Love and Chaos. Part 9(G) A Christmas Miscellany

24th September 2021

Berlin in winter. Photo by Martin O’Shea

Part Nine. Berlin. December 1995

Sunday morning and the room reeked of hangover.

Richard had to use the bathroom, had to vomit, had to open a window, had to drink litres of designer French water, had to take several aspirins, had to have a blood transfusion, had to be joking to think that this was any sort of life.

Richard could not get out of bed, could not turn or move; who had used his head as a punch bag ? He checked his face. Teeth intact. Stubble, even the stubble stank of old cigarettes, but no discernable cuts, bruises, bleeding.

The room had an unbearage fug of everything that was unholy and unhealthy. He had to open the window but it was minus God-knows what outside. It would purify the stench … or was that sunlight ? There would be no sunlight for at least five months, meanwhile … water.

But every movement resulted in an internal knockout blow to the head. Some inner-cranial entity was hell-bent on kicking the crap out of the back of Richard’s eyes. And he had to vomit. The thought made him want to vomit. He had to use the bathroom. The thought of that made him want to vomit. The infamous, cruel and unusual, you are being held to account, porcelain punishment.

Dreading how much repulsive fluid was able to emerge, projectile or explosive, from this paragon of animals, and what a Styxian stench would engulf the flat, our pilgrim makes the journey, more or less on his knees, to the bathroom, and we shall close the door on that chapter and return when sufficient ablutions have been made.

London, the clocks one hour behind. Chris woke up in Battersea, in Melanie’s flat. She sat on his bed as he drank his tea. There was toast with jam and marmalade waiting. Later they could go into the West End, take in a museum, see a film, have a beer and talk over old times. The room had central heating, the flat had a newly-painted feel, everything seemed so clean, ordered and organised.

London, several miles north in Chalk Farm, Alan was nursing a cold in his sister Jo’s flat. How could he have been such an idiot as to go walking, in the Berlin winter, knowing he had a late flight that evening. Freezing streets, overheated U-Bahns, chilly airport lounges, a stifling cramped sweaty plane, draining immigration, bedlam at baggage and then … and then the long journey on the London Tube. After several teas, lots of sympathy noises, and a potential overdose of Lemsip, Alan screened the Super 8 film.

“She’s gorgeous, that Julie. You little tinker, you ! I told you Berlin would do you the world of good.”

Back on Berlin time, Daniel Roth was reflecting on his night out. Instead of hitting the Czar Bar, or meeting workmates in some lifeless stuffy time-frozen 70s style pub, he went solo, trying some bars around Yorckstrasse. New year, new start. He restricted himself to wine, and experimented holding his cigarette in different styles. He didn’t want to look too affected or effeminate, yet he succeeded in being both. However, he did end up chatting with two German girls and could feel them about to succumb to his charms, giving him a double Weihnachten (Christmas) gift, until they linked arms and departed. Daniel spent the rest of the evening drinking with the old Turkish barkeeper, whose face seems inscribed with wisdom, gentleness and experience. He thought back over his conversation with Jeanette, and his killer put down.

His feet were fast freezing, coins devoured by the phone box, Jeanette’s voice exuding warmth, comfort, opulence.

“We absolutely adored it, there’s no question, no question at all that it meets our criteria, only, well, how shall I put it delicately ? Daniel, it is a little near the bone for some of our board. I’m sure you know the section to which I allude.”

Daniel paused for effect.

“The magazine’s called ‘Savage Revolt’.”

A few seconds of silence.

“Do you know, you are absol…, no, quite right, we have an obligation to the artist, and … and, if certain people don’t wish to read it, they don’t have to, yes, yes. Let’s do it. I’m going to go to bat for you.”

“Unedited ?”

“Unedited, you have my word. Now, my young Hemingway, what are you doing on Silvester ? I’m having a little soiree and you simply must come. There’s a lot of people that want to meet you.”

Sunday afternoon, Daniel found one of the few Lebensmittel open and bought more wine, Sekt, chocolate, tins of goulash, giant tins of soup, cigarettes, cigarette papers, factory-produced bread and cake-type items, then returned home. He was going to read some books Chris had loaned him, maybe write a follow-up story. It seemed official. He was going to be published, and people wanted to meet him. Controversial already. But, it was Berlin. Maybe it was all just so much bullshit. He opened the wine, opened Dickens, took a swig straight from the bottle and thought, “Fuck me !”

“Fucking hell, never, never, never again,” announced Richard to no one in particular, as there was no one with him, save the Tasmanian devil running amok inside his brain. He had finished the water, and was now settling down for a day of mint tea and self-recrimination.

Serves him right for expecting anything good to happen in this shit city, in this shit life. He had hoped that he would be waking up, snuggling up, to Johanna.

At least this time he couldn’t blame himself for being drunk or too forward or not forward enough. He had been at the bar early, and waited. And waited … and waited. Johanna had stood him up.

Merry fucking Christmas

Takin’ Care of Business: Act Two

24th April 2021

No photo description available.
Nicholas Young as ‘Elvis,’ with Jason Daly
No photo description available.

ACT TWO

It is seventeen weeks later. The room is even more tacky, with junk food wrappers and various Americana and kitsch items strewn around. As the Act begins, both are sitting on the chairs. Colonel tries to read but is put off by noises and mumblings coming from Elvis. He stares at Elvis, who seems oblivious. After some moments of silence :

Col: So then … what’s your favourite Elvis song ?

(slight pause)

Elv: All of them.

(slight pause)

Col: What’s your schedule this week ? I said …oh, what’s the use ? Think I’ll go and see Cordelia.

Elv: (suddenly appearing animated ) Oh yeah, the little lady. You take good care of that sweet lil’ bundle of honey – loving.

Col: What would you suggest ? Man of your experience.

Elv: (deep in thought) Uh … women. Boy. Whewww.

(Elvis doesn’t seems as if he’s going to add anymore.)

Col: Thank you, that was very helpful.

Elv: Shoes.

Col: Excuse me ?

Elv: Yeah, shoes. They love shoes. Buying shoes, trying  shoes, choosing shoes, they never wear them. Then take them out. A show, something that women like.

Col: Such as ?

Elv: That play they’re all clucking about … what’s it called ? Something … The Monotonous Vagina, that’s it.

Col: OK. Actually, I’m gonna break up with her. I don’t think it’s working out.

Elv: Attaboy ! Send her back to the farmyard where she belongs. Then when you come back we’ll go cruising on beaver patrol. I’ll show you why they call me ‘The Pelvis’. This rooster’s gonna rustle a few feathers, t’nite !

(He gets up and rubs his back, making slight moaning sounds)

Hold that thought, boy, not sure the King’s back could take it. Couldn’t you just pick up a pair of cuteys ? Use my name. That’ll work.

Col: Well I wasn’t planning on going down Hackershe Mackt (1) way. Listen, why don’t you use those phone numbers … satisfaction guaranteed, all for local rates.

Elv: And they’ll come here ?

Col: No !

Elv: Then …. ?

Col: You know … you know.

Elv: Yeah … what ? I dunno … what ? Oh….OH ! No, listen, I’ve been meaning to have a little chat with you … now seems a good time, what with you breaking up with Corolla.

Col: Cordelia.

Elv: See ! There you go, again. You always have to disagree with me … anything for an argument. When I think of what I gave, what I give to you, shucks, I don’t like to say, but doggone it, people would be falling over themselves to have your job. I don’t ask much, I’m just a simple country boy at heart, don’t let these luxury surroundings tell you otherwise. You have to admit, your work isn’t backbreaking, twenty-four hour a day hard manual labor. Hell, boy, it ain’t hardly work at all. I thought you liked looking after me … me who, well, me who gives so much pleasure to millions … don’t you think …

Col: Whoa, there, Tiger, time-out, time bloody out ! Enough is enough … what was the first record you bought ? What were the names of your pets  ? What’s the ingredients of your favorite peanut-butter and banana sandwich ? I have to say that your knowledge of trivia is disarmingly poor. I’m ashamed of you ! What happened last week ? Opening that dry cleaners ?                     

Elv: “Star Cleaners … feel like a star.”

Col: And that little kid comes up, asking where you were born… and you said “Dortmund”.

Elv: Well it was that Monroe look-a-like … she put me off … I couldn’t concentrate.

Col: So you may have been looking at the stars, but your mind was in the gutter.

Elv: Hey, there’ s a pal, get her number could you ? Tell her I’ve got a seven year itch she’s welcome to scratch. You know, I didn’t like the way Charlie Chaplin was looking at her. No values that man. Ah, she’s too old for him. He liked them young, barely out of their school uniforms …

Col: It’s no good knowing trivia about others … why don’t you read up ?

Elv: Why don’t you shut up, boy ? You can’t speak to me like that ! I made you what you are ! I took you out of that bar and gave you a firm foundation in life, set you up, away from that bedrock of sin and vice and nurtured you in an atmosphere of warmth and love and spiritual guidance. Now ! Get me Monroe’s number … I can’t get her tits out of my mind !

(Elvis gets up and prances around, fiddling with the TV’s, looking restless and generally lost as Colonel speaks. Halfway through the monologue, he sits down)

Col: I don’t know what to do with him. It was a joke at first, went on a bit long, but there was a line. As you can see, said line has been crossed, yes sir, and the truck is gonna keep on a-truckin’. He now refuses to believe that he’s not Elvis. He sits around all day, in the costume, same costume, watching TV’s, eatin’ junk and shouting out, “My boy, my boy.” Maybe it’s like a sleepwalker, you know, you’re not supposed to wake them. Imagine the shock he’d get when he realizes that he thought he was Elvis all these months. On the other hand, what if Elvis, his Elvis that is, suddenly realizes that’s he’s not who he thought he was, but he’s actually a bloke from Dortmund. You see where I’m going with this ? There’s one for the deconstructionists in the audience. Oh, I still work in that bar, for the time being. The boss told me to stop speaking to the customers about living with an Elvis impersonator. Apparently it’s depressing them and I have to survive on the tips. But why do all Elvis impersonators have to choose the 70’s Elvis ? Surely, if you’re gonna impersonate someone, you’d want to capture them at their best ? Why does no-one go with … the … ahhh … I have an idea. I won’t lie to you…it’s not without risk. There is, as you see, no safety net. Anything can happen and I cannot be held responsible. But I think it’s the only choice. You have been warned !

 (Exit)

Elv: Where you off to, boy ? Too ashamed by your behavior ? Well, I don’t hold grudges. You’ll be out of the ol’ doghouse soon and we’ll carry on as …

(Opening melody of ‘Are you lonesome tonight’ is heard, played by a toy xylophone. Elvis looks down at the landline phone and picks it up, slowly, with trepidation.)

Ahhhh … er, yeah, what, say, hello ? Yes, you are speaking to … The King … yes, say what, boy ? Burger Bar ? Yeah, I think it’s my God-given duty to open your Burger Bar … I’m a great patron of the arts. My fee …? er, well, hold the line … Colonel … COLONEL … Colonel ? Ah, heck, right, I’ll take 40,000 dollars cash and a bucket of burgers for the … hello ? Hello ? Damn Yankees ! Where’s the Colonel ? How dare he leave me before I sacked him. Kick his arse for sure. Skinny runt. Thinks he can talk like that to me … me ! The King …THE KING ! 

(attempts some moves but has to stop and rub his back)

Ohh, maybe it’s time I eased into my ballad period. Get the Colonel to hire some doo-wop backing chicks … short skirts, religious like. Oh, the …What in tarnation … ?

(The Colonel appears dressed in tight jeans with quiffed hair and carrying a guitar around his neck. He goes into a routine, singing and playing ‘Hound Dog’. The routine should start off quite serious and impressive until Colonel gets self conscious or loses his confidence and it becomes more of a parody. During this performance, Elvis gets increasingly irritated. First he is perplexed, then offended and finally angry. He tries to obstruct the Colonel, who is too nimble and quick. For the first time Elvis appears at least aware that there is an audience, as he tries to block the view and stop them seeing the ‘upstart’. Colonel then exits, singing and playing as he leaves. He gives one final turn and performs a series of pelvic-thrusts, then blows kisses. Elvis remains standing, breathing hard and heavy and mumbling to himself, though a few words may be intoned clearly. He seems to come to, breathes more calmly, then storms off stage. There are muffled sounds of Elvis screaming and cursing then some banging and thumping. Elvis reappears, dragging Colonel by the ear.)

Elv: I have never … never …

Col: (A la Gilbert & Sullivan) What never ? Or hardly ever ? Arrgghhh !

Elv: Ever seen such a hootenannying display of vulgarity. Boy ! My stomach is a turning over. I’m sick, sick, that a man could … and me … and … and… there’s nothing else for it. I’ve been carrying you for too long and this is how you say thank you, King. To think I was ever you ! The army didn’t come a moment too soon, doing my duty to God, serving in this fair country, comforting those little frauleins, all in the spirit of brotherhood and … and why weren’t you here ? Burger … burger … or whatever phoned … they had a gig for me … I don’t know how to speak to money people … my message is to the hearts, not the wallets. I only asked for 40,000 …see, they knew it’s too little, they must have thought they’d got hold of a crank. I HAD A GIG !  WHERE WERE YOU ? All this has cost me work … not to mention the insult, the … I’m trying, Lord, but … I can’t … I can’t. Some things are unforgivable. You have 24 hours to leave Graceland … and may the Lord have mercy on your soul.

(Exits)

Col: OK, so maybe I overdid it. I didn’t know he’d take it so hard. Disgraced in Graceland. Run out of town. Been given the boot. I’m no longer the pretend manager of a pretend Elvis. Maybe I could get a job as pretend Brian Epstein and pretend to manage pretend Beatles. What am I saying ? It’s getting to me … I have to leave, get back to normal people, have normal conversations, return to reality. Somebody around here has to. I don’t think it’s going to be him.

      END OF ACT TWO

Notes

(1) Hackershe Mackt an area in central Berlin where ladies of the night ply their trade.