BERLIN, TUESDAY 28 JULY 2015
I’m an artist manager, tour manager and lecturer. I’ve lived on the road for over three years, through thirty-five countries so far, and write about my experiences, on the nature of travel and its effects on us, observing the tics and idiosyncrasies of different cultures on different vehicles, those traits which confirm or shatter our social prejudices
The seats on the 128 bus from Tegel Airport have no cushioning. Bus transport is noisy here. People talk. I listen to the flight attendants behind me discuss the only things flight attendants discuss: where they’ve come in from, where they’re going next, how many nights off they’ll have. Flight attendants and bands… politics and the weather don’t exist for them.
Berlin is loose. There are bikes on the U-Bahn, no A/C, no barriers to stop those who wouldn’t get within an Oyster card’s-length of a London Underground carriage.
A drunk woman boards the U12 at Hallesches Tor. Through the legs of those next to me I observe that an expansive cloud of cloying perfume and alcohol fumes has created a space around her. She’s speaking loudly in a language I don’t understand. She sings ‘Happy Birthday To You’, tunelessly, in English. At Schlesisches Tor the carriage partly empties and I see her now as she moves to sit, a member of the anarchist community. She’s with a friend and as I exit at the last stop she remains seated, her face heavily pierced, partly hidden by the huge bottle of Pilsner she’s swigging. Berliners swig Pilsner from bottles like Norwegians drink coffee; they’ve just had one, or having one, or thinking about where the next one is coming from. Usually they’re smoking a roll-up with it. There’s not going to be an explosion in vaping here any time soon.
Outside the station a busker plays a trumpet, accompanied by some bad dance beats. Given Berlin’s electronic heritage, his audience of around one hundred souls is unforgivably forgiving.
I walk to Urban Spree to see Foxtrott and Antoine93 play a show. The pavements are a mess of empty bottles, hop dregs, roll-up butts, buskers, anarchists, their dogs. I am a lone suit in a sea of nose piercings. After the show I walk back to the station; new buskers with Chilli Peppers covers, the Eis stand and burrito truck still open on a Sunday, approaching midnight. Back in my absent friend’s apartment, the U-Bahn distantly thunders like sub-bass through the walls of the Berghain, but in the morning, on the three mile walk to my temporary office through parks, along canal paths, as cyclists slide past, I hear birdsong all the way.