Memphis - Baton Rouge - Bossier City

Me, Peter, Gabe, Shay and Shawna

I am on a bus…again…these last three days has been a whirlwind of bus riding, Star Wars playing, sight seeing and drama filled adventure. To recap…Tuesday morning Shay and I met our old college friend, Gil, for breakfast and then we jumped on our bus to head to Memphis. We hadn’t played the show since the previous Saturday and the schedule for Tuesday was to drive straight to the venue in Memphis for the show. The ride was pretty uneventful. There is a little drama regarding seat saving…I swear we are all over 18 but the things people choose to get into fights about is pretty hilarious to me. Anyway…we drove straight through to Memphis and played for an AWESOME crowd in downtown Memphis. After the show a group of us decided that since we were in Memphis we of course had to try out the ribs. We weren’t very hungry but settled on going to the Blues City Cafe on Beale street to split a rack of ribs. After we checked into the Memphis Marriott we started walking along the trolley tracks to make our way to Beale Street (it’s just like Bourbon street). On the way a trolley came by and we decided to jump on (even though we were only a few block from our destination) it’s only a dollar and while two of the other members of our group weren’t for jumping on we were really glad we did! It’s still manually driven by a guy that sits in the front. There are old wooden seats, and it’s just so quaint! Beale street was sort of crazy…lot’s of people drinking, lot’s of lights, music, and just things to see. Blues City was great. We were recommended to have the tamales with chili as an appetizer then the three girls split a rack of ribs and a apple cobbler dessert…it’s was excellent! The meat really just fell off of the bone…definatley worth the late trip out!

Memphis Marriott - Hotel View

Peter, Shay, Gabe and Shawna on the trolley!

Me on the trolley in Memphis

See how cool this thing was!! and it is still hand operated!

Ribs...need I say more?

Wednesday morning we loaded the buses and got ready to travel to Baton Rouge. A little panic ensued when Shay (who had already checked out of her room) discovered she had left her laptop upstairs…two problems with this…1) would it still be there? and 2) the buses were scheduled to leave right when she discovered this. Why is #2 such a big deal? We are responsible for ourselves. There are no bus checks…no roll calls…if you miss a bus it’s your responsibility to get to the next location and there is no waiting for anyone…we are on a tight schedule! Thankfully the hotel staff was able to help her get it back and she ran back on the bus in time for departure. We were both excited to get to Baton Rouge because we have yet another old BU bassoon friend, Gabe, who now teaches there at LSU, as well as his wife, Diane, whom we also went to school with (she's an artist and did the concert poster for my first college recital!) and for me I was doubly excited to go because my first college teacher, Seth, lives there and also teaches at LSU. Mick and I have visited Seth and his wife, Rachel, there a few years ago but I haven't seen Seth since then and it was so good to have a drink and catch up.  Since downtown BR everything closes during the week we had drinks at the hotel and then walked over to a pizza joint called "Schlitz and Giggles".  It was a nice walk and they had some great pizza!  It turns out as well that Gabe knew several other members of the Star Wars Symphony and so the party grew while we were sitting at the pizza place! To top off the night Shay and I decided to hit up the adjoining casino...I lost $4 and she lost $2 (she has WAAAYYY more will power than I do!) The hotel we stayed at in BR was called "The Belle of Baton Rouge" and the rooms were a little more moist than we would have preferred...also, the bathroom was probably one of the smallest bathrooms I've ever seen...so since our departure time was so early on Thursday for Bossier City and since I knew I could grab a shower at our next hotel right before the concert I decided to wait...BIG MISTAKE...little did I know that the Belle of Baton Rouge would look like the Ritz after arriving at our next hotel...


Bell of Baton Rouge, hotel bed...the room had a French Quarter feel to it;)


View from my room

Friends, old and new, but we were all connected to each other somehow!
Scott, Ebonee, Me, Diane, Gabe, Shay, and Elizandro

Yah! We finally saw a promotional poster for this thing!!

Elizandro and Scott picking C3PO and Yoda's noses...classy

Lobby of the Belle of Baton Rouge.  It was this huge windowed atrium.

Bossier City (pronounced, bo-z-shure) was the last stop in our three day whirlwind of a show a day in three different towns!  I was actually really excited to go to this town because it's "across the tracks" from Shreveport, LA where my Grandma Mary grew up.  I should preface this portion on Bossier City with explaining that we on the tour have a pretty extensive contract, some in fact don't believe it's extensive enough! At any rate among issues of payment, time spent on a bus before break, etc, is a clause regarding our 
housing.  The contract states that we will be put up in 3 star or better hotels along our 11 week journey.  I don't think management knew this hotel was, well....extremely sub par...but my first clue that we might have a problem was when I realized  I could spit at the highway from the parking lot...it had an attached casino and three different fast food joints in the parking lot as well.  Well...we'll give it a chance right? But then we walked in...and the lobby while trying to give the impression of a fancy space with worn leather couches still could not mask the odor.   We had about an hour to get to our rooms before we had to be back on the bus to get to the arena for our show. Have you every checked into a hotel with 90 other people...who've been on the road for a week and a half? It's pretty interesting...we crowded the table with our keys laid out and searched for our last names so we could then get in line for the elevator (there's always a line for the elevator) when we travel!  I made my way to the "concierge" and asked oh so innocently where the elevator was exactly...to which she replied "oh I'm sorry we don't have an elevator".  I know what you're thinking...don't be so lazy Jo but I would just like to politely remind you all that we are carrying 3 months worth of luggage, instruments, etc... "It's only 2 flights, it's not a lot of stairs" " I know I just have a lot of stuff" I reply and I start hiking up the, granted it was short, stairs.  I'm not exaggerating when I say this place was more like a motel, dirty, lights flickering...I was searching for my room, lugging my bags through the dank hallway when I noticed a man further down the hallway with a large plastic sheet...of course...of course...he was in front of my room.  He didn't speak English so it took me a few minutes of trying to explain I was trying to get into the room he was blocking and that I had a limited time to get in, shower (because I hadn't earlier in the day), and iron my wrinkled concert out fit.  I get in the room...and well...it was just disgusting...I swear there was blood on the walls...there were dead roaches in the hallway...holes in the bathroom...the mattresses were wrapped in plastic...it was gross...I know, I can be snobby...but when you've been staying at the Ritz this...well...not only was it filthy (some sort of substance was all over the alarm clock) the door didn't shut right and there 
was a gap in the wall where the Ac went to the outside.  I will tell you, you've never seen anything like 90 people checking in and meeting in the lobby with in minutes of dropping their stuff in their rooms!  Other people had holes in their walls, "love stains" on the couch in the room, and one  person's shower tiles fell off of the wall when he got in to shower.  By the time I made it to the lobby a mutiny was already started...we were in agreement, we'd rather drive through the night then stay here! I felt bad, we were dissing this place in front of the staff, but then I think, you know, it doesn't have to be the Ritz, but it does have to be clean...and it just wasn't.  Unfortunately we could not leave that night...but we did get management to agree to let us leave the next morning an hour earlier than scheduled.  It was an experience...and probably the grossest hotel I've ever been...including the hotel Mom, Mick and I had to stay at when our car broke down on a road trip a few years ago...it had a bloody towel in it...but walls trump towels, and lets be honest there were three of us in one room...there's safety in numbers...

This might also be a good time to sort of talk about how a tour like this works.  All the musicians in the show were "contracted" by a contractor that asked us for our availability, etc... once it was confirmed that we were on the show we were all emailed the same contract.  It was 17 pages and as I mentioned above it covers everything from the hotel standards expected to our wages, per diem, even how long we can be on a bus before stopping for a break (it's 5 hours by the way!)  In addition to the contract we all have to be members in good standing with the American Federation of Musicians (they negotiated our contract with the production company, Another Planet). As with any union gig or orchestra we are suggested to nominate a "union rep" or "union steward".  The union rep checks in with production and the union to make sure that our contract is being up held.  Well our union rep is awesome.  He is on the ball and keeps us all well informed.  He immediately let management know that that hotel was a safety hazard, and not 3 stars according to our 
contract.  In addition to the hotel situation he is who members go to when dealing with other pressing issues such as the "saving of the bus seat" saga...really...it's been a subject of much tension this last week...even today someone was upset because they didn't get down to the buses early enough to get a coveted roomy seat. I learn something everyday...either about by playing, my colleagues or just how the business 
end of a tour like this works.  I never really got to see any of this type of stuff while travelling with Phantom...it's been eye opening...and while there have been some less than thrilling moments I would say yes again in a heart beat..because...I am getting paid for all this fun!

P.S.  There are no pictures of Bossier City...for obvious reasons...we got the hell out of there...I will say though that the crowd at the show was awesome.  That did make up for some of the hotel hell we were in.

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