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!

Loving Madison

I’m a little down today because I had such a good time in Madison last week and it was very hard to leave. Today has been one of those days, getting by on very little sleep from an overnight bus journey, where everything seems to get me down. From a less than desirable hotel, to an unhelpful hotel staff, to a downtown, which although doesn’t seem awful, isn’t Madison.

So, Madison. I had a feeling I would love it from what everyone had told me about it. It is very much like Portland to me, only on a smaller scale. The town revolves around the Capitol and the university. It is very progressive, and very fun. There are tons of restaurants and bars and shops and miles and miles of bike trails. In short, it’s great.

I was a little apprehensive about our hotel before arriving, as it was a Best Western, which conjures up all kinds of horrible motel images. But actually, the Best Western Inn on the Park was quite nice. Ryan and I paid a little extra for a suite, which meant an additional sitting room – which is always nice when you are sharing. The best thing about the hotel though, well the two best things, were the location…and the view. Check it out:

I took that from our window. Probably one of the best hotel room views yet. It was great staying by the Capitol, because State Street was only a block away, meaning everything we needed – from groceries, to restaurants, to bars, to the theater, were all within a five to ten minute walk.

On Monday I spent some time exploring State Street. I became a little obsessed with some toy cameras that I found in one of the novelty stores – there were a bunch of Holgas and Dianas and Fisheyes. They all take such cool photos, but I decided maybe I didn’t need one more thing to fill up my trunk. I finished up the day with dinner at a yummy Indian restaurant.

Tuesday was load-in and the show. The theater is only four years old, so it is new and spacious. Every dressing room and office has a TV, which was fun to pass the time. The crew, unfortunately, were not so good. A lot of old guys. A lot of lazy guys. My prop guy had to sit down between each cue. There are a lot of prop cues in the show – its not like you have tons of time between each. I was a little amazed by how he had to constantly sit down. I wasn’t all that impressed by the wardrobe crew either. Some of them had been around in the other Wisconsin cities as well. There were a couple who were pretty clueless. But, nonetheless, opening was smooth, and the run was sold out for the whole week.

On Wednesday, Ryan and I had lunch at a restaurant called The Old Fashioned, which serves food that is all home-grown in Wisconsin. I had a salad with these cherries on it that are grown upstate. Delicious! Then we took off on our bikes and explored some of the bike trails that go around the lakes in Madison. It was such a pretty ride, and so nice to be on dedicated bike paths.

Ryan on his bike

Ryan on his bike

Blossoms by the lake

Blossoms by the lake

Wednesday night we went to a brew pub called The Great Dane and drank some beers for Paul Baron’s birthday (he’s our trumpet player). It was fun catching up with Ben, our conductor, who is back with us now after a three month leave. Gurr, Suzanne, Adam and the Gribbster also joined us.

Thursday we decided to go for another bike ride since the weather was so nice. We ended up riding all over the place. First we rode up Williamson Street, where Paula and Matt were staying. They told us it was the hippie neighborhood, so we wanted to check it out. It looked like there were some cool cafes and bars on Willie Street (that’s what the locals call it). Then we rode through the residential streets surrounding and looked at some of the cute, cute houses. We cut over to the bike path and rode by the convention center, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Then we rode around the lake to Lakeside Fibers, a giant yarn store!

Lakeside Fibers was a great shop – it had four rooms of yarn (really good stuff, all the luxury brands), a cafe in the back (which made Ryan happy), with an outdoor deck, and a basement filled with weaving supplies. I bought some yarn to make Mitchell a Time Capsule cozy, which he has commissioned in “goth colors”. I bought black and purple – hopefully that suffices as “goth”. Ryan and I got some snacks from the cafe and hung out on the deck for a while, then got back on the bikes. We rode over to the University of Wisconsin Arboretum, which was a mix of marshlands, forest and blooming trees. It was really pretty.

Lakeside Fibers

Lakeside Fibers

Ryan biking through the Arboretum

Ryan biking through the Arboretum

After getting through the Arboretum, we were running short on time, but we did make one more stop at another yarn store, The Knitting Tree, before heading back into town. The Knitting Tree was a much smaller store, with lots of novelty yarns, but they had some nice Berroco yarns and some Brown Sheep.

By the time we got back to the hotel, we figured out that we had ridden thirteen miles!

After the show on Thursday, Darryl (he’s one of our ensemble members) hosted a party at his parents’ house. It was really fun – it was held in their basement, and felt just like a high school house party, which was comforting and nice. Darryl’s parents prepared traditional Filipino food for us, which was delicious. It was fun looking at all the photos of Darryl everywhere, detailing every year of his life. It was also fun to see Jeff Dumas, our original Patsy. Jeff drove up from Chicago to see the show and then came to Darryl’s to hang out. I think he misses us!

Darryl and his niece

Darryl and his niece

Dumas gesturing emphatically about something

Dumas gesturing emphatically about something

On Friday we had understudy rehearsal. I went out between rehearsal and the show and bought some bags for my bike from one of the many bike shops in town. Now I am all set for Canada – I can bike to the grocery store and haul the groceries home in my new bags!

Friday night, Ryan and I went over to the Essen Haus, a bar that had been recommended to me by Lisa Chernoff. Essen Haus is a Bavarian Drinking Hall – complete with live polka music, waiters in lederhosen, and outdoor picnic tables. They also serve beer in giant glasses shaped like a boot. There are all kinds of rules about drinking from the boot – you can’t put it down, the second to last person to finish it has to buy the next boot…and on and on. The whole place would cheer on whoever was about to finish their boot.

Ryan and a boot of beer

Ryan and a boot of beer

We only stayed at Essen Haus for one drink though, before heading over to The Great Dane, where a birthday party was already in progress for Nate, our flyman, and Terry, one of our prop guys. I tried fried cheese curds for the first time at The Great Dane. Yum! I think the cheese curd is largely underestimated by the rest of the country.

On Saturday morning we got up early and went to the famous Capitol Farmer’s Market. It is the largest Farmer’s Market in the country that sells only locally-grown and made products. It was packed! We bought some things though – Ryan got some venison jerky, some oatmeal raisin cookies and some black popcorn, which sounded intriguing. And I was lured in by the jewelry. Ryan bought me one pair of earrings and then I bought myself three more pairs and a necklace. I couldn’t help it!

Unbelievable onions at the farmer's market

Unbelievable onions at the farmer's market

Fresh cut bouquets

Fresh cut bouquets

A musician playing a washboard

A musician playing a washboard

Between shows on Saturday we went into the contemporary art museum for a little while to check out an exhibit called “Myths and Monsters” by a Madison artist named TL Solien. The paintings were pretty cool – very colorful and trippy.

Saturday night was all about packing and then Sunday we closed, and load-out began. We took an overnight bus to Grand Rapids and arrived early this morning.

I wish we could have stayed another week in Madison. I feel like there was still more to see and do. And it was such a laid-back friendly town. I loved it. I’m a little blue today as we were greeted with less than stellar service at the Days Inn Grand Rapids. Oh well, I’m sure I will be cheered up tomorrow when I see Elaine, who is here to fill in for Mitchell’s vacation, and then later in the week my old friend Bret arrives to cover Ken and Jovon’s vacations – it will be great to see him as well.

…And there are only six more one-weekers to go before Vancouver!