Da-Da Ga-Ga Ca-Ca
(Duck! The Future is upon us)

We arrived in Berlin. The abstract painter of squares and I. We’d look for a hotel later. First we’d go to meet his friend. A leading member of the Viennese expatriate colony, one of the pioneers of neo-dada. A famous man.

We climbed the stairs to his attic apartment. In my hand I held a valise with my pajamas and precious manuscripts.

Square rang the bell and the poet came to the door middle-aged, greying at the temples. We were ushered in with backslapping. He was glad to see us.

With him was his sidekick, a slender ephebe with shoulder length blonde hair and large, sparkling, slightly mad eyes. On one wall was a poster of Trotsky, scowling behind horn-rimmed glasses and on the opposite a blown-up photo of two lesbians masturbating.
We had intruded on a garrulous conversation. But they didn’t let our advent tarnish the brilliance of their mood. The expressions and fragmentary sentences dealt with urination, ejaculation, defecation and sodomy. Various individuals were mentioned, and added to each name was Goethe’s well known Götz quote. (In the English equivalent the individual is called upon to use his lips instead of his tongue.) This spicy badinage was truncated by hearty guffaws. Unfortunately, I was too sober to appreciate the psychedelic quality of their humor.
The poet sat close to the sidekick, nudging him with his elbow, mussing up his hair and lovingly tossing him about. I had been told about the sidekick. He had provided excitement of a new and different kind. Something that had never been done before. His claim to fame was that he had publicly shat. It had happened in the hallowed halls of the University of Vienna.
After swigs of lukewarm scotch, we set off to experience the night life of Berlin. The poet led, his coat collar turned up, the sidekick at his side. Square and I followed. The poet continued to handle the sidekick. Then I knew what they reminded me of. Lear and his Fool. The poet was pushing forty, and that was ancient according to today’s standards. No, it wasn’t easy to be avant-garde and middle-aging. The Fool was allowed to accompany the great man, and he had to humor him. This he did by shouting at perfect strangers and demanding their identity. His act was met with appreciation and amusement by the rest of us. I was glad to have something to laugh at. Lear loved the Fool because he was a Mensch and everything he did was menschlich, He was a human being and everything he did was human.

We were hungry and stopped at a sausage stand for a snack. Four sausages with potato salad. The vendor was a lady, white smock open at the top. Rivers of turquoise veins travelled under alabaster skin from neck to bosom and back to neck. The Fool’s eyes were riveted to her. With mouth full, he commented on the veins and laughed, revealing potato salad and fangs. It was like a vampire in delectation over his prey,

There were the bright lights and display windows of the Ku-damm. Then dark side streets. We descended into a beat club decorated as a prison. Bars and black and white. The smoky atmosphere was bloated by red and blue rotating lights. Long-maned girls in mini, maxi and hot pants ritualistically trembled and gestured to booming music. Their partners moved as if struggling under water in front of them, against them.

Slides and bits of films were projected on the walls. Above the dance floor, behind a glass window, a topless disc jockey placed records on the turntables and whispered unintelligible nothings into a microphone. When the music became especially hectic, white lights flickered and blinked so that the dancers jerked in silent film manner.

We had not bothered to check our coats. Hot it was. Lear, his collar still turned up, picked up a partner and proceeded to dance. He flapped his arms, sprang up, balanced on one foot, then the other. The Fool jumped frenetically behind him. When one was up, the other down. The Fool whooped, but could hardly be heard above the music. But undismayed, he hog-called at the crescendo and catapulted above the spastic dancers like an imp: both seen and heard. The record had ended. There was just the scream and the Fool bathed in lights.
After that Lear and the Fool wilted. Gasping, Lear suggested we leave.

The next stop was the inner Sanctum of Cosa Nostra. It was located on a still darker side street. Only members were allowed in. A shabby wooden door with paint peeling off. It had to be opened with a key. Lear gave his key to the Fool who promptly inserted it in the lock and turned it. The door was pushed open. Inside were clouds of grey smoke. I had to blink my eyes.

Unfortunately gas masks weren’t issued. Loud music pounded from speakers. Yes background music had to be provided for everything. It made things easier. No embarrassing silence. Only it wasn’t background music. It was foreground music. It was life that was the background.
The patrons were hairy, mangy ones. One denizen next to me, holding a glass, was moving and strutting to the music as if he were alone. He probably was. It struck me as active contemplation.

As I got used to the low lights (I couldn’t get used to the smoke), I noticed the girls. It was hard to give them the once-over since they were giving me the once-over. Some of them weren’t bad, but they all had deadpan faces. The message was that they were equipped with the necessary strategic areas. They knew it and they wanted me to know it. Yes, it was lurking in the murky recesses of their clothes. But I was also to know this: strategic areas ware verboten as far as I was concerned. Make no mistake about it, fellow, their expressions relayed. It’s verboten and, you’re not going to get any of lt. The message registered. I couldn’t help but register it.

My response was that although strategic areas were fine, I was not so keen on deadpan faces. I liked a body to be alive from the neck up. What was verboten could be verboten for all I cared.

Then the attitude of the partners of the vamps came through. It went like this: You’re the new kid on the block – the rich kid. And we’re going to plaster you to the wall. I was the white missionary among cannibals and they were boiling water in the pot. I was the Earthman on Mars, and the Martians were going to gobble me up. Those hairy, mangy ones.

Lear was expounding on being human. We were all human beings. And he loved humanity and that which was human. He mussed the Fool’s hair and hugged him. Suddenly my fears became reality. A tall, chunky man stood in front of me. Rimless glasses on a bloated face. He looked like an overweight B-film sadist. And truly he was threatening to lay the bourgeois flat. Unfortunately the bourgeois happened to be me. The Sadist was renowned as a karate champion (among the artists and literati) and seemed intent on enhancing his reputation at my expense. He got into position and I expected a crippling chop at any second. Progressive writer triumphs over old-fashioned one! But even if I miraculously managed to get the better of the Sadist, the others would make short work of me. It looked like the rich kid, the white missionary, the Earthman, the bourgeois was going to bite the dust of that dirty floor. Lear, however, came to our aid. He embraced me and said that I was under his protection. I was a writer too. Maybe not quite up-to-date. But I was a wonderful human being. I was human and loved me. Then I got a wet kiss on the cheek. I did not evade it or push Lear away. At that moment a kiss was preferable to a kick.

Nor did I refuse the drinks and cigarettes that were offered to me. The smoke, like the liquor had to be swallowed I was told. Was there an alternative to accepting the hospitality of my hosts. The smoke swirled and the music pounded. One had to shout to be heard, and of course everyone shouted and no one was heard. It was pandemonium. It was Babel.

I recognized the famous ones. They all seemed to be there. The Viennese colony.

Duck! I thought. The future is upon us.

In the haze of grey clouds of smoke I saw the poet who burped and broke contrapuntally. What a talent! It wasn’t everyone who could flatulate rhythmically from both ends. Next to him was the Professor, the Big Daddy of neo-dada who had shown him the way. He had transcended language. His poems resembled the neighing of a horse and the braying of a donkey. And then there was the girlish darling of the avant-garde. Pursed expression, Long locks, petal lips, gooselike neck. Hated and envied by all because of his success. He had discovered the art of repeating meaningless phrases and substituting meaningless phrases for meaningless phrases. Then the red-faced dialect playwright. Author of Punch and Judy plays. Punch works Judy over. Judy whacks Punch. Punch strips Judy. Punch rapes Judy. Judy stabs Punch. And the film-maker and his star his moll. He, large jaw, turned-up puppet nose. Resembling the carved faces on trick corks. Or the dummy you slug in the Prater. She filmed in a pornographic pose, holding a Sten gun. They, innovators. Designers and constructors of a contraption strapped to her chest. A mini movie theater, the first feely. An audience of one reaches in through curtains and twists knobs. His scriptwriter, the mousy Maoist squirt. His masterpiece, a hundred-page tract on the female sexual organ, using the techniques of free association and montage. He liked the way they broke things up in China during the Cultural Revolution. In his briefcase he carried the writings of Mao and Disney. Mao and Mickey Mouse. Mickey Mao. Next the delicate poetess, tender love lyrics, her line. Mash you, squash you, jump on you, stomp on you. She was a walking buffet for the avant-garde. Impossible to overlook, the beautiful painter who found everyone and everything beautiful. His specialty, pink baby bottoms and lady fingers wrapped in bacon. He also sculpted. His best known work, a plastic vagina with removable parts. Then another daddy. He smeared foodstuffs on nude models. But recently he had changed his act. Symbolic defecation had made way for the real thing. Then there was his friend, another happening man. Slaughtering lambs was his act. He passed around photos his last happening. A girl lay among lamb gizzards, the model couldn’t have been more than a few months old. The happening man had squinty eyes, pointed ears and the wide toothy mouth of Alfred E. Newman, mascot of Mad Magazine – except fatter. Obesity was the order of the day. Then there was the Big Operator, the Promoter, the Monster-Maker. He brought them to the fore and foisted them on the public. He was an alchemist. He had the Midas touch. Everything he touched turned to gold, excreta though it may be.

The drinks and cigarette smoke had made me groggy. I came upon the truth. It was like a fist in the face. This was the dance around the golden calf. No it was the dance around the golden ass.

I heard a snorting and sang a giant horned head. It was the Minotaur. His shaggy beast’s body was galloping through the crowd. There was the shattering of glass. The shattering echoed and echoed. I was jolted. Square and I followed Lear and the Fool to the door. Pushing and pushing and grabbing and grabbing. Slow steps. Against them, against them. Over them and under them. Under them and over them. THROUGH THEM!

All four of us found ourselves in a cafe. Quiet as the grave. We had gotten out before the arrival of the police

Wine was downed. Lear had gone broke and invited me to invite him and the others to wine.
A tall girl with a stunning figure came in. She headed for our table and sat down. The Fool was smiling inanely. She grabbed him by the hair, pulled his head over the table and throttled him. Blinking, he begged her to stop and forgive him. It seems that the lady was his wife. She had waited for him somewhere but he hadn’t shown up. That was the reason for the going-over. He tried to placate her, expounding on his love for her. Lear came to his aid and told her what a wonderful human being her husband was. He was a dear. And she should love him. For he loved her. She too was a wonderful human being. They were both sweet people. They should love each other and be happy. Lear got up and went to the toilet, taking the Fool with him. That left the three of us at the table. Square asked the Fool’s Wife if she would take out a breast. She said that she couldn’t do it because if she did she would set Lokalverbot. But Square was stubborn and asked again. She again refused. But not on principle. The inference was that had they been in a place where it was acceptable to reveal a breast, she would have complied. But here the consequence would have been Lokalverbot. And she did not want Lokalverbot since this was her favorite haunt.

The two returned. Lear joined us. But the Fool sat down at a nearby and pounded on it. He shouted at those seated there, asked them who they thought they were and what right did they have to behave in such a manner. The occupants of the table were nonplussed They had apparently never seen him before Lear roared. It was all a joke. The Fool remained at the table with his new acquaintances.

Lear again told the Fool’s Wife what a wonderful human being she was. She was wonderful and he loved her. But he also loved her husband. He was full of love. He started to caress her, repeating his words about humanity. He felt one ample breast, and I thought that it would appear at any moment in spite of Lokalverbot. But the Fool replaced her. He sat down and she got up to go to the place he had come from. The Fool was then hugged and told how wonderful he was. I let my gaze wander and heard a sound that resembled the tinkling of the most exquisite dinner bell. When I looked, I saw that Lear and the Fool were exchanging little kisses. While they were thus preoccupied the word Mahlzeit slipped out of my mouth. I had wished them good appetite aloud, and that hadn’t gone over well. But the atmosphere was so suffused with love that anything else was secondary.

They got up and met the Wife on the way to the toilets. All three were embracing and uttering words of agape Humanity, Humanity!

Since Square and I had our overnight bags in Lear’s apartment, we had to go back with them. We hailed a taxi and piled in. It was a giggling, loving ride.
Back at Lear’s apartment. Smoke and music. Leer, the Fool and the Fool’s wife in the center. Square and I on the periphery. They standing. We sitting, Square who was nodding drunkenly, and I witnessed a ponderous minuet a trois. Leer, with a regal gesture, bared the Wife’s coveted breasts. But Square couldn’t enjoy the sight. He had passed out and slid to the floor. I bent over and tried to revive him, but it was senseless. Lear and the Wife were now nude on the floor. The Fool pranced around them whooping like an Indian, stripping and tripping as he stripped. It’s hard to discard pants while dancing.

Once the pants were off, he skipped, flinging his clothes over his head. Under him, the floundering couple. He fluttered above them, cackling, drawing back his lips and revealing the fangs. He was looking for a place to land and add himself. Then he descended, scrimmaging with them and joining their rhythm. The three of them heaved. A tangle of limbs thrashing among the smoke and the blasting music. They had become one. The mass seemed to puff up and deflate like a crazed sea monster. A sea monster that had been hurled to land where it could not return to sea.

It was a night on which I had expected murder, suicide and rape. Now all of these things were taking place. I could no longer differentiate one body from another. That thing was one body. It was a body that was committing murder, suicide and rape

It would explode. It would engulf me. I had to get out, groggy as I was. Square lay at my feet dead to the world, oblivious to everything. Or perhaps he was dreaming of that thrashing monster.

The lesbians on the wall were no longer frozen in motion but were actively masturbating. They too were groaning. And Trotsky was no longer scowling, he was smiling. No, he was throwing his head back and guffawing till the tears came.

After the publication of Da-Da I had achieved notoriety. And by taking to task what was sacred in Austrian culture, I had exposed myself as the „reactionary“ and „fascist“ that I was (and am). „You have just committed suicide“ I was told by the cultural editor of the Catholic highbrow weekly. If I was dead then, I must be doubly dead now! In most of the attacks that were directed against the story the author’s name went unmentioned. This is the traditional manner of treating a non-person. It’s quite a trick and many „critics“ are experts in pulling it off.

Oddly enough, I had also garnered a few fans. Da-Da went over well with some of neo-dada’s adversaries, and I was encouraged to continue in that vein, but The Return of Da-Da, The Son of Da-DA, The Son of DA-DA, The Bride of Da-DA and Da-Da Meets the Wolf Man were not forthcoming. I didn’t know that I’d be having another go at it in Memoirs. However, this should serve as the final swipe, the last swat, and the parting shot on the subject. When it’s done, I hope I never again need repeat myself. There’s no sense in beating a dead horse, even though the horse in question is taken for a live one in certain quarters.

-Herbert Kuhner