I’m settling into a bit of a pattern. I go to bed at a reasonable hour, and wake up early. 8am might sound like a leisurely time to rise, but considering I don’t finish work until after midnight…
Anyway I couldn’t get back to sleep. The voices started creeping in. There’s a TV show called The Voice. I’d love it if they wheeled contestants on stage…a mess of wires on their heads, connected to a machine. Deprive them of sleep for a while, turn on the brain reader…listen to the chatter. Whoever has the craziest thoughts wins. (They also get free drugs.)
The bus is usually a noisy environment. Fan motors blowing, engine rumbling…we pull up at the Swiss border and the bus shudders into silence. It’s a crypt for the half-dead…snoring roadies and musicians. My ears are ringing somewhat. I’m pretty sure I have tinnitus. Despite wearing earplugs for the last 20 years or so, the damage might have been done in my late teens, playing punk rock, and standing pissed as a fart by the speakers at a Ned’s Atomic Dustbin gig in Belfast.
These days there’s an underlying, dull roar in my ears. Normally it sounds like a bin lorry idling down the street. This morning when the bus falls silent, the tinnitus flares. That invisible bin lorry is always there, but normally I don’t notice it for the ambient noise. But now for some reason it’s like waves foaming and crashing against a cliff face.
Switzerland says yes. We’re in. The bus shivers into action. Apart from the drivers, everyone else is asleep…they have astounding abilities…wake up, fall back asleep, stay asleep. I’m envious. But then I wouldn’t have this time with you, laptop. I’m up now. The voices are quelled with a happy pill, and I have the bus to myself. I like these moments.
As a fighting unit, we’re flagging. There are casualties. Tour manager has a bad back. Me and sound are stiff and sore. Last night was a major drinking session for some. Someone’s crashed out in the back lounge. Waking up is going to hurt.
This is where everyone’s going to hate me: I haven’t touched booze in two weeks. I might be tired a lot of the time, but I’m not hungover. For me, hangovers bring…the fear.
I don’t know how many times I’ve been drungover, lying in my bunk trying to delay facing the world. Sometimes you’re out for the count, and you wake up just as the equipment starts rolling into the venue. Then you have to ask yourself…are you roadie…or are you band? If you’re the former, you better get your ass out of bed, and your hands on a case.
Fortunately no one’s languishing today. Otherwise it’s infuriating…you’re hauling gear around…and inside the bus, a grown-up can’t get out of bed without aid. It does happen. And you start thinking…this person makes us look bad.
Imagine sleeping overnight at work…waking up a 9am when everyone’s getting in. They’re bright-eyed, full-bellied, and they know the plan for the day. And there you are: bed-hair, sallow, dry-mouthed, dumb as a post. You can act grumpy, but deep down we know you have the fear…a guilty felling that comes free with a hangover.
I’m no one to talk really. I’ve had a few…dozens…scores…at least a hundred…screw it…a million days like that. I’ve only been off the sauce a fortnight, but I’m glad I’m putting the fear behind me. Especially now when I’m facing up to the idea that my mind isn’t well. I have enough noises going on in there. The last thing I need is the fear…the guilt…THE SHAME!
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Today was another good day for me. The stage is small, but the venue is immaculate. Unlike Bologna and Vienna, there’s a good vibe about the place. The staff understand professional pride. Day off tomorrow.