I flew to Tel Aviv and Berlin last month. I taught improv in these cites to pay for the trip, but the experience was all about dancing. I danced harder than ever in my life in these magical cities. And I had great sex with the most beautiful people.
Sex and dancing is what this story is about.
Tel Aviv is a wonder. A secular, young, beautiful city, where you can watch the sun set on a placid beach every night, surrounded by people of all ages too attractive to describe.
I flew into Tel Aviv via a cut-rate $350 ticket on Muslim Azerbaijan airlines. Israeli customs didn’t like that. They wanted to know why I travelled to Israel via a Muslim airline transfer. I explained it was a cheap ticket. I didn’t make a Jewish joke about that. Instead, I slid in the fact that I’m half Jewish via my father’s side. I offered the genealogy of my last name — Markle: via the Polish/Jewish origin name “Markowitz.” Customs liked this, and they let me through.
My first day abroad, I went to Jerusalem with the Jewish side of my family — my Dad, his new Israeli girlfriend, and my aunts and uncles. They had purchased an exclusive guided tour of Jerusalem’s landmarks far in advance, and I was fortunate to tag along. I walked through a 4,000 year old water-filled tunnel that King David used to invade the ancient city of Jerusalem. I travelled behind the Western Wall and saw the 100-ton original stones King Herod laid to build the second Temple. Jewish women were inside the wall with us, praying and weeping, Torah in hand, as they touched the interior of the wall. I wanted to touch the women’s portion of the wall, but I didn’t. Jerusalem is serious about gender norms.
We went to the segregated Jewish, Christian, and Muslim markets, where I ran into an improv student I had taught at the Annoyance Theatre in NY. Small world. But a divided one — our tour guide took us in his armored van past the massive wall that separates Palestine from Israel. I kept asking questions about the Palestinian State. He kept correcting me — there is no Palestinian State, only an Authority. It seemed to me, with the wall up and all, that they should just call it a separate state and be done with it. But what do I know? It’s much more complicated than that.
That night, back in Tel Aviv, I bought new shoes in Carmel market and met a beautiful Israeli named Ido on Grindr. We walked to a hole-in-the-wall, mixed Muslim/Jewish bar called Ana LouLou in Old Jaffa (a 4,000 year old neighborhood) where people of different cultures drink and bum cigarettes off each other. Everyone had sun-kissed, tan, Middle Eastern skin with European features. It sounded like they were all constantly arguing, but they are just more honest in Israel, and what sounds like a fight is just conversation.
I was smoking a Camel blue and eavesdropping on conversations I couldn’t translate when this thought came to me:
The spirit of Tel Aviv rejects the fundamentalism of nearby Jerusalem, where 21-year old conscripted soldiers lounge in the heat with M-16s draped around their backs…and it makes me wonder, how did a bastion of joy like this take hold in the most conflict ridden center of the world? However it came to be, Tel Aviv is something everyone should experience and dance to.
Ido and I began to dance to Arabian techno music. We went for hours until he took me to the nearby gardens overlooking the beachfront, where we made-out until jet lag consumed me.
The next day: I hit the sunshine. Wearing tank top, sunglasses, short shorts, I strutted down Allenby street. The shops were all run down. “How do these beachfront storefronts afford rent?” I thought in my NYC state of mind. “How does this third-hand bridal shop/fabric store stay open right next door to another third-hand bridal shop/fabric store?” I walked for hours on the sand, taking in the city and the beach, which run right into one another without break.
That second night, I met my sister’s childhood best friend who lives in Tel Aviv — Daniella. We ate the best food I’ve tasted in my life, and by the end of the meal, she was my friend also. Then, we went to a gay bar called Lima Lima, where it was 90’s music night.
The bar was empty when we arrived at 10 PM. Nothing starts in Tel Aviv until midnight, at least. But one interesting person was there. I found Volker, the German banker, sitting in the outside terrace of Lima Lima and judging everything. I liked him immediately. He was far more attractive than I am, and I relished the challenge of ‘dating up.’ I have armor when I am not in NYC. Nothing can phase me, not even Volker’s insults: calling me an annoying American, fat, uncultured, ridiculous. I thought it was his way of flirting, and I was right.
I pulled Volker and Daniela to the nearly empty dance floor when they started playing Madonna’s “Ray of Light.” Daniela captured me, making an ass out of myself, drunk on nostalgia and the ‘oldies’ that are my youth.
The dance floor filled with men. The DJ played “Quit Playin Games with My Heart,” by the Backstreet Boys. The second time I reprised the chorus, looking directly into Volker’s eyes, singing “my heart” over and over again, he rushed me. He started kissing me. Daniela ghosted on us at some point, and we were alone in our private Spiceworld.
We fucked every which way that night in my Israeli Airbnb, and the next morning the comforter was a mess. I panicked about this, being an Airbnb Superhost myself in NY and not wanting a bad review, and in my still-drunk-addled state, I decided to wash the comforter. I didn’t have soap or a washing machine, so I hauled the comforter to the beach and washed it in the waters of Meditereanean ocean. I scrubbed the cum out of it like a 4,000 year old Jehovite women, the sun rising behind my back, casting my shadow into the sea. I felt a part of Jewish history, tracing back my bloodlines on the coast of the Promised Land. Then, I took the comforter back to the apartment and gave it a fresh water rinse in the shower before hanging it to dry — good as new. Volker was gone when I returned, and I think I will never see him again, except in daydreams, listening to The Backstreet Boys.
I flew to teach in Bremen next, a medieval German city in the North. It was fine and boring. It was a liberal-leaning city with a nice town square and a sewer that crowed like a rooster when you put a coin in it.
I spent all day on Grindr, and nothing came of it besides frustration. I ate the best meat of my life though in the central square of the city.
I went to Berlin the next day.
My first stop was Das Boiler, the German sauna/sex club. It was Healing night. An enthusiastic twink, wearing only a towel, sauntered room-room to announce the infusions he was planting in each. I made out words like, “Vanille,” and “Orange” amidst his rapid German. The scents were meant to heal us.
I found a South-African man named Johann in the whirlpool. He was seven feet tall and built like The Mountain from Game Of Thrones. After we had sex, we started trading fan theories about the upcoming season. Sitting in the dark room, drinking Club Mate (the Yerba Mate based health drink of choice in Germany), surrounded by people fucking and orgasming around us, we discussed: “Is Tyrion the third head of the dragon? Will the Night King slay one of Daenerys’s brood and raise an undead dragon to counter her? R+L = Jon Snow?” We traded phone numbers on Whatsapp and agreed to live chat when watching the Season 7 GoT premiere. I left Johann to hit the clubs.
Berlin at night is a party. An unabashed, hedonist playground of massive underground clubs. More than just boring techno; I danced on my own to Robyn at a LGBTQ-friendly club named “SchwuZ,” with speakers made from God’s sound system, the base beat boring into me the way Robyn wanted it to. The DJ, God bless him, played the 90’s hits I knew and loved, and I threw my heart and soul and everything I had onto the floor:
Pretty soon I was sandwiched between two guys, making out with each one, switching lips each verse, and going full blown three-way during the bridge of the song. Kisses. Dancing. Respun remixes of 70’s soul, 80’s pop, 90’s ‘cheese’ and groove in my heart. Everyone slick to the touch, smelling of adrenaline. Drugs freely offered. A lick of acrid tasting Molly kept me smiling to the point my jaw hurt. No one watched. All danced.
I went home “early” at 6 AM, compared to the friends I was partying with. I rode my bike home as the sun was rising with a beautiful man named Sven (again, ‘dating up,’ based solely on my American charm and dance moves). We rode our bikes over the tarmac of Tempelholf Airfield, an old landing strip used to provide supplies to West Berlin when the city was divided. We took a detour through a park. A German fox trotted unafraid alongside our bikes. We reached a pond, secluded except for the cranes stretching their wings on the water. We kissed on the wooden planks but went no further. Neither of our bodies were functioning very well, so we made plans for the next day after we slept off the stupor from the thousand beats we danced. Sven was an environmentalist working on climate change and had an apartment overlooking the park for $900 a month that was a mansion compared to NY standards. We had a very nice time fucking the next afternoon.
During my stay in Germany, I made friends at every turn with the simple ask, “Where are you from?” Some Germans, like Volker, were too cool for school, but I liked playing hard to get. Most Germans were the friendliest people I’ve ever met…and open in the way of meeting someone on the playa at Burningman with the feeling of, “Welcome to your new home!”
And best of all: Berlin is cheap. I could live here. I might live here one day.
By the time I left Germany, I was sick. My 31-year-old body couldn’t recover as quickly as I recommitted to partying each night. I wished I was younger physically, but I felt spiritually younger then I have in years.
I have come back to NY, and I want to keep dancing, and I want to have sex. For whatever reason, I do little of either in NY. I want to live in my body, mind, and soul — because these things recharge me.
Europe is adventure. Traveling brings me out of shell-shocked, just-getting-by New York state of mind and into possibilities again. There is nothing like dancing all night, when you have no where else to go or things to do. Nothing to plan or budget for. Just the violet-hued lights and the music and the beautiful, sweaty people.
I want you, the reader, to get a Passport. And I want you to fly to foreign countries and have as much sex and dancing as you can.