dimanche, mai 06, 2007

BerlinPartei Day 3: Elections and (other) Gay Stuff

So, after taking my somewhat fitful siesta from noon to 18h00, I got out of bed and started getting ready to go out again. D. and S. had invited me to join them at this French restaurant called La Cocotte (the dutch oven) to watch the French elections.

I got there just before 20h00, wandered in, and eventually found my friends. By the time I sat down, Sarkozy had already been announced the winner of the presidential election (over Ségolène Royal), so the mood in the restaurant was less than cheerful. We got our kir royales (the restaurant was offering free kir with your meal from 18h00-22h00) and chatted about politics for a bit. We were also joined by a friend of D. and S., who is currently studying in Berlin. We talked politics, reminisced about the night before, chatted about my PhD project as well as that of D. and S.'s friend, and tried lift our spirits with some wry jokes about Sarkozy. There's no space in this blog post to explain why a lot of French people are nervous / distraught about the election results, but you can look in pretty much any newspaper or politico-blog for the coverage.

Our meal was lovely, and by far the best thing I ate in Berlin (no surprise, considering I was constantly eating at food stands). I had an oeuf cocotte as an appetizer, which was two eggs in a miniature dutch oven, poached with a bit of black truffle. It was delicious and rich, but not too large. For my main dish I got the coq au vin, which was several pieces of a rooster, cooked slowly in a dutch oven with vegetables and a lot of wine. Again, delicious.

GMF at Café Moskau

[Photos taken from the Room Division design-house website.]

By midnight, we started getting ready for the next party: GMF at Café Moskau (click on "oeffnen" at the top of the page to load a ton of fantastic pictures as well as a history of the building). GMF is this interesting tranny-themed queer night that happens every Sunday. According to the boyfriend of the promoter, the night started out as a T-dance (a gay dance event, usually on Sundays, starts early and ends early-ish so that you can work on Monday), with a recurring theme of transvestite / transgender / transsexual DJs. Now, the event is more a club night (i.e., it starts around midnight and runs all night), with a ground-floor room that has a tranny DJ spinning pop / retro / diva tracks, and a basement level filled with more intense house or techno (more like a gay circuit club). The crowd was mostly gay and trans, with some straight girls and a few straight guys (lesbians, however, I saw more of at Berghain).

Thanks to D.'s connections, we got in for free and got a few drink tickets. We moved back and forth between the basement, the main floor, and the patio, taking in the fantastic socialist-futurist design of the whole place. Despite the fact that the music downstairs was generally closer to what we usually like to listen to, D. preferred hanging out upstairs with the tranny DJ, where she found the crowd to be more fun. Several times during the night, she would lean over to me and say, "You see, this crowd is clearly having fun. This is what Panorama and Berghain used to be like when I was here." D. had lived in Berlin for a year a while ago (which is how she had all these connections), and although we all had fun at Berghain the night before, she insisted that the crowd had shifted. By her estimation, the crowd had become less friendly and festive. People at Berghain and Panorama Bar still partied hard and stayed up all night, but they weren't necessarily having fun and being social.

What brought these observations on was that D., on her way back from getting a drink, passed two gay guys, one of whom touched her cheek and told her she was "so niedlich" ("so cute"). That sort of casual, friendly touching and sociality between strangers was something that she missed at Berghain last night. Indeed, the impression I got was that the primary way that she was evaluating the crowds at these various events was by how strangers interacted with each other.

And speaking of touch and intimacy, I noticed some differences in how men touch each other at clubs here in comparison to Paris. Whereas in Paris, I noticed pretty frequently groups of otherwise straight men engaging in forms of homoerotic play that seemed like the male-male version of Girls Gone Wild™, straight men here in Berlin generally didn't engage in any erotic way. Certainly, there was a lot of hugging (which doesn't have the sexual charge it does in France) and arm-slinging, but the only ass-grabbing, grinding, kissing or fondling I saw between men was between gay men who weren't just pretending to be sexually interested. That much being said, I also saw a lot less uninvited touching between men and women. It wasn't that there weren't men and women getting hot and heavy, but rather that the very forward girl-chasing / touching that you see in a lot of Paris clubs was harder to find here in Berlin.

Anyway, I hung out with S. and D. until 4h00 and then started heading back to my hotel. It was a rather long walk back to Alexanderplatz, and the trains were slow in coming, so I didn't get to sleep until about 5h30...

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