It's warm and damp here tonight but my thoughts turn to Berlin. No particular reason, though I have recently revisited Christopher Isherwood's 'Goodbye to Berlin' and 'Mr Norris Changes Trains'.
When I was much younger, working in the dullest office known to man, I purchased the soundtrack to 'Cabaret' on vinyl. I would rush home from work and listen to it in my room and sometimes I would sneak a drink of vodka to make myself feel less like an awkward 17 year old and more like a sophisticated gent. It somehow made me feel optimistic about the future and it also made me feel there was another world out there apart from the one filled with endless filing and filming company records onto microfiche (ha!, microfiche!).
The musical is a marvel in its own right, of course, but it opened up a wider world to me. I started reading Isherwood's Berlin stories and ended up reading most of his novels. I'm a fan and to this day I have a photo of Isherwood on my desk which dates from the mid 60s when he visited Australia.
I read whatever I could lay my hands on, in those pre-internet days, relating to Germany between the wars. I read a newly translated collection of Bertolt Brecht short stories, took sick days off work to go and see Greta Garbo movies (yes, I know, the movies I saw were not quite German, but it was about atmosphere), stayed up late to watch Fassbinder movies on TV and pawed over the sinister and often grim art of Germany before WWII.
I don't work there anymore, but I still listen to 'Cabaret' and watch the movie on dvd and yes, even get drunk to it. I am no longer precious about it, but I maintain a strong connection to the musical and the wonderful things it led me to.
"At eight o'clock in the evening the house-doors will be locked. The children are having supper. The shops are shut. The electric-sign is switched on over the night-bell of the little hotel on the corner, where you can hire a room by the hour. And soon the whistling will begin. Young men are calling their girls. Standing down there in the cold, they whistle up at the lighted windows of warm rooms where the beds are already turned down for the night. They want to be let in."
'A Berlin Diary (Autumn 1930)' from 'Goodbye to Berlin', Christopher Isherwood.