Chapter 1

Jack stumbles…

Being new to Berlin, Jack was not sure what to do on Christopher Street Day – the local Berlin name for Gay Pride, but they knew they wanted to do or go somewhere. After a day of wandering around the Pride march area, seeing the many different colours of the rainbow being represented, and seeing lots of creativity only seen by the ‘vanilla’ public at Pride events across the globe, a quiet (ish) place was on their minds that evening.

A few days earlier, Jack had seen a small rainbow-themed poster, advertising an event at a bar around the corner from their new apartment – and this was to be their target this evening, Wein Salon. Tonight was ‘Rob and Myke’s Pride Celebrations’, and as the poster was in English, they were hoping the event would have some English-speaking attendees, and a perfect place to meet new people, possibly.

The front of the Wein Salon was interesting – looking a little run down, but with a statue of a goddess in the window suggesting something more alluring than might what’ve been. With the little German that Jack had, he could make out some of the writing on the outside – something about getting a haircut, possibly? Maybe this was the source of part of the name, Salon, but they weren’t sure, only making assumptions. Two benches against the wall of the front looked rather old, and certainly not like the new benches and tables he had seen outside other nearby establishments – they looked well-used and comfortable in a strange manner. There was a bench opposite, next to the tree, across the pavement – ‘Did that belong to Wein Salon too?’ Jack pondered to themselves.

Approaching the bar that evening, Jack was determined not to be shy tonight, but find some friends – they’d been in Berlin for over two weeks now and loneliness was starting to creep in. From the street they could see some people sat outside, all chatting, with a person in a denim pantsuit, with sequin wings, fluttering between the two sides, appearing like they were serving drinks. A mixture of modern and classic Pride-themed music emanated from the bar entrance, and the colourful lights in the window certainly created some life on this otherwise sleepy street, hidden in Berlin’s East-side.

Jack entered, whereupon a gentleman wearing something rather plain for a Pride party, said a friendly hello.

‘Hi, can I help you with something? Oh, English order Deutsch?’ said the short, brown-haired man, the second part of the welcome said with an attempt at a German accent, but obviously not from Berlin.

‘Oh, Hi. Er, English is fine with me’, said Jack, smiling and looking around the bar, ‘I’m just looking for a drink, assumed you might be able to help’.

‘Of course, well, here is the menu and this is the new specials and beer board’, said the man behind the board, pointing to the paper menu and the chalk board behind him in order. Jack looked at the menu briefly, but then glanced at the green, chalk board, which was nestled in the middle of the wall, shelves covered in plants, glasses and other bar-related paraphernalia. The design impressed him.

Jack noticed the board didn’t look new, but the guy behind the bar said it was, ‘The board doesn’t look new – has it been put in recently?’, Jack was in chatty mode.

‘Well, it’s new for us here, but it actually comes from a school in Berlin – we are upcycling it and making it useful again’, the bar man said with a smile, ‘Oh, and I’m Rob by the way, and Myke, my husband is around here somewhere – he is the one in the denim suit and sparkling shoes – you can’t miss him this evening, well…most evenings’, Rob said smiling, glancing around and finally asking what drink Jack would like.

‘Is the Berliner Spritzer a local drink?’, Jack asked, looking for something local to enjoy.

‘Oh yes, it’s Bonanto, a Barcelona aperitif, and then mixed with Berliner Berg’s Berliner Weisse – very refreshing’, Rob explained.

‘Ok, I’ll go for one of them please.’

After his drink was poured Jack had a little wonder of the bar, looking at the larger back room with the upturned billiard table as a stage, with a red velvet backing – obviously a performance space for something, but at this stage they weren’t sure what for – nothing was on the Wein Salon Events board yet.

Jack found nowhere to perch, but noticed that a few people were speaking English, and so listened in on a few conversations. One of the barmen, Myke, introduced himself, and then proceeded to link Jack with a few regulars, including the ever-delightful Erica.

Jack got on very well with Erica, with their love of obscure films from the US, as well as an interest in design. They noticed the dress that Erica was wearing, then discovered she had made it herself – which was impressive, and Jack took note as her skills might be useful in the future.

The night went on, the guests drank more, the Pride become more apparent as the music changed from classic gay anthems, to more modern hits, interspersed with a few obscurities. The two owners continued to move around the place to the music, pouring and making cocktails, and Jack watched as on a few occasions Myke create new drinks for his customers – leaving a satisfied smile on their faces and a glint in their eyes. At one point a dance floor was created in the back room and a few drunk and jolly individuals demonstrated their moves, although the alcohol consumption was hindering their attempts – but they were having fun.

Rob had changed at some point, into a mixed-gender look, with a dress, tights and a pair of high-heels made by Adidas. Jack watched as the barman moved around the bar effortlessly in the shoes, pulling pints of beer and wine.

Jack had stumbled upon the Wein Salon that evening, came as a stranger, and left as a friend.