Monday, December 8, 2008

Dr Pong


The things you can do in Berlin -  a sea of options. Hundreds of events every night. Culture, music, art, fine dining, cheap dining, wineries, international bars, local bars, posh bars, museums, art galleries, concerts, cabarets, theaters, clubs (or should I say discos - I have been informed recently that the term "club" is out). An overwhelming choice of entertainment at more than affordable prices. I guess that is what makes Berlin so popular.


However, this won´t be a story about how great Berlin is. This is a story about what I did last Friday. Considering all these places that I could have visited last weekend, I ended up going to Dr Pong with my friends Steve and Christian. A fascinating way to spend Friday night in a cultural hub like Berlin.

Dr Pong is not a disco as such
. It´s also not a bar or anything similar offering good drinks, good music and a funky vibe. It´s a run down apartment - it must have been a shop once - on the ground floor of an old filthy building on Eberswalder Strasse, one of the main but not nicest streets in Prenzlauer Berg. The window front that opens to the main street has been covered with huge posters from the inside and graffiti from the outside, thus blocking any view a
 pedestrian might have from the outside. All in all, it looks like a forgotten and dirty place that urgently needs a new owner or at least a clean. Since there is no front door or any sign hanging outside you wouldn´t even notice the place when passing it. Just like so many venues in Berlin.

Once you enter Dr Pong from a side door, you feel like you are back in school. Young, foolish and easygoing. What awaits you inside is absolutely unexpected: a large room with bare and grey walls and a ping pong table in the middle. That´s it. The dim lighting and the cigarette smoke add some ambiance to the grey, seemingly windowless space and there are some chairs lined up along the wall but they are of no interest to the 30 or 40 guests. They didn´t come for drinks, ambiance or chatting. They came to play ping pong while sipping beer. On a Friday evening. As simple as that. Why care about the world of entertainment and consumption when you can have fun without worrying about dress codes or money. Wearing your favorite sneakers, jeans, a sweater, hitting a ping pong ball and running around the table with 30 others seemed like a very attractive and bonding way of socializing on a cold evening in Berlin. The only concern you have is staying on the table - if you miss a ball or have a bad hit you get thrown out and have to wait till the next round. But if you make it to the 1:1 final you are the star of Dr Pong. There was foosball for those who got tired of ping pong.

I loved it and stayed for hours. This is exactly what I needed after living in the glitz and glamour of Dubai for 3 years. What an uncomplicated way of spending Friday night. No hassles with dress codes, queuing, bouncers, guest lists, entry fees, expensive drinks, overcrowded bars and dance floors. Dr Pong had everything I needed. The bar was a 2 meter counter manned by an American guy, the drink selection was sufficient and the music was entertaining (two lesbian looking girls, dressed in some ridiculous looking 80s outfits, standing behind a table with speakers on top playing some random 80s and 90s hits from CDs). No one was dancing but no one would have cared if I did.



The greatness of a place lies in its simplicity I guess. Entertainment and fun in its purest form - not to everyone´s liking. But then again, who wants to be like everyone.

7 comments:

dingdong said...

Hello my delicious little block of creamy bulgarian cheese. Love your post babe. Reading it took me back home. Dr Pong's uncomplicated vibe is not dissimilar to what you might find in a little town, far far away named wellington.

Alongside the simplicity of Pong's I also love the unpretentious self expression "i like ping pong, anyone wanna come play"? Unadorned, original, personal and playful. In a word, real.

I spent a lot of times bouncing around the more mainstream clubs of wellie way back then.

Thinking back now, from Dubai, what I miss the most are the places like midnight expresso, castro's and matterhorn(the old one). They reflected the no-nonsense, individual and outspoken attitude of the people back home that made wellie a great place to learn to simply be yourself.

dingdong said...

why am I know as dingdong????!

mark g.

scribbles said...

In the land of the sand, mr.pong would be mr.bong and the two seemingly lesbians would be nothing less than two very effemenite filipinos standing in a pose fairly similar to david's contrapposto.

:P

but thats so cool... love the fact that you can just hang out ... maybe i should turn my place in dubai into the likes of mr.pong !!! you think Pong himself would be interested in a franchise deal for a little setup in downtown international city !????

Preeta said...

Hi lovely Mahaaa!

Loved reading about Dr. Pong. Have fun!! Will keep an eye for more from you...

Cheers!
Preeta

Jamie said...

Iwanttogorightnowandplaypingpong!!!

humanshield said...

Hey there JJFad,

that's great you enjoyed Dr. Pong so much, that you found the bar in the first place...its a joint that puts the labor back into the labor of love for me, and I'm doin' it all for you, the lovely guests. Honestly.

There's a backstory, which is basically that I opened Dr. Pong not long after finishing architecture school in the US, wanted to do something with space and design that was less about material or objects and more about interaction. Therefore the stripped-down look, referred to once by my brother as 'broke-ass minimalism', which is intended to make the people in the space the most important element. The idea for the bar was born while I was playing TT with a friend I was staying with in Berlin in late 2000, we were playing in the snow on a public table in Monbijoupark in Mitte. We were discussing some ideas I had from my thesis project entitled Recreating Recreation, finished a few months before, in which I was intereted in both endorphins and th cross-breeding of seemingly disparate free-time practices such as sport and partying. The idea for Dr. Pong seemed to just fall from the sky, I had to realize it. So I dropped everything, moved to Berlin from New Mexico and risked it all.

One of my biggest inspirations: The concrete TT tables in the parks all over Berlin. Anyone visiting Berlin should who enjoys TT should definitely find one of them, which inst't too hard. Sometimes impromptu round-the-world games happen in thee parks as well, quite an interesting way to meet sketchy characters here, but I have a friend I met that way as well.

Great y'all found Dr. Pong so great, and if you want any more background on the place check out the 'Preliminary Protocol' at http://drpong.net/manifest.php .
The English version's at the bottom of the page. You can write me via the e-mail link on the homepage, as well.

And if anyone's interested here's a link to a ranty blog on architecture and the city that I do with a friend: slab-mag.com

RUEDIGER JOHNE said...

Hello dear MahasWorld,

great, great report on your blog about Dr.Pong-Berlin.
It's like a step back in time, when i used school-breaks for playing ping pong and made other classmates entertaining with good jokes.
...keep an eye of you next time

PS. feel free to have a look:
http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.ListAllCustom&friendId=499756769&swapped=true