Salaryman Winter Tour 99 - Part 7


So the next morning I wake up, and we have a 10-hour drive to Belgium. Willem seems to be the unhappiest about this - probably because he has to drive the whole time. I don't remember anything that happened on the drive. All I remember is getting into the club in Belgium, which is about a 10foot by 20-foot space, and instead of our usual huge deli-tray spread with tons of cheses, meats, breads and butters, there is a little package of doughnut-finger things. (Which tasted pretty good.) Then, a drunken, sickly looking man announces in a terribly loud voice, "I COOK YOUR DINNER TONIGHT! AND YOU STAY AT MY HOUSE! I HOPE YOU LIKE SLEEPING IN NO HEAT - I HAVE NO HEAT IN MY HOUSE!!!

It's a joke, right? Because it's probably below freezing outside right now. It's unbelievable how cold it is.

So we get to this guy's house, and go upstairs to his tiny attic, where, spanning the entire floor, there are 5 scummy-looking mattresses - no sheets, no blankets, no covers. The room is about 30 degrees.

Now, there is no way any of us are going to complain. So Willem takes it upon himself - he talks about the Requirements of Berthold, our European booking agent, and talks about how the Belgium promoter (all non-German shows are sub-booked by sub-booking agents) fucked up, because he didn't take into account The Requirements, which are beds and blankets and HEAT. All I can think of is that this nice guy is offering his pad to us and we are saying it's not good enough for us - I feel terrible, because I don't want to insult this guy! It's his HOUSE! But Willem assures us that Berthold has requirements for his bands. Willem is also used to sleeping with no heat, being European and all, but us Americans, we sleep with heat. The only way I can see this through without feeling like a pig is that well, we really don't have any sleeping bags with us. It would be hard to sleep with no sheets or blankets in the cold.

There are no hotels within miles of this city, apparently, and so we are going to be sleeping at this man's house. He makes us this amazing dinner of noodles and garlic and white asparagus, and then we go back to the club, where I hide behind my TV set and we play to a packed house of about 30 people. (I don't think the club could fit many more people than that.) It is also worth noting that the entrance to the club is across from a bank of urinals - you walk in and if you've walked in at the right time, you'll be fortunate enough to see a man peeing as you're paying your cover charge.

The Heart Of Darkness

So here we are, it's nighttime, about 0 degrees outside, and we're back at our friends' house to sleep. Howie, Jim, and Willem are sleeping in the freezing upstairs room, which they say is a bit warmer now that the windows are closed. Rick and I are sleeping on the ground floor, next to a gas heater, which I can't figure out how to turn on. Our friend, the house owner, is passed out cold (literally) on his bed upstairs in the no-heat area, with no shirt on.

And now it's time to use the toilet.

Now, I had decided to pass on using the club's toilet, because I didn't want to step in the urine that was all over the floor. Also, the toilet was next to the urinals, and I didn't want to spend any more time in the room with the urinals than I had to. When I asked Rick what the house toilet was like in the house where the guy cooked for us, he gave me a really strange look and didn't say anything for a while. He suggested that I use the toilet in the club. When I reminded him of the 1/2 inch of liquid on the floor in there, he didn't bat an eyelash. "The toilet in the house is an out-house," he told me. "So?" I replied.

The toilet in the house is behind 3 doors in the back of the house. There is a plain-looking, dark green wooden door which separates it from a garage-y looking space. I opened the green door and looked in. There was a perfectly regular-looking white toilet, in a little yellow closet. I did the toilet paper check - a good half-roll, hurray! So I shut the green door, stood outside, and prepared myself, steadied my breathing (My plan was, I was going to hold my breath through the entire operation), removed excess clothing, and then walked through the green door, to The Other Side.

The Yellow Closet.
I peered down into the hole. Ok, so there's no running water, big deal. No extra water hole - but other than that it looked normal. I calmly and carefully began my business, making sure no body part or clothes touched anything in the tiny closet. Make sure toilet paper doesn't touch anything. Keep yourself steady. I am still doing fine on oxygen, but now I notice it's cold. It's damn cold. I try to hurry my business, but it is so, so cold in here, and so small, and so YELLOW - florescent light shining yellow on the walls. I looked down and noticed the floor was damp.

Then I noticed that everything was damp. I picked the toilet paper. I swear, I had everything figured out - I had enough oxygen inside to complete the whole maneuver, and then and there, it happened. I realized my fatal error. I had not taken into account the moisture coefficient of the toilet paper. I had to wipe twice. My oxygen intake had not accounted for this extra time needed for the acquistion of more toilet paper, and I panicked. And I finally ran out of breath.

I took a very, very small breath in there. And began reeling. Never, in all my camping trips to Wisconsin, all the tours down south, never had I experienced a smell like this. I felt like my entire body was a sponge that had been dipped in 500 years of Belgian urine, seeping into the pores of all of my layers of skin, mucuous membranes. I felt faint, my head is spinning, my heart pounding. The WALLS ARE CLOSING IN! What in this tiny room can I touch to steady myself so I don't collapse in a heap onto the floor? THE WALLS OF THE ROOM ARE COVERED IN MOISTURE!! THERE ARE DROPLETS ON THE CEILING!!! THE ROOM IS SWEATING!! IT IS ALIVE!! OH MY GOD- WHAT COULD IT BE SWEATING? THINK ABOUT IT! WHAT COULD THIS CONDENSATION BE COMPRISED OF?

I took a shower that night. The shower was brand new, nice and warm. And I slept in about 10 layers of clothes, 3 coates, a sweatshirt, 2 pairs of leggings under my pants. The clothes I didn't use on my body, I used as blanket covers, towels, and pillow. Howie, Jim and Willem slept upstairs and at least 2 of them came down and joked that they had all slept in a man-huddle together - and then said, Oh, of course we didn't. It was definitely a survivalist's dream. Now they are ready for Y2K.

audience in Kortrijk, Belgium

audience in Weinheim, Germany