Saturday, January 31, 2009

10 Days Make One Week

So, Michael finished up with the swearing in Washington and drove westward, back to Ohio. Thursday night, I went out to Long Island where I played piano for The Life Church, which had its first worship service (which I would link you to if only they had a website). Then, on Friday, I flew to Dayton, by way of Detroit. And you're asking. "Who even knew that Dayton had an airport?" I know, right? Since then, several people have told me that Dayton obviously has an airport, since the Wright brothers were from there--but I think they were from Akron. In either case, I know they aren't from North Carolina. (All first-in-flight claims to the contrary.)

So, we drove to the YMCA Camp, in Oregonia, OH. The SOSLYO was going on, and they allowed us to play a couple of songs here and there during their event. Of course, the first thing one has to do at a youth gathering is decorate the room. In this case, the organizers handed decorations to the youth and asked them to have at it, which they certainly did.

Also, while at the camp, Michael showed-off his unique ability to capture the sun and hold it in his hand.

Of course, just like Harry Caray, Michael's favorite planet is the sun. But I don't know how he can take all that heat on his hand, personally. All that heat would have served us well after leaving our time in Oregonia, since we were headed north. And I do mean north. Dakota north, in fact, as in North Dakota. But I am getting ahead of myself.

So we drove north, as I say, and stopped off in Maumee, my former place of residence. I went to a Vestry meeting, and Michael went to the gym. (I always take the easy way out.) Then we drove to Chicago, to get some sleep. The next day we drove to Minneapolis, which was like our base camp for the final ascent into the tundra. Troy invited us to stay at his grandmother's house since she was out of town--you know, like when we recorded our cd, Pronto. In the morning, we headed out across Minnesota.

Since it was Troy's birthday, we really splurged and bought him a coffee mug. I know, we are really some nice guys, huh?

Also, since it was Troy's birthday, when we stopped to switch places in the van, he decided to run over to a nearby snowdrift.

Unfortunately, that first step's a doozy.

That's Troy's head sticking up over the edge of the road there. I didn't get the descent into the glacier, but I was able to capture Troy's victorious finish of having climbed out to safety. We traveled on to Bismarck, where we were pleased to play with our friends, Tangled Blue, who sound better than ever. Though we would have loved to hang around, we had to head back to Fargo, since there were no rooms at the inns of Bismarck. (If you're thinking that makes us like Jesus, it really makes us more like Mary and Joseph, except neither of is pregnant, though there is a census coming up next year.) Anyway, the drive back to Fargo was seriously slow and dangerous, since blowing snow does not take the night off.

Arriving in Fargo, we checked into our hotel and slept soundly. The next day, we drove the short distance up to Grand Forks. You know you're out in it when you see signs like these:

At some point, looking at the map, I realized that Bismarck is closer to LA than to NYC. Which probably surprises no one except me. But back to Grand Forks. The room we played is something called the Chester Fritz Auditorium. As you can see, you could fit a person or two in this room.

I went up to the very top balcony and took a picture of Michael down on the stage.

It makes me laugh to think how many people it would take to make this room seem crowded. So, though we were playing for about 800 confirmands, they didn't even fill the first floor. As I say, big room. Of course, confirmands are typically smaller than adults, so maybe that has something to do with it.

We had a great time, and the crew at the venue were among the nicest we've worked with--and we've worked with some nice crews. After the load out, it was time to begin the seriously long night's journey into day, if I may paraphrase Eugene. In order to make our crack of dawn flights, we drove from Grand Forks to Minneapolis, where we spent a couple hours at Troy's house until he kindly drove us to the airport. I was asleep before the plane took off, and when I woke up I found myself at 10,000 feet with my seatbelt off, and my cell phone on. Thanks Delta. I switched the status of both things and settled in.

Michael and I met-up in New Orleans, and two nice guys from Charlotte gave us a ride to the hotel. We had to spend a little time adjusting to the change in our environment. After our nordic plunge, New Orleans seemed quite toasty and urban.

We were in New Orleans to play at the annual Extravaganza (which is a spare vaganza, I think). We've played in New Orleans many times over the years, but you never know what you're going to see on your random walk outside your hotel. For instance, the second night, two buses pulled up in fornt of hotel, and a full-size marching band unloaded onto the sidewalk, where they warmed up before coming into the hotel and filing up the escalator, like so many business travelers.

We had lots of fun at the Extravaganza, and ran into all sorts of folks we've known for years. Among the highlights of our time there was watching our friend, Agape' (Dave Scherer) receive the Hunstad Award for his ministry among youth.

In response, Dave did his signature beat-box-singing combo, which is always impressive.

Later that night, Michael and I were sitting in the lobby when a bunch of clowns came in and stood around chatting, like so many business travelers.

Michael went over to get a better look, and I couldn't help but notice there was something oddly familiar about the whole scene . . .

The next morning, we played a few songs before worship, and then Erin was kind enough to whisk me off to the airport, since Delta had told me I could get an earlier flight. Of course, once I got to the counter, they had no seats on any earlier flights. Psych! So now I sit around the New Orleans airport for 5 hours, and will be flying during the entirety of the Superbowl. Thanks Delta. I want my little Northwest Airlines back now, please. At least they didn't lose my luggage yet. Of course, that's because they won't let me check in until 3 hours before the flight.

For now, Michael and I have a few weeks off, so I probably won't be writing again until March. Rock on, you people you.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Long Journey (if you're Michael's luggage)

So, for this weekend, I flew to Siberia (which sometimes goes by the name "Detroit,") and got the van from the airport parking ramp, where it was a pleasant 4 below. I know people in Minnesota laugh at such warm temperatures, but I do not live in Minnesota, and thus I was not laughing. In fact, with my eyes watering, it was more like crying. However, I was able to collect the frozen teardrops and put them in my pocket as emergency fluid in case I should suffer some roadside mishap.

Point being, I got the van and drove it south to Cincinnati, in preparation to meet Michael in Knoxville the next day. However, just as I was about to leave town in the morning, I got a text from him saying that his flight had to return to Los Angeles and make an emergency landing. Everyone was fine, but he rebooked on a flight to Cincinnati. Which meant, I now had about 5 hours to kill in Porkopolis. It occured to me to go to the Cincinnati Museum Center, which I did.

I now know more about Cincinnati than the next guy.

For example, they kill some beautiful birds in that town.

Also, I learned that polar bears want to hug you.

Or maybe they want to box you. Or maybe just high-five you. It's hard to know, exactly, since there are so many polar bears in Cincinnati that my small survey is relatively inconclusive.

Anyway, Michael did make it to Cincinnati, and I happily met him at the airport. However, nobody seemed to know where his luggage might be. Then we raced off to the right--I mean, east--and arrived in Asheville precisely five minutes before we were scheduled to play. Well, actually, we arrived at the gate sometime before that, and the security guard helpfully gave us the complicated directions to get to the camp, which is apparently somewhere deep inside the compound of the Billy Graham Cove place. (You've got to wonder about a place called the "Billy Graham Training Center." I mean, how can you possibly have an entire compound dedicated to training Billy Graham? I think he knows his stuff by now, don't you?)

Fortunately, the participants were there for the night, and they patiently waited while we set up the sound stuff. We had a great time, and we were sad to leave. But we had to move it on down the line, as they say. Michael found out that his luggage had gone from LA, then to Denver, then to Chicago, where they took it off the plane, refusing to take it anywhere else until he called them, which he was doing at the time. He asked them to send his stuff to Raleigh. (More on that later.)

The next day we made the short drive to Newton, NC, where we played in a warehouse. Interesting venue, and certainly a creative use of space.

We had a great time, and then drove off to Raleigh. Along the way, Michael got a call from the baggage department at the Raleigh Airport, trying to confirm his address in California, so they could send his luggage back to his house. He was able to talk them into holding onto his luggage, and we drove directly to the airport to pick up his clothes and guitar, now that the weekend's concerts were complete.

In the morning, Michael dropped me at the Raleigh airport so I could fly home, and he headed off to Washington because there was somebody swearing, or something like that. I got home and rested for a couple days, then headed back to the airport . . . but that's your next installment.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Year Ends, or Year's End

So, to finish off the year, Michael and I headed for our Nation's Capital. The Brethren in Christ were kind enough to invite us back to their YQ event, and we know a good invitation when we see one. I didn't really take many pictures this weekend, so the final blog of the year is kind of texty, or actually, kind of linky.

Had a great time playing music, leading workshops, visiting with Pete, and generally having a huge great time. We met folks from Cuba and Canada, plus the United States. (I have heard that the reason Canadian candy bars are so good is that they get their sugar from Cuba. But I have also heard that the high school years are the best time of your life. And that toilets in the southern hemisphere spin the other way. Plus I have heard that Guns N Roses would release "Chinese Democracy.")

Over the course of the weekend, we met lots of people, as I say. After several great days, we headed home. I went to Union Station in DC and sat for a long time, trying to stay awake until I could board the train for my first Amtrak trip. Interestingly, that route (from Washington to New York) could be called "Amtrak's Tour of Cities Past Their Prime." Now let's be clear, it's a tour of the parts of town that are next to the train tracks, so I'm sure there are real nice parts of Baltimore, Philadelphia, Trenton, and so forth on the other side of the tracks.

So I got home, and my family and I rang in the New Year by watching the nationally televised events taking place 20 blocks north. I mean, why leave your apartment when they bring such distant events right into your living room? And, this way we got to see the Ting Tings, who make us all happy in an 80's kind of way. Oddly, when we woke up the next day, all our calendars were out of date, so we had to replace them. Plus, we had to account for that extra second. It was a really busy morning.

The following week I had to take some exams that I hope you never have to take. I don't really want to talk about them, but it took all week, and I am still tired. Anyway, this post got us to 2009, and that's about all one can ask.

More later in the year . . .