Europe and America-Summer 2001
We had a fantastic European tour taking in sights and places, old and new in Western and Eastern Europe. This time we had the colorful and charismatic Young Dubliners with us, introducing them to a new Euro audience who seemed to take to them as instantly as they took to the local beer. I had the dubious distinction of being the official Young Dubs tour photographer by default, as all their cameras seemed to break as soon as they got to Europe. Must be the voltage. Never mind, that gave me a good excuse to break in my new digital camera and turn into a really intrusive nuisance to one and all. In the process I got some really good shots and some truly awful ones which you can probably find displayed on the Dubs and our website. Still, it’s a lot of fun and I snapped with impunity although quite often the local security would try to turf me out when I snuck in front of the crash barrier to snap the Dubs, live in action, from the front of the stage. Despite showing them my All Access Pass and trying to convince them that I was actually a member of J.T., which they thought was complete baloney, I found I had much better luck when I told them I was the official Young Dubs tour photographer, sent out on the road by the record company and employed by the band. They found this much more plausible until the moment when some over-refreshed bozo in the front row would recognize me and start hassling me to take his picture, share his beer, his wife, his bratwurst or just start breathing heavily on me until I gave HIM some attention. Rarely was this ever a “her” and the few times that it was tended to be the female version of suspect #1. One thing I have noticed is that some European women appear to have an aversion to shaving under their arms. What’s this all about? Anyway, there is a possible second career waiting for me as a rock photographer-Oh, I can hardly wait!
Things seemed to be going along nicely on our scenic tour of spatzle houses, pasta palaces and curry depots until I started feeling like I was developing a sensitive Martin Barre like gut. Now if there is one thing that anyone who knows me can attest to, it is this; I have a cast iron gut and very little ever troubles me food-wise, anywhere in the world. There has got to be something seriously off before my stomach reacts. Perhaps this is a result of years and years of very spicy food, killing off all normal sensitivity to the average bacteria. But something was starting to go really very wrong. I got food poisoning once, not in India, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico, Malaysia, South Africa, Turkey or Eastern Europe but in Anaheim, California at a Pizza Hut! Well, this was about the worst pain I had ever felt and this felt eerily similar, except this pain would mysteriously come and go with no particular pattern apart from the increasing frequency. Ian had convinced himself and much of the audience, as he was starting to integrate this malaise into his onstage patter, that there was some kind of Alien Love Child, or the ALC as he liked to refer to it, to which I was about to give birth. By the end of the European tour I was starting to think he might be right. I was getting seriously ill and only narrowly made it home to the USA between attacks. Fortunately, it never happened onstage because if it had, it would have been a definite show ender for me.
I limped home and immediately went to the doctors, followed by several hospital visits for various tests before it was determined that I had a fairly sizeable kidney stone. I’m glad it was not something more sinister but this news was bad enough. I have enjoyed pretty good health most of my adult life and this is the first serious health problem I have had in a very long time. As we only had about 10 days between the European and American legs I had no choice but to opt for immediate surgery. This was not what I had in mind but there was very little choice. Without going into all the unpleasant little details, I underwent the surgery with the understanding that there was no guarantee that they could get the stone although they felt that this procedure offered the best opportunity.
I hated my first encounter with anesthetics the first time at age 9, when I had a tonsillectomy and this new encounter offered me no good reason to revise that opinion. Anesthetics are scary and unpredictable. Afterwards, in the recovery room, I was informed that the surgery was a failure and that they were unable to get the stone and I now had no choice but to go out on the road with it still a part of me. This filled me with absolute dread, as I knew how unpredictable it could be. I don’t think of myself as particularly squeamish but I can safely say I have never felt discomfort quite like this. However, once that morphine drip kicked in I frankly didn’t really care. I suddenly understood how junkies get started and strung out. You just simply trade it all in for that one primal need and when that is taken care of nothing else matters. Of course, all good things come to an end and I got unceremoniously booted out of the hospital and back to reality.
Trying to find the good, or at least the acceptable in all of this has strengthened my resolve to change some things in my day to day life. This damned stone means there are certain foods that I really like that I just have to cut out or severely curtail. A stricter diet and regime of exercise is necessary, although I don’t really mind that as long as I don’t have to go to a gym and do it with a group of lunatic gym rats gyrating to annoying disco music. Due to this delightful little episode I managed to shed 14 pounds, which was not a bad thing, although not quite the way I envisioned doing it and considerably more expensive to boot.
I managed to get through, at times a bit delicately, both legs of the American tour without further incident and I must say the band was great about the whole thing and very understanding. I was very, very worried initially about whether or not I was going to be able to cope with playing at all, particularly when I first came out of the hospital and only had a few days before the opening concert. At that point I just couldn’t imagine having to go back on tour with that kind of postoperative discomfort. However, once I got to Cleveland for the first U.S. date and got through the gig without serious incident, I felt enormously relieved and saw that with care and pacing, I could manage the shows. The thought of having to cancel was far too distressing because of the inevitable domino effect it would have on band, crew, promoters and people who had bought tickets and so I spoke to a few friends, who are very good drummers, who agreed to step in if necessary. That would have been a highly pressurized situation for them, to say the least, as well as the band to have to deal with on such short notice, and so I am very grateful to them for standing by me in the event of an unfortunate downturn. I am going to be going in soon for another procedure to try to break this thing up and rid myself once and for all of it. I hope before too long this will only be a distant, if unpleasant memory that remains just that. On to better days.