Love and Chaos Part 3(F) Chris 2

13th December 2020

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

Part Three. Berlin. Summer 1994

Monika let out an exclamation of happiness. There was a parking space outside of Chris’ street door. She gathered her bag, and a carefully selected handful of tapes from the car’s floor.

“And this one,” added Chris, “Husker Du,” then began singing ‘Could You Be The One ?’.

They got out, Monika checking the locks on her beloved, yellow Toyota and Chris entered the block, getting out his keys to unlock the Briefkaste. He mimicked her exclamation, pulling out a letter with its distinctive handwriting and British stamps.

Chris’ flat was on the second floor of the back block, or Hinterhof. Ute had organised it for Chris, as it had belonged to a friend of hers who was moving in with her boyfriend. Ute had left some bits of hers there, a source of constant irritation to Monika. It implied that she would be back and when she returned, Chris would go back to her.

Inside, the second ceiling was immediately above the door, an improvised storage space,overflowing with Ute’s belongings and general junk. Monika rarely failed to make at least one allusions to this, per visit.

The small hallway had a door, to the left, which was the bathroom. A toilet with old-style chain, but a normal sized sink and a bath with shower attachment. There was also a small gas heater. A quantum leap from the previous flat.

The main room was larger, as well, and the windows received more light from the small courtyard. There was the Ofen in one corner and the door to the kitchen in the corner diagonally opposite.

The kitchen was smaller, but big enough for a table and could easily sit two and cosily sit three.

Chris played the tape that had Husker Du on one side and Jane’s Addiction on the other. Monika had introduced him to both bands and now he couldn’t hear enough of them. There were the soundtrack to his new life.

Richard’s letter was also full of enthusiasm, and Chris let out a series of whoops and ut-oh’s periodically.

Monika busied herself, allowing him space. She knew he would tell her everything, anyway, in great detail, some of which she may even understand. As soon as Chris had finished the last word, he called Monika over.

“He’s in love, too.”

“Ah, that’s nice.”

“Nein, not nice.”

“It’s not nice your friend is in love ?”

“Yes, I mean, no, it’s not nice, not nice. Nice is a bad word, very weak, it doesn’t mean anything. If you go somewhere and watch someone, I don’t know, act, or play a song and you have to say something, you say,’ it was nice’.”

“So, it is … great ? Great he’s in love ? Super !”

“Yes. Except, no, it’s not.”

“And why ?” A very strong demand from Monika.

“It’s Richard. Nothing ever seems to work out for him in that department. OK, he’s in love with this girl called Käthe. Yes, a German girl.”

“Ah-ha! And where did he meet her ? In Berlin ?”

“No, at work, in London. She and her boyfriend work at the same place. Seems Richard got offered a permanent position, so it means more money. Still shit, but better. Let’s see … “

“But … boyfriend ?”

“That’s all you need to know about Richard. Always falls in love with girls who are in committed relationships. Never mind, we’ll find him a girl here. You got any single friends ?”

“What about Ully at Biberkopf ?”

“What about her ?”

“She’s single, no ?”

“Yeah, I’m sure of it. Are you surprised ? She’s got … the thing.”


“She’s got a lovely smile.”

“And the … thing. No, we can do better than that.”

Monika looked out of the window.

“Ah, it looks a nice day, no, a great day. I don’t want to go to work.”

“What would you like to do instead ?”

Later that afternoon, Chris re-read the letter. In it, Richard had mentioned his routine; seeing films on Mondays, when there are cheaper, maybe drinking with Melanie, then getting home and heating up a pizza slice and watching some American shows, something called ‘NYPD Blue’, another being ‘Northern Exposure’. Richard also exalted a book called ‘Generation X’ that everybody was reading and told him to look out for a film about slackers which had Winona Ryder dancing in a convenience store. They all sounded fantastic.

Chris had been in Berlin for over a year. He had two jobs, his own flat, a great new girlfriend and enough money to live comfortable on.

However, he realized from the letter how out of touch he was. He hadn’t read an English newspaper or a new book since being here. He could just about fumble through a German paper, but it was either too complex or too boring. The new bands he was listening to had all been around for a while, but had it not been for Monika, he wouldn’t have had any way of knowing about them.

Chris needed Richard to be here as much as Richard needed to be out of London. He felt that he had a lot of catching up to do.

Love and Chaos Part 3(E) Hitch 1

9th December 2020

Young Alfred Hitchcock ~1920's : OldSchoolCool
Alfred Hitchcock (Google Images)

Part Three

Hitch

Young Alfred Hitchcock felt so proud. His father, a strict and nervous man, had entrusted his son with a duty that made the infant of four or five feel like a young man.

Hitch ran along Leytonstone High Road, in the East-End of London, to the police station, with no suspicion of the notorious family plot being hatched.

Alfred confidently approached the huge desk and, tiptoeing up, stretched to put the note into the giant hand of the formidable policeman.

The Officer took the note, unfolded it, read it, closed it again, and stared down at the beaming face of the boy. After a moment of silence, he said:

“Come with me.”

How honoured Alfred felt now, a respectable keeper of the peace was leading him by the hand and showing him the inside of the station.

They went up to a cell, which the Officer unlocked and beckoned the lad inside.

Alfred needed no second telling, he gladly entered.

Then the door closed with a heart-stopping crash, and he could hear the metal screeching of the heavy keys turning the locks.

There he stayed, in the terrifying cold of the dungeon, too small to look out of the bars, too scared to scream. He was petrified.

There he stayed for five or ten minutes, until he was finally released. The only explanation were the words that stayed with him for the rest of his life:

“This is what we do to naughty boys.”

Unsurprisingly, many of his films have the theme of an innocent man caught up in something he doesn’t understand or have control over.

Around fifty-five years later, the film ‘Psycho’ was released.


Thirty-four years after that, in 1994, a film student chose it as the subject of his thesis.

Alan Francis had moved up to London to read Film Studies, and shared a bedsit in Leytonstone with three other students. He frequently walked past the petrol station that has been built on the site where ‘The Master of Suspense’ was born.

It was Alan’s contention that ‘Psycho’ was as near perfect as a film could ever get. Rather than being threatened by television, which had devoured Hollywood’s audiences in the Fifties, Hitchcock, acting as his own Producer, had used a television crew, used to tight budgets and tighter schedules, to shoot the film.

Mosaic of Hitchcock's "Psycho" famous shower scene. | Hitchcock, Mosaic, Art
Mosaic of ‘Psycho’ at Leytonstone Underground Station

But he took time and care when needed. The famous shower scene took seven days to shoot, using seventy cameras for forty-five seconds of film.

Alan also mentioned that the film had cost eight hundred thousand dollars and before the decade had ended, had already grossed over fifteen million.

Over the Summer months, Alan waited with appropriate suspense, for his results. He had had enough with theory, he now wanted to make films. But the chances of breaking into the film business were not good. The best thing, he decided, was not to send off letters or work his way up in studios, but to actually make a film, to show people what he could do.

There were so many ideas stored up, so many theories of cinema to test out. All he needed was a camera. And actors. And film stock. For these, he needed money.

In July 1994, Alan looked for jobs and was accepted by a firm of business consultants. His theories on film would not be required for the post. So he saved his money. And waited.

Till the end of his life, Alfred Hitchcock never forgot the paralysing fear of being locked in that cell. And he was never able to remember what it was that he had done, that caused his father to punish him so.

Hitchcock: a short pilgrimage around Leytonstone | Leytonstoner

Love and Chaos Part 3(D) Richard 2

7th December 2020

Photo by Pete Flatwound. Follow Pete on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/flatwoundonfilm/

Part Three. London. Summer 1994

“So when are you leaving ?”

“Don’t have the exact date, but around the end of July. I can’t believe it. Back to Berlin.”

Richard had to shout a little above the noise of the pub. There were highlights of a World Cup game showing Bulgaria beating the mighty Germany, and the London pub was cheering as loudly as any in Sofia. Richard’s attention wandered to the screen when he thought Melanie wasn’t looking, but he was caught out and had to suffer her views on football and football supporters, but knew enough to keep his views on her views, to himself.

It was also the first time he had seen her in a skirt, a pretty skimpy one, that showed off legs that were smooth and shapely. He was prepared to contemplate a complete review of the Melanie situation.

Maybe it was the skirt, the warm Summer night, or the joy of seeing Germany beaten without the inevitable heartbreak of watching England lose (as they hadn’t even been able to qualify), but the conversation, after three or four drinks, became the most revealing the two ever had. No reviews of art, or humorous small-talk, usually with Chris as the butt, or hints of truths that suddenly pulled back. They actually got to know a little about each other.

After ten o’clock, they decided to spend the last drinking hour at the Coach and Horses, a pub famous for it’s artistic clientele, actors, painters and writers and therefore infamous for its collection of would-be actors, painters and writers. A simple “excuse me”, or a “hello” would be met by a laboured and over-rehearsed
half-witticism, or a meaningless epigram.

They got two seats at a large table and had to politely smile as a man with long, straight hair and a cane, offered salutations. Then they got down to business.

Richard asked about her relationship with Chris. What exactly was it ? He wasn’t prepared for the answer.

“Oh, we’re married.”

Richard paused, the wine glass half-way to his lips.

Then Melanie laughed.

It was an even greater shock, now, to discover that Melanie had a mischievous sense of humour. And great legs, that inspired alcohol-fueled aspirations. She clarified.

“No, but we did go out for a time. Yeah, we were dating. Boyfriend and girlfriend. But, there was no sex, obviously.”

“Obviously ?”

“Well, Chris, you know, and I … you know … it was cool.” Melanie was biting her lip and nodding her head, expecting Richard to be able to fill in the gaps.

“What, you didn’t have sex ?”

“No, of course not. I mean we were … intimate … with each other … but there was control … ” Back to the nodding.

Richard was having difficulty processing, and restraining the “WHAT ?” that was screaming to be let loose.

“Well … what’s the point in that ?”

“What do you mean ?”

“To have a girlfriend and not … have … not … Just … what’s the point ?”

“It was what we both wanted …”

“Both ?”

“Yeah. I mean, you must know about Chris … ?”

“No.”

“No ? What do you boys speak about ?”

Again, that phrase, ‘you boys’. Richard let it slide, the revelation was too big.

“Man stuff. TV programs. Quantum Mechanics; had some quite heated debates over that. Football. Sweets from our childhood that no longer exist. ‘Spanglers’, for instance.”


“And women ?”

“No, sir, never. Almost never. OK, but not always. Yeah, a lot of talk about women. I didn’t know with Chris it was just all talk. I’m going through a fallow patch, admittedly, but that’s just to replenish the oats. I’ll be back ploughing soon enough …”

“Ah, don’t gross me out.” Just then, the music stopped and there was a momentary volume drop in the bar. Richard continued, at his previous level;

“That’s why it’s more fun with men.”

The long-haired man next to Melanie slowly turned towards him, and raised his glass. Music re-started.

“Talking, I mean. So, you and Chris … never … ?”

“That’s right. Can’t believe he’s not told you. That’s why I knew it would never work out with Ute. She’s used to sex. It’s hard to go from being sexually active to celibacy.”

Something wasn’t quite right about this, thought Richard, but again, he thought he shouldn’t push any further. He envisaged some very interesting conversations when he got back to Berlin. And Monika ? Did Melanie think she was also in a celibate relationship with Chris ? Was that what she meant, claiming she was ‘her kind of woman’ ? Was Melanie gay ? Tonight, it seemed, anything was possible. But, in the best tradition of show business, or, in this environment, show-off business, Richard was saving the best till last.

“I’m in love. And she’s German.”

“Wow ! That’s great. Who is she ?”

“Her name’s Käthe. She has platinum blonde hair, dark eyes and is just gorgeous. And she going to be driving me to Berlin. Along with her boyfriend.”

Love and Chaos Part 3(C) Kurt C 1

6th December 2020

Nirvana remembers Kurt Cobain on 25th anniversary of his death | Fox News
Kurt Cobain (Google Images)

Part Three

On 8th April, 1994, the body of Kirk Cobain, singer and guitarist of the band Nirvana, was found at his Seattle home. He died from a gunshot wound to the head.

The pop-culture space-race that had been going on between Britain and The States since the Fifties was now firmly in the American orbit, as the amount of small bands who spent limited money on equipment, not designer clothes, seemed to reach stratospheric heights.

Britain’s alternative scene has seen Indie Pop branch out into the tiny Grebo movement, a kind of home-grown pre-Grunge which combined music and humour in equal doses, before people smartened up and went dancing with the aid of little smiley tabs.

There was a definite vacuum that needed filling, and the music, attitudes and fashions of Grunge, of Slacker, of Generation X seemed tailor-made, and all that tailor need provide were flashy baseball caps, checked shirts and jeans with a rip or two.

It was the three chords of punk, with the freedom to add a fourth or fifth and, hey, guitar solos can be cool, providing they’re shit hot. The lyrics were personal and poetic. And a reaction, the reaction that a lot of people felt, shaking their heads and wondering,’ What the fuck happened in the Eighties ?’ a realization that no catchy slogans were going to change society, and anyway, no point picking on individual countries, they were merging into bland, soulless, multinational corporations, whose twin gods were uniformity and profit. And the ones blackballed from the club were in the black hole of poverty and disease.

There were new causes, arguments that seemed irrefutable; the need to protect our water, our land, our air, yet the corporations found ways to argue and stall and ignore and undermine.

It was the last decade of the most remarkably innovative century in the history of this planet, and a fitting time for reflection and criticism. A century when civilized nations embarked on unspeakable, unimaginable, incomprehensible barbarity, and all that came out of that was the slogan, ‘Never Again’, but by the early 90’s it already had, and as the decade wore on, it happened elsewhere, it happened again, and then later, it happened again and then, elsewhere … it happened again.

In his suicide note, Kurt Cobain referred to himself as a ‘experienced simpleton’. He hadn’t found what he needed in the music business and didn’t want to go on pretending, but other people, on the outside, across the nation, across the ocean, were happy to keep looking.

It may have been the end of Grunge Rock, but the Slacker movement and lifestyle just got bigger and bigger.

Love and Chaos Part 3(B) Chris 1

6th December 2020

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

Part Three. Berlin. Spring 1994

“Says he’s working for a temp agency again. As kitchen porter. Fucking Hell! “

Chris broke off to explain to Monika about Richard’s job, then continued reading the letter.

“And he misses Berlin. Good. He should come back. We could find him a job, couldn’t we ?’

“For sure. He has been here, before ?’

The story of how they met and Richard’s two trips to Berlin were briefly related. Chris took a bite of toast as Monika poured more coffee, and read further, nodding. It wasn’t in the letter, but he had obviously seen Melanie, as he had the new address. One line made him exclaim;

“Yeah, that’s right, Dude, you coulda.”

Monika looked over, her icy blue eyes asking for clarification. Her English was only basic and Chris’ use of slang and Americanisms sometimes threw her.

“Oh, he’s just saying how he if he’d stayed at Uni, he’d of graduated by now. Last year, in fact. Ha, then he jokes about what he’s done, instead. A year at a bookshop, six months at a record store, six weeks in Berlin, the rest washing kitchen floors. What’s this ?”

“What is ?” asked Monika, in her heavy accent.

“I dunno, something about being locked in a freezer. ”

“So ? Is he coming over ? I think you would like that, no ?”

“Yeah, I would.”

“Does he need a flat ? I could ask The Gang.”

“No, he’ll stay here. After Rigaer Strasse, this is a palace. What time do you start ?”

“One. I told you.”

“Just checking. So we have time.”

“For what ?” asked Monika, with mock innocence. Chris raised his eyebrows and smiled.

Love and Chaos Part 3(A) Richard 1

5th December 2020

Photo by Pete Flatwound. Follow Pete on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/flatwoundonfilm/

Part Three

London. Spring 1994

“So one of the chefs tells me to clean out the large vegetable freezer and I’m in there, scraping frozen crap off the shelves and sweeping up lumps of … I don’t know what. Then, this other chef appears, young guy, tall and gormless, carrying a clipboard. It’s part of his job to make routine checks on the temperatures, every day, same time. Now, the door’s open because, right, I’m in there, doing their shitty work. Gormless looks at the temperature gauge and, naturally, it’s way up, and he freaks out. This has never happened before, it’s an anomaly, except, of course, he wouldn’t know what an anomaly was, because he’s a chef, and of all the qualifications needed for that job, intelligence ain’t one of them. “

“So,” asked Melanie, unaccustomed to keeping quiet for long, “you’re saying he’s not too bright ?”

“As two short planks. Now, here’s the rub; he has to think.”

“Ouch !”

“In spades, and he really does, no bullshit, man, stand there, gob wide-open, dribble trickling down, you can hear the spokes turning, slow, slow, then … light bulb above the head, he comes up with a solution, though he’s probably more used to sniffing solutions that in coming up with them. Be that as it may, he says, proud as Punch, ‘I’ve gotta closer door, Mate.’ And proceeds to do same.”

“What did you do ?”

“I objected, of course. I’m in a bloody freezer, in just a T-shirt, and he wants to close the door on me. Apart from the fact that the temperature is going to go down to minus Twenty-Five or whatever, the perishing light will go out ! They’ll go back to get some peas, and find me frozen like Jack Nicholson in ‘The Shining’.”

“The situations you find yourself in,” joked Melanie as Richard once again got the sense that she was laughing explicitly at him, not his anecdote.

“But he wouldn’t be told. I tried to explain the law of manslaughter to him, and that being a fucking moron was no defence. No avail. So I just left it. I mean, the freezer’s working, everything is stone cold and the only reason the gauge is up is because the door’s open. Use some initiative; fake the temperature. But no, he can’t do that, has to carry out his orders, do his duty. Then his girlfriend walked past and gave one of those, ’Look what I have to put up with’ expressions, deep intake of breathe, then followed by the, ’But I love him all the same, the big lumock’ look.”

“What’s she like ?”

“Not bad, kinda cute. OK, bit on the chubby side, but good features. Lovely eyes. Too good for him. What I should have done was to hit him on the head with a bag of frozen cauliflower. We got time for one more, or shall we go ?”

For the past month or so, Richard had been meeting up with Melanie and seeing movies or just having a drink. This evening, they were in a small pub by Leicester Square, before going to see a film based in post-war Berlin. It was a disappointing mess of a co-production, with a British actor giving a one-dimensional portrayal of an American, an American actor giving an unconvincing, stiff-upper lipped rendition of a Englishman and an Italian beauty attempting to be an ugly German. But, at one point during the film, there was an interior scene showing a room with an Ofen. Richard and Melanie poked each other on the leg and laughed. They left as soon as the film finished, heading straight back to the pub. They covered the usual topics: Richard’s awful job, awful love-life, awful everything. It seemed to cheer Melanie up.

“No regrets about leaving the record store ? I mean, it was regular work.”

“Not really. Couldn’t go back there, anyway, they would have sacked me for taking off too much time. And for what ? Berlin in Winter. Barely even saw Chris.”

This was the link Melanie was waiting for, and she barely listened to the rest of his speach.

“I can understand what Will meant, now, about not being able to work with people. I mean, my job really is shit, but at least I don’t have to deal with … the public. Book shops and classical music, sounds like ‘green and pleasant land’ material, but it’s the Mean Streets. In Fordham’s I devised a theory. People were in a bad mood because they came in to buy books that they couldn’t find, couldn’t afford and didn’t really want. As for the Classical Music lot … I tell you, you won’t find a more arrogant bunch of self-loving Arschlochs than music students. Makes me miss my old Physics gang. “

If Richard hoped Melanie would take up this cue, he was mistaken.

“Speaking of Chris, I got a letter from him recently. Are you still in touch ? You know he’s moved, now, and got a new girlfriend ? Oh, yes, much better by the sounds of it. I didn’t like Ute at all. I knew it wouldn’t last.”

This was all news to Richard, who hadn’t heard from Berlin since he left, the previous November. Melanie brought him up to speed, taking secret pleasure in being the one with the information.

Ute had decided to go back to Hamburg, possibly having something to do with the suspicious phone calls and letters that periodically arrived and which she read privately and hid at the back of a cupboard. Chris seemed somehow prepared, as if expecting it. Soon after, he was in love with a new woman. Her name was Monika and she was Austrian.

“She doesn’t stand any nonsense, by the sounds of it. She’ll keep Chris in line. My kind of girl. That’s what you need, a good, strong, Germanic girl.”

Richard was very close to admitting that right now he’d settle for any kind of girl, but didn’t want to give Melanie too much ammunition.

“So he’s still at the restaurant ?“

“Oh, yes, he says they’ll probably make him a chef before long.”

“Please, no more talk about chefs.”

“And the new place. In Prenzlauer Berg.”

“That sounds much better. The flat in Rigaer Strasse … I’ve tried telling people about it and no one believes me.”

“I know, they look at me and think how could someone like me possibly spend time there.”

“Quite. Oh, there was something else weird happen after you left. Every night, about six o’clock for an hour, the water from the toilet sink had an electric charge.”

“No !”

“There you are, trying to wash yourself, two inches at a time, and no cheap cracks, Lady, and suddenly … the water gives you an electric shock. Only in Berlin. Still … “

“What, you miss it ?”

“Yeah. Sometimes. I don’t know. I’ve never lived there. Maybe November was especially bad. The weather. Chris being preoccupied. So, Monika … ? “

Richard enjoyed these after-work evenings and found Melanie good company. She introduced him to a lot of films and authors he wouldn’t otherwise have know, and got him out of the bedsit. The film about Berlin, and the conversation about Chris had provoked conflicting thoughts about that city. The November nightmares began to fade, as the good times of September asserted themselves; amazing squat bars, friendly, open people, an easier pace of life. U-Bahns that arrived on time. A population less than half of London’s. Women, girls, young ladies. Hannah. Maybe she was still at the bar … or Monika … she must have friends. Maybe it was time to re-open diplomatic ties between London and Berlin.