As I snaked through Graz today from the airport to Temp Home No 5, sweating in the sun and carrying luggage and my heavy guitar in its hard case, I walked past a pub full of merrymakers sitting outside. I struggled past, attempting to see my GPS directions. I looked up for a second at the drinkers; a man with sprinkled grey hair in a long ponytail spied me and smiled the gentlest, wisest welcome: I see you, travelling musician.
I am welcome here, in this strange place.
Once again, I found myself climbing 8 flights of steps to the top of an apartment building.
My Georgian hostess plied me with glasses of water and apples then offered me her bike for the duration of my stay. I am grateful for this offer! She left and I turned the radio on, flipping through a mix of Austrian and Slovene stations. I stopped. Willie Nelson. On the Road Again:
'The life I love is makin' music with my friends.'
Here's to Graz and thunder cracks across the sky with new heart holders!
I spent the evening moving between bliss, empathy, smoke, and water. I dropped what I was doing - - - [lying in bed in a strange world, attempting to gather/regather myself] - - - to ride on a borrowed bike into France, down some country roads in moments of centre, and up a hill to a small path into the forest with new friends... [pre-approved. and it's a small world.]
We walked into the forest at dusk, gathering branches and sticks along the way, seeking out a place to settle in, to make a fire. . . and a fire we made. Gazing up through the branches at the stars, down at the embers, the crackles of flame, we talked about where we each come from. A flame-catch to slow us down. No facade. Just asking each other honest questions and [eventually] listening to tender, heart-opening improvisation around the fire.
Tonight, I am reminded of another bonfire that was lit last night on a beach in San Francisco as several dear ones gathered together as they tried to make sense of the death of a loved one who died several thousand miles away in a car accident. Thea... she was travelling and working for a year in New Zealand, a bright soul, a beautiful, solid flame that stood strong with matter-of-fact-love.
Travelling. But surrounded by new family.
Life is tender. Suffering is inanimate and it softens us in such ways that are hard to come to terms with. Honesty comes from moving with the body's reactions and hearing, honouring those tremors.
Tonight, I tremble.
At beauty. At tenderness with new friends around a campfire. At the strength of dear ones on a beach a continent and a half away. At the softness, at my hardness.
Cast true delight and find no ruse; pull the reel and find at its end the solitude of Belonging.
freeway cola... natural flavours only. (thanks, lidl, for being so affordable. there is a line, however. several dotted central lines, actually.)
We got caught in a downpour and I caught her as she hightailed it out: 'rejoice/appreciate that the sun still shines for you.'
So today I attempted to walk into Germany. After moving into Temp. Home No. 3, I took off on my daily adventure, walking a kilometre or two along the beautiful River Rhine, wishing I were on the well-manicured French side of the water. My crossing idea seemed pretty easy, except that there was a huge queue coming back into Switzerland, which struck me as problematic as I didn't have my passport. In the middle of this, a dear dear friend from Northern Ireland phoned. He whimsically suggested it would be inconvenient not to get back into the country, so I turned away and instead went to a street food festival and ate meat on a stick. On a large stick that turns into a magical wand when you scrape all the Fleisch off.
The crossing would have been easy for me. The reality is that - like in most Western nations - border guards are trained to profile and those that are penalised the most are of course the ones with the least access to assistance.
I got to do some work today in a beautiful little studio. It's good to be getting back to reality. Thank you, Fred, for organising this!
I made some great memories yesterday as captured in the polaroids below. I mean, travelling as an artist is super exotic and enriching and amazing, no? Except that you spend your day organising your bags and - in Switzerland - attempting to eat for less than 40 CHF per day (about $50/£38). The day was mostly bent on surviving the triple prong plug system that - as it turns out - ONLY Switzerland uses. There wasn't a moment when I had both wifi and power access. The struggle is real, kids, der Kampf ist echt. The implications of this are long lasting.
I did, however, fall asleep during a beautifully lyrical guitar recital and also improvised like my life depended on it because - goddammmmmit - something had better work!
after many times of preparation / perpetration, i arrived hier, to temp home no. 1: lothringerstrasse, basel, switzerland. yes, i was served a proper cup of tea at london gatwick airport when my friend & collaborator jenn came to keep me company during my layover. yes, i took a foot ferry across the rhine on certainly the best intro to a city: fred frith's listening walk (european sound-absorbing tarmac, silent water that eventually became aural all over the place, the quiet phrases of duck conversation). and yes, you heard correctly - i accidentally ended up in basel during the uefa cup final with thousands of liverpool supporters.
und, ja, ich bin HELLA jet lagged, as summed up in skeletor's crying eyes at basel münster: