534. Grey dawn over the hills.
The weather didn't hold. It rained overnight, and stayed damp. Eventually there was nothing to do but eat breakfast, hang out with the Obscure Mortuary and Terror Blade crews (Sarah apologized for not finding me the day before, and for being sold out of their demo by the time the morning rolled around), eventually finish all the beer left after Sarah and Michael started for home, the no back, kick the slugs out of the tent, and pack everything up. On to the shuttlebus.
Only problem, no bus. Both the normal bus and the replacement were broken down. No biggie, though; the airmobile/landmobile concept I had going meant that my pack was light, nothing in it that I didn't need to bring back, so the 3km to the village was no problem.
535. Bad Berka, drawing near over the Landstrasse.
536. Now entering...
537. Nick (from L.A.) waiting for his train back to the west.
So it's only an hour or so on to Berlin, and time to wrap things up. By any reasonable measure, this trip was a success; I maybe didn't see as many bands as past years, but those I did were pretty much choice. I hung out with cool people from across the world and completely emptied my pack of promo merch (well, except the buttons...) in the process. CDs, stickers, promocards, all gone, hopefully to good homes, and hopefully we get more trans-Atlantic connections out of this that are good for both sides.
So what are the lessons for merch, and for future Nachfolger, even if I end up not doing this again?
1) Wacken loves stickers, CDs not so much. This is not a DIY festival, and despite my experiences this year, most of the people you encounter don't play in bands. This makes giving CDs out tougher, if people want to wait until it's on a label. Stickers, though, even if they don't keep them, they'll play with them and get them stuck to shit, where other people will see them.
2) Under CDs, doom doesn't move in Germany. Death/grind and black/thrash go like the dickens, but I had a real hard time getting all the Dead Languages material moved. It's different, of course, if you're just chucking stuff out, but I wanted to be as sure as I could that the CDs I had were all going to people who would actually a) listen to them and b) like the band. Finding doom fans, at least at Wacken and Party.San, is just tough.
3) Buttons don't move period. No music, no space for a contact address. They are officially off the list; next year's merch call (should I do this again) will include a NO BUTTONS disclaimer. I have enough from enough bands to handle the rare cases where I'm able to give them out; bands I don't have any from can give me 5 max along with other stuff.
4) The more I lug in, the more I can kick out. It was a little tight at the end, mostly due to selection, though; if I had some death metal along, it would probably have "burned" at the same rate as Nachzehrer in Party.San. Whatever your band is (well, except doom maybe), gimme it, I'll move it, and to people who want to hear your music.
538. City limits by the hotel. I'm pretty sure my room was still in Berlin.
539. Rainscape at the Grünbergallee S-bahn stop.
Rain hiking to the S-bahn, the check-in counter closed, the stormdetonation of my soda bottle while waiting, even this pen falling apart on the way out of my pocket -- hopefully, this gets the bad luck out of the way and my pack gets to Boston the same time as I do. Seriously, if it aint one thing, it's another.
Pech noch nicht aus: because I didn't get stamped in Stavanger, I get aggro from the border control. Good thing that I'm paranoid about privacy and keep all my old ticket stubs and other personally-identifying crap to destroy on getting home; safely out regardless.
And it really was; I entered the United States in Dublin (seriously, you can do this) and sailed clean through customs in Boston, claimed my pack without issue, and managed to get an early, if expensive train, to get back to....
540. There and back again.
Sixteen days and three hours after departing, I was back where I started. The circle closes, and we are back where we belong....at least to the world, but as the foregoing may indicate, there's a way that everyone who's been across will understand, that where I and they belong is on some muddy infield with a kutte on my shoulders and a beer in my hand, on the other side of that golden spiral.