30 Years Later: A Remembrance of the Berlin Wall

The morning after our show at The Loft, I woke up too early. I always did. Even though we must have gone to bed after three a.m., I was up with the sun, had gone down to breakfast, which I knew none of the band would ever wake up for in time, and returned to the room, Janet still asleep and nobody else showing a sign of life. The hotel was not exactly in the middle of things, but I saw on the map that the Tiergarten was within reach, so I left a note that I went walking and set out on that crisp winter day in early 1990.

It was our first tour of Europe on the Beet record, having the time of our lives, on a tour that would take us from London to the Netherlands, Germany, (then) Yugoslavia, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy on the continent. Since many of the clubs were removed from the center of the cities we visited, there weren’t a lot of sights to see, but I was determined to stroll the Tiergarten to Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin Wall which had famously “fallen” on November 11th just a couple months prior to our show.

I was always fascinated with communism. After all, it loomed as the great threat of my childhood with our cover-your-ass drills at school and fallout shelters. In fourth grade, kids insulted each other by calling each other, Commie. The Wall, like Tiananmen Square, was iconic, and news reports of my youth told of the mad dashes to freedom, the stuff of David Bowie’s Heroes, and guards in towers with scopes set like a real-life precursor to Fortnite. We had driven in from a show in West Germany, cruising on the Autobahn, then as soon as hitting the border to the East, dodging potholes and getting rerouted off the highway. We pulled into the Loft in Berlin, welcomed to the best dressing room spread we would ever devour. I remember taking a pre-show walk and seeing a long line of people with TV sets and electronics boarding a bus. They were East Germans allowed in for a shopping spree. The Wall was on its way down, but unification was not there yet.

Walking through the Tiergarten I thought of Hitler strolling the same paths, and finally arrived at the Wall. Chiselers and posers were crawling all over it, chipping and snapping away for souvenirs. I had no tools but managed to get a couple of pieces. One, that I brought home for my mom disappeared when my dad moved after she passed away, and the other I had for years, kept in a box at school in my desk, ready to pull out to impress my social studies students. I apparently lost that piece on my last move. Just an object I guess. Easy come, easy go, and not really lost—it just resides somewhere beyond my possession. But I have this photo I took, and my memories and thirty years have passed.

Rick Rizzo is a songwriter and educator in the Chicago area.