Wake up, and Smell the Coffee

When I was in the USA, I lived in the midtown area of Atlanta…which was lovely! I was told this was the “gay area” by someone in hushed tones, but honestly I didn’t see the problem – all I saw were friendly strangers who liked to give compliments, and some great brunch establishments! How could anyone hate that?! Certainly always put a smile on my face!

50 Cent Patrick Stewart GIF

But anyway, this was a little far to travel for some friends who lived outside of the city, so I would hop on the MARTA train and meet them half-way at Bankhead Station…then we’d drive out to some random diner, restaurant, or coffee shop for a catch up on the latest shenanigans…

One of these times stands out, and has been turning over, and over, and over in my head recently – I’m sure it won’t take a genius to work out why…

On this occasion, four of us pulled into a quiet roadside place, and piled into one of the cushioned booths to get warm. A chirpy waiter came over immediately to take our orders…we were all pretty exhausted, so there was only one obvious choice for most! “Black coffee, please!” “Black coffee for me too!” “Yeah, black coffee – thanks.” 

He nodded and smiled, as he jotted it all down – before turning to me.

“Errrmmm…” I murmured, a little unsure as I stared at the menu. “Can I have white coffee please? I don’t really like it black.”

Buffy Staring GIF

There was a silence. A horrible, agonising silence. 

Everyone had their eyes fixed on me, I instantly turned the brightest of reds – as if a volcano had erupted in my face, and was attempting to force its way out through my ears…I had no clue as to what crime I had committed, but I was sorry all the same. I looked desperately at the faces of my friends, hoping one of them would throw me a life-line…all they threw me were looks of complete, and utter disbelief.

“Is that supposed to like…be funny? Because its not.” cautioned the waiter,

“Erm, no…not at all – you don’t…you don…you don’t have white coffee? I mean…wha?!”

The waiter looked across to my friends, as if to say; “who is this no-good piece of shit, and why do you even hang around with him at all? Can we shoot him in the head, once my shift finishes?” I wished that I hadn’t been so choosy, I could have just said “black coffee for me too!” and all of this mysterious awkwardness could have been avoided. I wriggled, and writhed in my seat – the leather sticking to my sweaty backside, as I prayed for the ground to swallow me up whole. I gave it one last try…

“Sorry…I want a WHITE COFFEE, PLEASE!” More stares, now there were some who were shaking their head – as if I had gone too far with a bad joke…this was past the point of humiliation, doubly so as I didn’t have a fucking clue what was going on! “Black coffee…you put milk in, and it’s white coffee. What…you don’t have milk in a coffee shop?!”

Crazy Pills GIF

“Ohhhhhhhh!” everyone chimed together, which instantly broke the awkward deadlock of silence. But I was still completely dumb-founded, my head bobbing from person to person hoping for an explanation. They laughed (a lot), but eventually told me I had incurred a rather regrettable mistake – and that it was probably best to not repeat it again, even if it is an everyday phrase in England. Ask for a coffee with milk, or a latte…or…anything but a fucking WHITE COFFEE! Well, you didn’t have to tell me twice! Jheez!

After all this they dropped me off at the station, and I was just looking forward to getting to bed – so I could forget about how shitty a person I was without even knowing. And I was in luck! The train was right there! Everything was coming up John, after all!

Not quite…ten minutes later, and I was still sat there – the train hadn’t moved an inch. I put my phone away, after all it was all full of white coffee jokes from the friends I had just left. I glanced to my left, and did a double take as I caught sight of some commotion in the opposite carriage…I moved for a better view, maybe this was the reason that…oh Jesus…fucking hell… 

There was a black man, lying there lifeless – with a puddle of blood around him. There were policeman murmuring into their radios, and a paramedic still desperately trying in vain to save the poor man…with blood all the way from his hands, to his elbows. I couldn’t make out much more than that.

I held my head in my hands, tears began to swell, as I began to struggle to breathe. I looked up at everyone else in my train carriage, I watched for their reactions which were basically just to glance over shrug, and go back to their phones, their books, their whatever else. “Babe, some guy’s dead. So I’ll be late.” I heard someone announce in a bored tone.

So wait…a man dies in a bloody fashion, and no one bats an eyelid? But I mistakenly use the wrong phrase when talking about a cup of coffee, and everyone loses their minds? Something’s wrong there, surely.

You see…I didn’t link the two like this till recently, they were just separate events in my head. But the two are unequivocally intertwined, I see that now.

We can’t just stress, and worry about words…and being “politically correct” or appearing to be a person of true compassion. REAL equality comes about with REAL action. Not just talking the talk. All of the horrendous news stories we have seen laid bare recently, SHOULD be sparking something inside of you…and that something shouldn’t be disdain for well meaning people like Benedict Cumberbatch…but more horror for corrupt, or racist individuals.

Please, don’t just look away – wake up, and smell the coffee – BE the change. 

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Taco Bell Romance

The title says it all really! This is a tale of true romance that took place in the most romantic of all romantic locations..a Taco Bell. And a Taco Bell bathroom at that!  Trust you’ll get a giggle from it…enjoy! 

If you have a video request you can leave a comment, or send me an email – if it’s a cool/interesting idea then I will get to it as soon as I can!

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IS 50 CENT BANKRUPT?! (NAHH!)

Despite his namesake this 50 Cent character is far, far, far from broke. Here I break down exactly what is going on; it’s all clever legal maneuvering rather than Monopoly style madness. Worth a watch:

So what do you think of him then? Smart guy, or total knob? Both perhaps?

If you have a video request you can leave a comment, or send me an email – if it’s a cool/interesting idea then I will get to it as soon as I can!

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The Struggling Artist (USA)

USA – Atlanta, Georgia ~2010

As a kid I could sit at the kitchen table for hours and hours drawing – whether it was superheroes, monsters or my teachers – my imagination was my own limit, and I did it all on reams of cheap copier paper (my Dad “knew a guy”)…unfortunately this passion was sidelined to the meager position of hobby once I was pushed into university. Sad times, but that’s life I guess. OR SO I THOUGHT!

After I was accepted to the Georgia State exchange programme, I was told that there was next to no limitation on what I could select for my classes, and that it would all count towards my degree. Four hours of art? No problem! So yes, not only would I be checking out if the food portions really are that much bigger (British people are fascinated by this for some reason), but I would also be enjoying four hours of unadulterated drawing every week, and it would actually be worth something! Drawing?! Obviously, I thought I was well on my way to becoming the next BIG THING…all sorts of thoughts flooded through my head; maybe I should change my name to Salvador…or maybe I should start wearing some weird shit to throw people off…or maybe I should invent something life changing – how about, a sandwich, that never runs out?

Genius GIF

Well I was getting a little ahead of myself, clearly. But it was fantastic news nonetheless.

Let’s fast forward a little bit…so it’s a warm summer day in downtown Atlanta, I’m certainly looking the part of “artist”; that is to say I am lugging an obnoxiously large art folder with me and I have a regrettable hat defying gravity on the back of my skull, possibly cut off jean shorts? Who knows. Basically, I looked liked the kind of guy you would strongly dislike on first sight, the kind of guy who invited and endorsed that kind of bitter prejudice. The kind of guy…well you get the point.

Surprising then, that as I am standing at the “sidewalk”, a busy looking business man runs up to me and grabs me by the shoulders…”EXXXXX-EXXXX-EXCUUZ ME?!” he stammered, in a caffeinated flurry. “Err?” I manage to reply.  “ARRR YOU AN, ARTIST?” I pause for some time due to sheer confusion, you see I wasn’t sure if taking an art class and holding a folder meant that I was a fully fledged “artist” (whatever that means)…but then I remembered I was wearing a hat and cut off jean shorts, so I landed on a definite…

“YES.!”

YES GIF

AWESOME! I NEED AN INSTALLATION DOING, LIKE…SOON! DO YOU HAVE YOUR CARD?!

“Ah. No. I don’t have one of those.”

DO YOU HAVE…A NUMBER THEN?

“Ahhh, no. I don’t have one of those either.”

DO YOU HAVE A SPARE PIECE OF PAPER THEN?

“Sorry, no. I need this for my-”

WHAT THE FUCK, DUDE?

And that was that. He stormed off into the cosmopolitan crowd never to be seen again. He probably found another person wearing a hat, who DID have a card, or a phone number, or a piece of paper, or a fully functioning brain. Anyway, after this I carried on to my class and immediately told my teacher what had happened…she seemed intrigued, and asked me to repeat the exact specifics of the encounter at least a couple of times – after which she looked at me closely with comforting eyes, held my quivering hands in hers and with a reassuring tone said…

“You fucking stupid bastard.”

Shock GIF

And that was the first and last day I ever considered myself to be, an artist. It was a tough gig guys, not for me.

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The Psycho Stalker…

Some stories write themselves…and some take years, and years…well this particular one has been waiting in the drafts for a long, long time. Every time I went back to it I just couldn’t find the words, I couldn’t express all of the oddness, craziness, and horror on the page! I came close, but it didn’t ever seem quite right… 

So at long last it is done! But in the form of a video – seriously the funniest one so far, and well worth a watch! If people need a giggle…and also a way to not fall asleep at night (sorry in advance for the impending nightmares!) then press that play button!

How would you have dealt with this one? Remember I don’t know kung fu, so that’s out the window…

If you have a video request you can leave a comment, or send me an email – if it’s a cool/interesting idea then I will get to it as soon as I can!

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Please buy my collection of stories! Get it in paperback here – or on Kindle here! ALL proceeds go towards Macmillan Cancer Support!

UK vs. USA

UK VERSUS THE USA!!!! WHO WILL WIN?! WHO IS BETTER?! BATTLE ROYALEEE! LET’S GET REAAAAAADY TO RUMMMMMMBLEEEEE!

Okay, it’s not as dramatic as all that but still…in this video I look at the differences between the UK and the USA…were are we similar? Were are we COMPLETELY different?!

I only name  few that I have encountered firsthand…did I miss any major ones? 

If you have a video request you can leave a comment, or send me an email – if it’s a cool/interesting idea then I will get to it as soon as I can!

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Please buy my collection of stories! Get it in paperback here – or on Kindle here! ALL proceeds go towards Macmillan Cancer Support!

Waka Flocka Flame (USA)

USA – Atlanta ~2011

Naturally while I was in the USA I wanted to soak up as much….errr…culture, as possible! This is my vague aim everywhere I go I suppose, after all before you know it, the trip, holiday, or stay, is over – and you are back in your “ordinary” setting, almost like it didn’t ever happen at all! You are just left with the memories…so why not make ones that are worth remembering? Ones that are unique to the place you momentarily find yourself?

Wale uh huh GIF

Makes sense, right? 

Well, one thing that is undoubtedly HUGE in the USA, particularly in Atlanta...is rap music. So when a friend of mine told me that one of my favourite artists, Wale, would be performing at an intimate venue within the next week – I didn’t even have to mull over whether or not I would be in attendance, it was a simple:”YES, YES, YUSSS!” Or you know…like, words of that nature.  

After all the way he constructs his songs, the topics he touches on, and his overall lyricism, are something which I had deeply admired for some time! My friend told me that an up-and-coming local act, who is popular in the area (Waka Flocka Flame) would be supporting him. I thought this was fair enough. But…I didn’t have a clue who this young chap was, so I did a little research of my own…

Here’s an example of what my search came up with – this is  taken from his break-through track ‘Hard In Da Paint’;

“what the fuck you thinkin’ n***a, I won’t die for this shit – or what the fuck I say – BRICK SQUAAAAAD! – front yard broad day with da SK – BA BA BA BA BA BA BOW!”

Waka Flocka GIF

Alright Mr, Waka, to each his own! And just for the sake of comparison, here’s an example of Wale’s lyrics, taken from his track ‘Bittersweet’;

“understand every imperfection – I just embrace it, and take it in within my essence, with little effort, soon they will respect it – I am the smelling-salt, to whomsoever narcoleptic!”

The astute among you will probably notice that they are two very different artists. But this didn’t stop me from heading there anyway, why not see what the people loved so much about Flocka?! When we arrived there it was packed out, and we could smell those weeds cigarettes things strongly (what are they called? I wouldn’t know..) Anyway, we pushed, and squirmed ourselves awkwardly to the front, and waited it out. I was squished in, and my arms were locked into a T-Rex position…but at least I had a good view. I wouldn’t get to do much dancing, or bouncing, or anything else of that matter – I could probably do a great mime of a bongo player, but that’s about it.

After a couple of, errr, sub-par warm up acts – it was announced that the home-town hero Waka Flocka would be coming out…the place went fucking bananas! It became apparent that most had came to see him, rather than the main act himself, Wale…

Waka Flocka Crazy GIF

Out he popped, bringing ear bleeding bass along with him, it was thumping so loud that I thought my heart was going to burst out of my rib-cage…but with that said it was all a pretty exhilarating display – before long he was diving into the crowd, I didn’t exactly know what was going on but I sure was enjoying it!

There was pushing, and shoving – my arms were free at last! But then some huge sweaty titan had his arm around me all of a sudden…a long slug like trail all across my shoulders, and the back of my neck. It was the man himself! He was shaking his head in a mad frenetic motion, flicking it, and swirling it along to his booming beat. (A bit of one of his deadlock things slapped me in the eye, which kinda hurt, but I didn’t have much time to think about it!) 

Security moved him away, and he pushed on to the other side of the stage – grasping arms outstretched trying to catch a feel. He made it back up to the steps with huge difficulty  – but it’s at that moment that Wale came out. It was kind of weird to have him there all of a sudden, I enjoyed hearing his material, and he is certainly a cool guy in the flesh – but the crowd wasn’t right for it…in fact he kept making apologies, and at one time even said “I know you came here to see Flocka, and don’t know the words to my songs – but just vibe with me anyway”… I wanted to be like “I DO, I DO, MR. WALE – I DOOOOO!” But then I thought I would come off like a goody-two-shoes at school, a teacher’s pet, you know? And anyway, it’s not like he could have heard me amongst all the ensuing crowd madness.

Wale GIF

When the show was over, everyone was grinning from ear to ear – it had been a fantastic night after all. I realised that in the hustle, and bustle I had lost the cap I was wearing..,probably during the whole Waka Flocka man hug dance situation, or whatever you want to call it. I’m not mad or anything, but if he wants to send me a new one, that would be fine with me.

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An 8 Year Old’s America

A student of mine handed me this today – announcing; “This is why I don’t like America.” 

America

We had been discussing holidays, and dream destinations – so this wasn’t exactly part of the lesson plan…but I couldn’t exactly fault him, as he was so well informed for an eight year old…particularly as he is Korean, and consequently English is not his first language.

I had him explain his illustrations; gun possession, terrorist attacks, assassinations, drones, gangs, police brutality, and obesity. That is the image foreign parts have of America, a country I know first hand to be a lovely place, filled with positives.

Perhaps more needs to be done to highlight the good, not just the bad – I did what I could with him, but he said he had watched it on the news, and called me a liar. Therein lies the problem, I feel…what do you think?

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ILLEGAL in the USA!

Image

It was back in 2010 that my first real trip took place, sure I had been on family trips to France and Spain during the school holidays – but this was different…I was heading off to the USA, for a whole year…by myself. Now, I wouldn’t blink at this kind of thing, but back then I was absolutely shitting my pants (literally – well almost literally – but that’s err…another…err, listen forget I said anything!), anyway yes, I was nervous. So while I was on my way to the airport I felt like I had made the wrong decision; safe to say I was running a lot of “what ifs?” through my mind…

What if I bought the wrong tickets? What if there are problems with the visa? What if the plane crashes? What if I was unwittingly used as a drugs mule? What if there are only recent Adam Sandler films to choose from while in flight?!

But despite all of this, I said my tearful goodbyes, began to check all my luggage in, and awaited the sexual harassment by hired strangers with rubber gloves. So far so good. But it was when I got through the first round of customs and passport checks, that I realized something…something big…

I had left all of the visa documents at home.

All of the big stupid important papers that had proved such a nightmare to get in the first place, I’d just left behind – not because I am forgetful, but more because I am a massive fucking moron. Ahem, sorry, hindsight is always such a huge bastard! You see, I had my passport and a page saying VISA in there, with some American looking patterns (I believe there were eagles, flags, and possibly Stone Cold Steve Austin…can’t be certain), so I guessed that would be it, that this would be enough. But naturally, it wasn’t.

I was suddenly panicking. I mean, I had got through this far! I would be getting on this plane to Amsterdam in ten minutes! So err…maybe I could make it through the other ones too? Maybe the whole visa thing is just like a take it or leave it, like “mehhh you don’t have it? It’s fine – just write us an IOU or something, no biggie!” Of course things were different now – as before I hadn’t realized it, so I was just wandering around, a totally ignorant buffoon without a care in the world, but now I had recognized my error…well, safe to say I would be a red, sweaty, nervous wreck at every turn. So yeah, not ideal.

When I got into Amsterdam I headed straight to Burger King to calm my nerves. I’ve found that there always seems to be a Burger King at the airport, I wonder why that is? I’m not complaining or anything, I mean I kinda like it – I feel like the fries are actually better than McDonalds, but ironically the burgers aren’t anything to write home about…hmm…like I do know kings aren’t elected…so perhaps that’s how they get around calling themselves the Burger King, and I suppose it’s not breaking any laws in that case, I just feel it’s a little dishonest, you know what I mean? …anyway, I digress.

It was time. I stood up heavily, and made my way to the gate. Every step more unwilling than the last. I kept my passport close to me and gripped it tightly – it was now slippery due to a mixture of double cheeseburger residue, and my nervous sweating. “OH GOD…OH GOD, OH GOD, OH GOD!” I was freaking out…maybe, maybe if I fainted and fell over they would just kind of cart me on there, and wouldn’t make such a big deal of my lack of paperwork?! Is that…is that a thing? No, don’t be silly. ”Argh, the guy looked right at me! He looked right at me…oh my God…he’s waving me over…argh!”

That was the passport check guy, right at the gate entrance – so fair enough that’s his job and it’s nothing out of the ordinary. But still. I was terrified.

As I walked up shaking, I handed him my passport – and tried not to look so uncomfortable (I’m pretty sure it came off as a constipated smirk)…but that’s when he uttered those fateful words…

”Where are your visa papers?”

“I…I…I, I don’t have them.”

He stared at me blankly.

“You don’t have them?

“No, I…I have them. I just don’t have them.”

(I have no idea what that meant at all, but that’s what I said.)

What took place next was very, very odd. To this day I am not entirely sure of what happened…it was…I don’t even know. As he looked at me in disbelief over my lack of visa papers, and probably wondering how I had gotten so far already, he let out a “hmmm…” and simply, turned around. He literally looked the other way. I stared at him (the back of his head) for a few seconds, not sure what was going on at all…and then, just…kinda…walked around him…

Of course the next few moments were TENSE! I kept expecting someone to run down that little tunnel bit, and tackle me to the floor…start spraying me with mace or something…so I kept looking over my shoulder, quickening my pace…I’m now doing this weird frenetic power walk thing, one more look behind – but nothing, NOTHING!

Only one more airport to go.

As I got into Atlanta it all felt different. There wasn’t going to be any cheeky winks or slip throughs here. Everything seemed 100% professional, like over the top serious. Gulp. This was the end. I could feel it. But that’s when I started thinking…the worst they could do to me is to send me home, right? And then, I’d be back home, with my best friends and my closest family members, right? So…like…nothing lost?

(This weak attempt at comforting myself didn’t work at all by the way.)

Final passport check, the big one. As I was called up, I wandered to the counter sheepishly, and placed my passport on the shelf in front…I tried a smile – it wasn’t returned by the lady behind the glass:

”FAAAYLZ?”

”Excuse me?”

“PAAAY-PERZ?”

I handed her my flight information print outs, knowing fine well that wasn’t what she was asking for:

”Sir. Where are your visa papers?”

“I don’t…I don’t have them. I mean I have them.”

“DO YOU HAV’UM?”

”Errr. No.”

“How’d you get this – whatever – goin’ that room.”

She pointed to a small room in a far corner – I dragged myself there with a heavy heart, trying to avoid the silent yet judgmental eyes of others, unsure of what I should expect…as I opened the door a sweaty smell automatically struck me in the face, and a general vibe of “ohhhh shitttt, I’m in trouble” pulsed through my veins.

Imprisoned GIF

I was seated next to a Mexican family (lovely people, trust me their story was crazier than mine, maybe another time) – anyway, an hour passed…two hours…more…eventually I was called up…

Of course they asked over and over again how I simply just didn’t have the papers, they couldn’t comprehend that I was simply stupid…they thought there must be more to it…they made calls, typed stuff, and stared at me for uncomfortably long periods of time…we were getting nowhere; for every question that asked if I was a drug smuggler or insane terrorist, I answered the same way: “I just forgot my papers…I didn’t think I needed them…so…I…yeah.”

That’s when they decided to put me through on some kind of “temporary alien status” or something like that…not sure exactly…so as I fill out form after form, they then tell me I’ll need to give them my fingerprints – no problem! I press them down on the machine as requested:

”Nuttin.”

“Wait, what?”

“Sir, try again please.”

“Okay, no problem.”

“Nope. Sir, is there any reason you don’t have fingerprints?”

“I…I…wha?”

She then called one of her colleagues over and explained the situation…and they just stared at me, asking questions about my past, and continuously asking for possible reasons my fingerprints may not show up…I then looked back at the Mexican family in desperation…they returned a sympathetic look, but there wasn’t really anything else they could do; I get it, they had their own problems.

After some time they decided it was probably something to do with the machine, I mean I didn’t look the type…whatever that means…I suppose a skinny English kid doesn’t really fit the bill. Anyway, eventually they found that I wasn’t some kind of criminal who files down their fingerprints to avoid detection (they’d watched something similar on CSI apparently), and let me go, three hours later, possibly more, no idea. But I was free.

FREE GIF

And that was that…I had tricked the authorities, and I went on to set up my new life in America where I became uncontrollably wealthy and powerful, I also picked up a penchant for machine guns and snappy suits…oh wait…that’s Scarface…never mind. 

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More from this country below:

https://storytimewithjohn.com/2014/05/07/the-struggling-artist/

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