I’m from Los Angeles. While visiting Salisbury a lady asked me to call her a Dirty Cunt. This is the second half of that story. In case you started reading here, you could consider going back to the beginning. But if you’re pressed for time, or just don’t want to read all 8 essays cause you don’t care all that much, here’s the gist:
I’m a filmmaker living in Los Angeles. A film I made was accepted at the Raindance International Film Festival in London, England. Having never really been abroad, I decided to check out a bit of Europe. My first stop: Salisbury. Thousands of miles from home, I decided to have a very English experience and went to a club and went to a very English club and they very much played Beyonce.
This is not an anomaly. During the course of this trip I will visit 4 countries that speak 4 different languages. In each country, within minutes of entering any bar or club I will inevitably hear Beyonce. You can divide the number of minutes you spent in the club by the number of minutes you waited before hearing Beyonce. A larger number means there were more songs, a smaller number means there was more Beyonce. If, upon entering a club, Beyonce is already playing, that would mean the number of minutes is 0, and you can’t divide by zero, without getting infinity. The Infinity Beyonce. Regardless, every club has a Beyonce Quotient, and this number is lower than I would’ve ever
feared thought. It’s not just music though, movies suffer from the same problem.
I went to a Sainsbury’s (CVS) in London and the movie section looked just like the movie sections in the states. Really. There wasn’t even a token copy of “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” or anything. Just Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as far as the eye could see. Later, the joy I had upon seeing my first double decker bus was immediately crushed when it drove by, revealing a giant poster for The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Then it clicked.
America is the court jester of the world.
We don’t see ourselves that way. Our self-esteem is uh… healthy. It’s not like we’re swimming in Flags and Eagles, but we’re not NOT swimming in them either. If you asked most Americans where’s the best place in the world to live, they wouldn’t hesitate to say “America.” (And in some of the scarier places they might say “‘Murica”). Due to the recent influx of Mexicans, Americans have this weird belief that the rest of the world is *also* eager to scale our walls, but don’t because there’s an ocean between us.
It’s not true. The rest of the world is like Canada. Perfectly content where they are.
Huge chunks of the world have no interest in any of our Eagles, or Flags and really only check in with us long enough to say “HEY AMERICA, DANCE FOR US! SING US A SONG! SHOW US YOUR FX!”, and, hungry for attention we do, while mumbling “Hey our democracy is up HERE.”
They roll their eyes, point at our education system and our healthcare situation and our not-so-metric system, plug their fingers in their ears and sing Drunk in Love. Touché. <– Also very European.
So I’m here in Salisbury (population 45,000). Spitting distance from Stonehenge and The Magna Carta, if you are a pretty great spitter, otherwise it’s driving distance. Everything is driving distance if you’re patient enough. You can drive across England in the time it takes to drive from Miami, FL to Panama City,FL.
(God, even the concept of spitting distance seems distastefully American. “Is it close?” One cowboy says to the other “I dunno, can y’spit on it?”)
You know….the British are known to be remarkably polite. I wonder if that’s just a function of…proximity. If you make an ass of yourself in Swindon, you can’t move too far away from the scene without changing your nationality. It’d be inconvenient to have a massive falling out with someone and realize that yes, you can move and start a new life, but yes, that life is going to be Scottish.
If I live in North Dakota, I can act like an asshole and piss off everyone in North Dakota. Then I can just move to South Dakota and start a new life without learning a new accent or changing my passport. I’ll probably already know my way around town.
Meanwhile, at the club.
The not so Magna Carter’s wife is just killing it. People are singing along, and while the song is cute with an English accent, it’s not the wild foreign experience I’d signed up for. It felt a lot like being in New York. Or Gainesville. Or Las Vegas. Or Berlin. Why is Beyonce so popular here, I think, she’s ours! Don’t they have their own Beyonce? (“We gave you Adele, Ed Sheehan, and Jessie J, so ease up.” – Great Britain)
Just when I reach inner peace with our joint custody of Beyonce, the next song comes on and this one kills them the exact same way and confuses me even more. It’s not that I didn’t like the song. I did. Everyone did. It went to #3 on Billboard (Both in the US and UK) and was certified gold. I know every word. It’s just surprising because there’s been a lot of music in the fifteen years since clubs went nuts over Nelly’s “Ride Wit Me.”
In the beginning of the movie Contact, there’s a sequence where the camera pulls out to space and you hear all of the transmissions that Earth has ever sent out. The first couple transmissions are recent, grunge music, spice girls, etc. By the time you get out to the furthest edge of our galaxy the skips are larger, from MLK’s speech to music from the 20s. Maybe our popular music is like that. By the time it’s (SLAP ME) crossed the pond, 1999 and 2014 are basically the same.
I’m immediately jealous. We place such a high value on newness with our music in the states. If a song isn’t so old that it’s a classic or so new that the artist is still learning the words then we’ll boo or we’ll pout or we’ll climb into the booth and slit the DJs throat for not having the latest s@#t.
It’s a shame though, there are songs I would rock out to RIGHT NOW that just aren’t old enough to be cool again. So for a moment it’s refreshing to be in a place that seems to like music without worrying about whether or not we’ve decided it’s okay (or not) to listen to that music.
(The King’s Head Inn. Ever been to a bar where there’s pictures from a history book on the wall? Just portraits of kings. Classy. Not even one girl in a bikini. I’ve been to bars where the walls were JUST naked girls. Ripped from adult magazines. True story.)
We make our way upstairs, and there’s tables and… no bouncers. It’s nice, comfortable even. No one tells us we need to move. No one says you need to order food to sit here. No one cares at all. I want to turn to the Blokes/FemaleBlokes around me and say “Do you know how many pounds it would’ve cost just to sit here if we were in Los Angeles? Well I don’t know either because I’m bad at converting, but trust me, you wouldn’t like it.”
My girlfriend and I hang out for a bit and then decide we need to go someplace even MORE local. I want someplace British. Some place COVERED in Union Jacks, someplace with people singing “I’m Henry the Eighth I am” while mugs filled with mead slosh in every hand, the menu has nothing but fish, and chips, and bangers, and mash, and fish covered in chips and bangers filled with mash-flavored-fish-chips. A place so British that I’ll worry that they’re going to re-colonize America right there starting with me.
BLOKE: Hey you, in the dreads. Yeah, you. You just got colonized.
ME: I’m intrigued, but honestly man that sounds a LOT like Slavery.
BLOKE: It’s not Slavery.
ME: Ok….Does this mean I’m British now?
BLOKE: Right-O, mate!
ME: Hell, yeah! I’m in. This bar is —
Bloke clears his throat in a very polite English way.
ME: — this pub, excuse me, this pub is the best. Hail the Queen! Oasis 4ever.
Clearly I don’t know what I’m looking for, but I know it’s not Beyonce mixed with Nelly. So we soldier on.
The next club looks so much like so many other bars that I take a video just because I know when I get back I won’t believe it.
So very much the same, but so different because there’s a -garden- that the sign is inviting us to go partake in. Here, come to the garden… this way. Yonder. Through to Garden. And then we’ll have a bit of tea. Here… in the Gaaaarden.
American bars don’t have Gardens. It’s just a sweaty box where you get groped and lung cancer. No Garden. If you’re lucky there’s a patio. But it’s never presented as “Through to Patio.” It’s more “Fuck you, yeah there’s a patio here, try not to puke on anyone.”
We go Through to Garden.
People are smoking, drinking, talking to friends. We didn’t have friends so we sat at a table and made friends.
The conversation was nice. Having grown up in a small town I’m intimately familiar with the small town list of grievances. Salisbury, which is lovingly called Smallsbury, is “too small” and “everyone is in everyone’s business” and “I know everyone here” and “there’s nothing to do.” It’s the exact inverse of the LA list of grievances “It’s too big” and “Everyone is a stranger” and “I think I’m carrying Adrien Brody’s baby.”
Someone asked for a cigarette and when the box of cigarettes appeared I laughed out loud. At that moment I learned that while America might not hate me, England definitely likes her people more.
Cigarettes cause cancer which causes death. This is the warning sign, mandated by the US Government, on the back of a pack of cigarettes.
In England, and much of the EU it turns out, the warnings look like this.
I don’t laugh though because I can’t, in my inebriated state, explain how great it is that these things are so honest about their lethality. Not to someone who is currently being lethal’ed by them, anyway. It seems wrong, and I put a lot of energy into at least seeming like a nice person. So much so that midway through the conversation, the lady I’m speaking to interrupts me abruptly and says “You seem like a nice guy.”
The conversation had gotten off to a rocky start. We started talking about relationships, because that’s my jam, and then she said something that I thought meant “relationships get a little rough” but then she said something which made me think that her relationship got physically Rough.
“I am a nice guy.” I say to her, happy to steer the conversation away from domestic violence.
“You’re probably too nice.” she says, except with her accent it comes out as something you want your neighbors to turn down. Turn down all that NOICE, we’re trying to sleep. You might say.
This was very clearly a trap. I figured I’m a garden so things couldn’t go that badly. “Too nice for what?”
“Call me a dirty cunt,” she says.
Have you ever studied a foreign language?
The books are filled with chapters on what you should say in common circumstances when you’re abroad.
Chapter 1 is Greetings. (“Hi. What’s Your Name? Where are you from?”). Chapter 2 is The Restaurant (“I’d like to have some water.”) Chapter 3 The Train Station (“Where is the terminal?”).
I took about dos years of espanol, and un semestre of French, but I don’t remember anything about what to do when someone asks you to call them a cunt, dirty or otherwise.
I give a panicked look across the table at my girlfriend, fearing that she’s hearing all the wrong greatest hits of this conversation “…you’re nice….i’m nice….cunt.” What could she possibly think?
Furthermore, I’m pretty clear I’ve never even said that word in front of her at this point. She’s wrapped up in conversation with DirtyCuntLady’s friend. (In the world of nicknames there is nothing worse than Dirty Cunt Lady. I’ll admit it, but it’s just the only shorthand that works for you and I right now, right? You know I’m not *actually* casting aspersions about any part of this lady’s vagina right? It’s just about the request? Cool? Cool.)
Feeling pressured — I think she’s trying to trick me into getting kicked out of the pub or something, I try but I just… I can’t. I just can’t find it in myself to call her a dirty cunt. It seems wrong in every possible way. I just won’t. I …c(u/a)n’t.
Instead I challenge her, thinking she’ll back off and we can get back to talking about cigarettes, “Okay, you call me a fucking wanker!” I say, feeling triumphant.
I had barely finished saying “wanker” before she says, with glee “YOU FUCKING WANKER!”
Emboldened, I yelled “YOU DIRTY CUNT!”
The table froze. My girlfriend was shocked. She spun and called my name, assuming that this is what it looked like right before you got kicked out of England, on your very first day.
Without missing a beat the lady turned to my girlfriend and the rest of the table and announced “Ahahaha I am a cunt,” then she smiled and added “But I’m a lovely one.”
This is not a garden. This is a patio. This is Salisbury. I fucking love it.
Last Week: The Part before this part.
Next Week: StoneHenge I guess?