MODERN AMERICAN GYPSY: BY DAVID MCWANE PAGES 51-63 — Deeper Inside GERMANY

Each day a new section of David McWane’s Modern American Gypsy will be posted. Todays stories will take you deeper into Germany: Wermelskirchen, Erfurt, Oberahaussen, Munich and even deeper. 

Enjoy,

David McWane

 *

            “Erfurt is one of the few cities in Germany that wasn’t bombed in the war,” Dale tells us as he pulls into the zentrum.  “It’s right on mate, love this place, just beautiful, you’ll bloody love it mate, I mean, check…it…out.”  We parked, exited the Sprinter stretching crippled legs, looked up at the distant castle that is dully lit yellow and at the enormous Ferris wheel rotating in front of it.  Light from the fairy tale city held with ease the darkness of the night above it.  Things were quiet.  Calm.  Things were working out.  Pleasant.  The clouds were thin, they looked as if they came from someone’s God, simply smoking above us all.  The city sang without sound, a music box version of The Nutcracker and as we walked, violins and cellos played from the  distant candle-lit windows of the students from the local music academy.  We stepped aside, elegantly alarmed by the sound of a warning chime from a biking student, with her instruments strapped to her back and I looked up at all the shops that were painted with the detail an American boy has with his first battle ship model.  Two dogs stood intermingled with three birds all taking turns pulling bread, wurst and fixings out of a discarded bag, each interested in what treasure the last could find.  Two young lovers sat on a bench smiling at the feast, her legs draped over his.  Flowers grew out of the street cracks that cars seldom traveled on.  And the town drunk spoke to us in German as he scratched his dirty yellow beard, winked, mumbled with a smile and raised his bottle to us.  We headed down a narrow street where an old man was finishing up a kiss with his lover with long gray hair pulled back, reaching her hips, not wrapped, flowing and then broke another piece of the chocolate bar off and fed it to her with laugher.  The late night garbage man paused changing the bag of a sidewalk rubbish bin and smiled, blinking slowly at the young men playing what seemed to be an old traditional ballad with two violins and a cello.  Three young girls handed us fliers and giggled at their bravery; the fliers seemed to be for a woman’s hair salon, but we weren’t sure.  We turned to where the distant laughs and cheers came from and where everyone was walking back with cups of beer.   I smelled food, but couldn’t comprehend what it was.  Searching around, I saw a young girl on her father’s shoulders, set her first sight on the Ferris wheel and let out a wonder-filled sigh that made her mother and father look at one another adoringly.  We found the beer stand and spoke without understanding to the booming man behind the counter and stood sipping, quiet so as not to disturb all that was around us.

*

            Frankfurt seemed to have the most mischievous Germans thus far.  Not doing bad because they didn’t know better, but doing bad knowing they were doing it.  The venue was like a cave, down some stone steps were stone walls and floor, candles that were nearly burned out and television sets left on in dark rooms playing only static without sound.

We congregated in the room that had the food set out.  No one stood on the floor.  We all danced on tables and chairs, couches and foot stools.  The food was stomped to the floor, plates broken and soon to be broken and all our shoes were covered with mash.  A German boy dressed in heavy layers of different blues manned the lights and crouched.  In the center of the dinner table was an English friend, Chas, manning the stereo.  When the lights went out, the music stopped.  Everyone cheered.  When the lights came back on the stereo was back and everyone cheered.  The music blasted ragga-tone, the one basement window let in moonlight from above, people slipped, almost falling from the tables while others straightened them by pulling belts or cupping hips and brought them closer in dance, lights off, music off, lights on, music on, boys and girls, women and men, hair whipped around, casting shadows as if we were tree limbs blowing from a storm, lights off, music off, lights on, music on, and no one knew one another; but bottled beer had made us friends, and everyone laughed with eye contact and every American wanted a German girl and every German girl wanted their American.

*

            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.

                                                                        *

All That Are In Love

I sat with some friends

The day after a festival

In Munich, Germany

At a small outdoor café

In the zentrum

Bottled beers

Coffee cups with saucers

And ash trays

Scattered the table

The sun had now set

But its warmth lingered

It was a Saturday

People everywhere were walking around

It had been an honest day

Everyone looked joyful

Our plan was to just

Sit, drink

And love what our eyes see

 

When you have the pleasure

To sit at an outdoor table

In a country

That’s not your own

And you do not understand

What the people are saying

You get a greater sense

Of who they are

By just

Watching them

And they’re mannerisms

You also get a sense

Of how silly

We all are

How incredibly silly

We all look

Our humanity

In 2007

 

I first noticed

The businessmen

Walking fast,

Dressed expensively

And on their cellular phones

 

The punks were loud,

Drinking cans of beer

And poking fun

At the businessmen

 

The disco-techers

And playboys

With their heads held high

Had beautiful young ladies

On their arms

And I giggled at a couple of the boys’

Sequined dress

Sparkling ball caps and jeans

Reflecting light

From the

Street lamps

They were proud young men

And with the beauty that they held on their arms

They had reason to be

 

Munich’s women looked beautiful,

They too

Had their

Heads

Held high

And their catwalks in heels

Were well displayed

 

When you sit on the outside of society,

Especially somewhere

Foreign,

Where the language

Is not understandable

This game of life

Looks fun; an innocent  razz on us all…

 

…it seems to me

Sitting comfortably

Smiling obviously

With low lids

At this table

With bottled beer

Coffees

And ash trays

In Munich,

Germany

Where the city light it low

 

The only ones

I feel

We all can understand,

Feel connected with,

Sense their wisdom,

And see peace within

Are the old

The elderly

They who move slowly

And give you nice nods

If you present them with one

As they pass by

With their slow aches

Men still holding their now matured girls

 

And the only others

That your body relaxes with,

Feels light from

Simply viewing

And sees true peace within

Are the couples

In love,

Arm and arm

Excited,

Kissing,

And laughing

All these women and girls

Grinning without knowing it

Hanging on arms

Of men and boys

They love

 

Us sitting here

Us viewing

Don’t understand

What he is saying to her

But you know

It’s wonderful

And it makes her laugh

And it makes the magic

And Saturday night begins

On the warm

Festival streets

Of Munich in 2007

 

So, when

You have the pleasure

To sit at an outdoor table

In any country

Throughout this world

When you do not understand the language

Looking for those with the magic

You will find

And it is true

It is simply

The wisdom of our elders

And

All that are in love 

*

            Us men woke up in a room full of beds lined up like a WWII hospital.  All our clean white sheets flapped from the slightly opened bay window.  The room was crisp.  We took turns shaving at a sink with a mirror in the corner of the room, broke bread and ate it with cheese and sliced meat.  We made coffee and repacked our bags to find cleaner clothes, then we combed our hair and headed to Dachau.

                                                                        *

 Threshold Of Constant Compassion

Vol. 1.

The Barbwire Woman

Her body was twisted

All through out and inside

The barbwire

In a way

That a body

Should not be positioned

She was tall,

Naked

With red-brown curls

She was

A beautiful woman

Her last desperate act

Was to jump

Over a deep trench

To land

In a

Web of razor wire

Once caught

In its

Blades

The tower guard

Unloaded his rifle

Into her

But this is what she wanted

Not to escape

But to die

It was too painful for her there

I think about

How later

Another prisoner

Must have had

To take her

Out of the wire

But how,

How could they

She was so

Twisted

And

Wrapped

In it

I wonder that prisoner’s story

I wonder his or her thoughts

I looked at this photo

Of the young woman

Sewn into razors

And I think

About

Her pain

Her troubles

And I think

About

All the problems

The women

I have dated

Have outlined to me

Passing back and forth

In their apartments

Side to side

Side to side

With wine

Finishing the bottle

Swearing

Smoking

Feeling hopeless

Crying endlessly to me 

Threshold Of Constant Compassion

Vol. 2.

Feel Bad For Me

It is our instinct

To want others

To know our pains

To feel for us and

Tell us,

“You have it the worst”

Yet, as I stood

In Dachau

A concentration camp

In Munich, Germany

Staring into

The

Vents

That led

To the gas chambers

After being told

That it was actually

Jewish prisoners

Who were forced

To shovel the poison

Into the vents

Into the showers

That killed innocent

Men

   Women

       And children

I thought of what

That must

Have been like for them

What it sounded like

And how much

Their hands shook

And then

I felt

Embarrassed

That in a couple of days

Something small would happen

To my life

     And I would think

     It’d be so tragic

That the

World should

Feel bad for me

Oberahaussen in May

Trees sway heavily,

like bowing ships;

Oberahaussen in May.

The shower room door leads outside

to the yellow flowers

and distant hills,

where there

is a small village

with tiny colorful houses

and a humble church.

I keep this shower room door

open

by propping my guitar

against it.

I shower

under warm water

and reach

for a bar of soap,

placed up high on a stone.

I wash,

as I look at a cow

and a dog

sniff noses

a couple feet away.

I clean myself

thoroughly,

slowly. 

It is

my first shower

on this long

excursion

across

Europe. 

Failure 

We exchange glances of failure,

the eight of us men

sitting on a chained

picnic table,

covered in

beads of water,

that now have

dampened our bottoms

so that

they print wet heart shapes

on the wood,

when we rise to pace.

The air sprits us,

as if

an under the weather cat

was continuously

sneezing on us.

We all look beaten.

Angry.

We have just finished driving

eight hours

to a town called

Krefeld, Germany,

to play at Kulturrampe.

The joint is the size

of a 22 year old’s

first New York apartment.

Small.

Just after loading the gear

we sit outside,

wet,

getting wetter.

The Kulturrampe is tucked

behind a gas station,

surrounded by

loading docks,

where men are busy working.

Earlier,

the workers

leaned against the loading doors smoking,

watching us load our gear,

but now we watch them work.

They load up

different size trucks

that roll in

and roll out.

And we sit,

and we smoke

and we look mean.

Sluggishly, I point to an old

German mini bus

that looks like it might still run.

“Check that out; that’d be alright to spin about.”

No one cares, not even me.

The wind whips the notebook

I write in,

annoying me

and the spray rain smears the ink.

The rhythm section of our group

slowly rises,

and begins

putting their gear

onto the 10’ by 10’ stage.

The horns section

goes inside as well,

to put valve oil

on their horns

and the group of them begin warming up

by playing

old jazz standards.

Moonlight in Vermont,

being my favorite from their warm-ups.

I sit, pulling from a flask

that I filled earlier that day

thinking,

‘no one visits this spot,

and no one will come to this place tonight.’

Then Dale,

nice Dale

joins me,

takes a pull of the flask

and together we sit

and watch the promoter drive up

and hop happily out of his car.

He’s got a dirty

Liverpool football jersey on.

He flashes us

a stupid smile

and begins

to chat up

the foul smelling owner

of Kulturrampe.

A mysterious kid

who works at the club,

sweeping it up

continuously goes

in and out

of the dark back rooms

smoking a cigarette he just rolled.

He gives us bad looks;

it’s because

we’re Americans.

Then another slap happy,

young and green to the world kid

walks in.

He’s all smiles,

holding a big German beer

he just opened.

The boy looks as if he’s in love.

One after another,

my guys come back outside

and sit by me

and Dale,

and ask for pulls

of my

lousy liquor.

We are all ready

to get heavy into

whatever we can get.

I shake the flask,

take a pull,

hand it to Dale

who shakes it,

takes a pull

and passes it along.

I sit

and picture

the few people in their homes

getting ready for the show tonight

not knowing

it’s already

a

failure.

 

Last two at the low-lit bar.  A squat bar.  Bar keeper wiping the tables down.  And the jukebox playing my favorite record.  A real record.

“David.”

“Arend.  You American?”

“Ya.  Outta Boston.  Top right.  We’re the good guys.”

“Boston.  Yah.  Never been to Boston.  I went to New York City.  Young.”

“S’close.”

“Your buildings.”

“Yup.”

“That was no good.”

“It’s too bad for angry men.”

“Yah.  S’shit.  You’ll get ‘em.”

“I believe so.”

“You ever, you ever been to Denmark?”

“No, no.  I know some musicians from Denmark.”

“Ah.  I am from Denmark.  Demark is the best.  Said to be…happiest country on planet.”

“Nice.  That works.”

“Yah.  The most beautiful women in Denmark.  Most, mm, beautiful.  Best in the world.  Best cheese.  Happy place, very happy.  Good smoke.  Great beer.  Great buildings you know, land, landscapes.”

“I’m actually going in a month or so.”

“YOU ARE?”

“Yes, yes.”

“Most beautiful women in world.  So beautiful.  You will see.  You will agree.  Great cheese.  Best cheese.  Best beer.  Yes, yes.  You will love Denmark.  My home.”

*

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  below.

Take care,

David McWane

*

Bonus poem 1 of 3

*

Death Poems 

The Japanese culture

has a tradition called,

Death Poems.

When it’s time

to leave this world,

you write down what

fills your heart.

It can be anything.

But often is,

what matters most to – you.

These Death Poems

paint one’s soul.

Beautifully

short words of imagery,

 

words of sweet smells,

like honey

being mixed into a steaming hot tea,

 

words of beautiful sights,

like pink and purple petals

whirling about in the breeze,

 

words of soft touches,

strong friendships

anything that matters most to – you

 

and of course many are

descriptions of lovers

forever held close to one’s heart.

 

We have wills.

*

Bonus poem 2 of 3

*

On The Rapes Of God

She was raped.

If God wanted to help her, yet had not the power to do so, he is not God.

If he could have helped her, but did not want to, that makes him evil.

If he could not help and neither wanted this too makes him evil and also not God,

If he wanted to help her and had the power to do so and is truly our father and us his children,

then why was she raped?

*

Bonus Poem 3 of 3

*

I’m Beautiful 

There are Japanese monks

who know precisely

when

death

is upon them.

They travel to a place of choice,

sit with their

legs crossed,

backs straight,

and write their death poem.

They then speak their last words;

absorb their death,

put out the light of this world,

light the lamp of the next

and journey on.

 

I prefer to choke

on my breathing tube,

tearing in a cubical; with purple curtains,

separated from another nameless dying man

lying on my bed sores,

atop my excrement,

alone,

with doctors I do not know,

crying more on the inside

than my tears can paint.

*

Death Poems, On The Rapes Of God and I’m Beautiful are from the book Biting Lightening, Bloody Mary which can be found here: http://www.davidmcwane.com/store/

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