There were a handful of reasons why I left Berlin in 1993 and returned to the States, each framed by earlier events, but today I recall the whirlwind of my German memories in which I was immersed.
The best part of being in Europe was everyone I met. Bright young women and men, all artists, who measured their lives with the passion they expressed, buzzing and beating their wings around town- to me Berlin was a hive.
I’ve never met people in the usual traditional ways that people meet- I’ve made a habit of talking to strangers, and one of those strangers who became my friend, Benjamin Rawitz, I pay tribute to- an extraordinary man, who was born to play the piano, who was a regular at local concert stages but his influence went beyond that, a musician’s musician with graceful nimble fingers and a kind gentle soul.
The first time I met Benjamin Rawitz, I was standing in a long line at KaDeWe, the largest department store in Europe. Expensive, luxurious, a shopping paradise and a legend, I also was a proud credit card holder. I inhaled the scent of leather, as I waited to buy myself a pair of mahogany kidskin gloves, a man watched me with quick curious eyes. “entschuldigen, ist dieses die Linie”? I asked in my wild broken German. Benny rattled on and I held up my hand. “Wait, do you speak English,” I asked, to which he smiled. Detecting a french accent, I learned he was an Israeli living in Brussels.
How I remember that day, the encapsulation of everything I love most about this world: we walked out together passing the perfume counter discussing music, and the arts. It was drizzling slightly and down the street we went, I was laughing.
Benny and I became quick friends and we had a friendship that was pure and simple; we recognized our tribal markings and discussed spirituality and the after life while sitting in sidewalk cafes together. We added all the things we aspired to do. When he left the city we developed a stronger tie slowly over time on a lost art- letter writing.
As time marched on we learned of each others artistic triumphs and disasters but none was so unfortunate that it stopped either of us from dreaming and living our each respective passions.
Writing requires one to spend great lengths of time in monastic solitude. I enjoy this period when my mind spins more plots than my fingers could ever type, a ritual of silence. During one of these periods Benny’s last card came to me that read- A little bit of luck never hurt anybody…. I’m waiting to hear that something positive happens to you!
Then I got the news, it was late August of 2006, Benny was dead. The tender man who would not swat a fly, murdered, his battered body in the basement of his apartment building; his nose had been broken and the frontal bone of his face smashed.
For days in my own private war, I would talk to God, wail and twitch, begging for peace for Benny’s soul. As a current passed through my body, feeling the voltage of violence that I abhor, every one of my muscles tensed. I battled with my mind even more, not wanting to see the ugliness of a brutal, barbaric murder, and yet seeing it every time I closed my eyes. Both my body and my mind writhed in unison, reaching a final end. I prayed that in his life he would remember a soft human touch; a simple handshake, and the flesh of another person without the psychological physical torture in the confines of his final hours from two perverse misfits who didn’t have an ounce of respect for life.
Benny’s killers were brought to trial and incarcerated. Today one of them, a minor escaped after having killed his baby daughter and her grandmother. This tragedy indicates that the laws in Belgium are permissive and law enforcement officials have to do everything in their power to find him immediately; since his disturbed dark side is a threat to everyone he comes across.
Thumbing through Benny’s photos of India, these words come to mind, from the Bhagavad Gita, revered as a sacred scripture of Hinduism, and one of the philosophical classics of the world, “He who sees everyone in himself, and himself in everyone, seeing the same God living in all, he, the sage, no more kills the Self by self.”