Thursday, April 27, 2006


Hot Dogs are a native food in Chicago

I can't believe it's Thursday already. The last three days have been chock-a-block full. A 6 or 9 hour drive really takes a chunk out of your day. And when I try to squeeze in some local culture and, when fortune provides the opportunity, time with other musicians and friends, there's not much time for sleep or writing.

As I am already late for getting on the road to Iowa City, I'll make this brief.

On Monday, I made it out to Indiana, PA where I played at the lovely Commonplace Cafe with the irrepressibly talented Brad Yoder. Brad's songs are pop gems infused with Brad's warmth, irreverance, and wit--a true feat in a musical landscape where pop has become synomous with "devoid of personality." I learned that I had already fallen in love his song about being a performing songwriter called "Not Setting the World on Fire" about four years ago, before I had even learned his name.

Tuesday was a two-show day. The first show was at Westmoreland Community College, which was hosting a "play day" full of pogo sticks, hopscotch, popcorn, and those frozen ice sticks in cellophane that are sweet and chemically-colored and only refreshing as a kid during a very hot summer. On my way to Westmoreland, I relearned one of the first rules of Mapquest: it can be wrong, and you won't figure it out until you are already late to where you are going. Mapquest decided to route me into the middle of a state park forest and leave me there. Once I managed to extricate myself from the forest, the show was a treat--I had not ever had the pleasure of playing for college students who were simultaneously batting each other with blow-up baseball bats, jumping around on pogo sticks, and throwing popcorn.

Tuesday's second show was at Pittsburgh's foremost Triple A venue, the Club Cafe. I had the pleasure of seeing my posters (which really do make me look like Jennifer Love Hewitt) hanging next to those of some musicians I admire, like Amy Correia. The show was a group showcase hosted by Brad Yoder (who's song about the local band is still stuck in my head) and featured the music of Heather Kropf (who has a voice that's a cross between an oboe and a candle-lit bath and piano playing that hints of smoky jazz clubs and long lonely drives) and Dave Golden (guitar-driven Americana reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen with surprisingly moving lyrics and a full dose of rock and blues). After a late show, a later dinner, and even later late-night conversation, I slept too little for the nine-hour drive awaiting me Wednesday. I think I finally understand how medical residents manage to stay focused under conditions of little-to-no sleep: a lot of coffee, sugar, and the knowledge that they don't have the choice not to. Happily, I made it to Chicago (or Skokie, to be more precise) and the home of old friends where a warm clean bed waited for me. And this morning, I walked on the shores of Lake Michigan, and sampled a food that I didn't even know existed: the Chicago hot-dog. Apparently, the Chicago hot dog is an institution here. As is tradition, it is to be consumed on a poppy seed bun with tomatoes, onions, mustard, pickle, and celery salt. Feeling suitably full, I am now ready to move on to the next town. In a few short minutes, I'll reload the car, and get on the road again. Next time I do this, I need to remember not to pack so much.

Multimedia consumed so far:

"Sinister Pig" by Tony Hillerman--Hillerman writes engaging mysteries set on the Navajo reservation. Not his best, but enjoyable.
"Moving Target" by Elizabeth Lowell--Lowell's books are my guilty pleasure. Plot-driven romance thrillers that are great for keeping your attention on a nine-hour drive after too little sleep.

Brad Yoder, "Used"
Donna the Buffalo, collection of tracks nobly lent me by Dave Golden

Till next time...

Doh! I meant to ask you to say hi to Brad for me - he'd have gotten a kick out of it, I think.

There's a lot to be said for Jennifer Love Hewitt. I think I've said most of it over the years. Oops, did I say that out loud?
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