In order to read this story, you have to be able to read in a German accent. Anytime I use italics, itz weeth ze Shermein, no? Yes no. Good. You see, Werner Wervie is German. And the accent is a huge part of the Werner show. You pronouce his name Verner. Verner Vervie. But you spell it with a W. Which has found a way to remind you of this fact as he refers to himself as “WW”. And he’s fucking funny. He owns like 10 vintage clothing stores and has an enormous warehouse overflowing with ancient clothes. It’s his muse and his tormentor. You see, there must be order. “Zere must be aweduh.” He says, slapping the back of his right hand into the palm of his left hand with a satisfying yet alarmingly powerful crack striking terror and dark imaginings to anyone in earshot.
I’m reminded of WW today because it’s my first time to Germany and everyone talks like him. It’s adorable. Terrifying. I don’t know what it is. He hired me once to build some clothing racks. Clozing rlacks. It’s easy enough to weld some ¾ inch pipe together. Came up with a cool design. I asked him how high he wanted the racks. “Oh, a-bout zeis hye…” he held his hand up against his shoulder just about the sleeve. I measured from his hand to the ground and noted it. Half cash, half trade for clothes. Now ya know where I get those awesome suits I wear. It was springtime, and the livin’ was easy. Werner decided to try an entrepreneurial endeauvor. It failed miserably.
He was vaguely aware of Bunny Bunny Jam Jam, a kind of Santa Rampage for ravers. It was a bunch of bunny activity around Easter. If you so much as nudged me towards monolouging about the demise of the Cacophony Society becoming a costumed drunken bar crawl you would regret it… so don’t do it. But the bunny thing is part of the maddening default that occurs when the counter culture gets a ‘hit’ (an event or an idea that gains traction). The Santa thing worked, so now you can go to the Cupid crawl (where you dress like cupid and go from bar to bar), the St. Patty’s day bounce (where you dress like, you guessed it, a fucking Leprechaun), Bunny Bunny Jam Jam where you get to participate in a HARE-raising Billon Bunny March and so on into perpetuity with Hallmark defining the holidays and we reacting to them. Right? Needless to say, the Santa Rampage is very different now that it was when it started as guys dressing like Santa and taking toys off the shelves at toy stores and giving them to kids that were in the toy store. Genius! Can you imagine the child’s’ wet eyes as Mr. Manager guy berates the Santa and tells Mom that Tommy can’t really have the GI JOE with Kung-fu grip or whatever that toy is now? You can’t arrest the Santa, he didn’t steal anything. It’s genius I tell you…
The first few Santa Rampages we were giving cigarettes to kids and going into Macy’s and chanting “BUY! BUY! BUY!…” Now you don your Santa suit and go from bar to bar. Maybe sing a carol. The original idea was that we all looked the same. Cheap Santa suits. Last time I looked at photos it seemed like a contest for which girl Santa can look sluttiest. But it worked. It hit. 50,000 Santa’s rampaging in Russia last year. Santa rampage in 1,000 cities across the globe. Humble beginnings. Rob Schmidt. Meek, quiet guy. Used the templet for unrestricted generosity and his event was spread all over the globe because it was a powerful idea whose time had come…
The bunny thing didn’t hit. Although very cute, the bunnies were (and are) a small group that have an annual convention and for over 10 years they hop about and have a great time. Werner was painfully aware that the Bunny Jam thing was a small micro-cosm. He invested a chunk of money making bunny hats. They were like bonnets, with big floppy ears. Pastel blue and pink, as I remember. They looked ridiculous. The ears looked more like handles and the colors were horrendous. The hat part or bonnet or whatever was far too big… it was clunky. And it tied at the chin and if you didn’t tie it tight the ears were very heavy and it would fall off. But if you tied it tight it kinda gave you a double chin. I don’t think that he sold one. Which is probably why, on the day before Easter (which would be the last day that one could sell a bunny hat that year) he was having a bad day.
‘On a tear’ would be a good way to describe it. An insufferable screaming child could be another. He came in the store and layed into his employees like a nightmare come true. I tried to buzy myself with the finishing touches on the rack project. The old racks were in the back of my pick up truck. The new racks installed and the clothes transferred. I was waiting to get paid. I was pretty happy with the way it turned out. Werner wasn’t happy about anything. “Ze weendoh iz fithy! Filthy! How ken ze cuzdummer zee da kloze eff ze vindoh is so FEELZIE!!!!!!” he went on to remind them that in Germany every window is cleaned every 15 minutes with acid or something. “Ze floor iz dezgusting… it ez depressing en dis place. I could not shop is such a plaze!” OK, maybe the window was a little dirty. And maybe they didn’t mop that day. But then it all came out… “And ze bunny hatz, they do not zell… and why? Beecaze you do not make it fun! Zey sit on ze shelf and you do not wear ze bunny hat! If you wear it, zen people see ze fun!!!” he grabs one of the hats and puts it on, tying the string tightly making a noticeable depression in his round face… which is now red with anger. He is spitting mad, monologueing and pacing slapping his hand in that alarming way going down an imaginary list of offensive points wearing that fucking bunny hat. He forgot he had it on. It was difficult to not explode with laughter. The employees were trying to look away, for fear that they would lose it. One pretended there was something in his eye, one had her hand over her mouth with a sincere look on her face. It was shocking. I could have been watching pregnant Siamese twin midgets performing Ebony & Ivory playing trumpets out their asses on ice skates and it wouldn’t have been more shocking. And funny like Don Rickles hosting the Special Olympics. And just when I thought it could’nt get any more amusing… he turned his rage on me: “And yooouuu…. Cheekeeeeen….” He says slowly, almost growling pointing his finger at me with a scowl on his face that would make any French beurocrat envious… “You make ze rlack too loow. I tell you how hei to make ze rlack and you make it too looow!!!” he went on about how when a rack is too low, it is a bad way to display clothes and if it’s too high it promotes stealing. His claim that there is a perfect height for a rack comes after he talks about his qualification to hold this information as an expert in his field. “Zeis hei!!!!!!” he shows me how high the rack should be. The horror and shock I feel is impossible. Just before the wave of comedy hits me like a planet. He is holding his hand out, fingers extended and together at just higher than shoulder height with his elbow straight as an arrow, spitting mad as he tells me that it is, indeed, ‘this high’ that he wants the racks. “Zeis hei!!!!!” Impossible. It is impossible that this enraged man with a German accent has accidentally bumbled into a perfect fascist salute. In a bunny hat. “ZEIS HEI!!!!!! He shrieks one last time, quivering. My DNA was breaking down. Cells were dividing. Internal organs failing. I was turning to liquid, and draining away. There was a war being fought in all of our bodies. To not erupt in tearful, weakening laughter was impossible. Time stopped, and for an instant, I was afraid I would die.
I burst out laughing 12 times today, being in Germany. Thought I’d share.