In the week we spent doing largely nothing in Dharamkot/Bhagsu, the foresty hippy hamlet beyond Dharamsala, we found ourselves mostly doing it here at the Conifer Cafe.
Baited to us as the place where our CouchSurfing semi-host and prospective marriage-for-visa business partner, Rahul Singh, liked to “make party” with his two or so buddies, this small, rectangular cushion-lined room hooked us with its 40-cent veggie paranthas, then reeled us on in with a daily assemblage of oddball guests as colorful as the pseudo-Indian parachute pants on any given Israeli around.
Here’s a rundown of these temporary friends of ours:
Unquestionably the coolest guy we’ve met in India. Despite not living in Scotland for decades (spending the last two in San Francisco), this long-haired, beergutted, drug-acquainted, middle-aged lifelong ruffian has maintained every imperial ounce of his baritone accent, presumably to make himself more menacing in barfights, more amiable to crooked cops, more pitiable to welfare agencies and, for us, more hilarious in the midst of an insane story or filthy quip.
Davey was married awhile. Somehow through this divorce settlement, she’s now paying him alimony. So he quit his job as an IT man, sold their house when the market was good, cashed a chunk of it and has been traveling the world ever since. Although touring with his ambiguously-relationed motormouthed gal pal, Janet, Davey spent most of his time in the cafe yelling “Oh, for fuck’s sake!”at World Cup matches (shown on a TV he found and had imported to the room), smoking cheap Indian eucalyptus cigarettes and reciting to us from the many chapters of his action-packed life.
With tales spanning the dark corners of San Francisco nightlife to tips on defrauding multiple governments out of benefits, there were too many topics to remember or paraphrase adequately; but from the ones we can, we believe you can get a fair glimpse of this crass and fascinating man.
- One time me mate broke down on Polk Street. Went into this gay bar, asked the barkeep if he could use his phone. Barkeep said I don’t think you want to, mate. Said my car’s broke, I need to. Barkeep shrugged, pointed him around to the backroom, he went there, put a quarter in, picked up the phone, turned and saw a midget gettin’ shat on.
- Little guy’s famous around the Castro, too. Heard about him at some other gay bar dressed in full leather S&M regalia, hidin’, lyin’ in the urinal trough waitin’ for a bloke to come then screechin’ Pee on me! Pee on me! True story.
- In San Francisco they got this free medical care for accident victims. This one time, I got stabbed, got admitted to Saint Francis, told ’em my teeth was broke in the same bout, they fixed ’em while I was there. [Us: Wait, wait, wait. You can’t just start a story with “I got stabbed. What happened with that?”] Oh. Yeah, walking home from a bar up in the Haight. Guys jumped out and stuck me in the chest. I got one, and me mate got another one… later. Look, I still got the scar.
- Well, he caught up with the guy, had him roll up his pant leg, put the gun to the back of his knee and blasted it. It’s an old trick he picked up in the IRA to keep the wound from goin’ septic. Aye, mate was ex-IRA, escaped from an English prison.
- [Davey, you got any kids?] Not that I know of!
- Back when I was drivin’ a cab. Picked one up in the Castro. Kept askin’ me if I wanted my cock sucked. Kept tellin’ him no. He kept askin’ me, tellin’ me I’d like it if I tried it. So finally I turn to him and I say you know when you got a big wet vagina in front of your face, lips hanging down, pull ’em apart and just sniiiiifffffffffff, oh man! He flipped out, oh stop oh stop! Disgusting! I said, see? That’s how I feel about when ye talk about puttin’ yer gums round me plums. Shut ‘im up for the rest of the ride.
- [listed off a series of fellatio rhymes, including] Lipstick on my dipstick, gob on my knob, etc. etc.
- New York don’t require two weeks notice for quittin’. Aye. Back when I was managin’ this singer [some Joni Mitchell-esque folk singer chick], I was also drivin’ the bus. She was such a demandin’ bitch, I just couldn’t take it any longer. So I held my tongue, waited ’til we got to a gig in New York. Pulled the bus up and said I quit. She said you can’t just quit, I said I can, we’re in New York, don’t need to give ye notice in this state!… told her what a stuck up primadonna bitch she was, she said no one’s ever talked to me that way. I said, somebody should’ve when you were a kid, and I left right then!
Davey plans on flying back to Scotland, staying for two days to fulfill some government loophole, then getting the hell out because he hates the fuckin’ place. Maybe he’ll go to France for awhile, he doesn’t know. But part of him knows he’ll wind up back in San Francisco, the madhouse that it is, he can’t stay away. If so, he’d like to open a pub. In case he ever does, we made sure to give him our contact info.
- A mousy, wiry-framed late-twenty-something who was once voluntarily homeless (an “Urban Camper”), and will return to his job mowing graveyard lawns in Alberta when he’s through doing yoga across India
- When asked about occupational humor among his staff of gravediggers, body-embalmers, and corpse-dressers, didn’t understand and told us about driving the riding mower over the Ash Garden and breathing in recent grandmas, grandpas, accident victims and other loved-ones
- On the subject of bad whiskey, mentioned Wild Turkey; got interrupted by Devon who spent some long breaths extolling the virtues of the Kickin’ Chicken, his favorite elixir; then continued his story: “Well, this homeless kid I was friends with, Wild Turkey was his favorite, and he got murdered… He used to do this thing [annoying sound and gesture only endearing to those who knew him] every time he drank it.”
- Called this (by us) because the most memorable thing about him was that he can’t really use his right limbs, owing to a bad night in Goa with some not-so-pure cocaine
- Was the shitty fuck-up youngest son in a family of economic powerhouses whose parents would only give him money if he promised to spend it on worthless vacations, not invest it in anymore foolhardy business schemes
- Had his fail-proof plan to open a beachside club in Goa shot down by Alex (see below) who simply made up a bunch of people, places and situations that made Stroke Kid’s vision impossible and ruined his night
PLASTIC FACTORY PUNJABI
After a series of introductory gesticulations and drawings became convinced we were cowboys. Then, finding out we were American, began showering us with questions (through a bilingual 17-year-old kid present):
- How do I get a US visa without getting swindled out of many hundreds of dollars by a scam agency again?
- What do I need to do to get a business license in California?
- What’s the best way to go about starting a plastic factory in California?
- Do you know anybody who can help me with this plan?
For some reason, instead of backing away, we became experts in this field and answered each question he had. Over the next few nights we mostly just saw him popping into the Cafe drunk for a moment to swing his arm around, point at us and say “cowboys!”
We don’t know what Alex’s deal was. Was a South Indian jeweler based in Goa traveling with his Irish yoga-seeking fiance. May or may not have been in on a failed scam to send us to Australia, $10,000 poorer, delivering phony jewelery to a person who didn’t exist. Regardless, his tales of crooked Goan cops and rapid-fire deadpan delivery of what could’ve been insults directed at us entertained us, just as the dal and other dishes he whipped up free for anyone present filled our bellies, so he’s alright in our book.
If we get to Goa, he’s promised us a place in his home as long as we want it, stipulating only one rule: dinner shall only be eaten in his home, on him. Maybe he’ll be a great host. Maybe he’ll kill us. Who knows? But if we find out, then at least we’ll have something to add to this post.
AND OTHER CHARACTERS
- Sonny, the large, garlic-shaped Punjabi kid from Seattle. Rahul’s “cousin” of some sort. Is traveling through India visiting relatives after graduating high school. Doesn’t want to go to college when he could just open a gas station and make a ton of money. Wouldn’t mind going for a year or so, though, specifically to box. At one point he asked Steve, “Hey, you like hip hop?” “Yeah, sure,” Steve humored. Sonny selected an Akon song to broadcast through his phone, then stood there bobbing his head until Steve continued on his way back from brushing his teeth.
- Sonny’s Dad and Rahul’s “uncle”, a wealthy Seattle gas station mogul whom we reminded in some bizarre otherwordly way of the Dukes Of Hazard. Assuming he had him pegged, Devon asked him if he was a Burt Reynolds fan. “Yes!” he admitted. Direct hit. But then, “What was that movie? It’s my favorite. With the Chief who tries to lift the… the big thing? At the hospital?” Uh, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, we answered. “Yes! That’s my favorite one. He says, ‘At least I tried’ ha ha! That’s a good motto in life. At least I tried! I love that.”
- The asshole proprietor guy whose food we bought and praised all week and who then stole Devon’s Leatherman. Well, Devon left it there after using it to open a Kingfisher Super Strong at the end of the night, that guy found it while cleaning up, then pocketed the fabled multi-tool. When confronted, of course he’d never seen the thing. A quick and anxious search of his quarters yielded nothing. Sonofabitch. It was a Wave, too. Best kind. R.I.P.
Good people, good times. But when we realized we’d been there seven days, and that Dharamsala really, really blows*, we finally up and left.
*Especially its drum circles (Listen)