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Tuesday, 30 October 2012

A Giant Dildo In Hanover


Sometime in the mid-90s, I was invited by an Australian trade office to cover an IT fair in Hanover, Germany. They were sending a contingent over and wondered if the paper I was working for would do a spread of the products and services they were going to showcase. As our paper was regional, we agreed.

The show was the famous CeBIT IT fair. Each year, half a million IT professionals would flock there to check out new products and discuss deals. Some staggering 7000-8000 vendors would participate.

CeBIT then was large. If you think walking the Singapore Expo during CommunicAsia is tiring, try this megafair. Buses have to ferry you about the fairgrounds. The carpeted walkways through the exhibition halls alone totalled some 37km! It was a workout to try and see all the exhibition stands and also to attend all the accompanying technology conferences.

And the halls. There were some 37 numbered ones. Many as big as one Suntec hall. So, when we were told CeBIT was big, it was actually quite the understatement. It's one freaking gi-normous fair!!!

I've always considered it a fair no geek should miss. It's like the Mecca for any IT guy.

But CeBIT has since branched out to Shanghai, Sydney, Istanbul and Port Alegre, Brazil - testament to the global interest this world's biggest IT fair has managed to attract. Shanghai is the only CeBIT Asia site.

When CeBIT starts in Hanover, almost all its residents flee to the other parts of the state. They would camp out, go back to their parent's homes or bunk in with relatives. The residents then put up their now vacant apartments up for rent. For the duration of the  fair, these homeowners could earn as much as three times the normal rent. For a mid-sized apartment, that's a good return on value. I am told residents use the extra cash to travel, treat themselves, etc.

A taxi driver I met ran a transport service with the Fair. In the weeks that's not CeBIT, he would be off sailing the waters of Sweden in his own private yacht. What a life!

Transport then was not scarce but hotels were. Quite strange given that Hanover was supposed to be a "fair" city with many visitors around during convention time. Instead of a milieu of choices, there was only but one international hotel to meet demand (Sheraton, I think it was). The situation did not change many years later when I was in Hanover again, this time to bring a tech start-up there. I am not surprised if the situation is still the same today. Why should it change when the home-rental scheme is working so well. It even encourages residents to keep welcoming the out-of-town crowd.

My first trip there was rather eventful.

I had arrived in Hanover by plane and then took the tram line into the city. It was a short ride.

As I disembarked, it started to snow. It was nothing heavy, just light, dusting flakes. It was my first encounter and the whole scene felt really lovely.

I had always been good with directions and without difficulty found the apartment I was supposed to stay in. It was located on a street a turn and 100m away from the tram stop. My host, David, was having a cup of coffee in the cafe below. We exchanged greetings and he graciously helped to lug my luggage upstairs.

I was wearing my light blue winter jacket, a company issue from Hewlett Packard. My editor's wife worked there and he had kindly lent it to me on short term.

The apartment we were in was a private one. The same kind all over the city that got leased out once the Fair began. It felt kind of strange to be living in someone else's home knowing that they would soon be back... like I was trespassing. The weirdness extended to seeing their personal belongings around the apartment. Like music CDs, for example.

The apartment we were in was not huge but comfortable. It reminded me of an old home which too had a wooden floor. Outside, it was still Spring and the temperature had dropped to zero. So our first night there was rather cold. Too cold, actually.

David and I tried turning on the radiators but to no avail. In the morning, we considered the problem again and decided (with teeth almost chattering) that we could not go through another night shivering like girls. And so we set out to look for whatever furnace was supplying heat to the radiators in our rooms.

Turns out, our radiators were fed by a gas operated heater. David found it in the bathroom. He had at first thought it was a heater for the bath only. With that was fired up, the apartment was soon warmed up and we could at last do away with our jackets and body linens.

I had thought David to do better in such climes but he was like me, a guy who enjoyed the tropics. I later discovered that I actually liked the cold. But the layers of clothing was rather loathesome. And when the wind chill factor turned up, things could get really frosty and nasty. I debated with myself which was better: Cold or warm weather. I still don't know. With cold weather, I felt fresh most of the time, and slept less; much, much less. With warm weather, there's the sweating and dehydration. David agreed that the weather in his home Sydney was best. Outdoor aircon set at 22 Celsius all year round! I told him every Singaporean wished for that at least once in their lifetime.

During my stay there, St Patrick's Day occurred during one weekend. David's ancestry was Irish and he wanted to celebrate it. But since the cafe below our apartment was not in the mood of things, we decided to head to a genuine Irish bar in the city. It didn't look too far on the map (perhaps some 1-2 km) and so we decided to walk and enjoy the cool air outside.

After about 20mins and a few shortcuts through some backlanes, we got lost. It didn't help that there were no street signs. David spotted a dimly-lit store and suggested asking for directions there. What we thought at first a convenience store turned out to be a sex shop. Now it became clear to us why we ran into a few hookers not far outside. The ladies were all in sexy thigh-high boots, their shoulders draped in faux fur wraps. One beckoned us with a come-hither look but we politely declined and walked on. It must be tough to have to work on a chilly night like that.

The sex shop wasn't large. It was lined all round with narrow plywood shelves that were painted in lime neon-green. On them were filled novelty items in small windowed gift boxes or transparent wraps.

One shelf in particular had nothing but dildos of all sizes, colors and textures. It was behind a low glass counter filled with pager-like electronic stimulation aids. To one side, a small cash register counter. I remember vividly the color of the place: the stark neon green. It was also bathed in yellow light given off by a fluorescent tube wrapped in yellow cellophane.

One or two spots in the shop were separated by clear panel-curtains. I parted one of these and entered a small area. On the floor below was a shelf and trough. In it was the biggest artificial penis I had ever seen. It was about eight inches in diameter and 2.5 feet in length. There was a picture of a cow standing outside a barn on its box packaging. Was it for farm animals then?

I was not a farmer and neither was David. So we exchanged looks and burst out laughing. "What the hell...," David said, holding the gigantic dildo up admiringly. "Gosh, a woman would faint looking at this!"

Faint not just from its size but that the thing was also pimpled with studs. Does a cow really want that, need that?

"David, do they have these things in Australia?" I asked, understanding that they have a large bovine population there.

"Not that I am aware of," he answered, arching an eyebrow.

"And guess what, it's made in Taiwan!" I said, flipping the box for David to see. He was gobsmacked.

I then remembered Roald Dahl's My Uncle Oswald novel. In it, Uncle Oswald tried his hand at the novel business of bovine premium-sperm collection (and subsequent secret auction). A scene described how he had to stimulate a cow to attract a bull. It was all hand-action at the rear. With the cow excited and wet, the bull couldn't help but be turned on. At the very last moment when the bull mounts the cow, Uncle Oswald would slip a giant condom over its erect penis. In this way, the stud's precious sperm is collected. The first time was funny enough... but the second round was a riot!

I could not help but imagine that this giant dildo (which I was now holding up) was for masturbating a female cow. It could help in the secretion of juices and pheromones and put a smile on the creature's face (which reminds me of all the happy milk ads I watched as a child). I mean no woman would allow such a thing to come near her even if she was equipped to handle such superlative 'equipment'!

Moreover, I pity the farmhand who has to do it. What if the cow becomes fixated on him and follows him around. That was actually what happened to a chap in India after he went and fu**ed a cow. When the cow got clingy with the poor chap, everybody in the village then knew. I wonder where the guy went and hid his face after that! Or is it ok, like how it is a custom in one Mexican village: Horny teenage boys are encouraged to 'practise' on farm animals first, often the family mule. I tell you, being a farm animal in that place is no piece of cake (or piece of ass, just to be precise). PETA should look into it as a kind of animal abuse. Animals should have every right to pick their own penises.

After getting our directions from the owner - a middle-aged guy who was dressed in long grey like some character from an old sci-fi movie - we left the sex shop and made our way. We then passed Lortzing Station, which seemed right. The time was 9 P.M., still plenty before the pub got going. David had said 10 P.M. was best when the in-house band turned up. The streets we were on were deserted with only the yellow glow of the street lamps keeping us company. We warmed our hands in our pockets and trudged on.

We found the Irish pub at a corner of Bruder Street, which was rather cool as a name as it sounded like the rap word for 'brother'. Perhaps it is the German word for 'mate' which the Irish are fond of saying just like the Australians. Or simply because it was, after all, in a red light district.

The pub was simply called The Irish Pub. It's still there on Google View with the 'red drop' pointing erroneously a few doors away. Unusually, it had a single brown wooden door. But its side was the same like all Irish pubs: a huge lengthwise glass window lettered in ale-colored Old Ye print that let folks on the street look in. As we entered, the place was already packed with people ringing in St Patrick's Day. The band was early. It comprised of two youngish men on fiddle and guitar, and the music they played was typical Irish in Riverdance fashion: lively and feet-tapping. It was also loud, reverberated in part by the pub's small space.

Allison, a cute staffer from the Australian Trade Office was there too. I wondered if she digged Asian guys. That night, we drank lots of ale and sang drinking songs. I found such songs to be a unifying factor on such occasions. It does not matter which nationality you belonged to; a drinking song is a drinking song that's funny or rhyming to sing along with. It made me wonder about our own Singaporean pub ditties and all I could think of then were Di Tanjong Katong and Chan Mali Chan. I couldn't think of an English one except Two Dead Dogs Got Up To Fight, the one sung to the tune of a Chinese New Year song during campfire sing-alongs.

As expected, the night ended late. But no matter: It was a Friday night and we could all sleep in the next day. The work week at the fair was already done. Before we reached home, David and I dropped Allison off her place with our cab. Ah, those big beautiful smiling eyes of hers. Are they Irish? Must be, I told myself as my heart remained opened to all things Gaelic that bon vivant night.

Next story: Sex Museum 1 - Paris

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