Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

© Jeff Matthews    entry Sept 2015    Allegro ma non troppo #1, orig. Lion Magazine pub. date, 1994

Comrade, Save the Last Dance for Me

A spectre is haunting Europe — a spectre of Communist nostalgia! Unemployment and inflation are making many Europeans wistful for the Bad Old Days — and if you've ever been full of wist, you can see just how serious this is! Little old ladies now parade around Red Square (trivia question: What is that square called now?) waving pictures of one of our century's great Co-Princes of Darkness, Joseph Stalin. And in Germany they are weeping for the old Deutsche Demokratische Republik, the German Democratic Republic. Come on, you remember: the People's Monster Tractor-Pull Volksfest; hundreds of chemical Chernobyls puking up enough gunk to give cancer to lab mice on Mars; everyone a cog in the collectivist clockwork. Ah, those were the days. No, there was nothing to buy, but at least no one had no money not to buy it with!

So just what is Germany going to do about it? Build a theme park, that's what! A businessman from eastern Germany (formerly, "East Germany"), has plans to build, just north of Berlin, a park called Ossiland (from'Ossi' — meaning 'Eastie'— which Western Germans — formerly "West Germans"— apply to their ideologically re-advantaged countrymen (formerly, "Commie rats").

The park would re-create everything that was the GDR: It would include a hotel modeled after a socialist apartment building (plaster peeling off the walls, windows that don't close properly, etc. etc. — maybe a police informer posing as a cleaning woman). Also, there would be a shopping center stocked once a month with wormy apples and shriveled bananas; and, you will be able to watch May Day parades featuring an Erich Honecker look-alike waving to the masses while Stasi secret police "arrest" complainers. The whole 8.1 meters: closed-circuit TV showing old East German propaganda films; barbed wire, dogs, watch towers; haggard and joyless 10-year-old girls practicing on the uneven parallel bars nine hours a day; and a generous supply of Eastmarks freely convertible on the international exchange to toad warts. Yes, all this plus a re-creation of the infamous Berlin Wall, presumably at the park exit, where you will need a visa in order to leave and go home. You get your visa only after being harassed by surly bureaucrats. It will make 1984 seem like 1983, by comparison!

I know what they mean. I get nostalgic for the German Democratic Republic, too. My tear ducts shift into oversog whenever I think of the days I played Good Guy to their Bad Guy. I can't tell you what I did, because that might still carry a $10,000 fine and 5 years in jail penalty — or maybe it's $5,000 and 10 years in jail. (I always get that part confused). Suffice it to say that it irritated them. Well, ok, just one… I used to call up party boss Honecker in the middle of the night and taunt that Marx's antinomian interpretation of Hegelian dialectics was really putting the positivist cart before the historical horse, if you catch my drift. Man, it used to drive him crazy!

But I think my warmest recollection of old Commie East Germany was when I danced for the bad guys. We were moving furniture into a building in Berlin, mere yards away from a fence separating us from them. They were perched in a watch-tower looking at us through field-glasses and we could see that they were also taking pictures. Lots of pictures. This is what put such a drain on their already inefficient and sagging collectivist economy. Instead of pumping money into consumer essentials such as toilet paper and Kalashnikovs, they were churning out millions of rolls of inefficient and sagging collectivist film so they could take pictures of innocent GIs moving furniture.

On that particular day, in a fit of inspiration, we put down our chairs and tables in front of the doorway to the building and lined up and did a can-can for them! —a line of guys in fatigues and combat boots, linked arm in arm and high-kicking to turn the Follies Bergère olive drab with envy. We accompanied our dancing with a la-la version of Offenbach's famous can-can, from “The Infernal Galop” from his Orpheus in the Underworld, the one that goes —c'mon, sing it with me, won't you?—for old times' sake!— DAAA-da-da-da-da DAA-DAA-da-da-da-da DAA-DAA-da-da-da-da… Whew! Man, I'm exhausted. I gotta sit down for a second. Carry on without me. Then, just to really stroke their strudel, one by one we danced up to the solo slot in front of the line to pose for their cameras! —first a frontal shot, then both profiles. We topped it all off with our version of that famous Follies finale: we turned around and gave them our patented 21-bun salute! (I know, I know, that works out to just ten and one-half GIs. I can't explain that.) From then on we referred to that site as Cheekpoint Charlie. OK, so it wasn't as moving as a good, solid goose-step, but, if you ask me, we really got their juices flowing, especially when they started flipping us the Huniversal sign for, "You're nuts!", tapping their index fingers to their temples. (And wasn't it Marx, himself, who said that the body is a temple, so be careful where you put that index finger?) We didn't get much furniture moved that day, but we sure had fun. I really miss those days. I'm heading back to the Big Potato, Berlin, and find that park. Maybe I can dance my way past the guards.


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