Austin to New England

If you’ve been following my travels, you will know that I let off on this blog about a week ago, before our big show celebrating the 8th annum of, in Austin. The next few days were travel and celebration, transitions back to my NY life for a few short hours, and more planes and trains…thusly, I neglected this blog. Or maybe I’m just lazy. Ha. Regardless, here goes a basic reconstruction for ya…

Scott and I met Trisha Keefer, our new friend and temporary violinist, at Momo‘s about a half-hour before showtime.  Momo’s is vaguely described by our friend Pete Harris as Austin’s Rockwood Music Hall..a gathering place for many artists, and in fact many artists, some of whom I’ve met in NYC playing, work there. Joe Beckham, Trisha’s man and the bassist for several fantastic Austin bands, was there as well, and we set up quickly, then relaxed on the attached porch deck prior to our show. MAndi LeBlanc and her man, Jeremiah, soon arrived and we all caught up over Lone Stars. Soon after, we took the stage to kick off the festivities.

It was wonderful to play with Scott after such a long time—an entire month—spent in different locales. Trisha, while winging it somewhat on a couple of songs, never missed a beat and brought a fantastic new feel to our music. We played for a good 45 mins, and had a fun crowd…I realized during “Train To Cross” that I had to adjust the geography…”Up” in Dallas. When I hit the line “Go back to Texas” the entire room erupted in applause…never had that happen before.

The people were simply marvelous, and we were so thrilled and honored to have been part of Pete’s celebration. Afterwards, we watched the incredible Ruby Jane Show (she’s a 15-year-old violin prodigy) take the stage…we stayed most of the set then got a delicious meal of fish tacos at Wahoo’s, down the street, after bypassing the “kosher” deli, which was in fact “kosher-style”, a term that infuriates both me and Stein. I mean, “Kosher-style”? what does that even mean?  If it’s the mélange of Eastern European ethnicities and the corresponding food style of twentieth-centruy New York they’re after, say “New York-style”, for Christ’s sake. If it’s Kosher-style, then, well, you shouldn’t have cheese, pork, what have you on the menu with smoked meats. Ridiculous.

Anyway…we had a lovely meal and talked much about the Steelers and their prospects this year. Devoured our tacos, and headed back to the club, where Mandi LeBlanc had taken the stage.

And did she ever take it. I haven’t seen Mandi in a long time, and the last time was at an acoustic show at Laila Lounge we both shared. With a full band, kicking out modern beats and fabulous harmonies, a bit of electronica mixed in…she sounded like a Portishead meets Scissor Sisters with a bit of funk and twang mixed in. It was bloody fantastic.

Joe, Scott and I all hung out on the back deck while the next band set up. We talked a bit about the local scene, and the developing of the area we’d been in..I’d remarked as to how it seemed like it was lovingly they’d tried to improve the area without taking away anything that made it special. Joe affirmed this, saying that the whole area was ridiculously full o’ strip malls and pretty run-down, and that they’d paid special attention to pedestrian life. Indeed, though Scott and I did drive many places, we didn’t necessarily have to, and did walk quite a bit in the neighborhood in which we stayed.

The night ran on, with great music from CJ Vinson and others. Pete’s old buddy Allan was in town, and he’d tied one on pretty well by the time we left…in fact, when we went to leave, he’d been napping in a side booth unbeknownst to us.

We stumbled back to Pete’s and began prepping for both sleep and our flight out the next day…Allan passed out for a few minutes before Pete and I decided to put out a wee repast of cheese, olives, nuts and crackers, and he got up, we all started munching, and subsequently began talking smack in the way only a bunch of reasonably filthy drunk men can…which then of course led to serious conversation about music. Sleep came quick for Stein, but not for me..I stayed up for hours reading, thinking…watching the sky.

We woke up relatively early the next day to catch some breakfast taco action at Maria’s before we hit the plane in San Antonio. The place is done up like a shrine to Mex folk art-cum-gas station relics…fabulous. Supremely satiated, we headed north and got our plane.

Now, the plane out was pretty light…we’d needed to deplane in O’Hare to get our connection to  LaGuardia…and I’d seen that there was a similar flight going to Newark, right near my mom’s place where I needed to be the next day anyway, so I bid a good parting to Stein and headed to the other side of the airport to try to transfer. Alas, no dice, all the planes were full. So I called up Scott and met him in the food court, where he ate cardboard pizza and I managed to find a half-decent bagel.  We reboarded our plane to find that it was entirely full, and that our luggage had nowhere to go. A minor freakout ensued on the part of all of the late-boarders, and about five of us were required to leave the plane to check bags. Luckily, on the way up I managed to squeeze my kanpsack into a little wedge, and Stein his bag stowed as well. My guitar was the mitigating factor, though…at the very last moment I managed to convince the attendant to squeeze it into the front closet, and relieved we went back to our seats.

Sadly, I sat next to a rather boorish-seeming woman who kept wedging her elbows into my chest, and when I asked her to please watch out, she kind of muttered something at me…I attempted as best I could to sleep but failed entirely.

Our plane ride otherwise was rather uneventful, if highly uncomfortable, and I bolted the heck off the plane the moment I could..took a few deep breaths then caught the bus back to the city.

I boarded the bus , and a young woman decked out in Canada souvenir tchotchkes hauled her luggage up the stairs, reaching for money only to find out that the bus didn’t take dollar bills. I pegged her for a NYC first-timer, and gave her my last MetroCard swipe. “Thank you,” she said, and she and her friend sat next to me. “Where are you going?  Where are you from?”  Turns out she and her friend were students from Austria, only 19 years old, coming off a year of being au pairs in Vancouver. We spoke a bit about the breathless beauty and fabulous sushi of British Columbia, they told me how thrilling it was to be at the Olympics, and then they told me a bit of their plans.  They’d come through via San Francisco, which they’d hated..too snooty, they said…then got to Los Angeles, which they’d loved, and of course, they were seriously enamored of Chicago. They were unfortunately staying in Jersey City, as the hostel was cheaper, and needed to get to the PATH train..but it became evident by the time we got back to the subway station they really had no idea where they were going or what they were doing in NY, and I was seriously concerned they were going to get mugged. Their wallets were out, their directions were in their bags, they were covered with touristy items…they were big ol’ targets.

So I walked them through getting a weekly MetroCard, and chaperoned them onto the E train. I gave them very distinct details on how to exit the train at West 4th, where the PATH was, what they needed, my mama’s key to the city (“Even streets go east, Jeremiah. Never forget that.”) and which direction to walk: “Look for the clocktower, and go to W. 9th St, make a right…the PATH is right there.”  I had them repeat it back to me, as they were exhausted. I left them at 34th street, told them to call me if they had any problems, and ascended the stairs into Manhattan for the first time in weeks.

The weather was beautiful as I went up the wide stairs of the 34th St. Post office, where I get my mail (as it’s 24 hours..and utterly gorgeous, a relic of ennobling public spaces in this modern age).  I checked my PO box, then walked out the revolving door.  On the way down the stairs, I saw the video marquee on the West side of Madison Square Garden, showing images of so may great moments on sports and music which have been right there on that spot…and at that very moment a voice rose up in my head and remembered the dreamer, the kid who was playing with a plastic microphone at age ten in my friend Ben’s living room…

I caught a train back to my hometown where my dear mom picked my tired ass. I spent the next few hours dawdling and decompressing after our massive day of travel, and caught up with my sister a bit, then packed up all of my clothes for our sojourn up to Lake Winnepesaukee the following morning. Ali and I, as usual, left too many things til the last minute…I only wound up getting about two hours’ sleep before we all managed to shoehorn ourselves into my mother’s VW Beetle.

I will interject at this point to make mention that when we chose to buy the pretty little Bug, we didn’t think we’d be taking a lot of trips in it. As Ali and I were grown, and I had my own car, we figured it would never come up…then all of our relatives wound up getting married and/or having children, so we’ve spent way too much time going to family events. Blessedly of course.

Oy, that car is small…and it didn’t help that I was so grouchy from the previous day’s travels. But by the time we got to Bosoton, I’d mellowed a bit, and we stopped for coffee and a farm stand for fresh corn, which I love to eat raw. I asked the gentleman if it was ok to eat it raw, and he said in a Massachusetts accent, “I don’t cayuh what ya doo aftah you beye it.”. I chuckled at his salty demeanor, and dug up the $1.20 for the two ears.

We rolled up through New England listening to Pet Sounds, AND HAD A MAGICAL WEEKEND. That’s really all I have to say.


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