Little Annie Tour Diary part 3: Stranger On A Train

We are happy to welcome the divine Little Annie on board at our blog.  She has be regaling us with pages torn from her diary during her recent European tour-ette.  As in mini-tour, not syndrome.

Lady On A Bus by Diane Arbus

18th June

I’ve done most of my travelling alone. I was fearless, too dumb and too  broke to afford trepidation of any kind. My wanderlust outweighed my common sense. Many a time I returned home, where ever that be at the time, with 4 cents in my pocket (once even devoid of shoes). I just didn’t worry about much as I had a basic belief it would all work out. Somehow. God protects fools and precocious little girls, most  of the time anyway.

Ignorance is bliss til it isn’t bliss no more and you’re forced to wise up, which as always is a sliver of paradise lost. These days, though I don’t travel as emotionally light as I once did, I still believe that seeing as much as possible of this amazing creation that God made for us to live in is not a luxury but a basic human right. Or rather it should be. Since the age of 14 my only schooling has been experience and if I had not (thanks to Greyhound buses and the onset of cheap airfares due to the visionary that was the late Sir Freddy Laker) wandered some of this planet, I’d be most certainly as dumb as a bag of hair.  There is an innocent joy in motion – that funnily enough is only matched by my desire to be a hermit in my apartment. Go figure.

I was shocked the first time that I travelled with another person. Though it was enjoyable enough I didn’t meet anyone as I didn’t have too. So though I have memories of the place, I do not  have memories of being there, and if there’s no interchange, no taking part, then one becomes a voyeur. When I travelled alone I devoured the places I went. And they in turn devoured me. Of late my journeys are primarily for work, so thankfully there is no shortage of interchange. Even though flying becomes increasingly a pain in the carry-on, I still relish the blessing.  Nothing beats barrelling off into  the night.

Maybe it’s the vulnerability that one needs to be open to the adventure, that also makes us so damn over-sensitive. It’s hard to have a thick skin when you forgot to pack it.

This week, I was travelling from Torino to meet Paul in Basel where we had a gig at The Satisfactory. Bue took me to the station where we had a coffee and cigarette together before he put me on a train to Milan, where I would then catch another to Switzerland. We said our goodbyes on the platform. I boarded and pulled out my Diane Arbus biography, which was appropriate as some big guy right out of one of her photos of came to life  a few seats away from me. No one had warned me it was a pop-up book.

Arbus Guy said something in Italian. I didn’t say anything as I couldn’t imagine he was talking to me, but as he got louder and angrier sounding I couldn’t help but look up. He was round and red with rage, and wore an expensive and very ugly looking denim shell suit kind thing. Something that Elvis might have worn if he had lived.   Again he repeated whatever it was, so I replied in Italian that I don’t speak Italian. He then said fuck you in Italian which I absolutely understood. I buried my face in my book even deeper. He spent the next 20 minutes screaming over and over again

speak Italian, whore!
speak Italian, whore!
speak Italian, whore!

In my mind it synced with the whisper of the wheels on the rail. A madman’s mantra. The insane Buddha. His lullaby from hell was peppered with a bunch of words I didn’t understand (and was probably better off). A middle aged man caught my eye and gave me the international sign for sorry I’m not getting involved’. It would have been nothing in NYC , but with such a little grasp on the language I had no cultural context.  Much less know what was making him so angry and what would happen next. He got off the stop before Milan, and I made some motions to clown the whole thing away, after all I couldn’t let a car of strangers who not only would I ever see again, but who had one set balls between them think I was pussy.

It was all a big nothing – still, I pulled down my Garbo glasses over my eyes and felt very alone, so raw raw with insomnia that I feared I might cry. When in that half-lit state, every sadness that ever touched your life since that first sense-memory of that wrenching awareness of self becomes one big timeless ball of Vague Hurt. It was not the actions of some (most likely) lone nut-case on the grassy knoll of ugly irritations that bugged me as much as the looks  I drew from my fellow passengers. The Look. There is something about a person travelling alone that brings out the provincial lynch mob in the locals. And that is not just an Italian thing, it’s an everywhere thing. It’s universal. If you climbed the ragged and treacherous mountains way up into the clouds to learn the meaning of life in a remote monastery, I’ll put even money that on the path enlightenment there be some shady monks with a ‘who the fuck are you’ smirk on their otherwise holy faces.

My lovely pal Joel Diamond, a genius composer and fellow refugee from Yonkers told me about a year ago, how he had lived in Jersey for a little while and didn’t meet one soul the whole time there. He is single and doesn’t drive - which in the Weird Outsider Scale puts you pretty high up there on the lock-your- doors-there-goes-the-neighborhood kinda way. (Something akin to the way a head  injury, childhood abuse and torturing small animals are markers for FBI  in establishing a profile for a serial killer.)  But Joel, who is most definitely not a serial killer, terminally ignored by the natives of the Garden State, he took pictures of himself daily and posted them on the internet as proof to himself that he in fact existed.

I remember that as I sat in this car full of strangers three thousand miles away. I put Ms. Arbus’s depression away in my carry-on and concentrated on my own. I didn’t have much time nor cause to brood, as while climbing aboard the Swiss bound train I was quickly surrounded by a wonderful Muslim family from Malaysia who insisted carrying my bags and spent the next four hours restoring my faith in humanity. God had given me compassionate traveling companions in order to lift my spirit out of its persecution complex. By the time we parted company, me on to showbiz and they onto Paris, I wanted them to adopt me. Gosh we are all just scarred bumbling children, traveling this planet confused as to which zone we are meant to be in.

A few hours later, the whole journey felt like a lifetime ago. Was met at the station by a gorgeous woman named Miriam. When she would turn her face to a certain angle she looked like some art house movie star from the 50′s. I needed a light and asked this insanely good looking Dane who obliged me. Within 30 seconds we were talking about the semantics of the word God. So he was stunning and smart. As a matter of fact I cant think of one un-stunning person I met in the 48 hours I was in Basel.

Miriam took me to the club where we were given an apartment to use during our stay. Showered and soothed, drinking organic vodka (what will they think of next!) and eating a wonderfully rugged bread soaked in home made olive oil made somewhere just south of heaven and brought to Basel by Marco, who is an expat from Torino (actually there were two Marcos from Torino who worked at the venue we played at, one did lights, one did sound and both were delightful). Paul turned up as the hot sun was setting over the courtyard that was part of this arts center. A gorgeous breeze caressing us, there were by now at least 10 of people sat around a huge wooden table, a miniature United Nations. It takes so little to ruin a day and so little to restore it. It’s bizarre when you think about it, how many thousands upon thousands of miles we rake up in order to sing for and hour and 15 minutes. That hokey old cliche is it’s the journey, not the destination that counts, or something like that, but you get my drift..Hokey but true.

I left Paul deep in  conversation with yet another attractive Swiss couple. The conversation was something about the morality of economics. My brain was grinding to a halt.

It had been a long-assed day.

I slept blissfully and dreamless.

xx Annie

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