Monday, June 25, 2012

"Her songs were great but she is awkward and she smells funny..."

In the months leading up to my high school graduation, my mother and I fought a lot. This was uncharacteristic for us. I think fighting was a preparation for goodbye. As if it would be easier if we were no longer enjoying each other's company. Maybe if I wasn't ending my tour in Italy, I'd be more fond of being here. As it is, we are not getting along, Italy and I. We bicker constantly. Getting around by train (which is how I've been getting around for the past two months) here, is very difficult. The trains are slow, infrequent, and often delayed or cancelled. 

The day I arrived, I was recovering from a stomach flu. I was supposed to be met at the station. I waited with my bags and my stomach flu in the afternoon heat, on the hottest day of this summer (as of yet). As it turns out, I wasn't standing in the right place. Roberta was also waiting but we did not find each other. Two hours later, after lugging my stuff and my stomach flu onto two metro trains, up and down many stairwells, into one pizza place, and half a mile down to the road to her door, Roberta was still waiting for me at the station thinking my train was late (she is familiar with Italian trains). But that one was on time. The show at her house was lovely but I found out that night that my CDs had not arrived in the mail from the UK. I ran out in Spain. 

This guy Tom Ayrton, who canceled my UK shows (very last minute so I had a giant hole in my tour), was supposed to forward the box of CDs I had already sent him on to Spain. He got the address wrong so it was sent back. He got the address wrong because I dictated it to him over the phone because, for some reason, he can't get internet access. I didn't know the UK was a technological wasteland. After this first failure and many missed CD sales and sad new fans, I begged Tom to please borrow an iphone or visit the library so he could look at the address I would give him next. He didn't do this. He also did not give me a tracking number for the package, which leads me to suspect its all a farce and he never sent the box to begin with. When I called him on Thursday to find out if he had found anything out about its whereabouts (which he said he would do and then call me), I got no answer. I left him a voicemail, during which I became increasingly angry and decreasingly coherent. I started with telling him how hard it is to make a living doing what I do, as it is, and that he was making it much harder for me. I told him he is "the enemy". I told him that my four-year-old sister knows how to access the internet. I said some other things that I'm not particularly proud of but made me feel strangely relieved. By the end my voice was shaking and I wasn't sure if I would scream, or laugh, or cry. I haven't been that angry in a long time. 

I played a lovely show in Genova. A little girl told me, in Italian, that I was beautiful. I saw Roman ruins. I should have kissed the sound person. 

The show was in a square surrounded by buildings with giant bird cages on top.

Coffee and red wine. Perfect.

Silvia Dainese opened. The young ones were our most eager fans.

Inside a biodome. That bird is real.

Outside the biodome with Silvia.

Oh, you know, just a pirate ship.

The next morning I board the train to Mondovi where I am playing two shows in one night. The train employees are on strike so I spend a lot of time on train platforms in the sun listening to announcements in Italian that I wish I could understand. I'm all about strikes and workers rights and union power... and I try to remind myself of this as its becoming quite clear I will miss one or both of my shows.

I thought those officers looked like they could be in a Lady Gaga video with their white leather utility belts.

I don't like the book I'm reading so I spend much of this time, six hours, playing solitaire on my phone. I get really angry with the game, convinced it is conspiring against me. I keep exclaiming (in my head) "REALLY? The trains are on strike. Its a million degrees out. I am missing my show, and THIS is the card you give me?!" And I'm actually angry… until I realize how ridiculous I'm being and laugh to myself (in my head). This happens many times through out the day. I manage to borrow several cell phones to call my Mondovi receivers to let them know about the delays.

When I arrive in Mondovi I am picked up at the station and transported to a farm that is basically heaven, with beer. I picked some fresh basil from the garden and made some pesto that got the Italian seal of approval from Jolanda's mother. I drink too much beer and not enough water and my voice is stuck in my throat but I think the show goes ok. Jolanda also plays and is wonderful. I love her through and through. 

The next day I take the train to Cervia. Seven hours on slow, frequent stopping, Italian trains and I discover that there was a miscommunication between the booker and the venue and I am too late to play… or get paid. Cool. I want to cry. I want to role around on the ground and kick my legs in the air and pound my fists on the pavement, but instead I go swimming. Momentarily, Italy and I get along famously. In fact, I can't wipe the smile form my face as I float in the salty waves. I don't think I'll be sad to leave though. One day I will come back with a car and I won't spend my entire visit in train stations being angry with games on my phone. I have seen very little of this country, aside from the rapidly disappearing landscape from the train window.

I get on the train back towards Milan… back the way I came. This is unfortunate because I am heading back again today to catch my flight out of Bologna. I feel a bit like a pin ball… only I'm just bouncing around and not hitting anything that earns any points… I'm just dizzy and exhausted.

Last night I played my last show of the tour. It was quite lovely. I shared the bill with a sort of jazz funk band and sang three songs with them after my set, "Stormy Weather", "Me, Myself, and I", and once I've had a few glasses of wine we finished with "Summertime". It was a little like reliving the Billie Holiday tribute I played in San Francisco a few months ago… only funkier. More saxophone, less trumpet. More keyboard, less piano. More tennis, less saddle shoe. 

I love picturing everyone who was at the show squatting here to go to the bathroom,  I don't know why.

I stayed with Martina, the booker, and his parents. This was breakfast. Yum.

I'll be home in two days. This is very strange. My friend David asked me if I was homesick. I am in a way, but not in the usual way of craving familiarity. After two months, foreign has become familiar. More than homesick I'm excited about what awaits me. I'm also scared. I am afraid that after two months of spending so much time alone, I've forgotten how to be social. (My music is on shuffle and as I am writing this "Effigy" is playing and Andrew Bird is singing "…when one has spent too much time alone…")

There was a time when I would regard talking to myself as a sign of needing company. Nowadays I have long involved conversations with myself in my head and when I end up socializing I just keep thinking 'When will I get to continue that conversation I was having earlier before all these people showed up??' I'm not sure if this should be alarming. It doesn't matter how friendly or interesting or interested people are… I just can't escape this thought, 'Why won't you stop talking?' Its not because I'm not interested in what they are saying. I'm desperately interested, but words make me anxious… or at least the spoken kind, when they are directed at me and I'm expected to elicit a response. Similar to the fear I have, when I'm on the edge of a tall building or bridge, that I might lose control of my body and throw myself off the side to my death or disfigurement, I am afraid I might respond to a perfectly normal question with some mangled cry or maybe I won't be able to form sounds at all and I'll just stand there with my jaw hanging limp while my inquisitor grows increasingly uncomfortable. Maybe this is why I've kissed precisely zero people on this tour, or maybe its because I decided against deodorant and I'm not a huge fan of showering. Likely a combination of the two. "Her songs were great but she is awkward and smells funny…"

Sometimes Italy looks a lot like home... but not usually.

I used up all my travel days on my rail pass. Just the right number. Time to go home... or start hitch hiking.


  1. If you came to Turkey, I wouldn't let these incidents happen.

  2. California misses you, and those of us in LA miss you the most. I wouldn't even mind if you didn't wear deoderant.

  3. Just a quick limitedly informed assessment, but I think you sound like your wheels are slipping in the mud. Shrug. Find a place to be stationary for a bit and create a small short term project to complete. Don't let yourself get caught in any side projects. Keep up the good work and if your able to make it to Connecticut before September that would spammy.

  4. I totally missed you (I was in cooler London most of the time) but what an odyssey!
    Epic at every turn. I can only hope this will inspire many new songs.
    Sorry about Italy being so messy. Some people think it is part of its charm. Obviously they don't live here. Some charms can drive you to murder.
    Safe journey back home.

  5. I completely empathise with you. When you're relying on someone for your livelihood and they simply aren't's such a frustrating and demoralising thing.
    When I finally get my chance to travel Europe, I'm definitely going to Genova. Those birdcages are fantastic!
    Thank you for sharing snippets of your travels with us. You're living a wonderful life. x