Thursday, 30 April 2020

The great - deserted - outdoors

I wasn't planning on doing another hiking post like the one I did on the 29th of February. Reality, however, caught up with me and while hiking is not a recommended activity during a lockdown, this little walk was done by necessity. Yes, I do go out, occasionally, only to go to the chemist's who is very near my house and i don't bother with taking photographs. I don't even go to the supermarket, I order by phone and the goods are delivered to me. But this time, I had to go to the bank. Not exactly to the bank, but to an ATM. I wanted to withdraw some cash, although this is not a big necessity since I pay for everything using a debit or a credit card. But I also wanted to pay the bills of those aforementioned credit cards.

Unlike the chemist, there isn't a bank near my house, so I would have to take a longer walk. So I thought that this time I should take my camera in order to capture the outside world during a lockdown. I chose an area near the National Road (that's the motorway for the Brits among you) partly because there wouldn't be any people walking around and partly because a deserted motorway would be a perfect photo opportunity. You see, I didn't want to go into a bank (I had no desire to mingle with other people), I wanted to go to an empty bank and use its ATM. Moreover, in that particular area there are three branches of three different banks.

I headed first to the bridge over the motorway to take some pictures. Then I headed toward the banks taking more pictures along the way. The first two banks are on my side of the motorway, while the third one is one the other side. I used a subway that is nearby to cross over. There weren't many people around. I only met some who were having a walk, two bikers, one walking her dog and I also came across on an open kiosk and shops that were selling food. The employees however were sitting either inside or outside waiting for the time to pass.

The success rate of this expedition only measured a meagre 50%. I was able to withdraw the cash that I wanted, but none of the ATMs would accept deposits so I wasn't able to pay my card bills. Well, if they don't want me to pay them, I won't pay them. At least I had a nice walk after almost a month indoors. And since my walk was in a different area to the one on the 29th of February, I didn't come across any wild boars. I'm sure however that with so few people around they must be more of them wandering in the streets back there...

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

My 2009 tour of Italy with Bruce Springsteen - Part 3 : Udine

Sometimes you just don't want to go to the pit. And that's when the pit comes to you. This is exactly what happened on my third and final destination of my tour of Italy with Bruce. Having followed the roll call procedure in full for the Torino concert I decided to take it easy in Udine and not go into the pit. So after my train arrived at the station, I went straight to my hotel to relax and later I decided to go and find something to eat in the city. The following day, which was the actual day of the concert, I decided that it would be a good idea to go to the stadium to see how it was there, how easy it was to get there and so on.

Besides, I have been a fan of Udine FC ever since I was little. Well, it couldn't have been easier, because there was a special bus service clearly marked "Concerto Springsteen" that took people from the city center to the stadium and back, and all this for free! So, I got on that bus, arrived at the stadium and started wandering around. At some point I noticed a queue. I approached to see what was happening and I saw someone handing out the pit wristbands. I had arrived at the exact time that the wristbands were being given! The last person with a number was 1000. But when they gave him his wristband, I noticed that they continued giving wrisbands to the people that were behind him. Without a second thought, I joined that queue and was given a wristband as well! They told us something in Italian, and they translated it as this: "Let the people with a number go into the pit and then go in behind them". So that was it! With the smallest of effort I was in the pit. I had a beer right there and then to celebrate and then went to the bus stop where I met another fan from another country, Belgium I think it was. Meanwhile we could hear the soundcheck with "Raise Your Hand". I returned to the city and had a stroll around and then returned to the hotel to relax.

In the evening, I went back to the stadium, I bought a new Springsteen cap from the merchandise stand and made my way to the pit. I remember passing by a long line of people waiting for a chance to get into the pit and someone at the front telling them that "il pit e chiuso" ("the pit is closed'), while I went past all these people displaying not just my Udine wristband, but also my Torino and Rome ones. (Rome was red, Torino was green and Udine was yellow). I still have them in my collection.

OK, so I got into the pit. What next? My friends were at the front, so I was alone. I thought I would stay at the back of the pit so I would not get squashed, That was when I noticed a Canadian guy who was a friend of a Greek-Canadian friend. We sat together talking and he told me "when I give you the sign, we get up and go to the front". Indeed at the previous two concerts, while waiting for Bruce in the pit, at a particular moment everybody got up and moved closer to the front. This is what happened again, so suddenly I found myself very close to the front of the stage. Not only was I in the pit, but I managed to get to the front without following the roll call procedure. There we met an Italian family who were all Bruce fans and started talking to them.

And suddenly, it was time for Bruce to come on stage. He was going to start with another one of his "surprise opening numbers". And what a surprise it was this time! Charlie, Nils and Roy came on stage with three accordions playing a tarantella melody which turned into "Sherry Darling". By far, the best version of "Sherry Darling" I have ever heard!
The main melody was played with accordions and not with Clarence's saxophone. Clarence himself came up on stage with Bruce. He had been wearing a hat in Rome and Torino. He took his hat off this time and this is the image that will stay with me because this was the last time I saw Clarence. 

Everyone had their own usual place on stage and although I could see Clarence clearly, I somehow, like in the previous two concerts ended up opposite Steve. A girl suddenly noticed my three wristbands and told me "I have been to the Rome concert and to this one. Which one was your favourite?" "Torino", I replied. "I hate you" she said. (These three wristbands were clearly a babe magnet!)

The rock 'n' roll highlight this time was "Summertime Blues" and it was time for song #13. In Torino this was "Drive All Night". This time it was "Be True". Which is very funny considering that this friend of mine who I mentioned in my previous post and whose favourite song was "Drive All Night"... well, guess what! Her second favourite was "Be True". And Bruce played these two songs on the two concerts she decided not to attend! She is still mad at me...

Finally, the first song of the encore was "Born In The USA" in its full band version, another song I hadn't heard before live. It all ended with the customary "Twist And Shout". As the stadium was emptying, I found my friends and we went back to the city using the "Concerto Springsteen" buses. The local McDonald's which normally closes early stayed open until 1 that night.

The following day was a Friday, but it was not yet time for me to go home. My return flight was on Saturday. So on Friday, I first visited Venice which was nearby and then I headed to Milano from where I would take my flight to Athens. And having got used to this "travelling one day, concert the next day" routine it was hard to believe that I wouldn't be seeing Bruce again that night.
Surprisingly enough, this was my first trip to Italy after 20 years, but there would be more to come in the following decade...

01. Sherry Darling
02. Badlands
03. Hungry Heart
04. Outlaw Pete
05. Darlington County
06. Something In The Night
07. Working On A Dream
08. Murder Incorporated
09. Johnny 99
10. No Surrender
11. Raise Your Hand
12. Summertime Blues
13. Be True
14. Streets Of Fire
15. My Love Will Not Let You Down
16. Waitin On A Sunny Day
17. The Promised Land
18. American Skin (41 Shots)
19. Lonesome Day
20. The Rising
21. Born To Run
22. Born In The USA
23. American Land
24. Bobby Jean
25. Dancing In The Dark
26. Twist And Shout