April 28, 2009 at 12:52 am (Music, Travel and Places) (, , , , , , , , )

Ahhhhhh ok!  I finally get a chance to sit down and write this!  You can imagine it’s been a crazy couple of days, right?

I tried to go to bed early Friday night, so I could get up early Saturday morning to get on the road, but I slept absolutely horribly, which is weird for me.  I guess I’m just not used to going to bed early unless I’m exhausted beyond coherence.

So Saturday morning I was up earlier than I was supposed to be, but used the time productively while I waited for my housesitter to come over.  We were supposed to go out for brunch.  He told me he was spending his first night at the Y, and then was coming over Saturday morning.  I’d talked to him on the phone Friday late night and we agreed that we’d meet at 9:30 at my place, and that he’d call at 9 to make sure I was ready (I was afraid I’d either have a hard time waking up or just not have the apartment together).  So 9:00 comes, no call.  9:30 comes, no call, but I remember that all my spare keys are out and I forgot to make another set, so I run to my local hardware store to get the keys copied.  The guy starts to tell me he can’t copy my building key without “the card,” but I remind him that they did it for me last time, so he magically figures out how to do it.  9:45 I try calling the Y, but they tell me the rooms don’t have phones so there’s no way they can page the person I’m trying to reach.  10:00, no call, and I am starting to fade, so I go to my local cafe for my daily soy cappuccino.  Finally I am about to leave the spare keys with the barista and send him an email of where to pick them up, when he calls me and tells me he’s outside my door, and yes, he had overslept.

Well I got him settled in pretty quickly, and he was nice enough to pay for my cab to Metro North so I could make my train in time.  Which I did with no problem.  I called Hertz, told them what time I’d be arriving, and asked directions to their location from the train station.

I’d had a huge drama trying to find a car to rent.  Places in NY and most of NJ were too expensive.  Some places in NJ were cheap but didn’t have GPS.  Got a tip that I could get a good deal in Stamford, CT, and that tip turned out to be true- I was able to get a really good deal on a car for 2 weeks with GPS.  I had originally intended to go for 17 days, but my credit card would only cover my insurance for 15 days (and I even asked them if they could give me the extra two days and they said no), and the daily rate for those extra two days was so much more than the weekly rate that it was really hurting my budget.  So I simplified things into 2 days.

I caught an express train to Stamford and went right into the Hertz office, where they had my car waiting- except it was way cheaper than it was supposed to be.  I realized right away what the problem was- “But I have the GPS, too,” I said.  The woman at the counter told me they were out of NeverLosts.  I’m like, “Oh- but that was part of my reservation.”  And she’s like, “I know, but they’re all gone right now.”  And I’m like, “Okay… but I reserved one.”  And she’s like, “Yes, but we don’t have any right now, we rented them all out.”  I didn’t see the point of discussing the definition of a reservation, but I told her I absolutely could not leave without it, which was true.  I hadn’t the first idea of where to go- she asked me which direction I was going and I was like, “I don’t know!  South?” and she’s like, “But what road?  1-95?” and I’m like, “I don’t know!”  Not only can I hardly drive and don’t know my way around at all, but I was travelling alone and over many many states, most of which I’ve never been to before.  So when I absolutely insisted I had to have one, she told me all I could do was wait and hope someone returned a car with a GPS in it, but she had no idea if or when that would be.  So I sat down and hoped for the best.  After half an hour she started feeling bad for me (I told her I had somewhere to be), and started calling nearby locations to see if they had a NeverLost car I could use, but no one did.  Finally, after an hour of me just sitting there staring at the clock and wondering if I’d make my show in time, she said, “Well, no one’s shown up with a GPS, what do you want to do?”  She was totally hoping I would suck it up and go without one, but NO FUCKING WAY.  I said, “Is there another car rental company nearby?” and she pointed me to the Avis next door.  Avis was a little more expensive, but they had their Where2 systems unattached to the cars, in little bags, that you could take to the car and take the GPS and plug it in, and none of this waiting for people to show up with a car bs, so I rented from them.  They even upgraded me to a bigger car for free, though it was still more expensive than Hertz would have been.

My first few minutes  behind the wheel were a mess.  I don’t really drive.  Occasionally I drive my friend Jenny’s car for a few miles in NJ if she’s been drinking and is worried about getting pulled over, but that’s it.  Usually when I go to my parents’ house (about once a year) I take the car out once or twice.  That’s it.  I’ve never ever owned a car, and even when I was in high school and drove one of the family cars, I was a pretty lousy driver, with no sense of direction.  Just not my thing.  So it’s crazy to most people that I would up and rent a car to drive around the country for two weeks.  I’d never even rented a car in my life- the opportunity has come up many times, but I always refuse, saying I don’t drive.

So the first- well, the first hour at least, but especially the first few minutes were very rough.  The breaks in the car were more sensitive than I was used to, so I was jolting all over the place.  I had no idea how to even get to the road from where the car was parked, to even get the GPS started.  There were tons of cars on the road so I didn’t have any time or space to get things worked out.  I didn’t know how to adjust my seat or turn on the air conditioning, and even the windows were giving me trouble.  (I still can’t get my window to go part way down, only all or nothing.)  All-in-all it was pretty white-knuckled for awhile there.  It was almost a relief that I kept getting stuck in traffic, because it gave me a chance to fiddle with the buttons and get things in order.

The GPS led me out of the Connecticut/New York traffic eventually, and then I was smooth sailing for awhile in NJ, right up until after my first rest stop.  From the time I got back on the highway, it took me 3 hours to go 15 miles.  This on top of having left an hour and a half late because of the stupid GPS thing was putting my wayyyyy behind schedule.  I called my friend I’d be staying with and he said the traffic usually eases up after Philadelphia.  I called the owner of the venue who’d booked me, and told him I was going to be extremely late, and he said don’t worry about it, take my time- he’d put me up whenever I got there.

After my second rest stop the traffic cleared up, and I tore up the road.  Nothing like being stuck in stand-still traffic for 3 hours to get me over my fear of driving!  I was going as fast as I thought I could get away with, but my GPS’s estimated arrival time just kept getting later and later.  When my friend called at 11, I told him to get to the venue and tell the guy I’d be there at 11:30 (I had been supposed to go on at 9)- I was so afraid of missing my first show of the tour!

I pulled into the parking lot at exactly 11:30.  I was a mess- my hair tangled from the wind, sweating from the stress, had to pee really bad (hadn’t let myself take the time to stop again)- I rushed in, handed my guitar to the owner, hit the bathroom, found my friend, and had him come out to my car to get the merch.

There was a metal band on when I got there, and there was an even heavier metal band that was supposed to go on after them, and now I was going to be squeezed in between them.  Awkward!!  The crowd was young (21+ but still seemed pretty young), drunk, and rowdy.  So when they finally put me on I made sure to start with Monica and my other adult-themed song, to make sure to win their approval.  It worked- I had people standing up front watching my entire set.  Which says a lot in a pool hall featuring local heavy metal bands.  I can’t say a hush fell over the room or anything but all things considered I’d say it went pretty well!

I didn’t get a single drink comped.  wtf? I know it’s for charity, but still- that means I’m not getting paid, the least you could do is offer me a beer.  They did offer half off at Denny’s for the bands, though, and the owner got my friend in on the deal, so we went over and had some late night fried food.  I hadn’t been to Denny’s since high school.  They have some new thing called “pancake puppies” which are really just balls of fried dough dipped in cinnamon and sugar.  They were OK but I had immediate eater’s remorse.  Totally overate.  It was fun though!

So my friend, Dave, lives in a college dorm because his wife works in campus housing.  So I stayed in their dorm apartment.  Weird!

BTW the venue, Q-Ball Cafe, was great.  It’s big and has a decent stage area and fog machine and crazy lighting and there were actually a lot of people there.  And there was a guy who knew me from NY.  I didn’t recognize him but he said he used to have a mohawk so I guess that’s why.:)

The next day driving was a completely different experience.  It was sunny and pleasant, the roads were quiet, I had plenty of time to get to Winston-Salem.  I got there early, met the owner at the bar, and went for a long walk around the downtown area.  It was a lot nicer than I’d expected.  Most things were closed, as it was Sunday evening, but there were a lot of restaurants open and bustling with people, and some nice areas to walk around.  I had dinner at Mellow Mushroom (who knew you could find a tempeh sandwich in the middle of NC?), made some phone calls, walked until I had blisters, and moseyed back to Elliott’s Revue.

When I was doing soundcheck I tore a little hole in my finger with the lose end of a guitar string.  Owww!  It was totally bleeding so I got a band-aid from their first aid kit.  I thought it would be okay since it was closer to the final knuckle than to the pad of the finger.  hurt like the dickens, though!  Popped some advil and drank some wine to relax so I wouldn’t cry.

I kinda hung out and socialized until it was time for my set at 10:30.  The people were really cool.  Then I went to start my set and realized I didn’t have my capo.  I had left it at the bar in Virginia!  I remembered when I accidentally knocked it off of where I had stuck it on the mic stand between songs, and then the band after me was setting up while I was playing and they must have moved it out of the way.  OK so I can’t play half my songs without a capo.  The bartender’s brother tried making one out of a pencil, but we couldn’t get it to work well enough.  Then some guys came in, saw us struggling, and were like, “We have a capo at home, want us to get it?” and I was like “YES.  PLEASE.”  So I played all my non-capo’d songs first, and they came back just in time for me to continue my set without a break.

Elliott’s has a very strict no cover song policy, so with the exeption of my small but virile collection of obscure cover songs, I played every song in my rep.  I cheated and added my arrangement of the aria The Black Swan, only because I had been talking to a guy at the bar who totally knew about opera, so I thought he’d appreciate, except he was gone by then so too bad!

So the set went well.  Much like the first show, there was a lot going on in the bar, but I had some people gathered around to listen, and could tell that some people at the bar and pool tables were paying attention.

A promoter in NY had booked the show for me, and I had been under the impression- I forget which impressions were from him and which were from the owner of the bar- that they would put me up somewhere for the night, even if it was just someone’s house, and that I would get paid at least a little bit.  But neither of those things happened.  Their housing policy consisted of the guy I let borrow my guitar after me announcing that I needed a place to stay for the night.  Some chick announced that I could stay on her couch, but then she left and no one knew where to find her.  So I was totally stressing over where I was going to stay, and I was so exhausted I was about to fall asleep in my drink.  Finally at like 2am this really young guy said I could stay on his couch if I didn’t mind driving out to the suburbs.  I said no problem, I’m about to go sleep in my car so I’m game.  So I drove really far out to the middle of nowhere.  He lived in his parents’ house, but in a big basement room with a whole apartment set-up.  Except no bathroom, so when I went to brush my teeth I had to tiptoe around so as not to wake up his mom.  Anyways the whole thing was of course very awkward but this is rock n roll.  He insisted that he take the couch and I sleep in his bed, and I actually slept really well, got a decent night’s sleep despite the weirdness of being in a total stranger’s room.  So, yay Southern hospitality.  And I know the non-rock musicians among you probably think it’s dangerous to go sleeping on strangers’ couches, but it’s not really, especially not in a town like this where everyone knows each other.

Today I actually had off- tomorrow is my gig in Johnson City, where my friend Sunny lives.  I had really wanted a gig in Asheville, but hadn’t been able to find one, as everything was booked up by the time I started planning the tour.  But I did find an open mic, so I decided since I didn’t have a gig, and it was on my way to Sunny’s, I’d go hang out in Asheville for the day, play the open mic, and then drive the rest of the way to Tennessee.

I’d never been to Asheville but had wanted to go for a long time because everyone always told me how awesome it was.  I did think it was a really pleasant town, and a good place to spend an afternoon, but I didn’t go as gaga for it as everyone else.  It’s way overrun by hippies.  I mean, vegan food, organic clothing, local art, and pot-smoking vagabonds are all great things… in moderation.  This was just overkill.

I did enjoy my day though, and got a slot at the open mic.  I was the fourth person on for the night, and I did a good job of getting people’s attention.  It was a more country/folk scene than the last two places, which were decidedly rock, so I picked my songs accordingly.  I definitely got the most attention of the night so far, drawing people to come sit at the stage, and garnering cheers from all the way in the back of the bar.  I tried really hard to sell tshirts and CD’s this time (I hadn’t sold any yet), and only sold one t-shirt at cost to the couple I’d been talking to all night.  I don’t know if they really wanted one or if they just felt bad for me, but they totally seemed like they couldn’t really afford it so I sold it to them for what I paid for it- even then they had to pay part of it in quarters!  Well, I’m happy to know someone in NC will be wearing my t-shirt, and hopefully I’ll sell some more tomorrow…

I arrived at Sunny’s house an hour after leaving.  This is the first really nice accomodation I’ve had yet.  I get my own bedroom and bathroom!  And there’s wifi!  I hadn’t been able to get my computer online all tour!  Thank God for iPhone.

I still have to plan my couple days between TN and TX.  In the meantime, tomorrow (today) I am playing at the Acoustic Coffeehouse in Johnson City, TN at 6pm.  If you are here, you should TOTALLY GO.  If you’re not but you know people in the area, you should TOTALLY TELL THEM TO GO.  Otherwise, you can still catch my show because it will be live broadcast on the internet!!!  Just go here.

I really really need sleep.  Good night!

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