Saturday, June 07, 2008

Painting the 'Burg Rot

Whoop - wrong kind of spree...

With the proverbial Ball-'n'-Chain back in Baltimore for a bit, I've been adrift without her to anchor what rags of a routine I have. To avoid withering into some kind of indie-geek Gollum, self-bound in quarter-inch cables, I afforded myself a few nights on the town, to see what exactly it is people do with other people in consensually-social situations. Evidently, there is a tried-and-true template for an evening out in Hamburg. Please refer to the following instructions:
1) Begin by meeting your free-lancer colleagues and ex-pat compatriots (20% of whom are already plotzed) at a random pub in Sternschanze. Enjoy the bourgeois-bohemian ambience: feel smugly countercultural, because there's a fastastically vandalised cinema-turned-squat across the street, yet enjoy the luxury of overpriced Long Island iced teas & oggling college girls in horn-rim glasses and keffiyehs.

2) As the alcohol affects your auditory acuity, decide to escape to more happening, exciting environs. Spar with a gaggle of intoxicated dilettantes for a minivan cab. (Better to move everyone at once; arranging a rendez-vous is a Quixotic endeavour by this hour.)

3) Arrive on the Reeperbahn right as a single drunk dockworker manages to whup three junkies simultaneously to the delight of onlooking Turks.

4) Elect to patronize a nightclub that isn't overcrowded, not because of its exclusivity, discrete location, or unapproachability so much as its overarching mediocrity. The Cuba libres are both watered- and Diet Coke'd-down (for eight Euro a pop); the shirtless, leather-vested DJ spends more time tweaking his faux-JT hat than making his selections; the women are split evenly between disgusted and desperate; and the men are all too drunk to notice that they outnumber the women at least 2-to-1. The club itself used to be a brothel and currently sports an eyefucking fractal wallpaper that pushes the blacklit ambience dangerously close to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas before you've even ingested any illicit substances.

5) Once everyone in your party has successfully pulled a dodgy Serbian girl (or thought better of it), declare this scene dead and head towards the harbour via the impassably-packed sidestreets south of the Reeperbahn.

6) Find yourself redirected into a dim, woody pub with all the charm & conviviality of a Kentucky truckstop. The ursine barmaid takes her dentures out to sip from her pint and Black Sabbath is blaring loudly from the jukebox. Five of the six customers already seated around the bar are prostitutes on their break.

7) Decide to cut & run either when the sun's first rays strike the high-rise hotels, or when the eldest member of your party leaps atop a table whilst caterwauling along to Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" - whichever comes first.
Mercifuly, not every night out has to conform to such a pathetic & dissolute pattern. I attended one of the most engaging (and physically exhausting) live shows I've seen in quite some time. Not only was the rock brought most forcefully, but I got to shoot the shit with some denizens of my former domicile amidst the post-collapse anti-glamour of Hafenklang. I'm hardly convinced that the operation is entirely legal (or competently run), but not only was everyone terribly unteutonically friendly, there was something uncannily comforting about seeing this once-posh, palacial department store gutted & ghostly, a four-story epitaph to consumer frivolity... now host to a hive of gleefully unconcerned, doom-positive counterculturalists. Dancing on the future's grave isn't quite as gloomy if you've got other people to do it with.

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