“Are you going to wear your matching jumper?” I ask, standing next to Jonas in my black and white leopard onesie, a patent leather belt wrenched between my ribs and my hipbones. He laughs and comes back in the room wearing black jeans and a snakeskin tee shirt, a pair of sneakers.
“It’s the best I can do.”
Brannon is waiting outside on the corner while his gas-conscious car idles efficiently. I sit in the backseat next to Battina in her black pants and her black shirt and her curly blonde hair, a beautiful pair of stingray sandals on her feet.
“Who makes those?”
Our animal print collective walks through the lobby of the SoHo House, passing a spray-painted image of a gnashy-toothed shark with a large signature in the right-hand corner. Damien Hirst, it reads. And at first I think they’re just taking a piss and it’s meant to be funny and of course it’s not Damien Hirst, but – upon a little accidental research – it’s apparently real, which is kind of like Damien Hirst taking a piss on everyone else.
Like most everything in Berlin, the building has a storied past. Originally a Jewish-owned department store, it then became headquarters for the Hitler Youth (of course!). Later, the Communist Party moved their offices here, where they typed up memos and did communist-y stuff like recite Marxist principles and come up with slogans for the Cold War.
I suppose this whole historical city thing will never fail to impress me because the most iconic buildings in Los Angeles, where I grew up, are places were celebrities have overdosed since the turn of the last century.
And here we have the bungalow where Marilyn Monroe decided life wasn’t worth living anymore…
To the right you’ll see the sidewalk where River Phoenix collapsed from drug-induced heart failure. Yes, that’s the Viper Room.
We sit on big green sofas, too deep and wide to be comfortable. I perch on the edge, elbows on knees, trying to talk to the people five feet away from me on the other side of the table. Vanilla Ice takes my order. “I’ll have the mint and pea salad,” I say, admiring the way Vanilla Ice has not aged one bit since I was in elementary school and understanding that the music industry is a pretty tough racket and that I’d probably have to return to the restaurant industry while the young kids pirate my music. Oh wait, that’s not Vanilla Ice, that’s my German server who is sporting a hi-top fade like it’s 1991.
2 Legit 2 Quit!
All of Berlin drowns in the Midas touch as the sun creeps south. My food arrives, as does the iced coffee I ordered. This attempt is technically more successful, being as the SoHo House has both ice and soymilk, but I think Vanilla Ice has spiked my beverage with 100 packets of refined sugar. My tongue recoils with the unfamiliar tang of excessive calories.
“How is it?” Vanilla Ice asks. He is attentive and dutiful in a way that likely means he would like to have sex with me given the opportunity.
It’s one of those A-For-Effort situations. Were I in the US, I’d likely complain, but you can’t complain in a country you don’t speak the language of. Rules are rules. You can only be an entitled bitch in the land of your origin.
The plates are cleared and the bill is paid and we walk upstairs to the roof where all of Berlin pools around us, each building illuminated from below like a vaudeville stage act. Bilious clouds cling to the purple and pink of sunset while everything else succumbs to the bluishness of night. In the middle of it all, the TV tower senselessly rising out of nowhere.
Jonas’ friends from last night are here. There’s a newbie here, sitting quiet and stone-faced until I stick out my hand.
“Hi, I’m Jenny.”
Sugar’s got a shawl around her broad shoulders, her hair shiny and auburn and wholly immovable. She just moved here from New York this morning, literally. She probably just dropped her bags off at her new apartment and came right to the SoHo House.
“How long did you live in New York?” I ask.
“Forever,” she says with that bored, plastic look reserved for socialites and drag queens – a comical, exaggerated flatness.
Both camps pile into the elevators and we take them down the mezzanine where there are ping-pong tables and a foosball something-or-other and a bunch of giant glaring lights that make you feel like you’re playing on an airport tarmac. Ten of us run around the same table, some using paddles and some just their open palms. Smack and run and smack and run and then someone fucks up. Everyone laughs and groans and starts again. Smack and run. More laughter under the garish lighting and some of us are clearly better than others, myself not included.
And then someone comes upstairs and tells us we have to be quiet and behaved, which frankly very fun at all.
The only man capable of a Berlin Buzzkill.