How the BVG Inconvenienced Me Terribly

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One of the many adventures of Christopher Bently, a tragedy-plagued artist living in Berlin. Deeply insightful musings upon the themes of, amongst other things, fatherhood, cruel fate, the carelessness of humanity, and the difficulties of amateur mountaineering. In this, the first volume of Christopher Bently's unforgettable memoirs, our hero gets chased by a load of dogs whilst in Sicily attempting to recuperate from a minor operation. He is more than just an action man doll however, as his typically sensitive and philosophical pontifications testify. Here at last is a book that will cause you to laugh, to cry, to love yourself, and - not insignificantly - cause you to feel alive. And why not?

Humor / Mystery
Age Rating:

How the BVG Inconvenienced Me Terribly.

To whom it may concern,

I wish to complain in no uncertain terms about the inconvenience and disruption caused by the recent suspension of tram services between S Schöneweide and the junction Wilhelminenhofstr/Edisonstr. I understand that the suspension of tram service has been necessary in order to accommodate construction work for future improvements, but still I feel that the replacement services have been sorely lacking in both information and frequency. This has been especially difficult for me personally due to some recent health problems I have had to endure. It began with the removal of my wisdom teeth in early April. In retrospect I should have taken more warning from the shards of broken ceramic flowerpots around the front door of the dental surgery, but I have been trying lately to be less cynical and so I put my faith in that dentist and went in regardless. Without wishing to bore you with too many details, let me just say that the surgery was a lengthy and uncomfortable process which may not have been completely successful as I am in some discomfort still. Anyway, after this surgery session I was forced to walk to the pharmacy for my prescription since the trams were out of action and I had no idea where the replacement bus service was stopping. This was not a pleasant walk as I was in pain and disorientated, but never mind, I am not one to complain excessively. In any case I had something pleasant to look forward to. Anticipating that the post-surgery phase would be quite uncomfortable, I had the foresight to book a short holiday in Catania, Sicily for a few days to recover in more pleasant surroundings with ice cream and sunshine. Setting off two days later with a swollen face and my rucksack, my optimism turned sour as I waited at the tram stop for a replacement bus which seemed as though it would never arrive. Indeed, after some fifteen minutes or so I gave up waiting and decided to walk to the S Bahnhof and from there onwards to Schönefeld airport. Fortunately this portion of the journey passed without incident and I was on the plane and seated in no time at all. But of course bad luck is never far away from me and almost inevitably I found myself stuck seated next to the retard on the plane. He was a little bit fat and after taking his seat he immediately stood and turned around, surveying the rows of seats behind him for almost half an hour until it was time for take-off and he was forced to take his seat again and started strumming the clasp of his seatbelt like a slap bassist. What a moron this cunt was! Once we were up in the air and levelled out it transpired that he was one of those “have to go to the toilet” people, and he had to go to the toilet, which meant I had to stand up. A few minutes later I got a good look at the fellow as he returned, and I realised that he genuinely did have some mental impairment. Well what can you do? I liked him a lot more after that. I myself am a very good passenger. I stay in my seat and drink. The hostess seems to understand me and brings me more drinks. I started to compose some Mount Etna themed haiku poems in my head although I had never yet seen the mountain. Still I felt I could sense the essence of the thing. This was compromise of sorts – I hate to be ignorant, yet I am, and so I pretend that I can sense the essence of things. I noticed a woman across from me counting off meditation beads or prayer beads or just beads, and leeringly smiled at her. Why? I approve of beads. Then she noticed me smiling weirdly at her so I had to go back to drinking and looking out the window. Those beers were nice and the journey felt pleasantly brief. Perhaps I had blacked out at intervals.

After landing in Catania at midnight I was pleased to find that my head hadn’t exploded from the swelling combined with air pressure and Heineken, and was further pleased to find that there was a very simple bus route from the airport into the town. I disembarked somewhere near the port (the seaport, not the airport) and was immediately confronted by a sickly dog with a hoarse cough who seemingly lived on the traffic island I was using to cross the road. That dog started walking towards me and coughing or barking or whatever it was doing. I think it wanted medical attention from me but I was scared of rabies so I took my chances and ran across three lanes of traffic and tried to find a hostel for the night. This proved to be difficult. There was some night life in the town but basically every hostel and hotel had already closed for the night. Eventually though, after much walking around and information gathering in bars and getting lost and more walking, I finally found a hostel which was open. The proprietor, a slow moving elderly man, was initially suspicious of me as I spoke barely any Italian and stank of booze. After much sign language and confusion it finally became agreed that he had a room for me at 40 bucks for the night. But first he wanted documentation, and so I gave him my passport to examine. He started to repeat my name over and over, relishing the sound of it and smiling, then finally looking me in the eye and saying “Very good!” He then began to type my details into his ancient computer, typing very slowly with one ancient finger. Sometimes the computer would do things he didn’t expect, and this would cause him to stop altogether and mumble in confused tones to himself. It was by this time around three in the morning and I was finding it very hard to remain standing in the face of all that gravity. After about a million years the man was finished checking me in and I was able to go to my room and immediately fell into a deep sleep.

I woke up in horrible pain and confusion the next morning and got dressed after much rolling in bed and groaning as I searched for my painkillers. Then I checked my swollen face in the mirror and took a breakfast of pastries and cheeses before checking out with the intention of looking for Mount Etna and possibly hiking some way up it. What a blast of light and heat as I stepped out the door! I had been expecting nice weather but this was amazing. I put on shades and went looking for my mountain. My midnight arrival time hadn’t given me much chance to see anything yet but I thought if I could find a busy enough street there would surely be some tourist information of sorts. Well, I did find a busy street and I looked down the length of it and then I jumped and was delighted to see the mountain right there, enormous and hanging tranquil above everything. It looked so close, as though at the end of the street one could just start up it and hit the peaks by lunchtime. It was just there on the horizon inviting me, and the horizon isn’t so far away. I mean, you can see it from where you´re standing so how far can it really be? I started walking up the long road towards it like a man entranced, no map or information of any kind. It was really nice strolling out through the outskirts of the town, seeing the happy, healthy old people watering their gardens and having lazy conversations. Then I was out of the town and on the road and the mountain didn’t seem to be any closer, but after a short while I came to a small village and stopped for coffee and ice cream. The day was starting to get very hot now but I started on my way again and saw the mountain was still no closer. Now these were country roads, the cars really booming and zooming, fast and close and the pavements were either very narrow or just non-existent. Sometimes I had to cling onto bramble bushes to avoid falling under traffic. Dogs snarled angrily at me from behind wire fencing. At one point the road was reduced to a single lane by construction work and I had to walk through a swarm of bees which were populating a bush on the roadside. Angry drivers were skimming by me aggressively as bees were all over me and in my jacket. I was beginning to question the wisdom of my unmapped journey. No matter how many miles of road or isolated hamlets I passed through, I never got any closer to the mountain. Also frustrating was that the road signs gave only vague directions and without any marked distances, so I felt like I was groping my way through the dark, although of course it was very bright. Finally, after a lunch of Ragu at a roadside diner, I made a breakthrough of sorts and found that I was at least in the foothills now. The roads were lined with pine forests and I had rolling views down to sleepy farmlands and the blue ocean beyond. I thought of breaking out the oranges I had bought a couple of hours before as a celebration, but I decided to wait for civilisation before indulging. Well, you can´t understand my jubilation as I staggered into Nicolosi, a charming little village, with a pair of churches whose bells are not harmonious at all, and a cool fountain (The water temperature was cool, the style of the fountain was nondescript). There were several cafes and pizzerias of course, as well as the promise of tourist information and even a museum of volcanic theme. I sat on the shaded steps of the charming church and peeled my orange and I knew straight up it was going to be a good one. The sweetest and juiciest orange I ever had, the flesh blood red in places and afterwards I was wet and sticky up to my elbows. I wondered vaguely if this might be a terrible crime in Sicilia, to drop fruit juice on a church´s front steps but I was too elated to care. I felt like a saddle sore cowboy who’d made it through the desert to some well deserved rest and relaxation. I walked a Zen like walk to the fountain, placed my orange peel in the rubbish bin and then washed my arms, hair and face in the cool water. I was a cowboy washing in a trough. It was heaven being there and it was hell to be moving on, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Well, that´s just according to me anyway. I continued up the road to Etna where a lot more traffic tried to kill me and at one point I found this beautiful villa hotel in the pines and it had the most beautiful sapphire blue swimming pool in the garden. I was considering stopping there for the night just to be able to swim in that pool all evening, but then I saw the gardener was pissing on the lawn and then he noticed me and there was eye contact and I decided not to stay there in the end.

More frustratingly vague signage wore me down. It was impossible to judge my progress, if any were being made at all. Some time later I finally did encounter a signpost which stated both direction and distance. It informed me it was another 14 km to Etna Sud. I groaned in despair. I´d been walking for six hours already. I made a quick calculation and considered the prospect of walking on until the darkness of night and sleeping in a forest on the mountain side. I looked back down the road at the way I had come. To go back the same way would be too depressing, so I decided to take another path back down in order to keep things interesting, which it did, as I shall now relate. The path led me downwards towards the farms and ocean, which seemed to be correct, but at a certain point I saw a yellow arrow painted onto a rock and I thought it would be wise to follow that arrow down another sandy path. This new direction led me into group of orchards inside some of which were more dogs that wanted to kill me but could not because of fences. Apart from these dogs, the only sound I heard here was the occasional buzzing of bees. It was quite peaceful. Eventually these orchards came to an end at the boundary of a pine forest on the hillside. It didn’t look very welcoming but I didn’t want to walk back the way I had come so I tried to work my way down this hillside where a huge tangle of fallen dead trees made it very difficult for me to pass. I fell over several times and had to climb and jump and slide and roll a lot more than I would normally have to when walking in Berlin for example. By this time I was kind of aware that I had blisters forming on my feet and my legs were really hurting and also my back because in my excitement at seeing Etna I hadn’t left my backpack in a hostel or anything and had carried it the whole day. I could hear dogs barking madly in the valleys all around and I was sure it was for me they were going so crazy. Anyway, I kind of fell out of this forest at the bottom of the hill and was covered in pine needles and insects. I seemed to be in someone´s farm. I tried to listen and judge if there were any dogs in this particular field. It seemed deserted, and so I slowly walked across the field to where I could see a gate leading to the road. The gate was locked, and as I thought about climbing over I heard a truck driving up the hill towards me and so I ran back into the safety of the pines whereupon I started up the hill a little way again and then across to the next field over. Still no dogs, and so I walked over to the fence on the ocean side of that farm, which was low and climbable. From there I was able to sort of slide down the hill and I was back on a road of some kind in front of small houses in well kept gardens. It seemed I was back in civilisation! A small dog like a loud cushion came running from one of these houses down to the front gate to bark at me, and seconds later its owner, an old woman, also came outside and started shouting at me in Italian which I couldn’t understand. I guess she was demanding to know who the hell I was or why I was on the road near her house, distressing the dogs of the province. I shouted back “NO CAPISCO!” and was on my way. But this village or cluster of farms or whatever it was, happened to be full of dogs, all of which wanted me dead. They threw themselves against wire fences, snarling. Their saliva rained down on me as they convulsed in primal rage. They barked ferociously and made each other even more furious and tried to jump fences to get at me. I just kept walking down the road towards the nice village I was at earlier. The setting sun was casting the silhouettes of these furious dogs on the ground in front of me and I just kept walking until suddenly I stopped dead in my tracks and my blood went cold as I saw in front of me several dogs standing around freely on the road in front of me. I tried to stealthily retrace my steps and disappear unnoticed but too late – they had seen me and stood to attention. They began to bark a warning and then they came towards me slowly. I thought if I ran then they would really chase and kill me, so I slowly walked backwards trying to project a sense of calm superiority as on the inside I was trying to withstand severe palpitations. Then they started to pick up speed and I did the same and so they started to run at me and so I turned and sprinted to the stone wall on the curve of the road and jumped and was able to pull myself up over a fence there where I seemed to be safe. I walked back up the road from the safety of my side of the fence until those dogs turned and went back to hijacking cars or whatever the hell they were doing there. Meanwhile I climbed back over the fence and found myself outside a nice house where a small girl of three or four years was rolling a tricycle around in the front yard. She smiled at me and I, in my relief at still being alive, smiled back. Then a white haired dog came running out of the garage, barking at me, and knocked her over and she started crying. It was then that my saviour appeared. An elderly Sicilian gentleman, hearing this commotion, stopped watering his tomato plants and came over to investigate. After calming and sending away his dog he started asking me certain questions. Despite the language barrier we seemed to be in agreement that there were a lot of crazy dogs in the area and he offered to drive me in his car past these wild beasts and into the safety of the next village where I was able to catch a bus back to Catania. Once in the comfort of dog-free civilisation I was calm enough to realise how much pain I was in. My feet were horribly blistered and aching, all my muscles hurt and it seemed my knees were both damaged in some way. I swiftly found another hostel and showered before going to drink my pain away in some bars.

The next day, walking around the market and port areas of town I realised I was unable to move very freely and everything hurt, causing me to walk like a broken cowboy. Occasionally I would glance up at the mountain and vow revenge upon it “Just as soon as I have enough dynamite”. Anyway, the remainder of my time there passed without much incident but my time in Schöneweide since has been very difficult as the tram service has been unavailable, and the buses have been sadly unreliable. I would even say that this situation has been detrimental to my recovery. My knee is more or less recovered now and I understand the tram service will be resumed as normal in a couple of days, but it has been a very difficult time for me and I don’t think it unreasonable that I should expect some sort of compensation, perhaps a new Jahreskarte by way of apology, for example.

I eagerly await a constructive response. Sincerely, Christopher Bently, BVG supporter and dog lover.

Stillness and silence pervade the place. Christmas in Schöneweide and I may as well be on the moon. Everyone is away. Well, Susana is here and says I should be welcome to Christmas dinner at a squat with Amancai, who I barely know, and various punks who I don’t yet know at all. It could be a lot of fun but I would prefer to be in England. I would prefer not to have lost my passport and locked myself out of my apartment. So there we are, I am alone and poor at Christmas. Why is my life like this? Is it that I am careless, or is it that I am the victim of malignant forces beyond my control? Certainly I have felt like a cursed man on occasions – the orange dog shit time, for example. Whichever way you look at it, I have had my share of bad luck... But hey, maybe that’s a good thing – perhaps I am getting all of my bad luck at once and very soon it shall pass, allowing me to live out the rest of my days untroubled by the savage chidings of outrageous fortune. We’ll see how long that lasts...

Anyway, I’m not really miserable – plenty of reasons to feel blessed at the moment, or always, depending on how much perspective I remember to take. Things are really great with Ada lately and I feel that we are closer than ever. I guess no one likes me that much at first, but I’m a grower – like cancer. And I’m thinking now about when she was just born and Eva was wheeled off to be sewn up. The nurse took me to a darkened room and told me to take off my shirt and lie down on the bed. Hello, I thought, is this going on my health insurance? Instead of getting sexy however, things got scary. Ada was placed on my chest for warmth and the nurse left the room! I felt like I’d gone to a museum and been asked to balance a Ming vase on my head while the staff took their lunch. I was bound to fuck this up somehow. The whole thing seemed unreal. Was this my baby? Didn’t seem very likely – I’d never had one before, so why would I now have one? Probably this was just some strange giant tree frog squirming on my torso and the mistake would be realised in a few minutes. Well, it’s now been three and a half years and I am a believer! Not only that but I think I am a bit more of an adult now. But I’m rambling – I just mean to say that my daughter is not a vase or a frog and I accept that now.
Also great has been that Maude came back to Berlin a little while ago. I didn’t see that much of her at first but in recent weeks it’s been such a blessing spending time with her again. It seems like really get each other – we laugh a lot and dislike a lot of the same things. I don’t want to write this because it won’t do any justice to her and how happy she makes me. Of course I am guarded about falling in love. I am such an adult now, remember. I still get all nervous and clumsy around her. It is blissful to be in her presence and painful not to be. Make of that what you will. We had a talk the other day, before she left to spend Christmas with her family, about what we are to each other. I think we settled on remaining casual. Friends with fluids. I think it makes sense, considering our respective circumstances but I suspect I will fall horribly in love with her and have huge pain. Interesting because the first time we were intimate together was when I was deep in the big pain of breaking up with Silvia, and she really cured me of that and brought me out of a dark place. I don’t want to be there again. But maybe that’s what it is to be a grown-up – to lurch blindly from one blighted affair to the next, the trail of destruction reaching back further than the memory ever can. Further than mine can anyway. Of course, not everyone lives that way, but without getting too introspective, I do think it’s probably my fate. Anyway, writing this has been good for my thoughts – if you can call them thoughts, rather than just a binary sequence of urges and regrets.
Not much else to report, apart from a dream in which I was in an old snake-infested house and it was my job to exterminate the snakes by spraying them with corrosive acid. I hated doing it but I was really scared of the snakes and so I felt I couldn’t stop. I wasn’t alone but I don’t recall who I was with.

A realisation: All of my failings are a consequence of my fear. That’s why I’m stagnating – because I´m scared to make a move. I´m just like the lion from The Wizard of Oz. No courage. Although, now I think about it I´m also like the scarecrow because I don´t have a brain. I´m alright on the tin-man front... I know I have a heart somewhere about my person. I can feel it come to life around A__.
And yet! I am also like the Wizard of Oz himself because I am just a big fraud, and at the same time I am Dorothy too: A scared white girl who wants to go home. I can also relate to the winged monkeys because I am grotesque.

Had a lazy day with A__, we got up late and lounged around in pyjamas. She is so beautiful. Then we went out in the sleet to take my application form to that restaurant. I guess I´d hate to work there, but then I hate my current job anyway, so why not change things up? After this we went to have sushi at a little place through a courtyard containing large birdcages inside one of which was a lonely grouse stood rigid in the snow. I felt a sad affection for that grouse. The restaurant was an all-you-can eat affair, the food being distributed by conveyor belt. I wonder how many baggage handlers end up going on to work in sushi restaurants, and how many sushi chefs end up handling baggage at airports. Perhaps they just go round and round between the two jobs on a sort of metaphysical conveyor belt of their own... Anyway, it was good stuff. We accumulated quite a tower of plates and were beyond full. Still A__ kept eating. “It´s a shame to waste it” she said. I´m not sure she realised that we could keep eating all day and the dishes would continue to be replaced. There should be a curtain that you can bring down when you are satisfied. A bit like in peep shows when your money runs out.

A study in causation.

I don´t believe in fate, destiny, God or whatever. I believe in cause and effect. Just thinking about it now gives me a headache. Imagine all those people out there doing things. Anything. Sometimes very carefully, sometimes totally thoughtless, and every time there are consequences beyond counting. I got out of bed this morning – what could that mean for the people of Mexico City, say, or Budapest? Budapest... makes me think of a Buddhist eating pesto.
I just made a coffee – a watery one of course. One has to consider the environment, try to consume less. But it is all futile, there are simply too many people and they all want, want, want. But who can blame them? Pleasure, comfort and plenty are very desirable things, especially compared to the alternative. Of course people want these things. But actually, going back to my Buddhist and his pesto, why can´t people be happy with less? Would it kill people to get by with a bowl of rice and a pair of sandals? A bit of gardening for recreation, tending to llamas, watching the river flow. The sun in the morning and the moon at night. Corporations have a lot to answer for with their branding and advertising. They have branded us. Like cattle! People seem to be more self conscious now, comparing themselves to this modern, mythical, ideal lifestyle, which is great at perpetuating sales. We are lining their pockets at our own expense. This seems to be the case, but perhaps it is not. Once again I have not done my research.
So, supposing the act of drinking said coffee will cause, in five years time, a hot air balloon to be blown off course by some malignant gust. Perhaps even crashing down in the midst of some hitherto undiscovered tribe of cannibals who would worship the balloon crew as immortal sky gods, for example. With the sky gods on their side, sharing their sandwiches, they could finally have the confidence and blood sugar to drive the evil aliens from their forests (The aliens being coffee bean harvesters in the employ of the merciless Nestle corporation). Those forest crushing capitalists wouldn’t necessarily be expecting the sudden onslaught of spear wielding savages and could well be startled to find themselves being cooked alive. This wouldn’t bring the coffee industry to its knees of course, but could drive the prices up a few cents. So there you have it: The effect of me drinking this coffee is that my next coffee will cost me more. Cause and effect. The good news is that there is the potential to improve the world through simple acts of kindness (See diagram provided).

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