The weather outside is frightful

I woke up to rain falling on top of snow, turning back to snow, turning into hail and then to rain. An icy hazy crust stuck to everything but the freezing watery slushy disaster of the streets didn’t seem to hamper traffic or pedestrians. And so it continued all day.

The perfect day to be inside with a coffee and a good book.

But instead I wandered all over the city running errands, seeing people and fighting the elements. But late afternoon after I’d gone the wrong direction twice on Houston looking for the train station (how is this possible? You’d have to be me to find out…) and had my umbrella turned inside out three times, dousing me with hail each time, I gave up on NYC and started thinking about leaving.

Tomorrow marks the official first day of my road trip and also the first day of my Bikram yoga challenge. I plan to do Bikram yoga every day for 30 days while I’m driving across the country (with one excepted weekend that I’ll talk more about later). It will likely take me longer than 30 days to make this trip and I may decide to do Bikram every day that I’m on the road, but I’m going to see how I feel after 30 days.

Bikram yoga – for those of you who don’t know – is a codified form of yoga consisting of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises done in 90 minutes in rooms heated between 100 and 105 degrees.

You can see a 3 minute time lapse video of a Bikram yoga class here.

That’s the what, and here’s the why.

I find Bikram incredibly difficult. I don’t like being hot. I started classes in Toronto and I find that it’s hard for me to be in the moment. I want to think about all the things that I’d rather be doing instead of Bikram. And how cool it must be outside. And wonder how much longer I have to lay here and sweat before I can get up and go. And how the girl standing in front of me got so flexible. And why no one seems to sweat as much as I do.

Something about the heat forces me to my wit’s end. It breaks me down. I find my emotions coming to the surface and I have to remind myself to let things go. To be in the moment. To be mindful. That the benefit of any exercise comes from being present while I do it. I want to do Bikram because when I do something this strictly codified that’s supposed to be exactly the same in every studio, if something is different from one class to the next, the difference is in me. Will that actually be true? We’ll see.

And besides, why wouldn’t I take an epic road trip and make it even more impossible? It’s what I do!

First stop: Falls Church, Virginia and along the way, possibly a castle.

Stay warm. See you tomorrow.

Just the right amount of wrong

At a certain point in a situation, when things have ramped up to difficult, you (and by you, I mean me) have to make a decision whether to dig your heels in (again, my heels not yours) or give it all up. Such was my day.

I love and hate NYC because there’s so much to do. Knowing that in several people’s lifetimes I will never see or eat or do all things I want to, I feel an obligation to at least knock that list down several notches every time I’m in town. As a result, it’s the least relaxing and most entertaining city on earth for me.

All day I waffled on seeing a show. I’m in the theatre business so I should but I’m tired and I want to go home  but it’s my one night to see something but it’s expensive… Etc. I checked out tickets for Book of Mormon – a new musical – ($127 a pop) and decided to try the lottery. A lot of Broadway shows have a ticket lottery. You show up early, put your name in a bucket, they pull names out and the people who are picked get to buy front row seats for $32. It’s a slamming deal when you win.

The Book of Mormon lottery had hundreds of people vying for 20 seats and a jolly bunch of kids were trying to get in to see the show. Most of them were under the age of 30, and when some of their names were called their excitement rivaled American Idol contestants who get the yellow ticket. Lots of yelling and some jumping up and down. I did not win the lottery so I figured I’d buy a ticket. I was already there and i’d heard such good things about the show.

And then they sold out before I got to the ticket booth. Curses! The security guard came out and said there would be cancellations and the box office was “very hopeful” that we would all get tickets if we were patient and he redirected us into another line. Here’s the digging in point. I could go home. But I thought I’d probably get a ticket if I stayed. But how long would it take?

When I was in college, my roommates and I decided to try to see one of the final performances of The Night of the Iguana at the Goodman theater in Chicago and we waited something like 7 hours for tickets. We never intended to wait that long. We didn’t show up thinking we had all day and really wanted to spend it sitting on the stairs of the Goodman lobby waiting for possible tickets. But you think you’ll wait awhile, and then a while longer and then you make friends with people in line around you and at a certain point when you’ve waited long enough, you’re committed. However long it takes. However much it costs. You’ll sit there until it happens.

I didn’t wait 7 hours today. But I did wait 2. For a show I wasn’t sure I wanted to see to begin with. But after the first hour, I wanted to see it a lot more than I had earlier. And by the second hour I just hoped I had enough time to eat before the show because I was staying until I got a ticket.

At 715 I got a ticket for an 8pm show so I had just enough time for a bowl of soup  (it’s freaking cold here right now) and back in time for the overture. From the minute that spotlight hits the gold angel with a trumpet at the top of the proscenium, people started laughing and didn’t quit until they walked out the door.

Book of Mormon concerns a group of young Mormon men who are sent out on missions. 2 in particular – Elder Price and Elder Cunningham – are sent to Uganda (or Ugahanda, as one calls it). Elder Price has a fresh scrubbed face and perfect Ken doll hair and he seems like the quintessential Mormon kid whereas Elder Cunningham is chubby with fuzzy hair and an oversharing manner, sort of like Chris Farley’s love child with Ethel Merman. These two unprepared kids go to Africa armed only with the blue book of Mormon and their conviction that they’ll change the world (Price) or a lack of direction to do anything else (Cunningham) only to be met by a tribe riddled with AIDS and oppressed by a warlord obsessed with female circumcision. I would say that you can imagine the chaos that ensues but the scene of the Africans reenacting the Book of Mormon has to be seen to be believed.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone have huge hearts. They tease because they love. In this show they manage to question Mormon theology without questioning their good intentions and the result is hilarious. I don’t know how they managed to tackle religion vs. real world issues without turning it into a religion bashing show. That takes skill and I salute them. I also don’t know how the Mormon church feels about it and if they have tried to shut it down (like the Catholics did when the movie Dogma came out) or if they are choosing to ignore it and hope it goes away.

If they’ve chosen the latter course, I have some bad news: The show is awesome. It’s selling like gangbusters and it hasn’t even officially opened yet. It’s bringing in a whole new generation of kids to live theatre performances who enjoy the naughty, raunchy feel and the startling overuse of the word f*ck but in the midst they are getting a message of hope and redemption. If Disney collaborated with recovering crack ‘hos and decided to put on a show, they just might come up with Book of Mormon.

In other words, it’s f*cking brilliant, it’s better than Cats and I hope it runs for 100 years.

All she needs is a black guitar

When a day starts at 530am with cramming too many suitcases into a rental car and driving off in the dark and the rain, there’s really nowhere to go but up.

I got into Buffalo earlier than I expected, which worked out well as I had to switch rental cars and rental car companies. This involved asking strangers in the Enterprise world to babysit my stuff in the first car while I ran up and down stairs and in and out of terminals looking for Avis and filling out reams of paperwork. Then I got my second car and drove it up to the first car and unloaded and reloaded.

I have a lot of stuff.

No one is surprised by this.

But even the rental car guy turned around at one point and said “ I keep seeing you put stuff in that car and I can’t figure out where it all goes. You’re like a magician!” Welcome to tour skills 101: learning to pack a giant pile of stuff into a much too small space.

And my new car is cute! Cherry red little Chevy Cruze. I think she’s a sports car trapped in a soccer mom shell so I’m calling her Rihanna to encourage her rock star side.

Rihanna and I headed out into the grey misty depths of Buffalo NY, a city that looks like it’s been rained on and sat on then folded up and stuffed in a bottom drawer and forgotten. I was looking for a Starbucks to partake of their free wifi so I could figure out how to get to my friend Kirsten’s apartment in NYC, and lo did I search. Absolutely nothing.

In the looking I got really lost. Drove endlessly out of my way, wasted time and finally found a Tim Horton’s where I slammed a cup of coffee, wrote out directions and Rihanna and I took off. By this point, I knew I had a slim chance of getting to NYC in time for dinner. Which meant that I had to drive and drive and never stop. No eating, no peeing, no looking, just driving. Driving and thinking about dinner. And wishing I hadn’t had that cup of coffee…

In other words, exactly the way I want this trip NOT to go. Basically I’m looking at a lot of this:

And these:

And foggy snow in the Pocanos:

Pretty right? As well as red barns falling apart in a picturesque manner that I didn’t have time to photograph because I had to drive. There were all manner of things I’d have loved to explore but instead I had to drive.

But one get one free souvlaki? I’d love to! But I have to drive.

Niagara Falls? Fortunately I’ve seen it because I can’t stop. Must drive.

Wine country. Sounds delightful. Toss a cup in the window as I blow past. I can’t stop because I’M DRIVING.

Gotta pee? Hold it. Thirsty? Don’t drink anything. You already have to pee. Wait until you are out of gas and then you can stop. Look at the window at all the things you can’t do, listen to The Joker on the radio for the 4th time because you don’t have a way to listen to your ipod (MUST FIX THAT SITUATION) and the DJ is offering a free carbon monoxide alarm as a prize in a trivia contest. $37 value!

And then drive some more.

By 530pm, miraculously, I was in new york city. Lost. You know, like you do. I had written directions and a map but somehow I ended up in Newark and couldn’t get out. And then got out and got into the Holland Tunnel getting honked at by taxis and crushed by buses. Kirsten called me to see how I was doing and I just yelled “whose idea was this!!! Why didn’t you talk me out of this? Me driving in NYC? Am I crazy?”

And then got out of the tunnel and turned the wrong way on West street at which point Kirsten hung up to call the restaurant and tell them we’d be a tich late and would that be ok. It’s Monday night, so they said it would be fine.

FINALLY arrived at Kirsten’s glorious loft apartment – pictures to follow – went through my Kitcho routine of getting ready in 4 minutes and got back in the car to drive to the restaurant, during which time we called the restaurant again to push our reservation back again. Fine, no problem. They were delightful.

And a half an hour later we pulled up in front of wd-50, the domain of chef restaurateur, Wylie Dufresne. Wylie Dufresne looks like your crazy uncle and has a bit of the Unabomber vibe (with cooler glasses) but he makes amazing food that’s all deconstructed and reinterpreted. I had smooth silky foie gras shaped in a perfect hollow sphere full of tart liquid passionfruit. A boiled egg with an EDIBLE shell made of clay, chocolate leather (like fruit only chocolate) full of crunchy cocoa bits, an “everything bagel” made by soaking the bagel in water and then using the flavored water to make ice cream and molding the ice cream into tiny bagel shapes that taste EXACTLY like an everything bagel. Only cold. And melting.

Crazy stuff. Pasta made with seaweed, pasta made with sourdough bread, pasta made with strips of oyster mushroom, a dessert of grapefuit curd and sorrel sorbet that tasted like I opened a window in spring and took a deep breath.

Amazing.

A long delicious 11 course tasting menu with every course stranger and more delicious than the previous course. Clearly Wylie cannot take the time to cut his hair because he’s way too busy thinking up unusual food combinations.

We ended the night at Milk Bar so Kirsten could try cereal milk ice cream and compost cookies, found a place to park the car and stumbled home.

Successful day one? I think so. Tomorrow involves yoga, a spa date and possibly The Book of Mormon?

More later, doncha know.

Taking my baby soul for a ride

I’ve tried to write this post all week but apparently I can’t write about how happy I am to be done with tour until I’m actually done with it.

But now I’m done because South Pacific closed today!

I’m always happy when tours close. It means new adventures and other horizons and no one’s dirty laundry but my own. I’ve been deep in tour ennui this year so I’m more than ready to go do something else for a while. That something else, in this case, is a road trip.

Yes, I’m detoxing from touring by taking a road trip. Makes a strange kind of sense, don’t you think? All the benefits of touring with none of the show hassle AND I get to go wherever I want. Win. And Win. Plus once I load up my car, it will be the first time in 5 years that I will have all my work stuff, my dive gear and most of my clothes and boots all in one place. How great is that?

I went to pick up my rental car at the airport today and discovered that National and Enterprise are sister companies and the local National workers are on strike. I rented from Enterprise and National protested by making each Enterprise car wait 4 minutes before it left the lot.

4 minutes.

4 minutes that went like this.

I drove up to the gate, where an Enterprise guy waited.

EG: “you’re going to have to wait 4 minutes before you leave. Sorry.”

Me: I heard National is on strike.

EG: yeah…

Me (also a union member): well, I hope they get what they need.

EG: Oh, they won’t. OK. Have a good day. Sorry about the hassle.

As he scurried away, a National guy stood in front of the exit dressed in a vest that said LOCAL 175 ON STRIKE, held up his hand, looked at his watch and yelled to me “it’s 1035! I’ll let you exit at 1039!”

And then I sat there for 4 minutes while he stood in front of me and talked to the Enterprise guy. There was no one behind me or in front of me and I wasn’t in a hurry so I sat there until 1039 when he said, “Ok! Go ahead!” and stepped out of the way.

Who thinks of these things and what’s the point? Shouldn’t he be educating me on the strike? Or trash talking Enterprise or playing that Madonna song or something? And if I start driving at him, won’t he have to move out of the way or is he going to play chicken with a car?

But I didn’t and he didn’t so we hung out at the airport exit gate for 4 minutes on a Sunday morning while I listened to the news and they discussed hockey.

As my friend John put it, “I’m beginning to think ‘O Canada’ is a lament…”

But this is the end of my Canada run because I’m leaving tomorrow at the crack of dawn. I’ll haul my suitcases down to the front desk, run around the corner and down 3 flights to get my car, load it up and try to be on my way out of Toronto by 7AM. Then I’ll drive across the border to the Buffalo airport where I’ll exchange this car for one with US plates (and about a third of the cost), repack my new car and drive to NYC, battle rush hour traffic to get to Chelsea and find a place to park in time to run to my friend’s apartment, throw on some clothes and make a 645 dinner reservation at a place I’ve been wanting to eat for years.

All of you who remember my Japan escapades in Kyoto will notice a striking resemblance in plot points by now and be asking yourself – as I am  – “why is this girl always running across a country to make a dinner reservation with dire consequences if she doesn’t make it?”

I have no answer to that but I promise to tell you all about whatever happens. Those of you who haven’t read about Kyoto and Kitcho can find it here.

As to the road trip, below is a picture of my projected path.

It’s a LOT! I know. But I have a lot of time. No plans until May, actually. And I know that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy, so I will say that it’s only a plan and is subject to change. There is a surprise twist to this plan but I’ll save that for when I leave NYC on Thursday and actually get on the road.

This quote describes my current state well:

“My little baby soul was not a happy infant, of course, with much to complain about, but as every parent learns, a restless baby often calms down if you take it for a ride. I had learned my squalling spirit could be soothed the same way, by motion, and so I had decided to set off on this journey into the unknown. Take my little baby soul for a ride.”

– Neil Peart

Ghost Rider

Going for a ride with epic plans, dicey dinner reservations and surprise twist. Sounds about right.

See you tomorrow.