Three tracks from ‘The Gypsy Mile Reading’ & an excerpt from ‘The Modern American Gypsy’

Three tracks from The Gypsy Mile Reading

Running With Your Arms Out
(click above)
Bazooka Day
 (click above)
The Last Walk
 (click above)

 *

Excerpts from: The Modern American Gypsy

*

Germany

*

              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

and completely

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,

turned

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.”

 

Yes,

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.”

*

Denmark

*

            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.

“McWane, David.”

“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,

going daff.”

us nine liminal men were

finished with

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

on simply

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

us men,

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

once again

somewhere we knew not

 

little ragamuffins and hooligans roamed

these school’s halls many years before

and now

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

about nonsense

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

were

   drinking

            dancing

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

dangerous,

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

dancing,

twirling,

laughing

drinking,

shouting

stumbling,

swearing

loving

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

first oasis

 

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

with

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 fun

wanting a conversation with the matadors

the foreigners

the Americans

the young men

that weren’t

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

large beers

loud laughter

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

and

lovely

in a blue flowered dress,

under a yellow umbrella

at a small table

beside an adolescent tree

twirling ice

with a thin red straw

waiting for it to be all done

or just waiting

to grow up

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