21 September 2011

To Be Jewish in Berlin

circus studio
At 6 o'clock I have rehearsal with the cake puppet.  I meet Daniel at the Circus at Ostbanhof.  (There are two red and yellow striped circus tents, at least one rehearsal studio, a large kitchen with seating for 50, bathrooms, and a costume shop that also has rooms where people sleep.  Also several caravans.  Unfortunately, there is no heat in the caravans.  I guess they not for winter residency.)
I put the dowels in the puppet, make it stand, stretch a bit and Daniel comes in with his friend Ola, who is from Poland.  We run it a few times.  He has some good suggestions.  Then Sharon, the Israeli clown from Sunday night comes in.  Now we get down to the nitty-gritty!  He's got all sorts of things to say.  I learn from his comments and direction that he really knows his shit.  He begs me to study buffoon. (He is not the first one.)  We work for a total of two hours, after which my body as tired, but not as tired as I would expect. It seems I am getting stronger!  I lost 5 pounds of my body weight somewhere and have know idea where it went.  But one thing is certain, and that is that I am in shape! Daniel and Ola go to the kitchen.  I run the piece for Sharon a few more times.  It is interesting to hear his suggestions and impressions.  He does not understand things like the play on gender and the feminist aspects of my piece, but he does understand comedy and puppetry.  I take in what he has to say.  A lot of it, I will use, some I will not.  I am glad for the fresh perspective.
As I disassemble my puppet, he asks me if I want to eat.  Of course, he asks me in Hebrew, so I have to say, "What?"  He acts surprised that I don't speak Hebrew, but I think he is playing with me.
"But you are Jewish!"  I explain that my family is non-practicing, but we have the blood and the past of pogroms, anti-semitism, etc.  So he asks in English, "You want to eat?"
We go to the kitchen, were Daniel and Ola are talking.  Sharon takes stock of what is in the refrigerator.  I ask who would like bier.  Ola says yes, Daniel says no.  We all start talking again.  Sharon takes me gently by the shoulders and steers me out of the room.  "To the store!  Now or we will never get there."  We stop by his room first and Zigi, his little dog (part pug, chihuahua, and pit?) growls at me, tries to attack.  I am a stranger in Zigi's space.  Sharon kneels down.  "Zigi  Zigi!"  He stands, puts his arm around me, shows Ziggy we are friends.  Ziggy runs away, comes back, sniffs me, barks but does not bare his teeth.  Slow progress.  Sharon and walk to the Ostbanhof, a major train station and bus stop.  Also in the Ostbanhof are two supermarkets, an Apotheke (like a pharmacy,) a Schlecker (like Walgreens but without medicine) and a host of restaurants. We go to one of the groceries and Sharon buys eggs, onions, tomato and garlic.  I buy five large bottles of bier. The bier comes to around 6 euro.  I must be careful with money, it is true, but I also feel that if I am a little generous now, karmically it will come back to me.  This proves to be true again and again.  So I will keep on believing it.
On our walk back to the circus, Sharon and I start talking about our lives.  He is 29, has been in the Israeli army and in combat.  We talk about how the dark sides of ourselves relate to clown.  I ask him about the Isreali-Palestinian conflict, how he feels about it now.  "I was so stupid."  He says.  "I let myself be brainwashed and did horrible things.  I have taken life.  Now, I meet Palestinians, they are my friends.  How could I have believed the lie?"
Die Juden
Back in the kitchen, Ola asks about being Jewish in Germany.  Sharon says, "Berlin is not really Germany.  It is Berlin."  I talk about how, in 2007 when I first came to Berlin, I was afraid.
"You are Jewish?" Daniel is surprised and delighted.  His eyes twinkle at me.
Sharon has just gotten his German passport.  His great-grandfather was a German citizen and died in a concentration camp.  His grandfather to Israel after the war.  Evidently, his Grandpa was able to pull some beaureaucratic strings and make Sharon a German citizen. We get into this conversation about what it means to be Jewish, if it is a religion or a culture. 
"I like parts of the Torah,"  Sharon says.  "Jews are intellectual.  We ask too many questions.  That is why we got kicked out of heaven."
Is this actually part of the Torah?  I was never religious.  I don't know.

Daniel and Ola are talking about practical things, aerial dance, where to busk.  Sharon is cooking dinner and he and I are talking about the holocaust, Isreal, what the hell we are doing here, being an artist in this world, where does clown come from, but with a certain levity.  "One egg or two,"  he asks me. 
"One," I answer.
"But they are small, and you have been working hard.  Two?"
"Ok, two."  I pause.  "This is what makes us Jewish.  The way we share food.  Come on, have some more!"  I chide him. 
"You may be right!"  He says.  "Would you ever lie about being a Jew?"
"No."  I don't even have to think about it.
"Someone wants to kill you."
"Then I will die." I am surprised at how fast the answer comes out of me, how I don't have to think about it.
We open a bier, I take out my camera ask Ola if she will photograph the three Jews.  We stand clumped together.  "Everyone say holocaust!" Daniel says.  The flash goes off.

Sharon and I eat this marvelous concoction he has made of tomato, onion, bell pepper, garlic, and egg, mop up the sauce with bread.  I play music from my ipod on the speakers in my kitty backpack (best purchase EVER!)  Daniel and Ola have a Michael Jackson dance party.  Eventually it is midnight.  Daniel and Ola go off to his caravan, leaving Sharon and I.  We finish the beer, he gets Zigi, who is so glad to finally be outside that he forgets I might be a threat, jumps on the bench where I sit and licks my face.  We sit outside in the surprisingly warm night air, talk for an hour.  I am not sure if the trains are still running, but I need to get home.  Ziggy and Sharon walk me to my platform and wait with me until my train comes.  I think we are both surprised at our connection to each other, which seems purely yet deeply intellectual.  We both wonder why we must muck around the dark spaces in ourselves, why we cannot just leave our pasts somewhere else.  Our journeys our separate, but perhaps similar.  The train comes,  We hug.  "Tchuss!"
I ride one stop to Jannowitzebrücke station and attempt to transfer.  It is 1:15 am on a weekday and the platform is closed.  Fuck!  What the hell do I do?  I go out into the night.  There is a bicyclist.  "Spreichen zie Englicsh?"
I ask him if he knows how to get to Boddinstrasse, my stop in Nuekollon.  He does not know of a bus.  "It is not so far.  a 30 minute walk." 
"Danke," I sigh.  He pedals off.  I would like to walk, but I am unsure of the route and don't want to attempt it for the first time at 2 am with the cake puppet under my arm.  I check my wallet and hail a cab.  It will be 10 Euro but I don't see another option.  My cab driver is Turkish, speaks English, takes me where I need to go. 
I have a gig tonight at the KingKongKlub and will get part of the money from the door.  I hope a lot of people come.  I think I will start to learn walking routes.  I feel much less self-conscious about walking here at night than I do in the States.  There are no guns and there is a different relationship to alcohol in Berlin.  No one is going to mess with me.  If I had known about the U-Bahn closing, I would have researched the all night busses, but without a smart phone and not speaking the language, I did not see a way to figure out a route.  If I had asked Sharon to walk me all the way home, he likely would have said yes.  Oh, well, Maybe next time.

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