Where were you when the Berlin Wall fell?
Well, I was working at Wang, but trying to free myself from that repressive and stultifying environment by finding a job somewhere else.
But, like everyone else, when I got home from work, I watched what was happening in Berlin with interest.
And on November 9th, the day the Wall officially fell, my husband turned to me and said, "I think we should go."
And so we did, leaving shortly after Christmas and staying into the New Year, a glorious week that coincided with my intercession between the tedium, boredom, and fear-factor of Wang and the total and complete meshugas of Softbridge, where I ended up spending the next near-decade.
The first thing we did when we got to Berlin was find our way to the Wall. As we neared the Reichstag Building, you could hear it: the persistent clink, clink, clink - and the deeper wham, wham, wham - of people chipping away at it. Hundreds of them: families with small kids, old age pensioners, youths, and tourists.
Even though we had nothing but a nail file between the two of us, Jim and I joined in and helped tear down the Wall.
At one point, in order to get some purchase on a chunk of loose concrete, I leaned into a large hole. While my feet were squarely planted in West Berlin, my head and torso were in Eastie. I looked up and saw a none-too-happy-looking young soldier - he couldn't have been more than 19 or 20 - nearing me, arms cradling a machine gun.
'Oh, great,' I thought, 'If I don't act fast, he's going to drag me fully through this hole and there'll be an international incident.'
Seeing the panicked look on my face, the boy soldier began to smile.
"Zu klein," he said, gesturing to the nail file. "Zu klein."
It didn't take much German to get what he was saying. The nail file was too small.
I smiled back at him and nodded. "Ja," I said. "Zu klein."
He said something else, but I'd nearly exhausted my German. I shook my head. "Amerikaner. Keine deutsche." I have no German.
What a week. Other than having to game every meal so that we could avoid the smokers, we had a great time.
Nearly two months after the Wall had started to topple, the city remained giddy, electric.
You could spot the East Berliners everywhere. They were the ones with the dull, shabby clothing.
East German families would be standing in front of Woolworth's, noses pressed against the display window, in awe at the bounty of the West. And in the KaDeWe - Berlin's version of Harrod's - bug-eyed East Berliners rode the escalator to the food courts - which are truly magnificent - where they walked around in shock and awe.
Having made our way a few times over to the East Berlin side - you still had to go through Checkpoint Charlie, but it was pretty pro forma, and everyone, after showing a passport, was waved through - we could appreciate just how staggering the affluence and plenty of the West must have seemed to the East Germans.
The grocery stores were grim: bruised apples that should have gone to the cider mill; slimy, not quite fresh looking fish in the display cases. Bottles of beer were available for the equivalent of a nickel. (If you can't give them bread and circuses, liquor 'em up.) We went into the major department store - I can't remember the name of it, but it had stalls with individual vendors in it - where the quality of the merchandise was abysmally low. Think yard sale in a poor neighborhood. I fingered some underwear. It felt like sandpaper.
And this was the showpiece of Communism?
It's amazing it lasted as long as it did.
New Year's Eve was wild.
We made our way to the Brandenburg Gate to see the new year in, but there was too much crowd for us. We walked around the city. People were setting off personal fireworks everywhere. One fellow shouted "Achtung" as we walked by him. Achtung, alright. He was shooting a roman candle off out of a wine bottle. It zipped by me, nearly missing my head.
We hadn't thought to make dinner reservations anywhere, so we went back to our hotel and ordered ham sandwiches and champagne from room service.
On our last evening in Berlin, we were coming back to the Western side when we realized that we had to use or lose our ostmarks. Since there was nothing to buy, we stopped in a small bar-restaurant, the Volga, located near the Russian Embassy.
Not knowing exactly what it was - but having visions of something that tasted like a liquid version of a Butter Rum Lifesaver - I ordered a grog. Jim more carefully - he thought - order a rum and coke. Neither drink was actually drinkable. I gave my grog a sniff and felt both lung and liver damage.
Jim looked around and said, "Just think of it. The drinks are terrible. The food's lousy. And up until a couple of weeks ago, the guy at the next table was probably spying on you."
And so it was.
The trip to Berlin was one of the best I've ever taken.
If nothing else, it was nice to see Germans in the news positively for the first time in, oh, nearly a century. (Note: November 9, 1989 was the 51st anniversary of Kristallnacht.)
The rest, as the saying goes, is history...
Where were you when the Wall fell?
Maybe not on November 9th. But I was there.