I always start these diary entries in the same way and I’m gosh darned bored of it. So here’s my newest introductory paragraph:
See that^^^^? 100% Original. OG literature. Mark Twain said there is no such thing as a new idea. Well, I just proved him wrong. You’re full of shit, Twain.
What’s that? Joyce already did it?
Fuck’s sake. Fine. Whatever.
The weekend that we now leave behind us, presently and pleasantly receding effervescently, away, away into the misty foams of memory, was one of incalculable importance to my everloving soul. In a pinecone: it were right proper wicked fun.
Friday bore down upon me as I sat at my desk twitching and giggling from far too much coffee. My tolerance for caffeine is low. My tolerance for just about everything is low, with the exceptions being booze and heartbreak. The minute hand finally ascended, the strock cluck six, and I exploded from behind my desk with the kinetic energy of a swarm of coked up guinea pigs (meerschweinchen, auf Deutsch). I slithered into the kitchen and raided the beer fridge, as always, and settled in the warm-ish courtyard downstairs with my colleagues.
Two friends of mine joined me for the free office booze; Heleen, my old pal who you’ll find in these diaries if you browse back a few months, who I really need to see more of because she truly is a rare delight; and Annie, my newest friend and fast becoming one of my favourite human beings. Together with my work colleagues Zoe and Aisling, who are both hopping wonderful and hail from South Africa and Ireland respectively, we sat on the concrete and drank many-a-beer until we were nicely squiffy and eye-crossed and liver-rotted and glad.
Heleen had to take flight before long, and after she had vamoosed Aisling showed us her latest purchase: a little can of pepper spray. Aisling lives in a quiet part of the city, tower blocks and shadowy parks, and she hates walking home alone at night. She’s pretty in the kind of way that makes creepy men feel the need to linger around her; in fact they’ve gone so far as to grab her before, whereupon they have received a swift knee to the ballocks. The spray should keep her safe through the long winter nights to come.
She kept showing us the spray and I kept diving out of the way of its spout, as if it were a gun. I was paranoid it’d go off in my eyes. My face is a football magnet; might as well be a mace magnet too. We wanted to test it out, spray it somewhere, but daren’t try it on office grounds. At 9pm we all left the vicinity, Zoe, Aisling, Annie and I, and about 20 metres behind us everyone else was leaving too, in a big drunken rabble. As we walked past a parked car, Aisling casually sprayed it with the mace, and we shrugged in unison as it seemed to do nothing more than the average aerosol can. The mist dissipated, and that was the end of that. Huh. Pretty wild.
We walked on, and stopped to wait for the rest of the office to catch up, around 20 people. We turned, and then we noticed one of them sneeze. And then another. And then another. Then came the coughing, then the eye rubbing and spluttering and doubling over. Up ahead, the four of us turned to one another in tense silence.
“Aisling…” I murmured. “I think you just pepper sprayed the whole office.”
And then I was shrieking and hooting with laughter, bent double in the street, flopping all over while Aisling was panicking.
“Jaysus, aw feck it, feck, I’m going to be fired for sure… awwww shite! Dan, you’ve got to say it was you, please!”
I told her to relax, between helpless giggles, and when our choking colleagues caught up with us asking what the hell that was, we just shrugged and said we couldn’t smell anything at all. How odd indeed. How frightfully peculiar.
We parted there with Zoe and Aisling who went on their merry ways to partake in other nighttime shenanigans, and I accompanied Annie back to hers for a beer and foodstuffery. Annie is a wicked cook, and lambasts me on the daily for my disdain for all things culinary. I cook carrots and broccoli and potatoes and fish and I put gravy on it all and that provides me with all the nutrients I need, aaight? Food is fuel to me, food is joy to her. She uses a lot of garlic; her flat always smells of it. I told her this when we entered, because I’m tactful and suave like that, then sat on her bed and popped open a beer that we looted from the office.
Annie had a big ass giant mega DJ set that evening at Ohm, her favourite venue. Fuck knows how she got it – I’ve friends here who have worked for months, years even, and have never got anywhere close to as prestigious a gig. In fact, actually, strike that. I do know how she got it – she works bloody hard, harder than just about anyone I’ve ever met. In all the world, I know maybe two individuals that could match her work ethic – my dad, and an old girlfriend of mine.
Any other DJ I’ve met, their music may be a passion, but it takes the form of a hobby or a vague dream. For Annie, it’s a driving force, it’s everything; she lives and breathes it, always thinking about it, always scribbling down ideas or drumming away on her thighs while we sit and chat in her room. She has a to-do list on her phone that runs on for pages and pages, and she actively updates it and checks things off, and it’s this obsessive, endearingly neurotic approach that has sealed her success. Nothing is left to chance. She would smash the set at Ohm, I knew she would, but she was nervous – she’d wanted to play the venue for years.
She was making us pasta for dancing energy, and I stood sipping my beer as she chopped the broccoli, dashing over to her mixer to line up the next track playing every couple of minutes. I warned her she was going at the broccoli rather aggressively, and that she should be careful not to cut herself because she would need functioning hands for her set. She shrugged me off however, so I shrugged right back and sat back down, whereupon, after perhaps eleven seconds, I heard a yelp.
I sighed very, very loudly, slowly peered back around the corner, and saw, with breath-draining inevitability, Annie stood over the sink washing blood off of her neatly sliced thumb. She never listens, that girl. I wasn’t sure whether to be smug or sincere, so kind of settled in the middle: “Oh no, you’re injured, you blithering oaf. Oh well, here, let’s run some cold water over it. Does it hurt? Do you need a plaster, you big massive idiot?”
It didn’t stop bleeding for ages, so I finished the slicing and dicing and whatnot. We ate, and just before 11pm I took my leave, leaving Annie stood with her thumb thrust into the ice of the freezer. She assured me she’d still be able to manage her set.
I got the U8 to Moritzplatz, to Prince Charles, where another friend of mine, Kike, coincidentally had a gig the same night. I got in free on her guestlist. The bloody doormen still gave me a hard time and made me wait around, despite the fact that there was no queue, there was nobody inside, and I was friends with the DJ. Meh. Nobody had turned up yet as the club had just opened, and so I stood with Kike on the decks and she gave me a couple of free drinks vouchers which I used on white wine, for some reason. White wine at a grime gig, I dunno.
Dave arrived before long and we danced together on the ghostly dancefloor like the two whitest can’t-dance dweebs on the continent, but it makes no matter because we were supporting our mate. Kike’s set ran from 11 to 12.30am, which was convenient because that’s when Annie’s started. I bounced out of PC at midnight and barreled up the road to Ohm half-cut, skipping the U Bahn and opting to go on foot for some fresh air, running the risk of getting lost. Dave ducked out en route because he was tired and horny (he said the first, I assume the second), and I went alone to Ohm.
I got in free on Annie’s guestlist and found her already on the decks. I crept behind and gave her a squeeze on the arm to tell her I’d shown up, and she gave me a brief smile in the middle of her mixing, or whatever it is that DJ’s do. I’ve got a million pals who DJ it seems, but I’ve no idea what any of the lingo is or how it works.
I stood at the front to dance with another white wine. Incredibly, adhering to a drunken promise we’d made hours before (just after she maced everyone) Aisling had showed up too. She was with another girl from the office, Christina (Sp? She’s Danish. Could be spelled any old way). We hugged and danced and Annie. Fucking. Killed it.
I’ve been privileged enough to watch a lot of my friends play sets, and it always makes me so happy. Is there anything so wonderful as seeing someone you care about completely in their element, doing what they do best, looking so totally assured and comfortable? No, there is not. Whether it’s sports or music or public oration, whatever, seeing your friends excel is one of life’s much-overlooked little joys. I could see she was loving every second, and it made me feel incredibly proud to know her. And she had a plaster on her thumb, pahahah.
Then it made me feel a little sad, because I realised that what I’m good at is writing, and nobody ever stands in awe of a slouched body sitting there tap tappa typing away on a laptop. It’s a solitary, introspective vocation that offers no immediate spectacle and doesn’t exactly warrant rounds of applause. Maybe nobody would ever look at me with the wonder and reverence that was gushing out of me presently. I realised this as I was dancing and it made me a little sad, but I gave the thought the boot because I was there to support my friend and anyway, this is who I am. And there’s always the chance I’m wrong. It’s lovely to think I could be wrong. That old Stone Roses song pops into my head: I Wanna Be Adored, and I think yeah, that’d be nice, just one time.
After the set finishes I hug Annie and she’s buzzing; pure post-set ecstasy. We dance and drink and after a while decide to go catch Kike. We trek back to the other club and find her still behind the decks, while another DJ has taken over. The place is lit. We say hi and dance but I don’t last too long because I’ve been drinking for hours and hours and I’m a puddle.
I nod off at the side of the dancefloor and wake up to find Annie prodding me and I’m mortified, I’ve probably been slumped with my mouth open looking catastrophic, but she assures me it’s fine. Then we bid farewell to Kike because Annie wants to finish the night in Ohm. We mooch back up the street but I’m so ruined I can only walk at one mile an hour, and Annie has to babysit me, for as I’ve said before and I’ll say again, I am naught but a wasteman.
Back at Ohm, we dance and I drink more wine for some reason, argh, and I begin to flag around 6am. I say goodbye, leave Annie dancing, and mooch back. Get home 7am mit ein grosse McDonalds I apparently acquired from somewhere without really noticing.
I usually find a nice karmic endpoint for these entries, but I don’t know with this one. Life is just very, very pleasant these days, and I feel extremely lucky to know this mismatched bunch, such talent-wrung, funny-boned, joy-bleeding, kickstart-upbeat, cackling stupid, rev-and-fly love-sewn, offbeat, timely and wonderful people. Dave, Annie, Kike, Heleen, Zoe, Aisling and everyone else – you guys set the city on fire.
So just… thanks. Really, really, thanks.
Oh, and check Annie’s music here, and Kike’s radio show here. Wicked wicked.
2 thoughts on “The Berlin Diaries – Blinding My Boss”
A bevy of expats in Berlin. Free beer. Pepper spray. What could go wrong?
Don’t feel bad that you’re a good writer…which reminds me: Please read my Tales of Old Beijing posted on Saturday, which nobody noticed, and I cried.
Thanks man! I’ll have a read now 😉