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Tattoos and testicles May 13, 2008

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

The sun has now beat down on Berlin long enough – a week at least – for anyone but the most negative to forget that we live with one of the planet’s most intemperate climes. Far be it from me to put a dampener on things and heaven forbid that I should mention, just as we put the endless(-seeming) greyness out of mind for however long we are blessed with this perfection, that Berlin’s climate is, for want of a better word, shit.

The Wetteramt decided that we would dispense with spring this year. We went straight from the 250th consecutive day of gloom and a grey sky so low you scraped your head off it to cloudlessness, sunshine and temperatures of 25 degrees and above. Not surprisingly, the locals are all of a sudden awash with hormones and do almost nothing but leave their houses, flaunting their existences like they were nothing to be ashamed of.

I had a feeling at some now unpindownable point in the past that fashions were about to veer towards the smart. Perhaps I’d just seen a man with an office job or a foreigner in a shirt-collar, smart strides and polished shoes. And I thought men were about to plump for neat, sculpted haircuts. That women might revert to a just-short-of-high heel. That trousers would once again display an intimate familiarity with the iron. Who knows, even hats might reappear.

And that probably would all have happened if only the clothes- and hair-wearing months of misery and low metabolism had lasted just a smidgen longer. But now it’s all exposed flesh. No sleeves. Legs galore. And short haircuts.

Just as we were on the cusp, I went to the hairdressers-cum-sex-workers. While the haircutting harlot was giving me a cranial hand-job, I admired the exquisite locks of a man in front of me. I guessed he might be of mixed German and Turkish origin. The locks were thick and wavy and a delicious dark red. I stared at him whenever it was decent to, including when he left, donning a fedora as he did so.

“Isn’t hair a marvellous invention!” I said to all Berlin as I left the hairdressing brothel but all Berlin answered, “Not while the sun’s out,” and instantly proceeded to shave their heads as one. I am now the only person in Berlin capable of tousling.

And the things folk put on their heads! I gawped at a couple with lashings of tattoos and an ugly little dog with testicles which ran like a fat child. She hadn’t been able to have her head shaved yet so still sported her teddy-girl pony-tail and those tufts at the front. Her legs and arms were a riot of bruise-coloured foliage. Her gentleman friend was the same. But his shaved head had been given over to the tattoo-artist too. It was difficult to coordinate my gait to get close enough or for long enough to read the whole work. It had words and everything. And numbers. I thought they might represent the date the tattoo had been done, and surmised he could easily have done just as well with making a note in a pocket diary. How will he remember the date, after all, when his hair grows back come the end of the sunshine?

Just as I was arguing with myself whether I liked tattoos or not, I came to a road. Crossing the road, as anyone knows, takes three hours in Germany so I had plenty of time to mull over the options. I told myself to compromise after I’d already come to auto-blows and decided that one or two, especially if on a moulded male arm, do it for me almost as much as a broken limb. But a man on a bike – bald, tattooed – who could clearly hear my inner discussion went to stick his fingers in my eyes as he rode past. I didn’t know whether to put it down to hair-envy, sun-stroke, tattoo-poisoning or him not being able to find a way to express the fact that he found me dangerously irresistible. Even from the vantage point of a bike.

The Russian explained that sometimes a poke in the eye is just a poke in the eye.

Instrumental May 9, 2008

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

No, not the snappy case in Slavonic languages. The version of songs. Without words. That establishments choose to play.

Does a restaurant need a licence to play music? If you’ve got a restaurant, say, with a CD player sitting nicely on a shelf somewhere, do you need to have permission, perhaps even from the artist themselves, if you want to stick on a CD of theirs? If, say, I had an Anglo-Russian restaurant, serving beans on buckwheat porridge – I’ve thought of a name and everything – and I wanted to pipe Madonna to the punters, would I actually have to write to Madge at her castle in whatever county it is and ask if she and her retinue would mind awfully if I numbed the punters’ senses with her choonz?

It’s a phenomenon I thought was over. It was all the rage in fast-food establishments in the UK in my youth. They’d pipe in pop music with the tongue-desensitisers, but it would always be an instrumental version, or a cover version sung by the members of staff. Close enough to the real thing but clearly not yer actual, say, Bucks Fizz (who are, obviously, inimitable).

The weather here is stunning at the moment. I have put my winter being into storage for the four tolerable months of the calendar and reminded myself not to think of September-April until August 31st at the earliest. Life is so easily good. The Russian and I have reduced our drop-dead! count to factor in daylight saving. Hell, the sun has even made me give up booze for a while and enjoy it. I feel healthy. I feel warm. And I’ve noticed a benevolent attitude to the world and all its imperfections. I smiled like Laura Bush at the tram drunk yesterday. This contentedness, I presume, can only mean that I am about to become a religious fanatic or have a nervous breakdown.

So the Russian and I trundle out of the house a bit more. Our imaginations don’t stretch beyond food and booze so dinner invariably features. Still no idea where might be a decent place to go but the weather allows for strolling indecisiveness. “As long as we don’t end up at Thai Cuisine on Oranienburger Straße, I don’t mind.”

About an hour later, we take up our places at Thai Cuisine on Oranienburger Straße, a restaurant we both actually hate. Its only customers are English pensioners, who, I presume, end up there because they’ve got a reduction with their Green Shield Stamps. This time, we had the exotic distraction of actual Germans. Pensioners, of course. Discussing their pensions and insurance. Their conversation was a combination of indignation (at everything) (especially prices) and fear (of everything) (especially prices). The food is shit. Shit. Worse than I’d make. I ordered a soup, convincing myself it would be delicious. Ooh. Coconutty, prawny soup. That’ll be good. Except it was, of course, a prawn in a heated can of coconut milk.

The Russian and I discuss which one of us is to blame – “You. It’s your fault. If you hadn’t grown up in the Soviet Union, we wouldn’t have to fucking live in fucking Berlin.” “No, you, you grow aap in dyekadyent Vyest and not appreciate naasink and deliberately choose shit restaurant out of spite. If you grow up in Kirov…” – and instantaneous divorce.

We specify the wine – before I’d gone puritanical – to the waitress at some length. “This bottle, please.” It has a number, like the dishes. Oddly, the waitress then leaves the restaurant. Reappears a few minutes later. Gives us the wrong bottle. Not even the right colour. We feel guilty for making her shop for the wrong wine. She looks crestfallen. We look sheepish and apologetic. And then discuss whose fault it is, recycling the same accusations, when she leaves the table.

But the music. I asked the waitress for some pen and paper so I could jot down the fucking awful songs in their fucking awful instrumental versions. As I waited for one execrable number to finish and another to start, I scrawled ‘shit’ with frantic, aggressive strokes of the pen. The Thai Cuisine instrumental compilation album, perhaps bought online for 1c, featured wordless versions of: I Just Called To Say I Love You and You Were Wonderful Tonight. All Out of Love – Air Supply! Cunting Air Supply! Without words! – and Crying in the Rain. Ferry Across the Mersey and Guantanamera. I waited with dread and noose at the ready for Rainy Night in Georgia. Or, oh god, no, with my finger poised for Dial-a-Firing-Squad, Hotel Fucking California. Or Whiter Shade of Pale.

We skipped dessert and trudged home in silence.

Fetish May 5, 2008

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

Is there anything more sexy than a man with a leg in plaster? Two legs would be showing off, but one cast leg, with satisfactorily revealed shin and calf, sported by a handsome, hobbling brute, makes for a fine figure of a man. I’m not sure if women pull off the look with equal panache. They probably do. But it is a sad realisation to appreciate, finally, that what really does it for you, as your hormones bob about springily with the vigour of the freshly awakened, is a man with a broken leg. How am I to achieve this look with the Russian? I can’t start pushing him down stairs as that would be rude and even if he agreed to satisfy my lust for plaster of Paris, how would we explain to the authorities – we’d be hard-pushed to keep cosmetic domestic violence secret in this cheesecloth house – that, yes, we understood it was violent misconduct in a way but we were two consenting adults in private and what has the world come to when you can’t even allow yourself an occasional minor fetish and, huh, I don’t go blabbing to the authorities when I hear the neighbours screaming, although, admittedly, that is sometimes from wild delight – honestly, I’ve heard rumours about this female orgasm business but it sounds terrifying in the flesh or, rather, through the ceiling – and, and… So I won’t resort to violence on my other half.

Anyway, I think the cast-lust is just a one-day affair. The sun’s out in Berlin for the first time since the wall came down and people are exposing bits of flesh right on cue. But today was a medical day and as I strode back into the world of the healthy, with reawakened joy at being alive and not being told I had twenty minutes to live – it was only ears, mind you – a fetish-creating hormone bubbled to the fore just as a man hobbled out of the same medical complex, beaming with handsomity and being helped by an equally handsome though unlame friend, with a freshly plastered leg. I think what clinched it for me, on the woof front, was the handicap borne with pride. It was a badge of honour. A membership card to Men’r’us. The offending (though not to me) leg must have got into this state, after all, during a game of football. Or a motor-bike accident. Or, oh no, drunken violence (perhaps at the hands of a girlfriend/wife who had pushed him down the stairs because she so fancied men in casts). I deleted all these images and fetishes and got back to living in the land of the able-bodied.

Going to the doctor’s was, as ever, total heaven. No. Untotal heaven. It would be total heaven if I could speak properly and understand what was said to me. Being only semi-communicative makes the process imperfect. But then it also adds a little frisson of excitement. I get to play the dumb bimbo. And that gets me talked down to by the person in authority. Which, let’s face it, is probably another fetish. I suppose I shall only truly reach paradise on earth when the Russian has a broken leg and is dressed up as a doctor telling me off for not looking after my health and prescribing me ear-drops.

“So vot’s your trouble?” asked the Frau-Doktor and I tried to set off on my ill-rehearsed spiel. Broken ear. Occasional dizziness. Goo. Itch. I’d learnt all the words and everything. Only, bugger me backwards, in my stage-fright, I forgot to mention that I was probably as deaf as a post too but had got used to it and so wasn’t sure.

She looked into my ears. I worried she would discover that my innards were one great yawning chasm. That I was a Tardis-made-man. There’s already plenty of me on the outside but, inside, there’s even more room for silence and emptiness. She barked intelligence on my normal-actually innards to her assistant who managed to be more of a bimbo than me, even with the gift of language.

The odd thing is the word for dizziness in German is Schwindel. Which also means swindle. I told myself not to get distracted beforehand but when I said to her I get the occasional Schwindel, she asked me what sort of Schwindel I meant – I’m not sure I could describe a type of dizziness in English, to be fair – and I let myself drift off and think about people pick-pocketing me, or the tax office deliberately miscalculating my tax or someone nicking the 50p pieces from my gas meter and stared back blankly at her. “Herr Inberlin,” she said, coinciding with my inner BiB, who nudged me awake from a comfy corner he’d found in the Tardis with a, “BiB, wake up, you fat fuck.” She told me I could get my balance back and avoid my dizziness with a few simple but mad-seeming exercises – sit on bed, head back, then lean your head to the side and allow yourself to fall in that direction – and then examined my nose, with some tweezers or other, and eyes by putting blinding – they make you not see. I don’t mean they’re magnificent – glasses on me and making me look this way and that before sending me off without so much as a follow-up appointment.

Every time I see a quack, I think, “This is it, BiB. Prepare yourself for The Big One.” A prescription for ear-drops and a discovery I fancy raspberries just isn’t the same.