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The wake up call came at ten, and we motorvated ourselves to pack up what we’d scattered and get dressed and get out. Digger hit the road for New York, and the rest of us headed for Philadelphia.

I drove the first leg, wearing what I still thought of as Matthew’s sunglasses and playing a 90-minute tape I’d made mostly to horrify the guys, a mixed tape of stuff I knew that I (and they) had listened to a lot of not so many years ago: Toto, Journey, Hall & Oates, stuff that was never going to have a retro-revival and which was not aging well. Bart shrieked when “Hold The Line” came on and said we ought to do a cover of it. “C’mon, I know you know it,” he said to me, and was right. I refrained from making any promises. On the B-side I had E.L.O., Supertramp, a little George Harrison solo stuff.

Today was another five hour trip, not counting pit stops. We arrived at the somewhat upscale Philly hotel at three in the afternoon and I was a bit bleary from having napped the last hour or so. So my eyes weren’t the best-focused they’ve ever been when I walked into the lobby. Which would explain why when Jonathan jumped out of a chair–and started shuffle-running toward me with a bit more enthusiasm than people usually launched themselves in my direction–my first thought was ‘whoa, crazed fan.’ But that impression didn’t last when I recognized him. Much handshaking and back slapping ensued and this only slowed down the check-in process slightly.

“Jeezusfuckingchrist, it’s good to see you,” I said as we walked to the elevators together. I meant it, too.

“So you mind if I hang out?” His hair, dirty blond and overgrown a bit in the front curtained his eyes as he shrugged.

“Not at all. Stick around. We’re off to meet the crew and check next. I haven’t seen what the plan is for dinner, show time, et cetera yet.”

“Whatever. I’ve got nothing better to do.”

“So this is pleasure, not business?”

“Technically I’m here to do a short piece on the band that’s opening for you. But I only live like an hour and a half from here, I figured I’d catch up with you guys. If a story comes out of it, well…” He pushed the button in the mirrored elevator lobby. “You won’t mind, would you?”

“Did we already have a conversation about where you’re from?”

“I don’t remember now…”

“Because you live not terribly far from near where I grew up, if I remember rightly.”

“Maybe we did have this conversation before.”

So Mister Freelance Journalist became attached to our retinue once again. During the less-noisy part of our soundcheck he interviewed the other band, then sat and listened while we played full volume. I hit the riff to Toto’s “Hold The Line” and Bart laughed so hard he couldn’t even join in.

“Are you alright?” came Kevin’s voice through the monitor. (He’d been in the truck during the earlier AOR hits fest and didn’t get the joke. He must’ve thought Bart finally cracked from the stress or something.)

Bart regained his composure and we ran through a couple of things until the other band started looking edgy and then we quit and gave them the stage. I decided not to eat much before the show and to go out with J. after. I spent most of the time playing on the new strings to get them worked in.

OK, how to describe the show: mostly uneventful, pretty good over all. Maybe it’s a bad sign that I was getting used to being kind of stiff on stage, and playing predictably. I could make it through, and the crowd clapped for an encore, and we did Candlelight of course, and then we were done. My mind was already wondering where Jonathan was taking me. He said he’d picked a place but wouldn’t tell me where. He also insisted he’d pay for it, which I thought was kind of weird, but I was willing to play along.

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