Suitcases on Cobblestone Streets

Venice is cursed. I walked cursed Venice in a cloud of confusion. Why did so many people bring so many roller suitcases? Did they not know they were coming to Venice? Did they not know Venice has a stone-stepped bridge every fifty yards? Sweat soaked beneath the savage sun, they heaved their suitcases — all of which were big enough to hide a dismembered body or two — up and down and huffed and seemed distraught at the amount of heaving required to make headway.

Walking Venice — Ridgeline issue 144

This opening paragraph from Craig Mod’s very enjoyable Ridgeline Newsletter could have been written about Lisbon as well. One hears them from afar, the tourists’ suitcases clattering up or down steep cobblestone streets, their wheels squealing from the abuse while the people get the workout of their lives. Mod calls this noise the Rimowa Thunderdome.

Some cities have cobblestone streets while the sidewalks are concrete or asphalt or otherwise fairly smooth. Not Lisbon. Here many sidewalks are made from a different color cobblestone, a smooth beige stone that becomes super treacherous when it rains. I am still experimenting with different pairs of shoes, hoping to find some that offer enough grip during a rain shower, so as not to break a leg. The experience of walking on snow in Santa Fe for thirty years gave my body the very useful ability to react to a slipping foot without going down. So far so good.

What’s the ideal baggage for travel? I don’t think there is one right way. Jon is in the duffel camp and has carried a Tumi duffel for at least two decades. It’s traveled all over the world and has been repaired several times. I used to be a duffel man but a few years ago I switched to a suitcase. There are times when it is so much easier to push a suitcase with one hand (those wheels have become really great, haven’t they!), with my backpack riding on top of the suitcase and the guitar case slung over the other shoulder, while Jon carries his bass case (not exactly light!) in one hand and the Tumi in the other. But arrive at a cobblestone street and he is the one smiling while I have to put the backpack on my back, hold on to the slipping shoulder strap of the guitar case, and drag the suitcase along pitifully.

A few things I have learned:

    – we carry more than we need to and could make do with less
    – be aware of the terrain of your destination
    – will you ride to the hotel or will you need to walk and carry or pull your luggage
    – suitcases, especially hard plastic or metal cases, break like oak trees while duffels can bend like bamboo
    – can your luggage be repaired or will it need to be replaced?

Even if a company replaces the broken suitcase, as they did with mine after the frame got bent, it would no longer lock properly, and a wheel came off, it’s a waste of materials and not a good solution.

Back to the clattering suitcases on cobblestone streets and sidewalks… Take heed and don’t start your journey with a long and exhausting and noisy nightmare of a walk.

Wednesday in Miami

Long travel day. Left Santa Fe a little before 08:00 and arrived in Miami around 21:00.

Interesting stuff happened. After checking into our flight in Albuquerque I observed a woman talking on her mobile AND pulling two wheeled bags – one at a time. It was very entertaining to watch. She calmly continued her conversation while moving one of her bags about six feet ahead. Then she would go back to drag the other bag forward by those six feet plus another six feet. I kept looking for a hidden TV camera, as this seemed like a joke.

I would have told the person on the other end of the phone that I would call them back, or one could have used a headset, but no, this lady kept talking with the mobile in one hand and dragging her luggage slowly, but surely across the airport. And she seemed perfectly content.

The flight to Dallas was completely full. I had a window seat in the emergency exit isle – yeah for leg-room! The person sitting in the middle seat was one of those people that quickly takes control of both armrests. A little later, I looked over and noticed he was asleep. He was drooling and spit had reached all the way from his mouth to his lap. It was amazing – a perfect glittering band… As I contemplated sneaking a quick photo with my iPhone, he woke up and I quickly looked out of the window, pretending I hadn’t noticed anything.

Then the plane from Dallas to Miami developed mechanical problems while on the tarmac. The captain turned around and returned to the gate. He announced that some valve wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do, but a mechanic could just close it by hand… but then this turned into a 90 minute delay, with the full plane sitting at the gate.

We arrived in Miami at 21:00 and made it to the hotel by 22:30. At this point we were all starving. The hotel’s restaurant was due to close at 22:50, so we hustled and made it just in time for a fabulous meal.

Night view – handheld at 2500 ASA:

Morning view:

Well, we are happy we made it here and everyone is really looking forward to play. A TV station wanted to film our first concert tomorrow, in Miami, but I don’t want to deal with camera men running around the stage on the first night so we turned down the request.

Friday Travel

You CAN travel without moving!

Download the 111MB .aif file Travel Sound Collage here.

In this piece you will hear the following locations: der Kölner Dom/the Cologne cathedral – listen for the large space and a coin dropping in a donation box, the main railway station in Cologne – listen for announcements and the ICE (beautiful German highspeed train) opening its doors, a farm in Austria – listen for the pitch fork delivering hay to the cows, birds in Cologne…. and much more. I mixed the sounds, all recorded with a SoundDevices 722 digital recorder in April of 2007, in form of a collage. Found Sound. For some of the recordings I wore my OKM microphones (((check out their recording samples here))). I mentioned the OKMs in my Diary before. They look like little earphones and are worn like those. Wearing them, my ears shape the incoming sound – a process similar to the Neumann K100 binaural head we used to record Up Close (((that album was recorded at 24/96 and if there is interest I could make one song available in the form of a 24bit AIFF or FLAC file))).


Found on Matt’s Flickr


I listened to a sound collage I made a couple of years ago, from sounds I recorded in April of 2007 in Germany and Austria. It sounds amazing and I thought about making it available in the form of a .aif file (CD quality: 16/44.1). You can travel without moving!

It was only 28ºF this morning and I discussed transportation with myself. Arguments for and against using my bicycle were exchanged, but in the end I bundled up and took off on the Mariachi Bullitt to meet Jon for breakfast. We discussed that there seems to be more interest in audiophile sound these days. Good!

Gizmodo had these two items this week:

Vietnamese Audiophile Turns a Room Into One Giant Speaker

Why We Need Audiophiles

The second one is particularly interesting as it compares SACD to great vinyl. Then I found this piece, which compares SACS and DVD-Audio and prefers DVD-A. I also noticed that Logic 8 allows the burning of DVD-A. DVD-A does sound very promising. When I was still with Epic Records I spoke to an executive there, it must have been around 1999, who had one of only seven DVD-A players in the country, and he raved about the sound quality! I myself have never heard it. (((however I have heard 24/96 in my studio, because One Guitar and Up Close were recorded like that…)))

While we are staying in Manhattan in May (((five nights at the Blue Note))) Jon and I will try to locate an audiophile dealer there. We want to listen to DVD-A players and see what the fuss is about. I don’t think DVD-A will be a commercial option and we’ll have to wait until high quality 24/96 or 24/192 files can be losslessly compressed and downloaded.

I was glad I decided to ride my bike and ended up riding for about an hour today. I enjoy the easy communication with pedestrians. How can a pedestrian communicate with a car or SUV, especially when the windows are tinted and inpenetrable!! Like talking to a tank.