Monday, October 22, 2007

UK ...here I come

As I packed in preparation for my flight to Manchester I really didn’t know what to expect. It kind of felt like I was leaving a relationship, like I had suddenly made up my mind that she was crazy and that I deserved better. A better life, better experiences (filmmaking or otherwise), a better set of choices is what I was really seeking. My last order of business in Phoenix was to mail 800 posters to myself. Yeah, I know it sounds weird but Discmasters fucked me when they said they could get me 300 posters for $80. I mean, yeah… they have that special; but the dude that works over at that desk doesn’t exactly read his email everyday if you get my drift. So I was left with my old stand-by 48hrprint.com. A great place to get your posters printed only there is one thing you should remember. While it is true that it only takes them 48 hours to print your posters…it takes about 5 days for them to ship. So to make a long story short, I was already booked on the Gamma Weekend when I found out the exact dates for the UK tour. I had already bought tickets to the game and all that shit; so when I found out that I could pick the posters up in Phoenix for no delivery charge…it was a no brainer.

Well it wasn’t that easy. I had to hire a courier driver to shuttle them to my hotel. Then my hotel couldn’t find them… then I had the hotel ship them for me since I was leaving the country…and half the posters didn’t show up…what the fuck! But I wouldn’t find that out for another 4 days… so back to the story. I love being a black guy, I really do. I love having a decent education even more. And when I do things like travel for the film, I really love it. Apparently since most of the English speaking world has such a visible misunderstanding and at times a serious disdain for black people… let alone black men. It’s a foreign idea for most filmmakers to travel extensively to support their film, add to that the noticeable absence of black males in airports and a guy like me is in for a lot of “conversations.”

I was more wondering if I’d get a hassle for wanting to leave the country. It would be the third time in less than a year and that fact coupled with my love of internet pornography and all the devices I carry and it’s not unusual to have an issue at airport security. To the credit of the TSA in the Phoenix airport I really didn’t have that many problems. Though people seem to not be able to wrap their heads around the fact that you can get a 120 gigabyte hard drive that’s the size of your hand and that even though I appear like I’m some intrastate vagabond – I have serious things to accomplish.

Before you know it I’m on in my seat on my plane.. and I’m passed the fuck out. The first rule of Cooprdog travel is not to sleep the night before you fly so you can pass out no problem. I sat next to a really nice guy who works for a blood products company. No, I’m serious… they make diabetic testing devices and shit like that. Not the most fascinating work but definitely important. He flies from the US to the UK to China several times a year. He told me that he never knows what time zone he’s in and if it wasn’t for the assistants that meet him at every airport… he’d never know where he, was let alone where or not he has to pay a duty, declare his weed or what.

I had to fly to O’Hare to switch to a British Midlantic flight and that’s where the trip really started. I literally woke up during the descent to land. I had to hustle to get all my shit together and figure out where to connect at. I’m so fucking bad with flight connections it amazes that I don’t miss more flights. O’Hare is like a major international hub and hence a lot of motherfuckers are routed through there on their way to the UK, India, China.. ok maybe you’d be flying in the other direction, whatever but that doesn’t obscure the fact that there are a lot of motherfuckers in this terminal. There has got to be 600 people in front of me to get through the security check point. If I was in Philly or LA, I’d have been seriously worried. You only get lines like this in LA when they are handing out free rent. LA residents really hate massive crowds because it reinforces the fact that the odds in being successful in what you are trying to do are quite slim. I, was coming down off my high, had to take a piss and really didn’t want to start the pushing and shoving any earlier than I had to. For those of you who don’t know me I’m slightly Agoraphobic. And that doesn’t mean I freak out whenever I’m in a crowd. It means I may freak out when I’m in a crowd. It’s one of the remnants of my nervous breakdown and one of the things that governs my life to a certain extent. I could already see plenty of pushing and shoving and I really didn’t want any part of it. I mean it never ceases to amaze me that people think that you can push and shove someone who is significantly larger than themselves. I’ve always got some petite chick trying to push in front of me or someone’s Grandmother trying to lay a claim to where I am standing and let us not the people who try to cut in line. It won’t take much provocation for me to start laying motherfuckers out like wholesale carpet…so I tend to chill at the fringe, keeping myself far from the scrum.

I then suddenly get a phone call from a number that my Blackcherry does not recognize and knowing my luck it’s the fucking IRS telling me that I owe taxes on the log I dropped in the toilet back in the mid 80’s. Well as luck would have it, it wasn’t the IRS. It was Susan from Oregon State University. I’m going there after DC, which is after the UK (don’t I sound important?) I wish you could have seen the look on people’s faces when I answered my cell phone. Yes I have a cell phone, and no I’m not dealer and it’s not some type of a natural phenomenon or Voodoo… it’s T-mobile bitches!

So there I am in line with laptop strapped to my back and a set a big ass ghetto headphones that I’ve pushed down around my neck to make room for the sole earpiece that I’m talking into. I’m talking film theory, critical studies, speaking engagements, representations of gender and class…all of which seems too surreal for all the people standing next to me so they kind of tune out. I think they thought it was some kind of a joke… I mean no fucking way could this dreaded motherfucker be teaching anyone anything…yeah whatever.

I gathered my courage and made it through the security check point. As it turns out it was just a shift change and in about 19 minutes the ushered about 400 people through the check point. I was so fucking impressed I had to compliment the TSA as I exited the check point (yeah, you should have taken a picture of that shit… cause I was there and I still don’t fucking believe it). Before you know it I’m in my seat and passed the fuck out… UK here I come.

Manchester

I landed in the Manchester airport at 8am in the fucking morning. I was totally fucking out of it and they were all friendly and British. I thought I’d landed on planet Dr. Who or some shit and then I realized that this is Britain and this is how motherfuckers talk. I waited my turn and exited the aircraft and made my way to my favorite place in the fucking world ….immigration.

Now I’d learned a lot from my two trips to Toronto; like what you ask..? Well for starters don’t fuck around with the customs/immigration people …I don’t care where you are, that’s a fucking rule. I bet if you get on a plane and fly to the Smurf village you have to deal with some big blue motherfuckers who never smile and give you the hairy eyeball as soon as you get off of the Good ship Lollipop (I mean what the fuck else do you take to SmurfLand? Not a fucking Amtrak train so layoff my fucking syntax bitch!) So here I am with my headphones on and my music not too loud. I’ve got my passport ready and declaration forms filled out… let’s see if I get shot.

The line moves hella slow and they are staring at everybody. There a little room with glass walls and they got the soon-to-be-deported motherfuckers in there…sweatin’. I swear it a head fuck just to keep you in line. It appears the Goddamn Brit’s bought into the war on terror.. and yeah I know there are real people called terrorists who blow shit up and make you suck on goat balls… I just don’t think they give a fuck about me or my movie. So I’m watching this chick in this room as they come in every 4 or 5 minutes and ask her a question and then leave. She looks really nervous and I want to yell out to her .. “you gotta fight that shit! They’re just fucking with you”. The Brit’s are doing it by the book I mean I’ve actually never been interrogated by Interpol or anything, but I do watch a lot of Law & Order so… I think I know what the fuck it is I’m talking about. So they’ve now put this other guy in the room with the chick. I mean c’mon it’s a fucking ploy. That guy is an informant and he’s gonna dime on you the first opportunity he gets, plus… you ain’t supposed to be talking. This babe is really trying to get deported. So there they are chatting away in front and then guess what? This big dude comes in and tells her to grab her shit and follow him. That’s what I call not a good sign. That motherfucker is definitely going to shoot somebody.

Before you know it I’m next to talk to the immigration agent.

IMMIGRATION AGENT
What brings you to the UK today?

COOPRDOG
I’m here to screen my film.

IMMIGRATION AGENT
So you are a filmmaker?

COOPRDOG
That’s the rumor

IMMIGRATION AGENT
It says on your form that you are bringing in commercial samples, what are they?

COOPRDOG
Just 30 PAL DVDs and some posters.

She smiles and stamps my passport and says welcome to the UK. No strip searching, no misdirected questions, I kind of didn’t believe her. I was sure that as soon as I tried to leave it’d be more like…


FADE IN TO INT. MANCHESTER AIRPORT, IMMIGRATION

A bunch of hard-ass scary looking British dudes walk around staring motherfuckers down and daring someone to make a run for it.

IMMIGRATION AGENT
(Cocky British Accent): You didn’t think I was going to be that easy did you Cooprdog? Oh, we’ve heard all about you and your weed and your women!

COOPRDOG
Listen, I really don’t get laid that much…ask my kinda-sorta-girlfriend who I don’t see that much. And besides….she was riding the white pony when I left.

IMMIGRATION AGENT
The white pony…do I look like I was born yesterday?

COOPRDOG
Listen man, under most circumstances I’d be up in that shit like it was gynecology. But I really don’t fuck with the red tide like that.

IMMIGRATION AGENT
Really Cooprdog? And what would you say if I told you that I had pictures of you, balls deep, in the secret recipe.

COOPRDOG
Secret recipe? Who’s writing this shit?

IMMIGRATION AGENT
Enough Cooprdog. I am tiring of your little filmmaking games.

COOPRDOG
Look.. maybe I was playing baseball in the rain. But I received a clear forecast and next thing you know…we’ve got a precipitation problem.

IMMIGRATION AGENT
So you didn’t have conversation on your.. “Blackcherry” about how you were gonna and I quote “tear that shit up like pop quiz I failed”…didn’t you make that statement? What would you say if I said I had a recording of it?

COOPRDOG
That’s not possible, I searched the room… and you got to understand that a lot of shit gets said when you smoke the bomb shit.

IMMIGRATION AGENT
Oh is that your story? And I am sure you have some big tittied blonde from Wisconsin who’s willing to vouch for you. Well it means nothing my good man. We will keep you here until we find out what we want to know.

COOPRDOG
Ok, ok… I have three cans of the 99 cent Arizona Ice tea hidden in my luggage. But it’s not my fault. The shit is totally money.

IMMIGRATION AGENT
Likely story Cooprdog…we will see how you hold up under interrogation!

Ok…maybe I watch too much TV, but you know that shit could happen.

So I walk through immigration and customs and now I have to find my bags. Now in the states you need to hire a bloodhound and fucking helicopter if you get to baggage claim 20-30 minutes after the bags have come up on the belt thing. Well my bags were stacked up and waiting for me, amazing. I am beginning to realize that air travel is not fucked up….America is fucked up. I walked right over and picked up my bags and was out of the door. Ok, it wasn’t that easy. I carrying a full size hockey bag that weighs 46.5 pounds, a laptop strapped to my back, my satchel and an athletic bag full of posters and DVD’s. Not the lightest way to travel but I have other concerns. It is imperative that the DVD’s are not smashed and that the posters are not wrinkled. Larger bags with “cushioning” in them are the only way to go…so we’re about to find out what my cardio is like.

I have to take a train to Kendal which is about 1hr south of Manchester. It’s like a 300 yard sprint with these bags to get to the train station but before that I have to get some money. Now I fucked up and I brought cash to the UK, which is really not the way to do it. Because if you use your ATM card it will compute the exchange rate and give you pounds without charging you a fee. I of course went to the foreign exchange and found out that the exchange rate was a whopping 1 dollar to 2.24 pounds. I gave the dude $550 and he gave me like 211 pounds and a kick in the ass. See this is what I’m talking about…Bush is fucking killing us. But undeterred I make my way to the train station and by my ticket. I honestly have no fucking Idea where I am going. Jo Hutton the director of The Cumbria Filmmakers Network told me to just hop the train to Kendal. As I attempt to purchase my tickets I am having a bit of difficulty because apparently I have a heavy American accent. I was like what the fuck are you talking about you krimpet eating motherfucker? But then I remembered that this is not LA and I need to chill the fuck out. So I begin to speak more slowly and pronounce the shit out of words like “train”.

So I’m on the platform waiting for my train and I’m watching the Brit’s do Brit shit like talk about tea and cricket.. (ok, I’m lying, but it works so fuck you). I’m sitting on the bench on the platform when I hear this sound… it’s a distant train and the next thing I know this motherfucker is coming through the station at like 150 mph. It freaked the fucking shit out of me. I mean when do you see that when the cops aren’t involved…and that was a fucking train? Amtrak would lose its shirt in a fucking drag race over here (drag racing trains.. tell me you don’t want to get high and try it). So three more of these Virgin trains come through and the Brit’s act like it’s no big deal. I guess they are used to have the melanin in your skin getting’ sucked out by a fast moving train.

My train comes and I get on and I can’t get over the fucking thing. It’s hella clean, no graphitti, people are polite they announce the stops and the next three. It’s like civilization. I mean in the states you might have to just jump for it if Amtrak is in a bad mood. So I’m in my seat watching the countryside pass by and I can’t get over England. There is a lot of fucking sheep on this island…no, I mean a lot. We pass like 6 million farms and then we hit the Kendal station.

It takes a little bit of thinking to figure out how to get a taxi because this is a small town. The taxis don’t hang out at the train station waiting for dreaded filmmakers to detrain. I walk across the street… well I should say that I tried to walk across the street and almost got run the fuck over. Note to all the stoners who read this blog, they drive on the left side of the street in the UK so it’s really easy to no see the car that is about to run you the fuck over. It’s a really humbling feeling…you know.. almost dying within 45 seconds of getting off the train… I’ve got to up my game. The taxi shows up and my accent doesn’t appear to be that heavy because he understands me…and we are on our way. 15 minutes later I’m on my way to the Bed & Breakfast. Now before you start ripping on me let me be the first to state that I’m not really a B&B kind of guy. I wear jeans, eat red meat and the only reason I own a duvet cover because I thought I was in love once and it was part of the deal (trust me… if you live together or are planning to live together a duvet cover is closet than you think). But hotels are mad expensive in England (esp. London)… sure, I’ve got some cash… but, I’d rather save it for weed and hookers.

The dude drops me off and I tip him, which is really not the deal in the UK…but I didn’t know this initially. He asked me if I was sure.. .I said yeah.. and that was that. I meet Jackie the house manager and get the keys to my room. It’s cozy, British and has a shitload of pillows. I have promised myself that I’m not going to be a tourist on this trip… I am going to find adventures, I am going to get a map and get out and meet some real Britons. I get some basic directions from Jackie and I’m out the door. I’ve got nothing but my Satchel and my MP3 player. I’m walking down what has to be the steepest hill in the history of post war Britain. I’m not kidding… this thing is fucking massive. My first venture was down the hill and that took a lot of concentration to not just roll down the motherfucker; and to think that I was ranked in the state in like 4 events when I was in high school…old age is a bitch.

I get to the bottom of the hill and make a right on the main street. Not am I the only black guy but I’m the only dude. I rocking oversized t-shirts, baggie jeans and some dreads…I’m not what you would call indigenous populace but people don’t seem to be trippin’ that much. I mean don’t get me wrong, they are totally trippin’…but not like… “who the fuck is this black guy”. As I wander through the main shopping strip I see a Starbucks and a McDonalds. It made me want to cry… you got to fight the power Britain, before you know it you’ll have porno stars running for office and TV screens everywhere.

I had one main goal in going into town. I need to get cell phone service. Now I had done my research and had my GSM phone unlocked and was ready to go pay-as-you-go. I found a little cell phone store with a really nice British guy and a really hot British chick. I was about to put it on here like we do in So Cal…but this is a diplomatic mission so I should probably try to be discreet and asking her how many nooks her English muffin has is probably not the best way to approach it. The dude is like totally clueless and has to ask the hot chick nearly everything. I try to smile and make eye contact to get something happening, but she’s not down.

39 pounds later I have a UK sim card and cell phone service…..I’m about to mack on made chicks! I think decided to duck into the nearest video game story to see what the deal was. And peep game… they have like hella more titles than we do in the states, I mean what the fuck??? Aren’t we dropping bombs and assassinating world leaders so the software is cheap and plentiful in the US? Man, this war on terror is really starting to suck ass! They got all kinds of driving and shooting games that we don’t have in the states. I mean c’mon….who enjoy blowing up religious sites and forcing their culture on indigenous people more than the Americans….we need to get this shit rectified.

I decided to cut my losses (cause the dollar is hella weak) and beat it back to the hotel. But I have to climb this big ass hill. I mean it’s so fucking big that I had to stop and hold my dick on the way up because I thought it was going to explode due to the excess blood pressure. I’m tellin’ you if I was in charge I’d flatten this motherfucker…what purpose does cardiac hill really serve. It was just then that I got passed by a 85 year old British dude who was like “get you back in it Mate!”

Are you fucking kidding me, I have to deal with old British Motherfuckers talking smack cause they can out walk me. From that moment on I decided to conquer this fucking hill… but first I need to take a nap. It took me like for separate attempts to crest that fucking hill. I mean I’m no WWII historian, but I see what the fucking Germans were trippin’ on.

I get back to the Bed and Breakfast and I’m about to have a fucking heart attack. I stagger to my room (and I do mean stagger) and pas the fuck out. I woke up three hours later and it was already nightfall. I decided that eating is over-rated and decided to go to the pub.

There was a pub halfway up the fucking hill called “The Rifleman’s Arms” and that was where I planned to make my stand. I walked in the place and you would have thought I was a cop the way the place looked over at me. I sat my shit down and order a Guinness. That seemed to throw the assembled crowd of like 5 drinkers for a loop. Now I should point out that nearly everyone knows that I am an American. I don’t have to introduce myself or anything like that.

It’s really tense at first, the Brit’s take the pub really fucking seriously and big black guys with dreads aren’t normally part of the décor. But on my third pint the place warms up a bit and I talk to a few people. I confess that I am an American and that I’m a filmmaker and that I’m here to show my work. They give me a look of complete amazement.

BRITISH GUY
So… you make movies?

OTHER BRITISH GUY
Do you know any celebrities?

COOPRDOG
Well I’ve met a lot of celebrities..but I don’t personally know them.

I then spend the next 90 minutes talking about the war, American beer, Football (the other kind) and then they conversation turns to uniquely British topics…like who when a woman gets pregnant she automatically gets a flat and state support so that have no incentive to work, how thanks to the EU Britain is losing its identity. I was schooled on a number of things about British culture…and then I saw the dart board.

COOPRDOG
Is that a dart board?

That singular question brought the bar alive. It was like every single person in the bar wanted confirmation that I was hankering to play a round of darts.

BRITISH GUY
You play darts?

COOPRDOG
Yeah, I’ve been known to toss a couple. Does anyone fancy a go?

The bartender produces a 10X13 Tupperware container that’s full of steel darts. Now for those of you that don’t play darts you probably don’t understand the significance of steel darts… well it’s like this: in the States you pretty much will play with plastic darts on a plastic board that is electronic. This is basically for two reasons – number one because most Americans can’t add and number two we Americans have a tendency to break motherfuckers up when we lose and hence with steel darts it could very easily turn into a shootout (a throw-out?)…and hence most of us that aren’t playing in a league or in a serious Irish or English bar will find themselves playing with plastic darts.

I dug through the bin and found what I believed to be the most-money pair of darts of the lot. I asked the guy standing at the bar conversing with me if he’d “like a go..”. He sipped his pint and said sure and then promptly pulled a set of really nice steel darts out of his jacket pocket. Now I don’t need to tell you that that was not exactly the kind of shit I was expecting when I asked him if he’d like to play (note to self: do not talk shit about playing darts in the UK).

So by the time we actually get around to the moving over by the dart board we have quite a crowd (ok 6 people) looking at us. We decide to play 301 which means that what every your total is for each round will be subtracted from 301 till you reach zero. You have to get a perfect Zero (you arithmetic challenged motherfuckers…and if you call it Math… they you a extra challenged and should stick to safe activities like board games).

He goes first, he burns two darts (meaning he hits low numbers) and then hits a 17. I sip my pint and step up and I hit a 20, 17 and a double 20. The guy is not amused. We then start to throw darts for real but I just keep hittin’ some nice double and triples. I fucking spanked the guy in the first game. The entire bar was a little fucked up by that. I suddenly was very proud to be a Gamma and to be a graduate of Duquesne University…I’m doin’ my peoples proud. Of course he wants to play again. Beating someone once in darts is akin to beating them once in miniature golf….the sun shines on a dog’s ass every now and again…

BRITISH GUY
Fancy another go?

COOPRDOG
Yeah… let’s run it back.

BRITISH GUY
Run what it back?

COOPRDOG
Run it back…let’s play it again.

BRITISH GUY
You have some strange saying you know that.

COOPRDOG
Tell me about it.

The second game is really surgical. He comes out of the gate swinging. He’s hittin’ his marks and making me work for mine. But I’m not worried because darts is a game of “not freaking out”. Anyone is capable of a 6 or 9 hit round but doing it consistently and back to back… now that’s where it gets hard. After some serious battling he’s got 70 and I’ve got 72…it’s going to go down to the wire…and then I hit the double bull (50 points you bloody Americans!). That last throw cut him like Sookie in a dark alley when you are behind in your payments (“Do I look like Wachovia, Motherfucker!). There was a little sparring but he could hit a bull so I won the second round. To the awe of the pub I spanked my first Brit in two straight rounds of darts. I swaggered back to the bar and found a pint of Guinness waiting for me (see, that’s what I’m talking about).

I answered a number of questions about where I learned to play darts and most thought that being part of a plastic dart league run by wait staff was bullshit…but that was the truth. I sipped my pint and smiled with my new British friends. Darts was a real ice breaker. I would up playing him again…this time we played cricket (20-15 and then bull, three marks to close a number). I played well but he spanked me both times, which really was good because you can’t really take a dude to task in his own local pub.

From then on I had a lot of friends. They ribbed me about being and American and asked me about US politics.

BRITISH CHICK
Do you like the bushes?

COOPRDOG
Do I like Bushes? You mean like shrubs and shit?

The bar laughs

BRITISH CHICK
No silly… your president.

COOPRDOG
Oh…the Bush’s. Are you fucking crazy, I live in Cali – the bluest of blue states.

Of course the whole red state, blue state thing meant little to these cats, but I got my point across.

The next thing I knew it was midnight and it was last call. I was like “you have got to be fucking kidding me”… but they were hella serious. It appears that the entire fucking island closes down at midnight…shit, I thought LA had work to do.

So I broke the fuck out of the pub and decide to find some take out or as the Brit’s call it “take away”. I bought some Chinese food from a dude who wasn’t Chinese (he was Asian) and we had a small conversation in which neither one of us understood the other; but it’s amazing how far a smile and some finger-pointing will take you…and when I left I felt like we were boys.

I staggered back up the hill (and I do mean staggered) and The Rifleman’s Arms was still open. I walked in, grabbed a table and ate my Chinese. Little did I know that I had just committed a mortal sin.

BAR KEEP
You do realized that what you’ve done is not permitted?

COOPRDOG
What? You can’t eat spring rolls?

BAR KEEP
It’s highly unorthodox to bring take-away into the pub

OTHER BRITISH GUY
Highly unorthodox!

COOPRDOG
Ok well answer me this then. You can’t eat in the take away because there’s not table or anything. You can’t take food into your Bed & Breakfast… so what am I supposed to do?

BAR KEEP
I really don’t’ know… but eating in a pub, that’s a big no, no.

It was here that I would learn about pub culture. How the pub is from drinking and smoking and talking politics. No eating, no dancing…none of that shit. I must say that the respect that the Brit’s give to pulling a pint and to the drinking environment in general was impressive. I felt that I had be initiated as a real Briton…and then I staggered back to my B & B. They really wanted me to come back and drink and throw darts tomm, but I told them that I had to screen and I didn’t know what the fuck was going to happen. I felt kind of sad when I left. I’ve never made that many friends that quickly. Britain is a money fucking country.

COOPRDOG

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