Blackhumouristpress's Blog

November 25, 2015

Between Calais et Marseille

Seth knew he was an atheist at a young age.  Being half Jewish and half Muslim left him no choice but to be an atheist out of fear that he might have developed two personalities, each a different religion and wind up attacking himself.  It was upon the death of his father around the age of ten that Seth’s mother dropped the bomb of his life on him.

“Chaim was a very good man and he loved you like a son…”

“Mom?  Wouldn’t he love me like a son if he was my dad?”

“If he was your dad…  But he wasn’t.”

It was with that conversation that Seth learned that his real father was a handsome Algerian man who spoke perfect French, owned a restaurant and had a thing for Seth’s mother.  Soon after conception, Seth biological father sold his restaurant and moved to France, leaving Seth’s mother with an issue- a pregnancy from an affair.  Seth’s mother led her husband Chaim to believe that Seth was his son and so everyone lived happily ever after.  For about 10 years.

Seth learned to play the guitar and he liked to write poetry.  As he grew older he became aware of the world around him and became more and more socially and politically aware.  Seth had a job at an independent coffee shop where he strummed his songs and read his poetry and held meetings of like- minded people.  These like-minded people protested things like the World Trade Organization, police brutality, gay rights, transgender rights, rights of prisoners and most recently, rights of refugees to live democratically free with all the rights bestowed upon born Americans at birth.  Seth was approached by a French student who happened to be at the coffee shop the night that Seth was performing some of his acoustic songs about bringing refugees home to their home away from home in America.  It was all set up for Seth.  The French student contacted someone who knew someone who was putting together a peace rally to raise money for Syrian refugees living in tents near Calais, France.  Seth was to be flown, fed, paid and put up for a weekend in France for a festival.  Seth would be given a 30 minute acoustic set on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, get paid and return to the United States.  It was a dream come true for pretty much a closet musician who wrote songs that almost nobody ever heard.

Seth arrived in Paris with his acoustic guitar and a back pack.  He wore a pork pie hat and loose clothing.  Seth wanted to try Absinthe while in Paris since he was a huge Hemingway fan.  After several drinks of Absinthe and a discussion with the English-speaking bartender on what life might have been like for Hemingway, Seth was as they say- fucked up.  Seth staggered to the train station and boarded a train for what he thought was headed to Calais on the far north of France near the Belgium border where battles to defeat fascism took place.  Instead Seth boarded a train headed for the far south city of Marseille.  Unbeknownst to Seth, while there was a huge peace rally designed to raise money for refugees fleeing Syria, there was a huge neo-Nazi, skinhead, National Front rally being held in Marseille.  It was at about 2:00am that Seth was awoken from a deep sleep by five British skinheads that were headed south in solidarity with their French fellow racists to be part of huge anti-immigration rally.  They grabbed his guitar case out of his hands and took it out of the case.  It took Seth a solid five seconds to figure out where he was, how he got there and what might be potentially going on.  The five bald young men in boots, tight jeans and bomber jackets studied the guitar.  They knew they were in the company of some sort of hippy, peace-loving American and they were going to make his night miserable if they were correct on profiling him.

“Oi mate…  What ave we here?  A guitar, is it?  Where you headed with this instrument, mate?”

Seth remembered getting his ass kicked by jocks over the years and knew a severe ass beating without any chance of anyone coming to his aid in a contained sleeping compartment could mean death.  Seth played it cool.

“I’m headed to the same place as you…”

The skinheads were a bit perplexed.  This thin smelly American in baggy clothes suitable for a street panhandler in Seattle did not quite look like what was going to be at the far right rally.  They studied the stickers on Seth’s guitar case.  There was a hope sticker with a picture of Obama, a rainbow sticker, equality sticker and several other very liberal looking stickers.

“What’s all this on your case, mate?  Looks loike you ave a strong loike for Obama and rainbows and such.  Did you get all this at skin rallies in the states?”

It was a coy question and Seth rolled with it.  Seth could read the looks on the five young men’s faces and knew the cat was going to have to bark like a dog if he wanted to get out of the dog pound safely.

“This case…  I bought this from a music store just before leaving the US.  I went to a pawn shop and bought it for really cheap.  I told the guy I needed a sturdy travel case for my guitar and he came up with this.  I literally bought this thing yesterday to make the trip.  I haven’t had time to take all the bullshit off that was put on by someone who used to own this.”

“No worries, mate.  We ave ands…  We can elp you with that…”

As the young men picked at the stickers with their thumb nails, took drinks from a bottle and became rowdy, one of them demanded Seth play them a song that he was intending to play at the rally.  Seth convinced them that he once was part of a Ska/Reggae band and was now a solo artist from the states who was for Donald Trump, sending Mexicans home, telling gays that they cannot get married and so on.  Seth was pretty convincing and he kind of needed to be.

“Shit…  Look at shit that Obama has got us into…  Trump is the answer to everything that’s fucked up in America right now.  I’m tired of the gays, ghetto rap, illegal immigrants, feminist, Obama loving liberal shit…  Yup, it’s time for a change.”

“Roight, mate…  So play us a li-ool something you came up with that you are thinking of playing in Marseille.”

Seth was quick on his toes to create something out of nothing.  He modified a strummy folk song he wrote called, “Bring Them Home” into a fast Ska tune called, “Send Them Home”.

It’s time to stand up and do the right thing maybe the white thing

They’re fucking here due to the Arab Spring and here’s the next thing- Send them home,

Send them home! We’ve fucking had enough- Send them home.

 

It was catchy and danceable and the English skins loved it.  One of them asked him to play another song.  Seth became nervous.  He blew his load on that one little ditty and didn’t quite have another bullshit song in him.  The thought suddenly came to Seth to sing The Marseillaise, the national anthem of France.  Seth learned it so that he could strum it and get everyone in Calais to sing along and then because they were as close as you could get to Great Britain, the national anthem of France would morph into, God Save the Queen.  Seth busted out another Ska beat and began to sing in French.

 

Aux armes, citoyens! Formez vos bataillons! Marchons! Marchons! Qu’un sang impur Abreuve nos sillons!

God save our gracious Queen Long live our noble Queen God save the Queen Send her victorious Happy and glorious Long to reign over us God Save the Queen!

The skins listened to the recognizable song in French and sang along to their own national anthem with arms around each other, drinking and shouting. When they arrived in Marseille, Seth was whisked up to a stage that Skinhead bands shared for the weekend long festival. The drunk British skins demanded that between sets that Seth be allowed to play his national anthem medleys and his anti-immigrant song. A barstool like seat was set up for him on a stage looking out at thousands of people. Seth was buzzed again from drinking with his new “mates” and played the songs without thought. The crowd of thousands began to gyrate to the song doing a Ska dance called a “skank”. It was surreal. Seth finished and was patted on the back and hugged. He drank with a bald girl with black lipstick at the festival who eventually fed him, shaved his head and fucked him several times in her hotel room. Seth woke early the next morning to find a bunch of skinheads laying around the hotel room on floors and couches. Next to him was the girl who made love to him and then another guy on the other side of her. Seth gathered his things and slipped out without awaking anyone. He bought a ticket for Calais and arrived a day and a half late. Seth was the second to last performer to sing his folk song for the refugees and those supporting the refugees. Seth looked out at the crowd of thousands who had smiles and were attentively waiting to hear his song, “Take Them Home”. Before going into the song, Seth pulled the microphone closer to his mouth and jokingly said a few words first.

“If you’re an American in Paris… Don’t drink Absinthe before departing for Calais… You might find yourself shaved bald on a train headed to Marseille instead… Long story but I’m here now…”

 

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