Saturday, April 28, 2012

Frenkie | Protuotrov

Listen to "Nerko"

Get it all here.

Last night after work, while savoring a bowl of gumbo at Sugar Freak, a Louisiana-themed bar and restaurant on 30th Avenue in Astoria, I suddenly thought of John Gimlette's In the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig: Travels through Paraguay, a brilliant travel journal that I picked up at a used bookstore last weekend while I was in Washington, D.C.

The passage that came to mind was a detailing of The William Shakespeare, an "English-style pub" in Paraguay's capital, Asuncion. Nothing could be further from England than Paraguay, which I believe is the only completely land-locked country in the western hemisphere. 

As you'd imagine, other than its name, The William Shakespeare had absolutely nothing whatsoever in common with anything, pub or otherwise, in the U.K. Despite that, its main selling point, for Asuncion residents, seemed to be its owner's assertion that it was an attempt at recreating an English-style pub.

I thought of Gimlette's description of the pub, or "pub," not simply because I was, at the time, happily spooning up a reasonable approximation of Louisiana gumbo in a bar-resto  designed and decorated to look like something in New Orleans (down to the cheap floor tiles and pull-chain toilet), but also because I had just come from the little Bosnian-owned "European-style" market down the street detailed in this post

I then had a sudden and profound memory of what I'm almost certain was the first time I ever ate by myself in a restaurant: I was eleven or twelve years old on a family trip to Disneyland in Anaheim, California. The restaurant (Blue Bayou) was made up to look like something you'd see in the French Quarter in New Orleans and situated just outside the exit of The Pirates of the Caribbean, which my stepbrother Bobby and I had just ridden. 

(It occurs to me that, nowadays, you'd never allow your kids to wander around by themselves, not even in Disneyland--but this was the early 70s and we were each given a book of tickets and spending money and clear instructions to meet up on "Main Street" at the end of the day.)

I remember thinking at the time how exotic and, the clincher, how real eating in that Disneyland restaurant had seemed. I hated the food, which tasted like nothing I'd ever eaten before, but I savored the experience, believing on some level that I was being incredibly grown up, simply by sitting there and eating the not-so-thrilling "adult" food.

Then I thought about how, on some level or other, this is something that I experience nearly every single day in New York City. Whether it's the sudden sense of being transported to Japan when having sake at Decibel in the East Village, or having the vague thought that "This must be just like Thailand" while wandering around the aisles in a little Thai grocery in Elmhurst--to say nothing of the confusing mix of signals and resulting thoughts every morning and evening when I ride the 7 train to and from work. 

(Yes, I'm actually on the N/Q line, but my office is near Grand Central, so I transfer every day to and from the 7 at Queensboro Plaza.)

Frenkie is a Bosnian rap artist and contemporary of Edo Maajka, with whom he often collaborates as part of the all-star Bosnian rap group Disciplinska Komisija. His family fled Bosnia during the war in the 1990s and settled in Germany where, as a young adult, Frenkie was exposed to and ultimately influenced by German rap and hip-hop.

His voice, on much of this album, sounds a lot like Eminem. His lyrics, though I obviously can't understand them myself, often reference the political situation in Bosnia.

I love the idea that three or four degrees separate Frenkie from anything a hard-core hip-hop enthusiast might consider "authentic" almost as much as I treasure my memory of feeling transported from childhood to adulthood simply by eating bland rice pilaf and oddly spiced fish and vegetables as big fiberglass boats filled with gleefully screaming children wended their way past our tables to plunge into what looked like, from our vantage point, the abyss.

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