For the two chapters of Schadenfreude, A Love Story (OUT NOW! YOU CAN BUY IT IF YOU WANT!) set in Berlin in 1997, I’ve already spread the most embarrassing corresponding photos all over the Internet (they’re with preview excerpts of the book you can read and then enjoy enough to buy the rest of it, is the thinking!). But here’s one more: My BVG “Azubi,” or Ausbildungsticket, the monthly transit pass for students that was my most important worldly possession outside of my omnipresent pack of NIL cigarettes, which I started buying specifically because of their overbearingly self-aware ad campaign, which I can’t find online, so you’ll just get a picture of their iconic blue logo.
Once, at a meeting with my loftmates, I arrived at the kitchen table and slapped down my pack, and my loftmate Rolf took one look at them and said: “Du hast diese Zigaretten NUR wegen dieser BLÖDEN WERBUNG gekauft, nicht?” (You bought these JUST because of that STUPID AD, didn’t you?) “You know it,” I said. He shook his head at me and then five minutes later, he goes: “Give me one of those, dammit.” Smoking is disgusting and bad, kids! Don’t do it!
Soundtrack: Blur, “On Your Own”
Although my parents had gotten me a top-of-the-line Discman for 1996 Chrismukkah specifically to take to Berlin, I was way too skittish to take such an ostentatious and expensive piece of machinery on the U-Bahn (ha!! every singe U-Bahn passenger has $900 worth of technology on them at all times mow), so for the 70-minute U1 ride from the loft in Kreuzberg to my classes at the Freie Universität, it was me, my Walkman, and the select few mix tapes I made before I left. My favorite tape wasn’t even a mix so much as a mishmash of several new albums, most importantly Blur’s seminal self-titled album, famous today primarily for “Song 2” (“WOO-OO!!!”). But for me, nothing scored the whooshing of the electric-yellow U-Bahn as it rattled from the almost-East to the very far reaches of the West like the bleep-bloopy “On Your Own,” soaring and despairing, jubilant and misunderstood. I drink to write/Oh you should try it. Oh, I did, Damon Albarn. I did.