Saturday, March 03, 2018

Roadie Report 78 by Camilla McGuinn- "A Hurricane, A Flood, A Friend, A Fire and A Victory!...Part 2


We finished the three remaining Southern California dates with a different sense of purpose. Roger will always sing Tom Petty songs and tell the stories of meeting and touring with Tom. He hopes people will laugh, smile and quietly remember a truly gifted artist we were all blessed with for far too short a time.
The audiences at the Shannon Center at Whittier College, the Smother’s Theater at Pepperdine University and the Poway Center in Poway were very responsive to the Tom Petty’s songs and stories. Then it was time to head north to the Carriage House Theater at Montalvo Arts Center.
We arrived in Los Gatos the same time the smoke from the Napa fires reached the quaint town. Everyone was in a state of disbelief. Watching the fires on TV, we saw the entrance to the Napa neighborhood where we had once stayed at a friend’s house. The houses were gone. A frantic call to Adriene brought some relief. She had sold the house a few months before and was living in San Francisco. She was so sad for the present owners.
Then we emailed Chris and Connie Hillman to see how their son Nick was faring. He worked at a Napa vineyard. He told Connie that the harvest was finished before the fires began, so all was not lost.
One more frantic email needed to be sent. This email was   to our friend Linda whose sister lives in Napa. She told us that her sister and husband got out of their house in time with just the clothes on their backs.
 A few months later, the Hillmans managed to get out of their house in Ventura before The Thomas fire burned through their kitchen. Their house was the only one left standing on their street.
We’re praying a lot of prayers of thankfulness for the lives which were not lost and for “Beauty for Ashes” for those who have to rebuild and refurbish their memories.
Disasters seemed to be following us but it was only the rain and smoke that affected us… to this point. But I won’t leave you hanging now, I’ll give you a clue. The next strange thing brought us smiles. Remember the title ends in a “Victory”. That’s at the end of this story.
        Three days after Montvalo, Roger was performing at the Taylor-Meade Performing Arts Center in Forest Grove, Oregon.




The day after, we were invited for the Harvest Lunch at the Cristom Vineyard near Salem in the Willamette Valley wine region. I even got to be part of the grape harvest process – I pulled a leaf out of the grape bin. Roger even caught the moment on video.  I was so thrilled.


The owner was busy filling the oak barrels with wine while we had lunch with the winemaker, Steve and his family, the CEO, our old friend Steve Thomson and his wife Karen and the grape harvesters. I had a dream of joining in a grape harvest in France but to experience that day in Oregon was even better. I love that the Cristom grapes are allowed to ferment naturally without any designer yeast. I found out a few years ago that I am very allergic to designer yeast that many vineyards use to make sure they have a barrel that tastes the same every time.

A few unscheduled days before the next Kirkland, Washington concert, sent me on a quest to find a special place to relax. Just a few miles from the Cristom Vineyard was the Allison Inn and Spa in Newberg. Strolling and relaxing in the beautiful room and gardens of the Allison Inn added length to our lives. A relaxed attitude lengthens a man’s life. I read that in the Good Book.

The Kirkland Performing Arts Center sold out quickly to an enthusiastic audience. Heading south to San Francisco to celebrate my birthday after all the good shows made the drive even more enjoyable.

San Francisco has always been a favorite city of ours and I couldn’t think of a better place to spend my birthday. The Ritz Carlton even had a special, 4 nights for the price of three. Now that was a great gift.

I told Roger that there were places we haven’t explored in the city and since it was my birthday, we put on our walking shoes. The first adventure was Alcatraz. I tweeted that I was taking Roger to prison. We walked from the hotel to the harbor through crowded China town and caught the ferry to the island. There was a very steep pathway up to the prison and I wasn’t sure our knees would take it, but Roger insisted we persevere. The self guided audio tour took about an hour and it was a very good history lesson.

        Back in San Francisco we began the walk back up the steep hills to our hotel when I gave up and called Uber. I was exhausted and couldn’t wait to get back into the cool of the hotel lounge.




  Coit Tower was the next place I insisted we visit. Yep, we walked the two miles up the steep San Francisco hills to the tower. Fortunately when we finally made it to the entrance, there was an elevator to take us to the top.



At the top of the tower, Roger asked teasingly, “Now Camilla, are there any other walks you want to go on for your birthday?

I quickly laughed, “Yes, I want to walk back to the hotel.” I did try to order an Uber, but Roger was having fun encouraging me to fulfill all my birthday fantasies.

        The last hill was looming in front of us, when I saw the loading dock for the hotel halfway up the hill. A man was taking a break at the entrance and I approached him, “Is there an elevator that can take us to our room?” He smiled, “Follow me.” As he was taking us to the service elevator, he gave us a tour of the backstage area of the Ritz Carlton. We met the security officer, passed the Human Resources office and walked through a maze of halls. We got on the elevator and it stopped at the next floor. The concierge we had been talking to earlier got on. She was shocked when she recognized us. “What are you doing here?” “Oh, I was just applying for a job at the Human Resource office.” When we got to the lounge she told me to sit and she would bring me some cold ice tea. I think I probably looked like I had just climbed every hill in San Francisco. Wow, my husband is 9 years older and he looked great! He had champagne.

There was one more California date on the Central California coast where we used to live, The Clark Center for The Performing Arts in Arroyo Grande. The audience was filled with dear friends.

        California Highway 58 was the road we chose to head east to Texas. The route took us on the back roads of California. It was a beautiful, stress free drive. We had five days to get to Houston for the concert we had re-scheduled. SO… it was still my birthday tour and there was one place I have always wanted to visit – Roswell, New Mexico, the home of the International UFO Museum. I took Roger to prison; I might as well take him to meet Mr. Spaceman. 

      Roswell was a lot larger than I had imagined. It is the fifth-largest city in New Mexico, population 49,000- about the size of a Los Angeles suburb. A Hampton Inn and Red Lobster made it a perfect stopping place. 
 The UFO museum was funny and enjoyable to walk around but the real museum in Roswell is the Roswell Museum and Art Center because it has the workshop of the father of rocket travel, Robert Goddard. This museum is the real reason to go to Roswell. When the German scientists were being interrogated after World War II, one scientist asked the interrogators “Why are you asking me? Why didn’t you listen to Goddard? That’s where we learned everything about rockets.” Roger has always been scientifically minded but I jumped over that subject in school. This museum made me want to know more. We learned so much.


Now it was time to head to the victory I talked about earlier. The Houston Astros had made it to the World Series. The Los Angeles Dodgers were standing in the way of their victory. I used to go to Dodger games, so I was a bit torn as to whom to root for, but Houston needed something to celebrate after the floods. We were jumping on the beds after Houston won.
We got to the outskirts of Houston the day before Roger’s concert. I talked to a lady in the hotel who had been living there since the floods had destroyed her house. She wasn’t sad, she was exuberant! Her team had won the World Series and she was going to the victory parade! What we didn’t realize was that there was going to be a victory parade in downtown Houston on the day of Roger’s concert in downtown Houston.

I checked the schedule of the parade and tried to time our drive to the downtown venue to avoid the crowds. I got that right, but after unloading our equipment, the parade stopped and one million people were walking the streets. The roads to our hotel were blocked off. After circling the streets, Roger got out of the van and explained to the police officer, who was directing the flood of traffic, that our hotel was right behind her, but the way was blocked. She opened the path. At last we were at the hotel and needed to eat before the sound check. Well thousands of folks wanted to celebrate and eat. This was another problem, but I found a way to get us food and as we ate in our room, we felt like celebrating too. We were a part of celebrating Houston’s victory!

                                  Hey Mr. Spaceman!




                                                       
HOUSTON WE  HAVE.......
VICTORY!














































Sunday, January 14, 2018

Roadie Report 77 by Camilla McGuinn- "A Hurricane, A Flood, A Friend, A Fire and A Victory!... Part 1

    
     Hurricane Irma was moving up the coast of Florida after leaving destruction in the Caribbean. The time was approaching for us to hit the road for a two month concert tour and it looked like we were about to join hurricane evacuation traffic again. We had experienced hurricane evacuation traffic before because when concerts are booked we can't take the chance of all the lovely trees in our neighborhood blocking our exit for days. The idea of taking nine hours to get to the Georgia state line in bumper to bumper traffic held no peace with us. We waited to leave until the day before the wind was predicted  to touch our homestead. That decision is frowned upon by folks in the know but I noticed that all the coverage of destruction from the recent storms had the highways jammed for days.

     On September 9th, we loaded our equipment in the van and began driving around 10:am. As we drove onto the Florida Turnpike there wasn't a car or truck to be seen. It was the fastest drive to  Georgia ever. Several days before, I had reserved a hotel room in Valdosta, Georgia. When I was checking in, the desk attendant would answer the constantly ringing telephone with, " We have no vacancies. Valdosta is booked for the night."  The elevator to our room was filled with people. I asked one man where he was from.
"Orlando."
"When did you get here?"
"Yesterday. It took nine hours."
I said a silent prayer of gratitude.

     The next morning, we took the back roads to Montgomery, Alabama. The local radio was reporting school closures. The storm was right behind us.

     We made it to Paducah Tuesday afternoon listening to the weather warnings all the way north. We haven't stayed in Paducah for years because we weren't very impressed the first time we stopped there. The Tennessee and Ohio rivers have a tendency to flood at that junction. The city erected a very high wall to keep the flood waters off the streets and out of the houses.

That seemed to take away some of the beauty but during this stop we saw a town that was revitalized, quaint and a delight to walk around. There was a new hotel downtown and lots of restaurants and antique stores. Our early dinner at Shandies was prepared especially for us by the chef who stopped by our table and asked us if there was anything we wanted. I wanted to combine a few menu items and take away a few others.

The chef knew exactly what to do. Wow...Paducah had changed a lot in the ten years we had been passing by.

    We were taking our time getting to Minneapolis because Hurricane Irma made us leave earlier than necessary. We arrived very relaxed, though a bit concerned about our home. Our neighbors were in touch. Even though the power was out for three days, Mia our 13 year old neighbor next door, figured out that they could talk to us on the battery powered  "Ring Doorbell." The only problem, they rang the bell just when we were at a pit stop. I checked my phone video and saw two young girls saying, "Hello, hello." It turned out the other young girl was Mia's mother. I think that says I'm getting older... well we were celebrating my 66th birthday on this tour.

  
   The Pantages Theater in Minneapolis is beautiful. Just the type of theater in which Roger loves to perform his one man play. The next concert was at the beautiful Stefanie H. Weill Center for the Performing Arts in Sheboygan WI. This theater is run by two staff members and a whole town of wonderful volunteers. I loved hearing about their special events.

     We stayed at the historical, "The American Club." This hotel was built by Walter J. Kohler in 1918 to house the immigrant laborers who came to work at the Kohler Co. The garden was being prepared for a wedding when we arrived. There is a museum next door but we didn't have time to explore it. I'm definitely going to make time when we get another chance. A museum of Kohler kitchen and powder rooms...of okay...bathrooms. Thrones everywhere!
I love kitchens, cooking and the thought of remodeling our bathroom.

     I was real excited about our next special stop. We were staying in Natchitoches and they finally got a hotel downtown. As the GPS was navigating us to our hotel address, Roger commented that he thought Natchitoches was in Louisiana not Texas. My mouth dropped open. It is in Louisiana! Where did I book our hotel?

     The Fredonia Hotel is in Nacogdoches, TX. Well with the names spelling so close, anyone could make a mistake like that! We arrived early enough to explore the town. As we were cooling off  from the hot weather, the locals helped clear up the mystery.

     Natchitoches and Nacogdoches were indigenous American twin brothers. Their father pointed one east and the other west so they wouldn't fight with each other. Two towns were born. That's their story and they're sticking to it.

     The Houston Theater was scheduled for September 21st but the promoter agreed with me that a flooded town probably wasn't in the mood for a concert, so we rescheduled it for November 3rd. It would be on our way home from the two month west coast tour. There is more to tell about that night in part two of this blog.

     Austin wasn't affected by the hurricanes, so we headed to the Lady Bird Lake (formerly called Town Lake) hotel where we could see folks gather in the evenings to watch the bats.
One night of bat watching ... then it was time for the Paramount Theater concert.

     There is a lovely drive from Austin to Fredericksburg Texas where we always love to stop at the Hampton Inn & Suites so we can walk to the Navajo Grill for dinner. I've written about this before.

     Driving through Texas is fun! It is the wild west and the speed limits go up to 85 miles an hour. Our Ford Transit conversion van handles the curves and speeds like a sports car.

     We had a week before the next concert in Aliso Viejo, CA and since this was my birthday tour, I booked a hotel I have always wanted to stay in, The Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel.
We had two days to enjoy the views and our new friends Terry and Kevin. We met them over hor d'oeuvres and became fast friends. They are even from a town I went to school in, Cary, North Carolina. We had fun reminiscing about Ashworth's Drug store's hotdogs.

     We migrated to Aliso Viejo on the day of the concert and were delighted with the enclave where our hotel was located. So much so, we decided to spend another night there. Then we did something we seldom do ... we went to a movie theater. Usually we avoid them because it was invariable that someone behind us would be coughing and a cold for a singer can be devastating. We saw "American Assassin". Very unrealistic but a touch of the James Bond flavor, so a sequel must be coming.

     The Ruth B. Shannon Center for the Performing Arts at Whittier College was our next concert venue. We checked into the hotel the day before the concert. As I was checking my email, I gasped. A friend was sending condolences about Tom Petty.

      We didn't know what had happened, so we immediately began reaching out to people who might know.

     It took awhile. The initial reports were wrong. Tom had not died but he did a while later. We couldn't believe it. My email was inundated with interview request wanting comments about Tom, but that was the last thing Roger wanted to do. He wanted to reflect on the life of his friend quietly.

     Roger did want to talk to Chris Hillman. Chris had just finished recording with Tom and was on the road. When we connected with him, he was devastated and wanted to cancel his tour. Roger told him that Tom would not have wanted him to cancel his tour but to go on stage as a tribute to Tom.

     I reflected on sitting backstage at a table with Tom during the Songwriters Hall of Fame ceremony. Tom had invited Roger to induct him into the Hall of Fame and sing "American Girl" for the ceremony. Tom and I talked about some of the silly fads going around but when he talked about his granddaughter, Everly, his eyes lit up. I was so sad to think that Everly would never get to fully experience the depth of his love for her. I was also sad thinking about Dana, Adria, Kim and all the people who were very important parts of the vast Petty machine. There is a great empty hole in the universe now and in our hearts.

     Roger has often had a segment in his concerts with a Tom Petty set. It includes stories and songs of their first meetings and touring together. From now on those songs and stories will always be in Roger's concerts. He will always celebrate the life and music of his dear friend.


To be continued.....