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2005-08-05


Today worked out pretty well. I woke up in Gävle, a city in the middle of Sweden. I was rocketed to the airport by train and soon was on a plane heading for Luleå. Luleå is a city in the very far north of Sweden. I was hired to play two concerts there this weekend at their huge citywide festival—LuleåKalaset.

The festival promoters took great care of me. There was a train ticket waiting for me as well as an airline ticket. When I arrived at the airport there was a hostess with a sign with my name on it. Outside stood a huge tour bus with boxes of soft drinks and beers inside for us. I hate beer. But, I had one anyways because it seemed like the proper rock and roll thing to do.

The bus drove us ten minutes to the downtown of a lovely city built across what appeared to be an archipelago. There were lakes and channels and rivers everywhere. So lovely!


Luleå's North Harbor, as seen from near the stage.

My hotel was a block from the stage and the shore of a lake that wrapped itself around islands and peninsulas. I asked a local how many lakes and islands there were there. They just laughed and said, "Who knows?"

Dinner was a Swedish buffet with the usual stuff—cheeses, meats, potatoes, fish, sauces. I didn't know anyone and I didn't feel like making small talk. So, I ate alone. I truly hate eating alone. If I didn't get so hungry I'd rather not eat at all than to eat alone. For me eating is mostly an arena for socializing while doing something biologically necessary. After being gone for so long, I'm starting to deeply long for conversations with my meals.

The stage I played at was on the shore of the North Harbor. The stage was vast—you'd want to bring food and water and a map if you planned to walk across it and live to tell the tale.It was a proper giant festival stage with towers of speakers and an army of engineers and technicians. Backstage was overflowing with wine and soda and cheese trays.

Those things are nice, sure. But, I'm lonely. What I really wish is that I could open the backstage refrigerator and instead of Red Bull and beers I'd find a six pack of my friends to sit and spend some time with me.

Unfortunately, I was the opening act for the festival that night. So, there was truly nobody there. I played my heart out and back in again and then out some more, though. You have to play your best whether there's one person there or a thousand.

Of course, it can be disheartening to fly so far and go through so much work to play for nobody at all. In the grand scheme of things, though, it's better to get paid to fly around the world and play for nobody than it is to stay home and watch television or have some normal job. I have to remind myself sometimes that I am following my dreams. But, I'm human—I get discouraged.

There was an after party late that night in my hotel. The room was packed with musicians—it was all Swedish acts like Europe, Backyard Babies, Anna Ternheim, Jill Johnson. People were getting really drunk. I could tell because that's when they start to do two things:

1) Talk to one another or smile.
2) Shove.

Other artists started to smile at me and clink their glasses against mine. I smiled and joined them in cheers. But, my heart was a little bitter. Why wouldn't they say a single word to me when they were sober? Now it's like I'm their buddy? It was charming the first few times. Now it just makes my heart feel heavy—I feel even farther from home and my loved ones.

And, of course, there was shoving. Here's how it works with drunk people here. They want to get to the bar—the bar is the alcohol teat from which their lovely Scandinavian lips suckle. If you are in their way—even if you're standing in line in front of them—they simply shove you out of the way. They don't say excuse me or I'm sorry or anything. They just shove you like you were an old person standing by some stairs—clearly in need of some shoving.

After being shoved a few times I spent some minutes drinking a pear cider and talking with a poet from Stockholm. She was intelligent and interesting—and thank god not stupidly drunk. She explained that she made all her living from poetry these days and that it was a big step for her. She also told me how she used to be a model—she once weighed 20 kilos (44 pounds) less. She was angry to see how people treated her so differently when she had a model's body and when they wanted to look at her and be seen with her. "Now we see who my real friends are. And, people care about me because of my personality and my art."

She wasn't bad looking or overweight, but she sure wouldn't stand out in a crowd—especially that crowd of ultra–flashy rock musicians and models and tattoos and dyed hair. I imagined that it can be easy to deal with being invisible if you've always been that way. But, it must be a hard adjustment to go from model to invisibility in such a short period of time—especially if you're a person with a functioning brain. I thought that it would probably be better to start off less cute and then get better looking one day. The other direction seems much less pleasant and more likely to make a person bitter.

I was tired and wanted to go, so she agreed to have lunch with me the next day. Lots of people have agreed to meet me for lunch, dinner, dates, and various other things since I came to Sweden. Every single one has flaked. So, I wasn't optimistic about her following through. I'm starting to think that it's just cultural—people say all sorts of things but there's no follow through. I've sat by my phone waiting for people to call during the last few months. Being flaked on is heartbreaking to me. I wish I wasn't so sensitive about it, but I am.

Soon she had to go off to pursue some boys. I was tired, anyways. And, I didn't want to be shoved or have any more conversations with drunk people who wouldn't acknowledge me when they were sober. So I retired to my room to twist around in the spaghetti of luxurious sheets and fluffy white pillows. I love hotel room sheets and pillows. I made sure to use every single towel and open every drawer and hang things on all those funny hotel hangers. Hotel rooms are like a favorite, hot slutty friend—you just have to take advantage of every little piece them, every little place to poke around and put stuff. To do differently feels like a waste!


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