Here is my 50th gratuitous short film of myself I’ve made since I began documenting the cause and effects of my sojourn to Europe that started two years ago for a series called “Self = Portraits”
Self = Portraits Video #49
“Where are you from!?” the newest strange stranger in my life called out from one of the sparsely shaded and sunlight scabbed green park benches on the east side of the boisterous resting place that is Vikotria Luise Platz. She looked like an out of time and place decrepit Hippie with shoulder length bouncy brown hair and was wearing a blue and white sundress to not match her bonnet-esque sunhat. She was shoeless, and flanking her on each side of her as she sat there (enamored with my aura I suppose), were two walking canes.
“Everywhere!” I answered.
It was another attempt to find my piece of peace in that place that I go to to find some semblance of that emotional and psychological Manifest Destiny. It is not always easy, and the summer months have proven to thwart the facility altogether. My Denkenplatz has been invaded by spritely familial gatherings, the unbearable likenesses of exhibitionists, the staccato roar of jovial dogs, the heinous presence of loving couples who have not yet known each other long enough to transcend to hate, the meandering and lowly bottle collectors, the mortality denying adamant elderly exercisers hellbent on paving a longer path to heaven, the school kids with their beer and grass grass sitting moments, the seen-it-all gaggles of retired early morning drinking folk, the surly manicurists of the lawn, the uptight business men and women screaming into their smartphones, the fastidious fountain, the bustling bycycles, the screaming strollers, the jarring joggers, the vociferous vamps, the before and aftermath of Berliners gone wild…Even when I found the only place afforded to me for slumber – those dark quiet nights of destitute luxury, even then, a fox usurped my lull of loneliness.
I tried and failed to find peace in other pieces of boisterous Berlin where at any hour day or night, in any kiez, on any strasse, you can find someone walking somewhere, perhaps aimlessly or right on target – but there is never a moment alone.
My first attempt at finding a new Denkenplatz was not too far away from the first one (the aforementioned Vikoria Luise Platz) housed centrally in Schöneberg. It was another bench, nestled under the umbrella of thick oak tress now in full bodied green bloom, near another quaint and loud platz bearing the moniker Winterfeldt, close to the rife with social accoutrement Maaßenstrasse where my “office” is located: that sweet little bistro café owned and operated by non-Germans, with their impeccable bedside manner and cheap and fulfilling coffee – where the smiles are not feigned or altogether absent, and the frequenting clientele are all giving knowing looks to each other about the autonomy of the place; we don’t want anyone to know about our secret and sacred space. It is the only place where I can spend hours doing all of my creative business, meet friends and colleagues without the burden of obnoxious choices in loud tasteless music nor the jarring frequency of gay cruising – and feel a little bit like home away from home.
The bench is not too far from Nollendorfplatz, for I wish not to stray away from the historic landmark where Christopher Isherwood lived. A necessity of mine is passing by the place every few days to remind myself of the reason for my sojourn here to the can’t-live-with-can’t-live-without Madonna and Whore that is the city of Berlin. I have found myself at this platz away from platz many times, for the the most part due in part for the need to escape (mostly the shackles of an impossible lover). There is where I chainsmoke and ponder new meanings of life, but it is nothing like my dearest Denkenplatz.
The last time I found refuge there, the rain came suddenly. And while normally this is a feat for me, an illustrious gift of peace, my peace, the city’s peace – with the sweet funky smell that comes from the first few drops along with the pungent sound of the tree leaves being slapped with random precipitation, sending all the denizens into a restless quiet, many of them being beckoned inside of businesses or under awnings, perhaps hoping that someone may come along and wait out the rain with them – a strange stranger who might help them piece back together their heart in an effort to finally find peace from the love they already lost…
It all ended (my peace) when someone sat next to me – someone who used words instead of silence. They asked my permission (in German) and I allowed them to break the barrier, the fourth wall of society, my attempt to ostracize the world for a few moments.
The next platz was not so close to the first and second. The fear of not being alone coerced me to try to find a place where I could see the world from afar without having to interact with it. While Viktoria Luise Platz allows me a view through the looking glass, the Nollendorf bench left much to be desired in the way of voyeurism so I made it over to the Kudamm, a popular stomping ground for people with money and the people who beg them for some of it.
I sat very very very early in the morning, and this was my mistake. Although I was treated to the free theater of 6:00am drunks and one-party-after-another naïve tourists and jaded veteran Berliners, ogling everyone between conversations with themselves, it was an untimely moment due to the Teutonic efficiency of cleaning the fountains and chairs in the center square, where most of the city must bypass in order to make their way down the broad way of art and commerce.
A rather large man told me something I could not hear – the square is adjacent to two major thoroughfares and several long overdue construction sites that in typical Berlin fashion have been and stayed erected since I first came to visit in 2009, a quintessential and veritable analogy for the city’s laziness in all ways except for sex, drugs and
rock and roll techno music. I was prompted to move – to end my denken – and get up and out of the hard marble imitating concrete circular shaped seating area so he could get to work on cleaning it with his big loud water-pressure hose. I scoffed, rolled a cigarette, and huffed and puffed myself away from a little piece of peace.
The next platz was back in the direction of Nollendorfplatz, and again was another platz, this time named Wittenburgplatz. I sat in front of the beautiful on the outside, ugly and confusing on the inside (like so many transients here) Ubahn station, in order to get one of those life-like views of others, much like one would find at an airport (one of my favorite places to find my stories to write about).
There, there wasn’t much interruption but enough 100 people getting off of the train to keep my eyes and brain busy – in a most peaceful way, but it was not the peace of mind I was looking for – and then again I was so rudely interrupted by a large, fluorescent street cleaner that wiped my mind clean and incapable of any coherent thoughts. I had another idea…
I went closer to Eisenacherstrasse and considered the idea of sitting on the stairs of the big church there, a congregation place for many during all hours of the day. For a moment I walked towards the bronze and turquoise hued thing, but it was still morning and traffic was not flying at the right speed and also I didn’t want the beautiful bells of the church to remind me of Paris – a place long overdue for a visit.
I walked back to the piece of Nollendorplatz, closer to where it all began, and I found myself smoking at a bench that holds a monumental piece of my past, present and future.
Located in a playground and centrally located exactly in the center of the distance between two of the most outstanding lovers I’ve had in Berlin (both exactly opposite of each other in every way), the one I ran away from and the one I ran to, and then vice versa; both of their dwellings are equidistant from this bench and the last time I sat upon it was the last time that I knew that it would be the last time with one and maybe also the other. My head was weighed down then by the thought of these thoughts, putting together the pieces I needed to make peace. The good guy, the bad boy – the classic dichotomy of love and affection and terror and intrigue and everything else that sums up the amorphous meaning of the word “passion”.
It was where I sat, just once upon a time, with an iota of my belongings that I managed to grab, like a track runner reaching behind him for the baton in a relay race, falling out of my bags, along with the matching luggage of the bags under my eyes and the tears falling out of them. I was on my way to the good one, away from the bad one, and there I smoked, in disbelief of the unbelievable – and I made my way from slamming one door and then knocking on the next. No one answered.
I went to a bench that I never sat on but it has always fascinated me and struck me as a place that could have been my Denkenplatz when I lived in the middle-of-the-road Berliners love and hate community called Kreuzberg. It too sat on a main street, or in this case, a high way (pun seperation) – close to Görlitzer Park, a big knoll of nothingness that is always busy on account that the only grass that survives there is the kind that is purchased and smoked from the imported immigrants that hustle there.
This bench was/is adjacent to a church and I found myself in my old kiez with enough thoughts to bring me to peace, enough people to put me at a distance from them, enough noise and quiet to keep me calm, enough of everything but not too little or too much. And then someone asked to sit down next to me. I smoked and I left.
I’ve looked for other places, benches, platz, pieces in this city to find my place, my peace. More and more it seems I cannot be alone, I cannot escape. There is always a distraction of intimacy that robs me of that precious need for silence, or at least an obscured presence of vicarious experience, a precious tool for a writer that cannot be used properly when usurped and weilded by the pieces of others.
Here is an excerpt from I play that I wrote circa 2005 and was part of the Villager’s Theater New Playwright’s Series in Somerset, NJ as a staged reading. It was read as a one-act and has since been further developed as a full length, two act play.
It was my very first staged reading and I received an overwhelming response from the crowd, including tears and envy. The questions were intense and when I tried to network with another playwright, asking for advice and mentorship, he proclaimed, “Sorry, I can’t – this play’s got legs…” expounding the fact that I had a very good piece of work on my hands and he did not want to assist the competition.
It was the first play I pitched to a theater here in Berlin, as mentioned in my recent post Memoir: The Blessed Curse of Rejection – with the scathing review about my capacity for banter and my inability to conform to orthodox play structure.
This scene contains some of the critique about “shaving ones’ balls” – and at the end I’ve included an old copy of the cover letter and synopsis for those who need a reference to every single detail about a character instead of just enjoying my personal style of writing the way it is. But I’m not bitter.
Fine. But right now I need to wash my ass.
Make sure it’s clean.
(She crosses SR to kitchen area with the cookbook in hand...)
You didn’t tell anyone about the-
No. I didn’t. I promised I wouldn’t and I didn’t. But I will say I am still pissed at you that
you didn’t report the bastard. If you ever see him out on the street while I’m with you,
you better point him out so I can kick his ass.
You and what army of bull dykes?
(The doorbell rings.)
That’s John. I’ll get it.
(She crosses SL.)
Perfect timing. You guys can squeeze in a quickie while I’m in the shower.
Don’t worry, I’ll take a little extra time.
Don’t bother; we’ll be done by the time the water gets hot.
Well, I have to shave my balls anyway, so don’t rush.
(He exits SL.)
(She crosses to the door SL and opens it.)
(JOHN enters and hands her a bottle of wine.)
Hey. I think I got the right wine.
(She surveys the wine.)
Yeah, this is it. Thank you, baby.
(She gives JOHN a kiss and then takes the wine to the kitchen area and starts
reading the cookbook again.)
(He sits on the couch and browses through the magazines now neatly fanned on
the coffee table due to FRANK’S most recent bout of OCD.)
So, who’s all coming tonight?
Just a few friends from like work and stuff. There’ll probably be a few more gay guys
than you’re used to though. Is that okay?
Of course. I love gay guys. They never try to fuck my girlfriends.
Well, after a few drinks anything is possible.
Just make sure I don’t end up with any dicks in me tonight.
But that would be so hot.
For you maybe.
Why don’t straight guys realize that women are just as turned on by gay men as you guys
are by lesbians?
Lesbians are more natural looking, softer, more aesthetically pleasing.
Whatever, two guys making out is hot.
I guess I can see how you can get off from that. Is someone coming over tonight that you
want to watch me make out with?
(Not hearing him.)
Is there some dude coming tonight you want me to make out with?
Well, there’s this one guy that’s going to be here, Alexander, he’s kinda swishy, but
You know, that’s the only thing I don’t like about gay guys.
What? That they’re swishy?
No. Not that. Why is it that every gay guy has to use his full name? Why can’t he just go
Alexander is his given name.
You don’t see me telling people to call me “Jonathan.”
I call Frank, “Franklin” sometimes.
But he never asked you to. You see, he’s cool with me; he just goes by “Frank.” That
works for me. Where is he anyway?
Shaving his balls.
Did you talk to him about the-
-No. Not really. He’s not good, but he’s feigning like he is. You know Frank.
Not as well as you do.
You’re right, but I just don’t know how to help him.
He probably just needs a little time, that’s all.
(There is a long silence as the two read to themselves. ERIN looks over at JOHN
a few times, lovingly, but begrudgingly, then returns to reading her cookbook.
JOHN does not notice her glances.)
So I was thinking about making either lamb meatballs with pine nuts or chicken and spinach pinwheels.
You know how to cook?
I’m not illiterate.
I know how to read a recipe.
Why don’t you ever cook for me?
Because my mother taught me that the way to a man’s heart isn’t through his stomach,
it’s through his prostate gland.
Your mother is a wise woman.
Frank: Twenty-seven. The birthday boy. He is at the beginning of the end of a quarter life crisis.
Erin: Late twenties. Frank’s roommate and best friend.
John: Early thirties. Erin’s boyfriend.
Carl: Early forties. Frank’s suitor.
Beth Anne: Early twenties. Friend of Frank and Erin.
*Alex: Early twenties. Friend of Frank and Erin.
*Andrew: Early thirties. Alex’s boyfriend.
Peter: Early Forties. Some guy.
Frank and Erin’s apartment which is located in a small yet densely populated, semi-suburban town just outside of Philadelphia.
To Whom It May Concern::
First and foremost, I would like to thank you for taking the time to consider the materials I am submitting to you. Enclosed is my full-length, two-act play entitled Frank, about contemporary sexual politics which centers on a gay man celebrating his birthday with friends. It is a “dramadey” that confronts the issue of same-sex rape and the toll it takes on the victim’s relationships with others. It has a cast of 8 (6 male and 2 female), and takes place in the present, in “a small yet densely populated, semi-suburban town just outside of Philadelphia”.
Frank and Erin have known each other a long time. Well, in twenty-something years, they go way back. They’re the kind of friends who contrast and compliment each other so well you think that maybe they could be married. Fate would have different plans for these two.
Frank is trying his best to celebrate his twenty-seventh birthday. Succumbing to a quarter-life crisis, he is wallowing in confusion and denial and a lot of other things. Trying to shed the remnants of his innocence all the while being thrust into adulthood, he decides to make his life a little more complicated by dating a man twice his age. That and an incident that is slowly changing his life and perspective, (being drugged and raped by a man he met at a bar) have him a little dazed and trying to hold it all together.
Frank takes a straightforward look into dynamic relationships and how they affect the relationships of others. Quite frankly, it’s a pseudo love story slash coming of age slash rite of passage slash something or other that takes a glimpse at the affects of sexual abuse. Thank you once again for your consideration.
© Louis DeVaughn Nelson
Once upon a time and all of the time, I wanted to be (amongst everything, ever) a food critic. The problem with this precious art form for me is that much like journalism, it is too dependent on objective points of views rather than subjective.
That does seem to sound like a contradiction considering the whole purpose of a restaurant critic is to state their professional opinion in regards to the three main components of a dining establishment: the food, the ambiance and the service. As a creative writer, I’ve tried and failed to leave off personal tidbits about what I am wearing, who was sitting next to me, how drunk I got after a few glasses, and all of that other fodder that I am prone to embellish my stories with.
A long(ish) time ago – I wrote a sample restaurant review for Ross’ Grill in the mostly quaint and extremely gay peninsula called Provincetown, Massachusetts on the northeast coast of the USA. Here is the snippet of my attempt to write a clean, non-rambling account of an experience I had, without getting overwrought with my “superfluous” and/or “convoluted” writing style (two adjectives used once by two different people that are indelibly burned on my brain).
Simple, elegant, non-pretentious and worth every penny (and then some),
Ross’ grill has it all. From the hard-to-choose-from wine list to the
exquisite view of the Provincetown harbor to the exceptional service,
Ross’ Grill scored highest on my list of favorable restaurants that I visited
in the quaint and alluring Cape Cod area. Oh, and then there’s the food.
Owner Ken Ross has outdone himself and the rest of many popular
restaurants along the harbor with a clean, classy, industrial feeling
that boasts some of the best views of the water.
One of the most interesting attractions of the space is the highlighted
open air kitchen that sits in the front of the restaurant like a stage, the chef
leading his troupes of cooks into battling (or in this case) feeding a very
hungry and anxious crowd.
Accented by overt but not bumptious service, I could have left the
restaurant happy without ever even having to eat due to the ambiance
and friendly staff; I think my server and I spoke four different languages
to each other by the end of the evening.
I started with the escargot appetizer with garlic, spinach and tomato.
Having forgotten that everything was prepared fresh and made to order,
I was a little perturbed by the long wait – approximately 25 minutes until
the dish arrived. A perfect little pastry puff filled with the most
delectable escargot mixture soaked in garlic, made me want to order
three more of them, but it was onto the second course.
Steak frites was the second titilizing dish. Perfectly marinated and
perfectly complimenting my Shiraz, it was a feat in the art of properly
grilling meat. For dessert I tried the very simple créme brulee. It had
the perfect creamy, but almost fluffy consistency without having that
overbearing vanilla taste I have become so accustomed to in American
style French bistros.
Three things make a great restaurant: ambiance, service, food. Not only
did these meet the mark in my book, but they surpassed it. Located on
Whaler’s Wharf on the bustling (but relaxed) main strip that is
Commercial Street, the young Ross’ Grill is a big hit already and will
surely make its mark in the future on the lovely seasonal town of Provincetown.
Doing some research on one of my favorite literature works…more coming soon.
I recently refurbished a painting that didn’t work out for a birthday gift. It was a wedding gift for some good friends here in Berlin.
They are that quintessential Romantic couple – meeting each other in a distant land far from home and then coming together inseparable to build a new life together on new Manifest Destiny soil with their hearts on their sleeves and a pocket full of dreams.
I am a king of deconstructed work and in my painting I like to create “exercises for the eyes” by using 3-D layering of texture through multimedia.
This particular piece entitled “Alt, Neue…Blau” is a play on the Western tradition of marriage innuendo “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”
The personal message is not only in the painting but also in the title. Translated from German: alt = old, neue = new, blau = blue.
The found objects represent the old, creating a history of unknown stories of the past with the hopes of creating a better future, always and forever.
In the piece there is a new nail file – an inside joke in more than one way, duly recognized in my conversations with my friend (the bride who I met during an acting gig) in regards to the simple and luxurious things in life; in the commonplace abject poverty of artists in Berlin, simple things like giving yourself a manicure are not so simple considering fiscal woes (alcohol, cigarettes and food take precedence, respectively). We frequently discuss the time that will come for reckless abandon like we enveloped ourselves in back in the USA, where money was an object to be latently infatuated with and less respected due to its abundance we afforded in our time living in the Capitalist capital of the world.
There is an ellipsis representing “borrowed”; the reason is twofold. First, I don’t know the word in German, so in part it is a joke about the language barrier here in Berlin. Also it is a reference to the great debt to which I owe my dearest friend for her constant compassion during my tumultuous times in Berlin. So it is a black comedy joke of an empty space of having not yet returned what was borrowed and in turn not having to mention it due to the depth and pith of our friendship.
The last bit – the blue/blau – is a play on words. In German, blau is also a word to describe being drunk. This is just a funny thing because I did not want to be so much literal as literary, and vicariously, our wonderful rendezvous are usually accompanied by a bottle of wine.
This painting contains several elements including acrylic, oil pastel, and a watered down version of encaustic – much of the original painting that was done in colored pencil and markers bled into the layers and created the visual effect I wanted to achieve. The metal ornament is primarily decorative but hints at the hardcore endurance of love, and I threw some rice onto the canvas to also reference matrimony.
All in all, I wanted to give the cutest couple in Berlin an expression of my admiration and awe of their love, and also to give them something to complement their chic decor and invigorating art collection.