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Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Mykel's Caribbean Blog CHAPTER SEVEN: This Just Cannot Happen

by Mykel Board

October 26, 2013- October 27, 2013

[Recap: From the start, it didn't look good for this trip. Everything went right... a bad sign. Nothing portends disaster more than everything going right.

Easy subletter in New York, smooth flight to Miami, promises of “meet you at the airport/seaport” for the whole trip. $10 a night accommodations in Guyana, the rest free.

Uh oh! Too good. The better the news, the bigger the fall later. And things get worse. (Better) The Miami trip goes so smoothly you could cry.

Then on to Trinidad, where my friends pick me up at the airport, take me around drinkin'.Then I moved South, some fun adventures, a Goddess... er... Empress of a girl. Back to the airport and the flight to Guyana.

One thing after another... clicking into place. It's sort of like a Bingo game in reverse. Only when you do NOT get the blocks in a row can you call BINGO. If things come together in a straight line, one after the other, vertically, horizontally, diagonally, that's normal. That's losing. When things DON'T click... when they DON'T work out. That's BINGO.

The plan for Guyana is: My facebook friends from KEEP YOUR DAY JOB! will meet me at the airport. From there, we go to Jamal's place. This is the only time have to pay for a place to sleep: 15 days for $150US. Not bad. I'll have my own room and cool company.

Customs to leave Trinidad is a breeze. The plane is on time. We take off and land at the small airport in Georgetown. I'm one of the first to get off the plane, but I'm having a bit of difficulty organizing my few bags. A few people pass me, as I make my way to the immigration line. There are three lines: GUYANESE CITIZENS, CARIBBEAN NATIONALS, OTHER VISITORS. I get on the line for OTHER VISITORS... BINGO!

Immigration is hell. My “room” turns out to be a mattressless space on a hard wood floor -- with a roommate. Nasty.
The cast of characters is NOT NASTY, however... I LIKE 'EM ALL:

Gavin and Ryan are Keep Your Day Job! the only punk band in Guyana. They meet me at the airport, take me to rock'n'roll karaoke, get me drunk. The plan is to stay here until October 26, then head with the band to Suriname. They'll be the only punkband in a metal festival. I'll roadie or do merch. It'll get me over to the next country with company and it'll be PUNKROCK.

The two weeks of my stay in Guyana are adventure-filled, and beer-dulled. Then the band has a drummer problem. Two drummers agreed to go with them. One a close friend, the other more PUNKROCK. They ditch the friend for the punkrock drummer. He bails at the last minute. The now former-friend does not answer emails. I cannot play drums. This cannot work out.

Gamely they (we) soldier on. We take a 4AM packed van five hours to the ferry to Suriname. Then, on the other side of the river, after a long wait, we get to immigration and customs. We're supposed to meet another van here to travel the hundred or so miles to Paramaribo, the capital.

The band isn't supposed to be working in Suriname. We've prepared a story about playing at a party. Just as we're about to leave the terminal, a customs agent points to the guitars and calls Ryan and Gavin aside. He escorts them to a private room. Uh oh! ]

I wait in the main room... alone. They're gonna get deported, I know it... Turned around... Sent back on the next ship to Guyana... I'll be stranded here... our ride to the capital left without us.

I wait... they're still in there talking. I wait some more. Someone (the bus driver?) comes in looking around.

You looking for the Guyanese to Paramaribo?” I ask.

He nods.

I tilt my head toward the office.

They're in there,” I tell him. “I think there's a problem.”

He looks grave, but as often happens in narratives compressed for space, just then the pair walk out.

So you gotta go back?” I ask.

Gavin looks at me like he doesn't get it.

Immigration,” I explain. “You had trouble because of the guitars.”

He laughs. “No Mykel,” he says, “the guy was helping us. He said that if we register the guitars coming into the country, we won't have a problem when we leave. There might be an export or import tax if they think we bought them in Suriname. The guy was really nice and helpful... Relax man, everything will be cool.”

You're coming to play a show you didn't rehearse,” I don't say, “in a band without a drummer, where the members are arguing, where the bus has probably left without us, where the promoter paid for a hotel for you and you can't play and so have no place to stay... and everything will work out? It CAN'T work out.”

The bus is still waiting. We climb into it and take the slightly better streets from the port into Paramaribo. The bus lets us off in front of a rather nice hotel/motel.

Off the bus, in the open space in front of the hotel/motel is a table full of heavy metalers. It's DISQUIET, the headlining band.

[Note: this publicity shot features their OLD bass player. The new one you'll see later. In the farewell picture:

Dag,” I say, as we pass them, stretching my Dutch to its limits.

Are you guys from French Guiana?” asks one of the two with long hair.

No,” I say. “We just came from the other Guyana.”

Oh,” he says, “you're Keep Your Day Job.”

Keep Your Day Job Exclamation Point,” says Gavin.

It's just the three of you?” he says.

Just the two of them,” I answer. “I'm not in the band. I'm just along for the ride.”

We lost our drummer,” says Gavin. “We have to find a new one here.”

The conversation stops at that point as the members of the other band suddenly freeze.

Gavin goes in to talk with the hotel/motel manager. He opens our room. Wow! Kitchenette, two bedrooms, air conditioning, shower, cable TV. Paid for by the promoter. Yeah, right. Wait until he finds out we don't have a drummer.

The promoter, Jerry, is a cool dude. Long hair in a pony tail, sun-glasses, friendly. He's some shade of brown as are most people here.

[NOTE: Surinamese are a giant spectrum that you just can't divide into white and non-white. Even more than Guyana, this is an oozing still-melting pot of various shades and types... and because of the Dutch history, there's a lot of Javanese (Indonesian... former Dutch colony) in the mix. That means most people have an Oriental caste improving their already multi spectrum of color. Also the Dutch genes give the people a height boost over their neighbors. I spend a lot of time looking up.]

His wife is a late 30s thin white woman. She's pretty, with tattoos in the right places, and a shock of grey running through her dark hair. Like Lilly Munster on TV

(That's Lilly Munster in the picture, NOT Jerry's wife.)

We meet them briefly, on arriving. After we unpack in the motel room, Gavin goes to talk to Jerry about the KYDJ! situation.

He comes back with a grave look on his face.

We've been canceled,” he says. “We can't play at all. AHDD will play instead of us.”

I told you,” I don't say. “You can't just show up as 2/3 of a band and expect to pick up a drummer, rehearse once and play a show.”

Is he still going to pay for our hotel?” I do ask.

I don't know,” says Gavin. “It doesn't matter. We're going to play.”

But the promoter said you were canceled,” I say. “They'll call the cops or something if you try to play.”

We're going to play,” he says.

Ok, we can just sit here and mope. We need a Parbo moment. The giant bottles of Surinamese beer I'd only heard about. Now, the answer to most problems... most depressing facts... most of life's disappointments is... BEER!! Look at the size of that one! (TNWSS)

After the Parbo, there are a few phone calls. Gavin contacts Jose from ADHD, the band that's replacing KYDJ! The band will rehearse tonight, learn some KYDJ! songs and split the stage with them. They'll be one rehearsal tonight. Then one at 10 in the morning the next day.(Jose is working the stage at the big show. He's he's got to be there at 1PM to help with the set up.) Then, we'll ask Jerry if BOTH bands can play as a unit.

We'll call it PUNK AS FUCK,” says Gavin. “The two bands together are PUNK AS FUCK.”

This'll never work,” I don't say.

Later that night, Jose whispers to me about KYDJ! “Those guys suffer from a case of dangerous optimism.”

I nod in agreement.

Jose picks us up in his car. Punkrock bursting from the radio. Some stuff (most) I've never heard... I'm old school... aka OLD. Then come the Dead Kennedy's... Too drunk... too drunk... too drunk to fuck! Yeah.

Then it's on to meet the rest of the band at Jose's parents' place. He pulls up to the door and the other guys in his band follow. Dad comes out to talk to them. They speak in Dutch, so I don't have a clue what they're talking about.

Shavero, their drummer who came to Paramaribo from Bumfuck Suriname just for this show, translates for me.

Jose's dad doesn't want us to rehearse here,” he says. “It's too late and the neighbors will complain.”

More KYDJ! bad luck. But I'm not saying anything.

We'll just grab the stuff and move to someone else's parents' house,” says Shavero.

We grab the amps, drums, hardware, guitars, load 'em into the cars, drive somewhere, to some one else's parents' back yard set everything up again.

Okay everybody,” says Gavin, “you know Smells Like Teen Spirit?”

And he teaches them. Actually, he and Ryan play it and Shavero picks it up. It takes a couple run throughs, but he's got it. AND Blitzkrieg Bop, Last Caress, and KYDJ!'s own songs including my favorite JUST LIKE YOU. Yeah, it's a little rough around the edges, but with tomorrow's rehearsal they'll have it down. Seven songs... not a full set, but with ADHD's songs, it'll be a complete PUNK AS FUCK set.

I'm still skeptical, but it is looking up. Tomorrow they could make or break it... they still have to convince Jerry to let them play. He seemed pretty pissed off... and his wife even more so?

You thought you could just show up?” she asked, “Without calling or anything. Just show up with no drummer?”

She was trying hard to be nice. Not say the I know, you wanted free food, a free hotel and a vacation in Suriname. THAT's why you didn't call. Actually, she showed more self-control than most. I think an American promoter would've thrown 'em off a bridge.

After the rehearsal, we're off to the action part of town. Beer, local punk rockers, everything we need. On the way, Jose gives us a tour.

He points to a place with a Spanish name. Over the sign is what looks like a neon exploding star. Bright white, with rays shooting from the center.

See that star?” he asks. “That's what you look for. That's the mark.”

The mark of what?” asks Ryan.

Whorehouses,” he answers. “Those are the whorehouses. That's how you know.”

Though I would like to see a strip club. (I LOVE strip clubs.) A whorehouse requires a little more commitment than I'm ready to make.

Are we going there now?” I ask. “I'd rather go to a strip club.”

Nope,” he says, “first, we'll go for some chicken.”

Is that legal in Suriname?” I ask.

He doesn't get it.

But we do:

Kentucky, yep. Kentucky fried, nope. GOLDEN KENTUCKY! Nas Kip!!

After the friend chicken I ask, “Are we going to the strip club now?”

No,” says Jose, “it's Friday night. We're going to the bank.”

Of course, he's kidding... NOT.

We pull into a bank parking lot. And it's filled with punk rockers... skaters... music blasting from car radios. Ramp tricks,girls winin', and a ton of locals who will become my friends. Shavero is there. As is Spit... who gets his own personal lapdance. There's rum, coke, ice, Parbo. It's like Drink Club in Suriname. It's what my first night in a country should be like. It's what they ARE like (Trinidad, Guyana, Brazil, Tokyo, Copenhagen) when I love the country. [Hint: they were NOT like this in Austria, Italy or Hong Kong]

Here's the crew at the bank... or some of us anyway. From right to left:

I don't know, Spit, Jose, I don't know, Gavin, Ryan, Shavero. I'm behind the camera.

We get back to the hotel very late, and very drunk. Jose does not wreck the car on the way home. We do not go to a strip club (yet).

Remember, we have to get up to be at the rehearsal at 10AM. Without that rehearsal there is no way they can pull off the show.

Mykel?” through the morning beer fog I recognize Ryan's voice. “You've got to get up. It's 10:15. We have to go.”

I... er... still have to take care of a couple things,” I mumble, hopefully loud enough. “The beer and rum, you know.”

Hurry,” says Ryan. “Gavin's already called a cab.”
I'm just finishing (zipping) up when the cab pulls up. Gavin sits in the front seat. Ryan and I sit in the back.
We're going to Tibitistraat number one,” Gavin tells the driver.

The driver says something in Dutch.

I only speak English,” says Gavin.

The driver makes a phone call. There is some discussion in Dutch. The driver pushes the off button on the phone.

You know where you're going?” asks Gavin.

The driver does not nod, but he does start the cab and head into the street. He's off to a small airport. Home to Guyana airlines. But NOT where we're going.

Tibitistraat. Tibitistraat.” says Gavin.

The driver rolls down the window and asks a man standing near something in Dutch... I catch the word Tibiti.

The driver turns into what looks like a suburban development. There is Taibitiestraat. He turns down that street and looks for the number.

Not Taibiti,” says Gavin, “TIBITI!” He shows him a piece of paper with the name written on it. The driver looks at the paper. It's clear he cannot read.

He leaves the street and returns to the airport. He makes a phone call. The discussion is longer this time. The driver nods several times and takes off.

You know where you're going now?” asks Gavin.

Leave him alone,” I say. “I think he's got it now.”

I'm wrong.

We're back on Taibitiestraat. We need to call Jose and ask him to explain to the cab driver how to get to his place. None of us has credits on our phones. It's an international call... our phones are Guyanese.

The driver, in the meantime, is looking for number one. Each of us in the car takes a turn saying TIBITI not TAIBITIE. The driver nods and returns to the airport.

Gavin sees a phone, obviously belonging to the driver. “The number here. What's your number?”

Wat is Ur nummer?” I say in my best Dutch.

The driver understands... and reels off a bunch of numbers in Dutch. I don't understand. None of us do.

Type it in your phone here,” says Gavin, pointing to the driver's phone. He does.

Gavin has just enough credits in his phone for a 30 second call to Jose. He makes the call.

We're in a cab with an idiot,” he says.

Jose says something.

No, not Mykel,” he says, “the driver. Call him and give him directions.” He gives him the number.

Before long the drivers phone rings. He's clearly speaking with Jose. The driver nods... hangs up the phone and heads back to Taibitiestraat.

I knew it. This show was doomed. God doesn't want the band to play and she'll do anything in her power to stop it. Get real. Life is not a movie. Everything does NOT work out in the end. Some things just don't happen.

I don't say any of this, though. By now we've been riding in circles for nearly an hour.

Wait,” says Ryan, “I think I have enough credits in my phone to text a message. I'll text Jose to call the driver again.” (In case you're wondering, the driver has since communicated to us that he too, has run out of phone credits.)

Ryan sends the text.

Jose calls the driver. They talk some more. Some more Dutch. Even if I spoke more than Dank Je, it wouldn't help. I have no sense of direction... and I've only been to the place once... last drunken night!

The driver nods some more. Drives some more. We pass the airport again. But this time a left turn, rather than a right turn. And there it is: not Tibitstraat, but Jose-- waiting on a corner in front of some landmark. He hands the driver a map of the city.

We get out of the cab. Gavin pays the driver the agreed upon $30SD. And we walk to Jose's house. It's 12:45. Jose has to go to work at one.

BANG! The guys are into the practice. Still pretty rough, but they've got two passible songs.

We have to leave in two minutes,” says Jose.

Hold on, just a minute,” begs Gavin.

It's 20 minutes, but they finish the set. Not only that, they play the show... open the whole thing, six smooth songs, one slightly rough, but not bad... AHDD plays a fine set to end the punk segment. The other bands are metal, not my taste in music, but all fun.

You can see my photos from the giant show here. Just click on the picture below:
Paramaribo Metal Show

Lesson learned: If you learn to ignore reality, you can do anything. I guess I've spent my whole life following that lesson, but it took a pair of 20-something punk rockers from Guyana to drive it home.

More on Suriname next blog entry.


[You can read previous travel blog entries below.
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