Monday, December 23, 2013

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.....

The view from our plane, flying over Washington state

Looks like someone had a rough time....

James getting ready for our radio interview

Cast and crew "dirty santa" or White Elephant party at our hotel in Spokane

The spoils of our party....

My "dressing room" with James in Kennewick

Backstage right in Kennewick

Easily the first time I can say there were hockey goals backstage...James agrees...

The Windemere Theatre at the Toyota Center, Kennewick, WA

The INB Performing Arts Center, Spokane, WA

Me and the boys and m'am in life-size!

Doesn't look like me at all....

Random Riverfront Park, Spokane

The world's largest Radio Flyer wagon

As we like to say in Maine..."Cold 'nuff fo-uh yuh?"  Hey, everyone!  It was a bit of a shock heading from San Diego to Kennewick, WA, but we were all looking forward to the last week before our Christmas break.  Because of the cold and our remote location in both towns, there isn't much to report, but as always, there were a few happenings!  Here are the highlights!

Our travel day on Tuesday was a bit long, but then again we hadn't taken a flight since we flew into Thousand Oaks, CA over a month before.  After a bus to the airport, two layovers and another bus to Kennewick, we arrived in the mid afternoon to find Kennewick a bit less balmy then southern California.  There wasn't a whole lot around, so I bundled up and headed to a nearby Target to get some food for our short couple of days in Kennewick.  It was certainly a frigid walk, but it felt nice to be in the confines of my warm hotel room when I returned.  After a warm bowl of soup, courtesy of the hotel, I hibernated in my room for a while before meeting up with some of the boys in James' room for some music and conversation.
Wednesday greeted us with bitter cold, so most of us spent the day indoors.  I hadn't done that for quite a while, so it actually felt nice to just sit in my room for a bit.  I enjoyed some hot soup by the TV, and got ready for the frigid walk to our venue.  James met me in the lobby, and the two of us looked like we were preparing for a trip to the Arctic Circle; but I'll tell you, 10 degrees is quite different from 40.  What we didn't take into account was the venue.  Now we have played some interesting places before; we have even played arenas before.  However, THIS arena houses the Tri City Americans, cousin to the Canadians in the NHL.  So, the entire arena is ice...covered by a plastic layer.  But, to keep the ice from melting, the temperature in the venue was quite cold.  Besides that the fact that our show was altered quite a bit to fit the space, it was quite cold for the majority of the show....even though the lights were so close to us, you'd think it would melt the ice under our feet.  I have to say, as unpleasant as it may have been to be in that environment for a show, the audience was quite good, and it made it all worthwhile.  We braved the cold after the show and we all hold up in our hotel rooms, awaiting bus travel the next day.

Thursday greeted us with another cold day, but thankfully a relatively short drive to Spokane.  We got there in the early afternoon, and had enough time to get settled and grab a bit near our hotel before walking across the Spokane River for our first of 5 shows in town.  A beautiful THEATRE. as opposed to our digs in Kennewick, and the audience greeted us with an amazingly warm reception.  I would've loved to hang out a bit afterward, but I made the snow-filled walk back to our hotel knowing full well that I had press at 5 am the next day; I tried my best to make it an early night.

Friday morning came very early, and I have to say, the whole "shortest days of the year" thing is getting pretty old, pretty quick.  Waking up at 4 am and not seeing sun until 7 or 8, and seeing the sun set before 5 pm is not, though I know it will be a long winter, I am looking forward to at least the length of days changing.  James and I did a couple of great TV/radio interviews, and were safely back in our rooms at about 8 am.  After attempting to sleep for a few hours, I was not going to let fatigue keep me from exploring downtown Spokane.  I made my way across the river, after a bite at Chipotle, to take in some of downtown.  I took some great pictures of, one of my favorite things, advertisements on brick buildings.  I made my way to the mall and walked around a bit (Starbucks coffee in hand), and on my way home to rest I stopped at Riverfront Park to take a few pictures and see the world's largest Radio Flyer wagon.  It was pretty awesome.  After a walk home, I prepared myself for the show that night, and made the cold walk back across the bridge.  Following the show, the majority of the cast and crew met in the hotel's restaurant for our little impromptu Christmas party.  We did a White Elephant or "dirty santa" exchange, when it was all said and done, we had quite a bit of fun opening presents and enjoying each other's company.  I hung out with a couple of the boys after for a bit, and got some shut eye to prepare for the two show day to follow.

I got to work relatively early, and rocked out the matinee.  Following that, I had a little Jimmy John's delivered to my hotel room, and hibernated for a bit before heading out for the evening show.  After that, I headed with Vince, James, Corey and Patrick to the Saranac Brewing Co. for a bite to eat, and to give James a little farewell, as he would not be joining us for our last two shows.  I was walking home with the boys and spotted a few of our people in another place and stopped in for a bit before heading home.

Sunday morning came early, as mornings often do, and I headed to work dragging a little bit.  Brad was on as Carl for the matinee as was Katie as Dyanne, so it was a different but excellent show!  I was pretty tired in between, so I opted to take the quick walk to Jimmy John's, and then take a nap in my dressing room after a call to my parents.  Only one more show to make it through before heading home to Maine the next day.  The evening show went extremely well with Brad on again, and after the show I met a new friend in the lobby to get a drink at a local place, Zola.  They had amazing sweet potato fries, and an amazing ambience; the booth we sat in was a converted Tilt-a-Whirl....pretty cool.

I opted to stay up all night, as I had to be up and on the shuttle to the airport at 4 AM.  Maybe not the smartest choice, but it certainly helped me sleep on the three planes I had to take to get across the country!!

I landed in Maine at about 6:45 and was greeted by my parents, and shortly thereafter, my brother Rick.  I hadn't really eaten all day, so we had a family meal at Panera in South Portland before heading home.  I haven't been back in Maine for the winter in so long, it's almost as though I didn't recognize where I was.  But, it was only a matter of time before I got used to it and just thanked the stars that I was home for Christmas for the first time in 13 years.

Though I am not on tour for the next few weeks, I'll still be blogging a bit.  Other than some much needed time at home, I will be taking a trip to NYC to see a couple of shows, and heading out to Arizona to do my one man Cash show before tour starts back up again.  Please take care, everyone, and have a Merry Christmas!!!!!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Long lost friends, craft beers, and air craft carriers

The sunset that greeted us in San Diego.  Too bad you can't see how pink the sky was

Me and Robby doing some EARLY morning press

Another glimpse at our new photos in celebration of Million Dollar Quartet Day!
Photo credit: Jeremy Daniel

A cake made for us by the lovely people at the Civic Theatre 

My high school buddy Matt Ivey and his little boy Jack

The beautiful Christmas tree at the equally gorgeous Westgate Hotel

One of the many beautifully restored historic buildings in the Gaslamp District

PETCO Park, home of the San Diego Padres

The Civic Theatre

A gorgeous historic hotel; The Horton Grand

The Old Town district of San Diego

The Presidio; California's first military outpost and the site of it's first mission

Look at that face!!! A fisher cat at the famous San Diego Zoo

And a baby panda....

The Sante Fe train station, downtown

The amazing USS Midway Museum at the sea port

A random Delorean outside the Ballast Point Brewing Co. 

Hi everyone!  Sorry this blog is a bit overdue!  It was a busy last week of tour, so I'm a little behind on my blogging.  However, the added bonus is you will get two this week!  I also am planning on continuing to write even while at home, because my Christmas break proves to be pretty eventful.  But, enough's to the week in San Diego!

We left Palm Desert and made the relatively short drive to San Diego.  We pulled up to the stunning Westgate Hotel, and took no time to move in!  It was a bit colder than I expected, but still very nice.  Knowing I had early press the next day, I didn't do a whole lot.  I moved into my room, enjoyed it's luxury for a while, and then headed to a local place, Sushi Deli 2, with Robby to grab a bite and talk about our impending early press the next day.  They have some pretty amazing sushi for a very reasonable price, so I saw myself going there quite a bit over the week.  After a nice dinner and a quick visit with the Franklin-Barry clan who were also chowing down on some sushi, Robby and I headed back to our rooms to try and rest before our 5:20 AM call for

Tuesday morning came very early, but Robby and I were good sports and were in the lobby well before our call time to meet our local press rep.  We got into a luxury car and our driver took us to a Starbucks to get some much needed caffeine before our TV appearance.  It went extremely well, especially considering the fact that Robby hadn't ever done any sort of press at all.  After our quick interview, we were driven home, and I went up to my room hell bent on getting SOME rest for a bit, so that I could get up and walk around the town.  I succeeded.  Sorta.  I laid down and got a bit of sleep, but I really wanted to be able to get out and see the town a little bit.  So, I woke my happy self up and headed to the historic Gaslamp District, just a stone's throw from our hotel.  I was able to stop by the much sought after Hard Rock Cafe along the way (it's been a while since I've seen one and been able to get a pin), and I took pictures of some of the amazing historic buildings in my path.  I decided, though it was sprinkling, to head to PETCO Park, home of the San Diego Padres.  It's pretty amazing to look back on all of the MLB ballparks I've been able to see along the way; so, I walked around the outskirts of the park, took a bunch of pictures, and even went into the team store to buy an obligatory pin and a throwback Tony Gwynn t-shirt.  After stopping in a few more shops along the way, I ended up meeting up with David Sonneborn, and we decided to get lunch at a Thai restaurant not too far from our hotel.  We rarely get the chance to talk now that I am onstage every night, so it was nice to catch up with him and get some delicious food at the same time.  I decided afterward that I needed to go home and lay pretty low to counteract my early morning.  I took the walk (it was about 50 ft.) to our stage door later that evening, and prepared for opening night.  Yet again, we were surprised at the audience's response, and though it had been a while, we had an opening night party following the performance at the nearby House Of Blues.  While dining on some delectable treats, I also got to meet some of our VIP's, representatives from the theatre, and enjoyed myself thoroughly.  We even got to meet a wonderful gentleman who had interviewed the Beatles on their first American tour....he offered us links to recordings of John Lennon doing some PSA's for his college radio station in Maryland, and even an interview he did with the band....pretty unreal.  I mean, I'm a Beatles fan, and a big one, but not as big as James and Patrick.  They were kinda freaking out.  After the festivities at HOB, we headed to a local place....the Local...strangely enough.  A big group of us hung out there for a while, meeting even more happy audience members (a little on the younger side), and just thoroughly enjoyed the rest of our night.  

On Wednesday morning I did a long overdue workout on the scenic third floor of our hotel.  From there, I walked around the Gaslamp District yet again, heading into the MAC store for some makeup; ah, the life of an actor.  Shortly after I left, I stumbled upon not only some amazing buildings, but the Gaslamp District Museum.  So, I went in and wandered around the house.  It was beautifully decorated, and in time for Christmas (in 1886 style, of course).  It had been quite a while since I had been in a museum like that.  I went home for a bit, and then headed to the Local to meet up with Suzi, a college friend I hadn't seen in over 15 years.  She got married recently, and had settled in San Diego a few years before; it was so great to be able to catch up but also to reminisce about old times in college.  I left her off at her car, and headed to the theatre for another great show.  I met up with a few of the boys after meeting a patron who knew Jerry Lee personally, and he was gracious enough to show John, Jennice and I some of his treasured vinyl and autographs.  After meeting at the Yard House, me and a few of the boys went out in search of some of San Diego's night life; we found some.....but were unimpressed.  We will leave it at that.....

I had the night off to look forward to on Thursday, so Frace and his cousin Robert and I took a short cab ride to the Old Town district of San Diego.  A bit like a less commercial version of Tombstone, AZ...but really quaint and cute.  A lot of local artisans and eateries....we trekked through town and made our way up a confusing and steep hill to see the Presidio.  Though it was beautiful to stand atop this gorgeous hill and look out upon the metropolis of San Diego, I was a bit disappointed that the museum on site was closed.  No matter.  We headed back into town and stopped at the Root Beer & Jerky though such a thing exists.  I found 2, count them 2 Maine root beers in store that I purchased, along with some Vegan jerky for the Franklin-Barry clan.  We made our way through town, and just as we were about to try and catch a cab, we decided to head into the free Sheriff's museum.  It may have been free, but it was REALLY interesting and fun!  We got the cab home, and we went our separate ways for a bit before the show.  As classy as our hotel was, they threw quite a big party that evening before we headed to work; Victorian garbed carolers at the entrance to the lobby, wassail, mulled wine, egg nog, carved turkey and roast beef, finger foods along with a small performance of the Nutcracker (which we had to miss, due to our call time).  After sampling some of what the hotel had to offer, I headed to work, fully prepared to take the night off.  Frace killed it once again, and afterward I met him, his cousin Robert, and mutual friend of ours I hadn't seen in years, Jonathan.  It was a grand night.

I got up bright and early on Friday with the motivation to send a small box home, and then head off to the world-famous San Diego Zoo.  Though it was quite pricey, it was easily the best and most stunning zoo I had ever been to.  A family could easily take 3 or 4 days to see the entire thing.  Sporting not only some amazing animals (see the baby panda above) but some challenging terrain, I really was thoroughly impressed, and spent over 4 hours there; easily the most time I have ever spent at a zoo.  I flagged a cab and headed home to chill a bit before the show that evening, where ANOTHER college friend, Bridget, was able to see the show!  We headed to the Local again that night to chat and catch up...yet another amazing night and time to catch up with dear friends from the past.    

I made the quick trip to the theatre on Saturday for our two shows.  David went on to play bass for both shows, and in between the theatre threw us a little BBQ in the Jam Room.  BBQ chicken, veggie burgers, some amazing beans and veggies.  And some of the best BBQ sauce I've ever had.  They even made us a cake!  After dinner I went home to chill before the second show and rest a bit.  Another amazing show that night, and a quick stop at the Local with a couple of the boys afterward.  

Sunday marked our last day of shows in San Diego, and Bradley went on for James for both shows, as he had taken a personal day to spend with his family.  Bradley did an amazing job both times, and it is pretty astounding the amount of improvement he makes each and every time he goes on.  He is a hard working, passionate guy.  Kudos, my friend.  A dear, dear friend of mine, Matt Ivey and his family were able to come to the matinee on that day.  Matt and I went to high school together for the first two years, and through playing baseball became very close.  I was pretty broken hearted when he and his family moved to Puerto Rico, but amazingly we have kept in touch pretty well throughout the years; which is pretty amazing considering we've been friends for 20 years, and he is in the Navy.  Nevertheless, it was great to catch up with him and his wife Haley whom I had met a couple of years ago....and finally meet his little boy Jack!  The. Cutest. Thing. Ever.  After dinner with them at Sushi Deli 2, I walked them to their car and prepared for the evening show.  I hated to tell James later....but it was easily the best audience of the week.  And Bradley ate it right up.  Following the show a bunch of people went out to celebrate Brad's day, and I joined for a bit; I was very interested in this place, The Tipsy Crow that they went to.  It has a Drink Exchange; sorta like the stock exchange....if everyone in the restaurant is order Coke, then the price of it will go up due to it's popularity, whereas if no one is drinking Diet Coke, it will be dirt cheap.  A pretty interesting concept...though not something I would want to deal with on a daily basis.  

I was so excited for Monday!!!  We very rarely get a full day off in a place without travel, let alone a cool city like San Diego after a great week of shows.  So, I slept in a bit, and after getting a quick bite and some coffee, I walked all the way down to the water to visit something I had been wanting to see ever since I had heard it was in SD: The USS Midway aircraft carrier.  I've been on quite a few ships actually; when I was in the Boy Scouts, my father and brother and I went with my troupe to Fall River, MA and actually slept on the battleship USS Massachusetts and toured the USS Lionfish submarine.  My brother has always been fascinated with military history, and by proxy I was too.  Still am.  My father served in the Navy in Vietnam, and his father was in the Marines in WWII.  I can't say we are "fans" of the military or war, but we certainly support our troops, and a lot of the history of warfare is quite interesting.  So, I spent a good 4 hours on that ship.  It's pretty amazing how much of it you can actually see.  There are over 20 planes and other aircraft in the hanger and on the deck, as well as displays all over the ship, a guided tour of the control tower, and a self-guided tour of the sleeping quartets, mess halls and multiple pilot ready rooms.  Just incredible and awe inspiring.  I could've stayed for longer than I did, but I was getting a little hungry and wanted to see some other sites.  Along the waterfront were a number of other ships, part of the San Diego Maritime Museum:  The Star Of India, a couple of submarines and other ships.  I walked nearly a mile from the Midway to a brewery that James suggested, Ballast Point Brewing Co.  It was a very pleasant walk though, as the temperature had risen that day.  On his suggestion, I tried (for the first time ANYWHERE) the fish tacos; I'm kinda against the idea of the dish on principal, but I gave in.  And though I don't think it is the type of thing I will have a lot, I will say I enjoyed them.  I sampled a couple of their beers, also on James' suggestion, which is not really the type of thing I do.  But, I really enjoyed myself, though I was by my lonesome, and when I was done I made the mile and half walk home to the hotel.  I was home at about 5, and after hanging in my room for quite a while and having a nice long convo with James, I met up with a few of the boys at a very chill place close by, El Dorado bar.  It was a great way to end and amazing week in San Diego.  

The next morning we did something we hadn't in quite a while......headed to an airport.  As I said, this blog is WAY overdue, so my final blog before the Christmas break will be riding on this blog's coattails.  Thanks for tuning in, and I hope you enjoy this week's tale!  More from the Pacific Northwest in my next installment!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Happy Turkey Day, gorgeous surroundings and surprise visits

Another gorgeous trip

The view that greeted us at our hotel in Palm Desert

Fluke and Fluke; W.S. "Fluke" Holland visited us yet again, and Patrick got to meet him for the first time

The golf resort where we spend Thanksgiving

The Barry's festive door

A trip with the Franklin-Barry clan to Joshua Tree

Sam and James doin' what father and son do

The McCallum Theatre

Another great shot of the Barry boys

Joshua Tree family portrait

Hello, everyone!  I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!  It was wonderful to finally be back in one place for a full week, and there was certainly a lot going on.  So, let's get started!

We arrived in Palm Desert after a very lengthy drive from Prescott, AZ on Monday.  It was quite cold when we left, but we were not only greeted with some beautiful views along the way, but 70 degree weather when arrived back in California.  Though we were quite a few miles from our theatre, we got our rental cars, and that night I took a trip with the Franklin-Barry's to get some groceries at the not to far away Trader Joe's.  We stocked up on snacks and meals for the week and headed back home. 

Tuesday arrived, and the boys and I headed to the theatre in the afternoon for some press for a local television affiliate.  It didn't take all that long, and we headed home to chill a bit before opening night.  The show that evening was great, and we were joined yet again by W.S. Fluke Holland in the audience.  It was his first trip out on this leg of the tour, so quite a few of the cast hadn't gotten to meet him.  He came backstage, and was gracious enough to introduce himself to the newer cast members and take a few pictures; what a class act.  Following the show, we all decided to meet at the 24 hour pool at our hotel.  We passed the guitar around, listened to some music, and generally just had a blast.  Earlier that day I had received a package I had ordered: the much coveted Beats Executive over ear headphones.  I had been blown away by the in-ear headphones I had purchased, as well as my portable Pill speaker, and I had been really interested in getting these for a while.  It's amazing how differently you hear the music you love so much when it is presented so clearly and with astonishing sound.  Unreal.

I got up pretty early on Wednesday to go on a little excursion.  Years ago, I started listening to the Johnny Cash Radio podcast.  I've been writing in for years, and have become pen pals of sorts with the founder, Bill Miller, and his wife Shannon.  In the past few years they have done some incredible things in the name of Johnny Cash.  Their podcast sprouted into a 24/7 Johnny Cash radio station, their sells numerous, hard to find memorabilia, and most importantly, their Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Nashville, and perhaps the country.  Through our correspondence, I learned that they were going to spending the week in Palm Springs, a stone's throw from Palm Desert.  So, we made plans to meet for lunch at Tommy Bahama's.  Bill told me had quite a few Cash stories that had taken place there, so he wanted to share them with me in the place they happened.  What started as a casual lunch ended up being a nearly 3 hour conversation about all things Cash.  We talked about the estate, all of their projects, my history with the show, and just...well....Johnny Cash.  They had some amazing stories of their nearly 30 year friendship with him, and I was humbled to share a meal with them, and to be considered a friend.  Before I left, Bill gave me a present; a check that Johnny had written to a friend in March of 1960 for a small personal loan....signed by the man himself.  I will not only cherish it for years to come, but I will be framing it as soon as I get home.  I raced back to the hotel to pick up the boys for another press appearance at the theatre; probably the BEST interview we've ever done.  Insightful, well-informed questions, and just a lot of fun.  After the press we headed home for a bit, before heading back to work for another great show.  We also resumed collecting for BC/EFA this week.  Due to our busy schedule of one nighters and split weeks, we were only able to collect in Thousand Oaks and this week in Palm Desert.  Over the two weeks, we were able to collect nearly $30,000; not bad for just two weeks work. 

Thursday was Thanksgiving!  After laying low and getting some laundry done at the hotel, the cast and crew headed to the breathtaking Indian Wells Golf Resort for our meal.  We were seated outdoors overlooking the entire golf course.  Even our awesome truck drivers were able to join us.  I sat close to the Barry's, and it really did feel like a big family meal.  Which is always important, when we are all spending so much time away from home.   There were tons of delicious options, and even a bunch of Vegan friendly choices for the no-food-with-a-face cast members.  After a lovely meal, I headed home and napped for a bit before hanging out a bit that night.  

On Friday, The Franklin-Barry's and I took the short drive to the southern entrance of Joshua Tree National Park.  It was never a place that was on my radar as far as places I NEEDED to visit, but I've heard of it's majestic beauty, so when James mentioned they wanted to go, I jumped on the bandwagon.  It's truly a place of beauty, and a definite escape; we didn't have cell phone service for probably 10 miles out.  The views were just spectacular, and after stopping our car at every available scenic overlook, as well as playing with Sam at the welcome center, we headed back on our way home.  Following our adventure, I chilled in my room a bit before heading to another great show that night.  Frace's girlfriend Haley came in to town that day, so the three of us and Robby hung out that night.  

Saturday was pretty busy, with our two shows and a BBQ at the theatre, on a patio attached to the green room.  It certainly was a week filled with great food, and good times with the cast and crew.  Although I didn't have any turkey at the BBQ, I was certainly feeling sleepy.  So, I decided to stay at the theatre and nap on the couch in my spacious dressing room.  It's times like that that I am very thankful for some of the gorgeous theatres we play, and of course when I get the "big boy" dressing room.  David played drums for the matinee show, which had been quite a while for him.  It's been awesome to have so many of the Thunderstudies go on; I know they relish the time onstage, just as I did when I had the privilege of going on, and it also helps to keep us on our toes and keep the show fresh.  

Sunday was a bit more of a whirlwind, as we had two shows with a much shorter break in between.  Both shows went extremely well, and though it had been nice to be in the same place for a week, I think we were all ready to move on to the next.  After the show, I hung out with the boys and Haley in my room, and then prepared for the short travel day the next day.  

This blog is a bit overdue, as I've been having some problems uploading pictures and whatnot to this blog and to Facebook.  So, my San Diego blog will be following this one shortly after.  It was a great week in Palm Desert, but San Diego was certainly one of the cities I was looking forward to the most.  And as I write this blog on our last night here, I can tell you I was not disappointed.  So, thanks for tuning in this week, and I hope you will tell your friends about my blog!  Stay tuned for more news from California, and Happy Holidays!