The 2012 No Hotel? No Problem Tour: Part 3

Amy LaVere, Dave Cousar, and Shawn Zorn, Angry Mom Records, Ithaca, NY
Wednesday, March 14 

Bus from Rochester to Ithaca: 10:55 a.m. 

After a quick breakfast with Liz and her mom, it was back to the bus for me, for a two-hour ride back to Ithaca to see Amy and her band play an in-store at one of my favorite record stores (Angry Mom Records) before the official show at Lot 10 (formerly Delilah's, formerly something or other in my college days but definitely not a bar). The bus wasn't all that crowded, so I figured it's be a quick, uneventful ride. And it was.

Until we almost killed a dog.

I was trying to block out the smell of urine hovering in the bus, reading my book, and occasionally taking a peek at the towns we were passing by when the driver started laying on his horn. When I looked outside and saw that we appeared to be in the middle of nowhere, I thought it odd that we would be close enough to a car to warrant some honking. And then the driver hit the horn a few more times and I saw a mangy-looking dog just sitting down in the middle of the road. And the pooch seemed pretty indifferent to the honking. Oh boy.

I braced for an awful thud, but thankfully it never came. Without swerving at all, the driver somehow managed to drive over the dog, who, the woman across the aisle from me reported, came out safely on the other side. When we got to Ithaca, I commended the driver on a job well done. Killing a dog really would've put a damper on the trip.

Turkey burger on waffle bun, Waffle Frolic, Ithaca, NY
Since I had already overloaded on nostalgia on my Sunday visit to Ithaca, and I was carrying around four days' worth of dirty clothes, I declared Wednesday Laundry Day. I briefly debated breaking into Terrace 12 or using the laundry room at the off-campus apartment where I lived my senior year but decided being arrested for doing laundry would be funny but ultimately embarrassing. So I settled on the laundromat closest to the bus station. And after that was done, I consumed one of my favorite sandwiches in America, the turkey burger on a waffle bun from Waffle Frolic. The cafe didn't exist when I was at IC, and that's probably for the best. Not only would I have spent entirely too much money there, but it would've made weekend breakfasts at the Terrace Dining Hall, where you could make your own waffles, less exciting. And, really, there was nothing quite like the feeling of waking up on Saturday knowing that you were going to be able to make your own waffle.

Amy LaVere and Dave Cousar, Angry Mom Records, Ithaca, NY
I made a quick run (via bus) back to campus to grab a copy of the latest Buzzsaw (of which I am a founder and former executive publisher) before the in-store at Angry Mom. When I saw Amy, she noted that the cold was now gone but there was still recovering from Rochester going on. The in-store went well, though, with a decent crowd showing up to watch Amy from her spot in the Comedy section.

Amy LaVere, Angry Mom Records, Ithaca, NY
As the band headed back for some rest, I wandered back into Angry Mom and bought a Steve Goodman LP and a CD by Auburn, NY's A Cast of Thousands (the most controlled purchasing I've ever done at Angry Mom) before drifting around Ithaca in search of a place to eat dinner. There are a bunch of new places, so I looked at some menus, hoping something would pique my interest. There were a few possibilities, but then I realized, "Hey, I've never actually eaten dinner at Moosewood," one of the more famous vegetarian restaurants in America. I think I had a piece of pumpkin pie there once when my sister (the vegetarian of the family) came up for a visit, but I never got past my skepticism of vegetarian restaurants enough to go there for dinner. Now that I've learned to love a few vegetarian restaurants (and one vegan food truck), it seemed like the right time. And when I saw spinach cheese ravioli on the menu (which changes daily), I was in. And so now I've eaten dinner not only at Dinosaur BBQ but also at Moosewood. And I declare Moosewood good (the cream of asparagus soup was a winner, too; it didn't last long enough for the photograph).

Spinach and cheese ravioli, w/ side of bread, Moosewood Restaurant, Ithaca, NY
Feeling slightly bloated (I probably should've spaced out lunch and dinner a little more), I made my way to Lot 10 a few minutes before showtime. Everybody seemed rested and ready to go, crowd included, except, apparently, for the one guy Dave said got angry when they started setting up the merch table. We weren't exactly sure what bothered him so much about it, but Dave said the guy moaned something about "coming here to hear music." Ithaca: you've gotta love it.

Dave Cousar, Amy LaVere, and Shawn Zorn, Lot 10, Ithaca, NY
And for the second Amy show in Ithaca in a row, there were some verbal fireworks between a  gentleman and a lady in the middle of Amy's set. Last time, the gentleman (same guy both times) chastised a woman for talking loudly during the show (for which I applaud him, though I'll admit he could've been more tactful), which she didn't take too kindly to and responded in a measured but vaguely combative tone. This time, the gentleman was irked by an Ithaca staple, the woman twirling and wildly gesticulating around the room and occasionally attempting to rope a gentleman into gesticulating with her. I was safely behind a wall of guys occasionally humoring her, but the gentleman in question was all alone in front of the stage and not enjoying the interpretive dance show. So, after trying to deal with it for a while, he eventually stormed off to get someone from the bar involved, with the twirling lady soon following behind. I'm not sure how it was resolved, but I didn't see her much after that, and she was definitely gone by night's end.

As for the show, it was another good one, highlighted by Amy's cover of David Bowie's "Moonage Daydream" and Dave's take on Tom Waits's "Clap Hands." I realized this was probably the last night of the tour that I'd see Dave do his mini-set (and definitely the last "long" show of the tour, with the rest of the shows likely being 40-minute opening slots), so I was glad I'd decided to go to the Rochester and Ithaca shows. He's a good one.

I helped out with merch at the Ithaca show, because I like to be useful and I actually enjoy selling merch at shows. In fact, if that were a legitimate career. I'd pursue it over copy editing. I would've even gotten a degree in merch selling if it were offered. How could it be less useful than the journalism degree that I have?

Unfortunately, I experienced the downside of merch selling at the end of the night when I made the foolish decision to try to carry both the t-shirt suitcase and the CD suitcase down the stairs and out to the van. Note "try to." I failed. Well, actually I got down the stairs, but somewhere between opening the door and stepping onto the sidewalk, I also stepped on a strap at the bottom of the t-shirt suitcase and promptly tipped over like a Little Teapot. And, so after all that time sober and staying on my feet outside the bars of Ithaca, my streak ended on the pavement outside of Lot 10. It was a good run.

I came out of the fall with only a skinned left knee and a slightly bruised left shoulder, so I was still cleared for travel, and shipping off to Boston, by way of New York City, via bus and train.

Thursday, March 15

Bus to New York City, 1:30 a.m.
Train to Boston, 8:30 a.m.
Bus to New York City, 11:59 p.m.

Yes, that's a busy travel day. No, I didn't think it through properly.

I forgot to factor in that, despite my bag full of clean clothes, I wouldn't have a chance to shower on Thursday. And, not only that, but if I wanted to change my clothes, I would probably have to do that in a bathroom somewhere. And that didn't seem like it would be fun.

So, as the Coach USA bus wound its way through upstate New York and in between grabbing about 30 minutes of sleep at a time, I decided I would take a chance on missing the Amtrak to Boston in an attempt to rush home, drop my bag off, and take a shower. If I made the 8:30, cool; I'd maybe take a tour of Fenway Park to kill a few hours, since I hadn't heard back from my friend D.J. (and understandably so; you don't want to know about the week he had) and wasn't sure what else to do in Boston. If I missed the train, I'd just take the next one, pay whatever fee I had to, skip the Fenway tour, and bum around Boston (bag-free, which would make the day much more enjoyable).

We got in a little early, so it looked like I might make it. But I just missed the PATH train to Journal Square and, after the bag dropoff and cursory shower, just missed the PATH train back to NYC, so I wound up getting to Penn Station at about 8:35. Oh well. At least I didn't stink.

The next train wasn't for a few hours. Well, there was an Acela Express leaving sooner, but that was an upgrade fee I was not willing to pay, so I forked over $20 for the next regional train, went to the FedEx Office for a bit, and then went back to Penn Station to read the newspapers and wait for the train. In that time, D.J. texted me to tell me he and his daughter, Kaelin, would be more than happy to hang out if I so desired. I did, and since it'd been a few days since I'd seen one of my friend's adorable kids, I was happy to have some more kid time.

But before the train pulled into Boston (after leaving NYC 15 minutes late...the laws of travel: the train you show up late for will always leave right on time, and the next one will always be late), I got to overhear my favorite conversation of the trip. It seems the woman seated in front of me was not pleased with her doctor, and she was expressing her displeasure on her cell phone to someone connected with said doctor. The problem at hand was some test results that she was waiting on, but it turns out there was another, more pressing issue. My fellow passenger had "done a stupid human thing" (her words) and now had a codeine situation. See, in the process of pouring the large bottle of Tylenol with codeine into a smaller, more manageable bottle (because she wanted to carry it in a bottle that "wouldn't break her back"), she spilled "a third to a half" of the liquid codeine. Oopsie!

So, clearly, she would be in need of more codeine, please. From what I could gather from the side of the conversation I was hearing, I don't think it worked out. An important lesson: be careful with your codeine, kids. And I also learned that Tylenol with codeine is now dispensed in gallon jugs. You learn so much when you travel on trains and buses.

Anyway, after my train arrived, and I hopped on a couple of Ts to get closer to where D.J. lived, I was in his apartment in Peabody and under the watchful eye of a very wary one-year-old. But Kaelin eventually decided I was less frightening than I appeared and even showed off both her expert head-dancing skills while she ate and her nascent walking skills afterward.

Alas, after D.J. made dinner, it was soon bedtime for Kaelin and almost showtime for Amy. So I bid Kaelin and her mom, Wendy, adieu, and D.J. drove me back to the T station so I could get to the show at TT the Bear's (so many Ts!) in Cambridge. I arrived with plenty of time to spare and got to see Amy's first show back with her bass. She seemed glad to have it back, and she got a good response from the Rich Robinson fans, both in the crowd and at the merch table. I did have to deftly avoid a haggling session with a guy recommending Stevie Ray Vaughan DVDs to me. After the Stevie Ray talk, he turned to me and said, "Here's $40. I want everything." It was an enticing proposition, considering Amy was selling four CDs, an LP, and a T-shirt, which would run the average concertgoer a total of $90. Still, I decided not to jump on the deal and suggested he might want to wait for Amy to come over and see how she felt about the offer. He did. She wasn't that impressed. But he did get a slight deal on not quite everything.

C'mon, music lovers. Don't haggle at the merch table. It's not a flea market or an episode of American Pickers. You look bad when you do it. If someone's gone to the trouble of coming up with a price for their art, why don't you just go ahead and pay that price. Or if you don't have the cash on you, just wait and buy it some other time. No one will think less of you, whereas someone (namely, me, and probably a few others) will think less of you when you haggle.

And so ends my anti-haggling PSA. It's one to grow on...

After trying to straighten up the t-shirt situation (finding sizes was a struggle) and meeting Rich Robinson's merch guy, the Dude (or Dennis, if you prefer; I prefer the Dude), I had to cut out during Rich Robinson's set in order to successfully wrap up my brief run through Boston and catch the Megabus back to New York City to, with any luck, grab a few hours of sleep in my own bed before moving on to Philadelphia.

As it turns out, I didn't really need to rush.

UP NEXT: One overnight bus ride too many, two shows in Philly, and three kinds of meat in our nation's capital.


The 2012 No Hotel? No Problem Tour: Part 2

Monday, March 12 
No travel 

The lone day of rest for the NH?NP tour was spent in Tully, NY, at, it turns out, a House of Vast Illness. The man of the house was all congested; the baby of the house, Eleanor, had an ear infection; and, on the day of my departure, the lady of the house was having some stomach issues. But the boys of the house (Everett and Wesley) and the manchild taking up residence in the computer room were feeling just fine. And, of course, Hunter was his usual steady presence.

On Monday, Everett was off to school before I was out of bed, but Wes and I took in some Scooby-Doo (they're kind of tramping up Velma if you ask me) before he departed for the morning and I tried to navigate my way through the photo-uploading process (unsuccessfully) on the family Mac. After Wes came back, we celebrated our health by playing Legos, during which I built a pretty awesome tree. Then before naptime, I read one of the weirder kids' books I've ever read, which seemed to celebrate the joys of violence, so long as you use that violence against bullies. Interesting. Old-school.

Despite his congestion, Bryan nailed the audio-book version of his legendary foreword (rest assured, the children were nowhere near the recording area) in one take and gamely tried to read another essay before we bagged that and decided we'd try again later. We ran out of time, but we'll get it before November 19, 2012 (the official release date...mark your calendars, or whatever people mark these days).

There was more Lego time after Everett and his friend returned from school, but having already achieved perfection with my tree, I thought it best to just sit back and watch.

Monday was, in fact, mostly a day to sit back and watch. I can do that. For a day. Two would be a bit of a struggle.

Tuesday, March 13

Amtrak from Syracuse to Rochester: 12:48 pm

I think I can speak for Wes when I say that we're both comfortable enough in our masculinity to admit that we watched My Little Pony Tuesday morning. It wasn't bad either. I'm not saying I'm going to the next Bronycon, but I enjoyed it more than I expected. What? Why do I know that there is a convention "for afficionados [sic] of the show 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic'"?

Not important.

Anyway, Tuesday was the day I almost concussed myself. Wes and I were engaged in a spy mission in which we couldn't be captured by Dad. I'm not clear what the ultimate goal of our mission was, but Wes drew a map and everything, so I assume it was something pretty important. I think at one point chocolate chips were mentioned. I didn't ask many questions, because that's the approach Chuck Barris took when he was a hitman for the CIA. It seemed to work for him.

Unfortunately for my head, I was so into the mission that when it looked like we might be caught and Wes told me to hurry into his room before Dad got us, I neglected to factor in the sloped ceiling right by the door, and, well, that hurt. Wes even expressed concern, bless his heart. I checked for blood  oozing from my scalp and didn't find any, so that, combined with the fact that we weren't captured, means the mission was a success. It turns out there weren't any chocolate chips to get, so we settled for mini Clif Bars.
Wes, upon my departure
After determining I was feeling no dizzier than usual, I declared myself ready to get back on the road. So Bryan and Wes drove me (well, actually, just Bryan drove; Wes read a Harry Potter Lego book and then shut his eyes for a bit) to the William F. Walsh Regional Transportation Center in Syracuse and it was off to Rochester for a return visit almost 14 years in the making. The last (and only) time I was in Rochester was with Bryan and his then-girlfriend/now-wife Kelly to see Todd Snider and the Nervous Wrecks open for Kenny Wayne Shepherd (guess when we left) at the Water Street Music Hall. I only saw Rochester in darkness and not for very long that time. In fact, the only thing I remember from that trip (other than Todd singing "Call Me the Breeze" and his bass player smoking a bowl in the alley behind the hall) was Bryan stopping to pee in a field in the middle of nowhere and the two of us singing Old 97s songs really loud so that everybody stayed awake on the ride home. Neither Bryan, I, nor Wes sang Old 97s songs really loud on the way to the train. I doubt Wes knows any, but he'll learn.

The Frederick Douglass-Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge and the Genesee River, Rochester, NY
Trains are supposed to be more peaceful than buses, right? So how do you explain that my 90-minute trip featured the following:
  • Across the aisle from me was a gentleman who was on the phone for the entire ride (when one call ended, he'd start another within 10 seconds), debating the merits of buying certain athletic equipment, including trampolines from Germany that are called Grand Master. That can't be right, I thought. Grand Master? From Germany? That's a little too Third Reich-ish, no? Well, a Google search reveals that is simply the name of a trampoline sold by a company in Germany. The actual name of the company is Eurotramp. I don't care what you tell me; there's still plenty of weird crap going on in Germany. Let's keep an eye on them. And don't mention the war.
  • Behind me were two children who seemed adorable on the platform. As it turns out, one of them was slightly less adorable than expected, because he or she (I honestly couldn't tell, and I wasn't turning around to look) spent I'd say a solid 15 minutes hacking "like an 80-year-old man" (in the words of a woman I assume was Mom) and spewing something (vomit? bile? who knows?). It made reading a touch difficult. I considered recording the event, but, lucky for you, I decided that was in poor taste. I would say something pithy like, "Score one for Greyhound," if I hadn't been on a bus last month where a grown man was making noises 50 times as bad and walking back and forth to the bathroom three or four times. And he was only on the bus for 45 minutes. I actually would've recorded that. You'll have to just settle for my impression. Just ask the next time you see me.
But enough talk of whooping cough and wretching. For now. I can't say I won't return to it later on. But I'll try to avoid it.

While waiting for my friend Liz to pick me up at the train station, I perused the free local weeklies to see if the Amy LaVere show at the Abilene got any advance press and to see what else was going on in Rochester. While doing that, I happened upon this Blondie comic strip and soon found myself kind of wanting to yell at a newspaper in the middle of an empty train station.

Is anybody even trying at Blondie headquarters anymore? First of all, the thought of a guy with his own bowling ball and bag throwing eight gutter balls in a row during a tournament (and a "big" one!) is ludicrous. But, putting that aside, the "in the 9th frame" kills me. If you leave that out, maybe I'm not so in the flesh. But adding it means you're implying that he threw his first eight gutter balls in the first eight frames, which, I guess means he just skipped the second ball each frame. Because you get to throw two balls a frame, you jerk! I understand that he never said he threw eight in a row to start the game, but the implication is clearly there. And if you just take out "in the 9th frame," there's no problem and the strip is no less hilarious.

C'mon, guys. It's bad enough that Dagwood's the star of the strip and gets no billing at all, never mind top billing. Don't make it worse by making him sound like an ignoramus. He deserves better. We all do.
Me and my sweet ass, L&M Lanes, Rochester, NY
After I'd cooled off from that (it took a while), I noticed an ad for L&M Lanes in Rochester, a two-floor bowling alley. I'm a sucker for two-floor bowling alleys, so when Liz picked me up and asked if I wanted to do anything before the show, I mentioned the ad. And soon we were on lane 5 and listening to the Avett Brothers, Dawes, Flogging Molly, and Prince on the L&M jukebox.

I had a respectable showing (158 and 174, I think...I certainly didn't throw nine gutter balls in a row, and neither did Liz), and the second game was with a guy bowling on lane 1 who would let out a hearty "Hoo-ah!" when he threw a particularly good ball. He would have smoked Dagwood in the big bowling tournament.

The L&M was a swell place to spend a few hours in the late afternoon. And I was pleased to comply with their strict dress code.

After bowling, there was plenty of time to make my first ever trip to a Dinosaur BBQ. Yes, despite having spent a fair amount of time near Syracuse and being a PATH and subway ride from the Dinosaur in Harlem, my first Dinosaur experience was in Rochester, where I have spent roughly 30 hours of my life. Go figure. Anyway, it was quite good, and I applaud myself for balancing the pulled pork with a tomato and cucumber salad. You would expect no less from a guy who spent his morning watching "My Little Pony."

Finally, it was showtime. Liz and I got to the Abilene pretty early, grabbed a few prime seats at the bar, and reminisced about the glory days of copy-editing direct mail brochures (if you threw out an envelope touting 5 books for $1 in the late 1990s, there's a decent chance Liz or I made sure that got to your trash can as error-free as possible...you're welcome). The bar eventually filled up, and I think the show might have been a sellout. Unfortunately, this meant our prime seats at the bar turned into the seats where everyone who wanted to get a drink or go outside for a smoke had to pass. But at least we had seats. I like seats, even when the woman standing in front of me is both so close to and so oblivious of me that I think my kneecap is getting lucky in Rochester.

The show was fun, and since it was one of the two headlining shows I'd see Amy do before she hooked back up again with the Rich Robinson tour, it was a long one, too--two sets, in fact. And it was also the first time I'd seen Amy play a bass other than her own, because there was a luggage-falling incident in Buffalo that resulted in a fairly severe neck injury for Amy's upright bass. So she was playing a loaner (and a really nice-sounding one) while her freshly glued bass rested up and set. I would like to point out that no necks, bass or otherwise, were broken after I started following the tour. I'm not saying I'm a hero, but if you want to, you can.

Amy was also a bit under the weather in Rochester, which led to some trouble toward the end of the second set, when the mix of Dayquil, Red Bull, wine, and whiskey started to really come together. So, after a little mini-set from guitarist Dave Cousar, the show came to a close soon after a gentleman yelling out "Whipping Post" and "Cumberland Blues" insisted that Amy should just drink more. She wisely realized that wasn't a great idea and after, I think, calling out a song they had just played about 10 minutes prior, decided to call it a night and get some rest. She and the band played for about two-and-a-half hours by then, so she earned some sleep.

Since Liz had to be up for work and I had to catch a bus to Ithaca in the morning, we made a somewhat hasty exit and called it a night. I'm now two-for-two with fun shows in Rochester. So, nice going, Rochester. I'll be back someday. Probably sooner than 14 years this time.

UP NEXT: A dog is nearly killed, I go back to Ithaca (no more dorm-room window pictures, though), and I finally fall outside a bar in Ithaca.


The 2012 No Hotel? No Problem Tour: Part 1


As avid Tinsel & Rot readers (both of you) know, I occasionally get the urge to travel. And, for me, traveling does not involve heading to a peaceful locale where I can catch up on sleep and slow down for a bit. On the contrary, I frequently set an itinerary, usually built around seeing friends and/or going to shows, that I know will completely and utterly exhaust me and lead to at least a week of recovery from the supposedly relaxing break from cubicle life.

So, when I saw that Amy LaVere would be opening for Rich Robinson for a string of dates in the Northeast, most of which were in or near cities where friends lived, the wheels started turning. I originally thought about just taking a few days off, but when she announced headlining shows in Rochester and Ithaca, a new plan started to take root. I had already thought about going to Ithaca the Sunday of the week she'd be in town, because Todd Snider was playing in Ithaca for the first time, roughly 16 years after I first wished that would happen (see here for details about that, although, really, you should have this whole blog committed to memory by now). And if I was going to go to that, well then why not just go for the whole week? And maybe I could get the ball rolling on the Critical, But Stable 10th Anniversary Audio Book while I was at it.

Thus, a vacation was born.

As I started figuring out bus and train schedules and how much all this would run me, I decided that I would try to keep it down to no more than two nights in a hotel. Sure, this would mean imposing upon friends and perhaps taking a few overnight bus rides, but I could do that. Heck, I've been doing it for years, and though the knees and back get a little stiffer on those long bus rides these days, maybe I could make it all happen one last time. Then, because my friends are such lovely, giving people, it began to look like I could do the whole trip without staying in even one hotel. And some might even be able to come out to the shows. Nice!

So, what follows over the next few posts is the summary of the No Hotel? No Problem tour, as best as I can recall it.

Saturday, March 10
Bus from NYC to Oneonta: 8:30 am

After a Thursday night at the Todd Snider show at Irving Plaza and a Friday night with Bobby Keys and the Suffering Bastards at the Highline Ballroom (during which I thought Mr. Keys might pass out), I rose and shone and made the bus to Oneonta with about 30 seconds left to spare. The driver informed me I was lucky when he took my ticket, but I prefer to think of myself as a professional bus rider who knows exactly when I need to be at the gate. In fact, I think I've taken enough buses in my life now that I deserve one of those bus driver jackets. It seems like the right thing to do. Please contact me at your earliest convenience, Greyhound and/or Coach USA.

I actually didn't really need to get the 8:30 bus, but, because I am such a pro, I know that the 8:30 bus is my best shot at having enough of a layover in Kingston that I can get to Deising's Bakery in Kingston to get a bunch of the soft pretzels they make on the weekends. And I did (and also picked up some Irish soda bread rolls), thus providing much joy to two of the families who would be   providing shelter on the first leg of the trip.

I got into Oneonta around 1 pm, and my friend Jessica (who, as a mother of two who had her parents up for the weekend, was more than willing to get out of the house to pick me up at the bus station) and I soon found ourselves in Silks and Treasures, the local consignment shop at which everything in the store was $5 that day only. Jessica scored some deals on clothes, and I picked up a $5 pair of sneakers that looked like they may have been worn once. A nice start to the trip, followed up by a visit to the local hoarditorium, where boxes of records, shelves of VHS tapes and DVDs, and piles of books lived together peacefully, willing to go to a new home for a reasonable price but just as content to stay there until the endtimes. I kept myself mainly in check, buying only two records, a Dean Martin LP and this, which I wasn't willing to buy for $10 but gladly walked away with for $5.

Sealed! With the exercise poster untouched! I cannot wait to do the Fire Hydrant while I listen to "Elvira"!

By the time we got back to the house, daily quiet time was almost over, and I was soon drafted by young Sam into playing with trains, climbing into the not-really-for-35-year-old-legs fire truck/tent, and serving as a nurse in the animal hospital. I'm not bragging, but we saved a cat from a fire, and that was even after the cat, in something I didn't think was felinely possible, went back on fire after we had seemingly put the flames out. It was tense for a bit and I'd love to take most of the credit, but the doctor really came through on this one.

My friend Brett, fresh from supervising a Model UN afternoon, came home just after the cat situation was resolved, and we went out for dinner, to Andre's Blue Ribbon BBQ, where we were treated to good food (any place with a baked sweet potato has a special place in my heart) and generally playful though occasionally uncomfortable rapport between the husband and wife who own the restaurant (we were the only two people in the place, so that might have caused some of the discomfort on my end...also "Prairie Home Companion" was on). This is one of the few places I ate where I didn't take pictures of the food, so you'll have to just trust me that it was good.

And then it was back home, and soon time for sleep after a successful Day One. It was not, however, the best day of the year for me to be losing an hour. Thanks a lot, stupid Daylight Savings Time.

Sunday, March 11
Bus from Oneonta to Binghamton: 12:50 or 1:00 (depending on which Coach USA schedule you consulted); Bus from Binghamton to Ithaca: 2:05


After some early-morning churching and the first dancing Bocephus sighting of the day (in a deli in Oneonta), there was some heavy conversation at the breakfast table between Sam and me on the topics of pirates, sharks, and poop. I can't entirely recall how the three connected, but suffice it to say it was the best conversation I've had all year, perhaps in my entire life.

Unfortunately, I could not spend more time traversing the pirate-shark-poop triangle, because I had to get back on the road. So, after a little more playtime, Brett's stellar work on getting the audio book project started, a quick goodbye to Jessica and her parents, and a parting snapshot of baby Fiona, Brett, Sam, and I headed to the bus station, to catch the bus to Binghamton, where, if we hit no traffic and arrived right on time, I could catch my connecting bus to Ithaca. It is such a precise connection that they don't even give you the hope of making it at the Oneonta bus terminal, instead telling you the time when the next bus to Ithaca (4:15) leaves from Binghamton.

Please. Of course I made it.

The above is, essentially, the view just outside of the window of the room where I lived for two years at Ithaca College. It turns out I was not aware of this. Or maybe it's because the day I arrived in Ithaca was far and away the nicest day I've ever seen in Ithaca. I had layered up for the trip, assuming that my few days in central New York would involve some combination of wind, clouds, and precipitation. Pretty much wrong on all fronts, so I had to de-layer once my friend Bryan arrived in town. So, that done and my Huey Lewis and the News shirt now uncovered for the fine people of Ithaca to see (multiple compliments, thank you very much), Bryan and I took a walk down memory lane on campus (largely shut down for spring break) as we tried to remember where our friends lived when we were in college. I was a little better at that than Bryan, which may have something to do with the difference in the amount of alcohol we consumed in college.

Here are a few pictures that won't mean a thing to you. But what is a blog if not a place where one can post things of no importance to the rest of the world? Good. That's settled.

The middle room on the left is where I lived for two years: Terrace 12, Room 220. You can't see it too well from the picture, but the room on the bottom right has a Justin Bieber poster in the window. I am hoping it is ironic. I fear it is not.

And this is the room where I lived my junior year: Terrace 2, Room 102. Excellent, easy access to the Terrace Dining Hall, but a bit of a challenge because it was right next to the main door, which meant every time someone needed to get into the building and the door was locked, my window would get a tap. I noted that the current resident has his or her bed right up against the window, so maybe that isn't a problem anymore. Or maybe the current resident is just a people person.

Junior year was the year I first felt completely comfortable in college. And kind of in life in general. I miss junior year.

OK, enough wistful, nostalgic longings. Let's get to some pictures of food! There are many fine eating establishments from my days in college that are now gone (Gino's, I miss you most of all), but, luckily, the Glenwood Pines still remains. I actually think I was there no more than once while in college, but it became the go-to stop in the years immediately after, and it remains so today. The food is good, but the old school bowling game is even better.

And no trip to the Pines is complete without a piece of Kentucky Derby Pie. I had already marked this as a trip highlight before the first bite entered my mouth. You might not match it with a pint, but Bryan knows what he's doing, so let's not question him. And, anyway, it is what Tom Waits would do.

Then it was time for the first rock show of the trip, a show I'd been waiting for since the fall of 1996, when I first started checking Pollstar (a concert website) during breaks between classes on the computers in the Friends Hall computer lab and the Ithacan office. Finally, Todd Snider was coming to Ithaca. I was maybe a little less excited than I would've been in 1996 and if it was a Nervous Wrecks show at the old, smaller Haunt, but not much. After all, it was still a band show (though the band had lost two members from the show I saw in NYC on Thursday), and that was enough reason to rejoice, since Todd's generally a solo act these days.

After a bit of a rocky start due to some guitar issues, Todd and crew settled into a groove and played a looser, rowdier, and generally more fun show than the NYC show (which was still plenty of fun). He seemed less intent on showcasing his new record and more focused on just having a good time on a Sunday night in Ithaca. It was a good-sized crowd for a Sunday night, too, and I was proud of the people of Ithaca for coming out on a Sunday night. By the time Todd settled into a reworked version of "Doublewide Blues" (off of Viva Satellite, the very CD I was obsessing over as graduation approached in 1998), it felt a little bit like college again. And then when I finally got to see Todd's road manager, Dave, do his best Elvis during the encore (he does it fairly frequently but somehow never at the shows I go to), I was really happy with how this trip was turning out.

And, really, any day where you see two different dancing Bocephi (and you're not in my apartment, where one stands in my bedroom and one's in the kitchen) is a good day.

NEXT UP: The last day of no music, I almost knock myself out, and my long-awaited return to Rochester, NY.


What I Liked About February

*Getting a photo with Busy Philipps
*Pete Weber's US Open victory and subsequent celebration
*Getting a photo with Jay Baruchel
*Roast beef with spinach, Tommy DiNic's, Philadelphia, PA

*Visiting Walt Whitman's grave
*The Levon Helm Band/Steep Canyon Rangers, Levon Helm Studios, Woodstock, NY
*Getting the Hanson Brothers to sign a box of aluminum foil
*Flogging Molly/Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears/The Devil Makes Three, Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC

*Whole grain almond meal pancakes with lowfat raspberry yogurt and strawberries, Sweet Sue's, Phoenicia, NY
*The Giants' Super Bowl victory
*The willingness of people with cars to drive me places