emile. It’s Emile, not Emily. And I wouldn’t insult builders, if I were you,” he said, looking at Chris, who was starting to lose the colour in his face, ”because those guys will pick you up with one hand and throw you against that back wall, there. Yeah, the book’s mine. We’re not all troglodytes, you know ? You can ‘ave it when I’m finished, all right ?”

“Yeah. Yeah, thanks.”

“You closing up then ?” Daniel asked.

Jake laughed, dispelling the tension and explained the opening hours. Daniel laughed.

“Well, maybe I’ll shoot by, later. Yeah, I know those guys are as thick as shit, but, they’re my mates, right ? And that ‘Vortex’ … Wyndham Lewis ?”

Chris nodded. He had written it one drunken night, inspired by a lecture from Melanie about how the cranes of the Baustelles (building sites) resembled Vorticist paintings. Jake had never noticed the graffiti.

But then Jake woke up a little,

“Hey, I wouldn’t insult builders if I were you.”

“Yeah, but the good thing is half the time they don’t even know they’re being insulted.” Daniel laughed at his own comment, realising the amount of truth in it. “Right then. See ya later.”

Later was still very early, just after ten o’clock and the bar was almost empty. Daniel sat on the first stool, by the door, and took another Czech beer. Chris looked at Jake and by mutual consent, agreed it was vodka time, though for Jake, it was always vodka time.


Chris poured one for Daniel, as a way of burying the hatchet. They talked about what they were doing in Berlin, where they came from and how much better life was here. Chris asked him where he lived,

“Wedding,” replied Daniel. This was an industrial Bezirk north of the centre, not renowned for its beauty. Not renowned for anything in fact.

“It must have been the only place in the West where people actually jumped The Wall into East Berlin,” he joked of his new neighbourhood.

Daniel was very impressed by both Chris and Jake living in squats and running the bar. But he began to be less impressed by the people that slowly started coming in, all neighbours and locals.

One such was Robert, a wild, crazy-looking German who sat next to him and proclaimed, without apparent cause or reason,

“Shit on a stick!”

The phrase was repeated endlessly throughout the night. Another large, almost obese customer nursed a solitary beer for hours and engaged in an animated conversation with himself. Squatters brought their dogs in and they snarled and barked, making their owners bark and snarl even louder than their pets in a vain attempt to make them stop. Jake barked louder than anyone, when he saw a dog about to defecate.

Then there was Peter. He was the father of the bar, a man in his mid fifties, with long yet stylish white hair and beard. He was very tall and looked as if he could have been a movie star in far distant days. He had travelled, was possibly an ex-sailor, and had been in Berlin longer than anyone could remember. He took a beer, then rested against a wall, observing proceedings. His only contribution was to raise his bottle to his lips and blow sharply, creating a shrill, resonating note, said note descending in pitch as he drank the beer.

Chris kept an eye on Daniel. He wasn’t looking quite so at home now.

Then the French arrived.

Johan had a group of friends who had either been in the army with him, or had come over to enjoy a cheaper, freer life.

They bounded in, Johan, Claude and several others, singing and shouting, Johan screaming out for vodka. Chris included Daniel in the communal drinking, despite his protests,

“I’ve got to fucking work, tomorrow. Fucking . . . OK, but last one.”

“Oh, you’ll be OK.” Chris winked at Jake.


By the time Richard arrived, desperately in need of alcohol, Daniel was swaying, smiling, singing, screaming. He was totally Czar-bared,

“Fuck you and your dry wall !”

“Eh, Jake, fucking hell, ‘ho is this man ?” asked Johan amused.

“Shit on a stick !” from Robert

“What’s wrong with continental breakfast ?” screamed out Peter, defying anyone to supply an answer.

Daniel, recalled back to life, laughed at Peter’s question and repeated it. Several times. It was at that point that Chris introduced him to Richard.

Picking up seamlessly on Chris’ lead, Richard insisted that the new friendship be cemented with a vodka. Daniel burst into song.

The whole bar, inspired by the French, took a vodka, Daniel almost drinking his shot before the communal toast and being restrained by Robert,

“Shit on your vodka!”

The madness continued. Daniel, in moments of lucidity, threatening to leave and get the last U-Bahn (long since gone) but he was now having longer periods of silence, head drooping, dropping, drooling, until he finally lay his head on the bar and slept.

Chris, who had been abstaining from the vodkas, had triumphed and he celebrated his victory by throwing crumpled cigarette boxes and old lemon peel at Daniel’s head, much to the amusement of Johan, bewilderment of Richard and apathy of everybody else.

After three-thirty, the bar began getting a little quieter, having been visited by a policemen who stood in the door and told them to keep the music down.

Another wonderful thing about Berlin. Here was a totally illegal bar in a squatted building and all the Police do is ask them to turn down the music. Having said that, a request from a German Policeman is pretty much an order, and was complied with. For a time..

Most of the French gone, the bar started to wind down. Richard was able to speak about his day, or rather his shift. He had worked with a new chef who was incredibly lazy, and some new bar staff who were incredibly boring. The novelty of being a Spüler had long worn off. But before Richard could complain further, Daniel woke up and staggered out of the door, no doubt determined to get the last U-Bahn.


Chris let out a celebratory cheer,

“Revenge !”

“Excuse me ?”

“Ah, never mind. Vodka ! Jake ? Vodka ?”

Jake stared uncomprehending. Wobbling around in the confined space behind the bar, he demanded of Chris,

“Do you have to ask ?”

The three drank and talked about the exit of Daniel.

“It’s amazing,” began Richard, “ people come in here, upright, homo erectus, sit at the bar, drink, drink again, and then, after the passage of time, they crawl out on all fours, to lie in a ball on the pavement, like single-cell pond life. It’s like watching evolution in reverse.”

His observation resulted in more vodka.

Richard left several hours later, making the mistake of going by S-Bahn. It involved a longer walk to the station, including a lengthy walk along the covered, elevated tunnel of Storkower Strasse, but was only a ten minute journey. The disadvantage was that if one slept, one was liable to find oneself in some distant suburb.

Richard woke up at Adlershof and took some time to adjust. He jumped off. Not only had he gone all the way to the northern terminus, he had come back on the same train and was now in south – east Berlin. The TV Tower, which should always be on his left, travelling home, was way off and to his right.

He knew that he didn’t have enough time to get home, get adequate sleep and return to work feeling anything close to well.

He worked yet another shift with a killer hangover.

However, it was more than Daniel Roth did. He didn’t make it into work. He had gotten on the first U-Bahn, but unfortunately the wrong one. He fell onto the train from Alexanderplatz, and was woken up by the guard at Hönow, in the east, the very distant east.

Chris, meanwhile, got his wages from Jake and merely had to fumble his way to the next door and up some stairs, where he fell into a deep and trouble free sleep.

(1) Vortex is the name of a household cleaning product in the UK

Love and Chaos Part 6(K) Richard 2

23rd May 2021

Wilkommen in der 78
A squatted house in Berlin’s Rigaer Strasse. Google Images

Part Six. Berlin. March 1995

“Ironic, isn’t it ?” asked Chris. “All that time Monika asked, told, me to move, now, after I dumped her, I’m leaving this flat.”

Richard was going to question some of the points, namely about Chris dumping Monika, but let it slide. He was helping Chris pack up, and trying to contain his excitement about having his own flat.

“After all, we can’t live together forever,” said Chris.

“Like Laurel and Hardy. Besides, they’d be no room for a horse in here. Be fun trying.”

“Think of the mess. You need to think things through.”

Richard laughed. They sorted out the books, not by ownership, but by who had read what.

Richard kept ‘The Soft Machine’ by William Burroughs and Chris took the short stories by Kafka. After devouring ‘The Trial’, Richard had toured the English language bookshops and second-hand stores for more of his work. They had collected a good sample of literature from these moments of serendipity. Chris eyed the library and exclaimed,

“Fucking hell. Just look at these titles: ‘Bleak House’. ‘Dead Souls’.”

Richard continued the list

“’Heart of Darkness’,’The End Of The Affair’, ‘The Plague’.”

“’Slaughterhouse 5′, ‘Death In The afternoon’”

“’Life Is Elsewhere’, ‘Memoirs From The House Of The Dead’, ‘Critique Of Pure Reason’. Hhmmm . . . must be your one.”

“Well I don’t want it.”

“Sure ? Could get you a lot of points, walking around museums, holding it ?”

Chris thought about museums full of impressionable young female students. He grabbed the book.

They walked to the U-Bahn station, Richard to go to work, Chris to get the adjacent S-Bahn to Storkower Strasse.

Some of the Czar Bar locals had asked Chris why he hadn’t move into a squat, especially as he was now an honourary squatter by dint of working in the Czar Bar. Jake’s squat became the model for how he imagined all such flats to look, but it was Johan who gave him a different perspective, as he too was a squatter, yet always managed to appear clean and respectable. At least by comparison.

The houses either side of the Czar Bar were squatted. There was an organized community with meetings, rules and (Chris later discovered) endless plenums and interminable meetings. Rooms were allocated to newcomers only after careful consultation. Free vodkas were a persuasive argument.

One night Johan was drinking and Chris working, when some men walked in and sat with Johan. They were Josef and Klaus, two men who had been living in the squat the longest and were the men to see about moving in. Johan told them about Chris needing a place to stay, how he had to go all the way back to Prenzlauer Berg after a whole night’s work (all of four S-Bahn stops) and, assisted by the aforementioned free vodka, they agreed to hold a plenum.

This word would come to haunt Chris, as every time there was a decision to made about absolutely anything … anything … someone would raise their hand and shout ‘plenum’, and everyone would have to gather around and hear the merits of whatever piece of nonsense was being discussed. But this first time, it gave him a chance of moving in, moving on.

Johan lived in Rigaer 77, and had a room in the Hinter Hof. The 77 squat also ran a bar of its own, the Temple du Merde, but it opened just on special occasions, and as the entrance was nothing more than a thin, rusted iron door, most people were oblivious of its existence.

It was in this building, not Jake’s, to the other side, into which Chris moved. He had a small room in the left-hand side of the Hof. The ground floor had ateliers, for the artists, and there was a constant coming and going and banging and shouting and screaming and smoking and drinking and generally a whole lot of nothing being accomplished, while a whole world of plans were being made.

Chris had the use of a kitchen, and there was a toilet on the floor below, but there was no bathroom. Yes, he was back in Rigaer Str.

Richard was eager to get home, to what was now his own flat.

Chris hadn’t always managed to pay his share of the rent, but as it was so cheap, it wasn’t a problem and anyway Chris had allowed Richard many nights of drinking, either free or, at most, a nominal charge.

Now he sat, listening to music and reading. He could sleep when he wanted and not worry about waking up, or being woken up by Chris.


It was quiet. Peaceful. Somewhat boring.

He was both tired, after work, but mentally active and knew that he wouldn’t be able to sleep. Chris wasn’t working tonight, that he knew, but he would certainly be in the Czar Bar. And maybe Olga would be there.

He put his shoes and coat back on and headed to the bar.

Love and Chaos Part 6(I) Jake 1

19th May 2021

The 7 Best Punk Bars In Berlin
A typical Berlin punk bar. Google Images

Part Six. Berlin. February 1995

Jake was born in Iowa and spent his life in the Mid-West, living first in Illinois, then trying his luck in Wisconsin, in Ohio and finally in Michigan.

He had played in bands, more in garages than on stages, deciding he’d be better off as a solo performer, then changing his bachelor life for that of married man, before his wife decided that she’d be better off, back as a solo performer.

As he had disclosed, without exaggeration or embellishment, he had been working in the fast food sector at the time his wife informed him, by proxy, that his services were no longer required.

What he didn’t say, and what would have made a dramatic and popular coda to his story was the fact that after his young supervisor requested he get back to work, Jake went over to him, picked him up and attempted to deep fry his head. He was deterred by some tall Black co-workers, who later wondered why the hell they had stepped in to save the skinny white guy’s arse.

Jake, predicting that this wasn’t the path to career advancement, left the building. He felt finished in the US and, after taking care of his legal formalities, and totally disregarding other responsibilities, decided to check out his family’s east European roots.

With just one backpack, one guitar and limited funds, he landed in Krakow, in post-Communist Poland.

By busking for tourists, Jake was able to survive, and also to imbibe as much as he liked, due to the incredibly low prices of alcohol. He moved onto Prague, with its large American ex-pat community and found various jobs, helping in bars, shops, being a guide (‘making up most of the facts for fat tourists who didn’t care, anyway’) until he heard that Berlin, just a five-hour train ride away, was even cheaper, with squat houses, and more possibilities.

In 1991, Jake arrived with some names and addresses. He found a number of bars in Friedrichshain and played for drinks. He made most money by playing Neil Young’s ‘Rockin in the Free World’ by The Wall for the remaining American GIs.

The Czar Bar was then a strictly Russian affair, and one vodka-soaked night there was a Slavic stand off when one Russian man accused another of sleeping with his girlfriend, causing a defiant denial and indignation, despite it all being true and everybody knowing it, most people even seeing it, as it had occurred in a dark corner of the bar. The immediate problem was that the two men were supposed to be working together.

As this clearly was not a good idea, Jake, who happened to be there, offered to take over. That night, the Russian cuckold helped himself to his own vodka and sat sulking, sporadically bursting out curses and threats in Russian.

Veterans of the Czar Bar point out that this was the only time that Jake could have been referred to as ‘the sober one’.

Nearly four years later, Jake’s world had shrunk to the bar, the beer shop, Burger King on Karl Marx Allee and his squat flat, next door to the bar.

It was at said flat that Chris arrived at around five in the evening.

He knocked. And a second time. It wasn’t until the fifth knock, when he was on the verge of leaving, that there were rumblings inside, rumblings that morphed into noises that metamorphosed into curses. The door opened and two bulging, red eyes appeared in a forest of facial hair. The hat was, as usual, on, at some impossible angle.

Jake inquired what Chris wanted, then grumbled and mumbled and opened the door to let him in and shuffled back to his room, scratching and pulling at his ripped unholy long johns.

Chris had lived on Rigaer Str, had drunk in all manner of squat bars, and met drunks and junkies on the streets, the streets full of shit and vomit, piss-stained and encrusted with frozen mucus, but nothing had prepared him for Jake’s flat.

There was no furnishings to speak of; all walls were bare, as were all the floors, which had several boards missing. There was little light as it was dark out, and most of the windows were either boarded up after being broken, or had too much stuff piled in from of them. Single bulbs hung like condemned men from noose-like wires.

But most of all, it was the smell. It appeared as if Jake had kept every bit of garbage, and had maybe gone out and collected more. It was piled up against doors, pouring out of rooms, covering the floor. There were cartons, bottles, cans, wrappings, ring-pulls, fast food boxes (grease-streaked and discoloured), papers, flyers, adverts, letters, and a whole, miscellaneous section that defied description.

Chris was rooted to the spot. He didn’t feel safe moving, it was surely a health hazard just breathing.

Jake called out something to the effect that he’d be ready in a minute. Sure enough, he reeled out of his room (from which Chris turned his face), swayed forward, putting on his thick, leather coat and checking his wallet.

“Yeah, Micha and Serge were out, or they’d have let you in.”


Chris couldn’t believe that two other people shared the space.

Jake went down the steps and opened the back door to the bar. The fug hit Chris immediately. Old beer, old stale sweat and tobacco smoke rushed out like a deranged Jinn, one with severe body odour to boot.

Jake was immune, and opened the storage room, taking out the trolley and loading it with empty crates and making a quick inventory. There was a note left for him; Andrei and Olga, who had worked the previous night, had run out of vodka, and borrowed a bottle of his.

“See how fucking clueless they are ? It’s the Czar Bar for fuck’s sake and they had no vodka.”

Chris was starting to think that this may not be the best idea he’d ever had. Drinking in the bar was one thing, actually working there . . .

Jake took Chris to the beer store, around the next corner. He barked in German, placing his order.

“Wednesday, probably not too busy, it’ll be a slow start but’ll pick up by four, five . . . yeah, better make it an extra case of Becks, two bottles of Tequila, gimme a bottle of that whisky as well, six, no, sev, er, eight vodkas, yeah, nine. Nine. That’ll be us covered, hahahaaha.”

Chris knew that Jake wasn’t joking, and that Jake would certainly have consumed at least one bottle of vodka himself, before the night was over, maybe before the bar had even opened.

While Jake began setting up, Chris gave it a cursory sweep, made sure the toilet was at least presentable (i.e. flushed) and collected last nights ashtrays and bottles, putting the empties in Andrei’s crates.

The first beers were already opened as Jake gave Chris some beginners’ tips. This solely consisted of not allowing any credit, because the creditor and debtor would both be too drunk to remember it the next day.

Then they went to Burger King and Jake told him stories of cleaning toilets in McDonalds and they both agreed that the burgers they were eating were some of the best they’d ever had.

It was way after one o’clock when Richard arrived, straight from work, to celebrate Chris’ new job. The very first stool, by the door, was empty, so he took it and gave Chris his shoulder bag to put behind the bar. Before they could have any conversation, Jake, on his umpteenth vodka, came over and extended his hand, booming out above Tom Waits,

“Hey, Richard, what brings you here ?”

“The night bus,” he replied, but only Chris found that amusing.

Jake found it an excuse for a vodka.

Chris was doing well, collecting glasses and bottles and serving the customers immediately. He got into some conversations with people he had previously only known by sight, many of them living in one of the squatted houses either side of the bar.

After returning from the toilet, Richard saw his seat taken by a woman, but as the next one became free, he sat there and they began talking. Then drinking. Having a friend and flatmate as barman was having benefits. Richard had yet to pay for anything and when he offered, Chris just shot him a wink and, with a wink, poured him another shot. His new friend also enjoyed this privilege. Then Richard began a kissing thing, Chris discreetly moving away down the bar, casting an approving eye from time to time.

Jake, however, was proving less fun to work with than to drink with. He allowed Chris to choose the music, then changed it every time, before the first track had finished. He gave instructions, repeated them, then got into a bad mood for no apparent reason and returned to a good mood, hugging Chris, equally without obvious cause.

Richard was kissing and stroking his friend, only for her to say that she had a boyfriend (he resisted the urge to call Chris over and make some reference to the perennial boyfriend problem) but was tempted to go home with him, yet everytime he appeared to have won her over, she pulled back. He didn’t press her, but just thought he better kiss her while he has the chance. So he did.

As Jake forecast, the bar was crowded by four o’clock. The Czar Bar, as Chris later surmised, is where all drunks and punks and skunks end up. When other bars spew out their customers, they end up here. Especially when Jake is working.

Richard gave a last kiss to his friend, as she had to leave. He never did find out her name. He never did see her again.

Chris introduced him to several new people and three or four times, there were communal vodka sessions, where everyone around the bar had a shot of vodka. Then came the business of finding out who was paying for it.

Richard saw Johan again, this time with a small and very pretty blonde girl with glasses, and all three, along with Chris and Jake took a shot. The girl was Veronica, Johan’s new girlfriend.

Eventually, the bar began closing. Richard had spent some time asleep on the counter and several people around the bar were being woken up and kicked out.

All locked up, Jake opened three fresh beers, as if he were ready to start all over, played one of his favourite Neil Young CD’s and sorted out the money. He was pleased; it had been a busy night. He handed Chris two fifty Mark notes.

“It’ll be more on weekends. Gotta get more girls in here, because if we have girls, we’ll get more men.”

They made some drunken suggestions, then fatigue overtook them. Richard knew he had to work that evening and would still be hungover.

Chris and Richard left and were hit by the unforgiving morning light which momentarily blinded them, making them squint.

Staggering wildly around the street, Chris recommending that they take the U-Bahn, because it stopped at Alex, then the U2, which terminated just one station past their’s at Vintastr. should they fall asleep.

At Alex, both of them indeed asleep, they were woken by some of the other passengers and, heading to the U2 line, they found a croissant shop and bought several pastry items, as they smelt so damn good.

When Richard woke up around three-fifteen, he found several bags of half-eaten, cold stodge in the kitchen. He put on coffee and went to wash.

Chris was still sleeping. He was out.

Love and Chaos Part 6(F) Monika 2

11th May 2021

Berlin Prenzlauer Berg, with the Wasserturm in the background. Photo by Martin O’Shea 2021

Part Six. Berlin. February 1995

Despite his naivety, when he woke up and saw that Chris’ bed was empty, Richard knew what had happened.

He felt uncomfortable, not to mention a little jealous. Once again, everyone else was hooking up, making connections, getting off. Everyone was making love, while he was merely making notes. Even New Year’s Eve, in clubs full of drunken girls, half on them on ‘E’, the kissing drug, he ended up crashing on Arizona Al’s floor. This wasn’t exactly the life he had envisioned for himself.

But there was little time for self pity as, shortly after he had washed and made his first coffee, there was a knock at the door, a knock that indicated it was Monika.

He let her in, and she was so apologetic, asking him to forgive her, and it wasn’t fair that he should have to suffer. She came for business, armed with fresh croissants and a pile of newspapers.

“We look through these until we find Chris a job, OK ? He is in the bath ?”

“No, he is, er . . . out. But he should be back soon. Would you like coffee ?”

They sat in the kitchen and that, reflecting back, was the mistake that lead to Armageddon.

Had they sat in the main room, Chris would have seen them and spoken accordingly. Instead, he saw an empty room, but heard movement in the kitchen.

“Ah, what a night. Unbelievable. So refreshing to have some good old, down and dirty sex. Hot AND heavy. And not have to beg for it, either.”

Richard physically felt his heart stop.

The time between Chris saying those fatal words and realising that Monika was there, hardly more than two or three seconds, seemed endless.

Chris stood in the doorway, attracted by the smell of fresh coffee and croissants but the sight of Monika was so unexpected that he stood there, frozen, petrified.

Richard swept past him, grabbed a book, some money and his coat, and was out of the house and down the stairs before Chris could fully comprehend the extent of the situation.

That the relationship was over was a given. Just how much suffering she was going to inflict was the only variable.

Richard went to The Anker, but the cute waitress wasn’t working, so after a quick coffee, he moved on, further along Stargarder Strasse, past the Imbiss with the deep fried cauliflower, to another bar with a cute waitress who was working, but didn’t appear to recognize him at all. But, by now, Richard saw this as standard procedure.

He read some, looked around, checked his watch and came to the conclusion that he would have to stay out of the house all day. He could hardly phone and ask if it were safe to come home. Then what would Monika think of him ? How awkward would it be when they met again which, Berlin being more like a large town than a big city, they were bound to do.

He walked around for a bit, then decided to see a movie but even the earliest was hours away.

He tried calling on Arizona Al, but no answer and Berlin in February is not usually ideal for strolling aimlessly around. In the end he decided to get an U-Bahn to Alex, then take a long S-Bahn journey. It would keep him warm and kill time.

And that is how he spent his Sunday. It was a stroll in the park compared to Chris’ and Monika’s.

Monika’s first reaction was sheer shock. She sat, not believing what she had heard, softly repeating it. When she stood up, it was with defiance and she stood in front of Chris, just looking at him. Then, spontaneously, she hit him, with all her force, a punch to his chest. It appeared to surprise both of them. Then she hit him again, and was about to punch him a third time, when he caught her hand. She made a scream and he let go and they backed away, Monika cursing in German. She picked up her things and left.

Chris let out a sigh of relief. It could have gone much worse.

Then Monika returned, banging on the door and he had to let her in.

The fight was now really about to start.

She fired questions at him, shouting, spitting in his face with anger and frustration. She brought up all she had done for him, all he hadn’t done for her and kept asking, over and over, to describe in detail his night, what ‘down and dirty sex’ was, how to do it, and wanted to know about each and every time they had made love, how it had been, what was it she had been doing wrong.

She was relentless and Chris, with an almighty hangover was in no condition to argue. He also couldn’t help smiling, partly from still being drunk, partly from fear which, naturally, didn’t help the situation.

He tried to calm her by suggesting some tea, but she picked up a cup and threw it, and it caught Chris on the cheek.

That act subdued her and brought the initial hysteria to a close.

Chris made drinks in silence, not feeling like smiling so much, now. Monika paced up and down.

She then demanded to know all about the girl and Chris found himself making up a story, how he had seen her a few times and she was a nurse, who lived with her parents, rather than the truth, that he had only met her the night before, as he had simulated oral sex with Arizona Al on stage at a club called The Monkey’s Arse.

After came the subject of their sex life, and what did he mean by having to ‘beg’ for it ?

Then a list of all the sacrifices she had made, up to and including that very morning, as she was prepared to give up her free day to help him find a new job.

Just when Chris though she had calmed down, the anger and hatred returned and he instinctively covered his face, making her laugh.

“What a man, what a fucking little man you are. How could I waste such time on a fucking Smurf like you. Arschloch !”

Monika began looking around the room, collecting things of hers, cursing all the time and throwing things around.

“Ja, you just sit there like a fucking mouse.”

She went into the bathroom and Chris was glad of the momentary peace, even thinking about leaving the flat, and cursing the fact that he was too high up to jump out of this kitchen window, an action that had precipitated the whole scene.

It would be nearly an hour before she left, more tears and accusations, shouting and punching. Chris wondered where the hell Richard was.

“Well, you Arschloch, I’m going, why don’t you go to your filthy squat bar and pick up another fucking, dirty whore-cunt ?”

Several hours later, in a filthy Czar Bar, Chris looked around, but there were no women, dirty or otherwise.

“Hey, Man, thanks for coming with me,” he said to Richard as they sat on the end stools, further from the door, in front of the annex with the store room and toilet.

“No problem. Could use a drink.”

“Mustn’t overdo it, though. One, still got a hangover from last night. Two, shell shock from the Monika. It’s like having the bends. Three, work tomorrow.”

“Work ?”

“Yeah. Gotta find me a job and that is gonna be work.”

Seeing Chris’ sense of humour return, Richard ventured a joke of his own,

“Still, on the plus side, you won’t have to buy her a Valentine’s card.”

Chris was unfortunately drinking at the time and, laughing, beer began pouring out of his nose. Jake the barman was suitably impressed and, over a round of vodkas, got to hear the story.

“Ever noticed the initials of Valentine’s Day are V.D. ? Either of you expecting any ?”

“Cards or the clap ?” asked Richard.

“No, just death threats,” answered Chris.

“Stick around here. Sunday’s normally quiet but if it gets busy, I could use a hand. Hey, we’ll see how it works out, OK ?”

Chris agreed, but shared Richard’s scepticism, as it was after Midnight and there were only two other people in there apart from them, neither of whom looked as if they were going to be running Jake off his feet.

Then the door opened, and a man known to them only by sight came in, drenched from the rain that been falling with increasing ferocity all evening.

He stood there, hair soaked, dripping, rain falling off his jacket, jeans, gloves, nose.

“Hey, Mr Jake,” he called out in a heavy French accent, “Vodka. Hey, you two, too. Hey, Salut, come on, have a vodka with me. Women, fucking hell, Man. Have I got a story to tell . . . “