01 Feb THE LONGEST LINE IN BERLIN
In the first of a continued feature #itchysilk writer Anthony Dwight Peebles brings to live the character Frederic. As our primary protaganist, we take vicarious journeys into nightime clubland Berlin. Gritty, brutal and occassionally uncomfortable, Frederic takes us onto the unrestricted autobahn.
My name is Frederic. I am not tall. I am black. I am gay. I wanted to study etymology, but never did. I speak Spanish and French. I’m an American. I am an artist. I sing. I currently live in Berlin.
This story is before now. Where to begin?
I take a bump of coke and call an Uber. I use Uber all over the world, lazily moving through different countries, not even trying to learn the transportation systems. I’m American. But more so, and probably the same, I make a lot of money. For me, uber is the ultimate “get-me-to-where-I-am-fucking-going-now” system ever created. Anytime. Anywhere. My own private driver at the touch of my fingers, and in every city. I am addicted; to uber, not coke.
I sit in the back seat of the taxi. Ubers in Berlin are just taxis. I’m cool with that. I think I like taxis better than people’s cars anyway. Actually, if I knew where I was in proximity to where I was going I would have just taken public transportation. Public transportation in Berlin is excellent, and sometimes you meet a person who hangs around for a while. On the train, so much can happens, sometimes. I would have been cool with that, but, I had just landed here, for the second time, and I needed to be where I was going. I had a gig.
Moving through the colorful streets of Kreuzberg, the super cool, over populated area of Berlin where I would later live, as my brain wanders through distant forests, lethargic. I’m back in Berlin.
I always say it’s four years, but it’s really three years since I’d been here. Since I landed on the airstrip at Schonefield Airport, that feeling that I’ve felt many times now that I live here; a feeling of descending on a home, a return to center. My first time landing in Berlin, I didn’t realize it was my home, but ever since I always know when I land in Berlin- I am home. The first time I came here, I fell in love, (with myself). And now I am back to perform at one of the biggest clubs in the world.
I never buy return tickets I had planned on only being in Berlin for three days, and ended up staying for three weeks. And now I was finally back. Those 3 weeks changed me. I always heard Berlin was the quintessential city for artists, but nothing could prepare me for the actuality of this kind of cool. This right-now type of living, creating and being. Berlin for me, in relationship to art, is all about NOW. Punctuated with an acute understanding of something prior, but not solely dependent on the past for its current character. A movement I could feel, especially when I was still. I wore all black for 21 days. I engaged in Now. I want more. I need more.
I work in electronic music. I sing. House music.
I’m standing in my friend’s kitchen in Sheffield, UK, last week, trying to pronounce the name of the club that I just got booked. “Bergin?” “I don’t know, it’s the anniversary for this club in Berlin. When I was in Berlin last time, I sang with the girlfriend of the woman I am going to dj with this weekend. Did that make sense? My friend who got me the gig is the girlfriend of the dj I will be singing with. Yeah.”
“Do you mean Berghain? How do you spell it?” My friend, who is also my producer, says. He is acting a little weird and I don’t know why. “B… E… R.. G…H..A..I..N” I spell out. Right when I stop spelling my dude literally turns green with envy. He sings staccato …“What the actually fuck? Do you know what that is?” Obviously, I do not know and getting slightly embarrassed. “Bro!!!! You have a gig at the hottest club in the world right now. And on their anniversary!!!! Berghain is like Studio 45 back in the day. It’s something for your resume for sure mate.” Okay fast forward back to me in this taxi, I mean uber. I mean taxi. I’m kinda shitting myself. But, I’m cool.
The line to the club winds like a snake on the bottom layer of a rain forest in Brazil. I can feel the kinetic energy from the window of the taxi. I take another bump of coke before I exit the car. ‘Danke’. The thickness of the winding line moves and sways in the warm breeze; an absolutely beautiful day in Berlin lies before me. Thick, tribal, cool kinda. It is long, the line, this snake – Black. Everyone is wearing Black. I am wearing pants from Ghana. They are not black. They are actually very colorful, like Brazil. Not Black. Opposite. My mother ordered them for me for my birthday.
I walk to the door past the sea of vampires in the afternoon light. It is 11:00 a.m., I sing at noon. This club is open for 72 + hours. This is the anniversary. It is packed. There is a room on the very top of this massive club that is only open for this anniversary and for NYE, I believe. But I don’t really know anything.
I am led by the bouncer inside the club, all the walls are black and they are sweating. We walk through the heat, it is dark. Bodies tightly pressed against each other, painted elegantly, grotesquely, but more importantly free against the morning. Fluidity in movement. A conjuring of sorts, a séance of the spirit, in its many manifestations, smoke, no lights, a sweat of 40 thousand years.
Hands. Ass. Dicks. Thighs. Breasts. Hips. A fist. Ass. A fist in an ass.
I am sweating already. I can’t really see anything. When my eyes find something they can make out, I am immediately caught off guard. His arm is literally sticking inside his ass….Eyes divert. There is a prudish man who lives inside of me and comes out whenever these moments appear. He is rather annoying. In the distance, the light in the back is seen (the back of black sea), like I imagine salvation, a bright light at the end of a journey. I am heading to the stage. More naked bodies float in the Autumn heat. The day is beautiful, my eyes wide as my heart. Anticipation. Skin meeting sky inside a calm opulence. It’s beautiful being free.
Contemplating again. My eyes dart to all of the bodies outside dancing, drinking, smoking, enjoying, laughing, having a good fucking time. “Where is the toilet?” The man points toward a line longer than the one outside of the club. I take a double take and think, “damn, this is the longest line in Berlin”. I would come to realize that every bathroom line in Berlin is fairly long. I would also learn that if you just have to pee, you don’t have to wait in the line. I walk to the urinal, it’s only been 11 minutes since I’ve entered this club, I am a totally different person, or at least I will be. I know this immediately. I know that everything in my mind and my life has changed when I unzip my pants. I have seen a world that I never knew quite existed. I am high. And I am nervous. I now know why the other line is so long, and I wish I waited in it cause I want another bump. I pull out my penis and aim for the back of the urinal. “my piss is clear,” I say out loud to myself. I ‘m glad that I drink a lot of water. “Excuse me?” I hear on the right side of my body. I turn my head and see a man on his knees, drenched in piss. “Do you mind pissing in my mouth?”
Still from the film Villabos (2009)
Image in the toilet by Marc Martin part of his series Public Toilets, Private Affairs.