samedi, avril 11, 2009

Snax Club, Berghain, Picnics and Fisting

Yes, all of this and more in today's post!

Having gotten home at the relatively early hour of 8h00 in the morning, I slept until about 13h00, when it was time to start getting ready for the day ahead of me. Florian and I were going to a picnic to celebrate the birthday of a friend of his, and then I was supposed to meet Bob, Donna and Janine at another Frenchy friend’s place for crêpes, and then off to the clubs for a night/morning/day of partying.

Florian and I had been given the task of making potato salad, and of course we were determined to make it the best potato salad ever. We headed over to Lidl to get some supplies, and then went back to his place to get to work. I made some mayo from scratch, replacing the vinegar with the juice of a lime and adding quite a bit of Dijon mustard. In addition to a finely diced onion, and some yogurt, we also threw in Bärlauch (leaves of Bear’s Garlic or wild garlic), which is a leafy herb that looks like basil but smells and tastes like garlic. By the end of it all, we had some very tasty kartoffelsalat.

By about 17h00 we were heading over to the birthday picnic, which was being held in a park near Zionskirche in Mitte. The birthday girl turned out to be Canadian (from Ottawa), as did her boyfriend (also Ottawa). There were four other friends in attendance, including a couple of Anglophones and two Germans (and some kids, of course).

The spread for the party was great and pretty vast, including piles of sparkling wine, meatballs made by someone’s German grandma, a carrot cake that could bring you to tears (with an icing that tasted like cookie dough with pudding consistency), hummus, tabouleh, and several other savories. At one point, I managed to put my plate on the bench, stand up to help someone with something, and then sit right back down on my plate, tomato sauce and all. I had the pleasure of asking Florian to help me wipe my butt, which prompted jokes about turning into an incontinent old couple. The picnic ended up running a lot longer than I had expected, eventually passing over to candlelight drinking in the park and then drinks at a Frenchy bar nearby (I think it was called “Visite ma Tante” or something).

By about 22h30, I made my move, hoping that I could still make it to my friend’s place in time to join them for crêpes. I was actually too full of carrot cake to eat anything, but I still wanted to hang out with them before heading out.

I had to run by Florian’s place first to change clothes and drop off some stuff, so that made me even more late for the crêpe party. I got to our friend’s place in Neukölln just before midnight, too late to join in the crêpes (not that I was hungry anymore), but in time to get some drinks in me and chat with the Frenchy Krew. Bob & Donna were planning to go home and nap and then hit Panorama Bar later, while Janine was going to go to Watergate to check out Steve Bug. Our host was going to stay in tonight (after having been at an outdoor party all day), but he invited us to join him at another outdoor event Sunday afternoon.

My plan was to spend the night at Berghain, starting with the Snax Club event and then moving up to PanoramaBar to meet my friends when they got there. Snax Club only happens once a year and none of us had ever been to it (indeed, 50% of our group couldn’t go, since it’s “men only”), so we spent a lot of time extrapolating about what it might be like. Here’s everything that we could gather from descriptions and information on the club’s website:

  • It happens once a year on Easter weekend
  • The doors between the PanoramaBar and Berghain rooms are shut and the ones between Berghain and Lab.Oratory are opened, essentially shrinking the space reserved for “normal” / “straight” clubbing to PanoramaBar, while expanding the sexclub portion of the building to two rooms.
  • It’s men-only, and is billed as a “pervy party,” which seems to imply that the sexual play will not be limited to a couple of darkrooms.
  • Lab.Oratory is reputed to be the most hard-core (gay) fetish sexclub in Berlin, with every night being devoted to some form of kink, including fisting, piss, scat, s/m, and numerous other fixations.

So with that, we imagined a nightclub space with lots of groping and grabbing on the dancefloor, lots of shirtless and nearly-nude guys, the stench of sweat and poppers, and a fair bit of fucking on the sidelines. Of course, since this is Berlin, this was all a vast underestimation of what was really going to take place there.

We hopped into a cab at about 1h30 to get our nights started, with plans to drop off Janine at Watergate, then me at Berghain, and then Bob&Donna at their hotel nearby. When we stopped at Watergate, Janine saw that the bouncer was one that she knew and so she managed to negotiation a line-pass for all of us. I was still determined to check out Snax Club, but Bob & Donna jumped out of the cab to follow Janine into the club.

Round One: Snax Club @ Berghain/Lab.Oratory

So there was no small amount of confusion about which lineup to take to get into the club tonight. Normally, there’s just one easily-visible lineup that gets you into Berghain/PanoramaBar, and then there’s a side entrance that the clientele of Lab.Oratory use, which never has much of a visible lineup. Add to this the fact that Lab.Oratory usually only has its doors open for a couple of hours between 22h and 24h (to encourage everyone to show up at the same time and get it on), and you can see why most Berghain-loving clubbers are used to just showing up and standing in the first line they see.

So tonight was confusing, because there was a MASSIVE lineup heading towards one door, and then at the same time you have a much shorter line heading towards the door that leads up the staircase to PanoramaBar. When I first got into the Snax Club line, I turned to a girl standing behind me and said, “Am I in the right line, here? I’m pretty sure this is for Snax Club.” It was her first night going to Berghain, so she was totally lost and about to spend an hour waiting to get into the wrong party. Thankfully, a few meters ahead, there was a bouncer checking to make sure that people were in the right line. He said, in a thick German accent, “Hier ist a fetisch partei, dere ist normaler partei.”

I should have been paying closer attention to what the bouncer was saying.

While waiting in line, I befriended a short little Spaniard from Valencia and a couple of statuesque Sicilians (one of which was pretty damn hot) among whom we all chatted in a mongrel mix of Spanish and Italian. One of the Sicilians had lived in Argentina for a while, so conversation quickly turned to “why the rest of the Hispanophone world can’t stand Argentines,” which got pretty boring pretty quickly.

So when we got to the front of the line, a guy in front of us had a brief exchange with the bouncer, and then he dropped his pants to show that he was wearing a jockstrap underneath. I wasn’t paying close attention to the conversation, but that started to set off some red lights in my head. And then, the Sicilian couple in front of me ran into some trouble:

Bouncer: What are you going to wear inside?

Sicilian Dude: What do you mean?

B: This is a fetish party. You can’t go in looking like that. Do you have a jockstrap or something?

SD: No, but we can take off our shirts or something…

B: Where’s the fetish in that? No. Go home and change into something fetish and you won’t have to wait in line; I’ll let you right in. But you’re not getting in like that.

Well fuck. I’m certainly not dressed in anything approaching fetish gear. I let the little Spaniard next to me go ahead of me and keep the bouncer busy while I pondered my options. I had to think fast, as the Spaniard’s military-style cargo pants were apparently getting him in without much comment. I suppose I could just go to PanoramaBar and forget Snax Club, but I should at least try to negotiate with the bouncer here, in the hopes that he might let me jump the Pano line if he turns me away. Also, this is the bouncer with the lip piercing that has let me jump the line twice before, so there’s a chance that he might be lenient with me. Nonetheless, offering to take off my shirt wasn’t likely to work, especially since he just sent away two guys who had offered the same thing. Clearly, I’m going to have to double-down on the nudity.

Me: I’ll go naked.

Bouncer: What?

LMGM: I don’t own any fetish gear, but I can strip naked. A lot of guys are going to do that, anyway.

B: Hm, well, totally naked? Seriously?

LMGM: Totally. I promise. I might keep my shoes on, mind you.

B: Um yeah, you’d best keep those shoes on. Alright, go in.

Phew. I wasn’t sure what I had gotten myself into, but I (correctly) assumed that the coat check wasn’t within the line of sight of the door, so the bouncer wasn’t likely to check on me to see that I was vollnakt. I asked the guy at the ticket booth whether I could use the same ticket to get into PanoramaBar later, and he said I would get half price. Not ideal, but fair, I suppose.

I checked my jacket and scarf, and also threw in my brightly-coloured t-shirt, leaving just my undershirt, which seemed more appropriate for the evening. Indeed, everyone else was in fetish gear, especially of the sort that was either made of a few straps of leather or had the ass cut out of it. Lots of piercings and tattoos and bare chests and jockstraps and facial hair and hey, is that guy actually fingering his partner in the coat-check line?

So that’s how the evening started. I actually found myself taking off my shirt within an hour or so and stuffing it into my shoulder bag. The vast majority of guys were at least shirtless (if not much more), so I felt a bit out of place with my titties covered. I’m not one for stripping, but I felt like I was completely clothed, compared to the folks around me.

So how to describe the scene at Snax Club? Well, to put it concisely, these folks don’t fuck around. They sure do fuck a lot (and lick, and suck, and fist, and many other things), but they sure don’t do it halfway.

To begin with, the Lab.Oratory floor, which usually serves as a sexclub on regular nights:

  • There was grabbing and groping and necking on the small-ish dancefloor in the center of the complex, with the occasional bit of oral sex and fingering at the edges of the crowd.
  • Take any one of the hallways leading out from the dance area to hit the darkrooms / orgy spaces, which are massive and labyrinthine.
  • To the right of the dancefloor is a hallway with a sort of sling-gallery; there are a alcoves with slings in them, each one filled with a guy taking one or two fists up his ass and/or cock. The air is pretty ripe with the smell of sweat and lube (but to the fistees’ credit, not a whiff of feces).
  • Further down the hallway is the famous bathtub. It stands there, alone in an alcove, a testament to the more raunchy practices of this sexclub. The bathtub serves as a place for piss and scat play, from what I understand. Tonight, there’s a guy in a full-body gimp suit lying in the tub, but nobody seems to be doing anything about it. I watch where I step and move on.
  • The hallway comes to an end and branches off to the left and the right. The right leads to a dead-end corner where some guys are standing around jerking off and looking at each other. The left branch leads to the massive orgy space behind the dancefloor proper.
  • In the large space behind the dancefloor, they’ve put in a “special theme playground,” which is made to look like a construction site. There’s a concession truck parked in the middle being used to sell drinks, and then there’s a sort of tent to the left that has been divided into various cubicles by PVC sheeting to create semi-private spaces. To the right is a labyrinth of netting and plastic sheeting, with a couple of construction-site office trucks parked in the corners and a large plastic kiddie-pool that is currently being used for piss play (at least, that’s what it smells like). Again, I watch out for puddles and push on.
  • There are some toilets in one corner of the building (for those who prefer not to do it on someone’s slave).
  • Near the entrance, there’s a nondescript stairway that leads up to a gallery space where a couple of “cages” have been set up, so that guys can engage in prison-sex fantasies or maybe show off while assuring that enthusiastic fans won’t grab at them.

Now, on to Berghain, which is not normally a sexclub, although the gay crowd there still tends to be pretty hot & sleazy on regular nights:

  • The dancefloor was unchanged, and the only major difference was that there was much more nudity than usual on the dancefloor.
  • They hung sheets in the seating area near the bar (where the swing is) and along the catwalk that goes across the back of the room, creating a series of darkly-lit corners and half-hidden spaces for sexual play. There certainly is some sex going on, but it’s not quite as hard-core as downstairs.
  • Every once in a while, somebody gets head or a rim-job while ordering his drink
  • The darkrooms are densely packed and full of fucking, especially the darkroom area on the main floor. I tried to walk through and get a good look, but I couldn’t even get through the press of bodies.
  • Thanks to the fact that you could have sex pretty much anywhere, the bathrooms were uncharacteristically quiet and free of sex-related detritus.

I kept on moving around from one floor to another, and too often to really keep track of DJ sets, but Ben Klock put in a good (if somewhat overly violent) set in Berghain, followed by an excellent set by nd_baumecker. Boris was spinning for a while in Lab.O, which was pretty unexciting, but I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of his work.

I did manage to make the acquaintance of a nice Italian chap, who managed to keep me entertained (along with a dude from Australia) for a substantial portion of the evening. We traded phone numbers and email addresses, and I now have a standing invitation to visit London, England. Yay, intimacy! It was pretty hilarious, explaining the topic of my dissertation to this guy in this context.

Round Two: Panorama Bar

9h00-12h00: Daniel Stefanik

By about 9h00, it was time to head over to Panorama Bar. My friends were planning to get there around then, and I was getting a bit tired of all of the mansex. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for the hedonist fun, but I was having a hankering for being in a place where I could sit down or lean on something without first checking that I wasn’t about to coat myself in someone else’s genetic material. Call me a prude.

Anyway, as promised, I was able to get into Pano for half price, which came to 5€. And considering the excellent set Daniel Stefanik put on, it was the best 5€ I spent all weekend. His set was pretty much exactly what I like about the PanoramaBar sound, combining a very warm and bright minimal house sound with tooth-rattling bass kicks and (rhythmically, melodically) mobile basslines. At some point in the set, he put down a white label record that sounded awesome. It was in the “tropical minimal” vein that has been emerging in this last year, including almost purely acoustic Afro-Caribbean percussion for the drum patterns and a sample of group singing (again, sounding like a field recording from somewhere in Central Africa) deep and low in the mix, fading in and out like a sonic wash, rather than dominating the track like a typical vocal sample. It’s hard to describe the track in detail, but something about the ensemble of elements struck me as fucking fantastic.

Alas, white labels are thus called because they don’t have identifying labels on them. They are usually test presses of soon-to-be-released tracks that are passed to influential DJs to “test” on the dancefloor before the final mix is pressed and shipped. I tried to get a hold of the guy when his track ended to ask him what that white label was, but he quickly disappeared into the crowd.

Bob & Donna showed up shortly after I did, but alas just after I had heard that excellent white label—so I was left struggling to describe the track to them.

12h00-13h00: Boris

Ya know, this set was better than usual. Yes, this is a prime example of damning with faint praise, but my expectations have become pretty low with this guy, so this was a pleasant surprise. He still managed to have two near-trainwrecks within the first few minutes of the set, but at least his track selection and sequencing felt a bit more coherent. Usually, when I see Boris spin here, he throws a whole jumble of different styles together without much to connect them. Some DJs can pull of very eclectic sets like that, but it takes some serious skills, especially in ordering the tracks in a way that will create something more than a “parade of tracks I like.”

Regardless of my own reservations, the homos of Berlin seem to luuuurrrrve Boris, and turn out in droves for his set. I dunno, maybe Berlin gay guys—however hardcore fetish-y and hypermasculine—still enjoy a bit of “handbag house” from time to time. Either way, Boris’s appearance up here in PanoramaBar prompted a mass migration of guys from Snax Club (which I think was closing up at this point). Not all of these “migrants” changed their outfits before coming upstairs, so there was some amusement in the crowd as a couple hundred men showed up in leather, plastic, and rubber with their asses hanging out. Of course, the sort of hipsters that frequent PanoramaBar/Berghain are already inured to the sleazier aspects of gay nightlife (and value these sorts of things as an index of “open-mindedness”), so the amusement was mostly limited to giggling, some pointing, raised eyebrows, and the occasional curious question (“How do you even put that thing on?”).

Nonetheless, there were certain moments that tested the limits of the regular PanoramaBar partygoers. For example, I was in the smoking area with Bob when this skinny, near-naked guy appeared. I remembered seeing him around in Snax Club, because he was walking around naked and his gargantuan saline-injected balls were hard to miss. Yes, dear reader surprised at your own vanilla-ness, there exists a fetish around injecting saline into your balls and/or cock to make it look like you have a very particular and acute case of elephantitis. If you need to, take a break to wash out your eyes, cuddle a furry animal, and maybe listen to 70s music un-ironically. Feel better? OK, let’s continue.

So the fact of this guy’s massively-inflated balls was pretty visible at this point, because he was only wearing a well-worn jockstrap, the elasticity of which had given way, thus giving the impression that he was smuggling 1kg worth of plums under there. Two other guys that were just hanging out and smoking noticed this, and one of them pointed to his bulge with a smirk on his face and said, “What the fuck’s going on down there?” Obligingly, Mr. Balloon-Balls pulled down his jockstrap.

Both guys were clearly surprised, but that affective jolt went in different directions for each of them. One gave a shocked guffaw, as if he had just witnessed some particularly absurd, Monty-Pythonesque slapstick, while the other one threw his hands in the air and walked out of the room with his eyes wide, as if to say, “Woah. I give up. Let me off this ride.”

A minute or so later, Mr. Balloon-Balls was joined by a guy dressed in a black leather outfit that covered his entire body except for his ass and cock (and balls), which offered some rather impressive piercings. Mr. Balloon-Balls decided to greet him with a blow job, and so he bent over, with his asshole winking at the rest of us, and went to work. A third guy, who just happened to be passing by, took the initiative of spanking him roughly.

Sitting on stools near me and Bob were two girls, smoking, dressed in their Berlin-techno-hipster finest. Oversized 70s secretary glasses, ruff-necked blouses tucked deep into high-waisted skirts, and second-hand pumps. The looked at each other with this searching look, as if palpitating the other’s face to find some hint of what the other would do about this. Should they be shocked or blasé? In the end, they settled for a smirk and raised eyebrows, in a sort of understated “Well, isn’t that something.”

A bit later, Donna finds me on the dancefloor and says, “Hey, there’s a woman walking around in just a g-string and a t-shirt!” A few minutes later, as I’m walking out of the bathroom, I see the woman she was talking about. A quick look at her g-string and her adam’s apple made it clear that any gender classification would be more complicated than just “woman.”

Also, as I was coming out of the bathroom, a tall guy that I recognized from many previous Berlin nights stopped me, saying:

Random Dude: Hey, I bet you like house music.

LMGM: Yep! I sure do.

RD: In fact, I think you love house music.

LMGM: Lemme think about it…yes. Yes I do.

RD: You see, man, I’ve lived here in Berlin for many years and soon I have to move far away and so I am very high tonight and house music has always been so important for me and when I come to Berghain it is so nice to see people who love the music and don’t just do drugs but drugs are sometimes nice and everybody likes to have fun but it makes me happy to see people like you who are here for the music.

LMGM: Yes, totally.

I’ll admit that I didn’t totally follow what he was talking about, but it seemed that all he wanted from me was a sort of approving, reflective presence. I just needed to say yes, smile, put my hand on his back when he draped his arm around my shoulder, look him in the eyes, listen, and nod. In other words, all of the gestures of intimacy. I don’t think it was a fake intimacy, either; even if I wasn’t in the same affective place as he was, there was something about the simple fact of being in one another’s presence and the vagueness of anonymous contact that allows for warmth to pass where understanding and knowledge sometimes can’t.

13h00-??: nd_baumecker

I had only heard a few tracks from this guy (which were great), when my feet told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to go home. Fine. I had already seen nd_baumecker earlier in SnaxClub. I said goodbye to Bob & Donna and started making my way to the exit.

While picking up my jacked from the coat check, there were three guys dressed in fetish gear engaging in blow-jobs and rimming just across the room. Again, nobody was showing any shock or outrage, but there were a lot of smirks and raised eyebrows.

vendredi, avril 10, 2009

BerlinForEaster: Andy Weatherall & Man-Sandwiches

After our somewhat late night of drinking (with me dragging my luggage behind me), we slept in today and Florian made me a lovely eggy and bagel-y breakfast. After that, I got a message from Janine saying that she wanted to meet me in a patio/biergarten somewhere for drinks and brunch. I told her we had already eaten breakfast, but that we would certainly meet her for some coffee / juice / drinks.

So we decided to meet in a café on Kastanienallee, and then Florian and I headed out make the trip on foot. The weather was really fantastic and sunny, so we were both thrilled to be getting some sun and walking around outdoors. We eventually got to a café right near Rosenthaler Platz called Yumcha Heroes, which specialized in Asian food and had a nice natural wood deck out front. So we picked a sunny spot and ordered ourselves some fancy fresh juices (mine was a bit over-thick).

Time passed, and passed, and passed. Janine is rather famously late to everything, so we weren’t completely surprised. Nonetheless, she was taking a really long time, so eventually Florian and I parted ways, as he needed to go visit a friend of his in Kreuzberg.

I eventually got a message from Janine, saying that she was on her way up Kastanienallee. I was practically at the bottom of the hill, so I was sure she would come around the corner any minute. After 15 minutes, I get a message from her saying, “Where exactly are you?!” I call her and we figure out that she had skipped the part of the street at the bottom of the hill (where I was waiting) because the street there changes its name to something else. So she had taken the tram halfway up the hill to where Kastanienalle properly starts, and then continued walking up until the street ended at the U-Bahn stop. Anyway, at this point Janine was hungry and tired and a bit frustrated, so I told her to just grab a table at a café near her and I would be over in a few minutes.

When I joined her at the café, I was about to wish her a good Passover, when I noticed that the food she had ordered included leavened bread, dairy products, and pork sausage. So I teased her about being a bad Jew and defended herself by saying that at least she had removed all of the leavened bread from her house last night.

Anyway, we engaged in standard girl-talk for a while (love life, clothes, travel plans, partying), and then we spent a lot of time talking about her job. She’s not happy at her job right now, so she was weighing her options and trying to figure out what to do next.

At around 18h00, I rushed back to Florian’s place to meet up with him and head out to catch a movie. The showing was at 20h00 at Potsdamer Platz, so we really didn’t have time to make any dinner. Instead, it was a mad dash over to the theatre to buy tickets, than a “dinner” in the form of mediocre pastries from a nearby bakery.

The film was called Tropical Malady, by Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul. The movie is in two parts; the first part involves a rather quiet and affectionate love story between two men, while the second part recasts the men as a soldier at a rural outpost hunting a shape-shifting tiger shaman. The link between the two sections of the story is that, at the end of the first section, one of the lovers disappears into the jungle. It’s certainly an odd movie, but with a lot of elements that I like, including long scenes documenting daily life without containing plot development, quiet intimacy, and carefully-selected sound that seems to magnify emotion and affect.

Anyway, we wandered out of there in a bit of a daze and started looking for a place to grab a drink. Janine was planning to join us for drinks, but she never answered her phone or called/messaged back. We tried Bar Drei in Mitte, but it was closed (bar observe Good Friday?!) so instead we hit Das Blaues Band on Alter Schönhauser Straße for a couple of drinks before heading back home. Just as I arrived at Florian’s place, I got a message from Janine, saying that she had fallen asleep and would text me again when she woke up. I was confused by what that meant, so I decided to just head out to Watergate, where we had been planning to go, anyway. My friends Bob & Donna (who have been my Berlin companions pretty much every time I’ve been here since the fall) were also planning to be there, so I was eager to get to the club to hang out with them.

Round One: Yes! Night at Watergate

When I got to the club, the lineup already stretched nearly to the door of the next club down the street, so I braced myself for a long wait. As it would turn out, the lineup would take about half an hour to clear.

I was standing behind a group of four Belgian guys, who soon started chatting with three or four Brits ahead of them. They were wondering about how fast the line was moving and what chance they had of getting turned away at the door. Based on the fact that they were two large groups of guys and they were guzzling from beer bottles while in line, I was willing to bet that they would have trouble getting in, but I kept my mouth shut and pretended to be a local. The bouncers keep an eye on the lineup, and I didn’t want them to think that I was attached to the tourist sausage-fest before me.

As expected, the bouncer didn’t let either group in, and he seemed to think that I was part of the group. I stood well away from them as they left, and when the bouncer looked over at me to see why I wasn’t leaving, I said that I was all alone. That seemed to clear things up for him, and then he waved me through with no comment. Phew! Ironically, I would see the Belgian guys again at PanoramaBar a few hours later.

0h00-3h00: Mitja Prinz?

I’m not entirely sure that this was Mitja Prinz or spinning, but whoever he was, he seemed to be doing pretty well for himself. His set was pretty squarely in the “minimal” vein, tending more towards techno than house, with that emphasis on heavy bass kicks that marks Berlin techno. The set itself was good but maybe not fantastic, as the pacing seemed to feel a bit flat. It didn’t feel like it was really going anywhere, but instead going in circles. Nonetheless, I had no trouble getting my dance on.

Bob and Donna seemed to agree, too, when I found them dancing at the front of the main room, near the DJ booth. They were hanging out with a DJ friend from England, with whom I chatted for a little while before he turned in early to pack his bags for a plane he had to catch the next day. Nice guy.

While we were dancing and waiting for the headliner to start, I witnessed some sort of high-school drama unfold around the DJ booth. It seemed to involve two women: one was more femme, with shoulder-length blonde hair styled meticulously and a short plaid sundress; the other was more butch, with her hair in a tight bun, a black tank top, black warm-up pants, and wire-rimmed glasses. The femme gal was yelling at the butch one and getting in her face and generally being aggressive, while the butch girl was staring at her with a mixture of disdain and confusion and holding her hands up in a gesture that said, “Woah, chill out, what’s your deal?”

The femme girl quickly turned to a guy that seemed to know them both and started to yell at him. He yelled back, gesturing to the butch girl and also to the DJ, and then turned away from her as if he wanted to hear nothing more from her. The femme didn’t like what she heard, and stared at her drink miserably, before turning to the butch, yelling something venomously, and then walking off into the crowd.

The butch leaned in and spoke briefly with the guy, turning her palms up in a sign of confusion and exasperation, then punching her palm in a gesture of frustration and anger. For the rest of the night, the femme girl would dance nearby and glower at the butch, and the butch would do her best to ignore her and occasionally roll her eyes.

From what I could gather, the fight seemed to have something to do with being allowed into the DJ booth, or maybe getting too close to / flirting with the DJ. Both of the women seemed to be part of the crew attached to the DJ, so that was certainly possible. Also, when the femme (who was also acting pretty drunk, I might add) walked into the DJ booth and started dancing behind the DJ, the guy that had been involved in the argument earlier dashed into the booth and yelled at her again, sending her back onto the dancefloor. Anyway, it was odd to watch this cold-war fight continue through the rest of the night, while everyone else was dancing and having fun.

3h00-5h00: Andy Weatherall

A few minutes into this set, we discovered that we had a romantic trio developing behind us. Two guys—of the black-leather-jacket-wearing Eurotrash sort that usually doesn’t make it into Watergate—had found a rather drunk girl that wasn’t saying “no” to being felt up by both of them. They both were grinding on her at the same time, forming the sort of “man sandwich” that says, “Later on, we’re going to bang you from both ends.”

I’ve always found this sort of thing interesting among straight guys. On the one hand, the scenario of a woman being fucked in two or three orifices seems to have a strong erotic charge for a lot of straight men, and yet actually making it happen means getting naked and getting physically close to another guy. At the physical level, at least, a hetero gang-bang involves more man-man sexual contact than most hetero guys would be normally comfortable with. Anyway, I spent the next few minutes amusing myself by imagining what would happen if the girl dancing between them suddenly disappeared and the two guys found themselves making out with each other.

Andy Weatherall’s set was pretty fine, although Bob & Donna were very disappointed. They’ve seen him play numerous times at Fabric in London and loved him, but here they found that his set was too abstractly minimal and lacking in the sort of pounding force he usually plays with. We hung in there for a bit longer, but Bob & Donna couldn’t stand the disappointment and suggested we head over to another club.

Round Two: Hotel Club

We jumped into a cab and tried to make our way to a club called Hotel-Club, which was apparently hosting Jan Krüger tonight. I didn’t know the address and Donna only had a vague memory of it being near Berghain, so we hoped the taxi driver might know the place. He didn’t and we had no way of figuring out where to go, so we gave up and went to Panorama Bar.

Round Three: Panorama Bar

3h00-6h00: RNDM

Since we got here at around 5h30 or so, we only caught a short part of RNDM’s set. It was pretty good, very much in keeping with the PanoramaBar sound, but nothing to write home about. Nonetheless, we were all more enthusiastic for the sound here than what we had at Watergate.

6h00-9h00: Daniel Bell

Like the DJ before him, Bell’s set was good but not earth-shattering. He came out with a few tracks that were excellent and really got the crowd going, but between those excellent tracks were long stretches of adequate tracks. His mixing skills are certainly impeccable, but it didn’t feel like he was doing much more than just linking together the tracks with skill. Efficient, efficacious, but not rapturous.

Surprisingly, I have no amusing or interesting stories from PanoramaBar tonight. All three of us danced a lot, had a good time, drank liberally, and commented on the tracks we liked and disliked, but there were no escapades to report.

Bob & Donna really wanted to see Pantha du Prince, who was coming on at 9h00, so they headed home at around 7h00 to take a nap and come back later. I headed out about a half hour later, thinking that I should have at least a bit of sleep before going picnicking with Florian tomorrow.

jeudi, avril 09, 2009

The Great Gay Migration of 2009

Off to Berlin!

So, on my flight to Berlin (which was AirFrance this time; hooray for in-flight drinks!) I got the impression that it was The Great Gay Migration of 2009. The plane was packed with gay couples and groups heading over to Berlin. Partially, this might’ve been because it’s Easter weekend, and a bittersweet legacy of the rejection many queer folks face upon coming out is that “family” holidays are better spent elsewhere.

But I also noticed that they were mostly guys that “looked the part” for the kinkier “poppers and backrooms” demographic of Berghain. There’s a “special” night at Berghain this Saturday called “Snax” that involves connecting the sexclub Lab.Oratory to the main Berghain room, and separating PanoramaBar from Berghain proper. The Labo/Berghain section becomes a men-only “pervy party”, while PanoramaBar remains the usual same. Anyway, it’s apparently a big yearly event, so I’m guessing that this has managed to elicit a mass migration of pervy men from Paris. Go figure.

Upon arriving in Berlin, I heard from Florian (my impeccable host) that he was at an art exhibit at the Temporäre Kunsthalle over near the Berliner Dom. Thankfully, the TXL bus runs right down Unter den Linden, so I rode my way over in comfort. Alas, I misjudged the stops and ended up getting down at Marienkirche and walking back, but it was fine.

After hanging out at the party/art opening with a few former co-workers of Florian’s, we started heading over to the tram stop at Hackescher Markt. On the way, Florian mentioned that there was a gay bar/lounge nearby called “The Sharon Stonewall Bar,” which clearly required a visit—if only because of the name. The bar was trying almost too hard to be gay, what with the pink lighting and décor, the 70s disco background music (Donna Summer!), and a silent screening of The Wizard of Oz (seriously). Anyway, we had a couple of drinks, realized that we hadn’t eaten much that evening, felt a bit trashed, and finally hobbled our way over to the tram stop and headed home. Yay, Berlin!

mercredi, avril 08, 2009

The meter reader cometh

Today, I discovered that the electricity bills that I’ve been getting for the past 6 months have just been estimates based on previous consumption. Which means that they haven’t been an accurate reflection of what I’ve actually been consuming. And so I didn’t notice that the power-hungry space heater I used during this very cold winter was eating up kilowatt hours like candy. The result: after a recent meter-reading, a 300€ “adjustment” bill. Yay! Thankfully, I stopped needing the heater in mid-march, so hopefully the electricity consumption will drop significantly for the rest of the year. Gah.

mardi, avril 07, 2009

Figatellu / Figatelli

So I was out buying some French dry sausage to take to a friend in Berlin, and I came across an interesting, dark-coloured sausage that I bought for myself. It’s very dry and yet not all that firm, having a somewhat chunky crumbly texture inside that forces you to slice it rather thickly. And yet the flavor is slightly sweet, slightly tangy, just smoky enough, and full of the sort robust flavor that you usually find in iron-rich red meats. Check out the texture in these pictures I took (including some food-porn closeups):

See? Pretty hot, eh?

As it turns out, the sausage is a Corsican variety called figatelli or figatellu, which (according to this French Wikipedia page and this English blog) is made from a combination of ham, pork liver, and pig’s blood. Yes, you read that right.

Let me be the first to say that I’ve never much liked black pudding (i.e., blood sausage), and I’m not a big fan of liver (with foie gras being my guilty exception), so I know that I probably wouldn’t have bothered trying this one if I had known what was inside it. I saw that the name had “fig” in it, and, knowing that French and Italian share the same root word for the fruit, I assumed that it would be a standard smoked pork sausage with a bit of dried figs interspersed. Ironically, the expectation of dried figs helped me ignore the over-soft texture at first, which I really should’ve recognized immediately as coagulated blood.

So if this hasn’t turned you off entirely already (bravo!), give this a try next time you see it at your local butcher / meat market.

lundi, avril 06, 2009

some bumps in the RATP's politeness campaign

So, recently the RATP (the company that runs the subway system in Paris) started a new publicity campaign, called Aimer La Ville (“Loving the City”). Part of their campaign involves making subway-riding more pleasant by encouraging the riders themselves to be more pleasant. Thus, I’ve been seeing the following stickers around various subway trains:

Roughly translated, they mean “1 second lost in the station = delays on the whole line” and “when the doors open, I let people get off first.” There’s more, which you can find on these various blogs.

What you’ll also see if you read those blogs (and if you can read French) is that lots of people are not at all pleased with the implication of this publicity push: the problem isn’t with the métro, it’s with YOU. Also: rather than improve the system’s service, we’ll just cajole you into being more docile.

So it should come as no surprise that some people were inspired to respond with parody. Nonetheless, I was impressed with the quality of some of it. Today, on the way to work, I saw a sticker that perfectly duplicated the rainbow-gradient design and lettering, spoofing the sticker that usually says “when the buzzer goes off, I don’t try to jump on.” Instead, the sticker said, “quand j’entend le signale sonore, je pousse des vieux!” (when I hear the buzzer, I push old folks!) The duplication was so well done, I had to read it twice before I realized that it was a joke.

Well played, well played.

dimanche, avril 05, 2009

baby steps, baby

Not much to report for today, aside from being very, very tired from the night before and spending ages working on various tasks. I managed to get somewhere with my chapter revisions, but hit a wall with the transition from my review of intimacy literature to the discussion of touch as a mode of intimacy. I have pretty much cut out the intimacy review (to be moved to the intro) and replaced it with about 2 pages of summarizing. So now my discussion of touch needs to bear the weight of the whole chapter, which I think will require a more substantial reorganization than my mind could handle today. Nonetheless, it was nice to be able to check off the item on the list that said “work on chapter.”