Since our last Ketchup, we bounced off the Pacific Rim and have bounced all the way to the suburbs of the Windy City. If you listened to the most recent podcast, it is indeed possible to do the Tonight Show and play the Greek Theater in Los Angeles though not recommended to the faint, nervous or even marginally amateur whiner. You’d better be able to complain with the best of them, pally…

After showing both van drivers the best way to avoid the freeways between Burbank and Los Feliz (“I was just gonna grab the 5 and go south…“), once again proving that my cartage experience pays off even with the altered traffic flow of the past five years in Los Angeles… I’m not always the best guy for directions but LA I know pretty well. You have to get a sense of flow and resistance and be ready to abandon a plan when there is a serious blockage. I showed them that by skirting the backside of Griffith Park, you have many opportunities to rejoin the fracas on the freeways if you want to or glide by the horsies and the Zoo on the way to the fountain. I still can’t believe that these guys had jobs driving in LA and didn’t know how to avoid the freeway… well, maybe that’s the only reason they had the job.

We arrived at the Greek with about an hour and a half before showtime. You would think we would blow off soundcheck but just like the time we played Dodger Stadium, being prepared for the LA crowd won out over being ready to go. Scramblevision indeed…

The show occurred and we drove to Concord,CA for a show the next day. The NoCal crowd was much more expressive in their appreciations and can Granola Box with the best of them. I’d like to thank the ladies who ran the backstage espresso bar for keeping me going all day and by using smoothies to get me to come down later in the day. It is an art-form.

The following two days were unusual in that we had them off but stayed in the Bay Area rather than moving on to the next city. No bad reflection on Des Moines, but the homeless people are far more colorful in the Market District of San Francisco. I got off the boat, rented a car and went to visit my Sister and her family (including my new nephew Matteo!) in Sacramento and my Mom up in Grass Valley.

This is Matteo…

and this is Eli!!!

I had a great afternoon in the back yard of my sister’s house watching my older nephew Eli give the sprinkler a workout and collecting the latest F1 race (Monaco at the time) on a DVD (despite the CBS Sports announcers).

Mom has really stepped it up out in the gardens even though her hands are still giving her a bad time.

The tree she planted for my brother is quite beautiful and will be a living testament with the ability to shade someday.

Her place is very special, between the trees above the property and the neighbor’s peacocks honking through the day it is a serene retreat from the go-go-go world of highways, cell phones, the internet and fear. All these things are pretty hard to access up there! It goes without saying that anytime I can spend with Mom is good time and never enough.

The following day was spent flying from SFO to Iowa with a layover in Denver. Yup, United. Yup, rows are 3.26 inches away from each other. Yup, the lady in front of me fully reclined my knee into hyper-extension and then blamed me for having my knee jammed into the small of her back! I had nowhere else to put it; I couldn’t move! I then began to enjoy being her hateful lumbar support and she then gave up on her silly reclining/comfort fantasy. I’m such a heel… or knee as the case may be. Perhaps if she spent what she wasted on the outfit she was wearing she could have afforded business class or United “Economy Plus” (‘We make you pay more for what everyone gets for the lowest price!!!!’)

After the screeching heat of Phoenix, the usual indifference of LA and the mild moisture of San Francisco, Des Moines was downright cool and rainy! We tightened up everything that was loosened on the drive and did another show. St. Paul was next at the Excel Center which for a large venue I still seem to go there almost every year. Losta room and a good push to the loading dock… much easier to find your way out than your way in.

Today we find ourselves in Tinley Park, IL, the suburbs of Chicago. Thankful for a day off, a coffee machine, free internet and windows that open, I’m still going find something to be a bitterman about…

Just like Columbus, we find ourselves at a business hotel closer to the venue than the action. Fair enough, we’re the crew and from time to time we stay at hotels that would get a tour manager fired if he planted a band there. Many venues are originally built in distant areas to prevent noise complaints and in time, the town builds around them so they can have something to complain about. Just like Columbus, we find ourselves in an area next to the Interstate where there is much traffic of the vehicular kind; there are no sidewalks or crosswalks for traffic of the pedestrian kind. For entertainment I’m trying to decide between counting the minites between drop outs on the hotel connectivity or trying to cross the street without being hit by a teenage girl on a cell phone…

It’s not unusual to be stranded with a Denny’s in an adjoining parking lot; it’s scary when you roll into the hotel and the only thing you see is a home mortgage office. At closer look there is an Italian Beef sandwich shop, a sushi joint (!), a Quiznos, a Burger King and a “Always Open” Adult Beverage Center. I take it back, I’ve got nothing to complain about. I’ll get some face wash and a pedicure in Cleveland.

So, with some strong coffee and some moderately aggressive music pumping through the speakers, I find myself leaving you a note to let you know where we sit; not really here, not really there but alive and away from the road cases for another few hours.