Friday, 17 April 2009

We Versus The Shark Tour Diary Part 17

Seventeenth Installment: Before and After (16/04/09)

This blog entry is presented in two parts. The first part was written around 1 a.m. immediately following our show in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The second part was written a few days later.

Part 1: Before

"There's nothing in the United States that isn't owned by somebody."

When I said that to some kids in Poland, the words struck me as soon as they left my mouth. Ownership is, I guess, a hallmark of America's legacy. And capitalism has, for better or for worse, been a constant companion for us. Countries whose economic policies are torn asunder every couple of decades are sort of like people who go through rough relationships. The weird lifestyle whiplash can cause interesting cultural ripples (hello, China!).

And so now we're in Slovenia. I intentionally came to Slovenia knowing absolutely nothing about it. I knew I'd be going to strange, new places on a daily basis on this tour, but a country that I'd never thought twice about? I willfully blinkered myself. Here's one thing I have learned about Slovenia: it was one of the first countries to break away from Yugoslavia as the Communist bloc collapsed. That was in 1991.

Today I sit and write this from a squat in Slovenia called Tovarna Rog. Rog was a bike company that went under a few years back, and Tovarna Rog literally means "Rog Factory." For whatever economic reasons, Tovarna Rog remained empty for years. This gigantic building was eventually taken over and completely transformed: the main, hangar-sized area is a venue space. Upstairs is "Cafe Trotsky," which is a sort of Eastern European music dance club run by a member of the band Gogol Bordello. The entire thing is festooned with graffiti. Plenty of people live there. No one pays rent.

I haven't gotten the whole story of Tovarna Rog down, but basically it seems like they have a similar storyline to most European squats: they went to the local government and said "Hey, no one is using this huge deserted area. May we?" And the government said: "Sure." That's obviously an understatement but think about that for a second, and think about how that would work in America.

The whole conceit is a little too mind-blowing for me right at the moment, frankly.

Part 2: After

Around five in the morning, I found myself in Cafe Trotsky with a very, very drunk Luke Fields. I was trying to figure out how I could find the van keys, which had been lost by the very, very drunk members of Blakfish. Dimly tired, I got about half a sentence out when every light in the building went out. The locals laughed: the generator for the squat, which ran on diesel gasoline, had exhausted itself. The entire place was pitch dark. I navigated my way to "The Jazz Place," a jam room which was doubling as our sleeping quarters, and laid down to go to sleep. Some things, I guess, are too punk to be true.

Jeff Tobias, We Versus The Shark. Blog courtesy of Flagpole Magazine: Colorbearer of Athens, GA Star Power!

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