Dornbirn, Vicenza, Bruneck, Aarburg, Rubigen and Bergamo

31 Ocotber 2010

So, now we leave Strasbourg which is very close to the border with Germany, and we drive south into the Alps where we will be for much of the rest of our trip. Our first stop is Dornbirn, which is way over on the west side of Austria, near the beautiful Lake Constance.

When  I heard the name Dornbirn, I thought “Thorn pear, funny name for a town.” There are even pears in the city shield of Dornbirn. The real meaning of the town name, though, is much more interesting. There was an Alemannic farmer who lived here long ago and his name was Torro. (I love these old German names; I have a friend from Berlin named Ingo.) So this land was called Torrin Puirron, Torro’s Settlement, and over time this became Dornbirn. Nothing to do with pears, so you can take those off the city shield now.

Stefan Penz brought us to this place. Stefan has a very typical Austrian look, dark hair, fine features, slight of build. We played at the Wirtschaft, which means economy, restaurant or pub. It was a small place, and we held forth upstairs. Our hotel, Harry’s Home, was brand new, very futuristic looking and staffed by pleasant people.

The next day Ben and I drove down to Vicenza, Italy, and landed in the Tre Torri (three towers) hotel and now my flu is going full force. I can barely talk and i have to acknowledge what heroes Ben and Mary Bridget were even to be around me. It must have been scary, and I am grateful. They observed the marriage vows, “for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.” They really hung in there and, to their immense credit, never made me feel bad for being ill.

Arianna, Antea, Filippo and Antea’s father came and picked me up at the hotel. Arianna is Roman and she has that witty Roman way. There’s always a joke and a smile behind everything she says and does. Antea’s father told me that Andrea Palladio was born in Padua, but came to Vicenza when he was very young and designed some buildings of High Renaissance calm and harmony, that still influence architects everywhere. I have long admired Palladio who seemed to me to construct the same sort of balanced periods in stone that Dr. Samuel Johnson did in his prose of 18th Century England.

We played at the Teatro di San Marco on 27 October 2010 at a beautiful event that Arianna Antinori made for us. Arianna and Antea worked so hard on this show and it was a stupendous success. They had to turn away 400 people. The place was jammed.

Arianna did everything. She sold tickets, she cooked the food, she provided the security, and then she sang Call On Me and Piece of My Heart with us, and she did such a great job. I said, “Io sono tanto felice di stare qui a Vicenza, e di suonare con Arianna Antinori, una vera amica e molto dottata.” I am so happy to be here in Vicenza and to play with Arianna Antinori, a true friend and very talented.

Ben Nieves added his own fire to the occasion. Arianna sounded good and she was dressed in black satin pants and a backless top, very beautiful. What a thrill it was to feel her excitement and add our own to it.

As we drove out of town the next morning, Ben and I saw these lovely statues, so human, so Italian. It was a fitting goodbye to Vicenza.

Now we drive back through the Brenner Pass to Bruneck, a town that has always had difficulty deciding whether to be Austrian or Italian. It is Austrian now, but not so long ago was Brunico, an Italian town. The people there speak Italian and German indiscriminately and all the signs are in both languages.

For example, Hanni here is fluent in Italian, German and English and switches back and forth with complete ease. The Alps are a linguist’s paradise. In Switzerland, right next door, four languages are officially used, French, German, Italian and their own dialect RhaetoRomansch (Romanche).

In Bruneck we played at UFO to a completely insane audience, unruly, out of their minds and determined to have a good time. Old friends Monika and Joseph came to this gig, and here is Monika sitting backstage with Jim Wall.

This is a photo by Nicola Zanettin, a very talented Italian photographer.

Walking out of the back door to our hotel in Bruneck, this is what you see.

This is a sign in our Bruneck elevator which I like: The greatest danger in life is to become too prudent. (I try to live by this motto.)

Bolzano is very near Dario Da Rold’s hometown of Belluno. I tried very hard to get to Belluno, but just couldn’t make it.

Yes, we’re in the Dolomites, a section of the Alps mostly in the province of Belluno, Italy. The Dolomites are mostly carbonate rock which is light in color, so there was a sense of beauty driving through the Alps that we missed when we drove down into the flatlands. The Adige is the main river that runs through the Dolomites.

Elena and Mary Bridget in Aarburg, Switzerland, where we stayed at The Hotel Krone, and played at another insanely lively place, The Moonwalker.

Arty shot of Ben in Aarburg. Ben played better than I have ever heard him play on this whole tour. Just extraordinary in every way.

On 30 October 2010 we played at Rubigen, Switzerland, one of our favorite places, The Mühle. This place is a work of art. Getting ready to go on with Stefan Penz and Jim Wall. Elena’s aunt Marliess and Inge were kind enough to take me back to the Hotel Ambassador in Berne after the gig. I was really ill with the flu at this point. No one else got the disease for which  I am truly relieved.

Not even Lisa who came to see me with her family backstage. She does look a little apprehensive here, though. That was a serious flu.

The next day, Hallowe’en, Ben and I drove down into the flatlands and across France to Paris. What a change from The Alps! France did look very beautiful, especially the closer we got to The City of Light. A little north of Paris we got lost and wandered around a Norman village that we would never have seen otherwise. It was surreal to me to see French children trick or treating, something they never did when i lived here. This is a completely American custom that has been exported, probably to benefit candy manufacturers. The Norman town was so exotic and the trick or treating so familiar, that the juxtaposition was jarring in the extreme.

Next day, 1 November, we flew to Milan and then drove to Bergamo, Italy, where we played at The Druso Circus as guests of Tara Degl’Innocenti who sang Piece of My Heart with us. I did an interview in the afternoon of the Bergamo show with Ezio Guaitamacchi, an old friend who does a radio show in Milan. It was good to see Ezio again. There is something special about him. He is calm, dignified, intelligent and watchful. It is a kind of lesson to be with him.

The Druso Circus in Bergamo was a small, round space filled with a lot of enthusiastic people, especially Tara who was bouncing around the room. She and Mary Bridget and several other people sang Mercedes Benz in a novel, brand new arrangement. That was quite a gig. Everyone was exhausted and so to bed. I tried to get Peter to take his clothes off, since in the last Big Brother bed photo he was the only one with clothes on, but it was no go this time again. Some people never change.

I called Elise at four in the morning (seven evening here in California) and she said, “I’ll see you tomorrow night,” which sounded strange to me at the time, but then we 1. drove from Bergamo to Milan where we caught a plane at seven in the morning. 2. landed at Charles de Gaulle (Paris) and caught a 1:30 Delta flight to Detroit, 3. went through customs and then boarded another plane to San Francisco, so almost twenty-four hours of travel. I was so happy to see Elise. Home after three weeks. Ahhhhh.

See you next week!

Sam Andrew

Big Brother and the Holding Company