Crumbs From Behind The Wall

First, I would like to make extra sure that readers of this blog realize that it has nothing to do with the dining-out column by the same name in the wretched Ex-Berliner magazine. It’s really not even worth wasting electrons on those people and their amazingly myopic view of Berlin’s anglophone communities, but it probably is worth highlighting their astonishing lack of originality.

Those who are interested in my dining-out experiences here should a) wait until I can afford doing it again and then b) check over at Dishola, the Austin-based experiment in restaurant blogging or whatever it is. I’m the official Berlin Editor over there, and I’ve really got to get some stuff up about Toca Rouge and that ramen place on Neue Schönhauser and a couple of other places I’m thinking would appeal to their readership.

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As promised some time ago, a new work by Nike, this one on Brunnenstr. near the park. Is this an hommage to Gaugin, or…?

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I’m headed to Texas and California via Paris for a couple of weeks, starting in a week, and walked over to Hauptbahnhof recently to buy my ticket to Paris and see if I could get beaned by a piece of falling steel so I could sue Deutsche Bahn and get myself free tickets for life. I did manage to accomplish one of those goals, but it was the one that cost me money, not the one that cost them money. Whatever: I’m leaving this place for a while, and that always feels good unless I’m headed to someplace even worse like Frankfurt/Main.

At any rate, I was amused by a rather ambitious currywurst budde over there which calls itself Around the name are listed cities: New York, Dubai, Paris, and so on. Interesting; an entrepreneur actually attempting to franchise Berlin currywurst around the world? That actually could be a winner (although not in Dubai unless the sausages were beef). Naturally, as soon as I got home I hit the URL, and was disappointed, as you no doubt will be. It is emblematically Berlinish, though, to hop on a trend without really understanding it. I remember years ago when a new office supply company opened here in Mitte calling itself Naturally, they hadn’t registered the URL, and didn’t even have a website. But that dot-com stuff was trendy, right?

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One thing you can always say about Berlin is it’s a really safe city. Violent crime here is almost unknown in most places, and I’ve only been burgled once, which was pretty much my landlord’s fault. But that’s not to say there isn’t an undercurrent of anger here which blossoms forth every now and again in unpleasant ways. Currently, the trend seems to be throwing paving stones (easily dug out of the sandy soil here with a pen knife) through windows. Just in the past couple of days, I’ve seen smashed windows at the hookah bar on Chausseestr. and Tieckstr. (although this is probably just the tip of a larger story involving the huge number of these places and shops to supply them which have sprung up virtually overnight: do people really enjoy sitting around sipping sweet tea and smoking perfumed tobacco if they’re not Arabs?), at the huge SAP software company building on the corner of Rosenthaler Str. and Gipsstr. (where you can see the place they dug the stones right in front of the building), and at the former Beate Uhse porn shop on Rosenthaler Str. This last suddenly sprouted some weird art-like installation in the windows almost within minutes of the Uhse folks pulling out, and it was apparently part of some viral marketing scheme by one of the game box companies — I’ve lost track of Playstations and Nintendos and so on, but one of them has put up fake street art, opened a fake art gallery on Torstr., and now this. Not only did the windows go, the bricks were still there when I walked past, and someone was filming it.

I have to admit, I understand how street artists can get irked by this sort of thing, because the paper art with the URL was just bad enough that it stood out as fake. It was as annoying as the ad campaign for the new Toyota auto which has — and I’m not exaggerating here — taken up about 95% of all advertising space in this city for most of this week, and which will, if there’s any justice, disappear tomorrow when the car is actually introduced. The Toyota campaign is yet another one which presupposes the utter stupidity of the consumer, the “Hey dumbass, buy this” attitude that’s at the basis of so much German advertising, as opposed to the “You’re clever enough to want this” approach the Brits pioneered and the Americans eventually figured out. Trouble is, there aren’t enough paving stones to take this one out.

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Yes, I know Berlin is changing, but… One night not very long ago, I was walking down Invalidenstr. and there was cheesy pink light streaming off a ginormous disco ball inside the staid walls of the old DDR post office. A couple of weeks later, I saw that Volkswagen was staging an event there. Now, when I first moved here, that was my local post office, and I’ve (naturally, because it’s what one does at the post office in Germany) stood in lines there many a day, admiring the strange metal sculpture on the polished marble walls. After Deutsche Post went private and the post office moved into a MacPaper outlet (I am not making this up, for those of you who don’t live here), the building was empty for a long, long time. But apparently it’s been rescued by a club which will give the lie to all those reports of hip! edgy! Berlin! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Bangaluu! (Warning: cheezy handbag house music when you click the link). Opening a branch of this — or even an imitation of it — would soon empty Friedrichshain of hipsters, and the flights back to Williamsburg would be packed. I kept clicking links on that site out of sick fascination. And to think it’s right next door to where, many many years ago in the Paleolithic Era, the Technics Club was…

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And finally, the pictures to explain the headline. Some months ago, I posted a picture of some graffiti “artists” spray-painting the wall of the building next to me, which I have to walk past on my way to my front door. I thought they were done — surely it couldn’t get any more hideous than that — but they kept working at it until there were all sorts of horrible details: a little green head of some depressed-looking guy, a woman-robot…who knows what they thought they were doing? But they signed it and left their phone numbers, in case anyone else wanted their house desecrated.

Then, as I guess artistic collaborations do on occasion, this one went south, and one of the “artists” came back and obliterated his former partner’s work and re-did it to his own liking. Not only that, he also went to work on the wall next door to it, so now we have a diptych with the theme of the Berlin Wall. Now, just why someone would want to spray-paint a new Wall, I cannot tell you. In fact, besides the eyesore factor, the depression this horrible set of murals sets off in me every time I have to see it (which is, of course, every day) is hard to even verbalize. What is the point of this? Who on earth would pay someone to do it? And just in case you think I’m making this up, here’s the wall closest to the street:

And here’s the wall on the rear building:

There’s only one solution I can think of. The original Berlin Wall attracted graffiti artists from around the world. Not just the collection who did the stretch known as the East Side Gallery (which was all post-Wall anyway), but Keith Haring over by the Gropius-Bau, and the French guy who did all those heads that wound up in Wings of Desire on that stretch in Kreuzberg. So maybe Nike can come and stick a nude or two up on this “Wall” and make it that much less depressing to look at.

I still liked our wall better when it had a big billboard on it featuring the Puhdys shilling for Berliner Pilsner.

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