Saint Paul, Minnesota 6/7 Nov 2012
Before we get started, a quick correction to the notes from Madison, Wisconsin. The body of water our hotel overlooked was of course, Lake Monona, not Lake Michigan. I often write these notes in the wee hours just before going to bed or along with my first cup of coffee and not always fully awake.
6 November, 2012
Yes it's another day off today, we're in Minneapolis. I'm still feeling the effects of our bowling tournament in Madison but decided to work through it. While this hotel has much to account for, i.e. the heating system is in-op and construction within the hotel on several floors... the gym facility is by far the best of the tour. I decided to go all out on machines and various tools of torture I'd not seen since leaving home. In the process I awakened some monster in my lower back and it's raising hell. I'm usually not bothered with back pain and hoping this is not long term.
Got a call in the afternoon from John McCusker to say he, Mike and Guy were heading to a vintage guitar shop in St. Paul called Willie's and did I want to go. Yes. The hotel had a courtesy car available for the 25 minute ride but as it was officially out of Minneapolis and in St. Paul it was a $30 fee. Split 4-ways, not bad. Willie's American Guitars is located on the corner of a residential neighbourhood next to a 1950's malt and burger shop and a violin repair store. Vintage guitar heaven in there, a great and comfortable hang out and Molly Mare who helped us made us feel welomed. It was John who was looking for an old Gibson mandolin but in the end Guy purchased a 1920s Slingerland banjo-uke and Mike a very sweet all mahogany Martin tenor guitar from 1961. I kept my desires and credit card in check, wandered next door for a old fashioned cheese burger and a cherry Coke. Came back to the guitar store just as Willie the owner came in. Turns out we all know a lot of musicians in common. Willie's a great guy and even gave us all a lift back to our hotel in Minneapolis. Check out Willie's American Guitars... www.williesguitars.com.
A band dinner tonight at the fabulous Bar La Grassa. Fresh pastas, salads, exquisite entrees all served up in an unpretentious atmosphere of a converted warehouse. I had a Crispy Insalata, Silk Handkerchiefs (pasta) with pesto and St. Louis Ribs. The ribs have been steamed for 4 hours then finished on the grill with a dry rub. With very little encouragement from a fork, the meat fell from the bone. Take a look at this menu... www.barlagrassa.com. We were joined tonight by our friend Sam Hudson who we met several years ago while doing the very popular American radio program that originates from St. Paul, A Prairie Home Companion. Sam has been with the show from the early '90s, is talent producer, broadcast engineer and all around good guy.
After dinner we gathered in the hotel bar to watch the election results coming in to confirm President Obama for another term.
7 November, 2012
My back is shit, every step measured. I make a cup of crap coffee with the in-room machine and those little packets of mediocre stuff, a jump start. Grey, cold and a good day to stay in. Read, practise, pack and check out.
It's late afternoon when we arrived at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. I've eaten nothing since the previous night's dinner and make a dash for catering. More like a slow hobble. A bowl of piping hot tomato and basil soup and large tuna and egg salad, cuppa tea, three ibuprofen and am feeling like I might just live to fight another day. Sound check, gig.
We've always been fond of the twin cities and tonight's audience was stellar, the show as well. Following the show we piled back onto the buses for a long ramble down the highway to Milwaukee, arriving at 4:30 in the morning. I don't sleep on the bus so bounced between reading and riding shotgun with driver Jason Holt. Long periods of sitting on the ride didn't do my back any favours. Tried to keep moving, standing or lay down on one of the couches in the front lounge of the bus. I still couldn't sleep when we arrived at the hotel and read 'til 6 a.m. Welcome to Milwaukee.