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Gabbi WernerGirl Friday – the Book of Bad 12. Burning Down The House

Von | 28.06.2013, 1:00 | Kein Kommentar

I smelled something burning, Edwin The Hippie yelled from the kitchen: „Fire! Fire!“ His stew was burnt, we laughed. Soon, the ground floor was on fire.

Welcome. To the stories I told in many hotelrooms. To a man who had trouble falling asleep. A business deal, men usually pay for different services in hotelrooms. He just paid for my words. Here they are.


As I sat with R. at the bar, drinking a cava, he was drinking whiskey, I kept thinking back to those days in that house.

The Hippies ate macrobiotic food cooked up for hours in a Römertopf. It smelled ghastly and I only tasted it once.

We Punks only had money for instant soup and canned ravioli and we bought french fries a lot.

The kitchen was one of the few places where our two worlds occasionally collided, I evaded the Hippies as much as possible, they could be trusted to make some remark about my karma being affected by all the black I chose to wear.

There was one other common space: the bathroom. It was a place I tried to avoid entirely, nobody ever cleaned it. It smelled of piss and vomit and it looked the part. There was no toilet paper, everyone was supposed to buy their own, take it with them and then take it back to one´s room. But some of the tenants never bought any. It never struck my mind that I could clean the bathroom myself, either, I must admit in hindsight.

I went to toilets in public places as much as I could and brushed my teeth there. I would go to friends´houses or ride my bike back to my parents´ to have a shower or a bath.

It was my big-hair period back then, I needed at least three hours to get my hair upright in exactly the correct fashion. First I washed my hair. Then I back-combed it. Then I heated the babyliss waffle iron. Waffled my hair, and back combed it again. The most important thing was the hairspray, though. In the beginning, when I still lived at home, I tried old housewives stuff: egg whites, beer, soap. Nothing worked, it smelled, and when it rained the sediments would run into my eyes and ruin my make-up. Then came a new product: hairgel. It was sold in transparent jars, and it was either fluorescent blue or yellow. It was a big step forward on the big hair scale, a true revolution. The hair became bigger.

Then one of our scene discovered an obsolete product: Wella Forte. Hairspray. Our mothers had used it in the 60ies. There was no generation conflict in the effectiveness of this marvellous product. The can is best described as non-design: a black and white chequered background, green letters, and a red rose on it. But the forte truly was fabulous and strong. There was no longer any excuse to have little big hair. In the hierarchy of this crowd, the bigger your hair was, the higher you moved up the ladder.

I remember one night, it was for a concert of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. I was too young when The Birthday Party had played in our town, but now i would go and see. I had spent more time on my looks than usual, even went to my parents´home as they had a big mirror in the bathroom. Nick Cave and Blixa Bargeld were as close to God as we could ever hope for.

We were worried back then. What if they would live to be sixty or even older? A true rock and roll hero needs to die to achieve the right kind of fame. Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, they had all got it right. The Stones were the best example for surviving stardom, they were old sad parodies of themselves, and the musical quality had completely declined after the death of Jones. What if Cave would turn mainstream? It would be the death of his credibility.

In 1985, Nick Cave was Junkie enough to reassure us that mainstream was not his intended career. That afternoon in June, a Friday it was, I had to look more than perfect. Black long dress, lace blouse, twenty seven necklaces and even more bracelets. Pointy shoes. Egyptian eyes for make up on a stale white face. My mother remarked that I was going to see a concert, the band would not come to see me.

But maybe the band would notice me in the crowd.

I left home at eight o´clock. On my bike. There was a thunderstorm. The rain just poured down incessantly. I took a garbage bag and put it over my hair, and rode my bike to the club. The closer I got to the venue, the more people I saw pedalling their way to the concert. It was a sea of bags. Garbage bags for the big hair, normal shopping bags sufficed for the little big hairdos.

The situation in our home was deteriorating on a daily basis. No one ever carried out any trash, we just threw it out of the window. One of the Hippies started to deal hashish, which meant that more Hippies walked in and out, their happy smiles singing Aquarius or Karma or whatever was going on in their deluded minds.

And then the landlord kicked us out for a completely unjust reason. It had nothing to do with our housekeeping. We had to go. He had lawyers, we were too lazy to get a pro-bono lawyer.

We were kicked out because of a freezer. Not even ours. The ground floor apartment had been empty for years. One evening, we were sitting together in the attic watching an episode of Hill Street Blues and I smelled something burning. One of the Punks said it must be a lentil stew of our most hated Hippie neighbour Edwin that was burning. 10 minutes later someone else could smell it as well. It could be a light bulb melting a plastic lampshade, we reckoned, so we turned down all the lights.

Another fifteen minutes went by, when Edwin The Hippie yelled from the kitchen: „Fire! Fire! Fire!“ We laughed, his stew was burnt. Edwin came into our room, holding a bucket of water – „Fire! Get out!“ – he ran down the stairs. We felt we had to help him and came after him. The kitchen was indeed full of black smoke. One of the Punks opened the oven. There was nothing cooking in there. Edwin came back into the kitchen. „You idiots, get out, the ground floor is burning!“ We saw the other Hippies leaving their rooms. One of them was carrying his hash box. We followed him down the stairs, the place full of smoke by then. When we came outside, we saw the flames coming out of the window of the ground floor. The stoned Hippie said: „Oh, my dog“ and ran up the stairs. It figured, first save the dope, then the dog. Logical order.

Later we heard that an old fridge had short circuited, first the freezer burned up, then the entire ground floor. And the landlord was happy. He now had a reason to redecorate and get rid of us. He hated the Hippies just as much as we did. But his aversion towards them did not benefit us in the least, he hated us Punks even more.


I remember I only experienced one single afternoon in that house when we all spent time together in a semi peaceful manner, and this was what I told R:

To be continued. Next friday. Every friday.

Link to German Translation: click Girl Friday – Buch des Bösen 12. Liar, Liar, House on Fire!

Artwork: Gabbi Werner

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