I'm back from Europe and jet-lagged, but only a little. 23 hours with my eyelids open for business, and when they closed, they stayed that way for another 12. I think I've recovered, but I might be in a swoon later today. I didn't realize the miles we covered and still don't have the official numbers, but it will be in the 7,000 mile range. My Google Map estimate is 7,477. To pull that off, we needed everyone on their best behavior, and they were.
It felt good to land at Mitchell, get out and feel something that now seems uniquely Midwestern – a good stiff breeze. Even the jet fuel wafting our way as my wife and I walked to the car smelled good! The climate where we toured is mostly oceanic (so says Wikipedia) and even on the Italian coast, it felt like you couldn't buy a fresh breeze. Even at the top of the Alps, surveying all of creation from The Eagle's Nest and wondering how Hitler could transform that view into such evil, it wasn't all that windy. So, a kind of pleasant calm everywhere we went and a fresh breeze from the lake greeted us when we got back. All good.
The sad fact is that I had romanticized touring and turned it in to tourism in my head. Expectations are a b*tch. Greg travels under pretty comfortable conditions – nice hotels, separate rooms, and a very competent and funny tour manager – but it was a grind. The driving was a constant, with many epic hauls as we ping-ponged around the map.
Most often, the load-in at the venue was around 5 p.m., then there was dinner and downtime, usually in a dressing room, and then the show would begin around 8:30. After two sets and load out, we would get back to our rooms late, collapse and repeat the same thing the next day. That manufactured a kind of snowball of fatigue that rolled itself up to substantial proportions.
Don't want to exaggerate the difficulty – it was all doable – but we had to leave a lot of places where it would have been fun to linger unexplored and un-lingered in. That was the toughest part. The people everywhere were kind and friendly, there were many home-cooked meals and our lack of language skills was mostly humored. German and Denmark are close to bilingual, with English taught almost universally. The production values were really high, and there were only one or two less than perfect P.A. systems. The old cliche about German engineering held up in club after club. Italy, Austria and Denmark also get high marks.
My ambiguous feelings about Germany remain, even though I view the people as sweet and the country as progressive and photogenic. Not a bad combination, and I know of a few expatriates there who probably agree. That unresolved stuff probably has more to do with me than anything grounded in reality. I am, like a lot of artists you might know, at war with myself, and the German half gets blamed for whatever misery I conjure up from time to time.
On the other hand, Denmark, where 3/8 of me comes from, is personified in my imagination by my maternal grandmother, one of the sweetest people who ever lived. That prejudice remains but was tested by the fact that the Danes were all Vikings at one time.
In a nutshell, I've managed to erase a lot of preconceptions and learn a lot. It's amazing how you miss a place like Milwaukee even in the midst of all that over-the-top wonder. We live in a beautiful city that seems to be on the upswing in many ways. We certainly could learn a lot from our European pals. We won't have thousand year old, non-Native American ruins til we've been here that long, but before then we could make the place more livable and treat all of our citizens with respect.
The kind of American music that I like seems to do best in English speaking countries. Rock and roll had to happen here, where Africa collided with Europe for the second time, creating something even bigger than the Alps. I'm a small part of it, and I felt good representing it with Greg and his band. The parts of Europe that we saw weren't nearly as diverse as any street in Milwaukee, and I missed that.
The lag is returning and lucidity recedes. Like Chuck Berry, I'm so glad I'm living in the U.S.A. I'm also glad I got to experience a long and wonderful three weeks in Germany, Austria, Italy and Denmark. Next month, I go to Vegas for the first time with Greg and a line up that includes my favorite Milwaukee musician, Junior Brantley. I might return with a slightly altered view of this wonderful country.