Three tracks from The Gypsy Mile Reading
Excerpts from: The Modern American Gypsy
The sky above the festival in Munich looked as if a young girl had applied make up to it. The zentrum was blocked off for us to perform on a massive stage. People filled the sunny street with children and beer. I stood on stage, looking about, recognizing the buildings from classroom text books and WWII footage, of roof tops that flew dominating swastika flags. The sides of these same buildings draped also with, the Nazi eagle and Iron Cross. Now, nothing red bunts these buildings and only a few small indistinctive flags flap.
The sun reflected on the crowd making their skin tight and their eyes slits. The joy of the people of Munich sailed atop this day on the rapids of the flowing foamy beer, poured to them from small stands by pleased plump men. Young kids wiggled around the base of the stage to get a peak at the American musicians and froze, casting their heads down and their eyes up if you felt and checked on their stare.
We took the stage with no applause. Got the young hippies dancing first, then the mothers jiggled with surprised faces at the babies they carried, holding one of their little hands and dipping them until they giggled. The old men liked the sound enough to slightly nod their heads; old men like when bands have horns, the sound gave them something to do as they drank their beer and talked man talk. The young girls sprang up together and danced in a circle by the third number and the boys smartened up and joined them by the fourth. The wise elders were overjoyed clapping slowly to their own beat, while children jumped up and down with their dogs running around them, barking from all the excitement. Teenagers found their own circle to dance, they knew the words and felt proud to be so smart. And the promoter of the show looked relieved and finally smiled accepting his first beer of the day.
I had learned some German, pantomimed it as I butchered the foreign words into the microphone. The crowd cheered, clapped and corrected me with spitting laughter. A few young girls had taken to the front and gawked at their favorite musicians. The promoter came on stage in mid song and handed everyone a beer, the crowd screamed “PROST-PROST-PROST” and I scream “DANKE-DANKE-PROST-PROST!” back.
As the mascara ran down over the sky, the cool air delicately introduced itself not to disturb the party and the shop lights switched off as the street lights came on. We began to play softer songs and the crowd tossed on sweaters and shawls and couples moved closer to one another. Now everyone watched with sleeves-over-hands and both hands on their drinks, that is, if you didn’t have a woman or girl to keep warm. Young men danced by holding their women from behind and swaying back and forth, while the older couples took their opportunity to show off the more elegant times, by embracing in the center, men holding their life loves assertively, spotlighted with love, executing light spins, dips with a kiss. One of the men and I enjoyed pointing out all those who kissed while we performed to one another and there were many for us to smile over. But it is not our job to leave people calm on a Friday night, so we brought the music up again and the celebration resumed.
The German Compliment
If you ask me,
Germans are alright people.
They drink to laugh,
are joyous and loud
and don’t try and talk politics
with me at 2:00AM
like those in other countries do.
However, they do one thing
that strikes me as odd.
If and when they compliment you,
they always add an insult after.
The insult is stronger
than the compliment
cancels it out.
I call it – The German Compliment.
In Munich, a blonde girl – quite pretty,
with a voice like a sexy double agent
in a James Bond film,
walks up to me confidently,
interrupting the conversation at hand, stating,
“You guys were very good,
not as good as some groups, but good.”
I said, “Thank you.”
She checked my eyes for sarcasm,
didn’t find any,
and went back to her friends.
In Goettingen, a wet drunk,
slapped my shoulder,
gave me a full body shake
and embraced me.
“Your new record is great,
track four is shit,
but it’s great.”
I said “Thank you.
Track four is my favorite,
give it another go.”
“No,” he said. It’s shit.”
the German Compliment.
It’s quite confusing when
you’re not ready for it,
but very fun,
when you are.
My favorite was from Erfurt though -
“I only liked it because I was drunk.”
said a slobbery young man.
It’s short and has a good punch.
I told him,
“Well, I’m glad you’re drunk.”
The first thing I noticed leaning against the Sprinter in the center of Copenhagen was all the beautiful woman. Just beautiful. Lovely. Hair flowing behind them as they road their Wicked Witch of the West bicycles, with perfect posture. I, the paralyzed American, hadn’t a clue what to do about them. How do you choice a woman to speak to, when each one of them would tragically twist your tongue? All us men stood and stared; smiled and exhaled.
“Oh right non of you lot have been to Copenhagen yah? The woman are fucking brilliant here. Top. Read that ah, Denmark is the happiest country of them all,” said Dale as he came around the Springer.
“I heard that too,” I said.
“Great beer, great beer. And smoke,” Dale continued.
“Heard that too,” I said again.
“Yah s’proper. Yah they do it right here. They know what it’s made of. Oh and they got this market right, that has just troughs and troughs of smoke. You’ve never seen anything like it. The squatters took a whole block, made this mental market mate. We’ll go for sure.”
And we did.
We sat with local bottled beer, on a stone wall, past the Green Goblin mural and soaked it all in. We watched the market play out, saw the troughs of smoke and continued to breathed in deep the woman that were too pretty for us to talk to.
That night we were put up in a small empty apartment, over looking downtown. It was a quite weeknight. The wet streets sizzled from beautiful black bicycles. We played cards, drank beer and coffee, ate cheese with meats and took turns toasting bread. Denmark eased us. I thought of Arend; he was right.
Germany through Belgium heading to France
“McWane, David! McWane, David!”, shouted the border patrol officer.
I was nudged awake by three sleeping men. We were at a border crossing, Germany to Belgium.
“Dave, mate wake up, this officer has a question about your passport,” Dale said.
I ain’t pretty in the morning, I ain’t nice neither, I ain’t nothing but annoyed, and mean, angry even. If you are on fire, I’ll help yah, but if you ain’t, help yourself.
“Yeah,” I said.
“Why is your passport like this?” The border patrol man began splitting the cover of my passport in two, ripping the cover off.
“God, c’mon, ‘s because your ripping it in half, Jesus Christ.” Then I went back to sleep and know nothing else.
except one pretty girl
“thank god we’ve made it,”
dale said, “I was losing my mind there,
us nine liminal men were
a ten hour drive
through east Germany
through the hopeless night
finally to end the drive
at the only open hotel in Belgium
our bodies were stiff
but our souls we’re hungry
joy from not being in the sprinter
made us parade about
we had a fresh air about us and
while unpacking the luggage
we caught word
that the Belgian hotel
had an open courtyard
and a full bar
and it was still open
we unpacked with urgency,
like that of a midnight swimmer,
submerged in a cold New England lake,
with a direct line of vision
getting the hell out
it smelled of mud and freshly lit cigarettes
it smelled of friends and the hope of laughter
the night’s lodging looked to be
an old elementary school,
now converted to a quirky hotel
all sporting big duffle bags slung around our shoulders
and healthy 22oz German beers in our hands
exhausted, yet exuberant
opened the front doors
and were finally home
somewhere we knew not
little ragamuffins and hooligans roamed
these school’s halls many years before
grown ones do
we tossed our bags in our bunkhouse
plopped on our choice mattresses
the six bunks were bunked three high,
right up to the ceiling
half of us headed to the shower room
while the rest of us unpacked,
drank and laughed together
and about women
once the washed men were sorted
they met the waiting men in the hallway
and together we headed to the courtyard
a gift for us all
we found a party that was already in full crescendo
everyone dressed to the nines
men in suits that actually fit
and women in dresses that made them feel ten years younger
if it wasn’t a wedding reception
it was some sort of family reunion
I could tell that, because the
grandmothers and grandfathers
twirling and kissing
everyone cheered our entrance
as we walked through the orange bowed doorway
as if we were the matadors of the night
one of us was led by an older man at the party
to dance with a smiling slender woman in her early forties
she looked like a snake
as much as
she looked like a cat
she was long and sexy
with eyebrows that lifted sharp in the back
with bang-snap hips
and pillow case lips
we were all alive here
the music that played kept the earth on fire
it was a cross between gypsy music and, well,
mixed with nothing
it was just gypsy music
eyes wide with honest drunk smiles
tongues licking canines
lips puckered to kiss anyone that’d accept
women who looked over shoulders,
with hands on hips
- their best angle for the men to see
for us men
it was this excursion’s
the party was in their thirties and up
except one pretty girl
who sat in a beautiful blue flowered dress
at a small table,
under a large yellow umbrella
beside an adolescent tree
looking bored, but not tired
she held a glass of ice
and twirled it around
a thin red straw
us men were old enough not to mind
the ages of the other party
but she was around eighteen years old
so she couldn’t yet relate
alone, she sat
across the courtyard
across the firecracker dance floor
looking at us
wanting an escape
wanting a conversation with the matadors
the young men
from around town
but she wasn’t allowed to leave her table
or by any chance walk to our side of the courtyard
you could tell that,
after her father walked over to her
pointed at us and brought her
a new soda
us slightly doolally men with
now dizzy dancing
with gypsy mothers and grandmothers cackling
danced as the music continued to burn the earth
and the earth burned our feet
and our souls cooled from the release
I noticed, as my drunk and me
twirled the women
and belly laughed with the men
that the young girl
would smile at times and laugh at times
changing her seated position
by crossing one leg over the other
and over again
she sat longingly
in a blue flowered dress,
under a yellow umbrella
at a small table
beside an adolescent tree
with a thin red straw
waiting for it to be all done
or just waiting
to grow up