About a year and a half ago I went to Berlin. At the time I was living in Rome—a city so richly beautiful in its own right but within minutes of descending from the train and walking the night-time streets of the Kreuzberg neighborhood I felt so alive in Berlin. I knew I had to write a story about there. The thing about the city—for me—was that it felt so intensely pulsing and working and creating. I wasn’t sure what kind of story it was going to be but I knew it needed to tell about the way that everything was very much happening—sort of urgent and curious and intense and challenging. What happened in Berlin, was that I became obsessed with street art.
We went to the Tacheles, an artists’ cooperative that looks like this.
Where people were sleeping on cots in the warehouse behind their canvases and selling paintings and postcards.
We went to the wall. Which looks like this.
And absolutely blew my mind beyond anything I had ever seen because for blocks and blocks and generations and languages people literally painted their protest and hope and stories on this physical structure that divided so much… the wall was tumbling and broken and faded in places, repainted in others, and mostly now a symbolic structure but the art that it gave voice to told the story, not just of the city, but of each individual who had written or painted.
Then just a week ago I was reading Crissa Chappell’s blog as I am totally obsessed with the descriptions of Total Constant Order and I cannot wait to read it. But then I read this and I thought, NO!, she beat me. Or maybe she inspired me. Because now I can’t stop thinking about Berlin and graffiti and this story.
I have to write about a street artist. He lives in Rome, though, a city whose street art fascinates me. He visits Berlin in the summer with an American girl who is trying to decide if she’ll go to college. And in the end (or maybe the beginning) he disappears.
This is what I’m writing now, while I’m supposed to be revising PERMANENT INK. This artist, I think he has dreadlocks. And he always has ink or paint on his palms.