Day 8 - Monday, Nov 29, Nijmegen, Holland
Let's see if you can convince me that Holland isn't Paradise. We got to Nijmegen, moved our gear into club Extrapool which is a collective of graphic artists (who do FANTASTIC work) and computer programmers who have shows in their office space - and rent it out to bands who need a place to sleep - 'here, you can sleep here in the room next to this roomful of Macintosh computers that are all connected to the internet. Use the iMac if you want to go online' - (I *did*).' Then we walked through town, movie theaters everywhere, stores, great food, light and happy Holland. People everywhere are so polite, helpful and kind and everyone even speaks English. Even the guy where we got our lunch, ("Mexicaans kip" -- which turned out to be meatballs with peanut- butter sauce on them) gently pointed out that we'd probably want Pico De Gallo sauce on our German shredded-cabbage salad because "it may be a bit dry without it." And pointed it out so sweetly that both of us agreed with him. It was a wonderful lunch.
We haven't even eaten at the Embassy (McDonald's) for DAYS! I just went in there once the other day, but it was only to use the toilet - and that turned out to be a really bad idea, anyway.
Rick and I went into town and found an information booth and noticed a beautiful-looking new museum was built in the middle of town. We hiked up there and found it closed; Monday. So we sat outside and stared at it for a couple of hours. Workers walked by us and waved kindly, and then went back to pouring concrete and listening to techno music.
Tonight it was a stretch to find a restaurant though - I got a little bit scared. At one point I announced rather loudly, "I REFUSE TO EAT DINNER IN A RESTAURANT THAT I CAN BUY MARIJUANA IN." Guess I'm getting old. But we found what had to be the equivalent of a The Spaghetti Factory here and had some nice noodlen.
Then I went back to Extrapool and sat typing in their computer room until I saw one of our hosts nudging his neighbor, secretly motioning at me and whispering something I couldn't understand - then I realized I'd been typing away for probably about 4 hours... maybe I outstayed my welcome. So I picked up and went back into my room to use *my* computer.
Gotta learn Dutch.
Nijmegen, Holland, is a nice place to visit, but you would probably want to live there.
Tuesday, Nov 30, Drive to Southern (Redneck) Germany!
When I ask Willem, our tour manager, how to say things, he sometimes tells me in Dutch. I don't blame him - he's Dutch. Why should I learn German when there's Dutch? But from what I've read in Champaign's resident writer-genius's work Richard Powers, Dutch is impossible to speak. So I really don't know how I'm going to learn Dutch now, while I'm trying to learn French and German. This is very, very frustrating.
Howie says we're in the Inner Station now, but then he recinds that. He still is feeling comfortable so far, I guess. From the beginning of this tour he's been working with a Heart of Darkness metaphor; "Rose! We're entering the Outer Station now!" and, upon embarking on the ferry to the Continent, "Rose! Rose! Inner Station!" (Me, half-asleep: "whaaa?" -- Howie: "INNER STATION!" Me: "oh. oh yeah.").
But I say The Tour Starts Now, and Willem asks why, and I say "because no tour bus now." We ditched the tour bus in Nijmegen, because from now on, we'll have motel rooms each show. Almost everyone who has voiced an opinion is happy to be off of the UK and onto the Continent. I think we're going to be famouser here, too - the German interviewers all said they like the new album more than they liked the older one. The English all preferred the previous album, I believe.
We spent most of the day cutting the flak from the new Poster Children album, passing Howie's CD player back and forth amoungst us in the van and fighting over a new song order - trimmed a couple of unnecessary songs and it's now as lean and strong as a movie superhero. We're all excited about it - Rick called Spinart tonight with the new leaner song order and for our troubles we received a prize - a release date - February 23rd, 2000 is the release date of the new Poster Children album, "DDD." With no enhancement. Cute, huh? Didn't have time.
Weird. I'm watching CNN here in a hotel room in Ludwigshafen, Germany (the South) that cannot be adequately described or photographed - it's sort of a disco 70's room, white and blue plastic, brown and white tulip chair, all space-age and gorgeous. It's a really old hotel - it just hasn't been redecorated, and the owners couldn't possibly know how much this stuff is worth, or the hotel would be featured in every fashion magazine from here to New York.
Anyway, after skipping over Quincy, the X-Files, and The Anorexic Woman-Lawyer show, all incomprehensible to me because they are dubbed in German, I'm watching CNN, a TV show in which there is apparently some sort of riot going on, in Seattle, of all places. They keep replaying the same tape over and over again. Police are using tear-gas and there is a curfew coming up in a half-hour. People are protesting a trade agreement, but there is no information on the trade agreement. There is only information about the fact that people are afraid to go into the streets, and are the police really using tear gas? No, the police are only using non-lethal weapons. It's been almost a year since I've watched TV, and I notice how little information is presented on it now.
I spent a lot of time in the van today thinking about my "Rock" Family. About how Willem knows Luke, who was tour manager for our first Euro tour, and how ML, our first manager, was on that tour with us, ML who we love like a family member. We're connected in this way to Willem, like distant relatives. I thought about how we were informed that our crazy 'distant cousins' Pavement broke up yesterday (Editor's note: This turned out not to be true, according to the internet.) - and got email from our other 'family members', Mercy Rule, who are expecting another genius child. About our parents, SpinArt our label, Ellen our booking agent who has helped us from the start, and all the other bands who have broken up in the past couple of years. We (Poster Children, I mean) are one of the only bands left from the late 1980s, and Rick proudly pointed out to everyone tonight the "Copyright 2000" on the new PC album artwork - "We made it," he exclaimed. We're going to SXSW (South By Southwest is a convention in Austin TX in March) to play a show next year, and then we're going on tour, and we're excited and proud of it. There's no question anymore about how long we'll last. To me this doesn't feel like a project - it feels like a family. Families don't break up. I wonder what other bands feel this way - what bands are still left? Sonic Youth, Fugazi. Do they feel this way too? We are stuck-up, like the astronauts in "The Right Stuff" - when another band breaks up, we just say they didn't have what it takes in order to stick around.
And I had another epiphany, a perfect moment on this tour already today, listening to one of my favorite new Poster Children songs, "Elf." (So named because it's in eleven, and "elf" is German for eleven.) We passed by a sign that just said "Koln" - covered with graffitti - we're passing through Koln, Germany. Nobody on this continent will ever hear this song, only me, even though it's got a German name, and even though they're hearing other songs by us, same people, different band name. It's beautiful and schizophrenic to me right now, and for the first time it all makes sense in a very lovely way.
Wednesday, Dec 1
We have a ton of t-shirts and CDs to take into Switzerland with us. We have been parked at the border of Germany and Switzerland for over an hour now - Willem has been inside this huge building and hasn't been heard from for a while.
I am pretending to be starving in the van. Rick is reading from his Haruki Murakami book, terribly depressing Japanese writer. We are all laughing and telling jokes about how we're all going to be thrown in jail, how Willem is strapped to a chair in the building being beaten right now; laughing hard enough that I realize that some of the people in the building are staring at us, and a guard sometimes peeks suspiciously into the van. It is kind of scary here. They could just shoot us, couldn't they?
Turns out Willem has been in "red tape land" -
had to get some signed papers
about the t-shirts. No official person even counted them. Supposedly we pay this deposit and then
it gets returned to us when we leave Switzerland because we haven't sold all our t-shirts.
On the drive to Switzerland, the sky turned golden, just like in Idaho. It was like a whole gold mist settled upon the lands. I can't imagine what makes the air that color. Also, we passed 2 Wal-Marts. I AM NOT KIDDING! WAL-MARTS ARE IN GERMANY! IT'S THE END-TIMES!
Great show in beautiful French-speaking Lausanne, Switzerland. The club we've been playing at since Pkids were allowed to play this country was La Dolce Vita and is finally closed. We drive near it anyway; it's still inviting looking, but we play in another place, just a couple of blocks away. It's so funny how easy it is to find the club in this big city - just drive down the main street bedecked with lights and expensive stores, find the huge cathedral, make a left turn up the mountain, drive alongside tiny, even more expensive stores until you see Hotel City, the most beautiful hotel we've ever stayed in, and take a right at the Mc Donalds. People exude health and money here. Jim saw a woman on a motor scooter wearing a fur coat.
The show was great! Lots of people and they all seemed to love our music! Yay! No sign of Velma from Lausanne though. Did we piss them off somehow?
Thursday, Dec 2 - Genf, Switzerland
and now look at Howie
Today we play a festival. We open the festival. Do you know who we play with? 3 HEAVY METAL BANDS! 2 were from the US, bands I'd never heard of, and the last one was from Sweden - all their songs are about dragons and trolls, and the "lead singer is a wizard, he summons up fireballs and shit - it's AWESOME" I am told by one of the roadies. The merch girl owns/runs a club in Raleigh, North Carolina, has purple hair, and is admittedly, "High as a Kite, Man!" And she's really nice. Members of this band were in Corrosion Of Conformity, a band I *have* heard of before, but they want to downplay it. I'm trying to figure out how a guy who looks like he's about 17 right now played in a this old punk band from years ago.
The US bands are very nice and somewhat ecstatic to meet another American band on the road. They are travelling 3 bands in a really shitty beaten-down old bus, and the Americans, even though bedecked with tattooes and long hair and are smoking The Weed like it's the air they breathe, inform me that they can't stand the tour bus because all the Europeans smoke on it. One of the guys tells me that he crawls into his little bunk at night and shuts the drapes and just sits there cowering in the darkness waiting for the smoke to seep into his bunk and choke him. I shake his hand and tell him "I know where you are coming from, brother."
The bands inform us that when they are here in Europe they are called "Stoner Rock," a genre I've never heard of before. They hate the tag. One exclaims to me, "I mean, of course we smoke a lot of pot, but we are not STONER ROCK!" We tell them that we are called "Post Rock" and they have a good laugh about that; they'd never heard that either.
Americans who meet each other on the road are like old army buddies. We have all known each other since we were little children; we are one step away from hugging each other like family members. Maybe we're all like that back home, too. We are always nice to the bands we meet on the road. So we sit around and gab for a while, and we watch them all play - what a crazy scene it was in this huge club, not more than about 50 people at a time were watching the bands the whole night, and really, us 4 geeks went on and played this electronic music and then the hair bands, playing heavy metal music, went on right after us. All of us enjoyed the music - how could we not? Especially the song introduced by the 4th band, Swedish accent: "This song is about TROLLS." BAANNNAANAANAANAANAAA...(insert heaviest metal guitar here)
A beautiful woman tells me tonight that I remind her of a Botticelli. Jim says I better take that as a compliment. Boy, do I ever.
Across from the room with bunk beds where all 5 of us are sleeping tonight, upstairs from the room where we played, there is a huge computer room and a dead guy sitting at one of the terminals. I keep walking in there, making progressively more noise each time, but the guy doesn't move. We all want to use the computers, but Willem says it's too risky. We really don't know the state of the dead guy. He could really be dead, for all we know. When I come back and exclaim that the dead guy is in a slightly different position than he was originally, Willem states that it is most likely Rigor Mortis setting in. Willem knows an awful lot of English, for a Dutch guy.
Friday, Dec 3
Today I had a shitty day. We are playing in a SALT DOME that is covered with graffitti, a really cool looking place, but everyone and everything seems to have an edge on it today. Up on the stage, Willem told me to turn down my amp, and I took it personally. Of course I took it personally. It sounds stupid - surely it sounds really stupid to Howie, who made me realize that I took it personally (and who also can't turn down his instrument), but really, think about it. You're a stubborn musician who is on tour and who can express him/herself 1 hour per day musically; you get one hour per day to prove your existence on this tour, and someone basically tells you to shut up. Now, that's not the first thing that goes through my mind when someone tells me to turn down. The first thing that goes through my head is, "oh, great. It was just sounding good to me, and now I have to make it sound worse." Because the amp always sounds better when it's louder. Then the next thing that goes through my head is, "The OTHER band's bass player was MUCH louder than I am right now! Why do I have to turn down?" and the third, the paranoia sets in: "It's because I'm a girl, isn't it. Or because they think I'm just here for LOOKS (which is pretty pathetic). They think I can't play. They want me to be quiet."
Anyway, after all that, I turned down really low and had them turn me up in the monitors. Because even though the bass player from the earlier-soundcheck had his bass really loud, the place sounded like a plane was taking off every time he'd hit a note. You couldn't hear anything except a low bowel-shaking groan - we're playing in a salt dome, remember.
But I also sulked. I sulked all the way through an amazing spaghetti dinner. Mostly I was embarrassed about getting so mad. Then I slunk back to the dressing room, with Rick trying his best to comfort me, to be greeted by a heaping PIE PLATE full of POT! There in the dressing room, a 10-inch circular pizza-pie shaped tin full of POT, a couple of inches high.
Now, I gotta say, you know I am all for legalization of marijuana, but I have this problem where sometimes, I don't feel terribly comfortable in a room where people are smoking it. I don't know why. And it's MY problem - and not a huge one, either, so if you're going to smoke pot around me, feel free to do it; it will only help me learn to deal with it. But anyway, tonight, I want to crawl inside myself and just die, by this point I am in a recursive shame-loop, acting ashamed at how I am acting ashamed.
So I lay down on the couch next to the pot, (there's no place in the room that is not next to the pot, there is so much of it; the heaping plate is in the center of a table like a conversation piece) and pull my clothes over my head like I'm a little kid in a bed with the blankets pulled over my head to protect me from a monster. And I listened to the rest of the band members coming into the room and gasping at the amount of pot that was sitting on the table waiting for them. This is apparently a REAL lot of pot. After a while I realized I was smiling, hidden under my little protective blankets, at the different reactions of people as they saw the tin. It was pretty absurd. No one smoked any in the room, either. I have no idea why.
So now I'm helplessly giggling underneath my jacket, listening to the gasps of people talking
about how they'd never seen this
much pot before - Willem says that when he was on tour with Sebadoh, if someone put this
much pot in the dressing room, he'd have to hide it from them because they'd smoke it all and
fuck up the show - then says "this much pot would last me an entire year - and I'm DUTCH!"
and I, Rose, don't want to be giggling this much, I want to be ANGRY still,
so I had
to leave the room. I went outside.
Outside the club, it looks like the Apocalypse. Less than 10 feet away from the entrance to the salt dome there is huge fire, surrounded by graffitti covered rocks, cardboard, mattresses, furniture, dogs, a couple of people sitting on rocks around the fire throwing broken chairs into it. The soundtrack for the fire is a parked car on a ledge above the fire blaring reggae into a clear sky, with a guy leaning against the car drinking a bottle of something in a paper bag. What could he possibly be drinking HERE that has to be hidden by a paper bag? The fire leaps and sways around old school chairs. This is a much better place to be angry. So I sat on the rocks and glared at a guy in a leather jacket across the fire, who appeared to be selling some sort of drugs to people.
So the guy makes his way over to me. He has packets of candy attached to a handmade booklet that says "GOTT [something]." God Loves You. He has come over to sit with me and tell me about Jesus and give me a candy. I grab onto my purse and camera and thank him and refuse the candy and think about how funny it is that I was sitting there assuming that he was selling drugs to people and how upset I was about that, how I was thinking that these people around here were wasting their lives, and well, it turns out to be ten times worse. He is selling Jesus to these people. Jesus and Candy.
As my punishment (for being angry at people for simply just living their lives) I forced myself to interview this person. I ended up having a 30-minute argument with him about Christianity, in the shivering cold, and he barely spoke any English. He started out by gently telling me that I shouldn't do drugs or become an alcoholic. He said he knew all about the life I lead because he was there many years ago himself. I told him haughtily that I don't do any drugs or drink alchohol because I want to be perfect. Then he said "No one can be perfect."
Jesus Freak: 1, Rose: 0.
I want to tell him that I think I may have been saved by Buddha, and that I already know the purpose of life is Happiness, but he may notice that I've been crying. I certainly don't look very happy right now.
Jesus Freak: 2, Rose: 0.
Completely pissed off with all these realizations now, I decide to tell him that my problem with Christianity was, what stops people from going out and killing each other or getting plastered and coming home and beating the crap out of their wives and kids, and then going to church on Sunday to repent, and heck, Jesus has already died for your sins, so you can sin as much as you like.
His response to this was "A Peeg (that's a Pig) falls into mud and stays there and lives there, wallowing in the mud. A -- 'what do you call it, the animal that gets its skin sheared?' - Me: "a Sheep" -- "A Sheep falls into the mud and then it jumps right out. It doesn't stay in the mud. When you are not saved by Jesus, you are a Pig. After you have been saved, then you are a Sheep."
Then it was time to play a show.
There was a dog present in the audience.
(i just reread the Pig Story for the 3rd time, after having laughed about it for a couple of days and now i realize that it makes a terrible amount of sense. Jesus Freak: 3, Rose: 0. Or maybe, 1.)
I fall asleep tonight with Rick trying to help me explore why I get so freaked out in rooms full of people drinking, smoking, or doing drugs. It doesn't bother him. Why should it bother me so much? As I am falling asleep and answering his questions, I remember him asking me, "What do you mean you feel bad because you feel that people 'go away' when they are doing drugs?"
Why do I think that they go away?
Willem, our tour manager, is really funny and witty and can do sarcasm like he's lived in Chicago all his life. When I told him there was a man last night who informed me about 300 times that he "TRABAJO IN MEXICO CITY" interspersed with me replying "NO SOY DE MEXICO. SOY DE LOS ESTADOS UNIDOS. NO COMPRENDO ESPANOL" - 'it was the big huge white guy with the backpack, Red Hair and Red Eyes' I said, and Willem snapped right back, "Was he an albino?" and I said "No, he was .." and both of us sang "FUCKED UP."
Last night was like the City of Lost Souls. I am so happy to go to Dudingen today - we played there years ago as Poster Children, it's a beautiful little shack in the middle of a field in Switzerland. Step outside the door and you see a dirt road, a bunch of fields, and the Swiss Alps. Inside it's just as warm as can be, wooden tables, lamps everywhere, a huge telephone booth in the middle of the tiny room with a spinning ufo above it and a horse skull with two glowing red bulbs in the eyes, hanging over the entrance to the Rock Room. People are sweet and wholesome-looking here, even though we're about a half-hour away from last night's show. This may be my most favorite club in all of Europe.
Sunday, Dec 5 - Zurich, Switzerland
This club is owned by an ex-soccer player, and apparently they brew their own beer - but only during a full moon. We had to play very, very quietly, but the show went pretty well. People wanted so many encores that we had to do some experimental music. It's too bad we don't yet have the nerve to just go up on stage and JAM! I know we could pull it off; the only thing lacking is guts right now.
Monday, Dec 6 - Stuttgart, Germany
I feel like a broken toy.