Wednesday, February 15, 2006


I've got mail

So, Dagmar, of the English Comedy Club in Munich--the only Comedy venue, that I'm aware of, with enough cultural savvy to link to Triplopia (love the description, Dags...) was kind enough to send me a whole bunch of photos from our going away gathering in Munich, and now it's overcast and I'm kinda homesick. But I wanted to share here. Some background: the English Comedy Club was a monthly highlight of my life in Munich--I first came into contact with Dagmar through the Absolute Beginners show, and she'd yet to launch the club. She's a German citizen who spent some time in London and fell in love with the comedy scene there, and came up with a workable way to get prime English talent over to Munich once a month. She launched the club in Autumn, 2004, and I was fortunate enough to be at the first show, helping by collecting audience information so she could establish a mailing list, all the start-up work that goes with getting a venue like this off the ground. After that, I helped every month, and in exchange, I got free admission into the show, and often got to hang out with the comedians afterwards, usually trying to engage them in something like intelligent conversation to do my small part to save them from well-meaning audience members who thought it a good idea to trot out their best material to a comedian while drunk and the comedian fresh off the stage. I don't know how well I did at that, or if it was even seen as a real responsibility of mine, but I did get some interesting conversation in the process. Well, this week, Dagmar writes me that Ivor Dembina, the comedian who first graced Dagmar's stage, is returning to her stage next month, and I have to admit to being a little sad that I can't be there to see Ivor at work again--he puts on a fairly brilliant show, a fair few cuts above the standard one-liner material you generally encounter in comedy venues--he's got a well-developed narrative to back the jokes up--more, to support and enhance those jokes--and he doesn't flinch when dealing with some pretty heavy material. I'd love to see him at work again. Anyway, I had to write back to let Dagmar know how much I'd like to be in attendance, and Dagmar, gorgeous soul that she is, sent me a whole bunch of photos from our quiet going away gathering, taken about two weeks before I departed for sunny South Korea. And I thought I'd share those pics to give you a few faces to go with the names of the folks that peopled our life there.

First things first, then: the venue--

This is the sign for the Turkenhof, the most undersung pub in Munich. It's not an ex-pat gathering place, but it was my regular watering hole, because I fell in love with it the first time I went. On that night, I'd attended a showing of Bowling for Columbine with Hugh, a crazy Brit who was a regular contributor to the Absolute Beginners, along with Christoph. Hugh plays cello, likes Brass Eye, and Christoph is a guitar player, along with their work in Geophysics, and I spent many evenings in their home, smoking hookahs (tobacco, of course, folks) and trying to think of crazy ideas to hit the stage we'd created. At one point, someone gave Hugh and Christoph a couple of Syrian flutes, and we decided it would be a great idea to scream the lyrics to Captain Beefheart's China Pig through a megaphone while Hugh and Christoph played said flutes. Audience reaction was mixed, but it was a blast doing. In any case, on the night in question, I barely knew Hugh--had played a few games of chess with him--and knew Christoph not at all, but Bowling for Columbine resulted in a very interesting discussion of politics, and we ended up going for afters to the Turkenhof. At some point in the evening, the bartender announced that someone wanted to sing a song, and out trots the cook of the place, who then commences to singing two opera arias, and singing them well. I think this was the point at which I knew I'd be falling in love with this city, and the Turkenhof became a favorite gathering place as a result. I even have--courtesy of my wife--a t-shirt from the place, and it will be one of my first stops any time I find myself fortunate enough to be in Munich again. Only fitting, then, that the going away gathering take place there

This is a photo of myself, with Dagmar. Dagmar, aside from letting me help with the show, giving me free admission for so doing, letting me talk to premium British comedy talent, and generally being an excellent person to talk to, also directed locals who wanted to be the opening act for her show to my show, where they could perform for Dagmar in front of an audience, and allow her to assess their ability to handle the bigger stage. Result: Dagmar has a way to field talent, and I get acts. And she lets me into her show for free? People like this make me feel like I'm one of the luckiest humans alive.

This is Asher, and his girlfriend, Anushka (sorry if I've spelled that wrong, Anushka). Asher the go-to consultant for this piece. Can I just say how incredibly cool it is to have a friend who is willing to sit around drinking until 3 am talking about poetry and explaining physics to me? Aside from his work as a physicist, Asher is also a fair hand at martial arts, and on more than one occasion filled gaps in acts at our show by going on stage and trotting out the demonstrations. He did this, the first time, while standing on a pool table. Of course, the fact that he regularly attended allowed us to describe him as not only a performer, but the resident bouncer, with the joke being that not only does he know about martial arts, but he also knows about quantum physics, so he is quite capable of seriously fucking you up. A more peaceful person you will not encounter, however, and, on the one occasion upon which his bouncing skills were required, he left the target not only unharmed, but considerably happier for having been reined in by the bouncer. In fact, I still carry a piece of paper in my wallet with the target's words, scrawled through a haze of beer and schizophrenia, "I am happy." Anushka's an English teacher, and a playmate of my daughter's (something to do with spiders, I believe...)

This is Josep, who is Spanish and the squeeze of Agnieszka, from Poland, who is sitting next to him, as well as Erika, who is Canadian. Agnieszka and Erika are also two of my three "gorgons" in my blog's profile pic. (I hesitate to say "bitches" even though it would be funnier, simply because I know the power these women possess, and don't want to fuck with it.) Close friends, steady companions, and excellent people to be with. Also a condensed sense of the cosmopolitan nature of our existence in Munich.

This is me, with Judders and Bubble Gum. Judders and Bubble Gum are notorious, in ex-pat Munich, for their inability to handle alcohol--at one point, they made an event of seeing which of them could drink more than the other. I think Judders won, but if so, it was by a very slim margin, as he didn't even get through 2 standard Munich beers (that'd be a full litre). Bubble Gum was the DJ for the later Absolute Beginners shows, and very capable in that role--and the addition of her talents did a lot to smooth the show out. Judders, on the other hand, he's a dancer, and a good one, and on slow nights, he was sometimes convinced to trot his skills up onto our stage. My daughter and her friend, a 12-year old boy named Sterling, were sometimes in attendance, and found Judders' moves fascinating enough to try them out on their own--though never in front of him. That would be taking things a bit too far. Next to them is Wolfgang, a local, a cook, and as fine a man as exists--his patience with all of us is legendary, and he has helped us out of more scrapes than I can count. I hope to be in his company again in the future.

A pic of the lovely couple without the imposition of yours truly upon the image. Many happy years their way.

Myself, dining with my lovely and incredibly supportive wife, the third gorgon in the profile picture. Powerful woman, she is.

And the evidence of our combined power--my daughter, described by one person in Munich as "the only perfect child in the universe". Well...I wasn't going to say it, but...

Some goofiness on Daggy's part.

Erika, a crazy Canadian who is my daughter's best friend above the age of about 10, and according to my daughter, still a child. I don't know what Erika thinks of that, but I'd take it as a compliment. Erika is a very capable singer who needs to give herself the freedom to develop that part of herself. She was also the most regular visitor to our home in the last months of our stay in Munich, and was reknowned for coming over and being sent into truly debilitating fits of giggles with our jokes and observations about our less than ideal situation during those months. Send her your best--she's still in Munich, last I heard, but may be on her way out of it.

No trip to the Turkenhof is complete without a game or 15 of what Americans call 'foosball' and Germans call 'kicker.' My daughter is an absolute fiend for this game. My team, when I played, was 'la basura.' Never disappointed in defeat that way.

This is the man, the legend himself, Eruin, the cook and opera singer at the Turkenhof. This is the man who dominated the first year of Absolute Beginners, regularly beating just about all the other competition with his arias. If you are in Munich, go to The Turkenhof, try to be there around 10:30-12, ask if he's working. The kitchen closes at 11, and if you're lucky, you may just get to hear him sing. The lovely thing about his appearances in our show was that here he was, in a dress jacket, a t-shirt, and leather pants, singing Puccinni. Life does not get sweeter than this. And women are on the verge of swooning in this man's presence when he is singing. Gotta be the voice, man.

Eruin behind the bar, Singing. For my going away. I am honored.

The audience looks on.

And Eruin's response.

There is nothing for it but to close with Eruin. The existence of this man, his participation in my show, his decision to honor my leaving with his singing, all of this says so much about what I see when I think of Munich. In a world that is consistently absurd beyond my ability to reckon with it, it is truly heartening to know that people like these exist--that they are the reality the headlines never bother with.

Man, I miss the place. Hope you enjoyed the pics. --tchitch

I can see why you miss it. Looks like fab times and a terrific group of folks.

Seems to me you're a guy who knows some things about the good life.
I think it's fair to say I've been blessed in that respect, yes. Valuing experience over possession tends to do it for me...but that's just me.

Thanks for dropping in on the place, Tone--hope you're doing well.
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