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I fall on hard times that derail my plans to regularly update my Washington City Paper Arts Desk tour blog. My editors call frantically from WCP headquarters at 2390 Champlain St. NW. “Where is the next update?” they demand, threatening to stop payment on my $10,000 advance. “The future of journalism is on the line!”
We play a show in Leipzig that only 10 people attend. In the past, we’ve played to as many as 100 in the same town. Luckily, we have a guarantee, and make 220 euros and sell 25 euros of merch. The city is freezing. I sit on a radiator whenever possible. After the humiliating show, I sleep in a small room with the other five members of our touring party. However, I score the loft—-a mattress on a wooden platform suspended above the room with no guardrails on the sides to prevent a balding, 35-year-old guitarist in the middle of a nightmare from rolling off of the platform to his death. I sleep with my coat and duffel bag on either side of my small frame to prevent this disaster.
The next day, we drive to Prague. Near the border, we stop at a snowy, unheated rest stop to buy a toll pass for the Czech highway from a humorless cashier behind a glass window in what appears to be a shipping container. A 10-day pass costs 13 euros. We also use the unheated restroom, where icy water streams from the tap. The landscape looks like the dream within a dream within a dream within in a dream at the end of Inception—-the part when Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page are skiing while shooting AK-47s. It’s the coldest I have been in a long time.
Once in the Czech Republic, our driver’s GPS plays a fun game I call “Let’s send the band through the mountains, unaccountably.” We see deer, Christmas decorations on small cabins, and young Czech children sledding. We smell wood smoke and imagine snowy European Christmases complete with holly, sleigh rides, and mulled wine. Then, the houses disappear, and we see nothing but a blood-red sun setting at 3:30 p.m. If the van broke down here, we would have nothing to do but sit and stare at one another like Kurt Russell and Keith David at the end of The Thing.
The show in Prague, at a club in the basement of a student dormitory near an abandoned stadium built by communists, goes well. We play for about 50 people, make 200 euros and sell about 5,000 Czech crowns, or 200 euros, worth of merchandise. We eat Czech pizza and, after the show, stay in a hostel near the airport. Though the TV doesn’t work, this hostel is the best thing that has happened to me in weeks.
Really, music is an excuse for me to stay in hostels and motels. Never a hotel—-that would be too overwhelming.
I’m told that tomorrow’s temperature will be 15 degrees Celsius. Today, it got up to 30.