Thursday, June 7, 2012

Get Your Berliner Schnauze on!

Gerhard Lahr, Berlyn
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The first time I visited Berlin 18 years ago, I was a mere babe. I was on my Grand Tour of Europe: a month of sleepless nights and my first time out of the US (my second if you count the fact that I was born in Germany and lived there when I was literally a baby).

I kept a journal during my Grand Tour in 1994, so I've taken it out now to see what I said about Berlin. The first thing that strikes me about this journal is that it's 9/10 empty. Obviously, I hadn't caught the blogging bug yet. In fact, in 1994 I didn't know what a blog was. There probably was no such thing as a blog. There was, however, the 'journal'--which I didn't care for much either apparently. Was I having such a grand time just living that I forgot to write about it? Here's the paltry lines I wrote about Berlin (word for word despite the embarrassment that this will cause me):

Berlin was/is angry, loud construction, dirty street people and very young kids, drugs. A woman physically pushed me aside--and I called her a bitch; she was/is. (People in Europe are buried standing up, I assume.) The couple from Australia--talked non-stop for almost 3 hours--good company. 

Lordy lordy. What the hell did I mean by "People in Europe are buried standing up," and where did this come from? I don't remember the Australian couple at all, but I remember the woman man-handling me as if it were yesterday. It was my fault. I stopped right at the top of the escalator--me and my oversized backpack blocking the way for the people behind me. Now, I would push me out of the way too, but then I just thought people in Berlin were hard, rude. How dare they not coddle naive tourists?

Berlin has become my second home in Germany. I have family there now, and they're the sweetest people in the world (I'm also not such the naive tourist that I was 18 years ago). Have you ever heard of the Berliner Schnauze? It's the name for the loudmouth, hard-ball humor so typical of people from Berlin. Imagine Berlin bears play-clawing at each other. I've become used to it over the years (even pretty good at it), but it caught me off guard at first.

I forced my partner--André the post-impressionist garden furniture repairman--to drive by the East Side Gallery so that I could take pictures of the not-so new renovation of Berlin's most popular outdoor Berlin Wall museum from our car, which was driving in the bike lane. I did not visit this section of the Wall in 1994; but if I had, I would have seen THIS, which is horrible. For the renovation project, many of the artists were located and asked to restore their work. The result is a success, but it is already succumbing to vandalism. I love street art, and can't understand why someone would deface it.

Dmitrij Vrubel (Dmitri Wladimirowitsch Wrube), Danke, Andrej Sacharow, Russian dissident and human rights activist, honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975.
Dmitri Wladimirowitsch Wrube, Mein Gott, hilf mir diese tödliche Liebe zu überleben (My God, help me to survive this lethal love - my own translation). This is without a doubt the most provocative image of the Soviet/East German bond. The graffiti vandalism on Breschnew's cheek says "We shit on the German government!" which I assume is not commentary relevant to the brotherly "kiss" between Honecker and Breschnew.
This is part of the mural that says "Get Human . . . Save our Earth" but I can't find the name of the artist. If you know it, let me know.
Birgit Kinder Test the Best -- the now legendary East German Trabi (Trabant), metaphorically here breaking through the Berlin Wall. This car was also used literally to smuggle East Germans across the border.
Carmen Leidner, Niemandsland (No-man's Land). This is not the entire work. It shows only the West part of the painting. I believe Niemandsland refers to the stretch of land between East Berlin and West Berlin that was rigged with deathtraps and barbed wire that was supposed to keep evil capitalism out of East Germany.
Salvadore de Fazio, Dawn of Peace (detail)
Gabriel Heimler, Der Mauerspringer (The Wall Jumper). The coincidence of this woman walking by on the West side of the wall brings to mind the West's turning a blind eye to the plight of the East German Folk for so many years.
Brigida Böttcher, Flora geht (Flora's leaving). The title of this piece says it all. The East is portrayed as a Garden of Eden, and Flora is taking the risk of escaping into the unknown and complete darkness. This reminds me of an animal escaping from a zoo.


I must be off,
Christopher

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Christopher Allen is the author of the absurdist satire Conversations with S. Teri O'Type. Allen writes fiction, creative non-fiction and of course this here blog. His work has appeared in numerous places both online and in print. Read more about him HERE.