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!

Southern Charm

Greenville, South Carolina is a great town! Who knew?

We arrived in the wee hours of Monday on the sleeper bus. The hotel I was staying at – the Holiday Inn, was sort of in the middle of nowhere, near the freeway with the only restaurants nearby being a Burger King and a Waffle House. I had made a reservation for a rental car for the week, though, and went to pick it up in the afternoon.

I walked around downtown Greenville near the theater after picking up the car. The downtown is so cute and thriving. Its so strange how some downtowns are so vibrant and some are so dead. I’m not sure what it is exactly that is the key to the success of a downtown – all I know is that Greenville has it figured out. After the dining abyss of Birmingham, Greenville was a culinary mecca. I had thai food for lunch, which I hadn’t had in ages. 

Also downtown is a beautiful park called Falls Park on the Reedy River. The river runs through the downtown, right past the theater – we had a great view from our office. There are also some falls – hence the name Falls Park, which can be viewed from a curved suspension bridge overhead. What a beautiful green space to have amidst all the business downtown.

Falls Park

Falls Park

Falls Park

That night I met up with Ryan, Tony, Justin, Jen, Cuz and Erik for a couple of beers at the hotel bar.

Our load-in at the theater went smoothly, despite having a non-union crew in Greenville. The show also went well that night, and we welcomed yet another new cast member, Rick Costa, who will replace Jonathan Brody at the beginning of next week.

Wednesday, Ryan and I made a plan to go hiking at one of the nearby national parks – Caesar’s Head. First we grabbed breakfast at the Waffle House – quite an experience. It doesn’t matter how charming and progressive and nouveau riche downtown Greenville is, out in the sticks, the real south still exists. And they all eat at the Waffle House. Everyone in there, with the exception of the two of us, was smoking like a fiend all through their meals. It was amazing. And the wait staff in there were out of a movie – at one point I heard one of the waitresses say, “Darlin’, you’re so sweet, you don’t need no maple syrup”. No joke.

We headed off to Caesar’s Head and counted the Waffle Houses along the way – in thirty miles we passed five. The park was amazing. We stopped at the Visitor’s Center to pick out a trail and to take some pictures of the valley.

The Blue Ridge Mountains

The Blue Ridge Mountains

We decided on a four mile round trip hike to see the Raven Cliff Falls, the tallest waterfall in South Carolina. It was beautiful.

On the way back to Greenville, we stopped and took some photos of another small waterfall, and then stopped for some ice cream at a gas station. There was a stand next door where you could shop for your produce and knives(?!).

Thursday we did a bike ride through Falls Park to Cleveland Park, which a larger park just beyond downtown. Beautiful. What a nice ride. 

Thursday evening was the big pub crawl organized by Brian O’Brien as his going-away party. Brian had scheduled us to go to five bars around Main Street, on a strict timetable of half an hour at each establishment. It was great fun, and most of the company participated, although the brave, the proud and the few made it to all five bars (yes I was one of them). We started out at an Irish Bar named Connelly’s, where everyone had a bite to eat and a pint. Then we moved on to City Tavern for fruity slushy drinks. Then Blue Ridge Brewing Company for a microbrew. Then it was on to Meatheads for cheap beer and drinking games (beer pong and flip cup). The party wound down at Barley’s, for one more pint.

Ken and Brian slamming Irish car bombs

Ken and Brian slamming Irish car bombs

Brian playing beer pong

Brian playing beer pong

Everyone playing beer pong

Everyone playing beer pong

Brian and a new friend

Brian and a new friend

Friday we had a put-in rehearsal for David Havasi, who takes over Brian’s track starting tomorrow. 

Brian continued the party on Saturday night, hosting shot night. Shot night is usually a fairly quick event, but Brian had gotten snacks, beers, mixed pomegranate margaritas, and set up yet another game of flip cup. 

The company playing Flip Cup

The company playing Flip Cup

Ken joins in

Ken joins in

I am going to miss Greenville. The town was really cute and charming, and the area was so beautiful. We also had the best office we have ever had, with four big windows that looked out onto the Reedy River. We didn’t even mind being stuck in the office for an extra half an hour on Friday night when the heavens opened up and it POURED. Rather than get soaked trying to get home, Ken, Jovon, Karl, David, Ryan, Brian and I cracked  open a bottle of wine and hung out in the office until the rain subsided. It was really nice.

The one trashy part of last week, besides the Waffle House and the Produce and Knives stand (okay, so I guess there were three trashy things about Greenville) was the view from my hotel window:

Come on, it doesn’t get better than that! 

Sunday night we packed up the circus and headed off to Raleigh, North Carolina, where I sit typing this now.

Hope everyone has a great week!