Think of Carey James as a modern male Dorothy Gale.
Like the Wizard of Oz heroine, Carey started life in Parsons, Kansas, before traveling to fantastical lands populated by colorful characters. His journey began in Los Angeles where he pursued a modeling career while earning his psychology degree. From there he Yellow Brick Road-ed across the globe, adventuring in the major metropolises of Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hamburg before settling in Berlin.
Now he’s applying his psychological savviness into his podcast Failfighters while navigating Germany’s strict quarantine.
In order to glean a global perspective of queer culture outside of the US, we kiki’ed with Carey about Berlin, surviving during the pandemic, and the benefits of failing.
How is Berlin dealing with the quarantine? What is open?
Germany is pretty hardcore on restrictions and lockdown. Angela Merkel is pretty tough about this stuff. We’re in full lockdown, meaning nothing is open. They closed down all the stores, all the restaurants. The only things open are the grocery stores or necessary places like the post office. That’s it.
If you know anything about Berlin, it’s an old decaying former half communist/half western mash-up. It’s an old, piece of shit city. But the beauty of this city is its people, and nightlife, and art scene, and start-up scene. That’s all completely dead now. It’s a shell of what it once was. There’s no crazy sex clubs going on, no wild raves in the parks, no start-up competition.
When the city reopens again, where do you suggest gay tourists hit up?
Tempelhofer Feld is this old abandoned airport in the center of the city. It’s now this huge green space. People go there and have parties, and sports, and markets. It’s really interesting.
The rest is all nightlife.
Kit Kat is the craziest public sex club in the world. There are plenty of private ones I’m sure are better than it, but it’s the one that if you had a friend in town, you would bring them to see someone get $%^d in public. It’s full of all kinds of crazy people.
And then there’s Berghain, which is like the most popular club in the world.
Yeah, I hear Berghain is hard to get into.
When I first visited Berlin in 2017, a girl I was hanging out with at the time said, “Let’s go to Berghain and see what happens.” On the website, they say don’t dress too crazy. You gotta be all goth-ed out. So we did, and when we got to the bouncer she said something to him in German. He looked at me and let us in. It was no big deal. I’d say, it helps to go in small numbers of cool people that speak German. And it doesn’t hurt to have a dominatrix-looking chick with you, too.
Well played. Now let’s talk about your podcast Fail Fighters. What motivated you to start that podcast?
I was working with a friend that started an event series that celebrated the art of failure. He invited successful people to come talk about the times they screwed up. It went well, and I’ve been doing voice-over for the past 6 years, so it made sense to put the two together and interview some cool people.
Why do you think it’s important to fail?
There is no true winning without failing first. You have to learn the lessons to get to the point of seeing real success. The only thing permeant in life is change. If you can figure out how to change and always come out on top, that’s real success. The only way to get there is to get your ass kicked a few times.
I feel that. Covid has been kicking our asses for about a year now. In your professional opinion, what would you advise to stay sane during quarantine?
The pandemic is a mental health crisis. I know a lot of coaches and people in the personal development industry. I was talking to one of them and his client went crazy. Not drugs or anything, she just went crazy. Like talking to trees and stuff. She was totally normal outside of the pandemic. But if you put someone in solitary, it’s the cruelest punishment you can give someone. It’s what they do to guys in prison for fucking up. They put them in a little box by themselves. And that’s how millions of people are right now. It’s fair enough that they are going insane.
The online space is different, the means of connection is different, but if you make the most out of it and are proactive you can do a lot of cool things. Last week, I was supposed to visit my friend in Holland. But, it got fucked up. We had to get Covid tests, and there were border problems, and it just fell apart. So we were like, fuck it we’ll do dinner together over Zoom. It was the best 2-hour dinner we could possibly do. You have to make an effort. It’s not like you are going to run into your friends and things will be planned. The best way to get through this is to fill your schedule with activities. Always have something to look forward to, especially things that involve other people.
It’ll be a lot easier once everyone is vaccinated. I don’t know if you’ve been following, but in the US it’s become incredibly politicized. How is that in Germany?
In Berlin, there are fucking Neo-nazi groups protesting in the streets. There is hardcore shit going on here. Right-wing conservative nazi groups are getting more attention than they used to get. I’m not really paying attention to that, being locked away all the time, but I know there are arguments over who should be vaccinated first. The government needs to get their shit together and get more doses. They’re actually talking with Russia about their Sputnik vaccine. It’s usually America that’s the leader in the world, but they’re fucking everything up. They’re not doing so well. Usually Germany would buy everything from America, but here they are cutting deals with Russia.
Well, I hope Germany pulls it together so your city can reopen. What will be the first thing you want to do in Berlin once quarantine is lifted?
Party like a fucking animal for two or three days straight. There is no better place in the world to do that than in this city.