retrospectively (and in ongoing rewrite).
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February 12. A mere 15 years after I last toured Europe with Steve Wynn I fly off to do it again. I have a new suitcase a new camera and a rented Euroready cell phone so Sarah can call me up. I am otherwise 20th century in the mobile communication device department. I leave with two pieces to finish for the Times, a review of the latest “Raisin in the Sun” picturization and a thing about the '68 Elvis comeback special they're screening at the Paley Festival, and I have two books to read, “Police at the Funeral” by Margery Allingham and “The Vicar of Wakefield” by Oliver Goldsmith. LAX to Newark the first of many early-morning flights, nothing interesting to say about that, I arrive alive in NJ. Steve finds me, trailing flight bag (Linda's) full of merch, with irreparable broken handle, waffles off to find a replacement (a red hard shelled thing), then has nearly disastrous business with airline person who claims his passport is too close to expiration to use (later there will be complaints about its tatteredness) but this is sorted out and we go away to Amsterdam.
Met at the airport by Erik Van Loo who will play the double bass and drive the van and whom I don't know though I am promised by Steve and by Robert Fisher as well who uses him in the Willard Grant Conspiracy that he is a prince among men and this turns out to be true. (Some venues will bill me as "of the Willard Grant Conspiracy" as well which is kind of true, Robert Fisher would say so, but strikes me as a practical overstatement.) I vaguely recognize my surroundings from those 15 years prior though with Paula and Robert and Kevin in them then. I have the video to remember by. Erik's new van is blue, the back seat I ride in to his house, which will become Steve's seat mostly, sits high you have to bend down a little to get the view. Take pictures look for windmills. Holland is flat which is why they call it the Pays Bas, the Low- the Netherlands. Steve and Erik catch up I have nothing to catch up with. Erik lives in Deventer which is where we're going, staying, rehearsing, there is a bridge there that starred in the movie "A Bridge Too Far," though it is a different bridge than the actual bridge that was too far, that is somewhere else. He takes the scenic route coming in, which I think means driving down the street where the prostitutes live in windows but there is nothing to notice there or I didn't notice it. On a later trip back into town by night they are more noticeable with the red lights on and the windows lit up and all of them seeming to wave cheerfully but looks can be deceiving. Erik lives with Berry, Maxim and Doris in a three story row house from the 1930s; there was a gas factory there before that. It is narrow and tall with steep shallow stairs you have to take at an angle and a bunny rabbit in the back. We stay on the top floor and rehearse there too. I think briefly of Anne Frank in her Dutch attic but this is of course not that. Steve has a long list of songs, we go over some we won't perform and later perform some we never go over; we will repeat more songs from night to night than originally planned but you want to play the ones that work over again, that's just fun. I fall asleep while rehearsing. Steve and I go to the old town which is just a hop and a skip from Erik's, I don't know how old it is but it's old. Steve buys notebooks in a notions store. We get something from a fastish food stop. (Me: Curry fries.) Later we eat a nice meal with the Van Loo family, homemade tzatziki, fish, mozarella-basil-tomato salad, snap peas, pasta. Then we rehearse again.
February 13. Perhaps we rehearse some more probably we did. Erik has made a merch storage unit out of a flight case he bought at a swap meet. We decide to take his Telecaster instead of an acoustic guitar for me to play (direct, through a bass pod), I am also playing his Kurzweil I have brought only my mandolin. Somehow this all gets downstairs not much thanks to me. We drive to Hilversum the Dutch Media City; 17 years ago we played postpirate Radio Veronica here with Big Al and Francesca and Big Al's little dog but I think that is perhaps gone (and Big Al as well, and his little dog too), these are newer buildings. Today we play 3 songs on Radio 6, our first public performance, albeit to a mostly invisible audience, and Steve answers questions from a deejay who appears not to have noticed his solo career. Jaap Boots who will open for us in Ottersum pops his head in. We go to Utrecht where I played w/ Steve in 1990 at Tivoli, this is Ekko (northward on the the same canal), a collectively run volunteer affair. They give us dinner, there is a so-called pumpkin "fritatta" and there are potatoes. And a roll. "Are your potatoes cold?" asks the manager I'd guess you'd call her. (Her day job is at the big TV and Radio Museum next to where we were on the radio, cataloging or archiving or some such, she didn't like it much though it sounded kind of interesting to me. She also tells me that the radio station we were on is for "middle-aged men." Which seems about right.) "Yes." (Back to the potatoes now.) "They're not supposed to be." (Cold.) But no one offers to warm them up. Steve asks if I want to split a beer and pours me hardly any; I spill it in any case (spilt it, if you want to be anagrammatic), and then spill some water right after as a chaser. Take a walk along the canal, lots of student types on bicycles making me wish I was a student or even a student type on a bicycle. Back in the club I meet Yuko, I meet Hammi again whom I haven't seen since Seattle and Hattie's Hat. "Do you remember me?" I ask, he was wondering the same thing. I remember nothing of the show, I suppose we must have made some mistakes it being the shakedown cruise. There was a folky Dutch support act, singing in English, American-style. (Jaap Boots doesn't make that cultural error.) Then: Hotel: More steep shallow stairs, room the width of a corridor but I don't stay in it long. Then: Walking far to find an open bar, with Seve and Yuko and Hammi's friend Joanne (followed by vanparking Erik and Hammi) down a long cold empty dark street and finding one finally in what I remember as a leafy miniplaza on the banks of another canal. Yuko has a phone you can call the states for free on, though no one can figure out why this should be so; I use it. There is too much smoke and I will pay for that but happily there is less smoke in Europe than there used to be, at least inside most of the places we will play, eat and stay.
February 14. The breakfast room of the hotel has art with American themes, corny stuff. We drive to Liege, in Belgium. Erik likes Belgium he says, it's not as tidy as Holland, and it isn't. And there are hills in it. I am looking forward to using some French, sad we're not going to more Francophonic places; of course I'm also nervous about using some French because of the who-are-you look you get when you pronounce things wrong or misconjugate your verbs or get your gender wrong. (Not your own personal gender.) Liege looks good coming in, all kind of jumbly and twisty, and a river runs through it, worth an automatic 25 points. We are guided by Jane, the voice of Erik's new mostly trusty GPS system. Hotel parking is many levels up a low-clearance garage and I walk alongside the van to make sure Erik does not scrape his roof off. (He does bend an antenna.) I takes a walk into nearby pedestrian district which goes on and on and naturally leads to a cathedral and then goes on some more. In a comic book bande dessiné store I look at expensive Tintin clobber. In a music store (small, respectable) I whip out a little basic French to buy some guitar picks; the French for picks sensibly enough is plecs (sp?) I learn. I buy a Belgian waffle not quite like an American Belgian waffle in a bakery. Hotel rendezvous. Move the van back down through the low bridge garage, the club -- called L'Escalier for its escalier three or four flights of which separate stage from backstage -- is a block and half as the crow walks but on wheels must be approached circuitously and there's half a block to lug the stuff even then. They feed us on the second floor, a restauranty space, I remember it being fairly good, civilized anyway; there may have been tablecloths. We take a walk where I walked before but now everything is closed and the sun is down and the lights are on. Crisp. The opening act sing Simon and Garfunkel harmonies are much better rehearsed than we are (it would be hard not to be), younger than we are (ditto) and are who most of the people we play to when we play are really there to see but they and their crowd stick around at least and are very nice about it.
On to February 15
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