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(I) Chris 3

3rd May 2021

photo by Martin O’Shea 2021

Part Five. Berlin. Winter 1994

Chris emptied his Brief Kaste, threw away the Werbung (adverts) and took the envelope upstairs. He recognized the handwriting at once, and the British stamp only confirmed that here was another letter from Melanie.

He had promised Richard that he’d go to a travel agents with him, help book his ticket to London, but had just received some bad news from the studio: there would be no more work in the new year. The studio was closing down.

It had created a surreal atmosphere. Anyone who turned up got paid, but nobody was doing any work. People just sat around, drinking coffee and smoking. The room was full of uncertainty, worrying how rents would be paid, some wondering whether they would return to Berlin after their visits home for Christmas.

Chris kept this from Richard, but asked him if he knew what the situation was at Biberkopf, as he could take over the shifts while Richard was away.

The flight was booked with Chris insisting that Richard get back in time for New Year’s Eve, ‘Sylvester’, in Germany.

“You just wouldn’t believe it, it’s like a war zone, people throwing bangers, fireworks, everyone out drinking on the streets. You’ll love it. Hey, new year, new start. It’ll be OK, you know.’

“You sure about that ?”

“Yes. I am.” An optimistic answer from Chris who would start the new year unemployed. He knew that if he told Richard, then Richard would immediately give up the Biberkopf job, insist on giving it back to Chris and would therefore have an excuse to stay in London.

On Christmas Day, Chris fixed himself a breakfast of smoked salmon, day old rolls, some tangerines, and several cups of coffee.

Monika was at her sister’s, just outside Leipzig, Gabi back in Vienna. Silke was in Bavaria, Kai incommunicado and Andreas had somehow found the money to go to Turkey. Lorelei was staying in Berlin, but Chris was sensitive enough not to mention her, or to blatantly not mention her. Tommy was visiting family in Aachen, in the west of Germany and Gert had naturally disappeared somewhere.

In the early afternoon, Chris went for a walk, enjoying the freedom of being totally alone in his city. The roads were almost empty, only an occasional car passing by and beeping hello. The shops were all shut, even the Imbisses had closed, or so it seemed. A side street off Schönhauser Allee had two fluttering flags, showing that at least one fast food joint was open. Chris made a note of it, should he require a Christmas kebab.

With no direction or purpose, Chris turned into Danziger Str and thought he’d walk to Friedrichshain. He walked along this notoriously tedious road, smoking, strolling, feeling quite happy. For the moment. The shit was going to hit the fan, so he may as well enjoy this anomaly of peace and quiet.

In four days time, both Monika and Melanie would arrive in Berlin. Melanie was arriving early evening and expected to be met at Tegal airport. Monika was driving, probably arriving late evening. The next day, the 30th, Richard arrived back, same time flight as Melanie, but he could make his own way home. Chris could stay at Monika’s, leaving Richard with Melanie. That image made him laugh out loud.

Then, how would Monika react to Melanie ? Melanie to Monika ? How would Richard be ? Chris knew he was in a lot of pain, more than he could help him with, and just hoped that his break in London would give him the distance he needed.

After half an hour, he was at Rigaer Str and thought he’d try Café Kinski. It was locked, but there were people inside, so it was probably a private party. He walked on, past more squat bars, squat houses, negotiating the piles of dog shit on the street and the distinctive odours of shit and piss and vomit and sweat and fumes and fast food. He felt at home.

After walking along the Strasse he saw a light above the door of the Czar Bar. It was open.

Coming from the left, there was a large, single pane window, with the Cyrillic ‘bap’ (bar) painted along the lower edge. The window was usually crammed with junk, but it was still possible to see inside, see who was working.

Chris peaked in and saw a figure in a fedora, twisting around, reaching for some glasses and a bottle of vodka. Tidings of comfort and joy.

The Czar bar was entered by walking up a step, into a sheltered vestibule, both sides plastered with flyers and stickers, flapping and peeling off. The door was solid, bottle green, also covered in small posters. Immediately inside was a thick black curtain, which had to be brushed aside.

The bar had changed a lot since Chris dragged an unimpressed Nuno and a repulsed Melanie here. A year ago. A lifetime ago.

There was now a more permanent looking bar, stretching from the door and curving around to the flipper (pinball) room. There were pallets below the bar, making a step up to the tall stools that were bolted down. Drunks may continue to fall, but the chairs would remain standing.

Above the bar, was a flat surface reaching to the ceiling, giving the bar the appearance of a kiosk. Behind the bar was the large dresser, now with more bottles and glasses, and a CD system, playing early Neil Young.

Around the room were placed round tables and along the walls, two old sofas. Chris looked into the far recess of the bar and saw that there was actually a stage, reached by four or five steps.

The room had also been painted; it was now a dull, deep orange, and with the main shutter down, and low wattage bulbs, it could easily have been late evening, not afternoon.

Chris took a seat at the bar, next to some Germans who looked half-way pissed already, but smiled at him warmly. He smiled back.

“Heeeeyyy, Chris, welcome back. Haven’t seen you around here for a while,” said Jake the Barman, extending a hand for a complex series of shakes.

“I was here last month.”

“You were ? Where was I ?”

Chris pointed to the end stool,


“Over there.”

“Oh, right, I wasn’t working, I’m only out of it when I’m not working, yeah, Yuri was work .. no, let me … Micha ? Hell, I don’t know, what the fuck does it matter, hey ? Oh, Merry Christmas, can I get you a Christmas cocktail ?”

“What’s in it ?”

“Vodka and … vodka.”

“OK, I’ll have a double.”

This made Jake laugh, and they drank together, Jake introducing him to everyone who came in. By evening, Chris was very tipsy, and the bar, which was also looking tipsy, was full. Tom Waits had at some point replaced Neil Young.

A small, well built man with a dark beard and moustache came in and rested both elbows on the bar, staring intensely at Jake.

“Jake. Vodka,” he barked in German. Jake was having difficulty controlling his eyes, which were scanning the room, back and forth, and he was also trying to dance along to the music, but he managed to open a new vodka, pick up three shot glasses in one hand and pour the vodka to the very top of the glasses without spilling a drop. He spoilt this achievement by licking the drips off the bottle.

“Claude … Chris. Chris. Claude,” said Jake, making the introductions. Claude turned the intense gaze on Chris, looking him right in the eyes from across the bar. Then he raised his glass, said, ‘Santé’, and downed it in one gulp. He let out a vodka sigh, shook his head, slapped himself once or twice and clicked his fingers.

“Jake. Noch drei mehr (three more).” Jake repeated the process, Claude repeated his ritual of sighing and slapping, then slammed down some money on the counter and left.

Chris had no recollection of leaving, or getting home, or indeed, buying his Christmas Döner, but did find the tell-tale tin foil in his dustbin, along with small chunks of meat and purple cabbage that he kept discovering around his flat over the next days.

On the 28th, Monika called, saying she couldn’t wait to see him. It was then that he told her about Melanie arriving.

The line went dead.

But not for long.

There followed a lengthy conversation with accusations and insinuations, despite all of Chris’ assertions that she was, and always had been, a friend and nothing more. Why should Monika know so many men, and Chris not be allowed any female friends ? Monika easily countered that by mentioning all the ladies of The Gang. Then Chris had a moment of inspired genius,

“All right, it’s for Richard. You know he’s heartbroken.” Monika went silent. Chris pressed on, amazed by his brilliance and enjoying the previously unknown sensation of being victor in an argument’

“And why ? I’m not blaming anyone, here, but, well, all I’m gonna say is that Lorelei is your friend. That’s all. I’ll say no more. If Melanie can help him, be a friend to him, then … yeah, it’s good she’s coming.”

He realized his ending was weak, and knew not to press his point, not to allow Monika too much of a chance for a killer comeback.

It ended with Monika telling him what a great friend he was to Richard and how much she really loved him.

He didn’t tell her about losing his job and not knowing how he would pay the rent in February.

On the 30th, Richard arrived back in Berlin. He knew that it would take some time before he felt better, or normal, or whatever was the correct word for recovering from a broken heart, but he was determined to get over Lorelei.

As he passed through passport control, he was greeted by Chris, making high-pitch whistle noises, pretending he was blowing into a party streamer. Next to him was Melanie. Chris, through an exaggerated smile said,

“Look … it’s Melanie !”

“So I see.’

Chris had taken precautions, making sure he had a half bottle of vodka with him for the journey back.

At the flat, they sorted out the sleeping arrangements. Monika wouldn’t be back until late, so she would come over tomorrow and they would all go out. It was all planned.

Richard had brought back some books, an old Sunday Times, some English crumpets, Marmite, and a couple of new CDs for the CD player that Ute had left in the flat.

“Hey … look.” He held up the ‘Reality Bites’ soundtrack and ‘Monster’ by REM.

Chris whooped and grabbed the soundtrack and played it. As soon as the first song, ‘My Sharona’ came on, Melanie began complaining,

“Oh, The Knack, so brainless,” and other disparaging remarks.

There was a definite vibe in the room, and Chris thought the best way to dispel it was to go out drinking. Richard wanted to change his shoes, and put on an old pair of boots. He withdrew his foot, rapidly, as it was obstructed by something. He reached in and pulled out what he presumed was an old piece of rotten cardboard, and threw it away, without giving it a second thought, this was Berlin, after all, but Chris was amazed, not to say perturbed that kebab meat was still turning up.

The celebrations for Sylvester began early, and even from the flat in the Hinterhof, with windows closed, they could hear intermittent explosions as soon as they woke.

Chris was up first, and went out, looking to find any shops, so as to have Sekt and possibly food when Monika arrived.

Melanie and Richard sat drinking coffee together. They compared this flat with it’s gas heater in the kitchen and bathroom, to the flat in Rigaer Str. They talked about that November, motor bike crashes and walking around Berlin in the snow. Richard remembered going all the way to the museum at Karlshort, where the Germans signed the unconditional surrender in may 1945, and finding it closed, but seeing a genuine Russian soldier walking along the road, a rather small specimen, with bright red, dripping nose and hat with ear flaps. Melanie brought up the fire and worried about Chris burning his hands,

“He has the most beautiful hands of any man, ever.”

Richard was also curious how Monika and Melanie would get on.

“I’m going to like Monika, I know,” she said, “we’ll probably go off together and have a good time, a good chat, and bitch all about Chris.”

Richard wasn’t so certain.

Around eight o’clock, there was a furious thumping on the door. Chris opened it, and from the main room, Richard and Melanie could hear him greet Monika, as well as hearing other female voices. Richard recognized Lorelei and took the next seconds to compose himself.

Then Monika, Gabi and Lorelei came in, all smiles and hugs. Melanie kept back, while they all hugged and kissed, then extended a hand to the three women. Richard put on the soundtrack CD, and as the opening drums and bass pounded out, Monika began jumping around and dancing, followed first by Chris, then Richard, then Gabi, then Lorelei.

There was a babel of languages as they tried to decide what to do. Chris had bought some Sekt and insisted the only way to start an evening was with a bottle of Sekt. Richard nodded sagely at this piece of received wisdom and Gabi backed him up. There only being four glasses, the men drank out of cups.

“OK, listen, we’ll go to Arizona Al’s, first. He’s at Eberswalder Str, we can walk there. Then … where’s the first party ?”

Monika answered him,

“Friedrichshain, near Simon Dach Str. There will be … seven of us, no ? Ja, seven, so we need two taxis.”

Then Gabi coughed suggestively. Monika picked up the hint.

“Ah, point, would anyone like a little … something … nice … hahaha ?” She put the back of one finger to one nostril and sniffed through the other one.

Chris lit up,

“Yeah, let’s go!”

“OK, anybody need the toilet first ? Richard ?” asked Monika.

“No.”

“Are you sure ?”

“What am I ? Six years old ?”

Monika laughed and led Chris into the bathroom. Shortly afterwards, Chris quoting another line from ‘Pulp Fiction’, screamed,

“I say, Goddamn!”

Richard was next, and took the rolled up fifty Mark note, sniffing the trail of white powder off the toilet lid. Monika came back and asked Melanie, who just shook her head.

Finally, they were good to go.

Walking down Schönhauser Allee, Melanie began to fall behind the others and Richard, not wishing to leave her out, walked along with her, listening to her observations, while wishing he were part of that chain up ahead, as they all walked with linked arms, and Lorelei, in three-quarter length coat and black boots, was looking more beautiful than ever.

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(E) Chris 2

3rd April 2021

Photo by Martin O’Shea 2021

Part Five. Berlin. Autumn 1994

Finally, just before lunch time on Sunday afternoon, Chris woke up, got out of bed and showered. Richard was finishing off his Hemingway, then emptied the fridge in preparing two plates, using all the remaining bits of food.

“Ah, a moveable feast !” joked Chris.

“You OK ?”

“No. Not really.”

Richard didn’t know how to help. Usually they would just drink, but that had only sent Chris into oblivion from which he had returned, yet the pain remained.

“Well, anything, I can do, just ask. Probably won’t be much, but … well, let me know.”

Richard knew that it wasn’t the time or place for his own dog-dance.

Instead, he made up a pretext for going out, so as to give Chris some space.

Left alone, Chris sat and smoked, numbing his mind with the BBC World Service, re-tuning when the news came on in German.

He envied Richard a little. He had Chris to fall back on, to answer his questions and to explain the mysterious workings of this schizophrenic city. Despite being the capital of the newly re-united Germany, the strongest economy in Europe, Berlin still had so many traces of it’s recent, Eastern Block past. Opening hours were seemingly arbitrary, queueing systems non-existent, food often unidentifiable.

The public telephones all worked and he had never seen any vandalism, which was taken as read in England, but they had an irritating choice of being either card operated, or coin, only rarely both. By now, he knew the pattern in his area, but had been caught out, trying to call Monika, happy to find a phone, only to realize he only had coins for a card machine, or vise-versa.

Then there was the paranoia. This was caused by not understanding enough of the language and being confronted by important-looking letters, or notices, or announcements, or street talk, and always having to ask what it meant, and if alone, a sense of powerlessness and vulnerability.

There was one final custom in Berlin that was going to have an immediate effect. The shop opening hours. All shops, with barely a few exceptions, closed all weekend. Food shopping had to be done on Friday mornings, or the only choice would be take out food or restaurants.

Chris looked at the phone, willing it to ring but refusing to call Monika, and smoked his last cigarette. Having to buy more was a good reason to go out and he walked to a street vending machine to buy more smokes, the Vietnamese not working the U-Bahn on Sundays.

But then his spirits lifted slightly. Where else would he find a city with cigarettes available by machine on the street. They wouldn’t last five minutes back home.

He opened the packet of Golden American’s, not his usual brand, but it was from a vending machine, he had to make allowances, and flicked his lighter. The flame flickered and went out and he had to cover it with his hand to keep it burning. He turned up his collar. The air was getting chilly. Winter was on its way.

Richard came back as it was getting dark, and found Chris in much the same position as when he’d left him, sitting in the kitchen, chain-smoking, starring off into space.

But now they were starting to get hungry.

They waited a little, staving off the hunger with cigarettes and coffee, but eventually they had to get food.

Not having the money or mood for a restaurant, their only choice was to find an Imbiss. This is usually not a problem. They were ubiquitous in Berlin, and there were some in Stargarder Strasse, some by the U-Bahn, and in most of the neighbouring streets.

Tonight, they all seemed to be closed.

It took a little time, but by a very circuitous route, they ended up in a Turkish Imbiss on Stargarder. The kebabs, however, were finished. All meat, in fact, was out. All that was left, before the staff emptied the displays to prepare for the new week, were pitiful salads or large, yellow objects.

They looked at each other, their hunger taking precedence over their judgement, and they cleaned out the large, yellow-object tray. They were wrapped in tin-foil and put into a thin plastic bag.

On the way home, more curious than famished, they took their first bites.

Fat.

Pure, deep-fried fat, barely warm.

Then Chris let out a sound of disgust.

“What the … ?”

Richard echoed the sentiment.

“In the name of … ?”

Hidden in the centre, amidst layers of cold, stodgy fat, were florets of cold, barely cooked cauliflower.

There was silence in the flat. They studied their plates, examining this alien food. Grease oozed out when they prodded the lumpen mass.

Chris slowly put his plate down, took a fresh cigarette and said,

“Fuck this, I’m going for some real food. Not this … fucking, old … Socialist shit. This Commie crap. Mush for the masses. Fuckin’ … I mean, school dinners had nothing on this, this … Cack ! That’s what it is. Cack ! Hello, Mr Imbiss Man, I’d like some cack, please. And, yes, my good man, pile up the cack and put more cack on top. Don’t stop there, give me a side order of …’ “

“Cack ?”

“Good idea, side order of cack. And, to pass the time, while you’re filling my order, give me a glass of cack. Fucking hell. All right, you wait here, I’ll bring back some proper food.”

Richard waited. Nearly an hour later, Chris returned. He held out a bag, with a bottle clearly delineated.

“OK, here’s the bad news; I could only get Bells Whiskey.”

By the time Richard left for work the following day, he still had a hangover.

Chris hadn’t made it into the studio at all.

One of the first thing that caught Richard’s eye when he began working at Bar Biberkopf was that the crockery, cutlery and glasses matched the ones in Chris’ flat. Sometimes his own naïvety amazed even himself.

He thought back to his early days at café Kinski. A man had sat at the bar, skinning up a joint, in front of Silvio, and this had shocked him, thinking how could he be so blatant, right in front of the barman. He learnt, soon enough, that joints were almost as common as cigarettes.

The work was pretty easy, if not tedious and mind-numbing. In addition to cleaning plates (which a machine did), there were minor preparation jobs, such as peeling vegetables or fetching things from the cellar.

The staff were generally friendly, though no one to match Hannah’s beauty. And he was slowly learning German, albeit kitchen terms and swear words.

The benefit was cash in hand (every night), access to alcohol, free food and, apparently, home furnishings.

On Wednesday night, he got home around one-thirty, the journey requiring two night buses, and found Chris in an even deeper depression.

Richard decided to take him to The Anchor on Stargarder, opposite the red brick GethsemaneKirche, hoping it would still be open and that the cute little waitress would be working. It was, she wasn’t.

Fearing that it would soon be ‘Feure Abend’ (last orders), Chris ordered four beers and two large whiskys.

The next day Chris again missed work, and while Richard was out buying food, he had an idea. He checked his change, making sure he had enough large coins, and went to the coin pay phone. He called Melanie.

When he returned home that night, he found Chris in a much better mood, and there was a bottle of Sekt waiting, which Richard was grateful for, as the whisky drinking was starting to take its toll.

“Melanie phoned. Out of the blue. Can you believe that ? We had a really good talk and … well, dig this, ya ready ? I’m back with Monika.”

“Sekt ! Open the bloody bottle, let me hear that cork pop.”

Chris told how Melanie had helped and, afterwards, he felt strong enough to call Monika. They talked for nearly an hour and decided to get back together.

“Oh,” said Chris, “one more thing. Lorelei’s left her stupid boyfriend and has moved in with some old fruit. Also, there’s an art student, music student open-house event, gathering, thing, on Saturday, and we’re all going. Lorelei sans boyfriend.”

Chris raised his eyebrows up and down several times.

“Just pour the Sekt.”

Richard hid his smile by his ex-Biberkopf Sekt glass.

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 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 … “

Love and Chaos Part 5(A) How A Coffee Break Started A New Scientific Theory

9th February 2021

Part Five

Image result for edward lorenz

The time is the early Sixties; the place, a room in a research centre. We can imagine the entire back wall covered by metallic, grey-blue, wardrobe-like cabinets, housing large, state-of-the-art computers, their spools turning through Perspex windows, emitting a constant hum that is deafening to new arrivals, but now inaudible to the scientists that work there, a security blanket, an audio barrier against extraneous interference.

Now we have The Scientist. Doubtless he is wearing a spotless lab coat, pure white, or, perhaps, as The States were emerging from their Eisenhower conservatism and The Sixties still a swing away, the coat is a dull, conformist grey. Pens neatly arranged in breast pocket.

The Scientist is concerned with the weather. Forecasting it, trying to comprehend its peculiar patterns, its apparent aberrations, its random rumblings.

By analysing data, maybe it could be understood and, if not controlled, at least scientists would know exactly what to expect and when.

That’s where the computers came in. The calculations were so intricate, the figures so exhaustive, that only these cumbersome machines could handle them. What an exciting time; technology now existed that could process the mind-blowing streams of numbers. The scientists just had to sit back and wait for the results.

So our Scientist, while inputting data, and rather desirous of a caffeine fix, decided to take an insignificant short cut.

Wanting to check some previous work, but not wishing to start the calculations at the beginning, he took a reading at mid point, and started the simulation on computer from there.

Instead of feeding in a figure with several decimal points, he decided to round it up to just three, thus 0.506127 etc became 0.506.

This minute alteration should have no discernible effect, would probably have no effect at all, so, safe in that assumption, The Scientist left his room and went to the cafeteria, where he could chinwag with the other boffins about suspected cold fronts, joke about predicating football scores and cast sideways glances at the cute girl behind the counter.

Back to work. The Scientist picked up the reams of paper and looked for the result. He found it, but immediately thought it must be wrong, so he checked. He double checked.

He had been expecting an answer within certain parameters.

The figure before him was far outside his prediction, and he was driving himself crazy by constantly going over the calculation. No, all the figures, the work, was correct, so why the discrepancy ?

Surely it couldn’t be because he had made a tiny adjustment ?

So he re-ran numbers, checking the altered sum from the original figure.

Thus, the first point about Chaos Theory: Tiny, insignificant changes at a starting point, can lead to massive, significant changes at a distant point.

It was therefore an act of Chaos that led to Chaos Theory.

Then came the second point about Chaos Theory : All complex systems are constantly changing and feeding back on themselves.

The Scientist took some data at 9:00 AM and, feeding this into the computer, tried to forecast the weather for the following afternoon.

Three hours later, he fed in new data, how the weather was at 12:00. This he repeated, at intervals.

All the results were different.

The weather was constantly changing, and even minor fluctuations would cause different patterns, which may lead to other alterations which would lead to other situations, which would … and so on.

By rounding up the figure to just three decimal points, The Scientist would popularize theories that had long been in existence, bringing them out of academia and into the modern world where they could be applied by anyone wanting to know the weather, or predict the economic peaks and troughs, or regulate traffic flow, or apply it to an understanding of history or politics.

Or, maybe, just maybe, someone may come up with an theory about trying to understand that most chaotic of human relations: love.

Image result for edward lorenz