Friday, December 23, 2016

Light At The End Of The Tunnel

I am sitting in my hotel room in the 25th of 26 cities on this tour...beautiful Bakersfield, California.

On this tour, I have seen/been in 11 capital cities:

1. Jackson, MS
2. Des Moines, IA
3. Little Rock, AR
4. Baton Rouge, LA
5. Oklahoma City, OK
6. Indianapolis, IN
7. Atlanta, GA
8. Richmond, VA
9. Albany, NY
10. Hartford, CT
11. Denver, CO

I am exhausted beyond the point of ridiculousness. THREE more days. FIVE more shows. I can do this.

I'm honored to have been allowed back on the tour, to be handed the role of Santa Claus once again, and to live my dream of being an actor and traveling across the country. I'm also very happy that it's almost over.

This will be the first time since 2013 that I'll get to spend Christmas with my family, and I have a new niece I haven't met, so I'm looking forward to that -- as well as seeing "Rogue One" with my siblings and father.

I'm sure once I am at my folks' for Christmas I'll post one last blog with the pictures from Bakersfield and Hollywood, but for now I'm going to clean up the missing cities since we left Detroit over two weeks ago (though it feels like a month ago).

After leaving Detroit, we hit a 4 city streak of theaters I'd been to before. Rutland, VT; Schenectady, NY; Hartford, CT; and Reading, PA.

Rutland, VT

We left Detroit at 6:15am and flew to Albany, NY, then boarded a bus for a 2 hour trip to Rutland, VT. There was snow everywhere.

I love that I got to perform (again) in a theater where Bob Newhart has performed. That's cool.

We arrived early enough that I enjoyed walking through Rutland (trying to up my step count -- check out the pictures at the bottom of this post) before our one performance that evening, even though it was chilly.

We even got to sleep in the next day. We left at 11am and drove to Schenectady, NY (which is right near Albany, from where we had just come).

Schenectady was one of my favorite places from last year. I was hoping other people would enjoy it this year, and I was right.

We also arrived early enough in NY that we had time to hang around and see the city a bit. Plus, we had 2 days here (3 performances).

Schenectady, NY

Schenectady is also the only city of all this year where we performed a "brat mat", which is a brat matinee; meaning we perform for school kids. Over 50 buses full of kids from the area came to see an early morning show. It was far and away the best show we have had all tour. The kids just loved it. It was also rejuvenating for all of us in the show.

At 10:45am on Friday, Dec 9 we left Schenectady and headed to Hartford, CT. We were there for 3 days, 6 performances. Nice to be back there, only because of familiarity and a place called BEAR'S BBQ; one of the best restaurants I've ever had the pleasure of visiting.

Hartford, CT
 Hartford's Capitol Building --

Typically, after we perform in a city, we spend the night in that same city, and travel the next day. There are exceptions...and going from Hartford, CT to Reading, PA is one of them this year. Sunday, December 11 was our travel day. We had 2 shows that day (10am and 1pm). AND we had to wait around for about 90 minutes until the crew was finished striking the set and packing it all away, then we drove to Reading, PA...a 5 hour trip. Eating at truck stops is never that exciting, but having NO CHOICE multiple times a week for 2 months is ugly. :)

We got to Reading without any major problems, other than building exhaustion. I got some Christmas shopping done the next day before our one performance that night.

Reading, PA

Remember that time we landed in Albany, NY to drive to Vermont? Then we came back to NY to perform in Schenectady? Then we went to Pennsylvania? AND THEN WE WENT BACK TO NY? No wonder I'm losing my mind.

Utica, NY
 The hotel where we stayed had a few special rooms -- I didn't get to stay in this "Mickey Mantle" room, but it was on my floor. That's cool!

Utica surprised me. I really enjoyed the whole city and the performance space. Second only to the Fox Theatre in Detroit, this theater in Utica was beautiful.

Next morning we left at 7am for Akron, Ohio -- our third time in Ohio this tour (previously performed in Toledo and Cincinnati). Akron marked our 13th show in our 6th city in 9 days -- all without a day off. Insane.

Akron, OH

Needless to say, this theater in Akron was bizarre. Historic, yes. Weird looking, YES. There were toucans and macaws in the decorations and atrociously ornate stonework at the theater. I don't even know how to describe it. It was just strange.

I did have a delicious grilled cheese sandwich upon the recommendation of quite a few people. Across the street from the theater was a restaurant that specialized in fancy grilled cheese sandwiches. Mine had grilled apples and smoked bacon. It was lovely.

The next day was our 2nd to last major travel day. And because this tour has a word...ratchet (meaning really rough), we of course had 2 flights in order to get to one destination.

We drove from Akron to Cleveland (typically a 30 minute drive) in a BLIZZARD. A full-on BLIZZARD. Fortunately, we were able to leave Cleveland without a big problem.

We flew to St. Louis (no snow at all) for a 2 hour layover, then headed to Denver (also no snow and it was 60 DEGREES!).

Denver was something most all of us were highly anticipating, for various reasons. Most of us would see the new "Star Wars" movie in Denver (first showings were the evening of the day we arrived, Dec 15th). Also, we were going to be in Denver for 4 days -- basically the longest amount of time we'd be in ONE place the entire tour. I saw family and friends at our various performances. The crowds were great. The food was great. We were at a great hotel right across the street from the theater. It snowed 10 inches after our first show on Friday night (very magical). We got to shop and relax. We got to Christmas shop. We got to smell weed on every single street corner and alley and store and place in the entire city. We got to see the new Star Wars movie! It was a great refresher for all of us.

Denver, CO
 That's St. Louis above -- see the Arch?
 Saw the movie at 10:15pm that night
 Denver's Capitol Building
 Found this as I aimlessly wandered the theater -- this is from the 2005 tour of Phantom; the Phantom was Gary Mauer, a performer who is INCREDIBLE, and whom I saw twice in Phoenix on that same tour years ago
 We got our own mural! I signed in blue at the top left.
 Leaving Akron for Cleveland that morning on the way to Denver.
 Buell Theatre in Denver

The view from my hotel room Friday night after our first performance -- NUTS.

On the 19th, we had our last flight of the tour. Just ONE flight from Denver to San Francisco. BUT...we then boarded a bus for what was expected to be a 90 minute drive to Modesto. That turned into a 4 hour drive that was TRULY AMONG THE WORST EXPERIENCES OF MY LIFE. No, it wasn't a war zone in Syria; but it was ROUGH.

The driver was literally the WORST. I do not get car sick. EVER. This drive made me sick. And not because of winding roads. Because of his RIDICULOUS inability to drive properly. Slam on brakes randomly, pedal to the metal at other times, in the midst of mostly HORRIFIC traffic. I think San Francisco is a lovely city to look at from a distance -- but I've never liked it, and now I really, really don't like it.

EVERYONE was upset. We didn't get food at the airport because we didn't think we'd be on the road for 4 hours without stopping. So we were mostly all hungry. I'm not the only one who likes to know what to expect, though I'm among the worst at handling difficult situations.

The traffic was horrible, we were all tired because of the exhaustion of the tour, frustrated to leave Denver (because we all enjoyed it), and now we were hungry and being subjected to the worst driver in the history of creation. No joke, I have never been closer to having a nervous breakdown.

FINALLY, when we arrived in Modesto, I got off the bus and just walked around the block a little bit, breathing deeply; I nearly screamed into the night, but didn't want to frighten the lady I saw sitting on a stoop down the road a bit. Once I got my key, I walked into the room in the dark, white noise still playing into my ears (only thing that gets me through the long bus rides where most of the folks in the bus are talking and laughing loudly, even clapping), and went into the corner and just leaned against the wall and continued to breathe.

I thank God for two of the folks on this tour with me, Candice (who plays Mrs. Claus) and Ryan (who plays Sam the Snowman). We all hated the trip we'd just had. The three of us walked to a nearby 1957 landmark restaurant, A&W. It was perfect. Delicious root beer, a hamburger and fries, along with a peppermint Oreo shake. That calmed our spirits.

Just writing that brought up my ire. Oh my. So awful.

Modesto, CA

Happy to be in California now. :) Also, we have a DIFFERENT DRIVER who is amazing. This new driver picked us up in Modesto (we stayed there 2 nights) and took us to Thousand Oaks yesterday morning. We had one show in Thousand Oaks last night, then, instead of staying there, we drove the 2 hours back to Bakersfield (which we'd driven through earlier that same day on the way from Modesto). I slept in today, and have been in my hotel room the entire day...mostly working on this ridiculous blog. So, you better read this and enjoy it!

Thousand Oaks, CA

We have one show tonight in Bakersfield, and then we head to LA tomorrow morning for a THREE show day, with one final show on Christmas Eve morning. I'll get my car in LA and head back to Arizona as soon as possible after our show is finished. I've already mentioned how exhausted I am, and thinking about driving 6 hours from LA to Phoenix on Christmas Eve after TWO months away makes me just want to crawl in a hole and sleep for a year.

A year!

I'm off to get a snack. Thanks for reading!