Berlin Battleground

This morning I witnessed a quintessential Berlin scene, a clash of the old and new city in the fertile gentrification battleground of Mitte, although gentrification has arguably long ago won in this neighborhood and old Berlin is being represented by a lad of not more than thirty. He is drunk at 10:30 in the morning and has draped himself on a stoop adjacent to a popular Portuguese coffee shop. His bike lies beside him. A big baguette sandwich in a plastic bag, a bottle of water, a jumbo can of beer and what looks like a bottle of salad dressing are in the basket.

Across the sidewalk a yummy mummy—new Berlin—is wearing a Megan Draper-worthy getup: a pale blue trapeze cotton dress with elasticized smocking along the shoulders and ivory cap-toed shoes with square two-inch heels. She is changing her toddler’s shitty diaper on a bench built around a tree, and she keeps pausing to pull her dress back down on her shoulders as if to assert her chicness despite her current task. The clean lines of her brunette bob obscure her face as she leans down to finish the deed.

Meanwhile, the mohawked drunk lad has taken to amusing himself by putting the screw cap from his empty half pint of liquor on his eye, monocle-style. Yummy mummy’s toddler is delighted by this and they exchange nonsensical ramblings for about sixty seconds while yummy mummy monitors the situation. Just when it seems toddler might go in for a close up with mohawked drunk, she gets distracted by a cushion. It belongs on one of the café chairs and the toddler throws it on the ground and stomps on it to her mother’s delighted relief. The drunk stands up and walks to a parked car to admire his screw-cap monocle in the reflection of the window, then walks back to his stoop, lies down, and continues his now audience-less mumblelogue. For now, both old and new Berlin have held their ground.

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