Click the photo to see more!
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Bean & Leaf Coffee Shop, New London, CT
Good morning from New London!
Many tales to tell today…
We left Burlington on Wednesday morning for another beautiful drive through the mountains. Vermont is a gorgeous state. We wound around the mountains, finding a small county road that paralleled a creek. We passed countless small towns, all with signs saying they were incorporated in the late-1700s. We didn’t stop at any of the cemeteries, but remarked several times about the ancient headstones. We stopped for lunch at a roadside café in one of these little villages and walked around the farmer’s market in the town square in another. I needed a new mic cable and so I asked a kid playing guitar on the sidewalk about a music shop. He directed me to West Lebanon, New Hampshire, so we got on the big highway and stopped at Blue Mountain Guitar.
Not long after, we rolled in to Newport, NH, for the show at the Salt Hill Pub. This joint is nice… a big two-story building that was probably a hardware store or pharmacy way back when. The performance area was on the second floor, so I had to drag all the gear up the back stairs. I got the full compliment of equipment out for this one… lights, backdrop, PA, and the smoke machine. It was a good show. Not a huge crowd, but enthusiastic. A lady was there just because she had seen my poster. It does work! I wanted to just pitch everything over the railing into the van after the gig, but I dragged it all back down and safely stowed it away.
While I played, SRW investigated some camping spots for the evening. She drove us up into a state park that was the most likely contender. We got out in the middle of the darkest woods I’ve ever been in. We hopped over a locked gate and walked into the camping area. The park was closed for the season. I got a super creepy vibe and felt like we’d certainly be attacked by the Blair Witch if we slept out there. We ran back to the van, drove down the mountain, and spent the night in a rest stop back in Vermont. We slept until almost 10:30 the next morning! When we unzipped the flaps on the van, the parking lot was full of families and old couples. We felt a little odd stumbling out in front of them all, but they seemed amused. It was a quick drive to the Dartmouth campus in Hanover, NH. We found free coffee on the street and ate at a nice diner downtown. I browsed the local guitar shop for a while. We walked through the college for a bit, trying to pick out students that resembled us back in our undergrad days.
Thursday was another great driving day back through the Vermont mountains. Lots of small country roads and quaint villages. The highlight was finding Lake Willoughby and getting in for a swim. This lake is tucked right into the mountains, with sheer rock faces dropping right down into the water. We found a beach, but I would have much preferred to jump in from a cliff. SRW got out the Dr Bronner’s and we cleaned up a bit and made our way over to West Glover for the show.
The Parker Pie Company is about the only thing in West Glover and I was questioning how I found this gig in the first place. But turned out half of northern Vermont was there. We were greeted by just about everybody at the place and all were eager for the show. Kevin is one of the owners and he made sure both of us were well taken care of. They’ve got a nice performance area and the room sounds great. Several families and couples ate pizza and listened, and most stayed for both sets. An older gentleman named Nick persuaded quite a few gals to dance with him, which pleased me to no end. It’s a huge compliment to have dancers in any situation, but for one guy & his guitar, it means something must be pretty groovy. Thanks, Nick.
Kevin invited SRW & I to park the van on his property not far away from the club. We found our way in the dark and parked off a dirt road. It was a bit scary, but we gathered our courage and walked through the dark back to Lake Parker. There were all sorts of eyes peeping from behind the trees and lots of strange noises from the bushes. We reached the lake and forgot about everything when we saw the moon over the water. A few porch lights shone in the silhouette of the mountains, but the moon glowed bright and we watched the reflections ripple back and forth across the lake.
First thing on Friday morning, we drove down to Jamie’s land on the lake and jumped in for a swim. Jamie is a buddy of Kevin’s and we were assured he’d be cool with us swimming there. Thanks guys… it was a fabulous way to start the day. An old couple walked by and the man said something about me swimming across the lake. I couldn’t tell if he was saying how cool it would be, or calling me a chicken for not trying. I was having too much fun swimming in circles, so I didn’t get out to question him.
After drying off, we grabbed coffee at the West Glover General Store and headed east to Portland, Maine. Several folks had recommended swimming holes and day hikes around the area, but we decided to kick it on in to Portland and hook up with SRW’s friends there. One of her good friends was getting married on Saturday, so we were eager to get to town and join the party.
The drive to Portland was nice. More New England hamlets and curvy roads. It felt short. I guess compared to the drives we made back in the West, everything on the East Coast feels close. We found a camping spot outside of town and the drove to the hotel where SRW’s friends were staying. Katia & Joel were kind enough to let us shower up in their room, and then we drove downtown to eat lobster.
I hated it. I may have tried lobster before, but I must have put it out of my mind. For the amount of work you put in to cracking the thing open, you don’t get much to eat. I was covered in lobster juice and pretty much worn out by the time dinner was over. The couple behind me got showered too. What I did get to eat tasted like the bottom of the ocean and I left craving a steak or some barbeque. Our waitress was a surly East Coast broad and I think she liked watching me suffer. But it was a fun time nonetheless.
So Friday night we drove back out to our campsite, built a fire against all odds (it had rained earlier in the evening and we had no kindling), and spent a nice night in our tent. We got up early and bolted for our hotel in Portland. It had been a few days in the van, so we couldn’t wait for a real hotel room. We cleaned up and dressed up and made it to Bridget & Joseph’s wedding by 1. It was a great ceremony and a fine reception. We ate and drank for hours and then retired to the hotel for an early evening break. The party started again in downtown Portland later that night. We kept at it until closing time and then sacked out until way late Sunday morning. So congratulations J & B! Thanks for having us!
SRW flew back to Chicago on Sunday afternoon, and so began the true solo portion of this tour. I found my way to the joint I was playing that evening. It was along the main drag in Portland, right by the bay. So I knocked around downtown until it was showtime.
Truthfully, it was an unremarkable venue & show. I think there were more people watching football than there were watching me. According to the bar staff, I missed the summer vacation tourist crowds by a week or two. I’ve heard that this whole tour. So, I slogged through a couple sets and hit the highway. The place did hook me up with a nice pizza and a hot cup of coffee for my drive, so it wasn’t all bad.
I drove down to New London, CT and crashed with my good buddy Dave. He and I shared a place in Chicago for a couple years. He moved back to New London recently so it worked out real nice to stop by. I pretty much went straight to bed when I got there but we had plenty of time to catch up on Monday. I did some laundry and cleaned out the van and then we went to get more seafood. I had a fish sandwich. I’ll be ready to get away from the coast… I don’t much care for seafood.
Dave’s buddy Jay and some of his pals threw a party on Monday night and we had a blast. Jay lined up a bunch of musicians to come over and play and it turned into a song swap around the fire pit. This was undoubtedly a highlight of the trip for me. We all traded songs for a good long while and I heard all sorts of good stuff… protest songs, fantasy metal tunes, a song about the end of the world, one about babies making babies, pop rock stuff, and two stand-up comics. It was all great. We moved inside when it got late and the party rolled on. I did a few more tunes and then we bailed. But I have a hunch the party’s still going! Thanks to Jay and all the folks there… I wish I remembered everyone’s name. Jay recorded it on a cassette tape… Send that to me if you can buddy!
So now it’s Tuesday morning and I’m set to roll into NYC for a show tonight. Thanks to Chris, Shin & Miles for putting me up for the last couple nights. New London has been great. Looking forward to hitting New York for a couple of days.
Over & out.