I was a sensitive child, very attuned to things around me and prone to spontaneous tears. The kids picked on me for being weak and called me mantequilla (butter). I had this sense for as long as I could remember that there was destruction on the horizon. I developed a voracious appetite for history and current events. It's one of the reasons today I find myself so angry at what I see happening around me. The more I want to throw my hands in the air and say I don't care, the more I care. I am stuck in this vicious cycle.
My mother used to find me sitting deep in thought and say to me, no piensas mucho nene, que te pones viejo (Don't think too much or you'll grow old).
I remember crying as I watched on TV the Fall of the Berlin Wall. The Scorpion's Wind of Change would become the sound bite for this historic event. It was one of the first times I remember crying out of happiness. My mother didn't quite understand. After all, what did it matter for a Puerto Rican boy in the Bronx that Germany was to be unified? I don't think I even understood fully why it mattered but I knew that it did. I remember whistling along to that famous intro of the Scorpions hit on my walkman for weeks. I remember thinking that we as in my generation were the children of tomorrow. I felt the anxiety I had growing up during those last days of the Cold War give way to hope. That the world that lay ahead would be better than the one I was born into.
That I would one day find myself living in a unified Germany and in former West Berlin was something I couldn't foresee. It wasn't a thought I had as I watched on TV, people climb over the wall in front of the Brandenburg Gate. Every time I cycled through Potsdamer Platz and through the Brandenburg Gate as an adult, I couldn't forget that this was not possible when I was born.
In 2011, I had to fly to London to meet with my PhD supervisor. I returned on the night flight to Tegel and got into a taxi. My German was just good enough to tell the driver where I was going and have a basic conversation. He had the radio tuned to Berliner Rundfunk, a favourite station of mine and one that shared a name with the former DDR propaganda programme. Tegel was firmly in what was once West Berlin and we were living in Kreuzberg, not too far from Templehof. Our area had once bordered the wall on three sides. It was a haven for the undesirables of the West, a perfect place for us to call home. On the way home, the radio played Wind of Change and as we drove through old West Berlin to my home, I thought of that little boy who cried at the fall of the Berlin Wall. That little boy who had no idea he would live in a unified Berlin one day. I thought about the man I had become who remained committed to the unity he was a part of in Europe. I didn't cry though, I smiled because I was happy to be home.
By 2014, we had made the decision to return to the UK from Berlin for a short period of time. We rented a house in Cornwall and within 6 months had decided that we wanted to swap life in the city for life in the country.
Last year, my niece had come to the UK to play with her football team in an international tournament. I had booked the morning flight from Newquay to London to spend the day and night with her and her teammates. It was dark as I set out in my Mazda MX-5 that September morning. I had been listening to some classic rock compilation as I drove up the A30 which was dark, lonely, and almost surreal. The Wind of Change was on that compilation and I burst into tears as I was driving. They just kept falling and I had to pull the car to one side. As the words played through my speakers, I couldn't hold back the sadness, the rage, the hope I had seen fleeing since the EU Referendum and the election of Trump. Events that continued to chip away at my view of the world, humanity and the growing anxiety I felt about the future.
Last week, we had the massive landslide election of the Conservatives and with it a definitive exit from the EU that none of us can stop. It was an election like none I had witnessed here or even in Europe in the near 20 years I have been here. So many lies and so much hatred have infected our politics and we are more divided now than we ever were. The wind of change had blown the opposite way here in the UK as it had done in the US.
Facebook memories this week brought up the Scorpion's Wind of Change a few times and I thought about how I have been living, how I have been thinking and the continual questioning of what next? My running joke and commentary on the times we are living in has been: These are hard times for Fiction writers.
They are indeed.
At the moment, it feels all hopeless. Things will get a bit worse before they get better which is why it is so important for our voices to be heard. We have witnessed extraordinary attacks on diversity and multiculturalism which is why it is so important to continue to write those stories, to share experiences and to put our words out there.
2020 vision is clarity. The year 2020 can be that as well. As we witness an inward turn, let us ensure that all art forms remain outward. Let us ensure that the diversity that is the human tapestry becomes the shining light in this dark sea.
Let us remember as writers, artists and as humans that the wind has changed directions but that she can and will change again.
John Lugo-Trebble considers this more of a space to engage personal reflections and memories with connections to music and film.