BREAKING THE BOYCOTT... OR MYKEL SELLS OUT TO HIS EGO__ part 4
Recap: Despite a pledge to boycott Arizona because of its ethnic cleansing law, Mykel agrees to go to that state as part of a tour of Mexico. Mexican fans have put together a cover band of Mykel's old tunes (previous band: ARTLESS) and invited him to sing. He'll tour with Cojoba, a Puerto Rican band he loves... from New York.
Despite the worse case of jock itch he's ever had, Mykel, wearing a Fuck You Arizona t-shirt and combat boots, has boarded a plane for Phoenix. (His doctor warned him against those boots (but not the t-shirt). Mykel feels that ten days can't do much harm. Mykel will be wrong.)
On the plane, he sits next to a coughing/snot dripping yuppette. In a day, Mykel's got the bug... lodged in his chest as a stomach-wrenching, hacking, cough.
In Phoenix, Mykel meets up with Gilberto who he teaches to lie to get a car rental with a debit card.
Then on to Tucson.
There, he stays one night in Mexico-town with Güera (bass player of the ARTLESS cover band: Sin Arte) her dog Mona, a big guy named Beef, the band Cojoba, and Ivan from La Merma, another band that will tour with Sin Arte.
The first show is in Tijuana, a long drive from Tuscon. We've traveled in a rented car from Tuscon to San Diego. WE is Mykel, Gilberto the driver and tour organizer, and Cojoba. Sin Arte, won't be playing in Tijuana, but will be doing the rest of the shows in Mexico-- and a couple in Arizona.
It's a trolly from San Diego to the border. Then a long trip across the border, through a winding series of bridges and tunnels, through Mexican customs and immigration.
We're worried about being late. The show starts at 9. We're supposed to be at the club by 8. Our friends from Tijuana, in the band, VERBAL DESECRATION, are coming to meet us on the other side of the border.
By this time, Mykel's boots are beginning to rub the back of his heels. Although the food is great, his cough is so severe, it's tough to keep down. And he reeks of the tea tree oil he's been applying to his balls for the jock itch. Between that and the cough drops he's constantly sucking, he smells like a eucalyptus forest.
We start this chapter just walking through the gates from Mexican immigration into the second most dangerous town in Mexico.
From the bridge to the town, Tijuana looks lit up. The city lights are bright against the night sky. The streets look alive... like a party's going on. Like a resort town in America. There are not a lot of people walking on those streets, but they are bright.
“See that?” says Gilberto, pointing to a red arch way in the distance. “That's the marker. It's the gateway to the entertainment area where we're going to be playing.”
I love that he says we even though he and I will NOT be playing anything. It's like we're all one big family. Equal status. Yeah!
“Wow,” I say. “That's far fuckin' away.”
“Don't worry,” he says. “I spoke to Farinda and Alan. They're meeting us on a corner. Right down the street from immigration. In the parking lot of a Burger King. They've got a car. We could never make it on foot.”
Right down the street. Sure enough, there's a Burger King. A few cars are parked in the lot. No one we know.
Gilberto runs out, checks the street signs. Runs back. “This is the place,” he says.
This is NOT the place.
He makes a telephone call. I only understand a few words. Chiva (Mexican slang for beer.), tarde (late), Cómo debemos ir (how should we go?), esta muy lejos (it's very far).
“They said we arrived too late,” says Gilberto after hanging up. “They went to the club, already. They have to get everything ready for the show.”
“So how we gonna get there?” asks Ray. “This is the most dangerous city in North America...”
“Second,” I correct him. “And not North America, Mexico.”
“Ok,” he says. “But I don't want to just walk around the streets. Let's take a cab.”
“We'll walk,” says Gilberto. “It isn't far, and I don't trust the taxi drivers here. They're worse than New York. You wanna pay seventy-five dollars to get driven around in circles... then mugged?”
“I thought you said we could never make it on foot,” says Ray, “And look at all this stuff I have,” He points to his huge suitcase, sack of drum hardware, and SamsoniteTM cymbal case.
I only have a light backpack. “I'll take something,” I offer.
Ray hands me the cymbal case. It weighs half as much as I do. And we walk.
We walk up deserted streets. We walk up stairs. Over highway by-pass bridges. Down stairs on the other side. My boots cut into my legs... scrape my ankles... rub blisters into my heels.
We walk more. The scenery changes from touristy, to shady, to commercial. That arch that marks the start of the entertainment district never gets any larger. It just stands in the distance, always the same size, like we've taken a walk on a Moebius strip.
The pain in my legs, my ankles, my feet slows me down. The rest of the crew goes on ahead, leaving me lagging behind, by myself, in the most dangerous city in North America... second... in Mexico.
Before long, the blisters... instantly fully formed... burst and begin to ooze....
Now, I can barely hobble. The blood puddles under my feet. The boots have worn holes through the skin. Not only at my heel, but on the ankle. On the legs where the laces jam the top of the boots against my shin. It feels like my legs rest on two thawed packs of hamburger meat.
I can't go another step. I'll die.
“There it is!” shouts Taina.
She points down the block at... at what? I don't see anything. Just a bunch of closed shops, with iron gates in front.
“I'm going to die,” I say.
“No really,” she says. “Right there. CHEZ BAR.”
I do see an old sign. Yellow and black, that says, CHEZ BAR. But the place is closed. Locked up. A big gate in front of the window. It looks like any other old building... gone out of business since the gringos were afraid to cross the border.
“That place is shut,” I tell her. “It can't be right.”
She runs up to the door and bangs on it. Of course, nothing happens. She flings herself against the peeling wood. Shoulder to door, like in a cop show. Nothing happens.
Javier bangs on the gate in front of the window. Nothing happens. He bangs on the window.
I sit on the curb, unable to stand any longer.
Ray shakes his head. “Who organized this?” he says looking at his watch. “We were supposed to get here at 8. It's almost nine and the place is closed. What the fuck? You call this a tour?”
“It's....” I start, but the pain of my bloody feet makes it too difficult to continue.
“I know,” he says. “Punk rock.”
There is a noise from inside. A shuffling from behind the glass somewhere. A clomping, like someone in boots descending a staircase.
A tall guy in tight black jeans and a black leather jacket opens the door.
“Que quieres?” he asks, looking like we just woke him up.
I'll translate the rest.
“We're supposed to be playing here tonight,” Gilberto explains. “With Solution Mortal, Verbal Desecration, and maybe some other bands.”
“We're Cojoba,” says Moe.
“What's a cojoba?” asks the guy in black. “And there's no show here tonight. At least I never heard of it. Are you sure you have the right place?”
They don't know what we're talking about. They don't know anything about any show.
“At least we can come inside and have a drink?” asks Gilberto in Spanish.
The guy shrugs, opens the door. We go in... up stairs... lots of them. Each step is agony on my bloody stumps. Somehow I make it to the top of the stairs and the bar. Inside the bar is a bartender, a few other guys in black, and us. That's it.
“I'm sure this is the right place,” says Taina. “I remember the name.”
“No creo que hay Punk Rock esta noche,” says the bartender.
“What did he say,” Ray asks me.
“You don't want to know,” I tell him.
Gilberto buys us each a beer.
While absorbing the reality of show? what show? I scope the place out. First, the mensroom.
For those who don't know me, I have to confess to a fault. I'm pee shy. It's been that way my whole life. No matter how much beer I drink, I can't let loose if someone is standing next to... or even near... me. Once the flow starts, it'll just stop right up if someone moves close enough. I usually use the stall. Even if the door doesn't shut, the wall protects me enough to start the flow.
And now, I've got this horrible jock itch. Whenever I go, I have to take out more than the usual and scratch. Scratch until I bleed! Any casual observer is gonna think I'm jerking off. I'll get busted for whatever it is they bust guys for when then jerk off in the bathroom.
I used to think the worst possible mensrooms are the ones where there are no urinals, but just a big open trench. Everybody's right in every body else's business. With only one stinky toilet, you could wait for hours. Yeah I used to think that was the worst, until I see the mensroom at Chez Bar.
This picture is NOT taken through the open door of the mensroom. There IS NO DOOR on the mensroom. That's it. Just a filthy tough with a drain. NOTHING ELSE. No door. No nothing. It's in full view of everybody.
If I ever have to go... I won't be able to. I'll fill up. Explode like an over-filled water balloon. POW! Blood and piss everywhere. I already had one beer.
I limp over to Taina. “I'm gonna die,” I tell her.
She doesn't get it.
“I need protection,” I explain.
“You can get condoms in the pharmacy next door,” she says. “Who'd you meet?”
“No,” I tell her. Then I explain my problem.
“Don't worry, Mykel,” she says. “I'll protect you.”
So, while rich drug dealers and corporate execs have their personal body guards, I have my P-GUARD! Just by standing in the doorway, Taina saves the day...er... night... more than once in that club.
I take care of my first needs while Taina stands guard. Over the flow, I hear Gilberto on the phone. I don't catch the words, but he speaks in that tone people use when they leave a message... not when they're talking to a real person.
After shaking off, one source of discomfort (temporarily) relieved, I limp over to Gilberto.
“I tried to call,” he says. “but there's no answer. I left a message.”
“I can't walk,” I tell him. “If there's no show, we're sleeping here tonight.”
“There's a show,” says Gilberto.
“Didn't you have a back-up?” asks Ray. “What are we gonna do?”
About this time some white people walk in. A bunch of them. Guys and girls. They look like college kids. Shorts, sandals. They're carrying instruments. Keyboards, saxophone, accordian, all kinds of stuff. Do they think it's polka band night?
“You thought there was a show tonight too?” I ask as they huddle in a corner and speak English.
“Huh?” says a friendly guy with a scruffy beard.
By now it's ten o'clock. Two hours after the “starting time,” and the club isn't opened yet. We're tired and angry. Gilberto has tried calling the guys from V.D... several times... voice mail... and more voicemail...
And I thought those guys were our friends. They slept on my floor. They drank my booze. I jerked off to a picture of the guitar player... and they “set this up,” then abandoned us. What the...?
A clomping comes on the stairs. Guess who? Fuck those guys. Am I pissed! I'm gonna tell 'em off. And then I see their smiling faces. Remember this is Mexico... and punk rock in Mexico at that... and suddenly, I don't think I've ever been so happy to see anyone as I am to see those guys.
The doors to the club open. Slowly a crowd comes in. The white guys play. They're a band called Thrash Attack. Despite the weird instrumentation, the music is really punkrock, if a bit... er... experimental.
Next comes Verbal Desecration, with one of their greatest shows... (until the next). Alan, the drummer, and one of the thousands of people who've slept in my apartment will also play in Solution Mortal. More about them later. Right now, Verbal Desecration takes the stage.
I don't know how they do it, but no matter the day, place, time, this band has the energy of a dozen other bands. I guess it does take a lot out of them, though. After their set, Alex, the bass player, naps through the rest of the bands with a pretty girl sleeping on him as a blanket.
Then Cojoba...I don't know how they did it... they must've hidden some... er... energy booster in a guitar case.
But they too manage to play a wild show after traipsing the same traips I traipsed, through the wilds of Arizona, Mexico, and the streets of Tijuana.
The crowd loves all the bands, and the pit is boisterous, fun, and what can I say? It's what punk rock's all about.
After Cojoba comes Solution Mortal. They are one of the reasons I came to Mexico. I've “known” S.M. since 1984, when I produced an international sampler cassette for ROIR. Called World Class Punk, it had bands from 23 different countries. Solution Mortal was the only band from Mexico-- and one of my favorites. I've probably paid them 73¢ in royalties by now... and never met 'em. Letters, checks, everything through the mail... for almost thirty years, and here we are meeting for the first time.
And these guys. As old as me... almost. Still playing punk rock. Jorge, Alan's brother, leaning so far out into the crowd it almost defies gravity. Singing with such an intensity. Everything with such an intensity. I forget my pain... for the moment. And go out there on the dancefloor, fists flying. Baddabadda. Baddabadda. Baddabadda. Baddabadda. BOOM! Baddabadda. Baddabadda. Baddabadda. Baddabadda. BOOM!
I'm not sure what it is with these Mexicans. Maybe it's all the beans and bad water. They just fart and shit out whatever it is about getting old that makes you short of breath, long on pain, turns your balls red and your feet to ground beef. They keep it up so much better than the gringos across the border. Maybe that's one reason the gringos are afraid of them.
During Solution Mortal's set, a friendly, very drunken older guy comes up to me. Long hair, half closed eyes, he lumbers over to me and gives me a big hug.
“¿Tu me recuerdas?” he asks.
It's obvious from my squint that I don't recuerdo.
“It's me, Guicho,” he says in English. “I slept on your couch.”
“Everybody slept on my couch,” I tell him.
He looks hurt that I don't remember him. Gilberto steps in to save me.
“He's from Sociedad Discriminada,” he says. “Remember Mykel? It was THAT NIGHT.”
Jeezus! How could I forget? They played ABC NO RIO and got me the drunkest I've ever been without requiring immediate medical attention. They wouldn't let me pay for anything. Just kept buying the booze. One after the other. It's like my rich Tio from South of the Border shows up to show his nephew a good time. The hangover the next day DID require immediate medical attention... or at least that's what it felt like.
“Ah claro,” I say. “Ahora me recuerdo. ¿Cómo podría olvidarlo?”
He laughs and we take a few pictures. Then Sociedad Discriminada, plays. A bitchin' set with the same political masks they used so well in New York.
After the last band plays the last notes of the night. We three drunken oldsters drink together. We talk about how many people didn't make it. Who died, who's almost dead, and who should be dead. That's what old people (and punk rockers) talk about. Old men in general talk about their prostates and how prices have gone up so much... Tonight, we are not old men in general... but we are old.
Wadda way to start the tour. Wadda great show. Now, we've got to get to Guaymas for the next show. THAT is a fifteen hour ride. Then immediately on stage. Sleep on the way. That's it. Sin Arte, “my band,” will debut. My first show in Mexico.
Right now, we don't know how we're getting to the next town. We left the van in San Diego. We're all drunk, as is everyone else in the bar.
There are 6 of us (Cojoba, Me, and Gilberto), plus a shitload of stuff. And I'm a cripple. So how are we going to manage the trip? Stand on the street and hitchhike from the most dangerous town in North America?... Ok second... in Mexico
“You should have planned this better,” says Ray after we get out of the club and are standing on the street with our bags. “What are we gonna do now?”
(Want even MORE Mykel? Check out his home page!)
[This is part 4 of Mykel's Mexican adventure. To read the rest:
The story of the Yellow Chili Pepper is here.
And, you can go directly to Mykel's own website.
(Want even MORE Mykel? Check out his home page!)