October 6, 2018
“My face isn’t long enough. I wish it was longer.”
“Grow your goatee longer.”
“But … I trim it every Friday.”
- Ken, Deni, Ken
Take, for example, last night’s odyssey with the van. (Yes, I’m jumping back into the middle of yesterday’s stress post without a preamble. It’s my blog – I’ll write it however I like.)
After our show in Dokkum, NL, we had a nightmare trying to get out of the venue parking lot. These small Dutch towns have such narrow, narrow streets. The parking lot exit was basically through an arch only barely wide enough to accommodate our vehicle. There were cars parked across what they call a street, leaving us practically zero room to turn left or right. We tried every angle, with way too many people in varying levels of hysteria trying to guide Sarah, until she finally just put the hazard lights on, shut the van off, and left it there stuck in the middle of the street.
How’s that for stress?
We were half an inch from a post guarding one corner of the archway, and a few inches from one of the parked cars. Here’s Sarah trying to inchworm a huge van in this impossible space with people hollering all around her. After more than two weeks on the road, after playing a show, tired and hungry, this is the sort of thing you sometimes have to deal with. It can be really hard. We manage it by sticking together and supporting each other. Sarah and Deni got us through it, but it’s this sort of thing that makes those quiet respites so valuable. You need space to breathe.
Despite all of that, yesterday was a lot of fun. We left Urk in the morning, bound for the city of Leeuwarden, where we were to appear on the Noardewyn Live television show on OMROP Fryslan. I can’t remember ever having done live television before. I’ve done plenty of live-to-air stuff on radio, but this was a new beast for me. It was cool. We set up in the studio, and by the time we were ready to play, a small audience was gathered. Sarah was interviewed by host Willem de Vries (great guy) and we played three songs: “First Time,” “Changing My Mind,” and “Trust the Ride.”
Deni also got a chance to perform and he killed it.
After the show we drove to the venue in Dokkum. Sarah had to do the van dance just to get into the parking lot, but we made it, and then suddenly found ourselves embraced by the great Sjoerd Ferwada himself. “November” readers will remember Sjoerd as the son of our friends Klaske and Auka, and the owner of a massive heavy metal drum kit that he plays like the star that he is. I wound up playing it last night too, after he played with the opening band Cradle. Drummers have to do this sort of thing all the time. Usually we share kits on shows, which can be an adventure, because things are always set up differently for different drummers. Alas, we make it work (and, you know, drop sticks and do things like hit China cymbals that are placed where our crash cymbals would normally be.)
We had so many of our fans and friends there last night. I was delighted to see fair Helena, our lovely guide through Erle, Germany, last year, and her boyfriend Franco. She’s one of my favourite people in Europe, so it was great to talk to her again. We also appreciate her gifts of Schlossgeist and Wach Holder! Several of our German superfans made the trip as well, along with our Fryslan friends and, novelty of novelties, our friends Pamela and Rob from London. They flew over to join part of the tour and celebrate Pamela’s birthday in style. It’s really fun for me to see Rob at shows. We actually went to elementary and high school together in the fighting city of Owen Sound, ON. Imagine my surprise when one day he walked in the door at a Ken the Zen gig in London. What a funny world.
The show was in a small auditorium. It had more of a concert vibe than some of the other gigs on the tour – there was a big stage with a curtain and lights and we got a formal introduction before we went on. There were a lot of people there and we’re very grateful to all of them for coming and singing along. Those shows are so gratifying for the band. The energy from the crowd can be great fuel and we felt it last night. I think we played well, too. Afterwards it was fun as always to catch up with people and shake hands and even sign a few copies of the “November” book. People are so gracious to us.
When we finally solved the Parking Lot Pickle – with relief resembling the end of a gallbladder attack – we set course for Klaske and Auka’s place in Ee. Sarah and Ken are staying there, and I’m delighted to tell you that Deni and I are once again billeting with Sietska of Fryslan – world traveling dynamo, creature of pure heart, and an absolutely beautiful soul. She had the Mongolian vodka ready for us. We appreciate her hospitality so much.
So that’s a full day, right? Drives and t.v. appearances and old friends and a show and a crisis and Mongolian vodka. That’s life on the road. Sometimes I wonder how we do it, but I guess you develop a kind of endurance. You need to be able to shake things off and we’re pretty good at it by now. Today is a new day. The sun is shining on the low fields of Fryslan and we’re already driving again. We’ve moved on. It’s only the blog that forces these moments of reflection on me. The road really doesn't leave much time to think about yesterday.
I think that’s partly what creates the tour time warp. Yesterday disappears behind you because it has to. There’s too much to do today to spend time looking back. You forget things. I almost forgot to write about our television appearance yesterday. Can you imagine? But the memories pixelate and then disintegrate in your wake. Life on the road is very much lived looking forward. The van is kind of a weird metaphor for that. You literally can’t see out the back. You can only see out the front.
Which I guess serves as justification and apology to anyone who wonders why this or that didn’t make it into the blog. Dude, I hardly know what planet I’m on. When I started writing this paragraph I was in The Netherlands. Two sentences later I’m in Germany. I kid you not. We have a show to get to. We have to set up. We have to soundcheck. We have to find dinner. We have to play and be on our game.
There is no yesterday.
There is no tomorrow.
There is only this moment, with Sarah drumming on the steering wheel and Ken and Deni lost in their headphones behind me. I won’t remember it again until I read this post sometime in the future.
But as Sarah just said, “You may not know what planet you’re on, but you’re exactly where you’re meant to be.”
Amen to that.
And on we go.