the meaning of sfiga, and 6 months of silence broken at last.


oh my goodness. a wave of shame washed over me when i logged on to write this blog this morning. it's been 6 whole months since i last wrote anything here. this is not an indication of laziness, mind you. it's an indication of how busy i have busy that i have officially reached my breaking point. luckily, i found out that i bend and don't break. what a relief.

i don't even know where to begin. entire tours have come and gone and i never wrote about them. if a tour goes unblogged-upon, did it happen at all? i spent august in ireland and england, and september in america, and october in the netherlands, and now we're in italy, wrapping a tour at the end of this month. after this i'll head on to denmark and sweden for a handful of wintry cold shows, and then at long last i will get on a plane (again), cross the atlantic (for the sixth, count 'em sixth time this year), and stumble wearily across the threshold of my home. i'm already salivating at the thought and i still have a month to go. perhaps i'm a bit road-weary? :)

let's see if i can re-cap any of the touring madness of this year. right now manuel and i are doing a tour in italy, mostly alone. we have had a few band shows but it's too hard to make ends meet when the band gets paid the same thing as the for now, we are duo-ing it. we started last weekend with a show in torino. we headed out on a chilly but sparkling sunny day, headed north in the VW van. then van has a slight (read: huge) problem with the exhaust - somehow, lots (read: nearly all) of the exhaust gets channeled back into the van. no mechanic has yet to figure this out. the van was actually at the mechanic's for a week, and he told us it was fixed, but about 2 km away from the house it became painfully apparent that it wasn't. so we rolled down the windows - well, i did, because manuel's driver side window is broken and doesn't roll down - and we went on our merry, pollution-filled way. the only problem is that it was fairly cold outside, so having the window down while going 100 km/hr on the autostrada got old fast. i went to the back of the van (which is a bed) and laid down to take a nap. i was jolted awake after maybe an hour by the sound of the van sputtering and dying. i rubbed my eyes and looked around - we were one car from the toll booth, and the van wouldn't restart. manuel had to roll the car through the toll booth and park just on the other side. we had jumper cables but no cars that passed stopped. we were already running late for our show and just starting to panic when, after about half an hour, manuel tried the van again and it started. crossing our fingers, we took off.

for the rest of the journey, we left the car running whenever we had to stop and get food or what not. one of us went inside and the other stayed in the van, keeping it in neutral and keeping gas flowing to the engine. i'll fast-forward through this journey, cold and miserable as it was. the sfiga continued when juri called to tell us that he was going to have to work the following week and wouldn't be able to make the band show we had scheduled for the Velvet Underground. sigh. but never mind that - at long last, we pulled up to the Magazzino Gilgamesh, sputtering into a parking spot, whereupon the van died (again). No matter, we had made it. We unloaded, ate a fabulous meal on the fly, played a great show to a wonderful audience, and re-loaded the van, prepared to head to the hotel. It was 1 am and bitterly cold out. And the van wouldn't start. This time it wasn't the battery, as before - absolutely nothing happened at all when Manu turned the key. Oh, panic.

We got a ride to our hotel and stayed up for an hour, trying to figure out what we should do, since we needed to get to Firenze the next day for a show. Charmingly enough, there was a train and public transport strike the next day, so we couldn't take a train to the show even if we wanted to (and with all our equipment, it would have been nearly impossible anyhow). We could rent a car, but we couldn't afford it, a nd besides, we'd have to come all the way back to Torino (5 hours north) to reclaim the van eventually. The next morning we had a piece of luck - across the street from where the van died was a mecchanic who took a look. Bad news - it was a lot of things, and nothing that could be fixed quickly. Good news - with a push start, the van would take off and keep going, as long as we kept it running. So Claudio d'Amico, Pino Spallone, and I pushed the van while Manu popped the clutch and got her started. I climbed in and we waved goodbye to our friends, and off we went.

Little Miss Sunshine ensued. Every time we had to stop for gas, we obviously had to turn off the van. And every time, I had to push it while Manuel tried to start it. And every time, fellow drivers and gas station employees stood by, watching, as this little girl from Texas pushed the van towards the highway. Unbelievable, the lack of human compassion these days. But we always managaed to get her going and back on the road. I was wrapped head-to-toe in jackets and scarves because through all this, the window is still down (because of the exhaust fumes) and winter is rapidly approaching.

But we're making good time. We're actually going to get to Firenze about two hours early. And then, in the middle of the Apennine mountains, we run out of brake fluid! No joke. Manuel finds himself unable to brake, so we slow as best we can and drive on the shoulder to the nearest service station. I keep the van running (natch) while he buys brake fluid and then tries to find where it actually goes. On these old VW vans, nothing is where you think it would be, and on this one, the brake fluid container is under the driver seat (of course). By the time we are back on the road, a major, major traffic jam has arisen, and it takes us 2 hours to drive about 35 miles. But amazingly, we make it to the show, play it, rock it, get back in the van (which magically starts w/o a push), and drive home. We get home at 3 am and pass out.

The next morning we load up the car (Manuel's dad's van this time) and drive all the way north to Milano (another 5 hours) and play a show with Juri. We get home with little drama, thank God.

The next morning we get back in the van and head north for our big show with Dolores O'Riordan, the lead singer of the Cranberries. She was doing an Italina tour and we were the opening act! All very exciting - except that we got all the way to Bologna (3 hours north) and our booking agent called to tell us that Dolores had gotten some intestinal infection and canceled her Italian tour. Che sfiga!!!! Have you caught on yet to the meaning of the word sfiga? If not, let me continue.

We sighed. We went home. We had band practice with our substitute bassist, Stefano, who - thank the Lord - is a musical genius and who learned all the songs in two days. We had a show the following day at the Velvet, and it went beautifully - thanks to all the students who came, and to all the Italians who were there as well - we did not expect to see the Velvet packed to the gills on a Tuesday night but we're so glad we did. :) Tuesday night was our break from sfiga.

So I keep the books on the road. I have separate envelopes for CD sales, for show money, for receipts, for money owed to the booking agent, etc. Somewhere, somehow, the expenses envelope vanished, taking with it 50 euro. Not a huge deal, but given our car troubles and all the driving we did on Thursday-Monday, those 50 euro were all the money we had made for the 4 shows we did that weekend. And now they were gone. Grrr. Plus the van would not be ready in time for this weekend's shows. What to do???? Load up the VW bug, of course!

Carolina to the rescue! I never thought we'd fit myself, Manuel, two guitars, a suitcase, the pedals and cables, the CDs, the t-shirts, and the pretzels and gummy bears in the VW bug but damned if that little car isn't full of unexpected nooks and crannies! We puttered off to Cuneo (nearly in France) and got there without any problems at all - good little Carolina! We had a great show in Cuneo, thanks to the lovely audience and the hospitality of Carlos, and the same can be said of Friday's show at Pegaso, a live music club in Arcola. Andrea and his crew took unbelievable care of us AND they made me tacos, complete with guacamole!! Perhaps the sfiga is lifting? We'll see. We got home yesterday again with no problems, and now we're headed to Napoli for a show tonight. I'll post pictures soon - I actually have some great ones from the Dutch tour and from the Italian tour - sadly, I have no pictures of me pushing the VW van.

I'll return later to write more about the Dutch tour - suffice to say it was fantastic, and sfiga-free, and full of good audiences, kind friends, yummy food, decent weather, and lots of friendly cows and sheep. I actually have plenty of good stories to tell from that tour, but we've got to hit the road (again).

thanks for reading this far, i promise not to let another 6 months pass between updates. now head over to the merchandise page and get your holiday shopping done, please. :)

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