I was working for a medical supply company, providing customer service to our French-speaking clients when this Indiana girl's life took a drastic change. I fell in love with a punk rocker. Albeit he has no tattoos, no piercings, but he is the lead singer in a punk rock band, and as they were getting ready to tour in Europe last summer, I took a bold and decisive step. I quit my job, bought a ticket to Europe, and went on tour with a hardcore punk band. Yes, Dad did not approve.
Now, it may not be everything you envision. Yes, there were dingy bars, lots of shouting, loud music, and mohawks, but there were also tender moments, like the time I caught Noodles, the guitarist, sleeping in the tour van using a stuffed animal for a pillow. Aw.
Truck Stops and Band FlatsThe tour began in Germany, ended in Germany, and sandwiched in between were Austria, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Belgium, England, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and probably one or two other countries I'm forgetting right now. I had been to Europe before, but this tour afforded me the opportunity to see a whole other side of Europe, namely, the highways and truck stops. Now, the majority of truck stops in the U.S. give us pause; however, in Europe, this is not the case. When the driver told us we were going to a truck stop, we actually got excited. Civilization! At least to our American sensibilities, the aromatic coffee and fluffy pain au chocolat of the European truck stop seemed to be civilized.
Another experience touring Europe with the Zero Boys in 2012 allowed me access to the European "band flat" scene. Some of these were no more than a room upstairs from the bar or club with a few mattresses strewn on the floor, but others were more complex and had been running for a fairly long time, according to the graffiti on the walls. I was so glad that I only saw the graffiti on the wall next to my bunk-bed in Vienna after having a good night of sleep; otherwise, I may not have slept at all, and certainly not on a mattress.
Highs and CigarettesThe boys, drummer Mark, bassist Scott, guitarist Noodles, and lead singer Paul Z, were always revved up after a show. They played most shows anytime between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. after a long day of riding for hours across European countryside in a Mercedes touring van. Unlike me, after a long day on the road they had the exhilarating experience of rocking out and watching people go nuts on account of it. Sure, I enjoyed the shows; I even was in the thrash pit by the last show in Hamburg, pushing and shoving punks around like pinballs. But sometimes I longed for that high of being up on stage to break up the monotony of a long day on the road.
I had quit smoking a few months prior to the tour as well. It was never something I did much, but it had become a daily habit, just a couple every day. I found it very difficult to stick to no smoking on tour, because it was Europe and people smoke like it's going out of style. The lifestyle of bars, clubs, beer, and punk rock also seemed conducive to a cigarette habit. It took me a few months to quit again after returning home. But it was all part of the experience, like Edith Piaf, je ne regrette rien.
Punk LoveAs much as I could have complained about the stench in band flats and the loud drunk men hitting on me in slurred foreign languages drowned out by deafening punk rock music and my earplugs, I sincerely loved every single moment of my experience touring with the Zero Boys. Not because everything was perfect, but just because it was what it was. Sometimes it was a mess, sometimes I was a mess, and I learned to love the experience despite the mess.
I learned a whole new appreciation for punk, which I never really considered myself to be. I saw some amazing acts of kindness and humanity among the punks that blew my mind, and there was no bull, which was a welcome change. I got to know the punks of Europe in a real and personal, up-close way, and it changed my life forever. No, I didn't go out and get my first tattoo or pierce myself with safety pins, but now my heart is warm and tingly when I see graffiti, and I appreciate it when the "F-bomb" is dropped in just the right no-nonsense way. I feel like punk attitude is necessary to keep the world moving forward in some way. Maybe because the last person to jump on board with propaganda and hype would be a punk. In some way, they keep us sane. Punks have a mind of their own. So, maybe I am a punk. I still haven't gone back to a desk job.