Category: USA Tour 2004

These are posts imported from my USA Tour 2004 blog

June 24, 2004
Dave is only working until lunchtime today, so I stay in for the morning, and catch up on my journal and stuff.When Dave gets home we drive out to the West Hills County Park -the area is forested, with trails for walkers and horseback riders, and it reminds me of some parts of Epping Forest, near to where I grew up. We spend a couple of hours walking round, then realise we are getting hungry.Dave takes me to a kosher deli for an early dinner. I order an open sandwich of pastrami and corned beef, and my plate arrive, piled with more meat than I would have thought possible, along with fries and pickles.We walk off the meal around a more formal park, which includes the open-air Harry Chapin Theatre, where the are frequently free concerts.We then look around some shops – Borders for books and DVDs, a brilliant guitar and drum shop, and CompUSA, before going back to Dave’s place.

June 23, 2004
Dave is at work today, so I am heading down to the beach for the day. I misread a bus timetable, which means I spend 40 minutes waiting for a service that doesn’t begin until next week – I am not the only one, as there are also two girls there, who have been waiting for the bus. When we discover our mistake, the girls give up, but I decide to carry on, and take a taxi instead.The taxi drops me at the central mall of the beach, where there is a restaurant, so I grab a burger as an early lunch. I then explore the boardwalk, which is like an english pier in some ways, but extends along the seafront, rather than out to sea. Think of a Promenade made out of decking, and you’ll have the idea. The boardwalk extend for two miles, and the beach a mile or so longer – I walk its entire length, and further, until I reach a nature reserve centre. Areas of the beach I have passed are fenced off, to protect the locally endangered Piping Plover. There was supposed to be an exhibit at the centre, but it does not appear to be open, so I make my way back.It is a beautiful day, but the beach is very quiet, as the holiday season will not really start until the following week. A few visiting families and a lot of teenagers, and only two of the 6 or more beaches are officially open (i.e. have lifeguards). I walk along the main beach and have a paddle, then sit for a while, before having a final look around the little shops there and getting a taxi back.Dave is out tonight, as his son has a drum recital, so for dinner, I walk down to a chinese takeaway, that also has a couple of tables, for eating in. I have a superb sesame chicken, with rice and spring roll – the serving is huge, and too much for me to finish.I return, and soon after, Dave arrives home, and we get out the guitars again, until bedtime.

June 22, 2004
I wake up and start to get ready while Victor cooks breakfast – waffles with bacon and maple syrup, washed down with tea. Victor, Lara and myself have a relaxed breakfast, and then they help me to the station with all my luggage. The backpack I bought to take home is now in full use, so I have that, my CPAP machine and a suitcase. We arrive in plenty of time, and have time for a soda at the station, and then I say goodbye and catch my train. The journey from Boston to New York is pleasant enough, but completely uneventful. I arrive at New York Penn Station and find I only have 10 minutes to find the right platform for my Long Island commuter train, but I make it just in time, even with my luggage. I get off at Wantagh, and catch a cab to Dave Weingart’s. He is at work, but has left a key for me.I relax for a while, make a cuppa, and raid Dave’s fridge for bread and cheese, as I have missed lunch. Dave turns up from work, and suggests we eat in tonight – he cooks pasta with an alfredo sauce, and we open a bottle of wine. We then go out for a drive in his car, and visit a nearby mall, where we explore various electronic and gadget shops, as well as looking into the local sports shop, where the have a 2-storey climbing wall. Needless too say, I have no desire to try it.We head back to Dave’s and play some music and talk, over a couple of beers.

June 21, 2004
I wake up, expecting aches and pains, and am not disappointed. However, although my legs are shaky, I am pleased that my feet are sound – no blisters.Robin cooks scrambled egg for breakfast and we drive into Boston. I am going to be staying at Victor and Lara’s tonight, so we have my luggage with me.We arrive at Victor and Lara’s home in Harvard at about 11am. Victor is going to be busy today, but Lara is coming with us. We down to the visitor centre on Boston Common, and grab some maps.Today we are going to walk Boston’s freedom trail, which is a city walk, marked by red bricks set in the sidewalk. We are not going to follow the trail exactly, but do the best bits. The first step is lunch, so we head through Faneuil Hall Marketplace to Quincy Market. This is an old market building, which has been restored and converted into a large food court. The whole market is not unlike Covent Garden in some respects. We all have clam chowder, which sets me up for the day.We follow the trail past Paul Revere’s house, and up by the Old North Church and Copps Hill Burial Ground. We then walk north until we reach the water – the trail from there heads west and then north across the bridge. However that stretch of the trail is not particularly interesting, so instead we opt for a water taxi across the water.The water taxi is inexpensive, and is a refreshing break from our walk, with a pleasant breeze. As we cross the water, we can look back and see the Boston skyline, with an interesting combination of old and new buildings. Ahead, we can see the USS Constitution – “Old Ironsides”.Alas, we discover that tours of the ship are not available on Mondays, but we have a good look at it from a distance, and then head for the Constitution museum, which tells the story of the ship, and of the foundation of the US navy, dating back to times where merchant ships required protection from Barbary Corsairs.Next, I am persuaded to head up to the Bunker Hill monument – my muscles complain that it is uphill again but thankfullly, Robin and Lara don’t want to ascend the monument itself. We listen to a park ranger give a very good talk on the monument – paradoxically, the Bunker Hill monument is not on Bunker Hill. The battle it commemorates is called the battle of Bunker Hill, but actually took place on Grebe Hill, the site of the monument. Furthermore, this American monument celebrates a battle won by the British, albeit at a great cost, in lives and morale.Weretrace our steps and catch a water taxi back, and after a wander round, make our way to the T station, and head back to Harvard. As arranged, Jonathon joins us for the evening, and the five of us all head out for dinner. We decide to go for Mexican food again, which I enjoyed last night, but when we got there I also see New Orleans cuisine on the menu, so I opt for catfish cooked in a cream and shrimp sauce, served with jambolia. The food is perfect and we have a great time. We return to Victor and Lara’s. Jonathon had earlier told us about a B-movie called “Cannibal Women of the Avocado Jungle”, and Victor has it on DVD. We settle down to watch this unbelivably bad, yet funny, movie. Jonathon leaves after a while, as he has seen it, and has too work in the morning. Robin stays until the end, and then we say goodbye and she heads home. I chat for a while longer to Victor and Lara, while using their local WiFi connection to catch up a bit on email and journal uploads, then go to bed.

June 20, 2004
Before I arrived, Robin has asked me if I want to go hiking. I explain my current fitness, and that I am carrying too much weight for anything too strenuous, but that I should be able to handle a walk of about 4-5 miles. After all, I have been doing more than that each day while walking around Washington.Of course, city walking is not the same as hiking, and what we end up doing is more extreme than hiking.We drive to Franconia Notch State Park, in the White Mountains, about 100 miles north of Nashua. Franconia Notch is where the Old Man of the Mountain, a natural rock formation in the shape of a profile, could be seen. Alas, the Old Man is no longer there, due to a rockslide in recent years.We take the aerial tramway up Cannon mountain, which travels a horizontal distance of just one mile, but climbing vertically 2,022 feet to a summit 4,200 feet above sea level. We follow the path around the summit, admiring the view, and then have to decide – do we take the tram down, or do we walk back down by the Kinsman Ridge Trail?I considered telling Robin and Jonathon to walk down, and I will take the tram, and meet them at the bottom. However, the trail doesn’t look too bad, and I want to do the walk, so I choose to go ahead.Unfortunately, the trail doesn’t stay as simple as it starts – sandy paths gives way to granite rock to step over in many places – perfectly safe, but a lot more effort to walk over. I am finding it more tiring than I thought, but we just take it a bit easier. We reach a point where, at our current pace, Jonathon thinks we only have another half hour or so to go. Unlike us, he didn’t eat breakfast, and is getting hungry. He asks if we mind if he goes on ahead, to grab a sandwich while we carry on slow but steady.However, soon after he goes, my legs begin to give out. It’s not that I am tired exactly – I am not even out of breath – but I am using different muscles in going downhill and keeping my balance, and they have had enough. I can carry on, but I am less sure of my footing; and although there is absolutely no risk on this much used trail, the last thing I need is a twisted ankle – both there on the trail, and in the middle of my holiday.So we take it slowly, with me sitting down whenever my legs demand it, and taking some of the larger steps by simply sitting down and sliding. Robin is great – not only patient, but chatting and joking, and although I am struggling along, I am stll enjoying myself.Over two hours has passed since Jonathon left us, and I am beginning to wander when we will get to the end. Then there is a welcome sight – Jonathon coming back up the trail, with water and snack bars. At about the same time, Robin finds an excellent branch which can be used as a walking stick – I find it not only takes some weight off my legs, but it helps my balance, and gives me more confidence. I follow Robin and Jonathon down, and we arrive back at the Tramway centre. We get something to eat and drink, and I buy a t-shirt – not just as a souvenir, but because mine is soaked.Robin is sorry for over-estimating her own level of fitness, which meant she thought this trail would be ok for me. I am a little sorry that I have held Robin and Jonathon up – it is hours later than expected, and we have to cancel our plans for driving further north in the afternoon.However, no-one seems to mind that much, and the fact remains that I *have* walked that trail. In reflection, it was really more than I am currently capable of, but it also showed me that I am capable of walks far longer than I have been doing at home. I am very glad I decided to do it.We drive back towards Nashua, stopping for Mexican food on the way back – I am never too tired toeat. I had a combination platter with enchiladas, tacos and refried beans, followed by a fried icecream with honey.Jonathon drops us back to Robin’s, but can only stay a while – he is working tomorrow, while we are going to take on Boston.

June 19, 2004
Robin cooks a very civilised breakfast of blueberry pancakes with maple syrup. She has got a lot to do before people arrive for the housefilk at 2pm, so I pack my things away, and offer to help.Robin has only just uncovered her pool for the summer – she has removed leaves and things that had got under the cover, and set up the filter, but there is still a lot of small gunk in there, so I spend an hour or two in the sun, skimming the water. Eventually it is clean enough to use her pool hoover to get the finer silt and rubbish out.The housefilk goes well – about an equal number of new faces and familiar ones from Conterpoint and earlier conventions. I enjoy listening and singing, although I am surprised that a couple of songs, while enjoyed, are based on films no-one appears to have seen – “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “The Usual Suspects”. Admitted the latter is not science fiction, but I am surprised that people haven’t seen ” Eternal Sunshine” – I always assume that the UK gets film releases loong after the US.Nonetheless, the session is enjoyed by all, Robin’s food (and that brought by others) is delicious, and I get to experience a MASS FILC business meeting first hand (in the US, many filk groups have set themselves up as non-profit legal entities, which require a certain amount of formal business)Jonathon appears towards the end of the day. He was disappointed at the confusion yesterday, and has been sorting out car problems today, but will be going out with myself and Robin tomorrow.

June 18, 2004
Get up early, at 05:30, and am down in reception by just past 6am. My ride is booked for 06:30, and the hotel staff offer coffee first, but I prefer to get down to the station, so they take me down there. Arrive to find the train is delayed by an hour, and won’t be in until 08:30, but no matter – I am there on time, and my luggage is checked in. There are vending machines for snacks and drinks, so I settle down to wait.The train arrives, and we are loaded on. In some ways, the train is more like air travel than UK trains, even with an optional baggage check, which I use for my case. A guard/steward supervises the boarding, insisting on taking families and couples first, so they can be seated together, and ensuring that seats are filled up in a logical way. He later tells us that it is Amtrak policy, particularly in the case of mothers with children, and although single travellers may gripe, and try and jump to the front of the queue, it is one that is enforced, even if it means moving people to accomodate families boarding later. Today, it is fairly orderly, and I am lucky enough top get a window seat by and emergency exit, which gives me legroom. I am joined by someone even taller than myself, who also appreciates the space.The train finally moves off at aboout 08:40, and I am on my way. According to my GPS, we are doing about 80mph between stations, and 20-40mph on approaches to stops.At Syracuse, they announce a smoke stop, a stop of about 10 minutes at the station, for people to have a cigarette on the platform, or just stretch their legs. The train itself is no-smoking – there is a rush for the door, some folk getting ready to light up while still wallking down the aisle.The journey continues, without anything of particular note. I call ahead to Robin’s friend, Victor, to let people know the train left an hour late and appears due to arrive late as well. Unfortunately, what I dont realise (and the guard doesn’t tell us) is the train continues to be delayed, and is eventually two hours late on arrival. On arrival I am met by Robin and Victor. Robin’s boyfriend, Jonathon, was also expected, but is missing – we later discover that he didn’t get the message about the original delay, and was there at the station two hours earlier. We walk back with my bags to Victor’s apartment, where I meet his SO, Lara, and the four of us go to dinner at a place that does barbecue. It is a bit loud for talking (there is a quieter basement, but it is closed today), but the food is great.After dinner, we go back to Victor and Lara’s for a while, then Robin and I hit the road for Nasua, which is about 40 minutes drive to the north. We arrive at Robin’s house, and, as Robin want to prepare some food for the following day, chat while she works. In fact, we end up chatting until 3am.

June 17, 2004
My last day in Canada, and we start off lazily, as we have been active for the last two days. The weather has changed, and it is raining.After a late brunch, we head off to the Woodland Cultural Centre, in Brantford. Judith has quite a lot of contact with the Native community, in her work, so has developed and interest, and quite a bit of knowledge. The Woodland Cultural Centre has a museum which tells a brief history of the Six Nations, the largest indigenous community in Canada, and there is also an exhibition of Native art.Next, we move onto the village of Ohsweken, which is in the Six Nations Reserve – the weather cheers up for a little while, so we stop brieflly to look around. I do some shopping at the Sunrise Trading Post, a treasure house of handmade items, such as dreamcatchers and art items. We chat with the proprietor, who is fixing a wooden flute as we enter, and on finding we are musicians, plays for us. Some more shopping at a more conventional tourist store, Country Image, and it is time to head back to Hamilton.Judith has to work in the evening, so we have an early dinner, of salad with ordered-in pizza. After, I say gooodbye to Judith, and the Dave drives me down to Buffalo. It is raining again, but the journey is easy enough, and Dave gets me to my hotel by about 19:30. He sees me to my room, and the we make our goodbyes.The hotel has WiFi, but it is flakey, although I do get some emails out. Unfortuately, while trying to fiddle with it, my Palm hangs, requiring a hard reset. This rarely happens, but is an occassional hazard with Palms. The hard reset wipes the Palm’s memory, and although I have backup of important data, I have lost my notes of the last week, which I have still to upload. However, I have a 12 hour train ride ahead of me, so will have time to rewrite my journal for those days. I intend to have an early night, but the HBO channel is running the film “Bruce Almighty”, which I haven’t seen before. So I get some pop and snacks in (a hotel room with a microwave and vending machine popcorn!), and settle down for the movie, finally going to sleep just before 11pm.

June 16, 2004
We drive south to Niagara Falls for a spectacular day. Dave drives us through the tacky tourist area, which has to be seen to be believed. However the area around the river and falls is beautiful parkland, and protected.The day is hot, so we don’t mind the spray one bit, as we walk around. After walking alongside the falls for a while, we take the “Maid of the Mist” boat, which heads upriver towards the falls, and holds its position against the current for a long time, before swinging around and heading back. It is incredible, and is a truly exciting experience.As we take the elevator back up from the boat jetty, the guide tells us that someone has just complained that the trip was too wet. We all laugh, and I suggest the run a special trip once a week with the falls “turned down a bit”. Apparently this is not as silly as it sounds. At night and in the winter, an appreciable amount of water is diverted from the falls to drive the two power stations there.Later we take the tunnel behind the falls, which allows you to stand first behind the falls and also to be right beside the water crashing down. It is loud and very wet! Next we take the Whirlpool Aero car – a small cablecar that runs across and back over the Niagara whirlpool, which gives great views along the river.

June 15, 2004
We drive up to Toronto, and visit the CN tower, the tallest building in the world. The views are extraordinary, as is the speed of the elevator. We spend quite a bit of time just looking at the view, particularly at the stadium next door, which is slowly opening its roof. We have a drink in the tower restaurant, but go elsewhere for lunch.A visit to what claims to be the world’s biggest bookshop is interesting, although I think Foyles of London may be bigger. I’m trying not to buy too many books and things, to keep the weight of my luggage down, but I enjoy looking at the books, and noting titles for a future Amazon order. We meet up with Debbie Ohi, and drive on to Thornford, where Sally Headford is hosting a housefilk. I discover I have left all my lyric sheets behind in Hamilton, but I also have them on my Palm, so it is no great problem.We have a great time, the head back to Hamilton, dropping Debbie off at a station on the way.

June 14, 2004
I meet Dave and Judith at breakfast, before we all get ready for the long drive to Hamilton, Ontario. We hit the road, but before we leave the area, Judith wants to visit Silver Springs, to see the Penguin mural.The mural, which is of a busy Metro station, where all the “people” are penguins, was painted years ago, as a temporary measure while work was done to the station. However, whe it became time to replace the temporary hoarding, there was a public outcry, and there is now a campaign and fund to renovate it.Having seen the mural, Judith wants to find the shop she has been told of, that sells t-shirts and mugs to raise money for the fund. We eventually find it, but it delays our journey a little.The drive itself is largely uneventful, but with enjoyable conversation. There is amusement at the border when the guard is told there is an Englishman in the car. “Where is he from?” we are asked, to which Dave replied I had flown in from London. “London, Ontario?” asks the guard, puzzled. As Dave replies “No, London, England” I reflect that things wouldn’t have been any less confusinng if we had said I was from Peterborough – Ontario has one of those too.

June 13, 2004
The long-dreaded second half of my workshop. Today we have to find a tune for our new lyric, which is looking good. Gary McGath cannot make the session, but has given me some ideas for the chorus.The session takes a while to get going, as we fix some lyric problems and typos. We are working on a fairly standard folky tune, when someone (whose name I am currently blanking on, but I will credit here when I get my notes out of my suitcase) asks if she can try something. She sings the lyric to a wonderful blues melody, that we quickly agree to adopt. This gives us time to actually arrange and rehearse the song for a later performance.The original plan was to perform the song at the closing ceremony, but some people need to get on the road, so we make a quick lyric change to enable us to enter it into the “Bugs” song contest. The song goes down well, but (to my relief) does not win the contest.There then follows the one-shots, and the closing ceremony, where I am asked to lead “Sam’s Song”.After a couple of hours, while the committee do committee things, they take Jordan and myself to dinner at Roy’s, a sandwich place, although sandwich does not do justice to what they serve there.When we get back, I find a filk going on in the con suite, including Dave, Judith and Erica.