Woke up early this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. The drowsy got me again last night. After flying high most of the day I started the descent around 8pm, so another happy pill went in. I felt fine, but couldn’t stay awake. Half-witted conclusion: the pills are sending me off to Nod during the shows.
I’ve been doing three pills a day: two in the morning, one later on. This morning I’ll down one, and do a second in the late afternoon. With luck I won’t get the big drowsies during the show.
So it’s my son’s birthday today. He’s officially a teenager. I called home and got one-word answers. I suppose that’s to be expected. In person I can get more chat out of him. The phone reception is bad…words drop out. I feel very far away.
When I’m on tour I find it difficult to keep my head in family life. I’ve had to all but give up. It’s hard to describe, but the gist is I have to divorce myself. Sounds harsh, like I’m saying my family don’t exist when I’m on tour, but when they’re all eating birthday cake and I’m in the middle of a German nowhere…
I look out the bus window: train tracks, overgrown weeds, skips, busted pallets, aluminium offcuts, unfinished buildings, domestic rubbish… If it wasn’t for the rumbling trains I’d think I slept through the apocalypse.
‘Hey dad, where are you?’ (To be honest the kids almost never ask.)
‘Oh I’m in a dump. Happy birthday.’
We live separate, albeit intertwining lives. My family can’t do anything about whatever situation I’m in, and I can’t properly interact with whatever they’re doing. Let me get mushy for a second…it’s painful. In that pit-of-your-stomach way. I think this happens to a lot of us. I think most (mature) touring professionals have to switch off in a way. Some need a little help to get their minds off things. Booze, drugs, pointless shopping…and the other thing.
There was a time I could be easily tempted. But it’s all about age. First, my own. When I look in the mirror I see a guy who works at Disneyland in the height of summer, and he’s just taken his cuddly bear costume off. Secondly, we’re in the age of social media. If I wanted a little side-action…knowing my luck I’d be spotted in the background of someone’s selfie, face buried in a pair of…chests.
To borrow from Spinal Tap, I used to try having a good time all the time. When you’re on a roll, feeling good, you’re strangely attractive. A young obnoxious drunk is an all-in-one party. But as you get older…sad bear costume.
It’s a stark reality: you have a family…not here in the middle of Jack Shit Nowhere, but back home eating birthday cake. In the back of your mind you keep a candle burning, but to think about them constantly is to subject yourself to a pain that only proximity can heal.
Earlier in the year my touring schedule started filling up, and these current five-weeks stood out on the calendar. Elaine and I were sitting in the living room, and I just stared at my laptop. Without thinking, the words fell out…
‘Jesus, I’ll have to pretend you guys don’t exist.’
Like I said it sounds harsh, but it had been a while since I was on a tour this length. And when you have anxiety, five weeks looms large like a tidal wave. Some tours are quite nice. You get comfortable hotels on days off, and big venues with plenty of local crew. Some tours, the bus smells like sweaty foot vomit. You step out for some fresh air…into dystopia…
As grim as it is here, I do get the odd bit of inspiration.
Sometimes when no one’s around I get ideas. Great ideas. Every so often the voices come up with something useful. The random word generator kicks into gear and like monkeys on typewriters, a string of words pop into my forehead.
I get off the bus, and tiptoe through a blast radius of eviscerated bin liners. Household trash is drab these days. Anything with bright, happy colours is recycled…things stained in blood…this is the end of the line for a shirt like that. Faded reds become dull oranges become browns and suddenly I wonder: has anyone ever named their band The Dirty Diaper Band? Someone should.
Well, I chuckled. Alone in a cesspit. Ah well. Roadie life. You have to at least try to laugh.
* * *
During tonight’s show the drowsiness wasn’t as intense, but I still could’ve curled up and napped. But then I would’ve missed the shenanigans.