Mykel Board, the punk elder and columnist for Maximum Rock 'N' Roll, wondered if he'd be happier in Outer Mongolia - mostly because it was the farthest and most foreboding place he could imagine - and so spent a year teaching English there at the National University in Ulaanbaatar.
When he wasn't looking for a little companionship at the Hollywood Bar, providing security for Hillary Clinton or finding the best hotel in Moron.
Board takes his road show to town Wednesday evening, when he'll read from Even A Daughter is Better Than Nothing, his account of his muttonous adventures in the former Communist outpost. He appears at 9 p.m. for free with Sid Yiddish at The Grey Lodge Pub, 6235 Frankford Avenue, Phila. The book's title is from a Mongolian proverb.
He agreed to answer a few question by email. Here we go:
Q: If you were to make the Mongolian playlist, what songs would be part of it, and why?
A: I couldn't pick the song titles, but I could tell you the genres, and a couple of the bands.
1. Hurd (pronounced HORT), the only Mongolian metal band. Their fast stuff is terrific and they have a great style of projecting an almost stadium presence in a very small space.
2. Traditional Mongolian / Tuvan throat singing. Maybe this is the most familiar Mongolian music to Americans. For those who've never heard it, it is almost electronic sounding. Made by singing two different notes simultaneously, one through the mouth and one through the nose.
3. Mongolian Long Songs, so called NOT because each song is long, but because each NOTE is long. Really strange and haunting music that will make you instantly sad.
4. Mongolian horsehead fiddle music. It reminds me a little of bluegrass. Very fast and very stringed. It is the music that made the camel nurse its kid in the movie.
Q: Was there one moment you hold in your mind when you start missing Mongolia?
A: Naw, there are hundreds of moments I hold in my mind. Sex under the stairs at the disco. Sitting in the Gobi under more stars than I have ever seen in my life. Walking on a glacier in the middle of the desert. Being invited to eat a meal of pure fat. Being kissed by an 80 year old man when he found out I was American. Answering the door after finals to find a student waiting for me in a mini-skirt, with a bottle of vodka. That's for starters.
Q: Why Mongolia. (I know you answer this at the start of the book, but most of my readers have not yet read the book, I'd guess.)
A: I wanted to go the furthest AWAY I could go. Even the name Mongolia was like a joke. NOBODY goes there. My kind of place.
Q: I remember getting advice from Brit royal marines during "hostile-environment training" on how to travel through exotic places. "Be the grey man," they said. (They used an e in grey because they're Brits.) The grey man is less noticeable, and that's better for not sticking out and getting stuck up. What advice can you give to Americans traveling in these times to exotic posts.
A: I'm always the man in black, but never the grey man. If a place is hostile to Americans, (and what place isn't these days?), then you need to show yourself as an individual, not just another yank. Act like YOU, not like the demanding loudmouth, cowboy boot-wearing person they expect. My experience has shown me that once people get past "American," they'll judge you as a human being on your own (de-)merits. Of course, this wasn't a problem in Mongolia. They love (or loved) Americans, though the Mormons were doing their best to ruin that.
Q: What is next for you?
A: Rather boring, I'm afraid. Australia and New Zealand to promote my books. One of my dreams is to go to Africa. Another one of those places the people talk about as if in a far off universe. I don't want to do the boring Kenya animal safari, though. I want to go to Senegal and see how the street
My second dream is to go to MacDonald and Starbuck Islands. Both in the Pacific. I think Starbuck Island is just a big pile of bird#$%, but it has a name. That way, people will ask, "How did you spend your time on the Pacific?" and I can answer "I went to MacDonald's and Starbucks," and make
that something worthwhile.