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Name: Tom Doig
Bio: Tom Doig: born and bred in Wellington NZ, been playing in Melbourne for the past six years - five more than planned. Recently finished editing Voiceworks magazine (www.expressmedia.org.au/voiceworks), co-directing the 2007 National Young Writers' Festival, part of the This Is Not Art (TINA) festival (www.thisisnotart.org). Has been known to strip naked onstage and rub himself in catfood, for Art, and Badness. Planning to do a lot more writing in the next couple of yaers.
Photos: tomtom's photo libraries
Two Mrs Rauchen seeking for nice, unlocked individuals, not man/women ... ( 21st Mar, 2007 )
ich bin in berliner (babelfished) ( 5th Mar, 2007 )
gay paree ( 26th Feb, 2007 )
Going to Alice ( 11th Feb, 2007 )
The melting pot ( 24th Dec, 2006 )
In Which Tom Doig Attains Enlightenment ( 24th Dec, 2006 )
Day One without my neighbour - an accidental gay massage ( 11th Dec, 2006 )
FALANG ISLAND ( 3rd Dec, 2006 )
I'm so in Laos with my nieghbour ... ( 3rd Dec, 2006 )
One night in MOng-Kok - I mean, Guangzhou - I mean ... Kunming? ( 26th Nov, 2006 )
Ding Bu Dong! ( 18th Nov, 2006 )
Golly ( 14th Nov, 2006 )
So why are you going to China? ( 14th Nov, 2006 )
It was a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, springtime. I had just biked from our new residence in Neukolln to Friedrichshain VIDEOWORLD to drop off a DVD about Hitler, then bought two comic books about Hitler from a little bookshop by Boxhaganer Platz. I was on my way to see a Chinese photography competition in Mitte when I got a text message:
From: Alice Swing
And everything changes.
The funeral is on Wednesday – in Denver, Colorado. She has to make a choice: fly to the States for the funeral - which would mean leaving almost immediately, and not coming back to Europe. Or: miss the funeral, stay in Berlin with me until May, spend a month traveling through Eastern Europe to the beaches of Croatia, then fly to America to see her family.
She has to go to the funeral.
She has to pack up her Berlin belongings and go, straight away.
Tickets are booked in a numb, stunned flurry. Because of the conditions of her round-the-world ticket, Alice has to fly from Berlin to London to connect with her original itinerary, THEN fly BACK to Germany before leaving from Munich for New York. Hell. We book her a Tuesday flight from NYC to Denver, and an early Monday morning flight to London. On Sunday morning we realise that it's cutting it too fine, so she books ANOTHER two hundred Euro flight to London, leaving that afternoon. By the time she's finished packing, we have two hours before she has to go to Tegel Airport. Time for one last beer and icecream in a Berlin park. Hugs, tears, promises, a thousand phone-calls and a thirty million emails to come, see you in Melbourne in July, neighbour.
You're doing the right thing, I say.
Stop telling me that, she says.
And then – she's gone.
* * *
It's strange how plans change, and change, and change. If someone had told me six months ago that I'd spend my 28th birthday in a big sharehouse in the Turkish district of Berlin, cooking dinner for a dozen sweet random Germans who I hardly know, getting sung “Happy Birthday” in English, Deutsch (West German) and Deutsch (East German), that in the early hours of April the 18th I'd be wandering up Karl Marx Strasse with an Aussie, an American, a Brit, a Swede and a German, looking for somewhere to have a beer, unsuccessfully, that I'd turn around and walk home alone, concealing the leg bone of an elk inside my jacket, I would've ... I don't know WHAT I would've said.
But that's what happened. And here I am. Shocked, stunned, sad, but determined to make the most of it. I've booked a ticket for Budapest in 11 days, and if I can get a “letter of invitation” for Ukraine, I'm going to Chernobyl.
Seven-thirty on a Thursday evening. Me and Alice are both frazzled, burnt out from an afternoon slaving away in a freezing internet cafe, cutting and pasting slabs of text from www.studenten-wg.de into Babelfish and trying to work out if any of these mad German Dada poets would want us for housemates ...
should we call the nice, unlocked, kommunikativ individuals with hall soil including warm river in CrossMountain, or the 2 friendly Mrs Rauchen seeking for non-purpose WG with no “what kind of yoghurt for eating” in the supermarket discussions?
While Alice hacks her way through the dense foliage of Deutsch internet, I embarrass myself in the adjacent phonebooth, calling strangers and repeating over and over, like a curse:
“Enshooligong, ah spricken de English? Sorry, I'm calling about the viggie ...”
Strangely enough, people don't seem too interested in a deranged, non-Deutsch speaking COUPLE trying to cram their way into a tiny Berlin WG (group-house, or “viggie”) for two or maybe four months. But we've managed to get a few interviews, and we have a place to see at 10pm tonight. It sounds promising – at least, the ad was up in English as well as Deutsch, and it made a point of saying that foreign students and short stays were okay. As long as we don't stuff everything up ... I had already mortally offended a cultural studies major at a house interview by mentioning my David Hasselhoff research project – “that's SUCH a cliche! The whole world thinks that Germans love Hasselhoff, but we DON'T!” – so this time I was going to try and keep my mouth shut. Don't mention the war; don't mention the Hoff. Other than that, what could go wrong?
At 7.45pm, Alice suddenly remembers she has to call Nadja. Nadja is a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend who we haven't met yet, but are meant to be seeing, tonight. So! Alice gets the address, we scan our series of street maps, make some marks in red pencil, put all the maps and a bottle of water and my journal full of viggie addresses / names / phone numbers into a bag, pull on jackets and hats and scarves and gloves and THEN, go outside and unlock our rattly bikes and wheel down Frankfuter Allee, off into the night ...
... catch the Ring-Bahn from Friedrichshain to Prenzlauerberg, without getting lost ...
... and make it to Nadja's apartment by 8.30, with three of Berlin's finest 50-cent half-litre beers.
Nadja's boyfriend Dieter is over, and BOY are they happy to see us! You see, there are three types of German:
1)Germans who have been to Australia, and love Australians;
2)Germans who want to go to Australia, and want to love some Australians;
3)Germans who haven't been to Australia, and don't give a scheisse about Australians.
Nadja and Dieter are firmly in category 1. They love us instantly, because we are from Melbourne (or thereabouts), and they lived in Melbourne for three months, and loved it. We all have a beer, Prost-Prost-Prost-Prost. Nadja and Dieter wax lyrical about their time Down Under – sleeping in a van in Brisbane, working under-the-table for a juice bar at a music festival in rural Queensland ...
NADJA: So they said, “You've got the job!” and I said, “What kind of music is it?” and they said, “Psy-trance”, and I said “Oh YEEEAH!!”
They love their psy-trance, Dieter tell us, while Nadja expertly rolls a spliff. They rocked Earthcore, and Rainbow Serpent, and had a blast. And even tho I don't smoke, these guys are so nice, it seems rude not to ... so I have a puff, and straight away I'm a little blasted. Germans are so nice. They have sugary peanuts!
And, it's 9.40!
We've got a viggie interview all the way over in Crossmountain in twenty minutes!
Maybe we can postpone till Friday or Saturday. Dieter lets me make a call on his mobile, except he has to dial Joseph's number for me. Joseph is seeing everyone tonight. We can come tomorrow, but the room might be gone by then! Twenty minutes? Twenty minutes late is fine.
We grab a handful of sugar peanuts for the road, promise to see them again soon – they have lots of psy-trance parties to take us to. I kiss Nadja goodbye, and get a man-hug from Dieter – my first man-hug in Germany! And we reel back out into the night.
Make it back to the Ring-Bahn, balance our bikes against the closed train door and sit down, all shifty eyes and giggles. I have a BRILLIANT thought about my thesis. At the next stop, the bikes fall over, loudly. A few stops later, we realise that we're not on the Ring-Bahn, but instead are heading south, out past Neukolln ... so we get off, carry our bikes down two or four flights of stairs to the U-Bahn, catch it for a couple of stops, carry bikes, change lines, carry bikes, make it to Gneisenaustrase and race off in the opposite direction for three or six blocks. When we finally arrive at Joseph's place, it's 10.51pm.
I ring the “Dr Joseph Smoygl” buzzer. Joe says hello, the door buzzes. I push the door, but like a lot of crappy Berlin doors, it doesn't open. So I push it again, harder, then put my shoulder into it. It groans, almost gives, but not quite.
“PLEASE don't DESTROY my DOOR!” Joseph's voice booms down the intercom. “STOP. I'm coming DOWN.”
Joseph is in his fifties, Russian or maybe Czech? I apologise for trying to destroy his door. Joe is friendly, makes us wipe our feet then invites us into the building. We can't tell if he's the landlord, or if he lives there. The first room of the apartment is a bedroom, but you have to walk through it to get to the rest of the house. A French student is staying there, studying Hungarian – this student and Joseph speak Hungarian together at home. Joe wants to show us the view from the balcony, which is ... dark. He makes us wipe our feet, then lets us back inside. Before he shows us the room, Joseph offers to tell us a little bit about the neighbourhood.
ALICE: Um, it's okay, we know that Kreuzberg is a nice –
JOSEPH: It's an excellent location. There are three theatres within walking distance: one of them is four minutes away, another one is five minutes walk, and the other one is a seven-minute walk. They are called the Theatre, the Other Theatre, and ...
[five minutes later]
JOSEPH: ... so, what are you doing Berlin?
[ten minutes later]
When Joseph finally shows us the kitchen, you can't really see it, because it's jammed full of nervous American students, and an annoying Irish fellow. They start making awkward small-talk with me and Alice. At first I think they must live here in some demented dorm scenario, except where would they sleep? No, they all came to look at the room. “Tea?” Joseph asks happily. Um, no one wants a tea. I wonder if Joe, is he expecting us to all beg him for the room at the same time?
TOM: What ... are you going to do now?
JOSEPH: You write down your number, and I call you about the room. Do you like it?
TOM: Sure ... we've written down our number, so we might ... leave, now.
CHORUS OF AMERICAN STUDENTS: Me too. I've got to leave too.
ANNOYING IRISH FELLOW: Yas e've got ta leave nau tooo man!
Joesph seems quite disappointed, but lets everyone get their jackets. By this time it's nearly midnight. As we walk away, Joseph calls out to me.
JOSEPH: Your project sounds very interesting! If you ever feel like discussing it, give me a phone call and you can come over.
TOM: Ummmmm ...