The difference between Europe and the United States, it has been said, is that in Europe one hundred miles is a long way, and in the United States one hundred years is a long time. As an American (and especially as a Californian), the depth of the history here can be overwhelming. I come from a place where the very oldest building is barely two hundred and thirty years old. Standing in the shadow of a small church in a small town that has been lived in for a thousand years tends to stretch one’s perspective of time; like staring into a clear night sky and contemplating the infinite expanse of existence. To Europeans, it’s just more old shit – rotting churches that no one really goes to anymore except on Christmas Eve and Easter when Grandma is visiting. I find myself wondering “if these walls could talk…”
We woke up at the crack of eleven this morning and began the daily tour ritual of six people queuing for one bathroom. There was bread and cheese and plenty of good black coffee, and the sun had come out for its annual Belgian appearance. I put on my flip flops and jorts and took my coffee onto the patio to enjoy the weather. The conversation with our hosts flowed this way and that in the way that only happens when one has all day to talk. Their four cats and a few other neighbor cats played in the tall grass and occasionally visited the table to beg for scraps.
Finally the last shit-shower-shaves were taken, we bid our hosts goodbye, our pockets full of speculoos and apples for the road. The van started on the first go with a great puff of white smoke. There was a new slapping sound coming from the engine bay that we had to turn the radio up louder to ignore. Accelerating onto the Belgian autobahn, we cruised along for about ten kilometers before hitting a line of traffic lined up for the turnoff to Amsterdam. We’re going to be here for a while. At least the sun is shining.
Amsterdam, finally, four hours into a two hour drive. Thibault deftly maneuvered the tour van down the narrow streets crowded with bicycles and tourists. A few wrong turns later, we pull up in front of the venue and load the gear in. Dinner is served shortly – vegan curry noodles and chicken satay for the meat eaters. After dinner I escape for a quick walk around to see something more of the city than just the inside of the club. That’s the irony of being on tour – you are in more cities in a month than most people see in a life, and yet you see almost nothing of them but the road to the venue.
Outside the sun was still shining, but the chill of fall was definitely in the air. Chairs and tables spilled into the street in front of the cafes. Crowds of drunken English tourists sang heartily as they also spilled into the street on the way to the next bar. I returned to the venue just in time to see Not Scientists hit their first chord. It was a sell-out crowd that night, and all the bands played like it. The Flatliners played “He Was a Jazzman” in their encore. My favorite.
After load out we ended up at another bar, then another, then a hotel, then back at the sleeping place where Ed and I were the last men standing, drinking beers on the roof, looking at the Amsterdam skyline as the first light of dawn appeared in the east.
I woke up this morning still a little bit drunk. Down the steep stairs and into shining sun I stumbled, marveling that I had somehow made it up them last night without hurting myself. An hour later we crossed the “border” into Germany. It’s good to be back on the Deutsche Autobahn – beautifully designed and maintained roads carrying beautifully designed and maintained German cars at high rates of speed. We stay in the right lane, cruising at a more reasonable pace. We’re going to ask a lot of this old van on this tour – no need to push it. Hamburg will be there whether we’re in a hurry or not.
An ongoing anthology of tour diaries.