Monday, 30 November 2009

Wolfgang, I'm only dancing

It’s a Friday night in October and we are sitting in the corner of a very small bar just off the Reeperbahn in Hamburg’s red light district. The bar was chosen somewhat at random as a place to shelter from the rain. As we sip our delicious bottles of Astra, we survey the following scene:

The bar is mainly wood panelled. Periodically the barmaid will stand up on top of the counter and pour everyone shots. It’s a little bit rough and ready, in fact probably as rough and ready as is possible these days in the tourist friendly Reeperbahn area.

At the bar, a middle aged German man seduces his wife by dancing very, very badly. She feigns mock disgust, but the hint of a smile around the corners of her mouth betrays the fact that she LOVES his bad middle aged German man dancing ways. Now of course, I am someone who cannot talk about this subject with any type of lofty position, but from what I’ve seen, German people dance quite badly.

German dancing 101

The German style of dancing is very overenthusiastic and although it has rhythm, this does not necessarily need to match that of the music. There’s a lot of arm work going on and facial expressions are important. The idea seems to be: “yes I’m going to dance and I’m going to love it and it doesn’t matter how bad the music is because tonight I’m dancing. Yeah look at my face, take a long hard look at my face. I’m dancing! See on my face how much I’m enjoying myself here.”

Next to us is another middle aged German man with a lady, but this time the vibe is different. She’s younger and quite attractive and he has a middle aged German businessman thang going on. A bottle of champagne sits chilling in a bucket on the table next door. Our table.

And he’s dancing too. Very badly. To the song ‘Black or White’ by the Emperor Michael Jackson. And he’s mouthing the words as he jerks and jolts out of time. And he’s dancing. Yes he’s DANCING. And his female companion shows disgust, but this time the hint of the smile around her face betrays the face that she doesn’t mind too much, because this woman is working.

Every further moment this man spends dancing and drinking champagne increases the amount of money this woman is earning and lessens the chance she will have to undertake rushed and perfunctory sex with him. As he leans in and sings the immortal line “Don't tell me you agree with me, when I saw you kicking dirt in my eye” in her ear, she cracks a grimaced smile. Would she likes some more champagne? No she would not, she is drinking her current glass as slowly as possible. But he should have some more. He certainly should have some more. More money not so subtly changes hands.

More champagne means that nature calls and as he slopes off to the toilet she pulls a fat roll of money out of her back pocket and counts it, exchanging terse words with the huge, ugly muscled man at the next table. How did we fail to notice the two huge, ugly muscled men at the next table?

But our German businessman is on the case and he will not be tricked. Instead of going to the toilet he peers from around the corner with a comedic Scooby Doo expression on his face. Oh he’s wily and clever, or at least he would be, except he’s standing in full view of everyone in the room and pulling the classic gormless German businessman expression #1.

A little later on, a further ugly muscled man in a bad Red Bull biker jacket struts into the bar, hackles bristling. Yes, it seems we are drinking in The Pimp Inn. This time the vibe is different and suddenly there is and unsavoury hint of violence in the air, though I don’t quite realise in the moment.

About five minutes later, SNAP. All of a sudden fists are flying and a punch up is beginning. However there seems to be some kind of etiquette here, as amidst the flying fists, the men bundle outside to fight on the street. Yes it seems there is some kind of decorum and agreement with the landlady. No fighting in the bar.

It is in this moment, with the ugly muscled men otherwise engaged; the German businessman makes his move and suggests that he and his companion for hire leave the bar. But no, he is foiled. The girl hasn’t finished her drink, the one she has been avoiding consuming all night, so they can’t leave the bar just yet.

Thankfully I don’t see the fight and it is over quickly. Seemingly less than two minutes later about ten German police officers are in the scene including several women. A number of people are being questioned and Hamburg’s red light district is calm.

A few moments later, a couple of the bull-necked ugly muscled men peer out of the refuge of the bar where they retreated when the cops showed. In a Wire-esque few seconds, they glance left and right and before quickly strutting off down the street, no doubt to report to ‘the boss’ what went down this evening.

Meanwhile the man at the bar continues to dance on in his bad middle aged German man ways, oblivious to the carnage around him. Because tonight he’s dancing. Yes he’s DANCING.

And we decide it is time to leave the bar and go for a well deserved hot dog.

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