2012-07-06
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During one of my European tours, we rolled into town as usual,  and went directly to the venue – this time under a huge outdoor circus-looking tent.  There we found a crew busy at work tweaking the sound and light systems.  We were introduced to everyone on the crew and then, after coffee break, went on stage for a quick sound check.  The promoter in charge was a stocky, burly, fisherman-type looking man named Victor. 

People in the last town had warned me about Victor. But, I thought to myself, how bad can this guy be?
 
It was nearly show time, sound checked OK, but I noticed, and made the mistake of, mentioning that the lights were all magenta on the right side.
 
Victor went off like a Forthof July rocket. "Typical prima-donna rock star American," he ranted loudly, as he flicked his hand-rolled cigarette to the ground and stomped out of the tent.   The lights did not get adjusted. 
 
Later on, my sound man Joe & I sat down to a group meal - some sort of stew - cooked right there stage side.  Everyone got a plate and a spoon and dug in.  It was really good.  Victor came over to me and said, "Not good enough for you, uh, American?"  But I was already on my second helping.
 
I was scheduled to do 116 concerts on this tour, and we were at the halfway point.  The daily routine now actually seemed normal. 

A typical day was:  Get up by 7AM - do the morning critique meeting regarding the show the night before, sing a little - hit the noon hour street concert location, usually at a crowed café in the town center - set up the sound, sing for an hour and a half, pack up, grab lunch - go to the guest house to shower and have dinner (we were always a guest somewhere).  Then - head to the concert location spot for a full 2 set show - pack up and head to the next venue and do a club set – and then, back to the guest house to crash for the night. We were playing 3 to 4 gigs a day.  Sundays were easy, with only 2 or 3 church services to do.

But, while in Victor’s domain, I got the added joy of hearing him take pot shots at me at every opportunity, “Hey, American” this and that, "you Americans are so full of yourselves.”  He might have been right, but all I did to piss this guy off was observe that all the lights were magenta during sound check - I didn't really even care!
 
After a few days, he gave us an afternoon off.  He said we were going on a boat ride.   “Cool, maybe he is making-up,” I thought.  We got to the docks where it was a boater’s dream come true --  sweet rides, like jet skis, 40-foot speed boats, all the top “names” were well represented. 
 
I'm thinking, “Wow, this is going to be great - do some water skiing, maybe some jetting...” as Victor walks past all these boats, all the way to the end of the dock, to a fleet of little blue, 8-foot dingy row boats. "Here we are," he said.   
 
OK, then (WTF!!).  So crew, the other band members, well-wishers, fans, and Victor (about 40 of us, filling 8 boats) get in these small dingys, and “row, row, row your boat!”

For two hours, I’d hear Victor smear, "How do you like our boat ride, American? Is this too much work for you, American? How do you like the view American?”  All he wanted to do was race row boats!  Mind you, we were on a Dutch canal.  Narrow and straight and way below any land.  All you could see to the front and rear was an endless column of water, and to the sides, one meter (about 3 feet) of grass rising up.  It became clear to me in that moment that Victor was going to torture everyone because he hated me, hated me as an American, or maybe (I wondered) he just hated me because I was a tall American.  At 6’6”, I have a better view and hit my head more than most.  Victor might have been four foot eleven, and it was all MY fault.
 
It was hot; we were tired and thirsty, so to ease the insanity about 10 of us (2 boats) pulled our “racing” row boats to the “shore”. 

We climbed out and up the grass to see what was on top there.  It was a grazing pasture with 50 sheep on it, surrounded by water canals that were interconnected with little wooden bridges and a windmill way off in the distance. 

It was about the size of a football field, so we did the only thing we could do -- played a game of “chase and tackle” the sheep. 

And the sheep won – OK, so you had to be there – but, turns out that sheep are hard to tackle.
 

We covered five miles, give or take, and came finally intersected with a huge river with lots of shipping traffic on it.  The other boats from our group were already on the other side, about a quarter mile away at some sort of dock. 

So, out we rowed into the rough waters of the river channel.  I had not heard an insult from Victor for almost an hour, but as we tied-up to the dock, he looked down on me and yelled, "Hey American, this water is too dirty for you to swim."

That was it.  I'd had it with this pipsqueak Victor guy.  So, as soon as we got up on the dock, I did a one-and-a-half gainer (forward flip) into the water - about a 10 foot jump.  (I was a competitive swimmer in high school, so was in my element here!)   

Victor cannon-balled in after me.  There we were, face to face, bobbing up and down on this river.  We both looked toward mid-channel, and about 200 yards out was a marker pylon.  We looked back at each other, and instantaneously, we both start racing towards the marker.  As I got closer, I could see this thing was really some sort of pipe, about 5-feet in diameter, painted alternate black and white rings every 3-feet.  It had rungs welded to the side, but, up too high to reach.  I waited for a ship wave to lift me up and caught the first rung.  Once up, I reached back to give Victor a hand and caught his arm and pulled him to the first rung.  After that it was a race climbing to the top of this tower.
 
On the climb up, I looked out over toward my group of rowing friends. They looked so small, waving at us – and they weren’t waving hello!  I guess they knew what I could not know in that moment - that we were about to do a dangerous trick – jumping 50 plus feet back down into that cold, dark water.   Victor and I locked glances, and without saying a word, jumped and smashed into the water.
 

We got back to the boats and no one could believe that we had done that jump.  “Man, you guys are crazy,” I kept hearing.  After that, Victor was my best friend for the rest of the tour.  No more insults, no more smears.  All he could do was bask and brag about how we jumped off that friggen tower thing - heard it over and over on the 5-mile row back.  That night at the gig - like magic - the magenta gels on the right side had been replaced and the lights were perfectly balanced.


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Rick Denzien

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