Each day a new section of David McWane’s Modern American Gypsy will be posted
Our hangovers were sin given. Heading to Scotland, the seven of us men tried desperately to sleep pain away. Some of our splitting heads banged against the windows while the others retracted their heads fully back leaving open mouths and protruding Adam’s apples. Ben blasted loud punk, oui, ska and mod rock music. His favorite styles.
“Right, wake up, wake up, wake up everyone”, said Ben as he drove. “There is something of interest you lot have to see.” We all stretched and rubbed our faces loose. I wiped the moisture off the window and onto my face, arms, stomach and chest for a bath. “Right, you all sorted? Right, okay. So this bloke, yah, he owns all this land coming up, just up here, and all that there, fucking all that shite, loads of it, long time ago, long-long time ago, like dukes and kings long time ago. And some Lord cunt or whatever, takes his land. Just takes it over. The guy’s pissed, rightfully so, so history has it, yah, that he planted all these trees on this coming hill over, um, up there-ish.”
Ben takes a hard turn and without power steering he must really lean into Duff for her to make the turn. We all shift into each other and put our hands out for support.
“Just about a couple more kilometers. It’ll be over there; up there. So yah, he plants all these trees in the shape of a massive cock and balls, to piss off the Lord cunt. Massive, fucking massive, it’s just a massive cock and balls.”
Ben puts his elbow on the wheel and with his hand shows the size against the distant hill.
“It’s a laugh, get your cameras out gents. Right, here we go. Yah-yah, right up there do you see it? Yah, there it is! Yah! Cock and balls! Just there!”
We all sat at attention, wiped the rest of the moisture away from the windows, squinted, raised our cameras and there it was, atop the side of a steep hill, pointing downward, impressively pruned, the largest and most organic art installation of a perfectly shaped “cock and balls”. We drove on laughing; it helped calm the hangovers.
Once in Edinburgh, we pulled into one of Ben’s favorite pubs. It’s a vegan record shop that sells beer and has small concerts. Ben goes there for the vegan cheese cake and eats it like it’s a cure. The waitress was of marginal beauty, but her accent made us all fall in love. And she could tell. Long brown hair that reached her thighs, big eyes, big lips that smirked and she worked as though she could tend the shop blindfolded.
We drank and swore and laughed and moaned. I decided to head out on a solo mission to find the spot my grandparents met and find the bench my parents had engraved to forever note their love. I also had to get out, because my headache was so splitting that I didn’t want to be a dud around the men.
My father had made me promise to snap a photo of the bench and I was determined to oblige. As I approached the center of the city where the bench was supposed to be I was shocked to see that all the sidewalks were lined with benches. My headache squeezed my brain tighter. There must have been hundreds of benches.
I searched for over an hour and never found it. One bench after another, there was no plaque to be discovered. I took a tired right on to Princess street. It started to rain. I sat down outside the New Caledonia Hotel, rubbed my head and waited for the men to pick me up. When they arrived, Ben snapped a photo of me from the driver’s seat because he said I looked defeated.
Later on, after this excursion, when I was back in Hamilton, Massachusetts sitting with my parents, I told my mother and father that I never found the bench. However while my Dad flipped though my photos, he came across the one Ben snapped and said,
“This is it boy, you’re sitting on it, that’s the bench there. Wonderful. Look honey, it’s their bench.” Then he looked back at me, “This is where my father met my mother.”
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.”
her choice night
it was the kind of night
that no one cared about a thing
all of us louts
dancing in a carefree disco-tech
still sweaty from our own show
this would be our only night in Scotland
and we were gonna milk every hour out of it
it’d be a simple trade for hours of pain
the next morning
when we were back in England
she had platinum blonde hair
the porn star kind
wearing a white furry jacket
and kept a seductive eye locked on me across the crowded dance floor
one that made it hard for me to continue acting the fool with my friends
before I knew it she was dancing with me
my friends laughed and leered
they knew I knew not
what to do
such a loose woman
as was she
she moved fast
the things she said in my ear
she moved real fast
she explained to me
that we were going back to where I was staying
and we were to leave now!
I was like a 5th grade student being seduced by his sexy chalk smoking teacher
we crashed into an old fashion black taxi of Edinburgh
the cab driver’s eyes looking weary in the rear view mirror
the girl knew the way
and told the cab driver in Scottish
her voice ‘clacked’ harsh in the dialect
I stared out onto the old cobblestone road
clay shingled roofs
and park benches where I was told
my Grandparents met
feeling my drunk
through my shoulders
we burst into the youth hostel
the old man at the desk’s
eyes looked weary
we crashed into the room that I had a key for
she scanned its layout
the beds were bunked
so I tore the top mattress off the top bed
and tossed it to the floor
oo la la
she was skilled
had a pace
moved in a rhythm
that only dance instructors have mastered
she liked me
she liked me lots
and would smile during times
when one usually doesn’t smile
later we heard a scream from outside
it was her pissed friend from the disco-tech
smacking into walls
as she tramped down the hallway
looking for her platinum blond friend
hollering like a drunk witch
I put the pieces together
this witch had come with my friends
they had no choice in the matter
Ms. Platinum blonde and I said our goodbyes
but not before
smiling a bit sadly
putting the room back together
I found a business card under the desk
it was hers
I read it
she was an
a call girl
and I was her
Good Old American Saturday Night
or should I say
Good Old Scottish Thursday Night
the cabbie and
the old man behind the desk’s
made sense now
they only saw a hooker with a client
they couldn’t tell
off the clock
out with a friend
I continued putting the room back together
and then went to my friend’s room next door
where they had some beer
I asked them about their night
while they answered
I never knew that
the working girls
are off the clock
It was the night Ben was to leave us and Dale our new driver / tour manager was to take over. We crossed the Scot border, back in England two minutes to midnight, driving deep into the night, finally getting to the small muddy road we were destined for, just a few miles from the Dover Peaks, where a good friend of Ben, Buzz, an older tough geezer with a throat full of jacks, was kind enough to open his home up to us for the night. Buzz waved us into his driveway, back lit under his porch light, with his glasses reflecting white from our headlights; rain poured on us all as we shook hands and pulled our bags and all our equipment and merchandise boxes out of Duff and into the small flat – the rain soaking us and what we carried, as we trudged back and forth, from the Sprinter to the flat, coughing and spitting up unmentionables. None of us felt well.
Wet, we sat around the kitchen table with bottled beer.
“How long you lot been with this dozy cunt?” Buzz laughed. We told stories, stories that keep the traveling man strong. We told the stories that make strangers friends and kept bottled beer popping late into the night. Stories of blood, women and beer, stories of fights, near death experiences and who has had it rougher. But Ben had to move on, had to be in London before sun up, had to be beside his warm girl, crawl into her bed before her alarm sounded.
We said our goodbyes, one at a time, hands on shoulders, smiles with kind eyes.
Then the men went to bed, laying on blankets that sat as close as the finger in a hand ready to slap. I stayed up with Buzz for one more hour, but even Buzz retired; it was late and our clothes were still wet. We were quietly miserable. But happy to be out of the rain. The house was now silent; everyone was asleep. Not me, I had a job, I had to stay up for one more hour. Our new driver was someone called Dale from Leeds, England, with one working eye and was said to have the demeanor of James Bond. He was to knock on the front door at 5:00AM.
I sat in the dimly lit kitchen, with my legs up on an empty crate, spinning a flaking onion with one hand and combing my hair with my fingers with the other, while I continued to attack the crate of bottled beer by my side. I inspected new cuts and bruises as I glanced at Buzz’s family photographs on the walls; he seemed to be close to a younger curly haired sister. Then turned my attention out the window. My eyes passed the first laundry line to the second, watching a thin white blanket, left out to dance and ripple in the spirited wet wind. Finally a distant light, behind the neighbors’ barn, illuminated through its loose boards, a cautious light that moved tentatively toward me. I stood, pulled a new beer from the crate and walked quietly on creaking boards down the hall to the front door.
And at 5:00AM Dale knocked on the door.
Drenched in a black leather jacket and wet slicked back black hair Dale shook my hand.
“Right, hello there, I’m Dale.”
“David, nice to meet you,” I handed Dale a bottled beer.
“Awe. Brilliant,” he said.
Dale has the luck of the Irish, but he’s a Brit. His motto is, “Hey man, relax, it’ll sort itself, I mean c’mon…I’m Dale.” And it always was alright and you began to think it was because you were with Dale.
Heading to Den Helder to perform at a heavy metal motorcycle bar, we stopped at a petrol station for a stretch, a scratch and a smoke. Some men went inside, some smoked by the door even though you could inside, and I stuck by Dale by the pump to get to know him better. I liked chatting up Dale. His simple philosophy was endearing and something for me to live by.
“Can yah blame the cows for mooing, the birds for flying, the politicians for lying? Just let the smokers smoke,” Dale would say when a person would glare at him for lighting a fag.
A calm man, who exudes a calm scene – wise, smooth, an in the trench philosopher who could walk through a war sipping an over filled scalding cup of coffee and not spill a drop.
Dale — a King without a Kingdom.
“Any rules Dale?” one of the men asked as we drove through the Netherlands.
“No mate, actually yes, one, it’s that there is to be no rules.”
Then Dale looked into the rear view mirror and changed lanes with a smile.
After the show at Mike’s Bar we sat with Mike – at his bar. He loved having eight Americans and a Brit there to get lousy with. He poured us massive goblets of beer, that would over flow frothy from the tap, and he would scrape the head clean with a knife splashing suds behind him. Drunk hags, with knotted grey hair and blue cheese breath, barked at us mocking, teasing our accents. They’d repeat our words and barrel over with laughter when we spoke. Our idea was to drink as much as Mike would pour, since our sleeping accommodations were the cigarette graveyard floor of Mike’s bar.
Upon locking up, or I should say, locking us in, Mike gave us a bottle of whisky, in exchange for a promise not to drink anything expensive behind the bar. He hugged us all like a hairy bear, with wet whispers in our ear and sealed us in.
We played cards at a table; Piedro is our game, it’s half poker, half hearts. Some of us men did laundry in the bathroom and bar sink. We would hand the gift bottle from Mike around rather then separate it into glasses. One of the men got the jukebox playing – Roy Orbison took to the room. I scrubbed my clothes with a bar of soap I found under the bar’s main sink and proudly rinsed and rung them clean again. Us men working on our laundry, quickly nicknamed that night for a razz – the Laundry Men, set up chairs beside the front windows to lay the wet clothes out for the morning sun to hit. We knew there would be no morning sun in The Netherlands, but we did it anyway, while the other men quickly nicknamed to retort the razz, the Waitresses, sorted out turning the beer tap back on.
The Waitresses did well and we all sat around with new frothy beers talking about anything anyone wanted to bring up – what makes a good dog, favorite old motorcycle, favorite old car, skydiving, scuba diving, Elvis, music and the good women we messed up with. The last topic being the only conversation that men talk about, where the other men just listen and nod and no one gives advice and the conversation is over once the last man speaks.
Eventually we decided to talk of the future and what it held for us. Tired now and spinning, we laid our blankets down on the beer soaked, cigarette discarded, vomit smelling floor and closed our eyes. But not before talking about warm food, money and Ben while passing and finishing the bottle from Mike.
In the morning the Sprinter was gone. We searched and searched Den Helder looking for it. We found a policeman and asked him for advice. He told us that he and his men found it parked in a spot where they needed to clean the street that morning, so they picked it up and moved it. He brought us to the van. It sat in a small patch of grass, with yellow flowers, beside a canal.
After the show in Alkmaar, just south of Den Helder and north of Amsterdam, the spindly promoter with dark earth tone clothes that were two sizes too big for him, long bleached dreadlocks that reached his knees, a closed mouth smile and bouncing shoulder laugh, with pleased black eyes that were somehow warming and trusting when he listened, and who always seemed to be carrying a full slender glass of beer, even when he was outdoors, had us follow him to his friend’s squat down a cobblestone road, that was having an electronic music party that was in mid swing; the squat would second as the place for us to sleep. On the way there he took us through a gate that glowed red from lights hidden under bushes, where short stocky men who smoked cigars wore their hats low, all styling long tan coats, full mustaches and sunglasses, passed back and forth and back and forth in an unsettling way.
It was Alkmaar’s red light district.
However, this was not like the red light district you may know about in Amsterdam where women lure in store front windows sitting and waving, or city streets of the States, where girls walk and talk through passenger side windows of stopped cars. No. This was three full blocks of a structure that can only be described as a red and blue glowing space station. It was an endless maze of turns and twists showcasing girls in human aquariums, room after room lined with neon plastic edging, rounded smooth to the walls. It was as if you were in a futuristic pet store for women. Slender or plump, blond and pigtailed, long black haired with chopped bangs and a whip, fat, old, young or dwarfed, two girls in one room, three in the other, Asian, white, black, Indian or transsexual; they had it all.
I asked the promoter about it as we walked and he told me the price for a woman here worked out to be twenty-five U.S. dollars. One girl off the clock rolling a cigarette came walking along side us, chatted me up.
“Are you American?”
“I am Russian.”
She explained as she motioned to me to light her cigarette, that most of the girls are promised new lives before they come over from Russia, but find once they arrive they are now working girls. The men drug them and break them; desperate, with no one, they find no way out. Sex slaves.
“Some just do it for money. Addicts. Some have children they need to pay for. Some girls stay or some travel from one place to another, like here. They can work all across Europe. It can be good money compared to working in a shop. Do you understand me?”
“Do they rent the rooms?”
“Yes, you rent. Some nights you only make enough for the rent. It’s hard job, pays more then a shop job.” She stopped. “You tell your friends you talked to a Russian girl, yes?”
“Sure thing Ms.”
“Bye American boy,” she waved with her fingers, winked, blew a kiss and walked off smoking in the pink neon glow.
“Goodbye,” I said and watched her walk into where short stocky men who smoked cigars, wore their hats low, styled long tan coats, full mustaches and sunglasses, passed back and forth and back and forth in an unsettling way, until she was gone. She was young, I’d say 22, slender, and a beauty. Tragic. Lost. Alone. And gone.
The squat was new, meaning that all the windows were broken and everything electrical ran off power strips that were strung up everywhere and plugged into a secret source down the street. Some squats you find are quite nice, like a semi posh youth hostel combined with a rock club, but this one was far from becoming that.
We were taken to the party of three-hundred drunkards dancing to house music, drinking and doing a cornucopia of drugs. We walked in a line through the party. People stopped. People stared. We had a different style than the party people and stuck out. The party goers were unsure of us as we passed. No recognizable emotion, they just stopped and stared. The promoter stopped at a bar made of sheet metal, that was crafted into an enormous open jaw with sharp bladed teeth. He ordered a round of beers and whisky shot. The wad of dosh the show brought him was healthy and he liked showing it off. We toasted and moved on.
The stairs were fragile and dusty. The railing was just for show and was not for touching. We had to spread the power wires into manageable openings as we walked up the steps, as if we were all daft enough to walk up into a spider’s cave. Once at the seventh level, the attic, you had to watch where you put your hand, for if you touched the wrong brick wall the entire wall would topple over, crashing down. And one of the men did just that. Crash. Dust. Frowns.
The attic was where we were to sleep. It was freezing up there. Wind from the broken windows blew dirt and dust around combined with the spray of the rain outside, glued the dust and dirt to your face. If you smeared it – then you smeared it. After we dropped and hid our belongings we headed back to the party. We spent the evening drinking in a dark corner, under a hanging black light. A two inch candle in front of us. People were uninterested in talking with us and we were uninterested in talking to them. It was loud and uneventful. Annoying actually. Many of the men and women had such similar body types and clothing style that it was almost unisexual. We were simply too tired for an electronic music party.
The men and myself decided to have an early night, we headed back to the attic and all lined up on the wet wooden floor with new glasses of beer and blankets with the intention to try to pass out. I wore everything I had, shirts, sweatshirts, jacket, pants, socks, shoes, but still could not fall asleep. I just lay there as the rain blew in, whirling the dust around, with my eyes closed, trying to remember what the one that got away used to feel like.
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.
Bonus Poem 1 of 2:
Us Wild Ones
Keeps you in its grid
The fear of local news whispering to you loudly
And most of humanity
Locks up in this grid
Of today’s society
But not all
Not the insane
Not the crazed
Not the drug users
Not the entrepreneurs
Or the fortunate
‘Us Wild Ones’ is from the book ‘The Gypsy Mile’ which can be found here: http://www.davidmcwane.com/store/
Bonus Poem 2 of 2:
keeping the pin-up hostage
I was jamming
my orange-plaid pullout bed
back into a couch form
when I heard
johnny trouble scream,
“oh my god, no! no! No! NO!
johnny trouble busted into
the living room
shouting a story about how
he had come home from
the night before, but
when he awoke, she was gone
and all of his belongings with her
a Lower Allston girl
had cleaned him out
while he was sleeping
she had taken
his rent money – $350.00
his super nintendo,
and some other
odds and ends,
she even took his transformer – sound wave
helpless and confused
opened a can of beer
I just stood there
looking sleepy and dumb
I wadded my sheets and put them
in the trunk,
and listened to johnny trouble curse the girl out
this sort of scenario was
introduced to me in stories
I’d heard traveling around questionable areas
but I didn’t know girls
really did that sort of stuff
I began to
and ask him questions
about the girl
he didn’t know her real name
he only knew her pin-up name
…in the early 2000’s a couple smart cookies
convinced the alternative girls of America,
that if they posed nude,
spread their legs
and sold sex on the internet,
it didn’t count as pornography,
…if you had tattoos and piercings
somehow the ink on the skin
made them not as naked
as the other girls in pornography
young girls should be reminded that
the devils always herd sheep to hell,
with kiss sounds
and a smile
a smart idea
I decided to put on
to smooth out the
but I couldn’t find my
mini disc player
it was missing
the tattooed bandita
had taken it
I was involved
a word of advice for you
it’s not a good idea to steal
from people who have
less than you
I went on johnny trouble’s
pin-up name was,
betty-who-gives-a-shit or something
with words like
tattoos, porn and Boston
and what do you know…
johnny trouble screamed, “THAT’S HER!”
I now knew what she looked like
I checked to see the name of the
for future knowledge
her profile said where she worked
so I called up
and asked in a cool friendly voice,
“do you know if betty-who-gives-a-shit is working today or was it monday?
“you mean, anna”
“what’s her last name again, I can’t read it here,”
and then I pretended to start to sound something out
“anna whatever-it-was, no, she is coming in tomorrow;
she’s got today off”
I knew her real name and her work schedule
I went on some web site
johnny trouble suggested
and got her phone number
I called it
“is anna there?”
“this is anna”
I hung up
then I plugged her name and phone number
into some other web site
and, voila, johnny trouble and
I had her address
you may be thinking,
‘yikes, he’s crazy,’ well, no
I had never done anything like this before
but like I said, you don’t take from
those who have less than you
I did not have enough money
to get myself another mini disk player
and I’d be damned before I let
some tramp rob me
the plan was to head over to her place
at midnight – for effect
I was going to be the good cop
johnny trouble the bad cop
and two of our friends came along for
intimidation / look out
we did not drink before
we sat quietly in the car on the way over
we knew if we weren’t careful
we could see cops or bats
the four of us pulled up
I walked up the broken wooden staircase
I knocked on her door
I took a deep breath
“who is it?”
“I’m a friend of (web master’s name)”
the pin-up opened her door
I discreetly put my foot at its base,
to block her from closing it
“yeah, what do you want?”
“I want to leave,” I said
“I want to leave, I want to go home”
“what, what are you talking about?” she was cautious now
“I want to just
but I can’t…
…I can’t until you go get all the shit you stole from my house last night”
the pin-up went white
she looked like she needed to sit or be sick
I then said,
“look, anna, johnny is in the car and he’s really mad,
I asked him if I could give you a chance,
a chance before he comes up here,
up here, for you”
she just gulped and stared
I entered the house
“I, I don’t know what you’re talking about, I don’t have any…”
“no, no you don’t understand, this is your chance
you’re last and only chance
you don’t want him to come up here
“WHERE IS THAT BITCH?”
from the bottom of the staircase.
I just looked at the pin-up with a
‘you should try and listen when it’s important’ look
johnny exploded into the house
he immediately found
half of his stuff on her bed
and banged about
all four of us were now in the house
the door was closed and locked
one of my silent friends stood by it
the other silent friend stood by the phone
calmly my old friend nicole came out from
a second bedroom
“hey, dave, what’s up?”
“oh, hell, hey nicole, how are you?”
“better than last time you saw me. what brings ya here?”
“oh, your roommate there anna
stole a whole bunch of things
from my house last night
and we’re just here
to get it back”
nicole rolled her eyes,
looked at her roommate and said,
“yeah, she does that”
nicole and I sat at the
and caught up with each other
the boys were working on interrogating
she said that half of the stuff,
including the cash and my mini disc player were with
a guy friend of hers
to use the phone, to ring the man up
he didn’t answer
the pin-up thought that got her off the hook
we sat her down at
the kitchen table,
with the phone in front of her
she was told to,
and she eventually did
the boy denied having anything
which made the pin-up nervous
I got on the phone and asked him if anna was
he said, “Yes”
“well your friend is in a lot of trouble right now,
this would be the moment where you help her”
we waited in a fear filled room;
four wolves circling a bunny
it was very quiet
nicole and I added to the eerie’ness with our
light positive small talk
nicole knew the score
and was helping things along
we were all living an
alfred hitchcock episode
two friends chatting
two silent men guarding
and johnny trouble sitting across from
the pin-up staring at her with dead eyes
the pin-up looked spoiled inside
one of my silent friends asked
the boy’s name
and started to call around town to see who he was
we found out
he ran with a serious group of men
ones that we were no match for
the boy called us from his bike
he was a block away
unsure what was next
we hid our silent friends
in the shadows
just in case he was smart and brought friends
which would have been the thing to do
but for some reason this connected kid
didn’t bring friends
maybe he couldn’t rally them at 1:00 AM
maybe this kid realized this race was over
he finally said on the phone while riding his bike,
“okay you win, you got me, I’m pulling around”
when he came inside the house
he was calm
he handed over the cash
he handed over the mini disk player
as johnny trouble counted the money
I lectured the two that you don’t steal from struggling people
and by the looks of it
these two were much better off than
johnny trouble and me
I hugged nicole goodbye
we walked out backwards
we got in the car
and drove to the
our local bar
for many beers
and a lot of loud talk
the entire bill
Keeping The Pin-Up Hostage is from the book ‘Biting Lightening, Bloody Marry’ which can be found here: http://www.davidmcwane.com/store/