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  • Writer's pictureJH

Berlin #2

November 14, 2017

"I feel like a middle-aged man in a candy store.”

- Ken, in a candy store.

We’re ascending.

Two days ago it felt like Sarah ran over me with the tour van. Now it’s more like she hit me with a Dutch scooter in the bike lane. We call this progress. I’m a bit antsy about my voice, but my voice is secondary in all of this.

The really good news is that our Sarah is bouncing back. She can talk again. She can laugh. The Virus of the Van is still on the offensive, but our resistance is mounting. I think we’re turning the tide.

Yesterday we had an unexpected day off. A schedule change meant a day to ourselves in Berlin. We’ve been really lucky so far. When things have gone south, we’ve been in places where people can help. The Great Battery Crisis happened where Sjoerd could take care of us in The Netherlands. Our unscheduled day off was in Berlin, which is one of the world’s great cities. Silver linings count, my friends.

Breakfast with Adele and Whitney.

And so it came to pass, after a breakfast once again in the company of Whitney Houston and Adele, that Ken, Deni, and I braved the excellent Berlin transit system to take a look around. Geoff Dahl hooked us up with tickets, instructions, and maps. Can I take a moment to sing Geoff’s praises? We’ve been treated so well by so many people in so many places, but Geoff is world class. That guy has gone way above and beyond for us. He even folded our laundry, for crying out loud. A great friend and an awesome human being. Thanks Geoff from all of us.

So we went downtown. For a history person like me, it was a dream. We were in search of the Berlin Cathedral - a massive church that dates back to the 1400s. Berlin’s roads are nuts. No grids. You turn a corner and a web of streets opens up before you. Deni had to ask the police for directions, and they were happy to oblige after turning our map the right way around for us. We were following a cross in the sky like the Three Not-so-wise Men that kept disappearing behind buildings and u-turns. Eventually we found it, but something didn’t feel right.

Wrong cross. Wrong church.


Outside the church, there was a very moving tribute to Holocaust survivors. Ken feels like there’s a darkness in the air in Berlin. I’m maybe not as intuitive as he is about that sort of thing, but looking around, it’s hard not to imagine some of the things that happened or were masterminded there. Berlin is a beautiful old city, though. And eventually we found the cathedral and it was simply stunning. I would love to have had more time to see the Reichstag and Brandenburg Gate, but that’s tour life. We needed to get back to the hotel.

We were also on a quest of the sort that drummers will appreciate. Somewhere along the road I seem to have lost my drum rug. For the uninitiated, a drum rug is simply a carpet or mat that you set your drums on to play. If you set up on a stage without a carpet, chances are good that your bass drum will drift away as you play. I’ve practically done the splits on stage before, tapping at the pedal with my big toe nail while the drum disappears. It’s not fun. Most stages have carpets. Some don’t. You take a drum rug just in case.

But I lost mine.

So, in the midst of thousands of years of some of the deepest and most profound history of our species, in a magnificent city rich with culture and life, we went to the mall. Renaissance men. We found me a new mat, though, so it’s all good. It should work and I’ll definitely keep an eye on it.

After our foray into the city, we returned home to meet Geoff and a lovely dancer from Russia named Katarina for dinner at an incredible Thai restaurant. After resting all day, Sarah roused herself and joined us. She’s a trooper. Katarina has a cute little sedan, and we piled the whole band into the back seat. When she pulled up in front of the restaurant we tumbled out like circus clowns. Canadians, man.

Dinner was so good. Variations on pad thai for the most part. Ginger tea for our scorched voices. Spices. Flavours. Vegetables. It was wonderful.

After dinner it was back to the hotel, where Geoff set about getting a laundry session together for us. Doing laundry on the road is like taking a shower on the road – when you get the chance, you jump on it. Once again, Geoff looked after us, so it’s clean socks and underwear in the van today. Simple pleasures are the best.

Deni and Ken went to check out the local nightlife and I went downstairs to the hotel gym to sweat out this cold and stretch my van-cramped body. I talked in an earlier post about grabbing on to little pieces of normalcy when you can on tour. The gym is great for that. I had the whole place to myself for a blissful hour. It was nice to just put some King’s X on my headphones and breathe.

After the gym, Deni and Ken returned and we shared a nightcap. We’ve had some intense conversations on the road so far. They are both insightful and experienced guys. We talked about the music business and how to navigate it as an indie artist. It’s a tough game sometimes, but we all expressed our genuine gratitude to be here with Sarah. I talk a lot about the people who have treated the band well, but I can’t say enough about how well Sarah has treated us. We’re very lucky.

And now we drive on. The sun is peeking through the clouds and again the German countryside stretches out beyond the van’s windows. We’re on our way to the Czech Republic for another dash of culture. As you know, I’ve been trying hard to stay in the moment on this tour, but if you’ll indulge me, I want to look for a second into one possible future.

In Eisenach a few days ago, the lady of the house, Caroline, did palm readings on Deni and me. I’ve had her predictions on my mind ever since, and it’s hard not to wrestle with the implications. She said that Deni would become world famous. Could happen. Then she took my palm in her perfect slender fingers, looked into my soul with those eyes of hers that can see a thousand miles deep, and told me that I would get … well, a hair cut.

So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

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