Day One: Anything Box arrives in Lima

Our arrival was in the early morning hours of Wednesday, but it felt more or less like Tuesday night since we had been traveling all day. The flight was rather nice, the food pleasant, and our entry into the country was without incident. We did drive through a few areas on that first night which reminded me of Paterson (NJ), only with more of a dangerous edge. The streets were barren and the weather was cold. It had rained as well. I seem to recall that even the hotel appeared to be deserted and silent. The hallways of the hotel reminded me of that movie, The Shining. It looked haunted. This was very exciting. Maybe I would see a ghost? No, but we all knew that our adventure had begun.

Cold but excited, I went to sleep. I can’t say that I had any dreams, but I will say that I was thinking about playing the show from the moment we landed, and my thoughts were on how we would do on TV the next day as I dozed off. This nervous energy let me sleep well in spite of the cold.

 

Day Two: The longest day…

I have to admit that I was not prepared for the efficiency that the Peruvians seem to possess with their time and schedules. They were amazing. Guillermo (the promoter) and Veronica (our PR person) were very good at telling us where we had to be and by what time, and we felt very comfortable with them as people. If I can say only one thing that I love about Peru, I will say that the people won me over! They were great. After a few wayward pictures, were off to do the TV show, Jammin

The taping was done live, and we had time to work out not only a look but also what we were to play. I was nervous, but I tried my best to hide this from the others. Of course, they probably knew and let me think otherwise. The taping took us about three hours or so and we had a really good time. It was at this TV show that we met Lalo and Carlos from the fan forum. They were very good people and I consider myself lucky to be able to call them my friends. They helped lighten the load, and we went through the songs. We played Answer Me, which went well, 65 Million Miles, which had a false start and we had to do again, but the 2nd time was amazing. Then we did Kiss of love and Living In Oblivion, which I royally screwed up with my nerves… Lots of fun there. Can’t wait for the tapes from the show…

As we left the TV studio the weather had changed. Gone was the dreariness of the previous day and the morning rain. The sun was out, and the temperature was really warm and pleasant. I bring this up because I remember commenting on this and Lalo saying that this weather was weird for Lima. I told him as a joke, “See? We brought California with us…” The warmth was actually a clue that none of us picked up on. How could we? We were having fun!

Next stop was lunch at the hotel with a press conference to follow. We went back to the hotel and had some amazing Lomo Saltado (steak with fries and sautéed onions and tomatoes). It was during this amazing lunch that I was introduced to a Pisco Sour, the national drink of Peru. I am not big on alcohol but man this drink rocks! It is easily my favorite drink in the world now. I particularly like the version that has a coca leaf in it. Muah! Loved it. After lunch, Paul and I headed off to do the press conference at the Yacana Bar. Dania stayed behind with Veronica because they had gotten onto some topic and had not yet touched their food.

The press was nice, and the questions were good. Things got even better when the Pisco Sours arrived, this time with the aforementioned coca leaf. There’s a nice photo of us with the drink in our hands, and we are totally loving it… This went on for about an hour and our rest period before dinner plans and more press came up. Dania and Steve went about the city. I was too exhausted and wanted to rest up for the show, so I headed for my hotel room. Paul went to his room.

I am going to describe my hotel room a little. The room was small, yet very tall. The room reminded me of colonial times, with wood trim everywhere and an old fashioned bathtub in the bathroom. I had a solemn looking walk-in closet. I tried to keep the closet empty because it just looked cooler that way. I really liked the bathroom, particularly the window next to the toilet. It was huge, and it opened up to reveal the city below (I was on the 3rd floor). It was such a good vantage point it became my post, a place to sit and write near that window. I remember I opened it, and got my note book out and began to write…

Then, just after I’d written the first sentence in my book, I heard the first rumble. It is a sound that I liken to what it must sound like when Tyrannosaurus Rex has just spotted you in the forest and is contemplating his meal. It was a hungry sound. Godzilla cometh. As the walls began to shake, I sat up and began to hear the screams outside. I could not move. In a very strange way, I was calm, or in shock. Both. I imagined us being bombed, or a truck having just crashed into the side of the hotel. Perhaps a train wreck? Anything but an earthquake. Certainly not an earthquake. The room began to swerve and the sound grew louder, hungrier. With a degree of instinct and pause, I looked at my watch and began to count. It only lasts 15 seconds or so, right? In California, I have been through three of them, and only one lasted longer than 20 seconds. It was about 35 seconds later when I realized things were getting worse. It wasn’t stopping.

I bolted from the room and stood under the open frame of my hotel room door. I began to assess the situation. I was on the third floor, and soon things would start crumbling around me. How long would it take me to get out? I was still counting. I was in my underwear. 55 seconds and it seemed to be getting worse. I saw a German guy a few doors down from me, watching me, his position not that different from me. He was in his underwear as well. He asked, “This is an earthquake… Too long… What do we do?” I said, “We get our pants on and we get out, now.” I ran back into the room, my feet sliding on the wood floor. I put on my pants and my sneakers and was at once out of the room, going down the steps quickly yet with a sense of calm purpose. I was going to be ok. I was going to survive this. At this time it seemed that I had counted a minute and a half… And where was I going to go?

I stepped out of the hotel and stood under its massive doors. I heard Paul call out to me and I looked up from my watch. Half of Lima was on the street and the plaza across the street from the hotel. There was pandemonium, people screaming, crying. Panic was slowly creeping into me. This wasn’t stopping! Then, as I stood there wondering what would come next the earth settled down. It was roughly two minutes, twenty seconds. As I live and breathe I do not want to hear that sound again, nor the sound of so many weeping for their lives, worried about their families, their friends. This is what the end of the world must be like. I stood there with these people, nearly 50,000 or so, and thanked God we were all safe. Or were we? Paul and I still had not seen Dania or Steve. Where were they? Were there fallen buildings? As we stood there, I heard our names being called and we found each other. How lucky are we? How grateful am I to have been there and survived?

Slowly we all dispersed and I wanted to get a message out. Telephones were out for a while, and we were able to get a message out through an internet café. I posted a bulletin on Myspace and got an email out to my family. From there, things get blurry about the evening. I think that there was a quiet shock at work here. First, I am in Peru for the first time. I was just on TV, I have a show tomorrow. And then it all fades away…

With a bit of trepidation, Anything Box agreed to go see the press at the Yacana Bar as was planned for later that evening. I think in retrospect that none of us wanted to be alone with our thoughts after the quake. It would lead to madness to think about it. So we all agreed this would be a good idea. As we got ready to go, the first of several after shocks hit. Again for some reason, I kept calm. When we got to the bar, to my surprise, there were quite a few fans there. I would estimate nearly 50 people, waiting with CDs in their hands. I was not surprised to find that the press was not there. They would be busy with this of a while. It was ok by me. I didn’t want to talk that much anyway. My nerves were frayed.

We signed CDs, shirts and drank some Pisco Sours for about two hours, and we got to talk with some fans and feel we had done a good job. But my insides hurt. I was stressed out. I wanted to play. So when Guillermo asked us to play, we all went for it. I was very happy about it I must say. We did a short acoustic set which included Paul beat-boxing while I did Love Will Tear Us Apart. Lady in Waiting and Kiss Of Love found their way as well. It was a great evening, the earthquake on the far side of our minds at that moment. We had a great dinner, and I went back to the hotel for a well deserved night of sleep. It came, but not without a bit of sadness. I kept my mind glued to the TV, and the horrors of what had happened had now started to surface. The president of Peru came on my TV screen, and he said that there would be no events until Saturday. I did not even realize that it meant no concert on Thursday.

This was the longest day…

 

Day Three: A Canceled Show?

The next morning, there were press conferences cancelled, of course, and we were to have lunch near the ocean. There had been tsunami warnings, but we had been cleared by 9 or so in the morning. So off to see parts of the city we went. We had a quick stop at the park known as “The Park Of Love” which has an amazing sculpture in the center of it. I took pictures of it and will post them soon enough. We went to a restaurant to eat ceviche and we were not disappointed. The food was so good we forgot to actually order proper meals. We gorged ourselves on the ceviche. Yes, it was that good. It was at the restaurant where we were informed of our situation. The president had declared a state of emergency in Lima. No public gatherings, everyone was to stay home. This meant no show. I was devastated. Why? I wanted to play! I wanted to be selfish and smile, and with that smile make others smile. I wanted to make this feeling of helplessness go away. And now I was defeated? What would be the solution to all this?

We went for some light shopping next, to pass the time while the promoters figured out if there would be a show. Once again, the people took us away from this darkness with their smiles and wares, and we actually managed to enjoy ourselves. At least I did for a time. Eventually the new plans were drawn. We would move the show to Sunday. The press caught up with us on the street and asked us if we were leaving Lima. I felt a little guilty in saying how we were going to see Machu Picchu.

After this we went to see the venue, and it was depressing for me because I really wanted to play. A part of me hoped it was going to happen and it didn’t. We hung out and talked, took pictures, bought some pastry and went back to the hotel. Packing up for Cuzco was next. I was excited to go of course, but there was a feeling of guilt that surrounded this day. I could not help it…

 

Day Four: Sick in Cuzco

The flight was only an hour long, and once I stepped off the plane, I heard the sound of traditional Peruvian music being played live in the airport. I think the song is called “The Condor Flies”. It was amazing. My spirit was up, but something was wrong. I am not used to being in such high altitude, and I had tried to fully hydrate myself, but something in the food on the plane and my head wasn’t sitting right. A migraine might be coming. I tried not to think about it. We were going on a tour of the city. Our guide, Beni, was amazing. She was right on time, and greeted us as though she had known us all our lives. It was such a warm welcome, that I can’t remember when I was treated like that!

At the hotel, we were given a cup of tea made from Coca leaf. I was told back in Lima to drink this because it helps with altitude sickness. So I took the cup and drank it. Meanwhile, my head was still feeling strange, and I attributed this to the altitude. We were about 11,000 feet above sea level, and the air felt non existent. As we waited for the tour, things began to go south… My head began to pound, a familiar pain, like a knife being shoved into my head via a spot above my eyes. It was awful, and although I was trying to hold it together, I was beginning to lose it. The tea had now made things even worse. My stomach was making terrible noises, and my food was on the verge of coming up. It was then that the tour bus arrived to show us the sights.

I don’t remember it properly. I was really sick. I remember we went to a church, and the guide looked at me and remarked at how green I looked. I had to yak. Dania could see I was falling apart, and she stayed behind with me as the tour moved along. By our second destination, the guide was leading me to the nearest bathroom. I threw up everything, the food, the earthquake, my stress, the water, everything. It was almost a relief when it was over. However, it would not be over. As the hours went by I got worse, eventually getting so weak that I could barely walk. By the end of the tour, I was in a full blown migraine attack, throwing up every 15 to 20 minutes, to the point where I could hold down nothing. A trip to the hospital seemed imminent and with it a cancelled trip to Machu Picchu.

In my bed, I was doing what I could to be strong, but I knew what the others were thinking. The hospital. I didn’t want to go. It would mean an overnight stay, and I didn’t want to give up. Oxygen was brought to my room, and I gladly took it. It did some good, but the pain and the throwing up persisted. I asked Paul and Dania to get me some 7UP. It actually helps to hydrate me slowly, and sometimes I can hold off the nausea with it. Later on Paul got lost looking for some form of hydration for me, but he did come through. Thanks to Paul and Dania, I got some form of super water. All I know is that it was pink and about half a gallon. I drank some, threw up, and drank some more. Eventually, between that and the four Excedrin I took I began to fall asleep. At 4 am would be our wake up call for the train to Machu Picchu. As my eyes wavered between pain and consciousness, I felt a sense of quiet desolation. I wasn’t going…

 

Day Five: Machu Picchu

At just before 4am, I awoke. The bottle on the dresser next to me was empty. I had drank the whole thing. Steve heard me moving and asked me how I was. I wasn’t too sure yet. My head wasn’t hurting. “I’m going to Machu Picchu.” Were the words that came from my mouth. I was going. I felt it was my right of passage now. I was cleared to go. I was better. At first the others could not believe it. I have to admit I didn’t either. The meds must have helped, and as the saying goes, ‘The only way out is through’. I had thrown up everything. Now there was only renewal.

The train ride to Machu Picchu was awe inspiring to say the least. The sights that moved before my eyes filled me with a sense of wonder and sadness. There was poverty, and yet there was life. Everywhere the children played, people moved about in the fields, and my senses enjoyed observing this. I took it all in, the houses made of mud, the stray dogs running alongside the train, the game that was both basketball and soccer mixed, the clouds, the Andes surrounding us, and the chugging of our train as it slowly went about its three hour journey. My smile told me I was indeed feeling better.

As the train stopped in what is known as the town of Aguas Calientes, I was once again overcome by the friendliness of the people of Peru. They smiled in a knowing way, proud of what this place was, and to where it led. I was excited. This was it! We were here! All we had to do now was get on a bus that would take us to a place so wonderful that I feel that writing about it does not do it justice. But I must. I want to remember this always, and I want to keep it here for as long as this exists. So as I was saying, the bus ride was next. This bus ride was a bit scary, but I felt comfortable. Fear and I were learning to get along by now. The ride was half an hour long, and I took some footage of it…

What can I say about Machu Picchu? Well, for starters, I left the guide and the tourists behind. Selfish as this may seem, I cared not about the history of this place. I cared about how it made me feel to be there, and how wondrous the view was, how colorful it seemed to be. It was glowing! So yes, I left the guide and off I went… The Claude Tour! What this means is, wherever there were people, I would go the opposite way. I wanted to be alone with this place, I wanted to feel its power drawing me in. My imagination leapt from stone to stone, and my feet moved in and out of these ancient doorways. As always, I let my inner thoughts go back in time when this place must have been teaming with life. It was amazing. Oh, and my health? It was perfect! In fact, better! My body was enjoying the air of this locale, the air rich in oxygen from the flora of the place. I have never felt that good in my entire life. My body was saying, “This is the life, kid!”

Unfortunately, the tour lasts only two hours up there, then you have to go or miss the train and the flight back to Lima. So reluctantly we ate, got back on the bus and took the train bak to Cuzco. I was so sad to leave this behind. How I envied the people who lived and worked there! Even now as I write this down I am trying to figure out ways to fool myself into being there, experiencing that air, the majesty and mystery that is Maccu Picchu.

The ride back was uneventful for me, but the others said that there was some sort of fashion show on the train. I woke up near the end, just in time to see a guy in a mask. Were we being robbed? No. Everyone was smiling, so I went back to sleep. I dreamed of the show in Lima being canceled, and I awoke in silent stress. When we got back to the hotel, our driver suggested a restaurant that was really good and traditional. Pisco Sours here we come! As we sat in the restaurant, the Pisco took hold of us and we had a heated debate amongst ourselves about morals and class systems. My group is really strange. Really. The saving grace of the evening was watching this four piece band play traditional Peruvian music right in front of us. We all loved it and I bought their CD on the spot. I plan on playing some of it on the Listen Show with Steve. Sadly, this was the last night in Cuzco, and I was feeling nostalgic already. I had missed the first day here, and now as I gazed into the nightlife I felt that I must come back here some day. I would stay in the same place…

 

Day Six: The Show

The flight ‘home’ to Lima was short, and needs no words to describe it. However, the day was an exercise in time management from the moment we checked in to our hotel near the venue and all the hours leading up to boarding the plane back to Los Angeles. This was it, the day of the postponed show had arrived. We had a job to do. Isn’t my job a mind fuck? I mean, take all this in for a second. Isn’t it? Looking back at it now, I am stressing just thinking about it…

There was to be a rest period of a few hours, which for me meant hydrating and no talking, getting the voice ready for the show. Then, we had to do a sound check and pack for the airport. We had tried to fix the flights so that we would not have to leave after the show, but it was impossible. The aftermath of the earthquake was not helping. By now, everyone wanted to leave the city, and all flights were booked. The plan was, do the show at 8pm, and off the stage and ready for the airport by 10pm. Our flight could not be missed. Talk about stress!

Steve, Guillermo, and the crew at Voce were all in top form. Everything went well. Sound check was great, and we made it back to the hotel in time to dress and get ready. Was I?

At 8pm we literally took the stage and we did the show. We had a few moments here and there, but over all, considering what we went through, it went really well. The tension that had built up from the week’s adventures was being released. People were dancing, and cameras were flashing. It was awesome. I love Peru! The highlight for me was in revealing the secret firsts of the set, and also playing with my new toy on stage. Singing was bit rough because of the previous days, and I am grateful I planned for it in a strange way. This was the set…

Just One Day (new mix)

Life Is Fun

Where Is Love & Happiness

Soul On Fire (Paul sings lead!)

Answer Me

Clean

Oblivion

Jubilation

All These Hours Mix X (Dania sings lead!)

65 Million Miles

World Without Love

Beat Of Life (we flubbed it, but oh well)

When We Lie

Lady In Waiting

Kiss Of Love

Carmen (Spanish version)

And with that, we screamed, “Thank You and Goodnight!” Then it was off to the airport.

 

Here I must pause for a second. I want to state for the record that this was the buzz kill. I hate leaving right after a show. Loathe it in fact. Not being able to stay and meet the fans, shake their hands, hug them, talk with them… Terrible. I blame mother nature on that. So it ended bittersweet, you know? After such a week, I wanted more than ever to enjoy these people one last time as their friend, not just a pop tart on stage. So if there was any disappointment, officially it was the end of the show itself.

 

We had to pack very quickly, and as we did it we did take some pictures and sign things, but there were more outside wondering where we were. I was happy, and a part of me was sad. But I didn’t have much time to dwell on it since now we were fighting the race to get on the plane home. It was about this time that Dania turned green, and she threw up. It could have been the food, the stress, the show… Who knows? She got really sick on the way home.

We made it, but they were paging for the final boarding to the flight as we were getting to the gate. We made it by about 10 minutes to departure. Sigh. As I sat on the plane, I was still reeling from the show. As we took off, I went to sleep. Sleep would wash away this feeling, right? Well, at least I had dreams, although I cannot recall any of them now.

 

 

Day Seven: Home

 

It was in the early morning when we arrived in Los Angeles. We were home. It has taken me all this week to process this trip. This was an adventure I’m sure to never forget. Besides, I will return to Peru someday. I know this. Maybe soon. Once I stepped through my door, I fell on my couch and slept for the rest of the day on and off. I let it all go, planning this entry. And here we are a week later. I still love Peru. I could use a Pisco Sour. Maybe I’ll mix myself one. Yep. I have a bottle of it.

— Claude S.

Advertisements