6 Weeks on the Road

Back home again home again, after six weeks on the road: Portland, Eugene, Olympia, Portland again, San Francisco, Palo Alto a half dozen times, Portland once more, New York City, then Belgium: Antwerp, Gent, Brussels, Sint Niklaas, Mechelen, Aalst, Roeselare, Hasselt, Turnhout, Knokke, and Leuven, more NY, then Surfer’s Paradise on the Gold Coast of Australia. And the one thing everyone has in common overseas is that they are horrified by and scared shitless of Junior Bush, they urged me as an American to make sure he doesn’t get to be emperor for another four years. The Sex Worker Art Show was half a gas and half a horror. I did the first four shows with them, and I had a blast, met all manner of fascinating human, played to packed houses. Left the tour in SF, then taught at Stanford for the next month. The first night of class we asked who among the 33 students had an advanced degree, master, or Phd., EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM RAISED THEIR HAND. Me and Arielle were the least educated people in the class. The students were so smart and dedicated and they all had great book ideas, we all liked it so much we’re doing another five weeks in April. Then on to NYC, where I rejoined the Sex Worker Art Show, with the intention of continuing on to the conclusion, only to be blindsided brutally (story soon to follow). Then on to Belgium, Arielle met me at the Newark Airport and we flew over together. We had no idea what to expect. Imagine our delight when we were picked up and swept away to a five star hotel in the ancient sacred heart of olde Antwerpen, the diamond/fashion center of Europe, where waffles waft their magic aroma from street corners, and chocolates croon your name from sweet boutiques. Turns out I was on the Saint Amour tour, bringing together 10 of the greatest writers from Belgium and Holland. And me. I felt like one of those: What’s Wrong With This Picture things. What am I doing here? Well, the whole tour was about love, so I suppose I was somewhat qualified. Strapping Viking poet babes, and dark brooding novelists, a string quartet doing Bach so beautiful it made your balls weep, three glorious gorgeous female singers who do these ancient sounding songs in Polish Dutch and French, they are food for the ears and the eyes. And the grand old man of Belgian literature, Hugo Claus, this guy was once married to the softporn star Sylvia Kristel, of Emmanuel fame, he’s Arthur Miller, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald all rolled into one. And me. One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong. What am I doing here? With me is the other token American Jonathan Ames, a fine fellow performing a story entitled, Bald, Impotent and Depressed. He and I fell in together like peas in pods. Every day we got fed breakfast at the hotel, we talked about writing and art and sex and love and getting rid of Bush, who as I mentioned, they’re all utterly disgusted by and terrified of, then we would wander the city, and at about five we loaded into the van, drive an hour, unload into some gorgeous 500 year old multi-tiered cake of a theater that has acoustics so perfect you can whisper into the mike and it will travel to every ear in the place and back again. At seven we were fed a fabulous gourmet meal. People drank a lot of alcohol. Everyone except me and Jonathan the two sober American freaks. The shows started at eightish. The music is beautiful the singers like angels who tasted a touch of hell. The emcee is a delightfully droll old school intellectual with deep gravel and fine beer in his voice. The terrible thing is everyone reads in Dutch, so I can’t understand a word of it. Eleven nights in a row, hearing what I can only assume are these most beautiful words, and I can’t understand a word of it. In the show I’m last. Jonathan is second to last. Then me. They project the text to Jonathan’s reading, and to mine, on a 20 foot screen behind us in Dutch. The screen consists of 150 antique woman slips sewed together. So every night my Dutch words are projected onto old lady slips behind me while I act them out in English. I closed the whole show with 12 minutes of the Rainbow hippiechick chapter of Chicken, which climaxes with a cork-popping rip-roaring Tantric climax, and that’s how the Saint Amour show ends, with me orgasming my way across Belgium. A little known fact: writers are treated much more like god/rockstars in Europe than in America, and as a writer I have to say, I like that. I came this close to trashing my hotel room, that’s how much of a rockstar I felt like. One night out for drinks the great man motioned me over. Hugo Claus wants to talk to me. He’s all white mane and old lion skin, magic eyes dancing inside sagging skin, and ancient scarred voice. I ask him what his poems are about. He nods knowingly and says, “Oh you know, love and war and sex and women and money and ice cream and dogs, things like that.” He’s dry on dry, and got the big laugh outta me. Then he says that I remind him of vaudeville, of burlesque. He tells me in his rich voice thick with age that he once saw the exotic dancer Tempest Storm. She was one of the great burlesque entertainers of the 20th century. Hugo told me about the time he watched her stand perfectly still, and make her breasts swing back and forth, higher and higher, and it was like a beautiful poem, Hugo said, watching her beautiful breasts dance all on their own. He was a gorgeous man, Hugo Claus. We saw five hundred year old cathedrals where holy and unholy ghosts fly around the huge ceiling with all that stained light firing through the windows where angels and saints and devils and saviors act out cryptic religious scenarios. We learned the glorious aroma of waffle wiffling around a corner, grabbing you inside your nostril and towing you into the waffle winkle (Belgium for store), and the astonishing warming quality of a sweet hot waffle on a cold European day. I was so sad to leave Belgium, I could have gone on the St. Amour tour forever. Hanging with those mind-boggling writers, eating that damn-that’s-good food, performing in front of all those rapt and appreciative Belgians in those monumentally exquisite theaters, and actually getting paid for it. A slice of heaven. But Australia was calling. 12 hours back to SF. 30 hours later, it’s 16 hours to Brisbane, DownUnder. Luckily the movies “Love Actually”, and the great Dutch soccer documentary about the two worst teams in the world were playing. G’Day! I was whisked off to Surfer’s Paradise, where I was performing in the Gold Coast Art Festival. The ocean the surf the sand immense and exquisite, of course it’s summer Down Under, so it was balmy breezy, easy on the senses. The Aussies were everything they were advertised to be. Warm, sweet, bawdy, affectionate, open, inclusive, generous, curious, sexy, and fun. The first night of my show was a deluge of Biblical proportions, 50 mile an hour winds, lashings of hard rain like the goddesses were whipping the earth in an S&M frenzy. The phones in the theater rang off hooks, and I kept hearing people saying, “No, the shows are going. No, they ARE going on.” As I prepared backstage for my Australian debut, I was interrupted when I stepped into a large puddle where the torrential, relentless rain had pounded its way in. As I dried my feet, and I listened to the tsunami crash down on the Gold Coast, I tried not to take it personally. Was the universe trying to tell me something? Have I offended the gods and goddesses in some way. But somehow people did manage to show up. I did three nights, we had great crowds, and they were lovely. I met more performers, I met people from all over the Gold Coast, and again I was quite sad to go home. Back of course overjoyed to be back in the U S of A. My time on the road and overseas was mind expanding and soul growing. It made me realize how much I want Junior Bush out of office, and that I have to do something about it. At this point America is s a dirty word in some parts of the world. I now prefer when I’m overseas to say I’m from California. But even this is tainted, as now we are tarred with the legacy of the Terminator Governor. This has got to change. In the rest of the world, you really feel like you’re part of the rest of the world. There’s none of that love-it-or-leave-it shit in Europe. They have Euros in Europe. I was also most happy to see that on three different continents, people understood and responded to my very American though apparently universal story of a boy on his own trying to get by. From grrrrrrrrrls in clubs, bourgeois literarti in Europe, dating couples Down Under, queers in bars, UK grannies, SF trannies, tattooed students, mothers and brothers and sisters and husbands and sons and wives. And I met people who have become a part of me, amazing people who made me laugh and marvel and brought great joy into my world, which has become so much bigger. For this, and for all of it, I am so grateful. The HBO deal is being hammered out by lawyers, hammering being the operative word. Me and Arielle will now finish the book Putting Your Passion Into Print. We teach PYPIP again at Stanford. I’m finishing up my a novel, a memoir about my time at Chippendale’s, and I’m polishing up a young adult novel. Then in late April, Xaviera Hollander is bringing me to Amsterdam for about 10 shows. Then to the Brighton Theatre Fest, then three more dates in England. In Philadelphia in June. But here now, it’s great to be home with Milo and Arielle.

April 24, 25 the Gallery Donkersloot – Leidsegracht 76, Amsterdam 8 pm
April 26, 27 gallery Treehouse , Voetboogstraat 11,Amsterdam 8 pm
April 28 – Polanen theater, Polanenstraat 174, Amsterdam 8 pm
April 29 gallery treehouse Voetboogstraat 11,Amsterdam 8 pm
May 1 – Polanen theater, Polanenstraat 174, Amsterdam 8 pm
May 2 – Concordia theater, Hoge zand 42, Den Haag – 4 pm
May 3 – Concordia theater, Hoge zand 42, Den Haag , 8 pm
www.xavierahollander.com/hbtheatre.htm

Wed 5th May – 21 South St Theatre, Reading
Thur, Fri, Sat 6th – Sat. 8th Komedia Theatre – Brighton Theatre Festival
Sun 9th – MAC – Birmingham Cannon Hill Park
Thur 13th – The Point – Eastleigh Town Hall Centre, Leigh Road, Hants

Blue Sky (215-627-1144) Philadelphia – www.blueskyarts.org
Thu-Sat June 10, 11 – Performance and Q&A; Sat, June 12 – Solo Performance Workshop, Performance and Q&A

Thanks. xxox d

About David Sterry

David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, book editor, activist, and book doctor. His first memoir, Chicken, was an international bestseller, and has been translated into 10 languages. “As laconic as Dashiell Hammett, as viscerally hallucinogenic as Hunter S Thompson. Sex, violence, drugs, love, hate, and great writing, what more could you ask for?” – The Irish Times.
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