written february 2017
crashing through the bedroom “door” in typical grunting fashion, fighting back the plastic laminate and lifting the blanket pinned to the frame behind it, I stumble into the little hovel i’ve fashioned into a solitary living space — curtain, window, desk and chest of drawers, radiator broiling bitter oil and threatening to set the place aflame. These items stand stoic round the single bed shoved in the corner, positioned as if guarding sentry against the devious nothingness that steals in every night and hogs the tattered blankets: the only thing that enters here other than myself.
imagine my surprise, then, as I toss my keys onto the table and unshoulder my pack looking up just in time to see you there, stretched out on that tiny plank of a bed. though the dreams i’ve had of you have often kept me warm and helped me pass the winter nights, never did i have so clear a vision of you here — lounging somewhat comically, one leg extended fully to the edge of the bed, perhaps a little over — your head propped up on one hand, the other resting on your hip, sumptuous as a curvy mistress posing stacked in lingerie, clutching a can of whipped cream cooing “welcome home, honey buns.” But it’s you, just you, in your sweater and your jeans, glint in your eye and your gaze on the doorway, waiting to surprise me. flew all this way just to find me, hunted down my address, broke into my house… that’s fine, that’s all just fine with me.
but again, the shock. i draw a sharp breath as my head jerks back to get a better look at you — just in time, as I said, for in that flash of time you’ve vanished. again i’m left alone — certain but shaken, gazing blankly at the imprint your body left pressed into my shoddy bedding.
my boy, my lad, stop haunting me.
only three times in my life have i experienced these visions, if that’s what you want to call them — unearthly flashes almost too vivid to possibly be a product of the mind, the conjurings of shining eyes and wet lips parting to murmur all the half-truths I want so madly to hear. perhaps it’s some sort of miracle: to love a person with such delirium that the heart, mind and eyes set to collaborating, constructing human forms from dust and longing and poor lighting. i like to think it’s not a symptom of a broken mind but I know I shouldn’t jump to conclusions; when a mind is born broken, so are each of its careful creations.
there was one time on the subway in Berlin late at night, my brain full of fumes in the flickering jaundiced glare. i was the only person on the night line — then looked up and bam, there he was, clear as day though so clearly not, gazing hard at me with those sparkling blue eyes, transmitting everything he never said that night when I left him. I dared not to blink as I knew he would vanish so I sat there, swaying in my seat in that hurtling yellow tube, waiting for his dimpled smile to slowly lift his cheeks, and I could not move or breathe as I watched him — that’s the rule, see. twitch and you break the cosmic balance. reality comes busting in and sets the scene to neutral. everything you ever loved will vanish in an instant. remember, remember: remember not to blink.
we built our home on a lone dirt track that the map said not to follow
and when you went hunting rabbits I was huddled in the dawn
a darkened mass of wool and bone and bowls all lying empty
squatting like a child in the dirt to search for stones
answers hidden in the hardened prints of hooves and clawmarks
left by better beings as they watched us keeping warm
but the frosted earth tore back my nails and pulled my lungs to pieces
and I couldn’t find you anything of worth
so I trapped a little bird and watched her struggle with her noose
and pretending I was elsewhere broke her neck
for freedom loses meaning when the blood is running cold,
the only thing important is the silence
I’ll light a fire with what I’ve got and pray that you will find me
one clawed foot, one iron needle, the burning pitch of an evergreen
my shaking fingers stretch her wings and
nail her above our door with little hope you’ll find her
she’ll call to you,
I can no longer scream
march 7, 2017. jrw
itches i can’t name
all over this broken
thing all tattered up
and covered in holes
the itch means healing
but i can’t tell the new scars
from the old ones
every day i stain something
else with my blood,
the pale gaunt face full
of larvae like a nervous addict,
which i am, and was, and will be,
til sliver by sliver with dirty nails
i tear apart the rest of me and
pick to pieces the remains still
searching for something
you are the
you are gone
from my skin
like a mist
or a phantom
you rose out
left some stains
the clouds are red-black
and the wind
cools me down
i haven’t felt
i’m sorry. you know this can never work.
je suis désólée. tu sais que ça ne peut rouler jamais.
jeg beklager, men du ved, at dette ikke kan gå.
ho sento però ja saps que això no pot sortir.
lo siento pero ya sabes que esto no puede salir.
it’s been years. have you forgotten?
ça fait du temps. t’as bien oublié ?
det har været år. har du glemt?
que fa anys. has oblidat?
ha sido años. has olvidado?
i hope that you get some daylight in
that you listen to heartbeats, eat sausages made from
pigs you met, stuff your face into big fluffy
hope you squeeze tight
whoever you’re squeezin
squeeze ‘em good like
you used to squeeze me
(but not better)
hopin on hope you eat shit that you ripped from the
ground with your hands and stay dirty
if just a little
hope you’ve come as far,
and as much,
and as many times
as i have
(though of course
i doubt that
i did love you,
bien oui que je t’aimais, quoiqu’il étàit bref
jeg elskede dig, selvom på det forkerte tidspunkt
jo t’estimava, però no prou,
te quería, aunque por sólo un momento,
i could never lie about that
sometimes i know she’s there and i can feel her.
my body feels
shrinking in and crowding us
the two of us
and in this way
i am suddenly a
girl who is also
a sheep-cart towing
two unshorn heifers to the barber
(right that’s where they go tho)
fighting for space and the farm hands are laughing
but those heifers are two feisty
mamas i’ll tell yeh man
now you can bet your bottom dollar
they’re in there hip-checkin the shit out of each other.
a laugh from the rest of the boys:
they come crawling
like clawed children
in hallways, in day – light
and night – light,
the worst ones of course
hands grasping in
from the walls and
you will love the way they feel
this place isn’t safe
for lovers or dancers
or birthers or swimmers
build an altar
get a stepstool
waist and burn
place to ashes i
to inhale you
like fiberglass dust
in my lungs all
blue and purple
dressed with flowers
venom and tea tree
i found some leaves
on the ground in
lisbon on these
steps in the
rain and the darkness
made them greener
they looked like lungs creased down the
middle so i picked one up and
held it to my chest and
I cried for you in the kitchen last night
before I remembered
I live alone,
just like I wanted.
We’re standing surrounded by police cars, eyes locked on the very angry Rottweiler rolling its eyes around and routinely lunging at us between foaming snarls, as the Berlin police copy down our information. Our mission had been relatively simple: a routine jaunt over a fence into an eerie abandoned theme park, to lounge about on decapitated plastic dinosaurs or try to get stuck at the top of the big creepy Ferris wheel like one nostalgic 90-year-old woman did in the summer of 2013. (source)
The Berlin police, however, don’t take so kindly lately to these harmless fence-hoppers, as evidenced by their unleashing of the killer dog, which chased us through a field and was called back just before it tore a man’s asscheek off.
This summer Shitty Guide went out and about to discover what shit lies beyond, in the obscurity of the European ether. Turns out there’s lots to choose from.
Berlin, for example, is the notable historic home of lots of really bad shit. Fortunately there’s some left over, and it probably won’t get you killed anymore (police dog chases aside.) Perhaps due to the flourishing fascism and division that once held Berlin and its inhabitants so firmly by the proverbial balls, the city has since rebounded in the opposite direction and helixed itself into a graffiti-covered, anti-fascist, punk-rock, electro-hipster paradise. It is often stupidly, unsufferably cool, crammed with freshly-tattooed youths and bad-but-hip conceptual start-ups, fancy clubs that fire off confetti and darker clubs where you can bone for as long as you like on the sofas, but of course, these things require access to money, and for this visit we shot for some shit of lower cost.
The Kulturpark Plänterwald was opened in 1969 to celebrate the German Democratic Republic’s 20th birthday, but the fall of the Berlin wall and the dissolution of the GDR eventually dropped it into the hands of one Norbert Witte, a carnival operator with an unfortunate history of accidentally killing people with cranes.
Unfortunately, the park failed to perform as Norbert had expected, and he moved his operations to Lima, Peru in 2002. This ambitious venture evidently took a turn when he was imprisoned for eight years for attempting to smuggle 181 kilos of cocaine back to Berlin inside the ‘Flying Carpet’ ride. (source)
The park went up for sale on ebay (seriously) after Witte went to prison, but in the end it was purchased back by the city and, as evidenced by our very brief visit, security has since been ramped up. Fortunately, the German police don’t have many options for prosecuting trespassing offenses by non-Germans, so we were released with little more than a slap on the wrist, fond memories of the eerily murmuring park and near-death by murderous Rottweiler.
Atop the Grunewald Forest on the crusty rim of West Berlin suburbia, there lies a cluster of white globes struck up on the horizon like a suspicious crop-up of warts. These land-warts are the towers of Teufelsberg, German for “devil’s hill” – a man-made hill reaching 120 meters above sea level, constructed from 75 million cubic meters of post-war rubble lugged out of Berlin and dumped over the incomplete remains of a Nazi military-technical college — making Teufelsberg essentially just a really, really massive pile of shit.
Due to the superb listening abilities atop the shit pile, in the 1960’s the U.S. National Security Agency chose to set up shop and construct one of its most massive listening facilities to monitor Soviet and East German military operations, thereby forcing the shut-down of two massive ski jumps that had opened on the hill (depressing both deviant Soviets and ski bums alike.) The remaining globes are military radomes that comprised a NSA spy station, though the rest of the facilities were broken down and removed after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
Teufelsberg Field Station has since been unofficially adopted by the Initiative Kultur-DENK-MAL and reconstituted as an urban graffiti wonderland/artistic shit zone. The raised woodland property is lined with trails and alcoves sometimes occupied by squatters or artists. The shit pile has become the collective brainchild of innumerable artists and muralists, littered with sculptures and discarded home fixtures, freestanding bathtubs (for lounging, we suppose,) deconstructed furniture, pallets, plantlife, recyclables, and piles of bare materials owed to unknown projects in the works.
In the center of this maze of half-realized creative structures are the towers themselves, rearing up to 80m above the forest, comprised of multiple exposed floors devoted exclusively to graffiti and murals, and capped with three massive white globes of peeling white plastic canvas. The top tower is mostly intact, so after a climb of six to seven flights up a pitch-black staircase above the roof, you emerge in the darkness of the top radome. The radomes are impressive echo chambers and notably bad places to pass gass. Save the grumpy old dude at the gate that wants seven euros for entry (though there’s beer and chocolate cake on donation) and quite a few lost-looking Germans wandering around on acid, the site is nearly bare of touristic traffic. Plus the view is nice or whatever, if you’re into that shit.
Every Sunday at 3 PM, Joe Hatchiban treks his massively powerful portable sound system out to a stone amphitheater in Mauerpark, a large stretch of park behind during the flea market. This has become one of the largest public karaoke sessions in existence, meaning a massive horde of people gathers together to make each other suffer in unison at the same time every week. Sounds a lot like church! Maybe Sundays just aren’t supposed to be good. A crowd of hundreds crams a stone stadium on the backside of the Berlin wall and is generally fairly supportive of its victims, though bad performances notably get preference. The spectacle is apparently a Berlin tradition, all thanks to Joe and his unmatched passion for shitty singing.
The market itself is crammed end-to-end with Berliners selling all their old shit, ranging from boxes of rummage and detritus from innumerable dead grandparents to more upscale small business owners hawking their wares to tourists. We found a bunch of plastic dinosaur skeletons for 5€ and a paperweight in the shape of an ass with ears for 2. Whatever strikes your shitty fancy.
We owe a notable shout-out to a not-so-shitty guy named Alexandros, who helped us get around the city for next to nothing.
Alex loves shitty bikes. He was the neighborhood repairman for upwards of twenty years in Neukölln before he saved up enough to buy himself five shitty bikes and start renting them out to people for four bucks a day. Now, he owns hundreds of shitty bikes and rents them out daily on the basis of trust, with a host of helpers from eight different countries. Yunus, his right-hand-man on the day we stopped by, explained Alex’s ascension from neighborhood handyman:
“I think this should be mentioned – he didn’t have the ten or twenty thousand euros to start the business. He started piece by piece. He was working from the opposite, from the cellar. This is our first year where we have the rental business in priority, before it was a mechanic – like a repair store.
“Today we have 230 bikes. That means Alex made something good, and now we are not only colleagues anymore, we are also workers for this – well, let’s say good guy. My deepest respect, you asshole,” he says, kicking Alex in the leg. “But he lost all of his hair during the time – look at that.” Alex doesn’t say much, rolling a cigarette and smiling. Up rolls an older woman on a commuter bike, and she stops to talk to Yunus in German, clasping his arm affectionately.
“That’s our grandmother,” Yunus says when the woman rides off. “She’s 82. She can’t walk, but she can cycle. It’s her mobility. She says without that shitty bike, she’d be dead.”
For more information about abandoned shit in Berlin, check out the excellent resource www.abandonedberlin.com