Day 15: 8 August 2009 – Dresden

Nick, Michael and I wander off to get the car, which we’ve left parked at the club overnight so that we could go to places like Mr. B’s. Since we’re already going to be in the tourist area of Munich, we want to buy some souvenirs. Plus we realize we’ve bought nothing on this trip. First we hit a football store, picking up some birthday gifts for our littlest brother Mikey, then I discover a store that could best be described as marzipan wonderland. I adore marzipan, and this place has marzipan shaped into all sorts of other food—pretzels, sausages, beer steins, turnips. I consider buying a new suitcase to accommodate all this marzipan, but settle for two small “pretzels”.

We get the car, go pick up Yoshi at the hotel, and hit the road for Dresden.

We have one more show, and the whole drive, I’m thinking about how to approach it psychologically. Should I say to myself, hey, you–tour has exceeded all of your expectations, so don’t worry about this. Or should I secretly hope for the astounding finale? I can’t decide. I’m very nervous.

For the first time this whole tour, we arrive at our destination early enough to check into the hotel and explore. Dresden is such an intense experience, because everywhere you look, you imagine the rubble that was left from the firebombing. And then here and there, there is actually rubble, or charred bricks way up on a tower. The texture of the cityscape reminds me of an old growth forest, with all of these generations of structures co-existing–some dead and fallen and some just beginning, telling the story of the place.

Political poster in Dresden

The club Osto-pol is a space that has been dutifully restored to East German-ness, down to the glasses, the light fixtures, and even the wallpaper. It is truly one of the most compelling bars I’ve ever been in. Sitting in there is like being transported.

The proprietors have made us vegetarian pasta, and we sit in the low light of the empty club and eat like a family, the four of us seated around a weathered farmhouse table. We are quiet, conserving energy and avoiding the temptation of sentimentality about our last meal together.

By the time we play, the club is packed with the most glorious indie kids. They are radiating happiness and love, or maybe it’s just me, but I don’t care because the room is full of the kind of noise that only we make and all these people are smiling. When we finish, the crowd spills onto the giant patio out front, where everyone sticks around, hanging out and talking like old friends into the wee hours of the night.

We walk slowly back to our hotel where we pack our bags for the last time and set the alarm for far too early and then we are asleep and then awake again and it’s not until I’m on the plane that I absorb that it’s over. I pull a notebook from my bag and scrawl pages of notes so that maybe when I get home, I can write at least some of it down for real. Then I fall asleep again, because finally, I can.

Emergency Exit

Day 14: 7 August 2009 – Munich

After another day off in Berlin, in which we eat ice cream and wander around and I am terrified by trying to ride a bike all over the city, we head out for Munich. At the rental car place, we realize that we’ve accidentally packed up the other band’s cymbals along with ours. This creates a major logistical glitch that puts us very far behind schedule. We have a long drive ahead, and a radio interview we’d really like not to miss.

But soon, we’re on the autobahn. We’re all very sleepy, but Michael is navigating through the speeding traffic like an expert. Nick is talking a mile a minute, making him laugh to stay awake. But his charm doesn’t reach the back seat; Yoshi and I fall asleep.

The scenery is beautiful, and wherever there’s a retaining wall, the kind that in the States would obstruct a breathtaking view, it is instead constructed of a clear material, to preserve the aesthetics. Ahh, german engineering.

We pull over at a gigantic rest stop. Yoshi hits the Burger King. He tells us about a controversial incident on the Still Flyin tour in which he was forced to abort a mission to Burger King. He takes a photo of his meal and emails it to members of SF, just to let them know that Yoshi has not forgotten.

Finally, we reach the radio station in Munich–which is clean and very perfect-seeming. The more polished cousin of boho-Berlin.

We go inside and record an acoustic mini-set in their performance studio, then do a radio interview. The acoustic set sounds great, really different than normal (duh), and the interview questions are really thoughtful. For example, we’re asked why we named ourselves Them Others; do we feel like outsiders in the world?

The show is at the Atomic Cafe, an extremely cute place. It seems like noone is showing up, and then just as we start to play, it starts to fill in plenty. The mics are feeding back insanely, but the crowd stays with us, and we soldier through.

We take a cab back to our hotel. We ask the driver how long it would take to get to Dresden, where we’ll be driving tomorrow. He seems to have no idea what we’re talking about. “DREZ-din,” we keep saying. Finally, he understands: “Oh, you mean DREEZ-din?” We’ve never heard it called DREEZ-din, not by Germans even. (The next day we will ask someone in the city of Dresden why this man was calling it DREEZ-din, and she will be just as baffled as us.)

After we check into our hotel, we go out in search of a nightcap. We wander into a bar called Mr. B’s. It is a jazz club, and it turns out that the proprietor grew up less than a mile from where I live in Brooklyn. He proceeds to tell us a lot about America. Michael is fully engaged, but the rest of us drop out of the conversation and stare tiredly into our drinks.

Then, a very drunk young couple comes in, asking loudly for a cold ­we mean COLD–drink, preferably beer. The other two patrons in the bar, obviously so regular as to be part of the furniture, get completely furious, insisting that ALL of the beer is cold, and what do you mean anyway asking that kind of question?! Much screaming and table pounding ensue. Mr. B evicts the couple. We finish our whiskeys and head back to the hotel, where we’re sleeping four to a room. All tucked into our twin beds, we get the terrible giggles. Things have taken a turn for the ridiculous.