Waking Up: a break-down
There is that moment when you wake up and don’t know where you are, a brief twilight zone as your consciousness starts to take root and colorfully flood fill your brain with concerns, identity, particulars. Conrad, from Trail of Dead, wrote a song about this; apparently in some culture or another it’s also called the Witch’s Web. I was just reading an incredible interview with Jeff Mangum where he talks about trying to hang out there as much as possible. He calls it “active imagination”. I’ll find the link.
When I wake up in my tour bunk, I’ve been noticing that my personal flood fill has been getting very specific and orderly.
1. Is it morning?
Usually, American tour buses have closed galley-hallway with doors at either end. This means that you cannot tell what time of day it is unless you go into the front or back lounge. This European bus is different from any I’ve been on – it’s a double-decker with a large second-floor window above the driver’s window with a little look-out nest. There is only one seat. This is the coveted seat. The nest area is separated from the bunk galley by a thin curtain, and my bunk is right next to the curtain. So, upon waking, if there is light coming from behind the curtain, I can determine if it is indeed day. If it’s pitch black, chances are it’s Not Day (unless you’re in the UK, in which case it’s probably raining and it’s not worth getting up, or even existing, anyway).
2. Why does my foot hurt?
Good question, WTF? I’ve been sleeping with my right foot propped up on a elaborate sculpture I create nightly out of my clothes bag, my back-pack and three pillows. This keeps my foot elevated, and supposedly, healing. Upon waking, however, I have no idea what the hell is going on. I move my foot microscopically in one direction or the other and my brain sends itself messages of sheer confusion regarding the lack of toe control and throbbing clunkiness. I then slowly start to recall that it’s a dysfunctional piece of meat at the moment and, like clockwork, feel like an idiot for having let my foot get run over by a car in Belfast. I then forgive myself for being spacey, American and human, and move onto the next question.
-break, to help your visualization….here’s a photo that tora took of me, last week, in my bunk –
3. Where am I?
This is a really interesting phenomenon when touring on a bus. Because often, this is ACTUALLY an impossible question to answer. On a bus, yes. Absolutely. That part is simple. But where is the bus? Not so simple. When I tour I try to pay attention to what city is coming next but sometimes I just don’t check. Today I woke up and it went like this: On the bus. Check. In Europe. Yes. Bus would not drive me to America, Which country? Not sure. Flippy flippy flippy flippy flippy…mind file….zurich. Brain hurts. What country is that in. Ow, brain hurts. Switzerland. What a funny name for a country. Yes. Onwards.
Sometimes i will wake up at the crack of dawn and the bus is parked in some foreign situation (a filling station, a strange parking lot miles from the venue because the venue doesn’t have bus parking) and I’ll just sit there, wondering where the hell we are. Not knowing can be very wonderful. I know we’re on our way somewhere. I trust the bus driver with my life (we all do). We have the Best Bus Driver Ever on this tour – I’ve never seen anything like it. It is standard for drivers to be grumpy and distant – Neil is like a cross between a british butler and a soccer coach. He’s been helping me out all the time with my foot, doing little errands and favors for the crew, helping me with the signing line at the end of the night and taking pictures with fans….he even grabbed me his personal lawn chair (complete with beer cosy!!!!) the other night and set it up in the parking lot next to the bus so I could have a naughty cigarette (my first, and hopefully last, of tour) outside with the opening band. He’s a class act. I wish he could be our driver forever. Drivers come with the buses. You rent them. You can request specific dirvers, and they can request you, but you can’t always get what you want.
4. What’s wrong?
(a.k.a. Bitch and Complain)
My now, my consciousness is fully formed and a flood of ego and pain starts to descend. I don’t think about what’s pleasant and nice and happy. If anything is wrong, here’s where it starts to say hello for the day. It is fair to say that I then spend approximately 13-15 seconds of my day (before this moment) actually enlightened. We should work on stretching this out. Today? Several concerns on the front-burner. A hard phone conversation late last night. A small helping of existential despair. Strange old wounds and feelings being dredged up tonight with visits from old friends. Dealing with the merch situation, hitting order deadlines for the US tour, getting out of the bunk is going to be kind of a pain because my foot is a piece of meat. Remembering the doctor’s visit from yesterday (no improvement, surgery not possible because of potential bone-shattering, 6-8 more weeks on crutches projected by the stern german orthopedist, fuck). Body cranky from lack of movement and stomach getting dough-like from consumption of European Pastries sans exercise to burn them away. Voice starting to cave in a little bit. Bitch and Complain. Ok. Check.
5. What is today?
Now that I’ve become thoroughly neurotic and ego-conscious, I start flipping through what’s About to Happen. Show day? Off day? Good city? Bad City? Fucking, Anything worth being excited about? The brain-chatter gets louder. There’s some phone interviews today with the states. Soundcheck. Show. Everybody is in a generally blessed-out mood because our show in Heidelberg was magic..the best one of the tour. Beat London. We were high. Then we stayed in Heidelberg for a day off and everybody wandered the fairy-tale cobble-stone alleys, walked up to the castle on the hill and generally felt happily trapped in a postcard. I sat my crippled self at Café Journal* all day, catching up on work. We all ate a family dinner at a sushi restaurant. This counts as a Good Day. I then haul my bod out of bed, drag my club foot to the bathroom, pee, make tea (these two things take three times as long with a club foot) and start my day as a fully conscious, neurotic and unenlightened being. And so it goes.
Life On Tour = Not The Romantic Life of Excitement & Intrigue That Most People Think It Is.
But, eh, in general?
I have to say: the tour in general feels a little too good to be true.
Everybody is so wonderful to each other and it feels like a very happy family.
We all talk a lot about Real Things.
Miss Laura Keating (aka Miss Merch, aka the lovely girl from whom you buy your shirts, undies and CDs) is pregnant. She’s been dealing with morning sickness and we all try to make good baby jokes. By the time we get to some places in the states, she’ll be four or five months along and you’ll be able to visit her glowing belly at the merch table and buying a t-shirt will be sort of like visiting Lourdes. Her healing pregnant powers will calm and amaze you and also compel you to spend all of your money on Amanda Fucking Palmer merchandise. She never puts out a tip jar in Europe (she gets blank, confused looks) but she’ll have it out in the states. Give money to the pregnant lady! It’s like directly saving the children! Speaking of which:
I’ve been announcing this from stage every night – if you’ve seen the show you’ll know and if you haven’t you’ll be hit up – but all of the Australians (The Danger Ensemble plus Lyndon the violinist, who has now been dubbed Violyndon) came on this tour for zero salary. The tour isn’t turning any profit because of the cost of the bus and crew and I just didn’t have any money to pay them, all I could do was cover their flights and promise to feed them. So every night we’re passing the hat for them (well, they’re passing the hat for them, and they’re not using hats, they’re using hot lace-up boots and other fine footwear). Everyone has been extremely generous and they’re making enough money to live and eat (though it is hilarious when we all eat out together because everyone from the danger ensemble pays their bill in few pounds of loose change – earning huge points with the waitstaff). Anyway. I wonder if this would work with just any audience … but whatever the case, you guys are making our tour work. Directly. Thank you for being so awesome.
Steven’s working on a donation website in case anyone didn’t get a chance to give, I’ll send the link when it’s up.
Zoe Keating, sister of Pregant Laura and cellist extraordinaire has been slaying every night and the fans over here love her stuff. She and Jason Webley have been opening up (sometimes Zoe goes first, usually Jason does) every night and the crowd eats them up. She’ll be on the states tour so you’ll get to see her do her thing … she records samples of herself playing cello and then loops them and plays over them, and the result (since she’s a killer player with incredible improv skills) is like a cinematic suite of pure audio bliss. She’s wonderful and calming to be around, and having sisters on the bus is…hot.
Time to Do Zurich.
AFP (and tora, and zoe, we’re having a mac party)
p.s. tons of people have asked me if i’m endorsed by Apple.
no. i wish. then i would get free stuff. i just heart my mac. if any of you work at mac and want to get my ass endoresed, GO FOR IT.
p.p.s. that amazing interview with jeff mangum:
*Café Journal is actually no longer Café Journal. It has been purchased by a larger café chain and is now called Café Extrablatt. This was not a good thing; the music was awful and the vibe has been destroyed. I briefly lived in Heidelberg when I was 22. I’d just graduated from college and had been offered a scholorship to Heidelberg University. I didn’t want to go to school really, but they were offering me free money. And I was not ready to get a job. And I sort of loved germany. I decided to accept it and go. I spent the summer in Harvard Square, street performing. I fell in love with Jonah. That was not handy. I left him in September and installed myself at a little student dorm in Heidleberg, waiting for classes to start. About 5 days after my arrival, I decided I’d made a huge mistake. I didn’t want to go to grad school. I didn’t want to live in Heidelberg. I wanted to go home, continue being in love, start my life as a musician. I wondered if I was just afraid, or menstrual, or blinded by naïve feelings. And I was firmly entrenched in a new plan. The people who had given my my scholorship had gone out of their way to hook me up with an apartment, money, insurance, a bank account…I sat at Café Journal for several hours a day, scribbling in my blank black book, trying to decide what to do. I tried to tune into my gut. My gut changed it’s mind every few hours. I hated my own guts. I finally just took the plunge. I took a deep breath and I left, having only lived there for about three weeks. I am glad.