Ken Gutberlet

4/30/2001 - Farewell Hagen ramblings

So, I apologize for taking such a pause between ramblings, but I know you guys all have lives (especially with the weather I keep getting emails about) and I didn't ruin anybody's weeks. With disclaimer out of the way . . . .

Well, the party's winding down- I gotta say, it's been quite the partying holiday. The partying's been grand with my flat-mates. One of the bartenders at Barock asked me if the flat was like a frat house. Well, I told her that the empty beer bottles don't pile as high, and after those modest pile nights, there's not much stirring until well into the afternoon. We're also neater and we don't have as many co-eds passing thru. But it's a great group of guys- everyone's real easy going (I've lucked-out both months according to stories). There's plenty of quality British wit and sarcasm going around also . . . Ahh . . . My kinda fun! I do wish that Gary the NY'er knew more about the Beatles (and the Monkees, and the Dave Clark Five, and . . .). So, it's made for plenty of daylight bedtimes. Immediately, the schedule's bounced- then there's that nightly gig in the way of the next day/night.

I played my farewell Hagen gig last night. It was quite unceremonial- I think my largest audience was three at a time. But my English comb-master bud Swifty stopped in and we jammed for a couple hours- fun stuff. As opposed to the vividity of opening night, the end of closing night was lost in a swirl of Tuborg. We jammed thru a bunch of old country tunes (that dobro likes that stuff) for our own enjoyment. Then it was off to Tex for the "don't pinch yourself from the dream" jam. Mmm hmm.

Barock actually turned into a fun venue. The thwarts of circuit breaking (what do Ricky Nelson, Elton John, and U2 have in common?) and finger and throat disease couldn't ruin the good time. The last two weekends brought the masses to Nyhavn- plenty of singers and dancers. I did extended jams all four nights- that's how grateful I was to have a fun crowd in the pub. Normally, the weekend's scheduled for a 10 pm start, four 45 min sets, and three 40 min breaks (what, do I need a nap or something?), ending at 3 am. So, I'd usually only take one semi-real break in the middle and a head break late nite- good exhausting stuff. But, between tips, provided beers, and these two guys bowing to me after almost every song for about an hour one night, well, I was happy to keep on jamming. Of course, I missed the night bus every night- walked home once, went partying the others.

Easter weekend was a different story- the whole country shuts down for five days- lots of "Easter lunches". Another troubador passed along an explanation from a local as to why that pub wasn't rocking the following week- "We've been drinking for five days straight." Ahh . . . That kind of Easter lunch. Speaking of "food" . . .

The grub at Barock was so tasty that I got used to eating my one-a-day pre-gig. That was a change from Fisken where I almost always took something home with me. The one time I tried to take something home from Barock, they didn't have any portable containers. So, it was offered on a foil-covered plate. The inspector (that's what they call the restaurant/pub managers) told me "you bring that plate to me tomorrow." "No problem," I reassured. Well, the afore-mentioned Swifty came by at the end of the night and we were off to enjoy some late-night 33 cl's. As we strolled thru the chill morning, me with guitar in one hand, large plate in the other, we came upon a weiner dog stand. Here in DK the weiner dog stands are all over the place- mobile units making quick grub ops. They sell the dogs without buns- you can buy a bun with it, but the local way to eat one is bun-on-the-side. So, you get a wax paper full of ketchup, mustard, and onions (or however you want it non-dressed) and a weiner dog on top. Then there are the "French hot dogs"- entertainingly delicious. Anyway, I'll refocus. Here we came upon this weiner dog stand and Swifty asks the guy, "hey, would you be willing to trade two hot dogs for this plate of food?" He nodded and we incredulously looked at each other, thinking he was joking, but Swifty persisted, "you're willing to trade two hot dogs for this dinner, plate and all?" One more assuring nod, without even inspecting the offering, and the deal was done. At that moment, I was happy to get rid of the plate and have something to eat. So, weiner dog man tossed the beef and potatoes onto his warmer, trashed the rest of the food, stashed the plate, and loaded up two dogs for us (he put 'em in the buns- atta boy!). Swifty said that he had heard that that weiner dog man had a sense of humor- he also knows a good deal. Chuckles galore. Now, I might have felt a little more guilty than I did about the plate loss, except that inspector wasn't my favorite person with whom to deal. The next night, his greeting to me was, "where is my plate?" I laughed and pointed upstairs and he asked "in the kitchen?" and I nodded and he walked away. Great conversator, he is. Well, they got even with me. I finally encountered the brooding idiot that owns most of the pubs of this gig circuit. All I'd heard were tales about how much of an anus he is- I learned it first-hand on Saturdee night. I'll reduce one of those elaborate domino tales to the fact that he wouldn't let me eat. Why? Because he's a brooding idiot.

Idiots. Yeah, that's what pubs attract. Only one guy really got to me thru two months of playing for staggerers. I really wanted to tell him something like, "look, you shouldn't tell me how to adjust my mic since I don't tell you how to be a bigger ass hole," but I value my guitar too much to tempt a confrontation. To top it off, he wanted to hear "Hotel California". Then there were the dancing dentists back in Fisken. Duncan and I were duoing and they kept knocking into our mic stands, smacking the mics into our mouths- people like to dance right on top of the musicians. Duncan stopped three times in one song to ask them to settle down because he feared for his teeth. They told him that they were dentists and they'd fix any problems; they found that very funny. A few songs later, one of them knocked my mic stand over (mic attached) and my mic's screen went flying. The guy who did it said nothing, just kinda (kinda) sheepishly wandered back to his table- they stayed around the rest of the night and still nothing was said. A little crazy glue the next day and fortunately the electronics still functioned, so no acute damage. Toss in a few super-drunks leaking in the corner or bothering other pubbers, clowns that press to play my guitar or sing, and those that want to hear the song I just played (right after they sang along with it)- "you didn't just play that"- and the motley collection can be wearing. But, I've encountered way more awesome folk than dregs.

Morten the local lawyer wanted to take me to lunch- told me I took it to Mark Knopfler. Thor and Stefan wanted to come play one of my Status Quo songs with me.

Christian the Berliner wants to line me up a gig there. Terje and Elspe want me to gig in the Faroes.

Bert from Austria wants me to play at his wedding. An anonymous lady wanted me to dance with her during one of my breaks (normally, I'd fail an audition for a nursery school ballet, but as I was in no dancing mood, I made Cliff Huxtable look like Fred Astaire).

Binky was on break as guitar tech with Robert Plant's tour (he had just finished a stint with Jimmie Page). Crispin, an ex-pat, told me I made him weep (I think that was intended as complimentary). Another anonymous gentleman told me I made him weep (but how all he remembers of Baltimore is Night Shift . . . Hmmm . . .).

Tricia and Niles from Dublin came back for a second night of acoustic faves- many people did- that was really great. Countless beers and countable tips were offered. All the bar staves, chefs, and most inspectors were welcoming and super-nice. Most fun of all, I got to jam with lots of great players. For instance, my first excursion to Sweden was last month with my English buddy Mark on a busking mission. The walking street of Malmo witnessed my European dobro debut. I think we only played about six songs before our fingers were painfully frozen. Folks tossed in enough Swedish coin to fund one return ticket. Ah, it's not all about the money! How fun! I only later found out that it's illegal to busk without a permit in Sweden. Oops. I've yet to busk here in Hagen- that'll have to wait for some other time. The weather hasn't really been cooperating (nor have the late nights . . .).

I have ventured to some other fun destinations- but most every night I had to be back at a reasonable hour. Roskilde was my favorite town visited. It's about half an hour west of Hagen (by train) and has a Viking museum. Now, if you get aroused by centuries-old sailing vessels and the restoration process, then it's pure Viking Viagra. They've also got a good-sized church there where all the Danish royalty is entombed. But, the day we (Stu, a March flat-mate) wandered, it was closed for organ tuning. Viagra, organ- is there a theme? Hillerød (a little north-west) has the fanciest castle in Northern Europe (with 400-some thousand portraits of Danish royalty- was posing all they did?) and the John F. Kennedy Pub where they serve an excellent ground beef patty on a slice of bread with about ten toppings on the side (capers, raw egg, I don't even know what else)- load it up! Delish! Helsingør (a bit north) is the home of Hamlet's castle and a hard-to-find (as in that's-not-it-that's-a-casino) that'll-be-800DKK-for-the-400DKK-room dental-floss-cheese-cutter don't-play-spades hostel where the Piles-Cheryl-Joe-Ken sprint-thru-north-Zealand race took a break. That Hamlet's castle is more a fort than a showy palace- in its heydey it was more an image than a functioner. History has recorded that twice its strength was tested. History has recorded that twice it showed it had no strength. Still a chill crib. Besides cool casements, it houses the Danish maritime museum. If you get aroused by model ships, then, well, you'll have to take a couple naps to get thru it all. Much closer to home (and the heart- sorry, too easy) looms the Carlsburg Brewery. One wall reading told that about 500 years ago the high-falutin' royalty used to consume 10 to 30 liters of beer per day. Lightweights.

Actually, it appears that all the royalty did back then was some posin' and pissin'. Stinky stubby Clydesdales and free baby beers await at the end of the tour. If ya ask real nice, you can even get an extra or two! Seeing that the tour has reached Copenhagen proper, let's continue- a more in-depth tour can be seen in the film "Reptilicus"- if the chance shows, check it out- it offers a great image of Danish culture and it's an hour-plus wasted (and I mean WASTED!) well. Strøget is Europe's longest continuous walking street- about 15 mins depending on the percentage of steps in a forward direction. It's flanked by fancy shops where I'd have nothing to buy, eateries, souvenir shacks, all kinds of stuff. It's packed with walkers on fresh afternoons and the musics of buskers resonate 'tween the facades. Christiana is a section of town that was once an army barracks, but was overrun by overrunners in 1971. They claimed themselves tax-free and self-sufficient. How much of the original ideal is left? Not too sure. It's now famous for its Pusherstreet, where there are numerous vendor stands selling (openly) blocks of hash and jars and joints of pot. It's illegal, but the government doesn't treat it as an issue in this seperatist community. Supposedly, a couple times a year they send in the police cadets for a training raid. The "Little Mermaid" sits on a rock in the harbor. Tivoli looks fun from the outside- again waiting for the weather (tomorrow, I hope!). There's an entertaining neon cell phone ad on a building where the final neon illumination shows a dog taking a leak while its walker stops to talk on the phone. It caught my eye- guess it works.

Here come some non-sequitors . . . Guitar picks- Don't call 'em that over here. If Letterman (not Dave) dropped an "r" into "pick", then that's how that word is interpreted. So, they're called "plectrums" (reminds me of herpetology class)- "pardon me, madam . . . Per chance, might you, for me, reacquire my plectrum, as it has tragically tumbled forth . . ." Nyhavn outdoor seating- Beginning April 1 (fitting start for the foolery), all the restaurants on Nyhavn have offered outdoor seating equipped with tri-mast mainsail-size umbrellas, egg-boilable heaters, and blankets. Regardless of the weather, every night I was there, someone was sitting outside having a drink. Wacky. "Hey, it's negative degrees and snowing- the inside restaurant is open!"

McDonald's- Well, I was intending to skip this ingestion option, but my Uncle Matt needed some research data. So, McD's Malmo, Sweden- Quarter Pounder w' cheese meal: tasted like a back-home burger though with less onions; fries were as standard McD's as I recall them; coke had that Euro-soda flavor (was it just me?); seating was more comfortable. McD's, Copenhagen, Denmark- McPork meal: let me start by mentioning that the "o" is cutely made into a pig's face on the ad sign- irresistable!- burger was a double-patty of the other whitey with lots of lettuce- tasty; fries, again, standard McD's; soda, large (can't recall the flavor- I'm vaguely recalling Fanta orange); three levels of seating- again, more butt/back-friendly- overlooking the Strøget. Feasting at the McD's is more of an event in DK than in the States. I guess I have to confess that I fell to the temptation of a late-nite Whopper. Taaaaaaaaaaaaasty.

Backgammon- Another cash making scheme. Yeah, 50DKK from Alan, the bartender at the all-nite jam house Tex. The sweetness of little victories! Running for buses- It's kinda funny to see all the people running for buses (they've seen me do it plenty of times). In a town that's so it'll-happen-when-it-happens, seeing people of all ages and fashionable attires suddenly leg it up for the bus, well, it makes a chuckleable site. $600- That's the calculated worth (Nyhavn pricing) of the beer allocation at my gigs. Hmmm . . . I don't feel like I drank $600 worth of beer- actually, I probably only drank about $500 worth- what was I thinking?!?!?!?! I could ramble on, but my eyes are starting to hurt- I'm sure yours are too if ya read this far. Besides, I should save some tales for verbal tellings. So, thanks to everyone who's emailed me over here- great to swap some anecdotes and keep a foot back in the States!; thanks to everyone who rode the roller coaster of March MADNESS! With me (even if the only thing you offered was that I lost in your bracket pool); and, thanks to everyone who's told me how great the April weather's been while I'm still wearing gloves over here. Today was fresh, and the word is that tomorrow will be fresher. Then, Wednesdee I'm off- there's my gift back to Copenhagen- I'll take the winter with me (but I'll leave it in Iceland!). So, two more nights to say good-byes and to keep the festivities alive . . .