Sunday, April 20, 2008
Outside of Hasselt, Belgium
We are back with the team with this festival nonsense behind us. I'm in the B van in the designated AP seat. Lest anyone think otherwise - in that I am not paying for this van, the person driving it, the gas going into it or the logistical support to figure out where it is supposed to go, let the record reflect that I am more than happy to sit wherever I am told. Here's a parable: I had a friend whose dog came over and met my dog one day. As the two approached each other for the first time, the friend's dog quickly laid down on her back, turned her head to the side, became totally still and started to pee. I think you can figure out what I'm talking about.
Yesterday was, not surprisingly, more of the same in Antwerp. The train station in that town is really a welcoming sight - you come up an escalator onto a partially gilded palace facade that faces the indoors, ANTWERPEN emblazoned above the entrance. Out into the city we tumbled, navigating our way down the strip of tourist shops that line the arteries leaving the station. Being from New York, we were hopeless in a town with nothing even sort of resembling a grid layout. We had to stop about three times every block to check our free map and make sure we were on the right path. Antwerp decided to have some fun at our expense and refrained from posting the names to most streets. Still, we eventually checked into a hotel that was too nice for the scruffy likes of us.
Not too much of note to say about the afternoon. The clear highlight was our late lunch. Dave from Conspiracy will forever hold a special place in our hearts for recommending Lombardia restaurant. This was a raucous healthy food joint where spices were laid on thick and well. I briefly wondered about an alternate life of a fat Belgian marriage to the young woman who prepared the incredibly delicious sandwich I ate. Abruptly, though, the hyper friendly owner of the place snapped me out of it. He gave us great advice on where to drink beer, eat frites and check our e-mail. After a complimentary dessert and some colorful pictures it was back onto the streets for us.
The afternoon eventually gave up and ceded to a misty night as we wandered through the old part of the city, our map forgotten in our back pocket. Both Thad and I lamented not having the context for what we were seeing - other than a few stories of King Leopold and chocolate, our ignorance of this pretty magnificent city was nearly total. But we knew enough to drink their incredible beer, which we did for the next few hours. This was followed by a tipsy stroll to the recommended frites joint (Thad with the curry ketchup sauce, me with the 'kamikaze') before finally getting back to the hotel and turning in early.
The trick today was coordinating the meet up with Isis. Jakob was already sorta en route to Karlsruhe, having finally collected their missing equipment. Thad and I needed to get on a 7:45 train to Hesselt (the site of last night's Isis show) and then switch to a local train that would take us just outside of town. And this is pretty much what happened, although I grew more and more nervous as the trip went on. Some sick part of me was totally convinced that there was no way this could work. A screw up would have felt like a relief - the world was in fact the way that I knew it to be. But at about 9:32, 120 seconds after their designated arrival time and long enough for Thad and I to begin reviewing what we really knew about breaking into a car and hotwiring it, the forest green road-whales dutifully drove into view. Masochism not withstanding, I was glad to see them.
So now this tour really begins for us. Other than a night off tomorrow, we're playing every night and I am itching for it. Leave the "Europe by rail" crap to the 23 year old Americans and the European retirees, I came to this continent to lay waste with guitars and amplification. There must be some Mongol blood running through my veins because I am stirred by an deep and ancient call. Europe must be terrorized; I am death's instrument.
Man, all this typing is making me HUNGRY for stroopwaffles.
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