Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Because one of the things I often fail to do is anticipate the obvious, the other day I found myself on a seven-hour train ride without a packed lunch, and of course I became hungry. Intercity trains anywhere seem to be great places to explore that shady part of the food pyramid where 'eat least' intersects with 'pay most,' and I can report that the trains of the DeutschBahn adhere firmly to this rule. My camera had run out of batteries (see 'failing to anticipate the obvious,' above) so I am unable to post a picture of what I ate, but I can report that it was called a fleischkäse, which, if you include the umlauts in the right place, translates to the English as a 'meatcheese.' This sounded promising to me, and the fact that it was to be served im brot suggested that maybe I was in for a filled roll of some kind.

What I think happens with the fleischkäse (and this is pure reverse engineering, I should emphasise that I have not researched this) is that they get all the meat that they haven't sold that week from the butchery or wherever. Most of it hasn't sold because it has fallen on the floor and been stood on, and that's fine, that's part of it. Then they go down the road to the dairy and see if there's any really old cheese - the kind that's so yellow it's actually orange, and the orange is sulphur, which they put in to stop it decaying when they accidentally leave it in the sun for about a month. Then they take the cheese, and the meat, and they whack it in a big blender and give it a good blend until the bits of gristle and whatever are just the right size to get stuck between your teeth if you are foolish enough to actually eat one of these things. After that, they fashion the whole thing into a kind of pattie that is stored for several weeks at room temperature. When they see people like me get on their train, they heat it to just north of tepid, about the right temperature to really get the e. coli pumping, they chuck it between two lumps of bread - no butter and you can forget about salat, my friend - and they sell it to me for, like, heaps. So basically it's a steak and cheese pie, but without all of the sissy bits like gravy that we put in in New Zealand and which make us so soft and underachieving as a nation. Sure do miss those pies.

The reason I was on the train at all was so I could get to Amsterdam, which proved to be a good move. The place is full of louts, obviously, but on the whole many places are so this shouldn't count as immediate disqualification. I was there to play a show with Ms. Hannah Curwood, who I played with in Berlin a couple of weeks ago and whose songs seemed to be crying out for someone to play wailing fiddle parts all over them. She says she doesn't mind. The show was at a place called Bitterzoet, opening for Mr. Don McGlashan, so the whole thing was worth sitting on a train for.

Amsterdam is pretty famous for a bunch of different things. I abstained from most of them for a number of reasons - partly because I think my mum reads this blog, partly because the fleischkäse did enough weird things to my head for one weekend, but mostly because I had to learn a whole set's worth of Hannah's songs in an afternoon, and some of them had more than three chords, because she's been to music school she reckons. We had a practice in a park by a canal - the place is built on a swamp, so they've got a pretty serious canal problem - and after a few false starts the applause of passers-by gave us the confidence to think that we could maybe share a stage with the Don that evening. We were playing in the same key, at least, and I had brought my best suit jacket, so what could go wrong?

As it turned out, nothing really did. I think this shows that sometimes failing to anticipate the obvious can pay off. It should have been apparent to both of us, I would have thought, that playing a show in Amsterdam opening for one of my (and, it turns out, Hannah's) all-time favourite musicians and songwriters, after having played together before only very late at night in an art gallery down a side street in Berlin, and that very afternoon beside a canal, and zero other times, was a plan doomed to fail spectacularly and publicly. That kind of thing goes down fine at the wine cellar, but this was one of those kind of grown-up shows with a promoter and stuff. Could have been a very bad call.

Must be something in the air in Amsterdam (well, duh) but we totally pulled it off. There was a really nice bunch of people at Bitterzoet, and we completely fooled them into thinking that we knew what we were doing. I suspect it was mostly my suit jacket, but I also did some witty banter that I imagine helped. This is something I often imagine when I am onstage, despite the kind advice of colleagues and friends who don't always understand my jokes. Anyway, people said nice things, bought some records and stood us drinks, so it looks like maybe I've got a new band to play with back in Auckland while the Broken Heartbreakers are off finding themselves.

Don McGlashan was amazing as well, of course, but he can write about that on his own blog.

1 comment:

  1. Sam, judging by this post I'd say it were the witty banter what done it. I am at work, snorting out loud.