Road Dog

Monday, 20 June 2011

To Germany With Love


You can only imagine the feeling of relief that came over me after a 9-plus-hour flight when I was finally able to pry my ass out of the seat in the 50th row on Air Canada Flight 844 direct from Calgary, AB to Frankfurt, Germany.

 This story starts July 4, 1994 in Portland, Oregon USA. 

It was my 2nd time playing the Waterfront Festival.  Sebastian Hetzmann from Germany was on his first vacation in the U.S. and apparently caught my set and bought my CD.  So, imagine my reaction 16 years later when I open an email, “Comments from harpdogbrown.com” and it’s this fella Sebastian.  He tells me how we met and that he is planning to get married in the summer of 2011.  He was asking if I would consider coming to Germany with my band and playing for his wedding. Let’s just say, if I had a nickel for every time someone blew smoke up my ass, well.....I’d probably be a home owner instead of a renter.   Anyway, I always try and believe in people, and replied to his email something like this:
“Nice to hear from you Sebastian, my bags are always packed, and my passport is up to date.  If you’re serious, this is my phone number, call me sometime.”

A few days later my cell phone rang, and looking at the numbers on my display, I saw more digits than usual – I answered my 1st call from Germany; it was Sebastian.  After hearing some of the details, I suggested he might be better off with my new acoustic duo I have with piano master Graham Guest.  When he saw a couple videos and listened to a few tracks, he was convinced this would be perfect.  So...as I write this, I have just returned from my first trip to Europe – specifically, Germany, which is about one third of the way around the planet from where I live.
Now, because the master piano player arrived in Lacombe about 90 minutes late to ride the rest of the way to the airport in Calgary with me...we made it through the baggage check with about 4 minutes to spare. “let the games begin”  Let me just say here, I am not a small man - at 6’2” packin’ 300  plus  -  flying economy class isn’t the most comfortable way to go, puts you in the smallest seats with the least leg room available. Thankfully, with the free-flowing booze cart and about 5 little bottles of red wine, I was laughing at myself most of the way there.
We left Calgary at 6pm on a Wednesday and arrived in Frankfurt at 11am on Thursday.  After we landed, we were to be picked up by a driver; however, I saw nobody holding up a Harpdog Brown sign....so we wait, and wait and wait.
After about 90 minutes, I dig out my laptop and find Sebastian’s cell number, write it down on my smoke pack and ask Graham to take this info to the info desk and ask them to call Sebastian.  It turns out that our driver had been there, but had left without us.  We are now waiting for him to return.   Finally, I see a slightly familiar face and knew he must be our guy. He whipped past me (with sign in hand); I follow him with my eyes as he went right to the info booth. Now, here I am sitting comfortably - with plenty of leg room - I can see Graham standing there and wondered how long it would take for them to connect. All of a sudden this little driver buzzes back outside, and on his way back in again I caught his eye and said “Canada?”  Sure nuff’, he was our guy.  At last, we’re off to our 1st hotel in the charming little town of K√∂nigstien.
It was a quaint little hotel with everything one would need, including a huge continental breakfast, a little bar and a patio where I found some of the best beer I have tasted, along with an ashtray in need of some attention.  I asked the whereabouts of a decent German restaurant but Isabella, our lovely desk clerk, informed me that there were more Italian restaurants than anything else in K√∂nigstien.  While I found that a bit disturbing, she did give us directions to the only German restaurant in town; however, it was somewhat difficult to find.  Around 9 pm we left the hotel on our quest for German food.  Well, by the time we found this little joint, they had already closed the kitchen down. We were 10 minutes late.
Now I have a hunger on and decide anything will be better than nothing at this point......down the road a bit I saw lights, and as we approached I noticed it was Asian.  Yes, that’s right - my 1st meal in Deutschland was Chinese food.  Now get this, they didn’t speak a lick of English, and had only one menu for us.  They did speak German, and of course Mandarin, or Cantonese.  We made it through the ordering and let me say, it was very satisfying. 
 The next day we had the wedding to play; it was held in a beautiful old mansion - The Rothschild House...Simply magnificent!  This was when we had our 1st German meal...finally, some schnitzel!  
The wedding was beautiful, as was the bride. I had asked Sebastian prior to leaving if the bride had any particular song she would like us to learn for the special occasion.  Oops, now what have I done!  Turns out Ella’s all time favorite song is Frankie’s version of “My Way”.
May I say, it was a pleasure learning this classic, and when we pulled it out in the 2nd set for the lovely bride, the place erupted with applause and I could see Ella wiping tears of joy from her eyes.  After the song ended, her father came right up to me and asked me if I knew “New York, New York”.....where does it end..... J  Let me say the German people sure do love Sinatra. 

Saturday we had off and were picked up by another driver to whisk us away to the city of Mainz.  Well, that was the plan, but in walks the driver from the airport (the guy who had left us and come back) about 2 hours early, while Graham and I were enjoying our 2nd German breakfast.  He tells us that he is here to take us to the airport at 10:30; we tell him he must be wrong, as we were told to be ready at noon to be picked up and driven to Mainz for three days before we fly home to Canada. Of course, he is convinced that it is us he needs to pick up and take to the Hyatt Hotel in Mainz, and then pick up another fare checking out to get to the airport later on.  So we decide to move out a little early, and by the time we get our gear in his cab and he gets us up the hill, the dispatch calls him - we turn around and he takes us back to our hotel, dumps us off and down the road he goes to pick up someone from the wedding party that was flying out that day.  So, we wait..........about an hour and I decide we should call Sebastian and see what the holdup is on our driver now.  In a short few minutes, we find a new driver looking for two Canadians to pick up.
Our new driver turns and asks me where to....I said The Hyatt Hotel in Mainz. He looks at me with a blank stare....I repeated myself, and see the same look in his old man eyes.  So, I pull out a card with Sebastian’s number on it and tell him to call this man, he will tell you....get this...I hear him clue in and say “Ahhh, the HyAAT” ...I just had to laugh out loud.  Back on the road headed for Mainz.  The 1st thing I saw that seemed like it didn’t belong was a huge city bus covered in Kentucky Fried Chicken advertising, and the slogan “Finger Lickin’ Good”.     
Now we check in for three days and nights at the beautiful Hyatt Regency Mainz Hotel.  “Why yes I would love a smoking room”....can you believe that little detail brought me to the Executive Suite on the top floor overlooking the Rhine!  No extra charge....do I love my life? lol
We were invited down to the wine cellar for a bountiful buffet with Sebastian, his family and friends.  I have to say these people know how to live....we North Americans have got caught up in this fast pace of life, where we eat as fast as possible, mostly in a hurry and on the run.  Not here my friend - they take their time, and actually taste the food, wine and desserts. My kinda livin’!
Sunday was the big finale.  We were a part of the big party for Sebastian’s international company, along with his family and friends. This was a riverboat party on the famous Rhine. We hit sail at 5pm and didn’t get back ‘til 2am.
They had an all girl five piece band from Russia, a local magician, and two guys who mingled through the party doing sketches of the people.  At around midnight, we stopped and were told by Sebastian to all go top deck for a surprise.  Fireworks Spectacular!  Man these people know how to throw a party! 
Monday was a local holiday, and my 1st real day off.  So, armed with my trusty little digi cam, I was off to the city streets for the day.  Mainz is a very cool old city - cobblestone streets in the old town square, with buildings that were older than my whole country.  Oh, and let me say, I saw a lot of beautiful villages and towns along the Rhine, castles and wonderful landscape. All in all, I had the time of my life, was treated like royalty and the whole trip was truly an amazing experience for this old blues hound.

                                                             
Life is good!
edited by Melodie Collins

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Life Begins @ Thirty




I will never forget my 30th; we were playing a six-night stand at The Yale Hotel on Granville St. in Vancouver, BC. It was a Tuesday - January 28, 1992. Back then the Bloodhounds were as tight as a 2nd coat of paint and in those days, we were one of the few local bands that had the honour of playing the prestigious Yale regularly. You see, at that time, it was mostly American touring acts that played every Monday through Saturday, except for bands like Powder Blues, Jim Byrnes, The R"n"B Allstars, Long John Baldry, and us.

 Anyway, here I am shouting out with great conviction "LIFE BEGINS AT 30" throughout the night. In those days, the staff were like family, and so we were having some late night cocktails (the band and the staff) when one of the older waitresses piked out at me. "Harpdog, I have a bone to pick with you".  I was all ears as she explained how all night long she had to listen to me spoutin' off about how life begins at 30 blah blah blah"......I said, "ya....so...what's your point?"  She smiled and said, "well, you're close....you see life actually begins at 40, the dress rehearsal starts at 30."  I can't tell you how much I loved that! I instantly began thinking how, in our first 20 years on earth, we pretty well go through all our physical growth. Then for the next decade we pretty well have the opportunity to experience more intellectual growth, spiritual growth, as well as character and personality development, if you will.
 
So I figure, if we haven't gotten locked in to a particular way of life before we hit 30, the 30's become our "dress rehearsal" - a time of growth that should lead us to know what we like to do; and chances are, we are somewhat gifted at it. Now is the time when life actually begins.....The Big Four-O.  hahaha now you're playing with your own money on the table. Personally, it took the better part of my 40's for me to catch on to what the universe had planned for me to do. Funny how it seems that it has always been clear; however, I couldn't see the forest for the trees. Maybe that's the main lesson here....never to try and rush through life, take your time and pay attention to the writings on the walls of life. Then and only then will you find your Holy Grail, the meaning of life, your true place and purpose. Remember, the first one to the red light gets to stop. So, slow down, enjoy the ride, and find your place in life.

Respectfully
Harpdog Brown
edited by Melodie Collins

Monday, 18 April 2011

I Love My Life.

Today I enter the world of blogging...I just finished a 19-day tour through British Columbia with Graham Guest, truly a master of the piano and the road. We have been doing a lot of work in the past 14 months, including recording and releasing two albums. Sometimes I think this universe really loves me.  Since the first recording, we have toured to Ontario and back twice, out west to the coast and back a few times, through The Kootenays twice, and loads of local and regional stuff and it's all been such a sweet ride. Musically, working with Graham has been awesome, and I find that traveling with him is a pleasure as well. Truly a combination you don't find easily in this racket, trust me!
 
So today we wake up in Prince George and get the van loaded with our gear and start our journey home. We got about two hours down the road when the van decided to take a nap. Now usually you would react like   %$#&*(#&^@!!! , but I decided it was a great day for a breakdown.....if there ever was one! The sun was shining and the sky was blue with very few white clouds floating by as I waited with the ship while Graham jumped a ride into the nearest town with the first guy that was going our way.
I had a few cigarettes and enjoyed the day looking through my open window...then I grabbed my Chromonica 64 and played a little blues to myself.....then I remembered a book I was given by a close friend of mine, and tried to read some of it but it just wasn't my kinda book. I must admit, I've never been much of a reader, and to some degree I wish I was, as I know I would have a far more interesting vocabulary - let alone better grammar...I have said more than once in my life, " If I knew what I was gonna do with my life, I would have paid more attention in school".
 
So, Graham - bless him - has a CAA card, and let me use it for a free tow to the nearest town, McBride.
We left it in front of the shop located right next door to the Sandman Inn...I checked into a smoking room and walked down to the local Asian restaurant...man, you gotta love the fact that every little town in Canada seems to have an Asian restaurant with decent food. The trick is to know how to find what it is you know you'll like on the menu. Now, while all this is happening, Graham has found out that The Grey Dog comes through here on the way to Edmonton around 11pm. I decided to cover that cost for him while I stay with the ship and hopefully get it back on the road home sometime tomorrow. Then I decided to take a stroll across to the Husky for some supplies and found Graham grabbing some of his stuff out of the van. It seems he met a trucker with a load of lumber headed for Edmonton, so off he goes headed for his bed sometime soon. There really is no need for two of us waiting to see how much it's gonna be to get back on the road. So, here I sit in my motel room...was on Facebook earlier, chatting with a friend in Toronto; we got to talking about stuff and she pretty well convinced me I should start blogging.
 
 The thing I embrace the most today is how the timing couldn't have been better - this all happened around 2:30pm and I was in my motel by 5:00....nothing ventured, nothing gained huh! So when life throws you a little slap in the face it isn't always for the worse....things could always be worse, and always remember all things are temporary.
I truly do love my life!

Respectfully,

Harpdog Brown

edited by Melodie Collins