A Whole Lot Of New Experiences

After a few weeks of working in Holland, another bloke, Diek, and I took a load of speakers to Berlin, on what was known in the company as a "road trip." It was now getting towards the end of 1995 and the start of winter in Europe and neither Diek nor I could ever have expected what was about to happen to us in Germany.

We had a little bit of money when we left Holland, but as it was such a long journey, we arrived in Berlin almost broke. I wasn't bothered by our lack of money as I knew that it wouldn't take long to make some and we didn't need much.

Although the weather in Holland was definitely cooling down, it wasn't too bad so imagine my surprise when we arrived in Berlin to find it full-on snowing and twenty degrees below zero. This was not the end of our troubles either. I didn't carry bedding as I relied on hotel rooms whenever I went on a road trip, but this particular week, everywhere was full.

We hit up a couple of people, but after fuelling up the van, eating and having something to drink, we didn't have a lot left. Diek and I spent the first few hours in Berlin trying to find somewhere to stay, but the best that I came across was a room for two hundred and fifty marks a night.

At one point I spotted a nice, sophisticated looking woman standing at the side of a street, so I went to ask her if she knew of anywhere to stay. I asked, "Excuse me, do you know of anywhere that I can get a room for under a hundred marks?"

Her reply surprised me because I had not expected it from such a well dressed woman. "You can stay with me for a hundred marks."

I would have happily taken her up on her offer but we couldn't really afford that either so I said, 'Will you take seventy?"

The woman looked at me as if expecting me to smile at my own joke, but as I didn't, she simply said, "No!"

Before Diek and I knew it, it was ten o'clock at night and it was icy and snowing heavily. We were in the van, Diek huddled up in the front bucket seat and me, huddled up in the back on top of the boxes. The heater was broken and no matter how we tried to sleep, it was far too cold. In the end we had to do something about it. I said to Diek that we'd drive around for a while, so going in no particular direction, we set off through the severe snowstorm.

At about two or three in the morning we came across a train station somewhere in East Berlin so, hoping that the showers were free, we went for a look. I was relieved to find that the showers were free, so we spent the next hour or so walking in and out of the hot water that they provided. We had nothing to dry ourselves with but our jeans, which was extremely uncomfortable. Anyway, we did our best until at around six- thirty, when Berlin began to trickle with its early morning life. I had never found it so difficult to unload my wares— which I put down to the depressingly cold weather—and that evening I still only had one hundred and fifty marks in my pocket.

I thought that East Berlin might offer some cheaper accommodation, but the story was the same everywhere. When we still hadn't found anywhere by that second evening, it was looking like another freezing night in the van. However, at about seven o'clock we found a pub where the

barman said in a strong German accent, "There's a place around the corner where both of you can stay the night for fifty marks."

I couldn't believe my ears so we went for a look. Sure enough, in return for fifty marks, the man at the counter gave us a key to a room. The place turned out to be a sauna, with a bar. Diek, who was tired, said, "I'm going to bed."

I was also a bit tired, but I'd never been into a sauna before so I told him, "I'll let you into the room. I'm going to the bar and I'll be back later."

I unlocked our door for him and taking the key, I went to the bar. When I walked in, I got a bit of a surprise. I was immediately confronted by the sight of twenty to thirty men, wearing only yellow towels, sitting around the bar, which was set in the middle of the room like an island.

When I reached the bar, I ordered a pint of beer and as I was drinking it, I became very uncomfortable from the stares I was getting. Suddenly I was approached by a man dressed in a suit who said, "You cannot drink in here unless you are naked!"

I replied, "No worries, mate," sculled what beer was left in the pint and I walked out.

At that point my suspicions that it was a gay sauna were confirmed, because as I uncomfortably exited the bar, every one of the men in the room stared and giggled at me. I ignored the chuckles even though I understood their meaning and made my way directly to our room, where I was in for another shock.

I quietly unlocked the door, walked in and there was Diek, fast asleep on a bed which had no blankets and all the walls and ceiling were covered in mirrors. I thought, Bloody hell! I jumped onto the bed and noticed a T.V. up on a shelf with a remote control. I got up, grabbed the remote, jumped back onto the bed and turned it on. What appeared on the screen confirmed all of the fears that had been building in my mind and I couldn't deny it any longer.

An in-house movie was running, where one man was staring at another, saying in an American accent, "I seen you staring at me in the showers man, now I'm going to spank your ass!" I quickly turned it off, rolled over and like Diek, I went to sleep.

Between the walls of the room and the floor there was a gap of about a foot and between the walls and the roof, it was the same, so when I woke at about two in the morning I was met with the smell of incense oil. I was also confronted with the very loud sounds of all the men in the sauna, groaning as they were taking care of things. I put the pillow on top of my head in an attempt to muffle the noises, wondering how I manage to get myself into these situations.

The next thing I knew, a man knocked on our door saying in a high pitched, but clearly, male voice, "Good morning."

I woke the still-snoozing Diek, and we grabbed our gear, heading for the front desk to hand our key back. I was happy to see that the fifty marks was only a deposit and when I handed the man the key he said, "One moment," and gave me back the money that we'd paid the night before. I was eager to get the hell out of the gay sauna, so we were soon in the van and laughing about the experience, which Diek was lucky enough to have missed out on.

About a kilometre down the road I saw a sign that read, "Sex Kino, Girls, Girls, Girls!" I pulled over, grabbed a speaker box, walked over and knocked on a steel door that had a latch in it at eye height. When the latch slid across I was happy to see a really pretty Asian girl who asked with a strong Asian accent, "What you want?"

I told her my business in a sloppy, half English half German translation. She replied, half in German, half in English, that her boss wasn't there and to come back later. However, after pressing the point that I had a great deal for her, the door suddenly opened and she let me in.

As I carted my box in on my shoulder I was delighted to see about eight or nine of these gorgeous women in high heels and bikinis walking around on a stage as if practising for a performance. But my mind was taken off these hotties as I went about my business. I took the speaker out of the box, showed the girl each of its components, bent down to tap the polymer woofer and got another shock!

As my eyes drew level with the front of her bikini bottoms, I could not help sneaking a look. What I hadn't expected was the rather large bulge in her pants. "I'm in the wrong part of town," I said and I got out of there.

As we drove out of that part of town I started to pay attention to East Berlin for the first time and I was really amazed to see the huge amount of cranes that cluttered the skyline. The Wall had only recently come down and East Berlin had to have a lot of work done in order to modernise it so as to bring it up to scratch with West Berlin.

From the moment we left the Sex Kino place we started making good money and we hit up some black guys who were pretty dodgy characters and who happened to have a lot of cash on them, at a Gothic nightclub called Taglese. I ended up going to a bank with a rich black fella in his brand new black Porsche, complete with a bright red, crushed velvet interior. As we drove along, I changed the subject from what we were doing—so he wouldn't think about it too much —to how awesome the red velvet looked, even though I didn't like it at all.

At one point we walked into a bar where a casually but smartly dressed man sat having a quiet beer, so after asking him if he spoke English and finding out that he did, I pitched him. The man said he was not interested, made a little bit of small talk, excused himself, said goodbye and left. This made me feel suspicious so I let him move away and when he had about a twenty metre start, I followed him. I watched the bloke as he sprinted across the road, cupped his hands around his eyes as he looked through the back window to see if we really did have any cargo and seeing that we did, he raced off down the road.

I walked back into the pub and said, "C'mon Diek, we're out of here mate, he's a cop." And we left.

We stayed in Berlin for three very successful days. It had stopped snowing, I took heaps of photos and we left with almost thirty- thousand marks in cash.

While on the road back to Amsterdam, I considered my visit to Berlin and the many experiences, good and bad, I'd had there. The contrast between the upbeat, modernised, West Berlin and the grey and neglected, East Berlin right next door was an amazing thing to see and I couldn't help feeling pity for the people who had been caught on the wrong side of the divide. A deal was easier to come by in East Berlin though, for although the wall was no more, the East had a long way to go and people there were keen for a good deal.

We spent most of our time in East Berlin, driving around at night, as that was when the more shady folk were around and they were the ones I was interested in because they were the ones with the cash. At about nine o'clock on our second night, as we cruised down a dark, side road, I saw something that was a bit odd. I noticed a young boy standing, in the dark, on the verge of the road, looking at me. Behind him was a lighted subway entrance and using the light was a man with a tourniquet around his arm as he injected himself.

This sight caused me to slow down for a bit of a look, and thirty metres further on down the road we came across another boy, aged between eleven and thirteen. As we continued up the street we saw another and another and another until finally I asked Diek, "What are these kids doing out here?"

My offsider responded in a matter of fact manner, "They're rent boys."

On hearing that, we got out of there quickly, as I didn't want to get busted for curb crawling.

I was also amazed by the number of prostitutes in Berlin, mostly in West Berlin. I decided that there was obviously a good market as they were all over the place. By the end of that second night we were well and truly cashed up, so we spent a bit of the next day working, but most of it in the pub. On the fourth morning we had got rid of everything and it was time to head back to Amsterdam.

Funnily enough, as we neared Holland's capital city, Diek reckoned he wasn't feeling too well and asked me to drop him at his place. I never saw him again, but I did find out later that he'd stolen the film out of my camera. I was really angry about that as I had some great pics. I went back to his place, but the people there said they'd never heard of him. I didn't worry any more about it, because it was giving me a bad vibe.

Amsterdam's attractions were many and various, but the city also had its dangers, some being more obvious than others. One night after work, a few of us ended up in a bar called Bourbon Street. It was getting late and we were having a pretty good time. I ended up speaking to two great looking girls at the bar. Both the white and the black girl appeared to be very interested in me and just as I was convinced I was going to go home with the black one, a girl who worked with us broke up our party.

Al had hired a Dutch chick named Keit, who was proud of the fact that she had, "Worked behind the windows." She came up to me and said in her cute Dutch accent, "Steven. They's guys."

I replied, "Bullshit, Keit, how do you know that?"

She went on, "Look at their hands."

Sure enough they both had the hands and wrists of men and I realised, with a shock, just how

easy it was to get caught out. I had a couple of encounters with the other side, but fortunately it was either very obvious, or someone like Keit stepped in to save me.

One of the guys who worked at the office, Mike, one day offered to pay for me and Casey to go to a live sex show. The place in question, which was about a hundred metres from the Hard Rock, had caused my curiosity to bubble in the past, so I said we'd go for a look. It turned out to be nothing like I'd expected, but it did raise a couple of emotions in me, one being humour and the other, sympathy.

It cost the three of us a hundred and fifty bucks to get in and we sat near the front of the stage, which was a rustic wooden set up, that the owners had unsuccessfully attempted to make look professional. There were two acts—both very badly done—and there is no reason to go into either of them here, other than to say that the obvious happened.

The other side of Amsterdam was, of course, the lax laws that permit marijuana to be smoked in pubs, not only in Amsterdam but all over Holland. I covered most of the country during my three month visit but I never once saw one of the legendary coffee shops or cafes. What I did find, was that ninety- nine percent of the pubs sold grass and that hardly any Dutch bothered with it, which made it seem like quite a sensible law.

The other thing I found was something that I hadn't been chasing, but I met an Australian at the front of the Hard Rock who asked me if I could score some cocaine. I told him that I wasn't sure, but after asking him to hang on, I went inside to speak to my friend Victor. Victor's job was to sit inside the doorway at the Hard Rock and show people who entered the building, a menu of all of the different types of dope that they could smoke.

I said to him, "Hey, Victor, can I get a bit of coke round here or not?"

He didn't bat an eyelid, but rather just asked me how much I wanted. I told him that I wasn't sure and asked him how much it cost, to which he answered, "Sixty guilders a gram."

I went back out to the Aussie bloke, told him the price—which worked out to be about forty five Australian dollars—and he said, "Bloody hell, forty five bucks? I'll get three!"

I went back in, told Victor how many and gave him the cash. He said, "Just wait here, I won't be long," and he walked out the back of the pub. Within two minutes he was back again with the coke and to show his appreciation, the Aussie fella shouted me a couple of lines upstairs, before we went on a bit of a pub crawl.

Mostly hidden away from Amsterdam's tourist scene were the people who'd been caught up in the drug's wheel of roulette, who had played the game too long, taken one gamble too many and had become addicts.

Now and then, though not often, one of these people would approach me with some made-up story as they tried to squeeze a little bit of money out of me. Of course, I didn't believe their tales, however, I always had a couple of bucks for them as I could see by their sunken faces and skin that looked as though it had been draped carelessly over their skeletons, that they were living in a real hell on Earth. These people, who were generally young, were not confined to the city of Amsterdam, but could be seen in just about any town in Holland, if you knew where to look.

I began to get a little bit carried away with things while in Holland so one day, as I could see where it was leading me, I told myself that enough was enough and I stopped the drugs altogether. That is, except for one last fling on something I hadn't tried before, but was very curious about, magic mushrooms.

One evening I walked with Al to a Red Light pub called the Bulldog, to have a couple of Barcos and to buy some hash, when I discovered that they sold magic mushrooms over the bar. Al was also eager to try some, so before we left, we bought nine of them.

Once back at the flat, we poured three cups of boiling water, put three of the mushies in each and after letting them soak for a while Casey, Al and I had a cup each. We sat in the lounge room talking and sipping at our cups of mushroom tea. When I'd drunk all of the water out of mine, I ate the three mushrooms.

I saw that Al wasn't eating his so I asked, "Don't you want them, Al?" He said that he didn't so I asked him, "Do you mind if I eat them?"

He replied, "Go for it, Stever." So I did. Casey wasn't eating hers either, so I asked her the same thing and I gobbled those down as well. I had been sitting on the floor, with the other two on the chairs around me and suddenly I heard Al's voice say, with a laugh and in deep distortion, "Look at him."

At hearing his comment I focused on what I was doing and found that I was sitting cross- legged on the floor, staring at the hallway with a huge smile on my face. The reason that I was staring at the hallway was because I was being entertained by it. It wriggled round like a massive, fat snake with the bedroom doors flapping like clothes on a clothes line.

I then heard Al say something about how a joint would chill me out a bit. The next thing that I knew, I was smoking some hash. This did level me out a tad, which I was a bit disappointed in because, in my mind, I was having a lot of fun. But, as they say, all good things must come to an end.

Book Reviews

  • Steve, wow! What a great movie your book would make - absolutely riveting stuff! AND - the best investment I have made in years!

  • It's 4.55p.m. and I've just finished reading the book. Wow!!!!!That's what I'm feeling. Wow!!! Now that I've held the actual book in my hands and read it cover to cover, I can truly say this is a great book. Onya! Stevo!

  • Monkey On The Wing, has been the most inspirational story I have ever read. Steve, your story is remarkable, reading your book bought me tears of sadness and happiness.