It had been a while since we sat down for a solid jawbone with Rajah Cheech Beldone, King of the Gypsies, one of our all-time favorite pseudonymous characters hailing from Alberta, Canada.
The interview questions were answered online over the course of two days. Shortly after receiving the original twenty Qs, Beldone wrote back, saying roughly: ‘Hey man, can we change Questions 2-8? I really don’t feel like talking about that. It’s boring.’
My initial response was, “I understand what you’re saying, but… Remember that the vast majority of readers are NOT in Taiwan. They might be interested in your story.”
A summit was declared for later that evening. We met after sundown at the usual destination. Beldone was already seated at the table and halfway through a Tsingtao tallboy when I rolled up.
“Sorry, man,” Beldone said.
There was more to the story than what you read on the screen. We’ve discussed the subject(s) on many occasions. It’s not really a point of contention, but we don’t always see eye to eye.
“Fine,” I replied, “I’ll give you some different questions. But look, you have to answer the questions. Even if it’s ‘No comment.’ That’s how interviews work. What I think would be cool is if you answered [the questions] with the same level of disdain you’re showing me right now. If you think the questions are bullshit, then that’s your answer. Explain yourself. But you still gotta go through all of ‘em.”
He did and he didn’t.
Hey! Remember that I’m old enough that I saw the show when it originally aired. I was their target audience. The show premiered as I was starting first grade, and next to Batman, which had premiered earlier that year, it was one of my favorite shows.
To answer the question, Mike Nesmith, no question. He was the shit, man. You know I’m kind of a hat guy, even as a little kid, so his wooly hat – or toque, as they’re known where I come from – really appealed to me.
Also, Nesmith was much wittier and subtle, as opposed to the other Monkees. He was the Groucho Marx to their collective Jerry Lewis.
When did you come to Taiwan?
November 17, 1992.
I had an emergency root canal last night, as you know. It was a slightly more pleasant experience than having to plow through this tired-assed, horseshit of a subject.
OK, I was engaged to this girl at home and I was supposed to come here and work and save money to go back to school and get some kind of qualification that would allow me to get a proper job so I could marry her and support her.
Can I go now? Apparently not.
What’s your favorite thing about Taiwan? [Aside from your wife and child, of course.]
Uhhhh, believe it or not, it’s the people. I worry, on a day-to-day level, about my family and their well-being, a tiny fraction of how much I would if we were in North America. And, people really really leave me the fuck alone here, you can’t put a fucking price tag on that.
Did you ever consider leaving Taiwan for good?
Fucking hell. “And then in Feburary when I was four, I got a cold from going outside without my mitts. And then in March…”
Yeah, things didn’t work out with the engaged thing, and I stayed. In September of the next year I was actually preparing to apply to Marine College in Manila.
If it’s not too personal, what kept you here?
What if it is too fucking personal?? In a startling turn of events that I’m sure nobody saw coming, and I may well be the ONLY guy in the world this has ever fucking happened to, I met my future wife. Blahblablablah.
I can plunk me ass down in front of any convenience store and get liquored up while smoking my fucking brains out and soaking up the jam of my choice, 365 days a year, for like TEN BUCKS U.S., and nobody bats an eye or gets in my fucking grille, fuck, beat that.
This is one of them deals like the Cheez Whiz thing, where people who never really had it where they come from, they go like “That’s not CHEESE“. Yeah, nobody’s saying it’s cheese. It’s Cheez Whiz.
Europeans see a proper donut and they’re like, this is the worst pastry I’ve ever eaten! Fucking morons. Add to that the rampant online gastro-hypocrisy practiced by so many foreigners here, and the whole thing gets shit all over, but, come on, man, Krispy Kremes, it has to be. It ain’t a Napoleon, it ain’t an Oat Bran Muffin, it ain’t Raspberry Truffle. It’s a fucking donut, and it’s the absolute perfect one, pushing the absolute envelope of sweet, greasy, and chewy. I get a dozen originals twice a year, on me birthday and Christmas.
Jersey James at Amore, as you well know.
Night market snacks?
I’ve been twice in the last four years, but Tonghua Street seems to have some cool stuff. The night market snack is one of those things where you really don’t want to think too much about it, or you’d never put it near your face. And, as you’ll commiserate, the departure of Hot Dog Auntie was a blow to the place from which I doubt it will ever recover.
Aside from the food, what do you miss about Canada?
I got no straight answer here. I was back, as you know, about a year and a half ago, on family business, and pretty much everything that I dug, lifestyle-wise, is ancient history.
The summer, I guess. You know, when it’s minus-45°C for months on end, and the sun comes up at nine and goes down at five. When springtime comes, everyone kind of goes mental. When it’s 35°C (but like 15% humidity, the dry air coming down over the Rockies) and the sun sets at like 10 p.m. and you got the fucking aurorae going on all the time, people just never really go inside, you know, every restaurant has outdoor seating, every house has a porch or veranda, every apartment has a balcony, it’s very invigorating.
I guess I also miss being out in the country, at least in my part of Canada, you know.
The landscapes combined with the ridiculously low population density. Near where I grew up, it lists the population density as 742 souls/sq mi. In my current neighborhood, it’s 53,000 souls/sq mi. I ain’t making that up.
Oh, and fuckin Kubes, of course.
Oh wait, you said no food.
What do you want me to say? The rules say you can’t gamble on your own team.
For or against, it’s against the rules. Chuck Hustle broke the rules. Even fucking so. You know the only guys in baseball that are worse then the owners are the Commissioner and league officials and shit. I hate them pricks, and that asshole A. Bartlett Giamatti was the worst of them. Seriously, how big of a prick do you think you have to be to become the President of the fucking NL?
[Giamatti] already had a fucking hard-on for Pete after that whole shoving match deal with that one fucking ump…[Goes and checks] Oh yeah, Dave Pallone there.
“Amid reports that he had bet on baseball, Rose was questioned in February 1989 by outgoing commissioner Peter Ueberroth and his replacement, Bart Giamatti. Rose denied the allegations and Ueberroth dropped the investigation. However, three days after Giamatti became Commissioner, lawyer John M. Dowd was retained to investigate these charges against Rose.”
“The Dowd Report documented his alleged bets on 52 Reds games in 1987, where Rose wagered a minimum of $10,000 a day. Others alleged to have been involved in the activities claim that number was actually $2,000 a day.”
“The Dowd Report says, “no evidence was discovered that Rose bet against the Reds,” but investigator Dowd stated in a December 2002 interview that he believed Rose probably bet against the Reds while managing them.”
Well fuck you, man. All the really lurid details of his case, the stuff that really vilified Rose, none of it was ever proven. These guys are such assholes [Barry]Bonds and The Rocket [Roger Clemens], they’re eligible for The Hall of Fame, and THEIR proven misconduct directly affected their performance on the field, for the love of fuck.
Two fucking takeaways here, pal.
Giamatti died of a heart attack on September 1, 1989, eight days after announcing Rose’s suspension. Well fuck you, bub.
And, much more importantly:
On September 11, 1985, Rose broke Ty Cobb’s all-time hits record with his 4,192nd hit.
Read that last one again.
OK, you’re free to go.
What bands or artist(s) that make your skin crawl?
I’m not sure if you mean that (a) I’m grossed out by the actual individual or (b) I just hate them? I’ve always thought Marilyn Manson was a real douche, you know? Me and my best friend Rob got high at lunchtime at his house while listening to Killer and Raw Power, and we stole some of his Ma’s eyeliner and mascara and wore it to school. That was in eighth grade.
Dave Matthews, Phish, Jack Johnson, and John Mayer.
Amy Winehouse, may she rest in peace, she just looked so fucking skeevy, it just repelled me so bad I never even heard her sing, even though I hear she’s pretty good.
Not that they make my skin crawl exactly, but a couple of guys who I get a lot of abuse for not liking even a little are Paul Westerberg and Alex Chilton. Like I just don’t even hear anything, for me those guys are like I’m a gopher looking at a sewing machine; I don’t have any reference at all.
Oh, and of course, as discussed, Sammy Hagar. Sammy. It can’t be repeated enough. About a bazillion others.
I’ll tell you a very Special Mention.
As we’ve covered in the past, I spent many many years worshipping at the Altar of The Boss, Bruce Springsteen. There was a while where I would have told you in dead seriousness that if I couldn’t be Springsteen, I didn’t want to be anything.
In Canada, the song was premiered on MTV with the video, on a Friday night.
Watching that abomination unfold before my eyes, it was like walking into the skankiest, grottiest, most depraved snakepit of a club in an alley off Patpong, and seeing your little sister up on the stage juggling ping pong balls with her hoo-haa.
The worst part was that the Boss’ People mobilized such a pervasive campaign to convince the world that the new record was The Best Work He’s Ever. A guy like me felt like it was my fault; that the revulsion and horror I felt was the result of something lacking in my perception or appreciation.
What cookbook(s) do you have and/or use at home?
Wowee, I haven’t used a cookbook in forever, man because, you know, Internet. I just think about something and then go fucking find a recipe I like. But I don’t think I ever really used them, not that I recall. I’d always just get the recipe I needed, if I don’t already have it, from me sainted Ma (may she rest in peace) or my Grandma or an auntie or something.
Spice or herb? Spice, ahhh, maybe smoked paprika. Herb, dill weed, probably.
Oh no! that fuckin fresh basil they got here, I fuckin LOVE that shit, yeah.
How often do you laugh during a given day?
Nowhere near enough. I had the bi-monthly summit lunch yesterday out here with Stubacca and Twin Peaks, in which circumstance I normally do more straight up belly-larfing in 90 minutes than I will do all month, yesterday being no exception. Plus, you and me hung out last night, which had more than its fair share of hilarity.
I can’t complain, my kid and wife are both really funny, they both crack me the fuck up on a regular basis. Which is good, because I don’t tend to find most popular media more than mildly amusing, at best. Farrel, Sandler, Schneider, that shit all pretty much bores me to tears.
Is that a restaurant? No, we didn’t have nothing like that, like a chain. Look, man, when I was a kid we never had them cream pies, I don’t know why, I guess it was just a family thing. We only ever had fruit pies. BUT, and you probably don’t know this, but out West we have the Saskatoon, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amelanchier_alnifolia
(it was a berry first, then it was a city) which is a little bit like a blueberry crossed with…I don’t know what. Anyways they grow like stink, everywhere, when we’re kids we’re always going out picking them and then they’re made into pie, best shit anywhere, seriously good eating.
Then, when I grew up and married the first ex-Mrs Beldone, I did all the cooking, every meal, every night, for eight and a half years. She had a pretty sweet tooth and I made like a pie, or a pie and cake every week. And she was really into the cream pies, so I had to learn how to make them. Her favorite was lemon meringue, but chocolate cream and banana cream were also heavy in the rotation. From scratch, by the way, no mixes or anything.
What’s your favorite Frank Zappa album?
I think I’m a bit of an anomaly because I always preferred Frank’s work when interpreting more conventional forms, so I’ve always been a big fan of his actual “songs”.
So I’d have to say, off the tip of my tongue, Overnite Sensation, most of which I could probably recite word for word from memory. Oh, and definitely Joe’s Garage. But only Vol 1. Everything else, of course respect into the middle of next century, and I think he was one of the most important figures in the history of fucking music, but those are the ones I’ve always enjoyed listening to the most.
Man, I don’t KNOW any Ramones albums, just songs, but not in album context.
Oh, wait I know that one that Phil Spector produced? Where they cover all those girl group songs? End of the Century, is it? Anyways it didn’t blow no wind up me skirt.
Who or what was your high school’s mascot? Did you ever dress up in the mascot costume?
Fuck man, I don’t know what the fuck it was. I played a little football and wrestled a little, but mostly I played in the marching band. So yeah, I had a lot more to contribute than sticking a rubber fucking animal head on.
If you could own any painting in the world, which would you choose? Use reasons and examples to explain your answer.
Hmmm, not really my area, to tell you the truth. Probably Sugar Shack, by Ernie Barnes, or pretty much anything by Ernie Barnes, I love that shit. Even if it weren’t the cover of my favourite Marvin Gaye album (which was also my 150% Sure Thing Foolproof Guaranteed To Get You Laid Album of All Time).