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Tales From the Tour -- October 2002

"Tales From the Tour" was a running travelogue describing my experiences on the international tour of the musical Fosse.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002
Twelve and a half hours before departure, I am, predictably, a short night's sleep and a long packing job away from my first tour with a musical. At least my Web site will be prepared.

The tour experience begins at 14:05, when Amtrak's train 93 is due to depart New York City for Washington, D.C. The last time I was in Washington, it was with my college choir, and an over-zealous official threatened to arrest a bunch of us for singing an uplifting, secular, non-political glee in a public place on the grounds that such an act constituted a demonstration. This time I'll behave.

Thursday, October 31, 2002
After racing through Hell's Kitchen to run a couple of errands and pick up my take-out sashimi from Kodama (the place has little decor but it's among the best sushi and sashimi in the area), I boarded the 14:05 Amtrak train at 14:04:15. It left two and a half minutes later.

A few rows away from me, a group had a barely-too-loud conversation about urology, which lasted until one member looked outside and said, "It's beginning to look bad enough to be Trenton." Indeed, scenery is less than spectacular on the New York-Washington, D.C. route, so, having finished lunch, I dozed off.

The train arrived at Washington's Union Station six minutes late - just early enough that I couldn't really complain, but just late enough that I couldn't really consider it on time. It poured for my first two days in D.C., much as it poured for, oh, about the last 27 days I was in Pennsylvania, and much as it poured every day I was in Norway this summer. Did somebody say something about a drought?

The Fosse tour is in D.C. for a week, staying at the Harrington Hotel, a place that may be on its last legs: There's just enough peeling paint, and just enough deterioration in the room amenities (the heater is activated by a crank that pulls some gizmo attached to the ceiling), and in one elevator the light above the door that illuminates a "6" when you reached the sixth floor has the number sort of scratched in by hand, as if, after building five floors, they added one, and someone came in and said, "Let's call it six." The place reminds me of the St. Moritz in New York just before it closed. One of the hotel brochures lists Union Station as a place where one can sample "exotic Italian cuisine." I may be jaded with the options near me in Manhattan, but I don't think anyone has ever answered the question "Would you like hamburgers tonight, dear?" with "No, honey - I'd rather have something exotic, like spaghetti."

I'm one of the two keyboardists on the Fosse tour. My roommate is the new drummer, Dave, and we've got a divided suite at the Harrington, so we each get our own room, at least this week. I've had three rehearsals, one privately with the conductor - more than I would have expected. At some point I'll post a long explanation of how I feel about the transition, over the decades, from live orchestra to pre-recorded accompaniment, but suffice it to say that there are many times when I'm staring at a page full of notes, but my hands get a rest because someone has written "Tacet" and the music is piped in by the sound guy. However, there's a killer jazz solo that I get to play onstage, so I'm happy.

The cast is about 20 people, most - if not all - of whom are younger than me. They are an extremely friendly and welcoming bunch. I joined the tour after they'd been on the road for two months, and they were eager to invite me to join them for dinner and so forth. Yesterday, for instance, nine of us had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. Somebody ordered something called a pig sandwich, and the waitress asked, "Would you like onions or mushrooms on your pig?" I could never make it through such a question with a straight face.

Last night there was a party for the touring company, whose office is nearby. I found the two food highlights - chocolate fondue and oversized chocolate-dipped strawberries - tasty, if unwieldy (how do you eat such things when you're holding two plates and a drink?), but the open bar was nice.

Today I took a long walk past the White House, and with a brief stop at the Counter Spy Shop (where you can purchase such items as clothing containing hidden video cameras, devices to determine whether your house is bugged, and a 110,000-lumens flashlight to ward off an attacker), to the Adams-Morgan district of town, a trendy area that's also home to a lot of great ethnic eateries. I passed five - five! - Ethiopian restaurants, and there were also Eritrean, Ghanaian, and Persian places, to name a few others. I even found an Ethiopian market - New York may have just about everything, but I don't know of a single place where you can stock up on injera (the spongy bread that accompanies every meal) and awaze (a spicy pepper sauce).

Back downtown, I lunched at Chinatown's Lei Garden, which has a dim sum buffet (another thing I haven't found in New York). The variety was pretty good - they even had things such as tripe and chicken feet - and there were other specialties, such as roast duck and seasoned hard-shell crabs. All for $8.95, plus 10% (wow!) tax.

But back to our show. I've got about one more rehearsal day, and I should be playing performances by the weekend...once I get that jazz solo in my fingers.

"Tales From the Tour" main | November 2002 >>