Music August 8, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Tags: music, walks
The Russian and I were, as ever, mooching lazily round the house. Me pretending to work. Him avoiding work. We thought we’d better go out on a non-errand to banish all nasty professional thoughts.
Our walks are normally a fraught affair. Perhaps this is the case with many couples, but I think we ought not to leave the house unless military-level plans have been laid out beforehand. What is our precise route going to be? What are the aims of this work-avoidance walk (in addition to work-avoidance)? Is it going to involve shopping? Is it going to entail eating? Booze? And, therefore, an index-linked, exponential number of fags?
We went out today without a plan.
Our bit of Berlin is nicely griddy. Nothing is old, so you can’t hope to get lost down some medieval side-street or take a surprisingly unfamiliar route. We live off a big street which has all the attractions within a couple-of-kilometre radius either on it or on streets off it or close by. We got to the critical Schönhauser Allee-Stargarderstr. junction/juncture. Heading south, as we were, you can either go left, and have a choice of two impossibly trendy squares at your disposal, with all the eating and drinking opportunities that provides – and we’d just had a good soljanka at home, and, anyway, the Russian worries, now that there’s a shadow of a spare ounce on one of his rippling muscles, that he has to live on a diet of soup and water (and vodka) for the foreseeable future. (Woe is me. He does the cooking round here. I’ll be gorging on Weetabix) – or you can go right, down Gleimstr., with a selection of homosexual establishments and few other delights but the scary knowledge that if you don’t slam on the brakes before you get to that bridge (that rather dashingly lights up as you walk under it, in a sort of Billy-Jean-video in reverse way), you’ll end up in the hellish west.
Now as anyone will know, Berliner or not, that bridge means this is where the border used to be. As such, there used to be a big, fuck-off wall there. Now it’s gone, but they’ve left the bit of desolate no-man’s-land to fester and called it the Mauerpark. And perfectly nice it is too, although I don’t think any French landscapers of the court of Louis XVI would be majorly impressed (although folk do play pétanque on a gravelly bit, which I think chapeau to them for for being resourceful). Normally, you are not allowed into the park unless you have a bongo, dreadlocks, haven’t washed for a goodly period or, horrors, plan to undertake some sporting activity. The Russian and I brazened our way round these obstacles and walked for all we were worth from one end of the park to the other.
As we approached the southern end, we could hear folk applauding. That end seems to be where the bongo-players congregate. I’ve heard Cubans belting out the odd tune there too in the past, although I think this was merely for their own entertainment as much as anyone else’s. My sneer was ready-prepared for whatever pus it was we were about to be accosted with. We arrived at the impromptu auditorium as the musicians were between numbers. I waited with trepidation and dread.
The musicians were much as you’d expect impromptu Berlin musicians to be. Three 30-something men and a 30-something woman. She did the vocals. They did the drum-kit, electric guitar and acoustic guitar. The acoustic man sad buddhistically under a tree, though it was a sapling if it was a day and that banished all thoughts of enlightenment from my mind fairly quickly. The gents were all carefully scruffy. Carefully scruffy hair and carefully tended-to scruffy beards. Their scruffy t-shirts were carefully creased. The drummer’s baseball-cap was pinned on scruffily. I thought they’d all have looked lovely if they had a nice shave, a hair-cut and put on some nice, sensible clothes and footwear. The lady was more naturally scruffy. She had more hair than face. And seemed to be clad in bits of old sari, though sari which had been fashioned into shirt, trousers and jacket. Her fat-free midriff was carefully exposed.
And, darlings, just as my disdain was about to get audible, they started up and were absolute heaven. Like unexpectedly good sex. She had the voice of an angel. Buddha played like a dream, and was utterly expressionless throughout. The other two had fun improvising against each other. As no-one who walks through the Mauerpark has a pfennig to their name, folk offered them alms in the form of beer and sweetmeats. I clapped longest when their first song, something about Schicksal (Fate), came to an end.
The Russian and I thought we’d better walk planlessly on, in case this enjoying-ourselves lark got a bit too much.
We ended up on the criminally fashionable Kastanienallee and plonked ourselves down in a way that had alcohol written all over it. Beer me. Bloody Mary the Russian (having weighed up whether Tabasco sauce – shouldn’t it have been Worcester? – was fattening). The street is a magnet for speed-accordionists and other travelling musicians. Occasionally, they’re not bad. But today’s were hopeless. First, an embryonically young child appeared with a thing you blow but that has a keyboard. I had one when I was 6. It might even have been it, as I have no idea where it’s got to. Barely bothering to blow, and giving the word nonchalance new meaning, he piped out a couple of seconds of Bésame Mucho before over-ambitiously approaching folk with a paper-cup. I think its weight remained unchanged pre- and post-transaction. He scampered off, dirty and unbothered. A grown-up appeared within seconds. He set down his tape-recorder, switched on, to my surprise, Living Next Door To Alice, and clarinetted along to it. Badly. Teeth-clenchingly badly. The whole world hoped he might be as brief as his embryonic predecessor, but he blew away like there was no tomorrow. Thankfully, Smokie and he both eventually shut up. Everyone clenched their wallets and did their best to look either deeply engaged in conversation, asleep or dead. To the whole world’s horror, Dancing Queen then began to wail dronily out of his tape-recorder. Again, he clarinetted along unspeakably poorly. Windows shattered and people flung themselves off top-floor balconies. The Russian and I regretted not having gone to a library.
We read some newly-purchased Kharms to each other to flush out the bad memories which had so nastily replaced the good ones of the scruffy musicians from earlier on. We thought we’d better have a beer to round off the evening-long walk. Everything seemed to have gone without a hitch. Could this herald something new? After over six years, we can go out without a plan and have a successful evening without a hint of disagreement? “Where to?” I asked, resplendent with willingness. “There’s this bar I went to once on K_Str. a hundred years ago.” We set off for K_Straße. The street got darker and grimmer. There were no signs of life. Nor of a bar. Once again, I had made the mistake of giving in to the Russian’s famously skewed sense of direction. We trudged home silently, defeated, lips pursed throughout.