MAY, 2002 E.A.
BIERS AND LOTS OF 'EM
Having just returned from a week in Europe, here are some scribblings from my diary.
MAY 18 - NUREMBERG
Arrive at Frankfurt airport and pick up a rental car. Nice silver Audi A6. My brother, Sasha, Mike and I climb in and head to Nuremberg. At the hotel we are greeted by Adam who shows us the prize of his morning stroll through the streets of this historic German city. This is a small toy car, actually a black limo convertible in which is seated JFK and Jackie in the famous pink dress and pillbox hat she was wearing before they were splattered with her husband's brains (the American president assassinated no doubt for confiding in his friends and girlfriend, Marilyn about the 1947 Roswell crash). Adam seems fiendishly pleased with his find (in all places, where the "Roswell" craft probably originated from). Although it's way to early, we ring Danny's room. Moments later (incredibly) he arrives in the lobby, hung over, but willing to start drinking again in an attempt to "cheat" his hangover. Together with the Nordic-looking Camella Grace, we hit the streets. After a very brief tour of the city "with the dark past", we plant ourselves in a bier garden. Pretzels, brats, mustard and plenty of bier in the bright sunshine. The only thing missing is colorful accordion music and the buxom blonde waitress with the cleavage who can carry eight steins of the foamy stuff. Will I ever see a real St. Pauly Girl I wonder. As we drink, I tell Adam about my most recent find in Germany. This is a coffee table book of crashes (or, rather, fatalities) on the autobahn. Adam's eyes get big. Where'd I get it he wants to know, ready to go grab a copy for himself. After another bier, I tell him that I'm only kidding - I've never seen such a book. He seems a tad disappointed, but then smiles at the very notion of such a wonderfully gory thing. He then begins to tell me about photos he's seen of crashes on the autobahn. He's turned the tables on me - I almost wish I'd never brought the subject up. Adam leaves the table to go explore the city, but I'm betting he's looking for a bigger prize.
In the evening, Danny, Sasha, and I decide to take a cab to the festival grounds (ROCK IM PARK) where Tool played the night before. In the crowded park, we find a tent that offers Red Bull and Vodka. Thus I've sealed my doom (for getting some sleep that is). Wanting more bier, we knock on the door of Tool's black touring coach. Justin answers, more than happy to keep the party going. Before long (as it is in Europe) the sun comes up to ruin everything. Before trying to find a cab to take us back to our hotel, we walk over to the infamous arena where Nazi rallies were held (see Cathedral of Light, etc.), trying to image the torch-lit pageantry of Teutonic paganism in the stadium back in those days. Closing your eyes, you can almost hear the Wagnerian crescendos of Gotterdammerung.
MAY 19 - NUR-SOMETHING
With no more than a couple of hours of sleep, I am awakened in my hotel room. The Tool bus is about ready to leave for the ROCK AM RING OZZ FEST SHOW and we've been advised to follow it. We tail the bus for a while until we decide to pull off for some food. We'll easily catch up to it we figure. After a sandwich, we get back on the road. Drive for an hour but no sign of the bus. We've f***** up. Time to pull out the maps. Before too long we are hopelessly lost, even taking an exit only to enter the autobahn via the same exit (yes, going the wrong way). After over an hour of trying to find the right road, we decide to demote Sasha has navigator. At that moment we look up. Miraculously, the bus is right in front of us, allowing Sasha, for the time being, to maintain his lofty position. We follow the bus into the backstage area, squeaking past the various checkpoints (and if there's one thing German's know, it's checkpoints - yes, I know, a cheap shot, but I'm from the Hogan's Heroes generation).
Good to see that Justin and Danny look has bad as we do. In the dressing room, Maynard walks up to Danny with a piece of paper that contains that night's set-list. I notice that both "Ticks and Leeches" and "Triad" are included. Knowing that Danny is quite hungover from hanging out with his newly-arrived friends (i.e. us), Maynard says "good luck" and then walks away, turning back to smile at us. After a couple of hours hanging out in the dressing room, I sneak off to the car to try and crash out in the back seat. As I lay there I can hear "System of a Down" playing on the main stage. Just as I'm about to nod out, they go into their "heavy" riffs - back and forth it goes. Next thing I hear is Mike laughing. Evidently, after eating that road-side sausage (try to imagine something akin to an American Wienerschnitzel, only on steroids), he had a major blow out in the portable johns set up back stage. As he was frantically exiting from his own disturbing whirlpool, Ozzy was in a hurry to enter the thing (NOTE: Oz, I don't think you're in Belair anymore). That's why Mike was laughing. I'm just about to fall asleep when Sasha jumps in the front seat. He takes out his portable CD player and puts on TRIAD, playing along with it on the drums, using the dashboard of the rented Audi as a pair of roto-toms. I never realized just how long that song is. Evidently he's going to accompany Danny during that number... (me falling asleep for 20 minutes).
We watch Tool from the side stage, along with a couple of scruffy dudes who turn out to be the members of System of a Down. Danny and Justin look tired, but somehow manage to pull it off. After Sasha accompanies Danny on "Triad", Maynard announces to the 65,000 + that "that was Sasha, former back-up drummer with Duran, Duran." Last time Sasha played, Maynard said that he was "the first runner up in the Australian make-a-wish foundation", so this was a bit of an up-grade. For that night's performance, Maynard has a black stripe painted horizontally on his face. After the band finishes "Lateralus", while acknowledging the crowd, Maynard wipes a dab of the black grease paint on the cleft of Danny's upper lip, a gesture that does not go unnoticed by some of the German journalists and record-company people. Backstage, they mention it to Danny, but take it all in good humor.
Danny and I watch Ozzy do a few songs from the side of the stage. Sounds good! Great 80's guitar sounds. Return to Tool's dressing room. After having a few drinks, all this party-warrior wants is a Valkyrie to carry him to the nearest Holiday Inn. There is a large hotel right next to the race track, but the tour manager think it might be all booked up. There is to be no Valhalla I'm afraid - my friends have decided that we will drive through the night with Berlin as our destination. Inside Tool's bus, I climb into the upper compartment to tell Sasha that it's time to go. He's sitting on a couch in the dark, next to Adam, watching a bootleg copy of "Spiderman." When I tell Adam that we've decided to blow off tomorrow's show in order to spend an extra day sinking piss in Berlin, he scowls at me. "We're playing tomorrow?" he asks. "Yes, in Braunschweig" I inform him.
ON THE AUTOBAHN - DATE UNCERTAIN
Sitting in the back seat of the Audi, I say something to my brother. Mike, who is driving turns back, "You're awake?" "Hell yes, you're driving two-hundred miles-per-hour (actually around 130), I'll prop my eyelids open with toothpicks if I have to!" "Don't want to wind up in some coffee table book in Adam's house." "If you hit so much as a gum wrapper..." "But there are no gum wrappers on this immaculate road" Mike reminds me. Oh God, here comes the sun. Impossible! Can someone tell me it's not coming up? At around 7:00 AM we decide to get a hotel. We find one. Wake up and get on the road around 1:00 PM. While fueling up we notice a caravan of dozens of green polizei vans. We wonder what the hell is going on. Sasha seems fascinated by their green polizei shirts. He wants one, and FINDS one in the gift shop of the hotel/gas station. We then proceed to Berlin. More green polizei vans on the road - dozens more. Didn't know Tool was that popular over here.
BERLIN - MAY 20
First impression: a very clean, beautiful city, full of Nordic blonde women riding bicycles.
Very impressive architecture (and the buildings are nice too). Mike glances back at me: "How'd you like to be a bicycle seat in this town?" I actually think about it for a minute or two. "Snatchisgoodandtight" I answer in my best German accent. Will I find my St. Pauly Girl here - one with cleavage like alpine gorges (who can carry eight biers)?
After unpacking at the hotel, we go check out the sites of Berlin. Within 3 minutes we find ourselves seated at a bar in a place called "Newtons." Why? Nude photos of gorgeous models on the walls? No, the barmaid herself is beautiful. "Damn, you sure cover a skeleton nicely" I comment, checking to see if she speaks English. Mareen does. We finish our second bier and tell her that we'll be back. We're back. It's been said that every German has one foot in Atlantis. We'll this girl must have had one foot in Lemuria, because she made the best MaiTai I've ever had. Proud of ‘em too, at 15 Euros a glass. Continue to drink while learning about Berlin from Mareen (might be a "u" in her name - lost my notes). Better than some tour bus filled with the sausage-stuffed elderly.
Scores of beautiful blonde women ride by on bikes. How can this be, the Vegan (only two animals away from that distinction) asks? Could it possibly be the G-word? I've never seen anything like this - the torrent of blondes passing by. Back in the states, it's my father's birthday. In my inebriated state, I'm thinking about ringing him up and asking "just what were you thinking?" (NOTE: Dad was a B-17 pilot during WWII. His bomber, "HIT PARADE" dropped their fair share of bombs on Germany before he was shot down, spending the rest of the war in a POW camp ALA Hogan's Heroes. After the war, there were many reunions, some even with the nazi [or German] guards of the stalag, where, together, they drank bier and reminisced about the old days, and yes, my father told the guard about the radio in the coffee pot. It's things like this that make wars seem insane).
Night falls. Switch to Jack Daniels. Don't want to be shooting any young swans in front of my Grail-maiden. Mareen's shift ends, but she joins us at the bar wearing a sexy red shirt. Have a very nice conversation. Make friends with other bartenders as well (as drunks often do). Shut the place down. A final drop of the creature and we retire to the oversized pillows in the hotel. No action for Sir Lanzilot tonight - only in my dreams.
BERLIN - MAY 21
My brother's birthday. I guess we'll really have to party tonight. Head out in the sun, and find a nice outdoor cafe to have lunch. Rump steak looks good (compared to the alternative). As we order, Danny, Adam, Camella, and the tour manager approach the table. They join us for desert, having just had lunch themselves. We've since learned that President Bush will be visiting Berlin tomorrow, which accounts for all the police activity. Members of the German media want to do an interview with Danny (although I'm sure they have no idea who Tool is - they just want to hear what an American citizen thinks of Bush's visit). Danny tells them what he thinks, but won't allow it to be on camera. After lunch, we wander down to the American flag at "CHECKPOINT CHARLIE" where there are major protests going on. Everyone is shouting f*** Bush! Being kind of patriotic myself, I'm tempted to shout out to these Germans, HEY... f*** Bush! The wall has fallen. I now envision myself with Mareen, sipping MaiTais as the blonde women ride by on all those lucky seats.
"CUBAN CIGAR CRISIS" - HOURS LATER
We walk over to "Newtons" for a bier. The place is empty, but there are still nude German models on the walls. Mike asks about getting some Cuban cigars. Evidently, something gets lost in the translation. An hour later, one of the employees returns with a box of 25 small Cohibas for which he wants 650.00 Euros (or $650.00 dollars). We've seen a box for much less, so Mike declines (he was only asking about the cigars, hoping to find out the price). This really pisses off the guy, who claims that he bought the Cubans and is now out the money. We've no time to discuss it now, as it's time to go to the show at Columbia Halle.
Sitting in the dressing room with the boys. Maynard pours us a glass of a very good red wine.
He then asks if I'm still going to Amsterdam. When I tell him that I am, he tosses me a box of aphrodisiacs someone had given him as a joke. I read the label. The stuff is made from the egg-shells of the E-mu bird, the most prolific of such birds. Okay, I stick the box in my pocket. As we sip wine, Justin plays bass lines on an acoustic guitar. He has written a new intro to "Ticks and Leeches" and the band will start with this tonight. Half asleep on the couch, Danny asks how a certain part goes. After a moment of explanation, Danny says he's got it. In the background, Adam is wailing away, also practicing the new intro. Dan and I walk over to the bus to look at some new Crowley first editions he found in London. Wow, he managed to get a 1st (deluxe) volume of the Equinox, one that won't crumble in his hands. Now all he has to do is find the other nine volumes I tell him with heavy sarcasm.
Sitting in a nice bier garden at the venue as the support act plays. Columbia Halle only holds about 3,000 +. Tool fans back in America would sell a nut to see the band up close like this. Watch them from the mixing console, guarding Camella's aftershow bier from any laminate-bearing interlopers. "Ticks and Leeches" sounds really good with its new additions. The guys are on their game tonight (probably since we left them alone the night before), and the visuals are quite impressive. Once again Sasha accompanies Danny on "Triad." Afterwards, Maynard introduces him. Sash almost makes it off the stage unscathed, but I can see the wheels turning in Maynard's head: "That's Sasha, backup drummer for Uriah Heep."
Afterwards we go to an Italian restaurant with band and lady from the record company. Say goodbye to the guys and thank them for a great time. Before heading back to the Four Seasons Hotel, we stop by "Newtons" to have a final MaiTai with Mareen. Word about the "Cuban Cigar Crisis" has spread throughout the place. We are shunned by all except for sweet Mareen, who acts as peacemaker (all to no avail). Leave to go celebrate my brother's birthday. A bottle of Dom provided by his wife, and smoked salmon on crackers (actually, toast - couldn't find proper crackers at this time of night.) Celebration is low-key (but we do get some much needed sleep).
BERLIN AIRPORT - MAY 22
Dump the rental car off at Tegel Airport and go book a ticket to Amsterdam. The hell with sitting on a train (which is essentially a rolling bier garden) for 8 hours - we'll sit in the airport for 6, in a stationary bier garden. In the gift shop, Sasha finds a nice fridge magnet of "Checkpoint Charlie." When he asks me if I think it's cool, I frown, telling him it's kind of lame. The minute he takes his hand away, I pounce on it, buying it for a someone who collects such things. Sasha laughs at being burned and tells Mike and my brother about it back in the "bier garden." Mike knows all to well, as I've burned him before in this fashion on vintage paperbacks. Telling the story, I hear someone laugh. It's a pretty German girl who has recognized us from the show the night before. She says "You're Sasha, backup drummer for Duran, Duran!"
Daiana, it turns out, has been following the band on this leg of the tour, and is on her way to Antwerp to see the next show. We chat for a while - a nice person, and devoted Tool fan. I should have talked with her more, but I was too busy researching a map of Amsterdam. I'm determined not to get ripped off by any cab drivers this time. Daiana asks what the next newsletter is going to be about. It's going to be about you, I say (or should have).
AMSTERDAM - MAY 22
Take the train to Rai station and a 6 Euro cab fare to S's apartment. The cabby seemed to genuinely not know his way around the city. My studying the map (and S's excellent notes) paid off for me and the old guy. A 4 Euro tip. Problem with multiple keys (including one medieval-looking cuss that I didn't think they'd let me on the plane with) due to S's erroneous notes). Alas, brother Rai saves the day. Unpack and head for the Leidseplein where the coffee shop Rokerij is located.
"Four beers and a hash pipe, please."
Inside, I notice that certain "occult" symbols are missing from its decor (See last June's newsletter for more details). Take more photos and go find an Indian eatery. Tour the Red Light - not as many ladies as last time. But that was on a weekend. Go check out the latest smoking paraphernalia - those Dutch geniuses! A few drinks, cigar, snacks from the "night shop" and then back to the apartment to hear Mr. de Bie snore from the flat beneath us. Nice cool breeze and we fall asleep (real sleep)!
AMSTERDAM - MAY 23
All and more of the same (including Indian food). Better luck in the Red Light, although I abstain on this trip. Forgot Maynard's gift - left it back at the apartment.
AMSTERDAM - MAY 24
Mike and I decide to fly back home, but not before composing a thank you note to S for letting us use her apartment: "Thanks S! We had as good a time as you can in a city without grass (on the ground that is). We would have bought you some Boerenbelegen but we knew you'd be in Amsterdam in a few days. I've left you a little gift on the table - something re-gifted from Maynard. Thanks again! ~ Blair, Duncan, Mike and Sasha.
Sasha looks a little burnt out. Before leaving I tell him to cheer up. At least you're going to countries where the people don't drink that much - Ireland and England. (Wait until he gets a load of the architecture there - nothing but pubs with polished brass door knobs, I grin)
(NOTE: I later find out that I missed out on a Kylie party in London. Damn, I would have liked to have been there so that she could have slapped me in the face. One pop diva I wouldn't mind being ASSailed by!).