WEIRD STREET ART
LIDL is a supermarket chain. There is one in my neighborhood, true enough, but why did this person feel compelled to graffiti the awning down the street with directions to it? They even went so far as to bring two cans of spray paint so they could emulate the color scheme of the store’s official logo. Why?
This one, on the other hand, I can totally get behind. Forget about blogging or twittering, this person went old school and wrote out a diatribe in ballpoint pen, then scotch taped it to a lamp post. That’s what I call keeping it real. For those who can’t read German, I’ll translate:
“The woods are a magical place. If you feel sick or unhappy, if life gives you no pleasure, go out in the woods by yourself and stay there for at least a week. Two is better. And then, listen. The woods will speak to you, on a level somewhere between waking and dreaming. The trees will take the weight from your shoulders and you will get answers to the pressing problems of your life.”
I like it. Very transcendental.
ant on the subway
Taking the U-8 down to Neukölln, sitting in a seat with my backpack on my lap, I notice suddenly a living creature crawling across its surface, a solitary ant, picked up presumably while sitting in the park earlier, and now moved through quantum forces far beyond its tiny comprehension into a different universe: the underground tunnels of man, anti-septic and nature-free except for those holding a validated ticket, though the ant is probably not the only being to have snuck aboard without one. This ant, it occurs to me, is completely fucked. Separated from the hive and its sisyphusian happiness in the rote neurologically programmed repetitive tasks that are all of ant existence, the tiny creature skitters about, having lost the trail of smell back home, running this way and then that way, in wild trails around the backpack, hoping vainly to pick the scent back up. This is the human being equivalent of accidentally walking into a portal to another dimension orchestrated by the time lords; it is an event beyond the creature’s frame of comprehension. What would a time lord do in this situation? Having accidentally transported this unwitting creature into these harsh and unusual conditions, what are my responsibilities? If the ant manages to cling on for the duration of the evening, I could conceivably return him to the park later on. Then it would become the equivalent of UFO abduction: the others wouldn’t believe him, even if the ant could explain, and the experience will mark him, he will be shunned for the rest of his life. What about flicking him gently off my backpack, here in the subway? What are his long-term chances of survival on the U-8? Perhaps not bad: no predators, plenty of crumbs. The main danger would be getting squashed for your sheer insignificance by one of the God-like beings around you, who traverse underground tubes of their own insect-like design, but in the comfort of well-lit trains with video screens broadcasting digest news clips at us–––
— and one of these God-like beings, the woman next to me, in fact, has just looked down from the broadcast and noticed the bug, crawling around, not quite on me, but on my belongings, and has had to quickly stifle a look of grossed-out indignance, ugh, the sheer insignificance of that misplaced being– my little buddy is already in the danger zone, I realize. I have to play it cool now, quit staring at the insect, instead pretend that I haven’t noticed the ant on my bag. The woman’s unwillingness to transgress social barriers and swat a stranger’s belongings is the only thing keeping this innocent alive, who did nothing wrong, except to be a little curious, to sniff the wrong piece of canvas, and thereby receive the ultimate gift of the gods, removal of all constraints and constructs that keep you locked into the hive-mind, control of your own DESTINY– total freedom, ultimate individuality: to do your own thing, with no rules, in a new dimension.
It is all a bit much for the franticly freaking ant mind to handle. It (is it, in fact, a he? Are all the small ants he’s? And then there is one big supine queen somewhere, way back in the hive? Is that how ant civilization works?) would do anything to get back to that patch of grass, that small square of universe, make any deal, sell me any soul I assign it. Anything in its power, which is nothing. All that is keeping it alive is my feigned inattention, the knowledge that one set of human eyes is all that is allowed on it at a time. I wonder who this woman sitting next to me is, where she’s going, what job she has, what gives her life meaning, what sets her apart as an individual– I will never know, because then the ant crawls off the backpack and on to my wrist, which actually is a little gross, I don’t want to be an actual literal person with bugs crawling on them– and so I flick my wrist lightly, and the ant goes flying to meet its destiny of trying to survive in the strange vortex between places known as a train compartment of the U-8. The woman quickly looks away. It is beyond our realm of problems now.
RIP: awesome building, corner of Altonaer Strasse and Schleswiger Ufer
This futuristic high-rise has lain decrepit ever since I first encountered it, looking like a crashed spacecraft, or the abandoned headquarters of some ingenious super-villain. Passing by on occasion, I’d eagerly look forward to the day when the building would be squatted and turned into an art space/autonomous zone by dreadlocked hippie barbarians, a day that seemed to draw enticingly nearer as the European economy teetered on the brink of collapse. No sane developer could possibly think of urban renewal at a time like this, with the Berlusconis and Papandreous of the world running amok, throwing orgies and impromptu electoral referendums. But then, seemingly overnight, fortunes shifted, dictators were deposed in favor of benevolent technocrats, the Euro made a slight rebound– and, literally overnight, the bulldozers arrived and began their startlingly swift work.
Construction sites are nothing new in Berlin– soon after the fall of the wall the city became known as the biggest construction zone in the world, the ubiquitous towering cranes becoming almost the de facto new mascot of the city. The speed with which a building can be erected is astonishing, and tearing a building down is almost faster than the eye can see. You could blink and miss it. I’m glad that I happened to walk by as this fine piece of architecture was being demolished, and so had a chance to pay my last respects. Good bye, building. As for whatever monstrosity will take your place, the only consolation is that it too will someday disappear.