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I am the Passenger

Posted on Saturday, October 6th, 2007

And I ride and I ride
5.45am, I was in Seattle driving down interstate 5 towards the airport, thinking to myself, “well robin, something’s going to happen today. I can’t imagine having to take a trip from Seattle to Lima, with all my equipment and it going smoothly to the plan laid out before me on my little printout from American Airlines, can I?”. You see, I’ve become a sort of realist and realize that my serenity depends on breaking down a travel day, in fact any day, into small bite sized morsels and, not only accepting them for what they are but enjoying them as well.
For I have come to believe that this is living.
Also it has saved the lives of a few airline employees and fellow passengers.
That morning, I knew, instinctively, that the day will be tiring and unpredictable. I wasn’t to be disappointed. I dropped off my car at the rental return, struggled with my two shinny new samsonites, just bought to replace the two that the TSA destroyed on my way into the United States (locks broken off, even although they were left unlocked unlocked, rendering them impossible to close). All was well, except that there were about 400 people in front of me in the line for the security check, which took an hour to clear, thus relieving me of my only chance of a cup of coffee and breakfast. However, with all that time to ponder upon a solution to the security issue, I finally realized that the war on terrorism has been lost. The bad guys won. The simple fact is that travelling around the US has become so fucked up that it’s become all but impossible to get anywhere on time, make connections and have your luggage arrive. I mean I could be wrong but have any of the bad guys ever been caught at a security checkpoint. Even Richard Reid, that fool with the bomb in his shoes didn’t get stopped by security. No, as far as I can see, all this extra security is just to keep ordinary folks fearful. I mean, I have to say, that after removing my shoes, having my laptop chemically tested and my nipple rings setting the beeper thingy off, three times the same day, I felt ever so much safer. I mean if the security folks could save me from doing really stupid things to myself, I’d feel safer, but generally speaking all they do is bully people with their petty rules. Oh, and while I’m at it, wouldn’t it be safer to take someone’s luggage off the fucking plane if they don’t show up for the flight. Like when my luggage arrived the day before I did in Seattle when I missed my connection due to increased security measures. I mean, the person who makes up these security rules must be a stupid as pig dribble.
Anyway, back to my little histoire.
I catch my flight, Seattle to New York, scheduled to be five and a half hours, and settle myself into my window seat and gently sob myself to sleep worrying about the plight of western civilization and what they do with all the toenail clippers that they confiscate. I was awoken a little while later by a little old lady sitting next to me and her wheelchair bound husband who was occupying the aisle seat. Yes, that’s right the wheelchair guy has the aisle seat. Well, looks like I’m not going anywhere quickly, does it. I nod off again, vaguely aware that breakfast, well a little pathetic bread roll and a polystyrene cup of pissy brown water, was being served. I opened my eyes and was told rather abruptly by a, somewhat less than agreeable, flight attendant that there was none left for me, and if I hadn’t been sleeping I’d have got one. So I went for the glass of water option and felt a twinge of sympathy for the bad guys who bring planes down. I drifted in and out of sleep for a couple of hours and when I awoke the little old lady informed me that we were in a holding pattern, due to inclement weather in the New York area. I picked a book out of my bag and started to read, while we circled around Cleveland for a while, and it was then she started to pray and then took the opportunity to ask me, completely out of the blue, if I had ever considered converting to the Mormon faith. You see, little old lady and her husband were from Salt Lake City and were believers and perhaps, young man, it would do you some good to stop reading books like that and start to read something full of goodness like the book of Mormon. She must have been looking at my book as I was reading. As it was ‘Blood Meridian’ by Cormac Macarthy, I guessed it was something not exactly on Brother Brigham’s recommended reading list. Now, I have to say, I am quite respectful of little old ladies and, while the deep rich prose, describing violence in an almost goyaesque fashion, of ‘Blood Meridian’ wasn’t something that she felt comfortable being near, I opted to put it away and read my only other book, but ‘Body Dump’ by James Ellroy didn’t pass the test either so I opted for the Sky Mall magazine and wondered over all the marvelous crappy inventions that I so often almost buy but thankfully don’t, and tried to find the one which was in the poorest taste. I was stuck between the ‘little dog steps’, a small staircase designed to help your dog be able to get into bed with you, which, frankly, is dis-gus-ting, and the ‘shoe warehouse’ which is a rack for storing a hundred pairs of shoes.
Like, isn’t that just a tad excessive? I mean I have, maybe three pairs of shoes.
Ah, maybe it’s for girls. Just a thought.
After circling Cleveland for an hour and a half, the pilot told us over the PA that we were running out of gas and would have to make an accelerated descent into Detroit at which point the plane dropped like a fucking stone and we were on the ground within ten minutes. Now to be in Detroit wasn’t exactly on the plan. Detroit hurts me. But, what the hell, maybe I could get a connection to Miami and on to Lima from there, my connection at New York already being missed, but instead of arriving at the terminal to deplane we got refueled at a distant corner of the airport and stood on a taxiway for the next three hours. Now, remember the snack I missed? We weren’t offered anything else to eat as there was nothing on the plane. Now we’ve been on the plane seven hours. I got another glass of water. I wanted to get up and stretch my legs but mr fucking wheelchair, whose name, by now, I had decided was Norman; Norman the Mormon, couldn’t get up so I sat and listened to why I should visit Salt Lake and go hang out at Temple Square. Now, anyone who read my account of flying with the really hip high tech rabbi recently should understand that I was very impressed that when he prayed for the flight to be safe and arrive on time, it actually was and did. Not so with Norm and his wife. Make your own conclusions.
We finally arrived in New York eleven hours after leaving Seattle. I’d been in my seat the whole flight and had two plastic cups of water. I’d missed my flight to Miami by five hours and had to spend the night in New York, sans luggage, which was checked through to Lima.
The airline gave me a toothbrush.
Next morning I got a Flight to Miami where I met Andrew Prinz who was there with Ana and her boyfriend Lloyd and Scott from Love Lies Crushing, who had also missed their flight the night before due to the same weather problems which affected me and gone through a similar scenario. We all took the flight to Lima, which, of course, was delayed and arrived seven hours later. My luggage didn’t make it.
The airline gave me another toothbrush.

Real Time

Posted on Monday, October 1st, 2007

Seattle dB Festival performance with Harold Budd
The show isn’t meant to start yet, I’ve just come onstage to switch on all my equipment and tune up my guitar, but my presence generates applause and the lights go down. Silent anticipation from the audience as the sound of my heart beating faster resonates from the stage. Everything seems to take an age in this silence, then, what the fuck?…..My computer has just did a ‘blue screen of death’. Oh dear, it’s going to be one of those concerts.
It never fails to amaze me that I fall for Harold’s charming, confident, nay, cavalier attitude towards soundchecking and getting all the tech bits just right. He seduces me into believing that everything will be all right, as indeed it usually is, but tonight I have problems.
Standing on stage with your computer rebooting is sort of like standing onstage with no trousers on. I mean, it’s reaaallllly embarrassing and I’m no Brian Rix. I can’t really make this funny. My laptop slowly comes to life, I start the first song. Minutes have past. What the fuck? It’s done it again, another blue screen. I imagine all the shit my friend ken will give me for not using a mac. This is now reeeeaaaallly embarrassing. I ask the audience if anyone from Microsoft is there tonight, it being Seattle and all. I sense myself becoming Brian Rix. A few people laugh. Fuck it, where’s Ken. Ken, please come on stage and make it work. I think, fuck it, I have to do something so I start to play the guitar while Ken comes on stage and tried to remedy my problem. I’m making up some nice improvised tunes with my looper which is working while he messes around with my laptop and says things in my ear like, ‘dude, you really should be using a mac’.
No, I really should be using a band.
I play guitar for a few more minutes making stuff up and feeling, rather inadequate, when ken does his magic and makes my laptop work. I play some of my songs. Well I play for about half an hour and at a certain moment Harold appears at his piano and joins in with what I’m doing. Nice. I play for a bit and then discreetly fuck off. I sit backstage for a while having a panic attack, consider leaving the building but the dressing room window is two stories up and if I jump out of the window, I know I’d land in a dumpster or something, it’s that kind of a night, so I opt for going to watch Harold play, which is, as ever, quite breathtaking and very inspiring. I wait until he plays a certain chord and then rejoin him on stage and play with him for half an hour or so. Just a moment or two before we finished I started to feel relaxed. Then just as quickly, it was all over. We were very nicely received by the audience and I wanted to thank them all for showing a little empathy, or at least not pointing and laughing while I was onstage with my trousers down.