Monday, May 24, 2010

If God is a DJ...Then God is Dead - Copan

Nietzsche meets P!nk.  That's right, I'm here to bring that deep philosophy/pop culture mash-up you so desperately crave.  Perhaps that title might make sense after you hear this story.  Or not.

I think my tangential writing style is best summed up by P!nk: "I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star."  Or maybe that was Nietzsche.  Remind me again which one said "This used to be a funhouse but now it's full of evil clowns."

Anyway...back to the topic at hand.  There are many stories to tell about Honduras but I'll start with this one.

I was hanging out in Copan for two weeks, taking Spanish lessons.  I figured I'd be more likely to study Spanish and not goof off if I was staying in a small town (read: where there's nothing to do) populated by few people who speak English.  In turns out Copan was a bit more touristy than I thought but still fit the bill by my NYC chauvinist standards.  It was small and there wasn't much to do.  Yay?

Well, my newfound boy scout attitude got massively shredded that first night.  ¿Por qué?  Porque the tequila shots were only 30 limpiras.  I'll save you the trouble of actually finding a website that even bothers to do limpira to dollar conversion and simply tell you that that's less than $1.50.  Well, 13 shots later--another story for another post--the night was over but not before I made something of an impression.  It turns out, between, say, shot six or so and shot 13 I had a few things to say.  As usual there were my old drunken standbys: Brooklyn, radical politics, music.  Through some combination of English/Spanish miscommunication and liquored inventiveness it was agreed that I would DJ next Friday.

(Do I need to take a timeout here to explain that "this" means the upcoming and "next" means the one after the "this"?  No?  Good.  Let's continue.) 

The next day I woke up and thought no big deal, it's a small town, the expectations are low and I didn't think much about it over the next week or so, figuring that we'd probably all forget about it.  "Blessed are the forgetful: for they 'get the better' even of their blunders."  Now I'm almost positive that one's Pink.

A few days later I decided to drop by for a drink, or maybe two, but definitely not 13.  A few drinks, a few conversations, no mention of DJing.  I'm in the clear.

I drop by a couple of more times.  Again, nada.

I had practically forgotten the whole affair when I had my antepenultimate outing at the bar.  I mentioned I was heading off to La Ceiba on Saturday.  Then it happened:  "You DJ this Friday!"  There was so much excitement in this man's eyes, there was so much tequila in my stomach that I just couldn't say no.  I was already in too deep so I figured a few more drinks couldn't make things much worse. (Wait, isn't that how I got into this situation in the first place?).

To make matters worse by the time I left the bar I noticed a kid from the staff was re-chalking the big board outside.  In large colorful letters it now read: "Friday Night.  DJ Trece from Brooklyn!"

The nickname Trece of course came from the thirteen shots of tequila I ingested the week prior, though I have no idea if that tag was self-inflicted or a gift from the locals.

I wondered if it was possible for Brooklyn to un-represent and hoped that maybe a real DJ would save my ass.

When I showed up for my penultimate visit on Thursday I was greeted by that same sign.  Those letters seemed even bigger and more colorful somehow.  Worse than that, I got inside and the place was actually half-full.  A first in my time in Copan.

Now I need to back up for a minute to convey the significance of this half-full bar scene.  I landed in Honduras shortly after the political coup.  I won't go into all the political details here except to say that the majority of Hodurans (read: poor people) got massively fucked and the US isn't as innocent as it portrays itself.  (Read this, this and this for some brief background.)

Now it's my medical opinion that a lot of middle-class white people suffer from phobia-phobia--they're scared of being scared.  As a result tons of tourists canceled any vacation plans they had in Honduras even though I doubt few understood what was going on in Honduras.

*WARNING: Angry, dark-complexioned people, not speaking English can often trigger phobia-phobia in white people.  My prescription?  Read two chapters of Open Veins of Latin America and call me in the morning*

But getting back to the story at hand, since my arrival in Honduras the hotels, restaurants, shops, etc. were empty.  Parts of the country even looked like a ghost town.  Every time I was in a restaurant or bar and some new foreigner came in you could see the staff light up hoping that tourism had returned...but it never did, at least not while I was there.  In fact it got worse towards the end of my trip.

So on this Thursday night some random tourist group from Spain came through the bar.  The bartender was now even more excited for the big Friday night.  I felt a bit nervous but as I walked back I started thinking that the people of Copan deserved a good time and I was going to provide that soundtrack.  I was actually getting kind of excited now.  I did about four hours of preparation that night staying up way too late and showed up to Spanish exhausted the next morning.  No matter, this would be a night to remember. 

Come Friday evening I showed up with my laptop.  I hooked it up to the sound system, pulled up the DJ software and the playlists and I was ready to go.  DJ Trece was in la casa!  To quote that 19th century German philosopher: "I'm coming out so you better get this party started."

I started with a little Thus Spake Zarathusa appropriately enough, blended Biggie's opening from "Biggie/Tupac Live Freestyle" and went into Jay-Z's "Dirt Off Your Shoulder."  Brooklyn would be proud.

And we had fun.  All nine of us.  For a little while...and then it felt really, really awkward, especially when a couple of people left after an hour and then two more an hour after that.  Aside from the bartender and I seven people came out that night.  At one point, the bartender and I looked at each other.  We both knew it was time to pull the plug.

That was the end of my very brief DJ career.  I went from being DJ Trece to DJ Siete.  It seems thirteen was luckier than seven.

But to look on the bright side, as Nietzsche is so famous for doing, a couple of people did get get up and dance.  And as Nietzsche himself once said, "We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once."  No, seriously he said that one.

Crashing the world one couch at a time,
the Hi-Tech Vagabond