We were supposed to be in Paris today. I’m not privy to anyone else’s emotional anxiety about being there, but personally I wouldn’t have minded. If anyone has nerves, they’re well hidden.
We’re in Dijon. The bus is parked near IKEA. There’s a flushing toilet inside. We have some hotel rooms booked in town. While waiting to go, a few of us got talking about Paris, and the reasons for not being there today. Of course Bataclan comes up. It’s only been 17 days.
We all agree, it could’ve been any of us there that night. I got offered a gig with Eagles of Death Metal a few years ago. I had to turn it down because commitments, but I think…what if I had taken the job, and we all got along famously? Would I have been at Bataclan? It’s entirely possible. They must have had someone doing guitar tech that night.
We got talking about how the press have glitzified interviews with the band, teasing the public with trailers. Shame how tragedies become that.
Another reason we’re not in Paris today is because of the security summit…or whatever it is. G20…G8? Have we gone back to G7? I don’t know. Traffic nightmares, or protesting, or something? When you’re on tour you don’t always keep up to date with world events because you’re wrapped up in a microcosm: where am I today?..where am I tomorrow?..I wonder if there’s anything good to eat around here. I wanted a repeat of Berlin. That lovely pizza.
First we get cabs to our hotel: three rooms between ten people. Showers, a tidy-up, and a stroll for food. I eventually broke away from the pack for two reasons:
- sheeple – I can’t stand group wandering
- fear of drink – I’m still fresh on the wagon.
I found a place…a bar?..a café?..a restaurant? The mind boggles. Perrier…Pizza…overcooked. Berlin remains an isolated joy.
You know what I haven’t done in a while? Bought something I don’t need. I searched out a guitar shop, walked 2km in the spitting rain, tried some pedals, and bought them. Bam! Do I need them? Hell no. But this is a day off. I’ve barely spent a penny since we got to mainland Europe. Time to splurge all at once. Besides, it’s Christmas soon, right? And I’m ƒ—ng flying on happy pills, so why not.
On a mental health vibe, today is absolutely fine. Nothing’s bothering me. Well…maybe one tiny thing. (And now a convenient self-promotional plug.) I wrote a book a few years ago called No Ideas – about touring with Leonard Cohen. In it, there’s a semi-fictional character named Dupuis – the ghost of the golden hops. He’s a demonic figure who appears from the mist. Through powerful psychological stress, he persuades you to drink…to keep drinking…to wipe your memory clean with liquor.
My dad’s an alcoholic. There I said it. In his letters, he mentions Dupuis. It seems my semi-fictional demon strikes a chord with some people. I say semi-fictional because of course Dupuis doesn’t appear from any actual mist…but for those of us with demons…mist is real.
So anyway, Dupuis isn’t exactly whispering in my ear today, but he’s following me through the medieval town of Dijon. Greying, crooked buildings lean into each other. They speak in whispers of ancient markets, and thieves bolting through alleys. There’s a floral tribute to Paris, and candles burning, with signs in English: Pray for Paris.
Evening comes and it’s time for more food. I still believe. I believe there’s a delicious pizza out there for me. Four of us leave the hotel. One breaks off for Thai. Three of us walk back toward the hotel, to one of the first places we saw.
I can hear Dupuis’ footsteps behind me…smell his strong cigarettes. Maybe a beer with dinner. Or some wine. What harm will it do? The waiter approaches. (Perhaps I should say garçon.)
‘Anything to drink?’ he says in French.
Now is the moment…time to commit. It’s been fifteen days since my last drop. Sobriety is working for me. But a delicious beer…
‘Anything to drink?’
The room darkens. I hear leather creaking…Dupuis’ shoes. He reaches out. I feel the warmth of my shoulders evaporating…his freezing hand hovers over them.
‘Monsieur. Monsieur! I must inseest – anysing to drink?’
Damn you man! What’s the use. What’s the worst that could happen? I live in Hell anyway.
I breathe deep, steeling myself, hardening my mind for the madness to follow. I sigh the words:
In the end, all I really needed was a fizzy drink.
The pizza was kinda gross. I no longer believe. Ice cream made up for it.
We drive overnight to Paris. I’m not afraid.