I got asked to write a column for the Berlin Festival. I wrote five short pieces and took pics to more or less express the way Berlin is like a warm and loving mother to all us washed-up, broke ass ex youngsters escaping the real world.
There aren’t many places on this fine earth that mother you quite like Berlin does. She takes you up in a pair of flabby arms and pulls you in close to her bosom till you nearly choke on the love. She’s a protective old soul who only wants the best for her kin. Other cities grow cranky and snappy like dogs on hot days, but not Berlin. Berlin loves you. She’ll stay awake till she hears the key in the door, and get up extra early to make sure your eggs and juice are just how you like them. Berlin loves you. Oh mamma, she really does. Here’s why.
BERLIN VALUES YOU.
You can get by on a small amount of money anywhere. If you set your standards low and if you’re prepared to allow any type of food-looking products down your throat, you can survive in the most expensive city for a long time and risk nothing but your likelihood of living till you’re old. In Berlin, even better than a small amount of money, you can live off nothing, and live well too. Because in Berlin, you see, everything is money, and that means you don’t need the actual notes and coins anymore. It’s a kind of a non-economy where value has nothing to do with price. And you are all very, very welcome to invest.
It starts at the bottle and works its way right up to the top. Empty bottles are the leading industry at the heart of the Berlin non-economy. Families are fed, housed and educated on the strength of the small deposits on returned bottles. And you can too. Throughout the city you’ll see novice entrepreneurs diving into the industry with little more than a brief education and a couple of spare plastic bags. One day they’ll run this town.
After the bottles, the next step in the non-economy is the junk trade. Berlin’s streets are not paved with gold, they’re paved with cobbles. But on top of those cobbles sit a whole bounty of cast-off junk. Clothes are good finds. If the look fails, and it might because they don’t get thrown out with no reason, you’ve always got a ‘found it beside a dog poo on such-and-such strasse’ excuse. But furnishings are also great finds. Three legged chairs and water-damaged tables are everywhere. They just need some glue and tape and a condition that only petite people use them. When the day arrives that you’ve more furnishings than space, you take the excess to the fleamarket and haggle hard until you’ve made enough to retire twice and marry someone twenty years your junior.
The greatest example of the Berlin non-economy is to be found in club land. Oh it’s big and it’s intimidating and the queues run so long your eyes give up. And there you are stood, trying to keep your place, but your bladder’s saying set me free, and you can’t read the system so you don’t even know if another half hour waiting will mean you even get in the door, when some bad dressed kid skips past and inside like he’s stepping through grandma’s door for a piece of pie. That kid is a runner from another club. He’s the lowest rung. A sympathetic dog’s body breaking 16hr shifts, taking the worst cut of the tips and hanging on by a thin thread, or Club Mate. But he’s not queuing anywhere, and he’s not paying for his drinks. Wealth gets you nothing here. Live close to the street and it comes wagging its way into your hands like a puppy dog.
In Berlin money has a value like everywhere else, and you will spend it here just like anywhere else. But when the trash on the corner can keep you afloat, you start to look on money less as numbers and more just as paper and cheap metal. That’s just Berlin’s way of saying that not only does it love you but it values you too.