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  • Writer's pictureJH


Photo by Alexandra Liebert

October 5, 2018

"I drew eyebrows on all of my babies."

- Deni

Existential ping pong.

That’s how I describe yesterday. I’ve written before about how touring can have highs and lows, and that you can experience both on the same day. The thing about highs is that they are sometimes a result of the lows, so I choose to look at yesterday’s intense gallbladder attack as the low that set up the intoxicating high that comes with the end of an intense gallbladder attack.

This isn’t new for me. The gallbladder thing has been on and off for a few years now (and, if I’m being honest, probably becoming more of an issue). As Tom Jones might have sang, it’s not unusual for people who internalize their stress and carry it in their stomachs to develop gastro problems. These attacks are usually triggered by food and stress for me. My diet’s been pretty wonky since we got here and, believe it or not, road life can be stressful.

I'm really giving you the full picture this time, aren't I? Insomniac self-doubter with intestinal issues who sometimes plays drums with Sarah Smith. Crikey.

Anyway, I’ve had a few warning shots over the past couple of weeks. Yesterday the unholy trinity of food, stress, and lack of sleep crept up behind me and stuck a knife under my rib cage. Then it twisted. I’m lucky. I’m still not at the point with this where I fall on the ground and throw up. That’s a real gallbladder attack, but let me tell you, yesterday was not fun. Just a dull, awful ache that radiates through your back and up your arm. Chills. It’s heavy and it put me in a pretty quiet mood yesterday as we left Germany and drifted into the soothing, salty, seaside air of Urk, Netherlands.

Have I said I love my bandmates? We were hoping for a bit of downtime before our show last night, and they sacrificed some of it to help me find apple cider vinegar – the only reliable cure I know for what I was going through. With help from our old friend Jaap, we got a bottle from the grocery store and I choked some of it down. The relief didn’t come right away, but when it did … euphoria. When we soundchecked last night, there was a peace in my body that almost made me high. It’s like being set free. It’s like a fever breaking and I was so, so happy. I don’t know if I’ve ever been more happy in my life.

Can I take a minute to talk about the stress? A typical day for us probably begins the night before, when we get to our hotel after the gig and get ourselves together before going to bed. It’s usually about 2:00 a.m. by the time we get to that. Then we sleep in strange beds, and are usually back up by 9:00 or so (if we slept at all), to rush to breakfast. We eat what we can, quickly, and then pack up our stuff to check out. Then we re-pack the van and drive to the next town – usually three or four hours on strange highways where we’re not quite sure where we’re going (and often on tiny streets in our big van).

We usually arrive at the next venue between 4:00 and 5:00. On a merciful day we get there earlier, which saves us a few precious minutes of time to relax at our hotel. We value those few minutes so much. There is pressure on us all the time, especially Sarah. I know I write about how busy she is, but you really have no idea how much pressure she is under. How much demand there is on her time and energy. You should hear her phone sometime. I sit up front with her in the van and it’s like a freakin’ slot machine going off with notifications. Ding, ding, ding, ding.

Anyway, we get to the venue and, depending on the set up for the night, unload all the gear from the van. We set it up. We soundcheck. After we soundcheck we usually eat dinner, and often quickly. After dinner we get up and play. That might be an hour and a half or three hours. After the show we talk to people and hug everyone and hang out and it’s great. It really is. They’re some of our favourite times. After that we tear down the stage again, pack up the van, and drive to the hotel at 2:00 a.m. to begin sleeping in strange beds for the next day.

These are not complaints, by the way. That’s just the schedule. After two weeks or 15 straight days, it can be tiring. It can also create a very small world if you’re not careful. Sarah handles it so well. There are fewer demands on people like me, but the pace of it all catches up to you. The constant movement. The work. I love it, but if you’re prone to things like gallbladder attacks, sometimes they flare up.

But man, does it feel good when the pain goes away!

Last night turned out to be a lot of fun. We were reunited with our Netherlands superfans and it was so nice to play for them again. Lexi and Kerstin from Germany also surprised us with their presence after we thought we wouldn’t see them again. The show was in a really cool little venue called the Ut Theatre. It sounded great and I think we played well. And if I wasn’t spoiled enough already on my birthday, our friends Angie and Nicole brought me the excellent belated birthday present of John Hirst’s “The Shortest History of Europe.” Very thoughtful, gang!

After the show we got to hang with our friends for a bit and I was feeling so relieved that faithful reader Marleen even got me to smile for a photos. At the end of the night we went home and pretty much crashed. It’s the cumulative effect. We were all just a bit tired, so it was quick bed time for everyone.

Sister Amy, if only I had the time to describe Urk to you. It’s a fishing village on an inlet that leads to the North Sea. That salty air. That beautiful freshness. The sailboat masts bobbling quietly away in the marina. What a beautiful place.

As I type this, I’m sitting in my bedroom in the home of the infamous Sietska of Fryslan, My Lady of Mongolian Vodka. A precious hour. A comfortable chair. Sarah Harmer on my headphones. Such peace in my abdomen.

Life is great.

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