Tegel Airport, Berlin. October 27th 2019.
Tegel must have left a strong impression on me last year because I pass through the arrival gate, through the crowds, through the airport gleam with barely a thought or care for direction and, with the sliding doors shushing behind me, I am, once again, giddy with the almost overwhelming sensorial wash of a culture, both archly and subtly unlike the one that I am steeped in. With every step taken, every breath drawn, understanding, of the lingual, the aural, the visual – the perceived – melts away and I am alien, ajar, anew.
The 128 takes me from the airport, along the A 100, across the northern outskirts, to the fringes of the city, where, recognising, or sensing a memory of, Jakob-Kaiser-Platz station, I step down from the bus and descend into the yellow, dark blue and red subterranean.
Jungfernheide, Mierendorffplatz, Richard-Wagner-Platz.
Bismarckstrasse, Wilmersdorferstrasse, Adenauerplatz,
Fehrbelliner Platz, Blissestrasse, Berlinerstrasse.
Rising up to street level, a moment to orientate:
the clock with no hands, the racks of postcards on the stand.
The bikes chained to the railings, the currywurst man at his stall.
The painted walls.
Hotel Johann, Johanniterstrasse 8, 10961. Room 410.
410 is on the top floor. It is smaller than last year’s room, cosier. I overlook the garden yard. There is no bath, but a great shower.
Unpack and nap and then a stroll along Urbanstrasse for no apparent reason other than air and adventure. The pavement, as dusk closes in, becomes busier with folk heading home from work. The Berliner girls, red cheeked, eyes sparkling, linked into each other. Their simple, arcane, brutalist fringes, so alluring and bold to me, giggle and chatter. The men, collars popped, the long scarfs that one sees everywhere here, wrapped round and round their neck, blow smoke into their phone light. The street glitter of bicycle and car light. The twinkle of bells. I start to sing, quite automatically, a song that came to me last year and has featured in almost every set I have played since then. It rings truer than ever this evening and I smile as I walk and sing aloud, the words, like magic, becoming again, reality…
Teasing out a tune on a borrowed horn, in a rented room in Kreuzberg.
Breathing the perfume of the afternoon, I taste bottled beer, I taste oranges.
The shadows rise as the sunlight falls. The sparrows in the scaffold sing in 10962..
The walls are an endless display of graffiti: faces, shapes of every colour, words derived from many languages, some tags (not so many), graphics and collage. But, despite the archaic nature of the brickwork, there is really very little in the way of discard. I turn right and after some time right again, the streets quieter, darker, until, at last I have come nearly full circle and find myself back on Mehringdamm. Mustafa’s Gemuse kebab shop is busy, so I join the queue. I order a chicken kebab and eat it on the street as I head back through Barutherstrasse and onto Johanniterstrasse. It is delicious.
Berliner Kindl in the Johann’s quiet bar. I read MOJO and watch the tea light flicker on the table next to me. I climb the stairs and go to bed.
I sleep well.