Sunday, February 26, 2006

Small Worlds - 2/28-3/1/06

(NB - If you've already read Part I, skip down to Part 2 below - TWL)

Huntsville, AL
- Well, not exactly. It's more accurate to say that I'm on Interstate 40 in Arkansas, heading to our next destination from Huntsville. Hawk viewing is a popular sport today as we go through AL, MS, TN and AR on this trip. But close enough. Hunstville was a mix of many things, so much so that it's hard to know where to start. I guess, when in doubt, nothing gets you going like a chronology of events. So let's start there.

Tuesday 2/21 - A travel day from Monroe NC to Huntsville AL. The route took us through a chunk of road we've already passed, through Atlanta and Birmingham and then up to Huntsville. It was an unusual route in that we had to go a bit south in order to come up back north. No real east-west routes were available through the very southern foothils of the Appalachians (as I guess). Huntsville is a city which has as the foundation of its economy NASA research and a large militray base. As a consequence, the University of Alabama-Huntsville is a college which concentrates on the sciences and engineering. We were hosted by the English Honors program. Our lodgings were on campus, in a complex called the Bevil Center. What was really sweet was that the space we played in was in the building right next door, a large open space reminiscent of Lee Hall in Fredericksburg MD. They set up platforms for us, and it was a pretty wide and live space. Jessica was my roommate for this stop, so we moved in and went over to the university center to explore the space and get a little food. Later that evening we went to a movie sponsored by the student Democratic group entitled Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices. The documentary itself was of questionable quality but it got its point across; so well, in fact, that Jessica has sworn off going to Wal-Mart for company supplies or any other reason. My wife has been all along a Wal-Mart boycotter, and I think after this film I'll have to join her. The clinchers for me were Wal-Mart's deliberate use of government social services as a subsidy for not providing living wages or health insurance to its workers, and images from the Chiese factories where Wal-Mart makes some of its goods. Also, I should mention how little the billionaire Walton family returns philanthropically to society - a total of $6,000 on one recorded year. For me the realization that all this is deliberate corporate policy, and not just an after-effect of being large, seals the deal. Finding Target stores has replaced finding Wal-Mart stores on the road.

Wednesday 2/22 - This was sort of an all-around lazy day. The weather was none too good; rainy all day. I found the fitness center and went down there in the morning to get on the treadmill. Lately it has been hard to find a place to exercise, and I had begun to worry I was putting on a few of those pounds I had lost. But I weighed in at 192, so I'm maintaining but still haven't cracked that 190 barrier yet. It was a great fitness facility, with very nice treadmills, a track, and a very interesting stretching cage. There was a pool there as well, but I did not see a hot tub. I think the one they had was outdoors, and it was too cold to go out there. After my 35 minutes on the treadmill and some laps around the track, Jessica and I signed out the van in the morning and went food shopping with our per diem. We had a microwave and refrigerator in the room, so doing some shopping keeps us from going to restaurants. I grabbed some bananas, chocolate milk and three Healthy Choice dinners, plus a bag of pretzels. We did treat ourselves to some sushi across the street. The afternoon went by sort of surfing the net and making last-minute preparations for my Friday presentation. We loaded in around 5 that afternoon and started off the run with R3 that night.

As I mentioned in my last post, this is a "season ticket" stop, with S2 having been a regular feature for maybe 15-16 years here. So there's a devoted following among faculty and the Huntsville Literary Association. So our audiences for all three shows were very receptive and looking forward to each evening. They also book in some local high schools, but unlike other venues the high school crowds come in the evening. RIchard's audience was small but receptive, and the show went well all around. Jessica and I were running very low on merchandise, but nonetheless we did pretty good business with what we had. But it was obvious from doing the first show that people were ready to visit the merch booth. A beer and some pretzels rounded off the day.

Thursday, 2/23 - Off to the fitness center again for a workout. I walked over with Daniel, who has been pushing himself extra hard on the bicycle lately. I did 40 minutes this day, burning off about 300 calories. After showering and eating lunch, I went over to the University Center to meet with Dr. Jerry Mebane, the man who runs the Honors program and sort of coordinates our visit. He is a very kind and mild-mannered gentleman, soft spoken in a sort of Southern gentleman way. He's a Renaissance Lit guy and has been at UA-H for going on 20 years or so. He was kind enough to take my presentation and load it on his computer, so we tested out all the equipment and had a nice chat. He gave me some idea of what to expect. After we finished I went back to the room and took a nap, as I was sort of beginning to feel some tightness and fatigue from the workouts. A Healthy Choice dinner, and off to the theatre!

Much Ado that night went very well. It was the largest of all three audiences, as this was the show the area high schools had booked the most. They had to drag in chairs to seat the overflow of people who showed up, so the place was packed. I think it's safe to say that we had the audience eating out of our hands during the show, as they were with us every minute. I think the thing that all of us like best about the show is that we take the audience on quite a roller coaster ride, moving from hilarity to pathos to hilarity. This audience really, I think, came with us on this night through the whole journey, and that made the evening very satisfying.

Following the performance the Honors Society sorority, Sigma Tau Epsilon, gave us a reception at a building which was a former one-room schoolhouse and is now an art gallery. They cooked up some mean food, all right - fired chicken, fried catfish, ham, macaroni and cheese, deviled eggs and an assortment of salads and such. They topped it off with a trifle, which is a combination of pudding, cake, sherry and fruit. Actors being actors, we naturally stuffed ourselves. I sat down at a table with some faculty members and other adults, while the rest of the troupe mixed in with other attendees and the sorority members. The students, of course, gave us tips on where to go in town for fun and amusement and offered to accompany us. More on that later. And there was this great 80-year-old southern belle who put on quite a show for everyone in the place, Full of compliments, and apparently still living the high life. If Blanche DuBois had lived to be 80 she would have been this woman. After the reception, a beer (no pretzels) and sleep.

Friday, 2/24 - As I got up, had coffee and prepared to go to the gym, Jessica suggested that we go take a hike up on Monte Sano State Park. We were thinking of doing that on Saturday, our day off, but the weather report indicated Friday was going to be the better of the two days. We both needed to do laundry as well, so the plan became gathering the laundry, using a drop-off service (which I had never done before; $1 a pound, and I had 12 lbs. Turns out to be a bit more than doing it there, but you pay for the free time). After "breakfast for lunch" at Waffle House (Jessica's first visit), we went to the park and had a very good hike. Jessica had gotten directions from a hiking web site about some rock cuts (simiar to Panama Rocks for Fredonia readers), so we set off there. although we did not know it, we missed the first trail head and hiked tothe bottom of the saddle, where we found ourselves on the Mountain Mist Trail. The area has some 60 miles of trails through state lands in the are. Given that we started from the wrong trailhead the directions we had were wrong for us, but we didn't realize it until we came upon three people hiking down from the ridge. The man who set us on the right path was maybe in his late 60s and it was obvious he had just come out of the hospital.Both the back of his hands had IV bandages on them, his ears were bandaged and he had other hospital marks about him. But he was quite friendly (recognizing our northern accents) and asked if we were in the area as cultural ambassadors. When we told him what we were doing, he laughed at the inadvertent accurateness of his guess, but thought it was too much for an old redneck like himself. He set us on the right trail for the rock cuts, and soon we found ourselves there. The actual area was small but interesting You can check out the canyon movie here. Then back to the van and home by 3:00, where another nap beckoned. The walk was a fine substitute for the treadmill, and quite preferable.

That night I gave my pre-show lecture before Return. It went over very well, I think, and was fun to do. I got some laughs here and there. Members of the cast popped in and out to offer support but couldn't stay the whole time. If you want to see the Powerpoint presentation, just click right here, but be warned it's a 3.9MB file, because I did not bother to re-size the photos I used. The show itself was a hoot. There had been some concern that it would not be well-attended because the title is not well known and the public service ad in the local paper had not gotten published. But we pushed the show the previous two nights, and as a consequence there was a good-sized audience there. Musically it was one of the best we've done in a while, and the audience just enjoyed the hell out of it You could see the knowing nods of the boomers in the audience as each song began. We did an encore at the end of the show, and usually Jessica and I do not participate in the encore to make sure the merch booth is staffed for those people who do not stay through an encore, but this time no one left, so Jessica and I went back on the stage and danced Pulp Fiction style. Then we went back to the table and damn near sold almost everything else we had for sale. I don't have a final total, but I am sure we did close to $600 worth of business in the three days. Not too shabby. Then load-out, notes, picture, beer and pretzels, and sleep.

Saturday, 2/25 - Day off. I really didn't have any firm plans for the day off, so I sort of ended up floating with the tide all day. All I really knew was that I had a craving for a cigar, so I was going to try to get one somewhere. In the morning I called home to chat with Ann Marie and catch up on family doings, then spent some time helping Daniel out with some computer issues. The most well-known attraction in the area is the NASA Rocket Science Museum, and I had thought I was going to go there, but as it turned out I got in the "going downtown" van, so I spent the better part of the early afternoon walking around downtown Huntsville. There are some nice architectural structures, but apparently downtown Huntsville doesn't open until after 5PM on Saturday. It seemed to be one of those downtowns where, if the businesses aren't open, nothing else opens. So Daniel, Jessica and I sort of moseyed about looking for someplace to eat. The only place open was Humphrey's, a restaurant/bar which has live music, so we went there simply due to lack of other options. For lunch I had two Angus Beef Hot Dogs with Chow Chow and Bertman Ball Park mustard. We hung out there until about 4:15 or so, when Andrew and Sarah came downtown with a van to rescue us.

Now, our next stop needs some context. I had been looking for a place to buy a decent cigar, and when I was in the process of looking for a tobacco shop I ran across an ad in the Yellow Pages for a hookah bar. I have never been to a hookah bar, so I figured since all of this touring is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, I wanted to go to this hookah bar. I managed to talk everyone else into a trip down to this place. Others had had the hookah experience, so I knew i was going with some seasoned vets.

The place was named Hipocratease, and was not quite what I was told a classic hookah bar should be. In New York City, apparently these places have throw pillow on the floor and some sort of Turkish atmosphere. This place had a faux-hip-modern-70s look, and in addition to renting hookahs also sold cigars and massive amounts of porn. It was a bit bizarre as a mixture, to be sure. But we found a small corner in the back and sat down for a smoke. Those who partook enjoyed a shisha (which is basically a flavored tobacco) which I think had apples and raisins in it. You place the shisha in a bowl, cover it with aluminum foil, poke holes in the foil, and place a hot coal on top of the foil. Then you smoke through the water pipe. It had a very smooth, fruity flavor, and was a mild smoke. Very relaxing. The place happened to have a wireless connection, so I took out my Nokia 770 tablet and hooked up to WFUV Radio in Mew York City, which happened to have a George Harrison set playing, complete with sitar. Uncanny. I also found a nice little cigar, so I had the two going at once. Needless to say after about an hour or so my urge for tobacco was completely satiated.

(This is a long post, and I am now getting ready for bed and a 6:45 AM call tomorrow. So, to be continued...)


Russellville, AR (3/1) - Where was I? Oh yes....

Then we went off to an Indian restaurant for dinner. Nothing special there, good food, but I did see some sort of font which was exuding dry ice from it. I could not figure out how it was being done, but it was really pretty interesting, and I have to find out how to get one.

So it's now about 8PM or so, and we lose Jessica and Daniel and pick up Kevin. It's Andrew, Sarah, Kevin and I as we head downtown. The ladies from Sigma Tau had tipped us off to a place called Flying Monkey Arts, which turned out to be a converted factory now used essentially for young artists. It had a second floor which basically contained books, a series of artist studios, a scooter track, and several neat little nooks to sit down, read and chill. The place had a very eclectic and youthful feel to it. There were many young people there, and it was nice to know there was such a wonderful place for them to hang out and create what they wanted. Every city should have one of these, and it was sort of interesting to come to a place like Huntsville in the middle of the "backwards" South and find such a cool place for teens.

The downstairs had a performance space to it, basically a stage and a poor sound system, but nonetheless something that could host performance art and music acts and such. The performance they had that night was the Sex Workers Art Show, which was a collection of performance art by former sex workers. It was somewhat interesting, but for me it was also slightly boring. The younger ones seemed more interested in the work than I was. I took some pictures and some movies (I haven't uploaded stuff yet, but keep checking the pictures and movies links on the right sidebar to see when they go up) so you could get a taste of the show, but you should be warned it's for "mature viewing" and rated "X." But this group is playing some pretty good places like Bard College and other venues, so they must have something going for them. I just felt that many of the performances made their point in less than 5 minutes and became repetitive quickly.

Then we ended the night over at Humphrey's again, listening to Microwave Dave play the blues. The Sigma Tau girls were there to keep the young folks company, while I happened to talk with some faculty members from UA-H who had seen the shows. Nice to have some people my own age to talk to. Unfortunately at one point I lost my glasses, so now I'm working on a spare pair. And that was my day off in Huntsville!

Here in Russellville we have done two NEA high school shows, one in Alma AR and the other in Russellville. Not too much to say about them other than they went well. The Alma gig was in a beautiful performance space which wasn't more than 4 years old, and we could not figure out why it was there. It's not like the area is heavily populated, but in the summer there are probably a good number of tourists, since this is Ozark Mountain area. The Russellville was in a converted space which on the outside was all boarded up and looked abandoned. It was some sort of day care/child care center that had an auditorium re-designed as a concert hall, and the bussed in maybe two English classes to see the show, so it was a small audience. Other than those two gigs we have had the days to ourselves. I was so tired on Monday that I couldn't bring myself to do much but go food shopping and hang out. I tried my best not to go to sleep (our call had been 6:45 AM) and was sort of successful. Lately I have been combining some workouts with shows, and it seems that I'm getting a little stiff. Yesterday, upon coming back from the show, I took a long walk around the Bona Dea Trail, which is basically along the woods and swamps formed from Lake Dardanelle. The lake is a dammed river, pretty nice for boating and such. Along the walk there were plenty of box turtles sunning on logs, some geese, bullfrogs, and I also spotted a heron.

I've also gotten the troupe a gig at Platteville High School to substitute for two other NEA gigs we lost. That was good, because the troupe will get March 10 and 11 off. This leg of the tour has seemed longer that the last, in the sense that we've traveled farther for fewer venues, and a break will be a good thing.

You may be wondering, having read this far, why the title is "Small Worlds." Well, although it took this much writing to get there, my original thoughts for this post had to do with a feeling lately of how small your world gets on tour. When you lose the sense of your geographical location after awhile (Alabama, South Carolina, Arkansas - what's the difference?) you sort of get the feeling that the country is way smalller than you think. Traveling in the van every day to go somewhere also compresses your world. Seeing and knowing only the 11 other people on tour with you makes the world seem smaller as well, because no matter where you are in the country, those same 11 other people are there with you.

What also makes the world seem small is realizing that, when things are not going so well in your larger world, you can't escape to deal with it. It can be strenuous psychologically at times when company members have difficulties at home with family or friends and they can't simply leave to be with them or help out. Everything has to be done by cell phone, and at times you just feel helpless in those situations. That feeling of wanting to leave and be with your family or friends in distress, but not being able to leave and having to go on with the tour - and those same 11 people - is, I think by far, the hardest thing you have to deal with while out on the road. Maintaining your balance, maintaining your cool, and maintaining your sense of perspective and work ethic all are tall orders under this kind of pressure. It's also hard to stand by and be just an observer when one of the company members has some situation going on they are trying to attend to, because there's little you yourself can do to help other than offer support. So even though you're traveling across a very large country and seeing so many interesting things, in some ways going on tour eventually compresses your sense of your reality to a few small things and a few people. In our "real lives" we all have a wider scope of activities, family and friends, and squeezing them all out to be with just these 11 others sure is a tall order. I think it's at about this time on the tour, when the novelty has worn off, the grind gets long, hotels all seem the same, and you long for a home-cooked meal, that this feeling of a small, closed world becomes apparent. We have 30 days to go for the winter leg, and while I am sure we can make it, I am also keeping my fingers crossed that this "small world" feeling doesn't make us all too crazy. Edges can get frayed, small things can look like major disasters, but I think we're all smart enough, aware enough, and good enough not to let things grow too extreme. I do my best to keep a positive attitude and a smiling face, because there is still a lot of fun to be had, and for me, despite this feeling of compression, it's all part of the whole experience, and when you sign up for an experience like this, you take the bad with the good. Nothing in life is perfect, no gig is absolutely ideal (as is no job), so for me, it's all part of the package. I like to pay attention to the happy moments; Olivia biting my shoulder, filming Alyssa's butt, hiking with Jessica, Daniel's sarcasm and wit, Sarah's smile and laugh (she now has a blog too!), Greg's steadiness, Tyler's craziness, Chris' crustiness and music, Kevin's "Periwrinkle"-ness, Andrew's edifications, and Carie keeping it together. When you make the effort to see the good in people rather than the eccentricities and weaknesses we all have, it makes the world just that much larger for me. And having a world of creative people with large hearts and a willingness to even do this sort of thing and bring these shows around the country can be as large as you let it. -TWL

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Some Easy Breathing - 2/20/06

Monroe, NC - First off, I must make a correction to my last post. Our Fearless Leader, SuperDude himself (a.k.a. Artistic Director Jim Warren), is fanatically attached to my blog. He eagerly anticipates every posting, anxiously awaiting news from his devoted junior dudes out in the field carrying the ASC banner. Upon reading my last post, he noticed a factual error and immediately corrected me. Because I have sworn loyalty in blood unto my kind and loving head dude, I must now inform all two of you who read this thing that, under the touring rules, our travel limit on a day where we have no show to perform is 10 hours, not 8 (as I so incorrectly reported), or 500 miles. We have not exceeded that limitation. Please forgive me, O mighty SuperDude, lest I be banished forever from thy dude-ly sight! :-) (Note to the uninitiated: "dude" is Jim's favorite word. I fear that one day, upon returning to Fredonia, I will inadvertently call my new Vice President for Academic Affairs "dude." That's how often I now use the term.)

So - having pissed and moaned in the last post, with this one I am most pleased to report that things on my end have been rather pleasant these past few days. The remaining stay in Daytona Beach was very nice. R3 went over as well as Much Ado, although there was one sort of intense woman in the audience who had something of a one-person audible running commentary going throughout the show. Every time Richard opened his mouth to say something she would call out "Liar" or something similar. She really hated Richard, and had no hesitancy in letting us all know about it. Quite Elizabethan in many ways. So we all had to work through that. During the battlement scene when Buckingham convinces the citizens of London to acclaim Richard as king, Tyler (who now has his own blog), as Catesby, went up into the crowd towards this woman. Undaunted, she threatened Tyler with some sort of vague bodily harm. Hard looks were exchanged, but nothing ensued. Quite a weird incident. And kudos to Olivia (whose birthday is today as I write this), who came up with a brilliant suggestion to close off the rather open space in which we performed by having some black expandable travelers brought into the space for us. Exits and entrances were rendered much easier by this piece of genius. Speed Week did not pose as much of a problem as we thought it would, either, but it was too bad that I did not get much of a chance to explore the raceway area. I tried to sit out in the sun to get my neck a little redder but only succeeded in burning my baldness. And of course, on top of some good performances and good audiences (in particular the theatre students there, who fight against all odds to provide theatre to the local engineers and mechanics who make up the student body), the relaxing setting of the Atlantic Center for the Arts was wonderful. Even though the second day was not as bright and sunny as the first day was, the air temperature was still pretty warm, and it was invigorating to be in the semi-tropical lushness that is Florida. I don't know what it is about the state, but every time I go there I get this tremendous urge to retire! All these little communities welcome those 55 and older, so I've got one more year to go and I'll be of age. Not quite like hitting 21, but it has its own special charm.

So into the van again this past Friday and an all-day journey to Monroe NC. We have just completed our tour stop at Wingate University, yet another small, private, religious college, and here again the lodgings were good - a Hampton Inn with all the nice amenities (wireless, breakfast, etc.) This particular stop had a day off in between a Saturday performance of RTTFP and tonight's performance of R3. So I decided to rent a car for the weekend, and got a great deal at the local Enterprise about half a block from the hotel. Chris and Daniel both rented cars there as well, so they gave us a "company deal" of $20/day. Not bad. So on Sunday I decided I needed some serious solo time and took off in the car for some adventure. I spent the morning and early afternoon at King's Mountain National Military Park/State Park. It's the site of a famous Revolutionary War battle, and has between the national park and the state park adjoining it a 16-mile hiking trail, of which I did a little less than 8 miles. The trail went through some hilly terrain and followed a small creek in which I saw some blue heron. The park was deserted for all intents and purposes, and I saw not one other human being during my hike, for which I was most grateful. There was one beautiful spot at which I took a moment to breathe and be still. Then in the afternoon, I drove over to Charlotte and took in an exhibition of The Dead Sea Scrolls on display at their Discovery Place science museum. The exhibit itself consisted of no more than 12 small fragments of the scrolls, but even to behold those small fragments was a wonder to me. I was so surprised at the tiny script I saw, thinking about the men who sat for hours writing these scrolls. Of even more wonder was to see such an ancient fragment of the earliest known copy of the Hebrew Bible handwritten. Their very presence in your eyes, dim as they are, just touch off an echo in your mind and soul which reverberates over the 2,000 years gone by from their creation, and you wonder if modern humanity will ever again see a group of people so singly dedicated to a calling higher than themselves, in similar fashion to these Essenes. You are struck at once with the thought of how far we have progressed and advanced technologically, yet how little we have progressed and advanced spiritually and ethically as compared to the Qumran community. It's somehow also analogous to doing Shakespeare with original practices as opposed to modern practices; have we really advanced the theatre in modern times, or is the past really the heart and soul of the art?

It turns out that Charlotte has a very small downtown, because I ran into my fellow travelers while looking for a restaurant in which to eat. So Tyler kept me company for dinner (although I made him talk about his SUNY Purchase experiences to my son Eric, who had his second audition for Purchase this past weekend and was stressing about it), and then we joined the rest of the group at a nearby Irish pub. Olivia was celebrating her birthday, and we heard a nice Irish traditional group, but I cut out early because I was hoping to catch a moonrise. The sky turned out to be too cloudy, however, so I ended up just driving back to Monroe after the end of a pretty nice day off.

I have been kept busy during non-working times these past few days preparing a lecture for our next gig at the University of Alabama-Huntsville. This is another "season ticket" stop, and they have a tradition of giving 30-minute presentations before each show to those interested in attending. The lectures prepare the audience for what they're about to see, and are generally given my UA-H faculty. Planet, however, posed a unique situation in that no one there felt qualified to speak on the show, so they asked if a member of the company could do so. Due to my oh-so-high standing as a college prof on sabbatical I was summarily pressed into service as the lecturer for RTTFP, so I get to do some yakkity-schmakkity later this week. I'm preparing a Powerpoint presentation, so when it's complete and done I will put in online and you, o faithful reader, may peruse it if you are so inclined. I also got my taxes somewhat done so as to complete the FAFSA form to get financial aid for Eric's continued education (while Brian graduates! Yay!).

Anyway, the past few days have been the complete opposite of pre-Daytona; restful, not overly busy, good shows, almost all good houses (Sat. evening at Wingate was a very small but very enthusiastic crowd, as we've had other places), and a good day off to boot. From here it's on up to Alabama and back into the Midwest as we approach the halfway point of this winter leg. We have much travel left ahead of us, going from here all the way up to Platteville in WIsconsin before we return back down to TN, NC and WV and eventually nearer to home. But one full day of travel to spend three or four days in one location is something I will easily take in stride every time. My poor sore behind is extremely grateful for these few days of easy living! -TWL

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Never Miss A Chance to Piss- 2/15/06

Daytona Beach, FL - Traveling 500 miles in a day can really take it out of you, I've found. Not so much physically, although there is some of that, but psychologically as well. In Florence SC, where we had a one-night gig at Francis Marion University, the whole experience of touring became somewhat surreal. I've sort of felt as if I've had no real grasp on a sense of place these past few days. A quick visit to Due West, SC and Erskine College, and then another 9-hour trip got us to Daytona Beach FL, where we are housed at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, has reinforced the feeling. The ACA is a small artists retreat center, where master artists such as Paula Vogel, Arthur Kopit and other visual and performing artists stay as master teachers for Associate Artists who come to perfect their craft with the master artists. It's a nice place, but removed from any sort of conveniences such as stores or a nice beachfront. I don't know, but lately I get the feeling that we're getting housed at all these out-of-the-way places by design or something. Not only that, but it seems our gigs are all so widely spaced apart. After we finish here we have two more 9-hour trips facing us; from here to Monroe NC, and then from Monroe to Huntsville AL. We are not supposed to have any trips which last more than 8 hours according to the rules, but these trips, according to Google Maps, will take between 9 and 10 hours. You've got to piss at every stop.

The first two long days on the road since last I wrote in this blog took us from Monmouth IL in the heart of the great plains, through the Appalachian Mountains by way of the Great Smoky Mountains, and out into the Pee Dee River country of South Carolina. There's a very different feel you get when you cross the country in this manner, because you know that everything is going to be seen from a car window, and you'll have no opportunity to stop, take in a rest stop with a view, have a nice lunch by a riverside, etc. You're just a prisoner of the van, gawking as you pass. I do my best to whip out my camera and take a passing movie or picture, but the experience can be frustrating, and the view from the rear of the van is not always that good. You're just on the go, with the hellbent intent of getting to your next destination, not to luxuriate in the beauty of what you're traveling through. This passing-through feeling is what gives me that surreal feeling, because I never get the time to stop and let the scenery and beauty of what I'm traveling through soak in. Even choices for rest stops are puzzling. Sometimes when we have a chance to stop in a small location with some scenery we pass it by, only to stop at some MallofAmerica location which is like any other along the beaten path.

The stay at Florence was somewhat depressing, in that we drove all that way to do one performance of Planet on a Saturday evening to a somewhat small and reserved crowd, and then got a day off in Florence. Florence is not a place where you want to spend your day off, as it is economically depressed and ugly. The Red Roof Inn goes up there as one of the top three most horrible places we've stopped. It had absolutely no amenities of any sort, and was situated at the opposite end of town across from a crummy mall. Sarah ended up getting sick and covered with red welts of some sort (the diagnosis was scabies, but I am not sure that's the case because no one else got it). Kevin, Jessica and I traveled to Hartsville on Sunday for a hike in the Kalida Gardens of Coker College, about 20 miles from Florence, which was very pleasant. You can see pictures on my Flickr site (check the badge on the sidebar). We also ate at Pat's Restaurant, which featured a down-home Southern Sunday buffet (ham, turkey, pork, greens, lima beans, mashed potatoes, hush puppies, fried okra, and incredible sweet potatoes). I also went out with Alyssa and Greg to see a 10:25 showing of Brokeback Mountain at the local movieplex. The film, I thought, was beautifully shot, but the central characters, to me, were not really engaging. I was neutral about them throughout, and I never really understood why they loved each other beyond a physical attraction. I think the movie's popularity rests more on the fact that it's brave enough to depict gay cowboys and is getting something of a pass as far as character development and plot is concerned. My $0.02. We were the only people in the theatre watching that movie, and we were the last three people to leave the moviehouse, with everyone staring at us as we left. I did manage to have breakfast in three different places: the Huddle House (bacon and eggs), the Waffle House (Philly cheesesteak omelet), and the International House of Pancakes. IHOP won the breakfast war, as the whole grain pancakes I had were really good. But I was glad to get out of Florence.

Then we got to Due West, where I recorded my last audio blog. Again, I have to scratch my head, because we stayed in Abbeville, one of the quaintest little towns I've seen in a long time, and did the show in Due West, about 20 minutes or so away. But we left Florence around 11:30 AM, arrived in Abbeville about 3:00 PM, have to leave by 4:50 for Due West, do the show to another small, but this time enthusiastic crowd, load out, get back to Abbeville where everything is now closed (as was most of the town's restaurants and coffee shops in the afternoon; Monday seemed to be the town's "day off"), sleep in this quaint hotel, and leave at 8AM the next morning. In other words, we stay three nights in a lousy location, and practically do not get to see or stay in a nice location. AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH! The fates have not been kind in this regard, only exacerbating that surreal feeling.

Then the 9-hour trip to Daytona Beach.
On the way we ran into an accident where a tractor trailer flipped, and we waited on the side of the road for about 35 minutes. We got in last night in time for dinner at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's dining center, and then off to the artists complex. I happened by sheer chance to occupy one of the corner rooms (everyone has their own room here), which is bigger than most since it is designed for handicap access. It's a nice set-up, with refrigerator and work space. For some reason everyone had received the impression that this was going to be some sort of "hippie commune," with rustic cabins and barns and such. Far from it. The rooms are modern and nice, and the actual artistic complex has wireless internet around it. The complex has a sculpture studio, painting studio, music studio, dance studio, small theatre and library, with a commons room and administration buildings. Today the temperature got up into the mid-60s with plenty of sunshine, and I spent all day before the show preparing my lecture for UA-Huntsville, checking email and the web, and relaxing in the warmth. I got a bit of sun on the top of my head, as I neglected to wear a hat. Not enough to burn, but enough that I should take precautions tomorrow.

The show itself this evening was Much Ado, and it went over very well. Unlike the last two performances, it was a large and enthusiastic crowd. The space itself is awkward, with no exit stage right, a carpeted hard floor and a steeply-raked audience. We solved the entrance/exit issues, and the audience was very much with us throughout the show. One funny incident was when Tyler got stuck underneath the stage left onstage seats while hiding during the first gulling scene. He actually got stuck underneath the seats to the point where he had to have the audience members get up from their seats to set him free. Of course, his grandmother, who drove all the way from Boca Raton to see him, was in the audience to watch him make a fool of himself. He brought his saviors out onto the stage fro a round of applause. The Embry-Riddle theatre students were there in force as well, complete with embroidered polo shirts, sitting in the front row, and they were loving it. I'm always glad when theatre students come to see our plays, as it's so important for them to see outside theatre.

Tomorrow ought to be an interesting day, because we are here in Daytona during Speed Week and the running of the Daytona 500 (another bit of scheduling genius from the powers that be). They tell us that traffic tomorrow will be impossible, and that if we are not at the university by 2:30 PM (which is situated pretty much next to the racetrack) we will never get there between 2:30 and 5:30. That's because they route all traffic away from the race track and many avenues become one-way in the wrong direction. So instead of another relaxing day at the arts complex it will be a rush to get to the university for that night's show (R3). Not too bad, though, because the university campus is pretty nice. I just have to remember to get up early tomorrow to do laundry or wait until I return from the show that night. I also want to film a movie tour of this complex for you all.

So on the whole I won't get to see much of Daytona Beach. I'm not really a beach person, although Kevin and Jesssica hung out at the beach today while others did workshops or went to the gym to work out. I took a walk this morning and did get to see some bayfront, but not really beachfront. But as I say, lounging around this complex in the nice weather was very pleasant. I am thinking at the moment of renting a car for the next day off in Monroe NC so I can get a little sightseeing in that is not restricted to the 20-mile limit of the vans. And I also have to prepare for the next two long rides. How do I do that? XM Radio and podcasting, baby! "The Office" gives me a very quiet, subdued place to pass the time. I download three or four podcasts (On The Media, Democracy Now!, Major League Baseball Radio and the Leonard Lopate Show are my staples), and get my XM radio rolling. BBC in the morning (or XM Public Radio if BBC is dull), MLB Home Plate in the late morning/early afternoon, and podcasts from mid-afternoon to destination arrival. It works; time does pass more quickly this way. I might also get a new audiobook as well. I've finished Will in the World and need something else.

And of course - I never miss a chance to piss! -TWL

Monday, February 13, 2006

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Oatcakes play Opryland - 2/8/06

Monmouth, IL - Well, it's official - I can now boast that I have played Opryland. Well, at least in the Opryland Convention Center. It's not exactly downtown Nashville, but 'twill serve. It was a hectic 48 hours, to be sure, but the 30 minutes we got to play were a lot of fun.

We got to the gig in Fairmont, MN, and it was pretty good. The Opera House there was a nice little venue, your usual typical renovated opera house. The manager/TD, Rick, was friendly and helpful. He gave us a brief history of the place while we had a catered lunch (the food was SO midwestern!). The place apparently was slated for demolition and was saved with, I think, 10 hours to spare. It's a good renovation but not quite as complete as the Fredonia Opera House. One interesting feature, though, was the fact that the whole basement office/reception area had been dug out by hand by volunteers. Only a tunnel had existed before. That's dedication. The show itself - Planet - was met with enthusiasm by normally staid Minnesotans. There were an unusual collection of "buckle bunnies" in the audience (women who wear large rodeo buckles on their jean belts), and I hadn't thought that southern MN was cowboy country. There were some guys having a hard time sitting, but mostly it was a good-time audience. Rick actually arranged for a collection of women to rush the stage when Greg sang "Young Girl," and that was a funny sight to see all these kids and middle-aged midwestern housewives rush the stage. Greg said later it was probably the closest to being a Beatle that he's ever going to come. I was disappointed that the stay was so short for me, because the town of Fairmont is apparently bordered by four or five small lakes, and I would have liked to take a tour of the town. The downtown area looked immaculate, a postcard of a midwestern farm town. There were fish houses out on the nearest lake I saw, right out of Garrison Keilor. Some of the company had never seen ice fishing houses nor pickups on a lake, so it was pretty new and astounding to them to think that a lake could freeze so hard you could drive a truck onto it.

The reason that I did not get to see any of Fairmont was because the next day the Oatcakes had to fly to Nashville for our American Bus Association breakfast gig sponsored by the Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau. The Oatcakes (the name taken from my character Hugh Oatcake, a member of the watch in Much Ado) consist of myself, Greg, Alyssa, Jessica and Chris, and our assignment was to play about 30 minutes of the music from Planet for this convention. The Virginia CVB apparently had called up the ASC and asked about providing some entertainment for their breakfast, and so Bill Gordon and the crew back at Staunton gat the five of us to do this gig. It meant essentially giving up our day off in Fairmont to make the trip and then re-join the group here in Monmouth IL at Monmouth College. So we got up at 6AM Sunday morning and took two plane rides to get to Nashville. We arrived about 3 PM or so, met our contact Barbara from the VCVB, and hauled our stuff over to the Opryland complex.

This complex was something else. It is a HUGE hotel and convention center, and I mean huge! We only got to see a small part of it, the Presidential Ballroom area. It all stands on land which was once an amusement park called Opryland, but is now mostly this convention center and a large shopping complex. The location we played in was huge, seating about 800 people. But they had it all going: two large video screens, a complete sound system, three wide-screen teleprompters, and all sorts of vari-lighting. We locked our stuff up there and then went out to dinner at the Applebee's in our own hotel, right across the street. We met a great shuttle driver who turned us on to a new line of busses he was developing for tours such as ours, as well as his daughter, Tenessee Amber, who's a bluegrass entertainer. I did manage to squeeze in the Superbowl, most of the first half in the restaurant, and the second half up in my room. But I was beat, so I turned the game off with three minutes left and went to sleep. Wakeup time was 5AM next morning, and all the travel can wear you out. (PS - although I have positive feelings for Pittsburgh, I think Seattle was robbed blind in the game. The refs were simply too present in that game.)

So up at 5AM, meet in the lobby at 5:30, and over to Opryland for a 6AM soundcheck. Of course normally we don't play with amplification, but in this case we needed it. The sound guys were a little mystified that we needed so little, nothing but mikes for voices and instruments. During our soundcheck, while I was drumming, one of the brushes for the snare drum exploded, and of all the things we brought (including a backup guitar), we did not bring an extra brush. So we had to improvise and taped up the tip of a drumstick to mute it a little against the other brush. The broken brush threw Alyssa into a small mini-panic, but once we finally got onstage she recovered and drummed well in her percussion tunes. We finished the soundcheck by 7:45, had breakfast, got into costume, and went out at 8:15 AM to play through our set. It was very weird to be playing with a light show behind us, spotlights on us when we soloed, and then catching us up on the big screens out of the corners of our eyes. I had my guitar too close to the mike at one point and garnered some serious feedback, but overall the gig went very well. I was most surprised by the fact that people were actually paying attention to us. I had expected that we would be providing some background entertainment while everyone else was schmoozing and networking, but I was quite wrong. They listened to us, which added a bit of pressure to be as good as we could. I think in the end I heard it reported that we were a success because often at these things people walk out after they've finished eating, but almost no one left while we played. Everyone connected with the VA CVB seemed most pleased. Then we packed up our stuff, got our ride to the airport at 9:15 AM, and spent the rest of the day traveling to Monmouth IL, where we arrived at 5 PM about 7 minutes ahead of the rest of the company. I went over to the local Country Mart, grabbed a Healthy Choice meal, some chocolate milk and sweet crunch peanuts and a yogurt, and headed off to my room for an exciting evening of food and TV. I did get to see on HBO the movie I, Robot, but couldn't bring myself to watch The Upside of Anger, so I settled for three episodes of M*A*S*H on Hallmark and then sleep.

Monmouth is another typical midwestern town, about 45 minutes south of the Quad City area in southwestern Illinois. The college is a small Presbyterian college of about 1800 students, but many new buildings. I've mostly spent my free time during the day catching up on email, doing some internet window shopping, and getting back to some exercise routine. I did my laundry this morning and now I'm sitting in a nice coffee shop located in the library. The show last night was Planet with Much Ado tonight. We had a small but appreciative audience. Apparently theatre students at this college cannot get out of class to go see theatre, once again demonstrating the small-mindedness of much theatre thinking. But we did have some theatre students in the house last night, and they invited the company downtown for a drink. I went as designated driver. Fortunately (from my perspective) the closing time in this county is midnight, so we got back relatively early. I kicked Tyler's ass in pool, but then subsequently got my ass kicked by Daniel, who so far appears to be the troupe's best pool player. He made one shot on the 8-ball which actually amazed me. He had called the shot originally, but scratched in executing it first, and technically lost the game, but I had him set up the shot again because I did not believe it was a shot he could make. Damned if he didn't sink it! So I laughed, bowed in homage, and offered to fill his water bottle for a week.

I did get to see a bit of downtown in passing, and there appears to be a small traffic circle in the middle of town with a monument to something or other. I also found out that Monmouth is the birthplace of Wyatt Erp, and had I some access to transportation I would have gone down to visit his birthplace, but I have to walk everywhere and there was too much to get done. I did want to walk downtown, but once again the day seems to have gotten away from me in ways that often I can't account for. Even now I am rushing to get this written so I can get outside and take some photos of the campus while it's still daylight. Although call is still 90 minutes away I have to eat dinner, take those photos and get to the theatre. If the hotel we were staying in had internet service I wouldn't be rushing so much, but I can't even get dial-up service because I have no local access number for NetZero. So doesn't that seem like a cue to finish this off? -TWL

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Sweet Home Chicago - 2/4/06

Cedar Rapids, IA - Even though the dateline is Cedar Rapids (actually, in the van on the way out of Cedar Rapids), the title has got to be about Chicago, since that was such a fun stop. Though short, it was action-packed, and the troupe all had a pretty good time in the big city.

The actual event at Daley College was almost anticlimactic in a way. We did two performances - R3 and Planet - in the space of about 9 hours. The venue itself was a little odd but still conducive to how we do our shows. It was sort of 3/4 of a circle, with a 3-foot wall all around the edge separating the audience from the actors. You sort of feel like you're in a small gladiator stadium, and when appealing to the audience you can stand right up to the wall and lean on it. Most of the attendees at the R3 matinee were either family or friends of cast members, or else people required to see the show from the college. Not very big. We did not get too much of a break between shows. The college itself is located a distance from DT Chicago, in the southwest corner of the state, in a rather industrial area. So there wasn't much to each beyond the Cajun Wok at the nearby mall. Who hasn't had their famous Bourbon Chicken? After a short walk through the mall (which had little but clothes and shoes), I returned to do the evening performance of Planet. That wall did give us a feeling of confinement, but the audience was much bigger and the show went well. One obstacle we had to overcome was the fact that the maintenance people did not seem to immediately grasp that a show was going on in the afternoon, and they really couldn't drill in the basement below us. We had to track down two separate workers on different projects whom we had to convince they needed to take a break. So much for the actual day of performance.

The big story, of course, was simply being in Chicago. We decided to leave Fairmont real early - 6AM - so as to get to Chicago Monday evening and have more time in the city. Many people had friends or family in the area, so during their time off they set out to hang with their respective friends. Andrew, who had lived in Chicago for some time, became something of the unofficial guide to Chicago, so when we got into town on Monday evening, I got on the CTA with him and Kevin and Olivia. He went off to visit some friends while Kevin Olivia and
I took a quick walking tour of downtown Chicago, passing by Union Station and crossing the Chicago River. The three of us went to Bergoff's, which is a famous Chicago institution serving German cuisine for about 107 years. It is closing the end of February, so I managed to talk Olivia and Kevin into eating there as sort of a "this is your only chance" opportunity. It was pretty good; creamed herring, bratwurst and knockwurst with sauerkraut for appetizers; sauerbraten for me, some pork dish for Olivia and a seafood medley for Kevin. I had a stein of their house bock as well. I enjoyed the meal, but I think Kevin and Olivia, both of whom are principally vegetarians, had a bit of trouble digesting afterwards. Or it could be the fact that they went ice skating in Millenium Park after dinner. I, however, took the train back to Lincoln Park, where the Days Inn was located, and ran into Sarah on the way into the motel. I accompanied her to dinner while trying to find a good music venue to go to. We decided to hook up with Daniel, who was having dinner at a small raw oyster bar close to the motel. We were not far from Halsted Street, and there are two blues bars down there, Blues Chicago and the Kingston Mines. We chose to go to the Blues Chicago band and settled in for two sets of music from Will Kent and the Gents, who play Monday nights with Bonnie Lee, the Sweetheart of the Blues. Will Kent was apparently not well enough to play, so the front guy was a kid named Guy who played a beautiful Fender hardbody and had a blues styling somewhat reminiscent of Dwayne Allman with a delta feeling. We heard a great mix of delta and Chicago blues, and the Bonnie Lee came up for a set. She was escorted from the back of the bar up to the stage by two young guys, helped up on to the stage, and ripped off three hot blues numbers. She must have been about 75 or so, and clearly had the run of the place. Been around for some time, I imagine. Then they called up a few guest artists. One young guy named Chico Banks was very hot, and then a few other middle-aged guys came up to play. Each one had a great styling for the blues, and I guess it's the tradition of jazz places to call up people in the house to play one or two numbers especially on weeknights like Monday and Tuesday. We got back to the motel about midnight to be in shape for the two shows on Tuesday.

Tuesday night it was back out for the evening. Andrew had been talking up the Chicago style of hot dogs for a week, promising a trip to a place called Sammy's down by Cabrini Park. But it turned out that there was a small place called Vienna Dogs right down the block from where we were, so instead of a long trip we walked over there and grabbed a couple of dogs from a guy who insults you the minute you walk through the door. He and his wife/girlfriend put on quite a show making the dogs, arguing and cursing each other in a funny way. I crammed down two chardogs with the works (except the hot peppers). Very good eating! Then we headed out to a local pub where the pints were $2. After spending some time and chatting with Andrew and his friends, Sarah, Daniel and I once again headed out for some blues. We started off at Blues Chicago, since we had free admission passes from the night before. It was already close to 1AM when we got there, so there was only a short set played. The headliner, Lindsey Alexander, had other people in the house start the set, again a nice mix of different blues players. They did, however, let some young kid at the end you must have been a guitar tech or something to play a song, and he was terrible. Bad end to the evening, as they closed at 1:30 and never let Lindsey play. So, after grabbing the rest the cake that was on the bar and eating a few pieces on the street, we decided to go over to Kingston Mines and see if anything was happening over there.

Kingston Mines is maybe the largest blues bar in Chicago, I believe, and might be reasonably categorized as a sort of blues tourist spot. I wasn't too eager to go in, but the cover was half-off so we said what the hell and headed in. What a strange, eclectic interior it turned out to be. The bar is actually small, lined with Christmas lights, but there are these long, narrow tables with chairs along them where everyone sits. The walls all have odd, colorful murals painted on them reflecting some aspect of blues culture. One of them was actually a map of "Blues COuntry," depicting the states where the blues are a predominant form of music. They have two performing stages, and the guy who was the evening's MC was a short, fat man dressed in a black suit, black shirt, black fedora and green tie. He had a voice which sounded like someone had stabbed him in the throat and he smoked a carton of cigarettes a day. He actually played one set on the electric piano as we walked in. It turned out that a Tuesday night is a very good night to go, because there are few tourists, a lot of locals, a good number of blues players in the house, and once again it was a shuttling of talents on and off the stage. We started with Dion Taylor, but we saw Lindsey Alexander walk in the joint and motioned to him to play, and he got in a song and dedicated it to his "out-of-town woman," who happened to be Sarah. Sarah went on to have a good time dancing and chatting with him, and she got an autographed CD from him by the end of the evening. The final act of the evening was a woman by the name of Joanna Connor, and she was absolutely out of sight. Her #2 guitar player was also pretty good, but this woman could move up and down a guitar fretboard like a seal on ice. She was slick, melodic and fast, and again her blues style was everything from straight-ahead Chicago to delta to rockabilly. I sat there for an hour in amazement watching her play. She was worth every penny of the cover price. She was the last act of the evening, and she played a full hour set. We closed the place down at 3:45 AM. Sarah and Daniel were feeling pretty good (I hadn't had too much to drink), and the walk and conversation on the way home was enervated and animated. I couldn't quite keep up with my younger sojourners, and packed it in by 4:30 AM. After all, Ii had to get up and be ready by noon to get out of town. But it had been some time since I closed down any bar (probably Ray Flynn's in Buffalo), so I figured I hadn't done too badly, and I had heard some great music. It was a good time in Chicago, and as far as I could tell everyone managed to have a good time in the city. There was much talk about how fun the city was, how different from New York, how much more friendly and open. Chicago may take the prize as the best stop on this leg. It was undoubtedly the best antidote we could have had to a boring week in dorms on Fairmont WV.

On Wednesday noon we left the big city and headed off to our next gig at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, IA. This is another one of what I've come to call a "season ticket" stop, a place where S2 has been for a number of years. We got in on Wednesday late afternoon, and we were housed in two separate locations. I was housed in the Clark Alumni House, a nice new building styled as an English Tudor home. It's a meeting house/guest house for the college. The group in the house were pretty much the members of The Oatcakes, which is the name those of us who are going to do a quick gig in Nashville this coming Monday morning have named ourselves. This allowed us to have a rehearsal Thursday afternoon. Essentially we are performing the score of Planet in costume for a collection of tour bus operators at their Nashville convention,representing the state of Virginia. So we're orchestrating some of the songs for just the five of us. It will be fun to go to Nashville (we're flying), but at the same time we're giving up a day off to do all the travel and playing. We're traveling on Superbowl Sunday, but I think we'll get in the game once we land in Nashville.

We did all three shows at Coe, Much Ado on Thursday evening and the other two on Friday. The theatre at Coe is a hexagon, which posed its own challenges. Also, part of the set for their production of Gypsy was in the theatre, but we set up the discovery space in front of it and other than simply being there it did not pose any real problems. Again, it was a theatre where the theatre was already in thrust form, with a steep rake in the house. All the shows were well received and went well. The vets had mentioned that former audiences had been sort of cold, but we found the opposite this time. We had good reactions from all three shows. The people were kind, the space was good, and it turned out I knew the tech director from my days back in Platteville. Randy Susevitch had been a music teacher at UW-P, and had changed careers and went into lighting design and tech direction, and was working at Coe. Small world. An audience member in Chicago also came up to me to ask me if I had worked in Wisconsin. Anyway, the Coe stay went well all around. There was a nice coffee shop right across from the college, and I spent some of my off time there. They served a French press coffee, which is unusual and very good. After the final show, some of us went to a party at the home of Alyssa's aunt Kathy, who lives in Cedar Rapids. The house was very nice, and they served us a fine white chili (chicken and navy beans) and a regular chili, with veggies and drinks. There was a pool table, foosball table, and one of the kids had a set of drums, which several people took a turn banging on, myself included. Greg, whose father was a drummer, really got into it. Daniel demonstrated his superiority at pool, and we had a very good time. SO many thanks to Alyssa's aunt and uncle for their generosity and hospitality.

Next stop - Fairmont MN at the Fairmont Opera House, with a performance of Planet. It's cold (particularly in the van, where I have to keep my feet off the floor to keep them from freezing), but it is not snowing, and there is in fact little snow cover on the ground. Could it be that we'll be lucky enough to get through this midwestern section without any snow? We've got Monmouth IL after this and then off to the south, through South Carolina and Florida. I'm actually enjoying being back in the Midwest. Iowa is one of my favorite states, and the Cedar Falls/Cedar Rapids/Waterloo/Iowa City region is a very nice area. It's progressive, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa is in the area, with other small quality college like Coe. It's unquestionably winter time, with the land devoid of corn stalks. The sky is large, the sun has been shining, the sunsets are nice, the views are wide open, and the midwest certainly gives you that feeling of how large this country really is. Fairmont is not too far north of the MN-IA border, and we'll be in what they call Blue Earth country, which I think has to do with the small mounds in the area. It's a different and not altogether unappealing style of life and place to live. Slower pace, friendlier people. You just have to get used to the lack of trees and mountains.

Well, we've arrived in Fairmont and it's time to load in to the opera house. Signing off for now....TWL

Wednesday, February 01, 2006