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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Back Home or The Final Mykel's Caribbean Blog

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 Guiana, 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 to mud. I'm outta there the next day. After a banana boat ride back to Suriname, I again find myself back at Jose's. It's monkey meat and gamelon--- probably less of a strange combination than it seems. Then, back to Guyana.

This time, I'm staying a couple of days with Peeps. The IT guy you met the last time I blogged about the country. ]

This will be the last entry in the Caribbean blog. I want to write about Detroit, but that was months ago and I've already forgotten. Maybe I can dig up my notes.

Right now, let's go to Ryon's (Peep's) place where I've got the front room... full of windows... with my own bed and a fan that blows just right in the sultry air.

(I stole this one from his Facebook Page)
Ryon (pronounced Rye-On, with an emphasis on the ON, to distinguish him from Ryan.. pronounced Rye-In) is the IT guy. Ryan is in Keep Your Day Job Exclamation Mark guy. My other friends call Ryon PEEPS, because of his thick glasses. And, he's one of those people who is cool enough not to care about nicknames. (Unlike me, who is easily irritated by shorty, baldy, or gramps.)

Besides me, Uncle Kennard is also staying at Peep's place. Skinnier than An Intellectual History of American Football, Kennard's not his real name. I can't remember what it is... and the internet tells me Kennard is the number one boy's name in Guyana. Unlike most Kennards, this guy is... let me rephrase that, unlike most of the humans on earth, this guy is...

Yeah Mykel,” he says, sitting on the couch next to me, wearing only a stained pair of boxer shorts. “Did I ever tell you about how we were poaching fish from Suriname. Always one step ahead of the cops... weird... catching fish on an empty stomach... you know meth...” he waves his hands in the air as if dispersing smoke. “Well, you don't feel like eating... so... where was I... the cops... they were after us... POW! POW! I don't know if they were trying to scare us with the guns or... look at this...” He shows me a round scar on his shoulder, “that there's a bullet hole... not from that time... from some other time... Anyway... we were hauling in the fish... no visas, of course.”

I didn't think fish needed visas,” I say.

He looks at me and squints.

Where was I...,” he continues. “Oh yeah, the cops were shooting at us, so we had to go inland... follow a stream... just a little biddy thing... mostly mud... but it went through... far enough away... I mean the cops were afraid of going in there... caymans and howlers... I donno... but we got away... then we realized we didn't know where we were or even how to get out... so we stopped to do some more fishing...”

And it goes on like this for some time. Most of the stories have left my head in fits of senility over the last year, but this guy was absolutely the most interesting person I met on the entire trip... and he cooked me French toast for breakfast. I wish I had a picture. (I'm going to have to steal a lot from the internet for this blog!)

I'm only in town for a couple days. So Gavin, Ryan, and Ryon arrange my farewell party at Peeps' place. We meet early and go to the local SURVIVAL supermarket, just around the corner. We pick up some BANKS for the party. I enter the store and see a big sign: WEDNESDAYS SENIOR DISCOUNT-- 62 or older.

Oh yeah, in case you forgot, BANKS BEER (actually headquartered in Barbados) is the main beer in Guyana. Here is a fine (internet) picture of the beer.

"Hey, I can save us money” I say, turning to look for my fellow shoppers. They're gone. I'm an escaped toddler in the Christmas rush... A lost puppy fallen from the box... I'm... where are they?

I walk around the store looking for my friends. Not here. There's no way in hell I can find my way back. I'll be spending my last night in Guyana... on the floor of the supermarket. I'm done for. Serves me right for so much good luck!

I leave the store.

Ryan stands outside looking worried. “Where were you Mykel?” he asks. We're gonna bring all this beer home.

I coulda got you a discount,” I whine. “I'm old.”

Oh that Senior Day thing?” he asks.

I nod.

It's no good for booze,” he shakes his head. “They don't think old people should be drinking.”

SHIFT TO RYON'S HOUSE, the front room... “my room.” It's a party... my party... a ton of people... all my favorite Guyanese. Gavin and Ryan and Jamal and Addevi and people I don't know, and their friends. Only Uncle Kennard isn't there.

And the beer starts... then a bottle of Jack Daniels KYDJ! brought back from Suriname... duty free.... then a bottle of Jim Beame I brought back from Suriname... duty free... ... then the weed... It's coming on 9 o'clock.

NINE PEE EM and the party is ALREADY in full swing. I'm beat, the trip has caught up with me. In New York, I'd be just starting at Nine. They're here for me and I want to go to sleep. I try to be nice, but my eyes close. I feel my head wobble on my neck.

My” bed is full... packed. People lying and drinking and smoking... a couple I don't know makes out at the edge. I can barely keep my assload of real estate. I can't stand... I don't have to... someone shoves another Banks into my hand.

I need to sleep... I'm going back to Trinidad tomorrow. The music is loud... mostly hip hop. Somehow I slip deeper into that assspace. I sleep, an old man falling asleep at his own farewell party. I can't help it... I...

BANG! The silence wakes me up. I open my eyes, but the rest of me is paralyzed. I hear a shuffling around the room. All I can see is directly in front of me... empty beer bottles... cigarette butts... roach ends... empty scotch bottles... cigarettes butts in empty beer bottles. There's more shuffling... I think it's Ryon... I have no strength to move my eyeballs to check.

Into my field of view moves Peeps. He's wearing pajamas or loose sweat pants or something. I want to look up, smile, let him know I'm awake, but it's like a dream. I can't move.

He's cleaning up. Moving the ashes from one beer bottle to another. Shuffling left-over contraband and heavy things I can't see. My eyes are locked-- like the rest of me... unable to move in their sockets. Then I notice it. His pants... pajamas... I don't know... they're sticking out in front... just a bit... poking up like happens to guys in the morning... a little tent. I shouldn't be staring at this. I shouldn't even be noticing. I can't help it. I can't do anything... turn away, even close my eyes... This cannot come to anything good. He's gonna look down... see me staring... then I'm in trouble...

The glass of the bottles clinks as he goes on his way, clearing, cleaning, he and his hard-on... still right in front of me... turning this way and that... I shouldn't be seeing this... I am seeing this... I should close my eyes... I can't close my eyes... I can close my eyes... I wake up and the room is empty.

I forget how I reach the airport that day. Probably the KYDJ! guys drive me. In Trinidad, Randy's brother Real picks me up at the airport. I'm staying with Randy at his parent's house. There is some tension in the air. I dunno. I get the feeling they're not happy to see me. Randy and his brothers are fine. But mom and dad... I don't know.

I'm only here a few days. Randy has scheduled some studio time. I was supposed to have written the words to a few songs. I had the MP3s in my computer--- the whole trip. More than a month to work on lyrics. I fucked up... forgot.

It's all last minute, and the words don't quite fit the tunes... or they do, but I didn't rehearse them enough. One song that Randy called PENN STATE, I rename I'M A PERVERT.

I love to release the feces and grease of a brown one
I love to splatter dung matter as I down one

Off your ivory tower my friend
A nice brown shower my friend

I'm just a pervert. You know I'm just a pervert
I'm glad to be a pervert... a pervert for you.

I love to explode just off the commode and then eat it
All the whole while releasing my fly so I can beat it.

You think I'm reckless my friend?
Want a pearl necklace my friend?


I love to sit close to the toes of my host and to taste them
I love to sniff deep and they call me a creep when I embrace them

I won't be saved by you
I'm depraved by you...

I'm a pervert. I'm just a pervert

Here I am in the studio... a fancy place... a relic in this age of home recording... a professional place... people who know a Sennheiser from a Shure... A real recording room... I can see the engineer and Randy on the other side of the window that looks into the control room. It's a chorus of eye-rolling.

All on Randy's (and Bryan's) dime... and I'm just fucking up... one tune after another. I can't make it work. My voice won't go the same way as the music. I have no control... like my eyes at Peeps' place.

I'm just a Pervert! I'm just a Pervert!

I sing/shout... missing the beat every time. The harder I try, the more I fuck up. Eventually, we give up.

Good job, Mykel,” Randy says to me the same way you might tell a toilet-training toddler “Good job,” when he just about hits the bowl.

The next day of my short stay it's off to the hummingbird sanctuary with Randy's mom. Also joining us is the mother of Bryan, the singer in ANTI-EVERYTHING and one of my recording sponsors.

Bryan's mom, a school-teacher in Port of Spain, greets me with “Mykel! I've heard so much about you. I've wanted to meet you for a long time.”

What a switch! Usually people who've heard so much about me... run like hell when they get a chance to meet me.

On the way to the car, I dump the lyrics to I'M A PERVERT and the other sick songs in a garbage can near the street. Then I get in the car... and we're off.

Randy's mom drives us to the sanctuary. Up in the mountains, through dirt roads that run along the sides of cliffs. My ears pop. The roads become narrower. The scenery becomes more... er... rustic. If they threw me out of the car and raced off, I'd have no idea where to begin. They don't.

Finally, we park... not in a lot... but in a precarious space at the edge of a cliff. One false move and it's Thelma and Louise! No false moves.

We get out of the car and walk up a steep hill to a closed gate in front of a massive house. Randy's mom rings a bell, and the gate swings open by itself. It could be the entrance to Dracula's castle. On the other side of the gate is another steep climb to the bird sanctuary where the birdman of Trinidad has thousands of hummingbirds... different colors... sizes from bumble bee to a Peeps-size erection.

The first thing I notice is the hum. I don't hear it. They're hum-fucking birds and there's no hum.

Why do they call them humming birds?” I whisper to Bryan's mom.

We sit on what looks like a large porch outside a country house. There's going to be a lecture, and then a tour of the sanctuary. There are chairs and space for about three dozen people.

You don't hear it?” she asks.

The sanctuary head, an elderly colored gentleman, looks at me and smiles.

Some people can't hear it,” he says. “I'm not sure what it is. But for some people, humming birds don't hum.”

It's 35 years of punkrock,” I don't tell him. “Waddaya expect?”

The presentation is fascinating. All the while this guy is telling us the history of the place, these tiny birds are flitting around him and the feeders hanging around the porch.

[Aside: Bird-watching is something I've changed my opinion about. I had this image of bird-watchers as nerdy old people in the park-- with binoculars. Hah! David Klauber, the only friend I have left from high school, is a bird-watcher. He's also my only friend who's gone to more countries than I have. He's visited Port Moresby, the highest crime city in the world. You can't walk on the street after 5 o'clock because some guy with a bone in his nose is gonna come up behind you and cut off your head... and shrink it. He went there to see this special bird you can't see anywhere else in the world. So don't tell me bird-watchers are wimps... They follow their passion... danger be damned... more than any other group I know... including bungee jumpers-- or punk rockers.]

The birds are amazing, fascinating, I took a ton of pictures-- and I can't find any of them. They're gone from my hard drive... from the camera... from the back-up. Disappeared like my memories... sad... but real. So here's a picture I got off the internet: 

Back at the bird sanctuary, I lean over and whisper in Randy's mom's ear. “This is terrific. Thanks for taking me. I wonder how they can maintain all this for free.

It's not free,” she says. “It's expensive.”

They paid for me! And a lot... wow.I had no idea.

Tell me how much it was,” I don't say. “I'll be happy to pay my share.”

I still feel a bit guilty about not paying anything. Such a good time on someone else's dime... er... dollar. I should have taken them out... but there was the feeling... the strange unwelcomed feeling I was getting from Randy's mother. Nothing overt, but just a cold feeling... very noticeable among these warmest Caribbean people.

It's my last day in Trinidad. Randy's mom won't even talk to me. Her only words: “I'm so busy, I just don't have time to talk.”

I'm worried. What's up? What happened? Maybe she found my PERVERT lyrics in the trashcan. I dunno...

It's leaving time. Rael's driving me to the airport. Mom's upstairs doing something with the laundry. Sorting or bagging or something... bent over a suitcase. I walk over to thank her... say good bye...

I'm leaving now,” I tell her.

All right,” she says.

Thanks for everything,” I say, walking towards her. I reach out to give her a hug. She pushes her hand in my chest... completely repulsed.. a DON'T TOUCH ME gesture. I don't get it. Had she walked in on me when I was... er... doing something private? I didn't use the sheets as a tissue. What's the problem? Guests aren't supposed to do that? I don't know the etiquette here. But I bet I'm not a guest again. Had she seen me through the window? Heard the rumors? Read the book? I don't know, but it's very sad... for me.

[OH NO! A long time ago, I complained to a friend of mine that she seemed annoyed. I asked her what I'd done. "It's not just about YOU, Mykel." she said. I thought it would be cool to make her an IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT YOU, MYKEL t-shirt to wear around New York. I never did it though. 

Now, after trashing Randy's mom, (She and Dad were so GREAT to me the first time I was in Trinidad), I find out that there was all kinds of background stuff I wasn't aware of. Personal problems, health problems, troubles that had NOTHING to do with me. I need to make an IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT YOU, MYKEL t-shirt for HER to wear! I feel better now, knowing that it WASN'T me. But I also feel guilty about complaining about her hospitality. 

Have I learned my lesson? Somehow, I doubt it.]

At the airport, I buy Rael some Royal Crown chicken and we share a farewell meal. My last taste of the greatest fast food chicken on the planet.

From Trinidad, it's on to Miami, a night with Alan and Sharon, then back to New York. When I arrive, it's not raining.

My apartment looks different. My subletter has returned to Australia. In her wake, the bathtub is white. 30 years of soapscum have been removed from the sink. I can see the grain in the wood floor. I can run my hand along a shelf without the need to wash immediately after. All the lightbulbs work. There is no garbage in the kitchen bin. The refrigerator smells like... like... nothing.

It'll be a week or so before I feel that I'm really home.


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