Impression – Getting rid of saved bread

Picked up 30 kilos or so of bread, rolls, and cake at the bakery again. The Free Shop, where I usually distribute the bread is closed, so I step on my bike and ride to all the spots where I know people are begging.

Group 1 is sitting near the metro station with a sign “please donate for weed & beer”. But they also happily take cake and croissants. Something big with beard, belly and lots of tattoos shyly asks if he can take a few rolls for the next day. And  he discovers the rolls with poppy seed.. he tries to hide his eager, so I say yes, please yes, take it, I have another 25 kilo to get rid off.

Group 2 includes a guitar player busking with a djembe player and about 7 people trying to collect money from the people walking past. Especially the cakes are appreciated. One of the women delves out a banana-chocolate-pudding thing from the bottom of the carton box and completely melts. Funny how these oso-scary beggar punks turn out to be in fact extremely polite. For sure when it involves chocolate.

After 5 groups of people hanging on the streets I still have too much bread left, so on to one of the local squat pubs. Unfortunately, it still closed. Outside a group of backpackers sits on the sideway making music, and I manage to upload them with another bunch of free bread. Yes, for free, now will you please take it? Backpacks are opened and the bread packed. Except by one guy, who just looks at me and says “you completely flatten me”. No, he doesn’t want any bread. And keeps looking at me in utter surprise. I noticed before, I seem to attract the people marked by life.

In the mean time, the people in the pub hear me talking to the people outside. Ok, the bartender still hasn’t arrived, so officially the pub is closed, but yes, please do bring the food inside. Thank goodness, I finally managed to un-bread my bike.

Impression – Just another warm summer night.

Warm summernights make this city feel so surreal..

Waiting for the S-Bahn, a young guy, obviously not sober and obviously not happy, so completely lost and out of balance, he risks falling on the railwaytrack. Sits down, head between his knees. Older, obviously more experienced – and obviously also not sober – alcoholic, walks up to him. “You ok? Where do you have to go?” “Ostkreuz. My wife walked out on me.” Train arrives. Older guys picks the young guy up and carries him into the train. And I see how he makes the younger guy sit down, offers a sip of his beer, and starts listening and nodding to his story…
Though it’s probably a sad one, the way someone obviously on the “loser” side of society cares for a complete stranger in trouble makes me smile.

Going to a noise gig in a techno place. Playground for adults made out of old pellets, near the water. Lots of hidden corners, and things to climb in. Just missing a swing. Too tired to actually enjoy the music, so walking back to the local station.

Seeing a couple not only picking up empty bottles, but also cigarette butts with maybe a bit of tobacco left and bickering at each other in some east-european language.

Walking to the end of the platform I see two guys about to start fighting. Fists flying, and the younger one takes out what looks like a club and goes after the elder guy. Weird how I stay absolutely calm, and without thinking, ask them wtf is wrong with them & to take it easy, step in between. And then they actually both start explaining to me what the other one was doing wrong “he started!”. Another guy also steps in, and they split up. Turns out the club is actually a flute.

Shaking my head, I step into the train. (and nope, not for one second I was scared or felt threatened, they were just disturbing my pleasant dreamy mood)

Why go to the movies if you can just drive a few stops in the Berlin S-Bahn..

Rant – How to disturb a party (reprise)

It’s relatively quiet again in the neighborhood. That is, relatively. And only concerning the amount of cops. But holy shit, you got a pretty good idea how the people in Baltimore, or in the Schilderswijk in the Hague, Netherlands feel.

The opinion of people in the neighborhood about what happened last week varies: some distinguish between the “good” squatters of the Kreutziger, who are indeed, very constructive with all their DIY projects – also for the neighbors, such as the “Rent advice” and the “social support”, and the “bad” squatters of the Rigaer, who supposedly make a mess of everything, throw garbage on the streets or just leave empty bottles everywhere (“and I don’t get it, they all ride a bike, don’t they?). This even from leftish people. Strangely enough, some of the more “mainstream” people, for example a young born and raised Friedrichshainer, are far more positive: all cops are bastards, and long live the squatters – as long as they keep living here, and protest (and yes, are loud and make a mess), the rents wont rise that much. In other words “those squatters, they never did anything to me…” – thereby implying the cops do…

In general, the average neighbor is on the side of the squatters.

They’re part of the “Kiez”. Just like the elder citizens drinking their beers  in front of the late night shop until it closes, the spontaneous art made of disintegrating bikes, the guy refusing to tie his dog outside the supermarket since “that’s patronizing the dog”, the small pubs which are more or less extended living rooms, the senior hooligans in the park asking for cigarettes, the light technician projecting his light-effects on the walls of the house opposite the street, the fact that the only butcher around sells “bones for dogs” only, the begging punks at the metro station, the guerrilla knitting, the buskers, the small patches of squatted soil around many trees in the streets with benches or flower beds made out of left-over wood, the Roma guys making music and singing on their balcony, the carton boxes put on the streets with stuff “for free” everywhere & all the time, the dread-hippy giving his ouija-board an extra layer of varnish in front of his window, the notes “clean your dog’s shit, damned” getting endless responses with other notes taped under it..

What is NOT part of the Kiez are the uniformed semi-cop-traffic-wardens who only dare to walk around in groups of five, complaining about ghettoblasters or dogs-without-a-leash in the park, or the metro security who just outside the station starts pissing people off (a few days ago I walked passed them when a not completely sober and slightly worn-down fellow-neighbor shouted some stuff towards them about uniforms and too small genitals). or “new” neighbors who complain about a klezmeh-band playing in pub which exists here for more than 10 years – after which the klezmeh band picks up their instruments, and continues in the park, resulting in a nice get-to-gather-and-sing-and-dance at 2 in the morning…

Impression – The Free shop on Location

Our Free Shop went “on location” for the neighborhood market in between the cherry & apple blossoms in the garden of Villa Kuriosum.

Made quite a few people happy with the stuff we brought, a woman walking away with exactly the same shoes which just died on her, other people who tried to sell stuff ended up swapping stuff with us, and even the gold-enameled kitsch vase found a new home.

Poor parents when their kids discovered all our cuddly toys. One little girl walked off with a (original DDR- someone told us) teddy bear almost as big as her, her daddy following her, shaking his head and mumbling “I just cleaned all her toys out”. Wouldn’t be surprised if we find that bear back in the shop in a couple of weeks..

Encounter: a new dentist in the neighborhood

Always nice to make a – new – dentist’s day…

When I explained to him that, though caries has a hard time getting a grip on my teeth, they are 50 shades of yellow, brown & black because of breathing fire, you just saw “this can only happen to you in Friedrichshain” crossing his mind.

He even made pictures of the inside of my mouth and plans to do more research on what the long-term effects of petroleum on teeth & gums are, cause I told him more fire-spitters know the problem….

And now I realize I introduced myself by telling him I’m one of those people who have a dentist phobia. And both this phobia as well as the many scars inside my mouth  – he was pretty amazed by those too – are caused by falling (mostly out of trees) a lot.

So… then I tell him I breathe fire as if it is something completely normal.
And no, there are no less dangerous substances than petroleum to breathe fire with, well maybe lamp oil.

I guess one of the reasons he told me I was one of a kind (Ha! wait till he gets more – pierced up & fully tattooed, but afraid of the dentist – Friedrichshainers in his chair) are the priorities I have when it comes to being scared shitless…

Impressions – Random Encounters in a Free Shop

Just some random impressions why I love volunteering in a give-away-shop..

  • The pensioned turkish guy, who “no I don’t need any help, do I look like it??” somehow manages to get his cart over the steps, and who tries to look in any direction except in THAT one, when two punk girls try on bras and t-shirts in the middle of the shop.
  • The six year old nerd-to-be, who desperately wants to help us, and after sorting all the children’s games and books on size, tells me about that he already hacked 3 computer passwords.
  • The elderly gentleman, who comes in in a suit-jacket, for three hours does nothing but try on women’s clothing, and walks out in his suit again.
  • A group of five mexican ladies, giggling and dressing each other up in front of the mirror in all the glittery, or ruffled or rather, well… dandy stuff that we normally have a really hard time even giving away…
  • Two young very normal looking guys come in, obviously feeling awkward, politely ask how much the old video- and music-tapes are, and after I explain the concept of a give-away shop, just go crazy for hours going through them. In the end, happily show me they even found a turkish movie, proudly tell me of their collection of 40 videoplayers and 1500 VHS-tapes (“we throw DVDs away), not only hang around for the coffee (and slightly concerned wonder if I had any already), but after going out the first time, run back in to make a money donation, and after another 15 minutes, come back with chocolate bars for us, and, stuttering, the promise, to bring any “modern” media next week.
  • The 60+ woman (“I do look young for my age, don’t I?), who arrives out of breath to bring huge bags of freshly washed clothing, because she likes the idea of the shop so much. But it includes a fur coat and some dead foxes, which, since we are also doing a vegan cafe, sort of makes us uncertain wtf to do with it. Takes 5 minutes for the stuff to disappear, a refugee taking the coat for his wife (“her dream”…), and a kid walks out cuddling the dead foxes…
  • The (russian?) heavily blonded, heavily maked-up and very well-styled lady (including cute hat!), who looks like she just stepped out of some movie from the 30-ies, and who every week brings another guy, who looks like she just picked him up from the street, to dress him up, look critically at the result, and re-dresses him in the next set of clothing
  • A guy picking up a few pair of children’s football shoes, and asking me, if they don’t fit, can I bring them back? Of course I say, it’s a give away shop. And he whispers in my ear, they’re for my grandsons, I can’t afford to buy them christmas presents, but I’m so proud of them.
  • An alternative looking young woman from Tel Aviv with her baby child, who followed her summer love to this city, and next got kicked on the streets, sitting on the floor in between all the clothing and just going crazy “all this stuff.. all this stuff, all for free..”

And so on…
So many people, so many stories in this city…