by Mykel Board
Nov 3, 2013- Nov. 10, 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 North Trinidad, where my friends pick me up at the airport, take me around drinkin'. Then, I move South to San Fernando T'dad, have some fun adventures, meet a Goddess... er... Empress of a girl. Go back to the airport and fly to Guyana.
In Guyana, my facebook friends from KEEP YOUR DAY JOB! meet me at the airport. From there, we go to Jamal's. 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.
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 punkrocker. He bails at the last minute. The now former-friend does not answer emails. I cannot play drums. This cannot work out. We go to Suriname anyway. It works out.
Then it's on to French Guyana. There, Florian, the brother of one of my top ten pals, Simon lives with his girlfriend Marie. In two blog entries ago, I'd just arrived in French Guiana.
BUT, there was a lot I left out of the Suriname trip, so I'll do a little back-tracking.]
Fish and friends go bad after three days.--Benjamin Franklin
What exactly is a bad guest? What makes a visitor bad company? What makes a couch surfer a couch horror?
One of my life's many shocks was on a recent ego-surfing google. I read a post by my hosts in Australia... almost ten years ago. The city was Brisbane. The note on the internet said:
Mykel Board stayed at our place almost a week. He was absolutely the worst house guest we've ever had... and we still get a Christmas card from him every year.
What exactly does that mean... the worst house guest? My guess is there are 20 million yearly visitors to New York City. Probably eight to ten of them have not stayed on my couch. Of all those guests, I've had maybe three bad house guests, and two dozen fair house guests. The rest have been great. What makes one good or bad?
Among the 59 countries I've visited now, I've probably been a guest in 150 or 200 houses or apartments. I've lived on couches, on the floor, on a hammock, in a private room, in a bathroom. What makes ME a good or bad guest? How many others are complaining – or have stories to tell-- about how bad I was?
So, for the benefit of my readers... and to get it straight in my own head, here are my criteria for bad guests:
1. They're always there: You have no privacy because your guest is there whenever you are. You come home, want to take a nap, to do something... er...private, and there's your guest: Sitting on the couch with a shit-eating grin on... or worse... on the computer living off the internet, like they've never left. They're up late tap tap tapping on the keyboard when YOU have to get up for work the next day. What the fuck? You're visiting my city! Go out and enjoy it. You can facebook when you get back to Beruit!
2. They complain: It's too cold. It's too hot. The girls in this town are too unfriendly. It's a dirty city. It's expensive. Your shower doesn't have enough hot water. Your TV doesn't get HBO. What? You don't have wifi? On and on. Yo buckaroo! If your home is so perfect... go back there!
3. They can't do anything for themselves: How does the shower work? I can't get the door to lock. Can you call me a cab for the airport? Are the subways dangerous? Should I buy pepper spray? What street comes before 28th Street? Can I drink the water directly from the sink? How do I get to the Empire State Building? Related to this is:
4. They're over-demanding. They want YOU to meet them at a bar, take them to the punk rock show, stay up all night. They're on vacation... and they forget that YOU'RE NOT!
5. They're dirty. They smell-- or worse: they smell up the whole place... like a walking armpit... Not aware of their own pollution.
Or, they're messy. Their stuff spreads like a beer puke. First it's confined to one bag, then two. Then every outlet in the house has a piece of their electronics, charging. Then the clothes, shoes by the door, underwear on the couch. Inch by inch, they take over. The place is messy anyway, right? So what's a little more mess?
Yo buckaroo. It's MY MESS! I know where things are, despite how it looks. My mess is familiar to me. It's organized. Your mess isn't familiar. It's just... a mess.
6. They eat all your food and drink all your beer. And never take you out or buy you a drink.
7. They make you go places you don't want to go and do things you don't want to do. Hey Mykel, come to this house music party with me. I need a friend. It won't be so bad. There'll be all this techno electiconic dance music. You'll have a ball. Er... anal sex with John Holmes would be more fun than a techno disco.
There are probably more qualities that make a bad guest. (My worst guest's worse quality was hitting on every girl I introduced him to... then complaining when they rejecting him.) But that's good enough to start. With that, let's return to my stay in Paramaribo Suriname where I'm staying with Jose's family and
- Am always there (I blame the rain, and lack of transportation.)
- I'm always complaining about the weather and lack of transportation. (I could easily call a cab, but I don't.)
- I ask my hosts how to get downtown, call a cab, get to French Guiana, visit the synagogue, each Indonesian food, and get a drink late at night.
- Take over the guest room. Demand a phone, put my stuff on on the night table, spread my bags over the floor, and lock the room when I'm taking a shower or... er... doing something special in “my” room.
- Ask Jose to take me into town, to Unckie's House of Blues, to the skate punk bank, and more... you'll read about it.
- Taking the offer of “our food is your food” way too seriously. Mom's been cooking for me... 3 meals a day.
Bad guest, Mykel. Bad guest!!
The family seems to take it all in stride, though Jose is so busy with school and work that he kind of leaves me alone. I stay in and write... less than I should. Otherwise I ditz around with my computer, play on facebook, take care of... er... a few things on xvideos, and pretend like I'm getting some writing done.
At least I don't complain... at least not out loud. Mom and Dad are the perfect hosts: friendly, chatty, always offering to help (Dad going out of his way so much (See the last entry to find out what happened when I just mentioned I'd like to see the synagogue.)
The only thing to complain about is their continually barking (and howling) dog. Like all dogs in the Caribbean, it's always outside... rain or shine. It's usually not happy.
Actually, there are eves where the dog can get out of the rain. And Jose tells me that the dog gets a home-cooked meal every day... more than many people get. So why should it complain? Bad guest, I'd say.
A few times, I actually call a cab... well, I ask Jose's mom or dad to call a cab and go to the center of town to explore.
Paramirabo is not like Georgetown. In some ways, it's more developed. The streets have sidewalks, all of them are paved. Where in Georgetown you'd find a bar, in Paramirabo you find a casino.
Finding a bar or restaurant is easy in Georgetown. It takes work in Paramirabo. Chinese grocery stores follow Chinese department stores. There are a few banks, but nothing like the easy-going easy-to-find bars and restaurants of Georgetown.
I go to the Paramaribo market, but 2PM is too late. Most of the most interesting tables are just packing up. In a country as hot as this, 2PM is the end of the day. Too bad too. Jose told me I could get Gamelon CDs at the market. I promised to look for one for my pal and former bass player Otto Kentrol. I guess I'll have to disappoint him.
But right now I'm hungry. I want to eat at a local restaurant... sample the cuisine... talk with the restaurant-goers... Nothing... wait... on the other side of the street... A small sign that says FOOD COURT. It's over a Chinese department store.
I go into a door that leads directly to a staircase. I climb the staircase and enter THE FOOD COURT. The first place I see is what looks like a little deli stand. There's a small counter with a Chinese (I guess) man and his wife behind it. There is a glass case filled with soda and juice. There are another couple of empty cases that look like they held sandwiches or some other food.
At the tables in the court sit a few guys watching the TV there, or concentrating on a beer or plate of something vaguely Chinese-looking. At one table sits a young woman with an eyebrow-to-nose scar. She has the half-closed eyes and sunken teeth look of a junkie. She gazes into space like someone lost in thought... or a drug haze.
“So you're out of food?” I ask the Chinese man.
“No,” he says, pointing to empty small, medium and large styrofoam containers. “We can fill one of these for you. What size do you want?”
He does not talk about content... just size. I point to the small one. He nods.
“I'll eat it here,” I say. “You don't have to pack it up.
He nods again.
I walk to an empty table, take off my day pack, pull out a book, (The Dinner, by Herman Koch) and sit down. I read the book while the food is being prepared.
Before too long, a more than adequate amount of... er... Chinese food appears. I put away the book and turn my attention to eating.
The girl with the facial scar walks over to me.
“What were you reading?” she asks.
“It's a Dutch book,” I tell her, “but I'm reading it in English. My Dutch isn't so good.”
She doesn't laugh.
“Can I see it?” she asks.
I hand it to her.
She takes it in both hands and looks at the front cover. Then she looks at the back cover. Then she pretends to read it. She takes it to the table where she was sitting. She sits again at the table. I give her a few minutes, while I finish eating.
Then, I walk over to her.
“Can I have my book back?” I ask.
She pretends to be reading it. Then holds up one finger in a “just wait” gesture.
“I'm sorry,” I tell her. “I have to leave now.”
I reach for the book. She pulls it away from me.
“HELP!” I yell. “Somebody help me!”
The man behind the counter comes out.
“She won't give me my book,” I tell him.
He reaches over and grabs it out of her hands. Then he hands it to me.
“Be careful,” says the Chinese man, “she works with her husband. He may be waiting for you downstairs. You don't have to be afraid. Just be careful. Be very very careful.”
That must be the quote of the month. You don't have to be afraid. Just be careful. Be very very careful.
Yeah right. I'm scared shitless.
I pick up my day pack, and head downstairs to the door.
I stick my head out... look right and left... gingerly step into the street... look behind me... walk purposefully ahead, like I'm going straight. Then POW! quickly turn the corner... ahead again... then POW! in a new direction. I walk fast... turn another corner back into a doorway and see who passes. No one suspicious... Of course I have no idea what suspicious is in Suriname, but...
There is a big guy with a dufflebag the size of a baby's body. Shit! He's seen me. I walk out into the most crowded part of the street. He doesn't follow.
“What was she doing with the book?” I wonder. “I don't get the scam... the set up.”
Another corner, BLAM! I turn it under cover of a crowd of schoolboys wearing their school uniforms. Hah! Sometimes being 5' 3” tall has its advantages. Like when you're trying to hide from a plan murder/theft. Me scared? Naw, I'm just being careful. VERY VERY CAREFUL.
Then it hits me. She was stalling for time... waiting until her husband got there. Then they'd do a number on me. I got out in time. Before he showed up. I'm safe, I think.... maybe not. I'd better get back “home.” I call a cab.
Back at the Mossel house, as usual, food is on the stove.
“Oh Mykel,” says mom, “I have some nice fish for you tonight. Help yourself. It's in that pot over there.” She points with her chin.
“We finished all the rice, though,” she continues, “sorry.”
By now I feel like a regular exploitative guest, one who takes mi casa es tu casa to the mi casa es mas que tu casa level. I take a plate from the cupboard. Walk to the first pot and ladle myself some fish stew.
Even though it looks like a bunch of roasted armadillos, it's tastier than a bowl of mazto balls... floaters!
Out of habit, I walk to the rice cooker, open it up... empty. Shit! I forgot. No rice.
But then I notice the other pot on the stove. I open the lid and it's filled with rice, little chunks of meat, and a few vegetables.
Oy boy, they must've forgotten there was some of this left. I scoop it over the fish, and take some more sauce from the first pan to cover the rice.
“Make sure you peel the fish,” mom tells me, “you can't eat the outside.”
“Excuse me?” I ask.
“It's armor fish,” says mom, “the outside is like a shell. You have to peel it first.”
I do. It's delicious. I pull some meat off the bone, cut a bit of yellow pepper, mash it into the rice, gobble it all up. Great! Not much left after a meal like that!
During my dinner, mom and dad are watching a TV program sponsored by the Parbo beer company. (Did I mention that all over the Caribbean, families do not eat together? Mom cooks a meal, leaves it in the pot, and the rest of the family helps themselves whenever they feel like it. It makes me uncomfortable to sit by myself in someone else's house, eating their food alone, but that's what I do.) The TV show is a live concert, with people dressed like in the 70s. Amazing blacks in white jumpsuits... Elvis meets Sly meets Saturday Night Fever. Wow!
“That's great,” I say. “I'd love to see that live sometime.
“You can,” says Dad. “That's the Parbo festival. It's going to be right near here... tomorrow, in fact. You just have to ask Jose to take you.”
“Great,” I say. “I'll do that.”
Then I take a whole lot more bites, and finish my meal.
“That was delicious!” I tell mom. “And you forgot about the great rice dish in the other pot.”
I can see her eyebrows knit as if she doesn't understand what I'm talking about.
“That pot over there,” I point. “There's some rice and meat in it... it goes perfect with the fish.”
A voice comes from behind. It's Jose. I didn't notice him enter the kitchen.
“Mykel,” he says, “that's the dog food.”
FLASH TO TOMORROW, EVE OF PARBO NIGHTS: Jose clearly doesn't want to go to this thing. It's about 8 o'clock. He's up in his room, way behind on school work. AND he's got this BAD GUEST who he knows wants to see some awful kitch at an event he doesn't have time or inclination to participate in.
Dad shouts up the stairs: “Hey Jose! Mykel wants to go to Parbo Nights. You should take him before it gets too late.”
“Jose,” shouts Dad, louder. “Mykel is waiting.”
The door to Jose's room creaks open. He slowly comes down the stairs.
“So, Mykel,” he says, “what's up?”
“It's PARBO NIGHTS!” I tell him.
He looks skyward.
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