stefano - helperman for italy
paul roessler - organ, singing
raul morales - drums
watt - thud staff, spiel
(clockwise from top left)
dutch dude calros - the man outside the van
sunday, april 17, 2005 - zurich, switzerland
Woke up to the whole town covered in snow, we're in the middle of a snow storm. Unbelieveable, three cali boys trapsing around the rockies in the middle of a snow storm, and it's april. It was comin' down in clumps the size of cotten balls. It started to melt about an hour towards zurich, and by the time we got there, the weather was completely diffrent. Hugh plug on the way into town, on account of the soccer game. The club we're playing is right on the river. Rad place, it's a bar/cafe sorta place, and they also host bands. It was really cool, while i'm seting up the kit, the boss, victor comes over and hands me a swiss army knife, how rad, he gave all of swiss army knives. Every inch of this place is decorated with any kinda nic nac, art, sculpture, painting, etc, you could imagine, it's pretty amazing looking. Hanging from the ceiling is a larger than life skeleton, no shit, things at least twenty feet long. It's also pretty close to the main train station, and that's a good a place as any to get some francs. I lost my watch a couple days ago, and if i don't get a new, watts gonna claw my eyes out, it is pretty dumb not to have one, especially on tour. It'd lame having to ask everyone for the time. We are in switzerland, the watch inovaters, and better than that, the home of swatch. I was able to pick one up right in the station. I've already gone thru five in the past six months, and swatch has a two year deal, so i'm sold.
After the sound check i go looking around zurich, every thing is already shut down. I don't know if it's an early town, or on account of it being sunday. Dosn't really matter, less people around is fine with me. I make it back at seven on the dot, right in time for the grub, Every place has been so cool with me not eating meat, and tonight it's no diffrent. I'm pretty positive watt told all the clubs in advance, that's really cool, much respect for that. I got to chow on a really excellent pasta dish. After eating both paul and i go to walk it off. It'a an early gig tonight, and we're the only band that's playing. That gives us a little over an hour to roam. I get totally turned around, taking turns here and there, not paying to much attention, but in the back of my mind trying to keep a mental map of where we're going, dosn't work. It's not the hardest place to find, it's along the water front, but where's the water. We make back in time and the place is packed, but they push the show back twenty minutes anyway. I can tell it's gonna be one of those gigs where all eyes will be on the band, not that that's usually not the case, i mean people are comin to see a show, it's just at some shows it tends to be more of an obvious thing, and i feel as if i'm under a microscope. It's not a bad thing, it just gets me a little nervous that's all.
Just like i suspected, under the microscope. I have to really concentrate on getting comfortable, but once i do things start falling into place, thought we played very well, considering. I know watt gets nervous too, that's great, i hope i'm still like like that in years to come. a little nervous, means a little exciting, and once things stop exciting you, or evoking some kind of feeling, you must be doing something wrong. We didn't leave right after the show, instead we spend some time in the place after it cleared. It was an early gig, so it's still not too late. After an hour or so, victor, the boss calls us a cab and it's time to split. The pad is close, walking distance, but there's a light drizzle, so the ride is good. Time in the cab seemed to stand still. we only drove a couple blocks, and it seemed like forever, It was the radio music that was doing it. I wanted to claw my way outta that car, some women singing about how people shouldn't feel sorry for her cuz she has everything... I kinda felt sorry for her.
Snowflakes still falling, first dime size, then quarter, then cottonballs. It's well above freezing, but the cotton balls are falling too fast to melt completely and they start accumulating in white pockets amidst the slush. We are somewhat taken aback, the Cali boys at the mercy of unforseen elements.
It's a pretty lazy takeoff; Zurich only two hours away...we leave the hotel at 11:30 a.m. head back to Fri-son to get the gear. Julia, who I guess is the booker and led us to the hotel last night (always appreciated) isn't there yet, so we stumble around in the wierd, heavy snow.Then she's there, we load the van, Mike posts week two of the diaries, so Hellin will be reading soon!!!!
Gwar a couple days behind us. Hope they don't catch up! Although I'd love to see them.
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Melt Banana, Dilinger Escape Plan
As Mike formats the diaries he notices juxtopositions between my fucked up musings (crisis he calls it) and his obliviousness to it. We laugh. It feels good. I haven't felt bad for two days!
The sun comes out about thirty clicks out of Zurich. We have survived a blizzard. Flow into the city on about a sentence worth of directions which turns out to be distilled down down down but correct. We hit a plug in the traffic right at downtown; we crawl through and it's a big soccergame. Wind around the town, around the trainstation till we're at the club.
This is like a coffeehouse gig, Sunday night. The stage is tiny, but the place is cool, bitchin decor: pictures/posters of Che, Elvis as Che, deerheads, a giant human skeleton hanging way up from the high ceiling (second skeleton in two gigs...) native Americans, Wc Fields, old maps, old advertisements, fish, oars, lifesavers. The Bathrooms are collaged out. The ad for the show says; "the Mike Watt Trio" which he doesn't like much, and says "the hero of minutemen and firehose" which he probably doesn't like much either, but the picture is of D. Boone, so we let it all go. The soccer game we drove by is on the TV, the music is eclectic: Middle Eastern, Latin, African, Rock. We load in and set up, there's no backstage really but we don't soundcheck for a while 'cause people are watching the game.
The club is right up against the river Sihl, so I go to walk around it in a solitary way even though Raul has asked if I want to go with him to the Railroad station so he can get some swissfrancs and buy a swatch. That doesn't sound fun to me, besides, if I isolate a little maybe there's a chance I can rediscover my melancholia. In about two minutes I see Raul walking and join him sheepishly, I guess it's OK to just go ahead and feel normal for a while why not?
So we go to the Haubtbanhof which means main station, and it's pretty huge, not Grand Central, but neat, lots of shops, candy, chocolate covered fruit stands, good smells. Raul gets his money, we at length find the swatches on a lower level and head back. I bought my swatch at LAX.
We check and it is what it is. I'm going to have to play super soft and when I play super soft the setup I'm playing with doesn't sound that good. Mike has been bring our stage volume down, I may have to try to mess with the Leslie settings and see if I can get a better sound out of it at this level.
We eat some meat and rice and vegetables, and Raul gets me to go out walking again. There's really nowhere to withdraw at the club, and we are in EUROPE and maybe I oughta SEE SOMETHING. So we go, Raul trying his damndest to get us lost an hour before showtime, clicking away happily at grafitti, only occasionally being distracted by architecture or couples making out on park benches, that he snaps while coughing so they won't hear the camera. I get pretty sucked into the grafitti too, Zurich just isn't that interesting where we are. I don't get it, it was never bombed, it was never in a war that I know of, yet there doesn't seem to be anything really super old. It's a very nice city, clean, rapid transit trains everywhere. But I'm not getting into it.
Getting back to the club I'm a little restless irritable and discontent. There's no privacy, the club's filling up, not packed but a good audience. The shows have been shakey lately and it just adds to the general discombobulation. We go on and it's sort of like it has been, I'm so focussed on Mikes directions that I have trouble getting in the flow. It makes a lot of sense in this little place to be mellow but it's hard to explain, I just can't get any momentum going, I don't feel any forward motion. It feels tamer than five or ten shows ago. It doesn't help that the power on the keyboard and Leslie unexplicably go out three times. Well it's not inexplicable, I'm pretty sure it was in the extension cords from the house, I think I found where they were plugged in half assed and fixed it before the encores.
The real problem for me is a matter of interpretation. I don't feel as free and as punk lately onstage and I'm just not adjusting. Mike's pulling me way back UNDER THE BASS and it makes fucking sense; I'm more of an orchestration. I've been playing like the Jimi Hendrix Experience or Cream where all three musicians are just wailing, and that's not working for Mike, I guess, and I'm starting to feel like I'm really fucking him up, because he's putting alot of energy into directing and conducting me and it seems to totally distract him from his own parts. I mean that's serious. I truly feel that if he just focussed on himself, I would fall in behind him and it would be great, but I may just be fucking wrong. I don't know, I thought we were getting better and better up to about Zagreb, now I feel like we're in freefall, but I think Mike feels we're still getting better. So what the fuck. Just let opinions float for awhile, his opinion has to dominate, I am here to serve him.
The dilemna is that all that talk of focus, seeking perfection, acheiving a zen mindfulness is meaningless now, because my interpretation of Mikes music is unacceptable. I can think I did it perfectly, and Mike is totally unhappy, or I can think I'm sucking out loud and he'll be satisfied. So ???
So I started being a little homesick but I think in a pretty normal way, the craziness is kinda in remission. Sorry if that spoils the diary entries for you more voyaristic fucks. So I'm hanging out after the gigs with a couple of Swiss guys and one on them starts saying: "Yeah, LA it's hell on earth, it's the worst place in the world, Now N.Y. that's a great town hell on earth hell on earth bla bla bla." And I listen to him for a while, and you know there was a time when I might have been drunk and thrown down, knowing the club would have my back; I could start shit with a guy 50lbs heavier knowing someone would bail out my ass. I've done that. But today I just look at him, and take it for a while, and at the point when I'm really furious and would have gone off I said: "So, I've lived there for 30 years you know, and I really love it, Malibu isn't hell on earth, and San Pedro isn't hell on earth, and I've been in Zurich for three days in my life and how stupid would it be, and how would you like it if I started saying it was hell on earth? And are you kidding about N.Y.?" And he totally realized that he was out of line and probably drunk and what the fuck was he saying, and it's funny, cause I had gone into the club with the plan of finding the drunkest person in the room and talking to him, and I probably did, and sure enough he was annoying.
Anyway Hellin, I've really fucked up on the postcards, I don't have any swissfranks; I have such a problem buying things or changing money or ANYTHING, it's kind of neat just living on absolutly nothing, I know postcards are like two bucks, but I don't have the right bucks, these are excuses, I've written a fuck of a lot of diaries!!! I'll get it together, try to call you in the morning. Miss you lots today! Think about you constantly, I fucking lucked out on you, that's all I can say. No credit to me, blind fucking luck, somehow said and did the right thing for ONCE IN MY LIFE and got you to like me!
My god if you people only knew what the fuck we've put each other through. We are like two fucking INFANTS, lost on a desert island with only a generous supply of razor blades. Hi!
pop at nine (great number but what a weird hour for watt to pop at!) and look out the window: snow on the top of the boat, it snowed here last night. whoa, middle of april too but this is alps country, right? so I'll be real careful driving. I had a strange dream last night. it was like I was at my own gig and was going to watch me but the gig boss was bummed on the condition of my shoes and said they weren't appropriate to get inside the pad I was playing. it was strange, in the dream I could see this guy way up close, seeing his manicured beard, oiled up hair and all - a black shirt w/buttons on the collar even. I mean, there wasn't a lot of logic going down w/the dream but still it seem so god damn real in ways I can only describe as like being able to taste or smell but it frustrated me how I couldn't make this guy see the sense into letting me see my own self play. it's not like I was going to be easy w/the critiquing and get all precious w/myself - much more likely I'd have plenty to wretch about. I could hear myself telling him (yeah, it was that third person - like me watching me trying to watch me do a gig) that I'd stand in the back, in the shadows and not let anyone see me. he kept shaking his head and saying, "no no no" over and over again. aaarrrrggghhh, it was frustrating me - getting me mad but then feeling all beat down on the esteem level too. shit. this scenario kept looping endlessly and it drove me crazy - it was 'pert-near a nightmare! I go down and shovel some pears and apricots w/the righteous kind of yogurt they got over here. some eggs and a couple of different cheeses too - don't chow too much cheese back home but man, they got the kind over here and I can dig it. couldn't make a career out of it though - shit, I'd be bellin' like a melon... maybe I've already said that? well, I mean it (by the way, they had this great cheese made w/olives yesterday - man, was it the best!). on top of that, there's no pedalin' or paddlin' to balance it - christ! good thing there's gigs at night, huh?! weird, my shirt didn't dry all the way so I'm wearing another one - a flannel that's got another john coltrane button and my germs one - that's where it is! I thought for sure I fucking spaced and lost that. I find another trane one in my 'puter sack and downstairs when I see paul, give him both - he chooses the one from 1957 (when he quit heroin) and will give raul the one I have been wearing (him at the guggenheim in nyc, 1962) but replaced w/this central park one taken in 1963. so now all us got trane to wear on us for inspiration, all right! much respect to john william (will I am) coltrane. another look out the window and all the bells of the churches (I can see at least seven from here) start ringing at once, whoa.
we meet bosslady julia at the fri-son club and load up the gear, then I put the week's diary up on the hoot page. I know it's important to paul to get us writings up there - he's be so intent and relentless w/his writing, spending lots of his time doing it. big hugs and we say bye, so very happening to play for good folks, people w/passion and who really care. we take the autobahn we came in on north through bern and on to zurich, much of the first part w/snow coming down on us. trippy seeing cows in the snow, don't those cats get cold? empathy feelings stirred up in me, I guess. we pass this junkyard I saw yesterday w/lots of junked cars all piled up to be scrapped and what's on top of a part of the heap? I ford econoline from what looks like the 80s! wow, how did that get here?! I've never seen a ford econoline in europe before, damn! as we get closer to zurich, the snow gets less and less 'til finally the sun's out and it looks very much like spring. yes, great to have the sun out. I put all seventeen of this 60s television series called "the prisoner" episodes on raul's 'puter as avi files so he see them, him and paul started w/episode one ("arrival") yesterday. we get into some heavy spiel to what's up w/that show - it was my favorite thing on tv as a boy and it's neat to see they dig it. as the autobahn turns into the surface street, the traffic gets really plugged - l.a. style. there's a soccer game on and the road goes right past the stadium, two rival zurich teams are playing and there's lots of police in the street all suited up, riot guns, shields and all. hope nothing goes down but maybe it's just in case. everyone's heard about how people go so crazy w/violence at these things... maybe it's cuz there's hardly any scoring? weird too how teams represent different aspects of the supporter's class or political views I've been told. we don't have that so much w/our sports in the u.s. paul's up front w/me but I gave both him and raul the same directions and map I was flowed by dutch dude carlos. they seem spacey but following them exactly puts us where we need to be - around the main train station and by the river sihl at a pad called el lokal. damn, exactly no wander - we drove straight in where we needed to be!
soundman uli helps us unload and I park the boat a block away. the shirt I've played in every gig this tour (the blue one I got from some cat after a gig in madison, wi) has dried so I change back into that. this pad is like a two story bar w/the stage in the corner, one just big enough to old us three and there's lots of stuff decorating the walls and even a giant skeleton (not just a skull but the whole thing), like twelve feet high but it's facing down, it's back parallel to the roof. uli says its made of pc foam which makes sense cuz it's held up by tiny string. there's a weird montage of elvis presley's face on that famous picture of che guevara's head everone's seen. I have us wait to do our soundcheck cuz of the soccer game being on the tv and not wanting to upset the folks here watching it (in the meantime I change my bass strings, it's been a week since I last did) but after an hour there's still more to go so what the heck, we do one quick and then chow w/food from the kitchen here - a good salad and beef w/veggies and rice. uli tells me about switzerland and their four parts divided by language: german, french, italian and romanie. it's divisions they can live w/and not get crazy on each other so that's cool. he's married to someone from the dominican republic. different folks that can get along, alright - I'm into that, way into it.
I met w/the boss earlier, a great cat named victor (he gives us each a metal swiss army knife - uli says those are better cuz they're for soldiers and the red plastic handled ones are for officers) and he told me we're the only band tonight and we're to go on at 8:30 pm, alright. late gigs can be tough on watt these days. I'll soldier on whatever the circumstance but can dig much an early show. people are really close up on the stage which is not very high up from the deck. this is kind of intimidating on me, like I'm under a microscope and makes things kind of tough. I "warn" the folks like I do every night that we're doing a "weird, long song" but you can tell they don't know what to expect. I can tell some are kind of squarejohn and the piece and/or the band is bizarre on them and wish I could engage them more by playing right for them - one at a time like iggy does - but my nerve falls short. I end up looking at my guys much more. paul's doing better taking direction and pulling the organ in w/me and raul so that's good but I feel I'm alienating these younger cats right up on us - they look pretty uncomfortable. I really want to make my stuff human and get something out the can share somehow, I don't have the idea what I'm doing is better than they deserve or they're beneath be able "to get it" or anything like that. of course in the old days w/d. boon, just being w/him was good enough. there was a sense of self-reliance in that they gave me the push I needed to overcome an inside sense of "give it fucking up, asshole" that threatened to come up and swamp me. it's been an intense struggle ever since he's been gone to get over these nightmare feelings, to get my nerve up - aaaaarrrrggghhhh, 'pert-near always. these diary chimpings have even helped cuz it forces me not to "just get through it" but think about what to do next time. every gig's a different dealio, that's for sure but I gotta play the hand I'm dealt the best I can. this piece is a fucking difficult one in a lot of ways but it's something I gotta put my shoulder to at this point in my life. it's not like I'm trying to "sell it" as much as I'm trying to work it the best way I can to bring out what's true in me. like I heard john coltrane say in an interview, that music people are looking for some kind of a truth and by that I take it as being my search for what makes me a thud stick operator, what makes me worth hearing and witness me wrestling it and pushing out these expression stuff from within me. it's ego that's crying for acceptance at any cost, I think - I gotta challenge myself even more than being so full of whatever that would make me stoop to the inflate myself to the level I need or even have the right to "challenge" them - that's a responsibility they alone are made to answer for, it arrogance for me to think for a second I have the right to call anyone out on the carpet for that. I'm only playing here by their grace. being from another land makes it that much more intense but I must be honest I and admit I have those feelings about playing even in my own town, let alone another state of the u.s. this is a burden I feel in delivering the whatever. I know I can try harder to find someway to work this thing, this shtick. I am not just throwing a fit in a public. I make my way to the stage for the gig and meet a cat from pedro who's living now in switzerland, he says hi to me and knows pete and jer. I think of my original secondmen...
I'm glad paul gave me one of his cables to replace that fucked up one I've been dealing w/the last bunch of gigs. he has some trouble w/his organ cutting out a few times cuz of a bad power connection but he overcomes that. we have a bit of a pile up in the middle of "burstedman" but overcome that as a band. I got good guys w/me, I've been blessed w/good guys. we do our gig pretty ok as a team on stage but personally I think I could've done more to reach the folks off the stage. there's no place to go after we're done cuz of the people all aorund so we stand next to the stage in front of the girl's bathroom. we do the encores and then we're done. much respect to these folks. I sling what I have left, all the rest of the shirts and almost all the cds. victor comes to talk w/me after I say my thank yous. he says I'm a brave man, he tells me many nice things. he's a kind man, a man passionate about music. thank you much, victor and much respect to you. he gets his picture taken w/me and then he takes pictures of my shoes. I walk back to the boat to get it for load out - man, the eye-contact thing w/the crowd can be so weird for me, gotta get over myself on that - not to show them some kind of power, there's enough people doing that but maybe show them what's inside me, to help me really find me. I know that's a crazy kind of sense but that's where my thoughts about this are centering. it's 'pert-near a berlin wall in my head about this, damn.
we load the boat up and more nice things from victor as he sits w/me. he asks that I pray his club is still here when I tour again and I promise him I will. parallel universes or rather satellites, orbits criscrossed. smiles for you victor. we leave the boat here and he gets us a cab to the 'tel which was close enough to hoof we only find out after getting there.
real wrung watt hits hay hard.
monday, april 18, 2005 - geneva, switzerland
Woke up to the prisoner, and an early breakfast, slim pickins', so i just had some coffee and bread with jelly. Right behind me in the lobby, is a guy all decked out in cammo. I thought maybe it was just a fashion thing, nope, kid was a soldier, really young. What tipped me off was the ak 47 he brought to breakfast. The dining room was big, and fairly empty. For some reason instead of sitting at a table alone, he came and sat with me. It was a little awkward, language barrier and all, but a polite breakfast companion... he even went out of his way t get us some juice and bread. There was an american there, and the dude was way into the gun, i went for a coffee refill, and the way he was holding it the barrel pointed right at me, gave me the creeps. The club was close, and and the boat was parked a block from there, so instead of taking a cab back, we hoof back along the river.
Don't remember the drive to much, the downs of getting behind, but i do remember waking up right outside of geneva, with watt and paul talking politics about some country or another. Trying to keep up with these guys intellectually isn't even an option, i learn lots from the both of em'. The club we're playing is right next a river, and in the middle of town like most the places we've been playing. This place is enormous, Two clubs, a record store, movie theatre, bar/restaurant, and we're staying on the forth floor... pretty unbelievable. From the outside it'd be impossible to figure any of this out, just another building you'd walk right by, we even drove by once. The only way of telling was a little hardly readable sign above the door. Someone is there to open the door, but i'm sure someone is always there. Sound guy won't show for another hour so i step out for a bit to see geneva. About a block up the street, is a ljubjana style art commune. It's busting at the seams with visuals everywhere, it's really impressive, and i can't give it enough time to break the surface, so i just walk by making a mental note to come back. Also find an old burned out building that has the same quality, but way more squatter, it's pretty intimidating, so i don't venture all the way in...yet.
Back at the club for sound check, and not a moment to soon, it just started raining...@#$*&!!. I hope it stops soon, it'd be a bummer to be in a city like geneva and have to stay inside. Luck, it stops in about an hour, the first place i go is back to the art space, and try to get it on film. After that it hours and hours of wandering. I was supposed to call some of the people from what's wrong with us, but all i really wanna do is see as much as i can in the time that i have, and usually folks who come from the city you're in don't necessarily find as much joy in that, they've seen most of it. The singer wants to show me what real absinth is all about, but not such a smart idea before a show. After getting the nerve to check out the graffiti ridden squat solo, and check out the water front, it's time to go into the main nerve... the city. It's stupid to relate things, because i'm here for a day, so i really don't know jack, but their downtown reminds me of frisco, near market, but alot tighter. Not like slang, but literally more compact, streets aren't as wide, and it's alot cleaner. Geneva is the least populated richest city in switzerland. I make it back right in time to watch everyone finish eating, but i'm in luck, the boss saved me a plate, and boy am i grateful for that. Swiss style vegi burritos, and a salad with little squid in it. Usually i'm kinda a pussy about eating something with tentacles, but today, i'm so hungry it's no problem, just chewy. The burritos, not to hot, but so good. It's kinda funny, the swiss didn't really have the wrap down, so both ends were open, and dudes were eating them in slices. After i chow down, Imo a fast eater so that's in about five minutes, i convince paul to check out the space across the street, and the squat down by the river. I'd thought it would be alot harder to get him inside, he just jumped right in. He was laughing of my style of seeing the city, most people who would travel to geneva would maybe go shopping, find the historic landmarks, maybe go to a fancy restaurant, what do i do, find the dingiest, scariest bombed out building. Don't get me wrong, i love the old historical cities, but i gotta make room for both, for me that building was a historical ruin.
Opening the show is white circle crime club from belguim... nice guys. They're on tour supporting another band that's taking the day off, so they booked this show for themselves. Pretty intense band, i couldn't really describe the music, kinda just jamming out on one note, like a big bleed or something. There drummer is what caught my attention, the guy could not be stopped. Tonight we get to be the guinea pig for a new sound guy, and it shows. It was a tough one for me, plus i let that bad ass from the first band intimidate me, sounds dumb, i know, but it was true. I think i was in a weird mood cuz i was tired too, it's bizarre, for me confidence and fatigue go hand in hand. I could tell watt was having a hard time too, he was trying so hard to hear himself sing it seemed to me it was wrecking his concentration. Finally he said fuck it, held the mic to his face with one hand, and played bass with the other... what?, the whole show with one hand... yep he played the bass with one hand, pretty incredible, but i would think you'd wanna sacrifice the vocals before the playin', but it's watt, and he has an enigmatic quality to him.
We're staying upstairs on the fourth floor of the squat tonight, they'll call a squat, but it all seems very legit, before coming to europe, my impressions of squats were totally different, we don't have squats like this in the states. The closest i can think of, is a place in oakland called the spam warehouse, that place is intense in it's own way, and i love it, but it's nothing as advanced as this. Since there's no where to be, i get lots of time to spend with what's wrong with us. There a great group, and equally as great people, very glad to meet them. Their sound guy was there as well, and he doesn't do to much drinkin' and smokin', and i guess it just got on top of him, cuz one minute he was fine, and the next, he took a big spill. He feel straight back, and racked his skull right on the floor of the club, so hard it made me grab my own in mock pain or something... sounded like someone dropped a bowling ball on a marble floor. He was up in no time, like a champ, and was ready for round three. I was glad he was okay. After they split, i met some other locals. Davido being the one who stands out the most. This guy was a real brother, he had just got back from spending a month in oakland, and had met just about all my folks up there. He even brought up a band that i did a couple of tours with, the grumpies from Mississippi. When i told him this he just about shit in his shorts. It was pretty trippy for me too, meeting a guy from geneva who knows about a band outta starkeville mississippi... supposed punk rockers from the states aren't even this informed, this guy knew what was really going on in the underground, and it was great meeting him. It was getting pretty late, comin' up on four. Watt and paul were already crashed, and i could tell the promoter wanted the same, so i said see ya later, and made way upstairs.
Slim picken's at the breakfast spread this morning. Get up at 7, stumble down looking for a phone but don't see one, decide to call Hellin from the club this evening, morning to her. So I choke down a croissant and some coffee and return to my room to fade in and out of consciousness with Franklin. And the anxiety attacks that usually start when I do that, don't really manifest. I'm getting better. I notice the splinter looks like it's swum up to the surface; get out a pin I found in a complimentary hotel sewing kit in Fribourg and the swiss army knife that the promoter Victor gave to me last night (that's the kind of sweetness that just keeps happening on this trip) and performed what I believe to be a succesful surgery.
Wake up again at quarter to ten and meet the team in the lobby. A brass band is preparing for a parade outside, as watt says " to burn the snowman" what he means I have no idea, some end of winter ceremony. Raul says he sat next to one of the marchers at breakfast, and mentioned he had an AK47.
We cover the twenty euro cab drive from hotel to club in a five minute walk along the Sihl. And easily escape town through a light rain past the shiny, modern swiss freight trains, so different from the unbelievable rust buckets in Zagreb.
Last night Mike gave me a tiny Coltrane pin; a picture from the year he quit heroin, precious.
There was some kind of wierd sexual family tension amoung the club crew last night... Ulle the sound man...said he went to MIT. Victor expressed nervousness about the club's financial future. There was a lot of subtext last night that I can't really comment on.
The Swiss seem too have a lot in common with Americans. Very practical, organized, but a little more stolid. Allow me to make gross cultural generalizations, they're always useful and tasteful. But we do seem to have a bit of wild swashbuckler in us that hasn't quite gone dormant as we get more and more complacent. It's like there's a devilmaycare American complacency...woohoo lets shoot guns in the air, let's invade someone, yippee-ki-yo.
So we get out of Zurich and we are soon in snow fields, not super cold but cold enough. Rolling farmlands, then we go through a long tunnel and we'll come out in mountainous snow, back through another tunnel and the snow is gone again. Mike feels the van pulling and stops at a gas station. Sure enough one of the tires is low. Mike buys me a chocolate croissant. He may have realized from reading these diaries, that for all intents and purposes, by navy/San Pedro standards I am a girl. Sensitive and weak, but good for some things. For instance, a dashboard light comes on and I am able to read the Dutch manual, that it's time for a tuneup, and how to get the light to shut off. At least I hope that's what it said.
We pass through Lausanne, which I played in 1980, and remembered as being beautiful. Of course, it's different when you're just passing by on the hiway, but there was the lake, and the alps towering...vinyards climbing up and down and up the hills, sprinkled in snow. Little self contained villages with churches in valleys overlooked by modest castles. Shortly after we are in Geneva, and find the gig with no problem.
Geneva curls around the southern tip of Lac Lamond (the lake), and some river empties out through the middle of town marked by a giant fountain jetting into the sky. Ringing the tip of the lake are...banks, those very discreet swiss banks we always hear about. And they are sorta low key, not towering temples to green like you might find in Manhattan. Before we unload the gear I have 45 minutes to wander and I head up to the lake. The river flows around a series of little islands all bridged up for pedestrian convenience, with shops, cafes, restaurants and museums; the final island is Ile Rousseau which has a statue of him, I guess he was from here... It's a really pretty walk, I can't help but notice some really nice grafitti.... and a Starbucks just across from the Rousseau island. A clarinettist was standing on one of the bridges playing "I could have danced all night."
Larter: Just got off the phone with you. Made me so happy. Got so unhappy when I hung up. It's funny...ooooo. And I heard myself say and really mean: I don't care what I do anymore...I just want to go far away with you. Everyone in the world seems so crazy. The world seems so crazy. When I talk to you I feel sane. Maybe we are just crazy in the same way now.
You were worried about money. And I felt so proud to say: "write yourself a check for $500" and you sounded so relieved. I just want to take care of you now. All my artistic ambitions and pretensions have faded away. And yet music won't let go of me. Now that I really don't care; I will do whatever so that we can live; anything, and there's just one totally cool gig after another. It's so fucking scary. But I think that's called "turning it over." My fucking fate, ours actually.
So the studio is in storage. They took it all down. I could work up there for months when I get back, now I have no idea what I'm doing. Are you listening people? This is what it's like to be Paul and Hellin. And yet we survive. And I have never felt as loved and cherished as I do now when I get off the phone with you. Tell Josey to get the studio back up so we can finish her album!!! And David Reeves album!!! And others...maybe Paul!!
Hellin is short, about fivethree, and I guess kind of stocky by today's willowy model standards. She's kind of a tomboy. She has broad shoulders which make her look muscular and when she walks she throws them back, arches her back a little and swings her arms in this absolute swagger that screams self confidence. Her eyes are chocolate brown, sort of asian because her Polish ancestors were all raped by mongols. In fact you can totally imagine her riding across the steppes on a pony, swathed in furs, belted with swords, pillaging as she goes. And indeed, she always did carry a weapon of some sort, usually a switch blade or a straight razor. She bleaches her hair blond, I don't know why but it looks good on her; her bangs hang right above her eyes. Her face is wide and slavic, when she puts on makeup it becomes a canvas that lets her be whoever she wants to be. I've seen gorgeous, professional model's faces shrink into plainness next to Hellin, and yet her beauty is totally atypical, it breaks all the rules, it redefines beauty, and so much of it wells up from within. And I'm not the only one who sees it, people will see her who haven't seen her for a while and they'll say things like: " Hellin! omigod you look so good!" like they're surprised. It's OK, I always see it, my sense of beauty is refined.
And the word beauty, though for me that covers all things, I don't want somone to think of just physical or inner or whatever, something limited. For years and years a lot of her beauty was her wild untameable fearless spirit, but there was always so much more, her natural curiosity, mechanical ability, healing/medical talent, her ability to listen, to keep a confidence, to never judge, love of animals, love of childeren, sense of style, clothes, hair, makeup, tattoos, piercings, she is someone you call in an emergency, always cool, calm and collected. She knows everything, she has a degree form watching the Discovery surgery channel, the Animal channel. She was born with knowledge or she has great retention, I don't know how she does it. I've watched her clear a room with a switchblade, take a 40 ouncer out of a guys hand that was going to brain me. I watched her give birth to two childeren. She has taught me so much, changed me so completely inside and out.
But now she has changed, uncovered vast new vistas of herself; of vulnerability, the courage to express love, the courage to be calm, the courage to be afraid. She survived interferon, every drug and form of selfdestructiveness, and here she is left with our life such as it is, and I think she even has the courage to accept that.
I haven't breathed the tiniest fraction of the wonder that is Hellin and it makes me wonder. I cannot be so lucky as to have found something or someone so unique. It must be possible to see EVERY human being this way, through the eyes of the divine.
OK back to the fucking diaries.
I return from the walk and we check. L'Usine is a huge four story installation, formerly a squat, now somewhat state subsidized like many of these places we play in Europe. We're playing in a capacity 800 room, but there's a separate bar/restaurant, a CD store, all kinds of stuff. They're going to put us up in a room upstairs with bunkbeds, and the spoiled part of me sighs and trys to get back to reality. It's FINE! Backstage there's food plus extra delicacies. The stage is big, the soundsystem seems good. I'm startled to learn that Geneva's population is only 250,000. I hope there will be a good crowd.
After check, Alex from the club lets me call home saying: "It's cheap to call America"...why don't all the clubs say that? triggering the Hellin diatribe above, which I've actually been ruminating since Muenster. For some really lame guys, tour has a certain amount of missing home, and I do mean lame. The thing is, I'm not really pining for home as I have on some occasions. I just wanted to share myself with you and honor my wife. I used to pine for home when I thought all hell was breaking loose without me to control everything; now I know poor Hellin can control it all, and I just like her alot.
The club chef has been cooking all day, I've been sort of peripherally aware. And at 7:OO we eat a great meal consisting of some kind of cephalapod salad, with swiss burritos. It's delicious, I know it sounds perverse but it just is new tastes, cosmo! We sit at the table with the opening band, White Circle Crime Club(from Belgium) and the crew from the restaurant and I get real wiggy quick. The bottles of red wine look good, I remember my first time in Europe how the french like to drink starting at lunch. They love their red wine! I eat too fast, and want to run away from the table, just feel really introverted and cannot for the life of me act comfortable and normal at all. Mike is doing a monologue about the meanness of pigs and it's hilarious but I flee.
Raul has been gone all afternoon. He returns just in time to get his food with an odd look on his face. I ask him what's the matter. He says breathlessly: "I just took 200 pictures." It takes me a second to register that he's talking grafitti. He is soon sort of hinting about that maybe I should take a walk with him before it gets dark. I had already tried to reprise my sightseeing trip, but couldn't get myself going for a second leg, feeling fragile, emotional and tired. Like a bitch. But I pull it together and follow Raul.
Two minutes from the club we pull into a sort of vast compound absolutely covered with the most magnificent grafitti art imaginable. It goes on and on and on. We wander around gaping. See his pictures somehow. He calls these "Halls of Fame," places where artists have gone nuts. I don't know anything about it and I'm always impressed by different stuff than he is, more the superrealism and portraits, he's noticing techniques and characters, stencils and wheatpaste. Then he takes me to another building that looks like it's been blown up by a massive bomb. It's kind of scary, four stories of burned out tagland; too ugly to squat although some people are. It's getting dark, but we egg each other on with unspoken dares and climb higher up to fourth story, where there's more trash. There's alot of grafitti, but it's a lower level of artistry. Still, it's a haunting mysterious place in the twilight under the inevitable drizzle. We leave and wander down the river a little farther; a few people hang out casting for trout and smoking weed walking their dogs. There's a big old bridge that seems to mark a turnaround point; the river is now lined by high cliffs, crowned by big apartment buildings on the other side.
We get back pretty close to the White Circle Crime Club's set. In the big club I'm really fearing a cave, and attendence is in fact light, a monday night in Geneva, which for all it's fame and beauty is a small town. But by the time they go on, there is a small crowd, and I'm more than happy to play for them, not demoralised at all. The show was advertised as "Punk Rock Night" so I had some lame negative expectations of the opening band, and as usual they are totally dispelled. They are passionate, intense, rocking in a Sonic Youth meets At the Drive In sort of way, and I enjoy them. Some of their songs are pretty much one note, and I wonder for a second if the fact that we play so many goddamn notes is wierd but there's a charmed magic that Mike has woven over his career that gets people to suspend... sort of the opposite of "contempt prior to investigation."
Between sets I see the guys from What's Wrong with Us? and it's great to see them! They are totally nice, but communication is difficult with all but the guitarist, Stephane, but I have a great talk with him. He has read the tour diaries an asks me: "Are you OK?" which is what Hellin said when she read them. He suggested St.John's Wort. I'm feeling good right now, I think it's important to remember that the manic is as destructive as the depression. He also is interested in Surrealism and Dada and wants to talk to Mike about it.
We go on and sound has changed from soundcheck, Mike has no monitors, I don't know if I have monitors or not, but I can't hear much in the way of vocals, and this is in a club with the most monumental monitor system I've ever seen. But the soundguy, Nick, had let slip at soundcheck that the front of house guy was in the hospital, and he was trying to cover both. He did his best but Mike was suffering, and he wound up doing a fair part of the set with ONE HAND on the bass, and one holding the mike, which sort of funnelled the vocals and allowed him to hear. It was pretty amazing and at times, I would even go so far as to insanely suggest that it would be cool to do once in a while in the set, but this was an emergency tactic.
For me, the set was a little better, because I was able to place the Leslie away from everybody so it wasn't blowing people out, and I could get some natural growl and blend. I don't sing that much and when I did I tried to listen to the ghosts echoing back from the room. Overall, not good, and I got some negative reports on the mix outfront later. Bummer. Also some positive from the White Circle guys...raving about the organ sound.
I go backstage after the show and Raul has told the White Circle Crime Gang that I was in the Screamers, and they're all really impressed, they all want to come to the Brussels show, it's really wierd, how can the Screamers possibly be known here 27 years later?
Later: This is how the madness fells us: being naturally sort of lucky and clever, it happens that a few pleasant things will befall in consequence. I cautiously stick my nose out of my hole of self absorption and sniff. All is well. I leave the burrow, scurry. No predators. I perhaps kill and eat a bug. I congratulate myself on my prowess, strength and cunning. Suddenly I think I am the king of beasts.
The Geneva show was nice, but not what we would call a character builder, rather a character placebo; may feel good at the time, but not really helpful in the long run. Everyone I spoke to seemed to know "Screamers" and treated me as if I had invented punk rock. Raul suggested I approach two fine looking women and hand them stickers, and we attempted to talk in a very deep and pretensious way for the rest of the night in broken Spanish, English, Italian, Dutch and German. They were amazing, heart stoppingly beautiful, intelligent, drunken vixens attending the university here, Tanya an Italian literature major, Sabina a sociology major. Now you're probably thinking: "what a motherfucker, he goes on and on about his wife, then, ON THE SAME DAY, he flirts with chicks and has the nerve to call them vixens (a truly hideous choice of words for which I apologize, but see....this is how the madness fells us)," and you'd be right except there's this nebulous region in mine and Hellin's relationship where she eggs me on to hit girls on tour and I never really do. It's getting easier and easier now, less and less grey area because now I'm getting on in years, I'm truly not young and cute like I used to be, it's more like the pretty young girls humoring the old guy, and my duty is just not to be obscene because that would tip over into dirty old man territory. So Hellin's not jealous, she's ridiculously secure, she can be because I'm loyal and at this point, wow, faithful. Old is strange, scary, you have to get your kicks from things like dignity and trust rather than gnarly carnality.
So we talk alot. Tania is studying Italian Lit. and I say "Dante" and she says yes, and she has the new Secondmen Opera CD and I say : "see? 9 songs." and her eyes get wide with understanding. And Sabina says something about french philosophers and I say: "Foucault?" and she gets excited and I guess that's supposed to be her disertation or something. So we muddle along, then Tania gets a friend who just spent two years in America to translate, and he is really quickly at "what bands did you play for?" for some reason without me doing my usual covert self promotion, and he is hip to the whole Screamer mystique thing and knows everything about Cali punk...it's really wierd, a strange fucking night.
Sabina brings back three beers, spills them all, so I invite them up to our dressing area, where I'm pretty sure there is beer, and sure enough. It's getting late.
We talk more, her friend Davide (pronounced Dah veed ay) is wasted; said he was in rehab back in San Francisco, and I'm pretty sure he's the reason for everything. So I tell him I had a problem, I got sober, I'm his big fucking hero, he can do it too. I really feel emotional about it, and he does too for a second through the beer, but my pure motives get totally derailed by the girls. Tania is starting to think I'm a really wondeful human being, but Davide is totally in love with her, so I wistfully put all or 99% of all (I'm a fucking guy) ill-conceived ideas away. Sabina meanwhile, who has a voice that sort of gargles and growls like an italian movie star big cat, fixes me with a wicked look and says: "Why you still have Bush?" I fumble around, not about to take credit or blame for that, while Tania mentions Burlescone, thanks Tania. But then Sabina says that Americans don't know history very well, and I who love history and read about it all the time and who yet STILL KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT IT have to sort of agree. Now I can't defend America's education system, or general malaise of intellectual activity, but I'm wondering if I can at least get MYSELF out of this. She thinks I'm a stupid American, and I'm speaking in DUTCH and SPANISH!!
Well I mention Buddism and they call it trendy (but not in a mean way) which is sort of discouraging, and Davide is drunkenly yelling: "Fuck politics, I'm not into politics!" and of course we all just sigh, because that is an extremely political thing to say. His other friend is completely passed out and it is passing three in the morning. Tania says Sabina is "muy duro, especially when she's drunk" and I finally just say look: I am stupid and uninformed, not that bright, so I make my politics very, very small. All I want to do is help people like Davide who's going to fucking die or kill someone or wind up in jail. All I know about REALLY, with any true experience, is music, quitting drinking, and love. And I went to bed. I got Tania's email address so I can somehow follow up on Davide, because he wasn't going to hear much more that night. And that is who I am today.
Watt was snoring when I came into our bunkroom. And my last thoughts were of Hellin.
pop at seven bells and do my morning do. I go downstairs (stairs whenever possible for the "old man") to get in some trough and self-serve myself cuz this is what every pad's been like. they got a great bread cutter, guillotine-style for the big loaf they got here. man, is euro-bread the best. don't each it much back home but have been wailing on it over here. between two thick slices I put the equally-great cheese and meats and they sit to shovel it when the lady working here comes in and says she's to serve me - whoops. she gets me coff and a "cracker" - actually it's a croissant but maybe she doesn't realize we've learned enough to call it by its real name these days. I then go back to get my stuff and meet my guys downstairs to hoof back to the boat. it's gray and on the verge of rain but there's a band dressed in oldie-time uniforms playing, a cannon goes off even. the chow pad lady told me today is the day they burn a snowman to say bye to winter - at six tonight all the bells will ring it auf weidersehen - too bad we'll miss that cuz it's only done in the german swiss part and we're headed for geneva, in the french part. we get to the boat and return the way whence we came in yesterday to get to the autobahn... much easier w/out all the traff/plug we encountered yesterday. we were invited for lunch by the el lokal folks but hey, tour's about having to roll so I'm very sorry we had to miss that.
it's raining now as re-trace our tiretracks back towards basil. raul's up front next to me and paul's in the back listening to the what's wrong w/us? cd they gave him in fribourg. raul's been very busy w/the digicamera I sold him right before the tour, taking shots of graffiti art in all the towns we've been in and shows us some. his first europe trip and it's good he's curious w/what he finds. I sure wish more u.s. cats would come visit these parts, I think they'd dig it and take home some good observations which might make for some even better reflections. that's a good part of a sailor's life and everyone can at least put in a hitch. the rain doesn't let up but at least it's not snow though there's lots of it left from yesterday. at bern, we head for geneva via lusanne and there's bunches of tunnels to go through, this is a country of the alps for sure. I've been sensing a weird feel in the way the boat's aft has been handling so I stop at a gas station and check the air pressure. they got a trippy way to get air here, little portable pumps that sit on a spigot to keep them filled - a valve shuts of the supply when you take it away to bring right to your tires - no long hoses to deal w/and get tangled/busted. paul notes probably right that they's get the big donate quick in the u.s. and maybe that's why we haven't adopted it. I find the aft starboard tire at just forty... it's not p.s.i. but whatever the metric equivalent is to that - we should be at sixty according the sticker inside the driver hatch frame. tire pressure is really important for good gas mileage and even more for safer handling, especially w/the load we got going w/us. at first I pulled up to a pump for diesel but there was a truck symbol on it - I remember a fIREHOSE euro tour where we used one of these and man, it filled us up in like three seconds cuz the flow rate was so high so I pulled us into one w/out that sticker. my memory isn't totally a garbage heap maybe, huh? back on the road, we continue through lusanne which shares the lac leman w/geneva. I think the had a winter olympics here. we got a pretty good map the got flowed via email and I put a copy on both raul and paul's 'puters for getting us to the venue. coming off the autobahn into geneva, the boat's motor suddenly konks and I put in the clutch to restart and thankfully we're still in the race. I'm a little freaked though and pull into a gas station that's right up on our way. paul's got the knack for opening the hood so I give him the key to do that (you gotta use the key - I found it the manual and paul's dutch from his younger days is curacao helped big time) and take a look - nothing's obviously fucked up but a light on the dash is now on - it's got a wrench next to an oil can. it's not the oil light though - that goes off right when I turn the motor over but I'm curious to what that means - I'll check when we dock. we have to improvise some but the map's a real good one and my guys guide me to where we're playing w/nary a wander (funny to use that phrase!), a pad right on the river called u'sine. it's a huge building w/lots of floors but all the stickers/posters clued us in easy. we're an hour early but there's way easy parking by what seems the load-in hatch so I put the boat in there and get the manual. someone comes out to tell us this is the place and then bossman alex appears to welcome us. I find the warning light definition in the manual and once again paul's dutch learning comes to the rescue (the boat's been rented from an amsterdam company so that's why the manual's worded that way) and tells me the light means the boat needs a tune-up. hmm... why did they rent us a boat for a six week tour that's in need of a tune-up? anyway, he reads me the directs to reset this light - holding down the break and gas pedal w/the motor off but key on for fifteen seconds and sure enough, it goes out. much thanks from me to paul. oh, the sun's been out since we got that tire inflated right - don't wanna forget to mention that.
my guys go to wander after we get the gear in while I shovel a sandwich from fixings up in the dressing room. this pad's a big room - no problem having lots of reverb here (I giggle). the regular soundman won't be here tonight and a newer man who's usually just monitors named nick will be on the knobs so I'm guessing there'll be some challenges tonight. no need for a fit though, I'm gonna flow w/it... like they used to say in vaudeville: "work the room" (how I love that quote - it makes so much sense for me). we do our soundcheck - there's a little noise from paul's leslie but that soon vanishes. we've had such luck w/it since the initial "break-in" trial it seemed it had to go through. paul's had zero problems since those first early gigs (fingers crossed though). an english saxman that lives here now comes by and talks to us after our check tune (always b.o.c.'s "the red and the black") and asks about his. he plays in a mostly norwegian rock band from the 70s called titanic - funny, there was cover band back home in pedro w/the same name. paul says he can be on the guest list, we also will put the what's wrong w/us? band on too cuz they live here - in fact, they all practice in one of the rooms of this pad. I go w/alex up to the office to put up more diary on the hoot page, raul's now all caught up. I talk to the 'puter guy here named didier, he went to school a couple of years in laguna beach (maybe thirty miles south of pedro in orange county). talk goes to why the u.s. is the way it is now... I tell him a theory I have about some it, I think seriously there's people who want to somehow "right the wrongs" of the 60s, somehow go to war w/those years. I really think it's gotta be let go cuz those years just had to happen, we had to face ourselves on a lot of issues and just deal w/it. there were lots of crazy stuff but some good came out of it too and anyway, you gotta move on and let it go cuz this is now... all the chest-pounding won't change what happened. jane fonda just said she was wrong for going to hanoi in 1972, ok - maybe that'll make her feel better but we should still not be afraid to question ourselves about what's up, I think. there is no easy answer to anything, we need lots of views and it's not untraditional to protest in a land founded on kicking out a king - that's the way I see it. some people call it a "culture war" we're having w/ourselves. hmm... it's clear to me these days more than ever why I got involved w/the punk scene back in the 70s - sometimes you need a parallel universe to find enough air you can breathe in, uptight motherfuckers are so intent into wanting to run you life. in a way, it actually very funny. tour life though has made it very real for me that at the same time I have to deal w/all kinds of folks so I need some open minds and have to demand the same of myself. I'm learning.
there's an opening band tonight, beglian dudes called the white circle crime club that clearly have a sonic youth influence in their sound. they're very nice cats and ain't it a trip that the bassman has the same exact amp I used to record "double nickels on the dime" on! can't remember the model name (sold off in pieces long ago) but it was in the waning days of a company called acoustic, one of their last models. a cat named damian cooks us all up some great chow, swiss-style burritos and a salad w/thick rings of squid and mushrooms in it. very happening! I discover that chowing at the same table as me is david, the man who carlos had book all three of my swiss gigs. he's a nice cat, a younger man. it's been twentytwo years since I last played geneva (in the minutemen w/black flag) so he wasn't quite ready to see many gigs yet. I tell him the story of staying in a squat here after that show and the folks who lived there had us try their homemade wine. whoa, it tasted sort of like turpentine... they then told us they made it by collecting rotted fruit from dumpsters! pretty funny. I go up to a little room on the side of our dressing room and chimp diary.
alex brings me a new battery for my bass (it has an onboard preamp and sure enough, it was 'pert-near dead when I checked the old battery by putting it on my tongue to gauge it by the shock) and tells me they got like twentyeight shows in the next thirty days and geneva is not all that big to support such a load. monday night too so maybe not so much anti-reverb to pad against the cave. whatever, I'm playing my brains/heart out no matter what, I tell him. the belgian dudes do a great set. they have good composition, even symphonic in some ways and definitely w/the sonic youth thing throughout but they also deliver their tunes w/much passion - it's no walkthrough or recital. it inspires me. it's our turn and right away I realize the monitors are intensely piddly and the sound is all bottom-boomy-mud-blur so what am I to do, stop the piece and whine? nick's doing the best he can and remembering how I felt I came up so short last night, I use my right hand and cup the mic so I can put in some midrange and presence to my spiel while at the same time, trying to look folks as much in the eye as I can. of course it's hard for me... the eye-contact part more than the one-hand bass stuff but I'm also thinking that less bass guitar anyway will help w/the nightmare acoustics. it's a trippy gig, I don't think I've ever done one this way. very challenging, you might say but in a way really funny too but serious cuz of the sickness feelings that always revisit me when I'm doing this piece. I don't know if any of that ever comes across. I was telling alex that maybe I should tell people before we begin each gig that it's a story about sickness trying to kill me, healing w/crazy and hurt and then being righteously granted the opportunity to work my bass and pedal my bike again but then again I'm thinking maybe not everything should be explained, especially w/music stuff. lots of me is so fucking self-absorbed anyway, maybe folks should get to get whatever they can/want from it, be free of any lecturing to it. I think maybe one of the lessons for me is to learn how to preform and mean what I say that way. raul and paul are really being open to taking direction from me and doing it well - much respect to them from me, truly. we only do three tunes for the encore but that's no slight to the audience cuz they were great to play for, much respect to them. I tell nick thanks for being our fourth guy tonight and how I understood the situation. we pack up but leave the stuff on stage cuz we're konking here.
there's a lawyer from the u.s. named paden (I think that's how you spell it) who saw the show and talks to me when I'm all through w/getting my things together. he's from laguna beach, coincidentally (ha!). he saw fIREHOSE a bunch back home and we talk about a lot of stuff - I tell him us u.s. guys are all like little embassadors here for these folks, it's good they get to meet us in person and not be just images. of course we talk about some of the weird times we're in too. it's good to rap w/him. so glad bookerman david got to stay and see this weird version of "one-hand-on-the-bass-man" watt tonight cuz he said he had the late train, early bus thing weighing on him and thought he might have to bail early. I'm so happy to have him bring me to switzerland, much respect. I am tired gig time and my knees are really aching. I can't find alex and it ain't a riot that everytime I talk to someone in order to find him brings on another spielfest from me. it's interesting though. the what's wrong w/us? band is here and the guitarman has been to the hoot page, finding links to surrealism and stuff on it. he knows lots about art and music - the cats in that band are in fact classically trained. I tell him I really dig yves tanguy from those surrealist days, him and duchamp but of course he was there in the dada days and even before. I get learned all these other things though - I told him about seeing how pierre boulez brought an orchestra together at a performance of bartok's "the magical mandarin" and how impressed I was and he said boulez was a real hardass but condcuctors can bring things out of even the most virtuoso musicians by sometimes just their presence, something about them. I've been interested in this "conductor stuff" even since the "...engine room" opera of mine... I have so little knowledge of the classical musical or 'pert-near any formal musical training period and so try to soak up whatever I can or am able. I tell him it's all from my experience w/the punk scene that opened me to all these things artistic - literature too (I talk about the recent books I've read) - it was profound on me, a sailors' son. I then talk w/the soundman, the croatian cat and he relates how bad the sound in this room is, how he even tried to help but the lightman waved him off. somehow he slips and falls and the knock his head makes when it reaches the deck is unlike anything I think I've ever heard before. it was huge and resonated loud, like a hammer against a giant hollow tree trunk. damn, I felt for him and was so happy he was ok though he had to sit down for some moments. ouch. shit.
more spiel w/alex and then finally I can't go anymore - it's three bells now and I'm feeling like about nine hundred ninetynine years old. I got a cd from the belgian cats and they're sending me their vinyl for thurston when I get back - they said they'll be at the brussels gig too. safe seas to them. alex leads me up to a room w/bunk beds (it says "sleep in" on the hatch!) and there's just a little blankie (no rug on the deck for konk there either) so I stay in my clothes and am out... like that.
tuesday, april 19, 2005 - bologna, italy
For going to sleep so late, i'm surprised i'm the first up. Watts up as soon as i hop to the floor, which makes me think, i'm not really the first one up. We all slept in the same room on bunk beds. I took a top bunk, in memory of my last bed on fourth st. in pedro. It was a loft bed, about five feet off the ground. At the new pad a have a bed at ground level, which is cool, cuz i don't have to climb a ladder in the dark just to crash, and it makes taking a piss at night so much easier. Paul sittin' shot gun, so it's me in the back reading dylan. Finally finished chronicles, it's a good read, but it hard to believe alot of what he says, it so after the fact, it could be about 90% fiction. Sounds like alot of inflating his own ego, but i still liked it, and i still love dylan, but to have recall like that seems pretty far fetched. Read it, and you'll see. Don't buy it, borrow from a friend or check it out from the library, i mean the guys gotta be a millionaire multiple times over, he doesn't need the money, i sound like an asshole... whatever. Gonna be in three different countries today, switzerland, france, and italy. Not playing france, just driving thru some, which is unfortunate, just cuz i'd love to see it, but i'm so excited to be getting the opportunity to play italy, how could i even begin to complain. Boo fuckin' hoo, i can't go to france because i'm going to italy instead, that would be retarded right. Driving thru france was beautiful, water falls and vertical mountains, that looked chiseled. As we got higher, the water was freezing and there was snow everywhere. I don't think it was fog, we were traveling so high up into the mountains, that clouds made it impossible to see the peaks. Going thru the mt. le blanc tunnel today, i think it's something like thirty km. long, not sure though, but it's a hugh tunnel thru the alps. A few years back a trucker had got into an accident, and the thing is so big that cars in the rear didn't know, and keep driving into the wreck, and the hugh fire ball that was shooting outta the ends of the tunnel, total tragedy. Now that had little gates to stop traffic in the tunnel, probably as a result of that disaster. I did fall asleep long enough for them to take shots of the drool, but woke up as we hit italy.
It all looked so alien to me, it was farm land, but not your typical farm land, or atleast not like any thing i've ever seen. In slovania, there was farming on hills which was real odd to see, but this was like nothing i'd ever seen. People growing on ninety degree angles. I don't know if it was the sleep talking, but it looked other worldly, not like a different country. The ruins were amazing, and there's busted up olde castles all over. In germany and switzerland i got use to using the word schloss, now i'm in italy, so it's castellos, which shares more of a resemblance to the word castle. Long hall today, so were taking the day off, won't be in bologna till about eight tonight. Lot's of wine country today, beautiful. reminds me of driving up north in cali, real flat after we get outta the alps, and very green. lots of rain for the first half, then blue skies an hour or two out side or destination. haven't eaten all day, so the first thing i do is forge for chow once the van stops. It's kinda embarrassing, but the first food i have in italy is chinese, i know, weak, but i'll be here for almost a week, which is plenty of time to try the cuisine. Right across the street from where we're staying is another euro squat. Beautiful spot, covered with art from head to toe. After dinner paul and i check it out. It's hard to tell what's going on, just people going about their business i guess. I can't sleep, and decide to check out bologna at night. Beautiful city, and i can't wait for tomorrow. I end up walking around for an hour or so getting a feel for where to go once the sun comes up. I find the train station, good place to get euros, and i find the old town, perfect place to spend my first day in bologna.
I feel like I need to sweep up the club. Do something very mundane, helpful and humble. Because to quote Robert Smith: "I am none of these things."
The manic phase is more toxic than the depressive phase. I wrote twice as many words yesterday than usual. I can become hideously self important. You just want the guy to SHUT UP. That was another thing Stephane said from reading the diary, that I need to "stop thinking." Gee maybe I've heard that before.
We get a surprisingly late start. Alex doesn't get to the club till 11a.m. to settle up with Watt, and we don't get away till after 12:30. Alex brings a nice breakfast, chocolate croissants and coffee yogurt, and we bail.
We get out of Geneva and head for the Mont Blanc tunnel which is a 29 klick tunnel straight through the Alps. We cross into France without incident, then head up and up through a light rain. It's really looking like the rocky mountains, waterfalls burst out of cracks and fall hundreds of feet, it borders on Yosemite-type spectacular. The tops of the mountains are lost in the clouds and blinding white snow; we are passing through a resort area I guess finally passing a monument to the 50 or so people that died inside the tunnel in some horrible accident; then we are in the tunnel itself. It's only one lane each way, Raul and I agreed we expected to be in there all day, it was about twenty minutes/twenty miles... a looonnngggg fucking tunnel then we were in Italy.
Immediatly, it's a bit more third world, a little older a little grungier, but they're still sort of working on that side of it. We head down this valley following this torrent of melted snow and it gets very cool. We are in wine country and the mountainsides are terraced way up their sides, covered in vines, very overcast and rainy, with a castle or a old old winery or church surrounded by variations on the theme of old fucking quaint assed little villages, mostly made out of stone again with the waterfalls pouring down the sides of the alps. It's beautiful and I guess it has been for a while...some of those castles date back to the 1300s.
We go. Watt doesn't ever let anyone else drive, have I mentioned that? I'm in the front seat. Eventually things settle down and it gets flat farmland like Germany except everything tends to look older and when there big old stone farmhouses get too old, they just leave them and build a new one, so there are LOTS of bitchin semi-ruined old farmhouses along the highway. It's a long drive and I start to get antsy and freezing in the front, but I hang in and navigate us through Milano, Parma and into Bologna straight to the hotel by around 8 p.m..
I am FRIED, but hungry so Raul and I run out to find some quick Italian food, get fucking chinese food instead, whatever, we're in Italy for the next week, I'm sure we'll eat good. Walking back there's another one of those grafitti tagged hip hop communes that seem to follow Raul everywhere. We check it out quickly, I want to sleep, I head back and figure I'll do more sightseeing tomorrow we don't have to be to the club till 4:30.
That was our first off day!!
Goodnight Hellin my dear, how perfect today would have been with you. You should have seen those Italian girls last night, my god they were hot...
There is no man luckier than me, it's so fucking unfair.
The great way is not difficult
It just avoids picking and choosing
pop at nine bells cuz of the late konk hour last night. I go downstairs to the club section (the le kab part of u'sine) and up to the dressing room cuz there's cheese and bread left there from last night. there this round cheese that's got a thick outside that you can't really eat but a real good soft part underneath. I make a sandwich w/that and the thinly sliced pork and senf (mustard that's in a toothpaste tube) on some brown baguette bread w/seeds on it. really good! the power sockets aren't turned on up here so I bring the coff machine downstairs and make some there. alex said he's coming in at eleven so we load the boat up and wait for him. light gray skies but at least it's not raining. I ask paul what happened to his sax buddy he put on the list and he said he saw him at the gig but not later - maybe he couldn't take it. paul did the pete thing and yammered all night w/these two couples all night. I didn't know what happened to him or raul cuz I was just so tired that I bailed on my own - alex said as soon as he opened the hatch and let lay down, snores started ripping out of me and starting sucking the paint off the wall. I've learned or at least my body has learned to konk real quick cuz of all the tours. I am actually not the energizer bunny but rather an already konked man out on parole. that debt must surely have to be serviced.
today is the fist day off of the tour after fifteen straight gigs. that's nothing for a typical tour of mine but it looks like paul really needs it. you can hear him whining a little (not on purpose) about cutting corners to make things easier - I've learned things are never easier and what corner gets cut in the meantime must get paid back one way or another later. it's not that he's really in need of a tiara but is used to other tour ways, he's only human and we are creatures of habit hence me be steadfast w/my mode of doing it. raul's done hardcore punk tours and plus he's younger (I'm only eight months older than paul whereas raul's twenty years younger than me) so he can hang. look, I know paul would hate to read what I just wrote and he's caught himself before he goes on too far w/the whining - he doesn't want us to think he can't keep up cuz surely he can. paul's doing great and I'm proud of him. I just think this day of not playing might help him out some. I gotta drive us at least seven hours to bologna so it's not like we're doing nothing anyway. it's not like I'm oblivious to is needs though it might seem like it w/these diaries - you'll read him writing something like having suicidal thoughts and I'll make no mention of it, like I don't care. I told him about that this morning, how strange that must look for someone reading each day and getting our three impressions of the tour but it's not out of disrespect for him. I want the best for paul and raul too. yesterday we saw some graffiti on an overpass outside of bern that said "live life fool" which made me and raul immediately laugh cuz of us talking about this stuff. then I talked about being asked to read at something at the sacred grounds coffee house in honor of charles bukowski (he lived there from 1978 'til he died and is buried in the same graveyard d. boon is, across from the navy housing I moved to from virginia in 1966) and I read that poem "the suicide kid" he wrote. paul has tons to offer this world, it's great for me and raul to have him w/us as we roll.
alex comes w/some chow but I've already chowed myself (but I do grab a croissant) - we gotta go cuz it's at least seven hours of driving. big hugs for alex - he says it's great to see someone old (ha!) who's still smiling and not just doing the same thing over and over. that's very kind of him... all these swiss bosses I've had at the gigs here have been so generous w/me. I am touched, truly... or does that sound too civilized from the likes of someone like me? it's something I feel deep in my heart though and allows me to what I'm doing. it makes me wanna dare myself and fight insecurity, get beyonder w/grasps of air between my fingers and fight the coward beatdowns I probably more than anyone am responsible for. I will get older, ok. I will learn from young people, I will learn from old people - I will embarrass people my own age! sorry, I hope that's not understood to mean I'll BE embarrassed by people my own age... if so, they should disown me. I want to earn my keep, live up to the good feelings that get shared w/me.
that's the spirit I'm taking away w/me as we leave geneva, leave switzerland. the border's right here and real soon we're in france. oops, 'pert-near blew by the douanes/border. no one was at either station but I want my carnet completed. there's a officer in a booth on the french side and I tell my sitch - she asks me to go the swiss side first. I have to some to get there and the officer directs me to the truck place. luckily, it's pretty empty cuz this can have a line going on forever. the man knows mostly french (of course, I'm the one who's foreign!) but he's helpful w/me big time and soon I'm through. I go to the truck place for the french but the lady points at the clock (forty minutes later) and then points at the bench for me to sit down. oh boy... I go out back to the border crossing, to the officer I first talked to who and she stamps me all up ok - merci boucoup so fucking big time... thank you much, m'am. back in the boat w/my guys and we're headed for mount blanc.
there's a huge tunnel through mount blanc that we're going to go through. there's was a crash and then a fire a while back that killed many people in there, scary. like an idiot, I forgot to charge batteries so I stop to get some non-rechargables. turns out these are dead, damn. fuck it, we continue driving but then a round-a-bout puts us on a wrong road (paul got a little mixed up) and we gotta loop back 'til where on target for the tunnel. whoa, 'pert-near forty euros for the toll but it's the quickest way to italy. there's a memorial on the way - just a hole in a flat rock w/spears of metal emanating from it... two people are in front of it, heads bowed in respect. I took this tunnel seven years ago w/the black gang for the "...engine room" opera so this is my second time. looks like there's plenty of safety stuff now like cars only being able to go so fast and so close cuz there's gates that come down - we see that happen lots on the direction of traffic coming towards us. there's no divider between the lanes so you still have drive straight (no shit) - it's a long tunnel so that's probably why there's just one coming and one going. we come out of the tunnel in italy, right on the border but we're allowed right through w/out a stop. we come down to the bottom of a valley and I pull us over after a big slamming sound - I guess a rock must've hit the big metal tubing that's sort of like a running board on each side of the boat. it sounded much like it was my side but when we come to a stop, no damage can be found anywhere except maybe a couple of scratches on that pipe stuff (they're unpainted). there's a little store here and I get another round of batteries and these turn out to be ok. I got to fucking remember to set up the charger before I konk! it's beautiful country here, house on the sides of this hugh valley w/every bit terraced for wine grapes growing, there's lots of castellas (castles) too. the rain's stopped and we have a righteous view, even w/it still gray in the sky. some more tunnels and gradually the mountains fall behind us w/the dora river crossing under the road. from the piedmont we cross into the lombard region where milano is, skirting the town and heading south to parma. rain starts to come down but also the sun comes out and we get huge rainbows on both sides, making it look as though we're passing between a huge arch w/each of them as an anchor. I get gas and there's some cats in very nice suits, all of them speaking lightning fast italian into their walkie-talkie leashes. onward towards bologna, in the emila region. paul mentions that maybe it's not good to have piss bottles in the boat for a border crossing - good point. I had two in the hatchpouch next to me, clearly marked so I wouldn't accidently chug them down but I'd neglected to dump them before we hit the swiss/french border. thank you, paul. he's next to me navigating and claudio (he's done all my italian gigs since carlos has been my bookerman) has given him excellent directions for us to get to the 'tel. we marvel on the old farm houses, almost everyone deserted but left standing to crumble yet all the fields are obviously still being cultivated. we get onto the tangenziale (city ring) and find our way to this pad called the astor hotel - very happening there's space in a garage big enough for us to get the boat in. whew, that was a drive - gorgeous though and hey, we're in italy which is the land of my ma's people. I've always dug that... not to blame anyone but there's somethings about me I've felt that have connects here and helped me be me.
I have to be still for a bit. then to hose off and clean two days of filth cuz I had skipped a day in that part of my routine. tour life makes that very easy to do, you get desensitized to things you'd find it hard to do at home. I go out the 'tel and down the street and find a chow pad, kind of a bar even maybe but not like what you'd call a bar in the u.s. they got these things called piadinas and I get one w/salame, fontina and one w/prosciutto and cotto - both have rucolai. econo and tasty, I feel better now. I go back and wash my whole outfit in the sink cuz they got a towel warmer in the head (it's like a radiator they put towels on to dry) and that'll get my levis free of wetness instead of in the days it takes being hung up in the back of the boat.
I was looking through a paper back in the chow pad and saw an article about the singer tom jones. I ask the desk man to help translate more of it from me and tom jones related how he almost killed himself back in 1965, he was going to throw himself on the train tracks in the london underground. I've always thought that man has a good voice. the tv in that pad too said there's a new pope, a guy from germany. he's taking the name benedetto XVI, maybe a name w/that many numbers means he's saying he's coming from tradition but what do I know about that? I don't have much awakeness to give that thought much ponder and konk around nine.
wednesday, april 20, 2005 - bologna, italy
I got some good sleep last night, so i'm up pretty early, not crack of dawn early, but early enough. I have some breakfast, and give a wrap on pauls door, he's not quite ready for the day, so i go solo. On the way to the town center, i saw just about the worst thing i could've seen. A pretty bad accident with a car, and an old man on a bicycle. So fuckin' tragic, that poor man, i hated to see that. I just walked by all the gawkers real fast, but i did give it one glance. The man had smashed in the windshield, and was lying on the ground not moving, a real bad scene. Sorry to bum out anybody, but it happened so i thought i'd mention it. I had to hit the train station to get some euros, it was like getting robbed, i also exchanged some francs, i think i got some change for thirty francs, i'm still ignorant on the exchange rate, so i just took what she gave me. I for sure lost some cash on that deal. After that, i split kinda confused and went straight to the old center of town. Beautiful old statues and buildings. Somewhere along the line i screwed up my camera, and the memory could only hold about ten photos, and i could not figure out how to reset it. I stopped for some coffee, and for a place to sit and figure this out. There was a girl working the counter, well actually she was on break, so i asked her if she knew anything about this camera, maybe she could help me out. She had the same one, and could kinda figure it out, but couldn't get it to stay. It say whatever amount of pictures left, i'd take one, and it would go back to minimum capacity. Finally i just took it to camera shop, and the guy had it right in seconds. It sucked though, cuz he had to erase the photos i had taken in the process. I went back for some of the same ones, but it just wasn't the same. Mostly walked thru old churches, and the town center. Walked across one street, and saw an open door way right in front of me, it looked scary and kinda inviting, so when i crossed the street i just kept on walking. It was a spiral stairway twisting up this thin tower. About half way up, it felt like i shouldn't be there, so i turned around like a punk, and didn't make it to the top, total chicken move, i'm half way there and i turn back. We're supposed to meet back up at three, it's only one, but i'm tired so i go back a little early to catch some rest before we make the show.
Meeting our italian tour guide stefano this afternoon, we've made it this far, but it couldn't hurt to have a fourth brain to get us lost. It'll be a lot easier actually, i'm just being a smart ass. He obviously speaks italian, so that should make getting directions way easier. He shows up at four thirty, and we follow him to the club. Real good guy, i can tell right away it won't be weird to travel with him for a week, and i'm looking forward to it, some one to learn from. The gig is about fifteen minutes from where we're staying, so it's a short drive, but away from the city. When we show up, it starts pouring, and better than that there's some stairs to carry the gear up. We have a bit of help, and it's done in no time. Ofcourse when we're finished it stops raining, is that some luck or what. Sound check is quick, and still longer than it should've been, mars , the sound guy forgot to turn the p.a. on... derp. Easy mistake, right. So i gotta check the drums once more, no problem. After that the band takes some time separating the shirts by sizes, taping em' up, so it's easier for watt to sling em' after the gig. After this i decide to go for a little walk around the neighborhood. For some reason i gotta keep pushing it, i know it's gonna start pouring any minute, the sky is full of the darkest clouds. So i tell my self, as soon as a feel a few drops, i'll start walking back. few drops come, and i tell myself, not enough, and keep going. I personally don't care about the water, but it'd suck to get sick. It's my bag i'm worried about getting wet. So ofcourse, as soon as a get a little distance, it starts common down. To protect all i have on tour, i take off my sweater, put my back pack on, and pull the sweater over that for protection. Fuck it, can't walk, so i find a spot in the corner of a room off from the club and get to chimpin'. Enza, the promoter for the show comes in and tells me we're gonna go eat in a few minutes, It's paul, stefano, enza and myself. Stefano drives us to this fancy italian restaurant down the road. Right away i can tell enza does not like the waiter, later she says he was givin' attitude cuz we asked to have the salads before the meal, silly right. I guess that's not the way it goes over in bologna. Enza is a sweet heart, and has been so nice to us, so i trust her, he's just being a weirdo. The menu is of course all in italian, so i need much help. I end up getting the sea food pasta. I never go to italian restaurants in the states, from my experience it's usually over priced spaghetti, chef boy r dee crap, how ever they spell it. Pizzerias yes, but that's still different Italian restaurants have food that i can make at home for way less money. I'm sure to get the good stuff i'd have to spend like thirty bucks. The plate of food i get is amazing, the best sea food. Mussels clams, lobster, callimarri, craw fish and shrimp, and probably some other stuff i can't make out, it's hard to tell. It's all on the same plate, still in the shells, on top a bunch of pasta. It's about eight euro, now this is italian cooking, how embarrassing... i ate chinese yesterday, but that was kickin' in its own right, pauls dish came in on a hot plate shaped like a cow, with the food in the stomach. Dinner is great, and the company is better. It's a pleasure to spend it with the three of these folks. We stay long after we're done eating, just to converse and learn a little about each other. I'm so happy to be in italy.
We're supposed to play at half past ten, but at ten, when we get back it's completely empty. Maybe everyone took the same bus, cuz all the sudden it's packed full of people. Mars has the p.a. pumping yard birds, while some elvis movie is being projected against a wall. People keep showing, so enza keeps pushing the show back. Watt told me about italian time, and now i think i'm getting a taste first hand. The gig is awesome, good energy from the crowd and the band. Folks were clapping for parts of songs, not the end of songs, but the calms in between. We must of been doing something right. The audience was so receptive, it was comforting. I had a great time with watt and paul on stage. With the gig done, only one more battle for the night, loading the gear down the stairs. The ground floor is dirt, better yet was dirt, know it's a muddy moat. Life gives ya mud, make mud pies. Not to much to be said after that. We follow stefano back the the pad, i brought a couple of beers back in the sack, cracked one open and got to chimpin'.
I'm asleep by midnight, awake at 6, 7, 8 and drag myself down to breakfast by eight thirty, trying as hard as I can not to think. My first day in Italy, Bologna, probably touristy as hell, and I mean that in a good way. There's not quite the rich Italian breakfast spread I was hoping for, more like a continental breakfast, which I eat about three of and go back to my room. I'm not ready to get up so I lie there, read Franklin and go in and out of sleep. Although everything is clearly hopeless, it's not really getting to me in the heartpounding way it usually does. For instance, usually the fact that I'm lying there instead of siteseeing would be cause for me to really hound myself, but today it's just, whatever, it's pointless anyway, maybe I'll sleep all fucking day so what. In the back of my mind I'm hoping to be better by noon, and noon rolls around I can leave the room.
I walk in the direction of the city past huge vacant lots and construction projects, wondering if I'm going to find the old part of town or not. I have not one word of Italian, I don't even know how to fake it. I hit some railroad tracks, turn what I think is east, come to a bridge, and it's looking promising. I am really getting scared of getting lost. All the city names are long Italian guys names and I can't remember them. I do remember the hotel is the Astor, and I'm making notes in my head on landmarks.
It's totally impressive, I guess just what you'd expect from Italy,( see "Hannibal's" Rome scenes), Huge piazzas (what's a piazza? I'm imagining it's a big paved over, or bricked, or flagstone, town square with bronze statues commemorating victories I don't know about and the guys that made them happen, ringed by enormous old looking brick buildings, basilicas, cathedrals, churches, towers). Some have been retrofitted for other purposes, I go into one and it's a library/bookstore but not like Bordner's, guys, although I've seen some impressive Bordners, this one has a high very ornamental ceiling. I guess there's a pretty impressive library in New York I went to, this one is just Italian, I don't know. Across that particular square another big structure is the National theater or something like that, and across from that the Basilica de San Pagolio (I'm making that up but it was San P-something.) I wanted to take notes but have lost my pen. I also wanted to go inside one of the big churches ostensibly to sitesee but really to rest and pray cause I'm getting tired and nuts. It suddenly hits me how typical it is that I have no camera, it seems like a reflection of my whole life, and that these events and memories will be lost in the sands of time like everything that is precious to me. Hah! What an asshole. I'm not done though. I see all the beautiful people, and they are beautiful, so chic, although I'm sure Italians have their own word for it, men and women gorgeous and modern living in their beautiful old city, all aware of their history (that's Sabina haunting me), and unlike me, they have clothes, and jobs, they send their kids to college, they save for their retirement, they buy their fiancees engagement rings, their wives wedding rings, save up and buy houses, THEY TAKE CAMERAS WITH THEM AND PHOTOGRAPH THE COMPELLING MOMENTS OF THEIR LIVES! I am one step removed from homeless by the grace and generosity of others, washed up in Bologna. A thing that tortures me is that I am a burden to others, and will be more of one as I become more enfeebled by age.
It was a nice walk.
The real Bologna landmarks are these ancient tooking brick towers, I see them on the horizon and make for them, it's all bitchin' and European, lots of those little scooters, what are they vespas? I don't fucking know. Incredible advertisements with naked horny looking girls and guys, sidewalk cafes (I really want a coffee, but don't dare stop) yummy looking pastries and food, shops shops shops with clothes clothes clothes. I get through to the towers, they really are cool, why don't we pause here to google search "Bologna" so I don't have to try to describe what can't be described. I go up three flights of tiny winding stairway and the way is blocked, I'm grinning, someone is grinning back, I turn around and run back down the stairs, realizing at the botton that that sign says three Euros to climb to the top.
Sitting here now, I really wish I would have gone up, it would have been beautiful to see the city spread out, although it would have been a bitch of a climb. I'm hurting from the two hour walk, that's pathetic, I ran into Raul, he walked five hours.
I start to head back, try a little alley where the roads get really tiny and it's wierd; immediatly all that city noise is gone and it's very quiet. I know I'm going to get turned around quick, and I actually hit dead ends and have to turn back just like in a maze. I'm expelled back out into one of the noisy main roads (there are tons of kids of all ages out running and yelling, like field trips or something) and decide to pretty much go out the way I came in on the Avenue of Independence or something like this. The Italian's patriotism is loud and unapologetic. I head back, through the park I had gone through before, there are statues of the most terrifying snarling lions, one fighting a snake over a deer, the other humping a dead bull, but the little kids playing nearby don't seem to notice. The lion statues alternate with the sexiest mermaid statues imaginable, bare breasted holding up their shells in offering, not much left to the imagination. A little later there is a huge sculpture of a woman, I'm sorry, she is being ravished by a horse, with a fucking octopus between her legs. What is wrong with these people? I'm digging it, but I'm getting a little aroused.
On the first square I hit, there are even older ruins, middle ages, maybe even Roman, although I don't know cause they were brick. As I walked by I looked down and water was flowing around down there; a few times on the walk I would cross streams or little rivers flowing under the city.
That's about it, I make it back to the hotel safely, going to lie down even MORE, but I have one question: Who the fuck was Garabaldi?
I wash some socks and underwear in the sink, throw in some shampoo, squeeze them out and hang them on the towel warmer. Lie down. Read. Doze. At 4:30 we meet our Italian guide/guy, Stephano, and head to the club which isn't very close. We get there as big drops of rain start dropping, I swear I hear thunder. There is a big stone stairway, and people aren't lining up to help us so we power up the gear, Stephano getting his first taste of his new job. The room is long and thin with a stone floor high ceiling and impressive reverb and loudness. The soundguy, Mars, checks the drums, organ and is on my vocals when he realizes the PA is off. That makes him look bad or we'll just say that the room is so loud, that you can't tell. I will mention that I noticed the PA was off when they were checking the drums, but hey.
We get it done, the room is so loud I could play as loud as I can go and it wouldn't be a problem, but we'll see. We're done by six and I wonder what the food is going to be like. The food is going to be a 7/11 style sandwich. And it looks like we have five hours to kill. We fold up some shirts to sell. I try to call home and get the answering machine. The big news is that the 100 minutes I bought is now 14 minutes after one ten minute call. What the fuck?
Possibly this tour diary can be the final nail in my career coffin. I mean, I'm pretty much acknowledging mental illness throughout. I guess it would make people pretty nervous hiring me for any job, especially operating heavy machinery. Whatever, it's pretty cool to observe, the black cloud envelopes me again with absolutely no respect or consideration for reality. RIGHT NOW all is perfect, wrapped in magic and mystery, I am on the vacation that anyone would kill for, and all I have to do is show up and play a set of awesome music each night.
Right now I'm sitting on the stage in the empty hall. The soundguy is playing an "indie rock" sounding record. It's pretty beautiful and I ask him what it is. He says it's a swedish band called "soundtrack of our lives." That's not a good name. But it's nice.
You know, I was better for a few days!!! I can get it back. I'm sorry if I'm using the diary for therapy. Sorry, Mike. Sorry if anyone is reading this. This is really for me.
About three years ago I got my familiar. My youngest son Adam and his girlfriend at the time, Tiffany called him Nazgul, wrapped as they were in the darkness of Mordor at the time. But it was semi-appropriate, he was a black cat and they are spooky. The problem was he was so little and cute, he hadn't grown into that name so I called him Monkeyboy. Hellin was at the end of her interferon, sick as fuck, then she went into rehab for, it wound up, four months. I was lonely. And then Monkeyboy, who was about two months old, disappeared.
I guess I should have set this up by saying that Monkeyboy was a replacement for another cat named Loki who I had been in love with and who had disappeared a few months before. You can do that with cats I've found out through all this; no matter how you love them, how precious they are, they go and you can find another. And people, I guess.
So he disappeared. I didn't even tell Hellin who was in rehab, fuck she was busy already. I was going crazy. I was working on the burntchurch opera at the time, and I had just come to the point where I was going to sing this song "Fish out of Water" a super emotional song that I had written when I had totally succumbed to madness, not this lightweight shit I deal with now, the real fucking deal. So that was good. You can hear that song if you want; you can download it from www.burntchurchtheopera.com. That is one fucked up dude singing.
And then he came back. A neighbor had him. I went to the store and got these special cat treats, and fed them to him on our bed, and kept them under my pillow. He was crazy, ravenous for them. He would wake me up at night over and over, purring really loud, walking on my head, trying to reach under the pillow. I loved it. Hellin was away, I had actually done something sort of mundane in the real world; it was totally unlike me. When she got back it used to really annoy her bad, but she would buy the treats anyway.
Monkeyboy grew up to be a beautiful black Bagheera cat, spoiled and haughty. But I think he really loved me. He would always come when I called. He would wait for me to come home at night. We would go outside in the early morning when the sickness was the worst and everything was grey, and I would look at him, and try to understand the mysterious workings of god and love and the universe.
There's not much you can say about a cat. They're very streamlined and simple, not complex like human beings.
A couple of weeks before this tour I came home and the neighbor came over and told me that Monkeyboy had been hit by a car. They had taken him away, there was a spot of blood on the sidewalk.
So you know the moral of the story? There is grief and suffering in this life. Big news. And then sometimes it comes back on you like when I was walking today. Everybody has grief, is walking around with it and a lot of it is way way way heavier than the death of one little black cat. I'm sorry.
Turns out dinner was not those 7/11 sandwiches! Raul and I got taken out to eat at an ITALIAN RESTAURANT and it was pretty fucking good. It was the promoter girl, who has told me her name 3 or4 times and I can't pronounce it and I certainly can't spell it and besides I keep forgetting it, and Stephano who is going to be great, I like him alot. And I didn't feel wierd, it was nice; I told him that we were going to be on tour with him for a week and he might as well know I'm insane, and I'm not going to try to hide it and we had a great time, I felt completely relaxed. It's probably good just to put your cards on the table. I had clam spagetti and a salad, an espresso; it was great, but I hate to break it to you: alot of Italian people have moved to America and are great cooks, but whatever, we're in Bologna and the waiter spoke Italian and it was cool. Watt passed on dinner. I don't know what to say about that. The girl at the front looked like a supermodel. We eat there till about 9:30, it's a late show, no opening band, Wed night, wierd wierd wierd.
Later: Raul and I talk about feeling bad and expressing it, he says everyone feels that way sometimes. I say no, maybe everyone we know does, but I don't intend to. I'm going to express it, observe it, share it and out fucking grow it. And in the process I'm going to let other people know it's OK to feel fucked up, but not fucking normal. And there has to be ways out of it I'll try to let you know if I find it. One thing for sure, if you quit all drinking, drugs, cigarettes, coffee, antidepressants, painkillers...you will find out exactly where you are at, and it might surprise you. It's ...interesting.
Even though I sense a cave coming like I do every night, there is a nice crowd when we go on. It's a loud room, we play loud but controlled, it's a really good set finally, very little wierdness or drama of the unfortunate kind, just balls out from top to bottom. Of course, I find out after the opera section that one of the mikes on the leslie has fallen, removing the low end out front, but considering the acoustics of the room, I'm not even going to assume that was that big a deal in the house. Mike has asked for eye contact on the Dylan song so I try to give it to him and that works pretty good. Mike mentions that the piece is loosely based on "the song by Dante" which all these people are familiar with and that makes me feel good. I think a little explanation for the piece is in order, you can get it from the website, but I'm sure most people haven't.
The promoter lady's name is Enza, she's very good to us, I feel like I made a connection with her. Powering the gear out down the long stairs lands us in a big mud puddle, so I anticipate the van to be kinda filthy tomorrow, my clothes were when I got back to the hotel.
I'm bummed I haven't been able to check my emails...Hellin says she emailed me pictures of her and the kittens, Lilu and Peanut. How CUTE! Pictures of Hellin!!
Good night all. Intend to climb the tower tomorrow, if I can wake up, supposed to have a call in 6 hours.
Don't worry spiders
I keep house
pop at the ungodly late hour (for watt) of nine bells and begin right w/some hoofing since I hosed off after washing my laundry in the sink. there's sun out but there's big clouds too. I get some coff right next door and that's kind of an ordeal (a little bit) cuz "american coffee" isn't something I'm too aware of, the way it's meant here which is expresso in a bigger cup w/another cup of hot water for you to add to it. I kept pointing at the big cups but asking for coffee and was confused when they kept starting to make some for a little cup. pretty funny actually. I probably came off like an idiot. I get to thinking about this "little ambassador" thing and people over here meeting me aren't probably meeting what might be an average guy from the u.s. but more of an example of the tolerance of that kind of society to allow someone such the likes of me to exist. I can hear the ridiculousness in some of the things I say, I swear - even w/m trying harder and harder to weigh my words more before they get uttered. clearly insecurities are parading themselves upon me now though I can't see it totally a bad thing in this respect, this moment. I am an idiot from planet nowhere and I hope people don't blame the u.s. for any of that.
there's a great stream of graffiti on the wall of this former fruit warehouse I pass by. this pad in fact had in it called logo and I played here the last time I played bologna which was 1998 w/the black gang. there's a karate dojo there now. anyway, the graffiti is a series of drawings of an evolution of man from ape to couch potato watching a tv - that goes from left to right. from right to left is a death-skeleton "progressing" from red-colored gangster type animal-headed thugs w/guns at each other's heads 'til the end bird-head creature (clearly a heironymous bosch image) is being forced to program what's going on the potato couch's tv. trippy. I continue walking towards bologna's center (the 'tel is in the north part of town) and checking things out as much as I can. there's a weird connection w/me and italy - the stuff in my blood maybe or whatever, maybe it's all in my head but I feel really drawn to it. at the same time I also feel for some reason the people here seeing me totally alien, totally a weirdo - it's always been this way since I played in milano in 1983. I would never blame them though, it is what it is (in fact, I get this feeling from most humans that don't have a reason to interact w/me, I think it's definitely an insecurity that might be grounded kind of in a respect for people having to "defend themselves" in a way - is that too strong a thing to say?). there's weird senses of history I feel in lots of buildings and land things, maybe "spirit stuff" that somehow gets stuffed into them (stuffed by me?). lots of trains in italy connect through this town and I cross a bridge over a huge network of rail, whoa. it goes on and on from each side of the bridge and must be like maybe fifteen tracks wide. bologna was a walled city in the old days and they've left the gates that used to be the portals into the town. I pass one and right near is the giardino della montagnola which is really nice place. there's stairs leading up to it w/great relief sculptures of liberty struggles and one of a venus-like lady being birthed from the sea alongside a horse and an octopus. a park at the top is full of kid's voices... there's some huge sculptures of sea creatures and lions chowing around a pond w/cement turtles in the center. maybe it's not cement but something like it but not so strong cuz it's all worn and chipped in parts. I decide to chimp diary out here while there's still sun - I can feel a rain coming soon by the smell of the air. when I finish my scrawls of yesterday's happenings, I walk further around the park 'til I see a chow pan slinging pianis and get one w/pork sausage sliced length-wise and along w/eggplant, onion and pimento peppers pressed tight between thick almost-tortilla like bread. it's good chow. the rain is imminent now so I start my hoof back to the 'tel. there's some beautiful lilacs hanging through rails and I snap them w/the digicamera, their lavender's sure beautiful... it makes me think of beautiful things.
I make it back just as the rain comes down and the deskman says enrico croce has called from a train, saying I'm to do a interview spiel soon. I get another call from tonight's promoter, a lady named enza and she says the journalist is sick so the spiel's off but a young man named stefano will by shortly - he's gonna ride w/us for the next five gigs and we'll follow him to the venue. he arrives, a cat about raul's age and we caravan not too far away (by way of the tangenziale) to covo, an upstairs pad part of a building in the middle of a small park. the rain's starting to come down now and we have to get the gear up the stairs quick, two flights worth but at least they're wide and made of tile. two cats here, federico and mars helps us (grazie mille!) and it turns out mars (tonight's soundman) also ran the monitors at the stooges gig in torino last july, wild! both him and federico are nice cats - federico says his pop used to say "il mare cura tutto" which is close to the spanish for "the sea cures all" which is what I called last tour (and in a slight variation for this tour), getting it from nick tosches after readingqq his "in the hand of dante" book. we set up and start the soundcheck and it's 'pert-near time for my turn when mars realizes the p.a. hasn't been turned on, whoops. I guess that's how loud the drums and organ are already! this like a big shoebox room w/no deading stuff on any of the walls or ceiling. p.a. now on, we do our check and then go up to the dressing room.
I meet the enza, the bosslady for the gig and she's got a great accent. she's from the part of italy between the heel and the toe. she knows enrico and says he sends his regards cuz he's gotta help out on the einsturenzden neubaturen tour. at least I got to see enrico last december at the all tomorrow's parties festival, he was helping this great band from new york called the liars (not to be confused w/the boston band featuring monoman). she brings my guys to go chow at some chowpad and a little later daniel brings me a great salad and a jug that has like half a gallon of olive oil in it. ok, maybe that much olive oil is needed but the salad is great. then the bosslady comes back in and I try communicating some ideas that are screwed up in semi-connecting some streams but never can tie a whole bundle together. oh well, maybe I'm mumbling - not w/my mouth but w/my head. on to the deck to be still 'til gig time.
it's gig time. we're the only band tonight so they've been just waiting - I tell them this piece was influenced much by their dante alighieri before we begin (I mean "their" as in italy cuz dante was actually from florence though they exiled him for his last twenty years). it's been a day w/out playing but we pick up where we left off and do pretty good, especially this first part, the hell section. trippy, w/dante's "commedia" you're always reading more about the inferno part rather than the other two - I never meant there to be a parallel there in that way. easier to gnash the teeth rather than heal the hurt? maybe I screwed up? maybe I can't communicate mending and bending/blending as well as puking to high heaven? is hell just more equal? purgatory's ok too and the bologna folks are much respectful - zero yammer out of them, grazie. first tune of paradise has me clamming up big time though, blowing four stanzas instead of the three in the first verse (isn't this piece all about threes?) but my guys hang w/me after a hiccup and we keep it together... much respect to them. there's applause from the crowd for certain parts, that's trippy but again, grazie. I dedicate "we are time" to umberto eco. I heard he taught semiotics at the university of bologna. I dig his books much, "foucault's pendulum" made me cry at its end as did "the island of the day before" - maybe he didn't mean to do that but I did and am not sorry for it. they we're intense tears that made me feel/think/know. I'm trying how to explain it but right now it's too hard. I wish I didn't have to write here something like that but there's time when I just have to. he's a very funny writer also, much resepct to him.
the folks are very kind w/their thanks, oh my. they like me calling them fratello - it means brother in italian (I'm so glad ranaldo rasa taught me that). much respect again to these cats here tonight from me, truly. of course there's some women too, grazie to you fratellas also. trippy to get your picture taken on a walkie-talkie leash but it's no problem, really. a bunch of cats have been asking to do that w/me this tour.
the rain kind of quit but the outsdie is pretty muddy still as we load out down the stairs. gotta be careful w/this - stefano does great for his first load in/out w/us, righteous. big thanks to everyone - federico gives me a cd of his band, I love it how everyone can be a band and then help out a band... I try how I can to do the same, for sure play try and play it on the watt from pedro show. ciao now to all at covo, very cool people - we follow stefano back to the 'tel, very trippy to be in the same pad twice (almost felt like getting in the boat this morning and just doing laps around the town to get on w/my driving jones!) but I ain't ready to konk yet cuz I gotta take advantage of that towel heater/radiator thing in the head and wash up my shirt that I've stenched w/the gig and then get to this outfit I soiled last week - maybe I forgot to mention that but I kept getting held up I think in fri-bourg after the gig and pissed the fuck out of myself. the elevator got stuck on top of it and when it finally came, I took the ride up to my room wet... aaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrggggggghhhh. it was snowing and all this crazy stuff - I never got things straight and whatever, I stuck my levis and underwear (still can't get used to them) in a plastic bag and forgot so you can imagine some "fermenting" or whatever. the water here is real hot though and the tide soap is strong so byb-bye growing whatevers - we got clean pants instead of a bag o'soil in the clothes sack now. domestic watt gets done w/his sanitary chores and is finally ready to konk.
thurdsay, april 21, 2005 - gradara, italy
i am in gradara near pesaro, sitting on chair of the theater. i split a 4 mushroom pizza and a parmisan one with raul just ten minutes ago.
This his my first day with raul, paul and mike and it is the first time i'm keeping a diary in my life...quite difficult also because my english is not very fluently.
We met yesterday afternoon in bologna before the covo gig under clouds and grey sky..soon wet by rain
Today we starded from Bologna at noon. Mike drives..he drives slow and quiet, looking the landscapes around and taking a lot of pictures with his digital camera..he is funny
rawl tooks a lot of pictures too
we are in the house of raffaele, one of the nice guys who has organized the concert ..they booked us a hotel but at the end we have decided to sleep in his house.. a beautifull house on the hills round rimini and pesaro... he has a lot of lps.. very well the records of paul and mike.. one of the screamers with a photo of paul when he was 19.
so during te trip for gradara we have talked for the most part of the trip..a lot of things from dante to Iggy..mike knows a lot about dante surprising me..he is very into him.. and about iggy too...
at the begining i was missing a lot of words..just cacthing the sense ..i'm not very used to californian inflection....
we arrived in gradara at two o'clock....the gig was in the theater really near to the castel.
crazy to move here with a long van..at the certain moment we were rounded from a lot of children on school trips in a very small and steep street with no possibility of moving out...with a policeman asking us what we were trying to do...ah ah
i tought it was not a good begining as "tour manager"..
fortunatly we got out from this situation with no much trouble.
today was the perfect spring time ...sunny and warm.. with a fresh wind throw the castel coming from the sea..good time for clean away tension and relax
we have seen a lot of black cats around..just one white
Bob korn opened..voice and guitar
the concert has been really good tonight..better than yesterday..expecially for the sound
the teather was really small with all the people sitting on the chairs...was not very common the kind of relationship between everyone sitting and the punk energy of the weird songs...it worked............
om namo narayani
I had made plans with myself to wake up early, and get to the top of the tower. I didn't sleep till about four the night before, so when the bell rang at seven thirty, i turned it off and went back to sleep. Just on hour i told myself, i'll still have time to make it up. I would've, if i didn't keep telling myself that every time i woke up. By the time i actually got outta bed, it was ten, and it felt like someone had poured glue in my eyes while i was sleeping, we'd made plans to bail at noon, so there's no way i was gonna make it. It's not like me, i was just flippin' tired. I did go for a little walk, my body just wasn't havin' it, mind willing, body resisting. I just hung out, watched the prisoner and polished of the beans and bread i had gotten the day before. Stefano shows at five after, and we're out. Have a short ride today, i mostly spend it going thru pictures, and in between reading a little bit of meltzer. Dude is pretty funny, he has a grave stone tattoo that says m.o.m on it, that's kinda twisted in a hilarious way. Also has some interviews with her, she has alzheimer's and can't remember him a few questions in, she actually forgets everything, except the time of her two favorite television shows, jeopardy and wheel of fortune, what a sweet boy that dickie is. If you don't know, besides being a writer, he fronted the pre angry samoans group called vom...fucking fantastic, timeless classics like electrocute your cock, and i'm in love with your mom, these tunes will keep your head bobbin', and your toes tappin' for years. Anyway, back to tour. On the way to the gig, we all spot a castello on top of the hill, i'm thinking to myself, i hope we're close enough so i can walk over and check it out. Close enough, isn't the words, we drive right in it, and while doing so almost get stuck in the center. These roads are not made for vans, well any kind of car . We took someones advice before checking it out, and almost payed a lame price. Between the van and the entrance, there was only about a half inch on each side, and as we got further in the, passage narrowed. Watt was barely able to make the turn to back up. In the process an officer came up, holy shit, we're totally breaking the law, he's gonna throw us in the dungeon, an dthrow away the key. Stefano talked to him, and i couldn't understand his reply, but i'm sure it was something like "what the fuck are the four of you ldiots thinking trying to bring a van in the castle". Everybody was staring, god we had to look like fools. It was funny though, not in retrospect, but right then, it was hard not to laugh. Watt inches out, and we park down the road and wait for further instructions.
The boss isn't supposed to be there till three, so we split up to check out the grounds. Stefano and i stick together, walk around the town, and get to know each other, god it almost sounds like a date or something, he even bought me a coffee, he's a keeper. While walking we run into the boss. We tell him how tough it was to get the van in, and ask what we should do, he just smiled and said it's always a problem. There's a back road, just a bit wider, but thru the same entrance. There's hundreds of kids running around, it's like every school in rimini decided to take a field trip the same day. A young kid asks me the time, and when i can't answer, stefano tells her and her friends, it's because i can't speak italiano, and i'm from california. They start asking question about the o.c., telling me how lucky i am. I tell stefano to tell them how lucky i think they are, to grow up in italy. and that hollywood is not exactly the way they see it on t.v. They even made up a llittle cali song, and word spreads, and all day long my new name is california. It was pretty comical. Last tour, j.p. gonzales gave me the name mexico, i wonder what's next, hopefully not some generic state or country name. always like st. patricks nick name he gave me, ripple, but people never get a nick name they actually like, what's the fun in that.
After the check, paul, stefano and i decide to kill time at the castello. When we went to go in, the ticket booth was empty, so we just kept walking. Not gonna happen, As soon as we turn our backs, the ticket lady calls us back. The castello grandera is completely different from the schloss in heidelburg. The first room left from the court yard, is the dungeon. Lot's of death in this place, there's even a chopping block with hugh axe scars in it... total beheading. The whole time we're walking thru, we're being followed. I don't know if it's because we may look unsavory, and just can't be trusted, or if it's paranoia from having all the kids there earlier. All i know is that it kinda made it uncomfortable, and we just jammed thru. A big difference in this castle, from the one i saw in germany, is the fact that in this particular one you got to actually see where the folks who lived there ate and slept, and also where they murdered people, that was trippy. It was more like being in someones home. Well, it was someones home. It's annoying as hell being followed, the worst of it is the fact that she's trying to hide, ducking behind doorways, or turning her head real fast when you make eye contact. I'd be be better if she just would of walked us thru, iinsteadof staying ten feet behind us, trying to push us out. Oh well, regardless, it was worth it. The plan was grub at seven. We all collect and take a walk to a eatery right down the street. I've heard people say that there's not pizza in italy, it's an american thing, that's complete bull, maybe the pizza here is better, i can agree with that. Bonellos in pedro is badass though, can't beat a dollar slice. Anyway, this italian pizza pie rules, and it's not by the slice. You get a whole pizza to your self, stefano and i spilt ours in half. I got the four fungi and he got some eggplant, two of my faves. This pie is double the size of my head, and i got a big ol' head, but it wasn't a problem to put away, i had a bit more room, and had a slice of pauls. It just didn't seem as heavy as what i'm used to, i'm probably imagining things. It was a good dinner, the whole crew plus bob core, an acoustic guitar player that's gonna open the show. He really liked the song at the end of super size me, and couldn't stop singin' it, he kinda looked like castro, it's the beard that did it.
The theatre we're playing, is right outside the main gate of the castello, right around a corner, maybe a couple hundred feet. I wish i could figure out why it intimidates me that folks are gonna be sitting in seats, cuz when you think about it's sorta neat. It's in my head, cuz it makes no difference if people are sitting or standing, they're gonna be watching regardless, maybe with just a bit more attention on us, but i'm sure mainly watt, so what the hell am i worried about. We played real ttogether i think that's what i worry about the most, will i pull it off, or will suck out loud. Everyday is different, with different possibilities, and every gig has the potential to be really tough. Once we start playing, i relax. The whole day revolves around this seventy minutes of music, so that can add to it, and i of course want it to work, that's important to me. It did work, it was good, the people, so receptive. I had the thought that this is like watching people watch a movie from behind the screen. Very generous people, who honestly appreciated that we were there, what else could ask for. We gotta pack up and bail pretty quick, there's nieghbors so close, i'm sure they're hatin' it. Like little old ladies too, not like yuppie neighbors that you wanna piss off, who wants to bum out an old lady, not me. Living where she lives, i'm sure the last thing she ever expected to see was some tramp from san pedro, standing around her alley way, havin' a smoke sippin' on a tall boy, hell it's hard for me to grasp it too. We just played a castle.
The plan is to follw rafaello back to his place, park the boat and catch a lift to the pad. The drive there is total back road, trees growing in arches over the road, really cool. When we arrive at the house, the first thing we notice is the size so we ask if we could just stay there, no reason in leaving, it just take more time to get there in back. He seems into the idea, and soon were inside his home. This is great, it's like how we do it in the states, just sleep at someones place. It's so much more personal, and we haven't got a chance to do it yet on this tour, so this makes me happy. We all hang out for a while, just talking, everyone who helped at the gig showed up too. It died down pretty quick, and stefano and i got to chimpin' while drinking some of rafaellos home made vino, he's just learning, so it had a bit of a strong vinegar taste, still tasty. While we we're chimpin', i put on the mantra of narayani. It was pretty comical, listening to this soothing chant, with watt snoring in the back ground. it's been a long, but amazing day.
Getting up doesn't happen. I eat breakfast, but my body does not want to reprise that walk. Beautiful as the city is, I've done the drive-by and I just can't get myself going. It's cool though, the most important thing is get rest, be ready to do my job.
Stefano meets us at noon and we're on our way to Gradera. I'm amazed to find out that Raul wasn't really able to get out this morning either; he's usually rarin' to go. I settle in the back with Raul, relieved that the navigating won't be on me for the next week. The scenery is flat, and wine wine wine; farmy alot of what we've been seeing but, people...the sun is out!! As Stefano says the spring has finally come.
The Italian accents are so cool.
My neck is stiff and I have a strange fuzziness in my head. I got plenty of sleep, but I haven't really woke up yet. Over the course of the two hour drive I settle into a despondency, furiously fighting it the whole time. What I do is I try to stay quiet and not let the poison out into the universe.
Eventually we're in the neighborhood of Gradera, a little more modern looking; suburban even, except overlooked by an enormous castello. Stephano asks someone where the Theatre Comunale is and they point up to the castle. We head up, and ask someone else and, yes, apparently we are playing INSIDE the castle. We wind up to the gates and enter, and it's really tight squeezin', we wander around till we're just sort of stuck in an intersection. Remember this is an intersection in a CASTLE, so it's small. A cop asks us what the fuck we think we're doing, we say we think we're playing the theatre, he's like yeah get out of here. We call the promoter, he says for us to back out, he'll be up in an hour to get us to the place. That gives us an hour to check out this beautiful place.
The view stretches 360 degrees, we can see the Adriatic, the curve of it's shore and the town, Rimini, remind me alot of Santa Monica. Also green hills with clumps of houses, not so much ancient, more modern. I drift off down the cobblestone streets between the towering fortifications, all slitted for arrows and turretted reading signs telling me that the olive trees are from the 15th century, or that the church was built in1597, it's organ was built in 1700 by Callido and that the relics of St. Clement, a 2nd century martyr reside inside. Another church is the Chiesi di Giovanni Batista built in 1290. The big walls outside were restrengthened in1446 against the new threat of gunpowder. I took notes. There are hundreds of kids of all ages running around screaming. It's the field trip thing again. As far as I can tell, kids don't go to school here they just walk around looking at where all their history happened.
I manage to wander out on a quiet little road that circuits the castle. Since I am in one of the most amazing places I've ever been, it follows that I would sink into some black fucked up mood. I find this tiny little amphitheater away from everything and sit by myself try to use techniques to fight it off. One is to try to keep a empty mind, and when a thought crosses the blank expanse you observe it and let it go. The problem with that for me is the feeling is a heaviness in my chest, a sinking, flushing down the toilet feeling that doesn't always connect to my thoughts that much. I gaze up at the towering castle against the blue sky and think about nothing and just feel like shit. Then the thoughts come. I review all my possible forseeable futures and with dread conclude that they will all be unbearable. That's nice. I remind myself that I don't actually have the power of precognition, then I remind myself back that not facing the obvious is denial. Oooohhh, I'm good.
I think it's Raul who finds me and tells me that the promoter, soundguy whoever is here and we can load in. I decide that I am totally unnecessary as far as helping Mike get the van to where we're playing, and could easily be a nuisance so I walk up. It's alot like Verona in Zeferrelli's Romeo and Juliet, if you've ever seen that, or google Gradera. There are shops selling toy crossbows and stuff, shields, the stuff grownups buy too: plates, knickknacks, junk. Probably nice stuff too. I'm tempted to get an ice cream, but I only have a 50 Euro and someone was wierd about changing a twenty somewhere so now I'm wierd too. The kids scream. There are dozens of black cats everywhere, all looking like fucked up versions of Monkeyboy. Dozens of them.
We get to the little theatre and it's tiny and bitchin': 69 red theatre chairs facing a stage. We load in, it's kind of intimidating because y'know, intimate sitdown audience, but I'm cool, I think the piece is sort of meant to be listened to that way. There is a tiny backstage down a spiral staircase. We load in. Mike and I have a fight. We make up. We check. I think it's going to be fine, I feel like we've been through enough impossible situations, this is no more impossible than any others. I really don't care about anything, totally slaughtered affect. Playing the set is the one time of the day I can concentrate on something and get relief, feel alive, passionate, intense.
After, Stephano, Raul and I go up to the castle proper. There is a four Euro charge to get up to where the real aristocrats lived. There is no one at the booth, the deal is about to close, so we just walk in. Na ah, the girl appears and we are so busted. Raul pays for me cause I bought him dinner yesterday, and we head in. The first room you enter is the fucking torture chamber, so already I think these people were assholes. It turns out one of the people Dante wrote about lived here, 6th circle of hell, guy fell in love with a promised wench...burn for eternity. Dante might have been being facetious, I wouldn't know I haven't read the Comedy, I'm sure I will soon. So there's his bedroom, her bedroom, the council room, I'm really wanting to go up on the battlements and look at the view, but you don't get to for this $5 tour. The walls are all frescoed, the beds have really old bedding, I saw all kinds of castle stuff, nothing registered sorry. Raul took pictures, ask him. They expell us through the guard room which has a few old weapons and armour.A tour guide has been following us keeping an eye on us, cause we tried to sneak in like assholes.
We head back to the not-a-club to go have dinner and nine of us head down. I really start to like these guys, The promoter's name is also Stephano, sound guy named Stuart, a guy named Raphael who is doctor of holistic medicine, a guy named Phillip who's going to do an opening set on acoustic guitar and vocals. We sit at the dinner table, I feel my normal urge to run away screaming, but it winds up being fine. Everybody is ordering pizza, I say I'm afraid if I order something I'll miss out so I order what every single one of them is ordering which I think was a Ciliste Adriatica. It was pretty gross, I regretted my adventurousness, it was a pizza crust with some tomatoes, some hunks of mozarella, and you poured their spicy olive oil on it and dropped some leaves, I think basil on it. They're all drinking red wine of course, I ask for a coffee, my drug of choice, and they do there best to order me a tall, which winds up being one and a half espressos and some hot water. Thats fine. So I'm full, I'm really starting to have a great time with these guys; they're ordering monetas which are coffee with three kinds of liquor poured in. I get about the best ice cream ever: coffee ice cream surrounded by I don't even know vanilla crusted in sugar? It had a name but I didn't take notes. Plus these guys again start with the "Were you in the Screamers" thing which lets face it, for someone of my disposition is like water on dessicated earth. What does that mean? I'm flattered, I like attention, etc.etc. Whatever. Fragile shattered thirsty ego. We go to the club.
Phillip does a surprising sensitive soft sweet set under the name Bob Corn, then we play. Big responsibility tonight. Dante's spirit is looking over our shoulders, we're playing a castle for what has to be the one of the few times in our life, there are black cats everywhere. We do good. We cut the encore a little short. The audience is nice. We close with It's allright Ma which surprises me a little.
It is with EXTREME difficulty that we manuver the van out of the fucking castle, then we chase Raphael all over Italy, cause we're going to leave the van parked safely at his house and then catch a ride to the hotel. But when we get there, Mike asks if we can just stay there at Raphael's house. I sure as fuck am not going to say anything, this is how he does it, if it's cool with Raphael, it's cool with me. And if it saves money for the people who put on the show, then allow me to insist because lets face it: that was a tiny gig, these guys are losing money for sure. Raphael is the Screamers fan, also, Germs, Nervous Gender, Dead Kennedys, I'm signing vinyl for awhile. But I owe him bigtime. At the club I cornered him to get some of his ideas to treat chronic longterm batshitness and he gives me some bachflower and other stuff I DID write this down, we'll see.
I think I'm the last to fall asleep, it seems freezing in Raphael's totally energy efficient home. The lights are out so I can't read myself to sleep, so I lie there shivering, thinking about Hellin and black cats.
pop at seven bells and check out this breakfast thing downstairs. they got cornflakes which I chow down and tiny bread rolls - I stuff two w/little cheese wedges that you see wrapped up in foil here in europe and put those down my hatch. I drink some coff here but after hoofing some outside, go back to where I got the "american coffee" yesterday - express in the bottom of a big cup w/a little decanter of hot water to cut it w/and put that down. I watch the people in this "bar" - that's what it's called and there is liquor all on the counter but it seems to double as a coff pad in the morning too. there's young people sitting around the tables and it's a trip to hear them talk. italian is like singing and it seems the sentences are really long, like everyone gives each other a big while to get their spiel out and they fill that space out w/tons of syllables, the pitch rising and falling w/what needs a little more attention and what further description is needed to make a point. they don't really talk over each other, they give each other what seems like virtual monologues. of course the hands are going the whole time to make sure focus is apparent where needed - such an expressive way of just shooting the shit... love it, great to hear/watch. even when the answer the phone, they say "pronto" - what I know from espanol back in pedro to me "hurry up," which I thought when I heard that when I first started to tour here meant like, "c'mon, get talking already!"
back to the 'tel and get caught up on the expense receipts, most of it diesel and tolls for the boat. I try to keep that stuff down to the bare nada on my tours, try to keep spartan. I get done and noon's come so it's time to roll. paul helps direct me to get the boat out - an older man (yeah, even older than watt) on a bike says "attenzione!" - like, "wake up!" I saw him coming but appreciate his concern (no shit!), I make sure it's safe as I get the boat about and here comes stefano w/a suitcase about big enough for one shirt - alright, I'm getting to like this cat already. it should be just a short drive, like two hours and we roll east towards the adriatic sea, to ravenna (where dante died in 1321) passing it and further on to rimini, then to a small town called gradara. we're coming on to a castello (castle) and sure enough, we're up the hill and INTO the castle - what?! stefano is navigating and I'm taking direction, so mine is not to question why but after a little bit I just have to cuz I don't think the boat can get in any further. we take a wrong direction anyway and I gotta back out... there's little kids from school (obviously on field trips) and folks all over the place, in and out of these little shops built into the buildings of the castle grounds. a policeman comes up to the boat w/not the happiest of faces and luckily stefano can apologize in italian to him. I get the boat back out the hatch (not the easiest feat) and then back down the hill some where we can park. on foot, we get back to the castle to have a look around, I stop to take pictures of what used to be part of the olive tree groves for the bosses here. I got two olive trees in front of my apartment building in pedro. olives to me are righteous, love them. we hoof through the gate and start exploring. I go up to the main rocca di gradara part and wait for a mob of kids to pass and then give myself a unguided tour of the pad, crossing the moat and over the drawbridge into it. whoa, the second castle this tour but this one is in great shape and not crumbled. you can visit lots of the rooms inside and see how these people lived. what's even trippier to discover is that francesca and paolo of canto VI of dante's inferno part of his "commedia" - is that a trip or what? man, that blows me away - like last year on when I was walking down the same streets in dublin joyce's leopold and stephen walked in his "ulysses" book on the 100th anniversary of bloomsday, whoa... that's a major trip indeed for me and my mind is blown. so I wonder inside about all that why my eyes absorb what's outside: is this room here really a torture chamber one (there's a furnace, tongs, pokers and shit)? the bedrooms (weird canopies way hup high, hung from the ceiling), the chow rooms (huge wood chairs) - they fitted one tiny room into a modern head and I piss in that... over the ramparts outside it's hatch I look at the panorama and damn if it ain't just like all the renaissance paintings I've seen pictures of, the way the farms are laid across the hills and such. it's surreal for me - I know, such romantic notions in a way but actually more of kind of an artistic rapture kind of is such a thing could be possible for someone the likes of me. I feel tiny swoons inside but at the same time can laugh at the reality of it all - too real in a way. I'm so glad there's all these little ones running around cuz in ways I feel they're big time laughing at my silly self. still, it's neat and a treasure of an experience... love it.
I meet my guys by the teatro comunale, a theatre built many years ago but many many years after the part I was just in was built. I meet the soundman stewart and we gotta bring the boat up through the back way of here. a bunch of cut and turns and I get her through, up and in. we unload and set up in this little theatre w/seats for like eighty (they're bolted into the deck). the p.a. is tiny so most of the bottom will come off the stage from our stuff. right as were loading in, me and paul have some personal friction but work that out w/some talking in the seats after a bit. issues or issues about whether something's an issue are bound to happen on tour, no surprise for me. we can get through it, paul's a good man - just gotta let him know he knows I know that. I meet one of the bosses, his name is stefano too, like our man and he says one of the more recent owners of this castello, one back in the 30s had a wife that mussolini used to come up here and bone. he also tells me about the government boss in italy theses days, this berlusconi guy, he lost a bunch of local elections but hardly news of it is in the newspapers or on the tv (by the way, he owns a lot of newspapers and tv) and instead, there's a flood of "hey, it's the new pope" news. he says the opposition is 'pert-near a roll-over though and maybe new elections soon but then maybe not. ok... we setup for soundcheck and damn if the cable that runs from the pedal board to the power supply wallwart all fucked up (probably kinked when packed away last night - my fault) but taping the cable to the wall wart to hold the cable static in a place where it makes a good connection gets it happening. how long can this hold though? hopefully, long enough. after soundcheck, gig capo stefano (not our shipmate) takes us to feed at a great chow pad and I have a pizza called "fantazia" which has got artichoke hearts, pepperoni and hot salami w/tomato sauce (not all pizzas in italy have that like in the u.s.) on this incredible crust. I spice it up w/what they call "hot olive oil" but it's not up there w/what I'm used to - not even w/some chili powder they also got here on the table but still I can really dig it for what it is: good, fresh and healthy chow. I learn that gig boss stefano here did seven solo j mascis gigs here back in november, j asked for some cuz amma was on tour italy then. he said j told him he liked playing w/me cuz I liked playing loud too, like he does. alright, j!
a great cat named tiziano (stage name: "bob corn") opens up the show on solo acoustic guitar and singing - he does some beautiful tunes that are very soulful, dancing skips w/his feet (even though he's sitting) to accompany him. he started before I could get out front so I listen from behind a curtain after coming up these spiral stairs. he finishes and paul and fouls the head backstage (or "understage") bad, 'pert-near blowing me right up the stairs after I made the mistake of coming back down. oh man... for some reason, he's in total denial of it... like, what's the big deal? georgie would've copped to that easy. on stage, I think we do the piece in some ways maybe the best yet on the tour. I don't know how it sounded out front w/the minimal p.a. and all but maybe ok, judging by the reaciton of the folks. it was much like a recital in sorts cuz of the people in seats and the little theatre way of the stage but I thought us three up here trying to deliver it as best we could was pretty alright. we only do the first three of the encores cuz I think it would be happening to end w/paul singing the bob dylan song ("it's life and life only" is the last line, maybe either ironic or poignant in regards to the sitch its presented in?).
grazie, grazie, grazie to the folks for coming. I don't feel much for slinging shirts so I don't really, only barely mentioning it once. I don't know, that's how I'm feeling. there was strange weight on me, this gig where it was done w/the history and all. maybe it's not accurate to use weight cuz in a way it was more like awareness. did I screw up any lines thinking about someone else while I was working the piece? seemed I had a lot of focus on my guys. dante wrote along - poets and painters collaborate maybe not as much in the act of what they're doing though they're still immersed w/influence like a sailboat amidst the winds and w/out oars, kind of. they do seem self-propelled in a way that would seem maybe arrogant of a bass player but I don't know. these things always come up when I think of raymond (pettibon) cuz he himself is such a strong influence on me (I said as much to this writer chris from the irish times who called before soundcheck) and I'm 'pert-near forever trying to find parallels in what we do so as to learn from him. of course w/d. boon, it was a little easier cuz he both painted/drew and played guitar but I find myself naturally drawn to raymond in lots of the same ways I was to d. boon. it's trippy like that. I just found out I get to do a dos gig w/raymond at an art gallery in l.a. when I get back. raymond's been doing more and more music (he has now for years) but it's more from lyric writing and singing which makes me think of him doing his films and scriptwriting rather than operating a machine to make music on, like what I'm trying to do w/a bass. whatever, he's truly been my virgil for many many years now.
we load up the boat and then it's back down the road whence we came... why is it always easier getting in than getting out?! many many cuts and turns to make it out scratchless but I keep at it and finally success for that. we're to follow this buddy of stefano's named raffela to his pad in pesaro and drop the boat off there cuz there's no parking at the 'tel. man, is a tiny road, making for sort of "mister toad's wild ride" but luckily we hit no on coming traffic. we make it to the pad and raul's suggests konking here cuz it's a really big pad - raffela's into it and so am I - why do a big hellride back to town and then have to come back in the morning. I use this futon thing and put it on the deck. raffela has me sign a copy of "ballot result" he has and gives me a little homemade wine from his neighbors - whoa, vinegar... that was trippy. I am tired. all the pop gruppo guys came by so the place is hopping but like the way I tour in the u.s., I do now: deck crumple, mask down and then out. konked.
friday, april 22, 2005 - verona, italy
we are arrived in verona ..i'm in my bedroom in the hotel corte ongaro really near to interzona,
the venue of tonight...sun continue to be in the sky
interzona is a really interesting place in the Magazzini generali area..a huge space builded on at the begining of the century during fascist regime.it was used for stock food merch and as a big refrigerator for trains that crossed all the europe
this morning i woke up at ten with a beatifull landscape around...stefano had brought us some good brioche for breakfast.
i'm in the hotel again. i've took a shower
i got the time in the afternoon for reading
i met a couple of friend tonight, andrea, bruno and alessio..i will come back in a week for a gig with 3/4hadbeeneliminated, my band
valentina has prepared a realy good vegetarian meal: pasta with asparagus, spinaci and belga salad cooked with cheese
before going sleep raul showed me some nice photos of the previous gigs in german
a lot of of interesting stencil stuff ... and some photos of the place where he lives in s.pedro
Good rest last night. Watt and paul were up pretty early, stefano and i slept until we had to go, i think rafello was already gone to work, but the other stefano who put the gig in had brought croissantsto grub for breakfast. This place is just as cool in the day light as it was last night. Farm land, and there's a great view as you step out the front door. It looks like mostly grapes, but i don't know for sure. We say our goodbye to stefano, and follow him back to the highway. Met some stellar people last night, i love being on tour. Since stafeno is our guide, and he's doing the navigating, he takes the front. Verona is not gonna be is not gonna be to big of a haul, an hour and a half back to bologna, and another hour and a half from there. Most of my time goes to reading, and listening to watt tell some minute men stories to stefano, and like most conversations in the boat, it turns to politics, local, national, and international... it dosn't matter. Lots of talks about cultures and human natures in general. When you think about it, that could cover lots of ground. About half way thru the drive i get kinda cold and start to look for my hoodie. Fuck all, my first donate. When i left the house i even said i was sure i was gonna leave something, i just didn't know what... It's my damn sweatshirt. That's a shit, what im i gonna do about this one. I don't want some gap crap, and i'm pretty sure it's not gonna be easy to find an army surplus. Damn, watt had just givin' me a coltrane button, and my big boys skate for fun, with the big aanarchysign is a total donation to rafeallo, man i loved that sweatshirt. It came to me right after i went outta town for a gig. I didn't have one i liked, just this over sized bright red one, i couldn't find one that fit just right,well any way, the day i left there was a show at the house, and i came back a day and a half later and it was hangin' on the door of my bedroom. It fit perfect, it was meant to be, and like a dumb ass, i lost it in italy, and now i'm on tour without my blanket... sucks, but it wasn't mine to begin with so that's that.
Playing another old squat turned legit club, it's called interzona. From the outside, you'd have no idea anybody besides the homeless and graffiti writers had set foot inside for the past fifty years. It's like a walled city within' a city, and the building looks bombed out. It's a hugh dome shaped refrigerator train station, that held most the beef, and other meat that was shipped all over italy, and i think alot of europe. Mussolini built in 1930, and from the looks it hasn't had a lick of exterior work done since, besides the couple hundred pieces painted on it. It's like the belmont plus of verona. Weeds are way over grown, and all the windows are busted out... i love it. I spent a couple hours exploring itand taking photos. Most of the nieghboring warehouses were abandoned, right in the middle of a city, and it's so desolete, it feels as if i'm the only person on a post apocalyptic earth. Time to get out of my fantasy and back to the club. When i get backto the club, fantasy turns reality, and no one's around. The boats there, but the doors locked. After a few minutes, someone answers my yells. Everyone's in the back room. Besides the big room we're playing, there's another bigger room that's hosting an art show with about fifteen ddifferentitalian artists, some really good stuff and some not so really good stuff, matter of opinion, which dosn't matter at all. We're the only group, and we're not going on till late, it's gonna be a long night. Pass alot of the time doing mail, and checkin' out the paintings. Stefano has mentioned that the food the in club chef makes is all vegetarian, and the bomb. He's right about both. Like most europeans i've found, these guys are serious about their food. Two giant banquet tables, enough room for thirty people, and almost every seat is filled. The biggest pot of homemade macoroni and cheese i've ever seen, and this is not even the beginning. As soon as that's done, more food keeps comin'. I guess this is how they do it, one dish at a time. I was already stuffed from the roni, but i gotta try it all, hats off, it's gotta be tough to cook for that many folks, it's like being a cook in the army or something.
Gig time, finally, it's been pushed back a few times already. We have the feeling it's gonna be rough show, at the sound check it sounded like we were playing a gymnasium. Supposedly it'll sound better with people, ha, there's not very many, and seats were set up, so there all sittin' down. There was a hugh reverb, and everything was delayed. It made it so hard to play with the other dudes, the bass was nonexistant, and the leslie sounded like maybe it was braking thru from another dimension, the only thing for me to follow, was finger movments. I could really only hear myself. I'm not the best player, so that sorta makes me self conscious... whatever, i can get over that. What i can't get over is the cymbals being the loudest in the mix, the hi hats were so piercing, i thought my ears might bleed. We are playin' a fridge, so what should we expect. Way older kinda laid back crowd, so we try not to blast it, i think it was a little too subdued. I get so wound for the show that i need to get it out, and it's hard to hold it back sometimes. I know there's a way to satisfy that without pounding it out, i gotta bring it out in my playing... in time. There's a place for everything, and i have the feelin' these folks were happy about not havin' there ears blasted. My favorite song in the set was the roky cover, we haven't been doing it everynight, maybe only a couple times this tour, i think tonite it was a perfect way to end the set. '
I can hear Watt talking loudly when I open my eyes. Raul and Stephano are shapes in the dark and I'm momentarily confused...Watt hasn't started waking up before daylight has he? But it's 9:30, it's spring in Torrino (that sounded good, I think we were actually somewhere in the general vacinity of Torrino, but I'm not sure) it's just dark in our sleep chamber and I'm up now and need coffee. I wander through the kitchen and Stephano the promoter is talking to Watt, he's brought pastries, they're sucking down coffees. I go outside, I've felt cold now it seems for days, no one else does, I don't understand it. It's OK in the sun though. I look out over miles of vines; man they make a lot of wine here! There are chickens, roosters, ducks and turkeys in a cage nearby, a little olive orchard in his back yard. Our stupid blue dutch van just looks lame. That is so fucked that I wrote that. Our trusty, dependable, sturdy little boat which has carried us over all these seas rocks gently in the driveway.
I go back in and they show me how to make coffee in the percolator, which I've done a thousand times, but I always need to relearn everything. I drink my thimble of coffee and we're on our way.
We're sort of retracing our steps so I kind of settle into the back and doze, try to stay out of the conversation. Eventually Mike is talking about clothes. We talk about clothes more in this band than any band I've been in. Mike is not making fun of me he's just saying that Jer was so uncomfortable about how I dressed on the last two weeker I did with them that I 'm not sure what. This makes me sad, cause I can't recall Jer and I ever having a cross word, and he was so supportive on that tour, and now come to find out he was climbing the van walls because I looked so cool. I can't help it. I don't even try. I am physically unable apparently to go into a store and buy clothes, just a little quirk, possible a slight phobia or neuroses, whatever I've learned to live with it, people give me stuff. This one friend of mine, Bill Wall is a designer and has given me some bitchin' leather pants and some cool jewelry, and he's been such an incredible person in my life, that I wear it without question as a tribute to him. Plus they look pretty fucking good. I also somehow picked up these dreadlocks back in 1980 and a Fu Manchu somewhere along the way, and what can I say? I was unbearably slick looking when I did that tour. Sorry Jer, I had no idea. Lately I've gotten into being totally invisible, average but it's not easy...I've had extreme looks for so long, I don't even know what normal is, swear to god. It's difficult to know what to say on this subject so I will say only this: Mike Watt has worn the same shirt every day of this tour, for good or ill.
As I say we're retracing our steps, wine wine wine country, and we pull in early afternoon, Stephano takes us straight to the hotel. I love this guy, and not just for taking us to the hotel, he's real young, 26, a musician, he looks like a really young John Hurt maybe or someone else I haven't totally put my finger on it. The hotel is VERY nice, I open the door out onto the balcony and look out on the apartments and the Wisteria in someone's back yard. I head down to the lobby in about ten, and we split to the gig, which I'm pleased to find out is walking distance. Watt and I talk in the car about Zappa and Pierre Boulez.
It's a huge old train station called Interzone built in 1930 by Mussolini, it has the total Facism in ruins vibe, with a dome over where they used to turn the trains around. It sits in a huge deserted parking lot, I guess, ringed in walls with some decent grafitti for Raul. The room we play in was a huge refrigeration unit and sounds like it. Behind the stage there is an enormous tin room that is an art gallery with a seven second reverb. I spend awhile wandering around in there, and the art is heavy. I didn't write down the names of the artists, but I was wierded out when I left there was lots of good shit. I don't really feel like I have much to say to the world anymore I swear to god. Twenty five years ago, even ten years ago, it seems like there was so much that needed to be said, so many sounds that needed to be sampled and recorded, so many songs that NO ONE WAS WRITING. Now I see my inner life scrawled everywhere and reflected eloquently, I see my artistic ideas that used to be so lonely out there playing like kids in a playground. I see horrible violence and twisted sex, but then I see beautiful serenity and love and I see them right on top of each other! Atheism and religeon holding hands and giving virgin birth to some kind of unforseen spirituality which is promptly murdered by invincible realpolitik. I see technology, beautiful towering rustbucket women with grinding iron teeth, breeding with green growing organic bacteria sequoia men, it's all being done! I see the disease and the antidote all over. If only people would listen and see.
We soundcheck, it's a more or less impossible situation so I have a snack and head back to the hotel to be alone and have a shower.
Returning in time for dinner which is an awesome vegetarian spread, with onions covered in cheese, an asparagus pasta, potatos and spinach, and in case someone can't make it through dinner without meat, a coupla plates of prosciutto. I feel a cave coming on but it's still early, it's friday nite it should be OK. And I find a computer to check emails on. There's Hellin with the kitties. But not much in the way of emails from her. That's kind of like her. There's a nice email from Jeff too, who has just gotten done reading the second week of these tourdiaries, and remarks that i seem "seem to be going through something." He damn well knows that's pretty par for the course. Jeff and I did the burntchurchopera together (it feels funny calling it an opera while I'm touring with this opera with mike, but I started calling it that sort of in honor of Mike when I was not playing with him...does that make any sense?) and he's been an incredible friend for the last three years. He's a singer and doesn't play any instruments, but he conceptualized this whole monumental piece, and I recorded it, played most of the instruments...translated it from his mind into the world I would say, and in so doing put a lot of myself into it. The new project he's trying to get off the ground is this philanthropic center for the arts downtown, it's a big heavy project; we see these places in Europe, subsidized by the governments until they turn into these ratty druggy crime hangouts and then the plug gets pulled. In America you don't get anything from the government at all, you get someone with money to invest, then you battle regulation and red tape from there on out. They want it to be a free space to raise money for causes...they'll get it done but it's a task. My old dear friend Geza X is also involved...
I also got an email from Stephane from What's wrong with us... I read it really fast, because I had been on this guys computer way to long. He is also prescribing me remedies having gone through some traumas, but I'm not sure I would take valerian, probably not, he had some other suggestions I'll check out when I get home. Thank you Stephane, and may you continue to be inspired...this dude has a quick mind and a LOT of interests...that whole band is a bunch of fucking geniuses.
And my friend William who scanned the list of cities and got pretty blown away, it's crazy, I'm fucking lucky. William made the burntchurchtheopera website and it's fucking amazing, he's my oldest friend we go back to high school when we were both really likely to succeed.
And my friend Jenny who lives two doors down. And my friend Jim. And a LONG one from KIRA!!! who misses me and asks how mike is doing. Ask him yourself Kira... Mike doesn't measure by ordinary yardsticks.
NONE from Alex or Adam, why don't you drop me a line??? We've never emailed so it's cool. And a bunch about the Germs documentary, that I didn't have time to read, and can't do anything about. They were all re Pleasant so hopefully she's getting interviewed, Pleasant Gehman fucking ROCKS.
So I got this little blast from home, I felt good, then teetered off the cliff and on my way down I went and sat in a dark corner. Raul saw me and said; "What're you doing?" and I said: "do you want to know?" and I don't think he really did, he seemed a little aloof yesterday and today, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if I did something thoughtless, or fucked without even noticing, I know I pissed mike off without even knowing the day before, making a dumb joke that he took wrong and turned into a fucking EPISODE, so I'm capable of it BELIEVE ME. I hate that, infuriating people you love COMPLETELY UNINTENTIONALLY without even FUCKING KNOWING! Helpless feeling.
Anyway I tell Raul that when I'm sitting alone by myself in the dark I'm trying to get in touch with a benevolent spirit of the universe and that so far it's not working. That's one of the parts of me I think he's least interested in.
They push the show back, then back and we go on and it's OK, not a complete cave, although the acoustics are pretty cavelike. My perception of the show was that the first four songs were damn near perfect, making allowances for the sonics, then it started getting bad. Mike went to a bunch of total extremes and we tried to follow. By extremes I mean, slowing things way down, playing them at a whisper, altering the encore radically. My opinion? It pissed me off when it was happening, I tried to use the anger and play as intensly at a whisper as I could, and the second the set was over I let it all go with this certainty: Mike's instincts are why we are here. The ENTIRE SET is built on his instincts, and all I get to do here is interpret and realize and bring his instincts to fruition. When I'm singing the Dylan song, part of me thinks the band should follow the singer. Not in this case. And I really mean it.
Going to try to check out fair old Verona in the morning. Pretty sure I'll actually do it with Raul and Stephano.
I hope everything is OK at home. Haven't been able to call, tried tonight at the club. Hellin? Are you there? XOXO
Once Pang was selling baskets of bamboo. As he was coming down from a bridge, he tripped and fell. When his daughter Lingzhao saw this, immediatly she ran up and flung herself on the ground beside him.
"What are you doing?" he cried.
"I'm helping!" she said.
"Lucky no one was looking," said her father.
-John Tarrant The Light Inside the Dark
pop at eight bells to hear raffela rustling around in his kitchen which ain't too hard cuz I'm in the room right next to it. this cat is a happy man and it's infectious, he offers to make me coff w/those little two-piece percolators you see that come from italy. sure, they make just one cup but it's a good cup. he heats up water too cut it so I can have "american coffee" as they call it here. he's a little rusty w/his english but the more he speaks it, the easier it comes. I sure wish I could do that w/italian! these euros are really amazing that way - I sure the fuck wish we'd get taught it up more in school, just cuz. I mean, shit, it gives you another set of eyes to see things at the least. well, blaming the school system might be a little weak of me - they didn't teach me bass either. kira learned both bass and another language. I should pay more attention to her example. raffela knows lots about music, he worked at a shop and has tons of records, even a screamers bootleg (paul was in the screamers). he has relatives in new york and san francisco - man, every italian I meet seems to have family in the u.s. there's a coff mug on his table that says ireland and he says he has an irish girlfriend so I tell him of my bloomsday trip to dublin last year - sort of like getting to play florence tomorrow. he has to bail for work so I say bye, at the same time gigboss stefano (from last night) comes by. he's got some chow, rolls 'pert-near like pastry filled w/tuna and egg. paul comes in and I show him how to make coff w/the little italian percolator (gigboss stefano says the biagetti brand is the best). our stefano comes in and says we should bail in a bit for verona, the most northern town we're playing in italy this tour. I talk w/the gigboss stefano about the berlusconi crisis and he tells me it looks like the opposition might let him slide and wait to call elections. he also tells me about this movie that's been banned called "citizen berlusconi" that him and his friends have been flowing copies of so people here can see it. the weird thing he says is many italian people - even the "opposition" knows and knew before he got into politics - a reason he got in was to get protection for corruption charges... I'm relating this cuz it's some intense stuff but you gotta realize stefano here (and the same when our stefano is explaining me this same stuff in his way) is laughing 'pert-near the whole time and not getting self-righteous or on any kind of a high horse at all. sure, it is very serious but there is a black humor about it all that can't and should not be lost or we would all surely lose our minds. I'm gonna help get the word out about this film...
I'm waiting for my guys to get it together and I go next door to see where these clucks I'm hearing are coming from. whoa, there's a bunch of chickens running around - nanny (the lady who draws for my shirts) brought a couple of incubators home from her work and hatched some chicks so I got to see some of those little ones before I left on tour, they were really trippy. there's some turkeys here too and two big geese, a white and brown one that are honking as much as these roosters are crowing and the turkeys gobblin' - it is one intense choir, let me tell you! I try to chime in w/my versions of what they got going... at first they high-talied it at my presence but as I make my attempts at their speak, they come on closer and give me some little look-sees, trippy. man, I could spend much much time here w/them, really. time to go though and we bid last night's gigboss stefano ciao - big hugs and "salute" (that's "sa-loo-tay" - health). back down the little road w/took last night - boy, it looks different. wine country, vineyards everywhere. again, I'm reminded of 'pert-near being in the background of renaissance painting cuz that's where I know the lay of this land, damn. we have to travel northwest to whence we came, back to bologna, modena and then finally north to verona. we pass through the republic of san marino - italy used to be made up of twenty something of these kinds of tiny lands before garibaldi united them a little more than a hundred years ago - this is one that's left and it's really tiny, like one town. they've got their own license plates for their cars though. we got good weather and clear skies, reminds lots of my pedro town even being by the sea. we turn more away from that though after rimini - I said we passed by ravenna yesterday but actually it's like thirty klicks from the road so I never saw it - wanna go there one day though cuz that's where pilgrim dante finally rested his bones.
verona is up towards the alps, further past it would be the brenner pass, a big mountain truck route on the way to innsbruck and austria. the last fIREHOSE tour in europe (1991) had us on the austrian side of the border w/italy there and brenner for like twentyhours - the most time I ever spent totally in a boat (van). there was a big disagreement between the two governments of that border and the italians were allowing just one truck over a day in response to something austria had done so we were stuck big time in this big-ass line that was moving nowhere. finally, my pisano claudio came to the rescue and though we missed one gig in italy, we made all the others. I remember georgie konking on the boat's roof. you can imagine how intense it was on us, driving us out of our minds. whoa, memories. europe going e.u. has made that a lot calmer, border stuff among the members. I know thou it's easier for like u.s. guys to tour here, there's other things, like italy changing from lire to euro, that have made things hard for the folks not from abroad but live here and have to deal w/cost of living issues. one man's good luck might be at the expense of another, hard to reconcile w/out rationalizing... aaaaaarrrrrrrrgghhhhh. anyway, we're playing at this huge freezer that was built in 1930 (fascist italy period) that had train tracks running into it, it's way huge and round. there's a club built into called interzone where we're playing tonight but the place was originally called stazione frigorifera dei magazzini generali di verona. a poster inside said there's a big festival on and were part of it though the act listed is "mike watts" instead of my real name. I see red krayola's playing here soon too, alright. sure wish I could see them cuz I never have even though I got lots of their records and the latest version has both tom watson and george hurley playing w/mainman and original founder mayo thompson. hopefully one day though. there's an art gallery behind the stage - as huge as the room we're playing (though our ceiling goes up like fifty feet). there's some very intense art in here and I check it all out. there's images mocking mussolini among other stuff. I've heard this town's got maybe more fascist chunks than other ones in this land so that's gotta be a good sign, dealing w/the past in order not repeat it. what I'm trying to say is it's harmful kind of to say what art should or should not have but rather I'm saying that mussolini and others in these works aren't put in glorified contexts - what I saw glorified were absurdities dangled and angled in such a way that jarred some thought-clickers upstairs.
we do soundcheck w/a cat I can't now remember who his name is and that frustrates me. damn. I consider the soundman such an important part of what we're doing and they always have my most respect. I remember the monitor man stefano though (yet another one!) - he had big black flag bars tattooed on his forearm. the soundcheck's telling me this is going to be a real challenge w/the acoustics here. ok, "work the room" then, I tell my guys. I go take some pictures of these trippy trees outside that have round buches of many tiny flowers, light green petals, maybe seventy little flowers to a sphere. they look righteous against their dark green leaves, green on green. backstage now to chimp some diary as the cooklady here makes up some incredible chow from scratch: pasta w/asparagus, wide cabbage strips w/cheese melted on them, great bread and crudo (ham) and salad. whoa. grazie.
we're the only band tonight and it's sort of a character builder - especially considering the size of the pad. we gotta work this one at some low volume. I kind of let us rip for the hell part cuz of the very vibe that's supposed to evoke - all fucked up and not too together but I notice the slap off the walls being really bad w/purgatory - not so much w/"...reed..." but really bad w/"pissbass..." when right into the start of it my crippled power supply for my pedal board gives way, aaaaarrrrrrgggghhhh. paul starts w/his "pissbags and tubing" chants but I want him to hold off on that and just keep the groove but miscommunicate things cuz raul stops instead! I get raul to re-start and then paul figures out what I meant and I got a chance to get the wire angled in such a way to allow these effects to get going again (I use the evelope filter in this tune). it's sort a miniature version of what happened in fribourg last week! my guys hang w/me tight though and we get through it. a big clam from paul in "beltsandedman" but we three again hold fast and ride it out, staying right w/each other - much respect to paul and raul, really. for "pluckin'..." and "pelicanman" I slow things way down tempo-wise cuz the echoes are just too much and blur everything out. I time us to where I feel we fit best w/the slapbacks of this huge pad - tyring to make it sound less of a fucking roller rink. my guys follow me well here, much respect. you gotta "work the room" and not try to dictate to it. we go off at I throw a little bit of a fit over not too much, just trying to think out loud. we come back and do the dylan tune - it seems this room is more fit for spiel and that tune's got a lot of that. paul seems to be in a weird place for a bit but then finds his step - we're all still learning (watt included). the pop group tune next but I keep my bass down much and then the roky tune, a long time since we've done that this tour - can't remember now when last.
a cat who made the drive from milano for the gig asks me about raul, how am I playing w/someone "w/hands going like this," (makes fred flintstone-like gestures) "how does it make to play like not much experience?" (his words) I think I know what he might be trying to mean but what I'm trying to do is not all about notes and execution as far as relating just that to an audience but also a sense of spirit, a sense of heart. it's important I think for someone like me to play w/someone like raul, especially at this point of my life. I love it dearly. if it was hard for this cat to figure his question, it's 'pert-near as hard for me to figure an answer that can convey what I truly mean. this man says he means no disrespect and I can sense that totally - it is not what's generally done w/all the cliche rock and roll for me has in lots of ways come to be. I'm not talking about the spirit but the tired-ass forms and parade march. we are not santa's elves. we jam econo.
the boat gets packed up quick, paul is great at rallying the team on this. fratello stefano is right in sync too. we take the short hop to the 'tel and it's konk time quick for a tired bassman. whew.
saturday, april 23, 2005 - florence, italy
we are in florence at the flog..tonight gig...they are making soundcheck..some friends of mine are coming tonight: giulio, silvia, livia, alessandra e carlo
i'm quiet tired..i've slept few hours last night
i woke up at 8 o'clock in the morning and with paul and rawl we have been in center of verona walking near the arena.
paul told us a bit of his life in the past and the present..about the punk period and things around. amazing listening his tales..intense life
during the trips mike talks..the conversation goes always through a lot of things... everything is connected..i got lost regularly. i miss a lot of things... sometimes i need to check things for the gig and the roads, sometimes the english, sometimes i just loose the conversation looking at the incredible expression of his face and his moving hands..he reminds me something familiar..and some expressions of his face reminds me bill cosby too.. ah ah
from dutch dude carlos:
I arrive in Rome together with hundreds of believers. With their cell phones the priests look like managers with funny dresses.
Pietro (moustache is back again) picks me up from the trainstation, we go to a nice restaurant around the corner from the hotel. The tuna is delicious.
The hotel is fake old, fake modern, fake luxurious, fake ****, designed by someone who never was a guest. Sorry, the people behind the desk are very nice.
Woke up early with plans to go to the arena in the old town, by the time we walked there, it was almost time to start walking back. Somtimes i wish i had more time, but i gotta put it in perspective. There's other things to be done, and i'm gonna be in so many other cities, so i'm aactuallyseeing way more than most people who vacation to europe, touring is the best. alot of these places would take days to see, but i get to see different cities everyday. It can be overwhelming, i get so excited, i try going all directions at once, twisting and turning. Make it back to the pad with enough time to take a much needed shower. Before the going to the club, we're gonna stop by a radio station so watt can talk over the waves. I thought i'd stay a luddite forever, but the computer thing is becoming more and more cconvenient like for insatnce today, i can talk to the moms, or my sisters without the hassle of the phone or money, and for that alone it's worth it, she worries, not too bad, but it's good to ease it a bit. On the way to the station we get an extensive tour of outter florence, yep, total blow by after blow by. It's nobodies fault, the directions had exits that didn't exist. After that it was easier to get around, the boss was on a moter bike, and he led the way. Playing a place called flog, on the way up i spot a raw power flyer, its' new... didn't the singer die a a few years back? It'd be weird to get a new singer for a classic band, but as i just wrote that, black flag comes to mind. Ofcourse i was two young to ever see the band, but i like keith the best, totally snotty... but damaged l.p. is the second best besides the singles. This club has kinda the same sound as interzona, i hope to myself that it's not a repeat of that gig, and also hoping they don't set chairs in front of the stage, i'm not looking forward to a recital. It looks like the clubs a bit more youth orintated, so i don't think that'll be the case, but you never know.
After the check, it's chow time. Antonio, the moniter guy/ under boss piles us into his car, and takes us to grub. Kinda a fancy italian restaurant. We get put at the last table downstairs. Maybe they're ashamed of us or something.. just kidding. That is something that i've had happen before though, seat the punkers in the dark corner, so the paying customers don't have to look at em' while they eat. This corners not dark though, and it makes sense once the other band arrives... we're at the biggest table. Antonio is a very animated guy, and has travel stories for days, and about all the different places he's lived. They must bring all the bands here, cuz antonio seems to know everybody, maybe he just eats here lots, i don't know. The same thing happens as the night before, we're all done eating, just talking. It seems like we're over staying, i kinda wanna go, then more food, these italians mean business Dinner was a trippy atmosphere in the best way. I can't speak a lick of italian, but it's just an experience watching everybody interact.
The first band to play are some locals, they call them selves o.b.o, stands for oshinoko bunker orchestra. Three piece, bass, guitar, and drums.People seem to really dig em', stefano tells me they kinda sound like shellac, the only albini i know is big black, so much for that. They're real tight and and all over the place with styles, nothing is really straight forward, they for sure keep you on your toes. Show time, lot's of folks, the commercials and the interview watt did have gotta have somthing to do with it, Like an audio flyer, it's great. It's a good gig, and it's kinda cathartic to pound it out after the last couple gigs. Grendara, was great, but for me, subdued, and that's what it called for, so i understand that, and i actually think we played real well, but for me it back fired in verona, and i'm so glad it didn't happen tonight. Watt has this saying, work the room. He's been saying it for a while, but it's starting to sink in and make sense to me, tonight called for the way we played, and i was glad it did. Sometimes i feel like a chump, if i don't leave the stage soaked, like i didn't get the job done, tonight was not like that.
After the gig was a punk d.j. sorta dance thing. Most the people split, but a quarter stayed. The music was so fuckin' loud, i don't know why anybody would wanna be there, it was impossible to even talk. It is a disco, or whatever, so i guess the point is not talk, but rock.. whatever, it seemed sorta silly to me, and we bailed pert' quick. some unintentional aimless wondering was soon to come. We were only a few blocks from the pad too, the wander was on the same street too, round and round. On the way paul mentioned seeing a hotel, maybe that's ours he said. The statement was quickly overlooked, and the wander continued. Turns out paul was right, but we wouldn't find that out for another twenty minutes. Good night.
Franklin says with certainty that the soul is immortal. That would be convenient. Sometimes I feel like my willingness and longing to move on to the next plane (or non-plane) is because I think I have learned what I need to learn here. Ha! I recognize that! I ALWAYS think I know it all, and it is so untrue. In retrospect, I NEVER do. So trudge on, keep yr ears and eyes open.
Inconveniently madness no longer follows prescribed paths. I've been waking up OK, sometimes it descends later, which is fucked, I was hoping it was some totally simple and identifiable syndrome. Whatever, it's mellow now.
We DO get up early. I hit the breakfast spread and Mike is there with his back to me. I don't join him because he has mentioned liking to eat alone. But after a few minutes he comes and sits with me. We share silence. I love the guy. I feel his pain. I wish I could absorb all the pain in the universe and jump into the sun.
Next Raul comes down, then Stephano. We finish eating (and I tank up on three cups of American coffee, the final frontier of my substance abuse. I ask Mike if he wants to join us walking around Verona, but he declines and we head off.
It's not that close. I start reading the Italian off the billboards and trying to get some feel for the language with Stephano helping me. He is a peach, they both are. Eventually we enter a square and there's the amphitheater, Roman, cool, they used to murder each other in there, as well as other things. History is a nightmare from which I'm trying to awaken. The amphitheater is two stories rather than four like I think the one in Rome has, so it's big, but not as big, and older, Stephano says. And under construction, Paul says, so two thirds of it is wrapped in a lifelike, plastic photo of the real thing, which I had joked they should have done with the castle at Gradera, but now that I see it in real life, I'd rather look at the rock than the plastic. If that is comprehensible, you might have to see what I'm talking about. It's kind of cool, the places where they tried to repair it over the centuries with bricks. We don't really have time to check out most of Verona, so we head back.
I start talking and won't shut up. I mention when Adam had his seizure and almost start crying. Then I talk about why I want to go to see Mary Magdelene at the Duomo in Florence and really almost start crying. Then I talk for a half hour about meeting Mike, the Germs, etc.etc. I guess they wanted to hear, they keep asking questions.
I don't need to have any secrets, really. I'm not here to manipulate history or your perception of me. I try to just recount what I saw and felt, it's all much more mysterious and complex than anything I could conceive or imagine. My perceptions are so totally colored that they're basically fiction anyway, I assure you. Don't forget.
Later: we drive to Florence. Alot of the drive is again backtracking aroung the Bologna area so for description see above. Eventually we start going through some hills, and it kind of drys out and we're on the outskirts of Firenze as the Italians call it and as we probably should call it too. I sort of doze in the back a bit. Stephano doesn't seem to sure of himself, his directions are wrong and the promoters phone is off. So we definitly wander, until we don't and we get to a radio station where Mike will be interviewed.
And I will check emails again, even though I checked 'em last night I know I'll have a new batch and sure enough there's about the longest letter Hellin ever wrote me. I was dumb to doubt her, I was pretty sure she was OK Ahhh shut up. The studio is up, I've got Nina Hagen shows in June, things will kind of be like they were for at least a little while when I get back, which I guess is good.
There's a letter from my friend, Jim Miller... He says that joy, like love , is there to be taken and I know it is so true, that's why I call my just not taking it a mental illness, and I'm fucking sick of it, what fucking payoff am I getting? What is the resistance? Jim tells an incredible story about going to the Duomo in Firenze and seeing Donatello's Mary Magdelene, and that was the one thing I wanted to do on this trip, but I just got word that the new Pope is doing his first mass tomorrow, and we may have to leave for Rome early. I'm trying to put the tour first, but I feel pretty crushed. I was hoping in my heart, I guess, for this great healing. And this is how it often feels...I make the pilgramage and the door is slammed in my face. That is how the madness manifests. So I get to go to Rome on the pope's big day. Not I don't get to make the pilgrimage to my patron saint. Fuckin picky, picky , picky.
I just want to find joy, and it's inside not anywhere else.
I explained to Raul and Stephano about going to the Duomo, and god bless em, they really got in my corner and wanted to make it happen. I guess Rome is Stephano's last show, I feel sort of heartbroken that he's leaving, his English is a little weak, but I feel such a sense of understanding and connection in his eyes. And my Italian ain't no great shakes. We communicate OK.
After the radio show, we stop by the hotel and check in, but don't even go to our rooms, just straight to the club which is called Flog. It's a pretty big place, sort of Palladium like for you Angelenos. The load in is super easy, and we set up. I'm kind of spinning out. Seems like there's a lot of waiting around. We check, it's nightmarish like a roller rink. Supposedly the place shifts into disco mode after we play so there'll be a big built in crowd which would help the acoustics, but could be a pain in other ways.
Raul, Stephano and I take a quick walk to buy some blank CDs, Raul suggests I but a digital camera, and it's funny at this point to watch the heart pound on cue. I'm feeling more and more insane by the minute, but walking with them is totally calming. We get back and head straight for a restaurant with the promoter, Antonio who is a loud Italian guy, that I imagine is having friction with Mike. I say imagine, because Mike gets along great with everyone on these tours and I could be imagining the whole thing. I'm having trouble adjusting to him for sure. In the car on the way to the restaurant he talks a lot about how bouge Firenze is, lots of money, everything VERY expensive. We get to the restaurant, it's nice, we park by a beautiful arch; he knows the restaurant well, I'm sure they give him a good deal, from the way he talks you can't get a decent meal in this city for under $75.
We go downstairs and sit at a long table; I guess more people are coming. I immediatly feel super hemmed in and crazy, and instead of the conversation alleviating it it intensifies up and up till I think I'm going to scream or have to leave the table. Instead I try to sit there quietly, and make small talk if absolutely necessary. Antonio wants me to drink wine. He launches into a semi erotic allegory about how eating food without drinking wine is like... something to do with a beautiful girl naked in your bed... I can't follow him. But I am starting to like him a lot more. He's OK, he's lived in America, rode a motorcycle across canada, rode into a wall at 100 clicks an hour and broke his jaw in 14 places, he's just a real outgoing Italian guy, totally cool. But he's not into me not drinking, and he's even more suspicious when I don't smoke either. And for once I don't make any remarks about why. I'm just super introverted, tired, wacked out, for no good reason. But I think I do OK. We get back to the club and everybody wants to type diaries, which is a big withdrawal that must trip people out a little. Stephano's doing them too. Raul sits on the stage and does em, Mike and Stephano backstage, and Antonio takes me back into an office for some reason, where I can type in peace.
The opening band Obo is great, angular, jagged, modern fusion punk, hard to describe, I thought of a modern day jet powered minutemen, but Mike didn't see that at all, and after I said it I felt silly. Kind of At the Drive In, but not really, it sounded sort of familiar but I can't put my finger on it. It's a pretty big club, but it's filling up pretty good; Antonio said there will be 600 when we play and a thousand after which is good and bad; big audience but not all to see us, which can mean lots of yammering and talking, and picking up on chicks drunk, and getting into altercations with their boyfriends while we're playing, which I guess is more important that us playing really, but it fucks with my own personal concentration sometimes.
Obo has set up next to us which is kinda cool, both of us forward on the stage. Whenever a band is that good, I have a little minute of wondering how we'll follow, but truthfully the crowd is sorta reserved towards them. We get on quick, but it's probably at least 11:30 or 12 when we get on.
The ghastly roller rink sound, hasn't changed much, but we play the set in a focussed, straight ahead way, and it's one of the best of the tour so far. Mike gives a minimum of direction, which makes me feel that he's liking what he's hearing, which in turn gives me confidence and allows me to enjoy and concentrate. ANd while there is definitly a contingent of folks around the periphery who are there to party, there's really a big crowd there to shake it with us. Maybe the radio show helped a lot, it's hard to know. Mike trims the Dylan out of the encore which I think is a very good decision, and all in all, I wish all the sets could be more like that. But I say this in absolute seriousness: I accept that there is a method to all the madness; it may be uncomfortable for me sometimes but tough shit; there's no way I'll cast aspersions, I need to roll with it, and maybe just be really nervous and uncomfortable if that's what the chief thinks is the ticket.
After the show there is a real rush on the burntchurch stickers, one really hot young thing jumps onstage and starts dancing and handing them out. That was good. There is a girl named Victoria who says she knows me through Dc3 records. Then they pump up the music and I expect the club to really get even more hoppin' but generally it seems people are heading out, so I guess we really were the main event.
We pack the van quickly and painlessly, but Stephano again has a really hard time navigating. There is a comical moment where I see a hotel sign right in front of us and say, sort of timidly I admit :" isn't that our hotel?" a couple of times, but we come about and wander for a while before eventually getting there.
And so we all leave seven a.m. wakup calls, Stephano, Raul and I. Raul is 100% on board for the Duomo, Stephano is exhausted and trying hard to back out. I figure without him, we won't make it; people really don't seem to speak English and it seems like a busride halfway acrosstown. I shower and go straight to bed, say goodnight to Hellin and wonder if it would be possible to find some kind of healing and joy in the resting place of Donatello's Magdalene.
I pop sore kind of, hmm... I go down to shovel peach yogurt on granola-like cereal and sit w/my back to the hatch, something I instinctually never do but what the fuck - I'm a little sore... sore in the head!? I'm down to just my coff and I hear some rustling behind me so I turn around and it's the guy in the black uniform w/dark sunglasses on: paul. I get up, sit at his table and say hi. we just sit together at this table in a fancy 'tel (most times on this tour it's not this fancy, I wonder why it's like this here?) in verona. I think we're gonna roll at eleven. I go up and do my routine and then chimp some diary 'til it's time to shove off. raul says he did his first certified donate, a sweatshirt at raffela's in pesaro. damn, if I had a nickel for all the donates I've made on tour... crimony!
we get on the autostrada for the modena-bologna-firenza route we're taking today... out of veneto, through emila-romanga and into tuscany - home of dante! we pass some graffiti that says "lega nord" (the right-wing "northern league" which wants italy split into two) and stefano learns about this group. paul says how can these people not remember their history? he relates how in geneva he was talking w/these two italian women and one of them said how can u.s. people be so stupid to elect who they do, paul says these people are just as bad. I say maybe you got told that cuz you can make a difference cuz the u.s. is your home... they did talk to you for like three or whatever hours so they wouldn't be just talking to be mean. paul says one of them also said "but we have berlusconi" when her friend told paul what she did. I can see paul having frustration w/what might seem like clouded thinking but humans are mixed up like this and lumping people according to countries or labels or convenience is maybe a bad habit to get into. paul at times says things like this but I hear it when back home in the u.s. too. the "national character" or maybe even a "continental character" thing - us and them, they says it's us and they're not them, them saying why is you and that must mean it's not us... oh boy. us people doing our work passing over borders and getting tripped up in this. as dyaln said in the song we're doing of his this tour:
it is not he or she or them or it
that you belong to.
or in his "positively fourth street" tune:
you just want to be on the side that's winning
(thanks to richard meltzer for putting that back in my head last tour when I was in portland)
I guess maybe cuz stefano's sitting here right next to me in the boat that I don't want it to sound like a "us and them" kind of thing in regards to where we were born or where we live. there's plenty to share in this boat. stefano tells us about discussions in his learning about why dante changes his speech in the "commedia" to where he directly addresses the reader. getting closer to florence, I got the urge to talk about dante and bring up this cuz it's always been kind of trippy for me. stefano said things had to be worded so cuz of power the church had then. paul says he wished he would've read the "commedia" before this tour - I know he read nick tosches' "in the hand of dante" the other time he took over for pete on a spirng 2003 u.s. tour and thought it was great he wailed on that. I start riffing big on dante cuz I feel kind of possessed almost - it's like all the line of his poem seem to be rushing though my timbers at once and then reflections of the tosches book putting a weird temper on it all 'til it gathers up and swells up in me again. I hope it ain't insane for these guys to hear me think out loud like this. we pass through bologna and I think of umberto eco and start talking about his "the island of the day before" and "foucault's pendulum" books, semiotics, wittgenstein, semantics - oh boy. it's funny a book dante was working on called "convivio" ("the banquet") was to be some sort of encyclopedia of everything he though he knew. he never finished it... went on to write the big poem he's known for now. trippy how before the "convivio" thing he wrote "il vita nuvo" ("the new life") in which he thought he embarrassed himself so bad he'd never write about love again 'til he could do it right, mix that all up in a schema supreme, something his son would later call some sort of "crazy dream" - why do we absorb what what we do and blurt so the pieces that for some reason stick while others fall down the chute? what is all this w/the dancing? I remember dancing once when I wasn't drunk. I can't remember another time I dance when I wasn't drunk. it was to "lookin' out my back door" - that creedence song. god, was that intense on me. so, lots of layers of memory content, meanings, theories/conjectures, admissions, hopes are flooding on me from the inside while I'm engaged in outside things like steering the boat safe and onward and spiel to my shipmates in both mono and dia logue modes. big time parallel processing, huh? believe it or not, it wasn't premeditated but more of a "just how the cards were dealt" kind of thing. this might sound wack but my plan as I was hosing off in the morning before we shoved off was to keep still and muse on abstract wonderings... maybe this is the way natural to me sometimes - in my pedro pad back home I'm so much unto myself and w/out any others to bounce shit off 'til usually around seven or eight at night when I call my old pedro friends tony and nanny and if they're home, bounce wonderings off them 'til konk yanks on me to admit I'm worn out, usually around nine pm. like jim joyce said in so many words: "one life is made of many DAYS - the sun rises, the sun sets."
we get into florence and engage in some wandering (dig how that word is close to "wondering") but get to the nova radio station just three minutes later than the three pm we were supposed to. this very happening cat named luca has me spiel w/him over the air for a good good while. most of the time he keeps the talk in my native english (his skills w/it are quite good, grazie) but there's times when he thinks a bit of translation would be good and even a few times I ask for it too cuz, just for some sections I think could use it. I think luca's idea to do this was two-fold, to ask people to think a little different, get into the mind of watt but dealing w/the language of watt and also to keep the flow going. he asks really good things, I mean very happening and to the point stuff and at the same time, his perspectives are interesting and get me to think of things a little differently. much respect to him and his buddy on the other side of the glass for having me aboard. the gigboss is here (fuck, spaced on his name - sorry/scuzzi) and we follow him on his scooter first to the 'tel and then to the venue. this pad is called f.l.o.g. and I've played here before, maybe even twice (fucking alzheimers wrestling me on this). it's a like an eight or more sided building that's more of a disco than a gig pad - challenging acoustics included, free of charge. what's trippy too is like half the parking lot has been alloted to campers - you know, rv stuff. there's families and all milling about, do their vacation thing, wild. we load in and do soundcheck w/soundman evan, he kind of has a johnny thunders look about him. he's not wasted though, just a little bit of the look. I think had italian blood in him. we do the check and they don't want us to move our equipment but there's an opening band, local florence cats called obo. the idea is presented that they set up behind us since we set up so close to the front of the stage but I think that's way ridiculous and tell them I want the obo band to get respect so they'll have them set up next to us since the stage is really wide anyway. I can live w/that. backstage, there's some chips and "salsa" which is actually "hp sauce" which is like an english version of a-1 steak sauce from back home (or maybe the other way around), something like a thicker worcestershire sauce. I guess the word "salsa" on my rider made things a little confusing, whoops. trippy eating tortilla chips like this though, a first for any of us three. stefano asks for the om namo narayani mp3 and I put it on his ibook - he tells me the chant is like a glory to god thing, he knows about this kind of stuff. I know english is his second language and he's a young man but he's really a smart guy and has a lot going on. it's sad when I find out tomorrow in roma is his last gig w/us, that he's not going to be w/us for our last italian gig in terracina on monday. I'm going to really miss him. I've learned a lot from him already and know he could teach so much more. I'm so glad when he gives me a cd of his music and a email address - wow, that's great. email has helped me keep links alive so much, grazie dio.
the monitorman is a cat named antonio and he takes us to a chow pad more inside the town. you can see some of the old part of florence even from where it's at. antonio is a very funny cat and very passionate in delivering his spiels, maybe more of what people expect from someone italian. it is definitely a florentine way though I pick up on and even ask stefano about later. antonio has lots of experiences: living in nyc, taking a motorcycle from halifax to vancouver, breaking his jaw in twelve places in a horrible car wreck - he's got tons of spiels and I'm so glad I got to sit next to him. the restaurant owner's son runs the floor and is a friend of his so the chow comes w/out even a menu - pasta and then some grill-cooked steak, pork and chicken which is so fucking good, damn. even more spiel and then they want coff (paul really fiends on the coff thing, 'pert-near kind of scary) but my guys realize I wanna get back cuz it stresses me much to have to worry about getting to where we gotta play on time and being all nervous in the guy about it. better for me to be where I need to work and be able to be still there a while.
I chimp diary and then they obo guys return from their feeding and get they're gig on. they're a guitar-bass-drum trio that's really good, some sonic youth influence for sure but less than the belgian cats at the geneva gig. there might be even some d. boon in there too. really aniamated performance and a drummer who's very pocket - I dig them much.
our turn and there's a pretty good crowd. the sound is tough but antonio does good w/the monitors for me. raul and paul do really good staying w/me and delivering the piece - I know paul has strong thoughts about this being a florence gig w/the dante stuff and all but just as a guy doing music, he really plays well as does raul in his way, they've become really generous w/the taking direction thing and I'm so proud of them. I just wish it was a tighter sounding room - I really don't write music for these kind of places... it makes me think of why people like styx and sprinsteen write the songs that they do. I'm trying to talking about a strange kind of journey, not really rally people around chants though I'm trying to say what I'm doing is better, it's just different and maybe all the time in the practice pad and then in the little clubs has had so much an effect on my. maybe it's a reaction to the "arena rock" I was raised w/also, I don't know. it is a different set of letters to make an alphabet though. I do try hard to look out at folks and try and connect some. I'm gonna keep working on this.
no dyaln tune this time for the encore, just the three fastest ones. much much nice talk w/people as I hand out the stickers and sign up on them and the posters handed to me. this one guy, older than me it appears and his buddy come up to me and ask, "is it too old for us to start a band?" I tell them of course not! we all laugh. this lady who's preformed w/carla bozulich named roberta tells me to tell her hi - she had some things for me in a bag but our load out is so quick that here I am taking the boat away from the venue w/out them. damn. at least I got to say bye and thanks to luca, even over the ear-splitting records his buddy from the radio station started playing 'pert-near immediately after we stopped playing. there was big thanks/hugs to the obo people too. I think I'm starting to find out italy has a very interesting music scene bubbling up on its own, righteous.
we execute some wander - street signs on sides of buildings if they're there at all are hard to spot and we loops some, blow by some but in a little while find the 'tel and I put it in the back of the pad and dock her. through the door and real wore watt konks soon inside. not in the lobby but in room w/a long but not high print of a medieval scene of men in interesting outfits (and even a couple of women) on its bulkhead.
read week 2 of the tour diary
read week 4 of the tour diary
loop back to mike watt's hoot page