Thursday, April 20, 2006


We are now on our way to Valencia. The countryside is really similar to southwestern US, west Texas maybe. I suppose America covers so much territory that it is possible to find landscapes similar to most places we've been so far. Except here, there are hills and olive groves, probably much more like California than Texas. Little of both.
I haven't had a chance to talk about some of our trip and I'm sure most stories will come back to me when I have a chance to relax after the tour and process everything. Just now we are driving past a monastery from the 15th century. I now take back what I said about California. Perhaps the dirt is as old, but there will never be this monastery enclosed in a fortress-style wall on any US tour. Damn. It's incredible. Just sitting up on a hilltop of geometrically cut field plots of different colored greens and clay--some new crops, some freshly plowed, not yet baked--still dark with moisture.
Spain, as a country, is very tied to North Carolina's history, albeit almost completely indirectly, yet, nonetheless, importantly. The first thing that comes to mind is, just as American soil was becoming sought after, tensions between England and Spain delayed John White from returning to the NC Outer Banks with supplies, causing the intended Cittie of Raleigh to fail, or, at least to become the legendary Lost Colony (see previous entry "Manifesto" on this topic).
Our songs "Leaves Do Fall" and "Outnumbered" are imagined tales of the real life people of the Lost Colony. That's one connection NC has with Spain. The other indirect connection that comes to mind is Cortez. Where to begin? When I think of Cortez, I think of a rustic wooden doorway, and just beyond the doorway are bloody naked bodies, piled like meat, on top of which are women screaming, being raped at knifepoint. I see it happen from the other side of the door, from the bystander's point of view, and I feel the weight of the guilt of the survivor. This is how I read history books--in a series of awful images, which is why I read so few of them anymore. Back to Cortez. The other main thing I think of is the burning of the aviaries. One of the single most offensive maneuvers of warfare I've heard--to burn to the ground the beautiful aviaries full of all kinds of beautiful birds in order to burn to the ground a symbol of a people's pride in their native land. This is how the native South Americans took the Spanish language. With a death to their insides.
Our connection, then, is that the immigrants from South America are currently North Carolina's fastest growing community because of the attractive jobs in agriculture, among other things, and we have been lucky enough to get introduced to a new language and culture naturally. Not at all the way they came by it. But we share our English, in return, which is rich with it's own stories of defeat for native North Americans. That's the way I guess. Sometimes I wish I knew how to speak the language of my own Indian ancestry--not to communicate as that would be difficult, but just to know. And I wish I knew the love stories. Was there a Cherokee boy my English relative fell for? Or was it the other way around? I wonder if these kids fought with their parents--"She's not your color!" I can imagine they must have. The isolated mountain relatives of mine probably have all the stories I want to hear, but I have only met them once, at my grandfather's funeral and I was just a little girl then.

This landscape brings all this to mind for some reason. Everything is so tenuously connected for me--little ligaments of fact stringing together all kinds of information, some imagined, mostly imagined, triggered by sensory impressions.
Just back from the gas station stop and I realized something in there--this journal entry may seem anti-Spain. But all that stuff about Cortez seems impossible now that I look around at these olive groves and even this morning, in the city. Impossible. I can't imagine how an awful conquistador could have been borne of this country, but then, I'm an American so I can relate. Saskia said it best when, on the day of the war protest in Raleigh, she said, "I love my country, but I fear my government."

33,000 Feet

So many things have happened on this trip and I think, I wish somebody from home were here to see this so they could corroborate that it actually happened. And 20 years from now we could talk about how surprised and happy we were.
Today was a pretty nice day before the show too. We walked around and had pizza on the square close to downtown--close to our hotel. We had to buy some new pedals for Ivan since some of his got taken from the stage in Vienna (really, who would do this and, by the way, I feel so bad for what will happen to this person's karma).
By the time we got to the venue just past noon, there had already been a number of pre-sold tickets so we were happy that people were committed. But we were not prepared for what actually happened. After sound we had some light dinner and by the time we got back to the venue, it was totally packed--in America it probably would have sold out far earlier. Very special. And now we sleep.
That reminds me of a story I thought of on the plane to Madrid. I was so afraid on this particular flight that I had imagined that the wing might fall off and it would mean a certain crash. So here is a rough outline for a story I am working on and which I am sure Ivan should write a melody for so we can make it into a song.
A couple seated side by side is sucked out of the plane, in tact, when the wing tears off. The wind is so strong and cold that it is impossible to speak, even though they do not think to speak. They are strapped into adjoining seats, in open air, at 33,000 feet. They look at one another with their eyes and then, with their hands--they clasp one another's throats and tighten their grips. They hold their breaths in, even though they would not be able to breathe by this time, tightening their hands with all their strength at 22,000 feet. Her eyes well up, which is normal, and his eyes close so that he does not have to watch. They are no longer conscious of the fall at 16,000 feet--only the wind. They think of nothing, for a while, and then, at 12,000 feet, they think of their first little house. They think of how nice it was to live there, together. Then, they think of the day they moved out of the house and how happy they were to be going to a new place, but how sad they were to leave behind the place where so many memories were made. That day, after all the rooms had been inspected, after all the lights except one had been put out, they stood at the front door thinking. The first time they brought furniture in here, they thought: "How much larger a room seems when it is empty!" And that spot--the spot by the window--was the best place to lay during a rainstorm. The water would run off that particular corner of the house in a torrent, causing a great and comforting noise. And over there--that fireplace mantle was never really repaired properly was it? It is interesting the way broken things become one's own and flaws begin to blend, becoming invisible with everyday use. Now, empty, they can see the room again the way they saw it in the first place. And then, at 2,000 feet, they close the door and walk out.

To the people of Madrid

You people in Madrid... damn. I was thinking there would be only a few people at the show, especially since we were the only band on the bill, but this was amazing. I really don't have any other way to say it. It was amazing. Ivan just came in and is calling for time out because he wants me to stop typing so we can talk about how great the show was again. All of you singing along and everything--we can't figure out what just happened. But we like it!!!
That's what I'm talking about. Jumping, dancing, and singing with us. You were especially great on Boxcar. Thank you.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter in Stockholm Part 1--the food!!!

It has been a few days since I updated this journal but so much has been happening. It was easter in Stockholm with our friends from Shout Out Louds. I have been telling Ted that I want him to write a book called, The Scandinavian Man's Guide to Hospitality. He was the kind of host who was awake 30 minutes before everyone else, making coffee and breakfast. On our first day there, he woke us up to a breakfast of ham, cheese, and Swedish bread (like Wasa bread). Then he and the guys went to the grocery store and picked up everything for a traditional Swedish Easter dinner--which was amazing. Lots of herring, anchovies, cured salmon, and two different potato casseroles with herring--one creamy and one creamy and salty. Everyone came over and I think we had 12 or 13 of us at the table. We were so happy. They taught us some Swedish drinking songs, which are sang at the table with everyone's little glass raised. It will probably be one of my favorite memories when I'm old. After dinner and after after-dinner cofffee and dessert, Bebban and I walked around the city and shopped. Only for a little while though because I had to get to sound check. The show was later that night. We weren't sure if many people would turn up because we don't have a record label in Sweden, or even distribution, but there were a lot of people there and people were dancing so much during the show, and got more excited over their favorite songs, it became clear that some of these people already have the records. Not to mention this venue was in the top floor of a theatre building and was enclosed with windows looking over the water and the city so it couldn't have been more beautiful.
The next morning Ted brought us down to a breakfast of Swedish yogurt with applesauce and cloudberries, which can only be found in northern Sweden where they can only be grown wild. There was also bread, cheese, caviar, soft-boiled eggs, and a plate of different kinds of cured or smoked fish. Seriously, he's writing this book.
For Sunday Adam had arranged for a special day, which was a real surprise. We drove to Adam's family's summer house and had Easter Sunday dinner with them. When we arrived, we went into a sunny room at one end of the house to have drinks and some pretty amazing cured salmon on toast. The sauce was a whipped, oil-based cream with anchovies and spices. Then we went into the dining room for dinner, which was a roast of deer with a dark gravy--probably a red wine reduction but I have to get the recipe, potatoes au gratin, cranberry sauce, and a mixed green salad in a vinagrette. Everything was so delicious and real, the textures of the foods were just right and being with Adam's family made me feel so at home and comfortable. They're all really warm and there's a little one who is especially adorable--a two year old who's only English words are "I love you." He was a little shy so I'm going to have to learn more Swedish so I can talk with him next time we visit.
After dinner we put boots on and walked down to the lake and around the fields which all reminded me so much of North Carolina. There aren't many places in the world where long-leaf pines can flourish so it's not common to see them. But the mix of long-leaf pines and oak trees was an immediate reminder of Raleigh because it's the part of North Carolina that has a mix of hard woods and pine and in just the same ratio. The lake was still frozen, unlike Raleigh, even though it was reasonably warm and sunny. Spring is new for Sweden--their daffodils are a month out still and ours bloomed one month ago.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Semana Santa

After dinner tonight Giorgio, Ivan, and I walked down the street to see the processional for Semana Santa. The streets were so crowded that we decided not to try to get close to the cathedral, through which all the processional participants must travel, but we still got to see one large church's float in honor of Jesus. In front and behind this float were endless streams of people dressed in black cloaks and tall, pointy hats which are designed to hide their shame as they are sinners. The KKK in America latched onto this look and appropriated it, turning it into something so disturbing that for Americans like us, seeing these processionals here is difficult. On first seeing them, my heart sank and I felt flush with fear. You can probably see why in this photo I snapped. I'll try to post some footage too--maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

La Rubia... she came in very late last night.

Our show in Seville was fantastic--everyone had a good time and there were lots of people dancing and singing along! We were very happy.
Then we went out to the afterparty where we met lots of fun people and partied until 6:30 a.m. Tonight I went to the theatre and one of the guys from the label said that he bumped into the lady who owns the little hotel we are staying in and she said, "La Rubia... she came in very late last night." I can imagine she said this with the face, "you know what I mean?" He was laughing. He said, "I heard you had... a good time last night." Es verdad. Right now it is around 5:00 a.m. and we just got back to the hotel but everyone is just now starting to leave the bars. We left a packed bar (the fun club) and I was thinking, "These people do not stop," but now, an hour later, our neighbors are just getting in and the people down on the street are laughing and it sounds like there are some discussions about who they saw at the bar and who said what. I thought I was a mistress of the night, but in Sevilla...

Thursday, April 06, 2006

We are in Spain!!!

Well, I no longer feel like Joseph K. More in control of going where I want to go instead of running around trying to have myself "arrested." You know?
I was in the shower a little while ago wondering where Sevilla's water comes from. Does it come up from the south--from the Straights of Gibraltar? It could be the same water Morocco drinks. Does it come from the north--near Madrid, following the same route we took today? Does it come from below us--from an aquifer or some ancient construct conceived of by an inventive genius I can imagine having leathery-tanned skin and an engineer's focus, eyes squinted from the sun and from the weight of ideas. Or is it from a river--like how we get our water at home? I was shaving my legs with the little bottle of Kiss My Face cream I keep in my bag and, since I always use the lavender kind, I thought, "I wonder if the scent of this will make me miss being home?" But I can't remember if it did because I started thinking of the conversation I'd had with the man on the late-night lobby shift downstairs. I said, "Hola. Necissito...mi...llave? por favor?" He then, obvioulsy impressed by my facility with the language, rattled off 45 seconds of friendly and totally incomprehensible Spanish as he handed me a key attached to a fat, inflated intertube with stick-on numbers. We both just looked at the key and laughed because, this is the key.
Eariler today we were picked up at the Sevilla airport and taken to our hotel, where we all promptly took a long, post-24 hours of traveling (flights/connections/running around airports) nap. I awoke to a little baby crying in the room next door. The mama was consoling the baby in Spainish and I thought... I'm in Spain! We are staying in the old district where geraniums and vines on balconies hang into cobblestone streets so narrow, you sometimes have to step into a doorway to let a car pass. We ate at a little restaurant that could have been transported from the lower east side of NYC just this morning, kitch and Scandinavian-modernity in tact. Our waitress had a fashionable haricut and a tight little shirt that said "Rock Star" on it in metallic lettering. She asked Girogio about our show tomorrow night but said she can't go because she'll have to work.
I was surprised to see how much things are the same in the bohemian communities wherever you go. The food and wine, however, was... way different. Richer. And the coffee was delilcious. I mean, it was a regular cup of coffee but it tasted like a secret recipe involving a seriously rare combination of ingredients passed down through traditional songs. For the main course, Giorgio and I had a fillet of fish with a tomato and bay leaf sauce spooned over the top and Ivan had roasted pork with a light fruit jelly. Then we all had a little chocolate mousse cake for dessert.
We walked over to meet everyone at the South Pop Festival that is already going on. We bumped into lots of people who spoke English well and even one other American from the festival. Then we walked around a little more before coming back to our little hotel. And now we are caught up. I'll post some photos tomorrow and some news on our trip to see the cathedral. I heard that Sunday is the big, opening processional to the cathedral for Holy Week.
que bueno.