Love and Chaos Part 9(K) Chris 2

13th October 2021

Winter in Berlin 2021 – Berlin.de
Berlin in winter from berlin.de
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“She stood you up ! Silke ! Here ! And you kissed, you sonofa…. You should see where she lives, and the shampoo … neon blue, and what a fragrance, designer alltheway, nonea that Schlecker (1) sheiss ! Did ya phone her ? Now, Pimms … no, but have a butcher’s, take a gander at this my friend.” (2)

Thus, Hurricane Chris, back in Rodenbergstrasse, coat still on, hat down over eyes, gloves thrown in different compass points of the room. Thus, Hurricane Chris, a vortex of verbosity, several topics covered in one seemingly endless bombastic tirade, no pause for breath or thought. Now, Hurricane Chris bending and rummaging through travel bags, an auspicious, “Ahhhhhhh, voila !”

Behold, a bottle, one metric-litre, of the finest port, according to Chris, Duty-Free had to offer, who went into pointer dog hunt mode, searching out suitable vessels.

“No port glasses ? Oh, that’s positively Dickensian.” Finally, an intermission for Richard to get a word, but probably no more, into the proceedings.

“Port is quintessentially Dicke …” Almost four words.

“Oh, it’s Melanie, everything, all of a sudden, is ‘Dickensian’. Now, what we need are comma glasses. Hhmmm, OK, these Biberkopf beakers will have to suffice, I want to hear your news, Silke, man ! And ya … where, where did ya kiss her ?”

Richard looked around him:

“Pretty much around here,” pointing to the floor.

“Very funny, no port for you, ya damn kissaholic, I mean, you know what I mean. Anatomy !”

“The lips.”

Chris nearly went into orbit:

“The lips ! Silke ! The lips ! Man … man. Silke, on the lips. And … ?”

“And ?”

“And … ? How was it ?”

“It was … nice.”

Chris thought, amateur dramatic style, finger stroking chin.

“Hhhmmm, nice or … nicccccccceeeee ?”

“It was nice.”

“Oh. Yeah, well, go figure.”

Chris shook his head, and seemed to be pondering the deepest of mysteries. Suddenly, he snapped back to the more pressing business of port, leaving behind the disappointing smoochings of Silke (with the Bond-girl legs).

He continued:

“Stood you up, hey ?”

“And I’ll tell you all about it, but first, we drink, then you tell me about Melanie, I still can’t believe … never mind, then I’ll tell you all that didn’t happen. Which won’t take long. A heads up; nothing happened.”

Chris concurred. They clinked their totally inappropriate glasses, appropriated from Cafe Biberkopf, Chris took off his outer layers as the Öfen had been stoked all day and the room was snug in the extreme, and the catching up began.

“So she’s living at Clapham Junction, near that store Arding and Hobbs …”

“Arding and Hobbs, Arding and Hobbs,” sang Richards to Chris’ utter bemusement until the memory of distant Christmas TV adverts came back.

“Oh, yes, yes, I never, OK, so, Mel’s got this great pad, I mean, Man, it’s so new, so clean, got an intercom, security gates … washing machine.”

“No !”

“Check out my jumper, no, don’t, it’s already been Berlined, oh, it’s only Berlin, and we have port ! Drink up. Prost !”

“And you didn’t go home ?”

“Well, I planned, but everything was booked, booked or fucking hell, do you have any idea how expensive everything is ? Train to Stafford was more than the flight to Berlin. Then when I saw the flat, I just crashed, I mean, I was ex…haus..tttedddd. I couldn’t move. Bag down, shower … hot water, even the water felt …”

“Wetter ?”

“Cleaner. And the shampoo ! My friend, we have accustomed ourselves to a bargain bin basement lifestyle. Port excepted. Man, this port is beautiful.”

“Yes, it’s like Zola. I love Zola, but I’ve hardly read any. Port is exquisite, we can get it here, I guess, but we don’t. Bumped into Danny Boy on Christmas. Gave me this.”

Richard reached over and held up a Penguin Classic edition of Zola’s ‘L’ Assommoir’, black spine, Degas painting on the cover.

“That looks right up my street, some knackered old slapper drowning her miseries. So, Mel, great pad … ”

“How can she afford it on just a grant ?”

“Ah, the plot … mutates. Sister. Sister avec boyfriend. Boyfriend has one of those jobs. Ditto sister. Merchant banker, him, project manager with development portfolio, her. No fucking clue any which way, me. Landed Mel with a part-time gig as managerial consultant.”

“The only part of that that made any sense to me was, ‘No fucking clue.”

Chris threw his hands up;

“I know, I asked, I asked again, I tried making diagrams, zilch.”

“German chef syndrome. You ask the name, it doesn’t take, you try again, you know, you just know, you can’t ask a third time. So you call him Yorckstrasse, and that really pisses him off. So, Mel graduates next summer ?”

“In reality, yes. In her noggin she’s already Erasmus professor at Harvard, Cambridge being somewhat beneath her.”

“Oh …,” exclaimed Richard as a loud firecracker exploded nearby. “She’s coming to stay … here ?”

“Well I can’t invite her to Rigaer 78, can I ? Can I ? No, she’s too busy. Maybe a weekend visit, but that was her just … ”

“Being herself. Now, what the Dickens ?”

“Oh, that, well one day there was a buzz and the intercom was slightly distorted, which incurred her wrath, ‘Oh, how Dickensian.’ Another day the washing machine didn’t spin, you guessed it, ‘How Dickensian.’ Seems someone had lent her some TV drama, ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’, I believe, on video.”

“Ya mean she didn’t even read the book ? Kids ! You’re waiting to hear about the date, right ?”

Chris nodded and refilled the glasses. Richard sat back to compose himself. Meanwhile Chris had found the Ritters;

“This chocolate is fucking gorgeous. Ok, the floor is yours. You saw me off at the airport, oh, I forgot, ya dumped me at the U-Bahn … ”

“After which I returned home, picking up the pastry, cookin’ the coffee. Suddenly, bang, bang, bang on the door. Enter Silke, legs and all, hug, exchange of body warmth, increase of heart rate. We natter for an hour or so, she just lives over Stargarder now, we drink, we talk, we smoke, we laugh … we kiss. Once. Long but not too long. Lips closed. No invitation for a follow up. It was, I believed, a taste of things to come. So, we are at Kottbusser Tor, by which I mean I was, and I’m making my way through the drunks and bums and the, ‘Haben Sie Kleingeld, bittes ?’ (3) heading for the right exit, get to the bar, I’m early, of course, get a drink, Campari and soda … and casually wait. Bar’s getting busy, Saturday night before Christmas. I look around, take my drink, sit where I can see the door, just waiting for her to arrive. Make a point of not checking my watch, but this is Berlin …”

“Clocks everywhere.”

“And they are ticking away. S’OK, weather’s terrible, delay on the U-Bahn, I know, it’s Berlin there are never delays on the U-Bahn. She’s putting on special make up, or a dress or … so I wait. I allow her thirty minutes, no problem. It’s now forty-five minutes. I’m sippin’ that Campari as slow as possible. Now it’s an hour. I need the bathroom.”

“Do you stay or do you go ?”

“Oh, I had to go, big time ! All that soda. But if I go and she comes, she may think I’ve gone or stood her up. So I stay. Ten minutes pass. I could have gone five times. Finally, just had to go, but I saw a payphone. Gave her a call.”

“Yeah, and … ?”

“Had it all prepared, ‘Guten Abend, darf ich mit Johanna sprechen, bitte ?’ That’s good isn’t it ? Apparently not. Barbaric baritone belchings from hell, and phone slammed down.”

“Not a good sign.”

“Not a good sign. More port, please. Cheers. Ah, this is heavenly. So, I walk back, expecting Johanna to be there, beaming, radiant, apologetic … Nothing. My glass had been taken, new people in my seat. I checked my watch. Over ninety minutes late. I check outside. Dark, bitter, empty, depressing. Only one thing for it.”

“To Alex, to Samariterstraße, to the Czar Bar, to hell with women.”

“I went out to call her the next day. She has no way to contact me and maybe something came up. Several coats on, phone card and coins, slippin’ and a sliddin’ my way across Schönhauser Allee. Got my patter worked out. ‘Entschuldigen Sie bitte, es tut mir lied …’ As far as I got. Really belligerent death threats, I’m sure. Phone slammed down, eardrum gone for a Burton. And that was that.”

They sat and drank in silence. Richard continued:

“We’re both thinking it. Right ? This time last year … ”

“I was with Monika, you were up to no good with Gabi, chasing Lorelai with Silke on the backburner. Arizona Al, the coolest dude ever. Melanie fucked off and nobody cared how or if she got home. Oh, got ya this.” Chris went into another bag and gave Richard a paper bag covering a paperback.

“Feynman ! ‘Six Easy Pieces,’ incredible. Thanks so much.”

They clinked and finished the port.

“You know,” Richard started, “We could go out it you want. Czar Bar ? Maybe just local, maybe try Silke ?”

“No, I’m really tired. I saw some beer in the fridge. That will be OK. One or two, then I really gotta sleep. I’m exhausted.”

Thus, to the sound of fireworks and cheers, two Englishmen spent what would be their last ever Silvester together in Berlin. Within a year, one would no longer be living in Germany, the other would be on his way to achieving a modicum of fame.

Across town, Daniel was drinking Champagne, not German Sket or Prosecco, genuine Champagne out of a crystal glass that cost more than his weekly rent. He was, undoubtedly, on his way to achieve rather more than just a modicum of fame.

Across the Channel, Alan was at his parent’s home having a marathon film night. He didn’t care for the chiming of Big Ben and the linking of arms for ‘Auld Lang Syne.’ He had gone through his video collection and watched F.W.Murnau’s ‘Nosferatu’, and was now waiting for Janet Leigh to take that shower in ‘Psycho.’ ‘La Dolce Vita’ was special, that could wait until tomorrow so, after Hitchcock, he thought Truffaut’s ‘La Mariée Était en Noir,’ would be a perfect conclusion.

Across the Atlantic, Eric was on a bus heading into Manhattan. He wanted to see the ball drop for real. Naturally, the crowds were so dense he didn’t get anywhere near, but at least he was in New York, the centre of the Universe. Where else was the night brighter than the day, where else could you buy anything at anytime ? Where else could you go into any bookshop and find exactly what you were looking for, and then some.

Back in Berlin, Jake was both out of his head, and functioning as sole barman, with the occasional help from Peter. The French were in full force, Claude singing, showing off his new girlfriend, a very cute German lady in a very cute peaked cap. Marc, the eagle-headed chap responsible for creating a gravel-based installation, was with his girlfriend, an ice-blonde German who looked stunning, Johan was talking with his brother, and everybody within earshot. For the German contingent, Robert was making his usual proclamation and initiating some old friends from Heidelberg into serial vodka drinking. Thomas and Stefan were holding their own, and even planning some kind of musical collaboration with York T, who tonight had tied different colour papers in his hair. Sascha was performing some weird dance or mating ritual with Iris, his girlfriend, while Olga was shouting at Jake for being too slow with the Bloody Marys. Boris, now with short hair and dark rings under the eyes, was leaning against a wall, making small talk with some newly-arrived Russians.

Back in west Berlin, in Steglitz, an adorable young lady named Nadeem was at a small party, having one, and only one, glass of Sekt. Her closest friend, who could have been a supermodel if she were taller, couldn’t believe Nadeem was single. Everybody was chasing her. The friend was adamant that the time was right for Nadeem to be caught.

Chris was already snoring while Richard began reading Feynman’s lectures. The port was gone, the beer was gone, the chocolate was long gone.

Fireworks and explosions, laughing, clinking and drinking, hugging and kissing.

Welcome to 1996.

Notes

(1) Schlecker was a low-budget chemist chain. They sold a lot of own brand items. The company went bankrupt in 2012: https://www.ft.com/content/049ef850-0248-11e6-99cb-83242733f755

(2) Both are British slang meaning ‘have a look.’

(3) Do you have any small change, please ? A request for money from homeless

Love and Chaos Part 5(B) Chris 1

23rd March 2021

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

Part Five

Berlin. Autumn 1994

“I just don’t know what to do. One minute everything’s fine the next, Armageddon, four horsemen charging through the flat.”

“Still doesn’t like that it’s Ute’s flat ?”

“Her friend’s flat ! C’mon, I’ve been with her six months, doesn’t she get it, yet ?”

Chris had taken Richard out drinking, ostensibly to celebrate, but another argument with Monika had dampened the atmosphere.

They had walked, without purpose, along Stargarder Strasse, taking a random right turn into one of the side streets that leads into Danziger Str (which they had christened the most boring street in the world, after they had once taken an interminable Strassebahn journey along it’s interminable characterless length).

They saw another new bar that had emerged overnight and which may go on to be a legend, or closed and forgotten by winter. Being still mild, they decided to sit on the wooden benches outside, against the large, single pane of glass, facing the street. Knowing how suddenly the Berlin summer turns into Autumn, this could well be their last chance for open air drinking.

There were only a few other drinkers at a table on the other side of the door, and some individuals inside. The waitress had curly blonde hair and was friendly, so it would do.

The celebration was due to the fact that Chris had managed to orchestrate the job switch. Last night, a Friday, had been his last shift. He would work at the studio full time, or at least twenty-five hours a week, starting Monday, the same day that Richard would begin washing-up, Monday to Friday, seven till midnight.

It wasn’t until Richard began working that he could really consider himself living in Berlin and the timing couldn’t have been better; he was just about out of money. Chris would have to pay for tonight’s session.

Once again, a projected evening out with The Gang had splintered into sub-sects along partisan lines. While the girls discussed if Monika should leave Chris, he was desperately trying to explain the latest argument, but was unable to give a reason himself.

“I just don’t know how it starts. We’re talking, suddenly, one wrong word, or look, and all hell breaks loose. I can’t even repeat the conversations, they are so banal. I know there is a language barrier, but, hey, c’mon, it’s not that. It’s not even the flat. No matter what I do, it’s wrong, no matter what I say … “

“Wrong ?”

“Right. I mean, you’re right, I’m wrong. Obviously. I’m always wrong. Have you heard her ? Every time I say something, ‘No !’ whatever, doesn’t matter, ‘No !’ Sky is blue, “No !’ ‘Course, we know it’s not blue, it’s just the only colour that filters through, ‘No !’ Darling, I love you,’ No !’, Monika, ‘No !’ Bloody tin-pot dictator.”

At this, Richard couldn’t hold-in his laughter any longer, and almost choked on his beer, which, naturally, set Chris off on a laughing fit of his own. Richard had noticed that the angrier Chris got, the funnier he became, and it was hard to lend a sympathetic ear while listening to Chris’ inventory of abuse, his serious countenance only making it funnier.

The waitress walked past, so they ordered more beers, an action repeated four or five times.

The young curly-haired blonde girl was returning with more beers for them, on a large tray with several other drinks, as the bar was getting busier. Meanwhile, three other men were now sitting opposite Chris and Richard.

She walked to the side of the bench and balanced the tray on her right hand, leaving her left free to hand out the bottles and glasses.

And then it happened.

Richard jumped up as a Glass of Coke and something went over his jeans. This initial spill was enough to upset the whole equilibrium and in a microsecond, the entire tray had fallen, and although most of it fell on the table or floor, Richard got his right leg and waist soaked in an unsavoury cocktail of alcohol and sticky fizzy drinks.

The men opposite jumped back, avoiding the streams of liquid, and Chris had been covered by Richard, who was now doing his best to comfort the waitress, holding her hand and telling her it was all right. She began to dry him with a small bar towel, while Chris and another man were constructing intricate sluices for the alcohol to flow away, using beer mats, approaching the subject as if it were a major hydraulics project.

Still the waitress apologised, not that Richard could understand much of it, and he held out his hands to calm her, then asked the way to the Toilette, where he did his best to dry up, using paper towels. There was no hot-air dryer.

When he came out, he found Chris relocated at the bar, with two fresh beers. The waitress was seen outside, still mopping. The barman, who was probably the owner, also apologised, Richard again waving it away, as he did when the waitress returned and started her routine all over.

“I’m kinda liking the attention,” he said to Chris, with a wink, because the waitress was getting cuter by the minute.

He was also glad that The Gang hadn’t gone out, as he didn’t really want to see Lorelei, except, of course, that he really, really did.

The highlight of the evening was yet to come. When they asked for the Rechnung (the check), they were only charged for the last two beers. The waitress was still apologising as they left.

Outside, Chris said,

“Good thing, too. I only had enough for two or three beers.”

“So … I don’t have much money, either … what were you going to do ?”

Chris shrugged his shoulders, smiled, and walked on.

“Damn, I should have asked her out,” exclaimed Richard.

“She wouldn’t have said ’No !’ Unlike another German girl we know.”

“Quite right. She would have been morally obliged to say ‘Yes’”

The exchanged a knowing glance, and nodded to each other.


“Anyway,’ said Chris, “too late now.”

“I could always go back and … “

“No, you had the chance …”


“And blew it. Damn, she was cute.”

“They’ll be others.”

“Doubtless.”

“Maybe a new waitress at Biberkopf. There’s always Ully.”

“With the thing ?”

“Wouldn’t notice with the lights out.”

“You probably would.”

“You’re probably right. You know what ya shoulda done ?”

“What ?”

“Asked out that waitress.”

“Damn, she was cute … “