Reconquest Day 1

Flying off to Germany manana to begin rehearsals for a run of dates in Europe with my old band Green On Red.

 

Desperate times, desperate measures; how desperate are we you ask? Well, Dan Stuart our fearless leader, needs a new hip. I kid you not. So other than taking opportunity to have communion with old friends and spread the gospel—healthcare being what it is in these parts, we organized this tour partly as a fundraiser, partly as yuckfest but mostly we're on a mission to get that ceramic hip replacement.

Turns out that after holding out for 18 years, the guarantees for Green On Red aren't bad! We said we'd never reform; then again, we said so many things. These are different times, different people talking. There's a dark hole out there where we buried all our "happy horsehit" so watch your step and carry a flashlight.

We have a mandate, we're doing our part to make the World Safe For Hypocrisy. If fact, the Hippocratic creed emerges as one the approved talking points. We vow to stay ON MESSAGE. Yeah, right. In ancient Greece. Hypocrites were just actors. Like movie stars, ya know?

I've done long tours. Three months in a van at a stretch can be long. So can a week with the right or wrong combination of personalities. I hope for the best. In fact, I pray for the best. Apply some friction to the right combination of vaporized bad vibes and static cling and that's all she wrote.

Karlsruhe Day 1

First of all, it's not like in the movies. Where the limo hat donning driver holds up a sign with your name welcoming you. In reality, you de-board and there's no one to greet you. And worse, for me, as soon as I get off that plane in Germany, it's as if a phantom shoves a LIT cigarette into my mouth. An out of body experience not unlike crossing the state line into Kentucky where nicotine prohibition is a long long way off. You see, the monkey never left the building. He's in the corner quietly doing his push ups and sit ups You can't see him, but he's there alright. The first time you quit smoking, it's hard. The second time it gets easier, I'm told. My hands involuntarily pat down my chest searching for that elusive 20 pack. The elusive red and white rectangle of my ever-present death. When in Rome...

Do Europeans hate us Septics? Should I wear a disguise? A friend later suggests holding my cigarette with my hand upside down, you know, like palm up? Bloody hell, this could get complicated.

Here comes Danny. Boy, that walk. What a gimp. He's not kidding about that hip. I tell myself to emphasize the positive. Look at it as being a source of comedic opportunities. Lots of possibilities. But really, we're getting together after 18 years to get that fucker a clay hip? Here we are in this god forsaken German burg where they made the kind of white wine that Dead Jim died trying to puke up.

ANYWAY, It's the first day of a new tour. It's like the first day of school. And for little kids and big kids alike, that can mean tears, heightened excitement, trouble. Okay, we know who the gimp is. But, who's going to be the weird kid, the shy kid, the bully, the designated mope, the last in the lobby every morning? I have theories I keep to myself.

This'll be cool. Blonde chicks everywhere, but they all look pissed off. Did someone tell them we were coming?

Germany's biggest oil refinery is located in Karlsruhe, at the western edge of the city, directly on the river Rhine. Karlsruhe is also the internet capital of Germany. But more relevant to our cause, Karlsruhe is Green On Red keyboardist's Chris Cacavas's new adopted home town and this is where we decide to camp out Rolling Stone/Borsht-belt style for a few days to go through our marine like drills, rehearsing for our first tour in 18 years.

The eve of our arrival, Chris invites us to his lovely pad for a soulful home cooked meal. A feast topped off by his wife Rose's straight-from-the-oven pie replete with berry's picked from their own garden. Someone says what I'm thinking: "Dude, like... Paradise".

The Green On Red collective (me, Jack, Chris and Danny) and nu guy/drummer end up shucking, jiving, singing and playing till all hours of the morning in one of the bedrooms where Chris has set up some of his equipment. We deconstruct and re-arrange a cluster of songs and swear to uphold and recreate these inspired re arrangements when we reach the job site. Yeah, right. Chris's six year old son Dylan nods his head and shakes down to his bare feet in approval. All in all a promising start to this two week run.

STAY TUNED FOR DAY 2 (Fun fact: In Germany you can get a ticket for giving the finger.)

Day 2: Karlsruhe

A new day dawns and we head into a dank rehearsal studio for two days. Among other matters, we've been contracted to play one of our records from start to finish as a part of the Don't Look Back/All Tomorrow's Parties festival in London and somehow, it's worked it's way up in some of our minds to be a major chore. The Big Anxiety sets in. After several attempts and false starts, we barely make it three songs into recreating the record only to break down into a juvenile argument about the proper setting of an Ibanez Tube Screamer or the original key of the song. Eventually we fall into a pattern of picking on Daren the outsider substitute drummer for "not grooving...". Whatever that means, it seems to make everyone feel better except Daren of course. What the heck, dude's on salary. Piece work vs. the Big Score. Go with the cash in hand son.

Fun fact: In Germany you can get a ticket for giving the finger. Don't give anyone "the finger" while driving in Germany. Germans are 100 times more likely to call the police or they will go completely crazy and hunt you down until you start crying. Worst of all, you can actually get a ticket for the offense. A couple hundred Euros. So yeah, take it easy.

During the rehearsals I try to encourage Daren to get into the habit of keeping time through the big holes in the music. I tell him that Danny has been known to come out of a breakdown into a completely different song. Not exactly true, but hey, why let the truth get in the way of a good scare tactic? He seems to get it and this technique provides a nice musical walker-like crutch for all of us.

The next day it's back to musical holes big enough to drive 18 wheelers through followed by blank stares and train wreck downbeats. That's rock and roll. A foil is emerging in the form of a Texan drummer. Daren? Samantha? Bewitched. Maybe the dude's a devil worshipper? Why is there drool all over the snare? So many questions.....

We break for Turkish food both days. Turkish coffee and Baklava. As we leave, through the glass, I see Danny exchanging words and handing one of the curvier servers his business card. Weird. How did he fuck up that hip anyway? Dude couldn't dance when he was drunk. Too many golf courses in the desert. Where'd they steal all the water to keep `em from drying up?

Flip me off? Go ahead, I might just turn your ass in.

STAY TUNED. IT GETS WEIRDER.

Toronto. Let us give praise.

Never thought playing in a band was going to make me rich enough to buy my parents a yacht, but I did buy into the promise of the big adventure. If that's what they were selling, I was buying and for better or worse, that's what I got. Still hovering over steaming manholes. Still trying to clear the static and find meaning it. Still on the run. Sometimes away from it, other times towards it. Hard to tell. Other than the fact that I'm carrying about 40 pounds more around these days, it's the shame shit/different decade. It beats hanging drywall, beats folding underwear at Mervin's. I still can't believe I occasionally get paid to do this nonsense.

I went from San Francisco to London for a Green On Red show that we rescheduled from 18 years ago. I followed that with 17 one night stand solo gigs in as many European towns. I brought everything I could carry on my back; a Harmony Guitar and a Roland 808.

Running to get to the train on time. Pouring over my inner dialogue. Losing my self in the isolation, making myself sick, getting on my own nerves, taking refuge in the gig, swinging against the four on the floor 808 kicks.

Then back to the USA, touring with Aimee Mann. Anne Arbor date cancelled. Aimee to fly back to LA to attend the funeral of her brother in law, Chris Penn.

I head up to Toronto for a jump start on my precious day off. An extended delay at Canadian customs, my four door Chevy Malibu rent-a-car flapping it's appendages in the breeze of some gnarly snow flurries with the glove compartment, all four doors and the trunk spread eagle. A gaggle of customs officials root around inside. Since when did laptops became fair game, I wonder to myself when one guard pulls it out of my backpack and attempts to boot it up. "Sir, tell me now if you have any illicit material in your computer?" "Sir, can you tell me what's inside this folder on your desktop?" "Well, let's see, here's pictures of me by the van, and that's my wife Stephanie, she's really great, plays keyboards, sings like a bird." "Okay sir, you can be on your way. Enjoy your stay in Canada."

I guess I've been waiting around for nothing to happen. It's the mundane I lay in wait for—it's the big nothing that puts the flame to the juicy raw hamburger meat. Always found it hard to get those maybe-you-had-to-be there moments melted down. Need to get to that place of no distractions—of no action, where the psychic hard drive can spin down, down, down. I've arrived at the place and it's called Toronto.

Super Bowl Sunday, Toronto

I navigate the black ice and make it safely to my Toronto Hotel—check in, fall asleep early, wake up late. Sleep the sleep of the mildly depressed. Barricaded. Myself and these four walls. Here in room 218 with the pre-game show buzzing off the screen, the memories rush in. It's too cold to go out and do anything but soak in it Marge. I dig around my bag for the Australian chocolates my Dutch cronies, Josie and Mart, bestowed on me in Holland. I'd almost forgotten that I'd stashed the 100% legal, mood enhancing, confections until the border guards dug them deep out of my suitcase, held them up and examined them. I warned them, "I'll have you know, I counted those." They sniffed the air and looked away un-amused.

Eventually hunger gets the better of me so I head out to brace the bitter February cold and sprint across the parking lot to Apple-bees to treat myself to a Super Bowl Steak. It's my party and I'll do what I want to. Feeling edgy, indifferent to food, I nearly fall into a nod over the breadsticks. Nevertheless I am up for watching the Super Bowl—the Stones are playing halftime and earlier Mick Jagger hinted that Aretha Franklin might strip. If that's not enough noise and entertainment, there's always the commercials. Hey kids! Did you know that the Pittsburgh Steelers only have their logo on one side of their helmets because their equipment manager petered out after painting the logo on that one side? It became a novelty, and is a tradition to this day. (Lil Mike, the unparalleled guru of trivia, told me that.)

I can't begin to imagine the clusterfuck of security at the Big Game today. I think I just caught the diamond light flashing off the muzzle of a rooftop sniper. There it is -- plain as day -- on the TV. Break to commercial.

I give praise to Canada? Let us give thanks to Lightening Gordfoot! Joey Shithead, Chuck Biscuits and Randy Rampage! To Leonard Cohen! Joni and Neil, the New Pornographers and The Arcade Fire. And if there's a Dead Sea's worth of Seagram's out there, give that up too. Someday our northern brothers in arms, stewing in their second banana blues, might get worked up enough to invade our homeland. I doubt it, but wouldn't that be something? I for one wouldn't put up a fight. I might even be willing to learn a little French.

The rent-a-car car radio blasts it's Can Con (Canadian Content) and I fall in love with Anne Murray all over again. Not that we ever really fell out. Is Ms. Murray like the northern soul sister of Downey's own Karen Carpenter or what? Anne's singing put your hand in the hand of the man that sailed the waters/ put your hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea. How I wish the man from Galilee would come down here right now and still my waters. Better yet, wish he'd tackle my four weeks worth of laundry.

Cruising the boulevard with both eyes peeled out for the Mod Club, I can't help but notice that Toronto's one little shop after another; watch repairmen, butchers, dry cleaners, hardware stores, pharmacists, boutiques, tobacconists, bric-a-brac. Not a Wal-Mart in sight. It's kind of old world, it's kind of new world, it's kind of the shit. Downright cinematic- they don't call it Hollywood North for nothing. The streets are buzzing. Toronto, I learn, is home to more than 100 cultures, its denizens twist their tongues in over 100 languages or dialects while mixing it up in a population that is 42% non-Caucasian. Memories are made of this. My first tour of duty—my first taste of the road was Canada bound—straight out of High-school—a two week engagement in downtown Calgary, Alberta, back in the year of nineteen hundred and eighty something. Naturally, I jumped at the first chance to sign on for those extended education classes of a misspent youth. Summer camp in bars. Night school for underachievers. For this acne ridden teenager looking for love, it was Route 66 meets the Beatles at the Star Club. It was sweaty rock and roll, four sets a night, six days a week—less of a feat when you consider the last set was always a thirty minute version of Roadrunner with the band often trading instruments—fried food, open bar tabs, hookers, one bonafide street fight (I'll come back to that) and hours of hung-over boredom. It was heaven. I cleaned my plate and cried out for more. I've been strung out chasing the thrill of the first hit ever since.

Returned home from that first trip to Canada one month later,countl ess brain cells lighter, to buy time with the Four Years of Financial Aid called College. The inevitable path of the middle class roots rocking white boy. Never really saw it through-heart wasn't in it I guess. Ended up joining a group of inspired knuckleheads with something to say called Green on Red to embark on a journey of suspended adolescence. In spite of everything still floating along suspended on invisible steel wires cranked up to 440. Still struggling to keep the powder dry, still holding out for a guitar that plays in tune, still working on being a little less of an asshole, still very much nut-sack religious for all of it.

The scars on my hand, prove I'm an alligator man. A real live street fight? Yes. Somebody looked at somebody wrong and in a flash, right there in the middle of a busy downtown Calgary intersection, my band-mate and drummer par excellence, Derek Richey and I got into that broad daylight street fight. Derek -- the closest thing I ever had to a big brother -- threw the first punch, the next punch landed him in the slushy February gutter rolling around with some kid in purple leg warmers (it was a long time ago, leg warmers were all the rage). I wanted to bolt from the blaring chorus of honking horns, but was faced off in a shoving match with Purple Leg Warmer's maple leafed sidekick. Like most fights, as soon as it started, it was over. Derek and I hi tailed it back to the hotel—Derek laughing, me hyperventilating, scared as hell, twisting my neck around to look back every ten seconds.

We rarely strayed too far from our Hotel after the episode, incident, affray. We fought the cabin fever days by getting our Wayne Gretzky fantasies out in the hallways of the flophouse with hockey sticks purchased from the Big 5 and duct tape pucks. Like so many things, hotel shenanigans are a progressive illness. First it's hockey in the halls, then you find yourself pulling fire alarms just to see how long it takes for the fire trucks to show up. Next thing you know you're calling down to reception asking if they can recommend the best way to remove goat blood from the carpet, or stripping nude, covering yourself from head to toe in shaving cream and taking the elevator to the lobby, marching up to the front desk asking if they have a razor. Those were less complicated times when we were easily amused. Derek was a bad-ass -- still is -- and he could effortlessly play a snare drum press roll smooth as a rat pissing on cotton. He could play a fill so fast it would spin in reverse like a wagon wheel in an old episode of Bonanza. Not sure what those other guys are doing now. Derek's still out there fighting the good fight and keeping time behind some well knowns and lesser knowns. I recently ran into him in LA where he's relocated and his English accent has come back three fold. Not sure he ever really had one to begin with, but to be fair, his parents were Scottish. I couldn't help but comment, "So. Derek." "Yeah, mate." "Can't help but notice you've affected a kind of English accent since you moved down here. Is that helping you to ah, ah, get any pussy?" Derek said, "Prophet, you're such an asshole."

Anyways. Anyways. Tomorrow is Montréal and Aimee has invited me on her bus. Life is good.

Be true to your school.

What’s on my desk and what I’m working on…

Serving as my desk of late is the entire stretch of dash board of my white 1998 Dodge Ram touring van. After I climb in and shake out of my Parka, I take a look around and get out the trusty lap top. Another day at the office. On my desk (or "dash" or "dask" as it were) are a number of artifacts: A speeding ticket from Wyoming. A sun bleached hotel reservation. An empty box of Whole Food soy beans, a man handled and dog eared road atlas with a few key cities torn out for some reason (why would someone tear out Bloomington, Indiana? Maybe it was never here? A cruel way to go!), empty coffee cups, an un-labeled cassette,CD comps from my long distance sage Gary Phillips and a John Gregory Dunne novel, True Confessions that has been there for at least two tours, (maybe three) and has yet to be cracked. Unlike the Soy Beans, which never had a chance, I think the date of expiration might have passed on Mr. Dunne but I'm still not in the slightest hurry to throw his book away nor do I have any real recollection off how it got there in the first place. What else have we got? We've got a hand held cassette tape recorder (a songwriters best friend—indispensable); A tangle of devices that are supposed to make our lives easier—we've got cables and chargers and things that plug into things and things that refuse to plug into anything, but we keep them around fearing that if we threw anything away it would be the one thing that plugs into the one thing that we need to do the thing that we need to do.

 

What I'm working on now for better or worse is a kind of ongoing project, my mental health. The drive from Philadelphia (where I just officially finished a little ten day tour by dropping off my band mates at the airport) to West Virginia where I'm headed should give me some time (seven hours or so according to my math)—to spend with my internal dialogue and give myself a check-up-from-the-neck-up and work out some issues. But that's not the kind of work we're talking about is it? If I could get one thought to sit still long enough to tame, I might make a list of songs that I intend to play tomorrow on the Mountain Stage radio show. I'm booked to perform backed by the house band and they really would like to know what songs to chart out. That decision can wait.

What am I working on? And at this point, I'm mostly working on keeping my eyes on the road. But, I can tell you what I'm not working on. I'm not working parking cars, I'm not working delivering Readers Digest, I'm not mowing lawns in Orange County or washing dishes in Contra Costa county. I'm not hanging drywall or climbing a ladder or selling flowers on the street, or collecting Coke bottles. All of these things, you guessed it, I have done with varying degrees of success. Truth is I'd take the flower stand gig back in a heartbeat. The drive this morning is breathtakingly gorgeous. (Okay, so I'm prone to exaggeration. It's my job.) It's the first week of February and it's as crisp and clear a morning as I've even seen. The only real evidence of the harshest of winters are the patches of snow softy melting on the side of the road. I'm grateful I have a gig. Any gig. And as little tread as I've got left on my tires, I still love the moving around bit. The traveling. Mornings like this to a California boy are downright exotic. Where were we? I don't know.... The mind wanders.... My friend Jim Roll asked me to write a short paragraph on what's on my desk and what I'm working on and said, he could probably get me a free magazine out of the deal. This has been my little spiel. I think I'd better cut my self of right about now.

Why Change Horses Mid Apocalypse?

Diary continued 2004 (uncut)

 

Why Change Horses Mid Apocalypse? Euro Promo Tour 2004

" Are you feeling good? ARE YOU FEELING GOOD? I'm afraid If the band's lacking slightly in energy, It's because they spent all last night fucking... we do our best..."

Mick Jagger—Texas, 1981

Here's the mission. I'm meant to be on a "promo" tour. Promo tour? You ask. What's that? Well, the thinking here at CP inc. after much consulting with the higher up brass in the organization who know these kind of things. When it comes to all things "over there"—If we don't stand up and get counted right now, the new record will simply disappear. Simply disappear off the shelves like invisible ink and we'll be back to a steady diet of Pizza Parlors in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Some promo is definitely in order. So, we take the condensed orange juice approach. Pick eight countries, freeze dry em—add water. Later. Well... sort of. This first assault will include a double shot of London shows "the gateway to the west" and some downsized acoustic gigs out of practicality in parts beyond. You can't downsize any further than one dude and an acoustic guitar. Or can you? Don't tell me! I don't wanna know! After London, I'm headed out on my own to Spain, Greece, German, and Holland, etc for some reconnaissance. We'll return in the form of full band for gigs in the Spring. In between busking for meals (well... not quite), traveling, and staying awake as to not miss my train—me and my various handlers will visit radio and conduct interviews with various journalistas. That's right. It's called "promo". You could look it up. Okay enough explaining.

LONDON

Scene one: Backstage at the Borderline. Carlos has been here. Carlos Guitarlos has branded the wall. He found some clean wall space in between the spiky nut-sacks and left his mark. I feel a little cheated. One of the drawbacks of being a solo artist is that you really don't get to graffiti the backstage walls. It's a sort of need I feel deprived of. A dog's got to leave his scent, Yo. What are you gonna do, write: "John Mayer rocked this place like a bitch" with a Sharpie on the wall? Then again, it hasn't stopped Carlos. Nothing stops Carlos. It's enough to make you wanna start a band. D-12 anyone? John McCrae from Cake and I used to joke that we were going to cover the backstage walls around the world with helpful advice—the lines of: "A penny saved is a penny earned..." "Early bird gets the worm" "Early to bed, early to rise..."—Cake. Maybe it's not too late. This backstage is a lot like the hotel we're staying at in the Queensway. It's one of those "in the case of guest visitor kindly place all luggage in the hallway to make room for extra person- thank you, the management" kind of deals.

"As some of you who've been paying attention, I'm sure you've gathered by now, a great many of us back in the states recently suffered a great loss... pause.... Pause..."How about those Cardinals...?" I dedicate the song Apology. On behalf of myself and the boys and miss Stephie.

Myself and the Mission Express (not the Stinking Badges—more on that later) end up playing our two night stand at the Borderline and it's pure sex. And as a special added bonus, nobody blows up an amp or a pedal board. There are Gremlins in this basement gig. I've gone up against `em before. I make sure to cross myself before I plug my amp in.

London. Lots of old friends. Kim Richey mans the merch table. It's yesterday once more. Good times all around.

Hamburg w/the Stinking Badges

Hamburg. My trusty promoter Norbert meets me at the airport and takes me directly to the Pacific hotel adjacent to tonight's gig. The Pacific. Not to be confused with Hamburg's Atlantic Hotel. Itself, a kind of posh stay. Located just off the ""Reeperbahn"" (Hamburgs red light district), the Pacific is more like a bathroom-down-the-hall kind of boarding house. I've been complaining about this place to Norbert for years. But Norbert just acts as if he can't hear me. In all fairness, Norbert's got that nervous disposition -- somehow he begs to be mentally tortured just a little. You know the type. I do my bit. As we approach in the cab, I grumble out from the back seat, "Norbert, you're not taking me to that nasty boarding house are ya?" "Sorry?" "You heard me Norbert. You know what I'm on about Norbert. The hotel with the music store downstairs?" He says, "Oh Yes, you've known the place since years—you've stayed there many times—it's actually quite famous that hotel." "Is that right? Famous for what?" "The Beatles stayed there when in Hamburg. In fact, it's said that Paul McCartney bought his first bass in that music store. But you probably knew that." I said, "No, I didn't know that."

Suddenly, as you can imagine, my whole opinion of the dump completely changes. This place rawks! And if I'm ever booked anywhere else from now on, I'll have a new complaint. This place rawks!

Sound-check/Dinner/Gig/Rinse/Repeat

I play gig. Intro new songs into set. Embarrass Norbert from the stage. "I said room temperature water Norbert!". Gesture to the empty stage and introduce my band, the Stinking Badges. The Stinking Badges... theeeeenk about it...

My old friend Aljaz from Slovenia shows up bearing gifts in the form of highly coveted 60's deep soul rarities. Yeah, baby! We hang out and chat. He tells me, with no hint of—I don't know what (maybe it's that language barrier again. All nuance out the window), that "the go go Market record is "bullshit" and it's time for Stephanie Finch to make a proper Stephanie Finch record." Okay Holmes—we'll get right on it. Also, old friend Michael Oldfield is in attendance. Not THAT Michael Oldfield. He updates my Dylan boot collection for me to the power of 10. With nothing to offer up as a trade, I regale them with a couple of Dylan anecdotes (this one courtesy of some dude I met running a whorehouse in Buenos Aires).

Dylan on PJ Harvey: "Bob, have you heard our opening act?" "Ah...yeah... right, they're great... who are they?" "It's a she, Bob. PJ Harvey." "Oh yeah? What is she... like the... ah... ah... new Dylan?"

Back on the Beatles in Hamburg tip. My guit slinging friend, Darryl Bath who's played with Ian Hunter related a classic story about one of my all time heroes I have to share. At least for the sake of this story- and trust me, I'm going somewhere with this—you'll have to bear in mind Ian Hunter's career has been somewhat hit and miss. Mostly miss. You know. Shoulda been huge. Wasn't huge. Shoulda been a big big star. Wasn't a big big star. Although Ian Hunter originally burst on to the scene with the glam rockers Mott The Hoople in the 70's, he'd already been around. Ian was a little older than most of the cats cruising the glam rock highway and had actually put in some real time in the Hamburg days of the Beatles. Playing boogie woogie piano beyond some forgotten greasers in the heyday of the Star club and such. The gist is that Ian Hunter never quite reached the career heights of say the Beatles for example. Ian told Darryl-and-I'm-telling-you a story of hanging with the Beatles in some basement as they were having a séance complete with candles in the dark and the like. The Beatles were in fact, raising the dead. Calling upon the sprits. Ian didn't have the stomach for it and quite literally got spooked—ran from the room. Got the hell on outta there. Pussed out. He later learned, (or so the story goes), that the Beatles were given the opportunity that night to make a deal with the devil. What an opportunity! A deal with the Devil! You'd be a fool not to take it! And of course it goes without saying, that jetting out of that basement is one the big regrets in life for poor ol' Ian Hunter. Then again, he's still out there doing it. You can't say the same for all the Beatles. Okay... enough of this morbid shit.

PARIS/GENT

Airport/Hotel/Sound check/Dinner/Gig/Selling of merch/Grilling of cheap meats

Some old friends in attendance. Some press. France. PPsssssshhhhtttttt. Another one of those territories that maybe if we ignore it long enough, it'll go away. Hasn't worked yet. I'm back for more indifference. This is a new venue I've never heard of. Fake out. It's the Chesterfield Café. Only they've gone and changed their name. (Been there done that. Stephie has the T-Shirt to prove it.) Shout out to Mark Zisman who braved the gig on a rainy night. And in a lemons-to-lemonade kind of way, I surprise myself by having a good time and a better gig.

Ex pats everywhere. All through Europe I am besieged my Ex Pats. But, it's taken on a new twist. They used to be very useful in scoring weed or finding out where a good vegetarian restaurant is. Now, a couple English teachers in Spain went as far as to offer me political asylum. That might come in handy down the road.

DUBLIN

Chuck/Dan/Michelle/Cab/Airport/Flight/No work permit/Work permit sorted/Great cabbie.

Gig with Jason Ringenburg (Jason, as in formerly of: Jason and the Scorchers). Double bill. I play my set. Later Jason and I duet on a couple of songs. At my request, Jason sings Mama, I'm a Gypsy Now for me. I fall in from memory.

Damn! When did all the money come to Dublin? This place is swank!. New theme restaurants everywhere. Boutiques with overpriced designer chic up the ying yang. Requisite Starbucks. With a few old pubs in tact—keeping a kind of old world, local flavor. Genuine replicas of another time. It's kinda creepy.

Second day: Press. Second night: Much needed night off. My old friend, beat impresario, mofessional scenester currently enrolled in Trinity college—Frank Rynne meets up and takes me to his pad for a home-cooked meal fit for a king. I see to it that we're guestlisted for Steve Earl. Box seats in fact. Frank: "I feel like the Queen!". Steve Earl show well inspired. Steve comes out slumped over. Does not address audience. That posture. Could it be the weight of the world on his shoulders? He's not happy. Understandably so. "A lot of us worked hard." I feel ya. Did Bush not work hard? The thing that really bothers me is that that Bush guy with his kind of bad arrogant Dean Martin high school football coach act, didn't look like he was working hard at all. People vote Culture. Straight down the line. Culture. Unlock the mysteries of that mother and you might have something. Or as James Ellroy said about sex: I'd like to find the dude that invented that shit and see what he's working on now. 9/11 is the best thing that ever happened to Bush. Am I right or am I right?

Somewhere in between doing time and fighting the power, Dudeman has put together one thick-ass book of great songs. Singing like a man with a capo on his rage. beautiful theatre, the Olympic—tonight's gig, a treat. A full meal. And If that isn't enough -- should your mind wander, there's always Eric Amble changing guitars every song. (Nice Tele! Ooh, that one's got flames!). Eric takes a one note solo ala I Wanna Be Sedated. That's entertainment baby! I ask my Irish sidekick Frank if he wants to meet Earl. "I've met enough famous people, Chook." We pop down the road to the pub—have a quick one/embrace and go our separate ways.

Athens

Airport/Missed Connection/New Flight/Athens/Hotel/Soundcheck/Dinner w/ Nikki Sudden

A two night stand in Athens. *I haven't been to Greece in years. The last time I was here was pre Olympics when I couldn't help but thinking: Gad dang! This is the cradle of civilization? Is this where we're heading? Made downtown El Lay look like Stockholm. Where I made a note to self: If ever directing a movie and need authentically 60's looking airport location, look not further than Athens airport. Primitivo. Retro Nuevo! The baggage claim monitors looked like -- the only thing I can liken them to is some early version of video games ala Pong etc.... I get off the plane and well, the point is, post Olympics, it's a whole new deal now. Athens got two facelifts at least. Whole new deal Athens.

Dinner with Nikki Sudden and promoter. Over dinner, Nikki and his entourage knock back a couple bottles of red wine and a few fingers of Grand Marnier. The conversation flows. We exchange war stories in between atomic name droppings. Hit the deck! Nikki's been working on a kind of autobiography of sorts. Says he's got some 120, 000 words. Looks like between the two of us, we've easily got that many miles on us. I excuse myself—say I'm off to get a coffee of some kind to wake up in time for gig. Nikki: "Coffee? I never drink coffee. Keith Richards told me that's the absolute worst thing you can put in your body."

Backstage Nikki and I work up a couple of songs. We manage to play a verse and a half of A LOT of Stones songs. We settle on a couple and decide to wing what later turned into a kind of Jimmy Reed stream of conscious thang.

Gig time. In the house, we've got the Ex pats I met round the merch table in Paris—who decided to fly in for these two gigs. Of course, I'm flattered—but at the same time. It means I got to work up some different songs.

I follow set with encore and bring out Nikki for requisite clusterfuck. We trade improvised verses on Bright Light's Big City. It's alternately, inspired and infantile. They LOVE it!

Next morning/a day off. Some press. Ilisa's my keeper/handler/promoter and-all-around-good-guy in Athens. He takes me on walk up to the Acropolis. Check out the ruins. It's hard to come up with an original thought. It is truly awesome. They could engineer all this genius a thousand years ago but I can't find the exit in any underground parking garage. The weather is divine. We have leisurely lunch at busy sidewalk café. On the way back into town—walking through market square, I picked up stack of bootlegs. Stacks of illegal CD's with funky color Xerox sleeves. Lou Reed live in 72, Blondie doing Call Me in Spanish. Funky soul boots. Stuff I don't need but the American in me comes out. Got to consume some shit. So I consume. Can they smell the old `Oh-we've-got-money-we're-walking-round-we're-really-doing-it-Hard-Rock-Café-T-Shirt-kind-of-American-tourista-look. Fuck it. Walk back to my room. One hour to chill before gig. Listened to some music in the dark and strangely enough, I did not fall asleep and I did not get depressed. Every once in a while you get a break.

Play gig. Somebody calls out for How Many Angels. Nobody ever calls out for How Many Angels. One of my personal faves. I happily accept the challenge.

For New Years Day, I throw out the old intro of, "This is for anyone who's ever had to suffer through the humiliating experience of having to go back and live with their folks..." I am met with blank stares. I learn later that there is no shame in living with your folks at any age apparently. I learn this from someone who's something like 35 years of age. Culture! Again with the culture. Go figure.

Got into with a guy in the crowd. Can't remember how it got set off. I try to make peace, all in good fun, I plead, "Come on guys. You know I'm down with the Greeks, I'm a huge Telly Savalis fan." Or did I? It's too late, they've turned on me. Well.. I kid. Riffing along here... Language barriers... I'm reminded of touring with Penelope Houston. Wherein every night Penelope would proudly shout into the mike, "I wrote this next song with Billy Joe!" (Billy Joe Armstrong/Green Day). Until one night when someone came backstage and asked, "We vant to know! Vy is Penelope writing songs with Billy Joel?" Penelope's eyes went numb and after realizing what she'd been saying every night, the color drained from the poor girls face. Hit the deck!

After the gig, Ilisasi takes me on a crawl through the nightspots. Hanging out in Athens after dark. It rocks hard. And the DJ's are inspirational. Things wind down around 4 AM or so. We're walking through the square.

My friends talk amongst themselves. My mind drifts elsewhere. I'm ready to go home. My gears are turning --thinking about all the things I'm going to do when I get home. I do dig the traveling part of the gig. Almost as much as the getting home bit.

Fly home/Fly home/Fly home

Back on a plane. Lufthansa. Lap top on my lap. On the monitor in front of me, the sound is down and Duran Duran is cavorting around. These guys are still together? Look John Taylor's sporting a truckers cap. I guess the trucker cap is now officially dead. Survived only by the knit cap. How many of these flights do I have left in me?. You got to be a double amputee to get into these seats. Jesus! How many more of these flights do I have left in me? I member once getting bumped up to first class --me and Tommy Larkin's. Popping pills and drinking red wine. I didn't want the flight to end. This isn't first class. In first class you get the feeling that even if the plane crashes—first class will just keep going.

* I've been to Greece a couple of times in the past at least. In fact, once with Green On red we liked it so much Dan Stuart faked a nervous breakdown so we could blow off the rest of the tour. True story. Another time.

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