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  1. In January of 2016 a fellah' posted the following in one of the Tempelhof chat-groups that I follow:

    Dear all,
    I work for Tempelhof Projekt GmbH, the state owned company currently running and managing the Tempelhof Central Airport building. I would like to collect memories and stories of people who used to work or were stationed at TCA. I am mainly looking for stories and information about the basketball arena, the bowling alley, the fitness room in building C level 5 and the air control center in building B level 6. I would like to put some stories and anecdotes into an article that I am currently working on.
    Is anybody able to help me out with this endeavor? I would very much appreciate your support!
    Thank you very much.
    Best regards,
    Christoph Schuster

    This was my reply:

    Christoph,

    In the attic space in H2 Long, on the slanted ceilings, there are murals and other artwork done by airmen from times past. No idea if they still exist, and I just never managed to snap a photo of them because the attic area was partially restricted. When I was there this is where the airmen stored their spare luggage and other items too large to keep in one's room. Just one person had the key to that attic area. I would often fake a reason to need to get to my luggage just to walk the long space, smoke a couple of cigarettes, and look at the artwork on the ceilings and walls. If there is any chance your position gives you access to this area, I for one would be eternally and profoundly grateful if you could snap some photos and perhaps post them here. I say "attic space", but it's really another complete floor to the building, and one is given the impression that at some point in the past it was used as living area. As many other members in this group will attest, Tempelhof, the building, the structure itself, left a lasting and deep impression on many of us.

    Many thanks,

    Reinaldo Fuentes

    Today he posted this:

    Dear Reinaldo, I now finally managed to check out the attic space in H2long. It is currently a police facility, so I met up with the building manager of the police forces whom I have worked with for a few years now. She showed me around. Unfortunately, most of the painting seem to have disappeared. The few I found I attached here. It seems to me that the area being used for the "painter apprenticeship program" is the most likely explanation. I hope you remember the paintings that I posted and sorry that I don't have better news... Best, Christoph

    (Don't expect to be amazed by the photos. That's not the point.)

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    The point is that up until today, these images were just foggy memories getting foggier every day. I used to go and spend time up there and smoke cigarettes and just enjoy the quiet (barracks are noisy places) and the feeling that no one else really knew about this place, not these days, not now, just in the past, way back then. It was calming. That desk, I sat at that desk, in that chair, when I was 19 and 20 years old (I'm 47 now) and smoked and thought about stories and the things that happened in this building all through the war and up to the present day.

    The random act of kindness was simple. Someone whom I don't know cleared the smoke from my memories and let me have them clear and crisp from an ocean and a continent away, and, seemingly, from a vortex in time back to my youth. I'm a little bit in awe that someone would do this for me, for nothing. No lie, I cried when I saw these images.
  2. I knew it was a bad fever. My sack was made of silly putty left out in the sun and my balls were soft-boiled and sore. I figured self-medicating wasn't cutting it anymore so I went to the VA hospital. I hadn't been able to swallow for days. I went to primary care and they immediately sent me to the area where I am usually seen for a different, chronic condition. I knew it wasn't the right place, but I went. It's funny how quickly the uniform slips back on when you're in the realms of Uncle Sam. I told the guy at the reception area that I had been sent there, knowing it was wrong, but maybe he could call down and say something to primary care. He told me to sit, so I sat, and I see him talking on the phone. A nurse comes out and calls me to go have my vitals taken. A few minutes later a very attractive doctor comes and she tells me that she's got another patient she's attending, but that she will see me. Her genuine look of concern and the way she put her hand on my cheek both comforted and worried me. It wasn't a doctor's hand. It was a mother's hand. Do I look that bad?

    About twenty minutes go by and she comes back out and doesn't call my name; instead she comes right to me and helps me up. Yeah, I must really look like shit. We go to the consult room.

    We sit. I have a temp over 40º C. I stare at her. I don't understand Celsius, I rasp. Almost 105, she answers. Fuck, I say. Sorry, I say. Tranquilo, she says. You are sick. I assume it's your throat, she says. I nod. She looks, using the light from her iPhone. Wow, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, she says. That infection is really bad. Really, really bad. Use your fingers, how many days have you been like this. I hold up 4 fingers. Her look of disapproval is unfiltered. Why did you wait so long? I say that I got ampicillin from the local pharmacy and thought it would take care of it. An even deeper look of disapproval. Her opinion of OTC antibiotics in Puerto Rico is clear. You need to go to the ER, she says.

    She walks me there. Luckily, it's almost empty. I'm seen immediately. You hear terrible stories about VA hospitals. I'm left to wonder where those hospitals are. This hospital is nothing like that. I'm attended with military briskness. Through the fever I feel nostalgia.

    The ER doctor is briefed by the doctor who brought me down, the latter explaining my current issue and also giving the new doctor what she needs to know about my other, longstanding condition. The new doctor examines my throat and her eyebrows hike an inch up her forehead. I'm taken to another room where I'm sat in a chair next an older vet who seems to be in the middle of a glucose test. He's got the jug of liquid they use for that at his feet and a cup of the stuff in each hand. The nurse in that room starts to get out all the vials for the many tests they're going to run. This is all routine for me. What's not routine are the four much larger vials that are already partially filled with an amber liquid. They're the size of small condiment dispensers. I ask what those are are and she tells me they're for blood cultures. She sticks me with the needle that's needed for these various tubes and vials (I don't know what it's called) and goes to work emptying my reservoir. This is all routine for me. I do it every three months. No big deal. She finishes with the normal tubes and starts with the larger condiment dispensers and they start to fill. Jesus, there's so much.

    That's when it goes tits up.

    I become nauseated. I tell her. She quickly opens an alcohol swab and holds it to my nose. I breath in. It doesn't help. I tell her I'm going to throw up. She grabs the trash bin and puts it in front of me. A granular, electric sensation crawls up my neck, face and head and I take my leave to parts unknown.

    The room rematerializes and the nurse is holding me asking my name, asking me if I know where I am. Of course I know where I am. I'm at the VA hospital, obviously. She keeps asking me the same thing. Did I not answer? The whole thing is really embarrassing. I'm realizing that I passed out. That has never, ever happened before. Ever. I feel a tight grin on my face that doesn't match how I feel.

    The rest of my brain starts to reboot and I break into a flop-sweat. The nurse calls for help and two fellahs show up with a large wheelchair that looks like it can unfold into a small bed. Hard to explain. I'm taken deeper into the ER area where I wait for a while and then the doctor tells me that they're just waiting for a room assignment and they'll move me upstairs. I'm being hospitalized? For a sore throat? The doctor explains that the infection is bad and that the fever is very, very high, especially for someone of my age (how I hate that phrase), so yes, I'm being hospitalized. Is there anyone we need to contact? I tell him that I have my phone with me and I text William as to what's happening. Twenty minutes later William is there. I'm always tense in moments like these that we're going to be given a hassle as the gay couple. There's no hassle at all. We wait. I'm taken to my room. That was Friday. Today is Sunday....
  3. I begin to understand.

    When I lived in Berlin, I lived amongst the remains of WWII. Not just the physical remains in the form of buildings and memorials, but in the ideological remains because the job I did there answered to 1950's paradigms. I was one of the last to receive an Army of Occupation medal for my time at Tempelhof.

    I was a kid, in my early 20's. I didn't have the presence of mind to understand where I was and what I was doing there. It was a job, and it had many aspects to it that made me feel like I was doing astounding things, all which was hush-hush, of course.

    The Germans I knew were fun, vivacious, alive, handsome. They were friendly and outgoing. My pal Bob and I would go to clubs and party with Berliners in their homes, invited and welcomed.

    It wasn't possible for me to reconcile this Berlin, these people, with what had happened here only 50 years prior because when you're only 20 years old, 50 years in the past may as well be 500. There was no way for me to canalize the knowledge that I regularly walked along sidewalks where firing squads once mowed people down for their religion. I knew it, but I didn't know it. I didn't have the receptors to engage it and acknowledge it and digest it. I was too young and unformed and tragically egocentric.

    Most of all, there was no way for me to even begin to grasp how that story started, how the first page of that novel could possibly lead to the last page without someone ripping it in half along the spine and yelling NO! You even hear some people say things today like "Well, if the Jews/Gays/Poles/{fill in the dead of your choice} had been worthier opponents, they should have fought back. They died because they were weak."

    You've heard people say that. You know you have.

    I don't care if you're rolling your eyes at my Godwin. Sometimes a Godwin is all that's left. Sometimes it's what's actually happening. And it's happening. And I'm beginning to understand how that novel gets written. I'm beginning to understand how Page 1 leads to Page 10 leads to Page 50, etc. It happens because we let it happen. It happens because the thing feels too big, too far away, too untouchable. It happens because we don't want to believe that we're in that novel until it's too late to deny it anymore.

    It happens because no one ever believes it could possibly happen where they live, where they are, in their life, with everything around them to prevent it. Every time something like this happens, that's a big part of it. It's not possible to happen here. Are you crazy? This isn't Nazi Germany. Stop with the hyperbole already.

    It's a cliché to say those things. You know it is. And as writers, you know how a cliché becomes a cliché.

    I lived in what had been Nazi Germany. I lived in a building, Tempelhof Flughafen, that was the epitome of Nazi Era Architecture. Huge. Imposing. Mythic in its stature. I walked the tunnels underneath the building and was shown where the fighter aircraft were stored and sometimes constructed. I saw the 50+ year-old Reichsadler placards that were still in place from that impossible time. In two places it's carved in relief on the walls, like Egyptian hieroglyphic art, meant to last an eternity.

    The evidence was all around me that this did happen, but I couldn't make it be real in my head. I slept in a room, every night - fourth floor, H2 Long, Room 408 - that was once the office of an SS officer. But that was illogical. My friends were so friendly and kind and educated. These couldn't possibly be the people who would have let something like that happen. Not them. They would never.

    But it did, and I begin to understand how.

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  4. First and foremost, this is new for me. I'm not that person. I usually keep my mouth shut when people talk about their trials and tribulations with depression, anxiety, etc. because there's an admittedly ungenerous part of me that is whispering "Man the fuck up and quit your fucking griping". There's a part of my brain that feels people have gotten too invested in shopping around for that one doctor who will diagnose away all their responsibility and accountability with a neat little phrase from the DSM-V and a bottle of Pfizer's latest panacea. It's not a pretty admission, but it's a truth about me. I have a cousin who's got a slip of paper for any occasion you can think of. She sold her adulthood for a life of bottom wrung leisure. It's all provided for her. She doesn't have to do shit. I've got my own baggage, like anyone, and it's the kind of baggage that easily qualifies in most peoples' mind as "Oh, poor thing. Cut him some slack. Just imagine having to deal with that." But I don't let that be who I am.

    But this past week of uncertainty and confusion. Seeing the political red cape being being waved in front of the zeitgeistian snout, knowing that it's a ruse, a feint, misdirection; looking to see whence truly comes the sword.

    Everyone says, "Just wait. Give him a chance."

    Easy enough to say when you have no stakes in what's happening. I'm gay. I'm Latino. This isn't academic. This is very likely going to affect me directly. And not just in an "Oh, I don't agree with that" sort of way, but in an "Here are the new restrictions that directly affect the way you live your day to day life" sort of way.

    You know the feeling if you've ever had it. Just below your sternum, at the top of your belly, three inches into the middle of your torso. That knot of worms that won't let you sleep. That.

    I once had a close brush with the law when I was young, and not in a small way. I lucked out and came away from that event without it hurting me and a whole lot wiser about who I let into my close circle. But before I knew that I was going to be okay, when it was still very much up in the air, it's the only other time in my life that I felt this way, ever.
  5. Last night there was a car accident in front of the condos where William and I live. Our condo is situated close to the entry control point, so when these things happen, we can hear them quite clearly. They happen with unfortunate frequency because people park along the side of the main road that passes in front, blocking the view of those attempting to head out from the complex. It doesn't help that Puerto Ricans are typically balls deep in their cellphones as they drive, even though you can be cited here for doing that. William's gotten three such tickets.

    No one paying attention, distracted, and people blocking the view.

    From my living-room balcony, the accident sounds like America.