Friday, June 09, 2006

England: Where You Get A Second Chance

When I was driving around The States this Spring with Po' Girl, it was suggested that I should accompany them on The English Leg. They invited me to play a few songs every night before they went on, to warm up the crowd. In Canada you are called The Opening Act. In the U.K. you are referred to as "The SuPPOHT". The Po's had been a few times before and had the trap line all set up in advance and there was to be a van and driver which sounded glamorous. I knew that when we got there, even if it looked like the fire wasn't built specifically for me, no one would mind me sharing the warmth. I am always grateful for the chance to play for people. Thank you ladies. And John.

Po' Girl

Day 1

The Borderline

Historical Folk Hole. (Sarah Harmer, Ramblin' Jack posters on the walls). Strange music on. Kind of fake Americana where the accents and instruments sound slightly wrong and the word Texas is said a whole lot. Have been omitted from the bill for some reason which is a little disheartening but, you know, what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. So they don't get the full outfit then.
Nervous. Drunk. No dinner. Unannounced. Played my big 4 song set. Started Edmonton twice. Thought they loathed me but they're just English and reserved, I guess. Sold 12 CDs so some of them must have liked it. Or maybe they're masochists, which would explain how they can live here.
Waited hours in the alley for our driver Charles, who is really sweet but a country mouse at heart, to come back with the van. Like, HOURS.

Day 2

Cellar Bar

Spent the day negotiating many roundabouts as our driver Charles, who is really sweet, just won't fucking turn left for some reason. Wiled away the hours making up English sounding place names like 'Twatford upon Cocksfoster' and 'Shaggy Muffstead'!
Bracknell bed and breakfast. Weird pig crocodile stinkdog in the garden and Jesus pamphlets in the room and surprise booming voice at the door saying "Tea's ready!"
Yeah, well I'm not.
What's up with basements and folk music? The whole building was an arts centre, The Ye Olde Entertainment Mall. The audience so silent it's unnerving. And I thought Canadians were apologetic. This woman came up and said, "I don't mean to be rude but I really enjoyed that."
How could that ever be construed as rude? "I don't mean to be rude but that blew donkeydicks" would make more sense to me.
I am never smoking again. Think I've sprained a tonsil.
New Blueberry No-Sugar Added Ribena undrinkable in case you're curious.

Day 3

The Blue Bell Inn

Best Bar Ever! As always, beware of the phrase "They make their own cider".
Ducks, two greyhounds, a goat named Abigail, five hot daughters, John, Rob and Marion. Scrumptuous local organic dinner of stuffed RED peppers with minted couscous and shiraz and when it's over you get to sleep upstairs, if you can make it. I didn't.
Had a lot of free time to test the boundaries of the seemingly endless hospitality after my set while Po' Girl played every song they'd ever heard before. I was left as unattended prey for silverhaired wine buyers. "And another one for the mad girl!"
Thought I was 'maintaining' but awoke on bar room floor clutching the fiddler with a throat full of knives and whiplash and blushing at the vague memory of trying to convince the bartender to join us. The publican and his family started stirring, came downstairs and simply stepped over us saying, "Morning girls! Tea?"
Crikey! In Canada sleeping on the bar room floor would activate police, or a news crew, or at the very least, yelling, but here it's just, "Morning girls" and then there's tea and breakfast with veggie motherfuckin' homemade sausages and all.
There was some further fallout from my one woman show: Allison found her clarinet adorned with a tell tale ring of red lipstick. Oh yeah... Well, I'd watched her play it all night and she makes it look so easy! Like when you watch downhill trick skiing on the Olympics and think you can do it.
Left some CDs for Rob and Marion, apologizing and informing them that they're on the trap line now for life.

Day 4

Will Howard Centre

The English countryside is so green. But it's a different green. English green. Like it should have it's own wedge on the colour wheel. The green is broken up only occasionally by stone fences and dotted with sheep.
Stopped in a tiny town and spied "The Famous Thaxted Sausage" kitty corner to "The Little Hay Hole" and smirked like a pervert for the rest of the day. Went into a big cold church from the fifteen hundreds and thought, "This reminds me of something... Oh yeah, our house!" The same coldness inside the walls and moldy smell. Perhaps the lady doth need more modern castle for approaching twilight.
It's cramped in the van. Pissed bright orange. Gargled with some sort of stinky antiseptic/toilet cleaner. Wondering if me and the wine will arrange for some sort of truce by showtime.
There is no evidence of my alleged 'suPPOHT' so they're not gonna know what hit 'em if there is indeed to be a 'they' but batting a hundred so far attendance-wise.
Went to pick up our band dinners at a wine bar and heard a man say: "I'll have the steak and my wife will have the CHOOONA." Then remembered that I was the foreigner and that mockery is a two way street, but man you should have heard him!
O, The William Howard Centre goes WILD on Friday nights! And by wild I mean sitting like statues ("delightfully still!" as it says on the bottled water) until the last song when one couple started ever so slightly wiggling their shoulders to show their appreciation. Another stone folk basement. I played the hangover set of contrition which worked out rather well.
Met Ken and Sue, the Po' Tour people, who mentioned something about next year's festival. Charles has left us. Met his wife, Noleen, who had just recently fallen on her face.
After the show, on the way back to the Oval House B &B, the gang ventured into the Nag's Head for teenagey obbo karaoke night but D and I returned the forks to the wine bar and headed back to the Ogle Room where I drank hot water. On Fridays I goes wild. Don't worry about killing me, I'm already dead. .

Day 5

The Cluny

Oh boy! Newcastle is my town! It's a Geordie point of pride to never wear a coat, ever. Famous for "slappers" who wear their bikinis to the bar, dampness be damned. Nice to be back in a proper bar again with actual moving, drinking, smoking, Saturday night humans!
Beautiful show. Sold loads of CDs. This, apparently, is good. The Po's were awesome. Everyone loved them. Met a woman named Karen who said, "Are you on your own then when they play? I came over because I felt a bit sorry for you." Gee thanks. She told me she used to be married to a lead singer but she left him because he was terribly insecure. Really?
Nice venue. Every time I asked for a glass of wine, they gave me a bottle which is always dangerous. Restocked the dressing room for when the ladies came off stage. Went on a hash run with the guy putting on my return engagement. And then back to weird tiny hotel.
Ugly Americans we. "Yes hello. Listen, we're going to go up there and smoke some hash so we're gonna need some sandwiches. Can you make us some sandwiches?" The nervous night porter whipped us up some cheese and pimento triangles on white bread and brought them up, backing out of our room clutching a fiver, navigating his way through the smoke and bodies while Trish offered him some culinary suggestions. "Maybe some crisp green apple?"
Our new driver Ken was last seen clutching a large tumbler of scotch, running up stairs muttering "They're all mad!" before a door slammed hard. Had some wicked hash theories. Can't remember now. My neck is officially 'out'. Quite painful when I look to my left. Have tried to cut down. Looking left, that is.
We gave ourselves pep talks and have decided as a group that here in England, stony silence does not equal hatred. That silence is just another form of appreciation. And that any perceived negativity is all in our minds. But lead singers are all insecure.

Day 6

Memorial Hall

Went to see The Stones. Well not Mick and the lads, although his brother's band is playing in the area, but these ancient mystic stones in Castle Rig. Apparently they are famous for their Energy. A man there held two coat hangers and when he got to the middle they moved together. This, apparently, was significant.
Learnt the expression, "If it should all go pear-shaped" (fall through, get weird). Wonder if it has anything to do with ladies.
Have decided that unheralded suPPOHT has it's perks. Intoxicating randomness, no sound check.
Came up with new tourist slogan for the U.K.: "England: Where you get a second chance!" Because of the way the roundabouts work, if you miss the turn-off, you get to try again the next time around. And, judging by the ads we've seen for the North American acts on tour here, it seems it works that way career-wise as well.
So, Sheffield. Home of Judas Priest, Human League and Cabaret Voltaire. Memorial Hall, huge. Alice Cooper's here at the end of the month. There's a smaller theatre as well, which is, of course, where we are. I tried out my "Silence doesn't equal hatred" theory on the oil painting out there daring to call itself The Audience and the theory was greeted with, you guessed it, resounding silence which I took as unbridled communal agreement!
Went for a smoke outside in the interval and eavesdropped on some actors rehearsing elsewhere in the building: "It's a Roman farce about a slave who wants his freedom. All comedy. All the way through. Come and have a laugh!" Been thinking about how when the folks back home say, "Oh they must love you over there!", it implies a deep-seeded belief that there will indeed be a "they". This tour, for once, there is and they do, I think. In their own way.

Day 7

The Centre For Early Music

Gorgeous hotel last night. Drinks in the bar, a little hash, some stories, and then early-ish bed. Ken was funny: "I was going to say that you were one of the most TOGETHER bands I've ever worked with but the words just sort of stuck in my throat!"
Woke up at 12:03. "Weren't we supposed to be standing outside at noon?"
"Uh Yeah"
I have become That Guy. You know. The one I hate. The one on tour who's always late and never knows what's going on. Ah well, everyone takes a turn.
York is beautiful and me dear sweet mum is from near here. Apparently there is a museum nearby which has the "Smell the History" room where they blast in different fish, coal and seaside smells.
The Centre for Early Music is ancient. There's a wall out back from eleven hundred. The place is giant with huge columns. Spinets and harpsichords in the corner. Good sound. I like singing into tenth century marble.
I sat on Thomas Holmes' grave under a spec-dracular moon, pantiless in my new polka dot dress, having a drink and a smoke and a think, figuring Thomas wouldn't mind and that I can't have been the first as he was stored in the Artist's Garden (tulips, clematis, gravel).
Been reading The Master and Marguerite. Wonder if I would have survived 1920's Russia with my treasonous thoughts and trucker mouth.
The ladies sounded beautiful tonight and I always like it when you can see the audience. They were slightly more animated than the previous few. Tried in vain to find drinks past eleven but walked around with Allie and Awna in the old cobblestone streets and down this lane called "The Shambles" where all the buildings are tilted and Yorkminster looked gorgeous in the moonlight. Smell the history. Ended up sitting out front of that night's B & B at a picnic table with Diona discussing desire and if there's a difference between Want and Need, and gardening, and how the world is big and small and how maybe it expands and contracts- all your basic serious moonlight topics-hoping we weren't keeping anybody up.

Day 8

The Forge at The Anvil

Last day of tour. Dr. John is playing in the big theatre. His bus is outside. The trailer behind it is bigger than our van. Cute tiny theatre. Very nice sound man. Went to Tesco's for some last-night-of-tour-celebratory-dressing-room-thank-you snacks and wine. Really nice show. Attempted gargle solo in the Whore song and people liked it. Went out to the lobby in the interval to find dressing room key and was actually mobbed for autographs!
"No. Thank YOU. My pleasure. We'll always have Basingstoke!"
Sad to be parting ways with my tourmates. They are sweet people who know first hand that everyone is weird. Trish and John were off to play some festival with The Be Good Tanyas, Allie and Awna were headed to Brighton, leaving me and Diona and Ken to figure out how to get to glamorous Stanstead airport at the crack of arse. I made two hundred pounds in CD sales and left it on the stage. (Gee, motivated by money much?) Luckily, John called later and said he had it. He said he'd keep it for me but that I'd have to say goodbye to my little red suitcase. Fair enough. Ended up in some hotel near Heathrow for like an hour before the taxi came.

Arriverderci England. Fuck. I forgot to learn Italian.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Italy Andiamo!

Day 1


First impressions:
Very hilly. Lots of red roofs. Thought Italian movies were That Colour because the film stock was different, but turns out that Italy is actually that colour! (Is it the light? Is it the colours? Is it my PERCEPTION of the colours?) Wish I knew some Italian.
"Espresso fantastico per favorre!" There.
Diona and I of course went straight to bed last night after the last show of the U.K. tour and did not almost light our hotel room on fire during the hour we were there and arrived feeling totally refreshed! Budget flights make you hate people because they all look retarded and sick and then you hate yourself because you are too.
Our tour host, Keith, came to get us at the airport in a boxy euro van and Sexy Jenn Barker, Who Doesn't Like to Be Called Sexy Jenn and Would Prefer to be Recognized For Her Accomplishments in the Industry Thank You Very Much, popped up from the back seat and announced "I have to go puke!" and walked into the airport. Guess she had a quiet night-in too. She is my Alleged Manager but first she has to catch me.


The band is Me, Diona, Keith (bass) and David MacAnulty (drums). Had a little practice with the men while the ladies slept in the van. The place is a music school. A woman with Julie Andrews diction was singing 'Killing Me Softly' in an isolation booth across from someone practicing their Eddie Vedder/Nickelback grunge growl. Diona got stung by a 'vespa' while we were playing 'volano'. Our opening acts were students from the school. One group did 'Baby Can I Hold You Tonight?' by Tracey Chapman - choir style, in all earnesty and eight part harmony with hand gestures. The funny thing is I know that song because my old roommate Sue used to fuck to that record and she was a busy woman. Suffice it to say I know all the songs by heart.
We played and the people were nice, but it was kind of surreal because I was pretty tired and stinky from my Quiet Night-In, and the 'toilet' was this porcelain affair you have to squat over which wasn't terribly, uh, 'inspirational' if you catch my drift. We have promised ourselves to only drink non-flammable wine from now on.

Day 2

Ultimo Cafe

Keith and Andrea, our handlers, taught us the word 'Smoogy'. A smoogy is the older weird guy at the bar that hogs all your time conversation wise. I guess the Canadian version would be 'loomer'. Anyone that drains rather than infuses The Energy. The rub is if you can't see the smoogy, you are the smoogy!
I'm trying to get everyone saying 'Fumares! Andiamo!'('Smokes! Let's go!') like The Trailer Park Boys. The people are really nice and it really is all about food. They are foodists!
I have decided that everyone wants the thing that's the hardest to get. You can see it in Italy. They have the old buildings, the fine leather, the history, the food, the wine but they seem interested in North American stuff. Who would choose a new Harley piece of shit over a Duccatti? And they love Bruce Springsteen. But want is perpetual. I don't think it ever goes away. Unless you get what you want, I guess. Then you gotta pick something new.
We are staying at Keith's girlfriend's (Lovely Serena) house in Barlassina which is a suburb of Milan. It's beautiful except for the barking one-eyed dalmation next door. It's not the dog's fault, he's being ignored by his owners who exiled him when they had children.
I sure wish I could speak Italian. I kind of feel like a lazy caveman. Without words I am nothing.
Having some 'issues' with the crazy toilets. Stopped at The Autogrill, which is a gas station but like if the Tim Horton's was a four star restaurant with a deli and specialty store attached - Badminton rackets, salami, cheeses, chocolate, everything. But here's the thing: the toilets at The Autogrill are seatless and constantly flushing. Hard times for a 'sitter' like me. Fairly frustrating. My mind was playing coach. "Come on guys, if we all work together, I think we can do it!" but the body said "No! No! No!"
Then it all just became a total Fellini film. Trapped bird in the glass ceiling underscoring cinematic quality of incident. Wildly flushing toilets. Don't know how to order anything. Can't find the exit. Panback to trapped bird. Could hear it and see it trying to find it's way out all through lunch which was kind of stressful, and it's all loud and busy and all the cool Italians are drinking espresso at the standing counter. Back to the bird who's still trying to get out and chirping. The orchestra swells. Back to me running up the stairs. I' m trying to flea and, since I am unable to read any of the signs, I bolt out the side door and set off the alarm. Pan back to The Cool Italians all looking at me, looking so cool because they fucking are, like I was a retard which I fucking am.
Final shot: The parking lot. Where a foreign woman wearing clothes much too young for her age bursts into tears. I'm not suggesting this would happen to everyone as I'm pretty sure it was a four star triple wham my exhaustion/hangover/PMS related incident but there is some culture shock afoot.

Cafe Ultimo

Nice venue. Before the show they made us dinner which was amazing. Pasta, wine. This is The Europe I've heard about! Listened to Neville on the stereo for a taste of home to go with all the other tasting. Canadians in Europe are like raccoons. You let one in and they'll tell all their friends. "Look! That's him! That's the nice man with the gigs!"
Learned how to say 'Mi Dispiachi, sono Canadese'. ('I'm sorry. I'm Canadian'.) which I thought was pretty perfect to sum up our country and our people, but they don't do that Humble Hank humour thing here that we do because why would they? So they were all just blinking, going like, "Why are you sorry?" instead of laughing.
We have a guitarist. Marco- aka Il Pithone- The Python! He is awesome. We don't know how to speak to each other but it's musically perfect so we don't have to, which is my favorite thing. I love it when people know what I want without me having to tell them. (Oops! Guess I just told you...) He has that awesome country telecaster tone and he's tasteful and not too loud and a total friend of the lady singer. Did the encore outside to the people in the alley smoking and drinking grappa shots with the dogs and motorcycles. My people. Keith and David and Diona and The Python are the best band ever. We were introduced as Carolyn Mark and The Northern Vaginas. Nobody knows. No sign of George Clooney.

Day 3


Got to the town a little early so went further down the autostratte to see the sea. The Ligurian Sea I believe. Beautiful. People sunning themselves. Straight men wearing what would be considered totally gay suits back home. Had a perfect moment. You know that thing how people look like their pets? Saw a guy with long curly black mullet sitting with big poodle!
Get the picture? Yes we see.
Went into a toilet near the beach. Seat? Yes. Toilet paper? Si. Only this time the angle of the bowl was different so I created a piss fountain into my skirt which was awesome. So lean forward because you never know, I guess is the lesson learnt. Had wine and delicious snacks by the water and then off to the show. Oh yeah, rockstar, remember the show? Good thing you drank all that wine.

Cafe Pegaso

Um, we don't live here because....?
There was a moment at sound check. Diona was playing something beautiful on her violin while the waiter and the sound man (Fabio and Matteo), who are so hot they are gay AND married, hugged and fed each other olives. Am I dead? I just saw heaven.
The food is like they say and everything looks perfect in those spaghetti western kodachrome colours and the cobblestone streets and the old ladies in black, like someone went into the holodeck and said "Computer! Small village square in Italy!" This is the first time that something has been JUST LIKE THEY SAY in my entire life! It's kind of shaking the foundations and I keep waiting for the punchline but there doesn't seem to be one!
My Inner Skeptic is naturally quite livid: If ITALY can be like they say then maybe EVERYTHING could be- true love, popular American films, a career in music etc... This would mean I'd have to reconfigure my whole belief system and would severely compromise relations with The Comedy God whom I must serve. I could tell you I'm a skeptic but you probably wouldn't believe me. I don't get why everyone isn't fat or drunk here. Oh. Maybe it's that thing: If you can't see the fat drunk person, you're it. Fuck.

Day 4


This is how it happens. I just figured it out. This is how you would come to be one of THOSE PEOPLE. You know the people that end up at the gas station in Hope sighing that the coffee is just so much better in Italy! Well. Fuck it is. It's like the bar has been raised so much in the realm of food and beauty I'll never be able to settle again for riding the goddamn 401 for six hours in hopes of a cold shoulder, no dinner and 300 bucks. Man the autogrill kicks the ass of a Tim Horton's. Delicious sandwiches, espresso, better food than RESTAURANTS in Canada. It's gonna hurt to go back to England. The word for Canadian is Canadese which if you're hungover enough sounds like "Kind of dazed, eh?" Totally.

Dear G,
Ciao from Italy. It fucking rules here. It's kind of raised the bar existence-wise.
Funny to get emails from Geoff Berner about HOPING that that fucking Irish bar in Regina writes him back so we can play there in late September for 150 bucks. Just seems kind of hard to get it up when you compare it to the treatment and beauty here. Ah well. Modern problems. (By the way if you ever see me at parties in Canada saying anything of the sort, promise me you'll shoot me!)
Yesterday, we woke up in a small town and me and Diona and Jenn Barker walked by this extremely hot guy fixing his motorcycle and he said 'This is my house. I make spaghetti in one hour. If you want spaghetti you come to my house in an hour.'
We were all like, "Um, does 'spaghetti' mean the same thing here as it does back home?"
Every second guy is named Andrea.
I think Italians are superhuman. They should all be fat and drunk when you consider how much rich food and wine and grappa and sugar is going on at all times but they're hot. (Yesterday, Diona and I said, 'Keith! Keith! We just went almost a whole hour IN ITALY without eating anything! Quickly, some salty meat and delicious cheese!!!') Saw a guy on a motorcycle zipping up his leatherjacket going 90 km/h on the autostratte. No helmet and no hands on the bike! I would have hurt myself trying just one of those things let alone simultaneously but it's like Italians are protected from the elements simply by being Italian.
To atone for not exactly speaking Italian we have all developed ESL, 'vaguely European' accents.
David MacAnulty upon leaving last night's venue: 'Apparently the large man who looked like he was in the mafia is a famous chef!'
Oh yeah, on the tour poster for my shows it says 'Reginetta di Canadese Rock'n'Roll'Canadian Little Queen of Rock and Roll'!!!! I saw a preview for one of the shows in a magazine and right beside my name it said 'eccentrica' which I think I get the gist of. They think I'm fucking crazy! Ah well. Maybe they're right!
Best line though came from one of the promoters talking up tonight's place. He said very passionately, 'My only hope for you is that it is THE SOUP OF ONIONS!' Sigh. Ah well, better get dressed. We have an 'acoustica aperitivo' show at the top of a 'funiculare'. Yeah. I don't know what it means either yet but they keep giving me those 'you should be very grateful and excited' faces so fuck yeah! Bring it on!
ciao ciao,
xo cm

Dear J,
Buon Giorno! Or buono serra rather as it's a few minutes past noon here at Keith Rose's girlfriend's place. Diona left this morning back to Canada to play Ashcroft or something. Played a touristy marble place yesterday to nobody really except got to watch these two immaculate Italian ladies eat lunch. The one on the right, the red haired one, produced a silver hors d'oevre eating tool from her leather purse when the food came! Worth it for that.
Oh the beauty. Oh the history. Went to a church yesterday from the 'ornate-teenth century'! Raised a few eyebrows with my bare shoulders apparently. Scandalosa! The tomatoes. Oh! The Pomadoros! Holy Fuck. A guy could get fat here.
Love you miss you.
xoox cm

Day 6

La Locomotiva

They've got these Field Hookers here. Ladies of the night standing in roadside turnouts in the middle of fields in the middle of the day. It's the craziest thing to see. Apparently lots of them thought they were coming to Milan to be models. We have all started to speak like phrase books. Even to each other. I'd hate us. Keith was joking around about Tony Prito, "the olive skinned boy of Italian descent" from The Hardy Boys books and Jenn remembered that one of the Wakefield Twins in the Sweet Valley High books drove a Fiat.
Played in a communist train station. Asked Andrea for some Italian phrases to use on stage and I think he got me to say "My cunt is too full to sing!" ('Mio sticcio est troppo grosso per cantarre'). Met a lady 'smoogy'. ('Smoogetta'?)
The parents of the kid that runs the communist train station own a fancy restaurant and we were taken there for 'cena'. I guess Keith had told them I was a vegetarian so the waitress puts down a giant plate of food and says,"This is the first first, then there will be a second first and after the second first there will be, well, a second. Do you think you'll want cheese and fruit after that?" Jesus Christ they're trying to kill me. When we were leaving the restaurant Sexy Jenn, who has a hard time with languages and hadn't been saying much, said the word 'fellatio' and all these churchbells started ringing and I'm like "That's Italian! You're speaking Italian!".
Not one but TWO meddling sound men. "Step away from the board. Thank you." I can take bad sound or medium bad sound but constantly changing sound? No way. Keith is amazing. Always up for anything. An inspiration. The wife of The Python is beautiful.

Dear J,
It's Tuesday or Martedi as they say here. It's like they got a different word for EVERYTHING! Andiamo! Azit!
Tonight London. Sigh. After Italy, it's gonna kind of bite. This is the problem. When you've experienced perfection, it's hard to go back. Better not to have seen it at all or is that what it costs? Gotta stop drinking that philosophy espresso first thing.
Milano yesterday. Beeesy, Feeelthy, deisel exhaust, expensive but oh the Duomo (cathedral)! It only took 400 years to build, Hell they're still building it. But sadly nothing holds a girl's attention like the shopping across the piazza. People are shallow idiots and I'm one of them. Played on a radio station that plays songs that almost sound like the real thing. It's an odd thing to find yourself contributing too. Our Italian guitarist is called The Python! He rules.
Anyway, gotta go pack,
xooxox cm

Most comical translation moment: Andrea was telling me that I was the first band to ever be recorded live for the radio at the venue so I said, "Oh so I'm the guinea pig?" and he agreed heartily saying "Yes! Yes! You are the beegeeningpeeg!"

Dear J,
Leaving Italy today. Sigh. Gonna be a harsh toke getting back to grotty old London, but hey! At least I speak kind of the same language and I won't feel like such a lazy retard! God, without words I am nothing. It's like you just become a caveman with no nuances.
'Me need natural water please' is about the extent of my conversational Italian. Oooga Booga!
Been smoking Chesterfields. Never again. Harsh little bastards. The Cansmokes ran out so I've adopted a 'round the world' approach with varied results. Almost lost my marbles on stage yesterday but reigned it in with some severe threats to myself. I thought about The Others and it took my mind off my mind. Next level please.
Arriverderci Baby,
xo cm

Best Tour Ever! Keith and Andrea thought of everything. They booked it and did the driving and got us paid and everyone knew we were coming and nothing bad happened and Serena was such a gracious hostess and the band (The Northern Vaginas-Diona, David, Keith and The Python) was perfect and turned on a dime and there was Sexy Jenn to shop with. This has never happened to me before and I didn't think it ever would.
'Chicco, mi hai salvato et ti ringrazio!'

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

You Don't Have 2B Famous 2B Good: Part I

Day 1

From Milano to London

Descent into London. Gatwick. Reached into Sexy Jenn's purse on the way down and started reading Creative Visualization book. Wish I'd never done it. Too susceptible to ideas these days. Everything's resonating and sticking. Read the "It's your movie and everything's a mirror" chapter. Funny because I never needed help in that department and then had the illusion inadvertently, yet permanently, shattered for me by Slo Tom's brother last winter in Ottawa.
O Irony. Burst bubbles are the cost of lingering too long with straight people . One harmless comment about how things could seem a certain way if you were to look at them through 'that lens' and my mojo is shattered. I have lost my innocence. Had until that moment never even considered the possibility of Other Lenses. But this book suggests that the world is a mirror and whatever you see is your own projection.
So imagine landing in Gatwick feeling like shit and seeing people running around and little old East Indian ladies falling off the back of carts and screaming children and confusion and chaos. Hard not to think that the outside is representing the inside. BUT! If I wasn't there hungover bad vibing everything, do you think everyone would be all smiles and helping each other at the London fucking airport? I think not.
Sexy Jenn goes to the can and I grab a luggage cart. Those things are always kind of buggered so I start to push it and it flies across the path of this beautiful Italian woman who looks like Sophia Loren. She looks at me and says 'Numero Uno, ah?' And I think she means,"Oh so you think you're number one huh?" and I assure her telepathically that I think no such thing. Somewhere between 'numero duo dicce' (12) and 'a piece of shit' would be more like it and then I realize that she was TRYING to tell me that our luggage was going to come out on carousel number one and it had nothing to do with the cart or a personal assessment and that she was actually being helpful. I always think that I am see-through and forget that people watching the movie can't actually see the projectionist.
Sexy Jenn comes back from the toilet and we realize that we are about to be Random with Luggage in London, which sucks. When we discover that every hotel in London is booked up with The Chelsea Flower Show, I say, "Wait here," and return with two baby bottles of wine and some cigarettes. I insist that before we make any regrettable decisions we step outside and make the present less tense to ensure a more perfect future.
Jenn remembers that she has a friend in London but she has to call her other friend in Vancouver to get the number. The Vancouver friend only has the email address and says, "Okay, got a pen? Ready? It starts with a beak..."
Okay. Plan B. Yvette. She's meeting someone in Camden Town. I used to live there when I was eighteen so I figure I'll know my way around. Gatwick Express to Charring Cross. Switch to the Northern Line to Camden. I am saying 'ciao' and 'grazzi' and bowing to everyone because of the guitar and luggage. We almost get eaten by the tube because I have gotten so used to not understanding anything from being in Italy, that when they announce that the back doors in the last compartment of the tube don't open at Camden Station, which I KNEW from living there, we just stood there waiting for them to open until it was almost too late. Then, the revelation and us dragging our luggage across everyone's ankles to jump out before the doors close. Almost didn't make it because it's not like anybody on the tube will, like, MOVE or HELP YOU or anything. It's like they're all thinking, "Well you don't see me walking around with my clothes on my back and a guitar. Maybe next time you'll save up enough for a taxi!" Did I mention it was raining?
We come out of the tube station and I spy The World's End Pub across the street. I used to hang out there with these actor types and we'd drink cider and cast each other in leading roles ("No. I could totally see you in The Seagull!") Sexy Jenn and I run across the street and into the pub. We find a table in the corner away from the nasty speakers blasting some crap and stash our luggage and order drinks so we can make a plan. I get the Filthiest Wine Glass in England but it contains the important nectar and we talk about boys and shopping, happy to be out of the rain.
Yvette calls and says she' s going to see The Shins, who I like, but no way am I taking LUGGAGE to a rock show. Dinner perhaps? I bolt out the door luggage free in search of this restaurant that blew my mind once, foolishly thinking it might still be there, let's see now, holy shit! NINETEEN YEARS LATER!! Everything's all different. The whole street's changed. Chain stores have taken over all the mum'n'dad shops like everywhere else and of course there's no sign of a long shut restaurant called Rubies in the Dust. I feel like a ghost. Has everything changed or have I changed? The world is a mirror and I'm old.
I see a newish place that says it has Thai food. It's a bar with leather couches, indoor smoking, wine list, looks good. I go back and get Jenn and we haul all our stuff there and order and settle in and my host Paul phones and says I can totally stay over and he's on his way so everything's coming up roses and sunshine and then this band starts up. The loudest most piercing band that ever rented an amp. It's a horrible moment to be in a band, always counting on people's compassion, to find your own in-a-band self thinking, "Oh no. Not a band!" But when the world is your house, sometimes you just want to duck into the study for a moment before going back into the basement.
The food comes and the band is so loud we are laughing. I spy Paul out the window and run out so we can hear each other. He's so great. The sweetest boy that ever lived. Fresh off a blind date. I was the escape hatch. We eat our food and pantomime a lot to each other until the band ends. A man comes over with a clipboard and asks if I'd like to join the band's mailing list. "Hell yes!" I say because I want to know their whereabouts at all times so I can plan not to be anywhere near the area.
We find Yvette and the gang, our friend Clare (Clah) and her merry men. Yvette is with Vincent Gallo's twin brother. Clah and I have a drunken chat about books and then Paul and "English Vincent" and I share a cab back to Stoke Newington. Turns out English Vincent works for "Wohp" Records (Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, and Vincent Gallo(!)) Can't wait to tell the Maintenance Man!
Back at the flat, Paul gives me his bed and I sleep the sleep of the no longer random.

Day 3

Dear G,
I am in London. Played the 12 Bar last night. Man is that a filthy hole. Andy was strangely absent- even though he was there, which is a talent. No drinks. No money, but a really good show nonetheless. My new tourmates Moses (led by Paul Mosely and his brother David Mosely. They are Moses, get it?) are really really good. Nick Drake meets The House Martins with strings and things. Feel good pop music sung by hilarious tenderhearts. Melty.
So you gotta have 21 people pay to make any dough but the joint was 'crammed' so I don't understand. Guess no one paid. The opening opening act was a monk on stilts with an I-Pod who read the bible and played the banjo for like two hours. Saw him necking with a girl in the front room when it was all over so at least somebody scored!
Went to The Phoenix after, of course for more. Currently in Paul's flat figuring out how it all works. I'm starring in my own 'Brit-com' - Just mistook gravy browning for instant coffee and how the fuck do you get hot water to come out of the taps?
Could go to Brighton today and find Jenn Barker and Yvette at this music festival and/or play for some business men at a pub but kind of wanna save up for Newcastle because those people are animals and my Po' pounds are dwindling now that the shows have stopped paying. Actually the Po's didn't pay me either, but I sold records to the folkies to keep me in wine and cherry tomatoes. Thank god. Hmmmm the world is my oyster baby!
Yours Near Stoke Newington,
xoxo cm

Dear L,
Arrived in Brighton in a mighty wind and rain storm. Hard to even walk. Lost. Feeling particularly random. Skirt blowing over head and then all of a sudden Leeroy Stagger pulls up in a minivan saying "Get in! We're gonna go watch The Trailer Park Boys!"
The pier was all lit up and spooky carnivale and Yvette and I went to a circus tent to see a girl band from Scotland called The Pipettes. Matching polka dot dresses, bouffants, three part harmonies, gestures! Ended up in the hotel bar with fighting Canadian rock boys and a woman from L.A. who works for NBC. When it got ugly I went upstairs and ate the cookies because for once all that shit was taken care of.
xo xo cm

Could have stayed on Paul's couch watching Family Guy. Might have been cheaper. Ah but then there would be no story.

Day 4

Dharma Banana @ The Chillingham

Taxi, train, tube, train, coach, taxi. Met Paul at the station and he brought my guitar and everything for our voyage to Newcastle. Ah, my people. Had great show there with Po'Girl and was hoping for repeat customers. Hilarious train ride with Paul. He taught me some new terminology: "Cottaging"- what George Michael was doing in the public toilets, and "dogging"- watching people have sex in cars. And I told him Hank's joke that set the bar for disgusting on the last Hootenanny Tour: (Mother, cover your ears!)
Q. How do you get a gay man to have sex with a woman?
A. Shit in her cunt.
And then of course the day was a write-off and we were away expounding on all the possibilities. I'm sure all the other commuters could hear was some hushed tones followed by some snurfling noises the whole way there. At least I'm hoping so. But hey! Since they were English, we'll never know!
Arrived early and postponed the inevitable by buying some postcards, but was pretty much drunk by soundcheck, the promise of dinner washed away with the drizzle. Got changed in the toilet and told myself to drink some water and then all of a sudden it was time to play. It's a little hazy but I remember saying something about how some people thought of mine and Paul's relationship as a Liza Minelli/David Guest thing but that our marriage was very physical. Dedicated the Whore song to the drunken school teacher who was dancing on the tables, said the word 'cunt' a lot and didn't fuck up any of the songs. My kind of show. I suspect I have a slightly different rating system than "The Industry".
Drained the bar of red wine, ate a bunch of food when we got home to Paul's brother's house, then smoked a joint with Paul's brother David, smoked a cigarette with David's wife Julie, and as David dropped the needle onto Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town by Kenny Rogers, I hit the floor while the school teacher stole the bed. They tried to warn me but I was out. Slept with my boots on and coat and make-up. Everything.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Cock-Eyed Dwarves and Rubbish Cunts: Part II

Day 5

They had tried to warn me about the children. They had told me to take the upstairs bedroom but somehow I didn't put the two together before I turned into John Wayne: "We' here."
Oh my. At the crack of Christ, two little girls. Nelly and Nancy ran over me on the way to the telly and put on some show with a big chef and a little chef and loads of computery noises. I awoke with a start and sprang up, a surprise hobo in their midst. They screamed. I winced. Had seven or eight glasses of water and a cuppa tea and watched The Jungle Book and put Nelly in between two couch cushions and ate her like a sandwich while the adults congregated in the garden. Seaside walk in Whitley Bay with the whole family. The air tonic.
Packed up, abducted Daddy and headed for the last train to Edinburgh.
Sunday night.
On the menu that night: Two open stages followed by a 'proper' set at a place called Whistlebinkies at 'shit o' clock'. Of course it was fuckin' raining. Train ride even more hilarious with the double brother action. David confessing to having a recurring dream about a muscle bound dwarf with cocks for eyes. Worked on 'The Act' . Considered doing Billy Connelly stand up routine only without the accent.
Moses' cellist lives in Edinburgh but she was away at a wedding down south so we got her flat which was awesome. Without it, the night would have been unbearable. Made some tea, raided her cupboards and decided oat cakes weren't our cup of ... well, our thing.
Blue Blazer-open stage.
Just a pub with blokes sat around with guitars. The host was a long haired hippie who was prone to offering unsolicited comments after each 'act'. ("Yes David. I like your new medieval direction", "Robbie, you're finger picking's come a long way" etc) despite the fact that he was rubbish himself as my tourmates would say. I thought about my own open stage back home, for it was Sunday after all. I never comment unless I'm sober or my life is in danger because frankly where would you begin? ("Joey, I like the way you rock those two notes over and over again", "Stevie, maybe a little less drool on the mike next time!") When I finished my two songs, he said "Mmmm. Interesting lyrics". Then he asked me if I liked George Bush. Since he was Scottish I couldn't quite make out what he said. I think I said, "Why? Is he on next?"
Then off to another open stage with Ozzie Hannah. Talk about time travel. The place was the parallel universe version of The Old Bailey where I first started The Hootenanny! Right down to the protective fence around the tiny stage. Fun show. They had a piano and some people from the first open stage came with us. (Biology majors representing Canada, Texas and this beautiful girl who looked just like Lauren Bacall from Scotland.)
Walked miles uphill in the rain to next gig with our five fans in tow and it was alright but afterwards got my arm clamped by some shouty men who sprayed me with drool. I invented the Drunken Scottish Man Simulator. Ask me for a demo. Bring a towel.
Called The Maintenance Man from The Filthiest Phonebox in Scotland ("Welcome to Kismet. You are low on credit.") It was full of rubbish and smelled of cold damp piss. I brought a glass of wine and some smokes in with me to mask the odour.
Followed the progress/decline of a tossed order of take away chips as it diminished in the relentless rain (everything's a mirror) every time I 'nipped out for a fag'. Smoking ban. Since last March. Everyone thinks it's rubbish. Cute young bartender. Tall, gangly, long hair wearing a jack daniels shirt. Saw about seven Luther Wrights walking around. I suspect his people are from these parts.
Best line of the night:
He: I just feel like we've met before.
She: Yeah. I'm yer mum. Go to bed!
I love my tour companions, the two fookin' hilarious Geordie brothers. Light and dark. It's a million laughs like when Tolan and Rigby get on one of their rolls. Yvette's joined us as well so we've a built in audience. Any Hell's bearable if you're with kindred spirits. Boy I'd hate us if we wasn't us on the train.
The brothers are teaching me how to say stuff in The Northern Way so it's kind of like My Fair Lady in reverse. "Now repeat after me: Roobish Coont".
"Okay. Rubbish Cunt"
"No no no! Too posh. Have another go."
Somehow survived until the end of the night and they actually paid us and we made it back to the crash pad. "It's strange staying at other peoples' houses." said David.
"Oh. Is it?"

Day 6

Train back to Whitley Bay so David could get the car, hug the kids, have a row and exit stage left. Apparently we would be 'stopping at some nice lezzers' in Bradford. Janice and Alex. Very nice indeed. Lovely house. My own room! Paul had found us a last minute replacement venue as somehow the original place had double booked us with 'salsa night'.
McRory's. "Computer! Program English Pub." Exactly how you think it'd look. Had a great set. Have been noticing that mouthy unattended ladies speaking full sentences are kind of rare in these parts. I feel very modern. Like it's a side mission or something to show them that it's 2006. Who knows? They're probably just pretending to listen while they check out my 'milkers' which is no fur off my back as my old best friend Kerri used to say.
I think humour was invented here. You know the one about the Scotsman, the Irishman and the Englishman? Yeah well that was table two. World class hecklers. I didn't stand a chance. A golden round of banter went round the bar like smoke without me saying a word and I was the one with the microphone. Borrowed the P.A. off this really nice stoner woman in a tam who told me she practically books Glastonbury.
Feels like home. Talked some serious shit with the third Mosely, their sister Karen who is Paul in a wig. "We're like the Osmonds!" The band Moses is down to just the two brothers. They are so great.
A man walked up said, "I'm sorry" and put two pound coin in the old tip jar which kicks the ass of any subservience a Canadian could have come up with! These are our ancestors. We were invented here.
At the end of the Moses set I could hear men yelling "Get that fookin' woman back up there!"
Funny to have come all this way in an attempt to get drunk people to remember my name and by the end of the night it's "Get that Fooking Woman oop there again!"
If there is a theme or recurring motif to this tour it's that "You don't have to be famous to be good".
"That fookin' Canadese woman was quite good! Them blokes as well." They all seem so surprised. Party at The Lezzers after. David got into the spirits.

Day 7

It's the Moseley way! Hartlepool. Hometown of our heroes. Took the back way into town so got the local tour:
There's the nuclear power plants, oh there's the four ghost ships filled with asbestos in the harbour, there's the waste dump, that's a man selling onions on the roundabout, that's where they kicked us in.
As I looked around, I said "No wonder you guys are so funny."
David said, "Well look what's surrounding us! If we opened our eyes to reality, it's a wasteland!"
So humour was invented here because it's so shitty. Interesting.
Then there is the troubling legend of Napoleon's Monkey:
It seems that during the historical Napoleonic Wars a ship capsized and Napoleon's monkey washed up on shore where he was mistaken for a Frenchman, put on trial, and hung in the square. I thought the brothers were just having us on but I saw a commemorative plaque and some postcards to corroborate the story. "Hartlepool: Come for the nuclear power, stay for the monkey hangings!"
Stayed with (stopped at?) Ma and Pa Moseley's house to make ourselves a sandwich, do some laundry, watch the tube and use the phone. Mrs. Moseley took Paul down to the shops for new trousers. Fun show. Couldn't help saying filthy things in front of Paul and David's parents. I introduced Yvette from the stage as my Traveling Companion and then said,"Well we're not lezzers! Although I occasionally let her massage my uh, coont!"
Home after for late night snacks and Linda McCartney sun dried tomato fake sausages which are awesome. Although in retrospect they probably tasted so good because we were drunk and starving and Ma Moseley fried them up in lard.

Dear W,
Holy Christ every time I order a glass of 'wadder' or black coffee I'm basically George Bush. Playing the role of The Foreigner on tonight's episode of 'That Foocking Woman!' is yours truly. "I'm George Bush and I've come for all your wadder!"
Been playing in The North (Think Hedwig meets No Surrender!) where jokes were invented and it's a million laughs and then back to London where nobody's actually from so they're all pretending they got here first like any big city so no one claps so you just think they hate you even though you are laying down Golden Material and Neko's sold out across town. Goodtimes and glamour my friend. Paul and I are writing a musical called "Cunt!Cunt!Cunt!" Can't you just see it on a marquee?
xo cm

Dear L,
Still in London town. A little recording sesh with my new best friend and primary care giver Paul. (We are Will and Grace on the Dole) and then lunch with Yvette and Potential U.K. Booking Agent. (He was nice which is troubling.) Internet cafe in Camden Town en route to tonight's engagement. Did some proper shows in the North where the people laughed and clapped but am now back to playing shit holes for free in the cold big city. Ended up as stage door johnnies last night at the Neko show. Like a mescaline Fellini dream. Only four more sleeps. Essex tomorrow. Gonna see Harmer play on my last night in town.
Yours til they find Bin Laden's brother,
xo cm

Dear J,
Last night I took a two hour train ride and then a 20 pound taxi to a barn in Essex to play for half an hour for free. Well they did give me a bottle of wine for the train after but I smashed it getting out of the second 20 pound cab ride of the night but it looks like I'm totally welcome back any time I want! It's a really beautiful barn.
xo cm

Day 11

I think I'm killing my host. He didn't know that I'm a vampire and was trying to keep up, bless him. Ah well it'll all be over by tomorrow night when I go back in time nine hours on the plane! I intend to use the time wisely of course (jerking off in the toilet, finally joining the half mile high club, etc.) and then into the arms of Baby Honey and Hubby Honey and Goose for a night and then home to The Last Resort and George Jones whom I'm apparently living with.

Dear J,
Only half a day more and then it's fucking Vancouver, nine hours back in time. Crazy. Made some mates over here so we can bet on horses knowing the outcome in advance. Yeah. Tofield, Alberta sounds like fun. It's on a farm. I may go alone to spend some time with myself so I can remember who I am. Yup. Pretty tired now. Cried at the Sarah Harmer concert last night cause she sings this song about a soft bed up in the sky when it's time to rest. But then went out with her after to her hotel bar until shit o'clock because I am a genius. See you this week??
xo cm

Fantasy Island. A couple of days later.
Now that I have had some rest and seen friends and sunshine and reclaimed the power of language, I'm not so convinced that everything's a mirror and life is shit but I'm pretty sure I saw an older woman in the actual mirror the other night and I'm almost certain she was saying, "Go to bed loser!"

Touring out to Alberta with ten people should be restful though...

Monday, June 05, 2006

To Live is to Fly

Air Transat Flight # 703
London (Gatwick) to YVR
Seat 44F - Right side of Middle Aisle
Estimated travel-10 hours + 8 hours back in time!

Just boarded. Fuck is this ever going to suck. Twinges of excitement upon hearing the awesomely Canadian accents of the stewardii. Fuck. Chatty American rowmates Ron and Betty interfering with the reception. Betty is Freaking Out. I am poisoned.

Betty is moaning about getting the middle seat and PICKING AT HER FEET! Cue the screaming children.

Betty examines foot yield. I'm thirsty.

Safety announcements:"In the event of a crash landing, you can protect yourself by adopting the bracing position." Seriously.

Every second person on this plane is reading The Fucking Davinci Code. Punters. They have finally hosed the dead hooker off the runway and we are taking off. Betty is paralysed with fear which is keeping her silent.

21:45 (over Keflavik)
"All love is true in different ways." Hmm.
Just watched Cassanova starring Heath Ledger.
Q: If I lived in a time when you could get hung for cheeky beliefs, would I still be so bold?
A: I think I'd be the same.
Or, am I just hanging myself due to the distressing/intoxicating amount of freedom/disinterest?
I'd wager that the whole Dying for Beliefs gig was generally done by people on that mission anyhow. Like how people who want to have babies get pregnant. I think there's no stronger belief than Life is Shit and if the punishment is death so be it! She died for her beliefs. She died from her beliefs. Now, is it all the late nights and vino that's led me to this Life is Shit conclusion, or was it this conclusion that led me to all the late nights and vino? I never got into Townes Van Zandt before but suddenly his lyrics are resonating with I-Ching like significance. Troubling to find oneself suddenly relating to a dead, clinically depressed alcoholic, and little else.

Fun With Dick and Jane. Jim Carey, Tea Leoni. Rubbish. I miss Paul. His STOOL'S funnier than this shit. Nay, His stool has chunks of guys like Jim Carey in it!

Pride and Prejudice. Kiera Knightley. Can't feel my leg. Crap headphones. Can't really makeout all the words but shall not attempt to convey the depths of my misery. Don't know about Mr. D'Arcy. So tired of that whole, "Oh he's not an asshole, he's just shy!" business. Plus I'd wager he only did all those nice things for the family to get into Elizabeth's knickers.

Hour 7

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

One more hour to go. Full on thrombosis setting in. Betty is getting cranky saying "This is the worst plane I've ever been on!" Yeah, well lady, nobody said time travel was easy.
The pilot just came on: "We're gonna get you on the ground in the next 35 minutes." Hopefully we'll all still be in the plane when that happens. I feel like shit. Shit with chunks of Jim Carey in it. Everybody loves Raymond.

Ladies and gentlemen we have started our descent intoVancouver