MODERN AMERICAN GYPSY: BY DAVID MCWANE PAGES 31-40 (Scotland, through Belgium, through France, through Luxembourg, to Germany)

Each day a new section of David McWane’s Modern American Gypsy will be posted. Todays story takes place in Scotland, through Belgium, through France, through Luxembourg, to Germany

Enjoy,

David McWane

*

Scotland 

*

We Attacked The Table 

We attacked the table.

Our drinks had no time

to get to know the festival.

The beer, Brouw Meester,

tasted like cardboard,

but somehow that was

fruit to us,

quenching to us.

The men and I

had just played

to the insane

and now we drank

and

smoked with them.

“Now just happened”

philosophized the

slightly smirking,

spliff rolling

sound engineer,

sitting across from me,

at this

small outdoor festival called,

Parking Pup, located in

     the center of Dordrecht,

          off the A16 or, if you choose, the E19

                 on Lijnbaun Street,

           south-west of Amsterdam.

The man seated to my left,

Erix, said,

“The only thing

human beings have to do,

      is have fun”

I wasn’t sure of their philosophies, but

I wasn’t sure about mine either.

Then I caught the eye of a girl,

who was looking very hard

for her lost jacket.

“I have a lot to care about,

but I must have no worry,”

Eric went on to explain.

 

The building behind the stage

of the Energiehuis,

once was used to provide

the energy for the town;

now it is a kindergarten.

The artists of

Dordrecht,

had built many

installation art pieces

inside the fence

of this

enclosed muddy festival.

The parents

led their little children

to awe at art pieces and climb some.

The teenagers

gravitated

to the pieces as well,

they leaned on them

rolled spliffs,

drank beer,

sat and practiced flirting.

A demon sculpture,

ten feet tall,

made of scrap metal would

shoot flames

out of its nose

every ten minutes.

The flames were

six feet long.

There was no fence to warn you.

Each blast of fire unleashed

would make the promoter

of the concert scream out with a

Santa Claus, joy filled, smile.

Beside the demon sculpture, was

an enormous metal ant,

made from scrap parts,

from an old caravan.

Small children

climbed it, while

two kids around

15 years old

sat under it,

kissing.

 

My men continued to attack the table,

some more than others,

but everyone at war.

We put down our Brouw Meesters

as my friends spoke loud

and with flailing arms

about learning how to

properly

throw a boomerang.

The man I felt closest to on the excursion

to my right

said to me quietly,

“I want to move here and find a wife.”

I tell him, “Yes,”

then spill a beer bottle that rolls off the table

smashing into a pile of

broken glass.

I look up to see

a new mic controller take the stage,

he dances and cheers, which makes

the people dance and cheer. 

The mic controller speaks

Dutch, but I listen

while

I’m handed a new glass

of fun juice,

as a girl

kisses my cheek and runs off,

as a man

smacks my shoulders

and

smiles a wet smile,

as a child

and I accidentally

get eye contact,

and I look toward the stage again

and notice the girl has found her jacket

and that the sun is starting to set

and that we look lovely with an orange glow

while I stare deeply

into the mic controllers chest,

because the lousy booze and

clever spliffs

have taken effect

and I can’t seem to take my eyes

off the new mic controller’s

enormous,

heavily starched,

massive shoulder padded

abnormally bright,

pink suit.


Belgium

            We were lost, late and worried.  Dale wasn’t however.  He smiled and played tunes, smoked rolled cigarettes and chatted up the only one halfway responsive  – me.  Us men had started Belgium’s excursion in Ghent, a kind town with warm pubs, beer that had a sharp personality and middle aged prostitutes in store front windows waving and bending, to then head out to take E17 for a short drive north-east to St. Niklaas to play a frothy night in a venue called ‘t Kompas, where the people were wet with drunk and their smiles, laughter, conversations and embraces cheered up our tribe well, to now, today, be heading south on N17 to a town called Sint-Amands, where we were to meet with a good friend Astrid, a film director, at 1:00PM to shoot a music video in a small barn atop a modest farmlet.

The landscape of rounded grass hills looked as if a family of giant dolphins were submerging together into an ocean of green.  Unbothered sheep and dozy cows grazed around red shingled homes with steep, sharp, roof tops poised to pierce the sky.  As I slid the window open the smell of wet grass, mud, manure filled the Sprinter and we all crinkled our noses and looked at one another unpleased from the foreign scent.

We pulled over to an old farmer.  Dressed in nice green pants, green vest and bright blue undershirt rolled to his elbows, leading a miniature mare that looked dazed and daffy.  We wanted to ask this wonderful painting of a man for directions.  I followed Dale out of the Sprinter to stretch, and the farmer nodded to me that it was alright for me to scratch the nose of the mare.  Over the fence an agitated rooster came upon us to suss out the goings on, passing back and forth with grumbling chirps.  As I walked down the road a few steps I looked back at the farmer taking off his tan fedora to scratch his hair for knowledge.  Some of the other men filtered out of the van as well and a few were snapping photos of the rainbow arching over a distant church, then up to fade in the hazy blue.  I knelt to mess my fingers into the dirt road, slapped them clean and then used the lingering grit to massage the back of my neck.  Walking back I heard Dale say, “Brilliant, thanks mate.” And we all piled back into the Sprinter and moved on down the road.

 *

            The festival Groezrock, in Meerdonk rained heavy droplets like fishing line weights, joined with bone jolting thunder that reminded you that nature is an unpleased God.  The music acts and the concert goers dashed from one cover to another, uncalculated seconds could soak you.  We drank beer in small, clear, plastic cups, under trees and makeshift overhangs, in crowds of people, trying to sneak peeks under umbrellas and raincoats to see if the girls were pretty.

The equipment was muddy as we loaded it back into the Sprinter and our shoes were destroyed.  Spirits were stable, but no one likes being cold, soaked and muddy.  We shivered in the Sprinter, hunched over and stared at the floor.  The jokes were all dark.

That night we stayed in a cold room, on the floor with a mangy dog sniffing our bodies.  The building seemed to be some sort of recreational center for the youth.  Coloring competitions, collages and crude handmade banners were tacked to all the walls.  We laid down blankets found behind a stage for small plays on the concrete floor.  One of the men made good with the girl that fixed us dinner and they giggled in a far off hallway and later under the largest blanket found; saved for him.  I closed my eyes, with my muddy wet shoes, socks and jacket still on, dreaming that the devil was roasting me in hell.  For all but one of us men, it was a dismissible, lousy night.

    *

The next day was sunny, cold and lightly raining, but sunny all the same.  We took lunch outside a railway station in Buggenhout to eat fresh French fries from a small stand that only sold fresh French fries.  However, calm moments are short on the road, we had to get on the motorway to head south to a town called Silly just south of Brussels to shoot another video with Astrid and play a concert afterward.

At the show in Silly, we met up with our French friends, who had learn of our drinking ritual and laid sixty cans of beer in front of us; the game was to drink them all as fast as one could.  Even men become boys if the wind blows the right mood in.  We were dry and drunk, cheerful and chatty.  The need for a woman had begun to press on the men and they became more charming.

The concert rained down warm sweat that gathered on the pipes above.  After the performance we all stood around the dance floor, the Americans, Belgians, Frenchmen and the one Brit – Dale, telling stories and listening with inviting eyes.  Belgians give a new talent to feeling drunk and content.  Women found their men and some men were graced with a woman.

I sat on the stone step outside the front door, listening to the sizzle the cars make on the wet roads and watching the puddles sparkle with life from the dull street lights above.  An older woman on a bike rode up and stopped, dropped money into a machine, that was built into the side of a shop that I hadn’t noticed, grabbed the brown package that slid out of the machine and road off.  Curious, I stood, wavered, collected myself and crossed the street.  I found some coinage and dropped it in.  Not sure what was coming, I pressed the button that pleased me most and I too now had a brown package.  I slowly opened it to see.  It was a loaf of warm bread, so I took a mouthful and brought the rest inside for the rest of us all to share.  Many men said mouthful thanks; the woman said, “No thank you.”  Except one.

*

After warm bread and frothy beer, after the men all found someone to hold, after the drunks feel asleep, even after the moon cared enough to still look charming in the sky I sat to write some poems, but only came up with one.

Simply

and maybe a man

can make a dollar

turn into a woman’s smile

if he spends it right

*

France

*

We got to Lille, France around 6:00PM, enough time to toss our bags into the Etap, (A human-less motel, that is much like the interior of a space ship or the exterior of a red light district in Alkmaar, Netherlands), shower, clean our nails with any knife or wood splinter, write short letters home and head outside to find a pub to enjoy.  We walked out sore, but the sore that makes you pleased to be living hard.  It would be nice to sit and reflect, us men thought, after many cold nights.  We approached the first bar and stopped at the doorman.

He said, “No.”  When we asked what he meant he simply said, “We do not want you in here.”

“Are you still open?” I asked.

“Oui.”

“Oh, is it because we are American’s?”

“Oui, no tourists.  No.”

“We really just want to have one beer.”

“No, not you, none of you. No.”  Then he looked over us and two other men approached.

“Go” they said, so we did.

We approached another door, a man behind it looking through a small metal gate, the size of his eyes only said, “No, you cannot come in.”  We asked why and he slid the small door shut.

Five, dressed to the nines, French girls came upon us and said,

“Bonjour Americans.”

From there we made good friends all around and walked together to a bar of their choice.  We told them our story about not being let in and they said they would get us in easy.  Yet at the door the men said “No” and the girls danced on inside, never looking back.

I had learned the score and knew what to do.  We went to a restaurant / bar that had outdoor seating and did not have a doorman.  When it was time to order a round of beers I just pointed and showed with my hands how many.  The bartender gave me a questionable smile, but a sweet “Voila.  Merci.”

As we sat outside talking quietly we noticed everyone around us whispering to each other with cupped hands, staring.  And they did that for two hours – five rounds.  Now the bartender was no longer sweet and it took a long time to be helped, yet it was a nice social experiment.  We got to reflect, talk calmly about the days ahead, enjoy rich beer outside a beautifully lit, gold platted city center; we got what we needed most – to feel calm.

The next morning, one of the men and I decided to have an outdoor breakfast in the centre ville of Lille, sitting by the storybook architecture and gold statues. Once the waiter realized we were American, he didn’t come back until thirty minutes later.  And when he did come back it was to ask us to move seats.  We did.  We’ll play.  Once in our new seats he took a drink order and his manager asked if we could move one more time.  We did.  We’ll play.  To me it is occasionally fun to dabble in living beside people with a less evolved mentality.  I don’t mean the French, I mean these specific men.  But yes, being prejudiced to me, means you are less evolved and there are prejudiced people all over this world.  The breakfast took two hours and the razz got less and less fun for the waiters and manager.  I also was extremely kind to the waiter, he can thank my mother for that, and by the end he thought we were alright and gave us great directions.  I also think, by the end, he was putting in a dash of extra kindness to make up for his earlier ugliness.  And probably for making up for the spit we may have eaten atop our dishes.  So Lille was a young game that I cannot wait to play again.

*

I Won’t Be The One To Tell You

I asked the barkeep

if I may ask him

a question in English,

because

I had a small emergency

and time was essential.

He made a grand spectacle

of me at the bar,

as I knew he would,

he made sure his staff and regulars

could hear him have a go with me

and ended his performance with,

“Why don’t you learn French?”

‘Lord’ I thought,

as I hustled away to help the young girl

sitting on the curb, beside the table I was eating,

‘Should I really

tell him why?

No,

that would

truly

hurt

his

feelings.’

The Cheerleaders Of Europe

It’s the American

behind me

and how he acts,

that is the reason why

I cannot order

a coffee in Paris

without feeling like

the cheerleaders

in high school

don’t like my

new kick-butt

Pink Floyd t-shirt. 

Give Me A F!

The French

are not rude

no, no, no, no.

It’s just that they have

rules

of social interaction.

And I’ve had time

to be taught those rules

and understand them.

They are the same rules as

the

   American

          high school

                  cheerleader.

 

  1. Don’t ever introduce yourself.
  2. Always take the opportunity to publicly put someone down for a laugh, that is for the good of the group, even if you like them.
  1. And be bored at the party, while smoking.

             

Trust me,

if you ever

get confused

talking with a French chap

just channel

the

     American

              high school

cheerleader,

you will do great

and it will all

make sense.

Dishonesty Is Key 

The French

let down their guard

when I fake them

sign language.

Birdman’s Feeding

As easy as could seem

Trusting birds flutter

Trusting birds play

Around an old birdman’s feeding

Outside Notre Dame

A Paris morning

 

Layered in old red and blue sweaters

His grey newsy cap torn

A smoke dying in his mouth

Birds sailing around his extended arms

In dance

 

His

Warm old eyes

Father-like in wisdom

Slow movements

Eyes peeking to passers by

He smiles like a pirate

Who is in full control of his pillage

 

This man

Who wins the hearts of all

Simply from

Birds dancing

 

Lightly, they glide around him,

Whirling

Swooping

Spending brief seconds on his shoulders

A bounce to his arms

Soaring up a bit to land on his hands

And then head

 

We all laugh aloud

Forgetting troubles

Here in this unforgettable

Paris morning

 

Lining up the children

He speaks not

As he positions small arms

Fully extended

Young hearts racing

 

Small birds seem to laugh

In their dipping

And dashing

Around young children concentrating

 

There is no pot for coinage out

Parents need not give thanks

All snapping future framed photographs

Of their children

Holding birds ahovering

 

Trust no stranger unless

It is a chance to stand

With the old birdman’s feeding

His birds afluttering

*

Luxembourg

I didn’t know Luxembourg existed until I woke up there.  Us men walked the town together looking for a memory.  The wine from Paris the night before, still ran though us.  All the houses were painted bright colors — red, blue, yellow, green.  And their trim was painted by a true expert.  The houses made the entire town fresh and healthy.  Other than houses, the only other place to catch your eye was to a petrol station.  The owner was standing outside.   He had seen us in the distance; saw we were heading to his shop and was ready to greet us.

“Welcome, hello.  Are you all in a band or something?  How fun.  My name is Rory.”  I came to find out that Rory was actually from Beverly, Massachusetts where I was born.  He had decided to move to Luxembourg to be closer to some of the elders in his family.  They were getting older and needed some help with their day to day.  He opened the petrol station and now lives comfortably, calmly and content.  We all sat on the curb and passed the time talking about New England and traveling.  Each one of us living the passing moments at the same pace.  When the sun grew pink and tired, we stood up, said our goodbyes and headed down a steep hill, past the colorful houses to find something else.  Anything.

                                                            *

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 Poem & Audio Poem below.

Take care,

David McWane

 

Bonus Poem

a fight in New Orleans
(click above for audio poem)

a fight in New Orleans

the musicians rained into New Orleans with

money in their pockets

and southern girls on their mind

the local boys would not be having it; there was

talk among them

 

I didn’t have any money

so I drank cheap beer in the R.V.

head ache beer

when I was sure my drunk could last until someone realized

I had

no money

and would then, out of the night’s excitement

buy me a beer

I swung the screen door open

and hit the street

 

by accident I found the neon sign

that I was told to look for

most of my friends were smiling, getting lap-dances

hoping that if they spent enough money

the girls would get economically frisky

and sex would be an option

 

I was a slouch

leaning back in my chair

realizing the beer had a much greater hold on me

then I had intended

 

it was a good time for me

I remember liking a song that was playing

a foxy shorthaired blond girl

the one my Italian friend was working on,

asked me something

engaging me

while on his lap

I noticed she was dressed all in pink

I gave her a short answer

the sad way ‘the poor’ let the working girls know

that they are not

disheveled, trust fund baby boys

 

I had had enough of waiting for a free $8.00 beer

so two of my friends and I headed to a place called the ‘three legged dog’

I was told it was where

bouncers,

strippers and

bartenders

drink

after their shifts ended

I didn’t care about all that

it was close, that’s all

 

I walked with my nose up to the sky

the warm air hugged me

flapping the sides of my t-shirt

I messed my hair to get the air to its roots

my eyes trailed the street lamps and I stumbled a bit

and I smiled

and it smelled like a happy place

and it felt friendly

 

the bar was a normal dive

nothing special

one of my friends went to the bathroom

I stood at a standing table while my other friend

bought beer

just then the shorthaired blond girl

the talkative stripper

in pink

came out of the girls bathroom

and walked right up to me

her eyes locked aggressively

she grabbed my crotch hard

then squeezed

 

she whispered in my ear all these things about

if she

wasn’t working

and this and that about how I slouch

she had a snappy last sentence that I didn’t hear

then left with a big bouncer type

I imagine her pimp

for a moment I took the time to think

“that was odd”

and how, now, I too, wished she wasn’t working

 

a young drug user with dark shades and

an ashtray voice

came to prey upon me

he used ‘fear’

but I used ‘dumb’ back

I was confusing him, by not understanding his threats

and then turning them into something

we had in common

we were almost friends

I had won

so the local boys

would have to set me up differently

 

it was 6:00 am now

my friends and I were using the standing table as a crutch

that’s when I noticed

a hot young thing

looking over at me

she couldn’t take her eyes off me

now, after hours of drinking and the little blond pink striper girls grab

I thought I was a pretty desirable bum

I waved the staring girl over

 

just then my scrappy-voice, dark-sunglasses friend

came running up to us with the entire bar

this was the set up

it actually was, the entire bar circled around us

she screamed in my face,

“no you did not just wave me over”

her spit, cat sneezing onto my face

the questions came loud and fast and demanded

quick answers

a punch could be thrown at any moment

too drunk for adrenaline

my friends and I were to lose this fight

I tried all my different ways to get out of it

but they would only scream over me

uninterested in my retorts

repeating one or two words for a full 2 minutes

“no, no, no, no, no, no”

“oh kid, oh kid, oh kid”

uneducated

mutant humans

damaged but functioning

you could see them working out their past memories of being molested

or beaten

using their angst as a way to cry for a mother’s love

their eyes were young, scared, full of

hard pain

and in this game, they were beating me

I could only say “I’m sorry”

 

with no fear

I learned their names

and would agree with them

to move things along

 

it should

have ended

but it just kept going

a full 20 minutes

I began to get annoyed

a solution had to be made

or a fight must get underway

it was almost 7:00 am now

and I was getting sleepy

 

irritated that they couldn’t choose the outcome

I erupted in anger

I screamed, “are we going to do this or not”

“are we going to fight, just let me know”

I put down the boyfriend of the staring girl for not hearing me apologize

I screamed at her to simmer down

and barked at the scrappy-voice sunglass-wearing

drugy,

to shut it

I screamed at everyone

 

they all retracted into

childhood abused stares

silence

longer silence

killing silence

I grabbed my hat

and we left the bar

 

I was told later

that one of my friends went to

“the three legged dog”

looking for us

he met a girl

and had a good time

‘a fight in New Orleans’ is from the book ‘The Gypsy Mile’ which can be found here: http://www.davidmcwane.com/store/ And the audio poem is from ‘The Gypsy Mile Readind’ found below are CDBaby.com.

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