Friday, February 23, 2007

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?


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