“What good is sitting alone in your room? Come hear the music play.”– The opening lyric from the title track of the musical Cabaret by John Kander and Fred Ebb. It seems to be a perfect introduction to my adventure in Berlin this past weekend. I planned this trip merely a week ago when I was doing just that, sitting alone in my room. My friend Josie lives in Berlin and I really wanted to see the city and it also happened that my friend Gaga had a show the same weekend–life is a cabaret.
My flight was at 6 am on Thursday and the airport was about an hour away. No trains or buses are open at 3 am in London, so I took an uber and skipped sleeping that night. I arrived at 9 am and by the time I figured out the train and underground system in Berlin (without any service or internet or any understanding of German) it was 11 am and I was outside my friend’s flat.
It was a lovely day in the city. Josie, my friend Berni, and their German friends showed me all the main sites. My personal favorite was the Holocaust memorial site. Being a Jew in Germany, I didn’t feel as welcome as I did in Liverpool. I could feel the ghosts of my past lingering from the pain they endured some 75 years ago. When I was walking through the memorial, which is constructed as a maze of stone square pillars of different sizes, I felt the confusion of the Jewish people back in the 1940s. Weaving back and forth, up and down, as the pillars grew and shrunk, I found my way out. I realized that although they suffered, their memory and the memory of that pain weighing on us like those stones–heavy and cold, we found a way out and we must learn to find our way through those events that just make no sense to us.
Sometimes we need an escape, a visit to the cabaret. Like the Emcee tells us, “We have no troubles here. Here life is beautiful.” I didn’t make it to the cabaret, but I think Gaga’s artRave is a good second, especially in Berlin. I left my worries outside as Gaga gave me a ‘Wilkommen’ to Berlin I will never forget. The concert was as lively and energizing as ever and Gaga gave her all, especially when she surprised the audience with a performance of ‘Bang Bang’ and ‘Marry The Night’ for a fan named Dennis who threw a letter on stage about losing his mother to cancer. It really reminded me why I’ve come to love her. She has a pure heart and she took 3 minutes out of the show to sing to Dennis and invite him backstage.
The cabaret ended at 11 pm, or at least I thought it did. I planned on going out in Berlin after the show with my friend Bobby, but first I needed to see Gaga and catch up. Steven Klein, a photographer and friend of Gaga’s, also happened to be at the show and I had the privilege of chatting with him. It’s very easy to forget how normal a celebrity is. For hours, Gaga, Steven and I chatted about spirituality and how the universe will listen to you. It really resonated with me, especially after just writing my last blog post about asking the universe for guidance.
4 am rolled around and after some drinks, some smoke, and heart to hearts, it was time to go out. I thought the cabaret was over, but Bobby, Steven, his boyfriend and I were off to find a warehouse club in Berlin. Unfortunately, it wasn’t open on Thursday. We drove around looking for a bar, but most things were dead around this time. Of course, we stumbled upon a club that was still going at 5:30 in the morning. I have to say I was genuinely surprised. I don’t think I’ve ever been out this late in my life. We had some drinks, danced like it was still 2 am, and life was beautiful. However, once 6 am rolled along, I think we all decided it was time to say goodnight to the cabaret.
I said goodbye and hopped in a cab back to Josie’s and made it into bed around 7 am: 48 hours since I’d last been in a bed. Life is a cabaret, old chum–I definitely felt like one.
I slept five hours, until about 12:30 pm. Collectively, however, it took me, Josie and Berni until 5 pm to get out of the flat. I saw some more touristy sites over the next day and a half I had left, finishing at The Berlin Wall. It was full of graffiti and beautiful art by people of all different backgrounds and artistic styles. It was incredible. It felt like a collective rebellion against what art is perceived or expected to be: a peaceful rebellion because it somehow brought so many people together, even if they didn’t know it. There was even a painting of the Israeli flag overlapping the German flag–another reminder that the pain of the past can be healed with the actions of tomorrow. With that I said tschüss to Berlin and my friend Berni and I had a flight to catch back to London.
Sometimes a weekend trip is all you need to remind you that, “cradle to tomb isn’t that long a stay.” I may not have gotten that much sleep, but I experienced life with eyes wide open. With new friends and old, I had conversations that reinvigorated my creativity and reminded me there are people who think like me. Life is short and getting up and doing something different can really refresh you. Berlin was my escape, my cabaret for the weekend, and I love a cabaret.