After sleeping in again (see a pattern here?), I crawled my way out of bed and cleaned myself up to go meet an acquaintance for lunch. In fact, this is the same guy that had been inadvertently responsible for the bizarre events of Tuesday night. We decided to meet at the lovely Café am neuen See in the Tiergarten, which serves pretty standard café fare, but in a beautiful outdoor forest / lake setting.
I hopped on the bike and rode my way to Tiergarten, parked my bike clumsily, and then sat down for a coffee and water while I waited for the other guy to show up. Once he arrived, we ordered some food (I got this interesting potato-cheese-sausage omelet called the Tiroler Baufrühstuck or something) and chatted for a while. From there, we made our way over to the street running between Brandenburger Tor and the Siegessäule to wait in line to see Barack Obama’s speech. He was slated to speak around 18h00, but you needed to get there by 16h00 to get within seeing distance of the stage.
We arrived and parked our bikes (to a tree!) just as they opened the barriers and let people in. You still had to pass a security checkpoint, so everybody started clotting around one of several sets of security points on either side of the street. They had metal detectors and they were going through everybody’s bag very carefully. After we waited in one line for what seemed like an eternity, they suddenly closed our security station and told everyone to move to another line. Apparently, some woman had left her purse behind, and now it was a bomb risk. Fuck.
We eventually made our way through, a bit annoyed for the trouble, and claimed a spot in the ever-enlarging crowd of people in front of the stage. We were maybe about 50m away from the stage, I think, right next to the media bleachers.
We were eventually joined by someone I had met at my roommate’s bon voyage party—who had been a previous tenant of my apartment—and one of his friends. The four of us sat down on the asphalt to take up more space (so that we wouldn’t be quite so squashed when we had to stand up for the speech) and amused ourselves by talking about pop culture and the atrocious fashion sense of the people around us.
There was a trio of (apparently) Nordic youngsters just in front of me who were an endless source of entertainment. There was one girl in a pretty but somewhat over-fancy white dress, and then two guys in clearly matching attire. Both wore black pointed ankle-boots, tight, tight jeans, identical black woven belts, black collared shirts tucked deeply into their jeans, wrap-around sunglasses, and the classic “Aryan Youth” haircut (short on the sides, longer on the top and combed across the forehead). They looked like some sort of outtake of a very bad euro-trance video. To add to the comedy, they were both surprisingly short (at least my height, which is super-short for Scandinavians) and rather slim except for rather prominent beer-bellies…which were only accented by the fact that they had tucked their shirts so firmly into their jeans. Since we were sitting and they were standing, we also couldn’t help but notice just how tight and…um….low-sperm-count-inducing their jeans were. Anyway, we kept ourselves entertained by making snarky remarks about them until things started to move on the stage.
At maybe 30 minutes before, security guards (Secret Service, I think) appeared on the stage, and everybody jumped up and pressed toward the stage, so we finally had to give up our seats. Which was fine, considering how sweaty we all were by then. Alas, sweaty also means that there were many people within sniffing distance who were not wearing deodorant, which made the whole speech experience a bit less entertaining.
Also, we were treated to an ongoing commentary by a man standing just behind us, who kept yelling “Barack!” as if it were a crow call. Although he was clearly German, the fact that he was black created a lot of parallels for me with the stereotypical “predominantly black movie theater” experience, as he shouted his opinion of nearly everything Obama said. Most of the time this was just “Yes!” but sometimes he would also rearticulate something Barack had said in German: “No more nuclear weapons!” “We are all a world community!” and so on. This wasn’t such a problem when his outbursts coincided with applause, but sometimes he talked right over Obama, which the rather silent white Germans and Americans around him didn’t so much appreciate.
Obama’s speech itself was pretty short and uneventful. At around 18h00, he was introduced very briefly by an offstage voice in German and English and then walked up onto the stage. This was a bit of a surprise, as I expected there to be a stream of dignitaries introducing him, but not even the town mayor spoke (although he and many others were there in a VIP area). Obama’s speech was pretty uncontroversial and didn’t really reveal anything new about his foreign policy. Nonetheless, the mere fact of him speaking publicly in Berlin (and to a HUGE crowd) was clearly newsworthy, as video of the speech was available online within minutes of the speech’s end.
After the speech, we spent nearly 30 minutes slowly following the crowd as it left the Siegssäule. The security people had put up fences all up and down the street running toward Brandenburger Tor, so it was a bit like a cattle run. Finally, people started dismantling the fences and the crowd started to bleed laterally into the surrounding park. We followed suit and found our bikes, and then we walked the rest of the distance at a leisurely pace through the park. From Brandenburger Tor, we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.
Martin Landsky / Kabale und Liebe at Weekend
Although I was a bit tired and not entirely in the mood to go out, Fantô, her GF, and her recently-arrived roommate were going out to Weekend bar, so I decided to come along. I got there early to avoid the line (around 0h30), and found myself getting hassled by the bouncer. When he asked me if I was coming in alone, I didn’t quite understand what he was saying and asked him to repeat himself; my accent apparently gave me away as a non-local, and he then started to quiz me on which DJs were spinning tonight. This eventually got me in, but it left me with a bad taste in my mouth, as the Weekend crowd (in my opinion) is usually the kind of people that get turned away from Berghain. On the other hand, that might also be why I was getting hassled; the look here was more “fancy” clubbing, exclusively heterosexual, and twenty-something. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but spend the rest of the night looking at people in the crowd with disapproval and thinking, “they let them in and I got hassled at the door?” Despite all of our strategies of self-presentation, there’s still no equivalent to a “Hi, I’ve been in this scene for 13 years, so let me in” t-shirt.
I eventually caught up with the same group of Frenchy folks from last night, along with the recent arrivals of Fantô’s roommate and a friend of his. Unfortunately, the 12th-floor area wasn’t open (which I saw the last time I was here), so we spent the night alternating between the 15th floor room (which is darker and has few windows) and the rooftop terrace. The terrace, though, was lovely. They had several sets of cushioned seats and a sunken bar, along with blankets to keep you warm and speakers along the wall, pumping out the music from below. I liked this space for the same reason as I liked Club der Visionäre: medium-volume techno that allows you to relax and talk, open-air terrace, cheap drinks. Nonetheless, the music wasn’t really inspiring me and I think I was tired out from the many hours I had spent in the sun, so by about 4h00 I headed back out and home.