Y2K combination ski trip & Jill Sobule concert

This ski trip is like no other one we have done. After reading the account, you'll see what I mean.

This year's ski trip takes us back to the United States in Tahoe. A gracious person has offered his home as our accommodations. It gets better! Additionally, Jill Sobule will be staying at said home during part of the trip, as she will have a couple of gigs in Tahoe during this time. Her gig was planned around my trip. I feel so honored. She will be playing in Tahoe on Thursday the 27th and Reno on Friday the 28th.

Ok, time for the unusual airline reservations. I got an UNBELIEVABLE deal to fly out of Islip, connect through Chicago and head on to Reno for $199. (To fly from Laguardia or Kennedy with the same stopover would cost over $450.) This works out perfectly, as Trok is in Chicago, so this is a productive stopover. We won't have to worry about meeting at the final destination, although I must say, it has worked out relatively well recently. A few days later I get an email telling me that there is a change in the reservation and I must call to speak with a representative. It turns out the Islip to Chicago flight has been cancelled due to lack of interest and now I must fly first to Boston. Ok, not that bad; It adds more time, but I get more frequent flyer miles. The flight home is still Reno to Chicago to Islip. I get my tickets and notice that the flight from Islip to Boston is a friggin' Saab turbo-prop. First of all, Saab makes cars. What the hell are they doing making things that fly? I won't go into pages and pages of complaining, so I'm stuck with this.

A few days later I get another email about another change. Now Chicago back to Islip is cancelled and they have my return flight going from Reno to Chicago and stopping there. So what am I supposed to do? Move to Chicago? Drive home? I make a call and they see the error of their ways and give me options.

Option: I can fly back home from Reno through Dallas and land at Laguardia.

Problem: not only does the plane from Dallas leave at 2:00am, my car will be at Islip.

Option: I can fly back home from Reno through Los Angeles and then land at Laguardia

Problem: not only am I going in the wrong direction, my car will be at Islip.

Option: I can fly back home from Reno through Chicago and then land at Laguardia

Problem: my car will be at Islip.

However, I accept this. I'll just need to be dropped off at Islip instead of parking there, then either get a taxi or someone to pick me up at Laguardia. I don't receive a confirmation within a few days so I make a call and ask what my itinerary shows. They are glad to help and tell me the following. "We have you leaving Islip on 1/22/2000 at 2:15pm landing in Boston. Switch planes and fly to Chicago. Switch planes and fly to Islip." Excuse me? Why the hell would I want to go in a friggin' circle (ok, ok, a triangle with a giant hypotenuse)? I finally get back the Islip -> Boston -> Reno and Reno -> Chicago -> Laguardia itinerary back.

Now, I go to the Knitting Factory website to see when Jill Sobule is playing there. She is playing on Saturday the 29th. Huh? How can she get back from Tahoe in such a short time for a gig? Well, she can't. The Reno gig is cancelled and the Tahoe gig moves back to Monday the 24th. Not only do I miss a show in Reno, I will miss the 29th show in NY as I am due to land at 10pm and her show is at 8pm. So now I start the ball rolling to change my flight home to get back in time for the Knitting Factory show. The airline tells me there is an 8:30am flight through Chicago that will get me into Laguardia at 5:30. It is $75 to witch or I can go standby, which they actually suggest as the flight is pretty empty and by this time, the flight should have been almost full, so there is a good chance I can get on.

SATURDAY JANUARY 22nd: Islip's MacArthur airport is a pleasure compared to Laguardia or Kennedy. It's small and a lightly traveled airport, so there is a pretty good chance of nothing going to interfere with on on-time departure. Today was quite cold, around 20 degrees in the sun. It was also quite windy, so I wasn't really looking forward to a turbo-prop flight. Not unexpectedly, the flight left on time. Other than a few bumps, the flight was uneventful. I arrive at Logan airport in Boston. A short wait and I'm off to Chicago. The flight was empty, with about 20 people on the flight. Again, an uneventful flight. I take the extremely long walk from the arrival gate to my departing gate. I wait for Trok to arrive and he does about 15 minutes later. We board the flight to Reno, which also was empty. We get to our seats, but don't like them, so we move back about 10 rows. This may not have been a good idea if we were to crash and someone would have to identify us by out seats. As luck would have it, we crashed upon takeoff and our dead corpses were misidentified. End of story.

We are magically resurrected and after we straightened out our identities with the authorities, we get on another flight to Reno. We wonder why they always want you to put your seat-backs forward upon takeoff and decide to buck the system. We figure, if we put all the seats in a reclining position, the brainless flight attendant probably wouldn't notice as there is no other seat to compare our to.

We land, and now I have to find Johnny Tahoe. I have a picture of him, but it was from warmer weather. He may have a heavy jacket and a hat on now. No one is there to greet us, and I am happy that I asked Johnny for the directions to his place just in case he didn't show up. Walking to get our luggage, Johnny finds us. He's with Steve from England, who is from the Jill Sobule Happytown mailing list and also staying with Johnny. Jill is supposed to arrive in about an hour, so we have some time to waste. The first thing we notice is that the airport has slot machines and video poker games all over the place. We go to get our four-wheel drive vehicle and when they want to charge us an extra eight dollars a day for the ski rack, Johnny does his magic convincing speech and gets us the ski rack for no extra charge. It turns out we don't even use the damn thing the whole time we're here.

Jill arrives and is surprised to see Steve. Even to this point, I am not sure that Jill knew I was going to be here, but she tells me she did. We go to get her luggage. We are on the lookout for a beat up old piece of luggage being held together by tape. Hmmm, maybe we could all chip in and buy her some new luggage too ;-) Jill explains to us that they wanted to check in her guitar, but a musician can never let that happen, so she told them it was a priceless Segovia and they let her alone. Of course, there is no such thing as a Segovia.

Trok and I follow Johnny, Steve and Jill back to Truckee. Steve is driving, and it really shows that he is from England. He's all over the road. Maybe John forgot to tell him that we drive on the right side of the road here. On the way back to the house, we saw a flake or two. Good sign. Little did we know what it would lead to. We get onto Johnny's street and approach his house. The turn onto the driveway is at a 170 degree angle, and on a 40 degree slope. It's not easy, but somehow I make it. It was beginner's luck as you will see. We meet the family and turn in soon after. After all, it is about 2:30am assassin time.

Notes about our trip that don't have any chronological semblance to them:

SUNDAY JANUARY 23rd: We wake up to a wet snow. At John's suggestion, we will be skiing at Northstar today, about a fifteen-minute drive. He also lends us his Motorola 2-mile range 2-way radios in case one of us gets lost or falls into a hole (not completely unimaginable). It snows all day during skiing. We have skied before in an all day snow, but that was a dry snow, which just bounces off you. Wet snow sticks to the goggles and we find ourselves having to stop every so often to wipe our goggles from the wet slushy buildup. Since it is our first day skiing and the conditions aren't the best, we stop around 2:30.

Back at the house, today's philosophical discussion centers around cults. Jill thinks we should start a cult and either have some cool outfit we can all wear or have a really neat buy line. Jill wonders who the leader should be and Trok immediately points to me. Oh dear, the responsibility. I suggest we all get ski hats like mine. To this day, we haven't come up with a good selling point for the cult, so please email me at garystrauss at freeshell dot org your suggestions.

Today is Johnny's son's birthday. We are also celebrating Jill's birthday a week late. Johnny has invited some of the local Truckee neighborhood and others who have come from as far away as the Bay area. In addition to the festivities, we will be presenting Jill with the iBook that the Jill Sobule Happytown mailing list has chipped in to buy her. It would have been better if Jill had no idea about the whole presentation, but it was hard to keep this a secret. I videotaped the event on my digital camcorder for presentation on the Internet with the help of Tony from Boston. After the whole presentation and birthday event, Jill's time is occupied by the children who are in attendance for little Nick's birthday. Jill is dragged into performing a few numbers written by the kids, ranging from songs about girls being better than boys, to cute dogs taking poops. All the songs have a recurring theme revolving around farts. Did I mention that this ski trip was quite unusual compared to all our others? The Jill did a few of her own songs, including "Rainy Day Parade" and "Rock Me To Sleep."

Johnny prepared a most wonderful dinner for the whole house and guest. We must have had over 20 people present for this special night. Could this possibly be a precursor to the rest of our trip? The party continues well into the night and we are getting tired from the long say of skiing and partying. All this time, it continues snowing, and now that the temperature has dropped, the snow is becoming more acceptable. We turn in.

MONDAY JANUARY 24th: We wake up to snow. What is this? Utah? I am excited, but I find a somber Johnny on the phone. He tells me schools are closed today. Jill is playing her gig tonight at the school. This doesn't bode well. There were about 18 inches of snow since last night. Johnny explains to me that when it snows this heavy, the town usually shuts down. Another problem we encounter is that we are kind of snowed in. Johnny's long steep driveway with all of our cars is under 18 inches of heavy wet snow. While we have a great breakfast, Johnny uses the snow blower to clear the giant driveway. We finally head out at about 10:30. Johnny has given us complimentary lift tickets today to Sugarbowl.

We get onto I-80 heading towards Sugarbowl, whose name we mangle in such ways as Sugarbush, Sugarbowlbush, Sugarhill, etc. We pass through the agriculture checkpoint. Don't ask. With the weather falling down upon us, and the roads getting worse, we pass a point on I-80 where you can go no further unless you have either a 4-wheel drive or have chains on your tires. Coincidentally, on the side of the road are "chain vendors" selling tires chains for $24, installed. Later on we see the "chain removal" area where they charge you $20 to remove the chains. Now, I'm not an expert, as a matter of fact I have never put chains on my car, but I think I can pretty much remove a chain from my tire. How hard could it be?

We seem to be travelling away from mountains, and I make Trok re-examine the hand drawn map. Uh-oh. We've gone too far. Time to turn back. We head back on the right trail and arrive at the mountain an hour after leaving the house, even though it should have taken only fifteen minutes. The conditions are worse than yesterday. Wet and low visibility. We could only ski about 10 seconds before we have to stop and wipe or goggles. But because it is a wet precipitation, and we are covered in it, wiping the goggles just shifts the smudges from one area to the next. I have the bright idea to try to ski without the goggles, but travelling at high speeds with frozen pellets hitting you in the face and eyes hurts like you wouldn't believe.

Again, we're not too bright and decide to add a little adventure to make these poor conditions a little more exciting, so we go off trail into a non-groomed area. I immediately fall, body parts flying every which way. The snow is so heavy that I cannot get up. I can't even use my poles to flip the lever on my bindings to release my boots from the skies, because they are buried so deep. Persistence pays off and I extract myself from the man-made pit (made by me!). I catch up with Trok and he informs me that his lift ticket has fallen off.

We get to the bottom and contemplate going home or buying another lift ticket. Since we didn't pay for the lift tickets today, either option will not hurt. I suggest I go up alone and retrace our paths to see if I can find it, however remote this may be. Here is our chance to use the two-way radios. On the ski lift, the wind is blowing hard and the frozen precipitation hitting my face feels like someone throwing sand in my face. I make it to the top and make a slow trek downwards, partly because I am looking for the lift ticket, party because the muck on my face makes it impossible to see. Wouldn't you know it. I find the damn thing right before the point where we decided to go off-trail. I call Trok on the radio and inform him. These things are great!

We go back up and try a few more runs but it is just too non-productive, so we quite after a total of 5 runs for the day. On our last trip down, we go down an area with many obstacles and jumps made for snowboarders, surrounded by rope, with an entry gate nearby. Ok now, guess, what do you think the rope is for? We go through the gate and a couple of snowboarders decide to go under the rope to enter the area. The person with authority setting up the rope scolds them. "Do you know what a gate is?!?!" comes from his mouth. We laugh. We go home. It doesn't take nearly as long to get home.

We inform everyone of our adventures. To prevent recursion, I won't write about what I told them. Johnny tells us the show is on, no matter how few people show up. We head over to the school do soundcheck and set up for the show. I grab all my recording equipment and take Trok and Jill in our vehicle to the school to meet up with the rest of the crew. It is getting increasingly harder and harder to get out of this driveway with the snow mounting up, so I do what any New Yorker would do to make it out. I back up until I hit something. I go forward until I hot something, and keep repeating, turning the wheel a little until I am now facing down the driveway instead of trying to back out.

The concert goes on. I am not here to give a blow by blow description of the show, but will say some little brat of about 6 years old, totally oblivious to the world, got on stage (hey, I know what you're thinking, but no, it wasn't me!) and starting flailing around, banging on the piano and claimed that she could sing better than Jill. Must have been too much sugar in her diet. Jill let her sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," then mumbled that she does it better. If the little brat were more aware, she would have realized that Jill just dissed her, which she is so good at doing when anyone interferes with her shows. I have witnessed many a dissing over the years.

Just a little more on the show. Jill mentioned that she felt like Raffi (spelling?) because the audience was at the junior high school age. This of course prevented her from mentioning the preferred title to "Man In The Boat" (or at least my preferred name for it), and a couple of other obscenities that normally come out in her songs. She also had to watch what little side stories she could tell, and did a great job of describing Margaret as a girl who went on to do "funny movies." She brought on the local children who stayed at the house to do "Rainy Day Parade" and "Big Shoes" then made the mistake of asking kids to come up on stage to do "Margaret." I think all of them came up. There were about 100 of them.

We go back to the house, and Jill realizes she can't find her hat. She lost it! In case anyone finds it, it is lavender in color (I think), with two long strands with pom-pom's on the end. Or, please tell me where I can find one so I can replace it for her. A few minutes after arriving back at the house, the power goes out. They come on a few minutes later, but Johnny explains that in this kind of weather, it happens all the time. He lights the fireplace and some candles. Sure enough the lights go out again and this is the prefect opportunity for Jill to pull out the guitar and play "Mexican Wrestler," "Sunrise Sunset" and "Little Guy" for us all. Our own little private gig.

TUESDAY JANUARY 25th: Today is the day that we decide to pass up on skiing. It was either today or tomorrow, and since it is still snowing, we want to wait to see that maybe tomorrow the snow will stop and we will have a good day of skiing. British Steve tells us he saw on the news that the East Coast got socked with snow and that the New York airports are closed. Jill's flight is cancelled. Oh no, Jill has to spend another say with us. Bad news for us ;-) The power keeps going off and on during breakfast, which consisted of designer pancakes shaped like Mickey Mouse, with lots of Nutella.

I realize that I need a ticket for Amy for Jill's show at the Knitting Factory on Saturday, so I call and order a ticket. I wonder if this is the first time in history that someone is ordering a ticket for a show with the performing artist standing right there. Maybe I should have had Jill be the one on the phone ordering the ticket. Now that would have been a rip.

So, what do we do today? Jill, Trok and myself decide to go to Reno to visit some pawn shops and maybe do a little gambling. Conveying this last sentence to people via voice makes it much more interesting because of the way I saw "pawn." It makes it sound like we are visiting "porn" shops, putting a whole new meaning to our little day trip. We start "hitting the strip" and make our ways to the shops. Jill is looking for musical instruments, but finds nothing of interest. As a matter of fact, things we do find seem to be more money than what you would pay for them brand new. Jill is particularly fascinated by the leather jackets we find. It kind of has a macabre feeling to it; People hocking the clothing off their backs to support their gambling habits.

On our way to Harrah's, what we consider the king of the stereotypical gambling establishment, we see a huge billboard for "Skin Tight 2000," and adult live show at Harrah's. This engenders some silly comments from the three of us. We'd love to see it but don't have the time. We head into Harrah's and take up positions at the roulette wheel. Trok keeps betting 23 because of the Too Much Joy song, never winning a single bet, losing $20. Jill bets on some non-random numbers, losing all of her $60. Somehow I manage to win on of my bets and make $5, but graciously lost it and my total of $20. Jill comments that she feels like she should be gambling while smoking a cigarette and having a drink, but no one comes by to offer us a drink during our little losing streak.

While walking through one of the casinos we accidentally walk behind some of the betting tables and get yelled at. This is getting old quickly, so we head outside and search for some real pawn shops that we'll need to get to by car. We find a really nifty antique store instead, then another few pawn shops, but it turns up nothing. We then head back to Truckee, first stopping at a nice wine store to bring gifts for tonight's dinner. I find a bottle of Joseph Phelps Merlot, which I have been looking for for a long time. It was vintage 1995 and cost $30. Read the review later. Jill gets a bottle of something she has been raving about herself. Turning onto the driveway is getting increasingly more difficult as the snow is piling up and the street is getting narrower. I continually fail in my attempt to make the turn without having to back up.

Tonight we had a giant dinner with all the neighbors again. It was Italian night and we were all stuffed. The wine was good, but no better then my favorite South African Merlot that costs only $10. John points out the wine had turned, signified by the chalky deposits on the bottom of the bottle. Good, so I don't have to lose faith in Joseph Phelps. We were treated to more of Jill on the guitar after dinner, which included "Texas." We rented the South Park movie tonight. It was tricky to get the kids to sleep so we could watch it, but it was finally accomplished. I'm not particularly fond of South Park, but this movie has a talking clitoris. How much more appropriate could this be to me, so it's a must see. However, it was a long day and we were dropping like flies during the movie. Jill turned in before it was over and I passed out before it was over.

WEDNESDAY JANUARY 26th: We wake up to a cloudless sunny day. After four days of non-stop snow, there should be some good powder up in the mountains. My goggles are missing and I cannot find my lip balm. Trok's turtleneck is missing. Did the dog steal our stuff? Anything she could fit in her mouth was up for grabs.

Today we ski at Squaw Valley. Johnny tells us to visit his friends who run a café at the mountain and to say hello and ask them to join us for lunch. The skiing is great. Finally a good day and I was right; there was plenty of powder, although not as much as Austria and surely not as much as Utah. Like Austria, most people avoid going off-trail, but that doesn't stop us.

One thing that should be noted and Trok points it out; there is a lot of cursing in skiing. When people fall down, you may hear, "Shit." Or when someone make a particularly good move you make hear, "That was fucking awesome." So it works both ways; cursing in the positive and negative, but cursing nevertheless. Something we both notice are that there is a preponderance of the stereotypical California surfer dude all over Squaw. Yo dude!

At lunch we go to the bottom to find Johnny's friends. I forgot the name of the place and try out a nice looking restaurant. Wrong place. Since I have no idea of the name of the place, we just go to any old place. We choose a nice little café called Mother Barclay's and take a chance and ask if Pat and Jay work here. The hostess says, "Well there is a Pat and Jay who own this place." What luck! We pass along greetings and have a quick lunch to take advantage of the sunny day.

We are able to see the lake from the top of the mountain, although it is quite cloudy down there. It's a strange looking phenomenon with the clouds so far below us. We have skied many times being in the clouds and above, but here, it seems we are even higher than normal, although we are only at about 8000 feet. Good day of skiing ends.

Tonight, the house and the neighborhood all go to a Mexican restaurant called El Toro Bravo. There were no wrestlers here. After dinner, someone suggests we go to Baskin Robins for ice cream. Trok, British Steve, Joelle (John's daughter, not previously mentioned) and myself get there first. As we are walking into Baskin Robins, Julie passes by on her way from Safeway. We go inside and one of the patrons sees Joelle and says, "I know you," but when he asks her name, he realizes he doesn't, but then asks who she is. We tell him her name is Joelle Tahoe, and he says, "Oh, Johnny's daughter?" Does everyone know everyone else in this town? Did I mention how strange and unusual this trip is? The rest of the crew makes it and we're devouring down our ice cream. I don't know, maybe it's just me, but this has some real surrealistic overtones.

I let Trok drive back to the house to see if he can negotiate the difficult turn into the driveway. Of course he can't, so he can stop making fun of me.

THURSDAY JANUARY 27th: Today it's Alpine Meadows, just a mile or two past Squaw on the same road. Sunny again. There is also powder here, but it is dwindling as we move further away from the last snowfall. This is also the first we have ever seen snowmaking down anywhere else than the awful East Coast. It's coming out more like pellets rather than snow, and you can feel it as you ski through it. There was nothing unusual about our day skiing today. We wanted to explore some areas that seemed like you had to walk to in order to ski, but after walking at a slight incline at the top of the mountain with no end in sight, we thought better and went back from where we came.

Oh did, I mention that there was nothing unusual about our skiing today? Right at the end of the day we saw a house skiing down the mountain. No, not a large person, but an actual house. You know, four walls and a roof. There was some sort of snow tractor guiding it down the hill, with the tractor above the house.. I guess it was letting the weight of the house go where it wanted to and the tractor was there to prevent it from getting out of control. Well, that was the plan, but the next time up the left, the tractor and house were now side by side moving down the mountain. Maybe the tractor was racing the house. This leads me to question why the moving of the house in the first place?

Today we also experienced the longest wait while suspended on the lift. Honestly, we must have been up there in one position for fifteen minutes. We saw a snowmobile hauling ass down the mountain, probably to show them how to restart the damn thing. This incident made me aware of another item issing from my repertoire of useful items to carry while skiing. I am going out to buy some sort of grappling hook attached to 40 feet of rope. This way if we ever get stuck on a lift again, I can attach the hook onto the chair and climb down. I was thinking about just getting a rope, but if I have to tie it onto the chair and make my way down, there is no way to get the rope down. With the hook, I can be like Batman and unhook it in some way.

It is a little quieter tonight at the house, but we still have a nice crowd for dinner. When little Nick and the kids start to become annoying to me, little John threatens wedgies for anyone who misbehaves. We know that children cannot behave themselves, so it was inevitable that Nick got his wedgie. However, it was not an atomic wedgie. Did I mention how unusual this trip was?

FRIDAY JANUARY 28th: Our final day. We never gave Sugarbowlbush (whatever!) a proper chance, so we give it another go today. This time, Johnny tells us to get there via route 40, a more scenic trip over the mountain, along Donner Lake. It was probably more scenic, but it was so foggy, we couldn't see anything. It was a little unnerving, driving up the circuitous route along the side of the mountain with poor visibility. All of a sudden, we're at the entrance to Sugarbowlbush. It took less than fifteen minutes to reach this way. Just as we're unloading our equipment, the fog is starting to lift.

What a difference visibility makes. We spend much of the morning is one area of the mountain, take lunch and head to other side afterwards. Since it is the last day and I have avoided injury so far, I become a little more daring and start trying out a few small jumps. Towards the end of the day, we're feeling a little tired and upon merging onto a trail to get back to the base lodge I crash tight into a snowboarder. BOOM! He was more worse for the wear. I got up and continued on, after hearing the expected curse, "fuck, man." It felt good. It was getting quite cold, but we skied all the way until shutting down time today.

Upon driving back, the car stereo lights went out, although it still played. When we arrive back at the house, Johnny tells us that his daughter decided get a jump on things and head back to Albany tonight instead of the long trip in the morning, so we are on our own for dinner. We want Italian, so Johnny gives a call to the Trattoria in the Safeway shopping center (yes, a most unusual place for a good restaurant) and reserves us a table under his name. We head out to dinner, and now the internal dashboard lights are not working, in addition to the car stereo lights. I'm a little worried. It seems to be getting worse, and since we have to head to the airport tomorrow at 6:30am, what if the electric disease spreads and now the car doesn't start? It is also at this time I finally hit the breaking point for poor driving on the driveway and crash into one of the poles lining the outside of the driveway, which is there to warn you that you are dangerously close to going over the edge and plummeting down to the street.

We arrive at the Trattoria and give our names. The hostess says, "You don't look like the Tahoe's?" We explain that we are just visiting and staying with the Tahoe's. We have a nice dinner with a glass of wine each. Upon driving back, we realized that the reason the radio and dashboard lights are out is because the brightness knob was turned all the way to the dark position. Doh!

SATURDAY JANUARY 29th: The day started in California, perfectly normal. We woke up at 6am, to catch an 8:18am flight to NY through Chicago. We said our good-byes and headed into the darkness…and fog. Not surprisingly, the roads were empty at 6:30am on a Saturday. Just to refresh your memory, I was booked on a noon flight to NY through Chicago, but wanted to go on standby on the 8:18am flight to get home in time to catch Jill Sobule at the Knitting Factory. I was told I'd have no problem getting on the flight because it was wide open a week ago.

I go to the counter and tell them that I'm going to Chicago. I am told, "I hope you're not going directly."

"Perfectly normal" has disappeared, and in only the second paragraph.

I ask Mr. American what he means. All flights to Chicago are cancelled due to bad weather. I stay clam, but now I have many things to worry about. I have to go to the concert. Under normal circumstances it wouldn't bother me, but I have to pick up Amy and I have to introduce Tony to Jill. I am told that my original flight at noon will probably leave on time, but this gets me in at 10:00pm, just as the concert starts. This is bad, but at least I can make it to the show just as it ends to get Tony to Jill, but Amy will be out of luck.

I ask if there is any other option. I am told I can try Northwest, which has a flight through Minneapolis, or United through Denver. I am also told that I better make sure that I can get the connecting flight if one of these airlines will accept my ticket, because I could get stranded in either Minneapolis or Denver. Mr. American books me on the noon flight and takes my luggage, explaining that he will hold it on the side for another hour giving me time to find another flight. If I am not back by 8:30, my luggage will be loaded wherever it is supposed to be loaded.

I got to Northwest, and luckily there was no bullshit beating around the bush. They simply told me I couldn't go on their flight. Then it hit me. Johnny Tahoe's friend Julie works for United! I hate to wake up John at 7:30 in the morning, but I'm on a mission, partly defined by John. I walk outside and call him on my cell phone. He sounds VERY tired. I tell him of the situation and ask him if he can call Julie. He called Julie on the other line, then calls me back. I am to go to the United counter and ask for Joanie or Linda and tell them I was sent here by Julie. Johnny asks me to call him back if I run into any problem. However, the United line is quite long, the flight leaves in 30 minutes, and one privilege I did not get was to cut the line. While on line I wonder out loud, "Any minute now, they'll probably ask the people for the Denver flight to come to the front." A surfer dude says they have already announced this.

I go to the front of the line and ask for Linda. She gets some guy from the back to help me. There is room on the flight and there is room on the connection in Denver. Phew! Now he needs my luggage. It is at American, so I send Trok to get it, as the flight leave in 20 minutes. He comes back. They won't give him the luggage without either my ID, or my body. So I run down to American and get the luggage. It wasn't on the side like it was supposed to be. I had to wait while someone grabbed it from the back. We run back to United. I am all booked and now I must run upstairs to catch the plane. I leave Trok (he plans on taking the noon flight to Chicago) and high tail it upstairs. Here I am running through the airport like a double murderer from Brentwood, California. This only happens in movies. As I am running to the gate, they see me and ask, "Are you the assassin? We're waiting for you." I make it onto the plane, with accelerated heartbeat, mild sweat and high relief. It looks good for Amy and Tony. I call Johnny on the cell phone and ask him to call my parents telling them of the change in plan, as I have no time to make another call. Just then, the announcement comes that all electronic devices must be turned off.

Arrive at Denver. Call Amy. Leave message. Leave Denver.

Arrive at Laguardia at 6:00pm. I plan on picking up Amy no later than 7:30 to catch the 7:50 from Mineola to Penn Station. We get home to my parents' house at about 7pm. I just have enough time to have a piece of bread, check for important mail, take a leak and head to Amy's house. I make it to her at about 7:20 and go inside. She offers me all this food and drink, but I am too riled up for any intake of nutrients. However, I do take a brownie and shove it in my pocket. We make it into Penn and catch the number 9 train to Franklin Street and walk the two blocks to Knitting Factory. A block away a man approaches up, points up to an apartment and asks us if we think the flames coming from the apartment are of a controlled nature made for a purpose, or is something that should be reported. I make the judgement that it looks like a barbecue grill. We part ways.

We get to the Knitting Factory and when I ask for my tickets and give my name, I hear from behind me, "I know that name." It's Tony. We go into the bar area and meet up with John, Bill, and Lyndhaven (all from Jill Sobule Happytown mailing list). After a while we all go inside and go right to the stage. Tony and his wife go upstairs. I bring Amy with me upstairs to meet Jill, and grab Tony too. I give Jill the quick summary of my adventure that started out at 6am in California. She notes my suntan/burn. I introduce her to Tony and she gives him a big hug, thanking him to running the donation page. I introduce her to Amy telling Jill that Amy was with me the day I first saw her perform back in March 1995. Jill introduces me to her aunt who just moved back to USA from England. We head back out to enjoy the show. We run into Beth and Shamilto (also from the list). I look around to see if Evil Laura is here. I don't see her. At this point, I have all these allies with me so I have nothing to worry about.

After the show I bring Shamilto up to meet Jill (I promised her this back when Laura joined the dark side) and explain to Jill that she is the first girl I met over the internet who hasn't turned out to be psycho…yet. So everyone backstage claps. Yves was there and when Jill introduced me as Gary and that I was out at Johnny's house he queried, "Gary the assassin?" I love that!

Amy and I head out to catch a cab to Penn Station. A subway at this time is too unreliable to get up back to Penn on time. It's only 12 minutes until our train, otherwise we'll have to wait another hour for the next one. With only 10 minutes to catch our train, we ask the cabbie how long he thinks it will take us to get to Penn. He says seven minutes. We make it to Penn with the three minutes to spare, and take a brisk walk to the train. Phew! What a day! Everything worked out all to perfectly today. I fear the day that this is all going to come back and even itself out.

Next year: Whistler (tentative)