A Thousand Mile Journey

begins with a 30 mile jog…

My legs aching like they’d been caught in a trash compacter, I wasn’t able to sleep on the flight across the ocean. Then, when we got to Heathrow, we sat on the tarmac within sight of the gate for 45 minutes. (that’s not an exaggeration)

When I finally got through the gate, I got to passport control, and the line stretched about a hundred yards back towards the gate. I stood behind the last guy in line, who I nosily surmised held a Ugandan passport. Some guy pushed up behind me to close that I had to turn sideways to stay in line. This guy started a 40 minute chess game with me, whereupon every time the line moved forward, he tried to position himself so that he could get by me. Yes, the line was interminably long, and didn’t seem to be moving at all, and yes, I understand that no one wants to wait one second longer than necessary, but he wasn’t going to shorten his wait at my expense. Maybe on any other day, at any other time, I would have just let it pass and let him have his 30 second advantage, but I was just Not In The Mood.

I had to step on the cuff of his baggy trousers to keep him from slipping past me when someone finally called “Next!” When he staggered and nearly spun completely around, I slipped past him to the desk. Asshole.

So, 45 minutes on the tarmac, an hour in line at passport control, I was now two hours late to meet the rest of the band and Kim from Monotreme, and I still hadn’t gone through baggage search. I chose the “Nothing to Declare” line and walked into a room where several people were having their luggage rummaged. I held my head up and walked through like I knew what I was doing, across the room and out the door on the other side. No one said a word to me.

Finally found Kim and then we walked a million miles through Heathrow until we got out the top and met the rest of the band. I won’t bore you with any more details.

We had about an hour van ride with “Keef,” our Man With Van here in the UK, to get to Kim’s house, and we were all exhausted. I had slept about five hours in 48.

We found spots on the floor of Kim’s living room. I opened a notebook and wrote myself a note because I knew I was going to wake up completely disoriented and not knowing where I was. The note said “Patrick, Don’t Panic. You’re in the UK with Daniel and Parker. All is well.”

Then, everything went black.

A Thousand Mile Journey

begins with a 30 mile jog…

My legs aching like they’d been caught in a trash compacter, I wasn’t able to sleep on the flight across the ocean. Then, when we got to Heathrow, we sat on the tarmac within sight of the gate for 45 minutes. (that’s not an exaggeration)

When I finally got through the gate, I got to passport control, and the line stretched about a hundred yards back towards the gate. I stood behind the last guy in line, who I nosily surmised held a Ugandan passport. Some guy pushed up behind me to close that I had to turn sideways to stay in line. This guy started a 40 minute chess game with me, whereupon every time the line moved forward, he tried to position himself so that he could get by me. Yes, the line was interminably long, and didn’t seem to be moving at all, and yes, I understand that no one wants to wait one second longer than necessary, but he wasn’t going to shorten his wait at my expense. Maybe on any other day, at any other time, I would have just let it pass and let him have his 30 second advantage, but I was just Not In The Mood.

I had to step on the cuff of his baggy trousers to keep him from slipping past me when someone finally called “Next!” When he staggered and nearly spun completely around, I slipped past him to the desk. Asshole.

So, 45 minutes on the tarmac, an hour in line at passport control, I was now two hours late to meet the rest of the band and Kim from Monotreme, and I still hadn’t gone through baggage search. I chose the “Nothing to Declare” line and walked into a room where several people were having their luggage rummaged. I held my head up and walked through like I knew what I was doing, across the room and out the door on the other side. No one said a word to me.

Finally found Kim and then we walked a million miles through Heathrow until we got out the top and met the rest of the band. I won’t bore you with any more details.

We had about an hour van ride with “Keef,” our Man With Van here in the UK, to get to Kim’s house, and we were all exhausted. I had slept about five hours in 48.

We found spots on the floor of Kim’s living room and I opened a notebook and wrote myself a note because I knew I was going to wake up completely disoriented and not knowing where I was. The note said “Patrick, Don’t Panic. You’re in the UK with Daniel and Parker. All is well.”

Then, everything went black.

The Marathon and after

I have just woke up here in London, and we’re about to run out and practice some for tomorrow night’s show:

Here is an excerpt from a letter I just sent to my step father:

I did run the marathon, and fortunately, I did not die. I saw that guy lying by the road and wondered if he didn’t make it. (Wouldn’t you rather go doing something more fun that running a marathon?)
My legs feel like an orangutan with a hammer got after them, though.

I ran the fastest 20 miles of my life. Unfortunately, the race is a full 10 kilometers longer than that. Once I ran across the 14th St Bridge, the mechanics of my stride fell apart, and my achilles tendon started to really ache, so I ran/walked in (mostly walked). eponymous really set the world on fire and ran a faster marathon than I have ever run.

The plane ride was fortunately uneventful. I really like flying British Airways. They took good care of me. (Gordon L, I have your British Airways socks.) Their business and club class are the classiest going. Of course, I was back in Sardine class, so I didn’t get to enjoy the FULL British Airways experience, but I did get my free socks, eyeshades, hairbrush and all the tea I could drink.

Rode next to a very nice lady from Ghana who was very understanding that I had to get up and stretch my legs every now and then. She had three lovely daughters with her, aged five, seven and ten. They lived in the US, and mama felt like it was time that the girls saw Africa, because they had never been there.

Getting into Heathrow was a huge pain in the ass, though. I will get to that. We’re about to run off and go to practice for tomorrow night’s show.

More later.

-patrick

step one: confirm the problem before finding a solution

I knew that when I got to Europe, I was going to need cymbals. Backline companies over there have decided that cymbals are a bad bet, since they’re 1. the part of a drumset most likely to break, and 2. outrageously expensive in the UK. The cymbals I use for Music Hates You are massive, heaaaavy manhole cover-like cymbals. The Low Lows need brighter, lighter, more responsive cymbals that will make a sound when hit by with brushes.

I couldn’t afford to buy a whole other set of cymbals for just one tour, so I set about the process of borrowing cymbals. Funny thing, people weren’t all that keen on loaning me their bronze. Maybe it’s because they’ve seen my cymbal-smashing playing with Music Hates You…. BUT I assure you, The Low Lows are a whole different approach to playing drums.

Still, no offers.

Kim at Monotreme contacted me in the middle of all of this running around and asked if I might looking into buying a set of cymbals for the label while I am still in the States, since, as I mentioned, cymbals are outrageously expensive in the UK. That way, Monotreme will have cymbals for other bands to use when they come over from the US.

I checked Guitar Center’s prices and looked into some other options, but the best, by far, was the deal we could get from this guy:

Nick Amoroso.

Nick supplies backline kits to a lot of drummers in LA, and has a sterling reputation. He also has a private email list he sends out with a bunch of used gear on it which is for sale at very, very good prices. A friend forwarded it to me, I picked out what seemed like the PERFECT set of cymbals for The Low Lows, and then sent all of that info to Kim at Monotreme. She paid Nick and, since time was short, I had him ship everything to my folks’ house in DC.

The box arrived 24 hours later. I love this guy.

My plan was to fashion some sort of duct tape handle and carry the box of cymbals onto the plane, since I am allowed one laptop case and one carryon.

However, when I got in last night and saw the cymbal box that Nick sent, I realized that, with packing materials, it was way, way too big to carry on. I knew that the largest cymbal would be 20″ across, but packing materials and the box added several inches to its width. There was no way I was going to be able to carry it on. I didn’t even open the box to look at the cymbals, I was so tired and concerned… I fell asleep mulling over the issue.

Then, probably because of the cumulative fatigue of yesterday’s five hour flight delay and being exhausted by my general anxiety at flying, I slept deeply and much later than I meant to this morning. I woke up in a panic, realizing that I only had a few hours to go and grab a cymbal bag so I could carry the cymbals on.

I called the nearest music store that I could find in the Yellow Pages, and they said that they had a cymbal bag. We drove over there in the horrible DC traffic which was typically stop and go and crappy. Since we had several things to do today, like pick up our race packets for the marathon tomorrow, the time wasted in traffic was pretty stressful. I mean, the clock was ticking on all the shit that we had to do today…

So, we get to the music store… and… no cymbal bag. It was some a suburban band instrument store and they didn’t know that they didn’t have it until we got there. Typical sort of “Give an answer on the phone, then check to see if the answer was correct later” scenario.

So, they give us terrible TERRIBLE and vague directions to Guitar Center. It takes us an hour to get there in traffic. More stop and go, more crappy. We get there, and I spend precious dollars that I was going to spend in the UK (where EVERYTHING is expensive), and I grab a cymbal bag.

It was nice enough. Kind of cheap, but something that will work. Then we spend an hour hacking our way back across town to my folks’ place, where I open the box full of cymbals for the first time…. and… Nick, saint that he is, has shipped the cymbals with a really nice Zildjian cymbal bag. Honestly, the nicest one I have ever seen.

Is this whole trip going to be like this?

Travel Tip

Hey, kids, if you’re traveling to another country to play music, and you’re gonna get paid for it, you’re gonna need an entry visa and a work permit. The label or tour promoter in that country will probably take care of that stuff for you, because they’re generally cool like that.

However.

YES, however, if you’re going to send them your passport number so that these things can be issued to you, make sure you give them the RIGHT NUMBER. See, if you have an old passport and you have to get a new one, don’t assume that your new passport will have the same number as your old one… BECAUSE IT WON’T.

If you show up at the airline counter with mismatched passport and visa/permit numbers, YOU WILL NOT BE PERMITTED TO BOARD THE PLANE.

So, in short, if you’re going to release a record in Europe, see if the label Monotreme UK will do it for you, because Kim Harrison-Lavoie there is SHARP, and she’ll catch that shit while you’re still sitting at your desk at your day job. She might panic a little, and you might panic too, but once you call the British Government’s Panicked Passport and Visa line (900.990.8472 – $2.49 a minute, so talk fast!), you’ll discover that you just need to bring your old passport with you through customs.

Whew.

Make sure you email Kim at the end of the phone call and tell her that it’s ALL GOOD.

See, a lesser label might have allowed you to leave that old passport right there in your desk drawer where you tossed it when you got your new one. But not Monotreme, no sir. Imagine for a moment what it would have been like to arrive at the check in counter for British Airways, after all of this- preparation, practices, money and time spent, only to be told to go home…. “Your papers are not in order…” OR worse, if the counter person at BA wasn’t super-sharp, flying all the way to Heathrow, de-planing, only to find yourself turned around at customs and told to go home. Thanks to Kim’s sharp eye, I am still on track to leave DC on Sunday night and arrive in London before the morning tea break.

Bonus behaviors-
call your singer/bandleader and leave minute by minute messages on his voice mail, starting with “OH NOOOOOOOEEESSS!!!!11!!1!!” message.) He’s sleeping it off while you’re at work, anyway. Bastard. He needs that little “HOLY SHIT, NO DRUMMER FOR THE UK TOUR” moment first thing in the morning. Then, your consecutive follow messages (which will eventually culminate in a “Never mind, it’s ALL GOOD” message) will gradually bring him back to earth.

(Hi, Parker. Sorry.)

Then, gentle readers, I had to go home and say goodbye to these faces:

It’s like breaking free from the earth’s gravitational pull, tearing myself away from those two sets of brown eyes. Once escape velocity was reached, We were headed for the airport….