Anger Management: 2003-09-29

It was a fine sunny morning and time to set off to Hamburg in Germany to meet up with a long term friend, Dylan, who was playing drums for a soul/jazz outfit.

I said my farewells to Willem and those others that were knocking about in the house at the time. I was just about to load up my bike when I realized that I had not completed all the video work I needed for my first mini movie about games. Silly me, just a beginner, still learning about all the things needed to be done in order to record games around the world. Well I had only just started after all. I had no fear of taking on new challenges, but I knew that there would be many mistakes to make along the way. I had to think about it almost constantly so as not to slip up. I began to write down the process; from asking the right questions of people to find games, to the recording of the games being played, people being interviewed and locations to be represented. I was writing rules, opinions, drawing sketches, recording audio interviews, taking photographs and video footage, all the while trying to visualize what type of end production I wanted to achieve. I'm used to doing this when developing computer games and in the past I had created my own stop motion animations, but this current venture was all quite new to me. But then again almost everything from now on was going to be new, the journey, the people, places and games as well as the work I was undertaking.

So this morning I unpacked my video camera, tripod, microphone, script and all. I had noticed some chickens strutting about in the back yard of Willem's place and thought they might look quite nice as a backdrop to my introduction presentation of the Dutch game I had found here. It made me think of Aardman's 'Creature Comforts' animation where animals being interviewed were accompanied by the occasional distraction in the form of other animal's 'hello mum' pranks in the background. As I struggled to maintain a respectable BBC voice in front of the camera I was also attempting to coax the chickens into view and just to one side of me so that they would be in shot. Invariably the chickens would come towards me in the hope of some feed being doled out, but no sooner had I switched to record then they began to totter off again to scratch some earth elsewhere in search of a tasty morsel. Why I chose to aggravate myself with such improbable tasks only an octopus would be comfortable balancing, is an eternal struggle I deal with everyday of my life. Eventually I felt I had managed to get the best performance I could from the chickens and myself, or rather the only sequences where I hadn't fluffed my lines. I was sure I could cobble something together in the edit stage. I was not particularly confident of my ability to present though. On review of the material I could see that I was rigid in my approach as well as my voice being far too quiet and timid. I resolved that I must make and extra effort to project my voice on future occasions and perhaps even break out of my monotone drone into crests and troughs of eloquent pitch to keep the script lively. If I didn't change something in my voice I was certain to send my audience to sleep.

I bid farewell to the chickens and packed up the bike. I was finally ready for my first full days ride. No sooner had I turned out of the drive a downpour forced me to the side of the road where I could pull on my waterproofs and make a first attempt at dealing with my not so waterproof baggage setup. It wasn't so much trouble in the end, but just as the waterproofs went on the sun came out again. I couldn't be bothered to change again and was more avid about pushing on. I had decided the night before that I would avoid the autobahns as much as possible on the way to Hamburg especially since I had so far only seen the motorways and autobahns between London, Harwich, Den Haag, Amsterdam and Utrecht. There is no point going on a journey like this if you only ever see tarmac and petrol stations between stops. Of course the big roads get you where you want to be faster, but its dead boring and not much chance of seeing any windmills or other interesting feature along the way. I would prefer to be late, tired or lost than to be stuck on the faceless strip of tarmac. If you look at a map of The Netherlands you can get a pretty good idea of the devastating destruction of their natural landscapes with the myriad of autobahns that web across it. It's almost as if there are more of the roads than the space in between and the traffic jams still clog the veins into every city. When will governments learn to stop building more roads planted every which way?

Many hours later and I was beginning to change my tune. I was becoming cold and tired. In the darkness it seemed that the roads were becoming more dangerous in the wet and I had to travel even slower for fear of an accident.

I began to think of Dylan, a warm reception at a gig, and then on to a comfortable bed, ahem, not in bed with Dylan you understand J . I relented from my original plan and jumped on the autobahn at the next opportunity. Again sods law had it that there should be a traffic jam the one night I would come to Hamburg. road works were the issue and it seemed to take forever to make my way through it all. Although this was certainly a bind to say the least I had to admit the rest of the days driving had been a pleasure to behold. The Triumph was gliding along as ever without a care in the world. Once in Hamburg I had to begin the task yet again of finding a needle in a haystack. Nordestat is actually not in Hamburg at all and is a bleak suburb just north of the city. Once I reached the place I couldn't believe that Dylan would be playing a gig here. I knew that times could be difficult in the world of the professional session musician, but this really was the pits. Everywhere I looked were blank building blocks dedicated to the care of the elderly. It's the kind of place that you definitely don't want to end up in when you reach such an age. Characterless, featureless places that would appear to have a mission in destroying everything that once made you human. If it wasn't a care home I was passing by then it would be an industrial estate or some other place devoid of personality. Round and round I went stopping whenever I could find a pedestrian, on route to god knows what miserable event that might be taking place in these parts. I then found what looked like a post office building where a band was playing to an empty hall. I got off my bike and strode over to one of the 2 storey panes of glass. Peering through the vertical blinds I could just about see the faces of the players. The drummer didn't look like Dylan and none of the players looked anything like the band I would expect him to be with. This couldn't be the support band I thought, the gig was supposed to have started so long ago. Thank god I bumped into some more pensioners who directed me to the concert hall that I was supposed to be at. Finally I could here the music playing, I flung open the doors of the 70's purpose built auditorium. I was famished and on sight of food at the bar to my left I immediately took steps to relieve my hunger pains. I must have looked rather a sight as the few eyes that took refuge in this reception area were all on me. I had lugged all my valuable bags into the sparsely furnished entrance and sat my Michelin man sized motor-garbed self into one of their factory-moulded chairs. I devoured the food and the beer in record time. As soon as I finished I went directly to where I could here the music from, which turned out to be the backstage. Thankfully no one asked who I was or what I was doing going backstage mid gig with all my baggage. Perhaps they thought I was one of the musicians or roadie, or something. I poked my head round and saw I was parallel with Dylan playing drums at the back of the stage. I sat down facing him from the side of the stage and waited to see his reaction. Eventually he turned in my direction, his eyes lit up and we both smiled at each other in the mutual recognition of an old friend. It was good to see the surprise and joy of finally finding each other in this dreary location. It wasn't so difficult finding the place in the end but it had taken 4 hours longer than I anticipated. I peeked round another curtain to check out the audience who all looked very local to the area, i.e OAPs, a dismal sight to behold if you're a drummer hoping for a big break. I had arrived in time to listen to the last tune before the gig came to an end. We embraced, "Man its good to see you, I was worried and thought you had had an accident or something", Dylan exclaimed. After some small chat Dylan let out a sigh and whispered under his breath "This gig is the last nail in the coffin of a long line of crappy gigs with Lillian" I had to agree, it was a far cry from the heady days with Ian Dury & The Blockheads that he used to play with. Still Dylan was optimistic about his future line up of gigs to promote his own music and album. The band began to pack themselves away in to the awaiting coach, with no roadies to help, so I decided to pitch in as I always had in the past, especially given that the drums, Dylan's chosen instrument, were so much to lug about.

Then it was back on the road to follow the coach back to the band's hotel on the south and quite the opposite side of Hamburg. The coach was slow, and I was very tired by now, but somehow I was still fully engaged and turned on to the chore at hand. Finally we arrived in pitch black around 1 am, in what appeared to be a very good hotel. A couple of drinks later and we were both ready to crash out. T this point I still felt as if I hadn't really left home, after being surrounded by friends and or friendly people ever since I'd departed, and now to be with such a good old friend it was also a reminder of life back home. Nevertheless so much had already happened that was out of my ordinary sphere of daily life and I was still feeling that buzz of ever lasting wonder of what might lay around the next corner. What fun thing would happen next, what new games would I find, what brilliant activity was next on the cards to fill my new life on the road? These were my thoughts as I fell into another beautiful slumber and deep sleep.

2003-09-30

The next morning, Dylan had already left at some ungodly hour by order of the band's rather obnoxious and overbearing tour manager. I was left to sleep late in the luxurious room at the top of this ostentatious hotel, that was only marred by the terrible tv channels streaming a continuous drone of crass porn. When I finally awoke to see the day I pulled back the curtains to unveil a miraculous sight. Mist was rising over the Elbe river and the sun shone through with a pure gleaming sparkle. This was more than enough to transform any groggy morning head to one of fresh delight. The hotel was something like an old chateaux or grandiose farmhouse. It sported very wide corridors and enormous stairwell of heavy wooden beamed construction. The ground floor was littered with dining areas overlooking the river and was completely bare of life. Not a human insight or sound. I felt as if I had been transported to some kind of Twilight Zone as I rattled around the endless clothed tables set for a banquet of hundreds. I heard a Hoover kick into action, so I tracked it and its owner down who then passed me onto a woman in an office who took me back downstairs to find a kitchen hand and some breakfast.

I was finally presented with dry bread, plastic cheese and sausage meat with a thoroughly unappealing look and taste. I had been very much impressed with German breakfast in the past during my many visits to Berlin, but this was well under par and especially after Dylan had talked so highly of the food here.

In time 2 lingering members of the band came down to witness and also disapproved. Soon some fresh salmon was on its way, but this wasn't so fresh either. We were now probably the only occupants of the hotel but instead of being treated as such, we were more of an irritation and hindrance to the maintenance and upkeep of the place. If you go to Zollenspieker Fahrhaus, go for the room with the view, but forget about good service and dining. Admittedly it was out of season, but in my view if you're open for business you're open for criticism.

Before I left for Berlin that morning I took some photos and a passing cyclist took one of me with the bike. Then I tried to video some of the countryside from the bike, not a great success, but may come in handy. I resolved to press on and get to Berlin before dark. On this day's journey I managed to predict the time of arrival with far greater accuracy. The road to Berlin was splendid on a fine and sunny day, the route was easy and the overtaking of other vehicles was fun. For some reason drivers here don't think I should be passing (filtering) whilst they are at a standstill waiting at lights, but I'm buggered if I care about breaking any of these absurd laws. I may also have a rather long string of speeding tickets by now, as I find so often the A roads have far too many changes of speed limit, up and down like a yoyo. Instead my thoughts lay with my destination and less of the in-between. Being able to view the countryside is a treat though, especially when darting down long straight avenues of sunlit trees. I love it when the sun and shade of the trees create a rhythm of shimmering light across my retina as they flutter past and beat an almost hypnotic tempo though my mind.

Once in Berlin it takes me no time at all to find my old haunt in Golz Strassse, Shoeneberg, especially given that I was escorted by a kindly moped dude. I a seat at Cafe M and wait for the wonderful and absolutely fabulous darling, Wee Flowers to arrive. It was a nice meeting, but somehow subdued, shortly followed by the arrival of Sabine, owner of both cafe M and the restaurant next door. We start talking about some German games and my forth coming birthday. To some extent I feel that I'm generating too much complication in their lives, but I'm too tired to really act sharply, and so I help to dull the somewhat quite nature of our meeting. Both Wee and Sabine offered me a place to sleep. I decided to stay at Sabine's place. I don't know if Wee counted on me being at her flat, I generally find it difficult to know what these Berliner's are thinking, in the past I do remember some complications with my presence here, but I will leave that story to another days writing.

Sabine's house, Sabine, her son, Julien and I get down playing our first game of Mensch Agrere Dich Nicht.A german board game that I never stop hearing about and whilst we were playing we learnt a little of it's history through the internet. Ihaven't even finished digesting thelast run of Dutch games yet, boy do I feel as if I have cut the workout for myself again. I'malso running out of ink and pages very fast.

2003-10-04

I've been in Berlin for 4 days now staying with Sabine, Julien, Felix the dog and Lucky the cat. The days have past quickly, meeting with old friends Wee, Kassi, and Stevie. I've been growing concerned about not getting much work done as I still haven't edited material from Holland to upload to my website giving me space to think about gathering material from Germany. Drinking with the boys and gals, staying up till 6-8am most nights was taking its toll. Last night in particular was very taxing, whilst taking in the club life of Berlin's transvestite night at Big Eden. Wee and Sylvie (aka Smith and Weston) were shooting their disks in the capacity of DJs in-between 2 subversive live acts. The first of these acts was a singer in trashy 70's bondage style garb, squawking and blurting to a hard core electronica backing track with an accompanying Warholesk S&M video projection backdrop, all in an attempt to recreate some good old late 70's art house rock. The second act was a band playing covers such as 'White Lines', twisted not only by its rock interpretation, but mostly through the entertaining voices of the 2 transvestite front singers. Although the quality of the vocals was a little to be desired, the overall performance was a blast. On this evening I was also accompanied by Kim an ex-girlfriend who I really hadn't counted on seeing again after a most disappointing new years event back in '98. I was surprised that she had any reason to want to spend time with me, but it was genuinely good to engage with her again and talk old times. Boy does Kim talk a lot, I'm a good listener, but sometimes I meet people who don't know when to stop, so you just have to tell them so, as rude as it may seem. In the next few days I did see more of Kim, a chance for me to fathom why we had mismatched 4 years ago. I must have changed somewhat as I was no longer besotted by her mysterious Eurasian beauty or obsessed with her dulcet luring nature. No love was lost here where it was so whimsically crushed before, no pain, no anger, just a kind of mature acceptance that adults fall under as time washes over them. I felt I had outgrown Kim and the rest of Berlin, which I once regarded as such a cool, hip and endless muse for intrigue. It was a shame to lose that sense of ore for a people and their place, but it was comforting to know I could do without her or the rest of the mirage, a realization that would certainly make it easier to move on to the next country and leave behind those memories of mixed emotions.

2003-10-08

Oh god, it was my 34th birthday yesterday and to celebrate Stevie and I spent an entire day acquiring ingredients and preparing a sushi dinner for the night of its eve. Come 7pm 8 Berliners and I sat round the table, Stevie, Wee, Kim, Sabine, Jan, Sylvie, Kassi and Conny. I was truly stoked to have such good company on a day that many of our age would rather forget. The plan for the evening however had a mighty flaw cast into it.

We had started around 6-7pm and were expecting to see my birthday in with a toast at midnight. Once the meal had been ravenously consumed and alcohol was being downed at a steady rate, it was apparent that the evening might become dull well before midnight if we continued to shift about at the table. At this point simultaneous blows were made to murder the tranquillity of the evening. Whilst I began to murmur that we should get out and do something, Wee shook with discontent. Wee originally wanted us to all go out to the Knack with a backdrop of Fat Rockers and DJ Hell to consummate my next year of rockin' on. However, the time to go had passed and it was a workday to follow for many so we had settled for the night in. Sylvie, Stevie's sister, who I only knew from passing drinks over her twin decks, had picked up on a potential rift in the evening and in her wisdom tried to settle the situation through the suggestion of an ulterior activity. A shot of inspiration passed through me and noticing Sylvie had a flare for imagination I went across the room to whisper it into her receptive ear. I wanted to play a game that Sabine had mentioned and that apparently Conny knew well. I remember the game as Konigspiel, but actually I'm sure it has another name. I announced that this would be the rest of the evening's entertainment and proposed that the game should begin by pulling names out of a hat. As the names were drawn, Sylvie and I could here the mumblings of dissatisfaction from our group of less than enthusiastic and more than comfortable to stay put, friends. The game must have conjured up visions of treacherous debauchery, late night shenanigans of embarrassment far beyond the powers of our gathered middle aged businessmen and women. For it was at this point that Conny piped up with a commanding tone as if delivering a social threat to bring mutiny upon my plan, "If you are going to start playing this game, I'm telling you I'm going home right now!". There was no respite or retraction from her voice, it was like a knife in the dark shooting from her mouth. Perhaps I had had to much to drink, or the importance of the day weighed heavy on my shoulders or all my mixed emotions of Berlin flushed to the front of my consciousness. Whatever it was I felt I had been dealt a blow, and by someone I really didn't know or even invite for that matter. I was shocked at Conny's audacity as an uninvited guest to believe she had some command over the evening's motions and simultaneously hurt by her lack of sensitivity. Suddenly I felt I was standing in a school playground battling with peers for the right to play my game of choice. At this juncture I should explain that "King's Game" is often played by people who know each other very well, often out in the country where there's not a lot to do in the evenings. The group of friends allot a king for the night and all subjects must do the king's bidding no matter what the command or request may be. Typically the game can go to great extremes as friends push each other to do more daring and embarrassing acts, often under the influence of alcohol. Retribution is taken by friends when they become King the next time the game is played. As much as I would have liked to order Conny to walk naked into a bar around the corner and order beers and snacks, it was not my intention. I had something much softer in mind and it didn't necessarily have to include a pub-crawl either. I had also redesigned the game for the evening so that everyone had a chance to be King that night and so a compressed succession of different imaginations would be allowed to prevail. Sadly Conny neither had the inclination of power of imagination to see this point of view. I had reacted like a child to her rebuff and felt there was no other course of action than to pick up my jacket and walk out the flat for more beers. No sooner did I make my way for the door, Stevie came to pull me back. We tussled about, he could see I was upset and just wanted to turn my back on the situation. I wouldn't stay on any account, so Stevie kindly escorted me to my destination. I had every intention of returning, but I needed to cool down. I couldn't believe what was happening to me and that I was so easily effected by this minute detail. How could such a pathetically small, petty and inconsequential transaction of words produce this wildly insane notion of spite inside of me? As we sauntered down the road to a kiosk that would sell us weiss beer, Stevie hurriedly pleaded for the insignificance of Conny's ultimatum. I knew he was right and I was being ridiculous, but the synapses of my mind had already been charged in another direction to produce a rage I couldn't suppress. As we stood behind a queue of customers at the kiosk I opened into a rhetoric of restless dissatisfaction and made my inner most emotions let known to Stevie, and the rest of Goltz Strasse. I didn't care if the onlookers took entertainment from my misgivings or delighted in the rantings of an Englishman of the night, I was in full flow of self-righteous pity. We returned forthwith to Stevie's place to find the group had taken on the idea of playing a game, but not the one I had chosen. Instead they were all sitting around with names stuck on their heads trying to guess who they were. I sat at the table and agreed to join the game with a reproachful reluctance. I was still very much unsettled by the experience and proceeded to bring the game to a downfall by asking a critical question of the name applied to my head with double-edged meaning. "Am I a fool?" I queried in a sulk. "No" was the reply of the group, but on detection of my mood the game was abandoned fearing more attacks on my part. I pulled down the message on my head to find 'Bart Simpson' was my allotted personality to discover. "He's a fool if there ever was one" I mumbled. Then attentions diverted and arguments began to broil between Wee and Sylvie as Wee moaned about not going to the club earlier. The wonderful evening of companionship had descended into a bitter and rather sad occasion. Then one by one they began to disappear, first Conny and then Sabine. I was starting to feel abandoned as "friends" began to jump ship. I left the room for a while to distance myself from the proceedings. In the bathroom an uncontrollable surge of misery pushed up from my stomach to form a wave of tears that trailed slowly from my eyes. I returned to the dining room to find Wee was on her way out too, supposedly my best friend in Berlin, I couldn't help but begin crying again, a full grown man in front of his friends, a pathetic site indeed. I sat hopelessly and let it all pour out, "Why did I come here, this was such a bad idea?" and "I'm never coming back to Berlin again!" The astonished party that was left, took pity, some more than others, and stuck it out with me until 12 for a toast. I had plainly lost the enthusiasm to celebrate though. As the champagne was delivered alongside a single candle surrounded by cute sweets in a dish, I saw nothing but a blur of brightly coloured light through the wall of water veiling my eyes. My emotions had still not run their course and one constant of compassion that I had noticed through all of this was Sylvie. She seemed to be the only one who read my thoughts and feelings. I was compelled to pick myself up to lean over, hug her tightly and kiss her on the neck to show my gratitude for her sensitivity. This was one of the most emotional moments of my conscious memory. Then, after all my qualms of the situation had bore out all they could, I began to feel the considerations of the others in the room. They had stuck by me through all this too and began to warm my sole again. Wee who didn't seem to know whether she was coming or going with her coat on her back and bag in hand, held in disbelief by my outcry, finally sat down at my request. Kim also made a poignant observation of how she now understood something of the upheaval I must have gone through the last time I was in Berlin chasing her love. I was beginning to regain my inner strength again and started think about the consequences of my actions and embarrassing outpour. What a stupid bag of nerves I was that night, it's even more crazy that I'm writing about it here. With Kassi and Jan now on their way I wondered what would happen to me for the rest of the night, I certainly didn't want to go back to Sabine's to sleep on it. Kim and Sylvie were on their way out to have a girlie talk at Sylvie's. Kim said Sylvie wanted me to come with them too. I realised at that moment Sylvie was taking care of me now, had it been left to the others I would probably be out in the cold.

Back at Sylvie's yet another late nights drinking ensued. First though Sylvie took it upon herself to prepare two meals for me, helping to quash a sudden hunger, which seemed odd considering the volume of sushi I'd consumed only a few hours before. I learnt Sylvie had been successful in the fashion industry, but was now a style guru and rock DJ ala Smith & Weston. The two courses and the company of two women made me bold again. I was exhausted and began to fall into a slumber. I was lead to a large inviting bed and as I spiralled plummeting into a deep sleep I was advised, "The girls will be in later". It was a comforting thought and a cosier end to the night's events than I could have expected from such a strewn evening. I fell into a light sleep, light enough to notice on my one side lay a previous love and on the other a saint of sensitivity, compassion and generosity I had earlier dubbed "The best woman of Berlin."

When morning came I arose to find I had slept the longest of the three. Sylvie was already up preparing a wonderful seafood soup that filled her spacious open plan pad with a powerful aroma. I was instructed to take a long, deep, hot bath where Sylvie would bring me earl grey tea with milk and honey served in large mugs. I was still emotionally drained, but every minute in Sylvie's care I could feel a regeneration of my soul and overall constitution. I lay back in the bath I thought myself a lucky man to have been flung down by a trauma only to have a woman like Sylvie levitate me back so soon after. The endless warmth of the hot tub cleansed my troubled mind until eventually I rose and dried off the last remains of the night before, a phoenix from the ashes or snake shedding its skin.

With my late waking hour, elongated bathing procedure and slow emergence from the bathroom it was almost time for dinner. Petra, a girlfriend of Sylvie, came round to join us. Petra is in the tour managing business for a variety of recording artists and had managed on a Robbie Williams tour thereby having a connection to my dear friend Planet Claire. Petra, however, was in a bad way due to a cancer in the back of her neck, the consequence to her posture was one that you might expect from a girl at finishing school. She kept this poise religiously without the aid of the neck brace her doctors expected her to wear. After dinner Petra took us to see the last 20 mins of Jane's Addiction playing at the Roxy, or was it someplace else? Perhaps it was her posture again, but Petra seemed to glide wherever she went, a difficult thing to do in the middle of a rock concert. JA not being my cup of tea, I did my best to enjoy the surroundings, music and performance. It was over soon enough and Sylvie began to show her enthusiasm for moving on to the next event.

Petra split off home, so Sylvie took my arm and opened the door of our taxi in one manoeuvre, we were off to 'White Trash', a bohemian night club for artists and musicians of all specialisations, to flaunt their wares or simply entrap each others company. White Trash was formerly a Chinese or Thai restaurant and retained its decor to prove the fact. Sylvie introduced me to the Canadian chap that ran the place who welcomed me as a fellow doer of strange and wonderful things as all in his establishment promised to deliver. Tonight's entertainment at White Trash consisted of a band come exhibition of performance art. There was much deliberation over the event including a run up of band photo opportunities, backstage procrastination and technical hitches to overcome before the act could go on. As the band finally put themselves on stage, the stage being more a part of a corridor than anything else, swathes of the clubs inhabitants emerged to await its spectacle. I had myself in a relatively good position, squeezed in-between an amplifier, microphone and some of the audience pushing up behind me. Due to the close nature of the event I had to take it upon myself to assist the keyboard player by keeping his microphone stable in front of him, the audience was literally teetering over the band and strained like a rabid dog on a lead to keep from falling into the stage area. The band started up with a suitably 80's electronica slash trash rock style rumbling with a vocal straining to be heard. The sound quality was so bad that the Italian guitarist threw his instrument down with disgust and was attempting to push his way through the crowd. "I can't stand these fucking sheet gigs with theese crap sound, how can I play, what ees the point, ees stuupid". Somehow I became activated by his frustrations. "Get back on stage, we'll sort the sound out for you". I had no idea really what could be done to rectify the situation, but I jumped in and mucked around with the mixing desk. A man I later labelled El Conductor, dressed all in black bar his red waistcoat, wearing a Zorro hat and carrying a horse whip, was one of the other members of the group, or rather a hanger on in my view, believed he was in some way orchestrating the event. Evidently he felt his territory had been trespassed and blurted, "Who the fuck are you, what the hell are you doing"? Almost accusing me of throwing the gig into the mayhem that was now taking place. I refused to enter an argument and continued with my tinkering. The audience were determined to have a good time and were forcing the group to stay put, whilst we fiddled with the gear. Understandably the band was becoming more than uncomfortable with the situation, but then finally something clicked into place and the volume shot up, but not by much, and the gig kicked back into action.

What was to come I really hadn't the faintest idea would happen, but I wasn't nearly as surprised as I thought I would be or as shocked as some of the audience were. During the performance entered a tall Spanish American woman named Otto whom I had met earlier backstage. She had been naked back there, but was now veiled in a long grey military coat. The coat came off and she was naked again, a state of being she was obviously more than at home with in front of large groups. A small exclaiming breath of approval came from the crowd, much impressed with Otto's unveiling of close quarters nudity. The breath simultaneously transformed to a hushing gasp of shock, as Otto subsequently impaled a vein in her left arm with a metal tube of around 3mm diameter. As the blood spurted out from the shaft, Otto angled its trajectory towards her breasts, all the while dancing in a slow and sultry manner. She writhed about to the hypnotic blur of the ever-cycling guitar riff and was soon standing in a small pool of her own blood. Some members of the audience could be seen to grimace as Otto licked some of the blood from her arms. It wasn't long before the spectacle had worn its course and so, quite gently Otto exited the stage as silently as she had emerged. This was the apex of the night's performance as the club owner pulled his way through to disarm the proceedings. "Hey you guys came on way to late and now the frickin' police are outside demanding to know what all the noise is about, shut it down, now!" The band wound it up and the crowd seeped back into the nooks and crannies of the establishment from whence they came. A short while later when all the commotion had calmed down a little I learnt that it was Otto's birthday. I found Otto to bid her happy birthday and she blessed mine in return. "How did you feel about your performance, did it go well for you?" "Well, its not my best show, I had trouble with the incision into my vein, so there was less blood than usual on display." "If you dispense so much blood how often can you do this or want to for that matter?" "I usually do a performance once a month, sometimes more often, sometimes less." I couldn't think of more to say at this point, so we wished each other luck for the following year of our lives and said our goodbye. Sylvie had introduced me to many of the people at the club that night, but I had also made the acquaintance of many there through my now unbridled and direct approach as the drink had broken down all my inhibitions. From Norbert the 24hrs tattooist in residence, to a woman who imported and translated 'who dunit' role-playing games, there were many interesting conversations to be had. At the moment I believed I'd exhausted all social contact I noticed a very quiet individual who had hovered around like a ghost for the entire evening. I knew how horrible it could be to have no contact in such an environment and so felt inextricably drawn to say something. "Hello, do you speak English" my helpless and unfortunate beginning. When she turned to face me a shot went through my retina, down my spine that turned into an amorphous grip that clutched my lungs preventing me from being able to utter a single syllable. "Yes, a little" and smiled, I threw my hand across my mouth to stop any potential particle from leaving it as I coughed uncontrollably with amazement at the beauty in her smile. I offer her the spliff I'd been passed earlier, "I can't help myself but let you know you are the most beautiful woman I've seen in Berlin, perhaps anywhere in fact". I couldn't believe what I was seeing or saying. Unashamed and boundless I continued to discuss anything that entered my mind. Elen, or rather DJ LN was neither uncomfortable with my forward nature or blunt expression. It was one of those rare occasions when two people connect to live, breath and talk incessantly, holding onto each moment of contact like a precious stone of ephemeral properties. As we communicated all manner of experiences I began to notice an uneasiness in her, she wanted to leave and not all at once. The club had been slowly emptying for some time, now that I had noticed, and Elen was expecting her carriage to turn into a pumpkin or perhaps some other terrible fate awaited her if she didn't arrive home sooner. I suggested we go to the Jane's Addiction after show party, but Sylvie was on the decks and took her half an hour to find her mobile and fags. Elen couldn't hang on so we kissed goodbye, a look of sadness in her eye suggested I shouldn't be letting her go, our hands parted and she whisked off in a dramatic exit. Sylvie asked if I had got her number, I slapped my forehead and realised I had not even asked, but then remembered LN had handed me a piece of paper with her next DJ event scribbled onto it. Sylvie took it and herself around the entire club to find out more, even though I'd asked her to relent. I was beginning to come back down to earth and remembered my love waiting for me in Taiwan. Sylvie didn't relent. It transpired that nobody else in the club had ever seen or heard of LN before, except that is for, El Conductor, who said to Sylvie "I never ever do this, but because it's him I'll give you the number". I didn't want the number, had no idea why El Conductor should want to break his peculiar professionalism for me, but Sylvie thrust it in my hand anyway. "I'm not going to call her, its ridiculous", "Yes you are, if you don't I will, if not tonight then definitely tomorrow", retorted Sylvie who thrived on seeing me have a good time. The night had concluded, we took a cab home and crashed into bed together. As I lay there dreaming back on the nights proceedings with, Otto the dancer in blood, El Conductor the darkly dressed fop, Norbert the club's 24hr tattooist and many more scenes of decadent debauchery, I felt for the first time in 5 visits to Berlin, that I had finally witnessed the type of full-blown exoticism I'd always imagined of Berliner nightlife, all found in the bizarre confines of 'White Trash'. Not a bad innings for my 34th birthday.

It had been ages in the organising, but today I was finally able to find 3 people to sit down for an hour to play the German board game, 'Mensch Argere Dich Nicht' that we know as 'Ludo' in England. Wee, Stevie, Sylvie and I had an eventful game. I particularly enjoyed Stevie's love of destroying the hopes and ambitions of other players. For some reason players are driven to great explosions of emotion during this game. This may be due to the high speed and quick turnaround of the game, that offers opportunities of success even on the brink of losing, always delivering a succession of failures before one player finally takes first place. Whilst I recorded the game, I reflected on its title. Why did Mr Schmidt name it "Don't Get Too Upset"? It's amusing to imagine soldiers at the front of WWI sitting around playing a game of this title. It was also the first time I had seen Wee and Stevie since my show of aggression at my birthday celebration and made me realise with more certainty how foolish I had been. Life's a game they say, and it's true that's no joke. I relished beating the German's at their own game especially because Stevie had such a passion for it. After the game we all had to rush off to various commitments. I for one needed to get back to Sabine's to fetch some clean attire and other odds and ends before returning to my new home at Sylvie's, it was at her place that I had found a tranquillity and solace I didn't want to leave behind in a hurry. I was able to return the favour in a strange turn of events. One night when I went out for Sylvie's cigarettes and a takeaway I received a call on my mobile. It was Sylvie, but not the cheerful happy go lucky one that I knew. She was in hysterics, "Tim, Tim you have to come back now, Aaaaaeeii" as she screamed and hollered I tried to make sense of the situation and began to run in the direction of her flat at the same time, I thought she was being attacked. After a mile and 6 flights of steps later I burst through he flat doors to find Sylvie armed with a glass cup. She had caught a small mouse, but was convinced there was another. We spent the rest of the night setting traps of pure invention. In the following days we became quite the expert mice catchers. Once Sylvie managed to herd one towards me as I lent out of the bath to seize it in a candle glass. Sylvie continued to look after my best interests in the following days and nights, making sure I was never short of good food, drink and rock'n'roll. We served each other with body and head massage of one sort or another and even developed a revolutionary range of men's underwear together. That's not to say I spent all my time with Sylvie, on the contrary, it was Kim who seemed to take up a lot of my time. Kim had definitely renewed her interest in me. It didn't seem to matter to her that she had a boyfriend, who was admittedly something of a workaholic spending up to 3 days and nights a time in the office. Kim was fairly relentless in accosting me to a variety locations, be it art galleries, cafes, prowling the streets for my filming requirements or venues such as 'Wild at Heart' where punk rock bands are the order of the day. Kim would talk relentlessly as usual, sometimes deeply psychological, difficult to the sound of Buzzcocks, but could often fall into eons of triviality that would beat me into a senseless delirium. Still, Kim made me feel at home in a twisted fate of fortune and I was never sorry to see her. Finally the time was drawing near for my departure from Berlin. Almost everyone I knew here was going to a gig in Leipzig to see old friends and band members of Die Toten Hosen. It turned out that Leipzig was kind of on route to Prague, my next destination, but I wanted to get away again and for me the journey was a sacred thing that I wanted to do alone. It was a quiet departure as we went our separate ways. They were off to the old days and I was bound for new ones.