Headed East alone. No contacts, no money, no plans. Bern, Switzerland – July 15th

Lyon was really great. A secret little busking place, I think. I played daily in Vieux Lyon and at a big weekly market in Croix-Rousse. I sold a lot of CDs and made many more. Not sure the next time I will be able to make CDs. I have no contacts from here on out, really. 

I love Lyon, I ate great Lyonaisse (the best in France, they say) and other French foods. Andatouille (sp?), cassoulet, and real foie gras. I hung out a lot at this English pub called Paddy’s Corner and played a show there one night. Sold 2 CDs and got 2 pints of strong beer out of it. It was rally great to hang out with Antoine and relax/ drink for 5 days. I also saw the Tour de France! It went right by Paddy’s in Croix-Rousse. 

I don’t know what I was thinking, but I blew pretty much all my money on taking trains to Bern instead of hitchhiking. I didn’t want to try cross the Swiss border hitching because they wouldn’t let a friend of mine in when they saw him doing it a couple years ago. I got to Geneva by train, took a lap around the city and decided to get back on the train. I got to Bern around 11pm, walked around a litle, took the #12 bus to the end of the line and passed out in a bush behind a maintenance shed on a university campus. Thankfully I had some scotch Antoine had filled my flask with to help me sleep. I woke up around 6am and there were students walking around everywhere, but I think I played it off pretty gracefully..

So, now I am in Bern. Not many Euros, not in a country that uses Euros anyway, and not sure where I can busk without getting shutdown. I have heard stories of cops being really hard on buskers here, taking their instruments like they would in Barcelona. I have half of a baguette that I bought in France where they are much cheaper. 

Anita just gave me a possible contact here. Stefan at a video store called “Dr. Strangelove.” Hopefully they can put me up a night, tell me where to busk, or where to hitch out. I’m not sure if I am going to go East into Austria or North into Germany, hit Munich, and go around the Alps into Vienna. Or I may skip Vienna. German Chris still hasn’t gotten back to me about it and I feel like I am running out of time, like I need to prioritize. Either way I need to get out of Switzerland. It is so expensive here, and I just feel uncomfortable. So many malls and posh stores, everything is just so smashable.

Trying to stay positive, landscape is beautiful, the river is beautiful, super clean, people speak English. I have a contact, maybe. Everything is good. 

Damn, I left my toothbrush at Antoine’s. 

 

The long road to Lyon

Girona/Salt, Spain 7/7/2013

I am in a town 100km or so North of Barcelona. It was kind of hard to leave Chris, Anita, and Alisa! Such cool people and we really didn’t get to hangout enough.

Today I only waited 15 minutes for the ride from Barcelona -> Girona, but it is getting late here now and I had some trouble with la policia on the AP. I am on the hunt for a bush to sleep in, but I stopped into a bar for a caña and I bumped into the guy who gave me a ride. He’s Moroccan, pretty nice, not exactly showing interest in putting me up for the night, but I am going to wait it out for a couple beers just to see if he’ll offer. I want to go and try to hitch more, but when I walked to the AP a bit to check it out I came back and a French couple were at the spot. I find it really awkard sometimes meeting other “tramps” in a situation like that, when we are both trying to get the hell out of a town like Girona. Hopefully they will be gone in the morning. They were kind of jerks. I just let em have it cause what’s the point arguing at 8pm over a spot the cops are already harping on? “Life magnified,” I feel bi-polar. I take so much comfort in my cañas, though. Only I cant afford many more..

Lyon, France 7/9/2013

A very interesting and exhausting hike it was from Barcelona -> Lyon. The Moroccan guy ended up getting me a bed after all at his hesitant brother’s place. A small, dirty apartment in Salt, with about 6-7 other presumably undocumented, middle-aged Moroccan men. They weren’t terribly excited to see me, and didn’t speak any Spanish, but I just fell right to sleep, woke right up at dawn, and went back to the hitch out spot. The French jerks were gone.

In an hour I caught a ride to Figueres, right near the French border. 10 minutes after that I got a ride from a trucker to Montpellier. 10 minutes after that I was picked up by Youssef, another French trucker who spoke really great English and “picks up everyone he sees.” He was really stoked on me being American and even called his wife who also drives a truck to brag about it. It was a good day hitching, moving  strong until I got to Orange. Youssef let me out at a pretty great spot, but I couldn’t get a ride and a storm was blowing in. Then a young, hippie-lookin Mexican kid showed up. It was his first time hitch-hiking. Silly kid had to be on a plane from Paris the next DAY. He said he thought it would be easy and got freaked out when I told him I’d probably sleep outside. I had mixed feelings about it, but he wanted to bag a ride together and he seemed a little shaken up so I agreed. At one point he was off to take a piss and this BABE pulled up and in English said, “just get in.” I swear to god. Then he came waddling back and I was all “oh but I got this bro with me,” and she didn’t have room for us both and pulled away.. out of my life forever..

The storm was on top of us and it looked real real. I took a chance and spent 17€ on a 40 minute train ride to Valence. FUCK RENFE. I tried to sneak on for free, but hippie boy blew it for me. Now I am down to 13€ and in a not great mood. The day had started with such hope! Now I was on a RENFE train, half my money spent, and it was pouring rain. 100km from Lyon.

Things change so fast, “life magnified.” I was seriously almost upset until we got to Valence and realized I was in yet another beautiful French town. A guy met us at the train station, took us to buy some hashish, we went to a park overlooking the town in the valley with a gorgeous Château on the other side, and fireworks were going off while we got high.

We stayed at the family’s house of the Mexican kid’s friend, a black guy who lived in South Africa for 7 years. He spoke great English and had all the usual questions and jabs about U.S. culture, politics and foreign policy. I humored him, I like him, and I think he understood my opinion of the place. We agreed that McDonald’s was gross, fuck Obama or any other president, NWA is tight, and Sam Cooke is the best of the best of pop music.

Today I woke up at 10 am, went to an awful spot to hitch, caught a ride from an uptight French woman in under 5 minutes, and now I am in Lyon looking for the pitch. Neeeeed moooree €uroooossssss……… 12:30pm

I will see Antoine tonight! We will get drunk, I know it.

Hitching in Spain, making friends, la Policia, Barcelona

Barcelona 7/2/2013 (?)

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Patrick made me a new sign

It’s Tuesday, I know that much. Madrid was great. I made good money busking, so much to where I really feel like I can relax, buy food and beer, really enjoy myself. I played in Plaza Mayor and Parque Retiro mostly, and also Sol (where I was often hassled by pigs) and El Rastro on Sundays (where I would make the most money and sell out of CDs for the week. I had a great time catching up with my good friend and old bandmate Chris and his new wife Rocio.

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One night while busking in Mayor I met Martina. She is a 23 year old Italian artist and roamer, she’s really sweet and speaks pretty good English. She asked if she could dance and I said “of course.” She had her pack on at 11pm, so it was evident she needed a place to stay. I took her back to Chris’s  house and 2 days later we set out to hitch to Barcelona.

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Busking in Plaza Mayor

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Martina and I at the Palace in Madrid

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We made it to a huge stop on Autopista 2 just before dusk and made camp in a wheat field behind the gas station for the night. This was ironic because she is gluten-intolerant.

The next day we stood thumb-out, talking to people, trying everything for 11 hours at a huge gas station while hundreds of cars just breezed by us. Hitching in Spain is notoriously difficult, but this was ridiculous. By the end of the day it looked like rain and I was pretty pissed. I decided it was worth it to get a room and we used a carpool service online to find a ride for the next day. Money-spent-lesson-learned, I will never try to hitch East out of Madrid again.

I have been in Barcelona for two hours and I love it already. I met Lydia on the ride here. A very nice, pretty, 25 year old Polish artist and graduate student. Crazy good English.

Barcelona 7/5/2013

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Martina, myself, and Lydia at Park Güell in Barcelona

Still here, even after a terrible experience with the pigs. I had a nice crowd on La Rambla, it was going really strong just 2 songs in. They (3) pulled up, very rude, shut me down, hands on their weapons, berated me, took my passport, and threatened me with a 300€ fine. After some asking around I learned that unpermitted musicians were being shutdown everywhere, often times they were confronted with a fine to pay on the spot, and if they couldn’t pay it their instruments were taken. I did meet one guy who just said “fuck no, fuck you,” and walked away and he didn’t have any problems. I can’t risk that, though. I’m not trying to beg my way across Europe.

I am staying a little out of Barcelona, in the Chinatown, with a bunch of skaters and graphic designers. It’s really cool. They remind me of my skater friends growing up. I hang out mostly with Chris and Anita from Vienna, whom I met on the street. They are really nice and really cool and speak perfect English. They travel a lot and share a dissident, anti-capitalist perspective. We hang out in the park all day and roam the old town all night. Last night we went to a squat they had found like a week ago called “The Rabbit Hole” or something and we went in and had some for-donation beers and jammed with some Catalan squatters. I played a couple of my songs too. It was awesome! Anyway, great company, and they help me find this place I am staying at. In 2 days I hitch north back into France, through Lyon, and into Switzerland.

Paris -> Le Mans ->Angers -> Madrid -> Valencia – Rendezvous with Americans/Homies

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Myself, Ony, and Katie somewhere in France

Angers 6-12-13

Paris went quick. I saw all the typical tourist stuff on Champs-Elysee, and I busked there for a little bit too. I got busted by cops on rollerblades which was a first. They were really friendly though, they told me I could play 3 or 4 more “musics,” and then move along. I made a nice little chunk of change. I also went to the Louvre and to Pont St. Louis where the permitted street performers do their thing. I saw a really great mime. I wish New Orleans had a vibrant mime culture instead of just statue bros.

Katie had a rough time, she had her iPhone stolen by the infamous Parisian pickpockets on the metro day 1, and then she broke her arm when we were wrestling on stage at a Mexican Wrestling bar after drinking a fair amount of tequila. Katie’s tough though, she’s already on the way to Madrid, ready to get down in Spain.

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Katie “more gutter than any punk I know” Chatman

I can not imagine the shows going any better. I mean, it was awesome. Great response, French people yelling “encore!” Pretty cool.

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some folks from the Rilletes city getting yelled at by a real live redneck with a guitar

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Ronan Ronan on washtub

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Jamming with Damien

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sweet flyer

Now I have to find Chris, Patrick, and Katie. I’m going to hitch down through Bordeaux, San Sebastian, and to Madrid. They may have left for Valencia if I don’t hustle, so the heat is on. Exciting, nerve-racking, but never boring!

I waited, thumb out, on an on-ramp to Autoroute 87 for about an hour that said “Bordeaux SVP.” I had a feeling it was a bad spot, then I knew it was a bad spot when people started shooting me the “bad spot, dude” look. I was ready to take a bus to another ramp when I met Julian.

He initially only offered me a 14 km ride to get me out of the city and on the Autoroute, but when I got in the car he told me that if I wanted I could stay the night with him and ride to Bordeaux in the morning. After talking some more we realized we were both headed to Madrid! In Bordeaux he is picking up 2 people, so only if there is room can I ride, but still pretty awesome that I managed to thumb down a 9 hr ride through 2 countries in less than an hour.

He works for a food cooperative, so we stopped by there to get some things for dinner. We drove out to the country side to his parents’ farmhouse in a small farming community between Angers and Cholet. I’m pretty sure his Mother is Spanish, and anyway they all spoke Spanish, so we got on pretty well! We had white wine, red wine, beer, strawberries from their garden, “the best” Serrano from Spain, and for dinner we ate Paella. Then the cheese, cheese that is illegal in the U.S. because of the cultures or whatever, produced by some notorious communist who is banned from the USA because of something that happened in Seattle. Then some sort of custard cake made with oranges. It is Julian’s birthday! They agreed to sing “Feliz Cumpleaños” so I could sing along. Overall it has been an absolutely unreal experience. We drank more wine and played each other songs on guitar.

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Paella

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Julian

Madrid 6/13/13

Driving through South France and the Basque region of Spain was beautiful. The best part was when the weather shifted, as soon as we made it an hour south of the Pyrenees the clouds disappeared, the temperature shot up, and it was suddenly -*Spain*-

Spain has a beautiful countryside, boisterous people, and perfect weather.

When Julian and I got in to town we went to a bar and had a few rounds of beer with tapas, on me. It was the least I could do. We exchanged contact info and may meet up later in the summer.

I made my way to Chris’s neighborhood Cuatro Caminos and it was getting dark. I had a little trouble finding his flat, and after an hour or so I met a kid who showed me right to it. I was welcomed by a very relieved Katie, Patrick, and Chris, whom I hadn’t seen in 5 years, along with his new wife, Rocio.

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3 South Carolinians and a Texan in Madrid

We met up in Valencia, I took a cheap bus, they got a deal on a table on the Billet train. We rented someone’s top-story flat with a rooftop terrace and a charcoal grill which would end up being the heart of it all for the whole weekend. The days were spent sunning on the coast of the Mediterranean, the nights were for grilling meats and drinking to our heart’s content. We had: chorizo, blood sausage, pancetta, razor clams, mussels, pork chops, chicken wings, whole chickens, oyster mushrooms, asparagus, and more. To drink we had various red and white wines, Cava, cheap beer, and a bottle of rum or scotch for each of the 4 nights. There was much celebrating, catching up, and celebrating to do.

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grill’n

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chill’n

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Fire!

At about 4am on the third night I woke up drunk and on fire. I jumped up, fell over, wiggled out of my burning sleeping bag, beat the flames off my arms and legs, and woke up Chris and Patrick. After cleaning out a bottle of scotch we all passed out on the terrace with candles lit on the big wooden table. We woke up to a huge fire, a pillow from the sofas had fallen over on to it and was spitting smoldering, synthetic fibers all about that clung to my wrists and legs like napalm.

I doused the fire with a pitcher of ice water from the fridge and stumbled inside, dizzy, in pain, and ready to vomit. I only made it to the kitchen sink when Patrick stopped to help me to the toilet. At that I jerked my head up, hitting the hood vent, and knocked myself out cold, sprawled out on the kitchen floor. What a fiasco! I treated my burns and we woke up in not so bad shape and laughing about it.

blending in with the locals at Plaza del Dos de Mayo in Madrid

blending in with the locals at Plaza Dos de Mayo in Madrid

Europe pt. 1

Summer ’13 I left ‘merica for Europe. It was my first time ever leaving the United States after having travelling a good bit of it for the last year and a half or so. I showed up in Paris on June 7 with $200 and a new banjo and started hitching around.

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On with it then..

New Orleans 5/6/13

It’s May 6th on Spain St. in New Orleans. It’s hot as hell. We are all laid about, so ready to leave. I’ve been worn out, strung out, hard drinking, and working at a yuppie cafe in the Bywater that drives me crazy. The work is easy, the staff is cool, and the pay has afforded me rent, grass and booze, a brand new plectrum, and a plane ticket to Paris and back, but the customers are just the worst people on the planet, I hate working in open kitchens.  Needless to say I’m ready to split, get away from the job, away from the city, away from the heat.

too much nola

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I’ve been here since New Year’s Eve and I’ve got about a month left. It has been a dark time. I witness depravity on a scale I was not aware existed. The sort of street crawling depravity  I thought only a special few of us were blessed with. I guess there are more than I thought, and they are in New Orleans. Still, I love it here. I’ll be back when I get back from Europe.

New York City 6/6/13

I ❤ NY.

I really do. As far as a metropolis is concerned I think I prefer it to the Bay Area. Culturally, architecturally, and geographically. It is fucking expensive, but I made great money busking at Grand Central Station. One day when I was hanging out with Watkins we went and hung out with some well-to-do folks out of the city who live in the house that John Lennon and Yoko owned and where John supposedly wrote “Imagine.”

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So now I am sitting at JFK with Chatman waiting for our flight to Paris. Just as when I left New Orleans I feel strangely calm. I’ve never left the country, much less crossed an ocean to the other side of the world. Why don’t I get excited about anything anymore?

Never too late

Never too late

I’ve had a little trouble sleeping and feeling a little sick, but I’ve also been staying pretty drunk to remedy that. I did great busking. I made enough money to eat out 3-4 times a day, have coffee, and get drunk at night. Plus I bought some last minute supplies and saved a little. I’m not going to Paris with much cash, so I hope this works out! I have two gigs and a house show that Ony and her friend Damien set up as soon as I get there, so I ain’t sweatin it much.

My voice is shot from goin hard in NYC, so I may not busk in Paris.