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This one's for Hans Castorp.

Boss J. drives us to the train station in Brno to meet Driver D., who will rejoin us for the rest of the trip. I pay Boss J. the rest of the money I owe him—-about 16,000 Czech crowns, or 650 euro. I’m left with 1000 euro.

This is a crucial moment. The money we will make in the next five days is ours. From now on, every crown or euro or zloty or kuna that doesn’t go to daily expenses—-feeding the band, fueling the van—-will go to paying our tour’s overhead expenses: $3,700 plane tickets, $800 to our label for records, and an additional $900 for T-shirts. In other words, in the next five days, I have to quadruple the amount of money in my pocket to break even. In a world where neutrinos travel faster than light speed, this isn’t technically impossible, but neither were Napoleon and Hitler’s invasions of Russia.

We drive from Brno to Piest’any (PEE-ES-SCHTAN-EEE), Slovakia. I have never been to Slovakia before and know little about it. I’m reduced to band metaphors: like John Lennon and Paul McCartney or Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, the Czech Republic and Slovakia used to be partners, but then they broke up. Driver D. doesn’t have much to add to this analysis. In Slovakia, “the girls are nicer,” he says.

Piest’any tuns out to be a small spa town with hot springs on the Vah River once visited by Beethoven. The venue, “Kursalon,” is a bar in a beautiful cultural center in the middle of a park that’s also used for wedding receptions—-in other words, the nicest place we’ve been so far and the nicest place we’ll be for a long time. It looks like the sanitarium in Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, but without Hans Castorp, his dying cousin, or his French lover.

If only TB wards were known for their sound. When we arrive, the first band, The Wids, has already set up. I tell the sound man that this is okay—-we don’t need a sound check. This proves sonically catastrophic in the usual ways: feedback, inaudible bass, broken microphones, etc. The Wids sound like Bush, and, at least tonight, we probably do, too. After the show, a guy offers me acid—-a first. (Well, maybe I was offered acid at Lollapalooza 1993.) I’m so surprised by this vintage drug offer that I don’t immediately turn it down. (Q: “Do you want a nuclear submarine?” A: “I’m not sure—-how fast does it go?”)

We make 250 euro and sell about 50 euro worth of merchandise. The guy with the acid buys most of it.