Ken Gutberlet

5/10/2003 - Berlin greetings!

Howdy from the old East!
I´ll answer some faq´s (so netly hip!) first and then less-all-at-oncely chat a bit. To begin: I´m here gigging- showed up on April 30, head home on May 16. I got the gig thru the same agent who´s booked my other Euro gigs. The beer is good.

It´s awfully great to walk from yer residence to public transport and either walk or be transported for the next 2 1/2 wks. However, leave it to the MD MTA to have the bus arrive about 15 mins late, requiring a little speed walk/jog/run to get to Bawlmer´s Penn St on time. Fortunately, master planner was early and the rail, metro, and bus rides to Dulles arrived me way ahead of schedule. T-shirts for sale with "French" crossed out for "Freedom" before fries and other foods, plus an attack on "sauerkraut", and renaming Chinese food Freedom food (all on one shirt!) prepped me at the airport for a possible barrage of "what´s up with your country?" I thought maybe I oughta touch down sporting one . . . maybe.

Touched down with the shirt I left the house with. From there, it was "welcome to Berlin . . . good luck!" Fortunately, my best friend held my hand- a knowing tour book. Yes, with just enuff reading to get a gist of town (bus, train, tram- sorry, skip the tram and walk), I found my gigging pub. Strecker´s sits on a corner in the Mitte district of the old Eastern section. It joins other trendy afternoon/nitelife joints along Oranienburger Str. The bar gets its name from the brooding Danish idiot who owns the pubs where I gig in Copenhagen. Walking in, the fenced-off stage is on the right, just past decent-sized rooms to the right and left. There are only seats for a couple dozen within sight of the stage, but the around-the-corners areas (restaurant and outside included) can probably seat 2- 300. No one had any info about where my bags or my sleepy head should lie. So, I stashed them (the bags) in the back office where many (though usually one at a time) gitters spend the nite. I then took my best friend and we went in search of the venue for the nite´s Neil Young show. Found it a-ok, only a few chairs left, and someone had returned their tick for a re-sell try. I got it for about 1/2 price (€50- regular chairs sold for €72- 102- €1 = $1.10) and went in search of a restful spot. The rain encouraged an indoor spot . . . traveller´s second best friend (don´t tell anyone or all the spots´ll be taken) . . . the bibliotek. Yes, park in a chair and watch the minutes pass on the inside of the eyelids. After a maß weizen and schweinfleisch, off to the Neil show. If I´d gotten more than a few 15 min naps the past 30-some hrs and the venue´s thermostat wasn´t set at human body temp, I might´ve survived the sonically-similar staid somnification of the 1st set. But, I dozed several times. Some guy yelled at Neil for speaking too much English ´tween tunes- a tale of songs new to me- and he couldn´t understand. In the 2nd set he played some requests and faves that most folks knew- whether the Berliners think they got their cash worth is doubtful, but the parts I witnessed consciously were pretty cool. What´s up with touring with three pianos and playing each once? Off to Strecker´s . . .

Peter, whom I met that evening, is the asst manager of the pub. Henrik is the manager. Henrik was on holidee in Denmark. He also owns and can locate the flat where I camp. So, I had to rely on the current musician to land me home. Quentin, English, good rock-n-roll gitterer, knows the way. I caught his last two sets and then wandered less than a block to Silberfisch- the post-gig watering hole. It was his final nite in town, so he wanted to party a bit. Fine. Hung with some of the pub staff, heard some tales of growing up inside the wall (or, outside in Berlin, the old East), had one (and the only so far) accusatory discussion about us Americans being bad (fortunately, his English wasn´t stellar enough to really state his case, and I was exhausted and pissed (drunk), so it all rolled off). Several pints and gratis Jagermeisters later, the pub closed. I think around 8:00. Not sure. Quentin and I did the train one-station-forward-one-station-back-one-station-forward dance and then hired a cab to take us about 500 m. Cool. At least I found a place where I could crash and leave my bag. I took the next day as a holidee like the rest of Berlin. May Day. Police-injuring riots in town but I slept thru ´em. I almost slept thru my gig.

Curtained windows, no clock, a numb brain, and a total circadian rhythm blow up, and somehow I managed to wake at 19:55. The gig began at 21:30. Uhh . . . I should go . . . hopefully assembling what supplies I need, carrier pigeoning my way back to the S-Bahn, and leaving a trail of bread crumbs so I can return late-nite to the right building. Finding the S-Bahn was successful. I got to the gig around 20:30. Order dinner (Tex-Mex restaurant attaches to pub)- burrito! Set up (seemingly had gigging essentials). I was strumming by 21:40. A little late, but, oh well. Started off with "Babylon" (I´d play it a 2nd time by request), "All My Lovin", and "Country Roads". People clapped. Some sang along. 1st request was for Oasis. Regardless of how the body felt, the music naturally came out. Fun stuff. I dodged the post-gig beer(s) (sleep, please) and begged for someone with a clue to point me in the right direction home. A night bus runs (the metro halts at 1:00) that way. Thanks. I turned left out of Strecker´s and along Oranienburger Str I first encountered some police with bullet-proof vests and automatic weapons (if I had passed my Deutsche Weaponry of the 21st Century course, I could id them) in a cordoned off area. The street´s barricaded with large cement blocks, protecting a large domed structure in the zone- the Neue Synagoge. Seems there have been some threats against it. I recall a tale about Strecker´s´ own bomb scare. Story short: one of the musicians left their bag in the pub and no one knew its origin; since the pub´s right next door to the synagogue, the bomb crew was called; they found out it was musical equipment; I think the leaver of the bag still does "the circuit". Hard not to curiously stare- I checked out things- cool building- more automatic weapons. Farther along the "just follow this street" directions, the Oranienburger Str ladies flagged passing cars- I guess not everone took Labor Day as a holidee. Tall shoes and suffocating jeans exaggerated their long svelteness. The 10 min wander found its way to the promised transit hub. Plenty of police hung out- I later surmised as a May Day precaution. Found my ride home´s station and learned that my transit pass included the nite bus as the driver let me board. Story short: made it home. Crashed. I greeted Fridee afternoon feeling more human- ahhh.

Personal service announcement: couple state-side gigs:
Sat, 5/17, 12:45- Patterson Arts Center, 3134 Eastern Ave, Highlandtown- This takes place during the Patterson´s reopening open house- I´ll be jamming for about 20 mins as part of the Baltimore Songwriters´ Association showcase. I´ll be schedulely flanked by Piles and Sahffi- good stuff!

Sat, 5/17, 21:00- Cacao Lane, Ellicott City

Hope all´s cool!