TOUR DIARY: Van Gogh, Windmills, and Prostitutes (Oh My)
Malmo, Sweden, was a sell-out in a totally rad venue called Folk o Rock. It's a combination record store/cafe/concert venue, and I was pleased to see a familiar face in Niklas Paulstrom (who's been a longtime Light of Day supporter) when I walked in the door. There was a woman in an Asbury Park, NJ t-shirt in the front row singing along with all my songs, and that'll never cease to be a welcome sight halfway around the world.
From Malmo, we had a 10-hour drive back to Amsterdam the next day. The weather was awful: pouring rain turned to thick, heavy snow turned to dense fog. It was night out all day. Eleanor is a force of nature behind the wheel (her only break was the 45 minute ferry ride) and she got us to our home away from home at the Backstage Hotel in Amsterdam in one piece. The Backstage takes such good care of musicians it's crazy. They're washing my clothes for me right now (that's as much a favor for me as it is for anybody who's going to be coming within 10 feet of me these next few weeks). It's hard to stay smelling fresh when you're living out of a small suitcase and a van.
Today was another day off (much needed after 10 shows in a row straight from an overnight flight), so I wanted to make the most of it. I got up early and went to the Van Gogh museum, which has so many incredible paintings. I was surprised to learn he didn't even begin painting until he was 27, and he really only painted for a decade or so before he killed himself. He made so little off of his art during his life that his brother Theo, who really believed in what he was doing, paid him an allowance for most of that time and let him live in his apartment with him for years so Vincent could make ends meet. It was only after his death that he began to be recognized for the artistic genius that he was. But Theo died six months after Vincent did, so neither of them ever got to see the fruits of their labor. Nobody got a happy ending, but the world is better off for that passion they both shared. They knew what they were doing was important, even if nobody else quite understood why or how. I think that can be true in politics, art, relationships, business, etc. It takes courage, so hats off to anybody who's out there following their own lodestar. Don't cut off your ear if you can avoid it, though.
From the Van Gogh Museum, I jumped on the tram and visited the De Gooyer Windmill, grabbed a quick lunch, and hit the pavement again. All in all I walked more than 11 miles today exploring this city, and I truly love every inch of it. I stopped by the Bloemenmarkt (the floating flower market, where you can buy a billion tulips), and then on a whim, jumped on a passing boat for a ride through the city's canals. Picked up lots of interesting facts (the houses on the canal are all so narrow and deep because centuries ago when they were being built, canal-front property was taxed based on width and not depth, and the gables of each house have a massive hook hanging off the front because the doors and stairs are too narrow to get furniture in and out, and moving day has to be conducted via pulleys and upstairs windows).
I met up with The Mastersons at dinner time for some delicious Indonesian food and then a stroll through the city that brought us to the Red Light District. It's everything you've heard it is. LIVE PORNO THEATERS, sleazy doormen, XXX-rated shops, prostitutes tapping on the glass, hoping to catch your attention and make a few Euros. Roughly 99% of the people walking along the canal and through the dimly-lit alleys (us included) are just gawkers, though, only there to say they've seen it in person and tell stories about it later that night at the hotel bar. Perhaps that ratio is why so many of the prostitutes in the neon red windows have their faces buried in the soft white glow of their smart phones like everyone else these days, scrolling Facebook or Twitter to kill the time, waiting for life to happen.