travel diaries

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A moment in Munich Germany:

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 building 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 beer, poured to them from small stands and bought from welcoming shop keepers. 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 down 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 started at their favorites. 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 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.

From The Modern American Gypsy coming soon.

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A night in Wermeskerken Germany:

4:00AM Wermeskerken, Germany, we sit around a long rickety table, the local Germans, a group of Danish men and us American’s, singing drinking songs and smashing our pint glasses on the table at the end of each chorus.

“Oi, Oi, Oi.”
Bang, Bang, Bang – Smash!
And broken red glass covers the table.

One of the Danish men had shattered his glass and sliced open his hand, fingers and wrist. Blood oozed thick and generously, skin was flapped and folded and the color of his face dropped to a graying white. Everyone was drunk, but the sight of blood released adrenaline and everyone had back their wits.

Quickly, they helped lift the fainting man and brought him to a different room, laid him down and wrapped his drenched hand and wrist. German was screamed across the squat, facilitating ambulances and correct phone numbers with addresses.

I sat alone in the bloody pub room. The table was red with shattered glass and the seat the bleeding Danish men sat in was now pooled with blood. I figured I would clean up the mess as my contribution. There were enough men handling the injured. I finished my beer, held it under the bloody seat and tipped it forward so the blood could collect in the glass. Oddly enough it was a perfect pint. I stared at the crimson glass and thought it interesting enough to show the men before I pitched it outside.

I walked in the room where the bleeding man grew weaker and held the glass up to the men, who were now calm, drinking warm bottled German beer and waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Everyone was amazed at the glass. One of my men grabbed the glass from me and told the bleeding man to look. When he did, he raised the glass to his lips and drank down two big gulps. Blood mustache. The fading man gave a look I had never seen before. It was – ‘Please stop drinking my blood; you have no right.’

The ambulance took the man off. An hour later we got word he was alright – stitches. I slept well that night and was occasionally awoken to the sound of our blood drinker puking in the bathroom. He puked painfully all night. He doesn’t like it when I tell the story, because he is a vegetarian.

From The Modern American Gypsy coming soon.

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