Love and Chaos Part 4(F) Chris 2

2nd January 2021

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

Part Four. Berlin. Summer 1994

Monika was happy as she’d found a Parkplatz close to where Chris lived. They got out of the car, smiling and joking with each other, and walked, arms around each other, to the street door.

Monika worried about Richard, who had been alone for two nights, while Chris had stayed in Kreutzberg, but Chris told her that he was all right. Inside, Chris opened the Briefkaste and sorted out letters from adverts and junk.

Monika saw a letter addressed by hand. She inquired who it was from.

“It’s from Hamburg.”

The smiles quickly faded.

Chris rang the bell, before opening the door, just in case Richard had managed to get Lorelei or anyone else back, but found him alone, reading. Monika gave a curt greeting and went straight into the kitchen.

Chris asked how he’d spend his time, trying to give the illusion of some kind of normalcy, and what he thought of the book he was reading, Hemingway’s ‘The Sun Also Rises’.

Then he pointed to the brown phone on the floor.

“The East German chef was furious when he heard I had a phone.”

“Yeah. Why ?”

“Oh, because it took him over two years to get one, under the old system. He had to put his name down and join the waiting list and, you know … wait. Over two years. Then I turn up, a Spüler, and an Ausländer (foreigner) to boot, and get a flat with a phone.”

“Everything … OK ? We still on for tonight ? The movie ? Winona dancing ?”

“Yeah. I think.”

“Anyway, I was just about to go out, get some sun, walk around a bit, read some. I may be gone for a couple of hours.”

Richard said goodbye to Monika and left the flat, walking through Prenzlauer Berg to the Thälmann park where he found some shade and read about The Lost Generation in Twenties Spain.

Back in Chris’ kitchen, Guernica was about to be recreated. Monika knew that the letter was from Ute and Chris was scared to open it, even though he knew it would just be harmless questions about the flat.

“So, don’t you want to open your love letter ?”

“It’s not a love letter. You know that.”

“No, I don’t know anything. I know you move into her flat, have all her shit here and get letters from her.”

“Her friend’s flat. How can you be jealous, after last night ?”

“Maybe you just fuck me while she is in Hamburg. So, when is she coming back ?”

“She’s not.”

“And you miss her ? You want her to come back ?”

“Of course not. I don’t even care, we’re finished, it’s over, understand ?”

“I know she left you. Maybe you still have feelings for her.”

“No, we are just friends now, c’mon, you know that.”

“You have many letters from her ?”

“No. Not many.”

“But others ?”

“Yes, of course.”

“ ‘Of course’ ? Oh, now I understand, you keep writing to her so you can get back together and just use me.”

“What ? What is wrong with you ?”

“No, what is wrong with you ?”

“Listen, if you’re going to argue, can you do it in German ?”

“You can’t speak German.”

“Exactly.”

“Oh, that is so very funny, fucking idiot. Open the letter.”

“No, it’s private.”

Chris knew that wasn’t the best response he could have given.

“Ah, so you have private things going on. Maybe I should leave. It’s been a fun summer fling, but now it can be over.”

“Right, sit there and listen.” Chris opened the letter and read it aloud. It was very innocuous, asking him how he was, how the flat was, was he paying the bills all right, was he still at Biberkopf ? But she signed it ‘Love Ute’ and wrote three kisses at the bottom with a little heart symbol. Monika seized on that blatant sign of affection and the argument gathered fresh momentum and followed its own illogical logic.

When Richard returned, late in the afternoon, Monika had long gone. They had planned to go to the Babylon Cinema in Kreutzberg all together, by car, but that clearly wasn’t going to happen.

Instead, they took the U-Bahn and Chris made sure Richard followed closely, as the cinema was in a back street, and Kottbusser Tor U-Bahn was on a busy intersection with exits at all points of the compass. The ground level, from the lower U 8 to the elevated U 1, was also a popular hang out for drunks and junkies and punks and Penne’s (beggars) who would buy cheap beer and spirits from the kiosks on the platform and have an unofficial social club on BVG (Berlin Transport Authority) property.

Chris pointed out that though it may look seedy and dangerous, he had never been bothered by anyone there, and that the BVG constantly patrolled the area with guard dogs that looked as if they’d much rather be chasing balls than breaking them.

The cinema was another Berlin experience that Richard loved. London’s cinemas were mostly franchised, staff all in the same uniform, décor the same, smell the same. Here, they were more like private clubs, looking like old cinemas that had been taken over by squatters, or squatted spaces that had been turned into cinemas.

The Babylon was reached by coming out of the north-west exit and walking through a arch behind some shops and Imbisses, under a large block of flats that imposed itself like a Colossus, over Adalbertstr.

The twin-screen cinema looked quite conventional from the outside, a marquee with film titles in red lettering, glass displays with film posters, stills and handwritten screening times.

Inside was a small vestibule, with posters for forthcoming films and reviews from the papers of current movies. The ticket desk was to the left, a counter with a display case showing the sweets and beers available. Tonight, the clerk had brought her son along, and the young boy was happily sitting on the counter, removing the lids from people’s beer bottles.


They bought the tickets and obligatory beers, tipping the lad, and walked into the main hall, which had flyers and adverts on one side and free postcards on the other. Richard used the bathroom, a graffiti-ed stool whose window opened-out onto the houses next door.

The hall was full of people, this being the busiest night, and the film had created a real buzz. The cinema door opened, people moved in. Chris liked middle row, middle seats and they got these, sat back and prepared themselves for a burst of pure Slacker entertainment.

Some adverts followed, then, with no censorship card that opens every film in England, the sights and sounds of Generation X embraced them and they surrendered themselves to ‘Reality Bites’, as Chris forgot how his current reality actually sucked.

They just waited for the scene that Richard had seen in a trailer, where Winona and her friends start dancing up and down in a convenience store-gas station. It surpassed all expectation.

They sat through the end credits, smiling as four girls slinked up the aisle, dancing to the music and humming ‘My Sharona’ the soundtrack to the store dance.

Afterwards, there was no discussion, they just had to go to a bar, and found a quiet bench in a Kreutzberg bar. Two beers ordered, two Jack Daniels to go with them.

Winona dominated the conversation, as they slipped in more and more Americanisms, even sports references and metaphors that they didn’t fully understand. They should be in America, not tired, old Europe. Everyone had so much energy and life and excitement and money, even the poor people. The sports were so much more colourful, the scores were far higher, there were cheerleaders. And all the women were Über-cute. The decision was taken; they had to get American girlfriends, cheerleaders, then go back with them to the States.

Which brought them back to the events of the afternoon. Chris thanked Richard for his diplomacy and apologised for any awkwardness. He had witnessed just one part of an on-going conflict. Monika didn’t trust Chris. She accused him of still loving Ute and was just waiting to be dumped by him.

“All of which is pure bullshit, man. I’m crazy about her, like, totally wacko, eyes-poppin’ out of the head crazy. But she won’t believe me. It’s all about the flat, an’ Ute’s stuff.”

“So you going move out ?”

“If that’s what it takes, but ain’t gonna solve the problem. Just be something else. Besides, I love that flat. D’you remember Rigaer Str ?”


“Like I could forget.”

“And it’s real hard to get hold of a flat, here. I only got it by luck.”

“You see, your mistake was in overdoing the heartache in the first place. What got you Monika, now creeps up to bite ya in the touche.”

“Shot by my own gun, gawddammit !”

“Could of course get dumped by Monika and use that to get a new chick.”

“I don’t want a new chick. I want Monika. Just …”

“Modified.”

“Right on. De-quirked.”

“Well, good luck with that.”

“So can’t you come up with anything ?”

“If I could I wouldn’t be sitting here with you, I’d be with Lorelei, or Gabi. Or both. Like, what’s with Lorelei ? I think I may have played my hand too soon.”

“Time out, Brother, is the Monika situation solved ? C’mon, focus, don’t drop the ball on this.”

Just then, Elvis came on the bar’s sound system, singing ‘Suspicious Minds’. Chris threw down his beer mat,

“Oh, very funny, Elvis!”

“So where did she go tonight ? Monika, that is ?”

“To see the film ! With Silke, I think, I dunno. But German version. Can you imagine ?”

“Winona, dubbed into Kraut ? Oh, man !”

“Tell me about it. It’ll blow over. Always does. Problem is, it always blows up again, right in my face. Screw it, more beers. So, what’s the deal with Lorelei ? Progress report.”

“Well that won’t take long.”

“Shit!”

“In spades.”

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, which were 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, it won’t be your smile I’ll be looking at.”

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. 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 and 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 Kreutzberg.
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 came 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.