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by Les Bohem
In Vienna on a little street off the Am Hof, we found a place called Blitzbar. It had been listed on the Time Out, Vienna site and mentioned in several travel blogs. It was a small storefront with venetian blinds and a black door on which "Blitzbar" had been spray-painted in red. Presumably it had been named for the Blitz Club in London, a place that had been popular in the post punk days of the early 1980s.
We opened the door and went inside. It was a large room, brightly lit. The floor was black linoleum. The walls were white with spray-painted slashes in garish colors across them every few feet. There were brightly painted metal tables and folding chairs. There was a mirror along one wall and a bar along the other.
In the far corner, a couple sat over cups of tea. The girl had on a spotted fur coat and black pants. Her hair was dyed blond with black streaks. The boy wore a brown leather suit. He had a neatly trimmed Errol Flynn style moustache.
Earlier that year, the group "The Artificial Negroes" had had a hit single called "Vienna." The lead singer, a Scotsman named Michael Mo, wore a neat, Errol Flynn moustache. We had seen many of these moustaches in Vienna.
Behind the bar was a girl dressed all in black with her hair cut short and dyed black. She was solid and squat, with a face that would easily become the face of all the old women in the Viennese cafes. Two young men in motorcycle jackets and punk haircuts played poker dice with the girl.
These were the only five people in the bar. It was uncomfortable standing there, but we were in the room and it would have been worse to leave. We hung up our coats and sat at the far end of the bar.
The girl walked over to us. David ordered a beer and I asked for a bourbon. She turned to get the drinks.
"1 should have gotten a beer," I said when the drinks came. "I forgot how small the hard drinks were in Vienna."
David nodded and we were silent. We looked around the room and sipped our drinks. Music played from a Bose Wave behind the bar. It was loud and retro-punkish and unfamiliar to both of us.
"Is this it?" David asked. We had been in Vienna for three days and we hadn't been able to find anywhere to go at night.
"Everyone said it was a depressing place."
We had come from Berlin. It was an odd city. So much of it had been destroyed in the war, and in the east, left to rot by the Russians. Now, reconstructed, the wall long gone and the city glued back together with all the modern buildings, it wasn't Berlin at all, but another city built on the site.
The famous decadence had been reconstructed, too and with the same modern perversity that brought Michael Mo’s moustache to Vienna, Berlin had rebuilt itself from Hollywood's memory. It had become the set from the movie, "Cabaret." We had gone to a place called "El Dorado" that was supposed to have the city’s best transvestite show. Here, poorly made-up men performed on a tiny stage. There was no band. The performers had sung along with recordings, their voices blending pathetically with the originals. It was pathetic, although a transvestite lip-synching to Marlene Deitrich did seem like the perfect souvenir of the new Berlin.
I saw one man sitting in a place called the "Metropole." He was trying, with some success, to look like David Bowie. Bowie, who had used his studied references to Wimardecadence so successfully that he'd managed to run decadence as a fashion right into the ground, who had been so fascinated by the legend of Berlin that he'd recorded two albums there. And here was a real Berliner, whose face held more in it of the history of the city than there could ever be, now that the buildings were gone, anywhere else, and you wondered if he were even aware of that heritage; if he saw anything of the convoluted path that had him trying to look like someone who was trying to look like someone that he (the Berliner) could have looked like without trying.
A man came into the bar then. He was wearing a suit, and he too had a neat little moustache. He carried a briefcase. "Grus gott," the girl behind the bar greeted him as he stepped over to her and shook her hand. Then he shook hands with the two punks. They all seemed to know him.
"But what do we want anyway?" I asked David.
"If we found a good club or something?"
"I don't know," David said.
"What do we expect to happen? It just seems to me that if we were a bit more content, we wouldn't have to find some place better."
"Have you ever been in a club you liked?"
The man in the suit had put his briefcase on the bar. He said something and all three of the others laughed. The couple in the corner got up and put on their coats. They walked past us and out of the bar.
“I mean if we left a club with girls, would that make it right? Is that really all it comes down to?"
"I don't know."
"I just don't know what I think will happen."
We were silent. At the other end of the bar, the man in the suit had opened his briefcase. The other three were looking inside. The girl reached into the case and picked up something. All four of them laughed and looked inside the case. It could have been diamonds or drugs or enough dynamite to blow up half the city, but from where we were sitting we couldn't see what he had inside.
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