Lovely Layoff

After Sioux City, we had another layoff week – we had originally been scheduled to play Iowa City, but during the terrible tornadoes this past summer, the theater there was flooded and is now closed . On the one hand, it’s a little tough to go with another unpaid week right before Christmas, but on the other hand, I was excited to take advantage of the time off and go and visit some friends. 

I left early on Monday morning and drove ten hours to Denver. The drive was thankfully uneventful – being in this part of the country I was very afraid that I might be inundated with snow. Luckily the snow waited until I arrived in Denver to start falling.

As I entered Colorado, I could see the snow clouds drawing near.

As I entered Colorado, I could see the snow clouds drawing near.

I spent the evening (and overnight) in Denver at my dear friend, Tiffany’s house. Tiffany and I went to college together at UCSD – we lived together in the same dorm as freshmen, and then after college spent a year living together in Oakland, California. She is such a great girl, and I so admire what an awesome mom she is to her three-year-old daughter, Ava, who I think may be the cutest, smartest three-year-old on the planet.

Ava

Ava

Tiffany is pregnant with her second baby, a boy, and has recently been on bed rest. Although her doctor has given her the clear to resume normal activity, she’s smartly taking it easy, so we stayed in and made dinner with another old college friend, Robin, who moved to Denver around the same time as Tiffany. Robin is also doing great – her husband is a minister of a parish in Denver, and they, too are hoping to start a family soon. It was a great night hanging out with two awesome friends – I can’t believe we have known each other now for sixteen years! And of course, I had a blast playing with Ava. Tallulah didn’t have as much fun – she didn’t really take to Rocky, the Freemans’ cat, and vice versa. They spent most of the evening hissing at each other. 

I was lucky enough to arrive at Tiffany’s just as the snow was starting to fall. When I woke up in the morning, there was about eight inches on my car! It took twenty minutes to clear off! Tallulah and I set off for Albuquerque, New Mexico at around 10am. The roads hadn’t been plowed so well yet so it was pretty slow-going – and as we hit a couple of mountain passes, the driving was a bit treacherous in the icy conditions.

Awaking to snow in Denver

Awaking to snow in Denver

Once I made it through the mountain pass between Colorado and New Mexico, the drive improved drastically. There was no longer snow actually falling, and even though the roads were still a bit icy, they had been plowed, making driving much easier. The upper part of New Mexico was gorgeous – the snow in the desert made the land look like the moon!

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I arrived at Tanya’s house in the Sandia mountains around 6pm and was greeted by her and her mom and step-dad. We had dinner and hung out and chatted, and then I fell asleep early!

The week with Tanya was awesome. I love New Mexico. It is so beautiful – I swear, unless there is a storm brewing, the sky there is a brilliant blue year-round. As Tanya lives in the mountains above Albuquerque, she gets quite a bit of snow at her place. The color of the sky, and the bright sunshine, juxtaposed with the snow was just gorgeous. 

So happy to be in New Mexico!

So happy to be in New Mexico!

We spent the week Christmas shopping, going to the movies (see “Milk”!!), hanging out, cooking!, and we spent one luxurious day at Ten Thousand Waves spa in Santa Fe. I had a facial and massage, and we shared an outdoor hot tub (which was perfect in the snow!). It was the best. I also made Tanya have breakfast with me at Frontier Restaurant, which is near the theater at the University of New Mexico, which is where we played with “Spamalot” in June. The breakfast burritos with green chile at Frontier are amazing, and I could not come to Albuquerque without having one!

A house decorated for Christmas in Madrid, NM.

A house decorated for Christmas in Madrid, NM.

Colorful mailboxes in Madrid

Colorful mailboxes in Madrid

Tanya at Ten Thousand Waves

Tanya at Ten Thousand Waves

Tallulah had a nice week, too, being doted on by a house full of people, taking many naps by the wood-burning stove, and taking her first walk on snow.

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On Sunday, alas, I had to say goodbye. Of course, I once again awoke to snow – a new storm system this time. It was very windy and snowy, and it took a long time to get through the tiny roads on Tanya’s mountain, but once we hit the freeway, it was smooth-sailing. Tallulah and I began the long drive to Fayetteville, Arkansas. We drove through Texas and stopped overnight in Oklahoma City, arriving in Fayetteville on Monday afternoon.

So long, New Mexico.

So long, New Mexico.

It has been quite cold and icy here in Arkansas, but no snow. I’m actually missing the snow. I like it this time of year. It was one of my favorite things about moving to the east coast, to finally have snow in the winter! Hopefully next week when we head back to Iowa for Christmas, we’ll see some more. It has been an uneventful week so far in Fayetteville, the hometown of Esther, our Lady of the Lake. It seems like a cute enough town, and I drove through a gorgeous national park to get here, but really this week has been all about Christmas preparations and Secret Santa!  More on that to come!

22 Weeks, 22 Cities

This week marks the end of a very, very long stretch of one-week stops. Twenty-two to be exact, making the last day off – free of travel and work, way back in January when we were in Boston. I went on vacation that week, so my Mexico trip was the last time I had any time off. That was six months ago!

Traveling to a new city every week has had its ups and downs. On the one hand, we were able to explore a variety of cities that we may not ever had had the chance to visit, if not for this tour schedule. We were also able to play at some amazing theaters around the country, and meet some really nice people along the way. We were able to experience a true touring gypsy life – which some accustomed to better than others, but I think  in the end, we all feel pretty proud of ourselves, regardless, from having made it through.

On the downside, packing every Sunday got to be a drag – both packing up the show, and packing up our own suitcases. The travel between the shorter jumps was fairly easy – the overnight bus rides were fun and convenient. But in the last few weeks, when the stops have been further apart, all the air travel has been a drag. The schedule has also been unfortunate in that you can never stock up on groceries (well, too many groceries), because you can never finish them all on a one week stop. That is one thing to really look forward to on the longer stops – a stocked fridge – that you might actually finish!

Tallulah has been a sainted kitty throughout all the moves. She only had one spiteful episode (peeing on my suitcase in Nashville), but other than hiding under the bed every travel day – she has been the best-behaved, most adaptive and loving little puss on the planet. She is a rock star.

So to recap – here are some of the highlights of Spam Tour’s “Trail of Tears”:

PROVIDENCE: We said goodbye to Michael and Jeff, our original King and Patsy. The girls sent them off right with a hilarious game show-edition shot night. We also enjoyed the diner truck which parked late night behind our hotel.

Jeff and Michael's final shot night

Jeff and Michael's final shot night

HERSHEY: Brad Bradley made his debut as Patsy, with Chris Gurr assuming the role of the King. We had a blast at Chocolate World, and were welcomed with open Italian arms at Fenicci’s.

Waiting to see the 3D movie at Chocolate World

Waiting to see the 3D movie at Chocolate World

NASHVILLE: We visited the Opry, hung at the honky-tonk’s on Broadway, and celebrated Patrick’s birthday. Julie Barnes made her debut as the Lady of the Lake, as both Esther and Lyn were out. Cara Cooper joined us to take over Sabra’s track.
Julie's debut as the Lady of the Lake

Julie's debut as the Lady of the Lake

JACKSONVILLE: Hometown of Patrick and Keith Reese. Was lovely seeing Keith’s smiling face around the show again. Adam Souza assumed the maestro’s baton as Ben began his leave of absence.

Also, Gary Beach joined us, and began rehearsals to take over the role of the King.

Adam as Ben at sound check

Adam as Ben at sound check

FORT MYERS: Where we were re-introduced to “Crawdaddy”, a strange crawfish-loving keyboard player who had first played with us back in Naples. Most of this week was spent doing taxes with Trudy!

Crawdaddy!

Crawdaddy!

MIAMI: Gary made his debut as the King, we had an awesome anniversary party for the show at the Raleigh Hotel on Miami Beach. It was a generally happy week spent on the beach – oh, and quite a few people got tattoos. Sadly, we said goodbye to Jeff Klein, our associate company manager, and welcomed his replacement, David.
Original Spam Tour members at the 2-year anniversary party

Original Spam Tour members at the 2-year anniversary party

WEST PALM BEACH: We had a big photo call at work, and spent much of the week around the gorgeous shopping center near the theater. Ryan and I stayed at a very cute pool house, as did other members of the company.
Gary and Esther - one of my shots from the photo call

Gary and Esther - one of my shots from the photo call

CLEARWATER: One word – O’Boobigans! We sent Lee Appleton, our drummer, off in style with a party at an Irish bar/Hooters called O’Boobigans. Crawdaddy returned, and great controversy began when one of his lobster puppets mysteriously disappeared…
Lee, Ryan, Lobster Puppet, Keith and Crawdaddy

Lee, Ryan, Lobster Puppet, Keith and Crawdaddy

ORLANDO: We said a tearful goodbye to Julie Barnes, whose going-away party was at a fun tiki bar downtown. Some people ventured to Disney – I enjoyed our Extended Stay Deluxe and stayed in most of the week, with the exception of a walk around the cute shopping area of Winter Park. This was Vera’s last week before her leave. On our final Sunday in Orlando, some clean-shaven faces showed up to work to kick off the Beard Contest!
Julie at her going-away party

Julie at her going-away party

BIRMINGHAM: Probably one of the least favorite stops on the tour. Sort of a depressed, run-down city. There was the trolley that took you to Five Points where you could get pancakes at the Original Pancake House, otherwise you were stuck with Subway. I think everyone ODed on Subway that week. Bree Branker made her debut, and David Havasi began rehearsals. We also had a visit from Casey, our choreographer. Probably the highlight of the week, was the man-o-vator at the theater…
Patrick on the man-o-vator

Patrick on the man-o-vator

GREENVILLE: A surprisingly cute town! We all ate our faces off at the myriad restaurants on Main Street, a vast contrast from Birmingham the week before. There was lots of hiking and park-going, and Brian O’Brien’s farewell pub crawl was truly awesome. We also had the best stage management office we’ve ever had – walls lined with windows overlooking the river. Lovely.
Brian makes a new friend on the pub crawl

Brian makes a new friend on the pub crawl

RALEIGH: It was Jonathan Brody’s final week – we had a cajun dinner hosted by Piper to send him off. Not too much doing in Raleigh – some shopping at the mall across from the Candlewood, and some photo-taking of all the old, old houses. There was also an evening of Cornhole at a local bar, which was quite fun. David Havasi made his debut in Brian’s old track. There was a big blow-up among the chorus boys over some ridiculousness that sort of clouded this week.
Taking pictures at an old cemetery in Raleigh

Taking pictures at an old cemetery in Raleigh

DAYTON: Probably second only to Birmingham in general ass-iness. The theater was big and new and nice, and if you ventured over to the Oregon District, there was an area of cuteness, with cool shops and restaurants, but downtown was rather barren. We spent most nights at a bar called J-Alan’s, which Ken dubbed “The Hootennanny”. Terry and Patrick both did open mic performances there. Rick Costa made his debut this week in Jonathan’s old track. Oh, and who could forget Tony’s masterful win in the Beard Contest!
Patrick at open mic night at the "Hootenanny"

Patrick at open mic night at the Hootenanny

MILWAUKEE: Pubs, pubs, and more pubs. That’s how I remember Milwaukee. The art museum building was stunning to see. We said farewell to Piper with another pub crawl, this one in a party bus. Piper and Julie leaving were big blows – it was hard to lose those two girls – I miss them! Milwaukee was also the debut of “Duckie” – Tera-Lee performing a male ensemble track.

Cuz and Piper at her going-away

Cuz and Piper at her going-away

APPLETON: Ryan’s home local! I had fun visiting his house that week. We also hosted a super cool shot night – the ice luge! Even Gary Beach did a shot! I also discovered a great yarn store in Appleton – Iris Fine Yarns. Sarah Lin Johnson took over Piper’s swing track.
Gary taking a shot from the ice luge

Gary taking a shot from the ice luge

MADISON: My love, Madison! One of my top three favorite stops on the tour. That city rocks. We did a lot of bike riding, a lot of eating and drinking (at the Black Dog and Essen Haus), and I did even more yarn shopping. And p.s., the Capitol Farmer’s Market ROCKED! We also had a visit from Jeff Dumas, and Darryl’s family hosted a party for us at their house!
Gurr, Suzanne, Matt and Paula hanging out at Darryl's

Gurr, Suzanne, Matt and Paula hanging out at Darryl's

GRAND RAPIDS: Kind of a letdown after Madison, but it had pockets of cute. I got my hair done at a nice salon. We visited the art museum, and did a little bit of bike riding. But the highlight of the week was having Elaine around to cover Mitchell’s vacation. Yay! And also Bret arriving to cover Ken’s vacation! Scary weather driving to Minneapolis.
Getting drunk with Elaine when I should have been packing

Getting drunk with Elaine when I should have been packing

MINNEAPOLIS: The crazy weather of being in Tornado Alley continued, with thunderstorms peppering the week. We visited the sculpture garden and played mini golf with Ryan’s friend, Brent. In work-related news, Patrick split his head open causing a frenzy of last-minute replacements on the Saturday. I visited the Mall of America, Brit’s Pub (a couple of times), did quite a bit of bike-riding, and had a lovely Monday night meal with Bret.

Brent and Ryan playing mini-golf

Brent and Ryan playing mini-golf

OKLAHOMA CITY: Hmmm…sort of along the lines of Dayton. Not horrible, but not much going on. Crazy windy but hot weather. The Memorial was quite a sight to see, and made the week worth it. We also stayed at a nice hotel downtown called The Colcord, and enjoyed drinks a couple of times at a cool brewpub called Tapwerks. 
OKC Memorial

OKC Memorial

ALBUQUERQUE: Ken was back from vacation, and it was Jovon’s turn for a week off. I was in bliss all week with my buddies Michael and Tanya and Bret all back in my life. I had a great visit to Santa Fe with Tanya, and Albuquerque’s highlights included the breakfast burritos at Frontier, Satellite Coffee and the weather! Gorgeous! Hot and dry. Sadly we said goodbye to our A2, Tony.
With my Ta

With my Ta

With my Bretty

With my Bretty

SAN ANTONIO: Hot and sweaty is how I will remember San Antonio. The Riverwalk was fun – highlights included meals at the Iron Cactus and Boudros. Mi Tierra at the Marketplace was also good, although if I never see menudo again it will be too soon. I had my birthday here, and was treated to a yummy chocolate mousse cake from Ken! I also treated myself to some new camera equipment! Oh, and then there was the Alamo. Eh. Patrick bailed on us this week to go and do “Gossip Girl” for eight weeks, so we scrambled a bit (another couple of gender-bending performances by Tera-Lee), but we had it figured out by….
Tera-Lee doing some gender-bending in Rio

Tera-Lee doing some gender-bending in Rio

FORT WORTH: Where Brian O’Brien re-joined us to help fill in the gap left by Patrick. Kevin Burrows was also around this week to help cover some of other boys’ vacations. Everyone was antsy getting ready for Canada. There was a quick trip to the Stockyards, but otherwise it was all about getting phones, and credit cards and money in order. Vancouver here we come!
Packing up trunks for Canada

Packing up trunks for Canada

22 eventful weeks! I look forward to the next 22, only I am happy to report that we will be spending some quality time in the next few cities with longer sit-downs, just enough time to recoup before another slew of one-weekers begin this winter. 

Bring it on!

A Week of Sunshine and Friends in the Southwest

Last week was awesome. It probably would have been pretty awesome even without having some of my pals around, because New Mexico rocks! But having some of my buddies around made it all the more special.

I arrived on Monday morning and after picking up the rental car and dropping Ryan at the theater, I went to get settled at our vacation home for the week. We stayed at a house about ten miles from downtown – a beautiful Santa Fe style home with tons of windows, a hot tub and a grill. We were in heaven! Searching out vacation rentals can be time consuming and kind of a pain in the butt, but in every instance where I’ve gone for it, it has paid off tenfold. Our house this week was no exception. It was an oasis.

After getting settled, I immediately met up with Tanya, one of my best friends in the whole world, who moved to Albuquerque last year. Tanya and I met over ten years ago doing theater in California, and moved to New York around the same time. She is definitely one of my soulmates. She and Michael (her husband) bought some land in the mountains above Albuquerque while Tanya was on tour a couple of years ago, and this year they decided to build a modular house on the land and live there for a bit. They are not ruling out spending some time back in New York, but for now they are taking some time off to enjoy New Mexico. I don’t blame them.

Tanya and I headed over to the movie theater to see “Sex and the City”, which we had both vowed to wait and see together when it came out. It was totally worth the wait. The movie was everything I had hoped it would be, and seeing it with one of my best girlfriends made it all the more special.

After the movie we did a bit of shopping and then ate outdoors at the Flying Star Cafe. Watching the sun go down over the Sandia Mountains was amazing. Unfortunately as we went to leave I discovered a flat tire on my rental car. A really nice man helped us change the tire, though, and we were soon on our way to pick up Ryan from work.

Tuesday was a busy load-in. The theater was on the campus of University of New Mexico, and was a really tight squeeze. That coupled with a lot of inexperienced stagehands (many of them students) made for a longer load-in than usual, but our show crew turned out to be pretty good and opening went fairly smoothly. Ryan and I zoomed home and jumped in our awesome hot tub to wash away the long day. Heaven!

On Wednesday I ran a few errands in the morning, and then Ryan and I ventured over to Old Town in the afternoon. We ate a Mexican place, and then walked around and checked out a bunch of the shops. Ryan bought me a pair of earrings from one of the street vendors. I just love the style of the southwest – the adobe buildings, the blue skies, the silver and turquoise jewelry. It just all feels so beautiful and earthy and organic. Tanya and Michael say they felt instantly at home in New Mexico. It’s so easy to see why. And the weather! Although it was very hot when we were there – the mid nineties – the heat is dry, so it actually feels good, not sticky and gross. It instantly relaxes you.

Church in Old Town

Church in Old Town

Hot Sauces

Hot Sauces

Jewelry Vendors

Jewelry Vendors

Wednesday night we grilled after the show (on the fancy grill at the house). We had been to Trader Joe’s earlier in the day (I LOVE Trader Joe’s!) and picked up some salmon, corn on the cob and rice which we made into a delicious post-show meal.

On Thursday I had rehearsal (boo), but Thursday night Tanya and Michael came to the show, and then I went home with them to their house in the mountains and spent the night. It is such a cool house! I am so proud of them for making it happen! Hopefully one day I will get my shit together too and be able to have a place to call my very own home. It is a great house, and their land is beautiful.

Michael and Tanya is front of their house

Michael and Tanya is front of their house

The backyard

The backyard

On Friday, Tanya and I drove to Santa Fe for the afternoon. We ate another yummy Mexican meal at La Fonda, and then visited some of the old churches in the area. After that, we spent some time looking at all the jewelry being sold by the various Native American vendors, and then did what any self-respecting women would do – spent money!! I bought Tanya a pair of earrings for her birthday, and then bought myself a copper bracelet, a silver bracelet with a turquoise stone, and a necklace. All beautiful. After that, we had just enough time to walk through the Georgia O’Keefe museum, where the current exhibit was of her work of the Southwest and also Ansel Adams’ photos of the southwest, some of which he took while spending time with O’Keefe. A really great exhibit. One of my favorite Ansel Adams prints was on display – it’s called “Moonrise”, and I think it totally captures the magic of New Mexico.

Here’s a couple of the snaps I took in Santa Fe:

Friday night was Tony Pittsley’s going away party. Angelina corralled everyone over to Kelly’s Brewpub for the festivities. It was one of the best turnouts I have seen for a going away party! I’m sort of in denial about Tony leaving. He started the same week I did, and has become one of my best buds on this show – we both love photography, and it has been great to be able to geek out as of late with Tony over lenses and things. I’m going to miss him a ton.

Saturday night, Bret hosted shot night. It has been amazing having Bret around for these past three weeks. I loved working with him ten years ago, and I am happy to say that I still love working with him now. I am so glad that we have stayed in contact. He is a really great guy, who I find to be so easy to be around. This week was really spectacular being among such old friends – at one point on Sunday we looked around and it was me, Bret, Tanya and Christopher Gurr, and we couldn’t believe we were all sitting in the same room together in a theater in New Mexico over a decade after first meeting. Crazy. It was so nice having them around. Like family.

But anyway, back to Bret’s shot night – he soaked some incredibly yummy fresh watermelon in two varieties of vodka! Yum! You just ate a couple of chunks of refreshing watermelon and were buzzed immediately! Bret also had some fun chili beers on hand, that I thought tasted like a combination of beer and Doritos – but were good!

with Bret at Shot Night

with Bret at Shot Night

On Sunday, Tanya came and shadowed me backstage during the matinee, which was a lot of fun – showing her how the show works. We had dinner afterwards at El Patio with Michael, Ryan and Ken. Then I had to bid Ta and Michael goodbye. Sniff sniff. Hopefully I will see them again soon.

The evening show meant more goodbyes – it was Tony’s last show and Bret’s. Somehow I think next week will seem very empty without all of my friends. 

Tony actually let me take a picture of him without making a face!

Tony actually let me take a picture of him without making a face! (Will miss you Tony! See you on Flickr!)

So this morning I said goodbye to lovely New Mexico and jetted off to San Antonio, Texas, where it is just as hot (maybe hotter) and STICKY. Thankfully the hotel has a pool. I loved New Mexico. There is a lot more that I want to see there. I will just have to go back, and visit my buddies there again before too long!

xxx