Secret Missions to the Former East

I have been contracted to perform a secret mission.

The phone rang early one morning in LA. I awoke, ready to perform a kung fu move against any would-be assassin hanging from my ceiling. I reached over the top of three 1960’s models and answered the call.

“Dunn, Karl Dunn.”

It was M.

“Dunn, our allies in Germany need you. There’s a small agency in Berlin that has a worldwide pitch on. You have four weeks to discover the heart of the brand, write a compelling campaign, present to clients in Munich and win the pitch.”

“I see, well, I’m working on a campaign right now M,” I look at the three ladies lying in between my black satin sheets, “Alexandra, Nikita, and Marlene.”

“Don’t get funny Dunn. Report into Tegel Airport by Thursday night and be briefed by Europe Friday morning.”

“What!”, I jump out of bed, definitely shaken and not stirred, my 007 aspirations shot.

The reality is that I am mid-conversation with the MD of the agency, sitting up in my empty futon that lays on the floor of my sparsely furnished studio. All I can stutter is, “It’s Wednesday morning here, that means with time differences, I need to leave in….6 hours! Uh, ok.”

I put down the phone. I kind of freak out a bit. Then, I book a flight, pack a bag, repack a bag, cancel all my appointments, drive limping KITT to the airport, leave him in long-term parking and run to the terminal.

And not a moment too soon, I have next to no cash left in my account. Though I live in the States, I don’t have a work visa, therefore I don’t work, therefore I have just about blown through my savings. So the Germans are saving meine arsch.

Actually, I was glad to be leaving LA; I’d had a pretty crappy time on the dating front, I had been there a whole six months and was still undiscovered and the constant great weather was like living in Groundhog Day.

I was thrilled too to be going back to Berlin. I went there on a whim a few years back on a European trip and the city just blew me away.

The down side is that I have to deal with LAX before I go anywhere. Oh God, LAX. Travel in the US has taken on precautions of the most ridiculous nature. This is how we do it in the first world now.

Line up at your check in, get to the front of the line and be told that you must have your bags checked by security before you check in. There is of course, no sign for this. Line up at security, have your bags checked. Then a porter takes your bag to your check in, where he leaves it with another porter who has a rank of bags there. You point out yours when you go to the counter and they bring it to you and put it on the weigh-in. You are not allowed to touch it, if you do, the porter tells me with vague delight, he will send it back to be scanned all over again. This whole process takes two hours.

My carry-on is scanned no less that three times on the way in. No, I don’t have any liquids in there, just this water that I bought. It’s sealed, unopened and so, confiscated. Ok, whatever.

The flight is uneventful, apart from the Polish woman next to me who orders red wine and beer at every meal. Even breakfast.

I land, I hit the hotel, I unpack. Only to discover that I had my Swiss Army knife in my carry-on. Wow, lucky they got those waters, there’s no telling what havoc I might have wreaked.

Head spinning, I get into the agency and meet the people I was speaking to only 20 hours before. The agency is lovely, the gig happened through a friend I worked with in Amsterdam before I loved to LA.

But it’s work. My dreams of reuniting with the city that I have such fondness for are stymied. I have so far seen Berlin from the window of my office, the window of my hotel and the window of the taxi that ferries me in between.

We do manage to make it out into the night on a reasonably regular basis even if it’s just to eat dinner before going home.

If America is a skim latte, Europe is a hot chocolate. The first thing I notice is that everyone has style. People are wearing clothes that don’t all come from the same three stores. Having money doesn’t mean you go from wearing Gap to Banana Republic, it means you buy something individual.

A planner mate here in Berlin nailed it the other night at dinner. Basically everyone in the States is from somewhere else and they want to look like they fit in, so they all dress the same. And I have to say that Australia is very similar in this regard. If something is in, everyone is wearing it and usually in the same colour.

People in Europe are so afraid of looking like they all come from the same place that they all dress differently.

And that’s about all the observations I can make about the city; I come to work early, I leave late, I sleep. That’s about it.

But of course, any secret mission worth its salt always uncovers a secret, and this is what I discovered in Berlin.

I love being in Europe, but I miss LA. Dammit.

Dammit.

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