Saturday, June 19, 2010

Follow-Up Post

Here we are in Lviv, Ukraine at the Stare Misto festival:

And if anyone is curious as to just what that latino/polka bar in Inglewood looked like... Google Earth provideth:

Monday, June 14, 2010

I Wish They All Could Be California Pupusas

It's 3 AM on a Monday in Inglewood, California, the rest of the Dreadnoughts are on a plane, I'm about eight beers over the line, and I've just bet $100 of the band's money on the roll of five dice. A dozen shocked Latino gentlemen pass a hat around to match my bet, shouting and gesticulating wildly in cocaine-fuelled amazement. The word gringo is suddenly a popular one, and it's accompanied by other words that I don't particularly want to understand. The bartender is a smiling senorita named Joselyn, and she rolls the dice for her compadres: three sixes. My madness now looms in sharp focus: instead of spending a quiet evening enjoying a cup of tea and Jean-Paul Sartre at Comfort Inn Inglewood, I am utterly shitfaced and almost certainly about to lose $100 on a dice game.

I know that it is now time to bring out my Secret Weapon. I take the dice, place them in the cup, look up to the sky, cross myself, place the cup near my mouth and whisper: "let it ride."

I slam the cup upside-down and lift it up quickly, the entire bar breathlessly watching for the result...

...Although I'm fully aware that none of you is going to believe what happened next, so I should probably tell you how I got into that situation. You see, the Dreadnoughts were contracted to play the "Ink n' Iron" festival in Long Beach, California, opening for punk rock luminaries Swingin' Utters, Stiff Little Fingers, Hepcat and the incomparable X. We flew a day early from Vancouver down into the sun, sand and palm trees, and found ourselves staying in Inglewood, a poor but vibrant black/hispanic community beside South Central Los Angeles.

We downed some beers at an El Salvadorian pupuseria, a place we visited solely because any food called "pupusa" has got to be worth trying (hunch: correct). The dude behind the bar liked us, at least until the Stupid Swedish Bastard asked him: "hey, when do you get off work?". The bartender's eyes widened and he made it crystal clear that he was not homosexually oriented. The service declined noticeably after that, all because the SSB is apparently one of the eight people in the world who do not know that "when do you get off work?" is universal code for "I am a creepy asshole who wants to fuck you".

With this towering success under our belts, we decided to go back to our hotel. That highly responsible plan was quickly destroyed when we walked past a small, raucous, hole-in-the-wall bar with Mexican accordion-polka music blaring from inside. If you've spent any time with us at all, you know that eight thousand Samurai warriors couldn't have kept us out of there.

I tell you, dear readers, there is nothing that two dozen surly occupants of a Latino-only bar love more than three weirdos, a hippie and a troll walking into their bar, especially when the invaders are whiter than a terrified polar bear who's drowning in a giant pile of chalk.

Several uncomfortable seconds passed before we whipped out a very clever trick we've used at the native-only Savoy bar on East Hastings: we bought the bar a round. This, as everyone knows, is universal code for "please ignore the fact that the White Man is responsible for 60% of the world's problems and 100% of yours".

Mexican polka, endless rounds of Bohemia beer, dancing, shouting, singing, and surrounded by illegal immigrants with three jobs each: that is how the Dreadnoughts like to be, man. As we took a taxi (punk rock!) to the festival the next day, we wondered how weird it was going to be to go from that to a tattoo festival where we're not allowed to swear onstage and we get to sit backstage with Stiff Little Fingers and 12 free cans of Bud Light.

Answer: very weird. We have nothing against tattoos (except, occasionally, our grunting, sweaty bodies) but we don't really get the point of covering yourself with them, slicking your hair back and gurgling over sparkly cars from the 1950s. I'll take our beautiful 2007 Dodge Grand Caravan anyday, but hey, whatever floats your ocean liner.

(in 2057 will people go to Dodge Grand Caravan shows?)

Everyone was very nice, though, our set went well and getting to hang out with the Utters and Hepcat was just awesome. The Dreadnoughts actually made quite a splash amongst all of the Famous People, and not because of our music. Let's just say that I have, on my laptop, a YouTube video of an extremely well-endowed walrus doing something very... nice to himself with his big, floppy, whiskery mouth. I showed the video to the singer of Swingin' Utters, and I guess word got around the backstage area, because a couple of hours later an older Irish gentleman approached me and said: "Hello, we haven't met, but I play guitar in Stiff Little Fingers and I understand that you have a video that I have to see."

This is now our strategy for becoming famous: make sure that no man, woman or child in the world thinks the name "Dreadnoughts" without also thinking "walrus video".

We took another taxi (punk rock!) back from the festival and despite the fact that it was 1 in the morning the SSB and I went straight back to mexican polka bar, where we were greeted with a cheer and several shouts of "andele!". Which, as everyone knows, is universal Spanish code for "buy me a beer, white boy!".

We also can't go anywhere without running into racists: this is just a fact that we've learned to accept. From the sieg-heils in rural Quebec to the Polish skinhead who insisted that a black hockey player has never existed in the history of the world, we've really seen a lot of this stuff. But nothing prepared us for the "Deport Obama" bumper sticker on the LA freeway.

Or the guy who looked at me in the elevator and said "man, it's good to be white, isn't it?" Umm.... what? Congratulations, America: you have produced racists that make European neo-nazis look relatively tame.

The more we travel, the more we realize how utterly stupid racism is. Walking into that place was like diving into a cool pool on a blistering-hot day... I felt like we were back in the real, actual world again with real people. Despite the fact that we invaded their bar and the fact that most were registered gang members, just about all of them were friendly, cheerful and curious to learn about Canada. Racism is stupid. In fact, as everyone knows, there is only one kind of person worse than a racist, and that's a goddamned Frenchman.

Anyway, It felt so good to be back that I decided to celebrate by losing my passport. So while the rest of the lads flew home the next day, I was in a barely controlled panic trying to find the stupid thing so I could get home. It turns out that a Canadian passport dropped on the ground in an area full of illegals is not likely to be returned. Right now, at the Saskatchewan border, there's a guy from Bolivia who speaks eight words of English trying to convince the border guard that his name is "Nicholas Andrew Smyth".

I quickly devised an alternate strategy for dealing with the situation: instead of running around in a controlled panic, I was going to just go back to the damned bar and drink my problems away. Round three. I hung out with Joselyn, Benito and the owner's son all night, a certain walrus-themed video may or may not have been merrily passed around, and the fact that I was laughing, drinking and singing along to Spanish accordion music while the other Dreadnoughts were enduring a 6-hour layover in Denver made it all particularly sweet. Hey, guys: suck it! Did you join the mile-high club with each other? Ha!

But, gentle readers, I drank a little too much, made a few too many friends, and when they taught me the dice-game, I found myself betting 100 DreadBucks on one round. I needed to roll a full house, four-of-a-kind or a five-of-a-kind to beat Jocelyn's three sixes and win all that money. Odds? Around one in 20. Ayyy. Sweating like an athsmatic pig, I rolled, lifted the cup, and everyone stared in disbelief at a five, a three, and...

...three sixes. A tie.

Let it ride.