Each day a new section of David McWane’s Modern American Gypsy will be posted. Todays stories start in Denmark then Germany through Belgium heading to France
The first thing I noticed leaning against the Sprinter in the center of Copenhagen was all the beautiful woman. Just beautiful. Lovely. Hair flowing behind them as they road their Wicked Witch of the West bicycles, with perfect posture. I, the paralyzed American, hadn’t a clue what to do about them. How do you choice a woman to speak to, when each one of them would tragically twist your tongue? All us men stood and stared; smiled and exhaled.
“Oh right non of you lot have been to Copenhagen yah? The woman are fucking brilliant here. Top. Read that ah, Denmark is the happiest country of them all,” said Dale as he came around the Springer.
“I heard that too,” I said.
“Great beer, great beer. And smoke,” Dale continued.
“Heard that too,” I said again.
“Yah s’proper. Yah they do it right here. They know what it’s made of. Oh and they got this market right, that has just troughs and troughs of smoke. You’ve never seen anything like it. The squatters took a whole block, made this mental market mate. We’ll go for sure.”
And we did.
We sat with local bottled beer, on a stone wall, past the Green Goblin mural and soaked it all in. We watched the market play out, saw the troughs of smoke and continued to breathed in deep the woman that were too pretty for us to talk to.
That night we were put up in a small empty apartment, over looking downtown. It was a quite weeknight. The wet streets sizzled from beautiful black bicycles. We played cards, drank beer and coffee, ate cheese with meats and took turns toasting bread. Denmark eased us. I thought of Arend; he was right.
Germany through Belgium heading to France
“McWane, David! McWane, David!”, shouted the border patrol officer.
I was nudged awake by three sleeping men. We were at a border crossing, Germany to Belgium.
“Dave, mate wake up, this officer has a question about your passport,” Dale said.
I ain’t pretty in the morning, I ain’t nice neither, I ain’t nothing but annoyed, and mean, angry even. If you are on fire, I’ll help yah, but if you ain’t, help yourself.
“Yeah,” I said.
“Why is your passport like this?” The border patrol man began splitting the cover of my passport in two, ripping the cover off.
“God, c’mon, ‘s because your ripping it in half, Jesus Christ.” Then I went back to sleep and know nothing else.
except one pretty girl
“thank god we’ve made it,”
dale said, “I was losing my mind there,
us nine liminal men were
a ten hour drive
through east Germany
through the hopeless night
finally to end the drive
at the only open hotel in Belgium
our bodies were stiff
but our souls we’re hungry
joy from not being in the sprinter
made us parade about
we had a fresh air about us and
while unpacking the luggage
we caught word
that the Belgian hotel
had an open courtyard
and a full bar
and it was still open
we unpacked with urgency,
like that of a midnight swimmer,
submerged in a cold New England lake,
with a direct line of vision
getting the hell out
it smelled of mud and freshly lit cigarettes
it smelled of friends and the hope of laughter
the night’s lodging looked to be
an old elementary school,
now converted to a quirky hotel
all sporting big duffle bags slung around our shoulders
and healthy 22oz German beers in our hands
exhausted, yet exuberant
opened the front doors
and were finally home
somewhere we knew not
little ragamuffins and hooligans roamed
these school’s halls many years before
grown ones do
we tossed our bags in our bunkhouse
plopped on our choice mattresses
the six bunks were bunked three high,
right up to the ceiling
half of us headed to the shower room
while the rest of us unpacked,
drank and laughed together
and about women
once the washed men were sorted
they met the waiting men in the hallway
and together we headed to the courtyard
a gift for us all
we found a party that was already in full crescendo
everyone dressed to the nines
men in suits that actually fit
and women in dresses that made them feel ten years younger
if it wasn’t a wedding reception
it was some sort of family reunion
I could tell that, because the
grandmothers and grandfathers
twirling and kissing
everyone cheered our entrance
as we walked through the orange bowed doorway
as if we were the matadors of the night
one of us was led by an older man at the party
to dance with a smiling slender woman in her early forties
she looked like a snake
as much as
she looked like a cat
she was long and sexy
with eyebrows that lifted sharp in the back
with bang-snap hips
and pillow case lips
we were all alive here
the music that played kept the earth on fire
it was a cross between gypsy music and, well,
mixed with nothing
it was just gypsy music
eyes wide with honest drunk smiles
tongues licking canines
lips puckered to kiss anyone that’d accept
women who looked over shoulders,
with hands on hips
– their best angle for the men to see
for us men
it was this excursion’s
the party was in their thirties and up
except one pretty girl
who sat in a beautiful blue flowered dress
at a small table,
under a large yellow umbrella
beside an adolescent tree
looking bored, but not tired
she held a glass of ice
and twirled it around
a thin red straw
us men were old enough not to mind
the ages of the other party
but she was around eighteen years old
so she couldn’t yet relate
alone, she sat
across the courtyard
across the firecracker dance floor
looking at us
wanting an escape
wanting a conversation with the matadors
the young men
from around town
but she wasn’t allowed to leave her table
or by any chance walk to our side of the courtyard
you could tell that,
after her father walked over to her
pointed at us and brought her
a new soda
us slightly doolally men with
now dizzy dancing
with gypsy mothers and grandmothers cackling
danced as the music continued to burn the earth
and the earth burned our feet
and our souls cooled from the release
I noticed, as my drunk and me
twirled the women
and belly laughed with the men
that the young girl
would smile at times and laugh at times
changing her seated position
by crossing one leg over the other
and over again
she sat longingly
in a blue flowered dress,
under a yellow umbrella
at a small table
beside an adolescent tree
with a thin red straw
waiting for it to be all done
or just waiting
to grow up
The Sprinter seemed to be driving fine, but when we reached the center of Paris and stopped at the a red light – it died. All seven of us men had to push the massive vehicle eight blocks to a friend Yul’s house. The French loved the scene. Not in a sarcastic way either; the fumbling of seven men with a mission brought them true smiles. They put thumbs in the air, cheered and would even jump in adding to the muscle when there was an incline. The English man smoking and steering, the Americans razzing and pushing and the French cheering and helping. It must have made one of the gods happy, for outside Yul’s house was an open parking spot.
Yul and his love Benedicte greeted us with wine, olives, bread, cheese and meats. We dined on the balcony. We drank until sunset. The sun left us with different shades of orange. And yellows. Then the blues and purples climbed up to the Paris night. The van would be hard to sort out, but we called a garage that would take a look at it in the morning. Luckily we had a day off the next morning, so tonight’s work shift was over. Desperate men got to wash some spoiled cloths. Yul and his love brought us to La Butte Aveyronnaise, a small restaurant with a friendly staff. We drank, we ate; we love Yul; we love his love. The wine kept coming and there was more food then us all could eat. The waitress thought us beggarly to ask to box the untouched meats and smashed/mashed potatoes called: Aligot. And she was right. Us men must be savvy; prideful we are, but royalty we are not. The box will feed us all in the morning and keep us strong until night.
Bill paid, we walk to Yul’s soaked in wine. We would stop and touch pieces of Paris’s beautiful street art, made from the one they call – Invader.
Back at Yul’s the men drank on. Benedicte retired, speaking soft close French advice to her wine soak love. “Bonne nuit” she at last said.
We razzed, getting too loud, but then brought it down, then getting too loud, then brought it back down again. We agreed: Paris is the only place to break down. And toasted that Yul is a mighty host.
At a roadside café finishing up hot coffee, talking about how much damage the mechanics fee and parts would be on our excursion, we headed out again, unknowingly followed by two French officers. This roadside café was a trap. Officers will sit in a road side petrol shop at the standing café waiting for foreigners, then, once the foreigners leave, the trappers spring their trap. They got something to prove.
The French coppers had us line up while they went through our bags, the Sprinter and the back where all the gear was. An hour and a half delay. They even had us hold our hands up as they went into our pockets. Not a smart or manly thing to do. Logically, a hidden pocket prick, from a drug needle, sends an officer straight to an AIDS test.
They fished around and pulled the contents out. Even though we could tell that this must be in their handbook, a good humiliating act to do to a suspect, we didn’t care, we thought it a laugh on them. You see, we are from New England, Boston boys and this act only proved to us that they would get closer to a man then we would. To be frank – it’s simply something a man who likes women wouldn’t want to do. I’d say, “empty your pockets.”
When it was my turn and the officer brushed something private in my pocket, I looked down at him, raised my eyebrows and smiled. And the lot of us men let out held back laughter. The power balance swayed. The officers no longer spoke forcefully. The officers apologized and, as men, they knew we thought them to be silly.
The Road To Église Sainte-Ségolène
The gypsy reunion the night before,
a party at a Belgian Hotel
full of dancing and shouting
women and music
had made me feeling like,
I was a
who had eaten too much,
but damn happy about it.
I stepped outside
a nightclub in Metz, France
with a warm, low, thumping
It was rounding 1:00PM
in the afternoon.
I walked the stone streets,
still wet from the morning shower
in the bathroom sink.
I would stay wet through the day,
for the sun would not be
burning though these misty clouds.
It was a quiet French town.
Door hinges let out eerie squeaks,
with the help of the weak wind.
The last few days were a low time for the souls of us men,
but the last night was full of
red wine, good beer
and groups of people
who didn’t know one another,
but loved one another.
Continuing with the wet stones under my feet
I came to the small center for a sit.
The stone bench
was facing a water fountain.
I used the mist from the spray to
rub my face clean,
cleaned my ears,
and dunked my head in the fountain
to wake up.
I could hear
the faint, wavering notes
of a trumpet player warming up.
I whipped my wet
hair back and took a seat
back on the
Mixed with the sound
of the water fountain
and a small French flag flapping
in the cold wind,
with one bird chirping,
the municipality slowly came
alive around me.
An ancient church door in front of me opens,
but no one exits.
A young boy riding a bicycle
with a younger boy on his handlebars
The restaurant Jehanne d’Arc
are strung together neatly and locked.
A quiet, older man approaches
and sits on a bench near me,
he looks at the fountain,
squinting from the spray,
exhales a long breath
and closes his eyes.
I look at him twice,
as I dry my hair with my hands.
On the second glance,
a pretty older woman,
with long black hair
and a long black coat
leaving her perfume scent.
The sent was sweet.
I notice I’m swaying a bit
from my hangover.
makes its entrance again.
I wipe my wet face
and look around a bit more.
Through the spray of the fountain,
two young girls
and chit chatting.
One has started up smoking; she’s clumsy with it.
A young couple takes the corner
with a bushy puppy
and they look at me.
They talk about me in French,
but seem to be alright with me.
Finally, exiting the open door
of the church Eglise Ste Segolene – Prarrkircke,
a priest and a friend come out
and lock up.
They shake hands
in different directions.
The young couple’s
barks at the priests
and the older man beside me moves on.
The church gives out three bell tolls
Then it begins to rain.
And the rain picks up
and my page gets very wet
and my head aches and aches even stronger,
and I head down Les Trinitaires,
back to the venue
to see the men again.
The Englishmen were
late to this gig
and are just now
beginning their set,
to no one.
I look up and see the Frenchmen
in the second story window.
They are opening many bottles of red wine.
This is their hometown.
are all smiles up there;
their women are beautiful.
And I wonder how my spindly ass got
to such a beautiful place
and I wonder if I should join the Frenchmen in wine
and I wonder why I had left the group of men for so long in the first place
and I wonder why I’d call this boring, quiet, place
Thanks for reading! I will post 10 pages tomorrow. You can find Modern American Gypsy here: http://www.davidmcwane.com/store/
And check out the bonus poems below.
Bonus Poem 1 of 2
le logique du couple
we should never try and understand
why one man loves a woman
and a woman her man
we must shy away from the hearsay of love
are we but fools
imposing our opinions on another’s love
it is only
le logique du couple
Bonus Poem 2 of 2
les larmes du jeune coiffeur
I live in a basement apartment
so my bedroom is in an alley way
alley number 34,
in the Back Bay of Boston,
when I sleep,
my head is a brick wall away
from a popular
smoke break area
it’s either the
from the restaurant
catching up with
letting out big laughter,
just talking about the women
from the weekend
or it’s the South Shore girls
from the salon
and talking about how stupid their boyfriends are
starting at 5:00AM
it’s the men,
but after 8:00AM
it’s strictly the girls
with incredible linguist speed
make plans with boyfriends
on their phones
when they need to be picked up,
what they want to do after work
yet most often
they are in endless arguments
with the inaudible men
my alarm clock
is men laughing
the tears of hairdressers
“you don’t listen”
“well, if it’s over just tell me”
“why the fuck are you being such a shit?”
if I’m sleeping late
and if a girl is knee deep in a good scream,
I’ll have to listen for as long as her break – thirty minutes
but it’s not uncommon
for one girl to finish and
another girl to come out and begin
the women of the hair style salon
snap chewing gum
and ask ‘why?’ a lot
I lay in bed hearing their thick South Shore accents
hear their points and counter points
hear the pauses for long drags of marlboro light cigarettes
and try and figure out if I think she is right or not
most of the time
they are the right ones
maybe their men are stupid
but one morning, my waking argument was different
the man was actually there
he had shown up in alley 34
and parked his car three feet from my pillow
the stylist must have been new
or at least had not spent much time
crying in the alley
because I didn’t recognize her voice
she was French
right off the boat French
and he was too
their thoughts danced out in their voluptuous language
thick words, spoken from the front of their puckered lips
bounced into my ears waking me
they went at it
screaming with stone skipping speed
in and out of English I picked up her saying,
“well, if you want to break up with me, then do it now”
then, after minutes of French he’d say in English,
“you are so negative, you do not listen”
and she didn’t listen
I don’t know exactly what their logique du couple was
but they both seemed wrong and
I wanted to get out of bed this particular morning and
get to what it is I had to get to
but I had left the blinds up the night before,
so, if I didn’t stay put, they’d see me
and my spindly white body
a brick wall length from them
oh, they fought for too, too long
she wouldn’t listen
so I got out of bed
and they stopped dead in mid-sentence
and the air of
I could hear their thoughts
yes, I did, I mentally sent back to them
I yawned in the hall,
stretched in the bathroom
and scratched my entire body
in the kitchen
– visible from the window
I then walked back to my bedroom to
put the blinds down
they were holding hands looking at me
once the blinds snapped shut
I went back
to the loo
for a piss
‘you don’t listen jeune coiffeur’