Sunday, December 16, 2012

It's the End of The World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)

So what’s this mumbo jumbo about Mayan calendars and the end of the world?  I don’t pay attention to the classic crackpots with the signs saying ‘The End is Nigh,’ so this should come as no surprise when I have to cry BULLSCHEISSE! and let slip the dogs of sanity.  Everyone with half a brain knows that the fuckin’ world ain’t gonna end any time soon.  And if it did, would it be forecast by ass clowns on a mud hut pyramid 2000 years ago between human sacrifices?  And then, would it be all of sudden like?  Ka-BOOM!?

Entropy takes its sweet time.  It’s a one way ticket to midnight, all going down. You see, all matter breaks down into lesser forms of matter over time.  The ice in your glass melts in the hot room, your car runs itself into the ground and the food in your mouth gets reduced into inert matter (aka scheisse).  Can the End of the World™ happen in one day?  Only in the minds of religious freaks and other weak minded, superstitious fools.  The fundamentalist born again Christians believe that they will literally be yanked by the hair by Jesus up into the clouds.  They call this The End Times, The Rapture, and some other gobbledygook I couldn’t quite follow in Sunday school.  Some of those weaker minded fools in the church who couldn’t quite grok it grew up, grew a beard, drew a sign and did the Thorazine Shuffle on Main Street.

Religious nuts and other feeble minded people believe the most ludicrous things.  Global warming doesn’t exist in the conservative, religious mind.  Because the earth doesn’t matter; belongs to Satan, it does.  Jesus will yank all those believers up by their hair into Heaven.  The rest of us will have to deal with the Zombie Apocalypse.  Or Satan and his minions.  One of those two events.

We love endings.  In films, happy ones.  In real life, apparently, we only want the whole fucking thing to fall apart—suddenly—so we don’t have to think about our own individual oblivion.  If everyone is going with you into the abyss at once, it ain’t so lonely now, is it?  Think of the huge popularity of the zombie films.  The first zombie films had them taking over the small town malls.  Now every other film and tv show that’s NOT about vampires is about zombies taking over the world.  All of it.  From Tokyo to Tennessee. A few years ago when facebook was new, I hit the ‘like’ button on something called ‘The Zombie Apocalypse.’  It was an event I could attend.  I think the date is coming soon, probably right around the time the Mayans ran out of calendar pages.  I like a good social parody and the Zombie Walk flash mobs you hear about.  I’m hoping that I’ll open my door soon and see my zombie neighbor eating my landlord.  That will be a most excellent start for the end of the world for me.  Then I don’t have to pay rent, YEEE-HAAAWWWW!!!

Mayans, shmayans.  What did they know? Nice pyramids, nice hot sauce, nice human sacrifice. The irony was that the real end of the Mayan world happened five minutes after they wrote the calendar.  It was off by a few thousand years; it was just over the hills, sporting metal helmets, spearheads and the Spanish language.  I suspect these conquistadors even had a dusty bible or two in their luggage.

Things fall apart; it’s scientific.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Ouzo Uber Alles! Greek Food with a Kick

Asteria Greek Restaurant (Schönhauser Allee 143, U2 Eberswalderstr.) is my one of my favorite restaurants in P’berg.  Not because they serve grilled meat dishes smothered in sauce and cheese, not because the happy waiters defy all bad Berliner service stereotypes—but because they keep bringing you free Ouzo shots from the time you walk in to the time you stagger out the door with a bloated belly.

Portions: massive and heavy.  Prices:  reasonable considering all the free shots.  Location: just far enough walking distance to stretch the legs before dinner and walk off all the meat, cheese, sauce, wine and Ouzo streams on the way home.

Did I mention they like to pour you free Ouzo shots all night?  Achtung!  Broke artist wannabe types and hipsters not welcome.  If people like them start showing up for the free shots, it will ruin it for the rest of us.  Hint:  don’t order raisin salad starters and glare at the waiter with beggar’s eyes.  Your Ouzo will flow in accordance with the tides of the liquor universe.  Order food and the shots will come. I don’t know what that means my damn self.  You just have to drink it to believe it.

I don’t like Ouzo (last time I mention Ouzo...maybe) normally, but hey, it’s free, frosty and served by a jovial Mediterranean man who shouts ‘yia mas! (Greek for Prost!)' after each pouring.   I quickly learned this phrase (it was written on the napkins) and proudly proclaimed it after each shot.  I was either trying to be more multikulti or priming the pump for more shots.  One of those.

I like Asteria because the food is rich, delicious and flavorful (not the usual German bland, salty, greasy/sloppy/ketchup/curry bollox), served in portions large enough to choke a bull moose (and God, I know, I am one).  Dunkin’ Berliner recommends ™:  Number 83.  I don’t know what it is called because I am STILL full of Ouzo as I write this.  Also, their website is down.  And my semi-furious Googling of words like ‘souklaki,’ ‘souflakis’ and poopacrapaplopolis’ yielded nothing.  Just order number 83, trust me. They bring you a hot iron skillet with 3 massive grilled, ground pork patties smothered in smoky, creamy orange (Metaxa?) sauce with melted cheese on top.  Side of rice and salad included for around 12 E’s. This is my favorite type of food on general principle:  smoky, grilled, saucy and cheesy.  I hate dry food and this dish is the polar opposite of my hate (That would be LOVE for you hippie-dippy types).

You just won’t find food this good and service this friendly anywhere in Berlin.  The donut gods know I’ve tried.  When you finally ask for the bill it comes with (wait for it) more Ouzo shots.  And espresso.  Gratis.  I love you, Asteria, and I’m still trying to find one of the many Greek words for love to describe my overall feelings for you.  I’m thinking a bit of philia, a bit of eros and a whole lot of agape.

photo by Gabriela Sarževska

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I’m not an animal person; let’s just get that out of the way.  I’m not much of people person either, being as people are also members of the animal kingdom.  My girlfriend’s dog is the bane of my existence, a real bete noir (the dog’s name is Black, go figure…) and a constant wedge in the cracks of what is a normal, loving, committed, argument-filled, yelling-with-the-windows-open, long term relationship.
I’m around the damn thing (the dog I mean) almost 24 hours a day; she is not.  I’ve got the dubious ‘luxury’ of the home office—meaning I’m just another under-employed freelance slacker in Berlin.  Nothing in life is free.  My payment and my penance for being a fool with little or no ambition is to take care of El Perro Diablo while the lady of the house is toiling away in an office somewhere in West Berlin.

I know; dog is man’s best friend.  My human friends don’t fetch my slippers, my paper, my pipe and my crested smoking jacket, but neither does the dog—which makes him about as useful as an asshole on my elbow. The dog’s function:  1) looking cute with the big doe eyes, 2) sucking up love, affection and food from anyone who falls for the big doe eyes, 3) eating and begging for more and more food, full time.  As soon as the dog’s loyal sycophants aren’t in the room, he morphs into El Perro Diablo.  He scratches doors; he pisses on doors and floors and barks so much I had to take the door bell receiver off the hook permanently.

Back in Prague, Cat gave the dog the name ‘Buckethead’ because of the plastic post-op cone he was wearing--you know, the one that keeps them from licking themselves into an early Nirvana. The poor beastie had some kind of growth on his nether organ which had to be removed.  Years later in Berlin, the 7 year itch has returned with a vengeance.  After a week of quack vets prescribing useless ointments for what is an obvious and hideously deformed and painful growth, we are now considering the inevitable:  Buckethead may kick it.  Buckethead is 12 years old; he spent the first 6 years of his life as a homeless/train station dog.  He was fed garbage, kicked around and used as a pillow for sleeping inebriates.  For the second half of his life he was spoiled rotten.  It was getting to the point where the dog got more love than me.  She says he deserves the love.  I put up with it.  So no matter how many times the dog scratched and pissed on the floors/doors and no matter how many times I yelled and waved my arms at him (Violence is verboten. Not my choice), Buckethead just rolled those big doe eyes at me as if to say ‘Is that all you got, beeotch?’ 

Thursday is the day of The Big Decision.  Soon we will find out if the growth on his thang, his defective heart and the fluid in his lungs are going to somehow, suddenly disappear—or if we will pay for a syringe full of Big Sleep.  For the longest time I wanted the dog out of my life so I could get on with it.  Many exotic ports of call beckon us—if only in my mind—and El Diablo Perro is the Reason We Can’t Go.  His age, quirks, illnesses and inability to travel are the proverbial thorns in my side.  I don’t want to end this with a cliffhanger. I don’t want my girlfriend to completely lose her mind when the dog eventually shuffles off this canine coil.  I guess I’m saying that I don’t want the dog to die.

Then I would have to find a new bane for my existence.

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Baby Farm

Moving to Berlin - Prenzlauer Berg, the breeder capital of the known universe, was a complete accident.  For someone who is completely anti-reproduction (I mean c’mon—look at all the global overpopulation, shitty governments and lack of food and work for the existing people), being surrounded by the squeals and squalls of infants all day long is some sort of existential hell on a Sartrean scale.

Foreigners in Germany don’t have a lot of options as to where to live--unless they are the typical yuppie manager transplants working for an uberconglomerate company (or trust fund hipster douchebags). Most of us just take our chances with the real estate riff raff; most of the time we are lucky to take whatever we can get.  I have been told both implicitly and overtly that I was not welcome as a foreigner: “Too much hassle, paperwork, credit risk, yada yada sieg heil yada.” It could be worse:  I could live in one of the cheap shitholes passing themselves off as the New Artist and Hipster Hoods; neighborhoods with names rhyming with Schmeukoelln or Schmedding.

So we took a flat in ubergentrified Prenzlauer Berg, where prams push us off the sidewalk and into traffic (with sneers). In warm weather we open windows for air; ahhh, the fresh smell of shitty diapers and screeching newborns. We’re so lucky to be part of the swirling cosmic cacophony of creation.  In P’berg they shit out new babies every month and leave them by the open windows to screech their little lungs out.  Just when one baby stops crying, another scheissmaschine in another fenster takes its place.  Rarely are they ever synchronized.

Rather than complain (too late?), I decided to do a bit of research.  Apparently, German parents are privy to die neue Schule of child psychology, which simply states:  ‘Let them cry.  Do not give in to the child’s every whine and whim.  Leave them alone for hours and they will be better citizens for it.’  I believe the child care professional they follow is Dr. Josef Mengele.  He too chose to ‘test’ an infant’s resolve, its alleged need for parental attention, by leaving it alone for days at a time.  His research proved that, left alone long enough, an infant would stop crying altogether.  He was a groundbreaker, that bastard.

It seems pretty obvious that Berliners are being paid to breed.  I can’t figure it out otherwise.  I personally don’t see using my down time and underemployment as an opportunity to bring a screeching little mini me into this fucked up world.  But Berliners do.  They get paid to breed, and no number of children seems to be too much for the system.  Sounds like a government think tank at work:  solve the massive Berlin unemployment problem by PAYING PEOPLE TO BRING MORE FUCKING UNEMPLOYED PEOPLE into the picture.  I hate U.S. government policies, but Jayzus, Europe seems to be willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to social and fiscal policies.

‘But db,’ you might ask, ‘what makes you think that these P’berg parents are merely white trash breeders out for a quick government baby buck every nine months?  What if they are middle-to-upper class working parents with single moms on maternity leave?’  Glad you asked.  Well, the simple answer is:  the middle class is too tired and worn out to breed; upper class yuppies don’t breed anything but more material possessions.  The parents are both too career driven to think of having children and too stressed out after their stupid, meaningless jobs to procreate.  Procreation takes time.  It’s a full time job.  You’ve got to try every Kama Sutra position from morning til night to guarantee progeny payload every nine months.

And who has that much time on their hands but the unemployed?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

De-whored by Google

Google AdSense Threatens Dunkin' Berliner, Gets the Sticky Finger

I have de-whored myself.  I've cleaned up my act and will no longer be showing ads on my blog.  You may go ahead and scroll down my large, ample, glazed body of work to see that I am free of all ads, crabs and STDs.  Not because after only one year displaying zillions of ads I got only 7 dollars, not because I have no Ho Sense, but because they sent me a threatening email.  Bitches:

During a recent review of your account we found that you are currently displaying Google ads in a manner that is not compliant with our program policies:
VIOLATION(S) FOUND: ADULT/EXPLICIT TEXT: As stated in our program policies, AdSense publishers are not permitted to place Google ads on pages with adult or mature content, including sexually explicit text.REQUESTED ACTION: Please make all necessary changes in the next 72 hours. If the violations are corrected within the aforementioned time period, ad serving will not be affected. If changes are not made and/or other policy violations are encountered during the review process, ad serving will be disabled to your site.


Google, you can take your seven bucks and change and
cram it right up yer cyber-pooper!

I wonder how many millions of bux these fux made by serving ads on peep’s blogz for years, then, oh, gee, my o my, gosh darn it, YEARS later find an F word or two.  It’s a scam.  The exact same kind The Rich have been pouring down the gullets of We Poor for eons.  How do I know it’s a scam?  Because Google crawlers cache results after a few months, then you can find me in 0.03 seconds if you don’t have a 56k modem.  I know this because I look at the charts.  No, really.  I have WAY too much time on my hands.
So now I've disabled the ads, thrown away my potential for pennies.  I won't change my content for anyone; kinda defeats the purpose of having a blog if I can't drop F bombs every time I have a brain fart.  If that's the case, I might as well get an internship writer's job at a weekly Amish newspaper (printed by hand, no machines).  So this old whore is hanging up the high heels, getting off the ad crack, saying goodbye to his Google pimp.  You won't see me peddling my ass for pennies and pizza delivery any longer.  I'm now an uptown ho, a right proper call girl.  The only way you can pay me is to click the Exclusive 'donate donut' button at the top right of this blog.  I'm more discreet, no more random ads peddling their wares on MY street corner of cyberspace—but I'm still a relatively cheap ho.  I mean, how much can a donut donation cost?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Punk Dream: Total Anarchy in a Berlin Market

I left our local pub after 10pm on a Saturday night in order to get some supplies to get us through the weekend.  You see, in Germany, some dumb fucks decided that we can’t buy things on Sundays.  I didn’t have my usual grocery backpack with me when we went to the pub, so I was ill equipped to deal with shopping.  ‘I’ll have to buy one of those plastic bags to carry the shit home,’ I said.  ‘Why?’ she said.  I explained: ‘I can’t be carrying beer, wine, booze and breakfast in my arms through the throngs of punks parked outside of Rewe on a Saturday night.  It’s a gauntlet I’m getting too old to run.’

There were no punks outside the Rewe on Schivelbeiner.  Weird.  Normally they form groups of Mohawks and dogs and beer bottles at each entrance and beat their beggar drums loudly.  They Fuck The System yet take handouts from those that don’t.  Convenient.  Play a fucking instrument and I’ll give you a quarter, you fake-ass white spoiled sons of bitches from upper middle class families.  Rebellion my ass.

I grabbed my basket and proceeded to shop for the German Sunday tornado shelter situation.  Right away I noticed a small flood of water pooling from one of the frozen food containers.  A punk and his punk princess trudged Docs through water, splashing.  Shouts and laughs.  I continued and saw broken six packs of beer bottles lying in the aisles, various smashed soft drink bottles, a pink pool of yogurt oozing from a dropped package and generally no staff members whatsoever interested in the idea of cleanup.  I passed staff members stocking shelves, counting inventory, generally looking bored and underpaid as is custom for unskilled labor in a post-communist, pre-divided city like Berlin.  ‘CLEAN UP! AISLES 4, 5 AND 7!!!’ screamed through the imaginary store speaker in my ex-American mind.  Instead, store jazz/elevator music gave us the grand soundtrack for the Evening of Anarchy.  I made several passes through the aisles of dropped food and drink to be sure.  Nope, nobody gave a flying fuck.

I felt at home, strangely.  I could take my time, walking around and over and through the Deutsch detritus without feeling the usual stress I feel whenever I’m in a crowded, prime time supermarket of any kind, anywhere in the world.  This was a world without care.  Me and my punks and freaks waltzed through the anarchy.  I guess they didn’t hear the elevator music.

We all met at the front in a desperate mass.  There were only two cashiers ready to handle the chaos.  One of them closed his register and skulked away.  Pussy.  There are only 20 or 30 of us freaks here.  We only want our beer/wine/booze/sugar/caffeine/nicotine.  That’s what you do when you have a store full of freaks after 10pm on a Saturday night in Berlin.  You close the fucking register.  I won’t quote everyone in the massive line at the suddenly single register, but the word ‘scheisse’ figured prominently.  That and one dude who kept making horse sounds with his lips.  And muttering ‘Deutschland’ in exasperated tones.  But that could be from the football month going on.

I got to the front of the line.  The single remaining cashier called for help on the store mic twice to no avail.  It was Him vs. The Freaks.  He said something to the aging freak in front of me.  The guy slammed his back pack on the checker’s table and pounded it with his hands.  Then he lifted his arms and slowly spun around in a mock frisk ritual he must have been overly familiar with his whole life.  Beep, beep, pause, beep and the groceries slipped and slid away.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Touch Your Food

The first time I had African food was in the Height/Ashbury district in San Francisco.  It wasn’t trendy; it was just another culinary voice in the cacophony of city sounds and sites I once knew in my college years.  I remember the large plate with the pancake on the bottom; small dabs of colorful food adorned the top.  I recall the distinct lack of cutlery.  The smiling African waitress offered only folded bits of the same pancake base with which to scoop up the messy morsels.  The food was flavorful and spicy.

On my second visit I decided to take a couple of young ladies I knew from my London semester of study abroad.  They happened to be studying at San Francisco State University as well, so we had our post-London reunion over African food.  As anyone who has had East African food (Eritrean, Ethiopian) knows, the size of the plate correlates to the size of the dining party—a bigger plate and a bigger pancake for a party of three.  Everyone shares from the same plate using their hands.  One of the more uptight ladies in our party interrogated the waitress:  “Am I to assume we get no knife and fork with this?”  The waitress merely laughed and walked away shaking her head.  Later the same young lady informed me that she would never return to that—or any—African restaurant again.  Snotty racist cow.

Europeans and certain ‘upper class’ Americans won’t eat with their hands.  I’ve seen Europeans eat pizza and hamburgers with a knife and fork, and we’re getting tired of it (just ask the New Yawkers at The Bird: ‘Please, at least try eating the damn burger with your hands. All you uptight people with forks and knives are driving us crazy.’)  Some food DEMANDS that you touch it.  Why else would they coin the phrase 'finger food?' An Indian acquaintance I met in Cyprus explained to me as he taught me how to eat Indian food with my hands, “We have five senses.  To not touch your food is to deny the full experience.”  Damn, with logic like that, I’m glad he didn’t try to talk me into trying yoga.  Then I’d have to bounce my foot off his Ghandian ass.  And that would be sad.

In the States we pick up our burritos, tacos, pizza slices, burgers and chicken wings.  I have actually gone weeks without touching a knife or fork.  This weekend qualifies as a forkless nosh period.  Yesterday:  fish tacos (made myself), today: African food at Bejte-Ethiopia in a far flung place in Berlin (Nollendorf Platz). We enjoyed the food, although the pancake was a bit sour for our taste.  Once again, we suspected that they are catering to the locals’ love of everything sour (sauerkraut, anyone?).  But the food itself was delicious, though not quite as spicy as the African restaurants I visited in San Francisco or Munich.  The kicker was the finish.  We had read that they offer a special type of coffee in the joint, so we ordered coffee for two.  It came with a bowl of popcorn and I have no idea why.  I guess they’ve never heard of biscuits or wafers.  I drank the rich, strong coffee and just stared at the popcorn.  I couldn’t cotton to it.

Years ago in Prague, an American picked up his slice of pizza with his hands and heard the muffled mutterings of the Czechs.  They sat there like the dorks that they are, pretending to be all 'Yer Row Culture,’ pizza on the plate, knife and fork in sweaty hands.  Step off, bitches.  Pick up that mother humping pizza, hold it under your nose, look at it and smell it.  As the saliva starts, slide that tasty morsel into your mouth and chew:  LISTEN! Your teeth are talking to you now!

Your Dunkin’ Berliner lesson in the culinary arts has just begun.

Next week:  unleash the Third Eye Chakra in the center of your forehead and head butt your chow!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Choose Your Haircut: Skinhead or Hitlerjugend

Bitch Week at Dunkin' Berliner continues with today's installment: "Waaaah!  I'm in the Hitlerjugend!"

I believe you can only get two haircuts in Berlin:  The Skinhead and The Hitlerjugend.  I know this because no matter how many times I have gone in to any hair salon in Berlin and no matter how much German I’ve tried to learn or how much English the stylist spoke—these are the only options. I want the cut faded up the sides and back and neatly short—but not jarhead—on top.  I couldn’t explain it to them no matter how hard I tried.  Even when the stylist spoke perfect English, her clippers would slam to a halt at my occipital ridge at the back of my skull.  The scissors were picked up and a hard line between neck and crown formed. The result was the infamous look of the 1930s Hitlerjugend.  If I deigned to complain about this, they would abruptly slam the scissors on the table, pick up the previously-discarded shears and proceed to buzz cut me into skinhead land.

After a while I grew tired of this.  Colored people and foreigners were suddenly crossing the street or diving into the suicidal Berlin bike lanes.  I thought it was because I am large and scary, but my friends laugh at the thought of me scaring anyone.  I started wearing caps and hats until the hair grew back.  Eventually I bit the bullet and bought a buzz cut machine of my own at Rossmann.

The guide marks on the clippers I bought show 10 marks.  But you already know there are only two (even if you didn’t read ahead).  The ‘medium’ marks don’t cut anything and neither does any mark above the medium level.  I tried to shear the back of my own head in the mirror and the only setting that worked was the skinhead setting.   This means that if you continue over your entire skull, you will be branded a skinhead, be invited to shop at Thor Steinar and have Nazi cops buying you donuts (well, this could be a benefit for a Dunkin’ Berliner I suppose).  My clippers slammed into the occipital ridge again.  I didn’t want to go further out of fear of total skinheaditude.  So I stopped.  The familiar ridge formed on the back and sides of my skull. Jahwohl, you guessed it:  I looked like something between a Hitlerjugend and the Pope.  My friends commented on it.  I gave excuses and blamed the Skinhead-o-Cut 2000 machine I used.

Today I went back to the same hair salon I had been before.  I decided to give them another chance.  There was a different woman there:  60 years old, piles of poodle hair, jowls and a look on her face like she was shitfaced drunk.  Or DDR communist.  Or both.  I sat down in the chair.  I had spent an hour on the internet locating and printing a picture of the cut I wanted.  She laughed and told me to put it down.  She had everything under control.  The clippers slammed into my occipital ridge so hard I think chunks of dandruff and skin must have flown out.  I let her continue.  She buzzed the edges of my ears and hit my head several times with the scissors as I held my eyes shut.

I can’t show you a picture of me in this blog.  I am not quite Hitlerjugend, not quite skinhead, but worse:  some kind of mutated mole who was in a fight with a hedge clipper.  I will be wearing my hat again so the nice colored people and foreigners won’t have to dive into the treacherous Berlin bike lanes as I walk down the street.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Used to Be's Don't Count Anymore...

...they just lie on the floor til we sweep them away.
- Neil Diamond

God dammit, culinary consistency would be nice.  I don’t mean in the giant-chain-Mickey D’s-same-damn-garbage-from-Muskogee-to-Moscow sort of consistency.  I would just like to have the same decent food from the same restaurant more than 3 times.  In a row.  That’s what makes me an American, I suppose.  I like to bitch when something just ain’t right.  I never could understand when one of my Limey cousins, after consuming a four course curry meal, could smile and say, ‘That was a bit crap.’  To me, not the staff.  Bit of the old stiff upper lip, I suppose.  Mustn’t grumble.

Bollox. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and I intend to do my fair share of squeaking, yessiree.  If you don’t bitch and complain, you wind up shoveling the same shit into your face for all of eternity. And that there is the real bitch.

We can’t expect much from the fast food circuit.  A different relative every other day can’t learn the menu, yada yada yada. I used to think it was kind of okay when my kebab was slightly different each time.  But that there is a slippery slope, my friends.  The next thing you know, you’ve gone from a sandwich with nicely-roasted meat, fresh sauce and vegetables wrapped in a crispy bread crust—to a soggy mush of flavorless, watery sauce, boiled meat and dry bread.  The kind that falls apart all over your nice bowling shirt.  Fuckers.  I’ve killed for less.  In one of the wars.  I can’t remember which.

Don’t go to Babel on Kastanienallee.  They used to be The Shizzle; now they’re not.

Don’t go to Dolores (American style burritos) on Rosa-Lux.  Same story.  I was a regular for my first year in Berlin.  I would tell the manager each and every time I visited that I was more than happy with everything, and not to change a thing.

Fuckers changed a thing.  Or two.  One of them was the product.  It used to be good.  It used to be fanfuckingtastic. I used to cross town to pick up a couple of giant burritos stuffed with the works and bring them home or sit by the fountain at Alex and watch people plummet from the tall building behind the Burger King.  Suddenly the Perfect Burrito became the perfect door stop.  The quality of the ingredients went down; they started putting stupid shit inside, like fajita vegetables instead of the usual perfecto mix.  Then they reduced the size of the thing by nearly half.  For the same price (around 7 EUR for the deluxe burrito).  It’s like Woody Allen said, “The food here is so bad.  And in such small portions.”  I gave them the benefit of the doubt three times.  I brought people there and I was embarrassed by how bad the food was.  These people probably think I’m some kind of fucking earthworm which sucks up any and all dirt into my gullet.  My Berlin gourmet card has been revoked and I’ll never be invited to the gala regatta yacht race and wear a crested smoking jacket with matching Captain’s cap.  Fuck.

Yesterday the schwarma at Babel was so bad that I had to throw it in the garbage can uneaten.  I had just had more than my fill of beer at Prater, so any port in storm would normally do a hungry drunk.  But the shit they served yesterday was suitable only for the bin rats.  On the way home we stopped by our old favorite, the tried and true, trusty standby kebab joint called Tayfun’s Bistro.  I’m rarely disappointed there.  I always get a reasonably good sandwich for a reasonably good price.  Last night I saw a new face behind the counter, one I’d never seen before.  I almost ordered only a bottled beer.  Out of fear.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Yellow Cigarette Man

You’ve seen them standing around, listless, shiftless, feckless.  To me, the lone Asians standing against the walls on every other block in Friedrichshain (and later in Prenzlauer Berg) stuck out like sore thumbs the first few times I saw them.  I was thinking to myself ‘now what the fuck is THAT guy doing standing there against that wall every time I walk by—without a grocery store behind him or a cigarette in his mouth to keep him occupied?’

Then I saw The Exchange: a middle-aged mullet sauntered up, looked the Asian up and down.  The Asian shot glances up and down the street (DRUG DEAL! I thought) and proceeded to produce a small yellow packet of cigarettes.  Money slid from palm to palm and the yellow cigarettes slid into the pocket of the mullet.   I don’t know the significance of the yellow packets of cigarettes (Asian brand?), but I quickly figured out that What Was Going Down was the sale of cut rate, no tax, non-German-government-sanctioned ciggies.  What we in the States refer to as ‘bootlegging.’

The Yellow Cigarette Man disappears whenever a cop car rolls past.  I’ve seen the guy standing there one minute—then vanish.  I’m going to assume he’s clinging to the bottom of the mini van parked to the left.  We had the same Yellow Cigarette Man on our green, leafy, breeder-ridden, P’Berg street for months.  He was around 60 years old, with the kind of weathered face seen only on Himalayan Sherpas.  He was there 6 days a week (heh. NOTHING runs on Sundays in Germany.), 12 months a year.  When the weather turned to ice the Yellow Cigarette Man was still standing there alone, with only his parka-ensconced face and the warm glow of Capitalism to keep him alive.

Then one day the Yellow Cigarette Man was gone.  I had gotten used to seeing him on my daily dog walks and/or shopping hauls.  I checked under the mini vans on the street:  nothing.  I was starting to worry that the mullets wouldn’t be sucking cheap fags on street corners in Berlin any longer.  Or that the Actual Man had applied his merciless Jack Boot to the ass of our friendly neighborhood alternative business executive.

Then the Yellow Cigarette Woman appeared one fine spring day.  Just as the first leaves of spring sprung from the buds on the old P’Berg tree branches and the newest babes of welfare pushed their way out of the white trash wombs, she appeared.  ‘HALLO!’ she said, smiling at each passerby.  A young, 20-something Asian girl had replaced the leather-faced Sherpa to which I had grown accustomed.  Maybe the Old Yellow Cigarette Man wasn’t fast enough to evade the ever-prowling Police Eye, or maybe he could no longer cling to the bottom of neighborhood mini van.

Now there is a regularly changing cast of Cigarette People on our street.  They no longer sell the yellow packets of cigarettes—my last stolen glance spied a different colored packet.  There is only ever one cig peddler at a time, either a young woman or a young man, both Asian.  I’ve never been there when there was a changing of the guard.  One day there is the young HALLO! woman, the next day a young man.  I’ve watched them pull entire cartons of cigarettes out of the most unlikely of places—from under moped rain covers, and even those long, narrow sidewalk street gratings you see near building walls.  Hell, once I even saw one of them prize a carton off the bottom of the mini van parked on the street.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Last Bukowski Book

 I finally found the last Bukowski book I haven’t read yet:  ‘Hollywood’.  There it stood high atop a hill of books, a shining beacon into the dull, smoggy haze of my valley.  It was right up there on the top shelf and a ladder climb was necessary to reach the damn thing.  I asked the clerk at St.George’s Bookstore in P’berg if customers were allowed to climb the ladders and rummage through the top shelf books.  ‘Break a leg’ he said.  ‘Great,’ I thought, ‘at 260 lbs. I bloody well might.’

I climbed down the rickety ladder clutching ‘Hollywood’ in my cold, clammy palm (it was minus 5 outside and I sweat anyway.  That’s how one gets cold and clammy palms.)  I couldn’t believe it, so I had to say it out loud.  “Wow!  I finally found the last Bukowski book I haven’t read!  I’ve been looking for years in every English language bookstore in Europe!’  The clerk flashed me an unimpressed smirk.  Perhaps he was waiting for me to fall off the ladder to add some Vaudevillian amusement to his quiet bookstore wasted English degree life.

‘Hollywood’ was written by Monsignor Bukowski, the High Priest of the Low Life (I just made that up and I expect it to soon be added to his long list of titles, right under ‘The Drunk Poet Laureate’) while he was writing the screenplay for the biopic film ‘Barfly’ about his drunken life as a writer or his life as a drunken writer, not sure which.  It’s a bit hazy (heh).  I have always idolized Bukowski and the film ‘Barfly’ is considered by me and several of my closest friends to be the All Time Best Movie to Pass Out Watching After Drinking.

The book was also in the used section, which is unheard of for Bukowski books in the English language bookstores of Europe.  Usually you can find a Bukowski book or two (usually ‘Ham on Rye’ or ‘Women’) for the nicely marked-up premium import price of 20 or 30 EUR per book.  So I was doubly pleased to find ‘Hollywood’ at the nicely marked up, premium USED import price of only 6.50 EUR.  Sure, that’s triple what you’d pay in any second hand bookstore in the States, but hey, we’re not.

Once I asked a Prague English bookstore clerk why I could never find any Bukowski, Kerouac or Hunter S. Thompson in the used section.  And why they had only new ones hidden behind the counter, requiring me to ask about them every time and thereby looking like some kind of drunken wannabe writer stereotype.  He flashed the international smirk of the wasted English degree clerk and said ‘Cuz lowlife mutha fuckas kept stealing them all.’

So now I have it in my grasp, the Holy Grail of Holy Shit, what promises to be a great mix of the bacchanalian excesses of one of the most famous modern writers and the cocaine-and-hooker-fueled corruption of the California Casting Couch.

I can’t wait.  I’m almost afraid to crack open the damn book.  Because the mother fucker just might be in Deutsch.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Best Spaeti in Berlin

When you want to buy things at night in Berlin, you go to the spaetkauf (late shop), or spaeti for short.  In short order you get your fix:  caffeine, nicotine, alcohol.  The best spaeti are open 24 hours for your addiction pleasure.  Some spaeti are open round the clock, while others tow the line and close at a more respectable midnight.

In order to have a Best Spaeti you must necessarily have a Worst Spaeti.  The worst ones are on the main streets and have internet cafes and telephone booths inside.  This is great if you happen to be completely without internet connection in the 21st century or like to make phone calls inside of sweaty wooden boxes.  That’s ok if you do.  I’m not your judge.  These bad spaeti charge double for the same beer you would buy at the good spaeti. And it's piss warm.  Even the ones in the back of the fridge.

The Best Spaeti in Berlin is on a side street off of the four streets junction in Northern Prenzlauer Berg.  The four streets meet and change all in one intersection:  to the North, Schoenhauser Allee becomes Berliner strasse; from the West, Bornholmer strasse hits the intersection and moseys on into Wisyber strasse proper.  This rare occurrence of major streets meeting and changing names is referred to as a Deutschenklusterfick.  Just as was depicted in Scorcese’s “Gangs of New York”, four gangs met at a crossroads to fight it out:  The Shoenhausers, the Bornholmers, the Real Berliners and the Wisbyers. The leaders of each gang all died in the muck and mud of the intersection and...

After the battle the men were mighty thirsty.  The survivors drank beer at a spaeti around the corner.  This historical spaeti had a cardboard cutout of a fine young damsel holding a beer and sign which read ‘160 brands of beer.’

To this day you can find it.  This is my favorite spaeti because you can get Bavarian monk beer in devilishly strong varieties.  If you’re feeling a bit peckish you can get warm German and Russian food made by a guy with a mullet and a greasy apron.  I won’t tell you the name of the Best Spaeti in Berlin because A) I may not remember the name; B) the responsible blogger doesn’t lead the tourists to The Good Shit.  But you’ve got the history, the intersection, and, hopefully by now, a powerful thirst.


(hint: you walk down Schoenhauser Allee until it becomes Berliner strasse.  Then you take one of the side streets nearby.  Look for the cardboard chick with the beers.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Sum Total of Human Knowledge on Strike

I was just now going to wikipedia, as one does when, well, you know.  I was probably looking up some factoid to include in the non-bullshit segment of the Dunkin’ Berliner Blog, just to make sure I had my facts straight, in order to keep this here blog from tumbling into the Abyss of Total Bullshit (or bullscheisse as the locals say).  I got the Wikipedia Blackout Page.

And it started off as such a good day:  9am, down to the donut pusher; drei pfannkuchen mit kirsch, bitte, chuckles from the staff at my lousy pronunciation, me clearing my throat and throwing such a DRRRRRReeeiiii at them that the staff and customers had the biggest chuckle that this here one man donut theater has ever witnessed in the presence of fresh donuts; back to the flat to push the last bit of code over the cliff and launch my long-awaited (mainly by myself) new photography website into the cyberwaves; bowl of Turkish coffee Czech style, throw a fistful of espresso and boiling water into the biggest fuckoff coffee mug I could find at the Boxhagener flea market for under ein Euro, a veritable Cornucopia of Christian Crank, as it were; chase out the cobwebs and become the productive human I always knew I would be; last bits of website done by noon, all contacts in address book spammed profusely by 1pm.

Met my photographer buddy for tea and crumpets (I don’t even know WTF a crumpet is but it looks good when I write it); discussed the downfall of Western Civilization and/or the need for more work in the barren Berlin wastelands; went out for Vietnamese food; returned home...

BLACKOUT.  I couldn’t get The Knowledge.  Instead, I got the stark blackout page announcing a protest of some dumbass legislation in Amerkkka about the internet.   I’m not going to analyze it overmuch; I’m just an educated hick from Sacramento with a penchant for deep fried lard pastry and too much time on his hands.

For the record:  I tried to contact my Congressman but I don’t have one; if I did I’d surely be on his hit list.  I wanted to fb the hell out of it, but I was thrown such a shit storm of illegible captcha that I thought the Black House was taken over by Sharia law.  Try this:  hit refresh over and over in the captcha form.  Watch it degrade into a bigger and bigger mush of squiggly lines.

“And they were singin’ bye, bye Miss American Pie, drove a Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry.”

“You can have my [insert sacred item here*] when you pry it from my cold, dead hand.”

[Fade to black]

*suggestions:  donut, gun, internet, brain, money, doobie, booby, crucifix