i’m free….i-i’m free…..

now playing: john gorka, “morningside”

it’s true….the tommy run is over. and i have to say, while i’m glad to be free of the perpetual claim to my time, i’ll miss it.

we got together at the drummer’s house on friday night…all of us, even jeff…and had the unofficial band party. just to cement the cast of characters, here are the actual names of the guys in the band….

drums – buzz saylor
keys – jeff miller (both of simon apple)
bass – gene orlando
electric guitar – fred bernardo

fred was the musical director, the guy responsible for getting me into this mess…i had met jeff before when he worked with a production of jesus christ superstar that jayda was in, but i couldn’t really say that i knew him. buzz – i had no real knowledge of him other than his playing in JCS, and gene was the toddler of the bunch – at nineteen, he was far and away the youngest of the lot. i’d be lying if i said it didn’t show at first, but he really got his shit together and played the show like a pro by the end of the run. jeff and buzz were no-brainers, and probably the only people who could’ve played this show they way they did. buzz is just phenomenally talented and makes everything he does look easy. jeff – wow. instead of gushing about jeff, let me just tell you this…there were three books for the keyboard parts on this show. when it ran on broadway, there were three keyboard players in the show, all playing separate parts. as a testament to jeff’s talent, he covered all three of them – without missing a part. that’s just an amazing feat. and he did it like a martial arts master – never outwardly reflecting any difficulty he might’ve been having with a specific passage, consistently calm and cool on the outside, and throughout the whole show, only made one audible mistake (which prompted me to tell him, “it actually comforted me, man, because i was starting to think that at some point you were gonna trip and fall and hit your chin on the way down..and then your faceplate was gonna pop off and reveal your terminator circuitry behind your face.”)

fred is fred – what can you say? it was the first time i’d ever played with him, although i’d worked for him before at the store ages ago. all his idiosyncracies are still in place – we were discussing at the get-together on friday night the best way to mess with his head for the last show, but we never reached a consensus…so i took it upon myself. i know how wound up he gets about the clock, so i stood outside and talked to the security guy in the parking lot until 8:02, when the crowd in the ticket line was starting to dwindle, and i waited until then to walk upstairs to the loft. oddly, he didn’t seem as wound up as i thought he woulda been…so all i really accomplished was to get in some totally unneeded sweating practice.

so we’re all sitting around at the after-gig on friday night, and the analogy i made was that the show had been like summer camp in a lot of ways – there was the one annoying kid that you kinda had to deal with because he was always there, always telling the same stale joke at the beginning of every show, et cetera…but this year, there were a couple of new kids who became fast friends and really made the whole experience worth it.

buzz asked me early on…”you a beer guy?” i thought he meant of the variety that walked the bleachers at baseball games and such at first, but i caught on. wendy and i went out with buzz and his lady, sue, after the first weekends’ shows, and ended up spending time together every weekend of the shows’ run. i’d say that i’ll miss that the most, but i’m pretty confident that we’ll continue to do that on some level.

jeff’s the george harrison of the group…very reserved, quiet…and most definitely not a beer guy. you kinda have to work to get him to offer anything up. but we did get his attention on friday night.

buzz had told me this story about a specific gig in ocean city, md many years ago, when they came up missing a keyboard player at four in the morning…and walked back to the gig to find jeff lying prone on the bar with a funnel in his mouth, being served up shots by the bartender. to know jeff would be to know how totally unlikely something like this could ever be…but there he was, nonetheless. apparently, he’d been there for some time, as well. buzz and their guitar player at the time carried jeff back to their room and stayed up with him all night to keep him from hendrixing (choking on his own vomit) and they carried him back and forth to the bathroom until noon the next day, when they poured him into the car to drive back to reading to play a show that night.

that’s probably enough backstory to move on….

friday night, i came in with a large box, wrapped in christmas paper…fred was supposed to be there, but he hadn’t showed, and as late as i was in arriving, i was pretty sure that he wasn’t coming. i went almost immediately into my speech…

“jeff, you were the guy who turned this band from just barely passable into an amazing little outfit, and since the run is almost over, we all wanted to present you with this token of our appreciation, in recognition of what you’ve brought to this gig. thanks, man.”

so i handed him the box, wrapped in christmas paper (it was all i had), and he opened it…

…to reveal a bottle of strawberry creme Mad Dog 20/20….and a large, red funnel.

we had a great time…stayed up until the wee, wee hours (including a food run at 1am by buzz and myself) and talked for a long time – buzzs’ friend Kork was there as well, a new guy – who fit right in with the gang and most certainly meets the criteria for my “summer camp” analogy. i’m sure our paths will cross again, too. it was 4:20am when i glanced over at the clock before drifting off to sleep.

i woke up at 9am the next morning to a phone call from keith amos, beckoning me to the shop…he woke me from a dream so vivid, that i sprang out of bed to finish what i’d been doing even after we’d talked for a couple of minutes.

i dreamt that jayda was perhaps a little over a year old…she still had those thin tufts of bright blonde hair that she had when she was small (her hair took a long time to come in), and i was sitting on the sofa holding her, and she had her thumb in her mouth (which she never did), and i asked her if she was ok, and she shook her head no, and i said, “what hurts?” and she put her hand over her nose…indicating that she was stuffy. i asked her if she wanted a drink, and she said ok…i checked her diaper and saw that she needed to be changed as well, so i said to her that we’d go get her a drink as soon as we got her a dry diaper…and that’s when the phone rang.

and as soon as i hung up with keith, i sprang out of bed to go change my daughters’ diaper.

ok, so maybe it was a combination of lack of sleep and the vividness of the dream…

…or maybe i just miss my kids right now.

yesterday, i had planned on coming to work to finish a few things up, so i told my friend angela that i’d come by to look at her computer before i came in…and one of the fringe benefits of doing so is getting to spend time with her daughter alicia (who’ll be two a week from wednesday) – she reminds me of jayda a lot – her precociousness, her wit, her energy…she sat on my lap while i was working on the computer and let me read books to her for a long time, and i was reminded of jayda bringing over her beat copy of “the fox and the hound” and asking me to “read tod and copper”….

if whomever reads these little rants and musings chooses to take anything from them, i would simply say this – if you have small children, or if you plan to have children, try to set aside as much time as you can for them while they’re small. once that time is gone, you can never, ever get it back – and no matter how much you manage to squeeze in, it’ll never, ever be enough.

for once it’s gone, you will miss it more than you can ever know until it’s too late to do anything about it.

for the better part of last week, i was weighing whether or not to accept a job playing guitar, mandolin and dobro in a gretna theatre production of a show called stand by your man – the tammy wynette story. i drove out on saturday to meet with the musical director and to time the drive – it took 55 minutes on the way there, but only 45 on the way back, so it might not interfere with other work i have – and we discussed the show a bit, and i spoke briefly with the other principle actor in the show, pat garrett for a while…we compared notes on all the folks he and i had in common, and i got a pretty good feeling from them, all in all. mount gretna is an incredible place – it’s right on a lake, and it’s surrounded by all these quaint little cabins inhabited by all walks of people.

so, i played a couple of songs with pat, and i agreed to sign on for it. nate handed me a contract, outlining the pay for the rehearsals and for the shows, and i signed it.

and i had no more than put the cap back onto the pen when the actress they had chosen to portray the lead walked in.

michelle nagy.

some of you are aware of my history with michelle – we were both managed by the same company at one time, and we actually toured together a bit…we’ve been from nashville to toronto together. after i learned to accept the fact that she’s completely and hopelessly insane, we actually became friends – but i wasn’t terribly sure how to process her at first.

so she comes dancin’ up to me and says, “i knew i’d get you to play for me one day, tommy!”

rehearsals start this saturday…i should have some interesting stories to tell from this one.

i am, obviously, a little worried about timelines and the commute – during this run, i have three viva gigs, and i’m loathe to give those up, frankly. but i think that either tonight or tomorrow night, i’m going to make the drive again during the actual time that i’d be making it to re-time it. on saturday when i went, the drive turned out to be almost exactly 55 minutes, which would be unacceptable…but the drive back was ten minutes shorter, on the same stretch of road. there was a backup due to a national guard convoy being checkpointed at the turnpike exit, and that’s hopefully not going to be an issue for the shows, but you just never know…and only three of the twelve shows would be affected by the viva gigs. one of them, however, falls between a 2pm matinee and that nights’ 8pm show.

this could be hairy. very much so. but i feel like i can pull it off, if i can ease my mind about the commute and get comfortable with that aspect of it. i’m going to call jeff at viva and nate from the show and discuss it with the two of them to make sure they’re both aware of the conflicts and see what we can do to make this acceptable and easy for everybody.

gretna appears to be quite the operation – they took my measurements for costumes, told me what i was expected to wear, that they’d be doing my laundry for me, et cetera…so apparently the band is actually gonna be onstage for this thing, part of the show. not sure specifically how i feel about that…i think i’d rather just play, but so be it. the paycheck (almost twice the amount for more shows over more time for tommy) will make up for whatever misgivings i have about being part of the show, i’m sure.

and after this one is over, i promise – no more for awhile. i have another project that i’m itchin’ to get started on, and while taking this gig on has only really postponed it by a couple of weeks, i really want to be able to focus on it and get it started so i can have it done and in the can by november or so.

once the tape is rolling and i have some credible evidence that the project is moving forward, i’ll make a formal announcement of what it’s about and why it’s happening.

patience, grasshopper.


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