I have a nagging feeling that I might have shown you this cabinet before. But the combination of my rush to get all my posts in a row before leaving for tour (while you’re reading this I’m somewhere between Leipzig and Berlin, or maybe playing music on one of those cities’ streets, wohoo, peng peng!) and a slow internet connection means that I’m not going to look back through the archives to check. Fuck it, and look at this neat cabinet! Teacup and I carried it over from the trash across the street a few months ago, not sure who could use it, but certain that someone would claim it sooner or later. And the person who ended up claiming it was the Beard, for die Hölle (hell, what we call the vegan kitchen that he uses).
See, we had a mouse in one of the drawers on another shelf in die Hölle, and when the Beard tossed its drawer home, it just moved into the next drawer, and the next, and the next, until we didn’t have any drawers left and really needed a new cabinet. That and the brown dresser we’d been using for years to store the produce and the baking stuff had started to get a little moldy. And the trash provides a solution just in time, once again.
The moving of a Bauwagen around here is always a big event. Bushes get cut back, kipple is battled, and space is carefully measured. Will we make it around that curve? Does so and so need to move his Wagen? Are we going to have to saw off some of the branches of that tree? There’s always a lot to consider, and it always takes longer than you think.
I missed the bulk of this move (I heard it took several hours and ended in the removal of a tree), but I came home just in time to snap a few photos of this now-ex resident pulling out and moving on. When another resident started to cry during the goodbye hugs, the whole event took on that dramatic ” but it was the best of times!” feeling, like it was the end of some sort of mythical golden age. It wasn’t, but it sure was sad to watch him go.
The firetruck used to pull the trailer:
Pulling the trailer out of the driveway with the tractor to get it lined up with the firetruck on the street:
The end of a golden age, and my! isn’t that “insert vortex” function in my photo editing program a neat way to blend out faces?:
We’re going on tour! This is going to be Black Diamond Express Train to Hell’s (and my) first full-length tour, and I for one am excited. Touring is fun. Except when it’s uncomfortable and annoying. But that’s more the exception than the rule. The rule is you show up in a new city every afternoon, get fed, sing some songs, are given beer, meet a lot of new people, are told a lot of really nice things by some of those people, and then you’re led off to a comfortable place to sleep. And when you wake up someone makes you breakfast. Fuck yeah, DIY touring in Germany (and Holland), fuck yeah. It’s a pretty sweet way to travel, even if you never really do get to know the cities that you’re in.
There are some blog posts scheduled for my absence, so you won’t be lacking for reading fodder. But if I’m coming round your way and you’d like to exchange words in color and sound, come on by and say hello. Here’s where you can find us:
This Bauwagen lives in Düsseldorf, around the corner from the AZ and the super pretty Wagenplatz. It is apparently used by a church and is open once a week as a sort of coffee, cake, and Jesus mission. The street on which it is parked once was a street full of squats. Now it’s a street full of incredibly diversely, brightly painted buildings. One was done like a crossword puzzle, complete with clues. I wonder how often they get vandals who don’t fill in their answers in pencil.
Last week I told you about Sperrmüll (big trash left out on the curb for pickup outside of the regular schedule) and the trip my friends and I took by bus to a nearby city (village is more like it) to harvest the plunder. (You can read that post here if you missed it.) And we weren’t the only ones driving around. The whole city was churning with other folks in their own beat up buses moving from pile to pile to harvest what they could use and sell, many of them with lisence plates from Poland.
It’s common to see Polish buses in Germany on Sperrmüll days, and a few months ago at the goEast Film Festival in Wiesbaden I went to see a film that documents the lives of two Polish men who drive something like 25 hours to come to Germany and harvest trash. It was a fascinating look at the lives of trash pickers and at the trajectory of items that many people imagine have just kind of disappeared once they put them out on the curb.
The Magical Journey Of the Useless Things begins in Poland where two men are waking up at the crack of dawn to say goodbye to their families and start the really fucking long drive to Germany to collect Sperrmüll. We follow the men on their daily rounds over about a week as they pile furniture, toys, and an antique pedal organ into their van. (They work in some sort of team with a number of drop off points and sleeping points in trailers and tiny unheated rooms, but the organization of the whole business is never revealed.) We then watch the same items arrive at a second hand shop in Poland and get sold off one by one. At the very last we see a wooden couch, rejected even by the trash pickers, get picked up by a man who hacks it into firewood in the film’s final scene.
Though slow from time to time, it’s a must-see as far as trash documentaries go and is pleasantly dedicated to depicting the humanity of the folks who make their living off the trash of their richer neighbors rather than focusing on the environmental aspect so often addressed in trash-related documentaries.
Which, in a very roundabout way, brings me to this week’s featured dumpster find, which I found in the same run where I picked up last week’s dumpstered cabinet: the bright blue folding chair that now sits beside my table so that two can sit around it comfortably.
I’ve never heard anything much about Bochum, except maybe that it’s a pretty industrial, hideous place. And while it may have a corner of beauty and light somewhere, I haven’t seen it. We’d been invited to play at Wageni, a teeny tiny punk-ish venue that only promotes shows by word of mouth. But the curse was upon us. Everything that could go wrong did, and it quickly became one of the strangest, most stressful nights in recent memory. But! Out of sheer spite we managed to deliver one of our best shows yet—which, like all the best things ever to happen, went completely undocumented.
Around 3 am we were catapulted to a crumbling villa-turned-punk-house by taxi at terrifying speeds where we fell into dusty guest beds and were labeled as weirdos by the man who’d accompanied us back, shocked that we preferred sleep to another bottle of beer. In the morning we saw our quarters for the first time in the light (pictured above). It was a haunted house, horror film nightmare (dream?) of intricate crumbling plasterwork, high ceilings, and dusty stairwells. After another brief fight with the curse, we made it out of the city in five pieces.
On the car ride back to Mainz I thought more about the alcohol debate that had surrounded the Appelscha show. I don’t like to romanticize alcohol consumption, yet as a band we tend to celebrate alcohol: drinking whiskey has become a part of the set, many of our songs reference alcohol, and for the love of blasphemy I’ll occasionally pass out whiskey shots in the communion wine distributer thing I found in the trash across the street. Yet if you listen closely to our (my) texts, you’ll find that hints of criticism tucked into every song mentioning it.
A song that relates the tale of the Beard and I’s journey through America last fall via a mention of the alcohol we drank in each place titled “No Borders But Whiskey” is the newest of the bunch. Sure, we are free, sure we travel, sure we are against state-created borders, and yeah we really like alcohol. But the title is there to remind us all that at the end of a drunken day, it’s the alcohol we choose to drink that often builds other, perhaps equally sinister borders in our own lives.
I got carsick in the van on the way to Düsseldorf, and when we arrived at the venue where we’d be playing that evening, I could barely choke down a bottle neck of beer. So I chugged malt “beer” on a sofa in the corner, spooning a chick-pea-based chili and stuffing photocopied lyric sheets into the plastic covers of cassette tapes. It was the first time since high school that I’d been stone sober on stage, and it was awesome. Dependence has always irritated me, and I think I might have tried to punch myself in the eye if it turned out that I couldn’t handle performing without a buzz. No black eye, and no hangover to worry about the next morning. Divine.
That was the start of a three day Black Diamond Express Train to Hell mini tour. At the Linkes Zentrum Hinterhof in Düsseldorf that night I met a Click Clack Gorilla reader (yohoo! *waves at screen*) and after our set we played a few acoustic songs and passed around instruments. People really like to try out the musical saw. It’s hard to get the hang of at first, but it’s less technically intimidating than any other instrument I know. And the evening won the weekend’s award for “most comfortable place to sleep.” Hells yeah.
On Saturday morning we drove to Appelscha, Holland for an anarchist festival called Pinksterlanddagen. Heaven! Woods, fields, like-minded people, and table after table of English-language books I’ve been eyeballing on the internet for ages and could finally buy without paying shipping. I only made it to part of one lecture, but workshops and lectures and other similar events filled each of the festival’s three days.
We’d spent all morning arguing about the fact that the entire festival would be sans alcohol. Sounded like a neat idea, I thought. Why not take the focal point away from alcohol, where it tends to land as soon as the word “festival” gets mixed up with an event? Why not create an atmosphere where more is getting done because nobody is wasted or hungover? Why not discourage people for whom alcohol is the only reason to come from showing up? And why not offer one of the few events in a sea of alcohol-infused happenings where people who really cannot handle being around the stuff can feel comfortable? Isn’t anarchism also about making communities where everyone feels welcome?
But a few of the other Black Diamonds were pissed. We hadn’t been informed of the event’s alcohol-free status until long after we’d committed to playing. (It was probably written loud and clear on the event website, but as none of us speaks Dutch, we hadn’t seen it.) A few folks were pissed at being bossed around, told what to do. They made jokes about having such a strong set of rules at an anarchist gathering (though I’d also argue that anarchism isn’t about having no rules as many people assume, but in having community- and consensus-created rules, but that’s another can of worms). Some argued that they could drink a beer or two and without being assholes or disrupting the workings of the event.
“But would you actually have said you didn’t want to play if we had known beforehand?” I asked over breakfast. One person said that yes, they would never have accepted the engagement. I was surprised. I like to drink quite a lot, but refusing to participate in events without alcohol struck me as being pretty poor. Either way, I was glad we’d agreed to play, and that we would spend the night camping in tiny, middle-of-nowhere Appelscha, Holland.
We pulled into the camping field after a long drive. Red and black flags lined the entrance road, and the field was full of tents and vans- and trucks-turned homes. Kids ran in circles and played on a wooden playground. Book-laden tables flanked the path that led past many of the area’s permanent trailer structures (the rest of the year, the festival grounds are a campground) and into the woods. A mid-sized building housed a coffee counter selling snacks and drinks and a large concert room with a stage where we would play that evening. Other events were held in a gym that I never saw. It was a place where it felt good to be, and soon the skeptics among us were changing their tune. Especially when it became clear that no one was going to throw them out of the festival for quietly drinking a beer in the van.
We played after a crust-punk-ish band in animal costumes (beaver, elephant, and chipmunk!), and the crowd were enthusiastic and fun. Afterward, we stumbled through dark woods to a late-night bonfire and the Beard and Bass Boy played a few Irish folk tunes before we retreated to the tent to shiver ourselves to sleep. When we set out for Bochum, Germany, the next afternoon, I found myself wishing we could have stayed another night. (By the way, the photo at the top of the post is of me sitting outside of our tent in Appelscha, eating a raw onion. Oh do I love raw onions.)
This post is getting out-of-control long. So, in the interest of internet a.d.d., to be continued tomorrow. See you there.
Whenever I do something a day later than I planned to, I think of my high school social studies teacher. She was a tall gangely woman, and though I no longer remember her name or any of the dates I memorized for her class, I remember that she looked like Mick Jagger, recommended Howard Zinn, and was fond of the saying “A day late and a dollar short.” Funny what our organic data bases choose to save.
But this post is about dumpster-dived booty, this dumpster-dived booty in fact:
A couple of weeks ago we got wind of good news (I still don’t know who found this out or how): it was Sperrmüll day in Budenheim, and some of my Platz-mates were going to drive over in a big bus to check it out. Sperrmüll, for those of you who haven’t been reading long and/or don’t speak German, is the word for big trash. When you have a lot of furniture and boxes of random stuff that you need to throw out, you call the government office that organizes Sperrmüll collection, and they schedule a day on which it will be picked up from your curb. Many cities, like Mainz, do this on an appointment by appointment basis. But others simply have one day a year (or in the case of Frankfurt, a specific weekday depending on the neighborhood) when everybody puts out their big trash to be carted away the next day. Which makes for some excellent trash picking.
So five of us drove to Budenheim in a beat-up enormous blue bus to investigate. And it was perverse. The amount of material stuff that I see in the trash is disturbing enough, but it remains in generally small doses. I never see it all piled on the street at once, and I am saved the shock. But in small towns with one Sperrmüll day a year, you get it all at once: huge piles of furniture, boxes of books, suitcases, garbage bags full of clothing and trinkets, and entire kitchens. You name it, and it was in that pile (except the kayak I’ve been looking for for haveyouseenthisgirl).
Twiggy drove the van up and down each street, and every time we were within walking distance of multiple and/or good-looking piles, we’d park, race out of the van, and start carting things back. After a couple of hours the van was completely full. But the streets were far from empty, and we could have come back a dozen times and still found something worth taking. It was absolutely obscene, and in the next couple of weeks, I’ll be showing you a lot of my dumpster finds from that day. But my favorite was the little glass-doored cabinet pictured above.
As far as I can tell, it’s just a standard Ikea number, but I painted it with the color from the trim in my bed area and now it hangs there empty, awaiting the arrival of my collection of tiny ancient Edgar Allen Poe books and whatever other delicacies I manage to haul back from the United States during my next trip.
Read about why I do a “dumpster find of the week” series here. Or check out some of the other treasures I’ve pulled out of the trash here.
The Hell Train is on the move again. So if you like whiskey, bluegrass, washboards, and stomping, come on over and say hello. Here’s where you’ll be able to find us this weekend (with at least one new song in tow):
As we still haven’t got the mp3 player up and working on our website, here’s a video of one of our newer songs by way of a preview. This time around Banana Box Boy wrote the text, and it’s an ode to how fucked up organized religion can be, especially in large parts of Africa. Feel free to skip over the bits where we ramble on about how we’ve invented our own church in protest. Our only ritual so far being no-pants bowling. Ehem. Here’s the video.
Once upon a time last fall, the Beard and I spent two months traveling around America. Once upon a time a little while after that, I started to relate the entire saga on Click Clack Gorilla. And then I got distracted and wandered off. When I left off the tale (you can read the last installment here) we had just arrived in Nashville and were killing time before meeting up with our couchsurfing host.
There exists a faction of people who react very negatively to the idea of couchsurfing. They tell you that couchsurfing is dangerous. They tell you that couchsurfing is going to get you murdered. They tell you all of the things that everyone has said about anything considered dangerous/taboo that involves strangers since the beginning of time. I reckon that there is a small risk involved. But the beauty of being welcomed into the home of a stranger and showered with kindness is enough to restore even a shriveled old misanthrope’s faith in humanity in a matter of hours. And that’s worth a little risk to me. That and not having to sleep on another roof, but that’s another part of the story entirely.
Our couchsurfing host in Nashville was one of those heart-warmingly kind strangers. He gave us a comfortable place to sleep, he shared our meals, he carted us around town, and he took us for a coffee between the stone pillars of Nashville’s own Parthenon (did you know Nashville has a replica of the Parthenon just hanging out in a park? Because I didn’t). He was one of the kindest, most cheerful people I have ever met. But this story isn’t about him. It’s about his friends’ trash.
His friends, he told me in an email last week, had been dumpster diving at a Whole Foods Market out in Arkansas, and they came back with a truck load of booty: granola bars and breakfast bars, soy milk, juice, nuts, a huge box of goats milk, soap, and a wooden rack for chips that they’re going to use as a bottle drying rack. What a score.
And yet, no matter how much joy dumpster diving gives me, no matter how much adrenaline those folks’ blood was probably pumping with after that haul, I can’t help but feel a little sad. Because why the hell was it in the trash in the first place? Still?! People have been discussing the massively wasteful habits of western culture and specifically it’s wasteful practices when it comes to food for the better part of a decade if not longer and STILL we have truckloads of good food in the trash. Six cheers for these folks for taking it all out of the waste stream. A hundred lashes to all the supermarket chains and, while we’re at it, industrial ag distribution systems, that just keep filling it up.
a side note
I don’t want to leave you all hanging on the America travel story, should there be interest. So tell me what you think. Should I restart the America-travel saga where I left off? A teaser for your consideration: We hitch hiked to a bluegrass festival in Kentucky on the back of a pick-up truck, spent a night in the Smokey Mountains, slept on a barside rooftop in North Carolina, frolicked among the corn in Iowa, attended two weddings, and briefly strolled through New York City, just to brush the surface of what is still to come. So let me know if it’s yey or neigh down in the comments.