Mediterranean Working Vacation – Part 2


Mark and I have been in Italy only a week, and already we’ve found steady work.


Okay, not really. Delta Moon is not afraid of work, but we have to go with our strengths. I think we are better at eating pizza than we would be at delivering it.

After several shows in Calabria and some good times with friends there, we flew north and were reunited with our luggage. My suitcase turned out to be a treasure chest of forgotten luxuries: an electric beard trimmer, a can of boot polish, a harmonica. And of course clean clothing. It felt like Christmas.

Today we have off. We’ve been wandering around town in the rain. Tomorrow we go back to work and perhaps will even eat a pizza. Ciao, everybody.

A Video Postcard from Italy

We had a wonderful time in Italy. Thanks to all our Italian friends, and especially to Luca, Enzo, Paolo, Linda, Saro, Marko, Valentina, Serena, Eugenio, Anna, Franco, Francesco, Nino, Cristian and Roberto. Grazie per tutto.

This video was shot entirely on iPhones by Tom Gray, Mark Johnson and the one and only Vincenzo Tropepe.

Delta Moon over Italy


Our Italian tour got off to a good start in Mantua (Mantova) in a courtyard around the corner from a theater where Mozart once performed.

Marlon could not join us for this trip, so we’ve hired in an Italian drummer named Paolo Xeres. We met Paolo and his brother Marco when their band played a festival with us here in February, and we all went out to a memorable dinner together after that show. Paolo had studied the recordings well and fit right in with us.

The next day we flew south to Palermo in Sicily, where after dinner we wandered into a tenement district street festival. Bands were playing. Teenagers gunned scooters at full speed through the crowd. Little boys lit firecrackers. The night was loud, bright and crazy, and we couldn’t look around without grinning.

The next morning our friend Enzo Tropepe took this tour to a new level when he showed up in a 1973 fastback Chevy Impala. As he drove us on the highway west to Alcamo drivers of Fiats and Smart Cars honked, waved and gave us thumbs up. Our hotel was on a narrow medieval street, but we had no problem finding parking. The hotel people insisted that Enzo park the big machine directly in front with “spazio riservato” signs by either bumper.


In Alcamo we played in a plaza to an audience, the promoter estimated, of about 2,500. It was the first time I’d seen crowd surfing at a Delta Moon show. Afterwards we went to a club on the beach and jammed with the band there. We finally got to sleep about four in the morning, worn out but happy.

Sunday we rode in the Impala to a beautiful Tyrrhenian Sea beach town called Capo d’Orlando, where we played among the trees at a hillside villa. The promoter insisted that Enzo park the Impala by the stage, where it gathered some messages written in dust on the fastback. Behind the stage a lit arbor path led to a dog cemetery.


The scenery in Italy is gorgeous, and the food is delicious. But more than anything else, Delta Moon is in love with the Italian people. It’s hard times here. We have had one festival cancelled at the last minute because there was no money. There is talk that the schools in some cities may not reopen. But the people have big hearts and ready smiles. Delta Moon likes to make friends, and we feel we have many friends in Italy.

I’ll close with this photo of our friend Enzo Tropepe on the beach.


Traveling Light


Delta Moon flies to Italy on Tuesday, and I’m packing light. Last time we were there the travel space was so limited we only got to see our suitcases every third or fourth day. This time I know what’s coming and will be prepared.

The key to traveling light is discipline. Each traveler has to work out his own.

In England a few years ago I talked with a stagehand who had worked with the band A-ha. He said the singer bought sixpacks of socks at Tesco and threw each pair away once he’d worn them. He swore that was cheaper than washing them.

Lee Child’s fictional hero Jack Reacher travels everywhere with nothing but a folding toothbrush. Every couple days he buys new clothes and throws the old ones away. In one book some thugs break into his motel room and trash his toothbrush. Reacher flips and seeks revenge.

The toss-and-replace approach seems wasteful to me, though my plan may be more labor intensive. At home I like to wear natural fibers, but on the road I’m a believer in synthetics and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Pure-Castile Soap. David Lindley says the reason he wears polyester onstage is that he can wash his clothes in a motel sink with the little shampoo packet. I’ve found you can’t always count on the little shampoo packet. Polynosic rayon looks and feels better than polyester and dries in a few hours with no wrinkles. I’ll pack enough underwear and socks for three days, two cotton T-shirts, two button-down shirts and an extra pair of black jeans. That, along with an iPad, cables, pedals, a journal and some papers, fits in a shoulder bag that will go under an airplane seat. And, oh yeah, swimming trunks.

I’ll let you know how this works out. Anyway, if I have to break down and buy some clothes, where better to go shopping than Italy?

Mice in the Salad

We’ve just arrived home from two weeks in Italy, a beautiful country full of wonderful people, delicious food and breathtaking landscapes. It was also a country where none of us spoke the language, and where we faced constant puzzles just to open a doorknob, flush a toilet or turn on the hot water.

I recently read a book about learning foreign languages. The author said, “If the only thing you know is how to ask where the train station is, then you should ask everyone you meet, whether you want to go there or not.”

On this trip I tried to be fearless about speaking Italian. Simple conversations turned out to be no problem. People seemed to appreciate the effort and often responded with broken English, so we would end up speaking a sort of half-and-half language with a lot of hand gestures and would understand each other perfectly.

One night I refused a dish of spaghetti fifteen minutes before having to sing, saying, “No, grazie, I’ve got to cantare.”

The waiter smiled, said, “Okay,” and walked away.

I turned to Luca, our Italian booking agent and road manager, and said, “He understood me.”

“Of course,” Luca said. “‘I’ve got to cantare’ is perfectly fine.”

But sometimes the communication broke down, like the time we were asked, “Would you like mice in your salad?”

After a pause Marlon ventured, “Maybe just a couple small ones.”

“I’m sorry?”


“Um, yes, is a yellow vegetable.”



Well, si, we all wanted corn in our salads.

Delta Moon in Italia 3

“Always think of the universe as one living organism, with a single substance and a single soul.” — Marcus Aurelius

One way to get a sense of what that ancient Roman emperor meant is through music. Music makes us one — at least the humans. Another way is through food. Viewing the world as Marcus Aurelius did, you realize that you are what you eat, even before you eat it.

Here in Italy we are enjoying some of the best food in the world. Luca, our Italian booking agent who has been traveling with us, explains it this way: “It is in the ground. You travel fifty kilometers and the food is different, because the earth is different.” The ham and cheese around Parma, for instance, are different from any other ham and cheese in the world.

When I think of the giant agribusiness farms of today, the poisons and chemicals and genetic mutations and dead zones in our oceans, I have to wonder what kind of living organism we are turning ourselves into.

Well, I don’t mean to get too preachy. Life is sweet. We should all do what we can to make it sweeter.


Delta Moon in Italia 2


Three shows down in Italy, they’ve all gone well. Pictured above is an after-hours jam at La Dispensa in Mirto, Sicily. We arrived in Mirto in the dark, so we had no idea where we were, except that we had been climbing winding mountain roads in the rain. In the morning we awoke to this view:


My black cowboy shirt is getting a little pungent. We flew south from Milan with only one carry-on bag each, so I could bring just one stage outfit with changes of underwear. I must not have offended anyone last night, because after the show there was plenty of air-kissing and drink buying (mostly grappa and a little Irish whiskey). Anyway, it was good to have a day off in Palermo. I washed my socks in a hotel sink and hung them on the balcony railing to dry. Everybody’s in good spirits. Tomorrow we fly north and rejoin our luggage.


Delta Moon in Italia 1

We all agree that this trip to Italy has raised the bar for the first day in a foreign country.

We traveled for two days solid, snatching bits of sleep here and there with our clothes and shoes on, until time had no meaning except for how long until the next flight. Light or dark outside? Coffee or beer with this meal? It didn’t matter.

At the airport in Lamezia Terme, here in the south of Italy, we were met by Enzo, who, with his cowboy boots and Fender guitars and Ford 150 pickup, is only a little larger than life. (Mark: “Are there many trucks like this in Italy?” Enzo: “Maybe four or five.”) Enzo took us to a spaghetti western restaurant, with horses in stalls outside, saloon-style swinging doors, and pictures of Butch Cassidy and Robert E. Lee on the walls. The antipasto and spaghetti was, as we expected, delicious, different than anything we had tasted before and much spicier than northern Italian.

Mark and I are staying at Enzo’s house and playing his guitars, since we had to leave all our instruments with our agent in Milan before the trip south. Franher and Marlon are staying with Enzo’s friend Saro, whose house is a museum, a collection of ancient items from all over the world — carved wooden doorways, columns, bird skulls, turtle skulls, monkey skulls, a bowl made from the top of a human skull inset with metal and turquoise, a thousand — and I mean a thousand — monkey teeth on strings, rusty padlocks, rusty keys, spears, swords, musical instruments (“I like things that vibrate”), a giant Javanese gong, Tibetan vibrating bowls, Jew’s harps, masks — on and on and on.

Mark asked, “How old is this house?”

“Not old,” said Saro. “I built it myself in the last 12 years. But this area is very organic. There’s a volcano and the earth shakes. The buildings fall down and people rebuild them with the same rocks. Some of these rocks have been in houses for maybe 3,000 years.”

Saro takes the long view. He told me, “This area is cut off on land by the mountains, but the sea is a crossroads. Over the centuries this land has been taken over by everyone — the Greeks, the North Africans, the Turks, the Saracens, the Normans. They each come in and are strong for a few hundred years, then someone else comes along. Now is the turn of the northern cities — Milan, Turin and others. They have ruled for the last 150 years. My grandmother and her friends could not understand Italian as it is spoken on the TV and radio.”