Saturday, June 14, 2008

Mykel's Column for MRR #302, July



YOU'RE WRONG
Mykel's column for MRR #302,
July 2008

"Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.” --Dave Barry

When I was younger, I used to use my index finger. Maybe we all do. I see little babies, index fingers plugged knuckle-deep into a tiny nostril, fishing out a morsel. From nose to mouth. Dessert. A snack.

About 30 years ago, I switched. I discovered my thumb. Maybe it's a Jew thing. We've got more room. Can push that thumb right in there. Much more satisfying. I do that now, scouring the inside, the part away from the cartridge. Supporting the skin with my forefinger against the outside, hooking what's left of big-city soot, nose-haired filtered out of my lungs, now under the nail, scraping it downward. Out, examining it. Hard, part black, part translucent, like a gallon milk jug.

Re-insert.

I pick at the exquisite scab in the V where the nostril attaches to the rest of my face. I rip at it. A beautiful pain, like a tongue pressing a sore tooth. I tear the scab from inside my nose. This time my nail is black-- and red with fresh blood. A real chunk, built up through a day of slow bloody leakage. My reward for breathing the frozen New Hampshire air.

I'm here on a short trip to Fredericton, New Brunswick. Not in New Jersey. In Canada. Where nobody goes. Where I just happened to see on a map when I'm showing my students New England. Where I decide to drive, and stop along the way. Libraries to write. Micro-breweries to beer.

Right now, I'm in Quiznos in Manchester NH, trying to contact Jason. I have 40 minutes before they close. Soon, I'll be out in the cold. Manchester is VERY cold.

Jason's my couch-surfing host for the day. I called a couple times on the way from Boston, but just got voicemail.

Now there's some kind of electronic tornado. The vortex of the e-storm is Quiznos in Manchester, New Hampshire. Telecommunications is nigh on impossible. Maybe it's terrorists. Ssssshhhhhaaaaaahhhhhhhhhrrrrr. Ssssshhhhhaaaaaahhhhhhhhhrrrrr. All cellphone communication blocked. I walk outside Quiznos to try again. I pushed the JASON button.
“Ssssshhhhhaaaaaahhhhhhhhhrrrrr. Ssssshhhhhaaaaaahhhhhhhhhrrrrr. Hello youSsssshhhhhaaaaaahhhhhhhhhrrrrr. ...nally.”

“Hello Jason? It's Mykel. I don't know if you can hear me. But I'm in town, at Quiznos on Elm Street. They're going to close soon. You know where Quiznos is?”

“Ssssshhhhhaaaaaahhhhhhhhhrrrrr, I do,” he says. “I'll see ySsssshhhhhaaaaaahhhhhhhhhrrrrr.”

“Yeah,” I say. “See you.”

Then I return to type these words. During the next 20 minutes, three people enter the sandwich store. One is a very street-looking kid: big, black, in baggy jeans, baseball hat with a perfectly flat brim tilted up and slightly to the right. Something about the guy isn't authentic. Like he's a dean's-list student from the local university, trying to look ghetto. I don't know what it is. His lack of swagger. Some deep intelligence that shows through his walk. The way he doesn't swing his shoulders. I donno.

As I puzzle this out, two blond really dumb-looking white girls walk in, almost as if choreographed. They are authentic. Simultaneously, the two of them shift their weight. One skinny leg at a time. Step. Swing hip. Step. Swing hip. Step. Swing hip. Like sex soldiers, marching in tandem with puffed out chests.

Both chew gum. Both wear skirts much too short for the freezing weather. (Did I mention there's snow on the ground? And it's colder than a witch's twat... and twice as windy.)

“What can I get you?” asks the vaguely Hispanic girl behind the counter.

“We'd like an application,” says the girl with the higher hair. “We want to work here.”

The Hispanic worker looks pleadingly at her boss. He's also behind the counter, a mop in his hands. He shakes his head.

“I'm sorry,” says the counter-worker. “We're not hiring at the moment.”

“That's okay,” says the other girl. They shrug in tandem and walk out of the store.

Passing them on his way in, is a guy wearing jeans, a pink shirt, a maroon tie, with the best chin since Ai... the Drink Club goddess. I don't know what it is, but there's something about chins. Everyone I know with a really strong chin has a really strong personality. It's a good sign.
And yeah it is. It's Jason. He takes me from Quiznos to a great brewpub.

It's called MILLY'S TAVERN, and, like everything else in Manchester, is in an old mill. (Well, a few things are in old factories.) Before the bar, Jason wants to take me to the river, like Al Green. But it's just too cold.

Inside, I check out the beer menu. Neither of us has eaten dinner, so we also check out the food menu. Nothing special. Burgers, quesadillas, bar food. But the beer menu well....

Usually a good name suckers me in. But for some reason I order the boringly named John Stark Porter. The best name is Hopnoxious IPA, but I'm not a big IPA fan.

An IPA is supposed to have: high hop bitterness, high hop aroma, and high alcohol content. At least according to the internet. But mostly, you get the bitterness, and not much else. Sometimes IPAs taste spoiled... rotten. I usually avoid them.

The porter is excellent. Dark, not quite as thick as Guinness, but still filling enough to ensure I can't finish my quesadilla! I have two of 'em. Porters, that is, not quesadillas. It's the best new beer of this trip.

Over dinner we talk. Jason has just come back from four years of teaching in Egypt. He loved Egypt and the Egyptian people. Quite a different point of view from my recent guests from Lebanon! But that's how I like it! And why I like traveling. A few days confirms that everybody is wrong about everything.

After Milly's, we go back to Jason's place... a condo that used to be a shoe factory. They kept the girders, boiler oven door and smokestack. A cool place to live.

Jason introduces me to his roommate whose name I forget. I'll call him Shasta. He's a tall thin guy, about 20. Now, he bends over a computer looking intently at a photo of what looks like himself.

“Admiring yourself?” I ask.

The guy turns to me with a face splitting smile. The kind people fall in love over.

“No,” he says. “It's my brother.”

I hear a faint twinge of an accent. Like he's from Africa, but an English speaking part. Later, Jason tells me that he's from The Gambia.

Yes! Now I'll have a chance to solve one of my life's great mysteries. Why is the Gambia THE Gambia? I know why The Bronx is The Bronx. It used to be plural. Broncks. Plural places use THE: like The Bahamas, The United States, The Philippines. But Gambia??? That's not a plural.

By the time I think to ask him about THE, Shasta is off to bed. Me too, Then it hits me. NO! NO! NO! I am in New Hampshire. I MUST go to GG Allin's grave. I cannot leave the state without a visit.

I quickly check the internet. It's 103 miles away--- in the wrong direction. From there, it's seven more hours to Canada. Fuck-it, I'm going anyway. I'll pay for a motel one night-—in Maine. I saw an ad for one in a free magazine. Around $60 a night. In a town with a brewpub. Orono, Maine.
Right now, it's off to get rid of the day's beer, and then hit the sack.

I dream about visiting GG's grave. There'll be one person-- a beautiful skinny punk girl. She wears a used white wedding dress-- just starting to fall apart. The white dress is in strong contrast to her jet-black hair. She'll have flowers in her hand, white roses, laying them on GG's grave. I'll walk up to her. She'll be startled.

“He.. hello,” she'll say shyly. “Are you here to visit GG?”

I'll nod.

“I'm Mykel Board,” I'll tell her, “I was a pal of GG's. I produced his two ROIR CDs. I played with him in New York. I wrote...”

“Mykel Board!” she'll say. “Of course I know you. You're famous. Let's pay our respects, then go back to my apartment and have wild anal intercourse.”

Jason wakes me at 8AM. He offers me some fruit, breakfast cereal, tea. But he DOESN'T HAVE COFFEE. Oh no. It could be deadly. When I wake up, I NEED COFFEE. I'm a caffe-betic. My body is incapable of producing the coffee enzyme on its own. If I don't get it from the outside, I will DIE! I don't mention this to my host, but I strain against the pain and have a banana.
Jason's got to go to work, and his roommate has early classes. Same university. They ask if I'd mind driving them.

“It's on the way to GG Allin,” says Jason.

Of course, I don't mind, though I'd rather someone else takes the wheel. I haven't had my coffee yet.

I hand Jason the keys. He'll drive. Bags packed, the three of us navigate the factory condo corridors to the car. As we walk, I talk to Shasta.

“I hear you're from The Gambia,” I tell him.

“That's right,” he says.

“Could I ask you kind of a weird question?” I ask.

He looks at me warily, as if I'm going to violate some kind of taboo. Ask him about strange tribal rituals. The length of his body parts.

“Why is The Gambia, THE Gambia? I mean I know why The Bronx is THE Bronx, but Gambia. I don't get it.”

He smiles.

“Well, it's hard to know exactly. There are rumors... stories,” he says. “But what I heard is that there are other African countries. Like Ghana, and Zambia. The English colonialists put THE in so people wouldn't be confused. Gambia, Zambia, it's almost the same. You know the British. They love the word THE.”

Is he pulling my leg?

After we hit the university and say our good-byes, it's off to Littleton: the birth and final resting place of GG Allin. Then, an afternoon of wild sex with a goth punk in a wedding dress. Then back on the road to the special Brewery in Orono and the discount motel. Finally, on to NEW BRUNSWICK, which, according to my guidebook, is home to a soap museum. Something I sure don't want to miss.

Up until today, I thought GG was born and buried in Hooksett, New Hampshire. When we pen-palled in the 1980s, all his mail came from there. Too bad. Hooksett is just north of Manchester. Littleton is a hundred miles away. And I need some coffee!

Ah, here's a place. A little country Inn. Rustic with a capital R. Nice, but it could be Mr. Donut... as long as they have COFFEE!

I'm the only person in the place. The waitress hands me a menu and turns to leave.

“Er...” I say. “Could you bring me some coffee? Right away? Please?”

I guess it's the look of severe need imprinted on my face. In a few minutes, she's back with the coffee. I inhale it. What would the world be like without coffee? On this trip, I've been doing coffee more than usual, plus a Monster Energy Drink every day. Someday, they'll combine the two and heaven will lose its appeal. Why die, when you can drink heaven right here on earth?

This little roadside place doesn't serve breakfast. Lunch starts at 11:30. I'm here for openers. I order a salad. To drink? Just water. And more coffee! On the table, I notice a beer list. Wow!
A little place in the middle of who-knows-where, with an every day beer list like this? Guinness, Sam Adams White Ale, Woodstock Station Red Rack Ale, Stella Artois, Old Thumper...

Woodstock Station Red Rack Ale? Old Thumper? Holy He-Brew, Batman. These folks got something here we don't get down south where I come from. Yowsah!

I don't sample the Old Thumper or any other brew. But it's nice to know that folks around here care! A roadside place in New York would have, Bud, Bud Light and maybe a Coors. I pay the bill and head back toward Littleton.

My Neverlost(tm) GPS doesn't have directions inside the town. I guess it's too small. I'll have to find GG myself.

I pull into the first gas station inside the town limits. I know GG's in the Saint Rose Cemetery. I ask the guys in the gas station office. The Indian guy doesn't know.

The other guy tells me, “There are two cemeteries in town. One just up the hill here. The other down the road about two miles. That's the big one. Down the road.”

I thank him and walk out. Then... I'm really pissed at myself. Why didn't I ask? Why didn't I just say, “Which one has GG Allin?” Wadda wimp! I should be ashamed. I am ashamed.

I head toward the big cemetery, still annoyed at myself for not having the balls to ask. What would they have done to me? Called the sheriff? Yo sheriff., There's another one of those creeps looking for GG Allin. I think you better throw him in the clink where he can get gang raped by unemployed lumberjacks.

I don't think so.

The cemetery is right where the non-Indian gas station guy said it would be. There's a large statue at the entrance. Something to do with some war.

Then, there's a small driveway. At the end of driveway is a shed with a few gardening trucks parked around it. I get out of the car. Is this the right place? There are no signs anywhere... Saint Rose or not. And there are no people. There's snow, a ton of gravestones, some recently planted American flags. But no people. No mourners. No punkette in a white dress.

I wander around, looking at random tombstones. No GG Allin. Wait! There are a couple people over there. They look like gardeners. I WILL ASK!

I trudge across the remains of dozens of locals until I reach the guys. One is about my age, blond and husky. The other is in his twenties, lanky, kinda handsome. As I get closer, I realize they're not gardening. They're digging a grave. I've never talked to gravediggers before. They're a little scary. But I will NOT wimp out.

“Excuse me,” I ask.

They stop their digging and stand up, looking at me. Not sardonic, exactly, but not Laurel and Hardy either.

“Is this the Saint Rose cemetery?” I ask.

“Nope,” says the older one.

“Do you know where it is?” I ask.

“Yep,” says the younger one.

That's all he says.

“Umm...” I say.

“We were just jokin' with ya,” says the older guy, suddenly breaking into a smile. “It's right over there, next to this one.”

“Do you know where GG Allin is?” I ask.

“Oh sure,” says the young guy. He gives me directions to the tombstone, making a little map in the snow. It's weird he knows, I think.

“I guess people come here and ask you all the time,” I say.

“Yep,” he says.

“Has a punk rock girl in a white dress...” I don't ask.

GG's grave is a couple rows in from the street. It's a good size stone, easy to find. Who could miss ROCK'N'ROLL TERRORIST among the YOU'RE IN A BETTER PLACE NOWs? Next to the tombstone is a huge EMPTY bottle. The label is mostly gone. I'm guessing Jim Beam, GG's favorite. There's also a full airline-size bottle of JB, and an empty can of MONSTER! Hubba hubba!

There is, however, no goth girl in a white dress. There's no nobody.

I take out my camera, put it on the headstone across from GG, set the auto-timer and run around for the picture of me and GG. Then I notice that the tombstone is double duty. I've never seen anything like it before. It must be a discount brand. Half as expensive for half as much tombstone. Usually one side is blank anyway, right? Why not make a few bucks and sell the back to someone else?

On the front of the headstone is: GG ALLIN Live Fast Die! On the back is a picture of a praying Jesus and the name GUNTHER with the inscription Till We Meet and Never Part.

Poor Gunther. Little did he know who he was gonna never part with. Meet? I doubt it. Unless Gunther was a nasty guy, GG and he are in very different places.

I spend about half an hour with GG and Gunther, then head back northeast. Somewhere between Littleton and Orono, I stop for gas. There, in the window of the gas station office is an advertisement.

JAVA MONSTER ENERGY DRINK. NEW COFFEE FLAVORS: Loca Moca, Mean Bean, Russian, Irish Blend, Nut Up, Chai Hai, Lo Ball

Wowee!! GG was listening to me. Reaching up from hell, he manipulated the minds at Monster and they followed my bidding. Coffee Monster!

Thanks, GG. But why couldn't you have done it with the girl in the wedding dress?

Next stop: University Inn. My only motel of the trip.

They want to let me know they participate in this new environmental program. A co-op of mid-priced hotels is the sponsor.

It's promoted with laminated brochures with pictures of pandas and parrots. And the great way the motel is saving the world? They don't wash their linens.

That's right. In order to save the world's resources of soap and water, they use less of it. Of course, you can decline to participate. It's right there on the brochure. But if you don't participate, you're personally responsible for the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. You're personally wasting hundreds of gallons of water and fouling thousands of acres of wetland with the soap used to wash YOUR bedclothes. Yeah, right.

Look Mr. Hotel, if you want to save money on water and soap. That's okay. It's a business. If you want me to help, pay me for it. Give me a discount. But PUL-EASE, don't ask me to sleep in my own filth and then YOU go take credit for a hotel program to save the environment. Maybe the environment around your bank account.

The girls at the front desk are helpful, but lack some kind of spark. They don't joke around. They don't offer to change my sheets. I donno. I guess at a hotel you see everything, so nothing is funny anymore. All those spy cams behind the mirrors in the rooms. Not much left to joke about, is there?

“You a beer drinker?” I ask the chubbier of the two young deskgirls. “I'm looking for a famous brewpub around here. They make their own beer, and I wanna try it.”

“Oh,” she replies. “You're talking about the Bearmarket Pub. You can walk there from here. It's just over the bridge.”

“What's good there?” I ask.

“Oh, I don't like dark beer. But they make a great Peach Ale.”

“Thanks,” I say and head out the door, across the bridge to the pub.

It's cold, so a nice thick stout (pleonasm?) will do perfectly. Maybe I'll be adventurous and try the peach ale.

The place could be any country bar in any country college town. Lots of 20-somethings... kids saying hi to their friends, ignoring strangers. Especially strange guys who look like Inspector Gadget sitting by themselves at a table for four, writing on tiny cards. There are more beards and wool caps than you'd see in New York. In New York, they'd make you take off your hat.

As I enter, I hear the attractive waitress speaking with some guys at a table.

“We're out of stout,” she says.

The waitress brings me the menu.

The beer list is impressive: Chocolate Stout, Tuff End Porter, Crow Valley Pale Ale, Bearbrew Blueberry Weiss, Sacred Peach Ale, Pumpkin Stout, India Pale Ale...

“I overheard that you were out of stout,” I tell her. “So I'll take your Tuff End.” (I love saying “I'll take your Tuff End” to an attractive waitress.)

“Sorry,” she says. “We're out. We're out of all our Bearbrew Beers... except the IPA.”

One drink later, I'm back at the hotel. I climb into one of the two twin beds... with my boots on. Then I take a shower and use every towel in the bathroom to dry myself. Next, I take care of my ... er... personal night-time needs, cleaning up with the same sheet I wiped my boots on.

Then, since I'm only staying for one night, I hang the I will participate in the Hotel Conservation Program. Do not change linen. sign on my door, and go to bed. In the other bed. I sleep through the night... best sleep so far this trip.

In the morning, I use my thumb to pick the night's refuse from my nose, rubbing the bloody boogers on the sheet.

Eco this, baby!


ENDNOTES: [email subscribers (god@mykelboard.com) or website viewers (www.mykelboard.com) will get live links some pix and a chance to leave comments on the column]

-->My kinda protest dept: Utne Reader reports that American Indian students at the University of Northern Colorado are protesting a local high school's Indian mascot. Instead of stupidly asking that the name be banned, they've answered in kind.
The Indians call their own intramural basketball team THE FIGHTING WHITIES. The team's jerseys have the name of the team and the phrase, Everythangs gonna be all white.

-->Not Exactly Living, but Better dept: New Orleans voters approved a 'living-wage' referendum that raises the minimum wage for “private-sector workers” to $6.15 an hour. That's a buck more than the federal minimum wage. It's about time that corporations had someone to answer to besides the fuckin' marketplace! Eco that, motherfuckers.

-->Pay Because You Want To Dept: Radiohead made news when it allowed fans to pay whatever they wanted to download the band's album. Now, several restaurants are doing the same thing--letting their patrons decide how much their meal is worth.
At Terra Bite Lounge in Kirkland, WA, most diners slip cash into a donation slot by the bar. A few walk away without bothering to pay.
"If I forget to bring enough money, I can just give more next time," says a patron.
At Salt Lake City's One World Everybody Eats, you can deposit cash into a "treasure box" or use the customer-operated credit card machine. The 50-seat restaurant, decorated with Buddha statues, serves organic dishes from a buffet. There's also an edible herb and flower garden with outdoor seating.
"All we ask is that you put a fair price on the food you eat, based on your income," says founder Denise Cerreta.
At the Lentil as Anything chain in Melbourne, Australia, you drop money into a box by the kitchen. The first restaurant opened in 2000, and now owner Shanaka Fernando is working on his sixth location. The cuisine is a mix of Sri Lankan and Tibetan, but eggs and veggie burgers are also on the menu.
"When it comes down to it, we just want to promote the very underutilized concept of trust," says Shanaka.

-->The other side of the grave dept: I got a message from GG lover and guitar play, Justion Melkmann. He visited GG's grave as well as GG's mother. He was making a comic book about his obsession with the scum meister. It hit him after seeing what I posted in my blog.
Gunther, he says, is GG's mom's maiden name. So the tombstone must be a place-holder for her to be buried by her son.
Too touching for my taste. I've got the better story. Justin has THE TRUTH. Which do you want?