Tuesday, February 14, 2017

My Top Five, Part 1

People always ask me what my favorite performance was so far. But I am a list-marker so I have a top five. I want to record it here, so that I don’t forget one day, when I am old.
5. London, first European tour, in 2010: 10 years after I’d moved away, I returned to the city where I had lived for two years (end of high school/first and only year of college; I’d gone through a certificate program instead of doing four years). I had other places to visit on the trip, but I needed to be back in London first. London and Portland are my favorite places that I’ve ever lived, so I supposed I love places with gloomy weather, despite my seasonal affective disorder. In the middle of my long voyage, I switched planes somewhere. After having gone through the trouble of requesting vegetarian meals for each flight, and sleeping through the first flight, I was finally going to eat. A flight attendant brought me a sandwich. I was mid-sandwich, wondering, how did they slice this tofu so thin?, when I noticed on the wrapper it did not say “vegetarian”, but was marked “kosher/Muslim”. Yep, I was eating meat. And I was a hardcore vegan at the time (and not the sloppy vegetarian that I am now).

The second flight was the longest but I couldn’t sleep: I was getting too excited to be back in London and perform there for the first time (besides an a cappella performance I did at an open mic once when I lived there). After I arrived, I quickly found the train so that I could find my hotel and drop off my suitcase. My hotel was charmingly antiquated, and my room was the size of a closet. My shower was right over my toilet, and I’d never seen that before, but I was happier than a pig a shit, so who needs a shower? I was back in London, and I was on my first European music tour.

After dropping off my bag, I took my ukulele and hopped on the tube, and headed to the venue. It was June, and when I stepped outside I found that it was unusually warm and sunny. I had to take off my sweater! Everyone from around those parts can attest that you only get two days a year that are warm and sunny and not grey and foggy, and so I thanked my lucky stars.

By the time I got to the venue and started drinking my pre-show beer, I realized that I had been awake and not eating for 24 hours straight! My body did not know what time it was or when to feed it, because of changing time zones. Thankfully I didn’t get messed up from the combination of drinking one beer on an empty stomach. I nailed my performance, and even had the guts to play a very personal, and, at the time, brand new song, called “S&M”. Everyone in the pub was quiet and staring at me. It was the highest compliment: after having lived in London, I was more accustomed to the locals being quiet and extremely civilized on the streets during the day, and then getting loud and wild in the pubs at night. I was so flattered that they were quiet and took in everything I had to say. Afterwards many denizens of the pub asked me for CDs but regrettably I hadn’t figured out how to smuggle them into another country without paying for a work permit (more on that later). Many of them told me how brave they thought I was, to be singing about my sexual feelings, wearing sexy clothes, traveling alone, not having a back-up band to keep me company... Yikes! I thought, good points! It was midnight then, I realized. Time to take the tube back to my hotel and sleep, and head to Italy for the first time the next morning. A violinist from the opening band helped me find the right train to take.

Back in my closet room in some sketchy part of London I’d never visited before that afternoon, I tried to eat some falafel I’d bought from a little diner on my way back, but it was truly awful falafel. It was too hard to bite into. I turned on the TV, feeling wired, not knowing how I’d sleep when my internal clock still didn’t know what time it was. Then I found BBC news and it was like an old relative had come to read me a bedtime story: so soothing and familiar. I left it on and drifted off. I visited Piccadilly Circus quickly the next day since I hadn’t had time for any tourist activities when I was working and commuting the day before. And then I caught a quick puddle-jumper to Milan, the first place I would ever go where they didn’t speak my language. I had studied Italian off and on my whole life, but nothing prepared me for being surrounded by strangers who were only speaking Italian and not English. I got the worst culture shock... and then got drunk enough to get over it, and speak about a toddler’s level of Italian to all the hungry men who were out at the bars... but that is a story for another day.

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