Saturday, December 17, 2016

Backswing: Desert to Coast. Near Death in the TransSky

I'm coming to love this desert-like area. I'm heading out of Cape Town after a great run of shows. The road is relaxed, and neatly opens up before me. Unfolding. The big version of my little maps. I know where I'm going now, and I've seen some of these roads before. I've got water, I've got time. It's a nice ride. Did I mention I bought a new tire?

I'm headed back into the Karoo, or more properly, the TransSky region. I've got two nights of shows at the Karoo Art Hotel in Barrydale. This is a gorgeous, beautifully detailed and restored building dating to the 1800s. The rooms are wonderful. The grounds welcoming. I'm going to stay on here for a day or two after my show.

Purple trees. I thought this was a spring display, but perhaps they bloom later at this elevation. Mid-summer now, and no longer cool in the daytime. At night, the winds do come up. Perfect for porching, or for sleeping.

My room looks out across the valley. I plan on sitting here writing songs- and working on this blog- for the next three days. Then I've got two more show dates to wrap the Tour. This is my first block of down time over the Tour, and I'm quite looking forward to it. I've met some great local folks, I love the hotel. Nice to be in one place for just a little while.

I've been looking for hydro insulators. My pal, Morgan Davis collects these, and I hope to bring him one from South Africa. But these are not glass, and they are not pretty. Grey-brown ceramic lumps. I'm told that they are all imported from somewhere. I can't seem to find a loose one anywhere, anyway...

Who would of guessed? A moment of inattention. I woke up in the small hours of the night, very thirsty. With no bottled water in my room, I sleepily grab the glass next to the sink and drink a glass of water. "I wonder if I should of done that?" I thought, before falling back to sleep. It is a good hotel. They did have a glass sitting there, ready for use...

I awake with a violent dysentery. I can't eat. I know I've got to drink water. This is not good. Hopefully it's a 24 hour bug. I'm burning up. I sleep away the day in my room.

Maybe it's a 48 hour bug. I can't eat. I drink bottled water, but it tastes awful. I sleep and hope this will run it's course. Day three: I take over an hour to crawl out of bed, dress, and make my way to the front desk. I'm sick. I need medical help. Is there a doctor on call for the Hotel? No. Is there a doctor in town? A walk-in clinic? A nurse? No one knows. I head out in my car to the civic centre, where I eventually discover that the medical clinic closed months ago. This is a holiday week, and the nearest doctor will probably be three hours south over mountain and desert roads. Now late in the day, I elect to wait. I've got to drive that road south tomorrow anyway. I've got a major theatre show in a tourist, holiday town, and I'm sure they'll be able to direct me to a nurse, a doctor, a clinic, a pharmacy. Anything. I need to play these last two shows, as the margins are going to be tight on this tour. I wasn't originally planning any down time- so these two shows need to carry the whole of the last week.

Now I'm very weak. Thank goodness the broken down old porter is on hand to help me load the sound gear. It takes a long time to pack. This is hard work. I give him a big tip. I insisted on carrying my own gear in when I arrived, so I hope this makes it up. I eat a boiled egg, and vomit next to my car. Nothing is going down. I'm even having trouble with liquids. I know I've got to drink them, but now they taste foul, and are very hard to swallow. I've got sores inside my mouth. I'm now using bungee cables to hold up my pants. How much weight have I lost in how many days? I load in some bottles of water and pop, and head out. I thought the pop might give me a few sugar calories and help me to keep going. Can't drink it, either. Not more than a mouthful. My eyes feel strange. I probably should not be driving.

I arrive at the Barnyard Theatre, later than planned. I've had to stop at every gas station toilet along the way. I've had to park and sleep a few times. But I made it. I found the theatre. It's not in town. In fact, it is some distance from town, and they are waiting for me to sound check. An early show. Doors are already open. Get me a bottle of water and a glass of red. Thankfully, I'm the first act on the program, and there is a band to close the night. Remarkably, my set goes really well. I'm not even aware of being sick until I leave the stage. My room is upstairs, and I go directly to it. The theatre provides me with a little cheese and cracker plate. I can't eat. I'm asleep in moments, in spite of the band playing in the room below me.

Morning finds me alone in the theatre compound. Two zebras stare over the fence at me. I visit the toilet. I drink bottled water. I'm locked in and can't reach my car. Fortunately the cleaners arrive and let me out. I understand that I am now badly dehydrated. The taste in my mouth and the pain in my body cause me to speculate that my liver and my kidneys may be failing. My tongue is white and feels foreign in my mouth. I'm on my way to a big town. I'll find help there. This is not, not good.

The Knysna Blues Festival was the first organization in South Africa to book me. By chance, it's also the last concert of the Tour– a Tour which rapidly expanded to over 40 shows from this first booking. I've been looking forward to this festival from the beginning. The folks who run it are really nice, and have been very helpful to me. And– after nearly two months of touring South Africa– I now know most of the acts on the bill. I've done other shows with many of these performers. Many are friends. This should be like old home week, a celebration of the Zulu Skies Tour and all the good things it has brought me.

I check into the Festival office to get my ID, my schedule, and my hotel. "Do you folks have a doctor on call?" Apparently this is a North American concept. I repair to my hotel for an hour, and then I'm back. I'm on early in the program, but the whole picture is beginning to become quite a haze. Albert Frost is waiting for me. There's a big crowd out front. Somehow I get my gear to the stage and get set up. Then we're on! Again, remarkably, I feel clear and focused. Albert and I turn in a set that is very well received. And I think that it was probably, actually, a great set. It felt that way from my chair. That's it. The last show of the Tour. Done. I did it. Zulu Skies. Albert helps me to carry my things off the stage. I go to a space behind the green room, and lie down on the concrete floor.

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