Bonn or the city that used to be Germany's capital

We arrive late at night. He pushes his bicycle in rainbow colors with the right hand, the backpack on his back makes him look even more skinny than he already is, a black schoolbag drags down his left shoulder, another bag with pillows and frozen brain slices dangles in his left hand. I carry another rucksack, two big bags in the right hand, a rolling suitcase in the left one. The main station of Bonn is abandoned, only two men with beer cans and short echos from some bored teenagers that accompany our steps towards the subway station. The subway is from the 1960s, blue and green in color, dirty pastel tones that remind of a time that is not too long ago but has gone sour in memory. Then I feel it: this strong fragrance of an ex- WEST Germany that strikes me with awe. A young couple stares at us, at us with all this luggage, obviously alien to this city, both in our own particular way. I stare back, the girl resists my visual reaction and in her look I see the hostility of an observer that sees herself with an absolute privilege to doom the stranger.
We reach Godesberger Allee shortly before midnight. J.F. Kennedy waits as a stone monument at the first corner, a floral wreath, dead and dirty, to his feet. We greet him with a tired smile and walk towards the house where V. has not quite deliberately chosen to stay for the last six months of his doctoral thesis. The house is of the invisible kind, a broken security camera at the door step becomes the first creepy symbol of a place that is not of the inviting kind. The house keeper is an older lady, not too old, maybe in her mid sixties, dark grey unkempt hair that seems wet but is just oily. We walk up to the last floor, on the other floors two offices,a tiny probably transferred part of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR). The flat is a narrow corridor with two rooms and a roof framework that seems to crash soon and where all kind of garbage is stored: Broken furniture, books of previous tenants, one book is about the South Korea War, the other written in Chinese or a Southeast Asian language. The cooking niche consists of two hot plates that are plugged in above a tiny fridge. The place is dirty, plates and glasses have not been washed for a long time . V. is tired and I cannot hide my shock about the state of a flat for which an old lady asks 350 € per month in a city that used to be Germany's capital until 1990 and where the UN has 19 organizations to this day. The mattress groans so loud and merciless that one could almost speak about a pure sound which only some people will ever be able to hear in their life. The skylight above the bed immediately becomes the flicker of hope. In the morning I spot a sailplane that takes its time before it leaves my visual field. The clouds are thin, sun on a January morning in Bonn, a city next to Rhine, with a square architecture and flat streets. Only from far one can see a hill and a castle that glows in the night like a Fata Morgana in this desert we did not want to go to.
On Sunday we decide to go to the modern art museum, located on the very same long car-dominated Highway where Telecom, Deutsche Post and DHL have their headquarters and where a huge cosmopolitanist Asian restaurant or let's say LOUNGE proudly shows the shadows of sushi eating and cocktail drinking snobs at night to the grim subway passengers that pass by at a speed of approximately 60km/h.
Arriving at the art museum we are not willing to pay 15 Euros for the standard exhibition. Too many times have we seen Baroque, too many times have we seen Expressionism and all those other pre-prepared epochs. We are lucky: There is a finissage of an exhibition about Marcel Odenbach, an artist famous for his video installations, but none of them are shown in the exhibition since the curators wanted to show his hardly known collages and indeed: There is sth rewarding in that, to have insight into the sketches, not the end-results of this artist whose videos I later watch on vimeo. 
It is like going into the opposite direction, rewinding a cassette I have never listened to before.
As always there is an exhibition in the exhibition that seems almost more interesting: An old man that looks like a patron is standing in the middle of the hall with two men in suits that look like curators or people that make money out of art. By chance I hear the old man saying:
"His drawings are good and they are pretty cheap, so I sold them all."
At the end of the exhibition there are several collages that show the photos of boring and idyllic scenes of the Alps.  The photos were owned by Hitler and Odenbach put them together anew with thousands of little paper shreds that show all kind of faces from Hannah Arendt to British colonialists, becoming visible only from very close. Most of his collages are done like that and the shreds repeat. Under one of the paintings there is a commentary note I was waiting for: "One collage took Odenbach months of work. He was supported by assistants." I wonder who these assistants are. I would like to see once an exhibition of only the asistants' lives of famous artists: The elite precariat?
We end our tour in the centre of Bonn and walk some steps along the Rhine which does not look all too bad and might be nice to look at in summer. We are hungry for cake and I discover an old-fashioned cafe where I imagine Helmuth Kohl and Willy Brandt must have gone for heavy pastry and coffee. It is full of old people and we are ready to squeeze ourselves in, but the territory behind the glass looks just too hostile. A street later I see a very alternative cafe I had not expected in that city and it is pretty hipster in there, three students and an older lady cook and prepare everything. Breakfast until 4pm and "Abendbrot" until 8pm. For some reason it is a relief to sit in that cafe, the only - although sweet and harmless- rebellion against a city that seems like it has paused forever at one point.
In the evening we find out there is another guy living in the flat that must have left a big part of the mess: It is a young Indian guy, an intern in some International Energy Agency from a Masters Programme in Switzerland.
He shows us the neighborhood: Bad Godesberg consists of houses that seems so low, they look like dwarf houses and they have sth Scandinavian about them. Bad Godesberg ends up having a huge commercial cinema complex and one Turkish restaurant after the other. We eat a huge plate of beef and parsley and coleslaw salad, our hair smells of fried oil and onions when we finally lie down in the screaming bed. 
From time to time, walking through Bonn I have to think about Karen, my friend that has recently moved to New York and I wonder how different her impressions must be. Today, while writing this I listen to "New York New York" by Frank Sinatra because I am only capable to dream myself into a beautiful cliché. I like dreaming, it makes me smile to think I go to a Karaoke bar with Karen when visiting her there and we would sing that song together: "If I can make it there I can make it anywhere"
I admire her for being able to look splendid in any environment. For New Years she sent me that photo, a group picture , young good-looking people that all look like they made it, successful, healthy, interesting and all very individual. And I zoom in: Karen has a beautiful smile, she wears her hair very differently from when I last saw her in Vienna. She looks so feminine, a real lady in black and next to her a happy boyfriend with a bow tie. When I look at the photo the only thing I miss is her direct quote that gives all images a second contradictory level.
I am reminded I have to send back a note to her to New York, sth important I promised her.

I am alone in my flat in Stuttgart, the only sound is the air in the heater. I enjoy being on my own. The unusual mild temperatures of last week have robbed my body a lot of energy, a sudden spring fever that has made me dizzy and tired. They say it is a low over the Atlantic that covered NYC with ice and melted Europe.
"So many things to melt this year" I am thinking to myself and I am motivated to start the next essayist city text about Stuttgart already soon.


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