In Berlin it’s the norm to move into a naked apartment. Meaning if you want to avoid sleeping and eating on the floor, you’d be best to sort some furniture out for yourself ASAP! I found myself confronted with this small dilemma when my one month sublet for Henricks room was up. Luckily, Matthius (another flatmate) was moving out of his room on the same day, so needless to say I decided to take his room, a bigger, more spacious room which comes with a balcony over looking Karl-Marx Strasse. The move was planned for Monday morning.
Rewind to Saturday evening when I was frantically scouting the net for some furniture over a chilled beer and a box of smokes that were quickly disappearing. A friend had suggested to check out ‘Craigs List’, a well known American website where you could do some wheeling and dealing which was exactly what I was looking for.
I saw an advert saying, ‘contents of bedroom must go’. I immediately grabbed the phone and called them up. 20mins later I was around in the English couples apartment claiming my stake on the contents of their bedroom. I took everything except the shabby 1980’s wall paper that by the looks of it had been gradually peeling from the day it was slapped on! There was a massive wardrobe which they offered for free saying it was payment enough just to get it out of there. I knew that Matthias had been on the prowl for such an item but hadn’t had much luck. I also knew he had organized a rental van to move his gear to his new apartment on Monday morning.
The cogs began to turn in my head. If I could convince Matthias to take the wardrobe he could pick it up on Monday morning, along with my newly purchased furniture before heading back to our apartment and dropping it off, then I could help him load his stuff. He gets a wardrobe and I get my stuff delivered free of charge, everyones happy!! I mentioned the wardrobe to him when I get home that night. He liked the idea but wanted to see it for himself, so I arranged a visit back to the English couple the following day with Matthias in hope he’d dig it.
Sunday afternoon we roll on over and he sizes up the wardrobe like a magpie who has just spotted shiny tinfoil. After some close inspection by the tall narrow German the deal is done!! ‘We’ll be here at 10:30 in the morning with a van to load it all’ he said. Delighted with our find we thought it appropriate to go for a celebratory drink…
Rise and shine Monday morning with a thumping hangover after our one celebratory drink which lasted the entire evening, anyway the less said the better! As arranged Matthias went to pick up the wagon at the rental depot. I decided a combination of The National’s ‘Boxer’ (great album) in my head phones and a slight breeze on my face would be the trick to get my head out of my arse, so I took the bike. The soothing sounds and breeze was working a treat, that was until some Turkish guy decides to walk out from between two big vans without looking up or down the street… BANG… MY HEAD HIS NOSE!!! I’m hurdled across the handle bars landing a good 3 or 4 meters away, while he’s in a heap on the road holding his nose as the blood is flowing down his face. I quickly get to my feet and go to pick him up but he gestures not to touch him. A passerby picks up my bike and brings it to the side of the road. There was a state of confusion in the air as I checked my body parts were all still attached. I was more concerned about the Turkish man as he was the one loosing blood, but I quickly realised that he was a hypercondriac of the biggest degree.
He immediately demands my name and address, which I refused to give. Like some lil spoiled child in the play ground, he then threatens to call the cops, as though he was going to get me arrested for his lack of awareness. Tension at this stage is beginning to grow as onlookers gather on the street each with an inquisitive look on their face. In the distance I heard an elderly woman ask the woman next to her what had happened? To which she replies ‘I saw the guy on the bike punch that poor man, he must have broken his nose’. Bloody hell I thought this is a conspiracy!! ‘Go ahead and call the cops, you’re the one who walked out in front of me’, I said. I then thought Christ if the cops are called they’re either going to have a right laugh at the situation, or else going to be pissed off at the fact their time is being wasted, the latter being the most probable outcome .
The shock is beginning to hit me and I feel myself getting a bit shaky, he notices this and decides to exploit it, by asking me for ID. I half heartily reach for my wallet and then say, “No… I have none on me”!! He then walks to the shop window in an attempt to see his nose which I could tell wasn’t a picture of beauty in the first place. It wasn’t broken, I knew that much, as I’ve seen a few broken noses in my time after the local junior ‘hopp bopps’ as a youth, with my dear friend Grealzer being at the receiving end of most impact punches. He got his nose splatted across his face more times than I care to remember. In fact, he’s sporting a broken nose and two black eyes in his debz(grad ball) picture, which is proudly hanging on the wall of his parents house greeting you as you walk in the front door.
He walks back to me having checked his swollen nose and says, ‘give me ten euro and I won’t call the cops’. This was like red to a bull, ‘You cheeky bastard’, I said ‘if anything you should be giving me ten euro, go ahead call the cops’. The crowd growing in size now, I suddenly remember that Matthias is waiting at the apartment with the van as I reach into my pocket and see his name come up on the screen of my phone. Im also thinking, if he calls the cops it’s going to take a good 30mins/hour to sort out this mess, which could easily be avoided by swallowing my pride and giving him the 10 euro. I just want to point out at this stage, it wasn’t the 10 euro that annoyed me, it was the principle of it! I reached into my pocket and took out a 10euro note in an attempt to avoid the delay and hassle. With gritted teeth I hand over the tenner, telling him that he was a fraud and if I ever saw him again I’d run him over on my bike and I certainly wouldn’t be stopping.
Of course I didn’t mean it, but man was I pissed off. He had just put a saddle on my back and rode me like a Grand National prize winner at the odds of 10/1. But what could I do….? If I had the time I would have stayed and fought my corner for sure!!
I got back on my bike and went on my way like a grumpy Homer Simpson, uttering absentees to myself.
I eventually got over my frustration and got the entire contents of my room for 70euro, yep you heard right 70euro. A kingsize bed, desk, 3 chairs, 2 bedside lockers and 2 lamps among another few bits and pieces. So the way I look at it now is, the tenner I got rode for, I gained back on the deal I did for the furniture, so all is well that ends well I suppose!!!
You’ll find many a bike in Berlin, like most major European Cities, you quickly realise that the two wheel method of transport is so much more effective than that of the four wheel. The Bicycle, mans best friend, after the dog (but you cant ride him) and of course, there’s the old reliable for so many moons out on the prairie, the horse. But you gotta feed and water him, so you might as well have a needy wife at home screaming for the gas money you worked so hard for!
The bicycle of Berlin comes in many different forms, some small, some big, some that’ll blow your mind with speed… Hmmm!
My mate Mike traded a hefty sum of 35 euro the other day, for his first bike in the Northern Hemisphere. He’s an Ozzy, who’s been living here six months, currently working on an extension of his Visa. Hope he gets it. The cat’s got great licks on the six-string banjo. So anyway, he’s playing with this band. After the jam, he’s asked if he wants a bike. To which he responds in typical Ozzy fashion, “Fuckin’ right I want a bike, been haulin my ass all round town on the U-bahns, dodging fares like a fox dodging the fucking hunt”… “OK, here you go”!!
Mike arrived up to me this afternoon on a Communist Western Berlin two-wheeler with those big handle bars, that even a red neck from the deep south of Carolina would find it hard to pull on. Only thing missing was the usual farting noise that comes out the back. A kind of Brmm Brmm Brmm, with a purposefully appointed breathing space between each Brmm in order for it to catch its breath for the next few meters of flat ground. Guitar on his back, he didn’t give a shite! He had his bike.
An independent man of 27 yrs of age, 3 gears, fast, slow and stop, and of course the old back pedal brake. Designed for those nasty moments of induced courage when you do occasionally feel the trust of down hill force while encountering a gradual decline. Unlike those, one may find in Glasgow. Getting caught on the street of Glasgow during a down pour, you’ll be lucky if your new converse are still on your feet by the time you hit the front door.
A distinct colour of purple with a little bell that tinker would be proud of. Like most German inventions strategically placed between the brake and the middle of the handle bars, meaning, if you do have to ‘TING’ some one out the way, you have to quickly decide. Do I warn them with my ‘TINKER’ bell, or do I slow down. Movement of hands are restricted at high speed remember. Doesn’t sound much of a big deal, but in a split second decision, the usual out come is a TINK… “GET OUT OF THE FUCKIN WAY”… BANG… “IM SO SORRY… WAS THERE A CHILD IN THAT PRAM”. See what I mean? Not good, not good at all!
But of course, we have the back pedal brake. Bless the back pedal brake. The savior of all infants, traveling the streets of Berlin, in their mobile bedroom of everlasting comfort of continental under sheets. Bless the back Pedal!
His guitar on his back, hair loosely blowing in the wind I saw a new, and less spooked Ozzy approach me, conscious of the fact that he had no need to pay the required fare of 2 euro 30 cent for his journey above ground on his new wagon, contrary to that of his travels under ground. Who could blame him? He proudly chained her up, with the chain he had bought for more than the purchased amount of the bike. He stood back and said, “Well, what you think?” To which I rhetorically replied, “Is it in tune?”
I’ve not got my hair cut in, well… I suppose, the last 6 months or so, at which time I was in the comfortable surrounding of my good friend Glen, who has cut my hair since I began caring what I looked like. I’d rock up to Glen in the shop and he’d kindly, and discreetly fit me in between a perm and a wedding booking, which was probably back dated from the day the ring was produced. Yeah that’s Glen, always got a chat and a good joke to send you on your way with a smile on your face and a new hair do on your head!
Today I spotted a Turkish barbers shop just around the corner from my apartment, so I decided to go for the chop. With nothing more than a verb or two of German, and a mop of hair your mother would gladly take to the floor, I took my place in the orderly cue and waited my turn.
While sitting there, I was exposed to the ritual, which is, a Turkish gentleman’s hair cut, shave, and what I found more intriguing, a waxing of the nose follicles (accompanied by running watery eyes non the less!!) and a facial massage, which left the 40 something year old man in a state of total ecstasy. His son sitting next to me witness to the trade of a skilled barber, a skill I’m sure that was observed by his dad in the chopping chair as a boy, and his dad before him.
I was there to get my haircut, no nostril hair singeing, no massage and certainly no half arsed attempt of a shave, like the one I got in Cairo from an apprentice barber who had more hair on the sole of his foot than he had on his face. I wanted to a haircut, plain and simple!!
When it came to my turn, I obediently jumped into the adjustable chair, still fitted for the shorter man before me, but quickly rectified by a pump of the trusty right foot of the barber bringing it to a hugging fit for a man of my size.
The barber, a man in his 30’s, no stranger to a scissors or blade, took the command and began to lighten the load for me! The fastest metal on metal taken to a man’s head I’ve ever seen, more importantly it was my head, a head which I quite like and have grown a costume to through out the years. At one stage I closed my eyes and wished it was all over, by some miraculous twist in the story, I imagined I’d wake up in my bed thinking, ‘shit, don’t think I’ll get my hair cut today’…IF ONLY!! I’m making out as though this guy took lumps out of my head, but on the contrary, he was a master of his trade. Elegantly and skillfully working the scissors like some seasoned Parisian painter working the brush on a canvas. Every stroke with purpose and intent to achieve his final masterpiece, my new hair do!
Before I knew it, I was done and handing over the ten Euros he charged me for his services. Ten Euros!!!! On one hand I felt like some villain, on the other, I felt trialed, hung and quartered. I didn’t mind though, I came out of that lil barbers shop with a well-oiled spring in my step. Occasionally slowing down and glancing in the window reflections as one does when first leaving a barbers establishment. He even gave me some good old fashioned Dax!!
Yep I got it!!!
The ritual that is, a Turkish hair cut.