The drunk Englishmen at the pub liked us Americans less and less as each of their pints went down. Their doping faces could tell that tale. They drank sitting horseshoed around a table full of empty pint glasses facing us. We sat at the bar. I stood up to go to the loo and said to my men,
“Watch this.” I knew the wet Englishmen would follow. They would only make their move if one of us separated from the group.
‘Don’t use the stall, that’s suicide, use the first urinal, that way they have to enter the room and you’re closer to the exit,’ I thought. Five of them entered, but didn’t know how to kick up the dirt; it wasn’t the positioning they had imagined. I finished, washed my hands, but skipped drying them. I did take the time to sort my hair with my wet hands and headed out. They stared, standing awkwardly too close to one another. Their stall lost the hyena’s dinner.
I smiled at my men at the bar knowing that I approached them with a line of surly pups following me from behind. The drunkest one of the group made his move, he quickly double stepped ahead of me to sit on my stool. I had draped my jacket on the stool, which was now underneath him. It was a good move. Blatant, but good. A classic way for a true tight wanker to start a fight.
“That’s my jacket, that’s my seat.”
“You all Americans? S’right, yah?”
“That’s my jacket, that’s my seat.”
“We’re from Boston.”
“We’re from Boston, Massachusetts, yes, that’s in North America.”
“What’d you lot think of New York getting well sorted? It was legend. Plow!” He made a gesture with his hand to pantomime decimation. It was about a month after September eleventh and these boys probably didn’t have many chances to let Americans know what they believe us to be. They were red faced drunk, wet around the lips and smelled of body odor, kabobs and chili sauce. Wankers.
The rest of his mates, about eight, circled around us. Six of my men sat at the bar, slightly turned, drinking. I stood in the middle. I reached for my beer over the drunkard sitting in my seat, brushing his shoulder and arm for some fun and for him to know I didn’t mind touching him.
Surprising after New York City and Washington D.C. was attacked by hijacked planes, certain young men and women at the pubs, concerts or parties had enough liquid courage to approach us Americans and let us hear about their politics. Lucky weren’t we? We called this time of the night – ‘fight o‘clock’. And they often started the conversation with – “You Americans”, which I often found interesting, because America is about the size of Europe and you’d have to be one well uneducated lout to say “You Europeans” when generalizing. My point? There is just no way a group of people on either continent can be thought to all think and behave the same. A German does not think as a Frenchmen, nor does someone from Texas think the same as someone from Vermont. Pure modern day prejudice. Juicy and fresh. New and un-caged. A slander used by those unknowing of a prejudice in them they incubate in their thoughts and serve in their words, as we imagine less evolved humans were feeling when dealing with our society’s outdated prejudices. The tallest of these Englishmen decided to let himself be known by saying the most popular quote…
…”You Americans, don’t you think, you deserved it?”
“Yeah, now you lot, know what s’like.”
“Yah cunts get a taste.”
“You Americas must have known it would eventually happen.”
“Don’t you think you deserved it?”
We made a pact to keep quiet at fight o‘clock as best we could. And these days that was tested at the end of every night. The unwise have always been fire starters, always wanting to spark hate, yet fire starters aren’t worth peaceful people’s spit. For now – we stayed cool. It was truly a new time to be an American abroad. Most drunkards wanted a go at us American’s with fists or words. Occasional new friends, women with class and the seldom who practiced practical wisdom would see our silence, understand the night is about to get ruined and would tell whoever was brave at the time to ground his soap box beliefs, to simmer down, take a breath and leave it be.
But, none of those people were here tonight, so our pact was loosely being honored. I decided to give them one chance to settle down.
“They were all innocent people. Family people. Women and children were in there. And the men had families,” I said.
“They deserved it! Americans deserve it!” one of them spouted from wet lips.
“No they didn’t ‘deserve it’ , no innocent women or children deserve to be murdered.”
“BLOODY HELL THEY DIDN’T, HOW CAN YOU EVEN FUCKIN’ SAY THAT, YOU FUCKIN’ CUNTS HAVE BEEN…”
I had enough. I was tired. I wanted to have a nice night and I decided to move things a long.
“GUYS, GUYS, OKAY, OKAY, LISTEN! We’ve only been here for a couple days and we want to have a nice last night here in England. You see? If you guys wanna fight, that’s fine, absolutely, let’s do it, but can we just get to it? Ugh. I hate waiting. Makes me jumpy.”
About this time all the Englishmen start screaming and yelling at us even loader. They didn’t move in for a fight, but they did move around from side to side a bit more. That signaled the bouncers and they moved in, grabbing all the Englishmen, having a bit of a tussle and tossing them out of the pub. The bouncers apologized, were kind, chatted us up a bit and we turned to finish our beer, order a quick last round and pay the tab. As we put on our jackets, the bartender lined us up a free round of well whisky shots. We thanked him and decided to find a new pub where it didn’t smell like confrontation.
Any proper kid from Boston, Detroit, Philly and such know that chances are your trouble still lingers outside. And it did. We walked out, and the Englishmen stepped up. It was the same conversation and too much déjà vu gets under my skin, so I shouted at them to get their attention and move things along.
“GUYS, GUYS, HEY-HEY, LISTEN, listen guys, if you want to fight it’s fine let’s go, let’s just not keep chit chatting around it.” Then our men moved a bit forward and into proper brawl positioning. Oddly, the Englishmen turned around and ran off. A bit drunk and a bit angered to have our last night wasted, I took off after them followed by two of our men. We ran about three and a half blocks, but realized we could easily find ourselves in a position where we could not find our way back if we continued further and now the odds we’re even worse for us. We slowed down into panting coughs and spits.
When we walked back, we found the men outside a chip shop, under a dull yellow light. One of the men, with a nicely cut new lady friend was having a balancing completion of empty Carling cans on their heads. The rest of the men were chatting up a couple of girls and guys asking them where another pub could be found.
The new friends decided to come along with us and as we walked down the quiet, wet brick roads, chomping on steaming chips with vinegar, we chatted them up about tonight’s fight o‘clock. With an agreeing head nod, while nursing a Carling can, one of the English girls looked over and up at me and said, “Yah mate, bloody hooligans. ‘S fuckin’ shite.”
A ‘Rider’ is what a band sends ahead to the clubs to have ready for when they arrive. Usually that starts and ends with a case of beer. However, chips and salsa have also become a nice treat to find after a twelve hour drive, when you’re broke, un-showered and starving. Some of the more famous riders would be Van Halen’s only green M&Ms, or Maria Carey’s, ‘must have a bed covered in small stuffed animal bunnies’.
One of our men got excited when we realized that if you are booked to play a college show, you can have a big rider and they will actually get you everything on it, because their budget is so large. We started adding things like socks and underwear, batteries for guitar pedals, fruit, cold cuts and two cases of beer. For this tour we added for a laugh, an elephant and a midget in a bikini. Leave it to my homeland to come through.
After loading into the venue in Glasgow, meeting the crew, setting up, sound checking and having a quick rest, the show started. The promoter of the show, a big Scot, with curly red locks and a booming voice burst into the basement green room.
“G-t evr-ding den, ya?”
“Yeah, thanks man, everythings great.”
“No, n-t evr-ding, na. Som dings mis’n. Fillow ma.”
We followed the booming promoter up four flights of stairs to his office / personal bar room.
“Epen dat, der.” He handed our biggest man a wrapped present. Inside we found male underwear. The front of it was a face of a blue elephant. And I don’t need to explain what fills out it’s trunk.
We all boomed out in laughter. The promoter headed behind the bar and started slapping glasses down and filling them up with a scotch he was very proud to offer us.
“Dlrrank, dlrrank, s’propa loc-kill sc-tch.” It was smooth, smoky and tasty. My heart warmed. Each time one of our glasses hit the bar it was refilled with a roaring laugh and, “Gon, gon, dlrrank. Ye g-t ta be gud an’ dlrrank fer ye neex geeft.”
Just then a little person in a bikini came out, laughing and twirling. She went over to our 6’2” man with the elephant underwear and said, “Ye gat tu p-t dat un. Goo-on den. Dant bee shie.” And he did.
I stood there thirty minutes until show time, whirling and spinning, laughing and coughing, staring at one of our men in elephant underwear dancing with a little person in a bikini and the promoter smashing glasses down and roaring with laughter, screaming, “Dlrrank, dlrrank.”
Three Poetry Readings From: The Gypsy Mile Reading available here & at CDBaby.com.