!!! OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS ???
The hourglass flowed in reverse,
accelerating time, compressing it,
increasing it's momentum
and over-extending it’s reach
till it toppled,
like a man on stilts extruded
through a myopic crawl
which is more than he can bear.
Flashing fiery tongues lick and lash
every which way, all at once.
A watery border between the former
East German Republic and the city
that was once known as West Berlin,
served as a backdrop for this hellish scene.
Theater scene: "burning refugee(literally)"
in flight from the former East Germany.
Lighting: Propane gas fire ball.
Stage: raft - 7 meter by 2 meters.
Surface: flat-topped, oak wood planking
with a 4 hp motor slapped on for propulsion.
Decontamination shower on deck
(It's basically a round cage
with small water jets producing a
360° surround sound spray,
with ice cold water pumped from the river
upon which we are floating).
Three propane flame throwers placed
around the shower facing inwards,
towards the victim in the middle.
As long as one remains dancing,
the ice water prevents immolation.
It's a hellishly surreal event and
it’s really much safer than one would think,
We set sail from a wooden dock
fronting a concrete buttress,
rising to a height of 3 meters
above the dock.
Before us lay the Spree (a major waterway
in Berlin, as well as the former border
between the two cities).
It was cold and dark.
Hulking, turn of the century
industrial structures spiked
the tranquil skyline
with towers and cranes.
We set sail (chugging), heading upstream
for approximately 150 meters
before negotiating a wide slow arc
which brought us to the opposite shoreline.
We cut the engine,
drifting to a stop by the former
East German Border Police docking station;
a sort of boat garage
with subterranean boat docks,
bored into the riverbank.
It was deathly quiet.
We waited for our scene Que.
It would be the resounding thunder
from a dozen drummers
firing in staccato rhythm
onto 50 gallon oil drums.
We were pretty tense
and chilled to the bone.
The adrenalin would kick soon and
we’d forget that it’s a cold Friday night
and that all we wanted,
was for the coming event
to slip into a murky past
which we could laugh about
from within the warm confines
of the indoors.
WE were tense because our floating stage
had arrived late.
No time for a proper equipment check.
We were concerned for the generator
which powered the valves, releasing
the propane gas for our flame throwers (allowing
it to hurl through a ring consisting of
3 small gas flames,igniting an explosive blast
of flame leaping three meter towards
whatever is in it’s path [in this case
the shower in which I would stand]),
for had failed to start.
We were also worried about our sump-pump,
hung overboard to draw water(industrial
contaminants included) for the
decontamination shower in which I was to stand,
dressed in no more than a loin cloth (on
this cold night).
If our pump were to fail during the show,
the consequences would be a lick of flame
to sear the flesh like a lean steak
on a prairie roast.
Our fever-pitch heightened
as we felt the Que to action
must surely be nigh at hand.
We heard it!
The Que to plug in and light up.
I noticed the flame throwers
were placed no more than half meter
from my place of honor ensuring a direct
and potent blast in the kisser.
the very people we’d hoped to avoid,
the Berliner River Police,
stumbled into the scene.
Their long and sleek vessel
slithered like a menacing Leviathan,
ever alert and searching.
They emerged from under the next bridge
“Shit! What do we do? “
“Have they seen us? “
“Are they coming over to us? “
“No wait a minute, they seem to be moving on! “
We watched the sleek and powerful vessel
churn by us headed upstream in the direction
we were presently facing,
and in which we were preparing to launch.
As the River Police boat
neared the next bridge,
it reared back on it’s rump
and slid into a graceful turn.
They were now facing us.
“Their coming back ! ”
“No, they've moved out of the channel!"
they've shut down their motor! “
“They’re just watching.”
“Hey, it’s the Que! ”
“What about the police ! ”
“Fuck it! Turn on the pump, light the flamers, lets move out ! ”
“Shit, the pump is on and there’s no water ! ”
“FUCK-what is it this time? ”
“Hey, it’s working ! ”
“Quick, light the fire ! ”
“It’s show time! ”
Eddie rushed over to the flame throwers
with a torch in hand.
They were on!
I launched into the shower.
Shock, freeze frame-Stop!
“ I CAN’T TAKE THIS !”
“ IT WON’T WORK - I’M FUCKING FREEZING!!!!!!!!! ”
“IT’S TOO COLD – I’M OUTA HERE!!!!!! “
That was'nt the deal though.
The deal was that we were a drive bye event,
planned to expire in no less than 12 to 15 minutes.
What was I going to do?
I did'nt know.
I almost bolted.
I can’t stand out here; practically naked,
in the middle of a river
on a cold pre-winters night,
drowning in ice cold water for 15 minutes.
I won’t survive-but I need the money!
“EDDIE, TURN ON THE FLAME THROWERS!!!!! “
“MORE! MORE! MORE!!!!!”
That’s when time stopped
and the world around me exploded.
I stood in a fiery hell.
I was engulfed in fire, light and heat,
juxtaposed against icy stabbing jets.
"I HAVE TO KEEP MOVING !!!"
Whatever happens don’t stop.
I lean to the right and escape a searing blast
which threatens to creep up my nostrils
with driving, piercing heat,
threatening my lungs.
Another burning column.
Duck, move back, swing left.
What’s Eddie saying?
Something about keeping my head down?
Right, gotta stay in the icy water.
That’ll keep me safe.
But it’s sooo cooold.
“EDDIE, MORE FIRE!!!! ”
Again the cycle looped into repeat.
Time stretched out and collapsed
into a series of reactions,
fused into fractalized parts, overlapping,
folding in upon themselves without end.
In my peripheral vision,
I registered the theater audience
watching from the shoreline.
I knew the police boat
was off to my right, also watching,
but nothing sunk into my consciousness.
I focused on my desperate foot work,
with both hands occasionally,
placed before my nose and mouth.
I could feel searing tentacles
singe my nostrils.
WWWHHOOOO, step back!
I was dancing and jiving
in a surreal and hostile environment.
I'd stepped back in time.
I was standing amidst the primordial
origins of the universe.
I highly recommend it to those
with the debilitating condition
of having seen it all and done it all.
Suddenly, two of the flames to my right,
and behind me, dissapeared.
The icy wind and spray charged
once again onto the stage.
I was immersed in rigid-frigid shock.
“ EDDIE WHAT HAPPENED TO THE FIRE !!? “
“I DON’T KNOW!”
“DO SOMETHING QUICK !”
“I’M TRYING! ”
I dropped into a crouch
and hugged the single existing flame to my right.
I was a quivering shivering mess,
“ HURRY UP EDDIE !!!!!!!”
I was hovering between the state of numb-dumb,
and a desperately elevated state of desire
for Eddie to re-ignite the F#*%ing torches.
Eddie struggled with a lighter
which refused to light,
holding a torch with the other hand.
There we go, he’s lit the torch !
He’s coming around the control table (set up
to hide the propane bottles beneath it
which were'nt allowed on board).
YEAHHHH! He’s got them lit !!!
BURN EDDIE BURN !!!!!!!!
Again the remaining flame throwers
spit forth combusting molecules.
I was standing in an exploding gaseous reaction
which sucked oxygen from the shower.
I began to duck and dance.
Time is a funny thing.
It draws one along in syncronization
with the natural vibrations
to which we are best adapted.
It’s nothing out of the ordinary.
Yet, shock and adrenalin can abberate
this precarious balance.
We enter a super-drive state.
It’s like we surpass events and stand in suspension of our reality.
Super acuity, it’s incredible!
We succumb to an acute pyro-synaptic event.
Time seems to stop, and start and stop and start and...
The end was in sight.
The next bridge (under which we
would make our fiery exit), loomed nigh at hand.
I was still hopping the fire-ice jig,
After what seemed to be an eternity,
we motored under the curved arches
beneath the bridge which meant
we were officially off-stage.
As we passed out of sight,
I leaped from the shower to retrieve
a long bathrobe which I’d stashed
under our control table.
I was soaking wet and chilled to the bone
as I slipped it on.
We slowly turned the boat around.
We pulled up to the shore
along a concrete wall which arose
to a height of 4 to five meters above us.
We killed the motor.
The night crystalized
as we waited for the theater audience
to re-enter the hall for the next scene
so that we could return to the dock (and
to a steaming hot shower and warm clothes) .
I was literally freezing.
“Hey, let’s get back now.”
“Shit the motor won’t start ! “
The captain of the raft (we needed a
said he could climb the wall
(to which we were now moored)
and come back with another boat.
“I CAN’T WAIT THAT LONG,
I’M FUCKING FREEZING!!!! ”
I stood in shock
and contemplated what he’d just said.
The cold night wind lanced my shivering skin.
Before I knew it,
I found myself climbing a ladder
of exposed concrete reinforcement bars.
I was determined to make it back---NOW!!!
When I got to the top (climbing
over a wrought iron fence in the process),
I ran along the rivers edge
for about 60 meters and came to the bridge
under which we had just passed.
I crossed to the other side,
running down the sidewalk with traffic
Next, I came to a busy thoroughfare (full
of pedestrians)running abreast the Spree
and made a quick turn dashing towards
the theater which lay several hundred yards away.
I will point out the fact that
it was a Friday night in a big city.
I was amongst numerous clubs, media centers, etc..., in this rejuvenated
neighborhood along the Spree.
I WAS NOT ALONE !
What the weekend revelers around me
thought of a man dressed in a loin cloth
and a bathrobe, running at full tilt,
I have no Idea.
I rushed into the theater entrance.
Heads turned as I dashed through the lobby,
my long bathrobe trailing behind me.
I reached the elevator and made my way
to the changing rooms on the second floor,
I punched a security code on a wall panel.
I felt like I was in a dream and
the treasure at the end of the rainbow,
was right around the corner.
I burst into my changing room,
disrobing with lightning speed (no surprise
as I had precious little to disrobe).
With no time wasted,
I was teleported into a steaming hot shower
where I bubbled and lathered and remained
for a very, very long time.
It’s hard to convey experience in words
for some things must be lived,
but one can still try.
When all is said and all is done,
I can say that I walked away
with a burn on the tip of my nose
and I had a great time doing it.
I'd earned my rent and a bottle of whiskey
for fifteen minutes in the inferno,
but what a 15 minutes they were....