Thermals frontman Hutch Harris was rad enough to take us up on our offer to keep a diary while touring China last month. It will appear in three parts this week.
This journal is my personal account of the Thermals' recent trip to China. It is in no way intended to be a historical or political lesson about China. Certain information has been censored for your protection. — Hutch Harris
Sunday, March 21
More insane driving, more delicious food, more warm beer. Is this journal getting a bit repetitive? Welcome to life on the road! But we aren't complaining. We are still enjoying the hell of out China.
Another incredibly fun show, at Vox Live in Wuhan, for another mostly-Chinese audience. The opener is Man Made Lake, a group of Canadians who teach English to young students in Wuhan. They speak little Chinese, and have a Chinese drummer who speaks no English. They communicate through the language of music, which in their case is some kind of Canadian grunge.
We eat at a hot pot restaurant for dinner. Each table has a gas stove on which a large pot is placed. Water with hot pepper sauce is boiled, and customers cook their own meats and vegetables. Did I mention that Westin is a vegetarian? Well for this trip only, he has fallen HARD off the veggie wagon, and he has landed on a giant pile of Chinese meat. In addition to pork meatballs, mutton and spam, I witness him consume pig stomach and throat, two things that Kathy and I don't even touch, and we are full-time carnivores. Anna is a vegan, so she's lucky the pot is separated into two sections. We use one for meat and the other for vegetables—white carrot, zucchini, potatoes, lotus root, etc. It's by far the most delicious and interesting meal of the trip. This trip has definitely revolved around eating, which is pretty much what we planned. I feel that euphoric feeling returning, it must be something in the food! It sure as hell isn't the beer, which is only 2.5% alcohol! This is fucking insane. I could be getting way drunker in Salt Lake City right now. I would NEED to get way drunker if I was in SLC now.
After the show we get drunk with Dostav, who books Vox Live. Dostav is Nepalese but speaks five languages fluently, including English and Chinese. He is a hilarious guy who claims to have learned English by watching Seinfeld
when he was growing up in Kathmandu. He has a small group of ex-pat friends—Americans, Croatians and Czechs. We all drink heavily after the show and FINALLY get nice and drunk. Of course we eat again, scrumptious noodles and skewers, and I finally try a fried chicken's foot. Greasy, crunchy, and deliciously disgusting!
Monday, March 22
Our last day in China, we cab to another hotel in Wuhan to be closer to the airport for our flight tomorrow. The drive is about an hour, mostly on the freeway, which turns out to be the craziest drive of all! As on all Chinese roads, anything goes. Kathy points out that lanes are mere suggestions. The cab driver speeds as fast as he can, changing "lanes" every six seconds or so, and constantly honks, usually just to check that the horn still works, since he appears to be honking at nothing at all.
We have plans to visit a famous lake in Wuhan where elderly men perform opera songs. But a storm blows in and it becomes much too rainy and windy to go anywhere. More delicious food, more… zzzz…. we fall asleep, fast and hard. Even on a day off China is kicking our ass.
Tuesday, March 23
One more early day, we leave the hotel around 6 am for the airport. Was the cab ride to the airport fucking nuts? Of course it was.
After just a week in China it's time for us to head back to the States. We were barely here, although I do feel like we absorbed/consumed as much as we possibly could in the time we had. I'm of the opinion that no tour can be too short (especially when you tour as much as we do), and am always glad to get home. We have to get ready for our next tour (U.S. East Coast), which begins in just under two weeks. (Plus I have to get started helping Westin on his new TV show, Juan on Yuan
, in which a Mexican explains Chinese currency to Americans.) I also have to get out to Lucky Strike, quick! I can feel the last bit of pure Chinese MSG leaving my body, and that's not good news. It's the only thing harder to kick than heroin and that is one dark road I do not feel like going down any time soon. I'd rather die young and leave a salty corpse. I've heard it preserves the body quite well!
There are (free) public toilets all over the place in the big cities here, very convenient and very smart. This is something U.S. metropolises need BAD. All the public toilets (including the toilets on trains and in the clubs we play) are "Italian-style," meaning there's no real toilet, just a hole in the floor.
The hotels have Chinese AND American style electrical outlets, BRILLIANT! I can keep my Gameboy charged so I never have to go without Frogger or Galaga on any plane, train, etc. The last hotel we stayed at had public mirrors with electric hair driers, in the stairwells and hallways, in case you need to do your hair after you've left the room.
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and millions of other websites are NOT ALLOWED! I can't even access thethermals.com. MySpace is allowed, although I could only seem to check mail on it, I couldn't post photos/update any settings, etc. (The Chinese authorities don't want anyone reading about XXXXX or XXXXXXXXXX XXXXX and definitely not XXXXXXX XXX XXXXXXX.) Oddly enough Wikipedia and its entries on China, Mao, etc. is accessible.
On the whole we had a fantastic introduction to China. It was incredibly overwhelming in the best possible ways. I can't wait to get us back there.
(where you can hear the band's hot new record store day single, "Separate"!
The Thermals on Twitter!
Photos courtesy of Hutch Harris and the Thermals (they may be a bit out of order).