At Large The Argyle Bar
posted by January 12 at 13:49 PMon
The gig doesn’t start until midnight tonight, so after loading in, I walked around central Berlin (near Hackescher Markt, for anyone who’s counting) looking for an old bar I used to go to.
I first found it in 1998, when I was studying in the Czech Republic. I took a short trip to Berlin and was wandering around on my first night, lost and hungry, when I happened into a small, warmly-lit bar. It was empty but for one old man, with a small grey beard and a sweater, reading. In my head, I immediately dubbed it the Argyle Bar—it just felt like would argyle would look like, if argyle was a place. I stammered out my phrasebook German, asking for a whiskey and the old man answered back in perfect English (this was a shock to me, having just come from Prague where, at that time, almost nobody spoke conversational English). We talked, just the two of us, for hours—about my homesickness, about medieval history, about Germany and the Czech Republic and America and Bohumil Hrabal and Kafka, who I had been reading. The warmth and intelligence of the old man, and the pleasure of the evening, is burned on my brain.
Whenever I come back to Berlin (the two or three times since) I have always tried, successfully, to find the bar. I don’t know its name or address, but I always manage to find my way to it.
Not this time—the five years since I’ve been to Berlin has seen a lot of growth—shops and boutique clubs and cafes, which is all well and good, but the small playground and dark street I used as my landmarks were nowhere to be found.
If the rest of the area is any indication, the place is probably closed or renovated now. The old man is probably dead. I’ll probably never go to the Argyle Bar again.
But I like to think I passed it somewhere tonight without knowing. Or even that the club the bands are playing in, which is in the same area, is the place and I just don’t know it. I’m going to pretend that’s the case tonight, while I sit in the back of the club, drinking whiskez, watching the kids rock out, thinking of the old Berliner who was so gentle and kind to me when I was their age.