“Could I please get my burger grilled rare?” Schneider kindly asked the waiter at the Blockhouse restaurant in Karl-Liebknecht-Straße. But the waiter replied: “We always serve our burgers well done. This is according to German hygienic law.” Schneider didn’t understand: “But when I eat a burger at Hasir Burger or at Burgermeister’s, I always can get it rare.” But the German waiter replied: “I told you, this is the law!”
Back home in Berlin Neukölln with some friends, Schneider watched both Walt Disney’s Jungle Book and Andrej Tarkovsky’s Stalker in a row, while they enjoyed a bottle of Arneis. Impressed by the haunting and meditative narrative of Tarkovsky’s masterpiece, he asked himself the question why nobody is shooting films like that anymore.
A word about watching films over and over again: The first time, V2 Schneider had seen Stalker, he was sweet sixteen years old. Back then, he hadn’t understood a word of what the writer, the scientist and the stalker were talking about. He intuitively felt, however, that their discussions were elemental and essential, and that he maybe was too young to understand the problems of a pondering adult who live in a permanent state of doubt. Not to mention the visual language of the film, as overwhelming then as it is now.
Soviet officials were critical of the film when it was released in 1979. On being told that Stalker should be faster and more dynamic, Tarkovsky replied:
“The film needs to be slower and duller at the start so that the viewers who walked into the wrong theater have time to leave before the main action starts.”
The Goskino representatives then explained that they were only trying to give the point of view of the audience. Tarkovsky supposedly retorted:
Watching the film for the seventh time in his life, Schneider was especially moved by the scenes that take place in the bar. The neon tube is jittering. No music is being played. People that gather in this bar to drink beer are negotiating the principal things in life. You might call it an existentialist bar, even though Tarkovsky would certainly disagree, being the religious man that he is.
If V2 Schneider would ever open a bar, he would design it like this imaginary one. Of course, he wouldn’t open his bar in viewing distance of a nuclear power plant.
Schneider turned on the sound system in his office – an inappropriately massive PA – and listened to his field recordings of Kraftwerk’s Techno Pop concert at the MoMA at full volume. The bootleg was packed full of highs. To equalize, Schneider doubled the input in the 150 kHz range and cut some of the peaks. The result was something unexpected: ‘Musique Non-Stop’ without the highs sounded like an African tribal piece driven by monotonous percussive energy.
For lunch, he cut a Mozzarella di Buffala from Campania into two halves and poured some extra virgin olive oil on it. No tomatoes, no basil.
Later that afternoon, he received an email from Bernard Sumner confirming their interview for the first week of May.
Still suffering from jetlag, Schneider went home early in the evening. As the sky grew dark, he turned on his video projector and watched Lars von Trier’s Europa. In this black-and-white experimental feature from 1991, Barbara Sukowa plays the role of a Nazi femme fatale who seduces, and then marries and manipulates a young American (Jean-Marc Barr), a character who eagerly wants to “show some kindness to the suffering German people” in the aftermath of the Second World War. In a key scene, Barr is confronted by his wife while US military police are arresting her.
Sukowa: “In my eyes, YOU are the criminal.”
Barr: “How can you say that?! I was on neither side, I didn’t take sides.”
Sukowa: “That’s exactly your crime.”
Late supper with Holly Woodlawn, Niko Solorio, Nicolas Wackerbarth, Bernd Cailloux and thirty-three drag queens at the Knutbar. In the small kitchen, V2 Schneider prepared the huge Scottish salmon he had bought wholesale at the fish market. In front of his queer audience, he skinned the fish and cut the two filets into symmetrical cubes of 3 centimeters. He then chopped the garlic, the ginger, the chili and the parsley. The sauce he composed of white wine, green and black pepper, lemon leafs, olive oil and some juice from freshly squeezed lemons.
By 11 p.m., Holly was completely drunk.
Holly came from Miami, F.L.A.
Hitchhiked her way across the USA.
Plucked her eyebrows on the way
Shaved her legs and then he was she – she said:
Hey Babe, take a walk on the wild side,
Said hey honey, take a walk on the wild side.
April 17, 2012
Miles in the sky northeast of Halifax, V2 Schneider fell into a fitful, dreamless sleep. After some turbulence later, though, he was awake again. The map on the small screen located the cruising Boeing 747 somewhere south of Greenland. He imagined the ocean beneath him, cold and dark, and considered that the Titanic sank somewhere around here almost exactly one hundred years ago.
The melody of Kraftwerk’s ‘Musique Non-Stop’ never left his mind. He heard the repetitive, percussive electronic beats of the track as a never-ending loop. Half awake, half sleeping, Schneider flipped through the pages of Human Nature (Dub Version), the book he had received as a gift from Glenn O’Brien the day before. On page 73 he read the poem ‘The Key’:
In this jar is a key to the Factory.
I don’t remember which key it is.
I don’t remember what any of these keys are.
But one oft hem is a key to the Factory.
No Purple Heart, no Medal of Honor,
just a Mason jar full of keys that used to work.
There is no more Factory.
But in here somewhere is the key.
9:15 a.m. arrival at Heathrow (Int’l Terminal 5)
10:55 a.m. flight BA 0992 to Berlin Tegel
1:45 p.m. arrival at Berlin Tegel
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2:15 p.m. taxi to Berlin Neuköln
Pizza Margherita con Salsiccia and a cold Peroni beer at Masaniello’s. Power nap until 8:45 p.m. Almost ninety minutes later, Mario Gomez scores the 2:1 goal at the Champions League semi-finals in Munich against Real Madrid.
April 16, 2012
On the balcony overlooking Orchard Street, V2 Schneider lit a black and gold Nat Sherman—the world’s most elegant cigarette. Unsurprisingly, the fine natural tobacco blend was beyond reproach.
(SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Quitting Smoking Now Greatly Reduces Serious Risks to Your Health.)
Lunch with LMB at Old Town Bar: a double cheeseburger with fries and a cup of drip coffee. From there, Schneider walked next door to Barnes & Noble to buy some books.
New York Diaries (1609 to 2009) by Teresa Carpenter (Modern Library)
Windblown World—The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954 (Penguin)
Tarantula by Bob Dylan (Scribner)
Collected Poems 1947-1997 by Allen Ginsberg (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)
While standing in the queue, V2 Schneider’s cellphone rang. On the other end of the line: Glenn O’Brien suggesting a meet-up at his place, undoubtedly involving more coffee. Schneider paid for his books and hopped on the 7 Train to Bleecker Street where he met the former editor-in-chief of Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine in his studio apartment.
O’Brien wore a sporty greyish suit and with a brilliantly contrasting pastel yellow shirt—one end of the collar asymmetrically tucked under the jacket, the other one above the lapel. His comfortable studio was like a small museum, with an equally impressive library. Schneider was most impressed by the countless Basquiat’s hanging on the walls. Opposite to his seat, a small piece by Joseph Kosuth was stood prominently on the bookshelf, brandishing a quote by Fyodor Dostoevsky: “We are all happy if we only knew it.”
Over the course of three espressi, they discussed O’Brien’s substantial art collection, which included several works by Richard Prince, Damien Hirst, Andy Warhol, Christopher Wool et al: “When I worked for Andy, I simply was in the midst of it. I was in the very center of the New York art scene. I became friends with people like Richard Prince or Jean-Michel Basquiat. Instead of writing a bill when I, for instance, wrote an essay for a catalogue, I’d instead suggest to take a painting or a print. For me, these pieces were worth so much more than money. In fact, as time passed and some of the painters I collected became world famous, it turned out that I was right.”
Schneider noticed a series of twelve colorful drawings by Basquiat on one wall. “How long did it take for him to draw a series of a dozen?” O’Brien: “I remember the day when he did them. I was hacking in an article on the typewriter for some magazine, and he was sitting on the same table, drawing one picture after the other. It warms my heart thinking of those days.”
Before he left, O’Brien insisted on giving Schneider a signed copy of his book Human Nature (Dub Version) containing his poems and Richard Prince’s drawings. After saying his goodbyes, Schneider headed towards Grand Street carrying even more valuable stuff. His cup runneth over.
This was his final day in Manhattan. His flight was leaving from Newark Airport at 9:29 p.m. He still had to pack his suitcase and write some postcards. At a downtown toy store, he freed a small, brown stuffed rabbit from its gloomy, dusty confinement.
The April 16 entry of the New York Diaries read as follows:
“1912—absolutely appalling disaster of the Titanic. Sank after four hours. No one is thinking of anything else. Only a 3rd enough life boats though more than required by law. Most of the women & children supposed to be saved on the Carpathia & and a few…fearing over a thousand lost.” – Marjorie Richards Reynolds
He closed the book, poured himself a glass of cold Chardonnay and looked out the window as LMB’s cousin Claire rolled through rush-hour traffic towards Holland Tunnel and then to Newark Airport.