Day 6- Bucharest.
If I prayed I would have done it today. Lord, save me from this unforgiving land. Give me the patience to make it through this broiling, air-conditionerless day in the van. Don't let me pass out before we find food, or if I do, please let me wake up to a pizza.
After a long drive and at least an hour of inner-city traffic, we met the promoter at the venue. He and his friend squeezed into the van, saying that we were going to his house to eat and we'd come back to the venue after. I've mentioned this before, but shows in Europe are done in a certain way. Bands are always given a warm vegan dinner, provided a place to sleep and showers (and more times than not, breakfast as well.) Even super DIY tours have "riders", including ours, which states these things clearly (though it hardly needs to be said since that's just the way things go over here.) So when he said we were going to his house to eat, based on both experience and our "rider", we kinda expected that was what was going to happen.
We navigated another 20 sweltering, barely-crawling minutes through the city before finally arriving at the promoter's house. We were staying there after the show so we dragged our bags up, and waited for the dinner we had been told was the reason we were there. And we waited. And we waited. No signs of food, no smells wafting through the air, there was nothing relating to food in his house other than our hunger. After a time, I asked the promoter when dinner would be ready. In response he opened his fridge that was bare save for some meat and a couple of peaches, scanned the empty shelves, selected a vacuum-packed sausage, and placed it in my hand. Um.
Some wires had obviously gotten crossed somewhere, probably somewhere deep in the language barrier. This wasn't a problem, we were accustomed to such miscommunications. And luckily we're all pretty resourceful and self sufficient vegans. We could just find food on our own.
I patiently explained to him that none of us could eat sausage because we were vegans. At this he seemed annoyed, and told me didn't know "what is a vegan." I explained. And this started what from now on can be known as the The Most Frustrating Night Ever.
While I was holding a Romanian sausage in the kitchen, everyone else was in the living room with the promoter's friend, who had turned on the TV and asked if anyone wanted to watch the porn channel, and was confused when they opted for cartoons instead. This was made a tad bit stranger by the fact that everyone in the living room was a dude, and the friend was a dudette.
After about an hour of foodless, pointless lounging, I asked the promoter if he could lead us back to the venue where we could unload our gear then wander around on our own to find food. The venue was dead in the center of Romania's biggest city, and in the time we spent in grid-locked traffic I had noticed loads of little restaurants that we could eat at. He responded with a ticked off, "There is no vegan food there." (Which was quite a claim since he had just told me not but 60 minutes before that he didn't know what vegan meant.)
We managed to get him and his friend to get back in the van with us to take us to the club and let us loose to find some grub. The promoter sat passenger and directed our driver. We parked in an area that looked outskirty and not at all like what I remembered the blocks surrounding the venue to look like. I asked where we were. "The mall, to find vegan food." Shit.
Being a vegan in moments like these is akin to being given a Korn CD cd by a family member that knows you like "heavy music." You want to seem appreciative, but it's an awkward combination of humiliating and frustrating. ("Oh yes, it's great... I love it... I'm just gonna keep it here in the plastic wrap... man I hope the record store takes this back...") I explained to the promoter and friend that food courts generally don't have anything vegan so it'd be best, instead of wasting time there, if we just got back in the van and went to the venue.
He was unconvinced."We look first." No no, I pleaded, please, I can promise you that we can't eat there. Let's just go to the venue. "We'll just go in."
He walked ahead, determined. This was terrible. My stomach was eating itself. We wanted to see Bucharest, the capital city of Romania and home to some 200,000 stray dogs and the biggest building in the world aside from the Pentagon. Dave jogged ahead and asked for walking directions to the venue, but the promoter said no. We were stuck.
On the 3rd floor of the mall we were met- as expected- by McDonalds, Burger King, and KFC. I explained to the promoter, again, that weren't able to eat anything there and we'd really like to head to the venue, which was in the center of the city, where we knew we could find food. He scoffed at me. "There is no vegan food there."
It had been a bad week. I was down to my last nerve, and now I was a hostage. It was more than I could bear. I had reached my breaking point. I, in a not very calm manner, told the promoter that I had been vegan for a very long time and I knew how and where to find myself food. I told him to stop telling me that there "wasn't any vegan food" when he didn't even know what a vegan was. "We're not asking for much, we just want to go to the venue."
He and his friend exchanged looks. Then the friend said, "....But don't you want to eat?"
GOD DAMN IT IAGUYTFGSWYUGWFKYUGHKFSWJHF!!!
Back in the van, we made it clear, for the zillionth time, that we wanted to go to or near the venue. We parked in an area that looked urban, and I asked if we were at the club. "No, but this is the city. We take you to a place with many restaurants." Sounds good! We wandered through Bucharest, poking our heads into Kebab places, hoping for falafel. "There is a place with many restaurants up here." He led us on, and up to a large, new building. "...In here!"
We filtered in and were met with a familiar sight. We were in another MALL. We had left the suburban mall to come to the urban mall. To another food court. To another KFC. Oy vey.
We went through the same "no no, we can't eat here" and the same "well, we'll just check" and the same, "no seriously, let's go to the venue now" and the same "don't you want to eat? You're running out of time" and the same high-strung me shouting, "YES WE WANT TO EAT THAT'S WHY WE HAVE TO LEAVE!"
At the bottom of the mall we found a supermarket. The only option we had at this point was to buy food to cook at the promoter's house after the show. At the door, the promoter looked at us like we were idiots. As we entered the supermarket he called after us, "They don't have vegan food there....", annoyed that we were wasting more time. But of course (duh it's a supermarket) we found loads of food. Romania in particular is easy to find even specialty vegan food- for example here we got a soy and gluten version of "Bolognese Sauce"- an italian sauce that traditionally is made with Veal, Pork, and Beef. When we checked out the promoter was shocked. I'll admit to feeling a bit smug walking out with my pasta, my shopping bag a non-verbal "I toldya so" to that naysayer.
At the venue the show was already half over. As he was setting up merch, Dave saw a dude in a vegan straight edge shirt and ran over to ask if there was anything around to eat. We were starving. Turns out that about a stone's throw from where we were was a restaurant that made their own tortillas fresh as you ordered them and had a delicious and cheap vegan burrito. Oh weird. So if we had gone to venue when we had originally asked we all could have eaten and had time to see the city? Good thing we went traipsing around every mall in a 100 mile radius.
While a local band played Dave and I ran out and took a 15 minute tour of the city around the venue. Ancient cobblestone, second floor iron balconies, all the things that give European cities their charm. Handsome men and women with fresh flowers in their hair sat under huge candle-lit umbrellas eating and drinking, laughter filled the streets. Strangely, we did not see a single stray dog.
We hung out with the vegan straight edge kid who told us about how hard veganism was in Romania, and how he ate a lot of nuts and fruit. Yikes. I told him all about the amazing vegan food we have in Philly, from vegan cheesesteaks to our namesake- Kingdom Of Vegetarians. He was green with envy. It's always inspiring to meet kids like him- those for whom upholding their beliefs is difficult, but that fact does not lessen their commitment to it.
Before I knew it, it was time to play. Bucharest seemed to have a solid hardcore scene. There was a decent turn out at the show and people were wearing shirts of familiar bands. A handful of kids had talked to us and bought shirts or referenced this blog (thanks for reading!!), so we knew that we'd be playing to some interested folks, which after the last week, was a great feeling.
On stage while the dudes were tuning my stomach started feeling funny. Within a minute I really had to go to the bathroom. Within two I was on the verge of exploding. At three, the guys were ready to play and it had become apparent to me that if I so much as jumped I would crap everywhere. "Dudes... I have to shit... NOW!!!" I leaped off the stage and pushed my way through the hundred or so people who were expecting us to play. I barely made it to the toilet. And once I was there, it was no quick and easy thing. I was there a good 5 or 6 minutes. Back on stage, the guys pretended to sound check for a few minutes, and after that became awkward, they did an improv jazz sesh. Are you kidding me, am I seriously making over a hundred people wait because I have diarrhea? I washed my hands quickly, making sure not to soap the tops so the Xs wouldn't wash away. I ran back on stage, the crowd seemed not to know what had happened. Whew.
Our set was great, people moshed, sang along, and stage dove. Despite that it had been a hard week, and an especially hard day, we forgot about it all. I tried playing in flip flops but after the mic cord got tangled in them several times I kicked them off. Bad idea:
After the show I felt refreshed. I felt forgiving of this day. I didn't blame the promoter who I had resented so deeply just hours earlier. He was probably a real swell dude. Back at his house we all watched a movie together on soccer hooligans. We had a pasta feast. It was our driver's birthday. (By the way, Peter was our new driver. He was a super rad dude from Budapest who had more hardcore tattoos that anyone I've ever met- including a straight edge tattoo that was the Earth Crisis X, the Morning Again X, and the Judge hammers.) I took a picture of him in "paradise" (the promoter's hot, humid living room that had tropical wall paper)
Everyone slowly wandered off to bed. Only Pierce and I stayed up in the living room with the promoter- Pierce online, and me sucked into the soccer movie. At a lull in the movie I thanked the promoter for the show and told him how much fun we had. He in turn apologized for the food. I told not to worry about it, and about the vegan tortilla place by the venue, "just so you know for next time a vegan band swings through". At hearing about the restaurant the promoter became an apologetic wreck. "I am so sorry, I didn't know, I didn't know what a vegan is, my friend I asked said you eat salad and nothing else, I'm so sorry, if I had known... OHHHH IF I HAD KNOWN!"
Then I felt like an asshole for getting so upset earlier, and the promoter and I sat there apologizing and reassuring the other that it was ok.