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Jameson and I spent Monday in Orlando. We were both feeling crummy, so didn't do a lot, just errands and resting. I slept for most of the day. Didn't realize how exhausted I was.

On Tuesday we had one last wonderful breakfast at Keke's. Then we packed our things and said farewell to Florida. I wonder if I'll be coming back, or not.

We drove all day and arrived in Greenville around 9:30pm. The train made good time and was spotted when we arrived. Railfan Joe Dougherty was on hand for our arrival, and took lots of great pictures of Nikki and other members of train crew unloading the flatcars. The Greenville yard is one of few accessible, paved yards, and one where the flats are stored with the coaches (passenger cars).





Some of the cars are hand-painted.


On Wednesday morning Jameson had a job interview, which went very well. Afterward we went to Publix to stock up on groceries for the week. I bought several prepared meals, because it's going to be a busy week and I don't expect to have time to cook. Then it was back to the train. I spend most of the day applying for more jobs and resting, as I hadn't slept well.

We have a pretty weird schedule here in Greenville. There were 10am shows scheduled for both Thursday and Friday, so we all had to be up early and there was no time for a rehearsal. Plus our bandmaster Brett had to fly home for a family emergency, so we had a sub on trumpet and Tim will be conducting for the entire week.

I like Greenville, a lot. I've probably mentioned this before...it has a special place in my heart, being one of the first cities that I ever visited on tour as a trombonist. It is a beautiful city with a thriving economy, but it's HOW it got to be beautiful and successful that I find really wonderful. The town found itself struggling during the 70s, with WWII-era industries failing and commerce moving to the suburbs where shopping plazas and malls were being built. Both the private citizens and the city government officials decided that they would not sit by and watch their city decline. They formed an ambitious plan involving both private and public sectors, and began a total redesign of the entire town. From the structure of the buildings to the landscaping to the businesses and economic foundations, they laid the groundwork for their hopes, and worked hard to achieve it. And the result is a beautiful city growing at an incredible rate.

Every time I come here, I am amazed at the leaps and bounds being made. This time, the area near our train has gone from being a row of empty shop fronts to an active market area, with local grocers, art studios, bike shops, and more coming soon. On the drive to the arena, a once-empty stretch of land now houses a massive housing boom...new apartments under construction as far as the eye can see.

Anyway! Opening day was a little rough, because of the early start and Brett's absence and a union meeting scheduled for the afternoon. But it was made better by a visit from our sister unit, the Blue show, currently performing Out of this World in Charlotte NC. They were seated in the section closest to the band, which was really nice because we had a loud rowdy bunch cheering us on!



After the show they immediately came down onto the floor and started socializing and checking out all of our stuff. People were climbing all over the portal, playing with props, taking photos, laughing, talking. It was a lot of fun. I got to see some members of the Blue unit band, including Landon, the union steward on that show (we'd never met!). A large group photo was organized...I had already left by the time it was taken so I'm not in it, but I'm glad so many people stuck around for it. It'll be a nice memory for us to look back on, that day when Red and Blue circus families got together :)

(photo courtesy Steve B.)

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We ended up hitting some pretty miserable traffic once crossing the FL state line, causing us to be nearly two hours late getting home. At some point we left the highway to get dinner, very hungry and tired. We managed to pick probably one of the worst restaurants that either of us has ever been to. It's called Cody's. Don't go to Cody's in Florida.

Still hungry, we got back on the road and after a grand total of 20 hours in the car, finally made it to Jameson's apartment. Whew!

The next day was a busy one, so we got started with a tasty breakfast at Keke's. I decided to be piggy and got coconut pineapple stuffed french toast. It was so stinkin' good! But I forgot my phone so no pictures for you :P After that we went to Home Depot for paint and painting supplies. For today is the day we paint the kitchen!



That's a shot of Jameson's kitchen. The cabinets are a sort of purplish-red, and the walls are yellow (they had been minty green but Jameson painted them when he moved in). The kitchen has been this way for over a decade, so it's time for an upgrade! I did the walls while Jameson did the cabinets. We removed all of the cabinet doors and painted them separately, but made the mistake of keeping them on the drop plastic, causing problems later on :/ Oh well...live and learn! We painted for 4-5 hours, then called it a day. The next morning we finished the remaining cabinet doors and reinstalled them. Project complete!



And what better way to break in the new kitchen than by cooking a meal in it!


Jameson got a cookbook from him Mom for his birthday, and put it to good use! He made sesame-orange chicken. I loved the sauce! We were both pretty tired after all of the painting, cooking, and cleanup, so spent much of our day being total couch potatoes. As I type this I'm watching Jameson play Lego Star Wars.

The next day was pretty slow. We had planned to go to the gym, but Jameson wasn't feeling great so we skipped it. Instead we ran errands. We took some DVD cases to FedEx to be shipped to a recycling plant, then hit the grocery for some ingredients we'd forgotten. Back at home we ate lunch and worked on some music we'd brought along to study on vacation. I did bring a trombone to practice with, but with new music and especially audition stuff I like to play "air trombone" until I get the muscle memory down.

For dinner Jameson made burrito bowls!! It was adobo-seasoned chicken with a ton of veggies...beans and peppers and onions and sweet corn. We put it over rice and topped it with lettuce, cheese, guac, salsa, and sour cream. Delicious!



Since Jameson had done all the cooking, I did all the cleaning. I absolutely hate cooking, and he absolutely hates cleaning, so it's a nice balance we've got going. Teamwork! Later on Jameson played Overwatch with some friends. I like watching him play, but I'm a total motionsick wuss, so can only watch for about 30 minutes at a time. Anyway, I watched as much as I could and enjoyed it :)

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On Monday Jameson and I began the drive to Chicago. We had already driven two hours the night before, so expected only a few more hours of driving. But partway through the drive we saw something ominous in the distance: a small dark cloud hovering on the horizon.

At first, we speculated that it was from a factory or someone's private burn pile. But the closer we got, the darker the smoke looked, and it soon became apparent that something was wrong. Jameson pointed out that he hadn't seen any cars traveling in the opposite direction for some time.



We rounded a corner and came upon a horrible scene. Something was burning on the highway median. Thick black smoke and fireballs curled into the sky. All we could do was sit and wait as emergency vehicles arrived.


Eventually it became clear that the fire was not going out any time soon. We were redirected back the way we came, where we found an alternative route. As we turned around I snapped a picture, hoping to see what had happened, but all I saw was a damaged truck and an indistinguishable black mass of metal.


It turns out that there had been a three-trailer accident. One of the trailers was a tanker, and it had burst into flame. The driver was killed. Not knowing this yet, we spent the rest of our drive quietly worrying for those involved, and selfishly grateful that we ourselves were OK.

We arrived in Chicago without incident, and enjoyed a nice evening with Jameson's parents.

The next day we got up a little early for a nice breakfast at Little Goat. We were lucky...owner Stephanie Izard was there to taste-test some proposed specials. Very cool to see the boss herself doing some hands-on sampling and giving instruction to her crew! This time I decided to try the "bullseye" french toast: home-baked chive brioche with soft-friend egg hidden in the middle, topped with crispy chicken, strawberry slices, and bbq maple syrup. As always, Little Goat hits the spot!



After breakfast it was time to hit the grocery. Mrs. Boyce needed lots of ingredients for Thanksgiving! She'd also preordered a turkey from Local Foods, a grocery specializing in local sustainable farming and foods. I saw lots of things in there that I'd like to eat! Back at the condo we relaxed, watched some Cubs recaps that Jameson had missed (we don't have tv on the train), and enjoyed an awesome curry lentil soup made by Mrs. Boyce. After dinner I was able to premiere a project that Landon (Blue Unit drummer) and I had been working on: social media sites for the Ringling bands! We now have a page on facebook and a twitter account. These are just to share the awesomeness that is the Ringling circus band...and yes, let's be honest, to remind people that there IS a Ringling circus band! Live music + circus = magic :)
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Monday was Jameson's birthday!!
Unfortunately we found ourselves in Youngstown!!

But still, we were able to have some fun! We found a very nice restaurant close to our hotel. Jameson enjoyed a savory steak topped with his favorite, blue cheese (eew!). While we were eating, music from our preshow began playing in the background. I was dismayed...Jameson danced!



After our meal we went bowling. I am horrible at bowling but enjoy it all the same. We played five frames. Jameson beat me every time!


There was an arcade in the alley as well, we played a few games and won enough tickets for some disguises. It was a fun night!

(photo courtesy Jameson)

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We arrived in Salem on Monday morning, unprepared for the Columbus Day crowds that would greet us. Wow! There were so many people! We went to Red Line Cafe for lunch. Having been there last time, we knew it would be good food! The line was out the door, and the restaurant actually had bathroom bouncers to keep non-customers from using the toilets! First time I've ever had to get a hand stamp in order to pee! Haha! In any case the crepes were amazing. I got a Nutella crepe with strawberries and bananas.


After our meal we simply wandered. There was a lot more going on than the last time we'd been through. Street performers, tons of people in costumes, ghost tours, and some sort of sidewalk sale/faire with stalls selling homemade goods. Some of the goods we like most were candles laser-cut to look like crystals and skulls, mounted "trophy heads" of narwhals, elephants and dinosaurs handmade by a local artist, and awesome t-shirt designs and art by a local church raising funds for its LGBT outreach.

In our wanderings, we stumbled upon an Escape Room Salem challenge! These things are popping up everywhere lately! The owner was running the place himself that day...he hadn't planned to be open, but I think the Columbus Day crowds might have prompted him to do some business! He was able to fit us in around 3:30 with another group of four, which turned out to be two parents and two young ladies. It was a three-generation superteam!!!

This was the first escape challenge I've done with multiple rooms, and I have to say it was pretty fun! The rooms were decorated in awesome fashion, like a lab with lots of lit-up dials and mysterious equipment. The goal was to prevent a zombie apocalypse. We were given a walkie-talkie so that the owner could provide clues when we got hung up (which we did right off the bat haha). In my opinion what made this challenge more difficult than others we've done was the fact that we had to find clues in a certain order. This meant that we often ended up with all six of us surrounding one clue, all of us trying to be involved in solving it at once. It took some serious self-control to step back and allow others to manipulate a puzzle. Everyone wants to have a hand in the victory! But we took turns and helped each other, and ended up escaping with an impressive eleven minutes to spare! WOW!



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Our last two days in Chitown went quickly. On Monday after our workout we went to Glenn's Diner. This place is known for its seafood, and also for having a seasonal selection of cereal, of all things! Pretty neat place. Mrs. Boyce and I both got this amazing seafood salad, full of lobster and smoked trout and shrimp. I couldn't even finish mine and had to ask the boys to help polish it off!

From there we went to the Lincoln Park Zoo. It's a small one but very good! They have several big cats, primates, reptiles, farm animals, and more. Plus the weather was fantastic, sunny but with a chill in the air, fall is definitely here!




Jameson and I feeding some cows :)


That evening after a wonderful dinner made by Mrs. Boyce, Mr. Boyce invited me along to his choir rehearsal! He sings with the Apollo Chorus of Chicago, an amazing group that's been performing since 1872!! They were rehearsing for a concert and also a wedding, at a local community arts building. I picked out a seat in the back and settled in to listen. To my surprise, the first song they rehearsed was Eric Whitacre's "Alleluia"! This piece is very familiar to me, I played it in college wind ensemble with my graduating class, but that arrangement is known as "October". But it's the same piece, and a very nostalgic and wonderful memory for me. I was very happy to hear it again.


The rehearsal went for about three hours with some breaks in-between. I got to hear a reduced section of the chorus (including Mr. Boyce) rehearsing for the wedding...I took footage of this but as the wedding was that week, decided against posting it. They sounded great :) I love sitting in on rehearsals and seeing the process of refining music. It's a lot of work for everyone involved, but the results are absolutely worth it!

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As mentioned last week, this week is a rare mid-season break for the Red Unit. On Sunday after the last shows, everyone scattered to the winds. Some went home to be with family (and for some of our performers, that means flights home to Mongolia or Russia!) while others took vacations and excursions. I hope everyone has fun and comes back safely!

Jameson and I decided to go to Chicago for the week, to stay with his parents. We drove partway on Sunday, and the rest of the way on Monday. Partway through the drive I got notice that USPS had tried to deliver my trombone to Jameson's parent's condo, and had failed. Oh wait...you're probably wondering, "What trombone?"

Well, about a week ago a member of the trombone forum asked if I'd be interested in a trombone that he was selling. This wasn't just any trombone. It's a Williams model 6.

I won't bore you with too much history, but here's the basics. Earl Williams was an instrument maker who opened shop around 1930. He teamed up with Spike Wallace, who at the time was the principal trombonist of the LA Philharmonic. They made horns together up until around 1940, at which point they parted ways. Earl continued to make his own horns until World War II began and he was contracted to a factory for war production. After the war, Earl was able to buy large quantities of brass from the US government. He opened up shop in LA and continued making horns by hand. His work was in high demand from the famous trombonists of that era. In 1958 he moved his shop to Burbank, and there continued to make trombones until his death in 1971.

Even though Earl had others working in his shop with him, all of his horns were still made by hand, so there are a limited number of them out there. In addition, these horns are extremely high quality and produce a unique sound that can't be found in any other brand of trombone. For these reasons, Williams trombones are still in high demand. The model 6 is one of the most popular models, and it's the same size as the horns I currently play in the show. This one was in excellent condition, came in the original case, and had only two previous owners. I decided that an opportunity like this wouldn't present itself again. Knowing that we were about to have a week off, I had the trombone sent to Chicago, where Jameson's parents graciously agreed to receive it.

After a frustrating several hours trying to get USPS to deliver the horn, we realized that it wasn't going to happen, so Jameson's dad offered to go pick it up (thank you!!!). So it was waiting for me when we arrived!




I don't want to bombard you with photos, so if you'd like to see more pics here they are. The trombone came with other items from 1960s tromboning, including several mutes, a trombone stand, and a vintage water spray bottle. Cool!! I cleaned it up and played it just a little...the slide is fantastic and it sounds fantastic, I can't wait to play it in an arena and really take it for a spin!

But for now, it's vacation! The next morning all four of us got up and went to the gym on the condo's bottom floor. After a great workout we were very hungry, so we got cleaned up and took the red line to Crosby's Kitchen. Jameson's mom had seen it on a PBS show, and the food looked great. And it was! One of the appetizers we'd seen on the show was lobster deviled eggs. And BOY were they just as delicious as they looked! If you come here, get these. SO good.



For my meal I got a rotisserie chicken sandwich that was top notch. I didn't take a picture because I was eating :P At one point I noticed that Jameson & family were getting excited about someone sitting nearby. I discreetly asked what was up. Turns out Jason Hammel was sitting directly behind Jameson's dad!


He seemed to be there with some family, so we didn't bother him. Pretty cool though! The Cubs did have a game that night, so perhaps he was having a nice meal before heading over to Wrigley Field.

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On the way to Lexington we stopped in Nashville. It seems like every time we play Nashville, it's February and two degrees outside and raining. I've been through the city several times, but have never been down the main drag. This time I finally got to see Nashville!


Oh wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. Before exploring the strip, we had a wonderful dinner at Whiskey Kitchen! We'd been here earlier this year and the food was AMAZING. Today it was just as good! We started off with calamari. This isn't freezer squid, it's squid steaks cut into thick slices, hand-battered, and fried alongside spicy pickles. Tender and delicious. Best fried calamari ever.


Jameson got seared tuna (I should have taken a pic because it was beautiful) while I went the unhealthy route and got hot chicken and chipotle mac n cheese! The chicken was tender and hot enough to make me sweat. The mac n cheese killed the flames nicely. Thanks again Whiskey Kitchen for the above-and-beyond eats!



THEN we went to the strip, to walk our dinner off. One of our first stops was a record store that had been full of all kinds of vintage vinyl the last time Jameson had been there. Unfortunately now it's been cleaned out, and mostly houses country CDs and vinyl box sets. What a shame. As we continued down the street we noticed that although there weren't a lot of people out, there was a LOT of live music, so much that in the street it just sounded like a wash of sound. Pretty much every bar had a live band. In some ways that's awesome, and in other ways it might show how competitive it is to be a musician in Nashville.

Before going to our hotel, Jameson drove me down the REAL "music row", where all of the recording studio offices are. We saw the offices of RCA, Warner, BMG, and many others. But many of the buildings were for lease or sale, and new condos were springing up in this historic place where musicians used to go to be made or broken. It was amazing to see, and kind of sad, because the music industry just doesn't work that way any more.


Anyway, I was very happy to finally see Nashville :)
That night we stayed at Hotel Preston, a unique hotel that Jameson found outside the city. The decor was really cool! It was a funky change from the normal chain hotels. We had a great stay here...look for this hotel if you're in the area!

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It was nice to have some days off without travel involved! Strangely homey :D

On Monday Jameson and I went to check out a Planet Fitness in Houston. Jameson has a medical condition that makes high-impact exercise difficult. Although he has tried to exercise on his own, our lifestyle of constant travel and living in small rooms has been something of a road block. The most obvious thing to do was to find a chain gym with locations in every city we'll visit, and open a membership. Planet Fitness fit the bill.


(photo courtesy PF Spring Branch)

We were given a tour of the facilities by a young lady with blue and purple hair (she had the most complex name so I'm not even going to try). As we walked around the gym and listened to her explaining the equipment, gym policies, etc., I was struck by the variety of people exercising. I saw men, women, teenagers, seniors, some who were full-figured and some who were athletic-looking. I've never in my life had a gym membership, mainly because the few times I've been to a gym (in college and while living in VA) there have been jerks in there hogging equipment or judging others or screwing around. Exercising in public is already anxiety-inducing enough without such people making it worse. But here, there seemed to be none of that. Just regular folks squeezing some exercise in between work and feeding the kids.

So we decided to sign up. Jameson made the account, and I'm his "guest", meaning that I've got to go with Jameson to have access to the gym. That's fine as he's got the car :P I can get my own membership later if I like...and in the meantime, we'll be saving some money and splitting the cost of one membership. Sweet!

Now that we had our membership it was time to make sure we had the proper equipment! We hit a nearby mall for some things...a gym bag, shoes and socks for Jameson, and sweatpants and sports bras for me. There was a Target attached to the mall so we got some groceries too. While walking around we couldn't help but notice how many, MANY people were there to play Pokemon GO. I couldn't help but smile when I saw a dad and his daughters playing, or a group of teens standing in a huddle and enjoying some gameplay. Texas was where I first started playing Ingress, a similar augmented reality game made by the same developers that is pretty much the predecessor to Pokemon GO. So I'm looking at these GO players and feeling those feels :D

Anyway, we got back to the train and spent the rest of the evening relaxing. At some point the band guys got together for some Topgolf. What a lovely day to play!


(photo courtesy Jameson B.)

The next day we decided to try out the gym!
I put on my new workout clothes (including a complementary PF shirt) and spent about 15 minutes stretching, then did two 20-minutes sessions on the treadmill. Once I got started, it actually wasn't that bad.

I am fortunate. I do not have significant weight to lose, or health problems to combat. So I will be exercising to gain flexibility and stamina, "because it's good for me", and to make progress with my sweetheart, whose health is paramount to me. Thank you for the motivation my love! Let's do our best!


(yeah, I know I look dubious. I'm sure eventually that will be a smile :))

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**BLOG UPDATE: From now on, you can reach my blog by visiting or sharing the address trombonemegan.com. My name's Megan and I play the trombone. Easy to remember, right? I figure it's easier to remember than taz-39.livejournal.com.**

The drive to Phoenix didn't take too long, although it was very hot with temperatures reaching up to 120F in some areas. We took it slow so the car wouldn't overheat (we saw many unfortunate folks broken down along the way).

We arrived in Phoenix a day before the train, plus the train was late, so we had time to kill. For breakfast Jameson took me to Lolo's Chicken and Waffles. I love chicken and waffles!! And now that we've been to several such places across the country, I get to compare! Unlike Roscoe's or Home of Chicken and Waffles, Lolo's chicken is very lightly battered resulting in a nice crispy skin. It's also more salty and heavier on the seasoning, which makes a nice contrast with the sweet waffle. I couldn't say that any of these restaurants have a "better" chicken and waffles. They're all delicious! And Lolo's hit the spot this morning!



After our meal we killed time at a local mall. We visited the Microsoft store to check out the Surface Pro and Surface Book, both of which Jameson might be interested for programming work. We were surprised to find a virtual reality setup near the store entrance. Jameson decided to check it out!


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After all the excitement of the week, I thought it'd be best to just ride the train while Jameson traveled overland. It would give me time to process everything.

The train run was uneventful as far as I could tell. The weather was cold and rainy so I did not take pictures. We arrived in Manchester on time but took quite a while to be spotted. I always remember this yard because of the huge snow plow engines here. And I take a picture every year :)



Opening day was strange. We rehearsed the "new" stuff...basically it's all the same acts only the Cannon act has been moved to the part of the show where the elephants used to perform. Then we did the show. It was strange. I felt vaguely surprised when I found myself playing the end of the first act after only 45 minutes. The show overall is not much shorter, but to me it just flew by super quick. And yeah, I felt sad. I guess I never knew how much I looked forward to seeing how Asia would eat her bread this time; watching Luna curl her trunk into a spiral during the headstand; or wondering whether Mable would choose to play her tambourine with the band or to her own beat. You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.


...or as my boss who's been here for 22 years put it, "It'll take me another 22 years to get used to this."

But moping acomplishes nothing. We all did the show as though nothing had changed.


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This week was, like, the opposite of last week. So much happened!

On Monday Jameson and I got up bright and early, got to Union Station, and rode an Amtrak into Penn Station. From there we walked to a hotel that Jameson's Dad graciously reserved for us, right in Times Square!! It's a little fancier than I'm used to.



The view wasn't bad either!


After settling in we found pizza for lunch, then took an hour to chill before the David Gilmour concert. When we got to Madison Square Garden we stumbled upon a floor tile dedicated to Gunther Gebel-Williams:


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After a yummy late breakfast in Charleson, we continued driving to Richmond. On the way we stopped in Midlothian, the town where Jameson grew up. His family traveled quite a bit, but this is where he has memories from Kindergarten up to maybe when he was 10 years old. Since it was late when we arrived, our first stop was a Friendly's--yes, the SAME Friendly's--that Jameson had gone to after ball games for dinner and ice cream. This was a nostalgia moment for me as well, as my mom used to work at Friendly's and I can remember getting the clown sundae once in a while :)

The waitress informed me that this is actually called a "conehead". Now I know what to ask for!
Anyone else remember these?



The next morning we went on a drive through Jameson's old neighborhood. Our first stop was the elementary school. There was sort-of-almost a little foreshadowing sitting right in the front yard! Jameson says it's been there since he went to school there more than 26 years ago.


After that we drove to his old neighborhood and found his house. Unfortunately the homeowner was out mowing the lawn, so he got to see us do about eight awkward drive-bys haha. But Jameson loved seeing his old house. First time in 26 years...it's good to get in touch with your roots once in a while.


The train wasn't quite spotted yet, so we went to a nearby 2nd & Charles, where Jameson found this awesome book of circus songs! It has write-ups on the history of each song, and excerpts too. Great find!


There was still time to kill, so we decided to catch a showing of Zootopia. We found the nearest theater, which turned out to be a seatside-service Carmike. Real food and a great movie? Excellent! The movie was amazingly good. I hadn't expected such depth from a Disney movie (no offense Disney) but Zootopia makes many great moral points and has a great storyline. This is one everyone should go see.

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Two whole days off! Yay!!

After a slow morning I decided to walk to the Kroger about 2 miles away. Yes, I could have borrowed Jameson's car, but for a few pieces of fruit and a loaf of bread it didn't seem worth it. Plus the weather was warm, even if a bit wet.



I made it more than halfway there before hearing manic honking behind me. Roselli, one of our company bus drivers, had pulled up behind me in the animal crew's van. He was on his way to pick up our bus, which was in the shop on the days off for some tuning up. He gave me a lift. Thanks Roselli! You're a champ :)

I putzed around the grocery for a while and ate lunch, then it started to rain. I ducked into the ACE Hardware to ask about an insulated pot for my new flytrap. They didn't have any, but I picked up a spray bottle and a plug-in timer, figuring these may come in handy for all of this plant life. And...I bought another flytrap. Because they're fairly cheap, and I don't see them very often, so figured I may as well have two! You know, in case I kill one off :P

I again made it partway back to the train before Roselli hailed me from a nearby gas station. It was raining pretty hard at this point so I once again accepted his offer of a ride. So much for getting exercise today! Back at the train I put my groceries away, found a worm in the dirt, and cut it up to feed to the traps.
Interestingly, there's a way to cut worms to ensure that they have a chance of surviving the damage. I was careful to do this before releasing the rest of the worm.

That night some of the band guys went golfing! There's a place called Topgolf nearby, a tiered driving range with drinks, food, and games! The golf balls have microchips inside and are assigned to unique players, so that you can keep score. There are distance games, target games, accuracy games...it sounded like fun, but at the end of the day I've got zero golfing experience and wasn't about to spend six hours flailing around with a club. It looks like the menfolk had fun :)


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Jameson and I stayed in Columbia overnight. The next morning we went to Mr. Friendly's New Southern Cafe for shrimp & grits! Or rather, he got salmon croquettes with his grits, and I got the traditional shrimp :)


It was delicious and creamy and savory. I'm jealous of people who can cook grits like this! The red stuff in the middle is a sort of salsa with sausage in it, it was really good. There were lots of other awesome things on the menu that looked equally delicious. If you're ever in Columbia stop in here!

After our meal we went to 2nd and Charles. If you are into thrift stores, pawn shops, used electronics stores, or used book and gaming stores, this is a great place for you! I could have spent hours digging through all the piles of lightly used books and games. There was even a section full of 70s-80s toys! The nostalgia!


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After Sunday's last show we drove the four hours to Chicago, parked at the airport, and hopped the train to Jameson's parent's condo. It never fails, I always feel like a princess when we walk in the door and are greeted by this view. Girlfriend priveleges indeed.


The next morning...well, I warned you there'd be food pictures. Brace yourself.

Breakfast was Chicago Waffles (formerly Waffle Cafe). Jameson knew right away that they were under new ownership after looking at the menu, but I had no clue. Anyway, we both decided on the waffle flight to get a sample of the new mini waffles! The flavors were chocolate with strawberries, Liege, banana Nutella, and...red velvet? Strawberry? I couldn't tell.



As you can see it's still a fantastic place to eat!

We played Ingress on the streets of Chicago for a while after that. Jameson leveled up! Congratulations!!
When our phones died we returned to the condo for some recharging and relaxation. Then, you know, dinner time. At Giordano's. I don't think I have to tell you that this tasted awesome.



Back at the condo we relaxed and watched Chopped. Because, you know, food :)

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Monday was a fairly normal day. After the show, Jameson and I drove a few hours to a hotel. Around the time we arrived, the Cubs were finishing up their 9th inning against the St. Louis Cardinals. They won! Jameson and his whole family are avid Cubs fans, so his reaction is hardly surprising! **PROFANITY WARNING**


To celebrate the win (and just to eat because we were starving by that time) we hit the highly-rated Kome Sushi where we shared some specialty rolls and sake :)


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Now that the week's over I can spill the beans!

Jameson flew home to Florida during the break for a surprise visit, to see his Disney band Mulch Sweat & Shears, one last time. Like many live entertainment groups at Disney World, MSS is being canned while the park undergoes a massive expansion/rebuild. It was a bittersweet visit for Jameson, seeing old friends and watching the band he spent six years with as they performed some of their final shows. But he says it was worth it and a wonderful thing to be able to return and see the band off.


(photo courtesy Jameson)

While this was happening, I was keeping busy thanks to Jameson's car :D
I had quite a few errands to run. Monday was spent scanning documents and mailing things to people, eating pizza, and shopping for new work clothes. Near the end of the day I decided to go to the movies solo, something I haven't done since working at a movie theater in the early 2000s! I saw M. Night's The Visit. It was both disturbing and funny, I enjoyed it :)

The next morning I got up early to "audit" a Colorado Symphony rehearsal!



I contacted the symphony's principal trombonist John Sipher, who kindly got the OK from the Personnel Manager for me to watch the rehearsal. I had originally planned to attend a concert, but there were too many schedule conflicts. But to be honest the rehearsal was better in some ways. For one thing, I had the whole auditorium to myself. It felt like a private concert! Also, with rehearsals you don't start at the beginning of the piece (in this case Brahms Symphony No. 4) and play it all the way through. The orchestra will usually rehearse out-of-order, stopping occassionally to clarify the parts or fix mistakes.

This morning Mr. Dragon chose to rehearse the 4th movement first, probably so that the low brass could leave early (they don't play for the first three movements). I got to hear the entire movement once through, then the orchestra went back over it in chunks to fix a few things, so I got to hear the famous brass chorale twice. Yay!!!



After the 4th movement was deemed satisfactory the trombones were dismissed. The rest of the orchestra continued with the other three movements, then took a break. I wanted to say hello and let the musicians know that they sounded wonderful, but didn't want to seem like a weirdo so settled for a quick "Thank you" to Mr. Dragon before scooting out the door. I would have loved to stick around for the horn concerto rehearsal, but there were more errands for me to run.

If you ever have the chance to attend a professional orchestra rehearsal...like, if you know that one is rehearsing somewhere in your town or city...go listen. You'll see and hear firsthand the incredible effort, the relentless attention to detail, and the dedication and focus that result in the perfection of a live concert performance. These people are extremely talented, true, but they also work incredibly hard so that they can perform as perfectly as possible every time. I'm very grateful to have been able to listen to this group of amazing musicians today. Thank you Colorado Symphony!


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FOO FIGHTERS!!!

Ok, those of you who know me know that I'm not into any particular rock band. But the Foo Fighters are a pretty great band, and Jameson got us some tickets for their show in Los Angeles. I was thrilled to see them live!!

On Monday we drove to LA for the concert. We arrived in time to grab dinner at Roscoe's House of Chicken & Waffles. Roscoe's is related to Home of Chicken & Waffles in Oakland; due to some sort of disagreement the company split around 2004. Home of Chicken & Waffles is one of our favorite places, so we were excited to compare them to Roscoe's!

It was like comparing apples to oranges. Waffles at both places were excellent, with Roscoe's being softer and fluffier and HOCW's being chewier and thinner. The batter was very similar, and we both agreed that there was some sort of cinnamon/nutmeg flavoring to the syrup in both restaurants. The chicken from both places was also excellent, although personally I thought Roscoe's was a little dry while at HOCW I'd gotten a juicier piece...but so many factors can effect that. Overall they're both great and I can't recommend one over the other. Stop in and check them out yourself!!



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After the last Sunday show Jameson and I drove out to Burbank and got a hotel near the airport.
The next day, we went to see a Conan O'Brien taping!!!

Jameson had planned the whole thing. He got the tickets online for free, and figured out the travel timing. After reading some reviews on Yelp from people who'd done this kind of thing before, we decided to show up several hours early to reserve a place in line, then go find something to eat.

We drove up to Universal Studios and parked at Gate 8, and quickly found the Conan holding area. Jameson presented his e-tickets and we went through a bag check, then got our hands stamped and were given a wristband. We waited on some benches with a few other people, and after a while a staff member came out and had us line up in the order we'd checked in. We were given numbers to hold our place in line (we got #19) and were told to come back around 3:30pm to walk to the studio.



We left the holding area and went in search of lunch. There was a place called Taste Chicago that had Chicago dogs and personal pan deep-dish pizzas, so we hit it up. Delicious handmade stuff here if you're ever in the area!

After that there was time for a few errands, then we hoofed it back to the parking garage to get in line for the taping! There were a LOT of people waiting in the holding area this time; shows like Conan will often overbook to guarantee that they get a full crowd. We were glad we'd showed up early!! Being in the first 20 groups, we were among the first to line up and start walking the eight blocks to the studio.

On the way we passed lots of studios, each one marked with a plaque that listed notable films that had been shot inside. We even passed the star trailers for The Big Bang Theory! We were moving pretty quickly so I couldn't stop to take pictures, but I did manage to snap a quick one as we reached our destination.



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