Avoidance Tactics

21 05 2009

If I’m writing about ‘avoidance’ then I really should write about avoiding work; but instead I’m writing briefly about avoiding loons on the streets.

Yesterday I was walking to the Hauptstrasse nearby, and was consciously aware that a woman was following me. Not really that unsettling in itself, but when I paused outside a home wares shop and touched a blue bowl, when I moved off I noticed her touching the blue bowl too! Is that not just a little too close for comfort??

I woke nice and early today, at 6.22am, probably because last night I did NOT watch Ru Paul’s Drag Race. That means there were no hallucinogenic colours or ear-tumour inducing sounds to disturb the delicate balance that regulates my bio-rhythms. I’ve recently got hooked on Ru Paul’s Drag Race, which a friend of mine has been showing me. Four of us sit down to watch as many episodes in a row that our cerebrums can manage, joined as well by a crazed playboy cat (who totally wears a “freak em’ dress“). 


I cannot tear myself away from the bright lights (no doubt inducing temporary episodes of blindness), the creepy HA HA HA HAAAAA laugh after the adverts (no doubt inducing permanent night terrors) and the general mesmerising, confounding experience of seeing two drag queens spinning around lip-syncing ‘for their lives’, which could be a new practise for me – given that I really can’t sing. I’d be happy to share MAC foundations tips and false nail advice with my new girlfriends. Limelight sharing might have to be fought for though; I’ve seen how fierce the competition gets so I’ll have to start practising my Mika songs, and simultaneously wagging my finger and shaking my booty at the camera.

In return for my friend sharing Ru Paul with me, I think I’m going to make us a ‘Wellness Competition Chart’. There’s a small group of us living in our Kiez and we keep talking about our embarrassingly low levels of ‘wellness’. I think I will divide the chart up into ‘physical wellness’ and ‘psychological wellness’.

Points for Physical Wellness will include:
Going to bed before 3am
Getting up before 10am
Eating Vollkorn bread
Exercise – cycling, dog walking, shaving (why not?), walking (at least as far to the U-bahn stop), lifting the remote control

Points for Psychological Wellness will include:
Walking past any church (that really will suffice)
Avoiding local lunatics
Watching the scene where that automaton girl from The OC dies, and NOT crying at it

Points will be deducted for:
Late night snacking, thus avoiding a ‘Pommes Headache
Leaving clubs at 5am and heading straight to the 24hour bakery
Purposefully talking to the local lunatics
Every hour of dementia inducing television watched

Singing the ‘knutschflecke’ song on Singstar

Any evidence of bin hoking

Bonus points:
Risk taking – drinking in the local bar favoured by prostitutes/asylum residents, entering any of the tacky sex shops on our local strip
Taking surreptitious night-time bin hoking photos
Reaching out to stroke the obese pitbull dogs living on our street


In other news I can’t wait for my hot date with my new Drag Queen girlfriend (seriously, that part’s real, I do live in Berlin)


Faces of Berlin

1 05 2009

Three faces of Berlin…

Following up on my posts about bin hokers and plate hokers, my latest encounter has been with a remarkably verbose drunken lady. Sitting down on a park bench to eat our ice-creams (oh, I love you Berlin, and all your ice cream shops), Jackson and I were approached by a lady dressed in pastel colours and dream catcher earrings. She immediately picked up that we weren’t German and switched to fluent English, this despite the smell of Aldi’s cheapest wine and the type of spirits sold in those miniature bottles, flowing off her breath. Coupled with the collection of bags that she’d dumped on a bench nearby, a gentrified conversation didn’t appear too promising, but – never judge a book by it’s cover. Our newest acquaintance had more than enough sharp observations of the differences in mentality across Germany. The Berlinerish ‘Landkreig’ (no one ever, ever gives way on pavements or opens the door if you are coming through), the peering through curtains and judgement of neighbours, compared to the more open and easy-going manner of Hanseatic area. Of course, living in Berlin one soon appreciates that ‘God knows everything, but the neighbours know more‘.

UPDATE: Jackson just reminded me of the strange joke the lady made about Jackson speaking ‘Egg speech’. Somehow she moved from Ireland-isch, to Eier-landisch, to Egg speech. It does actually make sense: eier means ‘eggs’ in German; but our new linguist found the joke immensly funny for far longer than is usual. 

I’m never sure if people I meet on the streets, who clearly display signs of alcoholism, madness (who are we to judge?), and general dirtiness, spin out embellished stories, or do tell the truth. The lady in the park had, accordingly, sailed around the world many times, and was an accomplished yachtswoman. I’m leaning on the side of believing her, and why not?

Later that day I also had an impromptu conversation with an old Vietnamese man. I was buying Summer Rolls on the spur of the moment on my way home, and the restaurateur started talking to me. I told him I’d visited Vietnam a few years ago, which is where my love of Summer Rolls started. He, in turn, told me his story (which was certainly more interesting than my love of Asian food) of arriving in West Germany decades ago, as a guest student. Apparently after the Berlin wall was erected, and then when the war in Vietnam ended, Gastarbeiters and students from the north of Vietnam were invited to Eastern Germany (the communist connection), and many students were invited from the south of Vietnam into Western Germany. The restaurateur had been an electrical engineer for many years, before starting a restaurant with his wife. I think being a foreigner in Berlin, and recognisably so (I lack the required accent), has made me somehow more susceptible to being approached by many characters wanting to tell their own story. In the true sense of narrative history, everyone has a story to tell, but often no one takes the time to hear. My new friend also gave me some fortune cookie so I’d “know what’s going to happen later”. I opened mine up at home the paper strip read “You will have success on Thursday“. But it was Thursday! So have I already had my success for the day, was it to come in the remaining 3 hours, or come next Thursday? Or on another Thursday, ten years away? Tell me for certain!

Or maybe my success is linked to this:

Another reason why I love Berlin is the chance to meet Daniel Brühl, the face of Berlin, on the U-bahn. I’m 99% certain it was him, and 1% certain it was a spitting-image copy, but as I went down the steps at Potsdamer Platz, he was coming up. It was actually a second or so afterwards that I realized that I might have unknowingly experienced a star-sighting. Oh, missed opportunity! Actually, our eyes did meet….sadly, nothing else did.

Daniel, if you were at Potsdamer Platz at about 7.45pm, then, you know – call me!

Plate Hoker

3 10 2008

After the great story-telling of the gnarly fingered bin hoker it’s now time to tell the story of the Plate Hoker.

Jackson and I and another friend were enjoying the last of the long sunny afternoons here, imbibing some wine, marvelling at the turn of the (last) century  architecture, chowing down on some small delectables that go so well with that mid-afternoon peckishness. The early church bell starts to ring, squirrels hop through the trees, birds chirp, babies gurgle, people kiss and make love with their eyes. An old woman shuffles down the road, pulling a child-sized, navy duvet around her shoulders. Her clothes are tattered but clearly had a glamorous past, her hair is tied into a wild knot on her head. She approaches. In German:

‘Can I have some of that?’

A dirty finger quivers over the bread.

Me: ‘Umm, ok.’

A grimy tree root-like finger descends, swooping over the bread basket. It dives down and scoops up the bread.

‘Can I have some of that too?’

The tree root hovers over the potato wedges.

Me: ‘Umm, no, actually.’

The hand moves around like a small UFO over the table. It hovers over the oil dip.

‘Can I have some of that with it too?’

Me: ‘No, actually I think you better go, you see the dog is going to bark at you any minute now’.

The Unidentified Dirty Hand Flying Object moves in, quick as a flash and dips the bread in the oil and balsamic. This tramp has taste.

‘Can I have some of your drink?’

Our dining companion recoils slightly.

The dog barks.

‘You are all so elegantly dressed, it’s so nice to see people looking so elegant.’

We blush, squirm, look uncomfortable. We are only wearing jeans but we’re luckier than her.

The dog barks, the last big spender heiress exits. We turn to each, bemused looks on our faces. But we are used to this , it’s all part of a normal day for us.

We turn to watch her walk down the street, only to see her suddenly lunge at a pair of women dining together; her rooty, speckled hand flies in once more as it’s attracted to a giant clump of Lollo Rosso lettuce that she scoops up in one go and carries off down the street, cradling it to her chest. We laugh, the women stare aghast.


This, is Plate Hoking.

New post – about bras!

30 09 2008

A bit of a hiatus from here, don’t  you think? But thanks to all of you who are writing hokers instead of Hookers into your search engines, it sends me traffic. Although soon I will write about the ‘Plate Hoker’ Jackson and I encountered the other week! The name kind of says it all. 


So I’m writing, even though I should be working because Dita von Teese’s new ad for Wunderbra just made me a bit slack jawed. Ker-ching!!! Seriously though, I know some people who work in labs and if they get up to that all day, every day I am changing me my profession! KER-CHING! Sadly though, the only stories I’ve head are from the ones who work next door to the ‘bits downstairs’ lab and how the toilets for this lab were next to my friend’s breakroom or something, so yup – they would often get handed warm sample bottles by embarrassed patients, scuttling off in haste. 


In other news, we no longer have Hillbilly plastic curtains in the bedroom! So no more neighbours sneaking a peek in (as if)- privacy at last! IKEA has endowed us with not only snazzy curtains but also the grim revelation that that ice-cream stuff they sell is actually a GIANT can of what can only be CONDENSED MILK poured into the top of the vat and then speed frozen before being sold off for one Euro a squirt. There is way too  much overlap between that and the ‘bits downstairs’ lab. ha ha, ha ha ha HA HA HA, I’ve put you off IKEA ice cream for ever!