November 20th, 1999 - Leaving Champaign
We've been touring for 12 years now, on and off, but little by little, we're starting to build up ties to our home and though before, I could just pick up and leave whenever I wanted to, now we are starting to leave things behind. I always look forward to getting on the plane or into the van on the first day of tour and feeling those imaginary binds strip off me as we'd get farther and farther from our house, but lately, it takes longer for those binds to break - responsibilities that won't go away are waiting at home for me, but so are some wonderful new friends. Things at home are pretty nice, in our little cornfield town.
time I get back, all these people in my kung-fu class are going to be able to kick my butt..
come to think of it, all of them can do it right now...)
Rick hasn't slept in a week, (you can see his
face in between the pillows) and now I have to wake
him up to drive 3 hours to chicago.
We flew from Chicago to Heathrow on Virgin Airlines, which I've never flown before. It is very nicely decorated airline; the colors are all black and red and white and the font is all Eurostyle, boxy-square cool looking letters. We each got a little party bag with a toothbrush,shoe-horn, socks, toothpaste and comb, like we're all having a one-night stand with the airline. Each seat on the plane had its own TV set in front and each had video games, although the video games in the row that Rick and I were sitting in didn't work; they hadn't set the controller to a "Overseas Flight," so we had no video games. I was wondering what else they hadn't set to "Overseas Flight."
Virgin Airlines' video presentation of the "Fasten Your Seatbelt/How to Put On Your Airmask" movie is a 50-style cut-out paper designed cartoon with the main voice read by Ewan McGregor. I wonder if he's unhappy that the new star wars movie didn't make him as famous as Alec Guiness.
Our plan after the 2nd flight, fron London to Manchester, landing in the airport around 10am, was to sleep for 24 hours in our hotel room, instead of trying to stay up all day and then sleep at night. We succeeded - woke up around 6pm to go out on the town and have a great Italian Dinner, and then went back to bed and slept until noon the next day.
Day 1 - Monday, Nov 22, Manchester
I woke up in the middle of the night, around 2am, and was ready for the next day. But it was very easy to fall back asleep. I am so terribly jet-lagged, and was even before we left; I have been working at least 3 jobs and doing more favors for people than I had time to do, totally overextending myself, and trying to get too many things accomplished before I left. Rick hadn't slept for more than a couple of hours the whole week before this; he was trying desperately to get the new Poster Children album done - but at least he succeeded!
Tonight is our first show and it was like playing in hell. It was one of those shows where you have to start laughing in the middle or you'll start crying. After we had everything on stage and plugged in and were ready to start playing, Rick noticed that his entire keyboard module was ZEROED. There were only default sounds in it; we couldn't play and still have the songs sound correct. I wanted to just give up and borrow the other bands' guitars - there was still hope, I was yelling! But Rick spent a good half-hour re-inputting and re-programming his keyboard and by the end of it, the audience who was standing in the dark waiting semi-impatiently for us finally started yelling, "COME ON ALREADY." I was hoping it was obvious enough that there was a terrible problem up on the stage; both Willem, our tour manager and I were standing worriedly nearby Rick, watching him with our arms folded. Did people just think we were waiting for them to start clapping?
Anyway, during the show, the power went out 4 times in our equipment. Rick's keyboard was *close* to being set up correctly, but wasn't set up perfectly, so some songs were a bit screwed up. I don't know how we lasted through the show, but I do know that about 5 years ago I probably would have hung myself after a show like this. Tonight, I just didn't even care.
So tonight we couldn't get into the bus! The bus door broke! The only way in was through a secret entrance and we had to walk ontop of the busdriver's secret little bed in the bottom of the bus. There was a lot of swearing going on, but they finally fixed the door. Firetrap!
Shit. Howie remarked that he thought it was possible that perhaps none of the people in Mina (the band we're touring) with smoked - but then he went onto the bus and saw cartons and cartons stacked in everyone's bunk. When we first met Willem, too, he was in the hotel, and had a hand-rolled cigarette in his hand. I knew it was going to be pretty bad, but I didn't know it was going to be this bad. Tonight we were trapped in this bus whose windows don't open, with cartons of cigarettes creating a poisonous fog all throughout the bus. THE WINDOWS DON'T EVEN OPEN - IT'S LIKE BEING TRAPPED IN A GAS CHAMBER!! I couldn't quite put my finger on it, why I hated tour buses so much. Now I remember.
And you can't quite ask Europeans not to smoke around you - it's like asking Americans not to be stupid. The fact of the matter is, cigarettes don't kill Europeans. In America, there are so few places left inside where you can smoke - but here, every European person has a 6th appendage on his/her arm - a sixth, bright-orange-tipped, smoldering finger, at all times. If there is no cigarette burning, there is a fresh pack in the hand.
My throat is raw and my eyes are bright red from the poison air inside the bus. The only magical thing that happened last night was that I felt the bus stop and I came out to the front and looked out the window and we were in the middle of a field, it looked like it was frosted over. Our huge tour bus had been travelling on a tiny 2-lane road and was now stopped on the side of it! The guys who have windows on the sides of their bunks say they saw sheep outside, all night.
I know Howie is trying to help me through this by joking with me, "have some cigarettes, Rose" this morning on the bus, and it is helping. Rick says he's hungry, and we offer him some cigarettes. One of the Europeans asks, "what's wrong, did you recently quit smoking?" and Rick growls back, "No, we just started."
Too nice to play in here.
We wake up in Edinburgh, drive past the castle and then go to set up our equipment in this nice-looking pub-like place. It's one of those places that is too nice to have a show. Also, it's in the UK, so there is no huge food spread, but the promoter is nice enough to go out and get us some sandwiches. Scotland looks like Hoboken to me today. Howie says, "I've already done this town" - none of us leave the room until showtime.
Tonight there's a guy from Columbia, Missouri, in the audience, who can't quite believe that Poster Children are here in Scotland, with their own tour bus, playing electronic music. He's not the only one.
Rick and I walked around Belfast today which is apparently a HUGE mall. The stores were never-ending, The Gap, and up, flashy, expensive stores. Rick found a bookstore and bought the new Haruki Murakami book. On the way back to the bus, I looked in an open doorway of a construction site and saw a man holding a shovel and a cigarette, standing next to a beautiful old carved wooden staircase, but all around him inside the room the floor was torn up in ruins; he was standing on a pile of rocks next to this staircase.
Mina are soundchecking right now and playing little riffs from their songs, and it's driving me crazy because I am now DYING to hear these songs played again, in full. I have no idea how to describe them. Dance Music, but really intelligent dance music. Definitely music for the new millenium. That's the only way you can describe it if you hear it. They're from Berlin, their record is on Bungalow, which is a label that shares an office space with City Slang, our label. Mina all look like they're in their early 20s - some of them look like they could be in Man Or Astroman...? They are all very nice and quiet, the indie rock norm. I just wish they all didn't smoke so much.
Last night I counted the hours until the ferry, because we were being "forced" out of the bus when we got to the ferry. You're never supposed to stay on the bus when the ferry starts, I guess in case the ferry sinks, you'll die. Some bus drivers allow the people to stay in the bus, especially when you have night crossing like we did (5am) but this bus driver insists that we get out. I am looking forward to a cigarette break anyway, so I am counting the hours until 5am, sitting in the front of the bus with the rest of Salaryman, watching "Down By Law," - can't hear it because they wouldn't turn up the volume, but we could watch the German subtitles, which were really irritating; can't hear the movie and can't understand the subtitles.
The ferry is a huge floating casino, with an American Embassy (McDonald's), a Ben & Jerrys, slot machines, a huge gift store, and NO SMOKING ANYWHERE ON THE FERRY EXCEPT THE OUTSIDE ON THE AFT SIDE!!! WOO!!! 2 hours of oxygen cocktail bliss.
This morning, Mina confiscated our CD-R of our new Poster Children album and took it in the back of the bus to listen to it. They had the door closed, and Howie and Rick and I were sitting in the front of the bus, sort of biting our fingernails, seeing how many songs they'd make it through. Howie kept running back to see if they'd made it to the 3rd song yet. The 3rd song is so radio-friendly that if we were on a major label, there would actually be A Chance Of Something. It's one of those really neat accidents; even if it kinda sounds like reggae.
Mina comes back and hands the new Poster Children CD-R to Howie and says "It sounds like Salaryman."
Another night in the ashtray bus, I wake up in the middle of the night feeling strangled by smoke, unable to breathe. It doesn't bother anyone else but me and I'm even more ashamed of that. Why can't I just be a normal person?
WE had a horrible accident today. Our house nearly burned down. Fire in the garage. My big worry was the cats. I tried to put out the fire myself and burned my hair, eyelashes, brows and ear. I am ok--Have some problems with my breathing from trying to put out out the fire. We'll be ok by the time you get here, but didn't want you to hear it from someone else
THank _____ that I was home at at the time
Ok. Thank God my parents are ok. And the cats, I'm glad they are ok too, because that would have been around US$1000 down the drain; those are those expensive genetically engineered cats. Mom left out a bit of detail that I would have liked to have read also in this email; the part about *MY* little car, which was spending a little vacation during our tour IN THEIR GARAGE.
So I called the minute after I got this email. I got this email in a tiny 2-room apartment in Belfast, Northern Ireland, were 11 of us were lined up to take a shower in the promoter's tiny bathroom. Mom assures me she and my dad are ok, and tells me that her car was parked by chance in an unusual direction in the garage; otherwise the gas tank would have caught on fire. The fire was started by a space-heater that was left on. Apparently the heat in the garage was so hot that there is a bunch of PVC piping in the garage that looks like spaghetti. Our car, they say, is completely fine, except that THE ANTENNA MELTED. ???? This car is PLASTIC! I think they are not telling me the full story. My dad says "Don't worry, we took it into the shop for you, and it will look even better than when you left it, they are fixing it up for you. The only thing you may notice is that the car may smell smoky inside for a while."