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
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
smoked with them.
“Now just happened”
sitting across from me,
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,
“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
had built many
installation art pieces
inside the fence
enclosed muddy festival.
led their little children
to awe at art pieces and climb some.
to the pieces as well,
they leaned on them
sat and practiced flirting.
A demon sculpture,
ten feet tall,
made of scrap metal would
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.
climbed it, while
two kids around
15 years old
sat under it,
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
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
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
I’m handed a new glass
of fun juice,
as a girl
kisses my cheek and runs off,
as a man
smacks my shoulders
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
have taken effect
and I can’t seem to take my eyes
off the new mic controller’s
massive shoulder padded
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.
and maybe a man
can make a dollar
turn into a woman’s smile
if he spends it right
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.
“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,
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,
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?
The Cheerleaders Of Europe
It’s the American
and how he acts,
that is the reason why
I cannot order
a coffee in Paris
without feeling like
in high school
don’t like my
Pink Floyd t-shirt.
Give Me A F!
are not rude
no, no, no, no.
It’s just that they have
of social interaction.
And I’ve had time
to be taught those rules
and understand them.
They are the same rules as
- Don’t ever introduce yourself.
- 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.
- And be bored at the party, while smoking.
if you ever
talking with a French chap
you will do great
and it will all
Dishonesty Is Key
let down their guard
when I fake them
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
Warm old eyes
Father-like in wisdom
Eyes peeking to passers by
He smiles like a pirate
Who is in full control of his pillage
Who wins the hearts of all
Lightly, they glide around him,
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
Here in this unforgettable
Lining up the children
He speaks not
As he positions small arms
Young hearts racing
Small birds seem to laugh
In their dipping
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
one of my friends went to the bathroom
I stood at a standing table while my other friend
just then the shorthaired blond girl
the talkative stripper
came out of the girls bathroom
and walked right up to me
her eyes locked aggressively
she grabbed my crotch hard
she whispered in my ear all these things about
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
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”
damaged but functioning
you could see them working out their past memories of being molested
using their angst as a way to cry for a mother’s love
their eyes were young, scared, full of
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
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
to shut it
I screamed at everyone
they all retracted into
childhood abused stares
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.