We kept building up our finances and building my repertoire of songs. We had the idea that we would finally try playing on the street for tips. The only problem was I didn’t think I could sing. In all the bands I was in, somebody else was the singer.
Early on, the singers, full of their ego, would ridicule my attempts at singing. “You sound like a cat that got his tail caught under a rocking chair,” the singers told me. Nonetheless, I started collecting lyrics of classic rock and roll songs and began to memorize the words. I figured I had to know some good tunes that would interest people in dropping some money on us, or at least in our hat.
How to Sing
Donna told me, “You can imitate voices! If you can do that, you can control your voice. Just imitate Elvis or whoever’s song you’re singing. You’ll be fine!” So that’s what I did. It wasn’t so bad, and slowly I began to sing a little in front of Davey and his friends. They didn’t seem to mind, so I kept working on my confidence to sing in front of people.
Donna said, “Once you get ’singing’ down, look for your voice in there and try that.” That took much longer. I had a few songs I had written and even recorded, like that cassette tape I recorded at Mom’s house. The vocals were terrible, in my opinion, but that was because I was unsure of myself and lacked confidence, and it showed. So I kept building and working on remembering many songs I thought people would like. I wondered what the streets of Europe would bring.
We were happy and well fed on “Chee”, Davey’s barbecue chicken, and excited to get back out on a new adventure. The 1994 European Rainbow Gathering in Slovenia was our target. We were ready to start collecting new country stamps on our passports. Neither of us had ever been to Europe, and Donna had never been out of the US. Slovenia’s neighboring country Croatia was at civil war. There was an air of uncertainty as to what to expect.
Unsuccessfully, we tried to make our packs smaller with fewer items but still managed to have way too much. Jewelry-making tools, silver wire, crystals, books, extra guitar strings, a camp stove, pots & pans, utensils, bowls, pads for sleeping, a three-person tent, sleeping bags, warm clothes, cool clothes, wind chimes, a teddy bear, etc. the list was long and heavy. We still managed to stay at the maximum level our packs could handle. Whether we could handle them or not is another story.
We investigated how we could get to Europe for the least amount of money. This was the moment when we discovered flying ‘standby.’ There was a company called Air Hitch (unfortunately defunct since 2009) that offered a ticket to Luxembourg by way of Reykjavík, Iceland, on Iceland Air for about $169 each! You just weren’t sure if you were flying from one day to the next. You had to be flexible, which we were. Our excitement was palpable as the day neared our potential departure. Would we be able to leave on the day we hoped?
At the Airport
Shannon drove us to the airport, unsure whether to stay or leave. We stood in the short line to the ticket counter with our cumbersome backpacks, scooching them forward on the floor through the cue. Finally, we arrived at the counter and handed the vouchers with our passports to the lady at the counter. After a few minutes, she gave us our official seat tickets, and we checked our bags. We were going to fly! I’m sure Shannon was as relieved as we were as we hugged, said goodbye, and searched for the gate. Getting through immigration and getting our passports stamped out of the US was nothing like it is now. We were soon at the terminal entrance, waiting to board the plane.
I’ve been on a big plane before, but this was the first big plane for Donna in a long time. Back then, they even had a smoking section on the plane! As we found our seats and buckled in, I could feel she was a little trepidatious. She recounts the story of her previous flying experience in a tiny 19-seater twin prop plane that bounced around in a storm. It was a business shuttle between Nashville and Louisville, Kentucky. Thinking she was going to be in a larger aircraft with a toilet, she opted to wait until she was on the plane to relieve herself. She was very uncomfortable as the aircraft bounced in the stormy weather. She then looked into the cockpit and saw the co-pilot reading a book, “How To Fly A Plane.” I’m sure it was a joke, but it affected her poorly. The experience stuck with her.
On the Plane
I miraculously found a small soft case for Ms. Guitara while we were in Murfreesboro. I stuffed my little guitar in the overhead. Settling into the seats, Donna noticed the mist that came down from the vents before taking off. The vapor made her think maybe something was wrong, but I assured her that it was because as the water droplets blow further away from the AC vents, the air is once again warmer, and the water vapor turns into a gas again. The flight attendant made sure we all settled in, and we fastened our seatbelts.
Before long, the plane fired up the turbo jets, and we started to taxi to the runway. Excitement and a bit of nervousness as Donna squeezed my hand in anticipation. The plane moved into position, and the jets pushed us forward faster and faster. The wheels on the runway felt rough. Donna held onto my hand with an intense grip until we lifted off the ground and moved upwards into the clouds. We leveled off, and she relaxed. I joked that my hand had turned purple from her superhuman strength. Nervousness gave way to excitement. She was alright now, and we were on our way.