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November 10, 2017

Thank You Italy – Croatia, Here I Come

 

Piove di Sacco, Train Station, Italy – Thursday, November 9th, 2017

“Some people see a mountain, I think I just need the right shoes and I can climb it like a stairs.” Let me begin with the essentials. Andrea Scarso is a legend. He speaks in poems. Nothing is a problem. We had some great chats, we had some incredible food and the three gigs I’ve done so far were an absolute pleasure. I am rested. I am well.
I have just bid him farewell at the tiny train station in Piove Di Sacco.

With Andrea Scarso “Ciao carissimo!”

When did I leave you?
Tuesday, I think.

Tuesday, November 7th

“The Rain Falls down on last year’s man” – L.Cohen

It is raining. It is pouring. Yet when I exit the train station in Venice I am immediately spellbound. The sky is grey. The wind is having a hissy fit. The rain is demonic car wash assaulting from every direction. It is an umbrella massacre. The water is choppy. And, Venice is spectacular. Truly spectacular. A maze of logic defying streets and alleyways, a monument to man’s imagination and the feats of engineering. The beauty that happens when imagination and engineering meet.

Yet equally, for those of us who believe in climate change, it is impossible not to walk through these ancient streets without pondering what we may be robbing from future generations.

Casa Maritan

Tuesday night, I played a house concert in a beautiful old farm house, Casa Martian in the very, very, very small town of Bovolenta. Not before getting off at the wrong stop on the train in a lightning storm with a dead phone. I’ll tell you more about that when I see you. Suffice to say Andrea Scarso bailed me out. “There is a town called Bovolenta. Where lemons grow in November.” That’s the beginning of my new song about the house in Bovolenta. Another, worldwide smash hit on the way. The farmhouse was Alessandro Maritan’s childhood home and his father’s farm. Formerly they grew mostly corn and grapes, now Alessandro has a solar farm there. We had a fine feed and a glass or two of excellent red wine before the gig. I listened to Andrea and Alessandro and their friends chatting in Italian. After a glass of wine I convinced myself that I understand quite a bit of Italian. The same way that aftera pint of Grolsch I think I understand Dutch. Maybe this was St. Peter’s trick…

The gig was thoroughly enjoyable. The room itself could have been purpose built for music. It was a real pleasure to sing in Casa Martian. A wood burning stove flickered light and warmth from the back of the across beautiful tiled floors and brick walls. I loved it. Andrea joined me on the washboard for ‘Brooklyn sky’ and guitar for ‘Skin and Bones’. I hadn’t heard him play before but I knew he’d been invited on stage in the past by both Glen Hansard AND Bruce Springsteen. So, I thought, humming the tune to “Old Fashioned Morphine”, “Well, that’s good enough for me”.

And it was. Holy shit, he is good at the washboard. A sight to behold.

Wednesday

Wednesday I spent the day in Piove DI Sacco, Andrea’s home town. He took me for a glass of something that loosely translates as “the cloud” before noon. My protestations were dismissed: “You must have the complete Italian immersion.” I observed the different way Italians and Irish people drink. Based on my vast experience of three days of wandering one could be forgiven for thinking Italy is perpetually slightly buzzed but never quite drunk. Like they spread out the drinking that we might do in a sitting over the whole day. Oh, and they eat when they drink too. Again, I base this deduction solely on on my few days wandering.That is too say, I could be full of cloudsense.

Wednesday was market day in Piove Di Sacco and we strolled around town, through fish markets,stalls selling seeds, flowers, vegetables and socks. The usual. And the unusual. It became clear that Andrea is to Piove Di Sacco what Brendan O’Shea is to the Lower East Side. The unofficial mayor. We couldn’t walk more than six steps without running into someone he know. From the local carabinieri to the theatre clerk.

I saw an older man in a red clown suit dragging a suitcase and balloons. “Ah, yes he makes balloon animals for children and sells lunar calendars to the farmers”. Of course he does. I learned at age 39 and 11/12ths, that farmers follow the lunar calendar to know when best to plant and harvest certain crops. The lunar calendar is also used, I am told, to decide when best to bottle wine.

Every day’s a school day.

The balloon part I understood all by myself.

Wednesday night, I played to a full room at Abbey Road Cafe in Cervia. This was another family run business run by sisters Julia and Sara. Again I found a warm room for singing with a good stage and great sound system. I got chatting to the sound man, Rudolfo, and upon learning that he plays bass in R&B bands I figured he’d manage my music just fine. So I invited him and Andrea to join me for the last two songs. Fun times. Once again, I was fed and watered and invited back. I also did really well with Cds.

A huge thanks to Andrea for finding this gig when another one cancelled just a few weeks ago and also for driving me there and back.

 

Venice Train Station – Thursday November 9th, 2.59pm

Today it is dry and I spent a beautiful 3 hours meandering through Venice at my leisure. I definitely want to come back here. Shortly I will board the train for Gorizia for the last of the Italian gigs before moving on to Croatia, Hungary, Austria, Czech Republic and Germany.

Friday November 19th, 1:37pm – Bus from Udine, Italy – Villach, Austria

Last night I played at Antica COntea  Birrificio in Gorizia. My first gig in Gorizia, my last gig of the Italian leg of the tour. Another full house, another beautiful night of songs, beer and way too much delicious food. Thank you Cristina for the food and Roberto for booking me. I had my best night for CDs of the tour so far. I was picked up from the train, brought to my bed and breakfast, brought to the venue, dropped back to the bed and breakfast. Picked up from the bed and breakfast and brought to the bus station ( there is a train strike in Italy today). Basically, I felt like a nine year old. In a good way. Utterly looked after.

I have to say, my first ever tour of Italy was one of my best first tours anywhere. I loved all the gigs and I feel like a I made a lot of new old friends.

View from Villach Hauptbahnhof

I’m on the bus now, outside there are snow capped mountains appear be jutting straight out of the earth, a couple of miles ago there were pomegranates on the trees.

This is not Brooklyn.

I’m heading towards Villach in Austria where I will switch for a train to Zagreb.

Remembering my taxi driver Nelson, who brought me from Brooklyn to JFK, a thousand years ago, or last Saturday, I am indeed a lucky man.