Zagreb, Croatia, KSET
Last I wrote was from Zagreb, writing about the show in Gorizia - but this was after our show in Zagreb, and after the drive to Zagreb which included a stop at Maria's restaurant, in Slovenia just outside of Pivka, which is actually not far from where we are tonight. We left Gorizia quite satisfied, of course myself very satisfied after an entertaining night and a lengthy sleep during which Andy repeated beat on me with his fists to get me to stop snoring but I, drunk as I was at the end of the night, refused, and slept like the dead; then drove into Slovenia - Gorizia being half in Italy, half in Slovenia. So, what - a stop at duty free for cigarettes and snacks and I can't remember what else, and then we were just hungry and wanting to eat. So Agostino decides on an exit, we ask the toll booth attendant which way to go for food, and he sends us towards Pivka, to the left. We drove, and thought we saw a restaurant, and stopped, and asked; and we kept being sent further on. Someone said we were looking for Restaurante Maria, and when we'd ask, everyone knew about Maria's; but we couldn't find it, we couldn't. Finally we asked at a gas station, and the man pointed across the street to a house on a small hill which looked like it may have been a furniture warehouse, or maybe a Mexican restaurant: a sign with a couch, and a sign with a sombrero. Nothing about Maria. Still, we went inside; and it was indeed a restaurant, and we sat, and ordered the most expensive five-course menu, maybe it was $8. Tim didn't order the menu, he ordered various other shit; and the first to arrive was the goulash. He tried a bit, and made a strange sound deep inside his throat; we all dove in with our spoons and thick chunks of homemade bread, and it was indeed a delicious thing. And more came: the mushroom soup, which was one of the best things ever, certainly one of the finest soups, what Vickie said was the best mushroom soup she'd ever had, and Vickie knows and loves soup. This remarkable ham, like prosciutto maybe but here it was in white wine and butter, and so fucking rich and stunning. Maria! We all looked to the kitchen when the door opened and called her name, and she peered out for just an instant and ducked back inside. A surprising and beautiful meal, and finished with coffe and with plenty of time to get to Zagreb.

The club in Zagreb, KSET, is such a good place. We immediately met Maté, the energetic, good-natured, happy, long-haired and excited promoter, who'd been in touch from a distance with Ago and Giovanna for years and now finally met them in person. The club, KSET, is big and dark and nice, a balcony and a big healthy stage, and the drums were already set up; Andy had a choice of amps, and chose a weird old Hiwatt; Tim had something nice to play, and the people working at the club were spunky and nice.

KSET is just outside of downtown Zagreb. The architecture outside the city center is built in the style I remember from East Berlin: open boulevards and wider-than-tall buildings, each with a strikingly similar concrete-and-glass facade, the same shutters, the same flat grass landscaping, the same concrete plateau. We were immersed in socialist-era architecture.

And speaking of socialists: before we left Chicago, leaving so close to the very beginning of the war, my main concern was that all the conversations I had would focus solely on the war, rather than on - oh, I don't know. Food? Shoes? Girls? You know what I mean. My fears were ill-founded, though, until we got to Zagreb. Everyone in Croatia is keenly aware of what war is like. I look at the older people and I wonder what they've been through, how they lived under the old government(s), how they survived the war(s); and the young people have such immediate and strong feelings about war, they know what it's like to be in a war zone, to be a refugee, etc. Things I really can't comprehend. But their feelings about war are built by their experience of being in a country that's being attacked, and it's a remarkable perspective. More about that, though, when I write about Tuesday night in Vinkocvi. But already in Zagreb I wished I knew so much more about everything that's happened in this region, and not only because Mat&ecute; railed against Americans knowing nothing about the rest of the world when he's never been to the U.S. but knows where Missoula, Montana is.

The huge socialist-industrial Hotel International was a five minute walk from the club, so we went and checked in and ate a strange meal, did I talk about this already? I can't remember, I think I did; and I wasn't so hungry. But Ago pulled the red cover off the piano and bashed away for a bit, and we waited a long long time for the yummy but not-homemade-at-all food. It was an unusual meal for this trip, which is otherwise nearly all homemade local food and wine and etc.

Let me quickly put it out of your mind and say that there were not so many girls at KSET, so please put that out of your mind. This night was all about the rock show, which here we were all set up with excellent sounding equipment, a good stage, good room, and quite a few people in it; and I told Maté that I was nervous, and I was, but not so much nervous with trepidation. I was nervous with excitement, I was jumpy, agitated, I was feeling quite violent, I'm not sure why. Maybe it was in the air, I don't know. But I was feeling something, and we got onstage and I played harder than I've played in years, I bashed and screamed and was jumping out of my skin. It was a crazily fun show, I hurt myself some but it was so much fun, just so exciting. And the crowd was good, they were excited, so good. Afterwards, Maté said the show was "positive," that he thought this sort of good thing was so good for people in Croatia, and especially further on around Vinkovci and the border with Bosnia. But he said we were "positive." There was something else he said, but I was so stunned that someone would call us "positive," you know, because generally people will call us "depressing" and that sort of thing. But this night felt good, it was fun, and people were having fun. They even said so. We make people feel good! At least in war-torn former Eastern Bloc countries. That is a positive thing, I'm sure of it.

Back to the list