MODERN AMERICAN GYPSY: BY DAVID MCWANE PAGES 11-20

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*

            Ben cuts down the windy London streets with ease, but for us left is right and right is left, the roads are the size of alleyways, we have no bearing to base any logic, all we can do with our heavy drunk is smile, hold our cans of beer tight, get tossed back and forth, joke, laugh and swear, and stare out on the endless chimney rooftops that glow yellow from the stained moon above.

“Who else?” I ask Ben.

“Well, drove Fugazi and the Green Day’ers would sleep on the floor at my flat at their start.  They were always alright; good blokes.  Never cunts.  Drummer’s a loon.”

Not only has Ben been immersed in the punk scene all his life, living in squats and drug dens, but he is now the back bone for American bands that tour England and Europe.  If you’re on your first tour you call Ben and after that you’ll never work with anyone else.  But he doesn’t just drive punk acts, he’ll toss Joanna Newsom’s harp in the back of Duff and sort her out for every tour she does overseas as well.  Joanna even flies Ben out to do her States tours.  He’s that good.  He’s that fun.

Ben’s an old school English gypsy, talks his own talk that’ll make you jot down quotes to remember; Ben’s original, tough, classy, smooth and smart.  He’s the main hero in a spy novel, yet he ain’t a made up character or an actor acting; Ben’s the real slice.

Pulling into a small parking lot where there is a city warning sign that states that someone had been shot there the night before, Ben tosses Duff into park, turns and looks to us all.

“Alright yah cunts, whatever you do don’t wake up my roommate Shawn, he’s gotta work in the morning yeah and I don’t wanna hear him moaning to me about how you lot kept him up all night.  Right?”

“All right,” I say.

We walk down orange slanted, creaking steps into Ben’s flat.  Inside it looks like the bowels of an old sailing ship.  Vinyl records line the wall seven feet tall.  Ben gives us  a tour of the living room and kitchen that adjoin and points to the bathroom.

“There that.  Right, I’ll see you in the morning Boston boys.  9:30AM; set yah clocks.  There’s some wine there and there.  Don’t wake up Shawn.  I repeat, don’t wake up Shawn.  Cheers.”

Ben locks the door and heads to his lady’s flat down the road.

*

I was standing in the kitchen when I heard one of our men fall to the floor.  We were all well tossed, still striking canned Carlings open with drunken authority, so our reaction skills were a blunder.  The man started to convulse and make weird moaning sounds.  One of the men stood above him shaking him and repeating his name in a whisper scream, “Wake up, wake up, wake up man.”  When that didn’t work he began to slap him in the face.  Hard, with the heel of his hand.

The man came to and launched back on the couch.  He was shocked.  Disoriented.  His color began to come back.  He breathed fast and deep, scanned the room with bewildered eyes and reached for his Carling can.  Men’s muscles eased.  We all wondered if the incident had woken the mysterious ‘Shawn’.  After the fallen man cleaned up in the bathroom, he grabbed another Carling can from the crate, sat down and struck it open.  The incident was forgotten; no one spoke of it.  “Sorry about that,” was as far as it went.  All was sound again.  We faced one another, scratching our hair, new beards and chests, talking about shows to come and about English women.

Back in the kitchen, I got the second warning.  The fallen man was sitting forward, moaning again and about to throw up.  I was told to fire line the trash barrel to him.  However, when I went to grab the barrel I noticed there was no trash bag in it.  Being new to the house I was afraid that if we used Ben’s barrel without a bag, then the puke scent would never leave it.  So one of the men and I looked about for something else.  I found a bag and fire lined it down.  The man at the end of the line grabbed it and looked up at me with a smile.

“This is a bread bag.  It’s got holes,” he said.

My partner and I laughed as we looked for something else.  In the bowels of Ben’s ship we all swaggered back and forth, caught in a rough sea of drunkenness.   We found a bowl and sent it down.  The same man looked up with the same smile and said,

“This is a strainer you guys.”  Everyone laughed.  The fallen man moaned.

We looked on and found a pint glass and sent it down.  One of the men held it under the fallen man as he filled it up and over with vomit.  The fingers of the man holding the pint glass now had the vomit cascading down them.

“Quickly, give me something before it…”

I slid him the trash barrel.  And we all smiled a wise ass smile.  We then cleaned the fallen man up a bit.

“Sorry about that,” was stated again.

We all stood in the back of the kitchen, looking out the windows and screen door, on to the back yard and unfamiliar looking roof tops and continued striking cans of Carling.  We looked up higher to the moving clouds, until a fox dashed out from behind a propped up police barrier in the street that stated that someone was stabbed there the night before. The small fox ran to the middle of the back yard.  Stopped.  Froze.  Stared at us.  One of the men stated, “Never seen a  fox.”  Then it dashed off, jumping over the hedges.

We never woke Shawn.

                                                                       *

Chase The Farmer

There are more baby lambs

than there are sheep,

driving past a roadside farmlet in

Manchester, England.

I look out the window

far off and back, at

the adult sheep lying,

sleepy, they watch

their fuzzy little lambs,

chase a farmer,

who laughs out loud

while he drives his tractor,

it all

     makes

            me

                laugh

                       too.

*

The morning we headed out of Brighton, we stopped briefly at a red light by the shore.  Still tired, I watched a massive hooligan dressed in a blue and white football jersey rip at a young pup’s collar about seven times, making the little thing scream out.  It looked like the bloke was about to rip her little head right off.  I finally screamed out of Duff’s passenger side window, “Hey man, leave the poor pup alone.”

The hooligan looked up sharply and then approached with a direct line of hateful vision.  To describe anger in his eyes would be an understatement; he was rabid.  A cherry red face with a gorilla’s cranium.  He was a tank of a man.  Like most hooligans he looked as if he had just taken some dirty speed which had now cranked him so tight that he wanted to let himself loose on anyone who would start up a match.  He growled and showed his teeth, got his hands up, and fingers bent to rip me apart.  Freed, his pup eased and took a few steps back.

Duff’s windows had cranks and I knew I wouldn’t get the window up in time.  And I was certain this bloke would just fist throw the window in anyway, so I didn’t even try.  I only gulped.  And murmured.

“Whoa-oh.”

However, I had forgotten one fact – there were eight of us.  When the Brighton fan made it a half foot from me, he could now see eight men ready to go, ready to get into it.    So he stopped, scanned the van, exhaled like a steaming pan under the faucet, turned around, walked back, petted his pup, picked her up and walked off.

“Whoa nice work mate,” Ben said.  And a couple of walker byes gave me a nod.   “Wouldn’t repeat it though.”

I gulped and made a mental note never to underestimate a football fan again.

                                                                        *

“You gotta play Reading and Leads mate.  They’re the biggest festivals in England.  ‘S massive mate, massive,” we endlessly heard.  And on this excursion, we were finally booked to play both festivals.

Once we pulled up to our stage at the Reading location, we got sight of the proper mud fest.  Because of England’s rainy weather, the festival grounds were an ocean of puddles and mud.  Thousands of Carling toting, spliff rolling, make-out questing Lovers of the Sound entered this brown, wet circus.

A polite, 6’2”, 240lbs skinhead, dressed in full rude boy fashion, with his: Doc Martens, cuffed jeans, Ben Sherman short sleeve and britches to keep it all in order, showed us our trailer, where catering was, where the immaculately posh bathroom trailers were and where the socializing musicians tent was.  “Is everything alright gents?” our skinhead tour guide asked.

“Definitely” we rang; it was one of the nicest festival staffs we’d encountered.

“Well, do let me know if I can sort you out with anything, names Break’em.”

“Break’em?” I questioned if I heard him right.

“Yah mate, just think, if anyone gets leery with yah, I’ll break ‘em for yah.”

We were impressed.

The family of the Reading and Leads festivals are pros.  They have an attitude of …’maybe you’re not Oasis now, but you could be next year’.  It was hard for us Bostonians to get used to.  They would also herd all the bands to one social tent and take photos of everyone chit-chatting, drinking and laughing, so that potentially they can be the one who snaps the photo similar to New York 1983 – of Madonna talking to Basquiat.

In  truth, it all made us a bit nervous for the shows.  To us, this was the big time.  And England takes their music seriously – you’re good or you’re shite.  But after five canned Carlings, the nerves were sorted, ‘Bring it on, bring them on’, was my air.  And when we hit the stage in front of a sea of souped up drunks, we brought it with the energy of a cornered dog barking at a bear.  Win or die, win or die.

We walked out onto the stage, I snatched the mic, the crowd lifted their chins and squinted.  We got their ears and their hearts.  It was a strong day.   

                                                                        *

It was the sixth night in a row that a girl in the front row reached up and grabbed my unmentionables.  You can’t hit a girl, but you can spit on them, that is, if you’re in the right and they don’t have a boyfriend you can’t handle.

I tossed those shorts out.  Maybe they’re the problem.

   *

plump with a pint
 

Americans aren’t the fattest,

         the English are.

  Go ahead and check.

You Americans
 

You may use the term

- “You Americans”

if you like

 

But I must tell you

the credibility of your logic

decreases by half

 

Like when I hear the unevolved say

-       “You people”

 

Substitute

your country’s name

your heritage name

or

your sex

in the sentence

 

“You Africans always…”

“You Chinese just think you’re…”

“You women can’t stop…”

 

However if it rings

 

“You Americans always…are so hospitable.”

“You Americans are just…hilarious.”

“You Americans can’t…keep making me laugh like this.”

 

Then continue starting sentences with

- “You Americans”

 

But if you are sour inside

And want to make a global point

Run the sentence in your head first

Think and be patient with what you want to express

 

Then maybe your logic will be heard

And not dismissed

by the ancient art of profiling

Making your credibility increase by half

 

Or

maybe you just shouldn’t drink so much in public

                                                                        *

            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.”

“You’re Americans.”

“Boston.”

“Whu?”

“We’re from Boston.”

“You’re Americans.”

“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.”

“Your turn.”

“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.”

                                                                        *
Fin

Thanks for reading! I will post 10 more pages tomorrow. You can find Modern American Gypsy here: http://www.davidmcwane.com/store/

And check out the bonus Poems & Audio Poem below.

Take care,

David McWane

Bonus Poem 1 of 2:

 If I Went To War
(click above for audio poem) 

*

If I Went To War

If I went to war I would definitely die

But in no means would I do a hack job

I think I would help greatly

But I would definitely die

 

If there was a stand off

I would get anxious—

Bored—

Annoyed

And try and do something foolish to move things along

Maybe I would save the day in that way

Or maybe I would just die

 

If we got pinned down in a fire fight

And Roscoe, my new friend from Brooklyn, got his face Blown off right in front of me

I wouldn’t be okay with it

I would stare at him, dazed and surely die from that Brief moment of mourning

Or maybe I would become so enraged with the far off Speck that had done it

That I would be completely focused on killing – just that one man  

To avenge Roscoe

And by that young anger, I would surely die

 

Or if Sarge got hit

I could think of nothing else, but to get him to medic

Or carry him to safely

Even if he told me to “stick with the mission”

 

If I went to war I would definitely die

That whole thing about soldiers diving on a grenade to Save the platoon

That would be me

Morals my mother taught me

 

If there was a stationed gun

Blasting my friends apart

I would charge it

Even if there was a better plan

 

If I went to war I would definitely die

But by in no means would I do a hack job

I think I would have helped greatly

But I would definitely die

*


If I Went To War is from the book The Gypsy Mile and can be found here: http://www.davidmcwane.com/store/

The Gypsy Mile audio book can be found at CDBaby.com. See above:

Bonus Poem 2 of 2:

*

First Weekend In Heaven

If Picasso and Dali

Sat together in chairs

Would they talk about art

Would they both want to share

 

“I like the flow of The Seated Woman

Dali might start

“Well, I loved your Still Life – Fast Moving

True innovative art”

 

Would they have a cup of coffee

Or a bottle of wine

Would either suggest collaborating

After they’ve loosened with time

 

There is one thing

I’d sure like to know

Would Picasso paint Dali

And Dali, Picasso

 

“I find art is lovely torture”

Dali would confess

Agreeing Picasso would whisper,

“Dear Dali you sing it best”

 

First weekend in Heaven

I’d send out invites

Including Dali’s mistress

And, of course Picasso’s wife

 

Because I’d love to listen

And watch the affairs

Of Picasso and Dali

Sitting together in chairs

*

My First Weekend In Heaven is from the book Let The Poets Come & Stop Me available here:

http://www.davidmcwane.com/store/

 

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