Love and Chaos Part 6(A) Chris 1

6th May 2021

Photo by Martin O’Shea 2021

Part Six

Berlin. January 1995

Richard knocked the worst of the snow from his boots and entered the bar immediately seeing, and hearing, Chris and Arizona Al at a far table.

He ordered a coffee as he walked over to them, and began the process of taking off the layers of clothing.

It was only mid afternoon, but all lights were on. The day, seen through the large glass panes, was gray and bitter, people walked along quickly, heads down and wrapped up against the cold.

“Look what I got,” he said, opening his bag and taking out three second hand paperbacks. He put them on the table, Chris taking them straight up,

“Let’s see . . . ‘Memoirs of a Fox Hunting Man’, hhmmm, ‘The Trial’, Kafka, and, ah, Dickens, ‘Tale of Two Cities’. Which one you gonna read first ?”

“Think I’ll have a bash at Kafka. You’re always talking about him. You read this one ?”

“Long time ago. Al ?”

“Err, what’s that ? Kafka ? No, who’s he ?”

Richard explained about the Czech writer, as best he could, only knowing what he had read in the introduction on the U-Bahn ride.

“Oh, yeah, cool, could give that a go, yeah, something different. Been meaning to ask you guys about books. Like to maybe borrow some, if that’s no biggie ?”

“Here,” said Richard, offering the Memoirs. “Thought it was something German, name like Siegfried Sassoon, but turns out he’s as English as can be.”

“Yeah, the fox hunting bit may have been a clue, what ?” said Chris with a wink at Al, before asking him, “You read Generation X ?”

“Err, no, no, don’t think so.”

Richard had brought it from London, and they had read and reread it many times between them. Chris was all for going home and getting it immediately, but Al told him that later would be OK.


“It legitimizes our whole existence,” continued Richard, “for example, I’m no longer a hopeless loser, I’m a McJober. We,” indicating Chris and himself, “are occupational slummers. You, Al, are retro, neo, rock star, throwback . . . something.”

“Actually,” corrected Chris, “I’m taking an occupational sabbatical.”

“Yeah, how’s the job hunt going ?” asked Arizona, trying to get the conversation back to something he could understand.

Richard laughed to himself, having heard all of Chris’ descriptions of sordid, Dickensian working conditions.

“I’ve got an interview, meeting thing tomorrow at some pasta restaurant in Yorckstrasse, so at least I’ll get some decent grub. But, fucking hell, some of the places. I went to one, out past Dahlem, and there was no sink in the kitchen. They were showing me how to take the plates and shit out to a big barrel in the yard, and wash them with a hose. Then I went to a brewery bar on the Ku’ Damm. Took one fucking look and thought fuck that. Enormous kitchen and about ten chefs, all screaming at each other and at the Spülers, who just stood there, heads down, as frying pans were flying around, fat was flying, food was flying, bottles . . . lucky not to be decapitated. Lucky not to be employed there.”

Richard enjoyed the embellishments Chris had made since he first heard that anecdote, when it had featured a mere four chefs. He then spoke up, as much to clear his name as anything.

“Of course, I offered to let him go back to Biberkopf . . . “

“Yes, but then what ? I have a much better chance of finding something than you. Besides . . . Monika’s not happy with me being just a . . . “

Arizona waited for the completion of the sentence, but was forced to ask,

“You and Monika not so tight ? I thought you were solid.”

Chris let out a whistle,

“No, sir, not by a long chalk. Trouble at mill.”

He knew that Arizona would have no idea what he was talking about, so he clarified.

“I don’t know, Al. You should know, you’re been around women. What should I do ? First, every thing’s fine, great, she’s the love of my life, next thing, she’s a bloody Tasmanian Devil, a force of destruction. Hurricane Monika. Not a house left standing.”

“Hey, man, can I ask you something ?” then without waiting for permission, Arizona continued, “what was the deal with that Melanie chick ?”

Richard sat up, hoping that at last, he may know the full story.

Chris did in fact look at him as he began, but now didn’t care and was happy to get it all out in the open.

“I don’t know. As you can see, when it comes to women, I’m at a bit of a loss.”

“She was into you like gangbusters, Dude. When you kissed Monika, her face was just pure evil. Queen of death.”

“Yeah ! That’s her. ‘Queen of Death’”

“All that black doesn’t help,” added Richard.

“She some kind of Antichrist or something ?” asked Arizona.

“Atheist,” said Richard, presuming Al has used the wrong word. “We had a discussion about her beliefs one morning. She told me there was no God. But atheists are like joggers; you never see a happy one.”

“And you couldn’t argue with her. She’s always right.” said Chris.

“Especially when she’s wrong,” concluded Richard. Arizona was more interesting in the background than the word games.

“But did you ever like, date or fool around ?”

“Yeah, you ever take her out to second base ?” asked Richard.

“Get to second base, asshole. If you’re gonna go Yankee on my arse, at least get it right !”

Arizona tried to get the answer. Chris refocused.

“No, no, well, yeah, OK, kinda kissed and shit, but I wasn’t really into it. Breaks down like this; I was working in a café, bussing tables ‘n’ shit. OK, I was pouring coffee and working the till, whatever, and Melanie also worked there.”

“And Will was a regular customer ?” interrupted Richard.

“I’ll get to that bloody old nuisance in a moment.” Chris shook his head and took a strong hit of caffeine. “So, we’re both students, Mel and me, but never meet on campus, because I’m doing heavy macho stuff and she’s into waste of time, book reading or flower arranging, I dunno, chick subjects. But, you know, there ain’t much a-happ’ning on the home front, and we get on, and one night we go to the movies. Then, afterwards, as we’re saying ‘goodbye’ she comes up to me and gives me a massive hug, really hung in there, got her moneys worth. That should have been a sign.”

“Oh, I get it. A clingy-thingy.” Said Arizona.

“I hear you, Man.”

“But you were never together ?” clarified Richard.

“No, course not. So we kissed a bit, well, you know, vodka will do that to ya. But then I pulled down the portcullis. Told her I wasn’t into anything physical. Childhood trauma and all. I expected her to run like the clappers, but, oh no, she has to add her own Freudian fuckups. Unable to . . . you know.”

Arizona nodded, slowly, sagely. He knew.

“But she was coming on like you were soul mates an’ all,” Richard explained, “such talk, like you have the best hands in history. Let me see. Hold up those Germans.”

Chris wasn’t exactly sure of that Cockney slang, but held out his hands for inspection.

Richard made a dismissive snort,

“They’re nothing to write home about. Now, Will; what’s his problem.”

“Where do I start ? He’s just some old fart who’d come in, buy one coffee and stay all day. Couldn’t shift the fucker. The sort that works out how much he’s saving on electricity. Sniffing around young students.”

“Male or female ?”

“I don’t think he was even bothered. In fact . . . Yes, sonofabitch, he came on to me. Few times. Cheeky bugger. Thought he was just being . . . ”

“HEY !” exclaimed Arizona, who had been looking at some flyers on the table, “whatdoyaknow ? ‘The Wiggling Kellys’.”

There were a few seconds of silence, as Chris’s story had been prematurely curtailed, and they would have to adjust to the verbal jet-lag, as a new, wholly unrelated tale was going to unfold.

“Ha, those girls. They were my backing band.”

Neither Chris nor Richard were willing to delay the story, so they indicated with their eyes that he should continue, without pause, with Richard holding up his coffee cup, and three fingers, to the waitress, whom he naturally found cute. He had already checked her left hand and noticed the absence of a ring.

“Yeah, they were backing me at the ‘So Was ?’ (So what ?) club in Kreuzberg. Ya been there ? It’s got this long kinda walkway catwalk stage, so it’s great for rocking out on. I’d met these two girls some time before and they’re real hot, groupie types, and they’re asking about venues and how to go about getting a band together, and I’m all, yeah, yeah, blah, blah, just trying to decide which one I wanna connect with, ya dig ? So I told them about this gig and they were asking do I need backing singers, and I’m thinking, well, no, but, hang on here, what better way to turn ’em on, play the rock star card, so I say, well, I don’t know, maybe, let’s see what ya got.”

Laughter and claps of approval.

“Yeah, I’m one one cool motherfucker when it calls for it, I know, so they do a number, in the bar, and, what can I say ? OK, can hold a tune, just, but they start dancing to it.”

“Wiggling ?” asked Richard, with excitement.

“Oh, yeah, they had the moves, you know what I’m saying ? So I thought, hang back, if they sing, they’ll fuck up the songs, but if they dance …”

“Fucking genius ! I’ve got a lot to learn from you,” Chris gushed.

“Sure ’nuff, Grasshopper. So comes the gig, I’m playing, and doing my stuff, I just had guitar and drum machine, and I start to walk up the stage. The girls see this, and next time, they walk with me, one each side, dancing away. So it goes. Every time I move up the stage, they come with me, and the audience are going crazy. I thought it’ld be a tough crowd, lot of biker leather in there. So I play another, and another, each time, loud screams. Then I go over to change a rhythm track and strum a few chords, but the audience are still going wild, even more so, then I look up and see the girls still dancing. Then the fucking PA motherfucka cuts my amp line and starts playing Techno shit, and the girls keep dancing, the audience going even crazier.”

“So . . . what did you do ?” Richard was forced to inquire.

“Just packed up my equipment, took a beer and watched the show. Gave them the name, too. From ‘90210’. You guys get that in England ?”

They both denied knowledge of it. Arizona continued,

“Yeah, I had a lot of afternoons at home in the early Nineties. So there’s this character called Kelly, and in the opening credits, she wiggles off. Man, you gotta see it. OK, gotta split. Oh, shit, Man, nearly forgot. Got a few gigs coming up.”

“Cool !” from Richard

“Rock on !” from Chris.

“Yeah, you’ll be there, right ? ‘Cause ain’t nothing worse than playing to an empty hall.”

“Of course. Even take the night off, if I have to. Chris ?”

“Absolutely. I’m so there. One question . . . “

“No, The Wiggling Kellys will not be there. Got their own gigs. Playing the, hey, check it out, they’ve got another gig at the ‘So Was ?’. Hah. Never asked me back. OK, out of here. Tschüs.”

After he left, Richard turned to Chris,

“I’m glad we know him. Oh, shit, he’s coming back.”

Arizona returned, holding out a cassette.

“You guys still play tapes, right ? Here’s a copy of some of my old stuff. Yeah, you may be into it. Give it a listen.”

He left again. Chris put the tape in his bag and Richard checked his watch.

“OK, gotta split soon, myself. You back at the flat tonight ?”

“Yeah, gotta stay sober for the interview, meeting thing.”

“Why you sweating it ? You’re a sure thing because, one, they really need a Spüler, and, two, they really need a Spüler. Another coffee ? Then I’ll have to go.”

Left alone, Chris read a bit of Dickens, starting in on the introduction, but couldn’t really concentrate. It was only an unskilled job, paying a basic wage, but money went a long way. A full week’s work would cover his rent and travel for the month, and there would be free food, as well.

But the job meant so much more. He still hadn’t told Monika about the studio closing and was terrified of her running into Al and him telling her. He had to get something, or he would certainly get something from his girlfriend who would instantly become his ex-girlfriend.

Love and Chaos Part 5(J) Sylvester 1

4th May 2021

photo by Martin O’Shea 2021

Part Five. Berlin. New Year’s Eve 1994 / 5

Arizona Al stood in his doorway open mouthed as, one after another, beautiful young women filed past him and walked into his flat.

After Melanie had entered, Chris just had to hang back and look at Arizona, who was only just recovering the power of speech, though what he was saying was hardly intelligible.

The girls, dressed for a party and then some, were taking over, lifting things up, investigating corners, opening cupboards.

No objections was raised.

Arizona’s flat was larger than Chris’ and most of the living room was taken up with keyboards, guitars, microphones, wires and cables.

Monika began pretending to play one keyboard, while Lorelei took up a guitar and began moving like a rock chick, strumming away. Gabi, not to be left out, picked up a bottle, in preference to an actual mic, and started belting out some numbers.

With the men joining in by clapping, only Melanie remained outside the clique, but nobody noticed.

Chris finished up with some extra claps,

“So, Al, do you have anything to drink ?”

“Errr, well, I dunno, errr ..”

“Ya don’t do ya ? What a rock ‘n’ roller you are,” laughed Chris.

“I thought we were going out, otherwise, I’d a gotten something in.”

“All I’m gonna say is that Sylvester in Arizona . . . think I’ll pass.”

Then Gabi, after a little private conversation with Lorelei, said,

“Yes, we must go, but . . . first ?”

“All right!” said Chris

“Let’s go!” added Richard.

“What ?” asked Al.

Monika repeated her mime and Al seemed a little shocked, but thought it over and agreed.

Monika took him into the bathroom first, then Chris, finally Lorelei. Gabi went in with Richard, Melanie again abstaining.

Richard had tried cocaine once or twice before, but apart from the thrill of sniffing through a large denomination bank note, hadn’t really felt any effect. Even before, in Chris’, he couldn’t really say he’d gotten any kick.

This time, however, was different. For a start, being alone in a small room with Gabi was incredibly erotic. Gabi, despite her angelic and rather bourgeois appearance, was totally at home in a stranger’s bathroom, her delicate fingers dividing the small pile into two thin white dukes. She bent down first, the cramped space meaning that they were touching all the time. She passed the note to Richard and after he had snorted, she showed him some extra touches. The first was to get a little drop of water on the finger and to snort, thus catching any stray bits of powder. Then she showed him how to scoop up any particles from the seat, and rubbed his teeth with it, then, using the same finger, inserted it deep into her own mouth and rubbed it along her gums, finishing up with a lick of the lips.

The temptation to just grab and kiss her was overwhelming, and he could have blamed the drugs, the Sekt or the occasion, she may have even liked it, but, instead, he did nothing, and they went back to the main room.

Still, with his heart beating faster and maintaining a good feeling from the Sekt, he began thinking more about Gabi. It may be a cure to get over one unrequited relationship, by embarking upon another.

The room was full of nervous excitement, Chris jumping around, Lorelei and Gabi trying on some of Arizona’s coats, when Melanie opened her bag and pulled out a little notebook, which she opened and passed to Richard.

“These are some notes for my dissertation, if you want to read them.”

As she put the book directly in his hand, and out of an embarrassed politeness, Richard began scanning the pages, once again drawn away from the core. Once again, he noticed that Chris all but ignored her.

Al was putting the finishing touches to his outfit, despite Chris’ suggestions that he really ‘mix it up’ tonight, and went with crocodile skin shoes, green cords and, over layers of vaguely Medieval-looking jerkins, wore a black coat/cloak and lopsided hat, that had everyone wondering where he could possibly have unearthed ?

“Hey, look what I found,” he said, holding a bottle of Cognac. “Found it under my bed. Who’d like some ?”

The general consensus was that they should be leaving. Monika asked to use the phone to book taxis, but Al had a better idea.

“No, Man, we can ride the trolley. Be fun, all the young dudes dressed up. Straight ride to Warschauer Str.”

Ten minutes later, The Gang were waiting, along with a crowd of other people, at the Strassebahn stop on Eberswalder Str, where an impromptu party of sorts was taking place, strangers passing around bottles of Sekt or cans of beer, some were singing, others dancing, some jumping up and down, either to the beat or simply to keep warm.

The Gang, with the exception of Melanie, joined in, Richard extending his arm to take in the scene,

“The beat goes on, Berlin goes on!”

Chris jumped around, pretending to be taking pictures with an invisible camera and everyone joined in, striking poses, some girls blowing kisses, which didn’t impress Monika, and she made him stop.

A loud cheer arose when the yellow light of the Strassebahn appeared out of the misty black, mixing with the continual beeps and honks of cars, and distant fireworks and firecrackers. It became, as Arizona had predicted, a party on tracks, the passengers hanging off the poles and draping themselves over the seats, men offering their laps to previously unknown girls, one or two men swinging from the hand straps.

At every stop, at least one person took it upon himself to announce the station, while others mimicked the sharp, loud beeps that indicated doors closing.

By journey’s end, nearly everyone had joined in, announcing the stops and beeping, so much so, that the old and sober driver kept looking back into his vehicle, wondering how it was possible to have so much fun in a tram, his bemused shake of the head seeming to say, “Kids !”

From Warschauer Str, they walked along Boxhagener Str and turned right into Simon Dach Str.

Gabi had the address and Richard was happy to follow her, wondering if the intimacy of the bathroom would be repeated. At the same time, he was doing his best not to look too much at Lorelei who without any effort, was just looking sensational. But he knew the futility of those thoughts.

There was a moment of confusion, as Gabi realised she had the wrong or incomplete address and Arizona suggested that they just follow people and see where they ended up. Eventually, Gabi turned up another piece of paper that gave the correct location.

The first stop was a combination party / exhibition of local artists. It took place on the top floor of a converted studio, overlooking the dark, slightly ominous rail tracks of Warschaeur Str.

It was one large, open room, with photos and painting hanging up, some metal objects placed strategically, or randomly, and a band area. As they entered, they saw three men with headphones standing behind banks of equipment, playing some mellow Techno. Neither Chris nor Richard were especially keen on the music in general, and couldn’t understand how people could buy the records and play them at home, but tonight, everything seemed to fall into place and they, perhaps inadvertently, began moving to the beat, causing Richard to reiterate,

“The beat goes on, Berlin goes on!”

Causing Chris to reply,

“Berlin goes on, the beat goes on!”

Arizona overheard and joined them,

“Yeah, you know, I’m starting to really get into this Techno scene. If Bowie were here, he’d be mixing Techno into his stuff.”

Richard noticed that Melanie had sat down on some steps and that Monika had gone over to her with two glasses and was trying to start a conversation. Even from his distance, he could see that Melanie was only answering in monosyllables and had refused the drink.

Gabi and Lorelei were dancing, which led to a sudden increase of men onto the dance floor. The Gang took a cursory look at the art work.

One set of photos were of famous sights in Berlin, but shot through a green filter, ‘to challenge society’s perception of the colour green’, the artist explained. Another section grabbed Arizona’s attention. In a small enclave, one wall had various items cut in half and glued onto it. The opposite wall has similar items, but whereas the first had noticeably German items, the second had iconic American ones.

In the German wall was half a football, in the other, half an American football. Half a can of German beer was mirrored by half a can of an American brand and so on.

The artist, an elder man with grey hair and beard, wearing a peace necklace and sandals, was showing Arizona around. Al especially liked the toy Trabant and it’s antithesis, half a toy Cadillac.

The Techno finished and four men began setting up, more keyboards and amplifiers and some unusual hybrids of instruments.

One of the four seemed to be significantly older than the rest, one of whom was very thin and tall, another short and fat, the last hobbling around on crutches.

After an endless vortex of activity, with them all changing position and plugging various wires into various sockets, they began to play.

Gabi made an immediate face of disgust at the experimental noise that it took four deadly earnest and focused men to produce.

Monika made gestures to Lorelei and Chris, then came over to Richard to shout in his ear,

“OK, Richard, now we go!”

The Gang walked up to the U-Bahn to catch the U 5 to Alex. Richard found himself next to Lorelai, who was holding herself against the merciless cold. Instinctively, he took off his coat and put it over her shoulders. Gabi thought it was incredibly sweet and chivalric.

Next stop was a club in Kreuzberg. The U-Bahns were running and would be, all night, but not so frequently, and they had a long wait on the U8 platform for their connection. So long, that, as they looked at the station clocks, they knew that they had no chance getting to the club by Midnight. In fact, they celebrated the New Year on the platform, hugging, kissing and shaking hands, to the outside sounds that managed to penetrate down. Chris took Monika and gave her a long kiss. Melanie looked on, in disgust, and said, perhaps louder than intended, perhaps not,

“Oh, that’s not allowed.”

And then the train came.

They got out at Moritzplatz, the men again happy to just follow the girls, Melanie tagging along and Richard was getting increasingly irritated at being her chaperone.

The club was a red-lit bar, with tables around the side and a large bar in the centre. In the back was the dance floor which was dark and smoky and exciting and inviting and promising.

Richard sat down, beers arrived and then, another invitation. Monika sat next to him, after a similar conspiracy with Gabi and Chris, and asked him,

“Ah, Richard, would you like to take half an ‘E’ with me ?”

“Of course.” A confident voice masking that he had never even dreamt of taking such a pill before.

Monika handed him half a tablet, already prepared, which he washed down with a swig of beer.

“This will make me want to kiss people, right ?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“And will they kiss me back ?”

Monika smiled and shrugged her shoulder.

“Maybe.”

She then went on to Melanie, who again rejected the offer.

Richard sat back and thought about Gabi on ‘E’ and how the New Year could get off to a worse start than kissing her all night. Then he thought about Lorelai on ‘E’. What better night to kiss ?

He began to feel himself smiling, and was unable to control it, nor did he want to, as everybody else was smiling. Everyone except Melanie. He asked her how she was,

“Pretty bored, actually.”

There was a mass movement towards the back room for dancing, with Arizona electing to sit with Melanie. As Richard went into the back, he turned and thought he saw her offer Al a small notebook to read.

By now, the pill had kicked in and it seemed as if everyone was on the same vibe, half as many people kissing as dancing.

Chris came over, put his arm around Richard, gave him a kiss on the cheek and shouted,

“More beer.” It was a demand, rather than a question.

Back at the table, smiling at all around, strangers sharing a similar high, Richard shouted at Melanie,

“C’mon, Mel, shake your money maker !”

“What does that mean ?” she hissed, not hiding her contempt, hatred and anger.

But it was too late for Richard to care and everyone was relieved when she decided to leave. There were one or two concerned questions about her knowing the way, with Chris not hiding the fact that as long as she went, he didn’t care where she ended up.

Some time later, it being hard to gauge with the constant dark lighting and drug and alcohol highs, The Gang began to disperse. Gabi and Lorelei headed back to the west, after prolonged hugs and kisses. Chris then was staying nearby with Monika, so it as just Arizona and Richard. They had been dancing, smiling, hugging, but for Richard the only kiss was the friendly slobber on his cheek from Chris.

After another and final beer, Mexican, as homage to Al’s South-Western roots, which they sipped slowly and really enjoyed, they thought about leaving, both having to get back north of the river, to Prenzlauer Berg.

They spoke constantly, and could have stayed in the bar, which by now was thinning out, all night, or at least until the ‘E’ wore off, but decided to go. Should they happen to stumble upon a bar, on the way, there was no reason why they shouldn’t go in.

Arizona admired the reasoning, and they left, shocked by the early morning light, but after their eyes got acclimatised, they felt refreshed on the empty, light blue streets, with a fresh wind blowing them along to the U-Bahn as they stepped through a tangle of old streamers and firework cases and bottles and cigarette packets and cans.

On the U2 from Alex, during a momentary lull in the conversation, as Arizona looked around at the other casualties of the night, Richard turned to him and said,

“It’s all right for you. I’ve Melanie to go back to!”

Arizona doubled up in laughter, which proved infectious as most of the other awake passengers joined in, most of them having no idea why they were laughing.

Arizona reached over and slapped Richard on the knee,

“Ya wanna crash at my place ?”

“Oh, man . . . can I ?”

Al’s laughter doubled.

At the same time on Chausser Strasse in Wedding, Daniel Roth was walking home with two English work mates and a Dutch bricklayer.

Of the four, it was only Daniel who was new to the city, having only arrived two days earlier, and he was due to start work on the Second, by which time, he calculated, his hangover may just be over.

Love and Chaos Part 5(H) Richard 2

22nd April 2021

Konzerthaus Berlin, on Gendarmenmarkt, in the Mitte district.

photo by Martin O’Shea 2021

Part Five. Berlin. Winter 1994

Chris arrived home a little after three in the morning, being quiet, but not too quiet, hoping that if Richard were awake, he could tell him about the new look Czar Bar and how he had seen Jake, Gaptooth and a new German who looked exactly like David Hockney.

He opened the door to the main room, the light from the hall casting a dramatic beam straight up to Richard, arms sprawled, head at an awkward angle, half undressed, not moving, a quilt partially covering him but not a sound.

Chris’ heart stopped. He immediately sobered up and ran to the body, reaching for the pulse and holding his hand in front of the nostrils. The wrist pulsated, the back of Chris’ hand was chilled by breathe.

He got up and looked in the kitchen, turning on the light without any danger of waking Richard. There, on the table, were seven or eight cans of cheap beer, most of them empty and crushed. Then he looked in the bin, and there were three of four more empties.

Chris walked back into the room and did his best to make Richard comfortable, taking off the one shoe he still wore, his watch, in case he caught himself, and put the quilt fully over him, as the Ofen was going out and the room was getting cold.

He stoked up the Ofen and went to sit in the kitchen, taking one of the remaining beers and calmly drinking until his heart could return to a normal rhythm.

It had stirred up a painful memory, one that had haunted his childhood.

At eight or nine, Chris had found his elder sister on the bathroom floor, vomiting and screaming. Not knowing what to do, he just cried and went to hold her, joining in her screams.

And then he felt her slip away.

He sat with her until his parents came home, who told him that she had eaten too many sweets and was now sleeping, aware that this simply wasn’t true, that something very, very bad had happened, but not knowing why or what, except that he really did know what, but would never know why.

Sitting in his Berlin kitchen, sipping the gassy, tasteless beer, his heart still pounding, Chris was unaware that he was crying.

Richard had seemed so happy. He had been dancing around the flat, not complaining about the sudden drop in temperature which would mean another six months of chopping wood, wearing coats indoors and going into the cellar for briquettes.

He had caused a minor sensation at work, by thanking the staff when they brought him dirty plates and singing along to the radio. He was speaking to Chris about Biberkopf one night at the Ankor.

“It’s always on the same station,” he said of the work radio, ”and they only have about fifty records, which they play in various sequences. There’s a few classics, a few modern hits, and a whole bunch of shit. As for those new Elton John songs, postcards and that bloody cat …”

“That’s not Elton John. I know who you mean and it’s some American asshole.”

“Really ? Well, whatdoyaknow ? Oh, I heard that Crash Test Dummies song, you know the one ? Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm ? Fucking freaky goddamn lyrics, kids with weird birthmarks, and white hair. Never heard it before, but there was this drunk guy in London who was humming it on the tube, late one night. Actually it’s a really good song. Can’t stop humming it, myself. Oh, and what’s that Bryan Ferry song about Berlin ? Non-stop Berlin ?”

Chris looked puzzled, then understood.

“Oh, I know what you mean and every word is wrong ! Nearly every word. It’s ‘Don’t Stop The Dance’.”

“Think I prefer my version.”

“Me, too. More appropriate.”

And they burst into an impromptu rendition, much to the surprise of the cute, ginger-haired waitress, who clearly wasn’t impressed.

“I was thinking,” began Richard, “we should have a culture night, The Gang. I was looking through Tip at work, (Tip is one of two listing magazines, the other being Zitty. Both cover a two week period and come out alternate weeks. Tip is the glossier of the two) and there are so many concerts going on. Classical concerts and Opera. Looks quite cheap, too.”

Chris leant back, drank some beer and thought.
“All right. Yeah. A night at the Opera. Let’s go.”

He got up and went to the magazine rack, taking the copy of Zitty (which was favoured by the alternative scene) and opened it to the music pages.

“Here, the Komische Oper, ‘Strange, or funny Opera’. They perform in German, I think. Yeah. Hey, look … Thursday and, yeah, great, Saturday, Carmen by Bizet. I could dig that.”

“You know Bizet never went to Spain ?”

“Would that be true ?”

“Aye, it would.”

“Well, I say. I’m gonna file that under ‘interesting but also boring facts’.”

“Well, you do what ya gotta do.”

The following Saturday, Monika, Chris, Gabi, Lorelei, Arizona Al and Richard all met in the foyer of the theatre. Arizona was last to arrive, and turned up in knee length purple boots, dark green velvet trousers, an old, brown leather flying jacket, and floppy hat, a thin, wooden instrument strung across his back.

He bounded into the theatre, jumping up the steps. He got quite a few interested and happy looks, and even gave a small performance, singing ‘Ring of Fire’ on his curious contraption.

“Hey, like my dulcimer ? Pretty cool, hey ? I did some busking on the U-Bahn earlier and made enough to pay for my ticket.”

The coat-check girl was also amused by the dulcimer as Arizona handed it to her, along with his hat and slightly effeminate, small shoulder bag.

Richard had the tickets and led them into the auditorium, finding the six seats, and was a little put out that Arizona sat down next to Lorelei, leaving him on the outside.

They all looked around the hall, admiring the décor and the atmosphere. The musicians could be heard tuning up, but were out of sight. Arizona Al lifted himself up, straining to see where the music was coming from, and turning to Richard, asked him,

“Hey, where’s the orchestra ?”


“In the pit.”

Arizona couldn’t contain himself, but jumped up and down in his seat, pounding the arms of the chair and inadvertently bashing into Lorelei.

“Hey, listen up, man, I just asked Richard where the orchestra was, and he said, ‘in the pit’. Orchestra pit ! I never knew what that meant before !”

They all enjoyed the show, Arizona especially, who watched it with a child’s innocence, and Richard was continuously nudged, poked and slapped.

After, they went to a bar in the old Nikolaiviertal, one of the oldest areas of Berlin, recently made over and gentrified, but still retaining a definite charm, due to the river Spree forming the western border, and the imposing, brick, twin-spired Nikolaikirche dominating the cobbled-streets of quaint shops and bars.

Gabi meet a friend, Heike, who worked in stage design and had also seen the new production of Carmen.

Chris said, “Oh, hey, did you know, Bizet, the guy who wrote it, never even went to Spain ? Isn’t that just the craziest ?”

The Gang all found this very interesting, and when Richard turned to look at Chris, he saw him lower his eyes and hastily take a long gulp of beer.

Before Richard left for work on Monday, he met Chris, just back from the studio who informed him,

“Arizona had a great time. Told me he made a connection with Heike.”

“Oh, you mean they got on well ?” asked Richard.

“No, dude, he fucked her. Twice, apparently. Said it was his first … ‘connection’ in Berlin.”

“Ah, yes, he broke his duck.”

“He wants to go out with us, again.”

“I bet he does. We’re not his pimps, you know.”

“You mean procurers ? Never mind. You know what’s opening this week ? Pulp Fiction ! The new Tarantino !”

“Man, I’ve been counting the days, big time.”

“We can all go, Saturday. It’ll be at the Odeon, English version with Kraut text.”

“I have to get to my terrible job now, but you get The Gang onto it. That is your mission, should you choose to accept it.”

Chris saluted, as Richard made his way to the elevated U-Bahn station and waited on the chilly platform for the westbound train.

So Arizona had made his first conquest. Chris had already been with a couple of girls, but, so far, Richard had struck out. But he was waiting. Lorelei had left her boyfriend. Maybe he had played at least some small part in her decision ? She had sent over messages, had come to the Opera and he was sure she was expecting him to sit next to her. At the end of the night, she had kissed him on the cheek, and held his arm. He took all this as a sign that he only had to be patient and the girl he was so in love with would be his.

However, only Arizona, Chris, Monika and Richard made it to the cinema. Gabi wanted to see it in German and Lorelei was going with her.

Again, Richard was next to Arizona in the cinema but, once he realized Lorelei wasn’t coming, due to a choice of languages, he sat back, swigged his beer and waited for the excitement to begin. They had been surprised at the cast: John Travolta ? Bruce Willis ?

But from the opening scenes in the diner, and the title music, they knew they were in for one hell of a ride.

The twist contest took place, Richard digging Arizona in the ribs,

“Hey, this cat can really dance.”

Arizona jumped up and pointed to the T-shirt Tarantino was wearing in the kitchen scene, as he recognized the logo and began telling a story about it, making Richard miss untold lines.

The highlight of the night, however, occurred in the last diner scene. The Samuel L. Jackson character has a wallet embossed with the legend, ‘Bad Motherfucker’. The German translation for this, when it appeared, full screen in a classic Tarantino close-up, was, ‘Böser Schwarzer Mann’ (Angry Black Man.)The entire cinema erupted into spontaneously laughter.

From that point on, they re-enacted lines of dialogue and added new words to their vocabulary.

Every time a customer ordered mayonnaise with chips, Richard let out an, ‘Errrchh, they fuckin’ drown ‘em in that shit, I seen ‘em do it!’, to the total mystery of the east German chef.

One night Richard got a call at work. It was Lorelei. She said that Monika was over at the nearby Café Haller, and was wondering if he wanted to come over, when he’d finished his shift.

He worked at double speed the remainder of the evening.

As clean and fresh as possible after a five hour shift in a hot kitchen, he walked over to the bar where Lorelei had started working. She was finishing up her shift, adding up her dockets, and gave Richard a hug, as he cried out how good it was to see her.

As he looked over, he saw Monika waving from a far table. Next to her was a man in a leather jacket. Lorelei explained that it was ‘only’ Werner, a really nice, harmless customer, who was keeping Monika company and keeping the leeches away. She told him to go sit, and she’d send a beer over, and gave him such a lovely smile and wink.

Monika stood up to hug and kiss Richard and Lorelei came over to sit next to Werner. He appeared to be in his mid thirties and had tight curly hair that looked one moment blonde, the next brown. He had rather protruding eyes and slightly buck teeth, but was very friendly and pleasant, the kind of guy you can always depend on to help move furniture, or pick you up from a distant location.

Richard tried speaking in German, which was improving, but still very basic. Lorelei said that it was cute to hear him, so he continued, as long as possible. At one point, he saw Werner look at him, with the kind of look that said, ‘how can two fucks like us be with two beautiful women like these ?’

Before Richard had finished his first beer, Werner said he had to leave, and Richard shook his hand like he was an old friend.

And then it all went wrong.

Lorelei looked at Richard, smiled and got up as well.

Richard thought that he would be the one, finally, to leave with Lorelei.


Instead, she turned to him and held out her hand. They shook, then she went over to Monika, kissed her goodbye, and left. With Werner.

Richard slumped down, feeling lifeless and humiliated and just plain lost.

“I’m never going to be with Lorelei, am I ?” was his rhetorical question.

Monika slowly shook her head, looking at him with real concern, not knowing what to say, and began to feel both uncomfortable and genuinely hurt, as if she could not only sense, but physically feel his pain.

She offered to drive him home, and suggested they go somewhere to drink in Prenzlauer Berg. He agreed and she almost had to help him out of the bar and into her car.

As they drove, Richard thanked her for everything, and told her that he’d be all right. He asked her to drop him by an U-Bahn station, where there would be an Imbiss open and he could buy some beer. It was better if he were alone, but he told Monika that Chris was at home.

She let him out and he waved her on. He didn’t want her to see him buying as many cans as he could carry.

Love and Chaos Part 5(G) Tommy 2

22nd April 2021

Photo by Martin O’Shea 2021

Part Five. Berlin. Autumn 1994

“Yeah, I was in bed when The Wall came down. I’d been out the night before, didn’t get back until seven or eight, and just crashed the whole day.

“Finally got up late at night and went to make some coffee and what do you know ? Got no milk. So I’m thinking, ‘Scheisse ! Gotta go out.’ And I’m feeling like day-old shit, and I’m looking like shit and I smell like shit, but, you know, just go to the store and get some milk, no biggie.

“Now, I didn’t put the TV on, or the radio, I’m just focused on my little world which has a serious milk crises going on.

“I’m on the streets, and yeah, I hear all this noise and cars beeping and shouting, but I just think that a football team’s won, don’t really think too much about anything, but, as I get to the main road, it’s full of people, and flags and banners and these … I don’t know what, cars, there’s all these fucking Trabi’s (Trabants) and it’s true, they only came in two colours; sky blue or spermy white. Sorry, but it’s true, these fuckin’ cum-mobiles crawling along the street.

“Then I’m in the store and it’s usually pretty quiet, but tonight, it’s full, full of people picking up tins of soup, or bananas, and waving them around. But these people … it wasn’t like they were from another country, it was like they were from another planet.

“So, I get my milk, but I have to queue to pay for it, and the queue just isn’t moving, everyone’s talking and shouting, and I’m thinking what the fuck’s this ? It was more like we had been invaded by them, and now we’re going have to spend all day queueing for bread and potatoes.

“OK, I know history can’t stop, just so as I can get some milk, but come on, wait until I’m sober.

“Then at home I put on the TV for background, and it’s on every channel. I was a part of history, the streets of Berlin, November ‘89, and just wished they’d all fuck off back over The Wall. Come back tomorrow.”

Richard took over directing the car, along Karl Marx Allee, then up into the western part of Rigaer Str.

Café Kinski was full and they got the only free table. Tommy held court, shouting loudly, easily projecting over Rage Against The Machine (Philipp was working and gave Richard a cursory nod).

There was an asymmetrical dynamic to the group, two girls and three boys and Anna appeared to be pulling towards Richard. Karin and Tommy had already staked their claims on each other.

However, Richard was in love with someone else, and stepped aside for Andreas, who wasn’t sure where he was with Silke, and within an hour, the two Germans had gone back with the two Danes. Richard had more beer, then made his way home, alone.

Two weeks later, he wished he had chased Anna, as one night of pleasure may have saved him months of pain.

Love and Chaos Part 5(F) Tommy 1

9th April 2021

Photo by Niall Keohane. Follow Niall on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/flatwoundonfilm/

Part Five. Berlin. Autumn 1994

The yellow Toyota sped around the twisting, turning slalom of roadworks and diversions of Potsdammer Platz, once the busiest intersection in all Europe, now a giant wasteland, a massive construction site of cranes, wire fences and wooden walkways, constantly changing passages with temporary traffic lights and signs whose location seemed to alter weekly.

Monika and Chris were in the front, Chris back to his hyper-active self, holding conversations with Richard in the back, Monika to his left and Sabrina, next to Richard. She was a Viennese friend of Monika’s, in Berlin for the weekend.

They drove to an address off Kantstr, in West Berlin. It was dark when they got there, but the affluence of the area was apparent. The houses were elegant and well kept, each house with a well-lit doorway, giving the street a charming, old-world feel. The streets all looked clean, no debris or litter of any kind.

There was a brass panel with the tenants names inscribed, on the intercom, but it was obvious where the party was.

All three rooms, of the ground floor flat, had their windows wide open, and many people could be seen in shadowplay through the thin curtains. The street door was open, as was the flat door, and people came and went, sat on the immaculately carpeted stairs or smoked on the street, their discarded butts the only garbage on the once spotless pavement.

Monika entered first, waving and smiling. Sabrina followed, embracing Gabi and Andreas. Chris noticed Nice Guy Kai and Richard caught a glimpse of Gert and they exchanged some brief comments before Gert disappeared for the night.

The four newcomers all gravitated to the kitchen, which was the bar area, and bought white wines. Richard had no sooner taken his first sip, when he felt a stubbly kiss on his cheek. He turned and saw Tommy wearing a very smart suit, four days growth of beard and a hat covering his newly shaved head.


“Ah, you’re still here ? I thought you’d gone back to London.”

Tommy had lived some time in The States and spoke very good English, with a Transatlantic accent. He was busy making the rounds, greeting and kissing everyone he knew and trying his luck with a few girls, he didn’t.

“Have you seen the art ?” he asked. “Come on, you may as well.”

Tommy led Richard and Chris to the last room, the smallest of the three, which was covered in paintings. The artists, predominantly young women between eighteen and twenty, stood around, in front of their work, happy to discuss it, happier still to sell any of it.

Nothing particularly grabbed the attention of Richard or Chris. Tommy swaggered around, looking left and right and winking at some of the artists. Nice Guy Kai took his time, casting a critical eye over the work on display. He was joined by Andreas, who merely laughed at everything.

Most of the paintings were abstract, some being little more than masses of colour, others featuring various large shapes, super-imposed on indistinct backgrounds. One woman had a series of shapes that vaguely resembled female genitalia, all with different colour schemes.

Back in the kitchen, over the next glass of wine, Tommy proclaimed, making sure everyone could hear him,

“I liked the colour pussies. Might get one for my wall.”

Most of the guests were of student age, being either artists or friends of artists. Richard continued looking around, while Monika came over and explained:

“In the second room is going to be some poetry and reading and performance, then in the big room, there is going to be music and poetry.”

Richard and Chris stood by the door of the second room, which had a stage area and some chairs laid out, giving it a theatrical look.

A very tall and thin, obvious-student man got up and after introducing himself very quietly, launched into a recitation of an original piece. Neither Richard nor Chris understood the text, so they went back to the bar. Shortly after, Gabi came over, rolling her eyes disapprovingly at the rendition. She leant on Richard’s shoulder so as to whisper in his ear,

“It is lucky you not speak the good German.”

He smiled at her, and offered her a refill. She accepted and then continued,

“Lorelei says, ‘Hello’. She could not come tonight because … “ and then she was lost for words, so turned to Chris for translation.

“Ah, alles klar. Lorelei is still unpacking, but she sends greetings. There you go. More cheap, nasty plonk ?”

After half an hour, the poetry readings were over, and more people came into the kitchen. Richard asked Sabrina what she thought of it,

“Ach, it was shit. Real student, ‘nobody loves me’ shit.”

The second room was cleared of its chairs and the space opened up for people to dance in. Meanwhile, the third room was being made ready for the live music. Chris, expecting a band of sorts, grabbed Richard to show him the peculiar preparations being carried out.

The stage area had a cello on its side and two chairs. To the left of the stage was a type of sandbox, only filled with gravel. A tall, young man, with an enormous eagle-like head and full, black beard, was meticulously scraping and re-scraping the tiny stones with a wooden fork, appearing very unhappy with the results. He began shouting to the corner of the room, then back to his scrapping, then back shouting. Nothing seemed to alter, nothing seemed to please him, so Richard and Chris they left him to his endeavours, to watch girls dance.

Tommy came up behind them and put an arm around each of their shoulders, smiling as he watched Gabi move. Monika reached out her hand and Chris was only too happy to oblige, deliberately dancing out of time to the innocuous Euro-pop that was being played.

Tommy looked at Gabi, then at Richard.

“That, my friend, is one great piece of arse. Got yourself a German girl, yet ?”

“Not yet, but I’m working on it.”

“How about Gabi ?”

“Out of my league. Just look at her.”

“I am, I am. Have you seen her boyfriend ? A real zero, nothing. He must have been born in the Chinese Year of the Boar. Doesn’t even fuck her, can you believe it ? Has that next to him in bed and all he wants to do is read fishing magazines. She’s desperate.”

“Desperate enough for you ?” joked Richard.

“Hey, I could have her if I wanted to. Probably. Maybe.”

“If she were drunk enough.”

“Oh, English humour, so very funny. Well, wanna make it interesting ?”

“What do you have in mind ?”

“A bet; who can get inside Gabi’s panties first. Hey, to hell with it, who can get inside Gabi, first.”

Richard burst out laughing; just the idea of either of them with someone like Gabi. But he played along.

“OK. And the winner takes the other out to dinner. And drinks. Lots of drinks.”

“No, the loser has to pay.”

“No, man, in this case, the winner! Only right that he has to pay.”

Tommy starred him in the eye, thinking intensely. Finally,

“All right. I can dig that. Put it there.” He spat on his hand, rather more than he anticipated, and Richard begrudgingly shook. At that point, Chris joined them.

“What’s going on here ?”

Tommy answered in a pure, matter-of-fact voice, “Oh, we’re having a bet who can fuck Gabi first.”

Chris stuck out his hand.

“Count me in,” quickly checking behind him, to make sure Monika was well out of earshot.

Both Tommy and Richard protested and shook their heads.

“You’re with Monika. Gabi would never go with you.” argued Richard.

Over the discussion, Tommy brought them to silence.

“He’s right, you’ll have to wait six months before you can go from one member of The Gang to the other. That’s what happened when I left Silka for her friend, and when Silke went from Kai to Andreas. Didn’t think Andreas would last the course. Must have more between his legs than between his ears.”

Kai walked over, thinking he had heard his name. Richard and Chris turned to look at each other. Chris spoke first, addressing Tommy, Richard with the follow up.

“You were with Silke ?”

“And … how is she ? Bet she’s into some real kinky stuff ?”

“No, not so much. Kinda placid, actually. Lies back and takes it. Which is all right, you know, don’t have to put too much energy into it, or thought, just get the auto-pilot up and running.”

“Well,” began Chris, “that does surprise me.”

“Yeah, my whole scale of balance is shifted.”

“Maybe … “ said Chris, building tension, “and don’t take this the wrong way, but, maybe, just maybe … it was you. Like, you know … you just ain’t no good ?”

“No way, Churchill, home-run every time. Hey, let’s ask Sabrina. I was with her once. ”

“No. No, no.” said Chris.

“What ? Are you nuts ?” asked Richard, but it was too late. Tommy called out to her on the dance floor,

“Hello, Sabi … aren’t I a sex-god in bed ? These two don’t believe me.”

Sabrina, not missing a beat of the music, answered,

“Ach, you’re OK, nothing special. Too sweaty for me. And your orgasm cry is weird.”

Instead of being embarrassed, Tommy stood there, proudly, arms outstretched, as if to say, ‘see, didn’t I tell you ?’.

“Why did Sabrina dump you ?” inquired Chris.

“Well … she’s very business minded. Got her own five-year plan. One of those ‘work hard, play hard’ types. When she dumped me, it was like a hostile take-over; ‘I’m going to have to let you go’. I was dumped by the board of Sabrina GmbH.”

“Did you at least get a golden handjob ?” asked Chris with a misleadingly serious face.

Andreas joined them and Chris and Richard regarded him in a new light. Tommy smiled at him and Andreas smiled back, not knowing what was going on.

“And ? What’s happening ?”

A blonde student moved up to Kai, attaching herself to his arm, and whispered something to him. Kai explained,

“The music’s going to start soon, we should go if we want to see it.”

“Do we want to see it ?” asked Andreas.

“Shouldn’t that be ‘hear it ?’” replied Tommy with a smug, alcohol grin.

“No, Arschloch, it’s also another verdammte (bloody, fucking) performance,” Kai clarified.

“Stefan is really good. On cello,” added the blonde. Kai looked down at her, as if seeing her for the first time, then seemed to remember,

“I liked her paintings,” he said by way of explanation, then moved into the other room.

The music stopped as an announcement was made, and people began crowding into the largest room, for what was rumoured to be the main event of the night.

When all space was taken, the lights dimmed and a tall and slightly overweight man dressed in dark trousers and tails walked onto the stage and took up the cello. A woman with long auburn hair and evening dress sat next to him, a folio on her lap. She nervously altered the position of it in her hands. Then the eagle-headed man from before reappeared, with wooden fork, and took up his position in the gravel box. He looked around, commanding silence and was about to commence, when there was a giggle. Andreas turned to those around him, and made a gesture of apology.

Eagle-head started again, raising his fork as a baton. The cellist looked over, an expression of earnest concentration, eyebrows furrowed, eyes squinting behind round lenses. He slowly drew his bow across the instrument and played a gentle passage of quite unexpected beauty.

The room was silent. Monika and Gabi rested their heads against each other. Sabrina looked at Tommy with an ambiguous glimmer in the eye. Kai, standing at the back, had begun softly stroking the hair of the young artist at his side. Richard and Chris desisted drinking. Andreas went to find the toilet.

Softly, almost inaudibly, the woman in the evening dress began speaking, her head facing down into the folio before her.

Above the music and voice, there was an excruciating nails on blackboard shrill. The speaker gained in volume, though people still had to strain to understand. The cello continued, then suddenly made some savage scrapes across the strings, as the woman jumped up, an unexpected occurrence, a not altogether easy operation in such an outfit, and began shrieking, answered by more metallic scrapping.

The woman began screaming, unaccompanied, then more scrapping. Chris stood on tip-toes, and could see the hunched, eagle-headed figure, bent double, holding his fork above the gravel, then bringing it down at an exact spot and dragging it back and forth.

As suddenly as she has jumped to life, the woman sat down. There followed a conversation between cello and fork, though they didn’t seem to be speaking the same language.

The performance dragged on and people began trickling out, all drawn to the bar.

The woman actually seemed relieved, the cellist angry, and Eagle-head oblivious to the loss of audience.

By the time they had finished, there was barely half a dozen people left. The woman immediately jumped down and ran to a couple of friends. The cellist took inordinate care of his cello, as if not sure what to do and Eagle-head starting complaining about something to do with the box, or the gravel, or both, or neither.

Kai’s young friend said that she had to say hello to Stefan, the cellist, who she explained was in his last year of music studies, and was going to be a great conductor.

Meanwhile, the cultural appetites of The Gang having been assuaged, they began making plans for escape.

Chris was going to stay with Monika, who was first going to drive Sabrina to Gabi’s flat.

Tommy had found two Danish girls who had a car and wanted to see some of the underground bars that Tommy had told them about. He conferred with Richard. Andreas came over and asked what the plan was. Tommy decided. He, the two Danes, Andreas and Richard would go to Friedrichshain, Richard suggesting Café Kinski.

The Gang said their farewells, hugs and kisses all around, except Gert whom no one had seen for hours, and Kai who was occupied with a kissing thing of his own.

Tommy walked between Anna and Karin, the Danish girls, while Richard and Andreas followed to the car parked a few streets away.

There was a little skirmish as Tommy claimed shot gun but Andreas, who had taken a fancy to Anna, the driver, said that as Tommy was so short, he should get in the back.

He was about to object, then noticed that Karin had a great, healthy, Scandinavian body, and orchestrated himself into the middle seat, keeping her away from Richard, with a sickly grin at his opponent.

Andreas gave directions, suggesting they drive up to Bismarkstrasse and then a straight run, past the Siegessäule, through the Brandenburger Tor, and on to Alexanderplatz, an easy journey and sight-seeing tour combined.

The car was full of screaming and joking and laughing, everyone speaking the lingua franca of English.

As they passed through the arch of the Brandenburger Tor, Richard remarked about the amazing turn of events, that less than five years previously, this wouldn’t have been possible, that The Wall had been there, watchtowers and armed guards and dogs and tanks and the might of Moscow.

They began speaking about when The Wall had fallen. It, of course, dominated the news in Denmark and England. Andreas said he was stoned in Bavaria and more concerned about being busted by the local police (“Bavarian paranoia” a complaint shared by all the Bavarian members of The Gang.)

Tommy allowed the conversation to flag, before speaking up.

“I was living in Berlin, West Berlin. And I’ve got a story. Who wants to hear it ?”

Love and Chaos Part 5(C) Richard 1

29th March 2021

Unter Den Linden, Berlin 2020 . Photo by Martin O’ Shea

Part Five. Berlin. Autumn 1994

Just after half past ten, Fabulous Florian walked into the kitchen and handed the cordless bar phone to Richard.

“It’s Chris,” he said before twirling around and heading back to the bar.

“Hello, Chris ?”

“Yeah, hi. Do you know the Ecke Bar ? Meet me there after work. I’ll be waiting.”

Richard memorized the address and Chris reminded him that the U-bahn run all night, as it was a Friday.”

Just after one o’clock, Richard got out a stop earlier than usual, Eberswalder Str, and walked up Pappelallee, with it’s tramlines and sporadic neon bar lights, until he came to Raumerstr, finding the Ecke Bar, which was on an Ecke (corner).

The bar was full and noisy, but Chris was maintaining an oasis of silence in a small table near the back, near the bar. He was noticeably drunk, but without his usual cheer. His head was hung forward, his whole body seemed heavy, a burden to have to carry around.

He looked up as Richard arrived, made an attempt at a wave, and beckoned him down, spitting out an order for two beers to the barman.

“What the fuck’s wrong ?”

“It’s Monika. She’s dumped me.”

“No !”

“Oh, don’t you start.”

“No, I mean … how ? When … ?”

“This afternoon. I came back from work, all happy, you know, just done a week’s work, in a studio, helping make a movie, feeling pretty cool, and the phone rings. Can I meet her ? So I go over to Kreutzberg, and we meet in some bar, bit upmarket, and then she hits me with it. WHAM ! Right in the kister. Out of the blue, no build up, just, it’s over. Fuck off.”

The drinks came and the barman asked,

“Alles klar ?” but Richard didn’t know if he meant was Chris OK, or did he have the money to pay.

“So … no reason ? Did she say anything else ?”

“Yeah, no stopping her, a whole list of lover’s complaints. That I’ve no ambition, we’re not going anywhere, I’m not committed, I can’t let go of the past; I fucking emigrated, for fuck’s sake. I must still love Ute, which I don’t, thing is, don’t think I ever really loved her in the first place, she was just company, you know ? Good lay and friendly, but I can’t say that because it’ll be, ‘Oh, a better fuck than me ?’ I know I can’t win, then all other stuff, don’t do what I say, haven’t got some piece of paper, yet, some tax slip, because every time I fucking go there, it’s fucking closed. When it is open, you have to have every single piece of fucking paper you’ve ever been given in your life, or else, ‘Nein! Raus ! (get out)’. Then back to looking at Silke’s legs. Why fucking not ? Got great, fucking legs, I’d fuck her fucking legs. But she didn’t pick up on Gabi.”

“Gabi ? Don’t say you and Gabi … ?”

“No, fucking hell. Wouldn’t mind. Have you seen Gabi ?”

“Of course, she’s beaut … “

“Have you seen Gabi ? I’d fuck her … every way possible and make up a few new moves. Thought I’d catch hell over Gabi.”

“Why ?”

“All happened two or three months back. Went to a party at the Pfefferberg, all got totally blasted, Moni & Gabi can’t drive, so decided that could both stay over at my place. Anyway, many hours later, I wake up, all groggy and half-pissed still, and, upside down from my sleeping bag on the floor, I see Monika getting dressed, bending over and pulling on her long boots. So I smiled. Probably a gooey-eyed, ‘come back to bed’ smile. But she kinda stopped and turned away and pulled the other boot on real quick, and left the flat. Then it hit me. Monika wasn’t wearing boots. I’d been staring at Gabi. She must have thought I’d been watching her all the time. Which leads to another point; what exactly did I miss ? Well, that’s gonna cut me up, now. Gorgeous Gabi, naked … behind my head, and I sleep through it. Monika ? She was sleeping, snoring away. ”

The next hour was spent going over the details of the break up, getting vaguer and vaguer with each sip of beer. Then the whiskys arrived, the jolly, old whiskys. Chris was planning, and succeeding, in drinking himself into oblivion, so Richard was quite relieved when two guys took the seats next to them, asking, in English, if they were free.

Richard began speaking to the newcomers, introducing himself and quite proudly stating that he wasn’t visiting, but now lived in Berlin. He was rather embarrassed about his job, but they told him that it was the money that mattered, not the work. One was short with long hair, and was called Ignaz, the other, tall and thin was Burkhardt.

By now, Chris had slumped down and was sleeping on the table. Richard thought it was time to get him home. After another drink.

Ignaz was a metalworker but Burkhardt’s job interested Richard; he owned a small record store. He immediately asked for a job.

“I’m sorry, it’s only enough for me. You should come by, sometime. Buy some records.”

Shortly afterwards, Richard said goodbye, and moved over to wake up Chris. He shook him gently, then harder, then harder still. The only reaction was a faint murmur followed by some unintelligible words. Chris then stretched out, resting his head on the table, his arms hanging by his side. Richard began to think that he may have a problem.

There were more pushes and shoves, an attempt at a fireman’s lift, something resembling the Heinlich manoeuvre, a temptation to adopt a police choke-hold, and finally, an open-armed gesture of defeat.

The two Germans laughed, Ignaz saying goodbye and wishing Richard luck. Richard told Burkhardt about the reason for Chris’ incapacity. Burkhardt offered help.

Between them, by inserting their arms under Chris’s shoulders, they lifting Chris and carried him out of the bar, without drawing excessive attention to themselves. Outside, they had to face the main problem: how to get him home.

A taxi drove past, but seeing the inert figure supported by two less than sober characters, continued driving.

“We could go to the main road, but … “

Richard agreed. Even there, it could be a long wait for another taxi, and there was no way he could Chris on and then off a StrasseBahn.

“My apartment is just over the road, over there,” said Burkhardt, pointing at a block visible behind the trees of a small park. “You can stay at my place. Crash ? “

“Yeah, crash, good word. You sure it’s no trouble ?”

“No, it’s fine. It’s not luxury, but it’s OK for one night.”

Richard thanked him and they tried to move across the cobbled road, but moved back onto the pavement when they realized that they would end up breaking their backs and dropping Chris, not that that would wake him up.

“Here, we must make a … I don’t know the word in English … we … put our arms around each other and then we put our arm under him and lift him …”

“In a cradle. Good idea.”

They linked arms, forming a space for Chris to fall into and, resembling a Goya painting, they carried the drunken, wounded lover into the park and up to the third floor of the house, where Chris was dumped onto a couch and covered with a thin blanket. Burkhardt made coffee to go with the half bottle of brandy he had, as they decided that the exercise had sobered them up and a nightcap was thoroughly deserved.

Since moving to Berlin, Richard had been living through “the best of times.” Summer, however, was over, and for Richard, “the worst of times,” was just around the Ecke.

The Drunken Mason (1786) by Francisco Goya

Love and Chaos Part 4(I) Arizona Al 1

21st January 2021

Part Four. Berlin. Summer 1994

“So I met this guy at Café Radetzky and we’re having a good talk, and he’s, you know, cool an’ all, digs the right music, but I can’t shake this feeling that I’ve met him before. So we’re talking and I say where I’m from and, you know, the usual, what I’m doing in Berlin an’ all, when he stops me and says, ‘Hey it’s so cool to meet another dude from Arizona, because I met a real crazy shithead from there a coupla weeks back, and he was just out of it, talking non stop about nothing, and he had all this hair and beard and shit’. And I suddenly realized; he was talking about me ! Yeah, I hadn’t cut my hair, and I had this Fu Manchu thing going on, and that’s where I knew him from … some bar I’d been to, totally out of it. I’m gonna have to stop doin’ that kinda shit.“

Chris turned his head away, so as to wink at Richard. They were meeting in a Café on a late Summer afternoon.

“But, you know, so much of Berlin is hidden, it’s like I can see tourists coming here and going to the usual sights …”

“Which won’t take long,” interrupted Chris.

“… right, an Arch, an old sports stadium, a bit of old Wall, the Death Star.”

Both Richard and Chris laughed at Al’s description of the TV Tower, a giant, glass globe surmounting a tall, fluted concrete tower.

“Then going home and wondering why Berlin’s got such a reputation, when nothing appears to be happening. But you know what ? It’s not that things happen in Hinterhof’s, things happen in the hinter of Hinterhof’s. In basements, behind closed doors, over disused shops. When I was first here and didn’t know where to go, I’d just look for cool people and follow them, see where they’re going. Found some great bars that way.”

Richard glanced over at Chris, who waved him in.

“But … didn’t you ever end up just following people home, sometimes ?”

“Oh, yep.”

Chris followed through,

“And they didn’t mind ?”

“Well, they thought it was a little odd, guess, but … no, not really. Oh, I did ask one guy where the hip bars were and he told me to ‘piss off!’ ”

Chris thought for a minute.

“Are you sure ? Could he have been saying, ‘Pass auf ‘ ?”

“Well, it was a ways back. But … yeah, ‘spose. Why ?”

“It means listen, pay attention, watch out. He was probably about to give you directions …”

“Oh, man ! I ask him to get some place, he says, ‘OK, dude, listen up’ and I just walk away. What must he’d a thought of me ?”

“That you were a crazy shithead ?” joked Richard.

The subject moved from general rubbish to women, Al approving of Lorelei, describing her as ‘bodacious’, then onto work, which was why Al had requested this get together.

“OK, just a heads-up, there’s gonna be some changes at the studio. They’ll gonna be laying a lot of people off, making some big changes.”

“No ! Shit. I like it there.”

“You should be all right, but they’re changing the schedule, the whole ‘come as you are, go whenever the fuck’ routine. Good thing, too, ‘sa crazy way to runa business. They want people putting in minimum twenty hours a week, and booking in. Get these guys coming in, hour or two, costs more to keep track of them. There’s at least one big project coming up, and they’re gonna need staff they can rely on. I mean, costs are still low in Berlin, but there’s always talk of shipping the work to some Third World place, and pay ‘em Jack shit. And they’re getting heavy on the paperwork, too, no more casual work, everyone’s gotta have their Lohnsteurkarte’s and Angemälden … you got those yet, Richy ?”

Al was the only person who could say ‘Richy’ and not make it sound like an insult.

“No. Got nothing yet.”

“Wait. I’ve got an idea,” said Chris. “They need full timers; cool. And I’ve got all the bloody German paperwork. But I can’t do both jobs. If I do the Studio, forty hours, I won’t need the washing-up shit. Then Richy, er, Richard can have it. No paperwork, no questions, cash in hand, free beer, cute waitresses … “

“What, like Ully ?”

“With the thing, yes, I know, but there are others.”

Al followed the conversation as if it were a tennis match, but with the players hitting some unusual, suspect backhanders.

“Yeah, like, whatever happened to Hannah ? She was gorgeous.”

“Left. Got a proper job. Never saw her again.”

“I know. To think … I almost got her to come out with us. I think Melanie scared her off.”

“I think so, too. Marina’s leaving. Did I tell you ? Leaving Berlin.”

“No !”

“Yeah, that Arschloch Ross is doing some building project in Köln. Maybe just for six months, but … we won’t see her again, either.”

“What about Claudia ?”

“Hardly ever see her. She comes in when I’m not there, or … I think she has other jobs.” Chris sought to bring Al back into the conversation. “You know her, Al, Claudia. I stayed with her when I first got here.”

“Claudia … nope, don’t think so.”

“Yes, German girl, really foxy, Irish accent, walks like a cat, looks like she’s just woke up. I introduced you to her. A few times.”

“No, pullin’ a blank. What about her ?”

“I don’t know. Richard, what about her ?”

“That’s what I asked you ?”

“I don’t know. Al, what about Claudia ?”

“Which one’s Claudia … ?”

And so the afternoon wore on. Chris left for work, promising to ask Walter if Richard could take his job, knowing that not only would they not care, they probably wouldn’t even notice, one Spüler being pretty much like any other.

Al and Richard went to get some cheap food, then Al promised to take him to some bars around the southern end of Schönhauser Allee that he had discovered by the ‘follow the cool guy’ method.

At the same time as Chris got to work, Ross entered a bar in Köln, along with some new colleagues. He spoke about the job opportunities in Berlin, but said that he wanted both a new challenge and to live in a city that had a higher standard of living.

The next day, one of his new colleagues told some Irish friends over lunch break about Berlin. One of these was leaving soon for London, where he would work on a building site and tell his new mates about Germany. One of these left to go to another site, where he told his new mates on tea break. One of these workers was a young man called Daniel Roth who had left school with three low grade qualifications (though he would denounce these when asked) much to the chagrin of his teachers who couldn’t understand how so intelligent a boy would refuse to study. Daniel had been working around building sites for five years, making a living, but finally waking up to the fact that the only person he was hurting by his rebellion was himself.

Throughout the afternoon, Daniel pumped the new man for information, making him repeat all he had heard, about work, paperwork, the practicalities about living in Berlin and how to actually go about finding a job there.

At the end of the shift, Daniel was invited to the pub and was expected to accept. Instead, he told his mates that he had a hot bird that he wanted to shag before he lost interest, and he was excused.

Instead, he went directly to his small, local library, and though the stock was limited, he managed to pick up a history of modern Germany, a guide book to Berlin and a basic German language course.

Before he went to sleep, he had taught himself the verbs ‘to have’ and ‘to be’ in German and had started to conjugate them. Then he began inventing a story about the woman he had spent the night with, because his work mates would be expecting it and would want to hear all the details.

Love and Chaos Part 4(H) Richard 2

12th January 2021

ESI with young civil servants from SEE | ESI

Rosenthaler Platz, Berlin Mitte. Google Images

Part Four. Berlin. Summer 1994

It was the last Saturday in August, and after warming up in a few bars on the Prenzlauer Berg – Mitte border, The Gang headed down in two cars to The Imer club.

As to be expected, there was absolutely no sign that one of the hottest underground scenes of east Berlin was behind the semi-derelict, four storey building that, defiantly, stood solitary on wasteland. Tilted wooden fences and wire meshing lay to one side, suggesting a long gone, unsuccessful used-car lot. The other side faded away into nothingness, bland, nondescript empty buildings.

The pavement in front was barely adequate for two slim people to walk side by side, and most cars, heading to or from Rosenthaler Platz, sped by, oblivious.

Monika, in her car, and Gabi, punishing the suspension in hers, found parking spaces not too far away and The Gang walked to the only beacon of light on the otherwise dark street, in the slightly surreal shadow of the TV Tower.

The small, single door was open and threw out yellow nicotine-stained light. A couple of young guys worked the door, one taking the money, the other stamping people’s hands. Immediately inside, there was a staircase leading up to one dance floor at the top of the building, and some steps leading down to the basement.

Chris and Richard merely followed Monika and the girls up, looking around at the crumbling paint, exposed wires, flyers, peeling posters, young, and not so young people, giving random, “Hey, how ya doing ?” s to those who caught their eye.

At the first landing, Chris smiled broadly, put his arm around Richard and said,

“Look at this joint; it’s a temple of slack.” Richard had to smile and agree. Upstairs, Monika had her favourite place. It was a large very comfortable sofa that sat four or five people, and was placed on the top landing, outside the blue-lit dance floor. Often, several people were accommodated on it, with girls sitting on boys’ laps, often a precursor to more intimate unions.

Tonight, however, it was occupied by a shabby-looking bunch of teenagers. Silke went up to them and, pointing to Richard, got them all to get up and offer the sofa over.

A small guy, already with a receding hairline, and round glasses, smiled and apologised and proffered the seat with a long bow. Richard played along, striding calmly to the chair, then clicking his fingers and demanding,
‘Beer !’

Chris explained; Silke had said the sofa was reserved, and that Richard was a V.I.P.

“Typical Deutsch. Speak to them in a stern voice, preferably in a uniform, and they’ll do anything. Absolutely, motherfuckin’ anything. It’s a regular Captain of Köpenick.”

Richard took the cue, and, shouting about the music, asked the story.

“Man, what a blast. There was this unemployed Dude, tailor or shoemaker, I don’t fucking know, candlestick maker, who gets hold of a uniform, an old, army uniform. He sees a group of soldiers marching up and down, Unter Den Linden, I think, and calls out, ‘Yo, GI’s, get yer arses over here. Follow me’, and he marches them down to Köpenick.”

“Where ?”

“Oh, somewhere in the eastern suburbs. So, they get there, he goes up to the Town Hall, where the lolly was stashed, and demands that they hand it over. Which they did.”

“Hey, maybe we should try it.”

“We got the seats. Let’s not push our luck.”

Monika and Gabi returned, managing to clasp several beer bottles between them. Richard, as V.I.P. got his first and made the toast, smiling. But it was all image. Inside he was feeling awful and just saw the night ending in an alcoholic blackout. It would be preferable.

It had been two weeks since The Gang had gone out, following the minor melt-down of last weekend. He sensed a coldness on Lorelei’s part, when they met and this was amplified at the first café. Richard had entered and had taken a seat at the bar. Lorelei came in after, but took the stool furthest away from him. There was playing hard to get and there was blatant message and he knew exactly what she was saying to him. He just wasn’t able to accept it.

After the first beer, the girls all went into the dance room and began their moves. Again, Monika smiled and waved to people, some she knew, others she just recognized from the scene.

The DJ was a Black American in his early forties, and he carried real authority in his voice. When he told people not to sit on the stairs, they moved, when he demanded people dance, they danced.

Monika shouted in Chris’ ear and he then beckoned Richard over. They were heading downstairs, to check out the smaller Red Room.

This basement room was packed as people danced to heavy Techno. Chris and Richard simply moved to the incessant beat, in between sips of beer. Silke had found Andreas, who was dancing with Lorelei. Gabi ran into some friends from university and called Monika over. They were introduced, but the names vaporized in the noise. Nice Guy Kai turned up, standing in a doorway, looking cool, along with Gert and his new American girlfriend.

Monika later showed Richard the ‘Chill Out’ Room, a short distance along a corridor, whose thick, carpeted walls dampened the pounding, thumping rhythm. There were some armchairs and another, smaller sofa arranged in a semi circle, with a Seventies-style projection of coloured oil discs rotating on a wall, which reminded Richard of his local cinema which had used them in his childhood … a world away.

They spent the evening, into the early hours, alternating between floors. Monika asked Richard if he would dance with Gabi, as she was too shy to dance alone, so a small group formed and Richard did his best to impress her with his steps and to ignore Lorelei, which was hard as she was in his every thought, and the beer was only making him more maudlin.

Soon after, Gabi wanted to leave and took Lorelei with her. Instead of the usual hugs and kisses that occurred with every greeting or departure, Lorelei barely waved to him. Then she was gone.

Later, Monika wanted to leave, and Andreas and Silke had long since vanished. Gert’s girlfriend was looking for Gert, who had disappeared.

Chris and Richard went back upstairs, where the music had shifted away from pure dance, to Sixties and Classic R ‘n’ B, the DJ now strutting his stuff around the dance floor. The room was barely a third full, plenty of space at the bar, which is exactly where Richard went, ordering two large Jack Daniels.

He went off into a corner and sat, starring at the floor, slowing sipping the whisky. Then, as if on cue, the DJ played ‘I Want You’ by The Beatles. It was such an incongruous song for a Berlin Techno club, that Richard couldn’t help but take it personally. He continued looking down, almost unable to deal with the rejection that was all he ever got from women.

Then something caught his eye, a sight so peculiar that he was dragged out of his self-loathing and depression and, after he had realized just what this extraordinary performance was, actually smiled. And then laughed. Then began to feel better. A little.

There was some dog-like creature, ‘walking’ around the dance floor, tracing a circle and occasionally stopping to sniff people. In intimate places. Except, as Richard saw, it wasn’t a dog. It was Chris. Even more strange was the reaction he got. Everyone laughed and played along. One man scratched behind Chris’ ear, a young party girl rubbed his belly, to which he demonstrated approval by shaking his right leg in the air. Then he continued on his tour of duty. It wasn’t long before someone fell over him and crashed to the floor. The innocent, totally confused raver got up with an aggressive stance and seemed prepared to hit the culprit, but his friends pointed to the lunatic who carried on walking and sniffing, and he ended up laughing and shaking his head. When Chris was directly in front of Richard he stopped, absolutely motionless, petrified on the floor just inches away. Suddenly, the head turned, he looked him in the eye, winked, and continued, now an accepted part of the dance floor, whose arrival was anticipated and applauded.

The Black DJ looked dumbfounded, and stood, open-mouthed, a ‘now I’ve seen everything in this kooky place’ expression, and seemed about to remonstrate, loudly, but evidently couldn’t think of anything, and just went back to his glass of vodka tonic, knowing when he was beaten. He played the original Rufus Thomas version of ‘Walking The Dog’, joining in by whistling into the Mic. Afterwards, he could be seen gesturing to the bar staff, pointing at his depleted cocktail.

It was over an hour later that they began the long walk home, the sun also risen. Richard was far from feeling good; the hang-over already building up, the exhaustion, then the indescribable pain of loving someone that doesn’t love back, a constant weight on the chest obstructing breathing, and that was just the pain that could be verbalised. But he hadn’t said a word about how he felt to Chris and Chris hadn’t asked. Obviously, he hadn’t needed to. And instead of making sympathetic sounds and clichéd words of support, he had got down on all fours, like a dog, and made a complete arse of himself, and Richard knew exactly why.

He would never thank Chris for this, but he wouldn’t forget it either.

They walked up the sloping Kastanienallee, the full length, the elevated U2 line cutting across the horizon, an occasional early morning train passing, either helping people start the new day, or end the previous one.

It had been a great month, in many ways, but perhaps now it was time to go home. The money was running out and unless he found a job, it wouldn’t even be a choice.

But only three days later, he had a complete change of mind. And it was Arizona Al who was the catalyst.

Love and Chaos Part 4(G) Monika 1

9th January 2021

Image by Harald Ansorge from the music video ‘dwot’. Watch, like and subscribe on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxJBbyKLlp0

Part Four. Berlin. Summer 1994

Silke was quite fond of Chris. Despite thinking him a little immature and attention-grabbing, not to mention hard work when he began his drunken monologues in English, she knew how good he was for Monika. At least in the short term.

Gabi thought he was very cute, though had certain reservations, namely the way that he looked at her, usually after they’ve been drinking, appearing very interested in what was under her clothes. But Monika was happy, when, that is, she was happy.

Lorelei was convinced that Chris would be true to Moni, but was rather upset that he didn’t seem as attracted to her, as he clearly was to Gabi and Silke. Not that she was at all interested, but it does a girl’s vanity no harm to have admirers. The ideal situation would be for Chris to pay her more notice, Richard to pay her far, far less and for Andreas to break up with Silke. At this moment, none of the above seemed likely.

Silke brought the discussion to a conclusion, as they had so many other matters on the agenda.

“Oh, so, he has contact with an old girlfriend. I have old boyfriends I sometimes see.”

“What does Andreas think about that ?” Asked Lorelei.

“Doesn’t care. How could he ? He has hundreds of ex-girlfriends crawling around.”

That answer made Lorelei go very quiet. Gabi agreed with Silke, reminding Monika of a incident last Christmas.

“When we went home. And who did you see at the club ? Ralf ? Ex-boyfriend. And what happened ?”

“OK, a Christmas fuck. It was nice. And ? It was cold, and at least I knew him, knew what to expect. Saves going through all that time talking to a new guy, just to find out he’s an idiot.”

“All guys are idiots unless proven otherwise.” Advice from Silke.

“But would you do it again ? I mean, this year, if you went back home ?” Lorelei returned to the conversation.

“You mean would she let tourists into her Vienna Woods ?”

Gabi screamed in embarrassed laughter, not sure where Silke got her sewer-mouth from, but enjoying it, nevertheless.

“No, not if I’m still together with Chris. No, no way.”

“Yeah, you say that, but see what happened after two Jägermeister’s, and Ralf comes up, ‘Hey baby, want a piece of prime, Austrian …’ “

“SILKE !”

Lorelei then turned to her and asked,

“And you ? Would you ever cheat on Andreas ?”

“What makes you think I haven’t ?” she replied with a wink. Gabi lowered her eyes and drank her cocktail through its straw. Monika also recalled an occasion, or two, when Silke had strayed.

“Yes, so, Monika, the trick now is to get back with Chris, but to make him apologize. For everything.”

“Oh, that,” said Monika, “is going to be easy.”

The girls went on to talk about several other related or tangent subjects, but the conversation had reminded Monika of Ralf, and how she came to meet him.

At eighteen, she became acquainted with a man who used to travel around on business, and regularly stayed over in Vienna, her hometown. She was drawn to older men, the local boys holding no interest for her, and even liked the fact that he was married and lived in Linz. They would meet, usually on Fridays at her favorite club and either go to his hotel, or her small place. And it worked fine, she got the excitement but none of the domestic boredom. All the time, she told herself that it was just for fun, no deeper emotions, and she continued telling herself this while she waited for his call or letters and deterred other men from asking her out. And she continued telling herself that it was only fun, as they began to discuss his getting a flat in the city where she could stay and he could visit, and she promised not to see anybody else, and he told about how his marriage was over and that he was, since meeting her, thinking of divorce, and she continued the illusion as she prepared to move in with him, and began telling her close friends that she was not only moving in with, but probably going to marry him when his divorce became final. Then she finally conceded and realized how lucky she was, to fall in love with her first serious boyfriend, who loved her so much that he would end his marriage.

And then came the letter.

The man had been offered promotion and was taking a position in Hannover. His wife would be joining him, and it was a chance for him to save his marriage.

Monika had a hard time believing men after that.

Several weeks later, in desperation, Gabi had insisted that they go to a new club, just for a drink or two. Monika turned that one or two into seven or eight and woke up next to a stranger whose name she didn’t even bother to ask.

Some weeks later, at another bar, she ran into him again, and he remembered the effect tequila had on her.

That was the scope of their relationship. Random meetings in bars and drunken sex. Monika had no chance of being hurt, because she didn’t care about him and didn’t care if she hurt him.

She told herself that she was cold, but Gabi refused to accept that, pointing out that no one who was such a true friend could be frigid. She was just defensive. But Gabi did agree about something. Vienna was way too small for them, and when Gabi was accepted at a Berlin university, Monika planned to leave, too. She would just stay away from married men.

Love and Chaos Part 4(E) Gabi 1

29th December 2020

Photo by Niall Keohane. Follow Niall on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/flatwoundonfilm/

Part Four. Berlin. Summer 1994

Towards the end of August, Gabi had her birthday and this year it fell on a Saturday. On the same day, there was a street festival in Kreutzberg, so they planned to meet at Monika’s flat for a birthday brunch.

It was Richard’s first time at Monika’s and he also realized that since he had been back, Chris had spent most nights at his own flat. He began to think about Melanie’s revelation in that Soho pub.

Monika had placed a large table at the centre of the room. The windows were open letting sunlight in and helping waft the cigarette smoke out.

Silke was already there, impatiently waiting for Gabi before she started drinking. Chris went into the kitchen to greet Monika, while Richard bummed a cigarette from Silke. Andreas turned up with beers, saying that Nice Guy Kai would be at the Fest, as would Gert, possibly Tommy and some other names unknown to Richard.

“Gert’s girlfriend’s gone back to England, hasn’t she ?” asked Silke.

“Yeah, but he’s OK. He was seeing an American girl on the side,” answered Andreas.

Gabi, meanwhile, was cursing and thumping the steering wheel, driving around the block looking for a parking space. She eventually found one and backed into it, almost smashing the exhaust on the curb.

Lorelei had driven with Gabi so often that she thought nothing of it. They walked the short distance to the flat, both dressed in light blouses and short skirts.

Inside, Monika gave Gabi a bouquet of flowers and Andreas opened the Sekt and poured. There was cold meat and smoked salmon, fresh rolls and salad, cheeses and Quark. And cake.

Gabi was allowed to choose the music, high-energy dance numbers and extended remixes.

Monika decided to change, seeing how Gabi and Lorelei were dressed, and Silke also decided she had to rethink her outfit and asked to borrow some of Monika’s clothes.


Inspired by the party atmosphere and the Sekt, Richard asked if he could watch her change.

“Ten Marks. Fifteen and I smile.”

“Honey, I won’t be looking at your smile.”

Soon after, the men were sent out and walked to the Fest, while the girls got ready. Two long streets in between Kottbusser Damm and Urbanstr were closed off. All the bars along the roads were open and had set up extra benches and tables, already over-crowded. Vendors sold soft drinks and beers, as well as Brotchen and Wurst (bread rolls and sausage).

There were public tables set up for people to bring their own food and drink, and some people brought along guitars.

Music was everywhere, either from portable CD players, from bars, from the buskers or from a stage where local bands had been invited to play.

Chris looked around, hoping to spot Arizona Al. Andreas saw Nice Guy Kai, standing on a bench, waving frantically. They made their way over, and got seats, ordering beers all around.

Back at the flat, the girls had opened another bottle of Sekt and were finishing their make-up.

“Today we find you a man, Gabi. You, too, Lorelei,” predicted Silke.

“Good idea !” the Birthday Girl agreed and Lorelei also smiled, looking forward to the party.

The girls all looked great, individually, but collectively, every male head turned, in lust, every female, in envy.

It amazed Richard; Berlin was still so new and mysterious to him, a European capital city, yet the girls managed to find them without any trouble. As they arrived, some people left, so there were seats available. He found himself talking to Gert, about England and London, which he compared unfavourably with his new home.

“Oh, the Tubes, so many people, crammed in, and you can’t look at anyone, just stand there and find a corner of floor to stare at. And you can’t leave anything, it’ll be stolen. London – love thy neighbour, but lock thy doors.”

Chris was talking with Monika, stroking her hair, and sharing private jokes. Gabi was on the look out for men and Lorelei seemed quite happy next to Andreas and Kai.

After more drinking and smoking, the party went off into small groups. The girls went looking at some hand-made jewellery stalls, Andreas and Kai found some friends, Gert went to the bathroom and vanished, so Chris wandered around with Richard.

People stood around in small groups, dogs ran around, children laughed and looked to make new friends. There were women with piercings and tattoos, some wearing their hair in dreadlocks, some wearing old dungarees. There were men of all ages, some in shirts, some in tie-dye T-shirts, some topless in the Berlin sun. No one was without either a drink, a cigarette, or a joint. People were free and easy, knowing that they were not being judged for being themselves, but were allowed to be as they wanted.

Suddenly Chris put his hands around his mouth and bellowed out. Up ahead, a startled Arizona Al stopped in his tracks, and appeared to jump with fright. Next to him was another man, tall and thin, with a cowboy hat and string tie. Al saw Chris and went up to him.

“Yo, man, you’re here, cool. Hey, Richard, what’s happening ? This is my buddy, Bill.”

“Ah, Boston Bill,” proclaimed Chris.

“Buffalo Bill ?” suggested Richard

“No, I’m from Nebraska”

“See, man, no one knows where the fuck Nebraska is, you should go with Boston Bill, it’s way cool. He’s a drummer, we’ve gigged together, messed around on a couplea tracks.”

“Cool.”

“Cool,” echoed Chris, “Right, this way, more drinks !”

Monika had run into some neighbours and Andreas was feeling rather affectionate towards Silke. Without doing anything, Kai had a swarm of teenage girls around him, jokingly asking for his autograph, but just as a pretext to speak to him. Gabi and Lorelei had found a quiet, shaded bench and were talking and smoking.

The Fest was getting busier, more and more people turned up, more and more beers were thrown down. An all-girl band took the stage and Chris went to investigate and check them out. He was quite impressed, not a patch on the idealized quartet of Monika and the girls, but still cute. He looked for the others, and laughed as he saw Richard and Al standing next to each other, twisting away to the music, clicking fingers and smoking.

Evening came and what was left of The Gang met up, newcomers being introduced. Gabi wanted to go into Mitte, to a quiet restaurant, then to a club. The girls were going with, Andreas going home because he had to get up early for work, (at which point Silke let out a loud ironic laugh) and Kai had to get back to be with his latest ‘fan’.

Chris decided to stay with Al and Richard at the Street Party, as Bill had mentioned there was a vintage comedy double bill at the cinema on the Kottbusser Damm.

Until the movies started, the four men stood around, slowing down their drinking, just people watching, talking and smoking.

Chris had managed to involve himself in conversation with some strangers and was repeating his Harpo Marx routine, grabbing their hands and putting it under his raised leg. It was unlikely that anyone understood the reference, but it looked so unusual, if not downright weird, even by Berlin standards, that it got a great laugh, and soon, Al predicted, people would be doing it all over Berlin.

Richard found himself talking to a very attractive woman with a short blond bob, and found himself desperately inventing details to impress her, and couldn’t believe that she was still listening to him and hadn’t just run away. When she finally left, together with her boyfriend, Bill came over and gave a ‘oh, well’ shrug of the shoulders.

“Couldn’t help over-hearing. You were laying it on real thick, Dude.”

“I know. And she was listening to me. Why, oh why, didn’t I move here before ?”

Bill wasn’t used to rhetorical questions and asked back,

“I don’t know. Why ?”

Slowly, it darkened; the Fest had been losing people since late afternoon. Chris and Richard went to get a quick bite at an Imbiss, while Al went with Bill to pick up his bike which he’d left chained to a post somewhere in Kreuzberg.


After their Currywurst and chips, they went to the Moviemento cinema, and saw there was a collection of miscellaneous shorts followed by Chaplin’s ‘Modern Times’.

They bought tickets and sat through two Laurel & Hardy movies, which they deemed the funniest films ever made. In one, the two play removal men, transporting a piano up a mountain, across a high, rope bridge and into a house that has a white horse running loose inside it. The day’s drinking was taking its toll and they floated in and out of consciousness. Both were awake to see Oliver Hardy on all fours with a piano on his back and then the horse jumping on, too. They almost choked with laughter.

The lights came on for a short break before the next short film, so they left to buy beers at the desk.

In the foyer, they saw Al and Bill and insisted that they walk in with them, when the lights dimmed, and forego the formality of buying tickets. It wasn’t as if the staff couldn’t see what was happening, but they, too, were having a party of their own, and they simply didn’t care.

The next film was about a man about to get married. He has just been falsely informed that his bride to be had a wooden leg. The actor had a priceless silent-movie comedy face; beady, close-set eyes, a squashed cauliflower of a nose and thin strands of hair, combed any which way.

In the film, someone, somehow, has placed a cane between the bride and groom. When the groom reaches over, during the prayer, to feel his bride’s leg, he feels the wooden stick. Back to the face, with an expression of shock that caused a universal outburst of laughter, and Bill to spill half his beer down his light blue shirt.

During the main intermission, the two Americans left.

The two Englishmen lasted about fifteen minutes of ‘Modern Times’ before falling asleep and snoring, waking up when the film ended and the house lights suddenly coming on.

Chris led Richard to Schönleinstr. U-Bahn and, changing to the U2 at Alex, they rode home along with all the other drinkers and ravers and shouters and laughers.

They had fleeting images of fat men and horses and wooden legs, but mostly of a tall, thin American in cowboy hat and string tie, wearing a shirt with a massive beer puddle.

At the same time, in a club in Mitte, Gabi was having a kissing thing with a man from Munich, Monika was flirting with some men from Wedding and Lorelei was talking to Tommy, but thinking about Andreas and wondering if there was any possibility of being with him and remaining friends with Silke.