Saturday, September 13, 2008

the thing about hardwood floors is...

they tend to look better with the occasional scruff mark or dent, whereas carpet embeds itself with the droppings of everyday life. things like boogers, or fingernails. and people lose thousands of hairs every hour, (well, maybe hundreds for me but anyway,) people discard their remains as they grow old. and stomp themselves unknowingly into their carpet. it's kinda gross.

so we got new hardwood floors upstairs. light colored maple like a taylor acoustic guitar and they clean easily with a broom. now the floors invite the sunshine in and create a very contemporary look.

now that I'm home from russia it seems like my every waking moment is devoted to playing guitar. or sweeping the beautiful new floors. more and more ideas for e flow my tiny brain. in october the powerful trio arrives 4 days before we leave for budapesk and europe. I want us to learn together, so I'm devising musical booby traps.

I don't care for baseball but the power trio hit a home run in russia. I am so proud of eric and julie and the way they've adapted. most people don't know this, but I detested touring for the first half of my life. but in 1990 when I met martha, things changed. there is more fun in my life now than ever before. including touring the world. nowadays I consider it an honor.

kazan, on the volga river, is one of the oldest cities in russia. in fact, the festival we played was a celebration of kazan's 1,000th year anniversary! so, one hundred and fifty thousand people were there. the biggest audience I've ever played for. (with talking heads we had 125,00 in central park in 1980). as far as you can see there are little tiny circles: people. behind the immense stage was a beautiful white ancient fortress. " it's the Kremlin", they said. so we learned there is more than one kremlin, most older cities have a "kremlin" because it means "fort".

a day later we flew to mockba (moscow). we had many many laughs in moscow. with characters like eddie jobson, p@t and tony, that was inevitable. but the one who made me laugh the most was the outrageous Finnish man kimmo, (pronounced like chemotherapy). he is the centerpiece accordian player for KTU. I have never known a more ridiculous person in my life. perpetually downing shots of wadka, unfaltering in his quest to be absurd, he was a spectacle just coming down in the glass elevator to the hotel bar and mooning the entire clientele. or sneaking up on his male buddies in the bathroom as they stand doing their duty at the urinal, and then grabbing them in a bear hug and pulling them backwards, causing them to wet themselves.

imagine a grown man with a stocky build sporting a mohawk, wearing a kilt (a dress basically) and playing an accordian. that's kimmo. like a big seven-year-old Finn. he saved his best trick for last though.

immediately after our big show in moscow we worked our way through a backstage filled with adoring fans wanting pictures and autographs. they crowded the hallway around our dressing room. everyone drinking and laughing; great happy people. knowing I had at best 4 hours of sleep available before we had to leave for the airport and the 20-hour journey home, I slipped quietly into the dressing room to begin packing my things. suddenly the door burst open and there was kimmo shouting and cursing at how much he loved us. he grabbed me in a bear hug and threw me down on the couch. he literally had me pinned down; I couldn't move. I thought I would suffocate. all the while telling me how much he loved me, he sucked on my neck for what seemed like eternity. yes! kimmo gave me a huge hickey!

once he let me up I bound out the door into the crowded hallway and began screaming, "look what kimmo did to me! he gave me a huge hickey! and I have to go home to my wife in four hours!"

now martha loves me and trusts me, but even I had a difficult time picturing how I might explain my shiney new hickey to her. "well, sweetheart, there was this finnish accordian player and he forced me down on the couch and sucked on my neck!"...yeah, right.

playing for 150,000 people was sensational but I liked it even more when we played in moscow at the large club called B1. it was sold out (2,000 people) and packed to the rafters with young russians. there was an energy verging on hysteria. and we played our hearts out. five years ago, my first visit to russia with krimson, I wasn't sure what to make of it. it seemed bleak, oppressive, maybe even dangerous. and the hotel (situated right on red square) was tired and outdated. to make a phone call you had to go down to the lobby, tell them you needed to make a call, then go back to your room and wait for them to call you with a phone line! phew.

one morning at about 8:00 I was sitting in bed when someone began pounding on my door.
"open up! let us in!" they demanded. "you must open this door!" I looked through the peep hole as the shouting continued. there were 3 russian soldiers with guns! I imagined myself sitting in a gulag, whatever that is. as I opened the reluctant door they burst in the room, "you must shut your windows! shut the windows NOW!" "okay, okay" I said, just don't shoot me.

there was no air conditioning in the hotel so I had my windows open, looking out onto red square. as it happened there was a military review that day in the square and they made sure all the hotel windows were locked (as though a gun can't shoot through a window) still, they could have just called me from the lobby. "good morning, mr. belew, would you mind closing your windows. thank you ever so much."

but this time in russia everything seemed changed. construction everywhere and a sense of growth, even optimism. the hotels we stayed in were beautiful, the people so nice. it was a pleasure to be there. it gave me time to continue my writing and read 5 books as well.

oh yeah, later I found out the old hotel had been demolished.

photo of the power trio onstage at the B1 club in moscow by tony levin. thanks tony.