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.

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