Monday, December 16, 2013

12/13/2013-12/15/2013: Boise, ID

Our very last city of the year.  Wow.

What a year this has been too - lots of goods and very few bads (which is always a nice thing).

Boise went as most of our quick stops do - didn't see too much since its was cold and we were working most of the time.  BUT we did have a pot-luck/holiday party on Saturday since we were staying at a Towne Place Suites - which has FULL kitchens - I mean FULL kitchens with ovens and everything!  It was so nice to try what everyone had made - and there was A LOT of food to be tried too.  I gotta say - when this show ends - I think we should all band together and start a food truck because - damn….SO GOOD!

The other nice thing about Boise is that my Aunt and Uncle and Cousin live there - so they got to come and see the show and then we got to go out to dinner one night as well.  I rarely get to see extended family so that was cool!

But now the best part - going home for the holidays! I can't wait!!  

Happy Holidays to all and see you in Key West on Jan 8th!

Friday, December 13, 2013

12/12/2013: Riverside, CA

Our last One Nighter of the year!  Woot Woot!

And it couldn't have been in a greater place - the audience here was awesome!  I love playing California - sad that we'll only have one more city here in the rest of the tour…

As with most One Nighters - didn't see much of the town.  BUT there was a Holiday Festival of Lights going on across the street from our hotel that I strolled by after our show got out.  They had some great decorations, carolers, food, even a reindeer that you could feed.  All very nice.  Finally getting me in the Holiday spirits!!!

But now we are flying to our last city of the year - Boise - which means that we have to say goodbye to our Bus Driver Mary (as we'll be getting a new bus when we come back).  Safe travels Mary!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

12/9/2013-12/11/2013: Santa Barbara/Carpinteria

The last golden day of the year.  While most of the cast were spending it on the beach - which I am not the biggest fan of actually… I was busily working all day on my Christmas Vlog (lol).  But I have to say that its nice to be done with all my filming for the year - and just have the show to worry about of these last few days.

We are playing Santa Barbara but staying in the little town of Carpinteria about 15 mins outside the city.  So of Santa Barbara - I saw very little other than the block that the theatre was on.  But it was a nice block.

Carpinteria is a beautiful, quiet little seaside California town though.  Very quaint - with a lot of little shops and restaurants around.  The walk over to the beaches is lovely - and the beaches (from a distance) looked very nice too - if thats your thing.  There really wasn't a lot going on while we were here though - just the shows to be honest.  And we're slowly getting our newbies into the full show - they should be 100% by the time our last show rolls around - which will be good since we're off for 3 weeks after that (lol).

Sunday, December 8, 2013

12/3/2013-12/8/2013: Thousand Oaks, CA

Our last long sit-down of the year.  But lots happened here so - it was good we had all this time.

Thousand Oaks itself seems very nice - but you really need a car to get around - also there really isn't a lot to do if you're not into hiking - but the landscape is BEAUTIFUL!  Its very near to Simi Valley which was the backdrop to all of the old Western movies shot back in the day.  Lots of Mountains and desert areas - but sooooo picturesque.  Definitely worth a drive if you're nearby.

The one brilliant find I made was this Indian restaurant called Karma that was in this little outdoor mall area near the hotel.  They had some of the best Indian food I've had in a long long while - and the selections they had for the lunch buffet were awesome!  And all for like $10.  Couldn't be beat - I went 2 days in a row.  But we also made a Trader Joe's stop when we got into town - so I was able to get some great nibble options for the hotel.  Some beets and cheese for a beet salad - and some great chicken and lentils for a chicken salad plus some heat up Indian food (love my Indian food) and other goodies too…love some Trader Joes!

Most bittersweetly exciting though - Stephen (our new Caveman), Jillian (our new Flapper) and Ryan (our new Lurch) arrived this week and started a heavy rehearsal schedule to get them mostly into the show by Sunday. Which they did!  Its fun to have some new excited blood in the show. But that meant we had to say goodbye to Aaron, Liz and Dan - which was awful.  Their last day was very hard - mostly because they weren't in the show - but just kinda had to watch it from off stage - which made the 2 show day very tearful and exhausting.

But their farewell blowout aka Dragapalooza USA was equally as wonderful. LOL.  Aaron and Dan went full drag out - and was joined by Amanda and Jake.  It was so much fun - a night not to be forgotten.

Thousand Oaks was also the hometown of Blair Anderson (Alice) - so we got to perform for HER family and friends this time around.  Her parents made this wonderful Brunch spread for us on Saturday .  It was to die for - so many good things.  AND in a surprise turn of events, my friend Jonathan Kim (from my Curious George tour) got to come and see the show - we haven't seen each other for almost 5 years now so that was AWESOME!  We also got a visit from our original Pugsley - Sam Primack and his mom. So nice to see them!  Thousand Oaks was really a city of reunions and torch passing for us.  Very emotional.

But our time is has come to end - just  a short nighttime drive to Santa Barbara tonight and then a FULL GOLDEN DAY tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

12/2/2013: Bakersfield, CA

Tonight was cool for 2 reasons.

A - Our stage manager decided to celebrate our 2 week stint in California by throwing an In N Out Party for the company during the company meeting today.  Burgers and fries for all.  Not bad.  I've had In N Out before and generally like them - I'm not one of those enthusiasts though who crave nothing but them though.  I guess you had to have grown up in Cali to be one of them - Its kinda reminds me of a Wendys…but still very good and the party was well appreciated.

B- Not only are we in Cali but we are also in Jesse Sharp's (Gomez) hometown.  So that was kinda cool to have his friends and family filling the audience.  The theatre was more arena-like than theatre-like so it was hard to gauge audience reaction during the show but Jesse says that everyone loved it - so yeah!

I didn't get to see much of the town as we left the next morning - BUT Bryan, Dan and I knocked out some more of the Level 7 expansion - leaving only ONE level to beat when we get to Thousand Oaks before Dan leaves.  Oh yeah - Meeting the new family members tomorrow - kinda exciting!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

11/28/2013-12/1/2013: Reno, NV

Our time in Reno started out with Thanksgiving.  I have to say that as Thanksgivings on the road go - this was a really nice one.

Several of the cast had signed up for a Turkey Trot to do in the early morning.  I had thought about it but then decided that I didn't need to pay someone $40 so I could run/walk 2 miles in the cold.  But they had a good time.  When the parade started, our company manager Deb, invited everyone who wanted to join up to her room for some light breakfast and Mimosas - which was perfect.  Next we all bussed over to Squaw Valley for the rest of the day.  If you've not been - Squaw Valley is a little ski resort area up in the mountains right on the NV/CA border.  It was very pretty and relaxing up there - and the diner buffet they set out was great.  After diner we had our final Secret Moses reveal - which was also a lot of fun as not many were able to guess their person right off the bat.  Then we broke out into some spontaneous caroling that lasted from the restaurant, down the side of the mountain to the fire pit in the main resort area.  Other diners joined in and we even getting 'requests' from some of the people staying at the resort.  It was a great night of togetherness.

Reno itself was like a smaller and sadder Vegas - which is funny since I think Reno developed first.  I walked around the Casino areas a bit - but unless you were gambling, there really wasn't much to see.  I did have diner one night at a place called Pho Country - which had some awesome Vietnamese food.  Definitely one to look for if your in downtown Reno.

Show-wise, all went well.  The theatre we were in was in this building that almost looked like an army bunker -and you had to descend underground to get to backstage -but once you were inside it was pretty cool.  The audiences were great - as were the locals.  And we were able to put up a real wall-tag here.  Our first in a while.  In fact, our first since Darcy (our former props person) left the show - so we had to elect a new tagger, which ended up being Galloway.  I think he did a great job too.

All in all - Reno was a nice stop - lots of shows so not much time to rest - but a great place to have Thanksgiving.  And I think the company left not having lost too much money either...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

11/26/2013-11/27/2013: Folsom, CA

Whew - that was a drive ya'll.  A beautiful drive as we were throughout the mountains for a lot of it - but a DRIVE!  We made 2 stops along the way - in Rawlins, WY and Elko, NV.  Rawlins definitely left something to be desired - and the hotel we were at reminded me of Eerie's older grosser brother.  Just skip that town all together if you can (lets just say that I had to hit the bar and self medicate before I could force myself to sleep in that place….and I'm not one to hit the bar…)  Elko looked nice - our hotel definitely was.  But as we were only in both places for the night and there was nothing around the hotels to walk to I really didn't get to see much/any of the town itself.

We did get another bit of Level 7 in before we left Elko though - I think we may hit our goal of playing through before Dan has to go.  Which is looking like it will be Thousand Oaks now.

In fact, we'll be losing 3 of our cast members and a band member in Thousand Oaks: our Lurch (Dan), our Flapper/Grandma Understudy (Liz) and our Caveman/Fester Understudy (Aaron) are all moving on to other things - and our Reed Player (Will) will be staying in Thousand Oaks since its close to where he lives.  Sad for us to lose so many of the family at once (I knew it would happen though - once the seal is broken then slowly the cast starts to replace itself.  Happens in every show…) but at the same time, since it has to happen, I'm excited to meet our new castmates and welcome them to the Fam.

We spent (technically) one full day in Folsom - got in for our evening show on the Tuesday, spent the night at the hotel and then stayed at the theatre between our 2 shows on Wednesday so we could just drive to Reno that night.  The hotel was very nice - it was at a little mountain resort kind of place.  Very quaint  The shows went well.  And the drive to Reno wasn't that bad - though we did get in very late.  Though I'm happy we did since now we have a FULL day off tomorrow for Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

11/24/2013: Greeley, CO

Wow.  This one doesn't even qualify as a one-nighter technically.

We got up and drove over to Greeley in the morning - which took a whole 45 minutes.  The nice people at the theatre had put together a breakfast for us, which was great.  You never turn down free food on tour - mostly because theres such uncertainty when it comes to having refrigerators or microwaves that you end up eating out more that you intend which can be Cha-Ching.

Afterwards we did the show - which was HARD due to the altitude.  I had some major issues getting dizzy and whatnot during the show, but prevailed in the end. (Thank Goodness lol).  After we were done - it was a quick walk to the Carl Jr.'s to grab some diner and then on the bus to drive 1/3 of the way to Folsom.  The dive will take about 2 1/2 days drive, so technically we have a few days off but they're gonna be totally on the bus the entire time - which I don't count as a day off really.  But it will be nice to have a break from the show - we've done like 100 in a row or something like that (more like 16 or so but it feels like 100).

See you in Cali!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

11/22/2013-11/23/2013: Cheyenne, WY

We've had some long travel days - and there are some longer ones on the way…

We made it over to Cheyenne last night after a long long trek.  No show that night luckily.  A bunch of us took advantage of the evening off and headed over to the local movie theatre to catch the opening of the newest Hunger Games movie: Catching Fire.  The taxi service was a little slow - but hey we're in Cheyenne…I'm glad there was taxi service at night.

The movie was great.  I loved the book series and book two was my favorite of the 3.  I thought they did an awesome job of adapting it and thought they made some really good casting choices for the Tributes from the past. All in all a great night.

I think the coolest part of Cheyenne was our hotel.  Not necessarily the hotel itself as it was very old and only somewhat kept up.  BUT it was haunted.  Apparently back in the 1890s there was a young newly married couple that checked in for their honeymoon.  While they were there, the husband started messing around with a local prostitute.  The wife found them in bed together and shot them both then went to her honeymoon suite and shot herself.  Since then, there have been sightings of all there - and they say you can hear the bride crying at night outside her honeymoon suite.  The cool part is that the woman's name was Rosie - and OUR ghostly bride in the show had adopted the name Rose way back in rehearsals.  It was like we were paying homage to her or something.  Very cool - even if she didn't really show herself while we were there….

Cheyenne itself (at least downtown) seemed like a ghost town to me.  I didn't' see many people walking around the whole time I was there - but they defiantly came to the show in droves.  The town itself was charming - just what you'd think an old west town of today would look like - including huge Cowboy boots in their town square park.   But now we're off to CO - and boy oh boy am I concerned about the elevation of our next few places.  I remember when I came this way with Gilligan's Island that I had a hard time with it before.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

11/19/2013-11/21/2013: Wichita, KS

Back in Kansas once again -- Back in Wichita once again.

This is my 3rd trip to Wichita actually.

I was first here with Gilligan's Island the Musical several years ago - and we stayed in this same hotel!  But we played a different venue- The Orpheum Theatre just down the way.  Then I was here with Curious George but we stayed just outside of town actually and played an Arena that was just about to close.  In fact, we were the last thing to play there before it was bulldozed (lol).

This time around we got to spend a few days here and I got to see a little more of the city, which was nice for a change.

First off, the hotel we stayed at was great - not only did they offer a free breakfast but also a free 'afternoon meal' - which became my dinner every day.  Nothing out of this world but free - and filling.  It was pretty chilly and dreary most of the time we were here but I did do some walking around.  One morning Mark and I walked over to the Keeper Of The Plains - which is a huge statue erected in dedication to the Plains Indians that used to live in the area and took a stroll throughout the surrounding parks.  Its very pretty.  Wichita has a very artsy side to it - and whenever a tree dies in the parks, a chainsaw artist comes out and turns the stump into art - mostly tree stump people.  They are spread all about the parks so its fun to walk along and try to find them.  There is also supposed to be a troll (art) that is handcuffed to a water pipe over by the old water plant - I read about him in and was very excited to see him.  I mean how many times do you come across a troll in the park - sadly though, he is gone for repairs til March.  BUT walking around the downtown area that we stayed in was fun too.  No trolls - but there are these cool/somewhat creepy statues of people doing everyday things scattered all around the streets of downtown - as if someone had walked down the street turning people into statues as they went.  Weird but fun too.

Another day, Aaron and I went downy to Old Town and walked around the Museum of World Treasures.  Had a lot of 'typical' museum things with some special pieces like Shrunken Heads thrown in.  Was worth a quick tour.  While we were down there we stopped in Heroes Bar and Grill for lunch - and had a great burger.  Their signature ingredient is a candied pepper bacon - which is to die for.  And you can get it on almost anything.  If you're in town - I suggest hitting it up.

Other than that, everything was pretty standard - shows went very well.  It got MEGA cold by the end of our time here though and I was very sad that I hadn't packed my WINTER WINTER clothes and coat - but Cali is not far off so I'm holding onto that thought to keep me warm!

Monday, November 18, 2013

11/18/2013: Conway, AR

One Nighter yet again (sigh)

But this time we stopped in Memphis for lunch on the way to Conway - which was awesome.  Memphis is a great little place and I actually wish we had more time to spend there.  The spot I randomly picked for lunch actually kinda sucked.  Pig on Beale or something - not very good at all despite the 100s of trophies in their window for their cooking (Don't be fooled).  But next door was this great general store called Schwabs.  We stopped in and chatted with the folks and Blair and I overdosed on sugar - had a HOMEMADE ice cream float - and by homemade I mean the SODA was home made. Unbelievably good!  Should have just popped in there front eh get go.  We were also randomly in town at the same time that Justin Timberlake was for some homecoming show.  I didn't see him but we saw a crowd of people outside one joint and figured he was there (lol).

The hotel we ended up at in Conway sort of overshadowed the show - which I honestly don't remember because I was so excited to get back to the hotel (lol).  We stayed at a Candlewood Suites - which are my FAVORITE places to stay for a number of reasons - all the rooms are suites with half kitchens (AH!) and the laundry is free.  They also have a mini convenience store which is totally under the honor system .  You can bet I ran over to the Walmart and bought the fixings for some delicious roast veggies and spent the night snacking on my home cooking while I did laundry.  Was awesome -but sadly, as I said…I don't remember a thing about the show...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

11/15/2013-11/17/2013: Birmingham, AL

Well, I called it.  Didn't get to see much - actually ANY - of Birmingham.  Was at the theatre the entire time with shows - but thats ok.  I remember coming through before and seeing a bit of it at least.

The theatre that we were at -the BJCC was great.  Beautiful dressing rooms. Large stage where all of our set pieces fit (thats getting to be a luxury.  You know your tour has gone form B to C level when…).  Huge green room.  Lovely.

The thing that struck me most about our time in Bham though were the people.  They are really one of a kind in the best way.  Everyone is incredibly personable - they all want to chat for bit and are very sweet.  Now, granted, most of the people I met were Lexie Doresett's family and friends. I think she had a good 300 or more come through during the weekend.  And all I can say is that we should always play for Lexie's crowds - they were awesome audiences. And her father brought in some of the families Blackberry cobbler for the cast and crew.  Let me tell you - if I could eat nothing else but that blackberry cobbler for the rest of my life, I'd die happy.

In between shows one day I did get a chance to sit down with Dan and Bryan and play through a Scenario of LEVEL 7- we're trying to get through all of the new expansion scenarios before Dan leaves us - which is in about 2 weeks I should think.  Doable.  And I love this new expansion - it really adds some twists to the already established game.  Lots of fun.

The schedule is definitely starting to take its toll on us though - and sadly its not letting up anytime soon - in fact the worst is still to come (lol).  We had 2 understudies have to go in during our 5 shows - and 2 others that were on standby.  Which is always fun for us onstage since it makes the show seem new again - but so many all at once means that we really need a day off -- and one thats not on the bus.  Which won't happen til we have our 3 weeks off in December though so - Mucinex and Advil it is...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

11/14/2013: Valdosta, GA

Another one nighter come and gone.

The sad thing - at least blogging wise - about them is that I don't really have time to accumulate much to say when we're in a city for less than 24 hours. BUT….

Mark's husband, David, was able to come up and see him here (since they live in Jacksonville - and we're practically on the GA/FL borderline right now).  That's great for two reasons - A) Obviously he gets to see him and B) I get my own room for the night, which is never a bad thing.  Except for the fact that I get overly worried about oversleeping and spend the night in a very light sleep where I wake up almost every 20 mins or so (lol).

The venue itself…well lets just say that the people were ver nice.  The venue would have looked very nice if it had been properly taken care of I think - but it was incredibly dirty and sort of run down - roaches in the corners and all the water looked like urine.  Also - it was one of the smaller venues, so a great deal was cut from the show. BUT, we did get to mingle with the season ticket holders after the show (as is their tradition) in the lobby.  They were very enthusiastic and a lot of fun to chat with. There was even young guy who 'mock' proposed to Jen (our Wednesday) using a keychain ring that apparently his (less than pleased) girlfriend had given him.

So tomorrow - we head to another of our cast member's hometown.  Birmingham, AL where Lexie Dorsett grew up.  AND we're there the entire weekend which will be nice - even though we have 5 shows in those 3 days and I probably won't get to see much of Birmingham.  It will be nice to not get on that bus for at least 2 days!

11/13/13: Panama City, FL

Here we are in Panama City - out last day in FL for a long while - and its freezing cold.  Though I kept trying to tell people that the panhandle isn't like REAL FL when it comes to weather at least.  I saw a post on Facebook from my mother this morning (who is in Tampa) who was complaining about the freezing 60 degree weather.  Now that's the FL I know in the fall....

Anyway - My time in Panama City was comprised of a much needed walk to Target.  A few weeks back I had bought a new camera at a lunch stop (at a Target) because I thought I had (woefully) lost mine.  Of course I found it 2 days later - but by then i had fallen in love with the new better (at the time on sale) camera - and decided to keep both.  Then - of course - 3 days later it stops working (sigh).   I knew I shouldn't have bought it at a Target as we are NEVER by a Target but ALWAYS by a Walmart - but I did.  So I've been waiting every stop/city to see if we'd be near enough to one so I could return it/exchange it before my time ran out.  And finally today it happened!  Hurrah!  AND they had it in stock! Double Hurrah!

So sadly - I can't tell you much about Panama City, save for the helpful people at the Target by our hotel...

Next we are off for our last one nighter (this week) in Valdosta, GA - where the fun will come from Mark (my roommate) having his husband come to visit so A) he gets to see him and B) I get my own room for the night - so Bonus!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

11/12/13: Niceville, FL

Happy 11/12/13!! There will only be one more of these in my lifetime (next year on 12/13/14) - so that's pretty cool.

Anyway - We got up today and drove down to FL!!  Whoo Hoo - feels nice to be back in my 'home' state - and in shorts.  Though it did get cold as the evening went one.

Again - one nighter so we didn't get to see much of the actual town but our hotel was nice - lots of room and they had a "Manager's Social" in the evening with Pizza and sodas (and wine and beer which we couldn't partake in because of the show - but it was still very nice).  The show was also really fun here - a nice college crowd - very enthused.

After the show, Dan and Bryan and I settled into a game of Level 7.  Its a Scifi/Horror game where your characters wake up in this facility 7 levels underground that is run by Aliens doing experiments on humans with help from the US government.  During your escape the Aliens go crazy and the soldiers running the facility become engaged not only with stopping you but destroying them as well. We had played through all of the Scenarios last leg of the tour, so on the break I bought the newly released expansion set - which plays as if you didn't escape before the facility was locked down and so you have to try to find another way out.  The first level was awesome -they've added a lot of cool mechanics to it and ramped up the adrenaline factor.  Took us 3 1/2 hours to play but it was successful just by the skin of (one of our) teeth... Awesome night.

Best part about tomorrow is our ride is only 60 miles to Panama City - so whoo hop!  I'll have time to stop in Target and exchange out this camera I bought a few weeks ago that stopped working 4 days in...

Monday, November 11, 2013

11/10/13-11/11/13: Baton Rouge, LA

Finally a day off....well, mostly-kind-of.  We spent 85% of it on the bus driving from IL to LA (lol).  But on the offside - we didn't' have to go into work today.  On the other hand, I was bored out of my mind most of the evening trying to figure out something to do - since I missed out on going to the local club with some of the other cast members, who then went off to NOLA for the evening.  Not bitter or anything...(lol)

But our day 2 in Baton Rouge was nice at least.  I took a walk around the little highway area we were staying in and did some shopping for our Secret Moses.  This year, since the show will be on hiatus during the Christmas weeks - and since Chanukah falls on Thanksgiving, we decided to have Secret Moses instead of Secret Santa - same deal...except instead of using non-playing 'elves', we send out non-playing MacAbees.  I also picked up some decorations for my bus window - so I can be in the spirit cross country :)

Our show went very well - the audience was just superb - makes doing this kind of thing that much better and easier when we have houses like that.  

Afterwards, in lieu of dinner, I walked over to the local Daiquiri bar and picked up a hugemongous Hurricane to take back to my room and drink while watching Friends reruns.  Thats one of the perks of LA - a little tape over the straw makes it a 'closed container' in the eyes of the law. LOL.

Well - tomorrow we head down to FL - not quite my hometown area - we'll be in the Panhandle - but still pretty close.  Will be nice to see a palm tree again ;)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

11/9/2013: Carbondale, IL

Today was a first.

We hit a theatre that A) Couldn't fit our show completely - but B) Also had no fly systems we could really use.  If you're not in the 'theatre-know' - a Fly System is a series of metal bars that hang over the stage where shows hang set pieces, background drops, curtains and lights - its how scene changes happen by 'Flying' the things hung from them out of view from the audience or 'Flying' them down onto the stage.

So basically we had one uniform set - Our NYC skyline and one black curtain hung center stage that COULD fly out.  It was different - lol - but it worked for what it needed to be.  We were the last touring show to come through the theatre at Carbondale (probably for that reason) - but the crowd was enthusiastic - though small.  We were at a college and competing with a local game (which included a marching band that literally almost ran me over on the way into the theatre) and (I heard) a showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show - so I get it...

My favorite part of the night, however, was when the Wig local put my toupee on me in the wings and asked if she should pin it my scalp.  To which I replied "Please don't" and promptly ran away.

But all in all the show was enjoyed - which is really the whole point anyway.  Next off to Baton Rouge for a (sort of) day off (on the bus) and a show!

11/8/2013: Henderson, KY

Whew ya'll.  That was a LONG travel day.  Mostly because I couldn't get to sleep on the bus for the life of me.  So instead of sleeping til it was almost lunch - I was up the whole time. OY!  And I saw a stretch of fields and houses covered in snow.  I might have been the only one that saw that since I think everyone else was asleep - so I hope I didn't hallucinate it.  We also hit some crazy traffic and ended up about an hour late to our lunch stop.

Our lunch stop - btw - was in Bloomington, IN!  Love that place - spent 2 weeks there with Grinch last year.  They are such a beautiful and fun little college town -with SO many food options.  I decided to go to my favorite Indian place there - Taste of India.  An amazing buffet for like $9.  So good.  Was nice to be back and know where I was going for once (lol).

The ride continued on to Evansville, IN - where we were staying but included a time change.  So we gained an hour - which was great until I realized that it meant that our 8PM show was going to feel like it actually started at 9PM - and I'd been up since 6AM.  Plus, we were actually playing in Henderson, KY - which was like a 25/30 min ride away. Rough.

The show itself went smoothly - the crowds in this part of the country are interesting.  They are usually quiet(isn) throughout the show and then go crazy at then and - and true to form... By curtain call they were definitely having a great time.  It was a pretty fun show from our side too.

AND the best part is that we're only a 2 hour drive to our next stop - so we don't even leave til noon tomorrow! So happy for that.  The interesting part will be the next show - the theatre doesn't have a fly system - so we won't be using 98% of our set...We'll see how that goes (lol)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

11/7/13: Toledo, OH

Well the laws of tour traffic state that if you are driving into a show and are only supposed to be on the road for about 2 hour - your bound to in an accident or construction that will stretch it out to 4 hours or so.  So it goes and so it must be.  The only difference between a regular 4 hour stretch and the unexpected one is that most of us plan ahead and sleep as soon as we get on the bus so it seems so much shorter.  This time was a loooooong 4 hour stretch on pure consciousness.  And man can those get tedious.

Good news is that I'm make lots of headway on my Scarf!

I didn't get to see much of or really, any of, Toledo outside of the block between the hotel and the theatre -BUT the theater was very nice and the locals were so great that I wished we'd had more time there.  But again - that's tour.  So it goes and so it must be.

Tomorrow's a long drive out to KY - but we're supposed to stop in Bloomington, IN for lunch - which is great...I love that town.  Its where we teched How the Grinch Stole Christmas last year - so I got to spend 2 weeks there and really got to know the area.  So it'll be cool to be back (for a 3rd time actually - we played there with Thomas and Friends Live! too) - if even for an hour or so.

11/4/3-11/6/13: New Philadelphia, OH

We have been to some confusing places lately LOL - but New Philadelphia takes the cake.

Oh - its not a bad thing - I just would have sworn that I was in PA for the past few days.  The town just had a very PA feel - and there were PA things there - like Sheetz and Amish people.  I'm not sure exactly how Amish the Amish people were though - as we saw most of them in the Walmart and the Wendy's, which (I may be wrong) seems a little anti-Amish...

But we did take a mini lunch trip over to the Dutch Valley Restaurant and resort - which was setup to look like a little Amish Village.  I don't think there were any actual Amish people here at all though.  We were going to try and see the craftsman - usually there are doll makers and soap makers and quilters and whatnot making homemade goods to sell.  Well, they had dolls and soap and quilts but they were all very mass produced.  It was actually more like walking around a Pottery Barn than an Amish village.  But the food at the restaurant was good - though that was also a chain (with a location in Sarasota, FL - lol). But Amish or no - it was a nice outing.

Other than that, there really wasn't a lot to do in New Philadelphia, besides the show.  The shows went well - the audiences seemed to like it, which is always nice.  We were at the Performing Arts Center at Kent State.   I love being at the colleges, theres always a fun vibe there - and the locals are usually students.  They also have a tendency to provide some sort of catering, which is nice.  We had the BEST chili both nights laid out in the Green Room - really really good.

I did have some free time to try out a new Improv game that I downloaded called A Penny For Your Thoughts.  It was kind of cool - takes a long time investment but it was very interesting.  The idea is that you are all 'patients' who have lost your memories - but have been given a drug that helps you connect with others on the drug.  Basically your friends remember the vital choices in your memories and help you regain your past - and how you came to lose it in the first place.  Intricate but cool - I'll have to try it again sometime...

Sunday, November 3, 2013

10/29/13 - 11/3/13: Wilmington, DE

Halloween has come and gone.  It being my favorite holiday, thats always a sad thing.  But at least we had a good season for it. I finished my Halloween movies (hurrah!) and we even had a little Halloween party after our show.

Show-wise, the crowds in Wilmington were a lot of fun.  The theatre itself was great. We were at the DuPont Theatre - formerly known as the historic Playhouse Theatre.  And there really was something about playing there that gave you a sense of the history of the place.  One thing that we weren't expecting though, was our first cast member to leave the show.  Katie - who plays the Saloon Girl (Ruby Addams) ancestor has decided to move on to other shows, and since we had a whole week in one place - Phoenix brought out Maggie to learn the show.  It was really quite amazing watching her go through the process. She literally learned 80% of the show in 2 days and was performing full out by the weekend.  Every show we added her into another number or sequence.  It took us about 2 1/2 weeks to fully learn the show - so I know that she was taking on a major undertaking.  But watching her, you wouldn't know that she hadn't been with us all 250 something shows.  All my best wishes go with Katie on her journey - and all a bright welcome goes out to Maggie.  This being my 5th tour though, I know that once the 'seal cracks' there usually aren't others too far behind who decide to move on.  I'm definitely in for the long haul - but it will be interesting in the coming months to see how things play out.

Wilmington itself had a few fun places to check out - some great food over at the Washington Street Alehouse (with some great prices too).  And we got a chance to see a collection of Christopher Durang, my favorite absurdist playwright, shorts in the last night of the Wilmington Fringe Festival.  Kinda cool - I love a well done Durang piece, and they handled themselves very nicely.  

With this week coming to an end, we start a series of One Nighters mostly for the next two weeks - but our actual schedule isn't all that bad this coming week - only 5 shows and no doubles.  So that will be a nice way to ease into them.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

10/28/13: Burlington, VT

Thats right - we drove all the way from Long Island to VT - to do one show - and then head all the way back down to DE tomorrow.

But it was fun at least.  I'm getting some knitting done on the bus - I finished reading our October Book Club pick (Solo: A James Bond novel) - watching my movie marathon picks on the bus - all is good.

Burlington looks absolutely adorable - and I wish we could stay here longer.  I didn't get much of a chance to look around - as we got in a little later than we'd planned, but from what I saw - it looks like a very cute collgey town.  Lots of urban shops and restaurants - I did get a chance to eat at a great little Kabob place next to theatre.  Wonderful homemade gyros and samosas.

The show went very well - and the audiecnce seemed to really like it too.  I love doing this show so close to Halloween.  Another theatre where we didn't fit - in fact, we lost our big red curtain on this one (it happens every now and again) - but we've done that version before so, we made it work :)

Psyched to get to Wilmington now and start our Halloween sit down!!!

Monday, October 28, 2013

10/27/13: Stony Brook, NY

Back in Long Island.

I worked out of Carle Place (Long Island) for three years - so I know my LIers and its good to be back.

Especially since we had a fully sold out house for the show!  The venue was really great to us too - very nice and set out a fun Halloweeny Hospitality spread for us.  And the crowd was great too.

Didn't really get to see much of Stony Brook - walked over to the Apple-bees near our hotel for some dinner before we went in to sound check -but true to form on One Nighters, the town is still a mystery to me.

Show-wise, we've hit a stream of theaters that are just to small to totally fit our show (I think we've had ONE full out show since we started back up) -so that's always interesting.  One thing about theatre - you never know what the next day brings.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

10/25/13-10/26/13: New Brunswick, NJ

Even though we were only here for 2 days - it feels to me like we were here longer.  Maybe thats because we are so close to home - in fact many of the cast members commuted back and forth from the city for the show.  Though I stayed here in the Jersey side for the whole time.  

Both Amanda (Grandma) and Aaron (Caveman) are from NJ so they had tons of friends and family at the shows, which made it all the better.  I even had a guest make his way down.  One of my 'kids' from when I directed/taught children's' theatre back in Tampa is now going to AMDA (my college) in New York - Nothing makes you feel older or prouder really lol.  But he had a free night and was able to have his Uncle drive him over to the show last night. That was cool.  We went out to a diner afterwards and talked a bit about the show and AMDA and things.  Lots of fun.

We also got a visit from Jeremy Schinder and family - Jeremy was one of our Pugsleys who left the tour after our stint in Asia - so it was nice to see him and his family again.  Jonathan Ritter, who taught all of the choreography for the show to us back in rehearsals also stopped by to see us.  Lots of reuniting going on in New Brunswick.  

The crowds here were fantastic too - which always makes the shows more fun.  After our first show here on Friday, the venue threw an opening night mixer for us to mingle with some of the patrons of the State Theatre.  That was fun - I always like meeting people who support the arts (and make my job possible).

I'm also loving the feel and look of fall all around - definitely my favorite time of year.  

Well, its back to 2 one-nighters before we sit down for a bit at our Halloween stop.  On the bus to Stony Brook, NY right now actually - getting ready for our sold our show tonight!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

10/24/13: Indiana, PA

One Nighters - You gotta love them.

This was our first day of driving into a show that night in a long while.  I gotta say too that I wasn't expecting much out of Indiana, PA - who even knew there was such a place.  BUT as it turns out, there's a pretty nice college there - which is where we played.

The audience was very receptive too - there were alot of excited audience members tweeting about going to the show that night all day, which is always cool to see.  I love Twitter - I think its a great way to connect with the people seeing our show in a very real and direct way.

After the show, we had the opportunity to do a talkback with about 25 college theatre students - and that was my favorite part about playing here.  I love when we get to do things like that - especially with theatre majors, since the info I can pass on to them is very relevant.  They had some great questions, not only about the show but also what touring is like and what its like work (or try to work) in the industry. Very cool.

Sadly, we didn't get to see much of/any of the town since we are leaving early tomorrow to head to NJ. BUT we did have an AHS: Coven viewing before bed - and OH MY GOODNESS - that is getting good ya'll!  Love this season so far!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

10/21/13-10/23/13: Kalamazoo, MI

Getting to Kalamazoo was really a great way to start the almost Halloween countdown.  In truth, I celebrate Halloween all month long with a daily movie tribute BUT now that we're about a week away...

First thing we did when we arrived at the hotel, was to rent a car and drive over to Jackson's Underworld - a great Haunted House attraction (and the only one nearby that was open on a Monday night).  It was alot of fun.  You can tell that they put alot of thought into the rooms and some of them have really awesome special effects that they've definitely spent some dough on.  I absolutely love going through spook houses and was so glad to find one on tour to goto.  Hopefully we'll find another - maybe when we sit down in Wilmington, DE for Halloween week :)

Other than the haunted house, we didn't get to spend too much time in Kalamazoo - though we did run into the Kalamazoo Dept of Zombie Removal at the grocery store (LOL).  Got to do a little gaming in our downtime - introduced the group to a new one that I picked up on break: Invasion - the Alien Invasion Game.  Its absolutely ridiculous LOL - basically Martians vs Carnies.

Our 2 days of shows were alot of fun - but with nothing too significant to report.  Next a one nighter in Indiana, PA!

Monday, October 21, 2013

10/14/13-10/20/13: Louisville, KY

Our first full week back.  And it was incredibly smooth - thank goodness.

We actually couldn't have had a better city to re-open the show in.  Louisville was phenomenal!

When we first got into town, I wanted to head straight over to my favorite place - Hillbilly Tea - for dinner but they are closed Mon/Tues so I had to wait.  Instead we ended up over at a place not too far off called Doc Crows.  It was a BBQ joint and Raw Bar - and so delicious.  I had a few oysters, a baked potato stuffed with the most amazing brisket I've had outside of Nashville and this to die for sunday (lets just say it had cinnamon dusted pork rinds, candied bacon, bourbon sauce and a whiskey soaked cherry...).  Some of my other foodie highlights were stoping by the historic Brown Hotel (where the movie Elizabethtown was filmed) and having the Hot Brown - a Kentucky classic which they invented. Its basically an open-face turkey and tomato sandwich covered in creamy b├ęchamel sauce and bacon.  So Good. I also finally made it to Hillbilly Tea - and had their pulled pork over cornpone, which was also outstanding.  Finally, on our final night in town I went with some castmates to a place called Sidebar - which was serving the most sinful spiked chocolate shake that I've ever had.  Not a good stop for the diet but a great one for the tastebuds.

There was also a ton to DO in Louisville.  It is the home of the Louisville Slugger factory - where they make all the bats for the NBA and most of the ones you can buy out at the stores as well.  They have a cute little museum and factory tour where you can hold some historic bats and then take a swing in a batting cage as well.  They even give you your own mini bat as a free souvenir.  Louisville is probably MOST known as the home of the Kentucky Derby - held at Churchill Downs every year.  So we took a half day tour of the Downs as well.  It was cool to see the horses running on the track up close - they do practice runs all year round.  The Kentucky Derby is actually only one of about 800 races they run on that track a year - and while you'd spend near 14K for a seat inside on Derby day - you can go (in season) and and spend $35 to have the same experience on any other day - kinda wild.

Our week of shows were very well received in Louisville - they are a big theatre town (which surprised me) and have a number of professional regional theaters in town.  The audiences were just great - and the local crew was fantastic as well.  The venue itself, the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts - was a lot of fun to be in as well - one of the ONLY theaters that actually keeps the stage cool during shows (not just the audience) so I didn't have to worry about heat stroke the whole week (lol).  They also did some amazing promotion for the show.  One of the local breweries, BBC, actually made a yummy concoction called Lurch's Lager.  They were selling it in all of their locations around town and threw an opening night party for us at their brewery where we got to sample it and then take a tour of the brewery where its made.  They also worked with the city to have a BUS CAMPAIGN!  The entire family got their own busses with their photo on the back of them.  They took us out to the river one afternoon to do a photoshoot with our buses - and it was awesome.  I felt like Carrie Bradshaw (without the puddle splash).  Very swanky.

All in all we had a great time in KY - and are sad to see it go.  But on we charge - off this time to Michigan - Kalamazoo to be percise!

Monday, October 14, 2013

10/10/13-10/13/13: Binghamton, NY

And we're back!

After a much MUCH needed 5 week break which I spent down in Tampa visiting my parents, sister, best friends and my God Daughter - I am ready to get back to the world of the Addamses.

And it started off with a bang - of course.  A bunch of the cast were flying into Binghamton from all over the country - about 9 of us had a connecting flight together from Philly on US Air.  So we waited around the gate for a bit - since the plane was delayed.  They made an announcement that the plane was going to be coming in very soon and to stay near by as they would have a quick turnaround.  It was a crazy day to fly with storms all over the US.  They had already canceled one of the 3 flights to Binghamton and put all of the other riders on standby for our flight and the one after (at 9PM).  Well, when the plane came in and they started to board - they (for whatever brilliant reason) decided not to announce it over the loudspeaker.  Instead, they herded the people who were sitting right in front of the gate onto the plane - let on standby people and took off - leaving us there.  Ridiculous!  The 'manager' though I doubt he was the highest up person I could have spoken to even though he said he was - since he was too incompetent to even look me in the eye when he was lying to me...Insisted that they did everything right and was happy to fly us out tomorrow.  Which of course was not an option - so the show rented us a hug van and we had drive 4 1/2 hours to Binghamton instead of a 30 min plane ride (sigh).

When we made it, we were rushed right to the theatre to begin sound check - which went very smoothly.  The next two days were filled with Technical Rehearsals - we have a number of new crew members joining the team and needed some refresher runs ourselves to get back into top show condition.  But they went very well - and our 2 preview performances on Sunday were great.  It was sooooo nice be back in front of an American audience again.  Asia was great - but some of our jokes are just very USA based - and the laughs were all back.  I couldn't stop smiling all day.

Binghamton itself was interesting - I didn't get to see much of it - as we were in 10 hour rehearsals for 2 days and then did a double show - but it seems like a typical college town.  The cool part was that its the boyhood home of Rod Sterling from The Twilight Zone.  One of the premiere episodes (Walking Distance) was inspired by the antique carousel that lives over in one of the downtown parks - they even filmed it there in the park. Very cool.  They also seem to have a number of (slow) but tasty restaurants around - but watch out on Sundays - the place is boarded up like a ghost town - only one place to eat in the whole town and it only serves breakfast and closes at 2.

Anyway - we're off to Louisville KY now for our OFFICIAL re-opening and a week long sit down - I can't wait! Snap Snap!

OH I've also started a bi-weekly youtube Vlog called LIVING OUT OF SUITCASES - you should check it out!!

Friday, September 6, 2013

8/20/13-9/5/13: Macau

And so our time in Asia draws to an end with our final stop of the 2013 Asian Summer Tour - Macau.

If you've never been to Macau - think of it as a very spread out Las Vegas.  There are tons of incredibly grand, ornate and fairly gaudy Casino Hotels spread out over both of Macau's island areas - but to be fair, they are not nearly as 'touristy' or gaudy as the ones in Las Vegas.  The rest of Macau is a mix between Portuguese and Chinese cultures - and you can find many little restaurants and shops throughout the area.  But the main thing to do in Macau (besides see us) is gambling.

Not being much of a gambler myself, I decided to spend my first golden day while in Hong Kong!  Hong Kong and Macau are very close to each other - just one 45 minute ferry ride separates the two.  In fact, on the tourist sites for both countries - they list tours and attractions for the other - so they are kind of synonymous.  My fellow cast-mate, Aaron and I took the ferry over to Hong Kong and made our way to Lantau Island - which is home to the world famous, Tian Tan Buddha (the Big Buddha) - the worlds largest outdoor seated Buddha figure (112 ft tall).  To get there, you have to ride on a cable car system the takes you OVER three different MOUNTAINS.  It was incredibly exhilarating and absolutely terrifying to be so high and basically held up by a wire.  But the view was comparable to nothing else - even on a misty/foggy day like we had. Before we headed up to the Buddha, we took a tour of a small fishing village located nearby the site.  It was pretty cool to see how they live - which is very, very simply.  Apparently the village is thriving and supplies Hong Kong with 90% of the dried fish products that they use - and Chinese cooking uses ALOT of dried fish. Next we hiked up to the top of the hill where the Buddha sits.  There were alot of stairs and it was hotter than Hades BUT it was worth it to see the Buddha up close and see the view of the village sitting  below it.  It is one of the top 10 Buddha figures to see/pilgrimage to in the world (and one of the top 5 in China) - so I highly recommend a day out there if you are in Hong Kong.

Back in Macau itself, I did take a day to walk around and see some of the hotels - the MGM Grand, The Oriental Mandarin, the Sands and a few others.  Some of them are just breath taking - especially at night.  Another day, a few of us went out to the ruins of Saint Pauls College - Macau's most famous landmark.  All that is left of the college is literally one wall.  But it is so magnificent that you'd think that the wall was erected to be a monument to begin with.  Its quite a site - especially since it sits right in the middle of the windy, cobblestoned, store lined streets of central Macau.  The architecture alone is worth taking a trip out that way.

However, the best part of Macau had to be my trip to a little, out of the way restaurant called Fernando's.  It is homemade Portuguese food at it's very very best.  My mouth is watering now just thinking about it.  A group of us took some cabs out that way - you drive for about 20/30 minutes and end up on a winding, deserted, jungly road that spits you out right at Fernando's door.  The restaurant itself looks like a little hole-in-the-wall place (doesn't even have A/C).  We ordered family style (which is what I suggest if you go - so you can try a bit of everything).  There were mussels and shrimp and chorizo and chicken and suckling pig and veggies and flan and fruit - and best of all - THE DRUNKEN STEAK.  It had to be the best steak I've ever had in my life - ever - I seriously mean EVER.  Add two carafes of Sangria to the night and it was heaven on a plate - literally.  

Show-wise, we were performing at the Macau Cultural Center for two weeks.  And boy did they go all out with promos for the show - the most impressive was the Grand Staircase that led up to the front lobby and was painted with our show logo.  Very cool.  Audiences here were, as they were in all of Asia, incredibly appreciative - though quiet.  This was the first place in Asia where we ran into the quiet audience that we'd been expecting the entire run - which is funny because its the one place in Asia where I thought we'd have the more rowdy crowds....with it being IN Macau, which is gambling central and so close to Hong Kong - which is the New York of Asia.  But the venue was nice and the so were the crowds and the locals.  Not to mention the pool at our hotel - the most luxurious one yet - complete with water slide! Not a bad way to end our stay in Asia.

And so Asia comes to an end (for now). The saddest part will be leaving behind some of our cast and crew who will not be returning next season with us: Jeremy, Phish, Alicia, Eric, Jim and Josh.  We will also loose Kit, who was our Asian liaison for this leg of the tour.  Brittany, our makeup department head, made sure she went out in style though and made her up as an Ancestor for one of the final shows.  We'll miss you!

There have been some absolutely amazing times with absolutely amazing people that I will never forget - there have been some less than spectacular times that I also won't be able to forget.  All in all, though, I'm glad that I had the experience and the chance to bring joy and the American art of Musical Theatre to a continent that I never thought I'd see.  Though after 11 months of straight touring, I'm very excited for my 5 weeks at home.  See you in October!  America here I come!
Celebrating our 200th Show and the end of our Asian Tour

Monday, August 19, 2013

8/9/13-8/19/13: Guangzhou, China

Though we were here in China for about 12 days - I have little to comment on as there was not really much to do in Guangzhou...I liken it to visiting a city like...Cincinnati - Its a city so there's alot of business going on, some nice parks, shops and malls etc...but nothing that makes it stand out as a tourist attracting place like New York or Singapore.

So first, let me talk about the hotel we were at...The Ocean Hotel.  Fairly nice rooms, though it seems like they are slowly renovating the place so every single floor has a different look and none of the rooms are exactly the same so you really don't know what you're going to get.  Also, the maids that work there must be under some sort of Chinese Nazi-like regime.  No matter if you put the Do Not Disturb sign on your door AND the Do Not Disturb light was lit outside of your room ALONG WITH the Im In The Bathroom Don't Bother Me light - they will still knock and bang on your door insistently throughout the day as if there is a fire in the building and if you don't answer soon enough, will come into your room to ask if you want it cleaned.  If you say no - they will come back later and repeat and demand that you let them clean the next day.  If you put the latch on the door to keep them from coming in on their own, after the banging and ringing, the phone will ring and someone will try to ask you in Chinese to open the door and the banging and ringing will resume.  If you use your Do Not Disturb sign too much, they will take it away from you.  If you move anything around in the room they will go berserk on you - one afternoon I came in from a sweaty outing and grabbed a hand towel to dry my face and left it on the desk.  Later when the maid came in and decided to clean the bathroom since we were still in bed, she came out with one towel in her had screaming...SCREAMING 'There Were Two! There Were Two!' until I handed her the towel.  Apparently the room service staff is no better (though I didn't order myself, I heard stories) with the staff rolling their eyes and being nasty to our company when they asked questions and tried to pay for their meals instead of charging them to the room.  My suggestion is to not stay there...Oh, their pool...If you can find it (its hidden on the 5th floor and only available via one unmarked elevator) - is not chlorinated (don't drink the water) and the trees around it are FULL of yeah...don't stay at the Ocean Hotel.....

If fact, if you can help it...don't go to China. Of course, I really only got to see the one city, but as home-country sick as I am - thats enough.

I did have a few good times though (lol - its not all gloom and doom).  The first full day there I spent in the hotel but that evening we went out to a little river cruise on the Pearl River to see Guangzhou by night.  They do have a really nice skyline and some very prettily lit up buildings - like the Canton Tower, which is also the largest building in all of China.

Another day, a foursome of us went out to Pan Xi - a Dim Sum restaurant and had a really good meal - and even tried some of the local delicacy...Chicken Claws.  They are not as gross as you'd think.  If you can get over the fact that you're eating a chicken foot...its really mostly skin and very little meat.  But hey, I tried it.  Next to the restaurant was a really nice park that we walked around in for a while.  While it was too hot out to really enjoy being there, it was very pretty and relaxing.

The shows here were the most surprising part of China for me.  I was totally expecting crickets the entire time - as no one here speaks English almost at all.  But the translations must have been excellent - as some of our audiences were louder than the ones back home.  That made me happy.  

But after our time here, I'm ready to move on to our last stop: Macau.  Because that means we are so much closer to being home.  Tour life is hard for long stints...most tours END around 6-7 months and during that time you usually get a few breaks.  We've been out for 8 months with no break - and if  you add my previous tour in (since I had no break at all between shows)....I've been out 11 months without a real break - and I've gone a little crazy over it.  So come on Macau, lets do this!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

7/29/2013-8/8/2013: Bangkok, Thailand Layoff

And I'm back...

For the past 10 days I've been holed up in Bangkok - and man do I have some stories to tell.  Bangkok is a city of extremes - the highs are incredibly high...and conversely the lows are incredibly low.

What follows is mix of both...

First off, Thailand is the first country I've been to where English was not one of the national languages. Most people speak a tiny bit - but almost all signage is Thai.  So when I arrived at the airport to find that my hotel HADN'T sent someone to pick me (as I had requested of them 3 times via email), it was an ordeal to find the taxis and try to explain where I was going.  By some miracle of pre-organization I had printed out a sheet from the hotel's website with driving directions in Thai that I was able to pass along to the driver.  At this point, about 45 minutes after landing, I was already in major culture shock since I had chosen to travel alone and had no one to commiserate in English with - so when the taxi driver, who was about 65 and screamed instead of speaking - but really was a friendly guy, started screaming the few English words he knew at me in triplet (i.e..  Toll! Toll! Toll! when the tolls came and Happy! Happy Happy! Trip! Trip! Trip! randomly as a welcome to Thailand I guess - among other things every 10 minutes or so) I started to question whether I had made a mistake in coming to Bangkok.  But after reaching my hotel and getting up to my room I had calmed myself a bit - and started to get ready to meet my fellow cast-mate, Aaron, and his brother, Shane.  We had decided to introduce Bangkok to us with a diner cruise down the Chao Phraya River (the main waterway in the center of Bangkok).
The cruise we booked was the absolute best one we could have picked (The Apsara Diner Cruise by Banyan Tree if you're interested) since it a)wasn't overcrowded like most of the cruises we saw leaving, b)was served in courses by waiters who explained each course to us as opposed to buffet style, c)was quiet, candlelit and had soft romantic music playing in the background as we cruised along as opposed to the other cruises which featured loud music and dancing during and after the meal.  It was a great way to meet the city as many of the major cultural landmarks are along the river and lit up at night.  The  Grand Palace and Wat Arun in particular are just stunning at night.  The meal itself was also stunning - giving us a taste of some traditional and new age Thai style cooking (the soft shell crab in tamarin sauce was incredible!).  After disembarking, we made our way over to Silom Soi 4, which is the 'gay bar' district.  A tiny side street with about 10 gay bars...and we were happy to find that drinks here (take note Singapore) were dirt cheap!  We ordered a liter of beer (basically just shy of a gallon) and payed about $13 for it...After drinking and people watching for a while, we made it a couple streets down to Silom Soi 2, which is the 'gay club' area - a tiny street with about 5 different themed gay clubs either with no cover or a dirt cheap cover that included a really strong drink...

Next morning, I ventured out into Bangkok by day and braved the BTS (their elevated train system) and the Chao Phraya Tourist boat to make it to the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.  This was where I had my first run in with the scam artists that all of my tour books had warned me about.  As I was walking through the street market to the Grand Palace (everywhere you go in Bangkok requires you to walk through at least one street market), a man approached me (because I was obviously a tourist) and told me promptly that the Grand Palace was closed today and maybe he could take me somewhere else instead on his TukTuk.  Knowing that was a lie, I moved on and found the entrance to the palace grounds.  Now to walk through the Grand Palace and any of the Wats (Wat means temple), they enforce a strict dress code that requires you to be in long pants that cover your ankles and a mid-length cut shirt that doesn't show any midriff or shoulders.  Seeing how it is about 10,000 degrees in Thailand with humidity in the 20,000s....its not practical to leave your house like that - so they all provide some sort of coverings that you can wear while walking around the grounds - usually for a 200 baht ($6) deposit that they give back to you when you return the items.  There's even a sign that states this outside the main entrance, where my 2nd scam artist was trying to tell me that they don't have my size pants inside and I should buy his for just 100 baht right there.  I walk passed and rented my pants from within and started walking around.

Looking back, I should have hired a guide to show me around (there are licensed tourist guides that you can hire for about 200 Baht just standing around the entrances - but after my 2 scams in a row, I was leery) - but I had my 2 guide books and the pamphlet they give you with some bare bones info to walk around with.  So I didn't get a complete history of the place but I did get to see many visually striking things inside.  First off, inscribed on the walls all around the temple area is the Hindu creation story.  I found out later that you see this in many Buddhist temples - because Buddhism derived itself from Hinduism, so the Hindu story acts as a protective barrier around the holy places - usually somewhere in or on the temple itself will be the story of Buddha's life from birth to enlightenment as well.  After leaving the murals, I walked around the grounds of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and was really just struck with the beauty of it.  So many gorgeous gold statues and intricate details are everywhere.  Everything seems to sparkle.  I did learn that th
e Emerald Buddha is actually made of Jade - though when it was first discovered, the monk couldn't tell the difference.  100s of years later, it was tested and proved to be Jade - not emerald, but by then its name had definitely been established.  Whats so cool about visiting the Wats is that they are not just historical sights - they are historical sights that are still used practically as temples everyday.  People make daily visits or lifetime pilgrimages to see these different Buddhas and pay their respects and ask for blessings - so to be there amongst all that was truly enlightening.
The Grand Palace section was mostly closed off to the public, aside from the grounds (being the palace and all...) but just walking through the grounds was magnificent as well.  Truly a highlight of my trip was seeing these two places.  Of course, on my way back to the boat to head back to my hotel to change for the evening, I ran into scam #3.  A man at of the market stalls I was looking at on the way back started talking with me.  He seemed very nice and asked if I'd been to the palace - which I had - and where I was going - back to my hotel for a bit - But first you should go see the standing Buddha, as its not to far from here...This is where he pulled out a map and marked it for me - he said its only open certain times of the year and there is a national holiday this week so you can get a blessing there...very special (then it turns) like suits?  I have a friend who makes very good suits not too far from there - here my friend will take you to both places if you like - (and he starts to walk me to the Tuk Tuk driver who'd been inching his way towards us since the map came out)...No thanks I said and walked to the boat....

That's seriously one of the lows about Thailand - at least Bangkok - after spending 10 days there, I've come away thinking that almost everyone you meet is trying to screw you somehow - they are most certainly lying to you and trying to trick you out of your $$....  Not everyone...but MOST EVERYONE... It got to be not only tiresome - but tiring...about 7 days in I had to spend a whole day to myself in my room - well, almost a whole day- just to be away from the scam artists and merchants and massage parlor workers and tuk-tuk and taxi drivers who all scream as loud as they can at you to get your attention as you walk down the was a little "much" for someone on their own....but in the end it was only a minor annoyance...

That night I met up with Aaron and Shane again along with our fellow cast-mate Blair and our Musical Director Nolan at an out of the way gem called Harmonique.  The food was delightful and cheap - and because it was basically in an alleyway off the main road, it was very peaceful - After diner we made our way over the the Asiatique market complex by boat to catch the famous Calypso cabaret (aka Thai Ladyboy show).  It was a blast - the ladyboys were beautiful and fun to watch.  The numbers were very eclectic, ranging from traditional Chinese songs featuring girls in Chinese gowns and fans to Vaudevillian style numbers with girls dressed like ostriches to classy ballads with girls done up in their best glamorous sequined dress.  Lots of fun.

Next morning I had booked myself a spot in a cooking class at the Blue Elephant Bangkok restaurant.  The Blue Elephant is known worldwide for their Royal Thai cuisine and has branches in all of the very posh worldly cities (except New York...they are not in the USA at all actually) like London, France, Dubai, etc.  But the one here in Bangkok is the original - we got to meet the owner (randomly) and his wife (who is the head chef) and had a wonderful experience learning about Thai cooking.  It started with a trip to the outdoor wet market to get a hands on look at some of the ingredients we'd be using for the recipes.  We got a look at some fruits popular to SE Asia like the Mangosteen and some for the herbs that are popular in Thai cooking, like Thai Basil and Lemongrass and Galanga, which looks almost identical to ginger but actually has a very lemony taste/scent to it.  After the market trip, it was back to the restaurant and upstairs to the classroom.
The class was set up so that we would watch a dish being prepared from start to finish, taste the one that the instructor had prepared, then move to the test kitchen and cook our own.  We did this for all 4 dishes: Tod Mann Plaa (Thai Fish Cake),  Tom Som* Plaa Kra-Pong (Sour Soup with Sea Bass), Nua Phad Prik Horapah (Stir Fried Beef with Sweet Basil and Chilies) and Laab Kai (Thai Spicy Chicken Salad).  *I also learned that Thai dishes that use the word Som mean they are sour - probably using Sour Tamarin as a base, where Yum means spicy - a more chili base.  I think my favorite of the 4 was the Laab Kai - and I can't wait to get home and make a (mild) version of it.  The experience was excellent - and they gave us an apron to keep and a certificate and a little red chili curry making kit to take back home.  Absolutely would recommend taking a class if you are in Bangkok - or just stopping by to eat there.  They teach/serve Royal Thai style food (the kind most found in the US btw) - there are 4 styles of cooking in Thailand and since Bangkok was home to the kings, the royal style is what you find mostly in that area.

After the cooking class, I stopped in at Healthland Spa - which is a corporate chain of spas in Thailand.  They are run like the fast food of massage, have 40 or 50 on call therapists, so you can walk without an appointment and begin your massage within 10 minutes of arrive (if they're busy).  As you wait, they serve you rose scented water and let you cool down in their lounge area.  After that, you are led to your room and given a surgical looking shirt and fisherman's pants to change into.  Once you are properly dressed, your massage therapist will come in and start giving you the most amazing massage of your life.  If you've never experienced Thai-style massage - its unlike anything that you're use to.  Its not a 'relaxation massage' but its not a deep tissue either...Thai massage uses a mix of stretching, kneading and pressure and Chakara points throughout the body - and the ones at Healthland last 2 full hours.  When you leave, you are 100% refreshed and your body is free of all aches and pains - all for about $15.  If you've never had a massage in the US...lets just say the average price for an hour (which is really about 45 minutes since your hour usually starts the moment they walk you back to your room and  ask you to disrobe...) by a lower-rent company is about $75-80.  Yeah Thailand!


That night I decided to sleep over at Aaron and Shane's hotel, since we had planed an excursion the next day and were going to be picked up at their hotel at about 6AM.  So I packed a mini bag and headed over - when I got there, we decided to go out for a little bit since the night was still young.  Everyone hears about the 'darker side' of Bangkok - and since it is so accessible...we thought we might go see what a Thai Go-Go club was like, so we took a cab to the Surawong area (Soi Twilight) and found ourselves being led into a place called Dreamboys.  Now I want to disclaimer 2 things - A go-go dancer in the US is VERY DIFFERENT than a go-go dancer in Thailand...and I don't believe our experience is the norm in the Go-Go Go-Go clubs go, I believe we found (possibly) the ONE fairly legit (as legit as they can be) one....  Dreamboys had a cover charge that included 1 drink - and that is all that you have to pay to stay in the club to see the show - you are fully able to buy more overpriced drinks or spend your money in other ways, but you were not forced to.  When you walk in what you will notice is that its basically a market - there are guys in numbered thongs on stage staring into space and 'dancing' to the music.  They are there to get your attention - if you make eye contact and smile at them, it is a signal that you'd like them to come and join you at your table for a while.  They will expect you to buy them and yourself a drink at that time -and after you've finished your chat to be tipped for their time as well.  If you really are adventurous - you can talk to the 'Captain' and pay the 500 baht 'leaving fee' and they will change into their street clothes and...leave with you.  Knowing all this, we did our best not to make any eye contact with the guys - who kept cycling onto and off of stage - there were at least 60 there that night in rotation.  If you waited long enough the 'show' starts.  The 'show' includes several acts starting fairly tame and working towards the 'big finish' (I'll let you imagine what that is).  It was...different.  It was interesting, seamy, sleazy and I felt a little bad afterwards that my entrance fee helped to further the sex industry in Bangkok but its something that I can say I've done and don't have to do again...


The next day we were picked up very early from the hotel and driven out to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market.  Floating Markets were, traditionally, how the people of Bangkok bought most of their goods - since Bangkok and the surrounding areas are very 'Venice-like', meaning that all the main living areas center around the rivers.  Merchants would load up their boats with produce or other goods and people would row their boats into the sea of merchants and buy their food for the day.  Today - unless you travel WAY outside of Bangkok, the Floating Markets are kitschy tourist traps.  They basically sell all the same mass produced crap you will find in every street market in the country (day or night).  But the experience of being rowed around in a longboat and bartering on the river was kind of cool - since they merchants (to gain tourists attention) wear the 'traditional' clothes that river merchants wore when the markets were real.  After we disembarked, we got back in the car and were driven to the city of Kanchanaburi, where we met our tour guide for the day.  Kanchanaburi is the home to the POW Deathcamp cemetery were most of the POWS from Australia, Thailand, England and China that died building the 'Deathbridge' are laid to rest.  The 'Deathbridge' is better known as the 'Bridge of the River Kwai' - there's a film by that name that tells the story of the POWs.  They were basically worked to death by the Japanese running the POW camp and given little to no food as they build this incredibly long bridge that would be used as part of the railway system.  There were Americans at the camp as well (about 750) but they were sent back to the US for burial and are not in the cemetery.  It was very sobering to see the bridge - which is still used today, 4 times a day to run trains from Bangkok to Chang Mai.  After a quick lunch stop, we made our way further into Thailand (a total of about 3 hours from Bangkok from start to finish) to the Saiyok Elephant Camp.
This was one of the coolest things I got to do in Thailand.  The families that live at the camp do nothing but care for the elephants that are there.  Some of the handlers couldn't have been more than 15 years old - it was kind of amazing to see them barefoot and guiding the elephants while riding them on their necks.  Well, the first part of the visit was a ride for us in the jungle on the elephants.  They had seats set up on the ones walking - so we climbed on board and went.  It was exhilarating - and scary (lol).  Our elephant was 45 years old and HUGE - had to be the tallest one in the camp.  Aaron and were literally ducking away from tree branches (and spider webs) as we rode.  It was incredible.  After we returned to the camp, it was time to 'bathe' with them.  I opted out of that portion.  I had seen the river and knowing that I hadn't had any vaccinations done before coming to Asia - it made me wory about getting know Dysentery ...or Malaria... But Aaron and Shane went ahead with it.  I probably would have been fine but even after seeing everything they did, I was happy with my decision (lol).  While they were showering off and changing clothes, I was feeding the 2 year old baby elephant.  She was adorable - and so hungry - drinking out of a bottle.  She held it with her trunk and kept trying to get more out even when it was empty - so adorable and sweet.  All in all, it was a great day and a wonderful experience that I will never forget!

The next two days I spent in an introduction to Vipassana (Insight) Meditation course taught by meditation master Helen Jandamit at the House of Dhamma.  Mrs. Jandamit is a fascinating British woman who found Vipassana and Buddhism in her college years and has spent over 65 years practicing.  She has some of the most amazing stories to tell from her years of practice and travel and teaching and I really learned a lot.  Firstly, though the course didn't focus on Buddhism just the form of meditation used IN Buddhism, I learned that Buddhism is not a religion as I had once thought.  There is just no good category for it to fall into so it gets lumped into 'religions' - its more of a 'way of life' or a 'path' people choose to follow.  Very interesting.  I also learned that the meditation that you see Buddhists doing - the chanting and pacing, followed by sitting on the ground in concentration - are focused mainly on becoming hyper-aware of your body in space (to the point where are experiencing the feel of clothes on your skin, air touching your skin even when its not moving, feeling the blood flow through your veins, etc.).  This leads to moments of clarity where you see yourself in the big picture of the universe and how everything is meant to work together in harmony - thats the goal of a practiced mediation session anyway.  Its actually very challenging.  I didn't realize that the 'chanting' that they doing is really just them saying what they are currently doing in an effort to help them concentrate on their body even more -- meaning if they are standing - they are chanting the word "Standing" and then "Preparing to Walk" as their body gears up to move its muscles.  All incredibly interesting - and much harder to do in practice - though its something i want to keep looking into in the future and am glad I took the class.


I went out to diner with Aaron and Shane on their last night in Bangkok - they were headed to Beijing for the rest of our time off.  Two more of our company, Chloe and Brittany had just arrived after a few days in Hong Kong and joined us at Baan Khanitha for a slightly pricy (by Bangkok standards) but really delicious meal.  Afterwards we decided again to delve into the darker side of Bangkok and visit one of their famous Ping Pong shows.  If you don't know to what I'm referring to, watch a little Priscilla Queen of the Desert...  We'd read how the shows work and all the scams associated with them but thought that we'd be safe if we were smart about it.  Within 30 seconds of walking into the PatPong Night Market, we were approached by a man asking "Ping Pong? Ping Pong?" - He had a sheet listing about 25 acts in the show which branched pretty far out form just ping pong balls - and at the bottom of the sheet it said 100 Baht Drinks.  We asked him how much the actual SHOW was - not just the drinks and he told us it was an extra 200 Bhat.  After verifying 2 more times that the whole price was 300 Baht per person, we started to follow him.  He took us into a side street with other Ping Pong show harbingers and led us into a building and up 4 deserted and skeezy flights to the stage.  Before going into the bar we checked again with him and the woman bouncer that the full price was 300 Baht per person.  They confirmed that it was and led us inside a dimly lit room with blaring music and 3 or 4 scantily clad girls standing on the stage.  They tried to sit us right up against the stage but as we thought there might be an extra charge for that - and there was no way we wanted to sit that close anyway, they instead moved us to seats against the wall.  We ordered our beers - but didn't drink them because I'd read that sometimes they drug your drinks and clean you out once you've passed out.  The first act started, in which they volunteered Brittany to pull an incredibly long ribbon from one of the girls.  After the act she came around with her tip box and DEMANDED 100 baht tip.  I mean could not give less or not tip or she would not move on to harassing the next person. The second act quickly began by a girl covered in very long balloons handing them out to the audience - I didn't take one because I knew what was coming next.  Two girls laid down on the stage and proceeded to shoot darts at the balloons until they had all popped - it was incredibly disturbing and we all decided we were done at that point and got up to leave and settle up our bill.  When you go to pay, they lead you to a counter on the other side of the room.  The counter is wedged between the stage and a smallish hallway area, so you are pretty much trapped as the bouncer and the guy who manages the money step in between you and the door.  As we were getting our 300 Baht out, the guy whips out a clipboard with a list of charges on it and tells us that for the 5 of us the price is 7,800 Baht.  Of course this is complete bull and we try to explain to him that we were told several times that it was 300 per person.  Finally fed up with the man, Chloe collected 500 baht and put it down on the counter and went to leave.  The man grabbed her fairly forcefully by the arm - obviously not realizing that he was dealing with a girl from Philly.  She wrenched her arm from his griped and made it known that he was not to touch her again.  Then they all began screaming at us in Thai and broken English.  The girls were warning us that they were calling the Thai mob and we'd better pay.  The level of noise in the room was unbearable and they were backing us further into the corner.  It was terrifying.  Finally Chloe turned to us and said "I need a man" and Aaron stepped up to talk to the man, who was obviously not used to dealing with women.  The guy tryed to offer us a 'deal' of 5000 Baht to which Aaron got a piece of paper and wrote out 100 for beer x 5 = 500 Baht, 200 for show x 5 = 1000 Baht = 1500 Baht.  The guy finally said ok and I tossed a 1000 Baht at him and he stepped aside and we made for the stairs.  Even then, I noticed that the female bouncer was starting to follow us down the stairs so I hurried us along - eventually we made it down the 4 flights, out of the ally and to the safety of the gay bars in Silom Soi 4.  It was an awful awful awful experience and not worth it.  Do Not See A Ping Pong Show in Bangkok - or anywhere really.  It was so scary - I really felt that our lives were in danger.  I didn't let it totally ruin the rest of my time in Bangkok - but it definitely tainted my time there and made me even more untrusting of everyone I met.  One of the lows i mentioned before....

It is now safe to begin reading again...

The next day I made it briefly out to the Chatuchak Weekend Market.  After the experience from the night before, I couldn't stand to haggle with many people and it was incredibly hot and crowded, so I didn't stay long.  The weekend market itself would be overwhelming on a regular day as its made up of over 15,000 stalls selling everything from food to furniture to silk to books to touristy trinkets.  Anything you want, you can literally find there in multiple overcrowded stalls.  I did make a few purchases before I headed back to the hotel to recuperate.

The following day I had booked a trip out to Ayutthaya, which was the ancient capitol of Siam before Bangkok was established.  It had been destroyed by fires when the Burmese invaded and most of the city is in ruins - though you can see when you walk around that in its heyday it must have been quite a sight to see.  When it was written about by visitors to the city, they always described it as a thriving metropolis.  The ruins are truly magnificent.  In Wat Mahathat many of the Buddha statues were beheaded with thieves stealing the heads.  During the theft of one of the heads, the thief was almost caught and he hid the head in the roots of a tree - but never came back to retrieve it.  As the tree grew, the head became part of the tree with the roots intertwining themselves around the head - its one of the most famous sights to see in the area.  Another is a giant Reclining Buddha out in the open as the building around it is no more.  Its such a sight to see.  One of the highlights was visiting a temple where one of the monks was blessing visitors.  We knelt in front of him and he sprinkled us with holy water and asked for blessing for ourselves and our family.  Then we were presented with white cords to wear showing that we'd been blessed.  We also visited the Bang Pa-In Summer Palace, where the Thai kings of the 17th century once lived (like the King from The King and I).  Today its used as a palace where the King and Queen stay when they have visiting dignitaries like Barak Obama or Queen Elizabeth.  At the end of the tour we took a river cruise back to Bangkok where they served us a very westernized Thai style lunch buffet. After the antics o the few days before - it was a very relaxing way to end a wonderful day.

I spent my last day in Bangkok at the Wat Pho - and I decided to hire one of the guides that I missed out at the Grand Palace.  I'm really glad I did too as he told me a lot of different tidbits I'd never know without him and showed me a lot of little details on the structures that I defiantly would have missed.  Wat Pho was the first 'hospital' and 'medical school'.  The monks there have practiced and taught the art of Thai massage for hundreds of years - in fact inscribed along the walls of the Wat are murals showing how Thai massage works as there were no 'books' on the subject, that's how the Monks recorded their knowledge.  There are also records showing how to diagnose different ailments and treat them with different herbs.  The Wat also houses the larges known Reclining Buddha - its absolutely huge.  Seeing the Wat Pho was the perfect way to end my trip to Bangkok and round out those lows with a really good high.

Bangkok was just what I needed to recharge my batteries.  I'm leaving with a lot of memories and stories and am ready and raring to get back to the show and finish up our last month in Asia...Guangzhou here I come!