Thursday, September 11, 2008

Cities at Night

"Cities at night, I feel, contain men who cry in their sleep and then say nothing, it´s nothing, just sad dreams, or something like that... Swing low in your weep ship, with your tear scans and your sob probes, and you would mark them."

These are the first lines of "The Information", a novel by Martin Amis. I know where I had first read them: on a ship at night, crossing the Channel. It was one of very few books available beside the beer crates and the jumbo bags of licorice candy. I had just left London, a city at night. Was it full of crying men? I try to imagine a Brit weeping in bed and become overcome with compassion. Them Brits, we´re so used to them as comics.

Berlin at night needs no crying men. It cries on its own, especially the Ku´damm area, where I sit and write these words. It is the part of the city that seems to have the least heart. Decades of being an outpost of commercialism in the heart of Warsaw pact country turned the Ku´damm into a soulless shopping mall, but as men know well, seeming soullessness is always a wall behind which we hide who we are. The west is a Yang to the east´s Yin. In a way: here is man, there is woman.

The Ku´damm cries at night like a good man should, tears of currywurst sauce and cheap rail-station beer and fine French wine served in unhappy restaurants. It moans with the sound of train wheels and busses and taxis and the hum of cheesy clubs. Car lights wash over the streets leading away from the enormous destroyed church on Breitscheidplatz, like the light coming on in the bathroom - nothing´s the matter, honey, I´m just taking a leak.

I´ve seen photos of this place as a child. It looked dense and alive. It meant "city" to me for many years and city meant possibility, constant contact, endless rejuvination. All cities were a CERN of sorts: where particles were flying in different directions, waiting to collide and reveal something henceforth unknown, but sometimes they become too self indulged and weep to themselves rather than communicate. Damned men! I won´t even try and cheer West Berlin up just to be told that it´s only sad dreams. I´m heading east tonight, where tears are an acknowledged fact of life.


natakoka said...

Any plan to come here ?
You're so close...
I miss you.

Bee said...


It's your ex-third cousin! I think of you often and hope you and your kids are good. I don't know how to contact you, but am sending you all hugs and kisses.


Yuval said...

Good God, the world is coming together on my blog! I miss both of you.

I won´t make in to Paris this time, but I will soon. I´m dying to see you, Nat, and I need Paris in my blood flow. This trip was a work trip and so I had to stay in Germany, the next one will be a Parisian trip for the soul, insha´allah.