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Monday, November 11, 2013


by Mykel Board

October 26, 2013- Nov. 3, 2013

[Recap: From the start, it didn't look good for this trip. Everything went right... always 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.

In Guyana, my facebook friends from KEEP YOUR DAY JOB! 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. No it doesn't go smoothly. But it goes, and I meet some great people in the country. My trip to Kaiteur Falls is amazing.

I spend much of my time in Guyana with Gavin and Ryan. 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 develops 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. We go anyway. It works out.

After the big show, Jose, our host, takes us on a tour of the city. He points out some exploding neon stars/snowflakes and explains that's where the brothels are. I explain my preference for stripclubs over brothels. He laughs.]

I stay with Gavin and Ryan at the rockstar motel the night after the big show. Gavin is so heated up by the success that he half finishes the bottle of Jack... right from the bottle.

I need the coolest place in the room,” he says, stumbling.
Somehow, Ryan gets him out and they sleep.

The morning after the BIG SHOW, though, Gavin starts the day with a cough. The cure? A slug of Jack Daniels, right from the bottle, of course.Gavin's not 23 yet, and he's already on his way to full-fledged alkiedom! When I was his age I couldn't drink a six pack without waking up in my own vomit.

Yeah! That boy has a future!

For their last day in town, Gavin and Ryan have lined up a radio interview and another acoustic set. The former is at the studios of a local station. The latter is at Unkies House of Blues, right next to the venue of the big show last time. The band invites me to both.

I haven't been in a radio station since I did an interview in Australia at the turn of the century. Back then, DJs used CD players... and even vinyl turntables. For this interview, Gavin emailed the DJ a playlist. The DJ downloaded the songs, and BANG! ready for airtime, right?


We need to be at the studio by seven,” says Gavin.

What time is it now?” I ask.

Just past 8,” he says.

Are we late? Are you kidding? This is Keep Your Day Job Exclamation Point. For them, time, money, commitments, planning. None of it matters. Everything just works out.

We take a cab to the station. The driver finds it easily.

DJ: So what does Keep Your Day Job mean?

Gavin: It's Keep Your Day Job Exclamation Point.

DJ: Sorry.

Gavin: Actually, the meaning has changed. Originally is was what people said to us when we were just starting out. You know, Forget about playing this music stuff. You suck! Then, after a while the meaning changed. It began to be a message from US to the AUDIENCE. YOU keep your day jobs. We'll be punk rockers and live the life you WISH you could live.

DJ: So neither of you have day jobs?

Gavin: That's right.

DJ: And you, Ryan. (to the microphone) He's the quiet one. Do you have a day job?

Ryan shakes his head.

DJ: They can't hear you shake your head.

Me: I have a day job.

Gavin: That's our friend Mykel, talking.

The DJ ignores me.

DJ: So, what is punk rock anyway?

Gavin: Punk rock is about doing what you want. Not following rules. Living for yourself, not some boss who only makes money from you.

DJ: Ryan what do you think?... By the way, I used to be shy too. I couldn't talk to anyone at parties or in groups. I was like that. Just like you.

Gavin: Play that song then.

He does. It's obvious that this DJ, though a nice guy, doesn't have a clue about the band-- or punkrock in general. Suriname has it's own kind of music... dance music, of course... this is the Caribbean, after all... but this guy should at least do his homework. Read the Wikipedia page,or SOMETHING. He seems at a loss to ask any music related questions, You like The Ramones? and just needs SOMETHING to talk about.

The song is over.

DJ: So, we're here in the studio with Gavin and Ryan from Keep Your Day Job...

Gavin raises his eyebrows.

DJ: That's Keep Your Day Job Exclamation Point.

Gavin smiles.

DJ: So guys, do you have girlfriends? Wives?

Gavin: My girlfriend is my music?

DJ: And you Ryan?

Ryan: Me too.

DJ: No girlfriends?

And he goes on about the unfortunate condition of not having a girlfriend, just skirting the issue of what that really means to not have a girlfriend.

Er... what year is this?

From the radio station, it's off to the Accoustic Set® at Unkies.

One of the things I've learned in the tropics is that night and day are reversed from the more temperate zones. In New York bars stay open 'til 4AM. For most of America, that's very late. Most cities have earlier closing times, 2AM or even Midnight. People have to get up in the morning. Go to their day jobs. We wouldn't want them performing inefficiently, would we?

In the tropics, people STOP working in the afternoon. It's just too hot (or too rainy) to do anything. It's naptime, siesta. Sleep trumps work. The way it should be. And night-- real night: 10 PM to Sunrise-- That's when you LIVE!

It's about 10, when we get to the bar. Jose is there already, as is my new friend, Jeffry (a Dutch guy of Surinamese origin)... and Spit. I buy Parbo for the crew.

KYDJ! have no guitars with them. Accapella as well as acoustic? The bartender digs up a single guitar and hands it to Gavin.

Gavin starts playing. Ahh we know that tune. Jeffry starts on the vocals, nodding his head in time to the music:

They're forming in a straight line

They're going through a tight wind

Pretty soon Jose and I pick it up:

The kids are losing their minds

Blitzkrieg Bop

It's not long before everyone sitting outside joins in:

Hey ho, let's go

Shoot 'em in the back now

What they want, I don't know

All revved up and ready to go

Gavin hands the guitar to Jose.

As the only white guy there, I feel like I can ask for it.

Play Kill All De White Man,” I say.

He starts strumming.

The white man call himself civilized,” he sings with a strong Carib accent, “Cause he know how to take over. De white man come to pillage my village. Now he tell me I have to bend over.”

I join in on the chorus:

Oh yeah, kill all the white man,
Oh yeah, kill all the white man,

Soon the whole bar is singing:

Oh yeah, kill all the white man,
Oh yeah, kill all the white man,

It's a punk rock hootenany.

In case you're not familiar with the tune. Here it is, performed by the originals. I only wish I had a video of US doing it.

I do have a video of US doing BEER IS BETTER THAN GIRLS ARE... Maybe it'll be a hit.

The rest of the night continues the sing-a-long with the guitar passed around like a spliff. The beer flows, the night wears on.

Most of the songs were too recent for me... from this millennium. But I gamely tried to keep up. Only Jeffry seems to know them all.

After the hootenany, we all (me, Gavin, Ryan, Jeffry, and, of course, Jose) pack into Jose's car.

Guess where we're going?” says Jose... and he takes off. Stopping in front of one of those buildings with an neon exploding star.

We go in and sit at the bar. There are a lot of attractive girls standing around. There's a dancefloor with a pole and some moving lights flashing over it. No one is on it.

We each order a beer.

Next to the dancefloor, a thin half-bald, man dances by himself. He wears a black and white blazer. On the blazer are some kind of Asian figures. He holds a cane, with a shiny metal ball on top.

A very tall, very black, very sexy woman catches my eye. She's wearing a very tight dress, as black as she is. I smile. She walks over to me.

Ik sprichk geen Nederlands (I don't speak Dutch),” I say to her.

Sorry,” she says, “I don't speak Dutch.”

Where are you from?” I ask.

I'm from Antigua,” she answers.

I nod as if I know where Antigua is.

I'm feeling my Parbo and doubt I could function even if the guys were willing to wait for me. A minor tragedy. I raise my glass and toast the girl, giving her a sorry, not tonight smile. She walks away.

The only one dancing in the crowded club is the guy with the cane. Not what I came to see. I want girls shaking their body parts. Poles to hold on to and slide up and down.

There is one blond girl among the working women. I'm guessing she's Eastern European... or blonde Brazilian. Jeffry's interested in her. She can see it and she walks over to him.

I don't remember much more about the night. We went to another place where there were fewer girls... and not as good-looking. Then we went to Jeffry's

Sorry, I don't remember going back that night. I remember awakening sometime the next day, at Jose's place. I'm alone in bed, and not spleeping in my own vomit.

The next day, I return, hungover, to wish Gavin and Ryan a safe trip back to Georgetown.

Gavin wants a farewell picture with the headlining metal band: DISQUIET.
We say good-bye and I'm on my own... or really on Jose's own.

That night is Jeffry's farewell party. He's going back to Holland. The night starts by the OLD FORT... a landmark in Suriname.
Jose and I meet Jeffry and a bunch of mostly Dutch friends he's met since he got here.

[NOTE: I never met anyone who collected friends so fast as Jeffry. Mr. Niceguy. Mr. Smartguy. Mr. Punkrock Encyclopedia. It's amazing. This guy, of indeterminate race and nationality, could go anywhere in the world. BANG! A friend collection... he should teach a course on it.]

After dinner, theirs... not ours. (Jose's mom cooked for us earlier), we go to a bar for drinks. You guessed it UNCKIES HOUSE OF BLUES.
After a bit of hootenanny, most of the crowd goes home. Those of us left, go to Jefrey's hotel room for a farewell drink or three.
Sometime later, Jose and I are back at Jose's house.

He's a busy guy. He's a student. He works in concert arrangements. His car is falling apart. He's got insomnia. And now he's got me.

[NOTE: I'll have more details about Suriname in my next blog entry... in a Flashback. So now let's skip ahead to where I'm just leaving the country.]

Jose's mom has been making calls for me. She's checking on the best way to get to Albina, the port city for the ferry to French Guiana.

Do you want the good news or the bad news first?” says Jose's mom.

The good news,” I say.

The bus to Albina (port for the ferry to Frenach Guiana) will only cost 10SRD,” she says. “And then you can take a small boat across the river for another ten.”

And the bad news?” I ask.

You'll have to get up at 4AM to get the bus,” she tells me.

You can take a taxi,” says Jose's dad. “It'll cost more, but at least you'll know who you're sitting with. There won't be a bush woman with ten kids and chickens... and it'll pick you up here.”

What time does that one leave?” I ask.

I'll call for you,” offers mom. “What time do you want to leave?”

Well, I hate to get up early,” I tell her. “But I don't want to arrive in Guiana too late. My friends will be back at work at 2PM, so how about 10AM?”

She nods and makes the call. After some Dutch conversation, she hangs up.

The taxi will pick you up here...” she says, “at 8 o'clock... Still it's better than 4 o'clock.”

I decide to take it.

One more check of the guidebook: On entering French Guiana, it says, you must have a ticket out of the country. A ticket out of another Caribbean country is not enough.


I arrive at Surinamese customs at 11:30. The ferry leaves at three. I can't take the small boats because the ferry is the only way I can get a return ticket. The small boats you pay in cash... no return, no tickets at all.

I hang out in the customs shed until 1PM. Then I ask the customs officer where I buy the ticket to the ferry.

On the ferry,” he says. “You pay on the ferry.”

On the ferry?” I don't ask. “On the fuckin' ferry? That means no tickets. No return. Nothing. I might as well take my chances in one of those banana boats.”
I pick up my bags and head for the dock. Sure enough, there's a banana boat.
The “captain” sees me with my bags and points to the other side of the river. I nod. Maybe I can get a discount if I travel with bananas.

Nope. He gestures a phone call, then pulls out his cellphone.

In the meantime, another boat pulls up. This one is even smaller than the banana boat, though there is some kind of covering.

Other passengers have joined me on the concrete jetty. They take the first boat. I wait as someone in the distance comes to pick me up. There is already someone else on the boat. As I stumble onto the small boat, I hit my backpack on the roof... I go low and duckwalk into the low covered part.

The “captain” of this boat looks younger than my 16-year old nephew... and just as reckless. I hope he knows where the rocks are.

Another passenger joins us... and we're off. Just us.

The boat sways from side to side, like a (very rough)cradle. One side sinks, the edge dips to the water, then the other side. One of my few virtues is never getting seasick. (Did I jinx it by writing that?)

In less than a quarter hour, we reach French Guiana. I climb over the side of the boat. The “captain” is already out... talking with a friend by another boat... near some palm trees. I open my wallet. There's only a 5 and a 50. I fish some change from my pocket, just scraping together 10 Suriname dollars. I walk over to the young man and hand him the money. He counts it.

Ten dollars?” he says. “It's fifteen dollars.”

Now comes the BIG MOMENT OF DECISION. I figure I'm being cheated... but is it cheated? I've got more money than these guys... even if I don't have a lot. Yeah, it's racist for there to be white prices and native prices. But racism fits the situation. At least here and now. Okay, he wins. I hand him the 50-- he has change.

I climb the hill to the immigration booth. No return ticket. No visa. Not many Euros. No one else is entering the country at the moment.

A bunch of white guys are hanging out by the immigration windows. They're speaking French. They wear uniforms with the kind of reflective vests that worn by roadcrews to avoid traffic accidents. Instead of CONSTRUCTION, the vests say IMMIGRATION.

I hand my passport to one of the guys. He hands it back to me.

First you go to that window,” he points to a small bank-teller looking window about two feet away, “then you come here.”

I go to the window, but there is no one behind it. One of the “officers” calls to someone inside. A burly man who needs a shave... or at least a cigar... to complete the look... comes to the window. I slide my passport under the place that looks like I should be sliding dollars.

The man grunts. Opens the passport. Grunts again. Stamps the passport. Slides it back under the bullet proof glass. I return to the other officers. One of them makes a get out of here gesture with the back of his hand.

Où puis-je obtenir quelque chose à manger?” I ask.

La bas,” says the gesture man. “deux cent metres a droit o a gauche.”

Merci,” I say, and walk off onto the streets of the city, with only the vaguest idea of where I'm going.


[You can read previous travel blog entries below.
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