December 2, 1997
Dear Friends and family,
I am writing this letter from the Europa Hotel in Belfast, Northern
Ireland; the most-bombed hotel in the country. The hour is leaning
We are on the eleventh floor with the window open - below are the
sounds of the street, chaotic with a late-night music scene just across
the street. Nowhere is the visible evidence of turmoil, although barbed
razor wire surrounds the police station just a block away. The Ulster
Unionist Party headquarters just to our east looks freshly-glassed with
tinted, bulletproof windowpanes. The opera house beside it bears the
evidence of several past bombings, yet is functional on Friday nights,
we're told. That same side of this hotel is about a six foot thick
amalgam of concrete, stone and steel. They tell us it's bomb-proof. We
mused over that, having dinner earlier by the sidewalk windows... We
were also told about the numbers of car engines found on top of the
hotel (there are 13 total stories...)
after auto-bombs exploded in front of the opera house.
We do not know about these things much in the US. It is a common
occurence here, I understand. Odd to see people who look, act, and
dress much as ourselves, going about their daily business, laughing and
hugging one another by day... knowing that which has transpired here
for so long has ultimately become a way of life. When does terror
become commonplace. (How long we
will remember the OK City tragedy and the World Trade center incident.)
Imagine having too many tragedies. Imagine losing count.
This tour has been so much more than music. We have, in two months
time, stayed in ten countries - Germany, Austria, Czech Republic,
Holland, Belgium, France, Switzerland, England, Scotland, and now,
Ireland, the last days of this tour. We have seen diverse geography,
spoken fragments of many languages, walked uncountable miles, ridden
thousands of kilometers together - all twelve of us - on our bus, we
have eaten with, sung for, and later laughed (and sometimes cried) with
warm and loving people from every country. As a group of weary
musicians we have eaten great food everywhere - sometimes unbelievably
great. We have stayed in what ranged from comfortable to incredible
accomodations (like Count Denis de
Kergorlay's castle in Canisy, Normandy!)
It is my sincere observation that beyond their diverse exteriors,
however, people are just the same everywhere; when treated with
kindness they respond with kindness. As humans, all, we appear to be
way more alike than different. It seems that this is such a fundamental
reality, we could find a way to make it work for us rather than divide
As I sit here in Belfast, it seems so evident. So simple.
I did not write this to preach, but rather, to share. Many of you will
want to know what is was like playing music with Joan Baez. I can tell
you, the journey itself has transcended all expectation. The music has
been inspirational, but the journey has been an epiphany...
Last night in London, Gene and Richard Shindell and I sang "Daddy's
Coal" to a sold-out house at the Royal Festival Hall across the Thames
River from Westminster and The House(s) of Parliament. I will never
forget it. Last week, Gene and I were waved to by Queen Elizabeth and
Prince Phillip just outside the gate at Buckingham Palace on their 50th
wedding anniversary. There was a small gathering of about a hundred
people there - we just happened to be in the right place at the perfect
moment. I've never even seen one of our presidents...
We will not forget standing on the oldest bridge in Prague just when
the first snow of Winter began to fall - everyone stopped walking and
We will not forget Joan's bursting into song (a capella)
in President Vaclav
Havel's palace there, either - we had been invited for a tour followed
by juice and cookies in his office, when suddenly Joan turned and began
to sing... it resonated throughout the halls...
We will not forget afternoon Snert
with a snort, in Amsterdam, and spending the whole day with Gene's 10
distant Dutch cousins (and his
mother, who flew to Holland for the Amsterdam show)
final scene of them running in the street alongside the bus at 1:00am,
waving goodbye as we left for Stuttgart...
We will not forget Berlin...
We will always remember the trees aglow in golden splendor on the Left
Bank in Paris, and the rainbow that arched over Notre Dame as we were
leaving...The Louvre...The Seine... We will remember the Morroccan
restaraunt in The Latin Quarter there where we ate cous-cous for the
first time, and the corner cafe' where Gene and I had cafe' au lait
every morning for ten days, and Robin (the
tour manager's fiancee)
flooding the laundomat, and all of us
riding the subway, climbing The Eiffel Tower, and climbing the hill to
Sacre Coeur at sunset, our hotel room balcony overlooking Rue Jacob in
the Latin Quarter, and Joan dancing into the night at Chez Papa...
I will always remember the cathedral in Ghent...
And our ferry rides across the English Channel and The Irish Sea... (this experience later turned into song!)
And spending a few hours in the Emergency Room in a Glasgow hospital
with our soundman, J.D., who had slipped down the stairs of our
(parked) two-story bus and fallen out the open door into the street,
only to be immediately hit upon by two homeless junkies asking for
change as he lay face down beside the rear axle...
Sunrise over the Alps...
and Fifi Shtempel...
And the rest of the unforgettable people we have worked with who have
become our new family; Carol Steele, Mark Peterson, Adam Kirk, Crook
Stewart, Joan Sr., Mark Spector, Chris Flory (our inimitable bus driver from
We are so lucky to have known them all. As
for us, I cannot begin to think what to say in my website about all of
this. I have tried to write many times. Between fatigue and
overstimulation, however, my words have somehow gotten lost. I know you
may find that hard to believe. So... for a better description of
our music/tour, go to Joan's website at