Today I finally started feeling a bit more like a human being, although I was still coughing and hacking and otherwise sounding pretty sick. I slept in until the sun kicked me out of bed, then drank as much water as possible and tried to get some work done on the computer. I wrote some more bloggy stuff, helped my mom look at apartments in Paris for the X-mas season, and started teaching myself Turkish.
Yes, I got a copy of a certain language learning program recently, with a whole series of languages included. This is something like crack for a language nerd like me, as I can now teach myself how to say “The young woman has long hair” in Vietnamese if I like. Now, since I’m living in Neukölln, which is populated by a dense population of Turks, I decided to start teaching myself Turkish.
The language program works pretty darn well, using word-image and sound-image associations to help you learn vocabulary. The only problem is that it also tries to get you to learn grammar inferentially through the comparison of phrases and images, rather than explicitly explaining the mechanics. While this works well when you have an entire childhood to spend listening to your family speak and being corrected by your relatives, this is not so great for the adult learner trying to absorb the language in a few weeks or months. So, as a result I know these vague grammar things so far:
PRONOUNCIATION NOTES: A) an “i” without a dot over it (“ı”) is pronounced as a neutral vowel sound, sort of like “uh” or the sound we use in English to connect two consonants. B) “ğ” doesn’t really have a sound of it’s own, but instead lengthens the vowel before it. C) “c” is actually pronounced like a soft “g” (e.g., “gem”), while “ç” is pronounced “ch”. D) “ş” is pronounced “sh”. E) all umlauts (e.g. “ö”, “ü”) are pronounced as they would be in German.
1. There is some sort of oblique (i.e., non-nominative) case ending for direct objects and/or locations, which involves the enclitic “ın”
- oğlan — boy
- oğlanın üstünde top — The ball is on the boy.
2. Sometimes the adding of this case ending mutates the last consonant of the word, sometimes not. It’s not yet clear when or why.
- at — horse
- atın üstünde kız — The girl is on the horse.
- masa — table
- masanın altında oğlan. — The boy is under the table (note: an extra “n” is added before the case ending)
- üçak — airplane
- üçağin içinde oğlan — The boy is in the airplane (note: “k” turns into “ğ”)
3. The plural marker “-lar” is added both to the subject AND to the verb , BUT two singular subjects together are not marked as plural.
- kız yürüyor — The girl walks.
- kızlar yürüyorlar — The girls walk.
- adam ve kadın yürüyor — The man and the woman walk.
4. Most importantly, the number four is spelled “dört”, and is pronounced like “dirt” in English. Haha.
So there you go. I’ve certainly learned a lot, but sometimes I function under a certain assumption about grammar for quite a while before I figure out that I had just misunderstood it. For example, I thought “bir” was the copula verb—that is, the equivalent of “is” in the phrase “a is b”—until I later deduced that it means “one,” “a” or “an.”
Anyway, by evening I was feeling bad about having not left the apartment all day, and my body was almost back to normal, so I decided to head out and try the club Cookies, which is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Some of the Berlin natives that I’ve met have said that Cookies used to be their favorite club, so I was curious to see what they meant by that.
I had heard that it was a bit snobbier / lookish than the standard techno club, so I put on a collared shirt, some slim-fit jeans and my pair of leather ankle-boots and headed out. It was still a bit early in the evening and I hadn’t yet had dinner, so I wandered down Sonnenallee in my neighborhood and went to a Lebanese place that served some very cheap and reasonable sandwiches. I got me some kefta in flatbread and then headed back to the U-Bahn station. I wandered all the way from Hermannplatz to Kottbusser Tor, by which time it was 23h30 and it seemed like the right time to make a move, considering the place opened at 22h30.
The club (apparently in a “new” location) was a fair distance away from the other clubs in Berlin, right at the intersection of Friedrichstraße and Under den Linden. This is smack in the middle of Mitte, about 200m east of the Brandenburg Gate, which is otherwise populated by old pre-war and DDR-era administrative buildings, embassies, hotels, museums and some luxury shops.
The entrance to the club was hard to find at first, since you essentially walk down an alleyway and enter what appears to be an old cinema through the fire exit. I got past the door-woman and the bouncers, who were in the middle of giving some grief to a collection of young men trying to get in, paid the 6€ entry fee, and headed into the club.
The club was a bit small but potentially intimate, with a pleasingly retro minimalist wood-and-black-leather design. The space was still filling up at this point, but there were a few people already milling about. There was a rectangular bar near the entrance where they were serving really expensive drinks with poor-quality alcohol (6.50€ gin & tonic; 7€ rum & coke); I was pleased that they made the drinks stiff, but the liquor they were using had all the subtlety of gasoline.
I don’t know if I’ve been spoiled from my weekends in Berghain, but my near-instant reaction to the place was : “LAME!” This club had a more aspire-to-be-Wallpaper-magazine crowd, wearing “classy” designer outfits and trying desperately to pick each other up. The crowd was resolutely hetero and not especially interested in the music, as far as I could tell; they tended to treat the music as background noise for flirting / showing off.
Speaking of which, Kiki was already spinning when I got there and I hardly recognized him. As the French would say, he was spinning “n’importe quoi” (“whatever,” but with much more pejorative connotations), laying down a motley collection of deep house tracks with more of an ear for ambience than performance. This was miles away from the sort of crackling minimal set I’ve heard from him in past performances. I suppose he was playing to the crowd and making some money on what is usually an off-night, but nonetheless disappointing.
After sending text messages to Fantomette and a few other friends to tell them just how awful the whole thing was, I decided to stay for at least an hour and get a bit tipsy to make the night worthwhile. The highlight of the evening was having Nick Höppner (1/3 of MyMy and the musical manager for Berghain’s label, OstgutTon) show up with a companion and have a drink next to me. He was greeted by all the bar staff like a bit of a hero, then he lit a cigarette and disappeared into the “smoking area” down the hall.
Around 1h30, John called me to see what I was up to, and I took the opportunity to dash into the alleyway and tell him just how sucky the whole thing was. I had already finished my second drink, so wandered back out into the street and caught a night bus home.
So, Cookies sucked pretty hard, but I was sort of relieved as well. So far, most clubs that I had been to in Berlin had just been varying degrees of awesome; even Tresor’s disappointing crowd was balanced out by it’s amazing location. I was beginning to wonder if Berlin could do no wrong, so there was something reassuring in discovering that Berlin has some shitty clubs, just like anyplace else.