You know how when you are waiting for a bus, nothing comes for an hour, then out of nowhere 5 of them appear? Berlin’s got the “no bus – Op! too many buses’ syndrome. I’m not talking about obvious things, like curry wurst or burgers, rather more fringe snacks like bubble tea. These days I can’t walk down a street without seeing a shop announce “New! Bubble Tea!” (oh and I totally own up to the fact that as I type this, I have a Bubble’s Tea loyalty card in my wallet. What can I say? It keeps me young, to behave like the young.). Crepes is another one, most neighborhood markets will have one guy doing crepes. Given that reality, it’s hard to get motivated to go have a crepe. To go to Friedrichshain and have a crepe. Twice. Because the first time I went they were closed. As was Factory Girl and I really wanted to know what this whole Magnolia thing they keep going on about is? Say Magnolia to me and I think of Tom Cruise, it’s raining frogs or red armadillo wedding cake and Julia Roberts looking fresh and happy, like a bright yellow daffodil (obviously less so by the end of the movie). But neither of those two images come into play, at Factory Girl, Magnolias are a riff on tiramisu but with flavours like apple crumble or cookies and cream. They come dolloped on top of bespoke ceramic square plates. I was served by a very friendly man, who kept plying me with free samples of Magnolia in a bid to get me to commit to one, which I couldn’t because although they are pleasant, they don’t have much texture, like Eton Mess without the meringue and I am always going on about how I’m a texture girl. I ordered a coffee to go. It wasn’t stellar.
Cruelly I am at once entirely addicted to coffee (seriously, I wake up in the morning thinking ‘coffeeeeee!’) while being simultaneously very sensitive to the effects of caffeine, meaning I am dead tired yet hyperventilating lying down. Not fun. Therefore, if I’m going to mess up precious R.E.M time (not the shiny happy people kind) then it’s gotta be – outstanding! I won’t go so far as to say ‘God in a Cup‘ level but let’s say, I’m discerning.I take my Factory Girl coffee for a walk around Friedrichshain. It’s keeping my hands warm but I’m not drinking it, which is making me feel guilty about having spent 2 Euros whatever and then not drinking it (Sometimes I think I could run circles around Woody Allen’s racing thoughts).
I see Melt. I walk in. I set my cup on the counter. The young French man who owns the shop comes over to me and says hello (auf Deutsch). ’Hi!” I chirp (in American), it comes out a little loud, perhaps a bit black labrador seeing it’s about to be taken out for a walk. There’s a split second where he realizes I don’t know what I want yet, there is a flicker of annoyance, perhaps it’s his nostrils that flare. All of a sudden I am back in Paris, where this kind of subtle jousting between customer and shop owner is a given. It’s not rudeness, no it’s more elusive. It’s a weighing up that takes place in a matter of – well in a second, where they decide how they will interact with you. Possible categories include, like a piece of gum lodged in the grooves of their shoe, like an imbecile, like you are a C. Deneuve – although it goes without saying that the last one almost never happens. I take a few moments to reminisce about my University days in Paris. He tidies. He has that clipped walk that I remember so well.
I get his attention and order in French. A galette with Emmental, ham and egg. And I ask him to throw away my cappuccino and order a cappuccino.
“It’s full?” he inquires.
“You didn’t like it?”
“No.” I throw down my gauntlet.
“You will like ours.’ he picks it up, dusts it off and hands it back with chin held high.Alrighty then, how I miss the psychological finesses of Paris. Well, sometimes, when I’m being romantic about it and because I don’t live there anymore. Read more of this post