The Pajamas & Berlin, Thirty-Something Years Later. NDLeón

The Pajamas & Berlin, Thirty-Something Years Later. NDLeón

The Pajamas

Dedicated to my in-laws, Nina and Hans Pauleit.

After thirty-something years, I returned to Berlin to visit the city and act all touristy by the historical centers, the big streets and neighborhoods which at one point were known as East Berlin (Mitte, Alexanderplatz, Friedrichshain, Unter den Linden which in Spanish is Bajo los Tilos). I walked by the Friendship Theatre, nowadays it goes by a different name, where I studied a course for theatrical directing. Leaving the Metro Station of Alexanderplaz, I saw the Television Tower and I walked towards the world clock, the meeting place with my Latin friends. I remembered the walks by the Plaza and I spotted the building that once was the "Hotel Stadt Berlin" where we stayed throughout the time of the whole course.

Nicolas Leon , World Clock background and Stadt Hotel Berlin

Walking by the Kanstraße heading towards the "Ku'dam" I remembered an anecdote from the Stadt Berlin, of those things that always happens to us theater junkies from a cheap theaters who save everything thinking that we'll use it someday. I thought of my pajamas, my traveling partner for many years, I smiled terribly and I started to remember everything since the beginning of the odyssey.

My lucky pajamas traveled with me as it always has for many years.  How could I even think to leave it in Lima? If it had accompanied me through the bad and the good times, also it brought me good luck during the theatrical premieres, it was my pal, it helped me during the manifestation of a character, and remembering my lines. The pajama was old, worn-out and hardened, with holes in the front and rear, it needed a final solute worthy for its honor, but since the travels didn't stop, there was no time to find a replacement. With new pajamas, things would be different while we got used to each other, we would waste time working out the kinks and getting used to each other's pass times

When the time came to say goodbye to Kanstraße of West Berlin near the entrance to East Berlin, I took with me a suitcase, the latest model from the 60's and a used backpack bought in Tacora. After I showed my passport many times with my student visa stamp, receiving a welcoming, I passed the test.  A car that would take me directly to the Hotel Stadt Berlin, waited for me and left quickly after dropping me off at the entrance. I went in the hotel, looking everywhere until I found the front desk. I waited 5 minutes until I young lady tended to me and, in English, she asked me to fill out some papers as she apologized for the fact that they were going to change my room. I would have to wait a couple days until the rooms that were reserved for the Latin students (Mexicans, Colombians, Cubans, and some from Catalan) were unoccupied. And using my perfectly constructed English from the Britanico on the Avenida Arequipa, I said:


They took my suitcase and backpack and they handed me the other room key for when I decided to return. I killed some time drinking at the bar of a Cuban cafe and flipping through the pages of magazines, tour guides, and the theatrical events, concerts, ballets, museums. Well I only looked at the pictures since I didn't know a drop of German.

12 at night, it was time to go to bed, I walked myself to my room whilst looking at my room number on the key, I pressed the elevator button to the floor that matched and thus started my voyage within the hotel. I couldn't find my room and there was no one to help me or at least ask for directions to the damn room. I just went up and down, I was clearly lost and it was all due to the fact that in Germany, the first floor means the second. Finally finding my room, I found the door covered in colorful signs, some with drawings; I opened the door and thus I was shocked. The room was unexpectedly one of class, a presidential suite, and it was all for me. By the door waited my suitcase and backpack that looked like lost abandoned children in a modern arts museum, they looked pathetic in the new ambiance.  My humble traveling partners that have gone through developing towns, impoverished hills, the national providence and overpopulated neighborhoods. 

I was focused on the time, at 6 arrived the young translator who would help me as a tour guide and body guard. Whilst emptying out my suitcases and taking out my hygienic belongings, my notepad and pencil and eraser, I managed to find my sleeping clothes, my pajama. And we quickly fell asleep. At 6on the dot, there was a knock on our door, the phone rang and the doorbell dusted the old chimes. They were waiting for me at the main lobby. I hid my pajamas under the pillow and it blended in so it wouldn't turn out lost.

When I got back around 11 at night I saw at the top of the head board for the well-kept king size bed that was dressed neatly, my pajamas.  It was lovely and again we quickly went to sleep.

Every morning I left it somewhere new in the room, in the shower, the tub, the dining room, living room, anywhere; and at night when I got back I would find it at the same place waiting for me on top if the duck feather filled covers with its small tears happily waiting for me. Time went on steadily, on the second week I put it away in one of the dresser drawers, in a cubby on the bookshelf, under the couch cushions, and yet i always found it folded nicely on top of the bed. The whole week, like some sort of magic, it would be in a new hiding place for the housekeeper to find.

After two week s of trying to hide, to disguise my pajamas, it always seemed to appear at the same spot, with the same shape and form. I never had the chance to meet the housekeep, but I suppose that it was for the best, I would've been too embarrassed to explain the reason why I needed the company of my nocturnal outfit. 

After 15 days of the hustle and bustle of studying and acting as a tourist, I was left a note on top of my desk. I had to leave my apartment and move to a room, it was quite sad to leave but as a way to comfort me, they let me wash my clothes, no charge. I accepted and without a second thought, I left my jeans, shirts, t-shirts, a jean jacket and my treasured pajamas.

Nicolás León at the Berliner Ensemble Square

I had to share my new room with another Latin American student. The next day, coming back from the Berliner Ensemble, I saw a new set of pajamas, name brand, and red with gold trims and decorated with the bears of Berlin. I asked my roommate if they were his and he shook his head no. The next day, first thing in the morning I went to inform the information desk, telling them they had made a mistake and that they had left the wrong set of pajamas at my room, that mine were similar in color, a strong fading color, leaning towards pink. They sent me to the front desk and the young lady with a guilty face gave her most sincere apologies on behalf of the hotel, the laundry department, she apologized to me with an honest voice:

-Herr León! Endschuldigung! Tur mir leid! (She then continued in English) Please excuse our mistake, your pajamas were washed at a high temperature and it got ruined, please accept our gift

I accepted using two words I had learned in theater class.

-Kein Problem!

With a Spanish-English dictionary, i looked up the words i didn't understand and then i understood everything. She had said:

-Disintegrated due to hot water.

My whole life i had washed my pajamas in cold water. 60° of heat had caused a fatal result.
At first, I saw it as a crime, an inhumane act. My pajamas had disintegrated, "oh well" I thought accepting the tragedy. He had done his job with flying colors and without a doubt would be honored as any worthy soldier would be. As my partner in crime and good deeds, my colleague of inspiration and insomnia, through good times and bad and very good times. During the winter he would join me in my room but during the days covered by the summer sun, we would go out to the beach and we would walk to popular bathing spots that were close by. Rest in peace, my first forever companion!

To show off a new set of pajamas was a huge step and success, a tremendous historic event that occurred in Ost-Berlin so my acquaintances and strangers can be envious. I had an urge to go out in my pajamas, walk around the plaza, they were so new that they could be spotted from miles away, it looked starched with color but it wasn’t, that’s what high quality fabric looked like, the shirt had lapels and two pockets, the pants had two front pockets and one in the back, with an impeccable lining, it looked like a suit for Peruvian patriotic celebrations.

All that was missing was a good picture for my album, luckily only a few of us know the story and I know it by heart, like the back of my hand.

As time went on, the good luck started sticking to the new pajamas, it accompanied me a full year throughout Europe, but this time I decided not to be sentimental. I didn’t want any more remorse, I didn’t want it to grow old with me, when we arrived to Lima, at my house after a nice wash with cold water, a habit from my neighborhood, I gave it away, in hope that it would be passed on to a better owner and to a better life. 

Nicolás Daniel León Cadenillas
Berlin, 2009

Berlin, Thirty-Something Years Later

From: Nicolas Daniel Leon Cadenillas 
Posted: Monday, June 8, 2009 15:31:55 
To : My beloved!

With the same amount of affection as always: "Peace to all of those with good will"
In May, taking advantage of the holidays and thanks to Ascension Day;  The Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; I visited Berlin, the capital city of the German Federal Republic. It was a 700 Km voyage on train from Karlsruhe.

In Berlin venturing like a pilgrim to the sacred cultural sites; museums, theaters, libraries, galleries, gyms, parks and monuments; I visited my old learning facility (the noted "Friendship Theater" - Theater der Freundshaft in Ost-Berlin), today the "Theater en der Parkaue" (; as I took on my chest a carnation of Bertolt Brecht and retraced my steps by the Berliner Ensemble, I rejoiced from satisfaction. (

My old training center, the former Theatre of Friendship.

Now, after many years, Berlin without the wall, without repression, without barriers, or illiberality, it's nice walking through the streets, parks, and fields. We watch as the "Muro de la Discordia" grows in the east, north of Mexico, in many and other places.

I don't forget the past, of the history, nonetheless my past but with the complicated days of my past I can't go on so I leave it all to God.

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).  Hallelujah! To this we cheer with a fine red wine, a glass of Pisco and some tobacco! Amen.
I visited my dear friend Fernando Marquina, his atelier of artistic ceramic in Kantstraße which once was my headquarters throughout all my travels in Berlin whether it be in time of simple past tense or simply an indefinite past.

During this opportunity I stayed at the workhouse of Edmundo Torres, a student derived from The National Drama and Arts School of Lima, we were able to work together in some opportunities. E. Torres has been in Berlin for twenty-something years, he's an avowed and applauded plastic artist in Berlin, Germany, Europe, and Peru. With Edmundo I spoke, we had lovely conversations over coffee where he explained to me his philosophy and his art, and within those conversations, we watched as he worked and as he proceeded with his masterpieces which were to be presented at the cultural carnival of Berlin. He took us to the "Rauch-Haus", an extremely well known and famous site in Berlin where we praised creations marked with the essence of Alternative Culture which made me reflect and rethink the angles of the circle. (A little bit of history: The Bethanien Hospital in Berlin, after being used by an activist group against its demolition, it was changed to the "George-Von-Rauch-Haus" as a tribute to the young-man who died for a dream that many had dreamed in 1971, nowadays, it's a young cultural center). (www.edmundotorres. com)

Iglesia Memorial Kaiser Wilhelm

Thanks to Edmundo, we got to see "La Cueva", The Latin Center for Arts and Culture, we met the hosts and owners, the artists María Magdalena and Luis Meneses. We walked through the place, we saw their programs and posters, we conversed with them and hoped to keep doing so, and we hoped to be able to revisit "La Cueva", the center for 100% amazing artists. (

To close off with a finishing touch, our last visit was to the "Manege Jugendclub" locale where its founders and directors tended to us, Wolfgang Janzer and Martha Galvis of Janzer, with delicacy they explained their work to us, their goals and they even showed us the way to define our worries. (www.fusionstreet. com)

I say goodbye with a poem by Antonio Machado

"Traveller, the path is your tracks
And nothing more.
Traveller, there is no path
The path is made by walking.
By walking you make a path
And turning, you look back
At a way you will never tread again
Traveller, there is no road
Only wakes in the sea.” 

I send to you some pictures for the memories. Hugs and kisses, Nicky.

Nicolás Daniel León Cadenillas
Berlin, 2009
Allison Fabian

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