I wrote One Punk Summer in Berlin. I was spending a year there on an exchange program. I arrived just days before reunification. Pieces of the communist police state’s skeleton were still to be seen: A ransacked Checkpoint Charlie that had been taken over by the homeless; long sections of wall were intact, colorfully pained with grafitti on the west facing side, barren brown plaster on the other. Machine gun towers with spotlights stood tall. I climbed up in one of them and looked around. It smelled like piss. You could see for miles. It was a well-designed guard station, with a great view of no-man’s land, a wide swath cleared of all trees and brush several hundred yards wide stretching as far as you could see to the left and to the right.
In my prison-cell sized dorm room, painted with black and white pro-Stalinist art by whoever had it before me, I opened my Tandy 1100FD laptop and plugged it into my toaster-sized voltage converter. I started a cassette tape rolling of collected random punk songs. The music was fast, exciting, completely discordant — and I banged out the story to Ramones, Fear — Hüsker Dü.