Life near the Tempelhof Airfield

This huge airfield in the middle of the booming city has always been an oddity, and during the time of the Berlin Wall (1961-1989) even a symbol of the divided world. Thanks to the Airbridge, life wasn’t that miserable in the enclave of West Berlin. After reunification, Tempelhof allowed politicians to move swiftly between Bonn and Berlin, indulging in the joy of life rather than the discomfort of overland travel.

That era has ended, too, and the field is up for grabs, waiting for project developers to erect shopping malls. Luckily, things are moving slow and the field is still an oasis of emptiness, where you can skate, fly a kite, grill, do organic gardening, and chill out watching the sun set over the City.
Next to the Tempelhof Airfield, on the east side, is Neukölln, origin of Berlin and the next place to be hip, after Kreuzberg, Prenzlberg and Friedrichshain are losing some of their glory to hipsters growing up and pushing prams.

So we lived in Neukölln in a sublet flat on the 4th floor, overlooking the Tempelhof field, for one month in July 2011. It was a beautiful time. We did indeed go walk on the Airfield, we did organize a vegetarian BBQ party with Couchsurfing, made a lot of new friends, and – we were part of the locally deplored gentrification of the “Gegend”.

Life is good in this part of Berlin: the old slow atmosphere with the “Eckkneipen” remains intact while sparkling new street cafés are opening and offer good coffee and laid-back afternoons of newspaper reading and reflecting on life. As everywhere in Berlin, sourcing food is easy and cheap as a supermarket is never more than a few blocks away. We preferred the Turkish supermarkets with their flat breads that we used to scoop up various kinds of humus, tabouleh, and other mediterranian delicacies from our houselord’s blender. Neukölln has movie theatre’s, nice parks, canals, the bustling Karl Marx Strasse, the famed “Sonnenallee” (where I used to live between 2002 and 2006), and with the U6, U7 or U8 as well as a number of metrobuses at your doorstep it never takes long to travel to, say, the Museumsinsel, Berlin’s famous nightclubs, Ku’Damm, or to whereever you think you need to go that is outside of Neukölln.

“Neukölln – Don’t try to pronounce it, live it.”

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August 20. Decadence.

Berlin and getting organized. Perhaps I have developed a sharp nose for decadence, a term I have a hard time defining by the way. But let’s give it a try, you have seen weirder things at this spot. So, what then, is decadence? A bundle of images comes to my mind. People critizising everybody else, making cynical remarks as they devour lamb chops with slimy green mint sauce dripping from their chubby chin. I want you to get the picture. People moaning and groaning about life, from behind their fat television set, their butts pushed deep into their crème-colored couch. People telling you the same plan over and over again and you know they’ll never try to make it come true. People debating on the internet and insulting each other in a horrendously blunt ignorance of etiquette. No I won’t stop. I am talking about real people and it can be painful but I don’t care. See, I don’t go ad personam, let me finish the list of images of decadence. People writing God knows what and tell you it’s the most important thing in the world they won’t laugh the Dionysian laugh about the little fancy vain theater in their heads and get over it. People pretending to be smart entrepreneurs but don’t ask if their brainchild is a real contribution as long as they can pay their beers and cigarettes. People working on idle jobs making up a flawless battery of excuses why they don’t stand up for their cause. People who want the best for somebody else but blend out the possibility that somebody else’s voice conveys a truth that may enrich theirs. People who let you work for them for nothing and then never mention it. People who naturally dominate you without questioning this behavior let alone being playful about it. People who write hateful obituaries about other people, all well-fed individuals, pampered as they are and slurping slimy oysters. People who are working their asses off and flirt with the thought that it makes them morally superior to those who don’t. People treating the defence of their academic essay as the defence of their life, degenerated epigons of self-importance who have never seen a gun or a death camp.
For me, the solution is simple: I have to go decadence out of the way. It would be great if you can help. I can sleep on your kitchen floor for instance, and keep the mice away. And I know how to handle a broom.

August 19. Getting organized #3.

Berlin and getting organized. I must be riding the metro today, going from meeting to meeting, frantically fighting the depression that is luring in every corner of this city. It is dangerous to be here! How exciting! Dangerous, despite all the friendly people that seem to care about you because you can program their computers. Dangerous, despite all the good friends that seem to care a lot about you because you can stay with them, despite all the smiles you get from far friends that are quite busy. Je regrette, et j’écris:
“schlanke finger näher den klängen als der luft.”
Those tender fingers, that seem to be more close to the sounds than to the air, what does that mean? It means a lot of things and I leave that to the imagination of the reader. The fingers are playing a cello perhaps, and as they touch the strings they move through the air but they are already with the sounds that the instrument will produce. Or the fingers are playing a trumpet, and they are closer to the resulting sound than to the air that flows below them. Or the fingers belong to lovers who touch each other’s lips while they whisper something. Or the fingers are dead and the person whose body lies there has gone to another dimension where sounds replace matter. The line is, by the way, written by the 18th-century German poet, L.E. KIMA (1779-1869).

August 19. Getting organized #3.

Berlin and getting organized. I must be riding the metro today, going from meeting to meeting, frantically fighting the depression that is luring in every corner of this city. It is dangerous to be here! How exciting! Dangerous, despite all the friendly people that seem to care about you because you can program their computers. Dangerous, despite all the good friends that seem to care a lot about you because you can stay with them, despite all the smiles you get from far friends that are quite busy. Je regrette, et j’écris:
“schlanke finger näher den klängen als der luft.”
Those tender fingers, that seem to be more close to the sounds than to the air, what does that mean? It means a lot of things and I leave that to the imagination of the reader. The fingers are playing a cello perhaps, and as they touch the strings they move through the air but they are already with the sounds that the instrument will produce. Or the fingers are playing a trumpet, and they are closer to the resulting sound than to the air that flows below them. Or the fingers belong to lovers who touch each other’s lips while they whisper something. Or the fingers are dead and the person whose body lies there has gone to another dimension where sounds replace matter. The line is, by the way, written by the 18th-century German poet, L.E. KIMA (1779-1869).

August 18. Getting organized #2.

Berlin and getting organized. Welcome back to my depressing transmission. It will become juicy again I promise. Just have to get on the move again. What’s wrong with running anyway? And your unabilities, you better understand that they have a function too. Aren’t you a bundle of functional fiber? You have to understand the function of every cell of you, in order to master the “grand function”.
The eighteenth of August, two thousand and nine. A day on death-row. Executed only a few days after, when the firesquads of angst will shoot it into oblivion. Is there beauty in this day? Most probably, yes. Black is not her face, nor does she smile morbidly. There are messengers of beauty in this day, they may be fruit flies with their microscopically small hairs, sitting on a green leaf, they may be some portrait images flipped over by the wind that visits the room, they may be old breadcrumbs left on the tablecloth. There are fond memories of this day but they are not in my head. I want to know why. The past, after all, is not an army attacking us from behind. Does anyone have memories of this day?