- Essays: On The Road (And A Little Off)

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Dutch Review &
Photos of the
Witte Paarden Show

Swedish Review &
Photos of the KB Show

More essays
at KindaMuzik:

Panama and the Live Sex Show

Soulful Trip Revealed:
Panama Red Plays Roosendaal

Welcome to Amsterdam, Buffy


Touring Europe with Shaver

"Hey, Danny, this is Billy Joe. Will you come to
Europe and pick with me at the end of July?"
It is Billy Joe Shaver, my old compadre and master
songwriter (arguably the originator of "Americana" music),
on the phone to me at my friends the Landsmans' Pine Island
retreat, where I am, well...retreating.
When he mentions the considerable fees I will earn I am
reminded of the old Sid Caesar(as Progress Hornsby) line:
"Well, that's a little steep, but I'll try to come up with
it," I reply.
He laughs and the wheels are set in motion.

AMSTERDAM, NL, July 24, 2002
On the flight over I sat with a 28-year-old fruit juice drinking,
Birkenstock-wearing Dutchgirl who works at the Max Planck
Institute. Barbara is a psycholinguist, with all the
interesting lore that that entails. We talked about the
great apes and Barbara informed me about the bonobo, a
recently discovered subspecies of the orangutan.
Seems the bonobo, unlike orangs, is not a solitary
creature, but lives in tribes. When a bonobo is orphaned,
the surviving tribe members adopt it, while in other great
ape societies the child is abandoned or killed outright.
Further, bonobos are distinguished in that they are
afectionate in sex, as opposed to merely being driven by
nature to reproduce. "They fall in love," she says.
Barbara's specialty in the study of psycholinguistics is
language acquisition, and the bonobos stand out in Kenze, a
young bonobo who, while not being directly taught sign
language, learned it by hanging out with his mom.
We arrive in Amsterdam at 10:30 am local time, about 3:30
am back in Nashville.
We check in at the Hotel Prinsengracht, which turns out to
be about a block away from my unclear family's old digs on
Noorderstraat. We took naps and at about nine headed out,
walked the red-light district, had some Argentine steak.
I had hoped that I would be able to get Billy Joe and Jerry
Hollingsworth, the other (and KILLER) guitar player to the
Pollux (the hippest bar in Amsterdam, don't go there,
you'll spoil it) and we lucked out. Most of my Pollux
friends, Frits and Tonya, Andy and Tanya the Babe, not to
mention Tanya's Babe cousin Christina from Canada were
there. Frits has also hired a couple of girls to dance and
they slither the disco pole quite becomingly.
I have to extend my pulsating, throbbing, vermillion-headed
heartfelt thanks to Tanya and the other Pollux babes for
making my friends from Texas feel welcome. Nothing like a
little innocent flirtation to make a ole white man (or two)
feel good.
We checked out a couple of other Amsterdam attractions and
went back to the hotel. I dropped Billy Joe and Jerry off
and headed out to MaloeMelo, said hi to Patrik and Jur and
Sem Van der Tien and then crawled home myself.

Next day about 3 pm out host Rob Dokter from the Witte
Paarden Country Club and Steakhouse showed up to ferry us
out to the gig about 100 kilos north of A'dam (Note to Dave
Olney and Guy Clark: You're gonna love this gig when you
play there).
After dinner (the Prime Minister steak) and a rough sound
check we adjourn to our hotel for a nap, still trying to
adjust to local time.

The show was received well by the nice folks in Witte
Paarden, but my new guitar sounded thin to me, so the next
day, on our way to Oslo, we stopped in at my Amsterdam
friend Peter Boelen's shop De Plug and I bought a Fishman
pre-amp lest I suck at the remaining shows as well. Thus
fortified, we headed out to Schippol Airport and on to

Oslo, Norway, July 26, 2002
We arrive in Oslo and are picked up by Guy, our driver, who
tells us that we have a three-or-four hour drive ahead of
us to Seljord, where tomorrow nite we will play at the
largest country music festival in Norway. We drive in a
northward fashion thru Oslo and on toward Seljord. The
Norwegians around Oslo seem to be fascinated with the
concept of the tunnel, as as often as seemspossible, we go
through every type conceivable: under rivers, through
mountains, under lakes, under other tunnels.
We pass through Drammen, still pointed North. Between Oslo
and Drammen is a butte, though Shaver and I dispute whether
it is a butte or a mesa. ("Look at that mesa." "Yeah,
ain't it a beaut?" "No, it's a mesa.") North of Drammen I
see more of these humped up flat-on-top land masses, one of
which actually is a butte.
On the other side of Drammen the highway narrows to two
lanes, and while it is like nothing so much as driving
through small towns in Norway, there are strong memories of
little roads in West Virginia with every turn. It is 11:30
pm now, which up here means it is nearly dark, just a small
strip of light blue sky somewhere off to the South. Or
maybe the North. Yeah, the North: it is noon in Japan
right now so the sun is over there across the North Pole
from where we are.
We stop for coffee, then we drive relentlessly on through
the midnight Norwegian twilight. Guy, our driver, has
promised that it will only be three or four hours until we
get to Seljord, and true to his word, four hours after we
arrived in Oslo we get to Seljord, only to learn that we
have another half-hour drive to the hotel. We finally
arrive and are in our rooms at 2:00 am.
The Man is tired, the even-tempered Jerry is a little edgy,
and I have definitely gotten in touch with my inner bitch
myself. It occurs to me that, massive talent to the side,
there are other reasons I'm getting the big bucks here.
This is a no-smoking hotel. I make a mental note to add an
ashtray tomy next roadtrip gear, open the window, and
ignite a rocket.
I will not sleep. I will wait for the sun to come up so I
can see in the lightthese huge rounded mountains whose
silhouettesI have seen in the near-Arctic dimness on the
way up from Oslo. I have never been so far North, this is
a completely alien latitude, and even "Bundy" on the one
channel available cannt arouse me to my usual
sadly-less-than-Buddhistic splenetic splendor. I am
further North than is Scotland.
I am a man with a life blessed pronounced with two
syllables and I cannot believe my luck to be a guy who is
actually gonna see Norway in a couple hours. The guitar
big juju for me.
And I also can't help that there is Something other than
luck at work here. Well, it IS a Shaver tour, after all.
Here comes the sun. Dootndoodoo.

For all two gazillion of you Shaverheads out there, here is
a rough approximation of the set...there were some more
tunes played because our set length got increased at the
last minute, so don't be thinkin' it's Gospel:
Love Is So Sweet
Georgia on a Fast Train
Honky Tonk Heroes
Black Rose
Woman is the Wonder of The World
Restless Wind
Sweet Mama
Old Chunk of Coal
When the FAllen Angels Fly
Bottom Dollar
Live Forever
Blue Blue Blues
Ride Me Down Easy
You Asked Me To
Tramp On Your Street
Try and Try Again
As for the set itself, it went very well, many Shaver
fanatics came, and a good time was had by all, but
especially by your humble reporter.

We got back to the hotel, and the two sensible members of
the band turned in to rest up for the drive back to Oslo
tomorrow morning at 8 am. The insensible member (and you
can figure out who that might be) stayed up partying in the
hotel bar. Billy Joe did pay me a brief visit and I turned
him on to Laphroaig Scotch (makes Jameson taste like Old
Overcoat), he had a sip, pronounced it very good, and went
to bed. I did some in-depth research into the drinking
habits of the American guitar player.
The town the hotel is in is called Morgedal (means "Morning
Valley"). It is, as it turns out, "the cradle of the ski",
although "the cradle of the modern ski" would be more
accurate, as my new little Norwegian girlfriend Ellin tells
me that skiing really goes back thousands of years; the
Vikings were avid ski-ers, just that their skis were
different somehow. I dunno: maybe they had spikes and
stuff hanging off of theirs. But, be that as it may, a
local boy invented the modern ski here some hundred plus
years ago.
Ellin tells me he made the skis narrower in the middle so
they'd be easier to turn. The Viking dudes would just go
in a straight line, I guess, and whomp whatever got in
their way.
Well,it's a very interesting thing: they have these old
ten-foot-long wooden skis hanging on the wall, maybe even
the very first pair of "modern" skis ever, who knows. And
some pictures of a 1930's-looking couple lighting an
Olympic torch. Ellin, who picked me out to have a
conversation with and is therefore very bright, tells me
that the key to living in these here parts is to be very
parient with the fact that not much has ever happened here
since the invention of the ski.
I can tell that not much is gonna happen here tonight,
either, so I go to bed.

Morgedal, Norway, July 27, 2002
Morning comes and Billy
Joe, Jerry and I have a little buffet breakfast and pile
into a car for the four-hour trip back to Oslo.
I will mention in passing that, though the roads at night
are reminiscent of West Virginia, by day this section of
Norway is more like Colorado; the mountains are beyond
huge, there are waterfalls careening hundreds of feet down
barren slopes to rich farmland floodplains below. It is
some of the most spectaculat scenery ever.
We get to Oslo, get on the plane, fly to Copenhagen and
take the train across the strait to Malmo, Sweden. Check
in at the Radisson. The Radisson is a marvelous place to
stay, pricey, too, I figure. But one thing about this kind
of high-dollar enterprise, though, is the fact that it is
all business, and so after I take a walk, get lost, find my
way back, take a nap for an hour, then we're off to the KB
Club for a sound check, then back to the hotel for more
sleeping. We are skedded for 10 pm.
Do not get me wrong: I love Scandinavia and its various
Scandinavians. Scandinavia as far as I can tell, consists
of Norway, Sweden and Denmark. I don't think Finland fits
in there anywhere.
Though there are three countries, there seems to be some
defining unity. Non of the three went for the Euro, for
example. To Scandinavians there is Europe and there is
Scandinavia. Norway and Sweden share a peninsula, and the
Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian royals are all related
Anyway, coming into Malmo today we passed a sculpture of a
handgun with a knot twisted in the barrel. I gotta stop
and think here: here is some official-seeming exhibit
against armed violence, and it is true that Sweden has
managed to stay out of "European" wars for well over a
century, the home of the Nobel Prize blahblah, hasn't been
like a major bellicose contender since they took on
Catherine the Great, a very peaceful nation, que non? Yet
one of its most profitable exports is war materiel. Saab
makes a motherfucker of a fighter plane, comparable to
stuff we crank out in the States, and Sweden's full-auto
weaponry rules the roost. There's something fishy here,
for a nation dedicated to the idea of peace to be profiting
from third-world conflicts. Scandinavia is aloof from the
world's problems, but eager to make a buck: Sweden makes
tanks, Norway hunts whales, Denmark is a center for child
On the currency in Sweden are the faces of writers,
scientists and singers: Karl Linnaeus, Jenny Lind. It is a
dichotomous world up here in the North. A guy in a bar
says to me, "You simply do not understand." "Exactly," I
Tonight Shaver tossed caution to the winds and called tunes
we have not played. Before a packed house. My friend Bo
and Karl-Erik, the proud possessors of the only two copies
of HomeGrownin Sweden, turned up. Shaver has some true
believers here in Sweden who hang on his every word, and
why not? I been doing the same thing for years. I relaxed
into the now and Shaver, Jerry and I played in total
sympathy to each other, there was immense attention to
dynamics and the crowd had a great emotional roller coaster
ride. ("My, oh my, how those egos they do fly...") It was a
magic night where the music played the players.
So now I'm sitting in a bar suddenly aware that Swedish
chicks aren't all that tall, after all. Couple of little
babettes see me scribbling in the corner and come over to
write in my notebook their e-mail addresses. Time to go
back to the hotel. It's London or bust tomorrow.

London, England, July 28, 2002
Well, forget about Swedish hospitality here in Merry Olde.
After another buffet breakfast we climbed on a plane and flew
into Heathrow. We arrived at 3:30 for a show to start at 9:15.
No one met us at the airportand we ended up taking a taxi
and going the Great Circle route tothe tune of 53 pounds.
Get to the club, do a quick soundcheck.
The management is nonchalant to say the least...they do not
seem to realize who they have booked in here...doesn't
matter, we will kick ass and prove it and have our revenge,
but that comes later. After soundcheck we set out to find
another cab and end up with a gypsy taxi dude named Trevor
who takes us to the hotel. London is roastinbg this day,
and of course there is no air conditioning to be found
anywhere. Trevor, sensing an opportunity for another ten
pounds, returns faithfully to take us back to the club at
Nowhere on this trip have I seen squalor as in London.
Hell, nowhere except in Seoul in 1965 have I seen such
squalor. This is poverty, slim, and I understand now why
all my English musician friends in Amsterdam have
relocated. The English class system is rigidly in place;
there must be good food and accomodations available
somewhere, but I see none of it. London seems to me to be
a powderkeg. Why these masses haven't come boiling up out
of the slums long ago I cannot understand. Well, yeah I
can: it's the same old divide and conquer routine. Keep
'em at each others' throats and they'll not snap to where
the real oppression is coming from. I'm glad I'm not
English. It is a complicated and maybe not so subtle means
of governance, is the class system, but its ramifications
are to be found on every street.
This is the fourth of our four gigs on this tour and, Jerry
and I, who have not played together ever before are now,
after last night's success in Malmo, relaxed and confident
in each other. We are old chunks of coal rapidly becoming
diamonds, and the Teacher himself is increasingly happy
with the homework we're turning in.
The crowd, which includes quite a few Shaverhead stalwarts,
absolutely loves the show. Billy includes as a matter of
courseacouplke of tunes with just himself and guitar and
even a couple of a capella tunes. We end the set, take our
leave, and the crowd begins stomping, clapping and yelling
"Sha-ver! Sha-ver! Sha-ver!" It has dawned on the
management that three guys with acoustic guitars are
sometimes a force with which to reckon, and they come and
say, "You know, you could do one more..." which, as the
pandemonium increases changes to "Will you please do just
one more?"
Shaver and I grin at each other like wolves, we three
return and close the night with When the Fallen Angels Fly.
Shaver signs autographs for his friends and fans, and by
11:30 we're outside looking for Trevor, who doesn't show.
"Probably found himself a rock," says Jerry.

We wind up in the hands of Abdul, yet another gypsy driver,
who takes us to the hotel, where we sleep for five hours
and then meet outside with Abdul's cousin Mohammad at the
wheel of Abdul's Vauxhall. Mohammad takes us directly to
Heathrow, avoiding the Great Circle route for considerably
less poundage, we make our connection and begin to fly
We have none of us had eight hours' uninterrupted sleep
since the Netherlands, and it is starting to tell on us.
Billy Joe is, of course, very tired, what with his recent
operations and all. I am not that far behind Shaver in the
number of years misspent and new leaves turned over,and
even Jerry, who is by comparison a kid, is looking ragged.
On the plane I manage to collapse into a sleep in which I
dream I am flying across the Atlantic Ocean in a plane. We
have flown the entire tour on United and SAS, who share the
same in-flight movies, so we already saw them eight days
ago on the flight over to Europe.
Somehow nine hours goes by and we find ourselves back in
When we get to Newark we have to claim our bags and go
through Customs. For some thoughtless reason I am wearing
my by-now-faded tie-dye shirt with the Grateful Dead bears
walking in their happy little spiral.
Customs guy lamps it and says, "So, been to a couple of
shows, eh?"
Oh, shit, I think. "A few," I admit.
"I went to almost a hundred," he says and then proceeds
into the Deadhead reverie of the shows he saw and where and
when, the tunes The Boys played.
"What's your favorite tune," I ask.
"Tennessee Jed," he says.
"Stella, fersure," I say.
"I really miss Jerry," the Customs Deadhead says.
"We all do," I reply.
"Anything to declare, brother?" he asks.
"Afraid not," I say, thinking of the fifteen-pound block of
hash I could be waltzing into the country with if I weren't
such a chickenshit, and if I'd known I was gonna draw this
particular government employee.
"Oh, well," he says, and we pass beatific smiles back and
forth and I move on.
Shaver, Jerry and I get on a plane to Denver. Then we get
on a plane to Austin.
In Austin we are met by Billy Joe's formidably talented
regular guitar player, Bob Brown. Shaver and I check into
the RedRoof.
Next morning we check outand have lunch together and Billy
Joe drops me at the airport, on his way to Waco to see his
dogs he inherited from Brenda.
I move into the bar. The young woman who serves me has
that Texas look about her, looking eerily like Eddy Shaver.

It has been a very short, hectic, grueling trip, "a
miniatour", said Shaver. I left Nashvillelast Sunday,
today it is Tuesday, nine days later, and I am goinghome
today. In the space of only five days out of the country
we played four dates in four countries. Jerry
Hollingsworth and I, under the stress of no rehearsal,
rapidly learned to trust each other as players and emerged
as a pretty good rhythm section. Billy Joe was able to
take his songs to the people, some of whom have waited as
long as twenty years to see him, with a competent,
professional and passionate back-up band.
I bought this little notebook in Amsterdam and have filled
it up in bars under the influence of various intoxicants,
the most heady of which has been sheer joy in living and in
playing Billy Joe Shaver tunes again.
We go back a long way, Shaver and I...I've known him more
than half my life now and he has been a fixed point to me,
even during the years in which we had no contact. We are
still able to communicate in a straight, blunt, no-frills
way, with a mutual respect for each others' private
natures. And in this trip he and I had numerous
conversations, but nearly all were of a private nature and
not to be repeated.

Arriving at the Nashville International (yeah, right)
Airport, the city's monument to itself, I walk the
unnecessarily long quarter mile route from plane to
trerminal to claim my guitar - the only piece of
non-carry-on luggage I have had the whole trip.
There atthe bottom of the escalator stands the good Captain
MIdnight, whom I have known almost exactly as long as I have
known Billy Joe Shaver, and beside him stands my faithful
Indian companion, Peppermint Patty, her sweet heart a
beacon to my wandering soul for even longer.
I am home again.

"We are wayfaring, wandering Gypsies alone
Looks like looking for is where we'll always be
Cursed to born as serious souls
No one will take seriously"
"Serious Souls" by Billy Joe Shaver circa 1972