Thursday, February 22, 2007
Best of Berlin
Why do I love Berlin? This is Reason #598: the Dodohaus.The Dodohaus is a little ground-floor apartment turned bar. In Germany, you get tax breaks if you form a club with some kind of cultural aspect, so a lot of bars register as clubs for, in this case, the promotion of culture surrounding the dodo. The owner, Rainer, was born in Africa and lived for a while in Mauritius, so there is a stronger connection to the dodo than just the posters hanging on the wall and a tax break.He called me one day and asked if I would read out of "Planet Germany." I didn’t know what to expect. I certainly didn’t expect it to be this small. It was literally a living room. So I did my thing and we talked afterwards, and that was that – but then I hung on a little and watched. It wasn't until everything was over that the real Dodohaus came to life.The regulars gathered around the piano. One guy played, his girlfriend sang, another guy played guitar. They went through half of the "White Album" and all of "Hair." Everyone joined in. Some of them danced. The children danced.The older women sat against the wall with their hands in their laps and gossiped. The English guy with the droopy eyes got a dreamy look and floated off into some little pleasant world. The black African danced and clowned around. The sad-looking Iraqi beauty talked about some important subject and smiled at the choruses.
The unemployed East German raved on and on about his vacation trip to Florida and New Orleans and showed off his souvenir joke sunglasses. The big Polish woman, the Indian (Pakistani?) woman, the gray-haired, serious-minded German 68-generation woman…
There were so many nationalities, so many different experiences, so many different dreams and disappointments and … lives there. Where else do these people just come together as if it were the most natural thing in the world and sing and talk and joke and drink together? It was such a Berlin thing: During the day you're out there scraping together (or not) money and arguing with the neighbors, but at night you get together in a bar and that's like another family, you are kind and heartfelt here in your second living room, and you don’t leave without a hug and a kiss. I think they pick up a love for it when they're students – when they are open to the world and curious about people of the wierdest kind and don’t have money to be picky or pretentious, and you get a taste for it, and if you're lucky enough when you're older you find a bar like this in Berlin and you make it your second living room.
That's Berlin. The best of Berlin.