Friday, February 23, 2007

Welcome to England - Here's Your Tiny Bed (Pt 1)

"Art is long and life is short and success is very far off"
J. Conrad

Day 1-2 Voyage to the End of the Dawn
Departed November 8 @ 8am from The Last Resort, Victoria, BC.
Arrived Nov 9 @ 7pm (eight hours in THE FUTURE) at The Blue Bell Inn, Hempstead, U.K.

When was the last time you travelled 36 hours (at great expense) to get to a hundred dollar gig?
I thought as much.

I went out last night to play this new open stage
(times are tough), and the guy I played with
complained that they'd charged him for beer and I was
like "Honey, I've driven 14 hours to pay for beer and
I'm a wino. You only had to come across town and your
girl friend drove you, so shut it!"

10 hour plane ride. Diona slept like a baby. I
couldn't and woke her up in full blown petulant frenzy
to help me find my book. I had looked on my own. I had
gotten all manner of people to lift up their feet and
stand up to look on their seats. Nothing. And I was at
the last chapter too. Memoirs of Montparnasse. I had
to know if there was a later price to pay for youthful
No reason. Just curious.
Anyway, when I woke up Diona, she found the slender
volume in two seconds tucked into the seat ahead of me
right where I'd left it.
It wasn't in there when I looked I swear!
A million hours later, we arrive at Gatwick, kiss our
new best friend DJ GoodcopBadcop goodbye, get the
luggage, clear customs and then...
And then what?
Oh yeah. This part. How the hell to get to The Blue
Bell Inn which is in Hempstead, the mailing address of
which says "Near Saffron-Walden", down a country lane
in the middle of nowhere god only knows how far away?

Damn future. Sneaking up on me like that. Ok. Buses?
Trains? I don't know.
I hadn't slept and was not at my best.
Diona suggested we rent a car and my stomach dropped
to make room for my sinking heart. The whole driving
on the other side of the road thing, the roundabouts,
and the law that any time you rent a car, despite the
advertised price and no matter what country you're in
or for how long, it will cost you 600 dollars.
"No look. It's only 24 pounds a day", she says.
Despite every experience I've ever had, I want to
remain positive.
"Well, will you figure out the whole driving thing?"
"Of course. And it'll be cheaper than train fare for
two everywhere."
We rent something called a Hyundai Getz from the
Europecar kiosk and go meet it in the parking lot.
This is so weird. We feel like ADULTS or something.
Diona figures out the left-handed stick shift and the
other-footed clutch (the signals are backwards too!)
and we nose out into the first of many roundabouts.
For some reason, screaming like Pee Wee Herman as you
go around seems to help. Somehow we make it to the A69
which is what the lady said to do. Okay. Okay. Holy
shit we're in England! Driving! What a world!
Drove until dark and then some, down the motorway and
were both sort of wondering how the fuck we were gonna
find the place and then I started worrying if I had
even confirmed the show. Then I saw a sign for Norwich
which I recognized from the second season of "I'm Alan
Partridge", this culty obscure comedy show. Fuelled by
the excitement of seeing something "familiar", I
suggested that we take the exit.
We stopped at the first petrol station to ask
directions and holy fuck it was the EXACT RIGHT EXIT!!
A narrow winding country lane in the pitch dark save
for the glow of a few tiny hamlets and then straight
on through Saffron-Walden, where it was apparently dog
walking hour, and more twisty country lanes and there
it is. The Bluebell Inn. And in time for dinner even!
We opened the door and the pub was just as we left it
6 months ago, which made the whole adventure seem like
not such a big deal even though on the inside we felt
like mental cases.
My brain rewound back to the last time we were here
which caused me to cringe slightly. If you'll recall,
I slept on the bar room floor after allegedly giving a
clarinet concert and propositioning the bar tender. I
love that they invited me back. But then I guess it
would take a maniac to even find this place.
Cute show. There was a keyboard so we worked it into
the act. D. and I both wore black and white and looked
kind of like music students at a recital. That is,
until I opened my filthy mouth of course. Nice crowd
of about 12 people sat in brightly lit chairs. Very
attentive. Totally freaky.
When it was over we sat around the wood stove with Rod
and Marion the owners, their daughter, their friends
from out of town and the two greyhounds. Except for
the posters heralding the arrival of several other
Canadian bands, it felt like we were in an oil
painting from the nineteen hundreds. Or a rural
episode of Coronation Street.
Upstairs to the tiny beds to sleep the sleep of the
penniless international traveller.
"Welcome to England. Here's your tiny bed!"


"In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upward-mobile-and the rest of us are fucked until we can put our acts together. Not necessarily To Win, but mainly to keep from Losing Completely."
Hunter S. Thompson

You know it's gonna be a good show when the promoter
goes by the name Fish Finger Frank.
We pulled into town mid-afternoon, hid our stuff
behind the DJ booth in the upstairs bar and ditched
the car. Newcastle was grey and rainy and well, just
how you'd think. We strolled and eyed fashions in the
fancy stores in the main square while keeping an eye
out for the perfect place to eat. Found an Italian
place with red checkered table cloths, thin pizza,
salad, wine and you could smoke at the table!
When we finished it was only 6:30 so we strolled some
more and found a wine bar. Glasses of wine were two
pounds forty but bottles of wine were three pounds
twenty so what's a girl to do? Vocal warm-ups? Oiling
and stretching? Communing with the instrument?
It was a perfectly quiet dark bar for a while until
they blasted piercing Eurodisco through trebly
speakers to welcome the Friday After Work Crowd.
Shit. I was a little drunk. I had noticed something
funny with the gravity when I went downstairs to the
bathroom. Crazy bathroom with a motion activated
Killed the bottle, drank some water and headed back to
the club. The Telegraph. Near the station. Found Fish
Finger Frank pacing around wringing his hands
anxiously awaiting us. There was an opening act named
Mick Oliver. Good songs.
We drank more wine and became his biggest fans.
The bar was half full of lonely dudes. Apparently this
is my Newcastle demographic. My 'fan base' as it were.

We played to the only two people radiating any light.
Two swarthy guys at the front table who seemed to be
Getting It. In the break, we went to talk to them and
discovered that they had just arrived from the
Dominican Republic to take a sustainable agriculture
course (in NEWCASTLE?!), spoke barely any English and
had just randomly come to the bar not knowing they
were gonna be seeing any music.
Us foreigners gotta stick together.
The show was kind of a blur. My throat and fingers
felt thick and it was hard to sustain the notes. Sold
a couple of CDs and procured a local hostage to guide
us back to Fish Finger Frank's house where there was
to be a little after bar party in our honour.
The local turned out to be one of the worst
direction-givers of all time, telling us to go left
just after passing the turn-off and various other
shotgun crimes.
It made me think back to when I was a kid in the
passenger seat and my mother, a nervous driver, would
ask me to check if anything was coming on my side
before she pulled onto the road. I used to think if
was funny to tell her the coast was clear and then
sharply inhale as she pressed the gas. Boy would she
get mad. As we drove with this guy I was silently
apologizing to her for thousands of past crimes of
this nature. And to Diona for making her drive. And
well the list goes on.
I was a remorseful, lonely, boozy chanteuse in
Got to the house. Diona had been here before to score
some hash when we played Newcastle last time with
Po'Girl when it was the big show at the fancy place
crammed with fans. Of course. She had dropped a few
hints as to the condition of the house, but I payed
her no heed as we had no other option.
It was shambolic.
Filthy, the ubiquitous really hairy cat, fur
everywhere and the fireplace was actually a coal
grate! Like, there were actual bags of COAL beside the
We all huddled around on the living room floor.
Fish Finger Frank, his silent wife, the bad navigator,
the simpering superfan, me and Dee, possibly someone
Diona started making some 'well I'm off to bed, that's
it for me' gestures but I implored her with my eyes to
stay for 'just one' as they were doing this in our
honour. I don't think she was feeling well, but that's
not really an option any more. Some travelling
people, presumably the ones that are going to outlive
me, are able to ignore any troubles the hosts have
gone to and simply do what they want, oblivious to any
ruffled feathers. Or maybe they don't even notice. Or
maybe it just takes a giant self-obsessed diva asshole
to succeed in any way in this world. Lord knows people
love to be abused... Hmm I wish I was more of an
asshole but I'm a sucky pack animal with watery
boundaries lacking the integrity to say it at the
time, emboldened later by the safety of being miles
away shut up in my room replaying the events in slower
time and skewing the details with perspective so that
I feel like more of a star.
So we stay up with the men. They play us some tracks
from Fish Finger Frank's band's new CD, the bad
navigator sings me opera while crouching over me, we
smoke some hash, the Simpering Superfan opens this
Special Wine He'd Been Saving. (O.K. so I'm a TOTAL
asshole. A remorseful asshole in denial. The worst
kind.) At some point, Frank left the room and his
mates gathered round.
The Bad Navigator says, "You know Frank's really a
super guy, I mean, despite the whole Ass Burgers
I am taking a haul off the joint, nodding. Agreeing
until I get to the end of the statement, I cough up
the smoke, look up and say "Ass Burgers?!", hoping
it's just accent confusion (It sort of sounded like
this: "ahhz behguhs") but getting the worst mental
flashes that maybe Frank liked to have lady singers
shit in hamburger buns as his promoter fee or
You never know.
The Bad Navigator blinks, not understanding the
question so I say it again.
"Ass Burgers? Like in Ass Burgers?"
Finally the shilling drops. He covers his mouth with a
hand suppressing a shocked laugh. "No. It's a
syndrome. A guy's name. Like Autism.
Oh. Like that book The Curious Incident of the Dog in
the Night. Right. They explained some more details,
like a crippling desire for meticulous order, social
awkwardness and other stuff until someone noticed that
Frank had returned and steered the conversation in
another direction.
We discovered later, looking it up in London, that one
of the things about Asberger's is that you think that
everyone's talking about you. Poor Frank. Made me
think of an interview I read with Courtenay Love. They
asked her why she was so weird that one year and she
said bluntly, "Oh well I think is was the... uh...
She went on to say that crack makes you paranoid and
you think everyone's talking about you only since it
was her, they were!
I don't know. It's kind of a touchy subject for me. I
think everyone's crazy and I'm suspicious of any
sanctioned cures and the motives behind them in a
world where the word 'functional' is good and the word
'shameless' is bad.
Maybe I have become such a crazy loser slacker that I
am looking for excuses to absolve me from my guilt of
not playing along or fitting in. Actually, since I'm
able to 'pass' enough to travel and get gigs, not good
ones mostly, I mean I usually owe a little at the end,
but maybe it's the guilt of fence sitting. Like being
able to pass but not using it to succeed. Like dulling
some of your gut reactions down to even sleep after
being paid like a whore at the end of the night,
underpaid at that, for something you (used to) love to
do. All the discomfort of selling out with none of the
profit! It's like I'm a social agnostic and you know
if I were Jesus I'd hate a fence sitter more than
someone with convictions. Luckily, it's hard to
punish someone who's already in Hell. Maybe in the
next life I'll get to be a dog.

We slept until four pm the next day waiting for our
nervous hosts to leave so we could use their phone and
computer and make The Next Plan. I don't like missing
the light in a day. The evening always feels like I'm
on a movie set waiting for the shoot to be over so
they can turn the lights back on. Diona is still
quite queasy and the filthy house isn't helping. Also
it's been 24 hours since we've eaten anything. We are
sharing three brain cells between us. I want to go
find C.R. Avery and go crash his gig. Diona wants to
go find Charles in Ireby. So get this: Our research
informs us that that night Charles in Ireby is putting
on the C.R. Avery show, so everyone's a winner baby!
Just as we were escaping, Diona realized that the cat
had pissed all over her jeans and she almost puked
into the coal grate. Luckily she had nothing left to
Ended up at a falafel stand and where the vegetarian
souvlaki was a pita stuffed with french fries, a
couple strands of purple cabbage and drowned in
mayonnaise. Blah.
Many round-a-bouts later we wound our way down the
thin rain-slicked inky roads to Ireby to a cute little
hall and open arms and a nice house to stay at and
they let us open the show. It was sold out and they
dug us which felt good. C.R. Avery and his band were
fabulous. They even got the audience on their feet
DANCING at the end which takes work over here.
Back at the house down the lane later, a piano
playing party with C.R. and the boys broke out and
Charles agreed to be my U.K. booking agent which is
encouraging except for the having to come back to
England part...
The next day was a twelve hour drive in the rain
culminating with London traffic and Diona was really
sick and puking yellow foam and unable to eat
anything. Couldn't really blame her. The food was all
disgusting. So even though I was mildy terrified, to
atone for and quel the disgust at my own lack of
empathy, I offered to drive so she could rest in the
back seat for a while. We were in the parking lot of
the Motostop after having spent some time pushing some
mashed potatoes around on a plate near this family
who's son kept asking "Can rabbits swim? Mummy, can
rabbits swim? Can rabbits swim? Can rabbits swim?" But
they had a new baby now and were ignoring him. We left
right when I was about to snap and drown them all in
the rabbit pond for being so ugly.
Okay. Get in the driver's seat on the left. Put on the
seat belt no problem. Okay. No that's not the gear
shift that's the door handle. Right. Um okay clutch.
brakes. Nope. Other way round. Let's see. Shoulder
check. Can't see shit. It's just all red. Okay well
maybe the windows are backwards too. Let's concentrate
on this clutch situation. Backing up, backing up, not
stalling, BANG!
Smashed right into a mail truck, which explains why
the window was all filled up with red, and promptly
burst into tears thinking of the expense and the
bruised ego of my inner man. I wanted to save the day
not ruin it.
So now Diona not only has to drive, she has to console
me too as projectile tears splash down on 'my side' of
the dashboard. About five minutes later I can tell
that she is trying to suppress a slight smirk. Six
minutes later we are laughing our fucking heads off at
the sheer comedy of how fast the whole thing went
down. I was seriously in the driver's seat for under 2
Twelve hours later we got to London and somehow made
it to my friend Paul's place in Stoke Newington. Other
than seeing Paul, London was so horrible this time
that I can't even bring myself to think about it let
alone write it down.
I think you can get the gist from a letter I sent to
my mother, and maybe like eight other people:

Cher Maman,
I imagine you are wondering about the new level of
debt currently accrued on the old Mark Family Visa
card and well, I can explain.
It ain't pretty and I'm not proud but here's the story
to date:
Firstly, I'm in Italy now, having left the grey
Orwellian misery of England that leaves one filled
with ineffectual rage, screaming at the skies like
Basil Fawlty. I can see now why you left the first
chance you were able.
Yesterday was, in a word, frustrating.
To bring you up to date, upon arriving at Gatwick, we
priced out the cost of taking trains for two
everywhere and decided to rent a car. �24 pounds a day
all inclusive. All was well. Diona said she'd figure
out the whole driving on the other side of the road
thing which I think I could have done but also it was
a standard. Then Diona got The New Fall Flu and was,
among other things, puking yellow foam and feeling
terrible so I offered to try driving so she could rest
and in under 5 seconds, while backing out of the
parking spot, I hit a postal truck and creased the
door (�75. I'd ticked the insurance waiver)
In Newcastle, we rang the rental place to see if we
could keep said car (a Hyundai Getz, for the record)
for a couple more days, figuring that to return it to
Gatwick and then take the train into London and then
out to Luten would cost about the same.
I asked them if there was a fee to change the drop-off
destination because, hey man, I've been around, I
ain't no rube and the woman said it would be �13
pounds which I thought sounded too good to be true but
since I'm working on this Positive Thing now I thought
maybe I'd believe her.
Well, she lied. It was �150 and we phoned the number
and pouted at the woman and asked for the manager but
we ain't in Canada anymore which we'd began to notice
when we came out of my friend Paul's flat in Stoke
Newington earlier in the day to find the car 'clamped'
(Just like on Ab Fab) with two tickets on it even
though we had a perfectly valid guest pass displayed
prominently in the window. We phoned the number and
asked to speak to the manager but we ain't in Canada
any more and nothing's fair and do you think they
actually want more people in London? It's survival of
the fittest baby, like a game of chicken, like if you
can't handle feeling this shitty all the time, well
you're clearly not cut out to live in London so shove
off sister!
It's �115 to unclamp the car which is EXTORTION but
the plane's gonna leave and we have to return the car
by 3pm or else it's another day's charge so what are
you going to do?
And the tickets are �100.
Oh yeah and we're exhausted of course, partially due
to my sketchy knowledge of England's geography-put
1000 miles on the car between two gigs, and on top of
everything, man is the food crappy. (What do they
gotta do that to the tomatoes for?) So a thousand
dollars poorer, we boarded the discount flight to
Italy and I put on sunglasses, buried my nose in a
book and cried hot hot tears of deep despair thinking
it's not just about the money, it's the feeling of
being covered in loser dust and being made to pay
because you're trying things a different way and well
maybe this is the cost of all the joy etc.
I'm thinking of you and how you'll worry about the
money and how I don't want you to because I know
you're having some unexpected expenses now and I'm
grateful that you help me at all and I'm gonna pay it
back as soon as I can by hook or by crook.
Sorry about all this.
love you,

Italy - It's Very Typical of the Region (Pt 2)


Keith (old friend from Vancouver, bass player, living
in Italy with his girlfriend Serena, general awesome
dude) picked us up at the Bergamo airport in our fancy
new touring vehicle. Andrea, the guy who booked the
tour, had wangled a sponsorship from the Kia company
by chatting up the president at some corporate party.
I suspect that when the president sobered up, he might
have forgotten and from the looks of things tried to
do some fancy shuffling and when that failed, ended
giving us his own personal car.
The President's car. Back warmers, DVD player, a
G.P.S. system, rain sensitive wipers, all kinds of
fancy ass crap.
So weird how your luck can change in a day. It's like
Keith drove us into Milan to see Gurf Morlix and Sam
Baker (We'll call them The Texans) play at a small
club called Nidaba. I had always wanted to meet Gurf.
He played guitar with Lucinda Williams for 9 years and
he's produced a lot of great 'lady records' and has
always seemed like a cool guy from far away. I
suspected that one day we would meet but never thought
it would be in Italy.
Turns out Gurf and Sam would be staying at Keith and
Serena's with us.
The Texans were on stage singing about The War because
that's what American folk singers do. I got to perfect
my one Italian phrase:
"do-ay bee-carry de vino rosso per fevorre"
(Two glasses of red wine please.)
By the end of the show, The Texans had us all on
stage- The Python and a ukulele player representing
Milano, this girl from Brooklyn, me and D. and some
others- in a We are the World style finale of "I
Shall be Released".
When in Rome...
I suspected that The Texans, perhaps nervous at being
so displaced, were bumping up their "American-ness"
and pulling corny shit they'd never dream of trying
back home which, let's face it, is what Europe is for!

Andrea, the booker, had executed the plate-spinning
task of booking 6 tours for 6 different acts in the
same venues but staggered relay-style like The Amazing
Andy White was there with a Croatian keyboard player,
Gurf and Sam, Me and Diona, the girl from Brooklyn and
our old friend Neville would be coming from Toronto in
a couple of days. Andrea also works for Lifegate
Radio and was making an album of his own songs.
Musically his two heroes are Bruce Springsteen and
Townes Van Zant. The only time the acts would all meet
up was at the Townes Van Zant tribute night in Milan.
Before we left, Diona and I had been learning our
songs from a cassette a former suitor gave me before
he wised up.
Guys always play me that "Caroline" song about the
dead hooker thinking I'll like it. I don't really. For
starters, the name's Caro-LYN and it's not such an
inspirational tale and well, there's just better songs
out there.
But I'm jumping ahead. While reminiscing. Weird.
At the end of the night, Keith and Serena drove me,
Diona, Sam and Gurf back to Barlassina and we fooled
around with 'our' fancy car's G.P.S. system. As we
drove, a woman's voice with a clipped English accent
would announce "In two hundred metres turn left".
We decided that her name was Angela. The Texans
decided they were in love with Angela.
We noticed a funny thing about Angela; whenever she
says an Italian place name it's like she becomes this
whole other person, possessed by an Italian lady.
"In 600 metres, turn right in the direction of
We decided that the name of her Italian split
personality was "Eez-a-bella".

Pegaso, Arcola

My favourite bar in Italy and here's where we start
the tour! The hospitality of Pegaso is legendary. Out
of the car and into some vino. I spied dreamy Fabio
behind the bar reaching for the good stuff the second
he saw me. I guess my repetition precedes me.
Patio pounding and chain smoking until sound check
with Matteo who is also dreamy but very tired tonight.
I see the long nails on his right hand and remember
that he is a classical guitarist and ask him to play
with us (The Python couldn't make it) telling him that
music is the only cure for exhaustion. He agrees and
we set up the gear and it's back to the patio until we
are summoned for dinner. Andrea, the owner, in honour
of all the 'Andrea bands' coming through his bar has
decided to implement "American Food Week". Our hearts
kind of sank but the bean soup, burritos and apple pie
were mercifully unlike anything you'd find in America.
The show goes well and people came and Matteo and
Diona sounded fabulous together, chasing each other
through matching riffs within my songs. So good. We
even got an encore at the end. And after the encore,
Diona and Matteo stayed on the stage performing as a
duo and it was amazing.
Keith and I just sat at a table drinking and
marvelling. I love this place. They paid us 350 Euros
to eat, drink and play music!
We ended up staying at Fabio's place where he lives
with his beautiful girlfriend and crazy cat Monk.
Woke up to coffee and Friends in Italian on the T.V.
You should hear Joey's voice! It's hilarious.
Then back to the scene of the crime for lunch.
Oh yes. After all that they give you lunch the next
day too. The Texans pulled up outside just in time to
join us as they were that night's band. Or maybe they
were just stopping in to absorb some hospitality. I
can't remember now but onion rings were involved.
It's weird. The Americans not singing their own songs,
the Italians not making their own food.
It's like everybody's thinking "Oh but I thought you'd
want this!"
Just be yourselves everybody and it'll all work out I
It's like that weird fable where the woman cuts off
her hair to buy her man a wrist watch without knowing
that he's cut off his arms to buy her a hair clip or
however that one goes...


La Locomotiva. The communist train station. The tiny
place with the two sound men. The Python joined us
tonight on the guitar. He looks like a sexy walrus in
leather and plays like James Burton.
Stefano, the cute young guy who runs the club meets
us, gets us drinks, herds us in to sound check and
then takes us to his father's restaurant up the
mountain. The food is amazing and it looks like the
staff is having a wild party.
Stefano says it's not a party. Just a regular night.
The staff are all gorgeous waitresses in low-cut
gowns. Shortly after we are seated, the waitresses are
all behind the bar trying to tickle Stefano's father
who is also a handsome devil.
"Stefano where is your mother?" we ask.
"Oh she is in the kitchen cooking."
Hmm. Seems like a raw deal.
We ask Stefano who does the hiring and he says with a
grin, "My Father but when it comes to hiring
waitresses he is blind. It's all based on skill."
We all look over at Stefano's father who is literally
covered in waitresses and nod sceptically.
Pasta and then more pasta and then some pasta.
If it wasn't for the traditional espresso and grappa
jolt at the end of the meal I really don't think I'd
be able to get on stage. It's hard to sing about being
poor and lonesome when you're full and the place is
packed so we opted for the train medley/novelty song
set which the crowd seemed to dig. I mean I like to
think they did. There were encores and such.
On the way home we made the car go 200!
And found a product called "Drive Beer" at the
Oh yeah. Checked the trap lines and found word from
back home:

Hey Ms C!
Hope the trip is going well, and you are in fine
fettle. Its raining like crazy here, so the out door
trips are few and far between. However,
opportunity has come up for me, in that I can move in
with Hoff, and have the back cabin at her place for
myself and my toys.The date for this to happen is Jan
1st. Because folks are shifting around and moving from
that house, the need for me to be quick in this
decision is important.
So I guess what I’m saying is that I'm giving my
notice at Chambers St for that date, a month and a
half from now.
take care,

Nuts. Fucker beat me out of there.

The Townes Van Zant Tribute Night

Word around the chiminea is that the city of Milan has
implemented a non-driving day in an attempt to combat
The Smog Problem. Serena got us some documents somehow
that would absolve us from the Hefty Fines is we were
to get pulled over by The Carabinieri. You don't ever
want to get pulled over by The Carabinieri. They dress
like Mussolini and carry machine guns. Oh. In the
Italian phrase book I found at Keith's house, there is
a chapter called "Don't Mention the War". Seriously.
It says that Italians don't like to talk about It and
visitors are encouraged to stick to the topics of
Architecture or Film.
Went for lunch in Barlassina, the Canadians, the
Italians and the Texans, and it was a nice place but
the T.V. was on and tuned into this game show where
amateur lingerie models with fake tits 'compete' for
I don't know what. At one point, after they showed
them changing, they put a bag over each girls head and
had her identify different things with her mouth.
"Mmm. I don't know. A penis?"
Naturally, the skinniest one with the biggest tits won
every time.
And on a Sunday too.
After lunch we hung around the house practising our
songs. I was sitting on the floor and Diona and Keith
were facing me on the couch. Sam was at one end of the
big table reading a magazine and Serena was at the
other end with her blueprints and plastic triangles
studying for her architectural exam. It felt sort of
weird to practise with everybody in the room and to
pretend I didn't care. Gurf was right beside me with
his back to the wood stove warming his ass. Halfway
through the song I stopped and asked him if he felt
like playing the guitar because he's only like MY
FAVOURITE GUITAR PLAYER EVER and happened to be you
know STANDING RIGHT THERE AND ALL and he snapped open
his case and started playing and it was awesome. All
those little Tex-Mex runs just like on all the Lucinda
albums. So perfect.
Loaded up the Kia with gear and Texans, gave Angela
the destination co-ordinates and hit the Autostradde
in the direction of Milano.
The "no-driving" law didn't seem to affect the amount
of traffic whatsoever. It turns out that if you have a
newer car or a hybrid or a smart car you can still
drive. Once again the rich are rewarded and I don't
know why people even talk about the rules in Italy
because no one ever obeys them.
Like how they're all allegedly religious but then have
lingerie models with bags on their heads on day time
television. Apparently the national nightly news
features The Weather Twins.
The club is a proper rock club. I was beginning to
wonder if they had them here. Found Neville playing
fooseball when we walked in freshly plucked from the
airport by his driver, Stefano from La Locomotiva.
A lone pizza crust lingered in a take-out box on the
bar. Guess we missed dinner but we were issued some
drink tickets and given printed sheets with the show
order. I was 15. Keith was 4. Gurf was 25. Everyone
wanted to trade with Keith as thirst trumps ambition
after dark.
The night rolled on. So much acoustic guitar. So many
maudlin lyrics sung in all manner of accents. This
crazy American rocker woman sucked all the energy out
of the room when she hit the stage and then did a
SECOND song she wrote about when she used to "drink
with Townes". It was then that I kind of snapped. I
had Neville in a conversational headlock.
I said, "Man if he was fat bald and living no one
would give a good goddamn how fucking great the dude's
lyrics were!" perhaps a little too loudly, high from
indoor smoking and no dinner.
"We should honour the living, man!" I said sounding
vaguely like Joni Mitchell on that footage from the
Isle of Wight festival.
I know Neville is old friends with Princess Deborah
who is a total force of nature so I know he can handle
me no problem as he is no stranger to crazy lady
Suddenly it was my turn. I said I certainly hoped that
they were planning on having one of these things for
me in a couple of years. I think it went okay.
Possibly some slight slurring. The stage lights were
pretty bright so it was hard to gauge any kind of
audience reaction. The next thing I remember is
playing piano with Andrew Hardin on Dead Flowers. And
then there was a gang bang finale. Diona and I played
the piano together and she covered me on the solo.
The last thing I remember is stopping at a roadside
truck for grilled sandwiches and throwing fatty bacon
out the Kia's back window and then waking up drooling
with greasy teeth and powerfully thirsty in front of
the crash pad back in Barlassina.
But like old Townes said, "Where you been is good and
gone all you keep is the getting there."
The next day there was a gang lunch for all involved
in the tribute. Pasta and (oh why the hell not?) wine.

Feeling the slight starch glow reminded of My Trip
from the night before so I proposed a toast to all the
living drunk song writers because ladies and gentlemen
that's a fucking accomplishment!"
And with that stepped outside for a smoke and almost
got wailed by a car whizzing down the alley.
Luckily Neville grabbed me by the collar and pulled me
back before they had a chance to announce next year's


The following is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to
someone nice:

"Weird show in a university-ish kind of place-You know
when the building's all new and totally cold and
nobody knows how to work anything but they're real
excited about trying everything and then you have to
tell them you're kind of a country outfit and politely
talk them out of the rave-style laser light show and
maybe less reverb on the fiddle since the room's made
entirely of stone and kind of echoey anyway? You know
that kind of a place where everything's new and the
staff are all new and trying not to get fired and
there's way too many of them and when you have to send
back the horse(!) (vegetariano per favorre) you know
it'll probably get the shy Croatian girl fired and
she'll have to go back to being a field hooker cause
it's all your fault for being a gluttonous picky
American asshole? Yeah. That kind of place."

I have decided that the definition of Hell is when
it’s ALMOST perfect.
Went by La Locomotiva afterwards to drop off Neville
back at his host family and well, maybe to see if the
bar was still open... Ended up going to a party up the
street where there was a hookah and a small dog and
Bob Marley on the stereo. Talked 'French'-ish with
this silver haired guy in a beret who was, I think,
suggesting that I should not worry about yesterday and
tomorrow but only today and when I looked up from the
bong and figured out what he was trying to say I burst
out laughing because I don't really need any
encouragement to, like, Live In the Moment.
Meanwhile, across the table, Diona's guy was holding
up his thumb and finger at her and she was going,
'gun? loser?' so we called in a translator and
apparently, he was showing her his, uh, 'dimensions'
in case she was interested in 'going to the mountain'
whatever that means.
Best party I've been to in ages.

Maybe this was the night that we made the car do 200
and found the Drive Beer.
Who can say?

Italy - In the Face of the Face (pt 3)

A night off.

Keith and I took Diona to the airport (Big Po'Girl
show in Vancouver. Booked months in advance) and
thought about driving to Corregio to catch Neville's
show at the prison wine bar but even our inner drunks
were tired and thinking about the next five shows.
Robert Altman died today and they showed Nashville on
Italian television. They would never have aired it if
he was ALIVE. Sorry. Guess I'm still on my Honour the
Living trip.
Hosts gone to bed. Fire dying down.
Maybe tomorrow I won't eat all the cheese.


Chocolate gorganzola pasta (You only need to try that
once) at a restaurant where semi-famous men were
eating huge plates of raw meat. Played at Nidaba which
was the club we went to to see Gurf and Sam play when
we first arrived.
There was a man there that takes photos of everyone
with no film in his camera. Conceptual.
Joy and Paola, who I met last time, came ands and took
actual pictures and Serena brought her one armed
friend. Keith and Python were awesome but I was
missing Diona little bit. Or a "leetle beet" as they
say here.


Everything in Italy seems convoluted and mysterious to
us Canadians. It frustrates Keith considerably. When
Angela haughtily announced, "You have arrived at your
destination", we were pointed at a farmer's field in
the middle of nowhere. I've played some weird places
before but clearly this was not the venue. We phoned
the guy from the club to find out where we should go
and he tells us it's the Prima Estella Hotel only
there's no way we'll ever find it because it's not
really called that and it's not on any road with a
name or in any town (!) so he'll come and meet us at
the gas station.
The gas station is crammed and busy and probably the
most stressful place on earth to meet someone.
Especially if you've never met them before and don't
know what to look for and have no way of knowing if
you're even at the right gas station.
This is the weird part. In Canada, there's always an
address. In Canada maybe they don't feed you and
they'll probably rip you off a little at the end of
the night, but there's always an address!
A man appears at the Kia's window waving for us to
follow him.
He takes us back to the place we thought it might be
and tells us to check in and rest and that another man
will come back for us at around seven to lead us to
the club.
The desk lady wants our passports. I look at Keith but
he tells me it's normal.
We chillax in the room watching creepy Italian game
show television drinking birra.
The club is an A.R.C.I.- pronounced 'archie'- like
Locomitiva- Your basic socialist/communist
collective obligatory picture of Che Guevara behind
the bar kind of joint.
Eight mangy dogs lurk around outside. I want to
befriend them but they all seem a little weird. The
club is a big square room with no heat. A couple of
guys are there already. One wants to give me his CD
and be my myspace friend. He feels like the first guy
you meet when you change high schools. the one with
the desperate eyes who wants to 'get to you first' to
show you around and 'warn' you about the others. He
speaks English very well.
Keith and I are nervosa about our recent duo status
(Diona's gone, The Python had to work) so we
half-jokingly ask the bar tender if he knows any
guitar players, or accordion players even- any
soloistas per fevorre? The guy picks up the phone and
calls someone, speaks for a few seconds, nods and then
turns to us saying, "You are lucky. He was supposed to
go on a date tonight."
While waiting for dinner to be ready we go out back
to smoke. I giant rat runs across the alley and the
eager boy says "Oh that is a zoccola! That is a slang
word specific to this region." He then tells us that,
aside from rat, it also means whore, pussy and clog.
In Italy, EVERYTHING is either "typical of the region"
and/or slang for penis or vagina.
I am entranced with the word and write in on my hand
so I can remember to say it into the microphone a lot
during the show.
Dinner is served. Pasta for eight. I am the only girl.
It's always mostly dudes at the communist clubs. Got
me thinking about communism in general. How it's
always the people that don't have anything that are
way more into the concept of sharing than those that
do. And how the communist club owner invariably comes
from a rich family. We clink our glasses together in a
toast that the eager guy explains means "In the face
of the enemy!" I look at my wine glass and ask Keith
"What if the wine IS the enemy?" and he said "Well
then we're drinking in the face of the face!" which
became the cheers of the night.
When they brought out the salad (Thank Christ!) a tall
bald young guy came in carrying a Marshall amp. Hmm.
This could go either way. He came and sat with us and
we introduced ourselves. Nicola (Ni-COAL-a). Total
sweetheart. Studied music in London. Speaks English.
He made a few comments that let me know he was gonna
be an awesome guitarist.
The show goes well. The place filled up. Nicola is
amazing and turns on a dime. He plays a really worn in
Telecaster in that loopy kind of Mark Knopfler way,
like my friend Phil, that works really well with my
songs. Keith played great. It was kind of nerve
wracking because everyone in the place was a musician.

Went out to visit the dogs in the break and met the
most beautiful girl I've ever seen. Elaria. Studied in
Boston. Spoke English. Into music.
After the show I was standing at the bar with the
original eager guy and a second eager guy when this
other guy comes up to the bar, orders a drink and
starts reading my palm. He's pretty cute so I'm kind
of into it. He says, "You are an artist and you'll
never have to worry about the future..." And I'm all
swoony and patting my hair going, "Really? It says
that?", even though back in the day, when I ran out of
money when I was living in London, I used to put on a
head scarf, sit outside Camden Station and pull that
very scam. "There is a lot of discrepancy between your
head and your heart etc"
So the first eager guy fucks off disgusted but the
second eager guy, who has known me a shorter amount of
time and is therefor still eager, grabs my hand and
says to the palm reader, "If you are trying to find
out what she is by looking at her hand, you need only
do this!" and flips my hand over to reveal the word
"Zoccola!" in flaming ballpoint.
Rat, whore, pussy, clog.
Situation. Comedy.
I do okay when I'm the only girl in a dimly lit
smoogie bar at the end of the night.


This is my second trip to Italy and up until now
nothing, except Arcola I suppose, has really looked
like the Italy of the mind. Things are surprisingly
modern and we've been staying in the suburbs which are
never pretty. I mean, aesthetically, Italian suburbs
kick the ass of say, Vancouver suburbs with all the
box stores and pre-fab houses, but it's not the image
you'd conjure upon hearing the word "Italy". Salerno
is it. On the water, old old buildings, narrow cobble
stone alleys, those cool marble buttresses that hold
the buildings apart from each other that some people
live in, a pedestrian street of shopping and cafes.
This is Italy baby!
Angela was in a mood today. She kept interrupting The
Family Guy episode we were watching to say, "Watch for
fog up ahead, two hundred metres." Only it wasn't
foggy and she'd never mentioned the weather before.
Maybe I pushed a button...
Everyone in Milan and their dog told us, if we were
going to Salerno not to leave anything in our car. I
wondered if it was a North-South ignorant fear thing
like 'those people down there are all thieves and
maniacs who'll kill you for a cigarette!' or if it was
a real concern like East Van.
The club is another A.R.C.I. but a small fancy one.
It's in an alley that you're not permitted to drive
down. So the guy from the club meets us and we unload
the gear and he takes us down to the water to a pay
parking lot and he says "Don't leave anything in your
So maybe it is a real problem.
He then takes us to where we're staying for the night.
He calls it a 'Hotel' but I see the tell-tale tree
symbol from when I was eighteen in London and it's a
goddamn youth hostel.
My mind conjures images of sharing the shower with
dread-locked Australians, toast crumbs in the
margarine tub at 6am, bed bugs and well, eager
youthful backpackers. Most troubling is if we play
until two and they kick us out at 10, that's no sleep
which doth make a bitch quite cranky. And I'm already
there. Also, I am basically experiencing what can
best be described as a nosebleed of the cunt. Haven't
been able to find any protezione so am basically
shoving toilet paper down there and praying that I
don't leave it behind anywhere when I stand up. Neko
has a theory that as you get older your body gets
angrier and angrier for not having children. I think
it's more like it gets more and more unbelievably
painful each time so that eventually death will be a
At the hostel, they take our passports and
fingerprints and we cross through a giant piazza with
columns and a fountain to the elevator.
The room isn't bad. There is a bathroom. There is a
toilet seat. Two tiny hard beds and some bunk beds.
(For our son Nicola. We had convinced him to play the
Salerno show with us.) The window opens onto
beautiful building tops and the ocean.
I know that both Keith and I are eyeing the bathroom.
I do the honourable thing and leave him to it in hopes
that he will return the favour.
I go down the alley to the water, crossing through the
joggers on the boardwalk. It looks kind of like San
Diego. There's palm trees.
I go down to the water. I want to get in it so bad but
no one else is. There's some old plastic bottles
washed up on shore and I can see some stray cats are
living in a pile of driftwood, but the water itself
doesn't look too bad.
I take off my shoes and socks and wade in the surf and
it's magic. I walk along the shore wondering if
everyone is thinking, "Stupid foreigner" or "How
delightful to witness such a beautiful sense of
childlike freedom in these modern times" when the
smell hits. Like dirty diapers or mouldy coffee
grounds or a toilet maybe. I am trying to identify the
smell when a used condom washes over my toe and then I
realize that where I am standing is where the sewage
comes out. Just like back home in Victoria where I
never walk the dog. Ugh.
So I have to put my socks back on to fit them into my
boots and my feet are all sewery and sandy and I HAVE
to have a shower stat. I go back to the room and
Keith is passed out on the bed. I thought he might
leave when I got back but I guess our deal was all in
my head cause he ain't moving. Fine. I bring all my
stuff into the bathroom because I'm going to stay in
there a long time. I get undressed and I'm covered in
blood and sewage and open the shower door and am just
about to turn on the water when I realize that there
are no towels. Fucking Hostels. Hostiles. I suppress a
KeiteIian scream, get dressed, take the elevator
downstairs trying to remember the Italian word for
towel and approach the front desk. A young man is
working on a computer smoking under the non- smoking
sign with his back to me. I can't remember the
Italian word for towel so I ask him
in English and he disappears for ages before coming
back with one thin white towel. I go to grab it but he
tells me it's 4 Euros. Fine. I toss him a fiver
thinking that If I have to pay I won't feel half as
bad for what I'm gonna do to that towel and start to
walk away.
He tells me to wait and starts keying in data to the
computer. He wants my room number and passport info
and there, is of course , a receipt to be printed. I
am sighing heavily and throwing my head back like an
outraged American movie star. Can't a bitch just take
a fucking shower in this country?

(You know, I've been reading this book Amy lent me
about this guy who raises three abandoned bear cups in
a cabin in Northern B.C. and compared to him, my
complaints now seem bourgeois at best but I think that
the definition of Hell is when it's ALMOST perfect.)

I take the elevator back up and lock myself in the
bathroom, take off my clothes and get in the shower.
The shower is tiny. It's basically a raised platform
with these sliding hard plastic dealios that sort of
join in the back. It barely fits a body. I am just
about to turn on the water again when I realize that
there is no soap. I let out a long silent
"FUUUUUUUUUCK" and then I realize that I have some
olive soap in my bag that I bought for The Maintenance
Man. Yes!
Okay so back in the shower, pull the curtains together
and the shower head is one of the hand held variety
but there's nowhere to hang it so you have to hold it.
Okay so soap up first and then rinse I guess? I drop
the soap and reach down to get it but the shower is so
small that to bend over, I have to open the doors to
accommodate my ass. I feel like Lucille Ball only
I stay in the bathroom so long that eventually Keith
knocks and asks if I am all right.
I whip open the door fully dressed and made up with
all my sewage-ey clothes washed in olive soap and hung
to dry. He seems impressed with the laundry.
We hit the town. Heading down tiny alleys until we
find the pedestrian shopping street and eye the shoe
stores and cafes and it feels so good to be walking.
End up at an outdoor cafe for snacks and vino where
homeless people keep trying to sell us weird things.
Flowers, ceramic lions. I want to tell them that I'm
just barely one step away from being one of them and
then I think about the fucking KIA with the GPS and
the back warmers and that I'm at an outdoor cafe in
Italy and holy shit, am I a fucking yuppie? Maybe
everybody thinks they really don't have much. I REALLY
don't have much. After England, I have much less then
nothing which makes me very uncomfortable. There but
for the grace of the mother Visa go I. But whatever,
Salute! You only live once right? In the face of the
face! The show went well despite the weird
microphone. Very directional. Only this one spot the
size of a nail head would produce any sound and so if
you moved it would feel like your voice was giving
out. Very unnerving and not so satisfying but we made
it out alive and paid in full which is saying
The hostel, of course, threw us out at 10am despite
our heroic efforts to treat the matter of the knocking
desk clerk with "ignortion". He was wise to us and I
suspected that this technique had been tried there
Said goodbye to Nicola and drove like madmen to Arcola
to catch Neville's show. He said we could play with
him and we arrived in time for dinner and they fed us
all and the show was awesome and after we all sat
around a table playing guitar and singing songs.
Andrea, the owner was singing all these sad Irish
songs. He lived in Scotland when he was younger and
had the time of his life. Fabio took us home with him
after the show. I'm supposed to send him a pink capo
when I get home. What's really funny is that I thought
he said "I vant a beeg cowboy" and I was like "Yeah.
Me too! Let's catch the morning flight to Alberta!"
but it turned out it was the pink capo he was after
and I already have one of those.
Woke up after a car-crash coma style sleep and walked
to 'town' in my slept-in funeral clothes in the bright
sunshine back to the scene of the crime in time for
lunch. "American Food Week" was officially over. We
had pasta con olio y aille, fromaggio, insalata, vino,
espresso, grappa and indoor afternoon cigarettes with
The Owner and The Python and Neville and Keith and
then drove through The Cinque Terra (The Five Lands)
with all the tiny twisty roads, vertical villages and
terraced mountains where the trees and stuff look like
they came from an H.O. train set.

Dear J,
The shows are done but
I'm still here counting down the hours. Neville just
went into Milano for a beezness meeting and my host
family's gone to Palermo for the architectural exam.
I'm staying here hogging the vacant house. Alone at
last. The Italians don't believe that people ever want
to be alone. It takes some fancy dancing to escape
their clutches. My neck is sore from nodding and
smiling and at my most paranoid, I suspect the
Italians are feeding us so much to fatten us up for
the final cannibalisto festa!
Or maybe I don't have to eat everything...
The guy that booked the tour is coming by later to
collect his fee. Ah well, At least they let me hold
the money for a little bit.
See you real soon,

Thank you so much for looking up the buses. You're an
angel. And I'm so glad it was you that told me of The
Vampire's fate. It would have really sucked to hear it
from any one else. I mean it totally sucks but I'm
glad it was you. I sort of don't believe it though
because everybody knows vampires live forever. I
guess I should probably stop calling him that.
Poor Neville. He came home with fancy wine from Milano
for us and after a mere one bottle, Andrea sent the
e-mail about how much money he was gonna take from us
and then I called you and heard The News and sort of
started bawling like a Broadway actress just as Andrea
pulled up in the alley to take us back to that weird
place in Brescia place which didn't exactly cheer me
When I hung up the phone, Neville saw my face and
asked, "Do you want me to be nice to you?" and I said
"Fuck no!'". So then he said "Well then pull yourself
together woman and I'll give you a hug later!' which
was kind of awesome. God bless the stiff upper lip.
(By the way, the Croatian girl still has her job!)
Couldn't help thinking how much The Vampire would have
fucking HATED that place. At the end of the night I
had basically turned INTO him. Howling like a wounded
animal at all the hypocrisy and horror.
Later on, I got to see Neville snap. The band was sort
of brutal for two song writers to have to sit through.
Like taking chefs to McDonald's or something. But
Andrea and Python were digging it and every so often
they'd look over nodding and smiling at us and we'd
have to cease our elaborate "kill me now" pantomimes.
And after the third hour Neville, who is the most
relentlessly positive chin up go-towards-the-light
person I know just fucking snapped. He was crying into
his napkin over his pizza, which, by the way, looked
like a meat graveyard.
Good times.
Yup. Stayed at the party too long once again.
Anyway by tomorrow night all this will look like
something I want...
xo cm

Pulled an all -nighter in London. Spent some time at
Luten airport then caught the 1:45 bus to Gatwick. Was
having the best dream when I was awoken by the bus
driver shaking me saying, "Souf Terminal luv?"
Spent a few hours waiting and hitting the Bailey's
display in various disguises. It was on special at the
duty free and they were giving out free samples.
When I was going through the X-ray machines, this kid
started screaming, "I want my Louie! I want my Louie!
I want my Louie!"
The big dark security man had taken her doll and was
going to run him through the machine and he leans over
and he has these great big caterpillar eyebrows and
garlic breath and says "Louie vants to go through the
tunnel!" to the kid who starts really freaking out. "I
want my Louie! I want my Louie! I want my Louie!"
The kid was sort of voicing every body's feelings. It
made me kind of misty. I mean nobody really wants to
take off their boots and surrender their stuff and be
herded like cattle, it's just something you resign
yourself to as you get older.

This is an actual conversation that went on inside my
head on the plane:
Voice A-"Look at you. This cannot continue. Maybe you
have to get a job."
Voice B- "You can't get a job! It's all computers
Final assessment: Guess I'm into this music thing for
the long haul.

The Home Stretch

Made it to Vancouver and the Honey Sisters came to get
me in the Mad Max Volvo and there was wine and
vegetables and everyone was speaking sweet English and
I was so grateful but then then the next day, still
had to get back to this fucking island. There's a rule
that for some reason, the trip back to Victoria will
take however long the trip to Vancouver was and the
Volvo won't start when it gets wet so we pushed it out
of the way and dug the other car out of the snow but
then ran out of gas and got stuck and had to push the
car and got a snootful of slush when the tires grabbed
and wet feet and missed a ferry and then finally got
on the five and then the bus and to the liquor store
because they seized my wine at the airport in Italy
because it was obviously some sort of terrorist juice
and there, outside Big Bad John's, amidst the smoking
hobos, was Tolan looking kinda wobbly and I was
getting out of the taxi in midnight blue fur just back
from Italy and it felt so weird, so I did the
honourable thing and pulled my hat brim down
hoping we didn't see each other.
Got to the Maintenance Man's house and when he said
something about ladies and drinking, I somehow
accidentally took a bite out of my wine glass.
I think the trip home was a little stressful.
I apologized and he said, "Well I only have them for
you" which I thought was quite sweet.
Practised my new hobby of passing out mid-sentence.
Tried to get my stuff all the way home the next
morning but couldn't scrape the ice off the car or get
it to move so walked home contemplating the epic task
of moving out.
Decided that as usual, finding a box of money would
definitely take the edge off.
Also decided that even though I'm broke and it's
stormy and I might have to move, It feels so good to
be home. I'm going to watch movies and do dishes and
dust and do all the normal stuff normal people do just
to get along!

Carolyn Mark
The Last Resort, Victoria, BC
Dec '06