The Beat Goes On

Punk rock George hangs out with a different kind of drummer

"We didn't play cowboys and Indians as kids," explains my pal Sean, a hulking, six-foot-two-inch Navajo who weighs upward of 290 pounds.

"Really?" I ask him, as we both stand together at the Mesa Pow Wow on a sunny Saturday afternoon -- both extremely tired, and both hung over from the night before.

"Yeah," says Sean from behind his dark black sunglasses, wearing his blank black tee shirt and blue skater shorts with chain wallet and all. "We usually just stole Dad's cigarettes and found a place to smoke 'em."

Culture vultures: A dog and his boy go indigenous for a day.
Matthew Henry Hall
Culture vultures: A dog and his boy go indigenous for a day.

Punk Rock.

But what else should I have expected from this really nice guy I met at The Rogue when I first moved to Phoenix? After only being in town for literally hours, this guy actually talked to me when everyone else just gave me quiet stares, and actually went and got me a beer. For free.

He stole my heart.

Him, and Brian, whom I also saw that night at The Rogue, whom you can find most any night at the Emerald Lounge.

I like to call him Emerald Brian.

But he's another story.

Anyway, what drew me to Sean, and has kept us friends, is his quick wit, his like of great punk bands, and his thirst for knowledge.

And booze.

Which can be a problem.

That both of us talked a lot about on that sunny day in Mesa.

The morning started easily enough, with me promising my nine-pound Yorkshire Terrorist, P.J., that we'd go to some doggie party called "Barktoberfest." Of course, I broke that promise by sleeping late, and truthfully, who the hell has parties that start before midnight, anyway?

Eventually, P.J. and I make our way to Mesa, which we can't believe is so fucking huge.

It's got more exits than a colonoscopy doctor probably sees in a day.

Once we arrive and find a place to park, we check out the local Jack in the Box, with its fine Southwestern architecture, and P.J. wants in.

That is, until he sees the park.

A big and beautiful park, with drumbeats and chanting noises in surround sound.

And with a sign that clearly says, "No Domestic Animals."

P.J. first glances at the thing, then just gives me a look.

A look that says, "Domestic? I'm from fuckin' New York!" And with that, we enter the park.

Of course, under the rough exterior of my punk-rock utility vest with the U.S. pins, women's black stretch jeans, and bleached-blond hair, I'm a pussy.

I start wondering to myself what would happen if they nabbed me and P.J.

We'd be sent to those awful tents I've heard so much about.

And forced to wear pink underwear.

And P.J. does not like pink.

Beige, perhaps, but pink is so over like Paris Hilton.

But we chance it, and nothing happens.

When we finally take a good look around us, we see things that are amazing. Adults, children, and even senior citizens dressed like the Village People. Well, the Indian guy, Felipe, anyway.

And they're beautiful. Not just their glowing faces and warm smiles, but their clothes are so colorful I feel like we are watching a Technicolor movie.

We see headdresses of all sizes, with feathers of all colors.

And we hear drums. Lots of drums.

But something surprising happens.

Well, DOESN'T happen.

P.J. doesn't start barking like a lunatic.

While people around us are dancing, beating drums, and displaying their long and proud culture, P.J. is, well, interested. His ears slant sideways, and he seems to be in tune with everything going on around him.

And I'm amazed.

If this had been his old home in New York City, he'd be barking his little head off, and screaming for the blood of the homeless people.

But here he was like the others.

One with everything.

And it felt nice.

When we finally find Sean near the announcer's stand, through many thick groups of people, P.J. happily licks my pal and wags his tail.

If I were him, seeing Sean's size and weight and all, my tail would be between my legs, and my teeth would be, well, not really that exposed. I had a bad dentist.

"Looks like P.J. is doing fine," says Sean as he pets my beast, whom he last saw at my book-reading in Tempe for my memoir, Playing Right Field: A Jew Grows in Greenwich.

We talk a bit about what's going on, about the "princess contests," and about Sean's culture in general. Then we get to what's really going on in our heads.

"It was rough to get in the right head," he says to me, about the night before. I tell him I've had the same problem lately. I can drink a lot sometimes, but can't get drunk. So I end up antisocial.

We're both the same in that way. Kind of shy, I guess.

Maybe we should invest in that little blue pill with the smiley face we see on TV. He's always happy -- why shouldn't we be?

Our conversation finally turns to the Pow Wow at hand. Sean tells me he's a Navajo, and others around us are from tribes like the Hidatsa/Arikira. Then I have to ask.

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