Flying and layovers are a key component to tours—like the one I just wrapped up through Australia and Japan—where there is no traveling by van or bus. In fact, if you’ve seen Anthony Bourdain’s TV show about layovers in different cities around the world, you have a pretty good idea of what a rock tour is like (if you add a gig and takeout, that is).
One of the first things I do when I travel to a new city is try and discover what the locals do. I’m not too big on the touristy type of stuff, unless I’m with my family. Tourist food and tourist factoids all seem to blend together into a homogenized stew of ersatz nachos and cardboard hamburgers.
Between Perth, Australia, and Tokyo we had a 10-hour layover in Singapore. Singapore sits just 70 miles from the equator, so heat and mugginess are factors if you choose to go out of the airport (which I did). Although a cab into the heart of the city is only $9, you have to make sure that the area you are going to is “open.” The area I went to was not open, so I treated myself to a long and aimless walk in the heat. I finally found a local place to eat, and I was so damn hungry by the time I was served my meal that I will forever love the taste of fishheads over goats’ innards (or whatever the hell I ate).
But all this travel talk is really just a lead-up to something that happened when I finally got to Tokyo.
My family was to join me there for the end of my trip. My daughters had never been to Japan, and they were super-excited to go to an area in Tokyo called Harajuku (it has a trippy, Capitol Hill–esque vibe . . . on steroids). The day before they arrived, I decided to cab it over to Harajuku and do a little “recon” of the area so that I could guide us through the maze with as much ease as possible. (I have learned this recon tactic by getting lost with kids in tow too many times. Not cool or fun.)
During my cab ride, my stomach started to rebel from my questionable meal in Singapore the day before. This happens all the time on the road, and my cure-all (passed down from our road-dog forefathers in DOA and Black Flag. No shit.) is salted peanuts. Upon my arrival in Harajuku, I ducked in to a 7-Eleven type of store and got a nice peanut-and-rice cracker mixture. Perfect for eating and recon-ing on the go!
Harajuku is all connected by alleyway streets lined with themed shops in amazing contrast to each other: punk-rock clothes next to pastel-only skirt shops next to early-’80s N.Y. beat-boy clothing next to a Star Wars store. It becomes obvious that many of the printed T-shirts with band names or Star Wars characters are bootlegs (last time I checked, Skywalker’s first name is “Luke,” not “Look”).
It was in one of these alleyways that I stumbled upon a rock-and-roll (bootleg) T-shirt store. What caught my eye was a Metallica/GNR split-band T-shirt in the front window. Of course, this shirt never existed in real life back in the day, but it got me to further peruse the inside of the store. I was met with a dazzling array of O.G. Guns N’ Roses shirts with some “artwork” close to the original and other “artwork” comically missing. Just as I was looking at a skull-guys-on-the-cross GNR shirt (where we all looked more like chimps than dastardly rock-and-roll hellions), I was asked to leave . . . for eating inside of the store.
I was relieved that they didn’t recognize me. I rather hope that I look nothing like a skull-chimpy type of rocker. Nope. I’m a rock-and-roll hellion, with salted peanuts . . . on a mission to find the bunny-petting cafe and nail salon and Alice in Wonderland–themed restaurant in Harajuku.
I’m a bad-ass. E
Duff McKagan is the founding bassist of Guns N’ Roses and the leader of Seattle’s Loaded. His column runs every Thursday at seattleweekly.com/reverb.