¡ola! from the roof of the Gat Xino!

Tonight we are back in Barcelona. Originally we had a show here, but because of time constraints and travel issues for Parker, we handed it off to our friends in Barzin. I think we are going to try and get down to see their show, but we have to go uptown to pick up a load of amps and a Rhodes piano that The Low Lows left here before, so it might not be possible.

Last night in Cartagena was our last show in Spain, the last show of the tour and my last show with the Low Lows. Keef, Daniel and I are going to drive back to London at a human (read: not exhausting) pace, maybe go see the palace at Versailles tomorrow.

Cartagena is the consummate port town. It’s the gateway to much of the southern hemisphere for a good portion of Western Europe, so there are boats and piers and huge monuments to the shipping industry and sailors EVERYWHERE. I would have thought that a port town would have had a little bit wilder nightlife, but Stereo, the club where we played, was full of a handful of sleepily drunk guys in suits. They were real lumps, too. Not my favorite crowd for whom to play a show.

The drive today was through hundreds of miles of citrus orchards. It’s about to be time to pick all of the oranges. There were millions of them, and I got to craving oranges TERRIBLY after five hours of watching them roll by outside the window. There is some sort of labor issue with the citrus pickers here- I could see graffiti spray painted all around the town of Valencia, both pro-worker and anti-immigrant.

Tonight, we went out to eat at our Regular Spot here in Barcelona- a really nice Turkish Kebab shop. I have trouble believing that I have a “Regular Spot” in Barcelona. How insane is that? Daniel and I even have a favorite table.

I also have a bus that is “my bus” home from Soho in London. This has been the most remarkable experience.

I am on the roof of the Chinese Cat Hotel (Gat Xino in Catalan) enjoying someone else’s wireless network and looking at the mountains in the distance. I am in the middle of a forest of tv antennas, which are silhouetted against a purple sky. I can hear the odd “bah-dee-dah” of the Barcelona Ambulance Service sirens every now and then on far off streets, but other than that, it’s silent up here. It’s Sunday night, so the city is mostly asleep.

This is a nice last night in Spain. I love this country, and I have really enjoyed this tour, but I miss my friends and I miss my home. I most especially miss my wife and my dogs.

I still have a few days of travel left to get back to London. I will probably see some more amazing sights, even, but the work of this tour is over, and honestly, it’s the work that I love.

I will spend a few days in London, hopefully seeing Stonehenge and some of Vicky’s dad’s amazing old cars, but I can’t wait to get back to my lovely wife, my house, my dogs, Music Hates You and my job.

I am hoping to get Music Hates You over here some time in 2007. I think that they’ll enjoy getting their minds blown by Europe. I hope I can get a nice big chunk of leave time saved at work, so we can just do it and not have to worry about finagling my off time.

Right now, I just want to go to bed, get up and start driving back towards Blighty and Kim from Monotreme’s cozy little house, where I can pass a couple of days before I jet home to our little farmhouse and get to sleep in the same bed as my beautiful wife.

You’ve been a lovely audience. Thank you very much.

::Update:: It’s three am in Barcelona, and this is how I know- there are clock towers in every direction, and they are all striking at once. Amazing. Wish you were here.

Let’s live here

This morning I woke up to the sound of children playing in the courtyard outside the window of the monastery. The building looked completely different in daylight. It must be 400 years old. The whole town up at the end where we slept is very old, and the buildings are made of white stone or concrete. It’s so gorgeous.

I took a quick shower and made my way downstairs. The street was lined with ten foot orange trees, all of which were thick with ripe oranges. I would have picked a couple, except that stretched for half a mile in front of me was the Benissa Saturday Market- there were stalls full of Valencia oranges, local grapefruits and clementinas. It would have been rude to just reach up and pick someone else’s fruit. Also in the market were stalls full of clothes, cheeses, sweets, bags of coffee, loaves of bread, even some hardware and cooking utensils. It was amazing.

We sat down to have breakfast at a café right on the town square. We were joined by some of the nice people from the night before, one of whom was the guy who showed me to the Monastery last night. We talked as much as we could make ourselves understood about the International Brigades and the Hospital. They call them “las Brigadistas,” and they feel a tremendous kinship with the Americans who came to fight for Spain’s freedom and against fascism. It’s such an amazing experience to talk about something about which I feel so strongly with someone whose grandfather lived it. As we were waiting for coffee, the bells in the town square began to ring to announce midday. They were gorgeous and tremendously loud. As they were ringing in the noon hour, my new friend leaned in to me and practically had to shout “It’s like the bell de Philadelphia.”

I didn’t know what he meant at first. Then I realized- “You mean the Liberty Bell!”

And he nodded vigorously “Yes! Libertad! America! Like the Liberty Bell… and the Brigadistas!”

Oh, it’s nothing… I must have just gotten something in my eye…

Minutes later there was a tremendous BANG in the town square and all of the Americans jumped a foot. La Banda de Pere Bigot (which is actually a first and last name… there’s more about them here) was cranking up to walk through the streets and play music in celebration of the Feast of St Cecilia (I think). Marching bands in Spain announce their approach by throwing around these fireworks that are louder than a shotgun going off. Once everyone is thoroughly startled, they march around playing. It was kind of cool, except that there were three sleepy and slightly sick Americans and one Englishman who kept jumping a foot and a half every time one of those bastards set off another M80.

After our little breakfast, we went walking in the oldest part of the city and saw the old city wall. I love the look of Benissa. Looking up from the narrow brick streets, there are hundreds of tall, white buildings framing a deep blue sky. Parker took lots of pictures. I will post them as soon as I can.

Benissa is the bomb

Oh, my…. all hail Benissa. This is my favorite town so far on the tour, and talk about a fountain of information on the Spanish Civil War. We staying in an old converted monastery which was also the official hospital of the International Brigades in Spain. Seriously. The whole town is very proud of it. You can imagine how excited I am about this.

This town is 500 years old. The people here are extremely proud of their history, in particular La Guerra Civil. This place is so amazing. I can’t wait to bring Lisa back here.

The Low Lows played at the local Cultural Arts Center. This building houses a bar and tapas restaurant, a theater that shows both Spanish and Catalan productions, and another half dozen or so rooms for hosting parties or live shows like the one we played tonight.

The promoters were a group called Cream Pop, and neither of them spoke much English at all. In fact, there was only one person fluent in English all night. The other band was called The Grave Yacht Club and they totally LOOKED like a bunch of southern boys and they played like the Flying Burrito Brothers. It was disconcerting when they started talking to us in broken English and heavily Catalan accented Spanish. (They were all maniacs, by the way. They drank like Spaniards and smoked like Turks- they were a rolling party.) We had such fun tonight.

Tonight all of the Low Lows are hanging out listening to George Jones and talking about our girlfriends and wives. I think we’re ready to go home….

I have to admit, it’s getting better…

A little sleep can make a huge difference. We stayed at the Madrid Pop Hostel, which was a standard Hostel- four bunk beds and a rudimentary shower. After the Hotel Formula One, it seemed like paradise. Of course, we got there at 3 am and they had given our room to someone else, so they went and kicked them out. The internet wasn’t working and the room was cold, but it was better than Hotel Formula One, and it was out of the weather. I got some sleep, and dawn broke bright and dry in Madrid.

I was able to get on the internet for a minute this morning before someone noticed that we were stupidly late, so we hustled out the door to the van. We were able to stop and eat a sandwich and I got directions from the waiter on how to work the strange protocol of Madrid banks- I had to check all of my metal objects into a small locker once I was inside the first bank door. When I closed the locker, I walked away with a small key. I then stood in front of a bullet proof revolving door and pressed a button. After an annoyingly long interval, the door opened and let me into the limbo lock before another bulletproof door opened. I was then able to enter the bank, It took me about fifteen minutes to change the band’s stash of pounds into euros.

Daniel is sicker than Parker got, and Parker got pretty sick. He was too miserable to eat breakfast, and has been asleep in the van ever since. Keef’s van is making good time today- much better than yesterday. It’s a shame that we had the worst day of the tour in the prettiest city on the tour so far. Touring life is like that, though. No matter how gorgeous a city is, how important the show is or how excited you SHOULD be to be in a city, when you’re tired, hungry, your clothes stink and you’re sick and exhausted, who cares? There are essential elements of human happiness that make it very difficult to enjoy much of anything in their absence.

I’ll come back to Madrid and it will be better. It really is a gorgeous city and the people were incredibly friendly. Ask any Spaniard about the Spanish Civil War and a fountain of new information springs forth. The promoter of last night’s show walked me out to the boulevard and pointed in the directions of the various neighborhoods that were destroyed by German and Italian bombs when Madrid was holding off the fascist assault. Franco had predicted that Madrid would fall in three months. The Madrillenos held out for three years. “¡No Pasarån!”

Fantastic.

Today is bright, clear and cool and Keef is making some time on the way to Alicante. Our discussion of the fascist bombing of Madrid turned to the same fascists bombing London three years later. We considered how London endured a year or more of steady bombing and refused to capitulate to the Nazis. Contrast to the hysteria into which America collapsed after 9/11. Discuss….

I hope that I didn’t give anyone the impression yesterday that the tour was going miserably. It just sucked yesterday, but we prevailed. We were in good enough spirits as we were leaving Madrid to appreciate how lucky we are to be here. One bad show does not a bad tour make.

Spain is gorgeous. Parker is right about the plains and piedmont of Spain looking like West Texas and the Fronterra Region of Mexico. There are vistas where we can see for miles. It’s mostly flat, with some gentle rolling hills. I think I understand why it was so hard for the Fascists to take Madrid. Flat, scrubby and open country is hard country to march an army across, especially when there were a few freelance American pilots hanging out just to give the fascists some hell.

There are loads of olive orchards by the road here. I can’t believe this rocky soil would support much of anything, but there they are. Olive farmers prune the branches of the trees back and the trunks get massively thick. The really old trees sort of remind me of fat men with lunatic combovers. The younger trees are really gorgeous and sturdy looking. They remind me that I need to get home and prune my grape vines and peach trees.

All of this open space inspired me to put on some Marty Robbins. I am listening to “El Paso.” My dad really loves this song. He loves any song that tells a sad story. Must be genetic…

The Low Lows are two loads of laundry, a hot meal, some open wi-fi and eight hours of sleep away from pure bliss.

Into every life… a little rain must fall

You may recall from my last entry a brief description of the Worst Hotel in the World™. I have some shocking news.

It’s a chain. And guess where we stayed when we stopped in Bilbao last night.

Yep. You betcha. It’s called the Hotel Formula One. I have no idea why, but I can speculate…

Formula One cars are stripped down to the bare essentials, mostly plastic, cramped, uncomfortable and only dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing, however, not somewhere you’d want to spend more time than it takes to drive the Indy 500. Certainly not somewhere you’d want to lie down and sleep.

Ditto the hotel.

Same lavatory setup- separate closets down the hall from the room, but this one had an extra-special treat: No paper in any of the dumpers on the second floor. I’d rather not go into detail about how I discovered this. Really. I never want to think about it again.

Each room comes with one towel the perfect size for drying dishes, the same highway-ramp bed setup, and just enough room to open a suitcase and turn around.

Parker has taken ill and has a cough like someone banging two large PVC pipes together. Daniel is getting the same cold. The last two days have been spent entirely in the van and driving, except for the brief break to run around Paris and get filmed. This tour has been perfect so far- it’s been all fun, the right amount of time on and time off, but since we left the UK we have been driven like mules- we are all getting sick and very tired. I have been battling irritability and fatigue and trying to be a gentleman, but tonight when we got lost in Madrid I snapped at everyone. BUT we were SO LOST. God, it was agonizing. We drove around in circles for an hour and half in a town where the street signs are legible from four feet away, and the accent is almost impossible for me to understand. I finally worked out that we were supposed to turn left, not right where the directions told me to turn right… I mean, I understand- I get left and right mixed up in Spanish all the time, which is what I think happened to the guy who gave me the directions.

It poured rain on us all day after last night’s less-than-restful sleep in Hotel Formula Pain and we drove for seven hours in it. At one point coming down the moutnain from Burbos, Keith thought we were going to die. There were huge trucks everywhere, the rain was dumping on us and the wind was rocking the van from side to side. After that, we were stuck on the perimeter road around Madrid for an hour and a half, then we got into town and started driving around in circles, everyone sick, everyone tired, me being pissy because I was trying to read the map and the directions and oh, shit…. this was not the best day.

Then, we got to the club and Parker’s guitar amp caught on fire. No, really. Big could of smoke, fire, burning… We managed to put it out and fix the problem. Then the other amp burned a fuse and we had to search out a replacement fuse…. it’s been a shit day.

And, oh, yeah, five people showed up for the show.

*sigh*

Every tour has bad moments. We just happened to have all of ours in one day.

I am sitting in the dressing room, and this really nice guy named Alberto is here and he is telling Daniel how great our show was. It was good to finally play. That’s the ironclad law of touring, by the way- the quality of the band’s show is inversely proportionate to the number people in the club. (This ratio is compounded exponentially the further the band is from home.)

Now I just want to go the hotel here in Madrid (please god, let it be nice….) and get some sleep.

Just do what the man with the camera says

Crossing from Dover to Calais was cool. Ferry travel is the way to go. We pulled into the belly of the boat, parked, and then went above to a higher deck and lounged around this very upmarket looking salon-ish area. It was kind of like hanging out in an airport departure gate.

The trip across the English Channel at Dover to Calais is only about 20 miles, so the voyage is about and hour and ten minutes. I spent the lion’s share of that out on deck watching the black ocean surge by. There was a stiff breeze, so the seas were medium rough. There was definitely some rocking motion to the deck. Halfway across we were suddenly being tailed by a cloud of 10000 seagulls. They were dipping and diving in the lee of the ship and looked like a handful of white confetti tossed against the black sky. I mostly loathe seagulls, but this was quite a sight.

Once in Calais, we checked into the most unpleasant hotel I have ever seen. I suppose I should be grateful to be sleeping out of the weather, yes, and I didn’t have to come out of pocket for this place, so I shouldn’t complain… but you had to SEE this place. The rooms contained a double bed and then a sort of flyover bed, like a bunk bed but perpendicular to the double bed. It reminded me of a bridge over the interstate. The room itself had one hard and dilapidated chair with more screws missing than it still possessed, a tiny desk and a television that was screwed to the wall. Bathrooms were common areas down the hall- toilet in one closet, shower in the other. Everything was made of colored plastic or concrete and I could stand in the middle of the room and nearly touch both walls. I think that these places exist as halfway points for immigrants workers coming into or going out of France. I can’t imagine anyone staying there for anything other than the most rudimentary need to sleep SOMEWHERE as cheaply as possible. That said, we slept like logs because we were tired from all of the driving.

However, we did go out and have a meal before settling into our hard little beds. I had my first meal in France, Boeuf Bourgenione, served with fries, and it was SPECTACULAR. There is a large shopping center in Calais, I am sure that it exists to cater to folks crossing over from the UK to buy tobacco, whiskey and other goods that are heavily taxed in the UK. Just next to that was a surprisingly cozy little restaurant where we had a truly excellent French meal while watching the French sports channel and arguing about whether Muse or Kean are a worse band.

The next morning we rose as early as we could stand, and I staggered down to the shower closet, where I reluctantly took the hottest shower imaginable. There were two temperatures in this shower- scalding and off. I was very pink for the first few hours of the day.

Since this is my first trip to France, I spent all morning staring out the windows of the van and soaking it all in. Just outside of Calais, there are huge community gardens- I am guessing that if one has an apartment in a high rise and no place to grow a garden, then the family can rent one of these plots- there are small shacks that I would guess are full of tools, seeds, fertilizer and other necessities. There are also large tanks outside that may contain agricultural chemicals or just water for irrigation. Even this late in the year, the gardens were still going strong, full of cabbages and what looked like kale and other fall crops. I have never seen anything like that in an American city.

Just past Calais going into France, there is some open countryside. This is, if I understand correctly, considered by the French to be “redneck France,” so I was interested to see if I felt at home. An hour into our drive, a pale yellow old Citroen was parked at the end of a road near the highway. Walking out of the woods was a fine looking dog and three men who were all (safely) carrying shotguns and dressed in boots and wool hunting clothes. I assume rabbit season is open in Northern France, then. I suspect that the locals can think of some tasty things to do with a freshly killed rabbit or pheasant.

We stopped for coffee at a truck stop about an hour later and while I was standing there the fucking TGV (“Train de Grande Vitesse” or, directly translated, “The Train of Big Speed”) came rocketing past. The TGV must travel at over 120 mph. The sound it makes is earthshaking. What a way to travel!

The road to Paris from Calais parallels the TGV track for much of the way, and at least three times while we were doing 70 or 80 mph the TGV blasted past us like we were standing still. I need to take that train one day. It’s a beast.

Presently we arrived in Paris and promptly got stuck in traffic. I could see several things from the highway that are made famous by French hip hop. I saw Les Cités, the housing projects north of the Arrondissment. I do not know if I saw the famous “93” (or “le neuf-trois”), home to many many many French hip hop artists. I also saw a dozen signs for “St. Denis,” the neighborhood immortalized in the NTM song of the same title.

Once we got off of the freeway, traffic stopped completely. That’s when I started using Mac Stumbler to troll for open wireless connections and was able to post yesterday. We had a five o’clock deadline to meet Vincent Moon, the increasingly famous (or notorious) video director who likes to put bands in strange and incongruous settings and film them playing acoustically or with minimal instrumentation. We found ourselves a few blocks from the club and not moving at all. Keith parked the van and we grabbed a couple of acoustic guitars, a snare drum, some brushes and a tambourine and started walking. (When I say “not moving,” I mean, seriously, stopped completely.) We eventually found the club, met Vincent and went looking for a place to set up. Vincent knows Paris like the back of his hand, and he’s a bit of an idiosyncratic (and very French) artist. We walked up and down alleys while he looked for the perfect location and explained to me how he likes to work. Parker and Daniel followed playing their guitars and singing. We were very much like wandering troubadours or something. Barzin, fellow Monotreme artist, was playing the part of Boby and running boom sound. (Thanks, B.) I would have found this behavior a little obnoxious in Athens, but this was Paris, and Paris is its own thing.

Vincent: I like to walk with the band until I find the perfect spot, then I like for them to start playing the instruments and I film the people’s reactions as they play. In cafés or in the library or something….

Me: That’s interesting. Do you ask permission, usually?

Vincent: What? Why? If I don’t have to? Of course not!

Me: Oh, yes, of course not. Silly me…

Vincent pauses and very thoughtfully considers a shop specializing in mildly erotic postcards from the 1920s and 30s….

Me: That’s a very nice camera… Was it expensive?

Vincent: I don’t know. I borrowed it. I don’t own my own camera.

Me: Oh, of course not….

Vincent is really one-of-a-kind and perfectly French in his approach to his art, I think. We turned a corner in this alley and there before us was the most completely Old French café you could possibly imagine. It was packed with older Parisians who were smoking and drinking and having after-work conversations. Vincent walked in and asked the staff if we could shoot a band from the United States playing a song. Everyone shrugged. Why not? It’s Paris.

Daniel and I set up at the table furthest to the rear- I put the snare drum on an old wooden ladderback chair and put the tambourine on the table top. Daniel stood with his guitar strapped on and Parker had this odd look on his face. I don’t think he was thrilled at the possibility of singing at the top of his lungs in a room full of complete strangers who just seconds before were having their evening repast and cocktails. Everyone but me ordered drinks and somehow a Scotch appeared in front of me. This was fortunate, because I don’t drink and Parker was clearly going to need more than one.

Vincent led Parker out, whilst shouting to Daniel and me “I am going to be following him with the camera and you will start playing when he gets to you. OK, it will be great. YES!”

Parker followed him out on shaky knees and five minutes later, he was back, playing guitar and singing the first verse of “Black Bees” at the top of his lungs. Vincent and Barzin were right behind…

Parker paused for a millisecond at the end of the verse to have a large swallow from one of the glasses on the table, and then we launched into the chorus together. The Parisians in the café watched with a mildly bemused disinterest. It was actually kind of magical, with Vincent swooping around with his camera, all of these worldly and cosmopolitan people watching and Parker singing with a flush in his cheeks and a gleam in his eye- half from the scotch and half from the audacity of what we were doing.

We finished the song, and Vincent wheeled around and marched out the door with the camera rolling. The Parisian Café-goers played their parts perfectly: They went right to being completely uninterested.

Next, Vincent suggested we walk into this very upscale restaurant and start playing. He said to us as we were walking there “This place, the building and the rooms, they are very beautiful, but the people… they are just terrible. They are very mean… So mean… We are not going to ask permission. We are just going to attack.”

“Um…” we said.

“It weel be grreat….” he said.

“Er….” we said.

We walked through the archway to the courtyard and there were large men in ill-fitting tuxedoes who were clearly hired to stand around and prevent EXACTLY the sort of thing we were thinking of doing.

Parker said “Vincent, you see that guy? I can tell he’s going to be the one to break my neck. Look at him.”

“No No, Parker, it will be perfect!”

Parker put his foot down, and we demurred. Interestingly, right across the street, there was another 200 year old arch, this one lit from below by lights recessed into the street. I took the snare drum out of the case, and placed it over one of the lights. The translucent white drumhead diffused the light into this really warm amber glow. Vincent got very excited, we all placed ourselves at good spots under the arches, and we played “Five Ways I Didn’t Die” while more indifferent Parisians walked by. I think that it looked really good.

Next, Vincent led us up the street and said “I ‘ave an idea. You are going to start playing “Dear Flies, Love Spider” and you are going to get on a bus. We will ride for a few stops while you play the song, then we will get off.”

“How much does the bus cost?” I said, digging for Euros in my pocket.

“We will not pay. We will ee-jock the bus.”

“‘EEE-Jock?’ You mean….. HIJACK the bus??”

“Yes. Perfect. It will be here any moment…”

I turned to Daniel and said “OK, what’s the worst that could happen? A couple of hours in jail in Paris? We’ll be fine.”

This didn’t seem to reassure him or Parker.

Parker began to creep away, as if perhaps if he wandered far enough away, he might miss the bus and that might keep him from having to do this. My sense of adventure was really cranked up, though. I called him over. I wasn’t letting him wander off.

We stood there, and I could see Parker’s pulse pounding in his neck. It’s a vulnerable job, singing in a band. Doubly so, doing it with an acoustic guitar, especially when you’re used to playing electric with a big fuck-off amplifier, TRIPLY so when you’re randomly wandering into people’s lives on the streets of Paris, never mind that we’re about to illegally board a bus, completely ignore the driver, place ourselves amidst the other passengers, and then… sing them a little song.

The bus came, we started playing. Vincent was filming. Barzin was recording… The doors opened, we all walked on- I was holding the snare drum and tambourine with one hand and playing them with a brush held in the other. Parker and Daniel were of course playing their acoustics, Vincent was filming, and none of us even looked at the driver as we boarded. I looked over my shoulder, smiled and shrugged at him as we walked down the center aisle and positioned ourselves in the center of the bus. He shrugged and started driving away. Our first hurdle was cleared.

The other passengers were kind of stunned, but they seemed to enjoy the music. We stopped at the first bus stop just in time for the first quiet passage of the song, then into the first chorus as we pulled away. No one had said a thing to us and everyone seemed quite content for us to bang away.

Vincent’s expression was positively lupine with joy when suddenly, he said “OH NO! The BATTERY!! The CAMERA BATTERY!! IT HAS DIED!!”

We stopped playing. Disaster. Vincent’s whole body sagged. It had been going so well. He was heartbroken. We were heartbroken. All that anxiety for nothing. The bus stopped, the doors opened and we got off. We walked back to the club in near-silence.

Once we were back at the club, Vincent went rummaging around in the borrowed camera bag and announced “Oh, look. I have another battery! Let’s film that song, I love that song… let’s just do it here. We can do it here in the club.”

“Oh, no…. ” said Parker. “Let’s go catch a fucking bus…. I ain’t going back to Georgia, telling people this story and then when they say ‘OK, let’s see the footage,’ telling them ‘Oh, the camera died. This dressing room could be anywhere. We could be in Pittsburgh. Fuck that. BRING ME A BUS.'”

Vincent was ambivalent. “I don’t know. Will it work twice? I don’t know…”

Parker wasn’t having it. He’d been through too much to stop now. He marched us back to the bus stop and nearly threw us on a bus.

This time, we got all the way through the song. There were two old French ladies who decided that they were going to sing some traditional French song because they didn’t like what we were doing. Parker noticed this and… SANG LOUDER.

Vincent was zooming around with his camera. I was rapping on my drum and tambourine- Parker and Daniel were nailing the harmonies, and then… the song was over… We all stood there gawking at one another. Vincent seemed even more astonished than we did. The bus doors opened and we tumbled into the street. There was much joy and celebration.

Vincent shouted “I CAN’T BELIEVE IT WORKED!”

Uh, we thought YOU had it under control, dude.

Um…

Holy shit, I am in France.

I am stuck in traffic and posting from stolen wi-fi, though.

Two rules for driving in Paris:
1. If there is a space in front of you, move into it. Immediately and without looking side to side.

2. If there is no space in front of you, honk.

Here ends the lesson.

driving through the english countryside on the way to Dover

I am using the laptop to write from the back seat of Keef’s van. We are speeding towards the White Cliffs of Dover to catch the ferry to Calais. Astonishingly, we are early. The Low Lows are truly unlike any band I have every traveled with.

There is another band on Monotreme called Barzin. I don’t know much about them, but they are playing in Paris tomorrow night. We are meeting them in Paris, since we are going to be there for the video shoot and interview with Vincent Moon. They have asked to use my kit and snare. The kit I am okay with, since it’s Monotreme’s, and it would be just idiotic for me to say no. However, the snare is mine, and it’s from my old Slingerland kit. That kit is 50+ years old, and the snare is irreplaceable. I have been in this dilemma before- people ask to borrow equipment that is not only too expensive to ever be replaced, it’s impossible to replace. There just aren’t that many of these drums out there, and most of them are NOT for sale. I hope that the drummer from Barzin understands when he gets the word that I will share my kit and cymbals, but the kit stays locked in the van unless I am playing it. It’s not that I think he’s going to hit it so hard that it breaks, it’s that if it gets stolen from the stage or knocked over or if spills something on it, I want it to be my fault. That way I can just feel badly about it, but not hate someone I barely know for the rest of my life. I hope that when Kim calls back and says “Patrick says No” that she communicates to him that I am just worried that something untoward might happen and that I just don’t want to risk it. Maybe I am being stupid…. this sort of thing can expand into a bad reputation for a musician…

Tonight we will be crossing the English Channel by ferry into France. I have never used my French for anything more substantial than helping a drunk frenchman catch a bus or translating French hip hop lyrics. This should be fun. SHOULD be fun…

I honestly don’t have any expectation of France, so I have no idea what to expect. I can’t really go on what people have told me, because it’s all contradictory. “The French are rude, especially if you speak bad French to them” vs. “Just try to speak French and watch them open up, they’re so accommodating if you’re making an effort.” ???

Traveling to France has been a lifelong ambition for me, so I am trying not to set myself up for some sort of disappointment.

Driving through the English countryside today was gorgeous. The network of hedgerows and the square patches of green in between are only familiar to me as seen from the air. I have watched dozens of films, both documentary and dramatized, of American B-17s and B-29s going to and from Germany and when bomber crews bail out, that’s why is waiting through the door, 10,000 feet down. I did some research on the Battle of Britain this week as we prepared to cross the Channel. Thank god for the RAF, huh? “Never have so many owed so much to so few,” indeed. What if Britain had negotiated a peace-at-gunpoint with the Nazis? Where would the US have staged from in Europe? The effective end of the Battle of Britain came when the Nazis were forced to move their bombers to the Russian Front in May of 1941. Nazi warplanes had unsuccessfully tried to bomb the English into a negotiated surrender. The Blitz of London was an attempt to break the British will to resist the Nazi war machine. (Good luck with that, by the way. You’re never going to overwhelm a people who can (happily!) live on suet pudding and mushy peas. These are people not afraid to suffer. They do it every day at lunch.) The newly elected PM, Winston Churchill, as most of you know, wasn’t having any of that.

It’s easy to look at these things in hindsight and say “Well, y’know, that’s nice” while not really giving any profound thought to what MIGHT have happened.

At the time, there was a possibility that the Nazis were just going to keep bombing Britain until it all looked like Krakow did in 1944. Most of the large cities in Poland were uninhabitable and nearly razed by the end of the war. All of their inhabitants had either fled to the countryside or were living by hiding in ruined buildings and foraging for scraps of food amongst the ruins. For Churchill to say of the struggle to preserve Britain that future generations would look back upon the fight and say “This will be their finest hour” was remarkably courageous. Imagine how history would view the old Tory bastard if England had fallen…

just a thought.

Well, battery is getting low and we’re about to drive onto the ferry. More when Io get to an internet connection.

OK, that’s not funny

I am snatching a VERY expensive moment of WiFi at the truckstop in Devon as we drive towards the ferry in Dover.

Our show last night wasn’t so great. There were a lot of kids there, and the other bands (three of them) were generic MySpace punk, two of which shared the same terrible drummer. When we got up to play, the kids gave us the “Eh, wot?” look, and began to drift towards the door. I think that when they heard “American band” they thought My Chemical Romance. They weren’t expecting a cross between My Bloody Valentine and My Morning Jacket.

We went to the hotel and Parker made me laugh hard and long about something I have been worried about for about ten years. Details=unimportant. We were up half the night laughing until our faces hurt.

If you have been reading, you know that my brother sent me this lovely postcard with a song that I now love, even if it is by Coldplay. I just heard a snatch of it over the PA here in the truck stop, immediately followed by a snatch of “Losing my Religion” by my neighbors.

Yes, even hot shit rock and roll drummer on world tours get homesick. Nice one, $deity. *sigh*

hope everyone is well. Can’t wait to see you, folks.

You might enjoy this

This guy was brilliant.

Ivor Cutler’s work is definitely something unexpected. This was a gift to the Low Lows from Keef the Driver.

I can’t explain it to you. I highly suggest you have a listen for yourself.

Here’s Ivor Cutler’s Poem “No, I won’t”:

I’ll leave you with this thought.
No, I won’t. It would not be fair.