Cold Travels

Well all that snow seemed great last night, but the morning we woke to was just cold and no sign of white.  However, somewhere along the line the generator for the bus stopped working.  Usually that just means no power for our laptops or for watching movies.  However, now that temperatures dipped close to freezing heat became really important.  However, there was no time to fix the generator so we rode 5 hours on a near freezing bus to our next stop.  Brrrrrrrrr.Tonight’s performance was by far the very best of the tour.  Made even better because we caught it on video tape.  I can’t wait to see it.

Tawanda: the gateway to LaQeesha

Well after some sleep we gatherd again to rehearse and perform the show we hadn’t touched for 2 weeks.  I actually think the time away benefited us.  We came back with a fresh perspective on the show and played to an incredibly receptive audience in Tawanda, Pennsilvainia.

After the show we gathered in an old train depot across from the theatre for left-overs from a private reception the theatre had for contributors.  These left-overs were far better than the Trisha Yearwood leftovers we had in Joliet.

A special treat was the beautiful falling snow-flakes right after the show.  Us Texans don’t see a lot of snow, so it’s still very special when we do.

Being apart from these people highlighted to me how much I had grown accostumed to them all.  Now playing some of the last shows with them it is becoming more and more clear that I will miss them terribly. They have become a second family to me.  Taught me things about myself and others that I might never have learned. Everyone on the tour has issues (self-included) but it has been wonderful to get close enough to everyone to explore them a little bit.  I am enriched for the experience and will forever be different for it.

On the Road Again

The night before we left town for the second leg of the tour, Matt called to make sure I would be there at 7:30 sharp so we could leave at 8 sharp.  Mary told me not to hustle to much because we almost never leave on time.  However, I err’d on the side of caution and got theree right at 7:30am.  Apparently there was some delay with the truck we were taking on this leg of the tour and it might be a little while before we could leave…

8 hours later we were on our way to Pennsylvania on what turned out to be a 36 hour bus ride.  We pulled in to our motel at 5:30 am – 2 days after we left. Needless to say we were a little tired.

My Kind of Town (Chicago Is)

We drove long hours to arrive in Chicago a day early.  Today a select few of us grouped together in the lobby of our Joliet hotel fora adventure ride into downtown Chicago.  Today turned outto be the ticker-tape parade celebrating the White Sox victory in the world series.  We were the only ones on the train to downtown not sporting a Sox jersey or ball cap.Upon arriving at LaSalle Station we walked within blocks of the ticker-tape parade.  Close enough to see it, but not IN it.  Its pretty much like the old World War II films.  An endless rain of confetti from high in the sky.  This is an amazing sight to behold.

We met up with a friend of Alicia’s who took us to a great Chicago Deep dish pizza joint called Pizano’s.  We split a large Mike’s special deep dish and a Caesar salad.

Alicia’s friend informed us that Wicked had just started playing at the Ford Center’s Oriental theatre.  It was all sold out in NY, and the tour had already come and gone in DFW so this was probably my only shot at seeing it.  We tried to get tickets and alas they were sold out.

We all walked over to this great big reflective jelly bean called the Cloud Gate.  Next door to that was the Pritzker Pavilion.  After taking lots of pictures we went to the Art Institute where I got to see the original Degas sculpture entitled “Little Dancer aged fourteen”  Mary gave her mom a porcelain replica of this statuette that she bought at Lincoln center. 

We were only there for about an hour and the place closed up.  Men were drumming on buckets outside.  We met up with Lydia’s brother and former boyfriend. They took us across the river to shop.

After shopping we walked to a seafood restaurant for dinner with live music.  We enjoyed the food in the corner booth.

We had been unable to secure tickets to Wicked, but we happened to be walking past the theatre at intermission.  We tried to “second act’ the production, but they’re on to that.  I bought Mary an embroidered t-shirt and we rode the train home.

It had been a cold night, butt we had a lot of fun and I can’t resist saying, “It’s my kind of town, Chicago is.”

And on drums… Derwood Lesh

Today turns out to be Der’s birthday.  Der is short for Derwood Lesh.  He’s the drummer in our band and long time friend to Matt (producer, director, bus driver…)To celebrate Der’s birthday we went to Patrick’s Restaurant & Lounge for dinner.  There was a poker tournament in progress and several of the guys bought in and played.  It wasn’t long at all before our fearless leader returned wearing fuzzy consolation dice around his neck.

The atmosphere was wonderful in this little pub and we all enjoyed each other’s company as we talked for hours.
One by one the boys who had bought into the game returned to us.  Every one of them – except Paul.
Paul as it turns out is quite a card player and he was in it till the very end.

As Paul battled it out with the rest of the locals.  The staff brought out a piece of cake for Der and sang Happy birthday in about 4 different keys at the same time.

Matt bought everyone a drink and we all rose a glass and toasted our friend Der.
Matt also took this opportunity to tell us that although he had yelled at everyone over the course of the past few days that he was glad to have us all along for the ride.  This was the closest thing to an apology we were ever likely to receive and whether he meant it that way or not was debatable, but in a way it offered a little bit of closure for us all and at least for me put things right again.
As the night went on the Men all sang a song from the show called Shenandoah to the delight of everyone.  Especially me since I knew from the start that they had started it about a third too high and poor Steven would be reaching notes only dolphins could hear.
It was a very manly evening there singing and drinking with everyone.  It helped to drowned out longings for home a little.
By the end of the night Paul had come away the winner of the Poker tournament.  He won a poker table top which will be fun on the bus, except now that we all know that Paul’s such a card shark; no one will want to play with him.  I mean – Would you feel comfortable playing poker with a man who brings his own poker table with him?
When I got back to my room Lauren, Lydia and aLicia all came in and we talked about everything under the sun.  It struck me that in my normal life I would never be able to spend this much time talking to anyone and it has been a delight to get to know them all.
At about 2pm we all decided to call it a night and everyone went home.  But I couldn’t sleep so I turned on to the TV and checked my email.  There was a beautiful email from Mary back home.
She wrote that although she was doing fine, she didn’t feel complete and I must say I concur.  It hasn’t been very long yet, but I have had an ever present feeling that I just wasn’t whole.
When two people get married it is the joining of two into one and I am beginning to feel a lot of guilt at having separated us this much for so long.
If I keep real busy and talk to people and party and play games I can mask that emptiness a little, but there is still a voice inside of me asking where Mary is.  The voice is not unlike my son’s in that it is incapable of understanding why there is so much distance between us and why I can’t come home RIGHT NOW.  I try in vain to reason with myself that it is a matter of practicality and that the money and new experiences are somehow worth some sacrifice.  There is no silencing that voice within.
I can only try to see this through and know that although the distance is hard; our love is strong enough to weather this and much much more if necessary.

The Meeting and Dark Travel

Day 2 was now over and sleep and food had been in short supply.  One thing that hadn’t been in short supply was whining, griping and complaining about communication and food and on and on.  Of course everyone has their own set of beefs with how things are being handled.  Most of the concerns are completely substantiated and needed to be addressed.
Well at noon, or Director, Producer, Writer, Talent and Bus Driver, Matt decided it was time to address them.

Matt gathered us all together and laid into us all with as many expletives as were possible.  This went on for a couple of minutes and I’ll need to paraphrase a little to convey to you the jist of what he was trying to say.

Basically he told us we were on our own for meals and that if we were hungry we needed to find a solution on our own instead of depending on him to appoint meal locations and times.  His biggest beef was that we had all whined about it over and over, but hadn’t actively tried to be a part of the solution.  This was what got him angry.

These are the first days of a close symbiotic relationship between 16 very different people and we are all working out how, where and when to be.  Now that he had said we needed to fend for ourselves we all know we are responsible for finding our food either by ordering Pizza or stashing granola bars or what not.

His point about whining was also a very good one.  We had all gotten pretty negative.  HOWEVER – The stern cussing out we all endured was, in my mind, uncalled for.  Steven got up and left and I considered it – as did most of us.

I stayed because I could tell Matt was genuinely ticked off and maybe even hurt.  From his perspective, he’s doing EVERYTHING and trying his hardest to make everything work and we’re just complaining about how bad a job he’s been doing, so I can see how he might be upset.

That being said, I don’t know if many of us would put up with another verbal thrashing like we received today.

With no generator there was no electricity or lights or air-conditioning on the bus.  We were forced to travel with the windows open and lights off.  As long as the bus was moving it was actually very nice to have the cool breezes of Alabama and Tennessee floating by.

The lack of electricity meant that when batteries died as they tend to do on a 9 hour bus ride, we had to resort to talking to one another for entertainment.

I spent a couple of hours talking to our new bass player Lauren.  I learned all sorts of things about her that – had I been buried in my laptop I would have missed out on.  It’s nice when circumstances pull the plug and cause you to get back in touch with where you are.

Now, as it was getting dark I settle back in my seat and called Mary to check on how things were back home.  She seemed good and I was feeling better about being trapped out on the road being cussed out and sleep deprived.

Then, I talked to my boy.  There’s really nothing quite like hearing your own offspring talking to you from thousands of miles away.  He was bright and cheery and sounded genuinely excited to talk to me.  I started to loose it on his second sentence.  Or conversation went something like this.

Where are you daddy?
Well, I’m in Alabama sweaty.
I don’t know where that is.
Well, it’s pretty far away.  About a thousand miles.
Are you coming home?
Well, I’m afraid it’s going to be awhile sweetie.
Are you coming tomorrow?
Well, no.  I’ll be home after Halloween.

At this point Max started to cry and it was hard to tell exactly what he was saying, but I could tell he was upset and I think he may have thought I was telling him he couldn’t dress up for Halloween.  He started to cry and say he wanted to be Pablo and dress up like a Penguin.  I was a mess at this point and couldn’t talk anymore.

Mary took the phone back and asked me if I was okay.

I wasn’t.  I’m still not.

In the back ground I heard him saying I broke his heart.  I know it was 8:30 or so and he was past his bedtime and therefore prone to dramatics due to his need of sleep.  I also knew that he missed me and I missed him.  He wanted me there and I couldn’t be.

I thought I was doing alright, but apparently not.

Sold Out in Florida

Well, we got to bed at 4am and housekeeping rolled through the door at about 9:30, but it felt more like 5 am.  Turns out one of our girls ended up with mouse droppings between her sheets when she tried to lay down.  Several of the crew had no air-conditioning and slept in 80-90 degree tropical humid heat for 2 nights.  If you are ever in Fort Walton, Florida DON”T stay at the BEST INN.  (It just can’t be.)

We were given the option to either go to Target or eat at the crab shack next door at 1 pm.  Both seemed pretty necessary, but I opted for nourishment.  The hotel was sitting right on the dock of the bay and right next door was a wharf of a restaurant where they served some disappointing, but filling crab cakes.

After eating I went and slept for a while and watched a little TV.  We were told to be on the bus at 4pm to go to the theatre.  We all assumed there would be some sort of dinner arrangements.  (This would later turn out to be a mistake.)

As we circled all around the campus looking in vain for the theatre the boys noticed a pretty intense hissing sound coming from the front right wheel.  Something was leaking!

No time for that though, we pulled into the loading dock and joined the crew who had been working all day to get the set in.  The theatre turned out to be world class with union stage hands waiting to tend our every need.

We set up, did a sound check and it was pretty much time to start the show.
Sound had some problems with feedback early on, the show went pretty well and the 1400 seat theatre was sold out.  They seemed to really eat the show up.

Once the show was over we all pilled out on the loading dk and waited for the bus repairman to arrive to fix whatever the hissing was.  Of course now, for fun, the generator wasn’t starting either which meant no air-conditioning.

I had easten at 1pm and had nothing since and it was rapidly approaching 1 am.  There was talk of a beer run and some of us recommended that it might be a good idea to do a food run as well.

Subway seems to be everywhere and so we all put in orders for Subway which a gracious stage hand volunteered to shuttle us to obtain.
We got into the hotel about 1 and we all hit the sack pretty hard.

First Day Out – 19 hour Bus Ride

It wasn’t the sound of my alarm clock that awoke me at 6 am this morning, but instead the reminder alarm of my cell phone.  I set that to remind me to call my guitar player Paul and make sure he was awake.  Although I made it home shortly before 1 am last night, I hadn’t gone to sleep until about 3.  I had spent those 2 hours talking to my wife Mary about everything under the sun, not wanting to say goodnight and go to sleep because then it would be time to leave.

Last  night was supposed to be our second rehearsal with our new bass player, Lauren.  However, due to “circumstances beyond control” our rehearsal was canceled and Lauren is from Seattle, WA and is the most recent bass player to join our little band of 5 instrumentalists in the band which accompanies the new musical adventures of the 3 Red Neck Tenors.

Now I say supposed to be our second rehearsal because the bus containing our music and several of our singers is still on its way back from Oklahoma where it had been undergoing repairs.  We can only hope that this represents the end of any troubles with our bus.

So it’s 6 AM and I call Paul and try to sound as peppy as possible.  His girl-friend Lindsey answered the phone and confirmed that they were in fact up and moving.  Later on the bus she said I sounded pretty asleep which is consistent with my memory of our conversation.

Well, I shoved the last of my belonging into my suitcase and zipped it shut.  I crept into my son Max’s room and gave him a kiss on the cheek to say goodbye.  Hey responded with a yawn and rolled over and went back to sleep.  It is going to be hard to leave him behind.

Then I went in to say goodbye to Mary.  She wished me safety and told me she loved me and I was out the door.  Besides saying goodbye to my wife and kid for 8+ weeks I am also saying goodbye to my house.

My wife and I bought our current house about 5 years ago and are just about to close the deal on selling it.  We are having a house built in Aledo which is significantly bigger, better school, and higher priced.

So farewells are flowing pretty freely as I had kissed both members of my family goodbye and just closed the door for the last time to my home of 5 years.  However, no time for that – I’m late!

Now, as I’m sure will become exceedingly evident in the entries to follow this, the Grapevine based production company is not exactly famous for doing things according to any kind of schedule.  However, I didn’t wish to start the tour off late, so I broke the land speed record for traversing from Fort Worth to Grapevine.

When I arrived there was of course plenty of time before we were underway and I was able to run to Chick-fillet and grab some breakfast.  I moved into my spot in the back of the bus and proceeded to sleep off and on for several hours until it was noon.

When I woke up we had pulled into a bus stop somewhere just before the Texas – Louisiana border.  I’m usually pretty disoriented when I first wake up, but add to that being at some non-descript bus stop where the clearest landmark is the presence of trees that are much taller and greener than the normal central Texas variety.  Apparently there was no further plan for lunch than this truck stop so I bought a Hotlink, a bag of pretzels and a water.

Tonight we stopped just out of Jackson Mississippi to indulge in some local Mexican food.  Now we’re headed further towards Alabama and eventually to our destination of Niceville, Florida.  Our estimated time of arrival is now 2:30am.

Traveling hasn’t been to bad, but it’s only 9 PM now so we’ll see how I feel when we get to the Hotel 17 hours after leaving Grapevine

Preparing to leave home

I am about to embark on a nine-week national tour by bus and it was suggested to me that there might be a few people curious about what life is life on “the road.” Since I am about to have buckets of extra time on my hands I thought it would be fun to share a semi-daily journal entry with those that might be interested.  This is the first entry to get things started.

Just to set the stage here.  I am 29 years old, married to my wife Mary and father to my son Max.  I have worked as a musician since high-school and have enjoyed a steady increase in successes.

My current employer is the Aledo United Methodist Church.  I am their Director of Music and Fine Arts.  They have graciously granted me a sabatical (leave of absence) so that I may join the National tour of The 3 Redneck Tenors as their Musical Director.

Basically, I will be playing keyboards, leading the 5 piece band and maintaining high standards for the cast of the show on a tour of cities across the United States (mostly east coast).  We travel by bus built in the ’80’s, and once owned by Disney on Ice.

This show was just created so it’s really still being developed as we tour.  It has been exciting, and challenging to be part of such an ambitious project from almost the begining.  I hope to continue to report on the ongoing adventures of our little tour.  I hope it will be entertaining to some and that it will provide an outlet for me whilst away from my friends and family back home.

Show Dates – 2005 Fall Tour

Date Venue City State
August 24-25 The Palace Theatre SOLD OUT! Grapevine TX
September 1 The Palace in Corsicana SOLD OUT! Corsicana TX
September 22 Univ. of Science and Arts of Oklahoma SOLD OUT! Chickasha OK
October 1 The Arts Center at Okaloosa-Walton College SOLD OUT! Niceville FL
October 6 Paramount Theatre SOLD OUT! Bristol TN
October 13 Dubois Area Community Concerts Dubois PA
October 14 Dundalk Community Concerts Baltimore MD
October 17 Greater Hazleton Concert Series SOLD OUT! Hazleton PA
October 18 Municipal Auditorium Morganton NC
October 20 Odel Williams Auditorium Supply NC
October 21 Johnston Community College Smithfield NC
October 22 JE Broxhill Civic Center Lenoir NC
October 25 Alleghany Highlands Arts Council Covington VA
October 29 Rialto Square Theatre Joliet IL
Back home Nov 1st – 14th
November 17 Keystone Theatre Towanda PA
November 18 State Theatre Easton PA
November 19 Keswick Theatre Philadelphia PA
November 23 Bass Performance Hall Ft. Worth TX