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The Gerald Bostock Diaries

Latest news from the lyric writer of the original “Thick as a Brick.”

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Southern California to Old Europe – Part 11

Bugger me but what a whirlwind tour! Been a bit quiet on the diary front as of late due to extreme work pressure on tour in the USA Pt 2 and then the prep and advance work on the Euro Winter tour. We did have a week at home but my feet (being on the end of rather short and stocky legs) hardly touched the ground at the office desk.

We started up in the US in San Diego which I had never visited before. Really a rather nice town with the heart of a city-scape informed by Art Deco and the Spanish influences of an architectural decorative sort. A suitable entree to the wide and sunny world of California and all it suggests to the novice Big Cal Traveller. Touches of NYC in the throbbing heartbeat of downtown. But, we were only there for a day before setting off up the coast beyond Sana Barbara to the valleys of Santa Ynez – a pleasant but long drive to stay in a hotel in the nearby Solvang – a quaint little tourist town rather irritatingly modelled on a far-off Danish idyll replete with half timbered (ply and insulation fre-fab) houses and pseudo-European country gift stores. What bollocks! What utter tripe! Disney-Dane daftness.

The gig was in the Chumash Casino. Looked everywhere for a Chumash warrior or even a lost Apache but in vain. Whilst the booze and decadence abounds front-of-house in casinos, backstage is often a desert when it comes to a decent tot of firewater. Didn’t exactly put Mr A in a good mood when the runner I had organised to pick him up from the hotel went AWOL resulting in a delayed soundcheck.

I really think I have learned to do a decent job in my weeks of tour management initiation. But sometimes, when things go wrong, as they evidently do, one takes the blame, rather, for the neglect and intransigence of other, lesser, mortals.

Wending our way down through Palm Springs area and back to Long Beach CA gave a glimpse of Southern Californian automobile culture and the endless 6-lane freeways where trucks and cars compete to see who can change lanes most often without signalling. Everyone seems to drive constantly at 10 mph over the speed limit so there are no slow and fast lanes as such. The sensitive and retiring voiture pilote must throw all caution to the wind and join the lemming rush to the next exit where last-minute signage – often blocked by a high-sided truck – produce terrifying disarray in the darting movement of vehicles either avoiding or inadvertantly taking the exit lane which looms without warning and so-easily consigns the unwary to the dark underbelly of urban wasteland.

Mrs A arrives in the rental car hot and flustered after such day-time journeys and has to be consoled with Tea and Marlboro. We charabanc people, cosseted and cocooned in the slumber-womb of Earl Jones’s sleeper-bus have little idea of all of this mayhem but wake in the morning refreshed to take in a new postcard environment and try to figure where the nearest Starbucks is. And who hid Florian’s socks and moved his guitar-case 2 centimetres off-line in its carefully placed – some might venture to say OCD – repose.

Long winding drive to Salt Lake City while The Master and Mates flew budget airline through the sunny blue skies for a midst-Mormon night off. Then the weather started to turn cold and a bit nasty. And remained so for much of the subsequent dates. Texas warmed us up again for a while, especially as we reunited with the NASA shuttle and ISS crews and a few wives and workers who came to the Houston show. Astronaut Coleman took the band to The Johnson Space Centre and they visited the original and the current Mission Control buildings as well as the underwater zero-G simulator. Mr A was en route by car from Dallas so couldn’t be there in time.

The after-show meet and greet was mainly for the Astros and we met up with Italian Astronaut Paulo Nespoli who the band all knew from last year (before my time) as well as Coleman and Fossum. Mrs C joined the band on-stage for the encore and, while waiting in the wings for the go-button to be pressed, quipped that it was pretty much on a par with sitting atop a Soyuz in Baikonur as far as heart-thumping moments go.

Beats me that, in mid recession, NASA is spending countless millions training new astronauts at this time while the old guys are already trained, fit, experienced and ready to roll once more in service of the country, mankind and within the restraints of budget. Hell – I might volunteer myself. I’m about the right age for it….

The bad weather returned with a vengeance as the concerns regarding the imminent Hurricane Sandy began to surface. Mrs A slept with the Weather Channel on, so I learned, as it might threaten the travel arrangements of the flyers in the latter stages of the tour. Luckily, it didn’t, but tragically for many Americans in the New Jersey and NYC areas, it most certainly did. You know the rest. Our travel Agent, Debra Michaels, lost home and contents in the floods out on Long Island where evacuation was necessary and she now faces many months to to completely rebuild and re-equip. We all wish her and her partner Benjamin the best in picking up the pieces of their lives and getting back on track in the New Year.

So, with the last dying vestige of the super-storm playing out in the burbs of the Midwest we all flew back from ORD to a miserable UK climate, fully prepared, at least, for whatever Winter throws at us here.

And on to Old Europe. After wrestling with the last few details of the tour itinerary, I helped pack up equipment and load the bus, driven by the irrepressible Yorky – a sort of Tennessee cowboy from Oop North or, perhaps, Earl Jones with a flat ‘at and a pint of IPA. I rather suspect he doesn’t eat his fruit and veg either at catering.

Overnight to Brussels for the first show last night and Mr A with the lingering chest infection as a result of the cold picked up two days efroe the end of the US tour. But he got through it and the antibiotics are starting to kick in so all should be well for the remainder of the dates this year. No one, including me, would have noticed except for a couple of places where the aerobic necessities of fluting and singing non-stop resulted in a shortened note or more frequent gasp for air.

I received the sad news after the show, in a nearby bar, that my services were likely to be dispensed with at the end of this calendar year as there is a long stint with no work in the early part of 2013. If “long stint” can describe 6 weeks off! But the tour dates in Japan, South America and a couple of other planned trips utilise local tour managers and there is little for me to do. Except, perhaps learn Japanese.

To tell the truth (as I always try – if bluntly – to do) I am rather relieved that it seems to be drawing to a close. I had a whiff of the likely termination during the gap between the US tours but thought it merely gossip and blether. But now, it seems that your trusty gofer, fixer and loyal laundry-facilitator is about to join the ranks of the greasy and unwashed unemployed. Norman Tebbitt sent a note yesterday to my home offering his thoughts, prayers and the loan of a bicycle which I might use to go in search of work until I find it……

Whilst stacking the shelves at the local Waitrose might be a short-term option, I rather fancy being the old lag who rounds up abandoned trolleys in the car park and repatriates them to the pit lane for rejoining the final lap in the Christmas Grand Prix Food-shopping debacle. Which really is the case since the Old Bag tells me that the local Waitrose management, in its infinite wisdom, has completely reorganised the counters and displays so the experience is back to front and all the regular shoppers are in a frantic muddle to find their weekly supplies. And bad-tempered, to boot, as there is nothing like the enraged Waitrose Senior Citizen customer on a rant and rampage through the hallowed aisles of the Most Holy Church Of Waitrose, a John Lewis Company. Some, it is rumoured, bring their own trolleys with Roman Chariot-like blades on the wheels to snap at the heels of the dodderers and the indecisive. And sharp pointy studs on the front of the basket for parting the Red Sea in the fruit and veg aisle. One – Mrs Harbottle, QC retired, of Little Grunting – has a bicycle bell which she mounts on the front (and an electric cattle prod too, no doubt). Not seen her myself as she goes on Wednesdays, I’m told. Friday shopper me. Old Bag has a thing about poking at the beef and inspecting the dead, vacant eyes of the fish while looking for the best of everything before the weekend. Freeze the lot, I say and eat when you want.

I’ll try to manage another of these before the end of the tour and you perhaps don’t hear from me again. Although – and it is just an although – I might get back to writing again in the New Year to try my hand at songwriting. Picked up a few tricks on these tours and strummed a few dodgy chords on Ryan’s dressing room guitar when he wasn’t looking. I’ve got this great riff on the go currently….. I can just imagine it cranking up the opening cadences of a new concept album of Progressive Rock. Or Progressive Metal, perhaps, since I have a secret and unfulfilled hankering for the tightness of trouser and the toss of mane.

Over and Out. GB signing off.

PS: Da-da-da-da daaah da…. Or has that been done before?