THE DESERT Photos by Camilla McGuinn
A few days ago I finally opened my computer with the conviction to give an explanation for the absence of a Blog for the past few months. Writing the little note was enough to get me back to the keyboard.
The Fall of 2008 was a wonderful time of touring for us. We traveled to the northeast during the peak of the Fall season. It was during one of the tours that I broke my foot.
The story begins in May at the gathering of the Astronaut's Hall of Fame. Astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman’s wife, Barbara, described the exciting experience they'd had on the Queen Elizabeth II ocean liner. Jeff had been invited to give a lecture and she joined him for the romantic trip. When I heard the stories, bells went off in my head.
Roger and I had been talking about doing a European tour the old fashion way. The bygone days of traveling to and from Europe only on ocean liners seemed like pages out of a romantic novel. To accomplish the dream, without breaking the bank, we were going to need a little creative planning. When Barbara told me about their trip, I immediately asked for the name of the agent who booked the lecture.
Within the month, I was emailing Tim in New York City with the best pitch line I could muster of why a cruise liner would want to book Roger McGuinn to give a lecture. Roger has been lecturing for several years at various colleges on the day before a concert. Sharing stories about his experience in the music world sounded more relaxing than giving a concert on the cruise ship because cruise lines require two concerts a night. Roger decided years ago that performing two shows on the same night was not fair to the audience. It is not wise to use 100% of his energy for one concert when another is schedule a few hours later.
Tim thought our idea might work. I had already researched the schedules of all the cruise lines which had Atlantic Ocean crossings and gave him the dates that I thought would work for us. A few weeks later, Tim called. The Crystal Serenity was leaving Miami on May 23, sailing for Portugal. Roger was invited to give two unique lectures, on two different afternoons during the 10 day cruise.
A few minutes later, I was on the telephone talking to Nick Peel, Roger's international agent, asking him to book concerts in Europe and the United Kingdom for June and July of 2009. The first part of our romantic novel was becoming a reality. All we have to do now is find a way back from Europe.
The news of the Crystal Cruise sent me soaring. We wanted to meet Tim. He lived in New York City which was perfect because Roger had a concert scheduled at the Abrons Art Center in the City on Sept. 26th.
We arrived at the Weehawken, NJ, Sheraton-On-the-Hudson on Wednesday. A luncheon meeting was arranged with Tim. In order not to be late, we planned to take the Ferry to the city about an hour before our appointment.
We galloped down ten flights of stairs - any excuse for exercise on the road. When we stepped out of the hotel, the Ferry was docking. I began to run for it. Roger called, "Camilla, don't run!" I tripped on the curb and went sprawling on the road. Roger was horrified. I quickly jumped up hoping to get the look of horror off his face. I assured him I wasn’t injured, gathered my scattered belongings and limped to the entrance of the Ferry boat. As I sat down, I felt a sharp twinge coming from my right foot. The Ferry terminal on the New York side of the Hudson River has a concession stand and I was hopeful I could get some ice there to soothe my foot’s pain as soon as the 10 minute ride was over.
The kind man selling coffee and sweets was very sympathetic while he filled a plastic bag full of ice, he wouldn't even take a tip. Since we were early, we stayed 15 minutes in the terminal with my iced foot propped up on the plastic chairs. While I was making faces at my foot, Roger pointed at a Ferry boat docking and quietly commented, "Camilla, see that Ferry. It's the one we would have been on, if we had missed the one you were running to catch." My head was shaking from left to right as I sheepishly promised to slow down and not move so fast.
My foot still ached as we boarded the Ferry Bus to our midtown destination. I prayed for heavy traffic because I needed to keep the ice on my foot a bit longer. My prayer was answered. The United Nations was in session and New York City traffic comes to a halt when the world's leaders converge to disagree.
Tim arrived at the Japanese restaurant minutes after we did. During our telephone conversations, I imagined him looking like the actor Hugh Grant because his accent suggested English origins, but I’m seldom right in visualizing people correctly just by the tone of their voice. I decided Tim was probably short and portly. Roger assured me he wasn't. If we were a betting couple, I would have lost. The refined English accent belonged to a tall good-looking man.
Our reservation was for a table on the second floor. While carrying a bag of ice, limping up the stairs, I began explaining why I was leaving water dripping behind me like Hansel and Gretel’s bread crumbs. Sitting down, I quickly ordered a beer because I had taken an aspirin for the foot swelling and my stomach doesn't like aspirin. Tim aristocratically replied, "Ah yes, beer and aspirin." I wasn't sure we were making a good impression.
I bit my bottom lip, slowly took a breath and thought about all the gracious charm my dear southern parents had tried to instill in me. I wanted Tim to be confident we were worthy to handle the Crystal ambassadorship. Our conversation followed the normal paths of common ground and then we ordered lunch.
Tim told us he didn't really like hot wasabi. His comment opened the door for me to tell him how much we love spicy food. In fact, our love of spice is so well known to our friends, that Mary Ann had recently given us each a small stainless steel vial filled with dried chipotle peppers. We attached the vials to our key chains and used the peppers at every meal. The packaging was clever enough to deserve a show and tell moment. I unzipped the side pocket of my travel bag with a quick hand and reached for my keys. In the midst of my falling, the vial had opened. All of a sudden, the pepper powder exploded into the atmosphere, right into my nose and eyes. The sneezes wouldn't stop while my eyes watered profusely. The noise in the whole restaurant ceased as every eye turned in my direction. I looked at Tim and imagined he was thinking,“ I have booked this woman to accompany her husband on one of the most exclusive cruise lines in world!" Time seemed to stop while I pictured myself in a scene from the "I Love Lucy" television show, except I didn't have red hair. I was now sure we were not making a good impression. Fortunately, Tim exhibited a good sense of humor.
By the time we arrived back at the hotel, I felt a need to prop my foot up with some more ice. Roger had a video interview for an American Masters’ special about Joan Baez the next morning. A quiet evening in the hotel with a few snacks from room service sounded like a perfect prescription for my aching foot. The view of the Empire State Building twinkling in the moonlight from the pillows on the bed, made me feel like we had the best table in town.
Photo by Camilla McGuinn
Around 3:am, I awoke with a sharp pain emanating from the top of my foot. I painfully realized my foot was broken. I knew it wouldn’t do any good to wake Roger at that early hour. During our recent experience with previous broken bones we learned that waiting a few hours would not make a big difference in the healing time. I crawled to the other room of the suite and quietly waited for sunrise, while vowing in the future to walk, not run.
In the morning, Roger went to the interview while I telephoned doctors. Michael, the concierge of the hotel, sent up a wheel chair and arranged for transportation to the doctor’s office. The doctor was a young man who made the immature mistake of saying, "... a woman your age." I still smack the air when I repeat those words spoken by that young whippersnapper. When did doctors become so young?
The concert at the Abrons Art Center was wonderful. Roger hadn't performed in the Village, since the Bottom Line closed. Friends had heard of my fall and were volunteering to be the roadie, but I managed on crutches. The next concert at The Egg in Albany, I was in a transport chair. The crutches aggravated a hand problem. I spent the rest of the Fall, being pushed around.
On our way to Albany, we stopped in Coxsackie, NY to say hi to the folks at Sundazed Records, to record "The Return of the Chestnut Mare" at the Easter Island studio and to pick up the transport chair I had ordered.(Photo by Camilla) I sat in the control room of the studio listening to Roger add tracks to the sounds we had previously recorded with Marty Stuart in Nashville. When the inevitable "down time" happened, I snapped pictures of instruments placed in a corner with just the natural light of the studio. Those photos still intrigue me.
The Fall touring continued because unless Roger is physically unable, the show must go on. We were enthralled with the beautiful scenery everywhere we went. Arkansas was our biggest surprise. Its rolling hills were covered with the vibrant Fall colors. We had experienced the magnificent colors of New England, the mountains of Virginia, the Carolinas and Tennessee, and now we knew of the quiet beauty of Arkansas in the Fall.
There was enough time before the Golden, Colorado concert, to stop at the Summit Road Studios in Parker and record a few Christmas songs for "The Chestnut Christmas" CD we are working on.
Golden is a charming town and the drive from there to Ogden, Utah was majestic with only a few snow flurries. Roger did most of the driving, since my right foot was in a corrective "boot."
From Ogden, we drove to Fort Worth, Texas for two concerts. The music store, next to our hotel was decorated for Christmas. It was the perfect time to buy presents for Roger’s family. Roger saw a mandolin he wouldn't put down. That instrument became his Christmas present and he hasn't put it down since.
We drove from the desert to the sea for a concert in Malibu, California at Pepperdine University.
Roger’s shows are filled with stories about the songs he sings and the history he has lived. His encore includes stories too. This is the short story he ended his concert with that night. It is about looking for songs for his "Thunderbyrd" album which was released in 1977 and the friendship that began because of that search.
“‘My manager played me a song that caught my attention. I laughingly asked, 'When did I record that?'
He said, 'It's not you.'
'I know. But who is it?'
'It's this new kid called Tom Petty.' "
The moment Roger said Tom's name, Tom sauntered on stage to join Roger for the performance of "American Girl" and "King of The Hill." Silence hung in the air for a second, the audience was spell bound. When they realized it really was Tom Petty, a loud roar of excitement erupted from the audience.
We could barely get to sleep that night, but we had one more show in San Diego before we put the pedal to metal for the 2442 mile drive home.
John Sebastian and Roger we're co-billing at the Poway Center and as usual, John joined Roger playing some beautiful blues harmonica on some classic songs, including "Knocking On Heaven's Door."
The last date of 2008 was in Stuart, Fl at the lovely Lyric Theater. Carl Hiaasen, the author of "Sick Puppy" and the instigator for Roger joining the "Rock Bottom Remainders" celebrated the last show of the year with us. In Carl’s book, there is an actual “sick puppy” who is re-named “McGuinn” after Roger McGuinn, a great 12-string player, according to Carl. Roger’s album, “Back From Rio” is played on a car tape deck during one scene in the story. Ironically, it was also the album on which Tom Petty had joined Roger as a guest artist.
It would be easy to end this BLOG with all those year-end platitudes, but we're not into endings...besides we have to get ready for a trip to London on January 19th for a concert with some friends that is going to be taped for the BBC.
THE SEA Photos by Camilla McGuinn