Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A Few More Crumbs

A big round of applause to whoever arranged the illumination of Schloss Charlottenburg, considered by many to be Berlin's most beautiful building, and one of great historical value. I went by it the other night, late, and I have to say they've spared no expense in making it look tacky, like a sort of Bulgarian Disneyland creation. The colors -- inadequately conveyed there on the website -- are so artificial and candy-like that some expert must have put in days finding just the wrong mix. It's quite a feat, uglifying something so completely. I felt actually physically assaulted by it -- granted, it was late and I was tired, but sheesh -- and found myself wondering...what's wrong with white? It seems to work for the city's other monuments just fine.

***

A big sigh of relief on my part, but no doubt ulcers for others, to discover that this year's Love Parade, confidently trumpeted just a few months ago as absolutely, definitely gonna happen, has been cancelled.

For those of you who (understandably, because you live in the United States, where it was never covered even when a couple of million people showed up for it, because the musical powers that be don't like the music it celebrated) have never heard of the Love Parade, it is or was an institution here. The second weekend of July saw huge crowds of techno fans show up for a parade, first down the KurfĂĽrstendamm, and then, later, on a wider route from Ernst Reuter Platz to the Brandenburg Gate, followed by a weekend of parties in which the cream (and, inevitably, much of the cottage cheese) of the world's DJs and techno performers were booked in a succession of temporary and permanent club spaces.

Some years ago, when I was at JazzRadio here, we had a float in the parade, and I got to discover exactly what the number 2.5 million looked like. I've never seen anything like it: seas of humanity as far as the eye could see. At the Grosser Stern, where the Siegessäule is (you know, the monument featured in Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire), the sight was staggering. It took us about six hours to go the distance, and when we reached the end, I happily jumped off and ran to the subway station, with only two things on my mind: pee and get away from all other human beings.

The thing was, as it grew, it became increasingly dependent on the city of Berlin not just for the permits, but for funding as a cultural event. There were really complicated problems, too, like that of toilet facilities. I remember one year, some scientists did a study of what so much urine would do to the soil acidity in the Tiergarten, Berlin's lovely central park, and concluded that all the trees were doomed. (For a cultural index of what this news meant, consider that Germans feel about trees the way Britons feel about dogs). I'm sure people peed in the open, but the park's trees were still standing a couple of days ago.

But, as you may know, the city of Berlin is currently €40 billion in debt, and, much as these kids -- most of whom come from far outside the city, making them sort of German bridge-and-tunnel types -- may spend money, the balance sheet shows that they cost the city more than it makes in bed tax and other revenues. There was a time when it was an attractive proposition, but that time is long gone.

So the Love Parade didn't happen last year, and it won't again this year. It's faded as something politicians like to co-opt (and anyway, we have a gay mayor now, so he doesn't need to prove anything), and, to be honest, techno itself is fading. The last of the city's important techno clubs, the venerable Tresor, closed this year, victim of declining attendance, rising real estate prices, the owner's growing indifference, and the aging of the crowd who put it on the map 15 years ago.

Meanwhile, though, buoyed by the news that it would happen, a bunch of promoters went and rented spaces and, months and months ago (because these people are both expensive and in great demand) booked the performers for what they hoped would be their Big Love Parade Show. Now, there'll be a deficit of some hundreds of thousands of visitors, and it's a mark of their desperation that a friend and I, she in her 40s and me older, were handed a flyer for one (headlined by DJ Marusha, who's gotta be around 40 herself by now). Mostly, they avoid handing things like that to us old folks. Hell, one year, I went to a (superb) Love Parade party at the Kulturbrauerei, which cost a whopping DM 50 (€25) to get into, and the friends I went with had to yell at the guy at the door so he'd let me in. "He's too old," the guy said. Today they'd probably let me negotiate the price.

So I'm very curious how next weekend's going to pan out. Nightlife in this town is thin enough, but I smell a disaster brewing. Ain't no Love in the heart of this city!

***

Anyway, who wants to get packed into a room with a couple of thousand sweaty dancers when you could enjoy a nice day in the park? And call it art?

That's what PickNick is all about. They've left little flyers looped on plastic ties all over my neighborhood, and the basic deal is they'll rent you a blanket and whatever equipment you need (electric cooler, grill, wicker picnic basket with veddy nice British accessories) and supply you with food and drink. They'll even deliver this to four local parks if you order more than €8 worth of stuff.

Of course, you may have noticed, in true Berlin fashion, that the website barely works, that the English half of it isn't up yet, and that the "monthly menu" contains nothing and hasn't been changed since May. But who cares? According to the flyer, it's "a summer product and art project from anSTADT," which I believe is a design firm. And when you have nice design, who needs content?

***

Speaking of nice design, kudos to Apple for announcing that the first Apple Store on the European continent (there's already one in London) would open in Berlin late this year or early next. As a long-time member of the Faithful, I paid a visit to the one in Austin this March, and it will be interesting to see what the one here will look like. The bad news, though, is that it's going to be on the Ku'damm, which is so often an attractive address for people who've never been here, but is a pretty dull thoroughfare with few locals shopping on it and astronomical rents. Jeez, there's enough space for rent on Friedrichstr., and that's much closer to where people actually go. But if I'm still here, I'll make the trek over there anyhow.

1 comment:

Michael Leahy said...

Ha, ha for being too old to techno. I remember being at Ghent's Ten Days Off about six years ago and people kept asking where the toilets were. Took me a while to figure they thought I was running the show (or was a plains-clothes Mormon).

Mind you, I slowly began to take a hint when a girl jumped on my back and said, "Gosh you're old, are you the boss or something?"