The Berlin Diaries – Thanksgiving

I’m English, which means I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving and don’t really know what it’s about. Hang on. Let’s educate ourselves. Right, you wait here, and I’m going to trek to the mystical land of Wikipedia in search of answers. If I’m not back in three paragraphs, assume I’ve failed my quest, give me an honorary funeral (Viking style, please), and move on with your life. Promise me, if I fail, you will try to learn to love again. Promise me you will find another blog filled with stupid drunken travelling stories. You promise? Okay. Here goes.

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The Berlin Diaries – Neverland

I’m unemployed, and have been for almost a month now. That’s not to say I don’t have an income – I’ve been doing bits and bobs of freelance work, and have been pitching articles and short stories for publication. It’s going surprisingly well so far. It feels nice. It feels amazing. I’m living life on my own terms – making money for myself, no boss, no rules. I’m carving out an existence the way I want to, not the way my bank account dictates. Maybe you could do that anywhere, maybe not. Berlin treats skint artists and musicians and literary types very kindly. It’s built by them and for them.

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The Berlin Diaries – Eye Contact Forever

There’s always something going on here. Every day, it’s a simple matter of having a quick peek on Facebook or wherever, and lo, hundreds of events. Gigs, poetry slams, open mic nights, comedy, raves, free parties, art exhibits, light shows, performance art, you name it. Never a dull moment.

On Saturday, an old friend from Come Backpackers messaged me. It was Dave, the long haired English guy who is furious about Brexit. The guy I kind of accidentally smoked hash with in a park on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. Dave sent me a link to an event happening that evening. I looked on the website and found that it was an eye contact experiment – one of the world’s largest, or something. I watched a video of one previous exhibition. Strangers in the street simply sat opposite one another and stared unspeaking into each other’s eyes. Seemed suitably weird for my evening’s entertainment. I went along.

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The Berlin Diaries – 16th October

So, after collapsing onto the sofa at 8.30am with Tommy and Tianna, I was absofuckinglutely out of it for the next few hours. It was the first time I’d been to sleep since I woke up two days before on Friday morning. At 11am, I was prodded awake by the guy on reception at the hostel. The reception desk is in plain view of the sofas, and he’d been watching us snore for almost three hours.

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The Berlin Diaries – 15th October

Today was awful. Just, awful. I lay on the sofa half-drunk for most of the day, groaning quietly, unable to sleep on the uncomfortable chairs. People came and went into the hostel, happy and healthy, going about their days, and I was just strewn across the room like a plaster floating near the drain of a public swimming pool. Alcohol can fuck you up. Drugs can make you a mess. But lack of sleep dissolves the very fabric of the universe around you and renders you a manky, gibbering globule.

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The Berlin Diaries – 11th October

I woke up late and sat in the hostel on my laptop after grabbing my usual 90 cent breakfast. I spent a couple of hours applying for flatshares, but dear god, it’s dull, and there’s so much fun to be had. I overheard two guy talking about some light show that had taken place nearby, and I got talking to them. One of the guys was called Dave. Dave was English, and perpetually stoned on brown hash that he smoked all day on the hostel balcony. He looked like a replacement keyboardist for  Blossoms, all oversized corduroy jackets and luxurious flowing hair. He was studying to be a mathematician, working with ‘big data’ to create software (I didn’t understand, either). Dave was in the same boat as me – he was trying to make a life in Berlin. When I asked him why he wanted to move here, his answer was “because the UK is shit, fuck Brexit”. I feel you, man.

Here’s the thing about Brexit: my savings are in pounds. Can’t transfer them to a German bank account because I can’t get one without a registered address. Therefore, as Theresa fucking May spouts baseless nonsense about how Brexit means Brexit means hard Brexit, the pound is crashing and taking my hard earned savings with it. Day to day I’m sitting watching my savings decrease in value. It’s pretty much a pound to a euro over here, now, once you take into account transaction fees etc. It’s interesting to speak to people from other countries about the referendum. Everyone I’ve met has been just as shocked as I am.

Dave invited me to come with him to meet a mate of his. I shrugged and followed, and we got the U Bahn to way out in the city. We met Dave’s friend as we got off the train; a German called Dennis, who dressed head to toe in black and spoke softly. It turned out that Dave had been put in contact with Dennis by someone he met at the hostel, and Dennis was doing him an enormous favour by registering him at his flat. This doesn’t mean Dave was moving in, it just means that as far as official records go, Dave is no longer homeless in Berlin, and can therefore open a bank account and rent a flat. It’s a nice little trick of getting around the absolute red tape piss take of getting registered here. I need to find myself a similar charitable Berliner to register me.

The guys walked to a park. I assumed we were heading to Dennis’s place to chill and sort paperwork, but it seems they had other ideas. In the middle of the park, Dennis turned to Dave and mumbled “Here?”

Here what? What are we doing here? Why is no one telling me what’s going on? I asked and received a murmured response that I couldn’t make out, and I felt too awkward to ask again. So I just followed quietly and for the ten thousandth time in my life, quietly resigned myself to the fact that I was going to get mugged and/or bummed.

Dave agreed that this was a good spot, and they sat on a boulder beneath a tree. Around the edge of the park, there were various circling men, idling in dark corners. They are drug dealers, and you’ll find them in every park in Berlin. They look intimidating, however they seem fairly docile. They simply chirp ‘hashish?’ at you as you pass, and a simple ‘nein’ is enough to deter them.

As we sat on the boulder, Dave pulled out his little tin box and started rolling a joint. Oh thank Christ! They’re just doing drugs. I relaxed and leaned against a tree, my hair getting dripped on as I was the only one not wearing a cap. Dave handed me the joint, but I hadn’t seen what he’d put in it. I didn’t want to look like a 1950’s milk bottle glasses schoolyard dork in front of my cool new friends, so rather than do the sensible thing and ask what it was, I calmly took it and had a drag, hoping to fuck that it wasn’t something nefarious.

Please don’t be crack

Please don’t be crack

Please don’t be crack

It was weed. Okay. I had a couple of mouse’s drags because weed messes my head up, and left the rest to the guys. Dave and Dennis talked about everything from drum n bass to Plato, and I struggled to keep up, being less stoned and less cool. At one point they asked me what my favourite kind of music was, and I gave the aggressively boring answer, “oh, you know, I like a bit of everything to be honest.”

I’ve never seen two more blank stares.

We went to a café after, talked half an hour longer, then headed back. Have you ever tried to talk to a stoned person while you are not? Speaking to someone who’s so laid back they’re planking makes you feel like the most irritating, jumpy dick head in the world. On the U Bahn back to the hostel, every question I asked Dave was met with a one word answer or half laugh, after a 15 second delay while my words registered. I wanted to talk business, and figure out how to get my own address documents. He wanted to look at interesting patterns on his phone and talk about how amazing computers are.

I whiled away the rest of the day applying for flatshares. Evening came and the hostel filled up with people returning from their days exploring. The Austin girls headed out to a bar, and Tom and Bob stayed with me, chatting over beers. I am drinking too much in this hostel. There’s nothing else to do but drink and socialise!

Okay, an aside: I realise that last sentence is literally describing the best situation in the world. The only downside is that my money is ticking away. Which means my time here is ticking away. They say time is money. Right now, money means time.

Tom, Bob and I headed out to meet the girls at the bar. We found them in a snug little place near Schlesisches Tor, sipping cocktails out of pint glasses. We joined and spent the evening swapping horrendous stories and smoking inside. We realised that each of us has a shit tattoo somewhere, and rolled around laughing while comparing them.

We walked back via McDonalds, chilled in the hostel for a bit, and hit the hay. Every single day something happens. I love waking up each morning wondering where I will be that evening. Whenever things get tough, I always repeat the following mantra in my head: a lot can change in a day. In Berlin, a lot can change in a minute. I love it.