Today I visited his grave, an unadorned block of concrete, without inscription, in a graveyard full of the elaborate, flower-covered sand-mounds of local Tongans.
He had persuaded the loggers to give him the wood for free. Each of the chalets featured minutely worked wooden shutters, and hand-carved doors and lintels. Between 2009 and 2015 this stylish row of red cedar huts extended further along the escarpment overlooking the harbour. He also built a large dining room, and a vast shed to cover his sawmill. When he finished this project, he immediately began construction of a 21 foot catamaran in which he would 'sail into the sunset'.
He kept bees on the escarpment next to the huts, and presented comb honey to his guests. Almost as good was his papaya and passion-fruit jam; his oven-roasted arabica coffee; his cinnamon and chocolate pancakes, and the elaborate pizzas he made in his home-cast pizza oven. Friday night was pizza night, and locals, including a bevy of Mormon missionaries, would converge from around the island to feast on Wolfgang's fare.
Wolfgang had been a wealthy man in the former East Germany under Soviet rule, where he ran a commercial sawmill, and owned a multi-story house. Visiting an aunt in the West, he had been tempted to escape, but drank a litre of vodka and steeled himself to return to his wife and daughter.
When the Wall came down, Wolfgang fled Berlin for Honduras to run a dive centre, where his problems really begun. He ran out of money, his dive boat was damaged, and he began to have hallucinatory dreams. His wife and daughter, soured by this precarious life and his pungent, prophetic visions, abandoned him and returned to Germany. His place in Honduras was infected with demons he told me, who appeared in the guise of a wild red dog, and it was only through Jesus that he was able to keep them at bay.
Around a fireplace made out of rough blocks of coral, Wolfgang would open a bottle of whiskey, and in passionate tones, explain how the promise of eternal life brought him profound joy and exaltation. Thus was ordinary life made bearable. Often, in the midst of these speeches, his guests would get up and leave. It was when the monologues began over breakfast, that I realised things were moving to crisis point.
|Final opus - 'Kleines Boot' is complete|
The Tonga Times reported the Wolfgang had indeed sailed the 41 kilometre stretch of ocean to the main island of Tongatapu. He told reporters that the boat was too small for ocean transport, and he planned a monster craft for the hundreds of kilometres to the island group of Vava'u. Two months later, he was dead.
His employee at the Ovava Tree Lodge, Tani, told me that Wolfgang had disappeared at Xmas 2015, and three days later, fishing for a New Year banquet, he had found the German on the seabed, in flippers, snorkel and mask. He had tied his feet to a large rock.
It was a typically flamboyant gesture from a man who lived by extremes; a Berliner who rarely compromised in the execution of his plans ... and a man who brought to the tiny island of 'Eua, a memorable cargo of skill, passion and eccentricity.
How sad that he felt he needed to do that, but I rejoice that he was able to choose.ReplyDelete
Thanks John. Appreciate you sharing your thoughts and reflections of your friends life and death. Interesting for me to reflect on how creativity and personal crisis are usually connected, somehow, if only tremoring lightly beneath the surface of our lives. Yet sometimes hemorrhaging into the light, unexpectedly but perhaps not out of character.ReplyDelete