The White Page
  A Road Diary


Subject: White Page Bulletin

Date: Wed, 1 July 1999

From: Alan

It's amazing the things one discovers out here on Life's great highway. Had we not, for instance, stopped at this particular hotel in Indianapolis and had I not had time to kill (or at least maim horribly), I would not now know how to survive a hotel fire - in five different languages. I mean, who publishes these things?.........are these professional hacks who have fallen on hard times, or former pulitzer prizewinners who enjoy knocking out the odd macabre pamphlet and then travel round the country checking to see how many hotels have their gripping little piece of lifesaving literature waiting for the next potential "victim" to check in, and, having nothing else to read, pick up before retiring to bed, only to be then plagued with nightmares involving wet towels, alarm bells, forgetting how many exits, being unable to get the words (and I quote here) "Fire, Fire" out of their soundless mouths.......... The mind boggles.

Looking back on the first quarter of the summer tour, we seem to be blessed with good fortune, great gigs - one, in particular, at the Hampton Jazz Festival last Saturday was a bit of a triumph all round and we were able to meet a lot of the audience next day and bask in their acclaim and general bonhomie - and a fairly seamless transition from Catfish, on drums, who is moving to Los Angeles with his wife and young family, to young Adam Deitch from Boston's Berklee music school, who is stirring up audiences already with his fiery groove, and his appealing personality. This has never been an easy gig for any but the best of drummers, but Adam stepped into the first one without any rehearsal and had almost all of it down solid. To say he was nervous on that first gig would be an understatement. He flopped down on the dressing room couch for about four minutes of congratulatory babble from the rest of us, then got up to grab a soda from the ice bucket, leaving behind him - and we have a photo to prove it - a complete "shadow" of himself in sweat! He still sweats, all right, but no longer from the nervous energy of that very first night - it's a kinder, gentler sweat, generated by funk, not fear. Otherwise, things seem to be fairly quiet out here in the Midwest and that's just fine by us. Nobody needs the thrill-a-minute stuff while touring, save for the actual performances themselves, as it's always hazardous enough
travelling around with lots of night driving and the nutcase factor that seems to pervade so many road users the minute they assume control (I use the term loosely) of an automobile.

I think the word "point" would be more apt than "drive" in describing the haphazard and downright negligent use of vehicular transport that we see daily - you know, the left arm hanging out the window, the other arm straight in front with the wrist dangling over the top of the steering wheel, barely making any kind of contact whatsoever with that particular organ of captaincy - one good bump, and they're all over the place, usually right in front of our coach which is basically a four-ton projectile hurtling along behind them (they don't know - the mirror's just for checking the 'do') with a stopping range of about half a mile. Kind of like an ocean liner trying to heave-to for an errant rowing boat. Anyway, we keep our fingers crossed for Divine protection through the rest of our travels. Think of it as a kind of quid pro quo spiritual insurance policy ("Almighty Insurance Inc"?) where the premium is a whole lotta' good vibes and musical input, and in return we get a maximum-coverage heavenly policy to speed us safe on our way. It all helps ease the mind when you crawl into your bunk of a night.

We are now set to undertake the most arduous section of the tour, and possibly the most rewarding, too, with first Milwaukee's Summerfest, then New Orleans' Essence Festival, and thirdly Memphis's Fourth of July celebrations coming up one after another. We will also cover two thousand miles in the completion of those events, and all in the next four days! Yikes.......maybe I should have stuck in at school and become an accountant. Nah, it'd never work, would it.......I mean,
who in the world needs a singing accountant, regaling his clients with chanted variations of their tax return, or an arithmetical aria for an expense account topped off with, for an encore, a soulful spreadsheet........ Let's not go there.

Sorry, I digress. That's what the endless flatlands of Indiana will do to you - where there is nothing, the mind must fill in the blanks, and so mine tends to wander to the horizons of the ridiculous - and there is plenty of fodder for that, let me assure you. Just last night the hotel concierge was telling me about a decommisioned army base which had been turned into a large new golf course. He went on to say that it was "real interesting place, where you get to play around all kinds of things........" At that point my mind went a-wandering to this vision of attempting to thread a skilful nine iron onto the green, avoiding the tank-trap which has snagged so many of today's competitors, and I could just hear Peter Allis' voice saying, "Oh, dear he won't be happy with that one; the last chap who went into that bunker came up with six months' rations of tinned food and a glowing sandwedge......"

Lastly, a bulletin: Fred's doing quite well after his thermal brush with disaster, and has been taken off the critical list and is now in stable condition. You see, in the quest of a solution for the eternal dilemma of keeping stage clothes in presentable condition, Fred (our resident Einstein) decided that a portable steamer would be the answer, and so had a friend of ours in DC take him to a nearby mall. As a result the events unfolded thus: Fred buys steamer, Fred LOVES steamer, and talks about steamer daily..........Fred wonders, just as
he's about to go onstage, if, in the interest of speed and elegance, Fred could use steamer while pants are on. As I say, his knee is doing fine, now.

Trouble is, this same friend wants to take ME golfing, next time.

Maybe that army base.........................................?