Useless Talent Number One
Planet Terror, and I’ll say this before moving on to the actual occurrences and this and that, was great, and I liked it a lot, and I didn’t like it in a “Har-har, I’m so clever cause I like quirky b-movies let me pretend I’ve seen a few from the 70s” kind of way; no. I liked it because I liked it, because it showed me something I had never noticed, because yes, there is some kind of formula it adheres to, but also it is, no kidding, a weave of multiple intricate narratives all stringed together better than any chick flick piece of shit ever could. Effortlessly. And that’s where I got it from, I latched on, remembered and put the “Useless Talent Number” (with whatever random somewhat high number you want on the end of it) thing into my own mouth; and I ain’t ashamed to say it. It’s saying “I’m beautiful and it is in vain.” And says it in a particularly beautiful way—unnoticeable self-cruelty, cracking fingers in the dark. Props.
I can’t stop now. I got my fair share of Useless Talents. This flat, which is live-in drinking buddies and a staff price beer waiting for you in the downstairs bar anytime of day, rarely calls for the Talents, but still from time to time, they get their moments. I’m down there now, looking for Doreen, wondering about this show she was talking about, and as usual, I find her behind the booth, talking to the cassette guy selling for the band. She’s always talking so very keenly with one of these guys, and nicely too. Doreen’s tall and not blond and looks nothing like most of these girls over here. I mean these girls are tall, but even The Reen looks pretty tall by their standards. The Reen, that’s what her husband, Barnie, the napper still upstairs, calls her. He says it’s his name for the coxing and the tide she washes over you without even knowing it. It’s also his name for the four cents she tends to put into any conversation in the household. So I ask her what the hell she’s doing behind that booth. The place is looking properly hipster filled at this point. Though somehow, and this is a local thing, the German one’s tend to lack a certain flare in their sarcasm, which tends to play in favor of lack of apparent airs of pretention. Nice people really. Sometimes cold and often boring, but nice. The Reen does not fit them at all. She’s pure Pittsburgh, she’s taught me. Actually that’s a lie, that’s my imagination; I like to think she is. I throw in a Pittsburgh reference here and there in everyday conversation. I’ve always been good with that, which has managed to make me seem nicer than I actually am. Although I guess that’s a nice thing to do for people, let them know your tuned in to their radio station, so to speak, if you were gonna talk like that. Useless talent number 56 I ‘ve decided. Unfortunately, I was not doing the useless-talent-number-whatever thing when I first did this with Doreen. I was still saying “cool beans” a lot. I go through phases where I have these little phrases. I pick them up from other people and melt into them, till they’re more mine than theirs. I miss the “cool beans” era. I like to think it ain’t over yet. Still, props. The Reen says,
‘What the fuck’s it look like short stuff?’ At first, when she hasn’t warmed up to you, The Reen looks way too hard out of the way of coming up with something endearing like “short stuff”, but she’s not. I ware it proudly. Doreen’s a riot, a keeper, a corker, a pal. She’s also drunker than I’ve seen her.
‘F-Bomb on you, Claudel.’ I says, and I can see the appreciation, and I ask her for a fiver, cause I’m out of money, and I get her to come up to the bar and point me out to the curly-haired little lesbian behind there, so that I may get me a one buck beer and a little piece of mind without tipping, which is OK here. I know, it’s weird, but it’s A-OK, trust me. By the time I get done looking over the crowd and getting back to The Reen I can tell she’s talking to that little American thang I was told about earlier. I was sitting around in the kitchen trying to get warm by the gas oven’s flame when The Reen walked in and told me, when I asked if Dwayne, the other roomy, had finally gotten out to the Christmas market downstairs to sell his damn Salsa, well she clued me in to no under-explicit T that he was, but that that was a cover, that he was actually macking on this vegan cupcake-selling little American chick. I’ll let you know I might not have buzzed my hair and trimmed my beard down to Rugged Handsome Albeit Sophisticated if I had not had that piece of info thrown at me. I could imagine that damn Dwayne (well, I like Dwayne, I’m being facetious) bringing her up to listen to some tunes he’d be DJ-ing tonight in Kreuzberg and having her listen to some mad-hot Joker beats and telling her he just came across the stuff in his free time. ‘Oh ya! I know. Just some kid from Bristol, Like 19’ I imagine he’d say, when in fact I was playing it and he fussed around for 10 minutes looking for a USB stick to have me pass the wealth along. Me and music. We have our moments. Dwayne knows his shit, but me and music, we have our moments. Useless talent number 35. Anyhow, the thought of him unloading that dub-step wealth of a savvy little find on some hot little American totty at my expense got me revved up to get the engine’s moving and in fact leave the house and go down to the bar and be like presentable and an all-around F-BOMB of a Mac. I was right too. He did come up and play her some tunes. I heard them while I was in buzzing my hair. No Joker though. Dwayne’s too fair for that. I tried real hard to get done soon enough to go out there, shirtless, freshly buzzed, six-packish, non-chalant and vibrant, while she was still around. But it took me too long. She was gone by the time I came out. Whatever. Fair enough. Props Dwayne.
So there she is. The American girl. I can see the cute factor, but to be honest I am just not sure off the bat that I would fuck her. She’s tiny and definitely cute indie and vegan and cardigan-wearing homely stuff, but you know, she is 29 and it shows. That sounds awful. What I mean is she is 29 and she almost immediately reminded me of Mona, this crazy-eyed 28-year-old I dated very briefly a few years ago. Mona was fucking crazy. If they are truly crazy, this is the time it starts to show properly. Every one has these girls they date and point out as crazy afterwards, I am aware of this, but Mona was certifiable. Institutionalized at some point. Had eyes like a catatonic schizophrenic on a hayride. The happy kind. She had a big fat old crazy heart. She shone that girl, in her own way. And she had the crazy in her melt every bit of fat off her beautiful body and make her tits the firmest tits I’ve ever had in my mouth, and my mouth still remembers a 19-year-old’s breasts. I once saw Mona wrestle a homeless man. Had to pull her off too. Mona once blew me three times in twenty minutes, out of her own volition. Bats. Beautiful. Absolute. Bats. The type of girl that looks so crazy that you can only see how beautiful she is in a picture if she doesn’t smile. This girl, and now that I think about it I can’t for the life of me size this girl up to the semblance of anything like Mona, but still, this girl reminds me of Mona. Or maybe just of a memory of Mona. Something about her mouth. Or her skin. She doesn’t have the body though. Nice body, but still, I don’t know. Maybe she just reminds me of Canadian girls. Yeah, boring older Canadian grad student girls. The type that doesn’t TA. The type that works at People’s Potato, for those in the know, but never toughens up as a result. Anyhow, there she is. And her smile is nice, so I don’t mind, I take it one step at a time, I say
“Hey Pal!” and she guffaws. We shake hands and her name is Trudy, not Gertrude, and everyone is happy and a la la la. We’re talking about Trudy’s hair and how she’s growing it out. How she’ll never let it be blond again. I discuss my past curls and she discusses her past dreadlocks. The Reen’s growing her hair out too and we compliment it. We then have a variety of comparing America to Europe little conversations and I can tell this is exactly what The Reen was talking about when she described the American’s Sticking Together Out of Desperation thing, but she doesn’t seem to mind right now seeing as she’s around a gal her own age and all. We get some other beers and the whole thing is soft and light and that’s fine. And then we find out that the band, these dude’s that Doreen has mad crushes on, aren’t even playing tonight. And then we find out there’s karaoke in the back bar. I didn’t even know there was a back bar.
So after a refreshing little skater punk all-girls band from around the neighborhood, and after like a trio of 15 post-post-punk little kids with sweeping bangs and WESC tees from the suburbs, we decide karaoke sounds pretty good. If you think karaoke is owned by Asians with hearts of jade then you’ve never been to a backyard bar in Berlin because This Is Karaoke. We come in to Gunter, the local who told us about the karaoke, belting out some sweet high notes to George Michael’s Last Christmas. This guy is Uselessly Talented. And then some other guy with glasses and what looks like way too much time to practice at home does London Calling and Sweet Child of Mine back to back. He’s Uselessly Genius. It’s all kinds of terrifyingly satiating. And we start browsing the songbooks, and they got, just on the fly like this, a better selection than La Boite a Karaoke, which, for yous in the know, has a dozy of a selection. Not to mention dirt-cheap four liter pitchers you have to pour with two hands. I suck at karaoke. I’m looking for any other song than the one I can do, or have done once, perfectly. I choked on Tiny Dancer right after doing it, once, perfectly. It was an unpretty sight made livable solely by the tumescent perfection of the one song I did before, said song which gave me the moxy to get up there and try and pull off Tiny Fucking Dancer. But then The Reen goes right ahead and finds Nuthin’ But A G Thang and I’m thinking fuck it, I’m the Blackest Person on the Block, so we write the number down and get it up to the KJ and then, right after Smells Like Teen Spirit, done by the three jovial skater punk little lesbianos, it’s our turn. I get about three verses in before the whole thing falls apart. I blame Doreen. She fucks up real good. We mostly just stand up there mumbling and doing Snoop-style stepping. We scream “City of Compton” at the right moment. It’s a hoot and that’s the point. But still, at this point, I’m thinking keep your doors open buoyoboy and I’m feeling there’s no way around it anymore so I tell Trudy Fuck It
‘let’s do With a Little Help from Friends cupcake.’ And she digs.
‘I ain’t sure if I’m drunk enough man!’ she says and I think about getting her upstairs and keeping the door open with some Jameson and getting a few shots in her, but I can tell she’s already convinced, she’s just fronting, she’s just being kind of awkwardly coy like any proper Mcgill female grad student would be. It’s endearing. She’s all in with a little coxing. And I just hope I can turn it on.
We all get another beer and discuss vegan baking and baking soda in Europe. We talk about the job she just landed, as a sous-chef. I pat the inner-voice on the shoulder. We watch the London Calling guy do I kid you not Red House Painters’ Katy Song, and someone doing that Tom Jones Christmas song with the name I can’t spell. Barnie comes down from his pre-flight-to-Sweden nap and it’s good to him. He looks happy. Things are looking good. Then out of nowhere there’s some guy with a mustache sitting beside Trudy with an innocent gooey smile on his face. She tells me he’s coming up there with us. For the song. I decide it’s no sweat though. I don’t get threatened too easily in these situations. I’ve got the Useless Talents to lean on. After Gunter does Space Oddity wonderfully well, that ol’ Chinaman, we get up there and I decide to essentially, nicely, bogart the mike. I get my own mike and they get one for the two of them. Trudy tells me to start it off and the 48 second intro kicks in and I can feel that gyration in that Woodstock footage kick in and I think Useless Talent Number 69 and I mean it. I wave and I wrangle. I do The Reen proud. And when I start in on ‘What would you do / if I sang outta tune? / Would you stand up / and walk on me?’ it’s like I’m home again and a miracle is occurring. Youtube the Woodstock Joe Cocker video. That’s what I’m like right now. In a tiny back courtyard bar, at Rosenthaler Platz, on the 20th of December, Joe Cocker, the skinny one, appears. And I see Doreen and Barnie laughing their ass off in Vain and Wooping loudly I can tell everyone, including these two on stage, are thinking what I’m thinking, they’re thinking You’re Beautiful and it is in Vain and we are at one. The woops are a-many. Friendo over here with the mustache tries in on the second verse and he’s OK, but he’s still like ground beef to my cracked cocaine. And then she tries a bit, but she just kind of sucks and is shy and they push me forward laughingly and want me back on it, and I believe I can tell from their looks that they are having way too orgasmic a time watching me carry this to Joe Cocker Heaven to even try and take any of it away from me. And when I hit that screaming beautiful “YYEEAAHH / LOVE” it’s like Ecstasy, only actually it’s like pure MDMA, and a baby Jesus statue weeps somewhere in NY state because of what I am doing right now. I rock it.
When I’m done she looks a little amazed. Useless Talent Number 69. I coolly tell her I gotta check on the stove upstairs, move some coal around write a poem down and I just bounce into the friscalating sunset like I got brass ones, like I just landed a blow and there’s a booming countdown in the background. I let him slump there a bit.
A half hour later the whole in Vain part crystallizes. We go back to the main bar for some supposedly bitchin’ dance party breaking out. Trudy and Mustachio Hugo talk on the bench, sitting closely together. The guy told me he has a name, but I can’t seem to remember it. Something like Bongo or Fjord. They play a bunch of 80s jive and a bunch of white kids flail around. I’m a hella good dancer, I mean dancing is like Talent Numero Dos on the list and it comes in handy, though one cannot overdue it cause most chicks like to flail around with someone not too overly more adept than them at the said flailing, i.e. just better flailers than the other johnos. But I dance and this jive ain’t showcasing my abilities to a tee, but still, I’m sharing the goods and these two over here don’t give a damn. After a while and some boredom and a little staring at the one good dancer and cute girl in the room and considering going over there, but feeling so awkward about it, seeing as she’s like Safe With her Girls, and finally deciding against it, Barnie comes in and asks for my credit card in order to buy his bus ticket from the airport to outer Stockholm. He says
‘Give me da Platinum modafucka?’ Barnie is like this.
And at first I’m like
‘Huh?’ but I’m already reaching for my wallet cause I know doing this gets him to buy me some beers and fetch his cigarettes for me, both of which he does. We talk about the chick with the gray shirt, the one cutie, and her dancing, her possibly Not So Useless Talents.
And then I swear I can hear Mustachio Ray say
‘We should just spend the night together.’ Yup. Fuck. I get her to roll me a cigarette and I call it quits. I head out of there. Props.
I get up there and you know how it is; I want to eat. I want to make it all feel better. There’s all these vegan cupcakes around Dwayne let her bring up and I tare into a few angrily. She’s right, they aren’t too great. But I still have two and a half. I throw out the leftover half. And then I rip into some cheese and I get a frying pan on the stove and I’m slicing bread and spreading red pesto on the inside and mayo and chipotle Tabasco sauce on the outside. We’ve been tearing through this bottle of chipotle Tabasco sauce. Then I’m getting this second cheese out, this fancy sliced stuff with pieces of cured meat here and there. The married kids walk in. Doreen says
‘Mayo? on the OUTSIDE?! You fancy, crazy, turd.’ And I can’t lie but a smile comes on my face. That homely glorious bitch, and I ask
“Does Carnegie-Mellan want one?’ and she says
‘Nah.’ and I say
‘You’z missin’ out. Useless Talent Number 47.’ And she’s like
“Shut the Fuck Up Brotha!’ And I can’t help but abide.
Barnie asks if I can make him one and I tell him to make your own and give me my damn credit card and he does. I fry that sucker up good in the frying pan and they ask where Myrtle Turtle is and I say
‘Fucked if I know mama!’ and they give me an Amen and I love those fuckers for that. Barnie says
‘But really, where’s the lady?’
And The Reen tells him. She tells him she’s with that other guy. Tells him that little dicksucker hooked up with some drummer down in the bar a few weeks ago. She also tells him she’s a damn slut. Bless her. And we all laugh and pour shots of Jameson around. Eat our sandwiches. Eat some of Dwayne’s Texas DEPT. of Kick-Ass Salsa salsa. Pour Chipotle Heaven all over everything. I pull on a gooey bite whilst hollering
‘Wook Ween Wook Ween!’ and she’s like
‘Mah, short stuff,’ like she were a gangster from the thirties, ‘you are talented my buddy.’
We comfort. We chat. We listen to Micranots. We talk music. We bond. That girl pops in to get her cupcakes and invites me to some Christmas party she doesn’t want to go to alone and then promptly leaves, leaving three brownies. Closing the door behind her, I say
‘Who would a thunk about funking with that?’ like I don’t even care if she hears and we all high five and crank the music and pour some more shots around.
Later we’re back in the bar rounding up all that salsa Dwayne left down there earlier and Barnie is getting a little over excited about the kicker table in the back. I’ve refused to play kicker here, everywhere. Barnie wants to be a famous writer and director, but also gets really excited about UFC and kicker. And The Reen just doesn’t. You can see her cowering. So I butt in and say
‘Well there’s that,’ I give a shifty side to side glance like I want to make sure no cops are around before I lay this all out, ‘OR WE COULD WATCH AN EPISODE OF IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA!’ Yous in the know know exactly what we do. We pump our fist in the air like Power Rangers and head back to the Jameson and the coal stoves upstairs.
It’s a dozy. We watch the one with the film script and the full-penetration Dolph Lundgren shtick and they keep arguing season five is Downhill, Over-Produced, and I keep having none of it, all Gitouttahere about it and we laugh silly laughs and work up to sleepy time and polish off the rest of the whiskey. We watch the Night Man episode and I pack it in. I say
‘Good Night’ and I mean it and they say
And I guffaw. They head to their room and I to mine. The room is nice and warm from a properly tended to coal stove, and I can’t help but feel peaceful. I pass out with my scarf still tight around my neck and my Pleasure Palace T-Shirt on. There’s a cup cake in my hand and I note the detail for later and it seems suitable.
And it must be no more than 10 minutes later that I hear a knock at the door. It’s her, oh yes, it’s Trudy, and I know what she wants so I just smile. Her jacket is already off, and there’s no more cardigan and her hair is blond again. And she comes in and I swear on Mona’s lovely, bobbing, fucked up head, she blows me and it feels like her, singularly like singular Mona, like hot crazy honey. Like memory. Like it's made up to be mine. And I can’t help but feel it’s a gently made thing.