January 19, 2004

Today was sort of a rough day, but I am kept happy with thoughts of this past weekend. The band and I had two gigs in Champaign/Urbana, and the weekend was full of new experiences for us.

When we arrived at the Iron Post to talk to the owner and check out the venue we also asked him about inexpensive places to stay. He referred us to the hotel next door, The Historic Lincoln Hotel, I think it was called, and got us a reduced rate since we were performing that night. This place was a castle! The wallpaper was ornate and made of fabric, there was tons of dark woodwork, the walls were high and curved, the rooms had canopied beds and turn of the century ornamentation. It was built in the 1920's, we discovered, and everything in there was an attempt at authenticity. I do believe they succeeded! We had the best time there! We kept joking that some horror flick should be filmed there, and imagined corpses falling out from behind every closet door, but in actuality it was beautiful and very fun.

We played Friday night at the Iron Post (which turned out to be a great show and a good crowd) where we were given a toy Santa Kermit the Frog by a member of the crowd named Mike. I announced to the crowd that we were trying to collect toys or momentos from each city we play in (you might recall the boggle-headed moose) and that we had bought a tie-dyed monkey earlier that day at a Road Ranger gas station. (He now proudly hangs on the rearview mirror, and each band member probably had a turn making him dance or sing as we drove along). Anyhow, I also mentioned it would probably be more fun if the toys happened upon us, rather than us buying them for ourselves, and lo and behold, Mike from the audience runs up to the stage and hands me Santa Kermit. He said he felt like he should bring that to the show for some weird reason, and was looking for an opportunity to give it to me, and when the chance came, he took it. So, Kermit is now a very special part of our momento collection. He sits on the dash by the moose, behind the tie-dyed monkey.

After the show, we were hungry, even though it was a bleary-eyed two in the morning, so we went to Perkins for some breakfast. There we discovered a little-known talent our harmonica player Matt apparently has. He can actually get those toys out of the claw machines! :) While we were ordering milkshakes and coffee, he was putting quarters in the machine, and came back with a hockey-playing bear! Now the bear stands on the dashboard beside Santa Kermit and Boggle-headed moose behind the monkey which hangs from the rearview mirror. It's a convoluted trail of toys!

We crashed for a few hours at the motel after our gig, and attempted to sleep in on Saturday morning. Three of us were in one room, three in the other, and a quick phone call down the hall let us know that a couple hours before checkout we were all watching the same movie on TV: some dragon movie! Great minds think alike. The hotel had kindly given us late checkout, so we finally dragged our instruments and selves downstairs around 1pm. Then, since we didn't have anywhere to be until 6pm, we decided to eat in the hotel's dining room/library, where they placed us directly in front of a beautiful roaring fire! Much eating and conversation ensued, and we rowdies sat around for about two hours enjoying the warmth and the comfortable seats. The staff had treated us so well we left them two CDs to share with everyone.

They had to close up the library, so we had to move around 3, but we weren't ready to leave the shelter of their hospitality, so we moved our lazy butts into the bar (The Alumni Tap) which was ultra cool, complete with jukebox and wide-screen TV. But our downfall was to be Griff's deck of cards. The men decided to teach me to play Spades, and from then on I was addicted.

The Borders gig that evening went well. It's definitely different playing for attentive, quiet, book-reading individuals as opposed to smoke-filled bar patrons, but it was equally worthwhile.

At 10pm we finally got on the road, deciding to make the haul back to Columbia that night rather than pay for another hotel room. We've found the best stay-awake foods are jerky, sunflower seeds, gummi bears, and Frappuccino. (The Mountain Dew and Exedrin headache medicine standbys came out once or twice.) Even though we were all exhausted we couldn't help but sing along to every oldies station we could find from Urbana to Columbia. Its great driving music and you're almost never going to hear a song you don't know.

Every trip I take with the band we get closer, like a family. There simply aren't any taboo subjects between us anymore, which leads to many interesting conversations. And other than the music, which of course is our reason for going through the fatigue, poor food choices, expensive hotels, and whatever else, the best part of what we do is getting to spend so much time with each other. And I do mean that. My band is made up of the greatest guys. Thanks to all of you, Michael, Griff, BA, Rob, Mike and Loyd (who unfortunately couldn't make it this weekend.) You're the best!!!!!

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