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Dispatches from E.D. Sedgwick’s tour through Europe.
We wake up on the day after Thanksgiving and try a second time to fly to Europe. This time, it works. Air France even waives an extra baggage fee. This is appropriate because, when we arrive in Berlin at noon, we learn that they have lost four of our six pieces of luggage, including two guitars, our cymbals, most of our records, two sleeping bags, and my contact-lens solution.
At Tegel Airport’s GlobeGround Berlin—-a corporate entity seemingly unaffiliated with Delta, Air France, or Priceline—-we are told that our luggage may arrive by 5:15 p.m., or may not. This is too late—-we must drive from Berlin to Hamburg immediately, where we are playing later that night. We can have the luggage shipped to Hamburg, but the luggage will likely not arrive until Monday, when we will be playing in Potsdam, because tomorrow is Sunday, and Germans, like Americans, do not deliver lost baggage on Sundays. Unwilling to trust GlobeGround Berlin to ship things, we agree that we will return to the airport on Monday to pick up our lost luggage. In the interim, we will use borrowed equipment and hope for the best.
In Hamburg, we play a “youth center” which is kind of like a YMCA with a bar instead of a pool. There are lots of youth centers like this that host concerts in Germany—-some funded by the government, some not—-but my attempts over the course of a decade to understand how, when, and why they were created and how they function have ended in failure. Sixty-four people come to the show. We sell 110 euros of merchandise and earn about 300 euros from “the door” (that is, the tickets the 64 people bought to see the show). However, some of this money will be split with our driver and booking agent, the leader of the electronic duo with which we are touring.
How much? This is a question she and I debate for some minutes at the show’s conclusion. We had come to an agreement about money months ago, the details of which we have forgotten or left undecided. We remember that we had agreed that I would pay for gas and the van rental, and that on days that she plays, the electronic duo’s leader will get an unspecified percentage of the door, but on days that she does not play, she will get 40 euros. Faced with the grand take of 300 euros in Hamburg, she generously says that I should not have to entirely pay for gas and van rental, but also agrees that 40 euros is a very small sum to be paid for driving. Most tour van drivers make twice that.
The conversation becomes confusing. Is the gas we are using for the benefit of two bands properly paid for by only one? What about a booking fee? And what is a fair door percentage for a German band that booked a German tour for an American band that it is ostensibly opening for, but probably shouldn’t be opening for? Should we take 70 percent while the electronic duo takes 30 percent? What about 60/40? And what is 60 percent of 300 euros, anyway?
And what about the other members of our respective bands? They will likely get nothing, given the high costs of the tour vs. the minimal proceeds. But are we now agreeing de jure, not just de facto, that they will get nothing? And, given the small sums involved—-I have lost more in one night playing Texas Hold ’em at the Showboat Atlantic City—-who cares?
I abandon the conversation to sleep on a thin mattress in a borrowed sleeping bag in the apartment of a man whose name I do not know.