Another fun prompt from my Wednesday night writing group got me at least writing a little blurb for you all. Hope you enjoy a little piece of my Berlin life.
The short denim skirt, blue tank top with an American flag embossed but shabby on the front, and kitten-heeled sandals were proof that she was an American. Her long blonde hair was pulled up into a top knot, but there were pretty little tendrils sweeping down around her face. She was perfectly made up. This was an ‘outfit.” She was definitely presenting a certain image of herself to the world. On the table in front of her was a Weißweinschorle (white wine with soda water and ice) a plate of crusty white bread with olive oil, and a small bowl of mixed olives. The umbrella over the table on the busy corner in front of the café was tipped just right to cover her face from the sun.
I watched as the server brought over a bottle of Riesling and an ice bucket, it appeared she was going to settle in for the afternoon. I’m not mad. I was sitting on the same sidewalk corner, in front of the same café, and I had already been through half my own bottle of Riesling during a leisurely afternoon writing while I waited for my friends. This was our Second Thursday ritual; writing and wine at the Kino café. We laughed and talked and discussed writing ideas, then kept each other accountable to actually spend real minutes working on our current works in progress; me on my memoir, Belinda on hers. Nancy? She usually wrote short stories about her latest adventures at the Kit-Kat Club and Jessica just came for the wine! Her day job is travel writing and she didn’t want to do that now, she just wanted the wine, so she listened and critiqued our work all while simultaneously distracting us from it.
But in all those sunny afternoons, I had never seen this woman. Her bright colors and proud American symbolism made her stand out among the black fashion statements of my Berliner neighbors. Even the perfection of her hair spoke of someone who had not quite adapted her style to her surroundings. Some of us never do. Me on the other hand? I was wearing my Berlin uniform: a blank tank top, funky plastic costume jewelry necklace in bright primary colors- with matching granny earrings, short jeans, and high-top black sneakers with striped socks just peeking out. My hair is also pulled up and back, but there are no sweet sexy tendrils, it’s just a mess. This is Berlin, no one cares!
Except, maybe she does. She is on her phone now and I hear her voice as it travels across the side-walk towards my table, “That’s what I’m saying,” she lamented loudly, “ they all look like peasants here! I think Berlin is where fashion goes to die!”
This writing reminded me of a piece I wrote at another writing group- while I was in Berlin. This was written on September 27, 2017, but never published.
When I walk anywhere in Berlin, I feel at home. I never feel like a stranger, or even an ex-pat, I feel at home. The first time I walked down the street, more than a year ago now, I felt safe and enclosed by some invisible “good vibe” bubble. It was a warm, early August evening, the street lights glowed yellow as I walked down the Kruezburg street. It was late but the heat of the day was still radiating up from the sidewalk as I wandered to meet my friend for a glass of wine. The lights were dim, but I didn’t fear, I was enjoying the intimacy of the night as it enfolded me in its arms. I wandered down a small darkened street, there was mystery and excitement. As I explored the neighborhood, the small bar on the corner, candles in the window, called to me, “Stop for a minute! Just be in the moment.” It asked me to wait, to slow down, to feel the city coursing through my veins.
A year later, that feeling lingers. I live in a new neighborhood, but still in East Berlin. I rarely walk at night, I have begun to live my life here as a normal person, not a tourist, not so much an explorer, as a “vecino”, a neighbor, a resident of this city. But the city still calls to me, “Slow down!” It says. “Feel! Be present.”
The children, riding their little bikes, are so young! They trail far behind their mom or dad. They are already independent and free to enjoy their own choice of movements in life. No one cares here. Independence is valued. There is a sense of being able to do what you want, and no one is looking over your shoulder to make sure you are on the correct path. No one is watching to be sure you follow some rigid imagined plan set out for you (and everyone else.) Here, in Berlin, you have the freedom to just ride that tiny little bike and go, go, go!
Freedom of thought is not just a lofty goal, it’s how we do here. Open relationships, start-up culture, art, music, all-night and all-day clubs, there is no rat race here. Everyone does their own thing, and it’s ok. There is a vibe here, that says go for it. Do YOUR thing, don’t worry about us, we’re just over here doing our thing. Anonymity is good, but if you want to stick out, that is great too.
Black is a thing here. As long as I have something black on, I feel anonymous, like I AM Berlin. Today I peeked at myself in the mirror and laughed. High water jeans, the ugliest black sneakers I’ve ever owned with black and grey striped socks sticking out the top. A black and grey striped top (sometimes I still just HAVE to match!) and a grey sweatshirt with a hood, topped by a denim jacket. If it’s true that your fashion tells so much about who you are, then I think I AM truly part of this city now.
And just to add a little humor- here is a ‘fun’ outfit I didn’t think twice about wearing in Berlin but I would NEVER wear here in the US! LOL I’m wearing those same sneakers and denim jacket described above!
Some other stories I have written about Berlin or people in Berlin or my experiences in Berlin: