It has been an action packed 2 months since my last post. That is really hard to believe, but here we are, my calendar doesn’t lie. I have a lot to share about the last 2 months, but that isn’t for this post.

This post leads off with a little disappointment, but I think it will turn around nicely. I am back out on the road…

Temporarily.

I swear.

Actually, this was kind of the plan from the very beginning. I would go from full time road guy to part time road guy to no time road guy. And this is the part time part. However, since the General asked me to consider this and I accepted, he has moved on to a swanky shiny LA lifestyle. I have also lost the Worldly Giant. We said good bye to him last night and he is off to become more worldly. But I digress. I am back out here temporarily, four and a half more weeks. Then I get to go back home to JC and my shop. But I digress further.

It had been 2 whole months since I had been in an airport/airplane. Glorious. And a record for me, I think. But truly Glorious. It had been even longer since I experienced air travel alone. Normally I have my tribe with me on travel days and recently I have had JC. As it turns out, the people that I am lucky enough to travel with act as a sounding board, of sorts, something to distance and insulate myself from the foolishness happening around me, the foolishness that is the Air Travel Experience.

Last Sunday, JC dropped me off at SEATAC airport. Alone. I have logged almost 300,000 miles in the air in the last 20 years. That would be the equivalent of flying around the earth 12 times, so I passed off my Casual Flyer badge a long time ago and I believe that it is that quantity of time spent in the airport/airplane that has made me act the way I am about to describe.

It all started sooooo… well it all started. First challenge was overcoming Alaska Air’s staffing imbalance. The airlines have made the touch screen, self check in kiosks fairly standard and I like that. When it works. Lucky for me, it worked on this trip. Neato. However, to balance out the incredible quantity of kiosks, I counted 28, and the 20 baggage drop desks, Alaska Air decided on this day, Sunday in the middle of Labor Day Weekend, to schedule TWO (2) attendants to deal with checked baggage and ticket issues. While I was in one of the TWO (2) lines to drop my bag, the attendant announced that she was hungry and that (thank God) I was her last passenger and that everyone behind me needed to go to one of the other desks, of which there was now ONE (1). Somehow and from somewhere, FOUR (4) Alaska Air employees come out of the mist to…. wait for it… direct the other passengers to the now ONE (1) line to check bags. Not to man the other NINETEEN (19) stations, but to direct and shape the now long and angry line. Stupid.

Security. When I step up to security, there is not a single thing in my pockets, my laptop is out, my shoes are off, my hoodie is in my bag, I have no liquids, I have no jewelry, I NEVER BEEP. Except when it is a “Random Screening” beep. So that happened and I was pat down and bomb swept. Whatever, no problem.

Let’s fast forward through the pleasant “waiting for the plane” time and get to the good stuff.

After the first class passengers, Alaska boards by row, back of the plane to the front. Seems easy. Should be easy. Still can’t figure out why it’s not easy. Why does a guy sitting in row 6 try to board when the are boarding rows 25 and higher? Glad you asked. My grandfather told me to be cautious of large groups of people. For every 10 people in a group, the collective IQ of the average guy drops 5 points. There are hundreds if not thousands of people in the airport at any given time. That does not bode well for the average guy. By that math, the average guy has the IQ of a frozen turkey leg while in the airport and we all know a frozen turkey leg doesn’t know or understand where the number 6 falls in the series of numbers 1 to 34.

On the plane. To help illustrate the way everything went down I have made a pretty simple map of my surroundings on the plane. Normally I sit in a window seat. I like to sit down, put my head against the curve of the plane, sleep and pretend that none of this is happening. This trip I was given the gift of an aisle seat.

The specific characters. I’m the one labeled ME, clever, huh? In front of me is a guy that is on every flight, that I like to call “Take this opportunity to do exactly what the flight attendants just asked you to stop doing” guy. I know, it’s a little wordy. To my right, my buddy, you can tell by how casually his arm is around me, The Dad. To my left, an adorable little 4 year old princess of an only child. And to Princess’ left, “The only thing more important than me, is the casual needs of my only child” Mom. So there ya have it, stage is set.

Plane is still boarding. Mom won’t get out of the aisle. Princess needs her juice and Teddy. Dad is trying to shove, what appears to be an overstuffed, nylon, whale stomach into the overhead. We could have peeled the top off of the plane and that bag still wouldn’t have fit, but simple physics isn’t slowing this guy down at all. Did I mention that all of this is happening 6 to 8 inches from my face? All of this is happening 6 to 8 inches from my face. Thankfully, a flight attendant takes the bag away from him and he sits down. Now is a good time to mention that I am 6’4″ tall and weigh about 200 pounds. Airplanes are not designed for people to be over 5’6″ and 145 pounds. While Dad tries to get settled, I ask if he would like to trade seats, to sit with his family, a gesture I would almost never make, because of the middle seat. He declines, saying that he couldn’t put anyone in the middle seat. While Mom is hitting seated passengers with toys and cheerios and purses and jackets, Princess has started being really cute and blowing kisses. To everyone. Except Dad. Which I guess hit a nerve and he started frantically blowing kisses her way. Kisses of all kinds, he had names for them all. Big kisses, monkey kisses, hippo kisses, birdie kisses, muppet kisses, he’s firing them off so fast that the last half of his barrage was being delivered from the middle of my seat, directly over my lap. He stopped suddenly, realizing where he had traveled to and looked up at me. I tried to crack a smile as I asked again,

Me: Would you like to trade seats?

Dad: No really, I’m fine.

Me: Umm…

Dad: Besides, I feel safer in a middle seat.

Me: Sir, do you understand that you should not, currently, feel safer in a middle seat?

Dad: …………….(processing……….) ………… (slowly retreats to his middle seat)

Mom sits down, but leaves the overhead bin open.

30 fairly quiet minutes of flying goes by, reading my magazine and being generally untouched by my surroundings. The overhead bin is still open. Then Reclining Guy does what Reclining Guy does. He reclines. As a tall guy I believe that because the airlines have crammed so many rows of seats into any given plane, they should do away with the reclining function. Airline seats contain complicated math. It amazes me that the recline cannot make the chair comfortable for the user but it can crush every inch of free space between the user and the person behind. I refuse to use it myself. Even though I think the top of my head is really nice, I know that no one wants to examine it for a 3 hours. Well, when Reclining Guy reclines I lose all legroom. So when I move my body, I move his chair. After about 45 to 50 minutes of this tussle, Reclining Guy turns around and looks at me, doesn’t say anything, just looks.

Me: Yes?

RG: Will you stop kicking my seat?

Me: No.

RG: What?!?!

Me: Well, let’s see if I can explain. Your chair back and my legs are trying to occupy the same space. The difference between your situation and mine is that you are choosing to lean your seat back and there for choosing for me to move your chair everytime I move my legs, where as my legs are occupying the only space they can without me making you and those around us VERY uneasy. So instead of getting all up in arms, let’s just all sit upright in our chairs like big boys, shall we?

He didn’t put his seat back up, but I guess I didn’t expect him to. I lost that one, but I did manage to move every time he was just about to fall asleep. Kind of like a win, especially when its all you can see, because he is reclined, into my face.

Oh and the overhead bin is still open.

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A Big Day Indeed

Posted: July 9, 2011 in Road Life, Touring

This day has been a long time coming, a very long time, over a decade long time.

First and foremost, today marks the last day of the last Broadway show in the Colonial Theater in Boston. This place has been entertaining Boston since December 1900, almost reaching 111 years. The history this place holds is inspiring, and it’s loss devastating. It is an honor to be among the last to add my name, for the 5th time, to the history that is this building. We can only hope that someone with more money than I will step in and reopen her, and maybe replace that damn elevator upstage right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today also marks my last day with West Side Story, and my last tour. There is a chance that I may make an encore appearance with the show on the west coast later this year, but I choose to view that as chance to see my friends rather than a relapse. Encore aside, today is pretty emotional. Lat night and all day today, I have been reflecting on my career, and my familyships that have been born of it. I am more excited than I can explain and anxious doesn’t do it justice. Leaving my road family and my chosen career behind has it’s extreme downsides, but never once, in this entire process, have I ever doubted my choice. After this long it is time for me to move on and see what I can do next.

One of the biggest downsides is ending a 16 year working relationship with my best friend. The idea of leaving him behind, after everything that we have been through, leaves a hole in me. But, as it has happened our entire career together, when a door opens for one, it opens for both. In the past it was the same door, but now the doors lead to different paths. His door also allows him to leave the road behind and that helps to fill the hole that my decisions have created. It helps me to know that he will be stationary, a short plane ride away. So, here is to The General, and his exciting new path. The journey has been long and will continue to be fruitful. It has been an honor to be your right hand. Cheers, my brother.

 

 

 

 

 

I will miss my entire road family, but I know for a fact that the familyships we have, can stand the test of time and the challanges of distance. Nobody is more that a plane ride away. This is not good bye, more aptly “See you soon.”

Tomorrow will mark the dawn of a new day. Tomorrow, JC and I will fly to Charlotte, and spend a few days with her family and friends. Those three days, I am sure, will need to be a post all to itself. On Wednesday, we will load the Vaporizer, JC’s little hybrid, on to a trailer, hook that trailer to the new Jeep, Sookie, and head out on a 2883 mile adventure across the country. That too, I am sure, will need to be it’s own post. Again, excitement and anxious energy.

Sunday, July 17, JC and I will pull in to Seattle, to the home that we picked out together, almost 8 years ago. THAT is a the beginning of a beautiful new chapter. Tuesday, July 19, I walk into my new shop, my ticket off the “road-ercoaster”. A new adventure in business ownership. Probably doesn’t sound relaxing, but I do love a challenge, so here we go. I hesitate to use this blog as a vehicle for the business, but for this one time, and this one time only, I will make an exception.

www.Casecraft.com

There. Check it out if you want. We build stuff.

I will miss every single one of you, except Joe, and know if you ever need me, I’m on the west coast, being Happy.

 

 

One of the best things about touring for a lifetime is the bonds you create with those around you, for better or worse. They say (they would refer to us, I guess) that 1 year on the road equals 4 years of “civilian” time. When you work countless hours together, have 90% of your meals together, travel together, sometimes live on a bus together, spend at least 50% of your free time together, you create strong bonds that can stand the test of time. These people that you bond with become more than friends, they become your family. I have been lucky enough to spend the majority of my touring career with the same group of people, truly the same group of family. In this post I will try to introduce you to the majority of the characters in my life, the people that I would choose to take with me when the inevitable Zombie  Apocalypse descends on our big blue marble.

The General. The General is my best friend. He and I have worked together for sixteen years. We have seen each other at our very worst and have helped raise each other to our very best. The General is German, and I don’t mean he’s from Germany. It is true that his lineage is German, but that doesn’t really explain. The General loves tanks, like to an unhealthy degree. The General is an expert on military history, a valuable quality when battling zombies. In addition, the Container Store makes his nipples hard, not as valuable with zombies, but great for organizing supplies.

The General is married to the Tiny Assassin. The Tiny Assassin has a couple weapons in her arsenal, like the Double Flying Kachopa and, in general, Crushing You. We have recently discovered that those are mostly terror weapons and not as effective as they sound. Her most effective weapon is guilt.

Tiny Assassin: “Is that how your going to leave that?”

Any Crew Member: “I was going to, but I guess not anymore.”

Again, not super effective against zombies, but vital for motivating our army.

The next draft pick is another German. The Stubborn One was our Head Electrician for two different tours, totaling about five years. In addition to being the most organized person I have ever toured with, The Stubborn One has, what we refer to as, The Compound. It’s not, but it very easily could be. An enormous house miles from civilization, built on top of a hill, with acres and acres of land and visibility. Perfect defensibility. All that AND a pilots license and a plane, and there’s our Air Force. To say that The Stubborn One is stubborn doesn’t do stubborn justice. Arguing is futile, because 98% of the time he is right and he knows it. So, when we run out of ammo, we send The Stubborn One out to explain to the brain eaters why eating us will just make them full and logy.

Mustang. Mustang is our mechanic. New Jersey born and bred, total gear head and wheel man. Intimate knowledge of muscle cars and Jeeps and isn’t afraid of a firearm. A complete dude’s dude. Did I mention he is a dancer? He’s a dancer, not a stripper, like a tutu dancer.

The Wrestler…. well, he’s real funny. And he says he can kill a deer with a rag and bottle of chloroform by dropping on it from a tree. Again, not sure if it works on zombies, but I know for sure that he is willing to try, and if that doesn’t work, he’ll just throw’em in a full kimura until they submit.

The Bartender. Well, his value is obvious, because after a good zombie battle, who doesn’t want a Mojito. But, like all of my friends, there are skills beyond the obvious. The Bartender is an accomplished blacksmith, glass blower, motorcycle mechanic, motorcycle racer, and general craftsman. He has more construction knowledge than anyone else I know. He is also one of the best people I have ever met and has done more for me in our 11 year “familyship” than I can ever do justice by listing.

The Worldly Giant. Let’s just say he’s big. And strong. And fearless. If things go to hell, and we need an exit, this is the man to give us one. There was a situation in Lima, OH years ago, where the local “stagehands”, much like zombies, decided they wanted to attack The General. Things were looking grim for our fearless leader, but as he reared back to deliver his best, and probably last, radio-in-hand blow, The Worldly Giant plowed through the angry crowd, tossing bodies to the side like they were the undead, until he reached The General, ready to do battle with 40 idiots. Good times.

There are so many more Apocalypse recruits that I want to mention, but this post would be unreadably long. You guys know who you are and if the sh*t hits the fan, I’ll see you all at The Stubborn One’s house. As promised, I’ll bring moonshine and guns.

I was sitting in my hotel room a few days ago, staring at old wallpaper, bad art, and an old Phillips CRT television, and I thought to myself “Self, how many of these rooms have I “lived in”?”. Well, the thought of actually calculating it made me throw up in my mouth a little, so I chose to guesstimate. With well over a decade on the road, I guesstimated (which by the way is a Webster recognized word, I looked it up) that I have stayed in well over 300 different hotels around the world, probably closer to 400 if you include vacations, airport hotels and road side death traps. In the face of transition, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my career recently and the random aspects that we take for granted, and it turns out that what we accept for everyday life is actually quite absurd.

Decor is an easy one. From the no-tell motel in Sarasota, FL, to the W Hotel in Chicago, there just is no accounting for taste.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is an example of how not to welcome your guests into their room at sunset, unless they have just come from a Grateful Dead concert, or a Phish concert, depending on your generation. These curtains did something to the room that just cannot be explained, vibrant colors streaming across in the days ending light stopped me dead in the door way, slack jawed and mesmerized.

Sometimes the decor is just so bad its better to just remove it.

 Like those pesky lamps and headboards. Not sure why the painting made the cut. But remember it is important to make your room your own, adjust your own Feng Shui. Comfort is King.

Sometimes the bathroom can be the key feature that really throws you.

 Why does my toilet have a Stand By button? What is it standing by for? Well, after a little trial and a lot of error,  I can tell you what it’s standing by for. It’s standing by to randomly shoot you, with the precision of a sniper,  in one of the two most sensitive parts of the human body, when you are at your most vulnerable, pants around your ankles and completely defenseless. Notice where the Water Pressure gauge is set?  Yeah, that setting should read Fire Hose. And that, my friends is where the STOP button becomes incredibly useful.

Sometimes you cannot access your floor, the floor the hotel told you you live on.

And sometimes spelling isn’t job one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes being in a hotel in Norfolk VA is so exciting….

 You fall over in the hallway. Or maybe that excitement came from the New Years Karaoke with a snowed in HillBilly wedding, mixed with 2 pitchers of Sex On The Beach (WHAT?!?!?). Yeah, could have been that too.

 

 

 

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, your hotel room just wants to keep you there,

 Another “benefit” of being a stagehand. I just happen to have a 3/4″- 8-32 machine bolt in my computer bag, please don’t ask me why, and a right angle mini-screwdriver in my suitcase. Always be prepared, even if it’s accidental.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And sometimes, late at night, when you have been sleeping soundly for a few hours, your hotel room decides to give you a situational awareness check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like a self-exploding glass shower door. Situations like this illicit multiple responses, like panic, confusion, fear of ghosts, fear of being billed, fear of security showing up and having to explain a large pile of tempered “safety” glass in your bathroom.

After I had collected myself, and no security had shown up, I realized I was standing in the middle of the destruction at 3 am, in my underwear and my gym shoes, asking the front desk for a new shower door. THAT is a rough conversation to have.

With all of the madness that comes with living in hotels year round, the absolute best is when JC is with me and my view looks like this…

 (I’m speaking, of course, of our feet together, and not the XBox on the table)

This entry is brought to you fresh from the Colonial Theater in Boston Mass. Rehearsal calls are an excellent time to get stuff done, but God help you if you don’t have stuff to get done. Five hours of work light rehearsal will make you want to slam your hand in a door, just so you can brush up on your first aide.  Lucky for me, I have a ton to do. With a mere 17 days left with this tour, before the big adventure starts, the details of this transition are piling up, but I do love details and sorting details out. It’s an exciting time, changing careers. And changing the structure of your entire life. That second one requires a little more planning and patience than the first.

But, with the help of my beautiful JC, we are knocking these details out of the park. On July 10, we will fly form Boston to Charlotte NC and prepare to drive across country. Charlotte to Seattle in five days, 2883 miles, that will take us to glorious places like Peoria Il, Sioux Falls SD, Sheridan Wy, Missoula MT, and finally home to Seattle. The best decision that we have made in the last few months, aside from leaving the road, was to purchase my new car in Charlotte and use it to tow JC’s Honda Civic Hybrid, known as the Vaporizor, across this great land. Now before I go on, I want you to know that I love JC more than I can possibly say in words and, if necessary, I would ride in the back of a chicken truck with her, if that was our only way home. By good fortune, that is not our only way home and neither is the Vaporizor. The thought of traversing the country packed into a little Civic, with some of JC’s favorite belongings, made my teeth hurt, mostly from the grinding. To ease this pain, I am proud to introduce Sookie, our new ride across country.

Holy crap, that is a big fat check mark off of the list. Comfort and security across country. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

More details…

Part of the “Plan” is for me to open a shop. A shop that will produce road cases and tool boxes for the road life I am leaving behind. That means finding a space suited to woodworking… in Seattle… that isn’t a million dollars a month. Challenging, indeed. Fools luck strikes again. Shop located and the lease will be signed by the end of this week. Next step is filling that shop with the tools needed to produce income. Rehearsals are also good for tasks like this. It gives me large gaps of time where I can step outside, currently into the rain and the only place with strong enough cell signal to actually make a call, and take care of some commerce. Ordering tools, truly one of my favorite things, even in the rain.

 

While I am plowing through my list, JC has a few large lists of her own. I believe that somewhere near the top of that stack, lies some more commerce that will transition my bachelor-pad condo into our hip-urban-couple pad. Fortunately for both of us, the changes are minor. Our taste in decor is surprisingly similar. The additions seem to be mostly bedding, linens, and curtains. She has included me in all design ideas and I have genuinely been on board with everything, except that disco ball lamp thing ( I may have dreamed that).

 

Slowly, everything is coming together. This is a huge, exciting time in my life. Change is scary, but it is good. Transition is the name of the game and I am ready for it. I have the support of everyone in my life and a better system no man could ever ask for. As I said previously, I have met the best people this planet has to offer, and I am not walking away from them, I am just adding some miles between us.

 

Thank you to everyone that stands with me while I open a new chapter. You are all my family and I am lucky to have you all.