By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Photo by Ted SoquiIt is a bad idea, history has shown, to encourage a million or so Germans to gather in one place. It is a worse idea still to give them all whistles. Consider last Saturday’s Love Parade, a gargantuan beer fest and techno party that has coated Berlin’s central park in urine and fun fur every summer for the last 13 years, leaving the city’s collective inner ear thudding for hours after to the THUNKA-THUNKA of the techno beat, and bleeding incessantly from all the fucking whistles.
I am not a fan of techno. I have never sought out raves in downtown warehouses or hidden corners of the desert. But I’m far from home and the Love Parade sounded different, like something with maybe a little utopian spark to it. “Join the Love Republik,” begged the video monitors in the subway between cell-phone ads. A million kids brought together by love, even just by love of techno and platform-soled sneakers, seemed a spectacle worth catching. The day of the event, though, the news that a protester has been killed by police in Europe’s other grand carnival predisposes me against the parade — why aren’t these technokids showing their love by heading to Genoa to topple capitalism like good teens should?
Genoa seems far away, however, at the Alexanderplatz metro station, where hundreds of kids have gathered, preening on the platform, applying glitter here, blue hairspray there, wrapping shreds of tin foil around individual spikes of hair for the maximally Martian look, fluffing their pink-fur miniskirts . . . and whistling. Chrome whistles hang from nearly all their necks by neon-green and -pink strings, and at any given moment, several dozen are blowing into the things with the full force of their adolescent lungs. The resulting racket is more irritating than you can fathom, especially when produced not on a wide subway platform, but in a narrow, tiled tunnel perfectly acoustically designed for the maximum ricocheting of high-volume screeching. When we arrive at the parade site, I am more than ready to firebomb the Love Republik.
The parade itself traces the road that bisects the park, a road long ago widened by one Adolf Hitler to accommodate huge military processions — and, in the unforeseen future, masses of teens dancing robotically and swilling half-liter cans of beer. Twenty-five trucks, each with a different corporate sponsor, pull flatbed trailers from which amusingly named DJs (e.g., DJ Größen) mix their magic and broadcast it to the teeming masses through speakers the size of queen-size beds. THUMPA-THUMPA. They slowly circle the park until the evening, when the party concentrates itself around the Siegessäule, a frighteningly ugly stone column topped by a predatory-looking golden winged figure, built as a monument to Prussian military might. This doesn’t seem to bother anyone.
I look for signs of love along the parade route, but among hordes and hordes of Love Paraders, I find precious little. I see two men playfully dry-humping, which is encouraging, and several couples making out, but very few people display the prototypical hugsy-cuddly behavior that Ecstasy brings out. Most, I learn when I attempt to cross the street against the flow, behave exactly as you would expect young men who’ve been drinking for hours to behave: like louts. The Love Republik smells of beer and sweat and diesel fumes, and it wriggles like one great worm to the endless THUMPA-THUMPA-THUMPA of the beat.
I look for signs of love in the park adjoining the parade route. I see a few scared-looking kids sitting in the back of a police van — busted for whistling? I see a lot of people peeing on trees, passed out on the grass, or looking very dehydrated and unhappy lying on the grass. I see a good number of people looking somewhat happier smoking hash in small circles, a few holdouts dancing alone among the trees, an excessively happy-looking woman skillfully cutting lines of white powder on the back of a cigarette pack, and only a very few people cuddling and kissing and doing anything that looks at all like loving.
A quarter-mile out of the park, the crowd is thinner, but there are still thousands of Love Republikans walking to and from the parade route. The screeching of whistles fills the air, punctuated by the crunch and scrape of beer cans underfoot. A police car pushes its way through, its siren blaring. The kids know what to do — they blow their whistles in tune with the siren, wave their arms in the air and dance.
What the River Found
I’ve walked the same stretch of the Los Angeles River hundreds of times. I start near the Hyperion bridge and walk south toward Fletcher, sometimes along the high asphalt road, sometimes down on the concrete lip by the water. Last Sunday, I walked the high road down to Fletcher with my dog, cut down to the river and started back. We came across a pair of perfectly good men’s black tasseled loafers. It looked as someone had just stepped out of them. Nobody was in sight. Farther up, a computer monitor sat upended, a yard from the water.