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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

More than Spanking the Monkey or Mykel's Caribbean Blog Chapter 19

by Mykel Board

Nov, 2013

[Recap: From the start, it doesn't look good for this trip. Everything goes right... always a bad sign. Nothing portends disaster like everything going right.

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

Uh oh! Too good. The better the news early, the bigger the fall later. And things get worse. (Better) Miami goes so smoothly you could cry. The only problem is a lot of rain-- heavy rain. The streets are rivers... waves in the pool. I get wet. Very wet.

Then to Trinidad, where my friends pick me up at the airport and take me drinkin'-- and more drinking. It doesn't rain so much in Trinidad.

Then to Guyana.

In Guyana, my facebook friends from KEEP YOUR DAY JOB! meet me at the airport. The two weeks of my stay in Guyana are adventure-filled, and beer-dulled. Most days, it rains. Sometimes for just an hour or two in the afternoon. Sometimes all day.

I don't get it Mykel,” says my pal Jamal. “This isn't the rainy season.”

Rainman,” I say.

He still doesn't get it.

The plan is to travel to Suriname with Keep Your Day Job! But, uh oh... a drummer problem. Two drummers agreed to tour with us. 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 doesn't answer emails. This cannot work out. We go to Suriname anyway-- drummerless. It works out.

In Suriname, I stay with Jose, a punkrock student and his super-generous parents. They cook for me every day. I'm the guest of honor. It rains a lot.

Then it's on to French Guyana, where the brother of one of my top ten pals, Simon, lives with his girlfriend Marie. His name is Florian.

I take a small boat across the river that separates French Guiana from Suriname. The captain lets me choose my port of entry: “legal or backtrack?” I choose legal. At customs, I annoy the white immigration officers by asking for a passport stamp. It's raining.

My first days in French Guyana are distress free... unless you count the bottom paddling I get from my friends' spare bicycle. I have one of the best days of the entire trip: canoeing through the Amazon with Florian as my French guide. Chased by dogs, paddle-blistered hands, bitten by mosquitoes, stuck in the roots of swamp trees... it's wonderful.

The only thing better, I'm told, will be THE CARNIVAL... an all night festival my hosts and their friends have been working on for months.


It rains... pours... torrents of rain... non-stop. A field of dreams turned into mud. I was outta there the next day. After a banana boat ride back to Suriname, I found myself back at the home of Jose and his family in Paramaribo.]

What did you think of French Guyana?” asks Dad. “Pretty primitive wasn't it?”

Were the roads paved yet?” asks mom. “We haven't been there in awhile.”

And the crime?” continues Dad. “Did you feel in danger? Did people try to rob you?”

I think you're confusing it with Detroit,” I tell them.

They don't get it.

I explain how I liked the country and found the people friendly, much like Suriname. The people speak French instead of Dutch... and there are more French French in French Guiana than there are Dutch Dutch in Suriname. Otherwise, it's just the same... except... “While I haven't seen the jungle in Suriname,” I tell them, “I paddled through it in French Guyana. It was beautiful.”

Uh oh! Last time I made a casual comment-- about wanting to see the local synagogue-- I got the whole magila. From kissing the mezuzah to the post-shabbos Borei Pri Hagafen. I mentioned fishing... and bang... mom made me the most delicious armored fish soup this side of the Corentyne River.

(For an interesting look at the PIRATES in that river between Guyana and Suriname, check this out.)

Remember this picture?

armor fish stew
What now? I mention JUNGLE some- thing's gonna happen. Sometimes, I'm such an idiot.

Jungle?” says Dad. “You want jungle? Tomorrow!”

Bang! We're off the the wilds of the Suranamese jungle... at least the part we can get to by car... their car. It's a whirl of trees, ports, weird food... and I forgot to charge the camera battery! I'm so sorry I didn't get... THE MARKET on film... er... on pixel. You'll have to settle for Google images.

We pull up to a local market... on the outskirts of Nowhere... a nothing village in the middle of No Place. Mom, Dad, Me, the only white(ish) people for miles. A woman is selling intricately patterned blue-on-black fabric. Another one has an odd assortment of roots... many looking like those much shared internet photos.

Come here Mykel,” says mom.

She's standing next to a large freezer chest... the kind they sold coke out of before you were born.

Mom speaks to the native lady. She nods and opens the chest. Ice fog emerges like in a horror move. Inside are various cuts of meat. Then I see it. It looks like a baby's shoulder and arm, with a woman's hand attached... frozen... white as a zombie. There's a ragged cut... outlined in dried blood... where the shoulder used to attach to a chest. On the palm of the hand is what looks like a snowcone. I later find out it's rice.

Aap de hand?” asks mom.

The woman nods.

It's a monkey's arm,” says mom. “A delicacy around here. Should I ask the price for you?”

I stare at the thing... not really able to answer... in retrospect, I expect mom was kidding... but at that moment I'm... not horrified... not shocked or disgusted... just slack-jawed and amazed. And no camera!

Here's someone else's picture from the web... it looks a lot less human than the one in the chest.

Monkey Meat
It's a great trip of course. But these people. They're SOOOO nice it hurts!

Ah, there's so much more to tell, but my life is also full of other trips, other adventures with more to come. So I need to speed up this narrative.

My next day in Suriname is filled with a Gamelan chase.

I just happened to mention... to Dad... that an American pal heard about the Javanese influence in Suriname and wanted to hear some of that music.

Pow! Dad is on the phone... calling friends. Then, back into the car... Jose and I are off with dad, visiting this friend and that friend. Dad knows everyone in the capital!...Chatting, getting directions... going here... going there... sleuthing... including an encounter with a giant snail.

More sleuthing... finally, a copy of an ancient CD obviously copied from vinyl. Another trip to find someone who can dupe the CD... a trip back to the CD owner to return the original.

An hour... two... three... all for me! Wow! I'm afraid to say anything else.

You really have a lovely home.”

Oh Mykel, if you like it. It's yours. I'll draw up the lease transfer.”

No, that didn't happen, but Dad did arrange for a taxi to pick me up... at 6AM.

It was that taxi that picks me up to bring me back to the ferry to Guyana... a real ferry... with lots of people and tickets and cars on the boat. The ride is uneventful. Once on the ship, it occurs to me that I still have to get from the Ferry to Georgetown.

I have about 400 dollars-- Guyanese dollars. Value? About two US dollars. I don't think that'll get me very far.

I'm the only white guy on the boat... and that's the way I like it. Maybe I can play the stupid-poor-white-guy-in-distress. It won't take a lot of acting skill.

Here's a nice guy... fatherly with touches of gray appearing in his close-cropped hair. Next to him sits his wife... frumpy but dignified... and kid... a girl about 7, her hair braided in corn rows.

Hi,” I say. “Are you by any chance driving to Georgetown on the way back?”

We are,” says the man.

Could you give me a lift?” I ask.

We can't,” says the man.

The car is full,” he explains, shrugging. “You know, Suriname shopping. It's cheaper there.”

I understand,” I lie.

I ask another guy, this one younger and hipper.

Sorry man,” he says. “I'm here with my mates. (Mates?) What they say goes.”

The ship pulls close to the Guyana port. The passengers are in their cars... engines started. A line of cars has started at the exit ramp to Guyana. Maybe a dozen wait to leave to ship.

I walk through the carbon monoxide to the first car in line... Look in the window... the back seat is filled with zippered plastic bags and open paper shopping bags. Sitting on the front seat is a man about my age, a plump woman with very bad teeth, and a little girl. Actually, the little girl is standing... on the seat... bouncing up and down... saying something I can't hear through the closed window. She looks at me... laughs.

I move to the next car.

This is the one with the guy and his mates-- all teens or barely twenties. There are four of them, each with a Red Bull (the drink, not the animal) in hand. They look like they'd had quite a time in Suriname. I'm guessing it might be lucky that I can't ride in that car.

Then, the third car. In movies... in literature... in eggs... it's always the third something... that's the payoff. Three wishes, three curses, three minutes... So this should be the one... life imitates art, right?

Nope. This is an ancient Toyota (NOTE: most of the cars in Guyana are Japanese cast-offs. Since, like Japan, people drive on the left, and since Japanese cars last longer than Guyanese people... it makes sense... although it's strange to see people in this English-speaking country, trying to figure out what メニュー means on their touch screen.) The car is a ぽんこつ車. I'd be amazed if it made it off the boat, let alone all the way to Georgetown.

Car number four: This one's also a Japanese car... a bigger one... SUVish. Mom and dad in the front seat, brother and sister in the back. No bags... plenty of room for skinny Mykel. Yeah right.

Are you going to Georgetown?” I ask the driver through the open window.

He nods.

You got room for one more?” I say in my most pleadingly desperate voice.

He turns to his wife. She shrugs. He speaks over his the boy in the back seat.

Open the door for the man,” he says.

Yeah! Right!

If you've been following the adventure, you remember that Guyana is the only place I had to pay for accommodations on this trip... and that was a measly $10 a day. This time, my KYDJ! friends found me a place with Ryon... aka Peeps! He's the guy whose parents hosted the nasty dinner where the band fell apart (or so I thought... You can read about it here.)

Anyway, here's peeps with his (and my) beverage of choice... probably a BANKS!


IIt is NOT Ryan who plays guitar in Keep Your Day Job. This is a cool IT/techie guy who'll end up giving me some bootleg... Whoops, I don't want to say any more... the NSA is snooping, don't you know? I'D NEVER DO ANYTHING ILLEGAL! Got that NSA? Me and LEGAL are tight... like that. See ONLY LEGAL! Get it?

Ryon's place will be the scene of my farewell party... the location of the weird uncle... one of the most interesting guys I meet on this trip filled with interesting people and... well, you'll find out about it next month.



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You might also want to check the blog of Mykel Board's Columns .

WARNING: The Column Blog is neither PC nor PG. It might make you mad, or disgusted. The thin-skinned, politically correct, and easily sickened should stay away. You have been warned.

BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE! In an ultimately useless effort to rid myself of apartment junk, I'm giving away CDs, cassettes, VHS videos and more. Just pay separate shipping and handling. (sorry US addresses only). The details are here. ]