Arts Desk

Across the Europeverse: Brno, Czech Republic

But would He sleep in a van?

We drive a little more than two hours to Brno (BURN-OH). We arrive early—always a problem. Some members of our traveling party want to sleep; others want to eat something vegan; others want to eat something not vegan; some want WiFi; some want to go to the music store; some are indifferent. Somehow, we kill two hours, then go to the club.

The venue is “Mjuz”—a club in the basement of what seems like a nice hotel. We are, unexpectedly, playing with another American group: Band O. from Portland, Ore. Like Band G., who we played with in Leipzig, Band O. embraces a neo-hippie aesthetic, and its members sport long or longish hair and laid-back attitudes. I consider adopting these styles myself. We are paid a bit more than 5000 Czech crowns, or 200 euros, and sell about 2000 crowns worth of merchandise.

A little after 1 a.m., we arrive at the promoter’s flat, where we will sleep. The apartment is nice, but about the size of a Toyota Matrix, and the prospect of sleeping with four other people in such close quarters triggers memories of the Edgar Allan Poe story "The Premature Burial." I decide to sleep in the van.

Sleeping in a van—if one is not chronically homeless, but a rock musician of means who does so only once or twice per year to maintain his credibility—is not as bleak as it sounds. The van is quiet and womblike, or at least quieter and more womblike than, say, a promoter's tiny apartment. If one's bandmates snore after a night of heavy drinking, one won’t hear them. If one's bandmates rise early for a breakfast one doesn't want to eat, one won’t hear it. And, since bands rarely motivate before noon, one will have a room of one's own for eight to 10 hours. If the dull glow of a nearby streetlight allows, one can read want to read an overlong memoir about life in Poland by an Australian, or William T. Vollmann’s The Ice Shirt. Have to pee? If one is a boy, there’s undoubtedly an empty water bottle on the floor of the car somewhere. (Girls are probably out of luck.)

The only prima facie, gender-neutral downside to sleeping in the van is heat in the summer and, in the case of Brno in October, cold. Around 3 or 4 a.m., the temperature drops around or below zero degrees centigrade. Even if one is wearing a white suit, a flight suit (for reasons beyond the scope of this blog post), a sweater, and a knit hat, one finds a chill in one's bones around the witching hour. But don’t fret; around 8 or 9 a.m., the sun will rise, and the interior of the car will slowly warm up again.

Just as The Lion King said, this is the circle of life.

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