A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Happily Do Again: Last night I participated in something called the Black Market for Useful Knowledge and Non-Knowledge, which is continuing tonight at the Hebbel Theater 1 (HAU). I'm not quite sure what this is supposed to be, but the setup was that the audience area of the theater was filled with tables, each of which had an electrical outlet and a light. "Experts," who had been recruited to prepare a half-hour talk on a topic, were seated at the tables, and attendees could buy a one-on-one session with them for three Euros.
I prepared a little talk called "American Music in Black and White: It's Not That Simple," which was intended to demonstrate that the division between "black music" and "white music" in America has always been a very porous membrane. I actually gave this as a 90-minute lecture at the University of Delaware some years back, and it went over well, with musical examples from John Work's field recordings of very old black dance music which sounds identical to "old timey" country music, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys playing "White Heat," and a discussion of how "Matchbox Blues" got from Blind Lemon Jefferson in 1927 to the Beatles in 1963 (via Carl Perkins, whose recording I discovered I don't have in my library anywhere). I also played some Jimmie Rodgers and would like to have had time to play a Charlie Pride (or, better yet, Stoney Edwards) tune. As it was, both of my clients (or whatever you'd call them) were flabbergasted by the photo I showed them of Charlie Pride and Dolly Parton together. (Wonder how they'd have reacted to the picture of Dolly with the Village People Chuck Krall sent me last week?)
With only 30 minutes, and music selections to play, it was quite a challenge, but both the clients really got into it and seemed to have picked up a lot of ideas. I'm just sorry they didn't ask me to do both nights -- after all, I'd gone and burned a CD and put together a photo gallery, and my second presentation was way better than the first, so I was just getting into the groove. Getting a 25-Euro honorarium didn't hurt, either; it bought me a couple of more days before things get bad again, and maybe in the interim some of the money I'm owed will finally make it to the bank.
Congratulations to Gordon W, of Imbiss W fame! In a strangely short article in the New York Times, he got not only the top mention, but a photo of people eating at his joint on a much warmer day than today. Not bad for a former roadie for the late Bismillah Khan!
I've known Gordon for a decade, first and foremost as the proprietor of the Scharfness Institut ("scharf" in German usually indicates heat, but can also mean there's garlic somewhere near), which devoted itself to hunting down chile pepper-infused cooking in a city dedicated to blandness. He found some wonderful places, although they rarely lasted very long, and he also became involved in a couple of restaurants where he didn't last very long. Finally, he opened his own place, based on the portable tandoori oven he used to take to parties and events, making naan bread and tandoori salmon. Now he's got the naan pizza down cold and a devoted clientele. It's meant that the Scharfness Institut is in abeyance, though, which is a shame, because we need it now more than ever.
That said, the rest of the article's sort of a bust: only two more places to buttress the contention that street food in Berlin is changing, and one of them is in a shoe store!
But street food is changing, at least on my street. I knew last night that I was going to be hungry after my gig, and I also knew I didn't have any money until I did the gig to buy anything with, so I decided it was time for the Döner for Dinner routine, since a Döner is good and cheap, if not exactly health food. With the Turkish guys in front of me having vanished suddenly and been replaced by this Toco Rouge Chinese place, that meant I had my choice of a place near Bergstr. that seemed to be a hangout for teenagers after school, or the place closer to Oranienburger Tor. I chose the former, because the latter was where, coming home at 4am after who knows what kind of debauchery, I'd witnessed a well-dressed Turkish guy with a briefcase in his hand kicking a younger Turkish guy who was on his hands and knees, pleading with him, in the ribs. Most of the time you want to discount the stories of kebap shops as fronts for crime as the usual racist clap-trap, but this was actually happening before my eyes, so I crossed the street to avoid walking past.
Then I went out and discovered that the Bergstr. place had vanished overnight, too, although there was a "for rent" sign in the window.
I'm sure the last remaining place has undergone a few changes of management -- the current bunch running it seem to be German -- but it smelled so bad when I walked past last night, even though I was hungry, that I passed it by and went to Toco Rouge. Couldn't really afford it, but it was top-notch, and they seemed to be doing good business.
Still, where am I going to go for a Döner when, every six weeks or so, the urge hits?