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
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.
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.
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.