Leonard Cohen Tour Diary — Chicago, Chicago

I’m starting a little early; in the last entry, I made claims that the following entry (ie this one) would cover a certain amount of ground, but I am calling myself a liar. A mere three days we are going to cover here, but I just feel like getting some stuff out.

It’s a bit of an emotional entry; anyone who wishes to believe that roadies are made of stern stuff should not read any further, lest the brassy image of a man electrocuting himself for the good of rock ‘n roll be tarnished.

NOVEMBER 21 — TRAVEL TO CHICAGO

Slept? did I? I must have slept a little, because I was awoken by Bus Driver Wayne somewhere near 5am. In a blurry fluster, we all got off into the cold dark morning outside an airport in Saskatoon.

After checking in to the flights, there is confusion as from which gate ours leaves. Thankfully it is a small airport, but even then, the powers which be have a disclaimer — basically, no matter which gates the flights leave from, things may change and any queries should be directed to the airlines. So… we can’t talk to anyone in the building? OK.

You know those pharmaceutical ads on the radio, in which, at the end, the audible disclaimer runs off at lightning speed? Every announcement sounds like that. The people doing the talking must have had a decent sleep.

The displays inform us that our flight leaves from gate A1. (Or 1A; suspend disbelief for now.) However, there are paper signs taped to a few spots which tell a different story — our flight,the six-four-whatever to Chicago leaves from B4. There is no hint on the boarding passes, the posted information has conflicts, oh and it’s not yet 6.30am.

We are finally told (by a real human) at gate B4, that our flight leaves from gate A1, and we should really hurry to get there, despite a distinct lacking in announcements for six-four-whatever to Chicago. Why the rush? Who knows. Oh but wait — you mean gate A1, from which the flight to Toronto leaves? I’m pretty confused right now.

Then, a breakthrough in creative communication; a lady says, ‘It’s a bit like Harry Potter, you know, “Platform nine and three quarters?”‘

Aha! Just inside the jetway, beyond the magic gate of A1, which STILL leads to Toronto, the human traffic is separated by a velvet rope — we can see the path to Chicago. Off we go, into the jetway, down the stairs and into the oh my god it’s frickin’ cold and windy on this tarmac!

Many of us stand in the sodium-lit dark, while the dry icy wind nibbles at our ears, standing motionless on the stairway leading into the plane. Someone on the inside probably doesn’t know how to sit down, holding up everyone else. It’s a small plane. Once on, we are very glad of being informed of the need to hurry, because the next forty-five minutes, sitting on the tarmac, going nowhere, made it a real close shave.

Once we eventually took off after the de-icing truck had been loaded with sugar water or lemon juice, or whatever the hell they put in that thing, it’s a twenty-five minute hop to Regina, another place I have never visited.

In Regina, cross-sections of two-foot-deep snow flank the edges of runway while little drifts of white specs swirl in the air. Here we pick up some more passengers on their way to Chicago and unfortunately there is a snag — weather in Chicago is delaying our leaving Regina. And for whatever reason they don’t tell you, they’re “not allowed” to let us off. Who makes these nonsensical rules?

After a wee grumble and a wait, we are loaded up and head to Chicago, where we will arrive in total, an hour late; not so bad really, given the delays.

Chicago’s O’Hare airport is just huge; it’s a long walk to the immigration area, which I am really pleased to say was quite scarce of people. It wasn’t long before we were back in America. It will be some time before the others arrive in Chicago specifically — as touched on in a previous entry, four of our group had to get different flights to Chicago, as the plane we traveled on was small and booked solid. They had to change planes in Minneapolis and were delayed in leaving there by two hours. Better yet, luggage belonging to (The Man They Call) Pants is in Baggage Limbo: Denver, to be precise. Yes, his bag is in Denver.

The original plan called for a single bus to collect every traveller and bring them into town, but because the four others will be delayed some, the decision is made to leave without them; they are grown-ups, they can get a taxi.

It’s nice in Chicago! I don’t know why, but I expected snow and cold. It’s very much above zero Celsius and the streets are paved with — concrete. Just that; no snow, ice, or salt stains. Scantily attired in only a hoodie and a G-string, I investigate the immediate area and grab a veggie burger, return to my room, and between naps, assembled some words in semi-coherent sentences.

NOVEMBER 22 — CHICAGO, DAY OFF

The kind, kind powers of UHTC have organised a Thanksgiving buffet in one of the hotel’s function rooms. I believe all but the residents of Chicago (we have a few) attended and food was eaten, drink was drunk and laughs were had.

I also found out my stepfather has cancer. The news is so new, my mother doesn’t know which type it is yet. That kinda put a dampener on my night when I got back to my room. I admit to getting a little teary and not sleeping as much as I would have liked, despite it being a ‘school night.’

NOVEMBER 23 — CHICAGO, SHOW DAY

I’m a little emotional I suppose. Perhaps a bit hungover. It’s one of those days during which you could think of a ton of reasons to leave this job to the people who are made of steel. In a previous entry, I mentioned a bit of a spat with a fellow crew member that seems, after the passing of a few days, not to have abated in the other party’s camp. I can certainly forgive and forget, especially considering the life-altering news I received only yesterday, but I suppose some folks don’t mind being angry. I have bigger fish to fry than to suck up to someone in a bid to placate their grumpiness.

I managed to do a decent job today with no screw-ups, despite the distractions. I don’t need to wonder why people hold grudges and alter their work habits in a bid to show they are still angry about something. After all, as I’ve said before, when on tour, our work is life and life is our work. Being upset in life is the same as being upset in work; it’s very difficult to separate the two when on tour.

I used to be the angry roadie. And I should point out that occasionally I get pissed off, but I hope I’m telling you the truth when I say it goes away pretty quickly. Even the Dalai Lama gets pissed, but he lets it slide, which can be pretty hard — until you realise that you’re the one who continues the anger, or unless someone is deliberately continuing a proactive angry-pants path. In other words, when the dust settles and the offending party has long-ceased their horrifying campaign of personal, acute, and stifling persecution (I’m exaggerating, I hope you understand) why be angry any more? What good does it do?

All anger does is eat you — but still, I guess sometimes we hold on to it, because our thirst for revenge is not quite quenched. ‘Soon my pretties, soon,’ you say to your angry demons, awaiting their freedom to cause maximum damage to the world around you. When you grip tightly your anger, you need a focus for it, a reason to excuse it and keep it going; so you make up reasons to fuel the fires. Hell, my stepfather just got diagnosed with cancer, my mum is distraught, I’m going to miss my son’s tenth birthday (the big one-oh!) and I’m not so angry — what’s the point? Sad yes, of course, sad to the point where I actually do feel like yelling at something, but I’ve realised that as men, we do something curious: when men are sad, they lash out. When women are sad, they cry. So it’s really sadness I feel, not anger. [Keep it together, LB, you’ve got a kingdom of backline to rule over.]

Like I said, I used to be Angry Roadie — and then a good, patient roadie friend of mine pointed out one day, that it affects the people around me. Anger is bit (if you don’t mind me waxing poetic) like cancer. It spreads if left alone, and alters everything it touches. My roadie friend gave me the gentlest chemo the Anger Cancer needs — a bit of straight talk. But some people don’t even want to be approached. So I guess you have little choice but to let their anger stew until it boils away, leaving behind little crystals of annoyance.

With the self-centered bits out of the way, let’s get on to more technical self-cent-rin’. I’m dubbing my micro-cosmic experience of the Old Ideas tour The Reverb Tour. I’m losing count of the number of times I’ve had to repair reverb tank in the Fender amps. To be fair, Fender don’t make the tanks — they are made by a company called Accutronics, and it’s possible that Accutronics have not yet cottoned on to the idea that their products don’t travel well. Flimsy wires break free from connectors and soldering them into place is inconvenient. Sure, they sound good, but a little more robustness on the insides would be appreciated.

The show was fine, nothing remarkable.

The load out was a blinder — The Winning Team have a new record of thirty-six minutes from the drop of the show to the last backline case being packed in the truck. That’s with the help of Truck Driver Bob who starts calling the pack before I get there, saving valuable minutes in which I can be sad, melancholy, elated, miserable, depressed, and whatever else makes me angry because I’m a man. 🙂

It’s a day off tomorrow — in Chicago! Tonight the bus is simply going to drive us back to the hotel. Good times.

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I hate blogs and bloggers.
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4 Responses to Leonard Cohen Tour Diary — Chicago, Chicago

  1. John, Dublin says:

    Have been enjoying the blog from the early days of the tour; first comment just to wish your stepfather the very best recovery and to thank you for sharing the highs and lows of the tour so eloquently and honestly.

  2. j6ppc says:

    LB your tour diary is as always worth reading. Chapeau for the classily unnamed conflict reference.

    An aside- read the three chapters you posted elsewhere- I like them too.

  3. dragonhelm says:

    Thank you vey much Mister Savage, for the reads and the likes. 🙂

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